As an academic I've been to many many conferences, big and small.
I have mixed feelings about the Fukushima Symposium based on my previous conference expectations.
What was great about the conference was the wide array of amazing speakers Helen Caldicott was able to assemble.
My favorite speaker was Timothy Mousseau, whose work on birds and insects in the Chernobyl zone is amazing and very heroic, given he has increased his personal risks going back many times into contaminated zones to collect animals, none of which he hurts and all of which he returns.
I spoke briefly with him during a break and he is also very interpersonally skilled and seemed genuinely to be a nice, caring person.
I was also especially impressed with Steven Starr of the Clinical Laboratory Science Program at the Univ. of Missouri. He spoke about the biological effects of radiation and the limitations of current dose-models.
I was impressed with Akio Matsumura, Founder of the Global Forum of Spiritual and Parliamentary Leaders as well.
But none of these impressive speakers spoke to one another or to the audience. There was NO dialogue that occurred during the conference sessions.
Audience members were allowed to write short questions on note cards, some of which were selected to be given to the speakers at two separate times during the day but the audience members were not allowed to elaborate upon or explain their questions.
The lack of dialogue among the speakers and with the audience produced many discontinuities and unresolved tensions.
The audience probably consisted of around 100 people. There may have been more but not many. Most were in their late 50s and older and obviously were quite knowledgable. Few of the audience members tried to speak to the speakers during the break.
I teach communication so I found the lack of dialogue rather disconcerting. Helen Caldicott explained at the very end of the conference that she had envisioned this event as an opportunity to inform the media, in her words, and was disappointed that they hadn't stayed much beyond the Navy Sailors press conference.
What she doesn't realize was the audience was full of new media types. Everyone I met was a blogger and has vest networks of people they are connected with. The media she wants to awaken the people was sitting in the room with her all day each day.
She simply didn't appreciate that fact because the audience was simply regarded as a prop to populate the room that her speakers were presenting in.
Finally, the conference ended by emphasizing the need to address the problem of nuclear waste. Fukushima had disappeared from the agenda.