Just over a year ago, I sat down with the artist Brian Williams, Eric Johnston of the Japan Times and Kyoto Journal’s Stewart Wachs to discuss a new project. The nuclear disaster at Fukushima Daiichi being very fresh in our minds, we felt that there was an urgent need for a publication on renewable energies that could show both policy-makers and the public at large that alternatives to nuclear are possible. We knew that the timing was imperative, for though there was a huge public backlash against nuclear energy, we knew that too many powerful forces had too much invested in the industry to give it up so easily. It was only a matter of time before the propaganda war began and the politician/puppets of the nuclear lobby began spouting the tired old refrain that giving up nuclear simply wasn’t “realistic” or that it would hurt Japanese businesses and force them to relocate overseas.* So we knew that we had to get the book out soon and that the normal organic and inclusive methods of Kyoto Journal would have to be discarded in favour of speed and efficiency. It wouldn’t in fact be an issue of Kyoto Journal, but a special publication, produced by a core team of Kyoto Journal members. Eric as captain of this enterprise wanted the book, named at the time the “Alternative Energies” project, to be ready by this summer, in time for the implementation of the new Feed-in tariff system, Prime Minister Kan’s parting gift to the country, to encourage increased investment in renewable energies. And so it is that after many meetings and discussions and a lot of work on Eric’s part as chief editor, plus Ken Rodgers as assistant editor, and John Einarsen as designer, not to mention many others who have worked as translators and transcribers, that the bulk of the book is almost ready. At some point along the way, after much brainstorming we came up with a title too, and I think it’s a cracker: Fresh Currents: Japan’s flow from a nuclear past to a renewable future.
For my part I can think of no more important issue facing Japan today. It is clear to me that renewable energy is the future. We already have the technology to tap these inexhaustible sources of clean, safe, non-polluting, non-climate-change inducing power. There is no doubt in my mind that renewables can and will become the dominant source of energy world-wide. The question is when, and to that I would answer the sooner the better. As we can see from extreme weather conditions in America this summer, climate change is already a current reality. At some point we will reach a tipping point from which we cannot return. It is vital that we make the switch to renewables immediately to avoid the worst consequences of climate disaster. Japan has the technological know-how and economic power to lead the world in this respect.
Again, despite the earnest arguments of nuclear apologists that nuclear power if managed properly can be safe and is the only “realistic” alternative to fossil fuels, a proper study of the true costs involved in nuclear power generation reveals that it cannot help us avoid the climate catastrophe to which we are headed:
Nuclear power could at best make only a negligible contribution to emission reductions: even if the entire global fleet of reactors was quadrupled, a completely far-fetched scenario, this would lead to at most a 6% reduction in global CO2 emissions, which would come too late due to long construction times, well beyond the deadline that climate scientists have set for avoiding catastrophic climate change. LINK
Even if it could help avoid climate change, building nuclear power plants in a land riddled with active fault lines strikes me as madness. And as Chris Rowthorn has demonstrated in his excellent open letter to the Prime Minister, the corruption and incompetence endemic within the nuclear-industrial-bureaucratic complex ensures that we cannot trust the nuclear industry to manage itself safely and neither can we trust the government to police them. Fukushima was bound to happen and will happen again unless we make a move away from nuclear now.
My role in this project is “Web Coordinator”; designing a new website for the project which will be released in tandem with the book and also managing the Fresh Currents Facebook page and Twitter account. No doubt my involvement with this project will continue to eat up a lot of my time and will unfortunately mean I cannot post on Deep Kyoto as often as I would like. However, I do it gladly. I believe the consequences of not shifting to renewables are too terrible to ignore. This is the shared future of the planet we are talking about. Of course I want to do whatever I can to help.I also have personal reasons. When I first came to Japan on the JET program in 1997 I was posted to Fukushima and lived there for three years. It is a beautiful part of the world with super friendly people who welcomed me and took me in as their own. I can never forget their kindness and it breaks my heart to think of what they must be going through now. The very city that I lived in, though outside the rather arbitrary exclusion zone, is riddled with hotspots, a recent article revealing that 25 schools there have high levels of radioactive contamination. Fukushima has paid a high-price for Japan’s nuclear folly. It must not happen again.
Clearly the majority of people in Japan share my opinion, polls have shown that most people are against the restarts, and as we have seen from the ongoing mass protests, so rare in Japan, ordinary people are ready to stand up and shout their defiance of the undemocratic decision of the nuclear-lobby’s government puppets. On Friday, I will join them by attending the demo at the KEPCO offices here in Kyoto. It is vital that the protests against nuclear power continue. But it is also vital that we counter nuclear propaganda by showing that alternatives are possible, that we can make a change to renewables, and that with these clean energy sources and increased efficiency we can lead the world in creating a better and safer future for our children.
That is where the book Fresh Currents comes in. And if you visit our campaign page you can see we have enlisted the help of some top experts, writers and thinkers to make a convincing case for clean energy. But we do need your help! Though the book is almost complete funds are urgently needed for the following expenses:
• Research and documentation, including travel expenses
• Translation of vital source materials
• Printing of complimentary copies for policymakers, community leaders, educators and the media.
• Website costs
We have raised almost $6500 to date, but the funding drive seems to have stalled and we have only 4 days remaining to reach our goal of $9500! Can you help us? All I ask from you is a small donation of $10 each, for if every one my daily Deep Kyoto readers were to make such a donation we would reach our goal easily. It’s not a huge amount when you consider that it is an investment in our shared future; a future that could be free of pollution, free from climate catastrophe, or free from nuclear dread. Please watch the following video or click on the link to read more about our work. I guarantee you it is worth your time.
*Ironically a recent Reuters Tankan poll has revealed that 72 percent of Japanese firms want no early restart before safety can be guaranteed.