Saturday, November 28, 2015

GLOBAL HIBAKUSHA: Doing the work to render the invisible visible

One way to make radiation visible:>
The drawings of Misato Yugi
Share by Hiroaki Koide at
World Nuclear Victims Forum
A substantial number of the presentations at the World Nuclear Victims Forum in Hiroshima required intense concentration on numbers. And I realized that's an inherent part of the struggle of the global hibakusha. (See HIROSHIMA: What does it mean to say, "We are ALL 'hibakusha'?" )

Nuclear radiation is invisible. It needs to be measured and counted to be recognized, and it requires careful scientific method to be understood. Measuring and counting and science are difficult. But . . .

. . . in this sphere, POWER depends on -- is a function of -- the ability to deal with nuclear radiation's invisibility through these means.

This was brought home to me in discussion during the lunch breaks with one of the other attendees. We were both kind of fretting over how the scientific presentations can be difficult to follow, and tiring. Couldn't we just be activists without having to sit through all these scientific presentations? we wondered.

But as we discussed it more, we realized that doing the science part -- and doing it well -- is one of the keys to success as activists, when it comes to dealing with nuclear radiation.

That's why it was so great that there were so many expert presentations at the World Nuclear Victims Forum in Hiroshima. (See list of presentations in English | in Japanese.)

I think there are four corollaries to this point:

"exposure to 1 mSv per year means that in one year, on average one ray of
radiation passes through the nuclei of every cell in the body [about 60 trillion cells]."
(From 10 Lessons from Fukushima, Fukushima Booklet Pulbication Committee)

(a) Measurement - Simply stated, everyone who aspires to be an activist in this area will need to resign themselves to doing at least some of their communications in numbers -- including units related to radiation exposure (e.g. "sieverts"), comparisons with control groups, time series, and statistical measures.

Which is closely connected to the issue of . . .

World Nuclear Victims Forum in Hiroshima:
"Traces of Tunafishing Boat Sailings in Pacific Ocean
(March 1 - May 27, 1954)"
"From 1 March to 14 May, 1954, [6] hydrogen bomb experiments were performed
in the Marshall island area . . . . there were about 500 tuna ships there and
exposed by the radioactive fallout from these explosions. In each ship, about 
20 fishermen were on board, thereofre about 10,000 people were exposed."Masaharu Hoshi (Professor Emeritus at Hiroshima University)

(b) Visualization - There is a need to give prominence to high-quality visualization of data related to nuclear radiation and its effects, particularly with respect to distribution in time and space.

(I am reminded of the principles advanced by Edward Tufte, e.g. in Visual Display of Quantitative Data.)

World Nuclear Victims Forum in Hiroshima:
"Time trend of Atomic Bomb-related Cancers"
"1st Leukemia Phase" - peaks within the first ten years, then trail off.
"Solid Cancers Phase" begins to plateau only after about 40 years.
"2nd Leukemia Phase" grows steadily, but only beginning after year 10.
Masao Tomonaga (Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Hospital Director Emeritus)

(c) Time lag - The ultimate challenge for advocacy is that an enormous amount of time tends to transpire while data is acquired and analyzed -- especially data related to effects of nuclear radiation in humans. (And while time passes, more people are harmed by nuclear radiation.)

(This is why, I think, the "precautionary principle" has such relevance to the problem of nuclear radiation.)

A little atomic power with your morning coffee?
(Reddy Kilowatt flacks for the nuclear energy industry.)

(d) Messaging - The difficulty posed by the invisibility of nuclear radiation means that extreme skill must be used to come up with messaging that is successful -- providing "instant comprehension" while still remaining faithful to the underlying complexity of the physical phenomena.

(Up until now, the nuclear industry has prevailed in this area. It's time to change that.)

It's time for us to knuckle down and do the hard work to make the danger posed by nuclear radiation -- and the situation of global hibakusha -- visible.

#GlobalHibakusha say: "Make the harm from #nuclear 100% visible!"
(Please retweet this message!)

Related posts

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.

(See HIROSHIMA: What does it mean to say, "We are ALL 'hibakusha'?")

Gorbachev: "In light of their arguments and the strictly scientific data which they possess, there seems to be no room left for politicking. And no serious politician has the right to disregard their conclusions.”

(See When the facts all point to one conclusion: "No More Nukes" )

The tremendous contribution of the "Op-Chart" is the way it reminds us that there are actual people -- many, many people -- behind the statistics in the news we read each day about Afghanistan, and that the events are happening in a real, physical place that you can relate to via a map, and that the events that are occurring on our authority are cumulative -- they add up to a large number of people. Beyond that, however, there is a problem with the "Op-Chart": it doesn't actually do a very good job helping us detect the patterns in the assembled information.

(See Tufte, Faces, and Afghanistan Casualties )

At the end of the first day of the 2012 CODEPINK drone conference, I came to a realization: the fundamental problem that we had all gathered to address is that drones render killing 100% invisible. And as long as the killing is invisible, we lose the most powerful tool we have for fighting the killing: the disgust and outrage of the general public.

(See Make Drone Killing 100% VISIBLE!)