The complexity of civilization
The processes of civilization development and maintenance are complicated, heavily dependent on technology, in some cases damaging to the earth itself, and sometimes just downright inherently dangerous.
Not only that, all of these processes interact with each other, occasionally producing an event that is greater (worse) than any of the individual components could produce. So here is a thought exercise that illustrates how all of this plays together.
Component one: Infrastructure
America's infrastructure, largely built between 1930 and 1960, has exceeded its shelf date, and will be subject to increasing levels of failure.
Here are examples where we explored this issue before:
Component two: How we screw up while dealing with oil
When we screw up while dealing with oil, sometimes it's dramatic, and sometimes it's less so. There are never situations where it doesn't damage our world in some way. Some examples:
- In 1979, the Exxon Valdez woke up the U.S. to the prospects that things could really go wrong.
- In 2010, the Deepwater Horizon created the largest oil spill in U.S. history.
- Also in 2010, the Enbridge Oil Spill created a disaster in the Kalamazoo River that is not cleaned up to this day.
- These events spawned a silly (or not) debate about whether it's better to spill oil from a train or a pipeline.
- And finally, it must be noted that the trend is upward. In this case, upward is not good.
Component three: Chaos theory
Murphy famously noted that: "If anything can go wrong, it will." I would amend that to: "If anything can go wrong, it will, and at the worst possible time with the greatest impact." We've analyzed this perverseness of life before:
So this is not new territory.
The Beautiful Columbia Gorge.
And so, inevitably, it went 'Boom.' Again. A train consisting of cars carrying oil derailed in one of the most gorgeous locations in the country, accordioned, and caught fire.
As of this writing, cars are still catching fire and exploding, and emergency and disaster management principles--at least those concerning preparation and mitigation--appear to once again have been set aside in favor of a pervasive denial that continues to insist that: "If it didn't happen yesterday, then it's not going to happen today--or tomorrow."
And that's just wrong--and it's been proven wrong so many times that it's frankly criminal that we don't do a better job.
EDM lessons to be learned
Here are a few. There will likely be many more, but this is a good start.
- Our aging infrastructure is a threat to our country. Investment is required NOW.
- There are no current safe methods of developing oil resources or transporting the product. None. So all political pressure that comes forth to sweep these issues under the rug should be vociferously opposed by the EDM community.
- Development and utilization of fossil fuels is inherently more dangerous to our served public than development and utilization of renewable energy resources such as wind and solar. Therefore, to protect the public, we should as a community support renewable energy.
- If we ignore the lessons from this event, then this event will repeat itself until we learn them. That's just a feature of Mother Nature's sense of humor.
And of course, if this spill somehow manages to find its way into the Columbia River, then this becomes a whole different discussion. Stand by.