Saturday, 5 December 2015
The Manchester Greenpeace Group is ready to roll, off to be part of the anti-fracking feeder march to the largest demonstration Manchester has ever seen. We're there, as are lots of people in pig masks, but funnily enough we're the only people with a bear.
That's one day as a Greenpeace volunteer. Not a typical day perhaps, but then again there aren't many typical days.
A little over a year ago, for example, I was on the border of Poland and the old East Germany, swimming in cool waters with tall pines silhouetted against the evening sky. Never mind the air force of mosquitoes attacking any exposed flesh, this was one of the most beautiful places I had ever been to. That was Deulowitzer See in Lusatia, and I really was there with 8000 other volunteers trying to stop this wonderful place disappearing into a giant, opencast lignite mine.
In between these two events volunteering has seen me on the streets asking Santander to ditch deforestation, outside toy shops calling on Lego to ditch Shell, waving placards outside Lancashire County Council as they debate fracking, stalking the tinned fish aisles of local supermarkets to find dodgy tuna and climbing lampposts in the middle of the night to...well let's no go there. The Manchester Group has also been up to Todmorden to meet broadminded folk trying to help us build a better world, and down to Westminster to meet narrow minded ones trying to stop us.
Why do I do it? It's my rent for living on this beautiful but fragile planet. It's the alternative to throwing a brick at the television. It's a way to be in this world and not feel guilty about how we treat it.
I sort of drifted into Greenpeace some time in the early nineties. As an under-employed graduate with a growing collection of Levellers albums, it sort of came with the image. But once you're in, it's hard to get out. Helping out at a stall every now and again just about paid my planetary rent, but I soon wanted more. I didn't just want to take part in Greenpeace campaigns, I wanted to win them.
And winning is what Greenpeace do. Santander caved in, as did Lego, Shell pulled the plug on it's $7 billion Arctic adventure, Lancashire rejected fracking and we drank the bar dry in Germany. Result.
Of course, it's not all been fun.Twenty hours on a coach to Germany isn't great. Cuardrilla Resources giving two fingers to democracy and appealing the fracking decision is worse. But the highs more than make up for the lows. Being a Greenpeace volunteer has given me memories that are up there as the best that life can offer. It has made me great friends. It has introduced me to strangers to who I would trust my life.
So volunteer for Greenpeace. Meet interesting people, go to interesting places, drink the bar dry and climb inside a bear. What more do you want from life?