Volume 1, Issue 1, 2021
Thaumazein at the Nuclear Anthropocene
The Life and Thought of Jinzaburo Takagi as a Citizen Scientist
This reflective essay brings to light the career and thought of nuclear chemist Jinzaburo Takagi (1938–2000), who devoted his whole career to the critique of nuclear power generation and the promotion of citizen-centered science. Looking at his life history, one recognizes some clear turning points. However, Takagi’s true engagement with the nuclear question began when he came face-to-face with the ubiquitous contamination of the earth by human-made radiation. It was a deep, revelatory astonishment that shook Takagi into radical questioning of his vocation as a scientist. It was, so to speak, an experience of “thaumazein at the nuclear anthropocene,” involving his whole person as a human being. In 1975 Takagi co-founded Citizens’ Nuclear Information Center in Tokyo, and he became a catalytic “citizen scientist” in the anti-nuclear power movements through his nation-wide and international activities spanning over a quarter-century. Takagi was a prolific and engaged writer, and he was awarded the Right Livelihood Award in 1997. Soon after, however, he was diagnosed with a variety of last-stage cancers. He penned books entitled To Live as a Citizen-Scientist, Liberation from Nuclear Power: Nine Spells that Would Annihilate Japan, and Why Are Nuclear Accidents Repeated? These books would be read widely, though quite belatedly and with deep regret, after the Fukushima disaster in 2011. This essay is a look at the warning messages Takagi emphasized in the books he left as his testaments not to repeat the disaster.