How far must we go back to reset ourselves

“Women Seeking Nuclear-Power-Free World” held gathering on June 2nd, 2012 titled “Stop the Operation of Nuclear Power Plants! We are the women to send out messages. June 2nd 2012”

Lecture: How far must we go back to reset ourselves?
Lecturer: Masako Sakata

  Fifty years ago, Rachel Carson wrote in her book, Silent Spring, “Chemicals are ominous substance just like radioactivity and could change the way this globe is and the life itself. If we do not regulate chemical drugs now, they would be most likely to cause a huge disaster.”

On March 11, 2011, I was in the middle of editing my film on chemical drugs called Agent Orange (herbicides) that caused a huge disaster. Through this film, I wanted to relay a message that, “If we do not seriously consider now Carson’s warning made fifty years ago, what kind of world would we leave to our descendants fifty years later However, we did not have to wait as long as fifty years to experience that great calamity. It happened with the explosion of Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant. All of us must have a feeling, “If only we can rewind the clock back to March 11, last year…If it were at all possible, we would like to start all over again.”

So in order to restart, how many years must we take ourselves back?
Personally, I believe that we have to date back to the World War II period.
Then you may ask, “Why did the World War II happen?” We probably need to date back even further to find an answer to this, but let me tentatively select the time of World War II for now because of my limited capacity of time and intelligence.

Both atomic power and chemicals are by-products of wars. That means atomic bombs used in Hiroshima and Nagasaki and Agent Orange sprayed in a great amount during the Vietnam War. Both of them were produced by developing scientific inventions made by strenuous efforts of world’s top scientists. Not all of these scientists were involved in the research or science of nuclear power, intended for developing weapons. In fact, the scientists such as Einstein and Oppenheimer who contributed great deal to the development of nuclear power later regretted that their research resulted in creation of mass-murder weapon as atomic bombs.

On the other hand, those technology and science developed through scientific research during the war times have drastically changed our daily life. I was born soon after the end of the World War II and I remember quite well the day a TV set first arrived at my home, so with a refrigerator, and a vacuum cleaner. Being guided by Panasonic TV-ad song in those days, “Akarui Nashonaru, Akarui Nationaru, Minna no Iejuu Denki de Ugoku (Bright Panasonic, Bright Panasonic, all of our homes are operated by electricity… ), nights of Japan got brighter and brighter. And we, the post-war generation, without having the actual experience of wars had longed for the life-style of people in the United States and got more and more brainwashed by its materialistic civilization.

The time we were growing up was exactly the same period that nuclear power plants were growing. It was my mother that had me recognize the threat of the nuclear power plant for the first time in my life. In the mid 1970’s, she heard from her first daughter, my big sister, who lived then in a small island in the English Channel, that Japan’s used nuclear fuel was being carried to used-fuel reprocessing plant in La Hague in France, and that its radioactive waste had been becoming a big issue in nearby areas and anti-nuclear power plant movement had arisen by the residents. During that period, my sister delivered a still death baby that was seriously disabled. This rang a bell in my mother and she began to suspect the possibility of link between the death of her grandchild and radiation. She started her self-study about the nuclear power plant and soon she recognized how dangerous it is, at the same time the deception of the electric power company and the government had been revealed.

Her personal study resulted in a booklet, “Please listen.” Gradually the number of people sharing the same fear and doubts started to increase. My mother passed away thirteen years ago, but after the Fukushima Daiichi Power Plant explosion, this mimeographed booklet was published as a book.
Despite having such a mother in family, I was still thinking little of the danger of nuclear power plant, believing that since the government is involved, safety must be duly checked, or that since it is a project embodying researches by a number of best and brightest scientists and pundits, it’s a matter a house wife like my mother doesn’t need to worry about. Although sympathizing with her sentiments, I was totally involved in authoritarianism.

To restart anew, to what period in time should we walk back to?
Even if it is not possible for me to get back to my pre-born days of the World War II, I should at least date back to 1970’s when the issue became noticeable enough to be questioned. We should at least date back to that period when I, or we, did not see the problem. If only we had noticed the danger of nuclear power plants then and had taken action against it, something would have been changed, perhaps. Let us not lament that it’s too late and nothing can be done about it any more, but let us directly face the problem presented to us now and take action, otherwise we are afraid to see what the world would be like in thirty years, or in fifty years.

In quest for an answer to my question, “ what did we do wrong, at what point did we make a mistake?”, I traveled to Marshal Islands last month, the place where humanity started large-scaled nuclear bomb tests less than a year after they had learned, to the fullest extent, the wretchedness of nuclear bombs in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. I wanted to probe into its origin in those islands. Between 1946 and 1958, the U.S. conducted a series of nuclear bomb tests in these islands, especially at Bikini and Eniewetok, abundant in corals. They tested as many as sixty-seven atomic and hydrogen bombs that are 7,200 times as powerful as Hiroshima’s little boy. The damage caused by the nuclear bomb tests fifty or sixty years ago has continued to linger on and the soil, animals and plants are still so heavily contaminated by cesium and plutonium that people cannot return to their hometown islands. They have been mentally and physically harmed by radiation.

Their ongoing agonizing features can be overlapped to those of people in Fukushima who were deprived of their lives by the explosion of the nuclear power plants. Over the year, I visited Fukushima several times and met people there who are displaced from their hometown and still cannot find any hope. Just recently, I interviewed a man who has been protesting, at the risk of his own life, against culling as many as 300 cows in Namie-cho, the area within 20 kilometer from Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant. And just a few days ago I learned sad news that the man killed himself while he paid a temporary visit to his home. Until he decided to commit suicide, how much sorrow did he cope with? And how thickly and heavily such sentiments are blanketing other hundreds of people there?

It’s not possible to go back to sixty years ago and start anew so at least, we must make a decision to halt nuclear power development immediately lest we should repent again. In 1954, when Daigo Fukuryu Maru (Lucky Dragon 5), a tuna fishing boat returned to Japan after being exposed to radioactive fallout from the US’s thermonuclear device test in Bikini Atoll, Japan’s anti-nuclear bomb movement surged drastically. It is said that one in three Japanese citizens, a total of more than 30,000,000 people, joined the accumulating signature movement started by housewives in Suginami-ward, Tokyo. Let’s regain the passion we had at that time.

We tend to think that individual power is so small that we cannot do anything, but now’s time for us to prove that we can change the world if we accumulate such small individual power.Writer Makoto Oda in his book mentions the phrase ‘getting others involved while being dragged into by certain situation’. I think it is the foundation of civic movement. We are being employed by companies whether we like it or not, being regulated by the rules of those companies, and end up being robotic beings. Or by believing in information from TV or newspaper as is, we are being manipulated or brainwashed by the propaganda of companies sponsoring these media. We can neither quit our job to start anti-war movement nor part from mass media, however, even being dragged into these conditions and environments, we can stand out to say “NO!” and bring about a change to the world…. It’s Oda’s idea, but I think it is very important. We should not allow our selves being drugged into, doing nothing. We may not be able to win against authority, but should not be indulged in that situation.

The recent government’s decision to restart the reactors at Kansai Electric Power Co.’s Oi Nuclear Power Plant in Fukui Prefecture only serves to reveal the fact that the government is trying to involve its citizens with their incomprehensible logic. It has demonstrated so vividly the process of involvement of citizens, and people of neighboring local governments.

Let us not be persuaded by the deceit and lies by those drugging us into nuclear power business and rather get them involved in our side. I believe it is the time to stand up against such unjustifiable act.

Profile of Masako Sakata:
Documentary Filmmaker. Featured the effects of Agent Orange (toxic herbicide) sprayed by the U.S. in Vietnam during Vietnam War in her 2007 film “Agent Orange - a Personal Requiem”. The film won the Special Prize at Paris International Environmental Film Festival.
In 2011 Sakata released “Living the Silent Spring” featuring the on-going reality of victims of Agent Orange both in Vietnam and the United States that could be one version depicted in Rachel Carson’s prophetic warning fifty years ago.

Original Article by Masako Sakata  ( http://wan.or.jp/reading/?cat=41)  June 9, 2012
Translated by Yoko Hayami