When the tsunami hit Japan last month, I was aboard the MS Rotterdam in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, heading for the port of Honolulu. The ship's captain came on the loud speaker to announce that we would reverse course and head back into the ocean where the ship could more so ride out the affect of the tsunami.
Well fortunately, the affect of the giant wave was minimal for us. The next morning we headed back to Honolulu where getting a hotel room was next to impossible because the thousands of Japanese tourists who were visiting could not go home. Well those Japanese were fortunate. The quake and the tsunami left more than 27,000 people dead or missing.
Thousands lost their homes and families to say nothing of their livelihoods. Those who survive the impact of the 9.0 earthquake and the giant tsunami now face the most uncertain future any people ever have. As the world holds its breaths to see how the radiation danger resulting from the damage to the nuclear reactors plays out.
The risks are hard to measure, depending on distance from the reactors, topography, and wind patterns. What we do know is that the dangers are incremental and various. Exposure resulting from radiation in water to agricultural products, even in sea water is hard to measure. We know it can last for years. George Johnson in the Washington Post says it kills incrementally, slowly, diffusely, and invisibly.
Princeton professor Robert Socolow describes it as the fire that you can't put out. It's estimated that a quarter of the homes and businesses destroyed will not be rebuilt. The future of Japan is in question. It's one of the most richest and successful nations on earth. Since it imports 99 percent of its oil, it made the decision to embrace nuclear energy for its energy needs. Obviously, the country is now faced with the more pressing problems resulting from the disaster which struck it. Eventually, however, they will have to face the crippling effects on their economy.
Whether they'll be able to regain their economic position in the world is problematic. In the meantime, I look with pride on the way the American people are reacting. It's been 70 years since the bombing of Pearl Harbor and our war with Pearl Harbor and our war with Japan. During most of those decades, our resentment and our antipathy toward the Japanese has been strong. I'm pleased that in the face of enormous catastrophe, which has befallen them we have reacted with concern and a huge output of aide.