Helen is back! Dr. Helen Caldicott came to Belleville, Ont., on April 5 to deliver the Lorne L Shewfelt Lecture in the Sciences at Albert College, a private school. Caldicott's lecture has changed significantly from the days when she would begin with a description of what happens when a nuclear bomb explodes on a city. She now considers the threat of species extinction as serious as the threat of nuclear war. Looking up at the orange, yellow and green stained-glass windows, bright in the afternoon sunshine, she began by talking of the brightly-coloured parrots of New South Wales, where she lives. Those parrots are in danger. She went on to detail the terrible damage that threatens the earth: the ozone layer is disappearing and without ozone we'll die; skin cancer has doubled in Australia; with each space exploration 240 tons of hydrochloric acid are released and the chlorine atoms, which last forever, eat up the ozone like Pacman; the Japanese are cutting Australian eucalyptus trees for computer and copying paper.
Global warming will cause tidal waves and floods and masses of ecological refugees, she pointed out. And she argued that for $125 billion we could save all the rainforests and control the world population, which is now 5.4 billion and will be 8 billion by 2025.
Caldicott doesn't hesitate to denounce the transnationals who control telecommunications, the media, banking, patents, and agribusiness. "They must go," she says. Her speech gathered steam as she connected General Electric, which has made all the triggers for nuclear weapons since 1945, with the media. "GE owns NBC," she said, "those who are polluting the earth to death own and control the media. They don't tell us that we are losing jobs because of Reaganomics where the rich get richer and 20% of the world's population controls 80% of the wealth. The move to privatize industry just gives power to the polluters."
"With the Free Trade Agreement the U.S. will swallow you up like an amoeba," Caldicott adds. "As the U.S. goes Canada will go. In the U.S. eight out of ten people live near a toxic dump."
Now single, Caldicott's passion seems to be nourished by her home in Australia, with its abundance of plant and animal life. After leaving the United States, she visited the Galapagos and the Amazon in 1989, trips which turned heron to environmental issues. In 1990 she ran for parliament in Australia, and missed being elected by 684 votes. The three-week election campaign cost $40,000. That loss and a recent gallbladder operation seem not to have discouraged her. She continues to organize WAND (Women's Action for Nuclear Disarmament, P.O. Box B, Arlington, MA 02174) and she still writes books [see review page 25}. Her support group includes her brother, who is head of the government radio station, her brother-in-law, who teaches architecture and solar building design, and a daughter who has just graduated from medical school. Some team!
At the close of her lecture, she fielded questions from an audience eager for answers. In response to one question, she argued that education should cover the environment, the nuclear age and relationships. Prime ministers and presidents are ignorant of these issues.
At the end, the Albert College student who thanked Dr. Caldicott told her that the school will plant a grove of trees to commemorate her visit. She'll be back in Canada in March, 1993.
Shirley Farlinger is an editor of Peace Magazine.