The credits are rolling and I’m feeling ready to change the world. Which I guess is a great response to a documentary titled How to Change the World.
And it’s a fairly apt name for a film about the men and women who in the 70s rallied against nuclear testing and put themselves in front of a Russian’s harpoon to protect whales. This group of passionate journalists, ecologist and hippies became what we now know as Greenpeace.
In 2015 we’re in the habit of turning off lights and recycling our milk cartons. But 45 years ago the environmental movement was almost unheard of. It was the late Bob Hunter, a hippie journalist in Vancouver who had the vision to bring together the peace and environmental movement through action and media. From fighting the U.S. government to put an end to nuclear testing, to literally putting themselves in the firing line of a Japanese whaling harpoon, the group became known as Greenpeace.
What started as a small splash in the ocean has had ripple effects for decades beyond.
I sat down with Rex Weyler, a co-founder who was a part of the early missions, to learn more about how they created a movement and what we can do to keep the mission alive!
Did you ever dream that the missions you were a part of would have reciprocal affects decades beyond?
We wanted to create a global ecology movement that was on the same scale as the peace and civil rights movements which were big at the time. In the early 1970s there really was no serious ecology movement. There were some conservation groups, but they were primarily focused on natural parks and so forth.
Our first action confronting the whalers and sealers were with the intention of having an immediate effect, but also a larger effect – to create a global ecology movement. We weren’t thinking about creating an organisation. We were thinking about creating a movement.
What do you think is the next big issue we should be focusing on globally?
Population and consumption.
The big issues we’re missing is that we have to address the growth of human population in a socially acceptable way. And we have to slow down consumption.
We have built into our culture this idea that nothing can stop us. That we can dominate the world as much as we wish and grow forever. But if we persist in these notions, we’re destroying the underpinnings of our culture, which is a productive eco system. We have to understand that economies can’t grow forever. And this idea certainly clashes with the culturally accepted norm. We want to build the quality of life not the quantity of stuff. But our economy is built around the idea of producing stuff.
What advice would you give anyone who wants to change the world?
Just do it! Don’t be limited by the fact that we’re all small underfunded individuals. You can’t let any of that stop you! You see something wrong in the world that makes you responsible. If you’re walking down the street and you see a little child crying, most of us would stop and ask them if they’re ok and help. Sometimes the crisis appear too huge. But we can’t be intimidated by the scale of the problems. You just have to start.
Something magic happens when people commit to action. Other people see that commitment. In a way it gives those people permission and confidence to stand up themselves. Once you stand up, you inspire others to action. It’s exponential. It’s not that you alone are going to solve the problem. It’s that you alone are going to inspire other people.