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At a time when the press and broadcast media are overwhelmed by accounts and images of humankind’s violence and stupidity, the fact that our race survives purely as a consequence of Nature’s consent, may seem irrelevant. Indeed, if we think about this at all, it might be to conclude that our world would likely be a nicer place all round, should a geophysical cull in some form or other, consign humanity to evolution’s dustbin, along with the dinosaurs and countless other life forms that are no longer with us. While toying with such a drastic action, however, we should be careful what we wish for, even during these difficult times when it is easy to question whether our race deserves to persist. This is partly because alongside its sometimes unimaginable cruelty, humankind also has an enormous capacity for good, but mainly because Nature could – at this very moment – be cooking up something nasty that, if it doesn’t wipe us all out, will certainly give us a very unpleasant shock.
After all, nature’s shock troops are still out there. Economy-busting megaquakes are biding their time beneath Tokyo and Los Angeles; volcanoes are swelling to bursting point across the globe; and killer asteroids are searching for a likely planet upon which to end their lives in spectacular fashion. Meanwhile, climate change grinds on remorselessly, spawning biblical floods, increasingly powerful storms, and baking heatwave and drought conditions. Nonetheless, it often seems – in our security obsessed. tech-driven society – as if the only horrors we are likely to face in the future are manufactured by us; nuclear terrorism; the march of the robots; out of control nanotechnology; high-energy physics experiments gone wrong. It is almost as if the future is nature-free; wholly and completely within humankind’s thrall. The truth is, however, that these are all threats that don’t and shouldn’t materialise, in the sense that whether or not we allow their realisation is entirely within our hands.
The same does not apply, however, to the worst that nature can throw at us. We can’t predict earthquakes and may never be able to, and there is nothing at all we can do if we spot a 10-km diameter comet heading our way. As for encouraging an impending super-eruption to ‘let of steam’ by drilling a borehole, this would – as I have said before – have the same effect as sticking a drawing pin in an elephant’s bum; none at all.
The bottom line is that while the human race may find itself, at some point in the future, in dire straits as a consequence of its own arrogance, aggression, or plain stupidity, this is by no means guaranteed. On the contrary, we can be 100 percent certain that at some point we will need to face the awful consequences of an exploding super-volcano or a chunk of rock barreling into our world that our telescopes have missed. Just because such events are very rare does not mean that we should not start thinking now about how we might prepare and cope with the aftermath. It does seem, however, that while it is OK to speculate at length upon the theoretical threat presented by robots and artificial intelligence, the global economic impact of the imminent quake beneath Tokyo, to cite one example of forthcoming catastrophe, is regarded as small beer.
Our apparent obsession with technological threats is also doing no favours in relation to how we view the coming climate cataclysm. While underpinned by humankind’s polluting activities, nature’s disruptive and detrimental response is driven largely by the atmosphere and the oceans, through increasingly wild weather, remorselessly-rising temperatures and climbing sea levels. With no sign of greenhouse gas emissions reducing and concentrations of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere crossing the emblematic 400 parts per million mark in 2013, there seems little chance now of avoiding a 2°C global average temperature rise that will bring dangerous, all-pervasive climate change to us all.
The hope is that we come to our collective senses and stop things getting much worse. But what if we don’t? A paper published last year in the Royal Society’s Philosophical Transactions, and written by lauded NASA climate scientist, James Hansen and colleagues, provides a terrifying picture of what out world will be be like if we burn all available fossil fuels. The global average temperature, which is currently a little under 15°C will more than double to around 30°C, transforming most of our planet into a wasteland too hot for humans to inhabit. If not an extinction level event as such, there would likely be few of us left to scrabble some sort of existence in this hothouse hell.
So, by all means carry on worrying about what happens if terrorists get hold of ‘the bomb’ or if robots turn on their masters, but always be aware that the only future global threats we can be certain of are those in nature’s armoury. Most of all, consider the fact that in relation to climate change, the greatest danger our world has ever faced, it is not terrorists or robots – or even experimental physicists – that are to blame, but ultimately, every one of us.
Earthquake, Tsunami, and Nuclear Disaster Strike Japan
Japan, situated on the Ring of Fire on the edge of the Pacific Ocean, has suffered some major earthquakes over the years. However, nothing before compared to the triple disaster of March 11, 2011: a massive earthquake followed by powerful tsunamis which led to a serious nuclear accident.
The horrors began shortly before three in the afternoon local time with a 9.0-magnitude earthquake. Its epicenter was nearly 20 miles below the floor of the Pacific Ocean about 80 miles east of the Japanese city of Sendai. The quake was one of the most powerful ever recorded, and the strongest to hit this region of Japan.
Map prepared by the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration depicting the tsunami wave height model for the Pacific Ocean following the March 11, 2011, earthquake off Sendai, Japan. Source: NOAA Center for Tsunami Research.
The quake unleashed several tsunamis, or tidal waves, that moved as fast as 500 miles an hour in all directions — most destructively to the nearby northeastern coast of Japan’s Honshu island. Waves as high as 33 feet high crashed into towns and cities along the coast, washing away anything in their path. One wave reportedly reached as far inland as 6 miles.
Several nuclear plants are located in northern Honshu. Most shut down automatically when the quake occurred, but the powerful tsunamis damaged the backup power systems at a plant in Fukushima. As a result, cooling systems shut down, and nuclear fuel overheated and later caught fire. The fire released radiation in the air, and the use of seawater to try to cool the reactors led to radiation contaminating the sea. Japanese officials had to ban people from a zone up to 18 miles around the damaged reactors, scene of the second worst nuclear accident in history.
In the end, the triple disaster cost Japan nearly 20,000 dead — mostly from the tsunamis — more than 130,000 forced from their homes, more than $300 billion in damage, and a severe jolt to the economy.
The ongoing Japanese nuclear crisis underscores yet again the risks inherent in this essential energy source. But it should not divert nations from using or pursuing nuclear power to generate electricity, given the threat from climate change, the health hazards of fossil fuels, and the undeveloped state of renewable energy. Instead, the events at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant should turn more attention to ensuring that nuclear power plants meet the highest standards of safety and protection against natural disasters.
More than 30 nations have commercial nuclear power plants. A further two dozen are interested in having them, including several in earthquake risk areas such as Indonesia, Malaysia and Turkey.
Some nations are pro-nuclear for energy security; some for prestige. Others, including Iran, have invested in nuclear power because they may want the capability to make nuclear weapons. These nations are seeking to acquire uranium enrichment or reprocessing technologies: useful either for producing fuel for peaceful nuclear reactors or fissile material for nuclear bombs.
Although some national leaders profess to be interested in nuclear energy because operating plants do not emit greenhouse gases, this is usually a secondary motivation. If it were their primary concern, nations would invest far more than they have in measures such as energy efficiency and solar and wind technologies.
The Japanese crisis has affected three important criteria: public opinion, safety and economic costs. Governments and utilities have had to grapple with these for decades. Now they must renew their efforts to finance expensive nuclear projects and ensure that existing and future nuclear plants maintain the highest standards — and must be seen to do so by the public.
Building nuclear power plants has always been expensive. For a large reactor with a power rating of 1,000 megawatts or greater, the capital cost ranges from US$4 billion to $9 billion depending on reactor design, financing charges, the regulatory process and construction time. The recent nuclear crisis is likely to change all of these, pushing up costs.
Contemporary plant designs — ‘generation III’ — have better safety features than the 1970s-era generation II designs for the Fukushima reactors, making them more expensive. Some, such as the AP1000 designed by the Westinghouse Electric Company, headquartered in Cranberry Township, Pennsylvania, have passive safety features that do not require technicians to activate emergency systems or electrical power to ensure safety after a mishap. Others, such as Paris-based Areva’s EPR, have advanced active safety systems designed to prevent the release of radioactive material to the environment. Further designs, such as the pebble-bed modular reactor, may prevent nuclear fuel from ever experiencing a meltdown. Concerns were raised about the Fukushima designs as early as 1972, the year after reactor unit 1 began operations. But the nuclear industry opposed shutting down such reactors because 32 were in operation worldwide — about 7% of the world’s total. Almost one-quarter of the reactors in the United States are of this type. The remaining plants of this design should undergo a thorough safety review and, as a result, some may need to close. Since the crisis began, several governments, including China, Germany and Switzerland, have called for increased scrutiny of their plants and a moratorium on plant construction until plant safety is assured. Germany has also shut down its seven oldest reactors.
But phasing out nuclear power worldwide would be an overreaction. It provides about 15% of global electricity and even larger percentages in certain countries, such as France (almost 80%) and the United States (about 20%). Eliminating nuclear power would lead to much greater
Jesse Joshua Watson is an award winning, NY Times Bestselling illustrator and author whose work includes Hope for Haiti, Chess Rumble, and the Hank Zipzer series.
Whether hammocking in Brazil, exploring in Hong Kong, dodging taxis in Russia, studying art in Europe, dancing in Jamaica, or raising kids in Port Townsend, Washington, Jesse connects with people. He loves both the differences and the similarities that are so colorfully displayed across our diverse world. Jesse’s passion and appreciation of people is voiced through his brush and on his canvas.
About the book:
The earth shook, and his whole neighborhood was gone. Now he and his mother are living in the soccer stadium, in a shelter made of tin and bedsheets, waiting in line for food and water. But even with so much sorrow all around, a soccer ball inspires a small but powerful link between a heartbroken country’s past and its hopes for the future. Jesse Joshua Watson has created an inspiring testament to the strength of the Haitian people and the promise of children.
My take on the book:
For me, I have no doubts as to why soccer is called ‘the beautiful game’. Not only is it a game which is simply beautiful to watch but, because it is the most popular game in the world and such an integral part of so many peoples lives, it often can be used as a metaphor for life.
I’ve experienced this in action. While visiting for several weeks in a rural village in Uganda, I would get approached and greeted on a pretty regular basis because I would often wear soccer jerseys. I would get asked “Which football team do you support?” or “Are you a supporter of Arsenal (or Manchester United or some other English Premier League team)?’ If I had a soccer ball with me, I drew even more attention and more people who almost immediately became friends. Just because of a game. It’s powerful when you really think about it.
In Jesse Joshua Watson’s book, soccer becomes an even bigger metaphor. In the wake of such a horrible disaster, soccer brings some normalcy back for the children. Soccer is a game they most likely played everyday. Even amongst their immense sadness, the power of play and of playing soccer can bring back memories of good times. The young boy in the story even dreams of playing for his beloved Haiti and of scoring a winning goal.
This is a book which can and should be used in schools to teach children not only about Haiti, but also about hope in the midsts of great and seemingly insurmountable adversity. Young readers will certainly be inspired by the boy in the story and a creative teacher will be able to find a host of interesting activities that can be tied in with this book. Teachers can also pair it with another fantastic book about the earthquake in Haiti: Eight Days (A Story of Haiti).
Hope for Haiti is a beautifully written and illust
Surely by now you've heard--there was a 5.8 earthquake yesterday about 80 miles from where we are in DC.
Yes, we felt it--except Little Dude, who was off in West Virginia at a water park and felt nothing. The house shook like someone had grabbed hold of the foundation and was wiggling it for all its worth. Here were my thoughts, as the quake went on:
1. Shoot, feels like they're digging up the street again for the water main. I thought that was done.
2. Wait, no, this is bigger.
3. This is it. I knew it. That old gas main is going and a giant ball of flame is racing up to my house right now.
4. I can't believe this is how I'm going to go.
5. At least I'm the only one home. That's good.
6. Wait, if this is an explosion then maybe I can still get away. Need to run.
7. Where are my shoes? Need to run.
8. 3-inch sandals. Ok perfect. Need to run.
9. Sandals don't want to go on feet. OK. Will run barefoot.
(dashes down two sets of stairs)
10. (On step 8) OMG my hamstring.
11. (On step 10) OMG my other hamstring.
12. On no I think I just pulled both hamstrings.
13. I think the running thing is out.
14. Purse purse where's my purse need purse.
15. Wait why do I need a purse? Get the heck out of the house.
(finally manage to bumble out of house)
16. Hey! No plumes of dirt or gas smell or... I think I might live.
17. Look at that. The power line is shaking.
18. I really need to step away from the power line.
19. Ow. My hamstring. Ow. My other hamstring. Ow. My foot. (steps on 10th acorn encountered since running four feet from house).
And that was about all the excitement. My husband was evacuated from his office which meant about a 2.5 hour commute home. And Little Dude's camp bus was about 30 minutes late... not bad given that the entire city was jammed up trying to get home.
Feels like for a 5.9 earthquake, we sure were lucky.
We had an earthquake this week - the second one in my whole life and I am over half a century old. It caused such a stir that it was the only thing people talked about for a day or two after. This photo of a plastic lawn chair on its back has been floating around Facebook as the aftermath of the Great East Coast Earthquake and it represents the "damage" we felt around here. The tremor was about what you'd expect if a really big truck dragging a heavy trailer came by your house. Ooooooo!! Scary!
Sad, isn't it? We're suffering from the great earthquake of '11.
I thought it was pretty darn cool!
And NOW, we are going to be hit dead on by a hurricane. My husband is running around putting batteries in things and otherwise battening down the hatches. I have my own preparations to make.
I have unearthed a mound of unread ARCs left from BEA! Yeah! Bring it on, rain and wind! I have BOOKS!! And flashlights. Oh and lots of water and I've packed the freezer with water jugs in case the power goes off. And I am powering up my Nook. Because what if I read The Predicteds and Bluefish and The Traitor's Smile-French Revolution anyone? - and the power's still off? I have a couple of books on the Nook, waiting. Like Lieutenant Dan from Forrest Gump I can rail at the wind and the storm. "You don't scare me!"........ yet....much.....ulp.
Written by Susan J. Berger Illustrated by Eugene Ruble Nonfiction Published by Guardian Angel Publishing Ages 6 to 9 Release: April 2009
This nonfiction book will fascinate children young and old. It offers something to every reader. Susan Berger’s facts and descriptions are informative and easy to understand. Eugene Ruble’s illustrations are clever and humorous.
This book is filled with fun factoids. It has charts and graphs, plus illustrations of the inside of the earth. What is an earthquake? Can scientists predict when an earthquake will occur? What do the terms used to describe earthquakes mean? That and more will be found in this book. This book would be a terrific resource for homeschooled children or the school library.
Experiments are included for children to try that will help them understand what happens in an earthquake. Tsunamis are explained. Some famous past earthquakes and tsunamis are described in detail.
This book offers an earthquake craft for kids to make to help with earthquake preparedness. Children and parents learn to put together a plan and a survival kit. There is extensive information on what to have on hand and how to keep supplies fresh.
Susan Berger takes what could be a frightening subject and uses it to inform and empower children. The book is full of useful tips for preparing for the possibility of an earthquake. She tells the reader what to do during and after a quake. Earthquake is a book that gives the reader tips on ways to help others instead of curling up in fear, ending the book on a positive note. I highly recommend this book for children everywhere.
We are accepting submissions on a rolling basis through the end of January. Please send your piece's information (title, dimensions, medium, price & shipping cost, with a JPG of the work) to girlsdrawingirls at gmail. If you have a specific charity you would like your piece to go towards that is not American Red Cross, please specify.
Artists will be responsible for shipping their artwork once sold. GDG will send artists the shipping fee and mailing address of donors.
A year ago today, the world rocked. Shifted until a small chunk of a moderate island dissolved into dust and debris. A year ago today, Haiti experienced an earthquake measuring 7.0 Mw. Do you remember where you were when you first learned of the disaster it left? What were you doing when you heard about the missionaries who tried to rescue street orphans? How you felt when you learned over 230,000 people died that day?
And now? Did you know a population the size of Austin, TX is still homeless? One year later. As I sit and write this I can’t help but feel a paradox between my New Year’s hope to shed my Christmas cookie jiggle and the thin frames of those who wander the streets of the tent villages peppering Haiti’s former cityscape.
May God move among the Haitians in a powerful, redemptive, beautiful manner. May we catch a glimpse of His power in the compassion found in the rebuilding efforts. May we all play our part in their recovery. And thank you God for the safety of my family and the home that I have.
Is nuclear power too risky in earthquake-prone countries such as Japan? On March 11, a massive 8.9-magnitude earthquake shook Japan and caused widespread damage especially in the northeastern region of Honshu, the largest Japanese island. Nuclear power plants throughout that region automatically shut down when the plants’ seismometers registered ground accelerations above safety thresholds.
But all the shutdowns did not go perfectly. Reactor unit 1 at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station experienced a mechanical failure in the emergency safety system. In response, officials ordered the evacuation of residents who live within two miles of the plant. Also, people living between two to 10 miles were ordered to stay indoors. The Japanese government described this order as a precautionary measure.
A worst-case accident would release substantial amounts of radioactive materials into the environment. This is unlikely to happen, but is still possible. Modern commercial nuclear power plants like the Fukushima plant use defense-in-depth safety measures. The first line of defense is fuel cladding that provides a barrier to release of highly radioactive fission products. Because these materials generate a substantial amount of heat, coolant is essential. Thus, the next lines of defense are to ensure that enough cooling water is available. The reactor coolant pumps are designed to keep water flowing through the hot core. But loss of electric power to the pumps will stop this flow. Backup electric power sources such as off-site power and on-site emergency diesel generators offer another layer of defense.
Unfortunately, these emergency power sources were knocked out about one hour after the plant shut down. Although it is unclear from the reporting to date, this power outage appears to have occurred at about the same time that a huge tsunami, triggered by the earthquake, hit that part of Japan.
Sustained loss of electric power could result in the core overheating and the fuel melting. However, three other backup systems provide additional layers of defense. First, the plant has batteries to supply power for about four hours. Second, the emergency core cooling system can inject water into the core. Finally, the containment structure, made of strong reinforced concrete, surrounds the reactor and can under even the most severe conditions prevent radioactive materials from entering the environment.
But the earthquake — the largest in the 140 years of recorded history of Japanese earthquakes — might have caused some damage to the containment structure. Japanese authorities announced that they will vent some steam from the containment structure to reduce the pressure buildup. This action may release small amounts of radioactive gas. The authorities do not expect any threat to the public.
Although a meltdown will most likely not occur, this incident will surely result in significant financial harm and potential loss of public confidence. For example, it was less than four years ago, in July 2007, when the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa Nuclear Power Plant, Japan’s largest, suffered shaking beyond its design basis acceleration. The plant’s seven reactors were shut down for 21 months while authorities carefully investigated the extent of the damage. Fortunately, public safety was not harmed and the plant experienced no major damage. However, the government accepted responsibility for approving construction of the first reactor near a geological fault line, which was unknown at the time of construction. The
Last week we received a message from Miki Matoba, Director of Global Academic Business at OUP Tokyo, confirming that her staff is safe and well. This was a relief to hear, and also a reminder that although many of us are tied to the people of Japan in some way, our perspective of the human impact is relatively small. So I asked Miki if she wouldn’t mind sharing some of her experiences, and she kindly agreed. When she responded to my questions she wrote: “Hope my answers reflect a part of how we view the incidents as Japanese.”
1.) Where were you, and what were your thoughts as the earthquake hit?
I was in a meeting room with a visitor from OUP Oxford and my staff having a meeting when the earthquake started. You may find this weird but we all are very much living with earthquakes from a young age. So little shakes here and there are just a part of our lives. But not the one we had last Friday as that was the biggest one in some hundreds of years. What I normally think when earthquakes start is when shall I get up to secure the exit and go under the desk. Most of the time, you do not have to do either as it does not last long. But not this time. As the building started to shake for a while I opened the door of the meeting room thinking that this is a big one but should stop soon. But it did not. So we put ourselves under the table hoping for the shaking to cease. When it did not, I thought then that this is a serious one and something really severe will happen as a result.
Then we saw some white stuff coming down in the office (it was not fire – just some dust coming down from the ceiling) and someone shouted that we should leave NOW. So we did. I did not take anything. Just myself and those who were meeting with me, running down from 8th floor to the ground. Even when we were running down the stairs, it was still shaking. After a while, we went back to the office to get things as the decision was made very quickly to close the office for that day. Almost everything on my desk had either fallen over or was on the floor, and it was still shaking.
2.) Was anyone prepared?
Yes and no. As Japanese, we all are prepared for earthquakes but not for something of this size and the aftermath of it.
3.) How do you continue to manage your group at such a difficult time? Is it possible to work?
Try to communicate well. We email and also have set up an internal Twitter account that we tweet to, including who will go into the office and what they are doing as we are still mainly working from home. The situation is still very unsettling making it difficult to concentrate on work (power rationing, aftershocks and the nuclear power plant situation) but we try to process day-to-day things as usual.
4.) How would you describe the city right now (the business activity, the state of mind)?
Interesting question. I think Tokyo is normally one of the most vibrant cities in the world. Now the city is very quiet compared to normal. The weather has been clear and nice after Friday so it feels odd to be in this peaceful, quiet Tokyo under the sun after all that.
5.) I’ve heard radiation levels are higher than normal – is everyone staying inside?
We have lots of information going around including rumors. We live almost as normal – just listening to TV and radio all the time, watching the progress of the nuclear plant situation. I do not go out if that can be avoided.
Author Jake Adelstein wrote: “‘I may have been shaken but I am not stirred. I will be the dry martini in a time of crisis.’ My Earthquake mantra.” Pamela wrote: “Trying for some shut-eye. May the rest of your night be non-earthshaking.”
Yesterday artist and blogger posted a painted tribute (embedded above) to the earthquake-hit Aomori prefecture. Follow this link to donate to Red Cross earthquake and tsunami relief in Japan.
Many people want to become published children’s book authors but they just don’t know how to go about it.
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As a member of the Children’s Writers’ Coaching Club you won’t need to GUESS at what you should do to write marketable stories and articles for children. You’ll KNOW what you need to do to succeed.
“Toshizo Ido, governor of Hyogo prefecture — where 6,400 people were killed by a 7.3 magnitude quake in 1995 — made the remark at a meeting of governors from western Japan on Tuesday.
“If there were a big earthquake in Kanto (eastern Japan), Tokyo would suffer great damage. This would be a chance, and we should take advantage of it,” media reports quoted Ido as saying.
A government panel has estimated that a magnitude 7.3 earthquake hitting Tokyo Bay would probably kill up to 11,000 people and leave 7 million homeless. Estimates of economic damage have topped more than $1 trillion.”
When Bush is out of office I guess we can look to Japan for politicians who say stupid, clueless things. Yay!