I went to see How to Change the World, the documentary about the history of Greenpeace, on Wednesday 9th September at Brixton Ritzy.

Today seems like a good day to finally get round to writing about it because this morning I woke up to a better and greener world. I woke up, dreading the monday ahead of me, to this piece of news: Shell abandons Alaska Arctic drilling. I’ve been smiling all day.

Here’s a photo of Aurora, I went to visit the majestic beast outside Shell HQ on Friday night…

Greenpeace - Aurora outside Shell HQ

She’ll be heading home tomorrow morning after a sweet victory for the #SaveTheArctic and  #ShellNo campaign.

Although the news seems to highlight that the reason for Shell’s turn-around was economical due to the fact that it’s simply not financially viable to drill in the Arctic having not discovered sufficient amounts of oil and gas (in what Carbon Tracker has called ‘a win for common sense’), The Guardian noted that ‘Shell has made it privately clear that it is taken aback by the public protests against the drilling’. People Power has undoubtedly played a part in this victory. And it’s people power and specifically direct action that Greenpeace was built upon.

Bob Hunter, the founding father of Greenpeace, liked to say: ‘Put your body where your mouth is.’ That’s just what the first members did when first trying to get the movement off the ground. There was no Twitter or change.org to hide behind – they had to get out there and get their hands dirty.

Jerry Rothwell’s How to Change the World is not supposed to be a tribute. In fact, in the Live Q&A that followed, Rothwell mentioned that he’s never been an active supporter of Greenpeace or any sort of environmental activist. It was the internal politics of the movement that interested him over anything else. I think this non-biased approach worked to paint a three-dimensional picture of movement that might have been otherwise lost in a rose-tinted glow if the film had been left to an eco-warrior-at-heart. I had no idea about the friendship breakdowns and conflicting ideas that helped form the Greenpeace we know today and I found it fascinating.

I found the film particularly hard-hitting because it starts off in the thick of Vancouver’s hippy movement, lulling the audience into a false sense of hilarity with psychedelic visuals alluding to the experimental drug-taking which its founding members took a liking to, but then it steadily gets more and more serious and dark.

The bit about the seal campaign really got me blubbing. The film shows some really graphic original footage of seal cub clubbing and some heart-breaking images of mother seals running after their dead babies, as they’re dragged across the ice bleeding, crying in panic and terror. I went out for lunch with my sister this week, and when she asked how the film had been, I described that scene to her and then, unexpectedly and rather embarassingly, I burst into tears all over again. Her eyes welled up too (we’re both such sensitive souls).

Anyway, you should all see the film. I’m going to have a good night’s sleep hopefully full of polar bear and seal cub dreams.


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