It uses the 1965 New York power outage as starting point for the discussion on how modern society relies on technology and the consequences of a breakdown. It then goes through the technology tree from the humble plow all the way up to aerospace and how seemingly unrelated things cause us to end up in our current technological state (like how a excess of linnen lead to cheaper paper and widespread literacy).
The surprising thing that happened next was that people started up impromptu block parties with people pitching in ice cream and all the meat they had in their fridges for BBQs in the streets!
Being city folks, you don't really trust your neighbors let alone talk to them. But I got to meet a lot of them that day and it turns out people aren't that scary and are very willing to help one another in times of need.
This is wonderful to hear. People are just people. Normally they have weird quirks, and some of them sound odd to your ears and look different to the people you normally hang around with, but they are all human beings. They all have hopes, dreams and fears of their own.
I remember realising as a teenager that everyone was in the same boat as me, and it was life changing.
Coincindence, but one hell of a doozey.
Great series as well.
It was kind of interesting.
On the other side, someone mention Pascal's Wager: storing a few basic needs and self defense weapons (were legal), costs practically nothing now but it could save your family's life. It's not a sure way but it's much better to have them then not.
Even in cramped apartments you could store stuff for a week or two; in private homes, you're talking months. IIRC, tap water in dark areas with a drop of bleach for liter will last for quite a while. Think 55gallon drums, replaced every so often.
It really speaks more to the absurd level of war spending than anything else- and it truly was absurd. Trillions in direct, congressional spending. We shipped 12 billion on pallets to Iraq and lost it, and most people don't even remember it. The cost of revolutionizing the US power infrastructure is literally peanuts compared to what we have spent in the middle east.
I'm not saying you're wrong, just that we don't live in a perfect world with everyone following the rules even in the best of times. I would love it if your ideal world where we all trust each other existed; it would be true paradise. But, we're only human and even the very best of us are flawed creatures.
These violence fantasies are repeated on and on in prepper communities, but that does not make them more true. Violence may increase, but mostly people come together to help each other.
My gut is that people come together and help each other for short-term disasters or where hope of help arriving is widespread (e.g. National Guard being mobilized, local disruption in a still functioning country).
Past ~week, or shorter if there's no hope for things being fixed, people reasonably revert to survival.
Engineers seem to understand making backups and hoping you never need them, why is this different? You have the means to protect yourself, and pray that you'll never have to use it.
(I am not a gun owner, by the way. This just seems perplexing)
We hope it stays far away, but when a highly technological society breaks down, it can happen very fast.
Just read about Sarajevo, went from thriving metropolis to desperate in a matter of days, in a matter of 2-3 months, people were dying of starvation. Gangs ruled, and you had to be organized and armed to survive. Venezuela is descending into that state now, even with recently imposed gun confiscation. (and those are just political disasters)
I write this without having made any particular preparations, as increasing instability has not yet crossed my threshold of probability.
But to think that it is a mere "fantasy" that things could get bad enough to need stockpiles and weapons is itself the fantasy.
Just read a bit of history, and/or do a bit or research into how fast things will run out --critical things-- when our Just-In-Time economy no longer delivers everything in time.
[[edit: add parenthetical on political disasters]]
But I'm also a realist. I may not like it, hell I hate it, but I'm going to protect my family and my provisions if I'm ever thrust into such a situation. That said, it's my sincere desire to live the rest of my life without ever harming a fellow human.
Probably a lower one than starvation, rape or a violent death in the hands of another desperate person.
>> And then there's the effect on the society: a society based on trust is more productive and safe than a society based on mistrust.
Nice one. What would happen, today--with all the infrastructure in place--if cops /soldiers stayed home for 36 hours? Now add starvation plus desperation and try again.
I mean... ish. It definitely makes you more likely to commit suicide, but it doesn't really have much bearing on whether you're more likely to be targeted or hurt. There's a massively confounding factor in that people who live in areas that are more violent have more incentive to buy a gun.
Study (German) http://www.tab-beim-bundestag.de/de/pdf/publikationen/berich...
Study (English) http://www.tab-beim-bundestag.de/en/pdf/publications/books/p...
edit: study added
Really just asking, since I'm interested why this book is so well received
Then again this is US only. I've been to Nicaragua before when lightening hit a power line. It took them over 3 days to get power back to the portion of the country I was in. It was such a common issue everyone has generators they would switch on, from hotels and restaurants to homes.
I've never heard this expression before. Is it common in English? Sounds to me like it is a descendant of "mind bottling" which again is a corruption of "mind boggling".
"Mind-concentrating" makes sense as an adverbial formulation of that phrase.
These are the only two I think I am familiar with, never heard 'mind-concentrating' before nor does it make much sense.
In my experience and estimation, a massive percentage of people in Developed countries would wither and die, while undeveloped countries would continue to function almost exactly as they do now.
I think there is a lot to be said for knowing how to grow your own food, hunt your own meat, build your own shelter, etc.
Well, yes. That's what the infrastructure is for. Do not romanticise places without infrastructure; there you simply have a much higher risk of dying from something that westerners would consider preventable. Like maternity.
Growing your own food works until there's a crop failure. Who here is old enough to remember the Ethiopian famine of the early 80s, possibly the first and most shocking western TV news coverage of a famine?
Your position seems to be that primitive societies are a horrible place to live and if it's a choice between the two, no sane person would argue for a return to primativism. I agree with that too.
There's a 'third way' that seems to be gaining some ground among luddites, preppers, off-gridders and primitivists. The idea is to take full advantage of modern technologies but also devote a portion of resources and time to maintaining the capability to do things 'the old way'. So, be 'on the grid' but combine it with on-premise solar/wind/hydro/genny. Use all the appliances in your modern kitchen but go into the woods a few times a year and test your ability to make fire from sticks. Buy goods from the supermarket but still grow a portion of your food at home.
This third way is far from flawless. It's still a gamble, not unlike Pascal's Wager: You are investing time and money into maintaining primitive capabilities that are far inferior to the technology-enabled capabilities available to you in the modern world, and you're double-spending to maintain both in parallel. But if you can approach it as a hobbyist, it can be a pretty fun and challenging pastime to get invested in.
But the key question has to be: individual or collective resilience? Yes, it's not a straight up conflict, but I do think things could be greatly improved if people kept asking questions about collective preparation for crises, improving the civic and governmental responses to them, and (in the case under discussion) not ignoring problems simply because they are uncomfortable and expensive.
So right now you see most efforts concentrated at the individual and family levels, with isolated pockets of preparedness 'societies' emerging. But even those wider efforts are regarded as pretty kooky by society as a whole. I'm thinking specifically of the American Redoubt movement when penning this, but there are others - LDS, Amish are examples of groups making wider preparedness efforts but still very much siloed.
I think these discussions and wider preparedness efforts are unlikely to gain any ground without some events occurring that demonstrate a clear need for improvements in preparedness. Of course, nobody should be willing such events to occur because people will die. But the longer we go without such an event, the dimmer society's memory gets as to how to survive them.
What's that poem? Something like:
Hard times create strong men,
Strong men create good times,
Good times create weak men,
Weak men create hard times.
It seems appropriate.
How people's disaster preparedness is viewed depends on three things:
- are the disasters being prepared for plausible or not?
- do they give off the impression that they're somehow looking forward to the disaster, either as vindication or the opportunity to deem people "looters" and murder them without repercussion?
- is this a form of preparation that theoretically everyone could do, or is there an implication that, in the manner of Jehova's Witnesses, only a subset of the population can be saved?
So, if someone in Florida is preparing for hurricanes by securing their property, moving valuables out of the basement, and preparing for the possibility of evacuation? That's a plausible disaster with no talk of violence, and almost everyone could attempt, so that's a "normal" activity and won't get someone deemed the bad kind of prepper.
Also, why do you inject 'no talk of violence'? as if all the survivors of a catastrophe will be peace-nicks? have you not read any of the studies put out by think tanks or books on previous governmental/environmental collapses? Violence is almost a certainty (in long-term, wide spread catastrophic anomalies). Why do you feel it isn't in your best interest to also prepare for that as you would food, water, etc... ?
That's a little unfair. While one aspect of LDS preparedness might be their take on the rapture and how that'll play out, their teachings on preparedness are not solely aimed at that one scenario to the exclusion of other more likely/immediate scenarios. They also don't guard their preparedness teachings and learnings for exclusive use within the church, it's all quite openly shared to all without any reciprocation expectations. That's admirable, IMO.
Also, as a concept the LDS take on rapture as a reason to prepare, is very similar to how 'zombie apocalypse' is used as an engaging concept to drive home very practical preparedness thinking, while at the same time being in itself patently absurd.
Myths and legends of old served much the same purpose. All these things are fantastic tools if applied appropriately, and don't require being taken seriously/literally to be useful.
If you're of a particular church you're probably acutely aware of the differences and that's a point I have no appetite to contest. How it factors into distinctions in preparedness doctrines emanating from each church? Not much I reckon - They're both putting out a good message and I'm, irrespective of personal beliefs, comfortable taking on-board the core messages of both churches. They are doing good works and that is to be lauded!
tl;dr you can take or leave interpretations of the rapture; the idea of squaring away a few bags of rice and some tea lights has universal value to even the ungodly masses. Everyone wins, and there's nothing to be gained taking up a mantle of chief faith-questioner, I reckon :)
Any discussion about fundamental preparedness has to be had with someone who's not already on board with the idea, otherwise it's just preaching to the choir. This means that the conversation will inevitably challenge their world view, often fundamentally. This is not a comfortable exercise for the recipient.
Many folks are deeply uncomfortable entertaining new ideas, and doubly so if the implications of those ideas would be unpleasant to them and theirs. For many people, if someone suggests to them that they might find themselves in a life threatening situation, is taken as if the person proposing that scenario is directly threatening their life.
Fundamentally it's an unfortunate human instinct to want to shoot the messenger, as an emotional reaction to the message.
The massive food subsidy is one such example where a vast drop in yields would not harm the food supply. CDC does quite a bit to prevent epidemics which are historically the second major wide scale disasters. In third place though most expensive is war / defense spending.
They tend to do less preparation for very rare disasters, but it's not clear that personal preparation for such things is all that reasonable or useful.
I suppose I have been fortunate enough to have never seen people respond to a crisis in the ways outlined in the article though. My experience has been people pulling together and working collectively to help each other.
Centralised organisation is powerful but easily overwhelmed. Decentralised response can solve a lot of smaller problems at at once.
But the problems of a widespread long term power outage sound like something a centralized preparation could cope with at least as effectively, if not more so; partially because it can simply be prevented appropriate preparations, and partially because even when a blackout cannot be prevented you almost certainly can ensure that recovery is relatively trivial (as compared to "rebuild transformers"). Both mitigation strategies simply aren't available to hyper-local prepper style preparations. Not to mention the fact that the population (even in the low-density US of A) is probably much higher than a prepper-tech based society can ever hope to sustain. I.e: mass prepping would likely replace famine and other catastrophes with immediate civil war, followed by famine and other catastrophes.
In abstract: Decentralization offers a remedy because it is distributed; however, the best way to make a system (more) distributed may still be via a coordinated (i.e. centralized) approach.
I was thinking when the parent poster hinted at that - You see that broad-spectrum approach advocated and implemented by disaster preparedness agencies - A central coordination capability coupled with regional direct response capabilities, and strong appeals from them to citizens for individual/family-level preparedness.
Except when it comes to food. Growing your own food and cooking it yields far better quality than what you can buy in stores or restaurants. Yes there is time involved, but with practice, your time is recouped in such a way that you're enjoying dishes on a similar level of taste as what you'd pay over $100 a head in a high-end restaurant. And you get to do that multiple times a week.
This holds even for food you don't grow but still cook (for me: meats). The downside of course is that now it is very hard to enjoy food in a restaurant unless it's high-end or in an ethnic specialty I don't master. (raises pinky finger :) )
I spent the schoolyear like most kids, but summers we worked on the family ranch. Electricity was for an hour a day, only wellwater in a tank, shower with a wetcloth. Most workdays were on horse with one truck to haul equipment, water and food. We went to the store once a month - everything else was grown or stored.
The family ranches were 30k acres in the mountains, so getting hurt or caught in the dark meant required survival skills -
medical care, making a fire, etc. Civilization was a 4 hour drive, and the closest phone was an hour though dangerous canyon roads impassible at night (for the sane).
I really enjoyed it as a kid - but I later realized that most people wouldn't want the hassle unless it was a family business of some kind.
I recommend scouting, camping and gardening. Ranching and farming is expensive and a lot of hard work! It's very rewarding though if you can make it a living.
Don't cook with it?
You are presumably too young to remember Biafra. The television coverage then was pretty shocking. The very name of the state became a British slang adjective for very thin; see https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/Biafran
Nigeria's population as an example, has gone from 45 million to 186 million since 1960. That extreme population growth has equally big requirements that are necessary to keep all of those people from dying.
In a given year, the West is directly responsible for tens of millions of people being alive in Africa.
Routine food aid and supply, sometimes preventing famine and random general food scarcity. This has been a non-stop effort for decades and continues in many places across Sub-Saharan Africa.
Medication supply, preventing millions of deaths from everything from HIV/AIDS to TB to malaria to infection. That includes invention, manufacturing and delivery of drugs.
Outbreak intervention. The substantial response to the 2014-2016 ebola outbreak as an example, which stopped it from becoming a catastrophe.
A massive percentage of people - represented by typical extreme population growth curves of the last ~50 years - in low development nations would die in your scenario.
If you need a recent example of how fragile the lower development nations are (in part due to their commonly vast population expansions and weak supporting infrastructure), you need look no further than the global food riots from the commodity bubble of ten years ago, as it dramatically rocked the world's poorest:
Such excitement to achieve the milestones we take for granted back in the burbs. A fire pit. Rain water tank. A sheltered long drop to crap in. Solar electricity. Hot running water and a sink. A shower. Internet. Every one achieved was a huge leap forward in comfort.
It really helped me get perspective on what you really need to live, and cured us of any desire to strive for a bigger and bigger house with immense walk-in wardrobes.
It doesn't take a lot of land to raise chickens and with a few, you already have more eggs than you know what to do, ergo you can pool that with neighbors. Someone can own a cow, which requires 1 acre of pasture but produces enough milk for many families.
If you want to see what this looks like at scale, just look at the countryside in Europe a century ago. Villages are mostly townhouses all huddled together, often with long-stretching back yards supporting vegetable gardens, and fields all around. Is that hard work? You bet! A lot more physically demanding than city life. But also more sustainable. The downside of course being that there's so much focus on basic sustenance that few people can devote time to occupations of the mind (which is primarily what cities are devoted to). It seems over time the 2 models have fought each other and the city has won, but a question to ask is if this has been at the cost of resilliency.
To me, this is the attraction of suburbia. Not the nice lawns (though I have one) or country clubs, but the ability to have one foot in the city and keep at least a toe in the countryside, with my own vegetables.
I'll probably stop once the herd gets down to a sustainable size, and I'll definitely stop after someone gets wise to my tricks and murders me. It would be the post-apocalypse world, after all.
That's true enough. The problem is the people with guns, who will take all that from you. Cormac McCarthy's The Road is a very depressing read. Its scenario is worse than grid collapse, in that nothing could be grown. But there wouldn't be much commercial agriculture without electricity.
It was well made and acted, but seriously one of the most depressing movies I've ever watched.
But if one likes the movie, I suggest reading the book.
I would not advise it.
I always think that particularly when I watch "The Walking Dead." I'd just find a nice bomb shelter and try to write my the great American novel for about 5-10 years. No trying to seek out other survivors, no trying to rebuild, etc.
I mean, I'm pretty introverted (and also very overworked at the moment,) so really that just sounds like a nice vacation. Maybe in reality I'd get tired of it pretty quickly. But being bored and lonely for a few years still beats ending up as cannibal jerky hands-down.
Box truck + travel trailer + contents of a Walmart garden center would be a damn good start.
/s (should be obvious)
Almost overnight you would have no access to food or clean drinking water. There would certainly be no gasoline, heating, cooling, showers, etc.
You wouldn't even be able to "get" money - ATMs won't work and you certainly won't be able to use your smart phone. So you would not be able to buy life necessities even if someone were selling them.
A job will be the last thing you think about.
I always tell my team that if things go bad then I'll be the one keeping them alive.
I intend to attach myself to a raider strongman, to provide solutions to their difficult problems, such as how to crack an entrenched survivalist's defenses and get his stockpile out. I'm a decent hand at basic chemistry, too, like organic extractions and distillations.
There are many potential princes, and Machiavelli only needs one of them.
What is the required amount? And where where would you go?
Where would I go? It depends
Supplementing your food supply with a family garden isn't that difficult. Completely supplying yourself and your family with enough calories to live via farming is enormously difficult, both in terms of physical labor and in terms of skillset. It also takes at least 45 days, from a standing start, to get anything edible, and that's if you are willing to suvive completely on turnips (which have the shortest yield period of any domesticated vegetable crop). Corn, beans, and potatoes, which are going to be the crops that provide the bulk of your calories in a survival situation, require roughly 100 days to yield, and they only grow during the right season.
Furthermore, without either industrial fertilizer or an established farming system that includes animals, you will only grow those crops once before your land begins to be depleted and your yields in subsequent years will drop until they are no longer survivable in approximately year three. You are growing the animals as much or more for manure as for meat.
And none of that includes the vagaries of the weather and various plant diseases that can decimate your crop.
Basically, if you don't have access to fresh water, you're doomed immediately. If you don't have at least a 12 month supply of food in your basement, you're doomed in two to three months. If you haven't already implemented a closed nitrogen system using composting and animal agriculture, but happen to have land, seeds and a hoe, you're doomed in two to three years. If you have done all of those things you can probably survive for a decade ot three, if you can outlast the looters.
For reference, the pioneers who cleared the forests in the midwest would go in on year one and girdle all of the trees. Then they'd go back home. In year two, they'd plant turnips and pumpkins, which would grow among the dead trees, and they'd survive on those for the first couple of years as the stumps rotted. It took several years to establish a sustainable farm. The pioneers who went eg to Utah, where there were no forests, would plant immediately, but the first crop was just seed potatoes, which they would harvest and store - they couldn't carry enough to eat, and were essentially bootstrapping a potato crop from what they could carry. They carried enough food to survive through a complete growing season, augmented by hunting and foraging. It was a hard life, they were living hand to mouth, and they already knew what they were doing.
Disagree. It's pretty hard, from a cold start, to reach the point of producing a significant number of calories independently. It's a far cry from keeping a veggie/herb garden, and even harder in turn to do it over a number of successive years. Also, if we're specifically considering a scenario without power, the preservation of that food through the year is a major challenge in itself.
>More challenging issues are access to clean drinking water and fertile land, safety from pillaging, and getting proper medical care.
It takes place in 2052, but in a world mostly comparable to ours regarding reliance on electricity. Especially active reliance for some things that do not just become dead or useless, but immediately dangerous.
I expect it not to be very well known to US and UK readers, but I think it's worth the read, in France it's usually considered to be among the best and most important Sci-Fi stories.
People love to think of Bitcoin as impervious, but it's subject to the CAP theorem just like every other distributed system.
As long as the network comes back up at some point no bitcoins will be lost. Some might be double spent though
All you need is a computer, electricity and the internet!
The US is full of militias. All you really need is for one to happen to have a cop/ex-cop and a telecom/electrical guy in the same one, and you get this.
The idea that one little nuke from North Korea could take out the whole of the United States in one shot is fantasy, so defending against that is not necessarily a high priority. For further evidence for this, consider that if entire countries could be nuked back to the stone age so easily, the Cold War likely would have ended differently, and much sooner.
You want to take about "taking out the entire United States" in one shot, look to the Big Nuke in the Sky. Or those targeted terrorist scenarios. (Which are still harder than they sound, honestly. Trying to coordinate such strikes such that they all go off at once without a hitch and with no possible response sounds easy to those who have never tried it, as if it's as easy as just telling everyone to fire at 11:32am or something. But there's a lot of issues between the idea and the reality. There aren't all that many instances of that working in history, and even the ones that come close still have failures, like 9/11 did.)
But the simple reality is probably that it is impossible to insure society against this level of disaster. We already have 7 billion people in the world, very few of which are willing to agree that they can forgo food and water and such now to help insure against such things, and the system basically hums along at capacity. To build such hardened infrastructure would require that we raise the standard to the point that the system would then be humming along at well over capacity, which basically means in the attempt to prevent the disaster we'd be bringing the exact same disaster upon ourselves.
EDIT: Which is how democracy should work!
I say amusing in a very condescending sense. We think of ourselves as modern, advanced, and really seriously quite a bit better, than our ancestors of only 150 years ago. And yet if the prediction of our devolution into uncivilized primal behaviors is true, our assessment as advanced or better is absurd on the face of it.
But more interesting, is why is this the case? Have we so much more trust in technology, and so much less trust in civil institutions over time? And in a moment where we need to shift from one to the other, we simply can't do it, and therefore civilization implodes? If so, that's embarrassing. Or it should be.
That's pretty hard for me to believe. People had been living in the South since before the formation of this country... Do you have any stats to back that up?
In the days leading up to Irma, it was already like the apocalypse. You couldn't get gasoline, water, plywood, or non-perishable goods for love or money. You couldn't drive away because the roads were jammed. Closer to the storm, you couldn't get to a shelter because they were full. Airports shut down. There was nowhere to run (or hide, really).
During the storm, once the winds got to 40 mph, you were on your own - no 911, no police, no fire department. If someone decided to brave the storm and break into your house, it was up to you to defend yourself.
After the storm, there was no power, many roads were impassable, no gasoline, no food, no water, no sanitation, no way to flush toilets without using precious water.
It was a relatively short, but terrifying preview of what a prolonged loss of electricity would do. I think Scientific American compared the power output of a major hurricane to one 10 megaton nuclear bomb explosion every 20 minutes.
If anyone wants to know what a post-apocalyptic world looks like, take an area hit by a major hurricane, remove FEMA, medical support, and law enforcement, and multiply that by a couple of orders of magnitude.
It's a lot more real when you've been an unwilling participant.
new architecture is often like sealed boxes
The old plantation house on my family's farm is 120 feet long and only 20 feet wide. It's situated on the top of the highest hill for a mile in any direction, and oriented precisely to the prevailing winds. Brick foundation, horsehair plaster walls, and a detached summer kitchen.
I'm not sure where in your home you would fit that. A small swimming pool would easily hold that, but keeping the water clean and potable would be very difficult. I would guess you'd need to have a special water tank made, and to avoid detection or damage, it would probably need to be underground. How the water would stay drinkable is another challenge.
Just saying that the logistics around long-term survival appear to be daunting and expensive. Maybe those "crazy" survivalists are not so crazy after all.
Not only that, as a rock climber, what the hell are you going to do to help somebody? Set a rope at the top of the shaft somehow, rappel onto the elevator car, open the door, and give them a jumar? Or setup a haul system? Most casual rock climbers are not proficient at these things to the point where they should be attempting rescues.