5 Questions for: Greenpeace activist Holly Hanks on political platforms and wanting political influence
Holly Hanks, the senior campaign coordinator for Greenpeace’s office in Raleigh, North Carolina, took a break from campaigning near the convention (and the occasional cough; this was her first week back at work after a recent illness) to talk to Raw Story about Greenpeace’s progress as an organization, what that might mean for it in the future, and about the recent back-tracking by the Democratic Party platform on environmental issues.
Raw Story: How has this week been for your local office and for the organization?
Hanks: For the office in Raleigh, we are on an upswing: we just opened our office in February and we are roughly 30 percent over our [Frontline fundraising] budget, which is really encouraging for a new office. I believe it’s the best that we have ever done in the history of our Frontline project, which is over a decade old. As far as the organization campaign-wise in North Carolina, I feel it’s going extremely well. Our field organizer in Charlotte, Monica Embrey and [local activist] Beth Henry were just on Democracy Now for an hour and a half for an interview. Our message is getting out, being heard. We’re working with a lot of people from different organizations, which is really cool to see, and talking about issues that matter to everybody in the state, and in the country, as well. We’re in a pretty good place.
Raw Story: What is Greenpeace’s response to the party platforms on both sides?
Hanks: As you might know, Greenpeace has, over the past five years or so, stopped going for as many purely legislative victories. That’s not really our campaign strategy so much anymore, because the vast majority of the concentration of power — not just in the United States, although it might be stronger here, but throughout the world — is now in the hands of multinational corporations that have most of the resources and then, especially in the United States, where the flow of that corporate money into politics is almost unrestricted now because of Citizens United. That’s where we stand, and it’s something that we have in common with a lot of other progressive organizations in the country. We would love to see the closure of that flow of corporate money into politics. Government should be a regulatory force, not something that enforces corporate agendas at the expense of people.
Raw Story: So the news that the Democratic party platform has weakened its stance on these issues, not a surprise?
Hanks: Not a surprise, no. Although, there are certain things that Obama has done that are very for clean energy — in particular, the recent passage of a 75 percent tariff on imported Chinese wind technology, which is hopefully going to help spark domestic production of renewable energy. That’s great. However, what we really need to see is a commitment to making the infrastructure happen here, which is not going to happen just by making Chinese wind technology more expensive, but by actually revamping the American economy and investing for real in clean tech. As far as renewable energy across the board, Obama has been somewhat of a disappointment. He’s opened up a lot of oil drilling, and that’s not a good thing for the climate or our own future.
Raw Story: Where do you see the country’s efforts on using wind energy?
Hanks: That is a very good question. With only current technology, we know that we could meet our energy demand — maybe not 100 percent, but something like 96 to 98 percent of our current electricity demand could be met with renewable sources. The commitment to making that happen is not in place, and it’s largely being blocked by industry, the fossil fuel industry as a whole.
Coal, in particular, costs the American taxpayer $500 billion a year in the form of subsidies and health-care costs. If you factor that into the cost of our energy, it actually makes coal the most expensive energy source, not the cheapest. And it could run out by as soon as 2020, according to Nature. We need to be investing in [wind] right now. There’s nothing else that could go up as quickly as wind, but it’s not happening right now. That’s a huge disappointment.
Raw Story: Greenpeace is now the largest organization of its kind on a global scale. How does that position you, not just over the next four years, but over the next 10 or 20? Do you think Greenpeace will want to be a player in politics, eventually?
Hanks: I think that at some point, we absolutely, on the general scale, we need effective government in order to regulate our common resources – our air our water those are the basics. The only power structure that can do that is government. Right now that’s not happening. So to that extent, yes, environmental organizations in general, not just Greenpeace, and human rights organizations and social justice organizations all have a part to play in shaping our political future. But as far as it being explicitly political — “red or blue” sense, partisan sense — that I don’t see us aiming for. In fact, the more we can move away from that, the better.