That’s how Irving Stowe, one of the co-founders of Greenpeace, described the plan to sail a small boat to the Arctic Ocean, where the crew would try to stop the testing of a nuclear bomb. Irving didn’t know it then, but the Greenpeace trip would last for decades and change the world. The voyage would become the Greenpeace that we know today.
From historic wins such as the commercial whaling moratorium, the Antarctic Treaty, France ending nuclear testing in the Pacific and Brent Spar action against Shell and the UK government to more recent wins like the Nestlé campaign, Greenpeace has positioned itself as a major campaigning organisation with a reputation for tenacity and getting results.
The campaign against nuclear testing lasted 25 years, from 1976 until the Comprehensive Nucelar Test Ban was signed in 1996. To save Antarctica, Greenpeace established a permanent base camp in the world’s last wilderness. They held on for five years until in 1991 39 governments agreed to a 50 year long prohibition on all mineral exploration in Antarctica.
A modern campaigning organisation: Case study - Nestlé
The Nestlé campaign victory showed that today’s Greenpeace is global, modern, high-tech and effective. The campaign used a carefully chosen target – the Kit Kat brand – combined with non-violent direct action and the on-going disclosure of evidence that Nestlé was purchasing palm oil from Sinar Mas, an Indonesian company that has been found to be destroying carbon-rich peatlands and rainforests in Indonesia.
Massive consumer pressure via social media meant hundreds of thousands of supporters emailed Nestlé and took to Facebook, Twitter and other social media outlets to voice their concerns. Activists dropped in on the Nestlé AGM and many more took non-violent direct action at other Nestlé locations globally to spread the campaign message. Two months later Nestlé announced it would commit to stop using companies from its supply chain that own or manage ‘high-risk plantations or farms linked to deforestation’ such as Sinar Mas.
The future of Greenpeace
Greenpeace’s greatest strength is its activists, volunteers and supporters – extraordinary people taking action to protect the environment.
Forty years after it was founded, Greenpeace has 28 independent national/regional offices in over 40 countries across Europe, the Americas, Africa, Asia and the Pacific.
Greenpeace acts to protect and conserve the environment and to promote peace using scientific work, trend setting technology and creative confrontation to run a wide range of in-depth campaigns – without ever compromising our core values: non- violence and independence.
Today the impacts of climate change are apparent. We need a clean energy future; it is the safest and easiest way to protect our way of life. With the introduction of carbon tax in Australia and more globally, oil companies beginning to drill up the Arctic, the challenges and innovative opportunities that environmental campaigning organisations face has never been greater.
Our 40th is a milestone occasion, which would never have been possible without the unwavering support of millions of people worldwide who share our vision of a green and peaceful future. To you, we'd like to take this opportunity to thank you.
We have shared so many positive victories together over these 40 years. Yet today we continue to face critical issues that threaten the health and safety of our planet. We need to work together now more than ever.
Here are three things you can do to help us mark our 40th birthday:
1. Write one letter to the editor saying why you support your government acting decisively on climate change – the most urgent issue of our time.
2. Become a Greenpeace supporter – or if you already are one, please make another gift.
3. Reach out to four people – one for each decade of Greenpeace campaigning– to also join the Greenpeace community.