The arrogance of man

What started out as speculation or suspicion in the first days following the earthquake, the tsunami and the accident at Japan?s Fukushima nuclear power plant has gradually turned into certainty, a certainty shared even by the most optimistic observers who had initially argued that the threat would be over soon.

The fact is that the problem cannot be easily fixed, as the early wishful statements had it. Meanwhile, officials working on the problem — plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Co (TEPCO) and the Japanese government — have so far failed to convince us that their methods are any better than anyone else?s.

Unfortunately, the self-sacrificing efforts of the few samurai are not enough when TEPCO relies on unusual or improvised approaches to tackle a nightmare hovering over an entire country and the rest of the world as if it were just a small and unimportant local issue.

Hence the repeated refutations (TEPCO officials originally said Sunday that radiation in water leaking out of Unit 2 was 10 million times above normal only to issue a comforting statement a few hours later saying that the figure had been miscalculated and the level was actually just 100,000 times above normal). And hence the series of errors, as pointed out by the Japan Atomic Energy Agency. And hence the constant and systematic misinformation that has been criticized also by the Japanese government.

Japanese citizens had every reason to protest outside the TEPCO offices in Tokyo — a protest that was motivated more by frustration than fear. People realize that the political/business scenario that portrays ?vengeful nature? as the cause of the disaster is more fiction than reality.

The damage caused by the earthquake and the tsunami would in any case be huge. But in 2009 a leading Japanese scientist had already warned TEPCO about the dangers posed to the Fukushima plant from a possible quake and tsunami. But the company ignored the warnings, although the plant is said to have been designed to withstand a tsunami of up to 5.5 meters.

Other experts, The New York Times reported, issued a warning one-and-a-half months before the quake but this was ignored by government and TEPCO inspectors.

Sure, nature can sometimes turn violent, but its effects become all the more devastating when accompanied by man?s profit-driven irresponsibility and shortsighted arrogance.