How Greenpeace Works

Greenpeace Governance

While Greenpeace's first protest at Amchitka Island had a clear, straightforward goal, its subsequent efforts lacked the same clarity. Members interpreted the organization's ecological goals differently. National and regional chapters disputed tactics and projects.

The brain scientist Dr. Paul Spong convinced some members of the Vancouver Greenpeace chapter to take up the cause of whales and defend them from hunters. Many volunteers were captivated by the mission that ultimately came to define Greenpeace, but others felt this pursuit was limiting and less important than protesting nuclear testing.

Such rifts between group members and between national and regional organizations threatened the solidity of Greenpeace. The organization needed an official governing body with an unambiguous mission and budget. David McTaggart, one of the Vega's Moruroa crew, founded Greenpeace International in 1979. This was the start of a unified mission and mindset for Greenpeace.

A Slick Victory
In 1995, Greenpeace achieved one of its most notable victories. Shell Oil had plans to scuttle a 14,500-ton oil storage facility called the Brent Spar in the North Sea. Activists scaled the Brent Spar and faced water cannon attacks by the United Kingdom government and Shell. Although the United Kingdom maintained Shell's right to sink the colossus, the oil company eventually bowed to public protests and boycotts across Europe and promised to recycle the facility. Ultimately, Greenpeace's action contributed to an international ban on the ocean disposal of oil rigs.

Brent Spar
David Sims/AFP/Getty Images
Activists atop the Brent Spar celebrate after the Shell Oil Company agreed to recycle the oil platform.

Greenpeace International (or Stichting Greenpeace Council) is based in Amsterdam. Its board of directors sets the organization's annual budget and elects and monitors the Greenpeace International Executive Director. The board members are chosen by representatives from national and regional offices, who are in turn chosen by national and regional boards elected by Greenpeace members. The council is dedicated to the aforementioned six primary objectives, and you can learn more about recent developments, whales and nuclear bombs by perusing the links on the next page.

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More Great Links


  • "Bob Hunter, 63, a Founder of Greenpeace, Is Dead."
    The New York Times. May 3, 2005.
  • "Greenpeace." Encyclopaedia Britannica.
  • Greenpeace International.
  • Greenpeace USA.
  • Lewis, Paul. "David McTaggart, a Builder of Greenpeace,
    Dies at 69." The New York Times. March 24, 2001.
  • Saxon, Wolfgang. "Ben Metcalfe, the Founder of Greenpeace,
    Is Dead at 83." The New York Times. October 18, 2003.
  • Weyler, Rex. author name "Waves of Compassion." UTNE Reader.