Why I Love Volunteering Aboard the Arctic Sunrise

by Alishia Puerner

When Alishia Puerner heard the Arctic Sunrise was touring the Pacific coast and would be docked in Long Beach, CA she left her daily life behind in Arizona to join as a volunteer doing night shifts on the ship. Here is her story.

My visit to the Arctic Sunrise I’ve been following Greenpeace since 2012 and have had many experiences with the environmental non-profit in different capacities. In 2012, I started my relationship with the environmental movement by joining Greenpeace’s frontline organizing. Within the first week of being involved in the Greenpeace office I was astonished by the passion and drive this organization has invoked in the community. Over the past 6 years, I’ve participated in numerous trainings, events, non-violent direct actions and even now, while I’m no longer a part of a local office, I jump on every opportunity to volunteer.

When I heard the Arctic Sunrise was touring down the west coast and would be docked in Long Beach, CA I quickly made arrangements to leave my daily life behind in Arizona and sought out any volunteer opportunities that may be available during their stay. I was able to schedule two overnight shifts keeping watch over the ship while the crew slept. This didn’t seem like a normal way to volunteer, but I figured the crew would most likely enjoy a night off work to relax and I was eager to help out any way I could.

When I arrived in Rainbow Harbor, I wasn’t quite sure where the ship was docked and it didn’t help that I’ve never been to Long Beach before. It didn’t take long before saw the massive vessel, The Arctic Sunrise, floating before me. I was a bit nervous walking up to a ship I’ve never seen before and walking myself into a crowd of people I’ve never met. But as always, every person had a smile from ear to ear and was more than welcoming to have me come aboard. The afternoon slowly drifted away, filled with stories from guest speakers, and new found knowledge of the environmental movement through shared experiences.

Greenpeace and the Captain of the Greenpeace Ship Arctic Sunrise host an evening filled with live music, food, drinks and conversation along with the crew as we continue our ship tour up the U.S. Pacific Coast to defend our oceans from the threats of offshore drilling and plastic waste. It’s a wonderful opportunity for supporters to come out to Long Beach, CA and see the ship that has played a major role in so many of our campaigns over the years, and to learn more about our current efforts to protect our oceans.

As the night shift began, I was introduced to the crew that lives on the Arctic Sunrise. It was an honor to be around such strong individuals who not only take weeks, but months out of their lives at home to go work at sea. I noticed that the people who lived on the ship came from all over the world and from very different cultures. It was amazing to see that a common drive brought this fun group of individuals together. I was guided around the ship as I was told my duties for the night and eventually left alone for my role. I had full access to every part of the ship and took advantage of my role to fulfill my curiosity. As I made my rounds, I kept imagining all the brave activists who have stepped foot on this vessel. One particular event came to my mind over and over again; September 19th, 2013, the Arctic 30 lived a day they will never forget. On this particular day, I was organizing with the Greenpeace frontline office in San Francisco when we got the news and waited impatiently for updates as they were flooding in. As I walked through the ship during my night watch, it was as if I was putting a face to a name I have only heard about in stories. I couldn’t believe I was actually there.

By the time the 3rd and final day came, it was time to make the 6-hour drive home. I would have loved to have stayed longer to help out with events that took place during the day but work and a home called me back. As I was making my way to the dock, I felt the ship was a bit slanted. I made my way up to the main deck to find the crew reeling in the zodiacs after a morning of cleaning up microplastics from the harbor. I was pleasantly surprised to see the crew hard at work even on tour.

As the world continuously moves forward and climate change urges its way to a more devastating fate, we are no longer at a point of question, we are at a point of action. The environmental movement is not just about approaching corporations but now has shifted to a movement of consciousness for the planet and for each other. Action can be interpreted in many ways, whether it’s hanging a banner off an oil rig in the Arctic circle, pressuring your local coffee shop to ban straws or volunteering at a local event. If you take anything away from this post, take action. This was an amazing experience to have, the people I met were unforgettable, and I look forward to more opportunities in the future.

Live in or around San Fransisco and want to volunteer aboard the Arctic Sunrise? Click here to join us!

Want to know more about our Pacific coast ship tour? Check out what we’ve been doing here!

By Alishia Puerner

Alishia Puerner is a longtime volunteer for Greenpeace USA. 

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