Tree Spiker: A Behind-the-Scenes Look at the Life of a Radical Environmental Activist
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But it wasn't over. The rental trucks had a safety feature that would set the emergency brakes if you removed the key from the ignition. The keys had mysteriously disappeared. The tow truck couldn't budge the rigs. We had rented the vehicles on the other side of Los Angeles, and now calls were going out for spare keys.
"What's in those drums?" the head cop asked.
"Just some leachate from the Stringfellow Acid Pits," Marco responded earnestly. "It's a birthday present for Mr. Hammer, and I believe it belongs to him. We are just returning it to its rightful owner."
A Los Angeles County haz-mat team was called in, wearing identical Tyvek suits, and dutifully took our place at the action. We were carted off to the Santa Monica Jail. The haz-mat crew remained at the auditorium for the remainder of the meeting. The leachate in the barrels was not toxic. Leachate in this case refers to rainwater from the surrounding hills that had been diverted away from the pits into a steel tank.
Oxy had scheduled a big press conference for that day, announcing the acquisition of Hooker Chemical, the company responsible for Love Canal. Mr. Hammer disappeared quickly out the back door of the auditorium to dodge the media, which were now asking him all the wrong questions versus the softballs he had expected. He did not get any cake and ice cream. The story would appear on the front page of the business section of the Los Angeles Times . So would the photo of us with the toxic waste.
This was my ï¬rst action with Greenpeace, but it would not be my last. For the next twenty years, I would be working with the "ï¬rm" on various projects around the world. During that time, I watched Greenpeace grow from a small organization with a lot of members and money into a much larger organization with over a thousand employees. Then, in 1990, I watched the U.S. ofï¬ce shrink as it lost staff, members, and money. Today it is still a large organization with considerable resources at its disposal, but one that has undergone tremendous change.
With its sailing ships and daring feats on the high seas, Greenpeace has become the largest, best known, and most successful conservation group on Earth. Starting with the 1972 voyage of the Phyllis Cormack to stop a nuclear bomb test in Amchitka, Alaska, the Greenpeace story is perhaps the most exciting and heroic of all stories in the history of the modern-day conservation movement. It can also be a difï¬cult story to understand. Facts, myths, and symbols are viewed from many angles by all the individuals who were involved. Even its founders disagree over key elements of the story, and much of it remains undocumented.
Greenpeace's media strategies and campaigns are taught in mass communication classes. Greenpeace forever changed the communications ï¬eld with their skillful use of dramatic footage from daring actions in exotic locations. Greenpeace was also a pioneer in the ï¬eld of fundraising and membership development. The organization transformed a small ofï¬ce in Vancouver into an international network of thirty separate but aligned ofï¬ces spanning the globe. All of this resulted in a political pressure group with enormous power to move public opinion and force both governments and the largest multinational corporations to take action.
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Mike Roselle is a co-founder of the San Francisco-based Rainforest Action Network, Earth First!, and the Ruckus Society. He has been featured in numerous magazine articles, news segments, and documentaries.