Solutions for Self-Reliance

How You and Your Community Can Avoid Catastrophic Failure

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How do you and your community avoid catastrophic failure?

To give you a good answer, I need to share with you a lesson I learned while flying airplanes professionally.

I find this lesson very useful in thinking about resilient homes and communities.  I hope you do too.

NOTE:  You’ll also learn why takeoffs are the most dangerous part of any airplane trip.

 

Energy Management

Flying a plane requires smart energy management.

Translation: a young pilot has a shot at becoming an old pilot if he/she is smart with energy management.

How does a pilot manage energy effectively?

Essentially, effective energy management means keeping energy in reserve for when you need it.

Extra energy allows you to bounce back from difficulties (which is the primary definition of resilience).  The opposite is also true, insufficient energy, can turn slight problems into catastrophic ones.

Let’s add a bit more detail to this.  Pilots have three sources of energy at their disposal:

  • Engines (less throttle means more energy is available)
  • Altitude (higher is more energy)
  • Airspeed (higher is more energy)

These sources of energy are largely interchangeable.  You can trade energy from one source for another.

Want to go faster? Push the throttle up or descend in altitude.  Want to go slower?  Climb in altitude or pull back the throttle.

This also means that if you have enough energy stored in any two sources, it may be possible to lose the third source and recover successfully.   For example:  Lost your engines?  You can use altitude and airspeed to find an emergency landing strip.

NOTE:  This is the reason why take-offs are the most dangerous portion of a flight.  You engines are at max, and you don’t have much airspeed or altitude during the climb.   You are completely reliant on one source, your engines.

 

Energy Management for Resilience

So, how does this apply to resilient homes and communities?   Simple answer: energy management is a major factor in how resilient your home or community is.

How do you store energy in this situation?  If you are simply thinking in terms of batteries or stockpiles of food, etc., you are thinking too narrowly.    It’s better to think in terms of systems that capture and produce energy on a continuous basis.

Here’s what I mean.  We have three primary ways to capture and produce energy:

  • Food abundance.  Growing a garden that captures and traps solar energy.  Composting biological waste for use in a garden.
  • Heat, fuel, and power abundance. Producing energy through a biogas septic systems, wood, solar thermal (both passive and active), or solar photo-voltaic panels.  Omnivorous energy consumption.
  • Water abundance.  Actively and passively harvesting rainwater and using it effectively.

Homes and communities that maximize the production of these sources are much more resilient than those that don’t.  They can bounce back from nearly any disruption without so much as a scratch.

CambridgeSunset

Dusk or dawn?

Why are most Communities in Danger?

We are currently in the equivalent of a plane’s very dangerous take-off phase on our journey to resilient communities.  Why are we in danger?  We don’t have enough energy to recover from a failure.

Most communities, even those working hard at becoming resilient, don’t produce much “energy” at the local level yet.  This means that even small disruptions might become catastrophic, let alone big ones that turn supermarkets into food deserts (a supermarket only carries enough food to provide its customers with three days of supply).

Fortunately, change is coming.  We’re learning how to become producers again and we’re getting better at it every day.

Sooner than later, we’ll be able to handle nearly any disruption an out of control global system can throw at us.

 

Your hoping we’ll all be able to grow old in a resilient community analyst,

 

John Robb

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