Most people in our society operate under the assumption that technology is the answer to all things, there is no problem technology can’t solve and short of some kind of nuclear holocaust or massive extinction level meteor strike we are on the path to the unstoppable advancement of mankind. While in most cases I tend to agree, technology is also modern man’s biggest weakness. What do you think would happen if everyone woke up tomorrow morning and the entire power grid was down and was going to remain down for a year or more? The end result would be a disaster far worse than anything you can think of. It’s not just that we would lose our tv shows or internet. It is MUCH, MUCH worse than that. But before I explain why this would be our worst nightmare, you may be asking “So how likely is this to happen?” and “what could cause the destruction of the entire power grid?” The answer: it’s gonna happen sooner or later and a Solar Superstorm is what could cause this. You need to realize that this is not some theoretical event – it happens often and scientists (including NASA) believe that a power grid destroying solar superstorm is possible with little to no warning. So exactly what would be the result of such an event and how can you prepare for it?
On September 1, 1859 a British astronomer named Richard Carrington so happened to be observing the sun when he witnessed an extremely large solar flare which resulted in a Coronal Mass Ejection (CME) aimed directly at the earth. A CME is an unimaginably large explosion on the surface of the sun causing part of its mass to be ejected out into space in the form of energy and plasma. Normally, the earth’s magnetic field protects us from such events but now and then the sun will produce a CME so powerful that the magnetic field can’t absorb it all. The power of cosmic events such as these are almost beyond our comprehension because the size, distance and speed associated with them are enormous in scale. I’ve come up with a two examples illustrating the scope and power involved when a CME event occurs. First, just look at the image at the beginning of this article. This is a photograph of an actual Solar Flare and how big it is compared to the size of the earth. As for the second example: the fastest man-made object to date was a space craft called the Helios 2 (which was designed to study the sun). It reached a speed of approximately 150,000 miles per hour. To put it another way, it traveled 214 times faster than the speed of sound or Mach 214 – that is fast enough to make a trip around the entire earth in approximately 10 minutes. Even at this speed it still took 3 months for the space craft to travel from the earth to the sun. The energy and plasma from the 1859 CME only took 18 hours to travel that same distance and slam into the earth.
So what happened when this thing hit the earth? Well, in 1859 nobody had power to their homes and as I’m sure you realize there was no technology to speak of except for telegraph machines. But even as primitive as these devices were, the CME took out most telegraph machines, fused and melted telegraph wires together and even electrocuted some telegraph operators. So, as you can imagine since our society and world economy today is now totally dependent on electricity to function, this type of event would send us into the dark ages. And we aren’t talking about being without power for a couple hours, days or weeks…
So let’s talk about the result of having no power long term so you can try to wrap your head around the concept. A local or partial power grid outage isn’t that big of a deal because there are other nearby areas that still have power meaning they can get resources to those who are without. But if all the power grids of the world went down for months or years you would be isolated in the worst kind of way. First of all the world economy would collapse. Everyone would instantly be out of work (who does a job today that doesn’t in some way require some device using electricity or a machine using fuel). If there is no power then there is no way to verify how much money is in your bank account. Your bank doesn’t keep these records on some print out at the local branch– it’s all in a computer database. And if there is no way to access this database there is no way to get your money out of the bank. And if you don’t have cash, silver or gold on hand you are really screwed.
But forget that for a moment. Let’s run through a list of other things that we would no longer have: no phone, no cell phone, no computers, no internet, no TV, no radio, no refrigeration, no electric air conditioning or heat, no hospital equipment would function, anything and everything including food and medicines that are manufactured would no longer be manufactured. Water treatment plants wouldn’t work and there would be no power to pump water through the pipes to your home so you would have no water. Since there would be no power to refrigerate food and no way to resupply food, there would be no grocery stores (whatever was in there when the event hit would be looted within a day or two). Most people would have no way to communicate with anyone outside of their neighborhood and no way to call for help of any kind. You also could not harvest coal, natural gas or petroleum from the ground nor distribute those items to the refineries to convert them to a usable form because within a few weeks at best there would no longer be any fuel left. If there is no more fuel, there is no way to distribute any food supplies to where it is needed and there is no way for you to travel anywhere except by foot, bicycle or horse.
The most important and basic thing you need to survive is food and water. Since you cant go buy food anymore and water no longer flows to your faucet, you have to acquire it by other means. If you don’t have a way to grow food manually in your own back yard without machines to plow the ground and don’t already possess non hybrid seeds to plant, you and family will starve within a couple months or whenever you run out of what food you have (whichever comes first). Even if you lived near or on an actual farm how could a modern farm function without the machines? But believe it or not, no food or water is just the beginning of the nightmare.
Then you get into the problem of nobody knowing what happened in the first place because there is no power to send or receive radio, tv or other broadcasts. Sure, at first some emergency services hospitals and radio stations would run on generators and some people still have battery powered radios in their possession. But once the fuel ran out to the generators, there is no way to get anymore so those would all go silent. Everyone in the modern world would be in the dark literally as well as figuratively about what was going on. After a very brief time (even a week) of nobody being able to find out what was going on, society would begin to panic and then slip into utter anarchy because everyone would be fighting for what little resources remain available. There would be riots, looting, thefts, burglaries, rapes and murders, starving, disease, lack of sanitation, vigilant justice, mob rule – basically we are talking about your worst nightmare and all this would be caused by simply not having electricity. The scope of disaster would be so large there would never be any help from any government coming to aid you – you would be left to your own survival abilities and person resources. Now think of trying to survive this for months or even years.
You may be asking “why couldn’t they just fix the power grid?” See the thing is, CME’s affect the power grid in a peculiar way. The more power that is going through a device at the time that the CME hits, the more damage is done. Power plants have large transformers that push the power through the transmission lines. Since these transformers have a high amount of electricity going through them they would be destroyed – melted instantly. The problem is that there aren’t any spare transformers of that size sitting around and these large transformers are no longer made in the USA because they rarely need to be replaced. So if a CME took them out, we have to order them from an overseas factory… except that if the entire world is without power we can’t order them nor go get them because the factories that make them can’t make them without power. Even if we were able to somehow get the transformers and melted transmission lines replaced without using machines, you then get into the complexity of trying to turn an entire power grid back on from being completely off which in and of itself would be very difficult to do for a number of technical reasons and nearly impossible without communication to coordinate the effort which we would not have.
So in short, the final result of a catastrophic CME like the one in 1859 would be the death of a majority of the population of the modern world through uncontrolled disease, killing each other for limited resources, starvation, thirst, and a number of other reasons we have covered. It is estimated by the authorities that this type of event could last a decade.
Now as I mentioned before, aside from an extinction level event, this is the worst possible disaster that could hit the modern world. There are, however, places on the earth where people don’t use technology so they would of course be unaffected. But that wouldn’t help the billions that depend on electricity for their very survival.
So is it possible to prepare for such an event? Yes and no. You should prepare the same way you would prepare for any disaster. Store nonperishable food and water. Be prepared to be able to harvest water from rain and other nearby water sources without the ability to use a car or other means that require electrical power. Be prepared to grow your own food by having the tools to do so and by having non-hybrid seeds. Be prepared for the fact that most people don’t even think about prepping at all so most families will be starving and will do anything to get food, water and other supplies even if that means taking yours. You need to be mentally prepared to either share what you have or defend what you have by deadly force if necessary in order to keep your own family alive.
Hopefully, someday, electricity will all be local, even generated by each individual home rather than being dependent on a large power grid. Until that time comes, always keep in the back of your mind this possible scenario and be prepared the best way you can!