Promoting a More Lively Planet

English: Internationally recognized symbol. De...

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

by Kyle Phan

When the earthquake damaged Fukushima a couple years ago, I knew something big had occurred because radiation is not a simple matter. It was only when I came to Japan that I learned from a documentary that the aftermaths of the earthquake are indeed, really bad. People are protesting against nuclear power and the Japanese government must decide where to throw away its nuclear waste. It appears the situation got way out of control, and some people are ignoring the situation. I can’t really blame the people of Fukushima for feeling powerless, but I think everyone, especially countries who use nuclear power, should brainstorm solutions and learn from the situation instead of ignoring it. To prevent future scenarios involving nuclear radiation, the situation must be approached both locally and internationally because an environmental crisis could happen at any given time to any country that uses nuclear power.

In order to improve the conditions at Fukushima, it is really important that the government first stops denying the situation. The people with power need to take responsibility for their decisions of building the nuclear plant at Fukushima and start developing perspective of the unequal treatment of the people of Fukushima. Japanese politicians and any person with power needs to move away from their self-interests (tragedy of the commons) and realize the injustice of the situation because environmental crisis can happen to any person regardless of social background. If the Japanese government has the money, then why not fix the situation and help the victims of Fukushima? Allowing the nuclear waste pile up somewhere or discarding the waste to some poorer area in Japan or even China (environmental racism) is no solution.  If they decide to get rid of the waste like that, the politician must make sure no people inhabit the area, but doing so, either way has implications for the environment which must be handled internationally.

Since dealing with nuclear waste is easier said than done, I think the top scientists of every country that uses nuclear power should collaborate for some feasible solutions because they are the experts on the subject. The Earth is our home and we should work together to alleviate pollution! If we can’t fix the problem right now, we must strive for the future: people all over the world must start pursuing alternative sources of energy! Maybe we should invest in solar panels, or better yet, better funding for STEM research might be the answer. Since Jeffrey Jousan has said the US is partially the reason why Japan first began using nuclear power, I also think US could offer some assistance in cleaning up the waste.  I think everyone would agree that both the poor and the rich are alive because of what the Earth offers: the water you drink, the air you breathe, the food you eat, you’re alive because of the Earth.

Clearly, the current issues goes deeper than what has been mentioned. It is obvious that something must be done with the power differences among the power companies and the Fukushima victims. With that being said, only the Japanese can fix their own problem. The people with power must develop the perspective of the victims and realize that Fukushima are “Japanese” people too. In order for progress to be made, the younger generation needs to stop isolating themselves from the polluted environment (inverted quarantine) and start being getting their voices heard by those with power! Maybe we can’t fix Fukushima, but in order for environmental conditions to change for the people of Fukushima, there needs to be more support for environmental change. The Fukushima moms can’t be out fighting by themselves. Being aware is not enough, it is time for people to start being active in the process! However, it is difficult because of limiting factors such as the cultural values of Japanese people not wanting to appear troublesome to other people and the “lack of freedom of press in Japan.” People internationally also need to start being active with environmental movements because nuclear waste has implications to our home, the Earth.

References

Press Freedom Index 2013″ en.rsf.org. 2013. 11 Dec. 2013. http://en.rsf.org/press-freedom-index-2013,1054.html

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Response to “Women of Fukushima” Documentary

by Miranda Solly

The idea behind “Women of Fukushima” is one that you can see everywhere in charity and aid appeals. You take an issue, like drought, homelessness, or radiation, and you link it to ordinary people. Appeals in the UK for aid during a drought do not just tell you the facts of how many children starve every day; they often tell you about a single child and how much of a struggle they are facing, putting a name and a face to that statistic. This human link is supposed to build empathy between the target of the campaign and the people the campaign is aiming to help. Although it is shameful to admit it, people do not seem to care if they are told that thousands of civilians have died in a war, but are more likely to if they are given just a few names and faces. That being said, I have grown up surrounded by calls to action, so much so that I couldn’t possibly participate in every one, and perhaps the idea has become overused. I’ve found that even such a technique crafted to evoke empathy has lost most of its impact. That is why I was surprised when the documentary “Women of Fukushima” affected me as much as it did. In this blog post, I would like to explore why.

Perhaps one of the more effective parts of the documentary was the way in which it showed just how ordinary these women are. When you first see their faces, they are flashed up onto the screen to the beat of the protest song, almost like the heroes of an action film. That brings how ordinary they look into sharp relief. The documentary also allowed space for the women’s personalities to come through. In other documentaries I have seen, the viewer is faced with a barrage of how awful the situation is, but this allowed you to see how sometimes people make light of their situation. Take, for example, the way Setsuko Kida talked with wonder about attending her first protest at the age of 57, or Yukiko Takahashi joked about turning up dressed as a pregnant woman. The way they perceive their situation as somewhat absurd makes the women far more relatable, which then drives me to imagine how it would feel to end up in the kind of situation where I, too, would be driven to something so outside of my comfort zone.

The other significant difference I found with this documentary was the space it allowed for the viewer to draw their own conclusions. The opening sequence presents you with the ominous clicks of a Geiger counter, without comment. The viewer is left to recognise what they are hearing, how the clicks increase, and how frightening that is. The women talk about how playgrounds are no longer safe for children, or how a friend stays inside concrete buildings to protect her child. Even before they tell us explicitly how dangerous the situation is for children, we have felt it through the anxiety the woman are feeling.

While the film has won awards internationally, the lack of attention in the Japanese media means that we can only imagine the impact the film might have if a larger number of Japanese people saw it. But from the way it affected me, I do think that we could take lessons from it about how to frame issues to gather support. We live in a world where the richest could make a huge difference to the lives of the poorest, only they rarely do. When calls for aid come from halfway across the globe, we can find it especially difficult to relate to the suffering described. If instead of merely telling a target audience about others’ pain, we represented things in a way that allows the target audience to feel their pain, maybe we would prompt more people to try to make a difference in the world.

References:

http://www.women-of-fukushima.com/

Ryan and Gamson, “The Art of Reframing Political Debates” Contexts Issue 1, 2006, pp. 13-18 (University of California Press)