This story tells of the real life struggle with radioactive fallout, the proliferation of the idea of pity and the long term consequences of “helping” that keep generations swirling in confusion. When the dust settles, we see the opportunity to go beyond that which holds us back, to expose who we are at the core and who we really want to become.
Wind whips across the vast grassland. Clouds reach across the endless sky, thinly masking the warm baking sun, allowing for small tufts of green to surface. This is the Kazakh Steppe and these are the signs of life that barely emerge from a land that has been soaked in radiation. Invisible to the eye, it is fallout in the form of radioactive plutonium, the result of 40 years of Soviet nuclear testing. The Military scientists would wait until the wind was blowing toward the villages, away from the city of Semey, before they detonated their massive bombs, sending clouds of radioactive dust to rain down over unsuspecting villagers.
Thankfully, in 1991 the people from these villages only 20 kilometres from the Semey test site, joined forces with activists from around the world and with one voice, demanded a moratorium on testing and closure of the site. Shortly thereafter, Kazakhstan gained its independence, and became the first and only nation to willingly relinquish its nuclear arsenal.
Today, cancers run at 3 times the national average, girls as young as nineteen, battle breast cancer and teen suicide is on the rise. Even though people are now well aware of the severe ramifications of long term testing, poor villagers venture into highly radioactive areas to steal old soviet copper wire, which was used to detonate the bombs. They seem to ignore the fact that this may well kill them in a few years, given that it’s an easy way to make money, when agriculture has been severely impeded. The copper is sold to neighbouring countries like China and made into products that are welcomed into homes by unsuspecting consumers around the world.
“When The Dust Settles” looks through the eyes of Kimberley, an Australian in her 30’s, who really wants to understand what this beleaguered Kazakh area needs and how she can truly be of assistance. Her encounters with four villagers paint the real picture of the Kazakh mentality and situation. Aware of her own health limitations, she wants to help but ... NEXT PAGE