Thursday, January 26, 2012

METI as a Vogsphere

The Vogons are a fictional alien race from the planet Vogsphere in The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy series by Douglas Adams. In the planet Vogsphere, if you think, or imagine, or have an idea, you are immediately slapped by strange creatures popping from the ground. So, Vogons evolved not to think, but just to get things done, ending up being very very bureaucratic and having the flattened nose. They aren't necessarily evil, but unpleasant. Yes, this one.

I cannot help doubting if the METI (Ministry of Economy, Trade, Industry of Japan) is a Vogsphere. It is now organizing the Fundamental Issues Subcommittee, the Advisory Committee for Natural Resources and Energy, aiming at, it says, redrawing Japan's energy policy. Videos of the meetings are streamed. The METI has invited economists, CEOs, lobbyists, activists, and academics. Out of the 25 members, 15 are for nuclear power, and the others are against. It appears that the METI invited those opposing nuclear power just to say that "we'll nevertheless continue to promote nuclear power. Those who are against it, don't resent. We listened to your views anyway." In the committee, I've never seen those who still want to promote nuclear power arguing something reasonable. While they always miserably fail to convince us (what they say is like the Vogons' horrible poetry), the METI anyway says that nuclear power is still an option. What matters worse, the METI and corporate Japan are still enthusiastic to export nuclear power plants (to the countries that are not so democratic--many democratic countries may oppose nuclear power). The Vogons apparently destroy the Planet earth just to get a construction plan done. The METI is like the Vogons, or worse--it is evil. Having no imagination is evil.

Among the committee members is Shoei Utsuda, chairman of Mitsui & Co., Ltd., who argues, "don't quail! We must continue to invest in nuclear power," praising the Japan's nuclear technology. He clearly stated that the disaster should change nothing. Fuck Mitsui. Are those who still want to promote and export nuclear power plants cynical? Or, do they really believe what they are saying? One of the shocking things I felt when the Fukushima disaster occurred was that the government and Tokyo Electric Power Company acted as if they believed in their own lie that nuclear power plants are absolutely safe so they weren't prepared for such an accident. A famous Groucho Marx quote is relevant here: "he may look like an idiot and talk like an idiot, but don't let that fool you. He really is an idiot."

On January 14 and 15, thousands showed up at the Global Conference for a Nuclear Power Free World in Yokohama. It was under-reported by the media. I couldn't go there so I was watching the video streaming. The people from all walks of life discussed about many topics revolving around nuclear power, such as contamination, eviction from the contaminated area, personal experiences of the disaster, how to stop nuclear power, renewable energy, workers' radiation exposure, the media, those affected local communities, and a sustainable lifestyle. Those who are against nuclear power, who used to be called fringe (especially after 1989), are now called "populist." The conference was held in Pacifico Yokohama (imagine an anti-nuclear conference at Messe Franfurt exhibition grounds). The main facilitator environmental NGO Peace Boat said that it took 10 million yen. I wish a place like Pacifico could rather be occupied. Having said that, one of the reasons that the conference went successfully appeared that the people felt safe to be there. This was especially the case for the participants from the affected area, including the local mayors. Even the mayor of Futaba-machi where all the residents evicted, admitting that he used to be for nuclear power, expressed that he was amazed by how easy to speak up his mind at the conference, which was somehow not allowed in Fukushima. The conference was thus very inclusive. The Japanese name of the conference was "datsu-genpatsu sekai kaigi," or "global conference of de-nuclear power plants." In a way, getting rid of nuclear power is considered a sort of detoxification, but not fighting. At the closing session, Chizuko Ueno, a sociologist and also prominent Japanese feminist, said that she was uncomfortable with this name, saying, "we used to have this word 'anti-nukes' in the past." To make the conference inclusive, it had to name itself as if there were no social antagonisms, but I'm still hopeful, because many people applauded when Ueno said that. The people knew that there are many antagonisms.

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