Simon Denyer is a journalist, author, and consultant. Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist who has been reporting from China for the past decade. He was Beijing bureau chief for The Washington Post and then was South Asia bureau chief in New Delhi before returning to Beijing as their correspondent.
Simon Denyer book Rogue Elephant: Harnessing the Power of India’s Unruly Democracy tells the story of this great democracy by following three pivotal events – one election, one terrorist attack, and one natural disaster – over five years. In his time as chief for The Washington Post, he has interviewed everyone from President Xi Jinping to Ai Weiwei, with stories ranging from corruption scandals at state-owned enterprises to deadly ethnic violence in Tibet.
In Rogue Elephant, Simon Denyer explains how Indian democracy has been gradually evolving to catch up with the modern world and tells how it still works – sometimes better than democratic China.
He also discusses his new book, Warriors of the Rainbow: A Chronicle of the Greenpeace Movement (Bloomsbury Publishing).
1. The setting for your latest work is Greenpeace, known for its environmental activism worldwide. How did you get involved with them?
The idea to write this book came about after I interviewed Kumi Naidoo, head of Greenpeace International, and before that was head of international operations in South Africa during Nelson Mandela’s presidency.
Kumi was an interesting character full of moral conviction and energy, who seemed determined to inspire other people – including me. He told me he thought that Greenpeace had lost touch with its roots over recent years and needed to reconnect with what made it successful in the first place. I decided to travel the world and write a book about it.
2. Greenpeace is often thought of as a radical organization, willing to take extreme actions to further its agenda. But in your book, you paint a much more nuanced picture. Can you give us some examples?
One example is when Greenpeace activists boarded a Russian ship carrying oil drilling equipment intended for use in the Arctic to prevent them from reaching their destination. This was a hazardous action – and ultimately unsuccessful – but it showed that Greenpeace was willing to put its people’s safety at risk to protect the environment.
However, the group has also been working quietly behind the scenes to broker deals with energy companies. Greenpeace is also willing to work with companies to find a middle ground that benefits both the environment and the economy.