Tuesday, November 04, 2003

Carnot, Clausius & Thomson:

Hello from Santo Domingo, in the Dominican Republic. I´m here for just under 72 hours. I´m here for two meetings, and to look in on a vulnerability course that I am co-sponsoring with the OAS and the UNDP.

Interesting thing, vulnerability. In the two days of meetings we´ve had so far, there have been over 20 power failures. Now Santo Domingo is quite used to this, and places like this hotel have diesel generators that kick in within a fraction of a second of failure or undervoltage. But the vast majority of the population simply does without power. For hours at a time. They simply have adapted to the condition of an uncertain electric power supply, and they have many alternatives ready for food storage, gas pumping, etc. Life simply goes on.

Now in the North, as we saw with the recent power failures in the U.S., Canada and Italy, the economy is exquisitely sensitive to electric current. Take it away, and most everything grinds to a halt. There are no alternatives ready for the vast majority. This is a case where a higher standard of living has made us more vulnerable.

Somewhere out there, Boltzmann is chuckling at our attempts to make things more efficient.