Leader: After the quake

This has been a year of profound shocks, from the revolts in the Middle East and North Africa to the earthquake and tsunami in north-east Japan and the continuing trauma at the stricken Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. The Japanese are an extraordinarily resilient people. As the award-wining novelist Susanna Jones, who knows the country well, writes on page 22, they "have always lived with the knowledge that natural disaster can occur at any moment and, for the past couple of decades, with the knowledge that an earthquake, 'the big one', was due".

They know this but persist all the same. Not surprisingly, Japanese culture is suffused with a heightened sense of the transience of life.

This latest natural catastrophe has occurred just as the world economy was beginning to recover from the financial crash of 2008 and the subsequent sovereign debt crises in Europe. Now, because of the interconnectedness of the global economy, we are once more plunged into a period of uncertainty, with stock markets tumbling and oil and other commodity prices rising. What is urgently required is boldness, vision and flexibility from our world leaders if another world recession is to be prevented.

This article first appeared in the 21 March 2011 issue of the New Statesman, The drowned world