Fukushima prefecture residents are pressing the Japanese government for the fundamental right to relocate away from contaminated areas and to be compensated for their loss of homes and livelihoods. The Japanese government’s response to the high radiation levels has not been to expand evacuation to protect the public, but rather to increase what the government considers a ‘safe dose’ of radiation from 1 millisieverts per year to 20 millisieverts a year – only for people in Fukushima prefecture. When the government is asked by the people of Fukushima whether “Fukushima residents, just like those of other prefectures, have the right to a healthy environment as free from radiation as possible,” they are essentially told no (see the video).
The stories of the suffering in Fukushima prefecture are absolutely gut-wrenching: teachers knowing that it was unsafe but told by school boards to send the children outside to play anyway; parents sending their children away to live with relatives in other parts of the country because they can’t afford to leave their jobs; people taking their own radiation measurements and finding the government lied when it told them their town and villages were “safe.”
The discussion around Fukushima has been largely focused on sieverts, technical fixes, and policy outcomes. It’s vital to acknowledge the impacts on real people – not fear of radiation, but real threats to human health.