I hesitated to post on the anniversary of the horrific Japanese tsunami. I don’t have anything reasonably intelligent to say about the recovery efforts. And I think Phil summarized related issues quite succinctly in a comment to his post yesterday:
At least 18,000 died, 267,000 remain displaced. Progress in recovery has been made. Enough?
While I hope some portion of grief is reserved for those who suffered and still suffer, my greater concern probably relates to survivors much farther afield.
Tohoku is not Tokyo. Some day the tsunami will roll up Tokyo Bay. Some day the earthquake will shake L.A. Yet we have not, I think, given enough thought to what we might have learned — still might learn — from 3/11.
The only thing I would like to add is my general disappointment with the focus on Fukushima (in the American press almost always referring to the nuclear plant aspect of the disaster and not the larger prefecture). The New York Times fell prey to this inclination in their editorial “Fukushima’s Continuing Tragedy:”
Tuesday was the third anniversary of the triple disaster that struck the eastern Japanese prefectures of Iwate, Miyagi and Fukushima: the earthquake, tsunami and the nuclear power plant meltdowns in Fukushima. The catastrophe killed 15,884, with 2,636 still missing. The government’s reconstruction efforts have been insufficient and painfully slow.
There are still 270,000 refugees, of whom 100,000 live in makeshift housing. Since the disaster, more than 3,000 refugees have died from medical problems and suicide. In Fukushima prefecture, more people have died of disaster-related causes after the disaster (more than 1,650) than were killed in the disaster (1,607).
What the editorial doesn’t mention is that none of the the dead in the Fukushima prefecture are a result of the radiation released from the nuclear plant. Obviously, some if not many of the those that have perished in related causes after the disaster could be evacuees from irradiated areas – though at this point none would be due to radiation exposure.
Andrew Sullivan of “The Dish” falls into the same trap, as he quotes another blogger:
Then there’s the psychological impact. A Brigham Young University study released last week found that a year after disaster, more than half of the citizens of Hirono, a heavily affected town near the plant, showed “clinically concerning” symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder. Two-thirds showed symptoms of depression.
I do not certainly mean to diminish the trauma experienced by those who had to evacuate the area around the damaged nuclear plant.
I only wish to bring attention to all those who died, were hurt, suffered great loss, and can’t return to their homes damaged by the earthquake and/or tsunami.
As a nation we have an unhealthy preoccupation with radiation. While I wish more would have been done in terms of regulating domestic nuclear power plant spent fuel storage and emergency planning guidelines following the Japanese disaster, the preparations for a true mega-disaster on the scale of the Japanese experience are even more lacking.