The first dot in the pattern was the decline of education described by Jacques Barzun, among others. The second in this story is the role of the Ban the Bomb movement in the 1950s which morphed into opposition to nuclear power and enabled the radical left to take control of the environmental movement as it became influential in the 1970s and ’80s. The late John Grover, an Australian mining engineer, wrote up this story in a chapter of his book Struggle For Power (1980).
The movement successful blocked nuclear power in Australia and substantially succeeded in the US. The movement had next to no support from scientists but it moved into the environmental movement and took control of it. Several churches became involved, and school teachers unions were effective in generating community resistance, alongside well-funded and highly professional campaigns run by the likes of the Sierra Club, Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth. They laid the foundations for the developments which Alan Carling described in his book Environmentalism Gone Mad.
Grover’s story ended shortly before 1980 and before the Greens became a force to reckon with. To come up to date, the story would need to include the rise of the Greens, including the role of Graham “Whatever it takes” Richardson in having the Hawke-Keating government take on board green policies to secure Green preferences for electoral purposes during the 1980s.
The anti-nuclear movement started while American and Russian bomb tests were dispersing plutonium into the atmosphere. Not surprisingly many scientists regarded this as a Bad Thing and their opposition led to the 1963 Nuclear Test Ban Treaty.
That was not a problem for the development of nuclear power, however in the 1970s the US created 20,000 government employees dedicated to improving the environment and the nuclear energy industry soon ran into trouble. The “Sierra Club” became an early opponent of NP, possibly the most influential single political-environmental group in the nation due to its wealthy and well-connected membership, its budget was three million dollars in 1977. Alan Carling was an active member and organizer in the early days of the Club but he soon became concerned about the way it was going.
Two sensationalized books by Barry Commoner, The Careless Atom and Perils of the Peaceful Atom represented the start of the all-out anti-NP campaign. In 1971 Ralph Nader, bankrolled by the Rockefeller network, began to work with a lawyer Anthony Roisman and the “Union of Concerned Scientists” to combine the efforts of environmental groups and public interest lawyers against NP.
Grover wrote that thanks to Ralph Nader’s initiative, there exists a well co-ordinated coalition of interest groups in the USA with all the attributes of a major corporation: well planned, influential, with strong political and financial support, well-tested strategies, professional communication expertise and tremendous legal punch. About 600 full-time “environmental lawyers” operated on a budget of at least 45 million dollars in 1977 and about one-third of this was spent purely on energy-stopping.
The role of the churches
A division of the American National Council of Churches declared plutonium morally dubious and called for a moratorium on its use. This bizarre intrusion of theology into science was explained on the grounds that scientists were “split down the middle” and therefore the theological community should have the casting vote.
That path was taken on advice from a committee of inquiry of 21 people (selected by the anthropologist Margaret Mead) consisting of 11 who had previously published papers opposing NP and 10 clergymen and lawyers. None of the 21 could claim expertise in the field of nuclear energy or plutonium.
Grover claimed that this advice, distributed through the network of churches, impressed a Southern Baptist, President Jimmy Carter and his advisors. The Council of Churches distributed a paper “Ethical Implications of Energy Production and Use” which depicted the threat of nuclear waste in the language that has become familiar in recent times – “the welfare of future generations” and “horrendous” and “catastrophic” dangers despite the fact that wastes had been managed for 30 years without harm to anyone.
In 1978 the political religious group based in New York, City Clergy and Laity Concerned (CALC) distributed packages of anti-nuclear materials to churches across the nation:
Prayers, liturgical aids, a pastoral letter and suggestions for organizing local churches under the anti-NP banner
Church propaganda in Australia
The World Council of Churches helped to orchestrate and echo the anti-NP message through churches in Australia.
Anti-nuclear propaganda in cartoon form was distributed to NT Aboriginals from the Uniting Church prior to the 1977 elections, followed by an official denial of responsibility, followed in 1978 by the same material, this time with the authority of the Church.
In 1978 The Economist made a study of activists in high places and reported that the anti-nuclear campaign in Britain was passing out of the hands of apolitical environmentalists into the hand of the radical left. The paradigm case is Greenpeace which has been abandoned in despair by some of the founding fathers.
In 1977 at Grohnde, Lower Saxony, 15,00 well trained and disciplined anti-nuclears (the leading cadres equipped with metal helmets and gas masks) fought 30 police companies trying to keep them off a construction site. 80 protestors and 237 police were injured, some critically due to the barrage of rocks, jagged metal missiles and burning materials launched from catapults. The attack was rehearsed at a replica of the gates and fences, with water cannon jets and tear gas deployed to mimic the real event. The Australian press did not report the messy aspect of the outrage but Ralph Nader praised their efforts in his weekly newspaper column in the US.
American Government Support – Jimmy Carter
The protest movement started with dedicated volunteers, then became an occupation when funding came from wealthy backers and foundations to pay for professional and fulltime workers. Then it reached the pinnacle of achievement when the taxpayers got to foot the bill as Governments took on board activists to pursue their passions with public funding and the power of the State to back them.
Under President Carter many sub-cabinet posts went to former public interest lawyers, consumerists and environmental activists. Fourteen key White House assistants including the President’s chief speechwriter came from the public interest movement. Four former anti-NP activists became Assistant Atorneys-General in the Dept of Justice, and others moved into the positions of Assistant Secretaries in Health, Education and Welfare; Commerce, Interior, Agriculture, Housing and Urban Development. “Naderites”. Their follow travelers in the consumer movement also scored some plum positions in the chairs of the Civil Aeronautics Board, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the National Highway Safety Administration, the Occupational Health and Safety Administration, and the Federal Trade Commission.
Who is Behind it?
The following organizations were listed in connection with public agitation urging the US to make unilateral concessions at the US-Soviet Union strategic arms limitations talks. The US Peace Council, the National Council for American-Soviet Friendship, American Friends Service Committee (far left Quakers), Clergy and Laity Concerned, Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom. All of those organizations worked closely with the World Peace Council and that body spawned Mobilization for Survival as an anti-nuclear arm of the communist “peace” movement.
Further investigation revealed the extent of Foundation funding for environmental groups which shared the anti-nuclear stance of the communist-aligned “front” groups. The Rockefeller group backed Ralph Nader in his activities, and the Ford Foundation supported anti-nuclear environmental groups to the tune of $5.8M over eight years from 1970.
International Scene 1978-79
The key organizations behind the anti-nuclear propaganda drive at last surfaced through the mire of a hundred groups, many with titles that don’t quite relate to what they are doing. In Grover’s opinion the US provided the leadership in personnel, tactics, organization and communications for the worldwide Western anti-nuclear movement. The misinformation that is communicated in other places is an echo of the resources and tactics developed in the US. One of the offshoots was the Transnational Cooperative, established in Sydney with Laurie Carmichael (Communist Party of Australia) and Tom Uren as the directors.
World Coordinators of Misinformation
The International Confederation for Disarmament and Peace (ICDP) in London appeared to be the anti-nuclear world coordinating link. A major presence was Peggy Duff, also instrumental in establishing Mobilization for Survival. The ICDP handles World Peace Council activities where the parent body wants to remain out of sight.
The ICDP has/had two Australian connections, the Association for International Cooperation and Disarmament in Sydney in the Sydney CBD and The Congress for International Cooperation and Disarmament in Little Lonsdale St, Melbourne.
MOVEMENTS IN AUSTRALIA
Grover printed a list of 26 Australian groups that were prominent in the cause, including Friends of the Earth, Uranium Moratorium, Australian Conservation Foundation, Australian Teachers Federation, Doctors for a delay in uranium mining, Shareholders for Social Responsibility, Women Against Nuclear Energy and the World Council of Churches.
He regarded that list as the tip of the iceberg because some of those groups sponsor others which appear to be uncommitted on the issue of nuclear power. Church groups were especially likely to be recruited, as revealed at a March 1979 Aboriginal Land Rights “Teach In” at the University of Sydney. The role of Aboriginal Land Rights as a vehicle to impede the nuclear industry is explained in another section of the book.
The most remarkable feature of this event was the almost total absence of Aborigines.
The list of 32 sponsors included the Catholic Missions Office, Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, De La Salle Brothers, Little Sisters of Jesus, Society of Jesus, Mary and Joseph, Loreto House, Good Shepherd Sisters, Marcia Langton, Federated Engine Drivers and Firemen’s Association, Australian Council of Churches and the National Missionary Council.
The movement officially hit Australia at the Academy of Science conference in Canberra in 1972 which was billed as a discussion of technology and energy planning and turned into an anti-nuclear platform and a forum for low-energy lifestyle advocacy. The Australian Conservation Foundation took a strong political line and urged newly formed environmental groups to focus on uranium. Journalists played their usual role in reporting the dangers, whether they were real or just perceived.
Scientifically out of their depth, the Australian media became prone, for a period, to presenting scenarios of nuclear disaster. Two headlines come to mind: ‘Radioactive Time Bomb Ticks Away at Port Pirie’ and ‘Our First Atom Death: Victim of Radiation’. The former, it transpired, referred to the natural remnants of a beach sands mining operation and the latter to the unfortunate death by leukemia of an employee of the Atomic Energy Commission who had not been subjected to radiation in connection with his job.
The Friends of the Earth arrived from the US and started work in Adelaide by 1970. They extended nationwide and became the leading distributors of foreign-inspired arguments. Grover reported that they toned down their early vehemence and became more polished and polite in distributing untruths. Especially impressive was a slide show with beautiful outback photos, focused on the Aboriginal way of life and the threat of mining the Kakadu National Park.
FOE moved to Castlereagh Street in Sydney and shared a building with a radical bookshop, Campaign Against Racial Exploitatioin, Chile Committee, Free Zimbabwe [still functioning I hope], No Ties with Apartheid, the Vietnam Society and others.
At the time of writing FOE had been recently upstaged by the Movement Against Uranium Mining (MAUM) and Dr Joseph Camilleri was probably the leading figure in the anti-NP campaign. Grover became aware as he debated at various meetings that there were several groups with overlapping membership and the basic message remained the same while the front group that hosted the meeting, the specific topic and method of approach were adjusted to suit the audience and the shifting focus of the campaign. For example the MUAM was actually an arm of the AIDC.
On the PR front, many public libraries were well supplied with anti-nuclear propaganda, to the extent that many people would not have encountered any other material, while being warned against the “lies” of the mining companies.
Using National TV and Radio
Grover wrote that some ABC staff uncritically passed on the mostly negative nuclear news from overseas, and from the local groups when they became active.
Some of the success of the anti-uranium campaign is due to the manner in which the Commission has been “used” by activists. The misinformation being broadcast almost daily at one time by Radio 2JJ has shown no respect for the truth and has had a major impact on schoolchildren.
According to Grover the ultimate in the anti-uranium campaign has been the literature distributed to schools in NSW in July 1978.
Two dozen broadsheets destined for schoolchildren were such that many teachers and secondary students were shocked. Much material that had originated in the US was laid out and made to look like a teaching study. With few exceptions the cartoons were on the political level, some skilfully done.
Videotapes, sound tapes and other audiovisuals were listed, referring to the overseas ‘information’. The emotional speeches of pediatrician Helen Caldicott, and those of plausible Paul Ehrlich (with the magnificent voice) featured prominently, with taped sessions from the ABC’s ‘Broadband’, ‘City Extra’ and other sessions which contributed prominently to the anti-uranium case. Activities sheets followed explaining how the concepts could be best implanted iin children’s minds.
Among the materials were powerful and emotional pieces including “Aboriginals” (depicted in chains) and “Heroshima” (easy to depict in a shocking manner).
Teenagers could be deeply affected by the emotional impact. Many teachers appreciated this but the rules of the NSW Teachers Federation and the open support of the Labor Minister for Education ensured the silence of the majority. One must wonder at the Federation statement concerning ‘inundation of pro-uranium propaganda’. Nobody knew of any.
A small grass-roots group of concerned parents and teachers formed to attempt to achieve some professionalism or balance in the system. They pointed out that conscientious or dissenting teachers could be silenced by the Federation rule which permitted suspension from membership and imposition of a fine on teachers acting contrary to any decision of the Council.
At least two schools known to Grover organised a speaker from each side of the argument and some teachers attempted to provide balance. One used her own money in an attempt to inform students of the othe side of the case but the material that she included in the “resource kit” was removed because it was contrary to the union policy and the kit was being distributed to “redress the balance” of propaganda!
The anti-uranium movement captured the minority party – the Australia Party – formed by dissident Liberals following the businessman Gordon Barton because they could not accept the Liberal line on the Vietnam war. Grover described a 10-page question and answer document on uranium as “shockingly dishonest” and much the same applied to statements from the other minority party, the Australian Democrats.
When Grover accepted an invitation to speak at the University of NSW in 1978 he was surprised to find that this was the first official pro-mining talk on campus. Nobody else had attempted to answer the continuous flow of anti-mining propaganda. He was also surprised to see how well the talk was received by the badge-wearing anti-uranium supporters who were present. Of course the great majority were just going along for the ride, unlike the hard core of the leadership it is quite likely that most of them could have been turned around by sustained discussion and additional information.
Deliberately false news items and anti-nuclear films can have a powerful impact, and the feeling remains even when the audience knows in the rational part of their brains that the evidence is faked, as noted by Justice Parker in his gloss on the Caging the Dragon film which purported to represent the hazards at the Windscale power station.
Many sensationalized dramas about nuclear alerts have been screened, some of them very well done, high quality products of the entertainment industry and most of them simply playing for dollars. But some involving left-liberals like Jane Fonda deliberately advance the anti-growth agenda, with the profits directed to other anti-growth activities.
Quoting “Hanoi Jane” Fonda:
More and more movies are going to be anti-corporate…Syndrome will be coming out in a climate that is tilting to anti-nuclear, and I think its going to have a very heavy effect. But the movie is about more than the nuclear thing. It’s the whole ‘Corporations put greed ahead of human values and safety’ message.
As noted at the outset, Grover’s story only went up to 1980 which is now a long time ago. Readers might like to submit references on the corruption of the environmental movement post 1980. Alan Carling’s Environmentalism Gone Mad would be on the list.