First of all, my thoughts and prayers go out to the population of Japan. That is one seriously put-upon group of people currently, and they deserve our support. We buy their cars, their electronics, their technology, etc. All of that has come to a screeching halt while they attempt to find the pieces and put them back together. Northeastern Japan will never be the same. I fear there's an entire generation lost, as photos have not shown a great deal of school-aged kids when showing families. At the time the quake struck, those kids would have been in school. Schools, plural, which were then washed away when the tsunami hammered the coast. If you can afford to donate, donate all that you can. Here's why:
We import their cars, and sell them at local dealerships around the country. This drives tax revenue for the states. Think of what a shortage of those cars would mean to the already low tax base? Even more state insolvency, that's what it means. We buy their electronics too. Long term shortages of these products will do the same thing as a shortage of cars, but on a smaller scale. It's a net cumulative effect which could have very dire consequences in our economy here in the US.
Finally, there's the looming threat of runaway nuclear reactors (3) and outgassing/radiation from burning or warming fuel rod storage pools (6) at the TEPCO's Fukushima Daiichi power plant, all of which contain very damaging forms of long-term radiation. As someone who works outside to do photoshoots, dealing with long-term damage from the sun is a big concern of mine. Sunblock is an essential part of an outdoor photographer's kit. I'm wondering how long it will be before some clever soul creates a nuclear-proof sunblock lotion bolstered with potassium-iodine? While I don't fear glowing clouds over Los Angeles, the down-the-road implications of lung or skin cancer due to trace amounts of radioactive particulate matter entering my body doesn't exactly thrill me. Life is always tough, but it beats the heck out of the alternative.
I'm sure I'll have more to say about this in a day or two.