“In 1971, motivated by their vision of a green and peaceful world, a small team of activists set sail from Vancouver, Canada, in an old fishing boat. These activists, the founders of Greenpeace, believed a few individuals could make a difference.”

Continuing our charity account introduction series, today’s post is about another well-known organisation: Greenpeace.

The Beginnings

Greenpeace flag

Under the history section of Greenpeace you can find a link to an external article by Rex Weyler. At first sight the length of the article is shocking with its 19 pages, but well worth reading. It gives a nice and sometimes funny overview of the beginnings of Greenpeace ‘The Don’t Make a Wave Committee’. Here are some interesting highlights from the early life of this movement:

It all started with the U.S announcing a nuclear bomb test on an island of Amchitka, Alaska. As they remember, Vancouver at that time was a convergence of hippies, radical ecologists, rebel journalists and Tibetan monks, in a city closest to the island where the U.S. wished to test their bomb. Because of the fear that earthquakes and tidal waves generated by the explosion may reach other parts of the Pacific, people started to raise their voices. They were the founders of Greenpeace.

The idea of sailing into the test zone came to them over a morning coffee, and soon became reality. The Don’t Make a Wave Committee that was formed to fight against the nuclear test chose the peace sign as many other anti-war groups did, but they decided to make it green. They soon found the only fisherman who offered his ship, Captain John C. Cormack, and on September 15, 1971 they set out from Vancouver. “It was an all-male crew, which would never happen in Greenpeace today.”

Because of internal conflicts the Committee evolved into Greenpeace Foundation in 1972. “ ‘Foundation’ was suggested by [Bob] Hunter in reference to Isaac Asimov’s futuristic Foundation Trilogy, in which a ‘Foundation’ takes responsibility for ushering the galaxy through the dark ages into an enlightened age.”

But what about the whales?

Greenpeace is famous for defending whales and this is how it all started:

A brain scientist, who was conducting behavioural research of killer whales, started to appear among Greenpeace activists. His experience concluded that whales are highly intelligent and should not be hunted. “I had to convince them that whales were worth getting involved with and finally figure out how to make this plan of shielding the whales with our bodies work. It was pretty much all stealth and subterfuge, most of it in our heads lubricated by 25-cent beers.”

And he convinced them: “Consciousness is bigger than you, bigger than the human race. Consciousness is a quality of nature. [Dr. Paul] Spong inspired us to look beyond the purely human realm, to see ecology from a new perspective.”

So Greenpeace decided to get between the whales and whalers to capture the hunting process for the media. And how did it go?

“The Soviet whalers seemed completely confused by this colorful boatload of hippies flying a flag with the earth on it, playing rock music, and zipping around them in little Zodiacs.”

Hard times

Bob Hunter being moody But it was not always so colorful and hippy happy. During the years they faced lots of problems, including internal disagreement and financial difficulties. They were following a simple rule: “Do the right thing, and the money will come.” They got credit from banks, as they say: “People may not realize that the Royal Bank of Canada helped finance the environmental revolution!” And – as magic was always ‘part of the game’ – they also got unexpected help: “I’m dying of cancer. This is all the money I have. I know you can use it. Thanks for what you are doing.”

They have the recipe to overcome difficulties: “Be creative. Never argue the numbers. Do your homework, yes, but don’t get drawn into debates that only benefit the perpetrators. Go after the owners of the companies. Make them visible. Find out who’s profiting from the destruction of the earth and name them. Take their picture. Set up outside their house. Believe me, their own children will reform them faster than any deal you could cut. Remember, don’t imitate what went before. An image only works once.”

Since then

The areas where Greenpeace raise their voice (and arms) have multiplied during the decades. Today they cover 7 areas to save the environment.

Climate Forests Oceans Agriculture
Toxics Nuclear Peace

We’ve just passed 22nd April, Earth Day, when environmental issues get a bit more attention. As for a very timely issue, Greenpeace also wants to raise attention to how much impact cloud computing has on global (dirty) energy usage. In their report 10 well-known technology companies were graded according how they power their data centres. Many of them are already trying to decrease dependencies on coal, but while they’re trying, you can have a look on the impressive list of what Greenpeace achieved since 1972: Greenpeace victories

What you can do

Even if you don’t wish to join the crew on a Greenpeace boat, there are several other ways to ‘get on board’.  

– You can follow their guide for how to involve green solutions in your everyday life: Make your life greener
– You can help via Twitter to spread the word: Donate a tweet
(not to forget, soon you can flattr their Twitter account as well)
– The Earth needs a Warrior: Help to build the new Rainbow Warrior
– And you can always ‘simply’ donate to them;  now it’s also possible via Flattr
– For the complete list, visit: How to take action

The word ‘ecology’ is used more commonly today, but the initiative of a freelance journalist from the early days is still valid:


Look it up. You’re involved.

If you want more: greenpeace.org

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