A look back at 50 years of Greenpeace

Credit: Original article can be found here

Fifty years ago, a small group of activists set sail for a nuclear test zone in an old fishing boat.

The date was September 15, 1971. The ship was called Greenpeace.

The activists had hoped to confront and stop US nuclear weapons testing at Amchitka, an island of the Aleutian Islands in southwest Alaska. The crew of 12 never made it to Amchitka, but their actions sparked a movement and Greenpeace was born.

Today, Greenpeace has a presence in more than 55 countries, including Aotearoa New Zealand.

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The Greenpeace Rainbow Warrior ship in Sydney, Australia, in 2013.

Lisa Maree Williams/Getty Images

The Greenpeace Rainbow Warrior ship in Sydney, Australia, in 2013.

Greenpeace International executive director Jennifer Morgan​ said in a statement that as they mark 50 years since the first Greenpeace voyage, biodiversity loss is accelerating, the climate emergency is deepening and inequality is growing.

She said now, more than ever, people need to stand together in defence of nature.

“Over the last five decades there have been many campaigns and victories to demand a green, peaceful and just future. Greenpeace continues to work as part of a global movement for system change to ensure that people and planet are put before profit and pollution.”

German Chancellor Angela Merkel speaks at the live-streamed 50th anniversary celebration of Greenpeace International on August 30, 2021, in Stralsund, Germany.

Pool/Getty Images

German Chancellor Angela Merkel speaks at the live-streamed 50th anniversary celebration of Greenpeace International on August 30, 2021, in Stralsund, Germany.

Greenpeace Aotearoa executive director Russel Norman​ said the organisation and its flagship SV Rainbow Warrior had made a huge impact over the years and achieved a long list of significant wins for people and planet.

Environmental protesters from France take part in a Greenpeace-organised march to call for the political and economic reforms needed to combat climate change, in December 2018 in Katowice, Poland.

Martyn Aim/Getty Images

Environmental protesters from France take part in a Greenpeace-organised march to call for the political and economic reforms needed to combat climate change, in December 2018 in Katowice, Poland.

“From being the launching point for the successful international campaign to protect Antarctica, and having a central role in the campaigns to stop French nuclear testing, drift-net fishing, whaling and toxic pollution, through to eliminating single-use plastic bags and government-funded irrigation schemes, and establishing the Ross Sea Ocean Sanctuary, Greenpeace has been pivotal in a string of successful campaigns spanning five decades,” he said.

Greenpeace anti-whaling protesters gather at Parliament in reaction to a proposal being considered by the International Whaling Commission in April 2010.

Kate Chapman/NZPA

Greenpeace anti-whaling protesters gather at Parliament in reaction to a proposal being considered by the International Whaling Commission in April 2010.

“One of the most significant of recent times has been the successful campaign to end offshore oil and gas exploration here in Aotearoa, and alongside iwi, hapū and many others, Greenpeace played a key role in that.”

Norman said their main focus now was shifting the dominant agricultural model in New Zealand away from intensive dairying to regenerative organic farming.

The Rainbow Warrior was in the Clarion Clipperton Zone in the Pacific to bear witness to the deep-sea mining industry as part of its ongoing Protect the Oceans campaign.

Marten van Dijl/Supplied

The Rainbow Warrior was in the Clarion Clipperton Zone in the Pacific to bear witness to the deep-sea mining industry as part of its ongoing Protect the Oceans campaign.

“Agribusiness is to New Zealand what coal is to Australia or the tar sands are to Canada in terms of pollution. We need healthy farms for healthy land, healthy water and a healthy climate,” he said.

Greenpeace Aotearoa is also running campaigns aimed at stopping seabed mining here and in the Pacific, protecting ocean biodiversity from industrial fishing and eliminating single-use plastics.

Victor Pickering, a Greenpeace International activist from Fiji, displays a banner reading “Our Pacific, Not Yours to Destroy!”

Marten van Dijl/Greenpeace

Victor Pickering, a Greenpeace International activist from Fiji, displays a banner reading “Our Pacific, Not Yours to Destroy!”

In conjunction with the 50th anniversary, the organisation released an updated history of Greenpeace in New Zealand. Making Waves II is written by author and former Greenpeace campaign manager Michael Szabo, and continues the story from the original Making Waves book written by him and published in 1991.

It is intended to be an online educational resource which the organisation said was relevant to the social studies curriculum and the updated New Zealand curriculum coming into effect next year.

Greenpeace protesters voice their concerns about greenhouse gas emissions outside Fonterra buildings back in November 2009.

David Rowland/NZPA

Greenpeace protesters voice their concerns about greenhouse gas emissions outside Fonterra buildings back in November 2009.