A Black Swan will surely come.

If you were lucky enough to witness the fabulous show of aurora borealis night-before-last, I envy you.  It was a no-show for me in St. Albans (too much ambient light.)

Whether or not you caught the “glow,” this seems like a good opportunity to point out that solar events such as the one that produced that spectacular display represent the potential which some future event holds for catastrophic consequences here on earth.

Fairewinds Energy Education (with whom I am proud to be associated) coincidentally just released this compelling new video in which Arne Gundersen interviews Mat Stein, best-selling author of  “When Disaster Strikes” and “When Technology Fails,”  who explains how our complex and overloaded electrical infrastructure leaves us vulnerable to an electro-magnetic impulse big enough to knock-out key components, thereby unleashing a string of systemic failures that might even lead to  the end of life as we now know it.

Such a rare cataclysmic event scenario is known as a “Black Swan.”

It was no more than a heavenly show this time, but massive solar events have impacted the earth’s magnetic field many times in the past; even as recently as in 1921. That was, of course, before our infrastructure had reached the tipping point on which we are now poised.  

This is pretty sobering stuff.  Have a listen!

In 1859, a gigantic coronal mass ejection (solar storm) struck the Earth’s magnetosphere, creating an astonishing light display all over the world, but the only infrastructure disturbance it could cause was to telegraphic communications.  

When a significantly lesser solar storm impacted the Earth in 1921, the potential for disturbance was still relatively minimal. Were we to be, in 2014, struck by a solar event of similar magnitude, the consequences would be catastrophic.

As I listened to Mat Stein describe the cascading disaster that would unfold in the unprepared modern world, should such a “Black Swan” solar event come to pass, the biblical story of the Tower of Babel flashed through my mind.

Strip away religion, and hubris is at the heart of that cautionary tale.

So it is at the core of the governmental/industrial complex which, to serve the gods of unlimited growth, has hurtled the nation and much of the world ahead, full-throttle, with never a look in the rear view mirror to see what consequence may be gaining on us.

In far less than a century, using the building blocks of rapidly advancing technology, we have built our own teetering tower to the riches of heaven.  In doing so we have forgotten the lessons of the cosmos: that  we are small and inconsequential; that millenia are no more than micro-seconds, and nothing is more certain than that all we build will end as dust.

About Sue Prent

Artist/Writer/Activist living in St. Albans, Vermont with my husband since 1983. I was born in Chicago; moved to Montreal in 1969; lived there and in Berlin, W. Germany until we finally settled in St. Albans.

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