World to End, CrossFitters and Paleo Eaters Survive

June 17, 2009

[caption id="attachment_500" align="alignright" width="300" caption="Wheat spike in a field"]Wheat spike in a field[/caption]

Literally no, but Richard Fernandez illustrates a larger point with a crisis that's threatening to wipe out 80 percent of the world's wheat crop. A new strain of stem rust, a fungus that destroys wheat, has begun spreading around the world and the only way to combat it is to replace existing strains of wheat with rust resistant varieties.

(CrossFitters and people eating paleo will survive, of course, since they are not eating wheat any way).

The larger point is important. Crises happen when something unpredictable occurs. Since the predictable happens with regularity, plans exist to acommodate and manage. When the improbable happens, things fall apart and it's only those with spare capacity or extra resources that survive.

Hernandez notes, "when the danger posed by a rare but catastrophic event is factored into the picture, the simplistic vision of an over-capitalized, excessively-scientific and inhuman West is replaced by an appreciation of what it is in times of crisis: the stored fat of a world which will face the occasional existential crisis". For stem rust this means the ability of labs, across the world, over the course of a decade to develop new, rust-resistant strains of wheat. Spare capability is the ultimate key to survival.

Which brings us back to the CrossFit prescription for fitness. "Routine is the enemy". In an extreme situation, it's those with the flexibility to adapt and the capacity to do more that survive.



2 Responses

nuBound
nuBound

June 17, 2009

Thanks Rich. Agreed that the thing which happens will often be what we don’t or can’t prepare for.

Statistically rare events are hard to comprehend and big numbers are confusing. One million seconds is twelve days. One billion seconds doesn’t sound that much different, but it’s thirty two years.

It’s not possible to prepare for such events. The question is more can you be flexible enough not to be wedded to some other expectation when the unexpected hits. And beyond that, is there some margin in reserve when things do fall apart.

Like the 1908 Tunguska meteor explosion over Siberia. Given enough time a similar thing will happen over a major population center. And what then?

Rich B
Rich B

June 17, 2009

Reading this reminded me of 2 things:

I just watched a documentary about the genetically modified strains of grains: http://www.thefutureoffood.com/

And the Black Swan Theory:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Black_swan_theory
I recently was introduced to Nassim Nicholas Taleb’s writings and his theory’s on the black swan as it applies to stocks but can be applied to world events as a whole and how we prepare for them.

I agree that “In an extreme situation, it’s those with the flexibility to adapt and the capacity to do more that survive.”
Only because I think it i the one thing that we don’t or can’t prepare for that usually happens.

Great post!
Rich

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