Friday, November 12, 2010

Life After Armageddon.

Watched 'Life After Armageddon', a US dram-doc, on Channel Five the other night. It depicts a society brought to collapse by an outbreak of flu, which has such a devastating effect because the country is so interdependent; once enough people stay home because they are ill, or to avoid becoming ill, everything fails, including water, power, law and order, and food distribution.

The program was a bit crass and repetitive, despite talking head slots from some of my favourite collapse theorists, but the scenario it depicts didn't seem particularly far-fetched. It seems worthy of comment that many of the tools which we are embracing to deal with the prospect of climate change -- such as more efficient transport networks, smarter power grids, and more reliance on the internet for work, shopping, and control systems generally -- actually make our civilisation less resilient to shocks. I don't know whether the internet would really stop working, in the way it does in the movie, once the workers in the server farms stop coming in to work, but it does bear thinking about.

I suppose the upshot of this is that there is more to sustainability than reducing power consumption; it's important to think about resilience, and reversibility. Of course we need to reduce our carbon emissions, but we ought to be aiming to do it in a way that doesn't create new systemic weaknesses and threats.