Causes and key Risks factors leading to Disruption

Causes of disruption in modern society come from numerous sources, some more likely than others. The scale of disruption may vary from mild and local to severe, long lasting and nationwide. This section explores some of the more widely discussed possibilities and, where we can find authoritative studies or further reading, provides analysis and links to original sources.

The main interest of BeatTheBear is circumstances for which it would be wise for people to prepare, where the impact is likely to significantly curtail supplies of essentials and where individuals will have to take steps to preserve comfort, liberty or life.

Foreseeable risks

Though not exhaustive, here are some of the topics we'll be discussing. This list of topics is likely to grow as our research widens

Some of the above may be manageable and relatively localised in action in which case there is not systemic risk to those of us affected, but nonetheless the effects can be extremely unpleasant and disruptive in the affected areas. Although they make news headlines for a few weeks and then fade from the mind, localised effects may be long term or even permanent. Hurricane Katrina in 2005 caused 1,200 deaths, an estimated $108 billion damages and New Orleans still remained seriously affected a decade later (2015 report). Such local disasters are extremely unpleasant to live through but don't seriously damage national infrastructure. The slow recovery of some areas after such a disaster should give pause for thought to anyone who underestimates the potential long-term effects of nationwide dislocation.

Anyone who assumes that government or external agencies would be able to step in and ameliorate matters is, in our opinion, liable to be disappointed. The reasons for this view will eventually be explored elsewhere (the analysis and material have not been gathered yet) but we invite you to ponder such things as the US response to hurricane Katrina, its response to the devastation of Puerto Rico (hurricane Maria, 2017) or the UK response to flooding in the Somerset Levels in 2014/5. Those were to some extent localised and should have been manageable, but we think that if you ask those affected how helped they felt, you will get short and pungent responses.

Natural Disasters

This list is currently under construction as each topic is researched

Solar Storm/Flare

Our Sun is a violent continuous nuclear 'explosion', some 93 million miles / 150 million km away. Occasionally massive eruptions of material are flung into space and these can hit the Earth. It is thought that solar storms such as 1859 Carrington Event may occur frequently enough to be a cause for concern and

"A solar storm of this magnitude occurring today would cause widespread disruptions and damage to a modern and technology-dependent society"

(Wikipedia, 2017).

Good reference material and research is available on this subject and is discussed on our Carrington Event page.

Man-Made Disasters

(to follow)

Medical and Social Disasters

(to follow)

Technical Failure or Breakdown

Modern societies have become dependent (either directly or indirectly) on some elements of technical infrastructure which are so pervasive that a lasting failure or breakdown may have surprisingly large implications. The most obvious example is a ready supply of electricity but that is so obvious that it deserves its own category altogether. The electricity supply is (the legions of highly skilled engineers who keep it going notwithstanding) also relatively low technology and so glaringly important that it's unlikely to suffer a long-term and wide scale failure spontaneously. Bad planning and mismanagement are another matter and will be discussed elsewhere on this site.

Whether the same can be said for other services upon which we have become dependent is not so obvious. Telephones (mobile and fixed) and internet services are now thought to be effectively essential services for the functioning of government, enterprise and distribution of goods. Satellite navigation may well also fall into that category. These are currently subjects of active research and evaluation: results will be published here as they become available.

It's also possible that other unexpected dependencies may emerge. An example might be dependency on accurate timing. There are a number of time-provision services such as NTP services delivered via internet, national time services broadcast by radio (for example MSF in the UK, WWV in the USA, DCF in Germany and many others. It's an inconvenience if the radio-controlled clock or watch you use stops working because one of these goes out of service, but are there other systemic dependencies on these that we will only discover the hard way? If anyone knows of authoritative work on that topic (or similar ones), let us know through the Contact page.

Requests for further information

Information is welcomed on the following points from those with suitable knowledge. Please use the contact form to get in touch.

  1. We would welcome references to work done on societal dependencies on broadcast time signals