HIROSHIMA: What does it mean to say, “We are ALL ‘hibakusha’?”

 

by Joe Scarry

Participants in the World Nuclear Victims Forum in Hiroshima

I have just returned from the World Nuclear Victims Forum in Hiroshima.

The big lesson from this gathering is: “We are ALL hibakusha!” What does this mean?

Hibakusha is a word that has traditionally been used to refer to people affected by the nuclear blasts in Hiroshima and Nagaski.  It is now being broadened to recognize the many additional victims of acute affects of nuclear radiation (including fallout from tests and radioactivity from mining and processing). In fact, we are all subject to the impact and threat of nuclear radiation spread indiscriminately by nations and corporations.

So . . .

(1) It’s a massive threat – take it seriously.  The #1 lesson for me of this conference is the global nature of the threat posed by nuclear radiation, and the state power that lies behind it. We learned about people in places as diverse as Central Europe, Western China, India, Southern Australia, the islands of the Pacific, Japan, the U.S. Southwest, and Iraq being harmed by the release of nuclear radiation.

(2) Don’t be distracted. I was reminded once again that one reason this threat persists is that it requires concentration to understand the scientific underpinnings of it. That requires hard work. It issooooo much easier to just turn on the TV and watch a soccer match. Prevailing against this threat will require us to stand against an “entertainment culture” that tries to convince people, “Just don’t worry about it!”

(3) Spread the word. We have a tool that we can use: social media. Spread the word.

More broadly, from this gathering I came to understand the following five aspects of the situation we face with respect to the threat from nuclear radiation:

* Relationship to “technology” – Over and over, we see it asserted that “We have the technology to use nuclear radiation safely.” People fail to admit the limits of “technology.”

* Treating people like they don’t matter – Over and over, we see groups of people subjected to nuclear radiation. They are treated like they don’t matter. (See GLOBAL HIBAKUSHA: The Result of the “People Who Don’t Matter” Mindset )

* Invisibility – Advocacy in this area faces a special difficulty: because nuclear radiation can’t be seen, extra work is required to make it understandable and build support for stopping it. (SeeGLOBAL HIBAKUSHA: Doing the work to render the invisible visible)

* Human nexus – We must take special care to address this problem from the standpoint of the lives harmed by it.

* Government failure – Consistently, we see government fail to protect people from nuclear radiation.

* Irreversibility – The release of nuclear radiation is so profound, in part, because of the practical impossibility of fully reversing it.

I will write more about each of these points in detail, and add links here as I expand the discussion. I welcome comments!

In addition, here are 10 specific takeaways — issues and circumstances that people need to know about and share with others.

HIROSHIMA: What does it mean to say, “We are ALL ‘hibakusha’?”
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Related posts

Here are additional posts from my time at the World Nuclear Victims Forum in Hiroshima in November, 2015, plus my thoughts as the event approached, and a list of my blog posts on eliminating nuclear weapons and related topics.

(See Nov 21-23, 2015 in Hiroshima: World Nuclear Victims Forum — I’ll Be There )

2015 marks the 70th anniversary of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki (August 6 and 9, 2015). Let’s do something about it: make a nuclear ban a reality.

(See TIME FOR A NUCLEAR BAN? On the 70th Anniversary of Hiroshima/Nagasaki )


There are three centers of power that will impact nuclear disarmament: the President, the Congress, and the people. One of them will have to make nuclear disarmament happen.

(See Countdown to U.S. Nuclear Disarmament (With or Without the Politicians) )

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