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Greenpeace news

Latest news from Greenpeace
letzte Aktualisierung: 04.10.2015 05:05:20
  • The Amazon’s Tapajos Basin is in danger

    The Brazilian government is currently gearing up to build dozens of energy-producing megadams in the Amazon. São Luiz do Tapajos will be one of the largest – second only to Belo Monte. If it is built, it will devastate the rich biodiversity in the area – an area which contains endemic species, and is surrounded by several legally protected areas, and will potentially change the way of life for the Indigenous Peoples that live there.

    Munduruku leadership walking along the Tapajos river.

    Its valley is home to 12,000 indigenous Munduruku people, whose lives are deeply entwined with the river and surrounding forest. During the construction of the dam, it's likely that part of the Munduruku lands will be flooded, forcing them to be displaced from their traditional lands and affecting their cultural survival. And even though this dam will be built on their lands, the Munduruku were never consulted in the planning process.

    A researcher studies a lake formed in the ebb of the Tapajos river, where the Munduruku usually fish to feed their people. If the hydro dam is built, lakes like this one may get flooded permanently, affecting the availability of fish for indigenous people in the region who depend on fishing to survive.

    If this dam is built, a unique part of the Amazon could be lost for good. That's why Greenpeace Brazil has joined forces with the Munduruku people and other allies to oppose the Brazilian government's plans and keep the Tapajos area free from construction.

    Luciano Naka, one of the authors of the analysis watches local birds on an island in the Tapajos river, which could be flooded if the dam is built.

    Munduruku leadership speaks during the meeting with researchers and the Federal Prosecution Service about the impacts of the São Luiz do Tapajos dam.

    Greenpeace Brazil conducted an independent analysis of the official Environmental Impact Assessment – a report presented by power utility companies which is supposed to inform decision-makers about potential environmental and social impacts of such projects. The study was led by nine scientists and experts from various Brazilian institutions. It shows that the Environmental Impact Assessment doesn't fulfill its role to properly inform decision-makers about the risks of building this dam, but only serves to justify the decision already made – to go ahead with construction.

    Munduruku people perform a ritual during the meeting with researchers and the Federal Prosecution Service about the impacts of the São Luiz do Tapajos megadam.

    In the last couple of days, Greenpeace Brazil and Munduruku leadership have come together for a "Sage Gathering" in the Dace Waptu village, Para state, Amazon, with two of the scientists, to meet and discuss their findings.

    Munduruku leaderships participating in the meeting with researchers and the Federal Prosecution Service about the impacts of the São Luiz do Tapajos dam.

    Felício Pontes Jr., Federal Prosecutor of Pará, joins the meeting with Munduruku leadership and researchers about the potential impact of the São Luiz do Tapajos megadam

    Bidding for construction of the São Luiz do Tapajos dam has been postponed until next year due to differences over Indigenous Peoples' rights.

    Please stand with us to oppose the Tapajos dam – share this story.

    Maïa Booker is a Multimedia Editor for the Americas at Greenpeace.

  • You did it! Shell abandons Arctic drilling

    This is your victory!

    This week Shell announced plans to abandon its Arctic oil drilling operations. This is huge.

    From activists who scaled Shell’s rig in April or who stopped one of Shell’s ships this July, to the millions of people all over the world who signed petitions, paraded with polar bears, shared stories and helped organise for real environmental justice, this is YOUR victory. Thank you.

    Protest against Shell at Fredericia in Denmark 30 Jun, 2015 © Jason White / Greenpeace

    The cost of Arctic drilling

    Shell claims that the amount of oil it has been able to find isn’t worth the high costs of what has been one of the most dangerous and expensive projects in the history of fossil fuel extraction (for both the company’s wallet and reputation). The company has already spent upwards of US$7 billion trying to find oil in the Alaskan Arctic, but the environmental costs of Arctic oil are even higher.

    In the US, President Obama’s own administration estimates that there would be a 75 percent chance of a disastrous oil spill if Shell got what it originally wanted.

    Shell Protest in Unalaska 15 Jun, 2015 © Mark Meyer / Greenpeace

    And it’s not just the risk of an oil spill that’s alarming. The Arctic acts as the world’s air conditioner by reflecting sunlight off sea ice and keeping the oceans cool. But that sea ice is melting, and the region is heating up twice as fast as the rest of the world. 

    Climate change in the Arctic is already leading to people being displaced from their homes, polar bears starving and mosquito swarms getting so huge that they have become deadly for caribou. Drilling for and burning more fossil fuels is the exact wrong response to climate change. 

    Why Shell called it quits

    Shell found evidence of oil in the Arctic, but it still decided not to drill. The Financial Times reports that Shell has privately admitted that it didn’t expect so much public opposition. And in Shell’s own statement on why the company decided to abandon its Arctic drilling operations, the company cites a “challenging regulatory environment” as one key reason for halting its search for Arctic oil. You challenged them.

    Giant Polar Bear Aurora at Shell HQ in London 2 Sep, 2015 © Jiri Rezac / Greenpeace

    Shell was used to breezing through important environmental regulatory processes without a scratch, but this time people were watching. All year, comments poured in to the US government from around the world as millions of people asked President Obama’s administration to pull the brakes on Shell’s drilling.

    It wasn’t President Obama who showed real climate leadership here. It was you.

    Together, you turned what the oil industry hoped would be a small business story into front page headlines. Together, we demonstrated that people have the power to fight companies and governments who consistently value corporate profits over the health of our planet.

    The fight isn’t over. While Shell has backed away from the Arctic, the region still doesn’t have the protection it needs. We will continue working to keep Shell and all other oil companies out of the Arctic for good and to demand a global sanctuary in this fragile region that will protect it from further destruction.

    Let’s turn this victory into permanent protection for the Arctic. Are you in?

    April Glaser is a mobilization specialist at Greenpeace USA.

    A version of this blog was originally posted by Greenpeace USA.

  • 100% Renewable Energy by 2050? Why wait?

    A new Greenpeace report shows how the world can move to 100% renewable energy by 2050. The bad news? It needs political will. The good news? It's already happening!

    Gemasolar, a 15 MW solar power tower plant. Gemasolar employs molten salt technologies for receiving and storing energy. Its 16-hour molten salt storage system can deliver power around the clock. It runs the equivalent of 6570 full hours out of 8769 total. Gemasolar is owned by Torresol Energy and was completed in May 2011.

    Climate change deniers and investors take note. Renewable energy is here and it's growing. From large corporations to village Eisenstein's, the growing interest, investments, and inventions into clean energy is this century's "goldrush".

    Don't believe the hype? Here are 7 signs that give us hope the Energy [R]evolution is already on its way!

    1. 2014 was the biggest year for solar in the US - an increase of 30% from the previous year.

    Alamosa Solar Generating Plant in Colorado, a 30 megawatt concentrating photovoltaic (CPV) power plant near Alamosa owned by Cogentrix Energy. It was called the largest CPV facility in the world when it came operational in May 2012. The 500 dual-axis CPV Amonix 7700 tracker assemblies cover a 225-acre plot. Each tracker is 70 feet (21 meters) wide and 50 feet (15 meters) tall. Each has 7,560 Fresnel lenses that concentrate sunlight by a multiple of 500 onto multijunction gallium arsenide photovoltaic cells.The Alamosa Solar Generating Plant in Colorado

    2. Renewable energy in the UK took over coal for the first time during this last quarter.

    New wind turbines are constructed at the Butterwick Moor Wind Farm. The site, which consists of 10 turbines with a total power of up to 30MW, is being developed by E.ON.Construction of new wind turbines in the United Kingdom

    3. And in his recent US visit, President Xi Jinping made a landmark commitment to put a price on carbon.

    Dafeng Power Station is China's largest solar photovoltaic-wind hybrid power station, with 220MW of grid-connected capacity, of which 20 MW is solar PV. Located in Yancheng, Jiangsu province, it came into operation on December 31, 2010 and has 1,100 annual utilization hours.  Every year it can generate 23 million KW-h of electricity, allowing it to save 7,000 tons of coal and 18,600 tons of carbon dioxide emissions.Dafeng Power Station in China

    According to the report, if we continue in an upwards trend we could reach 42% renewables by 2030, 72% by 2040, and 100% in 2050. What's more, the renewable energy sector will produce more jobs and because of all the fuel cost savings it can all be done at no extra expense.

    But why wait till 2050 or for political will to kick in? The energy revolution is already happening!

    4. Greenpeace India's Dharnai village project has provided electricity to more than 2,400 people!

    This includes 450 households and 50 commercial establishments, including two schools, a training centre and a primary healthcare centre.

    Children sit under solar panels at Bishunpur Tolla, Dharnai village. A solar-powered micro-grid is now supplying electricity to the village.Children in Dharnai Village in India

    5. Renewable energy farms are appearing on land and water.

    6. South Africa's biggest solar plant is powering 80,000 homes and helping to beat blackouts.

    Solar Installation in South AfricaInstallation of solar panels in South Africa

    7. And activists are giving the finger to coal plants in Romania.

    Greenpeace Romania launches a project offering solar panels to the local school of the coal town in Rovinari. The event engages the school students and the local community. The solar panels on the school rooftop are part of the Greenpeace campaign to support the transition towards a future based on renewable resources. Renewable energy sources have a reduced impact on the environment, health and economy and supports the fight against climate change. The 40 solar panels installed on the local school in Rovinari have a capacity of 250 W each and they will supply 25% of the school's energy needs. The photovoltaic installation on the school will supply electricity also to the national system.Installation of solar panels on school rooftop in Romania

    It's clear that this is a type of power that's proving to be unstoppable.  If you're smart about it, you'll already be jumping on that bandwagon.

    Take action. Join the Energy [R]evolution!

    Shuk-Wah Chung is a Content Editor at Greenpeace East Asia.

  • #ActionsforClimate – but still not enough

    The last few days have, for once, seen world leaders and the global media focused on the big issues of our time: poverty, inequality and the dangers of climate change. President Obama admitted he acted too late on climate change and agreed with China's President Xi Jinping on very significant– if still insufficient – additional actions. The Pope called on governments to act, not just declare that they will, the UN agreed on a new to-do list for humanity, including giving energy access to all via more renewable energy and calling for an end to deforestation. Some 30 world leaders agreed at a climate lunch that more needs to be done to shift to renewable energy and that they must agree in Paris on a long term clean energy vision. At the same time, thousands around the world joined the latest action day to put additional pressure on governments and businesses to act.

    Not too bad for one weekend! There is clear momentum to take #ActionsForClimate on the road to the Paris climate summit later this year – and, crucially, beyond. The climate crisis will require us to act courageously going forward, independent of what exactly world leaders decide at #COP21.

    But the last few days have also often left me feeling uncomfortable. There was a mood of self-congratulation in New York. Governments and business suggested in their speeches that all is under control, that we are already on track to solve the big issues and that all are united in doing the right thing.

    I wish that was true, but I know it is not. There is still so much hypocrisy in the announcements of so many governments, as my friend, Salil Shetty, the head of Amnesty International, pointed out in his powerful speech the UN summit. We still face too many vested interests that stand in the way of a clean and safe future. Too many governments are turning a blind eye to corporate abuses that poison us – as the Volkswagen scandal has once again exposed in recent days. President Obama, in crass contradiction to his fine words, is still allowing Shell to drill for more oil in the Arctic– oil that must remain in the ground. And while we know that there are no technical and economic barriers to achieving 100% renewables for all by 2050 worldwide, even progressive governments this weekend only committed to decarbonization by the end of this century. By which time it will be too late.

    We must redouble our efforts. We must expose these contradictions. We must tell the stories of real transformation that are already underway, stories like this one from Canada, where the community of Little Buffalo, in the heart of the oil rich tar sands, decided to forge a new future and become powered by the sun.

    Tune in to the Social Good Summit Livestream to hear me speak about the acts of courage we must take now at the Social Goods summit.

    Image Gallery.. 

    Dr Kumi Naidoo is the Executive Director of Greenpeace International.

  • “My land is not for sale.” One First Nation’s fight to save ancestral forest

    Foggy view of Broadback forest 16 Aug, 2009 © Greenpeace

    The Broadback Valley is one of the last intact forests in Quebec, Canada. For hundreds of kilometres, there’s not a road, not a clearcut, not a mine, not a power line, not a pipeline…just pure wilderness.

    And without protection, this pristine forest may soon be gone forever.

    That’s because earlier this year, the Quebec government failed to ensure adequate protection of the land, opening the door for new roads in this intact forest. The Quebec and Canadian governments are bending over backwards to support the Quebec logging industry—even teaming up with the logging industry to invest in marketing campaigns to try and clean up their image.

    Clearcut in Cree Territory in Broadback Valley 19 Aug, 2015 © Greenpeace

    But hope is not lost. The Broadback Valley is the ancestral land of the Cree Nation of Waswanipi, an Indigenous community that has vowed to fight against industrial logging in their forests.

    The Waswanipi Cree are sounding the alarm for the Broadback—and in collaboration with Greenpeace Canada—they are stepping up to tell their story to the world.

    Listen as the Waswanipi Cree explain what it would mean if forestry companies were to log inside the remaining forest, and catch a glimpse of the beautiful Broadback Valley they are working to protect.

    Watch the video

     Seeing the breadth of destruction that has already occurred by industrial logging and associated roads, Don Saganash, a local tallyman who safeguards the forest, rivers and lakes sends a clear message to any company wanting to log here: “My land is not for sale.”

    The Cree First Nation of Waswanipi is now more determined than ever to protect the rest of its land. The Broadback Valley is the last 10 percent of unspoiled forest that remains. And it’s easy to understand why it's so precious. The forest is at the heart of the Waswanipi identity, and cutting down these trees means destroying their culture and way of life.

    Let’s stand together and join this brave community who are fighting to protect ancestral land. Share this video and their story with your friends and family.

    Don Saganash in Boreal Forest near the Broadback River 19 Aug, 2015 © Greenpeace

    Marie Moucarry is a Communication Officer for Greenpeace Canada’s forest campaign.

  • International Atomic Energy Agency’s Fukushima Report puts the interests of the nuclear industry first

    The recently released IAEA Fukushima Daiichi Accident Report on Japan’s on-going nuclear disaster in the wake of the 2011 triple reactor core meltdowns and catastrophic containment building failure reads more like nuclear industry propaganda than the so-called authoritative and balanced scientific assessment the agency attempts to claim it is.

    Piles of bags containing contaminated soil, mud and grass at a site in Iitate village.  Members of the Greenpeace radiation monitoring team check contamination levels in Watari and in Central Fukushima City, three and a half years after the nuclear accident.27 Oct, 2014

    The report draws conclusions when it should be highlighting major uncertainties and a lack of data surrounding the Fukushima disaster. It downplays the ongoing environmental and health effects of the disaster and misrepresents the current radiological crisis in the Fukushima region.

    It’s clear that the IAEA is putting the interests of the nuclear industry before those of the disaster’s many victims. Its report does not accurately reflect the utter failure of the nuclear industry, and most nuclear regulators globally, to learn and implement the lessons of the Fukushima disaster. Not only that, it glosses over the seriously flawed nature of nuclear safety regulation in Japan right now.

    And so Greenpeace Japan, together with Japanese civil society organisations, has sent a letter to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Director General Yukiya Amano, challenging the conclusions of the IAEA’s Fukushima report as inadequate and flawed.

    The IAEA says no discernible health consequences are expected as a result of the Fukushima disaster. This, while it admits uncertainties about both radiation exposure and its long-term effects.

    The truth is that nobody knows how much radiation citizens were exposed to in the immediate days following the disaster. If the IAEA can’t give accurate figures about radiation exposure, how can it say there won’t be any consequences? This is political spin and PR, not science.

    Not only that, but the report supports the Japanese government’s agenda to make it appear that things can return to normal after a nuclear disaster.

    Why else would the IAEA seek to justify Japanese government policy of lifting evacuation orders in increasingly contaminated areas in Fukushima? This strips returning evacuees of much needed and deserved compensation and may force many to return to areas where radiation levels remain dangerously high.

    This is all part of the propaganda push to overcome huge public opposition in Japan to restarting Japan’s 42 shutdown nuclear reactors. It’s about normalising the Fukushima disaster. There is nothing normal about the exposure rates that former Fukushima citizens are being asked to return to. 

    Only a truly independent international commission that can investigate the causes, consequences, and implications of the accident can provide the Japanese people and the wider world with the unbiased information and accountability they need.

    The nuclear industry will continue putting profit before people and safety – that’s what it does. But the IAEA should begin protecting people from the nuclear industry, not acting as its PR company. Justice demands it.

    Justin McKeating is a nuclear blogger for Greenpeace International, based in the UK.

  • You asked Outdoor brands if they use PFCs. Guess what? They answered!

    Expedition to Pilato Lake in Italy to Detox the Great Outdoors. 28 May, 2015 © Roberto Isotti / Greenpeace

    Last week we started an amazing quest. It's been thrilling to see how thousands of supporters, nature lovers and outdoor enthusiasts asked their favourite outdoor brands a very simple and straight question:

    "Which of your products are made with PFCs?"

    Let's start with the most positive answer first! It came from the Swedish brand Fjällräven: "We have worked with phasing out PFC's for many years now and from 2015 we do not use any PFC's in our fabrics."

    Unfortunately, all other big brands that did answer had to admit that they are still using hazardous PFCs.

    Brands like Vaude and Jack Wolfskin have at least set elimination dates for the use of PFCs in their products by 2020. It seems like they are nearly ready to detox but they need to make the timeline for elimination more ambitious and work on transparency in their supply chain. As brands who claim to love nature and respect nature lovers, Outdoor companies must take leadership for a better environment; making a genuine and credible commitment to stop using hazardous chemicals – with ambitious schedules and concrete deadlines for PFC substitution.

    Other brands such as Patagonia, Mammut, Decathlon, Arcteryx, Salewa, Haglöfs and the North Face took their time to answering your concerns and we don’t think you should be satisfied with their responses. While Patagonia admitted PFCs are a problem they need to solve they have not set an elimination date, as they "don't feel comfortable promising a path forward that hasn't yet been identified" This is difficult to accept considering that PFC-free alternatives are already available on the market.

    @Mammut #Detox #Outdoor

    Mammut was the first brand to respond but it turned out it wasn't entirely honest. Mammut wrote to you that their "PFC-free weather protection clothing (outer layer)" was marked with a PFC-free icon. When one of our supporters asked about this icon in a Mammut flagship store, it was nowhere to be found. Some days later, the store followed up and informed our supporter, "all hard shell jackets are made with PFCs. Only our midlayers, t-shirts, shirts and underwear are PFC free." This is not exactly what you would expect from a credible brand.

    Last but not least, the only brand that ignored your questions completely was Columbia. We believe this demonstrates that they don’t really care about polluting the environment or being transparent with their own customers and fans.

    @Columbia1938 #Detox #Outdoor

    Many brands responded that they replaced long-chain PFCs (e.g. PFOA or PFOS) with short-chain PFCs. A few of them also admitted that this was not a good solution. This is because the more studies are done on PFCs, the more evidence we have that they can be a problem for the environment and our health too. Recently, more than 200 scientists from 38 countries signed the 'Madrid Statement', which calls for elimination of all PFCs, including short-chain, from the production of all consumer products, including textiles, in line with the precautionary principle.

    So why are those brands not moving firmly to eliminate those hazardous chemicals and still continue to be dependent on them?

    The main excuse used by brands for still polluting nature with hazardous PFCs is that alternatives don't perform as well and are less durable. But not a single brand made reference to a test or actual data underlining this claim.

    The good news is that some small brands like Paramo, Fjällräven, Radys, Rotauf and Pyua already demonstrate that its possible to produce durable and high performing gear without PFCs. How do we know they perform as well as others?

    Expedition to Haba Snow Mountain in China to Detox the Great Outdoors. 26 May, 2015 © Xia De Rui / Greenpeace

    Greenpeace teams tested PFC-free products on eight expeditions around the globe – including to Haba Snow Mountain, 5000 metres above sea level. We hiked through wind, rain and snow using durable, high-performance outerwear. All of our clothing withstood these conditions and all of it was PFC-free. We purchased our jackets, pants and backpacks from small outdoor brands that already have entirely PFC-free collections. To stop polluting the environment with hazardous chemicals, big leading brands have to follow their example and get rid of PFCs in all of their products.

    Thank you so much for taking part in this PFC-Quest, a first important step to detox the great outdoors together. Here you can check yourself the responses of brands and tell them your opinion on it. Let's keep the pressure high on our favourite brands, demanding PFC-free production!

    Chiara Campione is the Detox Outdoor Corporate Lead with Greenpeace Italy. @chiaracampione on Twitter.

  • Renewable energy for all. Is it possible?

    A world powered 100% by renewables seems like a faraway fantasy. But is it actually possible?

     Children sit under solar panels at Bishunpur Tolla, Dharnai village. A solar-powered micro-grid is now supplying electricity to the village.

    "100% renewables!"

    It's a buzz-phrase that loves being thrown around by environmentalists, passionate protesters and science geeks alike. From activists, to companies or start-ups spruiking their latest eco-powered device, renewable anything is a steadily growing industry.

    If you're reading this then you already know the motivation behind this growing trend. Climate change, pollution, increasingly warm oceans, water and food shortages – these are just some of the factors that are driving us towards an energy poor world. If we continue towards this path we could be living in a world reminiscent of Total Recall – an oxygen starved"Waterworld" with only a handful of habitable cities. With fossil fuels being one of the biggest drivers behind climate change we know that if we change our practices now and turn to renewables we can keep within the 2 degrees safety limit that scientists warn us about.

    Greenpeace volunteers of Youth Solar (Jugendsolar) in cooperation with volunteers from the organisation 'Solaragenten', install a photovoltaic power plant on avalanche barriers in the ski resort of Bellwald.

    But 100% renewable energy? Really? Don’t we need just a little bit of coal/nuclear power to keep the world spinning?

    Greenpeace International, in collaboration with the Institute of Engineering Thermodynamics, Systems Analysis & Technology Assessment at the German Aerospace Center, have just made the impossible possible. A 100% renewable energy world by 2050, and it could start in as little as three months from now with a binding agreement at the COP 21 conference in Paris. According to the report, what we need is:

    "A strong, long-term goal, phasing out fossil fuels and nuclear power by 2050 through a just transition to 100% renewable energy, as well as the protection and restoration of forests."

    What's more, not only is this transition possible, but it will create jobs and is cost-competitive, with the necessary investment more than covered by savings in future fuel costs. The average additional investment needed in renewables until 2050 is about $1 trillion a year. Because renewables don't require fuel, the savings are $1.07 trillion a year, so they more than meet the costs of the required investment.

    In jobs, the solar industry could employ 9.7 million people by 2030, more than 10 times as many as it does today, and equal to the number currently employed in the coal industry.

     Coal power plant Mehrum (operated by E.On, Stadtwerke Hanover and BS Energy) and wind turbines. The coal-fired power plant delivers 683 Megawatt of energy.

    Already, the seemingly major polluting countries are seeing the investment in renewables. In 2014, for the first time in 40 years, global energy-related CO2 emissions remained stable in spite of continued economic growth, thanks mainly to declining coal consumption in China.

    Entrepreneurs – from the university educated to the village Einsteins – are coming up with clever ways to power and profit using nature's gift; and almost every day there's a "world first" – from a completely solar powered airport to a country running (almost) completely on renewables.

    We also know that renewables have the potential to power up (pun intended) economies, and our "Solarize Greece" crowd-funding campaign is an example of how we're helping to rid the country of the burden of fossil fuels that are holding it down economically and for Greece to fight its way back out of the crisis.

    Slowly but surely the world is waking up to the stark reality that fossil fuels are a finite resource with renewables being an additional economic and employment boost. What's more is that there are no major economic or technical barriers to moving towards 100% renewable energy by 2050.

    So, maybe the fantasy isn’t so far off anymore.

    Take action. Join the Energy [R]evolution!

    Shuk-Wah Chung is a Content Editor at Greenpeace East Asia.

  • Honouring courage and compassion: Peace Day 2015

    I was 22 years old when I had to leave my homeland, South Africa. I had no choice. I was living underground for a year by then, to avoid being arrested. This was 1987, in the midst of one of the most bloody and violent periods in the history of Apartheid South Africa. The green peaceful streets of Oxford, where I was lucky enough to end up, seemed like a cartoon to me. They seemed unreal, while the violence I left behind felt very real and near. I stayed awake at night thinking of friends and relatives left behind.

    I remember these feelings now every time I look at the heartbreaking images of people fleeing devastation – whether floods in Bangladesh or war in Syria. The images of desperate parents holding on to their children, trying to get them through barbed wired fences, or off small inflatable boats. I see them and I think about my own daughter. How would I feel if I was one of these parents? When I fled, I had only myself to care for.

    'No one leaves home' writes Kenyan born Somali poet Warsan Shire, 'unless home is the mouth of a shark'. 'No one puts their children in a boat unless the water is safer than the land'.

    Refugees wait on the train tracks near Rozske in Hungary. © JÁRDÁNY Bence/GreenpeaceRefugees wait on the train tracks near Roszke in Hungary. © JÁRDÁNY Bence/Greenpeace

    21st September marks the International Day of Peace. And this year, again, there is not much peace around to celebrate.

    In Syria alone – according to some estimates one of two Syrians has died or fled home since the war began. According to the UN 7.6 million are internally displaced. 4.1 million refugees are abroad. Most of them in countries surrounding Syria. Some are turning to Europe as a safe haven.

    There are times when drawing borders between countries, people, between politics and the environment must stop. There comes a time when all that matters is humanity and solidarity. This is such a time. The acts of courage and compassion shown by so many individuals and communities across Europe I find deeply inspiring.

    A make-shift camp near Rozske in Hungary. © JÁRDÁNY Bence/GreenpeaceA make-shift camp near Roszke in Hungary. © JÁRDÁNY Bence/Greenpeace

    Many of my colleagues in Greenpeace are also trying to reach out and support refugees. In Hungary and Croatia, volunteers have joined the humanitarian effort, including practical things like setting up a solar charging station in hot spots so that people can recharge their phones and access WiFi. In Greece, our office is in close contact with international relief NGOs ​to support their efforts ​and is working with local groups to collect and send relief packages to the Islands where many refugees are stranded.

    I want to personally thank all who are reaching out to help. In this moving ocean of solidarity, every drop matters. We must all join together and say loud and clear: #Refugeeswelcome!

    Volunteers set up a solar charging station with free WiFi near Rozske in Hungary. © JÁRDÁNY Bence/GreenpeaceVolunteers set up a solar charging station with free WiFi near Roszke in Hungary. © JÁRDÁNY Bence/Greenpeace

    Tomorrow I travel to New York to attend the UN Summit on Sustainable Development Goals. My trip will be an easy one, but I will remember those times when my journeys, too, were journeys of fear. I will think of those facing days, months and years of relentless, life threatening journeys, with no guaranteed safety at the end of the road.

    As fellow human beings we owe it to them to raise our voices, to stand in solidarity and to address the root causes of global insecurity. We need to insist on finding real solutions - including getting off fossil fuels. Conflicts are always complex. But looking at current conflicts from Iraq, Ukraine, Sudan, the South China Sea to Nigeria it is clear that the access, the transport and thus the dependence on fossil fuels do play a role.

    "Resource wars" are not new. But today we can overcome them. In New York, I will argue for a world powered by 100% renewables for all by 2050. This world is in our grasp, our latest Energy Revolution scenario shows that without doubt. It is also the world we must choose if we want peace. Wind turbines, photovoltaic systems, insulation materials or double glazed windows are the "weapons" we must deploy to help create a safer world.

    I was lucky enough to see Apartheid ended by people power and international solidarity a few years after I was forced to leave South Africa. Apartheid was abolished, and I am now free to return. Will those displaced now ever have that privilege? I do not know. But we must work for the peaceful, safe world for all, that would make this possible.

    Dr Kumi Naidoo is the Executive Director of Greenpeace International.

  • The Story of Greenpeace & the story Greenpeace tells

    The documentary film How To Change the World has just splashed out on cinema screens in nine countries. It is by far the best telling of the origin story of Greenpeace I've ever seen, and I've seen a few. As someone who has been with the organisation since 1982 – nearly three quarters of Greenpeace's life and more than half of my own, I've been reflecting on what's different and what's unchanged today from the organisation I joined. To answer that, I have to begin at the beginning.

    Warriors of the Rainbow Book CoverIt was the winter of 1980. I was living in a cabin in the woods with no electricity, no running water, no TV. WiFi and internet were yet to be invented. The snow had been piling up for weeks, and what was normally a couple hour's hike to the nearest town and back could no longer be completed in the little daylight New Hampshire had to spare in January. I was running low on supplies. But worse, I was running out of books. When I had finished reading everything I'd brought with me and started on the modest shelf left behind by the owner and the cabin's seasonal occupants, I picked up something that would change my world. Despite being as far out of the media mainstream as anyone could be, I got hit right between the eyes with a "mind bomb" that had been detonated ten years earlier.

    The book I picked up that day was Bob Hunter's Warriors of the Rainbow. It was the story of the founding of an environmental activist group I had never heard of before called "Greenpeace." I was mesmerised.

    Here was a group going out and confronting some of the greatest forces on the planet, exposing environmental abuse where it was happening, packaging up those stories for the medium of the day, television, and hurling them into the zeitgeist like cultural hand grenades full of dandelion seeds.

    Whether it was a boatload of peace activists sailing into the forbidden zone around a nuclear weapons test site or a tiny rubber boat defying a harpoon or mud-covered monkey-wrenchers shutting down a toxic waste pipe, they were creating simple, black and white stories of ordinary people who believed a better world was possible, standing up against the impossibly powerful forces of militarism, social conformity, and profit-at-any-cost capitalism.

    Like artists, they were amplifying the weak signals so many were picking up on that something was amiss with our relationship with nature. It's hard to believe today that this was once a genuinely new idea.

    Every one of those stories, implicitly or explicitly, asked a simple question: There's the harpoon, there's the activist. What's going to happen next? And which side are you on?

    When I answered that question, I took a step over an invisible line. I became an activist. Millions of people did the same in reaction to the stories that Greenpeace told, the work of Rachel Carson, Edward Abbey, the Sierra Club, CND, artists, singers, culture hackers and relentless investigative journalism that exposed atrocities of human suffering and inhumane abuses of nature. On the back of all of that, a movement was born.

    How to Change the World FilmBob's story of Greenpeace's beginnings is now being retold in Jerry Rothwell's award-winning documentary, How to Change the World. It's the story of a rag-tag mission to stop an American nuclear weapon test in Vancouver's backyard and how it became one of the world's most powerful environmental organisations. One which was forged in the oppositional politics of the North American anti-war movement, tempered with the social upheaval of a global youth rebellion, and infused with the mystic hippy conviction that alternate realities co-exist with and can sometimes overtake the monolithic consensual hallucination we call "the way things are." Both the book and the film are endearing, and enchanting, glimpses into the brilliant and bumbling adventures of a group of friends, "not all of them brave or good," as they literally set course by following the moon and chasing rainbows, making history along the way.

    Arguably, the naivety of which they were accused was their greatest strength: they were a bunch of young people who thought they could change the world. Not knowing any better, they did.

    It's a story of a different time, and a different organisation.

    Or is it? Over the course of my 34-year voyage under the Greenpeace flag, the world has changed profoundly. The cold war ended. Nuclear weapons tests, whose fallout was once declared "perfectly safe" (until it started showing up in children's teeth) are no longer a fortnightly global ritual. Antarctica was declared a land of peace and research, off limits to oil and gas exploration. Radioactive waste is no longer dumped into the sea. The commercial hunting of whales has been reduced to a tiny fraction of the former wholesale slaughter. The ozone hole is in retreat. Entire classes of toxic chemicals that were once simply dumped into rivers are now banned. Greenpeace and the work of hundreds of other organisations and the decisions of millions of individuals made these things happen, all sprung from the same inspiration that moved Bob and his bedraggled boatload of fellow activists.

    And Greenpeace has certainly changed. Telex machines have given way to tweets. We speak to a globally connected audience in memes and viral video. Our ships can broadcast, live, from any ocean in the world rather than waiting weeks to deliver film rolls to shore. The organisation has spread from two North American offices that squabbled like teen agers to have presences on every continent with some of our most important work being done in China, Brazil, India, and Africa. We've learned, imperfectly, to squabble like adults.

    We've also reaped the rewards, and paid the price, of becoming an institution in the global spotlight. Our name is a calling card that will get us in the door at most corporate headquarters — though often with an additional security check. Through the generosity of millions, we've been able to keep three ships and offices in 55 countries going without soliciting or accepting corporate funding. Greenpeace is the most recognised name in environmental activism, to the dismay of organisations that work for decades on an issue only to have Greenpeace get all the press, and to an entire movement's peril when we publically fail, as we sometimes do, to live up to the values we champion.

    I-ChingWhen I look at How To Change the World, I think the biggest shift is in that early, uneasy balance of power between what Bob called the "mystics" and the "mechanics." The mechanics won, hands down. The last time I saw a copy of the I-Ching on a Greenpeace ship it was my own. Spiritual journeys or magical coincidences — beyond the occasional rainbow's arrival on the scene at precisely the right time — tend to be kept below the decks and under the table rather than being a part of planning meetings. Maximizing wind power, fuel efficiency, overheads, and arriving on time in a port are what determine our ships' courses these days. There's no chasing moonbeams, and there are fewer people about who would align themselves with Bob's belief that "We were part of a reflex, summoned to action by the Earth itself."

    Greenpeace is an organisation dedicated to change, and one which has perennially changed itself to meet changing times. Steve Sawyer, a former Greenpeace leader and mentor to many Greenpeace activists of my generation remembers talk of the "good old days" as far back as the 70s. But to my thinking, there's one thing that hasn't shifted a millimeter from when we started, and that's the story at the core of Greenpeace.

    We may tell it in different voices, in different mediums, and through different actions. Where once we disdained the idea of ever taking our story to the boardrooms of our "enemies" or to any audience that required we wear a tie, we learned to work the levers of those strange machines. We learned the story was strong enough to go anywhere.

    The Greenpeace story is simple. It's this: We believe a better, more sustainable world is possible, and that brave collective and individual action can bring it to life. What we say today is exactly what we said in 1972: we can change the way we feed and fuel our world, we can live in greater harmony with our planet and ourselves. It's that simple.

    If there's a change in the wind thes