The earthquake in Japan and ensuing tsunami that struck just over a week ago will surely be in future presentations on natural disasters for this Honors class. This quake has been the most powerful to hit the island in recorded history and the Japanese will continue to feel the effects for a very long time, as they deal with recovery and nuclear damage control. But when the quake first hit, watching the videos of the tsunami wipe out entire towns was like watching an intense disaster movie with great special effects. It is pretty incredible just how powerful it was. It is a reminder than nature can most definitely still trump man these days.
After the initial quake and tsunami, I did not catch much footage of the total damage so I read up a little. The 8.9 magnitude tremor was centered off the Miyagi Perfecture, 230 miles northeast of Tokyo. The resulting tsunami had waves of 30 ft and has left 21,000 people dead or missing. It had initially left six million households without electricity and has resulted in the world’s worst atomic crisis in 25 years. Besides causing physical damage and suffering, the earthquake literally altered earth by moving the island closer to the United States and shifting the planet’s axis. When the Pacific tectonic plate dove under the North American plate, Eastern Japan was shifted towards North America by about 13 feet. Earth’s axis was shifted by 6.5 inches and Japan sank downward by about two feet. Overall, 300,000 to 500,000 Japanese are or are soon to be homeless. While Japan will of course receive aid from the outside world, the country will feel the effects economically and emotionally far into the future.
While I can not imagine the devastation in Japan and I feel for them, I am starting to think that I have recently become desensitized to what seems like the more frequent occurrence of natural disasters. We are three months into the year and there have already been the Australian floods in January, the New Zealand earthquake in February and now Japan. Just last year there was the Chile earthquake and of course, Haiti. In 2004, when the Sumatran tsunami destroyed Sumatra, I remember watching footage in my classes for days on end because it was just that devastating. Now, I can’t say I ever watched any Haiti news coverage and I’ve seen little but the initial Japan footage. These disasters are equally as devastating and while I do not shrug them off, I give them very little of my attention without really realizing it. Just the other day I was drinking some juice drink that said it donated a set amount of its proceeds to a rebuild Haiti project. While I think that is great, and I support any effort to help the victims of natural disasters, attention will now start to turn more toward Japan and there will be advertised relief efforts for the Japanese. It is as if the relief can hardly catch up to the devastation of one disaster before another occurs. As these disasters inevitably continue to happen, my hope would be that the world would continue to contribute aid, support, and coverage while never forgetting past devastated countries that will continue to need help in rebuilding.