On Monday, I had the privilege of delivering a guest lecture to third- and fourth-year undergraduate students at the University of Northern British Columbia (UNBC). The students were all taking part in the UNBC Geography Department’s course ‘Changing Arctic: Human and Environmental Systems’, convened by Prof Gail Fondahl.
My lecture was entitled ‘”Greenshit go home” Greenpeace and green colonialism in the Arctic’. It generally followed a similar lecture that I gave at the University of Chichester in 2014, at the height of Greenpeace’s controversial ‘Save the Arctic!’ campaign. I criticised this campaign, as well as Greenpeace’s anti-sealing campaign of the 1970s and 1980s, as exemplars of the ‘eco-colonialism’ that can lurk within the environmental movement.
This time round, I sought to bring my earlier story up to date by addressing the important attempts that Greenpeace has since made to ‘decolonise’ their organisation and activities—especially in North America, where settled land-claims and self-government agreements have made the balance of environment and economic development also a matter of Indigenous rights. Greenpeace’s move to decolonise was motivated in part by Indigenous and other criticism of its ‘Save the Arctic!’ campaign—criticism in which I played a small but I hope a useful part.
Greenpeace has only just begun their process of decolonisation, and serious ethical challenges remain, which I summarised in my lecture. I’m indebted to the work of Kathleen Rodgers and Darcy Ingram of the University of Ottawa, whose paper ‘Decolonizing environmentalism in the Arctic? Greenpeace, complicity and negotiating the contradictions of solidarity in the Inuit Nunangat‘ offers a very good discussion of Greenpeace’s attempt to decolonise.
Very many thanks to Gail Fondahl for inviting me into her class. I hope her students found the lecture interesting and enjoyable.
Download a copy of my presentation slides from this website.