The Social Context of a Natural Disaster: The Economics, Politics, and Culture of the Earthquake in Japan « This Week in Sociology
I’m reblogging something I posted over at my course blog, in turn reblogged from This Week in Sociology. It’s worth considering the broader social context of societal resilience.
Here is an early post from a new blog, This Week in Sociology, founded by Corey Dolgan, PhD, director of Stonehill College’s new Office of Community-Based learning.
A 9.0 earthquake, a 33-foot tsunami, a series of crises at their battered nuclear plants: The people of Japan have withstood the last week with admirable tenacity. There’s no shortage of lessons the rest of the world can learn from what we’ve been seeing. Here are three of them.
1. People are resilient.
2. A society’s resilience increases with its wealth.
3. Resilient policies evolve; brittle policies are imposed.
We are now at this stage in the life of our country and our world: WikiLeaks revealed that the Japanese Government was warned three years ago that earthquake preparedness at the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant was dangerously insufficient.
Naturally, the leaders of the world are – or wish to start – prosecuting WikiLeaks, and not the Japanese Government.
The IAEA was saying in 2008 that Japan’s nuclear safety guidelines were dangerously out of date. A government whistleblower in that country was quoted in a cable to Washington the same year that a Japanese ministry was “covering up nuclear accidents, and obscuring the true costs and problems associated with the nuclear industry.”
And our government, in our name, continues both to seek ways to prosecute WikiLeaks, and to stick by the President’s ludicrous 2009 suggestion that we accelerate our national Nuclear Power program. The uncensored real oversight, and the truth about Japan’s irresponsibility, are both buried because the illusion of Japan as a successful safe nuclear nation is necessary to President Obama’s pitch, and President Obama’s pitch is necessary to some labyrinthine political calculation, and to the bottom lines of sundry international corporations.
Keith Olberman, Wikileaks: Japan Was Warned About Fukushima | FOK News Channel 3/16/11
Iodine aside, it seems like the protected citizen’s diet should include regular doses of Wikileaks.
Just a teensie problem.
The Nuclear Energy Institute is a Washington-based trade group that has been widely quoted in the press — including Salon — in recent days as representing the American nuclear industry. What media reports haven’t mentioned is that NEI is actually an international organization that serves several Japanese member corporations, including the very company whose reactors are at the center of the crisis: Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO).
It’s enough to make you vent your own reactor core. I suppose next they’ll be telling us we should be reassured they have triple redundancy in their PR functions.
As Japan struggles to contain a growing nuclear crisis — with more than 200,000 people evacuated, an explosion at one power plant, and possible meltdowns in several reactors — the American nuclear industry faces a different challenge: how to position itself in the intense public-relations battle that has already started.
This morning I interviewed a spokesman for the Nuclear Energy Institute, the industry trade group, to get a sense of the message being pushed by an industry that, with support from President Obama as well as the Republican Party, has been in the early stages of a renaissance.
The most striking claim made by NEI spokesman Mitchell Singer: Americans should be “reassured” by the crisis unfolding in Japan.
"There hasn’t been any significant release of radiation. So obviously they must be doing something right at this point," said Singer. While acknowledging that the crisis is still in early stages, Singer argued in our interview, and earlier to the Wall Street Journal, that Americans should be reassured because the industry will learn from the accidents in Japan, where fail-safe systems have themselves failed.
A large explosion has occurred at the Fukushima-Daiichi - or Fukushima I - nuclear power plant in north-eastern Japan, close to the epicentre of Friday’s earthquake. Officials say the container housing the reactor was not damaged and radiation levels have now fallen. Tens of thousands of people in the surrounding area have been urged to evacuate
Japan Quake Causes Nuclear Emergency
A reactor cooling system malfunctioned at the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant in Japan on Friday, prompting the country to declare a nuclear emergency in the aftermath of the large earthquake. However, there was no information about a leak or contamination at any of Japan’s eleven reactors, according to Prime Minister Naoto Kan. Kan told a press con ..read more..
via #smartr - Brilliant news reader for twitter+iphone
Major tsunami in northern Japan after 8.9 quake - Natural Disasters | Latest World Natural Disasters - Salon.com
I hadn’t looked at the news yet this morning so this all still has the quality of “breaking” for me.
Japan was struck by a magnitude 8.9 earthquake off its northeastern coast Friday, unleashing a 13-foot (4-meter) tsunami that washed away cars and tore away buildings along the coast near the epicenter. There were reports of injuries in Tokyo.
In various locations along Japan’s coast, TV footage showed massive damage from the tsunami, with dozens of cars, boats and even buildings being carried along by waters. A large ship swept away by the tsunami rammed directly into a breakwater in Kesennuma city in Miyagi prefecture, according to footage on public broadcaster NHK.
Officials were trying to assess damage, injuries and deaths from the quake but had no immediate details.
The quake that struck at 2:46 p.m. was followed by a series of powerful aftershocks, including a 7.4-magnitude one about 30 minutes later. The U.S. Geological Survey upgraded the strength of the first quake to a magnitude 8.9, while Japan’s meteorological agency measured it at 7.9.
The meteorological agency issued a tsunami warning for the entire Pacific coast of Japan. NHK was warning those near the coast to get to safer ground.
The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center in Hawaii said a tsunami warning was in effect for Japan, Russia, Marcus Island and the Northern Marianas. A tsunami watch has been issued for Guam, Taiwan, the Philippines, Indonesia and the U.S. state of Hawaii.
The quake struck at a depth of six miles (10 kilometers), about 80 miles (125 kilometers) off the eastern coast, the agency said. The area is 240 miles (380 kilometers) northeast of Tokyo.
This quake has struck Hawaii, and is on its way to the West Coast of mainland US.
Tsunami waves spawned by a massive earthquake in Japan have hit Hawaii.
The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center says Kauai was the first island hit early Friday by the tsunami, which was quickly sweeping through the Hawaiian Island chain. Officials predicted Hawaii would experience waves up to 6 feet.
Residents in coastal areas of Hawaii were evacuated to refuge areas at community centers and schools while tourists in Waikiki were moved to higher floors of their high-rise hotels.
Roadways and beaches were empty as the tsunamis struck the state, which had hours to prepare.