Surfers cross a debris-laden barrier island at Gamo Beach, Japan. Credit: Nick Mallos
A good wave is always worth the sacrifice. It’s a unanimous sentiment shared by surfers around the world. For surfers at Gamo Beach, Japan, though, it’s not pounding surf that yields a challenge.
Instead, a 200-meter-wide body of water requires them to paddle out to a barrier island, only to traverse another 100 meters of beach where remnants of houses, car parts, bottles and innumerable other tsunami debris items litter the sand. Still, they reach the waves.
Walls of water 10 feet tall formed this island, left this debris and destroyed—or at least severely damaged—everything in its path as it moved inland. Debris piles five stories tall are the only elevation visible on the coastal horizon.
The cleanup effort here is much further along than in the Tohoku region, but progress is relative considering the magnitude of destruction. I joined forces with 11 members of Cleanup Gamo and Jean Environmental Action Network to address this remaining debris in the best way we knew how: a beach cleanup.
In the arc of human history, it is only very recently that we have begun to live in a connected world. Long before Facebook and Twitter, human populations were separated by continents — and oceans — in ways that limited cultural and information exchange. It turns out the oceans are much more connected. This was brought home this week in a new scientific publication – and subsequent blog by my colleague Carl Safina – that unequivocally showed that Pacific bluefin tuna had transported radiation from the March 2011 Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant meltdown in Japan to the shores of California.
A fishing net hangs from a building in the Tohoku region of Japan. -- Credit: Nick Mallos
At 3:11 p.m. on March 11, 2011, 156 homes made up the village of Ryoishi in the Iwate Prefecture of Japan. Five minutes later, six homes remained.
More than 15 months have elapsed since 100+ foot waves swept over the Tohoku region of Japan. Most of the world—along with many Japanese outside the region—assumes recovery and rebuilding efforts are almost complete. I assure you they are not.
I’ve spent the past two days walking the streets and shorelines of Kamaishi, Ryoishi and other villages in Iwate Prefecture, and the damage is indescribable.
This is a guest post from Japan Environmental Action Network.
No matter where we live, we are united in our effort to leave a beautiful ocean for future generations. And with your support, we know this to be true now more than ever.
To all those who gave, thank you. We are so grateful for your donations to help JEAN continue working with the issue of marine debris in Japan.
Last year, Japan faced such a devastating disaster with the earthquake followed by the tsunami. Helping hands were lent from all over the world with encouragements and prayers. Together with site captains and volunteers who carry out or participate in the International Coastal Cleanup held through out Japan, we kept feeling sympathy for the rehabilitation and restoration of the affected areas. During this time, we carried out actions of support in the way each of us are able to. At the same time, we’ve been able to continue having the Cleanup as we have been doing in years past.