For climate campaigners, Penny was best known for supergluing – she glued herself to the revolving doors of lastminute.com’s HQ as part of a Plane Stupid action, she glued herself to a shelf in Boots because of their accounting practices, and she famously glued herself to the gates of the Heathrow Climate Camp to stop the police entering the site, earning enormous gratitude and respect.
But this was really the tiny cherry on the enormous cake of her life’s work to mitigate climate change.
In the mid-’80s, with two small children, Penny completed her second degree at the Peace Studies department at Bradford University and published her dissertation on responding to global warming.
In response to the Rio Earth Summit in 1992, she organised the first of four ‘Walks for the Earth’. During this two-week walk, from Manchester to London, Penny met her partner Billy, who moved to live with her in Hebden Bridge, and who she married in 1994.
Penny saw that climate change was so big that it was easy for people to go into denial: ‘I woke up in the middle of the night with the idea of Treesponsibility.’ This would combine climate awareness with ‘something positive so that they’d be more likely to listen to the good things’.
Treesponsibility, launched in 1998, was a 25-year project to engage hundreds of people in re-foresting Yorkshire’s Calder Valley. Penny’s passion and tenacity won sites from landowners, funding from agencies and co-operation from the council.
In 2010, Penny glued herself to the offices of the Royal Bank of Scotland, to protest against the financing of a bauxite mine that would destroy the tribal lands of the Dongria Kondh in India. Beforehand, she adopted that name, so she could take action in their name. She kept it until their lands were saved many years later. Explaining her name meant explaining their fight, another everyday way of communicating the awfulness of global capitalism and destruction.
In February, knowing she didn’t have many months of life left, Dongria heard about the annual Dongria Kondh bursary, funded by Calderdale council, the Environment Agency, the National Trust and Slow the Flow, to support two Masters students investigating natural flood management.
She is survived by two children, two grandchildren, her partner, many, many friends and comrades – and more than half a million trees.