The Van Sticker

It was a smiley orange sun on a yellow background. That was such a happy picture. But the words were scary. ‘Nuclear Power? No Thanks’. I was only 9, but my dad was intent on getting my brother and me into green politics. As a candidate for the national Green Party, he had an allotment, made his own bread, cycled to work and wanted to keep a pig in the garden. My stepmother put a stop to that.

And then there was the sticker, on the back of the camper van that he drove about with us bumping around in the back, as he swore at all other road users. We learnt new phrases, and felt a little sick on our holiday trips to mid Wales. The Centre for Alternative Technology was a place we visited several times. We got one of those things for making soap bars out of the leftover bits no one wants to use, had a go making newspaper briquettes and, mainly, worried. One holiday, we had a jolly trip to Sellafield.

In the early 80s, Raymond Briggs published When the Wind Blows, a chillingly sad picture book about nuclear war. The Day After was on the TV, which my brother and I watched, although my best friend’s mum wouldn’t let her join us. Too frightening, she said. And so, before I was old enough even to go to Big School, I was sad, worried, and scared. If we didn’t go Green, we risked nuclear fallout from the power stations. Nuclear power stations meant nuclear weapons, and the sinister friendship between Reagan and Thatcher would inevitably lead to Armageddon.

That fear has stayed with me, framing how I see my own, and global energy practice. I now have solar panels on my house, grow veg, keep hens and ducks, and feel guilty about my attachment to shower gel. My dad never got a pig, and my husband won’t let me have one either. But at least I don’t have to make soap out of horrid old bits rotting in the soap dish anymore.

The sticker, on the back of that old van, stays on in my memory: the possibility of a bright future or a very very scary one.

Rachel, South Wales

smiley sticker

And so, before I was old enough even to go to Big School, I was sad, worried, and scared.”