We are the last generation that has a chance to make a difference on climate change and the task can seem daunting. But, as one of the original Greenpeace activists Bob Hunter once said,
Big change looks impossible when you start and inevitable when you finish.
50 years ago this week, the world agreed to set aside Antarctica as a place of "peace and science," ignoring national territorial claims and declaring the continent the common heritage of humanity. It was, as a species, one of our finest moments.
Then, in the mid 80s, the oil and gas and minerals companies decided that the "common heritage" bit meant it was theirs to exploit. Greenpeace and a handful of other NGOs launched a campaign to block that -- a campaign nobody thought we could win. A campaign that some of us thought, at best, would move the goal posts, but which would in the end fall victim to politically expedient compromise, short-term interests, and the unassailable power of intransigent governments and corporate greed.
Instead, against all odds, we won. With some smart political lobbying, public pressure, an Antarctic base from which we bore witness as only Greenpeace could, and direct non-violent action, we kept the oil companies out of Antarctica.
The story of that campaign told in the video below is a story of persistence, impossible ambitions, and what makes us take action in the face of seemingly unwinnable odds. There's inspiration in that for all of us as we look forward to the task at hand tackling climate change and the climate meeting starting in a few days in Copenhagen...