Observations on the Disaster in Japan

Like most everyone else, I’ve been following the events that have been unfolding in Japan over the last few days. I’m actually more interested in the effects of the earthquake and tsunami than what’s going on with the reactors. My sense of the latter is that the media is really going all out to emphasize the drama… lots of speculation, lots of what seems like encouragement to panic, not a lot of clarity on what exactly is going on. I watched an interview this morning on Fox News with an American “expert” in the matter of nuclear reactors, and he didn’t think things were as dire as the media would have us believe. Then later I checked Drudge and the headlines screamed:  “Meltdown alert!” “Rods fully exposed for 2.5 hours!”  “Firefighters battle blaze at reactor” “Higher Radiation levels found north of Tokyo”  But reading the stories, nothing seems quite so bad. The expert in the interview said that even in the event of a meltdown, the stainless steel containment dome was designed to protect in just such a circumstance. And the report on radiation levels didn’t say any more than that they were elevated. Other reports on radiation levels outside the Fukushima reactor indicate the increase is still within the “legal” limits.

Most of it seems to be speculation. There was an explosion. We don’t know what caused it. It could have been this or that. If so, then that means such and so will happen. Nothing actual, just speculation. Like the prospect of another major aftershock. Rule of thumb they said, dictates it will be a magnitude less than the original , so it’d be 8.0, a “monster” in its own right and would trigger another tsunami. I found myself checking the news today to see if the monster aftershock had struck or not. There is just something not right about that.

Here the media has pounced on the story and suddenly everyone’s trying to predict what will happen next, from the reactors, to the refugees, to the body count to the economy… And yet the entire event is far outside predictability. Apparently at the beginning of the disaster, some people were bad mouthing the government for not having done better. But what could they have done? The earthquake was one of the biggest ever, not that far off the coast of the nation, the tsunami was in turn one of the biggest ever and with the earthquake shutting down the power, many got no warning. Though even with power it’s doubtful some would have because they were just too close. In a Fox news interview, a seismologist said from the time of the earthquake to when it to register son their instruments and they can assess the readings and establish need for and scope of warnings is about half an hour.  But for some Japanese, the first wave hit nine minutes after the quake., well before any warnings had probably even been formulated.

Then there was the sheer scope and destructive power of the wave. That, above all else, fascinated me. Watching those videos of what looked like relatively “normal” waves of water tumbling over embankments, and quickly showing themselves anything but normal. I was appalled and amazed at the way everything was just reduced to rubble in no time at all. Before I’d imagined a Monster wave rearing up and smashing everything in its path, rather like the special effects in that silly disaster movie with John Cusack last year, 2012.  Instead it just acted like water and somehow everything got smashed…

Here’s one of the videos that most impressed me:

When you see stuff like this, you realize how small and puny we are, how absurd to think we could “save the planet” or stop global warming. We can’t even stop a localized tsunami or earthquake…

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1 Response to “Observations on the Disaster in Japan”


  1. 1 Loren Warnemuende March 15, 2011 at 2:14 pm

    Mind-boggling, isn’t it? Kraig and I just saw this one and another posted by a friend on facebook yesterday (off of Japan’s news). What struck me was how it just kept coming and coming and coming–it looked so calm until I realized what it was doing) and the other thing was how BLACK the water was. I’d always pictured these waves as water…didn’t think of all the dirt being churned up with that power. A comment made by the person who posted was “I now understand why tsunamis are always painted black in traditional Japanese art!” A friend this morning mentioned she was more concerned about the reactor and all I could see was that water pouring and pouring over the sea-walls…. God is so big and we don’t have a clue half the time!


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