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Instagram Photos from the Marshall Islands

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Alson Kelen, executive director of Waan Aelõñ in Majel (Canoes in the Marshall Islands), is from Bikini Atoll, which was evacuated by the United States in 1946 for nuclear-bomb tests, resettled in 1968, and then evacuated again in 1978 when lingering radiation was detected. Bikinians were exiled to Kili and Ejit islands, cramped quarters with scant natural resources that are now being inundated by tides as sea levels rise. “Water just covers the whole place,” says Kelen, 46, pictured here holding a stick chart for traditional maritime navigation. “So the ship is sinking. And Bikinians are asking, ‘Is this it?’ So that’s one of the priorities: to figure out where these nomad people go from here.” Image by Dan Zak. Marshall Islands, 2015.

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Ebeye, an island in the Kwajalein Atoll of the Marshall Islands, is one of the most crowded places in the world, with between 11,000 and 15,000 people living on 80 acres (which would equal a population density as high as 120,000 people per square mile). A third of its residents are unemployed and over half under 20 years old. If trends continue, according to a report by the U.S. Military Academy, Ebeye’s population in 2023 could hit 70,000, an inconceivable number given the scarcity of land and decrepitude of public services. Image by Dan Zak. Marshall Islands, 2015.

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Lemeyo Abon, 75, listens to a speech on Nuclear Victims Remembrance Day, observed March 2 this year—61 years and one day after the Castle Bravo test, a U.S. nuclear explosion in Bikini Atoll that was 1,000 times more powerful than the bomb dropped on Hiroshima. At the time of the test, Abon was living 100 miles to the east, on Rongelap Atoll, which bore the brunt of radioactive fallout. Abon's entire thyroid was removed and she had two miscarriages. The U.S. Department of Energy has since declared Rongelap safe for resettlement, though lingering distrust and divergent definitions of “safe” have hampered the process. “The U.S. government and its citizens are fighting throughout the world, and even in their own country, to uphold human rights,” says Rongelap senator Kenneth Kedi. “But if you really look at the case of Rongelap and Marshallese everywhere—everything about this issue is violating our human rights.” Image by Dan Zak. Marshall Islands, 2015.

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In the village of Jenrok, in the capital of the Marshall Islands, approximately 1,800 people are squeezed into .025 square miles of tin-roofed shanties that aren't connected to public utilities, above groundwater that's contaminated by decomposing bodies. Jenrok is on the ocean side of Majuro, which means it bears the brunt of tidal forces that are strengthening as sea levels rise. Habitability has long been an issue in Jenrok: In 1979, 80 percent of homes were destroyed by waves. A king tide in February 2014 forced the evacuation of 1,000 people in Majuro. Image by Dan Zak. Marshall Islands, 2015.

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The Republic of the Marshall Islands was a small but forceful presence at the U.N.'s monthlong review conference of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, which ended May 22, 2015, without a consensus between 191 state parties on a path forward. "Our worst fear is continuing the status quo," said RMI deputy UN representative Deborah Barker-Manase on May 18, though the failure of the conference, in many ways, does just that. Image by Dan Zak. United States, 2015.

The Republic of the Marshall Islands was a small but forceful presence at the U.N.'s month-long review conference of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, which ended May 22, 2015, without a consensus on a path forward between the 191 state parties. "Our worst fear is continuing the status quo," said RMI deputy UN representative Deborah Barker-Manase on May 18, though the failure of the conference, in many ways, does just that.

This slideshow of images from Instagram shows four glimpses of life in the Republic of the Marshall Islands and one from New York during the UN's review of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.