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was an American engineer who worked on the Atlas ICBM missile program, later emigrated to Canada
Canada is a North American country consisting of ten provinces and three territories. Located in the northern part of the continent, it extends from the Atlantic Ocean in the east to the Pacific Ocean in the west, and northward into the Arctic Ocean...
after becoming disillusioned with the US government's nuclear policy during the Cold War
The Cold War was the continuing state from roughly 1946 to 1991 of political conflict, military tension, proxy wars, and economic competition between the Communist World—primarily the Soviet Union and its satellite states and allies—and the powers of the Western world, primarily the United States...
and one of the co-founders of Greenpeace
Greenpeace is a non-governmental environmental organization with offices in over forty countries and with an international coordinating body in Amsterdam, The Netherlands...
Bohlen, one of the approximately half-dozen founders of Greenpeace, arguably made the most lasting impression with his brilliant backroom dealings. He effectively out-manoeuvered more high profile members of the group such as Paul Watson
Paul Watson is a Canadian animal rights and environmental activist, who founded and is president of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, a direct action group devoted to marine conservation....
within the organization's inner workings and can be primarily credited with transforming the organization from a small, vociferous Canadian pressure group into the highly efficient international movement it is today. Although a British Columbia
British Columbia is the westernmost of Canada's provinces and is known for its natural beauty, as reflected in its Latin motto, Splendor sine occasu . Its name was chosen by Queen Victoria in 1858...
n himself, Bohlen was a strong supporter of the creation of Greenpeace International and the move of the group's headquarters from Vancouver
Vancouver is a coastal seaport city on the mainland of British Columbia, Canada. It is the hub of Greater Vancouver, which, with over 2.3 million residents, is the third most populous metropolitan area in the country,...
to New York
New York is a state in the Northeastern region of the United States. It is the nation's third most populous state. New York is bordered by New Jersey and Pennsylvania to the south, and by Connecticut, Massachusetts and Vermont to the east...
, essentially giving birth to Greenpeace as we know it today. He was also instrumental in developing the group's hierarchical military-style command structure.
He made a similar and even less-acknowledged contribution to Green politics in Canada by negotiating a deal that ended the party's 10-year prohibition against Green Parties having leaders at a meeting of the Green Party of BC
The Green Party of British Columbia is a political party in British Columbia, Canada. It is led by former Esquimalt municipal councillor, university professor and businessperson Jane Sterk, she was elected by the party in 2007. Penticton realtor and columnist Julius Bloomfield serves as the deputy...
in 1992. (Between 1982 and 1992, some Green Parties were required by law to have registered leaders but party constitutions prohibited these individuals from speaking for these parties.) Within four years of Bohlen's breakthrough agreement, all Canadian Green parties had moved to adopt conventional political structures in which their leaders functioned as primary spokespeople.
Bohlen ran for the Greens federally in 1988. Some credit friction between him and long-time enemy Paul Watson for Watson's defection to the NDP during that campaign.
- "Jim Bohlen 1926 – 2010," Greenpeace International, Tuesday, July 6, 2010.
- Grimes, William. "Jim Bohlen, Led in Creation of Greenpeace, Dies at 84," The New York Times, Thursday, July 8, 2010.
- Mackie, John. "Greenpeace pioneer Jim Bohlen dead at 84," The Vancouver Sun, Friday, July 9, 2010.