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How Coronavirus has changed our campaigning

by Annie Leonard

May 14, 2020

Our core strategies have gone into overdrive, and we need your help to investigate polluters, expose the corporate and political elites, and mobilize Greenpeacers like you to stop them

© Tim Aubry / Greenpeace

As the coronavirus pandemic has escalated over the last few weeks and months, we have emailed you a lot. Before the crisis, we aimed to reach out with two or three emails a week with the top opportunities to take action on the campaigns you care about; more recently, it’s been a flurry of rapid response, breaking news, and urgent calls to action. I want to say thank you for being involved. I also thought it might be helpful to share some of our strategy during this unprecedented time. You’re hearing from us more frequently — here’s why:

Preventing harm and fighting for a just recovery

Mike a masked Costco employee works behind a protective plastic barrier as he greets customers at the warehouse in Fairfax, Virginia. Mike and other employees are essential workers during the COVID-19 restrictions.

As the pandemic response got underway, cynical actors decided to take advantage of the crisis as cover to get the things that they’ve always wanted. The Environmental Protection Agency rolled back restrictions on pollution controls, and the plastics industry jumped in to exploit the pandemic by scaring people about the safety risk of reusable bags in transmitting disease. When trillions in taxpayer dollars became available, the fossil fuel industry scrambled to try to get a piece of the pie.

Clearly, we’ve had to push our core strategies into overdrive:

In fact, you’ve made thousands of phone calls and sent hundreds of thousands of messages to Congress demanding legislation to oversee relief efforts, to stop oil corporations from raiding relief funds paid for with your taxes, to support our friends in the labor movement with an Essential Workers Bill of Rights, and challenging the plastics industry’s status quo of rampant plastic pollution by rallying support for the “Break Free from Plastic Pollution Act” that supports the vision of a just and circular system built on reusables for everyone.

I promise you, every act of resistance and solidarity will add up. Every act exposes Trump and billionaire polluters, diminishes their power, and moves us towards a breaking point where we can win a green and just recovery and a country led by people, not polluters.

We believe that any recovery must put people and justice first, which is why we’re working in DC to make sure that the next stimulus bill does exactly that — including saving the Postal Service and expanding vote-by-mail, early voting, and other measures to protect democracy. You can read more about that here (and sign on if you haven’t already). We also are fighting hard to make sure that anti-protest laws don’t get rushed through at the state level under cover of the pandemic.

This is one of those moments where everything will change

Congress has and will continue to pass laws to address the crisis. It’s messy, and we need to stay vigilant on multiple fronts. But right now, a vocal and disruptive progressive movement can and must ensure nobody is left behind. If we do, we’ll emerge from this crisis so much closer to a green and just economy for all.

Continuing our core mission

Manta rays are seen in the cold upwellings off Nusa Penida Island, Bali, Indonesia. More and more single use plastics are swept along the coast, as Indonesia struggles to control its addiction to plastics.

Just because we’re in the middle of a crisis, we can’t stop our other work. Bad actors continue their attacks on people and planet — most notably, the Trump Administration. As we approach the end of Trump’s first term, his administration is trying to push through multiple regulatory rollbacks now to avoid the possibility of them being undone by a new administration. Two major issues of concern: one, the administration’s new mercury rules, which threaten the lives and health of hundreds of thousands and would roll back regulations on toxic mercury pollution from fossil fuel powered electricity plants. Two, Trump’s administration has also rolled back the Obama-era fuel efficiency standards for cars, trucks, and SUVs — a move guaranteed to exacerbate the climate crisis, increase air pollution, and cost billions in added fuel costs for the general public.

Outside of the U.S., the world’s oceans and forests remain critically threatened. Our work for a comprehensive ocean sanctuaries treaty at the United Nations, although delayed by the virus, remains as important as ever to ensure a recovery for ocean ecosystems. Our solidarity with Indigenous land defenders, in places like Brazil, Indonesia and Canada, remains more important than ever.

Moving Online

One of the most challenging aspects of our work has been moving major events and fundraising to the online space. In March, we realized that face-to-face fundraising was no longer possible in this environment, and the gut-wrenching decision was made to halt our canvassing operation, resulting in the furlough of 172 staff. Our canvassers are the heart and soul of our local offices, carrying the message and mission to thousands of people every single day across the country and activating communities at the local level.

Their absence leaves a big hole in our community, and the loss of donations from their work has deeply impacted our finances. As we work to adjust, you’re seeing more fundraising emails from us as we ask supporters to donate online in order to fund mission-critical campaigns. With your help, we can do this. A group of generous benefactors has even agreed to match your gifts dollar-for-dollar up to $260,000 before May 31. We’re incredibly grateful to everyone who chips in here to keep our work strong.

chip in now

Sixth Fire Drill Friday

Fire Drill Friday in the fall of 2019 at the U.S. Capitol.

We’re also moving major events online — with a goal of creating community, bringing people together, and taking meaningful action for the planet. We joined thousands in a massive Earth Day Livestream, and activist extraordinaire Jane Fonda has continued her protest work with Fire Drill Fridays, now online — and you can join the next one here.

I hope that this look at our strategy during this tumultuous time is helpful. We are adapting, changing, emailing you a lot more, and most of all, continuing and expanding our critical campaigning. I promise you, every act of resistance and solidarity will add up. Every act exposes Trump and billionaire polluters, diminishes their power, and moves us towards a breaking point where we can win a green and just recovery and a country led by people, not polluters.

I truly can’t thank you enough for all you’ve done to stay involved, stay active, and fight the good fight alongside us right now.

Check out our COVID-19 hub for more info and insights on how we’re responding.

Annie Leonard

By Annie Leonard

Annie Leonard is the Executive Director of Greenpeace USA. Leonard began her career at Greenpeace in 1988 and has returned to help the organization inspire and mobilize millions of people to take action to create a more sustainable future together. She is based in San Francisco.

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