Sunday, October 12, 2014

Incompetent Japan?

At least 56 people are confirmed dead on Japan's Mt. Ontake (御嶽山) after a sudden volcanic emission of gas, steam, rock & ash on 27th September. Many more people remain unaccounted for and are presumed dead. As of today, more than three weeks have passed since the explosion.

Japanese rescue workers are doing their best in adverse conditions: hiking into a dangerous volcanically-active area now covered with thick, sticky ash. Bad weather and poor visibility have greatly prolonged search efforts. But part of the disaster can be blamed on poor preparation.

Both low & high tech responses are sorely needed. Japan should be able to rally robots and drones that can operate in poor conditions and bad weather, using infrared and other sensors to find survivors and victims. We've sent such machinery to Mars; why can't Japan create appropriate search & rescue technology? (or buy-in needed competency)...

Finding victims could be sped up by using trained birds (raptors) or dogs or foxes that can detect smells or terrain anomalies.

The well-intentioned Japanese search & rescue teams are being filmed from above, and appear rather foolish tramping about and sliding around in the mud.

Japan should be able to better respond in times of trouble. This is an area where Japan should invest its "peace dividend" and lead the world. Instead, Japan looks incompetent and pitiful.

This problem is worse in the face of concerted efforts by ruling-party LDP politicians to massage the way Japan is portrayed in the media: sudden concern with depicting Japan positively, for international audiences to see the nation in the best way possible. That idea is not bad - when based on fact. Japan could be much more competent, a global model for search and rescue, a nation where militarism was rejected, where swords were turned to serve society.

Japan can convert military technology to peaceful uses and ultimately global service; "Peace Technology" creates lasting friends to ensure the nation's long term security & success.