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David Young/Carolyn Johns
Anti-nuke activist Helen Caldicott is back
By Dylan Bennett
AUSTRALIAN pediatrician Helen Caldicott says she is not a Christian, but speaking with her you find yourself muttering words like "Jesus" and "God." That's because she's talking about Armageddon. No, not the blockbuster summer movie about asteroids from space, but the man-made reality of nuclear war and the possibility of radiation raining on Earth.
Caldicott, the co-founder of Physicians for Social Responsibility and the author of the 1979's influential Nuclear Madness and three other books, is easily the world's best-known anti-nuclear activist. And after 25 years of revealing the dark truths of the atomic age, Caldicott won't sugarcoat her analysis. "I think that within 10 years, 10 countries will have the bomb, and within 20, if America doesn't stop this madness, we'll have a nuclear war," says Caldicott, during a phone interview from New York. Her Australian accent, knowledge of medicine, and biting honesty--together with dry sarcasm and the scolding, loving tone of a mother and doctor--make for a successful oratorical style. "That's my prediction. And my children and grandchildren will then have no future."
Caldicott presents her lecture "Paths to Peace in the 21st Century" on Oct. 3 at Sonoma State University. Her appearance supports the Abolition 2000 movement, a global coalition of more than 1,000 non-governmental groups calling for the elimination of nuclear weapons and the reallocation of resources to human and environmental needs. The group hopes to stage an international nuclear abolition convention, similar to the successful landmine convention, in the year 2000.
But why all the fuss? Didn't the nuclear threat decrease after the Cold War? "Well, everyone thought it had," says Caldicott. "America has still got 12,000 [nuclear weapons]. And Russia's still got 9,000--21 times the number needed to produce nuclear winter." Caldicott, 60, argues that the combination of political and economic instability in both Russia and the United States and the development of new, improved nuclear weapons adds up to a high-risk situation. "[Russian President Boris] Yeltsin is clearly gone--he's non-functional psychologically and mentally. And that's a very scary situation. And when he goes, God knows who will be in," Caldicott says. "This country is in a terrible catastrophe at the moment. Japan supports America's foreign debt. Japan's on the slide. If Japan keeps sliding, this country will collapse. Now, it's under those situations that international politics become extremely unstable. With the world laced with nuclear weapons as it is now, we are in a very terrifying situation, and I think people don't really understand that.
"We've got a new situation now where the scientists in the labs are building new and wonderful nuclear weapons to the tune of $4.5 billion a year for the next 10 years: more than they spent at the height of the Cold War. And that will encourage every country in the world to build nuclear weapons.
"So what is happening is pure evil."
WHO BENEFITS from this dismal status quo? "The nuclear elite, the nuclear priesthood, the wicked ones," answers Caldicott, once again waxing biblical. And why would they work so hard to pollute their own world when they clearly have enough money? "It's power as well," she says. "It's testosterone poisoning."
"Helen Caldicott is a very inspirational speaker," says Elizabeth Anderson, director of the Sonoma County Peace and Justice Center, which is co-sponsoring the event. Anderson is calling on local residents to create a peace team as part of a global network to abolish nuclear weapons while focusing on environmental, health-care, and voting projects.
But how realistic is it to abolish nuclear weapons? "The ending of the Cold War wasn't realistic, was it?" offers Caldicott. "I mean, I had eight death threats. If you had asked me if I really, truly believed the Cold War would end, I would had to have told you, no. But it did. So miracles occur. And we're capable of doing the most enormously important things.
"If we give up on that, we might as well give up on the human race."
Dr. Helen Caldicott will speak on Oct. 3 from 7 to 9 p.m. at the Evert Person Theater at Sonoma State University. Admission is $10 in advance, $12 at the door, $5 for students. 664-2122.
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From the September 24-30, 1998 issue of the Sonoma County Independent.
© Metro Publishing Inc.