Sunday, March 13, 2011

The Global Community

Spring flowers in Arizona
Anyone who has faced the doctor with the dreaded announcement, "You have cancer," knows how life changes in an instant. 

And when on a walk a few days ago there was discussion about the earthquake in Japan, my first thought was, "Well, it doesn't really affect me."

If you think because the disaster in Japan is too far away to affect you, think again. Perhaps like me, you don't realize how big the Japanese influence is in your life - from Sony TVs to Honda cars to cellphones. And this has all been impacted. What if your Honda needs a part? There are NO shipments leaving Japan now or for the foreseeable future. Businesses will not be operational for months and some will cease to exist, either because of the infrastructure, the contamination, or the loss of leadership/ownership.
But that is a small part of this huge event. Potentially even worse is the news that one or more nuclear reactors may be in various stages of meltdown. A nuclear disaster on top of two others - unimaginable. A quote from GreenPeace included this information about the use of Cesium-137 at the Fukushima plant: “Cesium-137 poses a significant health risk to anyone exposed. Cesium-137 has been one of the isotopes causing the greatest health impacts following the Chernobyl disaster, because it can remain in the environment and food chain for 300 years.”
Those who enjoy tuna fish, squid, and various other Japanese ingredients for sushi or mushrooms for eating can kiss all that goodbye if they are unable to stop the meltdown.
As a former Emergency Management council member for the Veteran’s Administration and the editor of their extensive documents on crises and ‘management’ of them, I can assure you it is an enormous challenge to deal with an earthquake of nearly 9.0. When a tsunami with waves exceeding 23 feet followed the quake, the first event was nearly dwarfed by the second. Now there is the crisis of nuclear explosions and the resulting radiation exposure.
There are hundreds of thousands of people begging for assistance, people who need to be evacuated from the reactor threat, and people who are having to continue to work at their jobs when their focus might be on a lost loved one. It is an Herculean task and they need help, but they are a proud people and there are political risks in accepting aid.
Japan will rise again, but it will be years. The mortality of those who have been injured will increase, not to mention those who were washed away by the tsunami. And even the Japanese government admits they are unsure of how many people have already been exposed to the radiation, or how many may eventually become exposed. Then there is the horrible psychological aspect of living in such a disastrous set of circumstances.
I worked with the Red Cross right after the Katrina hurricane in the Louisiana area, so I can assure you that the emotional impact of losing everything - which may include family and friends, a job, purpose - is a greater devastation than the immediate surroundings, but when the daily life is completely upended without even a way to tell which way to go, it takes a terrible toll. It was tough on the rescue workers, but even harder on those who were without water, food, clothing, warmth and a place to call home.
As I recently posted, I returned to my home in Florida to find it completely emptied due to the betrayal of a friend. This was a difficult situation to come to terms with, but I am grateful I didn’t experience what the Japanese are going through now. I remember only too well what Hurricane Katrina did and although the storm surge there was similar to a tsunami, the daily shaking by after-shocks was not a part of the equation in Louisiana. 
When you cannot identify the street you lived on, when your house has been obliterated, when everything that you worked for is gone, especially the precious memories of children growing up, when the silly things you accumulated and surrounded yourself with are washed away and you have only the clothes on your back, you grieve in a stunned state. You don’t even realize the depth of the loss immediately; you only know what made you feel your place in the world, your touchstone of identity, is missing.
I was there, trying to help feed and cloth and comfort people of all ages. And they would look at me as if to say, “You have no idea what I am going through.” And I didn’t - not at their level of anguish having survived a catastrophe. I was just a worker, a helper, who came in afterwards.
Why am I expressing this? Because we really are a global community, and we cannot ignore the fact that when our neighbors in Japan are struggling to deal with an awful calamity, we are going to be affected. Not just because we might not be able to get the parts for a car, or ink for printers, or new cellphones or some other product, but because the loss of that part of the world’s participation in our world will have consequences - not known yet - but in time we will see it and feel it.
And I offer up these words of consolation to my unknown Japanese friends - I am so, so sorry for your losses. I have been a witness to others who have suffered greatly and I know you have many, many months of recovery ahead of you. I cannot come to you to help, but I will be offering up my intentions and prayers on your behalf, and will do what I can in other ways to ease your pain.
Unfortunately the other disturbing aspect of the events of March 11 is that it is unclear just what can be done from such a great distance and I have had the distinctly unpleasant experience in the past of watching various scams unfolding in the name of “assistance.” The one group I am certain can provide effective aid is the Church of Latter Day Saints and while I am not a member, I know their reputation for delivery. Perhaps there is a church near you which you can contact for more information. Or possibly you have your own connection with a trustworthy group that is providing help. 

Or if your life circumstances don't allow you the resources to do more than pray or intend for the victims, the rescuers, those who are trying to solve the problems, then please do that. I’m just sayin’... we have to find ways to reach out to this suffering community.

1 comment:

  1. They may need to look under the whole name, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. I know there are a lot of "assistance" groups out there that have a lot of overhead or administrative costs. Your just never sure what amount of what you donate will get to the intended victims. The LDS church does not have overhead and 100% gets to it's intended targets. I have been working behind the scenes with them for hurricanes and tornadoes from Texas to Florida and all between. They don't seek recognition but their level of preparation, facilities, resources and number of volunteers is impressive and very Christian.