Heavy weather and wobbly infrastructure


John Robb blogs about the current South Africa blackouts where the usual culprits of inadequate maintenance, poor planning, and bad management have, combined with bad weather, causing a massive electricity shortage that will take years to fix.

The blizzards in China have caused severe damage. The electrical grid, primarily fueled by coal, can’t reliably power major cities and transportation has come to a standstill.

The storms have reportedly resulted in the collapse of 107,000 buildings, and destroyed 42 billion square meters of crops.

And more storms are coming.

Again, bad weather (fueled by La Nina) may have been the precipitating factor, but clearly the infrastructure of China is ill-maintained and not able to withstand shocks. Let’s not be too smug and say it can’t happen here…

We need resilent communities, says Robb, to safeguard against such crises.

This conceptual model creates a set of new services that allow the smallest viable subset of social systems, the community (however you define it), to enjoy the fruits of globalization without being completely vulnerable to its excesses. These services are configured to provide the ability to survive an extended disconnection from the global grid.

Local power, local food production, and most of all, contingency plans are what a resilient community needs if the national grid gets disrupted. A decentralized system will always be more resilient and flexible than one that is centralized.