Share this page:
Today eleven activists appear in a Danish court facing serious charges for a simple act of protest in Copenhagen a year and a half ago, while Greenpeace International
Executive Director Kumi Naidoo remains in a Greenlandic jail for his stand against Arctic oil drilling.
Bearing witness and non-violent direct action are among the founding principles of Greenpeace. For 40 years, from pole to pole, on every continent and every ocean, Greenpeace has been bringing about change through these core values.
Direct action can be spectacular and have immediate results - but bearing witness, while usually less dramatic, can have even more remarkable results.
The power of bearing witness comes from the story it tells and the empowerment it brings to those who see the story, and then feel compelled to act themselves.
As Ben Metcalfe, one of the original Greenpeace crew once said; Once you have witnessed an injustice, you cannot claim ignorance as a defence for inaction. You make an ethical choice: to act - or not.
And there are times when inspiring other people to take action is by far the most powerful outcome that we can hope for.
Today, as Kumi Naidoo remains in jail for bearing witness to the madness of Arctic oil drilling, eleven other Greenpeace activists appear in a Danish court. They face serious charges and possible jail sentences for a simple act of protest a year and half ago in Copenhagen.
They unfurled a banner on the red carpet at a state banquet attended by over 120 heads of state during the ill-fated Copenhagen climate talks. The message on the banner simply urged world leaders to take action to defend the climate: 'Politicians Talk - Leaders Act'.
It was a simple act but the repercussions are still being felt. They witnessed one of the great political failures in modern history and, through their eyes, we were all made aware.
Nora Christiansen, one of the eleven said: "A year and a half after world leaders failed to take climate action in Copenhagen, the wrong people are still getting locked up. Kumi Naidoo is currently under arrest in Greenland for delivering the names of 50,000 people opposed to the Arctic destruction not only from oil exploration and oil spills, but from the melting of sea ice from the burning of yet more of the fossil fuels that got us into this climate change mess in the first place".
Kumi and the other 21 people who took action here in the Arctic against Cairn Energy's oil rig in the past few weeks have held up the drilling for several days. But, perhaps more importantly, they have borne witness to the madness of oil drilling in the Arctic - something that would otherwise have gone all but unnoticed. The images of what they saw have been seen by millions.
This is an issue which that draws together many of the causes Greenpeace has fought for in the past and continue to fight today, like the threat of toxic drilling sludge being dumped into a fragile ecosystem, or the very real risk of a Gulf of Mexico type spill in the harsh Arctic environment. Or the idea that retreating ice sheets are seen not as a grave warning, but as an opportunity to drill for more of the oil that caused the climate change problem in the first place.
As Kumi said before he scaled the oil rig here in the Arctic, "this is destined to become one of the defining environmental battles of our age".
It is a battle against the might of the fossil fuel industry and against shortsighted leadership and against our own addiction to oil.
An impossible task?
No it is not. Action inspires action.
Indeed, with the support of millions, Greenpeace has been making the seemingly impossible happen for almost four decades -- an end to nuclear testing, protection of Antarctica from oil and gas exploration, a moratorium on commercial whaling, a ban on ocean dumping and a ban on trade in toxic waste, to name only a few - all seemed like impossible dreams, but as is often the case, once those changes happened they appeared inevitable.
With this year's climate summit in Durban fast approaching, world leaders must repair the mistakes of Copenhagen, and live up to their responsibilities and promises by making a strong climate agreement in Durban.
Durban is Kumi's hometown - the place he had to leave when he was forced underground as an anti-apartheid activist. He'll be there again this year telling world leaders what he witnessed here in the Arctic.
As he watches those crucial talks unfold, he'll be bearing witness again.
You are now aware. You can take action by sharing this video so that others too may become witness.