Last weeks’ celebration of Greenpeace 40th founding anniversary reminded me that this year I am also celebrating my 6th year as a part of Greenpeace Southeast Asia’s Philippine office, and I am proud to say that it was 6 meaningful years that I will forever treasure as an individual that have chosen the path less-traveled of environmental activism that finds its personality in direct action – in “cutting out the middleman” and becoming an instrument of defense for this precious blue marble that we all call Earth.
Amchitka: the beginning of a movement
Vancouver, Canada 40 years ago: a ragtag band of hippies, Quakers, American draft-dodgers, journalists and ecologists would change the face of environmental activism as we know it...
...Motivated by their vision of a green and peaceful world, this small team of activists decided set sail to Alaska, in an old fishing boat –the Phyllis Cormack.
Their mission was to "bear witness" to US underground nuclear testing at Amchitka, a tiny island off the West Coast of Alaska, which is one of the world's most earthquake-prone regions; and also the last refuge for 3000 endangered sea otters, and home to bald eagles, peregrine falcons and other wildlife.
Even though, the Phyllis Cormack, was intercepted before it got to Amchitka, the journey sparked a flurry of public interest. The US still detonated the bomb, but the voice of reason had been heard. Nuclear testing on Amchitka ended that same year, and the island was later declared a bird sanctuary.
This signalled the beginning of the movement that would become known globally as Greenpeace –a fusion two fledgling movements that arose out of the social progressive values that began in the 60s counter-culture: the peace & the environmental movement.
Greenpeace began to grow, following that fateful journey to Amchitka, in the succeeding years it developed to become one of the largest environmental organizations that would carry out this brand of activism called, non-violent direct action, in exposing environmental criminals, and challenging government s and corporations when they fail to live up to their mandate to safeguard our environment and our future.
From Vancouver to the Philippines
Today, Greenpeace is present in 40 countries including the Philippines, which is a part of our Southeast Asian office that was established in the year 2000, and has led successful campaigns in the Philippines, Thailand and Indonesia. In the Philippines Greenpeace played an instrumental role in the passage of landmark environmental laws such as:
- The Republic Act No. 8749, otherwise known as "The Philippine clean Air Act of 1999" which includes an unprecedented national ban against waste incineration.
- The Philippine Ecological Waste Management Act which mandates the implementation of front-end strategies, namely waste reduction, separation and recycling to solve the country’s waste crisis.
- The Renewable Energy Law which is intended to accelerate the development and utilization of renewable energy sources in the country.
Actions still speak better than our words
Throughout the years Greenpeace, has gone through a lot and yet that is not to say that it has softened its approach to ecological problems. Today we might make fewer headlines. After all, direct action is no longer new and there are a lot of distractions that we have to compete with in capturing the public imagination for the problems that are facing the world now.
This is the challenge that besets us now as we continue in the struggle as activists to stir people to put their sentiments into concrete actions that would usher in a more sustainable future for our planet. We take action because something is wrong or because it is right – it is that simple. Greenpeace’s pursuit for integrity and its focus on consistency of thought and action is something that we can all benefit from. It challenges us to put our words into deeds. Because when all has been said and done the challenge is not about what we claim but rather what have we done in light of the things that we have seen and learned: thus the nagging call to make our actions speak louder than our words.