Elizabeth PO’, Western Australia Regional Meeting
Adrian Glamorgan and Elizabeth PO’ produce a weekly radio program on the environment in Perth, Western Australia, and every week add a little more to the public knowledge of what is happening behind the scenes and under the radar of urgent importance about the environment here, and elsewhere that affects here. Last year’s circumstances that took them to Fukushima, also led them to represent Fremantle’s Mayor at the Hiroshima and Nagasaki conference for Mayors for Peace, and subsequently Fremantle has agreed to become the area’s lead city for the organisation. Elizabeth and Adrian are in the thick of arranging a regional conference for September, aided by local Friends. They were recently nominated as finalists for World Environment Day Award in media at the United Nations Association of Australia for their community radio series “Beyond Nuclear War and Radioactive Peace”.
In Japan and here in Western Australia we witness the gap between evidence and action.
In Fukushima Prefecture we saw radiation levels showed differently between government “clean area” monitoring stations, and locals checking Geiger counter readings in playgrounds and populated thoroughfares. We met the head of a large farming family concerned for the government raising acceptable levels for even young children to return to badly irradiated arable lands.
In WA we interviewed a noodle seller at the Japan Festival, noodle fresh from contaminated Fukushima, despite written assurances from the organisers that they were not being sold. Our state government is keen for uranium mining to start, while ignoring the responsibilities our nation has in providing the raw material for such ongoing tragedies as Fukushima, and depleted uranium weapons, let alone the widespread capacity for making simple bombs from fissile material of even civilian strength that comes from any nuclear power plant.
How do we ponder the requirements love makes of us in answering our corporate responsibility to speak truth to power in the face of our own government saying there is “nothing unsafe about selling our uranium” to countries like UAE and India, after the clear charge of incompetence, wilful negligence, mismanagement and over-reaching confidence around Fukushima’s Daiichi nuclear power plant failure, and many other incidences in the nuclear industry? How do we sit still enough to process the extreme discomfort that arises when contemplating the number of suicides and massive upheaval the radiation spread has been causing, long enough indeed to feel our meeting gather within and around us, and thence a thread of response arising?
Since travelling to Japan last year, visiting Fukushima and people affected by the nuclear power plant disaster, Adrian Glamorgan and I have been wrangling the clever crocodile of nuclear power. We’ve been touched directly by a story too big to be ignored or laid to rest. When we returned from Japan, we worked hard to get the radio programs up and running, but I particularly went into a deeply troubled space, realising that this nuclear industry was something different in intent, practice and aftermath from anything I had known. Not that individuals knew that as they worked to keep things safe at the power plants or mines or storage facilities in the nuclear industry’s ever-growing state. But those who have the determination to look at all the factors, who can look beyond the prejudices, who are translators of the big picture, can see the patterns over decades that hide key information, build overconfidence in the work culture, bring allure to power-over-others, and deliver deceit, sometimes in its most deadly forms.
As part of our subsequent trip to New Zealand and thence to Yearly Meeting 2014 in Brisbane, Adrian and I facilitated experiential gatherings about “responding to disaster” in our neighbourhoods, an international view, using the Fukushima disaster as a walk-through example. We then held the same format to gather in WARM at the Meeting House in Mt Lawley, and many Friends participated and their final thoughts were written on a paper butterfly. This is a simple process we can suggest for all meetings – to consider the different groups affected by a disaster, and walk through the stages of their experiences as if in their shoes, finally holding them in the light and wishing them well as we listen to promptings from within, such as those from WARM. Participants there were moved to “Become more vocal and political”, as well as find “Spiritual strength and ease and joy together in our work”, and “Stop hurting the earth”; “Holding all the Earth in the Light and truth may inspire and empower all”. Others were activated “To have an education ministry for nuclear information in schools etc.”, or “The government of Australia needs a Disaster Ministry to cover education on what can happen and what to do, and responses for dealing with possible problems”. It could make an income by opening the same for other countries. And “Raise awareness of these issues with friends (other than Quakers) – spread the news”.
Then the Quaker developments of “First – get more of our Quaker communities involved. Send these messages out, make it our ‘commemoration’ of war focus –like butterflies to reach all over the country”, and “Blessings to QUNO in Geneva and NY. May they campaign with our support to free the W[orld] H[ealth] O[rganisation] from the shackles of the nuclear industry”. There was advice to use humour more often more widely as a way to get a point across; acknowledge use and exploit ALL the advantages of modern technology especially Facebook. Someone held “The earth is sacred. The uranium held within this sacred ground in our country is not to be used in dangerous and destructive ways!” And there was advice to connect with people, and other ideas and insights too: “Greed is an enemy of Peace.”
A Western Australia Regional Meeting gathering “Deepening our Quaker response to a neighbour’s disaster” held March 23, 2014.