Eric BangadI remember seeing a Greenpeace action on television where the crew were trying to free a bloodied whale from a Japanese whaling ship as well as footage of a Greenpeace boat and its crew risking their lives as they were trying to prevent toxic drums being thrown overboard by a Russian boat. These are just among the images that made me realize I had to do something for the planet. I wanted to be involved in protecting our ocean, my favorite place on Earth.

This is why I volunteered for Greenpeace here in the Philippines. My involvement started back in 2004 for the GMO campaign. But I felt that I could still do more. Since I worked as a quartermaster on cruise ships and as an able-bodied seaman on commercial ships before, I then decided that I wanted to be a Greenpeace ship crew.

In 2010, my ambition became a reality when I was on-board the M/V Esperanza as a volunteer deckhand. As a deckhand, my duties include maintenance of the ship like painting and chipping and line handling when we dock and leave port. Eventually, I became a deck supervisor/bosun. As a bosun, I am in-charge of the deck crew, and involved in the supervision of work on deck.

One of the most memorable trips I had on-board the various Greenpeace ships was when I had the chance to visit the Arctic in 2012, on-board the M/V Arctic Sunrise. It was a month-long expedition in the icy Arctic for a scientific research on the thinning of the Arctic ice caps.

The Arctic was very beautiful, picture-perfect. It’s one of the places that I want my children to experience because of its purity and serenity. The air was very clean. It wasn’t tiring to just sit down for a day and absorb all the beauty and positive energies around.

It’s quite saddening to know however, that the ice in the North Pole is truly thinning. I wonder how the polar bear we saw when we were there would survive later on. I also wonder what would happen if all these water from the melted ice would flow down into tropical waters. I firmly believe that the frequency and severity of typhoons in our country are effects of global warming and the thinning of the polar ice caps. It will be worse and will definitely change our shorelines.

I learned about what happened to the Arctic Sunrise crew when I was on vacation. When my family knew about it, they felt scared because I would have been one of the crew. Had I been assigned to the Arctic Sunrise with my current contract, I wouldn’t have gone home to my family for an indefinite period of time. I could just imagine how the families of the Arctic 30 felt then, so helpless and scared.

Though the Arctic 30 have recently been released, it doesn’t mean the fight for Arctic protection is over. The Russian oil giant Gazprom recently announced that it has started oil production on the Prirazlomnaya drilling platform. This announcement puts the fragile Arctic environment in danger of destruction.

Join me and take the first step towards saving the Arctic now:

Eric Bangad is a bosun for Greenpeace ships. He started as a volunteer deckhand in 2010. He is currently on-board the MV Esperanza.