January 11, 2017

Mechanized Nuttiness and Wastes of Time

Imagine this, but information

I’m not sure when information became garbage.  It probably coincided with the invention of the Internet.  You can find out anything, including things that don’t mean anything.     

What’s called the obligation to technology makes this worse.  If we can measure it and calculate it, we feel we should do so, regardless of the benefit or waste of time.  

Nuttiness is bad.  So is wasting time.  But in the digital age we’ve become able to mechanize nuttiness and automate wastes of time.  That’s really bad.  

Two nutty elements –planning and technology–converge and are mechanized via computerized projections courtesy of Hazus, an American standard method of estimating losses from various hazards.  Good idea to give an order of magnitude or to note that an event with lots of deaths should occupy our time before an event with none.  But then we get too much of a good thing.  

It’s too much of a good thing to find out some bad things about Baltimore.  For example, in one Hazus scenario, 1600 buildings or 72% of those studied could be damaged by a flood.  Said hypothetical flood may also generate almost 100,000 tons of debris requiring almost 4,000 truckloads to remove, with each truck carrying 25 tons.   Almost 9,000 people will need temporary shelter.  

Interestingly, these ‘facts’ don’t trigger what to me is the obvious next notation in each case.  Is there a way to make any of the buildings less vulnerable to flooding?  Could we get the damage down to 1500 buildings by parging basement walls, working on storm sewers, using absorbent asphalt, lifting vulnerable items off the floor, or anything?  What’s the debris?  Could we reduce it by ten tons by having a neighbourhood clean-up, pruning trees, deploying dumpsters or anything?  Why will 9,000 people need temporary shelter?  Is it that their building is flooded or the debris in the neighbourhood?   Would fixing either of those things reduce the number of people who need shelter by 1,000 or more?

Funny emergency planners write up the problem, but that doesn’t trigger a brainstorm on solutions.

In other computer modelling, we find that high winds might generate more than 300,000 tons of debris—50% from trees—requiring 3100 truckloads to remove.  The rest of the debris will be the general detritus and flotsam and jetsam of urban existence, especially bricks.   

Had Baltimore cleaned up and pruned trees, the number of truckloads required would be less.  Stiffening up buildings would reduce debris.  But no one seems to have asked the additional questions about this debris.  Where will it be taken?  Will that cause worse environmental damage by concentrating the garbage?  Should tree branches be mixed in with other garbage, or left to rot to replenish the soil in parks?  Can tree branches be sawed up and sold as firewood?  How many actual trucks are needed to carry 25 tons of debris a certain distance? Will this take hours, days or weeks?  Are there enough trucks in Baltimore to do the job in a reason able period of time?  Has anyone done an inventory of available trucks in the Baltimore area?     

In Austin they also want an estimate of “total debris to be removed.”  It is not stated whether this should be in pounds, cubic metres, cords, or what.  If cords, is that a face cord or full cord and how much does a cord weigh?  Why is this important to know?

Meanwhile, you gotta love plan writers in Kansas City who mandate a “70-Hour-Push” to clear roadways.  This “will begin as soon as practical and will not be delayed to develop debris estimates…”  In Tampa they’re just going to cut and push “…debris off the roadways onto the shoulders…”   

How much debris?  Who cares?    

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