Believe it or not, Greenpeace celebrates its 40 birthday today! To mark the occasion, Kumi Naidoo, our International Executive Director, calls on us all to take inspiration from that first Greenpeace voyage, and to demand a better future for our planet:
The seeds of Greenpeace were sown 40 years ago today, when a small band of dedicated people set out to change the world, sailing from Vancouver to end US nuclear testing in the Aleutian Islands. While the first voyage failed to reach its destination, and the test went ahead, their non-violent direct action captured the public imagination, caused the cancellation of future tests and sparked a movement that grew into the world’s largest independent environmental organisation.
After four decades of putting environmental issues centre stage and achieving significant victories in defence of the planet, today we face a perfect storm of crises; economic, ecological and democratic. And none more challenging than climate change.
No more can we put up with politicians squabbling over and squandering opportunities to agree on how to avert the worst ravages of climate change. We need leaders with vision, who will take bold action to curb climate change and protect those most at risk from its effects. We need active citizens who will hold their political and corporate leaders to account.
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. We count 11.6 million people amongst our subscribers, we have 2.8 million donors and operate a fleet of ships allowing us to work to protect some of the world’s most vulnerable regions, such as the high seas, the Amazon rainforest and the Arctic.
In addition to a global presence, during those 40 years we have become an organisation 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.
The Greenpeace founders proved how a small group of committed people can change the world, through peaceful protest and by bearing witness. By joining the words ‘green’ and ‘peace’, our founders realised all too well that to tackle one issue we have to tackle them all. This should be an inspiration for what we can all achieve if all of civil society works together through coalitions and alliances to demand a better future for our children, and for our planet.
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 the founding ‘greenpeacers’ who set sail for Amchitka on Sept 15 1971, to take on a super power, halt nuclear testing, and won.
In the meantime, Peace, and thank you to all our supporters and activists, who make Greenpeace what it is today.
Video: Greenpeace 40 Years - A Conversation in Pictures (with Rex Weyler and Kumi Naidoo)