The Last Message Becky Wrote To You

Written by Nell Greenberg

Topics: Action, Climate, Forests

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Becky visionaryFor the last two weeks, we’ve been grieving the loss of RAN’s beloved executive director, Rebecca Tarbotton, who died tragically on December 26.

In late December, Becky was working on a letter to you that she planned to send in the New Year. We’ve decided to share the full letter below.

We will warn you that reading this letter will be hard. It was written by an inspirational visionary and friend who was robbed from us too soon. But we felt it was important to share the full letter because it presents a vision for 2013 that we all share, and it’s about you.

We are asking that you leave a comment below or reply via email to with your thoughts on this vision, and on how we can join forces in 2013 in new and more fearless ways. Because, as Becky put it so perfectly, “protecting forests, our climate and human rights really doesn’t happen without you.”

Dear friends,

RAN has a vision for 2013, but it only works if you see it as your vision too. It’s big, it’s bold and it will take all of us.

I will tell you up front that all I am asking of you in this letter is for you to let me know you’re with us.

We on the RAN staff and Board believe that our core purpose is to protect endangered forests, move the country off of fossil fuels and defend human rights. And that the best possible way to do that is with effective, innovative and hard-hitting environmental corporate campaigning powered by people like you and me. If that resonates for you then you should keep reading.

You’ve tasked us to think through the strategies most effective for protecting forests, the climate and human rights. You’ve tasked us with doing the research, the writing, the negotiating with some of the world’s largest corporations and worst polluters.

But I need to also task you with something too. I need you to redouble your commitment to be part of this network that is needed to protect forests and the climate. You are the muscle behind our strategies. I don’t say this to make you feel good. I say it because it’s the truth. And if you believe me, it means doing more work than you ever thought you would do for our environment.

In 2013, you and I, the network powerful enough to inspire long-term change from corporate giants like Burger King, Home Depot, Citibank and Disney, have a big role to play. I believe that the most important places for us to put our collective energy in 2013 are:

• Defend ground zero for rainforest protection: Indonesia

Why the forests of Indonesia? Because that is where deforestation is happening at the most alarming rate. If Indonesia’s rainforests go, we will have to find a way to explain to our grandchildren why orangutans and Sumatran tigers no longer exist. And if we lose these forests, our climate emissions will increase exponentially.

This year, you will be asked to get even more involved in stopping the two main culprits of this deforestation: paper companies, like Asia Pulp and Paper (APP), and palm oil suppliers, like Cargill. In the first few months of the year, I hope you will join us so that we can go after APP like never before and launch a new campaign that gets unsustainable palm oil off our grocery store shelves.

• Double down on climate activism: Cut funding for fossil fuels

The clean energy revolution that you and I want to see cannot happen while the biggest banks in the country are funding fossil fuels. Together, we will follow the money. If you’re game, this can be the year we use every tool in our toolbox to push Bank of America, the leading funder of the coal industry, to dump fossil fuels for clean energy. And the year we take big action to push climate onto the forefront of the President’s agenda.

• Build our collective power

Last year, we spent a lot of time talking about you. Thinking about how to bring you ever closer, how to expand our numbers, and how we leverage our collective strength. But our next step is to listen. We plan to do a lot of listening to you in 2013, to hear what your visions are for our network, and to dream and scheme ways to build our power together. We need your help to get louder, to be bolder and to have the most powerful impact. Will you join us to expose APP for the first time ever in North America with your social media networks, to build awareness about the problems with palm oil community by community, to leverage your dollars to push Bank of America out of the coal industry? Will you ask your friends to join? What more could you do, would you do in your community, online, in the streets as part of RAN?

I know that there are a lot of other pressing issues out there. But I believe in focus and in high leverage fights that can catalyze big changes.

So, it’s going to be a big year. And it needs to be.

We are in the midst of what history will undoubtedly call the next industrial revolution. And the evidence that it’s happening is all around us, if we care to look. In 2012, people like you helped shutter 125 coal plants and inspired Disney to transform everything about the way it uses paper.

So, not to sound cheesy, but our big vision for 2013 is you. This is a community that can see windmills replacing coal fields. That believes a tree is worth more standing than cut down for paper. That knows people power can trump corporate power. Protecting forests, our climate and human rights really doesn’t happen without you…nothing happens without you.

Together, I know we can take on the biggest, most well-funded polluters and exploiters in the world—and win. I know because I’ve seen it, from our Burger King victory in 1987 to our Disney win last year.

I cannot thank you enough for the emails you’ve sent, the calls you’ve made, the funds you’ve given, the rallies and protests you’ve attended. It’s hard to grasp the enormity of our huge accomplishments as a network. I hope you’re as ready as I am for the possibilities of 2013.

For the future, for our forests,

Becky Tarbotton

67 Comments For This Post I'd Love to Hear Yours!

  1. Jonas LaMattery-Brownell says:

    Hello RAN and beyond, I write this in response to your invitation to hear from me. I don’t know what the best way forward for RAN is. I can only offer you what I am doing personally to be of best service, as I see it, to our planet and its myriad beings at this time. I let my car go last year and am accustoming myself to relying on bicycle, walking, and public transit for almost all my transit needs (occasionally borrowing a car to do a big move of things or take my extended family on a small trip). I am shifting towards eating less and less meat–and open to becoming vegetarian, although I haven’t fully done that yet. I dedicate time and attention every day to studying and practicing Buddhism, a tradition that, as I see it, offers a completely radical, transformative path of action and being that might transform myself and potentially everyone ultimately into beings of ultimate usefulness to others in solving all problems beings have ever/may ever face (but it all begins with just paying attention to what’s happening right here and now, with no preconceived agenda about what this might be). And I work as a public school teacher, currently with adolescents in a hospital setting; in this work, I try to engage the students in recognizing all kinds of positive things in themselves, each other, and the world; in recognizing some of the deep as well as superficial problems we face individually and collectively; and in considering and creating solutions to these problems. I try to balance my input and direction with the students’ own initiative and authentic choices. Sometimes I have to just take charge and show them something; sometimes I need hold my tongue and listen. I think you get this basic balancing act–so perhaps what I want to say now is: keep balancing, but, as the Buddha said, “Everything in moderation, including moderation.” Love and power for good to you! Thank you for your wonderful work!

  2. Marcus says:

    I think it would be cool RAN did moveon style meet ups to work on ran campaigns of fundraise for specific projects. (Community groups)

  3. Jane Gallagher says:

    It saddens me along with everyone else above to hear that such a young, inspiring activist as Becky has passed on so early in her life. Once again, we are made aware of the preciousness and vulnerability of each moment of any life, and what a gift it is to have a chance to be awake and alive right now. Becky passed on her vision, love and inspirational energy, which we now may be motivated to receive fully into our daily lives by taking personal actions in our local fields of awareness, which may combine to move humanity toward a life-preserving tipping point, as we are doing in a very small way by contributing to this blog. I believe, if we all continue to do that to the best of our abilities, there is hope that the other tipping point we all wish to avoid will not materialize.

    As the executive staff of the Rainforest Action Network, please find a way to link the ideas expressed in the posts above from Bradley Robinson, Aaron, Janet Wells, Lindsay Wilson, and Adam Metzler to create actions at local levels. In my view, they have together outlined the most critical elements of the “Big Vision” that needs to be brought to earth through all of our actions to create a new paradigm of human activity; one capable of fostering life by honoring the intricately connected fabric of all flora and fauna, including humans, which are not separate at all! Work in Indonesia, of course, is absolutely crucial as part of that on-the-ground strategy, as many above suggest, in support of Becky’s own words.

    Thank you for giving us this opportunity to contribute our thoughts and for your amazing work!! May it continue to grow and strengthen.

  4. maryam adrangi says:

    i only briefly worked with Becky, but i remember she was one of the first people to put her name forward and right an op-ed in support of young people who got kicked out of parliament in canada when they disrupted session by chanting in support of indigenous rights and climate legislation. i know this is only a drop in the bucket of wonderful things becky has done. but i send love and strength to all those who have been lucky enough to know her!

  5. cathie buchanan says:

    i believe the action needs to include educating children, heavily promoting of ecotourism, forming relations with whole foods and cooperatives to convince them to not carry foods with palm oil supplied by cargill, hold public presentations about the wonders of the rainforests in libraries (most libraries do not require a fee to use their meeting rooms) and then explain the necessity to save the rainforests, hold protests outside burger king, mcdonalds to demonstrate their destruction of people’s homes for their 59 cent hamburger.

  6. Marie Lloyd says:

    Rebecca was known to me only in an online way, but that was easily enough to mobilize me to respond to RAN online opportunities for activism.
    Her blog well outlines important work to be done; her legacy will be how all of us work together to realize its completion.

  7. Alana Lea says:

    Sharing your sense of loss and deepest respect for Rebecca… I work in rural Brazil, in a rainforest that is already 93% gone. I’ve seen many GMO farms, that are clueless about what that means to their future, muchless their forest. We are working to keep the GMO seeds out of our area by preserving native food and tree seeds. They do GM tree experiments too you know ( watch David Suzuki’s film “Silent Forest”). Would LOVE to have RAN’s support to strengthen the education in action that is needed to restore the most diverse and endangered rainforest on the planet. We are witnessing multinational chemical/GMO companies partnering with big international NGOs, who fund the rural education programs. I hope we can have some support for Nature as the alternative.

  8. So many touching stories here. RIP Becky.

  9. Ginger Neimo says:

    Why must the good die and the rotton ones stay behind.

  10. ricardO says:

    Becky, i never had the good fortune of crossing your path. But your loving husband has been in my heart for many many years. Your friends are my friends. Your vision, my vision.

    I read your words with a tear in my eye, knowing that in you, we lost something special and in you we are inspired to greatness.

    Thank you for you dedication, your love, your inspiration and your vision.



  11. Ming Jiu Li says:

    While RAN steps up its efforts to curb the environmentally-devastating practices of corporations, I hope that the locals who are currently forced to work under these companies do not get left behind. As we force the closure of some operations, workers are left with a sustainable alternative to maintaining their livelihoods. As RAN collaborates with local community partners to develop these alternative ways of living, we are also building stronger decentralized communities that are empowered to continue the protection of Nature, and a wider and stronger network.

  12. Pamela Hall says:

    The 100-year corporate charter for The Fed is scheduled to expire in August 2013. I’d like to see an inspiring, educational campaign to block renewal their charter. In its place we could create a national public bank. Public banking is a tried and true method to democratize money and build prosperity for the People and it could also be used to protect Nature. Unlike corporations whose charters demand ultimate allegiance to profit, public banks must serve the people and could as well be created to protect Nature, as we are part of Nature, and cannot exist without Her. Iceland has led the way by jailing its prime minister and private bank CEO’s. And they started a national public bank. Since then Iceland has done well unlike Europe and the US where people are suffering from poverty, unemployment, foreclosures and lack of credit for small businesses. For more information go to

  13. Pamela Hall says:

    Edit of previous comment: Second line should read, “renewal of their charter.”

    Please insert “… and cannot exist without Her.” North Dakota has had a state public bank for about 100 years, and is in excellent financial shape, better than any other state in the union. Yes ND has oil, but so do Texas, California and Alaska where foreclosures, unemployment and poverty are common.

    Recently,”Iceland has had the way …

    Thank you, Pamela

  14. Pamela Hall says:

    Would be so nice to be able to edit these comments!

    Regarding previous request for inserting more information, I wanted you to please insert between, “and cannot exist without Her.” and ” “Iceland has had the …” the verbiage starting with “North Dakota has” …. and ending with “Recently,”

    Thanks for helping me with this. Sorry to make it difficult. Not my best day.


  15. Thank you for you dedication

  16. Why must the good die and the rotton

  17. vizyontech says:

    Thank you for you dedication

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