Arsenic is Gone
By Brian Small at May 21, 2009
I had the opportunity to join some AAN (Asia Arsenic Network) people for a trip up to the mountain town (Toroku in Takachiho, Northern Miyazaki on the border with Oita Prefecture). I hink I saw some of the most beautiful places I've ever seen. Just getting there, driving through Hinokage (Shaded-from-the-Sun) town was awesome. I've always been fairly immune to scenery, I'm either getting old or never stayed awake at the right moments up until now. Since I was the designated driver this time, I was awake the entire time.... Being one of the drivers in charge of getting people to the orgnizations house in the mountains so there was no time (well, I didn't take advantage of the lenient offer to stop) to take pictures on the way. But here's the building up to twenty people can stay - 10 dollars (1,000 yen) per adult per night, children are free.
A view from the back.
A view out back.
A Bird's eye view from the mountain above where the arsenic mine used to be. The considerate CEO said that in times of emergency the destruction of a village or two is acceptable.
When are corporations and national governments not in some kind of emergency state? You know the Nuclear Energy Industry hasno qualms about having my southern half of Kyushu depopulated if they screw up. I'm from Pennsylvania of Three Mile Island fame. I keep thinking 'accountability'. In Japanese it's translated as 'Responsibility to Explain' (Setsumei Suru Sekinin). I think it's more than that. The CEO's and Government officials, politicians that make these projects possible should live right next to the project. Accountability is about being the foremost reciever of the brunt of your policy. The arsenic operation here in Toroku wiped out an entire family in the 1930's. When the local village leader (a guy of course) agreed to re-opening the arsenic extraction activities local ladies responded 'If it's safe heat and extract the the ore at the town hall, we'll carry it over for you.'
I'll have to ask of the ladies knew that, in 1941, the head of the same corporation working to continue with the arsenic extraction had said that as long as the mine remained ruining a village or two would be ok..
Getting Active in the Community has it's rewards. Who has time to kill brain cells in front of a TV? Building a real community you can reach out and meet pushes out any need (or opportunity) for a fake commercial community around the corporate hearth of a TV.
Partially influenced by Wes Jackson in Becoming Native to This Place and a fellow local Gringo (and ex-military mercenary Mormon) buddy I had an epiphany. Apparently you can buy land in the mountains cheap. The cedar plantions are causing all kinds of trouble, they probably don't handle the heavy rainfall and water as well contributing to mountain collapse, they don't flower so there's no food for bees, the don't fruit either so there's no food for wild boar, they're just a pain in the butt. People (National Policy and Market Subsidies) should be making eco-houses out of them but pillaging rainforests abroad and making chemical houses makes more market sense. Someone said (accurately or not) that they used to be planted around rice fields to keep bugs away. Monbiot wrote an article (and Pollan a book chapter) about apples, losing their genetic diversity in England (and their native Kazakistan or someplace). Apples require unusual amounts of pesticide. How about clearing out sections of these cedar plantations and putting in apple seedling for while the natural forest comes back. I don't want to screw with the local ecosystem too much but having an English Halloween events with bobbing for apples and Jack-o-Lantern pumpkin carving might be a nice way to get people up there, drop some money into the local economy and spread the word about pollution and water issues. It's just another of those wacky ideas that might lead to some decent conversation over the weekend. Will apples work here? Do you want to try and grow pumpkins. Is there any land around here I can play with. Maybe it will turn into something worthwhile. You never know. But in the meantime you eat and drink and learn with people. It's like Kurt Vonnegut said, 'life is about farting around'
I'll have to find my camera cord and put up pictures of the cool (Japanese) pamphlet the grass roots organization made. It has a great timeline, it looks like one of the countless local tourist brochures but has worthwhile information. The timeline is great, I'm pretty sure there's an English translation around somewhere I just don't know if the format is as nice as this.
The timeline continues.
It's such a beautiful place, with a history of corporate and state transgression to learn from.