Underestimating nature: Japanese hubris.
Nature should never be underestimated, nor human prowess overestimated. The Japanese are guilty of both. Indeed, their hubris may yet lead to a kind of disaster and human tragedy that has not befallen a developed nation in modern memory.
The Japanese mistake comes, in a very deep way, from their national personality. Their own mythology and culture, so evident in their manga comics, is that technology can triumph over all. They seem to believe that not only is there a technological solution for all problems, but that the Japanese are themselves equipped to deliver it. This attitude has led to some successes in certain fields of engineering and electronics, but it has also led to foolish decisions on a national level. One of those is the placement of 55 nuclear reactors, in Japan, within the influence of the “Ring of Fire”, seismically active zone.
Japanese decision makers, rather puzzlingly, from an objective point of view, ignored the fact that Japan is one of the most seismically active places on Earth, and ordered a dense network of nuclear reactors to be built. They believed that their engineers could make their reactors entirely earthquake proof, eliminating the dangers of having fission reactors in a seismic zone. Indeed, they planned for earthquakes of a particular seriousness – but this particular quake seriously surpasses their design limits. In short, the Japanese underestimated nature.
There is a lesson for all nations here and all politicians. The Earth is entering a time of ever greater extremes in natural phenomena, such as weather. This means that events once thought rare, will become increasingly common and, unfortunately for us (and the world’s insurers) ever more savage. Those planning against such eventualities, should try their best to OVER-estimate the seriousness of events. They should plan for the worst possible imaginable circumstances – and then some. The only safety, in the face of the “natural” disasters to come, will be in what may seem like excessively cautious preparation. However, when the time comes, it will not seem excessive at all. It will seem like the wisdom it is.
So, let not the world make the Japanese mistake. Plan ahead for the worst of all possible scenarios, in all areas of natural disaster. Overengineer everything that needs to be protected. Such preparations are the only measures that can reduce the impact of the many disasters to come, which we shall all see in our lifetimes.
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