As a relatively new organizer at the Sierra Club, the largest grassroots environmental organization in the United States, I struggle to grasp what our size of 3.5 million members and supporters really means. Numbers are big, nonprofits love them, but I often have difficulty really feeling their significance. For the past three months, I’ve been helping lead Sierra Club mobilizations for the Green New Deal. Through this work I’ve begun to understand what 3.5 million people can mean, and have been energized and awed by abundance of knowledge, creativity, and power that exists within this big messy network of humans.
Numbers -- if organized and mobilized strategically -- can mean power. To kick off the summer, we launched a mobilization called “Growing the Green New Deal.” The mobilization focused on the August Congressional Recess, and we asked the Sierra Club community to meet with their members of Congress about upcoming climate and clean economy legislation in order to sow the seeds of the Green New Deal. As a fun, plant-based twist, we asked folks to bring vegetables, fruit, flowers or other offerings to the meeting to symbolize the growth we are asking for. With nearly 100 lobby meetings happening in at least 22 states, 500 individuals participating in our online training series, and thousands of activists engaging in the mobilization overall, we knew we had struck a chord. The success of this mobilization showed what is possible and proved there is a hunger from Sierra Club activists to get out there and Grow the Green New Deal. I feel proud to be a part of an organization that is capable of mobilizing such a lively force to be reckoned with.
We also know that we are so much more than numbers! We are all individuals with unique experiences, visions for the world, and roles to play in our movement. The creative prompts of our mobilization to Grow the Green New Deal helped display the kaleidoscope of people and what matters to them.
Sarah from Gainesville, Florida, worked with dozens of youth to make an origami flower bouquet to deliver to their Republican representative, Ted Yoho, to advocate for clean energy, regenerative agriculture, and a just transition for Florida.
Aaron, an herbalist in Ohio, brought a homemade salve to his representative, Joyce Beatty, to talk about clean energy and the need for more affordable electric vehicles.
Katherine in Chesapeake, Virginia, brought brown-eyed susans from her garden to thank Representative Donald McEachin for introducing the 100% Clean Economy Act.
Selden and her team from Seattle worked with the Washington Fair Trade Coalition to tell representatives that Trump’s NAFTA would be in complete opposition to the Green New Deal.
Angelle, Adam, and Valerie in New Orleans went to Representative Cedric Richmond’s office for a meeting, and refused to give up when no one would meet with them. Finally, they got a meeting with a staffer and spoke about climate change’s impact in Louisiana.
Sara and her three-year-old daughter, Ainsley, brought peaches and hibiscus flowers to their representative, Denver Riggleman, and emphasized that we must take climate action for our children.
The Sierra Club’s Arizona Chapter hosted an art party where they made posters with flowers, leaves, and other natural objects and then met with elected officials in nearly every congressional district throughout the state to fight for a Green New Deal, no border wall, and protections for the Grand Canyon.
We saw so much imagination and play in these Growing the Green New Deal visits that we realized there was a deep creative energy among our network that was just asking to be tapped into. So, a month later we sent out an invitation to Sierra Club supporters to help us imagine the Green New Deal through sharing their art. We’d then have a virtual showcase where we’d highlight select artists and their pieces, lifting up the important work artists do every day to cultivate a culture that not only wants a Green New Deal but also believes it is possible. The contributions of artists to all social movements throughout history is immeasurable and we realized that, on a national level, we had not been giving the artists within the Sierra Club community an opportunity to contribute their talents to the movement.
This week, we are thrilled to begin sharing the fruits of this call for artists. Our first post highlighting Sierra Club artists is up on the Sierra Club’s Instagram today, and there will be more posted each day this week. It has been an important reminder that there can be joy and creativity in our activism, and that opportunities like these can provide spaces for folks to contribute to the movement in the way that feels right for them.
The past few months of plant-filled lobby visits and support-created art, have shown me the power and beauty of the Sierra Club’s network. These actions and art pieces all tell us a similar story, as well -- the story of a society in need of bold, radical transformation, and a fierce movement ready to take it on.