92 year old Gunter Warner is probably the oldest living member of Greenpeace in New Zealand. He’s a proud life member, a volunteer, an activist, and he’s a holocaust survivor. Today he was one of 30 people to sit in silent vigil inside a small jail cell in Auckland to mark the 30th day of detention for the Arctic 30.
I spoke to him after his vigil and here’s what he had to say:
A friend from Greenpeace told me about the vigil at the wharf on Friday 18 Oct to support the crew that has been arrested and imprisoned in Murmansk, Russia. I found the idea of a cage as a symbol of oppression most appropriate. I had no hesitation in coming out of my comfort zone for 30 minutes to show solidarity with our people in prison in Russia and I hope this tiny bit of pressure might persuade the Russians at least to grant bail.
After my retirement in 1987 I started volunteering at Greenpeace. I found the work there most rewarding and if it weren't for Greenpeace I feel the environmental movement wouldn’t be nearly as strong as it is today. Greenpeace’s struggle for the environment and for peace has been relentless over the last 40 years and it’s very highly regarded in New Zealand because it takes action.
So I thought it's only half an hour, it's nothing. These 30 brave people live in very tough circumstance, small cells, no sunlight. Do they get enough to eat? Those thoughts went through my mind when I was in that cell in the centre of Auckland. Are they cold? Handcuffs are very uncomfortable. It's been 30 days for them, but only 30 minutes for me.
Apart from the action in the Arctic what concerns me vitally that our government is about to grant permission to do oil exploration off the New Zealand coast. Many people here don't seem to realise what risk and what danger such action would present. We should not forget what happened in the Gulf of Mexico where the drilling rig blew up and masses of oil spilled into the waters. BP made small reparation but the condition of the environment can never be repaired. I feel New Zealand should NOT FOR A MOMENT contemplate the granting of drilling licenses.
In France Greenpeace exists but it is always working under great difficulties. I know France quite well and speak the language. The right wing in France will never forget that they came out of NZ with their image severely tarnished. The only act of terrorism in modern NZ was state terrorism committed by the French in 1985 against the Rainbow Warrior because the ship that was peacefully anchored in the harbour in Auckland, only a few minutes from where I was sitting in a cage today, was a thorn in their side. The photographer Fernando Pereira he lost his life. We should not forget this. We should not be afraid to speak out because the problems have by no means been solved.
The French no longer test in the Pacific but now climate change is a threat.
Perhaps we should look towards the future and realise that there are many splendid young people about both in NZ and other countries that are doing more that their duty towards saving the plant which is in great danger through climate change. Greenpeace has a considerable number of volunteers. These are young (and not so young) people, locally and from overseas. It's hopeful. We should be optimistic. But at the moment our urgent and immediate concern is to get our 30 friends and colleagues out of the Russian jail.
Gunter did his vigil for Francesco Pisanu, one of the Arctic 30 currently in detention and facing piracy charges in Russia for a peaceful protest against oil drilling in the Arctic.
Francesco Pisanu, Crew Member, France, Age: 38, one of the Arctic 30
Current Location: Jail, Murmansk, Russia
Francesco grew up near Paris, France, and has long been committed to environmental protection. He first joined Greenpeace as a volunteer where he took part in protests to tell people about the many threats to our environment. At the same time, one of his jobs was as an ambulance driver. In 2006, he had his first experience aboard a Greenpeace ship as a volunteer aboard the Esperanza on the “one year oceans tour campaign”, which was aimed at creating marine reserves around the world. He sailed from the Mediterranean to the Pacific ocean, through the Red sea and the Indian ocean. He then passed the degrees required to become a crew member for Greenpeace, and now his life is about sailing the oceans to raise awareness about the plight of the oceans.
YOU can take action for Francesco and the Arctic30 by messaging your local Russian Embassy here http://greenpe.ac/GuntersBlog and sharing this blog as widely as possible.