But I feel fine.
It's important to remind ourselves not to take counsel of our fears, to not let our fears overwhelm us in tough times. My mode in tough times is to hyperventilate for about 10 seconds, remind myself that it's time to pull the big girl panties up, and then buckle down and get going. This is hard because as more information about the Japanese earthquakes, the tsunami and the suffering becomes known, the only plausible reaction from a sentient, caring human being is along the lines of "fuckity fuckity fuckity fuck fuck fuck."
Seriously. I think I may have actually said that the other day when the news broke.
But as the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy reminds us:
DON'T PANIC!Infantile reactions to any disaster are usually pretty counterproductive in the long run, but they're the first reaction most of us have. So let's get our heads on straight together, a'ight? And if anybody is trying to politically capitalize on this Act of God, kick them in the nuts, for the sake of our collective sanity. Mother Earth is not angry at us for poking her with oil derricks and mining implements. 500 year earthquakes have nothing to do with global warming. And it's not God's revenge on gay people either because believe me, there's precedent for God kicking our asses about various things, and he usually makes a point of telling us that's exactly why he's doing it, at least if any of the religious texts can be believed.
The two most sensible things I've heard about what's going on in Japan are:
- Don't freak out about the destruction; it's terrible but this is a 500 year earthquake, the kind that hits the Earth only once every 500 years or so at the most. We should be mindful of earthquake and tsunami risks but remember this one is a black swan hitting the Pacific Rim of Fire and probably not a good justification for rebuilding our society to with stand a 9.7 earthquake (an X thousand year earthquake); and,
- The reactor fire / meltdown Japan is undergoing is not nothing, but it's not going to be Chernobyl, either. The latter comes from this article that I would strongly encourage you to read. It appears to be a pretty sensible and knowledgeable discussion of that part of the disaster, and based on my limited technical knowledge of reactor design - I won't bore you with the details of how I came to have any knowledge about them - sounds about right. The short version is that bad things can happen and some significant amount of radiation will likely leak, but US and Japanese reactor design is radically different from the Soviet design that blew at Chernobyl, starting with the triple containment vessels we use, versus the uncontained reactors the Soviets used. Nobody really knows what's going on or how bad it will get, but what we do know is the folks who are in full fledged panic have no grasp of the facts whatsoever. The only real flaw is that the author ignores the fact that people on his side of the political aisle are using the cynical reaction of the professional no-nukes lobby as a fundraising gambit just as the no-nukes people are using the disaster - but that's a fairly small flaw in what appears to be a sober assessment of the problem. So read that article, and go read some more actual facts about nuclear reactors, it will make you smarter *and* less worried at the same time. Oh, you'll still be concerned and damned worried for the Japanese in the region around that powerplant. But your concern will be appropriate and measured.
I'll repeat: DON'T PANIC!
So what should we do?
The real answer to "what should I do?," besides "pray for the Japanese people," is "give generously." The Japanese people are fast friends of the United States - they happen to be strategically important too, BTW - and they need our help.
CNN.com has a very useful page that lists some of the charities that are helping in Japan. Please feel free to give a money if you're so inclined. Water, basic shelter, food, and soon medical care will be essential needs that the charities can help with - if they can get enough lift to the affected areas. The scope of the humanitarian disaster is simply soul crushing; it looks to me like Katrina, if you packed the full destruction of three states into an area the size of Rhode Island. Charity Navigator offers a searchable database of charities that rates them for effectiveness and efficiency; I like to give to charities that have a low overhead cost and a high program cost - in other words the money goes more to helping people, and less to paying the admin staff and fundraising.
Anyhow, that's been your moment of halfway clear thinking.
Now go ride your damn bike, say a prayer, appreciate what you have, hug somebody you love, and chill the hell out for a while.
This too shall pass. It always does.