In 1971, a small team of activists set sail from Vancouver, Canada, in an old fishing boat. Their mission: to protest underground nuclear testing by the US military at Amchitka, a tiny volcanic island off western Alaska. Though they were eventually stopped, these activists went on to create an organisation called Greenpeace, with the belief that individual, non-violent action can create positive change.
Amchitka was prone to earthquakes, and the activists feared the underground explosion – the third such nuclear test on the island – would trigger devastating earthquakes and tsunamis. The island was also the last refuge for 3,000 endangered sea otters, and home to bald eagles, peregrine falcons and other wildlife.
En route to Amchitka, aboard their boat the Phyllis Cormack, founding member Bob Metcalfe called CBC radio and made a statement. “We call our ship the Greenpeace because that’s the best name we can think of to join the two great issues of our times, the survival of our environment and the peace of the world […] We do not consider ourselves to be radicals. We are conservatives, who insist upon conserving the environment for our children and future generations.”
It was another founding member, Bill Darnell, who coined the organisation’s name when someone flashed him a peace sign and he said, “Let’s make that a green peace!”
Before Greenpeace arrived at Amchitka, the boat was intercepted by a U.S. navy ship and forced to turn back. When the activists returned to Vancouver, they learned their inaugural action had sparked a flurry of public interest and generated widespread compassion for their cause.
The U.S. still detonated the bomb, but the voice of reason had been heard. Nuclear testing on Amchitka ended that same year, and the island was later declared a bird sanctuary.
Throughout the 1970s, Greenpeace spread to several countries and began campaigning on various environmental issues, including commercial whaling and toxic waste. In 1979, Greenpeace International was formed and is today based in Amsterdam.
Today, Greenpeace is an international organisation that prioritises global environmental campaigns. Based in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, Greenpeace has nearly 3 million supporters worldwide, and national as well as regional offices in 40 countries.
Greenpeace in Southeast Asia
Greenpeace has been present in Southeast Asia since 2000. The region’s forests, mountains, rivers and oceans are home to millions of people and thousands of species of trees, plants, birds and mammals. But today, much of these flora and fauna are under threat from climate change, deforestation, pollution and unsustainable industrialised agriculture. Southeast Asia’s rapid industrialisation and economic success has come at a heavy price.
Through its campaigns, Greenpeace aims to protect the region from further ecological ruin and to serve as a beacon of awareness and action in the interest of environmental protection and sustainable development.
Greenpeace has led successful campaigns in the Philippines, Thailand, Indonesia and Malaysia. Our key milestones include: preventing the entry of hazardous waste imports and radioactive shipments, campaigning against destructive logging, stopping polluting technologies such as waste incinerators and coal power plants, promoting sustainable agriculture, renewable energy and necessary solutions to key environmental problems.
Two decades of environmental investigations, scientific research, reports and lobbying efforts marked with dramatic, non-violent direct actions have propelled our campaigns to bring about critical change in attitudes of government and corporations and have helped us achieve important victories in our campaign to protect the environment.
We could not have done this without the enthusiasm and commitment of our individual donors, supporters, volunteers, and a wide range of allies from grassroots movements and international NGOs, who have shared our vision of positive change for a better world.