Thanks to Peer de Rijk for 20 years with WISE

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
Jan Haverkamp

On May 1, Peer de Rijk, for 20 years the director of WISE International and WISE Netherlands, stepped down from his position. Peer always saw himself as someone who is good in starting up things – real feet-on-the-ground initiatives that change the world for the better. On that basis he moved in 1998 from the Dutch Friends of the Earth member Milieudefensie to WISE: he wanted to give a new push to the anti-nuclear movement and combine it with working on alternatives.

In order to strengthen WISE's work, he helped in 2000 to organise a close affiliation between WISE and the US based Nuclear Information and Resource Service (NIRS). With him, WISE continued to play its key role as a quality information provider for the anti-nuclear movement, with Nuclear Monitor being one example of this work.

Peer also used WISE to set up the first and most reliable clean energy ranking site in the Netherlands, including the possibility to change energy providers.1 He pushed for Carbonkiller – an initiative to buy out carbon emission rights from the European ETS system and destroy it.2 He talked me into the GammaSense 2.0 initiative to develop citizens radiation monitoring, with Dutch citizens' innovation group de Waag and the Dutch technical support organisation RIVM.3 Peer motivated people to challenge the impossible and supported them to make it work.

After 20 years, Peer feels it's time for look around for new challenges. He continues his engagement in the establishment of the first zero-carbon fully sustainable boat-house complex in Amsterdam, Schoonschip.4 We hope he will continue his involvement in the anti-nuclear movement.

Being born in Surinam as son of a Dutch parents, a social worker and a lepra doctor, growing up in Kenya on the border with Uganda, his family finally settled in the Netherlands. What drove Peer in the end to WISE cannot be better expressed than in his own words:5

"More or less by coincidence, we landed in Deventer, the beautiful little town on the IJssel River. A large house was bought and we went living in co-housing. A special co-living group, because the entire family was part of it. Not easy for all those others, who for a short or long time lived in Woongroep Springbalsemien; run-away youth without shelter, illegal Moroccans, activists from in and outside the country, lovers from my sisters.

"It looked like a chaotic world, but one where there was every week a 'house meeting', where we shared what occupied us and what we were going to do the next week. My father was active in peace organisations like IKV and the NVMP (the Dutch branch of IPPNW); my mother was active in the Wereldwinkel fair trade shop, women's organisations, helping illegal immigrants, women's sanctuaries; my sisters were active in the first group organising direct actions against nuclear power (Breek Atoomketen Nederland)6; and other housemates were just as engaged and actively fighting injustice.

"It did not come as a surprise when I joined one of Deventer's basic groups against nuclear power at the age of 13.7 Meetings, doing actions; super-cool and interesting. A pressure cooker in which you learn to listen, analyse, debate, agitate, but also learn to compromise. My first demonstration was in 1978 against the extension of the uranium enrichment plant Urenco in Almelo, the first direct action in which I participated was the blockade of the nuclear power station Dodewaard in 1980. I remember above all rain, a lot of mud, the music of Vuile Mong en zijn Vieze Gasten (Filthy Mong and his Dirty Guests), the enormous pots of action kitchen Rampenplan and that I had to run a port-a-phone duty on the dike for half a night during the blockades. After that, you don't want to stop doing actions."

With Peer's departure, WISE continues under the leadership of a new generation. Kirsten Sleven and Kim van de Sparrentak are now co-directors. They are dedicated to continuing WISE's role in the anti-nuclear movement and in the innovation of the clean energy movement. Kirsten led the Carbonkiller project, Kim was the first new-era Dutch crowd-funded campaigner against the Belgian nuclear power stations Tihange and Doel. Together with new volunteers, administrative support from Koert Sondorp, and one day a week support from Jan Haverkamp on anti-nuclear work, WISE is moving to a new future. Its niche may change a bit, but its impact will continue.