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We're All Japanese Now

March 14, 2011 – It’s impossible not to write about Japan, though the subject is so vast, it’s difficult to know how to grab hold of it. The miserable luck of a country that happens to straddle three tectonic plates? The insatiable appetite of tidal waves? The wreckage? The quiet courage of the Japanese people? The lack of looting?
One of the inevitable consequences of this tragedy will be a shortage of food. In the near term, food aid is being provided to the Japanese people by a number of donor nations. We’ve all experienced anxiety on behalf of Japan as we look at telecasts of the mountains of refuse which aid workers will encounter. How will food get to where it’s needed? Once helicopters are no longer needed for search and rescue, they can be pressed into service. The shortage of gas that currently exists will play a role, as well. The fact that very large numbers of people have congregated in shelters ought to help. It will be up to the Japanese people to persist in their will to survive, even when food and water are periodically unavailable.
There is a distinct possibility that the need for food donations could last a good while, largely because “special” modes of transport will be necessary as long as there’s garbage in the streets. The clean-up will take a long time, judging by the staggering amount of material that has been reduced to rubble. Do donor nations have an emergency food supply sufficient to the task? Japan imports most of its food, and what it had on hand is gone. Early estimates indicate 30 percent of Japan’s rice crop has been lost. China is Japan’s primary food supplier, and with the ongoing drought in northern China, there may not be enough wheat for the Chinese, let alone Japan. (According to Mike Ruppert on The Lifeboat Hour, a UN agency has reported that, unless food-producing nations enjoy excellent growing seasons that result in bumper crops this year, food shortages will become rampant.) Could this unfolding situation change the United States modus operandi of having only three days food available in its towns and cities, stored in grocery stores? There is so much we all can learn from this dreadful calamity, if we make the most of the teachings to be gleaned. Doing so would give the cost - and loss - more meaning.
As for rebuilding Japan, that will certainly happen. But building construction uses up enormous amounts of fossil fuel, the price of which continues to escalate. This likely means that post-tsunami Japan will look nothing like pre-tsunami Japan. Without fossil fuels, buildings will be smaller and lower to the ground. Housing could, in fact, become a point of contention in this part of Japan. It is not as populous as the rest of Japan, but with so little land area available for building, the inability to build up - as opposed to out - could have serious consequences. Japan’s northeast quadrant will be architecturally quite distinct from the rest of the country, which could result in a preview of what the post-carbon world may look like. Land availability could be further impacted by the degree of radioactive contamination caused by the breached cores of growing numbers of reactors. Could the miles of rubble created by the tsunami be pushed into the ocean, thereby creating “new land?” A precedent for doing this exists in Chicago, where the endless ash and trash that resulted from the fire of 1871 was pushed into Lake Michigan, in essence creating a new shoreline.
Whatever it does, Japan is in for a long and arduous struggle. From the sound of it, so are we all.


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