I use the words “in principle” because in April of this year I was forced to make one of the most difficult decisions of my teaching career at the tertiary level: I was forced to recommend to the university authorities where I was employed that they postpone their planned Study Abroad Program in Japan scheduled for the fall of 2013.
While I deeply regretted this recommendation, I honestly felt that in good conscience I had no choice. That is to say, in March 2013 I attended a two-day Fukushima-related medical seminar at the New York Academy of Sciences where I learned, for the first time, the full scope of the ongoing dangers posed by radiation contamination from the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant.
This knowledge was compounded by the fact that, upon returning to my home in Yellow Springs, Ohio, I was contacted by a 2012 Study Abroad Program participant who informed me that she had suffered from such symptoms as vomiting, nosebleeds and recurring headaches, all symptoms typically associated with radiation contamination. I was forced to take action.
True, the student in question made a personal choice to visit the Tohoku region during the individual research period that was part of the Study Abroad Program. Thus, one reasonable response would have been to forbid 2013 students from traveling anywhere north of Tokyo. As I considered this option, however, I could not but recall the warnings given by nuclear and medical experts both inside and outside of Japan concerning the danger of additional major radiation contamination coming from Fukushima No. 1.
With this radiation now spewing uncontrolled into the ocean, it is no longer possible to simply avoid the danger by not traveling to the Fukushima area. That is to say, fish are swimming in an ever more heavily contaminated environment where radiation bio-accumulates in the seafood. Thus the largest fish, which eat the most, often live the longest and swim great distances, become the most contaminated, and it is simply impossible for the Japanese government, or any government, to check every fish caught to ensure its safety.
Another solution I seriously considered was for 2013 program students to become vegetarians while in Japan. However, to my dismay I recently learned, from an article published by the Fukushima Minpo newspaper on Jan. 24, that the Japanese government plans to purchase contaminated rice grown in Fukushima Prefecture (providing it contains less than 100 becquerels/kg) and later sell it nationwide.
I fully realize, Minister Shimomura, that you are not in charge of decisions related to Fukushima No. 1. But as a Cabinet minister, l appeal to you to add your voice to those demanding that effective measures be taken immediately.
I long for that day to come.
Yellow Springs, Ohio