Here I was, thinking about how impossible it seems to keep up with the exponential expansion of technology, when I came across this article online:
The gist of it is that in July of 2012, a solar blast from a magnetic storm swept across earth’s orbit where we had been just nine days earlier. A near-miss. “It would have been a geomagnetic catastrophe the likes of which we've never seen.” Actually, it had been seen, but that was in what’s been called the “Carrington Event of 1859,” and pretty much the only significant electronic devises around were the telegraph systems. Some telegraph stations caught fire, telegraph operators were shocked, and the Northern Lights were so bright so far south that people in Mexico could read newspapers by night in the glow. Not a huge disruption to civilization as the mid-nineteenth century knew it, but these days we rely so much on electronic technology that the damage could take up to ten years for recovery—if ever, considering the chaos it would cause. And these solar storm incidents aren’t all that rare, even though we’ve rarely been in their direct paths.
Well. Aren’t you glad to have something else to add to your list of things to worry about? I could never understand why folks take such glee in imagining a zombie apocalypse, which they know to be impossible, when there are plenty of more likely causes of rack and ruin, from the ecological to the astronomical. Maybe that’s the point; distract ourselves from real potential threats.
My point here, though, if I have one, is how dependent we are on advanced technology, and how much of that technology depends on a relatively vulnerable system of electricity. Most of us—all too many of us in recent years—have experienced blackouts for limited periods, and some of us may have spent longer periods “off the grid” intentionally, on camping trips, say, or treks through regions of the world where people still know how to survive without modern gadgets. During power outages due to blizzards or hurricanes, we might get by with battery operated lights and candles, and, if we’re really lucky, propane camping stoves or fireplaces or wood stoves, but what happens when the batteries wear out?
Even worse, how do we cope when our computer and phone batteries wear out, and even before that when the wi-fi quits? I admit it. I’m addicted to online communication in all its infinite varieties. I get nervous when I can’t check e-mail at least daily. Okay, several times a day. And I didn’t grow up in a world of computers or even, until I was twelve, TV, although my friends had TV before I did. As a kid I had books, and radio and newspapers for news, and a land-line telephone, and didn’t know I was missing anything. In college I wrote all my papers on a manual typewriter, although electric ones existed and I had one soon afterward. To say I’m addicted to writing on a computer with a word program would be a profound understatement. They say (whoever “they” are in this case) that using computers for games and social media and probably just about anything else actually changes how our brains work, so I wonder how much harder it would be for people accustomed to this technology all their lives to do without than it would be for me, which is traumatic enough.
We’ve come to think that for technological problems the answer is more and better technology, and so far that has seemed to be the case. Just as I was getting worked up about the threat of solar storms I came across another, newer article:
High-capacity batteries storing electricity from wind and solar power sources? Hmm, maybe it would be worthwhile after all to cut down some of the trees on the south side of my house so that installing solar cells on the roof would be practical. Although those trees provide needed shade in summer…
Okay. Enough of adding to my list of things to worry about. At least zombies aren’t among them. And time to find a way to link all this to erotica. Hey, is it just an urban legend that birth rates spike nine months after major blackouts? Now there’s a topic for an anthology. “Blackout Erotica: Sex When the Lights Go Out.”