Thursday, March 23, 2017

Doom and Gloom Round-Up

I try to avoid news broadcasts, but I have to stay informed on the current events that may impact me and mine. We don't write about politics on this blog (there are plenty of others that cover that field from whichever side you want to choose from) but the last six months or so have stirred up the “doom and gloom” reporting. It seems that, from the viewpoint of the news media at least, the world is coming to an end and maybe those crazy preppers weren't so crazy after all. Here are a few examples:

Solar Activity
The sun is still quiet.. too quiet. Normally there are “storms” of hot ionized gasses (plasma) rolling across the surface of the sun, belching streams of plasma out into the solar system. The technical term is “Coronal Mass Ejection” or CME, and it is one of the favorite “non-war” causes of societal collapse used in speculative fiction. Once in a while the Earth will be in the way of one of these streams, and we experience effects like malfunctioning satellites (communications and navigation are impacted), radio blackouts, and even power outages.

The sun runs on a roughly 11 year cycle of high and low activity, but the last few decades have been less active than predicted. This is following the trend of solar activity recorded during the “little ice ages” of the 16th and 17th centuries, leading some to predict global cooling in the next 10-20 years. I don't have the background to be able to make predictions from the data available, but I like to know what is possible so I can plan around the rough bits. Personally, I don't see much of a downside to losing the 24-hour news channels for a few months due to satellite failure; maybe people would start paying attention to local events more. Having grown up with paper maps, the loss of GPS wouldn't be much of an inconvenience either.

Cyanide “Trap” Kills Dog
A boy and his dog are taking a walk and come across a device used to kill coyotes and other predators. Reports are unclear (or so strongly biased as to be untrustworthy), but somehow the device was triggered and killed the dog. I've never worked with this particular type of device, but I know how they work: A spring-loaded capsule containing less than a gram of sodium cyanide is wrapped in cloth that has been soaked with something attractive to canines (wolves, coyotes, foxes, and dogs). When the canine pulls up on the cloth with its teeth the spring ejects the poison into their mouth, causing death fairly quickly. Any person or animal near the device is extremely unlikely to be exposed to the poison unless they are the one that sets it off. Sodium cyanide is a very lethal poison that breaks down quickly, so secondary exposure is not much of a problem.

Teach your kids as much as you can, or don't let them out of your sight; this happened within 400 yards of a house and the proper signs weren't posted. (See also my post on unexploded ordinance for tips on how to avoid this kind of hazard.) The animal-rights folks are screaming about the use of such devices to kill coyotes and foxes, but they aren't the ones who lose millions of dollars worth of livestock to such predators every year. This device has been in use for 50 years with very few accidents and good results on predators, so I don't think it's going away.

More Terrorist Attacks on Crowds
“Stay away from crowds” is still good advice. A few months ago it was a Christmas market in Berlin; in January it was in Jerusalem; now we have another car being used to plow through a crowd of pedestrians, this time on a bridge in London. Cars and trucks are easier to get than guns in many places, and can do as much or more damage; two or three tons of metal and plastic moving at moderate speeds will go over or through a crowd before coming to a stop. Don't assume that every car is out to kill you, but remember to keep your eyes open and always leave yourself an escape route. Avoiding crowds is a good way to minimize your risk of being a target, and even 30+ years ago the Army taught me that you don't walk in clusters -- spread out if you have to travel as a group, so you don't make it easy for the idiots that want to hurt you.

Climate or Weather?
Spring is officially here with the spring equinox having arrived March 21st, and that means we are in tornado/hurricane/thunderstorm season again. Since the default setting for TV weather-people is that we're all idiots just born yesterday, expect more breathless warnings about the hazards of bad weather. Weather is just something we have to survive, and some is easier to get through than others, but we're all descendants of people who survived weather with fewer tools and toys than we have available today. Watch for the really bad weather and enjoy the good weather as best you can; check your emergency shelter if you have one, making sure the rodents and insects didn't make a mess of it over the winter; and rotate the stored water and do all of the other spring cleaning chores that it's been too cold to get done this winter.

All in all, the world keeps turning despite the howls and screeching from the television and internet. Doom and gloom seems to sell advertising, so it's not going to disappear until the predictions of global calamity come true. I think most of us will get by -- isn't that why we prepare?

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