From Gavin, head of climate campaign, onboard the Rainbow Warrior
What a day. We started with a simple idea: villagers and religious leaders have been heavily opposing the construction of a nuclear power plant here on the coast of Java island, Indonesia. The plan for Indonesia's first nuclear plant was to build it below a dormant volcano, next to the shoreline in a tsumani-prone region. But how do you oppose this, in a country where electricity supply is intermittent and blackouts common?
So the idea came up to spell out a clear message from the community members by laying out in the shape of a wind turbine on the site of the proposed power station. Nuclear power is a false solution for Indonesia, and the conventional alternative of coal-fired power just contributes to more climate change. The last thing the world needs is more coal fired power plants. So a wind turbine, the icon of clean, safe renewable energy around the world was chosen.
We drafted in John, a US activist who has specialised in working with people around the world to make these human banners. I first met John back in 1995 up in Bella Coola north of Vancouver, Canada. We’d been invited up there by chiefs of the Nuxalk Nation to help protect their spectacular ancient rainforest from destruction. John sat up a tree for a few days along with other activists and lots of support from the community. Communities, people power, inspiring action. Some common themes are emerging for me a decade later now that our paths have crossed again. But I digress.
We expected 600 community members to show up. We’d asked people to dress in white, to make a nice vivid image. At the appointed people, a sea of white appeared over the hill. Not 600 people, but double that – 1200 people!
We were suddenly faced with a new challenge: organising and communicating with everyone to get them in position. We had quite a number of organisers, including staff and volunteers from Greenpeace south east asia and crew from the rainbow warrior. But we were not prepared to organise quote this many people, and the number of Indonesian Bhasa speakers among our team was suddenly out of proportion to the overwhelming number of community members.
Fortunately, it’s incredible just how much communication can go on without a word being spoken. Frantic arm waving there. A wry smile. Lots of thumbs up. Slowly the human banner came together.
We chartered the local police helicopter and our photo video team were up in the air in no time snapping images of our spinning wind human turbine, with the words ‘Clean Energy Now’ and then, with a little shuffling of people, the message ‘Tolak Nuklir’ (‘no nuclear’ in Bhasa).
Spirits were high in this coming together of the community and Greenpeacers from Jakarta and around the world. It’s been an important day for everyone to continue to express their opposition to nuclear power. And a clear demonstration that the Energy Revolution that the world desperately needs to avoid climate change is beginning.
[Photo copyright Greenpeace/Paul Hilton]