THIS IS NO ORDINARY SAILING SHIP, THIS REINCARNATED RAINBOW WARRIOR. IT'S sleek and shiny new, a North Sea trawler rebuilt for the high sea eco-exploits of Greenpeace International, the world's largest, most famous and most infamous environmental organization. But it's also a ship with a history. Right now, the Warrior is awaiting its official launch on a cool, overcast July morning in Hamburg, West Germany, and a number of notables are here to celebrate. That's Peter Wilcox in the ponytail and Birkenstocks, the captain of the ship. The distinguished, white-haired gentleman is Lloyd Cutler, Washington superlawyer and former White House counsel during the Carter administration. There's Steve Sawyer over there, Greenpeace International's executive vice president, practicing his speech for the ceremony. It's Sawyer's birthday today. Probably the luckiest thing that ever happened to Steve Sawyer was being born on July 10. It saved his life -- and the lives of 11 others. Because it was four years ago today, on Sawyer's birthday, that the first Rainbow Warrior met its untimely fate. On July 10, 1985, just a few minutes before midnight, two underwater explosions ripped open the hull of the first Rainbow Warrior, sinking it in New Zealand's Auckland harbor. The ship was scheduled to lead a protest flotilla to the French underground nuclear test site on Mururoa Atoll in the South Pacific. Greenpeace photographer Fernando Pereira died when the ship sank; the rest of the crew was ashore celebrating Steve Sawyer's birthday. Sawyer, 29 and already a Greenpeace veteran, had started as a canvasser, soliciting money and members door to door. He'd worked his way up in the organization and had headed a number of missions. But this one, in ways no one could have predicted, changed not only the people involved but also Greenpeace itself, its influence and support. When the facts surrounding what the French press called "Underwatergate" became clear, it was obvious the French government had to take responsibility for the bombing. (Two French intelligence agents arrested in New Zealand later pleaded guilty.) By the fall of '85, Greenpeace had filed suit, and Lloyd Cutler, a new-found friend in a high place, offered his services pro bono. At the head of an international team of attorneys, Cutler won $8 million in damages for Greenpeace from the French government. "It was an outrageous act," Cutler says now, "and they were entitled to the best legal representation they could get." It would be unfair to accuse Greenpeace of welcoming the tragedy, but it would not be inaccurate to note that Greenpeace parlayed the incident into massive publicity, remuneration and public support. At the time, Greenpeace had about 1.4 million members around the world and revenues of about $24 million. Four years later, it has more than 3.3 million members worldwide, 33 offices in 20 countries and more than four times the revenue, an estimated $100 million in 1989. Certainly, not all of Greenpeace's phenomenal rise can be attributed to the disaster in Auckland harbor. Most environmental organizations have seen increases in membership and donations in the last decade as the federal government pulled back from its previous environmental commitment. But no other environmental organization has equaled Greenpeace's growth, achieved largely through contributions averaging $20 a pop. (Greenpeace accepts no corporate or government grants.) Greenpeace USA, for example, which is headquartered in Washington, is now twice the size of the National Audobon Society and the Sierra Club. (The National Wildlife Federation is still the largest in the United States, with about 3.2 million members.) Though the image of Greenpeace may be that of a little band of zanies running primarily on guts and zeal, this is no longer an accurate picture. The organization has a fleet of eight ocean-going ships, including the new Rainbow Warrior, and a flotilla of Zodiacs (dinghies). Greenpeace boats are equipped with satellite communications equipment, and the group's offices can contact each other instantly through a sophisticated electronic network called "Greenlink." This spring, Greenpeace moved its international headquarters to a striking art deco building in Amsterdam. Traditionally strongest in Western Europe -- one of every 25 Dutch households contains a member -- Greenpeace is trying to branch out; it recently opened two offices in Latin America and a base camp in Antarctica (which it wants to turn into a "world park" protected from development). The group even gained a foothold in the Soviet Union this spring, opening a Moscow office with money raised from sales of a Greenpeace record album featuring two dozen western rock stars. The album sold out 500,000 copies within hours to rock-hungry Soviets, raising $16 million worth of rubles. Greenpeace stuffed its fliers into every album -- "creating hundreds of thousands of potential supporters there," Sawyer says, "if we can ever figure out how to communicate with them again." Back at the launching in Hamburg, a crush of European media has descended, with cameras rolling and flashbulbs popping. Lloyd Cutler has made a special detour to attend this ceremony, "which I would not have wanted to miss," he says. "I was generally sympathetic to Greenpeace's environmental goals, and as I started working with them, I came to admire them tremendously." Cutler suggests that Wilcox bring the Warrior into the Potomac when the ship reaches the East Coast in late September en route to its final destination in the Pacific. Wilcox says he likes the idea: "Maybe we can get the Pentagon to cooperate with something." Then they toast the new ship with the traditional champagne. The bubbly? French, of course. A PRIME SOURCE OF GREENPEACE'S GROWING APPEAL IS ITS sheer brashness in confronting head-on those it views as despoilers of the environment. Whether its foes are small crews of Icelandic fishermen or superpower governments, Greenpeace pulls no punches. In late July, four Greenpeace vessels halted the Navy's attempt to test-launch a Trident II missile from a submarine off Cape Canaveral. It was the first time a protest had halted a Cape Canaveral-based test in more than 30 years. Days later, several boats "escorted" the damaged Exxon Valdez, queen of the Alaskan oil spill, as it crept into San Diego harbor for repairs, one activist shouting that the tanker "represents a fossil fuel energy policy whose time is past." In the past, Greenpeace members achieved acclaim (and in some quarters notoriety) for such actions as these: Moving their Zodiacs directly into the line of fire of harpoons used by Japanese and Soviet whalers. Throwing their bodies between seal hunters and seal pups on Canadian ice floes. Landing on the coast of Siberia to protest an illegal Soviet whaling station. Five activists were arrested and temporarily detained while others eluded pursuit to bring home documentary film of the incident. Handcuffing themselves to toxic waste drums about to be dumped at sea. Scuba-diving to plug the underwater discharge pipes of chemical polluters and parachuting off industrial smokestacks. Scaling Mount Rushmore and the cliffs surrounding Niagara Falls and dangling off the Golden Gate Bridge to protest various environmental and nuclear threats. Dumping thousands of marbles in the office of then Interior Secretary James Watt. "We've always said Watt has lost his marbles," explained one activist. "We were just returning them." Many of its actions are strictly guerrilla theater. The group announced, for example, that after preventing the Trident II test it had made its point and would not return to block another. But out of the antics have come some solid achievements: The group's highly publicized campaigns against whaling and sealing -- ignited by Greenpeace film of harpoons tearing into whale flesh and sealers clubbing defenseless pups to death -- spurred worldwide outrage and led to regulations that drastically decreased whale and seal kills. Its campaign against burning hazardous wastes at sea has led a variety of countries (including the United States) to restrict ocean incineration. Campaigns to expose industrial polluters have resulted in fines against several offenders and, in some cases, plant closures. The American Recovery Co. in Baltimore, which closed in 1984, and the Ciba-Geigy chemical waste pipeline in New Jersey, scheduled to close in 1992, are two polluters curtailed through Greenpeace efforts. Founded in the early 1970s by a maverick ex-construction tycoon from Canada turned vagabond sailor, Greenpeace took its name and inspiration from a ragtag Canadian vessel that had sailed into a U.S. nuclear test site off Alaska, forcing postponement of the test. The ex-tycoon, David McTaggart (now chairman of the board of Greenpeace International), later used a similar strategy against the French at a nuclear test site in the South Pacific. After being severely beaten by French commandos, McTaggart told his story to the world. The outcry ultimately convinced France to retreat from atmospheric testing in the region. The Greenpeace formula was born: Start with brazen ideas for "direct actions," as Greenpeacers refer to their high-concept missions, find people brave or crazy enough to pull them off, produce some dramatic images, take pictures and publicize the hell out of them. McTaggart, a shoot-from-the-hip talker who one Greenpeace leader says "would have been Donald Trump in another life," insisted only that activists adhere to a credo of nonviolence and political nonpartisanship. The early Greenpeace was notably unsophisticated. "When I first called the San Francisco office in 1977 to volunteer," recalls Dick Dillman, now head of Greenpeace special services and resident telecommunications genius, "I asked them who handled the radios on their boats. When they said, 'What radios?,' I told them, 'I'm coming right over.' " Back then, Dillman says, "Greenpeace was literally a bunch of dope-smoking hippies who threw the I Ching to figure out what to do. We'd hire a hippie for a day, send him up to a hilltop in a truck with a radio and a sack of granola, and he'd be our transmitter." When the Washington office bought its first IBM computer in 1980, several staffers either refused to use it -- or insisted on wearing lead aprons to block the radiation. Dillman -- a near legendary figure in Greenpeace who designed the organization's two-year-old Greenlink computer system -- has revolutionized the way Greenpeace works. "All our boats have satellite commu- nications," Dillman says with pride. "No other organization outside the government itself can match our technology." Then he adds: "Did you hear about my plans for a Greenpeace blimp?" With Dillman supplying the technical support and former mountain climbing guide Twilly Cannon coordinating the training and logistics, Greenpeace USA now has hundreds of volunteers (only a few are paid) available for direct actions. Each will follow the McTaggart formula for brazenness in the pursuit of publicity -- now applied successfully thousands of times around the globe. Other environmental groups may wield tremendous clout behind the scenes: The Natural Resources Defense Council, for instance, was instrumental in passage of such landmark legislation as the Clean Air Act and Clean Water Act. The National Audobon Society played a key role in securing last year's reauthorization of the Endangered Species Act. The Environmental Defense Fund spent years in court helping to ban DDT and reducing lead in gasoline. But Greenpeace has mastered the art of capturing the spotlight -- and much of the glory in the process. There's even talk in Hollywood of producing a Greenpeace movie. If you have trouble picturing a flick about any other environmental group -- "High Sierra Club" or "Indiana Jones and the Environmental Defense Fund" probably wouldn't make boffo box office -- that's exactly the way Greenpeace wants it. "We have our niche in the movement, and they have theirs," says Greenpeace USA Executive Director Peter Bahouth. But while Bahouth says there should be a moratorium on name-calling among environmentalists -- the " 'We've saved more whales than you' syndrome," as he dubs it -- Greenpeacers sometimes display a smug contempt for their more button-down brethren. "The traditional environmental groups are reluctant to join our types of battles," contends David Rapoport, Washington-based head of Greenpeace USA's toxics campaign. "They want to be seen as 'reasonable.' They treasure that. But the public is tired of analysis. They want action." As if to underscore that point, Greenpeace's fund-raising mail for the toxics campaign trumpets: "While other organizations work mainly through courts and legislatures, we sail our boats -- or hike, or drive, or scuba dive -- directly to the scene to make a stand against the very companies that are poisoning our earth." The implication is that if you emerge from an environmental battle without your shoes soiled -- or indeed, without a court date continued on page 36 GREENPEACE continued from page 27 on the wrong side of the judge -- you haven't fought the good fight. Greenpeacers wear their arrest records like badges of honor. "We had 104 arrests last year," Bahouth says proudly. Some activists have spent months in jail. Such tactics don't sit well with more conservative environmentalists. "We're constantly bringing suits to get polluters to comply with the law," says Sierra Club Chairman Michael McCluskey. "You can't then go off and decide which laws you aren't going to obey. If that were the case, the polluters would be the first to follow." George Reiger, national conservation writer for Field & Stream, calls Greenpeace an "environmental Ku Klux Klan. Just because they don't wear sheets doesn't mean they don't have a terrorist mentality." According to Reiger, Greenpeace's assaults on hunters are based on "simplistic thinking, in which the world is either black or green." He cites Greenpeace's role in stopping the Canadian seal hunts. "Now they've got hundreds of hunters on welfare up there -- and the seal population is growing so fast it's threatening to wipe out the fisheries. They don't understand wildlife, that some animals die every day so that others can live." THE WASHINGTON HEADQUARTERS, occupying three floors of a high-security building on U Street NW, houses the guts of the national branch of Greenpeace. The rabbit warren of offices houses a six-person media department (featuring a library of 50,000 photographs and nearly 100 videos documenting Greenpeace actions), its direct-mail fund-raising operation and three of its four major issue-oriented campaigns -- ocean ecology, toxics and nuclear, each with its own lobbyist. (The fourth, energy and atmosphere, is headquartered in San Francisco.) Mirroring the phenomenal growth of the rest of the organization, the Washington staff has ballooned in just a few years from a dozen people in an office over a drugstore near Dupont Circle to 85 employees today. "Sure, we've made mistakes," acknowledges Peter Bahouth (though he doesn't number stopping the seal hunts among them). "But we think that's okay. In order to be creative, we have to be willing to fail sometimes." Bahouth, 35, succeeded Steve Sawyer as executive director of Greenpeace USA last fall. An attorney, Bahouth first became involved with the organization eight years ago in Boston by volunteering his legal services -- "representing the local board members there when they got arrested, that sort of thing." He was soon elected to the Boston board himself and, as the only lawyer in Greenpeace at the time, quickly worked his way up to national chairman, a job he held from 1984 till 1988, playing a key role in unifying Greenpeace USA into a cohesive organization. "There was a lot of rivalry," Bahouth says. "I had to convince people to put aside their parochial interests for the good of the group." Greenpeace USA -- now comprising offices in Washington, San Francisco, Seattle, Boston, Chicago, Anchorage and Fort Lauderdale, Fla. -- was formally united on January 1, 1987. Most key staffers are young ("young but getting older," Bahouth quips. "When I turn 36 I'm out of here"), bright, hard-working, dedicated -- and low-paid. Salaries range from $15,000 to $35,000. Bahouth points to a clipping taped to his door, listing Washington's 20 lowest paid heads of organizations, and says, "I don't even earn enough to make that list." Staffers from Bahouth on down take pains to note that Greenpeace is not a "Washington organization" per se. "We don't want to lose touch with our membership by acquiring the Beltway mentality, where Washington is the center of the universe," Bahouth says. "Our support comes from frustration with the federal government." In an era when the public is crying out for change -- and a variety of world leaders from George Bush to Mikhail Gorbachev are jumping on the environmental bandwagon -- it's fair to ask whether Greenpeace will be able to influence public policy to the same degree that it has influenced public consciousness. "The tactics that work so well for them elsewhere -- the direct actions, the unwillingness to compromise -- are turnoffs inside the Beltway," says Robert SanGeorge, vice president of the National Audobon Society in New York. "The button-down types on the Hill perceive them as militant and zany. We've developed access, and people are more comfortable with our image." Greenpeace has never been invited to participate in the so-called "Group of Ten," a loose coalition of the heads of 10 environmental organizations who have met periodically for the past decade to compare strategies and develop coalitions. Bahouth plays down this exclusion: "We do cooperate with individual groups on a variety of different issues -- the National Day of Mourning over the Valdez spill, the reauthorization of the Marine Mammal Protection Act. We worked with 22 other groups on that one, and we all got along." But for the most part, Greenpeace goes its own way. When the Oceanic Society and a number of other environmental groups organized a boycott of Exxon this spring, Greenpeace refused to join. "We had some mixed opinions on that," says Peter Dykstra, media director for Greenpeace USA. "But we don't want to endorse the idea that cutting up your Exxon credit card and buying Chevron will solve the problem -- which is simply that we use too much oil, period. Exxon's no worse than any other company up there." "PURPLE HOUSES ARE A GOOD SIGN. I don't know why. So are beat-up Volvos and VWs. Shingled houses are good too. Pink houses are a bad sign. So are Astroturf yards and new Volvos." The Greenpeace canvasser approaches a house with a whale door knocker. "Believe it or not, those aren't always good," he says. If Hollywood ever makes a Greenpeace movie, this scene probably won't be in it -- but it should be. It is played repeatedly all over America, and it is critical to understanding Greenpeace's robust financial health. We are on a rolling, tree-lined street, this time in an affluent Northern California suburb. The Greenpeace canvasser has just started his nightly rounds, knocking on an average of 50 doors. One of approximately 1,400 canvassers operating across the country in every state except Arizona and New Mexico, he works for Greenpeace Action, a sister organization recently formed to enable Greenpeace to do grass-roots lobbying without jeopardizing its tax-exempt status. The canvasser is part of a local crew of five who meet each afternoon for lunch, Monday through Friday, to map out the territory. Each canvasser is assigned certain streets by the crew coordinator, who also hands them printed computer cards detailing which residents have contributed to Greenpeace in the past and exactly how much. The canvasser's job -- and this is paid work -- is to chat up neighborhood residents about Greenpeace, get them to sign some petitions and write their congressional representatives and, of course, make a contribution. The canvasser is expected to fill a quota of $100 in contributions per night. It all adds up: 30 percent of Greenpeace's revenues are raised at the door. "Hi. My name's Ray, and I work for Greenpeace. I expect you've heard of us?" Almost everyone he approaches nods yes. "Are you a fan of ours?" This question elicits a wide variety of responses, most commonly a shrug. Ray is undeterred. If he has not had the door slammed in his face already, he is almost to first base. He gives a short rap on Greenpeace's latest accomplishments: the $60 million boycott of imported Icelandic fish (to put political and economic pressure on the Icelandic whaling industry); the widely reported story that the United States lost a hydrogen bomb near Japan in 1965, uncovered by Greenpeace researchers; the fights against pesticides; the Trident II test; and offshore oil drilling. Almost everyone, it seems, favors saving whales and stopping oil spills. Opinion tends to be much more negative on the subject of a comprehensive nuclear test ban. And eyes usually glaze over when pesticides are mentioned. Some people take the time to argue an issue. A few are hostile. "I don't like Greenpeace," says one elderly man. "It's constant agitation -- one more thing I don't like." Several say they aren't interested. "What do you mean you're not interested?" Ray shouts to a closed door. "You're not interested in the future of the world?" But at least as many reach into their pockets for cash or go for their checkbooks. "Anything you give is appreciated," Ray suggests, "but $20 will get you a membership and the Greenpeace Magazine. You can postdate a check up to three months if that'll help." After knocking on doors and repeating his pitch dozens of times from 5 to 9 p.m., with a chill wind penetrating his open shirt, Ray announces that he has barely made his quota. "This is a tough job," he says, noting that a canvasser who lasts six months is considered a veteran. "Did I tell you I once had a gun pulled on me?" Then he adds: "But it's a good way to move up in the organization. This is how Steve Sawyer started out, you know." IN HAMBURG, STEVE SAWYER IS ALSO talking about beginnings. He calls the launching of the second Rainbow Warrior a "new beginning for Greenpeace and the end of a long and sad story that began four years ago." The international crew is beaming as it prepares to set out for stops in Copenhagen, Stockholm and Leningrad before heading across the Atlantic to the United States, perhaps to Washington. Captain Wilcox, eager to get started, promises some unspecified direct actions along the way. "I needed some time off after New Zealand," he says. "But I never knew it would be four years." Whatever awaits Wilcox and the Rainbow Warrior on the high seas, it's clear that this is where Greenpeace's heart will continue to lie, far from the coat-and-tie world of Washington's corridors. Greenpeace may be far richer and better equipped, but Sawyer bristles at the suggestion that it may be mellowing. "We're still saying and doing the same things we were 10 years ago," he says. "But now they don't seem so radical. We've pulled the public debate in our direction." Clark Norton's last piece for the Magazine was on Weschler's auction house.