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Starfish, Fallout Shelters, and Human Rights

Scholars Talk: Linda Richards

Wednesday, March 7, 2012 3:00 PM - 4:00 PM

The public discourse during the Fukushima accident included repeated reassurances that levels of radiation “below background” were harmless and implied that those concerned were irrational. A similar trope as was used to calm the public during the nuclear weapons testing fallout controversy of the 1950s and early 1960s.

How nuclear history is told matters. It is not simply a successive series of controversies over fallout, nuclear power plants, Yucca Mountain, and uranium mining, but an epic human rights struggle against threats of nuclear war and contamination that extends from Hiroshima and Nagasaki to today.

One example of this struggle can be seen in legal history. The "fallout suits" by lead plaintiff Linus Pauling from 1958 to 1964 argued that the consequences of atmospheric nuclear weapons testing and high altitude nuclear tests in space, such as the Starfish 1.4 Megaton nuclear explosion of July 9, 1962, defied international law and the US Constitutional right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

 

Linda M. Richards has been discussing nuclear history, environmental justice, and experimenting with nonviolent conflict resolution in a variety of settings for over 25 years, from the playground to the classroom to the streets. Now as a PhD (ABD) in the History of Science at Oregon State University, she is an Ava Helen and Linus Pauling Scholar in Residence at the OSU Special Collections researching nuclear and human rights history.

 


Valley Library (campus map)
East / West Room
Linda Richards
atomiclinda at gmail.com
School of History, Philosophy, and Religion