The Greatest Australian Heroine
by Saab Lofton
Dr. Helen Caldicott and Superman have a couple of things in common--both of them were born in 1938 and they're both die hard anti-nuke activists (see the movie Superman IV: The Quest for Peace if you don't believe me). They obviously differ in gender and hometowns -- the extraterrestrial "man of steel" was raised on a Kansas farm whereas Dr. Caldicott came from Melbourne, Australia (hence the title of this piece).
In addition to having 19 honorary doctoral degrees and being a Nobel Peace Prize nominee, Dr. Caldicott was named by the Smithsonian Institute as one of the most influential women in the world. As good as Superman is, Dr. Caldicott is way smarter.
In 1982, her film, If You Love This Planet, won the Academy Award for Documentary Short Subject even though it was branded as "political propaganda" by the U.S. Justice Department--as if propaganda is such a bad thing ...
It was an honor for me to interview this real life superheroine of the highest order.
Lofton: You were on staff with the Children's Hospital Medical Center in Boston until 1980 -- when you resigned so you could work full time to prevent nuclear war. Can you tell me about your decision to resign? What exactly brought that about? How has working full time to save the world affected your personal/family life? Any regrets?
Caldicott: I decided to leave after traveling to the USSR and learning that the US was about to deploy the incredibly destabilizing Pershing 11 and cruise missile in Europe. I couldn't see any point in continuing to practice medicine when the future of life on Earth was threatened. After working for many years and traveling incessantly it affected my marriage which ended in divorce. That was very difficult. Until very recently, I felt as if my life had been in vain because of the huge push by Bush to build ever more nuclear weapons, that Russia and the US still stand on hair-trigger alert ready to send thousands of H bombs towards each other, because Bush has negated almost all the nuclear arms control agreements and because of the so-called renaissance in nuclear power.
Lofton: At a public forum in 2003, you spoke with the Dalai Lama -- over the years, how has your experience with the Church been? Do religious people mind that you seem to be an atheist/agnostic ..?
Caldicott: No, I think that church people see that I have a great and abiding respect for the life process, evolution and nature. My message is very pure and they tend to buy what I say as I educate them.
Lofton: In October, 2006, you told Tavis Smiley that, "terrorists don't need nuclear weapons. You've got 103 nuclear power plants deployed around the country." I consider this a complete refutation (one of many) of FOX News' pro-nuke argument. Have any right-wingers -- publicly or otherwise -- admitted that you clearly proved them wrong?
Caldicott: No, they never admit they are wrong even though they almost always are through the retrospectoscope.
Lofton: You also told Tavis Smiley, "I'm putting together a roadmap ... for a totally nuclear-free, totally carbon-free future. The technology's here, and it's cheaper by orders of magnitude than nuclear. We can do it right now, if the politicians behave themselves and stop being dominated by the coal companies, the oil companies, and the nuclear companies." Where can one find your "roadmap"?
Caldicott: The outline for the roadmap is on my web page at nuclearpolicy.org, and the roadmap should be completed by the end of April 2007 with an executive summary to go with it.
Lofton: And insofar as the domination of the coal, oil and nuclear companies goes, what would you say to capitalists who're afraid that your roadmap could interfere with the free market?
Caldicott: Do they want to Earth to survive or not? Do they love their children enough to save their future?
Lofton: It's been suggested that since there's no draft, today's anti-war movement is a bit weaker than the one of the late 1960s/early 1970s. Do you suppose it'd take a small scale nuclear conflict in the form of, say, a Bush administration-induced conflict with Iran in order to light a fire under the feet of the spoiled First World? Would it take such a conflict to prompt white suburbia to hit the streets en masse as they did in the sixties?
Caldicott: Yes, it seems people who generally are in a state of denial practicing psychic numbing can only be aroused by a very serious catastrophe, although sometimes when I give a good and inspirational speech peoples' lives are changed that night.
Lofton: Given all that you've accomplished, has anyone offered to base a major motion picture (a la Erin Brockovich) on you? Which actress would you cast to play yourself?
Caldicott: Maybe Meryl Streep, or Reece Witherspoon.
Lofton: Would it take Hollywood giving you household name recognition in order to further aid your cause?