Susi Newborn, Early Greenpeace Movement Activist and Author of the Memoir, A Bonfire in my Mouth

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Fri, 06/05/2015 - 6:00pm to 7:00pm
Susi Newborn, Early Greenpeace Movement Activist & Author

Bread and Roses welcomes Susi Newborn, early Greenpeace Movement activist and author of the memoir, A Bonfire in my Mouth: Life, Passion and the Rainbow Warrior.

Susi Newborn staged her first direct protest action before she was even in Kindergarten. She pressed her small back against an old growth fir tree in her front yard, and refused to move. The shade of the big tree made the front rooms of the house gloomy and her mother had asked her father to chop it down that morning. Susi stayed firmly planted, even as the sun went down, even when the family doctor was called. The Dr. pronounced her healthy and unusually bold, and the tree was saved.

As a young woman, in the wake of her beloved father's death, Susi committed her life and work to protecting the planet. She became involved with Friends of the Earth in London, and soon after, the early Greenpeace Movement. Her first direct action took place on the ice fields of Newfoundland, interfering with the Norwegian commercial seal hunt, spraying non-toxic green paint on the snow white fur of harp seals pups to render the pelts non-commercial.

She then co-founded Greenpeace UK in 1977 and helped transform a rusted but sturdy old trawler into the colorful and legendary ship, the Rainbow Warrior. The ship that would take them into the North Sea to confront the Icelandic Whaling fleet. One of few women crew members, Susi rode in a rubber Zodiac across punishing waters to place her body between the harpoon guns and the fleeing, endangered whales.

In a later anti-nuclear campaign, the only woman in the crew, she placed her body between one of the most notorious nuclear complexes in the world, and a massive docking cargo ship carrying nuclear rods and radioactive waste whose captain was intent on crushing the protesters. Susi didn't budge from the Zodiac until it buckled beneath her feet.

The Greenpeace movement in the Seventies grew to cult status, they were media darlings, the activists treated like rock stars (and sometimes acted like them). Despite the resultant power grabs, internal politics, human frailty and ego trips within the organization, Susi kept her head, heart and spirit in the right place. She never lost sight of the original mission to protect life on earth.

Her 2003 Memoir, A Bonfire in my Mouth: Life, Passion, and the Rainbow Warrior chronicles these early days and her lifelong commitment to the environment.

Leigh Anne Kranz hosts
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