Volunteer Activist in the Spotlight: Sandra Peeters, Greenpeace Houston

Sandra Peeters is a badass volunteer activist shaking things up in Houston, Texas. She likes to prove naysayers wrong and is never afraid to stand up for what she believes in. The apple certainly doesn’t fall far from the tree: Sandra began her activism at the age of fourteen, attending PETA and Houston Animal Rights actions with her mother. She gained inspiration to delve even deeper into her own ideals from the Bernie Sanders campaign, saying, “It was the first time in my entire life that I believed it was possible to change our archaic and broken system.”

Sandra has helped to lobby for 100% renewable energy in Houston by 2035 using guerilla projections and freeway banner drops to highlight the detrimental effects of fossil fuels. Also, she is playing a key role in the Houston “Summer of Resistance" event, a collaborative and inclusive gathering that combines networking and educational opportunities regarding effective nonviolent direct actions. I asked Sandra what her favorite thing is about what she does, and she stated, “Getting to work with people who are passionate about creating a better world, I am inspired by them daily.”

Sandra and her fellow Texan activists are living smack dab in the middle of oil country, with the dire need to raise awareness about companies such as ExxonMobil. Exxon recently held their annual shareholder's meeting in Dallas, an event that Greenpeace never misses. The city has passed ordinances banning the use of the word “oil” and the name “Exxon” on banners and billboards — but, silly fat cats —  that is not going to stop Greenpeace! We will just take to the air.

The bell of the Dallas ball was, of course, the Greenpeace Airship — and Sandra was lucky enough to be a member of the crew! Sandra describes the event as “awe-inducing.” Reflecting on the moment she first saw the airship inflate, she admits, “I had a total sappy breakdown moment and started crying, I couldn’t help it.” As we all know, fighting for justice can sometimes feel isolating. Sandra says that seeing the airship made her realize that she is far from alone in her battle.

As Sandra puts it, ExxonMobil does a “great job of shifting the blame”.  She goes on to say, “They accept no responsibility for their part in inducing climate change, they know how to lie expertly, and all of our protests are challenging that propaganda.” The revealing of two sets of Exxon books to misrepresent the impact of climate change to their shareholders [1] recently proved her notion. Those shareholders must not be as clueless as Exxon takes them to be, as the majority voted in favor of a groundbreaking resolution to analyze the risk climate change poses to their business. To add insult to Exxon’s misery, the record demanded by shareholders would take into account Paris agreement goals. Despite weeks of campaigning against this resolution by Exxon executives, 62% of the shareholders voted to pass this resolution.

I asked Sandra if she considered this a victory, and her reply was an astounding, “Definitely! Anytime there is an upset in Exxon’s agenda like what you saw with the shareholder's vote, it is a victory”.

With Sandra's experience in these hard-hitting areas, she gives the following  great advice to other activists:

  • Contact members of Congress and local government representatives to demand that they fight for us rather than for corporate interests. Greenpeace makes this easy with their fast action links, which can be found here.

  • Get involved locally and attend protests. The Greenpeace Greenwire community is a great way to find an action in your area or head a new one.

  • If face-to-face confrontation is not your forte, sign online petitions. Register to receive Greenpeace text messages to stay on top of the latest issues.

  • Donate.

  • Think about your daily purchases and withhold your dollars from companies who profit from injustice.

Sandra also believes that it is important to surround yourself with like-minded individuals, and I would second that notion. She shared a quote with me that she turns to when times get tough:

This is no time for despair or giving up. This is a time for organizing, educating, and fighting back”. ~ Bernie Sanders

I had goosebumps the first time I read this quote,  and they are back as I type it. Perhaps it is the power of the quote — or maybe, it is knowing that we have tenacious fighters on our team like Sandra Peeters.

Additional resources:

·        Connect with the Greenpeace, Houston Greenwire community here.

·        Connect with Sandra here.

·        Follow the Greenpeace, Houston Facebook page here.

[1] http://www.loe.org/shows/shows.html?programID=17-P13-00024