Friday, January 07, 2011

William Bunge, Nuclear War Atlas (1982)

Bill Bunge's 1982 Nuclear War Atlas poster. From Martin Dodge's Cyber Badger Research Blog.

See D. Wood and J. Krygier, 'Maps and Protest,' in Rob Kitchin and Nigel Thrift, eds., International Encyclopedia of Human Geography (Amsterdam: Elsevier, 2009), pp. 438-9:

'[The map] folded, William Bunge, its principal author recalls, "into a 5 in x 8 in. size designed for peace demonstrations where it was abundantly sold." Black, white, and red, the very design and layout of the maps were inflammatory, but the reframing of data that had been culled from a variety of impeccably researched sources (e.g., Progress in Nuclear Energy, Health Physics, Child Psychology) was largely carried out by the titling: "The march of doom", "Patriotic poisoning", "The sea of cancer". "The sea of cancer" was a map of the U.S. largely covered with red stippling that indicated areas that would be exposed to 100 or more rem of radiation in a full nuclear war. "Not only will most of the United States be washed in immediate radiation," read the caption, "but even the white areas on the map are safe only in the sense that people in the open escape short term damage but not long term. The cancer is everywhere." A map of the world makes the point that the boundaries of a missile armed United States and Soviet Union are global: "To state the new geographic reality using the militaristic language of the 1980s, ‘The Russians are not coming. They are already here.’ At least they are straight up in the sky above us and thus are bounded by the earth’s surface, not ‘contained’ by boundary lines. They can kill anything on the earth’s surface and for a considerable depth below it; the Americans likewise. 'Containment' has been a mathematically proven bankruptcy for almost twenty years." By dramatically reframing simple truisms like these, The Nuclear War Atlas gave people whole new grounds for protesting nuclear weapons.'