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1 year on

Today is the one year anniversary of the Japan Touhoku earthquake and tsunami. I remember seeing posts about it on facebook as it was happening and searching around online until I could find a webfeed of CNN to get the latest info. It's hard to forget just how crazy some of the pictures coming out of Japan during and afterward were. Really though, what has stuck with me more than anything about the event is how quickly the world forgets and how little we care once the media glare shifts away. There's nothing malevolent about this fact. It's just human nature. Unless it impacts us directly, we're captivated for a moment and then it just floats off into the breeze as someone else's problem.

What it really comes down to is that our monekysphere just can't accommodate things that happen to people in far off lands. Hell, it can barely accommodate what happens in the next town over. In case you have no freaking clue what I'm talking about with the monkeysphere, you really should click the link and give it a read. I stumbled across it a couple months ago and it pretty much hits the issue right on the nose as to a key facet of human nature and why we'll never fix problems like The Tragedy of the Commons.

I was listening to a NPR segment earlier today talking about the aftermath of the Touhoku earthquake in Japan, mainly focusing on the fallout (ha ha) over the Fukushima nuclear power plant meltdown. Japan gets a huge proportion of its electrical energy from nuclear power, generating almost 50,000 Megawatts a year or 30% of its total usage. Ever since the meltdown, the public has turned on nuclear power in a big way. All of a sudden we're back to the no nukes rallies of the 60's and it's going to have drastic effects upon the rest of the world if the movement grows. The NPR host was saying that if Japan switched from nuclear back to traditional methods of generating electricity through natural gas, it would increase the amount currently consumed by the world market by 20%. The corresponding spike in energy prices would be tremendous and God only knows the repercussions. It's just another example of the monkeysphere and general human ignorance. Even if you say that nuclear is dangerous you have to consider this is the worst 'disaster' since Chernobyl and that was 25 years ago. The amount of good nuclear power has brought over that timespan so immensely dwarfs the downside that it's almost not worth measuring. If global warming alarmists are to be believed, then burning that natural gas or whatever to generate electricity is inevitably dooming us all anyway, but the specter of nuclear Armageddon is just something you can't wipe away with facts or logic.

Anyway, back to the earthquake and tsunami. I found this spiffy picture on wiki which documents the height that the tsunami reached at various points around Japan that day. At its highest, it was a 30 foot wave which basically scrubbed the land clean like a huge celestial mop. They say the final death toll is around 16,000 with another 3,000 missing an unaccounted for. I think after a year it's pretty safe to say they're not going to turn up with an amazing story about how they were swept to see on a floating door and took this long to make it back home.

What's really amazing if you think about it is that there is probably no country on earth which could have been better prepared to take an earthquake of this size and then the tsunami. Japanese architecture has required quake proofing for decades and as a island-country, they're generally used to the presence and danger of tsunamis. Even then, the devastation was immense. I'm willing to bet the US wouldn't fair nearly as well if a 9.0 earthquake popped up off the coast of Los Angeles and then hit it with a 30 foot wave. What might be the most amazing story in the end is just how little damage there was compared to what could have been and how little loss of life there was given the circumstances. Of course, what if's and it could have been worse's, aren't exactly something human beings are good at really comprehending either.


( 4 comments — Leave a comment )
Mar. 12th, 2012 10:48 am (UTC)
So....would you be willing to live in Tokyo despite all of that? (pretending that you actually like Tokyo and sort of want to live there.

Edited at 2012-03-12 10:48 am (UTC)
Mar. 12th, 2012 01:33 pm (UTC)
Haven't seen you around in a while. Things been spiffy? Oh, and thanks for the LJ whozit you sent.

As for Tokyo, I'm not sure I'd want to live in Japan though I would like to visit. There are plenty of things that are admirable and interesting about the Japanese, but there's a dark underbelly too. I always thought it was a bit of an exaggeration when people talk about how xenophobic the Japanese are, after all, it's hard to imagine how a 21st century tech nation could be that closes off, right? Then I started reading some blogs by non-japanese people living in Japan and it seems insane but true. Maybe I'm just used to the US having a huge immigrant population but from the stats I can see, less than 2% of Japan is non-japanese.

I'm not sure being Chinese would help any, and would probably actually make things worse. While I can't tell one asian from another in most cases, I'm pretty sure they have ethnic radar to pick it up. It's not like I'd actually blend in, well, until I was forced to try to communicate with someone.
Mar. 13th, 2012 12:03 pm (UTC)
I am okish....somewhat busy with things though. I have some huge things going on in my life this year.

Personally I cannot always tell what part of Asia all Asians are from. I like to think of it a bit the same as Europe. You cannot always tell what part of Europe someone is from just by looking at them....but you can sometimes tell. I think if you spend more time in a country then you start to figure it out. For example...I can sometimes tell when someone is from the south of France instead of the north of France...but before moving here I had no idea.

You are right though....the Japanese are really xenophobic. However, I think there is racism in all parts of the world now. Here in France people often insult me because they notice I am English. In America I have also had people mock my British accent. Even in England and America you have people insult other people from different parts due to accents or ideas about their area.
Wherever you go...you cannot get away from it.
Mar. 17th, 2012 05:43 am (UTC)
Well, it must be much easier for you. After all, I hear the japanese love white women. I'm not sure they'd be nearly as sanguine about another chinky male in their midst.

As for telling asian races apart...my parents claim to be able to do it but it's not surprisingly really. In the US, asians tend to be all lumped together as a homogenous whole. There's no real point in knowing if someone is Chinese or Japanese or Korean on sight. However, if you live in an asian country then it's vital that you know so you can identify the enemy. It's like every asian country looks down on every other asian country.
( 4 comments — Leave a comment )


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