(I couldn’t find any good apocalypse photos, so I used this one I found in my scrapbook that captures my experience from high school. )
For those of you who have been following my blog, I have already shared some initial thoughts about Doomsday Preppers (who are waiting for when the SHTF). Rather than wallow in depressive hopelessness, I want to explore the issues in an academic manner. I think there are some things that aren’t being taken into consideration, like what we may actually face versus what we can prepare for.
The types of disasters, according to the U.S. Federal Government, include: biological, chemical, drought, earthquake, fire, flood, heat, hurricane, nuclear, tornado, tsunami, volcano, wildfires, and winter storm. Most of these appear to be natural disasters, so the scale isn’t necessarily global. Many of these are globally-specific threats, as well. Volcanos are dependent on proximity to tectonic plate borders. Hurricanes and tornadoes are heavily mitigated by mountainous areas, and more likely to roam in flatter topographical areas. Tsunamis are limited to coastal areas; just like flooding will be limited to those near rivers and streams. Flooding, just as wildfires and droughts are fairly cyclical – and occur naturally. Winter storms, as well as heat, are seasonal (and conditional) threats. This leaves us with chemical, biological, and nuclear.
Chemical threats would include mismanagement of the resources we already use. It isn’t necessarily something triggered by terrorists. Taking illegally dumped chemicals out of the equation for the moment, we have countless chemical plants used in a variety of uses all around us. We also have industrial chemicals in our environment already. For example, the natural gas industry pumps a liquid, deep into the ground to shatter rock which allows them to collect the gas. This process called ‘fracking’ already poses a threat to our global environment. The BBC wrote an article to identify what fracking is and the controversies around it, including pumping carcinogenic compounds into our water tables. A USA Today article points out that a Duke University study shows increases radioactive materials in the water table, as a result of fracking. Let’s not forget to mention that there are many other nasty chemicals, according to this New York Times magazine article. My point is that the chemical threats are already here. It won’t necessarily be some external threat. We have our own home-grown people who may have some ideations to initiate “end times” by sabotaging such places. There are also businesses that have used oils and hydraulic fluids, concentration of heavy metals, acids, and other caustic chemicals on premises. Those chemicals are also just an accident away from exposing us, too.
Nuclear threats are real, too. Again, it is already integrated into our society. Bad guys don’t have to run to the store to pick-up radioactive material or have it shipped into the country. It is here already. Yucca Mountain is one such place, but used radioactive material is stored in nearly every state in the United States – as seen here on this Federal Government website. These are highly secured areas, but are just as subject to accidents – as well as any potential home-grown threats. The Federal Government has many resources, including this page on potential nuclear fallout from our current nuclear reactors. While the dropping of nuclear bombs on Nagasaki and Hiroshima in the 1940s provided a great deal of data about radiation fallout, sickness, and radii of contamination; there is still a hypothetical element to any potential future radioactive events – which include weather systems, topography, water table, as well as the amount and time that exposure occurs. All of these factors will shape the intensity of radiation sickness one might experience, which is a public group. Radiation sickness is also documented on Federal Government websites, too. I have a feeling that if a wide-scale nuclear disaster were to occur; a Pinterest-inspired bug out bag and stockpile may not really change the drastically horrible outcomes that would follow.
Biological threats would not be limited to man-made ones. We are in the middle of many battles within a wide-range war with microorganisms, as we speak. MRSA (Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus) is one such potential threat. VRE (Vancomycin-resistant enterococci) is another. Yet another, newly emerging threat is CRE (Carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae) explained on a governmental website. These “superbugs” have developed a resistance to powerful medications, which means that they pose a threat – especially once they become pathogenic. In other words, once these “germs” cause illness – we are in serious trouble. The same Darwinistic ability to adapt to their environment that humans have is shared with other organisms. Our environment poses a threat to a living organism. Some die. Some survive. Those that do, pass on their ability to survive that threat – or, at least provide some level of protection from that environmental condition. We have created a pattern of make a drug/see resistance appear to it as an on-going cycle. That has brought us to this point. However, I have seen a TED TALK from a molecular biologist named Bonnie Bassler that discusses “quorum sensing” which is how microorganisms chemically “talk” amongst themselves to function. I am not sure where this stands on the experimental process, as the talk was in 2009. It does sound promising. The bottom line is that this threat is, again, a natural one. Once again, natural recurrence of microorganistic threats are cyclical – as documented at this Federal Governmental website. Even with the knowledge of standard precautions to prevent the spread of infection, things could get ugly very quickly – depending on the germ, exposure, and how it is managed.
I would also add that a power grid failure, or collapse of our network that provides power to everyone would be another cause for potentially apocalyptic conditions. A few years ago, we all experienced large regional outages that cause quite a disruption of our lives. There was a cascading effect where one site failed, which then led to other sections failing. The talk was that our power grid is outdated and piecemealed together, and needed serious upgrades. Unfortunately, the “out of sight, out of mind” mentality has kept that issue out of the spotlight. Have we taken our access to electricity for granted (not granite, people) that we are assuming that it won’t fail? Or that we can pick up the pieces fast enough when it crashes again? If it were to fail, our whole infrastructure would follow in the collapse. Our commerce, our businesses, our economy, our ability to communicate, our livelihood, our wealth……everything lost without access, once the power goes out. Our data on our harddrives, documents, etc. Gone. I would think that our ability to travel would be lost, as well. Power is needed to pump fuel from the ground, yes? People can’t get around. Goods can’t be moved. And, once again, a few days supply of water/food/stuff may not ultimately help. Somehow, the acronym “SHTF” will likely fall short of what we can expect from such an event. It could be a chain reaction that makes the apocalypse a long, drawn out event. We will be ultimately left to survive off the land, shaped by the catastrophic events that lay before us.
This is shaping my views of doomsday prepping to more of a “embrace the chaos” plan. I can hope my family will be around each other when such an event occurs. For there, we would have to figure out what our assets and liabilities are. Not a pleasant thing to consider, but seemingly more real.