Social Action Now!

An objective view to worldwide social issues

Don’t Make A Wave Committee

It is now commonly known the non-governmental environmental organization Greenpeace, and the struggles that faces year by year by defeating the threats big enterprises -which try to achieve a direct benefit at the expense of the natural resources- or the main government. However, it is not known the origins of this influential organization that nowadays has more than 4 million of associates.

The beginning started in the late 1960s, when in the United States an underground nuclear weapon test was planned in an island of Alaska. In 1964, an earthquake took place in Alaska, so that the plans caused some concerns, and finally it provoked a tsunami. Five years later,  in 1969, there was a demonstration of 7,000 people blocking a major U.S, Canadian border crossing in British Columbia, carrying signs like “Don’t Make A Wave. It’s Your Fault If Our Fault Goes”. More demonstrations occurred at U.S. border crossings in Ontario and Quebec. However, the protests did not stop the U.S. from exploding the bomb.

Because of the fact that neither earthquake nor tsunami followed the test, the protests grew when the United States announced they would detonate a bomb five times more powerful than the first one. Some of the opposers were Jim Bohlen, a veteran who had served during the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and Irving Stowe and Dorothy Stowe, a Quaker couple. In October 1969 they started seeing each other at a church basement, calling themselves as the Don’t Make a Wave Committee and planning anti-nuclear manifestations. From Irving Stowe, Jim Bohlen used passive resistance, “bearing witness”. Jim Bohlen’s wife Marie came up with the idea to sail to Amchitka, the island of Alaska, inspired by the anti-nuclear journeys of Albert Bigelow in 1958. Everything ended up in the press, and in 1970 Jim and Marie Bohlen, Irving and Dorothy Stowe and Paul Cote, a law student and peace activist established that The Don’t Make a Wave Committee, working independently of The Sierra Club, because some of them took part in that one too. Successfully, the first office was opened in a back-room, storefront off Broadway on Cypress in Kitsilano, (Vancouver).

In 1970 Bill Darnell, during the meetings, combined the words ‘green’ and ‘peace’,therefore, its name became Greenpeace. The Don’t Make a Wave Committee first expedition hired the Phyllis Cormack, a halibut seiner, to take protestors to the testing zone on the island of Amchitka. The expedition was called Greenpeace I, and where it was included the Canadian journalist Robert Hunter. In the fall of 1971, the ship sailed towards Amchitka and faced the U.S. navy ship Confidence. Unfortunately, the activists were forced to turn back. Because of this and the bad weather the crew decided to return to Canada, just to know if there was a general support of their cause. Greenpeace chartered another ship, Edgewater Fortune was called at that moment, but renamed with the Greenpeace Too!

One day out of Amchitka, the United States Atomic Energy Commission exploded a Hydrogen bomb underground a day earlier than scheduled on November 6, 1971. It gained widespread criticism and the United States, finally, decided not to continue with their test plans at Amchitka. The Don’t Make a Wave committee changed their official name to Greenpeace Foundation in 1972 until today.


Greenpeace official site, (2014, February 3) In Our history: Greenpeace Retrieved 9:31, February 3, 2014, from

Don’t Make a Wave Committee. (2014, January 7). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 07:44, February 6, 2014, from

Michael Brown & John May: The Greenpeace Story, ISBN 0-86318-691-2