Greenpeace may be the world's greatest public relations machine. Founded in 1971, and now the largest direct-action environmental group in the world, Greenpeace has mastered the art of getting people's attention.
Most recently, Greenpeace activists attempted to board a Russian oil rig in the middle of the arctic. They were quickly arrested and last week transferred to St. Petersburg to face trial. On Tuesday, Russian authorities said some would be granted bail. Nineteen others, however, await trial.
Greenpeace, of course, is no stranger to such problems. Blocking trains, climbing buildings, attacking tankers, costumes, the world's most famous environmental group has done it all. Their methods rub some the wrong way, but Greenpeace activists are some of the most successful at raising awareness about environmental issues. Here are some of our favorite recent stunts.
Russia and Greenpeace’s relationship: it’s complicated. Before the recent "Arctic 30" controversy, Moscow police arrested 10 Greenpeace activists who had dressed as polar bears to protest against Arctic drilling by the Russian corporation Gazprom. This image of a polar bear in the back of a Russian cop car quickly became a classic.
The European Union has long been skeptical of genetically modified organisms. But now, for the first time, it is moving to approve the cultivation of genetically modified corn. While nine countries have banned this new maize, farmers say the new strain of corn helps cut costs and yields more grain. Greenpeace, of course, disagrees. They say GMOs cause "genetic pollution." So the group camped outside the EU headquarters in Brussels waving these kind of hilarious, kind of terrifying signs.
Zombies turned activists? Greenpeace zombies took over the streets of Quezon City in 2012, capitalizing on the weird global obsession with all things zombies, to protest the government's failure to prevent dangerous chemicals from leaking into the country’s rivers. Photos from the stunt went viral.
Best way to get a message across? Why not climb Christ the Redeemer, the iconic statue in Rio de Janeiro? Greenpeace activists were angry at the results of the 2002 United Nations World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg, so made the perfectly logical decision to scale one of the world's largest statues. The sign “Rio +10 = 2nd chance?” meant that even after the summit, countries were no closer to addressing sustainability issues.
All eyes are on Hungary, literally. When Hungary took up the presidency of the EU in 2011, Greenpeace urged Hungarian politicians to focus on climate change. They called for a reduction in greenhouse gasses, and a focus on renewable energy and tighter regulations on genetically modified crops. They did this using awesome costumes.
In 2000, Chinese activists and Greenpeace supporters took to the seas. Their goal? To prevent companies such as P&O Nedlloyd from dumping toxic waste into China’s harbors. Usually, the ships come into the harbor to be scraped, despite containing toxic materials. Greenpeace activists painted the company's ships while at sea, urging them to detoxify before they come to port.
KFC's crispy fried chicken might be tasty, but it's also destroying Indonesia's rainforests. Greenpeace released a report accusing KFC of using packaging that contributes to deforestation. Protests were staged at various KFC restaurants around the world. After the protests, KFC's paper company, Asia Pulp and Paper, said it would look into Greenpeace's claims. Also, tiger costumes.
Greenpeace's fight brought them to new heights at the Corinth Canal in Greece, where they — incredibly — hung a sign to support the protection of Mediterranean marine animals. Having no fear must be part of a Greenpeace activist's training.
Whaling in Japan continues to be a controversial subject. Two Greenpeace activists were arrested in 2008 after investigating corruption in the whaling industry. The courts found the pair guilty and sentenced them to a year in jail. But that hasn’t stopped Greenpeace from continuing its campaign to end the unsustainable whaling industry, by any means necessary.
The epic clash between Greenpeace and France began in 1985 when activists protested French nuclear testing in the Pacific. French foreign intelligence services responded by bombing Greenpeace’s ship. Ten years later, France began testing their nuclear weapons in the South Pacific. Greenpeace led protests around the world and France eventually stopped testing a year later.
Who can say no to a smiling sun and windmill? Bringing more sunshine to Durban, Greenpeace protested during the UN Climate Change Summit there in 2011. Greenpeace activists dressed as the sun and a windmill to promote renewable energy. While a deal was made during the summit, environmentalists said it didn't go far enough.
Activists across the pond were just as angry as their American counterparts for their government's involvement in the Iraq War. Two Greenpeace volunteers scaled Big Ben to demand answers from then-Prime Minister Tony Blair. The brothers were arrested on suspicion of causing criminal damage.
Greenpeace’s most recent protest involved climbing halfway up the Sagrada Familia basilica in Barcelona, Spain. The activists were calling on the Russian government to release detained Greenpeace activists. Russian officials have decided to go on with the trial even as the Netherlands fights for their release.
Greenpeace is mad at France again, this time over nuclear waste. France's nuclear plant transports its waste across Europe to countries such as Germany and Russia. Greenpeace activists opposed to that lay on the railroad tracks to block the trains. Recently, France also arrested 30 Greenpeace activists for breaking into a nuclear power plant.
The iconic Rainbow Warrior is one of Greenpeace's biggest platforms. It has been used to provide aid during the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, block Russian whaling ships and protest against the palm oil industry. Originally built in 1955, the symbolic ship is also used to transport scientists to study enviornmental problems around the world.