Tuesday, March 15, 2011
A Disturbance In The Force
Thursday night as I got in my car to go to work, I hadn't driven a half a mile when I felt an over whelming sense of foreboding. As I drove along I was thinking about how I had never ever had such a strong feeling and in spite of my best efforts to rationalize it away, the feeling wouldn't leave. As I approached the interchange for the Interstate leading into town, I saw six Highway Patrol and Sheriff's Department cars on top the interchange and I figured my feeling must have had something to do with what ever was going on at that site. I was wrong. The closer I got to town, the worse the feeling got.
I got into work to find out a very close friend of mine had been relieved of her responsibilities as Director of the mental health center I work at, and that in turn precipitated my immediate supervisor, another person I care deeply about, handing in his resignation. Given some other recent employee decisions at the Center, I realized I was now kind of an orphan, sort of the last one standing in a group of friends that went back a full decade with this company. And yet, with all of this, the feeling was still there.
All during this time I have a client up who is never up at night and so I asked him why he couldn't sleep. He finally says it's because another client had threatened to stab him in his sleep and he didn't think it was a good idea for him to fall asleep. I didn't take this threat too seriously except that some schizophrenics can be hugely sensitive to disturbances in the force and then act out on their undifferentiated paranoid feelings, so I suggested we watch some TV, perhaps he could fall asleep on the couch. But even this knowledge did not explain my own feeling of foreboding. And then I turned on CNN.
My client and I were simply stunned with the video of the Japanese tsunami. There were no words between us. There didn't have to be, there couldn't be. Thoughts of being stabbed by fellow clients and thoughts of fired fellow workers were driven to dim recesses of our minds. We were linked with the people of Japan. And then came the news about the reactors at Fukishima Daiichi and I knew that was the target of my foreboding. This situation was going to be very very bad.
I have spent the last five days praying hoping meditating that the employees of this complex would be able to get these reactors under control but every day has brought worse news. As I type this there is yet another fire in reactor number four. These fires, even though they are occurring in a plant which is essentially a spent fuel container repository, represent the largest threat to Japan. These very radio active rods are essentially out in the open except for their bed of cooling water and the concrete building they sit in. I am not surprised the Japanese are attempting to use helicopters to drop boric acid--which essentially says there is a containment leak in the roof or helicopters wouldn't be necessary--because this fire represents a much bigger radiation risk than a contained reactor melt down. I am not surprised that they are asking for retired volunteers to help work in the plants--another message about the seriousness of what is actually happening in the plant. I am saddened that the Japanese government has not issued an evacuation order for pregnant women and children. We know from Chernobyl what happens when radiation and pregnant women and children are mixed together.
At Chernobyl, because there was a huge blast, much of the radiation was elevated to the stratosphere which turned out to be the only good thing about Chernobyl. At this point, it does not look as if such a thing will happen on it's own at Fukishima, meaning the vast majority of the radiation will either fall locally or in the ocean if the winds cooperate. Japan can clean itself from the ravages of the tsunami, but radiation is another animal all together. My heart goes out to the people of Japan, but my prayers are with the remaining employees at Fukishima Daiichi. Their heroism is not only inspirational, it is essential and hopefully successful.
I see one last worse case scenario should things continue as they are, in which to save much of the heart of Japan from radiation poisoning, the Government chooses to turn Fukishima Daiichi into another Chernobyl in an effort to send much of the radiation up, not out. That would not happen by accident. That would happen by choice, but maybe that's the message in this disturbance in the force. When it comes to man's hubris and Earth's reality and nuclear power, there really aren't many good choices.