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How Greenpeace Went Viral Decades Before The Internet

The acclaimed new documentary How to Change the World explores how a small group of Canadians banded together to form Greenpeace, a modest environmental group that grew into a worldwide phenomenon. One way they managed to achieve so much with so little was their considerable marketing savvy. Each time they undertook a new mission, they went out of their way to plant “mind bombs,” images and ideas that shook people out of their complacency, forcing them to take note of Greenpeace’s initiatives. Without an internet to get the word out, they had less competition, but they also had to work harder to get attention. The resulting mind bombs took many forms, but here are a few of the highlights—as seen in How to Change the World.

Their boat


With no nautical experience to speak of, the early members of Greenpeace were taking a huge risk when they launched their early missions aboard a broken-down old boat in desperate need of repair. However, this also highlighted their modest means, endearing them to the general public.

Their fashion sense

When Greenpeace was launched in the early ’70s, the hippie aesthetic was still relatively widespread, but many of these people were unfairly associated with laziness and complacency. The founders of Greenpeace disproved that assumption, becoming appealingly colourful, eccentric—and yes, forceful—adversaries to those they opposed.

Their unlikely allies


After illegally entering the United States during one early mission, the members of Greenpeace were confronted by the U.S. Coast Guard. To everyone’s surprise, the authorities broke protocol and pledged their allegiance to Greenpeace—in writing!

Their courage


Fearlessly getting between Russian harpooners and the whales they slaughtered, Greenpeace recorded images that drove home the cruel inhumanity of this practice, mobilizing a new generation of anti-whaling activists.

Brigitte Bardot


One of the defining sex symbols of the ’50s and ’60s, Brigitte Bardot retired from acting in 1973 to focus on animal rights activism. In an extremely lucky break for Greenpeace (and seals), Bardot vocally supported the organization’s efforts to combat the Canadian seal hunt, bringing global attention to a then-under-acknowledged cause.

How to Change the World premieres on HBO Canada tonight at 9PM ET/MT. For a preview of the mind-bombing revelations that await, watch the trailer below.