Scholarship Recipient Report #4: Tomoi

The Atomic Age Conference was a great opportunity for me to re-organize my thoughts on anti-nuclear activism. It has been almost a year since I found myself organizing anti-nuclear actions, and I think it is time for me to stop and reflect about what I have or have not accomplished and where I want to go from here.

The conference was a great experience for me. Seeing so many American people taking this issue seriously and listening to Professor Koide and Ms. Muto and all the other great speakers was very special for me. It encouraged me to feel that there might be a hope. Not to mention the beautiful conference space at the University of Chicago. I felt that we were taken care of so well with breakfast and lunch and coffee in the afternoon. I believe that this careful planning allowed participants to just focus on the learning at hand.

I was raised in Japan and have lived in New York City for fourteen years. Last summer I became an activist out of despair and concern for my sisters and little nephews and a niece in Japan.

I first formed mother’s group with my sisters in Japan to protect children from the spread of radiation. As I worked to organize this group, I studied a lot about nuclear power and radiation, like many mothers in Japan. I collected information from independent online sources because the government and media was not telling us what was happening. Professor Koide is the one of those experts who shares details. I learned a lot from him.

The first three months I was very depressed realizing that many children will die in Japan, much food is contaminated there and the government is not willing to protect people’s lives. I was in a state of constant panic thinking that my country is possibly sinking slowly into disrepair and a majority of people, including my best friend who lives in Tokyo, didn’t realized it. I wondered if I would ever feel safe visiting my country or if my daughter would be able to spend time with my family.

It was really hard for me to even talk about it with most people – I felt that I may be losing a huge part of myself and many people could not relate to the crisis I was in. When they didn’t want to learn more about the situation I felt personally distanced from people who had previously been my friends, upset when they did not understand why I was so concerned. For many people, what is happening in Japan sounds difficult to fathom. So I couldn’t spend time with anyone who didn’t show an interest in the nuclear issues. At the same time it was too emotional for me to discuss. Therefore I focused on organizing actions, connected to activists throughout the world, not talking to all my friends in New York or in Japan. It was intense time period for me but that was the only way I knew to maintain my sanity.

Ms. Muto’s talk was very heartwarming and it confirmed for me that I want my no-nuke activism to focus on “changing our life style.” Her life before 3.11was beautiful. It is amazing to see how she enjoyed being creative in saving energy and living with nature around her. That is the life I would like to pursue because we need to shift the way we consume energy and resources regardless of this specific crisis, not to mention that I see a deep beauty in doing so.
Since the conference I stopped using my clothes dryer machine and I now dry my laundry on my roof, I use a broom as much as possible instead of a vacuum cleaner. These little things make me happy and I feel my life becoming more intentional than ever before. It slows me down and I think this is the thing that we have forgotten in pursuing consumption, and as a result we detach ourselves from “life.”

Over a year of learning about nuclear power, what I realized is that Fukushima nuclear crisis represents our mentality of “consume more” and “do more.” I believe that It happened because people were not informed. I thank you all so much for creating a space for us to be informed and to learn and reflect. My hope is that we continue this effort until we have a nuclear free world for my daughter and nephews and neice.

Tomoi Zeimer

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