Executive Director, Greenpeace
A onetime conservative, John Passacantando was converted to the environmentalist cause in 1987 when Mike Roselle, founder of Earth First! and the Ruckus Society, scaled Mount Rushmore and hung a giant gas mask on George Washington. Roselle served time in prison for this stunt. Passacantando now praises Roselle as a sort of personal guru (despite the destructive and often violent tendencies of his other organizations), calling him “the environmental equivalent of the old blind guy on Kung Fu, where you try to grab the pebbles and you can’t.”
Passacantando, who holds degrees in economics from Wake Forest and New York University, served as Executive Director of the Florence and John Schumann Foundation, doling out grants for campaign finance reform work and environmental issues. He then founded Ozone Action, an anti-global warming group, before moving to Greenpeace in 2000.
He has promoted a variety of aggressive tactics to publicize Greenpeace. “Don’t always measure us by tactics that have worked in the past,” Passacantando says. “Look for a variety of tactics from us.” In April 2001, he led a group of about a dozen activists who locked themselves inside the main entrance of the Environmental Protection Agency, leading to his arrest. The action came less than a week after other Greenpeace activists, borrowing a Ruckus tactic, scaled a water tower in Crawford, Texas, during President Bush’s visit. And two months later, when Greenpeace activists were accused of conspiracy to violate a safety zone to disrupt a missile test (a felony), Passacantando called it “an incredibly brave thing.”