While in San Francisco, I went to Book Passage to listen to Ben Stewart talk about his book “Don’t Trust, Don’t Fear, Don’t Beg”. It’s the story about the 30 Greenpeace activists that were detained in a Russian prison after attempting to prevent drilling in the arctic. The activist’s ship was stormed by Russian special forces wearing black masks and carrying automatic weapons. After their arrest,( which is probably pretty routine for Green Peace folks) they found out they were going to be charged with piracy and detained for 10-15 years. 30 activists ended up spending 3 months in prison and during that time suffered through some pretty terrible conditions. They were fed food like fish head soup. (yum) One of the female activists was vegan and couldn’t eat it so she ended up being fed 3 boiled potatoes a meal. After days of only potatoes she couldn’t stomach them anymore so she just kept a big pile in her cell. When a prison guard saw her pile of potatoes he completely freaked out and demanded that she not waste potatoes. She ended up coming up with a plan to smuggle her extra potatoes out of the prison so she wouldn’t get in trouble for wasting. The prisoners communicated with each other using the doroga, which is a network of ropes and pulleys that enabled prisoners to send messages from cell to cell. Due to the location of their cells, the female prisoners were unable to take advantage of the doroga and communicated by tapping on pipes. They would spell out each word letter by letter using a system that was one tap for A, two for B, and so on.  The upcoming Sochi Olympics might have been one of the biggest factors in the release of the prisoners considering the fact  that the whole world had its eyes on Russia and its questionable human rights practices. I know lots of people find fault with Greenpeace and the way they operate, but I have nothing but respect for people so willing to endure for something they believe in. When asked if the mission and sacrifice was worth it, Ben said that almost everyone of the 30 said they would do it again in a heartbeat.  He also mentioned that most often the “stunts” that Greenpeace take part in do not solve an issue but start a conversation that ends up creating a solution.

For more info from Greenpeace check out Save the Arctic.

Ben Stewart preparing to discuss his book.

For more info on a hipster mustache, ask the guy below.

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