I started law school in 1972. I wasn’t sure I wanted to be a lawyer, but due to an unfortunate lack of imagination I couldn’t think of anything better. My father encouraged me, as he would like to have been a Supreme Court justice, but to me the law was a matter of complete indifference. While I counted the weeks until graduation, still three years away, my classmates gradually transformed themselves into baby lawyers, showing up in three-piece suits indicating they had gotten jobs working as clerks in downtown San Francisco firms with long impressive names. A world of plodding conventionality, punctuality and dependability that I certainly was not made for. As to what I would do when I graduated I hadn’t a clue, but probably my mind was on other things. I would deal with the future when it arrived.
During my first year I left my first wife, Christine. During my second year I married my second wife, Carol. My grades were passable, but I decided that for my third and final year I would make amends. The secret to success was simple: attend every lecture and take copious notes. I took very good notes, got the highest grade in two of my classes, and finished the year in the top five percent. But it turned out that was not the secret to success in finding a job. I discovered too late that if you did not already have multiple offers well before graduation you were considered a failure and unemployable. And those offers were based on your record in the first two years and on the contacts you made clerking and interviewing during that time, none of which I did.
Not totally discouraged, I spent the summer of ’75 studying for the bar exam, which I passed easily, and sending out a few resumes, none of which generated much excitement. I did get one interview with a small firm in San Diego. We drove all the way down from Berkeley with great optimism. “You won’t be on the market much longer!” Carol exclaimed. I put on the same suit I had worn to our wedding and set out from our Travelodge motel for the interview, feeling a bit of panic as if I was going to get married again. The lawyer who interviewed me was nice enough. His hobby was flying airplanes, and I pretended to be interested. I also pretended to like San Diego, and to want a career with a good firm where I could someday become a partner. Then he sprang the question: “Do people take you seriously?” he asked, “or do they sometimes look at you and think you must just be kidding?” A little nonplussed, I had to admit that I sometimes had that problem.
Eventually I landed a job working for a lawyer in downtown San Francisco. He hired me because I could type, and the job required a lot of typing. My first project was to prepare over a hundred complaints. This was before the days of computers so instead he had stacks of forms for the various situations that arose: car hits car, car hits pedestrian, car hits house. I had to review the file, select the right form and fill in the blanks. His clients were insurance companies who hoped he could recover for them a portion of what they paid out in claims. This was called “subrogation,” an obscure specialty that had never even been mentioned in law school.
When I first showed up for work I was impressed with the appearance of efficiency and prosperity. There was an office manager, a receptionist/secretary, a bookkeeper, and a part time “default clerk” who spent all her time taking defaults of defendants who didn’t bother to file a response when sued (most of them didn’t). But a few weeks after starting I came in one day to find he had fired everyone but me.
My employer was not a terribly brilliant lawyer, but had learned to bluster his way through and win by persistence—the American way. After I finished filing the hundred complaints I started drafting pleadings and making court appearances. I enjoyed the challenge of untangling the intricacies of civil procedure, but was well-aware that subrogation was the lowest rung on the litigation ladder. I was making $5 an hour with no prospect for advancement. Fantasizing that if I had my own clients I could charge much more, I had cards and letterhead printed, but of course I had no clients. Then one day, alone in the office with the radio on, I heard an interview with Byrd Baker, an anti-whaling activist, talking about the upcoming Greenpeace campaign to save the whales. Moved by the thought of these people who, rather then spending their time filling in the blanks in subrogation complaints, were venturing onto the high seas in rubber rafts to confront the whaler’s harpoon, I called and left a message volunteering my services.
Up to that point the decade of the 70’s had seemed a bit depressing after the excitement of the 1960’s, which I had spent pursuing the glittering temptations of the Berkeley counterculture. I had been a freshman when the Free Speech Movement rocked the Berkeley campus, getting arrested with Mario Savio in the famous sit-in in Sproul Hall. In 1967 during the Summer of Love I hung out at the Fillmore auditorium and other venues of the flower children listening raptly to the likes of Jimi Hendrix, The Who, Jim Morrison and The Doors, and was introduced to pot and LSD, which I imagined to be a magical gateway to liberation and transcendence. But soon the youthful energy and idealism unleashed in the 60’s dissipated, spent in opposing the nightmare of the Vietnam war and fighting its own demons, to be replaced by Watergate, gas lines, recession, inflation, hostage crises, disco music and the general spiritual malaise of the 1970’s. It seemed there were no great causes or movements left to capture my fancy. Besides, I was married and supposedly trying, half-heartedly, to construct a middle class existence.
But there was one bright spot: a colorful mixture of traditional peace activists and idealistic counterculture characters from Vancouver who had gotten together to start an environmental movement called Greenpeace. Sparked by opposition to U.S. nuclear testing in Alaska—the spectre that haunted the baby boom generation—their first endeavor was to sail a small boat into the test zone near Amchitka Island as a protest in the nonviolent Quaker tradition. The boat never made it and the tests were cancelled, but soon the scene shifted to the South Pacific where the French were conducting their own nuclear tests at Moruroa. David McTaggart, a former builder and promoter of ski resorts from Vancouver whose hand seemed to have played out in that field and had left it all behind for a life sailing the high seas, happened to be in the area and responded to an ad placed by Greenpeace looking for volunteers to stage a protest. The French were none too pleased and during his second voyage into the test zone in 1973 commandos boarded his boat and beat him severely. McTaggart moved to France to pursue a lawsuit against the French government and began sowing the seeds of a Greenpeace organization in Europe.
After the French tests were cancelled new causes emerged: the killing of whales by the Soviet fleet in the Pacific and the annual slaughter of harp seals on the ice floes off Newfoundland. In the summer of 1975 Greenpeace attracted worldwide attention when a Soviet ship fired a harpoon over the heads of its protestors who were in a small rubber Zodiac trying vainly to protect a sperm whale from its pursuers. Bob Hunter, Greenpeace’s spiritual leader and media strategist, believed this would be the searing image—the media “mind bomb,” he called it—that planted in the world’s consciousness would lead to a fundamental change of attitude towards the environment. His ideas of social change were borrowed from Isaac Asimov’s science fiction classic, The Foundation Trilogy, and in honor thereof Greenpeace became the Greenpeace Foundation. When groups of supporters began to organize in far-flung places, they couldn’t have been more pleased. The tribe would expand, and the newcomers would channel their enthusiasm into raising money that would funnel up to the tribal elders in Vancouver to support the ever-expanding Greenpeace agenda.
To encourage their growth in the fertile United States, Hunter and his wife Bobbi visited the newly opened San Francisco office in the spring of 1976. One item on their agenda was to incorporate Greenpeace in this country and apply for tax-exempt status, and for that a lawyer was needed. Going through the messages left at the San Francisco office on Second Street in the trendy but still inexpensive south-of-Market area, Bobbi spotted one from a lawyer. The name—Tussman—sounded vaguely familiar. One of the elders from Vancouver, Rod Marining, had spent his senior year at Simon Fraser University studying the writings of an obscure American political philosopher from Berkeley named Joseph Tussman, who happened to be my father. His first book, Obligation and the Body Politic, discussed the role of the citizen in a democracy. Tussman argued that our political system had been corrupted by the competitive model of the marketplace. Citizens in a democracy, being in fact the ultimate authority, had a higher obligation than to use the political process to pursue their own selfish ends, or the ends of some group or constituency of which they happened to be a member. One should base political decisions not on what is best for one’s private interests, but what is best for the community as a whole. Such ideas were not terribly popular with students at Berkeley—they were cynical about the political process and were only interested in how it could be manipulated to achieve revolutionary change. But my father’s idealism did appeal to a tribal consciousness where wise elders would get together, deliberate, and arrive at solutions. Rod had described these ideas to the elders, who agreed they suggested the correct governing principle for a voluntary organization such as Greenpeace.
With all this in mind—or perhaps not—Bobbi picked up the phone and gave me a call inviting me over to the San Francisco office to discuss how I could help. I was thrilled. Bobbi turned out to be a simple, shy, quiet girl who spoke in the endearing Canadian accent, soon to become so familiar, in which most sentences end in “eh?” She introduced me to the others in the office, local Greenpeace supporters who I would work with in her absence. Bobbi went back to Vancouver and I enthusiastically set about incorporating the group with the ambitious name Greenpeace Foundation of America. Three of the local members served as the incorporators: Marion Yasinitsky, the motherly office csar, Al “Jet” Johnson, a dashing American Airlines pilot with Robert Redford looks, and Gary Zimmerman.
Gary was president of the local group. He couldn’t have cared less about tribal rituals, honoring elders, or the obligations of a tribal member. He was an engineer who just wanted to use his expertise to go out and save whales. Along the way he would organize Greenpeace in America and raise money to support the effort. He was an American and this was a democracy, not a tribe. So what if the Vancouver group could articulate with such eloquence the apocalyptic neo-Luddite vision, then common among environmentalists, that technology-dependent western civilization was about to collapse, leaving it to the Greenpeace navy to sail the seas protecting the planet from greed and destruction? It seemed like the Vancouver bunch was busier talking than saving whales. Results—the body count of whales saved—were what mattered, and while Vancouver talked whales were busy being killed! There were plenty who sympathized with those views, including a renegade faction in Vancouver led by Paul Watson. Paul had developed a more radical activist philosophy that he called—without a trace of irony—“aggressive nonviolence.” Soon to be expelled from Greenpeace for his provocative actions during a protest of the harp seal hunt, he started his own organization and would travel the world sinking whaling ships, getting things done, and speaking out against the do-nothing Greenpeacers who he seemed to loathe as viscerally as the whale killers themselves.
Shortly after we became acquainted Gary began paying regular visits to my office on Montgomery Street. He thought he had a mandate from the Vancouver founders to make the San Francisco office into an autonomous umbrella organization for Greenpeace in the United States (by this time, independent groups were springing up in places such as Seattle, Portland, Eugene, Los Angeles, Santa Cruz, San Diego, Boston and Hawaii). But now, he complained, Vancouver was trying to sabotage and undermine his efforts. I was not aware of the substantiation for his grandiose claim of authority, and certainly the other U.S. groups were none too thrilled about it. Innocently, it had been my suggestion that it would be easier if the U.S. legal entity were structured as an independent group so that in applying for tax-exempt status it would not appear that it was controlled by a foreign organization. I had not foreseen the need to draft documents recognizing in Vancouver some form of ultimate control over the use of the Greenpeace name—it was all just one big family, or so I thought. That oversight would have fateful consequences for the future of Greenpeace.
I listened patiently to Gary, musing that all this was just normal internal politics for a group filled with people with abnormal egos.
On one occasion Gary wondered out loud, “What side are you on?” I wasn’t on any side, since I liked everybody. When the Greenpeace ship James Bay docked in San Francisco in July 1976 on its way out for the second annual anti-whaling mission, I was awestruck. This was the most inspiring group of people I had ever met. They were on a life or death mission to save the whales and ultimately the planet, and they radiated camaraderie, humor, and love. There was Bob Hunter, gaunt and intense with an electric intelligence and wit, ready to lose his sanity on a moments notice; Pat Moore, the PhD ecologist, pudgy and professorial, much the opposite of Hunter; Paul Spong, the passionate whale researcher whose love for his subjects seemed almost physical. There were only occasional signs of dissension. At a meeting on the boat Paul Watson, wearing a Palestinian headdress in protest of the Israeli raid on Entebbe, refused to sign a release for the making of a movie based on the Greenpeace story. Bob Hunter had earlier sold the rights to an outfit from New York called AEC after meeting with its agent, Amy Ephron, in a bar. Amy had flown out from New York to meet the ship to get everyone to sign releases, driving up in a limousine wearing a short black dress with a gaping round hole in the back, an apparition from another world. For the next couple of years Greenpeace would be a colossal pain in her neck, and the movie would never be made.
There were also people I liked in the San Francisco office. One of them was Cindy Baker. She had been hired by Gary Zimmerman for the position of “Regional Coordinator.” Originally from the Greenpeace Portland office, her job was now to tell the Oregon Greenpeacers, and everyone else in the U.S., that they were branch offices of Greenpeace Foundation of America headquartered in San Francisco. Needless to say, her former friends in Oregon wanted nothing to do with that. During the spring of ‘77, when Greenpeace was between campaigns, we became friends, going out for frozen yogurt (or Jack Daniels, her favorite drink) to discuss Greenpeace politics and her frustrations with this and that. Cindy didn’t take kindly to frustration. She was on a mission, made more urgent by the fact that, only in her mid 20’s, she was dying of cancer. She had just completed chemotherapy treatments and now she dedicated every ounce of her considerable energy to Greenpeace. I had a crush on Cindy, but Cindy wasn’t interested in me because she was interested in Gary Zimmerman. That, however, inspired a way for me to demonstrate my devotion.
A group of Greenpeace supporters, helped by Vancouver, had organized in Hawaii and purchased a former U.S. Navy sub chaser renamed the Ohana Kai that they were outfitting for their own voyage to save the whales. Gary was in Hawaii to help them and hadn’t seen Cindy in some time. I dreamt up the idea of treating Cindy to a trip to Hawaii. She would get to experience the beauty of the islands, check up on the progress of the Ohana Kai, and not incidentally have a brief reunion with Gary. I also invited Carole Sears, a volunteer in the S.F. office, to tag along.
We flew to Honolulu sipping free champagne on Western Airlines and checked into a suite high on the 24th floor of the Sheraton Waikiki. Gary came over and we stood on the balcony marveling at the spectacular view of Diamond Head. He had been working nonstop on the Ohana Kai for days without bathing, and it showed. “Gary Zimmerman, I’m going to have to report you to the sanitation department!” Cindy exclaimed, as they departed to attend a Greenpeace Hawaii meeting. Carole and I stayed behind and strolled around the beach watching the glorious sunset.
The next day we paid a visit to the Ohana Kai, then in the final stages of preparation for its voyage to confront the Russian whaling fleet. Hard at work on the deck I spotted a young blonde girl in overalls who looked up and smiled at me; at least, so I imagined. Her name was Debbie Jayne, I would later learn.
Then the four of us flew over to Maui, rented a car, and drove down the long winding road to Hana. We rented a suite at the Hana Kai Hotel where Cindy enjoyed a night alone with Gary. I could hear them laughing in the bedroom next door as I lay listening to the crashing surf from Hana Bay outside the window.
On our return to San Francisco Cindy, who had taken over running the San Francisco office, decided it was time to add me to the Board of Directors, probably because she thought I would go along with her wishes and vote to get rid of her nemesis, Bob Taunt, also known by his full name of Robert O. Taunt, III. Taunt was a newcomer to Greenpeace who offered to organize a benefit concert but rapidly got involved in substantive campaigns. He was smart, confident, eloquent, outgoing, and ambitious—but perceived by many as pompous, elitist and harboring suspect motives. Beneath that eboullient exterior lurked a hint of tragedy. He had worked in the California state legislature, had a healthy interest in politics, and had devoted a good deal of energy to opposing the Vietnam War. He also had a taste for the finer things in life, something which I found appealing but might have offended some elements in Greenpeace. When he joined the voyage of the James Bay he showed up with several trunks filled with clothes and expensive camera gear. While this clash in lifestyles might appear to be trivial, on another level Bob wanted Greenpeace to be taken seriously, and he understood the importance of image. The typical scruffy unwashed Greenpeacer was unlikely to be welcomed in the corridors of power.
At my first board meeting Marion Yasinitsky presented a motion thanking Bob for his media work on the spring seal campaign but ejecting him from the board. Bob was flabbergasted. Everyone seemed in favor of the motion but no one could articulate a good reason. One couldn’t just say that he was a little too elitist or that people didn’t like his arrogance and ambition, or that he just didn’t fit the Greenpeace image with his trunks filled with Nikons and Hasselblads. Or that he had made the mistake after a few too many Jack Daniels of confiding to Cindy that he was soon going to be president of Greenpeace Foundation of America. Cindy, of course, was perfectly happy with the current president. I failed to speak up in his defense. Perhaps I hadn’t found my voice yet, or perhaps I didn’t want to betray Cindy. The motion carried.
Besides being someone Cindy could depend on, my main project was to apply for tax-exempt status so Greenpeace could qualify to receive tax-deductible contributions. At first the application was denied because the Northern California office of the IRS did not believe that Greenpeace’s confrontational tactics were a legitimate charitable activity. I drafted an appeal outlining the evolution of the concept of charity, arguing that Greenpeace’s activities were fully consistent with the classical definition. The application was to drag on for two years, requiring a trip by me to Washington to argue the case at the national office of the IRS. Eventually it was granted quietly, possibly so as not to set any kind of precedent. Those Greenpeacers seem okay, they probably reasoned, but the next group might not be so harmless. (Ironically, a few years later Greenpeace decided to dispense with its hard won 501(c)(3) status so that it could engage in lobbying and other forms of political activity, mundane endeavors that hardly appealed to anyone in the early years of Greenpeace.)
Meanwhile, a plan I had nursed for some time was becoming a reality. To jump-start my legal career I had applied to the graduate program in tax law at New York University. Although the fall semester was still several months away, I resigned my subrogation job, stating that I was leaving “to pursue other interests”—I had heard that expression somewhere before and always hoped I would have a chance to use it myself. My “other interest” was to spend the summer volunteering full-time for Greenpeace.
Soon the Ohana Kai would venture out on the first anti-whaling voyage not organized and run by Vancouver. They found the Soviet fleet, but there were no whales around. A small party of Greenpeacers decided to board the huge factory ship, driving their Zodiac up the slipway where the whales were hauled to be butchered. They distributed buttons and leaflets in Russian to the surprised crew. ABC Sports had paid to place a film crew and helicopter aboard the ship and produced a special that was shown as an episode of their “American Sportsman” series.
Crippled by mechanical and other other problems, the Ohana Kai limped back to Honolulu. Its crew was eager to go back out for another try with the Russians and its captain, a powerful and gruff Czech by the name of George Korotva, seemed to be in favor. He was a mysterious character, claiming he had escaped from a Soviet prison and made his way across Siberia, winding up in Vancouver where he had helped on several earlier Greenpeace voyages. While the ship was in port in Honolulu he suddenly showed up in San Francisco, where he had a change of heart about another voyage. Doubtless he had somewhere he wanted to be, and that somewhere was not on the Ohana Kai. I heard him on the phone yelling at his crew for being so foolhardy. The voice on the other end was Dexter Cate of the Hawaii office, who for once seemed at a loss for words. But Cindy Baker was convinced the ship should sail instead for San Francisco. She had secret plans to use it to undertake a campaign against tuna boats from San Diego whose nets were entangling and killing dolphins. She placed an ad to locate a captain willing to pilot the boat to SF, and together we drove over to the No Name Bar in Sausalito to interview a candidate. A young looking 38, he was handsome and clean cut (unlike the crew he was about to lead), and he good-naturedly agreed to the assignment. As Cindy and I drove back to the city we couldn’t help chuckling over how our young new captain was in for an experience he could not quite imagine. Nonetheless, the boat made it to San Francisco where it became the derelict waterfront home of assorted Greenpeacers, destined never to sail again.
That summer the James Bay also saw action, so for a time Greenpeace had two vessels patrolling the Pacific, the beginnings of its global navy. When the James Bay stopped for refueling in San Francisco a benefit concert was hastily arranged at Pier 33 where the ship was docked. Jerry Garcia with some of the Grateful Dead and the singer Maria Muldaur performed. It was a beautiful day and the James Bay, flags waving in the breeze, rocked dramatically back and forth behind the stage while the music poured forth in the bright sunlight. It was a magical moment, highlighted by the fact that it marked the beginning of my brief fling with Judy Johnson, the new office manager who had just been hired by Cindy. Judy invited me over to her apartment where I wound up spending the night.
The next morning I dragged myself home to Berkeley where Carol awaited. I explained that I had drunk too much at the concert and fallen asleep on the James Bay where there were no telephones to call her. She probably didn’t believe it but was unable to shake my story. It was but another reason for her to resent my involvement with Greenpeace. But she could understand the attraction. One evening I took her over to Bob Taunt’s where we passed the time drinking and playing darts with Bob and a couple of friends. We were having a splendid time. Carol turned to me and exclaimed, “No wonder you hang out here all the time, its so much more fun than being at home!” Then, having had a bit too much to drink, she ran to the bathroom and threw up.
When September came Carol and I rented out our house in Berkeley, packed up some things, and flew off to New York for my year at NYU. But when I got in line to register every cell in my body cried out in revulsion—how could I have forgotten how much I hated school! I stuck it out for a week or so. We looked around half-heartedly for an apartment, finding that New York was a crumbling city in decay. There was no construction going on, everything was grubby and dirty, and the subways weren’t even air conditioned yet. New Yorkers couldn’t have cared less about the environment or about saving whales. It was all they could do to survive another day. Eventually I got up the courage to go into the registrar’s office and withdraw. I said I had been offered a job back home, and after consulting with my family had decided to take it. The dean was incensed—I had wasted one of the most coveted spots in any American graduate school. We rented a car, checked out of the Americana Hotel, drove up through Harlem and out of New York. After a brief tour of New England to see the autumn leaves we flew back home.
My story about the job had not been too far from the truth. Upon my return, Cindy put me on the Greenpeace payroll at the standard rate of $80 per week. Since our house was rented out for the year, Carol and I had to find another place to live. I wanted to be in San Francisco, preferably in Pacific Heights where I could be close to the new Greenpeace office in Fort Mason. Carol, who until now had gone along with everything I did, almost put her foot down when she saw the awful green shag carpeting in the flat I located in an old Victorian on Octavia street. Even on that she soon relented, but things were not auspicious for the future of our relationship. I had almost left several times but hadn’t gotten up the courage. I liked Carol and there was no real reason we couldn’t stay together, except for the fact that married life felt like a death sentence and I needed to experience something new and exciting.
The end came on Halloween night, 1977. Upon returning from New York I had reconnected with Judy Johnson. She had been invited to a Halloween party in Berkeley and invited me to tag along. That seemed new and exciting enough, so that day I told Carol I didn’t want to be married anymore. Judy and I went to the party, but they were all young college kids who were about as uninterested in me as I was in them. I didn’t talk to a soul.
After that Judy and I never really got serious. We went to bars after work at Greenpeace and drank Irish coffees, but that was about it. Carol soon moved out. After the breakup she commented wistfully, “Didn’t you want to have a life like my parents?” I thought in horror of her father, wasting his entire life running the hardware store he had inherited, and her mother, a pampered suburban housewife who ran everything else. For now, I wanted to have fun, and Greepeace, among other things, was a lot of fun.
One person who seemed to know how to have fun was Bob Taunt. Although fired by the San Francisco office, the Vancouver group wasn’t about to let him go. It was his connections, despite a number of cover stories, that provided Greenpeace with the coordinates of the Russian whaling fleets in the Pacific. He had Walter Cronkite’s home phone number, was friends with California Governor Jerry Brown and Congressman Leo Ryan, and was about the only U.S. Greenpeacer that Vancouver felt was a real asset to the cause. Although officially he had little connection with the San Francisco office, his Liberty Street flat in the Noe Valley neighborhood became something of an alternative Greenpeace nerve center. Here, as wherever Greenpeacers gathered, there was much drinking, flirting, and mostly innocent good times. From my perspective, everyone involved seemed sincere, honest and well-intentioned—or was I just a bit innocent and naive?
As fall of 1977 turned to winter, things began to change at the San Francisco Greenpeace office. Gary Zimmerman had had enough and faded away, eventually moving to France to marry a woman he had met on the Ohana Kai. Cindy Baker’s body had had enough and she returned home to Oregon where she died a few weeks later. There was no longer a president of Greenpeace Foundation of America, nor was there anyone eager to fill the position. I moved into Cindy Baker’s old office and became what I called, tentatively, the “Acting Executive Director.” But in reality I didn’t dare exert too much authority. There were too many people watching me suspiciously.
Feeling the need to clean up the organizational mess resulting from Greenpeace’s undisciplined growth, Vancouver called a meeting and invited representatives from all the Greenpeace offices, large and small, to attend. It was held at the home of Bill Gannon in the Kitsilano neighborhood of Vancouver. Bill was an intense young accountant who had drafted the infamous ABC system of accounting which Vancouver sought to impose upon all Greenpeace offices, whereby a third of each group’s income would be remitted to Vancouver. The meeting started on a tentative note, but as things went on a sense of camaraderie evolved. Things got so spirited that when it came time for me to leave to catch my flight back to San Francisco, I slipped out unnoticed so as not to interrupt the flow.
A group photo of the first International meeting in October 1977, with the Vancouver skyline in the background, taken across the street from the home of Bill Gannon. Top row standing, left to right: Al Johnson, John Frizell, Caroline Keddy, Bill Gannon, Patty and Dan McDermott, Dino Pignataro, unk, Linda Spong, Eileen Moore, Michael Manolson, John Cormack, Pat Moore. Seated, left to right: David McTaggart, David (Walrus) Garrick, Charlotte Funston, Dan Ebberts, Bruce Hoeft, Michael Bailey, Dexter Cate, Gretchen (from GP Hawaii), Rod Marining, Campbell Plowden (behind Marining), unk, Carlie Trueman, Bob Hunter, Sue White, Cindy Baker, Margaret Tilbury, Nancy Jack, Don White. Photo © Greenpeace Photo.
As a result of the meeting a so-called Advisory Committee on International Governance (ACIG) was formed to draft proposals for an international structure to be presented to a second meeting to be held in January 1978. Bob Taunt was named chair. Other members included Margaret Tilbury from Oregon, Carlie Trueman and Bill Gannon from Vancouver, and myself. We met half a dozen times, alternating between Taunt’s San Francisco flat and Gannon’s house in Kitsilano. Each Greenpeace office contributed towards our expense account, which included steak dinners at Hy’s and salmon at Mukluk in Vancouver, and numerous gin fizzes at the Buena Vista Café in San Francisco (where Bob Taunt got into a heated discussion with the manager over the quality of his fizz). On one visit to Vancouver we got to watch as Bob Hunter, in his capacity as a self-proclaimed minister, presided over the wedding of Pat and Eileen Moore beside a stream in the backyard of Hunter’s house. But we really had no idea what a complex task we faced. Greenpeace was attempting to institutionalize what had been the spontaneous inspiration of a small group of people: applying nonviolent direct action tactics to stop environmental outrages. Up until this point, Greenpeace had really been a series of environmental campaigns in search of an organization. Now the reverse was true; it was becoming an organization in search of campaigns. It had been relatively easy to sail into a nuclear test zone or get in front of a whaler’s harpoon—these were convenient and obvious targets—but stopping the more devastating and pervasive environmental degradation going on in every corner of the planet was not so simple and didn’t lend itself well to Greenpeace’s roughshod tactics. Greenpeace would need new targets and new strategies to feed its ever-growing momentum, and it needed an organization and leadership to direct its energies.
Those who gathered in Vancouver in January were a wildly diverse group, consisting of factions within factions. San Francisco alone had three distinct groups. There were the elitist “executives” from the headquarters office at Building 240 Fort Mason, of which I was obviously a member. They counted the money and controlled access to the telex machine. The “grassroots” element—called “the yahoos” by some—occupied a second building at Fort Mason. They included the foot soldiers who went out everyday to raise money by selling merchandise or soliciting door-to-door donations. The star was Neil Tauss, a bare-chested ball of energy who set up a table everyday at Fisherman’s Wharf, sold t-shirts, and raked in a fortune. Many of them worked on environmental issues on their own, with little input or guidance from the executives. The third group consisted of those who lived and hung out on the Ohana Kai. They were the dreamers, an assortment of free-spirited Greenpeacers from all over. The boat had become a minor tourist attraction and offered tours during the day and communal meals at night. Even San Francisco’s poet laureate, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, showed up regularly.
Of course, on a more profound level, Greenpeace was not really very diverse at all. For the most part, everyone was young, white, middle-class, reasonably well-educated—baby boomers who had survived the 1960’s with their idealism intact, and a younger contingent who had just discovered their idealism. There was a generation gap between Greepeacers and the old guard of the environmental movement represented by groups such as the Sierra Club and Friends of the Earth. The old guard resented Greenpeace for the undeserved amount of attention it received based mainly on its skill at media manipulation. There was also a gap between traditional social activists who focused on human needs and this wild bunch of hippie eco-warriors sailing off to save the planet. Once at a dinner given by Congressman Leo Ryan I sat with a group of Greenpeacers at one table; a group of women who ran a program to feed the needy sat at another. I couldn’t help noticing how the two were worlds apart. Saving the planet? Suddenly it all seemed a bit pompous, grandiose, narcissistic. In a world of celebrity, we were celebrity environmentalists. Sure, seals were cute and furry, whales were big and majestic, but right here in Leo Ryan’s own affluent district were people who didn’t get enough to eat.
Diverse or not, all these factions within the Greenpeace universe had representatives, some accredited and some not, at the meeting. In fact, it was apparent that many of the people present were not officially recognized “delegates” from established Greenpeace offices. Some had just shown up on their own, hoping to be in on the party, or hoping their input could be heard. This issue was resolved by basically deciding that anyone who had been able to scrape together airfare to Vancouver could take part in the founding of Greenpeace International.
Many expressed reticence about creating any kind of structure at all, fearing that “grassroots input” would be ignored. David Garrick, a long-time Vancouver activist who was not part of the Vancouver “elite”, announced he was boycotting the meeting for this reason. When others begged him to stay, he relented, if only so he could “use the xerox machine.” Others were impatient that progress was being held up based on what seemed to be petty parochial concerns. “I move we get on with the revolution!” Bob Hunter urged. “But it feels like we’re taking a big leap into the dark,” Nancy Foote from San Francisco protested. “How about leaping into the light!” Eileen Moore retorted.
Glaringly absent was anyone from Greenpeace groups outside of North America. David McTaggart, leader of Greenpeace Europe, which was really only beginning to organize itself, appeared for the first day but in an unofficial capacity. He made it clear that Europe was not ready or willing to participate in our process. “I don’t want to step on anyone’s little knackers,” he apologized in his typically polite but dismissive manner. But we should organize North America first, he insisted, before we presumed to organize the world.
Nonetheless, good feelings abounded as the meeting got under way. Space had been rented at a conference center on the grounds of the University of British Columbia. Two tall totem poles stood guard outside. A camera crew from the local media showed up the first day for interviews. Bob Taunt took his place at the head of the gathering, seated in folding chairs arranged in a rectangle. “My name is Bob Taunt, and I’m from San Francisco,” he began, with his usual sense of drama. Over the next four days he gently prodded the group towards accepting the creation of an international Greenpeace entity to coordinate activities and impose a minimum of accountability. It was finally agreed to establish a governing board consisting of seven representatives, each of which had to receive the vote of two thirds of the delegates and no more than two of which could be from any one office. On the first ballot no one qualified, but on the second try I became the first person to be elected.
Then things began to get difficult. Two members from Vancouver were elected, but one of them was John Frizell, considered the leader of the rebel faction. With his hunched back, scraggly beard, nasal voice and disheveled appearance he was the antithesis of charisma. John wasn’t a bad person. He just wanted to save the planet, but the other Vancouverites wouldn’t let him; he wasn’t from their tribe. They loathfully referred to him as Gollom after the subterranean villain from Lord of the Rings, a traitor that had grown like a cancer in the tribal body. His election meant that out of seven board members the tribe would really have only one representative, Patrick Moore. It didn’t occur to the others, or even to me, that this would be a problem. Everyone was just voting for people they liked. Wasn’t this a democracy? Wasn’t Greenpeace a dream, and wasn’t it impossible to own a dream? Shouldn’t anyone who had the same dream have just as much a right to participate in it as anyone else? As the meeting got bogged down in trying the fill the last slot on the board various motions were floated to create an exception allowing Bob Hunter to have the final spot. They were all voted down Frustrated by the stalemate and worn out after taking fifteen ballots, Taunt called a break late in the afternoon.
When everyone returned, Hunter walked into the room dressed in black and looking angry. “I hope there are no alcoholic beverages in the room,” Taunt warned. That was the least of his worries. Hunter stood up to deliver what he described as a point of information. A quorum of the Vancouver board of directors had met during the recess, he announced, and had voted to remove John Frizell as a delegate, replacing him with John Cormack.
“Vancouver has a right to replace its delegates,” Taunt ruled. “John Cormack is now recognized as a voting delegate.”
Judith Watterson, a delegate from Portland, got up to announce she was withdrawing her status as a voting delegate in favor of Frizell, but Taunt ruled her action inappropriate unless a quorum of the Portland board had made that decision.
“A further point of information,” Hunter continued. “Eight years ago we started off trying to do this trip. A lot of us have worked very, very hard. I know, everybody says that—four months, five months, four years, whatever! Well, we just had a counterrevolution in our group against a power takeover that happened last year. And so now we have on our board no less than five people who have been involved in Greenpeace for eight years, and we have a very well worked out relationship with each other and a very good group decision making mechanism. Now, we were operating on the principal that this Greenpeace thing should be international. We were strongly in favor of calling this gathering. We hoped that the family would expand. We’re opposed to the whole corporate power structure that’s responsible for killing this earth! They’re the ones who organize themselves according to power blocks instead of in any kind of organic tribal fashion. We were hoping we could transcend that level with this group. We acted on the advice of a poet named Allen Ginsburg who when we asked, ‘how do you deal with power?’ said, ‘you let it go before it freezes in your hand.’ Following that advice, Paul Spong went around, I went around, Bobbi went around, Pat Moore went around. A whole bunch of us went around and we kept saying ‘far out, start a Greenpeace group, lets go, lets move forward together.’ And we gave away and we gave away and we bent over backwards to the point where now we are lying on our backs with our legs spread and all we see is people who have been here for one month, four months, whatever, rejecting us as being more experienced or in any position as elders! John Frizell got voted in because he appeals to the disaffected. Well that’s fine! The point of information comes down to this: that’s it! We can’t take it any longer. Our analysis is, the way this international meeting is going we will have lost any serious input into Greenpeace whatsoever. We have no choice but to withdraw. We are pulling out. Pat Moore, our president, wants to stay and talk to people, but the rest of us, we’re fed up!”
Taunt listened with a dazed and bewildered look. “Mr. Hunter, you’re out of order!” he interjected, prompting someone to call for a motion to overrule the chair, while others simply cried, “Let him speak!”
“Now, I have as much respect for Bob Hunter as I have for myself,” Taunt resumed, “and that’s a lot of respect! But this process has been democratic. I’m sorry if some people’s sensibilities have been hurt, but we all feel that something has to be done to move Greenpeace towards an international emphasis. I don’t want to see this organization run into the gutter any more than anyone else.”
Hunter continued. “Look we are trying to be responsible to a very heavy responsibility. I’m not going to accept, none of us are going to accept anything that lessens the seriousness with which we take that responsibility. The reality of the matter is, by the law of prior usage we own the name Greenpeace. We’ve been trying to give it away in a graceful fashion and instead we are finding people grabbing for too much of that power too soon on the basis of unilateral individual actions and parochial concerns. We all see the small games going on here, we all do! The decision of our board is irrevocable. We are leaving. You can talk to Pat, but the way this situation is going down, we just can’t hack it!” Hunter and the rest of the Vancouver group got up and walked out, leaving Patrick Moore to reason with the infidels.
There were cries and sobs and sad speeches from those who remained. “What do you really want, Patrick?” Debbie Jayne demanded. Like most there, she saw the walkout as a bit of street theater designed to pressure the others into acceding to some petulant demand—more power politics. Patrick sat thoughtfully, then admitted he wasn’t really sure what they wanted. If he didn’t know, then certainly no one else did.
One by one, the remaining delegates spoke. Throughout the four days I had remained quiet, speaking only when called upon by Taunt to give my thoughts on some point under debate. But when it came my turn the room fell unusually silent. Partly it was curiosity, because I had spoken so little, but I believed, not entirely presumptuously, that most there liked and respected me and would have valued my opinion. I didn’t know what to say, but I had to say something. “I’ve been involved in Greenpeace for over a year and a half,” I began, unaware of the irony in that statement in light of Hunter’s sarcastic remarks. “I became part of this committee because I hoped we could organize an international structure that would help Greenpeace be more effective. Vancouver has walked out because they didn’t like the way things were going, but it is not appropriate for us to give in to pressure tactics. It is sad that it has come to this, but all we can do at this point is go back to our respective offices and continue our work for Greenpeace.” Perhaps there could have been a way to salvage things, but it was late Sunday, everyone was tired and had plane reservations home, and as McTaggart had warned, Greenpeace was just not ready.
The meeting broke up and most of us returned to the Hotel Silvia, home to the out-of-town delegates, where chaos reigned. Hunter showed up and met with Taunt and I in a closet in our room. There was no talk of any solution.
“I remember,” Hunter mused, “when I once took a workshop in Gestalt Therapy from Fritz Perls when he was living on Vancouver Island. He came up to me during a break and asked, ‘How many of the people in this room are really going to get what this is all about?’ ‘Not very many,’ I replied.”
Taunt nodded in agreement. The rabble was swirling about outside, and in their ignorance the fragile dream of Greenpeace was being ripped apart. This was fate. Let something beautiful into the world and it would be defiled, not as much by its opponents as by those who believed but understood not. The yahoos would win out. No more would Greenpeace be guided by a tribal clan gathered in a circle consulting the I Ching. The center could no longer hold the energy that had been unleashed. Hunter’s idealistic, almost utopian vision of a Greenpeace organized on a tribal model had been cast aside with little reflection. The tribe had been replaced by the mob.
When I returned to San Francisco with the rest of the delegation we were greeted as heroes for standing firm against the Vancouver scoundrels—those “snakes in the grass,” as some called them. Jokes were made about the Vancouver tribe; they were incestuous and cult-like, it was noted, to the point that they all smelled alike. But beyond this parody they were in fact more normal than might be imagined. While the core did form a deeply cohesive group, most of them were married or partnered, many had children, and they were all perfectly capable of surviving without Greenpeace. Bob Hunter and Patrick Moore would remain married to Bobbie and Eileen for the rest of their lives and would raise families. In comparison the San Francisco group was rootless. Some of them would hook up from time to time with others in the office, but none of them were in serious long term relationships or had children. It was as if Greenpeace was a surrogate for normal family life, a refuge for lost souls, a place disconnected from reality.
As for myself, I emerged from all the turmoil with a single preoccupation. I had become enchanted with Debbie Jayne, one of the three delegates from the Hawaii office known collectively as Charlie’s Angels, all being female, young and beautiful. It became my obsession to reconnect with Debbie at all costs, and the opportunity soon presented itself. Debbie was organizing a fundraising walkathon in Hawaii scheduled for the end of February, and I arranged to go as an informal representative from the San Francisco office.
I flew in to Honolulu, rented a car and drove to the Royal Hawaiian Hotel, the Pink Palace of the Pacific. I left the car in front and went up to my room in the tower building where everything was soft and pink. The trade winds blew gently through the curtains of the balcony looking out to Diamond Head. If there was ever a perfect moment of anticipation this was it. The Angels had left a note at the front desk welcoming me. I called the Greenpeace office and they came over for a walk on the beach and a chi chi at the bar. Then Debbie and I went up alone to the room. She was soft and pink with long blond hair and shy playful eyes. We made love on the pink sheets strewn with petals from my fragrant leis of tuberose and plumeria.
Debbie left to complete her preparations for the walkathon, and I spent the evening alone savoring my bliss and having sushi across the street from the hotel. The next morning, feeling light as air, I ran the entire ten-kilometer walkathon route around Diamond Head, anticipating even greater delights to come: the Angels had arranged for Debbie to have a few well-deserved days of vacation, and she was going to accompany me on a sojourn to Maui. Clearly the gods were on my side.
One minor obstacle had to be brushed aside. Shortly after my arrival at the Pink Palace I began to be peppered with phone calls from Bob Hunter. Vancouver had decided to make another effort to resolve the international situation and Hunter was going to San Francisco in a day or two to meet with people there. Not knowing what he was up against, he urged me to fly back immediately for the meeting. I resisted heroically, and as arranged Debbie and I flew off to Maui in a Royal Hawaiian Cessna.
Nancy Jack, one of the Angels, had loaned us the use of her tiny little cottage in Lahaina. No bigger than a large closet, she called it the shoebox. We went to dinner at nearby Kimo’s on the water. Lahaina still had the feeling of a lazy south sea island port town, before it was to be totally ruined and overrun with tourists beginning in the 80’s. When I had first visited Maui in 1970 one felt part of a special elite for having discovered this secret paradise. Soon the secret would be out and middle-Americans would traipse over in droves from the mainland to “do Maui.” We sat looking over the water down the coast towards Kihei and Makena. It was a dark night and the stars twinkled above. I remembered sitting there several years earlier watching the flashes from navy test bombing of the island of Kahoolawe. But for me the real fireworks were yet to come—that night in the shoebox alone with Debbie.
The next day we flew off to the Big Island of Hawaii, driving down the coast to Kilauea. We rented a cottage at Volcano House, a small hotel perched on the rim of the crater where you could sit and watch steam rising from below. I bought a couple of bottles of Liebfraumilch, the only wine selection available, and we retired for a final night of frolic. The next day we flew back to Honolulu, where I boarded a jet for San Francisco. I hugged Debbie frantically as we said goodbye, got on the plane, and sat there in tears. The tourists seated around me looked tan and rested and ready to go home. They had had nice vacations, but I had been to paradise.
Shortly after my return Bob Hunter made his promised visit to San Francisco. It was all for naught. He made a brave appearance before the assembled staff and volunteers to give a speech of reconciliation, but he seemed pained and ill at ease. He had poured his heart, soul, and genius into the Greenpeace cause, yet all he could generate that day were blank stares from people who, like ungrateful children, couldn’t have cared less. After that he would slowly fade from involvement in Greenpeace, handing the baton to Patrick Moore. While Hunter, for all his faults, had been generally liked and admired—and worshipped by many—one could not say the same for Patrick. Patrick wanted to be liked, and I wanted to like him, but his overbearing manner sometimes made that difficult. Certainly he was not a very astute politician. Like Hunter, he must have been genuinely befuddled by the bloated entity calling itself Greenpeace that had taken root in San Francisco. While those who had given birth to the organization struggled to make ends meet in Vancouver, San Francisco seemed awash in money, but no one appeared to be in charge and it had no agenda or environmental campaigns it could call its own.
Patrick had accompanied Hunter to San Francisco, and presented a new formula for resolving the organizational mess. If a meeting could not come up with a solution, perhaps things could be resolved by fiat. He announced creation of an International Board of Trustees to oversee Greenpeace, and invited San Francisco to assume a couple of seats on the board, once it acknowledged Vancouver’s ownership of the Greenpeace name. San Francisco’s board was deadlocked until Gary Zimmerman, who most people had not seen a trace of for months, showed up to break the tie, voting against “not out of principle, but just for now,” whatever that meant. As a result, Patrick wrote a letter revoking San Francisco’s right to exist, which everyone promptly ignored. Equally ignored was the International Board of Trustees.
Attention shifted to the spring campaign against the Newfoundland harp seal hunt. Vancouver was beset by financial and political woes, and by bitter memories of the 1977 seal campaign when Paul Watson had gone rogue and Brigitte Bardot had been on the ice, creating something of a circus atmosphere. They were more than happy to hand off responsibility for the 1978 campaign to Bob Taunt, who began its planning and execution from his nerve center on Liberty Street, with assistance from myself and others in the San Francisco office. Since Vancouver was unable to fund his efforts, Taunt asked if I could arrange a salary from the San Francisco office. Wanting to make amends for not standing up for him when he was purged the year before, I took the matter to the board. Bob had requested $1,000 a month, a princely sum to most Greenpeacers. In a misguided effort to avoid making it an issue about Bob Taunt, I proposed that my salary also be raised to $1,000 and that Gary Young, Bob’s friend who worked as financial director, be increased to $800. This caused an outcry and polarized the office like nothing before. I argued that we needed to pay more realistic salaries to attract the kind of people who would be needed as Greenpeace grew. The proposal was approved in a raucous meeting, after which Dexter Cate, one of the leaders of the yahoos, confronted me. “Do you want my take on all this?” he demanded. “The least dedicated people in this office are now being paid the most money!”
Dexter had a point. Of course he was more dedicated. He would work day and night and risk life and limb for nothing if need be. And who was I anyway? Nobody had any idea what I was doing, or scheming, in my little office up in Building 240. I had demonstrated little interest in putting my own body on the line to save whales, or in trudging out onto the Newfoundland ice floes to face angry seal hunters wielding hakapiks. I hated boats. They made me seasick, and the idea of being in such cramped quarters with twenty or thirty other people was suffocating. As for the hakapiks, I avoided confrontation and probably would have wound up apologizing to the hunters for bothering them. Why should I get $1,000 a month in precious Greenpeace donations?
I also had something of an aversion to the extremely dedicated. They could be a little too earnest in their self-righteousness—or perhaps I just felt a bit intimidated in their presence. The Vancouverites were different. Certainly they were dedicated, but they also believed that saving the planet should be fun. They smoked, drank, and didn’t worry about their own purity or judge others by whether they were environmentally correct in every detail. The “dedicated” ones, by contrast, could sometimes lack a sense of humor and if they had any human foibles they tried their best to deny it. Once when Pat Moore was in San Francisco giving an impromptu seminar on ecological history, Neal Tauss jumped in with an unrelated question: “Man, how can you profess to be an environmentalist when you eat meat?” Neal’s main form of sustenance seemed to come from the endless boxes of carrots he juiced in the meeting room at Fort Mason. Patrick responded by arguing that from the standpoint of its environmental impact as a protein source meat had been given a bad rap (a stand which now seems dubious), but the gulf between them remained. I tried to avoid getting in the middle of such arguments so as not to expose my own ambivalence. I liked whales and seals but the scientific arguments that Greenpeace tried to mount, especially against the seal hunt, were often bogus and tended to stretch the truth. The appeal of Greenpeace’s position was emotional, not logical. I was not by any means an environmental extremist and had the unfortunate trait of feeling compassion for both sides of an argument—not the right attitude for someone who purported to be a lawyer.
And in any case, people like Dexter Cate never really thrived within the constrictive bureaucracy that Greenpeace was becoming. He went on to do great things on his own, being instrumental in protesting the wanton Japanese killing of dolphins later documented in the Oscar winning film The Cove, as did many other unsung heroes who, unlike Paul Watson, never got a reality show or millions in donations from Hollywood celebrities. (Sadly, Dexter would suffer an early death as the result of a diving accident in Hawaii in 1990.)
Once Bob had his salary, things got into high gear. The Canadian government launched a public relations campaign, sending a delegation to tour the US giving press conferences defending the hunt. Learning of this, Bob hustled off to New York to organize a counter press conference which he held at Essex House, and he began putting together a delegation including US Congressmen Leo Ryan and Jim Jeffords, actress Pamela Sue Martin from television’s Dynasty series and assorted others to go to the ice to witness and protest the hunt. The eccentric head of Oakland-based World Airways, Ed Daly, had volunteered to transport the entire group to Newfoundland in his private plane, which sat conspicuously parked at the entrance to the Oakland airport—the Flight to Save the Seals, it was to be officially billed. Paul Watson promptly announced to the media that Greenpeace had sold out to the CIA, based on allegations that Ed Daly had shadowy CIA connections, but in any case Daly backed out at the last minute, possibly due to pressure from the Canadian government. We scrambled to buy commercial airline tickets for everyone, all charged on my personal American Express card.
The grassroots element in San Francisco, working on a parallel but separate track, had a different vision of how the campaign should take shape. They had connected with a Native American medicine man from southern California named Grandfather Semu, who proposed to go to the ice and conduct a firestick ceremony on behalf of the seals. Taunt and I met with his emissary, Sacheen Littlefeather, whose claim to fame had been the fact that she had accepted Marlon Brando’s Oscar for The Godfather on his behalf the year he had boycotted the ceremony. But Grandfather Semu didn’t make it to Newfoundland; there were only so many seats on Daly’s plane, and they had been promised to the aformentioned politicos and celebrities.
Ready to board their flight to Newfoundland to protest the seal hunt. From left to right, Steve Bowerman, Patrick Moore, Pamela Sue Martin, Bob Taunt, Monique van de Ven (a Dutch actress), Gary Young, Rex Weyler.
In the end, the campaign was a mild success. A photograph of Patrick Moore squatting on the ice with a seal between his legs to protect it from hunters was flashed around the world—not exactly media mind bomb material.
“It was real, seal.” My autographed photo of Patrick Moore sitting on a seal, as Bob Taunt looks on in the background. This was that seal’s last moment of life; as soon as Patrick was escorted away by the RCMP a waiting hunter clubbed it to death. Photo by Rex Weyler
After the campaign Taunt invited a small group on a vacation excursion to San Blas, Mexico, in a friend’s private plane. Debbie Jayne came over from Hawaii to join us. We flew down the Pacific coast in the small plane, watching for cows on the landing strip at San Blas as we arrived just moments before dusk, when it would have been too late for a landing. In San Blas we were taken under wing by an eccentric building contractor from New York named Norm Goldie who walked around with his pet parrots, caught fish for the hotel where we stayed, and was on the local boxing commission. But Debbie and I were not destined to recapture the magic of those nights at the Pink Palace, the shoebox and Volcano House. From totally different backgrounds, we seemed to have very little in common. That was the end of my great romance. Debbie and I would reconnect for brief visits several times over the next few years, with varying degrees of success, until we finally lost track of each other.
Greeted by the federales upon arriving in San Blas
1978 continued as a year in limbo for Greenpeace, which also seemed in a somber funk. An anti-whaling voyage was set in motion by a fly-by-night Greenpeace franchise in Los Angeles run by a group of Hollywood hanger-ons turned environmentalists. Bob Taunt, Nancy Jack and Patrick Moore were brought in as a troika to run the campaign using a vessel with the unlikely name M.V. Peacock, but it felt like a television sitcom that had run its course, and this was to be the last Greenpeace anti-whaling voyage in the Pacific. The Peacock was a suspect vessel, its speed having been misrepresented by its owner. As the ship was about to depart from Los Angeles said owner, who was also to be its captain, was nowhere to be found. Bob Taunt flew into a rage, kicking a diesel can on the deck and fracturing his foot. The captain soon appeared; it turned out he was having a last minute tryst with his wife. The ship limped a zigzag course across the Pacific on its way to Hawaii, encountering the Russian fleet which was in the midst of down time from killing whales. Again it was decided to board the Russian factory ship and Taunt and a couple of others clambered up the side to a chilly reception by the Russians. Rusty Frank, the Russian speaking Greenpeacer, delivered a short speech and Taunt handed one of the crew a copy of Playboy magazine as a present. The magazine came flying after him as they took off in their Zodiac back to the Peacock. On the beach in Honolulu Taunt reinjured his foot and returned to the mainland, Patrick Moore flying in from Vancouver to relieve him as leader of the expedition for the trip back to Los Angeles. Upon their arrival a welcome home party was held at the home of Mara Purl, an actress and writer who had been a member of the crew. I flew down with a few others from San Francisco to attend and view the first film footage from the voyage. Everyone sat watching in dejected silence as it was instantly apparent that the bouncy footage of the Zodiacs zipping around the ocean was completely unusable. The cameraman, an inscrutable character who always wore Bermuda shorts and was thus given the nickname “Schwartz” by Taunt, was either the most incompetent cameraman ever or in my unsupported opinion a plant of some sort. He had also been on the Flight to Save the Seals and was given the assignment of filming Patrick Moore’s seal sitting prank. Mysteriously, his camera failed to work and the only documentation that was produced were still photos taken by the ever dependable Rex Weyler.
As the evening wore on, Bob, who seemed to enjoy fueling people’s suspicion that he had a lot of money, offered to fly us back up to San Francisco on his family’s Lear jet, but of course it never materialized.
That fall San Francisco Mayor and Greenpeace supporter George Moscone was murdered along with gay supervisor Harvey Milk. I got the news as I was sitting in my office being interviewed by FBI agents trying to track down a scheme to bomb whaling ships using a miniature yellow submarine that had been seized in Florida.
Then, as seemed wont to happen, just like with the Kennedys, tragedy struck Bob Taunt. He had hinted to me with a touch of his usual grandiosity that he was on the verge of a major announcement that would result in his relocation to Washington, DC. His friend, Congressman Leo Ryan, was on the House committee dealing with the environment and was going to appoint Bob as his advisor. I was driving to San Francisco for a gathering at Bob’s flat to celebrate the happy news when I heard the announcement on KCBS: Ryan had been reported shot by members of the People’s Temple in Jonestown, Guyana. What was to be a happy occasion turned into an all night vigil as we waited for news to trickle in. Before leaving for Jonestown, Ryan had given Bob a phone number to the Situation Room in the White House, just in case anything happened. Bob called and spent much of the night getting reports from Zbigniew Brzezinksi, national security advisor to President Carter. Ryan was soon confirmed dead and his aide, Jackie Speier, who Bob had been dating, spent the night lying seriously wounded on the airport runway.
Bob Taunt was not destined to go to Washington. Instead, tired of the endless conflict in Greenpeace and shattered by the death of his friend, he gave up the public arena, got married and retired to homes in Montana and Carmel. The last time I saw him was at his wedding (although we would reconnect many years later). He was no longer Sebastian Flyte, I was no longer Charles Ryder and the world had lost its charm. Bob would ultimately succumb to cancer after a long and valiant battle on January 15, 2014.
The final blow came with the arrival in San Francisco of Peter Ballem, a lawyer from Vancouver, on May 11, 1979. A rugby player with a dominating physical presence, he was calm and deliberate but intensely serious as he sat at the conference table in the meeting room at Fort Mason stating the terms of his ultimatum to the San Francisco board. They must acknowledge that Vancouver was the legal owner of the Greenpeace name and sign an agreement, grandly called the Declaration and Charter, giving them limited autonomy under Vancouver’s control. San Francisco lawyer Bart Lee, an informal advisor to the yahoo faction, responded. He was the opposite of Ballem, something of a poet and intellectual. Hugely overweight, he drove an MG Midget that tilted precariously under the strain of his bulk. Bart was there to defend the accidental entity known as Greenpeace Foundation of America. When advised that the San Francisco board refused to accede to his demands, Peter shook his head sadly. “It’s a sorry day,” he lamented.
The world had collapsed and I was at its center. Within a few days Vancouver filed a trademark infringement suit—Greenpeace Foundation v. Tussman—seeking to prevent the San Francisco office from continuing to use the Greenpeace name. Their lawyers had advised that it would create an unfavorable impression if it appeared that Greenpeace was suing itself, so I was named as the primary defendant. This had little effect, as the real story was obvious: Greenpeace was suing Greenpeace. But as a footnote, newspapers all over the country also reported that Greenpeace was suing me, alleging that I had been hired to set up their branch office in the U.S. but had betrayed them, instead setting up a rival group that now pretended that it was Greenpeace. Pat Moore held a press conference at the San Francisco Press Club to announce that the local Greenpeace office was a renegade imposter that was soon to be brought to task; the renegades organized a counter press conference immediately following. I sat uncomfortably with the renegades in my dark suit trying not to look like a shifty lawyer, but feeling like one nonetheless.
It sounded serious, but I was not worried about my own fate. I knew they weren’t after me personally. It was intriguing that I was a central figure in this drama and that my testimony was critical in determining the outcome. But I had no idea what I should do. There were pressures, and sympathies, on all sides. Pat Moore had been badgering me for a long time to take charge of the San Francisco office and deliver it back to its rightful owners. He thought I must secretly control everything since there appeared to be no one else of much substance. But his approach to persuasion was similar to a bull in a china shop.
On one occasion, Patrick had stormed into my office at Fort Mason, apparently thinking I needed to be bludgeoned a bit into submission. It was the culmination of what had not been a good visit for Patrick. He had arrived in San Francisco a couple of days earlier—it was August of 1978, just after the anti-whaling voyage of the M.V. Peacock. Patrick and I had gone out to the Balboa Cafe where he outlined his latest plan to resolve matters, which he would present to a board meeting the following day. After a couple of drinks he became belligerent, promising to see to it that I was “ruined professionally” if I didn’t vote to accept the proposal. The next day, a sober, calmer Patrick showed up at the home of Carole Sears in San Francisco’s Richmond district where the meeting took place.
Patrick began on a conciliatory note: “Thank you for calling this meeting on such short notice—I would have allowed more time but I have to return to Vancouver as I’ve been away for 2 ½ months. The first thing I’d like to say is that I am rescinding the letter of revocation signed by me on behalf of the Board of Directors of Greenpeace Foundation, and to further wipe the slate clean I withdraw my resignation as an ex-officio member of the San Francisco Board of Directors. I request approval of the Board for both of these.”
Patrick was referring to his actions after his previous proposal to found the International Board of Trustees was rejected by the San Francisco board back in April.
Eddie Chavies moved to accept, and Falvey seconded, but then Dick Dillman jumped in with a bit of cautionary advice. “We should postpone this until after we have heard the whole proposal,” he protested, to which Falvey responded, “Actually I agree. This should be a consciousness raising discussion, not aimed at hard and fast decisions. I withdraw my second.”
Patrick continued, “So we will go into the discussion with the rescission and my resignation standing. No, I will withdraw the letter anyway—you have no say in it. But I do ask that I be back on the Board.”
Chavies explained that no action was necessary. “When you resigned it was under the old Bylaws. We adopted new Bylaws in April and you were reinstated then.”
“We never actually accepted your resignation,” I added.
“Legally speaking you are still a member of the Board,” Sears concluded.
Flustered, Patrick pointed out that “meetings are held to reach decisions. If the Board doesn’t wish to reach decisions…”
“We didn’t mean that,” Dillman clarified.
Patrick attempted to move on. “We shouldn’t get totally bonkered out on dope and booze as there are complex things to work out. To start, there are a number of points. Some are observations on where we stand, others require eventual resolution, others are prerequisite to continuing a coordinated, consolidated effort on behalf of Greenpeace. Certain areas have been neglected in the past due to political, personal and other obstacles. I’ve spoken to everyone here to some degree regarding certain aspects of what I’m thinking. I want it agreed that we drop the designation ‘Greenpeace International’ in favor of ‘Greenpeace Foundation’ or just ‘Greenpeace.’ We should keep capital lettered designations simple—no pomp and circumstance. There will be no such thing as an international or national headquarters. I don’t know how we will get around this externally but for internal purposes our headquarters are in our heads. This will further the aim of decentralization. But we have to have an agreed upon plan—plans for campaigns so we have something real to do in the Greenpeace spirit. I propose first that we adopt a formal program to investigate the Peruvian whaling situation. A possible formula is with one delegate from San Francisco and one from Vancouver, jointly financed, to go to Peru for two weeks. Everyone in Greenpeace should back this with the idea of doing some kind of campaign if it proves feasible. As for a Japan shore-based campaign, the popular wisdom says its not feasible now. The International Whaling Commission might shut down shore whaling in December so it doesn’t warrant a full speed approach now. In winter the whale effort slows down as the fleets are not operating in the Northern Hemisphere, and traditionally we have been involved in the seal campaign during that time. So I propose that next year we organize a march across Newfoundland with helicopters waiting at the other end. There are fifteen good reasons for doing this: we have enough lead time, this will bring together fifty people in Greenpeace, we have much experience now in walkathons. This will be a giant walkathon with pledges, etc, and will focus attention before the hunt takes place. If we go cold next year we won’t get to the ice floes at all. We must bring pressure before the hunt takes place. There’s a lot of support for this I think—it has good grass roots involvement and good media potential.”
Patrick paused for reaction. “Ok, any feedback on this so far?” Sears asked.
Falvey seemed impressed. “I like everything that was said—very rational and together.”
Chavies jumped in. “I have a question regarding confrontation. A Newfoundland newspaper article quoted Pat as saying that Greenpeace was not trying to interfere with the seal hunt. I took offense at that!”
“Here is the explanation,” Pat offered. “Of course, everything we do is attempting to interfere with the hunt. But our lawyers will argue that I was not interfering with the hunt under the law. That is, by sitting on a seal I was not doing anything illegal. Therefore, in a legal sense there was no interference.”
Falvey sounded concerned. “I hope we are not committed to not breaking the law. It is implicit in our ideology that we will occasionally break the law.”
“The lawyers approach is always to argue that we did not break the law,” Patrick clarified. “If that doesn’t work, then we bring up the argument of necessity—we did it to prevent a greater evil. The objective in this trial is to be acquitted. We want to establish a legal right to sit on seals—just like we have a legal right to get in front of harpoons. We aren’t trying to water down the fact that we are trying to interfere with the hunt.”
Sears seemed to like the idea of a big walkathon. She had organized successful fundraising walkathons for Greenpeace in San Francisco and was working on another, which this time was to be a “skate-athon” in Golden Gate Park. “A march ending up in a confrontation is spectacular. Its just fabulous. Its physical action, heavy media.”
Patrick observed that “It will cost roughly $100,000 for fifty people to march across Newfoundland for twenty days.”
Chavies exploded. “You’re kidding!”
“That’s real ballpark,” said Patrick. “I guarantee it w ill be expensive.”
“That seems right to me,” Sears agreed. “The logistics are staggering.”
Chavies was still fuming. “We get our stuff donated! We’re Greenpeace, fuck! No fucking way for $100,000. Its crazy!”
Sears insisted “Its worth it, its worth it. That’s only a third of what the Ohana Kai cost!”
Speaking of boats, “What about a boat?” Falvey inquired.
“The Rainbow Warrior might just drift across the ocean at that time,” Patrick mused, referring to the vessel recently purchased by Greenpeace UK.
”Not the right kind of vessel,” Chavies objected, perhaps attempting to channel the voice of John Cormack, the crusty old sea captain who led Greenpeace on its early voyages. “You’re all a nice bunch of boys and girls but you don’t know what you’re doing. That’s all there is. That fucking Peacock, I spat on it.”
Moore tried to get things back on track. “To get to the nitty gritty, its all uphill from here. I apologize for my timing in April. I should have waited for the reconstitution in San Francisco. I didn’t understand how far-reaching that would be.”
The “reconstitution” consisted of revisions to the San Francisco Bylaws resulting from staff outrage over the salary increases authorized prior to the seal campaign. Up to that time, the board of directors had been self-perpetuating—it elected its own successors. In a move towards “democratization,” a voting membership was now created, consisting loosely of staff members, volunteers, and others deemed to be “making a substantial contribution to the corporation,” and a new board had been elected. I had survived re-election, but the “yahoos” now held a majority.
“Now I can address the Board directly, with no extraneous factors,” Patrick continued. “I had a lot of time with good lawyers in Newfoundland and here in the US—entertainment, corporate lawyers, Ed Bernstein, who is lawyer for Esalen, Joan Baez, grape pickers, with the movement for fifteen years. He is a man of incredible stature. I respect his opinions regarding what has to be done to create an organization that can grow and prosper avoiding the pitfalls of other organizations. The basic question is this: are we one organization or are we a group of distinct, separate legal entities? Are we the same or two—San Francisco and Vancouver—that just happen to be cooperating? There must be a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer. Once you answer this, everything else falls into line. On the one hand, all of us accept that spiritually, financially, organizationally we are the same: Greenpeace. Even London accepts that. They are Greenpeace—part of us—and it stems from us: David McTaggart, Alan Thornton, Susie Newborne. We are all Greenpeace—one organization. On the other hand, on paper—constitutionally, legally—it is questionable whether this appears to be the case, as the result of our past desire for growth at any cost. But we have reached the limits of growth under the present system. We need consolidation, centralization before we can get any bigger. We can’t keep track of it all any longer.”
“Are there specific people or contacts in mind or is this just a general concept,” Falvey inquired.
Moore responded. “To be specific, Ed Bernstein said, ‘get your shit together kid, then come to me.’ Or take the situation with rock stars. You can’t have four different people approaching them, each claiming to represent Greenpeace. We need somewhere to go where you can clear these things up. For example, how many people here know that Lorne Green has tentatively approached Greenpeace to narrate a whale film? I don’t want to appear defensive or condescending on this point. I don’t care about the past, rather the future. When Vancouver visited San Francisco in 1975 with Zimmerman and Jackson on the crew after the campaign, Vancouver was $45,000 in debt for the first time in history. We were in deep shit. The strategy was to establish an office in San Francisco to protect the Greenpeace name and create a financial center in the US. San Francisco was adept at raising money—people were brought in who were capable administrators. The evolution of Vancouver was totally different.”
After some nuts and bolts discussion about financial systems and consolidation of membership lists, Moore finally arrived at the moment of truth. “So a central decision is required here. As far as what’s required to consolidate, the San Francisco Board should resolve that Greenpeace America recognizes that the legal right to the name ‘Greenpeace’ resides with the Greenpeace Foundation of 2108 West Fourth Avenue, Vancouver. In exchange, Greenpeace Foundation shall guarantee the right of Greenpeace America to operate with total autonomy regarding its own internal organization and with total authority in Northern California. We would also authorize an executive committee of initially seven members, two of whom shall be members of your board. Initially the committee will deal just with international campaigns, implementation of the financial system, and the centralization of membership services. After a six month period of these seven working together—we want to keep it simple, inexpensive, and practical at first—eventually the group would have the confidence to develop a charter we can all sign. But first we have to establish credibility. After six months the committee can meet and decide whether or not to add one person from Portland and one from Seattle, to further democratize the committee—hopefully as a springboard towards Greenpeace Global. Conceptually, that’s it I think. Its an honest attempt at compromise and consolidation. I am totally flexible regarding any honest ideas to improve this.”
Silence followed. Finally, Carole Sears spoke up. “It looks like everybody is letting it sink in rather that opening their fat mouths for a change.”
Ever hopeful, Moore suggested “we should work on putting together a resolution which meets all these criteria. If you recognize for thirty seconds that we are the source—the legal roots of Greenpeace—thirty seconds later we will give it back to you. We will guarantee not to interfere in your internal affairs. The committee will become the executive guts of Greenpeace and will run Greenpeace on a day to day basis.”
Falvey seemed less than thrilled. “Effectively this changes Greenpeace America to Greenpeace Northern California,” he observed.
“That already is the case in most ways,” Moore responded. “It doesn’t limit your activities to Northern California but if you wish to operate outside that area, that’s not allowed unless everyone agrees at the higher level of the organization.”
“Back to the Foundation,” Chavies asked, “what determines who is Greenpeace in the future? Is there bloodletting?”
“We are all Greenpeace,” Moore responded.
“As an organization or as a movement?” Chavies demanded.
“As an organization, but loosely,” Moore responded.
“The future is not clear,” Chavies continued, “What is Greenpeace going to do? What is Greenpeace? People can drop out if they don’t like it.”
“That’s why I brought up campaigns first,” Moore replied.
“Reminds me of Chicago in 1968, sitting around trying to figure out how we were not going to have a rumble even though everyone wanted to kick the fucking shit out of everyone else,” Chavies continued.
“Six months ago I felt that way but not now,” Moore assured.
“I’d rather get away from this stuff. Just say we are all Greenpeace. Forget all this ‘recognition’ stuff. The committee is not a bad idea but I don’t want to deal with it now for personal reasons,” Chavies rambled.
“We do have to make peace though, Eddie,” Moore pleaded.
“Rather than an executive committee, how about a number of functional committees,” Falvey suggested.
“Those will grow out of this,” Moore replied.
“I like the idea of organized growth out of functional committees, rather than the other way around,” Falvey persisted.
“But if there are sixteen different areas, who appoints, coordinates, etc,” Moore protested. “Haven’t I given enough major tasks for a committee to be tested on? I propose that the committee be obligated to meet once a month for the next six months and that the minutes be immediately available to all Greenpeace offices everywhere.”
“I’m just saying—do we have a plan for the future?” Chavies asked.
“Six months is as far ahead as I can see, Eddie,” Moore replied. “When San Francisco started up, Greenpeace was already an international movement. Who are we? We are the ones responsible. We have to do it, or no one else will.”
“I didn’t walk with John Muir so does that mean I can’t be the Sierra Club?” Chavies asked. “You’re telling me you’re the John Muir of Greenpeace? John Muir is dead, I’m not.”
“No, I’m talking about legal roots. In the case of the Sierra Club there is a legal line of authority from John Muir. Say San Francisco didn’t exist yet. Knowing what we know now, it would be structured much more tightly. Bob Hunter had the vision to just let it grow.”
Falvey seemed to like Hunter’s vision. “We have to continue that creative process,” he enthused.
“There is a time for reaping and a time for sowing—expansion and consolidation,” Moore continued. “We can’t let growth happen again until we can consolidate. I see an army of ten fucking millions of people smashing fucking industrial states. Corn growing without insecticides. More birds again. We called Greenpeace a Foundation because of Asimov’s Trilogy—where a group of people got together and recognized that the world was falling apart and through the science of psychohistory a dark age was predicted—ecological collapse. They set up a foundation and a second secret foundation at the other end of the galaxy. By changing consciousness, like getting in front of a harpoon—media mind bombs, Hunter calls them—they built a consciousness to shorten the time of the dark ages.”
“Who is The Mule?” Chavies asked, referring to a pivotal character in the Trilogy whose ability to manipulate human emotions enables him to become one of the great conquerors of all time, thereby threatening the work of the Foundation.
“Its nobody within us,” Moore responded. “Lets make it easy and call Watson the mule. No, that’s too easy.”
“We do have a problem of a mule,” Chavies pronounced. “There will be no decision this evening.”
“I came here with a solid commitment not to get drunk beforehand and to remain calm,” Moore pleaded. “I have a solid commitment to see that Greenpeace is really revolutionary. I walked into the University of British Columbia faculty club with Jerry Rubin and drank all their whiskey. I housed draft resisters and deserters. I’m from a radical background. I don’t want creeping revisionism or liberalism in Greenpeace. We have to stay peacefully hard line. We can be a massive movement by being strong, peaceful, nonviolent but right on the fucking edge. This is not a threat—but I’ve found myself screaming and yelling at Greenpeacers worse than Newfies.”
“We don’t need an international for this,” said Sears.
”No growth for growth’s sake,” said Chavies.
“Clear the decks of karma first,” said Falvey.
According to the official minutes, the meeting flowed into incoherence.
So Patrick’s frustration was understandable the next day as he closed the door to my office behind him. From his perspective, the San Francisco board had been insolent, evasive, completely unwilling to grapple with the difficult issues facing Greenpeace. In the reception area outside my office concerned San Francisco staffers milled about anxiously. Carole Sears called Dick Dillman at his work and urged him to come right over. Dick was in charge of Greenpeace radio communications, and he was a good communicator. At an imposing 6’ 4”, he rode a Harley police special and didn’t take nonsense from anyone, although his persuasiveness sprang more from his calm aura of moral authority than any physical intimidation.
Patrick demanded that I write him a check for $10,000 to help pay his legal expenses in connection with the spring seal campaign. His act of sitting on a seal meant he was facing a possible jail sentence for allegedly “interfering” with the hunt. I couldn’t do that, I protested. I called Gary Young, our financial manager, and he advised that we didn’t have the funds (which was true—even though everyone thought we were rolling in money, in truth we always seemed just barely able to scrape by), and in any case such an expenditure was not within my sole authority. Cracking under the pressure, we wound up screaming at eachother, just as Dick arrived to defuse matters.
Patrick’s wife Eileen used a more subtle approach, more in the vein of seduction. “We’ll have so much fun!” she once cajoled, inviting me to imagine us running around the world as the leaders of an elite corps of swashbuckling environmentalists, if only I would give in and wrest San Francisco’s cash cow from the grip of the infidels who controlled it—although it wasn’t quite clear exactly how I could pull that off. The fact that I wouldn’t was inexplicable to her, leading her to draw the only possible conclusion: “You’re not really very smart after all, are you?” she asked, a bit provocatively.
Of course, those infidels in San Francisco, who I had to deal with everyday, expected me to be on their side. After all, I was their lawyer, and they assumed I must loathe the snakes from Vancouver as much as they did. There were occasions when I was as guilty as anyone of pandering to the fear of Vancouver’s draconian desire to control all of Greenpeace. But I didn’t have the heart to reject either side outright, and I felt guilty for getting everyone into this mess—even if it was really that fool Allen Ginsburg’s fault.
The honorable thing, in view of my conflicting loyalties and ambiguous role, would have been to step aside and allow others to determine the outcome, but that seemed too boring. Greenpeace needed to be delivered from the evil Gollom and the unwashed masses who threatened to usurp the organization in the name of democracy. The Vancouver elders had their faults but their dream had been stolen and I would return it. Acting in secret I would negotiate a settlement with Vancouver, giving them a majority on a joint governing board, and present it to San Francisco for approval. I knew I could deliver three votes out of seven on the San Francisco board, so all I needed would be one additional vote. Surely one poor soul out of the remaining four, oblivious to my machinations, would crumble in the face of the overwhelming pressure I would bring to bear.
First I would hit them where it really hurt by cutting off the funds flowing in from the national direct mail campaign run by Parker, Dodd and Associates. Richard Parker, its founder, was a pioneer of direct mail fundraising in the service of progressive causes. He had recruited Greenpeace as one of his first clients and the income stream he had developed was the lifeblood of the San Francisco office, which was now raising over $1,000,000 annually. This was all happening without the approval of Vancouver, but it wasn’t Richard’s fault. No one had told him about the Northern Problem. Once he learned about it he took the lead in pressuring me to do something. He and his lawyer came up to the Greenpeace office after Ballem’s visit urging me to take action, find lawyers, organize a defense. I felt trapped and resentful. Defend the San Francisco office? I wasn’t so sure it merited a defense. But after a bit of procrastination I found some excellent lawyers to handle the defense and, freed of my obligations, set off down the self-destructive path of my own creation.
I walked unannounced into the Parker/Dodd offices in the Cannery Building where Richard Parker, Bill Dodd, and their lawyer happened to be meeting. I outlined my plan. “My faction on the board is deadly serious about this,” I concluded, “but there is one critical element that needs to be in place. You guys are raising thousands of dollars in the U.S. using the Greenpeace name, and this could be in violation of Vancouver’s trademark rights. I would think that it would be prudent for you to consider discontinuing your activities until this is all worked out. Incidentally, this would put additional pressure on San Francisco and would significantly aid our efforts to force a settlement.” I felt proud of myself for stating my argument so forcefully. I was operating outside the rules, and it felt intoxicating. Secretly I wished the tribe could crush the opposition with one swift blow, but they couldn’t and this was the next best thing.
It was their lawyer who responded. “Well, actually this is the reason I am here right now. I’m advising them that this is exactly what they should do given the legal situation.”
Richard agreed. “We have a new business here with a dozen employees who are depending on us. We can’t risk it all for this, so we’ll certainly stop everything until things are settled.”
Well, I thought, as I left their office, I got what I wanted. Even if it really wasn’t the result of my doing, nobody will know the difference. I called Patrick Moore in Vancouver and told him of my plan to come up and negotiate a settlement. I said I had the support of two other board members and that a fourth would certainly cave in under the pressure. To demonstrate our seriousness, I added, I had gone to Parker/Dodd and gotten them to cut off the fundraising so as to squeeze the renegades into submission. That should prove I wasn’t just the traitorous lawyer that some in Vancouver suspected!
It seemed to impress Patrick, and the wheels were set in motion. I secretly flew up to Vancouver with Donna Scheff, one of my allies on the board, and met with Peter Ballem. We drafted an agreement that called for San Francisco to acknowledge Vancouver’s ownership of the trademark and set up a joint governing body, giving Vancouver a majority by one vote, and shipped it down to San Francisco as a last ditch offer of settlement.
“Where did this come from?” the San Francisco lawyers puzzled when the proposal arrived. I couldn’t exactly reveal the mystery of its origin, but a board meeting was called nonetheless to consider it.
The evening before, I stopped by my parents’ house and excitedly described the events that were unfolding. I rarely told them anything about my life so they must have found it unusual that I was so animated. But as I began describing my little scheme with Parker/Dodd, my mother ran into her room and threw herself on her bed. She lay there sobbing as I sheepishly finished the story for my father. She must have been crying for the whales that were being killed while we humans argued over the ownership of the name of the organization that was trying to save them. She was a big Greenpeace supporter. “How is it,” she once asked me, a bit in awe, “that someone like Bob Hunter would grow up to want to risk his life to save whales?”
My mother visiting the Ohana Kai in San Francisco
The meeting was an anticlimax. I argued for accepting the settlement, along with Dick Dillman and Donna Scheff. Then it was Tom Falvey’s turn. His was the swing vote. We knew the others would be against: Carole Sears, Eddie Chavies and Gollom himself, John Frizell, who had recently migrated to San Francisco. I hadn’t attempted to talk to Tom personally. There was no way we could have a serious conversation—we might as well have been from different planets. While this might have seemed obvious, the point had been brought home to me one day when I was roped into accompanying Tom on a presentation he was giving to a class of foreign students at a local community college. After showing the Greenpeace movie, I had thought he would give a short talk or take questions, but instead he launched into a deadly serious promotional pitch urging the students upon returning to their home countries to organize walkathons to raise money for Greenpeace, outlining all the steps necessary for a successful fundraiser. I sat there with my jaw dropping, as did the poor dazed students.
Tom stroked his long beard. “No, I can’t go along with this,” he pronounced. “I just don’t believe its in the best interests of Greenpeace.”
That was it. My grand scheme was in ruins. I had failed. Trying to be dramatic, I got up and announced I was therefore resigning my position as General Counsel of Greenpeace Foundation of America.
I wish I could say that was the end, but it wasn’t. As I was the key figure in the circumstances that led to the establishment of the San Francisco office, the taking of my deposition was a major event. Seven lawyers from all sides attended. I answered their questions as honestly as I could, believing the facts favored Vancouver’s side, but of course that didn’t resolve anything. San Francisco’s lawyers took the same set of facts and wove a magnificent argument supporting their side.
Although I had resigned my paid position I was still on the board of directors and launched a subversive battle against the San Francisco office, becoming known as “the leak” because I would attend strategy sessions, then phone Patrick Moore and give him the details. Being terrible at keeping secrets, this eventually got out and a meeting was called in an attempt to remove me from the board—but they couldn’t get a quorum. It didn’t much matter because, in the end, none of my machinations made the slightest bit of difference.
Meanwhile, San Francisco’s lawyers made their own attempt to reach a settlement with Vancouver, coming up with an agreement very similar to the one I had negotiated. It would have been approved if not for the last minute intervention of the only person capable of changing the course of events.
David McTaggart, leader of Greenpeace Europe, didn’t like what he was hearing from his friends in North America. He had no love for the Vancouver tribe, feeling they had given him little support during his voyage to Moruroa and had then tried to appropriate all the credit for themselves. A common Vancouver pattern, it seemed. Someone had to put up a fight, and since the U.S. Greenpeacers lacked leadership, that job fell to him. Others have suggested that this was the moment of opportunity that McTaggart had been waiting for—and knew would eventually come. He flew to the United States with two of his associates, toured the offices mobilizing them against Vancouver, and then settled in San Francisco to finish the battle. His arrival at the last minute caused San Francisco to scuttle the settlement agreement the lawyers had negotiated and instead place their faith in him—with the notable, but now insignificant exception of myself.
McTaggart’s cohort was convinced that the only reason I was not wholeheartedly on their side was because I was afraid of Patrick and his lawsuit. “Look, I used to be in the construction business,” he confided to me alone one day. “We’ll get a couple of guys, take Patrick aside and give him a little talking to. You won’t have anything to worry about.” Accepting his somewhat disturbing offer was of course out of the question, but I had mixed feelings about McTaggart. He seemed an unlikely environmentalist, older than the rest of us, not at all a crazy-hippie-counterculture type, but a scrappy, competitive, can-do sort of person willing to apply his boundless energy and powers of persuasion to any opportunity that came along. Greenpeace just happened to be that opportunity. I saw him as ruthless and manipulative but when he focused his intense blue eyes on you it was impossible not to want to yield to his charm and the force of his personality. Part of you knew you were being taken for a ride, but you also knew it would be a fabulous ride. A born leader, he made people follow without feeling they were being led. He had built a tight-knit organization in Europe focused on running environmental campaigns, avoiding the problems Vancouver faced. To him, for Greenpeace to succeed it needed to be organized and run just like any other corporation. He was not an intellectual giant or a great thinker, simply a practical genius who could make things happen—exactly the kind of leader Greenpeace craved. Perhaps, as Paul Watson himself would suggest, he was The Mule.
McTaggart’s solution was simple: Vancouver must relinquish all claims to the Greenpeace name outside of Canada. According to him, Vancouver had little basis to even make such a claim; their role had been but a footnote in the evolution of Greenpeace. In a letter to all Greenpeace offices he had stated “It is getting tiresome to hear Vancouver taking credit for the French nuclear test campaign at Mururoa which they had next to nothing to do with” and “There was not even a legal Greenpeace when the first whale and seal campaigns started.” Long before that, he pointed out, the first Amchitka campaign had been conducted by “an ad hoc group, ironically led by Americans.” (Deeply offended, Patrick drafted a response, which of course fell on deaf ears.) Historical revisionism aside, McTaggart’s letter also expressed Greenpeace Europe’s “respect and enthusiastic support [for] the USA efforts to become a cohesive and national entity.” Certainly it was a stroke of political genius for McTaggart to recast his personal campaign for domination of Greenpeace as the struggle of the US groups for their own autonomy.
At a meeting with the San Francisco board on August 1, McTaggart offered financial assistance to the SF office to help defray its legal expenses. In retrospect, the amount was paltry: $12,000 in the first year, a total of $20,000 over three years (remarkably, an organization that had never planned much beyond the next campaign was now anticipating that its energies for the next three years—an eternity in Greenpeace time—would be devoted to fighting itself). Donna Scheff inquired what the conditions of such support would be. McTaggart replied that the SF board must agree unanimously to fight, and must agree that the objective was to establish an independent democratically run Greenpeace in the United States free of any control from Canada. Alan Thornton, McTaggart’s ally from Greenpeace UK, added that Vancouver would have to get their own house in order, but once they gave up control of the name “we will come in and support them.” Inside I was seething at the arrogance and condescension. I thought back to Hunter’s description of how they felt when they walked out of the international meeting eighteen months earlier—“we’re lying on our backs with our legs spread”—and now they were being asked to cut off their balls and hand them to McTaggart on a platter, and then a few dollars would be tossed their way to pay off the debts they had incurred as a result of their alleged incompetence in running their failed campaigns. But all I could do was nitpick at McTaggart’s conditions. I pointed out that my objective was reconciliation with Vancouver, not a long drawn out fight to the finish, and that I could not agree to accept his money if it tied our hands in negotiating a settlement by committing us to a pre-ordained outcome. If McTaggart was even slightly annoyed at my obstruction, he didn’t let it show, although as far as I know the promised money was never delivered.
In any case, the end came quickly. There was to be no battle to the finish, no day of reckoning. Having unified and mobilized the opposition, McTaggart headed triumphantly to Vancouver. Despite his real antipathy toward the elders, he was originally from Vancouver himself so he could easily slip back into the role of their old drinking buddy. The principals gathered at a local pub and, without the benefit of lawyers, negotiated an end to the entire affair. Vancouver had taken its last and best shot, and it wasn’t good enough. McTaggart had outmanouvered them, and they simply hadn’t the resources, or the will, to wage a long and possibly losing battle. With an air of resignation, they finally agreed to the creation of an international organization based on McTaggart’s model of one country, one vote—convenient for McTaggart since he had Greenpeace offices in several European countries and the United States on his side, all of whom promptly elected him the first Chairman of Greenpeace International.
Thus ended the era of Vancouver’s hegemony, or claimed hegemony, over Greenpeace. One could argue that in a way they had achieved their objective. At last an international structure had been created that would put an end to the years of chaos and strife, even if it meant turning it over to McTaggart. Not insignificantly, Vancouver would also get assistance in paying off the large debt it had run up organizing the early campaigns that put Greenpeace on the map. For San Francisco, the cost in legal fees had been over $100,000, but it too felt vindicated. Perhaps they had been right all along. The Vancouver group was in no position to take over Greenpeace. The lawsuit had been the last gasp of the original tribe that had been slowly withering away through attrition and fatigue. In reality only Pat Moore had stuck around to carry the torch to the final battle.
As for me, I would continue to blame myself for my failure to protect Vancouver’s right to the Greenpeace name when incorporating the San Francisco office, until I realized that I was exaggerating my role in the matter. By the time I came along, San Francisco was already a buzzing hive of Greenpeace activity, already wary and resentful of Vancouver’s claims of authority. Had I presented papers for them to sign giving ownership of the name to Vancouver I would doubtless have been sent packing.
Vancouver had had its moment of glory, its night in the shoebox, when all of creation was fresh and new and possibilities seemed limitless. It had opened its hands, let the power go, and it would never return. It had not been graceful, and lives would never be the same, but perhaps that was how it had to be.
Led by McTaggart, Greenpeace would experience its greatest period of growth, especially after the publicity generated when French commandos sank its ship Rainbow Warrior in New Zealand in 1985. He would serve for over a decade, then go into semi-retirement on doctor’s orders and produce olive oil on a farm in Italy. He died in an automobile accident near his home on March 23, 2001, lionized as the Shadow Warrior, one of the giants of the environmental movement but largely unknown to the general public—one who, like Greenpeace, was never free from controversy and criticism.
Bob Hunter had already left Greenpeace, wound up working as an environmental reporter for a Toronto television station, and continued to dabble in environmental causes. He died of cancer in 2005. Patrick Moore served as the Canadian delegate to Greenpeace International for several years. Then, in what he said was reaction to some of the excesses of the environmental movement, he switched sides to become spokesman for the British Columbia timber industry and an advocate for nuclear power, reviled by many as an eco-traitor.
Both the Vancouver and San Francisco Greenpeace offices became relatively insignificant as the center of Greenpeace activity shifted to Europe. A new entity, Greenpeace USA, was created in the virgin territory of Washington, DC—far from its west coast origins, closer to Europe—run during an initial “occupation” period by Art van Remundt, sent in from Holland, then turned over to a smart and personable American lawyer named Peter Bahouth, who eventually left to run the Ted Turner Foundation. In a bit of irony, Ann Dingwall from Vancouver was sent down to run what remained of the San Francisco office, until she was replaced by a series of managers who had answered help wanted ads; no longer could people just show up and, incredibly, find themselves in the thick of an environmental movement. Those innocents who had so eagerly thrown in their lot with McTaggart soon found that the Greenpeace they knew had ceased to exist. Its energies diffused, Greenpeace would no longer be a potent force in the public arena in the United States—nor could it ever again be accurately described as a “grassroots” organization.
Years later I would receive a frantic phone call from Dick Dillman, asking me to search my files for a document that had never existed. Somehow, Greenpeace Hawaii
had managed to avoid signing the papers ceding to the International all rights to the Greenpeace name; to this day it describes itself as the “sole organizational remnant of the 1970’s-era U.S. Greenpeace organizations,” doing “its best to follow the original guiding philosophies of the Greenpeace movement borne in Vancouver.”
Had I been smart, ambitious, or both, I might have had a lifelong career alongside McTaggart, who had tried, but failed, to recruit my support. I had scornfully burned all my bridges. There was no place for me in the new Greenpeace order and I knew it. I didn’t even want it. Greenpeace was not my universe, and McTaggart was not my god. I had been an interloper in a landscape populated by extraordinary characters and dramatic events. From now on I would have to make my own way in life, like many others who had been touched by the Greenpeace magic and would forever remember those precious but fleeting moments when life overflowed with excitement, purpose and adventure.
copyright 2007 David Tussman