Wednesday, March 16, 2011

A Cappella #3

The news out of Japan just keeps getting worse and worse.  In case, you have been out of touch for a while, the island nation of Japan has had three major life changing physical events within just a few days.  The people of Japan are reeling as each catastrophe tops the one before.

First the earthquake, the largest one ever to hit Japan....8.9 on the Richter scale.  That's enormous.  In a highly populated area like Japan with a relatively small landmass, a huge earthquake can affect nearly every part of the country and nearly every person in it.  Aftershocks, often large scale ones, continue to rattle windows and cause anxiety among the people, already trying to put their lives back together.

Closely following the earthquake, a tsunami was created by the shifting and rumbling fault lines.  A huge tsunami, rolling inland at an incredible speed, devastating everything in its path....everything....people, houses, businesses, animals, automobiles, sea-going ships and boats, farm land, airplanes....all swept away by the powerful surge of water that neither stopped nor slowed until the energy of the wave had finally been spent and the water came to a stop.  It stopped in areas of the island that had not been "shoreline" property for milennia. Then it finally began to recede back to whence it came, leaving total destruction behind.

Anyone who saw any of the film of those surging waters rolling ever onward through what had been home to thousands of people, could not help but be stunned by some of the images.  Small cars bobbing like corks in a bathtub tumbling over and around each other, with the occasional boat or small ship carried along as well.  Unbelievable!

Since the advent of "instant news" and satellite links, we have seen many images of disasters from all over the world.  We have become somewhat inured to photos of collapsed buildings or windblown trees and signs, or streets flooded by rainfall.  There is instant coverage of hurricanes, tornadoes, flooding rains, snowstorms, and even earthquakes.  But none of that coverage has ever had the impact of watching the sea roll relentlessly inland.  It was awesome, in the truest sense of the word.
Awesome is both incorrectly and over-used today.  The actual definition of the root word, awe, is:  an overwhelming feeling of reverence, admiration, fear, etc., produced by that which is grand, sublime, extremely powerful, or the like.  A tsunami is a short-lived but devastating event that is truly awesome to observe.  To experience one in person must be completely terrifying. 

But still, the earthquake was not done with creating havoc fear, panic, and devastation.  The moving earth also slammed several nuclear power sites, causing extensive damage and rising fears of a meltdown of the core and more harm to come resulting from radiation leaks.   The most recent news stated that officials have pulled out the workers who were working desperately to cool the core and keep the radiation contained.  Evidently, their efforts have not been successful and the danger to those workers is no longer being held at bay.  By stopping their efforts what will happen to those nuclear reactors??  I am unclear about that, but I am sure you all are as aware of the situation as I am.  In fact, probably more so.

The experts both in Japan and around the world seem to agree that the danger from radiation is mostly limited to the immediate areas surrounding the damaged reactors.  Areas of Japan will be at risk, but there is very little danger to the rest of the world.  I certainly hope they are correct.

I grew up at a time when the threat of nuclear war was a fact of life.  In our naivete, people built bomb shelters and practiced school drills for what to do in the event of a atomic, then nuclear event.  I spent a number of years in my childhood being fearful that the "Russians" were going to attack the U.S. with nuclear weapons.  We soon learned that such an attack would be much more devastating than we had thought.  The bomb shelters and school drills eventually disappeared as we realized just how ineffective they would be.  If we were attacked there would be no place to hide and probably not too many survivors.

After the dismantling of the USSR and the signing of disarmament treaties between the major countries, we grew to feel safe from the threat of nuclear annihilation. Again, in our naivete, we thought that only an act of aggression would result in the people being affected by a nuclear event.  Until Chernobyl. 

I support nuclear power.  I really do.  I believe that the nuclear power sites, like those in Japan, are shielded, and cooled, and protected from harm.  I believe they are as safe as we can make them and the risks from nuclear power are generally acceptable. 

As long as the earth stays still. 

At this point, the outcome of the problems at the reactors is not expected to be as extensive as Chernobyl.  That event was in 1986, 25 years ago.  Nuclear technology and safety has come a long way since then.  The range, scope, and extent of that final outcome will be much, much different than Chernobyl. The experts are sharing information about protection from radiation with the people of Japan.  The Japanese government is responding to the situation as well as it can.  I believe it was Yogi Berra who said, "It ain't over till it's over."  And that is most definitely true of this situation. The world will just have to wait and see....and hope for the best.

Lastly, I read  today from a couple of different sources, that there is also concern regarding volcano activity in Japan!  There has been an unconfirmed  report of unusual activity from a volcano because of the earthquake and there are fears that there may be an eruption. 

My dear God, how much more can these poor people stand?    How much more havoc and tragedy can the Earth inflict on civilization??  What more can happen? Without meaning to be flippant, I wonder a bit if those ancient Mayans, whose calendar stops at 2012, knew what they were talking about after all. 

In reality, it just doesn't bear thinking about. 



  1. We here in the Midwest are sitting on a major seismic fault, but have only felt tremors and heard the dishes rattle in the china closet. I cannot even begin to imagine the devastation Japan is experiencing. I have seen the miles-wide devastation caused by tornadoes, though. So even though wind and water are necessary in our lives, they can also cause destruction of untold amounts. It's scary out there. You may be right about the Mayan calendar.

  2. Shoot! I just lost my comment, and it was a good one - you'll just have to take my word for it! I am so sad for the people of Japan. What horrors they are experiencing. I grew up in a town with an AFB that flew B52 bombers. Everyone was sure that the Russians had targeted this AFB. We had to wear dog tags to school, so our bodies could be identified in the event there was a nuclear attack. laurie


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