Tsunamis that Rock our Home

I love science because it is questioning, and I always question. What question we ask can determine what answers we get. Dealing with the environmental tragedies of our times leads to many questions for people everywhere around the world.

Can it happen here?

I remember taking this photo of the riling sea in Puerto Rico the year of another terrible tsunami, 2004, so far away and still sensing the ocean’s disturbance.

So can it happen here is the wrong question. We have to change the question, because in a sense it already has happened “here”. Folowing the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami, as of July 2011 up to 15,550 deaths and 5,344 missing were recorded in the area in Japan. We are certainly connected in spirit when our hearts go out to the victims.

We are all connected if not by land, then by the air and the water to the fall out from the tsunami after the radioactivity flowed into the land, air and water.  Our food sources are inter related too as fish and seaweed from the oceans near Japan make their way into our diet around the world. While the levels of radioactivity were millions of times higher than the legal limit in the ocean around the disaster site, it is important to know that fish and plants collect and concentrate the radiation. Take seaweed, it concentrates radioactive iodine at 10,000 times higher than the ocean water it lives in.

Diagrams of the many points on earth affected by earthquakes and tsunami, and the areas where nuclear reactors are positioned are found in the link below. By having a look at the interactive map, you can see how near or far you and loved ones are from the unstable sites, and from the sources of radiation. You can see a measure of risk.

From the National Geophysical Data Center: http://maps.ngdc.noaa.gov/viewers/hazards/?layers=0

We can ask a different question, how can we prevent contamination and resulting human disease after the quake, after the tsunami. As a geneticist by training, I’m very concerned with radiation. It damages DNA, causes mutations which can be inherited in our children, and causes cancer. If radiation didn’t already give me cancer after so many years working as a scientist with radiation at the lab bench, it probably will eventually. Both my parents died of cancer – so it is an ever present phantom travelling through my thoughts.

Science can be one of the effective tools used to protect societies around the world from environmental disasters. Groups like the Union of Concerned Scientists have studied the risks at nuclear sites and made recommendations to ensure safer conditions – if the warnings are heeded. I hope our representatives are listening. I am listening closer than ever.

Please leave a comment to share your impressions and experiences.

You may also be interested in:

DEATH AND THE DREAM, short stories from J.J.Brown available at  https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/79628 as an ebook edition distributed by Smashwords. The paperback edition is coming soon.

9 thoughts on “Tsunamis that Rock our Home

  1. Thanks for the post and the moving video.
    Planet earth is indeed alive…with all living creatures it gives us a perfect complex living system. Balance is important here; unfortunately, human activities are pushing the system beyond its balance limits…
    May be the questions we need to ask concern our way of life:
    Are we ready to live by the planet limits? Are we ready to give up a bit of our materialistic comfort so we can share natural resources equally ??
    How can we be ready if growth dogma is based on producing more and consuming more…
    It is as if we are consuming/destroying, year after year, our…safety boat.

  2. Jennifer, thank you so much for this thoughtful post and for this video. Things like this always inspire me to be a better activist.

    I recall the words of Ingrid Newkirk of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. On the disappearance of the Congo and its vast natural resources, she bemoaned, “We humans here have so much greed, not need, but greed, that we want more rubber, more minerals, we want more logs, more lumber. We just want more. That’s what our species is defined as.”

    We are not being caretakers to the land and its inhabitants, just takers.

  3. I love that video, Jennifer. And the map is interesting.
    Arizona has a huge nuclear reactor called Palo Verde. I think it might be the biggest in the country. (Not sure.) A little frightening to contemplate what could result if something went wrong there.
    I think greed is behind most of the man-made disasters. And a fair amount of human hubris and stupidity.
    Thoughtful, and thought provoking, post.

  4. Yes. It can happen anywhere. No place on earth is a perfect spot free of natural disasters. Luckily for most of us, in a lot of places, things are stable enough that it probably won’t happen in our lifetime. Then again, the situation could change tomorrow and then who knows? And this is only the natural stuff. Man-made disasters are a whole different ball game. Although we have regulation of all the dangerous materials and sites, there are just not enough people (and enough honesty) to ensure that all these places stay stable. One chink in the armor is all that’s needed in some cases. I only hope that I’m nowhere near there when it does happen! Although living in tornado alley, some would say that I have a slightly better chance than most to be near a disaster.

  5. Cool link to the NOAA site – I had not seen that before. Yes the earth’s biosphere is stressed – too many people. Population control is the elephant in the room that no one wants to talk about. Control is the bad word here. But what if there was a way to reduce population growth rates without “control”? I think that there is!

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