Synthesis/Regeneration 10   (Spring 1996)

Getting to Renewable Sustainability

A Strategy of Timelessness and Celebration

by Guy Chichester, New Hampshire Greens

Q: If we are to displace the energy monopolies with a system of democratic renewable energy, how will that come about?
Q: Are our programs toward that end sufficiently powerful, strategically integrated, and effective?
Q: Can we point to awareness, public policies, developing models, and on-the-ground change flowing from our energy program?

A brief nuclear power/Green power history, with emphasis on Green evolution, is useful for developing a sense of anti-nuclear strategy.

In the Beginning . . .

In the beginning there was war, misinformation, secrecy, and the bomb; followed by the "post-war" era, the ban-the-bomb movement, various hot policing wars, atoms for peace, continued secrecy and misinformation, nuclear arms building and the cold war, and imperialist foreign and military policies.

In the 60's and early 70's, coincident with justice and liberation movements from below, with nuclear power development by the electric monopolies, and with a virulent anti-war movement and the fall of the dominoes at the hands of Ho Chi Minh and the people of Viet Nam, came revelations of unprecedented corruption in a new fascistic corporate, federal and military establishment. It was marked by its massive and murderous political repression, clandestine infiltration and co-optation of education and communications institutions, and systemic criminality, fraud, bribery, buying and selling of office, and transnational drug-dealing operations, etc.

In many cases, these activities were financed and developed by units of US intelligence agencies working with dictators and corrupt governments around the world. They ran huge pipelines for drugs into the United States—hundreds of billions of dollars were involved.

Many millions of Americans, understandably, because of their ties to companies and industries involved, the government and the military, became parts of the "silent majority," or apologists for the system, or buried their feelings in denial. Other millions, through their shared grief, anger and shame, were transformed as citizens and human beings. For them, no more naiveté; no patience with forked-tongued politicians; a new appreciation for nonviolent social development; and a deep desire for fundamental social and economic reconstruction. Many of them made lifetime commitments to these ideals.

It was from . . . this diverse base of social activists, out of civil rights and black power, women's liberation, and the anti-war movements in particular, that in the mid-70's, with local environmentalists, members of the fishing community, and conservative citizen concerned about accelerating nuclear development, and the threat to seacoast institutions, the new anti-nuclear movement was formed.

It was from this experience, this diverse base of social activists, out of civil rights and black power, women's liberation, and the anti-war movements in particular, that in the mid-70's, with local environmentalists, members of the fishing community, and conservative citizen concerned out accelerating nuclear development, and the threat to seacoast institutions, the new anti-nuclear movement was formed. The opposition sprang to life around a proposal for twin 1150 megawatt power plants at Seabrook, New Hampshire.

Seabrook: A Watershed in Resistance

In virtually all previous cases of nuclear power opposition, such construction proposals had been met with strategies made of some combination of public education, legal, and legislative intervention, and had been based on local environmental, economic and consumer issues. Altogether relatively thin stuff, considering the long-nurtured image of nuclear power as a benign civil technology, the incestuous community of federal regulators and the nuclear industry, the ultra-deep pockets of the utilities, and their completely unscrupulous management. Industry managers were ever ready to tell any lie, break any law, or do anything else necessary to have their way. Before the Seabrook project, no nuclear plant permit had ever been denied by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, and no construction or operation canceled or halted.

After Seabrook site occupations began in 1976, no new construction applications were completed, and 125 plant projects, many of them under construction, and some of them fully built, were canceled.

Now let's look at the nuclear resistance led by the Clamshell Alliance at Seabrook.

The Clamshell Alliance added to the usual opposition campaign strategies of education, public relations, and politics, in four remarkable ways: multiculturalism, democratic determinism, nonviolent direct action, and ecological thinking. This did not happen as a result of strategic planning; rather it came out serendipitously with the amalgam of activists made in diverse social justice struggles and local nuclear opponents. Some of the locals were also seasoned activists, but significantly, many were conservative New Englanders, steeped in home rule independent politics, and the belief that land and natural order are the basis for sustainable prosperity. The Seabrook project made them feel the threat of loss hanging over their home and their way of life.

With consensus decision-making, the first group of organizers empathized, bonded, and realized power in their diversity. They acted out ecologically, passing the green laser-eye over oppressive systems through the ages and saw in them the same hierarchical structures they saw supporting the nuclear military-industrial complex they were facing at Seabrook. They saw overlords everywhere: monarchs and subjects, masters and slaves, men over women, industry over natural order, white over color, corporations and wealth over politics and government, police and armies over dissidents and rebellion. They saw the powerful and the powerless, and they were unified.

No Nukes Strategy Spawned by Clamshell

The site occupations at Seabrook drew local supporters from throughout region and activists from around the US and beyond. The Clam no-nukes strategy spawned an unrelenting stream of reports, analyses, conferences, papers and books that put nuclear power, its monopoly-capital support structures, and its massive social and ecological costs in stark contrast with the blossoming garden of alternative renewable energy options. The Program of the Greens/Green Party USA currently contains energy statements that have changed little since the no-nukes strategy of the 1976 Clamshell Alliance:

The statement goes on to a comprehensive shutdown and cleanup specification covering 16 key areas of government and corporate responsibility and remedial action. It is an articulate scenario for what can be and should be done to continue the shutdown and cleanup of nuclear power in the US.

Green Energy Gains Steam

The Green Program's renewable energy section is equally consistent with the solar-powered vision of clean renewable energy that has grown out of the anti-nuclear movement of the 70's. Today solar-based energy and energy efficiency and conservation movements are rolled into an ever-widening ecological healing analysis, research and development. Government infrastructure, public awareness, and popular support continues to grow, as does production and marketing of a vast array of products and systems.

A 1990 study by Public Citizens Critical Mass Energy Project measured some of the effects of the growing solar-based renewable energy movement, finding that renewables were making a 10% contribution to the total US energy production, enough to supply 58 million homes, or the entire energy needs of the country for one month. Nuclear power's production was less than 7%, and diminishing. Significant trends to say the least; particularly so, as these findings are for production and do not account for energy production displaced by efficiency and conservation, which together are more than the total production by nuclear power.

Certainly there is much to be done, and the resistance to democratic decentralized renewable energy is likely to continue to be very strong. After all, it is a life-and-death proposition for the energy monopolies. And so it may be for us all. And there is the rub for the establishment, as well the answer to our questions of which path to the solar age.

. . . it is a life-and-death proposition for the energy monopolies. And so it may be for us all.

Yes, the energy path we are on is a revolutionary one, and needs to be, for of all the industrial battering of the biosphere that has brought us to the point where our very survival is at stake, none is more rampant and destructive than the established energy system. And yes, a program to save the planet by people whose aims are for clean energy, full employment, direct democracy, pure food, fresh air, natural beauty, and world peace, is going to gather more support every step of the way.

What we need is "more and better." To do more and better, we would serve the basic strategies by addition of a sense of timelessness, faith and joy. We need to be more thankful and celebratory for the timeless path of radical revolution of the mind and spirit that we walk together. Our movement can go faster if it slows down a bit to celebrate more often. Let's remember Emma Goldman, "If this revolution doesn't have dancing, I don't want to be a part of it."

Guy Chichester is a co-founder of the Clamshell Alliance, and a representative to the National Committee of the Greens/Green Party USA.

Recommended for current information:

The Other Economic Summit/North America (TOES/NA), Box 567, Rangeley, ME 04970
Tranet Newsletter/Appropriate Technology, Box 567, Rangeley, ME 04970
Public Citizen Critical Mass Energy Project, 2000 P St. N.W.; Washington, D.C. 20036
National Renewable Energy Laboratory, In Review Newsletter, 1617 Cole Blvd., Golden, CO 80401-3393
The Institute for Local Self Reliance, 2425 18th St. NW, Washington, D.C.
Home Power Magazine, P.O. Box 520, Ashland, OR 97520

Synthesis/Regeneration home page  | Synthesis/Regeneration 10 Contents