A New Movement of the People


A New Movement of the People

Yoshihiko Ikegami

We have counted more than two months after the nuclear accident in Fukushima. The four reactors are still in unstable condition, being fountainhead of our pending anxiety. Everyday reports from TV and newspapers are unequivocally focusing on fluctuating situations of the crippled reactors, continuing to produce certain spectacles. But now our central concerns are no longer there.

The present issue for us is the state of radioactive contamination that is spreading from Fukushima to Tokyo metropolis, and to a larger area. How much radioactive substances have been released and where they have reached since the accident – these facts have been gradually shed light on. In terms of the amount of radioactivity in the air, the tendency has been decrease rather than increase. However, we are discreetly yet tremendously shocked by learning the fact that the magnitude of soil contamination by radioactive substances has been much larger than we originally expected.

Seriousness of the radioactive contamination affecting particularly the soil of schoolyards and parks in Fukushima has come to be known widely both in and out of Japan. And offense and defense over the safety standard of 20 mm SV set by the state epitomizes the present conjuncture.

We are now bringing a charge against the state imposing the contamination to Fukushima Prefecture and revealing the state of contamination within and beyond the prefecture. These actions have been grounded upon the wish of the people to know the truth and their concrete practices.

In fact during the two months we have studied desperately, and come to understand everything about nuclear power, beginning from the structure of nuclear reactor to the meaning of the figures such as becquerel and sievert that indicate the amount of radiation. This is a study neither for a mere desire to learn nor a self-improvement, but for survival through and through. Without knowing these numbers, we will risk our lives – the precise sense of crisis has motivated us. Furthermore, we have come to learn the historical process through which nuclear power was introduced, the ugliness of the mining sites for uranium in Africa and Australia, and the cruel working conditions for the workers at the power plants. Now all of these situations that have been heretofore known only among a small group of specialists are shared widely.

The terms such as internal exposure and low dose exposure were still ambiguous for us in the beginning. However, thanks to the conscientious doctors/researchers who have long been treating the victims of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, we know how these victims are still suffering from A-bomb diseases as well as how to understand the juncture that we are in. In other words, the entire people are achieving an intelligence of higher and higher level. In consequence, we can instantaneously see through the ideology driven information spread by those proxy scholars who speak only on behalf of the state. It was only because the state and mass media never told us truth that there was no other choice for us but to study ourselves. And this impetus knows no faltering, but only advancement.

Now spreading with tremendous vigor is a movement to measure the doses of radiation one is receiving in one’s own everyday circumstance. Although measurements of radiation in a few determined points are publicized by public institutions, people in all districts are troubled by uncertainties vis-à-vis their near-by parks, homes and children’s schools. They have begun to find that out by themselves. I would call this, including my own research process, a new movement of the people.

Some might find incongruous to call it a movement. Many intellectuals have envisioned a mass movement as that which arises when people become politically awaken. This process, however, is slightly different from that. In other words, the people have been awaken less politically than scientifically in this case. This is an unexpected turn of event. There is no doubt that herein exists the singularity of the nuclear disaster.

First of all, the most important objective for this movement is to know our own physical condition, namely, the realistic state of contamination. Only by precise knowledge can we direct our lives and determine our action.

Secondly, the nuclear disaster can be by no means concluded in the coming several months. Influences of radiation will not surface immediately; symptoms will appear gradually and anytime in the coming five, ten, twenty, thirty… years, the unimaginably long span of time. We know the fact well enough. We also know too well the fact that the state will not easily acknowledge the causality between the accident and the symptoms. For this precise reason, we must record the present. The anti-nuke groups have long been aware of these cruel facts and struggling over and against them. And some groups of scientists have begun their full-hearted investigations right at the wake of the accident with their keen awareness of these facts. Precisely like the victims of Minamata disease (struggling for more than fifty years) and Chernobyl radiation, the present struggle will definitely be long-term. We are well aware of this.

Thirdly and perhaps most importantly, this movement trains us to observe ourselves objectively. This movement necessitates a process through which we learn our environment, cities, and nation-state, a process that is totally different from conventional academic programs, and is filled with cruel and crucial discoveries. Therefrom we shall learn our past, social mechanism and relationship with the external world.

Can this movement that has begun with the scientific awakening synthesize the knowledge and understanding retrospectively and move on toward a social and political awakening?

Soon the rainy season and then summer will come in Japan. Nuclear power supplies thirty percent of the entire electricity demand in Japan, almost two third of which is out of use at the moment. Then the electric companies will declare shortage as a threat to us. Thus an unprecedented struggle will take place. What will happen in this course? We cannot foresee it now. We are to be tested. All in all, however, I am optimistic with the intention to observe everything that can happen.

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PDF (日本語)

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