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Advocate of the Month - Iida Ruishalme

There’s a pretty common origin story that you hear among members of the pro-nuclear movement: Person becomes anti-nuclear. Person studies certain topic to reinforce anti-nuclear position. Person learns more about nuclear. Person becomes pro-nuclear. You could say that Iida Ruishalme had a similar experience when a good friend of hers went to school to study radiochemistry in order to make better arguments against nuclear. Instead she became a proponent of the technology after learning first-hand just how safe our current storage options are. This was the “spark” she says that opened her mind and got her interested in the technology.

Originally from Finland, Iida got her Masters in Biology in Sweden and now lives in Switzerland with her husband and two daughters. A long-time participant in online discussions about climate change and the environment, her interest in nuclear expanded when she read several articles (including this one in Scientific American) that explained exciting new nuclear technologies being designed. The development of reactors that could consume waste left a large impression. “This was a big thing, as it was very hard for me to let go of the fear of the waste. A tech that could get rid of the waste *and* help mitigate climate change *and* reduce deaths from coal in one go? The urgency that we needed to get there was tangible.”

Iida does the difficult work of translating science and her experience with it to those who find it less exciting. She writes a blog called Thoughtscapism that originally focused on medicine and agriculture, and now includes nuclear. Her most popular post to date? Nuclear Waste: Ideas vs Reality. Instead of leaning into the numbers in her post, Iida explains her own journey to learning about nuclear waste. She explains that this is an important exercise in empathy that advocates need to be constantly aware of - especially when speaking with people whose only exposure to the topic comes from decades-old misconceptions. “People don't open up and listen to the evidence I present, unless they feel it is coming from a place of shared values. If they feel they can voice their doubts and be heard, and also see that I am a person who honestly wants to help protect the environment and human lives, we are getting somewhere.

Since beginning to write about nuclear, she has also spent time out on the street as an advocate by helping to organize pro-nuclear events at climate conferences and in the public. Much of her original interest in nuclear was spurred along by her close friends Rauli and Janne: two other Finnish pro-nuclear advocates who were recently featured (with Eric) in David Schumacher’s new documentary The New Fire. “I was invited to a screening of the documentary a month or so before COP23, and its coverage of Eric, Rauli and Janne's efforts reminded me of what I had felt after reading about Paris: here were people trying to do something to change things for the better.

When Iida isn’t sticking up for nuclear, she spends time working on two fantasy-book projects as well as outside jogging, hiking, snowboarding, and climbing. During the Spring and Summer holidays she and her family spend time on her great-great-great grandparents’ farm in Finland where they pick berries, play with dogs, swim, sauna, and make canoe-trips. They also take part in the treasured Finnish pastime of reclaiming pasture from nature: an activity that involves axes, billhooks, and chainsaws - an activity that anyone with Finnish facebook friends has surely enjoyed pictures of.

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