Responding to the Triple Disasters in Japan

By Bill Moore

Posted: 12 Mar 2011

As CNN showed aerial footage of the tsunami-ravaged town on Minamisoma, Japan, I was following along on Google Earth. Where there had been a town of some 17,000 residents built along a river delta, now there was nothing. Homes and businesses had vanished under the tidal wave.

Then I noticed that just to the north of the where the town once stood was the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant, now the scene of an unfolding nightmare that has haunted us for fifty years, ever since the first plants went on line: a catastrophic core meltdown, the consequences of which can only be theorized at this point. As I write this, the fate of the plant and the people living in its shadow is still unfolding. An estimated 160 have been exposed to radiation from the plant, where an explosion was reported earlier.

The ghosts of Chernobyl immediately come to mind. An entire region of the Ukraine cordoned off, towns abandoned, fields of radioactively contaminated fire-fighting and rescue vehicles rusting, still too dangerous to approach.

Having once been to Japan as a guest of Toyota, I am somewhat familiar with Tokyo and Nagoya; and while most of my contacts in the Japanese auto industry are primarily based in the United States, it is impossible to not think of their friends, colleagues, and business associates back in their homeland. I am relieved to report that as of this writing, there has been only one recorded fatality, a 43-year-old Honda employee who died when a wall collapsed on him. So far, the three major OEMs: Toyota, Honda and Nissan are reporting only minor damage to some of their facilities and most are anticipating being back in production by next week, pending surveys of their suppliers.

That is, of course, good news. I also heard from a reader in Osaka who let me know that he and his family are safe; most of the earthquake and tsunami damage was concentrated north of Tokyo.

At times like these, I think most of us want to reach out and help in some way, and while I was monitoring the deteriorating situation at the Fukushima plant via Twitter (it's amazing how quickly events in Libya and Saudi Arabia are overshadowed by a disaster of this magnitude), I came across a group called Shelterbox.org, which puts together and delivers emergency aid kits that include tents, cooking utensils, blankets, tools, etc. (see above photo). It is a Global Rotary Club project. So far this year alone, their green plastic containers have been deployed to Brazil, Sri Lanka, New Zealand, Madagascar, Peru, Bolivia, and now Japan. I like this concept very much and have made a contribution to them. I hope you'll do the same.

In the meantime, I hope that the situation in Fukushima doesn't get any worse, and that a meltdown can be avoided. Needless to say, this isn't going to make the case for a nuclear-powered future any easier.

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