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Daily View: Consequences of Japan's earthquake

Clare Spencer | 10:15 UK time, Monday, 14 March 2011

Japanese street divided by earthquake


Commentators look at the consequences of Japan's earthquake and tsunami.

In David Wild's appeal in the Huffington Post he commends Japanese resilience:

"As a rule, I'm not a guy who tends to offer a lot of Japanese proverbs. Yet there's one I saw today that struck me as possibly being one of the secrets to life, so I thought I might share it with you all here. The proverb offers this advice: 'Fall seven times, stand up eight.'

Julian Glover says in the Guardian that the world's nuclear fate rests in Japan:

"When nuclear plants go bang on live television - however unrepeatable the causes and controllable the consequences - all the industry's promises about safety and economic logic, and all the arguments for the necessity of building plants to mitigate climate change, are blown away in a scary cloud of caesium dust.
"It took three decades to undo the emotional consequences of Three Mile Island and Chernobyl. It may take something similar to forget the calamity of Fukushima Daiichi."

Economist Noriko Hama expresses her concern in the Financial Times about Japan's nuclear policies:

"In fairness, the government has so far been doing a reasonably good job in communicating with the public and steering the rescue effort. Given the exasperation we were all feeling with their witlessness and gutlessness before the disaster, maybe it is just low expectations that make them look better than they actually are. All the same, they have been looking sort of in control up to now.
"The true test comes hereafter, however, now that the nuclear power plant damage has come into play. The government needs all the wits at its disposal to ask the right questions of the experts. It needs more than its customary show of guts to tell the story as it is to the public. Yukio Edano, chief cabinet secretary, sounds as if he is trying to do the questioning in an intelligent way. The guts are a trickier matter. Panic should be avoided, but shadows of doubt about the forthrightness of people in charge always provoke the worst response, not least in the media."

In the New York Times, Andrew Revkin highlights work by Yumei Wang who analyses what comes next on the United States Geological Survey's website:

"The average time between magnitude 8 and larger Cascadia earthquakes is about 240 years (see page 8, Cascadia earthquake timeline, based on Chris Goldfinger's data, Oregon State University). The last megaquake, estimated as a magnitude 9, occurred in 1700 - that's 311 years ago. In geologic terms, Cascadia is "9 months pregnant" and overdue.

Even though geologists identified 41 past Cascadia megaquakes, they cannot pinpoint exactly when the next Cascadia earthquake will strike. Nonetheless, engineers can design and build to withstand earthquake shaking. Now is the time to take preparations seriously, safeguard those in harm's way, and strengthen aging critical infrastructure."

In Time Magazine, Romesh Ratnesar suggests the consequences would have been worse if the earthquake hit another country:

"Had an earthquake of comparable scale hit just about any other Asian country, the loss of life would almost surely have been dramatically higher. The Japan quake was more than 500 times stronger than the temblor that hit Haiti in January 2010, which was not followed by a catastrophic tsunami, and yet the death toll in Haiti was 100 times higher than it appears to be in Japan. The ultimate consequences of the disaster on Japan's society and economy will be staggering, but few countries in the world are better positioned to recover."

Others focus on the geographical consquences. Kevin Voigt reports in CNN that the earthquake that fueled the tsunami appears to have moved the main island of Japan by 8ft (2.4m) and shifted the Earth on its axis.

The Manila Bulletin adds that it has "shortened the length Earth's day by a fraction and shifted how the planet's mass is distributed".


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