On January 4, 2023, the Pacific Islands Forum (PIF) Secretary General Henry Puna made a public statement about Japan’s plan to dump over 1 million tons of radioactive wastewater from Fukushima, into the Pacific Ocean starting this Spring or Summer. This statement regarding a solution to the Fukushima wastewater issue was discussed in an article in The Guardian. His emphasis was on a “precautionary principle” related to environmental and human health, urging, “We owe it to our children and grandchildren to work towards ensuring that their futures are secured and safe… We are legally bound to keep the region free of environmental pollution by radioactive and nuclear waste and other radioactive matter, and to uphold legal obligations to prevent ocean dumping.”
After learning about the dump, which will directly affect California residents and the entire West coast, an organization that represents the voice of Mother Earth (https://linktr.ee/motherearthintl) began imagining how to express this transcontinental and intergeneration sentiment in a way that would resonate with everyone on the planet. Their solution is to tap into Japanese culture and give a gift of honor that represents the deep intuitive knowing of our human interconnectedness with nature. They came up with the idea for the “Shima Swan Surfboard” – hand-painted surfboard that features the 16 native flowers of the Pacific Island Nations. It represents the tip of the possibilities to reclaim honor and respect for the vast power of the ocean and the entire ecosystem to determine what life will be like in the upcoming decades and beyond.
On January 18, 2023 immediately following the Pacific Island Forum’s public webinar, the Mother Earth environmental group met with one of the appointed panel scientists, Dr. Bob Richmond, a Research Professor and Director of the Kewalo Marine Laboratory in the University of Hawaii at Manoa. Together, they discussed how even the executives at the Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) have mothers, wives, children, grandchildren, or friends in the fishing industry. Ultimately, they decided that it’s really important to touch the heart of the matter as much as the scientific and legal perspectives. We only have one ocean, and the risk seems too great with potentially unpredictable and/or irreversible consequences.
This approach inspired Los Angeles-based Mundo Maya Foundation to agree to work with Mother Earth International to plan a water blessing ceremony to encourage Japanese leaders to reconnect to their ancestors and remember that all our children are the ancestors of the future. In early February, Japan agreed to delay the dump of the Fukushima wastewater, as discussed in an article on civilbeat.org, but it’s unclear for how long. They promise the water will be safe, but many remain unconvinced.
Mother Earth wants to get the Shima Swan Surfboard to Prime Minister Kishida and host the ceremony before they decide, giving the youth an important voice in their future, as the board was painted by a 15-yr old resident of Bali.
The activist group @StopTEPCO was also intrigued and reached out to meet with Mother Earth to share their perspectives on the issue. One of the group’s Japanese natives, Tsukuru Fors has been a staunch advocate for taking the time to listen and really understand the devastating and lasting impacts of the 2011 accident on the local residents who stayed, the agricultural sector, and the morale of the families and elders who evacuated the area.
Fors echoed a similar conclusion reached by the scientific panel at the Pacific Island Forum whose webinar stated: “The accident is not over. This is not a normal operation for a reactor…Due to the transgenerational nature of the problem, new approaches and alternatives to ocean dumping are clearly needed and are the responsible way forward.”
Another founding member of the @StopTEPCO group, Frances Yasmeen, then came up with a more collaborative hashtag to call for a #newplanTEPCO. The Mother Earth team is ready to respond to the call. They’ve been advocating for notable ocean protectors like Susan Rockefeller, Chairwoman of Oceana’s Ocean Council, who is a fellow painter and art lover. Rockefeller has close ties to Asia and has expressed that, “Our ocean feeds over a billion people a healthy meal each day and we need to keep our oceans abundant. One of the most important issues of our time is to really have people understand that we are connected and to have a better sense of how we can feel and empathize with many of the issues that are affecting people around the world. The entry to building bridges is through art and culture. It’s easier through arts than it is through the environment and conservation. So, we elevate the conversation about the preciousness of the environment, but it’s through the arts that we do it.” (See more at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UkFQYExyEiA)
Mother Earth International has invited her to utilize her network connections and stand by her family motto to #protectwhatisprecious to help get the surfboard art piece to Prime Minister Kishida and the President of TEPCO with her official endorsement.
Simultaneously, a volunteer group called Ocean Co-op is leading an open letter to the Prime Minister of Japan and the Secretary General of the United Nations which reflects the public statements of concern by many parliamentary members, Sierra Club, Greenpeace, Nexus Global Youth Summit and many more.
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