A Must Read for Activists
Greenpeace journalist and photographer Rex Weyler has written a fascinating tale of the coming of age of Greenpeace during the 1970s. An early member, he chronicles the group's transformation from ragtag hecklers into an organized global cultural phenomenon, going up against corporations and governments with the support of ordinary folks, writers, musicians, celebrities and visionaries.
While reading Greenpeace, I began to apply the perspective of a 35-year-old movement to my activist work with the Green Party. I was impressed by the early awareness and savvy of Greenpeace in media relations. These are important lessons as third parties, considering the barriers we face in the electoral system, are challenged in developing effective marketing and public relations strategies.
A mantra of Greenpeace was "Money follows energy." Readers might find it surprising that Greenpeace was perpetually broke throughout their famous risky missions to save whales and stop nuclear testing. Broke, that is, until they got a buzz going for the next campaign.
Weyler's uncompromising examination of the internal struggles and growth of an activist organization is very useful. Activists will identify with the factions that developed in Greenpeace: the streetwise radicals, the entrepreneurs, the fragile mosaic of grassroots activists, and leadership attempts to keep them all together.
At more than 600 pages, you might not read the entire book straight through (though I did, and it kept me absorbed). At the very least, keep it on your shelf as an activist reference. Greenpeace is an engrossing story of high-seas activism, unlawful searches and seizures, espionage, false arrests, a few miracles, media manipulation and a snapshot of mid-20th-century politics.
And the issues still resonate today. As one Greenpeace member points out, "The sooner we get on with it, the better."