Vancouver marks birth of Greenpeace 40 years ago

September 12, 2011 by Deborah Jones
The logo of Greenpeace's "Rainbow Warrior III" sailing ship is seen at the Fassmer shipyard in Berne-Motzen, Germany in July 2011. The environmental organization Greenpeace celebrates its 40th anniversary on Thursday in Vancouver.

A simple phone call about dead sea otters washing up on the shores of Alaska after US nuclear tests lead to the birth of environmental organization Greenpeace four decades ago.

Irving Stowe and his wife, Dorothy, were so outraged by the news that they launched a petition from their home in Vancouver, on the Canadian west coast, and set up a group called "Don't Make A Wave."

Their daughter, Barbara Stowe, recalled the early beginnings of the group which eventually blossomed and grew into the international environmental activist group, , which Thursday marks its 40th anniversary.

Her father had been told of " washing up on the shore, dead, their eardrums split by the explosions" after US on Amchitka Island, Alaska, she told AFP.

With a group of other activists, the Stowes, both Quakers and peace activists who moved from the US during the Vietnam War, launched the committee -- named after concerns that the blasts would trigger a tsunami -- and announced a plan to send a boat to Amchitka to witness the tests. Soon "people all around Canada and the world were sending money, $2 at a time," said Stowe.

Indian children, representing a non-governmental organization in Mumbai, demonstrate with a banner on a boat at the Greenpeace climate rescue station in 2009. Environmental organization Greenpeace celebrates its 40th anniversary on Thursday in Vancouver.

The boat, which they named "Greenpeace," was launched from Vancouver in September 1971.

Although the stopped Greenpeace before the boat reached Amchitka, it helped raise global awareness of the blasts, which the US cancelled the following year.

The Don't Make a Wave Committee changed its name to Greenpeace, and in a few years the organization had outgrown the city of its birth.

Today its international headquarters is in Amsterdam, it has offices in dozens of countries, and even its Canadian headquarters is now in Toronto.

But officials and the founders say Vancouver, with its picturesque setting amid ocean, mountains and forest, and a diverse population, was key to the organization's start.

"Greenpeace was a product of the times, but also of the place," Bruce Cox, Greenpeace Canada head, told AFP. "There's a much-heightened awareness of the natural environment."

Vancouver, historically a hub of the West Coast's rich aboriginal cultural, had been a commercial center for Western Canada's resource economy since the 1800s.

But by the 1960s, it had become known for its multicultural population -- and as a refuge for American draft dodgers and counter-culture hippies.

Greenpeace activists James Courtney from Australia (R) and Yuko Hirona from Japan stand on the deck of the Greenpeace vessel MV Arctic Sunrise, moored in Hong Kong in 2002. The environmental organization Greenpeace celebrates its 40th anniversary on Thursday in Vancouver.

Anywhere else, Greenpeace might never have have taken off, said author Rex Weyler, one of the founders who sailed on Greenpeace after moving here from the US in the 1960s as a young journalist.

"I remember Japanese and Chinese communities then," Weyler told AFP. "There was an international youth movement, there were Buddhist communities, Hindu communities, young hippies, back-to-the-landers, and an ecology community."

"We wanted to launch an ecology movement. There were civil rights, women's and peace movements. what was lacking was a real sense of ecology.

"That's what we set out to do, not to create an international organization and make Greenpeace famous," Weyler laughed. "We were going to transform world ... it sort of worked, didn't it."

Greenpeace has had a tumultuous path, and been sharply criticized in past years for some of its more provocative tactics in its early campaign to stop seal hunting and high-seas confrontations with Japanese whaling boats.

But it has retained its fierce sense of independence, relying solely on personal donations instead of government, corporate and organizational funding. And it is strongly committed to rigorous science, which has earned it kudos.

"My impression is that (Greenpeace) remains one of the most powerful and respected environmental organizations and that those Vancouverites who are aware that the organization originated here are proud of the fact," scientist William Rees, a University of British Columbia professor and co-inventor of the Ecological Footprint tool to measure environmental impact, told AFP.

This week Greenpeace officials from around the world converge on Vancouver to commemorate the organization's 40th anniversary.

Barbara Stowe, whose parents are both now deceased, said the politicians and officials will see that Greenpeace also made its mark on Vancouver, today ranked as one of the most environmentally friendly cities in the world.

"This place draws people who love nature," said Tzeporah Berman, co- director of climate and energy campaigns for Greenpeace International, who recently moved back to Vancouver from Amsterdam. "It's a city committed to becoming the greenest city in the world."

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1 / 5 (4) Sep 16, 2011
I appreciate Grenpeace's early efforts on behalf of honest environmentalism.

Recently I resigned membership in Greenpeace after reviewing my research career [1] and belatedly realizing that Greenpeace was promoting false government pseudo-science as scientific facts, encouraging citizens to worry about fictional global climate change while

a.) The integrity of government science was vanishing, and
b.) The control of government by citizens was being reversed

Information on a current environmental problem is attached [2].


1. "Video Summary of 50-Year Research Career" (14 Sept 2011)



2. Radioactive cesium in North America from Japan


With kind regards,
Oliver K. Manuel
Former NASA Principal
Investigator for Apollo
1 / 5 (3) Sep 16, 2011
Irving Stowe and his wife, Dorothy, may be able to verify elevated levels of radioactive Ce-137 in Vancouver and confirm or deny reports that the problem is confined to Japan:
5 / 5 (1) Sep 16, 2011

5 / 5 (2) Sep 17, 2011
After weeks of Oliver attacking Kissinger, Nixon, Chou en Lai, Mao and EVERY President since then Oliver posted a link to 'evidence' in the form of a letter from Kissinger to Nixon.

[1] Henry Kissingers summary of events of 9-11 July 2011 were declassified in 2003]


I am pleased that Oliver linked to that letter without reading it. If he read it he would not have linked to it.

After reading the PDF of what Kissinger wrote to Nixon, yes all of it, it is quite clear that Oliver did not read it. It does not support his nonsense in any way what so ever. It pretty much fits my memory of what was going on at the time. The only real surprise was that the Chinese were worried that we would allow the Japanese to put troops in Taiwan and the Sino-Indian War was mentioned. I didn't really remember that war as I was only ten at the time.

There was not one single word about environmental issue of any kind.

Heck Kissinger didn't even meet Mao.


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