Thursday, May 31, 2012

Group of Students from Middle Tennessee State University to Go to #Fukushima as Disaster Recovery Cleanup Volunteers

From (5/31/2012; emphasis is mine):

MURFREESBORO — A contingent of 10 students and two professors from Middle Tennessee State University will leave Nashville early Monday, June 4, to participate in the cleanup and rebuilding mission in Fukushima, Japan.

Three of the students are from Rutherford County: Bridgette Gleaves of Smyrna and Mark Wester and Justin Bingham, both of Murfreesboro.

On March 11, 2011, an earthquake registering 9.0 on the Richter scale created a tsunami that killed nearly 16,000 people and left more than 3,000 missing on the main island of Honshu. In addition, ocean waves engulfed the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, sending three reactors into meltdown.

“MTSU has assessed the current situation and consulted with Fukushima University,” said David Schmidt, vice provost for international affairs. “At no time while engaged in program-related activities will students be in areas where the U.S. government recommends its citizens avoid travel.”

The triple catastrophe left behind an estimated 23 million tons of debris in the hardest-hit coastal areas of Iwate, Miyagi and Fukushima prefectures alone. The Japanese government announced Feb. 21 that the country has cleaned up only five percent of the rubble more than a year later.

The MTSU students will hear presentations from Fukushima University students, work with other volunteers to clear debris and prepare meals in the Soma district. At the program’s conclusion, they will exchange observations with the Fukushima students.

Not only are the MTSU students intrigued by the opportunity to witness a national disaster firsthand, but they are compelled to help by persistent images of the damaged lives left behind.

“I remember a Japanese woman crying over her lost family member at a function I went to in Nashville,” says Preston Nalls, a mass-communication major from Franklin. “All I could do was just watch … as other Japanese comforted her. I didn’t know her, so although I felt compelled to say something, I just clenched my fist and grieved for her from afar,” he said in a press release.

Sure, we are only going to Fukushima, but that will resonate all over Japan,” adds Justin Bingham, a liberal-studies major from Murfreesboro. “So, in a way, we 10 students are going to help an entire nation. That’s something worth smiling about,” he said in a press release.

Each student will pay a fee of $1,000 to cover all instruction fees, lodging and international airfare from Nashville to Japan. The group is slated to return June 15.

This education-abroad program is a joint effort of MTSU International Affairs and Fukushima University with support from the Japanese Ministry of Education. For more information, contact the MTSU Office of International Affairs at 615-904-8190 or Schmidt at

"Sure, we are only going to Fukushima, but that will resonate all over Japan"... It may, but it may not be in the way he thinks.

(H/T Enformable)


Anonymous said...

$1000 each. Not bad.

Should show other students from America that it's not too expensive to come and join protests against the restart of the Ooi nuclear reactor if Noda decides to push forward with his nuclear war against the Japanese people.

Japan's poorly managed nuclear program has impacted the world. The people of the world should have a say in Japan's future use and abuse of the atom.

Anonymous said...

“we are only going to Fukushima, but that will resonate all over Japan...”

I don't know who they're trying to impress. Sure, they'll get the attention of Japanese media and politicians dying to publish any positive spin on Fukushima. But average Japanese looks at the self-congratulating foreigners like them with not so nice wonderment (of their stupidity and also pity for their low self esteem that compels them to prove themselves this way). But they don't have to worry, we Japanese are too polite to say it loud, we'll greet them with a big smile.

More sad point is, Middle Tennessee State University is telling the world that they have no scientific brain whatsoever. There are many better ways to help Fukushima for college educated people, but it takes a thinking power, and clearly that is not the strength of this university.

High school studnets, take a notice of this when shopping for higher education...

m a x l i said...

Nice story! I do not doubt the good intentions of these young people. But I am afraid they will be used by people with less good intentions. When they return to America after 14 days, the next days, I guess, they probably will be paraded through tv-talk shows as ultimate prove, that nuclear power is save. Look! Everyone looks rosy, no hair falling out!

If one of them is a bit pale, it will be a fish allergy or to much sake or jet lag...

m a x l i said...

My eyebrows start making very strange movements, every time I see the words "Fukushima" and "cleanup" combined in one sentence.

Thinking you could do a "cleanup" after a nuclear accident is as clever as thinking you could remove all water from the Titanic, which is lying on the bottom of the ocean.

Anonymous said...

To the MTSU students, just in case: If you feel a 6+ earthquake while you are there (and there is a good chance that you might), don't wait for the government report that the nuclear plant is safe. As soon as you are able, and after the big aftershocks settle down, make your way to the Osaka or Nagoya airports and leave Japan. If you leave right away, you should have time to get out of the path of the plume before a collapsed or leaking fuel pool starts burning uncontrollably. But it is important that you leave when this first happens. If you wait for the government to check the situation, it may be too late.

And beware. The Japanese government lies and withholds information. The american embassy was not much better during the Fukushima accident. I don't trust them anymore.

Be prepared: Be sure to have at least 30,000 yen in cash and a credit card with a $2000 or higher line of credit available and on your body just in case you need to evacuate on a moment's notice. This is enough to get you to a southern Japan airport and buy you a ticket out of Dodge.

One more, and this will be difficult, in an emergency you can dump your escorts if they don't agree to evacuate. Just let them know what you're doing so they don't waste their time looking for you. You will be fine traveling in Japan alone.

tony roma said...

years of eating gm food and drinking flouride in the water sure makes some folks brains numb.
a bit of mox will give them some zest.

anyway what about this.

Anonymous said...

Maybe it's just me, but it seems like a lot of people are still going out of their way to travel to Japan. I've also read that some Olympic athletes have been going to Japan, and I even saw a competition on television where the prize was a trip to Japan.
They all just can't fathom how serious the situation is. See no evil, hear no evil.

Anonymous said...

Sure they are not Christians out to convert the weak? Sounds fishy.

Anonymous said...

Anon@11:01 wouldn't be so bad if they did a little of both. Religion is a great comfort at times when the world as you knew it has crumbled all around you. Christ is a rock that will see you through tougher times than these.

Anonymous said...

anon above, I doubt it. After the US dropped the atomic bomb in Nagasaki and killed off Christians who persevered for more than 300 years under severe persecution, an offer of salvation coming from US Christian evangelicals may not go down well.

m a x l i said...

tony roma said:
"anyway what about this..."

Great stuff!
Now there will be LOST Season 7 coming on air soon. :¬)
But now you spoiled everything. :¬(

Anonymous said...

While I don't see why this should "resonate all over Japan," I also don't see why it could or should be viewed negatively at this point. Maybe the students will also learn how the reactor accident has affected people, which would be a very good thing. The awareness of average Americans about what's going on with the nuclear accident in Japan seems to be pretty much zero.

Having resided in the US for 25 years as a foreigner, I wish more Americans would visit other countries and thereby broaden their horizons a little. Let's hope it doesn't turn into a PR stunt and indeed will include raising awareness for the nuclear problem. We'll see.

Anonymous said...

I wouldn't get my hopes up. Everything seems to be a PR stunt/fundraiser. They only spend money when they want people to testify that radiation has no immediately evident health effects (oh wow, so safe!) or when they give themselves a raise.

I mean, I don't think I've heard any of the people in control sit down and seriously say, "Okay, we have a big problem and we need to get shit done to fix it".

It's just been a bunch of idiots pointing fingers at each other and insisting that there's nothing wrong. "Nothing to see here, go back to your homes".

Anonymous said...

MTSU, your program officials, everybody will be responsible for
the tragic sickness and death of those ignorant students.
Don't go to Fukushima. Read about the black about
the contaminated food and water. Tokyo is in Chernobyl-like
exposure conditions. They are incinerating radioactive substances
back into the air. Don't go.

Anonymous said...

It is possible that it started with a good intention, although reading the article feels more like indeed a self-promotion PR stunt and fundraiser event for the students and professors who got excited about a trip to an exotic country. The interviewed MTSU student's quote says that all.

But more important, the thing that I want to point out to the MTSU (if they ever read this) as well as to all college students and adults is this:

IF you TRULY care about Fukushima kids and residents, do not make yourself a part of the statistics that the Japanese Government is using/will be using to justify their inhumane policies, such as sending back the families and children to the high contamination areas, refusing to give comprehensive health screening to all victims, refusing to acknowledge higher health risk to children and pregnant women.

The simple act of your visit to Fukushima, especially by Americans and Europeans, will be used as a propaganda material for the government to continue saying "it is all right, no radiation risk."

They will use your visit as a 'proof' that all is fine and there is no need for evacuation or special protection for children. Your visit essentially will help TEPCO and the government continue and widen their eutha-genocide policy.

Anonymous said...

The fuck is up with you people? I'm an MTSU student, and I am friends with many of those who will be attending this trip. There is absolutely no ill or selfish intent on the part of the participants.

I'm guessing you guys are a bunch of armchair conspiracy nuts who won't rest until the northern area of Japan is deemed a nuclear wasteland. That's fine, I guess, because TEPCO and the Japanese government have conducted themselves terribly and are both full of shit, but don't even begin to blame these students. Hell, the university could care less about Japan, probably. This trip was probably just passed down the chain of opportunity without too much thought put into it.

Could it be part of an agenda to provide a false view of safety in Japan? Maybe. Are a bunch of students forking over $1000 to move debris, listen to some speaking, earn zero credit for it just because they love Japan? Damn straight. So lay off.

Anonymous said...

Also, the guy they quoted loves Japan, has spent a lot of time there previously, and often displays a cosmic-fueled tone of optimism. That's all.

Anonymous said...

@MTSU anon student, if you come to someone's blog to talk trash with foul language like "a bunch of armchair conspiracy nuts", you are not welcome. You just did further disservice to your school's reputation.

Anonymous said...

MTSU student, tell your friends to watch out for highly radioactive black stuff in Soma City.

On second thoughts, why don't you clean that all up and take it with you home, since you're so well-meaning? Residents would highly appreciate it.

Anonymous said...

Jane Fonda thought she was doing good in North Vietnam... it took her 45 years to realize she was just a pawn.

Chibaguy said...

@anon 12:48, you nailed it! Thank you.

Anonymous said...

The term conspiracy theory is used to discredit people, but the fact is that conspiracies do exist. All it takes is two or more people with a common goal. Human history is filled with conspiracies. Why is the concept so difficult to believe? Dismissing the possibility of conspiracies is a very naive perspective of the world.

That being said, I don't think I blamed the students, but I have to wonder about the motives of the people who organize this stuff. You know that Japan has been actively inviting foreigners (sometimes celebrities) to "prove" that Japan is safe - ie. not immediately fatal. This "cleanup effort" strikes me as the same kind of thing.

The most important thing to realise here is that cleaning up is secondary to the primary concern of the reactors potentially rendering the entire northern hemisphere uninhabitable. Cleaning up is insignificant and pointless in comparison. Anything short of a serious global collaboratve effort to ensure the reactors are truly safe seems like a farce or a distraction to me.

Here's my poor attempt at providing an analogy: It's almost like sending students to help sweep away volcanic rock at a town positioned at the base of an active volcano spewing lava. The lava keeps coming, and the town is doomed, but people are worried about the place looking messy. What they should be doing is evacuating or thinking of a way to appease/plug the volcano.

Anonymous said...

Forgot to add... they can clean-up as much as they like AFTER the real danger is truly over. There's nothing wrong with that.

Right now, the authorities are still in the middle of wading through all the (proven) lies of the past year to try and understand the full scale of the disaster.

Anonymous said...

Sorry for the multiple posts. One final point:
I think some people are weighing the emotional meaning of the students' good intentions against the likelihood that they are being used to further an agenda.

It's easy to focus on the former and get angry at anyone who suggests the latter, but we need to look past that. It's like how Hosono (I think) was waving around a wood crafting by a child, to appeal to people's emotions. We shouldn't let ourselves get distracted from the real issues.

Anonymous said...

If whole world=Retards
Then whole world=Dies
your mom+your dad=You

Anonymous said...

I can't help but roll my eyes at these comments.
I am an American English teacher, currently living in Fukushima Japan.
I moved to Fukushima knowingly and willingly after the 3.11 incidents. My boyfriend of the past 7 years was working as an English teacher in Minamisoma for the past two years and was in Minamisoma during the incident.
People only think about the radiation damage and have completely forgotten the damage done by the tsunami and the quake itself. Many of the refugees in my city are here not due to radiation reasons but due to the fact that there entire town no longer exists.
Radiation is a concern yet it is still lower, in most of Fukushima, than the background radiation you find in major cities across the US.
While I applaud these students for wanting to make a difference, the attitude that some have approaching this situation unnerves me a bit.

"Not only are the MTSU students intrigued by the opportunity to witness a national disaster firsthand, but they are compelled to help by persistent images of the damaged lives left behind."

Who would want to witness a disaster firsthand?
When approaching an activity that is supposedly for an altruistic purpose, I would suggest approaching it with a bit more humility. There are many people who are tirelessly working to make a difference and improve the situation here but their goal is not to resonate across the country, just with the people who need the help.

PS- I have been up and down the coast and have worked in the exclusion zones as well. FYI, I don't glow in the dark.

Anonymous said...

I see. You are part of the Japanese government publicity stunt, willingly. Everyone knows you don't glow in the dark, don't be stupid. Oops you are an English teacher in Fukushima... I retract my words.

Anonymous said...

Sir or madam whoever you are at 10:22 your comments are baseless and offensive...why can't we look at the good going on here. And I know one of those students on that trip and I will tell you something buddy, this is no PR trip or Japanese government conspiracy. Grow up and keep your conspiracy theories to yourself

Anonymous said...

Of course it is not Japanese government "conspiracy". It is openly a publicity stunt arranged by the Japanese government. It is a program being sold in the US, Europe, and Asia.

It's time you grew up.

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