Fukushima Fixation – The Media Focus on Radiation Risk in Tsunami-Stricken Japan

Twenty five years on from Chernobyl, the tragic events in Japan of March 2011 seem to reaffirm the risk society’ perspective which the 1986 nuclear accident in the former Soviet Union did so much to popularise. It was amidst widespread predictions of mass harm – projected both across Europe and into the future – that German sociologist Ulrich Beck’s book of the same name found such a receptive audience. Beck wrote of a new era defined by the greater risk posed by ‘manufactured’, technological risk than natural, ‘external’ ones.

The way in which the possible, nuclear threat from the damaged Fukushima nuclear plant looms larger than the devastation and the thousands actually killed by the ‘natural’ earthquake and tsunami reminds us of Beck’s distinction. The problem is more acute in Beck’s reading, as we still mistakenly look towards science when it is, in fact, more part of the problem than the solution. Having imposed this dangerous technology on us in the first place, science – in league with government – plays down the risk, with bland assurance of a lack of any evidence of harm. Again, recent Japanese experience resonates, where official reassurance is assumed to be, at best, irrelevant, as the Western media continue their search for nuclear-related harm. As it evolved, the sociological approach merged with and reinforced a precautionary approach to technology that tends to assume and project risk independently of evidence, suggesting that we cannot afford to wait for a cumbersome science to prove the harms that we ‘know’ lie in wait.



Copyright: © Lexxion Verlagsgesellschaft mbH
Source: Issue 02/2011 (Juni 2011)
Pages: 4
Price: € 41,65
Autor: Dr Adam Burgess

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