Downwind: A People's History of the Nuclear West

Downwind: A People's History of the Nuclear West

Downwind: A People's History of the Nuclear West

Downwind: A People's History of the Nuclear West


Downwind is an unflinching tale of the atomic West that reveals the intentional disregard for human and animal life through nuclear testing by the federal government and uranium extraction by mining corporations during and after the Cold War.

Sarah Alisabeth Fox highlights the personal cost of nuclear testing and uranium extraction in the American West through extensive interviews with "downwinders," the Native American and non-Native residents of the Great Basin region affected by nuclear environmental contamination and nuclear-testing fallout. These downwinders tell tales of communities ravaged by cancer epidemics, farmers and ranchers economically ruined by massive crop and animal deaths, and Native miners working in dangerous conditions without proper safety equipment so that the government could surreptitiously study the effects of radiation on humans.

In chilling detail Downwind brings to light the stories and concerns of these groups whose voices have been silenced and marginalized for decades in the name of "patriotism" and "national security."

With the renewed boom in mining in the American West, Fox's look at this hidden history, unearthed from years of field interviews, archival research, and epidemiological studies, is a must-read for every American concerned about the fate of our western lands and communities.


I was outside with my brother and I saw this big red ball come over up over the
horizon and I thought it was a flying saucer so I ran to the house to tell my mother.

Claudia Peterson, St. George, Utah

By the time five-year-old Claudia returned to her swing set, a strangely colored cloud was all that remained of her flying saucer. Years later, she learned the apparition she had seen in the sky was not a UFO but the mushroom cloud of a nuclear explosion. Her childhood home in southern Utah was about a hundred miles east of the Nevada Test Site (known today as the Nevada National Security Site), one of the most heavily utilized nuclear weapons testing areas in the world. From 1951 to 1992, regular nuclear explosions rattled the region, scattering untold quantities of radioactive isotopes into the air, soil, and water, permeating the food chain downwind of the test site. Many families in the region either kept livestock and gardens or bought meat, milk, and produce from their neighbors, unwittingly gathering . . .

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