Anti-Nuke Demonstrations Heat Up in Japan

For the record, I am not anti-nuclear power. Nuclear power is like riding on airplanes. Crashes are rare, but when there is an accident, a lot of people die at once. Cars on the other hand, are vastly dangerous. Small accidents happen every single day, but the numbers are staggering.

The data on nuclear power do not indicate that it is more dangerous than power generated from fossil fuels. In fact, it shows the complete opposite. To date, despite nuclear power being used worldwide, accidents have been very, very few while emissions from fossil fuels, oil spills and toxic spill over from oil extraction poison people and the environment every passing minute.

The left, no stranger to narrow mindedness, happily ignores this fact and the data and puts all of its protesting eggs into the nuclear basket, often with the silent encouragement and benefit of fossil fuel proponents and big oil business.

That being said, I don’t think that earthquake and tsunami prone Japan is a proper place to house nuclear power plants.

Japan is a country in slow upheaval. The 2011 Tsunami which devastated northeast Japan led to a massive accident at a nuclear power facility in Fukushima. The extent of the pollution and it’s impact on human health and the environment are still unknown and will likely be unknown for decades. The earthquake, tsunami and disaster at Fukushima, however, have created a seismic political situation in Japan.

Note police buses.

Distrust in the ineffectual and corrupt Japanese government and widespread skepticism of giant mega-business have been the norm for decades. Since the 1960’s dissent has been quiet. The violent riots protesting the deep marriage of Japan’s government with the American military led to a systematic crack down on protest, and a policy of division which quietly put Japanese voters in their homes, contented with an expanding economy. Now, a shaky future, widespread unemployment among youth, a vastly well educated population and the recent earthquake related events have put Japan to the boiling point.

After shutting down all of its nuclear facilities for more than a year, the Oi plant in Fukui prefecture has been restarted. Hundreds of people showed up to protest the restart in Fukui. There have been wide protests in Osaka and more than 200,000 people showed up to demonstrate at the parliament building in Tokyo. Pictures of police dragging demonstrators in Osaka have been making the rounds on the internet. No enemy to big business and government, news reports on the protests have been scant and subdued. Social media, however, undermines official and unofficial stifling of vocal dissent and has only further agitated the Japanese populace.

How this will play out is anyone’s guess. My feeling though, is that the current trend of shrinking priorities, self sufficiency and a return to living with one’s means will continue. Agriculture will return to Japan, though it is insanity to believe that Japan will forego imported food. I fear that Japan will isolate itself once more, but am encouraged to know that this younger generation might have their priorities in order finally. We can wait, and learn.

About Pete Larson

Researcher at the University of Michigan Institute for Social Research. Lecturer in the University of Michigan School of Public Health and at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. I do epidemiology, public health, GIS, health disparities and environmental justice. I also do music and weird stuff.

One response to “Anti-Nuke Demonstrations Heat Up in Japan”

  1. stumpwater says :

    Well, being on the ground here (for a few more hours), I see it, and it looks an awful lot like Occupy. That is to say, a few — a very few — young people have a clue about what is of value. A lot of the rest is just youthful enthusiasm for lashing out at the PTB. But, like Occupy, there is very little in the way of solutions that have any chance of being implemented (not that many of the suggested solutions aren’t good — they just don’t stand much of a chance given the status quo). But perhaps, as you hope, it’s a slow, incremental process.

    There is a lot of enthusiasm for “appropriate technology” agriculture, which is especially encouraging after seeing lots of eutrophic rivers and lakes that I was told were clear just a few years ago. There are several large groups of these young farmers around the country that seem much better informed than many of their American counterparts. From what I can tell, there are a handful of movers and shakers that actually know a little bit of ag science, and who have done a good job of disseminating their knowledge.

    As for nukes, the problem isn’t so much with accidents as it is with embedded energy, mining, waste disposal, and WATER USE. Of course, for tectonically unstable Japan, accidents may indeed be the biggest problem. At any rate, nuclear power is on the lesser end of several evils. Even solar and wind have their environmentally unfriendly sides.There just aren’t any simple energy fixes. Japan seems to be taking the most sensible route in that they are at least making an effort to curb consumption. The really heartening thing about that is that I have heard _nobody_ complain, and I’ve seen plenty of folks actually making an effort to cut back on consumption.

    Also, for what it’s worth, I was told by a pretty sharp old guy in Fukui-ken that jobs and the local economy had more to do with the plant reopening than lack of energy. There was apparently a good deal of pressure from the industry and the local government, to crank back up. Didn’t have a chance to check the veracity of his claims, but he seemed to be very well informed. That makes a lot of sense to me, given what I’ve read about there not having been any problematic energy shortages after the initial disruptions.

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