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Japan

In Japansese Ghost Town, Last Holdouts Resigned To Radiation Risk

Despite stiff government warnings, some residents from the evacuated zone around Japan’s crippled Fukushima nuclear plant are trickling back in. Others never left.

Radiation levels remain high around the damaged Fukushima-Daiichi plant
Radiation levels remain high around the damaged Fukushima-Daiichi plant
Eric Talmadge

MINAMI SOMA - In Odaka, just inside the evacuation zone surrouding the damaged nuclear power plant in Fukushima-Daiichi, time seems to stand still. In the 70,000-person city of Minami Soma, nearly a quarter of the houses stand with open doors. Bicycles lie abandoned on the roads, and a single taxi sits abandoned by the train station. In the empty streets, only the barking of stray dogs and the cawing of crows can be heard.

Although many buildings were spared during the March 11 earthquake, the residents have not yet been allowed to return; the risk of radiation exposure is still too high. But some have come back anyway, to resume their old lives.

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Ideas

Artificial Satellite Pollution, Perils For Biodiversity In Space And On Earth

Exploiting space resources and littering it with satellite and other anthropogenic objects is endangering the ecosystem of space, which also damages the earth and its creatures below.

Image of the small satellite NanoRacks-Remove Debris satellite deployed into space by the ISS

Thomas Lewton

Outer space isn’t what most people would think of as an ecosystem. Its barren and frigid void isn’t exactly akin to the verdant canopies of a rainforest or to the iridescent shoals that swim among coral cities. But if we are to become better stewards of the increasingly frenzied band of orbital space above our atmosphere, a shift to thinking of it as an ecosystem — as part of an interconnected system of living things interacting with their physical environment — may be just what we need.

Last month, in the journal Nature Astronomy, a collective of 11 astrophysicists and space scientists proposed we do just that, citing the proliferation of anthropogenic space objects. Thousands of satellites currently orbit the Earth, with commercial internet providers such as SpaceX’s Starlink launching new ones at a dizzying pace. Based on proposals for projects in the future, the authors note, the number could reach more than a hundred thousand within the decade. Artificial satellites, long a vital part of the space ecosystem, have arguably become an invasive species.

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