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Bikini DayCara Flores-Mays' Report at Plenary Meeting, Gensuikyo 2012 Bikini Day National Conference
Hafa Adai. My name is Cara Flores-Mays. I’m an indigenous person of Guam, an unincorporated territory of the United States – 48 km long and 19 km at its widest point, less than half the size of Okinawa. Of the entire island, the US Department of Defense controls 28%, much of this area being considered prime for farming or fishing.

The general public knew little about the full range of impacts the proposed military buildup would have on our small island until the release of the Draft Environmental Impact Statement, or EIS, in November 2009.  These impacts include the destruction of over 800 hectares of forest to build new housing for Marines and their dependents; the destruction of over 28 hectares of coral reef to accommodate a nuclear aircraft carrier; and the gacquiringh of over 725 hectares of land to build a firing range complex -- along with these -- a long list of devastating social, environmental and cultural impacts.

For many years, the only thing that mattered was the numbers. $11 billion was the total estimated construction costs of a brand new Marine Corps base on Guam.  Of this amount, the Japanese government would pay $2.8 billion in direct cash contributions and $3.29 billion in loans and investments.  Last year, the United States Government Accountability Office issued a report stating that Government of Guam estimated the cost of taking care of up to 79,000 more people on the island – an increase in population of over 50% - at approximately $3.2 billion.   The GAO report estimated that the total cost estimates for the buildup on Guam would actually be closer to $23.9 billion.  That number included the cost to the Government of Guam for the impacts on the civilian community and the cost of repaying the Japanese loans and investments. Assuming that the United States moved 8,600 marines and 9,000 dependents, the total cost of a new Marine Corps base on Guam – not including operation costs – would be about $1.35 million per person.

Staggering figures, yes, but it isn’t really about the money, is it? If our ghuman dignityh is for sale, how much should we charge? What terms should we bargain for? If we ask our brothers and sisters from the Bikini Atoll, even millions of dollars won’t suffice. Years later, one might ask who is paying for the nuclear testing that took place in the Marshalls and on Bikini Atoll? Even if the US gpaidh with 150,000 million dollars to compensate for the effects of nuclear damage, who continues to pay for the effects? When you can no longer live in your home and you’re forced to exist on subsidy, when strange diseases become commonplace, when you have been stripped of your independence – where is the gdignityh in that kind of life ?

Though our island has not been the site of nuclear testing, this story is all too familiar.  Many on our island can no longer afford to live there. The rate of nasopharyngeal cancer is almost 1999% higher than in the US. Of the 42 public schools on our island, all are considered to be glow incomeh. 60-65% of students are eligible for the free or reduced lunch program. Over the weekend, on both Saturday and Sunday, our financial struggle with the United States took the front page of our local newspaper; a senator estimated that GovGuam is owed $590 million dollars by the US Federal Government in what is called gcompact-impacth funding. But who really pays the price when we can no longer afford to rent or own a home, when we can no longer afford to educate our children or to provide quality medical care? Who pays when we can no longer live with gdignityh in the only place that we have to call home ?
Many call this a movement against nuclear weapons or the military industrial complex. But for all of us, if we stop and consider what is at the heart of our efforts, it is simple: this is a movement to restore human dignity. This is a desire to protect our gquality of lifeh. Our memorial for the Bikini Atoll tragedy must be a movement with the goal of restoring human dignity to its rightful place in each of our communities and in the world. This is our solidarity.