We have been glued to our TV screens or computer monitors since Friday, March 11, when the earthquake with the fifth biggest magnitude in history struck just off the northern coast of Japan, triggering a massive tsunami, tilting the Earth’s axis by about 16.5 cm. and moving Japan’s east coast by four meters further east.
The devastation of the force of nature has been even more complicated by the nuclear disaster that was triggered by the massive underground movement.
Fukushima nuclear power plant, hit by the tsunami, has already seen several explosions leading to the inevitable shut down of all reactors in the plant. At the time these lines were written, the possibility of a meltdown at reactor #2 had still not been averted.
We have yet to know the full extent of the loss of human lives and the massive economic damage inflicted by the disaster.
Yet, even without knowing those figures, there is enough sorrow and sympathy throughout the world for those who feel victim to and those who survived the calamity.
One contributor who writes regularly for this newspaper said “I spent the weekend glued to the television, mesmerized by the scenes of chaos and devastation in Japan. As the drama unfolds and details of the multiple catastrophes come out, it seems feeble to write about the ‘mundane’ events in our little village.”
These words probably reflect the thoughts of many people not only in our small communities, but all those who witnessed the level of destruction triggered by the force of nature.
But what does this catastrophe tell us and what should we learn from it?
That the disaster has shown us that we are still at the mercy of Mother Nature despite all the technology and science at our disposal need not even be mentioned.
Maybe what’s most ironic in the whole thing is that Japan has been hit by a nuclear disaster for the second time in its history, this time not at the hands of the enemy, but of nature.
With one of the highest living standards and efficient governance systems in the world, Japan, was known to have been prepared for any nuclear mishap, given the fact that all four islands on which the country was created are earthquake-prone areas.
But the nuclear crisis being triggered by a natural calamity, one of massive proportions like the one we have witnessed, is a contingency that no planning can fully and effectively address.
We still don’t know how much radiation has leaked to either sea water or to the atmosphere since last weekend.
But there are already concerns being expressed regarding the radiation being carried to the western coast of Canada through seasonal winds and or Pacific Ocean currents.
Some fear that we may have to forget receiving fresh produce from B.C for at least a few years.
Whether such fears are exaggerated is debatable. What is certain, though, is that, be it natural, nuclear or economic, no disaster leaves its footprint only on its immediate vicinity anymore.