Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Chicken Not-So-Little

We live constantly on the edge of disaster, and we don’t prepare for it. This is not a Chicken Little screed about the sky falling right now. This is a wake up call.

Look at Pakistan, New Orleans, Mississippi, Georgia, Indonesia, Guatemala, Cozumel. What we should take from these lessons of looting, damage, and despair?

Society is a very fragile thing. Ours resides (according to a Florida nurse interviewed on NPR) on gasoline, ice, and electricity. As long as people have those things, society will probably survive, although the vast majority are still exploited by the powerful.

In less fortunate places, society resides in houses, schools, hospitals, clean water, and the promise of some profit after the bills are paid. Without those things, governments degenerate into civil strife, under which the vast majority are exploited by the powerful.

Think about it. Gasoline, ice, electricity. Without electricity, it’s very hard to create or store anything. Without gasoline, whatever you’ve created and stored can’t get to where it’s needed.

Interesting that all three of these things upon which our society depends, are made of non-renewable (as far as we know) resources. Electricity is mostly made from coal, natgas, or nuclear. Gasoline is allegedly made from dead flora and fauna of the past, and fresh water isn’t made form anything. It’s just here.

Yes, I know you think that water is everywhere right? Just go look at the ocean, it’s bleeding huge, right? It’s also SALT WATER. We cannot drink it, use it for manufacturing, or cool nuclear facilities with it.

Two days without a steady supply of fresh water WILL cause looting of stores. Five or six days without food, or refrigeration of food will do the same. Ten or twelve days without gas…and there won’t be any food or water if there isn’t any electricity to run the water pumps or ice machines. If the sewer system is compromised, as is often the case, all safe water has to be looted, flown, or trucked in.

The people you saw in New Orleans looting beer? Those were the smart people. Beer is at least a clean source of water, after the Evian is gone. In the Middle Ages, water was so bad that children were weaned from milk (of some mammal) straight to “small beer” (i.e. their version of 3.2), because the water was likely to make them sick.

I’ve lived on top of three large earthquake-spawning faults, and you know what I’ve noticed? No planning whatsoever. There are no parts of the city (that I know of) that are designated tsunami safety zones, or earthquake emergency zones. There are no coordinated efforts to designate which highways are most likely to survive and thus used as evac routes.

There’s no general edict for health care workers to secure their families and then REPORT TO WORK. There’s no call for residents to have a place they can flee to when the Big One hits (again), and it will.

If you live in the Midwest, don’t feel smug. Check out, go to their ShakeMaps, and look at the continuous number of small earthquakes around St. Louis. The last time that one moved in a big way, the Mississippi ran backwards, destroying almost everything in its path and settling the river into new beds.

Take a moment to plan. Do you know where the evac routes at work are? At home, at school? Do you know where you’d go if you had to pick up and leave RIGHT NOW? Do you have copies of birth certs, SS cards, medical records in one case, ready to go?

I’m not trying to scare you, the pictures of disaster over the last few months should have been enough. Don’t be one of the people who didn’t plan, even though they could have. A couple jugs of water and a box of energy bars could make all the difference.

We live in a wonderful, diverse, technological society. However we rely dearly on that technology. Take a fresh look at your camping gear, home preparations, and knowledge of the roads between where you are, and where you’d like to be if something goes awfully wrong. The problem with Chicken Little and the Boy Who Cried Wolf, is that sometimes, they’re absolutely right, but we’re so tired of hearing them, we never actually hear what they’re saying.

The best outcome possible, is that you’ll never have to use you preparations, but you will sleep more soundly knowing you’ve done all you can.

The Boy Scouts may be a homophobic organization, but their motto is a good one: Be Prepared. If you prepare, you’ll be able to roast Chicken Little over your propane stove on your way out of the city. Bon Appetit.


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