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It is a bit of a sober realization that at any one time, we (in the western world) are only ever 9 meals away from total chaos.

Just image people going without food for three days… the streets would become total chaos. Way beyond the capacity of a (hungry) police force to handle. It would become a literal jungle out there.

Way back… in the late 19th century and early 20th century people had in general a pretty robust pantry.

It was common to stockpile food for the winter, and there usually was a graden somewhere close where food was grown.

Contrast that to today: many people don’t have a pantry anymore. And in the big cities people are starting to abandon their kitchen.

Sometimes you can find stories about people unplugging the freezer and keeping clothes in them… go figure.

I guess it can be very seductive eating “out”. Simply skip your breakfast, or replace it with coffee or a shake. Then at noon you take lunch (at work or close to work) with your colleagues, and in the evening either a quick snack or a visit to the local restaurant.

Why keep a freezer stocked?

Indeed…

But it is actually worse than that.

Back in the 80’s there was a new “hype” doing the rounds among businesses: “Just In Time” (JIT). Transport and communications had advanced to the point where it became possible to do away with storage of input materials.

Before that, most companies used to have large warehouses where they would store their raw materials such that they could ensure a continuous workflow.

But that had a couple of disadvantages, the biggest was that it took a lot of capital to build and stock the warehouse. As far as stockholders were concerned was dead money.

Besides, this was the time where prices trended down due to increasing production efficiency so nobody wanted a large inventory of goods that they could have been bought later and cheaper.

JIT was the buzzword, and everybody joined in. Today JIT is part and parcel of every major producer and reseller. It is not even recognised as such.

Factories have little to no stock, resellers have little to no inventory.

The whole economy has become extremely efficient and as a consequence also extremely brittle.

Sure, there is some redundancy. (Redundancy = multiple ways of doing something)

For example a city divided by a river will have multiple bridges, and perhaps some ferries.

Every major reseller has its own central warehouse/distribution center. And there are many resellers.

Then again, there are some things that cannot be made redundant without significant costs. And as times are good, nobody wants to pay up.

So imagine how the inner cities would evolve if …. the water supply broke down, electricity distribution fails, gas runs out, or today even the cellular network or internet.

There are many possibilities. And I hope we will never have to find out.

But just in case… maybe a small pantry?….


Originally posted at: 2017-01-29
Last modified on: 2017-01-29