Saturday, October 11, 2014

No. 24 – December 14, 2012 - Rethinking the Grid

by Melinda Pillsbury-Foster

21 percent of Americans believe they would not survive more than a week without this service. 28 percent think they could last, perhaps, two weeks. 75 percent say they would be dead in less than a half a year. 
These results from a poll conducted by Wenzel Strategies, a national polling company. Americans are afraid, but silent. 
The 'service' is electric power. We all know the power goes out on occasion – are we really this dependent on 'the grid?' Yes, we are. Many would be cut off from all services with out it and unable to even cook food. 
While the results of the survey from which these opinions were taken reflected a high degree of anxiety over the potential, few Americans really know how really fragile the network of power which lights their homes and connects them through the Internet and phone, really is.
And while conspiracy theorists worry about attacks of weapons which would take out 'the grid,' leaving Americans powerless, the sun over head, which warms us, caused exactly the same effects several times in the last half of the 20th Century.

Canada was hit in 1973 by a solar flare which caused outages leaving 6 million without power.
Waves of solar flares were responsible for knocking out shortwave radio communications in southern China in February of 2011 and more flares are now on track to impact Earth.

The grid, as it presently exists, is vulnerable, far more vulnerable than most understand. It also presents other hazards. Two massive fires, which raged across square miles at the cost of billions in Georgiaq and California within the last decade were caused by lines down from the grid.

We depend on a steady and reliable source of power – but our supply can be cut off through a tree down, a natural disaster, solar flares or an intentional attack.

Replacing the grid is expensive, adding to the costs paid by Americans as an ordinary price for living. If nothing else, Hurricane Sandy proved just how many people can be impacted from such foreseeable events. If the flare is large enough, this could be all of us, leaving no one to come to the rescue.

This is an open question, one which demands an answer for every town in America. Ask yourself, what would you do if the lights went out and no one was left to help?

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