It’s hard to watch the scenes of the Japanese earthquake and subsequent tsunami and not be just a little bit terrified. It’s equally hard to imagine that one minute I could be sitting hear at my computer and the next me, the computer and the house I’m in are swept out to sea. But that’s what happened and you feel deeply for everyone involved.
When I get beyond that terror and the open-mouthed reaction to the video footage that has emerged, many other thoughts occur to me. In no particular order and with no particular plan…
There seems to me a huge arrogance in the modern world. We understand much about the universe in which we live. So much so that we think we are in control and that our petty issues are somehow important and that we have a right to any kind of reasonable existence. It’s perhaps not surprising that we ignore all we know about the turbulent earth on which we live. Sure, there are huge impact craters, mass extinctions, ice ages, plagues, volcanoes, tsunamis but my laptop just crashed goddamit. Maybe we should be happy we and it haven’t been swept out to sea.
You really do feel for the ancients. With no science to explain what was happening to them is it any wonder that they invented Gods? After all, with no other explanation for a raging sky or sudden inundation you’d gonna think someone is pretty peeved with you. And are we all that superior to them now? Just because we understand what is going on there ain’t much we can do about it and people still turn to God anyway, despite everything.
There is a historical context too. I saw the reports of the idiots making brain-dead mention of Pearl Harbour in the aftermath of the tsunami and the nuclear incidents.
I found this quote online:
Japan was desperate and in social and economic crisis, and the country was racked by devastating natural disasters. Dozens of earthquakes ravaged the country leaving destruction in it’s wake.
Sound familiar? Well, that is opening paragraph of this article about why Japan went to war. Japan has always known that it didn’t have enough raw materials so when:
In 1939 the United States rescinded its commercial treaty with the Empire of Japan and began to restrict essential shipments of oil and metals.
At that point the more extreme members of the Japanese government decided to do something about it. That obviously doesn’t justify war. And that’s I suppose the point I’m searching for. When national self-interest is served above all others, bad things can happen. Japan attacks China to help itself to materials, the US restricts materials, Japan goes to war to try and get some materials, loses, has no materials, has to power itself with 50 nuclear power stations as a result and then a big tsunami comes.
Of course, this is an old issue, Japan will get back to normal and we’ll all get our new cars and lenses again, yes? Well, nothing changes and national self-interest pervades and it’s not just in the pursuit of oil. Have a read at this story from the New Scientist about the availability of rare earth metals. Yes, before long we’ll run out, China will have them all and you won’t get a new iPod. Now I don’t think we’ll end up at war over this, China will get richer and we’ll pay more for stuff we don’t really need. But the point is, this is the same thing that sent Japan to war, that forced Japan to build nuclear power stations. An inherent selfishness that infests all nations. The “national interest” will out.
And one more thing. As I sit here in Scotland I’m lucky that I don’t live in a geologically active region. But did you know that there are river valleys in the North Sea, north of Scotland, beneath a kilometre of water and a further 2 kilometres of sediment? Some time in our past a so-called ‘hot blob’ passed under here and lifted the crust way up and as it moved away everything sank back under the sea. Ok, this isn’t as quick a process as a tsunami triggered earthquake but it could easily happen again. Some time in the future the earth will change again, whether we cause it or not, and it won’t work out well for everyone.