Most of us take electricity for granted. Until a storm knocks it out.
A recent report by the Air Force Electromagnetic Defense Task Force acknowledges the growing risk of catastrophic damage when a solar superstorm hits earth or an adversary detonates a nuclear weapon in our upper atmosphere. A solar event is inevitable. The last happened in 1859 when telegraph lines were hung across America. That event fried the lines and started fires in telegraph offices. We don’t know when the next will hit but it will. Astronomers can see a coronal mass ejection coming, but they don’t know its potential magnitude until it’s about 90 minutes from Earth. Certainly not enough time to prepare for the long-term catastrophic consequences that it would cause.
By Chuck Woolery, Activist, Not TV Host
What the military’s focus on is the loss of command and control centers essential for direct communication with its forces. An obvious target for any US adversary. But the greater threat to our nation from such an event is the loss of multiple civilian functions that we all rely on for nearly every aspect of our civilized lives. Imagine living without refrigeration, lights, gas station electric pumps, banking systems, water purification plants, hospital operations, police communications, cars, trucks, stop lights, generators, cell phones… everything needing wires and computer circuits to function.
You don’t need to imagine. Just read the testimony offered in a 2004 report by the‘Commission to Assess the Threat to the US from EMP Attack’. It predicted that “90 percent of all Americans would die within 12-18 months of an EMP attack.” If even 10% died it would still mean the end of the United States as we know it.
But solar flares and nuclear weapons aren’t the only thing capable of bringing down all or parts of our vital electrical grid. Fallen tree limbs have caused significant multi state blackouts. That problem has been largely reduced to a local outages. But we are still vulnerable to a well-coordinated cyber-attack or even a dozen individual terrorists with sniper rifles, RPGs, or car bombs taking out electrical substations in key locations.
Recently, General John Hayden, commander of the US strategic Command, warned that “EMP is a realistic threat, and it’s a credible threat.” The recent Air Force report stated that “most experts agree that if a GMD [Geomagnetic disturbance] or EMP incapacitates an electrical grid, the grid will likely remain in a failed state from weeks to months.” “In turn the ability to provide continued electrical cooling for nuclear power plant reactors and spent fuel pools would be at the top of electricity restoration priorities within hours.” Currently, however, the ability to assist distressed nuclear power stations is “very limited” with power plants having roughly 16 hours of backup battery power. “In the US, this would risk meltdowns at approximately 60 sites and 99 nuclear reactors…with consequentially disastrous impact to the economy and public health”.
These are all potentially catastrophic events given the degree our nation is dependent on electricity. Even the few who have cut their dependence on electricity by going off grid will not be free of the lawlessness and chaos of others who were not as discerning.
It’s reasonable to assert that western civilization is dependent on sustainable provisions based on abundant and resilient electricity. A western journalist once asked Gandhi what he thought about Western civilization. Gandhi replied, “I think that would be a good idea!”
Our nation’s array of indigenous Indian nations was virtually wiped out with our immigration into their lands bringing with us our technology dependent lifestyle. A life style that is now killing hundreds of thousands of us annually from ‘suicide by back side’. That’s the new phrase our Centers for Disease Control is now calling the rising rates in easily preventable deaths from lack of exercise, death by opioid overdose, firearm suicide, texting while driving, and demise while taking a selfie.
Is increasing military spending really going to make America safer or great again? Our sophisticated military capabilities might spot and destroy an incoming ICBM, but they are unlikely to detect and destroy a nuclear weapon concealed in a bogus commercial air liner. Some protection measures exist. But Richard Mroz, president of the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities, warned that the cost of preventing widespread failures from an EMP would “be astronomical.”
The Bottom line? People in electricity dependent nations shouldn’t create, antagonize, or threaten enemies.
While China is investing hundreds of billions of dollars in development and infrastructure projects that improve lives around the world, Congress is demanding more military funding and expecting to upgrade hundreds of military bases we now have in over 100 nations around the world. The US conducts special forces and drone operations in over half of those nations. These often lethal operations do not include a trial before lives are extinguished. Too often innocent men, women, and children become ‘collateral damage’ in these ‘operations’. People near the attacks know these dead more personally as mom, dad, son, or daughter or friend. This is no way to make friends.
Last week my family’s ‘new’ refrigerator broke down. Again (second time in 4 months). It’s still on warranty but the last repair service took three weeks. Our neighbors were helpful in taking food before it spoiled but they were of no use in fixing it. Last night, by coincidence a wise soul on a group phone call stated that “the refrigerator is the worst thing ever invented”. He based this on his experience with indigenous Indians. They were forced to remain close to nature which required considerable effort on their part to acquire all of their essentials. Our relationship to nature is quite different. We are excessively dependent on electricity for our modern comforts, distractions, and essentials. This has distanced us from the lives of others we share this solar drenched planet with while we continue to ravage it with little personal motivation to change how we do business, war, or foreign policy.
But things do change. And, living things that don’t, rarely survive.
We must stop making enemies and start investing in projects that make more friends in this hyper-interdependent world. In the long run it is the only way civilizations can survive and thrive.
Adequate investment in achieving the 17 global SDGs before the 2030 deadline is as important as our nation preparing ourselves for inevitable catastrophic events — solar flares being only one source. Ignoring the multiple warnings that we have been given on a growing number of threats may allow us to feel better psychologically, but physically, ignoring inevitable catastrophic threats it’s a really a very, very bad habit.