February 11, 1997

Student Activists Have a New Line at Middlebury College

An innovative attempt to cut pointless energy use is afoot on college campuses in New England. It's called The Clothesline Plan, an educational activism project of Free The Planet!, the largest national student environmental organization. The Clothesline Plan seeks to educate people about the dangers of nuclear power and the benefits of solar power.

Soon sheets will be hanging on clotheslines at almost every college campus in northern New England. "We intend to air our grievances about nuclear power," said Alexander Lee, the Middlebury College senior primarily responsible for the Clothesline Plan. "I feel that encouraging people to hang out their clothes is a proactive way to respond to our overly consumptive habits and to point out the dangers of nuclear power plants."

Consequently, college students are encouraging people to give up their clothes dryers and use the sun. "Our ultimate goal is to eliminate the need for the electricity generated by nuclear reactors in New England," said Nicole Lanthier '99, who has dedicated hours to coordinating this effort at nearly every accredited university and college in New England. "Clotheslines alone won't be enough, but they will raise consciousness and they are easy for everybody to use. We intend for the idea to catch on beyond college communities." And so, disturbed by the attempts of American corporations to build new reactors in China, and spurred on by the noted Australian activist Dr. Helen Caldicott, the group of students set out to make a difference.

Here in Vermont at Middlebury College, where the movement began, it is planned that a hundred feet of clothesline will hold three sheets inscribed with very clear messages, such as "The Clothesline Plan: A Positive Approach to Change in Your Own Backyard."

Mr. Lee, who went to high school not far from Seabrook, New Hampshire, the home of one of the most controversial reactors in the nation, recounted, "I would bike to Hampton Beach and look at the plant looming about a mile away. I always thought about the possibility of an accident and the impossibility of an escape. There was and is still no reasonable evacuation plan."

Some people are skeptical, but Mr. Lee said, "My mother has always hung out the laundry, even in the middle of winter. Sublimation-that high school chemistry stuff about ice turning to vapor without going through the liquid phase-makes hanging out laundry out possible almost anywhere the sun shines, no matter what time of year."

Where clotheslines are illegal, The Clothesline Plan seeks to make them legal. Free the Planet! also seeks to help the students of this country strengthen their voice through unity, distribution of information, and activism.

For more information about Free The Planet! and The Clothesline Plan, contact Alex Lee at Middlebury College Box 2932, Middlebury, VT 05753; by phone at 802-443-3519; or via email