Japan: Earthquake and Ocean Tsunami Presage Economic Tsunami and Systemic Collapse
(Special to CollapseNet)
by Rice Farmer
© Copyright 2011 Rice Farmer – All Rights Reserved
[photo: Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant - National Land Image Information (Color Aerial Photographs), via Wikimedia Commons]
Japan - March 12, 2011 (10:22 AM JST) - I’m sure everyone has seen images of the devastation here. Although I was personally unaffected (directly), family members were affected by the biggest jolt of their lives. Luckily everyone is all right.
Unfortunately, such cannot be said for the many dead and missing, as well as the countless people who escaped with their lives but lost everything else. The outright destruction wrought by the earthquake, aftershocks, and massive tsunami was considerably aggravated by widespread blackouts as well as natural gas outages in some areas. Our prefectural (state) capital had extensive power failures. Both my wife and son work there, but came home early citing the power outage. Surprise, surprise — turns out no one can get any work done without electricity. And the streets were chaos without traffic lights. Cellphone networks weren’t working, despite all the hype that they are just what the doctor ordered at times of disaster. Of course mobile phone base stations have uninterruptible power supplies, but when their batteries run out, that’s it. And if you can’t charge your cellphone, a functioning base station won’t do you any good. Further, even if cellphone networks are undamaged, the deluge of calls completely gridlocks the system and paralyzes it, like a DDS attack on a server. In my experience of trying to contact people yesterday, I found that cellphones were worthless, while landlines and the internet were functioning. Gasoline lately has been running at the equivalent of about $6/gallon; it will surely rise more now.
Definitely there are some important lessons for us here. Even if people’s homes have not been destroyed, there is going to be much suffering and death when the looming economic tsunami of collapse hits. No electricity. No natural gas supply. No propane deliveries. Supermarkets, which are ordinarily filled to overflowing with food — 60% of which is imported, will go black. No food deliveries. The unavailability of food will be a shocker to the well-fed Japanese.
Factories will close. Banks will be shuttered. Trucks and trains will stop running. Oil refineries will shut down. The economic system will hit the skids. Indeed, we saw much of this happen yesterday.
Something else we must be prepared for is chaos. Chaos on the streets (as long as people have gas). Chaos due to no communications. Remember that order in the economy and society is maintained by energy flow. The more complex the society, the greater the energy flow required to maintain order. For example, think of how much energy is used just to power and control the traffic light system in a city so as to maintain order on the streets. This is why collapse-savvy people disengage themselves as much as possible from our complex, energy-intensive urban societies and form low-energy, simple communities. Maintaining order therefore requires little energy. When need be, we can get by with word-of-mouth communications, or by penciling a message on a scrap of paper and posting it in a pre-arranged location.
Keeping warm is another problem. It is March but still quite cold here in Japan. Many victims are exposed to the elements. We still have snow here, and in some of the images from earthquake-stricken areas I have seen it snowing. I urge everyone to read the member essays here on CollapseNet on keeping warm. Electricity and natural gas will stop immediately — you can’t keep a store on hand like fuel oil or wood (and remember that fuel oil furnaces need electricity to run, anyway).
The Fukushima nuclear power plant is a disaster waiting to happen. The grid outage means no power to the plant — which cannot generate any itself, and cooling pumps don’t run. At the time I write this, the problem has yet to be solved. Even if we don’t end up with another Chernobyl, there’s an important lesson that will likely not be learned by the country’s leaders: Complex mega-technologies fail. And when mega-technologies fail, they cause mega-accidents. The utility has reportedly brought in a total of 25 power trucks to the nuclear complex in an effort to get the pumps working again, but an email from an acquaintance who is a nuclear power expert says all bets are off.
As my wife left for work this morning, she urged me to draw lots of money out of the bank to strengthen our cash position.