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Grandma's Galchi

Yoonje Jin

   Before the brink of every new morning, countless silvery clouds shoot away from the bottomless darkness, and wander up towards the bluer surface, until just the right pinch of moonlight can hit their scales. The cutlassfish explode into thousands of silver fragments, each swimming in hundreds of directions- each one pulling apart the serenity of the Pacific horizon, one corner at a time, each acting their niche, the role of nature.

   The large headed cutlassfish, or Galchi, as called in South Korea, has been cherished for centuries, and presently is a treasured fish, sold in small quantities in portside seafood markets. Its pleasantly oily texture and crisp skin takes me back to simpler times, when my grandmother could still walk around without a cane, when she would squat near the gas burner as grilling the fish- the scales reflecting her benevolent smile. Galchi used to be my soul food, comforting my heart at need- yet not even these memories can comfort me now. Rather, every bite of the fish hits with a ripple of worry, hinting a smidgen of tritium, carbon-14 and other radioactive dread.

   Across nations of the Asian Pacific, including the two Koreas, China, Taiwan, and Fuji, are headlines remarking the Japanese decision to drain nuclear waste -accumulated over a decade from the 2011 Fukushima Nuclear Disaster- into the Pacific Ocean. The drainage - containing one million tonnes of contaminated water - will proceed over a period of several decades to dilute the radioactive elements Tritium and Carbon-14.

 Though approved by the International Atomic Energy Agency, the issue has continued to be contentious, partly led by skepticism surrounding the transparency of the involved organizations and genuine concern of radioactive chemicals,rightfully brewing public fear across borders. Fukushiman fishermen have repeatedly affirmed its rejection to the plan, over fear that it would ruin the ocean and its yields.[1] Seafood markets throughout South Korea, once crowded with local shoppers, have became vacant.[2] Several UN experts, independent scientists, and environmental activists have also voiced concerns, largely pointing to the long-term consequences of flowing such amounts of tritium to the ocean, some of which could last hundreds of years. [3][4]


  With more digging, however, the big picture is more shocking. The reality is that our society, with its hundreds of nuclear reactors, releases radioactive chemicals multiples times the size of the controversial drainage plan, every year. Does this justify Japanese actions? As comparably appalling it is, the state of status quo doesn’t at all justify a nation treating the world and its environment like a private trash dump; the oceans are not of one individual’s, peoples’, or a nation’s right to use tyrannically. Instead the world should bring more attention to the growing problem of nuclear substances and the careful use of them. After all, the fear and the disgust that the Korean, or Chinese, or Taiwanese, or any other people, feel about the nuclear drainage could be one felt by all others for generations. In an age where the consequences of our frivolous lifestyles come to strike us back with increased floods, temperature, wildfires, cancer-inducing air, where the people are fed slanted information and data from who-knows-where through the endless pipeline of the Internet, where the people are algorithmically led to believe bloated utopian perspectives of the world, we need to never stop raising informed awareness about the problems of Earth. Taking a step further, we, as a united world, need to find a way to co-exist with the environment before the time is too late, before the neglected problems become suffering for all. Without spreading awareness, it could be your food that is filled with radioactive sludge.

"Rather, every bite of the fish hits with a ripple of worry, hinting a smidgen of tritium, carbon-14 and other radioactive dread."

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