Now Reading:

Greenpeace's chief: 'Stop gambling with kids' future'


Greenpeace's chief: 'Stop gambling with kids' future'


In the beginning it was dismissed as a fringe hippy movement – annoying but unimportant.

Almost four decades on Greenpeace is arguably the biggest NGO in the world. Politicians and businessmen alike ignore it at their peril.

Before Cancun its board of directors met in Amsterdam to debate the climate summit.

Kumi Naidoo is Greenpeace’s first African Executive Director. Imprisoned for anti-apartheid activities in South Africa at 15, he went on to study at Oxford University.

He told euronews of his hopes and fears for Cancun.

Laura Davidescu, euronews:

Kumi Naidoo hello and welcome to euronews!

Cop 16 in Cancùn, it’s on its way.

Everybody knows that no binding agreement can be reached in 2010. Has the Copenhagen sense of urgency dissappeared?

Kumi Naidoo, Greenpeace:

The Copenhagen sense of urgency is still there, within large parts of global society. Sadly, this urgency it is not reflected in our political leaders.

If we just take this year, 2010, and look at what has happened on this planet, it should be a clear wake up call for our politicians not to continue to play poker with the future of our children and grandchildren.

Laura Davidescu, euronews:

At the end of Copenhagen after eight draft-texts

it was finally left to the American president Barack Obama and to the Chinese premier Wen Jibao to broker a political agreement. They didn’t.

Kumi Naidoo, Greenpeace:

China and the US also need to recognize that they have unique responsabilities, and their conversation with each other is important, but I would urge though that we recognize though the US government cannot continue to hide behind China because to a large extent, that has been the case.

Because if we look at what is happening in China, it’s far from as much urgency as we would like, no question, but they have made some important steps which have to be recognized.

The US came to Copenhagen and offered in effect a 3 % reduction by 2020.

Laura Davidescu, euronews:

… as compared to 1990 level.

Kumi Naidoo, Greenpeace:

I think what we need to do is encourage the US, China, and other countries to recognize that it is in everybody’s self interest.

Laura Davidescu, euronews:

When you say “we have to encourage the US administration” what do you have in mind?

Kumi Naidoo, Greenpeace:

OK. There are two things that we need do to shift the dynamic in the US.

We have to shift the public opinion in the US. We have to intensify our appeals to the diverse parts of civil society: trade union leaders, religious leaders, leaders of non-profit organisations.

And interestingly, by the way, in the US there are elements within the CIA and in the Pentangon who actually get climate change. They’ve been saying that the biggest threat to peace and security in the future is going to be climate impact.

So there are pockets of opinion that can be harnessed to shift the dynamic.

That’s hard work. I would be lying to you to say that it is a walk in the park. It’s a real challenge but I think it can be done.

What we are up against in the United States is a corporatist media that is very much in cahoots with the fossil fuel industry and they are throwing tens of milions of dollars to contaminate public discussion.

Laura Davidescu, euronews:

Can you deal with this?

Kumi Naidoo, Greenpeace:


Laura Davidescu, euronews:

Can you counteract?

Kumi Naidoo, Greenpeace:

Well we are attempting to counteract.

We are begining to have success. But we’re not there yet.

We don’t have an option but to invest very very seriously in shifting public opinion in the US. Because….

Laura Davidescu, euronews:

Is this one of your priorities, strategically speaking, I mean…

Kumi Naidoo, Greenpeace:

Our US office, next year will be waging, I mean we

already started waging, a massive campaign against coal. We will be promoting what we call an energy revolution.

Laura Davidescu, euronews:

I would like to show you something, to show you some pictures.

I would synthesise this like this:

Activists, Zodiac, up on the crane, spectacular gymnastics, important message.

Are these pictures still telling Greenpeace’s philosophy in a nutshell?

Kumi Naidoo, Greenpeace:

It tells part of the story of what Greenpeace is today as we get close to our 40th aniversary.

What is not really known is the whole range of work that Greenpeace does, that might not be as sexy as those images are.

We spend a lot of time working with governments and corporations, around solutions.

My vision when I came into Greenpeace one year ago was we needed to do two sort of contradictory things.

On the one hand we needed to intensify resistance to environmental destruction and on the other hand to intensify dialogue.

Sadly the sort of “main image”, understandably, that the media captures is the more exciting, visible image stuff and not so much the behind the scene work that we are doing.

When I went to Davos, in January this year at the world economic forum I was surprised how many CEO’s were willing to actually meet with me.

One CEO privately told me: “Some of us hope that by trying to get you at the table, we will not be on your menu.”

Laura Davidescu, euronews:

So is this a sign that they still feel Greenpeaces’s power to boycott?

Kumi Naidoo, Greenpeace:

Just to give you an example, Nestle this year. We waged an on-line campaign on them because they were harnessing, you know, palm oil from newly deforested areas of the Indonesian rainforest. We actually succeeded in getting them, through the campaign, to stop buying palm oil from newly deforested areas.

Corporates that have a brand name and that rely on having a good public reputation because they are selling products directly to the public, they obviously actually are more vulnerable to…

Laura Davidescu, euronews:

Greenpeace’s power?

…activism. But you know it is important to know that some of the biggest drivers of environmental destruction and of climate change specifically are companies like, in the US, the Koch Industries.

They are the biggest drivers or funders of climate denialism. Or Cargill which is a big massive food company that was one of the biggest drivers of deforestation in the Amazon, through soya and production and so on.

But those companies, because they are not selling directly their products directly to the public, the challenge of shifting them is much more difficult.

Laura Davidescu, euronews:

If I call you General Naidoo, because after all you are like the head of an army — a peaceful one but still — and if you are given an even bigger army, where would you send this army to manifest?

Kumi Naidoo, Greenpeace:

I have to say that the army image is a bit uncomfortable for Greenpeace given that, you know, even though we take quite courageous, bold actions when police try to arrest and so on we never resist. We always do it in a peaceful mode.

Let me just say, civil disobedience is what has changed the world towards a more just and fairer world, historically speaking.

If you look at all the major struggles that humanity has faced whether it was slavery, colonialism, apartheid, the women’s right to vote, civil rights movement in the United States, Martin Luther King and so on, all of these movements actually only moved forward when decent men and women said enough is enough and no more.

Greenpeace has been very influenced by the legacies of Mahatma Ghandi, Martin Luther King

and so on, in terms of using peaceful, civil disobedience as a way to actually urge those with power to act more seriously.

But at the end of the day we also have to think about how we can show actions that have the participation of larger numbers of people so,

for example, getting to a point where we can have 10 000 people forming a humain chain outside a coalfired power plant.

We can’t change the science, we have to change the politics. And you need to realise that if you are not willing to change the politics to get us a fair climate deal then, by mobilizing larger numbers of people, hopefully they will get the message that if you can’t change the politics we’ll have to try to change the politicians. And that hopefully would urge them to great action.

Every story can be told in many ways: see the perspectives from Euronews journalists in our other language teams.

Next Article