Santa Barbara may have more nonprofit organizations per capita than almost any other city in the country, but few of them act on an international stage. Among those that do is the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation (NAPF). Now in its 26th year, operating out of a two-story house on Santa Barbara’s upper Eastside and a two-person office in Washington, D.C., NAPF acts in many ways to promote a nuclear weapons-free world: from working to influence America’s nuclear policies by developing relationships with U.S. representatives to founding an international coalition of non-governmental organizations to encourage nuclear disarmament to hosting public lectures in the Santa Barbara area. But despite the 501(c)(3)’s far-reaching work and international alliances, few Santa Barbarans understand the foundation and its aims.
In May 2007, in an effort to develop NAPF’s work here at home-as well as its impact further afield-founder and president David Krieger brought on Steven Crandell as director of development and public affairs. Crandell was raised in Santa Barbara; his father is Larry Crandell, known by many as “Mr. Santa Barbara” for his enthusiastic community involvement. Steven had worked for 20 years as a journalist and television news producer in New Zealand before returning to S.B.; he had a gung-ho, can-do approach, and a passion for promoting NAPF’s cause. Within a couple of months on the job, he was implementing a plan to turn the City of Santa Barbara into a model peace community.
“Polls show that 75 percent of all Americans want the elimination of all nuclear weapons worldwide,” Crandell explained. “If it were your own family in the crosshairs, you’d want to remove the possibility of an accident. But there’s still this old-fashioned idea: ‘I’ve got a big stick; I’ve got power.’ And the nuclear weapon is the ultimate big stick. I think we need fresh ways of thinking about it. Santa Barbara is a good place to start.”
As Crandell saw it, community education was key. And as a seasoned journalist, he knew how to broadcast his plan.
“WANTED,” read the headline of his column in Casa Magazine on December 28, 2007. “30 Santa Barbara County residents willing to become local peace leaders.” Crandell went on to explain his vision: During the course of 2008, NAPF would train 30 members of the community to educate 100 of their friends and colleagues about nuclear weapons and the necessity of peace in the nuclear age. The program, which he dubbed Santa Barbara, A Peace Community, was intended as a model for other cities across the nation, and was linked to NAPF’s national campaign to deliver one million signatures to the new president on Inauguration Day, calling for U.S. leadership in nuclear anti-proliferation and disarmament.
Fast forward to June 2008, six months into the program. Two training meetings have been held with approximately 15 volunteer peace leaders, who have gone into the community to educate others and to share their vision. To date, approximately 15,000 signatures have been gathered for the presidential appeal. And this spring, the Fund for Santa Barbara, a grant foundation that supports progressive, grassroots causes in the community, awarded the program $7,000.
In the face of such a massive goal as global nuclear disarmament, these accomplishments may seem small, but Crandell sees them as the first steps necessary for gathering momentum behind the cause; he talks about the “viral spread” of education, the necessity of developing public opinion, and the power of grassroots organizing. Geoff Green, director of the Fund for Santa Barbara, sees the value in this approach.
“What we like about this program is the base building,” Green said recently. “With most issues and efforts, one of the most important tasks is to have massive amounts of people educated and ready to make a change when the time is right. Obviously, [nuclear disarmament] is going to take all manner of international efforts and negotiations. You need direct action organizers and policy folks, but you also need citizen voters ready to support Plan A over Plan B. That’s what this program points to. If it’s done well, it leads to a lasting result.”
So far, NAPF’s peace leaders include students and retirees, elementary school and college teachers, longtime activists and those brand new to community organizing. A number of peace leaders are in their nineties, a fact that inspired Crandell to pen a series of columns dedicated to honoring their contributions. Among the volunteers are Sherry Melchiore, who has been conducting her own face-to-face campaign by collecting signatures outside Trader Joe’s, and Jon Lemmond, a professor of medieval history at Westmont College who integrated NAPF’s 20-minute educational video into a lecture on morality from a Christian perspective.
Like Krieger, Crandell has a heartfelt approach to his work-he talks and writes more about the meaning behind the mission than about policy and politics. It’s a style that wins hearts, but can seem impractical, given the scale of what needs to be done.
Volunteer peace leader and Santa Barbara County Superior Court Judge Denise de Bellefeuille thinks it’s the nature of the topic. “It’s not sexy to be for peace,” she said. “It’s not juicy, like war. Peace is self-evident. It’s what you see if you go to the Farmers Market and see people buying vegetables and enjoying a beautiful day in Santa Barbara.” Yet de Bellefeuille believes there’s no cause more crucial. “When you think of all the ways humans have mucked up things through violence and war, and when we have the capacity to destroy life as we know it, I think we need to pay attention.”
The Fund for Santa Barbara’s Green also sees the difficulties NAPF faces in winning support, though he interprets the situation slightly differently. “That has always been the challenge to NAPF’s work,” he said. “David Krieger is a writer and a poet. At the same time, he’s working on a big international issue, and it can make it pretty intangible. The question is: How do you connect a huge issue with what the average person can do? I see them addressing that question with this program. And what better place to start off than right here in Santa Barbara?”
The next peace leaders meeting will be held in July at the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation’s Santa Barbara office (1622 Anacapa St.). To register to attend, call 965-3443. For more information on the foundation or to add your signature to the presidential appeal, visit wagingpeace.org.