Robert (Bob) Lorne Hunter (October 13, 1941 – May 2, 2005) was a Canadian environmentalist, journalist, author and politician. He was the first president of Greenpeace and was a leading voice in the ecology movement of the 1970’s. In 2015, a film is being released about his story and the birth of Greenpeace called “How to Change the World.” This website was created by Bob Hunter’s family and friends to continue his legacy and share his message.
Born in St. Boniface, Manitoba, Hunter’s career in journalism began in the 1960s at the Winnipeg Tribune and the Vancouver Sun, where he focused on the counterculture as well as environmental issues. As a result of his work in these areas, and his participation in the 1969 blockade of the Blaine border crossing at the Peace arch, he became a member of the “Don’t Make a Wave Committee” with Dorothy and Irving Stowe, Marie and Jim Bohlen, and Ben and Dorothy Metcalfe.
After a bold campaign to stop a nuclear test bomb on Alaskan island of Amchitka by simply sailing to the test site, Hunter began to see the organization becoming a multi-issue, global environmental movement, changing the name of the group to Greenpeace (name coined by Jim Bohlen).
In 1971, Hunter became the first president of Greenpeace and co-founded the new organization along with Irving Stowe, Ben Metcalfe, Jim Bohlen, Patrick Moore, Paul Watson and several other members. Under Hunter’s leadership the organization conducted the first on-sea anti-whaling campaigns in the world, against Russian and Australian whalers, which helped lead to the ban on commercial whaling. Hunter continued to campaign against nuclear testing, the Canadian seal hunt and later, climate change with his book ‘Thermageddon: Countdown to 2030.’
Beginning in 1988, he worked as a commentator and reporter for Toronto’s CityTV and its sister channel CP24. He created many documentaries about Canada’s north and marine conservation efforts by Sea Shepherd. He was also the longtime “Enviro” columnist in Toronto’s EYE Weekly. Hunter wrote 13 books on a variety of subjects ranging from the nature of revolution, consciousness, technology and society, ecology, Indigenous rights and the environment.
Recognized for his efforts in 2000, Hunter was named by Time Magazine as one of the “Eco-Heroes” of the 20th century and is credited with coining the terms “mind bombs” and “eco-warrior”. In 1991, he won the Governor General’s Award for literature for his book ‘Occupied Canada: A Young White Man Discovers His Unsuspected Past.’ He remained in contact with Greenpeace and the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society until his death.
In 1998, Hunter was diagnosed with prostate cancer. After his doctor told him that his prostate cancer was incurable, Hunter went to Hospital Santa Monica, in Mexico, founded by Kurt Donsbach, an American naturopathic doctor and chiropractor. Hunter started treatment in December 2004, and reported progress, but passed away a year later in May 2005. He is survived by his wife Bobbi, and his four children (youngest to oldest) Emily, Will, Justine and Conan. Hunter had four grandchildren at the time of his death and his fifth, River Robyn Hunter, was born nearly 10 years after his passing.
His ashes were scattered around the world, in northern Canada near the sub-Arctic, on the equator line at Tortuga Bay in the Galapagos Islands by his wife, Bobbi Hunter, at his birthplace in Winnipeg by his son Will Hunter, as well as on top of an Antarctic iceberg during the 2005/2006 Sea Shepherd campaign by his last daughter Emily while on campaign against whaling by the Japanese in the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary. Most recently, his first daughter Justine spread his ashes off Vancouver Island with the Kwaikutl Indigenous community in Alert Bay who had made him an honorary member of their community during the first Greenpeace campaign. His ashes were spread in a few other locations that were significant places for Hunter and a few more pieces of his ashes are planned to be spread in the years to come.
Today his legacy continues with his last “mind bomb” in a feature-length documentary film being released in 2015 called “How to Change the World” by director Jerry Rothwell. The film features Hunter and the original founders of Greenpeace in the story of how “ordinary people did extraordinary things” and helped change the world with the birth of the organization, which can be said to have galvanized the ecological and environmental movements of the 20th century. In addition to the film, the park was named in honor of him called the Bob Hunter Memorial Park as an extension to the Rouge Park system in Greater Toronto, a park system he helped to defend. The park was opened by his family and Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty on August 21, 2006.
Lastly, a scholarship fund was named in his honour by the University of Toronto’s School of the Environment for outstanding undergraduate students with preference given to students focusing on climate. In connection with the scholarship there is an annual Robert Hunter Memorial Lecture, now in it’s 9th year, delivered each year by an invited speaker on issues close to Bob’s heart and work.
His message and “mind bomb” philosophy continues to be heard today….