Is it safer to live in Fukushima or to smoke?

Today is maybe the first holiday I spend in Mexico without working… I`ve spent it so far trying to do some things that have been left for when I had time, like playing some videogames (ok, nowadays that`s kind of work for me) but also thinking about some stuff.

It`s amazing how you don`t even have time / are too tired to THINK when you`re busy with work!

Anyway, when I still lived in Japan, the Great Eastern Japan Earthquake happened, and the tsunami and then the meltdown of Fukushima Nuclear Plant. With the support of Gakuvo / Nippon Foundation / Nikkei Youth Network, I was able to visit Miyagi-ken to do some volunteer work to try to help the victims of the earthquake and the tsunami.

But I didn´t get to go to Fukushima. At that time, it was still considered too risky for volunteers to go, but when the coordinators asked if we would go to Fukushima, of the total of the students, me and about 1/3 said they would join. But I it didn`t happen. And I guess the main reason is very clear. RADIATION.

After all, in Japan, EVERYBODY knows the results of radiation because of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

And the stories you remember about Chernobyl.

I was 5 when that happened, so basically I can`t remember a thing. But I remember what happened in Fukushima, and also how was the coverage, both inside Japan and outside of it. And man, it was sensationalistic.

Basically it was a mix of clueless reporters and whatever specialist vaguely expert on radiation / nuclear reactors they could find speculating on what could have happened, without any of them having a clue of what was actually going on.

Well this is how the media work. They need to do it, because that is what sells, and they are a for-profit enterprise like any other. They will do whatever the customer wants. If you pay attention, this same pattern occurs everytime that any big tragedies happens. 9/11, shootings, earthquakes, fires etc.

Basically you get a load of reports that are worthless noise, and the opinion of the real experts get lost.

I just came across this article today in Nature, that was written by Prof. Jim Smith, an expert who had been studying Chernobyl for 20 years, that says that although there was an small increase in the number of some kind of cancers “Misperceptions, and inefficient compensation, have led to widespread fatalism and feelings of victimization among locals. Resulting rises in alcohol consumption and smoking may well have done more damage than radiation exposure.”

Reading this and other studies have led me believe that it looks like it is riskier to have an unhealthy lifestyle, smoking, drinking and eating lots of meat and wheat rather than living in Fukushima or Chernobyl.

But I do all these regularly and nobody cares, so I wonder why we have this unfounded fear that those are dead zones, that no one should visit.

Aren`t we being brainwashed?

And I´m not only talking about this. We are told something, but we don´t research ourselves to check if it´s true. Who has time for it, right? But if we don´t do, and the media certainly don´t seem interested in doing it as well, who can we believe?