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After the Big One: Nuclear War on the Prairies

Anonymous — February 1984

Written and Directed by Robert Lower, Originally Produced by CBC Manitoba, released by the National Film Board of Canada Prairie Studio.

Reviewed by Susan Spicer

In the event of either a fullscale nuclear war, or a ‘limited strike’ between the two superpowers, the Canadian prairies would become the front lines. Cities with airports large enough to service a DC-10 would become prime targets, as would mines and power sources. So begins After the Big One, a 25-minute documentary written and directed by Bob Lower for the NFB.

After the Big One provides us with facts about the effects of a nuclear exchange on Central Canada. It also shows that, not surprisingly, our government has made very few preparations for civilian protection and rehabilitation: Information on civil defense is out-dated and inaccurate, and pamphlets signed by John Diefenbaker with titles like “Your basement fallout shelter” date back to the early 1960s.

Bill Willis of the Winnipeg office of the emergency planning commission admits in the film that he and his staff are ineffective due to a lack of funds and resources. But he also points out that there is little that can be done in any case.” His only hope is to inform people so that, if there is an attack, they will at least know what is happening.

The inevitable conclusion to be drawn from the film is that there can be no civil defense. Indeed, Dr. Ian Carr of Physicians for Social Responsibility describes in the film the medical profession’s inability to cope with the thousands of casualties that would result from a strike, and the devastation to all forms of life from radioactive fallout in the event of a strike on the missile silos of the midwestern states of Nebraska and Montana.

Despite the terrifying facts portrayed in the film, After the Big One is based on the premise that knowledge, however bleak, is power: Only through an understanding of their situation can Canadians gain the influence necessary to, end the threat of annihilation. The film is therefore informational without being sensational, allowing us to comprehend the immediacy of our peril, without succumbing to despair and helplessness. It is a further step toward establishing an informed, and therefore influential, Canadian public.

Anyone can arrange a screening at the National Film Board, 1 Lombard St., xxx-xxxx.

Over our Dead Bodies: Women against the Bomb

Edited by Dorothy Thompson.Virago Paperback.

Reviewed by Helen Cram

If you find it difficult to read about nuclear issues, disarmament, the Bomb, but also know that one of the positive things to be done at this time is to be informed, the answer for you may be found in Over our Dead Bodies.

This collection of short writings addresses many aspects of the only nuclear problem which are not often covered by the press or in government statements. They are simply-written and well-documented, with a personal but not overly-emotional tone. Their titles include: “The Effects of Nuclear Bombardments;” “Deterrence and Peace-keeping;” “Civil Defence;” “Nuclear Power and Nuclear Weapons;” “Take the Toys from the Boys;” “Building on the Positives: the USSR;” and “Building on the Positives: USA.”

These writings are unique in one very important respect: they are all written by British women who live with the realisation that nuclear power plants and U.S. Air Force bases housing cruise missiles within relatively short miles from their homes make them very vulnerable in case of war. All the articles were written primarily for the book, and together their aim is to let others know how the writers dealt with their fears, how they discovered that under the feelings of helplessness they had the power to do whatever was appropriate to their own situations. As one said, “We need to inspire others with our will to live.”

In “A voice from the Peace Camps,” Maggie Lowry, 20, says “We are here because we are afraid… afraid of the mindless commitment to destruction that these bases represent. We intend by our presence to remind ordinary people of the need to protest, to gain strength through cooperation, and to achieve the ending of the threat of nuclear war.

Myrtle Solomon, 61, has written “Alternative Defence: Nonviolent Struggle and Peace Building,” an excellent article on non-violent resistance.

The book includes charts and diagrams, a glossary, and notes on sources. Over our Dead Bodies is also attractive with good print.

The book can be borrowed from the CANDIS library at 736 Bathurst St., Toronto. It is also available in the Toronto Public Library system. If your local branch does not have it, request that they obtain it for you through Interloan. The more requests there are, the more copies will be made available!