Dr. Caldicott, Welcome to Authors by Sasha. As an accredited Australian and American physician who has contributed her medical expertise to Harvard Medical School, what inspired you to initially specialize in the field of pediatrics? This investment granted you an opportunity to establish the first Australian clinic for cystic fibrosis at the Adelaide Children's Hospital.
I had been working at Harvard at the Children’s Hospital Medical Center on a sabbatical with Dr Harry Schwachman, a pioneer in the treatment of Cystic Fibrosis, and when I returned home to Adelaide I realized that these children were essentially untreated at the Adelaide Children’s Hospital, so I said I can treat these children however the powers that be told me that I was not a pediatrician therefore I could not do that. So I said to my husband I’ve supported you in your medical training now it's my turn, so I worked 80 hours a week as a pediatric intern, passed the difficult exam to become a Fellow of the Royal Australasian College of Physicians, where upon I set up the first cystic Fibrosis clinic in Australia which now has the best longevity results in the country.
At what point in your career did you become involved with educating audiences about the harmful effects of radiation from a pediatric perspective? Was there a patient case, or current event that stirred your desire to raise awareness for managing a healthier global environment?
When I learned that the drinking water in Adelaide was contaminated by radioactive fallout from the French atomic tests in the Pacific and I wrote a letter to the paper outlining the medical dangers re people and children drinking radioactive water and eating radioactive food, thereupon I was frequently on TV educating the public as a doctor about these dangers and the public became outraged at the French so our Prime minister took France to the International Criminal Court whereupon it was forced to test underground.
The bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki represent the only time in history where the use of nuclear weapons were present in armed conflict. As someone born between these two historical events, how have your world views evolved towards humanity in general?
Well I was born on August 7 between Hiroshima and Nagasaki days so I was clearly destined to try and do something about nuclear weapons. I suppose I don’t really trust humanity which has always fought and killed, motivated I think by the testosterone imperative. It’s time women who compose 52% of the human race took over, if not, I believe we are doomed.
How can global civilians learn more about the presence of nuclear programs and their side effects without relying on the media?
Well I used to be on TV and radio all the time in the 80’s in the US as I had a wonderful Hollywood agent who worked with me for free, and in that way 80% of Americans were educated and frightened about the medical consequences of nuclear war, and that welling up of public fear led to Reagan and Gorbachev meeting in Iceland in 1988 and they agreed to then end of the Cold war but unfortunately that didn’t take place and we are now on the brink of annihilation with the war in the Ukraine with Putin suggesting the use of nuclear weapons.
The media is a tool that can be leveraged to communicate powerful messages to the masses. There are historical movements (i.e. women's movement and gay rights) which gained traction through mobilization of people without the strong reliance on the media. You've referenced "Nudes Not Nukes" in your speaking engagements. How did this social experience play a significant role in capturing the media's attention?
I was speaking in the Herbst lecture theater in SF with Patch Adams about Y2K and the media’s lack of coverage, when Patch said we should walk naked across America, at which point I asked the packed theater who would do that and every hand went up, so we stripped off our clothes and walked naked down Van Ness chanting “nudes not nukes”, and we broke the media impasse and were covered in the NYT the next day – so nudity works.
Do you believe the quality and outcome of social activism would improve if people focused more on raising awareness and less on commercially marketing their messages on virtual platforms?
I think that it is absolutely imperative that the media start to educate people about the medical effects of nuclear war. I am available as are many of my medical colleagues in Physicians for Social Responsibility, both on TV, radio and the press. I suggest that you all obtain a copy of IF YOU LOVE THIS PLANET from my website helencaldicott.com. It won an Oscar, is over 30 years old, is half an hour long and really packs a punch. It should be shown in every TV station -in America at least once.
Dr. Caldicott, as the Founder of Physicians for Social Responsibility, you've shared the medical profession holds a sacred responsibility to serve patients who trust their doctors with their well-being. Do you suspect some doctors are starting to compromise their Hippocratic Oath in order to accommodate the commercial and political interests of the world?
I don’t really know that because most of my medical colleagues practice medicine to the best of their ability.
How can doctors remain cognizant of their primary responsibility without jeopardizing their principles like some scientists in our global community?
Well we all took the Hippocratic Oath and that is the basis of our profession.
You've authored eight books to date which include Nuclear Madness, Missile Envy and recently Sleepwalking to Armageddon. Sleepwalking to Armageddon captures the history and politics of nuclear weapons; at the same time explores the use and exploitation of nuclear weapons over the years. For this endeavor, you successfully assembled the world's leading nuclear scientists and thought leaders to assess the political and scientific dimensions of the threat of nuclear war today. What metrics did you apply to engage these subject matter experts which serve as credible sources to comment on such a controversial topic?
I have no metrics, I am well known as one of the leaders of the Freeze movement of the 1980s and hence I know many of these scientists and we work together.
In 2016, your work referenced there were at least 15 nuclear reactor sites present in the country of Ukraine. They were described as sitting time bombs. There are nuclear sites situated throughout the world including at least 48 sites within the United States; few minor sites managed by prominent universities. If these land mines were to go off, it would destroy all of civilization encompassing humans, animals and plants. Ideally we would want to cease the operations of these nuclear sites. Given the state of the world today, what precautionary measures can we take to slow the proliferation of these sites?
There are really no precautionary measures as they are all sitting time bombs filled with tons of toxic radioactive elements, as well as nuclear waste site, they will be dangerous for one million years, there in really nowhere to store this incredibly dangerous material and if a plant is hit with weapon of war, it will induce another Chernobyl and make millions of square miles uninhabitable, kill millions of acute radiation illness while millions more will be develop cancers over the coming years.
As noted in the 1982 Academy Award winning documentary, If You Love This Planet, audiences are told to change their life priorities to nurture a sustainable planet. Today people invest on fighting environmental challenges such as global warming and terrorism, yet they discount the nuclear arms race and its impact on the world. Is there some psychological dissonance present that prevents people from conquering an actual time sensitive threat that is more damaging than the other environmental matters?
It’s because it is not being discussed in the media and people are now uneducated regarding the medical consequences. Our work -PSR in the 1980s led to the film THE DAY AFTER which frightened everyone including Reagan who then said NUCLEAR WAR MUST NEVER BE FOUGHT AND CAN NEVER BE WON.
Dr. Caldicott, you've been encouraging the United States to take a bold stand against nuclear weapons for decades. It appears "ignorance is profound in the media '' which contributes to the lack of understanding of how nuclear weapons can destroy not only the planet but the solar system too. This impacts the emergence of new illnesses, contamination in our nutritional consumption and the overall health of each generation that is effected by radioactive environments. As a former radio host and lecturer at New School for Social Research, what call to action do you propose for all media sources in the United States?
Nuclear war will not destroy the solar system however I urge everyone reading this to download IF YOU LOVE THIS PLANET then after watching it go to your local TV station and demand that they play it .This will break open peoples’ psychic numbing and cause much political action and concern. It should also be played for all members of Congress in their offices as Tip O’Neil once did for our PSR film THE LAST EPIDEMIC.
What activities do you seek for mental stimulation when not you're not preoccupied with your professional engagements and social causes?
Gardening, cooking, reading and classical music.
Do you participate in any spiritual or personal rituals that keep you grounded to complement the serious nature of the work you perform worldwide?
As an accomplished author and filmmaker, are there any new messages you anticipate penning in the near future?
I might complete my autobiography.
Are there any self-development lessons you've acquired through your social activism as an anti-nuclear campaigner?
Dr. Caldicott, as a Nobel Peace Prize winner & one of the most influential women of the 20th Century honored by the Smithsonian, are there any new opportunities you'd like to prospect as you continue your five decade plus career?
No, I just want the precious life on earth to continue.
Please share with audiences how they can support your work.
Well go to my web page, helencaldicott.com and read all the books mentioned there that I’ve written, watch the films and videos and then your soul will be impelled and will know what you have to do to save the planet.
"If You Love This Planet"