Broadcast on 27 December 2011 in KULTURWELT, Bavarian Radio 2

The Fukushima Year
Runs Out

Fukushima

Fukushima stands for a Nuclear Age martyrdom that will be felt for generations


Fukushima: a name that sets off a chain reaction of images – scenes that will be etched forever into every 2011 chronic. Fukushima stands for a Nuclear Age martyrdom that will be felt for generations. The on-going adversity cannot be undone by checking another party in the voting booth. No outside enemy can be made accountable. Fukushima is an expression of the learning disability residing at the core of our globalized, technological society.

Radioactivity, spread by winds and ocean currents, unites people from around the world. For many politicians and technical specialists, the image of a round planet seems alien. They carry a picture in their heads of a world divided by political boundaries, each land a different color. How absurd: in an increasingly globalized world, they think the earth ends exactly at the border. Climate change takes place somewhere way out there, somewhere quite remote, the same place beyond the horizon where nuclear contamination ocuurs. Against this backdrop, how astounding that UN-General Secretary Ban KI-Moon would dare announce publicly: "Radioactivity knows no boundaries!"

Catastrophes are answered by scripted social responses. Such rote reactions can sometimes appear grotesquely out of place. In the three Tohoku prefectures of Iwate, Miyagi and Fukushima, fisheries, agriculture and their related industries, beset by dwindling demand, face financial ruin. Across Japan a sentiment has grown to offset the radioactive catastrophe by extending a helping hand. Well-meaning aid campaigns have been initiated. With the result that fruit and vegetables from the region are publicly purchased and consumed before news cameras. Radioactive solidarity. The government extends this goodwill even further: produce from the region should be exported to developing nations.

Not far from Fukushima, a district named Rikishima lost some 2000 citizens in the tsunami. The area, prized for its scenic forestry, was swept clean of all but one lone pine. The people of Rikishima donated loads of uprooted lumber to fuel an annual Buddhist ceremony held in the mountains outside of Kyoto (since the first world conference on climate, a city they symbolizes our technological blindness). There, traditional ritual bonfires are set to guide newly departed spirits home. Kyoto mothers successfully organized to oppose the burning of the Rikishima firewood, for the bark contained traces of radioactive cesium. Kyoto Mayor Daisaku Kadokawa tearfully apologized to the people of Rikishima, but the wood – scrawled into the bark were messages to loved ones lost in the tsunami – could not be burned in the ceremonial fires, and would be sent back. Across Japan, Kadokawa was ridiculed for injuring the memory of the disaster victims. The mayor's office was flooded by phone calls and emails. Instead of displaying solidarity, he had soiled the memories of the victims with "meaningless cleanliness."

Two competing Japanese electronics firms &ndash Toshiba and Hitachi – are regarded as experts in nuclear technology. TEPCO sought out their specialist knowledge, asking for their help to stop further disaster. Both came. Their competition continued. Tomohiko Suzuki, a freelance journalist who went undercover as a cleanup worker at the plant, reports that tensions between Hitachi and Toshiba only aggravated the catastrophe. At a news conference held in Tokyo he added: "Because the government and TEPCO have declared everything is under control and Japanese people think it's fine, the budget for dealing with the situation has been drastically reduced."

The government has, after all, found other ways of spending funds ear-marked for the catastrophe: 30 million dollars, Greenpeace and other organizations report, went to the Coast Guard to escort Japan's whaling fleet in order to "bolster measures against acts of sabotage by anti-whaling groups." How this reapportionment of aid funds could possibly help tsunami victims? A government spokesman: Not only would more whale meat spur the revitalization of the region's whale meat processing industry, but also people from the region "enjoy whale meat."

Did Fukushima cause any real rethinking? We know the answer: OF COURSE NOT! The lone exception: Merkel-Germany. The power of repression is greater than any suffering.

Or make that the "Terrapower" of repression. At the end of the Fukushima year, the digital-world betterer Bill Gates sat down before a mic to convince policy makers from around the world to join his energy revolution: imagine mini-reactors in backyards around the world providing the cheap energy we all need! "Terrapower" is the name of Gates' new firm; he has lobbyist offices in Washington D.C., and Chinese backing. The world's future balanced meaningfully in his eyes, Bill Gates reassured his listeners that the reactors will run on depleted uranium, that there will hardly be any waste, and that safety issues will have top priority. As technological partner he's picked Toshiba.

We have much ahead of us.

English translation: Craig Eldon Reishus