As we celebrate 50 years of campaigning for a greener and more peaceful future, I am proud to be part of such an amazing and bold organisation. I have spent a good 20 years of my life with Greenpeace, having started as a volunteer on the beautiful island of Fiji in the South Pacific. My time, experience and exposure to global environmental problems where I have worked on issues such as fisheries, climate change, forestry, nuclear, food and agriculture, politics and global policies have given me clarity and continue to inspire me that there is hope. Clarity that there is a wheel of change in motion that is at the scale of a revolution, where humanity is required to reboot and reconfigure how we live, how we connect with our natural environment and how we relate to each other as human beings. Hope that we already have the answers and that the reality of this pandemic has forced us to pay more attention to this wheel of change.
Greenpeace has given me the opportunity to work in the Pacific region where our goal was to promote the sustainable and equitable use of the last remaining healthy tuna fisheries in the world across the 17 island countries. It opened my eyes to the injustices and greed so ingrained in the harvesting, processing and consumption of tuna and telling the unseen stories of the cost to human lives and the ocean ecosystem. Yet, the rules of the game allowed such inhumane practices to not only continue but grow to fill the insatiable global appetite for these species. It’s appalling! The whole demand and supply model of business and the extractivism mindset is not the way into the future.
I have worked on a number of regional and international political issues in different parts of the world including the United Nations where the entire model is based on power and dominance. Rarely will you see policies that encourage cooperation in a true sense as opposed to the norm of competition. How security, trade, and environmental issues are the lures for distraction from the real issues facing humanity dressed as global stability. This is like watching an internationally broadcasted chess game where there are only a few players and the scoreboard has already been drawn up.
Some of the highlights of my career have been the opportunities to work in mainland China, Korea, Taiwan and Africa, where I have appreciated the very simple fact that humanity has so much more to share, learn and understand of each other. It was eye opening for me to experience rich and diverse cultures and ways of life, and how we only see what is narrated in the outside world. It really taught me to check my own biases and to look at myself and realise how we have so much in common (if we choose to see) and observe development in a completely different paradigm.
I wrote a blog last year where I tried to name the current broken system and challenge us all on our individual and collective power. I built on that and wrote about making room for co-creation in February. As I take this time of reflection on the half a century journey of Greenpeace and my own experience, the same narrative rings true – the power of us, You and Me, is what needs to drive this wheel of change that is in motion.
I fundamentally believe that this requires us to not be defined by the boxes and categorisation that humanity has grown to accept as normal. It requires courageous conversations and going beyond the societal norms for a new future to emerge, where we live in harmony with our natural surroundings and reactivate the soul of humanity where happiness and well-being can be the currency. Centering our individual moral compasses on the foundations of respect and honesty is the first step where we ourselves move away from our conditioned mind of competition to living in harmonious collaboration with others. We also have to allow ourselves the time and space to acknowledge the harm we have caused to ourselves, to others and to our natural environment in order to go through a process of healing meaningfully. This centering is the key to defining our destination, and that we can (absolutely can and we should!) decide the fate of our humanity.
Greenpeace was founded by a small group of individuals with a strong conviction to stop an injustice. Half a century later, we are now present in 57 countries and counting. We have thousands of staff, tens of thousands of volunteers and tens of millions of supporters. In the famous words of one of the founders of Greenpeace, Dorothy Stowe: “It’s amazing what a few people sitting around a kitchen table can achieve.”