In the Episode “NUCLEAR ZEN I – KEIBO OIWA” we will introduce Keibo Oiwa’s meditation on 3/11 and the events following the disaster of Fukushima Daiichi.
Keibo Oiwa is a cultural anthropologist, author, translator, environmental activist and public speaker. He lived in North America for sixteen years and holds a Ph.D. in Anthropology from Cornell University. Since 1992, he has taught in the International Studies Department of Meiji Gakuin University. Being a founder of the “Sloth Club”, an ecology and “Slow Life” NGO, he is giving lectures and workshops on social and environmental issues. Oiwa is the author or editor of over 20 books. He lives in Yokohama with his family.
Radioactivity – the very word awakens a multitude of controversial thoughts and emotions in us. From the hazards of nuclear power plants, the fall-out from atomic bombs, the irradiation of food and the issue of nuclear waste disposal on the one hand to treatments for cancer and medical applications on the other. From its avantgardistic discovery in the 19th century with the promise of mankind’s reign over all matter to it’s applications and disasters of the 20th century, radioactivity has become one of the most controversial and feared words of the 21st century, a byword for suspicion, protest and danger.
Still, radioactivity is natural and universal. All the building blocks and elements of nature were created in supernovae and suns powered by nuclear forces. Without the light of the sun, life would probably not exist. On the other hand, human created elements like plutonium do not naturally occur in nature and are unknown for the lifeforms on Earth, therefore leaving them almost no chance for adaption.
Radioactivity has become part of our long-term cultural memory: a column of society expressing once more the human fascination for fire, the Promethean gift.
On the one hand the atomic age reveals our massive dependency on energy, on the other hand it’s inner workings and origins remain widely unknown. Most of us profit from nuclear power somehow, but tend to neglect it’s existence. The ecological, economical, scientific, social and political dependencies have grown too complex.
A reason for this may be the complex underlying theory and the quantitativescientific language that transports and establishes the nuclear mindset: the language of probability, threshold and quantity. Many aspects concerning thequality of the nuclear age remain therefore inexpressible. We are in fact lacking the means to culturally comprehend the complexities of the atomic age.
Even Robert Oppenheimer quotes the religious Hindu scripture Bhagavad Gita as he witnesses the first nuclear bomb flash in the year 1945 at the Trinity site in the desert sands of Alamogordo, New Mexico, incapable to describe the light of the nuclear sun with the scientific language that created it:
If the radiance of a thousand suns
were to burst into the sky,
that would be like the splendor of the Mighty One.
I am become Death, the shatterer of Worlds.
(The Hindu word denoting “Death” should rather be translated with the word “Time”. Interestingly, in Hindu mythology, the Time God is described as having a “body like the Sun”.)
1001 SUNS is a collection of films and interviews in relation to society’s thirst for energy with a special focus on the nuclear age, a project that started in the year 2001.
The interview with Keibo Oiwa took place at the Goethe Institut Tokyo in July 2012.
Credits: Mihoko Tanno, Raimund Wördemann
Produced and directed by Andreas Erhart and Michael Saup
Supported by nordmedia, Hannover, Germany. Curated for Santiago de Chile by Margit Rosen, Germany.