Once again the Esperanza is ‘fuelling’ debate about Greenpeace sustainability. It’s a question we’re often asked on open boat days: “why does the Esperanza run on diesel? Isn’t that hypocritical?” The question has stimulated a lively debate at the Herald Sun.
There are a few important points to note here. First and foremost, the Esperanza is the ship we take to the Southern Ocean to protect whales from Japanese whaling vessels. Of everything that Greenpeace does, I’d say this action is the least controversial and most publicly supported of them all.
The Southern Ocean is one of the wildest and most remote places in the world, an inhospitable environment with tenuous lines of communication with civilisation. It would be irresponsible to say the least for Greenpeace to send their crew and activists down there in a sailing boat. A certain amount of propulsion security is required for the welfare of both the humans and the whales involved. The Esperanza is an ice-class vessel purpose built for arctic conditions and this most certainly includes a diesel electric motor.
Another relevant fact is that when Greenpeace acquired the Esperanza, she was retrofitted with the most efficient diesel electric motor available at the time. A host of other retrofits make her as environmentally friendly as possible. These include: the removal or safe containment of all asbestos; fitting a special fuel system to avoid spillage; on board recycling of waste water, leaving only clean water pumped overboard; a waste based heating system; bilge water purifiers, 15 times more effective than current legislation demands; TBT-free hull paint; ammonia based refrigeration and air-conditioning rather than climate changing and ozone depleting Freon gas - the first Dutch registered vessel to be so fitted.
Finally, it is fair to point out that Greenpeace is an organisation which campaigns to protect the environment and we are 100% funded by public donations. In order to maximise the effectiveness of our resources and have the best possible outcomes for our campaigns, we do use computers and phones, we travel when necessary to speak to powerholders and the media, and of course we use our ships to stop ecological travesties when more diplomatic methods yield no results. We are campaigning for systemic changes to the way energy is produced and consumed and will be among the first to embrace the changes and challenges of an Energy [R]evolution. In the meantime however, we do believe that our mobile phones, laptops - and yes, our ships – are indispensable for the job we do. If anyone has any suggestions about how we could effect the same change without the benefits of modern technology, I would be interested to hear about it.