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Sunday, March 13, 2011

Why Japan Matters

I've been watching the dramatic revelations taking place in Japan since the earthquake on Friday. It is difficult to fathom or get my arms around. Japan it seems, like the rest of a a delusional world, thinks that they can control things. The Japanese you see, have some of the toughest and most stringent building codes on the planet. They have to. They live on the edge of tectonic plates that shift forcefully. They know this. Knowing that and planning for that- trying desperately to risk manage the possibilities- has lead to the failure of three nuclear power plants and a significant loss of life.

Last night on the news I saw them put the damage costs at 35 billion. I think it will be far greater. *Update, -3/14/11. Credit Suisse announced this a.m. that cleanup costs are estimated around 183 billion. Not sure how much dough it costs to clean up melting down reactors, but now we have two.

One can only imagine how much worse the Japanese might be suffering had they not been as responsible as they have been. Which leads me to observe that man, for all of his ingenuity and risk management, cannot control the shifting tectonic plates. The illusion of control is simply an illusion. One day this planet will die and all of the risk management in the world cannot prevent that. But while we are here we dutifully set out to survive. We plan and we risk manage. That makes sense and we do our best.

What happens in Japan matters. They are the canary in the world coal mine. They are already teetering on the economic edge of the abyss. And as this calamity unfolds, Japan finds themselves with the greatest debt burden in the world. How are they going to pay for this? Who is going to help them? The world debt clock is helpful here.

Can they effectively rebuild and shutter 3 nuclear power plants? Do they have the financial means to do that? You see I'm not sure. I'm not sure China will help them because they have a centuries old feud. Can a bankrupt U.S. or Europe help them? Interesting questions that will get answered as the weeks ahead of us will deliver the true extent of the damage and the costs associated with the earthquake and tsunami.

One of the problems with the world now is that we have allocated all of our resources already. We have wasted them on banking collapses, wars, and other man made calamities. We neglect calamities not of our doing. We neglect, dare I say, a planet that doesn't really care about our little man made calamities. It has deliveries of it's own to make. What has happened in Japan matters. Because I'm not sure how many more shocks the world can take. (As a sidelight, it was interesting to note that Kilauea began erupting in Hawaii on Mar. 7.)

Noting more mideast chaos and radioactive clouds rising into the jetstream this a.m. (03/14/11) Waiting for some word from President Transparency who I am told, played his 61st round of golf over the weekend.

Update. Hat tip to Uncle L. Excellent piece in wall St Journal explaining why radioactivity should be contained and minimal.


Anonymous said...

I couldn't agree more, Brian. Japan could very well be the Black Swan that that topples the dominoes. I don't know why I'm so calm. When the dollar takes a crap and my Social Security check is made of rubber, my wife and I will be on the streets. I guess I know I won't be alone.

Brian said...

Jim, I will have a place for you in the frozen tundra of North Dakota. We will eat nitrogen packed meals, grow vegetables, and shoot looters. Get your gold and silver now!

rawmuse said...

All my pals who thought last month that I was bat shit crazy for hoarding food, firearms, precious metals and meds are thinking I am a stone cold genius right about now.