Upstairs in the Globe, building work is going on, so we met in the cafe downstairs, which was full for the event - one family had come from Hereford to find out more, and the organisers had come down from Builth Wells (though Janet is originally a Northern lass, and her husband Pete comes from Devon). They had come hoping to set up a new local group in Hay, so they wanted to explain what being an activist with Greenpeace is all about.
There are lots of ways to get involved: the usual signing petitions and writing to your MP, manning an information stall in the high street and, the sort of thing that gets Greenpeace onto the news - the Actions like occupying the roof of the Houses of Parliament or climbing up the Shard.
It was made very clear that anything a member does is their own personal responsibility. Greenpeace was originally set up partly by Quakers, so they felt that personal responsibility and non-violence were essential to the ethos of the organisation. Greenpeace holds regular training days for non-violent action - how to de-escalate encounters with police or security, or simply angry members of the public. They also hold training sessions for climbing (to get up the Shard or onto the roof of the Houses of Parliament) and boats, so that when they are planning an Action, there is a pool of trained people to draw from.
The main way Greenpeace communicates with members now is via their webpage - www.greenwire.greenpeace.org
This gives information on what local groups are doing, and the national campaigns, and there's a blog.
The issues they tackle tend to be global in nature - someone asked what the Greenpeace position was on badgers, and they don't really have one, though members of Greenpeace may also be involved in protecting badgers. Instead it's Saving the Arctic, Protecting Forests, Defending Oceans, and Tackling Climate Change.
Pete was involved in the climb onto the top of the Houses of Parliament in 2010, just before the Copenhagen Summit on Climate Change. The motive was to impress on MPs returning from their summer breaks how important the issue was, and to do this they practiced passing ladders over a wall, across a roof and up another roof in under three minutes, because of the armed police on the premises. One member of the group had a banner, and her job was to approach the police, when they appeared, proclaiming they were Greenpeace, and not to shoot!
Janet has gone further afield, when she was chosen as part of the international group that went to stay in the Amazon jungle with the Munduruku people to protest the building of a dam across one of the main tributaries of the Amazon river. That dam will not, now, be built, but others are planned in the area. Janet's story is told in the Greenpeace magazine Connect, which was being given out at the meeting.
They were also asked about the Greenpeace position on the Swansea tidal barrage, which they were in favour of - one member of the audience pointed out that people in Cornwall were very much against the barrage, because the stone to build it was coming from a Cornish quarry and would cause a lot of damage to the environment there. As someone else said, there's a lot of stone in South Wales - why couldn't it be built with that?
The idea was to start a local group in Hay, and quite a few people signed up for that - the first meeting will be at the Globe on 16th February, but before that, there is an Action planned in Hereford on Saturday 21st. They will be meeting outside WH Smiths around mid day to man an information table outside a national business which is involved in the palm oil trade - details to be revealed on Tuesday.
There were people in the audience who were already involved in activism on various topics - one man gave out postcards from the Campaign Against Arms Trade, to be sent off to MPs to protest about weapons being sold by the UK to Saudi Arabia.
Another chap is involved with the Candlight Cinema at the Globe. They show a film once a month made by independent film makers on thought provoking topics. The next one is on Thursday 26th January (cost £5) and is called One Track Heart: The Story of Krishna Das - the man who became the lead vocalist with the group Blue Oyster Cult, as well as being a world renowned spiritual teacher.