Since the tragic earthquake and tsunami in Japan I’ve been having a mixture of thoughts and feelings about the situation. First of all, the loss of life and destruction is almost more than I can comprehend. And at the same time, I’m amazed that so many people survived a magnitude 9.0 earthquake. Having experienced our own 6.9 back in 1989, and seen the results, I would have expected an earthquake of so much greater magnitude to leave nothing in its wake.
The way earthquakes are measured is on a logarithmic scale. An earthquake that measures 5.0 on the Richter scale is ten times larger than one that measures 4.0. A difference of 2.0 on the scale equals 1000 times more energy released.
Still, many people survived. More survived than died, in spite of the double calamity of earthquake followed by tsunami. An email written by a woman in Sendai, Japan was forwarded to me. She describes the situation there and writes:
During the day we help each other clean up the mess in our homes. People sit in their cars, looking at news on their navigation screens, or line up to get drinking water when a source is open. If someone has water running in their home, they put out a sign so people can come to fill up their jugs and buckets.
It’s utterly amazingly that where I am there has been no looting, no pushing in lines. People leave their front door open, as it is safer when an earthquake strikes. People keep saying, “Oh, this is how it used to be in the old days when everyone helped one another.”
We had our own scare and damage due to the tsunami, here in Santa Cruz. We received a reverse 911 call early that Friday morning advising that we evacuate to higher ground. Many people fled their homes and drove into the hills. Perversely, many other people went down to the cliffs to watch. Some surfers got into the water to surf the waves. There was approximately $26 million in damage to boats and docks in the small craft harbor, but no damage to other homes or structures here.
And then there is the whole nuclear power plant issue. I’m glad the accident is causing people to have second thoughts about relying more on nuclear energy. The potential for accidents like what is happening in Japan is frightening. But for me what has always seemed even more frightening is the fact that we have no plan for containing the waste. It takes tens or hundreds of thousands of years for some of the waste to decay. Even if we had a place to seal it deep within the earth, there is no way we can know what will happen in that kind of time. Just because it apparently doesn’t add to global warming does not make it “clean energy”. It’s like sweeping the dirt under the rug and forgetting about it.
My heart goes out to the people of Japan. I understand Operation USA is a disaster relief organization with a good reputation and a record for getting the aid to where it is needed.