Friday, April 20, 2012

rain and the red forest

Spring is here with a cold sharp wind, torrential showers and accompanying hailstorms. It isn't good weather to find yourself halfway along Chesil Beach, so today I walk to the top of Muttersmoor to look at the amount of trees that have been felled early due to Phytophthora ramorum, a fungus like organism that has destroyed larch forests in Cornwall, Somerset and Devon. Sometimes known here as 'sudden oak death' Phytophtora (Greek for plant destroyer) apparently affects lots of different types of trees and plants, including the potato blight of Ireland and the Highlands of Scotland and Europe in the 1840s.

There is actually a much larger area of trees missing from the hillside than the photos reveal, as the scale is difficult to see from this hilltop angle. There are many types of tree cut down here but it is supposed to be mainly affecting the Japanese larch. Maybe they are dying in sympathy with the newly created Red Forest that has appeared around Fukushima. This from Fukushima Diary:

"The Red Forest (Ukrainian: Рудий ліс, Russian: Рыжий лес), formerly the Worm Wood Forest, refers to the trees in the 10 km² surrounding the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant. The name ‘Red Forest’ comes from the ginger-brown colour of the pine trees after they died following the absorption of high levels of radiation from the Chernobyl accident on April 26, 1986.In the post-disaster cleanup operations, the Red Forest was bulldozed and buried in ‘waste graveyards’. The site of the Red Forest remains one of the most contaminated areas in the world today.

A Fukushima citizen found it to say,,


I’ve been here for 30 years, but I haven’t seen a pine tree withering.


1 of 15 trees are dead.


No sparrow.


Before 311, sparrows were tweeting every morning.


Everything has changed.


There is no even ant.


From 311 to April, Korean houttuynia withered too.


It was the first time in my life to see growing Korean houttuynia totally died."

That this Fukushima citizen noticed that the ants might be missing I find quite revealing. Some forms of life seem to be more sensitive to changes in their environment than we generally give them credit for and they heed the warnings often long before man does. Even when we do know, what do we do? That the hardy empire of the ants might retreat from the radiation shows their keeness of survival. I wonder if they have encountered radiation before, I expect they have.

The American naval bases in Japan have been the source of much criticism over the years, though they always toughed it out, but the ships and personnel were moved away rapidly after last years earthquake and nuclear disaster, as a 'precautionary measure' they said. I wonder how many remain in Japan now? Have they gone back? Many millions of people still carry on the day to day in Japan, but what must they be thinking when it rains on them now, and when they choose fresh food to eat and drink the water, or feed their children. We are not sensitive enough to see radiation, can we taste it?

A lot of people don't want to think about Fukushima but what is happening there has consequences that are not isolated to Japan so this situation should really involve a combined international response. As far as I can tell from the MSM there is no problem, if there was any problem it was last year and there's nothing to worry about now or even any reason to bring the subject up. Is there any sign of an international response, or is this actually it?

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