Post#: 203-18 – Words: 1935 – Audio: N/A
I am reminded of that scene in the movie, War Games, where the WOPR computer had initiated a game scenario “Global Thermonuclear War”, but in real time, setting into motion a real nuclear ICBM launch.
In an attempt to get the computer to realize there would be no winners in a real war they made it play tic-tac-toe. After some grinding moments its artificial intelligence began to learn the futility in playing tic-tac-toe… there are no winners.. and finally reaching the conclusion, “The only way to win is to not play at all.” The message being loud and clear regarding real world potentials for nuclear threats, it’s best to avoid escalating events as much as possible. Which is my point.. the only way to avoid some level of an apocalypse is to avoid any road that might take us there. But the point to remember, the path to an apocalypse is not just nuclear.
Just How Vulnerable Are We?
Remember back when there was the “Cold War”? Well, it ain’t all about fearing nukes anymore. We were far less vulnerable to some levels of apocalypse back in the 60’s and 70’s. What’s changed? We depend TOTALLY on technology now. There is also a huge increase in population, thus making the potential damage from natural disasters and mass human terrorism that much more critical in possibly contributing to throwing us back to the Stone Age… and in this day and age, the trip back is far more “closer” than it was 50 years ago.
Here’s the thing to think about regarding apocalyptic scenarios. There does not need to be planet-killing asteroids or a world-wide nuclear conflagration to bring our society to its knees. Let’s keep this simple to make the illustration that just an increase in population would make our country more vulnerable to a huge unrecoverable catastrophe.
The Big Quake –
The greatest earthquake (or series of quakes actually) ever to occur in the contiguous U.S. was not in the Southwest, California, Alaska, or in the Rockies but actually in the Midwest… smack in the middle. If there were a fortunate side to this quake it was that it occurred between December, 1811 and February, 1812, at a time of our history, over 200 years ago, when most of the country was very rural, towns were made up of small log cabins and frame homes, and people were very scarce. It is estimated that four quakes at or above 7.0, the highest estimated at being nearly 8.0, shook the Mississippi Valley at the intersection of the boundaries of Missouri, Arkansas, Tennessee, Kentucky, and Illinois… near the town of New Madrid, MO (NOT pronounced like “Madrid, Spain”… but May-drid)
Why Didn’t We Learn That In Our History Class?
That’s my point. It was lost history because it didn’t affect many people. It didn’t become “known” until the 20th century as science improved; when areas became settled, land drained for farming, fields plowed, lands excavated, and early scientists began to actually piece together the accounts of early settlers in those areas, like Davy Crockett’s account. Modern scientists of course have determined the event occurred using modern seismic, geological, and satellite instrumentation over the decades.
“Davy Crockett was not overly frightened to be shoulder-to-shoulder with a bear, but despite his bravado in crawling down into the earthquake crack, he admitted to being “very much alarmed” by the tremors that terrified his partner. At the same time, the earthquakes that periodically shook his favorite hunting grounds were for Crockett a recognizable feature of his environment. He knew them as reverberations of the great Mississippi Valley earthquakes that had rocked and reshaped his region in the winter of 1811–12. Those “great shakes” continued—and continue today—in smaller tremors felt by hunters, bears, dogs, and other inhabitants of the American heartland.”
(from Conevery Bolton Valencius, Lost History of the New Madrid Earthquakes, 2013)
The scary part is that these quakes are not the typical tectonic-plates-overlapping-each-other-movement we expect to see in San Francisco or Los Angeles quakes. The New Madrid quakes occurred in an extremely soft sub-soil layer where the shaking resulted in a “liquefaction”… meaning, as the ground shook over the fault the loose, sandy silt soil of the Mississippi Valley caused the land to sink. While humans might build buildings that are “San Andreas” quake proof in California it would be very difficult to build buildings to keep from sinking and tumbling in the New Madrid region.
Here’s the point to this example… the expansion of America and the increase in population and growth of cities in the Midwest since the 1800’s has just been huge, in fact, all across the entire country. Back in 1812 the only folks living in the Midwest were pioneering settlers; most towns and cities we know today were not around back then. At best maybe a few log cabins were toppled.. some indian settlements rattled, and the Mississippi River changing its flow pattern likely only upset the deer population for a while.
Imagine what would happen in this mid-west area with another quake of 7.0 or higher… the huge human and economic losses in a next New Madrid quake in cities like Chicago, St. Louis, Memphis, Nashville, all points up and down the Ohio River Valley… many thousands, if not millions will be victims… certainly homeless and displaced. Imagine Katrina times a thousand.
We will not be ready for this. A disaster this size.. forget FEMA trailers and Red Cross donuts on this one. Just consider the logistics alone… search & rescue would last months.. even a year or more. Restoration of utilities would make the Puerto Rican recovery seem speedy by comparison. Re-establishing everything, from local government, to law enforcement, emergency services, hospitals… will take months if not years. As a result since the affected areas could be so heavily damaged that it could stop our entire economy given this is the nation’s heartland and transportation hub… and all the nation’s resources will be needed on this one. The nation may likely never recover economically, much less politically, to what it was before. The large area affected will likely experience a breakdown of law and order for an unknown period of time; people scrounging for food, killing each other to survive on what’s left; a pretty grim scenario. It would be very conceivable that the President would have to establish a nationwide emergency disaster priority.. meaning that to save the economy or to devote attention to other urgent matters of domestic and/or world affairs, the huge disaster area might have to subsist on its own for a length of time, with reduced or postponed government support.
In a report filed in November 2008, the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency warned that a serious earthquake in the New Madrid Seismic Zone could result in “the highest economic losses due to a natural disaster in the United States,” further predicting “widespread and catastrophic” damage across Alabama, Arkansas, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Mississippi, Missouri, and particularly Tennessee, where a 7.7 magnitude quake or greater would cause damage to tens of thousands of structures affecting water distribution, transportation systems, and other vital infrastructure.
How Does This Relate To The Here-and-Now?
If you are living in this disaster area, and are unable to readily leave, or the government prevents you from doing so, this could easily be YOUR apocalypse. This could be your here-and-now scenario. “But this is just a natural disaster. We all assume that risk… and there’s no way to avoid it should it happen.”, you say.
Very true. Natural disasters come in all shapes and sizes. A rogue asteroid need not be an Armageddon planet killer to send you into an apocalyptic extinction. Could be a “country killer” or “regional killer”, or “city killer”. At best all you can do is suck it up when the time comes.. or be a prepper. It’s not the scope of this writing to discuss prepping; that can be found elsewhere on the net. In here I am just wanting to illustrate the kinds of vulnerabilities, natural or man made, that can send your life, and your family’s lives, into a tizzy… and the extreme vulnerability to getting hit like that from the great array of apocalyptic scenarios that you could very likely survive past day one.
Remember… the difference in the effect to the nation from the 1812 New Madrid quake and the effect to the same area today… population.
My “Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse”
Before we take our walk down the “path of possible calamities” there seems to be certain milestones that are common after effects with all disasters. You might be able to boil the results of all disaster threats down into four basic common life-threatening denominators.
- Loss of electricity
- Loss of drinking water
- Loss of the Internet (technology)
- Loss (breakdown) of social order
These elements interact within each other, against each other, and by themselves. They don’t have to occur in any order, and the loss of one will trigger the loss of the other. You lose electricity, down goes water distribution and the Internet. You loose water, people don’t drink, can’t work, down go the other elements. You lose the Internet you will ultimately loose electric, then water. Of course, all of these lead to a loss of social order, and if the economy takes a tumble due to a political or financial upheaval then the loss of social order initiates the loss of the other elements.
The single variable of all these that determines temporary gloom or permanent doom is… time. At one time or another we’ve all experienced at least 5 minutes with the first three of these elements. The lights go back on when a circuit breaker is reset, the water company fixes the leak, the cable company repairs the Internet box… and our lives quickly return to normal. Now imagine days or weeks (or months) in place of our 5 minutes… then we experience the forth element. Yes, it can happen… and yes, some nasty apocalypse scenarios can be avoided.
We live in a fragile society, folks… or perhaps better stated, we live in a fragile world.
Right about now you might be wondering why I am talking apocalyptic disaster scenarios on a political blog. Well, right now in our current news cycle we have threats of terrorism (which by itself can manifest into any kind of disaster… like manpack nuke, bio-chem attack, North Korea nuke rockets, etc.). We also have threats of the kind Russia is sending our way, hacking into our technology. There’s a cell phone manufacturer in China illustrating foreign spy activity through our commercial electronic devices. But I suppose the one inspiration for including this category is the growing political divide in our country to the point where I am picking up vibes that some folks might be happy to introduce some violence into their political revolution; a kind of “civil war” trend. That’s pretty nuts… but much of politics is.
In the coming weeks I will post various thoughts on survivable apocalyptic events.. what to expect, and how to avoid them. The good news is that there won’t likely be any zombie apocalypse to worry about.
In the meantime… as you listen to the news, think to yourself… the end of the normal routine to mine and my family’s survivability, and the political survivability of our nation, is truly less about the next weather pattern or rogue asteroid… our vulnerability is our technology. Remember my “four horsemen”? How many days could you go without any one of those things before you start.. “surviving”.?
My other sites… if you’re interested…