Throughout its history, Greenpeace has depended on the passion, vision and courage of its volunteers. Our work relies on the people who care so deeply and share such a strong love of this beautiful planet that they are willing to put themselves on the frontline of environmental issues the world over.
It is with great sadness that we mourn the passing of one such activist, James Gormley. For many years, James played a central role in our Melbourne local group and activist network. He was one of over 200 people who were tragically killed when bushfires swept through rural Victoria on 7 February 2009. He died along with his girlfriend, Julie.
James was a tireless activist who worked to protect our food from the threat of genetic engineering, and to create the shift to a renewable energy future that we so desperately need if we are to avoid runaway climate change. He was equally comfortable wearing a suit in a lobbying meeting, out on the street talking to people about the latest campaign, or in Greenpeace overalls.
James was the kind of person whose passion and enthusiasm allowed him to win over the toughest audience and to see the positive in any situation. He had a cheeky laugh and a schoolboy grin that would light up his face at the first mention of a Greenpeace action.
I remember him calmly boarding the Despina shortly after it docked at the Port of Melbourne carrying a cargo of genetically engineered soy, before he and his fellow activists climbed into the crane towers to peacefully prevent the unloading of the unwanted cargo. I remember visiting the CEOs of some of Australia’s biggest food companies with James at my side, confident that he’d ask the probing questions that would help shift their buying policies to GE-free.
And I can imagine James at an information stall, talking passionately to people about climate change. He’d tell them how, if we don’t act now, we’ll face an uncertain future of more frequent and intense droughts, storms, floods and, yes, bushfires.
And, if fate hadn’t been so cruel, I could imagine James standing up to say that what we witnessed in Victoria earlier this month was no ordinary occurrence, but the fires of climate change, and a terrifying window into life on a warming planet.
It’s people like James Gormley that give us all hope for a better future. His passion, integrity and courage will be deeply missed.
If you knew James, please consider leaving a comment in tribute.
Climate change campaign co-ordinator
Greenpeace Australia Pacific