LONDON - US defense policy has forced Greenpeace to refocus its protests
against nuclear weapons -- the very issue which fueled its formation
30 years ago, executive director Gerd Leipold said Thursday.
As the environmental pressure group looks ahead to its
30th anniversary next month, Leipold said US president George W. Bush's
"Star Wars" missile defense program had forced Greenpeace to turn
Members of Greenpeace Switzerland wearing a George W. Bush mask,
right, and mock prison uniforms gather in front of the U.S.
Embassy in Bern, Switzerland Monday, Aug. 13, 2001. Some 30
activists staged a demonstration titled "Stop Star Wars
not Greenpeace" to protest against the U.S. plans for an
anti-missile shield and demand to dismiss legal proceedings
against 15 Greenpeace activists, who were demonstrating at the
U.S. Air Force base in Vandenberg, southern California, in July
2001. (AP Photo/KEYSTONE, Lukas Lehmann)
was formed on September 15, 1971, when a group of campaigners left
Vancouver harbor for Amchitka, off the Alaskan coast, to protest against
US nuclear testing.
Almost three decades on in July 2001, activists sailed to the Vandenburg
airbase in California where the US military was about to launch
a missile test as part of its defense program
Fifteen campaigners and two journalists were arrested at the scene
and were on Monday charged with conspiracy in a Californian court.
They are due to go on trial next month.
Speaking at the launch of Greenpeace's annual report in London,
Leipold said: "After the end of the Cold War the opposition to nuclear
weapons was less important for a while. But we can't say that any
more, with the Bush administration's modernization program
"We are reacting to a change in big politics. We are picking up
where we were quite active 10 to 12 years ago."
He said Bush was putting the world at risk by a "truly astonishing
policy path that could undo so much progress in environmental protection
and world peace."
Leipold attacked the Bush administration's plans to withdraw from
the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, which prohibits a national
missile defense and tests done from the water or from the air.
He also criticized Bush for rejecting the Kyoto Protocol on global
warming earlier this year.
Looking back over the organization's history, Leipold said Greenpeace
had proved it was unique in the way it sought to be a positive force
With membership growing six percent on last year to 2.65 million,
its voice has never been stronger, he added.
Highlights in 2001 alone include an agreement in April to save
several large areas of Canada's Great Bear rainforest and the adoption
in May of a convention that aims to stop the production and use
of persistent organic pollutants.
Leipold said he wanted to see Greenpeace become even more international.
"I am firmly committed to making Greenpeace a more global organization
"I want to maintain Greenpeace as an action organization -- an
organization that puts its actions where its heart is, that is at
the scene of the crime."
Copyright © 2001 AFP