Behind the Scenes of the People’s Climate Movement With Greenpeace Volunteer Kathi Lombardi
by Jill Pape
October 20, 2015
On October 14, hundreds of people across the country organized events as a part of the People’s Climate Movement Day of Action, demanding climate justice from leaders everywhere. We interviewed Kathi Lombardi, a Greenpeace Group Leader, who started an event in Highland Park, NJ.
Supporters who are interested in organizing locally for environmental change can apply to become Greenpeace group leaders. To learn more about volunteering with Greenpeace, visit Greenpeace Greenwire and create an account!
How did you get started doing this work?
It all started online, actually! I was receiving petitions in my email and began clicking through to find out more about saving the Arctic. Soon, I learned that I could become an activist on the campaign. I’ve always done smaller things to protect the environment locally, but I never knew that I would have the ability to start a Greenpeace group!
This past January, I started chatting with friends and it became clear that a good number of folks in my community wanted to do something to help the planet. So I applied to become a Greenpeace group leader.
Things started falling into place from there . A wonderful pastor at a church I’d been involved with for some years had a space that he rented out for meetings. The pastor is really big into climate change — he did the climate march with us last year. So he gave me the opportunity to hold meetings there free of charge. We started meeting regularly and we’ve had the same core group ever since, with new folks joining all the time.
Having had this opportunity to start a chapter and become a group leader has been an absolute thrill for me.
Last week, you hosted an event as a part of the People’s Climate Day of Action. How did it go?
Overall, the event was simple, meaningful and it accomplished what it set out to do. Because it was on a Wednesday, the biggest challenge was getting people to step away from work to come join us. So I decided to do it from noon to 2:00 p.m., to get more of the lunch crowd. And it worked!
I had a generous donor who provided all the lunches from a local cafe. At the event, you could get a free lunch by signing a climate ribbon — so a lot of folks came out through that. The climate ribbons are part of a distributed art project where people write on these ribbons to grieve what each of us stands to lose to climate change and affirm our solidarity to fight against it. The ribbons will all be sent to Paris as a part of a large art display while world leaders meet later this year to discuss our climate future.
One really powerful moment happened when three passersby came over after noticing our event. Not only was I able to help them learn more about climate change, but they were able to sign a ribbon and have a hot meal which they might not have had otherwise. It reminded me why I do this work.
It was fun to see people noticing our event from the street, and coming in to join. We had one lady who was walking back and forth, checking us out. She finally decided she wanted to come in, so we chatted a bunch and she ended up making a really nice climate ribbon.
Being part of a day of action like this means you need people power. How do you recruit new folks to join your group?
Part of what I love doing is reaching out — going into the community, meeting new folks and seeing if they’d like to get involved.
For instance, there was a Saturday afternoon that I was coming back from the train station in New Brunswick, and there were two college kids standing on the corner. They were asking people to send a message to Senator Cory Booker, asking him to improve New Jersey water quality. I posed for them with a simple sign they’d made, and they took a photo to send along to the Senator. We got to talking about Greenpeace. And through that small interaction, I got two more people interested in getting involved with the local group! It was awesome. It’s stuff like that I really love.
Many people want to help make change in the world, but don’t know how to get started. What inspires you to do what you do?
I grew up on a farm in the country and I was raised with a healthy respect for our planet and our world. Somewhere along the way, I just got tired of the state of things. The more I sat back and watched this stuff unfold — global climate change and environmental destruction — the more disgusted I became.
It’s been a blessing — through Greenpeace I’ve been able to finally do something instead of just sitting here and watching all this terrible stuff happen to our planet. I’ve run across a lot of people with that same school of thought, where they think ‘gee — I know there’s a problem with climate change, but what can I do to help fix it?’ I now do outreach in my community to find those like-minded folks and try to bring them into our group. They now have an outlet through which to express their views, and they can be a part of the solution. That’s been one the best things about forming this group.
I think this environmental group is something that the town has really needed. I’ve also been learning about all these other groups that I never even knew existed, who are out there doing similar work in other cities — and we’ve started working together. To me, there’s strength in numbers. So if you’re able to join forces like that, it’s fantastic!