Logline: A disillusioned nuclear weapons expert hits the road for a year, traveling across the United States in a truck camper with her two dogs. Along the way, she visits historical and current sites of the U.S. nuclear weapons complex and chats with locals and experts about the risk of nuclear war.

Why take a radioactive road trip? As a nuclear weapons expert for more than twenty years, I’ve become increasingly worried about the growing potential of nuclear war–this nightmare keeps me awake at night. If you think experiencing a global pandemic is bad, everything we love could be taken from us in a single instant with the detonation of one nuclear weapon. I feel compelled to do something about it–before it’s too late.

Everything we love could be taken from us in a single instant with the detonation of one nuclear weapon.

Even today, Americans continue to face existential threats on a daily basis from nuclear weapons intended to protect them—from accidents, unauthorized use, unintended escalation, and deterrence failures. For most Americans, the threat of nuclear weapons remains an abstract and distant concept—their impact seems neither proximate nor personal.

In the domain of storytelling, there’s a popular adage for achieving impact on an audience: show, don’t tell. The power of storytelling is well-recognized, but it is most transformative when an audience is allowed to experience the story for themselves. Throughout history, stories have played a critical role in our evolution as humans. Some would argue that stories make us human, that the use of our imagination and our ability to think about the future is what differentiates us from other mammals. Historically, stories have often conveyed critical survival information, helping an audience learn about a complex or fearful topic. This makes them an ideal medium for informing people about the risks of nuclear weapons. Stories work their best magic when they transport an audience into a different point of view, allowing people the opportunity to change their mindsets.

Americans prefer not to think about nuclear weapons too much, in part because they feel powerless to change the situation, but also because the threat is too daunting to absorb.

Even when vaguely aware of nuclear weapons, Americans prefer not to think about them too much, in part since they feel powerless to change the situation, but also because the threat is too daunting to absorb. Stories have the power to change thinking because when people engage with story, they are postured for change, learning, and understanding from a different point of view. 

For the issue of nuclear weapons, I have wrestled for many years with what form such stories should take, what genres would have the most impact, and how to balance fear with hope. How do we show a broad American audience across a diverse political spectrum the potentially dangerous implications of U.S. nuclear weapons for our future? The idea to produce Radioactive RoadTrippin’ (R&R)—an accessible, educational, and entertaining travelogue show about the U.S. nuclear weapons complex and the risk of nuclear war produced for release on YouTube—came to me following my visit to a Nike Hercules missile site last year. It was the first time I had the opportunity to visualize the implications of nuclear weapons for daily life in America. 

Radioactive RoadTrippin’ (R&R) is an accessible, educational, and entertaining travelogue show about the U.S. nuclear weapons complex and the risk of nuclear war.

By touring the U.S. nuclear weapons complex during a yearlong, life-changing camping trip with my dogs, Radioactive RoadTripping’ (R&R) aims to make nuclear weapons both personal and proximate for the audience. The show will be distributed on You Tube and produced to appeal to regular Americans across the political spectrum.

It will tell the entertaining story of a city-dwelling nuclear weapons expert forced to endure the often humorous challenges of camping and the adventures of an extended road trip. It will make nuclear weapons proximate to what matters for their daily lives. Stops at nuclear weapons sites will be juxtaposed with visits to national parks and other outdoor scenery, which will illustrate what is at stake should nuclear weapons ever be used.

The juxtaposition of visits to nuclear weapons sites with stops at nearby national parks to enjoy the great outdoors will illustrate what is at stake should nuclear weapons ever be used.

The route will begin in my current hometown of Rockport, Texas in December 2021 and follow a path around the entire country over 365 days. The journey will take me to about 65 current sites of the U.S. nuclear weapons complex as well as many past sites that have since been retired. These visits will reveal a wide range of nuclear weapons themes including command and control, deterrence, weapons delivery, weapons assembly, nuclear testing, production of nuclear materials, nuclear accidents, radiation hazards, and environmental contamination. To show the current role of nuclear weapons in America, I will visit national labs, assembly plants, government agencies, combatant commands, military bases, defense contractors, and universities. To reveal the forgotten stories of the distant past, I will visit sites of the Manhattan Project, nuclear accidents, environmental clean-up, abandoned missile silos, nuclear testing sites, Nike Hercules missiles sites, as well as nuclear-themed museums and monuments.

My visits to these sites will be framed by the adventures of cross-country travel—entertaining segments about missteps and mishaps, reviews of local hotspots and dining locales, clips from the great outdoors, interactions with wildlife, and comical dog antics. Along the way, the audience will learn the fundamentals about nuclear weapons and their implications for U.S. national security.

Dispersed within entertaining segments, the audience will learn the fundamentals about nuclear weapons and their implications for U.S. national security.

The show will also feature themed segments. For example, “nuclear latitudes” segments will feature the voices of Americans around the country in which locals share their stories and views about nuclear weapons. “Bunker buster” segments will highlight a shocking lesson learned about the U.S. nuclear weapons complex with the potential to disrupt mindsets. “Tactical ride along” segments will feature a nuclear expert living along my route joining me for a ride in my truck to jam about nuclear history and policy issues and share personal stories.

By producing the show, I’m hoping to spark a national conversation among regular Americans about the role of nuclear weapons in U.S. national security strategy and raise awareness about their risks. I hope you consider joining me for the ride!

If you want to support the show, for only a few dollars a month, you can become a patron and get behind-the-scenes access.

natashabajema

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2 comments

Leave a Reply to Cheryl Tolley Cancel reply

  • Love the show idea! Looking forward to hearing all the incredible, first-hand knowledge that will be shared and shedding light on things we don’t often like to talk about. The two cute dogs are a total bonus!

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