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Remembering Susan Lee Solar
by Don Fitz, Green Party of St. Louis
Susan Lee Solar died of steptococcal pneumonia on February 13, 2002 at South Austin Hospital. Readers of Synthesis / Regeneration: A Magazine of Green Social Thought (S/R) may remember that she edited three issues on nuclear themes in 1996.
I first met Susan in July, 1995 at the annual gathering of The Greens/Green Party USA in Albuquerque, New Mexico. At one of the workshops I announced that we needed people to write and edit for S/R. Afterwards, she talked about so many themes she wanted to be cover that I asked her if she wanted to edit an entire issue. She agreed. But what was planned to be one issue turned into three as we worked together through the next year and a half.
The first undertaking, S/R 9 (Winter, 1996), focussed on “Nuclear Hot Spots.” Susan had said that she loved the S/R philosophy that the first choice for articles should be activists describing their work and exemplifying it for others. She knew an incredible number of people who had been working on nuke issues throughout the world. Articles told of struggles around the Mururoa Atoll, Prairie Island Minn., Cape Fear N.C., Homer, La., Church Rock, Ariz., Ogalla Qquifer, Texas, Sierra Blanca, Tex., Carlsbad and Crownpoint, N.M., Mescalero Reservation N.M., Santa Fe, N.M. and at Capitol Hill to halt nuclear waste transportation. Susan’s own article described the “Earth and Sky Women’s Peace Caravan Museum to End the Nuclear Age” which many had seen driving around the US:By mid-June of 1995, the caravan had materialized into a bright blue converted RV museum with an original interior design, fitted out with solar panels to run lights, fans, a computer-based radiation monitor, a high-8 video camera and a TV-VCR… Exhibits cover the history and legacy of the nuclear age, from uranium mining and processing, nuclear power reactors, and bomb-making/testing, to transport and waste management, with hands-on experience in radiation monitoring. (p. 24)
The second issue, S/R 10 (Spring, 1996), dealt with “Nukes and Public Health.” It recounted one tragic story after another of people who suffered from living near or working at nuclear sites. I took copies to the public hearing for the proposed nuclear waste dump at Sierra Blanca in west Texas. Susan introduced me to an incredible variety of people fighting against nukes, many of whom had written or would soon write for S/R. Upon Susan’s prompting, I gave testimony comparing the lack of candor constructing the incinerator at Times Beach MO to the empty promises made to this poor Hispanic community.
The last of the S/Rs, No. 11 (Fall, 1996), addressed “The Political Economy of Nuclear Power.” It featured a full cover photo of Germans lying on a railroad track to block shipment of nuclear waste to Gorleben. The lead article by Ellen Diederich told how the nuclear waste dump could destroy the German town. At that time, the memory of German Greens using elected positions to strengthen mass opposition to war and nukes was fresh in people’s minds.
As we completed the series of S/Rs Susan drove her travelling blue museum to St. Louis and local Greens toured it. At that time, we were just beginning our cable TV show, Green Time, and Susan conducted one of our first taped interviews. Barbara Chicherio interviewed her inside the museum and local activist Kay Drey discussed it in the studio.
The day before Susan departed St. Louis we were reminiscing at the kitchen table and I mentioned that I had grown up in Houston.
“I grew up in Houston, too!” she responded with surprise. “What part of Houston did you live in?” “Southwest Houston,” I told her. “Really…where did you go to high school?” she wanted to know. “Lamar High School.” “I went to Lamar High School!” she shrieked as everyone listening burst out laughing. It didn’t surprise anyone who knew us both that we could work together for over a year and be so focussed on what we were doing that we would not figure out until then that we went to the same school, separated by only a few years.
Soon after, she changed her legal name to Susan Lee Solar. In 1998, she used her new name to be the first Green Party candidate for state-wide office in Texas. Fulfilling the original Green promise, Susan used the campaign to spread her message about nuclear power.
The next year, she invited me to come to the founding convention of the Texas Green Party and present a workshop on genetic engineering. It never occurred to me that that would be the last time I would see her.
Susan solicited and referred articles to S/R as its Nuke Advisor through number 22 (Spring 2000) and then told me that she was too absorbed in other projects to continue.
Though the issues of oppression that touched Susan’s heart were many—from sexism to the death penalty to human rights violations in Guatemala—none was more central than the unspeakable horrors of nukes. For everyone who would like to honor the memory of Susan Lee Solar, those who did not know her as well as those who did, there is no better way than to struggle to bring an end to nuclear power, nuclear waste transportation and the threat of nuclear war.
See links to her s/r articles in the authors index under both Susan Lee and Susan Lee Solar.
Ric Sternberg created a beautiful webpage in Susan Lee Solar’s memory. The URL is: http://www.aimproductions.com/SusanLee/