Is American society prepared to handle the fallout from a nuclear attack?
There was a false alarm over the weekend in Honolulu, which sent many Hawaiians into a panic. The alert was sent out over smart phones, televisions, radios and other forms of personalized tech, and was reportedly triggered with the accidental push of a single button. In a society that is so synced to our digital world, what would happen to us if there were, in fact, an actual nuclear attack?
If the unthinkable were to happen and America is dragged into a nuclear war, or, even worse, is unexpectedly attacked with no warning, those who are outside the blast radius of a physical bomb itself would still feel the effects immediately. A nuclear bomb explodes with so much force and energy, that it produces many types of waves, including bright light waves, teeth-rattling shock waves, tidal waves if it’s close to a shoreline, and not to mention the giant fireball that produces a strong localized heat wave. A lessor appreciated wave produced by a blast, but by far the farthest traveling, is an electromagnetic pulse. Electromagnetic pulses can travel hundreds of miles from the epicenter of the explosion. Electromagnetic Pulses, also known by the acronym EMP’s, are rapid bursts of electromagnetic energy. They are invisible to the naked eye, but happen commonly in nature as the result of lightning strikes. If you ever have been in a building that has been hit by lightning or is right next to a strike during a storm, and noticed the power flicker or even completely go off for a brief moment, you have experienced an EMP.
The EMP’s created by lighting are minuscule compared to the ones created by a nuclear explosion. Nuclear-induced EMP’s can damage or destroy the circuits in our personal devices, on power grids, in main frames, and even the backups of our digital realm. If a nuclear bomb is large enough and detonated high enough in the atmosphere, it can create an EMP that could potentially knock out the a large portion of, or even the entirety of United States’ grid and collection of technological devices in one moment. Not only would the loss of life be extensive, but those who survived would have been knocked back into the stone age as our electrical-generation capacity would be wiped out and every piece of electronic equipment that we owned would be rendered useless, not much more than paper weights.
It’s been quite some time since our society has gained any real experience with living sans electricity. Thomas Edison started building America’s electrical grid in 1882, but it wasn’t really mainstream to the masses until the mid 1920s. The generation of Americans who can remember a time before electricity are well into their 90s right now. For the rest of us, especially Baby Boomers, GenXers and Millennials who grew up with computers and technology being omnipresent, we mostly lack the knowledge and capabilities to be able to survive without cars, without smart phones, without electricity to heat us up at night and cool us off during the day. Be real with yourself, would you be able to survive in such an environment? Would you be able to tell what plants are edible? Be able to build a fire and maintain it? Be able to build shelter? Survive without money and commerce, since you can’t just use a credit card or walk up to an ATM? Be able to determine if water is clean or foul? Get around without your car, train, bus, plane? This is a scenario I do not think American society is capable of handling based on our reliance on always-connected technology.
I am not one to give any credence to doomsday cults or conspiratorial organizations, but there is a group of people out there called Preppers. They tend to be very libertarian-minded; living in Colorado, I’ve met a couple of them and they are quite the characters. However, one thing they have going for them is they have prepared and trained for exactly this kind of scenario, and they have put a bunch of literature out on the internet on how to prepare yourself for such a catastrophe and how to survive in the post-nuclear apocalypse. Read their literature with a grain of salt and skepticism, because they are quite cult-ish and can be a bit on the lunatic side, but they have some very good tips on how to survive and immediate plans of actions in case of an EMP scenario which is worth knowing. They also have one underlying theme running through their literature which I think highlights an issue with today’s society.
We as a society have progressed with technology so enthusiastically and have become so reliant that we have lost touch with nature, lost touch with the earth, and are losing the millennia of built-up collective knowledge on how to simply survive in the wild. The more advanced we get in the digital realm, the more distance we have placed between us and nature. This leaves us susceptible to societal collapse in the event of a terrible catastrophe like nuclear war. We need to invest in both youth and adult education in scouting, botany, woodworking, tracking, navigating, and other non-technological survival and natural skills that were commonplace in the days of our forefathers since it’s part of who we are as a species and how we came to be where we are today. If we lose this knowledge, we lose the ability to survive in the times of catastrophe. Furthermore, we need to appreciate walking in the woods, getting in the dirt, hiking in the mountains, and other forms of disconnected frolics with nature because we are collectively guilty of being too tied to our phones, computers, networks, and cars. I am just as guilty as any other millennial of being too reliant on my iPhone and my tablet. This is causing a huge disconnect from the reality of the world around us. It is mentally and physically healthy to take a day, disconnect from the digital realm, and just go enjoy nature. This is something that we as a society should be encouraging, both for our survival, and for our mental sanity.
So, I ask you again, are you able to handle the fallout from a nuclear attack? If the answer is no (which it probably is), I encourage you to take the time every now and then to disconnect from your tech, go out and play in the woods, get dirty, get accustomed to being surrounded by the wild. It will help you get accustomed to the earth in the event that you are suddenly forced to live off of the land by an EMP. In the most likely scenario that you will never experience a catastrophic EMP event, it still serves a very healthy purpose of detoxing you from your addiction to technology.
Look, I’m not saying we shouldn’t look forward to our continual technological advancements and digital growth. This is something that will define us as a society and a species for centuries to come and is something that we have embraced, but we shouldn’t forget where we came from, which is nature and the earth. We need to take the time to get back in tune with our natural surroundings. It is mentally and physically rejuvenating to disconnect from our computers and phones so we can just appreciate the earth and the wild for the solace and serenity that they can provide.