The Norwegian government has given Ole Kopreitan plenty of time to ponder the world. Ole, the modest, self-effacing grand old man of the Norwegian anti-nuclear movement, has studied the architecture of sundry jails spread throughout the land of the midnight sun – from the interior. You don’t ask people like Ole Kopreitan – considering jail, considering the ridicule, considering the threadbare existence – whether speaking out freely in order to back the world from the nuclear brink is worth it. People of Ole Kopreitan’s cast and calibre consider their own personal well-being a trifle when seen in relation to the whole nature of things. And Ole knows that the only way to keep the whole of nature whole is to banish the nuclear peril.
For over forty years Ole has trundled a baby carriage filled with anti-nuke pamphlets, buttons, and other paraphernalia through the streets of Oslo, always freely speaking his mind. Nuclear disarmament and Norway’s role in NATO were Ole’s major concerns until 1990 when he visited Chernobyl and “stared death in the face”. In the Ukraine and Russia a Soviet-era decree yet exists that forbids citing radiation exposure as a cause of death. Even the Chernobyl emergency workers who clearly died of radiation sickness “officially” died of other causes. So too would many of the children Ole met in Ukraine hospitals. Since then his baby carriage crusade has expanded its cry to include the demand to end nuclear power.
“If you don’t understand, that’s when the trolls come out and wreak havoc.”
The steadfast goal of Ole’s “on-going political clarification” (as he calls it) is to educate the public so that knowledgeable Xs can be made in voting booths. As his long-time friend Sigmund Kvalöy points out, “that’s the only way a democracy can work. When citizens are informed.” Ole adds: “If you don’t understand, that’s when the trolls come out and wreak havoc.” The flip-side of Ole’s engagement is to underscore to national legislators the Norwegian electorate’s firm, anti-nuclear, anti-troll mindset. Ole organizes discussions in high schools, helps start up local anti-nuke initiatives, visits each year the UN nuclear disarmament discussions, and, as the General Secretary of Nei til Atomwäpen (No to Nuclear Weapons), organizes an annual nuclear disarmament lyceum at the Nobel Institute (former US Secretary of Defence Robert McNamara, calling for immediate unilateral disarmament, was a recent speaker).
If you were to meet Ole beside the peace monument he helped erect at Oslo’s central square, and were to ask him about what he considers to be his crowning achievement, he would downplay his grassroots role in dissuading the Norwegian government from adding nuclear power to its energy mix, dismiss with two waves of his hand his Emile Zola Prize and Word Of Independence Award, and shrug off with a chuckle the upshot of the 85 folders recently declassified from his Norwegian secret police dossier (only up through the year 1977 – everything afterwards is categorized as too current!) – no, instead he would speak of the cross-political alliance which he helped forge between Norway’s major interest groups, its trade unions, and the peace movement.
Such an alliance might seem like a royal get-out-of-jail-for-free card. But that doesn’t matter to a person like Ole. With or without an alliance behind him, pushing his baby carriage through the streets of Oslo, on behalf of the coming generations, whether it means jail or not, he will continue to freely speak out for a world purged of the nuclear threat.
English version: Craig Reishus