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The Wilderness Society

The Republic of the Marshall Islands is a tiny country in the Pacific Ocean.

Made up of over 1,000 islands and islets and 29 coral atolls, the Marshall Islands are home to just 72,000 people — about half the population of Bridgeport, Connecticut.

Like many Pacific islands, it's a scenic, tropical paradise full of beautiful beachside views and ... wait, what the hell is that?!


Image via GroundTruth.

Oh. Right. That's just a giant concrete dome full of radioactive waste on Enewetak Atoll.

From 1944 to 1979, the Marshall Islands were technically a territory of the United States (who took them from Japan during World War II, who took them from Germany after World War I, who took them from...), and as long as they claimed ownership of these remote islands, the military figured, "Hey, may as well use the space to blow stuff up."

Wasn't the Cold War so much fun?

More than 60 atmospheric nuclear weapons were tested in the Marshall Islands between 1946 and 1962, resulting in a combined 108 megatons of nuclear yield.

That's like the bomb that wrecked Hiroshima times 7,000, or the equivalent of 1.6 atomic bombs dropped every day for 12 years. These tiny islands are home to about 80% of our radioactive waste from nuclear testing.

And about two-thirds of those tests took place on Enewetak Atoll.


The first hydrogen bomb was exploded on Enewetak Atoll as part of Operation Ivy (not to be confused with the seminal but short-lived '80s punk band of the same name). GIF via "Trinity and Beyond: The Atomic Movie."

And, well, they had to do something with all that leftover radioactive material, right?

I imagine the conversation went kind of like this:
"Hey guys, now that we've decided to give this country back to its people, what should we do with the 22 million gallons of nuclear waste that's still here?"

"Eh, just cover it in 18 inches of concrete, and we'll deal with it later."

"Cool beans. You guys wanna grab a beer? First round's on me!"






It might look like the crashed carcass of a UFO from a '90s dystopian sci-fi film, but don't worry; it's just a radically unstable plutonium container. NBD, nothing to see here, move along now thanks. Image via GroundTruth.

The Dome was like a parting gift from the U.S. to the Marshall Islands. But it was never meant to be permanent.

The concrete casing was just a stopgap while the U.S. government figured out something better to do with all those megatons of dangerous nuclear debris.

Which, of course, they never did. But hey, at least they give Marshallese residents some compensation for the impending threats of radiation sickness. Maybe that's why the locals affectionately call the place "The Tomb."

Oh, that's the bad news: the Dome has already cracked, leaking radiation into the soil. A 2013 report by the U.S. Department of Energy found that the earth in the immediate vicinity of the dome was actually more contaminated than its contents.

The worse news is that the entire atoll is about to be submerged beneath the ocean — if a natural disaster doesn't destroy it first.

Image via GroundTruth

Instead of being Ground Zero for nuclear testing, the Marshall Islands are now ground zero for climate change.

With worldwide temperatures continuing to increase and sea levels rising, the Marshall Islands will likely be immersed under water within 85 years.

Our ecosystem is an incredible machine, but when we damage just one crucial part of it, that affects other parts of the environment as well — and that domino effect shows no signs of stopping. This could have something to do with the influx of wild floods and tidal waves throughout the Marshall Islands as well.

If you've ever seen what water does to concrete and stone, then you understand why this might be a problem for those millions of gallons of nuclear waste simmering beneath the Runit Dome.


I'm not necessarily saying that the ocean will erode the concrete of the Runit Dome and dump millions of gallons of radioactive debris into the Pacific Ocean that awaken a vengeful fire-breathing mutant-dinosaur-monster bent on the destruction of Tokyo. But it's not not a possibility. GIF from "Godzilla (2014)."

Here's a short video tour of the ruins of the Runit Dome.

And if you care at about the well-being of the South Pacific, sign this petition to help protect the South Pacific and stop oil companies like BP from causing even more damage to our fragile environment. They might not be quite the same as 22 million gallons of plutonium waste, but they're still a major factor in keeping those 72,000 Marshallese residents from drowning in the wake of human arrogance.

Moricz was banned from speaking up about LGBTQ topics. He found a brilliant workaround.

Senior class president Zander Moricz was given a fair warning: If he used his graduation speech to criticize the “Don’t Say Gay” law, then his microphone would be shut off immediately.

Moricz had been receiving a lot of attention for his LGBTQ activism prior to the ceremony. Moricz, an openly gay student at Pine View School for the Gifted in Florida, also organized student walkouts in protest and is the youngest public plaintiff in the state suing over the law formally known as the Parental Rights in Education law, which prohibits the discussion of sexual orientation or gender identity in grades K-3.

Though well beyond third grade, Moricz nevertheless was also banned from speaking up about the law, gender or sexuality. The 18-year-old tweeted, “I am the first openly-gay Class President in my school’s history–this censorship seems to show that they want me to be the last.”

However, during his speech, Moricz still delivered a powerful message about identity. Even if he did have to use a clever metaphor to do it.

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Photo by Heather Mount on Unsplash

Actions speak far louder than words.

It never fails. After a tragic mass shooting, social media is filled with posts offering thoughts and prayers. Politicians give long-winded speeches on the chamber floor or at press conferences asking Americans to do the thing they’ve been repeatedly trained to do after tragedy: offer heartfelt thoughts and prayers. When no real solution or plan of action is put forth to stop these senseless incidents from occurring so frequently in a country that considers itself a world leader, one has to wonder when we will be honest with ourselves about that very intangible automatic phrase.

Comedian Anthony Jeselnik brilliantly summed up what "thoughts and prayers" truly mean. In a 1.5-minute clip, Jeselnik talks about victims' priorities being that of survival and not wondering if they’re trending at that moment. The crowd laughs as he mimics the actions of well-meaning social media users offering thoughts and prayers after another mass shooting. He goes on to explain how the act of performatively offering thoughts and prayers to victims and their families really pulls the focus onto the author of the social media post and away from the event. In the short clip he expertly expresses how being performative on social media doesn’t typically equate to action that will help victims or enact long-term change.

Of course, this isn’t to say that thoughts and prayers aren’t welcomed or shouldn’t be shared. According to Rabbi Jack Moline "prayer without action is just noise." In a world where mass shootings are so common that a video clip from 2015 is still relevant, it's clear that more than thoughts and prayers are needed. It's important to examine what you’re doing outside of offering thoughts and prayers on social media. In another several years, hopefully this video clip won’t be as relevant, but at this rate it’s hard to see it any differently.

Joy

50-years ago they trade a grilled cheese for a painting. Now it's worth a small fortune.

Irene and Tony Demas regularly traded food at their restaurant in exchange for crafts. It paid off big time.

Photo by Gio Bartlett on Unsplash

Painting traded for grilled cheese worth thousands.

The grilled cheese at Irene and Tony Demas’ restaurant was truly something special. The combination of freshly baked artisan bread and 5-year-old cheddar was enough to make anyone’s mouth water, but no one was nearly as devoted to the item as the restaurant’s regular, John Kinnear.

Kinnear loved the London, Ontario restaurant's grilled cheese so much that he ordered it every single day, though he wouldn’t always pay for it in cash. The Demases were well known for bartering their food in exchange for odds and ends from local craftspeople and merchants.

“Everyone supported everyone back then,” Irene told the Guardian, saying that the couple would often trade free soup and a sandwich for fresh flowers. Two different kinds of nourishment, you might say.

And so, in the 1970s the Demases made a deal with Kinnear that he could pay them for his grilled cheese sandwiches with artwork. Being a painter himself and part of an art community, Kinnear would never run out of that currency.

Little did Kinnear—or anyone—know, eventually he would give the Demases a painting worth an entire lifetime's supply of grilled cheeses. And then some.

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