Saturday, April 02, 2011

Japan: What's 'Natural' about Disaster?

 A ‘natural’ disaster is a ratio of one 1 part nature and up to 10 parts ‘social’ on the Karl Marx scale. Nothing could prevent the earthquake in Japan of 9 on the Richter scale, nor the massive Tsunami that followed. But a lot could be done to prevent its effects on the human population. Most of the death toll can be put down to the ‘social’ contribution of living in a capitalist society. Towns built on the coast, in many cases near or even below normal water level. So while many of the high rise buildings in the cities are built to withstand earthquakes, in the regions, inadequate sea walls, poor location and design of dwellings contributed to most deaths. As a result 10s of thousands have perished. Many more may yet perish if the Fukushima nuclear power station built to withstand big earthquakes but not a 10 meter Tsunami suffers a meltdown and contaminates Japan and much of the Northern Hemisphere with nuclear fallout. 

Thus on the Karl Marx scale, Christchurch, NZ had a 7.1 quake in September 2010 that caused no deaths. This would be rated as 1/2 since most of the destruction was to buildings and infrastructure and was not serious. However, this was followed by a 6.3 quake in February this year which killed around 200 when two multi-story buildings, and a number of shop frontages crashed into the streets. There was also much more damage to the physical infrastructure and buildings. This quake might rate at 1/4. Much worse and possibly a 1/8 was the Haiti Earthquake of 2009 also a 7.1 but where 230,000 perished due to a history of colonisation that left poorly built dwellings incapable of withstanding even a moderate earthquake even without Tsunamis or meltdowns of nuclear power stations. We have yet to see what total death and destruction has been wrought by the Japanese quake on Japanese society and the wider world. 

As comrade Tyashi of the new wave in India puts it: “natural calamities are essentially rooted in man-made factors....destruction of environment for blind profits at the hands of capitalists and the states under them, is the chief contributory factor to these calamities....but the working and toiling masses are the worst sufferer under their axe...natural calamities hit hard at the heads of ruling classes, as they expose the class contradictions in the given society to the core....we hope that Tsunami in Japan would give an opportunity to the workers and poor there to see that capitalist Japan does not care about them at all.....and thus they must overthrow the power of capitalists, and establish their own rule to deal effectively with such calamities...we call upon the Japanese working class to turn the tsunami over to the ruling class of capitalists...let their regime be shaken by powerful jolts of a proletarian revolution...”

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