Waiheke resident Bunny McDiarmid (left) and American-born Jennifer Morgan will be the first two women to become international executive directors of Greenpeace International.
The two women will job-share the leading role in the environmental organisation from 4 April.
Bunny, who lives at Awaawaroa, is a 30-year veteran of the organisation as an activist, ship’s crewmember, and most recently the executive director of Greenpeace New Zealand.
While she was at Canterbury University, she says she tried lots of “-isms” to explain the world she was growing up in.
She wasn’t won over by anything – until she found herself, at-21-years old, on a wooden boat, replacing rotting pieces of timber below the waterline in preparation for going to sea with a community of 12 people.
“I had no carpentry or sailing experience, and this was a job that could mean sink or swim if I got it wrong. But people trusted me, believed I could do it, and I learned then and there that you can be more than what a piece of paper says you can be.”
Bunny was a deckhand aboard the Rainbow Warrior in 1985, when Greenpeace moved the people of Rongelap from their island home that had been contaminated by radiation from decades of atmospheric nuclear weapons testing.
“I saw a confluence of connection in the violence we do to Earth and the violence we do to people, and I was witness to how little it mattered to those who were doing it.
“The story of Rongelap was a tiny metaphor for a far bigger story that drew me in, and bonded me to the ideas that Greenpeace stands for,” she says.
While Bunny has walked the decks of nearly every Greenpeace ship, Jennifer Morgan has walked the corridors of power.
Jennifer, who was born in the United States and lives in Germany, has been global director of the Climate Programme at the World Resources Institute, working with heads of state and chief executives.
The two women have spent time together and found their visions, their ideas about leadership, and their people-centered styles compatible.
“We’re both trust-builders. We both encourage respectful challenge cultures. We both believe you create highly effective teams by harnessing diversity of thought and approach,” says Bunny.
Jennifer notes that women are particularly good at sharing power.
“We’re good at bridging diversity. We’re good at focusing on outcomes and a cause. And while there are plenty of men who could share the helm of Greenpeace, there is something that Bunny and I can do through our leadership to empower young women to dream about their futures – that they can do anything and rise to anything, be it the head of Greenpeace or a head of state.”
Bunny and Jennifer share a vision of finding a “new edge” for Greenpeace.
“How do we combine our rebellious creativity with the rebellious creativity of the millions of people and organisations around the world who believe a better world is possible? How do we empower and accelerate that with humility and urgency?” asks Bunny.
She feels both “excited and a little scared” about sharing the role of international executive director of Greenpeace.
“This whole approach is new, but in a sense, shared leadership isn’t just about me and Jennifer splitting the job between us; it’s about sharing leadership among Greenpeace’s worldwide offices, it’s about sharing leadership with our supporters.
“This arrangement is an evolutionary reflection of Greenpeace International’s entire approach; it’s all about sharing – globally – the power, the responsibility, and the challenge to rise, to become the best we all can be in a time of environmental threat and existential opportunity,” she says.
“If we bring out the best in each other, we get a better organisation. If we can bring out the best in humanity, we get a better world.” • Rose Davis