Nuclear Zen

Tokyo, Wednesday, July 18, 2012, Japan

Keibo Oiwa is a cultural anthropologist, bestselling author, environmental activist and public speaker. Since 1992, he has taught at Meiji Gakuin University in Yokohama.

Prior to the earthquake and tsunami of March 2011, and the nuclear disasters that resulted from it, Japan had generated 30% of its electrical power from nuclear reactors and planned to increase that share to 40%. Nuclear energy was a national strategic priority in Japan, but there had been concern about the ability of Japan’s nuclear plants to withstand seismic activity.


Music by FM Einheit, Mona Mur & En Esch.

Thank you is a recognition of the reality. We are living here. We are using [nuclear [and fossil]] electricity…We created the social system — media, education, politics — on top of the same system. We have to admit it. Yes, this is where we are. And we have to embrace it, whether it’s ugly or not. This is us. And only after that, we can say what we want to do. But the problem is, many people refuse to recognize this reality.

Albert Einstein said you cannot solve the problem within the same mindset that created the problem in the first place. But that is exactly what we’ve been doing. As environmental activist, I’ve been fighting, in the movements against environmental destruction, pollution, climate change, nuclear power. And all these problems are too serious. We cannot solve any of these problems easily. Many people say it’s too late. But I think it’s very important that all these problems have the same root, not just environmental issues, but psychological problems.

What do we do with the very unhappy society we’ve created. you know, education, family situation, families are collapsing. We pit all the children against each other; they’re supposed to be be competing and fighting against each other, forever. I think the roots are all entangled and maybe the same one. So what we have to do, is recognize the root. This is a great opportunity. This crisis is an opportunity…to understand this mindset, not just a society, but ourselves, our mindset…

The musician Ryuichi Sakamoto…said, “We are risking our lives, not only human lives, for the sake of what? Just electricity?”

But this is a mindset we have been captured in…

For what? Is it worth risking our lives, our future, our children’s future?

The objective of this system is to make more, consume more, discard more. It’s eternal growth: mass production, mass consumption, mass discarding. When you look around, this whole system is made up of excess. So I think excess is the nature of the present time. More. Bigger. Faster…This is a religion of efficiency.

…After March 11, we realized how hollow our democracy had become. Democracy had become a treasure box we were carrying but then after March 11, we opened it, after many years. It was empty. We have to rebuild democracy from scratch.

When you look at politics, at media, the situation seems so pessimistic. But at the same time, I witness so many good signs and I can see very clearly that what’s happening in Japan all over the place has a strong resonance with what’s happening outside of Japan; In Europe, in Africa, Latin America, everywhere, similar things are happening. They’re coming out of the mindset that my generation is still trying to cling to. Young people are saying, ‘Just forget it. They are not attracted anymore. They’re not deceived. More and more, I can feel good things are happening…

The rest of the story we have to create…