The Beginning of a Coal Free Future [VIDEO]

by Kelly Mitchell

March 2, 2011

The Arctic Sunrise passes the Statue of LibertyLast week, the Coal Free Future Tour wrapped, and the Arctic Sunrise set sail for Amsterdam. However, this is just the beginning of Greenpeace’s work to shut down dirty coal plants, expose corporate polluters, and connect community activists across the country.

As a campaigner for Greenpeace, I often feel lucky to have so many different ways to take on the coal industry.   And this ship tour provided opportunities explore the range of work our organization is capable of…

We partnered with student and community activists in North Carolina to organize a non-violent direct action training and vigil at a nearby coal plant. These students were able to rattle the cage of Progress Energy, who launched a full court media press upon our arrival, but lacked the courage to speak to concerned citizens when we visited their Sutton coal plant. This video explains it all:

In Pennsylvania and Massachusetts, we hosted community forums on board the Arctic Sunrise, and called on Governors to protect their constituents by working to shut down the coal plants in their states. In the process, faith groups, environmentalists, local elected officials, lawyers, and community VIPs connected, strategized, and enjoyed veggie platters.

In Boston, we released a report from a top Harvard researcher, revealing the staggering true cost of coal. This report will be hand delivered to Senators next week, with signatures from nearly 40,000 people.

And finally, in Bridgeport, CT activists scaled a coal elevator and hung a banner reading “Shut it Down. Quit Coal.” In doing so, they called attention to a dirty, aging plant that threatens the health of residents who are already suffering through a 21% poverty rate. Hundreds of media stories have followed, the utility company has been put on notice, and a coalition is ready to fully launch a campaign to see this plant close.

This combination of on the ground community building, issue expertise, direct communication, and inspiring activism is just a taste of the kind of coordinated effort it will take to hold the coal industry accountable for poisoning our families and corrupting our democracy.

As Brian Merchant from Treehugger writes:

Engaging coal head-on with a major activist movement is one of the few options left on the table for bringing about major carbon emission reductions in a meaningful way before global warming reaches a tipping point. People need to see coal plants shut down, and they need to understand why it’s happening…which is why the next wave of the climate movement, of which Greenpeace’s coal campaign will be a major pillar, will be more important than any wave before it.

To find more photos and videos from the Coal Free Future Tour check out our Flickr and Youtube pages.

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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