Friday, October 25, 2013
Credibility of UN Findings on the Fukushima Community after 2011 Reactor Meltdown
Of all the nations in eastern Asia, I think it would be fairly safe to say that Japan is the most modernized and westernized. However, no matter how technologically advanced the nation is or how much the neon signs and buildings in Tokyo glow, there is little to be done to best Mother Nature when she throws an earthquake and a tsunami at you. (I will say that it is quite the testament to the advancement of that country though that they were able to bounce back from a triple disaster: earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear reactor meltdown, and not devolve into utter chaos). Two years after that March 2011 devastation, a UN scientific report being compiled on the effects of radiation from the Fukushima nuclear power plant has come under criticism from human rights groups.
The UN Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation (UNSCEAR) presented findings that an "increased incidence of radiation-related health effects" should not be expected around Fukushima, or in layman's terms, the radiation levels are not out of the norm enough to be detrimental to the population. UN special rapporteur (different from just a reporter; rapporteurs are appointed by the UN and report on proceedings of an issue) on the right to health Anand Grover, however, claims that the data in the report is insufficient to state that there will be no bad health effects. Grover made his own findings "from a human rights perspective" when he flew to Japan in November 2012.
Mari Inoue of the Human Rights Now organization says that the committee needs to take into account and further study workers exposed to radiation along with involving the communities in future response and action.
So the issues that remain and seem to be recurring themes in this class are determining who can be considered an authority on a topic,who or what work is credible, and how should information be disseminated. I have trouble agreeing with Grover because although he does have public interests in mind, after doing a little research on him, I found that he specialized in HIV research, so nuclear science is somewhat out of his realm whereas UNSCEAR is composed of 27 nations, meaning at least 27 different scientists whose educations and/or careers have focused on nuclear energy. If it were not a scientific committee working on this, if it were instead just a government committee, I would be concerned with some kind of underlying political agenda running its course in the committee's findings because usually there typically is one. However, I like to believe that the scientific community, not just in the US but the global scientific community, is not one that likes to be involved with government or politics unless it involves passing laws for improving the environment or to get research/project funding. Thus, I wouldn't imagine that this committee would be willing to risk the safety of the communities around Fukushima. Furthermore, UN special reporters are only allowed to investigate within a country if that country's government allows it, so for Japan to let Grover in means that they more than likely have the public's interests at heart as well.
I do think that involving the communities around the plant is key in determining how to proceed with future actions from the UN and the Japanese government. When you can get first-hand, unfiltered accounts, it is typically best to use it. Also, Grover isn't unfounded in taking extra precautions. I'm not really questioning the merits of any of the figures in this article, but it does bring to mind the problem of who to consider an authority on certain issues. Just because you are named an expert or assigned to a specific position, does that make you qualified to be a proliferator of news and decisions about it, especially if it involves a group of people? We somewhat saw that with Adam Johnson and The Orphan Master's Son and how critics questioned how he could have the "audacity" or "authority" to write from the point of view of a group of people he isn't associated with. With Persepolis, Marjane Satrapi stated in interviews that her book is not a biography, but of course most parts were based on true events, which raises another question of what and how much to take in as truth when information/media is dispensed.