By Raul Ilargi Meijer on 26 April 2011 for Automatic Earth -
Image above: Still from "Battle for Chernobyl" (see below) showing nuclear explosion in reactor building. It is similar looking to the explosion in Fukushima Dai Ichi Reactor #3 which contained MOX fuel and suffered an explosion different from Reactor #1.
As we remember the 25th anniversary of Chernobyl, it's getting clearer by the day that the level of secrecy exercised by Tepco, the Japanese government, and its international allies, rivals that of the Russian government 25 years ago. And the way things are going, Fukushima may soon surpass Chernobyl in the "secrecy files".
When it became clear that Chernobyl had spewed its radioactive clouds up to thousands of miles away, for instance to Scandinavia, at least the Russians went in with all they could muster, deploying the full force of the army plus tens of thousands of "volunteers". Japan today, on the other hand, is still mired in the denial phase. Which is becoming increasingly dangerous. There are increasingly reports coming out that claim that at least one of the explosions witnessed at Fukushima was not a hydrogen blast, but a nuclear explosion -in a spent fuel pool-.
And while there won't be an instant runaway reaction like the one at Chernobyl, simply because the reactor design doesn't lend itself to it, this should be reason enough for grave concern (as well as transparency, of course, but don’t hold your breath on that one). And there are other twist emerging. Professor Chris Busby, scientific secretary for the European Committee for Radiation Risks, states that a major difference between the two disasters lies in the amount of people living close to the blast site. So while the radioactive parts spread over a far smaller area, the immediate surroundings of Fukushima contain far more people. And Tokyo must by now even be greatly concerned about, well, Tokyo.
Which may well be a major reason for the ongoing "policy" of continued opacity as executed by Japan. Prof. Busby points to yet another issue that Tokyo is running up against: in his view, because there's still nuclear fissioning taking place at Fukushima, placing a sarcophagus over the reactor sites has no use, since -highly- radioactive material will then simply leak out into the ground and flow out to sea. Japan's answer?
An underground wall is being considered. They'd do much better to come clean on what’s actually happening -and what already has-, send in their army with all it's got, and get the smartest minds in the world together to try and find the best way forward. But since Japan has always been a highly secretive society, and the international nuclear industry is as powerful as it is rich, it's far more likely that they will continue to play down the impact, until they can't anymore, and the situation gets completely out of hand, so much so that Fukushima will indeed stand a chance for competing with Chernobyl as the worst nuclear incident ever.
Video above: Interview with Professor Christopher Busby on the 25th Anniversary of Chernobyl. From (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x-3Kf4JakWI).
Video above: "The Battle for Chernobyl". From (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wv3a4LXi_qc).
By Michael Levine on 25 April 2011 for The Garden Island News -
Image above: Isn't this how Kalalau Valley should look? Taro glowing in Limahuli Valley, near the beginning of the trail to Kalalau Valley. From (http://kupunakalo.com/index.php/site/field_visits/kauai).
The Hawai‘i Supreme Court has agreed to hear a case in which a Native Hawaiian argues he has a constitutional right to take up residence as a caretaker of a remote state park on Kaua‘i.
The case, State v. Pratt, will go a long way toward deciding whether the exercise of customary and traditional Native Hawaiian practices is allowed even when doing so violates state laws or rules.
Lloyd “Ikaika” Pratt was cited three different times in 2004 for camping in the Kalalau Valley, part of Kaua‘i’s Na Pali Coast State Park, in violation of state rules. He argued that when he set up a camp, cleared land and planted crops, he was protected by the state’s constitutional promise that Native Hawaiians have the right to practice their culture and religion.
His argument was rejected by the trial court.
[Editor's note: We have been asked by CivilBeat.com to not reproduce the entirety of this article. For more see either the TGi article or its source - "Do Hawaiians Have the Right to Break the Rules" at (http://www.civilbeat.com/articles/2011/04/25/10523-do-native-hawaiians-have-the-right-to-break-rules/). Our answer would be "Yes" - in Hawaii Hawaiians can break the rules of the fake state and it's colonial masters.]
The Garden Island: Native Hawaiian Found Guilty 11/13/03
By Curtiss W. Marean on 21 July 2010 for Scientific American -
Image above: The shoreline near Cape Horn, South Africa. From (http://www.holidaydestinationsa2z.org/index.php?section=pages&item=Western-Cape).
Shortly after Homo sapiens arose harsh climate conditions nearly extinguished our species. Recent finds suggest that the small population that gave rise to all humans alive today survived by exploiting a unique combination of resources along the southern coast of Africa.
With the global population of humans currently approaching seven billion, it is difficult to imagine that Homo sapiens was once an endangered species. Yet studies of the DNA of modern-day people indicate that, once upon a time, our ancestors did in fact undergo a dramatic population decline. Although scientists lack a precise timeline for the origin and near extinction of our species, we can surmise from the fossil record that our forebears arose throughout Africa shortly before 195,000 years ago. Back then the climate was mild and food was plentiful; life was good. But around 195,000 years ago, conditions began to deteriorate. The planet entered a long glacial stage known as Marine Isotope Stage 6 (MIS6) that lasted until roughly 123,000 years ago.
A detailed record of Africa’s environmental conditions during glacial stage 6 does not exist, but based on more recent, better-known glacial stages, climatologists surmise that it was almost certainly cool and arid and that its deserts were probably significantly expanded relative to their modern extents. Much of the landmass would have been uninhabitable. While the planet was in the grip of this icy regime, the number of people plummeted perilously—from more than 10,000 breeding individuals to just hundreds. Estimates of exactly when this bottleneck occurred and how small the population became vary among genetic studies, but all of them indicate that everyone alive today is descended from a small population that lived in one region of Africa sometime during this global cooling phase.
I began my career as an archaeologist working in East Africa and studying the origin of modern humans.
But my interests began to shift when I learned of the population bottleneck that geneticists had started talking about in the early 1990s. Humans today exhibit very low genetic diversity relative to many other species with much smaller population sizes and geographic ranges—a phenomenon best explained by the occurrence of a population crash in early H. sapiens. Where, I wondered, did our ancestors manage to survive during the climate catastrophe? Only a handful of regions could have had the natural resources to support hunter-gatherers. Paleoanthropologists argue vociferously over which of these areas was the ideal spot. The southern coast of Africa, rich in shellfish and edible plants year-round, seemed to me as if it would have been a particularly good refuge in tough times.
So, in 1991, I decided I would go there and look for sites with remains dating to glacial stage 6.
My search within that coastal area was not random. I had to find a shelter close enough to the ancient coastline to provide easy access to shellfish and elevated enough that its archaeological deposits would not have been washed away 123,000 years ago when the climate warmed and sea levels surged. In 1999 my South African colleague Peter Nilssen and I decided to investigate some caves he had spotted at a place called Pinnacle Point, a promontory near the town of Mossel Bay that juts into the Indian Ocean. Scrambling down the sheer cliff face, we came across a cave that looked particularly promising—one known simply as PP13B. Erosion of the sedimentary deposits located near the mouth of the cave had exposed clear layers of archaeological remains, including hearths and stone tools.
Even better, a sand dune and a layer of stalagmite capped these remnants of human activity, suggesting that they were quite old. By all appearances, we had hit the jackpot. The following year, after a local ostrich farmer built us a 180-step wooden staircase to allow safer access to the site, we began to dig.
Since then, my team’s excavations at PP13B and other nearby sites have recovered a remarkable record of the activities undertaken by the people who inhabited this area between approximately 164,000 and 35,000 years ago, hence during the bottleneck and after the population began to recover. The deposits in these caves, combined with analyses of the ancient environment there, have enabled us to piece together a plausible account of how the prehistoric residents of Pinnacle Point eked out a living during a grim climate crisis. The remains also debunk the abiding notion that cognitive modernity evolved long after anatomical modernity: evidence of behavioral sophistication abounds in even the oldest archaeological levels at PP13B. This advanced intellect no doubt contributed significantly to the survival of the species, enabling our forebears to take advantage of the resources available on the coast.
While elsewhere on the continent populations of H. sapiens died out as cold and drought claimed the animals and plants they hunted and gathered, the lucky denizens of Pinnacle Point were feasting on the seafood and carbohydrate-rich plants that proliferated there despite the hostile climate. As glacial stage 6 cycled through its relatively warmer and colder phases, the seas rose and fell, and the ancient coastline advanced and retreated. But so long as people tracked the shore, they had access to an enviable bounty.
A Coastal Cornucopia
from a survival standpoint, what makes the southern edge of Africa attractive is its unique combination of plants and animals. There a thin strip of land containing the highest diversity of flora for its size in the world hugs the shoreline. Known as the Cape Floral Region, this 90,000- square-kilometer strip contains an astonishing 9,000 plant species, some 64 percent of which live only there. Indeed, the famous Table Mountain that rises above Cape Town in the heart of the Cape Floral Region has more species of plants than does the entire U.K. Of the vegetation groups that occur in this realm, the two most extensive are the fynbos and the renosterveld, which consist largely of shrubs. To a human forager equipped with a digging stick, they offer a valuable commodity: the plants in these groups produce the world’s greatest diversity of geophytes—underground energy-storage organs such as tubers, bulbs and corms.
Geophytes are an important food source for modern-day hunter-gatherers for several reasons. They contain high amounts of carbohydrate; they attain their peak carbohydrate content reliably at certain times of year; and, unlike aboveground fruits, nuts and seeds, they have few predators. The bulbs and corms that dominate the Cape Floral Region are additionally appealing because in contrast to the many geophytes that are highly fibrous, they are low in fiber relative to the amount of energy-rich carbohydrate they contain, making them more easily digested by children. (Cooking further enhances their digestibility.) And because geophytes are adaptations to dry conditions, they would have been readily available during arid glacial phases.
The southern coast also has an excellent source of protein to offer, despite not being a prime hunting ground for large mammals. Just offshore, the collision of nutrient-rich cold waters from the Benguela upwelling and the warm Agulhas current creates a mix of cold and warm eddies along the southern coast. This varied ocean environment nurtures diverse and dense beds of shellfish in the rocky intertidal zones and sandy beaches. Shellfish are a very high quality source of protein and omega-3 fatty acids. And as with geophytes, glacial cooling does not depress their numbers. Rather, lower ocean temperatures result in a greater abundance of shellfish.
Image above: Kirstenbosch Botanic Gardens in the Cape Flora highlands of South Africa. From (http://www.fotopedia.com/items/flickr-4274271451).
With its combination of calorically dense, nutrient-rich protein from the shellfish and low-fiber, energy-laden carbs from the geophytes, the southern coast would have provided an ideal diet for early modern humans during glacial stage 6.
Furthermore, women could obtain both these resources on their own, freeing them from relying on men to provision them and their children with high-quality food. We have yet to unearth proof that the occupants of PP13B were eating geophytes—sites this old rarely preserve organic remains—although younger sites in the area contain extensive evidence of geophyte consumption. But we have found clear evidence that they were dining on shellfish. Studies of the shells found at the site conducted by Antonieta Jerardino of the University of Barcelona show that people were gathering brown mussels and local sea snails called alikreukel from the seashore. They also ate marine mammals such as seals and whales on occasion.
Previously the oldest known examples of humans systematically using marine resources dated to less than 120,000 years ago. But dating analyses performed by Miryam Bar-Matthews of the Geological Survey of Israel and Zenobia Jacobs of University of Wollongong in Australia have revealed that the PP13B people lived off the sea far earlier than that: as we reported in 2007 in the journal Nature, marine foraging there dates back to a stunning 164,000 years ago. By 110,000 years ago the menu had expanded to include species such as limpets and sand mussels.
This kind of foraging is harder than it might seem. The mussels, limpets and sea snails live on the rocks in the treacherous intertidal zone, where an incoming swell could easily knock over a hapless collector. Along the southern coast, safe harvesting with sufficiently high returns is only possible during low spring tides, when the sun and moon align, exerting their maximum gravitational force on the ebb and flow of the water. Because the tides are linked to the phases of the moon, advancing by 50 minutes a day, I surmise that the people who lived at PP13B—which 164,000 years ago was located much farther inland, two to five kilometers from the water, because of lower sea levels—scheduled their trips to the shore using a lunar calendar of sorts, just as modern coastal people have done for ages.
Harvesting shellfish is not the only advanced behavior in evidence at Pinnacle Point as early as 164,000 years ago. Among the stone tools are significant numbers of “bladelets”—tiny flakes twice as long as they are wide—that are too small to wield by hand. Instead they must have been attached to shafts of wood and used as projectile weapons. Composite toolmaking is indicative of considerable technological know-how, and the bladelets at PP13B are among the oldest examples of it. But we soon learned that these tiny implements were even more complex than we thought.
Most of the stone tools found at coastal South African archaeological sites are made from a type of stone called quartzite. This coarse-grained rock is great for making large flakes, but it is difficult to shape into small, refined tools. To manufacture the bladelets, people used fine-grained rock called silcrete. There was something odd about the archaeological silcrete, though, as observed by Kyle S. Brown of the Institute of Human Origins at Arizona State University, an expert stone tool flaker on my team.
After years of collecting silcrete from all over the coast, Brown determined that in its raw form the rock never has the lustrous red and gray coloring seen in the silcrete implements at Pinnacle Point and elsewhere. Furthermore, the raw silcrete is virtually impossible to shape into bladelets. Where, we wondered, did the toolmakers find their superior silcrete?
A possible answer to this question came from Pinnacle Point Cave 5-6, where one day in 2008 we found a large piece of silcrete embedded in ash. It had the same color and luster seen in the silcrete found at other archaeological deposits in the region. Given the association of the stone with the ash, we asked ourselves whether the ancient toolmakers might have exposed the silcrete to fire to make it easier to work with—a strategy that has been documented in ethnographic accounts of native North Americans and Australians. To find out, Brown carefully “cooked” some raw silcrete and then attempted to knap it. It flaked wonderfully, and the flaked surfaces shone with the same luster seen in the artifacts from our sites.
We thus concluded that the Stone Age silcrete was also heat-treated.
We faced an uphill battle to convince our colleagues of this remarkable claim, however. It was archaeology gospel that the Solutrean people in France invented heat treatment about 20,000 years ago, using it to make their beautiful tools. To bolster our case, we used three independent techniques. Chantal Tribolo of the University of Bordeaux performed what is called thermoluminescence analysis to determine whether the silcrete tools from Pinnacle Point were intentionally heated.
Then Andy Herries of the University of New South Wales in Australia employed magnetic susceptibility, which looks for changes in the ability of rock to be magnetized—another indicator of heat exposure among iron-rich rocks. Finally, Brown used a gloss meter to measure the luster that develops after heating and flaking and compare it with the luster on the tools he made. Our results, detailed last year in the journal Science, showed that intentional heat treatment was a dominant technology at Pinnacle Point by 72,000 years ago and that people there employed it intermittently as far back as 164,000 years ago.
The process of treating by heat testifies to two uniquely modern human cognitive abilities. First, people recognized that they could substantially alter a raw material to make it useful—in this case, engineering the properties of stone by heating it, thereby turning a poor-quality rock into high-quality raw material. Second, they could invent and execute a long chain of processes. The making of silcrete blades requires a complex series of carefully designed steps: building a sand pit to insulate the silcrete, bringing the heat slowly up to 350 degrees Celsius, holding the temperature steady and then dropping it down slowly.
Creating and carrying out the sequence and passing technologies down from generation to generation probably required language. Once established, these abilities no doubt helped our ancestors outcompete the archaic human species they encountered once they dispersed from Africa. In particular, the complex pyrotechnology detected at Pinnacle Point would have given early modern humans a distinct advantage as they entered the cold lands of the Neandertals, who seem to have lacked this technique.
Image above: Pinnacle Point Cave (PP13B) as it appears today. From (http://scopeweb.mit.edu/?p=151#more-151).
Smart from the Start
In addition to being technologically savvy, the prehistoric denizens of Pinnacle Point had an artistic side. In the oldest layers of the PP13B sequence, my team has unearthed dozens of pieces of red ochre (iron oxide) that were variously carved and ground to create a fine powder that was probably mixed with a binder such as animal fat to make paint that could be applied to the body or other surfaces. Such decorations typically encode information about social identity or other important aspects of culture—that is, they are symbolic. Many of my colleagues and I think that this ochre constitutes the earliest unequivocal example of symbolic behavior on record and pushes the origin of such practices back by tens of thousands of years.
Evidence of symbolic activities also appears later in the sequence. Deposits dating to around 110,00 years ago include both red ochre and seashells that were clearly collected for their aesthetic appeal, because by the time they washed ashore from their deepwater home, any flesh would have been long gone. I think these decorative seashells, along with the evidence for marine foraging, signal that people had, for the first time, begun to embed in their worldview and rituals a clear commitment to the sea.
The precocious expressions of both symbolism and sophisticated technology at Pinnacle Point have major implications for understanding the origin of our species. Fossils from Ethiopia show that anatomically modern humans had evolved by at least 195,000 years ago. The emergence of the modern mind, however, is more difficult to establish.
Paleoanthropologists use various proxies in the archaeological record to try to identify the presence and scope of cognitive modernity. Artifacts made using technologies that require outside-the-box connections of seemingly unrelated phenomena and long chains of production—like heat treatment of rock for tool manufacture—are one proxy. Evidence of art or other symbolic activities is another, as is the tracking of time through proxies such as lunar phases. For years the earliest examples of these behaviors were all found in Europe and dated to after 40,000 years ago. Based on that record, researchers concluded that there was a long lag between the origin of our species and the emergence of our peerless creativity.
But over the past 10 years archaeologists working at a number of sites in South Africa have found examples of sophisticated behaviors that predate by a long shot their counterparts in Europe. For instance, archaeologist Ian Watts, who works in South Africa, has described hundreds to thousands of pieces of worked and unworked ochre at sites dating as far back as 120,000 years ago.
Interestingly, this ochre, as well as the pieces at Pinnacle Point, tends to be red despite the fact that local sources of the mineral exhibit a range of hues, suggesting that humans were preferentially curating the red pieces—perhaps associating the color with menstruation and fertility.
Jocelyn A. Bernatchez, a Ph.D. student at Arizona State, thinks that many of these ochre pieces may have been yellow originally and then heat-treated to turn them red. And at Blombos Cave, located about 100 kilometers west of Pinnacle Point, Christopher S. Henshilwood of the University of Bergen in Norway has discovered pieces of ochre with systematic engravings, beads made of snail shells and refined bone tools, all of which date to around 71,000 years ago [see “The Morning of the Modern Mind,” by Kate Wong; Scientific American, June 2005].
These sites, along with those at Pinnacle Point, belie the claim that modern cognition evolved late in our lineage and suggest instead that our species had this faculty at its inception.
I suspect that a driving force in the evolution of this complex cognition was strong long-term selection acting to enhance our ancestors’ ability to mentally map the location and seasonal variation of many species of plants in arid environments and to convey this accumulated knowledge to offspring and other group members.
This capacity laid the foundation for many other advances, such as the ability to grasp the link between the phases of the moon and the tides and to learn to schedule their shellfish-hunting trips to the shore accordingly. Together the readily available shellfish and geophytes provided a high-quality diet that allowed people to become less nomadic, increased their birth rates and reduced their child mortality.
The larger group sizes that resulted from these changes would have promoted symbolic behavior and technological complexity as people endeavored to express their social identity and build on one another’s technologies, explaining why we see such sophisticated practices at PP13B.
Follow the Sea
PP13B preserves a long record of changing occupations that, in combination with the detailed records of local climate and environmental change my team has obtained, is revealing how our ancestors used the cave and the coast over millennia. Modeling the paleocoastline over time, Erich C. Fisher of the University of Florida has shown that the conditions changed quickly and dramatically, thanks to a long, wide, gently sloping continental shelf off the coast of South Africa called the Agulhas bank. During glacial periods, when sea levels fell, significant amounts of this shelf would have been exposed, putting considerable distance—up to 95 kilometers—between Pinnacle Point and the ocean. When the climate warmed and sea levels rose, the water advanced over the Agulhas bank again, and the caves were seaside once more.
Judging from rainfall and vegetation patterns evident in records from stalagmites spanning the time between 350,000 and 50,000 years ago, we see that the fynbos probably followed the retreating coast out onto the now submerged continental shelf and back again, keeping the geophytes and shellfish in close proximity. As for the people, during these periods of low population density they were free to target the best part of the landscape, and that was the intersection of the geophytes and shellfish—so I suspect they followed the sea. The tracking of resources would explain why PP13B appears to have been occupied intermittently.
Our excavations at PP13B have intercepted the people who may very well be the ancestors of everyone on the planet as they shadowed the shifting shoreline. Yet if I am correct about these people and their connection to the coast, the richest record of the progenitor population lies underwater on the Agulhas bank. There it will remain for the near future, guarded by great white sharks and dangerous currents. We can still test the hypothesis that humans followed the sea by examining sites on the current coast such as PP13B and another site we are excavating called PP5-6. But we can also study locations where the continental shelf drops steeply and the coast was always near—investigations that my colleagues and I are currently initiating.
The genetic, fossil and archaeological records are reasonably concordant in suggesting that the first substantial and prolonged wave of modern human migration out of Africa occurred around 50,000 years ago. But questions about the events leading up to that exodus remain. We still do not know, for example, whether at the end of glacial stage 6 there was just one population of H. sapiens left in Africa or whether there were several, with just one ultimately giving rise to everyone alive today.
Such unknowns are providing my team and others with a very clear and exciting research direction for the foreseeable future: our fieldwork needs to target the other potential progenitor zones in Africa during that glacial period and expand our knowledge of the climate conditions just before that stage. We need to flesh out the story of these people who eventually pushed out of their refuge, filled up the African continent and went on to conquer the world.
Blue Hill, Maine will be one of several towns in Maine to recently enact food freedom laws declaring that the federal government doesn't have the right to intervene in local food matters, according to a story on Natural News. The bill allows this rural community of around 2,500 people to decide what foods that they buy and sell locally as well as exempting all direct sales of local food products from complying with state and federal inspection requirements.
The unanimous vote comes on the heels of similar votes in neighboring towns of Sedgwick and Penobscot. Activist Post, reported that the The Local Food and Self-Governance Ordinance has drawn national attention from around the U.S., Canada, and as far away as New Zealand. Local producers want similar legislation in their neck of the woods.
According to Food Freedom:
Dan Brown, farmer from Blue Hill, noted during the discussion on the Ordinance that this comes down to whether or not small-scale food producers can earn a livelihood. "They come to me, close my doors, and I'm back to driving truck."
Losing even more farms and food producers, says Brown, means local people have less access to local food. "Shut me down, then people don't get their tomatoes, their milk."
First to Declare Food Sovereignty By Ethan A. Huff on 11 March 2011 for Natural News - (http://www.naturalnews.com/031667_food_freedom_Maine.html) The town of Sedgwick, Maine, currently leads the pack as far as food sovereignty is concerned. Local residents recently voted unanimously at a town hall meeting to pass an ordinance that reinforces its citizens’ God-given rights to “produce, process, sell, purchase, and consume local foods of their choosing,” which includes even state- and federally-restricted foods like raw milk.
The declaration is one of the first of its kind to be passed in the US, and it is definitely not the last. Several other Maine towns — including Penobscott, Brooksville, and Blue Hill — all have similar ordinances up for vote in the coming weeks.
“Tears of joy welled in my eyes as my town voted to adopt this ordinance,” said Mia Strong, a Sedgwick resident who frequents local farms. “I am so proud of my community. They made a stand for local food and our fundamental rights as citizens to choose that food.”
In addition to simply declaring food sovereignty, the ordinance also declares it a crime for state and federal authorities to violate ordinance provisions in any way. The law specifically states that “[i]t shall be unlawful for any law or regulation adopted by the state or federal government to interfere with the rights recognized by this Ordinance.” This includes, of course, any attempt to enforce the unconstitutional provisions of the S 510 the HR 2751 food tyranny bills that were recently passed (http://www.naturalnews.com/030789_F…).
And what about potential conflicts that may arise between farmer and patron? The two will agree to enter into private agreements with one another, apart from government interference, and settle any disputes that arise personally and civilly. It is the way things used to be done before Americans sacrificed their freedoms to the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and other federal agencies that now tell the public what they can and cannot eat.
To learn more about how to promote food sovereignty in your town, city, county, or state, visit the Tenth Amendment Center at: http://www.naturalnews.com/030827_f….
By Stuart Biggs on 25 April 2011 for Bloomberg News -
Image above: Japanese fishing boats tossed amid the wreckage of the recent tsunami. From (http://newshopper.sulekha.com/japan-earthquake_photo_1758268.htm).
The wreckage of a 379-metric ton tuna boat blocks the road to the deserted fish market in Kesennuma, once Japan’s largest port for bonito and swordfish. Even after the debris from last month’s tsunami has been cleared away, the industry may never recover. “Thirty years ago we used to think Japan was the number one fishing country in the world, with the best catching and processing methods, but that’s really no longer the case,” Ryosuke Sato, chairman of the Kesennuma Fisheries Cooperative Association, said in an interview in the town, 400 kilometers (250 miles) north of Tokyo.
“We’ve been in terminal decline.” Traffic at the port had dropped by 90 percent over the last 20 years as seafood imports rose, even before the country’s northeastern coast was devastated on March 11. Destruction of boats, harbors and processing plants, coupled with fears of radioactive contamination in marine life, threatens to hasten Japan’s turn to overseas for its most important food staple after rice.
Japanese eat more fish per capita than any other developed country, consuming 56.7 kilograms (128 pounds) annually, compared with a global average of 17.1 kilograms, according to the United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organization. Fish accounts for 23 percent of protein in the daily Japanese diet, compared with four percent in the U.S.
Consumption begins with breakfast in Japan, an archipelago of nearly 7,000 islands, where a traditional morning meal consists of rice and grilled fish. In addition to sushi, staples including miso soup also contain fish broth. To feed the habit, Japan is the world’s largest importer of fish, buying $14.4 billion worth in 2008, according to data from the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization.
“We’re the biggest fish lovers among the major industrial nations and the number one consumer,” said Masayuki Komatsu, a professor at Tokyo’s National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies specializing in ocean and marine resources.
“It’s like water and air to us.” Auctions at Tokyo’s Tsukiji, the world’s largest fish market that stretches over an area the size of 43 football fields, influences prices all over the world, according to Sasha Issenberg, author of ‘The Sushi Economy.’ “It’s like a combination of Wall Street and Sotheby’s in the art market and a commodities trading floor,” he said.
Last month’s earthquake and tsunami, which left almost 28,000 dead or missing, disproportionately affected Japan’s northeastern fishing ports and towns. In Iwate prefecture, the tsunami caused about 106.6 billion yen ($1.3 billion) of damage to the fishing industry, according to data from the government. That’s about ten times the combined total for the prefecture’s agriculture and forestry industries.
Fishermen in Kesennuma, which has a population of 73,000, expect it to take as long as five years to rebuild the port and market, central to a fishing industry that provides 85 percent of the town’s jobs. The city government says 837 townspeople died and 1,196 were listed as missing as of April 22. A further 5,838 people, or 7.8 percent of the population, are in evacuation centers. In addition to the destruction of maintenance and refueling facilities, about 40 fishing vessels were lost, the cooperative’s Sato said.
“There’s so much damage, this is a crisis for the town and the fishing industry,” said the 69-year old Sato, whose Kanedai Co. fish company has sales of 9.4 billion yen in Japan and China, with 230 employees. A poster on the wall signed by wholesalers and customers reads: “You’re not alone, everyone is with you. Thank you always for the delicious fish.”
South Kesennuma, where most of the fish processing plants were located, was the first area to be hit by the tsunami after it passed the island of Oshima that creates the entrance to Kesennuma’s harbor about two kilometers off shore. In the harbor, trawlers and a refueling tank were slammed together, spewing fuel.
Fire spread across the fuel-water mix, creating an inferno. The 50-meter-long Myojin Maru No.3, licensed to catch yellowfin and albacore tuna in the Indian Ocean, is one of at least 10 giant vessels dumped around the town. It towers over gutted two-storey buildings owned by fishing companies about 500 meters from the fish market.
“Companies may have the money to rebuild but people are saying they don’t want to come back,” Yaeko Komatsu, 53, said as she gazed at the rubble of her seafood company employer she didn’t identify. “They say it’s dangerous.”
The fish market is planning to partially re-open in June to provide a sales floor for the expected arrival of bonito boats. Longer-term plans depend on the amount of central government assistance, the cooperative’s Sato said. Reconstruction needs to happen fast to prevent workers from leaving the town for good, Itsunori Onodera, a Diet Member representing Kesennuma, said in an interview at the city hall. Like many ports in Japan, Kesennuma developed a reputation for handling specific kinds of fish. Ships from all over Japan came to the town to sell saury, sharks and tuna.
By adding maintenance and refueling facilities, Kesennuma became one of Japan’s 10 largest fishing ports, Sato said. The importance of fishing and towns like Kesennuma in Japanese culture belies the fishing industry’s declining status in the economy. Fishing contributes about 0.2 percent of Japan’s GDP, and the number of fishermen has dropped to about 200,000 from about a million after World War II, according to the National Graduate Institute’s Komatsu, also a former official at Japan’s Fisheries Agency.
For fishermen like Tokio Takatsuka, who returned to Shiogama Port, 315 kilometers north of Tokyo and 80 kilometers south of Kesennuma, earlier this month to sell yellowfin tuna from the Pacific, that means hiring more crew members from the Philippines and Indonesia to make up for the shortage of Japanese applicants. They come as part of a government plan to ease labor shortages, and signs at the port are now written in Bahasa as well as Japanese.
“My generation never considered doing anything besides fishing,” Takatsuka, 62, said in an interview last week next to his boat. “It’s different for young people now.” Even as the government hurries to rebuild facilities, fishermen and consumers are worried about radiation from Tokyo Electric Co.’s Fukushima Dai-Ichi nuclear power plant, Akira Sato, mayor of Shiogama, said in an interview after the town’s first fresh tuna auction since the March 11 earthquake.
The fisherman Takatsuka sailed more than 60 kilometers wide of the plant on the way to the port, rather than hugging the coast, in order to reassure buyers. About 520,000 liters of water with a level of radioactivity that was 20,000 times the legal limit leaked into the ocean between April 1 and 6, Junichi Matsumoto , a Tepco general manager, said last week.
‘People Are Spooked’
“It puts a cloud over the entire fishing industry and Japan’s food culture is suffering as a result,” Jeff Kingston, director of the Department of Asian Studies at Temple University’s Japan campus said. “People are spooked.” The level of radioactivity in water leaked from the No. 2 reactor of the Fukushima Dai-Ichi nuclear plant was 20,000 times the regulatory limit, Tepco said on April 21. A total of 520 tons of contaminated water leaked between April 1 and April 6, said Junichi Matsumoto, a general manager at the utility.
At Tokyo’s Tsukiji fish market, sales of fresh fish fell to an average 583 metric tons per day in the week ended March 17, down 28 percent from a year earlier. The following week they dropped by 44 percent. “If this continues for two or three years we don’t know what will happen to our bodies from consuming contaminated fish,” Yasuo Kawada, a 59-year-old manufacturing employee said in an interview. “I do worry.”
Radiation from fish and lobsters near the U.K.’s biggest nuclear polluter suggest radioactive material dumped into the sea from Tepco’s Fukushima power plant isn’t a long-term health threat, according to Richard Wakeford, a professor of epidemiology at the University of Manchester’s Dalton Nuclear Institute.
The Sellafield nuclear-processing plant in northwest England has discharged at least 320,000 times more radioactive material into the Irish Sea since 1952 than what Tepco released from Fukushima this month, according to Bloomberg calculations based on data from both sites. Still, average radiation doses by seafood-consumers near Sellafield over 15 years have been half the recommended limit, studies show. That hasn’t stopped China, Korea, Taiwan and Hong Kong from banning fish imports from parts of Japan.
The countries accounted for about 70 percent of Japan’s fish exports in 2009, according to Japan External Trade Organization figures. “Radiation is a grim reaper, you can’t see it and you can’t smell it,” said Ken Banwell who has worked as a fish importer in Tokyo for 22 years. “I would say it would have a profound effect on sales from those areas.”
Still, overall sales at Tsukiji recovered to pre-quake levels last week, indicating Japanese consumers are returning to fish. Prime Minister Naoto Kan proposed a 4-trillion yen ($49 billion) extra budget that is likely to be the first of several packages to rebuild areas devastated by last month’s record earthquake and tsunami, which will include assistance for the industry, the government said in an April 22 statement. “It’ll take three years, at most five years to rebuild the fish market,” said Sato, in his ninth year as head of the Kesennuma Fisheries Association. “In the meantime we need to know how we can continue to live here today, tomorrow, without jobs at plants which don’t exist anymore.”
As I understand it, KIUC bylaws only allows us to question what they do by petition. The bylaws requires 250 signatures and their KIUC account number. We have until next Friday. As I see it, all this other chatter is good. But first - WE must STOP…KIUC from moving forward with FERC. Or be happy, to turn our water rights and land use (eminent domain) over to the Fed’s (FERC). I think the question is, do you want to give your water right decision making over to the Fed’s??? It’s made very clear, in Calif. Vs FERC. See "FERC Trumps State (http://islandbreath.blogspot.com/2011/04/ferc-trumps-state.html). 150 SIGNATURES NEEDED BEFORE FRIDAY, APRIL 29th.This from Adam Asquith (firstname.lastname@example.org):
My understanding is that the Board's action of March 29 does two things:This also from Adam Asquith (email@example.com):
Some of this is based only on what KIUC tells us, because we are not allowed to see what we are actually paying FFP to do. Our petition would do two things:
- It commits us to the FERC process.
- We hire FFP as a contractor to go through the process.
It may or may not stop the process, but it will allow us to determine if we want to let the Feds determine our water use. It is very important that you read the Supreme Court ruling that Ken sent out. It is shocking. The State of California actually asked for MORE water to be left in the stream for fish. FERC gave less water and the Supreme Court said FERC gets to put in as little as they want. As shocking is the original case that is cited as First Iowa. In this case the State of Iowa complained to the Supreme Court that a developer was trying to build a hydro system with NO STATE PERMITS. The Supreme Court ruled that they DID NOT NEED ANY. FERC is probably the most far-reaching intrusive government system other than the military. And KIUC just invited them in.
- It would bring the Board action of March 29th (FERC and FFP) to a full vote of all KIUC members.
- It would allow for a Special KIUC meeting where this action would be discussed before we vote.
There are at least 3 entities on island that have hired law firms and consultants to fight this process. Currently they are all taking the "stop FERC" approach rather than petition as an intervener, which would just validate the FERC process. Probably the strongest tool we have (after our KIUC issue) is arguing that FERC has no jurisdiction on any of these streams. FERC only has jurisdiction on "navigable waters of the U.S." Look up this term. The courts have historically interpreted this very broadly, including Indians paddling canoes and recreational boating. Nonetheless, 15 years ago when the first Wailua FERC application went in, the State of Hawaii successfully argued that the UPPER Wailua is not and never was navigable. They (the State) have a letter from FERC agreeing with them and dropping the early permit. We need to get a copy of this letter from the State (call our reps and State DLNR) and ask them to respond to FERC the same way.See also: Ea O Ka Aina: FERC Trumps State 4/23/11 Ea O Ka Aina: Lihue & Kilauea-FFP meeting 4/21/11 Ea O Ka Aina: FERC Jurisdiction Over Water 4/20/11 Ea O Ka Aina: KIUC-FFP Waimea Meeting 4/19/11 Ea O Ka Aina: KIUC, Stop FERCing Kauai 4/5/11 Ea O Ka Aina: KIUC sells off Water Rights 4/3/11 Ea O Ka Aina: Kauai Hydro Projects Power Up 1/19/11 Ea O Ka Aina: KIUC Wailua Dam Plans 1/17/11 .
It seems western civilization is just about done with the mindless multiplication of anything, much less unnecessary nonsense.
It’s too late for a fast collapse of the industrial economy. According to every significant index, the U.S. hit its economic peak in 2000. We’ve been in the midst of an economic recession since 2000. We’ve been mired in an economic depression since 2008, when the industrial age came within an eyelash of reaching its overdue terminus. [Editor's note: We had a clarifying phone conversation with Guy, and took away that the USA has been going through collapse since our homegrown crude production peaked back in the early 1970's].
Even Ben Bernanke admitted as much, years after the meltdown on Wall Street. When all the banks fail — or even a significant proportion of them — we’ll suddenly lose access to the fiat currency that allows the current set of living arrangements to persist. I strongly suspect the high price of oil had a lot to do with the near meltdown in 2008, a notion consistent with oil price spikes preceding every economic recession since 1972.
When the next spike in the price of oil hits us, we’ll see another huge downturn for the industrial economy. According to more than 70 pundits, it’ll be the one that puts western civilization in the abattoir. This would be no surprise, given the fragility of the industrial economy and its near-termination back in 2008, when it was on much stronger footing than now. Oil priced at $140 barrel is almost certainly coming this year, and that should do the trick, much to the astonishment of those who believe the industrial economy is unaffected by spikes in the price of oil, or that its long-time decline can turn into a collapse.
Even Bank of America has joined the rising tide of voices calling for the price of crude to exceed $140/bbl within the next three months. And no wonder, with OPEC raising expectations of world demand after Saudi Arabia and OPEC have peaked.
As I’ve pointed out many times, and as Japan is making clear right now, economic growth is all about oil consumption. We’re falling off the oil-supply cliff this year, according to many sources, including the U.S. Department of Energy’s Energy Information Administration and the Joint Operating Environment of the U.S. military.
I don’t know the terminology for a sudden stop of the industrial economy. I don’t think terms such as hyperinflation and deflation apply, and economists rarely use the phrase, “industrial economy crushed by Godzilla.” As with any leap off a skyscraper, it’s not the fall that’s fatal: It’s the sudden stop at the bottom.
The rapid collapse of AIG back in September 2008 is a harbinger of an equally rapid failure of the Fed, hence our entire monetary system. The only difference is that this time there will be nobody to bail out the ultimate backstopper and, as a result, we will observe the long overdue termination of a failed experiment.
Here’s one analogy: We’re in an aerial tram, suspended a few thousand feet above the valley floor by a sturdy, steel, 2-inch-diameter cable. But the cable is comprised of thousands of tightly wrapped strands, all of which are hundreds of years old and half of which have already broken. The remaining strands are breaking at an increasingly rapid pace as the pressure builds. The U.S. Federal Reserve Bank has been holding this sucker together with duct tape and baling wire, but King Ben is fresh out of both items.
I find it a bit odd — no doubt because of bias inherent in my life as a scientist — that artists have a better understanding of reality than do scientists. Matchbox Twenty provides one example (thanks to Mike Sliwa for the tip).
And while we’re on the topic of rearranging the deck chairs as the Titanic takes on water, the international community is rightly aghast at North Korea for spending a fortune on its military when its populace is suffering. Nearly one quarter of North Korea’s population is either starving or at risk of starvation, according to a recent UN report, yet its government pours money into missile and nuclear programs. Such behavior seems to be the height of irrationality, especially when you consider they stole the model for this behavior from the U.S.
I realize you and I had little to do with the dire straits in which we are immersed (i.e., we didn’t fuck it up). But we’ll be paying a high price.
No matter how many times I point out the acceleration of this ongoing slow decline, people take issue. I suspect it’s the primary reason Energy Bulletin and similar websites do not carry my essays. It can’t happen here. This time is different. There’ll be plenty of warning. And so on. In response to the insanity of the herd’s groupthink, I turn to Nietzsche for solace: “The individual has always had to struggle to keep from being overwhelmed by the tribe. If you try it, you will be lonely often, and sometimes frightened. But no price is too high to pay for the privilege of owning yourself.”
The seemingly rapid collapse of the former Soviet Union — the latest superpower to hit bottom, never to recover — actually took a few years to transpire. The collapse was faster than the ongoing collapse of the current system, but I have the distinct impression Obama is a conniving version of Gorbachev. A few informed people saw the Soviet collapse coming and sounded the klaxons, but government officials did not post warning signs on the nightly news.
Quibbling over minor differences between socialist news delivered by and for the Politburo and fascist news delivered by and for the Corporatocracy seems irrelevant at this point. As Oliver Stone points out, Barack Obama could take a lesson from Mikhail Gorbachev about how to dismantle a dysfunctional empire that has long overstayed its welcome.
The decline of the U.S. industrial economy has been a slow-motion, ongoing process, albeit with several steps down along the way. If we’re lucky, the next step leads right off a skyscraper, thus leading to a sudden stop at the sidewalk below. Obviously, this is the only legitimate remaining opportunity to prevent the near-term extinction of the many species we drive to extinction every day, as well as our own species. And, of course, it will allow us to see the end of Twain’s limitless multiplication of unnecessary necessities..