13.3.08

greenpeace

Greenpeace 

Here are some facts about Greenpeace, the international, independant, global organisation which campaigns for the conservation of the earth's environment and to promote peace around the world.

1. Greenpeace Was Originally a "Don't Make A Wave Committee"

In 1969, the U.S. government intended to carry out underground nuclear testing in Alaska’s Aleutian Islands, a plan that some people feared would cause an earthquake and a subsequent tidal wave. An estimated 10,000 people demonstrated by blocking a U.S.-Canada border crossing, holding signs that said, “Don't Make A Wave. It's Your Fault If Our Fault Goes.”

Some of those demonstrators were members of the Canadian chapter of the Sierra Club. They had the idea to head out to the testing site by boat, but the Sierra Club objected to the idea. In response, they formed the “Don't Make A Wave Committee,” and in 1971, they set sail for Alaska in a boat they called "Greenpeace," a term offhandedly coined by founding member Bill Darnell.

In May 1972, the organization officially changed its name to Greenpeace.

2. The French government blew up their boat

The organization’s flagship Rainbow Warrior was docked in New Zealand’s Aukland harbor in the summer of 1985, when operatives of the DGSE, the French intelligence agency, carried out Operation Satanic. They affixed a pair of bombs to the hull and sunk the famous craft. While the event was certain to garner plenty of press, it’s hard to say if the plot would have been traced back to the French government -- in fact, all the way up to then-President Mitterrand -- if a photographer named Fernando Pereira had not rushed on board between explosions to get his equipment. He lost his life when the second charge detonated. Consequently, the operation became an international scandal.

French intelligence officer Louis-Pierre Dillais is alleged to have been the ringleader behind Satanic. He currently works as an executive in Virginia for the U.S. subsidiary of Belgian arms manufacturer FN Herstal. Greenpeace considers him a terrorist and wants the U.S. government to deport him, according to federal law.

3. Greenpeace has been denounced by former members

As Greenpeace achieved a number of major victories during the '70s and '80s, it began to change its priorities. While this attracted new members to the organization, it sometimes enraged, embittered or turned off old members.

One-time Greenpeace president, Patrick Moore, left after 15 years and has since been critical of what he calls their “scare tactics,” writing in the Miami Herald in 2005 that the movement had “abandoned science and logic in favor of emotion and sensationalism.” Currently, Moore leads Greenspirit Strategies Ltd., an organization geared toward sustainable development.

Founding member, Paul Watson, left in 1977, around the time Patrick Moore became president because he felt Moore’s opposition to direct action campaigns compromised the organization’s original goals. Watson currently heads up the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society.

Don White, who founded the organization’s U.S. branch, left in 1985 over “increasingly strained accountability to its supporters, and its accelerating drift away from wildlife issues,” and has since slammed Greenpeace USA, accusing it of “capitalizing… on claiming the accomplishments of others as their own while creating photo opportunities for fundraising.” Currently, White is the founder and president of the wildlife conservation organization, Earthtrust.

Bradley Angel was Greenpeace’s Southwest Toxics Coordinator, but resigned in protest in 1997 when Greenpeace International “betrayed” an agreement with tribal governments to fight a U.S. government plan to build a nuclear waste dump on sacred land. Currently, Angel is the executive director of the health and environmental organization, Greenaction.

4. Greenpeace was accused of deliberate misinformation

Robert Hunter, one of the organization's founders and a man credited with coining the terms “mindbomb” and “eco-warrior” was heavily influenced by media guru Marshall McLuhan’s theories about modern media. Early on, Hunter understood the power of visually arresting images -- baby seals being clubbed, dolphins getting slaughtered, Greenpeace activists courageously challenging whalers at sea -- in short, reducing complex issues into a matter of good versus evil, leaving no question as to who was who.

In 1995, Greenpeace mounted a successful high-profile campaign to get oil company Royal Dutch Shell to dismantle its Brent Spar oil platform on land, as opposed to deliberately sinking it -- a plan supported by the UK government. Greenpeace called for a worldwide boycott of Shell; activists occupied the platform, took a sample of its contents and reported it held over 5,000 tons of oil, 110 times more than Shell’s estimates. Shell eventually buckled to the boycott and public pressure, despite its own estimates ultimately proving to be the accurate ones.

More recently, in 2006 Greenpeace issued its “Guide to Greener Electronics," which rates vendors of consumer electronics on their use of toxic chemicals and recycling plans. Critics took exception to the report, in part because of its lazy criteria (“companies are ranked solely on information that is publicly available”) and in part because they felt press releases singled out Apple’s alleged poor performance for the sake of scoring headlines -- despite Apple’s reputation as an environmental leader with such groups as the Sierra Club and the company’s compliance with the European Directive on the Restriction of the Use of Certain Hazardous Substances in Electrical and Electronic Equipment (the RoHS).

5. Greenpeace enemies arranged for its audit

In 2003, the Washington-based, nonprofit corporation Public Interest Watch (PIW), which operates under the motto, “Keeping an eye on the self-appointed guardians of public interest,” issued a complaint to the IRS accusing Greenpeace USA of money laundering, misusing contributions and filing inaccurate tax returns. The result was an intensive three-month audit of Greenpeace USA.

Formed in 2002, the PIW website says its initial funding was “provided by business organizations,” but in 2006 the Wall Street Journal revealed the truth about that funding; virtually all of it came from a single source, a multinational corporation that Greenpeace has called the “No. 1 climate criminal,” Exxon Mobil.

While the audit found a handful of “deficiencies,” the IRS apparently saw no reason to revoke Greenpeace’s tax-exempt status. Nonetheless, PIW called the result “vindicating.”

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