The News from Japan Looming Large


THUNDER BAY – The news from Japan continues to loom large in the news. The triple hit that the Japanese people are struggling to overcome is a massive one that is likely to echo across the globe for years to come. There will be social impacts, economic impacts and environmental ramifications as a result of the earthquake, tsunami, and resulting nuclear crisis.

The communities impacted will struggle for a long time. Consider that in New Orleans, in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, even now, that city has many areas that are still not yet recovered.

One thing has changed however in the years since Hurricane Katrina. Back in 2005, there was no formal process set up to use the Internet to locate missing people from a major disaster. In 2005, individuals worked together starting what now is a far more formal process. In 2005, on a news website that ended up becoming, we were, from Thunder Bay, a tiny part of that process. Working with about twenty volunteers, and focusing just on the City of New Orleans, we had a database that was the 13th largest missing persons database from the hurricane. CNN was one ahead of us on the list. It was an effort that helped to connect the missing people and their loved ones who were looking for them.

The project was started with many individuals, and quickly grew into what was the “Katrina Scrapers” who ended up co-ordinating all the missing persons databases into a single searchable database.

Today the process is far more co-ordinated.

The devastation caused by the earthquake and tsunami will take years before the physical rebuilding will be complete. If you go back in history, the flattened communities look almost like the pictures of Hiroshima and Nagasaki after the atomic blasts in 1945. The Japanese economy is going to take a tremendous hit as the re-building process will likely shift much of the economy to that effort. Depending on what degree of coverage people in the country have with their insurance companies, the payouts may set new records.

There are likely few silver linings in the current situation, but if there are any, it could be that as people are re-building their homes, as companies re-build their businesses, and the governments re-build the infrastructure there will be an increased demand on the economy.

The other is that today, using technology, and the power of Google, people have a ready resource to find their missing loved ones.

Finally, the re-building effort will allow likely even stronger, and better technologies allowing the buildings to withstand earthquakes in the future. Likely too higher walls and protection against tsunamis will be built.

The communities impacted will stuggle for a long time. Consider that in New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, the city still has many areas that have yet to recover.

It is also likely that many of the people in the affected area may decide that starting over in the same area isn’t what they want to do. The Canadian Government, and the Ontario Government should be working with people in this effort to make a difference. In Northwestern Ontario, where we sit atop some of the most stable rock on the planet, the Canadian Shield, perhaps this is a time to reach out to those in Japan and invite them to make their new futures here in our region?

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