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Questions about Greenpeace in general

Background - 8 January, 2009
What is Greenpeace's mission? When did it get started? How many supporters does Greenpeace have? Plus many more answers!

Greenpeace is an independent, campaigning organisation which uses nonviolent, creative confrontation to expose global environmental problems, and to force the solutions which are essential to a green and peaceful future. Greenpeace's goal is to ensure the ability of the earth to nurture life in all its diversity.

How did Greenpeace get started?

In 1971, motivated by their vision of a green and peaceful world, a small team of activists set sail from Vancouver, Canada, in an old fishing boat.

The founders of Greenpeace believed a few individuals could make a difference. Their mission was to "bear witness" to the USA's underground nuclear testing at Amchitka in one of the world's most earthquake-prone regions.

A tiny island off the West Coast of Alaska, Amchitka was the last refuge for 3000 endangered sea otters, and home to bald eagles, peregrine falcons and other wildlife.

Even though their old boat, the Phyllis Cormack, was intercepted before she got to Amchitka, the journey sparked a flurry of public interest. The US still detonated their bomb, but the voice of reason had been heard.

Nuclear testing on Amchitka ended that same year, and the island was later declared a bird sanctuary.

Today, Greenpeace is a global organisation that gives priority to campaigns that can be addressed on a global scale. Based in Amsterdam, Greenpeace has 2.8 million supporters worldwide, and national/regional offices in 41 countries.

If you want to read more, there are several good books about Greenpeace: The Warriors of the Rainbow by Robert Hunter, Journey into the Bomb by David McTaggart, and The Greenpeace Story by John May and Michael Brown. They can often be found at used book and auction sites such as Ebay, Amazon, and Powells.

Who founded Greenpeace?

There's an old joke around the organisation that in any bar in Vancouver, Canada, you can find at least one person who claims to have founded Greenpeace.

In truth, many talented folks contributed to the creation of Greenpeace. Bill Darnell coined the name when someone flashed him a peace sign and he said "let's make that a green peace!" Bob Hunter created the concept of the "Media Mind Bomb" - reaching the public consciousness through dramatic, camera-ready opposition to environmental crimes. Jim Bohlen, Paul Cote, and Irving Stowe were the founders of the "Don't Make a Wave Committee," which organised the first Greenpeace action: a voyage to Amchitka Island in the Aleutians to try to stop a nuclear weapons test. David McTaggart convinced half a dozen loosely connected early groups to put aside their differences and join in a single worldwide organisation, creating Greenpeace International in 1979. Our website contains more information about the founders of Greenpeace and our history and victories.

Where does the name Rainbow Warrior come from?

Bob Hunter, one of the founders of Greenpeace, tells a story in his book Warriors of the Rainbow, about how this legend crossed his path.

On the first voyage of a Greenpeace ship, the Phyllis Cormack, Bob had taken on board a small book of Indian myths and legends that contained some striking prophesies. The book itself had been given him by an old wandering native American who had told him the book would "change his life" -- something which prompted a bit of cynicism in the Canadian journalist, who tossed the book into a box and forgot about it. But he stocked the Phyllis Cormack with reading material for the voyage, and one stormy evening he said the book literally jumped off the shelf into his hands, and he read it.

A chapter that particularly inspired Hunter related a story an old Cree Indian woman, 'Eyes of Fire', told to her great grandson. Just as they were being over thrown, the Cree Indian people foresaw a time when the white man's materialistic ways would strip the earth of its resources, but just before it was too late the Great Spirit of the Indians would return to resurrect the braves and teach the white man reverence for the earth. They would become known as the Warriors of the Rainbow.

The story circulated in Greenpeace for many years, and in 1978 our first ship, a rusting North Sea Trawler named the "Sir William Hardy" was rechristened "Rainbow Warrior."

How many supporters does Greenpeace have?

As of January, 2007, 2.9 million had taken out or renewed their financial membership within the last 18 months. Our financial supporters are the people who keep our ships on the oceans and our campaigners in the field. There are also millions of people around the world who take action with us every day as online activists or local groups, or as volunteers.

Where does Greenpeace get its funding from?

To maintain absolute independence Greenpeace does not accept money from companies, governments or political parties. We're serious about that, and we screen for and actually send checks back when they're drawn on a corporate account. We depend on the donations of our supporters to carry on our nonviolent campaigns to protect the environment.

Our books are audited every year, in every office around the world, and we publish our Annual Report on the web every year so you can see exactly how much money we're given and how it gets spent.

Where can I find the address of the Greenpeace office in my country?

There's a full list of countries where we have offices at our Worldwide Offices page. If there's no office in your country, you can write to .

Why is there no Greenpeace office in my country?

It is just not possible for Greenpeace to have an office everywhere. We receive many requests every day to open offices all over the world. Like any other organisation Greenpeace has to work within a budget and we have to make choices about what we do. Our campaign work is targeted against the greatest threats to the global environment.

You can help us in many ways even if there's no office in your country. Visit our Get Involved! page to learn more about what you can do every day to help Greenpeace win campaigns for the environment.

I want to open a Greenpeace office. I want to represent Greenpeace in my country. What do I do?

Opening a new office, or appointing a representative in a country in which we do not have an office, is an organisation-wide decision which has to be agreed upon by our International Board and approved by our international Annual General Meeting. Greenpeace does not adopt, incorporate or otherwise subsume existing organisations into its structure. Like every organisation, we have to work within our budget, and due to limited financial and human resources, we have to be selective in our decisions as to where to open new offices. Development or expansion is also subject to certain essential campaign criteria. We will only open a new office if this is in line with the strategic priorities of the organisation. Greenpeace has recently established two offices in Asia (in India and in Thailand). We are not planning to open any further new offices in the near future.

The name "Greenpeace" is an internationally registered trademark belonging to Stichting Greenpeace Council in the Netherlands, and therefore use of the name requires permission. Once a decision has been taken to open a new office, Greenpeace International enters into a licensing agreement with the new office, allowing that office to use the name Greenpeace. Use of this name is conditional upon fulfilling a whole range of obligations towards the international organisation.

We hope that you will not find this discouraging, and that you and/or your organisation will continue in its aims to explore environmental issues further. You can help Greenpeace in many ways - by volunteering your time or services to an existing Greenpeace office, or by getting involved as an online activist, or joining our forum. You'd be surprised how much help we can use, even when an office isn't nearby.

How is Greenpeace organised? Who runs Greenpeace?

The Greenpeace organisation consists of Greenpeace International (Stichting Greenpeace Council) in Amsterdam and Greenpeace offices around the world. Greenpeace currently has a presence in 41 countries. Greenpeace national or regional offices are licensed to use the name Greenpeace. Each office is governed by a board which appoints a representative (called a trustee).

Trustees meet once a year to agree on the long-term strategy of the organisation, to make necessary changes to governance structure, to set a ceiling on spending for Greenpeace International's budget and to elect the International Board of four members and a chairperson.

Greenpeace International monitors the organisational development of Greenpeace offices, oversees the development and maintenance of our fleet of ships, coordinates planning and implemenation of our global campaigns, and monitors compliance with core policies.

The International Board approves the annual budget of Greenpeace International and its audited accounts. It also appoints and supervises the International Executive Director who, together with senior managers, and consulting widely with national office staff, leads the organisation.

Greenpeace does not solicit or accept funding from governments, corporations or political parties. Greenpeace neither seeks nor accepts donations which could compromise its independence, aims, objectives or integrity. Greenpeace relies on the voluntary donations of individual supporters, and on grant support from foundations.

Greenpeace is committed to the principles of non-violence, political independence and internationalism. In exposing threats to the environment and in working to find solutions, Greenpeace has no permanent allies or enemies.

To find out more about our Board and how Greenpeace makes decisions, visit our "How is Greenpeace Structured" page.