Sunday, 16 May 2010

Chapter One - Scene 6

Amsterdam                                                              Monday 8th March, 12.18 p.m.

MARK Stafford, his dark hair slightly thinning, a round jovial face settled on a plump body, looked carefully around the boardroom. Seeing Graham Williams standing alone, he excused himself and with croissant and mineral water in hand walked over to him.

“Well Graham, how are you finding the morning so far?” Mark’s question was open and objective behind his smile.

“Most impressive, thanks Mark.” A thoughtful expression on his face, Graham continued. “Bruce Harrison’s report on membership and fund-raising was revealing. I’d no idea that Greenpeace’s membership now exceeded five and half million. Obviously increasing the number of branches to thirty one by opening of five new ones in South America brought a great influx of new members!”

“Yes, you’re right Graham, the growth of our membership is mainly due to the strength of our branches.”

“What then would you say are the basics for the success of the organization now?”

“Hmm.” Mark paused for a moment, taking a bite of his croissant while he assembled his thoughts. “Well there are probably four ingredients. First, I would say it’s the quality of our research. We are always well prepared with good solid research before we tackle any problem. Then . . .” His shoulders straightened as his pride in the organization’s achievements showed through in his voice. “. . . I would say our next strength is in our lobbying power. At political, corporate and especially national levels in most places in the world we have the power to lobby effectively.” Now warmed to his subject, he continued. “Then we have a great ability in finding the weakest link in our adversaries and going for that. You’d remember how we went for Bayer about polluting the North Sea. Maintaining their squeaky clean image made them very sensitive to bad publicity. And we won,” he added with a chuckle. “Finally, I think we have tremendous strength in our flexibility. We are able to initiate, quickly, international pressure through demonstrations, protests, lobbying and direct contact with groups everywhere in the world. Our excellent communications and electronic mail network connecting all our branches and vessels has been one pillar of our success. Of course you know that already.” Mark paused and took a sip of water. “Well there you have it. A strong, growing, effective organization with a mission to save the world from killing itself.” There was a slight pause, “Hey, and it’s fun too!” He smiled at Graham. “You’ll really enjoy it here. We all work hard but we play hard. It’s a marvelous sense of achievement. I could carry on and on . . . but you know what I mean.”

“Yes I know what you mean. Thanks Mark. Now I understand the saying I’ve been hearing around Headquarters since I’ve been here.”

“What’s that? “ interrupted Mark.

“Oh, probably a play on Lawrence’s ‘Seven Pillars of Wisdom.’ They call the mission the ‘Four Pillars of Pressure’. Seems to sum up what you’ve just said.”

“Yes you’re right,” chuckled Mark. “Don’t know where the saying came from. Probably from our esteemed Chairman David McTaggart. He likes creating sayings and events that have great PR value. For example, look at this photograph on the wall.” He smiled as he motioned Graham to turn around.

“This was taken from Warrior, the vessel we had in 1981 off the British coast when we were trying to stop nuclear waste being dumped in the Atlantic. Our crews had just developed the tactic of racing in on inflatables alongside ships, under bows, sterns and hoists to impede the dumping of barrels overboard. As you can see, it didn’t stop them and some containers fell onto the inflatables, capsizing them and sending them flying . . .”

“Mark, I’m sorry to interrupt but I have an urgent e-mail message from San Francisco Branch which I need to discuss with you immediately.” Mark looked around to the speaker Petra van de Roer.

“Right. Please excuse me Graham. I enjoyed our discussion but I’d better see what Petra wants. I’ll catch up with you later.” Mark’s manner was brisk and alert as he and Petra hurried into his office off the boardroom.

“Well, what do we have Petra?” Mark asked as he closed his office door.

“Let me show you Mark,” said Petra as she reached over his desk and switched on the computer terminal. She punched in the code that brought the report onto the screen. “There, read that,” she demanded.

Mark, now settled in his chair, quickly scanned the one page report, then read it through again carefully. “Well,” he said, “what do you make of it?”

“I think the conclusions are correct. They have gone too far. We must investigate immediately.” Hands on the desk, her body leaning forward, eyes blazing, Petra demanded Mark’s consent.

“Yes it looks that way,” he replied noncommittally, looking up at her. “Let’s discuss it, first thing after lunch. I’ll tell Jill to amend the agenda. By the way, who should carry out the investigation?” he queried.

“Well not me. I’m too busy with the drift-net matter off the South American coast. I’d like Carrie Ardley, who prepared the report, to work with our nearest branch. This is her specialist subject and while she has not had much field experience it would be good for her to follow this through, don’t you think?”

“Yes I agree. Why don’t you check it out with her now and make an oral report to the meeting. We’ll be starting in five or six minutes and I’ll think about whom else should go. OK?” Mark’s voice was calm.

Petra heard the quiet order and accepted the compromise. “Ja. I will see to it immediately,” she replied as she walked out of the room.

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