O florescer das famosas cerejeiras brancas e rosas leva milhares às ruas e parques do Japão para observar o fenômeno, que dura poucos dias e é reverenciado há mais de mil anos. Mas este ano a antecipação da florada tem preocupado cientistas, pois indica impacto nas mudanças climáticas.
Segundo registros da Universidade da Prefeitura de Osaka, em 2021, as famosas cerejeiras brancas e rosas floresceram totalmente em 26 de março em Quioto, a data mais antecipada em 12 séculos. As floradas mais cedo foram registradas em 27 de março dos anos 1612, 1409 e 1236.
A instituição conseguiu identificar a antecipação do fenômeno porque tem um banco de dados completo dos registros das floradas ao longo dos séculos. Os registros começaram no ano 812 e incluem documentos judiciais da Quioto Imperial, a antiga capital do Japão e diários medievais.
O professor de ciência ambiental da universidade da Prefeitura de Osaka, Yasuyuki Aono, responsável por compilar um banco de dados, disse à Agência Reuters que o fenômeno costuma ocorrer em abril, mas à medida que as temperaturas sobem, o início da floração é mais cedo.
“As flores de cerejeira são muito sensíveis à temperatura. A floração e a plena floração podem ocorrer mais cedo ou mais tarde, dependendo apenas da temperatura. A temperatura era baixa na década de 1820, mas subiu cerca de 3,5 graus Celsius até hoje”, disse.
Segundo ele, as estações deste ano, em particular, influenciaram as datas de floração. O inverno foi muito frio, mas a primavera veio rápida e excepcionalmente quente, então “os botões estão completamente despertos depois de um descanso suficiente”.
Na capital Tóquio, as cerejeiras atingiram o máximo da florada em 22 de março, o segundo ano mais cedo já registrado. “À medida que as temperaturas globais aumentam, as geadas da última Primavera estão ocorrendo mais cedo e a floração está ocorrendo mais cedo”, afirmou Lewis Ziska, da Universidade de Columbia, à CNN.
A Agência Meteorológica do Japão acompanha ainda 58 cerejeiras “referência” no país. Neste ano, 40 já atingiram o pico de floração e 14 o fizeram em tempo recorde. As árvores normalmente florescem por cerca de duas semanas todos os anos. “Podemos dizer que é mais provável por causa do impacto do aquecimento global”, disse Shunji Anbe, funcionário da divisão de observações da agência.
Dados Organização Meteorológica Mundial divulgados em janeiro mostram que as temperaturas globais em 2020 estiveram entre as mais altas já registradas e rivalizaram com 2016 com o ano mais quente de todos os tempos.
As flores de cerejeira têm longas raízes históricas e culturais no Japão, anunciando a Primavera e inspirando artistas e poetas ao longo dos séculos. Sua fragilidade é vista como um símbolo de vida, morte e renascimento.
Atualmente, as pessoas se reúnem sob as flores de cerejeiras a cada primavera para festas hanami (observação das flores), passeiam em parques e fazem piqueniques embaixo dos galhos e abusar das selfies. Mas, neste ano, a florada de cerejeiras veio e se foi em um piscar de olhos.
Com o fim do estado de emergência para conter a pandemia de Covid-19 em todas as regiões do Japão, muitas pessoas se aglomeraram em locais populares de exibição no fim de semana, embora o número de pessoas tenha sido menor do que em anos normais.
There is no specific treatment for the disease caused by a new coronavirus.. Treatment is based on the patient’s symptoms and supportive care can be very effective. Specific therapies and vaccines are being studied.
However, both Korea and China have been treating infections with drugs known as Chloroquine (long known to treat malaria) or Kaletra (used for the treatment of HIV/AIDS, contains lopinavir/ritonavir ).
The New York Times ran a major story of two 29 year old female Wuhan medical professionals, one who died, and one who lived. The one who lived was treated with Kaletra. The one who died was not treated with either chloroquine or Kaletra.
The New York Post has a similar story of a New Jersey healthcare worker who was on the verge of dying. He was only saved because Chinese family members reached out to doctors in Wuhan who told them to begin immediate treatment with either chloroquine or Kaletra.
He said “Fortunately I have the resources and knowledge about it. I would be dead and gone already. Most medical providers here don’t know about it. Medical providers need to communicate with Chinese medical teams.”
In the (now removed / archive) WHO public guidelines for coronavirus treatment published 13 March 2020, there is no mention of either chloroquine or Kaletra.
Instead the WHO guidelines state:
“There is no current evidence to recommend any specific anti-COVID-19 treatment for patients with confirmed COVID-19”
We find the same from the CDC in the USA. In the official CDC clinical guidance (archive) published on March 7, 2020 Chloroquine is only mentioned in an unrelated footnote and Kaletra is not mentioned at all. The CDC states:
“There are currently no antiviral drugs licensed by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat patients with COVID-19.”
Since three major countries (Italy, USA, Australia) appear to be following incorrect WHO treatment guidelines, it likely means that this is a problem in most other countries as well.
Why aren’t our usual medical channels getting this information themselves?
This is a problem from the top down. Western healthcare has already become very complex and government employees are risk averse. They are not used to situations where critical drug treatments need to be made available within a few weeks. China made it a national priority to solve the problem, so normal drug market approvals were waived. WHO was also very delayed² in declaring a pandemic. WHO also didn’t do a good job on the ebola outbreak.
In addition, WHO has been reported to spend³ more than $200M/year on travel expenses, more than it spends on fighting many major problems.
If Italy had the same treatment success rate as Korea, with only 0.91% of people dying instead of 7.3%, then there would be 227 deaths in Italy instead of 1809. 1582 more people would be alive now.
How many people will be dead when the next exponential waves of the virus hit worldwide?
In fact all these deaths aren’t the real problem
The real problem from this pandemic is that because the virus is so infectious, even though it is fairly mild for most people, a large number become severely ill and require hospitalization. This large number of severely ill people overwhelms the entire hospital system. The population is then forced into quarantine to slow down the rate of infections, which can lead to a total breakdown of society.
Using these treatment options, the majority of people will be kept out of hospital entirely. Both the Koreans and Chinese guidelines make it clear that people should be treated very early if the infection progresses beyond a mild case.
This is likely the reason the medical system in Italy is currently overwhelmed.
The most important thing you can do is make your local healthcare system and government aware of this problem. If you’re successful, you’ll save lives.
What if you get sick?
Korea is one of the countries with the most experience with the virus and their treatment has proven results.
If you get sick I suggest you closely study the official Korean medical guidelines (archive) and find a doctor that will treat you according to those guidelines. Don’t self-treat, as these are powerful drugs that have side effects and interactions with other drugs. You could easily overdose and die. Many people died of aspirin overdose during the 1918 Spanish Flu pandemic⁴. Only in an emergency would I use this information to treat myself (and I certainly would if I had no other choice).
In addition, it appears we now have 3 additional treatment options, giving us a total of 5 treatment choices depending on individual tolerances and availability.
You don’t need to get these drugs yourself. Chloroquine is readily available to your doctor and it is an inexpensive, off patent drug that has been used clinically since 1947. It can be easily produced in massive quantities even if there are temporary shortages⁵.
I used to work in Silicon Valley tech. I’m now interested in using Chinese philosophy to find truth in complex situations. I lived at Wudang Mountain, Hubei Province, China from 2014 to 2016. I did this research because my mother is in a high risk category in Australia.
On July 8, 1853, Commodore Matthew Perry of the U.S. Navy sailed into Tokyo Bay with two steamships and two sailing vessels under his command. He landed a squadron of heavily armed sailors and marines; he moved one of the ships ostentatiously up the harbor, so that more people could see it. He delivered a letter from President Millard Fillmore demanding that the Japanese open up their ports to American trade. As they left, Perry’s fleets fired their guns into the ether. In the port, people were terrified: “It sounded like distant thunder,” a contemporary diarist wrote at the time, “and the mountains echoed back the noise of the shots. This was so formidable that the people in Edo [modern Tokyo] were fearful.”
This is the story of an unnatural disaster.
But the noise was not the only thing that frightened the Japanese. The Perry expedition famously convinced them that their political system was incapable of coping with new kinds of threats. Secure in their island homeland, the rulers of Japan had been convinced for decades of their cultural superiority. Japan was unique, special, the homeland of the gods. “Japan’s position, at the vertex of the earth, makes it the standard for the nations of the world,” the nationalist thinker Aizawa Seishisai wrote nearly three decades before Perry’s arrival. But the steamships and the guns changed all that. Suddenly, the Japanese realized that their culture, their political system, and their technology were out of date. Their samurai-warrior leaders and honor culture were not able to compete in a world dominated by science.
The coronavirus pandemic is in its early days. But the scale and force of the economic and medical crisis that is about to hit the United States may turn out to be as formidable as Perry’s famous voyage was. Two weeks ago—it already seems like an infinity—I was in Italy, writing about the first signs of the virus. Epidemics, I wrote, “have a way of revealing underlying truths about the societies they impact.” This one has already done so, and with terrifying speed. What it reveals about the United States—not just this administration, but also our health-care system, our bureaucracy, our political system itself—should make Americans as fearful as the Japanese who heard the “distant thunder” of Perry’s guns.
Not everybody has yet realized this, and indeed, it will take some time, just as it has taken time for the nature of the virus to sink in. At the moment, many Americans are still convinced that, even in this crisis, our society is more capable than others. Quite a lot was written about the terrifying and reckless behavior of the authorities in Wuhan, China, who initially threatened doctors who began posting information about the new virus, forcing them into silence.
On the very day that one of those doctors, Li Wenliang, contracted the virus, the Wuhan Municipal Health Commission issued a statement declaring,“So far no infection [has been] found among medical staff, no proof of human-to-human transmission.” Only three weeks after the initial reports were posted did authorities begin to take the spread of the disease seriously, confirming that human-to-human transmission had in fact occurred. And only three days later did the lockdown of the city, and eventually the entire province, actually begin.
This story has been told repeatedly—and correctly—as an illustration of what’s wrong with the Chinese system: The secrecy and mania for control inside the Communist Party lost the government many days during which it could have put a better plan into place. But many of those recounting China’s missteps have become just a little bit too smug.
The United States also had an early warning of the new virus—but it, too, suppressed that information. In late January, just as instances of COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, began to appear in the United States, an infectious-disease specialist in Seattle, Helen Y. Chu, realized that she had a way to monitor its presence. She had been collecting nasal swabs from people in and around Seattle as part of a flu study, and proposed checking them for the new virus. State and federal officials rejected that idea, citing privacy concerns and throwing up bureaucratic obstacles related to lab licenses.
Finally, at the end of February, Chu could stand the intransigence no longer. Her lab performed some tests and found the coronavirus in a local teenager who had not traveled overseas. That meant the disease was already spreading in the Seattle region among people who had never been abroad. If Chu had found this information a month earlier, lives might have been saved and the spread of the disease might have slowed—but even after the urgency of her work became evident, her lab was told to stop testing.
Chu was not threatened by the government, like Li had been in Wuhan. But she was just as effectively silenced by a rule-bound bureaucracy that was insufficiently worried about the pandemic—and by officials at the Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention who may even have felt political pressure not to take this disease as seriously as they should.
For Chu was not alone. We all now know that COVID-19 diagnostic tests are in scarce supply. South Korea, which has had exactly the same amount of time as the U.S. to prepare, is capable of administering 10,000 tests every day. The United States, with a population more than six times larger, had only tested about 10,000 people in total as of Friday. Vietnam, a poor country, has tested more people than the United States. During congressional testimony on Thursday, Anthony Fauci, the most distinguished infectious-disease doctor in the nation, described the American testing system as “failing.” “The idea of anybody getting [tested] easily the way people in other countries are doing it? We’re not set up for that,” he said. “Do I think we should be? Yes, but we’re not.”
And why not? Once again, no officials from the Chinese Communist Party instructed anyone in the United States not to carry out testing. Nobody prevented American public officials from ordering the immediate production of a massive number of tests. Nevertheless, they did not. We don’t know all the details yet, but one element of the situation cannot be denied: The president himself did not want the disease talked of too widely, did not want knowledge of it to spread, and, above all, did not want the numbers of those infected to appear too high. He said so himself, while explaining why he didn’t want a cruise ship full of infected Americans to dock in California. “I like the numbers being where they are,” he said. “I don’t need to have the numbers double because of one ship that wasn’t our fault.”
Donald Trump, just like the officials in Wuhan, was concerned about the numbers—the optics of how a pandemic looks. And everybody around him knew it. There are some indications that Alex Azar, the former pharmaceutical-industry executive and lobbyist who heads the Department of Health and Human Services, was not keen on telling the president things he did not want to hear. Here is how Dan Diamond, a Politico reporter who writes about health policy, delicately described the problem in a radio interview: “My understanding is [that Azar] did not push to do aggressive additional testing in recent weeks, and that’s partly because more testing might have led to more cases being discovered of coronavirus outbreak, and the president had made clear—the lower the numbers on coronavirus, the better for the president, the better for his potential reelection this fall.”
Once again: Nobody threatened Azar. But fear of offending the president may have led him to hesitate to push for aggressive testing nevertheless.
Without the threats and violence of the Chinese system, in other words, we have the same results: scientists not allowed to do their job; public-health officials not pushing for aggressive testing; preparedness delayed, all because too many people feared that it might damage the political prospects of the leader. I am not writing this in order to praise Chinese communism—far from it. I am writing this so that Americans understand that our government is producing some of the same outcomes as Chinese communism. This means that our political system is in far, far worse shape than we have hitherto understood.
What if it turns out, as it almost certainly will, that other nations are far better than we are at coping with this kind of catastrophe? Look at Singapore, which immediately created an app that could physically track everyone who was quarantined, and that energetically tracked down all the contacts of everyone identified to have the disease. Look at South Korea, with its proven testing ability. Look at Germany, where Chancellor Angela Merkel managed to speak honestly and openly about the disease—she predicted that 70 percent of Germans would get it—and yet did not crash the markets.
The United States, long accustomed to thinking of itself as the best, most efficient, and most technologically advanced society in the world, is about to be proved an unclothed emperor. When human life is in peril, we are not as good as Singapore, as South Korea, as Germany. And the problem is not that we are behind technologically, as the Japanese were in 1853. The problem is that American bureaucracies, and the antiquated, hidebound, unloved federal government of which they are part, are no longer up to the job of coping with the kinds of challenges that face us in the 21st century. Global pandemics, cyberwarfare, information warfare—these are threats that require highly motivated, highly educated bureaucrats; a national health-care system that covers the entire population; public schools that train students to think both deeply and flexibly; and much more.
The failures of the moment can be partly ascribed to the loyalty culture that Trump himself has spent three years building in Washington. Only two weeks ago, he named his 29-year-old former bodyguard, a man who was previously fired from the White House for financial shenanigans, to head up a new personnel-vetting team. Its role is to ensure that only people certifiably loyal are allowed to work for the president. Trump also fired, ostentatiously, the officials who testified honestly during the impeachment hearings, an action that sends a signal to others about the danger of truth-telling.
These are only the most recent manifestations of an autocratic style that has been described, over and over again, by many people. And now we see why, exactly, that style is so dangerous, and why previous American presidents, of both political parties, have operated much differently. Within a loyalty cult, no one will tell the president that starting widespread emergency testing would be prudent, because anyone who does is at risk of losing the president’s favor, even of being fired. Not that it matters, because Trump has very few truth-tellers around him anymore. The kinds of people who would dare make the president angry have left the upper ranks of the Cabinet and the bureaucracy already.
But some of what we are seeing is unrelated to Trump. American dysfunction is also the result of our bifurcated health-care system, which is both the best in the world and the worst in the world, and is simply not geared up for any kind of collective national response. The present crisis is the result of decades of underinvestment in civil service, of undervaluing bureaucracy in public health and other areas, and, above all, of underrating the value of long-term planning.
Back from 2001 to 2003, I wrote multiple editorials for The Washington Post about biological warfare and pandemic preparedness—issues that were at the top of everyone’s agenda in the wake of 9/11 and the brief anthrax scare. At the time, some very big investments were made into precisely those issues, especially into scientific research. We will now benefit from them. But in recent years, the subjects fell out of the news. Senators, among them the vaunted Republican moderate Susan Collins of Maine, knocked “pandemic preparedness” out of spending bills. New flu epidemics didn’t scare people enough. More recently, Trump eliminated the officials responsible for international health from the National Security Council because this kind of subject didn’t interest him—or very many other people in Washington, really.
As a nation, we are not good at long-term planning, and no wonder: Our political system insists that every president be allowed to appoint thousands of new officials, including the kinds of officials who think about pandemics. Why is that necessary? Why can’t expertise be allowed to accumulate at the highest levels of agencies such as the CDC? I’ve written before about the problem of discontinuity in foreign policy: New presidents arrive and think they can have a “reset” with other nations, as if other nations are going to forget everything that happened before their arrival—as if we can cheerfully start all relationships from scratch. But the same is true on health, the environment, and other policy issues. Of course there should be new Cabinet members every four or eight years. But should all their deputies change? And their deputies’ deputies? And their deputies’ deputies’ deputies? Because that’s often how it works right now.
All of this happens on top of all the other familiar pathologies: the profound polarization; the merger of politics and entertainment; the loss of faith in democratic institutions; the blind eyes turned to corruption, white-collar crime, and money laundering; the growth of inequality; the conversion of social media and a part of the news media into for-profit vectors of disinformation. These are all part of the deep background to this crisis too.
The question, of course, is whether this crisis will shock us enough to change our ways. The Japanese did eventually react to Commodore Perry’s squadron of ships with something more than fear. They stopped talking about themselves as the vertex of the Earth. They overhauled their education system. They adopted Western scientific methods, reorganized their state, and created a modern bureaucracy. This massive change, known as the Meiji Restoration, is what brought Japan, for better or for worse, into the modern world. Naturally, the old samurai-warrior class fought back against it, bitterly and angrily.
But by then the new threat was so obvious that enough people got it, enough people understood that a national mobilization was necessary, enough people understood that things could not go on that way indefinitely. Could it happen here, too?
SENDAI (IPC Digital) – Yuka Kudo, 22 anos, natural da província de Akita, é uma jovem formanda do curso de Sociologia da Universidade Tohoku Gakuin, de Sendai (Miyagi). Seu grupo de 7 pessoas escolheu como tema da monografia para colação de grau, como as pessoas lidam com a morte após o Grande Terremoto ao Leste do Japão, em 11 de março de 2011. Até iniciar o trabalho de pesquisa, ela via as mortes provocadas pelo tsunami como “milhares de pessoas que perderam a vida”. Depois de iniciar as entrevistas, descobriu que muitos dos taxistas de Ishinomaki (Miyagi) tiveram a experiência de terem como clientes os fantasmas de pessoas que provavelmente perderam a vida na tragédia.
Ela conta as histórias que ouviu durante suas entrevistas. Um taxista, na faixa dos 50 anos, relatou que no começo do primeiro verão após o tsunami, uma senhora vestida de casaco, o que lhe chamou à atenção, pediu para ser conduzida até Minamihama. Ele teria feito uma pergunta para confirmar: “lá, praticamente, só tem terras vazias, pode ser?”. Com a voz trêmula, a mulher lhe pergunta “eu morri?”. Assustado, quando olha para o assento traseiro a passageira que transportava não estava mais lá.
Outros taxistas contam histórias semelhantes, afirma a estudante. Um deles relata que um rapaz, também vestido de casaco, aponta sentido Hiyoriyama e pede para ir até lá. No destino final, não havia cliente dentro do carro. Segundo seu levantamento junto aos motoristas de táxi, a maioria desses passageiros fantasmas eram jovens, homens e mulheres, quase todos vestidos de casaco. “Os jovens costumam ter um forte sentimento de desgosto de ter deixado pessoas que amam. Devem ter escolhido um espaço reservado como o táxi para transmitir esse sentimento insustentável”, pensa a jovem formanda.
Com a voz trêmula, a mulher lhe pergunta “eu morri?”
Para ela e para os entrevistados, essas histórias não são uma viagem da mente, há realidade. Os motoristas lhe mostraram diários, com registros de perda de corrida e que tiveram que pagar do próprio bolso ou do taxímetro que foi ligado até o destino.
Ela conta que sentiu na pele a dor da perda das pessoas de Ishinomaki. Um outro motorista lhe contou que perdeu familiares no tsunami e declarou “não é nada surpreendente que aconteça esse tipo de coisa. Se aparecer mais alguém vou transportar sim”. Todos os entrevistados não contaram suas experiências com medo. Ficou impressionada com o sentimento de reverência, como uma experiência importante que guardavam dentro do peito.
Com essas entrevistas quase que diárias, revela que aprendeu o que é a dor da perda e do luto. “Quero transmitir o peso da morte de cada uma das pessoas que partiu, com respeito”, declarou.
Yuka Kudo, a formanda que pesquisou sobre os fantasmas que pegaram táxi em Ishinomaki
Objetivo é produzir alertas mais precisos e reduzir o tempo das respostas nas situações de risco. Projeto piloto será implementado nas cidades de Blumenau (SC), Nova Friburgo (RJ) e Petrópolis (RJ)
Brasil e Japão assinaram nesta segunda-feira (14) um acordo de cooperação na área de prevenção de desastres naturais para melhorar a precisão dos alertas e reduzir o tempo gasto nas respostas. O documento valida condutas e procedimentos definidos por técnicos dos dois países para a instalação de projetos piloto nas cidades de Blumenau (SC), Nova Friburgo (RJ) e Petrópolis (RJ) – todas sofreram com deslizamentos de terra nos últimos anos. O Centro Nacional de Monitoramento e Alertas de Desastres Naturais (Cemaden/MCTI) participa da iniciativa, que faz parte do Projeto de Fortalecimento da Estratégia Nacional de Gestão Integrada de Riscos em Desastres Naturais (Gides).
“Isso vai ser um novo experimento em relação à coleta de informações e como se disponibiliza essas informações de forma rápida e integrada com vários órgãos do governo”, explicou o secretário de Políticas e Programas de Pesquisa e Desenvolvimento do MCTI, Jailson de Andrade.
Segundo o pesquisador da área de geodinâmica do Cemaden Angelo Consoni, o aprimoramento do protocolo dos alertas é fundamental para que eles sejam emitidos com mais eficiência para a população. Quanto mais preciso e rápido, menor o risco de calamidades.
“A finalidade do piloto é, principalmente, a precisão dos alertas e o tempo gasto nessa atividade. Então, otimizando fluxos de elaboração de emissão de alertas, juntamente com os municípios e com os estados, nós podemos melhorar significativamente a qualidade dos alertas que disponibilizamos para a população em situações de risco”, afirmou.
O acordo de cooperação também foi assinado pelo Ministério das Cidades, Ministério da Integração Nacional, Agência Brasileira de Cooperação (ABC) e Agência de Cooperação Internacional do Japão (Jica, na sigla em inglês).
A parceria entre Brasil e Japão é baseada na troca de experiências entre recursos humanos das duas nações. Desde 2014, duas turmas de brasileiros já receberam capacitação de especialistas japoneses. Além disso, os asiáticos também vêm ao País para o intercâmbio de informações sobre a prevenção de desastres naturais.
“O Japão é uma referência. E essa cooperação tem sido muito boa para nós no sentido de formação de pessoal”, destacou Consoni.
Summary: On September 9, 2014, the Japan Times reported an increasing number of suicides coming from the survivors of the March 2011 disaster. In Minami Soma Hospital, which is located 23 km away from the power plant, the number of patients experiencing stress has also increased since the disaster. What’s more, many of the survivors are now jobless and therefore facing an uncertain future.
On September 9, 2014, the Japan Times reported an increasing number of suicides coming from the survivors of the March 2011 disaster. In Minami Soma Hospital, which is located 23 km away from the power plant, the number of patients experiencing stress has also increased since the disaster. What’s more, many of the survivors are now jobless and therefore facing an uncertain future.
This is not the first time that nuclear power has victimized the Japanese people. In 1945, atomic bombs exploded in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, creating massive fears about nuclear power in the Japanese population. It took 20 years for the public to erase the trauma of these events. It was then — in the mid 1960s(?) — that the Fukushima Daiichii Nuclear Power Plant was built.
According to Professor Tetsuo Sawada, Assistant Professor in the Laboratory of Nuclear Reactors at Tokyo University, it took a lot of effort to assure people that nuclear power was safe and beneficial. The first step was a legal step: In 1955, the Japanese government passed a law decreeing that nuclear power could only be used for peaceful purposes.
“But that law was not enough to assure people to accept the establishment of nuclear power,” said Prof. Sawada.
He explained that the economy plays an important role in public acceptance of nuclear power. Through the establishment of nuclear power plants, more jobs were created, which boosted the economy of the Fukushima region at that time.
“Before the Fukushima disaster, we could find many pro-nuclear people in the area of nuclear power plants since it gave them money,” said Prof. Sawada.
Now, more than forty years have passed and the public’s former confidence has evolved into feelings of fear about nuclear power and distrust toward the government.
According to a study conducted by Noriko Iwai from the Japanese General Social Survey Research Center, the Fukushima nuclear accident has heightened people’s perception of disaster risks, fears of nuclear accident, and recognition of pollution, and has changed public opinion on nuclear energy policy.
“Distance from nuclear plants and the perception of earthquake risk interactively correlate with opinions on nuclear issues: among people whose evaluation of earthquake risk is low, those who live nearer to the plants are more likely to object to the abolishment of nuclear plants,” said Iwai.
This finding is in line with the perception of Sokyu Genyu, a chief priest in Fukujuji temple, Miharu Town, Fukushima Prefecture. As a member of the Reconstruction Design Council in Response to the Great East Japan Earthquake, he argued that both the Fukushima Daiichi and Daini nuclear power plants should be shut down in response to the objection of 80% of Fukushima residents.
However, the Japanese government, local scientists and international authorities have announced that Fukushima is safe. Radiation levels are below 1mSv/y, a number that, according to them, we should not be worried about. But the public do not believe in numbers.
But Genyu was not saying that these numbers are scientifically false. Rather, he argues that the problem lies more in the realm of social psychology. Despite the announcement about low-radiation levels, the Japanese people are still afraid of radiation.
“It is reasonable for local residents in Fukushima to speak out very emotionally. Within three months of the disaster, six people had committed sucide. They were homeless and jobless, ” said Genyu.
It is heart-breaking to know that victims of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear accident died not because of radiation, but instead because of depression. Besides the increasing number of suicides, the number ofpatients suffering from cerebrovascular disease (strokes)has also risen. In Minami-Soma Hospital, the population of stroke patients increased by more than 100% after the disaster.
Local doctors and scientists are now actively educating students in Fukushima, convincing them that the radiation will not affect their health.
Dr. Masaharu Tsubokura, a practicing doctor at Minami-Soma Hospital, has been informing students that Fukushima is safe. But sadly, their responses are mostly negative and full of apathy.
“I think the Fukushima disaster is not about nuclear radiation but is rather a matter of public trust in the technology ,” said Dr. Tsubokura.
Dr. Tsubokura has given dosimeters, a device used to measure radiation, to children living in Minami-Soma city. But apparently, this was not enough to eliminate people’s fears.
In 2012, Professor Ryogo Hayano, a physicist from the University of Tokyo, joined Dr. Tsubokura in Minami-Soma Hospital and invented BABYSCAN technology, a whole-body scanning to measure radiation in small children as well as to allay the fears of Fukushima parents.
“BABYSCAN is unnecessary but necessary. It is unnecessary because we know that the radiation is low. But it is necessary to assure parents that their children are going to be okay,” said Prof. Hayano.
After witnessing the fears of the Fukushima people, Prof. Hayano thinks that nuclear power is no longer appropriate for Japan. He believes that the government should shut down nuclear power plants.
“As a scientist, I know that nuclear power is safe and cheap. But looking at the public’s fear in Fukushima, I think it should be phased out,” said Prof. Hayano.
But, does the government care about the public when it comes to politics?
It has only been three years since the disaster and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has been keen to revive the country’s nuclear power plants. The operations of more than 50 nuclear power plants in Japan have been suspended because of the Daiichi power plant meltdown.
Last month, Japan’s Nuclear Regulation Authority approved the reopening of a power plant in Sendai for 2015.
Summary: While western eyes are focused on the ongoing problems of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear reactor site, thousands of people are still evacuated from their homes in north-eastern Japan following the earthquake, tsunami and nuclear emergency. Many are in temporary accommodation and frustrated by a lack of central government foresight and responsiveness to their concerns.
While western eyes are focused on the ongoing problems of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear reactor site, thousands of people are still evacuated from their homes in north-eastern Japan following the earthquake, tsunami and nuclear emergency. Many are in temporary accommodation and frustrated by a lack of central government foresight and responsiveness to their concerns.
With the exception of the ongoing problems at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear reactor, outside of the Tohoku region of Japan, the after effects of the Great East Japan Earthquake of 2011, and the subsequent tsunami and nuclear disaster, are no longer front page news. The hard work of recovery is the everyday reality in the region, and for planning schools and consultants across the country the rebuilding of Tohoku dominates practice and study.
But while physical reconstruction takes place, progress is not smooth. Many victims of the disasters and members of the wider public feel that the government is more interested in feeding the construction industry than addressing the complex challenges of rebuilding sustainable communities. This is a region that was already suffering from the challenges of an aging population, the exodus of young people to Tokyo and the decline of traditional fisheries-based industries. In the worst cases people are facing the invidious choice of returning to areas that are still saturated with radioactive fallout or never going home.
The frustration is reflected in four short pieces in Planning Theory and Practice’s Interface Section from architecture, design and planning practitioners working with communities in four different parts of Tohoku.
Christian Dimmer, Assistant Professor at Tokyo University and founder of TPF2 — Tohoku Planning Forum which links innovative redevelopment schemes in the region says:
“The current Japanese government’s obsession with big construction projects, like mega-seawalls that have already been shown to be not likely to be effective, is leading to really innovative community solutions being marginalized, the voices of communities being ignored, and sustainability cast aside.”
According to community planner and academic, Kayo Murakami — who edits this Interface section: “The troubles of the Tohoku reconstruction are not just a concern for Japan. They highlight some of the fundamental challenges for disaster recovery and building sustainable communities, in which people are really involved, all over the world.”
Kayo Murakami, David Murakami Wood, Hiroshi Tomita, Satoshi Miyake, Rieko Shiraki, Kayo Murakami, Koji Itonaga, Christian Dimmer. Planning innovation and post-disaster reconstruction: The case of Tohoku, Japan/Reconstruction of tsunami-devastated fishing villages in the Tohoku region of Japan and the challenges for planning/Post-disaster reconstruction in Iwate and new planning chal. Planning Theory & Practice, 2014; 15 (2): 237 DOI:10.1080/14649357.2014.902909