As a political geographer, Kasperson knew as early as 1974 the radical implications of decentralization theory, as starkly evidenced by his paper Participation, Decentralization and Advocacy Planning cited earlier. It is useful to quote again Kasperson's view of the power of Decentralization:
"A third goal of decentralization is the creation of territorial power bases from which to challenge elites and centralized power. Decentralization . . . certainly has this potential. But let there be no illusions as to the ease with which this will occur. The determined resistance to community action programs and school decentralization efforts suggest the likely response. Any real progress will create the "multiple abrasion points" which some decentralization critics fear. The desireability of such a development depends on one's ideology of political change; for the Marxist, decentralization holds the promise of territorial power bases in a protracted struggle; for the pluralist, it threatens the more somber prospect of urban enclaves of neglect. " [Kasperson, Breitbart; Participation, Decentralization And Advocacy Planning, p 38]
As a revolutionary manifesto, the paper serves as a plan for taking over the political process by the manipulation of the tensions that exist in democratic institutions. It should be noted that Kasperson had spent part of the 60's dissecting the decision matrix of aldermen and Chicago's ward politics and so knew quite well how to apply such theories when eventually hired by Nevada's Nuclear Waste Project Office.
The first symptons of decentralist philosophy applied to the nuclear issue appear in the rise of protest group like the Clamshell Alliance in the late 1970s.
The Clamshell Alliance, which mounted mass demonstrations of civil disobedience at the construction site of the Seabrook (nuclear) power station in New Hampshire in 1976 and 1977, represented something quite different from either Critical Mass or the Union of Concerned Scientists. Inspired by the successful site occupation that German protestors staged at Wyhl in 1975, the Clams established a style of direct action that was promptly taken up by other local groups - the Catfish, Palmetto, and Abalone Alliances, among others - who during a single year held more than 120 demonstrations and rallies. The Clams and their imitators drew their members from the "radical, counter-culture, and peace movement subcultutres." They sought to stop nuclear power not only because they regarded it as unsafe, but because many sought "to change American society fundamentally in the direction of decentralization, demilitarization, and egalitarianism," believing that a necessary condition for change was "a shift from centralized, capital intensive power producing systems, of which nuclear power is the epitome, to decentralized, labor-intensive, small-scale, renewable energy systems." [ Carter, Luther; Nuclear Imperativs And Public Trus, Resources for the Futur, 1987, p82]
The fact that decentralization is more than a buzzword and is in fact a code word for a relatively new political formulation is apparent. The anti-nuclear movement at Seabrook evidently was already being driven by this philosophy in 1977, and it is no surprise to find its resurgence at Yucca Mountain ten years later. Decentralization's connection to the anti-nuclear movement has in part been driven by its synergy with solar utopianism. We quote from "A Critique of the Solar Movement" written by Ken Bossong in 1980:
Early supporters of solar energy were attracted to the technology because it seemed capable of promoting individual and community self-reliance as well as decentralization of energy production and control. Solar technologies apeared to be the vehicles for redistributing income and thereby benefitting low-income citizens as well as other Americans. Solar was perceived as an environmentally benign technology that could lessen or eliminate dependence upon dangerous coal and nuclear technologies as well as imported oil and gas supplies.
However, in the half-decade since the 1973-74 Arab Oil embargo, little or no progress towards these goals of the "solar movement" has been realized. In fact, many of the political goals that had once prompted the pioneers of solar technologies are being lost sight of. Too many citizens groups, individual activists, small businesses, and others have come to see solar commercialization as simply a marketing problem. Consequently, the so-called solar transition is occurring in a manner that promises a continuation of the economic, environmental and political shortcomings of other energy technologies. [Bossong, Ken; A Solar Critique, "A Critique of the Solar Movement", Citizen's Energy Project, 1980, p1]
At that time, Bossong was part of Citizens' Energy Project that later became the anti-nuclear Safe Energy Communication Council. Bossong is now with Public Citizens Critical Mass Energy Project/SUN DAY. These are Ralph Nader organizations which have played a critical role in opposition to Yucca Mountain, providing direction from inside the Washington Beltway.
Decentralism became part of the opposition to nuclear technology in the southwest U.S. in part through the Cactus Alliance:
We actively support the alternatives of strict conservation practices, the redirection of technology to meet human needs, and the full development of alternative energy sources along with decentralization of energy systems. . . [Gyorgy, Anna; No Nukes, Everyone's Guide To Nuclear Power, South End Press, 1983, p 444]
The Cactus Alliance had connections to Nevada's Sagebrush Alliance in opposition to the MX missile system in the early 80's and served as an organizing template for some of the protest against Yucca Mountain. It is apparent that among the core leadership of the anti-nuclear movement decentralization was often perceived as the cure-all for society's ills, often overwhelming concerns they may have had for the health effects of radiation. The emphasis appears to be on a class warfare struggle against centralized government and big business, in which DOE and the nuclear industry become handy whipping posts.
In an insightful book by Mildred J Loomis of the School of Living titled Decentralism; Where It Came From, Where It is Going, we find some of the popular roots of the decentralist movement.
. . .dependency, delinquency, disease, degeneracy and decadence. That these five D's are ever present and on the increase in modern society calls for a Fourth Revolution - a decentralist revolution.
Decentralization is not a turning back of the clock. Through decentralization, independence would replace dependency; honesty and justice would replace delinquency. Health would prevent disease and degeneracy; creative work and folk art would replace decadent and inhuman activities.
For these desired ends, Decentralization would organize production, control, ownership, government, communications, education, and population in smaller, more human units. [Loomis, Mildred J.; Decentralism; Where It Came From; Where Is It Going, The School of Living Press, 1980, p28]
Decentralism is obviously a utopian philosophy, perhaps over-confidently viewed by Loomis as a cure-all for society's ills. But where did this philosophy come from? Loomis continues:
From about 1790 to 1930, America produced a group who believed that all human activities and all organizations should be voluntary - that even defense need not be governmental and coercive. They worked hard to free the economy of monopoly and exploitation in order that crime would be reduced, and the need for defense would fall to a minimum.
Persons holding these beliefs and practices sometimes call themselves "individual anarchists". Examining the root meaning of "anarchy", we find that "an" means no or none, "archy" means rulership. Thus anarchy means no rulership or enforced authority. Anarchy does not mean chaos and disorder. . . . [Loomis; Decentralism, p29]
Not all anarchist thought is created equally, however. Libertarians such as Milton Friedman and Murray Rothbard owe some of their philosophical roots to anarchist theory, however the decentralism movement and the anarchism espoused by the growing environmental movement have characteristics that are perhaps more totalitarian than libertarian in nature. Anarchy as espoused by the Green movement can very well be synonymous with chaos because it lacks the check and balance of property rights fundamental to Libertarian beliefs. Enviro-anarchism does not believe mankind has any special claim over Mother Nature, in essence stripping humans of property rights in favor of the rights of lesser organisms.
The School of Living in turn influenced the founding of Rodale Press which helped spawn much of the back-to-basics organic counter-culture known as the "Green Revolution". The linkage between decentralism, anarchism and Green politics is further explained by Loomis:
. . .That confederation would be a new movement. It needs a name. What should it be?
Suggestions came. "The School of Living Movement". "Decentralization". "The New Age".
A sturdy peasant-like friend stood up. "I'm Peter Maurin of The Catholic Worker, just over fom France. ". . .
"My people love life and the land. In every country, there are those who do. The only hope I see for the world is in the spirit and works like School of Living. In France, we call it "The Green Revolution." . . .
The term found acceptance. Some used it in Free America, in The Christian Century, The Catholic Worker, and of course, in School of Living's Interpreter. From that beginning in 1940, the "Green Revolution" was our term for the decentralized, organic culture we worked for . . . [Loomis, Decentralism, p 78]
Of course, Kasperson and the State of Nevada Nuclear Waste Project Office argue that decentralization and equity are merely benign words meant to indicate their desire to protect the local population from being ramrodded and controlled by big-government and large corporate entities (like the nuclear power industry). Kasperson and his contingent from Clark University obviously know differently; as political geographers they had a professional understanding of the meaning of advocacy and decentralization and promoted these theories as political philosophy and not as grass-roots community involvement.
Some adherents of decentralist anarchism imply this is merely a form of democratic action, involving the masses in their own self rule and rule over the environment. For example, at Yucca Mountain the claim is made that the citizens of Nevada have in essence voted (actually, they have only been polled) and have declared their opposition to the site and that this should be enough to veto the project. What is actually being advocated is a social system that has much in common with anarchist mob rule, using Yucca Mountain a side show to this debate. From Aristotle to D'Toqueville, political philosophers have taken pains to point out the dangers inherent in such a system. Perhaps most poignant are the comments of Aristotle, demonstrating that ago the dangers of decentralist thinking were well recognized two thousand years ago:
A fifth form of democracy . . . is that in which, not the law, but the multitude have the supreme power, and supersede the law by their decrees. This is a state of affairs brought about by the demagogues. For in democracies which are subject to the law the best citizens hold the first place, and there are no demagogues; but where the laws are not supreme, there demagogues spring up. For the people become a monarch and is many in one; and the many have the power in their hands, not as individuals, but collectively. . . . . At all events, this sort of democracy, which is now a monarch, and no longer under the control of the law, seeks to exercise monarchical sway, and grows to a despot; the flatterer is held in honor; this sort of democracy being relative to other democracies what tyranny is to other forms of monarchy." [Aristotle, Politics, Book IV Chapter 4]
Although the Green Revolution occurring at Yucca Mountain has some roots in Marxist class struggle, the movement has taken on a whole new dimension which stems from the entangling of Marxist and anarchist roots. Paradoxically, Maoist revolutionary theory, Liberation Theology land reform, and myriad other Green philosophies merge under the unifying perspective of decentralist/anarchist theory.
Decentralist philosophy evolves further at Yucca Mountain when reformulated as equity issues based on a theory called Rawlsian Ethics, as in Roger Kasperson's book Equity Issues In Radioactive Waste Management. This book was a core reason Mountain West, Decision Research and CENTED were selected by the Nuclear Waste Project Office to do Nevada's socioeconomic impact studies. In essence, NWPO became the prime disseminator of decentralist / anarchist thinking in America by selecting Mountain West.ÿ