Source: Mothers for Nuclear | Kristin ZaitzFebruary 5, 2018

Headline of The Japan News on our first morning in Tokyo, "US plans to increase nuclear capabilities"Looking at the history of nuclear technology, there may be no more difficult place to be a nuclear energy advocate than Japan. The first atomic bomb was dropped on the Japanese city of Hiroshima on August 6, 1945, a city with strategic military importance and a population of approximately 350,000. The first bomb was followed by a second, only three days later, dropped on the city of Nagasaki. The debate about the ethics of the bombings continues to this day, but the horrors of the atomic weapon are indisputable.

It is easier for us now in the 21st century to think about the atomic bomb in a more philosophical way. For many alive today, the detonation of an atomic bomb is a thing we talk about and hypothesize about but not something we’ve lived through. It is more difficult to approach this topic with empathy if we do not make our best effort to understand what happened, to feel the impact, to let the emotion penetrate our souls.

I consider myself to be an empathetic person, but as such I can often find it emotionally unbearable to let myself constantly feel the wide range of emotions that comes with attempting to understand the experiences of others. We would all be emotional disasters if we didn’t put up some barriers. But as it goes with emotional barriers, it’s hard to know you’re using them until they are challenged and something that you didn’t realize was there at all cracks and lets emotion flood through.

Heather and I were honored to receive and invitation to speak about nuclear advocacy at an event hosted by the Institute of Energy Economics, Japan. To prepare for this journey, we promptly began learning about Japanese culture and the history of nuclear energy advocacy in Japan. We quickly learned there may be no more difficult place to separate fear of nuclear weapons from fear of nuclear energy. As the date of the workshop approached, we grew more and more aware of our need to understand the roots of this fear.

To challenge our mental models, Heather and I watched a powerful Hiroshima documentary on the flight from California to Tokyo. As our plane flew somewhere over the Pacific Ocean, the screen in front of us recounted the horrors of the atomic bomb – mass devastation of families, men, women, children, young, old, all being ruthlessly incinerated by the initial blast, crushed by the rubble, burned in the  subsequent fires, or sickened by radiation exposure. The narrator told a story of a mother who watched her young daughter burn to death before her eyes, trapped in the rubble of their collapsed home. Both of us turned into sobbing messes in the back row, and the weight of this humanitarian horror fell across my heart in a new way. Even now as I type this memory, I can’t stop the emotions from flooding in. My young children are safe at home with their father, and our unborn child travels with me – there is nothing I wouldn’t do to protect them. The mothers and fathers of Hiroshima felt the same way, yet they were powerless to protect their children from the devastation of the bomb.

Headline of The Japan News on our first morning in Tokyo, “US plans to increase nuclear capabilities”