This week I am in Fukushima City, the administrative seat of Fukushima Prefecture. It has the real feel of a provincial town to it, with cobbles, trees and brick buildings. It is also famed for its agricultural produce, an industry around which great efforts are being made to get it back on its feet.
Unfortunately, there is no hiding from the fact of what happened just over three years ago. Fukushima is such a beautiful city, with such friendly and welcoming people, that things like this just make your heart muscles tighten when you see them:
To be clear, I have no particular ‘pro’ or ‘anti’ nuclear stance with this work that I want to put across (for the record, I’m agnostic on nuclear power in any case…) But it is the case that the physical environment in which many people live has been altered in an almost irreversible and drastic way – and there is a lot that can be learned from how such changes affect daily lives and the things that matter to us. Even if a nuclear event is an extreme example, when/if things like climate change start to bite us in the UK may be facing up to similar challenges.
On a more positive note, spent a fantastic morning with Akihiko Sato and his colleagues at the Fukushima Future Center for Regional Revitalization, learning about work they have been doing with evacuated communities close to the plant. It really does put the stuff I’ve been doing on hypothetical carbon dioxide storage into perspective, but all the same we had a great discussion about what the role of social scientists can be in events like this, for just giving citizens someone non-partisan, non-judgmental and confidential to talk to.
And on a personal note, today finished with a bath under the stars, in total silence save for the crickets and insects screeching away overhead. This is some of the toughest fieldwork I have ever done, in one of the most beautiful locations. Such appears to be the paradox of daily life in Fukushima City – all the things that make a high standard of living, but with the occasional nagging reminder that there’s something lurking under the surface. Let’s see if this is borne out in the work in the rest of this week.