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13.5.10

The Fragility of Civilization - Update

(Looks like someone's been reading my blog. Notice publication date 13 days after this article. -B)

Sometimes things happen that point up just how tenuous our grasp on civilization really is.

Of course, right now a global revolution is building. For too long, we have served masters who have manipulated us like so many puppets, and who have looted our treasuries and pocketbooks, leaving us destitute and subservient to a fiction called "corporation." We see country after country teetering on the brink of complete collapse: Greece, Iceland, Ireland, Spain...the list goes on. Riots, trials, looting. and burnings; people are fed up with being slaves to our own creations. Financial crises have ravaged both sovereign funds and retirement funds. Multi-trillion dollar bail-outs raid treasuries to rescue corporations and banks, but the individual is forgotten and worthless.

On top of misery of our own creation, there is a volcano repeatedly stranding air passengers worldwide. There is a subsea oil volcano threatening to poison the entire Gulf coast of the US for decades, and may affect oceans worldwide, as well. Earthquakes have ravaged Indonesia, China, Chile, and Haiti, with more likely to come. Though the media reports have been carefully controlled, it still shows the complete failure of our god, Governement, to save and protect us, and through it all, our corporations thrive on the destruction.

In all this noise, something has happened which few are talking about, but which could easily collapse civilization in 24 hours, and there is almost no mention of it. It is a silent menace floating high over our heads, practically invisible to the average person. It is a damaged satellite and it could end everything you know as daily life and create chaos beyond belief.

Many years ago, I was sitting around the magic herb incinerator with friends talking about how one could end the world cheaply and quickly. I know, super nerd noodling. Turns out it's quite easy and even fairly cheap. All you need is a good-sized rocket and a 16-pound cannon ball. Just aim the cannon ball against the geo-synchronous orbit and hit one satellite. It will form a debris cloud which will destroy every satellite in geo-synch within 24 hours. Furthermore, the debris will ensure that the orbit will not be usable for the next thousand or so years, while we wait for the cloud to clear. The result? Almost all communications on Earth would cease overnight.

So now, there is a satellite out of control. Possibly damaged by a solar storm, it has failed to answer ground control and is drifting into the position of a neighboring satellite. If they collide, it will be 24 hours until doomsday. No cable TV, no long-distance telephone, no internet, no news gathering, no newspapers. Everything will grind to a halt. Oh sure, there is local radio and shortwave, but how many shortwave owners do you know? How long do you think the music will play when there is nothing else working? How long before people awake from the TV-induced stupor they have been in for the last 50 years? Almost everything we take for granted in our daily lives is dependent on cheap and fast global communications.

So, the end of the world is nigh. If it ain't one thing it's another. What it shows us is just how fragile is the world we have built. Because we have laid down at the altar of corporate profits and unbridled greed, we have allowed our society to be stretched to the thickness of an egg shell. One small crack, and the egg is on our face. We have built a house of straw, preferring expedience rather than long-term survivability. Our air travel can be halted by ash. Our oceans can be choked by a dead battery. Our communications wrecked by a solar flare. Our cities leveled by shaking them.

If we had just taken a minute longer to think things through, and not act solely for a pocket full of paper with colored ink, how much different would things be?

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