By Joe Darby
Our modern society is a ship at sea. Without lifeboats.
Our electronic devices and conveniences have become so essential to us that when we don’t have them, we’re in real trouble.
Almost 2 million people are without electric power because of Hurricane Ida’s trek through Louisiana and Mississippi. Officials are predicting some areas will remain in that condition for six weeks — which means it will probably be eight weeks or more.
How can a modern society function without power. No electricity to pump gas into your vehicles. If cell towers are down, you can’t use your phones. I wonder if you will be able to buy groceries if the stores don’t have their computers up and running. The same goes for restaurants and other retail outlets. Your food refrigeration ability ends. You can’t cook anything anyway, if you have an electric range. Of course your house will be stultifyingly hot unless you live in a very old house that was built with cross ventilation in mind. Because even if you have a generator it’s likely you will run out of fuel for it before too much longer.
And even if we had the most efficient disaster-relief organization ever, the sheer logistical problems of getting food and water to every house and home for weeks would seem to be insurmountable.
We are most vulnerable because of our reliance on computers, which I alluded to above in talking about retail stores. Can we even do basic banking, without power. No business relies more on computers than banks, I imagine. And our society, not just in the U.S., but all over the world, has blindly put ourselves in this position, that when we have catastrophic failure of power, there is no back-up.
I’d like to see bankers keep back-up ledgers written in paper, with a supply of old fashioned adding machines available for the tellers. Stores and restaurants should perhaps keep some old cash registers on hand. If you younger folks don’t know what that is, go down to the Kaffie-Frederick hardware store in Natchitoches. It seems to work fine for them.
But being the pessimist that I am, I can see how society could break down into chaos without our usual electrical systems functioning, particularly in larger cities. I pray it doesn’t come to that, and that the repairs will be made quickly, clever folks — particularly store owners — will improvise ways to make to until normality returns and, most of all, that people behave themselves and don’t revert to our more primitive impulses, which seem never to be too far below the surface these days.
We in northern Louisiana are very lucky this time. But our friends, families and fellow Louisianians down south may be in deep peril. I really hope I’m wrong.
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