The aftermath of the earthquake and tsunami in Japan has been devastating from every angle. Beyond the impact the natural disaster has had on the world’s citizens, are environmental and societal effects. Even though the disaster mainly affected Japanese citizens, there could be lasting problems in the upcoming years — some of which will affect us here in the U.S. and in other countries.
The well-known effect of the earthquake was the tsunami that devastated Japan, which left many homeless and destroyed entire towns. The earthquake was so powerful that large waves disrupted the coasts of Hawaii and California, causing floods and destroying boats and houses. The waves traveled the distance of the Pacific Ocean, causing damage across U.S. coastlines.
One main area of concern is radiation, which has been absorbed into some land and water. It has been reported that the tap water in Tokyo already tested positive with high radiation levels for infants. If the radiation is in the water, it will also be absorbed by plants and ingested by fish. The Japanese will have to carefully monitor their entire food system. It is difficult to decide or predict exactly how radiation will affect food. So far there has been radiation in milk from the area of the nuclear reactors, spinach from a village to the south, in canola to the west, and chrysanthemum greens to the south. This also brings up the issue of trade; many cargo ships are being docked and many countries are halting imports from Japan.
Another area of concern is the economic impact on the auto industry, whose main importer of car parts is Japan. There will be a smaller supply of cars, which will most likely raise car prices, challenging an already struggling industry.
A more scientific and interesting change caused by the tsunami is that because of the change in the earth’s mass, the earth revolves a little faster, and each day is now 1.8 microseconds shorter. Most of us are unaware that severe earthquakes can alter the earth’s rotation. According to CBS News, the aftershocks had more of an effect on the earth’s spinning than the earthquake itself, quickening its speed by 1.8 microseconds.
On an uplifting note, the Japanese have displayed how honorable and respectful their society is in a time of crisis. New reports from Japan discuss the adaptability of the Japanese and how they are looking to shed the age of excess in order to utilize self-restraint. They realize there are fewer resources available, and less electricity, imports and exports, leading them to simply adapt to using less. They are conserving all commodities. Japanese are foregoing graduations, cherry blossom festivals, cosmetic stores and restaurants; instead they are encouraging water bottle stations and using less electricity. Their economy will have a rough road ahead with more government spending and less consumer sales. Their handling of the disaster should be inspiration to us all to use less, conserve more and be attentive to what is surrounding us.
– Alison Melcher