Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Bob Huner R.I.P.

Hunter, 63, a Canadian newspaper columnist turned social activist who helped spur a global ecological movement as one of the founders and inaugural president of Greenpeace, died of prostate cancer May 2 at a hospital in Toronto.

The international organization was founded in Vancouver, on Canada's Pacific Coast in the early 1970s when Mr. Hunter, then a young journalist with the Vancouver Sun, joined a group of 12 anti-nuclear activists on a dramatic voyage to protest a nuclear bomb test on Amchitka Island in the Aleutians.

Mr. Hunter, who long promoted environmental causes in his column and coined the phrase "Don't Make a Wave" to describe opposition to nuclear testing, was invited to join the volunteers on a fishing boat they dubbed "The Greenpeace."

At the time, the U.S. military had been conducting a series of nuclear tests in the Aleutians since 1965.

"I thought I was going to be a reporter, taking notes," he later recalled. "In reality, I wound up on first watch." Carrying a knapsack with books and a journal, he wrote about the 45-day voyage in dispatches that were printed in the Vancouver Sun and picked up by the international wire services.

Those aboard the vessel included anti-nuclear activists Dorothy Stowe, widow of Irving Stowe, Dorothy Metcalfe and Jim Bohlen. Though they were all arrested by the U.S. Coast Guard in Akutan, 600 miles from their goal, public pressure in opposition to the nuclear tests began to mount among political leaders and labor organizations. About two months after the nuclear test in 1971, further tests at the site were cancelled and the area became a wildlife sanctuary.

In a 2001 article in the Vancouver Sun, Mr. Hunter recalled that the Canadian city was "a convergence of hippies, draft dodgers, Tibetan monks, radical ecologists, rebel journalists, Quakers and expatriate Yanks . . . Greenpeace was born from this mix of characters."

Following the Alaska voyage, Mr. Hunter helped guide what was then called the Greenpeace Foundation as its first president from 1973 to 1981. With his background in journalism and sometimes brusque demeanor, he helped to pioneer hard-driving media campaigns to attract maximum television coverage as Greenpeace sought to protect seals, end whale hunting and ocean dumping of nuclear wastes, and reform logging practices in Canada.

He adopted the term "rainbow warriors" to describe Greenpeace activists and the expression "mind bomb" to describe the effects of Greenpeace protests.

Since its founding, Greenpeace has grown to include offices in 40 countries, with more than 2.5 million members worldwide.

"Bob was a creative force in shaping Greenpeace," said Bruce Cox, executive director of Greenpeace Canada. "His passion and his commitment translated into powerful communications, and his unorthodox approach to communications helped define Greenpeace."

In the years after he left Greenpeace, he became an ecology broadcasting specialist for City TV in Toronto, where the Canadian native also lived. He was also a prolific writer with numerous articles and 14 novels and non-fiction books to his credit.

Mr. Hunter, who received the prestigious Wyland Foundation "eco-pioneer" award in 1999, continued his support of Greenpeace over the years.

"Bob was an inspirational storyteller, an audacious fighter and an unpretentious mystic," said John Doherty, chair of Greenpeace Canada. "He was serious about saving the world while always maintaining a sense of humor."

His marriage to Zoe Hunter ended in divorce.

Survivors include his wife, Roberta "Bobbi" Hunter of Toronto; two children from his first marriage, Conan Hunter of Toronto and Justine Hunter of Victoria, B.C.; and two children from his second marriage, Will and Emily Hunter, both of Toronto.


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