Greenpeace co-founder Pete Wilkinson at Edinburgh Central Library

‘From Deptford to Antarctica’ tells the story of Pete Wilkinson’s life of environmental campaigning. And what a journey it’s been, as Pete demonstrated at last week’s Edinburgh Reads talk.

Pete Wilkinson

Pete spoke engagingly about the campaigns, personalities and internal politics of the green movement in the seventies and eighties, before bringing things right up to date with news of the causes he’s presently involved with.

We began with the early days of Friends of The Earth; the ‘Freaks of Freak House’ and the causes they fought for, including the campaign against commercial whaling. Pete told us about the time an inflatable whale, which was meant to float up the Thames, sank – but rather than being a  PR disaster the press lapped it up, as it was perceived as being emblematic of the plight these creatures faced.

After a ‘Dickensian’ stint at the Post Office Pete was recruited by David Fraser McTaggart to help organise campaigns against nuclear testing, seal culling and the Windscale nuclear reactor.

Later on there was the successful and controversial campaign against the fur trade (the one with the slogan about it taking 40 dumb animals to make a fur coat but only one to wear it). Pete told us of the rift that this caused between the UK and North American sides of the organisation, and the subsequent turning point that was the sinking of the Greenpeace ship the Rainbow Warrior by French foreign intelligence.

Picture: Andrew JL Ansell Photographic

Picture: Andrew JL Ansell Photographic

Pete’s talk was illustrated by a slideshow and two of the most striking images were from his time in Antarctica. A stunning and tranquil ice-scape was in stark contrast to a terrifying shot taken on board a ship in stormy conditions.

Pete rounded off the evening by talking about two of his current passions: investigating how to clean up the massive flouting gyres of rubbish which litter the oceans, and his work with the Nuclear Information Service.

All too soon our time was up. As Pete said himself, “I could go on indefinitely… just read the book”. You can borrow it from us or download it as an eBook via OverDrive.

Picture: Andrew JL Ansell Photographic

Picture: Andrew JL Ansell Photographic

Thanks to Pete, Fledgling Press and our Edinburgh Reads audience for making this event such a success.

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