Clam Local Organizing: Public Education by Tom Wyatt

Public Education – The Lifeblood of a Clam Local 9/26/07

By Tom Wyatt

Public education was the glue that held the Worcester-based Central Massachusetts Citizens Against Nuclear Power together well into the 1980s. Because we were a local Clamshell Alliance chapter, from time to time many members organized for and joined nonviolent direct actions, spending time in armories and jail. But we were always planning the next radio show, slide show, workshop, letter writing campaign, and newsletter.

Inspired by the 1976 actions on the NH seacoast, Phil Stone and others formed the group and first we began educating ourselves. In October ’76 we sponsored our first public event, a showing of the movie Lovejoy’s Nuclear War. We then produced a leaflet series and passed them out in public places – talking to people wherever we could. We spoke on local radio talk shows. We sponsored workshops and guest speakers and participated in debates. Guy Chichester plus music and wine and cheese equaled “A Night on the Town.” Helen Caldicott delivered her prophecies of doom to a stunned audience at the UMass Medical Center. We organized a day-long conference at local college and Karen Silkwood memorial rallies on the Worcester Common.

Our membership expanded to include several members of the medical community. Their background helped us establish a speakers bureau who spoke and showed films to schools, churches and community organizations. Musicians joined and were key players in our benefit Clambake, with many bands and speakers. “From bikers to babies” was the Worcester Telegram’s headline describing this outdoor event attended by 1200 area residents. A local artist created drawings for educational/fundraising greeting cards; another artist produced t-shirts sold at our literature tables.

After the Three Mile Island accident in March of ’79, the dangers of nuclear power were more widely understood and our focus shifted. We exposed Massachusetts Municipal Light Departments that were considering buying into Seabrook Station, preventing many from making that disastrous investment. We changed our name to the Central Mass. Safe Energy Project in answer to the question “What are we for?” An Alternative Energy Fair at Green Hill Park in June of ’79 was a huge success. Workshops focused on energy conservation became a mainstay of our activity. We began a weekly TV show on a public access station and by spring of the following year, we opened a downtown storefront staffed by volunteers. There we hosted ongoing workshops, housed a resource center with free literature as well as a reference library for technical information on renewable energy.

The actions were exciting and intense, but the ongoing work of putting out our newsletter or lining up the next speaking gig was the lifeblood that kept us together. Core members shared potlucks, pizza at Mama Moe’s, dances, post meeting canoe rides late at night, and much more.  Several marriages (a few divorces and innumerable relationships) came about through the group. Our commitment could not have been maintained without our weekly meetings and our focus on educating the public.

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