A little known side effect of the March 2011 earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear power plant problems in Japan was a shortage of toilet paper that affected the entire country.
Japan has had toilet paper shortages before, back in the oil crisis of 1973 (you never thought that expensive and scarce oil would create a toilet paper shortage, did you!) and so the nation has become particularly sensitized to the potential of future shortages. As a result, the Japanese government is now urging the public to stockpile toilet paper, and has even arranged for a special type of toilet paper roll (without the inner cardboard sleeve) that allows more toilet paper to be stored in less space. You can read more about their public promotional campaign here.
We see two interesting things about this. The first is the government’s determination that it could take a month for any disruption in supply to be resolved, either due to factories returning to production or by way of importing supplies from other countries, and so they are recommending everyone keeps at least a one month supply in their homes.
Depending on your point of view, a one month supply is either a generous amount or woefully inadequate. A lot would rest on the type of disruption to local manufacturing, of course, and if it was a broader global disruption (such as another oil shock) then even a one month supply might be exhausted long before new supplies were on hand. Of course, this is a Level 1 type preparation only, not a Level 2 or 3.
The second interesting thing is the focus on stockpiling a month of toilet paper. We don’t disagree with this at all, of course, but how about other things, too? Like, ummm, water and food? If toilet paper is liable to disruptions in supply, surely food supplies too have to be considered as being at risk of some future disruptions, and if we had to choose between no toilet paper and no food, well, that’s an easy choice, isn’t it!
Don’t get us wrong. It is great to see a national government advocate a one month stockpile of anything, but we see this as begging the question – why do we need to maintain a one month supply of toilet paper, but not a one month supply of everything else, too?