Sunday, August 25, 2013

Our Survival: Beyond Fukushima

My mother told me that when I was ten years old I went knocking door-to-door in our quiet suburban neighborhood to warn everyone about Acid Rain that would fall over the Great Lakes in years to come as a result of our contamination of the environment. I don’t remember this. I suspect the neighbors patted me on the head and chuckled indulgently. That Amy, cute little geek. I doubt they were still chuckling years later, after I had grown up and left home, when Acid Rain did fall over the Great Lakes, causing serious damage.

In high school I belonged to a club called Protect Your Environment (PYE). We had about four members. The year was 1969. People had other concerns. There was a war to worry about in those days for those awake to political issues. Environmental issues were low on everyone’s list. It took a long time for environmental protection, global warming, and climate change to appear on everyone’s radar. We humans were busy making other dire mistakes in the 1970s that gained attention. As it turns out, the destruction of our environment is the most dire mistake.

When I was in my 20s I joined a couple of politically active pacifist groups working to stop the proliferation of nuclear weapons and to raise an alarm about the potential dangers of nuclear energy. I am not sure that I am theoretically opposed to nuclear energy, but I definitely believe it is unsafe because I have little faith in the capacity of humans to handle it unerringly. In my opinion, that is what would be required for nuclear energy to be viable:  100% unerring management of all nuclear power plants (difficult to achieve when tsunamis happen). I protested, published, and went to jail to oppose nuclear weapons. I was also opposed to nuclear energy. I imagine there are people who thought “That Amy, cute little geek, totally over-reacting.” Then Three-Mile Island happened and Chernobyl happened and, in 2011, the worst of all, Fukushima Daiichi happened. Fukushima terrifies me. Fukushima changed my life.

There is a great deal of misinformation out there about Fukushima, including some cover-up from leaders and the nuclear industry in Japan. Reports range from apocalyptic to don’t worry be happy. There are two key facts that all reports appear to agree on:  1) over 300 tons of radioactive water is leaking into the Pacific Ocean every day and 2) no viable long-term solution has yet been developed. Everything that has been done so far is a temporary fix. On August 16, 2013, Greenpeace reported:  TEPCO has been fighting an ongoing battle with contaminated water at the plant, and recently admitted that approximately 300 tons of radioactive water have been pouring into the ocean daily. Experts believe it has been doing so for almost two and a half years. Because the problems at Fukushima are unprecedented, and because experts are still trying to figure out what to do, it is imperative that world leaders and top nuclear engineers and scientists from around the world work together to stabilize the situation. I have hope that solutions can be found, but only if Fukushima receives way more attention, far more dedication of resources, infinitely higher priority. It must be recognized as a life-threatening, red-alert, global problem.

It’s hard for a lay person like myself to sift through and recognize fact from fiction about Fukushima. At the end of this blog post appear links to a few articles I have collected on this topic. I found the long Wikipedia article particularly helpful, even though I didn’t understand most of the technical information. According to some reports, children in California will begin suffering from thyroid cancer in large numbers by early 2014 and all agricultural products originating in California already carry such high levels of radiation that they are unfit for consumption. True or false? I don’t know. I have seen data indicating an alarming rise in cancer rates in the Western states in the past year. I have seen articles that suggest that people should not eat any agricultural products produced in California (ostensibly because our groundwater is now irradiated at unsafe levels). California supplies more agricultural products to the country than any other state (i.e., nuts, fruit, vegetables, dairy products, meat). Almost everything I eat comes from California, including my backyard garden, grown from California water of course.

Call me Chicken Little. Fine. I have gone beyond concern over appearing foolish. I would obviously be overjoyed if the entire apocalyptic scenario I fear is averted and everyone says, “Wow, Amy sure over-reacted.” Unfortunately, I doubt this will play out that way. I fear that everyone I know and everyone I love here on the West Coast will prematurely sicken and die; that I will never enjoy grandchildren; that my children will have no future; that the Pacific Ocean will be destroyed. I also doubt that I can make any difference in what happens. But I have started a little petition to send to Obama to beg him to take action on this issue. Here is the link. Please sign and send this to everyone you know.

Fukushima has changed my life. I have rededicated myself to enjoying the good things I have, the good times, the good friends, the magnificent children. I have made a commitment to love more, dance more, savor more, forgive more, visit the ocean more. I have made a commitment to stress less, complain less, criticize less. I will appreciate peaches and search the horizon for dolphins and hold my husband and children close. I do not plan to move away from the Pacific Ocean, which I adore. My children live on the edge of the Pacific. My friends live here in Cali. We are all here together. We all go together. The radiation emanating from Fukushima, if not contained, will gradually spread across the continent and the planet so there is nowhere else to go. I am grieving. I am living with a greater intensity. I intend to enjoy all the miraculous moments of my life right down to the very last precious whisper.

Pacific Ocean that I love. (Mendocino Coast.)

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