Sunday, January 27, 2008

The Royal Flush in Spades, Part II, Adding it up

After reviewing many of the concepts I've presented here, it's my hope dear reader, that you might add a lot of these up and make something of it as you see fit. Many writers when describing a scenario have themes of Peak Oil, Climate Change, Financial Collapse, as you might have noticed, mine is of Natural Consequence. Perhaps our society will evolve in a natural process to a new environment from the consequences of all three and more? Just exactly what that natural process will be, I think is anybody's guess. Back at the old school house, the instructors took very little stock on just how collapse would happen but what that collapse might look like and the consequences of it.

Under the "lights are out for good scenario" I'm going to attempt to explain what the consequences of this might be. In this attempt, I'll be going back to each card and describe what the consequences might be under this scenario.

Starting with the Ace first, or electricity, we learned that indeed that it is possible the entire North American electrical system could go down, so it's a real possibility that the lights can go out for everyone. In this case, it would be extremely hard to imagine for the power to be restored in time, before catastrophic events would begin to emerge. It's a fact, that wide spread area's of the country can go down at once and a possibility, that even more areas can go down in attempts to bring the power back on line. Time being of the essence until problems escalate into something insurmountable within the time frame before our society breaks down. Furthermore, as time wanes, the possibility of this actually happening becomes greater. Not only is this system aging, but there is more and more demand put on it. Could it be just a prolonged heat wave that will actually bring it down? The people over at BNB, was just shocked when I revealed that I thought this eventually might bring down one of the regional networks. Where was the electromagnetic bombs or terrorists attacks?! I also expressed my view that if one regional network went down it might be likely the other two would eventually go down the same way or by attempts to restore the broken one(s). Moreover, I thought it wouldn't matter anyway.

Even if the system were to go down like the size of the Northeastern Blackout of 2003 for a couple of weeks, it would be doubtful that even if the whole world came to our aid, it could stop the chaotic situation of 50 million people! Especially if this happen during the winter months. If this country had a hard enough time rescuing the people of Katrina, a catastrophe of this magnitude would be unimaginable and unmanageable. How would these people keep warm? How could the world even deliver the amount of relief to that many people in time, before they expired? Without power, it simply cannot happen. It's just not feasible.

Almost all modern infrastructure was designed, built and maintained under the assumption of continuous power. Without this infrastructure our environment will change immediately. It will be the end of our world as we knew it. As discussed earlier, city water would not last after this many days, how would you get fuel to all these thousands of back-ups in time? Wouldn't the grocery store be cleared out after the first day or two? How would it be restocked? How well does your furnace work without the blower powered by electricity? How far do you think you would get on a road system that is dependent on lights? How would you refill your tank? How would you take money out of a bank dependent on computers?

By the way, do you think you'll go to work under such conditions? Can you even perform your duties without electricity? Do you actually believe police, firemen, and other crucial personal in keeping order, will actually report to work, leaving their families behind under such a scenario? Even if they did, how long would it take before this type of personal would be overwhelmed? Don't feel alone if you don't have answers to these question, I don't either. However, this is the consequences if the lights go out for good or for any lenght of time. Not looking to good, eh?

On to the King of Spades, population dynamics. What happens to a population when you suddenly take away their daily requirements of food, water, shelter and security? Of course, you will have a chaotic situation at hand. That is exactly the situation the Dept. of Energy has suggested would happen. When the lights are out for good, better yet, if the lights don't come back on in time, the environment that we are so dependent on expires. Many of those who are unwilling or incapable of adapting to the new evolving environment will die, since they cannot meet their daily requirements needed for survival. There will be some seeking to isolate themselves from this situation and flee to yet another environment, perhaps the woods, hills, desert, etc.. They will have to have the acquired knowledge that comes from experience in order to do so and a good deal of luck. Perhaps there will be another day when the sun will shine for these people, however that will be after "the monster" has moved on... Good Luck to the people who attempt this and hope to see you in the woods!

The Queen of Spades, water. Without electricity, there will be a whole lot, less of it. Almost the entire population gets their potable water from deep wells. It takes power to pull that water up, called electricity. This is an example of the decoupling of electrical generation/uniform parts of mass production (the pump), that I was referring to earlier, that had supported a population of this size. Without it, well...... Therefore most of the population will have to rely on surface water to meet their needs. If this water is potable, how long will it be? Back on BNB, I predicted that there will be more people who will expire from dehydration and water born disease than from starvation. This only makes sense because when the body is deprived from both, it'll die quicker from lack of water, that's a fact.

The Jack of Spades, food. Without power, how can we expect to feed the present population? This is impossible! It takes electrical power to process seed, power to transport seed, power to plant seed, power to nourish seed/crop, power to harvest crop, power to transport crop, power to transform crop into edible food, power to distribute food, and power to prepare this food to be acceptable to a population of 300 million people. Have I missed something here? Imagine feeding the entire population of the average community from the gardens grown in that community! Even if the gardens were large enough, try hand pumping the required water that garden would need. Of course, this is assuming the water table is within reach. This is also assuming that crop would be left to mature to produce next year's seed. Is that even possible with most of crops grown today? I think not. Of those that do have a resonable stock of food, they would likely have to defend it from those who do not. Especially, those that are not isolated from large populations...

The Ten of Spades, our industrial environment. Our industrial environment started when cheap fossil fuels made it economically feasible to couple electric generation with mass production of uniform parts. Take any one of these out of the equation and we don't have this environment any longer. If we don't have this environment, we cannot support the people that was produced by it. It's just that simple. People will have to find another environment and try to adapt to it, as I said before, this is easier said than done. Isolation can be a double edged sword. Areas where the populations are high and the physical boundaries (water, mountain ranges, etc.) are hard to breech, present unique problems within themselves. Another facet of this thought might be physical limitations, an example of this might be, if a population cannot reach water in time, if the distance is too great to reasonably obtain it, than that population becomes isolated. The extinction process begins since that population cannot reach another similar environment (one that has water). Yet another facet of isolation, of those that do breech another livable environment become isolated themselves from the rest of the population, this too can pose problems within itself....

The industrial environment's area mass is hugh, it encompasses everywhere that has infrastructure, transmission lines , roads and such. Land that does not have this feature of being civilized is hard to find. Land that can support even a small population without infrastructure, even harder. A small population that can support itself, even harder yet....

God, grant me the ability to accept the things I cannot change, to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference.................................


Beatrice said...

I work for a utility, in the area of contingency planning, in the Western Interconnection. The scenario you describe is credible; if widespread blackout occurs, I will be one of the ones called in to work on restoration. Utiltiies have black start capability, but they do need fuel. If there is infrastructure failure to the point where fuel cannot be delivered (natural gas lines not working, trains not working) then when stockpiles are gone, the lights are off.

I figure I will be one of the ones who expires if/when things get this bad, and from my POV this is preferable to eeking out an existence having to fight others for available food and water; I'd rather go on to the Afterlife and help from there.


yooper said...

beatrice, welcome to the site. Time being of the essence, before casscading problems become insurmountable, eh?
Do you think it's possible to manage a scenario such as this within time?

Thanks, yooper

yooper said...

Oh btw beatrice, check out the Ace of Spades series in the January archieves, see if this makes sense to you.

Thanks, yooper

FARfetched said...

Hi Beatrice…

Don't utilities keep some number of days of coal at their coal-fired plants? I could see where you might or might not keep tanks of natgas around — plenty of good arguments either way, at least from my layman's POV.

I'm not sure how many people will be around to fight for available food & water in a "fast crash" scenario like Yooper describes — no power to run the pumps means that people will be driving on whatever gas they have in their tanks. Then again, looting or riots could turn many cities into makeshift prisons (by barricades or traffic jams), and people might not be able to leave even if they *have* sufficient fuel and can keep it.

auntiegrav said...

Hi Yooper,
The electricity scenario is wired to fail, but as Florida just demonstrated, it isn't even wired to fail correctly. Each grid section is supposed to be able to disconnect in case of blackouts so that the generators keep churning without overloading, instead of overloading and shutting down. Too complex for the average manager to understand, though, so the tiny little bit of programming to do it doesn't get paid for. It's all in the marketing and the profits. Maintenance needs to be thought of as more than repairs, but as the communication connection between our society and its machinery. Same thing applies to our government.
I've burned up a lot of time on the net already, so it will be a while to read through what you have. So far, I like it. We should meetup and have a cup of coffee or something the next time I'm up at Da Folks'.
dconine2000 'at'
P.S. Where are those 4-cycle chainsaws that were promised, huh? I guess I'll have to make one that runs on woodgas.

yooper said...

Yes, I agree, perhaps those "fail safe" devices aren't so fail safe after all. I do believe that problems can casscade to the point of electricity of not being restored in time before society breaks down. Once that happens, I believe, all the kings horses and all the kings men, cannot stop it. It'll be like a wild fire and run it's course and we'll be "powerless" to stop it. I have no idea when that may be, btw.

Ha! I know of a guy who is going to try and make wood alcohol, perhaps he'll run his logging operation on it.

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