Sunday, September 09, 2007

On Greenpeace

We had a visitor here in Kingston, the Greenpeace MV Artic Sunrise was out here for a visit. It demonstrated both against nuclear power and coal fired power stations. Mind you, its engines:
Main engine: MAK 9M452AK 2495 IHP 1619kW
Aux engines: 2 x Deutz BF6M716 208hp (175 kva)
Bow & stern thrusters: 400 hp each
are most likely fired by sunlight and water as Greenpeace is all about renewable energy. I understand its all-metal hull is also constructed from ecologically harmless materials such as ... steel...?

Anyway, I have actually a lot of time for much of the work Greenpeace is doing. What irritates me is that it does so in ways that makes one wonder about the credibility of its message. Painting a steel based hull in green doesn't change the fact that the organisation's own mode of transport invalidates the very message it tries to convey. I mean, they could have cycled down to Kingston to tell the locals that coal based energy stations and nuclear power are bad, yet instead they transported themselves in a metal container weighing about 949 tonnes.

Which brings me to another gripe I have about Greenpeace, namely its consistency in terms of picking middle-class causes, some of which seem to be chosen not in terms of their objective priority but on aesthetic grounds alone. It's whales they're concerned about, and not pigs and other higher mammals that are being continuously tortured and eventually killed by the millions in our mass breeding factories. Surely reducing sentient beings to objects of meat production and keeping them in these factories of suffering and death is a greater moral evil than the killing of a few hundred or thousand whales in the open seas. I am not in favour of the latter, and I am glad that Greenpeace campaigns against whale hunting, but surely one has to wonder whether it's fundraisers who decide which cause (or animal) the organisation campaigns on (for)...

3 comments:

  1. Great post, I'm so with you on this.

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  2. Totally agree with you. Too bad they don't realize how much credibility they lose in the delivery of their messages.

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  3. We had a visitor here in Kingston, the Greenpeace MV Artic Sunrise was out here for a visit. It demonstrated both against nuclear power and coal fired power stations. Mind you, its engines:
    Main engine: MAK 9M452AK 2495 IHP 1619kW
    Aux engines: 2 x Deutz BF6M716 208hp (175 kva)
    Bow & stern thrusters: 400 hp each
    are most likely fired by sunlight and water as Greenpeace is all about renewable energy. I understand its all-metal hull is also constructed from ecologically harmless materials such as ... steel...?

    Anyway, I have actually a lot of time for much of the work Greenpeace is doing. What irritates me is that it does so in ways that makes one wonder about the credibility of its message. Painting a steel based hull in green doesn't change the fact that the organisation's own mode of transport invalidates the very message it tries to convey. I mean, they could have cycled down to Kingston to tell the locals that coal based energy stations and nuclear power are bad, yet instead they transported themselves in a metal container weighing about 949 tonnes.

    Which brings me to another gripe I have about Greenpeace, namely its consistency in terms of picking middle-class causes, some of which seem to be chosen not in terms of their objective priority but on aesthetic grounds alone. It's whales they're concerned about, and not pigs and other higher mammals that are being continuously tortured and eventually killed by the millions in our mass breeding factories. Surely reducing sentient beings to objects of meat production and keeping them in these factories of suffering and death is a greater moral evil than the killing of a few hundred or thousand whales in the open seas. I am not in favour of the latter, and I am glad that Greenpeace campaigns against whale hunting, but surely one has to wonder whether it's fundraisers who decide which cause (or animal) the organisation campaigns on (for)...

    Hi Udo - just been reading your blog. I'm a web editor for Greenpeace International (based in Amsterdam, tho I telecommute from Ireland), and I thought I'd lend my comments. I've written something a bit longer that your blog... sorry about that!

    You make some fair points - but I feel you've made some of them a little selectively, like the suggestion that Greenpeace should have cycled to Kingston rather than sailing down there in the Arctic Sunrise (or as it's affectionately know, the "Ice Cream Surprise"). As I say - fair point, but the AC isn't usually based in Canada - like its sister ships, it travels all over the world, to places that are not accessible to bicycles, public transport, or people in general.

    There's three ships that work internationally in the Greenpeace fleet:

    The Arctic Sunrise
    The Esperanza
    The Rainbow Warrior

    The first two are ice-class, the AC being a full ice-breaker, with a rounded hull, hence the use of steel as opposed to... say... wood. The Esperanza is not a full icebreaker, but can work in polar conditions. I've spent many, many months in the last few years working in very remote parts of the ocean - on the Rockall-Hatton bank, in the Atlantic west of Africa, and earlier this year, in the ice of the Ross Sea, Antarctica. The current RW is little less hardcore - she's a former North Sea trawler, not setup with masts and sails, and she spends much of her time working in less hostile waters (though I have been through some vicious storms in the Tasman Sea on board her).

    If Greenpeace is to fulfil its various missions, we need to be able to get out of the way places in hostile weather conditions.

    You mention that the AC should be "fired by sunlight and water" - again, fair point. Alas, as I understand it, with currently available technology, using renewables for ocean going vessels isn't yet practical. I've also had people ask me "why don't you run the ships on biofuel?" Again, there's a variety of reasons, not least the questionable renewable status of biofuel and its potential effect on agriculture, deforestation etc. On a more practical note, I'm not aware of *any* port in the world that yet provides bunkering facilities for biofuel powered vessels.
    Nuclear power, is, obviously out of the question. There are other means of propulsion - my brother, for instance, works on ships that transport LNG - liquid natural gas. Such vessels can be engineered to actually burn their own cargo. I have an engineering background, but in not in marine studies, so I'm not sure how that can be applied to smaller vessels - i.e. would the storage space required for a small vessel to run on LNG be too great to make it practical? I don't know.


    The Esperanza, our newest vessel, has some seriously green credentials:

    "It has taken many months to refit the ship in as environmentally friendly way as possible and these improvements include: the removal or safe containment of all asbestos; fitting a special fuel system to avoid spillage; newly fitted, more efficient, diesel electric propulsion; on board recycling of waste water, leaving only clean water pumped overboard; a waste based heating system; bilge water purifiers, 15 times more effective than current legislation demands; TBT-free hull paint; ammonia based refrigeration and air-conditioning rather than climate changing and ozone depleting Freon gas - the first Dutch registered vessel to be so fitted; and an environmentally and economically efficient propulsion system to reduce CO2 emissions."

    The propulsion of the Esperanza does involve diesel - but not for direct diesel engine to the propellors. Intead, when cruising, the ship becomes diesel-electric, with a generator driving two electric motors which in turn rotate the propellors. This uses a fraction of the fuel required for diesel engines.

    Then of course, there's sail power which we've used in many of our vessels over the years. However, as much our work involves encountering anything from 10m high waves and hurricane force winds, to completely calm conditions (like in Antarctica or the doldrums of the Atlantic), we need do need to be on a level playing field in terms of speed, stability and manouvrability with, for instance, Japanese whaling vessels, shipments of GM crops, pirate fishing vessels stealing fish from developing countries (like, for instance, the Binar 4, carrying, 11,000 boxes of stolen fish from Guinean waters, which we pursued all the way to Las Palmas, where we had it arrested).


    As for Greenpeace choosing "picking middle-class causes", I have to disagree. It's a chicken and egg situation - before Greenpeace started working on the whaling issue in the 1970s, it was barely an issue at all, never mind a middle-class one. Greenpeace brought whaling to the public attention, and contributed to the eventual moratorium on commercial whaling in 1986, yet several countries have chosen to keep at it - countries like Iceland, Norway and Japan. Japan continues to kill almost 1,000 whales a year under the guise of "scientific research". A few weeks ago, Iceland stopped commercial whaling.

    Further to this, the whaling issue is part of a larger strategy, to create "marine reserves". More on that here. We do a lot of other oceans-related work, including the aforemention "stolen fish" issue, and we're doing lots on bottom trawling and on tuna. As for the argument that Greenpeace should be working on factory farming - well, it's not in our remit - that work is best left the organisations who work on animal welfare, such as IFAW. If there's any confusion about what Greenpeace does, just take a look at our "about page":


    Greenpeace is an independent global campaigning organisation that acts to change attitudes and behaviour, to protect and conserve the environment and to promote peace by:

    Catalysing an energy revolution to address the number one threat facing our planet: climate change.

    Defending our oceans by challenging wasteful and destructive fishing, and creating a global network of marine reserves.

    Protecting the world’s ancient forests and the animals, plants and people that depend on them.

    Working for disarmament and peace by tackling the causes of conflict and calling for the elimination of all nuclear weapons.

    Creating a toxic free future with safer alternatives to hazardous chemicals in today's products and manufacturing.

    Campaining for sustainable agriculture by rejecting genetically engineered organisms, protecting biodiversity and encouraging socially responsible farming.

    more here.

    Thanks,

    Dave Walsh

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