Navajo scientist Perry H. Charley and Navajo elder Elsie Mae Begay joined with History of Science graduate student Linda Richards and others recently on a panel about radiation effects, held this April in Phoenix at the annual meeting of the American Society for Environmental History. Charley brought samples of rock from Begay’s home, along with a Geiger counter, as an illustration of the high levels of radiation that Navajo peoples have lived with, and continue to live with, because of the long history of uranium mining on their lands. Uranium mining falls disproportionately on the lands of indigenous peoples throughout the world, resulting in health problems accumulating over more than half a century of nuclear weapons and electricity production. Mining is at the front end of the nuclear cycle. Like radioactive waste (the “back end”), it is a part of the story that policy commentators and historians alike often neglect in their discussions of nuclear power. Richards is currently writing a Ph.D. dissertation on the historical causes of disparities in radiation standards between university laboratories and uranium mines. As part of the panel, there was a screening of the film The Return of Navajo Boy. A brief video of the discussion at the meeting is available on the filmmaker’s website. (Please read more)
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Dissertation topic sounds well delimited.