All aboard the Esperanza with Greenpeace

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Last Sunday I had the absolute pleasure of being invited amongst other volunteers to board one of Greenpeace’s iconic research boats; the Esperanza.

Launched in February 2002, the Esperanza is the largest vessel in the Greenpeace fleet. And Esperanza – Spanish for “hope” – is the first Greenpeace ship to be named by our supporters.

Everyone was so excited as we boarded the city cruise boat taking us over thames to the Esperanza, which floating near Tower Bridge. Some Greenpeace volunteers had come as far as Durham to take the opportunity to explore the ship.

Firstly, we were taken to the heli hanger and we warmed up with some ‘erbal tea because it was bladdy freezing. Then we were given a presentation on the upcoming plastic pollution campaign by Greenpeace’s anti-plastics champ, Louise Edge. It was pretty terrifying to learn that plastic use is set to double in the next 20 years, and that…

By the time a baby born today reaches its mid-30s, there will be more plastic in the oceans than fish.

Louise wanted our opinions on the campaign, what it should involve/focus on, and what issues it might face. Some of the points discussed included:

  • We must be able to clearly explain how plastic ends up in the seas and oceans when talking about countries like the UK where we have fairly well-contained and regulated waste systems.
  • We must push for better knowledge and exposure of what can and cannot be recycled dependent on where you live in the UK, and if not, why not.
  • The idea is to roll this campaign out internationally, so as to set an example for the wider world. SE Asia is the worst for plastic pollution.
  • Biodegradable not the solution because this term just means the plastic breaks down quicker; the materials are still pollutants.
  • We agreed that we should work closely with organisations such as Surfers Against Sewage and the Marine Conservation Society on this campaign.
  • We must focus on pressurising multinationals to take responsibility and put budget aside for infrastructure in developing countries to ensure that they recycle, manage and contain the volume of plastic in their waste system efficiently.

Secondly, Frank – who was a member of the Arctic 30 and has worked for Greenpeace for 27 years – talked to us about the Esperanza’s work with the Dirty Tuna campaign. It was used for research, but also to expose and act on illegal fishing practices in Asia. Some of Frank’s stories sounded terrifying, involving pirates and gun-wielding fisher criminals. Apparently they discovered that 20 illegal Fishing Aggregation Devices (FADs) are dropped into the oceans per day, and there are approximately 150,000 in the oceans at one time.

Lastly, we were given a tour of the ship’s lower decks, upper decks, engine rooms and helm. Here are some photos of the mighty Esperanza, please excuse the quality not being great…

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#Howtochangetheworld

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I went to see How to Change the World, the documentary about the history of Greenpeace, on Wednesday 9th September at Brixton Ritzy.

Today seems like a good day to finally get round to writing about it because this morning I woke up to a better and greener world. I woke up, dreading the monday ahead of me, to this piece of news: Shell abandons Alaska Arctic drilling. I’ve been smiling all day.

Here’s a photo of Aurora, I went to visit the majestic beast outside Shell HQ on Friday night…

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She’ll be heading home tomorrow morning after a sweet victory for the #SaveTheArctic and  #ShellNo campaign.

Although the news seems to highlight that the reason for Shell’s turn-around was economical due to the fact that it’s simply not financially viable to drill in the Arctic having not discovered sufficient amounts of oil and gas (in what Carbon Tracker has called ‘a win for common sense’), The Guardian noted that ‘Shell has made it privately clear that it is taken aback by the public protests against the drilling’. People Power has undoubtedly played a part in this victory. And it’s people power and specifically direct action that Greenpeace was built upon.

Bob Hunter, the founding father of Greenpeace, liked to say: ‘Put your body where your mouth is.’ That’s just what the first members did when first trying to get the movement off the ground. There was no Twitter or change.org to hide behind – they had to get out there and get their hands dirty.

Jerry Rothwell’s How to Change the World is not supposed to be a tribute. In fact, in the Live Q&A that followed, Rothwell mentioned that he’s never been an active supporter of Greenpeace or any sort of environmental activist. It was the internal politics of the movement that interested him over anything else. I think this non-biased approach worked to paint a three-dimensional picture of movement that might have been otherwise lost in a rose-tinted glow if the film had been left to an eco-warrior-at-heart. I had no idea about the friendship breakdowns and conflicting ideas that helped form the Greenpeace we know today and I found it fascinating.

I found the film particularly hard-hitting because it starts off in the thick of Vancouver’s hippy movement, lulling the audience into a false sense of hilarity with psychedelic visuals alluding to the experimental drug-taking which its founding members took a liking to, but then it steadily gets more and more serious and dark.

The bit about the seal campaign really got me blubbing. The film shows some really graphic original footage of seal cub clubbing and some heart-breaking images of mother seals running after their dead babies, as they’re dragged across the ice bleeding, crying in panic and terror. I went out for lunch with my sister this week, and when she asked how the film had been, I described that scene to her and then, unexpectedly and rather embarassingly, I burst into tears all over again. Her eyes welled up too (we’re both such sensitive souls).

Anyway, you should all see the film. I’m going to have a good night’s sleep hopefully full of polar bear and seal cub dreams.

SW London Greenpeace at Lambeth Country Show

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We had a stall at Lambeth Country Show a couple of weekends back. We were there to raise awareness for Greenpeace’s Coral Not Coal campaign against the proposed coal mine threatening The Great Barrier Reef, and get petitions signed against Standard Chartered who are currently funding the operation. We caught attention through face-painting, fishing games, and a full-on trout outfit. I’m going to keep this short and sweet, and let the photos show you just how much fun we had (despite hangovers from the Greenpeace Summer Garden Party the night before…)

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Trying to put a gazebo up. Tom being really helpful.

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Alice face-painter extraordinaire

Turtle Facepaint

Fish costume

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Best photo of the day. CUTE.

Greenpeace Summer Garden Party

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Last Friday, I was honoured to be invited to Greenpeace UK’s Annual Summer Garden Party at their offices in Angel…

Greenpeace UK HQ

Where the magic happens…

Not everyone who volunteers for Greenpeace in London is invited along to this event, so I was beyond chuffed to be one of the select few from South West London Greenpeace, along with my housemate Philly and my sister Alice.

There was A LOT of free booze flying about and towards the end of the night, I dropped my phone down the toilet. It is now totally out-of-action and at the phone doctors which is sad, but hey it is just an object. However, I was gutted because I thought the only photo I had from the night was the one above and that I’d lost all the other great photos I’d just taken… BUT, thank God for Facebook’s syncing system because I actually found them all backed up online. Horrah! So I can still show you how magical the garden setting was…

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The SW London Greenpeace girls and the yurt.

Girls and marshmallows

… and toasting vegan marshmallows.

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Philly with a lovely handmade cushion #FreeTheArctic30

Live band

It was like a mini festival!

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Ruperts Street vegan burger van, yum!

Me and Phil from the Arctic 30

Me with Phil Ball from the Arctic 30 (fan-girling a wee bit)

 

At the beginning of the night, we were given a secret tour by Abbie – who now works for Greeenpeace’s Direct Action Team, but used to be leader of our volunteer group. She showed us the warehouse where they keep all the gear and props ready for any Non-Violent Direct Action (NVDA). There were boats, wetsuits, climbing gear, polar bear costumes, and much more. It was like being behind the scenes of a movie set, seeing all the objects which have played such a vital role in those famous Greenpeace campaigns. I won’t say much more, as it was a ‘secret’ tour after all. Apparently, even other members of staff in the main office don’t always know what goes on in the warehouse…

I had a fantastic night, not least because I got to spend time with some of the wonderful people from SW London GP when we usually just have a beer together once a month, but the whole experience also confirmed my dream of working for an environmental charity – hopefully one day, Greenpeace.

 

Fossil Fuel Divestment: flickthegreen learns how to build the movement

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To be totally honest, I was not entirely looking forward to giving up my super-sunny-27-degree Saturday to sit in a conference hall in central London when all I wanted to do was lie like a starfish in Tooting Bec Lido.

But I don’t think I’ve ever walked out of an event so motivated, impressed and informed.

Because my Saturday was spent at the Fossil Fuel Divestment: Building the Movement event, at the Friend’s Meeting House in Euston, listening to some of the most influential and inspiring people at the forefront of the divest movement.

The day started with an introduction made up of speeches from 350.org, Carbon Tracker, Fossil Free Bristol and The Guardian. There was also Dan Goss, the founder of the Warwick University student divestment campaign which recently succeeded in getting the uni to divest from fossil fuels.

Carbon Tracker’s Luke Sussams ran through a detailed presentation full of graphs showing plenty of data which proved that divestment is the only financially sound option in the long-term, and that investors are just being fed lies by the oil companies preventing them from investing in green energy. It is becoming more and more expensive to get oil out of the ground, so it is no longer a sound investment. Simultaneously, the cost of renewable energy is becoming less and less expensive. Do the math.

Moreover, only one third of proven oil and gas reserves can be burnt to keep global warming below a 2 degree rise. Left to their own devices, these fuel companies will burn the lot.

I learnt that it is through cold hard financial fact, not appealing to moral conscience, that we will win the divestment battle. It is a scientific and financial approach that will triumph, not a heart-felt one. Because these transnationals do not feel, they do not have a heart.

 

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“People of conscience need to break their ties with corporations financing the injustice of climate change” – Archbishop Desmond Tutu

“We need to make [the oil and gas companies] the public enemy that they are” – Danielle Paffard, 350.org

“These energy companies hold humanity’s future in their pockets. But where we put out money makes us all complicit” – The Guardian

 

The final speech of the morning was from Wolfgang Blau of The Guardian (seriously strong name game) in which he started saying, “we have to break these companies..” then, spookily, the lights cut out in the theatre and the electricity was lost for a few seconds. At which point the camera crew shout, “you must be saying something right!”

Then we had a vegetarian lunch out in the courtyard, which I am sad to point out, was sandwiches and cake wrapped in throw-away plastic. You’d have thought at a climate change event, they could have at least ensured the lunch was eco-friendly…


 

We could choose from a number of different lectures and workshops for the second half of the day. I chose ‘Storytelling: lessons and stories from across the movement from the people that were there at the time’ where I heard some amazing stories from the student divest movements at The University of Edinburgh (Eleanor Dow) and Harvard University (Kelsey Skaggs).

 

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Eleanor told of the 20+ students, led by herself, who occupied the finance building at Edinburgh Uni for 10 days, which resulted in divestment from fossil fuels and a press release jointly written by both the management and the students involved.

Kelsey told of how Harvard have been a little harder to overcome, but, now that Stanford have divested, it’s only a matter of time…

We also heard from Jess Worth of ‘BP or not BP‘. She was my ultimate fave. She calls herself an ‘actorvist’; she and others create acting performances to protest against BP’s sponsorship of British art and culture. Something I didn’t even realise was a thing. Apparently, they are the single largest sponsor of art and culture worldwide, which is terrifying. BP is one of the world’s worst criminals and so these partnerships are simply facilitating the harbouring of a criminal.

Which is precisely why BP or not BP do things such as raid the stage at RSC’s Shakespeare performances and inform the audience of its rouge sponsor through means of adapting quotes from the play at hand. Pure Genius.

Their new target is the British Museum, and so recently, they smuggled a viking ship costume (by using the fabric as skirts!) and BP logo shields into the building (despite the museum having caught wind and security being on high alert!) before performing a viking burial in front of hundreds of curious spectators…

 

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Photo credits: bp-or-not-bp.org

 

For my last hour, I chose a workshop on Action Planning which was hosted by Jess Worth again and Mel Evans, who work together for the Art Not Oil Coalition, but separately for BP or not BP and Liberate Tate (which uses the art medium to protest within the Tate Gallery). In the past, Liberate Tate have conducted missions such as ‘The Gift‘ in which they brought an entire wind turbine prop into the Turbine Hall, piece by piece, because technically everyone and anyone is entitled to present something to the Tate as an artistic gift and it has to be considered. Again, genius.

So the two phenomenal women shared their check-list for protest-planning success with us, so that we can build the movement:

  1. What is the aim? Why are you doing this?
  2. Key messages – what is the story you want to tell? Which characters are involved? No mixed messages!
  3. Tactics – what form/style will the action take?
  4. Planning and recruitment – who is going to play each role? Use your initial action to recruit for your next action. i.e. “if you’ve enjoyed this performance and want to get involved, then sign up here!
  5. Make it look good! (visuals, rehearsals, amplification – make sure the audience can here you!)
  6. Media coverage – it is always worth writing a Press Release even if it’s quite a small event. Ring up the newspaper you’ve sent the PR to, to make sure they pay attention to it. This is a time-consuming process but it’ll pay off!
  7. Social media and photography – live tweeting with photos is a huge advantage!
  8. Promotion – build alliances with other campaign groups so the message is circulated and create flyers to give out beforehand and during.
  9. Security – could you be arrested? Quick decision making plans need to be thought of beforehand in preparation for sticky situations. It might be worth having a legal observer on hand. See Green and Black Cross for more info.

 

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So essentially, we need to cut the oil and gas companies off at the source – starting with us, as individuals, divesting our money. First off watch Bill McKibben’s ‘Do The Math‘ (I watched it last night and sobbed my little heart out afterwards because I felt so scared and overwhelmed) it is only 45 minutes long, and I can guarantee it will have been the best 45 minutes you have ever spent. Then ask yourself these two questions:

  1. Do you know where your bank reinvests your money? If not, check Move Your Money.
  2. Do you know where your pension is being invested? If not, check Share Action.

 

Greenpeace: An Initiation

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In March, I finally made it along to the South West London Greenpeace group’s monthly meeting which takes place at Balham Bowls Club.

I approached the event with trepidation because I thought I’d need to know everything about what’s going on in the wider Greenpeace world and I’d need to speak all the climate-change jargon, but to my joy, it wasn’t like that at all. Everybody was so friendly and welcoming, and the meeting was declared a jargon-free zone.

In that first meeting I was asked where I would most like to focus my efforts – whether it was forests, fracking, endangered species – and I answered with oceans. Being a surfer and a member of Surfer’s Against Sewage, I thought this would be the best grouping for me. So, I signed myself up to my first piece of non-violent protest – the Dirty Tuna sticker campaign.

We were each given a pack of black and yellow stripy stickers which read ‘This tuna is caught using methods that kill sharks, turtles and rays’ and show the link to Greenpeace’s Dirty Tuna video. Then we were asked to go into the supermarkets and stick one of these (ninja-style) on tins of John West and Prince’s tuna chunks. Greenpeace is targeting these two brands in particular because they state that they’re ‘dolphin-friendly’ but unfortunately this is such a loose term, meaning that other sea creatures are not included in this protection.

We were told to aim our efforts at Sainsbury’s, Tesco’s and Waitrose because they all stock John West and Prince’s tuna, but also because they care about what their customers think. Then we were given the Greenpeace legal support number, you know, in case we are arrested in the process…

So, the following week I set to work on the Sainsbury’s a couple of minutes walk from where I work. Like some sort of spy, and with mission impossible playing in the back of my mind, I snooped around the canned-goods aisle and waited for the customers to dissipate. Then I plastered my stickers slowly, and as inconspicuously as possible, over the offending tins. Oh the adrenaline rush! I left feeling pretty mad, bad and rad.

Then, a couple of weeks ago, after my second Greenpeace meeting, I cycled into Balham on my way home from work and did a bit of postering for the I’m Not Backing Fracking campaign. It’s a Greenpeace/Friends of the Earth colab aiming to tip MPs towards actually saying NO to fracking – especially those who are still on-the-fence – ahead of the swiftly-approaching election.

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I popped into all sorts of shops and take-aways with my blue-tac at the ready. I was pleasantly surprised to find that lots of people were cool with having the posters in their window, but equally depressed to find that most people didn’t even know what fracking was. Even as I’m typing now, little red dotted lines are emerging underneath the word – it’s not even being acknowledged by dictionaries and spell-checks. Probably because fracking is such a widely unknown and fairly new technology. A new technology that is so counter-intuitive it makes me want to scream, tear my hair out, and mail it in an angry letter to the tories. What astounds me is how much money, time and energy is still being pumped into the research and implementation of destructive non-renewable technologies, when the answer is so obviously renewables.

As I discovered during my anti-fracking poster adventures, I am pretty shit at explaining what fracking actually is so if you’d like a decent, brief and unbiased explanation, I would recommend this BBC article.

If you fancy spreading the word, then follow this link to download and print off your very own batch of posters. Try and find out where your local MP’s office is and focus your efforts in that area.

So that was my first few weeks becoming an active Greenpeace volunteer! If this post has got you itching to give Greenpeace a go and do your bit for our poorly planet, then check out this link. They’re a friendly bunch and there is bound to be a group meeting monthly in a top-notch watering-hole near you.