Thursday, March 29, 2012

Mariana Trench and the Nasty Little Agitator

Aaah, it's so lovely to sit back and remember a win on behalf of the environment.

Rémi, the hippie on the lower left--crew aboard
the Rainbow Warrrior, 1978
So a few days ago when film director James Cameron (you know: Avatar, Titanic) made the first solo dive into the deepest place in the world's oceans, the Mariana Trench, it got Rémi Parmentier (aka the Nasty Little Agitator) to reminiscing.

Back in 1978, a long, hard battle to ban radioactive dumping at sea began, and the Mariana Trench was the starting point. Had the governments of the U.S., Japan, and Taiwan succeeded, the Trench--and other designated areas--would have become dump sites for radioactive waste. (What? Water pressure would have crushed the canisters, allowing radioactive waste to leak out? No worries! The nuclear industry just called that the "dilute and disperse" strategy).

Rémi Parmentier worked for Greenpeace, at that time an environmental group beginning to gain a reputation, and he had an idea the others found difficult to swallow. Here's a description from fellow Greenpeacer Brian Fitzgerald:


"Back in the early 80s, much of Greenpeace believed we should never set foot in a meeting room. Treaty negotiations and arguments about brackets and compromising language were for others, and we needed to be the thin green line way out front. Need to stop radioactive waste from going into the North Sea? Get in a boat and stop it.

Remi just about singlehandedly woke the organisation up to the fact that your chances of winning rose exponentially by being out in that boat opposing dumping AND in the meeting room with the people who had the power to stop it. If that meant putting on a tie, somebody just had to swallow their pride and make that sacrifice. Remi turned people around not by talking about winning campaigns in the meeting halls -- he actually did it. And he did it by being as bullheaded, stubborn, and uncompromising inside the meeting halls as anybody out in the boats.

He learned, and taught us, the art of 'political judo' -- achieving results greater than your size would suggest possible. One frustrated government official called him a "nasty little agitator" after a particularly gruelling experience at an international convention. Remi liked that so much, he put it on his business card."

The plans to use the world's oceans as radioactive dumping grounds were shelved in 1983, through the London Convention. Ten years later the Convention was amended to permanently ban radioactive waste dumping at sea.

Merci beaucoup to all those who helped make this happen, and especially to Rémi, the Nasty Little Agitator who was willing to put on a tie for the sake of the planet. 


(Want to read more about Greenpeace days? Click on the "Search this Blog" box to the right and enter the word Greenpeace.) 

15 comments:

  1. Oh, I love this! Hoorah for Remi - a visionary man with practical understanding!  More stories like this, please. 

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  2. Am I right, perchance, that the woman in the photo is Patricia Lichen?

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  3. Thank you for this amusing story, Pat. It was a privilege to be a part of this collective adventure! Nothing was impossible. And still now; we just need to push the accelerator. Great photo too; I ran yesterday at the Met, NY completely by coincidence into Rex Weyler who hadn't seen me since those days; when I told him who I was he looked bemused because of course he associated my name with the young boy on the photo, not with aged man I've become. 

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  4. Sallie (FullTime-Life)March 29, 2012 at 11:01 AM

    Thank you for this true story Patricia.  It really is great to hear a positive ending and renews one's hopes for the earth.

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  5. A nice guess, but not me!  (I'm taller than the NLA  ;o)

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  6. I'm guessing that Rex's hair was also shorter than his ponytail back in the day!

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  7. I should add that Remi is still fighting the good fight. Most recently he  participated in the Rio+20 Conference.  Here's its description:

    "World leaders, along with thousands of participants from governments, the private sector, NGOs and other groups, will come together to shape how we can reduce poverty, advance social equity and ensure environmental protection on an ever more crowded planet to get to the future we want."

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  8. He sounds like he was a forward-thinker. Saw the big picture, and made big changes because of it. 

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  9. The woman on the photo is Denise Bell, one of the very early Greenpeace-UK persons. The mother of the original Rainbow Warrior in many ways.

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  10. I love this lil' agitator for being bold and armed with facts and fortitude to make a difference.  We need more like him.  It is all of our challenge to learn the facts of situations and take a stand.  Equipping ourselves is the trick in a day when we are divided by many responsibilities.  What to listen to, where to research...to be the critical thinkers we need to be.
    Is there a channel or station or something that keeps us up to date on various environmental topics, Pat.  I know there are environmental groups, but it would be nice to go to a "place" to get the key issues (facts) of the day...and then we (I) could do my investigations from there.
    I appreciate your blog for information and insights!

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  11. Sweet. It is the power of one who acts. It is the power of one who speaks truth to power. It is the power of one in the boat and at the negotiating table. It's a gift to be able for both sets of action.

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  12. I love your GreenPeace stories!

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  13. gosh...what happened to my Tio Rémi's beautiful hair ? I never had the chance to see it !!! great picture and great job !

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  14. Ha!  The Rémi in the photo is the only one I know! I haven't seen your uncle in many years & so still picture him with full head of hair.

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  15. Can you imagine if one person hadn't stood up and gotten others to stand with him?  We would've never gotten that cleaned up. It makes you scratch your head and wonder what some people use for brains?  I, too, love your Green Peace stories...but you knew that, didn't you.

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