What does the Greenpeace International Executive Director have in common with film director Spike Lee, President Obama and a former Power Ranger? They’ve all hosted a Reddit “Ask Me Anything” session.
Ask me anything, as Reddit arranges is a risky proposition, one that I relished, but that also made me a little nervous. Participants can ask any and all questions of the host in a public forum. Smart, funny and incisive questions came in fast and furious. It was a struggle to keep up.
This was my first AMA session, and resulted in some great questions-and answers! Here are the best ones in case you missed the session.
1. Hi Kumi, are you at all concerned that your job title can be abbreviated to IED (improvised explosive device)? Just wondering.
Generally I am not too fussed about titles, I am okay with that. You should know that I am a great Improviser, I can be occasionally Explosive, but never Divisive – IED
2. When I talk to Greenpeace members or employees (I am an ex-one), they often talk about Greenpeace’s victories (obviously). So here’s my question: what do you consider to be Greenpeace’s biggest failure?
Hi Pierluc, Greenpeaces’ biggest failure is that it’s still necessary
Follow up: What was greenpeace’s biggest f&^% up?
No question, Greenpeace as an organisation with human beings serving it has made tactical and other errors of judgments over time. However, history has shown that Greenpeace has been at least 20 years ahead of time in terms of raising the alarm on pressing environmental, social and security issues. Different people will answer your question differently.
For me the biggest error we made in the early days was not always working in a harmonious partnership with Indigenous peoples. I am pleased that we are building bridges and are working with indigenous peoples who have been the best stewards of the environment historically.
3. I haven’t seen Greenpeace saying much about global warming’s “new math “–the idea that we can only burn carbon at present rates for less than ten years, and that we must write off 80 percent of fossil fuel reserves completely. Why not?
Global warming’s “new math” makes clear that we simply cannot allow much of the fossil fuel reserves to burned. A report we published this year “The Point of No Return” identified the 14 biggest fossil fuel projects in the world that must be stopped to avoid catastrophic climate change. And that’s why we’re working, alongside many allies, to stop fossil fuel extraction and transport projects like Arctic drilling, tar sands development and the Keystone XL pipeline, and massive coal mining and export proposals in the United States and Australia.
4. What happened in your life that made you want to climb oil rigs and not just sit around like a normal person? p.s. proud member of the Greenpeace USA student network here!!
Well, to be honest, I never really wanted to climb an oilrig in the Arctic — really not a natural place for a boy from Durban. There are many trite answers all of which are in their way true: for example ‘for evil to triumph all it takes is for good men and women to do nothing”. I paraphrase of course. The insanity of Arctic oil drilling cannot go unchallenged. The thought that we would misinterpret the melting of the Arctic ice as an invitation to drill and spill rather than a warning to stop burning fossil fuels is a defining moment for our civilisation. We need to heed that warning, we need to take action, we need to say to the oil industry ‘you go no further’.
I grew up under apartheid, inaction was not an option. While times were hard, lives where lost, the cause was just and inspirational. Those memories and the great many friends and inspirations drive me on.
It’s great to hear from a fellow activist and member of our great US student network. Its important to remember that an activist’s life is not always about sacrifice and hardship, its about celebrating life, about collaboration and great friendships that last a life time. And I genuinely believe that activism can be fun and even sexy
5. How are you thoughts about Greenpeace considered as the New World Order Propaganda ??
Greenpeace was influenced by the Quaker movement in since its early days which calls for BEARING WITNESS against injustice. We base all our interventions on objective science and research. Do we occasionally get things wrong? Of course we make mistakes. But we do not engage in conscious misleading of people like some of our governments and businesses often do.
6. Hi Kumi, thanks for doing this AMA! Are you scared at some point that Greenpeace will be too big for its own good? With that I mean the massive machinery that needs to operate it with desk-people rather then activists?
Great question and one we constantly ask ourselves. As an organisation it is always possible to lose sight of your purpose and get caught up in your own survival, to get caught up in the systems needed to keep the organisation healthy. Fortunately, we have many great passionate and involved activists, volunteers and supporters who help us keep it real and maintain the balance. Our staff certainly don’t just sit behind their desks, most of them can’t wait to get out and take action, after they have completed the meticulous research and arrangements to make sure non violent direct action happens at the right time, in the right place for the maximum change.
Take a look at our web sites you will see that everyday, together with our supporters, we are out in the world taking action for change.
7. Do you drink Coca Cola?
Used to drink a lot as a kid. Have given it up for mutiple reasons, including the fact that my doctor and dentist have advised me to do so