While reading One Second After, a fictional novel about an EMP attack taking down the US power grid, I kept thinking about a 2015 blog post I wrote, If we build it; we can fix it, which cuts to the chase on where the world is at right now (although we’ve been headed in this direction for many years now). I wrote:
“So, far we’ve got most of the best geopolitical systems analysts (world leaders, scholars, statesmen, soldiers) not working on finding ways to fix the multiple, simultaneous, sub-system failures that lead to a collapse of a civilization. They study the various sub-set systems and do some disparate diagnostics, then shrug and say, that’s just how civilizations are – “they rise and they fall”. Some try to design quick-fix patches. Some recoil in fear and are content to be passive spectators to the collapse and murmur, “It’s always been that way”. Brilliant geopolitics experts, almost to a man, say “that’s the way it’s always been and I have seen nothing in history to indicate it can ever change.” Of course, if you accept it can’t change, very few people will even bother trying to change it.”
Thinking about systems… all kinds of systems… is something I’ve done for as long as I can remember. I try to figure out the parts, pull them apart in my mind, think about how they fit into the larger systems and identify critical structure vs. fluffy extras. and then identify problems, I also think a lot about the “what ifs” and thinking about what would happen, how on earth could we avoid calamity and how could we set about fixing the parts that are broken or failing. I ended that post with this observation:
“My son recently lamented to me that he doesn’t understand why some, way more experienced, software engineers he knows settle for creating sort of patches to fix problems, instead of trying to figure out what’s causing the problem to occur in the first place and fix that. He asked why people are like that and I told him, that in my opinion, lots of people prefer to take the easiest road – believe me, growing up in PA, our pothole-patched roads attest to that. Because throwing a patch on is easier than repairing the entire road. And I should know, because my father built roads for a living.”
In a recent blog post, I mentioned the train derailment in East Palestine, OH situation and how the critical infrastructure problems in America are long-standing and yet decade after decade little is done to really fix the structural problems. Despite how much government money gets allocated, we just end up with “patches” to problems, lots of wasted tax dollars, zero accountability for fraud, waste and abuse of public monies and most of all we end up with catchy political sound bites and false narratives, deflecting blame, pointing fingers at the “other side” and enough hot air to keep millions of hot air balloons afloat indefinitely.
The scenario in One Second After is about such a massive catastrophic event of a major system failure that results in simultaneous sub-system failures and life as people know it ceases to exist, leaving them adrift and trying to figure out basic survival without all those major systems to rely on. The author put a lot of thought into exploring the “what ifs,” but it’s important to keep in mind his work is fiction, not prophecy. That’s the thing with all the “what ifs” we might get concerned about – they’re “what ifs” and some are more likely than others. For instance, I live in an area hit by hurricanes and bad thunderstorms that often spawn tornadoes, so that means those sort of events are a more likely “what if” in how I want to be prepared. That doesn’t mean a world-altering catastrophic event like an EMP attack or nuclear war can’t happen, it’s just in my daily life, most of the same emergency preparations for a hurricane would be the same things – basics – water, shelter, food, personal safety. Major emergencies almost always seem to put us back to thinking about the basics of survival.
I see a lot of online homesteaders and preppers, who seem to be running around in a million different directions, starting one major project after another, as the latest online conspiracy theory or fearmongering takes hold. They’re buying this list of stuff, then that list of stuff, then it’s going from a handful of raised beds to trying to plant acres and acquiring livestock right and left too. Many seem like they’re once and done type “experts” – they try something once or worse hear someone else online talking about a topic, then they adopt that person’s take and present it on their own social media platforms. Trying to troubleshoot for every imaginable doom and gloom scenario isn’t practical and even more than that it’s a scattershot approach that can wear us out physically, leave us financially bleeding out and worst of all emotional basket cases, if we try to embark on too many projects at one time.
Today is two years since my husband passed away and after a trip to the cemetery, I’m going to try to get this blog post done. He was forever reminding me KISS – Keep It Simple Stupid and he would use that “how do you eat an elephant?” line and remind me to slow down and work on one bite at a time. When I get worked up or energized about something – I’m ready to charge full-steam ahead, often biting off way more than I can chew, so over the years I’ve worked on trying to take smaller bites at a time.
The things that worked for the small community in this novel to survive, are what has worked in groups of people always – strong leadership, building trust within the community, and people working together. That’s not rocket science. They set-up workable systems with what resources they had and learned from their mistakes, but there were still huge costs. However, it goes back to the title of that novel – “one second after” is too late to prepare. You’d think since 9/11, 2008 crash, major weather emergencies and then the pandemic, that our federal government and every state and local government would have made emergency preparedness a top priority and have emergency food, water, medical supplies stockpiled.
Last summer the UN was predicting global hunger and famine to increase dramatically: Secretary-General Warns of Unprecedented Global Hunger Crisis, with 276 Million Facing Food Insecurity, Calling for Export Recovery, Debt Relief The thing most Americans don’t understand is that we’re not immune from these same catastrophes that befall the rest of the world. Hunger is increasing in the western world too – even here in America. Geopolitical, economic and civil systems are under increasing stress around the world. There are major climate and weather situations happening too, even solar issues beyond our planet. Here’s a January 13, 2023 article, As sun’s most active regions turn toward Earth, potential for violent solar activity builds:
“Extreme space weather can disrupt space technology, power grids and communication systems, including GPS navigation and aircraft passing over the North Pole.”
I don’t have a crystal ball and neither does anyone else, but the major systems upon which our modern civilization are built have become more and more stressed over the last 20 years and in the past few years, there’s plenty of information in the news and in various reports that should serve as the “fasten your seatbelt” light is on and turbulence is increasing. In my 2015 blog post I wrote that I don’t accept the belief that civilizational collapse is inevitable and I still don’t believe that:
“I refuse to accept that belief. I believe that if we build it, we can always improve on the design and come up with better sub-systems to build a newer, better performing model. If your best systems analysts don’t ever even really try to find the design flaws and fix them, but instead wander off, halfheartedly fixing, only bits and pieces of some of the sub-system design flaws, of course the system will continue to reach the point where these sub-systems start falling apart and down the chute into the dustbin of history goes all that work that went into it. In the process usually many, many people perish, because most of these sub-set failures happen in midair, resulting in spectacular crashes, although some do implode and burn slowly on the runway too, so to speak. Cleaning up the wreckage from civilizational collapses can take centuries, sometimes those people that survive don’t even bother, they wander off into the wilderness.”
With all the marvelous inventions and discoveries at our fingertips, perhaps in the midst of having too much of everything we’ve lost sight of the things that really matter – how we care for our families, how we treat each other, and focusing on the basic things. The daily online partisan outrage theater doesn’t matter. All the Us vs. Them within our own country won’t help a single American in a crisis. All the conspiratorial murmurings that fuel social media traffic about the dreaded “evil ones,” – from the left ranting about “MAGA Republicans” to the right ranting about “the Woke” and “the Deep State,” won’t help a single American in need, especially in a crisis.
For us to survive will require a whole lot more “we” and less “me,me,me.” Changing hearts changes the world – that’s what I believe. Oh, and of course it sure would help if more and more Americans started thinking beyond the moment and started seriously stocking up some water, food and basic supplies, in case of an emergency situation. Here’s the US government emergency planning advice: https://www.ready.gov/plan, but I think this is totally inadequate to just have 3 days of water and food stored as a minimum or up to two weeks. There are all kinds of good prepping guides online. In 2020, I decided to go from having a few months worth of food to working on bulking up my emergency water, food and basic supplies and that is still an ongoing effort. I haven’t stopped and I continue to make changes and tweaks, looking toward finding ways to work toward some more sustainable options.
This last point is about a common sentiment I’ve heard expressed many times by people, who take emergency preparedness seriously, about people who haven’t lifted a finger to prepare for anything or even more frustrating dismiss preparedness as something doomsday crazies do. Many people who do prep have resentment toward non-preppers. A hundred years ago, preparedness was a critical part of everyday life for most people around the world, because survival depended on it. I know how frustrating it can be to read all sorts of news and reports, then try to convey to family or friends that certain preparedness efforts are important, only to get dismissed as being too much of a worrier or “there she goes with the crazy prepper talk again.” I just decided to ignore the comments and stay focused on doing what I think is right. Back during that bad freeze a few months ago, I saw the news report of the young woman in Buffalo, who froze to death stranded in her car. I just went ahead and ordered two cold weather sleeping bags for my two oldest granddaughters and some other supplies and had it delivered to their home in IN. I told my daughter to have them throw those sleeping bags in the trunks of their cars and put some HotHands hand warmers in their glove compartments. I also told her to urge them to keep some water and something to eat in their cars too. I had sent a Mr. Heater Buddy a couple months before that cold freeze.
In a major catastrophe, the thing is all the would have, could have, should have won’t matter. The people who didn’t prepare will be aware that they should have done more, but even people who did prepare will realize there were things they should have done more of too. All the partisan political crap and wanting to be right about this, that or the other won’t matter.
What will matter is how we work together to survive, because the reality is in major catastrophes body counts grow exponentially as resources dwindle, civil unrest increases and sanitation degrades – that’s the truth. While many of the scenarios in the One Second After novel seem like worst case scenario statistics, death tolls do mount if there are prolonged catastrophes and little or no relief efforts available. I like a YouTube prepper channel, The Provident Prepper a lot and I like their line – “be part of the solution.” Arguing with or being hostile toward people who don’t see things as you do won’t help anyone. America has an over abundance of angry flamethrowers and wrecking balls. All that “we need fighters” on the right is as destructive as the “tear it all down” on the left. America needs more builders – builders of stronger families, builders of stronger communities and most of all builders of faith, hope and love.