Selected Moments of the 20th Century

A work in progress edited by Daniel Schugurensky
Department of Adult Education and Counselling Psychology,
The Ontario Institute for Studies in Education of the University of Toronto (OISE/UT)


Greenpeace, a leader for environmental education, is launched

In September 1971, the threat of nuclear weapons and their testing preempted one of the most significant moments in history that has lead to a thirty year campaign for nuclear disarmament.  It was on this day that a small group of 12 Canadian and U.S. environmental activists chartered a boat and sailed to a nuclear test site located in Amchitka, Alaska in efforts to prevent a U.S nuclear bomb test.  Although this particular
effort failed and the test continued as scheduled, this small group of individuals has since become one of the most influential and nationally recognized environmental organizations to date.  This organization is called Greenpeace. 

Today, Greenpeace is an independently funded organization that has over 2.5 million members and holds offices in more than 27 countries around the globe.  Founded on principles of social and environmental justice, Greenpeace today continues to exemplify this same commitment to our planet and our future through a variety of strategies.  The most well known strategies Greenpeace is associated with and perhaps which has been the basis for their reputation, include both political lobbying and protest demonstrations.  Although radical in nature and perhaps somewhat unorthodox, these activities "do raise environmental awareness.  People are forced to confront situations that they might otherwise be complacent about" (Mandy, 2002).  I would suggest that it is this very quality of Greenpeace which has allowed the organization to play such an integral role in achieving public awareness for the environment and the causes it supports. 

In combination with these radical methods, Greenpeace offers the public an extensive database of information through their website, publications and newsletters.   They take an active role in scientific research through their International Science Unit in the United Kingdom and work collaboratively with other organizations to change harmful practices and to devise and introduce environmentally safe alternatives (Greenpeace Canada 2002).  One such campaign in Canada in particular has been "Save the Ancient Forests" campaign.  Ancient or old growth forests are "forest areas that are relatively undisturbed by human activity which provide clean air, water and soil" (Markets Initiative 2001) while also performing a number of ecological and social functions. Reports indicate that "over a half of the world's temperate rainforests have already been destroyed" (Greenpeace Canada: Forest Campaign, 2001) and that "more than a quarter of what remains is found on the west coast of British Columbia" (Greenpeace Canada: Forest Campaign, 2001).  This area is known as the Great Bear Rainforest and covers almost 7 million hectares, a size comparable to that of the country Switzerland. 

Greenpeace originally launched its campaign to raise awareness regarding the clear cutting of Canada's coastal rainforest in 1991 and since then has joined a coalition with other environmental groups including the Friends of Clayoquot Sound and the Sierra Club of BC.  This coalition is known as "The Markets Initiative" and its purpose is to work collaboratively with Canadian companies to not only reduce their consumption of ancient forest products but to develop practical and economic ways of shifting their practice towards environmentally sound paper and wood alternatives.  The success of these initiatives is multi-faceted but ultimately is due to a smart and simple approach. Given today's competitive economy, The Markets Initiative get their "buy in" from companies by impressing a strong link between profit, worker and customer loyalty and financial performance with corporate social responsibility (Markets Initiative 2001).  Once an interest and commitment have been established, the Markets Initiative then actively works with the company to devise and implement strategies that will lead the company in a step by step process through its implementation.   

Since its inception, 17 top Canadian companies including Roots Canada, Nike Canada and Bell Canada in addition to 21 Canadian book publishers and 50 other companies around the globe including Home Depot and IKEA have joined partnership with the Markets Initiative project in its fight to preserve our ancient forests and stimulate a growing market for alternative products (Markets Initiative 2002).

What is even more impressive is that Greenpeace and the Markets Initiative, in combination with other environmental groups, logging companies, workers, coastal communities and many First Nations reached an historic consensus agreement on April 4, 2001 called the Great Bear Rainforest Agreement.  The agreement was devised to develop a new ecosystem-based approach to land-use management and has "established the framework for what could become the largest conservation initiative in North America" (Great Bear Rainforest 2002).

Environmental education is an extensive and sometimes difficult process that requires commitment from both environmental educators and society to achieve success and create sustainable change.  Greenpeace has been a longstanding example of an organization committed to environmental awareness and through their efforts, both radical and conservative, environmental awareness is not only becoming a forefront in today's society but has sparked a planetary movement towards a greener and more peaceful world.


Great Bear Rainforest (2002). (Retrieved October 30, 2002)

Greenpeace Canada (2002).  (Retrieved October 28, 2002)

Greenpeace Canada: Forest Campaign (Retrieved October 29, 2002)

Greenpeace U.S.A.(2002) (Retrieved November 1, 2002)

Mandy, P. (2002). The World Summit on Sustainable Development. (Retrieved October 30, 2002)

Markets Initiative (2001). Retrieved October 30, 2002, from

Prepared by Sandra Stothers, OISE/UT

November 2002

Citation: Author (2002). Title. In Daniel Schugurensky (Ed.), History of Education: Selected Moments of the 20th Century [online]. Available:  (date accessed).

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