|Photo links to Bruce Gagnon's blog about joining the walk. Link to petition on Facebook.|
Mie Kuboda Athearn, who is from Fukushima Prefecture in Japan, gave a talk in Bath, Maine on the evening of September 7. Mie and her husband Steve are walking 200 miles from their home in Rockland to Boston where they'll deliver a petition calling on the government of Japan to save the born and unborn children of Fukushima. It has been nearly six months since the Dai-ichi nuclear power plant was struck by the twin forces of earthquake and tsunami, producing the third disaster of a meltdown that appears to continue today.
Mie's tale was one of government indifference and cover-up, of radioactive hot spots at the bottom of school playground slides where rain runoff accumulates, and of teachers who resign rather than follow official orders to withhold the truth from students and their families.
According to Mie, who returned to Fukishima in April to spend three months with her family, people living in the area are frightened but they don't know what to do. The government has said they should “self-evacuate” but has offered no material support to do so. The prospect of leaving behind farms, mortgages, employment, and health care for an uncertain future has paralyzed many into inaction. People in other parts of the country are fearful of receiving the nuclear refugees in case they, too, become contaminated, mirroring the discrimination experienced by survivors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki atomic bombings. She described the feeling of people there as depressed.
Mie's 17 year old nephew continued to play outdoors with his soccer club even as contaminated rain fell, because no official word warned against it. His mother, Mie's sister, was unable to convince her son of the danger of being out in the rain. Another family decided to send their children away to school in the U.S. – but the Japanese government would not give them permission to leave.
Mie believes that under Japan's Constitution the government is obliged to provide transportation, housing, and income replacement for those who are exposed to the risk. Article 25 says: “the State shall use its endeavors for the promotion and extension of social welfare and security, and of public health.” The petition she is carrying to the Prime Minister demanding that the government prioritize the testing and evacuation of pregnant women, infants, and children from the affected area.
Ironically, there is ample evidence of radioactive contamination reaching far beyond Fukushima Prefecture. Like to Washington state, Oklahoma City, qand Toronto.
If you're like me, you may be wondering why you don't know more about this global disaster as it unfolds. It may be because you view news media, like government, as existing for the benefit of the people, rather than profitable entities like TEPCO, owner of Dai-ichi power plant, or General Electric, which built most of the nuclear reactors in Japan. GE got a $3.3 billion refund on their federal taxes (i.e. paid nothing in taxes), and spent $41.8 million on lobbying and campaign contributions. Jeff Immelt, its CEO, received compensation for the year to $15.2 million.
Information control was the most interesting part of the story. Mie said, “When I was in Japan they tried to be neutral in the news...They just showed on the tv 'The measurement at the city hall today is ___.' So we just watched that number. And also, 'Today we got our news from this area, we found iodine in this food.' Very netural news. They didn't express a strong opinion toward the government or TEPCO. But I was taking my parents' local newspaper in Fukusima, too. People there know it's a very serious problem so the writers were standing on our side; they tried to speak truth, tried to let other people know how the Fukushima people were hurting.”
Jun-san, a Japanese Buddhist nun who is walking the 200 miles to the consulate in Boston with Mie and Steve, added: “After the explosion many conservative magazines and almost all news outlets said no more nuclear power. My friend is a professor in a university in Tokyo, and she said (the news) now starts changing to a different direction again. The Asahi Shinbun (a big daily newspaper) said, 'Sorry we have been supporting nuclear power plants, not showing the truth...but that is not right.' So, begging to the readers they said, 'We have been reporting in a mistaken way, not truth.' They say sorry. They start writing that we need all 55 nuclear power plants closed.”
(Japan) closed 34 power plants, and there's a campaign to control energy use. My mother during a very hot summer said she kept her air conditioning turned off.”
But maybe three weeks ago I talked to a woman professor. (Now the papers are saying) 'We can't close nuclear power plants so quickly, maybe by 2050.' So now they are changing, shifting again. So it's very important that other countries like America show (they are) closing and building no more nuclear power plants.”
Mie: “Japan's media is very funny (she makes a hand gesture of flip flopping). I was surprised by so many conservative magazines writing about nuclear power plants in a truthful way. I was excited that Japan was changing.”
Mary Beth Sullivan, who has been working to end the nuclear threat to life for decades, observed: “But now everyone knows the truth, and you can't put that truth back in the box.”
Jun-san: “My mother and sister know it's very dangerous, but they don't know what to do. That's why most everyone now is in depresssion. And the government knows depression time is a good time for switching (their story).”