SODOM & GOMORRAH: Our thoughts and prayers go out to the people of Japan as they cope with such a massive disaster.
The earthquake in Japan is unique. Not only was it so massive, but it resulted in somewhat minor damage. Japanese building codes are designed to protect major cities from earthquakes, however something as big as an 8.9 is going to do some damage. As of this writing, some of that damage is on-going; a nuclear reactor could melt down as a result of extensive damage. There’s already a small radiation leak. Thankfully people have been evacuated, but a complete meltdown would render the area a mess for years – it could, foreseeably, become a Chernobyl type area. Not only is Chernobyl a dead zone that’s off-limits to people, but its vacancy makes it a destination for vagrants and people who are homesick after the disaster.
People have wasted no time in pointing out the political implications. The GOP would cut tsunami prepardness out of the US budget, building codes saved Japan. While this author is somewhat sympathetic to the latter, it’s foolish to believe that human beings can do something to stop death. Granted tsunami preparedness may help (though native tribes never had a problem with tsunamis; when the birds start flying away from the water, so did the people). Building codes could and do prevent structural damage sometimes. But if your wave is big enough or your earthquake strong enough, it won’t completely stop people from getting hurt. Human beings can never fully master nature. We can protect ourselves against some things, but some large disasters will kill. We’re vulnerable and it seems that people who are now making the arguments for more spending on building codes and tsunami preparedness aren’t focusing on how these things by themselves can mitigate damage; they seem to have an implicit belief that human beings can tame nature completely.
Building codes and funding don’t stand up to a power that can shift an entire coastline several feet.