On April 27, 1975, Greenpeace launched the world’s first anti-whaling campaign from the docks of Vancouver. The mission would become the spark that ignited a global “Save the Whales” movement and eventually helped secure an international ban on commercial whaling.
Sadly, on the 35th anniversary of Greenpeace’s first voyage to save the whales, an American president threatens to undo decades of hard work for whale conservation. President Obama’s representatives are now supporting a proposal to overturn the international ban on commercial whaling and legitimize Japan’s “scientific” slaughter in the Southern Ocean.
As Greenpeace gears up for one of the biggest battles that the war against whaling has ever seen, we look back on the story of our first anti-whaling mission with the hope that it will inspire President Obama to fulfill his campaign promise of “strengthening the international moratorium on commercial whaling” – not overturning it...
Following Greenpeace’s historic maiden voyage to protest the nuclear destruction of Amchitka Island, the U.S. nuclear testing program was shut down, Amchitka was designated as a wildlife sanctuary, and Bob Hunter, Greenpeace’s founder and first president, was hailed as the new leader of the environmental movement.
It was at this critical turning point in Greenpeace’s history that Bob Hunter met Dr. Paul Spong. Dr. Spong had recently been dismissed from the Vancouver Aquarium where he was studying their first captive orca whale, Skana. His groundbreaking research with Skana proved for the first time that orcas are highly intelligent, emotional, and social creatures that should not be held in captivity. The aquarium directors were not pleased when Spong stated publicly that the orca wanted to be free.
Dr. Spong spoke with Hunter and the rest of Greenpeace about Skana’s plight and the plight of other great whales around the world. He told the members about the great, stinking death ships in the Pacific which were massacring these gentle giants with factory-like efficiency.
The Greenpeace team was appalled. Something had to be done to stop the slaughter.
So on April 27, 1975, Bob Hunter, Dr. Spong, and a brave team of activists hoisted a new sail on the little Greenpeace ship and set out to confront the Pacific whaling fleets head-on. “If Russia and Japan decide to whale any longer, they will have to do it over our dead bodies,” Hunter proclaimed, as a crowd of 30,000 supporters gathered at the Vancouver docks to see the Greenpeace crew off.
In late June, the team picked up their first radio transmission from a Soviet whaling ship. As they drew closer to the coordinates, the sea turned red and the enormous corpses of harpooned sperm whales floated all around them. The Greenpeace crew immediately lowered several of their high-speed inflatable rafts and zoomed towards the Soviet harpoon boat. The inflatables chased down the whaling ships and positioned themselves between the harpoons and the whales.
At one point, a harpoon was fired just over Bob Hunter’s head, nearly killing him. But the inflatable rafts continued to defend the whales from the whalers and countless were saved. Eventually, the Soviet ships retreated for fear of killing the humans and creating a major incident.
The mission was a success. “For the first time in the history of whaling,” reported The New York Times, “human beings had put their lives on the line for whales.”
The pictures and video that the Greenpeace crew brought back shocked the world and sparked an international outcry. After several more confrontations and nearly a decade of intense lobbying, the International Whaling Commission finally accepted a moratorium on commercial whaling in 1986.
Greenpeace paid for the commercial whaling moratorium with our blood, sweat, and tears. As a result, many whale species once on the verge of extinction are beginning to recover, slowly but steadily. Despite Japan's continued violation of the moratorium through a loophole that allows for "lethal science," just a few decades of protection has done wonders for the whales:
* Blue whales are increasing by 8.2% a year.
* Southern right whales are increasing by 7% a year.
* Humpback whales are increasing 3.1% a year in the Northwest Atlantic, 11-12% a year in the Southern hemisphere, and 7% a year in the Northeast Pacific.
* Eastern gray whales have increased from only a few hundred in the early 1900's to more than 20,000 today.
* Fin whales, which Japan continues to hunt, are not increasing in population but their rapid decline towards extinction has been halted.
This is the whales’ most desperate hour. Please rush your most generous support to help us tackle this new threat head-on and take action by signing our petition and telling President Obama how you feel about his plan to reinstate commercial whaling.
On this 35th anniversary of Greenpeace's first mission to save the whales, I leave you with the words of Dr. Paul Spong and pray that President Obama will heed his warning:
"The whales, the cetacea: creatures of light, monsters of the deep, fuel for ancient lamps, aquatic acrobats, food for empty bellies, the biggest brains on the planet, twenty million years in the making, now on the anvil under the hammer of fate. Going, going, gone…nearly gone. It is one of the ironies of our time that, just as we are beginning to marvel at the complexity of the nature of whales, we are on the verge of destroying them forever."
all photos are (c)Rex Weyler/Greenpeace
It was on this day, in 1971, that the first Greenpeace crew unfurled their triangular green sail, emblazoned with the peace and ecology symbols, and set out from Vancouver to change the world.
Their mission was to sail into the heart of a U.S. nuclear test zone and peacefully prevent the destruction of Amchitka, a pristine island ecosystem off the coast of Alaska. In their rusty little fishing boat, the 12 activists stood up to the greatest military force on the planet...
...What followed was a wave of public support that ultimately shut down the U.S. nuclear testing program, won Amchitka designation as a wildlife sanctuary, and gave birth to the Greenpeace movement.
From our humble beginnings nearly 40 years ago, Greenpeace has grown into one of the largest and most respected environmental organizations in the world. Today, Greenpeace operates in over 45 countries and commands a fleet of research and activist ships, which have sailed against environmental destruction on all of the seven seas. We employ world-renowned scientists, policy experts, and grassroots strategists to lead our campaigns. Greenpeace even has official standing at the United Nations.
But unlike other non-profit organizations, Greenpeace remains an independent citizens’ movement at its core. We accept no money from governments or corporations. That’s why we’ve been so successful in bringing about real change for the planet. That’s also why your support is so critical.
PLEASE CLICK HERE to rush a special birthday donation to Greenpeace, as we gear up for a major campaign against the greatest environmental threat of our generation: global warming.
From all of us here at the Greenpeace Headquarters, thank you for your continued support. These past few decades would not have been possible without you.
I leave you with a transcript of Ben Metcalfe's transmission from the ship, which was broadcast on the CBC radio the night of Greenpeace's maiden voyage...
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… If there are radicals in this story, they are the fanatical technocrats who believe they have the power to play with this world like an infinitely fascinating toy of their own. We do not believe they will be content until they have smashed it like a toy.
The message of the Greenpeace is simply this: The world is our place … and we insist on our basic human right to occupy it without danger from any power group. This is not a rhetorical presumption on our part. It is a sense and idea that we share with every ordinary citizen of the world…
Greenpeace's icebreaker-class research ship, the Arctic Sunrise, is currently on an expedition to document the impacts of global warming on Greenland's glaciers, polar bears, and native peoples.
But, as California burns and another major hurricane barrels toward the West coast, we can say with some certainty that we are already witnessing the effects of global warming in our very own backyard.
Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has declared states of emergency in several counties as eight separate wildfires continue to ravage The Golden State. One of the fires in the mountains north of Los Angeles has exploded to more than triple its size since Sunday, scorching over 121,000 acres of forest and putting at least 12,500 homes at risk.
The governor has ordered mandatory evacuations in all of the affected areas as thousands of firefighters work to contain the wildfires. Many have been injured and, over the weekend, the inferno claimed the lives of two men who were bravely battling the flames.
While the causes of the California wildfires remain unknown, their unrelenting ferocity is being blamed on recent temperatures, which have been in the triple-digits in some inland Los Angeles areas. Hundreds of thousands of acres have already burned this summer, the worst damage in years, and researchers expect that figure to rise well above average before the season is over.
California is also in the middle of one of its most active hurricane seasons in decades. There have already been ten named storms this summer, seven of which have occurred during the month of August. As thousands flee the wildfires, Hurricane Jimena is spinning its way toward the Baja California coastline. The storm is currently listed as a Category 4, with powerful winds over 155 miles per hour, but some are predicting that Jimena will reach Category 5 before it hits land.
Scientists have been telling us that, as the planet continues to get warmer, we can expect an increased frequency and intensity of both summer forest fires and hurricanes. It is now painfully clear that global warming is upon us, whether we like it or not.
We have been warned that the only way to stop runaway climate change and prevent the worst impacts of global warming is with a new international climate treaty that would reduce global warming pollution 25-40% below 1990 levels by 2020.
But, despite his inaugural pledge to “return science to its rightful place,” President Obama has put the full support of his administration behind a climate bill that gives billions to the coal industry – the number one source of global warming pollution in the U.S. – and only calls for a 4% reduction in emissions by 2020.
We now have less than 100 days until the U.N. Climate Convention in Copenhagen, where the new international climate treaty must be agreed upon. Please TAKE ACTION now, and tell the President to become a leader in the battle against global warming.
For Earth Day, NBC, the station that changed its logo green to show how much they care, had a rather interesting piece on their nightly news last evening. To highlight and celebrate Earth Day, they decided to feature President Bush’s family and talk about how “green” they are. I found this to be a fantastic example of greenwashing and very accurately timed to go along with the site Greenpeace just launched – www.StopGreenwash.org.
I mean, COME ON, President Bush being highlighted as green. That’s the most absurd thing I’ve ever heard. So what if he has an organic garden out in Texas with a few solar panels on the barn. Does Brian Williams think his audience forgot what a terrible job President Bush has been on environmental issues?
Instead of praising President Bush, they should have been reprimanding him and urging him to do better where he actually has the power to make change and set a precedence that counts on a global scale, as the president of the U.S. This is like putting a piece of tape on a crack in the sidewalk when you are the one in charge of making concrete.
We only have one planet, and thanks to Bush we’ve done a hell of a job polluting it these past 7 years. Let’s look at some facts,
- In 2005, Bush admits humans cause global warming but refuses to take any action to prevent it.
- Polar bears, instead of listing them as an endangered species, the Administration continues to allow the approval of oil drilling leases in prime polar bear habitat,
- The Administration continues to push for drilling in the Arctic,
- Bush is a former oil company owner, Exxon is making record, billion dollar profits while prices at the pump sky rocket and carbon emissions from burning fossil fuels continue to grow.
- The list could go on, but I’ll try to keep this post short…
I am outraged that NBC chose to feature the most un-environmental president on Earth Day. Why not highlight the hundreds of environmental organizations striving everyday to reverse the damage done by his administration. Or, the school children who are cleaning up their communities and learning why it’s important to take care of the environment.
What a disappointment. And, a damn fine example of greenwashing.
Now that I’ve found this news clip online, I was easily able to add it to the www.StopGreenwash.org website, just by using the link provided to it on the NBC page. I just added the video to the Greenpeace library and now people can vote on it. I hope you’ll give it 5 stars for being the most egregious example of greenwashing.
And, next time you see some BS being thrown at you, post the video or ad up on the Greenpeace site for all to see!
As I sit here eating an empire apple that my mom picked at an orchard, I think about how just one bruise or wiggly worm would have ruined my delicious healthy treat. Well, there is some sour news about another apple to share with you. Test results have proven that the newly popular iPhone contains hazardous substances—both inside and out—bruising Apple’s image and putting them way behind the competition for “green” progress.
The company that prides itself on being innovative somehow can’t manage to use substances that won’t harm their customers or the environment.
The wiggly worm in apple’s iPhone has to be their iconic white earphones. The vinyl plastic earphone wiring at levels that are prohibited in young children’s toys in San Francisco and the European Union (EU).
It’s clear that Apple is not listening to their customers who want environmentally friendly products. But, what about those customers who want to be environmentally conscience? Well, Apple isn’t making it easy for them.
When disassembling the iPhone for testing, Greenpeace discovered that the battery was glued and soldered to the handset. This makes it super hard for people to replace the battery and will undermine recycling of the iPhone when it is discarded.
While other phone companies like Nokia are coming out with less hazardous phones, why can’t Apple?
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