A few days ago, I had lunch with a friend who had recently returned from a visit to Cuba. She and her sister had been housed by a Cuban family for a couple of weeks. It was fascinating to hear her recount of the visit, especially her description of the resilience of the Cuban people.
In short, when the Cuban economy collapsed in the late 50s, people’s response to the severe shortages and deprivations was remarkable. When there was little or no food, people learned to grow most of their food. They also learned to grow much of their (herbal) medicines. Vintage cars were kept running by whatever means they could devise. Even more importantly, people drew together into tightly knit communities, helping and encouraging each other.
The conversation left me thinking. Would we be as resilient if any of a number of completely possible (and some say, probable) events occurred, events which would disrupt the systems by which we currently live? Two events which might disrupt these systems are an economic collapse and an electric grid collapse.
An economic collapse might arrive, for example, via political means in which the dollar loses its status as the standard currency for international trade, by toppling because of the rising deficit in the national budget, or simply because the United States (as well as other nations) print money at an increasing rate. Rampant shortages, including food, medicine and fuel, would be only one of the results.
An electric grid collapse could occur, for example, by means of a cyber attack or by means of strong solar flares. There are many reasons why the system is vulnerable to this, including that the system is almost completely computer controlled, and those controls are by a mix of interwoven systems with various points of vulnerability. Should an electric grid collapse occur, vast areas of our country – more than just a few states – would be affected, perhaps for years. Think of what is dependent on the electric grid: air conditioning, heat, cooking, clean water and waste disposal, cell/smart phones, Internet, TV, power for radio, pumping capacity in gas stations, hence our fuel dependent transportation systems, light, refrigeration, to name a few. It would be like sinking back into the Dark Ages that followed the fall of Rome.
How would each of us respond, both to the conditions themselves, and to the resulting chaos? Perhaps we need to consider these things, before they or something like them takes us by surprise. For each of us, the answer may be different, but those answers will reflect the values and priorities we hold. Resilience is being able to respond to situations in a variety of ways. What responses do we think we need to be able to activate? We need to think.
No one can predict exactly what is going to happen. Yet, most of us can agree that change is in the air. We need to be ready, and maybe, with adequate awareness, even able to influence it.