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Think Outside the Bomb youth group proposes non-violent solutions

Think Outside the Bomb Members. Photo: Lisa Putkey © 2010

To commemorate the 65th anniversary of the detonation of the first atomic bomb, I travelled to Tularosa, New Mexico, a small community directly affected by radioactive fallout from the Trinity test. My hosts and travelling companions represented a sampling of local, vocal grassroots environmental and social justice organizations.

Jason Ahmadi, Lisa Putkey and Robert Chavez are passionate about their work and the mission of their organization, Think Outside the Bomb (TOTB). VO spoke with all three on the road to Tularosa:

Robert, 17, is the youngest member I met. “I’ve been active in social and environmental justice networks for nine years,” he explains. Robert works with HOPE, an organization created by his grandmother Marian Naranjo. HOPE (Honor Our Pueblo Existence) is a community outreach and advocacy group that works to empower Naranjo's community to remedy the damage caused by toxic wastes from nuclear work at Los Alamos, which directly impacts the health of her community and the environmental security of the traditional homelands of her people.

The grandson continues, “I joined with TOTB because I see them as allies with HOPE who can help me reach out to my fellow youth in the Los Alamos – Espanola Valley.” Robert’s goal is to include his peers in the vital and important issues downwinder communities face in New Mexico. Robert’s extraordinary ability to work hand in hand with other organizations to achieve joint goals is both typical and necessary in a state where social and environmental justice issues are so completely intertwined.

Jason, a TOTB organizer, tells VO, “Think Outside the Bomb is the largest national youth-led group for nuclear disarmament. We as autonomous young people from different parts of the country are organizing a ten-day permaculture Disarmament Encampment in Chimayo, NM July 30 – Aug 9, 2010 over the 65th anniversaries of the bombings on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan.

“We’re inviting young people from across the country and anyone else who is interested.

 “Chimayo is in the Espanola Valley beneath Los Alamos National Labs (LANL) where one of the things they’re doing is to build larger facilities (Chemistry & Metallurgy Research Replacement Facility) to increase nuclear pit production from 20 to 80 per year.

“As young people, we don’t want to be an ‘anti’ organization.”

Lisa, another TOTB organizer, chimes in, “I do this work because I have met the people in downwind communities. The cycle of nuclear violence has and is contaminating the water, air and the land across North America. Nuclear contamination is disproportionately concentrated in indigenous communities. I believe that this legacy of violence will only be healed as the directly affected communities share their stories and stand together in solidarity and resistance. That is why I am organizing with youth in the Espanola Valley to help them get their voices heard and to acquire skills to break this cycle.”

Jason continues, “We see the problems nuclear waste has caused to the community. We stand against the toxic legacy of nuclear sites. Think Outside the Bomb is ‘pro’ how to base one’s livelihood off the land out of respect to the land. We’re teaching a whole new way of life. Water is sacred. Land is sacred. We wish to build an alternative future.

“In our Disarmament Encampment, we’ll be talking about sustainability and permaculture design. We will be teaching about grey water systems, rainwater collection and organic gardening.”

Jason concludes, “also at the camp we’ll be educating participants about the nuclear complex with a focus on youth voices and voices from affected communities. We’ll be preparing for a large non-violent rally in Los Alamos on August 6, 2010, the 65th anniversary of the dropping of an atomic bomb on Hiroshima, Japan.”

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Olivia Fermi is on the Neutron Trail exploring the legacy of her grandparents Laura and Enrico Fermi and the nuclear legacy we all share. Fermi’s Neutron Trail blog posts include her experiences with the communities around Trinity and Los Alamos.

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