Take a look at the world we live in. It is full of life, joys, and beauty, but you don’t need to look harder to see that there are injustices happening every day. Some may seem too great to fix, and others insignificant or unimportant, but all of these wrongs have major implications for each of our lives and affect us all. For me, learning about constant and increasing environmental destruction made me feel so infuriated and unsatisfied with my inability to help, so I decided to apply for the Greenpeace Summer Semester. For a little background information about me, I am studying at the Eastman School of Music to become a classical trombonist, so I was shocked and thrilled when I learned that I had been accepted into this program.
The first three weeks were amazing. We were trained how to be leaders, working towards the positive change we want to see in the world. But the best part was that we weren’t changing into someone better and stronger, but we were discovering that we always have had the power and ability to take action, to take charge. We were empowered and emboldened, and in the fourth week we were put to the test. With two days of planning, we organized a weeklong campaign in Pittsburgh to encourage StarKist to end their destructive fishing practices and to switch to sustainable, healthy, and more equitable methods to catch tuna. My personal role was to oversee our canvassing and photo petitioning events. With simple recruitment math I set our goals to 400 petitions from each category, but the stormy weather we faced made us doubt we could reach those numbers. We had two days and one visit to a Pittsburgh Pirates baseball game to convince Pittsburgh residents to speak out against the injustice of StarKist’s practices. It took a lot of work, but in just two days a couple of students with clipboards, information, costumes, and cameras managed to obtain around 600 photo petitions and 650 signatures asking StarKist to stop destroying the oceans. We spoke with as many people as we could about their destructive practices and the sustainable solutions that we could urge them to take. Next, we arrived at the StarKist headquarters to present the 1200 petitions, an award that named StarKist as the Champion Oceans Destroyer, and a letter from the Greenpeace USA Executive Director while we displayed banners in English and Korean for the company to see. The guards in the entrance to StarKist’s headquarters rudely informed us that nobody was there and that Greenpeace protesters weren’t allowed on the premises, but the package of petitions was delivered and the employees who the guard claimed were not there looked out from their windows to see our messages and snap pictures.
We definitely caught the attention of both StarKist and their Korean parent company Dong Won, but this was only the beginning…. a mere warning. A few students, their mentors, and a campaigner managed to garner this much support in two days in one city. Greenpeace will be taking on this battle nationwide in both Korea and the United States, so just imagine what the full might of the organization will do.
Returning to my opening thoughts in this article, take a good look at the world, and at your place within it. Whatever you passion, whatever your dreams, remember that the problems that we see always end up having some sort of affect on us personally in the end. Hopefully my experience has shown you that even a classical trombonist can make a difference against the greed and destruction of a major corporation like StarKist. The problems we face may seem daunting, and even unchangeable. Alone we can’t do much, but together we are strong. Together, eight students can generate 1200 petitions in two days, and together an entire world can change for the better. So the next time you look at the world and see something wrong, I encourage you to find those who are working to stop it and join them however you can. It can be by supporting organizations like Greenpeace, or it can be as simple as snapping a photo petition next to a girl in a tuna suit to show that you care about the oceans. But know that you are not alone, and that you have always had the ability to emerge from the shadows of standing idle and doing nothing. I invite you to join those who refuse to tolerate the wrongs that have become normalized in our society. I invite you to participate in the fight for our rights and for our future.
By Jackie Dreher