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Cornelia Hesse-Honegger’s hyperrealistic renderings of marine life and cute ladybugs made her known through upmarket art magazines. Her watercolors were shown in Europe and New York.

Now, her work disturbs. Hesse-Honegger, 49, paints insects that she believes have been deformed by radioactivity. As an illustrator at Zurich University’s Zoological Institute, she grew increasingly concerned about the mutations she observed in routine genetic studies in the lab. Then, in April 1986, came Chernobyl.

“I worried about the effect on insects,” says Hesse-Honegger. “The scientists pooh-poohed any danger. I decided to see for myself.” Near Chernobyl’s restricted zone, and in high-fallout areas in Sweden and Switzerland, she found bugs with deformities on their bodies, wings, feelers, limbs, and eyes.

She has since gathered misshapen insects from around England’s Sellafield nuclear plant and Three Mile Island in Pennsylvania. “Normally,” says Hesse-Honegger, “about 1 percent [of insects] may be born damaged.” But at Three Mile Island, for instance, she found that the number was as high as 15 percent to 20 percent.

Scientists, meanwhile, remain skeptical–with some exceptions. Says Joan Davis, a water protection specialist at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, “Maybe low-level radiation is playing havoc with life. Numbers alone don’t seem to move us, [but] pictures leave behind a loud and clear signal that something is desperately wrong.”

SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

Truth #4: When we go to work, we're in the fight.

Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

Truth #6: The only thing that can save us is…us.

Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

And if you think journalism like Mother Jones'—that calls it like it is, that will never acquiesce to power, that looks where others don't—can help guide us through this historic, high-stakes moment, and you're able to right now, please help us reach our $350,000 goal by October 31 with a donation today. It's all hands on deck for democracy.

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SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

Truth #4: When we go to work, we're in the fight.

Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

Truth #6: The only thing that can save us is…us.

Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

And if you think journalism like Mother Jones'—that calls it like it is, that will never acquiesce to power, that looks where others don't—can help guide us through this historic, high-stakes moment, and you're able to right now, please help us reach our $350,000 goal by October 31 with a donation today. It's all hands on deck for democracy.

payment methods

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