Interest groups are an important aspect of our society. They can raise awareness about various issues, and they have become an instrumental part of social, economic, and political affairs. One interest group that has experienced an increasing level of prominence in our society has been Greenpeace. With this in mind, the purpose of this paper will be to provide a detailed examination of this particular interest group. This will include an analysis of the organization and its activities.
Background and History
In 1969, Greenpeace was founded by Jim Bohlen, Paul Cote, and Irving Stowe in Vancouver though it was then known as "The Don't Make a Wave Committee". The group was formed in order to protest the American government's decision to test its nuclear arsenal at Amchitka which is at the tip of the Aleutian arc off the coast of Alaska and which happened to be located in an isolated but earthquake-prone region (Brown and May, 1989, pp. 7-14). By 1971, the group had been renamed to Greenpeace. At the current time, "Greenpeace has 46 offices in 26 countries, with about 1,000 full-time staff, connected by an international computer network" (Christrup, 1993, p. 13).
In general, "Greenpeace's main preoccupation up until 1975 was the issue of nuclear testing" (Brown and May, 1989, p. 32). Clearly, this was not only motivated by the original desire to prevent nuclear testing in an earthquake-prone region, but also a willingness to prevent damage to the earth's delicate ecosystem. By 1975, the group's activities began to expand on account of a desire to protest whaling efforts that were being undertaken by Japanese and Russian vessels and that were endangering the population of many species of whales.
Just 10 years after the group had been renamed as Greenpeace, it is possible to find that the organization had become concerned with a wide variety of environmental issues and geographical areas such as global warming, the oceans, forests, nuclear energy, toxins within nature and genetic engineering, this largely reflects its position at the current time. In fact, "[i]n 1981 Greenpeace was a whirlwind of activity. Protests were taking place around the globe, and in the course of the year there were about 50 different actions in support of an increasing number of [environmental] campaigns" (Brown and May, 1989, p. 76).
In general, Greenpeace is an impartial organization that is motivated by the willingness to protect the environment. In this respect, no specific social or economic groups are included within the organization and any member of the public is welcomed to join and/or contribute to Greenpeace efforts. Yet, in spite of what one may regard as a relatively open organization, which may be commonly associated with an inability to gather support about specific issues, it is unmistakable that Greenpeace has been able to achieve a significant amount of success in its time.
These successes range from the decision of the European Economic Community to recommend a two-year ban on the import of harp seal pelts in 1983 to an American judge's ruling in Greenpeace's favor forcing the American government to apply fishing sanctions against Japan for violation of the zero sperm whale quotas in 1985. In addition, Bulkhandling, a Philadelphia toxic ash exporting company is forced to retrieve a shipment of its waste from Guinea. Originally intended for Panama, the ash was turned away by the Panamanian government and temporarily stored in Guinea after warnings of its toxicity came from Greenpeace (Greenpeace.org).
As mentioned above, Greenpeace is run by the public and for the public and this includes a relatively wide demographic spectrum. However, the nature of Greenpeace's activities does make it possible to arrive at a number of generalizations about its membership. For example, "Greenpeace is predominantly run by people in their 20's and 30's. In general,...