What do the article by Rowan Hooper (“Like Astro Boy, humans may be able to live with radiation“) and the letter by Rohan Donald (“Thorium reactors for the future“) in the Oct. 9 issue have in common? The answer is that they both look to a purely technical solution to Japan’s current predicament of how to safely generate the energy needed to maintain its current lifestyle and power the economy.
Yes, humans can live with radiation and it can help to treat cancer, and yes, there are cleaner and safer options for nuclear power generation. But the world will become a better place sooner if people would give up on the myth of never-ending energy sources and focus more on cultural solutions to problems like the one with which Japan now grapples.
As Garret Hardin argued in his famous 1968 Science Magazine essay on the “tragedy of the commons,” at least since the Industrial Revolution humans seem to have had a natural tendency to seek technical solutions to resource scarcity, and although this may work in the short run, it will not work forever.
I don’t argue that Hooper and Donald are flat-out wrong, but what I fear most is that arguments like theirs might serve to keep regional communities of Japan in the position of sacrificing their safety and position as producers of clean food in order to obtain the massive bundles of money that the government dangles before them and will gladly hand over should they allow a power company to build a nuclear plant in their territory. After all, nobody wants one of those things in their neighborhood; small coastal towns and villages just need the money. Perhaps Tokyo and Osaka should simply host their own nuclear plants.
The opinions expressed in this letter to the editor are the writer’s own and do not necessarily reflect the policies of The Japan Times.