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Disaster Scale of human calamities. (Click to enlarge.)

[Disaster Scale – DISS — Disaster, defined, measured and charted]

The 15 Homeland Security Disasters?

This is based on my post of May 1, 2008 by probaway with updates on April 14, 2010 | Edit

Homeland Security – The Scenarios List – July 2004

1: Nuclear Detonation – 10-Kiloton DISS~4
2: Biological Attack – Aerosol Anthrax DISS~4
3: Biological Disease – Pandemic Influenza DISS~5
4: Biological Attack – Plague DISS~4
5: Chemical Attack – Blister Agent DISS~2
6: Chemical Attack – Toxic Industrial Chemicals DISS~2
7: Chemical Attack – Nerve Agent DISS~4
8: Chemical Attack – Chlorine Tank Explosion DISS~4
9: Natural Disaster – Major Earthquake DISS~3
10: Natural Disaster – Major Hurricane DISS~3
11: Radiological Attack – Dispersal Devices DISS~2
12: Explosives Attack – Bombing Using IED DISS~2
13: Biological Attack – Food Contamination DISS~3
14: Biological Attack – Foreign Animal Disease DISS~0
15: Cyber Attack – Financial Infrastructure DISS~0

After the 9-11 attacks on the World Trade Center the United States got more serious about what came to be referred to as Homeland Security. It has been much publicized and perhaps they do a lot of preparation and training for the level of disasters listed above. However, the Lifehaven project isn’t concerned with any of these disasters because none of them have but the remotest possibility of annihilating humanity or agricultural life on Earth. It is possible that if it were believed that any of these things were precipitated by willful terrorist or national malice that it could precipitate a DISS~10 or worse response. But, the 15 scenarios on the list by themselves are not a profound danger to the survival of humanity. All of these estimates are arbitrary and intended only to give working approximations but a simple addition of the numbers published within the list above gives a total of “only” 294,000 fatalities. That number is probably too small for a coordinated attack. Usually a terrorist attack is intended to gain political leverage and an attack of the type using the weapons listed would probably prove counter productive for the terrorists of the sought for world opinion. That is a lot of people being killed but considering that since WW II there has only been one attack on US homeland, 9-11-01 The World Trade Center towers we should divide that number by at least 60 years to get a yearly threat rate. That calculation gives us 49 people per year death rate and it has only happened one time, which is a poor data base upon which to base a rate. However, by that measure the terrorists are way behind the Homeland Security worries. In fact the unrealized published terrorist rate is only one tenth of the automobile fatalities rate which is realized every year for a total death from automobiles in the US as about a quarter million people. So, I say again, these things are terrible but they are not humanity threatening and therefore are not of much concern for the Lifehaven Project. Unfortunately for us, there are things which are an exitential danger and are capable of annihilating humanity but none of the items in the scenario list above are among them.

The Real Threats to Human Survival

  1. A Total Thermonuclear War in both the Northern and Southern Hemispheres – DISS~15 Everyone is gone.

    Earth’s population by latitued is a proxi of where H-bombs will fall.

  2. Total Thermonuclear War mostly Northern Hemisphere – DISS~12-14 Only Lifehaven inhabitants survive.
  3. Major Thermonuclear War Northern Hemisphere – DISS~10-11 Moderately prepared Southern Hemisphere people will survive.
  4. Limited Thermonuclear War – DISS~9 All targets of 50,000 and more people are destroyed and nuclear winter covers the Northern Hemisphere for a year.
  5. Limited Thermonuclear War – DISS~8 A high percentage of combatant nations people killed and food crops ruined for a year by dislocations and haze.
  6. A separate issue: Advanced bioweapons unleashed – DISS~1-15 It is impossible to know what can happen with carefully designed biological weapons but probably it would be self limiting by killing off its host victims before it was transmitted to everyone. Or if it wasn’t quite so contagious or virulent it probably wouldn’t kill off everyone and would be self-contained and adapted to by the host bodies. A few generations of exposure would limit the future severity of a bio weapon. We have been fighting off biological invaders for a billion years and have gotten pretty good at it or we wouldn’t be here now. If the disese didn’t kill everyone within a year humanity would probably recover its health.
  7. Natural disasters of the magnitude necessary to annihilate humanity probably are even rarer than the 65 million year old event at Chicxulub. We humans have more methods of coping with that type of disaster than alligators, birds and rodents and yet they survived. So, it is unlikely that any natural event of any type experienced in the last half billion years is likely to kill every human.
  8. There are extra solar events which could sterilize our Earth of all living things but they are so rare and so distant that would strike Earth only once in a thousand Earth lives. And they can’t be predicted or avoided or coped with so why worry.

The stress factors which bring on the war.

The human population explosion is continuing right on past the carrying capacity of the planet. By my calculation the ability of Earth to digest CO2 was passed in about 1850 and its current ability is to sustain only 10-100 million modern high tech people. The argument is rather like Thomas Malthus’s, which is still basically correct, we just haven’t reached the limit he proposed but it has only been ten generations and we are now very close to his limits in terms of generation time. Probably one more doubling of population will bring on the collapse and that is roughly a maximum of fifty years. Those figures are based on running out of food or some existential mineral like water or copper and don’t take into account the ongoing destruction of the carrying capacity of the Earth which will bring it on even sooner.

A major crop failure of even one of the basic cereal foods: rice, wheat, or corn would bring on an immediate world wide famine. At first it might be spotty but it would quickly increase the price stress on food for everyone. This recently happened when American farmers shifted a portion of their crop yield to the manufacture of ethanol for transportation usages. This brought about an instant mini-famine in Mexico among the poor people who eat a lot of corn based tortillas. But if this disruption in corn supply is brought about by uncontrollable disease or even by some unexpected economic disruptions or some military or terrorist conflict which prevented the easy shipping there would be real famine somewhere and quickly.

Continuing climate change towards hotter and more variable weather and with that a change in what will grow in previous farming locations or which is planted but is somehow killed off before it can be harvested by the unpredictable weather.

Water failure both from floods and droughts will increase stress.

Land erosion decreases land availability for crops.

Destruction of the productivity of the irrigated land by the toxic mineral salts precipitated out by evaporation of the rain water percolated through soil in the mountains and then brought onto the farms.

Oil price rise from various lacks cause crop failure from lack of the ability of farmers to pay for the price of the creation of fertilizer or pay for the fuel to operate machinery necessary for cultivation.

What predictive indicators should we be watching for?

Large numbers of people with rising expectations of what they deserve and a willingness to take it by force. For example the capturing ships on the high seas.

When large groups of people start demanding and then taking food from other groups of people by force it is a sure sign that serious trouble about to crash in upon the entire system. The instability these actions will create will force the price of everything to increase rapidly because all of the near infinite lines of supply will have to be protected. When this moves from difficult to impossible to do then a collapse will ensue fairly quickly.

It is impossible to predict or possibly even post-dict the real causes of any specific war because it will be a complex mix of many things and ultimately it doesn’t matter much because it could be any of them or some unusual combination of them or just a miscalculation by a politician or even just random chance. However, chance and risk can be observed to some degree and preparations can be made for their various possibilities based on their likelihood. Or perhaps take the Black Swan approach and develop ones robustness to cope with the unexpected. So ultimately preparing for a Chicxulub like event doesn’t make sense but preparing for the possibility of rain on a cloudy day does make sense and preparing for transportation disruption may prove to be the most critical one which can be helped and implemented.

Nearly all people are forced by their life situation to make the best of it where they find themselves but also nearly everyone is immersed in a social situation which may become extremely volatile and near impossible to survive within. If anyone survives those difficult times it will most likely be those who laid up enough of what ever it takes to survive better than the people around them. It is like the joke of the two guys hiking in a forest where there are man-eating tigers. One hiker has on heavy walking boots and the other has on running shoes. The booted hiker says, “It’s worthless to wear running shoes because you can’t out run a tiger.” To which the guy in the running shoes replies, “You are right I can’t out run a tiger, but I can out run you.”

Humanities survival my ultimately depend on some good running shoes.