One reason I’m very much in favor of simplifying our lifestyle, even though I perceive “climate change” as a boondoggle veiling a power grab, is the ever-lurking, apocalyptic EMP. We depend far too much on electricity. It’s probably not good for our bodies. (I might detail my own physical discomforts after extended exposure to computers at some later date.) At this point, electric utilities pump our water and operate our refrigeration. In most homes, they supply heating and cooling to structures designed without a second thought having been given to efficiency. Automobiles have depended in computerized systems since about the mid-eighties: if everything electrical were suddenly fried… no more transportation. Even if you could walk to the grocery store, the trucks that deliver its merchandise would cease to run. And if you were retrograde enough to own a vintage car with minimal electrical dependency, it would still need to be gassed up after a few days… and the pumps at the filling station wouldn’t work.
Defense experts have estimated that 90% of the U.S. population would die within a year if our power grid were destroyed. In other words, the loss of that grid would equate to a surprise trans-continental nuclear attack, minus the lingering contamination–and with the addition of lethality at peak levels even in rural areas.
Books like Peter Pry’s Blackout Wars: State Initiatives to Achieve Preparedness Against an Electromagnetic Pules (EMP) Catastrophe consequently make for grim reading. (I’m currently working through this one on my Kindle–using electricity, of course!) The title of this volume actually hints at a source of optimism not visible in Pry’s earlier books: preemptive action by state governments to secure their section of the power grid. This can apparently be done legally; and the federal government, while confronting the crisis with all the energy of a deer staring at headlights, has at least not intervened (in the manner of its contribution to border security) to ensure that our pants stay down and our hands remain tied. Nevertheless, only four or five states have taken effective action at this point.
The kind of pulse at issue need not be administered by a nuclear weapon exploding thirty kilometers above ground, by the way, or by the domino effect begun when certain key power stations are overloaded. The pulse may be entirely natural. Solar flares occasionally create major surges. We haven’t seen a big one since the so-called Carrington Event in 1859, which turned all the telegraphs of New England into smoking ruins. We’re overdue another such burst–and we have far more than the telegraph at stake now.
Besides equipping all power stations with surge-arrestors (WHY was that not done in the construction phase, as a matter of course???), our leadership should send a very clear message to Kim Jong Un, whose nuclear trials and dry-run nautical missions have left little doubt that he has an EMP attack in mind. This little lunatic must be reminded that our nuclear submarines will survive even after the continent is plunged into darkness; and he must be warned, publicly and with grim clarity, that a devastating nuclear response directed at all of his hideaways will follow, instantly and irrevocably. I know what a gruesome remark I have just written. The prospect of 300 million American casualties, however, requires a strong deterrent. Mutually Assured Destruction worked in the Cold War, but we were dealing with comparatively sane despots. Maybe, in this case, the little lunatic’s entourage would pull his cord if it became apparent that he was about to pull theirs.