Seeking peace in nuclear times

  • Folding Paper Cranes: An Atomic Memoir

  In Folding Paper Cranes: An Atomic Memoir, former U.S. Marine Leonard Bird offers a personal account of nuclear war. His story shifts between Japan — the only place atomic bombs have been used in combat — to the pockmarked Nevada deserts that for 40 years were ground zero for the U.S. nuclear test program.

Nearly all of the 1,030 announced nuclear weapons tests on this continent took place just 70 miles from Las Vegas at the Nevada Test Site. In fact, only two were conducted outside of the West, in Hattiesburg, Miss.

Radioactive fallout left lingering bruises on the West’s landscapes and on the people who lived downwind from the test site. Bird notes that radiation can lurk for decades in our blood, our lungs and our bones — a slow-motion assault that kills just as surely as a direct hit.

Most downwinders, like Bird, lived and worked in the West for the military or on farms and rangeland throughout Utah, Colorado, Nevada, northern Arizona and New Mexico. And many thousands of them suffer from or have already died because of radiation poisoning.

Bird’s Marine troop was present at some of Nevada’s atmospheric tests, including one called "Shot Hood," which was six times the size of the Hiroshima bomb. His experiences were emotionally and physically shattering: deafening winds and columns of fire resurfaced in his nightmares, and the radiation sank into his blood and bones, eventually causing multiple myeloma cancer.

In Folding Paper Cranes, Bird explores gentler dreams, too. Hiroshima’s Peace Park hosts a monument to Sadako Sasaki, a young girl who died of radiation poisoning shortly after the end of World War II. As she lay dying, Bird tells us, she prayed for a permanent spirit of peace to settle on the world. She folded origami cranes to count her prayers, saying: "I will write peace on your wings, and you will fly all over the world."

Bird seems genuinely hopeful that such prayers will be answered.

High Country News Classifieds
  • SPORTING COMMUNICATIONS COORDINATOR
    To advance our mission, we are seeking a full-time Sporting Communications Coordinator to join our team, preferably in Montana or Colorado. (Due to COVID-19 all...
  • THE LAND DESK: A PUBLIC LANDS NEWSLETTER
    Western lands and communities--in context--delivered to your inbox 3x/week. From award-winning journalist and HCN contributor, Jonathan P. Thompson. $6/month; $60/year.
  • CONSERVATIONIST? IRRIGABLE LAND?
    Stellar seed-saving NGO is available to serious partner. Package must include financial support. Details: http://seeds.ojaidigital.net.
  • EXPERT LAND STEWART
    Available for site conservator, property manager. View resume at http://skills.ojadigital.net.
  • ANCESTRAL LANDS ADMINISTRATIVE MANAGER
    Starting Salary: Grade C, $19.00 to 24.00 per/hour Location: Albuquerque or Gallup, NM Status: Full-Time, Non-Exempt Benefit Eligible: Full Benefits Eligible per Personnel Policies Program...
  • GRAND CANYON DIRECTOR
    The Grand Canyon director, with the Grand Canyon manager, conservation director, and other staff, envisions, prioritizes, and implements strategies for the Grand Canyon Trust's work...
  • ADMINISTRATIVE ASSISTANT
    Great Old Broads for Wilderness seeks a part-time Administrative Assistant to support the organization's general operations. This includes phone and email communications, office correspondence and...
  • HISTORIC LODGE AND RESTAURANT - FULLY EQUIPPED
    Built in 1901, The Crazy Mountain Inn has 11 guest rooms in a town-center building on 7 city lots (.58 acres). The inn and restaurant...
  • ONE WILL: THREE WIVES
    by Edith Tarbescu. "One Will: Three Wives" is packed with a large array of interesting suspects, all of whom could be a murderer ... a...
  • PROGRAM DIRECTOR, SALAZAR CENTER FOR NORTH AMERICAN CONSERVATION
    The Program Director will oversee the programmatic initiatives of The Salazar Center, working closely with the Center's Director and staff to engage the world's leading...
  • WILDEARTH GUARDIANS - WILD PLACES PROGRAM DIRECTOR
    Salary Range: $70,000-$80,000. Location: Denver, CO, Portland, OR, Seattle, WA, Missoula, MT or potentially elsewhere for the right person. Application Review: on a rolling basis....
  • RIVER EDUCATOR/GUIDE + TRIP LEADER
    Position Description: Full-time seasonal positions (mid-March through October) Organizational Background: Colorado Canyons Association (CCA) is a 10 year old nonprofit organization fostering community stewardship of...
  • BOOKKEEPER/ADMINISTRATIVE ASSISTANT
    Position Description: Part-time, year-round bookkeeping and administration position (12 - 16 hours/week) $16 - $18/hour DOE Organizational Background: Colorado Canyons Association (CCA) is a 10...
  • LAND STEWARD
    San Isabel Land Protection Trust seeks a full-time Land Steward to manage and oversee its conservation easement monitoring and stewardship program for 42,437 acres in...
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    Ventana Wilderness Alliance is seeking an experienced forward-facing public land conservation leader to serve as its Executive Director. The mission of the Ventana Wilderness Alliance...
  • COMMUNICATIONS AND DEVELOPMENT DIRECTOR
    The Quivira Coalition (www.quiviracoaltion.org) is a Santa Fe-based nonprofit that builds resilience on arid working lands. We foster ecological, economic, and social health through education,...
  • GRANT WRITER
    "We all love this place we call Montana. We believe that land and water and air are not ours to despoil, but ours to steward...
  • DEVELOPMENT DIRECTOR
    The Development Director is responsible for organizing and launching a coherent set of development activities to build support for the Natural History Institute's programs and...
  • WILDLIFE PROJECT COORDINATOR
    Founded in 1936, the National Wildlife Federation (NWF or Federation) is America's largest and most trusted grassroots conservation organization with 53 state/territorial affiliates and more...
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    The Cinnabar Foundation helps protect and conserve water, wildlife and wild lands in Montana and the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem by supporting organizations and people who...