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“THE PEOPLE OF MEXICO TOOK THE PLAN TO TAKE WASTE FROM THE CANADIAN BORDER AND DUMP IT ON THE MEXICAN BORDER AS AN AFFRONT TO THEIR NATIONAL DIGNITY.” diverse groups as the Vermont Sierra Club, the Rainforest Action Network, even the Bread and Puppet Theater, as well as more traditional nuclear researchers. In 1994, Rogers and others at the Foundation invited scientists working on radiation and health issues, and anti-nuke activists from around the country, to come to Austin and discuss the dump. Also crucial to victory was crossborder cooperation. The Border Coalition, including anti-nuke groups from Mexico and the U.S., would meet later that year in Juarez, across the river from El Paso. Rogers says the allies crossed the language barrier by any means necessary: “pantomime, charades, and later tequila.” “Because a lot of us couldn’t speak Spanish, and held prejudices against Mexicans subconsciously, it took a long time to work through all of that,” Rogers recalls. “It’s a constant struggle to look at how you’re working, how you’re communicating with people, and how the white privilege manifests itself.” Ultimately, the two sides learned to work together, and it was the joint effort of Mexican and American dump opponents that helped turn the tide. Public demonstrations against the dump were held in Mexico City and along the border ., including cross-border hunger strikes and temporary human blockades of the international bridges. In October of last year, Detnis la Noticia, a Mexican news show that airs throughout Latin America, broadcast a story on the dump, and the usually fractious national Congress unanimously passed a resolution condemning the border site as a violation of international treaties. Then later that month, five days before the T.N.R.C.C.’s rejection of the dump, eight members of the Mexican Congress held a hunger strike outside the Governor’s Mansion, after George Bush spurned visiting Mexican officials who earlier had attempted to meet with him about the dump. “The people of Mexico took the plan to take waste from the Canadian border and dump it on the Mexican border as an affront to their national dignity,” said Rogers. “They tried to work within the system, but were denied access to the hearings, and were denied diplomatic avenues. They were completely justified in taking up the stones of bridge blockades and hunger-strikes, to fight the gringo Goliath.” The furor raised by the Mexican delegation may well have been the straw that broke the camel’s back particularly since the camel might want to run for president. Governor George Bush was flamboyantly courting the Hispanic vote, both for his November election and for his undeclared presidential run. Facing continued public outcry, further legal conflict, and the legislative opposition likely if they were to overrule their own administrative judges, Bush and his Commissioners apparently realized that surrender on Sierra Blanca with the hope that some other dump site could be found in West Texas was the only available option. The Sierra Blanca Legal Defense Fund to use Rogers’ own terms, another little anti-nuke David facing the Goliaths of the nuclear industry and government power had been victorious against overwhelming odds. What’s next for the movement? The waste industry, still searching for cheaper waste sites, remains determined to build a dump in Texas, although the Barnwell site in South Carolina has sufficient capacity for the forseeable future. Currently, the leading candidate appears to be Andrews County, where a private corporation, Envirocare, proposes to build a dump to house both power plant and Department of Energy waste. Yet as far as so-called low-level waste is concerned, says Rogers, “These dumps are being built for waste that doesn’t even exist yet. If we shut down the plants today, we’d be fine. Now, high-level waste, that’s another problem. If we shut down the plants and entombed them where they are, we definitely wouldn’t need another dump, and that’s what we’ve been advocating all along. If power plants continue to generate waste, that waste should be stored as close to the plants as possible, so that we can monitor it and get at it, not bury it with our drinking water. The bottom line is, it doesn’t need to be dumped anywhere.” In the wake of its Sierra Blanca victory, Rogers says, the antinuke movement is in fighting form. “The way I’ve been looking at it is that we’ve been doing our part to defend our corner of the world, and in the meantime we’re communicating with groups just like us that are defending their part, and we’re winning.” Rogers says that the group that defeated the Sierra Blanca project will also fight the effort to send radioactive waste to Andrews County. Rogers is leaving the executive directorship of the Legal Defense Fund, although she’s vowed to stay involved as a concerned citizen. “People told me that this kind of victory only comes along once in a lifetime. I hope that’s not true,” she says. For the present, she’s joined the legislative staff of Democratic State Representative Lon Burnam of Fort Worth. The fight, Rogers says, was long and exhausting. “I learned a lot about how to pace myself, and how to be in it for the long haul, because for a long time, I felt like I was beating my head against a wall like I was going insane. Now that it’s over, and I’ve had a couple weeks to look back on it now that I’ve ruined a relationship I was in, and my personality has altered I think I learned how to do it better next time.” Her friends and allies counter that she did pretty well this go-round. “I’m really in awe of the work Erin did,” Senator Paul Wellstone told the Observer. “Her work has been grassroots, citizen politics at its very best.” \(Rogers, in return, calls Wellstone “a saint the only politician … who really put his heart into this campaign with no ulterior motives or agenda Legal Defense Fund attorney David Frederick comments, “However romantic people want to be about the masses rising up and taking on the establishment, the truth is you never prevail if you don’t have someone putting in tento twelve-hour days, week after week, doing that not-necessarily-exciting work, like fundraising.” Rogers, he says, was that person: “Without Erin, the victory wouldn’t have been possible.” Ayelet Hines is a former editor at Earth First! Journal, the Observer office manager, and an environmental agitator. FEBRUARY 5, 1999 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 15 e” , sw*S*, +el. ‘foie,