National Geographic : 1974 Dec
Mary saw in Fiji, where YWCA girls were let tering placards for antitest demonstrations. And in their social center in Suva a popular local composer of rock music strummed a cho rus with this refrain: "Polluting and poisoning an ocean means destruction of humanity." French Scientists Defend Nuclear Tests French officials, of course, differ sharply with such sentiments, as we learned at the Laboratory of Radiological Surveillance on Tahiti. Here French scientists test specimens collected in at least 15 island locations. "Since 1966 we have tested everything," said Dr. P. Guillermin, then deputy chief of the laboratory: "Seawater, soil, fish, plant life. We conclude definitely that people here have not been exposed to radiation that would be dangerous to health. Actually, the radioactiv ity in certain parts of France-in our native rocks-is greater than one can find here. And in South America's Andes-ah! They have ten times the radiation of the earth here." Still we found many people worried about the tests. A New Zealander wondered if "any one knows the danger of flying a supersonic jet through that high-altitude fallout?" The Prime Minister of Fiji, Ratu Sir Kamisese Mara, smiled wryly when the subject came up. "If nuclear testing is so safe," he said, "why don't they test in the Mediterranean?" Such thoughts were voiced at the fifth South Pacific Forum, when area leaders met on Rarotonga in the Cook Islands. And though disapproval failed to halt the 1974 French at mospheric nuclear tests, President Valery Giscard d'Estaing has now acknowledged the power of world opinion; as of 1975 all French tests will be underground. Other environmental problems seem less dramatic than the explosion of nuclear bombs, but solutions may be more complex. Consider, for example, the pollution of ocean waters. At the Aquarium de Noumea, in New Cale donia, we asked distinguished marine biolo gists Dr. and Mme Rene Catala-Stucki about underwater life on the reef. "In this shallow water," Mme Catala-Stucki said, "if one minute organism dies, so do oth ers. Life on the reefs off Noumea was dam aged seriously. But now, to our great satisfac tion, marine life is reappearing."