I wrote this essay a month after the earthquake and tsunami hit Japan and wrecked the nuclear power plant at Fukushima, resulting in a melt-down and radiation in air and water that continues today. I share the original essay with you, because it is still relevant today, two and a half years later. I also append a postscript about the situation today, and one possible response.
Fukushima – April 2011
I am deeply troubled by the on-going and worsening news about the Fukushima nuclear meltdowns and the fallout spreading across the world. Selfishly perhaps, I wonder how much is actually falling on the West Coast as I write this on April 6, a day when the biggest plume was predicted to pass over. I have stayed indoors today, wondering what is falling on my garden. Will it be safe to grow vegetables this year? But where else would food come from, if not my garden? Where in the world is safe?
Part of the problem is not having any reliable sources of information. The corporate powers that be in this country are certainly trying to minimize the dangers and the degree of nuclear contamination. Yet some of the more extreme reports are suspect, too. One report said the drinking water in Berkeley was 1000 times higher than allowable levels—or was it only 100 times? Anyway, that may have been shown to be a hoax. But who knows? How can we protect ourselves without reliable information?
Well, we can’t, really. And maybe looking to protect ourselves individually is futile anyway. We’re all in this together, karmically as well as physically. The question is more of a spiritual one: how can we each respond in a way that serves the welfare of all beings?
This may (or may not) be the peak moment some of us have been anticipating—the pivotal disaster/catastrophe/holocaust. Now is the time for us to call upon our deepest wisdom and love to guide us in our spontaneous actions moment to moment, day to day. We can’t really plan ahead, because we don’t know what will happen next. Whatever happens, however, we need to comfort one another through sickness and death, support each other through grief, anguish, anger, and fear, and still live with joy and gratitude for all we have had, and what still remains.
And we face the challenge of living with the knowledge of possible holocaust in a world that is largely in denial. It’s already yesterday’s news! Moreover, the government and the nuclear industry carefully cultivate our tendency for denial through deliberate cover-up and misinformation, for fear that people might turn against nuclear power, or panic and run amok.
Yet something tells me that we don’t need to spend a lot of time protesting loans to nuclear power plants and such. No new nuclear plants will be built. The effects of the holocaust spreading out from Fukushima will be undeniable and will stop nuclear energy in its tracks. Germany is already shutting down its plants and canceling plans for new ones. For one thing, the economic effects of wide-spread illness and death—in Japan and elsewhere—may make it impossible to fund anything as expensive as nuclear power plants. Perhaps even the industry leaders will see the error of their ways. It could herald a worldwide paradigm shift.
Our energies are better spent helping one another—our communities and nation—to get through the hard times now upon us, with dignity, love, cooperation, and even beauty. It’s too late for preventative measures; the crisis is upon us and nursing care is needed.
But what if this will all pass, like so many other disasters, without any real effects on the power structure? What if it isn’t as bad as I fear? A few more people get cancer—but that’s not really traceable to Fukushima. And business as usual goes on. What if it’s not bad enough to mark a turning point? What if my fear (and others’) is exaggerated? “The end of the world is at hand!” No, it’s not. We’ll muddle through this crisis, too, and life and business-as-usual will go on.
Although I see little hope for transformation without cataclysm, I recognize that the effects of a sudden disintegration of the Industrial Growth Society would be horrific: hundreds of thousands of people suffering and dying, including my family, friends, and me. Perhaps another scenario is possible. Perhaps a new society, a new community, will arise or be revealed as the IGS slowly collapses. And perhaps my family and friends will mostly survive because we are less entangled in the IGS (although I’m not sure that’s true).
So we walk into the great unknown, as we always do; only this time it’s more obvious. We face horrific catastrophe on one extreme, and business-as-usual on the other. Perhaps the synthesis of these two extremes is transformation. We can’t know. We can only live in the moment, seeing as clearly as we can what is happening—all of it: radioactive fall-out, lies and deceit, communities coming together, love and beauty still around us. Right now I am alive and aware and grateful for my life. That’s all I can be certain of. That’s all I can act upon.
Postscript – November 2013
Two and a half years later, the catastrophe at Fukushima continues. Huge amounts of radioactive water have flowed and are flowing into the Pacific Ocean, contaminating fish and plankton. The heavily-damaged building at Reactor 4 could collapse at any time, dumping its pool of fuel rods and radioactive water, causing an explosion that would send a stream of radioactive debris 14,000 times the strength of Hiroshima around the northern hemisphere for many decades, perhaps for centuries.
TEPCO, the company in charge of the reactors, plans to attempt to remove over 1,300 the spent fuel rods from reactor 4. These brittle and damaged rods are in a cooling vat currently hanging 100 feet in the air. The containment system they are housed in has been described as a crumpled cigarette box. The rods are encased in zirconium alloy, which is highly flammable. An additional 11,000 fuel rods are currently stored on the Fukushima site. Any tiny mistake in the removal process could result in a nuclear holocaust like the one described above.
A web site calling for a global meditation for Fukushima was recently created at http://www.meditationforfukushima.com. This seems to me to be our best hope—that we can collectively focus our power of mind and heart to psychically support the workers at Fukushima, especially the ones involved in the removal process. Perhaps collectively we can even contain, neutralize, and/or transform the radioactivity—and/or receive guidance in how to do so. Certainly, it can’t hurt to try! Please join in.