View from Huairou and the Road
by Susan Lee, Feminists for a Compassionate Society, Austin Greens
Progress in the long struggle for a comprehensive test ban was halted three times during 1995. The first in June, when the French announced plans to once again nuke indigenous territory in the Pacific and then did it despite furious response from New Zealand and from Australia, where citizens promptly burned down the French Embassy, from the Chilean government and people (where four months of protests through every level of society culminated in 18,000 demonstrating on September 5, the first detonation at Mururoa), and from citizens around the world who took to the streets and ceased to buy French wines, perfumes, cheeses, mineral waters, Bic pens, etc.
The second setback came in late August when China tested nukes in its remote western desert test grounds, and arrested and deported the next day five Greenpeace activists who unfurled a protest banner just days before women began arriving for the Fourth World Conference on Women.
The final, cruel insult came in November, when we learned via a New Zealand Greenpeace press release on the Internet that the U.S. had scheduled nuclear tests on Western Shoshone land at the Nevada Test Site, beginning June 18, 1996. (Mark your calendars to organize protests where you live or come to Nevada then or over Easter weekend.) A friend on the national board of Peace Action (the old Sane/Freeze) noted that the money had been in the budget all along, despite Clinton's talk of test bans and self-righteous posture toward France and China.
On the plus side, these developments are arousing interest again in nuclear issues, and raised the profile of nuclear weapons to the top in Huairou, if not Beijing where the major achievement of activist delegates was getting the word radioactive inserted once in the official documents. At the non-governmental gathering in Huairou, the number of workshops organized by women from the U.S. and Europe and the former Soviet Union on radiation and health was impressive; though we were cut off at the knees in terms of organizing by no central gathering place or time period longer than three hours to work together on an issue before the space was commandeered for another workshop on another issue.
Still, we made personal contacts and a few mailing lists have emerged-women from the Koreas, which are vying to build new nuke power plants with Japan, which has 49 on an island in a peaking earthquake cycle; Byelorussian women who say the reactors for power are bombsóbiological ones, even when they don't explode; Canadian women fighting new uranium mines and their government's sale of reactors to China; Malaysian women who key nukes out of their country reporting they are still concerned about the plutonium shipments from England and French processing plants to Japan; women from all over the world insisting they want renewable energy, not earth-destroying nukes and fossil fuel plants. There was almost no debate on this issue, though the Japanese women who fiercely protest nuke weapons are divided and mostly silent on power from nukes.
As you read this, people will be camping in the California desert to protest the planned nuke dump at Ward Valley near indigenous lands (Fort Mojave) which Bruce Babbit facilitated by releasing federal lands, Bill Addington and allies will be fighting the radioactive waste compact bill (H.R. 558) in Congress, the Western Shoshone and friends will be organizing for a gathering Easter Week and in June when testing resumes at the Nevada Test Site, Rufina Laws of Humans Against Nuclear Dump Sites (HANDS) will be moving to DC to fight the Mescalero dump through Congress, & others all over the planet will be using all their resources to slay the nuclear dragon.