I recommend all of the below linked articles. I highly recommend the first one one by Sharon Astyk (also an "Editor's Choice" at Energy Bulletin. Last week I was having dinner with Phil Damon. Remember his Dancing On the Edge columns that were run first in Cascadia Weekly, and then Organic Press? Phil told me of a column he had intended to write, which he would call Murphy's Law Meets The Peter Principle. Most of us know about Murphy's Law: that anything thing bad that could happen, will happen eventually. The Peter Principle, as Wikipedia puts it, "holds that in a hierarchy, members are promoted so long as they work competently. Sooner or later they are promoted to a position at which they are no longer competent (their "level of incompetence"), and there they remain, being unable to earn further promotions." After events last year in the Gulf, and more recently in Japan, it's easy to see evidence of these two principles colliding: chance accidents meeting human error. Now tell me it's too costly to consider worst case scenarios when planning. Sharon covers territory related to personal and neighborhood preparations to large scale societal concerns.
Inconceivable: Why Failure Should be Part of this Plan, but Isn't by Sharon Astyk
...We regard planning for anything bad as a sign of an unhealthy focus on the negative. We feel it is so unhealthy that we find that at every level of our culture - from the purely personal question of whether we have a strategy for dealing with common disasters like job loss or disability to the international policy level where no one seems to have ever asked any questions about what might go wrong on a host of subjects (consider the UN's most recent report on food which only implicitly acknowledge energy supply issues or the strong connection between food and energy prices) - we have no contingency plans. Not only do we not have them, but we dismiss and deride anyone who suggests we make them.
All of which suggests that we have a very troubled relationship to the idea of failure. Speaking as someone whose entire body of work could probably be summarized as "Ummm...have you thought about what happens if something goes wrong?" I'm acutely aware of how unpleasant and frightening most of us find the idea of failure - and because we find it unpleasant and frightening, we are likely to dramatically underestimate its likelihood and frequency, and be truly shocked when failures happen. But in fact, we shouldn't be shocked - failure is far more routine and normal than we expect. Not only is it normal, but treating it as normal might actually reduce the likelihood of disaster...
Inner response? I keep "getting" that a no-growth economy and increasing chaos are the New Normal. Industrial civilization is collapsing under the weight of complexity, bigger populations and harder-to-get resources.
Outer response? Build resilience for this New Normal. Maybe use the Japan crisis to start the conversation with our neighbors. One preparedness model: a Japanese community who survived because they'd rehearsed for tsunamis for years. Another from Port Townsend: "Partners in Preparedness: Neighborhoods and Emergency Responders" (episode 181). Citizens are organizing and educating neighborhoods to be more self-reliant in emergencies. And they’re at the table with emergency responders in planning for disasters.
On Baby Harp Seals, Coal Plants, and Nuclear Power by Sharon Astyk
...Several years ago I was invited to protest a coal plant with a group of environmental activists. Speaking as someone who believes in civil action even when it is largely pointless, I agreed - it had been a depressingly long time since I'd been arrested for anything, and the occasional civil disobedience arrest is good for the soul, and coal is bad for it. Most of my fellow activists were students, and they invited me first to address the student group. I asked them how much electricity they use. They spoke proudly of their local diets, bikes and cloth bags. I observed that none of those things has much to do with electricity - on the other hand, electric devices, refrigeration and using a dryer have a lot to do with it. I invited them to measure their electric usage, and to ask themselves what they will give up to use 1/2, 1/3, 1/4. Since nearly 3/4 of this particular area's electric usage comes from coal, that was what was required - that they drop their usage by 3/4. That everyone else do so - that the library that was open all night for their study convenience be closed at night, so to reduce energy usage. That they use their computers dramatically less, in order to reduce both their personal use, but also the huge servers that create most of the internet's impact. Reduced use of refrigeration - how will they eat with a fridge the size of a dorm fridge - holding all their food, not just the private stash in their dorm, but their share of what exists in the communal cafeteria, and at home....