New Global Threat (information corrected)

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  I was born into the cold war hotbed in nineteen sixty to a mum and dad from Brighton England who endured half a decade of bombing and threat from Nazi Germany before immigrating to Canada. Mum, as our family historian, was never short on true life stories about war time England, but never did mum or dad ever talk to my sisters and I about the threat of nuclear war by the USSR. In the wake of the Cuban Missile Crisis of nineteen sixty three it was business as usual in Canada. In retrospect, mum and dad did their best to protect their children from the harsh reality of war; and back then, I as a child, thought war was something that only happened in far away countries to other people. For more than a half century that notion has held true for everyone born in Canada who hasn't seen military duty overseas. 

     What changed the face of war mid twentieth century was the development of the intercontinental missile (ICBM) which went hand in hand with Soviet/American competition for the domination of outer space. Space exploration was a good thing; having the ability to send multiple warheads around the world was clearly the down side to rocket technology.  

     After WWII, America secured German Nazi V2 rocket designer, Wernher von Braun, while the Soviet Union had an equally skilled rocket designer name Sergei Koralev who was reported to be a kind and gentle man, held against his will by the Soviet State and forced into submission. During the fifties and sixties neither one of these great men had ever heard of a cellular telephone, or a world where billions of people would be connected and psychologically dependent on the global satellite network we call the World Wide Web.  

     The word 'web' is ironically fitting to the new threat that we and our children now live under. In the days of von Braun and Koralev, the devises they created for war were tangible, capital intensive projects, funded by the largest of the great nations. Today, it seems that every country is a nuclear superpower, but if you were to ask ten thousand twelve year old kids what scared them the most...nuclear war? or losing the Internet? there is little doubt what the response ratio would be.

     On March 19/2013, South Korean banks and media were virtually paralyzed with a simple 'demonstration' of how powerful and wide spread an Internet attack can be. Whomever designed this recent attack didn't target the average cell phone user, I would guess they had a twelve year old at home, but there is little question they could have if they wanted to.

     Looking back to the early eighties, I was a family man in Calgary Alberta who was forced into full awareness that there was a country on the other side of the world who wanted to obliterate my family and I. Of course that threat came from the USSR and was escalated to the point of extreme tension on Thursday September first 1983, when the Soviet Union shot down a Korean Airlines, Boeing 747, fully loaded with passengers over the Sea of Japan. Flight 007, as it was know, became president Ronald Reagan's excuse to put the world back on full nuclear alert. As a young pilot , this action by the Russians made me angry. 

     Like my parents, I never spoke of this threat with my children, but I took the facts as they were presented to the people living in major centres of Alberta, and I was pro active in preparing to survive the initial blast of a nuclear strike and the chaos that would follow. I was only twenty-three, but I owned my first real home, so I was free to dig a bomb blast shelter underneath my garage, complete with food, medical supplies and of course an assortment of legal weaponry for survival purposes. Fortunately, the Soviet Union eventually broke apart and the threat seemed to fade away, leaving me with an unusable garage with a secret room under the concrete pad, unable to hold the weight of a vehicle. The home was actually sold with the bomb shelter as a sales feature and it remains to this day, thirty years hence, it's probably a meth lab now.

     I've thought long and hard over how to prepare for the new threat of a Cyber attack and keep coming back to the same conclusion. With the exception of the bomb shelter, it would be a matter of survival living in the chaos that will follow. If the attacks were to focus on North American power grids, the results would be far worse than a nuclear strike. Very few would actually die in the attack and the shear volume of powerless, displaced, hungry people would turn our civilized society into savage survivalists. It will be the Native cultures living in Canada's far North who will without a doubt, fair the best without power and communications. The big city folks are inevitably doomed in such a scenario. This scenario is not only a threat from Cyber attacks, but the threat can also come from our very own Sun, our giver of life. It would only take one massive Coronal ejection to slam Earth, to permanently take out power on a global scale. It happened back in 1855 when a solar ejection destroyed telegraph lines all over Canada, the USA and the United Kingdom. In 1855, nobody really noticed this event as electricity and telegraph was barely in it's infancy. Today, a loss of power over several months or years would signify a loss of life on an Epic scale.

       There is only one way to prepare for a technology attack, don't become addicted and dependent to technology. Overall, I would say Newfoundland in general would do better than the rest of Canada. Most of rural Newfoundlanders already enjoy a life of relative independence from the 'grid'. Wood is still used for heat, neighbours still talk face to face, and wild game is seen several times a week at the dinner table. Meanwhile, we can only wait and see what the future holds. Will it be Nuclear, or are we going to see a world of devastated technology addicts.

Stephen D Redgrave

St John's NL


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