Wednesday, January 17, 2018

What If Winter Really Was Coming

One thing that our trip to California and our quite recent experience with "WINTER STORM INGA"  (should always be said in capitals - sounds more ominous) is that if civilization ever breaks down and it breaks down in winter, it will be abysmal.

We, in our modern mechanized and fueled age, take for granted that we are going to survive winter no differently than any other time of the year.  We have heat, be it gas or electric or food.  We have food - pretty much any kind of food we want - available within a fairly short period of time.  And, we have both hot and cold water, blessedly unfrozen over.  Our roads can get cleared, our power can come back up, our stores and gas stations easily get filled back up.  It is a sort of magical Winter Wonderland where most of us get to dabble in the cold or get a little inconvenienced - but that is about it.

Driving the desert in a freezing ice storm - as we did a month ago - tells a different story indeed.

Imagine (as I did) living in one of those small towns, or even in a large city and the power dies.  Everything becomes cold:  very, very cold.  If you are smart and/or fortunate, you have a wood burning fireplace and enough fuel to keep yourself.  If not, things become very cold very quickly.

Transportation, like any sort of major disaster, will break down rather quickly - but Winter has the added benefit (above the snow line) of embedding people in place thanks to snow drifts.  Now, many are cold, stuck, and do not have a way to heat themselves or cook.    And the food and fuel fairies that always seem to restock things will be a million miles away.

And water - if you have lived cold enough, you know the briskness that water just below freezing acquires.  Bathe or shower in that if you will!

No, winter without civilization quite quickly becomes a very savage and very terrible thing.  I can (all too well) only visualize what it would be like to be cold all the time, hungry almost all the time, and always having to keep active to be about keeping warm and fed.

Our ancestors were up to this sort of thing - perhaps not enjoying it, but up to it.  Most of us, not so much.

I look, somewhat in shock, at what a relatively benign ice storm does.  And then, unfortunately, imagine the possibilities...

2 comments:

Rev. Paul said...

Pundits like to bandy terms like "we'd go back to 19th Century life" when referring to the effects of an EMP or other disaster. Not so: we don't have a 19th-century infrastructure, like our grandparents did. Very few have wood-burning stoves in the kitchen, or an outhouse. Kerosene lamps are a bit more common, but only just.

We'd go back to 18th century life in short order, or possibly further. How many coal-fired foundries are available to make new woodstoves for us, after all?

Toirdhealbheach Beucail said...

It is a valid point Reverend - but the pundits also forget that 19th Century technology was built on the history of 2000 years of skills to make that technology. In reality, many people have lost most of the knowledge to make even 18th century technology possible: who among us can not only cast a stove (delightful point) but can make a pan to boil water on the wood stove or make tenon system for construction (after all, nails and screws will eventually disappear if you do not make those either) or even prepare food from scratch - and by scratch, I mean just after it was in its previous mode of life (using knives from the aforementioned foundry).

No, I fear we would fall much, much farther - not in what we had available but in our ability to maintain and build new things. Even the Romans built concrete we still cannot replicate. Maybe Athens and Sparta will rise again, after all.