[image via reuters]
I have tried to distract myself from dwelling on the situation in Japan, but I am finding it difficult to concentrate on other matters. So I am going to go ahead and share some thoughts here, and I thank you in advance for bearing with me.
My thoughts are disorganised and saturated with emotion: a horrible sense of dread that I try to bury or rationalise away without success. The earthquake and the subsequent tsunami experienced by Japan are an indescribable tragedy and I've yet to determine whether any of my acquaintances have been affected. And unless nuclear disaster from the damaged power stations is averted, the situation will become considerably worse. Not only will thousands of unfortunate people trapped as a result of the earthquake be immediately exposed to radiation, but who knows how many thousands (millions?) of others may not be able to evacuate in time. And it is impossible to predict (or even to calculate after the fact) how many of those living further away will suffer long-term health damage.
When the Chernobyl disaster occurred in 1986, radiation spread over a huge area, encompassing much of Eastern and Northern Europe. As a child living within this greater region at the time, I remember vividly my second grade teacher explaining the effects of radiation to the class. We were told about what happens to the body and what kind of illnesses one could develop. We were warned to stay indoors, to keep the windows closed, and not to eat any fruits and vegetables for the time being. For years afterward, no matter where in the world we lived, my parents carefully read food labels just to make sure they weren't imported from anywhere near "there." When one experiences this type of event at a young age, it gets incorporated into their world-view as part of the psychological development process and stays there. The inherent trust between human and nature is broken.
The Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant is not Chernobyl. For one thing, as I understand it, graphite is not used in Fukushima's reactors - which is what was responsible for creating such a massive explosion in Chernobyl and carrying the radiation over large distances. Still, it is impossible to accurately predict how events might unfold, should the worst happen this time around. And while many dismissed the Chernobyl disaster as something that could only happen under the Soviet regime, that certainly no longer appears to be the case.
I don't want to venture out of my depth here and express opinions about the pros and cons of nuclear power, government transparency and so on. I only wish to say that this could happen anywhere, in any region, and it can impact the regions around it. It can impact us all - physically and psychologically. As I follow the progress of Japan's containment efforts, all I can do is try to control my anxiety and think positively. With all my might, I hope for the best for the people of Japan. Thank you all for reading this. Lovely Bicycle is not a forum for environmental issues and I recognise that this post is tangentially appropriate at best. I hope that getting this off my chest will help me continue with regular posts.