Dave Martin

The news has been expected for a long time, but is no less sad when it finally comes.  That clever, funny, stubborn, committed, wonderful man, Dave Martin has died.

Some of you will know Dave from his role with the climate campaign with Greenpeace Canada, and a few of you will remember him from his earlier work on nuclear issues, and a very few may remember him from his work in the disarmament movement.

I first met Dave in 1985, in the lead up to forming a national peace movement in Canada.  Back then, Canada was building and testing the guidance system for nuclear equipped cruise missiles, was the largest producer of Uranium (much of which was entering military stockpiles) and was also aggressively promoting the Candu reactor -- a type that carries particular proliferation risks.   There was a lot to be done, and Dave was up for it!  I was impressed at his boundless energy, his quirky sense of humour and his technical knowledge on nuclear issues.

Famously, Dave met his partner, Irene Kock, at a peace rally, where he impressed her with his facility with a megaphone!  Irene and Dave established an anti-nuclear group in the heartland right between two nuclear power plants, near Toronto, and close to the still operating plant where uranium was refined for the Manhattan project.

Working in this semi-rural area where much employment depended on the nuclear industry was a brave move, but they built - in the upstairs of their small house - a centre of expertise on nuclear issues, and managed to find a few like-minded folk living in the region.  This citizens group - unmistakably led by Dave and Irene - provided much needed balance in the local and national debate on nuclear power.

Dave and Irene were a formidable double act and became the backbone of the anti-nuclear movement in Canada. Irene produced painstakingly accurate technical briefings, fact sheets and other information, and Dave took that information and was always there with a quotable quote, a handy explanation or a quick shut-down of the latest idiocy from the nuclear industry.  The couple survived on not much money -- a little bit of foundation grants, a small amount of direct fundraising and occasionally a contract or bit of assistance from Greenpeace.

On one of these contracts, in the 1990's, Dave toured Turkey, working with Greenpeace in opposition to plans to site a Candu reactor in that country -- it would have been built right on a fault line!  His tour of small towns and villages, as well as his obvious expertise and ability to explain the flaws of the reactor design type, were key to the nuclear plan being rejected.

Irene died very tragically in 2002, aged just 40, and Dave's heart was broken.  He continued to work on anti-nuclear projects, producing valuable information, but it was clearly a hard, painful slog without Irene's sparkling presence.  Eventually he sought to move, and Greenpeace Canada was lucky to get him as a nuclear campaigner.  He continued in that role, then as Climate and Energy Coordinator and finally as Energy Policy Analyst.  Dave overcame the sadness of the loss of Irene, and led a very full life.

While he was working as the nuclear campaigner for Greenpeace Canada, Dave and I developed a bit of a routine.  He had a fascination with wanting to send a climber up the flagpole outside the headquarters of Ontario Hyrdo – the electric utility which is responsible for most of the nuclear plants in Canada.  “It’s a tactic, Dave”, I’d say - “show me the strategy”.   Dave took to showing up in my office with fantastical convoluted strategies that inevitably led to University Avenue, Toronto, outside the HQ of Ontario Hydro, and the climbing of the damn flagpole!

Dave had fought a long battle with cancer, the diagnosis coming after Irene's death, and the news that he would not recover from this coming some years ago.  At the last Greenpeace international climate and energy meeting that Dave attended, he and I found a few minutes to talk about it.  He said 'well everyone knows they are going to die, I just know that for me it's sooner than later'. I told him that I would miss him if he died before me, as I miss Irene still.

There was one skill that Dave possessed which was only apparent late at night after quite a lot of whisky.  Although he could not play the piano in any conventional sense, he could sit at a keyboard and produce a sort of freeform jazz music that was entrancing to listen to - he called it 'noodling'.  He could go on for hours like that, as long as the whisky was brought to him.

So Dave, friend, expert, colleague, musical freak - go well. I miss you.


Story about Dave Martin on Greenpeace Canada website