I just attended the two-day Global Conference for a Nuclear Power Free World (http://npfree.jp) and I have to say the experience was electrifying. Anti-nuclear and renewable energy tend to be associated with tree-hugging or “professional” demonstrators in the West, but the breadth and depth of participation was striking.
Activism or really any kind of criticism of government is just not usual in Japan–a demonstration in Tokyo (metro area population approximately 34 million) would be considered a massive success if it had a thousand people. But the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster has lit a fire under the normally complacent Japanese, so that seminars like “Why are the Japanese media not telling the truth?” were packed to overflowing, with people standing packed like strap-hangers on a Tokyo commuter train.
The calibre of experts, both domestic and international, was top-notch and the overall feeling that I came away with was that the conference was a jumping-off point for the action now to come. A nuclear disaster seems pretty abstract until radioactive substances are found in children’s urine and mothers’ breast milk, children can’t play outside for more than a couple of hours a day, and you wonder whether the food you buy has been checked for radioactive contamination.
Whether a critical mass has been reached yet in Japan, or the masses sink back into their comfortable apathy remains to be seen, but I am hopeful.