Exploring Environmental Degradation

By: Nicole Chua 2AD2

The outcry at Japan’s decision to dispose of over a million tonnes of radioactive nuclear wastewater did not come as a surprise. Envisioning such a prospect, one is immediately drawn to the imagery of dangerously reactive particles swimming in a borderless swamp of festering liquid, viciously threatening to swallow anything within its midst. Some may question: Why is there a need to put marine life biodiversity and human health at stake for such seemingly petty advantages? Delving into the deliberation to reach this conclusion, there has been the accumulation of 1.25 million tonnes of nuclear wastewater due to the crippling of a nuclear power plant following the tremors of the 2011 earthquake in Japan. The sole solution lies in releasing this wastewater into the sea.

The wonders of the sea are endless (Adapted from: Unsplash)

In spite of recent events, Japan has announced that it will dump more than a million tonnes of contaminated water from the wrecked Fukushima nuclear power plant into the sea. This move not only has environmental implications, but has political undertones as well. Japan’s decision has incurred the wrath of neighbouring nations including China who have to put up with the plausible negative externalities of this situation. Well, the Japanese government asserts that the release of the wastewater is safe, as almost all radioactive elements would have been removed through the dilution process. Scientists have also backed up this claim, assuring that these elements do not pose a risk to human health in small quantities. Authorities were quick to adopt this narrative, going to the extent of consuming the wastewater in a parliamentary broadcast to the entire nation to prove their point.

Conversely, concerns about safety are not unfounded as these contaminated substances floating around in the depths of the ocean may have adverse impacts on the wildlife within the ocean. It is not wholly impossible that these toxic elements may even leach into the food chain of seafood and find its way onto our dinner tables. Notwithstanding, it might appear idyllic or naive to brush off pragmatic issues as opponents argue it is the only realistic option. However, the reality is that nuclear waste is scary and foreign to many, whereas the traumatic devastation of radioactivity to mankind is nothing new. The act of dumping wastewater into the sea could very well blemish consumer confidence in local sea produce. The addition of a third dimension into this issue thus complicates things further, as the issue is more of a human, and less of an environmental one. No amount of convincing would reinstate people’s faith once they hear the blaring alerts from the mention of “nuclear wastewater.” This environmental issue is one that spares no one. We stand on the edge of the cliff between existence and destruction. What would become of the environment if everyone mindlessly dumps their trash into the sea? We are unloading the burdens of mankind’s own selfish greed and inflicting the damage onto sea creatures who are the most innocent parties in this ugly reality.

Additionally, as the blaring calls for modernisation are gaining traction, it leaves one some room to consider if there is still space for the preservation of nature. In a text I am currently learning for Chinese Literature, the protagonist is an old talking tree, along with an obstinate and slightly obsessive girl who has a deep seated love for nature. Within the text, the majority of people are portrayed as being mindless puppets manipulated by the customary ‘system’ of society. In this case, within the systemic boundaries of society, the ‘odd’ girl as named in the play is portrayed as an idiosyncratic outcast fighting for the preservation of nature. In the name of modernisation, trees are chopped off, and vast tracts of land deforested to make the entire complex one that is neat, unified and ‘aesthetically pleasing.’ The ‘odd’ girl’s voice is an outcry, stifled and belittled by others around her. In an ironic twist, she ends up wrecking the old tree, slashing and slicing away at this beloved article of hers, wishing to end its abject misery, as she is unable to accept that the tree has been pruned and reduced to a pitiable state.

This is a classic theme that will never grow outmoded as environmental degradation is happening by the hour…minute…and even second. We should stop being blind to these happenings around us, to tear ourselves away from the strings of the puppeteer and take control of our own actions by taking steps to protect the environment.

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