Inspired by History

11 July 2014

It was 29 years ago today that the Rainbow Warrior came to rest at the bottom of the port of Auckland after her bombing by French secret service agents. She took Fernando with her. We will always remember both.

Aftermath of Shipwreck After the Rainbow Warrior. Bombing The Rainbow Warrior is in Marsden Wharf in Auckland Harbour after the bombing by French secret service agents. 07/11/1985 © Greenpeace / John Miller

I was not there, but I remember the shock. It was the day when Greenpeace realized first-hand that our work touches sensitive nerves. You see, when power and authority is being questioned, reactions can be violent and… unexpected. In a way, the day of the bombing signals the end of the days of innocence.

The bombing of the Rainbow Warrior, as well as the trial of the secret agents is now part of history, as is her entire life; full of activities, breakthrough actions. She helped challenge the belief that “destroying the environment is fine as long as it brings financial growth.” She bore witness to environmental crimes around the globe; promoting peace, empowering people to take action for the future of the planet and for the sake of future generations. The world’s oceans, the whales, the dolphins and millions of people have kept her in their hearts. She has passed nearly into mythology, but her legacy remains all too real.

Her successor is no less of a myth. The Rainbow Warrior II, has written her own unique page in the recent history of Greenpeace. She has been successfully challenging the legal system; she has confronted environmental crimes all over the world’s oceans, played a key role in empowering local movements and communities to fight for their environment and for justice, stopped nuclear and toxic waste dumping, confronted whalers, fought against dirty energy and for protecting the climate. After 21 mythical years with Greenpeace, she retired from her Greenpeace life on August 16th, 2011.

By the way, she was also bombed, impounded, rammed, and raided. I hope this has nothing to do with the name.

Now, the new Rainbow Warrior continues to sail the oceans. And we are proud she is sailing — in her new incarnation — through the Mediterranean for the first time. The struggle to stop catastrophic climate change by putting pressure on governments and corporations to end our deadly dependence on fossil fuels (or nukes) has found a new banner in her impressive sails. She has already started showing her teeth.

At this moment, she is engaging with campaigns around the Med to protect our sea from oil drilling. The economic crisis in the European south is seen as an opportunity to further strengthen the energy dependency from oil pumped from the bottom of the historic and extremely fragile marine ecosystem of the Med.

From “Oil and water do not mix” (on banners used in actions in the past) we now move to the need for an Energy Revolution where fossil fuels and nuclear energy have no place. And this is real.  And it is a tough challenge as it was every trip with the Rainbow Warriors.

We do not live with history and we are not limited by history. But we are stupid not to get inspired by and be proud of our history.

Go Warriors, go.

Nikos Charalambides is the Executive Director of Greenpeace Greece.