Thursday, 19 September 2013

The plight of Fukushima farmers III

  • Individually controlled vs. controlled by others
Farmers have very limited control. They are told where they can farm, where they can't farm. They are told what is "safe" and what is "not safe".  Despite misgivings about tilling the soil on land with radioactive readings, they are told that it's not contaminated enough for them to be compensated to the extent that allows them to move somewhere else or acquire new skills to pursue a different career. They go to meetings - like the one on the video- and the people who do control the decisions don't understand that part of the core anxiety of farmers is that the they have been rendered totally impotent in  decision making. 
  • Fair vs. unfair
Not fair.  Not fair. Not fair at all.  Even thought some of the places near the plant - in particular Tomioka - (but not Namie which has a long history of resistance against the plant) received financial incentives to have the plant in their local government area. This was compensation (bribes) for the plant; it wasn't to mollify people, who had been sold the myth of "Atoms for Peace", in the face of nuclear meltdown.   Anywhere in the world agriculture and fishing have an uneasy relationship with mining and heavy industry.  The integrity of agricultural products depends on perceptions of food safety.  For farmers who have been campaigning against the plant for years, it's bitterly unfair.  Rural Japan provides the oxygen for the cities to live.  It's an unfashionable point of view that is also found in the sentimentalized fascist constructions of a mythological glorious past.  But in reality Tokyo in particular relies on the regions for domestically produced energy - in the case of Tokyo, much of it from Tohoku. Nuclear plants in particular have kept energy cheap, at least cheaper than it would have been, and allowed Japanese industry to thrive.  The constant stream of cheap labour from the north facilitated the post war reconstruction.  Hiro's uncles were typical of their generation - rice farming in the spring summer and autumn in Akita,  labourers in Tokyo through the summer.  The children of the sixties and seventies left the regions for education, many finding work in Tokyo and making it their home.  The farming towns of Fukushima, like the farming towns all over Japan, have dwindling and aging populations.   There is outrage in Tokyo about potential danger to "our" food, but you see hints of outrage against farmers too for being complicit in knowingly producing food that is contaminated.  
The unfairness of that perspective, is something I lack words to describe.

  • Morally irrelevant vs. morally relevant
As Peter Sandman says, pollution "used to be unimportant (but) now pollution is morally wrong and polluters are reprehensible." We can subsitute "nuclear residue". It used to be unimportant, because it wasn't an issue, but now radioactive residue is absolutely unacceptable.  It makes absolutely no difference whether the Maximum Residue Level is 10 becquerels or 100,000 becquerels.  The fact is any becquerels is unacceptable. Mass opinion, in the absence of scientific "proof" does not want any becquerels as residue in their food.  The fact mass opinion doesn't condemn clogging tonkatsu or transfat filled Oreos, permits smoky coffee shops and doesn't question the intentional irradiation of food as a hygiene method  are a point of irony that bemuse me, but essentially not relevant to the fact that in the popular mind there is no safe level of nuclear residue.  No amount of persuading that 100 becquerels is safe, will convince the population that nuclear residue is comparable  to something like butter  where some is OK, but too much is bad for your health....

  • Responsive process vs. unresponsive process
The government has done some.... they've made an exclusion zone.  But the farmers that are complaining here are not being listened to.  The govt. and TEPCO are not being open and transparent about how decisions are being made.They are  not admitting that they have and are making mistakes.  TEPCO is not admitting mistakes.  It was announced perhaps two weeks ago that no-one is going to be prosecuted for the mistakes made.  Despite the fact that warnings were ignored, false information was given, no-one is going to be held accountable.  Listening to farmers talking about their dire situation and responding with what may as well be  - you are gullible for believing rumours that your food is not safe is not the kind of response that heightens anger, outrage and mistrust.

  • Trustworthy sources vs. untrustworthy sources
The government and TEPCO have lost all credibility.  PM announcing that the situation is under control to the IOC sent shockwaves through much of Japan.... For the farmers in this video, they are very clear that it's not under control.  They know themselves that they are contributing to a food chain that people can't trust.  If it's under control why is water with radiation being poured into the Pacific?  An official from the plant is on the record last week saying it's not under control.      If there are lies about such basic things, why would you believe in the integrity of the food chain, or that 100 becquerels is safe, or that it's not going to cause cancers, or it's not ever going to affect Tokyo...

Anti Nuclear Protest - more undercover police than protesters

Uniformed police waiting for a protest of about 80 anti nuclear protesters

If the authorities put as much energy into responding to
people who live in affected areas as they spend intimidating
anti nuclear protesters... a lot more might be achieved.

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