Near Yellow Mountain

Friday, March 18, 2011

Lessons from Japan

I started the week in Florida to attend an industry show that is usually well attended by Japanese. On Monday I hoped to hear the latest news on events in the lithium battery industry from a Japanese expert who presents every year. This year he couldn't make it for obvious reasons. Some of my Japanese customers and others I know in the industry from Japan were in Florida. They had either left for the US before the earthquake and tsunami or are based in western Japan where the airports were not impacted. The small group of Japanese who I spoke with this week had a common attitude - the situation is terrible but "we" will work through it.

It is hard to find anything positive in the aftermath of a tragic event like this earthquake and the subsequent tsunami but if I can see one positive thing -- it is the focus by the media on how the people of Japan have come together, as they always do in times like this. People were not worried about looting or riots, they banded together to help each other and will continue to do so until things are back to normal. The stores had limited supplies but people were not hoarding.  The vast majority take enough for their immediate need and allow others to have what they need.

Having lived in Japan and still a frequent visitor, it is nice to see the example the Japanese can provide regarding civil behavior broadcast to the world. I was supposed to be in Tokyo next week. A couple days ago I got a note of apology from our partner asking if I could delay my upcoming visit because of the current "inconvenience". Only the Japanese would apologize in a situation like this.

Other than reporting on the people aspects of the aftermath; in my opinion, the media did not do so well. The reports from CNN were a bit over the top with comparisons of the problems at the Fukushima reactor to Chernobyl (not comparable for many reasons) or discussions about potential radiation migration to the US west coast (if it happens the levels would probably compare to a dental x-ray). Despite all the "noise", like many people, I listened each day to the latest. I live a couple miles of a nuclear power plant in the US. I am thankful for the low cost power it provides and hate to see the knee jerk reaction of governments and media that call into question whether more "nukes" should be built. The focus should be on continuing to improve and develop the technology. More people have died in oil field and coal mining accidents than incidents related nuclear power. Life is a risk. Thousands die on the roads each year but nobody calls for a ban on cars.

I don't agree with the French on many things but I think they have it right on their leadership nuclear energy.