Flotsam & Jetsam
The-Edge Visits the Newest Greenpeace Ship the MV Esperanza, by Gar Smith. An Invitation to Pick a New Superpower. Protest and Shame at the WTO. Anuradha Mittal reports from Cancun, Mexico. Peace Warriors Nominated for Nobel Peace Prize...
October 3, 2003
Welcome Aboard: The-Edge Visits the MV Esperanza
Gar Smith / The-Edge
There's a lot of history -- both green and salty -- to be served up at Pier 27 along San Francisco's wave-washed Embarcadero. Sailing buffs know the pier as the site of the old North Point/Lombard-and-Greenwich Dock, a gathering place for clipper ships from around the world. But Pier 27 also has an environmental legacy. It was from these docks that Captain "Hell Roaring" Mike Healy sailed his ship, a US Revenue Service cutter named The Bear.
| The MV Esperanza visits San Francisco's historic Embarcadero. ©Gar Smith / The-Edge |
In the 1890s, Healy, the son of an Irish soldier and an octoroon slave, sailed north to rescue stranded whales trapped in Arctic ice. On one of his passages off Alaska, Healy dropped anchor near an Inuit village. Once ashore, Healy was shocked to discover that alcoholism and hunger had recently killed 200 of the native residents. Inuit traditional life had been disrupted by contact with Europeans. With their ancient ties to the land and the ocean severed, many of the Inuit had turned in despair and to the solace of the White Man's whiskey.
On his return to San Francisco, Healy shared this encounter with his friend, a troublesome Scot by the name of John Muir. Muir came up with a wild idea: Would it be possible to bring reindeer from Siberia to the dying villages of Alaska? This could provide the impoverished Alaskans with a source of food, clothing and transportation.
Healy put Muir's vision to the test. From 1884-1902, The Bear bore thousands of deer across the Bering Straight, bringing hope and new lives to the Inuit. By the 1940s, Healy's herds had grown to a half-million.
Had Healy been born a century later, he would likely have joined forces with the sea-roving rogues at Greenpeace and the Sea Shepherd Foundation. So it was fitting that, on a sun-splashed weekend in late July, Pier 27 played host to the newest vessel in the Greenpeace fleet, the M. V. Esperanza, which replaces the now-retired flagship, M.V. Greenpeace.
"San Francisco is the ship's first Pacific stop," Greenpeace boatswain Philip Lloyd told The-Edge. And, in a fitting salute to "Hell Roaring" Mike, the Esperanza's first assignment would take it north to Alaska to work with native communities fighting to halt the commercial logging of the mighty Tongass Forest.
Greenpeace stresses the importance of the Esperanza's first campaign: "The Tongass is the largest coastal temperate rainforest in North America, with the most unique ecosystem in the world." Linking up with local activists and scientists, the Greenpeace crew labored from early August to mid-September to "investigate and expose environmental crimes in this endangered forest."
"This is the only spot on Earth where black and brown bears live together," Lloyd explained. "We plan to help the Denai indians demark their territory to protect their native forests." One of the modern tools to be employed in this work is "Tweety." Lloyd explains, waves his hand in the direction of a bright red Hughes 500 helicopter strapped to a landing pad on the rear decks.
The Esperanza has berths for 33 crew and also accommodates two rigid-hull speedboats and four of the quick-and-nimble inflatable rubber Zodiacs that Greenpeace daredevils have made world-famous.
"There are three other ships in the Greenpeace fleet," Lloyd explained, "The Argus, the Arctic Sunrise, and the Rainbow Warrior. At 2,076 British Royal tons, the 72-meter-long (238 feet) Esperanza is, by far, the largest of the ships. "Three Rainbow Warriors would run the length of this vessel," one Greenpeace crewmember marveled.
Invited to tour the Esperanza, The-Edge climbs through bulkheads, scrambles up the metal rungs of ladders and trudges down long narrow corridors. Inside one open door, a team of cooks is sweating over steaming cauldrons of food. Another door reveals a quartet of bearded eco-salts engrossed in discussions of strategy over pints of dark brew. A communications room glows and hums with the heat of computers, TV monitors, satellite phones and fax machines.
In the wheelhouse, The-Edge is shown an array of state-of-the-art navigation equipment. Because of all the metal in the room, the ship's magnetic compass has been mounted on the roof. The crew uses a periscope to remotely monitor the compass.
The First Mate boasts that the Esperanza is powered by two diesel/electric turbine engines that are environmentally and economically superior to standard ship engines. The result: more knots-per-gallon and significant reductions in CO2 emissions. The Esperanza is a working model that demonstrates how "hybrid" vessels can be the wave of the future.
As a matter of fact, Greenpeace tells The-Edge, "these hybrid-powered ships are now coming on-line. We hear that San Francisco is planning to buy a fleet of hybrid-electric ferry boats." [This initiative is due, in no small measure, to the efforts of the Bluewater Network, a former Earth Island project.]
Every ship has a backstory. The Esperanza began its career as an ice-class Russian fire-fighting vessel built in Gdansk, Poland in 1984. The ship is not only tough, it is fast. The Esperanza averaged nine knots on the passage from Rotterdam but (depending on which crew member you're talking to) the ship can chop through the waves at a top speed of 14 to 18 knots.
Greenpeace invested a great deal of additional money and time to make the vessel "eco-friendly." All onboard asbestos was isolated and safely removed. The hull was covered in TBT-free paint and all air-conditioning and refrigeration units were replaced with ozone-friendly ammonia-based systems (making the Esperanza the "first Dutch registered vessel to be so fitted"). Waste water is recycled. Only clean water is pumped overboard. The ship's bilgewater is run through purifiers that are 15 times more effective than required by law.
Designed with a reinforced bow to bust through ice to rescue stranded ships, the Esperanza (Spanish for "hope") also comes equipped with a powerful winch. Greenpeace opted to salvage the winch and spent a good bit of change to bring it back to life. As a result, the Esperanza is now fully certified as a rescue vessel, authorized to respond to SOS calls anywhere in the world.
"Our dream," a crewmember confides with a broad grin, "is that one day we'll be called on to come to the aid of a disabled oil tanker!"
After concluding its mission in Alaska, the Esperanza headed south for the World Trade Organization meeting in Cancun, Mexico.
For more information, contact Greenpeace USA, 702 H. Street, NW, Suite 300, Washington, DC 2001. www.greenpeace.org
An Invitation to Pick "Another Superpower"
On September 11, Australian Prime Minister John Howard scolded critics of US foreign policy, calling Washington's military actions "a force for good. The values and the ideals of the United States are good values and good ideals."
PM Howard then went on to make the following statement: "I ask a very simple question: If the world is going to have a superpower, which nation other than the United States would you like it to be?"
The EcoMole is formally inviting the global community to respond to Mr. Howard's challenge. The Mole suspects that there is little sympathy for the concept of a "superpower" in the Green community (Wasn't the United Nations was supposed to be the alternative?), but for the sake of argument, let's consider Howard's challenge. Is there another country whose past history and current political programs ("good values and good ideals") would make it a better candidate for "superpower" status?
Let the nominations begin. (Please include some words explaining your nomination, The results will be posted on the website sometime in the near future.)
NGOs Protest and Shame the WTO
Anaradha Mittal / Food First
MEXICO -- While thousands of campesinas and the indigenous peoples marched in the streets of Cancun, hoping to have their voices heard at the WTO Ministerial, activists from around 40 different groups and from countries around the world, including Pakistan, Thailand, India, Philippines, Uruguay, Canada, Sri Lanka, United States, participated in a peaceful protest and shamed the WTO in the convention center where the ministerial is being held.
As the opening ceremony got underway with Mr. Supachai Panitchpakdi, director general of the WTO, addressing the opening plenary, NGO representatives stood up holding signs reading: "Undemocratic WTO," "Obsolete WTO," and "Anti-Development WTO." When they tried to leave the room, they were stopped by the security guards and soon the plenary was drowned in the chants of "Shame."
This protest symbolized the fact that people throughout the world have turned their backs on an institution that has become a source of global poverty, inequality, disempowerment, and environmental crisis. Once presented as the premier institution of economic global governance of the 21st century, the actions of the WTO over the last eight years -- moves taken at the behest of the powerful corporate interests in the United States and the EU -- have revealed it to be nothing but an instrument of corporate power.
For a report on the demonstration that culminated in the protest suicide of Korean farming activist Kyung-Hae Lee, go to Hoots & Hollers in this current edition of The-Edge.
Peace Warriors Nominated for Nobel Prize
CANADA -- A previous edition of The-Edge reported that a right-wing Norwegian politician had nominated George W. Bush and Tony Blair for the Nobel Peacce Prize. It is bracing to discover that a progressive member of Canada's House of Commons has nominated the International Solidarity Movement (ISM) for Nobel recognition.
The ISM has sent teams of international activists to stand between the homes of Palestinians and the bulldozers and tanks of the Israeli Defense Forces. These volunteers -- many of them young Jews -- have been harassed, detained and beaten. Recently, some members of the ISM have been killed.
Canadian MP Svend J. Robinson (who is also the international Human Rights advocate for the New Democratic Party) made the case to the Nobel Committee with the following statement: "The contribution of the ISM to advancing the cause of peace in the Middle East, to defending human rights, and to upholding international law is without parallel. This organization's selfless efforts to promote peace and protect the lives of innocent civilians in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict clearly merit international recognition."
Robinson's letter singled out three ISM volunteers for special mention "for the courage and resolve they displayed in their acts of nonviolent civil disobedience in defense of peace and human rights in the Palestinian Occupied Territories.
"These individuals are Brian Avery and Tom Hurndall, who miraculously survived sniper shots to the head by Israeli forces while they were defending Palestinian civilians from Israeli troops, and Rachel Corrie, who was crushed to death by an Israeli Defense Force bulldozer while attempting to prevent the demolition of the home of an innocent Palestinian family."
The-Edge Continues the Earth Island Journal Tradition
Over the years, many of the Earth Island Journal's trail-blazing investigative articles were honored by the prestigious Project Censored Awards. The-Edge (www.the-edge.org www.the-edge.org) continues that tradition with the recent announcement of the "Top 25 Censored Media Stories of 2002-2003."
We are proud to report that The-Edge covered the seven of Project Censored's Top 25 stories, including:
#1 The Neoconservative Plan for Global Dominance.
#2 Homeland Security Threatens Civil Liberty.
#3 US Illegally Removes Pages from Iraq UN Report.
#8 US/British Forces Continue Use of Depleted Uranium Weapons Despite Massive Evidence of Negative Health Effects.
#11 US Implicated in Taliban Massacre.
#15 US Military's War on the Earth.
#19 US Dollar vs. the Euro: Another Reason for the Invasion of Iraq.
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