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Greenpeace Sparked a Revolution. It's Time For Another

04/27/2015 12:36 EDT | Updated 06/27/2015 05:59 EDT
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It's funny how history repeats itself. I had known the stories of my parents and their so-called "glory days" of activism in 1970s all too well. They were the stories of ordinary young people doing the extraordinary in protecting our planet -- creating ripple effects that would change the course of history. Yet little did I know how their stories were a premonition of my own generation's narrative in the making.

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In the newly released film How to Change the World, a feature-length documentary by Jerry Rothwell, the birth of Greenpeace and the stories of my parents have been given new life. Growing up as a little girl with these tall tales, they were just bedtime stories -- nothing more. While I knew they were true, I had not yet seen how young people could galvanize and bend political power to their will in my own life. I had only been told about it like some great mythical legend that was only true generations ago. It wasn't until seeing my parent's story alive again on the screen that I realized how relevant it is today.

In Vancouver in 1971, a group of friends set sail into the heart of Richard Nixon's nuclear test blast off an Alaskan island called Amchitka. They were not heroes, but a loose group of hippies, journalists, draft dodgers, mystics and mechanics -- hell bent on ending an apocalyptic scenario before it could start. But by putting their bodies in harms way they did more than civil disobedience -- they planted a "mind bomb" and helped to spark the modern day environmental movement.

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My father, Robert Hunter, had coined the term "mind bomb" as an expression that our greatest tool for revolution was our own consciousness. He believed that mass media (early broadcast media at the time) could help spark that consciousness shift and a societal shift by changing the story of our times. The story of human domination over the planet gets switched with a story of human stewardship over the planet.

In their campaign, through powerful images and video of a small group of people attempting to stop a nuclear blast -- the new human story of human stewardship is planted. Soon the roots begin to grow in our minds... as did a movement. This moment was the birth of Greenpeace, one of the largest environmental organizations today, and my father would come to be its founding president.

As heroic as this story sounds, what I've come to realize is it's not entirely unique to my father and Greenpeace alone. It's in fact a very human story -- a story of human capacity for change and our desire for a better world. This story is being repeated today and in more ways than seemingly possible.

For the fight in the 1970's to stop the nuclear bomb is the same fight we have to stop our "climate bomb" today. One bomb was a quick, reacting blast that could eliminate all life like the puff of smoke that hit Hiroshima, Japan. The other is a slower, and therefore more confusing blast that could warm the earth up, eliminating our chances of a habitable planet for the entire human species and many of the species we share this world with.

But just as the youth culture of the 1970s galvanized against nuclear, so too I have witnessed in my own generation a rising force against climate change over the last ten years. Yet both represent a 'David and Goliath' battle. Living in the post Cold War era, as my parents did, there were highly vested interests politically and economically in the nuclear arms proliferation. But especially after the OPEC oil crisis of the mid-1970's, even more vested interests have driven our fossil dependency with hundreds of billions invested in coal, oil and gas.

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These were and are not simple battles to fight, as they challenge existing power structures. But yet in the face of the impossible, the Boomer generation did exert a new power from the bottom up, what we would call "people-power" today. I believe they did this through that media "mind bomb," creating culture clashing moments that shift what is possible for ourselves, such as activists on a Greenpeace boat that attempt to stop a nuclear test blast. It was these kinds of moments that sparked a consciousness shift in people that inadvertently build the kind of political pressure from citizens that changed our society. For later on, nuclear testing both underground and over-ground in the United States became outlawed and it was one more step to ending a nuclear holocaust.

Ending our own climate thermageddon is our challenge today and our defining issue. Perhaps climate change is even more staggering of a crisis and seemingly improbable of a fight than nuclear. As we must keep 80 per cent of known fossil fuels reserves in the ground if we are to keep global temperature rise to 2C (often pitted as the safe threshold temperature), yet most of those reserves are already on the books and scheduled to be poured into our atmosphere. But it is that sense of impossibility that we must challenge -- that sense of "giving up" that must be thwarted.

To do that we must tell ourselves a new story, those of our human stewardship of our climate, not domination. We must share those "mind bomb" moments and spread them virally with our modern-day media tools, that of digital and social media. But not just sitting back and trolling the hashtags of social movements, we also must create these moments and make this new story true.

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I believe my generation is doing just that and there is a sense of possibility in our fight against climate change. Just last week, Canada had its largest climate rally in our history with over 25,000 people forming a human thermometer, while the largest climate march in the world took place last September with 700,000 people taking part worldwide. On campuses, a student movement has taken shape to divest (the opposite of invest) billions of dollars from endowment funds in major educational, religious and municipal institutions as a moral imperative. Following this, Pope Francis recently joined the efforts and is hosting a climate summit later this month with leading scientists and United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

The "mind bomb" moments are growing and permeating in our culture and economic trends. Oil prices have dropped from $100 a barrel last summer to $50 today, showing that our plans for "economic supremacy" with the Alberta Tar Sands is only economically bankrupt as jobs and prospects are being lost. Yet renewable investment is on the rise, as Bloomberg Business announced "the world is now adding more capacity for renewable power each year than coal, natural gas, and oil combined." By 2030, renewable energy capacity will be four-times fold than fossil fuels if we continue on this trend.

The reality is the tides are turning. Despite the stories of impossibility in the fight against climate change, there are some new stories being written of possibility. It will still take many more of us -- millions and billions of us -- to continue to share these news stories and to create the "mind bomb" moments.

But I think we are on the verge of repeating history again. The kind of history my parents told me that proved our human capacity for changing our world for the better. It's starting to be the kind of story I want to tell to my own children one day.

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