Greenpeace co-founder dazzles 'em at SOU

Captain Paul Watson isn't exactly a "people person."

But when the outspoken activist and former co-founder of Greenpeace spoke to a small but passionate crowd at Southern Oregon University on Tuesday night, people certainly seemed to love him.

"People are out of touch because they live in a fantasy world where humans started to see themselves as divine creatures or something rather than as animals needing to co-exist in the world to function," said Watson in his speech.

To make the point Watson alluded to worms being more valuable than humans.

Such is the nature of the controversial lifelong activist.

Watson, who cofounded Greenpeace before his militant actions got him ejected from the organization, has spent his life protecting whales and fish aboard various vessels, traveling the world searching out pirates and poachers.

Watson is famous for antics that include ramming or sinking boats. Though he claims no one has ever been hurt through his actions, he has cost whale and dolphin hunting corporations millions of dollars. Arrested more than a dozen times around the world, and once incarcerated for 120 days in the Netherlands, Watson has mostly avoided convictions. He was once found guilty in absentia in Norway for sinking a Norwegian fishing boat.

Of course, he is unapologetic for his actions.

"I was on trial (in Canada for criminal mischief charges) at the same time as O.J. (Simpson)," Watson said. "He was up for two life sentences for killing people. I was up for the same for saving fish."

Controversy and conflict peppered his rapid fire statements. Of his dissension with Greenpeace, he said, "As cofounder of Greenpeace, I feel like Dr. Frankenstein for creating that big, green monster.

"Some people may look at us as pirates," said Watson. "I'm okay with that we look at ourselves as pirates of compassion going after pirates of profit. We get away with what we do because we are not breaking any laws. We're enforcing them."

Watson said that while whale hunting has been internationally illegal for more than 20 years, it is still wide spread throughout the world.

" the year 2045, we'll have had more species lost to the world in 65 years than in the last 65 million," said Watson. "No one wants to address the truth. We can't see the world dying all around us. It's where the media has led us. "&

166;Where are our values?"

Watson's critical arrows also flew in the direction of his fellow activists.

"How do we address this?" he said. "A few people hold up signs, have petitions. Some people dress up in cute animal costumes. "&

166;We cling to life on this planet by the barest of threads."

Organizers were pleased to have attracted Watson and all his verbal onslaughts.

"It was a really good opportunity for us. He was traveling from Seattle and made the stop," said Jenna Brehm, an SOU Student Activities board member who helped organize the event. "I think it is a matter of educating. Some students are getting extra credit for coming. It's good to see different (academic) departments taking an interest."

Marvin Woodard, Student Activities and Leadership director, who oversaw the event, agreed.

"At a time where we, as a community, both in Ashland or at Southern Oregon University, are really taking environmentalism to a new level," Woodard said, "there couldn't be a better time for a leader like Captain Paul Watson to come speak to us and stoke the fire a bit."

Watson equally earned praise from those in attendance.

"Everybody cares about the issues, but when it comes down to it, everyone thinks someone else will take care of it for them," said audience member Dawn Sturgeon.

But Watson made it clear he is not interested in the praise of people.

"I don't care what people think. We don't work for people. We work for whales and fish," said Watson ""&

166;Find me one whale or fish on this planet that disagrees with what we did and I swear we'll never do it again. It's amazing what you can get done when you don't care what people think."

Later, however, Watson took offered a slightly less strident point of view.

"I'm not saying that you have to ram ships to be an activist. Really, you just have to do what you do best and use it to help the planet. Be a lawyer, be a teacher, be a writer. We don't all have to agree on the same philosophy."

One of Watson's five books, "Ocean Warrior," is now being made into a motion picture starring Christian Bale, Watson said.

"He will be more real than I've ever been," Watson quipped. Sailing the high seas, Watson now patrols the world with his Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, a roguish organization co-funded by an Australian beer company.

"I knew Paul in my Greenpeace days," said audience member Robert Macknowski, who enjoyed the chance to reunite with his former collogue. "I wanted to go on a mission to stop the dolphin slaughter (in Japan) but I couldn't afford to go. I was on the deck with him though"&

166; he is one of my heroes."

Share This Story