Greenpeace Southeast Asia


I am because you are by Chuck Baclagon

Kumi Naidoo, the new Executive Director of Greenpeace International

From Making Waves

In several African languages we have the proverb “I am, because you are”. This means that your sense of being a human being is determined by the relationships you have with other people. This proverb has informed not only my thinking about human relationships, but also about nature and the environment. Unless we recognise that we must come together in communities, in rich and poor countries and cut across the range of divides that keep us apart, unless we recognise that we are all in this together, we will not be able to address the environmental challenges that we face and we certainly will not be able to address the problem of climate change.

Today we are at the cross roads. The future of our planet is at stake. The effects of climate change are being felt by millions of people across the world. We are at a time when civil society needs to be courageous and bold, peaceful and principled in coming together to ensure that we stop catastrophic climate change – the biggest challenge our planet has ever faced.

I am joining Greenpeace at a crucial time. We are several weeks away from the United Nations climate summit in Copenhagen. There is still a lot to campaign for in the remaining weeks. Our world leaders have not acted with courage in the run up to the negotiations – they are sleep walking into a crisis and have to wake up and realise they have lost valuable time.
They are refusing to listen to the many scientists and economists who have given concrete evidence of the reality of climate change, but most importantly they are refusing to listen to their own citizens who are calling for urgent action. We want the voices of ordinary citizens to be heard once more. We have to stand up and say to the most powerful world leaders, if you can find trillions of dollars to bail out the banks, why can’t you find a fraction of that amount of money to bail out the environment and to bail out the poor?

Catastrophic climate change is not inevitable. We have an opportunity through our creativity and our activism to push for a green economy that creates sustainable jobs; we need to pursue an energy revolution, which seeks to promote the use of renewable energy such as wind and solar power and increased energy efficiency. If we are able to harness all of these opportunities we can address the issues of poverty, job creation and protecting the climate simultaneously. We need world leaders to act with courage to ensure that we have a fair, ambitious and binding treaty coming out of Copenhagen.

After several years working in the anti poverty movement, I have come to see how the struggle against poverty and the struggle against climate change are inextricably linked. My experience in working with the anti-apartheid and social justice movements has taught me that when humanity faces a major challenge, a major injustice, it is only when decent men and women are prepared to stand up and be counted that change actually occurs. I believe that Greenpeace is an organisation that can make a difference and help men and women around the world to find a voice, to stand up and create change.

Being asked to lead Greenpeace is one of the greatest privileges I can imagine. When I was first asked to consider taking over this role I was on day 19 of a 25 day hunger fast to protest against the government of Robert Mugabe in Zimbabwe. I was feeling rather weak and wondered if I was really up to the challenge of such an important role. I also wondered whether it was too soon to leave the work I had become so involved in on behalf of the poor. When I later told my daughter she said that she would never talk to me again if I did not seriously consider the offer. She also pointed out to me that Greenpeace has always worked for the poor, just in a different way. For her, Greenpeace and its supporters are the real activists, the real heroes who dedicate their lives to the struggle for climate justice. My daughter’s enthusiasm is the enthusiasm of the younger generation which will have to deal with the consequences of the decisions my generation is making now. Her enthusiasm gives me hope that we will be able to face the grave danger of climate change and come up with solutions which will preserve this planet for her and future generations.

I am deeply honoured to join Greenpeace as International Executive Director, especially at this point in time.

I am proud to be part of an organisation that is ready to stand up to power, to stop people in the streets, to master the science, to debate with the politicians, to use all peaceful means possible to create a green, peaceful and more equitable world. I am convinced that we can develop a sustainable future for this planet, but it needs all of us to get involved. I am incredibly honoured and excited and look forward to working with you all.

Kumi Naidoo

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