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Cover: Mr. Mindbomb: Eco-hero and Greenpeace Co-founder Bob Hunter — A Life in Stories

Mr. Mindbomb: Eco-hero and Greenpeace Co-founder Bob Hunter — A Life in Stories

By Bobbi Hunter, ed

Review By John-Henry Harter

May 14, 2024

Mr. Mindbomb takes an interesting approach to the biographical form. It can easily be described as a collection of essays about one of the cofounders of Greenpeace, Robert (Bob) Hunter. However, this simple description misses the unique way it tells the stories of the life of Bob Hunter. Dr. Stephen Scharper, who penned the foreword of Mr. Mindbomb, describes it as “a story quilt with colourful swatches from Robert Hunter’s remarkable life” (xi). Scharper’s description is an eloquent and more accurate way of capturing the spirit of the book. The stories are collected and edited by Bobbi Hunter, an early organizer of Greenpeace and Robert Hunter’s second wife and life partner. With an introduction by Captain Paul Watson and an afterword by Elizabeth May, Mr. Mindbomb is filled with stories and anecdotes about Bob Hunter from some household names in Canadian environmental history. Other chapters, or vignettes, are from family members, friends, and neighbours. With the unique story structure this is not exactly a history nor a traditional biography. It is Bob Hunter’s story told in bits and pieces by those who knew, loved, and respected him.

The book is arranged in a loose chronological order. Section One: “Emerging” covers the early life of Bob Hunter with a chapter, “Cursum Perficio,” from his brother Donald Hunter. “Fractured Family,” a chapter from Justine Hunter, Bob’s daughter with his first wife Zoe, tells a story of Bob Hunter’s early years in Vancouver. Later chapters in Section One cover the start of the “Don’t Make a Wave Committee.” Rod Marining, another founder of Greenpeace, tells the story of how Marining, Hunter, Paul Watson, and Irving Stowe came together in the chapter “Press Preleased” (33-36). The famous voyage to Amchitka is taken up by Bobbi Hunter in “The Sea Change” (37-41). One interesting fact revealed is that Bobbi Hunter’s step-grandfather was the skipper of the Phyllis Cormack, the first boat to launch the founding Greenpeace members towards Amchitka.

Section Two, “Erupting,” examines the early whaling campaigns of Greenpeace and their tentative expansion into the United States. It also briefly covers Bob Hunter leaving Greenpeace in 1977 and eventually leaving BC. This book is not about Greenpeace — the editor makes that clear in the introduction. However, the first half of the book is about Greenpeace in one way or another. It is not until Bob Hunter walks away from Greenpeace in 1977 that the book opens up to discuss Hunter’s life after Greenpeace. In a heartbreaking, yet simultaneously hopeful, story entitled “No Gurus” Rex Weyler recounts a trip he and Hunter took to a Jack Kerouac conference in Bolder Colorado. After a side trip to see the Grateful Dead, Weyler and Hunter have a chance to talk to Allen Ginsberg. Bob Hunter reminds Ginsberg of an interview Hunter had done with Ginsberg where he asked him how to deal with power. Ginsberg advised him that he “should let it go, before it freezes in your hand” (124). When reminded of this Ginsberg responds “Did I said that? Well, either that or use the power judiciously” (124). This additional response takes Hunter by surprise, and he vents to Weyler, “We gave away the most effective environmental organization on Earth, based on Ginsberg’s advice, which he has now altered?” (124). Bob continues to ponder this altered advice on the way home and declares on “There are no gurus” (124).

Section Three, “Flowing,” takes up the story of Bob’s life after he moves to Toronto and begins a new career on City TV as an environmental reporter. The chapter “Eco-Man” by Stephen Hurlbut, the vice president of news at City TV in Toronto, gives a touching tribute to the fifteen years that Hunter dedicated to reporting on his “daily beat of recycling, air and water pollution, species under siege, green space degradation, global warming and the enduring stupidity of political short-sightedness, and on and on and on” (141-142).  Hurlbut would remain friends with Bob Hunter until the day he died, and his love and respect for him comes off the page. The next few chapters highlight the environmental work Hunter did in and around Toronto in what would end up being the last decade of his life.

Section Four, “Solidifying,” is concerned with the impact Hunter had after his death in 2005. One chapter, “The Ripple Effect,” is from his niece, Marlayna Demco, who states, “Bob has also taught me that it’s okay, or perhaps even a good thing, to question authority” (217). Paul Watson writes the penultimate chapter of Section Four. Watson, in “The Man Who Hunted Rainbows” reflects on his shared life in environmental activism with Bob Hunter and concludes with a thought that in many ways sums up Hunter’s legacy, “Bob Hunter taught me the true nature of media and demonstrated through his writing and his actions that each of us has the power to profoundly change the world for the better” (237).

One of the strengths of Mr. Mindbomb is the organizational strategy that highlights the stories that the different people in Hunter’s life feel are important or that make up something quintessential about Bob Hunter’s life. This focus on stories is a deliberate choice. Mr. Mindbomb is not a traditional nor an academic text, but its interesting take on biography is compelling. The casual reader would not get a full history of Greenpeace from this book; however, they would get insights into the life of one of the key figures in the history of environmentalism in Canada. The versatility of the text is a strength. The first half would appeal to those who want anecdotes and stories about Greenpeace (and tangentially about BC) from those on the ground (or in the sea) at its founding. The second half of the book does a respectable job of illustrating that Bob Hunter’s impact on environmental consciousness in Canada was not limited to the early, more well known, part of his life. Overall, this is a decent contribution to furthering our understanding of environmentalism in the Canadian context.

Publication Information

Hunter, Bobbi, ed. Mr. Mindbomb: Eco-hero and Greenpeace Co-founder Bob Hunter — A Life in Stories. Victoria: Rocky Mountain Books. 2023. 304 pp. $30.00 paper.