Friday, June 12, 2015
Thursday, May 7, 2015
FOE 1975 /76
Sunday, March 15, 2015
Thanks for inviting me! I have the odd anecdote from Monash FOE of the 1977-78 period when we tried to get a mining lease on Malcolm Fraser's property at Nareen and we (about 40 cyclists) camped overnight on roadside verge, watched over by busloads of police should we have been attacked by rogue sheep I suppose!
Thursday, March 5, 2015
This essay aims to document some of the early history of the radical green movement in Australia, with particular reference to Friends of the Earth Australia or FOE-A. FOE-A has produced an excellent summary report of the early years which is available at the FOE history website; but inevitably, it lacks many of the details and omits many key people who were instrumental in those years. I was one of them, deeply involved at the time, and I want to capture this history before it is lost.
My role was small but pivotal in the overall picture of the initial founding and expansion of FOE-A. Within a year, FOE had scores of activists, many full-time, all of whom have deep knowledge of different events and actions that contributed to the overall impact of FOE as an emergent pattern of social activism. I hope that this blog stimulates many of them to dig deep into their memories (and archives) so that we can create a rich tapestry of memories and documentation of FOE's early days, and how it was interwoven with many different themes of radical change and rupture with the status quo at this time and in many locales. I also hope it will help to identify and retrieve the names of many of the early activists, many of whom have been forgotten. I was always bad at remembering names, so I hope no-one is offended if they are not mentioned below. Just blame it on my poor cortical memory and speak up so we can complete the picture.
My narrative is also Melbourne-centric. Assuredly, FOE-Melbourne provided critical resources to the other FOE groups on the national campaigns, especially on nuclear issues. But the state and local groups were authentically independent, often launching their own campaigns, and each has its own story waiting to be told. Indeed, no-one really knows where the history of FOE Australia begins and ends, because no-one was in charge of the entire network, or even knew its complete extent and structure. And it changed and grew so quickly, no-could have known it inside-out. Thus, a retrospective account can give only partial glimpses and broad brush treatment of many actions that individuals and groups took on their own initiative. This self-motivation and self-management was essential, the distilled essence of FOE, and is what it made it fearless and impossible to coopt from the right or the left. Many of us understood this at the time and it was the fundamental reason we started FOEA.
The standard early accounts of the Australian green movement do not adequately recognize the confluence in the early seventies of the post-Vietnam war peace movement, the anti-French test movement, the feminist movement, the Lake Pedder campaign, the takeover of the Australian Conservation Foundation, the green ban union campaigns, and the flowering of Friends of the Earth in Australia. This linkages are missing in many of the histories of the green movement that I have read although some of them pick up one or other of the connections. Only a few have done the hard yards of oral interview and careful examination of documentation in archives at the FOE offices and in corresponding organizations. The best of these still provide only glimpses and a haphazard record of what for us was daily, sustained effort to realize strategic goals while weaving together these different strands in a counter-cultural, sustainable lifestyle to be lived in order to prefigure structural change. The challenges of confronting the status quo not only in the public sphere of policy, but also in the hegemonic sphere of city form dominated by the automobile and in the patriarchal sphere of the household economy, also entailed being infinitely flexible and creative given the political, institutional, and funding constraints on our organizing efforts--not to mention our naivete, inexperience and hubris in many aspects of attempting to achieve radical, enduring change.
Not everyone involved, perhaps no-one, was there only for political reasons. Some were in search of a home or of love or being part of a gregarious group of like-minded people dedicated to having fun as well as achieving serious political objectives, myself included. Often, but not always, these needs were met in one way or another; but ultimately, they were secondary to the organizational and political logic that inspired FOE activists. This strategy truly was bigger than the sum of the parts, and once unleashed, seemed to tap an amazing level of latent energy. People stepped forward from so many quarters that often we didn't know what to do with them. People were ready for FOE.
I hope we can find many of these individuals, and by prompting them to write, back-fill much of the missing organizational history that is invisible today, and was often unrecognized at the time. This way, we can overcome many of gaps in the record. If people comb their memories and archives, find the names of the amazing people who ran FOE's multi-faceted campaigns, I am sure we will succeed in describing how FOE erupted. Then we can also understand better how those who dedicated their lives to this work often morphed into other organizations and roles beyond FOE to carry forward FOE's vision of a peaceful, secure, and sustainable world, at that time encapsulated in the FOE slogan at the time "The conservation, preservation, and restoration" of the Only One Earth. My text is a draft chapter in a bigger project, a book I am starting to write called Secret Fears, the Bomb in the Mind. Meanwhile, I thought it worth sharing in order to stimulate others to add their own voices.
Let me start the ball rolling with some memories of my own. To understand why I became involved in FOE-A, I need to go back to Westernport Bay and Henry Bolte in the late sixties. Sir Henry made the mistake of taking on my mother Meredith Hayes who was then running a dairy farm on the Peninsula (on the corner of Coolart and Myers Rd, next to the Balnarring Racecourse). One day, a BP oil refinery managed to sneak into Westernport before Meredith (working in partnership always with my father Ken) organized the Save Westernport and Peninsula Council. I remember its gas flare firing up at night which could be seen from our farm. We really hated this intrusion. We had learned to sail at Jack's Beach, just inland from the refinery. This was a time when the black swans flocked so thickly between Jack's Beach and Scotland Island that it sounded like shotguns firing when they took off. We spent a great deal of time in the mangroves looking for and photographing the refineries illegal waste dumping pipes into the Bay, and campaigning against the industrialization of Westernport. Thus, I was raised in a left-green farming context in the late sixties, an unusual combination. Moreover, both my parents were agricultural scientists who had gone on the land after World War II and graduating from Melbourne University. So they were green scientific dairy and egg farmers who had liberal values in a conservative farming area--a very unusual combination indeed.
I also heard about the pending destruction of Lake Pedder in Tasmania, and joined the Victorian Lake Pedder Action Commitee led by the redoubtable Bob Desailly. In early 1972, I joined him on an LPAC walk to Lake Pedder. It was cold, raining, and miserable trudging through the brackish water and button grass to the Lake, and overnight, it bucketed down on our tents. My tiny orange coffin tent collapsed under the deluge and I was soaked and miserable by the morning. But as the sun rose over the blindingly white beach sands, I was speechless at the scale and intensity of the beauty of Lake Pedder. Late that morning, LPAC erected a bust of Truganini on the sands. By mid 1972, the rising waters inundated the lake. Later that year, I led a group which met with then ACTU President Bob Hawke to ask the unions to impose a blue ban on the destruction of Lake Pedder. He demurred, missing an opportunity to earn green credentials for his rising star a decade before the Franklin confrontation.
In November 1972, I left uni and went to Europe to organize against the French nuclear tests. I first went to FOE London, where I met Tom Burke, Amory Lovins, Walt Paterson, John Price, the Australian physicist working on nett nuclear energy analysis, and the laconic but incredibly potent Richard Sandbrook. I also coordinated with British peace groups such as International Confederation Disarmament and Peace and met with Peggy Duff, one of its co-founders. While in London, I lodged a request on behalf of Lake Pedder Action Committee with Man and the Biosphere Program of IUCN to declare Lake Pedder a world heritage site. I didn't have much money at the time, so I mostly subsisted on avocados which was about all I could afford in the food stores near the FOE office in London. For a while, I stayed in the basement apartment next to Highgate Road, constantly shaking from trucks rumbling along at head height a few feet away, with a mad chap who ran Telephone Action for the Environment. His strategy was to select an issue, then jam the telephone switchboard of the target office or ministry by calling them from a bank of telephones in his "office" and putting one call after another on hold.
From London, I hitchhiked to Cornwall with an introduction to Teddy Goldsmith from FOE and stayed in a country cottage with Richard Allen who had just produced The Ecologist's Blueprint for Survival, a counterpart to the Club of Rome's Limits to Growth, both of which I read avidly, and both of which I found to lack a social and political critique that could explain the ecological crisis that these books described. From Cornwall, I hitchhiked via Southern Wales to Ireland, around Ireland itself, at least the south, and then after taking a ferry back to northern Wales, to Glasgow and back down to London. I had an orange coffin tent and often stayed in parks, or in farmer's paddocks or barns, after knocking on the door, introducing myself as a farm boy from Australia, and doing some chore. I remember hiking up the mountain one evening next to Loch Lomond where I was camping with my travelling companion. We boiled haggis and washed it down with straight whisky, after which it tasted...like whisky.
In early 1973, I went to Paris and connected with Les Amis de la Terre or FOE-France, especially with Brice Lalonde, Les Amis' charismatic leader. I stayed in a rooftop garret apartment in the same building as Brice's apartment, across the Seine from the Notre Dame cathedral. Brice had been President of the Sorbonne student union during the student uprising against De Gaulle in 1968, and had immense political savvy and experience.
We set about coordinating protests against the pending French tests across the political spectrum, but particularly with the hard left--the communist trade union federation CGT, the socialist party where I met with Francois Mitterand seeking his support, and with a wide range of social and ecological groups. Brice and I also met with Simone de Beavoir who was decidedly cool to our cause--the French communist party at that time was nationalist and pro-French nuclear weapons and consequently, so was Simone.
We organized a major demonstration at the Eiffel Tower where I was interviewed by the ABC carrying a huge Australian flag.
I then joined British and French activists conduct an anti-test peace walk from London to Paris via Belgium. Claude Bourdet, a leading, militant French peace activist, writer, and Nazi concentration camp survivor, got involved. When we arrived at the French border, we were met by a phalanx of special forces known as the CRS or Compagnies Republicaines de Securite, a riot control force well known for its violent attacks on anti-government protests. After meeting the French National Assembly Deputy for Polynesia Francis Sanford accompanied by his wife at the border on May 23 1973, we broke up into small groups and headed by car to Paris.
The night of the eviction from Notre Dame someone called my parents in Australia to tell them I had been arrested and beaten up, which wasn't true--and this was a time when all telecommunications between Australia and the South Pacific were cut off by unions in protests against the tests. In fact, I hadn't been arrested as I was designated to arrange bail for those who were; nor had I been beaten up, but the call was a signal that it was time to move on or the French authorities would act, as they had a year before when they arrested a Greenpeace organizer and dumped them over the Italian border. We assumed it was someone affiliated with the French Embassy in Australia who made the call.
All this was happening without commercial telecommunications between France and the South Pacific due to union-led bans imposed in early 1973. At the same time, Australia took France to the World Court and obtained a ruling against the tests on June 22 1973, ignored by the French government which proceeded to test in the atmosphere on July 22 1973. Before and after the tests, there were many protest actions against the tests organized by the coalition we convened with various peace, left and centrist groups in France--far more than I think most Australians understood.
However, before leaving, Brice and I conceived of the battalion of peace or battailon de la paix, which consisted of himself, Jean Toulat, a leading French catholic priest and pacifist, General Jacques Bollardiere, who was the military leader of the French resistance against the Nazi occupation who turned Pacifist after protesting against torture during the Algerian War; and Jean Jacques Servan Schreiber, publisher of the political magazine L'Express and author of a famous book, Le Defi Americain. Our plan was to send them to join The Fri, the 86 baltic trader that under David Moodie's command was already positioned off Mururoa Atoll where the French planned to detonate a hydrogen bomb in the atmosphere. I nearly joined the group, but Brice and I decided it was more important to keep the organizational outreach in place so I stayed in Paris, visiting Lille and Marseilles for various protest meetings. They flew to New Zealand and could not find a vessel, so they flew to Cook Island where a skipper took them on a long charter to Muroroa where they found and boarded the Fri. The next day, July 17, 1973, the French military boarded the Fri, removed them from the atoll along with crew, detonated the H-bomb, and then released them. The French foursome flew home via Tahiti, and the Fri sailed for Auckland.
I decided my time was up in France, so I hitched to southeast France and met Gary Davis, who was publishing passports for stateless people; then travelled by train to Greece via what was then still Yugoslavia, and hitch hiked around the Pelopponese to see ruins, sleeping in my orange coffin tent and living on giant peaches. From Athens, I sailed on a friends boat via Corinth Canal to Corfu, and then to Palermo via Messina and Stromboli. I went by train to meet a friend Marie Claude at the central station at midnight. We travelled together through Switzerland and France, and then I flew straight to Bangkok. While in Rome, I obtained a visa to visit South Vietnam. I went to Saigon from Bangkok, and travelled by tuk tuk past the gigantic Bien Hoa base on one side, and the equally gigantic garbage mountains on the other side, covered with scavengers; onto Dalat in the pine covered mountains as part of a tank convoy; then to Nha Trang on the coast, stopping en route to visit refugee camps where I had supported a young boy and his grandmother via Save the Children. The refugee camp was located in a rain shadow at the foot of the hills. These refugees had floated down the Mekong alongside the bodies of thousands of Vietnamese who had been massacred in Cambodia. They were living in huts made from whatever could be found...in this case, flattened tin cans and sheets of plastic to keep the rain out.
I went to Vietnam because although I was strongly opposed to Australia's participation in the war, I did not trust the simple story line of the Australian Left that supported the North's political and military strategy. I found Vietnam to be incredibly complex, with millions of people sucked into a black hole of killing, distrust, and hatred.
I saw a lot in these travels in Vietnam. Because I spoke French and was Australian, I got a free pass into many homes once people realized I wasn't an American (at least not then). For me, the war was epitomized by Ms. Kim who I met in a downtown hotel where I stayed while in Saigon, not far from the famous Hotel Continental which I could see from the roof of my hotel. She had been the concubine of an American officer who locked her in her room while he went out to fight. She had two kids by him. He had returned to Texas leaving her behind, but was now putting pressure to join him via the US Embassy. She faced two choices: go to Texas and again suffer his extreme abuse; or stay in Saigon knowing that it would fall soon and she and her kids would have no future given that they were Amerasian and her father was a police chief. I never found out what path she chose. When I met her, she was immobilized, facing two impossible choices, quietly going out of her mind. Millions of such impossible cruel choices, every one of the full of pain and agony, were as much the reality of the war as the firefights in the paddy fields and jungles of Vietnam.
I went back to Bangkok, and then travelled in Laos, from Vientiane to Luang Prabang as the Pathet Lao took over the royal capital. I flew to Ban Hue Sei and then rode on a motorized canoe to the town on the Mekong north of Chang Mai.
While in Bangkok, I had met with Viroj Na Bangchang, a leading environmental activist and journalist with The Bangkok Post who had exposed generals shooting endangered rhinos from a helicopter in a national park. He worked closely with the legendary conservationist Dr. Boonsang Lekagul to whom he introduced me. Lekagul blessed the idea that FOE Thailand should be established...which Viroj proceeded to do, playing a leading role in the coalition of citizen groups who stalled a proposed nuclear power plant. Viroj now runs a leading Thai consumer organization.
I arrived back in Australia just before the October student uprising in Bangkok and the military's October 6 1973 massacre of students at Chulalongkorn University which affected me deeply. Not long after, I went to New Zealand to meet Barry Metcalfe, organizer of Peace Media and a campaigner against the French tests. I also went aboard the Fri when it berthed in Auckland, and met David Moodie and his then partner, Emma Moodie who was later to join FOE Melbourne, and the amazing crew who had kept the Fri floating for months of Muroroa. The Fri was leaking heavily. Having no motor, they had to pump it 24/7 using a bicycle powered pump!
As soon as I arrived back in Australia in late 1973, I began to organize or rather, activate Friends of the Earth in Australia. A couple of tiny groups had already begun to use the name--one by a high school student in Melbourne somewhere, and one in South Australia. I was inspired by the concept of a loose, networked federation, based on Les Amis' notion of ecological autogestion, or green self management. This concept surpassed the orthodox autogestion concept of workplace self management. It was the philosophical core of the left-green movement in France.
In Paris, I also studied the idea of growing action-images that developed continuously in the course of confrontation, as espoused by the 1968 student revolt. As a communication strategy with the population as a whole, these symbolic protests or action-images were necessarily contradictory. The action-images had to resonate with dominant societal values, create dissonance with regressive values that were to be opposed on the one hand; but also prefigure and project progressive values that we sought to conserve, preserve, or restore from the past on the other. Such action-images were more important than manifestos or policy papers in generating broad social change and shifts in consciousness. Thus, for me at least, there was direct continuity with the 1973 peace march from London to Paris, the battalion of peace joining the Fri in 1973, and FOE actions such as the Flor voyage to Mururoa in 1974, the bike ride to Canberra in 1975, and the MKU AGM action in 1977, all described below.
I also recognized we needed information resources then unavailable in Australia, and began to tap into FOE-US contacts provided by the American lawyer Edwin Matthew based in Paris who had helped to found Les Amis de la Terre and introduced Brice to FOE-US founder, David Brower. At that stage, I didn't know Dave from a bar of soap, and didn't much care for American style conservation, at least what I knew of it, which seemed too staid, respectful of the state, and dependent on the market and private donors for my tastes as an organizer. (Dave later moved far to the left, especially during the Reagan era although he retained his radical green commitments). Nonetheless, they had many publications, especially on nuclear power issues, and while we didn't need their help to work on nuclear weapons, we did need it on the nuclear power issue. And, they were willing to lend us the name which they actually had registered all over the world, based on Brice and Edwin's recommendation. They sent us many books, especially the record of the Union of Concerned Scientists nuclear intervenor submissions in legal actions against nuclear power plants in the United States, which supplemented the FOE-UK materials from Amory Lovins, John Price, and Walt Paterson.
In late 1973 and early 1974, we began to amass a small library of technical literature, including the Rasmussen report on probabilistic analysis of the set of possible reactor failure pathways; many energy related texts; and the Barber report on nuclear power in "LDCs" or less developed countries which was a skeptical report to the US ERDA on the prospects for powering poor countries with reactors. I also spent a lot of time reading ecological literature on diversity and stability, on energy and ecology (especially Howard Odum's Environment, Power, and Society); and the new school of ecological geography, especially the histories of arid zone settlement and adaptive retreat in Australia. I wrote a couple of studies at the time on early forest cutting and management in Australia, and on the rise of worker-led movements against pollution from uphill rich suburbs sewage onto low lying poor suburbs in Melbourne, and the revolt against the pollution of the rivers by tanneries etc in the late 19th century, as precursors of the contemporary green ban union movement, half a century before the rise of the modern environmental movement. I shared these texts with the American environmental historian Rod Nash when he visited FOE Melbourne that year.
Another important event for me was in either late 1973 or early 1974, I was invited to join in an ABC debate on the future of uranium mining and exports. The pro-side was either Ernest Titterton or more likely, Philip Baxter. This was held in Sydney at the then ABC studios on north-side. I remember vividly that we were able to push back against Baxter (or maybe it was Titterton) by asserting the risk of nuclear war and reactor meltdowns associated with nuclear weapons and nuclear power. But I also remember being struck by the riposte: Australia encourages a French mining firm to mine and export uranium to France where it is then fashioned into nuclear weapons and exploded over Muroroa in the southern hemisphere, so isn't your opposition to the French tests inconsistent?
Too bloody right I thought, so I began to research foreign mining companies in Australian uranium mining and export, and quickly found that indeed, French, Japanese and American companies were all involved in the Australian uranium mining sector as investors and as buyers. At this time, we also realized that the existing and and future mines were on aboriginal land and that aboriginal communities were opposed to the mining. Thus, there were clear linkages between nuclear weapons, uranium mining, land rights, ecological devastation and risk of nuclear power, and we began to seek allies in each sector and country and to make common cause. I think Rob Robotham, radiation protection officer at Melbourne Uni, had joined FOE's campaign at that point, and he came to Sydney with me. From memory, we took the train, not the plane to save money!
As we began to build a public profile for FOE, I remember interacting with Gabriel Lafitte. Gabriel had worked for the metal recycling outfit established by BHP in a public relations role, but resigned in disgust in 1973 when he discovered that cans were being dumped at sea, not recycled, leading to national publicity. I am not sure exactly of the relationships, but FOE in Adelaide was involved in the aftermath to this expose. I talked with Gabriel a number of times about tactical and strategic questions. Then sporting a vast beard and huge head of long hair, Gabriel always communicated strong views in a deep, booming voice. Today he is bald and works for the Tibetan Government in exile. Gabriel epitomized the need to not compromise on fundamental issues, as well as need to create a counter-cultural basis for an alternative politics.
In early 1974, I went to Tasmania to meet with Leigh Holloway who had established the Tasmanian Environment Centre. In spite of his long hair and squeaky voice, Leigh was a savvy and seasoned political organizer. He combined humor with penetrating political analysis of the motivations and tactics of our adversaries, right and left, generating deft pragmatic political campaign which integrated all these qualities. We had already helped take over the Australian Conservation Foundation (ACF) in October 1973 at the ACF's annual general meeting in Canberra as payback for a series of catastrophic decisions by the ACF's conservative establishment board to not back environmental causes, including Lake Pedder. We had gone together to Canberra along with Bob Desailly, the LPAC-Victoria coordinator who brought along a trailer-sized diorama of Lake Pedder to drive home the treachery of the ACF's council in selling out the Lake Pedder campaign. Not unreasonably, while I was in Hobart Leigh asked me why we needed FOE when we had taken over the ACF?
I answered that they were not competitive but complementary; that by its very structure ACF would always be slow and relatively muted by virtue of its relationship with governments. We needed a network that by its very nature could never be stopped by the powers-that-be. Given the depth of the ecological crisis, we also needed a radical and far-reaching social and economic agenda outside of and beyond anything proposed by standard left and right ideologies. Only profoundly community-based network could stimulate the depth of resistance and innovation needed to transcend the auto-urban culture at the root of many of the problems. Leigh agreed; and eventually became one of FOE's most effective organizers, bridging the gap between grass-roots social campaigns and ACF as a councillor (along with FOE's Strider and Frank Muller). ACF was reconstituting itself under Geoff Mosley's leadership to respond to Green Bans, land rights, and other structural issues such as energy supply that ACF had previously shunned. Leigh embodied this cross-issue approach, taking a lead on gay rights as well as radical ecology. His death in 1992 was a huge loss for FOE and for the Australian greens. His legacy lives on in so many ways and his life deserves to be documented in detail as an Australian hero.
FOE Melbourne's first order of business in 1974 was to organize a "Greenpeace Action" in the form of supporting an Australian vessel to sail to Muroroa in mid-1974. This was before Greenpeace existed as an organized entity in Australia. In 1972, a "Greenpeace" vessel captained by David McTaggart had sailed to Muroroa, and Greenpeace in Canada was just starting to get organized. I did not want a Greenpeace entity, but rather, a Greenpeace action that would embody FOE's mission and exemplify our style. This approach reflected the notion of a continuously growing “action image” that represented iconically its meaning as embodied in action that prefigured broader change in the future, a guiding principle of the May 1968 student uprising that I studied while in Paris. As a communication strategy, these symbolic protests or action-images were contradictory. The action-images had to resonate with dominant societal values to create dissonance with values that were to be opposed or discarded on the one hand, but also prefigure and project values that we sought to conserve, preserve, or restore from the past on the other! Generating potent action-images were more important than manifestos or policy papers in generating broad social change and shifts in consciousness. Thus, for me at least, there was direct continuity with the 1973 peace march from London to Paris, the battalion of peace joining the Fri in 1973, the Flor voyage to Mururoa in 1974, the bike ride to Canberra in 1975, and the MKU AGM action in 1977, all described below.
The Greenpeace Action took the form of Rolf Heimann's Tahiti ketch La Flor that left from St. Kilda pier after a send off speech by Jim Cairns and to the sounds of a jazz band. Rolf arrived in New Zealand with sails in shreds after being hammered in a Tasman storm; and then sailed all the way to Muroroa and Tahiti and back, finding Lila, the love of his love on his way. In addition to coordinating with New Zealand partners at Peace Media, we also worked with Amelia Rokotuivuna who had launched Fiji ATOM to oppose the tests.
In late 1973 or early 1974, we were availed of the use of 59 MacArthur Place which was owned by my sister Wendy and partner Brett Forge who were then studying medicine at Melbourne Uni. They lived next door at 61. MacArthur Place was a tiny terrace, and bare bones inside. We had one red telephone, a photocopier, and some filing cabinets and scavenged furniture. And, one typewriter, an orange electric Olivetti "portable." The office was packed tight during meetings.
To support Rolf's voyage, we began to publish Greenpeace Pacific Bulletins and raising money. I think there were a couple, likely one at start of 1974, and a second in winter 74. This morphed into the FOE magazine Chain Reaction which was launched in 1974 (exact date anyone?). The first editors were moi-meme, Neil Barrett, and Barbara Hutton--or whomever was on hand.
One of our first attempts to raise the uranium and other issues on a national basis was a series of four page tabloid news-sheets on newsprint (black plus one color). We distributed these in bundles of thousands to friendly unions such as Plumbers and Gasfitters led by George Crawford, Jthe Amalgamated Metal Workers Union led by John Halfpenny, and and other organizations such as Australian Union of Students and ACF.
FOE's first tabloid was A slow burn, on uranium mining and nuclear power which I wrote in September 1974. Strider produced the memorable banner graphic (using the one color red) and helped with the manual layout. These were followed by sheets on lead in petrol (written by Peter Rawlinson at Latrobe who approached us), wood-chipping (written by Steve Myers who had popped up from NSW). We made a substantial surplus on printing costs each time, accumulating enough to finance the next plus some, and enabling us to send them out to other FOE groups around the country in large packages of a 1000 sheets at a time. Printer runs were typically 10-20,000. We did the layout after having text typeset at AUS; and Dave Spratt always found us great graphics, especially Cobb cartoons. We also drew on cartoons by Richard Willson the cartoonist for ECO, the news paper published at international environmental events by Friends of the Earth starting with the 1972 Stockholm Environment Conference.
Shortly after opening the door at MacArthur Place in 1974, we had our first victory. A herpetologist came in one day saying that the frogs on Mt Baw Baw were at risk from a ski run development. Could we help? We wrote a letter to the minister and began to organize to save the Baw Baw frog. The development was stopped in its tracks. It was so easy to save it from imminent destruction simply because we acted. I don't know if the Baw Baw frog survived the great frog die-off in the late nineties.
Another memorable event was the occupation of the toilets at Tullamarine in protest against the supersonic transport, the Concorde. We felt that humor was an important weapon which we tried to weave into many of our protests, and this was one of them. We made common cause with Cheryl Buchanan, AUS's first black rights officer, on the grounds that subjecting outback communities to daily sound barrier shock waves from Concorde flying overhead was racist. Cheryl spoke at the rally although I don't think she occupied a loo.
Not long after we opened the MacArthur Place office, Neil Barrett walked in off the street. He announced he wanted to work full-time having left Monash economics department in disgust. Neil became a prime mover of many campaigns at this time, especially the anti-uranium outreach. He later became partners with Emma Moodie who had moved from New Zealand to Melbourne. She too was instrumental in the early days of FOE Melbourne. Emma worried a lot about the details and for people to whom she lent immense support.
Another key person at this time was Alison Parks who quietly moved many mountains at FOE Melbourne and kept administrative systems intact on the edge of chaos. Then there was Strider (aka Bill Walsh) who simply arrived periodically, stayed a while until he was gone. Bill was hard core deep green. He slept on the floor at the office many nights, and later became a councillor of the ACF from the Northern Territory. He still lives up north.
Not all the inhabitants of MacArthur Place were human. One was a cat named Carroll, a brindle who also lived next door in my sister's house. In fact, Carroll seemed to live in many houses, and it became clear that he wasn't just any cat. He was the cat in charge of the neighborhood, apparently running the local mafia (human as well as feline). One of his striking behaviors was to sit atop the brick fence dividing 59 from my sister's house, waiting for a dog to dare to enter MacArthur Place. Carroll would then leap onto the pavement and stare down the dog. I never saw a dog able to pass by Carroll. As a result, our section of MacArthur Place had almost no dog shit on the grass or pavement.
Sometime in 1974, FOE Sydney was established. Beforehand, Steven Myers came to Melbourne and spent weeks writing and producing the tabloid on wood-chipping. When he returned, FOE NSW began to operate, with Bill Liechacz and Alistair Machin being early movers and shakers. FOE NSW was also close to Paul Scobie and the Total Environment Centre run by Milo Dunphy.
In June 1974, I was invited to attend the "non governmental organization (NGO)" assembly at the UN Environment Programme first governing council in Nairobi, Kenya. This came about due to my connection with FOE France and UK, and after that with FOE US, in the course of establishing FOE in Australia (and Thailand). I flew first to Perth where I stayed a night and spoke at a union-convened meeting on uranium mining. Some locals were fairly hostile. One asked why I hadn't ridden my bicycle to Perth instead of flying if I was so green. To which which I replied, because airlines are very fuel efficient on a per km fuel usage basis, not to mention faster! From Perth, I flew to Mauritius where I met with local environmental activists; and then to Nairobi. I was invited to the UNEP NGO assembly by FOE International, which had been established already by FOE US, UK, and France in the early seventies. This was their first major FOE-I meeting, and it was an eye-opener for me.
The UNEP NGO assembly was politically charged, with NGOs addressing development as well as ecological issues, with global and regional divisions by Cold War ideology, north-south axes, and old-new international NGOs (INGOs). The latter were grimly determined to ensure that any formal access to UNEP was controlled by the same INGOs who dominated the NGO windows on UN agencies in Geneva and New York). Not many of them were straightforwardly "green" qua Friends of the Earth. There was a large delegation of Americans from narrowly environmental groups such as The Audabon Society, the Natural Resources Defense Council, etc.
And then there was FOE from the US and Europe--in particular, Richard Sandbrook and Tom Burke, Brice Lalonde, and David Brower and Barbara Belding who was the one person dynamo behind the I in FOE-I at the time, based out of San Francisco. Also at the meeting was Huey Johnson, then head of Trust for Public Land (and later to become Secretary of State for Natural Resources in California under Governor Jerry Brown); his sidekick George Binney, a wealthy Republican hunter from Texas; and Margaret Mead.
Brower knew Jack Block, a local mzungu or white Kenyan who owned the classic colonial era Norfolk Hotel (bombed in 1980 by a Moroccan militant) so we had lovely places to stay and meet as FOE-I after the NGO assembly. FOE published ECO for the duration of the NGO meeting, and at a crucial gridlock in its deliberations, I proposed that NGOs establish a NGO office in Nairobi to be the NGO portal into and out of UNEP. This proposal was adopted as it served a south-south as well as a south-north agenda. We managed to stop the INGOs from taking over the portal, and UNEP became the first UN specialized agency to not require a special consultative relationship for an NGO to be able to liaise with it. What became the Environment Liaison Center the next year served that purpose.
This was the first time that I met Brower, and we clicked out on the plains outside Nairobi one night talking under the blazing stars about the need for FOE to go global in a very short time to save the planet. I didn't really understand Dave (known in the United States as "Arch Druid") and the American environmental discourse until much later, when I moved to the United States to study. But Dave was a charismatic leader, and I was inspired by the FOE-I meeting to build FOE, especially now that there was an FOE-International office to lend some support--although I did not resonate politically with FOE-US style or philosophy.
I also spent time in Nairobi with Barbara Belding, the FOE International staffer based in San Francisco. Barbara was an anthropologist by training who knew the Leakey's. We hiked up the Ngong Hills outside Nairobi at sunset. She explained to me the significance of the Rift Valley, the cradle of the human species, stretching before us across the vast western horizon from the top of the Ngong Hills at 8,000 feet, above which floated eagles riding the wind sheer another few thousand feet above. We also visited Lake Naivasha with the millions of pink flamingos crowded onto the glinting white salt crystals of the edge of the lake. She introduced me to Karen Blixen's book Out of Africa which begins with the sentences: "I had a farm at the foot of the Ngong hills" and we visited her house.
Upon returning to Australia, I found FOE Melbourne's office was flat out organizing the anti-uranium campaign. Sometime in mid-74, maybe at budget time in the old Parliament House, an FOE delegation of myself, Frank Muller from FOE Canberra, and Steve Myers from FOE NSW, met with then Minister for Minerals and Energy Rex Connor to discuss uranium exports. We had already met with Moss Cass, Jim Cairns, and many other ALP members of parliament. I remember sitting opposite Connor who was at his desk. He asked if we knew about the Coriolis Effect. Yes Minister, it's the reason we have the inter-tropical convergence zone and two separate atmospheric hemispheres. Australian uranium will be used in the northern hemisphere, he said. I stared at him. Was he really saying that because a nuclear accident or nuclear war would take place in the northern hemisphere, it was OK to export uranium?
In reality, the atmosphere has a perfect mixing time of about 30 years, so the Coriolis Effect is no protection against radioactive isotopes with a decay rate that keeps the isotope around for longer than 30 years--such as plutonium and others. It was patently obvious that someone from Lucas Heights had briefed the silly bugger with this rubbish. He then stood up and shouted: Get out! before I throw you out!
There was a reason that Connor was known as Strangler in union and political circles. He was a big man--about as wide as I am tall, which is very tall, and massively built. We weren't about to pick a fight with him so we simply stood up and left. We went to Jim Cairns office (Steve reckons it was Moss Cass' office) and drank some whisky to counter the shock that a minister could behave in such a manner to citizens. We had sought a meeting with him to figure out how to work with the the government to regulate uranium mining and to address the fundamental safety and security issues posed by the nuclear fuel cycle. Rather than engage in rational discourse, Connor declared war and precluded any dialogue. We took him at his word. We paid little attention to his protege one Paul Keating who was hanging around Parliament looking for angles. Maybe this was a mistake with hindsight.
The immediate result was that we decided to orchestrate a national campaign to reach out to every labor party branch in the country with speakers and the enormously moving Hiroshima-Nagasaki film that is based on US military footage of the effects of the nuclear explosions on the inhabitants of these two cities (which we had shown at Parliament House). I personally must have shown that film and spoken at 20 or 30 branches. Neil was also out there a lot speaking at the local level, night after night. Almost everyone in FOE was involved in this effort, for months.
At MacArthur Place, we began to notice that an unmarked white Holden sedan with two men sitting in the front seat was parked on the other side of the street, day after day. The surveillance was so blatant that I wrote to Jim Cairns in September 1974 asking that it be stopped. We often went up to the Twins on Lygon St to get something to eat. We would stop by the vehicle and tap on the window and offer to get the officers tea or coffee, but they always stared at their newspapers and declined to respond. They certainly weren't looking after our interests as someone broke into the office at night and filled the outside dunny--the only toilet in the building--with concrete, which then set hard. For a while we had to use my sister's toilet in the neighboring house. Eventually someone brought in a sledgehammer and we replaced it with a new bowl.
In late November (26) 1974, FOE, ACF and other major environmental groups met to forge a common anti-uranium export position. I wrote to Bob Hawke on November 28 seeking a yellow ban on uranium exports, but Hawkie was no more responsive to this request than he had been to a request for a blue ban on the destruction of Lake Pedder two years earlier. Ecological issues were not politically expedient for Hawke for another decade when he finally took a stand to block the damming of the Franklin. By 1983, it was politically and legally safe to do so and Hawkie reaped the benefits. Until then, he was a no-show.
In December 9-13, 1974, we convened the first meeting of FOE groups in Australia. The meeting was held in a farmhouse on French Island that I had access to via my father Ken Hayes, who managed it for the owner. We took our tinnie from our family house at Somers to French Island to scout the site.
It was the ideal site because we could take the train from Flinders St all the way to Stony Point, transfer to the ferry that went to French Island and then Cowes, and not use cars at all. On the ferry, Neil regaled us with his honky tonk piano playing on the ship's piano. At the jetty, we were met by a farmer who we arranged to bring a tractor and trailer. We all piled in atop hay bales, and trundled to the farm house. It was perched above the foreshore and looked directly towards the Nobbies at the southern end of French Island and out to Bass Strait. Not far to the south and west was Tortoise Head with its orange lichen covered rocks. This was the State Electricity Commission's designated site for a nuclear power reactor at the time.
I vaguely remember who came--the FOE Melbourne mob, FOE SA, FOE NSW, and FOE Qld were represented by individuals running state or local groups. The most important outcome of the meeting, apart from campaign planning, was simply the face-to-face and human contact between these leading activists from different, distant states, most of whom had not met each other up to the time of the meeting. Unfortunately, we couldn't swim as the foreshore was rocky and at low tide, exposed mudflats rather than sand. Having grown up at Somers on the south side of Westernport Bay, it was strange to me to not go swimming at will. Nonetheless, it was a spectacularly beautiful site at which to share our hopes and explore how best to sustain the FOE network.
As the speaking and outreach campaign gathered momentum, branch after branch of the ALP adopted an anti-uranium mining and export policy. At the Labor Party federal conference the following April in Terrigal, just north of Sydney, I was on the floor as FOE adviser with Victorian left delegates to argue the anti-uranium case. My main memories of Terrigal were of one delegate punching another in the face who fell drunk backwards into the swimming pool; and being allowed to sleep in the hotel room of a Victorian left delegate who woke me up by making love loudly to some union chappie. Many of the delegates seemed more interested in capturing a glimpse of Juni Morosi with Jim Cairns than in the issues at hand. All in a day's work at the ALP conference.
When uranium came to the floor for debate, I still remember Hawkie speaking against it, saying that if we stopped exporting uranium, what next? Should we stop exporting iron because it can be made into tanks and bullets? to which the obvious answer was, shades of Pig Iron Bob, hell yes! When the time to vote came, it was 259 branches to 1 against mining and exporting uranium. The one branch vote in favor was from Adelaide...Rex Connor's branch.
Of course, the then Labor Government was already up to its eyeballs in uranium development and was trying to raise billions of dollars, including secret negotiations with the Japanese about building an enrichment plant in Australia. The United States stomped on the Japanese to preserve their enrichment supply dominance by demanding that they buy American enrichment services as a good alliance partner. But the hypocrisy of the ALP government's policy, and its yawning gap from the views and votes of the ALP membership and local branches, lent considerable legitimacy to FOE's community campaign.
From its inception, FOE activists were strongly bicycle-oriented. Most rode bicycles to and from the office, wherever they were living. I rented a university-owned ancient bluestone, corrugated iron roof terrace on Palmerston Place that ran between Swanston and Cardigan St. My roommates were Ross Scott, one of ACF's the most effective environmental researchers after the take-over; and a mad Frenchman and his girlfriend. Ross and I did some bush-walking together in the Victorian alps. On one walk, he had to return to work so I continued on in the high country alone. I remember a memorable moment on top of Mt. Buggery where I was taking a rest. Hundreds of crows came up each ridge to the summit and then circled overhead. Some kind of crow convocation. Perhaps it was moth eating time of the year, I don't know.
I rode my bike to MacArthur Place each day, but you took your life in your hands. Once I made a left turn out of Lygon St into Elgin St, and a truck cut across my path as if I didn't exist. To avoid being hit, I had to fall or be crushed. I still remember my helmet slamming onto the bitumen and watching the truck's wheels pass by my face within inches.
FOE provided a lot of support for bicycle actions for important initiatives such as Alan Parker's Bicycle Institute of Victoria. This included periodic bicycle demonstrations in the Melbourne CBD. A favorite tactic was to enter a crossroad such as the Flinders-Swanston St crossing on a Friday evening; and pack each quadrant with bicycles turning right from the left lane. We'd all turn right about a dozen times as the lights changed, maybe lie down for a quick "die in," and then take off before the police began to arrest people. I am not sure how many drivers supported these actions--I am sure a lot were upset to be held up by the bicycle rabble. But we were tired of being killed and maimed on the roads and felt it was time for riders to push back against drivers. In September 1975, we ran Alan's "Bicyclization," manifesto for Melbourne in Chain Reaction. His vision has stood the test of time and many measures we advocated then are now policy and built into infrastructure.
I can't remember who dreamed up the May 1975 bike ride against uranium mining and export. I think it was conceptualized at one of the periodic brainstorming sessions held at MacArthur Place, and I am pretty sure it was Neil who came up with the idea. At any rate, it was a perfect concept for FOE. It was staged just after the Radical Ecology Conference held at Melbourne University over the Easter break (March 28-31).
I was in charge of organizing the international speakers for the Conference, backed up by Mark Taft and Wes Arnott. These included Murray Weisberg, an American writer who had published Beyond Repair: The Ecology of Capitalism; and Malcolm Caldwell from SOAS in London and author of the 1972 book, Socialism and the environment: essays. Malcolm was a superb speaker, and introduced many to the concept of over-development, citing the falling life span in the rich countries due to obesity and over-consumption. His murder in Cambodia in 1978 hit me hard. Weisberg turned out to be a rabid Maoist, interested only in his speaking fees and connecting with the local Maoists. He was a dead loss and we should never have brought him to Australia.
We also flew Masafumi Takubo and Yasuko Kanetama from Japan to speak at the event. Masa and Yasu were working with Jun Ui, the radical engineering professor at the University of Tokyo who had provided the scientific research that identified the link between mercury pollution and awful poisoning of local people that became known as Minamata disease. Ui went on to develop kogai, an important theory of time-lagged pollution that had multi-generational as well as cross-social and economic strata distributional effects. Masa and Yasu were very much our cup of tea as local organizers in the Jishu Kosa environmental activist network in Japan. I have stayed in touch with Masa over the years and he is now one of Japan's most influential nuclear weapons critics.
The Radical Ecology Conference had a strong urban bent woven into it by new left intellectuals and activists such as Morrie and Ruth Crow. Morrie and Ruth worked closely with the unions, many of which were already implementing green bans. They had developed a linear city concept that complemented Alan Parker's bicyclized city concept, although it was more radical. It remains salient because linear networked urban settlements along public transport backbones would maximize the fractal edge and provide the most environmental services per area of human settlement, and could also be the most resilient settlement form in an era of insecurity. Alan's approach super-imposed bicycles on a public transport infrastructure in an urban form of concentric circles driven by the automobile in which the auto remains hegemonic. Many of the REC "commission" leaders were supportive of FOE in one way or another. They included Tony Dalton, Janna Thompson, Peter Taylor (later active in FOE Monash), and John Burke.
The event itself was intense, packed, and totally absorbing. It was also a challenge to control access on the university campus, especially when a group of Maoists from Latrobe University threatened to gatecrash and disrupt the conference. Then AUS president Neil McLean made the call to have the police on hand in case they came. These folks had a reputation for violence. One of them was Linda, a large and muscular lady who I had seen standing atop a table swinging a broken bottle at the AUS annual conference in St Kilda the year before. They did not front.
Between the Radical Ecology Conference and our next big event, the first bike ride against uranium mining May 1975, I went to China. This trip was the result of the political warfare between the Builders Laborers Federation in NSW led by Jack Mundey, and Builders Laborers Victoria led by Norm Gallagher. The former was CPA-non aligned (that is, not aligned with the Soviet Union or China); the latter was CPA-Bejing aligned (there being a competing Maoist party not aligned with Beijing). Norm wanted to cultivate green support, so he offered to arrange for an "ecology" study tour to China in February 1975. On the trip were Paul Scobie, myself, and other leading environmentalists.
The trip took place in April and began in Hong Kong with the crossing of the bridge. From Gwang-chou we flew to Beijing. The then airport building had a giant portrait of Mao Tse Tung facing the plane as one exited and walked into the terminal building. (Today, it is the VIP entry building).
From Beijing, we went to Shen Yang, one of China's most polluted industrial cities at the time. We took a bus inland to visit Chang Go Tai village trying to stop the advance of the desert sand dunes with massive tree planting campaigns.
As we hurtled along a one lane back road, our bus was confronted by a horse drawn trailer carrying a huge pile of hay. Its driver refused to be intimidated by the horn blasts of our bus driver who was forced to back up and retreat by the cart. The peasant driver couldn't have backed up even if he had wanted to obey the party directives from the bus, which he clearly didn't. We were on the side of the peasant.
We spent a lot of time in briefings at offices and in factories sipping endless cups of green tea. It was already hot in much of China, and by the time we go to Nanjing, it was dizzingly hot. We arrived late at night and our bus drove in from the airport to the guesthouse down a four lane road, with lanes each way. On the pavement and outer lanes, typically used only by bicycles in the daytime, thousands of families were bedded down to sleep on the road, to escape from the heat stored in their houses.
Shanghai seemed like another world compared with the drab dress and grey streets of Shen Yang or vast empty public spaces of Beijing. Shanghai residents seemed totally out of control, wearing brightly colored clothes, and lovers holding hands and necking down by the Bund waterfront--inconceivable behavior in Beijing.
Yasu had two amazing attributes that I will never forget. The first is that she didn't know how to use gears on a bike. So she rode an gearless bike all the way to Canberra! Downhill or on the long flat stretches, that was fine. But uphill, she struggled and had to dismount and walk. So the riders organized into pairs, and two riders would accompany her, one each side, link arms around her, and literally haul her up the hills. She would plummet down from the crest riding gravity, then glide until friction slowed her, then push without gears until the next steep hill. And there are some bloody high and long inclines on the Hume!
She also had a world class soprano voice. In the pub in one small town, it may have been Gundagai, full of locals and riders, the hubbub was loud and the ciggie smoke was dense. Yasu began singing the haunting, melancholic heart-wrenching song No More Hiroshimas by Hiroshima survivor Ishiji Asada, among the greatest anti-war lyrics ever written.
Within a few seconds, the pub was quiet except for her exquisite voice soaring over the bar and startled faces of grizzled old farmers and young tradies. When she finished, some of them were crying. Stan and I recorded her when we returned to Melbourne, and we played this recording on the FOE program on 3CR later that year. I wonder if there's an archive of that tape somewhere?
Yasuko didn't speak a word of English but she had immense ability to communicate while she was in Australia. I located her recently in Tokyo and plan to meet with her before 2015 is over. This contact laid the groundwork for FOE Australia' long-standing communication and coordination with the Japanese anti-nuclear movement, both its anti-nuclear weapons wing (of which Masa became a leading organizer based at Gensuiken or the Japanese Congress against the A and H bomb), and its anti-nuclear power movements. To be able to link the local opponents from aboriginal communities at Jabiluka with their Japanese counterparts was to match the reach of the nuclear industry at a global level. Unfortunately, it was not enough to stop the mining and local cultural and landscape destruction at point of mining; nor enough to stop the use of this uranium over the decades culminating in the Fukushima catastrophe. We were right to oppose uranium mining and export at this time, more so than we knew.
The Melbourne riders converged with the Adelaide ride in Yass. The next day was a short ride into Canberra. We struck our tents on the lawn opposite old Parliament House and began to seek meeting with the pollies. We also sent small groups of bicycles around Canberra to protest at various sites. I remember a bunch of us crowding into a lift with our bikes at a minerals and energy departmental office and the reaction of the office workers as we zipped around their building. It ranged from perplexed to bemused but not hostile. I am pretty sure we also rode en masse around Parliament House seeking to levitate it, but it stayed put.
Inside Parliament House, FOE Canberra activists were already walking the corridors. We spent a lot of time in Moss Cass' office--I think some of us may have even slept in the outer office. In later years, the security services got wise, but that first year, we were fresh and new, and pretty much had the run of the town. I don't remember how we all got back to Melbourne with our bikes. The scariest moment on the ride for me was crossing a bridge where the Hume became two lanes only and some red-necks decided to drive their Holden ute at high speed down our side (their wrong side) of the highway forcing people up against the bridge wall. No-one was hurt badly on the ride, although we did have at least one prang when a rider came off and broke his collar bone.
I am not sure why, but we visited the Atomic Energy Commission at Lucas Heights at the end of May. I only know this because my ASIO file contains a photo showing myself and Stan Jurigevic leaving the AAEC on that date, me with my trademark briefcase covered with campaign stickers and Stan looking very dapper and Sargeant Pepperish. The powers-that-were took us much more seriously than we took ourselves.
In June 1975, I was called on the phone from Nairobi where FOE International was meeting again alongside the NGO assembly for the UNEP Governing Council meeting. FOE-I wanted to know if I would serve as the first director for the Environment Liaison Centre, that is, implement the concept I had proposed the previous year. I had to think hard and fast. FOE was in the midst of a the network equivalent of a supernova, and although my whole approach was to motivate, delegate, and move onto the next strategic priority, the FOE network badly needed to be deepened and aligned. After consulting with the FOE Melbourne group--especially Neil, Allison and Emma--and my parents, I decided to go. That enabled FOEI to break a gridlock that apparently had emerged between the North and South NGOs at the assembly. The Northern NGOs wanted someone from the North to be in charge before they would invest; the South wanted someone from the South given that UNEP was the first UN agency to be headquartered south of the equator. A radical environmentalist from the Australia who was a known quantity to both sufficed to reach agreement. That left me only a few months to prepare for departure in October 1975.
Some time in 1974 or perhaps in 1975, FOE Melbourne weighed in the lead in petrol campaign based on research by a Latrobe-based professor who helped write and research the issue in depth. As I noted earlier, we produced yet another tabloid on lead in petrol; I think it was called Heavy Metal. One of the biggest concerns was lead particles from automobiles that fell out of the air onto home-grown broad-leaved veggies and were ingested. The oil industry fought back, but with strong community education, this issue was won in the mid-eighties by a campaign for led-free petrol led again by FOE.
I left for Nairobi in October, flying first to San Francisco to meet with FOE-I staff; then to Nairobi where I was met by a local architect and environmentalist Richard Hughes. Richard had hooked up with the ELC which by now was established as a legal entity under Kenyan law as an NGO registered with UNEP. UNEP had an NGO liaison officer, a UN staffer, Gary Herbertson, who had the ear of UNEP Director, Maurice Strong. The main thing Gary did for the ELC was to contract with it to conduct an annual global survey of environmental groups. This was critical to the ELC as it enabled us to build the world's first global database of these groups. The survey contract also covered most of our bills. We appointed regional coordinators and identified hundreds of groups, especially in the South, that were not previously known to even exist except locally. We proved that the idea that "environment" was only the concern of rich people in rich countries was utter bullshit.
The report, the Potential for Environmental Action, was published by the ELC and delivered to UNEP Governing Council. This included a chapter describing transnational environmental networks that reflected my own interests in green autogestion, although I later revised this text in 1980 as "No Frontiers: Notes on Transnational Networks." But it excluded a critical reflection on the very concept of NGO--that is, that a social entity can be defined only negatively with reference to states as a basis for recognition in the United Nations, rather than as a constructed, autonomous civil society independent of the state. This suppressed section was published in 1977 by Tony Judge in Brussels in the journal International Associations.
Directing the ELC was a fast learning curve for me. Orchestrating radical ecology networks such as FOE such as completely natural to me, like an archer drawing the bow and aiming an arrow, you wait until exactly the right moment, simply let go and the arrow carries itself to its intended target if you have the right bow, arrow and target, and can sense the crosswinds. Of course, once fired, the arrow can never return to the bow.
The ELC was more like working in a snake-pit. The board was chaired by appointees of international NGOs in Geneva who were primarily concerned to control NGO access to UNEP. I was committed to making ELC an open portal through which any NGO could contact and work with UNEP, the only UN agency to not have a consultative status system whereby states would get to determine who was recognized sufficiently legitimate to speak on behalf of the environment. I was allied with Richard Sandbrook who was on the board for FOE-I, Richard Hughes who represented the local NGOs along with Jo Feingold, the Nakuru-based farmer who represented the International Federation of Agricultural Producers. Henrick Beer of the IFRC played a pivot role in some of the most intense politics. Eventually things came to a head and I threatened to resign unless funds were released to the ELC directly instead of via Geneva and we won the battle.
While at the ELC, I not only had a substantial local staff to support; but also developed campaigns for the ELC itself. The most important was the investigation we did secretly of the Jonglei Canal in southern Sudan based on information that a Kenyan alternative technology engineer, Oscar Mann, had collected on his trips to the region. This was a gigantic canal planned to drain the Sudd wetlands, the world's biggest wetland, which was a significant factor in regional climate. It was also home to the Dinka and Nuer peoples who were already fighting a war of self-determination against the Khartoum-based regime. The plan was to canalize the water so it would not be evapo-transpired during the wet season, and to send this water down the Nile to top up the leaky Aswan Dam built by the Soviet Union for Egypt. Egypt was to bankroll the project; and half the water was to go to northern Sudan. The nomadic fishing and cattle cultures of the south were to be exterminated and the locals made into sedentary dryland farmers, that is, the project was one of cultural genocide.
I flew to Juba on a small single engine charter plane, and collected local data and information about the canal before flying onto Khartoum. In Juba, I met with Dinka leaders in their encampments. In Khartoum, the government stonewalled me which was not surprising. Khartoum was also in the midst of a dust storm which did not endear me to the town! I flew back to Juba to be greeted by my pilot who told me we couldn't leave. I already knew that "green monkey's disease" had hit southern Sudan because I was staying at the UN development agency compound, and some UN aid workers had come in the previous evening saying "Everyone's dying in Amadi, we are not going back." It turned out everyone was dying in Amadi and the authorities shut down all travel in and out of southern Sudan for months. I don't know what my pilot did to get us out, but I suspect that it involved some cash. Upon return to Nairobi, I burned all my clothes. Some Brits who got out the same day ended up in London and died in an infectious disease tent.
It took another year before Oscar completed the full Jonglei Canal report and it was viewed by the ELC as explosive for the simple reason that the new Director of UNEP was Mostafa Tolba--from Egypt. The local resistance put paid to the project rather effectively, however. When the Sudanese government brought the giant French canal digging machine to the Sudd, they bombed it. End of story, although not the end of the war for many decades.
While in Nairobi, I also visited Algeria for a UN meeting on "eco-development" and met Amulya K.N. Reddy, who became a long-distance mentor for many years. I liked to go to the Indian area of Nairobi to eat cheap curries. One evening, Amulya approached me because he couldn't resist asking about my campaign sticker covered, battered briefcase. We became close friends. He was at UNEP for a year developing the "ecodevelopment" concept from a southern perspective. He was an eminent scientist based in Bangalore who had also written extensively on the hydrogen economy.
After a year, I acted on my commitment to only serve for a year to establish the ELC. I was homesick, hopelessly in love with Barbara Belding in San Francisco, and had it up to the proverbial with political-bureaucratic INGO politics. The board found another director, Gary Gallon from Canada. FOEI was firmly represented on the board, initially by Margaret Mead, and then by Isabel Wade from San Francisco who fired her proxy George Binney and appointed herself to represent Margaret. I liked that move and have been close friends with Isabel ever since, and still serve on the board of her organization Urban Resources Systems in San Francisco. I returned to Australia via San Francisco. I wanted badly to study in order to gain the analytical tools to translate our practices into a coherent, grounded vision with hard data and undeniable arguments. I decided to apply for post graduate studies in the newly established Energy and Resources Group at University of California at Berkeley, and met with its founder John Holdren. The only small problem was that I hadn't finished my undergraduate degree at Melbourne University. Based on recommendations from Margaret Mead, Huey Johnson, Rod Nash, Sydney Holt, and Dave Brower, I was accepted into ERG provided I completed the first degree. So I headed back across the Pacific to study again at Melbourne University in 1977.
I only needed to complete one or two subjects to graduate. The main one was in history, and I chose to study with Greg Dening. Greg's course was a stunning combination of anthropology, ethnography, sociology, cultural studies, and (for good measure), some history. I used the course to explore structural theories of revolution from a spatial-temporal sequencing angle (as part of Greg's famous student-led investigation of the Bligh mutiny which fed his masterpiece on that topic). I also wrote about irony and cruelty, using the Chulalongakorn 1973 massacre and nuclear war as case studies.
In early 1977, I published the latter as "HOW THE BOMB WORKS" in The Merri Creek or Nero, an experimental poetry journal published by Kris Hemensley. In it, I contemplate on how three images of the 1946 Baker Test in Operation Crossroads at Bikini Atoll puncture linear time and represented absolute domination of nature and people.
In it, I wrote:
I devoured Greg's course readings and used my final paper to do an empirical study of the construction of images in politics to examine the efficacy of an FOE protest action. This study became the 1977 paper Symbolic Protests and Friends of the Earth, circulated within FOE at the time and then forgotten. The paper documented in detail how FOE activists led by Paul Marshall constructed their challenge to the Mary Kathleen Uranium mining company annual general meeting on April 18th 1977 at 11am, both outside and inside the MKU office building at 95 Collins St. The outside image was superb--Sir John and Mary Kathleen and their mutant daughter Radiance in a wheelchair! Inside, FOE activists including myself, Neil Barrett, and others grilled the board chair.
By then, the anti-uranium movement had broadened massively and the Movement Against Uranium Mining was in full flight. I was only peripherally involved in FOE in 1977. I was asked to chair one meeting at which the issue of expelling Mick the mad bike rider had to be dealt with. Mick was your man if you wanted something done. You just didn't want to know how he did it. He was incredibly committed, and also amazingly rigid. FOE Melbourne was developing a strong consensus based decision-making culture that was specifically aimed at ensuring that women had at least equal voices. Mick was not respectful of that culture, and regretfully, he had to go.
FOE was publishing a lot of material on uranium mining, notably Redlight for Yellowcake. My only contribution addressed the concerns of international aid groups who wanted to make the case that uranium mining not only would not lead to development (via various dubious pro-nuclear arguments that nuclear power would somehow electrify the world's poor) but would actually threaten it. I convened a study group and produced a two volume study Atoms for the Poor? Nuclear Power and the Third World for Community Aid Aboard and Action for World Development. This study included contributions from a range of experts on rural electrification, nuclear reactors and grid integration, the social distribution of electricity in developing countries, etc. We systematically debunked and demolished spurious arguments that superficially seemed plausible. Another of FOE's four page tabloids, Uranium and the Third World, Atoms for the Poor? was produced in November 1977 to summarize the results of this study.
In Melbourne, the preparations for the IWC had begun at FOE earlier in the year. Whales evoked massive public support. A local donor walked in the door at 59 MacArthur and donated thousands of dollars to be used in commercial radio campaigns that broadcast a rock star celebrity who asked listeners to inundate then Prime Minister Fraser with demands to shutdown the Albany Radio station. By the time the IWC met, Fraser had received more mail on Albany than on any other issue. We had a clear sense that a deal could be cut between the federal government and the Albany whalers to provide a structural adjustment fund to enable the station to be shut down although Fraser's government still had to go through the motions of holding an inquiry on whaling.
Before I returned from Africa and the United States in late 1976, FOE had moved offices to 51 Nicholson St, a mansion compared with 59 MacArthur Place. In 1977, it had run a national campaign to keep the Ranger Enquiry honest, with substantial success. It had also received massive leaked documents on the global uranium cartel delivered to the office by a filing clerk at Rio Tinto Zinc's Australian subsidiary. FOE had deeply rooted network nodes in all states except for Tassy. In 1977, FOE Melbourne listed these contact points, shown below.
Key Contact Points 1977
- 51 Nicholson St, Carlton, Victoria
- 423 Crown St, Surrey Hills, NSW
- PO Box 1875, Canberra City, ACT
- 310 Angas St, Adelaide, SA
- c/o WA Env. Centre, Perth, WA
- PO Box 2120 Darwin, NT
- 235 Boundary Rd, West End Brisbane, Qld
Source: FOE tabloid, Uranium and the Third World, Atoms for the Poor? November 1977, page 4
FOE was in fine shape and I felt good about leaving to return to San Francisco in September 1977 to start my post graduate studies at ERG.
It was also the moment for me to write my final contribution to Chain Reaction. This was titled "There's No Future for Friends of the Earth." I intended to be provocative, given that most Friendlies at the time knew of my founding role in many of FOE's networked strategies. What I meant was not that FOE should go out of existence, at least not any time soon; but rather, only by integrating our core values and goals into every aspect of social existence, into all sectors of society, thereby making a separate FOE superfluous, could we possibly succeed in transforming society to the extent necessary to enable Earth to survive. I still believe that is true. And, I still believe that it is possible and necessary to realize this vision. But that is another story.
NOTES FOR FURTHER EDITING
Alan Roberts role...
Other early key developments to date, add
Rob Robotham joins FOE campaign, speaks out...when?
Donors included Australia Party founder and solar hot water heater manufacturer
Visit by Gareth Evans to meet with Neil Barrett?
David Allworth, 1st national liaison officer, 1975? 1976. Someone must have taken over as national liaison officer from me...perhaps after French Island meeting.
Geoff Evans, 2nd National Liaison Officer from FOE Canberra, moved to Sydney and continued
Robert Tickner, green bans in NSW
Ranger inquiry hearings; FoE publishes Red Light for Yellowcake.
Ride against uranium: Melbourne - Canberra
FoE works with local community to oppose extension of Eastern Freeway into inner Melbourne
FoE does extensive work on renewable energy options for Australia
Campaign on health impacts of lead, Port Pirie
David Allworth; Lynn...Mark Carter who became involved with FOE in 1975
Katrina Veal, 1977
References (to be cited, and listed as bibliography)
Rex Weyler, Greenpeace: How a Group of Ecologists, Journalists, and Visionaries Changed....pp. 245-247.
Sigrid McCausland, Leave it in the ground: The anti-uranium movement in Australia 1975-82, doctoral thesis, University of Technology, Sydney, 1999 (downloadable from academia.edu after registration).
Radical Ecology Conference--details from
Drew Hutton and Libby Connors, A History of The Australian Environment Movement, Cambridge University Press, 1999.
Jishu Koza, described in http://nautilus.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/12/HayesTransnationalNetworksJCC1980.pdf
Environmental Liaison Centre, The Jonglei Canal, Environmental and Social Aspects. A
Oscar Mann for ELC, Nairobi, August 1977.
Beverley Broadbent, Inside the Greening: 25 Years of the Australian Conservation Foundation
T. Doyle, Green Power: The Environment Movement in Australia, University of NSW Press, 2000, p. 133, viewable at GoogleBooks.
P. Hayes et al, Atoms for the Poor? Nuclear Power and the Third World for Community Aid Aboard and Action for World Development
P. Hayes, Symbolic Protests and Friends of the Earth, paper, 1977.
P. Hayes, Potential for Environmental Action, Environment Liaison Centre, Nairobi, 1976.
P. Hayes, “The term “NGO”, provisional comments by the NGO Environment Liaison Centre,” International Associations, number 4, 1977. pp. 136-138
P. Hayes, "No Frontiers: Notes on Transnational Networks," Journal of Community Communications, volume 4, no 1, summer, 1980, pp. 21-25.
FOE tabloid, Uranium and the Third World, Atoms for the Poor? November 1977
FOE tabloid, Slow Burn...
FOE tabloid, Heavy metal on lead
FOE tabloid, stop clearfelling, woodchipping of native forests
Denis Hayes, Jim Falk, Neil Barrett, Redlight for Yellowcake, the case against uranium mining, FOE, 1977.
Peter Hayes, in Ken Brower, edited, The Wildness Within, Remembering David Brower, Heyday Press, 2012, pp. 177-185
P. Hayes, "What Price the Earth?" Friends of the Earth Melbourne, 1977 (produced for Brower visit).
Brian Martin, Changing the Cogs, Activists and the Politics of Technology, Friends of the Earth Canberra, 1979
Brian Martin, The Australian anti-uranium movement, p
ublished in Alternatives: Perspectives on Society and Environment, Volume 10, Number 4, Summer 1982, pp. 26-35, with a number of sub-editorial changes and omission of the references and the lists of Canberra actions.
An earlier version appeared in Swedish in Natur och Samhälle, No. 2, 1980, pp. 56-70.PART II. THE CANBERRA MOVEMENT