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June 13, 2012

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Harada-sama has to count among those few who have significantly changed the world that we live in. It is a pity more people, even among those who remember the Minamata furor, do not remember the name of the man who identified the problem.

It's the Japanese government's handling of the Minamata incident that prompted me to leave Tokyo for good this month after 15 years in Japan. They will lie and twist and hush-up the ongoing Fukushima disaster for as long as practicable to protect the "elites" until it no longer affects their careers. There's no compensation big enough for leukemia.

It's disheartening how predictable the pattern is: business poisons people, those profitting from the poisoning deny its reality and demonize the victims and the whistleblower, eventually (sometimes) restitution is made but responsibiity is never accepted, wash, rinse , repeat.

Of course reading the Wikipedia article on the disease is both enraging an depressingly all too predictable. I won't even joke about Chisso being shackled by regulations. Disgusting. Note that the photographer mentioned was assaulted by workers from Chisso.

We need an army of Haradas. I am sad he is gone.

As a result Japan was the first country to go 'off mercury' and to seriosuly look for alternatives. I can claim to have been directly affected by that since I worked for 2 years for the German EPA on the question of mercury in the chlorine production on the European level (we are talking about ca. 12.000 metric tons of liquid mercury here). The plants have cut their emissions by about 90% in the last twenty years in a rearguard action to keep their production licences but the plants get steadily closed down (about 2 per year) to be replaced by new ones using the membrane process that got its real breakthrough in Japan.

I have had the privilege of working with the people of Asabiinyashkosiwagong Nitam-Anishinaabeg (Grassy Narrows First Nation) in their on-going struggles. The effects of mercury poisoning that devastated a generation have come down to affect the younger people. Recently at the River Run festival in Toronto, Anishinaabeg elders from Grassy held a fish fry with fish from the English-Wabigoon river system, and invited the Premier of Ontario to eat with them. He did not show up.

We owe a great debt to Harada sensei.

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