from BARDO

The stars are in our belly; the Milky Way our umbilicus.

Is it a consolation that the stuff of which we’re made

is star-stuff too?

– That wherever you go you can never fully disappear –

dispersal only: carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen.

Tree, rain, coal, glow-worm, horse, gnat, rock.

Roselle Angwin

Saturday, 12 March 2011

earthquakes, tsunamis, heavy water & disaster perspectives

The disaster in Japan is yet another event that is almost too huge to encompass emotionally. How our hearts are blown open over and over (and I guess need to be, so that we may mobilise ourselves into compassion).

And how does one retain perspective in relation to the numerous natural and human-made disasters that seem to have accrued around the run-up to and the turning of the millennium? Sometimes they seem insurmountable and endless.

We can, perhaps, avert some of them by paying attention to those we can do something about, at least in the shorter term.

My daughter has just posted on her facebook site the following:

'Richard Black (Environment correspondent, BBC News) writes at lunchtime today:

'"To keep things in perspective, no nuclear accident has caused anything approaching the 1,000 fatalities stemming from Friday's earthquake and tsunami."

'Er, perspective, Richard? Read Chernobyl Children's Project International's report, for a start:

'In the early morning hours of 26 April 1986, a testing error caused an explosion at the Chernobyl nuclear power station in northern Ukraine. During a radioactive fire that burned for 10 days, 190 tons of toxic materials were expelled into the atmosphere. The wind blew 70% of the radioactive material into the neighboring country of Belarus. Almost 20 years later, the people of Belarus continue to suffer medically, economically, environmentally and socially from the effects of the disaster. These are the facts:

• The Chernobyl power plant is located on the border area between Ukraine and Belarus.
• The explosion of the reactor at Chernobyl released 100 times more radiation than the atom bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. (1)
• At the time of the accident, about 7 million people lived in contaminated territories, including 3 million children
• About 5.5 million people – including more than a million children – continue to live in contaminated zones. (2)

'1) Acute Exposure is a high dose of radiation over a short period of time. Approximately 134 power station workers were exposed to extremely high doses of radiation directly after the accident. About 31 of these people died within 3 months. Another 25,000 “liquidators” – the soldiers and firefighters who were involved in clean up operations – have died since the disaster of diseases such as lung cancer, leukemia, and cardiovascular disease.

'2) Long Term Exposure refers to various lower doses of radiation that result in tumors, genetic mutations, and damage to the immune system. In the case of Chernobyl, millions of people will continue to be exposed to such doses of radiation for decades to come.

'Read more (if you wish/need to) at:

'Nuclear scientists in this country are already comparing today's explosion at Fukushima to Chernobyl. Speculative so far, but let's not relax too much...

'Positive solutions:'

Eloise Sentito


Current news Sunday morning English time reveals the scale of the disaster. The personal stories emerging via friends on email are sobering, harrowing. And meantime a second reactor at Fukushima is understood to be at risk:

My friend and fellow poet Dr Mario Petrucci, who is also a physicist and environmentalist, wrote a few years ago a profoundly moving book of poems based on the true stories of those who were at Chernobyl: Heavy Water. There is also a DVD of the same title. If you can stomach it, I'd recommend both. (Incidentally his new book i tulips has just had an excellent review in 'Poetry London'.)

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