Japan has endured a three-headed monster of colossal catastrophes over the past ten days—a 9.0 earthquake, a tsunami with 30-foot crests, and an unresolved nuclear-reactor crisis that unspooled as a direct result of the first two disasters. The temblor and tidal wave can be blamed on a deliberately cruel God or a murderously impersonal Mother Nature. The reactors’ possible meltdown is the result of human diddling with natural laws that mankind has obviously yet to master.
Nausea-inducing footage of a reactor explosion at Fukushima on March 12 set off a solid week of grim news from Japan, each grisly factoid floating like a puff of radioactive steam sailing on a light easterly plume across the Pacific and onto our computer screens. Mass evacuations. Glum civilians in face masks. Iodide tablets. Helicopters clumsily trying to dump water on the reactors and missing. “Suicide squads” of contract workers in radiation suits making $113 a day in exchange for a death sentence. Little yappy dogs at airports being scanned for ionized particles. Geiger counters clicking away. Snowflakes and raindrops with invisible poison falling on mainland Japan and leaching into milk, spinach, and even Tokyo’s drinking water.