Margaret Mead, the anthropologist, once told me that I should never underestimate the power of the individual. "There has never been any positive social change initiated by governments or institutions," she said. "All progressive change has to come about because of the actions of individuals or small groups of individuals. Never believe that an individual does not have the power to change the world."
I intend to change the world. I believe, with Margaret Mead, that any single person can make a difference if he allows his passion to be expressed through action. My passion is the living Earth, especially her oceans. I am a conservationist, a protector of species and ecological systems, and a defender of the rights of nature.
I was raised by the sea in eastern Canada and, at an early age, ran off to be a sailor. I learned my trade on the decks of Scandinavian merchant vessels in a hundred exotic ports. In 1971, I sailed with a small group of activists to defend the environment from nuclear testing by the United States Atomic Energy Commission. We sailed with two ships, Greenpeace and Greenpeace Too. Although we didn't physically stop the detonation, we did publicize the issue and, in doing so, we created a new approach to solving problems. We created the Greenpeace Foundation, the first media-savvy environmental organization.
In 1973, my education as a warrior began when I served as a medic with the American Indian Movement during the occupation of Wounded Knee. We held the territory against the military might of the United States for 70 days, despite heavy gunfire and many casualties.
In 1977, after leading many Greenpeace campaigns, I left the Greenpeace Foundation. My experience with Greenpeace underscored Margaret Mead's belief that established institutions were not to be relied upon to bring about change. When Greenpeace was a collective of dedicated individuals it was an effective organization. Unfortunately, the collective became an institution and then a bureaucracy, and now it's part of the problem. I am critical of Greenpeace for reasons that will be clear to readers of this book. Sometimes I feel a bit like Dr. Frankenstein, having helped to create a green monster that is now totally out of control. Greenpeace exists now only to perpetuate itself.
I now give my energy and leadership to the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, an organization dedicated to channeling the zeal of concerned individuals into direct-action campaigns that challenge those who illegally exploit marine wildlife.
For more than 20 years I have tried to make the world a little better for those who will inherit it. I have fought for the rights of indigenous peoples in North and South America. I have tracked elephant poachers in East Africa, saved wolves in the Yukon, defended bison in Montana, crusaded for the rain forests in Brazil and saved tens of thousands of trees in British Columbia. I have been both a strategist and a tactician for the environmental movement.
I have made friends and enemies. I cherish both. My enemies are a challenge, my friends a source of strength.
To some I am a hero. To others I am a pirate, a villain, even a terrorist. The qualities that make me appear heroic to some also make me appear piratical to others. All heroes have enemies; the greater the hero, the greater, stronger and more numerous the enemies. I look forward to cultivating many more enemies in my career on behalf of the Earth.
I am not alone. Lisa Distefano, my wife, is another who has shown courage and resolve in the fight for ecological justice. Many people who have gone to sea with me have also been champions of the whales, dolphins and other citizens of the ocean. I think of engineers Peter Woof, Carroll Vogel, Myra Finkelstein and Jeremy Coon; officers Neil Sanderson, Peter Brown, Rod Coronado and Susana Rodriguez Pastor; supporters Cleveland Amory, Edward Abbey, Steve Wynn, Pridim Singh, Susan Bloom, Lavinia Currier, Robert Hunter and Farley Mowat. There are many others.
In this book, I have tried to explain what motivates people like us to serve and protect the natural world. At the same time, I have tried to show the political, social and philosophical opposition that serious environmental activists encounter.
This book documents the oceanic campaigns I have led since 1979. Campaigns to protect terrestrial ecosystems and land species are not included. My history with Greenpeace has been documented in other books by other people and in my book (written with Warren Rogers) Sea Shepherd, published in 1982. I have also not included an account of my campaigns to protect the seals off Labrador and in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, a story worth a book of its own. This book is devoted to my campaigns on behalf of whales, dolphins and the victims of pelagic drift nets. It is a story of action in a cause to protect life and serve the Earth.
My campaigns and those of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society have been less widely publicized than those of other groups, especially Greenpeace. This is at least partly because we have always devoted our resources to action rather than self-promotion. I hope to persuade readers of this book of something already known to the pirate whalers of Norway, the dolphin killers of Japan, the outlaw drift-netters of Taiwan and the pilot whale killers of the Faroe Islands: that the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society is the most aggressive, no-nonsense and determined conservation organization in the world.