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Rosalie Bertell - 'Right Livelihood' Award WinnerSalem-News.com
"For raising public awareness about the destruction of the biosphere and human gene pool, especially by low-level radiation." Rosalie Bertell (Canada) Joint Award with Alice Stewart (1986)
(ARCATA, Calif.) - Rosalie Bertell of Canada, has been named as the recipient of a Joint Award with Alice Stewart (1986) "For raising public awareness about the destruction of the biosphere and human gene pool, especially by low-level radiation."
"NUCLEAR FIGHTER"... Dr. Rosalie Bertell maintains the nuclear industry and military policy makers are the world's main polluters.
Anti-nuclear nun an environmental epidemiologist Dr. Rosalie Bertell, a Grey Nun for half a century, is an internationally recognized expert in the field of radiation. neither a recluse nor a denizen of the Ivory Tower. She is an activist and whistle blower.
Dr. Rosalie Bertell perches on a wooden chair in her small Harbour front apartment. Animated, her eyes bright, she has a no-nonsense look on her face.
Bertell has been a Grey Nun for 50 years and, along the way, earned a doctorate in biometry and written books about radiation and its effect on the health of humanity and Planet Earth.
From 1969 to 1978 Bertell was senior cancer research scientist at Roswell Park Cancer Institute. Tension was high'' at the Roswell Institute, which favoured'' the nuclear industry because it supplied research dollars.
After the Bhopal disaster in 1984, Bertell directed the International Medical Commission investigating the effects of the Union Carbide chemical spill that contributed to some 15,000 deaths.
She has written reports on everything from radiation-related health problems, experienced by the Rongelap people after bomb testing in the Marshall Islands, to the effects of the Pickering nuclear plant on the health of local children.
Bertell, part of 300 members of the International Institute of Concern for Public Health, a hard-hitting environmental organization formed in 1984.
"It's the military who have messed up our weather and ozone," she maintains. "They blamed it on Mt. Pinatubo and now El Nino. Where did that come from all of a sudden? Everybody repeats El Nino and accepts it. It's public relations: not scientific data."
She identified clorines as the worst offenders on the planet. Developed during World War I, chlorine did not exist in the atmosphere until then. Now there is evidence that one class of chlorines has ``demasculinized and defeminized'' birds and fish, and Bertell warns that studies on the implications for human sexuality and reproduction have just begun.
Becoming a thorn-in-the-side of power mongers Bertell is routinely called a Cassandra and denounced by the nuclear industry. But she firmly maintains they and military policy makers are the world's main polluters.
In February, Bertell completed a ``reconstruction'' for workers affected after three nuclear bombs were tested in Alaska. Bertell's model will help the men, exposed to radiation, get help with medical expenses from the U.S. government.
Although a high-profile public figure, Bertell has never forsaken her order and like all nuns, her earnings go to a community pot - the Mother House - which doles out living expenses.
In the '60s, Bertell attended the Catholic University of America in Washington and graduated with a Doctorate in Biometry - the science of biological measurement. She landed a research job in Buffalo at the Roswell Park Cancer Institute, the world's first cancer research facility.
She spent 10 years in radiation data and emerged as the foremost expert in the field. She began to realize it was routine for the military to release radiation and that it also set radiation standards."
A public meeting in Buffalo became a watershed in Bertell's life. Niagara County wanted to build a nuclear plant on a site next door to farms producing Gerber's Baby Food and people were concerned.
Bertell recalls her first experience with nuclear power: 'There were only seats on stage for the five nuclear men. Their message was that radiation was like an x-ray and, obviously, caused no harm. It all irked me. I was the first citizen up to the mike and I insisted the nuclear men give up their seats. I didn't realize the concerned citizens were all women until we replaced the men."
In the end, the female protesters succeeded in getting a moratorium on the plant - the first one in the United States against the nuclear industry.
She made it more well known that radioactive iodine in North American's atmosphere slows down the thyroid gland and that contributes to (being) overweight.
Bertell declares it's all about money. "War and money make the world go around. When you have money, you have to be prepared to go to war to protect it and that is the main concern of corporations and governments."
May sound cynical from a nun, but Bertell snaps,
"Once your eyes are open, you can't close them again.''
In 1996, Bertell undertook to help the people of the Philippines who were trying to deal with toxic waste left behind by the US Navy and Air Force on military bases that they had abandoned. The US accepted no legal obligation to clean up this waste because it had not been specified in the original contract in the 1940s.
She has working a lot with the gulf war veteran's illness, and published a journal article which veterans are able to use in in their attempt to obtain recognition and compensation for their combat injuries.
Read more: Colin Mconnell Toronto Star, May 3, 1998
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