I can’t really explain it. Ever since my husband woke me with the news about Japan’s earthquake and tsunami on March 11th, I’ve had this nagging feeling of optimism for them. Even as I hang on every update about the Fukushima disaster still waiting to happen and mourn the tens of thousands of lives lost, I can’t help feeling that Japan may be down but is by no means out.

I’ve visited Japan only once; a two-week adventure covering an incredible swath of the country from Tokyo south all the way to the little island of Yakushima. I never saw the area most deeply affected by the tragedy of almost a month ago, but I did get a beautiful window into the world of people living half a world away from me. It was my husband’s brother that made all the difference for us. Having studied Japanese and lived in Nagoya teaching English for three years, he’s as fluent as we could have hoped for in a travel companion. With him by our sides, we were able to journey well off the beaten path to places where not a word of English was heard.

Despite the fact that I often felt like a Martian under the curious gaze of so many of the Japanese, it was the communion of their spirits that came across most vividly. A collaboration that was plain to see even as they went about their individual business. The shared understanding that the Whole they were each a member of was infinitely important and to be safeguarded at all costs. Protecting and perpetuating their chosen society manifested itself all the way through their lives from the minutia of daily decisions to the shape of towns and cities, from their passion for innovation and imagination to the creativity springing forth everywhere you looked.

I was moved by what I experienced in Japan. The things that I couldn’t take a picture of have stayed with me and it was that part of Japan that spoke to me on March 11th. It was a chorus of spirits rising to the challenge at hand together, a steadfast solidarity not shaken by any earthquake.

And that is why I can’t help but feel a little hopeful for our brothers and sisters in Japan despite the unimaginable suffering still taking place.

Beyond the immediate crisis, Japan has become an incredible learning opportunity for their first world neighbors. We have all become so heavily dependent on a global supply chain and the hyper specialization that comes with it, the centralized power supply system and huge energy demands of our modern industrialized paradigm, and the centralized food supply. All of which make us less secure, with or without an environmental catastrophe. The fact is, the kind of dependence on fossil fuels and centralized generation of all our basic necessities that we have come to accept as normal and even desirable is actually a major threat to our stability, security and ability to evolve and innovate into the future.

And here’s where Japan becomes an extraordinary lesson for us all. As the rebuilding and reorganizing progress, we will all be witness to the first example of a modern first world nation operating on significantly less energy in history. Their loss of refineries, power plants, and infrastructure make that inevitable. Their impact on the global supply chain and its intrinsic comment on the stability of globalization will be another learning opportunity. Our globalized paradigm is getting its first report card and it’s not going to be straight A’s this time.

An article in the Guardian explores this subject thoughtfully.

Here are some of the most relevant and informative updates and commentaries on the still unfolding crisis in Japan.
Chris Martenson on Japan’s effect on the global economy
The Oil Drum – status and prognosis of Fukushima

Quake to force shutdown of all US Toyota plants
Latest Satellite Images from Fukushima
Stoneleigh on Fukushima

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