Emotions can move in wildly different directions after tragic events such as the recent series of disasters in Japan. Some in the areas most affected can veer into deep despair at the devastation or anger of the scale of loss. Others look to find positivity and ways forward, despite the immediate challenges they face. Others still get on with the job and just do what they have to do, as the before and after photos in this article demonstrate (six days and a brand new road - that's pretty impressive!).
Those living further away from disaster zones are also subject to such variances in mood, such as the uncertainties being reported amongst Tokyoites over the ongoing safety of the city (e.g. aftershocks, radiation clouds, unsafe drinking water). Further afield again, there is the pain felt by expatriates and others, not in the country but still umbilically connected via family, friends or heritage. Personal examples I've seen are people in the Japanese community at the college where I work and in the wider community of Brighton who have been galvanised into action to raise funds for their countryfolk and reconstruction efforts.
One such message of positivity and action, discovered via one of my social networks, comes from Nagasaki. It was written by the granddaughter of a survivor of the atomic bombing of that city, and it reproduced in full here, with permission of 'Ten Thousand Things' (the site where it originally appeared).
There were a number of reasons for republishing it here:
- The message of positivity amidst all the gloom, and the subsequent desire to spread others' good words.
- The list of linked (generally grassroots) resources that it contains.
- The link that runs from the past (the experiences of Nagasaki), through the present (the effects of the Touhoku quake), and on to the future, with the message for a new way forward.
- The lessons for those not affected by the quake/after-effects. For example, although in global/international discourse there is no longer talk of First World, Second World and Third World, a distinction is invariably made been the developed world and the developing world. This piece of writing is the first time I've heard reference to an 'overdeveloped' world. This suggests to me that highly urbanised, largely post-industrial societies such as those of Western Europe, North America and Japan itself, societies of hyper-consumption and economic mirages, are not just ends in themselves that all other nations should aspire to become - a final stage in the evolution of national societies - but examples for the world of what happens when 'growth at all costs' becomes the dominant mantra.
- The lessons that Japan has for the rest of the world as it recovers from this disaster.
Today, it seems Japan is once again being poised as a teacher. The wounds emerging from this crisis serve to underscore, once again, just how much the splitting of the atom remains a volatile global threat at many levels: personal, community, state, and environmental.
'Rise like Tsunamis after the Earthquakes' - an open letter speaking to grief, hope and sharing resources for healing
Greetings. My name is Crystal Uchino, and I am writing from my home in the southern prefecture of Nagasaki, Japan.
A somber dirge continues to play in the hearts of all of us here across Japan in the wake of this earth-shaking, tsunami and subsequent nuclear crisis. This trifecta of disasters is truly beyond humbling: It is a living, grotesque and sobering nightmare that will haunt the world to come. As the after effects of both the earthquake and the tsunami continue to be revealed, so grows the depths of sadness over the magnitude of the situation. Watching events unfold over the news daily in real time delivers new quakes to test the resilience and endurance of our hearts, faith, the depths of our empathy, grief and determination to act.
The death toll has continued to climb daily, as does the number of homeless and seeking shelter from nuclear fallout. Additionally the conditions within the shelters appears grim: inadequate infrastructure to provide sufficient food, warmth, and sanitation. New explosions at the nuclear power plant in Fukushima, and large aftershock tremors continue to rock this already shaken nation. The apocalyptic images we see on television news conjure memories of the damage reaped by the atomic bombs dropped here over sixty years ago, as the possibility for a new generation of Hibakusha ('nuclear explosion-affected peoples') emerges as a frightening reality.
Today, it seems Japan is once again being poised as a teacher. The wounds emerging from this crisis serve to underscore, once again, just how much the splitting of the atom remains a volatile global threat at many levels: personal, community, state, and environmental. Japan, despite past injuries of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and its seemingly anti-nuclear principles (non-production, non-possession, and non-introduction of nuclear weapons) has become a world leader in nuclear development and production. According to Green Action Japan, before the quake, there were 53 nuclear power plants in operation in Japan: 53 nuclear power plants in a small island country notoriously vulnerable to earthquakes and other natural disasters.
My heart and prayers are with the people of Fukushima and the Tohoku area; it is they who are now shouldering this horrific burden so that the world may be reminded again of just what a painful and costly responsibility we bear when we allow bad stuff to enter our communities.
Around the globe, people are awakening to the reality of our fragility and vulnerability surrounding the dangers of all forms of nuclear development. Barely a week has passed since the initial earthquakes, but as a world we have grown up in ways that we had never hoped to; and with our newly realized maturity, we are challenged look ourselves in the face, to grapple with this saddest of lessons, and answer the question of how we will begin to take responsibility for our part in allowing bad stuff to enter our communities, on both the local and global scale.
The desire to help, to constructively affect the situation here in Japan, is echoing around the world. And the ways each of us can tangibly work to affect some immediate relief are just beginning to be known. Still, because I have gotten so many requests from folks for suggestions on how they can support things here, I wanted to share some of the initial resources I know of with you. These links offer the best grassroots alternatives to donating to the Red Cross that I know of at this time.
Second Harvest Japan: This group has been working at the community level feeding people in Japan for years.
Japan Volunteers: A great resource page consolidating links to support relief efforts, relevant to folks living in Japan and oversees. It is being updated daily with new resources as they develop.
Call for Home stay for Earthquake Evacuees (Only for folks currently living in Japan)
Translators United for Peace: For those who are bilingual. 日本の原発奴隷――原子力発電所における秘密
A friend of mine once wrote some song lyrics calling for people to 'RISE LIKE TSUNAMIS AFTER EARTHQUAKES'. It is a most hopeful metaphor for me in this time. And today, I received these words in an email from another friend: 'When Mother Earth speaks, all we can do is listen. But when humans' dangerous passion for energy consumption has wreaked such toil on her children, then we must act'.
The current genpatsu nanmin ('nuclear power refugees') have translated the reality of nuclear development into a language that the world can feel. Humanity is speaking clearly, and I feel as a result of this new communication, though painful, that many beautiful, hopeful and inspiring things have been brought to the surface. I have been so moved by the feelings of sincere and unconditional caring and support I have received from friends, family, and even strangers this last week; and equally as moved by the demonstrations and vigils manifesting in a multitude of forms that have been erupting with passion all over the world.
You may think me young, naive, callous or even insane to bring up politics in a time like this. But I tell you that I have prayed at the graves of unborn aunts and uncles murdered by the atomic bomb disease and I feel entitled to tap into ancestral lessons this week. It is from my vantage point of both proximity and distance from this crisis as a current resident of southern Japan; from my vantage point of both proximity and distance from the horrors of Nagasaki and Hiroshima as the granddaughter of a Nagasaki Hibakusha, that I say with great hope and longing that this darkest of nightmares may serve as a catalyst to once again pump life into the stagnant pools of the anti-nuclear movement, to overflow them so that the energies built and created there may also nourish other movements. To me, the words 'activist' and 'healer' are interchangeable.
This tragedy has been an ugly and unsought vindication of many undersupported social-justice struggles, most poignantly the anti-nuclear movement, which warned about this eventuality time and again. Most people sat in silent denial as more nuclear power plants were constructed, not just in Japan, but around the world, and many people sit even now in disbelief, quietly burying their fears as development plans for hundreds of more (albeit 'safer') nuclear reactors remain on the discussion tables concurrently with the grotesque suffering of tens of thousands of displaced peoples. But in this cold and dark time resides new growth. A new spring is beginning and each day we rise anew, we each are gifted an opportunity to carve out a more sincere definition of accountability, to hold ourselves and each other responsible in new ways. Although our recent wounds are still gaping, still throbbing, the time is now for us to rise like tsunamis after earthquakes and once again recommit ourselves to the healing of the future for the next generation.
I've spent several days writing and revising this letter, it started out as some brief resource suggestions to friends but morphed into this. I was propelled to keep writing by my desire to combat the helplessness I feel sitting here, relatively safe, overdosing on miso, kombu, and the news in the southern prefecture of Nagasaki, Japan, as coordinated relief efforts have not yet begun taking volunteers. This time of mourning has given me a good opportunity to reassess what I hold important and clear out some clutter to make room for the work that lies ahead. Many exciting possibilities for new growth and new cooperation are resonating in the undertones of this funeral song. Those of us living in the overdeveloped world have become so accustomed to the ubiquitous take take take lifestyle that we have forgotten how to stretch our arms, to reach them out, to reach them up! in times when our spirits long to do so the most. This is an open letter to anyone feeling helpless at this time: let us relearn the actions.
It is my hope that some of the things said and resources within these words will be useful to you, please feel free to share them with others. The links below are also great places to continue to sober up through educating ourselves and get inspired for the long term work that is to come.
Nuclear Information and Resource Service: Updates on the situation at Fukushima and simple ways to engage in the movement to end nuclear dependency
Democracy Now: Sober news reporting.
Midnight Apothecary: Some recipes, because protection, healing, and action begin inside the body.
Anti Atom Demo in Germany
Anti Atom Demo in France
A look into the history of 'Japan's Nuclear Nightmare'
This is a great sticker
An excerpt for an article from Color Lines:
A little over a week before an 8.9-magnitude earthquake ripped open a fissure in the Earth, triggered a deadly tsunami and set off a potential worldwide nuclear catastrophe, House Republicans introduced a bill to permit 200 more commercial nuclear reactors in the U.S., 'enough to triple current megawatt capacity, by 2040'. Tucked into that bill is a clause that revives the long debate around nuclear waste storage in Nevada’s Yucca Mountain, a move that Native American and environmental groups have been resisting for decades.
Japan quake radioactive material monitoring post MAP
Blog post by a Tokyo resident connecting a bunch of dots and sharing a bunch of really great links
Many of the words flowing from this page have been pretty heavy, so I wanted to share just one small anecdote with you.... This past weekend I went to the post office. And so I'm at the post office right, and there are people lined up out the door of the post office sending bags of rice and boxes of water or fresh vegetables to loved ones up north and I thought to myself...'What kind of apocalypse is this?...No one can get food or water, but they can get mail?!'
On that note, I end this letter in solidarity and with hope, taking comfort in the knowing that the same moon shines light down on all of us. Each day I wake up to the budding and flowering of the ume, momo, and the sakura as well are beginning to bloom, as if to say 春が来るよ ('Spring is coming!').
Crystal K. Uchino