By Mike Fincken

A muddy carpet of water rolls out hundreds of miles into the ocean from the second largest river in the world. The Greenpeace ship Esperanza is touched by the Congo Basin long before land is sighted.

We are not here to see chimpanzees, bonobos and mountain gorillas, or to enjoy the Congo Basin’s music, dance and diversity.  We are here because of one unsettling fact that puts all nationalities under one roof: climate change.

My name is Mike, and I am the captain of the Esperanza and a crew of 19 sailors from 17 different countries.

Captain Mike Fincken on bridge of the Esperanza.  The Greenpeace ship Esperanza is on tour in West African waters to address the problem of overfishing in the region.

25 years ago, I was loading a cargo of logs and forest products onto a ship in Canada. It was then that I discovered Greenpeace. My eyes were opened to the damage I was abetting. Since then, I have dedicated my life to Greenpeace’s mission of defending our planet. I have seen the smoke of Sumatra where the peatland forest was being burned to make way for palm oil. I blockaded an oil tanker loaded with palm oil destined for Europe, and faced life-imprisonment for taking nonviolent direct action.

Lush Peatlands

The recent discovery that the Congo Basin harbours the largest tropical peatland complex in the world is what draws our ship to Central Africa right now. The peat swamp forests are a unique ecosystem which stores vast quantities of carbon, helping to cool our planet.  If left intact, it will be instrumental in keeping the worst effects of climate change at bay.

But the Congo Basin forest is being lost at a rate of 0.5 million hectares per year. Agriculture and logging are major drivers of forest destruction, threatening the habitat of hundreds of endangered species. Who will stand with the Chimpanzee, the African Grey Parrot and the Mahogany tree? It is all too easy to shake our heads in resignation at a challenge so tremendous, and play the ostrich by burying our heads in the sand.

Destruction of Peatlands

And so I ask you all, governments and decision-makers of the region, to act now. Come on board - be part of the solutions to safeguarding the forest that sustains life on the Good Ship Earth.

You can raise your voice and share your wish for the Congo Basin forest. They will be delivered to Bonn in Germany at the United Nations Climate Conference (COP23), to highlight the importance of this precious and beautiful part of the Earth that needs to be protected.