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Posted at 02:17 PM ET, 03/18/2011

Black swan disasters

I am hoping we can have a day here where the big headline on the front page isn’t some variant of Things Even Worse Than You Thought.

It’s hard to get solid information about the nuts and bolts of the nuclear disaster — what exactly happened when the wave hit, why restoration of electricity has been so difficult, what blew up, how much radiation has been released, what happens next, etc. Brian Vastag had a good story in the paper today: Fundamentally, they need to get power and water into the place. The radiation is spiking, but, so far, my sources say Tepco is rotating workers to prevent them from getting acute radiation sickness (46 workers died within weeks of Chernobyl because the Soviets didn’t take precautions). There’s a report that radiation has been detected in California, but it’s a billion times less than what could pose a risk to human health. Everyone stay calm (and then read my story on black swan disasters).

I wasn’t trying to alarm people with all that talk about solar flares and biblical floods. The key is resilience — buy some extra batteries just for starters. Have an emergency plan. Stuff happens. Be ready. But don’t be paranoid.

Here’s the simple fact: We are living in an age of disasters, because there are more of us, and we have more things in the path of natural forces that do not care a hoot about us. Moreover, our technology isn’t fool-proof. Thus, we have environmental disasters that can lead to technological disasters (Japan) and technological disasters that can lead to environmental disasters (Deepwater Horizon).

This is the world we have made. This is the path we have chosen.

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If you want more info on Japan, here are some sites that have varying degrees of information:

Japan Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency

Union of Concerned Scientists: All Things Nuclear blog

U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission

International Atomic Energy Agency

Daily Yomiuri

ANSnuclearcafe

Tokyo Electric Power Company

By  |  02:17 PM ET, 03/18/2011

 
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