This blog was written by Emily Blase, a Greenpeace Semester student with the spring 2013 class.
I’m walking away from the Greenpeace Semester program saddened to say goodbye, but empowered by all the skills now under my belt. The program aims at giving students an in-depth understanding of environmental campaigning and strategy, organizing, messaging, and non-violent direct action, a peaceful tactic to protect our natural ecosystems.. Through the course of this program, we’ve had the chance to talk to many of the people at Greenpeace working directly on environmental issues. In March, our class traveled to Raleigh, North Carolina to help with a campaign that Greenpeace is running against Duke Energy, the nation’s largest utility company and gobbler of dirty energy including coal and nukes. You can see all the action from our trip on our Tumblr.
We also take a few days during the semester to actually witness what’s at stake if we don’t work hard for environmental protection. We spent a week in Florida to bear witness to active environmental destruction affecting our ecosystems now. Earlier in the semester, Greenpeace Oceans Campaigner John Hocevar talked to our class about coral bleaching, but I never thought I’d have a chance to witness it firsthand. This was an experience that will definitely be sticking with us for the rest of our lives, and a great reminder of what we’re fighting for.
Snorkeling in the Dry Tortugas is what really brought everything home for me. Fortunately for us, we didn’t see any pirates while we were there, but we did run into a lot of destroyed natural treasures. Coral bleaching is a huge problem Florida, and many of their reefs have suffered as a result. So while snorkeling and gazing upon what looked like a normal ocean floor, we were in fact looking at the skeletons of countless numbers of dead pieces of coral. Without coral reef of course, we lose entire ecosystems.
But all is not lost. While snorkeling I came across a piece of brain coral that was bleached on one side, and living on the other. There is still time to protect our still-living coral, our oceans, and in fact the entire planet, but we need to take action to do so.
The Greenpeace Semester also got to spend time in Key West while in Florida. Key West is a beautiful island paradise, with a strong sense of community that was clear to see, and a treat to get to be a part of, if only for a few days. Unfortunately, their island paradise could be underwater due to sea level rise from global warming within our children’s lifetimes.
So yes, there was a slightly negative cast on the trip, seeing paradise slowly being poisoned – mostly because of problems associated with global warming and human impact. However, going to Florida and connecting with my fellow Greenpeace Semester students was also invigorating. We do have very real problems facing our natural world today, and mine is without doubt the generation that will face them. The Greenpeace Semester is making its effort to equip young people to stand up effectively for the planet.
Completing this Semester has taught me so many facets of running a successful campaign, and shown me that it is possible to win when you’re on the right side.