Corona-prepping? Toilet paper is the tip of the iceberg – a chilling reminder of our utter dependence on reliable distribution systems
Toilet paper, hey? Who would have thought? In the event of an epidemic or pandemic or whatever it is that’s unfolding, who’d have thought that we’d run out of that first thing?
The events of 2020 thus far are a sobering reminder of how we take for granted all the wonders of modern life. Yes, I called toilet paper a wonder. Countless items are there waiting for us in supermarkets and home hardware stores, or even more malignantly waiting for us on our doorsteps within a day of thumbing in an order to Amazon.
Toilet paper is a crappy example (sorry) but in some ways a hugely relevant one. On the scale of the hundred most valuable things in your life, where do you think TP ranks? I’m guessing not top ten, or twenty, or fifty. I’m guessing that, before this year’s apocalyptic absence, you’d not include it at all. Yet think of life without it for a few months. I’m not trying to be gross, and I don’t want to hear about your personal speculations and backup plans, but think of it systemically. Our sewage systems are designed to work with the stuff, and there is no substitute. There are no more Sears catalogues to use, and even if we contemplate using crappy novels (sorry) as we so often joke that that is all they are worth, that won’t work either. Life without this one simple staple would be markedly and horribly different.
Now think of the repercussions if we tinker with our energy systems in a way that is not clearly planned out, and I mean decades in advance. Think of how exposed we are to catastrophe. Eastern Canada nearly found out this year, when a few strategic rail blockades, put together by a few people with zero technology and a minute’s worth of effort, cut off propane supplies to a large part of the country. An unforeseen cold snap could have been a humanitarian disaster, because we have no plan B for no propane.
Vancouver escaped a near catastrophe in the fall of 2018 when a natural gas pipeline blew up in northern BC, limiting natural gas flows to the lower mainland for a number of days. Buildings started going without heat, and warnings were made to citizens to bundle up for classes because it was going to be mighty chilly. And that was one pipeline that was down for only a few days, and it was in October. What if it had happened in January, in a place that has a real winter? Say Edmonton or Winnipeg or Sault St. Marie?
We have no plan B for virtually any major distribution system, and to make matters worse we seem indifferent to consequence, we treat a toilet paper shortage with more concern than a propane or natural gas shortage.
There is a vast world of infrastructure that brings us stuff every day, the stuff that keeps alive, and the stuff we don’t want to live without. We take it all for granted, which is a natural human condition when those supplies are always there. A toilet paper shortage is a perfect wake-up call not to take all those delivery channels, and the people, infrastructure and fuel that make them all work, for granted.
Help promote rational energy dialogue based on knowledge – not on fear, not on environmental indifference, and not on ignorance. Pick up “The End of Fossil Fuel Insanity” at Amazon.ca, Indigo.ca, or Amazon.com. Time to take back the narrative.
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