110314_box_japandamage_tn-224x136I don't need to tell you that a earthquake of 9.0 magnitude struck off the coast of Japan Friday, resulting in a tsunami that has left thousands dead and hundreds of thousands homeless. At least 15,000 people are reported missing. Yes, DSLRs and the vast majority of video cameras we talk about on this site are made in Japan. But that's not a reason to care. The reason to care is simple humanity, and the desire to take something unfathomably terrible and to try to make something good happen out of it.

You've probably already noticed the yellow bar at the top of this site is asking for donations to Doctors Without Borders. It's just a simple reminder of a global disaster you already know about, but please consider donating (and reading on). For a visual aid, here's a video of the damage in Japan from DSLR shooter Dan Chung, which has caused some controversy due to its scored, staged nature:

Natural disasters -- even when they lead to unnatural disasters, as is happening with potential nuclear catastrophe unfolding -- generally result in an outpouring of donations to nonprofits worldwide. This is of course a good thing, but you have to be smart about giving. While I wouldn't go so far as to suggest folks refrain from donating money to Japan, anyone who says that Japan might not need the money is really only suggesting that donations shouldn't be earmarked exclusively for Japan. Donations are subject to misuse if they're restricted to one country, where organizations sometimes can't utilize donated funds fully (or at least efficiently), especially in emergency situations. The reason I've chosen Doctors Without Borders is because hospitals in Japan are reportedly full, and the nuclear health threat could require more medical care than any one country could prepare for -- no matter how well-off. They're a four-star charity with a long record of international aid, and they don't earmark funds specifically for Japan. Therefore, if every dollar of your donation isn't used in Japan, the remainder will be used to help improve people's lives in one of the 60 other countries in which DWB works.

Alternately, I might suggest you give to Direct Relief International, whose 98.8% efficiency rating is about as good as you'll find anywhere. You can also, of course, give to the American Red Cross.

One can only hope that if our donations exceed the eventual need for on-the-ground aid in Japan, help will reach other countries too -- countries that would not have received aid if this disaster never happened. I'd like to think this is a uniquely human ability: to take the awareness of something terrible, and through compassion and outreach, try to turn it into positive. Donating a few bucks and taking an hour out of my night to write this post isn't much, but every little bit helps. Please do your part too!