I spoke with a Scottish friend over the weekend. He had left Tokyo with a group of friends while other friends had chosen to remain behind. As we chatted, he reflected on the friendships that had become strained over the Fukushima nuclear plant crisis. Even the relationship with his best friend soured, and they have not spoken since he left Tokyo.
While the devastating aftermath of the earthquake and tsunami has brought people together, the nuclear crisis has been surprisingly divisive. Most people are not familiar with nuclear disasters, and the news media worldwide have handled the situation poorly across a wide spectrum — from alarmist and misinformed to ironclad assurance of safety, based on selective, filtered information. So, it is understandable why some people have lost trust in the media, government and the information disseminated. Yet, people will have to ultimately choose which information appears most credible and decide on a course of action. Each individual has varying ties, obligations and mobility during this crisis.
I’m certainly not trying to rationalize panicked and irrational behavior. For example, to buy and horde every single instant pack of noodles in sight at the supermarket can lead to harmful repercussions. However, to consider available options according to one’s available opportunities and responsibilities is absolutely rational.
Planning truly helps prevent panic. Some will choose to remain in Tokyo, some will move out of the city temporarily, and others will leave the country entirely. These choices will be based entirely on how each individual swims through the mass of information/misinformation and opportunities available.
I only ask that we don’t turn on friends, neighbors and family just because we might place our bets at different tables in this crisis. Offer support or help when you can, but don’t condemn, alienate or abandon people. The most important thing is not whether you can boastfully say “I told you so!” — if you happen to guess the end result of this nuclear crisis — but whether this crisis can be overcome as soon as possible with minimal contamination and individual harm. We need to focus on helping those in the stricken disaster areas of the Tohoku-Pacific area.
In a time of both misinformation and too much information, quality journalism is more crucial than ever.
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