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History: One of the world's iconic pollution cases: Minamata

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kristopher Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Apr-04-11 02:39 AM
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History: One of the world's iconic pollution cases: Minamata
Edited on Mon Apr-04-11 03:17 AM by kristopher
I don't know how many know of the methyl mercury poisoning that destroyed a village in Japan during the 60s. It is perhaps a bit in the past for most Americans to have it at the forefront of their mind, I would think. However, I believe it is a familiar issue in the present for most Japanese. Perhaps the fact that radiation is in what we are seeing today makes it worse in some way (maybe not I really don't know) but it is important to realize that would be a discussion about the specific type of poison; and it is only tangential to the fact that there *is* - actually taking place at the national level - a discussion about poisons of *any* kind entering the food chain.

Fence in Pacific to try to corral radiation coming from nuclear plant
By the CNN Wire Staff

...In some cases, authorities don't even know how much radiation is getting out.

After some high-profile errors while offering regular radiation measurements on seawater, groundwater and the air, little such new information has been released since Thursday. One reason is that the dosimeters being used don't go above 1,000 millisieverts per hour, Junichi Matsumoto, an executive with the plant's owner Tokyo Electric Power Company, told reporters Sunday.

Authorities know the water in the cracked concrete shaft, then, is emitting at least that much radiation -- which equates, at a minimum, to more than 330 times the dose an average resident of an industrialized country naturally receives in a year.

In the Pacific Ocean itself, the last reported measurement (from Thursday) of seawater taken 330 meters (361 yards) offshore were said to have levels of iodine-131 at 4,385 times above the standard and cesium-137 at 527 times beyond normal. Experts say the latter radioactive isotope may be a greater concern because it persists longer, taking 30 years to lose half its radiation -- compared to an eight-day half-life for the iodine-131 isotope...

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kristopher Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Apr-04-11 07:06 AM
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1. Link to slideshow
Edited on Mon Apr-04-11 07:06 AM by kristopher

And I found that the wiki entry on this tragedy is very comprehensive. It gives a far better sense of why this is a large part of how the Japanese view current events through the lens of Minamata.

For example:
"Democratizing effects

According to Timothy S. George, the environmental protests that surrounded the disease appeared to aid in the democratization of Japan.<32> When the first cases were reported and subsequently suppressed, the rights of the victims were not recognised, and they were given no compensation. Instead, the afflicted were ostracised from their community due to ignorance about the disease, as people were afraid that it was contagious.

The people directly impacted by the pollution of Minamata Bay were not originally allowed to participate in actions that would affect their future. Disease victims, fishing families, and company employees were excluded from the debate. Progress occurred when Minamata victims were finally allowed to come to a meeting to discuss the issue. As a result, postwar Japan took a small step towards democracy.

Through the evolution of public sentiments, the victims and environmental protesters were able to acquire standing and proceed more effectively in their cause. The involvement of the press also aided the process of democratization because it caused more people to become aware of the facts of Minamata disease and the pollution that caused it.

Although the environmental protests did result in Japan becoming more democratized, it did not completely rid Japan of the system that first suppressed the fishermen and victims of Minamata disease..."
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kristopher Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Apr-04-11 04:35 PM
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