Santas and Siemens
Just before Xmas of 1996, i was working for an Austrian environmental group called Global 2000. Running up to the holidays we had run an anti-Siemens boycott. This German industrial giant was a perfect target because while it was instrumental in building nuclear reactors, it also made consumer goods, like Westinghouse used to. As part of the boycott, we made 25 Santa suits and unleashed a hoard of costumed activists pretending to be givers of gifts and posers for holiday pictures. Instead they distributed propaganda and encouraged the typically anti-nuclear Austrians to select a different manufacturer.
When the action was over i grabbed one of the Santa suits and started hitching back to the Netherlands. Outside of Dresden a young woman stopped me and told me in her broken English, “Look i am a woman in a sports car; i never pick up hitch hikers. But am i really going to be able to sleep tonight knowing i left Santa by the side of the road two days before Christmas?” A few hours later i was outside of Kastle, and another driver was very relieved to find me still by the road. “I passed you 20 minutes ago and my kids have been screaming at me to turn around and get you ever since. I am so glad you are still here.” I beat the train by two hours that day.
This week, Siemens announced it is shutting its nuclear division. It is hard to overstate the importance of this change; it’s a huge win for the movement. Siemens is the largest engineering firm in Europe. It has driven industrial policy for Germany and pushed the German Import Export bank to lend for its reactors in several continents. I remember sitting at a Siemens shareholder meeting when one of the directors famously said “Nuclear is 2% of our profits and 90% of our headaches.” I am happy this giant will finally get some relief. And by shifting to renewable energy technology it is blazing the trail for other industrial giants.