Invisible Snow

One of the 8 million sunflowers planted to soak up radiation toxins from the soil. Joenji Temple, Fukushima, Japan ‘Invisible Snow’ This is a moving and inspiring film about a Buddhist monk, Koyu Abe, who instigated the planting of millions of sunflowers and other plants, beginning at his temple, Joenji, and spreading out into the surrounding area. The flowers are believed to absorb the radiation coming from the Fukushima nuclear plant.

With thanks to @puerhan and @pourmecoffee for sharing this on twitter.

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Reuters Tokyo Pictures.

For those who would like a bit more information about Sunflowers and radiation

Why would anyone want to grow a field of highly radioactive sunflowers?

The engineers who grew them in a pond one kilometer from the crippled Chernobyl nuclear plant ─ an area often called the most radioactive spot on Earth ─ are excited about the possibilities. That’s because this patch of sunflowers marks the first successful field demonstration using terrestrial plants for removing radionu-clides from contaminated water, a process known as rhizofiltration.

Rhizofiltration is the removal of pollutants from the contaminated waters by accumulation into plant biomass. Several aquatic species have been identified and tested for the phytoremediation of heavy metals from the polluted water. These include sharp dock (Polygonum amphibium L.), duck weed (Lemna minor L.), water hyacinth (Eichhornia crassipes), water lettuce (P. stratiotes), water dropwort [Oenathe javanica (BL) DC], calamus (Lepironia articulate), pennywort (Hydrocotyle umbellate L.) (Prasad and Freitas, 2003). The roots of Indian mustard are found to be effective in the removal of Cd, Cr, Cu, Ni, Pb and Zn, and sunflower can remove Pb, U, Cs-137 and Sr-90 from hydroponic solutions (Zaranyika and Ndapwadza, 1995; Wang et al., 2002; Prasad and Freitas, 2003).


Rafts with sunflowers growing on them float on a small pond at the Chernobyl nuclear accident site in the Ukraine. No, it’s not some touching monument to the 1986 disaster. The plants are helping to clean the pond; their roots dangle in the water to suck up the radionuclides cesium 137 and strontium 90.;col1


Rhizofiltration represents another major opportunity for using plants to clean up the environment. After screening hundreds of plant species, certain varieties of sunflowers were identified as having the highest metal removal capacity of all the plants tested. Within several hours small amounts of roots of hydroponically grown sunflower plants were able to remove various heavy metals (lead, copper, uranium, strontium, cesium, cobalt, zinc ) from water to reach concentrations meeting accepted water standards. Innovative engineering solutions, agronomic practices and nutritional amendments, which increase root production and the overall efficiency of rhizofiltration, are currently being developed. In addition, work is in progress to bioengineer plants to enhance rhizofiltration performance. The diagram of a rhizofiltration system is shown in figure 2.


With the help of plants, scientists have been able to start reclaiming the soil and water surrounding Chernobyl Russia. Scientists have found that sunflowers can remove radionuclides from the soil as well as water, when grown hydroponically. These sunflowers can reduce the amount of uranium concentrations in the water by up to 95%. The sunflowers are then harvested and the radioactive material within the plant is disposed of properly.
The tests used sunflower plants to pull radionuclides from a pond contaminated by the 1986 Chernobyl accident. According to scientists, these tests demonstrate that rhizofiltration is a practical way to treat radionuclides, including uranium, cesium, and strontium found in groundwanter.
The roots of the Sunflower cultivar (Helianthus annuus L.), when submerged in water, quickly accumulate heavy metals and radionuclides.

In Jadugoda where the peoples are most affected with radiation, growing Sunflower can be seen as one of the important methods to minimize toxic metals from the water and soil.
To grow well, sunflowers need full sun. Jharkhand State receives sufficient sun rays through out the year. Seeing the favourable climatic conditions, local people and NGOs must be motivated to go for sunflower plantation in the affected areas.

We have become too set on thinking that man can do things better than nature itself. Phytoremediation proves us wrong. We have relied on our technologies and our manmade devices too much. We have become so use to this way of thinking that we have ignored some vital nature processes. Once we understand these processes and what they entail we weave ourselves more tightly into the web of life, and thus become closer to living in harmony with nature.

Dr. Nitish Priyadarshi
Earth Day Network


.. Then a soil cleanup method was employed using green plants to remove toxins from the soil. This technique is phytoremediation, a term coined by Dr. Ilya Raskin of Rutgers University’s Biotechnology Center for Agriculture and the Environment, who was a member of the original task force sent by the IAEA to examine food safety at the Chernobyl site. Phytoremediation is a process that takes advantage of the fact that green plants can extract and concentrate certain elements within their ecosystem. For example, some plants can grow in metal-laden soils, extract certain metals through their root systems, and accumulate them in their tissues without being damaged. In this way, pollutants are either removed from the soil and groundwater or rendered harmless.


Categories: Biography, Buddhism, Encyclopedia, Metta, Video

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16 replies

  1. At what stage are the sunflowers harvested and disposed for bioremediation?

  2. How can I donate to the monks in Japan?

  3. Sunflowers rising to the occasion to mitigate the damage of mankind. Buddhist monk spearheads effort to utilize phytoremediation to combat Fukushima radiation with sunflowers.

  4. This is a wonderful project for the survivors of the disaster in Japan last year.

  5. Shared.

  6. I don’t know how people can live without religion and naturally as a Buddhist I believe that Buddhism is the most compassionate religion or it should be, it must be and examples such as this reveal to people how Buddhists function in the world seeking to make it better, to turn it into a Pureland.

  7. Engaged Buddhism at its best. Thanks for filming and sharing this inspiring story.

  8. This film was such an inspiration. It is mind-blowing to know that a delicate plant can remove the terror of radiation – and the image of the glorious sunflowers cleaning the toxic air is one to lift the heart. The solution is often in the simple. Thank you, Buddha, and his followers.

  9. Truly awesome! I am moved to know about him. He is blessed.

  10. “In a world that’s doomed every act of kindness is precious”
    ~ Ava-Renee Jensen (philosopher)~

  11. Wonderful, would that more people could do just a little something to help. Now I need to think, what else can I do?

  12. awesome, the whole world should be in his hands…

  13. When there is hopelessness, the actions are hopeless. When there is sorrow the actions are sorrowful. When there is kindness…when there is compassion, there is the actions of a Buddhist monk, Koyu Abe. His friends are compassion his family is kindness. His street is named Sorrow in the town of Hopeless. What a brave warrior, he who fights invisible snow.


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