50 years ago the environmental movement was taking its first steps, but in September 1971 the pacifist movement was at its peak, especially due to the rejection of the Vietnam War. That same summer, the Pentagon Papers were published showing how the US had gotten involved in the conflict behind the back of American public opinion.
A small protest by a group of environmentalists and pacifists on a Canadian boat called Phyllis Cormack was about to give the final impetus to the environmental movement with the birth of Greenpeace. The desire for social change had just found a way to continue the pacifist movement by adding it to the ecologist; a thriving social trend that focused on the destruction of natural ecosystems by human activities.
Robert Hunter at the helm of the ship. Photo: Robert Keziere
50 years ago today, on September 15, 1971, they left Vancouver for the Amchitka Island in Alaska, where they were determined to avoid a US nuclear test. Minus the ship’s captain, John CormackNo one had experience on the high seas, so they spent half a trip broken. The idea was to sail the Canadian-flagged ship in international waters so that the Americans would not board it without committing an act of piracy. They renamed the ship and renamed it Greenpeace.
Robert Hunter, Robert Keziere
On the boat was Bob Hunter, columnist at The Vancouver Sun who had the vision that to amplify the effect of the protest it was necessary to have a story that would hook and an event that would have an impact around the world. I wanted to create a mind bomb, as he himself called it. A mind bomb, an idea of impact that spread among public opinion in a way that led to action. Something similar to what today we would call viral.
Bob Cummings, Bob Hunter y Lyle Thurston en el Cormack.. Foto Robert Keziere
From the ship they sent by radio chronicles of how their trip was progressing that began to be broadcast on radios around the world. They had created a global media event. The protests against the nuclear test spread from Vancouver to Alaska, to Australia or Japan.
Looking at the calendar. Photo: Robert Keziere
The nuclear test was delayed until the end of October, the crew took refuge in an old port of whaling ships in Alaska. A place full of whale skeletons and where they knew the extermination to which the whales were being subjected. During the time they were in Alaska, they enjoyed nature, the conservationist ideas that they managed and that, seasoned with hallucinogens, They led them to connect with natural and animal life.
They could not prevent the detonation of the bomb, the US Coast Guard Americana detained them for illegal entry into the country, although all the members of the Coast Guard crew signed a paper showing their support for the cause of environmentalists. They had lost a battle, but they were assembling an army. Upon their return to Vancouver they were greeted like heroes.
The popularity materialized in the creation of the Greenpeace Foundation that half a century later it has a presence in 55 countries. The environmental organization that had the greatest impact on public opinion in 50 decisive years for the planet was born.
It was 1971 and the environmental problems were overwhelming and they were a handful of activists with a boat. What would be your next step? Bob Hunter Led the Way: Save the Whales.