Thursday, August 29, 2013

We Had To Destroy The Village In Order To Save It

Thursday, August 29, 2013

I thought of the title for my posting today after reading a story about the devastating impact of the Fukushima disaster in Japan.  It is apparently much worse than most people know.  But before I speak about that below appears the apparent origin of the phrase I used as my title.  This is taken from lovely Wikipedia:

A famous quote from the Vietnam War was a statement attributed to an unnamed U.S. officer by AP correspondent Peter Arnett in his writing about Bến Tre city on 7 February 1968:

"It became necessary to destroy the town to save it', a United States major said today. He was talking about the decision by allied commanders to bomb and shell the town regardless of civilian casualties, to rout the Vietcong."

The quote became distorted in subsequent publications, eventually becoming the more familiar, "We had to destroy the village in order to save it." Victor Hanson, writing for the conservative National Review Online, has called into question the accuracy of the original quote and its source.

I thought of this quote today because I often wonder if we humans as a species will nearly destroy the entire planet before we actually take sufficient steps to conserve it for future generations (you know...the people who will be born after the year 2100).  The source of the article I read today can be found here.

Make sure you have not had anything at all to eat when you start reading.  I actually cried after reading this...though not immediately.  No, my immediate reaction was to have a case of "deer in the headlights".  I could not think clearly and I stared off into the distance for a while.  It's stories like these that could activate anyone's PTSD...and that is why I am writing about it here.

The Pacific Ocean is by far our largest ocean of the planet.  Over a billion people rely on the ecosystems within the Pacific Ocean to sustain them with important fish protein.  If this article is even somewhat correct in depicting the severity of the continuing leakage of radiation from Fukushima we may very well experience a massive food crisis if these ecosystems begin collapsing.  It boggles my mind to imagine the scale of this.

I know something about the Pacific Ocean and ocean policy because I previously studied at the Monterey Institute of International Studies in beautiful Monterey, California.  Earlier in its history Monterey was a community with a large canning industry.  It actually served as inspiration for the book Cannery Row.  While attending school at the Monterey Institute of International Studies I worked for the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary, the Otter Project and the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch Program.  The Seafood Watch Program works to promote a sustainable seafood industry throughout the United States.  I can hardly conceive of what is going to transpire over the next decade due to the disaster in Japan.  I actually do not want to imagine what the full range of consequences may be.

Take a moment to watch the computer simulation of the gradual dispersal of radioactive water across the entire Pacific Ocean through the year 2020.  I marvel at our species' capacity for self-destructive behavior.  Never in my life have such beautiful colors caused me such horror.  It especially pains me to imagine what may unfold because I lived in California for several years and have also traveled to Hawaii for education and pleasure. Watching the waters around Hawaii turn a sickly magenta in the simulation nearly made me sick to my stomach.  Hawaii alone contains such amazing beauty.  Between the tsunami generated marine debris now drifting through the Pacific Ocean and the radioactive water that is now also dispersing it horrifies me to think what this may do to the economy of Hawaii...and its many people.  This is just another classic example of what the environmental policy world would label a "transboundary issue".  Though the disaster originated in Japan people throughout the entire Pacific Basin are going to be affected...likely for years.  The sadness I feel is immense.

Stories like these are perfect examples of why I hesitate to follow the news these days.  It's all so sad and depressing.  The Arctic is rapidly melting and the Pacific is being contaminated 30 MONTHS after the Japanese tsunami.  It's like the Pacific Ocean version of Chernobyl.  Stories like these also just cement my deeply held conviction that we need a revolution in how humanity conceives of itself and the planet upon which we depend.  We are collectively engaged in an unsustainable lifestyle of extraordinary consumption that has no long term future.  And the sooner we get off our road to perdition the better what future we leave to our children will be.

Another reason I am motivated to reference the Fukushima disaster is to also point to it as an example of the destructive power of lies.  Media apathy (or complicity in covering up disasters) is unfortunate and all too common.  And yet covering up a disaster as expansive as this one just exacerbates the consequences.  Collective trust is undermined and even destroyed when the primary institutions of a nation will not tell the citizenry the truth.  Trauma of a scale like what the Japanese people have endured can only be inflamed all the more when your own government cannot be trusted to tell you the complete truth about something as horrific as a nuclear reactor meltdown.

As for me and as for tonight I need to log off.  My sorrow is as deep and wide as the Pacific Ocean whose beautiful expanses I remember so fondly.  May we all wake up and start loving one another.

Good night.

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