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Frequently Asked Questions

  1. Why should I read this book?
  2. How can I participate in the Common Reading Experience if I’m not a first-year student? How can I get a copy of the book?
  3. What is Rocky Flats?
  4. Why is the story of Full Body Burden so important?
  5. What messages should be taken from the story?


Why should I read this book?

It is important that you and others read this book. It addresses real issues on ethical decision making and medical advances through research. You will learn how these issues impact the advancement of our global society. As the author states, this book “brings together many disparate fields…and allows them to explore the real-world consequences of intellectual discoveries…bringing together health, community, family, ethics, religion, science, storytelling, history, business, law, and humanity.”


How can I participate in the Common Reading Experience if I’m not a first-year student? How can I get a copy of the book?

While the Common Reading Experience engages the incoming first-year students, participation from all other students and members of the university community is welcome. Other faculty will integrate parts of the book and its issues into their classes. Both undergraduate and graduate students are encouraged to participate and can attend the public events and join in the discussion across campus. You can purchase a copy of the book at the USF Bookstore. Additional copies are available from the USF Library in paperback and e-book editions.


What is Rocky Flats?

Rocky Flats was a vital part of the U.S. nuclear weapons program located near Denver, Colorado. Few people knew it existed or what the plant produced. From 1952 to 1989, the Rocky Flats nuclear weapons plant produced more than 70,000 plutonium pits or “triggers” for nuclear bombs. Each pit contained enough breathable particles of plutonium to kill every person on earth.

The plant was veiled in secrecy. Colorado residents were kept unaware of the plant’s activities. Workers were not allowed to talk about their work.

There was extensive radioactive and toxic contamination in the air, water, and soil, both on-site and off-site. In addition to plutonium, off-site contaminants included tritium, beryllium, and dioxin, as well as between 1,100 and 5,400 tons of carbon tetrachloride.

Residential areas around Rocky Flats, particularly south and east of the plant (including the neighborhood where author Kristen Iversen grew up), were contaminated by Rocky Flats.


Why is the story of Full Body Burden so important?

The author believes that people need to be more aware of the dangerous health threats that nuclear weapons facilities cause, such as those caused by the Rocky Flats facility. Not only is there the danger of the effects from nuclear waste for exposure to radiation through close proximity to the facility, but the negative effects are extreme and long-lasting, increasing their threat to people even after the facility is closed and “cleaned up.” The threats to our health, environment and wildlife are also extreme, broad-ranging and long-lasting. The book documents the lack of awareness that people had for this in the past and points to the need to educate others for the present.

The legal processes to protect people from the known effects of nuclear waste are often thwarted for various reasons, including those related to monetary gain and politics. The book documents the many obstacles placed in the way of well-meaning citizens who wanted to protect themselves and others from the nuclear facility and its plutonium, and the author attests to similar obstacles today. It is also important to note how world events, such as the Cold War, alter people’s perspectives on particular issues, shaping our collective attitudes and actions. The threats that are discussed by Iversen are still evident in our present world, and new generations continue to deal with these same important issues.


What messages should be taken from the story?

The message of the negative aspects of the nuclear weapons facility and clear evidence of its life-threatening effects is a very important lesson for future generations to learn. Similarly, questioning the authority of the government when it deceives the people is an important illustration seen from this story. When governments, bureaucracy and big business aim to protect their interests over the lives of the people, lessons from social activism and political actions need to be considered from both local and global perspectives. Topics from environmentalism, geophysics, and other growing scientific fields are examined by the investigations presented in this book. The lessons learned from recent history are presented for readers in consideration of similar issues occurring in our present and future.

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