Recent days have brought destruction and devastation in much of Japan, recent weeks would add New Zealand, China and North Africa to that list. It’s possible for me to say that 2011 has seen already so many more things than would have been expected merely two months ago: Ben Ali in Tunisia and Mubarak in Egypt gone from power; open civil war in Libya; Christchurch devastated in a second earth-quake in less than a year; Japan’s north-eastern provinces destroyed in one of the largest earthquakes the world has seen and the following tsunami with now the possibility of a nuclear disaster on top of that.
Where else will this year lead us?
Saying anything definitive would be foolish given how the past months have demonstrated how nothing can be foreseen. If we did not guess what two months could bring, how can we say what nine will? Yet, from what we know we can still derive much.
What is interesting to think is whether it is really the events which are more plentiful than in past times or is it the extended coverage which gives us so much more detail. Only ten years ago knowledge of either Libya or Japan would have been low. There was something, but the development of the Internet over the last decade has completely transformed it. Two decades ago? A faint idea and TV broadcasts, nothing more. Four decades ago? TV, radio, newspapers. A century ago? Newspapers with outdated information, telegraph connections.
And yet, nothing that we actually learn of these events helps us in any way. It just creates an illusion that we know, for in no way can we know what is fully going on (yet, at least).
I have to add: That the earth-quake and tsunami hit Japan with the largest force is something that needs to be observed. Had it been any other place, we would be expecting casualties in the hundreds of thousands much like in 2004. Now, they might well reach that level but the approximations right now are kept at a few tens of thousands. It might all change, however, it is clear that the systems the Japanese have in place such as the city-wide warnings, automatic train-brakes, etc, are useful and helped saved countless lives.
It is only to be hoped that what happens to the nuclear reactors is not brought as a charge against the industry as a whole when again we have decades-old reactors which failed to act by their security mechanisms. If anything, it is a proof that we need more rapid modernization and quickly in the industry.
As said, we will see.