Greenpeace Founder Bob Hunter Dies in Toronto

TORONTO, Ontario, Canada, May 2, 2005 (ENS) - Environmental journalist and Greenpeace founder Bob Hunter died this morning in Toronto after a long fight against prostate cancer. He was 63.

A television journalist with the CHUM Group's CITY-TV, Hunter was also a newspaper columnist and author of more than a dozen books.

"This was a man with a great loving heart, a brilliant mind and a massive spirit. Bob Hunter changed our world. It a sadder world today, but a better world because of him," said Stephen Hurlbut, vice-president of news programming for CITY-TV and vice-president and general manager of CP24.

Hurlbut said, "Beyond being a dear, dear friend, Bob was a champion and a hero. He was in so many, many different ways, the brightest person I ever met, with a brilliant sense of humor and staggeringly good karma. In the 15 years that I knew him there was never a moment that his spirit wasn't life affirming, wasn't about making things better. Everybody loved Bob."

Hunter

The work of environmental journalist and Greenpeace founder Bob Hunter was featured on CITY-TV's Pulse24. (Photo courtesy CITY-TV)
From the international headquarters of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society in Friday Harbor, Washington, Captain Paul Watson remembers his longtime friend and colleague. "We had a lifelong relationship since the 1969 protest against [the U.S. atomic bomb test at] Amchitka. He's been on Greenpeace campaigns and Sea Shepherd campaigns, and was on the advisory board for the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society."

"If was somebody who could be considered a founding father of Greenpeace, it's Bob, because the movement sort of died out after Amchitka. It was Bob's initiative that kept it going," Watson said.

In 1969 in Vancouver, the movement that became Greenpeace was a handful of people in a church basement calling themselves the Don't Make a Wave Committee after Hunter's warning in his column for the "Vancouver Sun" newspaper of "a distinct danger that the tests might set in motion earthquakes and tidal waves which could sweep from one end of the Pacific to the other."

Hunter

Bob Hunter on the vessel Phyllis Cormack en route to Amchitka, Alaska to oppose U.S. nuclear weapons testing. October 1969. (Photo Greenpeace / Robert Keziere)
When the Don't Make a Wave Committee sailed a protest boat to Amchitka in the Aleutian Islands, Hunter was aboard.

Three decades later Hunter recalled in conversation with Vancouver author and activist Rex Wyler, "In Vancouver at that time there was a convergence of hippies, draft dodgers, Tibetan monks, seadogs, artists, radical ecologists, rebel journalists, Quakers, and expatriate Yanks in the one major city that happened to be closest to Amchitka Island, where the U.S. wanted to explode a bomb. Greenpeace was born of all of this."

Hunter became president of the Greenpeace Foundation in 1973, and served in that post until 1977.

From the Pacific Ocean where he stood between Russian harpoons and the whales they were hunting, to the pack ice of Newfoundland, where he dyed the white coats of harp seal pups to make them commercially worthless, Hunter inspired a new brand of personal environmental activism.

"Bob was a storyteller, a shaman, a word-magician, a Machiavellian mystic, and he dared to inject a sense of humor into the often shrill and sanctimonious job of changing the world," says Greenpeace Executive Director Gerd Leipold.

"He was funny and brave and audacious, inspiring in his refusal to accept the limits of the practical or the probable," Leipold said. "He revelled in life's ability to deliver little miracles in the form of impossibilities achieved, and Greenpeace will forever bear the mark of his crazy, super-optimistic faith in the wisdom of tilting at windmills."

In a recent book, Weyler writes about reflecting with Hunter on their experiences in the early days of Greenpeace. "The ironies and tension of history simultaneously provided the gift of history: that we got to live, to see the flourishing Earth, the flying fish, dolphins, caribou, seal pups, the raging sea, the blue light of morning, the miracle and terror of survival all rolled into one; and that we were blessed with an opportunity to serve it."

Born in 1941 in St. Boniface, Manitoba, "Bob changed a generation's thinking about the Earth, its endangered creatures and the grave responsibility we all share for preserving the natural environment he dedicated his life to protecting, CITY-TV said in a statement today.

Hunter began his communications career at the "Winnipeg Tribune" and at the "Vancouver Sun." His freelance articles have appeared in the "Toronto Star," the "Montreal Gazette," as well as "Saturday Night" magazine, "Eye Weekly," the "Edmonton Journal" and the "Victoria Times-Colonist."

Hunter

This photograph of Bob Hunter in front of his caricature portrait by Mendelson Joe was taken in the Hunter home. September 2002. (Photo by Dorothy Cutting)
Books include "Erebus, The Enemies Of Anarchy;" "The Storming Of The Mind;" "Greenpeace;" "Greenpeace III: Journey Into The Bomb;" "To Save The Whale;" "Warriors Of The Rainbow;" "The Greenpeace Chronicle;" "Cry Wolf;" "On The Sky: Zen And The Art Of International Freeloading," and his latest work, "2030 : Confronting Thermageddon in Our Lifetime."

Hunter was honored with a Governor General's Award in 1991 for his work "Occupied Canada: A Young White Man Discovers His Unsuspected Past." He also wrote 10 episodes of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation's widely syndicated series "Beachcombers."

Hunter joined CITY-TV as ecology specialist in 1988. He has won five Western Magazine Awards, a Canadian Environmental Award from the Government of Canada and a CanPro Award for his News Special "Eco War on the Grand Banks."

Hunter said, "I have visited 34 countries in my journeys around the world, have swum underwater with dolphins, stood on ice in the path of an onrushing icebreaker, parachute-jumped, dodged great white sharks and motorcycle gangs of whale factory workers in Australia, faced angry mobs in Newfoundland, founded a religion, run with the bulls in Pamplona, survived numerous storms and other near-disasters at sea while commanding a converted minesweeper in the North Pacific, stuck my head in a killer whale's mouth, and have nearly drowned, or been stomped, run down, or crushed many, many times ... and now I'm working for Moses [Znaimer] on "CityPulse." What a fabulous existence."

Hunter died surrounded by his wife, Bobbi, and his children Will, Emily, Conan and Justine. Funeral arrangements have yet to be finalized.

The University of Toronto, Canada's largest university, has established a scholarship in his name.

Learn more about the life of Bob Hunter at: CITY-TV's Pulse 24

The early days from Rex Wyler's "Waves of Compassion," at: http://www.utne.com/web_special/web_specials_archives/articles/2246-1.html

Greenpeace International at: http://www.greenpeace.org