Of the tsunami and Mt. Fuji

I’ve been thinking quite a bit about William Carlos Williams and his observation in Asphodel, That Greeny Flower:

Our news media blare with (apocalyptic but not revelatory) trumpets…

while Hokusai, painting circa 1831, conveys the vulnerability of the (Japanese and human) situation with his image of boats in a storm.


Here’s Dr. Barnett, in my own transcript of his video this week:

The surprise factor here really shouldn’t exist in our minds. I mean the mega-disaster of a tsunami plus and earthquake plus a nuclear meltdown in Japan – well, those three are already highly linked. Japan highly depends on nuclear power, it’s one of the most seismically active island chains in the world, and tsunami is a Japanese word. So if you are going to put a forty year old very aging early technology nuclear power plant right on the coast in Japan, the only mega-disaster you’re going to get there is an earthquake-triggered, tsunami-delivered nuclear meltdown. So these are not surprising connections, we’re just bumping into the connectivity that’s natural and only becoming more expansive as globalization advances.

That’s exactly right – and Hokusai should have been an early warning.

The only thing missing from Barnett’s analysis, and present in Hokusai, is Mt. Fuji – or what TS Eliot (to circle back again to “verbal” poetry) would call “the still point of the turning world”.

1 thought on “Of the tsunami and Mt. Fuji”

  1. As always the good doctor is superficial. The #1 reactor is a 40 year old GE BWR. The #2 and #3 are larger reactors which are a few years younger. The #4 reactor was not running along with #5 and #6.

    There is plenty of evidence of very powerful tsunamis along that coast with several older towns rebuilt on quite high ground after events in previous centuries. They survived well.

    One could make a case for criminal negligence both in the construction and in the response to the events of March 11. That may yet occur.

    The construction of these reactors in that place without adequate sea walls and no good plan to deal with a large tsunami is very short sighted if not criminal. The placing of backup diesel generators unprotected and at sea level is again just stupid.

    There was, because of slow and poor response and and the aforementioned neglect, a 18 – 20 hour period when the reactors were not cooled. This has produced a situation with at least two breached containment vessels, never supposed to happen and one reactor toying on a regular basis with critical reactions. Two have exploded. The #3 reactor with enough force to rip the cladding off, on the explosion side, of a fairly large building a quarter mile away. The #4 reactor which was not running has undergone a moderate explosion and the spent fuel pool which was over loaded is empty. A large part of the water used cools this leaking pool. If it catches fire there is a very large amount, many Chernobyl’s worth, of spent fuel rods which will burn and produce massive radioactive pollution. The explosions have produced areas of ‘red forest’, vegetation killed by radioactive material, all around the plant. No wonder they are going to spray resin over the area to try to contain the material that produced this effect.

    Nothing is going well there and there is no reason for optimism.

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