Happy Earth Day from the Windy City

by Kelly Mitchell

April 22, 2009

Things have finally started to calm down in the Greenpeace office here in the Windy City following our successful installation of six wind turbines in downtown Chicago (view a slideshow, read more).

Aerial view of Windy City installation

Now, as a bit of background, I’ve been an environmentalist for most of my life. My mom still jokes about my “adorable” effort to start a recycling program at my pre-school. However, I must admit, I’d never been a part of an Earth Day event that had any real meaning to me.

Today was different.

Walking into the office at 7:15 this morning, I knew a couple things. I knew we were creating an image that would inspire people to imagine a clean energy future – a world where dirty, toxic coal plants have been replaced with wind power and green jobs. I knew we were going to walk down to an iconic Chicago bridge and set up symbolic turbines. I knew, after hours of training at a Southside warehouse, the exact bolt tightening sequence required to get the prop up safely.

However, I had no idea how I would actually feel when I saw them go up.

Erecting the wind turbines

The media team was right; it was fully inspiring.

Over the course of the day, I attempted to gather reactions from the activists and Frontliners who were handing flyers on the bridge and sharing our message with the public. Not surprisingly, the response was overwhelmingly positive. Outside of the typical “awesome,” “cool, ” or “can you take a picture with me?” a couple reactions stuck out.

A mother, walking along the bridge with her two kids, directed their attention to our turbines, saying, “That’s your future.” (And why shouldn’t it be? The wind industry is ready to employ millions of Americans and help ensure a livable world for future generations.)

The Windy City gets a little windier

Lucas, an Italian tourist, told us he was proud that America had elected Barack Obama, but even happier that there were organizations like ours willing to push the new president to do what it takes to stop global warming.

And finally, while watching our team of trained activists take down the turbines, several passersby remarked that “city crews” had been called in to remove the props. (For a bunch of young climate activists, we put on a good show.)

The coal and oil companies are throwing embarrassing amounts of money into a PR campaign designed to convince us that it’s somehow safer and cheaper to stay completely dependent on their dirty energy. We’re smarter than that. Cheap, clean, homegrown energy is available right here, right now. Today, I saw first hand that our vision of the future is undoubtedly brighter.

If you want to help us push President Obama and Congress to make this vision of the clean energy future a reality, sign our petition now!

Kelly Mitchell

By Kelly Mitchell

Kelly Mitchell is the Climate and Energy Campaign Director for Greenpeace, based in Chicago. Since 2006, she has worked with activists and organizations across the country to confront corporate polluters and transform U.S. energy policy. She currently leads Greenpeace's campaign for an economy powered by 100 percent renewable energy, pushing some of the largest companies in the world to embrace wind and solar and working alongside communities to develop a just and democratic energy system.

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