CBC Digital Archives

Bob Hunter saves the whales

As populations grow and cities expand, the human footprint on Earth grows ever larger. The natural world inevitably pays the price: forests shrink, lakes die and species disappear. In 1970, U.S. Senator Gaylord Nelson named April 22 as a day for grassroots demonstrations for environmental protection. His idea has flourished and continues to gain momentum as countries and consumers strive to become more "green." To mark Earth Day, the CBC Digital Archives reflects on the growing awareness of our fragile world and the people who helped shape our environmental consciousness.

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Bob Hunter, one of Canada's foremost and outspoken eco-crusaders, has fought many battles in his campaign to protect the environment. As a founder of Greenpeace, he's gone head-to-head with governments, police, industry, the media... the list goes on. In this interview with CBC Television, Hunter discusses his save the whales campaign, the balance of nature and revolution.

• Bob Hunter was born on Oct. 13, 1941, in Winnipeg. He died on May 2, 2005, at the age of 63.

• In 1971, Hunter and a group of other like-minded activists formed the activist group Greenpeace. The group adopted a non-violent approach based on the Quaker tradition of silent protest to "bear witness."

• In its first act, in 1971, Hunter and 11 other members of Greenpeace set sail to Amchitka Island, located off the coast of Alaska. They sought to protest the testing of nuclear weapons by the American military on the small island. "Only one of us knew anything about nuclear weapons," Hunter later told the Hamilton Spectator on, "but we were passionately stirred, we thought we could get nuked." -- in the Hamilton Spectator, April 22, 2000

• Despite two separate attempts, Greenpeace never made it to the test zone and was unable to stop the United States from completing its testing at Amchitka. However, Greenpeace succeeded in causing public outcry in the international community. Five months after the voyage to Amchitka, the United States announced it was halting all nuclear tests in the Aleutian Islands. Amchitka was later declared a bird sanctuary.

• Hunter coined the name "The Rainbow Warrior" for Greenpeace's iconic flagship during the Amchitka voyage. A Cree legend once prophesied that races from around the globe would unite as rainbow warriors to defend mother Earth. Hunter also developed the concept of the "Media Mind Bomb" -- a method of reaching the public through staging dramatic acts of antagonism to environmental offenses.

• Hunter was named the first president of the Greenpeace foundation in 1972.

• Hunter worked in communications at the Winnipeg Tribune before he settled into his role as a columnist for the Vancouver Sun.

• Hunter penned ten episodes of the popular CBC Television program The Beachcombers. He was also a member of the original writing team for the West Coast drama Danger Bay. Hunter openly criticized the latter program, explaining that he quit in a fit of frustration after scripts were outsourced out to Hollywood writers by the show's co-producer, Disney.

• In 1988, Toronto's Citytv hired Hunter as its Ecology Specialist for its personality-driven newscasts. He later produced a long-running and popular segment for Citytv's Breakfast Television. In each segment, he would settle down to his breakfast table in his bathrobe and go through the morning papers, dissecting the spin behind each story.

• In 1991, Hunter received the Governor General's Award for non-fiction for Occupied Canada: A Young White Man Discovers His Unsuspected Past. Over the course of his career, Hunter published a total of 13 books.

• In October 2001, Hunter tried his hand at provincial politics and ran for the Ontario Liberals in a byelection in the Toronto riding of Beaches-East York.

• He was thrust into the spotlight after an anonymous source faxed excerpts from his travelogue On the Sky: Zen and the Art of International Freeloading to newsrooms around the city. The passage contained a racy description of the narrator's experiences with three young Thai prostitutes.

• The narrator was also named "Bob" and an exclamation on the book's dust jacket read, "The ultimate escapist fantasy -- and it's all true!"

• NDP MPP Marilyn Churley told reporters, "It says something about [Bob Hunter's] character [that] he could write such nasty disgusting stuff about young girls in Thailand." Hunter responded by declaring before a news conference that the book was fiction and a parody.

• Nonetheless, the NDP candidate Michael Prue captured 14,025 votes to Hunter's 10,289.

• As of 2005, Greenpeace maintains offices in 41 countries has over 2.8 million members worldwide.

Medium: Television
Program: Thirty From Winnipeg
Broadcast Date: Feb. 2, 1971
Guest(s): Bob Hunter
Duration: 4:21

Last updated: January 30, 2015

Page consulted on January 30, 2015

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