Synthesis/Regeneration 11   (Fall 1996)

Organizing to Prevent Nuclear Catastrophe

The Stonehaven Statement: A Feminist Anti-Nuclear Gathering

by Susan Lee, Earth and Sky Women's Peace Caravan for a Compassionate Society

The last four days of March, 1996, about 70 women, mostly from the U.S. and autonomous Indian nations, with participants as well from Germany, Sweden, the Philippines, and the former Soviet Union, representing almost as many national and local groups resisting different links in the nuclear chain, gathered at Stonehaven Ranch in Central Texas. They came at the invitation and mostly with the funding of the Foundation for a Compassionate Society, the creation of Texas heiress and social change funder and philosopher Genevieve Vaughan. The meeting was instigated in discussions between Vaughan and Plutonium Free Future's director, ex-Greenpeace nuclear campaigner Claire Greensfelder at the Fourth World Conference on Women in China last fall.

The three-day meeting began with women sharing their stories of how they as individuals or their community had been affected by the nuclear cycle. It ended in strategy meetings on specific topics: nuclear waste transport, radiation and health, etc. Elders such as Grace Thorpe of the Sauk Fox Nation of Oklahoma, who has taken the nuclear-free zone idea and run with it like her famed father; Jesse Deer-in-Water who as a leader of Native Americans for a Clean Environment helped force the shut down a Kerr-McGee uranium conversion plant after a bad accident; Alice Slater of Economists Allied for Arms Reduction; Judith Johnsrude and Mary Osborn of Pennsylvania and Three Mile Island vintage; and other seasoned activists who've proved their mettle in fewer years such as Nettie Folsom of the Mescalero Apache, Angelia Smith of Peace Action, US, and 18-year-old Natalie Diaz of the Save Ward Valley group.

The Gathering produced poignant stories; confrontations over use of the term "feminist" to describe all the women there, and over cultural expression in ritual; brilliant ideas and worthy projects; the expressed intent of many participants and the funder to come together again, adding more women; and finally, a statement of ideas which seemed to hold consensus:

Between the 17th anniversary of the Three Mile Island disaster and the 10th anniversary of the Chernobyl tragedy; in order to ensure a safe and livable world for our children and for all future generations, the following must occur:

1. Don't make anything that can't be safely disposed of.

2. People who live in communities contaminated by radioactive substances have the right to know what and where the source of contamination is. The local emergency planning district or entity will have complete documentation of radioactive sources, and the long-term health effects.

3. Community residents will have veto power at proposed sites and decision making power for existing site clean-up and containment design. No ultimate decisions will be made by anyone who stands to profit financially by the work.

4. All radioactive materials everywhere shall be subject to international accounting and public registry supported by producer taxation. Local residents shall monitor maintenance of containment, paid for by generator of waste.

5. In principle the group is opposed to any transport of waste by air, water, highway or railway. However, there may be compelling health and environmental reasons to move this material. This conflict is a profound dilemma which requires serious global dialogue, decided on a site-by-site basis. In the meantime, there will be no new dumps opened.

6. Honor principles of environmental and social justice, and sovereign indigenous rights and all Indian treaties; keep radioactive waste off Indian lands.

7. Keep all uranium in the ground. Restore contaminated mining sites and provide health care, compensation and reparation to all affected individuals and communities.

8. Prohibit nuclear weapons research, design, development and testing of any kind including laboratory experiments, hydrodynamic non-nuclear explosions and computer simulations. Stop nuclear testing in the US. Subject all weapons labs to international monitoring and close all nuclear sites. Establish laboratories to research and develop technologies for preventing leakage of radioactive waste.

9. The rights of present as well as future generations to monitor radioactive waste will be insured. All containment will be retrievable to enable improved technologies for additional safety.

10. Public education will be required for all, beginning with school children, about the source, nature and necessary containment of radioactive materials in order to preserve continuity of life on the planet. Join together locally, regionally, nationally & globally to expose the lethal reality of our nuclear legacy.

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