03/15/2011 12:15 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

What Will It Take?

Japan lies devastated by a giant wave and its geological, nuclear, financial, sociological, and psychological aftershocks.

A natural event, deep underwater, sets in motion circumstances that evince how defenseless we are to the power of the ocean unleashed. What more will it take to demonstrate the stupidity of those who continue to subvert the scientific study of ocean and climate systems to meet their short-term interests? How many people have to die? How often do we have to witness the physical and emotional collapse that follows these disasters? Are we safe because the destruction is elsewhere? Do we think these circumstances cannot inundate us as well at some future time? We are far less prepared and we are doing everything we can to dismiss the threat, to discredit and de-fund the science, and to eliminate the early warning systems that in this case may have saved thousands of lives, but not nearly enough. And when marine disasters do occur within our own waters -- Katrina or Deep Water Horizon for example -- within months we revert to our narrow, foolish, ignorant ways, forgetting the victims, enabling the perpetrators, sabotaging the alternatives, denying the facts, and compromising our environmental protections, indeed our very survival.

What will it take? A waterquake; an invisible wave traveling many hundreds of miles an hour in all directions. Could this devastation have been prevented? Maybe not, but the danger was known, studied, foreseen and surely in part limited by research, planning, precautions, standards, and governance at every level. Japan's scientific research, tsunami early warning system, earthquake building codes, shoreline defenses, and disaster preparedness are as sophisticated as exist and yet the video shows how impossible it is to contain such force when released. Japan took that force seriously; however awful it is today and tomorrow, it could still have been worse.

What do we do? We reject the science. We deny the problem. We degrade those who advocate for change and the future. The ocean just laughs at our ideological differences, preening nationalism, religious and racial biases, pompous sound-bites, and petty political aspirations. It will show no respect for us, because we show no respect for it. What will it take?