The Amazing Dr. Helen Caldicott

By Shirley Farlinger

At 71 Helen Caldicott is as beautiful and inspiring as ever. In the 1980s she could fill to overflowing Convocation Hall at the University of Toronto. She continues speaking out and writing books, including with her weekly one-hour radio program in Australia. Her latest book, If You Love This Planet: A Plan to Save the Earth, is a must-read, the most important $21.00 you’ll ever spend.

But what she says is still disturbing. Here are a few quotes. “It is worse than during the Cold War.” “Nuclear Reactors are bomb factories.” “The waste lasts half a million years and we never will know what to do with it.” “It’s easy to melt down a reactor.” “Opposition will have to come from a Western country because Russia and China don’t care.”

In 1983 at the one-million rally in New York City, Helen was given three minutes to talk, so she described the effect of one nuclear bomb dropped on a city. This was the essence of her National Film Board film “If You Love This Planet” (Still available from NFB).

Now Helen tackles subjects from global warming to toxic pollution, species extinction, overpopulation, First World greed and Third World debt, corporate power and how the media manufacture consent.

Why did we go to sleep after the Cold War ended? Helen offers a few reasons: President Clinton did not take on the Pentagon while he had the public behind him. Now the media, almost entirely corporate-owned, do not give the public the facts.

“In the ’70s I stopped uranium mining in Australia by telling union members about the effects of radiation on their testicles. Now in Australia things are grim. The temperature rose to 42 degrees this year, causing fires and dust storms. The country is surrounded by earthquake zones and has 85 million tons of uranium tailings.”

She continued, “There is no way to stop tritium releases from nuclear reactors. In Germany a study found that children under age five living near a nuclear reactor were twice as likely to develop leukemia.” It’s clear to her that nuclear power must be stopped.

To address climate change she says we must stop using paper that comes from CO2 — absorbing trees, limit driving and flying, reduce the size of families, legislate the responsibility to vote, teach our students about their future and educate ourselves.“We’re talking about revolution, not just activism. We must be carbon-free and nuclear-free by 2050 — if we love this planet.”

Helen’s personal website is www.helencaldicott.com. Her most recent publications are: If You Love this Planet: A Plan to Save the Earth, W.W. Norton & Co., 2009; Nuclear Power is Not the Answer, The New Press. 2006.

Dr. Caldicott’s lecture was organized by The University of Toronto’s School of Medicine, Offices of Continuing Education and Professional Development and Undergraduate and Postgraduate Medical Education and the Dalla Lana School of Public Health.

Peace Magazine Jan-Mar 2010

Peace Magazine Jan-Mar 2010, page 31. Some rights reserved.

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