Get to Know Deanna Noël

Public Citizen News / July-August 2022

By Lacey Johnson

This article appeared in the July/August 2022 edition of Public Citizen News. Download the full edition here.

Deanna Noël wants to see a better world. Her work before and since joining Public Citizen in Fall 2021 demonstrates as much. Noël brings to her role of Climate Campaign Director 15 years of experience in advocacy and grassroots organizing. After graduating from St. Olaf College, where she studied human rights and environmental justice, Noël worked in a number of roles centered on social justice and environmental advocacy. She brings to Public Citizen a unique perspective informed by her dedication to climate justice.

You have built a long career around climate-related advocacy. What drew you to that area of work?

I grew up in the Midwest. My friends and I had nothing to do but sit around listening to punk, reading Adbusters, and questioning authority! We also lived on the banks of the Cedar River. I recall a yearly activity of watching my dad spray-paint neon orange stripes on trees to note how high the river would get, but it stopped being a game when we experienced multiple 100-year floods in a 15-year span and the water was so high there were no visible trunks left to paint. Our house was condemned after the last big flood in 2008 and is now a city park.

How did you start your work with Public Citizen?

I’d been looking to transfer my environmental advocacy background to an organization that works on social justice and democracy issues, so working on climate issues at Public Citizen was a natural fit. I had worked with East Peterson-Trujillo (Public Citizen’s clean vehicles campaigner) on a project at my former job and knew they landed here, so that helped in my decision to pursue the climate campaigns director role. I was really excited to work on corporate campaigns, but had no idea how much I’d also enjoy the world of climate financial regulation. Wonk town!

Are there overlooked aspects of climate activism that you hope to bring more attention to?

The joy that comes from activism! We’re organizing people to take down the biggest corporate villains in the world and decision makers who don’t believe in science. That’s a wild way to spend your time. The fearless, witty, and strategic advocacy of others in the climate space is something I draw energy from, and the camaraderie in climate activism keeps me in the work even on the hardest days. Also, I try to not lose sight of wins happening around the world, even though that can be hard amidst setbacks.

What is one achievement in your career at Public Citizen that you’re most proud of?

I’m proud of the campaign team’s work on AIG, in particular Insurance Campaigner Hannah Saggau’s relentless advocacy that resulted in a major victory this spring. I joined Hannah at AIG’s headquarters in New York City during my third week on the job for a ridiculously fun holiday-themed stunt. Soon after we got intel that the public pressure was getting to AIG’s CEO, and a few months later AIG rolled out its first-ever climate policy. It was one of many tactics used to apply pressure on C-suite execs—and it paid off!

How does climate advocacy intersect with other forms of activism?

No struggle exists in a vacuum. Fighting for a livable planet and dismantling racism, classism, homophobia, transphobia, sexism, ableism, and all the other “isms” are interconnected. I’m interested in living in a world where everyone is afforded the same respect and rights.