In the last few days, as I have tried to absorb the horror of the news from Japan, I’ve heard two reports that immediately moved me to tears, and have stuck with me in the hours since hearing them. One, on scheduled rolling blackouts in Japan, stated that the schedule proved to be unnecessary as people were voluntarily conserving energy for the greater good. In the other, on attempts to prevent nuclear disaster, an engineer from the US stated that the managers of the Japanese power plants chose preemptively to sacrifice the reactors by pumping in seawater, thereby destroying the plants’ future production, in order to reduce the chance of radiation contaminating surrounding neighborhoods. I’m not sure I’ve expressed that last bit as technically accurate as the engineer did, but I was struck in particular by the tone in the voice of the man who volunteered that bit of information. He seemed a little awestruck by the alacrity with which they made the decision.
Imagine. Billions of dollars of lost equipment and profit. Would the people in charge of nuclear reactors here make such a quick and selfless decision? And would we conserve energy or would we grab up all we could while the getting was good, neighbors be damned? Rugged individualism, our pride and joy, and its less popular offspring, corporate greed. At what cost?
Since then, of course, I’ve also heard about the hoarding of foodstuffs. Doesn’t that sound more like the normal we know?
Resonating with a bit of dissonance in my brain today is a phrase in the Episcopal Book of Common Prayer (Holy Eucharist II, Prayer C), “this fragile earth, our island home.” An earth that can with terrible swiftness reduce a tidy bit of first world civilization into deadly disordered mounds of debris seems far from fragile.
I’m sure there are alarmist folks of all religious persuasions who will use this event to preach the imminent end of days. Yes, the days are a little shorter now. Literally. The earth, I’ve heard, is spinning a wee bit faster. The Pacific Ocean is shrinking and has been for eons. And earth’s axis has shifted. Again.
Truth is, even as we awaken to horrific news every morning, this is nothing new under the sun. It is just the earth being the living, ever-changing thing it is. Question is, how are we going to live on it? Further, how are we going to care for it? And how will we live with and care for each other whether earth is violently intruding into our consciousness or not?