Fukushima, Chernobyl, Two Speeches
[Below two translations of speeches held at anti-nuclear demonstrations in Germany. The first speech is by ex-Fukushima resident Naho Dietrich-Nemoto who now lives in Germany with her husband and young daughter. The speech was held at a demonstration in Muenster, Germany, on 28 March 2011. My translation is from the transcript in Graswurzelrevolution No. 359, May 2011, p.1 The second speech was one I held myself exactly 25 years ago tomorrow in the small town of Hofheim am Taunus near Frankfurt. The radiation from the Chernobyl meltdown was stll raining invisibly from the skies. It was my first ever public speech.]
Close Down All Nukes
Speech by ex-Fukushima resident Naho Dietrich-Nemoto
Since the earthquake in Japan I can often not stop the trembling in my hands and legs. The fear in my parents’ faces; the confusion in the face of my nephew; my sister at the end of her tether; everyone’s fear of radiation. It doesn’t matter what I do, I can’t stop thinking of all that.
It’s not easy for me to speak here. My heart hurts to talk about the fate of my own family. But when I told my mother about it, she encouraged me. “Yes, I think that’s a great idea, please tell them how we are going.” That’s why I’m standing here now, because I don’t want such a thing to happen again, not in Japan, Germany or anywhere else on earth.
My home, Fukushima, is very beautiful; it has a wealth of nature. There are 2000 metre green mountain chains, huge blue lakes, birds, sunlight; in spring cherry trees bloom, in summer peaches ripen everywhere. A great red sun rises from the sea every morning.
Perhaps we can never again eat peaches from my home without deep fear in our hearts like we once did. Once I used to drive to the sea every summer and ate the fish that were in season. Perhaps I can never go there again.
The victims who have lived there their whole lives can’t just leave. Many have no choice but to continue living on the contaminated land. There is nowhere else they can go because Japan is also very densely populated.
Most Japanese could not imagine such a thing happening. We trusted the nuclear power companies. Although I had doubts deep inside, I must admit that I had totally accepted their promises: ‘Our nuclear plants are completely safe. Our technology is of the highest standard.’ I hope Japan has now changed its thinking and that the government takes responsibility for its people.
I ask all the people who support nuclear energy: have you ever imagined your own family living near a nuclear power plant and slowly becoming contaminated by radiation after an accident? Have you ever imagined your own home region, the soil and the water becoming so contaminated that you can never live there again with total peace of mind? Would you still want this nuclear power plant which entails constant danger to your life? Then please move there with your beloved family.
I hope Germany proves that we can do without nuclear power and that other countries will follow. For Germany is no longer far from giving up nuclear power.
I don’t want something like this happening again to anybody. I believe that in order to prevent that there is no other way but to close down all nuclear power plants.
The Hofheim Speech. 15th May 1986
The organizers of this demonstration were looking for a concerned mother. OK, I am a concerned father. I have a three and a half year old son.
How can one put these recent days into words? It seems impossible. And yet it is necessary to try to do so, publicly.
These last few days have, I think, changed us all. In these days something in me has broken. What it is that has broken, I am not yet able to say. In these days, however, an enormous anger has also surfaced. I am very able to say against whom and against what this anger is directed.
It is directed against the so-called decision makers in east and west. These gentlemen are now also directly endangering my son with their unspeakable stupidity, inability to learn, contempt for the people and radioactive terrorism.
One looks at one’s child. It continues to be happy, thank God, it is still full of energy and interest in what it happens to be doing and experiencing, with an energy that we have all probably pretty much lost.
One looks at the spring blossoms, at the new green, everything so strong and so bursting with life that it almost hurts the eyes. As always. (One tries to remember spring in the old days, before one knew that the soil was already contaminated with heavy metals and acids, that the forests were dying…). And yet everything has changed.
I NOW also see the skull within the blossom, and behind my son I see a shadow as he excitedly tells me about his trip to the circus.
Yet this skull is not inevitable, this shadow is not inevitable, because both have been made by humans. By the big helpless babies in power. They are ripe for retirement. They themselves don’t have much of a future in terms of years – and people like that are supposed to be determining the future of my son, of our children?
There is a time for rational discussion. For debates about over-capacities, megawatts, soft and hard energy paths….etc. There have been studies done on eminently practical alternative energy paths for the Federal Republic for years. Let’s dust them off again and convince the last doubters…
BUT, there is ALSO a time for feelings, for fear, for hysteria, for anger. Because we are human beings, and in fact we are first and foremost human beings, and only after that are we political citizens, working people, students, so-called experts…
And anyway, who is it exactly that wants to deny us our right to our fear, to our concern, to our anger? What is the intention of someone who speaks like that? What has someone who speaks like that killed off in themselves? Do they have children? How do we craftily and gently – or else rudely and provocatively for all I care – shatter such a person’s psychic armouring? How can such a person lose the fear of his fear? I don’t know, and, to be honest, at the moment I’m not particularly interested.
At the moment I can personally only choose between
– either staying at home, business as usual, as if nothing has happened; then I’ll fall into a depression, a dumbing down, an inner death in the end,
– or doing whatever I can, moving, expressing myself, risking making a fool of myself (for example with these buttons I’m wearing, with this speech I’m making), talking to people, converting fear and anger into action (and probably doing something for my health: suppressed fear and anger probably lead to stomach ulcers etc., laughter is supposed to strengthen the immune system, that’s why we’re doing this street theatre that you saw here)
I have heard people say everybody is reacting too ‘hysterically’, that there’s no point in doing that.
I think people haven’t reacted ‘hysterically’ ENOUGH.
If I’ve understood biology lessons correctly, a threatened animal has only got two options: either it flees or it stands its ground and fights. How much brainwashing must have happened to a person till he no longer perceives these basic instincts in himself or others and just raves on about being ‘too hysterical’?
How many more catastrophes do we really need until we move? How many more shots before the bow? A taste of World War Three with Reagan’s bombing of Tripolis, a taste of nuclear melt-down with Chernobyl…
Apparently Minamata, Harrisburg, Seveso, Bhopal (2000 immediate dead, 200,000 injured) were still too far away, our imagination still too undeveloped (not to mention Hiroshima and Nagasaki).
The forests are dying before our very eyes, and we’re only talking about a ‘speed restriction’ on the Autobahn (and can’t even get that through). Obviously we no longer know what a forest means (and by ‘know’ I mean down deep inside, in our cells, our bones). Do the trees really first have to literally fall on top of us, or the birds fall dead from the skies, before we know it again? Then it will obviously be too late.
Why is it that we can find no public forms of grieving, of anger, of debate and decision? That’s what seems to be most missing at the moment. And yet, they do exist, these forms:
– the 50 farmers who yesterday blocked the entrance to the Stade reactor near Hamburg with their tractors and their radioactive vegetables and milk : I salute them
– the 64 senior citizens arrested last week for blockading the atomic weapons arsenal at Mutlangen : I salute them.
Some of my generation confronted our parents’ generation in the 60s with embarrassing and sometimes no doubt self-righteous questions about their knowledge and behaviour during the Nazi regime. What shall WE answer when our children ask us in 20 or 30 years about what we did against the obvious destruction of the planet? Shall we say:
– you know, it was all very complicated
– you know, there’s always two sides to the story
– you know, you couldn’t really do anything anyway
– you know, I would have only ruined myself trying
– you know, I had to feed a family
– you know, I couldn’t really relate to those fighting it all either
– you know, people simply didn’t really want to change things…
We have been warned. We are informed. We all know that things cannot continue going on this way without further big or small catastrophes. We know that there probably can no longer be any cheap escapes or denials that do not worsen the situation.
We know that this is probably in fact about beginning the process of the total transformation of industrial society. Transformation towards a society on a human and natural scale. A society of human and natural diversity in which children can again grow up in health. We are at a crossroads.
We have been warned. What will we do?
~ by Peter Lach-Newinsky on May 14, 2011.