In 1969, a United States plan to conduct nuclear bomb tests on Amchitka Island in the Aleutian archipelago ignited the movement in Canada that would become Greenpeace.
Irving and Dorothy Stowe were American Quakers, who left the US in protest of its military policies, and arrived in Canada, in 1966, with their children Robert and Barbara. The Stowe home became a nexus of action to protest the US nuclear tests. Their Quaker friends Marie and Jim Bohlen first proposed the idea to sail a boat into the test zone. Canadian journalists Bob Hunter and Ben and Dorothy Metcalfe lent media experience, and the small group swelled with volunteers.
Hunter wrote a newspaper column about the danger of a tsunami from the bomb tests, which provided the group with its first name: The Don’t Make a Wave Committee. Twenty-two year-old Bill Darnell, who organised an ’Ecology Caravan’ in Canada, inspired the name that has endured for four decades. After a meeting, when Irving Stowe said “Peace,” Darnell responded with “Make it a green peace,” and the name stuck.
The group raised money with tin cans in corner grocery stores, and 25 cent ’Greenpeace’ buttons, but had not raised nearly enough to charter a boat and sail 6,000 kilometres across the Gulf of Alaska. Irving Stowe, a lover of music, decided to stage a rock concert.
He wrote to activist musicians Joan Baez, Phil Ochs, and others. Ochs and the popular Canadian band Chilliwack agreed to appear. Baez could not attend, but sent a $1000 check and connected Stowe with Joni Mitchell, who agreed to perform and brought her friend James Taylor. Stowe booked Vancouver’s Pacific Coliseum for the event on16 October, 1970. Sound engineer Dave Zeffertt, recorded the concert on quarter-inch tape, and gave a copy to Stowe for his personal use only: it is a testament to Irving Stowe’s integrity that this historic recording never leaked out as a bootleg.