LIFE on Earth began in the ocean depths almost four billion years ago. The earth’s surface, blasted with cosmic radiation from the sun and lacking an atmosphere, was hostile to life, but the blue black depths of the sea provided the necessary conditions for a protective womb to nurture our microbial ancestors. Images of the fuel transfer operation at Fukushima, conducted underwater in what is essentially an oversized swimming pool, remind me of the first womb of Mother Earth – the oceans. Now is the time when humanity must unite to preserve this oasis of life, floating in infinite black space, upon which all creatures depend.
As a child, I was always drawn to the ocean. I loved to hear stories about the sea, but especially to be on the sea and in the sea. I spent my childhood summers on the coast of Maine. The seashore, gave me a sanctuary from the confusion and turmoil of modern life. I remember feeling the psychic trauma of war and nuclear weapons as a young child, but the seashore gave me a sanctuary, preserving my innocence and joy for a time. I would explore rugged granite ledges, tide pools, and beaches, immersing myself and all six of my senses in an endless game of “All Life is Interconnected”.
November 13, 2013. I arrived in New York City, still guided by my little boy heart, in love with the ocean and all life on this blue marble in space, now on a mission to bring a resolution to the UN authorizing the formation of an international independent commission of experts to oversee the mitigation of the Fukushima disaster. Was I naive in believing that a dreamer still in touch with his inner child, seemingly lacking power and fame, could somehow have an impact on the United Nations and the arc of global history? I place my trust always in a belief in the inherent goodness and wisdom of all humanity, and in the power of children and gentle voices! Corruption and self-centeredness certainly exists, but so does the light in each living being. What truly matters is where we place our focus.
At the United Nations Chapel. A Cherokee woman opened the session with chanting that palpably shifted the energy in the room, sending tingles through my spine. As Chief Arvol Lookinghorse shared the consensus statement of the indigenous elders of North and South America, reading it first in his native Lakota then in English, a capacity crowd of about 125 people listened in silence. I had prepared a ten minute statement, but felt moved to set it aside and speak from the heart, trusting that if I remembered to breathe, the perfect words to convey the urgency of the mission which my friends had entrusted me with, would flow effortlessly. There was no podium – no place to set my laptop which had my statement, and it would be better if there was no machine, no mechanical persona between my heart and the audience.
I begin by paying my respects to the elders and then sharing the story of my ancestors. “My great grandfather was a General in the U.S. Cavalry stationed at Fort Laramie in Wyoming engaged in hostilities with the Ogallala Sioux led by Chief Red Cloud. On behalf of my people, I’d like to apologize for the disrespect, greed, and genocide of my ancestors.” Chief Arvol Lookinghorse, sitting a few feet to my right nodded in acknowledgement. He was wearing the full ceremonial headdress as the spiritual leader of his people. “This is not a war bonnet” he repeatedly reminded people, that’s a racist myth from Hollywood. His wife Paula related that each feather in the headdress is earned through spiritual testing and prayer. I paused for a moment, giving my apology a chance to sink in so that anyone in the audience who wished could release any stored grief, pain or sadness accumulated in the crevices of American history. As I gazed around the audience, I noticed a woman with dark skin, weeping quietly. “Apologies can go a long way to heal,” she later told me.
I continued speaking, aware of a body standing there holding a microphone, without any nervousness or self –preoccupation. The elders were communicating through me, enabling truth to flow clearly: “The past is gone, and we can’t turn back the clock. All we have is this moment and now more than ever, we need to come together as one people under the rainbow of life. As Chief Arvol Lookinghorse and the indigenous elders have ominously spoken, we have reached a very dangerous cross roads in the history of our planet. Fukushima is not simply a nuclear crisis but a crisis that threatens all life.
Fukushima Response, backed by the opinion of many knowledgeable experts, has drafted a resolution calling for the United Nations to fulfill the mandate of its charter of global health and safety, and appoint an independent international commission free from conflicts of interest and develop a plan to manage this disaster before the unthinkable is upon us.”
The March 11, 2011 triple meltdown at Fukushima released huge quantities of radiation which rained down upon the Pacific Ocean, North America and encircled the globe in the jet stream. For two and a half years, an average of 400 tons of radioactive water from the site has flowed into the ocean every day. A tank farm containing millions of tons of radioactive water has been hastily constructed with materials not designed for radioactive fluids. Three new tanks are filled with radioactive coolant water every week and soon the site will run out of storage space. The tanks are leaking and held together by plastic connectors and duct tape. This huge tank farm containing millions of tons of radioactive water is extremely vulnerable to further earthquakes and could be released into the Pacific Ocean if another quake occurs, creating a devastating impact to all life around the Pacific rim.
1530 fuel “bundles” each containing approximately 60 fuel rods, are precariously perched on the 10th floor of a severely damaged building with bulging walls, liquefied foundation and subject to weekly earthquakes. The Japanese utility company, Tokyo Electric Power Corporation (TEPCO) has recently begun an unprecedented fuel removal process under extremely challenging and stressful work conditions.. There are widespread reports that the workers at the site are underpaid, their wages skimmed by Yakuza mafia bosses, and suffer from low morale, many expressing the sentiment that they are on a suicide mission.
Unit four contains the equivalent radiation of 14,000 Hiroshima bombs or approximately 85 Chernobyls. And nearby in another fuel pool lie several thousand more fuel rods. A mere six miles away is Fukushima Daini where workers must labor on inside the exclusion zone from the melt down. Another moderate to large earthquake could drain the fuel pool at any time. The fuel rods, lacking cooling, could heat up and catch fire, releasing immense quantities of radiation and forcing an evacuation of the site, possibly causing a domino effect.
In a worst case scenario happens with the fuel rods, the entire northern hemisphere would be affected for millions of years. TEPCO and and the Japanese government have been involved in numerous cover ups and the broad consensus of international expert opinion is that TEPCO lacks the demonstrated competence, resolve, and funding to meaningfully address this crisis. Doctors are under pressure not to diagnose radiation illness and one even went as far to say, if you smile, radiation can’t harm you – a baseless claim lacking scientific merit. Research scientists in Japan – like their predecessors in Russia after Chernobyl – risk their reputation and careers if they report findings on the harmful effects of radiation. New “states secrets” legislation passed the legislature days ago, creating a chilling effect on critically needed transparency and freedom of information.
Some people have expressed skepticism over whether the UN General Assembly will have the courage and moral integrity to challenge a few powerful nations with nuclear interests. The nuclear power industry and those governments – including notably my own country, the United States – who defend it for their economic and strategic interests, are at present engaged in a desperate damage control campaign in order to preserve the safety reputation of nuclear power. We need to wake up from our selective denial and challenge the overarching myth that nuclear power can ever be safe.
Peer research has established that there is no safe dosage of radiation and all radiation is cumulative. The consequences of Chernobyl are still with us today in the form of contaminated soil all across Europe. Cancer and genetic defects do not immediately appear but can take decades and generations to appear. As of yesterday, 59 Japanese children have already been diagnosed with probable cancer of the thyroid gland. Peer review studies concluded that on the west coast of the U.S. a statistically significant increase in thyroid abnormalities occurred amongst infants in the 10 weeks following the initial meltdowns and in a separate study, a 35% increase in mortality amongst newborns up to one year of age in eight northwest US cities.
It is unconscionably premature to declare as the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has done, that only a few dozen people died at Chernobyl. The IAEA has as its mandate, the promotion of nuclear power. Its’ directors are stacked with nuclear industry insiders. Due to this inherent conflict of interest, it is unreasonable to expect the IAEA to act in the best interests of the world. Both the World Health Organization and the United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation are subject to the oversight of the IAEA according to UN drafting language. A critique of the most recent Fukushima UNSCEAR report. (October 2013), by nine national chapters of two physician NGOs that have won Nobel Prizes should be read by anyone seeking truth about Fukushima. In particular, the oft-repeated lie that radiation from Fukushima, because it has only caused a slight increase in external radiation when measured against background radiation, and therefore harmless, is refuted. External background radiation and internal, ingested, hot particle emitters, are two entirely different phenomena.
Nearly a half million people worldwide have signed various petitions agreeing that independent international experts are needed at Fukushima. And to clarify an important point here – we aren’t asking for a U.S. or a U.N. take over of Fukushima. That would put the proverbial foxes in charge of the hen-house. GE designed the Fukushima plants and there are 20 similar designed plants here in the US. As just stated, there are inherent conflicts of interest that exist for the IAEA to act with the best interests of humanity in mind. Certainly, we need to tap the knowledge of nuclear designers who work in industry because these are the people who best understand the technical issues involved.
However, I would also include on this commission people like Arnie Gunderson, known for his industry independence (a former whistle-blower), and spiritual leaders like Chief Arvol Lookinghorse, the Dalai Lama or Pope Francis – people who can balance knowledge with wisdom. In essence the UN and its member nations would entrust this commission with the future of life on the planet, so there is an urgent need to think outside the box of traditional top down bureaucratic thinking. I would even put a child on the commission, someone like Ta’Kaiya Blaney. The children are the future, so they need to be part of this. Of course, the non-technical members would need to be briefed and have the ability to ask questions.
The arc of death and suffering from nuclear disasters – not merely to humans, but all life – occurs across centuries and millenia. And the stakes each day are rising as the infrastructure of aging plants deteriorates and natural disasters occur with ever more frequency in the new Anthropocene era of climate change. The half lives of the hundreds of radioisotopes released into the environment from Fukushima range from mere days until the end of time. As Einstein has said, “the splitting of the atom changed everything, save man’s mode of thinking. Thus we drift towards unparalleled catastrophe.” We can reverse our course, but it will take every one of us to deeply reflect on what is at stake here – our collective future – and to cultivate the courage to act quickly and decisively.
During my late twenties, I jumped off the corporate career ladder in finance and embarked on a journey to more clearly connect with my higher purpose in life. I heard about a healing gathering in the summer of 1990 in a remote mountain wilderness area in British Columbia, Canada and hitch hiked there, sleeping at road side rest stops along the way. I made a connection with a First Nations elder who introduced me to the sacred way of the traditional vision quest.
For two days and three nights, I sat out in the open beneath the sun and stars, not eating or drinking, not speaking, just sitting and listening and praying. Gradually, my mind became clear like a mirror. On the third night, a powerful voice spoke to me just before dawn and this is what it said: All life is connected. If we fail to listen to the voices of spirit within us, to act with kindness towards each other and all life on the planet, then unspeakable suffering awaits us all. It’s really up to each one of us. Now. As dawn’s light appeared, there was a powerful thunder-clap directly overhead, although there was only a light mist in the valley and no clouds anywhere to be seen.
There would come a time when the keepers of the legend, stories, culture rituals, and myths, and all the Ancient Tribal Customs would be needed to restore us to health. They would be mankind’s key to survival, they were the “Warriors of the Rainbow”.
Resources and Media:
Fukushima Response Seattle on Facebook
koyaanisqatsi – a classic 1982 film depicting “life out of balance”.
Counterpunch article discussing the study showing decreased thyroid functioning in newborns in California, and the key misunderstanding between external background radiation and internal (hot particle) emitters.
Thank you to Phoebe Soergen, Carol Wolman, M.D., Romi Elnagar, Nick Thabit, Roger, and many others for research, general moral support and talking points provided for my trip to the UN, and for this article.
Update: November 24 – The Phillippine Ambassador to the UN has expressed his support for our resolution and plans to introduce it to the General Assembly!