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NatureInterface > No.02 > P095 [Japanese]

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The Nemesis of Water


When Nausicaa gained consciousness, she was lying in a cavern at the bottom of the earth. There was an underground lake with clear water beside her and something was continually twinkling and falling on her from the stratum above. Catching the sand-like matter in her hands, she noticed that the organisms became soil and strata after death, purifying the water and air.

Nausicaa is the heroine of the movie "Nausicaa of the Valley of Wind" of course. This impressive scene is not merely a creative image, but a depiction of a phase of underground water "chuhmizu" which means "suspension water". Whereas subsoil water is compared to an underground river, chuhmizu is compared to an underground pond or spring.

There are many underground springs all over Japan, especially in the Musashino Plateau of the Kanto region, Eastern Japan. Frontier peoples used these underground springs as an important water source from around the 17th century. Soil created by dead plants or animal corpses have nourished crops and water has been circulated and purified by soil. In this way, agriculture and human life were supported.

By the way, do we humans contribute to the purification of the earth after our death? While living in this civilized society, we must impose heavy burdens on the environment in spite of any action on behalf of environmental protection. One might think he contributes to the health of the environment, at least after death, but in fact, people in Japan continue to destroy the earth, even after death. One reason is the large-scale construction of cemeteries: our precious forests and mountains are destroyed and the ecosystem is harmed. Unfortunately, we wreck the future of our descendants even after death.

We threaten the environment much more during our lives. Soils and rivers can't purify the huge amount of toxic chemical substances we produce anymore. In Japan, carcinogenic organic solvents such as trichloroethylene and tetrachloroethylene are often detected in rivers, as is high-content dioxin caused by industrial waste. It's horrible to think about the current whereabouts of such pollutants.

As is widely known, the human body is also polluted. A human body is like a sack which bottles up the ancient sea, and accumulation of pollutants in this sea is becoming worse. Amniotic fluid might have a role as a chuhmizu or underground spring, which should be a pure and secure sea for fetal growth. Yet the womb is no longer a sanctuary. Minute amounts of toxins, such as agrichemicals, have been detected in amniotic fluid. Dioxins are detectable even in umbilical cord blood. Placentas used to be a hurdle to prevent toxic substances from leaping from mothers' blood to babies' blood. Still, even placentas can't protect the baby anymore because of the scores of toxic organic substances in the environment.

A photo of a lovely baby and the following message are in a poster of an environmental NGO of America. " Mommy's Eyes, Daddy's Hair, and the Chemical Industry's PCB, DDT, and Dioxins." It is a grim, but real, joke. A mother unconsciously gives dioxins, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCB), agrichemicals, and other substances stored in her body to her fetus through the placenta. After giving birth, she must feed her baby with breast milk containing concentrated toxins.

Human beings consciously or unconsciously created tens or hundreds of thousands of chemical substances during the second half of the twentieth century. In its search for convenience, humanity has used and emitted such substances in massive amounts without investigating their impact on the ecosystem or on human bodies. No one can deny this. In the twenty-first century, humanity is still dealing with problems caused by persistent organic pollutants (POPs) such as dioxins, PCBs, and agrichemicals.

Once such POPs are generated and emitted, they remain in the environment and continue to pollute water, air, and soil for a long period of time. Such pollutants are absorbed, concentrated, and accumulated in the bodies of organisms, causing immune system or reproductive disorders. One notorious feature of POPs is that pollution is not limited to areas where pollutants are emitted, but spreads instead to many parts of the world through flow of soil, air currents, and ocean currents. That is, "chuhmizu", amniotic fluid, and oceans are exposed to POPs pollution at places we cannot observe.

So what should we do against the huge amounts and varieties of chemical substances? There is a new concept in ecology called the precautionary principle. Normally, a toxic substance is banned after scientific controversies are settled and the harmful effect of the substance is verified. Observing the precautionary principle, however, when a chemical substance is suspected to be harmful, the government enacts precautionary regulations, assuming that the future damage caused by the substance might be great. This is because it's quite difficult to reverse effects caused by a toxic substance once it has been dispersed and has damaged human beings and the ecosystem.

Dianne Dumanoski, one of the authors of "Our Stolen Future: Are We Threatening Our Fertility, Intelligence, and Survival? - A Scientific Detective Story" said in a lecture, "We thought we could control toxic chemical substances, but we were absolutely wrong. It's impossible to control them completely. There is only one way left for us: we should try not to use such substances, and should remove them one by one."

Softly caressing an organism with toxic spores, Nausicaa said, "You've been hated because of your toxicity, but I know the truth - that you've absorbed the toxins into your body instead of us."

We seriously desire to restore the earth to a point where our descendents don't need to accumulate toxins in their bodies. For us, a humanity who became lost after opening Pandora's box, the words of these two sensible ladies seem to be Fairies of Hope glimmering in the darkness.

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