Greenpeace University

Feature story - 16 September, 2005
The climbers secure climbing gear to a massive banner as the inflatable dinghy driver guns the engine and heads out into Chesapeake Bay. The front line activists buy time by going limp as the "police" move in and a spokesperson delivers her message to camera moments before security starts shoving "journalists" out of the way.

Student participants in the Greenpeace Organising Term.

Sounds like a typical Greenpeace action -- but it's actually a trainingsession, a part of the " Greenpeace Organizing Term" project which takesstudents from around the United States and teaches them how to be moreefficient and effective environmental activists. 

(If you're a student enrolled at an American university, you can apply here.)

Thisyear, seven students were chosen from around 125 applicants. AmyFaulring, one of the coordinators of the project, says "We´re lookingfor commitment, passion, people who see solutions and see themselves asactive in creating them." Applicants fill out an onlineform which asks questions like "Martin Luther King Jr. and Henry DavidThoreau were willing to go to jail for their beliefs. What are youwilling to do in our struggle to protect the environment?"

See the world you're saving

Asidefrom being schooled in Greenpeace action techniques, students also geta behind-the-scenes glimpse at the Greenpeace operations in the US andat least one other country. This year, they travelled toAmsterdam to visit Greenpeace's worldwide headquarters and participatein the commemoration of the bombing of the Rainbow Warrior, by creating a giant human peace sign and rainbow inParis.

(You can click these links to hear two Podcasts, one about their expriences as campus activists and the other about their work to stop Kimberly-Clark from clearcutting ancient forests, or subscribe to all Greenpeace podcasts here.)

EmilyRowan of of Wesleyan University is studying natural resourcesconservation, and found out about the project through her hiking clubat college. "You get to see how Greenpeace fits in with theenvironmental movement in general and what an historic organisation itis."

Rohini Banskota is this term's only high schoolstudent.  She applied when she read about the GOT in her weeklytrawl of the Greenpeace International and Greenpeace USA websites."It's an intense dream for us, lots of information, you have to workand concentrate and focus really hard. We get exposed to alldifferent parts of Greenpeace: meeting the media folks, the scientistsand the action folks, the photographers and videographers..."

"Greenpeaceis misunderstood in my community," says Anca Giugiurlescu"and I'll be going home with a much better understanding andappreciation. I hope I can change some minds."

Real action, real campaigns

Thetraining isn't all theoretical. The studentsparticipate in a real Greenpeace campaign, and many of them continue the work upon return to their universities.

This term, thestudents are participating in the campaign to convince Kimberly-Clark,makers of Kleenex, to stop clearcutting ancient forests to make theirproducts. 

"It takes 90 years to grow a box of Kleenex" says JoshKeenan, a political science major at New Mexico University.

"When you tellpeople that, it really puts it on their conscience and makes themthink. If you care about this issue, it's not just about not buyingKimberly-Clark, it's about letting Kimberly-Clark know why you're usingyour consumer power to vote against them. It's only by a combination ofeconomic penalties and people making themselves heard that anything'sgoing to change."

Pastteams have participated in the nationwide work of lobbying universitiesto join the energy revolution by procuring green energy and installingon-site renewable sources. Among the victories have beenground-breaking commitment from the University of California at Berkeley and, most recently, a 100 percent green energy committment from Reading University.

Somestudents earn credit for their coursework with Greenpeace, and DianaSilbergeld, another coordinator of the project, hopes that policy willexpand to more universities. "There are some great professors outthere who work with us. We need more of them."

BritneyDunnebacke, from South Carolina, summed up her experience: "I just wantto keep doing this. We're getting people interested and educated andhyped up... We're also having a lot of fun."

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