Darkness in India, Drought in America; You Can’t Make This Stuff Up

The power grid in India failed this week, leaving half the population of the world’s largest democracy without electric power.

Half the counties in America have been declared drought disaster areas by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Half of India in the dark, half of America in drought. Makes you wonder: Where is the tipping point? How much failure can a country endure?

When does total chaos set in? Is it 55 percent? 60 percent? 75 percent?

Electric Grid

I suppose the pertinent question is: How long does the power failure or drought continue? At what point in time does the capacity to recover decline or disappear?

We presume that electric power to most of India will be restored in short order. Although our definition of “short order” in these matters is becoming a moving target.

We presume that the crop yield in America may be diminished, but it will not be totally destroyed. After all, if half the counties are disaster areas, that means that half are OK. And even in the disaster areas, some significant portion of the crop will probably survive to harvest.

Our impulse, after the shock of disaster wears off, is to get back up and resolve to rebuild bigger and better than ever.

However, the slow and ineffective response to Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans, together with the disappointing pace of recovery as the months and years pass, teach us that recovery cannot be assumed in every case.

Resilience! Resilience is a word you hear more and more. How resilient is an individual, a family, or a civilization, to sudden disaster or long-term hardship?

The previous post on this blog focused on warning signs pointing to continuing economic collapse. I thought the next post should transition to the positive: “OK, What Do We Do Now?”

But events of the week have shaken my ability to quickly pivot to positive thinking.

The Washington Post’s description of corruption and inefficiency in India’s power system is disquieting. India’s electric power problems are endemic and resistant to change. Apparently the Indian people and Indian businesses want electric power, but they don’t want to pay for it. At the extreme, many want free electric power.

You can see the parallel to the people in America and Europe, who don’t want to pay taxes. We want, want, want. Except we don’t want to pay! That seems to be at the root of so many problems. Greed (or maybe it’s more like gluttony) coupled with selfishness. I guess it’s a universal flaw in human nature.

So what do we do now? Resiliance would be a good place to start thinking. Continuing economic problems put enormous stress on social and political systems. We’re not looking at the potential for ONLY economic collapse. You can see stress fractures spreading in government and throughout society.

Maybe the examples of the power grid failure in India and drought in America will focus our attention. Do you have any thoughts on the subject?

— John Hayden

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