Every day we have to make choices. For many, the choice is whether or not to do something to protect our environment.
For a few of us, there is no choice at all. We do what we have to do to tell the world that there are wrongs that need to be made right. Whereas for most, telling the world costs a few moments of their time, for select others, telling the world is at the cost of imprisonment.
The past few months have seen that select brave few risking their freedom as they were secured to mooring lines, clinging to the side of a glass building and hanging from a bridge high in the air. For some it was a gruelling 15 hours of climbing, for others, it was days spent on a bridge suspension cable hoping the people who needed to hear what they were saying were really listening.
For Greenpeace Germany, whose activists clung to the ropes of a cargo ship in early July in Hamburg, things went right. The ripple effect of what they did changed port policy, and sent the meat of the endangered fin whale back to where it came from. This season it would not end up in Japanese freezers and then into the dog food bowls of the rich.
For the six climbers in London who had the audacity and courage to scale the outside of the tallest building in Europe, it was 15 hours of literally hanging over the abyss by a thread. It was a muscle-burning, marathon climb, but they made it to the top, and for a few moments the world had to consider what they would do to save the arctic. Fortune smiled as they were perfunctorily detained, questioned and subsequently released.
While Greenpeace Germany activists were fighting to save the fin whale in Hamburg and the climbers were scaling the Shard, in South Korea four others —from the US, Indonesia, Taiwan, and South Korea — were suspended 130 metres in the air, high above Busan. They were there to warn the 3.4 million people living near the decrepit Kori nuclear reactor that they need to force a nuclear emergency plan out of their government. The cost of this three day ordeal was arrest, and a severe reaction by the prosecutor: Ten months for the South Korean activist and six months for activists from the USA, Taiwan and Indonesia.
Today, however, we may have seen the most rational turnaround of verdicts than what has recently come about in trials in the US and other places. After the anxiety of expected prison terms, the judge ordered the activists to pay a fine. She acknowledged that their action was to raise awareness about nuclear accident safety law. She saw it as a message for the government and the people to achieve a public good.
Last year Lucy Lawless, on her third day camped out on an oil rig, posted a video to her site on which she asked a simple question: “Is anybody listening? Does anybody care about this like we do?”
And that is the crux of it for any activist, whether they’re marching the streets in New York, hanging from a mooring in Hamburg, 300 metres in the air in London, or standing in a courtroom in South Korea. In the face of adversity, ridicule and imprisonment the only real fear is that they will not be heard.
When we choose to act individually or collectively to carry on the mission perpetuated and set forth by Greenpeace activists, we choose to let them know that they are not alone. We choose to hear them, and echo their call.
Arin de Hoog is a Media Relations Specialist for Greenpeace International.