42 years ago a bunch of brave folks in Vancouver got together to bear witness to nuclear testing the U.S. was doing in Alaska. Those passionate people decided they needed a ship to make their point – that atmospheric nuclear tests were a danger to people on the coast as well as to everyone on the planet. 

This group, which became the “Don’t Make a Wave Committee”, chartered the vessel the Phyllis Cormack, re-named it Greenpeace and made history. They could not have realized their role in the Greenpeace that would evolve into a worldwide organization, but they did understand how important it was to be able to reach every corner of the earth to protect the environment and promote peace.

From the 1971 Amchitka campaign through to the present day, ships have always been an integral part of what Greenpeace does and the new Rainbow Warrior symbolizes our work and our hopes for the future. They enable Greenpeace to ‘bear witness’ to environmental harms in places that are difficult or impossible to do otherwise, such as in the Russian Arctic and Antarctica’s Southern Ocean. The third vessel to carry the name Rainbow Warrior is the first ship tailor-made for Greenpeace and our campaign needs.

As the Director of Greenpeace B.C., it is my pleasure to host the ship’s arrival in British Columbia next month and I couldn’t be more excited! With the ship open to the public in Victoria and Metro Vancouver, people will have the opportunity to see this unique ship for themselves, meet the captain and crew and get a live update on what Greenpeace and the Rainbow Warrior are currently doing to defend nature.

While we currently face challenges in our campaign to protect the Arctic, including more than two dozen Greenpeace activists in Russian detention, there are other environmental issues that keep us all up at night here in British Columbia.

While on a seven-day hiking trip through old-growth rainforest this year, I tripped over the roots of massive 1000-year old trees and watched whales playing off the beach as I ate dinner around the campfire.  It’s clear to me that our responsibility to protect and share our forests with the world couldn’t be more urgent.  We are making some steps in the Great Bear Rainforest where fifty percent is off limits to logging.  But will the government honour its commitment to move that bar to seventy percent off limits by early next year? They have said they would follow through but an encouraging watchful eye is needed.  And will they bring that same precautionary science-based approach to the rest of B.C.’s forests so that they too can stand a chance of remaining healthy for future generations?

A very live and very public debate right now is will British Columbia become a carbon super-highway for natural gas, the tar sands and coal expansion?  It’s clear the current government is willing to open up the province to massive expansion of fossil fuel production and transportation.  But how do projects like LNG expansion from B.C.’s northeast, the Enbridge pipeline proposal, Kinder Morgan’s planned twinning of the pipeline, and expansion of coal export facilities in the Lower Mainland, help or hinder our ability to meet our commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions?  In speaking with the B.C. Environment Minister last month, it’s clear that they don’t know how to reconcile the climate change commitments versus the plans to enable expansion of greenhouse gas emissions.  And that’s because the two can’t be reconciled.  To meet our needs to reduce climate change causing gases, our need to protect our coastline and waterways from devastating spills, and our need to approach our economy with a win-win-win objective for business, community and environment, First Nations and citizens must lead where our government won’t.  And they are leading in a way that will make governments follow.

To beginning breaking this stranglehold that fossil fuels and fossil fuel industries have on our social fabric, governments need to stop subsidizing the oil industry and put those dollars into renewable energy, which creates many times more jobs than fossil fuels.  Simultaneously, governments need to commit to urgent ambitious greenhouse gas reductions and then implement a plan to achieve these reductions along with implementing economic measures that are compatible with these commitments.  This would be a beginning to a more harmonious existence with the earth.

And the Rainbow Warrior helps points this way to a better future.

Using wind to power its sails, it also utilizes state of the art green technologies that reduce each person’s environmental footprint while aboard. One of the most environmentally-friendly ships at sea, the Rainbow Warrior’s environmental features include:

  • A hull shape and dynamic keel designed for superior energy efficiency
  • An A-frame mast and sails for optimized sailing
  • An electric drive system
  • Green ship class notation with a Green Passport
  • Biological treatment of sewage and grey water
  • Wastewater tanks and an on-board reverse osmosis water maker to provide clean water
  • Glass recycling and garbage compactor machines
  • A central filling and venting system for fuel and oils to prevent spilling
  • A system to re-use engine heat to make hot water

Don’t take my word for it, come down and tour the ship for yourself.  Be our guest to free public open boat events, in North Vancouver and Victoria. Check out Rainbow Warrior B.C. Tour webpage for details of events and new updates.

See you on board!

Steph

Stephanie Goodwin is the B.C. Director for Greenpeace and is based in Vancouver, British Columbia when not working in forests outside of B.C. such as the Amazon, Indonesia and Ontario’s Boreal Forest.