The March 11th tsunami nearly destroyed the coastal city of Rikuzentakata in Iwate prefecture, North East Japan. In addition to 10% of the population and 80% of businesses, the disaster claimed 70,000 pine trees. The ones that weren’t initially taken out by the tsunami eventually died from the salt concentration that remained in the soil once the waters receded.
Salt water, used by smart people to kill weeds, is not a plus when it comes to plants you want to grow. In an article about the impact of tsunamis and salt water on agricultural land, Food and Agricultural Field Guide writes:
When salt concentrations in the soil are high, the movement of water from the soil to the root is slowed down. When the salt concentrations in the soil are higher than inside the root cells, the soil will draw water from the root, and the plant will wilt and die… The damaging effects of salt on plants are caused not only by osmotic forces, but also by toxic levels of sodium and chloride. Fruit crops and woody ornamentals are especially sensitive to high levels of these elements. Also, the high pH value (a measure of the acid/alkaline balance) caused by excess sodium may result in micronutrient deficiencies.
Had the trees been inundated with clean/rain water immediately after the tsunami hit, they might have been saved (perhaps eventually taking up the radionuclides and becoming a red forest a la the pines in Chernobyl). But since the ground also sank, the area essentially became a bed of seawater. All the trees in that forest died, except one, which became a symbol of survival known as “Kiseki no Ipponmatsu”, “The Lone Pine”, “The Tree of Hope” or “The Miracle Tree”.
The community did all they could to help the 270 year old tree, and though it didn’t look promising, early this spring there was restored optimism when new leaf growth was seen at the top of the pine. Unfortunately, in May they announced the tree was indeed dead and this July, they announced funds were being raised to “preserve it”.
Sounds like a nice idea, until you consider the price tag: ¥150 million ($U.S. 1.9 million) to cut down the tree, treat it with preservatives, insert a metal core and return it to the place it now stands. They even have a Facebook fundraising page to reach possible contributors around the world. By the end of July, about $50,000 had been raised, including money from the fiscally-challenged city’s budget.
Futoshi Toba, Mayor of Rikuzentakata, posted on his Facebook page:
This tree that has given us so much hope can no longer stand on its own, but we want to leave it as a symbol as we work towards recovery.
Preserving a dead tree as a symbol of hope… do we need to point out the irony? Is it a waste of breath to suggest that the money could be better spent on bringing tangible – as opposed to symbolic – hope to the survivors, particularly the children in Fukushima?
We are all for the idea of anything uplifting the people of Japan but in this case, it seems more like an extension of the cover-up. Another deterrent to facing the reality of the situation; something governments and agencies do despite the needs or desires of the people they represent.
So, we came up with some more economical alternatives for the tree’s restoration. Perhaps the money saved could be used towards entombing the still leaking reactors, rebuilding the town or, better yet, helping relocate residents who live within 200 miles of the Fukushima Daiichi plant.
STILL RIDICULOUS BUT POTENTIALLY LESS COSTLY OPTIONS FOR THE DEAD MIRACLE TREE (by Kerin & Darby):
- Get Christo to artistically interpret the lone pine with a backdrop recreating the thousands of dead pines a la his scene-scapes utilizing umbrellas, windmills, bolts of fabric….
- Hire David Copperfield to make the tree appear and disappear. It would truly make a statement, that this is all just an illusion. They can make it an annual show and charge tourists for admission (since most residents don’t seem to have extra mad money lying around for dead tree expenditures).
- Make a hologram of the pine like the Coachella 2Pac. Supposedly, that only cost a few hundred thousand dollars. In order to run it more cheaply and efficiently, you’d obviously use solar – not nuclear – power.
- Shellac the tree. It’ll still rot inside, but it could be a symbol of the reactors as well, like the cosmetic “circus” tents they put up over Reactor 1; temporary cover-up, as the decay – and radioactive releases – continues. Or as someone commented “Just a sheet over a dead body… in the morgue called Fukushima.” Apparently something that actually blocked radiation was deemed too costly by TEPCO (secretly these actually pull radionuclides out a chimney and higher into air, away from plant). No, TEPCO has no FB fundraising page, but with the estimated cost of Fukushima being $10 trillion – 10 years worth of Japan’s national budget – that country will certainly need a Kickstarter.
- Build a wax fountain around the tree. (Kerin’s dad can provide you with specs/details upon request.)
- Voodoo resurrection spell. This would potentially bring the symbolic tree, and all dead trees in the area, back to life. Unfortunately we run the risk they could resurrect as zombie trees (see: Buffy the Vampire Slayer episode “Forever”).
- Create a psychedelic forest of H.R. Pufnstuf trees. They could inspire through song and dance (maybe combine with the voodoo resurrection and bring back Artful Dodger Jack Wild, which will certainly generate huge fan contributions towards the project).
- Send in Long Island Medium, Theresa Caputo, to speak with the pine and get its point of view on the situation.
- Make the tree bionic, as well as tsunami-proof. It can also fight Godzilla, stop earthquakes with it’s gynormous roots, double as an amusement park ride and suck up ionizing radiation from the atmosphere.
- Have scientists clone it. They can’t get enough of that shit.
- Incorporate the tree into the Space Elevator. That way, you can share a certain portion of the expenditures.
- Post a petition to G-d. With social networking comes the unlimited online petitions. But have you ever signed a petition to G-d? If 1 million people sign the petition, G-d will be forced to resurrect the tree or suffer the wrath of internet activists.
In the end, perhaps we need to listen to those with a little more wisdom? From the Asia Sentinel:
[An] elderly woman who declined to be named suggested that the tree has served its purpose, and that it was time to move forward. ‘The lone pine tree has already been impressed on our minds, so I think it has fulfilled its role’.
Indeed. And wouldn’t it be a nice change of pace if logic played a role in the ongoing recovery efforts as well? Otherwise, our list may start sounding just as realistic as what the corporate / government maniacs have been proposing as solutions since 311.