Initiated by a group of journalists and radicals at the start of the 1970s, the first ever Greenpeace action saw its members charter a fishing boat into prohibited Alaskan waters to campaign against nuclear testing. And to fund the boat’s journey? They rang up Joni Mitchell. This kind of boldness has continued to define the organisation’s work over the years, from heroic images of campaigners at sea, to their viral video takedowns of major brands including Shell, Lego and Nestlé.
However as well as bravery there’s another thread running through Greenpeace history that shows an awareness, even in the early days, of the power of communication. “These tiny figures in inflatable boats against giant whaling vessels, putting their bodies in the way of harpoons…” comments Greenpeace International’s Head of Communications James Turner. “There was amazing bravery, for sure, but also media intelligence.”