John Ellis: Pete Seeger's fight against nukes and GE pollution

  • Posted on: 28 August 2016
  • By: Staff Writers

Photographer and long time CICD supporter John Ellis remembers his encounter with the legendary folk singer Pete Seeger.

While living in New York City in 1996 I attended the 75th birthday celebration of Fr Daniel Berrigan, a radical Catholic Action priest. He and his brother Fr Phillip came to prominence during the American war in Vietnam and later in other struggles for justice and peace.

An added incentive to attend the function was that Pete Seeger would be singing. Some of my images of the event have been shown at some of my exhibitions.

In 1966 Pete and his wife Toshi decided to do something about the industrial waste being poured into the heavily-polluted Hudson River. They formed an organisation called Clearwater and started monitoring the sources of the pollution. Over the years they were successful in stopping much of the waste matter, in particular PCBs which were coming from a General
Electrics plant upriver. At the time, Clearwater was still campaigning against a nuclear power plant at Indian Point just 24 miles upstream from New York City.

I joined Clearwater as a volunteer on another of their sailing boats, the Mystic Whaler. They had a school’s program called ‘Classroom of the Waves’ and have two sailings a day.

My last connection with Clearwater was attending their annual festival held in Westchester County, New York. It was here that I took photos of Ronnie Gilbert and Tom Paxton, both of whom were given receptions by Arts Action for Peace at Marie and Terry Goonan’s house in Alphington in the 1980s.

As the Clearwater Singers strolled around the festival I joined in singing with them as I knew some of their songs. Pete features in a number of my photograph collections.