2013/03/11

Two Years Since the Earthquake-Tsunami-Meltdown Syndrome

Today the world media is focused on the second anniversary of the triple disaster in Japan, and I don't have much to add to the wide range of reporting that can be found in the mainstream media and all the alternatives to it. But to sum up, I'll just say that the prevailing attitude I have observed is expressed by this comical translation error I have seen on signs for sale in hardware stores.


It is unfortunate that more people don't want to reflect on the disaster and use it as a teachable moment about the need to come up with better solutions to the energy crisis. Instead, Japan is more interested in “recovery,” and not in a good way. The concept of recovery is one of denial. The present government, with its high approval ratings, dreams of the impossible return to the comfortable past - the past of the 1964 Tokyo Olympics followed by decades of economic growth.
As I'm an educator, I’m interested using this historic event to make people question this juvenile fantasy of recovery. I've locked onto the nuclear crisis because it is such an effective way to teach across the curriculum. You can't understand it unless you engage with chemistry, physics, biology, political science, history, economics, sociology, philosophy and psychology, and the subject areas where these all come together - the arts. The men of science will scoff at this idea, but I think if there is a way out of this mess, it will be philosophers, novelists, poets, filmmakers and musicians who lead the way. After being warned for decades by protesters - who were repelled by the very water cannons which would one day be used to cool the damaged reactors - the nuclear engineers, politicians, bureaucrats and corporate executives were not wise enough to take heed of their "amateur" critics. It would be foolish to look to the "experts" for future solutions.


The Fukushima meltdowns could be a pivotal moment that prompts us to turn away from self-destructive technologies and ideologies. Otherwise, we'll end up like the guy in the cartoon. Two years have passed and it seems like the teachable moment is fading away.

cartoon by TomToro
My pick for the best of the 3-11 memorial stories:

David McNeill, "Japanese Media, International Media and 3.11 Reportage," The Asia-Pacific Journal, Vol 11, Issue 10, No. 3, March 11, 2013.

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