“Greenpeace is the largest independent direct-action environmental organization in the world.”
It is likely that you have heard of Greenpeace. It is possible that your image of Greenpeace consists of crazy, arrested-getting, granola-eating protesters. You probably think they have B.O. (Maybe you don’t. I don’t know your life. Sorry for assuming. ) And you’re kind of right. (Except the part about B.O., maybe. I don’t know their lives either.) If this is your conceptualization of Greenpeace, continue reading, because it isn’t that you’re totally wrong necessarily, so much as operating on incomplete information. If you already know everything about Greenpeace (which you might, maybe you’re one of its mysterious Canadian founders? I could see it..), keep reading anyway because I spent a lot of time on this, you guys.
Greenpeace, founded in Vancouver, Canada, in 1971, is a global organization devoted to environmental protection, preservation and conservation. They are stationed in over 40 countries, with headquarters in the Netherlands. Their main objectives, according to their mission statement on their site are: protect oceans, whales and seafood, protect forests, stop global warming, push for no nukes, and eliminate toxic chemicals. They do not accept money from governments or corporations, and instead rely on individual contributions and grants from foundations.
Greenpeace has a deserved reputation for extreme behavior: last month in Romania two activists chained themselves to a radiator in a government official’s office to protest a gold mine, while activists in Hungary presented the Romanian embassy with a coffin filled with dead fish, and it seems like they are always. getting. arrested. for. trespassing. And sometimes getting kicked out of Best Buy. This has both its benefits and drawbacks; while for some, this level of extremism is inspiring, funny or endearing, it makes Greenpeace vulnerable to the threat of being dismissed as crazy people. Which they might be, some of them, or even all of them, but they serve several important functions. It is also worth noting that Greenpeace often wins in trespassing cases, even when it is apparent that the activists did, indeed trespass; the authorities are sometimes willing to overlook the alleged crime in support of the mission.
They own and operate a fleet of ships which they often send out to places being directly affected by environmental problems, and these ships are linked to their site via a webcam feed of images updated once per minute. The ships provide firsthand, unfiltered information to the organization, as well as an invaluable opportunity to make an impact.
Greenpeace investigates environmental issues with far more depth and focus than governmental organizations. Just recently, they did testing on produce in a supermarket in Taiwan and discovered that 43 out of 58 products they tested contained pesticides, 11 of which were illegal. There were 25 cases of “pesticide cocktails”, or produce items containing more than one type of pesticide, which is hazardous to human health. These types of investigations are uncommon for law enforcement agencies, and Greenpeace serves as a watchdog in many places around the world.
Greenpeace also offers seminars and recently a training camp where participants learn skills such as climbing, navigating boats through whale-filled waters with minimal interference, and blockading, a skill often used in protests, an hear lectures on a variety of environmental issues Greenpeace seeks to address. These equip Greenpeace advocates with a wealth of skills and knowledge to fight for environmental justice worldwide.
The COOL IT Leaderboard (in its fifth version, released this month) ranks tech companies on their efforts to control climate change in three criteria: Solutions, Energy Impact and Advocacy, giving each company individual scores for each criterion, as well as a cumulative score that decides their overall rank. These publicly released records provide good publicity for companies working to offset their carbon footprints, reflect poorly on companies that do not, and provide careful consumers with reliable information on what companies share their commitment to the environment. (I, for one, was very excited to see Google ranked #1! Google is the BEST, you guys.)
In conjunction with a company called CyberMedia, Greenpeace organized a daylong seminar in New Delhi, India called “Decarbonising Economy” to promote sustainable development and renewable energy sources. Attendance was over 500 people, working in both the public and private sectors. Events like this are energizing, inspiring and promote cooperation and social awareness.
They also dedicate considerable resources, in terms of physical, financial and human capital, to environmental campaigns. Recently, they have protested against SOPA, campaigned against illegal fishing in Indian waters, and last year they campaigned against Asia Pulp and Paper (APP), whom they accuse of destroying the Indonesian rainforests, garnering support from the likes of Lego and Mattel. A 2010 social networking campaign against Nestle’s connections to companies damaging Indonesian rainforests took two months, and ended with Nestle making a commitment to being more responsible with its buying decisions. Obviously, Greenpeace and their campaigns wield a tremendous amount of power. They raise awareness for causes that otherwise might not be noticed until it’s too late, if at all.
While Greenpeace’s extreme tactics are off-putting to many people, even people who consider themselves globally and environmentally conscious, they are a crucial and worthwhile organization. This level of commitment to the environment is commendable and they fill a global niche. While perhaps not its explicit purpose, the extremism of Greenpeace provides a nice contrast for less controversial groups to be absorbed into the mainstream culture and conversations.
In addition to that, the attention that they bring to issues provides the issues in question with a real, legitimate chance to become part of the global environmental discourse. The information they provide to consumers is enormously useful, both in regards to helping consumers make socially responsible choices, and encouraging companies to do so as well. The pressure they are able to put on companies often provides the necessary incentive for the companies to behave with regard for the environment.
Thanks for reading, guys. – Linnea