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Environmental Activism and Direct Action

Paul Watson is one of the pioneers of direct action tactics for environmental causes. In 1971, Watson joined with members of the Sierra Club on a voyage to protest nuclear testing in the Aleutian Islands. The ship was the M/V Greenpeace. The members of this crew would become the nucleus of one of the most radical environment groups of its time: Greenpeace.

From 1971 to 1977, Watson helped to make Greenpeace the most proactive, determined, and visible environmental organization in the world. To its opponents, Greenpeace represented a threat to their fiscal interests, and was labeled "fanaticism" and even "ecoterrorism." For its supporters, it was the only group willing to take a stand and never compromise its principles. Watson played an integral part in garnering media attention by enlisting celebrity support and intervening directly when alerted to illegal hunting and pollution activities. He helped to reinvigorate the environmental movement by literally putting lives on the line for environmental issues.

In 1977, Watson left Greenpeace in order to found the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society. He hoped that this group could recapture some of the fire he felt Greenpeace had lost as it became a less radical organization. The Sea Shepherd Conservation Society works as an environmental watchdog, exposing fishing and whaling activities that are in violation of global treaties. Watson remains active on a broad range of environmental issues and is dedicated to educating and motivating a new generation of activists to take a strong stand on their beliefs.

Paul Watson joins us as part of a series on environmental activism, cosponsored by the Roberts Environmental Center.