Greenpeace Hardcover – Aug 10 2004
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They were the generation that grew up in the wake of Hiroshima. They called themselves ecoholics, mind-bombers, and mind-punks. Their home was 1970s Vancouver, which they liked to call "the Shire," after J.R.R. Tolkien's idyllic paradise of tranquil Hobbits. They were far from the jungles of Vietnam and the protest-filled streets of Paris and Washington, but they created a movement that changed history. Greenpeace tells the remarkable story of the world's leading environmental protest group, from its early days in Vancouver's psychedelic underground scene to its evolution into a global super-movement that boasts 2.8 million supporters in 40 countries and an annual budget of $240 million.
The author, Rex Weyler, participated in the group's first anti-whaling campaign in the north Pacific Ocean and wrote this book with the collaboration of Greenpeace and those of its founders who are still alive. His hefty 623-page volume came out around the same time as a lighter, parallel effort by Greenpeace co-founder Robert Hunter, called The Greenpeace to Amchitka. The two books complement each other nicely. Hunter's is an intensely personal memoir written in the heady days of 1971, while Weyler's is more comprehensive and biographical, surveying the group's evolution, political divisions, and personal conflicts, including the split between the so-called "mystics" and "mechanics"--the dreamers versus the practical thinkers. "We were fragile pilgrims," Weyler writes in this nicely paced and intimate chronicle, "not makers of history, but participants, lucky to have had the opportunity to meddle in the affairs of the world." --Alex Roslin
"The organization [Greenpeace] has a rich oral tradition, and many of its early campaigns have become legend. I'm thrilled that these stories have finally been captured on the written page by Rex Weyler in his new book, GREENPEACE ... Weyler's history reads like a novel, driven by an eclectic cast of characters who drift together in Vancouver, B.C., during the Vietnam War ... In the 1970s, Greenpeace was full of creative lunatics who believed that anything was possible because they often made the impossible happen. Not only did they fuse the ecology and disarmament movements, but they were among the first to recognize that there was no meaningful difference between protecting the environment and protecting people. Together, they contributed a whole new toolbox of tactics to the nonviolent tradition ... It will go on my shelf between Taylor Branch's "Parting the Waters" and Erik H. Erikson's "Gandhi's Truth." -- The Dragonfly, John Sellers, executive director of The Ruckus Society since 1998
"Vancouver's endowment to the world ... Our tranquil west coast 'Shire' seemed an unlikely place to spawn a transforming international movement capable of taking on the establishment and winning." -- Vancouver Sun
"Weyler's finely crafted narrative explores with elegant pacing and graceful humility the origins of Greenpeace and its activities over its first decade, echoing the eco-political times it passes through ... This rousing story could inspire a whole new grassroots force." -- Kirkus Reviews
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Initially I was shocked at how uncoordinated Greenpeace seemed to be, but I respect the author for openly revealing these deficiencies. The organization was forced to evolve in the tactics they used, as they constantly expanded to fight new nuclear and environmental threats.
The bulk of the book concerns the fight to prevent testing of nuclear weapons, whaling (especially by the Russians and Japanese) and the Canadian seal hunt. Time after time it's demonstrated that the worse enemy to the environment are governments, as they lie to people, attempt cover-ups (the UK would dispose of nuclear waste in the ocean and failed to inform the public) and use laws to thwart the efforts of the ecologists. One example is the Canadian government using the 'Seal Protection Act' to arrest protestors protecting seals against the slaughter. If someone tried to prevent a seal from being clubbed to death and happened to touch the seal, they would be arrested.
Another important argument is how the bulk of a population supports environmental organizations until it involves something that is transpiring in their own backyard. Donations to the Canadian Greenpeace decreased exponentially once Greenpeace attempted to curb the Canadian seal hunt. The same people who supported them in the past bashed them. When local jobs are at stake people are willing to overlook animal cruelty and environmental damage.
Overall, a great read and highly recommended.
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