A strumming, deep, and colorful history of the activist organization from 1970 to 1979, by one of its founders.
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. What launched this armada of ecological awareness, he explains, was a fusion of ecological and disarmament concerns that had long been brewing. He speaks of the group’s mentors, people like former Navy captain Albert Bigalow, who sailed a boat into harm’s way as far back as 1958, and groups like the Society for Pollution and Environmental Control, which in 1969 organized the first direct action against underground nuclear-bomb testing on Amchitka Island. Weyler chronicles the early work of Greenpeace, from the origin of that indelible conjunctive name linking concern for the environment with rejection of militarism to its shift in the focus of its protests from nuclear testing to the killing of marine mammals. The group’s actions against the clubbing of baby seals in Newfoundland prompted “hate letters and more crushed Greenpeace buttons from across Canada,” writes Weyler of the first nationwide negative reaction to their tactics. He details the guerilla-theater strategy of running Zodiacs in front of giant Russian whalers, painting seal pups to destroy their commercial value, confronting the French military, and all the other Gandhian nonviolent actions the group undertook and captured on film. Their footage of ecological and political brutality shocked world opinion and situated Greenpeace as an especially media-savvy organization. Importantly, Weyler interprets the group’s evolving philosophy, most notoriously evinced in the 1977 break with Paul Watson (who “tended to push the edge of nonviolence”), and the drift away from its early elemental spiritualism into the now well-known reliance on a bureaucratic juggernaut of mass-mailing and legalistic wrangling.
This rousing story could inspire a whole new grassroots force.