Influential Minds Part 1

Two of the five academic meetings on the sustainability trip left a very strong impression on me: those with Hiroaki Koide and Takayuki Mori. I’ll be writing about those meetings and the impact they had on myself, in two parts.

Professor Hiroaki Koide

Pictures weren’t allowed in the place that we met Professor Koide, so here’s a shot of how beautiful Japan is.

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Professor Koide’s name can be found, among other places, toward the top of wikipedia’s article “Anti Nuclear Power Movement In Japan“. Before meeting him, Professor Armstrong and Dr Takahashi handed out a pamphlet to the group, by the Christian Council of Japan summarizing the anti-nuclear power facts, with “Hiroaki Koide” listed on the back of it as editorial supervisor. When we met him,  the first thing I noticed about him was his beautiful loose walking posture when he greeted us outside, and his engaging, personal seated posture while he gave us the talk.  These are subtle hints of an honest human, to me. His lecture for us was a beautiful song of doom and gloom. Some of the main points from the pamphlet and his lecture:

  • The volume of radioactive waste produced by nuclear power plants is vastly understated. Japan’s radioactive power plants have produced fission product equal to 1.2 million Hiroshima bombs. There is no safe way to store or dispose of nuclear waste, what’s done can’t be undone.
  • When I heard the above, I thought I was hearing a measure of proportion deliberately misappropriated for the sake of making alarming headlines. I raised my hand and asked the professor, “But radioactive waste isn’t the same thing as bombs, right?” His answer was that I’m under the mistaken impression that these plants were made to produce energy, and that nuclear plants were first brought into existence for the creation of weapons materials, they produce energy as a side effect. The pamphlet backs this up.
  • This is not green energy at all. The pamphlet has a diagram of how these plants operate using sea water intake and outtake back into the sea, and as a consequence are warming the sea. They kill wildlife, heat the ocean, and contribute to global warming.
  • Nuclear power is less sustainable than fossil fuels. They use uranium to produce energy, and uranium will run out in less time than fossil fuels would.
  • Many scientists and politicians that are for nuclear power are aware of the dangers involved, he said at the meeting. Professor Koide stated in a lecture on youtube, he believes it has to do with a race to military power, and has nothing to do with energy production. It was also stated (at the meeting with him and on the pamphlet) that there is more than enough power in the grid, the energy from these plants are not needed.

I took a few deep breaths. It’s an awfully bad pun that these things are called power “plants”. We’re all very lucky to be alive, and politics is corrupt – two things I always know in the back of my mind, but it’s never a comfortable thing to discuss(I’ll talk about my feelings on the matter more in the next post). Toward the end of his lecture he started reaching for “where to go from here”, regarding the energy crisis. Japan is pushing green power initiatives following the Fukushima disaster, but professor Koide’s feelings on the subject are that no energy is perfect and all energy has drawbacks, and therefore society should strive to use less energy.

I can make a comparison regarding human beings and limitations here: many of my generation get excited to buy more hard drive space, only to find that if we have 5 terabytes of space, we fill 5 terabytes with stuff. We get exponentially larger amounts than we think we’ll ever need, and suddenly we find new ways to use it, and forget what life was like without it. If someone told us that our terabyte harddrives were destroying the world and threatening our lives, could we change ourselves in the reverse direction, arbitrarily limiting ourselves? It’s what Professor Koide is saying we must do.

Giving it some thought, the “energy crisis” doesn’t have to be seen as crisis of science finding a greater power source. The crisis is arbitrary as our society is using so many things we don’t need. The energy crisis could be looked at as a cultural problem and not a technological one. Creating a more efficient, sustainability society was discussed at length at the next day’s meeting with Takayuki Mori.

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Japan really is beautiful.

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  1. […] This post is about our meeting with Takayuki Mori. I wrote part one about my impressions of our meeting with Hiroaki Koide, it loosely ties into this writing, and can be found here. […]

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