Book review: The next generation fights on

We all remember the courageous antics of Greenpeace, those original eco-warriors who sailed out into nuclear test sites, sailed into the midst of Japanese whaling fleets and sealing expeditions, and whose ship, the Rainbow Warrior I, was sunk in Auckland Harbour on orders of the French government (a Dutch journalist was killed). One of the organization’s founders was Robert Hunter.

Hunter was a journalist, a novelist, an activist, a commentator for CITY-TV, and ran in Beaches/East York in a provincial by-election as a Liberal in 2001. He passed away in 2005. His daughter, Emily, inherited his activist genes, and has continued his legacy with her new book The Next Eco-Warriors.

The Next Eco-Warriors is a collection of the writings of 22 young men and women currently involved in the green revolution. It is edited by Ms Hunter who herself has a chapter in it (Not the End. Just the Beginning!).

“But let’s not be shy about it – it is a war,” Hunter says in the Introduction. “It is a war for the last of the Amazon rainforest. It is a war to end our own grave digging in coal and oil mining. It is a war to defend people caught in the cross fires of industrial pulverization. It is a war to defend the rights to life for non-humans. And it is a war for the creation of a new world, one with renewable energy and a sustainable economy.”

Some of the next eco-warriors include Enei Begaye, a 32-year-old Diné woman who is challenging her Navajo community to switch from coal mining jobs to more green employment. David Nickarz, 38, is a Winnipeg activist challenging the practice of mosquito fogging in that city. The young Chinese activist Wen Bo, 38, who, even though Tiananmen Square drove activism underground in China, has continued to challenge the Chinese government to enact environmental reform. Peter Hammarstedt is a 25-year-old Swede whose protest against the Newfoundland seal hunt earned him a beating courtesy of the RCMP and officers from the Canadian Department of Oceans and Fisheries. These young activists are desperately committed to their causes of choice and are willing to risk everything, making them true warriors.

Emily Hunter got her first taste of eco-activism when her father sent her out to British Columbia to spend time with his old friend and colleague Paul Watson and the Sea Shepherd group. She sailed with them to the Galapagos Islands where she landed in the middle of a dangerous confrontation between the Ecuadorian Navy and fishermen trying to overfish sea cucumbers for the Asian market. She survived the mission, and it galvanized her commitment to the Hunter family business, as it were.

“I suddenly had a purpose, and I could see it in my eyes,” Emily writes after gazing into the mirror the day after her release. “I knew I wanted to be an eco-shit-disturber till the day I die.”

Over the next several years she combined her activism with a degree in journalism, and has found her own niche managing the media for various causes and campaigns. As a volunteer correspondent for MTV News Canada, Hunter attended the 2009 Copenhagen Climate Summit, and was dismayed that the Copenhagen Accord, “the so-called climate deal… only added injury to the insulting failure of a conference.” Although her protests with other activists at the summit put her in some very scary situations of facing down riot police, it nonetheless gave her a renewed hope of a movement’s future.

“I came to realize that with the failure of Copenhagen came an opportunity,” Hunter writes. “An opportunity to build a movement that was not just focussed on events like this summit, but also on a generation’s actions. An opportunity for a movement that is more global, inclusive, and stronger than ever before. An opportunity to be a movement whose fire burns within us all… The movement is here. This is our moment.”

The Next Eco-Warriors is full of stories like Emily Hunter’s, of young people determined to make a change, and have the youthful spirit to do so.

The Next Eco-Warriors, Emily Hunter, editor, Conari Press, 2011, $21.95.

Editor’s note: According to the Globe and Mail May 25, an Amazonian Rainforest activist, José Claudio Ribeiro da Silva was shot and killed by gunmen purportedly hired by logging interests in northern Brazil.

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