Organizing Notes

Bruce Gagnon is coordinator of the Global Network Against Weapons & Nuclear Power in Space. He offers his own reflections on organizing and the state of America's declining empire....

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Location: Brunswick, Maine, United States

I grew up in a military family and joined the Air Force in 1971 during the Vietnam War. It was there that I became a peace activist.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

NASA LOSING PUBLIC SUPPORT


Our Global Network web site has had well over 5,000 hits today as people learn about our opposition to the launch of the controversial New Horizons mission to Pluto that will carry 24 pounds of plutonium onboard.

The media has begun to cover the danger of the plutonium launch in the last couple of days. I've done interviews on CNN and CBS radio. Newspapers have been calling and the Associated Press story was placed on most internet search sites which brought a lot of people to us. CBS evening news last night made mention of the opposition to launching nuclear power into space and today CNN TV news ran a nice interview with Karl Grossman who gave some background and context to our concerns. Karl has also had a string of op-ed pieces printed in papers across the nation. Our local Global Network leader, Maria Telesca who lives near Cape Canaveral, has been doing media interviews for the last couple of weeks.

Some media folks focus on the fact that only 40 people protested at the space center on January 7. They ask why so few were there after we had 1,000 people at the space center in 1997 protesting the Cassini launch that carried 72 pounds of plutonium onboard?

I also organized large protests at the space center in 1989 against the nuclear Galileo mission and then again in 1990 when Ulysses lifted off with plutonium onboard. After three large protests since 1989 we learned something. Large protests don't mean that you are going to stop the launching of nuclear power into space. Big protests might mean you get more media coverage for a day or two but after that it is all gone and you are back to square one.

In 1998 I left working full time at the Florida Coalition for Peace & Justice so that I could work full-time on space issues with the Global Network. Since that time I have been non-stop on the road, traveling all across the U.S. and all over the world. This effort has enabled the Global Network to dramatically expand the numbers of people who now deeply understand the nuclearization and weaponization of space. We've made two documentary videos. One in particular called Arsenal of Hypocrisy: The Space Program and the Military Industrial Complex, has been a huge seller and has played around the world in homes, churches, on movie screens, at colleges, on cable TV and on Deep Dish satellite TV.

In December, 2005 the Global Network bought three 1/4 page advertisements in the Florida Today newspaper, the paper of record for the space center community. In those ads we laid out our concerns and gave readers information that will never make it into any article that gets published during the New Horizons launch window.

We've learned something over the years. We've learned to be more strategic with our meager resources and we've learned where to put our energies and where not to. The media and NASA would like the public to believe that there is not much opposition to the New Horizons plutonium launch just because we did not organize a big rally at the space center. We know though that NASA is reading this very blog and that they have hired public relations firms to find out what our plans are to oppose the launching of nuclear power into space. NASA has routinely tried to infiltrate our organization. NASA is spending $700 million to fly New Horizons and untold millions dollars more to sell it to the public because their polling data says that the American people are less supportive now than ever of their space program. The public says, “Yes these pictures from space are nice but I’d rather have my tax dollars spent on health care, education, child care, or cleaning up our planet Earth.”

In the end we can say that people around the world are learning that the New Horizons space probe is another controversial space shot with deadly plutonium onboard. With each launch NASA loses more credibility with a skeptical public who understands that space technology can and does fail. After the Hurricane Katrina fiasco the public also has learned an important lesson - don't trust the government when they tell you that they will take care of things after a disaster. When NASA told people in Central Florida this week to just stay inside their homes and turn off the air conditioners, if there was a nuclear accident, that really told the people something very important. In their heart of hearts, most people don't believe the official spin.

In 1997, right before the launch of Cassini, we got a call from Alan Kohn. He told us he had recently retired from NASA and had been the emergency preparedness officer for the past two nuclear launches (Galileo and Ulysses). He told us NASA had no emergency evacuation and clean-up plan. He said it was all a lie. Alan told us that NASA could do nothing if there ever was a nuclear space accident and he believed that eventually there would be one. Alan told this story to the New York Times and CBS 60 Minutes just before Cassini went up. He had the courage to stand up and say what the people fear - if there is a nuclear space accident you are on your own. Home owners insurance won’t cover a space nuclear accident. The federal government has no money to clean up a radioactive Central Florida.

NASA has big plans for nuclear powered colonies on the Moon and nuclear rockets to Mars with nuclear reactors for engines. New Horizons won't be the last launch. Our opposition will not go away either.

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