Recently, Mr. Glenn, the elder American astronaut, and Miss Mukai have
been often in the news. The messages coming from the visual description
of the space development shows, telling us that "the Earth is beautiful",
can be accepted so long as one listens to the emotional commentaries of
the images, but when one amplifies the surface of the globe to fit one's
own categories, one sighs at the quite different pressing realities surrounding
There is a very, very small plant called "spiderwort". According
to the dictionary, North America is its place of origin, and as a perennial
plant it blooms with little violet flowers from summer to autumn, but those
flowers last only half a day. Although, the life span of the flowers is
so short, a newsletter of a citizens' movement, in Shimonoseki, that uses
the same name ,"spiderwort", has already a long life span of
40 published issues.
At the time of the cold war, when Russia and the USA were fiercely fighting
space tactics, it was reported by Geneticist Professor Ichikawa Sadao of
Saitama University, that, in the cromonema of the stamen of spiderworts,
used as research material during a space flight, it was found that both
zero gravity and space rays exerted clear influence on the small plant.
NASA's official report was published much later due to strategic maneuvers
at the time. Furthermore, the spiderwort, a kind of a natural signal to
measure safety, is so sensitive to radiation that it has been planted around
nuclear plants to detect nuclear leakages. Grass root movements have here
a natural gift of a plant, as a natural monitoring device. That famous
expression of the Bible: "Look at the flowers in the fields"
could be changed to: "Look at the spiderwort in the fields."
After an hour car ride from Shimonoseki, along the coast of the Sea of
Japan, one reaches the Hoohoku waterfront where Chugoku Electric Co. tried
to construct the Hoohoku nuclear plant, a project that suffered a set-back
due to the opposition from fishermen and the general public. Chugoku Electric
Co. continues trying to build a similar project in Kaminoseki (Yamaguchi)
by the Island Sea that is also opposed by local and national groups.
The Shimonoseki citizens' movement "Nuclear Plants are not needed"
which publishes the Bulletin "Violet Spiderwort", was established
in May 1995. Its members had already been active before that against nuclear
reactors. Their solidarity activities with national networks of information,
consolidated by basic study sessions and international links, give testimony
to the quality of the dynamism of Shimonoseki citizens and the good prospects
for the future. The reports of their visits to Chernobyl, their activities
in common with Korean and Taiwanese citizens to oppose nuclear plants might
look from the space craft something like invisible points, but they draw
steadily a line that is always stretching out. They never forget a concientization
process by which they look to solar energy as an alternative to nuclear,
and above all, to the changes of life styles to avoid the waste of electricity.
Once last year when I went to pay a visit in the hospital to the secretary
of the group who had been operated on for cancer and spoke to her rather
enthusiastically about the ratification of the Convention of Chemical Weapons
printed in this Bulletin before, I can not forget what she told me smilingly:
"I wonder whether this is not going to be Fr. Hayashi's life work".
It suddenly came to my mind what American Jesuit Fr. Daniel Berrigan, an
antiwar activist, said in the 70s during the Vietnam war: "Can you
stake your life on the issue?" Recently, after leaving the hospital,
the lady gave away what little money she had and invited a lady from Belarzy
to accompany her lecturing around various parts of Japan.
Geneticists speak these days about "something great" or genes
of spiritual cronomena carved on the human heart that, receiving the inspiration
of the flowers in the field, lead us towards love, peace and justice. We
are now approaching the new year, the last one of the 20th century from
this local city of 260,000 people, and I am always thankful for all the
signals showing us the right way to the 21st century.