Editorial: Before criticizing, take a second look at Japan

Japan’s death toll is projected to exceed 10,000, and a half-million people could be left homeless as a result of the devastating earthquakes and tsunami it experienced last week. Currently, damaged nuclear reactors are a cause for concern. A pool containing spent fuel rods at Fukushima’s No. 4 reactor poses a risk of radioactivity released into the air, according to a French safety agency.  

People who live in the immediate vicinity of the damaged reactors have evacuated the area, and those living in close proximity to the reactors have been given potassium iodide pills to.

But is this situation necessarily something for us to be worried about?

Many Americans have been demanding answers and have the opinion that the Japanese government is being too close-mouthed about the situation, possibly trying to save face. Reading and watching this on the news has created a panic among many who live on the West Coast.

However, according to the Vancouver Sun, Canadian health officials have said that there is no immediate risk to those living on the West Coast of North America. There are 7,500 kilometers of ocean separating the accident site from Vancouver, BC, or Seattle. Similarly, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission posted an official statement that said it sees no radiation at harmful levels reaching the West Coast.

Experts are saying that it’s scare-mongering that is driving people all over the world to stockpile potassium iodide tablets. According to the Mirror, Dr. Richard Wakeford, visiting professor of epidemiology at the University of Manchester in the UK, said, “To put radiation doses into context, many Japanese undergo CT scans for cancer screening purposes, and these scans produce radiation doses of about 10 millisieverts — much more than [the general population is] receiving from the Fukushima reactors.”

As for whether the Japanese government is disclosing enough information, ABC News Senior White Correspondent Jake Tapper has asked Press Secretary Jay Carney whether President Barack Obama believes the Japanese government has been forthcoming about the nuclear crisis. “I have no reason to say that he’s not [satisfied],” said Carney, after some prodding.

As Japan experiences one of its worst modern crises, the rest of the world is waiting, much of it ready to send aid. About 90 countries have offered. The Japanese government has been very methodical — some say slow — in accepting aid. Again, some have criticize that this is a foolish matter of trying to save face.

We don’t think it’s that simple. The difference lies in the fact that “Japan is not Haiti, and it’s not Indonesia. It’s a developed country with a GDP somewhat similar to our country,” said Daniel Borochoff, president of the American Institute of Philanthropy in USA Today. Additionally, Japan has complicated crisis-adverting systems in place and it’s possibly a case of  too many hands in the pot spoiling the soup.

This is does not mean that we shouldn’t do our absolute best to help. Aid to Japan has lagged behind the crisis in Haiti, in which $150 million was raised in four days. Aid for Japan has reached about $23 million, even though we have an extremely strong relationship with the country. This could be due to the perception that Japan is rich, and therefore, doesn’t need what we can give, which is completely untrue.

To donate to Japan’s earthquake and tsunami relief via text message, text “Japan” or “Quake” to 80888 to make a $10 donation through the Salvation Army. Text “RedCross” to 90999 to donate $10 through the Red Cross. For additional resources on how to donate and which organizations to donate through, visit www.seattlejapanrelief.com or www.usjapancouncil.org. ♦

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