Tomyamaguchi’s Weblog

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Worst Case Scenario

Over the weekend after the Japanese earthquake and tsunami struck, I found myself in a profound sense of grief. First, of course, I grieved for the victims, those who lost their lives and those who had been left to survive and deal with the aftermath. This grief has been compounded by the stories coming out of the crippled nuclear reactors at Fukushima Daiichi. Yes, I understood this was a very unusual event, the fifth most powerful earthquake recorded since 1900. The reactors did withstand the force of the quake itself, but succumbed to the powerful tsunami that shut down generators needed to power the backup cooling system. I understood that the odds of a similar accident happening in this country was not even worth worrying about. And yet I found myself stunned and silent, unable to talk to anyone what I was thinking or feeling. I knew how others were reacting. Those who have held firmly to their anti-nuclear views now felt vindicated that their fears had come to pass. Those who were beginning to reconsider their opposition are now backing away from accepting of nuclear energy. For those of us who still support nuclear power, the work that was difficult before the accident has become even harder after it.

In Quaker worship, I pondered my feelings until I found a message that I shared vocally. “An earthquake can shake our beliefs. A tsunami can wash away our dreams. After that, we mourn, we learn, we rebuild.” I later tweeted the message, one my few tweets that have been retweeted.

Even as the disaster continues to play out, with each day bringing some good news alternating with more bad news, there are those who are able to put it all in perspective. One is Gwyneth Cravens in Bloomberg News, reminding us that the problem at Fukushima is just one of the catastrophic disasters that Japan is currently facing. Our news media has focused our attention on radiation and away from other health crises that the earthquake and tsunami have caused. Cravens previously published the book Power to Save the World about her own journey from antinuclear activist to nuclear power proponent. I can relate to that story, having made a similar journey:

In reality, fossil fuel energy has proven itself far more dangerous. Let us not forget that the damage includes to our climate. Climate change continues to be a ticking time bomb. We could take our time to develop safer energy sources, particularly nuclear fusion. Unfortunately, climate change does not give us much time. Nuclear fusion won’t be feasible until later this century, if ever. Those who believe we can get all the energy we need from wind and solar are not realistically dealing with the scope of the problem. We could say those who advocate for renewables alone are as much in denial as those who believe humans have nothing to do with the rapid increase in global temperatures.

This means we will be saddled with nuclear fission for awhile, but, the goods news is that nuclear technology continues to evolve. Older reactors, such as Fukushima Daiichi that date back to the sixties, are being replaced with better designs, more resistant to natural disaster.

And so I grieve, and I learn how to respond to my grief. One response that is never productive is panic, especially the panic over traces of radiation that may be drifting over California. In looking for an appropriate model of response, I thought of columnist Dan Savage and his creation of the It Gets Better project. Savage was responding to a sudden rash of gay teen suicides. Young gays were killing themselves as the result of vicious bullying. Savage’s response was simply and positive. Let our young people know that many of us have been in their shoes. Those of us who did survive have learned that ours lives ended up OK after all, and we are glad we did not accept suicide as an option. People shared their stories on YouTube of how it got better for them, and a nation has been moved to action against bullying.

The best response includes listening, reading, and learning. A friend of mine Karen Street has been studying climate change and nuclear power for the past two decades. She publishes a blog, A Musing Environment. There is also World Nuclear News and the Energy Collective. Those pages can lead you to even more resources.

An earthquake can shake our beliefs.
A tsunami can wash away our dreams.
After that, we mourn, we learn, we rebuild.
Then we can say, “It gets better.”

March 26, 2011 - Posted by | Uncategorized

1 Comment »

  1. […] Anyone can also check out this related post: Nice related topic here: […]

    Pingback by panic attacks | March 27, 2011 | Reply

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