Kumi Naidoo on the Urgency of Climate Action


150%;font-family:"Verdana","sans-serif";mso-fareast-font-family:"Times New Roman";
mso-bidi-font-family:"Times New Roman";color:#373737″>On this week’s broadcast, the charismatic Greenpeace International Executive Director Kumi Naidoo joins Bill to discuss the politics of global warming and the urgency of environmental activism.

150%;font-family:"Verdana","sans-serif";mso-fareast-font-family:"Times New Roman";
mso-bidi-font-family:"Times New Roman";color:#373737″>As of this moment Vladimir Putin’s government is holding in custody the Arctic Sunrise, the command ship of the environmental activist organization Greenpeace International. The ship was seized by armed members of the Russian Coast Guard last week after Greenpeace activists tried to board an offshore oil platform as a protest against drilling for fossil fuels in the fragile environment of the Arctic, where global warming has reduced the sea ice cover 40 percent since 1980.

150%;font-family:"Verdana","sans-serif";mso-fareast-font-family:"Times New Roman";
mso-bidi-font-family:"Times New Roman";color:#373737″>Naidoo tells Bill, “If there’s injustice in the world, those of us that have the ability to witness it and to record it, document it and tell the world what is happening have a moral responsibility to do that. Then, of course, it’s left up to those that are receiving that knowledge to make the moral choice about whether they want to stand up against the injustice or observe it.”

150%;font-family:"Verdana","sans-serif";mso-fareast-font-family:"Times New Roman";
mso-bidi-font-family:"Times New Roman";color:#373737″>From his teenage years in South Africa, Naidoo was a vocal and powerful opponent of apartheid, incarcerated and beaten so often he finally fled to Britain, where he was awarded a Rhodes scholarship to Oxford. When apartheid ended, Naidoo went back to South Africa and became a prominent human rights activist with a growing concern for the impact of climate change on impoverished people of color. In 2009, he brought his negotiating and advocacy skills to the leadership of Greenpeace International, now a worldwide organization of three million members.

 

font-family:"Verdana","sans-serif";mso-bidi-font-family:Arial;color:#373737″>BILL MOYERS: mso-bidi-font-family:Arial;color:#373737″>Welcome. We begin with drama on the high seas. Several days ago, environmental activists from Greenpeace International tried to climb a Russian oil platform in the Arctic. They were there to protest drilling for fossil fuels in this fragile ecology at the top of the world but they were confronted by gun-carrying members of the Russian Coast Guard who fired warning shots dangerously close to the protesters and their inflatable boats. The next day, a Russian helicopter dropped armed troops onto the deck of the Arctic Sunrise, that’s the Greenpeace command ship. She was seized and towed to the port of Murmansk, and the crew held for questioning and possible charges of piracy.

mso-bidi-font-family:Arial;color:#373737″>Thank you very much. Good to be with you.

mso-bidi-font-family:Arial;color:#373737″>What's the worst case scenario for you there with the Arctic Sunrise?

mso-bidi-font-family:Arial;color:#373737″>Well, you know, the important thing is there's 30 activists who are on the ship.

mso-bidi-font-family:Arial;color:#373737″>30?

mso-bidi-font-family:Arial;color:#373737″>30, yeah. And interestingly, the captain of the ship, who is an American citizen, was the captain when the French intelligence service bombed our ship, the Rainbow Warrior, in Auckland more than 25 years ago.

mso-bidi-font-family:Arial;color:#373737″>Yeah, 27 years.

mso-bidi-font-family:Arial;color:#373737″>27 years ago–

mso-bidi-font-family:Arial;color:#373737″>That was your flagship.

mso-bidi-font-family:Arial;color:#373737″>Yeah, Rainbow Warrior. And we have the Rainbow Warrior still, the third version of it. So our first and foremost concerns are for our volunteers and activists onboard. We hope, best case scenario, is that they will simply be released and sent back to their countries, even if they are deported. With regard to the ship, the ship sails under a Dutch flag. The Dutch government has been very sympathetic and have been in touch with the Russian authorities seeking clarity as to why the ship was boarded. And we expect that the Dutch, again, on the most positive side, the ship will be released and will sail to its next mission. On the most negative side, there will be a protracted struggle to get the ship back.

mso-bidi-font-family:Arial;color:#373737″>Is it illegal for your activists to board, or try to board that oil rig out there?

mso-bidi-font-family:Arial;color:#373737″>Yes.

mso-bidi-font-family:Arial;color:#373737″>It is? Illegal against international law? Or Russian law?

mso-bidi-font-family:Arial;color:#373737″>I would say it is an act of nonviolent peaceful civil disobedience against international maritime law.

mso-bidi-font-family:Arial;color:#373737″>It was in international waters?

mso-bidi-font-family:Arial;color:#373737″>It was in international waters.

mso-bidi-font-family:Arial;color:#373737″>What was it doing there?

mso-bidi-font-family:Arial;color:#373737″>Basically, when there's a rig at sea, the government that's responsible for putting that rig there determines a 500 meter exclusion zone around the rig. And you're not allowed to enter. So we keep our ship outside of that zone. And when our activists are going to take action, so, like, last year when I was involved, we would go in through an inflatable boat.

mso-bidi-font-family:Arial;color:#373737″>Do you think many people know that Greenpeace owes some of its heritage and DNA to the Quakers?

mso-bidi-font-family:Arial;color:#373737″>I think some people know. But that's a very, very important legacy of Greenpeace because what people don't know is that the founders of Greenpeace were largely American and Canadian. It was Quakers from the United States who left the U.S. to go to Canada during the Vietnam War. These were people who had the kids, mainly boys, who would be eligible for draft for the Vietnam War.

mso-bidi-font-family:Arial;color:#373737″>Well, when you made that choice a year ago when you actually put yourself in that inflatable and went toward that ship and started climbing up the rig, did you realize that your life was in danger, that they would respond violently if they wanted to?

mso-bidi-font-family:Arial;color:#373737″>Yes. You know, one of the things we have to do is before we execute the action, we have a legal briefing, right? Where the lawyers will say, "As you prepare to take this action, you need to understand what the risks are." We would've had earlier briefings. But there's, like, two or three days before the actual action there's a final conversation where they will tell you the worst case scenario, the best case scenario.

mso-bidi-font-family:Arial;color:#373737″>Practicing?

mso-bidi-font-family:Arial;color:#373737″>Yeah. So to be honest with you, I was–and I'm not a good swimmer. So…

mso-bidi-font-family:Arial;color:#373737″>I brought some video of you participating in a civil disobedience act in Greenland in 2011. Here it is.

mso-bidi-font-family:Arial;color:#373737″>Tell me why you decided to board a rig and put yourself in harm's way.

mso-bidi-font-family:Arial;color:#373737″>I feel that on a daily basis Greenpeace activists and other environmental and social activists standing up for a more just, equitable and sustainable world are putting their lives on the line on a regular basis. I mean, at any given time Greenpeace is taking some action to protect the environment somewhere in the world. And I believe that one of the important things about leadership is that if you are leading a movement or an organization, leaders must periodically lead from the front.

mso-bidi-font-family:Arial;color:#373737″>What wasn't recorded was what you were thinking, what was going through your head at that time.

mso-bidi-font-family:Arial;color:#373737″>You know, to be honest, I was extremely scared. I was thinking a lot actually of my little daughter. You know, my daughter was– I say little, but she just turned 21. But, you know, because I'm with Greenpeace partly because of her because when Greenpeace approached me to consider this position, I was in the middle of a hunger strike. Actually, I was 19 days only on water.

mso-bidi-font-family:Arial;color:#373737″>Fasting, hungry?

mso-bidi-font-family:Arial;color:#373737″>Yeah, just on water for 19 days. And then my daughter said, "What did Greenpeace want?" I told her. And then she said, "Dad, I won't talk to you if you don't seriously consider this position when you finish your stupid hunger strike."

mso-bidi-font-family:Arial;color:#373737″>Interesting because I brought with me a very recent report from UNICEF just out. The study's titled “Climate Change: Children's Challenge.” And the report argues that children bear the brunt of climate change, even though they are the least responsible for it. And that they are passionate and vocal, as your daughter was, about the need for action.

mso-bidi-font-family:Arial;color:#373737″>Absolutely right. Everywhere in the world I go, from the United States to China, young people get it, they're concerned. They understand that we are running out of time. And they believe more and more that the current adult leadership of the world is betraying their future.

mso-bidi-font-family:Arial;color:#373737″>In that context, take the Arctic. You have said it's insane to drill in the Arctic. Why?

mso-bidi-font-family:Arial;color:#373737″>

mso-bidi-font-family:Arial;color:#373737″>How so?

mso-bidi-font-family:Arial;color:#373737″>Because the Arctic serves as a refrigerator and air conditioner for the planet. It helps regulate global temperature and the climate. And by reflecting the harsh rays of the sunlight away. Now– so the whole climate system in the world is related to the level of the Arctic sea ice. That's one.

mso-bidi-font-family:Arial;color:#373737″>Many people–

mso-bidi-font-family:Arial;color:#373737″>–we are signing a death warrant for the future generations.

mso-bidi-font-family:Arial;color:#373737″>Many people think we're doing that, as you know, from just reading the press.

mso-bidi-font-family:Arial;color:#373737″>Yeah, yeah, no–

mso-bidi-font-family:Arial;color:#373737″>They say it’s too late.

mso-bidi-font-family:Arial;color:#373737″>Yes. Well, you know, this is a good question because I got asked recently, "There are some people who say it's too late. What is your view?" And they ask, "Do you agree?" I say, "I agree and I disagree. I agree because for some people in the world, it's already too late."