Major players in the nuclear debate: Greenpeace

An important discussion when looking at any debate is the loudest voices on both sides. Greenpeace is probably the most well known anti-nuclear campaigner, so this post is going to delve into their history and motivations for their stance on nuclear power.

Screen capture of Greenpeace's nuclear campaign homepage, showing a banner ad calling out Fukushima

First, a bit of history. Greenpeace was founded in response to the US governement detonating a nuclear test in Alaska, which many people had protested because of its proximity to a faultline (and the potential for the bomb to cause earthquakes/tsunamis). A concert in 1970, called ‘Amchatka’, was held to raise funds which in turn was used to fund the formation of the ‘Don’t Make a Wave Committee’, which would go on to be renamed ‘Greenpeace’ in 1972.

Greenpeace’s mission statement is

To ensure the ability of the Earth to nurture life in all its diversity.

Greenpeace is well know for its vocal stance on many environemntal issues, not limited to:

  • Nuclear power
  • Climate change (or global warming)
  • Whaling
  • GMOs
  • Disarmament
  • Forestry

Another part of Greenpeace’s image is that of ‘direct action’. Most often this involves publicity stunts like putting up banners on structures or monuments to either protest, or spread their own message. While this sort of protest used to be quite effective at causing controversy and discussion, Greenpeace has come under a lot of fire recently after their stunts involving the Nazca lines resulted indamage to the World Heritage site.

Greenpeace claims to not take donations from any corporations, political bodies or governments, and instead relies on individual donations. This is probably the most powerful rhetorical device in their emply. They are able to slam others for their industry/political connections, and make the claim that they are ‘objective’ and above any question of their motives. However, this stance has taken a few blows, after scandals involving administrative spending (most notably in India).

Greenpeace also claims to have ‘no permanent friends or foes’, but by this they mean they will not be an enemy to you once you start doing things their way, with no compromise (or possiblity of changing their views).

Greenpeace hosts a lot of content on their website realted to their objection to nuclear power. Besides keeping blog about it, there are many ‘fact sheets’ and statemtns made by them on the dangers of nuclear power, and their many objections to its use.

The main reason that Greenpeace opposes nuclear power is that they believe the risks do not justify the end result and that the funding going towards nuclear power would be better spent going directly to renewables.

Their statements about nuclear power are riddled with overly dramatic accounts of the dangers of nucelar waste, the threat of accidental or deliberate damage to nuclear reactors and the ever looming threat of nuclear disasters on par with Chernobyl (they claim there is one every 10 years).

Greenpeace also uses a lot of emotive stories and language to get its point across. As seen in a previous post with the video of ‘Annya’s story’, as well as references to Fukushima and much more on their nuclear home page.

There are many critics of Greenpeace and its tactics. Notably, one of the founding members of Greenpeace —Patrick Moore, a Canadian ecologist— is not a vocal opponent to them, especially on their stance on nuclear power (he now supports it). Others have criticised Greenpeace for their refusal to accept compromise, their reckless stunts that are often dangerous and not effective, their apparent ‘neo-luddism’. None the less, Greenpeace remains an important institution, which goes to great lengths to fight against damage to the environement, although one that is could use a lesson in fact checking, and cooperation and diplomacy.

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