Six years after Fukushima became a cautionary tale about the tragic collision between the unfettered forces of nature and technology, it is providing yet another ominous metaphor for our troubled times — wild radioactive boars.
Northern Japan has been overrun by hundreds of wild boars, toxic from the radiation meltdown of the Fukushima nuclear plant that led to the abandonment of the city by its human residents. Even before radiation is figured into the equation, wild boars are ornery, frightening creatures. They’re also a delicacy in Japan, which accounts for their presence in the first place.
Delicacy or not, anything capable of setting off Geiger counters makes it inedible for human consumption. The boars have also proved themselves to be anti-social marauders who invade empty homes and destroy untended, wild crops.
These animals have been the kings and queens of Fukushima since the mass evacuation of humans more than half a decade ago. Within the next month, the Japanese government will lift evacuation orders on four towns within the 12-mile zone circling the nuclear plant. In advance of the return of humans to the area, a systematic culling of wild boars has begun.
More than 800 of the contaminated animals have been killed so far, but there may be as many as 13,000. Many of the boars have settled into homes and appear to have lost their natural fear of humans. Authorities are using drones, traps and other tactics to bring the number down.
Still, only half of the city’s former residents have expressed any interest in returning. The broken and contaminated nuclear plant won’t be completely dismantled for another 40 years.
In the meantime, the municipal incinerators will be busy burning boar carcasses using filters that eliminate radioactive cesium leakage. There’s a metaphor and possibly an even more terrible irony in all of this. As time passes, it may make itself more obvious.