OTHER VOICES

Lessons from Japan

Posted March 22, 2011, at 11:59 p.m.

Nothing like a disaster to expose our weak spots as Earth’s overmatched overlords.

Hurricane Katrina was not only tragic but galling in revealing a superpower’s inability to adequately handle mass evacuation and its devastating exposure of flawed levees.

Haiti shows us the bottomless frustration of pouring recovery assistance into an impoverished nation that lacks government stability and leadership.

Last year’s BP disaster revealed how our exploration hubris can wreck not just a coastal economy but lay waste to ecosystems.

Japan’s earthquake, of course, reminds us again of the calculated risk of coastal development, though it’s certainly hard to avoid in an island nation. But for the rest of the world, this tragedy may be most troubling for exposing the inherent hazard of seeking to harness the atom.

European leaders, who have moved toward nuclear energy as they struggled for energy independence, are already feeling the blow-back over nuclear reactor programs.

In a state grateful for mineral wealth, particularly the recent development in natural gas extraction, Louisianans should remember those riches come with their own calculated risks to people and the envi-ronment.

The point is we need to appreciate our fragile surroundings even as we give thanks for our mineral wealth. Rare though they may be, 8.9 earthquakes happen, large hurricanes will surge against levees, and blowout preventers do fail.

The Times, Shreveport, La. (March 16)

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