What a successful first MOCH event of the semester with Dr. Kristen Iversen! Close to 200 attendees listened to the author of Full Body Burden: Growing Up in the Nuclear Shadow of Rocky Flats with enthusiasm and anticipation. The audience included Dr. Iversen’s past students, faculty and graduate students from the university, and interested citizens from the Memphis community, including many who are involved in movements for public health and peace. All joined together at the IMAX Theatre at the Pink Palace Museum to hear about her impressively researched and articulated “story of silences.”
The lecture included a presentation of her old family pictures, which contrasted with the ominous black and white photos of Rocky Flats and the operations inside this still-dangerous and radioactive nuclear weapons plant. This facility, which she grew up near and where she later worked, produced over 70,000 plutonium bits, each worth up to $4 million. One millionth of a plutonium particle is capable of causing health problems such as cancer.
Despite the seriousness of the occasion, the crowd shared some laughs over Iversen’s sense of “gallows humor.” Though subjects like these are no joking matter, she lightheartedly expressed that because her family was raised in such a radioactive area, it contributed to why they all have such “glowing” personalities. Yet some of her information – in the form of photos, maps, and graphs – struck the audience as truly eerie and chilling.
Iversen characterized Full Body Burden as her own personal awakening to the dangers that linger in this world today – and for hundreds of generations to come – in regards to nuclear weapons and nuclear power. She ended the night by encouraging everyone that American society needed to acknowledge this issue as a paramount threat.
Her overall message: government and private corporations have set a “cloak of secrecy” over nuclear projects. We should no longer live under that shadow, as it places millions of innocent people at risk. We paid the price in the past, we are paying it now, and we will keep paying it in the future.