Shadow on the Hill
Actor and environmental activist, Martin Sheen, narrates Shadow
on the Hill, a powerfully moving video that examines the impacts
that the Nuclear Age has had, and continues to have, on New Mexico's
environment and on the health of the people who live around the
Los Alamos National Laboratory, a United States Department of
Energy nuclear weapons facility.
This video was created and produced jointly in
September 2000 by Concerned Citizens for Nuclear Safety (CCNS),
UNM Masters in Public Health Program, and Thunder Road Productions.
A video will be sent to you for any contribution
of $25 or greater.
Santa Fe, NM 87501
A new documentary illustrates northern New Mexico's relationship
to the nuclear weapon industry.
By Julia Goldberg, Santa Fe Reporter
copyright Santa Fe Reporter , December 6-12, 2000.
Reprinted with permission of the Santa Fe Reporter
In the end, supporters and protesters alike were relegated to screaming
from the side of the road. What they yelled varied from whoops of joy in
Los Alamos to angry cries of despair in Santa Fe. The first shipment of
nuclear waste heading to its salt-bed grave in Carlsbad, New Mexico,
signified to all both the end and beginning of an era.
This is the lead from a story I wrote for the Reporter in March, 1999, the
week the first trucks rolled to the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant.
I don't normally wax on quite so much, but I'd stood around at the
intersection of Airport Road and 599 for so many hours that night waiting
(and freezing), I'd had little else to do but roll around sentences in my
The truth is, it was a very intense night. By the time the truck
actually drove by, many of the people waiting had, like me, watched the
WIPP fight for the better part of a decade, if not longer. Many had known
this night would someday come. Others thought it never would. If an event
can be simultaneously exciting and depressing, such was the night of March
Over the years, I've had the opportunity to write quite a few
articles on WIPP, as well as other nuclear related issues. Of all the
environmental issues out there, it's the one I feel least sanguine about.
The bottom line is, I don't understand how anyone can feel OK about the
prospect of radiation poisoning. I don't think I will ever forget an
interview I did, about two years ago, with a Hiroshima survivor named
Sumiteru Taniguchi, who was blown off his bicycle at the age of 16 when the
bomb was dropped. "I kept crying," Taniguichi said, via a translator. "I
was crying in pain and suffering and begging for someone to kill me. No
one thought I would live."
But reporting on such issues piecemeal doesn't necessarily provide
the long view I'm sure activists must take. I don't think about nuclear
issues every day (thank God), and while I have, at various times, written
about the relationship northern New Mexico has to Los Alamos National
Laboratory, it was a narrative based on my own reporting and thoughts -
What filled it out for me was watching
the recently-completed documentary Shadow on the Hill.
The film was a collaborative effort between the Santa Fe non-profit
Concerned Citizens for Nuclear Safety, the University of New Mexico's
public health program and Thunder Road Productions. It was written
and produced by Miguel Grunstein and Dale Kruzic. The documentary
is part of a package of educational resources developed as a part
of a settlement with LANL from CCNS' 1994 lawsuit over violations
of the Clean Air Act.
According to CCNS' acting executive director, Suzanne Westerly, the
film will be used, along with a study guide and a "lingo bingo" game in
communities and schools.
The documentary is a beautiful and moving piece of work. It begins
with old "Drop and Cover" footage from the '50s and proceeds fluidly to
present day. It touches on WIPP, worker health and safety, contamination
issues, governmental secrecy and anti-nuke activism.
Narrated by Martin Sheen (of course),
Shadow on the Hill is a poignant blend of disturbing and
familiar images ranging from the destruction and devastation at
Hiroshima to the recent public-health hearings for lab workers
conducted in northern New Mexico.
I was particularly struck by the eloquence of many of the people
interviewed. The film includes Marian Naranjo and Anacita Taliman from
Santa Clara Pueblo talking about growing up near the lab. Timothy Benally
of the Navajo Nation discusses the uranium poisoning former mine workers,
like himself, were exposed to. Dr. Helen Caldicott, researcher Jay
Coghlan, John Till, who conducted the clean air audit of LANL, and labor
attorney Carol Oppenheimer also were interviewed for the piece.
I can't say I actually enjoyed
watching Shadow on the Hill, because it tells a very sad
story. But I learned from it and appreciated its skill in boiling
down the complex history of nuclear weapons in northern New Mexico
into a half-hour script.
It's not a story with a happy ending. But the film does culminate
with the message that the act of fighting against an industry capable of
destroying the environment and human lives is a good fight, and perhaps,
someday, one that can be won. As Carol Oppenheimer says, towards the
film's end: "This fight comes out of love."
Grunstein and Kuzic end the documentary with a quote from Albert
Einstein, which underscores an important point made throughout the
documentary. I know it's a little much to start this column with a quote
from myself and end it with one from Einstein, but that's what I'm going to
Science has brought
forth this danger, that the real problem is in the minds and hearts