Bob:My goodness, Jim. I last saw you five years ago, at
the 20-year celebrations. Is it really you?
Jim:You'd better watch out! - may have got a lot older
but I'm still the same old Jim.
Bob: Well, you didn't recognize me straight off
Jim: Right. I thought to myself, "Who is that guy!?"
Bob:Appearances change, but then your character gradually
starts to form.Before we completely disappear we grow again to our
greatest size. likea supernova.
Jim: Charming. After all it's better to lookforward to
the apocalypse than to slow decay. By the way, I'm justreading the
book you're carrying in your pocket there, "Rogue Primate".From a
vast number of possible books we have both chosen the same one.Once
aligned and we're still transmitting on the same wavelength.
Bob: Not just aligned. Welded together, on the Greenpeace
alias the Phyllis Cormack.
Jim:You mean you've got your armpit in my nose just like
I've got yours?Even today I could recognize everyone on board by
their smell - welived that close together on board.
Dorothy Stowe: Ofcourse you're talking about how it all
began. Actually, it all startedto happen in this house. I can still
see Irving sitting on the bed withthe telephone in his hand, and
someone is telling him about the atomictests about to be held on
Amchitka. They're telling him that theAleutian Islands are an
important habitat for sea-otters, and that theyare jeopardized by
the tests because their eardrums are in danger ofbursting as a
result of the explosion. The very idea of this outragedIrving just
as much as the atomic tests themselves. So he called Jim
Bob: "Jim, do something!"
Jim: The rest is history.
Dorothy Stowe: Not yet.
Jim:Irving called me because I was head of the "Sierra
Club" of BritishColumbia. But our head office in San Francisco
didn't want to run acampaign against the nuclear tests. So we -
Paul Cote, Irving Stowe andmyself, together with our wives - set up
a splinter group, the "Don'tMake a Wave-Committee", the germ of
Dorothy Stowe: The Bohlens and the Stowes had already
been active in the peace movement for a long time.
Jim:And Paul Cote had been present at the first atomic
test protests in1969 on the border between the USA and Canada as
weil. Bob had reportedon it and had been in contact with us since
then. In spite of that wehad to work hard on him to persuade him to
come along to Amchitka.
Bob: Well, after all I had to write a column for the
"Vancouver Sun" every day.
Jim:A hippie column. But Bob was very important for us as
a media man. Outof a crew of twelve, half were journalists. We did
a lot for the mediafrom the very beginning, for example for the
Canadian BroadcastingCompany, CBC. We were almost out of port when
their camera team showedup late. What did we do? We turned around
and cast off again.
Dorothy Stowe:Irving wisely decided to stay at home. He
already had cancer at thattime, which nobody knew, and he died just
three years later.
Jim: On shore he worked like crazy, collecting money and
hanging on to every last cent.
Dorothy Stowe:He wrote everything down in detail.
"Collection box : 6 dollars 41cents". later we even found receipts
from the post office for 37 cents.
Jim:We were really short of money at that time. We
financed ourselves fromdonations, sold Greenpeace buttons on busy
street corners for 25 centseach and Greenpeace T-shirts for three
Bob: ThenIrving had the idea of a solidarity concert to
finance the trip toAmchitka. Three dollars a ticket for a concert
with Joni Mitchell.
Dorothy Stowe:That had its funny slde: a few days before
the concert the phone rang.It's Jonl Mitchell on the line from Los
Angeles. Suddenly Irving putshis hand over the mouthpiece and
hisses across to us, "Anyone of youknow who James Taylor is?".
Nobody knew him. My daughter shouted tohim, "God, dad. That's that
black blues singer." She'd mixed him upwith James Brown. Irving was
still at a loss. "What am I going to do?She wants him to be at the
concert with her. Is he good?", he askedBarbara. And James Taylor's
new album was just at the top of thecharts. We hadn't noticed any
of this because we'd been so busy gettingthings ready for the
Jim: We even haggled for everyitem on the list of
provisions until a dealer gave us everything forfree. We had
ice-boxes full of steaks. Bob, do you remember how welater toyed
with the idea of going on hunger strike?
Bob:You bet! As I recall, Captain John Cormack was very
enthusiastic aboutthe idea; if we all starved to death he would
have more to eat.
Jim: That was a good reason not to go ahead with it.
Dorothy Metcalfe:I was a kind of thirteenth crew member
on shore. I supplied the mediawith news from on board the
Greenpeace. At the height of the campaign Ididn't leave the house
for 15 days on end to make sure I didn't missany radio
Jim: If it hadn't been for you wewould have been in
serious difficulties. In those days you couldn'ttransmit from the
ship direct. You were our relay station and did somefantastic work
to make sure that our stories were sorted out and editedbefore they
reached the media.
Dorothy Metcalfe: Well, we had to be absolutely reliable
to make sure the press believed our reports. _
Jim: In spite of that some people claimed that the first
trip was a failure.
Dorothy Metcalfe: If it had been, the Greenpeace that we
know today would not exist.
Dorothy Stowe:Don't forget that seven tests had been
planned for Amchitka and onlythree were actually carried out. The
US Government had to admit thatthe others were canceled as a result
of public pressure. Later theydecared Amchitka a nature
Jim: For us it was asign of hope that people can change
things. And our action gave theentire ecology movement a new name:
Green. that was better than ecology- a word hardly anyone
Dorothy Stowe: Iremember how we tried to think of a name
for the ship. And then BillDarnell came up with the combination of
"Green" and "Peace".
Jim:We were aware that no-one would be interested in the
fate of a PhyllisCormack. Someone said that the word "Green" would
have to appear in itsomewhere. Irving said the word "Peace" was
more important. In responseto this, Bill, later our ship's cook on
the Phyllis Cormack, threw inhis famous suggestion. Then, when my
son Paul designed the first buttonhe had real problems trying to
get the words Green and Peace on it astwo words. So I said that he
should write it as one word: GREENPEACE.
Dorothy Metcalfe:The secret of our success was being
cheeky. Everyone was amazed: howdare they? Attacking governments
and demanding the end of atomic tests.That was sensational - David
versus Goliath. Only not everyone was onDavid's side: while you
were on your trip I was a guest on various talkshows. And there
people would call up to say they hoped that this bunchof hippies
would all drown. That was hard to handle. Exactly at thattime the
ship was battling through a storm with waves ten meters high.
Jim:Apart from Cormack we all threw up. It wasn't an
adventure - it was aserious undertaking in every respect. Everyone
had had to take sixweeks off work for the trip. They even wanted to
fire me as I wasworking for the government.
Dorothy Stowe: Others puttheir own money into the
project. Irving, for instance, completely gaveup his job as a
highly qualified lawyer specializing in marine law. Isupported the
family from my salary as a therapist.
Jim:Not enough people know just what an important part
the women played inall this. Greenpeace would probably never have
been so successful ifDorothy hadn't made it possible for Irving to
devote all his energy tothe cause. And without Irving's commitment
a lot would have been leftundone.
Dorothy Metcalfe: We were just a handful of people from
different backgrounds, but on one thing we agreed - this planet is
Jim: I'm still surprised to day that we found a job for
every talent - and a talent for every job.
Bob:Take Paul Spong, the well-known marine biologist. He
approached us inorder to use our good name for protecting whales.
That's how we came totake up the subject of whales. And David
McTaggart was another man inthe right place at the right time.
Jim: Or Dorothy'sex-husband Ben Metcalfee, a television
iournalist who joined in thefirst voyage of the-Greenpeace as a
media observer. Like you, Bob, he"mutated" into an activist and
became head of our press office. In1972, when he was chairman of
the association, he wanted to dosomething against French nuclear
tests and was looking for people tojoin him in New Zealand. That's
how we fell in with David McTaggartwith his yacht, Vega. We were
worried because nobody knew anythingabout the guy. Ben just said,
"we'll give the man a radio transmittingset and a few hundred
dollars and we've already got a campaign." Wethought, " OK, what
have we got to lose?"
Dorothy Metcalfe:In those days McTaggart was less
bothered about the French testingatomic bombs on Moruroa than the
fact that they were blocking off ahuge area of sea although they
were only entitled to the twelve-milelimit. He wasn't interested in
environmental matters. But he was outfor adventure and realized
that Greenpeace offered a platform forgetting something meaningful
Jim: It wasn't untillater that he became a convinced
environmentalist, after the French hadgiven him such a bad beating.
That was their mistake.
Bob:Yes, on the Vega's second voyage to Moruroa, the crew
was really givena roughing up by the French. But David's
girlfriend, Anne-Marie Horne,managed to take some photos of it. She
smuggled the film off the shipin her vagina and took it to
Vancouver, where we developed it andimmediately realized what we
had got hold of. At the time David wasstill in hospital.
Jim: We attacked the French for theirorgy of violence.
The government in Paris claimed that David hadslipped up and got
his bruises and eye injury from that.
Bob: Only then did we publish the photos. It was a
Dorothy Metcalfe:After 1974 the direction Greenpeace took
changed so much that many ofthe old campaigners no longer wanted to
follow. Instead of fightingagainst the atomic threat they took up
the cause of protecting sealsand whales.
Dorothy Stowe: At that time Irving no longer had the
energy to stand up against this development.
Jim:And I moved out into the country. Sold my house here
in the city andbuilt up a farm to do research into new ways of
livingself-sufficiently as far as energy was concerned. We called
it the"Greenpeace Experimental Farm". Watching from the outside, I
thoughtthat the whole outfit would fold.
Bob: And there were alot of fights: Ben and David hated
each other. David felt that he hadbeen left in the lurch by
Greenpeace in his legal battle against France.
Bob: From 1975 onwards we had a few awful years - nothing
Jim:In those days though there were some pretty strong
characters rubbingeach other up the wrong way. What was to be the
future of theorganization? Opinions on this differed widely. The
directionGreenpeace should take has always been worth arguing
Bob:Did you know that for David McTaggart the history of
Greenpeace doesn'tstart until Greenpeace International was founded
Jim:The founders of Greenpeace are three people. Or the
twelve who riskedtheir asses on the first voyage in 1971. When
David got a prize as the"Greenpeace Founder" in Mexico City I was
Bob: Sometimes I think it's a miracle that Greenpeace has
survived all the fights.
Jim:So it's true what they say: "You can't sink a
rainbow!" Whenever wewere in a bad way and had no money left, some
government would make amistake and that would put us on our feet
again. Ultimately the historyof Greenpeace is based on a lot of
Bob: Likein 1975. Everything was very much in the balance
at that time. We werebroke and urgently had to pay a whole load of
invoices. We werecompletely desperate because someone had run off
with 8000 dollars froma concert. Then I come into the office in the
evening and there's thisbrown paper bag on the desk. A man with
terminal cancer had given us adonation. A whole bag full of ten and
five dollar bills. Only 50dollars short of the exact amount we
needed to pay off our debts. Andthis kind of thing didn't happen
just once. We used to call it "cosmicaccounting " .
Jim: A lot of people tended to depend too much on this
kind of thing. Correct accounting or precise planning were alien to
Bob:I have always fought for us to have a certain amount
of bureaucracy.Decision- making structures and suchlike. The hippie
faction thought Iwas completely gaga. My answer was: if we carry on
in this chaoticfashion one day we will be completely burnt out. But
the government andmulti-nationals' bureaucracies will last forever.
That's why we have tocreate a bureaucratic machinery with enough
strength and staying powerto fight against the other big
Jim:You have to fight fire with fire. Every step is
history: in 1969 thesmall park on English Bay in Vancouver was to
be paved over for ashore-side road. Jim, Bob and Irving Stowe got
in the way - in front ofthe bulldozers.
Bob: For a time though, my biggest fearwas that I would
die in my boots at a Board meeting. But then you justcan't get 30
countries co-ordinated just like that.
Jim:You can only combat the big multi-nationals
internationally. And that'swhy in 25 years Greenpeace should have
its own office in every countryin the world.
Bob: Just think of China in 50 years. Greenpeace could
play a major role in discussions on the environment there. Or in
Jim:It always seems to me like watching your own kid grow
up. Greenpeacewas and is our baby. And we have worked hard to bring
Bob: But it really has got pretty big, hasn't it Jim?
Jim:But for its old folks a kid will always be a kid.
When someone fromGreenpeace calls me up today I react in the same
way as with my realkids. The first thing I ask is, "Is everything
Bob:The emotional tie to this outfit is really strong. I
experienced one ofthe finest moments in my life in 1976 in James
Bay. We were standing onthe bridge of our ship watching the Russian
whaling fleet running awayfrom us, and I though, "Wow. We've got
you." A wonderful moment.
Jim: The best thing that has happened to me was meeting
my second wife.
Bob: Good Lord! I forgot to mention my wife.
Jim: If she finds that out ...
Bob:The thought of being a co-founder of Greenpeace just
goes beyond whatmy mind can handle. I was in the right place at -he
right time. When mylast hour comes, I'll be able to say to myself,
"You didn't waste yourlife away meaninglessly."
Jim: For me at any rate,Greenpeace was the crowning
achievement of my working life. Determiningeverything yourself,
doing everything yourself - for yourself and forothers. I only
wonder why so few people listen to Greenpeace today. Wetalk about
the dying planet, about the Greenhouse effect, the ozonehole - and
nobody really listens. Only when it's too late do they saythat we
were right. In my opinion, Greenpeace has to become moremilitant.
Not in the sense of sinking ships. We must be less willing
tocompromise on our demands.
Bob: While we're on the subjectof criticism: I think that
Greenpeace has always been too ashamed ofits spiritual side. Anyone
who has looked a whale in the eye knows justhow much more Man
should feel at one with nature. But anyway we didgive the outfit
its main tools - non-violent action and media work. Itsurprises
even me just how important a feature of Greenpeace this stillis
today. And there is one benefit for me in all this. Dean,
thebarkeeper in my local bar, asks for one dollar from me instead
of twoand a half. for the rest of my life. Because he doesn't know
anyoneelse who has founded a world- wide organization. That's
Interview by Michael Friedrich