Self Sufficiency is the Answer
Brainboxes? That is a flippant description for some of the most educated people in society, don't you think? The article, in a sarcastic sort of way, seems almost apologetic for not performing the mainstream media function of helping us tune out and dumb down.
To comment on the subject itself: Disaster happens. It is not a matter of if, but when. The group I feel most sympathy for in a disaster scenario of any kind are those who rely on medications they will no longer be able to obtain for conditions that would otherwise prove life threatening (the twin epidemics of asthma and diabetes come to mind, for instance).
The second thing I take away from this news is that centralization is perhaps the worst idea modern man has dreamt up. The greatest irony about modern civilization, seemingly, is this: The more technology and transportation improves, the less the average person is capable of living independently. Economic problems, as this past year has shown us, no longer remain isolated and discrete; centralization of information, technology, transportation, economies and power have carved massive channels allowing one part of the world's problem to spill over into another. So when the going is good, it is very, very good. But when the going gets tough, it comes in worldwide busting proportions. You do the math. Does this sound like a sustainable form of economic, political and social organization?
The same "small world effect" that causes public health officials to fear bird flu pandemic jumping the oceans on a jet liner in a matter of hours is the same mechanism by which entire societies are at risk be it an Act of God or political unrest. Didn't our ancestors warn against such logic in that trite little cliche which holds: "Don't place all of your eggs in a single basket"? This is the most basic of human principles but our modern age and relative prosperity and good fortune in the latter half of the 20th Century has seduced us into forgetting that truism. So it is that much of the developed world relies on technologies and services, particularly transportation of food, water, medicine and fuel, that take place hundreds if not thousands of miles away. Essentially we have "gone soft" as a civilization and don't have the ability to self sustain the way prior generations did. Whether a Katrina-like Solar Storm materializes or not, this is an issue we are going to have to confront. If we refuse, Mother Nature or economic collapse will have a way of forcing the issue, I fear.
Didn't the Black Death kill primarily people who were centralized in cities, whereas the rural dwellers, growing their own food and limiting their exposure to overcrowded conditions were mostly spared? NOT that everyone can or should live in a countryside. At minimum, however, every city or town ought to have some food growing and water purification capacity. That would be a good start whether the threat stems from terrorism, war, Mother Nature or a freak accident. If our technology has accomplished so much, it should be capable of being engineered in such a way that millions of people are no longer vulnerable to the smallest of hiccups. In this respect, it ought to be a no brainer: Compartmentalization and redundancy of key industries and services are not hallmarks of waste or inconvenience, they are systems of self preservation in the event of the unthinkable.
The lessons of history have not changed. What has changed is our assumption that nothing can or will disrupt modern societies on a mass scale. But the truth is, governments, like power grids, won't function well if they are overly centralized. Whereas the 20th Century paradigm was industrialization and globalization, the 21st Century paradigm should be technology and information in service to local and individual self sufficiency. And that's not exactly an impossible goal. To the contrary, it amounts to knowing your local resources, and implementing technology to expand capacity to sustain community residents. Victory Gardens, for instance, became commonplace in the US during World War II. We need more of that kind of back-to-the-fundamentals thinking and less assumption that our technology is some sort of insulator against reality.
None of this is to say that we ought to spurn global trade or high technology. Rather, it is a reminder that striking a "happy medium" between two seemingly contrary goals is the wiser form of infrastructure and commerce. Whereas the 20th Century assumed that globalization would solve all of our problems, the 21st Century may prove for once and for all that we took a good concept and expected far too much from it (in terms of economic prosperity, safety or just about any other promise we thought the "small world concept" would deliver upon).
Bottom line? This sort of news it can be brushed off as Chicken Little warning that the sky is falling, or it can serve as an opportunity to think out far enough ahead to not only survive but capitalize on new economic, political and technological realities. Here is our choice when confronted with such realities: Look to our recent past and promise ourselves that nothing ever changes, or look to the future and bank on the fact that it will. Personally, I feel denial is a reaction that stems from helplessness (the "flight" response), whereas gearing ourselves up mentally and spirituality for new possibilities is the healthy and positive way of adapting to change (the "fight" response). Fight vs. flight. The choice is ours. Are we going to prepare, or say it ain't so?