Monday, October 3, 2011

Mothers, the Children of Japan, Anti-Nuclear Rallies: Wake Up Americans!

Overwhelmed.  Exhausted.  I cannot think straight.  As a writer, as a mother, as a professor, I have to be able to think clearly. What to do first?  Write here?  Write my academic article on anti-nuclear mothers in real life and film?  Finish my book?  Write for the popular press?  Talk about it in my classroom?  March?  Protest on Wall Street?  What about all of the other environmental problems: fracking, toxics, tar sands, species extinction?  Ach!

In this piece, I want to share with you (among other things) the voices of the mothers and children of the Japanese Delegation. Sachiko Sato, a mother and organic farmer, and her children, Mina (13) and Yuuki (17), spoke in New York last week about their losses and the current disaster in Japan--their fears for the world at large.  They came here--to NYC--to the U.N.-- to be speak out against nuclear power.  The Japanese government is not listening, nor is the U.S government paying attention. You can watch and listen to the powerful testimonies of the Japanese Delegation here:  This particular event took place on Friday, September 23, 2011.

I personally heard Sachiko and her children speak at the Gary Null event at the Ethical Culture Society, on Wednesday, September 21, 2011.  I spoke with them at length after.  The other important speakers at this event included: Gary Null, Harvey Wasserman, Vandana Shiva, Kevin Kamps, Greg Palast and Karl Grossman.  Null showed his powerful anti-nuclear film: Knocking on the Devil's Door

At this event, Sachiko Sato and her children told a heart wrenching story of all that they have lost--their farm, their friends and schools. They miss the "little" things like taking care of the chickens, and helping out at their mother's daycare center. Mina is sad that she will never get to sleep in the new bedroom that was being built for her.  There are five children in the family and this was to be Mina's first private bedroom.   They are isolated.  Bereft.  Lost.  The children have been living alone since their mother whisked them away from their home to safety a few days after March 11, 2011.  The Japanese delegation is calling on Americans to shut our plants down before we have a Fukishima disaster here.

All of these speakers addressed the problem of the greed, power and corruption of the nuclear industry worldwide. Null and others explained about the danger Indian Point poses to millions of New York City area residents. The plant is an easy target for attack by terrorists. It leaks. It is on a fault line. We have no evacuation plan if it should melt. It is only 25 miles from Manhattan--so millions of lives are at stake as well as the world economy.  Yet the NRC wants to extend its date for closure!  It makes no sense.  What is wrong with our government?

Shiva explained how in India, the government has "land grabbed' beautiful fertile farms and dismissed local governmental decisions (and the will of the people) to ban the building of new nuclear plants.  Thousands have been protesting (peacefully) in resistance to the building of such new plants.  Many innocent citizens have been shot at and killed.  In Koodankulam, protesters have at least temporarily stopped the opening of a new plant. I wrote more about this at Terraspheres.

Do we hear about the Indian protests in mainstream U.S. press?  Not much. 

Do we hear about the ongoing Japanese nuclear disaster in the U.S. press?  Barely.

These talks and Null's film scared me terribly. 

I also had the opportunity this past weekend, on October 1, 2011, to film/live-stream the C.A.N. anti-nuclear rally to Shut Down Indian Point.  Many of the speakers were Japanese women, such as  the mother Tomoi Zeimer, who a gave painful account of how scary it is for the families in Japan right now.  Many Japanese parents can't find food for their children to eat, or safe water for their children to drink.  School playgrounds are contaminated and whole communities are poisoned. The government is not evacuating their people from dangerous areas.  It is horrifying. Helen Caldicott, my heroine, was the keynote speaker and she called out for U.S. citizens to stand up and say 'enough is enough'!  I had a chance to interview Helen privately the next day.  I will post my interview with her soon.  She also spoke at the Occupy Wall Street rally last night.  Helen is a brilliant Australian physician who has been a staunch anti-nuclear activist since the 1980s. She told me she feels obligated as a physician to save lives and this sense of duty drives her to be an anti-nuclear activist.  She looks at nuclear radiation as a medical problem because she understands how it impacts human health. Caldicott says it is up to women to save this earth and to stop this madness. We have to find our voices, stop being afraid of speaking out, and stand up to the men who have their greedy fingers on the bomb, on nuclear power, and on other forms of environmental destruction.

I left this event and the October 1 CAN Rally concerned about the safety of where I live in Long Island--wondering if I should move away.  One of the leading Japanese green activists, Aileen Mioko Smith, with whom I spoke after the event, gave me haunting advice.  Aileen told me:

'When (not if) Indian Points melts, you won't be able to leave right away.  There will be chaos. The roads will be flooded with people trying to escape and with nowhere to go. So keep plenty of water. Keep enough canned food to last a few weeks.  If you have a basement, stay down there.  When the roads clear, drive far, far away.  You will be exposed to the radiation, but at least you will get away.  You will never be able to go home again.  The entire New York City region will be unsafe to live in for lifetimes. Thousands.'

I'm not moving anywhere just yet, but living downstream from Indian Point sure makes me stop and think.  Of course, where would I go?  Where is it really safe, anyway?  There are nuclear power plants in so many places.  There are toxic sites everywhere.  Radiation and toxins travel.  Rachel Carson taught us all that.  The point isn't to run away--it is to stop ignoring the dangers and take action.

In case you don't know--23 US reactors are identical to those at Fukushima-Daiichi.  The GE Mark 1 containment vessels (those in Fukushima and here) have serious design problems. GE has known about this since Dale Bridenbaugh and other engineers resigned over the design of the containment vessels in the 1980s. Why has our government ignored this information for all this time?  Why have so many children been forced to suffer because of this criminal negligence?

Japan and the U.S. are silent on this issue.  In Germany and other countries throughout Europe, nuclear plants are being shut down. Where can't Americans force the U.S. Government to abandon nukes as well?

I will leave you with some beautiful photographs, taken by my fourteen- year old daughter, of Tomoi Zeimer and the orphan baby she adopted from Ibaragi (next to Fukushima).  Ibaragi is a highly contaminated area, full of hot spots.  Tomoi spoke passionately at the rally about her fears for the people of Japan, for her baby's birth mother (who is in high school there), for her sisters, for the children who are suffering.... Tomoi worries, also, because many of the folks in Japan are in denial and she finds this to be "very spooky."

On the way home from the rally, my daughter asked me: "Mom, are we going to die?"  I told this to Helen Caldicott the next day, and she said, "that is why we have to shut these 104 plants down.  That is why we have to disarm our nuclear weapons."

Afterward: on the drive to work today, I heard from a good friend who met a young officer who works for the U.S. Navy.  I will not name names.   The officer is a nuclear physicist and an engineer.  His job is to travel round the world to study levels of radiation in areas that are contaminated.  He spent several months in Japan after March 11, 2011 and the Fukushima accident.  He said the radiation levels were shockingly high--way off the charts.  Yet the Japanese government covered it up, and said the wind would blow the 'small' amounts of radiation away!  The government told their people it was nothing to worry about.  They are still doing this.  What about the American government?  What about the rest of the world?  This is an abomination and a crime of the highest order.  And, it CAN happen here.

I am mortified.  I am called to action.   Please heed this call: get involved.  Express your outrage.  It is time to march.

Activists prevented Shoreham Nuclear Power Plant from going forward in Long Island.  Andrea Merkel has vowed to decommission all nuclear plants in Germany.   It can be done here.

We Shall Overcome.  We MUST! 

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