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A Passionate Approach To Environmental Issues: Greenpeace Day (15 Sep 2013)

Explores Greenpeace’s approach to environmental issues to encourage students to care for the environment (SEAL theme 2: Empathy).

by Brian Radcliffe

Suitable for Whole School (Sec)


To explore Greenpeace’s approach to environmental issues to encourage students to care for the environment (SEAL theme 2: Empathy).

Preparation and materials

  • You will need two readers.


  1. Leader:  How do you assess the value of something? For instance, how much is a forest worth? How much is a whale worth? How much is a beautiful blue ocean worth? How much is a spectacular view worth?

    Reader 1:  To some people a forest is only worth something when the trees have been felled and sold for fuel and building materials.

    Reader 2:  To some people a whale is only worth something when it’s been harpooned and sliced up for pet food.

    Reader 1:  To some people an ocean is only worth the fish that can be sold for food and the oil beneath the ocean floor that can be piped up and turned into petrol and diesel.

    Reader 2:  To some people a spectacular view only hides the mineral resources that can be mined for use in industry.
  2. Leader:  The 15th of September is Greenpeace Day. Greenpeace is an environmental organization that takes very different approaches from the ones we’ve just heard when it comes to placing values on forests, whales, oceans and spectacular views.

    Founded in Vancouver, Canada, in 1971, Greenpeace has a vision of a world that is (not surprisingly) green and peaceful, where the environment is healthy and life is nurtured in all its diversity.

    Reader 1:  Greenpeace suggests that a forest needs to be valued not merely as a source of fuel and building materials but also as a place where carbon dioxide is absorbed and oxygen is released, where plants flourish and provide new solutions to medical problems, where animals and birds create vibrant communities full of colour, sound and activity. None of this could continue if all the trees were felled.

    Reader 2:  Greenpeace suggests that whales need to be valued for their own sake as the largest mammals on the planet, part of a complex eco-system and an awe-inspiring sight as they cruise the depths, occasionally breaching the surface and coming back down, making a spectacular splash.

    Reader 1:  Greenpeace suggests that the oceans need to be valued as a vast climate control unit, warming and cooling the planet’s air systems, creating clouds and winds. Also, each ocean is home to a huge variety of life, from tiny plankton to the whales just mentioned – a variety that is sensitively balanced and easily disrupted by overfishing and pollution.

    Reader 2:  Greenpeace suggests that a spectacular view sometimes needs simply to be enjoyed for its own sake – a source of beauty, a source of calm, a source of inspiration.
  3. Leader:  Greenpeace is an organization that sets out to inspire us. It draws our attention to the wonder of the world we live in and encourages us to actively support those governments, businesses and individuals who are attempting to get the balance right in terms of thoughtfully making use of the resources available in the environment while also ensuring that new resources are developed, so we never reach the stage of all of them having been used up and certain life forms having become extinct.

    Greenpeace also opposes those who seek to exploit these resources irresponsibly. Sometimes this is done in a courageous and daring way, occupying oil rigs or sailing between whales and whaling boats. Those are probably tactics that are beyond what we would personally want to be involved in, but Greenpeace also makes use of volunteers throughout the UK, people who protest against environmental exploitation and destruction by sending emails and texts, organizing protest marches and encouraging boycotts of premises and products that are environmentally harmful. If you’re concerned about the environment, then Greenpeace may be able to help focus your concern in our community.

Time for reflection

I wonder, how would you assess the value of the environment in which you live? It’s a complex question with a variety of possible answers. Probably there are as many different answers as there are people present here today. On Greenpeace Day it’s worth spending a little time working out what you yourself think.


Dear Lord,
Thank you for the complexity of the world in which we live, its colours and shapes, its sounds, smells and textures.
Help me to judge the value I’d place on each part.
May I live to preserve this world for my time on it and for the future.


‘Big Yellow Taxi’ by Joni Mitchell

Publication date: September 2013   (Vol.15 No.9)    Published by SPCK, London, UK.
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