How To Handle Radioactive Clouds – Part 1

by admin on March 16, 2011

Usually when you meet someone you haven’t seen in a while or don’t know particularly well, the opening gambits in the conversation tend to be very polite, almost formal. “How are you?” “Lovely weather isn’t it?” “What are you up to these days?” But lately a lot of people I know have been skipping the pleasantries and diving straight into the issue that concerns them most. “Do you think the radioactive cloud from Japan is going to come here?”

Now, I live in San Francisco and the news here, like everywhere else, has been full of the tragedy in Japan and little else the past few days. Even the events in Libya and the rest of the Arab world are getting little attention, relegated to a short piece on the inside page of the newspaper or the lower levels of the newscast. It feels like all Japan all the time.

That’s understandable, the scale of the disaster is almost unimaginable. Not just a quake and a tsunami but now a looming and ever-growing threat of a radioactive meltdown.

It’s an ill wind

For people here that changed the focus on the conversation. We’re used to living in earthquake country, we’re even used to getting the occasional tsunami warning. But radioactive meltdowns are something entirely new, and have introduced a fresh terror to the issue. And because of reports that the radioactive fallout from the crippled reactor could soon be heading this way, suddenly everyone’s focus is shifting from the horrors befalling Japan to the potential horrors that could soon befall us here on the west coast.

Some people are really, and I mean really, anxious about the subject. They bring it up almost as soon as you meet them, and it weighs heavily on them all day as they regularly scan the news websites trying to find out the latest news. They’re the ones who’ve ransacked every drug store, pharmacy and health store for potassium iodide tablets to protect themselves from the fearful rays. They’re the ones turning to the NASA website to study the patterns of winds and air currents across the Pacific from there to here.

Others are more sanguine, taking a wait and see approach. Hoping the reactor doesn’t explode and spew its deadly contents out into the atmosphere where they’ll be picked up by the wind and wafted to this side of the Pacific.

I tend to be in the latter group. I know the threat is real. I know the potential consequences should the worst occur. And yet I see no reason in getting worried ahead of time. There’s plenty of time for fear and loathing and scrambling to find the next flight to West Virginia or Florida. It might happen. It might not. Either way it’s all out of my control and so I see no need to become overly concerned and certainly not obsessed with events thousands of miles away.

Fear for fears sake

I suppose I just feel it’s a tad self-indulgent to be so pre-occupied with what might happen to me at a time when it’s a living reality for so many people in Japan. They’re having to live with the aftermath of the quake and tsunami right now. They are having to live with the reality of a nuclear reactor going “kaboom” in their backyard. For us it’s theoretic. For them it’s a fact.

Maybe we should be less worried about ourselves and more worried about how we can help them get through this.

Just a thought.

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