downwind

“‘Blaneberry’ underground nuclear test – December 1970” by The Official CTBTO Photostream is licensed under CC BY 2.0

While researching my newest book, I was haunted by the notion of human sacrifice and what those two words actually mean. My story, PROJECT 57, is a fictionalized account of an actual event, a fraction of the above-ground testing conducted in the Nevada desert during the 1950s. But truth is not only stranger than fiction sometimes, it can be scarier. Imagine being in the army during this time and suddenly you find yourself marching toward a radioactive mushroom cloud spiraling into the atmosphere. You have no idea what the risks are, but there is no choice. You follow orders. Later, you develop cancer. Most, if not all, of your buddies who were with you at ground zero, are dead or dying of something similar to your own disease.

And then there were the people in the neighborhood – those that lived downwind of the Nevada Test Site – who were not even asked if they wouldn’t mind sucking in that poisoned air or having their livestock and crops contaminated. Granted, the Atomic Energy Commission didn’t have a lot of data in the early days of atomic testing, but the U.S. Government had seen Hiroshima and Nagasaki and it decided that staying ahead of the Soviet Union justified human sacrifice.

Now, there are innumerable instances of people living in close proximity to polluting corporations and the resultant cancers and deaths that coincide with those unlucky residents. Their sacrifices are just as real and equally horrible. Yet the legacy of above-ground testing seems to never end. Those Americans are still suffering the effects of living downwind. There is no “clean-up” or sanctions that can be imposed on this polluter. My heart goes out to them.

I ran across this article by Mary Dickson, a Salt Lake City writer (and downwinder) and thought you might find it interesting: https://healthcare.utah.edu/huntsmancancerinstitute/news/2020/09/all-americans-are-downwinders–a-cancer-survivor-speaks-out-against-nuclear-testing.php