the cotton anniversary

11Mar13

Two years after the earthquake and tsunami devastated the northern regions of Honshu, it’s important to remember that in addition to the 19,000 people who died from the earthquake or are still missing, the people who are suffering the most now are the 315,000 evacuees who are still without permanent homes.  The residents of the radiation-damaged Fukushima region have been especially hard hit and it’s difficult to imagine the area returning to any semblance of normality inside of 20 years.  Farmers with land nearby the damaged power plant are suffering the most, and it seems that mushrooms are especially susceptible to radiation contamination.

It’s the loss of a sense of place and community that seems to haunt most of the displaced survivors, the feeling that their most intimate points of connection have vanished forever.  Many people experience these kinds of losses in miniature as the towns and cities they grow up in are transformed beyond recognition by the rapid changes enabled by capital — “All that is solid melts into air” — but this kind of change can never compare with the instant eradication of everything that was once familiar and loved.  One person I know stayed in her room for a week after the tsunami destroyed the neighborhood that she grew up in.  She didn’t lose any friends or relatives, but the sheer sense that the place that she was from had completely vanished was entirely overwhelming.

Imagine, then, how strange it must be for the refugees who come from Fukushima’s currently uninhabitable irradiated zones.  Everything still there, just as it was, grass growing and the seasons progressing, and yet everything untouchable and inaccessible, like a kind of horrifying mirage in reverse.

Eventually the displaced will settle in elsewhere and find new networks of connection to anchor them in place, but this can never redeem the fact that the areas which were most intimate and dear have been vanished from the Earth, accessible now only through the haunting of memory.

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One Response to “the cotton anniversary”

  1. I didn’t think I would, but I cried today just after 14:26 2 year anniversary.


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