Looking at War and the Environment on the Anniversary of the Hiroshima Bombing


Image by Dan Smith, Wikipedia

Having lived in Japan for some 20 years, I find that August 6 is always a special day: In 1945, just after 8 a.m. in the morning, the first atomic bomb was dropped over the city of Hiroshima.

When I was a young boy, about 7 or 8, I went with my father, a high school history teacher, to a museum in my home town. The exhibition displayed photos and newspaper articles from this very day. I was devastated - I cried terribly later that night. One of the stories was about a blind girl in Japan, who had seen the blast of the atomic bomb. I could not fathom that: "How can a bomb be so terrible, that even a blind girl can see it?"The Peace Memorial Museum in Hiroshima, designed by Kenzo Tange, Japan's most respected architect, is really worth a visit.

As a TreeHugger, there is another story to tell. First, citizens near Hiroshima who had survived the blast were told that nothing would grow there for a very long time. So, in the spring of 1946, when weeds and some trees started showing signs of recovery, it was an amazing message of resilience and recovery. The book The Resilient City: How Modern Cities Recover from Disaster tells the tale, not only of Hiroshima, but of other devastated cities as well, including Chicago in 1871 and San Francisco in 1906.

The victors of WW2, including the United States, went on a mad display of top secret scientific endeavour to test larger and more lethal bombs. The US also used islands in the Pacific for this, and in the 1950s, the radioactivity was vastly more powerful than from the bombs dropped on Japan. By accident, Japanese citizens were again exposed to radioactivity from the massive Hydrogen bomb. Bill Bryson makes the point in his recent book The Life and Time of The Thunderbolt Kid:

In less than ten years they had achieved the unwelcome distinction of being the first victims of both the atom and hydrogen bombs, and naturally they were a touch upset and sought an apology. We declined to oblige. Instead, Lewis Strauss, a former shoe salesman who had risen to become chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission (it was that kind of age), responded by suggesting that the Japanese fishermen were in fact Soviet agents.

War is over, if you want it. It is great to see that former adversaries can learn how to cooperate. I am really glad no other country has had to experience the devastation brought about from atomic bombs.--Martin Frid of greenz.jp

Tags: Japan