For 12 years spanning 1946-58, America exploded 68 nuclear tests on Marshall Island (Barker 23). The tests contributed to America’s military advancement especially with the success of the atomic bomb and its subsequent use to end World War 2. However, the success was only to the Americans. The test yielded serious social, cultural, health, and economic ramifications that persist up to today. Some of the effects have been devastating and tragic, something that has been acknowledged by the government of the United States which has proceeded to roll out compensation for the victims. Observers have raised questions over the compensation and its adequacy on one side, and the acceptance by Americans that the tests were unethical and grossly heinous to the residents of the small Island. This paper will explore the effects of nuclear contamination on Marshall Islanders, strategies they have used to cope with these effects, and the lessons on inter-cultural conflict.
Nuclear tests conducted by the Americans caused the displacement of people from their original ancestral land. Residents relocated from tests areas to safer areas. For instance, Rongelap and Ulrik residents moved to escape the effects of an atomic detonation labeled “Bravo” (Barker 34). The separation of people with their ancestral land leads to social and cultural disruption as they attempt to settle in new places. The emission of radioactive substances exposed people to adverse health conditions such as nausea and skin irritation. The contamination suffered then persists up to today. This is manifest in high cancer infection rates, heart diseases, and anemia among other ailments. Contamination of food, water, plants, and air continued to unleash tragic effects, though it is agreeable that the present radiation levels pose no danger to life (Barker 38). Several ethical concerns emerge from the tests. Although America informed Marshall’s government and people of the tests, it deliberately withheld the consequences emanating from the tests.
Marshall Islanders have used several means to redress the effects of the contamination. They have pursued monetary compensation for harms inflicted on them. The United States government has spent an estimated $ 350 million on compensation (Barker 45). The Islanders have also sought decontamination of water bodies and other contaminated areas. Additionally, they have sought clean-ups of affected areas. Clean-ups aim to restore vast track of land and water resources that were rendered unviable for economic activities. The establishment of cancer and disease centers has mitigated adverse health effects. The United States has rolled out medical programs to provide medical care for residents. Additionally, it has funded scientific studies to determine the residual effects of radiation. The studies aim to prevent future infections. The question of displacement from ancestral land is however largely unresolved.
Nuclear testing on Marshall Island offers crucial lessons on how to manage intercultural conflicts. As mentioned earlier, atomic bomb tests led to the separation of people from their original land. The declaration of Bikini Atoli as a world heritage center by UNESCO will help in the preservation of the culture of the Bikini people (Barker 50). There is recognition that each community has its own version of the effects of the tests. Solutions have therefore been tailor-made for problems as articulated by particular communities. This is a crucial lesson for any place with inter-cultural conflicts. The role of education cannot be overstated. It goes a long way into socializing people to foster a common consciousness that overrides community sense of belonging.
Barker, Holly M. Bravo for the Marshallese: Regaining Control in a Post-Nuclear, Post-Colonial World. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth, 2013. Print.