Greenpeace is an organization founded in Canada in 1971 as an offshoot of the "Don't Make A Wave Committee", a group of Americans who had relocated to Vancouver to evade the American draft. In 1970, the Committee was established with the sole objective of stopping a second nuclear bomb test by the United States military in Alaska. The committee's founders and first members included:
- Paul Cote, law student at the University of British Columbia
- Jim Bohlen, deep-sea diver & radar operator in the United States Navy
- Irving Stowe, a Quaker and Yale University educated lawyer
- Patrick Moore, ecology student at the University of British Columbia
- Bill Darnell, social worker
Greenpeace continues to enjoy attention and some notoriety from the world intelligence community due to its involvement in sensitive topics such as nuclear power, freedom of the seas and nuclear weapons testing. Even Soldier of Fortune magazine has featured reviews of Greenpeace's operations worldwide. Greenpeace's willingness to act against and embarrass any world power, even at considerable risk, is impressive even to professionals. In one operation Greenpeace landed an inspection team inside Siberia during the Cold War to investigate a seal harvesting operation, and narrowly avoided capture by the enraged Soviet Navy.
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The organization is currently active in many environmental issues, with primary focus on efforts to stop global warming and preserve the biodiversity of the world's oceans and ancient forests. In addition to the more traditional environmental organization act of starting petitions, Greenpeace's stated methodology is to engage in non-violent direct action.
Greenpeace's tactics involve all kinds of "stunt" protests to attract attention to particular environmental causes, often spectacular raids of organizations of interest such as whaling vessels, nuclear plants, and the like. These protests have often been called ecoterrorism by their targets, although Greenpeace normally eschews violence.
Such well-organised and often well-funded protests, with the use of one of Greenpeace's ships, fleet of inflatable boats, and the like, and the arrangement of extensive media coverage for the carefully-designed telegenic images that result), have attracted large amounts of attention to Greenpeace's environmental causes. The organisation attempts to harness that attention through on-line actions at its Cybercentre.
Some of Greenpeace's most notable successes include the ending of atmospheric testing of nuclear weapons, a permanent moratorium on international commercial whaling, and the declaration by treaty of Antarctica as a global park, forbidding possession by individual nations or commercial interests.
Some critics note that while engaging in these protests against such activities as oil exploration in the North Sea, Greenpeace has no problem utilizing the products of these industrial ventures. Greenpeace responds that it has never opposed the use of oil, rubber, or chemicals, but that they push only for responsible usage. However, Greenpeace believes that some technologies are particularly egregious. Greenpeace is pushing for a complete ban of nuclear power plants, whaling and atomic testing.
The act.Greenpeace.org service has so far attracted many participants, mostly to email campaigns. It is arguably one of the most effective online activist networks, along with MoveOn.org; both are almost exclusively open campaigning organizations. Greenpeace defines an "Open Campaign" as an activist effort that is transparent down to the merest tactical details, although there may be some situations where some of these are hidden to provide some advantages prior to the fact. Greenpeace modelled its open campaigns after Winston Churchill's free press based strategy in WWII, which assumed that propaganda techniques not instinctually employed by journalism "on your side" on a more or less voluntary basis (via cultural bias), was ineffective or counter-productive, in that it simply will not be believed. Thus one did not have to tell all uncomfortable truth, merely be a more reliable reporter than the enemy, to be heard out and ultimately trusted by the enemy's agents.
Their anti-nuclear protests in the South Pacific during the 1980s irritated the government of France to the extent that in 1985 it ordered a group of French commandos to destroy the Greenpeace protest-ship, the Rainbow Warrior, which was moored in Auckland, New Zealand. Frogmen placed two bombs which detonated at 11:49 in the evening on July 10, 1985, thereby sinking the ship to the bottom of the harbour and killing a crewman, Fernando Pereira. The subsequent revelation of the French government's actions greatly embarrassed that government and had the effect of increasing the effectiveness of Greenpeace's campaign. Some of the individuals were caught by the New Zealand authorities, despite their having carried out their operation on the premise that the New Zealand police would be far too inept to detect them.
Despite its founding in North America, Greenpeace has been far more successful in Europe where its membership is larger and it gets most of its money. The vast majority of Greenpeace's donations come from private individual members. It has received donations from some prominent figures, however, such as Ted Turner. Along with other members of the activism industry, in the USA it also uses the services of the Fund for Public Interest Research. Greenpeace spends approximately $360M USD per year.
While Greenpeace claims that it does not accept donations from companies, governments or political parties; there has been a noted inverse correlation between their focus of attention and sources of income. The organisation claims this policy permits them more freedom of movement in their actions and the ability to be supported from people from any political background.