Greenpeace USA’s New Leader Has Waste-Deep Background

Leonard: Taking reins at Greenpeace USA.Leonard: Taking reins at Greenpeace USA.
National Journal
Christopher Snow Hopkins
Add to Briefcase
See more stories about...
Christopher Snow Hopkins
May 6, 2014, 8 a.m.

For many Green­peace re­cruits, it is a rite of pas­sage to be ar­res­ted while pick­et­ing a ma­jor car­bon pol­luter or an ex­port­er of haz­ard­ous waste. An­nie Le­onard, who is the new ex­ec­ut­ive dir­ect­or of Green­peace USA, proved her mettle in the late 1980s by oc­cupy­ing the of­fices of a U.S.-based com­pany that was ship­ping mer­cury-laced garbage to black town­ships in apartheid-era South Africa.

“Back then, there was a rush of total schmucks who were tak­ing all kinds of waste, from mu­ni­cip­al garbage to tox­ic ma­ter­i­als, and put­ting it on ships and dump­ing it in Third World coun­tries,” she said. “At first, we asked them po­litely to stop. When they ig­nored us, we oc­cu­pied their of­fices.”

As head of Green­peace USA, Le­onard takes over an or­gan­iz­a­tion more en­gaged with its con­ser­va­tion­ist brethren than it was 20 years ago. “Dur­ing my first stint with Green­peace, groups were much more siloed and in­wardly fo­cused,” she said. “There wasn’t a lot of cross-group col­lab­or­a­tion. That has totally changed. Green­peace really views it­self as one or­gan­iz­a­tion among many.”

Le­onard, who has also worked for the Glob­al Anti-In­cin­er­at­or Al­li­ance, Health Care Without Harm, and Es­sen­tial In­form­a­tion, will be based in Green­peace’s San Fran­cisco of­fice. She re­places Phil Rad­ford, who led Green­peace USA from its Wash­ing­ton of­fice for five years, in Au­gust.

The 49-year-old Le­onard is the cre­at­or and nar­rat­or of the 2007 Web video The Story of Stuff, which has been viewed more than 30 mil­lion times and is now a staple of school and faith cur­ricula. She also turned it in­to a book that made The New York Times best-seller list in 2010.

The 21-minute an­im­ated film is a mani­festo of sorts, ex­pos­ing the un­seen con­sequences of the ma­ter­i­als eco­nomy and en­join­ing view­ers to cur­tail their habits as con­sumers. Ad­ap­ted from an hour-long lec­ture, The Story of Stuff is breezy in tone des­pite its ser­i­ous sub­ject mat­ter. It in­stantly went vir­al: By the end of its first day on­line, it had re­ceived more than 50,000 hits.

“Is there a way to talk about all these com­plex, of­ten-de­press­ing is­sues in a way that is not all about guilt and fear but is ac­cess­ible and in­vit­ing and en­cour­ages more people to join the con­ver­sa­tion?” Le­onard asked. “A lot of en­vir­on­ment­al­ists tend to be whiny and wonky, and then we don’t un­der­stand why people don’t want to hang out with us. I wanted to fig­ure out how to talk about this in a way that was ac­cess­ible and in­vit­ing.”

Le­onard was raised in Seattle — which she de­scribes as a “Green­peace kind of town” — and at­ten­ded Barn­ard Col­lege in New York City, where she was aghast at en­coun­ter­ing shoulder-high piles of garbage along the curb.

“As a col­lege stu­dent from eco-green, squeaky-clean Seattle, I was mes­mer­ized by this waste. I star­ted open­ing bags of garbage to see what was in it, and I saw that it was al­most all pa­per. And that’s where I star­ted put­ting the pieces to­geth­er. I had done a lot of hik­ing as a kid and seen the clear-cuts up close. My be­loved North­w­est forests were be­ing cut down and turned in­to old pizza boxes and of­fice pa­per on the street.”¦ But where did they go after that?”

To an­swer this ques­tion, she vis­ited a nearby dump. “I will nev­er for­get that life-al­ter­ing mo­ment,” she said. “As far as I could see in every single dir­ec­tion was waste: shoes, fur­niture, clothes, books, and food. I was ab­so­lutely stunned by the scale and also how secret it was. How could I have got­ten all the way to my sopho­more year without know­ing that our eco­nomy was built on this fun­da­ment­ally un­sus­tain­able mod­el? Right then and there, I said I’m go­ing to fig­ure this out, and I’m go­ing to stop it.”

Le­onard joined Green­peace In­ter­na­tion­al in 1988 and now re­turns to the U.S. branch with a new mis­sion.

“While the en­vir­on­ment­al chal­lenges be­fore us are daunt­ing, I have nev­er felt more op­tim­ist­ic about the col­lect­ive ef­fort to cre­ate a more sus­tain­able world,” she said. “There is a new en­vir­on­ment­al move­ment in this coun­try that is grow­ing stronger and more di­verse every day, and I am honored to re­turn to Green­peace to help that move­ment grow even stronger.”

What We're Following See More »
HAD ATTRACTED A CROWD TODAY
Alt-Right Leader Spencer Removed from CPAC
13 hours ago
WHY WE CARE
SAYS LEFT WILL GO INTO “MELTDOWN”
Cruz Predicts Another SCOTUS Vacancy “This Summer”
17 hours ago
THE LATEST
THE QUESTION
How Many Signatures Has the Petition for Trump’s Tax Returns Received?
19 hours ago
THE ANSWER

More than 1 million, setting a record. More than 100,000 signatures triggers an official White House response.

Source:
TIED TO RUSSIA INVESTIGATION
Sen. Collins Open to Subpoena of Trump’s Tax Returns
19 hours ago
THE LATEST

Sen. Susan Collins, who sits on the Intelligence Committee, "said on Wednesday she's open to using a subpoena to investigate President Donald Trump's tax returns for potential connections to Russia." She said the committee is also open to subpoenaing Trump himself. "This is a counter-intelligence operation in many ways," she said of Russia's interference. "That's what our committee specializes in. We are used to probing in depth in this area."

Source:
NPR ALSO LAUNCHES ETHICS WATCH
Obama Staffers Launch Group to Monitor Trump Ethics
19 hours ago
WHY WE CARE

"Top lawyers who helped the Obama White House craft and hold to rules of conduct believe President Donald Trump and his staff will break ethics norms meant to guard against politicization of the government — and they’ve formed a new group to prepare, and fight. United to Protect Democracy, which draws its name from a line in President Barack Obama’s farewell address that urged his supporters to pick up where he was leaving off, has already raised a $1.5 million operating budget, hired five staffers and has plans to double that in the coming months." Meanwhile, NPR has launched a "Trump Ethics Monitor" to track the resolution of ten ethics-related promises that the president has made.

Source:
×
×

Welcome to National Journal!

You are currently accessing National Journal from IP access. Please login to access this feature. If you have any questions, please contact your Dedicated Advisor.

Login