Chapter 19: Understanding Fukushima: nuclear impacts, risk perceptions and organic farming in a feminist political ecology perspective
This chapter addresses the civil nuclear power issue using a feminist political ecology perspective to understand some of the complex social dynamics and governance involved. After considering how social scientific understanding would benefit from use of this perspective, we analyze Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant disaster of March 2011 in relation to the impact on local organic agriculture. The analysis here finds complicated gender dynamics in the nuclear accident. At the local level, social tensions were linked in part to intra-family and often gendered divisions over whether to stay or to leave farms. On a broader policy level, post-crisis responses by the government were profoundly gendered. The government masked the gravity of the situation by emphasizing control and business-as-usual in a performance of hegemonic masculinity, while condemning ‘irrational’ (read ‘feminine’) consumer fears over food safety. Responses by Fukushima organic farmers and women’s key role in them also show an important distinction between heavy-handed and counter-productive national (male-led) efforts and grassroots efforts by farmers. The pro-nuclear elites underplayed radiation-related risks and their central interest was national economic development, while organic farmers’ ethics of care acknowledged squarely the reality of contamination and critiqued the prioritization of economy over life. This analysis affords political ecology insight into one of the world’s largest recent disasters while exploring how politics, ecology and gender intersect in nuclear energy issues.
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