Meet the Greenpeace Women and Gender Non-Conforming Staff Fighting for Climate Justice

"You can't be neutral on a moving train."

by Lauren Reid

March 8, 2018

Yes, they’re as extraordinary and inspiring as you think they are.

Greenpeace activist Naomi Ages greets President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence outside of the Department of Interior with resistance. Trump went to DOI to sign an Executive Order for the department to reconsidering designations under the Antiquities Act of 1906. Under this Executive Order protection and preservation of public lands, national monuments, and sea protections are in jeopardy.

A campaigner helping to end global deforestation carried out by a handful of corporate giants. A lawyer who brought Marco Rubio his missing spine during Rex Tillerson’s confirmation hearing. An activist who assisted in dropping the RESIST banner over the White House during the first week of the Trump Administration. In honor of International Women’s Day, we thought we’d introduce you to a few of the incredible women and gender non-conforming staff at Greenpeace who help empower the environmental movement — working to organize, campaign, and amplify the issues we care so passionately about. 

Naomi Ages, right, with fellow Greenpeace superwoman and oil and finance expert Diana Best, during Rex Tillerson’s confirmation hearing in January 2017. ©Naomi Ages

Naomi Ages — Acting Director, Climate and Energy Campaign

At least once a week, I say out loud that I can’t believe I get to do this as a job. I joined Greenpeace USA as a climate justice campaigner, and it has helped me link my law degree with my environmental activism. I went to law school because I saw the law as a way to change the world for the better, and I thought there was crucial work to do to protect people and the planet. Although I took a detour through corporate law on the way to Greenpeace, I’ve never looked back.

Finding legal angles that complement Greenpeace’s activism in social, corporate, and government spaces means that in the past three years I’ve gotten to demand justice for those made most vulnerable to climate change; work at the UN level to make international climate policy as ambitious as necessary; and bring Marco Rubio his missing spine in the first days of the Trump administration. Greenpeace’s creativity, vision, and determination to constantly ask the most of ourselves and the world challenges me every day and, especially now, feels more important than ever.

Natalie Nava — Project Leader

©Natalie Nava

I grew up across the street from a factory, in a predominantly Latino neighborhood in East Los Angeles. One night, there was a chemical spill and my family and I had to evacuate our home. I have spent my career to date in the environmental field to fight for equal access to resources for communities of color and the poor. I’ve worked in the field in India and Singapore, studying local waste streams and management practices, and have worked on corporate campaigns fighting against companies working to privatize local water resources.

One clear theme has emerged from my work: what we do at Greenpeace, whether it is fighting for clean air or holding the line on oil extraction, cannot be separated from the movement to end mass incarceration or the gender pay gap. We are all working to dismantle a system power that disadvantages marginalized groups. Through my work leading projects at Greenpeace, I hope to inspire young women and other activists who feel they don’t have what it takes to make change.

Nicole Sands — Digital Platforms Manager

After graduating from college, I moved to DC and was learning graphic design and the emerging field of web design. I thought about my dream place to volunteer and Greenpeace was top of the list so I wrote asking if I could volunteer and met with the head of the “Creative department” and started as a part-time volunteer which led to a part-time job and now a 19-year career.

After a few years at Greenpeace, I went home and cleaned out my childhood bedroom and found old school folders with Greenpeace stickers on them. I guess it had always been my dream even though I didn’t always consciously remember it.

Nicole Sands with her daughter, Julia. ©Nicole Sands

The best way I can describe my activism is Howard Zinn’s quote: “You can’t be neutral on a moving train.” I believe we’re all either part of the problem or part of the solution. But I also feel there are lots of different ways to be part of the solution and for a better world — more women leading and valuing our leadership has to be a part of it.

I believe in the Commons. It starts with the knowledge that everything is connected. And not in a trite way. But really. This is how biology, ecosystems and the world really works. When talking about how everything is connected, words like “equitable, humane, wellbeing, open, relationships,” start getting used. Words usually associated with the strengths of women.

In my own career at Greenpeace, I’ve seen an evolution of the organization embracing leadership in ways that value these strengths. Womens’ leadership has ebbed and flowed over the years. I started in a women-led organization with strong mentors. I’ve seen us drift away from that and hope we are finding our way to a new path of equity, inclusion and a wide spectrum of valued diversity.

With a young daughter and as we experience our climate changing, I’m more motivated than ever to work for a green and peaceful future.

“Another world is not only possible, she is on her way. On a quiet day, I can hear her breathing.”

― Arundhati Roy

Deepa Isac — Chief of Staff

©Deepa Isac

I joined Greenpeace as a lawyer — as part of fulfilling my desire to advocate for those who are most ignored in our society.  Greenpeace was a perfect fit for me as I gravitated toward the environment and criminal defense work. Although those areas of the law may seem very different, both reflect those who are deeply disenfranchised in our society.  People charged with crimes and the environment are vulnerable to being both ignored and harmed.

Being a woman, and a woman of color, has made it easier for me to see the situation of those who are marginalized.  Our legal system and laws are the contract by which we agree to live with each other. As such, our laws belong to all of us — and it is our responsibility to improve them and make laws serve us all, including those most marginalized in our societies.  I’ve embraced and enjoyed my role in demystifying the law and making it more accessible to activists — as well as in directly advocating for people who need and want to create positive change in our societies. Advocacy for others is a role I have enjoyed.  As a mother now of two young children, my role in shaping their country and world has never been more important. Activism can take on many forms. It’s a journey to understand the form that best suits us at this moment and in the years to come.

Molly Dorozenski — Project Leader

I feel extraordinarily lucky to do this work among powerful, creative women that support each other, raise the level of ambition for the organization every day and bring their diverse expertise, creativity, strategic instincts and skills to the work.   And our female volunteers drive boats, rappel off the sides of buildings and teach and share those skills with others.

From my first day in 2008, I have been guided, supported, mentored and pushed to be better by these women.  Women have been a part of my best moments.

One of my first tasks as a Communications specialist when I started was to call reporters and producers and tell them we were hanging a banner off of Mount Rushmore.  The banner called on Obama to show climate leadership just after he was elected. As I stood in the parking lot of Mount Rushmore and watched the banner unfurl, I had the fun job of calling the tv stations in Rapid City and tell them they might want to send a helicopter — and they did!  Our spokesperson, Jess Miller, was one of the climbers battling intense winds and dizzying heights, and now we work side by side in Brooklyn, trading dry feminist jokes between our meetings.

©Molly Dorozenski

There is no more Greenpeace experience than sailing on one of our ships, and after the Gulf spill I found myself doing communications work for a tour through the gulf where scientists were doing research on the impact of oil on whales and reefs.  While I was adjusting to the “washing machine” rocking of the Arctic Sunrise and getting my sea legs, Lisa Ramsden and Georgia Hirsty were running around the ship as deckhands, fixing and painting, scraping and cleaning, and learning about navigation from the legendary Pete Wilcox on the bridge.  Now I’ve seen Lisa organize complex mass mobilizations and flotillas– and Georgia runs an organization called Frailty Myths that fight the gender binary by training women on traditionally male skills like sailing, welding, and construction.

This year I’m working to expose the human rights and environmental abuses of pipeline companies like Energy Transfer Partners, the company behind the Dakota Access Pipeline with our oil and finance expert Diana Best, who can explain to banks why pipelines are becoming increasingly risky investments, or go into detail about the incredible resistance building on the ground.  And Diana’s also the person who checks in with me when I’m working too many hours and supports me when I’ve had a bad day.

Women are the lifeblood of this organization from our strategic and ambitious Executive Director Annie Leonard to our hustling canvass team.  The movement to build a better world will be led by black and brown people and by Indigenous people. It will be led by trans and non-binary people.  And it will be led by women. We still have farther to go at Greenpeace– more glass ceilings to break, more intentional intersectionality. But with the future of Greenpeace is female.  This is what the revolution looks like.

Sybil Bullock — Plastics Campaign Organizer

©Sybil Bullock

I started developing my passion for environmental and social justice as a teenager growing up in Cairo, Egypt, one of the most polluted cities in the world. I remember visiting the “Zaballeen” – Arabic for “garbage people” – in Mokattam, a village on the outskirts of Cairo. Mokattam is home to an incredible community of roughly 60,000 entrepreneurial garbage workers, largely composed of Egypt’s Coptic Christian minority, who have recycled Cairo’s waste for decades. I learned there firsthand how governments, corporations, and cultural forces often overlap to create tangled webs of environmental injustice.

From that time on, I decided to pursue possibilities for people to work together to develop sustainable solutions for a more just, equitable world. This drove me to study Anthropology in college and head to Tunisia soon afterward, where I was fortunate to work with many student organizers, community activists and civil society groups creating positive change in local culture and politics. From bringing engineering students to visit a local solar power plant, to organizing trash art workshops with local craftsmen, to participating in educational ecotourism initiatives, I learned that there are infinite ways to drive forward change with a little creativity and a lot of persistence. If anyone ever makes you feel like your efforts are a drop in a bucket, just remember: Oceans are made from drops!

Amy Moas —Senior Forest Campaigner

I completed a Ph.D. In environmental science and was teaching at a university. As an academic, you’re expected to be very unbiased, but that became increasingly hard for me to do given the severity of environmental destruction. So I started looking for opportunities to do more and was very, very lucky to start looking for a job when this position became available. Campaign positions at Greenpeace don’t come around very often.

©Amy Moas

My work includes our campaigns on the two biggest pulp and paper producers in Indonesia, Asia Pulp and Paper and Asia Pacific Resources International Limited (APRIL). I am now a named defendant in the SLAPP suit brought on by Resolute Forest Products to silence our advocacy for forest protection in Canada. So most of my work today is on protecting the Canadian Boreal forest, which is not only a very special forest in our own backyard here in North America, but it also holds more carbon per acre than any other forest in the world. I also work on our Congo Basin palm oil campaign against Herakles Farms. Some may be surprised to learn that working to protect forests can be largely about the people. In pushing against Herakles in Cameroon for example, our work is really about amplifying the voice of local communities and their resistance.

I very vividly remember consciously taking on the responsibility to show that women can be great campaigners at Greenpeace. I am lucky to be surrounded by guys who are both great campaigners and very supportive of my work. I take it seriously and am very proud to pave the way for women to be doing more amazing campaign work at this organization.

B Trewin — Monthly Giving Retention Specialist

Growing up in a place where there are seas of corn, it wasn’t until I was in my 20s before I first swam in the ocean and soaked up the sun on a beach. Instead, I spent time on sandbars and splashing in the Mississippi when my family would visit my great aunt and uncle at the river. I was confused why I had to be careful not to swallow any water and why the adults were skeptical about fishing or eating any of the fish caught from the river – especially because the river hadn’t traveled that far by the time it got to the Iowa/Wisconsin section and it had so much further to go.  I was equally confused why I needed to wear a swimsuit and couldn’t wear trunks like my brother. 

©B Trewin

Today I’m not confused about either of those things.  I have some anxiety about my beachwear, but I wear swim trunks and a top. I am uncertain if I will ever alter my chest in anyway and also know that being gender nonconforming is who I am and the parts about it that stress me out are the parts where other people respond to my gender making assumptions, trying to make me into something else, or not respecting my identity. I also understand the effects of agricultural runoff, erosion, and pollution. What happens upstream and in tributaries affects those downstream to the Gulf of Mexico – impacting those along the way who rely on or interact with the water.

From a young age, I started understanding our interconnectedness and collective responsibility, which has stuck with me into my work and is one of the reasons I work at Greenpeace.      

Karen Topakian — Board Chair, Greenpeace Inc.

When the news reporter announced Dr. King’s assassination, I felt a deep sadness. At 13 ½, I knew the world had changed. Not for the good.

My Sunday school class had studied his commitment to nonviolence and the civil rights movement. His words and actions had struck a chord.

When I went to college, I decided to study social change movements. At that time, change inhabited the air, the bar, and the streets. I wanted and needed to be part of it.

©Karen Topakian

After college, I found an opportunity to work for change as a community organizer in a Providence neighborhood inhabited by poor people and people of color. Before my employer let me loose on the streets, they trained me in the Saul Alinsky, “Rules for Radicals” model, which I fully embraced as I organized against slum landlords and a corrupt city government.

Then Greenpeace came to town and made a big splash when it plugged a chemical company pipe spewing unregulated toxics into my hometown river. I cheered and knew I wanted to work for Greenpeace.

Simultaneously, the global nuclear disarmament movement exploded when nuclear weapons were proposed on European soil and world leaders blithely discussed winning a nuclear war. I joined the movement, learned about nonviolence from the Berrigan Brothers and put my organizing skills to work against the production, launching and commissioning of Trident nuclear submarines.

A few years later, I left it all to move to San Francisco to go to graduate school. Before I completed my MFA, I applied to Greenpeace to work as a nuclear disarmament campaigner. Finally, I found a place where I could marry my deep commitment to nonviolence and nuclear disarmament.

Lauren Reid — Online Editor

Right after I started college in Boston, the U.S. invaded Iraq and I became increasingly horrified by what I felt was our government’s utter disregard for human life, in an effort to satiate America’s desire for oil. I became very active in the anti-war movement and witnessed how our state, national and foreign policy intersected heavily with environmental issues. At the time, there was little room for debate or action towards renewable energy sources, so I got hooked into the issue for life.

©Mark Smith/Greenpeace

For me, it begged the larger question of whether environmental quality was negatively impacted in regions where communities identified strongly with nationalistic values. I did my master’s dissertation exploring this topic, and although I assumed I knew the answer before starting my fieldwork — I was wrong. The environment, like humanity, is chock-full of nuance and rarely cut and dry. That experience always reminds me that the road to climate justice and sustainability will have many paths, and we absolutely need a diverse set of perspectives and voices on this journey if we’re to have a lasting impact.

My first experience with Greenpeace was truly an incredible one. In 2015, I joined the crew of the Rainbow Warrior ship to witness first-hand how the tuna industry operates in the South Pacific while writing about overfishing practices and human rights abuses observed at sea. This experience had a profound effect on me — particularly when I saw the conditions fishermen were forced to endure for the sake of canned tuna. Now that I’m back on dry land, I’m lucky enough to write and edit the stories behind a myriad of Greenpeace campaign issues, working alongside many women here who are as strong as they are inspiring.

Lauren Reid

By Lauren Reid

Lauren Reid is the International Communications Lead with the Clean Air Now Campaign. She first volunteered with Greenpeace on the Rainbow Warrior in 2015, for a campaign against overfishing and human rights abuses observed at sea. Lauren is based in New Orleans, LA and you can peep her on Twitter @Lo_Pickles.

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