Mutant Butterflies May Fail
To Prevent a New Fukushima
There are just a few kinds of people who’d feign surprise about this news: those who have been living under a rock for the past four years; those paid for by Japan’s nuclear industry; and Lady Barbara Judge, who’s nothing of the former, and more than a bit of the latter.
With the fast approaching third anniversary of the Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami, which prompted the world’s worst nuclear meltdown, at the complex of plants at Fukushima, what was once logical is, startling, no longer a certainty: that Japan would phase out its nukes for good.
Apparently, not even high radioactive readings surrounding the complex, or the fact that a beautiful creature such as a butterfly has become the canary of the mile, showing disturbing signs of mutations, seem to be enough to deter a renewed push to forget what could’ve been a horrifying tragedy.
Perhaps, the fact that it wasn’t, either by luck, or because genetic mutations and cancers in humans will take years to reveal their patterns, is the one to point as culprit for such short-memory mentality, driving Japan’s government and its aging generation of energy executives.
Who, by the way, should know better: after all, most of them were eyewitnesses of the devastation of the atomic bombs dropped in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, some 60 something years ago, and how the staggering health toll it took continues to claim lives and hopes for a future.
We’re not about to bash the brave Japanese people here, who has paid such a heavy price for the sins of its rulers during the war and before it. In reality, Japan has one of the most progressive environmental protection legislation, much in consequence of what it went through in its dark past.
But it’s undeniable that something about the resolve to do away with the dangerous and unsafe nuclear power, renewed after the Fukushima disaster, has been slowly breaking down. And many who stand to gain, in the short term, financially and politically, are gaining the upper hand of the issue.
THE INDUSTRY’S DRAGON LADY
And then, of course, there’s Lady Judge, who’s actually a lawyer with dual British and American citizenship, who doesn’t seem to mind becoming the face of Japanese nuclear industry’s callous aim at reviving its once unchallenged dominance of the country’s energy policies. An aim that took an event of the tsunami’s magnitude to disable.
Not for long, it seems. State-run Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO), the company behind Fukushima, hired this veteran of corporate boardrooms and who was chairman of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission during the Reagan administration, specifically to relaunch its nuclear program, and by the looks of it, she’s enjoying every minute of it.
Oblivious to the enormous hardship caused by the disaster three years ago, which forced thousands of Japanese to relocate outside a 20-mile radius area from the plants, she declared the reconstruction efforts ‘fantastic.’ At least, there was no sign of irony in her words as she mugged to the cameras.
Behind such well orchestrated P.R. campaign, and to the tune of millions of dollars, there’s the effort to decouple the devastation of the natural disaster, which caused thousands of deaths, from the inherent risks of building nukes, whose potential to destroy entire cities is inversely proportional to its technological vulnerabilities.
Specially if one builds them on top of notorious geological faulty lines. The greatest asset for those who are invested in these literally ticking bombs is time: give it enough, and terminal diseases caused by radiation won’t show up before the length of a whole generation, when people will be more likely to forget all about it, anyway.
THE DAWN OF MUTATING BUGS
Not many creatures represent death and rebirth as butterflies, with their age-old stunningly beautiful mutation, from an alien bug to the explosion of colors and grace that they become within their brief lifetime. The Lepidopteras have been on Earth for up to 50 million years, over seven times humanoids like us have.
That’s one of the reasons why it’s so incredibly sad that they have become poster-bugs this time around of what radiation can do to living beings. The parallel to the canaries, who’re the first to die when the air within mines turns toxic, is not out of place, even though it’s equally depressing. Until when we’ll use animals and other species to prove all about our folly over and over again?
Since two months after the March 2011 tsunami that damaged the Fukushima reactors, researchers started looking for butterflies living around the area, and they were terrified from the get go. These scary little monsters were a relatively low percentage, at 12%, but as they mated, the rate of mutation accelerated to 34%.
That obviously meant that soon enough, the majority of Fukushima butterflies will be mutants, and worst: there’s no prediction as to when the process stops or even if ever it’ll reverse itself. Mainly because there’s no effective way to eliminate or even diminish radiation, apart from the natural way, which of course, takes hundreds of years.
As we said, those paid for by the industry, will insist, with a certain reason, that it’s very hard to prove that someone or a whole village is registering elevated levels of cancer due to nuclear contamination originated at a specific site. That flawed argument will give them that generational time they need, to restart their cash-cow nuke program.
OUR SHINING ARMOR GUARDIAN
After all, you’ll hear them arguing, there are too many incidences of apparent naturally occurring cancers in humans, and many types of tumors, and a variety of factors and so on and so forth. They know how to milk this rationale long enough, to the point of rendering any opposition to nuclear power to a innocuous war of words. Whoever has the more cash, usually wins anyway.
But let’s not get too discouraged. No amount of pseudo-statistical trickery will cancel out the scientifically overwhelming proof that, if butterflies are affected, there’s no defensible point indicating that humans won’t, sooner or later. So perhaps even these damaged bugs may help prevent us from taking a proven path of doom.
There’s just one nuclear source of energy, whose power is worth harnessing for it’s guaranteed to never falter during our civilization’s term on Earth, and sits at a safe distance to cause us any harm: the one coming from the sun. What we pay a number of Lady Judges to stand up for nukes, should be enough to at least getting started on that path already.