It all started in a fishing boat off the coast of Vancouver. 40 years ago, on September 15, 1971, a group of Quakers, pacifists, ecologists, journalists and hippies set sail from the Vancouver coast to "bear witness" to U.S. nuclear tests on an island west of Alaska. The boat they travelled in was renamed for the voyage. And in the years since then, that name has become synonymous with environmental activism and protest: Greenpeace.
While the first members of Greenpeace didn't reach their destination on that day in 1971 - they were turned back before arriving at the island - their actions did raise global awareness about nuclear testing, and the U.S. cancelled their testing program the following year. Over the last 40 years, the Greenpeace organization has continued to raise awareness about nuclear technology and weapons, as well as commercial whaling, toxic waste and climate change.
In Vancouver, the city where it all began, the fortieth anniversary will be celebrated as "Greenpeace Day." The international executive director of Greenpeace, Kumi Naidoo, will attend the ceremony. But amidst the celebration, Mr. Naidoo knows that Greenpeace's work is far from done. In a piece he wrote for the anniversary, he says that while the group is happy about the occasion, "sometimes it feels like the past 40 years have been a preparation for the greatest environmental challenge we humans have yet faced, the one that will define success or failure for our movement: climate change."
Listen to Kumi Naidoo talking with Greenpeace co-founder Rex Weyler about the history and the future of the organization below: