Meet the Greenpeace Volunteer Fighting Money in Politics in Arizona
by Jill Pape
June 9, 2016
Allie Puerner is an Arizona native who found a way to help protect the planet: she became a volunteer group leader in her hometown of Phoenix!
Greenpeace group leaders find local community members who want to join the environmental movement and put together campaigns that will make a difference. Allie is raising awareness around how fossil fuel money affects our elections and environment — and she’s organizing locally to get money out of politics. We got on the phone with her to find out more about her campaign to #fixdemocracy.
How did you become a group leader for Greenpeace Phoenix?
A few years back, I got involved with Greenpeace in San Francisco as a member of the Frontline team — raising money on the street to protect the environment. It was an incredible community and working there quickly made me feel at home in a new city.
When I moved back home to Phoenix last year, I was disappointed to learn that Greenpeace doesn’t have a canvassing office here! So I reached out to the National Activist Network, a team of Greenpeace organizers who recruit and train volunteers to become environmental leaders. I asked them if I could open a volunteer group in Phoenix, and they supported me in making it happen!
We launched Greenpeace Phoenix back in the fall, and now I have about five core group members. These folks are dedicated, passionate, knowledgeable, and they show up to every event — whether it’s a Shell rally, petitioning event, anything! I feel so happy that there are people who are really dedicated.
How did you recruit your first members after launching Greenpeace Phoenix?
When I reached out to the National Activist Network, I found out that a local activist named Debanjan had been wanting to start a group as well. They connected me with him, and we became a great team.
We hit up local folks on Greenwire, the social platform where you can connect with other activists in your area. I sent emails out, created a Facebook group, and reached out to folks in every way I could think of. And it kept snowballing from there! At first we’d have meetings with the two of us — me and Debanjan. Then we got a third. And slowly but surely, we kept growing! People will come and go, but occasionally someone will join, love the energy, recognize what we’re capable of, and decide to get on board in a bigger way — folks like this become our core group members who really drive the campaigns we are working on.
What campaign are you focusing on now?
Right now, we are working on getting John McCain, our Senator here in Arizona, not to accept fossil fuel money for political purposes. When corporations and the fossil fuel industry contribute large sums of money to candidates and elected officials, they get a lot of influence and pull.
It all comes down to political access. Who are these elected officials going to listen to — a low-income family of five? Or are they going to listen to a giant corporation like Shell who donated to their campaign? Money is overpowering everything right now in our political system. So, we are asking elected officials like John McCain to say that they’re going to turn down fossil fuel money and pay more attention to the people in their community. It’s really about regaining our voice in the political process. And it’s going to help fix our democracy and make it what it should be.
What inspires you about the #fixdemocracy campaign?
I was so excited when I heard that we were launching this campaign. Getting money out of politics is key to making progress on environmental issues — so I’m really glad we are finally addressing this issue. When corporations like Shell have more access to our politicians than regular people do, it makes it difficult to pass environmental laws through Congress.
The volunteers in my group have wanted to work on this for a long time, and they are so excited to finally get the chance. I know this campaign can go really far with an organization like Greenpeace doing this work.
What would you tell someone who wants to get more involved?
If you live in Phoenix, become a member of the Greenpeace Phoenix Facebook page, and join our monthly volunteer meeting!
For anyone who doesn’t live here, I would strongly encourage you to visit Greenwire and find out what’s happening in your community that you could plug into!