We speak of „dumb creatures“ because animal utterances are in comprehensible to the human ear. But animals sure can show us things. And if you know how to look, they might even give you warning signals. Bugs, for example, give warnings where human perception fails. Obviously, you’ll have to learn how to read those signals.
You can find the insect drawings of the Swiss artist and scientific illustrator Cornelia Hesse-Honegger in museums and galleries all over the world. Most of them reflect (and praise) the breathtaking beauty of the insect realm. In 1987, one year after Chernobyl, Cornelia Hesse-Honegger came across deformed leaf bugs in areas of Sweden that had been hit hard by fallout from the Ukraine. She sensed that something was seriously wrong, even though what she saw did not come as a total surprise. As early as 1967 she had drawn mutations of drosophila fruit flies and houseflies that had been exposed to radiation in the lab.
After studying the bugs in Sweden she portrayed mutations in many places and documented them in her book Why I Am in Österfärnebo? I Have Also Been to Leibstadt, Benzau, Gösgen, Creys-Malville and Sellafield. She did field studies near the German nuclear power plants Krümmel and the French reprocessing facility in La Hague, and she made drawings near Three Miles Island and the nuclear testing sites in Nevada.
Everywhere she encountered heteroptera bugs and drosophila flies with distinct mutations. Her comment: „While the natural proportion of mutated insects is just one percent, in the places I studied up to one in five insects shows physical damage. The damage is likely to be caused by the ingestion of radioactive particles.”
What is really alarming, though, is that injured insects are found not only where you might expect them, i.e. near the sites of nuclear catastrophes. Hesse-Honegger also found them in the vicinity of well-maintained Swiss nuclear power plants under normal operating conditions. “That is the real catastrophe,” comments Hildegard Breiner, Austrian anti-nuclear activist and NFFA laureate. Not only Cornelia Hesse-Honegger suspects that bugs and other creatures with short reproductive cycles tell us that “the normal mode of operation” is anything but normal.
The scientist/illustrator also raises her voice against other threats which go mostly unmentioned vis-a-vis obvious threat scenarios: long-term dangers of weapons equipped with depleted uranium for example. The reactions to “bug warnings” and the dangers of depleted uranium indicate that low-level radiation is an issue ignored by the media. In 1972 Ernest J. Stern Glass alerted the public to the issue with his study Low Level Radiation. Ever since the topic has been pushed away or trivialized. Jens Scheer, German low-level radiation specialist and professor of nuclear physics (1935 – 1995) was reviled until his death as an ideological alarmists.
The award for education goes to a scientist and artist, a bilingual activist in the chorus of those that speak out on the alleged non-issue “low-level radiation”