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Issues and Practices

Issues and Connections

The majority of the collections reviewed for this site represent organizations and individuals who acted primarily to secure peace, and secondarily took an interest in the environmental hazards of war.  The chairwoman of Another Mother for Peace, for example, corresponded with several scientists during attempts to quantify nuclear effects on human welfare.  Despite Another Mother for Peace's origins as an anti-war women’s group, the ensuing correspondence with radiation researches Dr. John Goffman and Dr. Arthur Tamplin led to the organization’s anti-nuclear stance that included both peaceful nuclear energy, as well as weapons-related nuclear energy.  When one considers the subject matter of Swarthmore’s collection, the priority of peace over environmental issues is unsurprising.  Women Strike for Peace, Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, Great Peace March, Movement for a New Society, and the American Peace Test all have foundations in the pursuit of peace, nonviolence, and social justice, but eventually these activists found a place for environmental activism within their organizations.  Their main motivations for opposing nuclear weapons may have originally been associated with the violence of war, but all began to use scientific research about the environmental hazards of nuclear power to support their positions.

A study of the environmental issues most often championed by the organizations and individuals represented in the Swarthmore College Peace Collection will uncover one connection purported multiple times: that war is the ultimate environmental threat.   If peace is believed to be necessary to safeguard the environment, those organizations and activists that fundamentally support environmental causes should consequently support nonviolent and peaceful movements.  Louis Friedman’s personal introduction to the collection of his papers on peace and environmental issues in the former USSR, endorses this connection when he describes the greatest global environmental problem as “nuclear power and its allied horror threatening world peace, nuclear weapons.”  Through authorship and political diplomacy he and his wife Judi Friedman have worked both domestically and internationally to educate people on how to help the environment. Mr. Friedman views nuclear weapons as a prominent obstacle and works with several peace organizations, but the material in the Friedman papers also highlights important work in sustainable agriculture and alternative energies. 

Sarah Seeds is another activist who primarily works on behalf of environmental issues.  While acting against deforestation Seeds often relies on nonviolent practices and civil disobedience.  Her involvement in protests at the Nevada Test Site show an additional vested interest in the anti-nuclear movement, which could be explained by the movement’s attempts to do away with the environmental hazards associated with nuclear power and weapons.

Unique Issues

The Sarah Seeds Papers collection is not the only one with unique subject matter.  The most common causes represented in these collections are activism against nuclear weapons, nuclear power, chemical and biological warfare, and activism in support of alternative energies.  Sarah Seeds’ activism in central Idaho against the deforestation carried out by loggers is singular in the Swarthmore College Peace Collection.  A collection of journal-like documents detail Seeds' nonviolent efforts protesting the destruction of the wilderness as well as her experience with police interference and the subsequent hearings and trials. 

Another unique collection focuses on the Center for Economic Conversion in Mountain View, California.  This organization had a broad goal of converting the military-based U.S. economy to a civilian-based, peace-oriented, and environmentally sustainable one. The records of this organization contain a great deal of information on sustainable or green architecture.  With a green building working group and their involvement in projects converting old military bases with environmentally sustainable methods, the organization focused on proactive steps to preserve the local environment while also maintaining a commitment to peace.  The material available on this organization consists of project and grant applications and strategies, along with some publicity that often stressed the recycling of reclaimed wood.   


Working on architectural plans [4" x 6" color photograph;
Center for Economic Conversion Records (DG 215)]
Opportunities and Constraints [4" x 6" color photograph;
Center for Economic Conversion Records (DG 215)]



Just as many of the peace organizations highlighted here, adopted similar causes, they also frequently utilized similar methods of activism.  Sarah Seeds was not alone in practicing civil disobedience when opposing the injustices she saw.  Supporters of the Clamshell Alliance and SHAD Alliance also used civil disobedience, or nonviolent resistance, when making their grievances known.  Early in their advocacy the Clamshell Alliance supporters blockaded the Seabrook (New Hampshire), nuclear station. SHAD Alliance activists also used this method while protesting several nuclear reactors.  Neither organization continued to practice civil disobedience much later than the 1970s.  The Clamshell Alliance’s coordinating committee voted to stop using that particular technique in 1978.  The SHAD Alliance stopped actively protesting nuclear facilities, and all but fell apart in 1981.  Sarah Seeds, however, records her and others’ use of nonviolent resistance into the 1990s. Peace and other social justice activists have continued to use similar methods of protest well into the 21st century.

A Call to Action [front] [8.5" x 11"
color scan; SHAD Alliance Records (DG 142)]
Nuclear arms protest at Sea Brook Nuclear Plant:
crowd entering open gate
[5" x 7" black and white
photograph; Clamshell Alliance Collected Records (CDG-A)]
A Call to Action [back] [8.5" x 11"
color scan; SHAD Alliance Records (DG 142)]

Many of the organizations represented here sought to influence the decisions of policy makers through lobbying.  The records of the Clamshell Alliance, GWEN Project, Peace Action, SANE, Women Strike for Peace, and Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom all show efforts made to either lobby as an organization or provide the public with the incentive and means to lobby as individuals.  Women Strike for Peace organizers specifically lobbied against the MX missile which the Air Force first announced in 1979, and tested in 1983.  Supporters of the GWEN Project primarily lobbied against the Ground Wave Emergency Network towers by stressing the bad effects of electromagnetic radiation on the health of the civilian population.  Two directors headed the GWEN Project and so they could not personally manage the activism in each area where the military considered building towers.  Instead, the records show that the directors reached out to other peace and environmental organizations, with local memberships, for assistance.  Peace Action’s printed advertisements for a National Day of Action in 1999, informed citizens in all states with Republican Senators, of upcoming press conferences on the proposed Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty.  The group hoped that if the public was informed on the issue and aware of their representatives’ opposition to the treaty, they would be more likely to make their voices heard. 

Education was the most common tool used by peace organizations and individual activists working on environmental issues. The advertisement campaigns carried out by Peace Action are also an example of this. Other organizations tried additional strategies: Another Mother for Peace and Consider the Alternatives created radio programs; Louis Friedman used international citizen diplomacy to encourage the exchange of ideas, while his wife authored a children’s book; NARMIC produced educational slide shows among other projects; SANE launched many advertisement campaigns, and WIN [Workshop in Nonviolence], as well as many other organizations, printed periodicals that would circulate information regarding peace and environmental issues. In their educational campaigns many of these organizations stressed the environmental hazards associated with nuclear power and weapons.  If the American Peace Test printed a pamphlet or press release on a specific test the military planned to carry out in Nevada, they would also explain the correlative environmental hazards. In this way APT organizers hoped the public could understand how that nuclear weapon could endanger local communities. 

Atoms for Peace, Atoms for War
[3.75" x 8.5" color scan; National Action/Research on the Military-Industrial Complex (NARMIC) Records (DG 203)]
Nuclear Power Silent Dangers Hidden Costs
[11.75" x 9.75" color scan; Movement for a
New Society Records
(DG 154)]
The MX Missile and You: Public Participation in the MX Environmental Analysis Process [3.75" x 8.5" color scan; SANE, Inc. Records (DG 058)]


For more information, contact Wendy Chmielewski, Curator, at wchmiel1@swarthmore.edu or call 610-328-8557.

Created by Jean Turner (Archival Intern, Swarthmore College Peace Collection), August 2011.

This file was last updated on July 20, 2012.