August 24, 2011
Sitting on the floor around a low table with friends visiting from Tokyo, eating fresh produce from the garden not ten metres away. Spirits enlivened with a light buzz from the mugwort homebrew.
During the course of the evening the conversation inevitably turns to Fukushima and, like a dark storm cloud filling a summer sky, a heaviness descends on the gathering. Voices are lowered, sentences punctuated with long silences as we each struggle to find the words.
One of our friends is from Fukushima prefecture, her parents still living there. They are a “safe” distance away but not saying it aloud we all know in Fukushima there are no safe distances. There is much that is not said aloud, it doesn’t need to be, our facial expressions and body language show what we are all thinking or trying not to think.
What should we say to the large numbers of people living there? The government’s reassurances are disingenuous at best and often just blatant lies. Arising in Fukushima is a sort of prefectural patriotism where overt concern is scorned, the worried considered hysterical. The reaction of a traumatized population that cannot leave.
Compensation is being offered only to those that were living inside the official evacuation zone, a 30km radius around Fukushima Daiichi. Considered grossly inadequate by all international observers and non-government/industry affiliated experts in Japan, such a small evacuation zone certainly eases the financial burden on TEPCO, the nuclear plants operator, and the government. What this decision means is that hundreds of thousands of residents are unable to leave. Unable to sell their houses and with no hope of assistance from the government or TEPCO they believe they are condemned to remain. Denial their only defence against the invisible threat.
The danger they face is amplified by the shameful response of the government. One of the latest examples of reprehensible (in)action by the Japanese government regards the burning of contaminated rubble. Materials so highly radioactive that in other countries they would be subject to the strict controls of radioactive waste and disposed of in secure underground facilities are being burnt in Fukushima, releasing even more radioactive material into the atmosphere and re-contaminating sites, such as school playgrounds, that have been stripped of their topsoil already in efforts to lower radioactivity. [For more on this see the second half of this video issued by Fairewinds]
To say the unspeakable: Like a human sacrifice offered to the gods of industrial civilization the people of Fukushima and surrounding prefectures are offered up by their government to pay the price of our collective madness.
And the madness runs deep indeed. The young parents of a Fukushima family state in an interview that they are remaining in an area known to be highly contaminated because of their jobs! The “security” of a job trumps the health of their children. Obviously not an isolated case as the school the children attend appears to still have a substantial number of students, masked, in long sleeves and pants during the heat of summer.
Whether one views the modern world as insane or not may even be a criterion of one’s own sanity. – Masanobu Fukuoka
In the local supermarket of our Tokyo friends leafy vegetables from prefectures bordering Fukushima are still being sold. Whilst Japanese scientists are pleading for all food grown in Japan to be tested for radiatioactivity before going to market the most vulnerable types of vegetables grown dangerously close to the site of the multiple nuclear reactor meltdowns are still finding their way onto the shelves of Tokyo stores. There are not enough facilities to expand current testing, apparently, and there are no signs of any action being taken to remedy this situation.
I could go on and on…a screed of words borne of anger and frustration…but, beneath the anger, deeper than the place from where the rage stirs there is a pain for which I cannot find words, an inexpressible sorrow…What have we become? What are we doing?