It’s 2011, three months into the year when Japan is hit by an earthquake and the resulting tsunami strikes the shores of Fukushima. Neither earthquake nor tsunami are natural disasters unknown to the Japanese.
On this particular occasion though, it is neither the earthquake nor the tsunami that are notable, but rather the effects they have, battering the Tokyo Electric and Power Company’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. The facility consists of six boiling-water reactors that were built between 1971 and 1979.
At the time, only three reactors are online but it is enough to create a nuclear incident that makes headlines globally. In the case of the Fukushima plant, the reactors were all shut down, but the cooling system failed. Rising heat caused the fuel rods to melt down and melted material burned holes through the base of the containment vessels.
In an effort to contain the problem and try and cool down the fuel rods, seawater was pumped into the containment vessels and the rest, as they say, is history. Things get really complicated from this point, with some 47,000 people leaving their homes and the severity level of the incident being escalated on par to that of Chernobyl.
The story is well-known in international circles, but as with all incidents of this nature, there are many stories within the headline event. One notable story is that of the Skilled Veterans Corps.
This group of volunteers, some 200 in number, all have one thing in common. They are all over 60. Among them are engineers, cooks, doctors, whatever. Reportedly even a few singers have found their way into the mix. At their head is Yasuteru Yamada, a retired engineer.
Yamada, in 2011, was 72 years-old and, importantly, a cancer survivor. Seeing the young people entering and exiting the plant, day after day, to make it safe and deal with the damage he took action. The result was the aforementioned Skilled Veterans Corps and they took over the work.
Yamada’s reasoning was that the potential for illness and radiation poisoning would have little impact on the older workforce, thereby sparing the younger workers the hazards.
Despite the suggestion that if any of the older workers contracted cancer as a result of their efforts, it would only affect them much, much later – if at all – it is an example of selflessness that marks the best of humanity. There is no reason for any of the volunteers to make this gesture, there’s no fame, no fortune, nothing more than taking the opportunity to help.
There are echoes of this behaviour found throughout society, not at this level, but little acts. Things that people do for each other every day whether it be for family, friends or even strangers. It happens all the time and often gets lost in the noise that is our daily lives.
Try to see it and recognise it for what it is. Yes, the bad stuff makes headlines, but it is the good that matters.
On a final note, Mary Poppins was written by Pamela Lyndon Travers who was born in Australia but spent much of her life in England. While working for the British Ministry of Information during WWII she travelled to America where Walt Disney approached her to obtain the movie rights to her series of books on the magical nanny. Travers first publisher was Peter Davies, one of the five Davies brothers that, in combination, served as the inspiration for the character, Peter Pan. While Travers served as an adviser to Disney’s film on Poppins, she didn’t like it and was still pressing for changes after the movie’s premiere. One of the things she didn’t like was the animated opening sequence.