I am attempting to describe our the situation here in Japan after three successive disasters. The 9.0 Earthquake and its continuous aftershocks, the tsunami affecting the Tohoku area and the on-going attempts to deal with the damage at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear power plant. I hope to shed some light on some of the problems that have evolved from the March 11th triple disaster, as well as bring some levity to these heavy issues.
I am presently reading a book recommended by JoAnn called, A Paradise Built in Hell: The Extraordinary Communities That Arise in Disaster. The author quotes philosopher William James, who wrote extensively on the 1906 San Francisco Earthquake. He points out two amazing things that tend to happen after a disaster. The first is the speed at of “improvisation of order out of chaos…without leadership and co-ordination.” The second point he makes is that people who share the experience have some kind of “universal equanimity,” a mental calmness, composure and evenness of temper.
Japan in two out of three of the “threats” show great order and co-operation on the community and individual level. The earthquake and tsunami has spurred an incredible wave of charity events, increase in people donating time, money, sweat and support for others in every way imaginable. From our impression in Toshiaki’s hometown and neighboring communities, immediate efforts to feed and shelter those in need were evident. My sister-in-law, Miwako spoke of how people were walking, driving and running up to safer ground on the road that passed by their home. As it was a freezing day and evening, neighbors started handing blankets, futons, and jackets to strangers or bringing them to the elementary school that was on higher ground and had opened their doors. Her husband, Kazuhiro, quickly used his construction equipment to dig out a wider passage way to allow the relief vehicles to get to higher ground and help the victims. Many families housed relatives and friends who had lost their homes, shared food and gave comfort.
Williams talks about this “equanimity” as being more present with the people who have experienced the disaster, than those who haven’t. He experienced very little “pathetic and sentimental words” amongst the earthquake victims in 1906. He states that, “when the loss is general, one is not cast out by suffering but finds fellowship in it.” Now I am sure that the extreme cases of people who lost loved ones and everything they owned may not feel their loss is so general, however, the universal experience at least in eastern Japan does seem to have brought fellowship in a very crowded, busy country. It appears too that there is more sentimentalism and less calm among outsiders, who did not experience it and are concerned for their loved ones. I am guilty of this and have tried to be sensitive enough to be a listening ear rather then rattle off all my concerns. I am embarrassed to say that I feel a little left out of the “fellowship.” Don’t get me wrong, this is a fellowship one should not wish to belong to.
The third disaster in Fukushima, I have not written about much yet, either here or in the Renew Yamada website. Partially, because I have focused on Toshiaki’s hometown of Yamada and partially because it is such a looming, complex problem that I am perplexed at how to even approach it. Call it denial, avoidance and ( I admit) a little bit of fear.
The situation in Fukushima is a force to be reckoned with. The best way is to share this link to a very thorough article on Japan’s Nuclear Problem. In addition, for my American friends who may think this is just a Japanese problem I highly recommend this article called America’s Nuclear Nightmare. Whether we like it or not the issue of energy is everyone’s problem and in my opinion is the most prominent driver of change. The question is which way will it drive us.
I’ll leave you with good news regarding movement toward Solar Energy.