While a segment of the American population is currently calling for less government in their lives, Japanese parents are demanding accountability from elected officials regarding their children's safety and well-being.
A New York Times story on the International Page, "Angry Parents in Japan Confront Government Over Radiation Levels," provided an account about how the citizens of Fukushima City have been mobilized by fear and anxiety over the extent of potentially dangerous levels of radiation.
With Japanese government guidelines permitting youngsters to be exposed to "radiation doses that exceed twenty times the previously allowable level," parents decided to become proactive about the nuclear crisis, above and beyond mere verbal confrontation.
Joined by teachers, they all put on improvised protective suits and masks to physically remove the topsoil from a daycare's playground, situated a mere 37 miles from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, site of the March disaster. Quoted in the article, Sadako Monoma said, "Our answer was to stop waiting for someone to help us."
In America, there are agencies that are tasked with safeguarding the public. Often they are attacked for either being too stringent, or not stringent enough.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has held hearings about coal-fired power plants that release high levels of toxic mercury into the air. Those emissions create not only air borne pollution, but particles that also settle in the waterways, polluting the country's river systems.
In the cities of Atlanta, Philadelphia and Chicago, crowds of people came to testify about their concerns. They ranged from mothers with strollers to religious leaders and physicians.
It isn't always easy for the small folks to get their voices heard. With the big bucks behind the utility and oil companies, it's often difficult to distinguish other messages over the drumbeat of corporations that have access to major advertising dollars. It seems that almost every night I catch one of their commercials on television -- touting the power of human energy and ethical responsibility. One is for a company that is being sued by the citizens of a South American country -- for "environmental damages."
Through a lack of transparency, Japanese officials have lost the confidence of their people. In America, there is a growing push back against lobbying influences and those who would put profit over the health of the country's populace.
It's interesting to see how the recent disaster in Japan has encouraged parents to construct an agenda to protect their children. The Fukushima Update reported on a meeting of over 250 people who attendended an event entitled "Protecting Children from Radiation Meeting."
Never underestimate the ability of concerned parents to effect change.
This article was written for the Moms Clean Air Force