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Photos by Todd Aalgaard.
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You'd walk by it without a thought, the nondescript warehouse that serves as Greenpeace Canada's best-kept secret.
The Batcave of activism on Busy St, a laneway really, in the Queen-Logan area is, according to the org's exec director, Bruce Cox, "ground zero for creative confrontation."
The only outsiders to have found the site over the few years its been there have been police and officers from CSIS - on at least five separate occasions during the first 12 months alone, not to mention instances of police infiltration in the years since.
It's here that activists keep the Greenpeace's direct action mechanism on constant standby, whether that means painting signs and banners, keeping first aid kits fully stocked, radios and GPS units charged, or simply training in order to keep those rope-climbing muscles primed and nimble.
Some of the diehards are here tonight (Thursday, March 14) - like those arrested on Parliament Hill in December of 2009, when Greenpeacers slipped past RCMP and security, climbed scaffolding and unfurled climate change banners down the side of the West and Centre Block.
They remained on site all morning, some dangling from harnesses over bemused onlookers. By 11:00, every last one was in handcuffs.
At civil disobedience central you can see the stockpiles of rope, banner, costume and balloon used in the field. Near the entrance to the warehouse sits the organization's red Zodiac watercraft and at rest against the rafters hovers the white-on-green, zeppelin-esque Greenpeace balloon seen floating above several protests.
Throughout the space, placards speaking to a range of issues - Tar Sands development, nuclear power and weapons proliferation, justice for First Nations, and so on - hangs from walls or sits half-finished in their easels, a snapshot of creative activity geared for dissent. A sewing machine reads, "Screenprinting is not a crime."
"We have a social justice perspective," Cox reminds the assembled referring to the group's arguably quixotic, and to detractors, seditious activities. "We aren't Ducks Unlimited."
As much as being a physical nucleus of the organization's campaigning, the direct action HQ gives the impression of a shrine to that principle, a showcase of past - and, critically, future - efforts.
What you get listening to members speak is that Greenpeace's role in Canadian society has assumed a different, considerably graver meaning in the Harper era.
Rather than being a muckraking gaggle of gadflies agitating from the sidelines, Greenpeace has positioned itself as a heavier ideological counterweight to the Conservatives.
With the state taking an aggressive stance against against its eco detractors - a January 2012 RCMP report referred to "a growing radicalized environmentalist faction" in Canada - activists are aware that the tools of their trade will mean much, much more as the skies darken, both politically and climatologically.
After all, Cox remarks, it's not enough simply to set carbon reduction standards. Change, he said, must be "grounded in justice and grounded in equity, otherwise it won't stand the test of time."
The org's Christy Ferguson, the spokesperson for that 2009 climbing mission, sketches out a global civilization rocketing past the point of no return. Arctic sea ice has halved, she says. By 2030, it could be gone altogether. Oil companies, frothing at the mouth over the Arctic's newly accessible petroleum reserves, are falling over each other to explore, extract and consume. "Instead of acting to end the crisis," she says, "they're acting in order to make more money from it."
For her, one gets the unspoken sense that from now on, it's all direct action, all the time, the severity of currrent events dictating the tactics.
"[It's] going to be a long fight," Ferguson warns addressing the mingling crowd of supporters, staff, and activists. "We can't wait for politicians or corporations to lead the way on this."