London Times: Greenpeace is now the world’s most powerful NGO

by Michelle Frey

May 16, 2011

Rainbow Warrior

Last week was quite a week for Greenpeace. On Wednesday, citizens finally won against coal in Massachussets with the announcement that Salem Harbor Generating Station is set to close by 2014.

And, on Thursday, Japan announced it was dropping plans to double its nuclear power capacity and the construction of 14 new nuclear plants. Instead, Japan will “start from scratch” with its energy policy, by developing wind, solar and biomass energy sources.

And, now, the London Times has published an article saying that Greenpeace is the world’s most powerful non-governmental organization (NRO). Thank you, London Times!

Here is an exerpt from the article:

Established 40 years ago, Greenpeace is now the world’s most powerful NGO. But some now question its anti-nuclear goal

As symbols of the nuclear age go, the imposing steel molecule of Brussels’ Atomium is pretty potent. Built for the 1958 World Fair, it’s a popular tourist attraction but today it has unexpected visitors.

Standing beneath the futuristic monument, David Verbist, an action co-ordinator for Greenpeace, directs a group of protesters perched 100m above on the highest of its metal spheres, glinting in the sunshine. As they pull down the Belgian tricolour and replace it with a flag bearing a No Nukes symbol, three police cars and two vans pull into the forecourt. “Good! Here comes the chief of police,” says Michel Peremans, the campaign director for Greenpeace Belgium.

The country gets around 60 per cent of its energy from its two nuclear plants, both of which are past their intended lifespan. In 2005, Verbist was one of a group who scaled the reactor in Tihange and painted a giant crack on its stack. A 36-year-old architect with a beard and a ponytail, he has overseen more than 50 similar actions since he joined Greenpeace. “I’m not doing this for the kicks, I’m doing this because I’m angry,” he says. “When I turned 30 I was frustrated about the way some things were. I wanted change and Greenpeace don’t just sit around complaining, they do something.”

This is the 40th year that Greenpeace has been engaging in dramatic publicity stunts, or “media mindbombs”, as founder Robert Hunter coined them — from locating illegal logging in the Amazon from the air to occupying oil rigs en route to the Arctic. Today, it is the largest environmental organisation in the world, with power and determination to take on the biggest governments and corporations. It employs 2,000 salaried staff, operating in more than 40 countries on behalf of 2.89 million supporters worldwide, each financed via donations ( money is not accepted from governments or companies). The UK office is one of the top five contributors to global fundraising — which totalled €195 million in 2009. Its fixed assets are put at €38 million, including property and marine vessels, such as its flagship Rainbow Warrior.

The successor to the original Rainbow Warrior, which was blown up by the French intelligence service while in harbour in New Zealand in 1985, the schooner is currently monitoring radiation levels near Fukushima, although the Japanese Government refused it permission to operate within its territorial waters.

With the shockwaves from the Japanese nuclear crisis still felt across the globe, Greenpeace has responded with protest actions. In France last week, 55 activists blockaded the site of a new pressurised reactor being built in Flamanville.

Despite the adverse publicity of Fukushima — yesterday, Rainbow Warrior’s crew recorded high radiation levels in seaweed samples up to 40 miles out to sea — many argue that if global warming is to be contained, nuclear energy is the only credible option.

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