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Don’t think of it as a “power cut”, think of it as an “electricity holiday”

The BBC reports that the National Grid will “learn the lessons” after nearly one million people across England and Wales lost power on Friday.

But what lessons will those be?

The power outage happened at about 17:00 BST on Friday, National Grid said, with blackouts across the Midlands, the South East, South West, North West and north east of England, and Wales.

Industry experts said that a gas-fired power station at Little Barford, Bedfordshire, failed at 16.58, followed two minutes later by the Hornsea offshore wind farm disconnecting from the grid.

The National Grid director of operations quoted in this BBC article, Duncan Burt, has said that “he did not believe that a cyber-attack or unpredictable wind power generation were to blame”.

I do not know whether to disbelieve his disbelief. Those concerned with managing the UK’s power supply might have good reasons to keep mum about our vulnerability to cyber attack, and less good reasons for playing down the unpredictability of wind power.

Tim Worstall speculates,

One reading could be……wind farm closes down immediately as wind speed is too high. Gas plant on idle can’t spin up for some reason. Drax is low capacity because it’s burning wood chips, not coal.

On the cyber front, even if this power outage was entirely an Act of God in the insurance sense, the next one might not be. The bad guys have seen how much more damaging power cuts have become now that we are so reliant on the internet. As cashless payments become more common it will only get worse. I love cashless payments! What bliss to no longer have to worry about finding change when you’ve just found the last space in a crowded car park, manoeuvred into it with incredible difficulty while holding up the rest of the traffic, and only then remembered that you have to pay for the damn thing. But an entirely cashless society, as they seem to be moving towards in Sweden, might turn out to have its Orwellian nature tempered only by its lack of resilience.

A final observation: I have read a lot of comments from supporters of remaining in the European Union along the lines of “You think a few hours delay on the railways was bad? Just you wait until we leave the EU without a deal.” However, just as with the chaos caused by the Gatwick drone shutdown, that argument cuts both ways. All their frantic efforts to say “No Deal” must not be allowed to happen because it will cause vast queues at the ports and airports start to look a little silly when the same consequences seem likely to arise every time the wind surges or a cyber attacker gets lucky.

30 comments to Don’t think of it as a “power cut”, think of it as an “electricity holiday”

  • John B

    The gas station had a turbine fault, I read, so shut down. The wind farm followed a short while later, either it developed some fault coincidentally, or more likely the wind speed was not right.

    Had the wind farm been a gas station and so not shut down, would the power cut still have happened?

    Has enough of the fossil fuel generation now been replaced by wind, which is unreliable and not on-call, that the grid is very vulnerable?

  • Stonyground

    Wind power is unreliable by nature. The bigger proportion of our power that comes from wind, the worse this problem will become. It won’t be like the seventies when we could just light candles and carry on. This happened in summer when demand was low, what will happen in winter when the wind is blowing either too much or not enough?

  • Natalie Solent (Essex)

    In one of the comments to the Tim Worstall post I linked to, “theProle” says,

    I think the spectacular bit of this is what it did to the railways.

    Back in the day, say 30 years ago, pretty much all the electric rolling stock was controlled by simple electro mechanical systems which were exceptionally robust and reliable. These have all been replaced with stuff with fancy electrical inverter type controls, which can’t cope with the mains frequencys shifting beyond the normal window (brown out, effectively what happened last night). Worse than this, for about half the class 700 fleet, they locked down in a way which required a man with a laptop to come out to each unit to reset.

    How the idiots in charge were ever allowed to build in such a stupid feature is simply unbelievable. Also, 30 years ago (although it was already changing then), most rolling stock shared couplings types and brake systems such that you could at a pinch use pretty much any loco to remove any broken train from anywhere to get things moving again.

    We used to have a not brilliant, but usable system, built on 1950s tech which had unbelievable resilience – essentially we’ve replaced that with a slightly better system which is anything goes wrong really falls over in a big heap…

  • Nemesis

    @ Natalie
    “We used to have a not brilliant, but usable system, built on 1950s tech which had unbelievable resilience – essentially we’ve replaced that with a slightly better system which is anything goes wrong really falls over in a big heap…”

    I think that principle can be applied to lots of modern applications. Especially anything with the adjective ‘Smart’ in it.

  • Mr Ed

    It seems to me that this was a ‘deliberate’ failure in a way in that the grid is designed to run at 50 Hz, and any significant deviation causes havoc, and if too much demand for output arises, to avoid a frequency deviation, a part of the network is cut off to preserve the integrity of the rest of it.

    Now, not only is our electricity overpriced due to the rigging of contracts and supply rules by the State, it is perilously unreliable.

    Strikes me that Battersea Power Station would be a good spot for a power station, close to railways and the Underground (who should have their own power back-up if they are serious about running transport). It could off load coal or LPG from barges on the Thames.

    And it’s only news because London was affected.

  • Paul Rutherford

    When Duncan Burt gave his statement quite evidently he hadn’t the foggiest what happened.

    Reassuring, isn’t it.

    Take a look at

    http://www.gridwatch.templar.co.uk/

    It’ll only be a matter of hours before some Remoaner points out we are getting approximately 3GW from EU sources.
    Of course, this supply will end at 0000 Brexit night and send the nation back to the dark ages.

  • john in cheshire

    It’s possibly a good thing this outage occurred now, while we are still shackled to the EU and not after we’ve left, in November, when there would have been much wailing and gnashing of teeth by the remoaners.

    Of course, just like the IRA, once we’ve left the EU, the remoaners won’t suddenly have gone away; they’ll still be there, spreading their bile and vitriol and using every event like this to blame it on Brexit. But as Catherine Tate might say, am I bothered?

  • “he did not believe that a cyber-attack or unpredictable wind power generation were to blame”

    It’s a sign, not just of his living in the bubble but of his letting his mind run along the tramlines of a scripted, safe ‘talking points’ interview, that he said it in that way (“he did not believe”, not “he is currently in possession of no evidence to suggest” or other capable-of-being-honest formulation), at a time when he obviously had only the foggiest idea, if any idea at all, what precisely had happened. Having thus exhibited his prejudging of the issue in public, his likely future asserting of the same after the report has been discounted by himself in advance. He should have realised that saying “he did not believe” so immediately upon the incident itself would be widely heard as “he intensely does not want to believe”.

  • Gavin Longmuir

    Natalie: “Just you wait until we leave the EU without a deal.”

    Oh well! There goes Perry’s idea about focusing Brexit discussion on “The Great Realignment” site. 🙂 The thought that should be in everyone’s mind is — It was not the evil EU which made the UK shut down the coal-fired power plants and build massive numbers of expensive subsidized bird-whackers which deliver power on an unpredictable unreliable schedule, thereby making the grid much less resilient and less dependable; it was those very British remote metropolitan Davoise in Parliament and their ever-growing intrusive bureaucracy. So many problems which the enthusiasts have been blamed on the EU really have their genesis much closer to home.

    A visit to many countries in Africa, or socialist hell-holes like California, reminds us that keeping the power on is actually a very complex operation. How many of us would claim we understand the mathematics behind 3-phase AC? It is a tribute to those who went before that we have come to treat the incredible achievement of reliable electric power as the normal state of affairs — and now let our elected representatives foolishly undermine it through the idiocy of expensive unreliable intermittent unpredictable unsustainable “renewable energy”.

  • Nullius in Verba

    “It’s a sign, not just of his living in the bubble but of his letting his mind run along the tramlines of a scripted, safe ‘talking points’ interview, that he said it in that way”

    Dunno. Shorn of context, the impression I get is that it was the answer to the question the reporter asked, but didn’t report asking. Statements to the press at a time like this are mostly about damage control and rumour suppression. They probably won’t know anything at all about it until the official report comes out sometime in the next few years.

    Reporter: “Was it extraterrestrial aliens?”

    Official: “No, I don’t think so.”

    Reporter: “Do you have any actual proof it wasn’t extraterrestrial aliens?”

    Official: “No. We do not have any information at this time what the cause was.”

    Reporter: “So you can’t positively rule out aliens?”

    Official: “Errr…”

    Headlines: “Officials can’t explain power cut. Say extraterrestrial interference not ruled out.”

  • It’ll only be a matter of hours before some Remoaner points out we are getting approximately 3GW from EU sources. Of course, this supply will end at 0000 Brexit night and send the nation back to the dark ages.

    As Harold Macmillan famously said “The French always betray you in the end“.

    Although short term power cuts would be irritating, it would teach a lesson beyond value about trusting our European neighbour. A lesson which the Remoaners seem to have forgotten and which they need to be reminded good and hard.

    Personally, I hope that the French do cause their usual disruptions at the Channel ports like they used to back in the day. Zeebrugge, Amsterdam and Rotterdam are a little further, but screwing the French would be worth the additional time and cost.

  • neonsnake

    start to look a little silly when the same consequences seem likely to arise every time the wind surges or a cyber attacker gets lucky.

    Which happens everyday, of course, and is absolutely a foregone planned consequence.

    As opposed to “No Deal”, which is fast resembling the case of “Oceania has always been at war with East Asia.”

  • Zerren Yeoville

    Power cuts seem a little too tame for the more hysterical adherents of Project Fear … so, we can now go live, via Crystal Ball Technology (well, OK, a Youtube clip from a sci-fi movie), to the BBC at 10.58pm UK time on 31st October!

  • bobby b

    We’re fooling ourselves if we think we have a robust infrastructure. It’s far more fragile than people like to think.

    We’re always one generating station shutting down – one international routing cable being cut – one refinery burning up – one food delivery system blocked – from the start of a cascading series of failures of the systems that allow for our current crowded life.

    This is why the estimated deaths from an EMP attack are always so shockingly high. We bet our lives on tech, but then fail to build redundancy into our systems. Try to buy food in NYC or London when the power is out, or your cashless vendors can’t connect, or the delivery trucks can’t get fuel.

    Our usual reaction is to shrug and figure it’ll be an uncomfortable eight or ten hours, but what if it last for a week or two?

    Most people here have the resources to handle such a disaster. Most people in our society don’t.

  • Julie near Chicago

    Interesting posting, Natalie. And scary besides. Thanks.

    bobby, as usual you got it. Also theProle’s comment which Natalie has sent us from Tim Worstall’s site. doubleplusgood**++++ to both of you, for those who understand the notation.

    Nemesis: Agree on the “Smart” ++++!

    All very good comments. … (I’m not equipped to opine on the French or Brexit in this particular context, although naturally the Remainers will make as much hay of the outage as they can. WHY don’t the idiot Provincials to your west get the message from the ongoing power outages in what used to be the Golden State?)

    There are other fairly fearsome examples of what can happen when the infrastructure breaks down, even if what causes the breakdown is purely due to some jerk’s (or jerks’) idiot notion of how to run a country.

  • Nullius in Verba

    “We bet our lives on tech, but then fail to build redundancy into our systems.”

    I don’t intend this comment for the current event – I suspect something else was involved that we don’t yet know about – but on society’s resilience generally.

    There are two general approaches to resilience: what I call the passive and active approaches. The passive approach builds the redundancy into the infrastructure as it’s built, so it’s always there. It’s the equivalent of building bridges with girders ten times as thick as they need to be, of stockpiling tinned foods in your basement, of buying twice as many lorries as you need and having half of them sit idle. It’s washing machines that will last 50 years without having to be replaced. It works, but its expensive and cumbersome. You’ve always got a big chunk of capital tied up in your stock, it’s usually bigger and heavier and more cumbersome to move around, and your technology is almost always decades out of date. The active approach means building more fragile but agile infrastructure, that can be more easily repaired or replaced. We don’t preserve and store 6 months’ food for the winter any more, we just go to the shops when we need it. We don’t build our buildings like medieval castles and cathedrals, capable of lasting a thousand years. We build them out of cheap materials, and replace them after 50-100 years. We don’t buy twice as many lorries, we buy just enough, and rely on being able to go out and buy a new one any time one breaks down. It’s shops that don’t stockpile goods but wait until it’s almost run out before ordering more. It’s washing machines that break after 5 years. It’s (usually) cheaper, more flexible, more powerful, and easier to update as technology progresses. It’s the modern approach. But it’s easy to look at the way things today are built fragile and liable to fall apart after a few years and think the overall system is therefore less resilient.

    This change in approach is a large part of the reason for the modern world’s wealth, compared to past centuries. We have built a global supply chain that is able to replace supplies and infrastructure more rapidly and reliably by adapting to changing needs and routing round damage. If the crops fail locally, we buy them from somewhere abroad where they haven’t. You use economies of scale and a global network of supply to make things cheaper. But it means you’re now reliant on the continued functioning of the global supply chain, rather than the inherent redundancy built in to your local infrastructure.

    It’s easy to misunderstand, because of the human tendency to look at what’s currently there, and not at the more nebulous business of how things change. Malthus noted that the population was expanding, and wondered how the current food supply as it is now could possibly feed it. Jevons looked at the supply of coal, and wondered how an industrial revolution using ever more energy could be supplied. People calculated the depth of horse much that would accumulate in the streets of London if it carried on expanding at the current rate. People looking at the expansion of the telegraph system figured we would run out of copper before the whole world could be wired up. Looked at over a long enough period even extremely low-probability events become certainties, and everything breaks. The entire running-out-of-resources family of scares have all been based on this idea that we have to build in the capacity to adapt to all possible expected changes from the start; that we want the capacity there right now in what we’ve got, and we haven’t got it. And they’re quite right. If you had to build in the capacity to last a hundred thousand years into the machinery of society from the beginning, we could never afford it. A technological society is doomed.

    But that’s not how it works. We build it expecting it to break, run out, or occasionally get smashed up by a hostile world. Because the ultimate resource we’re actually relying on is human ingenuity, and we’ll never run out of that. It’s not what you’ve got, but what you can get. We adapt; we find another way to do it, another way round; we fix it, replace it, rebuild it. Constantly.

    I agree it’s something we need to keep an eye on – we don’t always get the cost/risk trade-off right. But I disagree with the idea that the modern highly-interconnected interdependent society is more ‘fragile’ than local self-reliance and massive redundancy. For example, I would argue that a global trade system has proved far more effective at preventing famines than redundantly growing and stockpiling your own food.

  • Gavin Longmuir

    NIV: “There are two general approaches to resilience: what I call the passive and active approaches.”

    That is an interesting perspective, NIV. The common feature to both approaches to resilience is — the application of understanding and intelligence.

    The UK from time to time has devastating outbreaks of Mad Cow disease or Foot & Mouth disease, requiring large-scale destruction of cattle & sheep, with a consequent effect on food supply. But Brits don’t starve when this happens. In this highly interdependent world, the passive approach to dealing with the resulting local shortage of meat is to rely on the (historically recent) fossil-fuel-driven ability to transport frozen meat from far away, such as from our friends in Argentina. The change in supply does have an effect on food prices around the world, but since the UK has less than 1% of the global population, that price impact is tolerable.

    An active approach to resilience might be represented by our local fire departments. Since we never know where the fickle finger of fate will point, most of us are quite happy to pay for firefighters and fire trucks that spend most of their time simply waiting — because when we need that fire truck, we need it NOW!

    When it comes to unsustainable so-called “renewable” energy, our politicians and bureaucrats seem to practice neither passive nor active resilience. Passive resilience would involve keeping the percentage of electric power supplied by so-called “renewables” to a rather low level, so that it would not make a significant difference when the wind does not blow and the sun does not shine. Active resilience would involve massive battery farms and things like pumped storage hydro-electric dams — very expensive. I have read a number of studies from the usual suspects purporting to prove that so-called “renewables” are on the brink of being economically competitive without subsidies — but none of them factor in the costs of providing the necessary storage or back-up for resilience.

    The inability of the Political Class to plan for reliable supply of a modern essential like electric power is unfortunately another example of the failure of universal suffrage democracy.

  • neonsnake

    It’s the equivalent of building bridges with girders ten times as thick as they need to be, of stockpiling tinned foods in your basement, of buying twice as many lorries as you need and having half of them sit idle. It’s washing machines that will last 50 years without having to be replaced.

    My stance on this is that I feel you’ve mixed up “personal self-reliance” with “societal self-reliance” – bridges and lorries are a different thing to having plenty of dried food just in case, or of spending more on a good washing machine that will last longer and be economical in the long run.

    I’m sure that plenty of people here are familiar with the Sam Vimes’ Boots Theory of Economics?

    Society can live without “redundancies” – although I wonder if the “other options” you speak of are “redundancies” in themselves.

    Individuals may not be able to. Society will cope if I go under. I’m not irreplaceable, after all, no matter how much I deceive myself 😉

    I, on the other hand, will not cope if I go under, so I practice self-reliance. I actually do preserve food when it’s in season, for the winter. Peruvian asparagus, whilst easily obtained, is not a patch on locally grown asparagus, preserved in oil for colder climes. And it’s cheaper to buy local and preserve for later.

    More broadly, “we” in the UK, are very much stockpiling right now, to get us through an upcoming “rough patch”. That’s society as a larger entity, and the biggest businesses and brightest brains believe it’s necessary, having spent many months now considering it. These aren’t yer “experts”, these are yer people wot actually do the job.

    I really wish I could remember where I read the concept, but there’s that thing of treating the immediate circle of people you know with practicality, and the broader world in a more abstract sense.

  • Julie near Chicago

    Very sensible, neon. The only reason I’m not a “prepper” myself is that I have neither the time, the means, the necessary skills, a suitable location, nor, as you say, a bunch of practical-minded skilled friends in the off-grid domicile.

    I did, however, lay in a bunch of canned foot and a lot of TP several years ago. The Young Miss thinks I’m nuts. But even garden-variet American city riots make these measures reasonable, IMO. Not to mention that every once in awhile our electricity goes out — once, for four or five days. Reminds me, I ought to get more candles.

    .

    An on-line acquaintance lives in a suburb of Baltimore and he thinks he’d be fine if the fit hits the shan because he lives near a forest preserve and figures there’s plenty of game to keep himself fed.

    I’m not sure there’s enough game in all the forest preserves in the densely-populated Washington-Philly-NYC-Boston corridor to keep everybody fed for months on end, let alone years. Nor enough TP.

    (Signed) Optimistically yours, 😕

  • Nullius in Verba

    “My stance on this is that I feel you’ve mixed up “personal self-reliance” with “societal self-reliance””

    A person is a society of one. 🙂

    “I’m sure that plenty of people here are familiar with the Sam Vimes’ Boots Theory of Economics?”

    Absolutely! And the economic reason for it is also explained in the story. Poor people buying boots (like Vimes before he married) are well-aware that expensive boots last longer. But they’ve got bills to pay and kids to feed, and now is more important to people than the future – we normally discount future costs and benefits at about 5% per year. Benefits that don’t acrue until 20 years down the line count for virtually nothing against benefits today. If we didn’t do this, then the needs of the infinite future of humanity would always outweigh the needs of humanity today, and we’d never be allowed to do anything. (That was the trick Lord Stern pulled working out the economic price of CO2 emissions – he set a discount of near zero, so that he could include the costs beyond a century into the future.)

    Vimes’ point about boots is essentially the same as Bastiat’s point about the 20,000 francs, or later in the essay the guy who lends his plane out. People rich enough to afford expensive boots can live off the investment indefinitely. People with immediate needs, who have to spend everything they earn, end up with nothing to show for their years of work. They’re both quite correct about the way the world works – wealth breeds more wealth – but Bastiat goes on to explain why it’s nevertheless sensible and just.

    I’m sure if Vimes had asked, Vetinari would have been able to explain it too.

    “Society can live without “redundancies” – although I wonder if the “other options” you speak of are “redundancies” in themselves.”

    They are. I probably should have explained more clearly. (I did think about it, but the comment was getting too long as it was…)

    Active resilience just puts the redundancy in a different place, that’s all. The problem is, it doesn’t look like redundancy…

    “More broadly, “we” in the UK, are very much stockpiling right now, to get us through an upcoming “rough patch”. That’s society as a larger entity, and the biggest businesses and brightest brains believe it’s necessary, having spent many months now considering it. These aren’t yer “experts”, these are yer people wot actually do the job.”

    Yes, and they’re complaining like hell about the costs! If stockpiling was better than just-in-time imports from Europe, they’d be doing it already. But JIT is cheaper and more reliable, if governments are not getting in the way.

    The EU customs union is founded on the idea of partially blocking the above-mentioned benefits of the interconnected global supply chain, in order to raise prices and make things more expensive for the consumer. Manufacturers think they profit when they force people to rely on local suppliers rather than the cheapest.

    Having been inside the barrier, all the blocks were on trade with countries outside it, which is why 80% of our trade was with the EU even though they’re not generally cheaper. Now the blocks are on trade with the EU, and coming off the trade outside, so there will need to be a period of adjustment.

  • bobby b

    “These aren’t yer “experts”, these are yer people wot actually do the job.”

    Y’all talk funny.

    I’ve always seen pro buyers – retail, manufacturing, and industrial – as being the ultimate(and best) preppers. They stock up in the face of adversity, and (more importantly) they tend to know when that adversity will arrive.

    I started delving into the ins and outs of off-grid solar and battery tech, and I’m amazed to see how many people are suddenly doing the same thing. It’s becoming a prepper’s world.

  • Nullius in Verba

    I just realised I didn’t make clear my point about the boots. 🙂

    You’re quite right that a more expensive, longer-lasting product *can* be better value than lots of short-lived, cheap shoddy products. But it’s not always so. Tying up capital has a cost. If fashions or technology change fast, old boots are a cost. Benefits accrued only decades into the future are heavily discounted. And if something happens to the boots and they get destroyed before their time, you’ll never realise those future benefits.

    It’s not that cheaper/briefer is always better. (Or we’d be buying a new disposable washing machine for every wash!) It’s that cheaper/briefer may be far better than you expect, if your expectations don’t account for all the hidden costs of the long-term investment.

    We buy cheap short-lived washing machines, and Vimes bought cheap short-lived boots for very good economic reasons. We’re always seeking to maximise utility. If you’ve got more money to invest, the optimum balance shifts. But it shifts because money/liquidity is cheaper, not because extra redundancy of shoe leather is always better.

    “They stock up in the face of adversity, and (more importantly) they tend to know when that adversity will arrive.”

    They’re far more likely to calculate it on the basis of quantifiable evidence. There’s a right amount to stockpile, for any given level of risk/variability. But I think they’re not necessarily looking at actual adversity so much as perceived/predicted adversity, as that’s what determines demand. They’d stockpile zombie response kits if there was a popular new film out about it – it doesn’t mean they think zombies are actually imminent.

  • Dr Evil

    There are several lessons. One is stop dismantling and selling coal fired turbines to the Germans. Build more back up capacity generators. Another is to realise that we have hundreds of cubic miles of high quality coal and we should use it. Emissions are a red herring. CO2 is still a trace gas at 390ppm. It was 380ppm in my O level chemistry textbook. I took that O level exam in 1969.

  • Gavin Longmuir

    Dr Evil: “… we have hundreds of cubic miles of high quality coal and we should use it.”

    Apparently, there is still an active Scottish coal mine in Ayrshire. The coal is loaded onto Chinese ships and taken back to China, where it is burned. But that is OK, because international agreements allow China to increase its CO2 emissions.

    Meanwhile, those ultra-hypocritical Germans are shutting down nuclear power plants and replacing them with fossil-fuel plants which burn the most-polluting kind of low-rank German brown coal.

    Maybe the world has always been thus? The Green religion is reminiscent of the pre-Reformation Catholic Church, where popes & cardinals had wives, mistresses, treasure, and earthly power … while still preaching the gospel.

  • neonsnake

    I did, however, lay in a bunch of canned foot and a lot of TP several years ago.

    As an aside, when I was teaching myself how to do it a number of years ago, I was on a forum where someone asked the best way of preserving a batch of freshly-picked strawberries. After all of the talk of complicated dehumidifiers, drying, turning into leathery fruity candies and so on, I innocently asked what was wrong with just chopping them in half and whacking them in the freezer…minus food snob points for me! That’s too easy, and I clearly just didn’t get it…

    People with immediate needs, who have to spend everything they earn, end up with nothing to show for their years of work. They’re both quite correct about the way the world works – wealth breeds more wealth

    I agree; both with the sense that being poor is bloody expensive, and with the sense that on a larger scale, smaller and more agile is often better. Think of all the small businesses that have to bootstrap, outsource (at higher expense), and so on while they’re getting going. Many of them – especially today, with the easy access to inexpensive specialist – would be better off staying lean and trading off the additional costs for the flexibility it brings.

    But these things are a balance, and picking the appropriate places to invest (time as well as money) is different for everyone. If I were a fashionisto, I’d likely spend less money per item on many more pairs of boots, for a total cost of “more”. If I were earning below “x per year”, I’d likely spend “more” as well. As it happens, I’m not a fashionisto (because style never goes out of fashion) so I pay more for a good, decently styled pair of boots that will last a few years. And for hiking boots, I have an expensive pair from 2001 that are still good (and in 2001, I very much had to go without some stuff to be able to afford them).

    I suspect we’re quibbling about semantics, and small points, rather than deeply disagreeing.

    I find it useful, financially sensible, and rewarding to learn how to fix my “old” car; on the other hand, attempting to fix my “new car” is utterly pointless. I don’t have, and can’t easily gain, the skills, let alone the diagnostic software.

    Something I find interesting that is “society” in the large sense is a glorious chaotic mess, with everyone cheerfully doing their own thing, and yet it works. Spontaneous order for the win. And it works, in a large degree, because it’s made up of specialised units each trading with each other. And viewed from afar, society doesn’t look like lots of little disparate specialised units, it looks like a cohesive whole; which is the same logic I apply to my own life – how much should I specialise, vs how much should I be able to at least attempt on my own? It’s a balance; I suspect because of the original context that the “self-reliance” discussion came up in, I portrayed a very radical self-reliance (verging on self-sufficiency), but it’s not that extreme, just more extreme than some – and the vast majority is for the sheer pleasure I take in it.

    I’ve always seen pro buyers – retail, manufacturing, and industrial – as being the ultimate(and best) preppers.

    Nope 😉

    You’re thinking of supply chain managers. Buyers (me!) are the nutters coming back from meetings having committed to 40,000 units of a brand new untested product because we got a good price, much to supply chain’s utter horror! We’re awful at planning!

    To be more serious – commodities buyers (in my limited experience, food and drink buyers in particular) are excellent at forecasting.

    Non-essentials buyers are much worse – we live in the world where there’s no such thing as a correct forecast – you’re either lucky, or you’re wrong.

    and I’m amazed to see how many people are suddenly doing the same thing

    I’ve noticed that too, both with prepping and minimalism – a sort of desire to escape the rat-race which has, presumably, always existed, but seems much more prevalent now. What’s your opinion on why?

  • neonsnake

    Active resilience just puts the redundancy in a different place, that’s all. The problem is, it doesn’t look like redundancy…

    Sorry, to be clearer – this is why I think we’re quibbling over semantics, not expressing deep idealogical differences. I think we’re both saying that “self-reliance” means having options, not necessarily being able to rely wholly on oneself (or on one factory, or power generator, or one means of getting hold of food, none of which must be allowed to fail!)

  • Natalie Solent (Essex)

    Thanks, everyone, for a really illuminating series of comments.

  • Mr Ed

    Thank you Natalie for sparking this discussion, and many others, be they series or in parallel with this one, with such frequency. Ohm I, what a pun, I’m sure it Hertz some, but I couldn’t resistor it. Good Faraday to you.

  • Julie near Chicago

    Oh, Mr Ed! That you should stoop to such heights of the Lowest Form of Humor!!

    Ee-e-e-e-e-e-e-w-w-w-www! quadrupleplusgood 😀

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