Talent 2010: The environmentalist, Ben Stewart
Saturday 26 December 2009
The battle to save the planet sometimes comes down to a battle to be heard, and amid the din of the information superhighway, that is becoming harder and harder. But one environmental campaigner is showing superlatively how it should be done.
Ben Stewart, media director of Greenpeace UK, is one of the main forces at work in keeping the environmental agenda in the headlines in Britain. He does it by understanding how the British press and the rest of the UK media operate, with all their widely differing sympathies and attitudes, and working pragmatically across all of them. The result is usually acres of publicity, when Greenpeace embarks on one of its imaginative (and always non-violent) stunts – from buying a piece of land in the middle of Heathrow Airport's proposed third runway, to climbing the 600ft chimney of Kingsnorth power station in Kent in order to highlight the environmental dangers of continuing to burn coal.
Ben, aged 35, dresses in old-fashioned green-activist style, and was himself one of the Kingsnorth climbers in October 2007. He was put on trial for criminal damage a year later, but was famously acquitted with the rest of the "Greenpeace Six" – and ended up on the front pages, which of course, from his point of view, was the object of the exercise.
Ben's view of his trade is a subtle one. He says: "It's not good enough for your line to be, 'I'm going to say what I want the world to look like, and say it again and again till it happens.' It's a three-dimensional business you have to play." He is definitely one to watch in 2010 – and although you may not actually see him, you'll see the headlines. And he'll be happy with that.
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