Musicians as activists, and tales from the Clinton White House

Bonnie Raitt, Jackson Browne, Graham Nash, et al, at a press conference before the August 2011 Musicians United for Safe Energy concert in Mountain View, California. They're talking about nuclear power, not chord changes or stage decor.

Bonnie Raitt, Jackson Browne, Graham Nash, David Crosby, Steven Stills, John Hall et al, at a press conference before the August 2011 Musicians United for Safe Energy concert in Mountain View, California. They’re talking about nuclear power, not chord changes or stage decor.

Today I sent out a letter to NIRS’ supporters and I thought I’d share part of it here too. Not that I want to make GreenWorld just another platform for NIRS’ Alerts and other missives; in fact, I try deliberately not to do that. And we have sent out a lot of Alerts and the like since GreenWorld began that have never shown up here.

But I wanted to share this one, because I don’t think the musicians who have steadfastly supported the clean energy movement for as long as I’ve been involved in it–really, even longer–receive the credit that is their due.

As the letter states, these people are not just musicians, they are activists. They work at this, they try to stay informed, and while they can and do bring crowds to events and raise money for clean energy organizations, they also use their celebrity to open doors that otherwise would stay closed.

And they like that part. They like meeting with politicians (much more than I do, I’ll bet) and pressing them to do the right thing. They like taking on the nuclear power industry every way they can.

I gave one example below, from 1997, but there are more. And, as the paragraph about the 1997 activities indicates, there is a lot more to that one than I could put in a letter like this. But yes, you’ll have to read most of it in my memoir if and when I get around to finishing it….

Bonnie Raitt and Crosby, Stills and Nash at the MUSE concert August 2011. Photo by Michael Mariotte.

Bonnie Raitt and Crosby, Stills and Nash at the MUSE concert August 2011. Photo by Michael Mariotte.

But I thought I’d add one more little piece here. At that White House meeting described below, the Clinton officials pressed us hard to support the White House on climate change. They had been beating their heads trying to get Congress to recognize the importance of the Kyoto Protocol that would be signed later that year, and they were getting nowhere. They wanted more public pressure on Congress and were basically pleading with us to help out.

We were then, always have been, and always will be, supportive of real efforts to deal with the climate crisis. And we told them we’d help–to an extent, and we tried to do that. The problem was that the Clinton administration supported nuclear power as a climate “solution,” just as the Bush and Obama administrations that succeeded them. And nuclear power is not only unacceptable as a climate solution (I’m pretty sure the adage jumping from the frying pan to the fire was written specifically for this), it is actually counterproductive–it makes things worse, not better.

So the Clinton folks might not have understood what they were getting into when they asked us to get more involved. Because, a couple years later, for a very brief period–but exactly the right period–Al Gore was President-Elect of the United States. And, with his crucial help, we and our allies across the globe succeeded at the November 2000 COP 6 meeting in The Hague (a follow-up implementation meeting for the Kyoto Protocol) in keeping nuclear power out of the international Clean Development Mechanism (CDM). The CDM is the basic implementation measure for the Kyoto Protocol, and nuclear power remains ineligible for it, and all subsequent climate actions, to this day.

That’s a victory we plan to defend in Paris this December, at COP 21. That’s what part of the Legacy Fund money, described below, will be funding. Our Facebook organizing page is here. There will be a new website a bit later.

How did President-Elect Al Gore help us keep nuclear power out of COP 6–in direct contradiction to Clinton administration policy? Ahhh, sorry, for that you’ll have to wait for the memoir too…

And, by the way, I do hope you’ll both support our legacy fund, and sign the uranium declaration–the two main subjects of this letter. Here’s the letter we sent to our supporters earlier today:

Bonnie Raitt, Graham Nash, Jackson Browne make video tributes to Michael Mariotte

Sign-on to World Uranium Symposium Declaration

April 23, 2015

Dear Friends,

As you know, yesterday was Earth Day–an annual reminder of what we’re fighting for 365 days a year. Our planet. Our home.

muselogoAnd fighting with us for as long as I’ve been at NIRS–and even longer–have been a key group of musicians. They appeared at the first MUSE concert in New York City and, with its No Nukes movie, the model for all the large benefits that have come since. And the MUSE concert in Mountain View, California after Fukushima. For many people, their music has formed the soundtrack of our lives.

And they’ve done a multitude of other benefits, receptions and other support for NIRS, and for grassroots groups across the country.

Last November, some of these great musicians couldn’t attend my Lifetime Achievement award ceremony, but Bonnie Raitt, Graham Nash and Jackson Browne did send video tribute messages for the event.

They’ve now given us permission to post them so you can see them too. Why? Because they’re also supporting the NIRS Michael Mariotte Legacy Fund.

Bonnie Raitt talking about me. Thank you, Bonnie!

Bonnie Raitt talking about me. Thank you, Bonnie!

Watch the videos, we’ve combined them into one, and please make your final donation to the Legacy Fund now. You’ll see the video at the top of the page. The Legacy Fund campaign ends Sunday; this is our last chance to meet our two $5,000 matching challenge grants (ok, we’ve met the first one, but we still have a ways to go for the second…).

And please spread the word around to your friends and neighbors and colleagues everywhere. Help build NIRS, help build the anti-nuclear movement, help provide the resources necessary to move us closer and closer to a nuclear-free, carbon-free energy system.

These musicians in particular have done much more than just support NIRS and grassroots groups; they’ve also been with us in substantive matters too.

Like back in 1997, when Bonnie, Jackson, The Indigo Girls, Mary Chapin Carpenter and John Trudell did a two-night benefit concert for NIRS at Washington’s Warner Theater. That in itself was a huge help–raising $50,000 for NIRS.

But they didn’t come to town just to play music. We also had a reception inside the Capitol Building for legislators, and a working lunch in the Capitol the next day to talk strategy to stop Yucca Mountain and the proposed Ward Valley, California and Sierra Blanca, Texas “low-level” radioactive waste dumps. And then we went to the White House. For the whole story (including the part about how the White House tried to keep me out of the meeting), you’ll have to read my forthcoming memoir. But at that meeting, which included every top Clinton Administration official including Chief of Staff Erskine Bowles, we convinced the Administration to change its position on the Ward Valley project; the next week they began taking the steps necessary to finally kill it entirely. And, a little over two years later, President Clinton vetoed the “Mobile Chernobyl” bill that would have begun sending high-level nuclear waste to an “interim” site next to Yucca Mountain–a veto we were able to sustain by one vote.

None of that would have happened without the musicians. They’ve been a vital part of this movement for decades.

I hope you’ll take three minutes and watch the video; I’m quite proud of their recognition. And I hope you’ll help us in these final days of the Legacy Fund Campaign to meet that challenge grant and bring us closer to the Fund’s essential goal.

Last week, NIRS’ Executive Director Tim Judson and Radioactive Waste Project Director Diane D’Arrigo traveled to Quebec for the World Uranium Symposium. They met and hung out with hundreds of activists from across the globe and reported back that the event was extremely successful in its goal of establishing a new international network to focus on the front end of the nuclear fuel chain–the uranium that powers nuclear reactors and atomic bombs alike.

The event produced a Declaration that is now been published for sign-ons, both organizational and individual. We hope every national and grassroots group will sign this declaration, and that every one of you will individually as well.

If there is one simple, but meaningful, action we can all take in honor of this year’s Earth Day, it’s to sign this declaration. Let’s show the world that uranium must stay in the ground where it belongs. It has no place in the safe, clean, affordable and sustainable energy future that will power our nation and planet.

Thank you so much for all you do, and thank you for supporting the Michael Mariotte Legacy Fund.

Michael Mariotte

April 23, 2015


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