So I’ve been checking the international news, and have come to the conclusion that I should be preparing my nuclear fallout survival kit. Good thing I’ve spent so much time watching my husband play “Fallout: New Vegas,” at least I sort of know what to expect. Funny, you’d think the Japanese newscasters, and perhaps the government, would be warning us all of this by now, but apparently no one’s let them in on it.
In all seriousness, I do want to provide a perspective from my situation in Japan about the aftermath of the earthquake, but it seems I cannot escape a mention of media coverage in doing so. So I will break the discussion into three segments, complete with handy alliteration subheadings: Horror, Humour, and Helping out. I’ll also provide you lots of links to help you survive the media-induced rumor coma and get to the heart of the issues.
Horror is the emotion we all felt when we first saw the footage of the tsunami’s destruction pouring over the airwaves. On the Friday night after the earthquake, I had several friends over to my apartment for tea and cake. A little ironic, perhaps, but our nerves were all far beyond the edge and an attempt at relaxation was in order. We turned the TV on to see the developments, and saw the tsunami carrying houses, cars, and debris across a rice field with undaunted force. “Those are bodies!” one of my guests exclaimed in horror.
It’s impossible to forget those images, and even more impossible with the threat of another major earthquake predicted early this week hanging over our heads. Add to this continuing tsunami warnings across the whole East coast of Japan (which includes us, just south of Nagoya), the consistent “aftershocks,” many also high magnitude earthquakes in their own right, and of course the nuclear power plant crises in several locations, one of which is just 75 kilometers north of Tokyo, and you have a recipe for… a captivating horror movie, which is what many of the international news outlets seem to have picked up on.
Call it media sensationalism, morbid voyeurism, or whatever you like. Yes, the video footage helps raise awareness of the severity of the crisis, perhaps it will move other Pacific Rimmers to be more prepared for earthquakes, perhaps it will inspire donations and the desire to help. But you only need to watch the video once for that effect. Beyond that, it seems to be catering to some need of human nature for real life excitement, drama, and tragedy. Especially with headlines like “Battered country faces threat of nuclear meltdown as death toll rises,” “Bodies strewn along Japan’s coast,” or even better, “48 hours to stop a nuclear disaster,” and “Tsunami swallows parts of Japan.” I know newspapers are struggling, what with the dearth of print media interest, so maybe they should move into Hollywood movie title creation. Just a suggestion.
If you do, however, want more realistic, to the point information, here are a few sources I’ve been using:
- Al Jazeera has been offering pretty good, non-American-sensationalist coverage, and has been recommended to me by several reputable sources. They also offer live streaming.
- The Japan Meteorological Agency offers real time information about earthquake occurrences and tsunami advisories, including an index of each earthquake that occurs, its time, intensity and location.
- The BBC has some good coverage, although it has been guilty of some sensationalism. They also have a pretty decent FAQ explanation of the nuclear situation.
- You can watch Japanese news in English via NHK live streaming. So far I’ve observed the domestic news to be far more straightforward and less alarmist than the international news. They may, of course, be playing it down in order to prevent mass panic and minimize financial damage via the stock market, but it’s a different and local perspective, nonetheless.
- National AJET’s Twitter feed has been providing regular English updates on the situation domestically, which English-speaking foreigners currently in Japan may find useful.
- This blog has a pretty accessible explanation of radiation readings in Tokyo and why, so far, we don’t need to panic.
After all the highly disturbing images and continuous stream of worrisome news about mass devastation, disaster aftermath, and nuclear fears rising, a little mind break is in order. If you’re the type of person that can’t handle jokes in the midst of tragedy, and needs to maintain a somber mood, you may want to skip this section. But if you’re the type of person that copes via humour, and has to refrain from making zombie jokes at funerals, well, read on.
I have compiled a wish list of the mutant powers I wish to acquire in the post-nuclear catastrophe era. These include, but are not limited to:
- Invisibility on demand.
- Shooting fire, lightning, or ice from my fingertips.
- The temporary ability to grow and retract extra sets of arms when necessary.
- A 5-km range sensor for hostile creatures (including zombies and radioactive mutant insects).
- The power to command seagulls, specifically to target their defecation trajectory.
- The ability to leap several hundred feet in any direction, including up.
- The ability to instinctively sense radiation levels in any object, person, or place, so as to avoid further contamination.
- The ability to instantly learn a language upon hearing it spoken even once.
That last power would be particularly useful even if the nuclear catastrophe doesn’t occur! Alas, I’m only dreaming now, although it is a media-inspired dream. I should return to the seriousness of the matter at hand before I lose everyone completely.
After the initial shock of the disaster, and perhaps after finding out if the people one knows in the region are safe, many people’s thoughts turn to how they can help. While some might be tempted to think Japan is a highly developed country and should be able to weather its own recovery, unlike many nations in the aftermath of the 2004 tsunami, this is unfortunately not the case. On the other hand, you might be tempted to strap a hammock to your backpack and hop on a plane to Fukushima to start pulling people out of the rubble ASAP. In either case I urge you to take a moment to consider how you can most effectively help, if you desire to do so. Here is some further info to guide your consideration:
- Information from the Canadian government about how Canadians can help with a crisis in general, and what Canada is doing regarding Japan specifically. The former link includes a list of reputable charitable organizations you can support.
- You can donate through the Canadian Red Cross, or simply text the word ASIA to 30333 to make a one-time donation of $5 (I’m guessing this is from within Canada only). Or if you’re in Japan you can donate to the Japanese Red Cross. If you’re not in Canada or Japan, find your local Red Cross!
- People in Japan can also donate directly to the Japanese relief effort at Family Mart. Details are here. Also, check out “Man up for Japan” on Facebook.
- For Christians interested in potential volunteer relief work, or interested in supporting Christian volunteer relief work specifically, check out Crash Tohoku on the web or search “Crash Tohoku Quake Relief” on Facebook.
- Some key themes I’ve noticed across these websites is, first, leave the immediate rescue work to the experts, and second, giving money to the organizations in a position to help is preferable over giving food or clothing at this point.
And with that, my most link-filled blog post yet, I should get back to making my nuclear fallout survival kit before it’s too late.