ELECTRICITY JUNKIES

These days, when most of us arise in the morning, we’re likely to scan our I-Phones for any texts, or missed calls we may have received while we were sleeping. Who knows, maybe we’ve won a giant jackpot somewhere in the world during during the previous night. Or someone is texting to inform us that our long lost Uncle Willy, that we didn’t even know we had, just died and left us a fortune in his will. Then, still using our I-Phones or perhaps a laptop or tablet, we’ll next check our e-mail to see if such fortuitous news might be lurking there. Perhaps we might turn on the TV to keep up with the latest events both audibly and visually. We might also get out our ATM card because we plan to stop by the bank to obtain some cash. Or our credit card if we’re headed for the department store or the gas station. (I’m an exception to all this, since I generally read the newspaper when having breakfast.) All of this, of course, totally depends on the free flow and availability of an unseen product called electricity. Something that didn’t exist when Thomas Jefferson wrote the Declaration of Independence, or when the U.S. Constitution was ratified.

But what would happen if the silent, unseen current of electricity that we all take for granted, suddenly vanished like the morning mist. Devastation is what would happen. Devastation beyond beyond all imagination. Planes would fall out of the sky and massive traffic jams and accidents would occur. Your ATM cards would be useless at banks no matter what your account balances were. Credit cards would also be worthless. Food inventories in stores would be ransacked by roving mobs until the shelves were empty. All this, and much, much more would occur within an hour should our electrical grid be destroyed. Unfortunately, such an event is well within the realm of possibility. Welcome to the world of EMP, or electromagnetic pulse.

A sudden burst of EMP could create an apocalyptic nightmare, which would destroy, in moments, the electronic gadgetry that civilization increasingly depends on. Here’s the scenario.  A U.S. enemy, like say North Korea or Iran, or a terrorist organization that could its hands on a nuclear weapon, could launch a nuclear missile at high altitude above the U.S. The explosion of such a weapon would release a burst of radiation that would interact with the Earth’s magnetic field and atmosphere, and deliver a powerful burst of electrical current that could totally devastate our grid and all electrical appliances. And don’t think that terrorist groups around the world are not working around the clock to secure such a weapon and bring this event to fruition.

A recent report by a Congressional EMP Commission stated that: “terrorists or state actors that possess relatively unsophisticated missiles armed with nuclear warheads may well calculate that, instead of destroying a city or military base, they may gain the greatest political utility from one or a few such weapons… in an EMP attack.” And by the way, in 2012, North Korea successfully orbited a satellite, the KSM-3, compatible with the size and weight of a small nuclear warhead. The Commission further stated that within one year of a nation-wide blackout, up to 90% of the U.S. population would likely perish from starvation, disease and societal breakdown. One other thing. Even if an enemy does not strike in such fashion, the possibility exists that a catastrophic EMP could occur naturally, triggered by a severe solar flare.

Congress, in reaction to the EMP Commission’s findings, did introduce legislation in 2013, that would initiate actions that could  possibly shield our electrical grid from EMP attacks. The legislation, thus far, has gone nowhere. After all, enacting such legislation would require a spirit of cooperation, instead of the dysfunction and polarization that Congress is so well noted for. Meanwhile the vulnerability is there, and the saddest part is that most people are totally clueless that it exists in the first place. It’s far more important to keep up with the Kardashians than to worry about things like EMP attacks.

Like the assault on our ecology, electrical grid vulnerability falls into the category of ignoring the steady ecological degradation of our planet’s resources, such as the disappearance of phytoplankton from our oceans, which provide a large chunk of the Earth’s oxygen. (Most people have probably never even heard of phytoplankton.) Or the steady disappearance of our rain forests which give forth most of the rest of the planet’s oxygen. They’re only important if you decide to inhale all the time. But there is one difference, however. While ecological degradation won’t be seriously felt for perhaps decades, a successful EMP attack will impact us within minutes. So while we can pass along all the ecological damage that’s occurring on to our children or grandkids, we can’t do that in the case of EMP. In the meantime, we’ve all become electrical junkies, depending more and more each day on electronic gadgetry and appliances in the functioning of this country.

I guess Ben Franklin never fully appreciated the impact electricity would have on our lives, when the kite he was flying was supposedly struck by lightening. That event, however, would truly change the world as it had existed for tens of thousands of years.

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