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.


Press Freedom Index 2013″ 2013. 11 Dec. 2013.,1054.html

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.


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

TEPCO, Nuclear Disaster & Spaghetti-Os: Bad Deeds Get Rewarded

by Robert Moorehead

I’m re-blogging Jake Adelstein‘s brilliant post from the Japan Subculture Research Center. Adelstein figures out TEPCO’s plan: to do a sufficiently poor job of cleaning up the Fukushima nuclear disaster that the Japanese government has to take over. The more TEPCO spends cleaning up the mess, the less profit it makes. So it spends as little as possible, until the situation becomes so untenable that it gets relieved of the responsibility.

As Homer Simpson said, “If adults don’t like their jobs, they don’t go on strike. They just go in every day and do it really half-assed.”

The mis-measurement of radiation at the plant is especially mind-blowing: TEPCO used devices that maxed out at 100 millisieverts, thereby avoiding having any record of the true radiation levels, which were later measured at 1800 millisieverts, which enough to kill a person after 4 hours of exposure.

This clever use of technology reminds me of the speedometers on American cars in the 1970s and 1980s, which topped out at 85 mph. So, if you floored the gas pedal and kept it floored as you flew down the highway, you would have no visual cue that you were going any faster than 85. Unless you looked out the window, of course.

Or maybe if you don’t want to know how much weight you’re putting on, but you’re expected to weigh yourself every day, get a scale that tops out at your ideal weight.

TEPCO, Nuclear Disaster & Spaghetti-Os: Bad Deeds Get Rewarded.

Tokyo Electric Power Company, TEPCO, is getting a lot of criticism for its inept clean-up attempts of the Fukushima nuclear power plant site, which had triple-meltdowns in March of 2011—after the company had failed to take precautions which might have prevented the meltdown in the first place. There is also a 4th reactor where spent fuel rods are waiting to be extracted, and if mishandled they have the potential to release huge amounts of radiation into the air. TEPCO, like the Central Intelligence Agency, has a wonderful legacy of failure, and now it literally has “a legacy of ashes”.

To read more, check out Jake Adelstein’s full post.

原発20キロ圏内に生きる男 – Alone in the Zone

by Robert Moorehead

Jeffrey and Ivan have just released another powerful video on Fukushima—this time from inside the evacuated zone with some farmers who have refused to leave. It’s a powerful, moving look at the damage inflicted by the nuclear disaster, and the lives affected by it.

‘Women of Fukushima’ is available for free online viewing

Women of Fukushima

The documentary “Women of Fukushima” is available for free online viewing this week.

by Robert Moorehead

To highlight the ongoing difficulties experienced by many in Japan, the wonderful and inspiring documentary ‘Women of Fukushima’ is available for free online viewing this week. To see the documentary, click on the image above and you’ll be taken to

What’s Changed, 2 Years After Fukushima?

As one: People join hands Sunday morning on a beach in Iwaki, Fukushima Prefecture, ahead of the second anniversary of the Great East Japan Earthquake. | KYODO

by Robert Moorehead

Two years ago today, at 2:46pm, Japan suffered one of the worst disasters in its history. A magnitude 9 earthquake shook for 6 minutes, followed by a massive tsunami that destroyed entire cities and carried people and debris out to sea. The quake and tsunami also crippled the Fukushima Dai-Ichi nuclear power plant, taking out its backup power generators and safety systems. Tens of thousands remain displaced and likely never to return to their homes.

I watched news coverage of the tsunami and nuclear disaster from the safety of the United States, while my suitcases sat packed and ready for travel to Japan to start my position at Ritsumeikan. I heard American broadcasts warn of everything but Godzilla marching down the street, and Japanese broadcasts calmly, quietly, try to balance informing the public with protecting those in power. Somewhere in between those two extremes lied the news people needed to hear, and that is still largely ignored in the mainstream Japanese press.

Governments across Japan conducted disaster drills on the anniversary of 3-11.

Governments across Japan conducted disaster drills on the anniversary of 3-11.

This week, TV news have covered elements of the nuclear disaster in detail, and undoubtedly many people across the country will observe a moment of silence at the time the quake struck. But for the those who had to evacuate, there is likely no going back. Many still live in poorly built temporary housing and struggle to form new community ties. Victims of the disaster continue to struggle with domestic violence, unemployment, depression, and suicide. And many live just outside the evacuation areas, near radioactive hotspots, and in areas where radiation cleanup work has been shoddy and ineffective. The yakuza, Japan’s labor broker of last resort, have done well in the aftermath of the disaster, but how about the people of Tohoku?

While disasters often bring people together, leading us to help each other and to sacrifice for the common good, eventually the institutionalized patterns of corruption and inequality reappear. Prior to the disasters, the regulatory bodies that ostensibly existed to protect the public from the deadly hazards of nuclear power, instead served to protect the profits of the agencies they were supposed to regulate. This brazen failure of governance raises the question I have asked my Japanese students each semester, whom does the government serve? Does it represent you, your voice, your interests, or those of Japan’s corporate oligarchy? Is the system rigged in their favor? The questions are largely rhetorical, but I often get the sense that students had not previously given this issue much thought.

Nobel laureate writer Kenzaburo Oe (right), joins a demonstration after an anti-nuclear rally in Tokyo on Saturday, March 9, 2013. Thousands of anti-nuclear demonstrators rallied in Tokyo, urging Japan’s government to abandon nuclear power. — PHOTO: AFP

One cliche often heard in Japan was that 3-11, much like 9-11, changed everything. The challenge Japan faces is whether the events changed anything at all. Beyond the buildings and nearly 20,000 lives that were lost, what has changed?

The Abe administration moves ahead with plans to restart Japan’s nuclear power plants, and a newly restructured nuclear regulatory agency struggles for legitimacy. Will the new agency actually regulate the industry? Will the agency shut down nuclear power plants that were built on active earthquake faults? Will it enforce new safety regulations? Will the government be able to turn down the companies that have invested billions in plants and fuel processing facilities? Who will the government represent in making those decisions?

A protester holds an anti-nuclear power sign at a rally in Tokyo on Saturday, March 9, 2013. Thousands of anti-nuclear demonstrators rallied in Tokyo on Saturday, urging Japan’s government to abandon nuclear power. — PHOTO: AP

My students tell me that Japanese people don’t protest and that there are no social movements in Japan. And if you only read the mainstream press, this perspective makes sense. But tens of thousands of people across Japan continue to protest the return to nuclear power. Will these voices be represented in government? (It’s also disheartening to hear my students ignore 60 years of protest in Okinawa, but that’s the subject for another post.)

It will take another 40 years to decommission the Fukushima Dai-Ichi plant, requiring the use of technologies not yet invented to remove melted nuclear fuel from inside the damaged reactors and spent fuel pools. Righting the country’s course will require continued vigilance. If that happens, then 3-11 will really have changed everything.

Ishinomaki—Then and Now

by Robert Moorehead

Filmed in Ishinomaki in November, 2011, this documentary includes interviews with survivors of the earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear disasters of March 11. This moving documentary is the recipient of Best Documentary and the Grand Prix prize at Super Shorts Film Festival, 2012.

The video is also available in the following languages:

The filmmakers have also released “The Women of Fukushima,” a documentary film that examines the experiences of eight women whose lives have been changed by the disaster at the Fukushima Dai-Ichi nuclear power plant. This disaster has compelled these women to become activists in the social movement against nuclear power in Japan.

My Japanese students often tell me that there are no social movements in Japan, and that Japanese people don’t participate in such events. Not only does this view negate the existence of 60 years of protest in what is now Okinawa prefecture, but it also views the people who participate in such movements as somehow different from everyone else in Japan.

The “Women of Fukushima” challenges this view, by giving viewers a feeling of connection with these women. Hopefully this connection will compel more Japanese to speak up and demand a safer future for them and their children.

“The Women of Fukushima” is available for online rental and purchase (for only $8) at

Environment and Technology Information

by Ayaka Nishizaki

Environment and social are mutually created and environment inequality is one of sociological aspects. I think environment is also liked to technology and information. I would like to think environmental problems from these points: The unequal limitation of access to information, ineffective use of information, and relationship between information and unclear responsibility.

During class, I learned residents of lower class neighborhoods face a variety of risks. The manufacturing jobs are often given to immigrants or poor people who don’t understand English well and don’t understand what they’re being exposed to. I think it is connected with unequal access of information between the rich and poor. The poor is limited to access information, so they can’t get enough knowledge about environment (the article of ‘connecting communities: on and off line’). Also, the lack of information will cause not only their health can be exposed to danger by toxic materials in industries, but also people take some action for the environment in a wrong way.

I learned the concept “inverted quarantine” from the reading and class. We often don’t know how much the “eco” products help the environment. I think inverted quarantines are caused by a lack of correct information. I learned environmental issues since I was an elementary school student. But I was shocked that I haven’t known the exact meaning of “eco” until I started to learn by myself. In fact “eco” is not equal to “save energy (省エネ)”, but I saw many people and TV commercials use “eco” incorrectly.

It is true that we are surrounded by a bunch of information to learn, but why does the kind of wrong actions happen? Many Japanese including me had studied global warming or depletion of ozone layer in school. I studied a lot of definitions and words about the environment. However, I wondered ‘how can I use the knowledge in daily life in order to reduce CO2 or waste?’ We have learned a lot of things like helium or CO2 are bad for the environment, but I think those knowledge is not linked to taking environmental actions. Some people would say that recently, more Japanese schools have required students to take actions for environment, but I think some actions are not contributed to environmental improvement directly. Japanese people learned how to separate trash appropriately, but how many people know separating trash (分別) doesn’t always lead to recycling, or it encourages people to increase more consumption of plastic bottles? My point is that although there are many chances to access information, we don’t choose information effectively and don’t link such information to environmental improvement.

In addition, a lot of information make responsibility for polluted environment unclear. For example, mass media criticizes the Japanese government about an accident of nuclear power plant in Fukushima. On the other hand, other people say this responsibility is TEPCO. How can we decide who will take this responsibility? If people think the bad governance was the biggest cause of the accident, they will require Japanese government to take responsibility. If the old nuclear power plant was the most cause of accidents, TEPCO which haven’t reconstructed the plant for about 40 years should take responsibility. In my opinion, through a lot of information, responsibility becomes more unclear because information diversifies people’s thoughts and ideas (as we discussed ‘what is positive side when new culture/information is brought into our country?’). If a state-level accident such as the nuclear plant is related to many actors such as government and companies involved in the case, it is difficult to clarify the responsibility because of many people’s points of view.

As I mentioned above, the environment is strongly connected with information. Environmental problems, diversification of people’s ideas help our standard of living, but on the other hand, it makes it difficult to think what the most correct choice of information for the environment is.