By Laura Kenyon
Last year the Fukushima nuclear disaster forced 150,000 Japanese citizens to flee their homes. Now it's time to take a look at its legacy and take an opportunity to stand in solidarity with the people who continue to suffer the impacts. We're calling for a nuclear free, renewable future and asking you to join us in sending messages of support and hope to Japan.
The silence and contamination left behind by the Fukushima disaster have been captured in the online photographic exhibit Shadowlands by photographer Robert Knoth. Robert's haunting photographs of empty villages, deserted schoolyards, and abandoned farmlands not only act as a chilling reminder to us of the costs of nuclear energy, but an impetus to continue demanding a future free from nuclear risk. We also bring the stories of several people whose lives have been seriously disrupted, some of whom live with constant worry about how their children’s health has been affected by radiation.
"For me the exhibition is about the loss of beauty and loss of tradition. Both are kept in high regard in Japan. For around 2000 years the villages now evacuated have been inhabited. With great precision and care people have been adjusting themselves and the landscape into an almost perfect blend. You can see their respect for nature and their environment in the way they build and paint their houses, their gardens and the way the farmers are growing their crops or keep their cattle. Everything deeply rooted within their culture and nature itself. And carefully preserved for centuries. Fukushima made a dramatic impact into the lives and environment of the people living there." – Quote from photographer Robert Knoth
The nuclear disaster at the Fukushima Daiichi plant that began unfolding on March 11, 2011 is the biggest since the Chernobyl disaster of 1986. The disaster was not simply the result of the earthquake and tsunami hitting the east coast of Japan, but due to the failure of Japanese authorities to protect people. For example their withholding from the Japanese public of full information on radiation levels. The kind of failures we have seen in Japan are possible everywhere there are reactors and there is no such thing as a safe nuclear reactor.
Radiation expert Rianne Teule, who has worked as Greenpeace nuclear campaigner for ten years, has personally seen the impacts of the Chernobyl disaster, so after hearing about the situation at Fukushima her first thoughts were for the people living nearby. "I knew the risks the population was exposed to, and how disruptive and long-lasting the consequences of a nuclear accident could be." A year later, 150,000 Japanese people in total have been displaced from their homes by the Fukushima disaster—some may never be able to return.
Rianne made several trips to Fukushima following March 11, to conduct on-the-ground radiation testing, and and to conduct radiation monitoring and provide information to local people, and says that what she witnessed was 'surreal.' Not only had people's lives been completely disrupted, but the disaster then struck the most vital of necessities: radiation measurements of food supplies began to show contamination. "The most disturbing thing for me was the lack of information provided to the people being affected, they often had no idea of the radiation risks they were exposed to."
"The Fukushima disaster shows that nuclear power is inherently unsafe. The 'clean and safe' nuclear energy that the industry talks about is a myth. A disaster like this can happen again and the impacts are devastating. More than 150,000 people had to abandon their homes, lost their livelihoods and many of them will never return."
Today, she is sending her own message of solidarity to the people of Japan:
"My thoughts are with you. I truly hope that your suffering will not go unnoticed, and that it will act as a wake up call for the rest of the world. I pray that the Fukushima disaster will contribute to speeding up the Energy [R]evolution and help push the world into a truly clean energy future."
Yet another former Trump administration staffer has come out with an endorsement for former Vice President Joe Biden, this time in response to President Donald Trump's handling of the coronavirus pandemic.
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By D. André Green II
One of nature's epic events is underway: Monarch butterflies' fall migration. Departing from all across the United States and Canada, the butterflies travel up to 2,500 miles to cluster at the same locations in Mexico or along the Pacific Coast where their great-grandparents spent the previous winter.
Millions of People Care About Monarchs<p>I will never forget the sights and sounds the first time I visited monarchs' overwintering sites in Mexico. Our guide pointed in the distance to what looked like hanging branches covered with dead leaves. But then I saw the leaves flash orange every so often, revealing what were actually thousands of tightly packed butterflies. The monarchs made their most striking sounds in the Sun, when they burst from the trees in massive fluttering plumes or landed on the ground in the tussle of mating.</p><p>Decades of educational outreach by teachers, researchers and hobbyists has cultivated a generation of monarch admirers who want to help preserve this phenomenon. This global network has helped restore not only monarchs' summer breeding habitat by planting milkweed, but also general pollinator habitat by planting nectaring flowers across North America.</p><p>Scientists have calculated that restoring the monarch population to a stable level of about 120 million butterflies will require <a href="https://doi.org/10.1111/icad.12198" target="_blank">planting 1.6 billion new milkweed stems</a>. And they need them fast. This is too large a target to achieve through grassroots efforts alone. A <a href="https://www.fws.gov/savethemonarch/CCAA.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">new plan</a>, announced in the spring of 2020, is designed to help fill the gap.</p>
Pros and Cons of Regulation<p>The top-down strategy for saving monarchs gained energy in 2014, when the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service <a href="https://www.fws.gov/southeast/pdf/petition/monarch.pdf" target="_blank">proposed</a> listing them as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. A decision is expected in December 2020.</p><p>Listing a species as endangered or threatened <a href="https://www.fws.gov/endangered/esa-library/pdf/listing.pdf" target="_blank">triggers restrictions</a> on "taking" (hunting, collecting or killing), transporting or selling it, and on activities that negatively affect its habitat. Listing monarchs would impose restrictions on landowners in areas where monarchs are found, over vast swaths of land in the U.S.</p><p>In my opinion, this is not a reason to avoid a listing. However, a "threatened" listing might inadvertently threaten one of the best conservation tools that we have: public education.</p><p>It would severely restrict common practices, such as rearing monarchs in classrooms and back yards, as well as scientific research. Anyone who wants to take monarchs and milkweed for these purposes would have to apply for special permits. But these efforts have had a multigenerational educational impact, and they should be protected. Few public campaigns have been more successful at raising awareness of conservation issues.</p>
<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="91165203d4ec0efc30e4632a00fdf57d"><iframe lazy-loadable="true" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/KilPRvjbMrA?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span>
The Rescue Attempt<p>To preempt the need for this kind of regulation, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service approved a <a href="https://www.fws.gov/savethemonarch/pdfs/Monarch%20CCAA-CCA%20Public%20Comment%20Documents/Monarch-Nationwide_CCAA-CCA_Draft.pdf" target="_blank">Nationwide Candidate Conservation Agreement for Monarch Butterflies</a>. Under this plan, "rights-of-way" landowners – energy and transportation companies and private owners – commit to restoring and creating millions of acres of pollinator habitat that have been decimated by land development and herbicide use in the past half-century.</p><p>The agreement was spearheaded by the <a href="http://rightofway.erc.uic.edu/" target="_blank">Rights-of-Way Habitat Working Group</a>, a collaboration between the University of Illinois Chicago's <a href="https://erc.uic.edu/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Energy Resources Center</a>, the Fish and Wildlife Service and over 40 organizations from the energy and transportation sectors. These sectors control "rights-of-way" corridors such as lands near power lines, oil pipelines, railroad tracks and interstates, all valuable to monarch habitat restoration.</p><p>Under the plan, partners voluntarily agree to commit a percentage of their land to host protected monarch habitat. In exchange, general operations on their land that might directly harm monarchs or destroy milkweed will not be subject to the enhanced regulation of the Endangered Species Act – protection that would last for 25 years if monarchs are listed as threatened. The agreement is expected to create up to 2.3 million acres of new protected habitat, which ideally would avoid the need for a "threatened" listing.</p>
A Model for Collaboration<p>This agreement could be one of the few specific interventions that is big enough to allow researchers to quantify its impact on the size of the monarch population. Even if the agreement produces only 20% of its 2.3 million acre goal, this would still yield nearly half a million acres of new protected habitat. This would provide a powerful test of the role of declining breeding and nectaring habitat compared to other challenges to monarchs, such as climate change or pollution.</p><p>Scientists hope that data from this agreement will be made publicly available, like projects in the <a href="https://www.fws.gov/savethemonarch/MCD.html" target="_blank">Monarch Conservation Database</a>, which has tracked smaller on-the-ground conservation efforts since 2014. With this information we can continue to develop powerful new models with better accuracy for determining how different habitat factors, such as the number of milkweed stems or nectaring flowers on a landscape scale, affect the monarch population.</p><p>North America's monarch butterfly migration is one of the most awe-inspiring feats in the natural world. If this rescue plan succeeds, it could become a model for bridging different interests to achieve a common conservation goal.</p>
The annual Ig Nobel prizes were awarded Thursday by the science humor magazine Annals of Improbable Research for scientific experiments that seem somewhat absurd, but are also thought-provoking. This was the 30th year the awards have been presented, but the first time they were not presented at Harvard University. Instead, they were delivered in a 75-minute pre-recorded ceremony.