How the Atomic Bomb Reawakened Environmentalism


A video essay on the environmentalist’s use of nuclear fear to jumpstart a movement. Looking specifically at Nuclear Fallout, Paul Ehrlich’s Population Bomb, and Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring.


Transcript Provided by YouTube:

00:03
August six nineteen forty-five little
00:06
boy explodes over Hiroshima killing
00:08
70,000 people August ninth 1945 fat man
00:14
that Nate’s over Nagasaki killing
00:17
roughly 45,000 people these explosions
00:21
in the horrific aftermath that followed
00:24
punctuated history of the atomic bomb
00:27
also seemed to plant the seeds of an
00:29
environmental reawakening that exploded
00:32
during the 1960s and 70s with the
00:35
increased post horas of urbanization and
00:37
industrialization came escalating
00:40
anxieties about nuclear fallout and
00:42
global destruction specifically the
00:45
American public realized that with the
00:47
help of the bomb they now had the power
00:49
to drastically alter their environment
00:52
indeed in 1953 this concern was realized
00:56
with a botched test of shot Harry or as
00:59
it would come to be nicknamed Dirty
01:01
Harry due to unforeseen wind conditions
01:05
and poor planning shot Harry contributed
01:07
to massive off-site contamination it’s
01:10
fallout was so vast that it managed to
01:13
drift all the way from Nevada to the
01:15
east coast no area in the country was
01:17
immune to its reach in the soil and air
01:19
quickly bore traces of radiation this
01:22
uncontrollable fallout catalyzed a new
01:25
environmental concern for atomic bombs
01:27
and added to an even greater trend of
01:29
reconsidering the resilience of humans
01:31
in their environments at the hands of
01:34
modern technologies
01:36
in 1962 with the enactment of the
01:39
nuclear test ban treaty all above ground
01:41
nuclear testing was banned treaty
01:44
satiated some worry concerning
01:46
radioactive materials in the environment
01:48
and as an unintended consequence allowed
01:52
the concerned public to redirect their
01:54
newfound environmental conscience for
01:57
its other environmental problems this
02:01
redirection of resources towards broader
02:04
environmental issues was influenced in
02:06
part by a growing number of authors who
02:08
capitalized on nuclear anxiety to
02:11
heighten the urgency of challenging
02:13
environmental degradation essentially
02:16
the atomic bomb supplied a rhetorical
02:18
tool belt to a young environmental
02:20
movement allowing authors and
02:22
environmentalists to reveal the
02:24
fragility of the earth at the hands of
02:27
humans although it was wielded by
02:29
ecologist like William vote and
02:31
Fairfield Osborn in the late 1940s the
02:34
rhetorical tool of nuclear destruction
02:36
most notably pervades the successful
02:39
words of Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring
02:41
in Silent Spring Rachel Carson charges
02:45
her words with nuclear anxiety from the
02:47
outset the second chapter of her book
02:49
she writes strontium-90 released through
02:52
nuclear explosions into the air and time
02:55
takes up its abode in the bones of a
02:57
human being there to remain until his
03:00
death similarly chemicals sprayed on
03:04
crop lands or forests or gardens live
03:07
long in the soil entering into living
03:10
organisms passing from one to another in
03:13
a chain of poisoning and death Carson
03:17
imbues her environmental argument with
03:19
imagery of death poisoning and nuclear
03:21
destruction using this rhetoric to tap
03:24
into the American citizens underlying
03:26
anxiety of nuclear catastrophe and
03:28
ultimately highlighting the importance
03:30
of challenging indiscriminate pesticide
03:33
and herbicide use Carson’s contemporary
03:35
Paul Ehrlich seems to draw a connection
03:38
between rampant population growth and
03:40
the atomic bomb with the title of his
03:42
1968 book population bomb suggesting
03:46
that if left unchecked population growth
03:49
lead to a catastrophe on the scale
03:51
analogous to nuclear Armageddon from
03:55
vote to Carson to gorilla the language
03:57
of nuclear fear pervades the writings of
03:59
environmentalists especially with Silent
04:02
Spring the early environmental movement
04:04
seemed to have gained traction by
04:06
latching on to pervasive public fears of
04:08
the atomic bomb and then redirecting
04:11
those fears towards the issue of
04:13
human-caused destruction of the natural
04:15
world the use of nuclear rhetoric in the
04:18
1960s seems to echo the hyperbole of
04:21
some modern environmentalists today but
04:24
recently the use of catastrophic
04:25
hyperbole a manipulation of cultural
04:28
anxieties has led to a solidification of
04:31
mindset rather than environmental
04:33
progress with ehrlich’s release of the
04:36
population bomb came the equally
04:38
dramatic opposition of free market
04:41
ideology champion by Julian Simon Gore’s
04:44
desire to halt climate change was
04:46
countered by bush and Cheney’s
04:48
questioning of whether humans were even
04:50
changing the climate and weather it even
04:52
mattered today Trump calls climate
04:56
change of hoax while Obama bands
04:59
offshore drilling using apocalyptic
05:02
metaphors and eye-catching hyperbole
05:04
definitely mobilizes a movement but it
05:07
also seems to concur ties a radical
05:09
opposition that seeks to avoid change so
05:13
considering that every environmental
05:15
action leads to an equal and opposite
05:17
reaction
05:19
how can we make meaningful and lasting
05:21
progress thank you so much for watching
05:26
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05:28
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05:32
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05:36
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05:39
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05:44
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05:49
video on lord the rings and quiet
05:51
environmentalism


This post was previously published on YouTube.