Boooo! Greenpeace!

Greenpeace staged a demonstration at the Belgian Grand Prix this weekend that could explain the booing during the podium presentation on Sunday afternoon.

While David Couthard attempted to interview Sebastian Vettel, Fernando Alonso and Lewis Hamilton, crowds periodically booed which prompted Vettel to say:

“We are a bit confused here because the crowd are booing and cheering and I’m not sure why,”

It appears that Greenpeace had protestors scale the main grandstand and then rappel off the front of the awning to unfurl a banner that said, “Arctic oil? Shell no!” Two hang gliders flew over the race with banners trailing and a sign was unfurled on the railing in front of the podium—apparently via some sort of remote control.

Greenpeace International Executive Director, Kumi Naidoo, released a statement on their website saying:

My interest in F1 started way back when I had a roommate who absolutely loved it — she would sometimes get up at 2 o’clock in the morning just to watch it. And before long, she got me hooked, too. So I can certainly respect the technology, sportsmanship and innovation that are at the heart of the Formula One Grand Prix.

But what I can’t respect is what the sponsor of the event, Shell, is doing to the Arctic.

Greenpeace were so amped about their mission that they created a video hijacking Fleetwood Mac’s The Chain (the popular intro music for British Grand Prix coverage broadcasts) and offered a glimpse of the perpetrators (all edgy and hard core pucker-face shots in race suits). Greenpeace said they had 35 members at various locations at the race.

It is also suspected that one of them attempted to rappel off of a platform above the drivers but was stopped by security.

What I can’t respect is Greenpeace’s willingness to risk the safety of its members and fans by repelling off of grandstands and placing the drivers and personnel on the podium at risk of injury to make a point that they aren’t happy about Arctic drilling. You have an issue with that endeavor, meet with Shell and discuss it but this classless act is just simply base behavior. Fans underneath the rappelling duo didn’t deserve the possibility of being injured should one of them fall.

A cursory look at their website and list of staff have accolades and they really big up the degrees and achievements of their members as engineers, nuclear specialists and more. Really? Then go spend your money on developing a new fuel that doesn’t rely on oil or filling landfills with old batteries, acid and debris.

I hate a hypocrite! There is every chance they all arrived at Spa Francochamps in vehicles powered by oil harvested by Shell or other fuel suppliers in F1. Trying to engage in corporate character assassination instead of finding solutions is not my idea of activism. Positive energy spent will always benefit more than negative energy expended to tear others down.

I have been to Shell’s technology center and to Ferrari and I have seen the work, resources, efforts and emotional and social capital invested in being better stewards of our resources. Ferrari’s factories are ripe with carbon-neutral initiatives both inside and out (they literally have trees in their factory next to where they build your V8 for the Italia you ordered). Shell’s investment in alternative fuels, better safety, mobility, health and quality of life in one year outweigh anything Greenpeace has done in years. You can see some of their environmental performance metrics here and many of the initiatives they are working on.

Are all programs error free? Of course not. Is it dangerous finding oil? Shell yes! Could every company in the oil business find areas of improvement? Certainly. Is Shell working hard at doing just that? Absolutely! Are Greenpeace interested in working on new solutions and actually inventing technology and methods for better fuels, mobility, health and safety? Are they working for a better fuel alternative for humanity? Well…they do have mission statement:

“We defend the natural world and promote peace by investigating, exposing and confronting environmental abuse, and championing environmentally responsible solutions”

So they seem to be light on actually innovating or creating solutions so much as confronting abuse and championing things other people have tried. Their big creation is a mobile phone app it seems and they are keen to suggest that wind power is the answer to all our needs as seen here. In fact, they say With current technology, renewable energy sources like wind, solar, and geothermal can provide 96% of our electricity and 98% of our total heating demand — accounting for almost all of our primary energy demand. Good, then go build it and stop hanging from grandstands and endangering fans and drivers in Formula 1. You’ve completely convinced us Greenpeace, when is your first wind farm going up and what neighborhood is it going to supply energy too? Go on!  Go build it!

I’m sorry but Shell are doing far more than just parroting reports about wind farms…the ones that don’t kill rare birds of course. No, Shell is actually installing wind farms and putting their money where their mouth is. You can see their work here.

I grow weary of activism that seeks to discredit, destroy or tear down companies and people trying to be better stewards of our planet. While they are working diligently toward innovation and new fuel alternatives, they also have to keep the world supplied with current technology. Even Formula 1 itself has moved to a new fuel flow-rate for 2014 reducing usage by 50kgs during each race (that’s 22,000kgs less fuel used in 2014 which is thousands of liters of fuel). They are using innovative Energy Recovery System technology to harvest waste energy and re-deploy it into their machines. If Mr. Naidoo doesn’t like that then there is always the new Formula E series which is an all-electric racing series set to launch in 2014.  Maybe he can get up at 2am and watch those races with his female roommate?

Being a dissenting curmudgeon does nothing for humanity. Repelling off of grandstands and risking injury to the perpetrators themselves and fans below is even more sophomoric. Taking all of those degrees you brag about and putting your heads together to invent a new battery technology or way of delivering safer burning stoves or fuel alternatives to emerging cultures or finding ways to help energy companies with their alternative fuel initiatives seems more cooperative, less militant and more beneficial for all humanity.

It’s time to grow up Greenpeace. It’s time to start becoming part of the solution and not part of the invective. It’s time to start acting like adults and actually using that education you are so proud of and applying it to positive innovation for people in need and stop castigating those who are trying, innovating and supplying the world with energy. They would be the first to admit that they could always do a better job in certain areas and would be more than willing to listen to great innovative ideas. Formula 1 included.

Then again, finding a way of traveling the world on someone else’s dime, calling yourself and “investigator”, “campaigner” or “specialist” sounds good and getting paid to be a grand critic of companies, people and governments seems like the ultimate bravery of being out of range…and getting paid for it is even better.

The world feed for the race didn’t show any of the signs, banners or rappelling antics so perhaps my idea of changing course and becoming innovators of alternate fuels and building your own sites and helping others do the same seems like a better use of resources? Just thinking outside of the box there…it’s not as eye-grabbing as being ecological activists but then actually helping people would be soul-satisfyingly good.

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