Fifty Years of Greenpeace
Half a century of hope in action
“Ecology. Look it up. You’re involved.”
– Message from billboards commissioned by Greenpeace’s first president, Ben Metcalfe
“Make it a green peace!” was first uttered, in Vancouver, 1970. A humble retort to the standard hippie “Peace!” salute of the time. It marked the close of the meeting of the Don’t Make a Wave Committee, where it had just been agreed to send a boat to Amchitka to confront US nuclear weapons testing.
They did not have a boat, the funds to buy one or the skills to sail it even if they had!
A year later, on September 15, 1971, the Phyllis Cormack, bearing the banner Greenpeace across its bridge, left Vancouver bound for Amchitka determined to “confront the bomb”. It was still doubtful if the funds would last or if the skills would be sufficient.
The “Greenpeace” never arrived and on 6 November an underground atomic bomb was exploded, rupturing the island, opening fissures and pushing deadly radiation into the surrounding environment.
The first of many “mindbombs” – an idea so powerful that it changes mindsets – had also exploded in the collective consciousness. The crew’s courage and powerful storytelling ignited mass opposition to future tests and the all powerful US Atomic Energy Commission reluctantly declared it would abandon the Amchitka site “for political and other reasons”. A stunning victory for daring to care and caring to dare!
50 Years of Change
That initial fusing of peace and ecology – Greenpeace – had a percussive effect, growing to encompass countless campaigns for a safer, fairer, future. Greenpeace organisations can now be found in 57 countries, and counting, with thousands of staff, tens of thousands of volunteers and many tens of millions of supporters.
All are bound by a common mission and values to ensure the ability of the earth to nurture life in all its diversity. We take personal responsibility and act peacefully. We are independent of those we seek to change, taking no money from governments or corporations. We seek to promote solutions to the problems we oppose and expose.
Over fifty years – on all continents and oceans – together we have spoken truth to power, borne witness, stopped, blocked and placed our bodies in the way of environmental destruction. We have investigated and documented ecological contamination and crime. We have conducted scientific studies, litigated and lobbied. We have tried, failed and tried again. We have also succeeded!
As we commemorate, and celebrate, 50 years since the Greenpeace set sail, we are painfully aware of the gathering storm wrought by inequity, greed and corruption, of accelerating habitat destruction and the deepening climate emergency. We look to the past for learnings on how to face the future. We celebrate the passion and commitment of all who make Greenpeace possible.
“It is amazing, what a few people sitting around their kitchen table can achieve.”
– Dorothy Stowe, Greenpeace founding member
Today, in the eye of a pandemic, we have been reminded that ‘no-one is safe until everyone is safe’. Thinking back to the fusing of ecology and peace, we need to understand that we are part of and not apart from nature. We must act on the knowledge that ‘no species is safe until every species is safe’. We need to not only live within planetary limits but we need to ensure that all life can thrive.
Together we keep on fighting because we care.
We keep on fighting because we know in our hearts, dreams, and imaginations that a better world is possible. We keep on fighting because we know that the solutions to the problems facing the world are at hand and in our hands. We know they are in old stories and ancient wisdom, the stewardship of indigenous communities, they are in new technologies and creative urban communities. We know that in the current disruption hope can sometimes be seen as an act of courage. But we also know that in times of disruption ideas that previously seemed impossible suddenly become possible.
Here we invite you to explore our ‘story map’, meet our many founders, read our stories and find out about key campaigns, losses and victories.
We would also love to hear from you. Do you have a Greenpeace story, a lesson, an inspiration, a warning or an image to share with us and the whole community? We have a map, or guest book, for that too.
But above all we invite you to take action so that together we can do our part in creating a safer, fair future for all life on our beautiful planet.