|Yamadera Temple - Miyagi Prefecture|
Passage from Shantideva
My heart goes out to the people of Japan for their great losses and suffering due to last weeks earthquake, the resulting tsunami and radiation leaks. Without a doubt all of my readers feel the same way. At this particular moment, I am thinking of the brave engineers, technologists and workers at Fukushima who are risking their lives working tirelessly to cool the core and spent fuel rods, as the severity of the accident is raised from a Level 4 Accident With Local Consequences, to a Level 5 Accident With Wider Consequences. As nuclear accidents go, in comparison to Fukushima, Chernobyl was a Level 7 - Major Accident while Fukushima's Level 5 accident is similar to that of 3 Mile Island. The scale only goes from 1 - 7, although I would consider Chernobyl grossly underrated at 7.
I continue to wait, watch, meditate and pray with all of the prayerful of the world as the people of Japan continue to suffer from grief, aftershocks, the damage to their infrastructure, and overwhelming anxiety over the level of radiation and the possibility of a nuclear meltdown. The question arises, what are we to do about the nuclear crisis? What can we do?
What you can do right now.
1. Don't cave into panic. There is an increasing amount of worldwide panic over potential exposure to radiation due to conflicting reports, speculation, denial and exaggerations. This is of no help to anyone! Educate yourself. Check out Treehugger.com for answers to questions you may have about the nuclear accident and exposure to radiation. Having gone through a range of emotions this past week, in that my son lives and works in Osaka (650 miles from the epicenter), I feel better having looked at the situation in a wider context. Simply having some solid facts helped me, and it will help you too.
2. Join Greenpeace in organizing and/or participating in a candlelight vigil to demonstrate solidarity with the people of Japan and to imagine a world free of nuclear disasters. The vigils are scheduled for March 28th, and it's easy to sign up - simply go to the Greenpeace and click on yes I will host a vigil or if you cannot host a vigil, check back in for announcements of vigils being held in your area. If you cannot attend a vigil, why not invite a few friends over and have your own vigil. You will feel better by becoming involved.
3. Look for ways in which you can help. Check out Time Newsfeed for a list of charities to which you can donate funds. Do your research, make sure that whomever you give to is a bona fide charity. You will feel better for the giving.
4. Be prepared. As a lifetime resident of California, I have been through my fair share of earthquakes. The Northridge quake was particularly memorable. Trust me, you will feel better being prepared in the event of a disaster in your area. Be sure to have food, water, flashlights, a battery operated radio (and batteries), diapers and formula if you have babies,some cash on hand and don't wait until the last moment to refill any prescription medicine. For more tips on earthquake preparedness, go to USGS, FEMA or check out the L.A. City Fire Department's Disaster Preparedness Handbook.
5. Understand that these things do happen. Natural disasters are a part of life - accept it. Hurricanes, tornadoes, wildfires, floods, every part of the world has these dangers. If something is causing you to worry that you cannot do anything about, what is the sense in worrying? If something is causing you to worry that you can do something about, then do it!
What can we do in the long run?
1. Go green. While we cannot ward off natural disasters, there are alternatives to nuclear energy. Nothing can really stand up to a 9.0 earthquake, and both 3 mile island and Chernobyl are examples of how nuclear accidents happen even without one. Treehugger.com has a great article on both big and small ways in which you can go green and help defray the push for building of more dangerous nuclear power plants in order to fulfill increasing needs. If you believe that more modern technology has made nuclear power plants safer, here is a map of great places, complete with the location of nuclear power plants and seismic activity - take your choice as to where you want to live with your spouse and kids (a bit of uncustomary sarcasm here - Ro really hopes you will NOT do that because as you know, I love you!)
2. Take peaceful direct action. Greenpeace offers some great information on the subject of peaceful direct action in general. Remember the United States was founded on civil disobedience! You may wish to stand by rather than participate in opposing the building of nuclear power plants, but in any event don't be an ignoramus! In 2010 Greenpeace volunteers pushed President Obama to save the whales, forced corporations to stop destroying the rainforest, and protected their own campuses and neighborhoods from dangerous coal and nuclear power plants. Knowing what is going on and making an educated decision as to your own position will make you feel better. Taking peaceful direct action locally and/or globally will make you feel great!
3. Write your congressman! According to Greenpeace, the simple truth is that no matter how advanced the technology and how prepared a country might be to deal with a disaster it doesn’t change the fact that nuclear power is inherently dangerous and always will be. Obama's latest budget proposal provides for $36 billion in loan guarantees to the nuclear industry next year, although there has been some shuffling of feet after the recent disaster, both Republicans and Democrats are for it. Did someone say "duh?" An easy way to write to your congressman to let them know how you feel, is by going here. It is that simple!
4. Know that there are renewable energy alternatives to nuclear energy. I have a great idea, why doesn't the U.S. Government invest in them! Of particularly admirable quality is Japan's wind turbine system which suffered no facility damage from the earthquake or the tsunami. Renewable energy comes from natural resources such as sunlight and wind, which are naturally replenished. We don't need fossil fuels or nuclear energy to live a good life. We have already taken more than everything we need from this planet that we call home. It's time to give back, before it is too late.
Ro's other thoughts.
We are human, we are fallible. Sometimes we make terrible mistakes. Nuclear power plants are one of mankind's greatest mistakes, but we are capable of learning. I encourage you to check out Greenpeace's audio podcast in which Jim Riccio talks about the Fukushima disaster, as well as other topics of environmental concern. I hope you will find it interesting and thought provoking.
Also, be sure to join me in World Wildlife Fund's Earth Hour on March 26th at 8:30 p.m. Show your commitment to the environment and to all living things by turning your lights for an hour, then Go Beyond the Hour and commit to taking further action - see how you can even do so in very small ways.
Don't forget about Greenpeace's candlelight vigil on March 28th!
And please, if you are a prayerful person, do take some time to meditate and pray for the people of Japan, as well as for all of the suffering beings in this world. There seems to always be an ebb and flow to these things, and many places in the world are in crisis right now. I meditate and pray each night for the freedom from suffering of all sentient beings - won't you join me in spreading compassion and love?