Fukushima 2100

“[The wild boars] look at me like I am a visitor. It's like they’re the owners and I’m the guest. Wild animals that normally live in nature have taken over our world. I wonder if we are the ones now living in the cage.” —  Koichi Nemoto, Fukushima Resident

At 14:46 JST on March 11, 2011, the combination of a 9.0 Mw earthquake and tsunami greatly disrupted life in Fukushima Prefecture, Japan. While the earthquake warning systems alerted managers to shut down the Fukushima Daiichi power plant, the speed of the resultant tsunami damaged the plant before the shutdown could complete. The damaged facility seeped radioactive fallout into the surrounding air, soil, and ocean—corrupting water and food systems.

The extent of the radioactive fallout following the Fukushima disaster occurs on scales that are difficult to grasp. Fukushima 2100 takes visitors on a tour of the damaged site and catalogues the flora and fauna impacted throughout the ecosystem in the form of a speculative floating natural history museum. A Safecast geiger counter, caesium mineral deposits, rice, seaweed, anchovies, and emergency iodine pills represent the scope of the disaster and the human engagement required to navigate life in the Anthropocene in Fukushima. 

Below is a fictionalized "About Us" page for the floating natural history museum depicted in Fukushima 2100:

The Fukushima Natural History Museum was established as public space to reckon with living in the epoch of human transformation of the Earth. Our mission is to deepen our collective understanding of our collective impact and our sense of collective responsibility (response-ability) in this, our troubled, time.

The Anthropocene serves as our primary focus not only because our collective impact on the Earth has been so extensive, but also because we lack the space, language, and symbols to deal with the emotional and mental task we are left in its wake. The nuclear disaster at the Fukushima Daiichi power plant provides an illustrative example of the tangible objects and intangible systems through which mankind has affected our shared world. The Fukushima Natural History Museum attempts to provide a skeleton on which we can accrete this body of knowledge and relations.

Our collections display representatives of the scientific knowledge on nuclear fallout and the necessity of active, participatory engagement required to gather it. In the spirit of Bruno Latour, we walk a fine line between anthropomorphizing the Earth, that is giving it the shape of something human, and phusimorphizing, that is giving it a shape based on its preceding relationships. Anthropomorphizing serves as a way to give our visitors a vantage to relate to the task at hand but, when followed to a fault, limits our capacity to view beyond a human vector. On the other hand, phusimorphizing takes into consideration the relationships but pre-supposes our capacity to understand the web of causes, objects, and subjects that come from them.

The Fukushima Natural History Museum attempts to transverse the gulf of commonplace thoughtless-ness. In the spirit of Donna Haraway on Hannah Arendt, we strive to make ourselves present to ourselves, present to what is not ourselves, and to what has been missing. As humans, we have lulled ourselves into a thinking that our actions are self-producing, self-defined, and confined within predictable temporal lines. However, we have collectively produced systems that extend beyond our tenuous spatial and temporal grasp and have decentralized control and information. The Fukushima Natural History Museum, for many, will begin a stream of thinking along these channels. For others, it will deepen their understanding. For all, it will provide a harbor to moor in the wake of the Anthropocene.

This project was developed in course 4.S23 "Special Subject: Architecture Studies — Earth on Display: The Anthropocene in the Museum of Natural History" taught by Dr. Rania Ghosn with TA Jaehun Woo.  It was displayed in the Harvard Museum of Natural History on November 4th, 2018.

Earth on Display is one of 14 Experiments in Pedagogy organized on occasion of the 150th anniversary of Architecture education at MIT.