Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Let’s Nuke Nuclear

By Nicole Cruz

Does anyone really know what nuclear is, or what it really does? If we’re being honest, I didn’t know anything about it. And sure you’ll hear some people say that nuclear is a good thing and you’ll hear the opposite from the others, but nuking nuclear would be beneficial if we don’t want to hurt our planet as well as ourselves.

Full Body Burden by Kristen Iversen talks about the “Nuclear Family”, from her perspective and what it felt like growing up near Rocky Flats, a nuclear power plant. It’s a gripping memoir that switches from destructive family secrets (her father’s alcoholism), “When my mother asks me later if we stopped at the liquor store, I say no. I know what not to say, what subjects are taboo, and what secrets must remain secrets.” As well as the destructive government secrets (cancer); “Dow Chemical has left Rocky Flats after two decades of accidents, plutonium releases, and safety problems, most of which are still hidden under the cloak of Cold War secrecy. Now that Rockwell has stepped in, it’s business as usual.” I really enjoyed the tone, and the personal connection makes the reader, at least in my case, care more about the effects of nuclear. It’s when the fire breaks out on Mother’s Day that sets the start of the story forward because of all the plutonium released into the atmosphere.

While Full Body Burden is a personal account on nuclear energy, the documentary Into Eternity discusses the effects nuclear emissions have and the damage it can cause showing the waste management at Onkalo. It’s scary because just like in Full Body Burden the results that can occur with the use of nuclear power is serious. There were the cases of cancer spreading in children throughout the small town of Rocky Flats, Colorado, and the fact that people exposed to the nuclear waste won’t realize they’re sick until it’s too late.

Into Eternity does a very good job at depicting the harmful effects of nuclear power visually. The overall tone is very ominous and doom and gloom. There is one thing in particular that the director, Michael Madsen, does that is very powerful and really encapsulates the message the film is trying to get across. He lights a match and speaks directly into the camera while he’s “in a place you shouldn’t be,” and talks until the light goes out and the viewer is left looking into darkness. It’s creepy and I got to admit it made me feel like I was watching some sort of horror flick, which is what I take to be the point. The documentary is from an objective point of view, but that doesn’t mean it’s any less effective. In fact with dreary undertone and dark colors, it makes it more effective.

 Even after all this, still some people will tell you to use nuclear energy. They’ll say it’s better for the planet than carbon emissions and it’s what we as a society should look into to fix the climate change problem. On April 22, 2015, CNN posted this article, “Obama should embrace nuclear energy” by U.S. Senator Jim Inhofe, that dismissed the Obama Administration because they weren’t moving forward with nuclear energy to use as the climate change solution. The article talks about how much better nuclear is than carbon, but fails to mention why Obama would not use nuclear or its downsides. It clearly paints the picture that nuclear energy is our solution without showing what Into Eternity brought into light.

This time lapse video of every nuclear explosion since 1945 is a must watch, especially if you’re on the fence about the use of nuclear energy. It’s slow going at first and is fifteen minutes long, but the ticking before the explosions go off is almost as creepy and effective as Into Eternity. As the video moves further and further along, the ticking increases as well as the explosions and it’s just really powerful to watch as the nuclear explosions reflect the time progression.

However the most powerful short film we watched had to be Blind. Watching this horrible version of a contaminated future was downright depressing, not to mention the story behind it. The most moving moment was when the backdrop changed and he was left alone with his deceased daughter. I think the quote at the end of the film best exemplifies the truth about nuclear and why we need to be more aware of what’s going on, “Turning away from today’s reality will blind our future.”

After watching and reading all that I have, it’s hard to believe that nuclear power would be any good. Just imagine if you were that nuclear family? Or just lived in that neighborhood near Rocky Flats? I just picture my pets becoming ill because of this exposure and not knowing until there was nothing left to do. It’s hard, so if you’re confused I don’t blame you. Senator Inhofe, makes a persuasive argument and I’m sure others who agree will give you more of the same. Still I think getting rid of nuclear energy, or rather nuking nuclear, is a safer bet. I don’t want to live in the future Into Eternity and Blind painted, and I don’t want to have to experience what Kristen Iversen endured.

A Nuclear World

By Luke Schmitz

Isao Hashimoto created a short video that shows all of the nuclear explosions between 1945-1998 called Atom Bomb-A Time Lapse Map of Every Nuclear Explosion Since 1945.   The video was incredibly haunting, while being almost musical simultaneously.  It began with simply the clicking of time, which was counted by the months of the year.   I felt that this introduction was almost eerie in a sense because it was so quiet, with the simple ticking sound of time along with an explosion noise from each nuclear explosion.  It started out slow, which was what I would have expected because prior to this, I feel that you are unaware of how many explosions have occurred.  However, shortly after, the explosions become like musical sounds because they are so frequent, and the ticking of time acts as a metronome that is constant and subtle.  I felt that it was easy to forget about what you were watching because it felt so similar to a song.  However, it was that effect that made the video so haunting because once you remember that those sounds represent nuclear explosions, it is almost impossible to comprehend how many explosions have taken place.  The video was certainly eye opening, especially when it is shown that the United States has 1,032 nuclear explosions, which was the most of any country.

Full Body Burden is written by Kristen Iversen and explains her story of the Rocky Flats nuclear site.  I thought this novel was interesting because it shows Kristen’s perspective as a child, which shows her innocence.  However, I thought that you could almost compare her innocence and lack of knowledge to the adults in the book.  In the first chapter, it proceeds to say how the elected officials in the area are clueless to the new plant being built in Colorado.  I found this to be interesting because you would think that elected officials should be the first people to learn about huge plants being built, and even they were left in the dark about the plant.  This was a good representation of how big business can have more power than politicians and the government.  I also thought that the book shows how adults have the same lack of information that Kristen has.  On page 12, Kristen asks her mother what Rocky Flats is, and her mother's response is, “I don’t know...It’s run by Dow Chemical.  I think they make cleaning supplies.  Scrubbing bubbles or something.”  I thought that this was a great example of how misinformed the people of the community are and how her mother’s response is almost innocent and something you would hear from a child.  

The use of children seems to be a common theme when discussing nuclear disaster.  I feel as if children are used because they are innocent and shouldn’t have to face the future disasters that nuclear explosions could bring.  The K.I.R. video  Blind is another video that uses children.  The video features a man’s future child who has health problems due to a post-nuclear war.  Once he sees his child’s deteriorated health, he realizes how devastating the world is that he is living in.  I feel like using children in the media is a good way to make an impact because people feel bad for children and can relate to wanting to keep their children safe from harm.  

Into Eternity, directed by Michael Madsen is a movie about Finland creating a nuclear waste site designed underground.  Personally, I found the movie to be ominous and almost frightening.  The movie is very dull in color and has many sounds and beats that are very eerie.  I personally did not like this film because I thought that it was a little difficult to watch due to the lack of music, monotone voices and the fact that every scene seemed so grey.  The scare tactic and monotone voices would have been more effective in a shorter film and would have kept my attention better.  I feel like the full-length movie was simply too long and a bit boring to be as effective as it could have been.

An article on called, “Exclusive-Britain told U.N. monitors of Active Iran Nuclear Procurement: panel,” was written by Louis Charbonneau April 30, 2015.  It shows the concern that the U.K. has for Iranian nuclear control.  I certainly understand the concern that they might have because they don’t want Iran to use any nuclear power for violence.  However, I feel like the U.K. is being hypocritical because they have nuclear control themselves.  Not only that, but according to the video by Hashimoto, the U.K. is responsible for 45 nuclear explosions between 1945-1998.  I feel like a country that is responsible for so many nuclear explosions shouldn’t have so much concern for another country having nuclear control.  I think that this shows just the power of the media because they make Iran seem like the bad guys, when in reality, the U.K. is not an angel by any means.

Ignorance is Bliss

By Brian Khaneyan

As a child I was afraid of the dark. It’s not unusual to be afraid of the dark, but it is somewhat irrational. Fear of the dark comes from fear of the unknown. I may have known that there weren’t any actual monsters that were going to grab me in the darkness at night, but the simple fact that I couldn’t see and verify it for myself outweighed my rationality. But why was I not afraid before I turned the lights off? Why didn’t the fact that someone or something could be hiding, waiting for me to turn the lights off bother me until I actually turned the lights off? The fact of the matter is that it is human nature to simply not care about anything but the present. If something is unable to harm me right now, I could care less. When discussing the effects of our current nuclear situation, this is an incredibly fatal flaw.

The first work reviewed this week is Atom bomb - A Time-Lapse Map of Every Nuclear Explosion Since 1945 by Isao Hashimoto. Isao Hashimoto is a Japanese artist. When analyzing an animation such as this, it’s important to take into account who created it. An interview with Wired’s Duncan Geere, Hashimoto stated that he created the project to show “the fear and folly of nuclear weapons.” It’s clear how he has done this in several ways. First the entire animation is very antique looking. It looks like a system screen from “War Games.” This initially makes it somewhat intimidating. The audio as each month ticks by is also very intimidating, it is similar to a bomb ticking sound. Next, when the years switch it is an even deeper tone, but still as ominous.  The next thing that stuck out to me were when a lot of explosions occurred. The sound gets so loud that it clips off, creating an even more jarring sound. The data shown in this video is scary. Nuclear explosions and testing is something that we, as a society need to be incredibly careful about. Videos like this that are designed to be unsettling are a good way to inform the public of a problem that we have been neglecting.
The next work is the film “Into Eternity.” This film has very interesting cinematography. The narrator addresses the audience in a shot only lit by a single match. He speaks very slowly, and in a very ethereal voice. He is telling us a spooky story by the campfire. This tone continues throughout the film. Techniques were used throughout the film that gave it a very dark overtone. Black and white images were used, and even crude drawings and “spooky” art were used throughout the film to give it a very ominous feel. Lastly, the color tone of the movie was incredibly dark. Color correction is a technique film makers can use to give a film a certain feel. For instance, The Dark Knight and Man of Steel were both very bleak and dark looking films. This was used to give the movies a grittier feel, and the difference between the natural color and the recolor in Man of Steel can be seen here. A similar effect was used in this film. The grittier feel and darker colors add to the “spookiness” of “Into Eternity.” Overall I think the film had the desired effect. It left me more curious and cautious of our nuclear situation.

Full Body Burden” by Kristen Iversen uses different techniques to inform the reader of the dangers of nuclear technology. One of the main themes in this nonfiction narrative is the coincidence of the nuclear Rocky Flats, and the deterioration of Kristen’s family. As the contaminations and problems that arise from Rocky Flats get worse, Kristen’s family seems to grow further apart. Furthermore, the entire town seems to simply not acknowledge that the nuclear plant is having an impact on their town. Everybody knows that it is harmful, but nobody does anything about it for the first half of the book. This is the same human characteristic mentioned earlier. It simply didn’t affect anyone in a major way… up until it did. So why was everyone so secretive about Rocky Flats? Once again, it’s important to note who created the piece, and how the piece was created. Iversen published the book in 2012. The story took place from when she was a child up until she was a young adult. Iversen wrote the book after she had time to reflect on the situation and gather her thoughts as an educated adult. Perhaps the true story isn’t exactly as it was written, and perhaps Iversen remembers the secrecy and is amplifying it in her re-telling of the story. She is using the fact that nobody did anything back then to parallel to current day. Her effort in conveying this fact suggests to the reader that this could already be happening in their lives, and that they need to re-evaluate their situation and take action.

 The last work is “Blind,” a short film. The film uses jump cuts and distorted audio clips to give it a surreal feeling at the beginning. It shocks the viewer with scary looking gas masks that are used to shield people from the contaminated air. It’s a complete change of society, everyone must wear the masks. This shows the effect that nuclear technology could have on our world, it can change our everyday tasks. The film then pulls on the heartstrings with flashbacks of a happier time. It essentially asks, “what if we could forget about this bleak reality, and go back to when everything was perfect?” The purpose of this flashback is to show the viewer that we live in that world now, and that the future holds great potential, and that potential is in our hands.

All the works I reviewed use fear as a technique to persuade the audience to take a stand against nuclear energy and technology. Speaking personally, I don’t think this is a great way to convey information to people for most stories. Simply scaring the masses into believing something doesn’t work. But another thing that doesn’t work is our current system of information. John Rosenthal from the Huffington Post wrote an article on the 25th anniversary of Chernobyl. In this article, the same fear tactic is seemingly used: “Radiation is invisible and knows no boundaries. It's commonly accepted in scientific circles that there is no safe level of radiation and all radiation, including low doses, is cumulative and can cause cancer.” But this isn’t a fear tactic, this is the simple truth. The faster the general public understands this message, the quicker we will be able to solve this problem. If these films are able to convince people that they should be afraid, and even fear for their life, and actually cause change, then I completely support the style in which they are filmed, even though I normally would not. The last paragraph of the article sums up our dire situation well: “Meanwhile, as we blindly accept the lies and misinformation about nuclear power, we're force-fed the nuclear industry's invisible and deadly radiation without even knowing it or being able to prove where our cancer, potentially years down the road, came from.”

The Burden of Nuclear Secrets: Buying Organic Can’t Save You

By Isabelle Naimo

A focus on personal health has become more popular recently. More people are willing to spend the extra cash on organic and non-GMO food; yoga has become a popular exercise to decrease the stress of everyday life and it seems like many prioritize fitness in general. I’m not an exception to this – I’m borderline obsessed with making sure I’m eating a whole food, plant-based diet, as much as possible. If I do eat something processed my anxiety gets so high that I almost convince myself that I will get cancer from it. And my obsession doesn’t stop with nutrition. I’ve completely rid my cosmetics and personal hygiene items of any scary, hard-to-pronounce chemicals that can wreck havoc on health. Basically, if it’s not good enough for me to eat, it’s not good enough to put on my skin either.

I almost started to believe I was truly a healthy person… until I realized how everyone and everything on this earth are connected. Herbicides and pesticides, air pollution, superfunds, the list is endless. So many toxins everyday surround us and they’re finding their way into our bodies through the water and soil. I have spent so much time focused on quality skincare and organic food that I’m totally blindsided by one of the largest threats – nuclear waste.

Into Eternity was honestly like watching a horrifying prelude to another installment of The Chernobyl Diaries. The documentary focuses on storing nuclear waste underground and whether or not that’s even possible.  Nuclear waste lasts for up to 100,000 years so in order for it to be safely stored underground – out of sight, out of mind – it would have to go that long untouched, and nothing in human history has been undisturbed for that long.

The particular site in question is called Onkalo or “hiding place.” Into Eternity is unique because Director Michael Madsen attempts to narrate towards future generations. This trait ultimately connects to another troubling fact – if Onkalo has to withstand 100,000 years, how will people of future generations learn about its dangers? Call me a “Debbie Downer” but it almost seems inevitable that someone is going to mess with it and unleash havoc on all of Finland (or the world?). And even besides human intervention, the underground wasteland has to endure 100,000 years of earthquakes and other natural disasters. Madsen interviews several different people throughout the film and while there are no answers, the one thing that remains universal is that the dangers of Onkalo are frightening, worth addressing, and in the end a complete mystery.

Blind, an emotional Japanese short film, makes me think of what nuclear sites like Onkalo have in store for us in the upcoming years. The video follows a man throughout his everyday activities – the only peculiarity being that everyone is wearing gas masks. The man encounters a little girl who takes off her mask, exposing stitches on her neck. The stitches made me think that the toxic air the girl has been inhaling into her lungs since birth were the cause. The film ends with a powerful message, “turning away from today’s reality will blind our future.”

Another YouTube-found video exposing nuclear issues is “A Time-Lapse Map of Every Nuclear Explosion Since 1945” by Isao Hashimoto. The video documents nuclear explosions around the globe from 1945 to 1998 and keeps a tally of each one. It was unsettling, to say the least, to see just how frequently and widespread these explosions are. The end tally is 2,053 explosions. Obviously the video isn’t up to date which may the most unsettling thing about it.

If I could describe Kristen Iversen’s Full Body Burden in one word it would be: real. I wasn’t a fan of the futuristic fantasy world created in The Year of The Flood so it was refreshing to be welcomed into Iversen’s quaint hometown of Arvada, Colorado. However, Full Body Burden isn’t just Iversen’s autobiography into her childhood. She does welcome the reader into her family’s lives: her father the lawyer, her mother the stay-at-home mom, her siblings and the family pets. But she also talks about a nearby nuclear plant, Rocky Flats, where many local fathers found employment. This contrast in narrative left me intrigued; it added mystery and a touch of intense journalism. I also really enjoy the “Pleasantville” sort of aspect – wholesome family residing in a picturesque neighborhood but in reality there are secrets brewing behind closed doors. 

Rocky Flats was actually responsible for nuclear accidents that clouded the air of nearby cities and caused cancer, birth defects, and poisoned water supply. Iversen finds herself ill due to the “full body burden” of living near Rocky Flats. She eloquently relates the dangers of toxic waste to the dangers of keeping secrets; “My family never talks about feelings … It’s hard to take something seriously if you can’t see it, smell it, touch it, or feel it.” For those who weren’t experiencing the effects of Rocky Flats first hand, it was easy to criticize and ignore the signs.

Iversen also comes clean about secrets within her family. As stated previously, they never spoke about feelings. That sense of secrecy applied to her father’s alcoholism and her mother’s addiction to prescription pills, far from the “Pleasantville” image previously created. In an interview with the website Read It Forward, Iversen states how talking about such private topics in the novel actually brought her clarity about the circumstances.

Perhaps one of the most frightening things about nuclear explosions and toxic waste is what Iversen says about Rocky Flats – “We weren’t supposed to know … and now we’re supposed to forget it ever existed.” As seen in Isao Hashimoto’s video, nuclear explosions happen all around the globe. A site similar to Rocky Flats could be in our own backyards and yet many of us continue to live as if our health isn’t being threatened everyday. Our homes are becoming a wasteland of nuclear toxins. So, when will we begin to educate our neighbors and ourselves? When will we begin to address the secrets?