marshall islands

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“if you can write a cheery postcard about it, clearly you are not worried about the deadly destruction your enemies can muster.”

Atomic Postcards - John O’Brian and Jeremy Borsos, 2011

A collection of postcards celebrating nuclear energy and atomic weaponry, dating from the end of WWII up to the 1970s

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A video clip explaining the devastation caused by the atomic tests in the Marshall Islands

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The Flag of Bakini Atoll

After World War II, the United States found themselves in possession of Bakini Atoll, a South Pacific atoll of islands which was wrenched from the hands of the Japanese.  The islands were home to 167 native Micronesian inhabitants. Unfortunately, the US military decided to use the islands as the primary testing grounds for America’s early Cold War nuclear testing program.  The residents were asked to leave, believing that they could return once testing was completed.  23 nuclear devices were detonated on the atoll, causing radioactive fallout that made the islands uninhabitable.  In the meantime, the residents were forced to settle on Kili Island 400 miles away, a small island 1/6th the size of their old home with barely enough food and water to sustain their way of life. Often, the islanders faced starvation and dehydration.

In the 1970’s, the US Government attempted to resettle the islanders, but then they were forced to return to Kili Island when it was determined that Bakini Atoll was polluted with radioactive isotopes. The US Government never offered compensation for their loses. Frustrated and angry, the islanders decided to create a new flag not only to represent their people and nation, but as a protest against their unfair treatment. Based on the US Flag, it features 13 stripes for the 13 American colonies, and 23 white stars for the 23 islands of Bakini Atoll.  The three black stars in the upper right represent the three islands that were disfigured in March 1954 during 15-megaton Bravo test by the United States. The two black stars in the lower right corner represent where the Bikinians live now, Kili and Ejit Island. These two stars are symbolically far away from Bikini’s stars on the flag as the islands are in real life (both in distance and quality of life). Finally the flag features the quote “MEN OTEMJEJ REJ ILO BEIN ANIJ”, supposedly the words spoken by King Juda to Commodore Ben Wyatt meaning “Everything is in the hands of God.”

In 1987 the Nuclear Claims Tribunal was founded, and the islanders were granted $75 million dollars for damages which were paid out over a span of 15 years.  In addition, a $150 million dollar trust fund was set up in 2001, of which Bakini Atoll residents can draw 5% per year in perpetuity. 

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Total Solar Eclipse

These stunning photographs of July 2009′s solar eclipse were taken by Miloslav Druckmüller, a mechanical engineering professor at Brno University of Technology, Czech Republic. The event was captured on Enewetak Atoll in the Marshall Islands, an island country located in the northern Pacific Ocean.

Hilda Heine (b. 1951) is currently the President of the Pacific nation of Marshall Islands. She is the first woman to hold this position not only in her country, but in any Micronesian nation. She was also the first citizen of Marshall Islands to earn a doctorate degree.

In 2000 she founded a women’s rights group called Women United Together Marshall Islands. She was elected as president of the country in January 2016.

The Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands: What Was It?

Well, first you have to know that a large part of the polynesian islands used to be a League of Nations Mandate, which was administered by Japan. It consisted of several groups of islands (modern-day Palau, Northern Mariana Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, and Marshall Islands) in the Pacific Ocean which came under the administration of Japan after the defeat of the German Empire in World War I. Then, the US took the islands in 1944. The League of Nations had been dissolved, but by and large its functions were inherited by the new United Nations.

The United Nations created the Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands in 1947, and promptly gave administration to the US. There was a bit of a snag: legally, the Trust Territory was special, and unlike other trusts, only the UN Security Counsel could dissolve the trust. The territory consisted of more than 2,000 islands scattered over about 3,000,000 square miles of the tropical western Pacific Ocean, though only 700 square miles were land. The US government was responsible for the territory’s civil administration, but during the 1950s, criticisms of the administration of the territory from the UN Trusteeship Council and from within the United States brought increased attention to a movement toward autonomy.

On October 21st, 1986, the US ended its administration of the Marshall Islands District, which became a new nation. November 3rd, what became the Federated States of Micronesia and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (a non-state which is technically a US island territory, even though it is uninhabited) left the Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands as well. The UN Security Council formally ended the trusteeship for these territories in December of 1990, acknowledging the reality on the ground.

Palau was the last to leave, in May 1994 when the Security Counsel ended its trusteeship. This was a bit odd, since Palau had a constitution and been the Republic of Palau since 1981. It had even entered into a Compact of Free Association with the US in 1982. Everyone was happy with the ongoing arrangement. With the end of the trusteeship, though, Palau became more officiallyindependent as well? I will admit, I do not understand all the legalities. The only thing left was for the US and Palau to agree on a date for establishing Palau’s national independence, which ended up being October 1, 1994.

vimeo

“People should know there’s a great big cement dome in the Pacific filled with plutonium that pretty soon is going to be under water”.