LIFE UNDER A CLOUD by Allan M. Winkler


American Anxiety About the Atom
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 In exploring the forces created between scientific, artistic, and political-activist groups and those who dictate international policy, Winkler (History/Miami University) provides a concise--if limited--review of public response to 50 years of global increase in nuclear arms. From its first explosion at Trinity Site, Winkler contends, the atom bomb not only permanently transformed the nature of warfare but revolutionized American participation in public policy as well. As the wave of American euphoria following the explosions in Hiroshima and Nagasaki gave way to an undertow of horror, perhaps first felt among those who helped create the bomb, many nuclear scientists felt compelled for the first time to try to affect public policy. Their efforts to communicate likely dangers of a nuclear buildup to political leaders and the public led to the creation of such groups as the Federation of Atomic Scientists and of periodicals like the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists--which in turn, Winkler says, helped inspire more massively accessible artistic interpretations, such as Nevil Shute's On the Beach, innumerable 1950's sf movies, and Jonathan Schell's The Fate of the Earth. These creative efforts, along with particularly disturbing nuclear events (the Chernobyl disaster; the Star Wars buildup, etc.), spurred massive if sporadic mobilization among the general public, and, in response, US governmental leaders were forced to at least appear to cut back on some nuclear excesses. Though citizen activism tended to dissolve once immediate goals were realized, mobilization at key points in the development of nuclear policy did have a decided effect. Winkler also believes that activism continues to offer the last best hope as we struggle with nuclear proliferation in the Middle East, the nuclear strength of former Soviet republics, and the problem of nuclear-waste disposal. No surprises here, but Winkler's historical review is refreshingly balanced and neutral.

Pub Date: April 1st, 1993
ISBN: 0-19-507821-7
Page count: 288pp
Publisher: Oxford Univ.
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15th, 1993