“The Plan to Rebuild Japan: When You Can’t Go Back, You Move Forward. Outline of an Environmental Sound Energy Policy” on Japan Focus

Unthinkable Not to Rethink Policy in This Catastrophe
Japan seems on the verge of a second defeat. The March 11 magnitude 9.0 East Japan earthquake shoved the entire country 2 metres and brought even more mayhem in a tsunami that wrecked whole communities and snatched away the lives of thousands. Now we see 100,000 troops from the Self-Defense forces dispatched to rescue operations amidst the pall rising from massively damaged nuclear reactors. Radioactivity is drifting out to sea and over the surrounding prefectures, poisoning farm produce and forcing restrictions on their shipment and sale. The crisis has extended even to drinking water in the capital of Tokyo. The scale of disasters evokes embedded memories of the cusp of postwar reconstruction, the moment when rebuilding economy and society was about to harness prodigious resources and time.

So it is urgent, right now, to confront the question of how Japan should be rebuilt, and in whose interests. Recall the press conference held a few hours in the wake of the earthquake. The authorities repeatedly assured us the worst was already over, that “the situation is not grave” and “it’s safe so let’s be calm.” And when matters predictably worsened, Prime Minister Kan Naoto merely lost his cool and erupted at the utility TEPCO. The crisis-management centre eventually occupied the offices of TEPCO, but it was already too late to bring the crisis under control.

This lamentable performance resembles the stumbling of the state and the banks during the financial crisis of the 1990s. Ad hoc injections of public funds were matched with the banks’ assurances that “we’re okay now.” The show was repeated over and over. Bad news was deliberately concealed, and only when there was marginal improvement somewhere in the swelling mess was information forthcoming. Meanwhile, the crisis morphed from bad to worse.

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