March 12, 2011
Heartbreaking scenes of devastation from the 8.9 magnitude earthquake and tsunami that struck Japan filled the television news and internet all day, yesterday. According to the USGS and other sources, the earthquake appears to have moved the main island of Japan by 8 feet (2.4 meters) and shifted the Earth on its axis by about four inches. http://www.cnn.com/2011/WORLD/asiapcf/03/12/japan.earthquake.tsunami.earth/index.html?hpt=T1
As if that were not enough, an explosion and building collapse at one of Japan’s nuclear power plants led to evacuation of the area within a 12.5 mile radius of the plant and the earthquake “led to the shutdown of 11 of the Japan’s 55 nuclear power plants, representing nearly 20 percent of the country’s capacity,” according to the Washington Post. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2011/03/11/AR2011031103673.html?hpid=topnews And millions of homes across Japan have no electricity.
The earthquake spared Tokyo, the capital and financial center of Japan, the physical devastation of cities further north and along the coasts. Even so, commuter trains and cell phone services suffered disruptions across the city. And though it might be considered politically incorrect, in the face of Japan’s obvious suffering, to speak of such things openly, I imagine that, behind the scenes, financial ministers across the developed world are metaphorically pulling out their calculators and at least contemplating what the effects of all this damage to the world’s third largest economy might portend for the still shaky economies of the rest of us.
All of this on top of rising oil prices – due in part to the unrest still sweeping the Middle East and in part to peaking oil supplies – and rising food prices around the world. Even as Moammar Gadhafi seems to be driving back the opposition forces in Libya and King Abdullah has quelled dissenters yesterday in Saudi Arabia, these problems and their effects on the rest of us will not go away. http://www.upi.com/Science_News/Resource-Wars/2011/03/11/Arab-world-faces-more-food-crises/UPI-14871299866146/ Nor are the developed nations immune from rising energy and food prices on their own people.
And, in light of how little has actually been done to change the financial system after it drove the world to the edge three years ago, there are signs that some are beginning to exhibit a bit of buyer’s remorse over the whole globalized economy thingy according to this New York Times article. http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/11/business/economy/11norris.html
Years ago, when I was a young, single mother, I had dinner at the house of a friend and her husband who generally kept tabs on all the goings-on in the neighborhood. The dinner conversation finally turned to a young neighborhood woman who was pregnant and unmarried and the young man involved.
“So, do you think he’s going to stick around?” I asked.
“Well, she thinks he is,” my friend said. Then she gave me a sideways glance and added, “But, honey, I think that man is going to leave so fast, she’ll have tire tracks all over her backside.”
Perhaps I am wrong here, but looking around at the growing shakiness of the intertwined, globalized economy, the dependence of big agriculture and the just-in-time delivery system on cheap oil and the basic unsoundness of what the Empire and the developed world have given birth to over the last fifty years, I’m guessing that it won’t take many more blows like the one we’ll see from the earthquake in Japan before History decides to take a powder on us and leaves tire tracks all over our collective backsides.
As always in disasters like this, give what you can afford to help the Japanese people and keep these fellow travelers in your hearts, thoughts and prayers. In addition, this might be a good time to go over your own emergency preps and, as always, get that garden going.