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The Hitch-Hiker

October 15, 2017

Somewhere near Aneth, Utah I had picked up a hitch-hiker. He was a young man named Michael who carried a skateboard and not much else. While I removed the cameras and related minutia from the front so he could sit he asked if I am a photographer. I told him not necessarily a photographer but I am capturing images for a documentary concerning the nuclear weapons industry and am in the area researching uranium mining. He told me that his Grandfather was a uranium miner but that he died as a result. Michael delivered this as a matter of fact statement, nothing in his voice revealed remorse about it, this affected me a great deal because it is something I had heard a lot while out here and with the same detachment. For 5 days I have been out here in the Navajo Reservation with a couple more to go. Today and tomorrow are all about meetings with academicians and the like. Previously, I had been wandering the reservation and surrounding areas, meeting people and visiting the abandoned uranium mines of which there are over 500, each with it's own story. I came here to research uranium mining on Navajo land and it's effects on the community, and I will be leaving here deeply moved by the beauty of the land, the warmth of the people and the blind contamination of all that. The backs of these people are where the cold war sat, and the full weight of escalation, proliferation and the thought of deterrence itself the people of this land have been carrying and paying for with their lives and will continue to do so for generations. The specifics I will not share, they are better left for the film. Still, I wonder if the millions of Americans who visit their favorite National Parks each year in the South West know they are passing, sometimes within a couple hundred feet, exposed radioactive bi-product which contaminates the drinking water of the surrounding communities. While there I met a couple filmmakers who are documenting the work of a lovely man named Tommy Rock who is working on water contamination monitoring on the Navajo reservation. Their project can be seen here: https://radioactivenation.tumblr.com

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