Tuesday, December 29, 2009

A Reed Shaken with the Wind

Matthew 11:7

We’ve been without power for 13 days in December . . . so far. Four different times the power has failed.

And here is why the electric power grid has failed so often this winter: The infrastructure is crumbling.

The thing about infrastructure is that you don’t think about it so much. Well, unless you are an industrial recruiter or a doomer/thrivalist . Infrastructure just is. It is what you take for granted and notice only if it isn't there and fuss about if it isn't perfect. I would say that many different sorts of infrastructures are crumbling right now; that the financial infrastructure, for instance, has already collapsed. The electric grid infrastructure is a favorite of many people -- those people who’s ideal is to live “off the grid” for instance -- and the reason people have the idea to live off the grid is because people are so dependent upon the grid. They cannot heat, they cannot cook, they cannot store food, they have no water to drink or flush with without electricity. And because the grid cannot even begin to “stay up” without coal fire generated electricity, and I don’t care where you think your personal electricity comes from, in reality the grid would not be there at all without coal. There is no solar grid or wind grid or hydro grid (and I have my environmental issues with each one of these alternatives -- they are not “clean” in reality) without dirty & dangerous, mercury laced, acid rain producing, mountain top removed coal fired power plants.


We are connected to the grid in some really vital ways. But we know how to live without it -- and we have the means to live without it. So the power failures are inconveniences to us, not tragedies. We can enjoy our freezers and our Wii, and we can do without them.

But these power failures are the canaries in the coal mines . . . the first signs of what is there already but not yet recognized.

The infrastructure is crumbling.

It is a simple thing to maintain power lines, and cheaper than fixing them four times in one month. But that hasn’t happened. Sure right now it is way out here in the boonies and on a power circuit that serves only a handful of customers. It is nothing big, certainly nothing that would affect people in the cities, nothing that will require a priority other than if it feels good, do it.

Except that it will. Just like bad (not poor but downright bad and evil) financial choices are catching up with the world. Just like peak oil will catch up (and did, in a small way, when prices peaked then demand fell).

Go ahead. Think that I'm crazy. The infrastructure is collapsing no matter what you think about it.

Go ahead. Read Kunstler's forecast.

And be brave in the new year.

There is this thing that is a given in my head but that other people don't seem to get is that TEOTWAWKI is an opportunity, a gift. Shiva's dance of destruction is also the dance of transformation. Think, What do you want your world to look like? and then create it. Of course, true creativity requires more than a dram of marrow.


Kate said...

It's funny. I've been thinking about the meaning of infrastructure. Because I was thinking over the coming year and in my thoughts I asked myself what "infrastructure" I'd like to have in place on our little property in a year's time. I was thinking of a handpump for our well. And a few nut trees, plus a few more fruit trees. And the bees of course. The root cellar finished, maybe - just maybe - even well enough to store ice over the summer months. The beginnings of a proper permaculture guild around the old apple tree.

Infrastructure....Maybe we thrivalists need to claim that word and redefine it. In my thoughts I was using it to mean something that I can establish right now and then rely on for years to come, with little additional effort needed to maintain anything or inputs other than my own labor. No idea what to do about electricity. We're just as dependent on it as the average American. But maybe *our* infrastructure will help change that.

kmoo said...

Twenty years working in "Power Generation" have taught me that the "Pro's" who generate electricity are no different than the average guy who puts off maintaining his auto when money is tight.

As an aside, the large scale wind generated electricy I've seen doesn't work without a grid to govern against.

American civilization is screwed without coal.

Happy Holidays :)

Deadpan Taoist said...

Screwed with a capital S.

kmoo said...

electricy. Eye give up.

Anonymous said...

Power lines on the ground everywhere. Shocking. Just shocking!

Woolysheep said...

And it ain't just the electrical grid. It's all of the infrastructure, as illustrated in the documentaryThe Crumbling of America.

The piece they do about the state of dams in the US is especially worrisome.

Mr. H. said...

Time eventually wears down all things, even the foolishness of man. Happy new year.:)

CG said...

At least I'm above the second largest earth-filled dam in the world! And I'm not sure true foolishness ever gets warn down!

Alan said...

We have been blessed with the imptus to seriously explore this idea of dependance in our family life. We have started posting about our exploration on NDiN. Here is a link to week two (http://notdabblinginnormal.wordpress.com/2010/01/05/cold-turkey-part-two-slipping-a-tiny-bit/) Love your blog. We'll keep posting about our journey.