I’ve wondered, like many of you I imagine, whether online petitions actually do anything. Filling in a few fields on a website seems like literally the least we can do.
However, even if they don’t directly lead to the changes they seek, such as merging North and South Dakota into MegaKota, online petitions can move causes forward. They raise awareness of an issue, mobilize supporters and recruit new people to the cause.
Petitions work best when accompanied by other, offline actions. In 2019, a Change.org petition called for the city of Toronto to declare a climate emergency. Toronto City Council voted unanimously to do so that October, with councillor Mike Layton saying that the youth around the world demanded action on human-caused climate change. While this petition alone may not have effected the change, it contributed. According to the petition’s author, Bernard van Speyk,
Although we did not get nearly as many signatures as we had hoped, we did get noticed, and this initiative, along with a few others that were set in motion simultaneously, has resulted in Mayor Tory stating that he will declare a climate emergency.”
Certainly the 15,000 climate marchers taking to the streets of Toronto the month before the councillors made the declaration must have had an impact.
In addition to action on climate change, the public wants action on plastic pollution, as awareness of the problem has grown exponentially over the last few years. In 2019, after Greenpeace gathered over 100,000 signatures from people demanding that Trader Joe’s reduce its plastic packaging waste, the large chain announced it would eliminate over one million pounds of plastic packaging that year.
Three online petitions to sign
Tell Target to Ditch Plastic Packaging!
Greenpeace has started a petition similar to the Trader Joe’s one, demanding that Target eliminate single use plastic and move to refill and reuse systems. You can sign that petition here.
No, Coca-Cola, Consumers Do NOT Want Plastic Bottles.
Coca-Cola produces 100 billion plastic bottles every year. This year at Davos, the company’s head of sustainability, Bea Perez, said that Coca-Cola will not stop producing single-use plastic bottles because “consumers want them.” This comes from the company’s head of sustainability! Holy greenwashing.
Not too long ago, soda companies refilled and reused bottles. Consumers can and will adjust.
Plastic Pollution Coalition has started an online petition telling Coca-Cola that consumers are fed up with the company blaming consumers for the plastic pollution that it created. You can sign that petition here.
Ask Rio Tinto to Leave the Minerals Council of Australia
For decades in Australia, the fossil fuels lobbying group the Minerals Council has undermined efforts to address climate change. Rio Tinto, a mining company that operates in about 35 countries throughout the world, acknowledges the reality of climate change and says it wants to be part of the solution. As a member of the Minerals Council, it will continue to be part of the problem.
Create your own petitions
Founded in 2008 by environmentalist, author and professor Bill McKibben, along with a small group of friends, the environmental organization 350.org addresses the climate crisis through action. Soon after its founding, it quickly grew into a worldwide organization.
Its site provides, among other resources, a guide to starting a petition and campaign. Use the petition to help effect change, engage others in the cause and form a group of local activists. We need to use all the tools available—online petitions, letter writing, protesting and marching.