The media’s fascination with Japan’s nuclear crisis misses the real devastation in the aftermath of the magnitude 9.0 earthquake and resulting tsunami.
Japan’s death toll has officially reached 10,000 people, and that number is likely to rise. A New York Times report on March 27 said 27,000 people are listed as dead or missing. Having trouble wrapping your head around that number? That would be equivalent to wiping out 95 percent of Virginia Tech’s undergraduate and graduate population.
The Japanese Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications continues to tally the loss and destruction caused by the natural disasters. More than 400 miles of coastline are affected. If you drove from Blacksburg to Richmond, Va., then up to Baltimore, Md., you would still be in harm’s way.
With entire villages literally swept away, there comes an enormous loss of local history and culture, not to mention the devastating economic impact. And that loss is being underscored by fears of an invisible threat: radiation. This is not to reject the importance of the nuclear crisis in Japan. The world has legitimate concerns about the risks of contamination and how to stop the leaking reactors.
However, thanks to the Japanese government’s regulations, warnings and forced evacuations, the public is at minimal risk of harm. The highest reported radioactivity found in a liter of tap water was equal to 1/88 of a chest X-ray. With such knowledge and some foresight, the Japanese can better prepare for potential threats and avoid consumption of certain food products, whereas no one could prepare for mother nature’s fury.
It is the fear of the invisible and the unease of not knowing that spread panic. So far, this fear has been the worst outcome of the nuclear crisis because it can be mentally debilitating. But there is no reason to live in fear. We are surrounded by radiation in our daily lives, from the sun’s rays to X-rays, from air travel to food.
Instead, we should be concerned about helping the displaced survivors rebuild their lives. Japan is one of America’s closest allies. As such, we should mourn with them and assist them in way we can. For the religious among us, we can send prayers and condolences. We can learn about the culture and people of Japan. We can reach out to nonprofits and lend a financial hand.
In Blacksburg, there are fundraising efforts to help the victims and survivors. For instance, Hokies United for Japan will be fundraising and raising cultural awareness at the International Street Fair on April 2. Moe’s Southwest Grill will be donating 20 percent of its profits April 6 from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. to World Vision, a non-profit, helping those affected by the Japan earthquake and tsunami. Assuredly, there are other group efforts the Hokie community can explore.
In the meantime, don’t let the media’s coverage cloud the real people behind the news. Think of them as you search for ways to help. Now, let’s make some positive headlines of our own.