Take Action for Change

Sometimes the best way to get something done is to go out there and stand up for what you believe in, no matter what. Greenpeace remains unique and effective because of our willingness to bear witness to environmental injustices and to take peaceful direct action to expose global environmental problems and bring about solutions that ensure a green and peaceful future. A person who bears witness to an injustice takes responsibility for that awareness.

That person may then choose to do something or standby, but they may not turn away in ignorance. When Greenpeace goes to the Arctic to document sea ice melting, to the Antarctic to get between whales and harpoons, or to a local toxic chemical facility to protest pollution, we hope that you will bear witness with us to demand a green and peaceful future. 

Peaceful direct action

Peaceful direct action and civil disobedience are a fundamental part of our democracy. Labor movement protests gave us weekends.  Suffragettes marching in the streets led to women’s right to vote. The anti-slavery movement, Gandhi, Martin Luther King and the civil rights movement all used civil disobedience to win fundamental freedoms that we now take for granted. Greenpeace carries on this tradition.

Nonviolent direct action has been an integral part of Greenpeace’s work since our start in 1971 when twelve brave souls set sail to stop a nuclear bomb from detonating in Amchitka, an island off of Alaska’s coast. Determined to prevent a nuclear weapon test by the U.S. government, these activists set sail for the nuclear blast zone in a ship they’d christened the Greenpeace.

Their aims were twofold: To physically prevent the blast by placing themselves in the test zone, and to bear witness, in the Quaker tradition. The U.S. Coast Guard forced the first Greenpeace voyage to turn around before the ship reached its destination, but thanks to extensive media coverage and the subsequent political firestorm the activists ignited, the U.S. government ended nuclear tests at Amchitka in 1972. A long history of Greenpeace activists using nonviolent actions to achieve important and lasting victories for the environment was begun.

Greenpeace also uses creative events to focus attention and encourage public outcry. Back in the summer of 2009, Greenpeace activists hung a banner on the face of Mount Rushmore to challenge President Barrack Obama, "America honors leaders, not politicians: Stop global warming." The action stepped up pressure on the President to be a leader on global warming, encouraged public comments, phone calls and people having their voices be heard.

Pressuring businesses

Corporations can be among the worst environmental offenders. Greenpeace pressures companies to take a precautionary principle approach to environmental stewardship and adopt truly sustainable measures.

An example of a successful campaign to change corporate behavior is our work to save the boreal forests. Greenpeace, with the support of thousands of activists demanded that Kimberly-Clark, manufacturer of Kleenex, stop-using trees from the Boreal forest in Canada to manufacture tissues. Thanks to steady public pressure, ongoing direct action and creative tactics, the company that makes popular brands like Kleenex, Scott, and Cottonelle announced a new policy that places it among the industry leaders in sustainability, bringing the Kleercut campaign to a successful completion.

Pressuring politicians

Greenpeace ensures that governments live up to their promises and responsibilities, and expose them when they do not. The United States has a complex political system. Decisions affecting the environment are made at all levels of government, federal, state and local. Greenpeace works across all of these levels.

When the government blocks positive environmental change, Greenpeace targets the decision-makers who can make a difference. We pressure politicians to take action and legislate to stop climate change, overfishing, deep-sea destruction, deforestation, whaling, toxic pollution, and nuclear power.

Our political power comes from YOU. A big part of our political work is making sure that concerned citizens like you are able to take effective action and have your voice heard by decision-makers to influence policy.

Bearing witness by sea

Our ships give us a unique advantage in the work to protect our planet. Greenpeace’s voyage to Amchitka in 1971 was intercepted before the ship reached the site; however, the effort peaked a lot of public interest. About four months later the U.S government announced the end of nuclear testing at Amchitka. Greenpeace had succeeded; we had given the Earth a voice and it had been heard.

Our ships are used as a focus for Greenpeace campaigning. They travel to remote areas of the world to bear witness and take action. The ships perform many kinds of action from documenting global warming to stopping whaling ships. Our most famous ship the Rainbow Warrior is an icon for environmentalists worldwide.

In early 2008 the Esperanza returned to port after two weeks of successfully preventing the Japanese whaling fleet from hunting in the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary. By interfering with the factory whaling ship, the rest of the Japanese whaling fleet was unable to operate — bringing the entire whaling program to a halt. During the two weeks Greenpeace spent confronting the fleet more than 100 whales were saved.

The Rainbow Warrior has traveled everywhere, from South America to the South Pacific, to the Atlantic. It has been involved in most of our Greenpeace campaigns - protesting against the "Star Wars," missile system, challenging the World Trade Organization in Doha, promoting renewable energy, intercepting British Nuclear Fuels' plutonium transports… the list is as endless as the oceans the Warrior travels.

In 1997, the Arctic Sunrise became the first ship to circumnavigate James Ross Island in the Antarctic. This was an impossible journey until a 200m thick iceshelf connecting the island to the Antarctic continent collapsed. This was just one of the many signs of climate change which the Arctic Sunrise has helped document.

A bird’s eye view

Greenpeace is embarking on a new era of bearing witness – from the air. Our fleet now includes a hot air balloon and thermal air ship to help us document and call attention to environmental issues from a new, higher vantage point.

The Greenpeace airship highlighted the dangers at two DuPont chemical facilities in Delaware and New Jersey. Greenpeace conducted land, air and water inspections of these high-risk chemical plants to highlight the reasons we need safer alternatives and to call attention to federal legislation that would help reduce the potential of chemical disasters.

Greenpeace uses the hot air balloon to get out the message by flying over communities and attending events to make the public aware of the truth about environmental issues where people get more information.

Fragile Earth needs a voice

Greenpeace has successfully brought about positive environmental change since we began campaigning in 1971. But, much more needs to be done to help our fragile planet become healthier and safer for all of its inhabitants – plants, animals and US. We’ll continue to stand up for what we believe in, giving a voice to the voiceless and taking hard stances in order to shift the environmental movement into a new realm. But we can’t do it without YOU! Be a part of our efforts to protect this fragile earth.