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The Nuclear Weapons Tests on the Marshall Islands Essay

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Updated: Jan 24th, 2020


The Nuclear weapons is the most devastating weapon to ever be invented by humankind. This weapon is capable of causing great destruction to human lives and the environment. During the development phase of the nuclear weapon, the US government engaged in numerous testing for this weapon.

Most of these tests were carried out in remote locations under the control of the US. One of these locations is the Marshall Islands that are found in the northern Pacific Ocean. Barker reports that between 1946 and 1958, “the US government tested 67 atomic and thermonuclear weapons in the Marshall Islands” (4).

While these tests helped in the development of the nuclear technology, they had lasting adverse effects on the Marshallese and their country. This paper will use the information presented by Barker to discuss the impact of nuclear contamination to the Marshall Islanders, highlight strategies used to cope with the nuclear testing and finally reflect on what this case can teach us on inter-cultural conflict and how to manage it.

Legacy Effects of Nuclear Contamination

The nuclear testing resulted in the alienation of the Marshallese people from their land. For the inhabitants of Marshal Islands, land is the most important resource and it has both social and economic value.

Barker observes that land not only provides the resources necessary for survival but it also acts as a link for cultural maintenance by the Marshallese people (9). The inhabitants of Marshall Islands were deprived of their land by the nuclear tests conducted by the US. The nuclear testing program led to the contamination of some of the land owned by the Marshallese people.

The dangerous levels of radiation caused by the tests led to the forced evacuation of people from home and land. In some cases, the US authorities tried to return sections of the population back to their original islands. However, these efforts were hampered by reports that indicated that the soil still had dangerous levels of radioactive elements.

Exposure to radiation from the nuclear test activities led to a number of long-term health consequences for the Marshallese people. This exposure increased the risk of developing cancer by the Island population. The Marshallese people are more susceptible to thyroid cancer due to exposure to nuclear radiations.

There is a well-established link between radiation exposure and this form of cancer and its effects can emerge many years after exposure (Barker 157). In addition to cancer, the nuclear tests led to a repression of the body’s immune system for some people. Individuals afflicted with this condition need to receive constant medication to assist their bodies fight off common illnesses.

The contamination of land led to a loss of self-sufficiency by the Marshallese people. About 50% of the people in the Marshal Islands engage in agriculture. Through farming, people were able to gain a livelihood and feed their families.

However, the nuclear tests led to a contamination of the land and food grown on this land contains radioactive elements. People were therefore forced to stop farming since the food crops obtained from the land were poisoned. Barker reveals that the Marshallese population was deprived of income leading to negative impacts on household economies (66).

Strategies for Coping with Problems Caused by Nuclear Testing

The Marshall Islanders have used the political stage to demand justice from the US government. It has been acknowledge that the radioactive contamination of the Marshall Islands was a direct result of the US nuclear testing programs. The Marshallese government has engaged independent researchers to determine the scale of destruction caused by the testing program.

Using this information, the government has demanded justice from the US. To redress the issue, the US has been forced to make compensations to the Marshall Islanders. The compensation includes monetary benefits for those suffering because of the testing and medical services for conditions associated with the nuclear tests. The political body has also engaged in advocacy to help mitigate the effects of the nuclear testing.

Education efforts have been used to raise awareness on the impact that nuclear testing had on the nation and its people. The government and education facilities have increased research efforts on the nation’s nuclear history. Barker documents that through local research efforts, the nation has learnt a lot about its nuclear testing history (140). Public awareness about nuclear issues has led to a heightened awareness of the impact that the testing program had on the islands.

The Marshallese people have engaged in efforts to rehabilitate some of the contaminated land. Due to the increased awareness of the impacts of the testing, the people have taken steps to ensure that they do not expose themselves to harmful radiation. The US has supported some of the costly rehabilitation efforts on the islands (Barker 157).

These efforts have made it possible for some of the islanders to return to their home islands and live safely. Rehabilitation has enabled the citizens of the Marshall Islands to live in their native land and try regaining the sense of belongings that they had before the testing programs.

Reflection on inter-cultural Conflicts

The actions of the US government on the Marshall Islands were an act of cultural insensitivity. The US government exposed the people of the Marshall Islands to harmful radiations by exploding nuclear bombs in their atmosphere. Barker asserts that when the bombs were exploded by the US, the culture was destroyed (74). The once cohesive culture of the Marshallese was disrupted as the people were forced to relocate due to the contamination of their land.

The adverse environmental and health impacts caused by the testing program demonstrate that while this program was able to give the US nuclear superiority, it did so at a cost of great suffering to the Marshallese people (Barker 59). The testing program forced the Marshallese to make major changes in their lives and culture. People were forced to look for other economic opportunities or move to alien lands.

To resolve the inter-cultural conflicts raised by the case, the various parties involved need to take responsibility for their actions. The US has to acknowledge the suffering it caused and engage in corrective action. The US has publicly recognized the damage it inflicted on the people of the Marshall Islands.

A trust fund has been set out to compensate the victims of the testing. On the other hand, the Marshallese people have to try move beyond the damages that were caused on them by the program. The Marshallese people have shown incredible ingenuity and adaptability to cultivate resources and seek new opportunities to make a new life for themselves (174).To resolve the intercultural conflict that was caused by the testing program, the US and RMI governments have tried to engage in constructive dialogue with each other.

Works Cited

Barker, Holly. Bravo for the Marshallese: Regaining Control in a Post-Nuclear, Post-Colonial World: Regaining Control in a Post-nuclear, Post-colonial World. Cengage Learning, 2012. Print.

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IvyPanda. 2020. "The Nuclear Weapons Tests on the Marshall Islands." January 24, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/the-marshallese/.


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