Doug's Darkworld

War, Science, and Philosophy in a Fractured World.

Taking Stock: Japan, Giant Earthquake, Tsunami, Libya, etc.

with 10 comments

Just when I thinks the news can’t get any worse, it does. Actually, I always know things can get worse, I’m just a bit dismayed that my predictions of doom and gloom are bearing fruit from unexpected quarters. And by that I mean the earthquake and tsunami in Japan. This is already one of the largest earthquakes in history, and the most destructive earthquake in Japan in nearly a  century. This was badly timed to say the least. I’ve been doing a lot of reading, and here are a few points of interest, thoughts about the quake, global implications, etc.

First, Japan is an organized an efficiently run country, right, so at least the rescue and rebuilding and all that will go smoothly, and they were well prepared? Well, sort of. My readings have indicated that Japan has one of the world’s best government bureaucracies. And by that I mean like all well run government agencies, they are really good at covering up problems and shifting blame. And they don’t have a good track record for honestly either, especially when it comes to nuclear releases. My point here? Take anything the Japanese government says with a grain of salt. Like any other government when they need to, they will lie. (Not putting them down though, in fact Japan has practised sustainable forestry and agriculture for centuries, nearly 80% of Japan is forested, something no other industrialized country can claim. That’s fodder for an upcoming blog.)

And how the hell did a bunch of nuclear power plants fail? Aren’t they designed to withstand earthquakes? Well, yes. Just not this earthquake. Nuclear power plants are designed to (hopefully) withstand a major quake, like a 7.0 or something. This quake was around 9, one of the largest quakes in history. And the cost to make a nuclear power plant able to withstand a 9.0 magnitude quake would be ridiculous, if it could even be done. Basically by building nuclear plants in Japan they were betting they wouldn’t have a quake like this in the lifetime of the plants. They lost the bet.

So what’s the worst that could happen? Something as bad or nearly as bad as Chernobyl is possible. The fact that they are evacuating huge numbers of people alone says that. Chernobyl killed over a hundred, certainly gave thousands cancer, and likely in the final analysis will have caused hundreds of thousands of cases of cancer. Then there’s the plain economic damage from abandoned cities and towns and lost agricultural land. Yes nuclear fallout is the gift that just keeps on giving. For generations. And this wouldn’t just be confined to Japan. Measurable (and thus cancer causing)  fallout could easily reach the USA west coast, I mean, Japan sent balloon bombs to the West coast in World War Two, that’s just the way the wind blows. Sigh. Is this disaster an argument against nuclear power? Yes, yes it is.

Now globally, what are the implications of this earthquake? There’s two areas of concern here. The geophysical and the economic. The geophysical first, could this be a harbinger of things to come? There have been a  lot of quakes lately, what’s up with that? Statistically, nothing. There’s big quakes all the time, usually they hit remote areas because most of the world’s population is very concentrated. There’s been a bit of bad luck lately in that some big quakes have struck areas were a lot of people live, but these things happen. Still, humans have made some enormous changes in a very short time geologically speaking in terms of how weight is distributed on the Earth’s surface. Think massive erosion, countless trillions of tons of soil have been eroded off deforested mountains the world over and washed into the oceans. Add to that cubic miles of ice melted from ice caps and glaciers the world over in recent decades. So maybe we are in for more quakes as the earth “settles” so to speak. Global rattling, great.

That’s pretty speculative. The economic news, well, that sucks. Japan is one of the world’s largest economies, so this is going to hurt. Tens of billions of dollars in real damage. Real damage in that real things were destroyed, infrastructure, farms, homes, businesses. Printing money won’t replace these, actual wealth has been destroyed. Then there’s further pressure on already shaky global food supplies. In and of itself this might not be a big deal, but in combination with other economic disruption running through the world today, this quake and tsunami is a body blow the world’s economy didn’t need. And by other economic disruption, I mean events in Libya and the Middle East. Just look at Libya, for one thing their imports and exports  have dropped to zero. That’s going to hurt any business that had dealing with Libya. Then there’s refugees flooding into neighbouring countries, they have to be fed and housed. Then there’s the just plain loss of wealth because people in Libya aren’t working. And what’s playing out in Libya is also going on in a half a dozen other countries throughout the Middle East in one fashion or another. Not to mention ongoing war in a few countries, the west is pouring a lot of wealth into Bush’s foreign adventures still.

I wrote most of this last night. This morning I see there’s been another explosion at an afflicted reactor in Japan. And the rebels recaptured a city in Libya. I should mention that at this point, almost no matter what happens in Libya, it’s going to cause global problems for years or decades. If Qaddafi wins, great, Libya is a pariah state with  an ongoing insurgency. Yeah, the world needs another one of those. And if Qaddafi loses, rebuilding Libya into a modern state and undoing the damage wrought by the rebellion will take years at best.

Sigh. So since things might get worse before they get better, my next post will be a helpful guide to surviving the coming appocalypse, whatever shape it may take. Suggestions welcome.

(The above image is Public Domain under US copyright law, having been created over a century ago. It’s titled “The Great Wave off Kanagawa,” and was created by Hokusai. It’s not a tsunami though people often assume that. The reasons I selected it for this post seem pretty self evident to me, so I’ll let people guess. My heart goes out to the people of Japan, I can’t imagine what they are experiencing.)




Written by unitedcats

March 14, 2011 at 5:33 am

10 Responses

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  1. Actually, a disaster like Chernobyl is not possible. Chernobyl was a plant with a very different design than the Japan one. For instance it had a combustible graphite core, while Japan’s doesn’t. Also, in case of a meltdown, this will happen inside the 6-foot thick protective concrete layer and automatically flow in a deep underground containment chamber specifically designed and included for exactly this purpose.

    On a related not, I just read these interesting articles which seem quite insightful:

    Steffen M. Boelaars

    March 14, 2011 at 5:45 am

  2. Yes, we have so much experience with catastrophic failures in reactor cores that we can safely say that there’s little danger of a major radioactive release in this situation. No, we can’t. While in theory this reactor design is “safer” than Chernobyl, we are in uncharted territory here. While I agree that disaster as bad as Chernobyl seems unlikely, until the reactors are under control, anything is possible. You’re are assuming for example that no corners were cut in the reactors’ construction, that no mistakes were made in the reactors’ design and construction, and that no human errors will be made as they attempt to get these reactors stabilized. And while I agree that Japan does have excellent disaster preparedness, apparently a lot of people ignored the tsunami warnings and stayed in their homes. On the plus side, they will study and learn from the deficiencies this disaster reveals, the catastrophic Kobe earthquake showed major deficiencies in their quake planning, this will no doubt reveal deficiencies in tsunami planning. Good links, thanks for posting. —Doug


    March 14, 2011 at 10:13 am

    • I absolutely agree with you there. But we also know people will always ignore warnings, no matter how clear they are. I mean… even a guy in the USA got killed by the Tsunami waves, despite the 10-or-so hour warning, because he went too close for the sake of taking some photos.

      Steffen M. Boelaars

      March 14, 2011 at 1:40 pm

      • wwwwwwooooooooowwwwww awesome BUT SAD ;(


        May 29, 2011 at 7:20 pm

  3. Expect nothing but Pollyannaish remarks from both governments, and the citizens who eagerly parrot those remarks.

    Anyone saying this is not as bad as Chernobyl just does NOT have the facts to make such claims.

    This is clearly still developing.. and the explosions continue.

    If you think that the core of #3 survived that explosion intact, I cant help you… you can bet that the pipes going into and out of it were sheared off. This is a complete disaster folks.

    You can expect the American government to lie to us too… with claims that the radiation will not arrive here. That is total BS folks. Powerful corporate forces (Nuclear Industry) are just now making headway to get Nuclear going again in the USA. They are in full cover-up mode.

    Barrak Hussein Obama has the ex-president of GE (Mr. Imelt) as his chief of staff now in the White house. GE designed the plants in Japan that are exploding.

    You are going to have to find out the truth for yourselves folks. Good luck.


    March 14, 2011 at 10:37 am

  4. What is happening in the world today is a huge warning sign. We need to turn to better, safer and even cheaper forms of energy. I have decided after the quake and tsunami that this year I will be installing solar panels to run the basics, and stocking up on dry goods, and water. People need to start thinking of what is important in there lives….your life itself or all the conveniences we have because of technology. After a disaster like what happened in Japan, people are happy to walk away with their lives, everything else is just stuff. My heart goes out to everyone who lost family and friends. As for the politicians and experts, they make way to much money to tell the truth, covering up lies always pays better. I expect that this disaster will be treated the same.


    March 15, 2011 at 9:21 am

    I logically find it funny but if reality is getting close to this…it is serious.


    March 18, 2011 at 2:49 pm

  6. What is happening now is really a unbelievable and of course a scary disaster..In this case the Japan is facing of Tsunami..We Should actually lend a hand and care bout others today..this is defenetely a natural disaster that no one actually knows why would they had happen..According to all radios news,daily news, and of course everybody would like to pay some donations to other who is suffering in Japan..We are on the same planet so we much lend a hand to others who are actually suferring in danger..and cause many people to death..We as a human pay some respect to others who are in a serious danger and lend some effort to pay a sum of money as a donations..people who are willing to buy some food and drinks to them and send them to Japan are of course they are very kind and they have a generous heart..:) from what we have seen,we should actually try not to pollute the environment..:) :P Good Luck


    March 20, 2011 at 4:59 am

  7. Let us now lend a hand to Japan…..Help them…Save them….Be a generous human….As we in Malaysia are the people who can stand up and give a hand to Japans natural disaster….It’s a very scary and sad disaster in Japan….This disaster really went very long……It is the worst one I have ever heard in my life for 10 years…….Just donate at least a small token….Be a generous and helpful human being….. You have been given a chance to open up your heart…As to stand up for the suffer ones in Japan……Help them now, they will help you very soon…..Respect them…. Don’t be selfish…… We are staying in the same planet….Same world…. Lend a hand to them….. Now gogogo and open your heart……Be more generous and kind hearted………….. :p…. Try your Best…. Good Luck………. Take Care…….

    Suyen Ng Sue Ying

    March 20, 2011 at 5:11 am

    • A nice one..Yes i totally agree with u..We should stand up for the ones who are suffering…:) good luck to u too..God bless..


      March 20, 2011 at 5:15 am

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