By Kate Schachter
With the amount of attention, time, money and diplomatic effort being poured into the Pacific today, this timely webinar on October 21, 2023 highlighted Returned Peace Corps Volunteer (RPCV) experiences in the RMI. Hosted by RPCVs for Environmental Action, “Bikini-Enewetak’s Heartbreak: Climate Change Driving the Atomic Afterlife” featured the experiences of the Republic of Marshall islands (RMI) RPCVs and country nationals from one of our country’s most critical militaristic partners in the Pacific theatre. We also heard from an important peace and anti-nuclear ally, Veterans for Peace - Golden Rule Project and Veterans for Peace Chapter 161 Iowa City.
View the panel presentation on our Youtube channel.
The RMI hosted 149 Peace Corps Volunteers from 1966 to 1996. They arrived in the middle of this nuclear timeline:
- 1946-1958: the United States tested 67 nuclear weapons on the atolls of Bikini and Enewetak.
- 1966-1996: Peace Corps Volunteers served in RMI.
- 1978: Two decades after testing ended, contaminated waste was collected and dumped in the Runit Dome on Enewetak Atoll.
- 2012: A UN report stated that the effects of this testing were long-lasting and still affect the Marshallese.
- ...a continuing story
Today, the impacts of climate change have eroded the collection dome’s walls and nuclear waste is contaminating the ocean. We heard the stories from the people who work and live there, past and present. We learned what we can do today to advocate for a just future.
This select speaker panel offered personal and direct experience about the effect of nuclear testing on the people and environment of RMI.
- Mel Siegel - Moderator, Board member of RPCV4EA
- Kathy Jetnil-Kijiner - by video, Anointed, RMI national, performance artist and poet
- Jo-Jikum - RMI youth group focused on empowerment to protect the environment and climate and address their nuclear legacy, introduced by Jack Niedenthal
- Ataji Balos - former Senator in RMI Nitijela (the parliament of the country)
- Keola Downing - RPCV RMI and interpreter for Mr. Balos
- Sally Clark - RPCV RMI and advocate for the Marshallese
- Jack Niedenthal - RPCV RMI, former Secretary of Health & Human Services in RMI
- Art Roche - Veterans for Peace - Golden Rule Project, crew member on the Golden Rule and advocate for Marshallese diaspora in Dubuque
- Brady Fergusson - Vice President of RPCV4EA, and co-Chair of the Citizens’ Climate Action (CCL) Peace Corps Action Team
- Dylan Hinson – Treasurer of RPCV4EA, Training and Support for Letters to the Editor advocacy campaigns
Take Action Today!
- Sign up and find the action sheet for the November 9, 2023 Letters to the Editor event here: https://www.rpcv4ea.org/events/writing-letters-to-the-editor-on-nuclear-weapon-abolition-1
- Use this click-to-send tool to ask Congress to take action and pass the Nuclear Weapons Abolition and Conversion Act (H.R. 2775): https://advocacy.peacecorpsconnect.org/email-congress#/101
- Contact Vice President Harris and request that she issue an apology to the Marshall Islands for the damage done during US nuclear testing.
- Donate to Jo-Jikum, the Marshall Islander youth group dedicated to meeting the unique environmental and climate challenges of their nuclear legacy. We have $1,000 in matching grants that support Jo-Jikum. Help us maximize their donation.