Since January of this year, a diverse group of intrepid new volunteers joined the San Francisco-based RAN team in a host of roles that collectively support RAN’s critical work to protect the forests of the world. Hailing from across the length and breadth of the San Francisco Bay Area -- from picturesque Petaluma north in Sonoma County, to Birkenstock-bedecked Berkeley to the east, southward to Silicon Valley and its unofficial capitol of San Jose, these dedicated activists bring a disparate array of life experiences and skillsets, as well as a shared passion, to help protect forests, the “lungs of the planet”, from the devastation wrought by illegal timber, logging and unsustainable agricultural practices, such as Conflict Palm Oil. Through their efforts, these devoted volunteers are hopeful that the world will come to understand -- and quickly is not soon enough -- just how deforestation is displacing both critically endangered species and indigenous peoples from their forest homes, its inherent human rights abuses, and its threat to the world environment for generations to come.
The myriad of projects on which the volunteers labor are as richly distinct as the volunteers themselves. For instance, to support RAN’s campaign to protect the Leuser Ecosystem, a unique and biodiversity-rich 2.6 million hectare forest on Indonesia’s northern Sumatra island, volunteer Paul Petrequin has helped compile research and data to better understand its specific preservation challenges, and spread awareness of illegal logging and palm oil’s creeping illegal encroachment.
Other volunteers support RAN campaigns by contributing their time and expertise in the social media realm. Volunteer Patrick Barnett supports the digital team by researching and procuring social media content to share on our widely followed Facebook and Twitter channels. Volunteer Gauri Pendse has used her tech-savvy to update RAN’s website and affiliated web pages. Volunteers Allen Carroll and Paul Petrequin have conducted research on RAN’s corporate bad actor targets. And many volunteers have participated in direct, on-the-ground actions, including the recent local PepsiCo action in downtown San Francisco during Super Bowl City.
Volunteers participate on an individual level, too. While some maintain personal weblogs targeting personal environmental interests, others bring strong, unique voices to their respective Facebook, Instagram and Twitter profiles and feeds. No matter the media avenue and what issues are exposed, however, volunteer energies are directed toward the same goal: to educate readers on the dire importance of rainforests in the global environmental picture. In this day and age, such essential messaging gives a voice to the indigenous communities and species on the frontlines that rely on the rainforests as their habitats and homes. In short, the volunteers target the profit-oriented corporate brands (like unabashedly recalcitrant PepsiCo and luxury clothing line Abercrombie and Fitch) whose very bottom-line business practices and strategies put the forests of Earth at inevitable risk. Indeed, RAN’s efforts to target PepsiCo at the Super Bowl brought fresh attention to a worldwide audience and raised awareness among football fans about PepsiCo’s ties to the destruction of Indonesia’s rainforests, species extinction, the abuse of workers and communities, and climate change. These crusades illustrate RAN’s deep commitment to the environment, and prove it to be one of the most active NGOs on the scene.
I am one of these new Bay Area volunteers, and while I have been a part of RAN’s Rapid Response and petitioning teams for years via email, I recently moved from San Diego to the Bay Area so I could be embedded in the Bay Area’s hotbed of activism. I am especially excited to be working with RAN’s Forest Team and participate more directly in the battle against the world’s seemingly insatiable demand for rainforest-destroying Conflict Palm Oil. Disillusioned after stoking the fires in the boiler rooms of some of the biggest movie/TV studios in Hollywood for over a decade, I went back to law school, idealistically dreaming of becoming a crusading environmental attorney. But an extreme distaste for litigation forced me to go “in-house” as corporate counsel at media, software and technology companies instead. Now, when I’m not “annoying my friends, family and co-workers with wild-eyed enviro-rants,” I split time between my day job as a Silicon Valley attorney, and meaningful participation on RAN’s Forest Program team. But it’s not all legal paper-pushing, petitioning, and protests. In my downtime, I donate pro bono legal hours to Orangutan Outreach, a conservation NGO, research and write the occasional political/environment-themed piece on my personal blog, and work on a TRAFFIC-like movie thriller that examines the highly controversial and disastrous 2015 Indonesian fire season from multiple stakeholders’ perspectives.
As is clear, it’s energized, enthusiastic new volunteers that help augment and sustain RAN’s tireless, non-stop advocacy. Right now we are working hard to push PepsiCo to adopt a sustainable and responsible palm oil procurement policy, and we can always use more motivated, impassioned activists who share the same zeal, desire and ambition to contribute to RAN’s imperative mission. If you are interested in joining us, please sign up here or email Kelsey (firstname.lastname@example.org) to learn more!