As a younger man, I was a big fan of Greenpeace.
As time went on, I thought they lost their focus by branching out from protesting nuclear weapons to whaling and trees and basically hanging out a shingle that said, "If you send us money, we will protest for you."
I watched them change from instilling their people with scientific literacy to educating their people on political activism. Then I watched them turn on me because I was a scientist who didn't much like exaggerated evidence in the name of fundraising and because I was a sportsman and because I was a businessman.
I've always believed that sportsmen - hunters, hikers, mountain climbers - are natural allies of the environmental movement.
I watched them turn on hunters because of the gun issue. I watched them turn on businesspeople because of the logging issue. I watched them devolve into silliness ... hijacking ships, funnelling money to political groups, ramming a French sailboat competing in the 2003 America’s Cup and finally, in the absolute depths of their Klondike Kop level incompetence, running aground on Tubbataha Reef Marine Park off the coast of Manila in 2005, which they were supposedly visiting because they were worried about global warming. They paid a $7,000 fine and said it was an accident and the millions of dollars in damage done are still not fixed. I imagine the environmental movement wouldn't have been so lenient if, after the Exxon Valdez accident, Exxon paid a token fine and left the damage.
But I have noticed a change - in the environmental movement in general and in Greenpeace in particular - that may be telling me they are welcoming their natural allies back home. This crazy business of teaming up with Trotzkyites who are somehow with Stalinists who are all selling Che Guevara shirts and complaining about Israel certainly wasn't helping the environment.
I care about the environment. I recycle, I flip paper over and re-use it in the fax machine, I kill and cut and eat a lot of my own meat, I waste a lot less fuel than Al Gore does. I just think government needs to waste less money and stay out of things that aren't in the Constitution. I found out a few years ago I was a "granola Conservative." Hell, I didn't even know people like me had a name before then. And I don't think Greenpeace looks at me as the enemy any more.
What really made me turn the corner in my thinking on them is that Greenpeace has now decided to work with business rather than against it. They're not doing it with press releases, protests or threats. They're doing it by bringing in their natural allies and discussing issues and working out a plan.
A few years ago, the guitar industry was the enemy. Guitar makers were both in business and they used wood - and therefore they were evil. To me, and maybe to you, people who make guitars are not evil. No one goes into the guitar business to get rich, they go into the guitar business because they love music and they love wood and they love beauty.
One of my favorite guitar companies is Taylor guitars. They're not one of my favorites just because of their guitars - I don't think my high-frequency hearing is good enough to hear the true "brightness" of the Taylor sound - but also because of the way they do business. They send out a quarterly publication to me. They send it to all of their customers, past and present and maybe they'll send it to you if you ask them. It features tips on caring for your guitars, on their seminars and their workshops. But every issue, the founder and CEO, Bob Taylor, talks about wood. When the last Liberty Tree from the Revolutionary War suffered hurrican damage and died and they were ready to cut it down, Bob Taylor flew there and bought it so he could make guitars. If you own one of those, you have a work of art and a piece of history now.
Bob is not in the guitar business, in that sense. Bob is in the wood business. You can't make a good guitar out of bad wood, no matter how skilled you are. Bob Taylor is not the enemy of the environment any more than I am and Greenpeace finally figured it out.
They brought him and people from Martin and Gibson and Fender to southeast Alaska to talk about the Sitka Spruce and figure out a way to make sure wood is used responsibly.
You can't plant a tree and get a guitar 40 years later. You can't plant a tree and get a guitar out of it 100 years later. It takes between 300-500 years to get the wood you need for a guitar. These guys aren't worrying about their a 500 year plan for their companies but they care about the environment just as much as any political group.
The environmental movement has historically waged the kind of public relations campaign I don't much like. They make it sound like some evil American conglomerate is doing the logging. Sitka, in southeast Alaska, is Native American land. It's primarily owned by Sealaska, a Native American corporation. All the protesting in the world can't stop a sovereign nation from doing whatever they want but they will listen to their customers. And that's what Greenpeace is trying to accomplish. It's a good idea.
The American guitar industry in total uses about 150 spruce logs per year. That's what a sawmill cuts in one day. I don't know how many sawmills there are but I know there are a lot so you can see that the guitar makers are not the enemy. They're also not a huge customer in a raw materials sense but guitarists, and guitar companies, are vocal about wood and the environment.
I'm glad that Greenpeace has finally figured that out and has begun working with business on a responsible managed use plan. There may be hope for those guys yet ... as long as they learn to steer their boats properly.