I’m starting to read A Crack in The Edge of the World: America and the Great California Earthquake of 1906, because my mother was in that earthquake, and because it’s the kind of thing I like to read. But it turns out there’s a bonus: in the third chapter the author, Simon Winchester, is laying out the times the country was in when the earthquake occurred. My mother was born in August, 1900. According to Winchester, that was the year mass production of automobiles began in this country. In 1901, William McKinley was assassinated at the Pan-Pacific Exposition in Buffalo, New York, and Theodore Roosevelt became president: “His dream was for Americans to dominate in particular the Pacific Ocean...and to create in San Francisco a base for a naval force that would secure America’s supremacy forever.” In 1903, the Wright Brothers flew their first airplane. So the quake was one of a series of changes that was jarring the populace. Malvina’s father was still in the Navy when Roosevelt made his pronouncement; he soon finished his third enlistment and started the family tailor shop in San Francisco, making uniforms for school children and for the sailors that were based in and passing through the city. And now I have running through my head Leonard Cohen’s “There is a crack, a crack in everything, that’s how the light gets in.”
I am happy to say that my friend and collaborator Judy Fjell, who is in Japan teaching singing games to English teachers and students, survived the typhoon and earthquake there just fine, with only a change in travel plans when the trains weren’t running.
A couple days later:
Just got back from a walk at the Marina with Judy, who needed some exercise and fresh air to recover from Tokyo-to-SF jet lag. Beforehand, we went online and I was able to show her the huge Mother Earth puppet that Somos Mayfair brought to this morning’s demonstration.
             Photo by John Kokoska
It reminded me of the goddess puppet Judy’s friends made at her Summersing music camp. This one’s been to a single-payer health care rally in Montana.
This morning’s demonstration was against Chevron, which wants to expand its refinery in Richmond, thereby expanding its pollution of Bay Area air. The (Green Party) mayor of Richmond was there, and the Chicana dancers with the puppet, an African-American rapper, Asian demonstrators against the dictatorship in Burma which Chevron is helping prop up, and most of the volunteers were quite young, which is encouraging. I got there too late for the Native American drumming and everybody-in-the-circle dance. As usual, pollution is worse where poor people and people of color live. Here’s a pertinent message from Green for All about that.
I left before the start of the march from the demonstration at the Richmond BART station to the refinery itself. While the entertainment and speeches were going on, there was non-violent training for the planned civil disobedience at the refinery. Reminded me of the olden days (the eighties) when we were demonstrating against nuclear development at Livermore Labs.
And before that, in 1963, my mother wrote a song to be used in demonstrations against the building of a nuclear power plant at Bodega Head on the California Coast:
Take It Away
The Pacific Gas and Electric Company planned to build a nuclear plant on Bodega Head north of San Francisco, quite near to an earthquake fault. A large group of concerned people, headed up by Malvina’s friend J. B. Neilands and other professors at the University of California at Berkeley, were able to stop it.

We've got to take over P. G. E.,
It's become a dreadful pest.
It's spreading atomic poison stuff
Over all the Golden West.
They're starting a plant at Bodega,
A place that was wild and pure,
They call it an atomic park,
But it's an atomic sewer.
There's a killer gang at the very top
Of P. G. and E. today.
We need that electric power
To make our country run,
But what's the use of electric juice
When the people all are gone.
All around Eureka town
Dosimeters are set,
To see, when the plant gets running,
What kind of a dose we'll get.
The primary school is across the road
From where the smoke will roll,
And there's two little dosimeters
On the schoolhouse electric pole.
They have public relations men
Could fascinate the birds,
They even hypnotize themselves
With their own delightful words.
There'll never be an accident
To set the state in flames,
They never speak of an accident,
"Excursion" is the name.
P. G. and E. buys lots of stuff
And local business booms;
They also buy officials
In those jolly smoke-filled rooms.
The A. E. C., the P. U. C.,
The county board and all,
They shake a leg and sit up and beg
At Gas and Electric's call.
There's a rock fault at Bodega
Where many a quake has been,
And that's the very site they choose,
To put their reactors in.
There used to be an iron rule
For a plant of stone and steel,
But now they've got a quickie job
You could stave in with your heel.
It's time we kicked these bandits out
And took their toys away.
Lord knows it's we that foot the bills
With the taxes that we pay.
The subsidies pay half the cost,
Our gas bills pay the rest,
And we need our own great power plant
To save the Golden West.
Take it away, take it away,
From the killer gang at the very top
Of P. G. and E. today.
We need electric power
To make our country run,
And we'll produce that electric juice
In a company of our own.
Words and music by Malvina Reynolds; copyright 1963 by Schroder Music Company, renewed 1991.
They stopped it then, but I’m afraid the nuclear power industry is at it again, and it’s just as wrong-headed as ever. Trying to use climate change as an excuse to get going again.
©2009 by Nancy Schimmel
Photos ©2009 by John Kokoska
Mobilization for Climatee Justice in Richmond on Sunday. Photo by John Kokoska
Saturday, August 15, 2009