Japan

American media is rather self-centered. If it's not happening in one of the 50 states or it doesn't directly impact or involve Americans it is rarely discussed.

As such you have to be blind to not see the near utter lack of recognition of hazard related incidents in other countries. In the past I've been rather overwhelmed by the thought of actively studying international disasters outside of the major catastrophes that garner even US media attention (re: Haiti Earthquake, Fukushima,  Indian Ocean Tsunami, etc.). I find the US system so complex in and of itself that adding in international perspectives is a daunting task. Yet, recently I've reluctantly begun to shell my isolationism and explore the vast world that is international emergency management.

I'm planning on making a concerted effort to feature disasters/ potential disasters/ other aspects of emergency management from countries outside the United States on a pretty regular basis.

This is Mackenzie. Our friend Ellen calls him Mac.

This is Mackenzie. Our friend Ellen calls him Mac.

Blog Readers meet Mackenzie.

I'm concerned that mother nature is out to kill him.

Mackenzie is a friend of mine from Loyola and is now living in Chiba Prefecture which is part of the Tokyo Metropolis in Japan (see map). Through Facebook I've been keeping up with his goings on and noticed an unusually high number of postings about natural hazards he's been experiencing.

As I wrote to him a few days ago upon finding this article about an impending typhoon through the 360.org Facebook page, "Hi. I'm Samantha and I'm an ignorant American". I honestly could not even begin to tell you much about the country of Japan and much less about emergency management there.

This lack of personal knowledge is leaving me with a bit of a rough foundation. Mackenzie has given me some leads so... let's see how I do...

Here's a bullet pointed list of what has impacted Chiba Prefecture in the past during the past TWO months:

  • Typhoon Man-yi
  • 2.0 earthquake
  • 6.0 earthquake
  • "unprecedented" tornado
  • 5.3 earthquake

Additionally "Mt. Fuji is predicted to "wake up" at any moment" and "the Tokyo Metropolis is do for 'The Next Big One' [earthquake]" according to the local news there.

Okay so clearly there are lots of hazards going on here. 

Mackenzie had an observation that I found especially pertinent to discuss on this blog: 

"...there are over 42 million people crammed into the same area as Los Angeles County." 

So... lots of hazards combined with lots of people = high-risk situations. Check! In fact, Tokyo (which according to the map is right outside where Mackenzie is living) has just been given the terrifying title as THE most vulnerable city (based on population) in the world

Oh, also the Fukushima plant (of earthquake/ tsunami/ reactor meltdown circa 2011) is leaking radioactive water into the Pacific Ocean...

Now clearly the Fukushima Situation is something that even egocentric American media reported on when it happened but have they really even mentioned it since then? It's barely even come through my environmentally leaning RSS. Here's the short of it. What is left of the damaged plant is not being appropriately handled (as in it's leaking into the ocean) and there is a public outcry for the government to step in and deal with the situation.

"Tepco gets a failing grade here for sure, but what about the people expecting a single company to deal with a problem of such unprecedented magnitude in the first place? If there is still money for things such as bullet trains — and now, Olympic swimming pools — surely fixing Fukushima would be an infrastructure project of similar magnitude worthy of pursuing as a matter of national urgency."

Well, maybe we can all find comfort in knowing that frustration with government cover-ups and corporate dominance are universal.

With the recent hazards that continue to plague the Fukushima area and no confidence in a solution anytime soon this situation clearly serves as an example of why nuclear development is dangerous. With the exception of locating the plant in a completely different location (and even then there would be some threat of some hazard) how much can we really do to eliminate or at least severely reduce risks associated with this type of development? Everything humans do, everything we build is the result of a decision we make (whether consciously or subconsciously). We decide, whether as an individual, group, or society what level of risk we are will to take to garner the benefits. Someone in Japan made the decision that building, not only a network of nuclear power plants was worth the potential risk but that building a plant in a hazard-heavy area was worth the risk. That was a decision that was made. After everything that has happened, is happening, and, let's be realistic, will happen decision need to be made. In an ideal world we would come together as an international community (of course in this ideal world Fukushima would never have happened because following WWII or at least Chernobyl we wouldn't have continued with "nuclear things") and make the decision that the benefits do not outweigh the risks.

While the United States faces a variety of hazards and has experienced its fair share of disasters it is so important for us to remember that other places around the world are impacted frequently. It's critical not just as those involved in the field of emergency management, but as citizens of the world that we make a valiant effort to understand places other than that which we call home.