Losing Paradise: The People Displaced by Atomic Bombs and Now Climate Change via Reader Supported News (The Guardian)

n 1946 an American commodore gathered Lirok Joash and her people together and asked them to temporarily leave their homes on Bikini Atoll. The US needed somewhere to test its atomic bombs. It would be, said the navy man, “for the good of mankind and to end all world wars”.

Eight years later US scientists detonated Castle Bravo, the massive, bungled hydrogen bomb that would gouge a crater more than half a mile wide and make Bikini uninhabitable for decades, perhaps centuries. A calculating error created a blast equivalent to detonating 15 megatonnes of TNT, the bomb was the largest ever detonated by the United States – about 1,000 times larger than the bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki at the end of the second world war.

Joash was 20-years-old when she left Bikini. She has been forced to relocate by radiation or unsuitable living conditions five times – including a brief and disastrous return to a still radioactive Bikini in the 1970s. Now, at 89, she is the oldest of the Bikini population forced to move by the nuclear tests. Her memories of the atoll have now grown dim.

“I don’t think she’ll make it until the next return,” says Joash’s grandson Alson Kelen, a former mayor of the Bikinian council-in-exile. “I don’t think I’ll make it. I don’t think my children or my grandchildren will make it. The dream that we would return already faded away a few years ago.”

The Bikinians, most of whom will never see Bikini, live scattered across the Marshall Islands, a collection of 24 atolls in the Western Pacific. Joash, Kelen and 200 of their people now live on Ejit, a tiny low-lying islet set aside for the Bikinians near the Marshall Islands’ capital atoll Majuro.
And the ocean, driven by climate change, is rising.

Across the Pacific, the subtle, unremitting first impacts of the climate crisis are already strangling lives. Later this year in Paris, the world’s leaders will attempt to produce an agreement that will secure the global climate. But secure for whom?

Floods washed over Ejit three times in 2014. Kelen fears that before long, his people will be moving again.

“It’s the same story. Nuclear time, we were relocated. Climate change, we will be relocated. It’s the same harshness affecting us,” he says.

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