Events >

#396 Black Wave: How Networks and Governance Shaped Japan's 3/11 Disasters


Daniel P. Aldrich, Director, Security and Resilience Studies Program, and Professor, Political Science and Public Policy, Northeastern University

Chi Hack Nights are now remote! Same time, but now from the comfort of your self-quarantine location!

Tune into our livestream at 6pm CST every Tuesday:

The tragic events that we know colloquially as 3/11 began the afternoon of March 11, 2011, but have continued to affect survivors and rivet the world for more than nine years. A trio of disasters— an earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear meltdown— paralyzed Japan, a country ranked among the world’s most advanced, industrialized democracies with some of the best building regulations and best- trained engineers. Hundreds of miles of breakwaters and seawalls defended the coastal population of Tōhoku, the region most affected by the disaster. Concrete barriers and planted pine forests along nearly half the shoreline served as additional layers of protection against massive waves. But the tsunami set off by the 9.0 Great East Japan Earth-quake not only killed more than 18,400 people but also caused full fuel meltdowns in three of the six reactors at the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant.

This talk tackles several pressing mysteries. Perhaps the biggest one is how so many people survived one of the most catastrophic events of the last decade. Despite the massive height and broad impact of the tsunami, some 96% of those living and working in the inundated areas in Tōhoku made it through. Smaller- scale earthquakes and tsunami have killed far more people in nearby countries such as China and India. Yet even with such a high survival rate overall, some towns and cities in northeastern Japan suffered significantly more than others. Accordingly, Aldrich investigates why survival and mortality rates varied so much across the Tōhoku region.

Further, the rebuilding process has not moved in lockstep across the area, nor has it proceeded according to government mandates. Aldrich uses qualitative and quantitative data to show precisely how trust, reciprocity, and social ties worked during these multiple crises. Using Japan’s 3/11 triple disasters - earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear meltdowns - he walks the audience through a narrative focused on how social ties are the critical element in surviving and thriving in disaster. He also shows how these ties can be mapped and improved through deliberate interventions.

ASL This event will not have an American Sign Language interpreter.