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Thinking of Disasters and Japan

golden palace japanOn Thursday night, Alex and I watched the No Reservations episode in Dubai. The excess, building on shifting sands, and rapid multi-culturalism pictured in that show led us to discuss the meaning of our way of life. Is it possible to make a difference on a small scale? Can the world handle Dubai style consumption? How does instant communication affect things? We concluded that it's best for us personally to live our life in a sustainable way, but always be practical and prepared for disasters. We reasoned that natural resources or disasters will likely limit population and expansion at some point, but it's hard to tell how high technology and near-instant communication will affect such events.

At 2 a.m. on Friday morning, Devie wanted to go out and Alex walked her downstairs. He looked at his phone and an alert about the earthquake in Japan popped up. Shocked, Alex shared the news with me.

Our sleep was restless after that. We have people in Japan. We have visited and know the beauty and history there.

We emailed our closest friends, Naoko and Miyu. Naoko responded within a half hour (amazing, technology is!) that she and her family are safe. She wrote "We live on 4th floor,so we shaked like hard rock!!! We are often feeingl earthquakes,now. Dirty water came out from ground." In another message later in our day (her Saturday morning) she answered my questions about the oil refinery fire in her city, saying "My home is near  at the Chiba oil refinery, we can see the red sky. We are worried about air pollution ,because Yuiko can't stop cough.She has asthma ."

We have yet to hear from Miyu. She does not live very close to the epicenter, so I imagine communications are slowed from overuse and/or power outages.

Fortunately Japan is well prepared for earthquakes. It looks like the death toll was limited by strict building codes. The strong Japanese economy and government will easily manage rebuilding.

Even when we are worried about them, we so appreciate our ability to make and visit friends around the world. Foreign friendships provide the context to internalize world history and care about far-off disasters. We hope to revisit our Japanese friends in person in 2012 when the earthquake will hopefully be a distant memory.