We are living in a time when our planet is under assault like never before and only now we are beginning to realize how severe the consequences are not only for the quality of our own lives but for the of lives of our children. Today we have about 6 billion people (and growing) living on this planet with artificial dependencies. This artificial dependency is pushing us to a critical point endangering our ecological systems to the point of self-destruction. How do we support sustainable development and conserve our natural habitats while serving consumer needs? Development has to be compatible with ecosystems and our natural environment; bio diversity, climate system and air quality. Can we live along side, protect the natural world and grow economically?
The previous article provided an overview of the threat that we on this planet face. The threat of nuclear extinction and the threat of ecological deterioration with each passing day is becoming more and more of a reality. Ecological deterioration is described as a slow but a steady process over decades of time which involves many factors and facets and nothing can reverse its deterioration yet, by stark contrast, nuclear destruction is immediate, and described as “a quick kill”; unlike ecological deterioration, we can stop it.
While the health and well-being of our planet is so complex that it may well lay beyond our best will and intelligence, at least we know how to dismantle nuclear weapons. To be fair, nuclear technology has many positive uses, for example; we use it in medicine for cancer treatments (radiotherapy), in agriculture it is used to improve crop seed production, testing of soil quality to help preserve fruits and vegetables, and we depend on its production of energy to light our houses, streets and buildings. Although it may have many positive uses we cannot be blind to the catastrophic destructive potential causing irreversible damage and our extinction with one small mishap.
A Nuclear War without of War
Let’s take, for example, the radioactive spill from the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant caused by the tsunami and earthquake that struck Japan in March 2011, which was the most devastating nuclear disaster since Chernobyl. The battle to contain the contamination and avert a greater catastrophe and long-term affects such as cancers and deformities are still being accounted for.
Wikipedia states: The Chernobyl disaster is the worst nuclear power plant accident in history in terms of cost and resulting deaths, and is one of only two classified as a level 7 event (the maximum classification) on the International Nuclear Event Scale (the other being the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster in 2011). The Fukushima nuclear crisis, which brought to our attention the dangers of worldwide nuclear radiation, has been described as “a war without a war”. Renowned novelist Haruki Murakami was quoted saying the following:
“This time no one dropped a bomb on us … We set the stage, we committed the crime with our own hands, we are destroying our own lands, and we are destroying our own lives.”
Although no longer operating, the power plant has been reported leaking significant amounts of radioactive substances into the environment. It created a public health disaster; part of the country is uninhabitable because of the contamination of water, agricultural land and the food chain, not to mention the broader economic and social implications. In his essay, Fukushima: A Nuclear War without a War: The Unspoken Crisis of Worldwide Nuclear Radiation, editor Michel Chossudovsky provided an overview of several reports of highly radioactive water dumped into the Pacific Ocean that creates a potential trigger to a process of global radioactive contamination. Radioactive elements have not only been detected in the food chain in Japan, radioactive rain water also has been recorded in California:
“Hazardous radioactive elements being released in the sea and air around Fukushima accumulate at each step of various food chains (such as, into algae, crustaceans, small fish, bigger fish, then humans; or soil, grass, cow’s meat and milk, then humans). Entering the body, these elements – called internal emitters – migrate to specific organs such as the thyroid, liver, bone, and brain, continuously irradiating small volumes of cells with high doses of alpha, beta and/or gamma radiation, and over many years often induce cancer”. ~(Helen Caldicott, Fukushima: Nuclear Apologists Play Shoot the Messenger on Radiation, The Age, April 26, 2011)
Moreover, while all eyes were riveted on the Fukushima Daiichi plant, Chossudovsky points to news coverages both in Japan and internationally that failed to fully acknowledge the impacts of a second catastrophe at TEPCO’s (Tokyo Electric Power Co. Inc) Fukushima Daini nuclear power plant. The shaky political consensus both in Japan, the U.S. and Western Europe was that the crisis at Fukushima had been contained, yet Fukushima 3 was leaking unconfirmed amounts of plutonium. According to Dr. Helen Caldicott, “one millionth of a gram of plutonium, if inhaled can cause cancer”.
Chossudovsky gives us a chilling reminder that:
“The crisis in [Ukraine and now] Japan has also brought into the open the unspoken relationship between nuclear energy and nuclear war. Nuclear energy is not a civilian economic activity. It is an appendage of the nuclear weapons industry which controlled by the so-called defense contractors. The powerful corporate interests behind nuclear energy and nuclear weapons overlap. It should be noted that the complacency of both the media and the governments to the hazards of nuclear radiation pertains to the nuclear energy industry as well as to the use of nuclear weapons. In both cases, the devastating health impacts of nuclear radiation are casually denied.
Such an action would result in “the unthinkable”: a nuclear holocaust over a large part of the Middle East and Central Asia. A nuclear nightmare, however, would occur even if nuclear weapons were not used. The bombing of Iran’s nuclear facilities using conventional weapons would contribute to unleashing another Fukushima type disaster with extensive radioactive fallout.”
But through all of this, there are glimmers of a solution; that it is possible to shift our economy so that it works for us and not against us. We no longer need to adhere to the false choice of, ‘It’s the environment or the people”. It has to be both. Yes, our individual contributions can add up to something better. “This is an opportunity for greatness that has never been offered to any civilization, in any generation, or in human history before.” says Dr. Roger Payne, President, Ocean Alliance (the first scientist to record the singing of whales which resulted in the “Save the Whales” campaign ). “To act as a generation to do the right thing. If we fail to act, to receive that opportunity and to act on it, then it is my fear that we would be the most vilified generation in human history.”
Religion and Ecological Theology
Two forces that have guided human social development through the ages has been economic growth, how to make yourself richer, and religion. These are the two big engines that have developed and shaped us into what we are today. 11 major religions today own about 7% of the habitable planet, owning forests, farms, urban sites, you name it. They are also in the business of the environment; they own, buy, sell land and they also wield control, influence and carry authority.
Although the trend is moving more and more towards a secularist society, religion is now playing a bigger and more vocal role in talking about protecting God’s creation. They do this by using their teachings of holy texts, to teach humankind how to be stewards of God’s creation. It’s in the teachings of Noah, Job and Jesus, (and others) and now religious leaders are beginning to raise their voice in defense of the earth in a Christian sense. But by and large the world has turned away from religion, perhaps this “ecological theology” is a an alternative way to infuse the ancient teachings that are still applicable, uniting humanity and that the search for material wealth is not the only goal in life.
Koyu Abe, a Buddhist monk from Joenji temple, has also turned to Mother Nature to restore the barren land by harvesting seeds of sunflowers and other plants. In effort to clean up the radiation and toxicity in the soil of the affected area, Koyu Abe utilized a single tool for absorption: sunflowers! He has since been responsible for planting hundreds of sunflowers in Fukushima. A project, known as the Fukushima Sunflower Foster Parent Project, sells sunflower seeds to volunteers, or “sunflower foster parents,” who will then take responsibility to harvest the seeds that are due to be planted in Fukushima every year.
“The roots of sunflowers posses a remarkable ability to absorb radiation from soil with a faster rate than most other plants. The process of soil cleansing itself naturally from radiation can take up to 30 years. With the help of sunflowers however, studies have shown that 95% of radiation from soil can be removed within just 20 days.
Years earlier in Ukraine, scientists planted sunflowers on a raft floating above a pond that had been severely contaminated by the catastrophic Chernobyl nuclear accident. The roots of the sunflowers were able to successfully extract radionuclide cesium 137 and strontium 90 from the pond.” Whether sunflowers can prove successful in the decontamination of the soil of Fukushima is yet to be discovered. One scientific study pointed that as 95% of the radiation in Fukushima lies in the top soil, the sunflower root, which delves deeper into the ground, won’t be able to reach the radiation.” However, the healing quality of sunflowers can be found in not just what the flower can absorb, but what it can release.
Sunflowers are now the symbol of peace and a world free of nuclear weapons. It is a positive symbol of what the world of good we can still do to help protect the natural world. Ukraine once carried the third largest nuclear weapons arsenal in the world, they disarmed its nuclear weapons they inherited from the Soviet Union and joined the league of non-nuclear nations. In 1996, a ceremony took place at the Pervomaisk nuclear military base, a site that once housed 80 missiles aimed at the United States, attended by the Defense Ministers of Ukraine, Russia, and the United States.
At Pervomaisk, the three Defense Ministers planted sunflower seeds on the soil, symbolically commemorating the end of Ukraine’s nuclear arsenal and the beginning of Ukraine’s commitment to a world free of nuclear weapons. Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma said, “With the completion of our task, Ukraine has demonstrated its support of a nuclear weapons free world.” He called on other nations to follow in Ukraine’s path and “to do everything to wipe nuclear weapons from the face of the Earth as soon as possible.” While former U.S. Secretary of Defense William Perry stated,
“Sunflowers instead of missiles in the soil would ensure peace for future generations!“
This dramatic sunflower ceremony at Pervomaisk military base showed the world the possibility of a nation giving up nuclear weapons to achieve security. It is also an important example, featuring the sunflower as a symbol of hope. David Krieger of Nuclear Peace Age Foundation wrote “The comparison between sunflowers and nuclear missiles is stark — sunflowers representing life, growth, beauty and nature, and nuclear armed missiles representing death and destruction on a massive, unspeakable scale. Sunflowers represent light instead of darkness, transparency instead of secrecy, security instead of threat, and joy instead of fear.”
The Defense Ministers were not the first to use sunflowers, in 1980s a group of brave and committed resisters known as “The Missouri Peace Planters” entered into nuclear missile silos in Missouri and planted sunflowers as a symbol of nuclear disarmament. On August 15, 1988, 14 peace activists simultaneously entered ten of Missouri’s 150 nuclear missile silos, and planted sunflowers.
The last two weeks of May, when all the frost is gone, is the time for sunflower planting. Please take a moment to read the Sunflower Petition (click on the link to add your e-signature), plant sunflowers in your garden and let the sunflower’s tall, majestic stems and radiant, golden petals that holds an aesthetic quality reminding us that it is nature and sunlight that provides life for us.
Harvest Seeds of Peace Sunflower Petition
The Sunflower Project is a global appeal to all people on planet earth concerned about nuclear war, pollution, violence, injustice, and threats to the balance of nature — to plant at least one sunflower seed in a sunny place where it will be noticed. This simple act of planting a seed will demonstrate the energy, simplicity, and practicality of nature.
The incredible sunflower turns its head to follow the sun and provides seeds to eat, fiber for materials, medicine to heal, a golden-yellow dye, and oil. It offers shade and beauty. It is a symbol of our hope for Nature and for Peace. We make a collective, conscious, and powerful statement by planting sunflowers where they will be noticed — in vacant lots, fields, along roadways, city streets, at schools, surrounding toxic waste sites, reservoirs, threatened open space, along stretches of railroad, parking lots, playgrounds, around places of worship, and in gardens.
We encourage all to plant a sunflower seed and watch it grow to become a majestic symbol — to call for harmony between humans, and with nature – toward peace on earth. Web Site: http://www.sunflowerproject.org
Fukushima: A Nuclear War without a War, The Unspoken Crisis of Worldwide Nuclear Radiation, Michel Chossudovsky (Editor), I-Book No. 3, January 25 2012, Website: Fukushima – A War without a War
In the Body of God: An Ecological Theology, Sallie McFague
Growing Solutions to Radioactive Waste, Shelly Kelly
The Watchers – Sunflower radiation absorption project grows around Fukushima