Greenpeace International Executive Director, Kumi Naidoo, writes:
I wanted to share with the broader Greenpeace family a small piece of my recent time with Dorothy Stowe.
I feel deeply blessed that I had the opportunity to meet Dorothy Stowe last month for brunch at her home in Vancouver, to which she also invited other people from the early Greenpeace years, Rex Weyler and Bill Darnell, her children Barbara and Bobby and their family and friends.
Dorothy was a wonderful storyteller. In African tradition, where oral history is perhaps more powerful than written history, I was in awe of Dorothy. At 89, she was passionate, clear and committed to the values of Greenpeace and was excited by our collective vision of making the links with poverty, human rights, peace and democracy. Her own life, which included standing with the civil rights movement in the US, advancing women’s rights in Canada, and making a huge contribution to the formation of Greenpeace, confirmed for me that our current thinking about the need to find the appropriate intersections with our struggle for environmental justice on the one hand and the agendas of gender equality, peace and development on the other. It is clearly something the founders of Greenpeace had embraced.
In one of the most moving moments during our conversation Bobby Stowe was closed to tears when he said that had his dad, Irving, still been alive, he would be so happy to see that we have made so much progress towards strengthening Greenpeace’s presence and work in parts of the world that are often neglected and the fact that we were bringing people and environment together in a mutually beneficial discourse and practice.
I will never forget, the warmth and glow in her eyes, as Dorothy, showed me her trade union card, and that of Irving, where she as President of the local union, had to sign his membership card. She also happily pointed out that following their marriage she still signed his union card but with her new married name.
Bill Darnell, reminded us that when leaving a meeting Irving used to always show the peace sign and that on one occasion, when Irving said “Peace” Bill replied “make it a green peace”. This is how we got our name. Dorothy delighted in picking up the story from there, explaining to me how initially, it was two words: Green Peace.
One of the first fundraising activities to raise money for the first campaign of Green Peace, was selling buttons with the peace logo and the words Green Peace on them. The problem was that the button was not big enough to have a space between Green and Peace so to make them fit the two words were merged and Greenpeace was born; with one passion and goal -- to work for peace and justice and to ensure that our fragile Earth is defended against greed and destruction.
Dorothy’s passing away, follows the recent death of another Greenpeace founder, Jim Bohlen, who we paid tribute to less than a month ago. Jim sailed on the first mission to Amchitka and like Dorothy gave selflessly of his time, limited resources and love for people and planet.
Dorothy stayed true to the course until the very last moments. She and the many people from our history warrant our respect and gratitude but I doubt that is what they would want from us. They would want us to succeed in creating a world where we live in peace with one another, and in peace with all forms of life on this precious and fragile planet we all call home.
Moments like this provide time for reflection, they are times in which we can rededicate ourselves to be as bold as we can be, as committed as we can be -- to celebrate those who have come before us by continuing the struggle for a just and sustainable world.
As a young activist growing up in South Africa, we often spent our weekends burying comrades murdered by the apartheid regime. As their bodies were lowered into their graves we sang a mournful song in Zulu, Hambe Kahle, which translates literally as “go well”.
Hamba Kahle Dorothy.