|Rémi, the hippie on the lower left--crew aboard |
the Rainbow Warrrior, 1978
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.)