When the mega earthquakes hit us, it was a little before three o'clock in the afternoon. I was at my office in the Sunflower-center of the Konohana Family, a Japanese ecovillage. All the power was cut off soon after the first big shake and strong after-shakes continued. Something was totally different from what we had experienced before. Most of the members who worked inside of the buildings and infants went to our big parking lot infront of the center. I went to the dining hall and turned off the woodstove. No one panicked. Since we could check the TV, we checked internet news on a mobile phone. Some other members who work in different fields came back to the center and confirmed the damage. At the same time, we tried to gather correct information. Finally, we found a portable radio to find out some information. Other members were looking for flashlights and candles.
How My Community Reacted
Konohana Family is an intentional community which was established 1994 by 20 members, now it has 70 members including 20 children. We produce vegetables, rice, grains, and fruits organically, and our food self-sufficiency is more than 800%. We were working to improve our energy generation, and then the earthquake hit us. We have a good well behind of the center, but we need electricity to pump the water out. While still light, guys brought up water from the well manually into barrels. We also had to bring in a private electric generator to provide light during dinner for 100 people including 20 guests.
Fortunately, the electricity came back on the next morning. Many of us watched TV, and found out the earthquake was magnitude 9.0 at the epicenter, and the tsunami had casued significant damags to many coastal towns and the Fukushima nuclear power plant. We are about 350km from the power plant.
On March 27th, a Japanese media reports the number of deceased and missing caused from the earthquakes are more than 27,000. We are really hoping the whole movement on the fault line will stop and settle. However, the national meteorological agency predicts we have 70% of probability to have aftershake which is magnitude 7 level.
On March 16th, we had another reasonably big afterquake which was magnitude 6.4, and later we found the epicenter was where we are located. Fortunately, we did not have much damage, and we were all together having a daily meeting that night. In these times, it is really nice to be with the people who share their lives together. From the mental and spiritual point of views, ecovillage living creates such strong support. Currently, things seem to have calmed down; however, we constantly feel shakes which are magnitude 3 to 4.
Nuclear Power Stations on the Country with Frequent Earthquakes
Twenty-seven of the fifty-four nuclear power plants in Japan are still operating. Five of them are located about 80km away from our community, and two of those five are still operating. So, all of Konohana members and our friends have signed a petition to request to close down all of the nuclear reactors at our closest plant, Hamaoka power plant.
I called the power station, and managed to talk to the public relation's officer. I told him that we requesting the close down of all the Hamaoka reactors since the power station is standing on a very unstable plate in comparison to the Fukushima power stations. Also, we are told that we have very high probabilities to get hit by the Tokai mega earthquake which is predicted to be 15 times more severe than the Kobe earthquakes that happened in 1995. If it comes, the Hamaoka power plants will be more seriously damaged and there is every possibility that larger amounts of radiation are released. Once the radiation spreads around the area, that does not only pollute the land, the ocean, and the air of the current generation, but also of future generations. He was listening, but what he kept insisted, "Do not to worry since the safety of the power station was secured. The Fukushima #1 plant got damaged, but the safeguards of the Fukushima #2 plant and another nuclear power plant which is located close to the epicenter worked well and now, they stop properly."
He insisted on the safety of the plant even I continued to explain possibilities of the danger and damage of the power plant. After all, what I said was, "You work for the company, so do other colleagues. So, you do whatever job is in front of you. However, please listen to your inner judgement, and do not ignore it. Before you are the employee of the power company, you are a human. Do not forget it, and act honestly in your heart. Please pass this message on to your bosses as a message from one of your customers." I do not know how much he could accept my words.
It has been over two weeks since the mega earthquakes happened, and presently, more than 243,000 people are taking shelter in uncomfortable surroundings. Many need to be evacuated from the wider area around Fukushima.
Taking Care of Refugees
One of the member organizations of the Ecovillage Japan Network was the Eco-center in Fukushima. They are subjected to the danger of the strong radiation. Mr. Shoji Ozawa, an environmental journalist, says that when the refugees evacuate, it is very important to move as a community unit. The most of the refugees live in this rural area.
Currently big cities like Tokyo and Osaka will accept those refugees. However, if they evacuate and live in a public housing in a city, it is better to live together as a community since living in a new environment and in isolation very stressful for them. We learned about this when the Miyake Island erupted in 2000, and all villagers evacuated to the suburb of Tokyo. Ideally, it is better to evacuate to smaller municipalities, and larger municipalities support the smaller ones financially. It is also important to send them some help. The evacuation may take longer than expected, and some of them may not go back their home town during their lifetimes. However, their goal is rehabilitation of their home town. For that, they need to maintain community, and others need to think from that perspective.
Towards New Values and New Society
We, the Konohana Family, think of this earthquake is a beginning of the end of the past lifestyle which is dominated by money and technologies that consume excessive natural resources. Japan has achieved status as an economic leader in the world, while we as a community have a spirituality which lives in harmony with nature. This earthquake and the incidents at the nuclear power station make people in Japan and in the world realize the power of nature and the preciousness of life, and what the most important things in our human live are. When theses crises happen, people help each other and offer themsleves as volunteers. However, most of the volunteers this time had not practised volunteering in their daily life before.
Today life is based on making one's own happiness come true. In that context, electricity consumption is big part of it, and that has led to nuclear power generation, partucarly in Japan. However, we are part of nature, and if we look the Earth as one life form, this world is the same as us: Alive. We must be able to love the Earth as we love each other. Let's make the world with this thought. We can treat this event not only as a tragedy, but also as a big learning opportunity, and utilize the experience to take the next step. If we do so, this means that those lost lives live will live on in our lives. I believe that we are receiving big and significant messages in order to create a 'next' world.
The most important thing is to commune with each other in daily life, not only on special occasions. As Prince Shotoku stated, "Harmonizing Ourselves Comes First". We Japanese have that kind of spirit. That is why we are given this phenomenon and we can turn this opportunity to create the harmonious world that is so different from the current dominant model of civilization in the world. We do not have fear, but we feel the significance of the death of so many people. So, it is important to humbly accept the message from the earthquakes rather than fomenting disorder.
As Mother Teresa said, "Whatever the small things you do, if you do it with love, it gives pleasure and brings peace to people's heart. It is important how much love you can put in rather than what you do," If we really think of others, we can convey love and peace. That is what we do here. We have a role to connect to the future by demonstrating the possibility that human beings can communicate each other and live with love.
In Japanese, we say 'Thank you' as 'Arigatou Gozaimasu'. Arigatou means 'it is difficult to exist' and Gozaimas means 'to be/have'. In every moment, we face the difficulty of survival. In another word, we are always living in miracles.
If you think the Japanese nuclear plants should be shut down please act:
For the petition site with map of nuclear power plant and well-documented and an up-to-the-minute technical report - http://www.change.org/petitions/help-japan-shut-down-hamaoka-and-tokai-nuclear-power-plants#?opt_new=t&opt_fb=t