Emily Hunter, woman on a science boat on ocean Emily Hunter

BY SEVEN YEARS OLD, Emily Hunter began seeing footage of her father, Bob Hunter’s environmental activism as a co-founder of Greenpeace. By 19, she joined the “family business” and began her career as an environmental activist, the same year her father succumbed to cancer. 

When she decided to join the movement, her father bought her a one-way ticket to join a Sea Shepard campaign in the Galapagos Islands. It happened to be the same time she learned her father was dying of terminal cancer. 

“Instead of having me stay there by his bedside, he wanted me to go out and send him daily updates. He kind of vicariously lived through me,” the younger Hunter said in an interview last fall. She says he pointed her towards a more radical side of activism, which is what the elder Hunter is known for from his Greenpeace days. 

In the world of environmental activism, Emily Hunter is leading the younger generation with the faith and knowledge passed on from her parents (her mother, Bobbi Hunter, is also a co-founder of Greenpeace).

“We’ve seen the climate movement really become our primary issue, and mind-bomb issue of our generation,” she said, borrowing one of her father’s most well known phrases. “We can’t just keep going into negotiations expecting that ‘this will be the one, this will be the talk to change the world.’ I think there’s a real awareness that we have to evolve our tactics, our strategies, our sense of identity as activists.”

One gap she identifies in the millennial generation’s activism is the mystical, risk-taking, spiritual side that her father’s cohort was known for. Often written off as “flakey” and “hippie” activism, Emily says it’s more than that, and spirituality is needed in an effective movement. 

“For me that larger something is the very thing that we have with us every day on planet Earth. That’s kind of how I think of myself as spiritual – sometimes we’re looking for extra, larger beings than ourselves to help guide us,” she said. 

Ironically, the younger Hunter adds, people are always searching for something else to give meaning to their lives, while destroying the very thing that allows for human existence – Earth. 

Stephen Bede Scharper, a columnist for the Toronto Star, is an associate professor with the Centre for Environment at the University of Toronto. He is author of Redeeming the Time: A Political Theology of the Environment and co-editor of The Natural City: Re-Envisioning the Built Environment.

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