Recently, Greenpeace did more to help stop climate change than all the heads of state gathered in Italy at the G8 summit. While Greenpeace USA executed a daring banner drop on Mt. Rushmore (video), the Group of Eight failed in their negotiations to cut greenhouse gas emissions, and instead only produced more hot air on the subject.
The Greenpeace banners urged millions around the world to "STOP GLOBAL WARMING," and stated "AMERICA HONORS LEADERS, NOT POLITICIANS." These messages were draped along side the face of Lincoln, a true leader in his time. Where are such leaders today?
Some were hanging off Mt. Rushmore on ropes.
Greenpeace raising awareness
I learned everything I know about global warming at Greenpeace 20 years ago when I was the national media director at the U.S. headquarters here in Washington, DC. Greenpeace was trying to stop everything: toxic threats, whaling, nuclear proliferation, atmospheric pollution (they jumped off a lot of smokestacks with their banners), the exploitation of Antarctica (my favorite: we stopped it by promoting a World Park), and of course global warming. After hiring expert climate scientists and listening to Cassandra's like James Hansen, Greenpeace was one of the first organizations that effectively helped make "global warming" a household term worldwide. We collectively took credit for getting the Earth on the cover of Time Magazine as "Planet of The Year" in 1990.
Greenpeace concentrates on raising awareness and informing the public about threats to the planet. Implementing solutions, however, is not it's main strength. This is why I and a number of colleagues left Greenpeace to search for hands-on solutions.
Greenpeace alumni implementing solutions
I left to join the world of solar electricity, starting a series of non-profit solar projects and for-profit solar companies around the world.
Greenpeace alumni such as my friend Oxford professor Jeremy Leggett was Greenpeace UK's climate change coordinator at the 1997 Kyoto Summit. When the Climate Treaty passed, he called me at 4 a.m. Japan time with what seemed to be exciting news. But he soon became disillusioned with empty talk and ineffective treaties, and wrote a book about the global politics of climate change, called The Carbon War, which convinced him he had to do more. So he founded The Solar Century Ltd., Britain's largest installer of solar power systems.
Andre Carothers, who edited the Greenpeace Magazine for many years, ended up in the wind energy business. Steve Sawyer, ex-captain of the Rainbow Warrior, who hired me at Greenpeace, and who later ran Greenpeace International, is now Secretary General of the Global Wind Energy Council (GWEC).
Then there is Dave Hollister who I worked with at Greenpeace USA. He ran the organization's direct action training camps teaching young daredevils how to scale buildings, base-jump off smokestacks, hang protest banners in impossible places, and generally create peaceful mayhem to highlight various environmental causes. I ran into Dave two years in Asheville, North Carolina, where he is now president of Sundance Power Systems, the leading solar electric sales and installation company in Western N.C.
He must be proud to see the latest generation of activists on Mt. Rushmore, and their Greenpeace colleagues in Italy, who successfully shut down 4 coal-fired power plants during the G8 Summit.
A salute to the people of Greenpeace!