Monday, April 11, 2011

Nature Moves beyond the Nation

There is a global effort to force a more international participation in solving the crisis at Fukushima by citizens around the world. This effort is founded in a position that I believe to be true: that it makes no sense to put a single for-profit corporation or a single nation in charge of a crisis that is quickly becoming international in scale. It seems to me that this is a matter of greater national security for the western seaboard of the US than some aspects of the so-called war on terror. Should we send up a color-coded alert system to alert mothers in Spokane where according to CNN iodine-131 has already shown up in milk? Or a warning system for cesium-137 in fish?

Protesters have been posted outside of TEPCO offices almost since day one of the catastrophe. Mostly recently, people held rallies in Tokyo on April 10th against nuclear power plants and the incompetence at Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear plant. About 17,500 people gathered Sunday for two rallies held in Tokyo. At Koenji, a place I’ve known for its excellent used bookstores, 15,000 people held a march organized by local shop owners. A petition is being circulated on the web that began in Paris. Signed by environmental historians, professors of economics, philosophers, journalists, and others including the esteemed philosopher of science Isabelle Stengers, this petition expresses concerns over the handling of the crisis at Fukushima by TEPCO and the Japanese government. It especially recognizes the urgent need to treat this incident as a global problem to be solved by global groups: “We believe urgent that TEPCO’s actions are placed under international civic control on behalf of human and environmental rights, concerning in particular the ocean.” And, “The Earth as a whole is our common concern; the general interest should prevail over managerial and State forms of reasoning and power. It is high time that citizens play a role at the international level in the technical evaluations which legitimize installations that compromise our living conditions.” (

To date, international cooperation has already helped to provide some aid to Japan. Countless NGOs sought from the disaster’s earliest days to aid evacuees of Fukushima and environs. The US government prevailed in its urgent request to TEPCO to stop dumping saltwater on its generators and the US Navy provided freshwater to the plant for cooling. But there is so much more to be done.

This incident should help us see, perhaps more than any other in our human history, that Nature moves and cannot be bounded by national interests. It moves around us and through us. As these calls for global participation in the solving of the Fukushima crisis illustrate, there is no “Japan” here, but both a highly localized world of contamination near the Fukushima plant and a highly dispersed one in the sea and ocean currents that lead away from it. For toxins that persist across time and space, we cannot rely on one private company working with one national government to solve it.

We're all in this together.