A year after Japan’s earthquake and tsunami caused the worst nuclear emergency since Chernobyl, People Tree’s Safia Minney remains unmoored by the disaster. Minney was on street level in Tokyo with her head of design when the magnitude 9 earthquake struck the nation’s northeast coast. A 45-foot wall of water followed just minutes later, knocking out the cooling systems at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant and precipitating the worst nuclear emergency since Chernobyl. To commemorate the anniversary of the disaster, Minney and her team produced a short film in two parts to document a nation in recovery. “When researching the film, we found real people power,” she says. “We found vision and action in every area: in relief work, community development, campaigning for safety in radioactivity, alternative journalism, initiatives to generate work and livelihoods.”


But what surprised Minney most, she says, was the vision for a new Japan, one built on “more humanistic and democratic values, a Japan that could also lead the world by showing us how to go nuclear-free.” Minney’s connection to the nation isn’t insignificant: Japan was where she launched her fair-trade label more than 20 years ago, after all.

Minney launched People Tree in Japan more than 20 years ago.

One year later, the rubble has been swept up and the streets have been tidied. “But there is still huge work to do,” she says, “to rehabilitate the people and revitalize an economy that has lost in many areas 80 percent of its jobs.”

+ People Tree