09/14/2011 10:00 pm ET | Updated Nov 14, 2011

Don't Make a Wave: Greenpeace at 40

"The idea exists that the ecology movement is a late-blooming fad, something to do with hippies; a fad, moreover, that will vanish the moment serious jobs-versus-nature battles come down in the wake of the first macro waves of recession," wrote Greenpeace founder, Canadian, Bob Hunter, in an unpublished 1990 forward to his book Warriors of the Rainbow, A chronicle of the Greenpeace Movement.

The book is to be republished next month to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the first journey undertaken by what is now a globally recognized organization, famous for its high profile 'non-violent direct action' in defense of nature and the environment. Famous for its role in ending nuclear testing, the ban on dumping of radioactive waste at sea, the protection of the ozone, the moratorium on commercial whaling, the establishment of the Antarctic world park, amongst other things.

Economic crises come and go, but the ecology movement is still here. It is still growing, as is Greenpeace. From humble Vancouver beginnings, Greenpeace now has offices in more than 40 countries and on all continents, populated by activists world-wide from all cultures joining together in common cause -- true warriors of the rainbow.


The crew of the first Greenpeace voyage, which departed Vancouver on the 15th September 1971. The aim of the trip was to halt nuclear tests in Amchitka Island by sailing into the restricted area. Crew on-board the ship, are the pioneers of the green movement who formed the original group that became Greenpeace. Image: Robert Keziere

In addition to a global presence, we have built, over 40 years, an organization made up from all sectors of society and a myriad of cultures. We have scientists, lawyers, doctors, journalists, students, engineers, parents and grandparents, a myriad of disciplines necessary for founding our campaigns in science, our communications in simple language, to keep our action daring and safe and our ships at sea.

Greenpeace people understand that multinational corporations and international bodies will only respond to international pressure, applied at every level. People who understand that the pressures on our environment are transnational and the solutions are global.

That is why we are able to call out companies like Mattel, as we did recently for its role in fueling Indonesian rainforest destruction and thus also driving climate change. Greenpeace exposed Mattel for buying paper products from Asia Pulp and Paper, a notorious rainforest destroyer, in which it wraps its number one product: Barbie. We were able to send local documentation teams to Sumatra to verify deforestation in protected areas. We had global creative teams prepare materials for a so-called brand attack, and engage in guerrilla marketing in London's Piccadilly Circus and elsewhere.

We can connect the heart of Alberta's tar sands destruction to markets, companies and investors world wide, pressuring companies like Norway's Statoil to stop destroying vast areas of Boreal forest in the desperate bid to wring the last poisonous drops of oil from the earth.

We can once more journey, with two ships, far into hostile and icy environments, like the Greenpeace founders did, to confront dangerous exploratory oil drilling in the Arctic: to travel to the scene of the environmental crime and speak truth to power. As we did earlier this year when over 20 activists, including myself, boarded a dangerous drilling rig demanding to see its oil spill response plan. For that we were arrested, imprisoned and deported from Greenland. However, some weeks later the spill plan was released for public scrutiny, confirming our worst fears. There is no credible response plan for dealing with an oil spill in the Arctic. The document is a sham. If a spill were to happen at the end of the drilling season, and at the onset of winter, then some five months would pass before it would even be possible to stem the flow or attempt a clean up.

Only days after the 10th anniversary of the Twin Towers terror tragedy, when the world stops to consider the consequences of that fateful day and ponder the meaning of security, it would be wise to broaden the debate to include ecology.

To understand the root causes of conflict and role played by depleting our natural resources and chasing even more remote and dwindling oil supplies. It does not take a rocket scientist to figure out what will happen if climate change is allowed to continue unchecked, if we do not bring our carbon emissions under control. It does not take a rocket scientist to figure out the consequences of relying on ever decreasing oil supplies. Some nations, including Canada, have already begun military posturing in the dance around carving up the Arctic: a situation based on the irrepressible irony of climate change and warming polar temperatures as a result of burning fossil fuels.

Greenpeace is here to call out the naked Emperor, to point out the folly of viewing a melting Arctic as an invitation to drill for climate changing oil rather than as a warning and a provocation to invest in clean green energy sources: to invest in a green economy, which also offers real job creation possibilities.

Forty years after our founding, we are facing a perfect storm of crises: economic, democratic and ecological, to name a few. In joining 'green' and 'peace', our founders realized all too well that to tackle one we have to tackle them all.

Greenpeace's ultimate success will be measured when we are no longer necessary. Hopefully, in forty more years we will have averted climate chaos, ecology and economy will be balanced with considerations of equity and our job will have been done.

But, for now and today, countless communities and activists around the world, pay tribute to and derive inspiration from the vision of Hunter and all the founding 'greenpeacers' who set sail for Amchitka on Sept 15 1971, to take on a super power, to halt nuclear testing, and won.

In the meantime, Peace