Making a connection and making a difference

Posted by mollybrooks — 13 May 2009 at 1:58pm - Comments

Molly and the whaleMolly is our online marketing coordinator and is next up in the blog relay, a whistle-stop tour of Greenpeace staff here in the UK. Click here to catch up on the other entries.

In January 2005, the Onilahy River in southwest Madagascar flooded. Nineteen people were killed and thousands left homeless. The cyclone that caused it was probably exacerbated by climate change; the landslides that followed were definitely made worse by extensive deforestation in the area.

The flood was little reported outside Madagascar. Similar events, caused or worsened by environmental destruction, happen all over the world on a regular basis, and most of them don't make the news. The only reason I know about it is because I was there.

In early 2005 I was taking part in a conservation project in the Sept Lacs region of Madagascar, spotting lemurs and camping next to a river. One morning, after four days of rain, we'd just woken up and were cooking breakfast when the camp started to fill with water. The water level rose quickly and within a few moments was waist deep. We ran up a nearby slope to escape, and when we realised the water was not going to recede any time soon, we had to trek over the hill to the nearest village.

Eight hours later, cold, wet, tired and pretty shaken up by the day's events, we arrived in the village and were given shelter by some incredibly generous locals. Two days later we were back in the local town, without any of our tents, clothes or equipment, but fortunately with our lives and no major injuries.

I could say that this experience was an epiphany, a near-death experience that inspired me to work for Greenpeace and dedicate my life to saving the planet, but I would be lying. Clearly I was already interested in the environment - I was on a conservation project - and I had always wanted to work in the sector. However, the story does serve to illustrate one of the challenges I face working in the fundraising department.

Part of my job is to persuade people to donate money to help Greenpeace campaigns to prevent runaway climate change. One problem with communicating climate change issues is that in general, people in the UK do not experience the effects of it on an everyday basis. With a few notable exceptions - the flooding of summer 2007 for example - the vast majority of extreme weather events happen in other countries, and like the flood in Madagascar, most of them never get reported on our television screens and in our newspapers.

When the effects of something are so far removed (both spatially and in time) from the cause, it is hard to connect the two, and even harder to motivate people to give money to help stop it from happening. I have seen the effects of climate change first hand, but I still have trouble connecting that when I change one of my lightbulbs for an energy saving version, email my MP to ask them to vote against the third runway at Heathrow, or donate money to help Greenpeace campaigns. It goes some way to prevent events that haven't even happened yet, to people that I will never meet.

But fortunately an increasing number of people here do make that connection. Everything that our supporters do, from signing a petition to campaigning on the streets to giving a direct debit, does make a difference in the fight not just against climate change, but all environmental destruction.Without our supporters we wouldn't be able to achieve the successes that we already have, and we wouldn't be able to plan future campaigns to make sure that the cuts in greenhouse gas emissions that have been recommended by top scientists do in fact become a reality.

So help make my job a little bit easier, and make a donation now!

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