Waving goodbye to the Warrior (C) GREENPEACE / Sharomov
Six weeks ago I packed my trunk in my bedroom in Grey Lynn Auckland, boarded a bus and rode downtown to Princes Wharf. There I walked up the gangway of the Rainbow Warrior. It was hot, late summer. American tourists crawled about the Viaduct. On the ship, there was excitement in the air and alleyways; a TARGET CLIMATE CHANGE banner ran between two masts. My cabin was downstairs and to the left. It had “Expect the unexpected” written on the door. I shared it with three others and it smelt like essential oils. I didn’t yet have my favourite spot to sit in the mess during dinner. And I didn’t yet know how to avoid pissing off the first mate. This would all come later.
The crew (C) GREENPEACE / SHAROMOV
We were about to embark on a ship tour.
Weeks, several ports and a million new experiences later, we’ve disembarked; the ship has set off to campaign in the Philippines and I have returned to Auckland. It’s completely Autumn. It is raining like it’s forgotten to stop. And I’ve got that feeling you used to get when you returned from school camp. Sure, bits were hard and sometimes you had an overwhelming urge to inflict serious harm on your classmates, but if you had to grade it you would give it an A. And once it’s all over you feel just a little bit empty.
In terms of the campaign, we set off thinking we were going to face a few key challenges. The first was getting New Zealanders to understand that the problem of climate change is not solved in New Zealand. The second was getting them to understand that the most important thing for us to do as a country is set an emissions reduction target. And third was achieving an understanding that cows, for all their charm and ability to generate cash, are contributing no less than half of the problem of emissions in New Zealand and that farming practices must improve if we’re to truly say we’re doing our bit about climate change.
And I think the most surprising and enlightening thing about the tour was that we didn’t have to “get” anyone to understand anything. The majority of people already get it. And if every New Zealand voter thinks the same as those who came onboard the Rainbow Warrior, then we may just have the power to induce the political changes necessary to really deal with climate change in this country. And we may just have the kind of social consciousness that can and will change the world for the better. When we spoke to people about the campaign, almost all nodded, many clapped, and some were moved enough to stay behind after the talk had finished and offer their hand to shake or a hug.
On our last open day in Wellington we had a record number of people through the ship. When the day was over we had a party. It was the last chance for the crew and campaigners to be together before we all set off on our different paths. Because that’s the funny thing about a Greenpeace ship tour. You are thrown together on a ship just 55m long with a bunch of strangers who, over the course of just six weeks, will become close colleagues and, in some cases, close friends. You do things together like clean the toilets, block coal shipments, feel seasick, watch breath-defying sunsets, plant 2,000 trees, laugh, whinge, talk and not get enough sleep. Then the next thing you know, you’ve scattered like skittles. Home to Spain, Finland, Britain, Argentina. A Greenpeace fan of people spread open across the world; everyone exhausted but smiling in respective hometowns.
Now onwards and upwards with the campaign; made all the better by the past six weeks.
Thank you for having us New Zealand.