Since the development of nuclear power, as a spin-off of the nuclear weapons program in the second World War, doubts about safety, radioactive waste and the consequences of radiation were raised. From the beginning of the 1970s popular movements organized protest. One of the many ways to raise awareness was by producing posters. Nearly all political movements, certainly in the past, when internet was not around yet, used posters to tell their message and call for action.
Nuclear energy was sold to the public in the fifties with the promise of abundance and being too cheap to meter and that it would change the world for the better. Minor existing problems would be solved soon (or just disappear due to technological progress) and the promises were endless: nuclear propulsion of ships, planes, trains would make traveling cheap and available for all. Despite 60 years of nukespeak (any euphemisms used when discussing nuclear technology or nuclear war), hundreds of billions euros (or dollars) spent, those promises have not been met.
People oppose nuclear power for good reasons and point the way to alternative, sound and durable solutions for producing energy for decades. From the early 1970s on, anti-nuclear individuals and organizations focused on wind, sun, geothermal power, tidal and numerous other ways to produce energy environmental friendly (abundant maybe, but certainly not too cheap to meter) and sustainable energy scenarios were developed.
Everybody looks at posters, but few really take notice.
When trying to find posters from the anti-nuclear power movement for this project, it became clear that many groups did not collect posters, sometimes not even the ones they produced themselves. That may not be surprising for a movement that functioned almost always without fixed organizational structures, large offices and strong hierarchy. But because of that, much of the rich cultural heritage of the movement is lost, especially on a local level; and the anti-nuclear movement was and still is mainly organised on a local level.
Most of us are not interested in posters from an historical or aesthetic perspective. But it is important to recognize the importance of the poster as an educational, organizing, and consciousness-raising tool. And to understand the power of art and the politics of culture.
Printing posters a thing of the past?
Nowadays, in the internet era, the heydays of printed posters seems to be more and more a thing of the past. The 'habit' of young people in the climate movement to individually make a (written statement on a) board certainly contributes to this. Although a beautiful reflection of the individual thoughts and demands, also a pity, because posters provide a strong message and a uniform appearance of that message. And posters can be very helpful reaching out at people who are not per se participating in a movement, because it becomes part of the public space.