The trials and tribulations of Fukushima Prefecture farmers are endless. The latest bad news concerns straw that was fed to beef cattle at a farm in the town of Asakawa. The straw was found to have been contaminated with radioactive cesium at a concentration far beyond safe levels. Yet by the time this was discovered, beef from 42 cattle that had been fed the straw had already been sold and distributed.
This was the second case of radiation-contaminated beef turning up on the market. In the first case, the beef came from Minami-Soma.
But Asakawa is a good distance from the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, which makes this case more ominous. I cannot help but wonder if there are other uninspected cattle elsewhere that have been internally exposed to radiation from their fodder.
Toxic radiation from a crippled nuclear plant can spread far and wide and affect many generations to come. Once it happens, it is "beyond control," as Prime Minister Naoto Kan put it.
People with small children are especially worried about food safety. Yet Kan is now caught in the crossfire for proposing to wean our nation off its dependency on nuclear power for energy generation.
His detractors say this isn't something they need to hear from someone who is on his way out. Others call him "irresponsible" for springing this on the nation before presenting a convincing argument or defining his plan of action. Cynics suspect he is merely trying to hang onto power for as long as he can.
A senryu poetry contest for businessmen, sponsored by Dai-Ichi Life Insurance Co., received this entry: "An act can be called eco-friendly or plain cheap/ Depending on who's doing it." Proposed by a questionable individual, even a noble ideal doesn't seem quite as noble.
But then, the arguments of some of the advocates for nuclear power are of a rather questionable nature, too. Concealed beneath the guise of legitimate concerns about higher utility bills and blackouts inconveniencing the public at large, there is blatant propaganda aimed at protecting the interests of the nuclear industry and monopoly by power companies. The parties behind this propaganda are Kan's harshest detractors, whose relentless attacks must have made Kan turn against nuclear power generation.
Assailed from all sides, the situation the prime minister is in has become more farcical than tragic. It is as if the most unpopular man has turned into a court jester who no longer fears anyone.
But as stated by novelist Natsuki Ikezawa--"I want Kan to hang on as long as he can to advance his reforms one more step"--Kan's nuclear-free policy itself has the support of many people. Sometimes, only a court jester can utter the truth.
--The Asahi Shimbun, July 16
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Vox Populi, Vox Dei is a popular daily column that takes up a wide range of topics, including culture, arts and social trends and developments. Written by veteran Asahi Shimbun writers, the column provides useful perspectives on and insights into contemporary Japan and its culture.
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