Waves of Compassion

The founding of Greenpeace. Where Are They Now?

I arrived in Vancouver, on the westcoast of Canada, in the spring of 1972 as a fugitive of American justice, a draft-dodger with the FBI on my trail and intimidating my family to give me up. I faced 25 years in prison had they caught me. My wife of 6 months, Glenn, and I slept by the furnace in the cellar of a Vancouver shelter set up for war objectors on 7th Avenue near Fir Street. We had our sleeping bags, a change of clothes, forty-seven dollars, and a wrinkled piece of paper with the names of Canadian peace activists who might help us.

Unitarian minister and University librarian Mac Elrod and his wife Norma took us in and introduced us to local pacifist crowd. I found a job as reporter and photographer at the North Shore News community newspaper. While covering a local story, I met Bree Drummond who was sitting in a platform, high in a cottonwood tree to save it from being felled for a parking lot by North Vancouver maintenance crews. Her boyfriend, Rod Marining, was a wild Yippie environmentalist who had helped stop the construction of a Four Seasons Hotel at the entrance to Vancouver's magnificent Stanley Park by declaring the land 'All Season Park' and camping out on the site until the developers gave up. He also had sailed for the Aleutian Island of Amchitka to protest a U.S. atomic bomb test there as a member of the Don't Make A Wave Committee that had changed its name to the 'Greenpeace Foundation' that spring.

Discuss Ecology in Caf? Utne's: cafe.utne.com
Rod introduced me to Bob Hunter from Winnipeg, clearly the hippest young journalist in the city, writing a daily column in the Vancouver Sun in which he explained Gestalt Therapy, described peyote ceremonies, introduced edgy psychologists like R. D. Laing, and quoted famed ecologist Rachel Carson. Hunter had written a brilliant novel, Erebus, and a profound, post-McLuhan analysis of media and social consciousness, Storming of the Mind. He had also sailed on the protest boat with the Don't Make a Wave Committee. He had a beard, long hair, and a large leather bag over his shoulder, filled with newspaper clippings, books, and his own journal in which he wrote incessantly. I liked him right away, traveled in similar media circles, and began sharing beer and philosophy with him at the Cecil Hotel pub. Now, three decades later, the Cecil is a glitzy strip bar, but in the early 1970s it was a pool hall and hangout for Vancouver radicals and intelligencia. Greenpeace had no public office at this time. We sat near the pay-phone to conduct both our journalist and activist business.

It was here in the Cecil pub that I first met Bob Cummings, writer for the counterculture underground newspaper Georgia Straight, and another crew member from the bomb protest. Cummings would rail against injustice to the free press. 'The straight media ignore the real stories,' he complained, 'and if you write for an underground paper you should expect to be arrested.' Hunter would admonish Cummings about 'leftist rhetoric and posturing' in the Georgia Strait. 'The ideal newspaper,' he said 'will praise the radicals when they're right, and critique them mercilessly when they're wrong.' These debates were never resolved, but rolled on endlessly, washed down with rounds of beer.

It was here in the pub that Dr. Paul Spong, a scientist at the Vancouver Aquarium, appeared in 1974 promoting his radical idea that we should put our lives on the line to save the whales. The anti-war activists were skeptical at first, but Spong's idea would soon change the face of this little band of radicals.

On an Ocean Named for Peace

In 1969 in Vancouver hippies and revolutionaries mixed gleefully in the redbrick coffee houses of Gastown, and in the rainbow-painted organic juice bars of tree-lined Kitsilano near the University of British Columbia. 'Revolutions,' says Hunter, 'start at the outer fringes of the empire, in this case the American Empire.' When the U.S. announced that summer that they were going to test a 1.2 megaton nuclear bomb on the Aleutian Island of Amchitka, Vancouver peaceniks, love children, American draft dodgers, and Marxist revolutionaries began to agitate. In September 1969 Hunter warned in his newspaper column of 'a distinct danger that the tests might set in motion earthquakes and tidal waves which could sweep from one end of the Pacific to the other.' This image of the tidal wave captured the imagination of Canadians opposed to the U.S. bomb test.

Three decades later Hunter recalls 'In Vancouver at that time there was a convergence of hippies, draft dodgers, Tibetan monks, seadogs, artists, radical ecologists, rebel journalists, Quakers, and expatriate Yanks in the one major city that happened to be closest to Amchitka Island, where the U.S. wanted to explode a bomb. Greenpeace was born of all of this.'

Kenan Reba
12/25/2020 9:39:22 PM

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12/26/2013 1:13:45 AM


12/26/2013 1:13:03 AM


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