"I want people to raise their eyebrow and say, they did what?," Nathan reveals. "Whether it's the eyebrow of our opponent or witness, it means we're not only getting their attention, but their appreciation." It is important to Nathan that Greenpeace continues to say and do things on behalf of the environment that others will not.
Nathan began as a volunteer and canvasser for Greenpeace in 1988. His father first introduced him to Greenpeace as the two visited the Greenpeace store on the Fishermen's Wharf in San Francisco. He was immediately drawn to the video being shown on an old black and white TV. The video showed Greenpeace on the open seas confronting the Japanese whaling fleet with activists putting themselves between the harpooners and the whales. Right then and there, Nathan knew what he wanted to do with his life and years later, Nathan found himself in the Southern Ocean on a Greenpeace ship saving the whales and experiencing the action himself.
Being involved in countless actions, one in particular stands out to Nathan as a successful model. The Rainbow Warrior was coming up the coast of Oregon and discovered that a research ship was about to start using a probe to explore for trace minerals in the seabed of the coast, in hopes of opening up the area for ocean strip mining, a highly-destructive activity that would destroy the local, very productive, fishing community. Greenpeace decided to take action. Greenpeace campaigners went up and down the coast telling people about this danger while the Rainbow Warrior deployed her inflatables to interfere with the probe and stop the research temporarily. In the end, the community mobilized and took action for themselves. The local, small fishing fleet met the Rainbow Warrior and surrounded the research vessel, eventually making the state of Oregon abandon their research.
"It was such a success because within a span of a few days the issue went from an anonymous, but real threat, to an environmental victory that involved pressure from the local community themselves," recalls Nathan.
Not only is Nathan the Actions Director at Greenpeace, he is also a mentor and leader in the activist community as a whole. "It's all about having the right amount of patience," Nathan explains. "You have to keep your eyes open all the time and have the patience to figure out what is the most strategic way to pressure those people who have power."
No matter how many actions Nathan has been involved in, he always finds joy in providing others with the opportunity to express themselves through activism and realize the great sense of empowerment that comes with personally taking non-violent direct action against something that is wrong or unjust. "I know an action is truly empowering if, at the end, the activists are inspired and motivated to fight again," Nathan comments.
Nathan sees progress being made in the environmental movement. "Twenty years ago we were working on global warming and people thought we were crazy. Ten years ago people thought we were crazy. But, three years ago suddenly something shifted and now only the crazy people say global warming doesn't exist." As the environmental movement continues to change and mature-collects more victories and uncovers new dangers, Nathan will be leading the charge, readying activists and making a difference.
Nathan Santry holds a Fine Art degree in sculpture and video art from Cornish College of the Arts.