Sunday, November 05, 2006

Black Out

As I drove my son home from swim squad tonight I (indicated then) pulled into a lane just in front of a morbidly obese brain-dead male driving a very new and expensive looking Mercedes Benz two door sport version - I mean the guy was so fat I'd have sworn someone had rammed a Humvee up his arse. I was (just) doing the speed limit. It really irritated him that I didn't accelerate away with the torque that no doubt his mostly pointless piece of German engineering could. So much so that he sat about a metre or two surging closer every now and then towards my towbar as we continued the short journey home.

I laughed to myself knowing he wouldn't dare risk hitting me, I could tell he cared a helluva lot more about his wanky status symbol than his health for a start. All this rekindled my wonder as to what would become of the ignorant, impatient obese in the coming long emergency. Fat and can afford to be tasteless is in for a shock.

Something I noticed in the news this evening confirmed the almost fatalistic course of events now unfolding subtley before our very eyes. The lights went out across Europe today in an unprecedented continent wide power outage - and the world barely blinked an eye.

Richard Duncan (2000) argues we are at the beginning of what he calls the olduvai slide. Marked ostensibly by the escalating violence in the middle east, the Jerusalem Jihad, we are at the beginning of ever increasing dysfunction across global energy markets. Financial markets will follow close behind.

The power shortages in California and elsewhere are the product of the nation's long economic boom, the increasing use of energy-guzzling computer devices, population growth and a slowdown in new power-plant construction amid the deregulation of the utility market. As the shortages threaten to spread eastward over the next few years, more Americans may face a tradeoff they would rather not make in the long-running conflict between energy and the environment: whether to build more power plants or to contend with the economic headaches and inconveniences of inadequate power supplies. (Carlton, 2000)

The electricity business has also run out of almost all-existing generating capacity, whether this capacity is a coal-fired plant, a nuclear plant or a dam. The electricity business has already responded to this shortage. Orders for a massive number of natural gas-fired plants have already been placed. But these new gas plants require an unbelievable amount of natural gas. This immediate need for so much incremental supply is simply not there. (Simmons, 2000)

Civilisation came to an abrupt halt (albeit a shortish pause) for most of Europe today. A cold snap encouraged millions of Germans to turn up the heating causing the electricity grid to collapse "like a house of cards" the guardian reported.

"One power company chief said the continent had been close to a total blackout"

Duncan argues Industrial Civilisation is beholden to electricity. What will modern cities be like to live in without electricity? Millions of people packed likes sardines into highrise apartment complexes - inherently everything connected to this way of life utterly and totally depends on electricity. Yet the average punter is totally clueless in regard to the complexity, the fragility and the implications of electricity and large cities.

The reliability of the worlds electricity networks is faltering. As an individual, and in light of Duncan's compelling argument, I urge you to consider what you might do.

Richard Duncan's Olduvai Theory

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