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The bomb and us

June 27, 2017

by Anne Sandstrom

As I write this, a nuclear ban treaty is within reach. And yet, the optimism I should be feeling is tempered by the knowledge of the people, lands, waters, cultural traditions, and innocence that have been lost to the scourge of nuclear weapons.

On Sunday afternoon, June 18, during an ICAN strategy and planning meeting, many voiced opinions on various aspects of the ban treaty. There was much discussion about the victims of nuclear testing, with Roland Oldham (President of Moruroa e Tatou) offering the perspective of the inhabitants of French Polynesia. At the conclusion of the meeting, Roland offered the booklet “Moruroa La Bombe et Nous” to anyone interested. He seemed apologetic as he admitted that it was available only in French.

Thus began my virtual journey to French Polynesia. Rather than being the idyllic sojourn one might envision, the following days were spent carefully translating the booklet from French to English. The story unfolded slowly, word by word, in all of its humility and horror. This is a tale told simply, without the breathless hyperbole so common in all sorts of media today. Painstakingly illustrated with historic photos, it is told by Polynesians for fellow Polynesians, meant to educate young people about what happened to their recent ancestors. But it is one we must all hear.

French nuclear test over Moruroa. France conducted 193 tests between 1966 and 1996.

The booklet’s description reads “From 1966 to 1996, France detonated 193 bombs at Moruroa and Fangataufa. During those 30 years, the lives of Polynesians have been completely upended. Young people are ill informed about what actually happened at Moruroa and about the changes to the daily lives of their parents caused by the testing by the CEP [Pacific Test Center]. With some essential facts, individual stories, photos and illustrations, this brochure, geared toward young readers, will let them learn about this important but forgotten time that is actually so recent.”

The absolute and permanent damage inflicted by the barbaric testing undertaken by the French government, centering on the atolls of Moruroa and Fangataufa, is presented with a gentle stoicism that is in itself shocking in its honesty.

It is in that spirit that I hope this document endures, reminding anyone who reads it of the interminable impact these weapons have had on the area of French Polynesia. And, by extension, on all of us.

Moruroa: La Bombe et Nous

Moruroa: The Bomb and Us

Moruroa, la bombe et nous (YouTube video in French)

Anne Sandstrom is an IPPNW donor and volunteer.

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