“We can make change and save our planet with small actions”

By Yu Cheol and Kim Su-yeon | 기사입력 2022/05/18 [16:28]

“We can make change and save our planet with small actions”

By Yu Cheol and Kim Su-yeon | 입력 : 2022/05/18 [16:28]

Greenpeace is an international environmental organization founded in 1971. Greenpeace is now present in more than 57 countries across Asia, Europe, the Americas, Africa, and the Pacific.  Greenpeace Korea was established in 2011, and last year celebrated its 10th anniversary.

When Greenpeace was established in 1971, its first action was to stop a nuclear test which was to be conducted on Amchitka Island in Alaska. The name of the ship that headed to Amchitka Island was “Greenpeace.” Although the nuclear test on Amchitka Island was not prevented, many citizens opposed nuclear tests, so they were suspended, thanks to a “mind bomb” of the advocates, which changes the public’s mind and eventually society. 

Since then, Greenpeace has been carrying out a variety of environmental activities including whale, marine, and forest protection, toxic substances removal, Arctic protection, and climate change response, etc. We visited the office of Greenpeace Korea in Seoul and met communication officer Choi Tae-young and community outreach campaigner Kim Jin-sol. 


Greenpeace is an international environmental organization founded in 1971.  Greenpeace Korea was established in 2011, and last year celebrated its 10th anniversary. Greenpeace Korea is currently conducting six campaigns: climate suffrage, driving change, 30X30 (ocean protection), zero plastic, nuclear power phase-out, and biodiversity conservation.

Q: Please explain Greenpeace briefly to us.

Choi: Greenpeace is a global campaigning network of inde-pendent national and regional Green-peace organisations (NROs). The NROs are responsible for implementing and carrying out cam-paigns that fall under the long-term global campaign program. Each member country has its office, like Greenpeace Korea and Greenpeace International is the coordinating organization. 


Q: Tell us about the structure and general activities of Greenpeace Korea briefly.

Choi: Greenpeace Korea is currently conducting six campaigns: climate suffrage, driving change (accelerating automobile industry’s fossil fuel phase-out), 30X30  (ocean protection), zero plastic, nuclear power phase-out, and biodiversity conservation. 

Through climate suffrage campaigns, we urge politicians to respond to the climate crisis and make proper policies. We mobilize the community members to make petitions and monitor the lawmakers’ activities. The driving change campaign demands global automobile companies such as Hyundai motor company to replace the existing internal combustion engines with electric engines to reduce carbon emission. 

The nuclear power campaign promotes and enhances the awareness of the potential danger of nuclear power plants, as shown in the Fukushima nuclear power plant disaster. Through the biodiversity campaign, we alert the public that climate action is urgent as the biodiversity is falling due to climate change. We also urge businesses and governments to create supply chains that reduce single-use plastics. Lastly, we are demanding governments to protect 30 percent of the world’s ocean by 2030, which is critical to save the ocean biodiversity and restore the oceans’ function to absorb carbon.


Q: What are some important or typical activities in Greenpeace Korea? 

Choi: The most important issue of the day is the climate crisis. Therefore, our activities also focus on this issue. The UN and world scientists say that greenhouse gas emissions should be reduced by more than 50% by 2030 compared to 2018.  

Climate change is a threat to our very existence, and therefore, stronger action on climate change is critical for human survival. But failures to tackle climate change will also lead to huge financial losses. According to the study by the Korea Deloitte Institute, climate change will bring an economic loss of 8 trillion won annually over the next 50 years. The service industry will suffer a huge loss of 19 trillion won per year. We need to respond quickly to climate change to prevent this damage. If we don‘t take action, the cumulative economic loss will reach 935 trillion won by 2070. However, if we respond quickly, we could create 2,300 trillion won in added value.

Kim: Last year, we conducted citizen research tracking plastic waste in household. Over 2,600 people participated in this research and recorded the manufacturer, brand name, types of plastic, and the amount of plastic used or consumed at home for a week. Using this data, we investigated the kinds of plastic waste and what companies created them. It showed 78% of plastic waste was food packaging materials. Based on this citizen actions, we demanded that major food and beverage companies should transparently disclose their plastic usage data and take measures to reduce the use of single use plastic. Before the last presidential election, we ran the public contest called “Green Letter that I Drew.” Through this contest, we asked elementary school students across the country to send letters to the presidential candidates asking them to develop preventive policies to stop the climate crisis. About 15,000 letters were written and delivered to each presidential candidate and they responded directly to Greenpeace and elementary school students who sent letters.


Q: Please tell us how to participate in your program.

Kim: Basically, anybody can participate in our campaign simply by subscribing via our social media channels. Even just sharing our message can be a great help to us. You may register as a Greenpeace volunteer and take part in a variety of environmental activities such as the plastic research collecting data on household plastic waste. This year, we will be also running a plogging (jogging and picking up trash) campaign called Earth and Run and several other citizen activities.


Q: What made you decide on a career as a campaigner at Greenpeace?

Kim: At my previous job, I became aware of the seriousness of environmental issues. I also had a chance to visit Totnes, an energy transition village in England. The energy transition village had the goal of moving the energy provision system by conventional fossil fuel to renewable energy sources by 2030. It is through these experiences that I made up my mind to pursue a career to tackle environmental problems.

Choi: I worked at a for-profit company before, but I was not satisfied with my life there. One day I realized I should find some meaningful work to do. I started to seek it out and I found Greenpeace. 


Q: When do you feel proud as a Greenpeace staff?

Kim: When the participants of our campaign say “it was meaningful,” I feel it’s rewarding. When I conducted the plastic citizen research last year, I felt like I met like-minded people and I felt proud and rewarded.

Choi: Last year, I collaborated with Naver Webtoon and a cartoon artist to create a webtoon series on the issue of climate change. It made me proud because the webtoon was well received by the public.


Q: What are your plans for the future?

Kim: I joined Greenpeace last year when the pandemic hit us hard. So I met citizens mostly online. I hope I can meet them more in person to do environmental protection activities together.

Choi: There are various issues that need to be tackled. Among others, however, I want to inform the public of the important issues, such as the Japanese government’s plan for releasing Fukushima water and various greenwashing problems. Greenwashing means  green marketing deceptively used to persuade the public that any given company’s or organization’s products are environmentally friendly when, in fact, they are not.  I want to work together with people to solve these problems.


Q: Do you have a message for our readers? 

Choi & Kim: Greenpeace is trying to stop the climate crisis. There must be changes in the energy and industrial systems to prevent it. This is difficult to achieve if the public are indifferent. For that reason, we work to attract their interest and active participation. Young readers can participate in our campaigns as citizens and consumers and also they can persuade their parents and teachers to change their minds and join us


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