Cover of the book 'Greenpeace' by Rex Weyler. This is a record of an extraordinary journey, portrayed by someone who helped make it happen. Weyler introduces us to the characters and events that shaped an 'eco-navy' - from the first voyage into the Pacific to 'stop the bomb' to the risky mission to 'save the whales' to the struggles with money and ideology that accompanied success.
On January 21, 1981, after a decade of Greenpeace actions, we
sat in the Vancouver office and read a news report that an oil
consortium would bring a supertanker through Juan de Fuca Strait as
a "test" to show they could safely navigate to a proposed oil port
between Vancouver and Seattle. The next day, we announced that we
would launch a "test blockade."
the following morning, January 23, we met the supertanker with a
flotilla of sailboats, launched a single Zodiac, and brought the
tanker to a halt. Media helicopters circled above. The US
coastguard arrested two of us. As we walked up the wharf,
handcuffed to each other, the television cameras closed in. "This
is just a test," I assured the reporters. "The handcuffs work fine.
We're going to test the food in the jails. The real protest will be
When we tested the fingerprinting system, we had the Washington
State police laughing in the jail. They brought us dinner and said,
"Here, test this." The next day, the Seattle and Vancouver
newspapers ran pictures, and the test theme, on the front page. The
protest took three days. The Georgia Strait oil terminal was
This victory remained almost lost in Greenpeace lore, but it
embodied much of what made Greenpeace work throughout the 1970s
while confronting bombs, whalers, and sealing ships: quick actions,
at the precise point of conflict, providing a storyline and images
for the delivery system, the media. It borrowed from all our
mentors, Saul Alinsky, Gandhi, Dorothy Day, and Marshall
Make them laugh
At the time, I was a fan of Chicago community organizer Alinksy
who advised, "Move with the action ... use humor." And we all knew
that Gandhi was not just about satyagraha; he created the right
image at the right time, such as his famous march to the sea to
make salt. Gandhi understood communication and media.
The "test blockade" idea was a spontaneous reaction that made us
laugh, so we figured it would make others laugh. By 1981,
Greenpeace Zodiacs were old news, but the "test" theme provided a
storyline that was new. I remember laughing out loud as we sat
around planning the tactics. I think this is always a good sign.
Humor goes a long way toward easing the public's mind and disarming
the media's natural skepticism.
1972, I had read everything published by media guru Marshall
McLuhan, and his idea that "we think and live mythically"
influenced our tactics. Although we employed good science, we
understood that the facts don't always win the public mind. When we
launched the whale campaign in 1974, I had a clear image in my mind
that I wanted to capture. At that time most people who thought
about whaling still held a nineteenth-century image: small men in
tiny boats hunting the huge leviathan. The reality of industrial
whaling was the reverse: giant factory ships and exploding harpoons
scouring the oceans with sonar for the last of the whales.
we found the whalers off the coast of California in June 1975, we
captured this new image. A photograph of dead sperm whale under an
ominous exploding harpoon mounted on the bow of a towering,
steel-hulled ship circulated the world. These images ultimately
changed the public mind, and the public outcry led to a whaling
moratorium by 1982.
The Internet is a tremendous tool, like the printing press and
television before it, that democratizes knowledge and
culture-making. Some of the cyber-activist messages I witness on
the Internet today are brilliant, but the fundamentals of good
storytelling haven't changed much in two thousand years. We still
have to find those mythical images that touch the human
Read the discussion:
Rex hosted an open house discussion on Oct 11,12,13 at the Greenpeace
Cybercentre. Rex is currently busy in London but will respond
to the remaning posts this weekend.
More on the book:
As well as being a gripping read the book is printed on
ancient forest friendly recycled paper bleached without toxic
chlorine bleach. Rex is supporting our
Book Campaign to change the publishing industry to use recycled
paper rather than virgin (new wood) paper.
You can read reviews,
from the book Greenpeace on Rex's website.
Buy the book:
You can buy the book online from the following sites and help
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paper - you might want to add a line about ancient forest friendly
paper if you review the book on one of these sites!
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