It Won't Be Toilet Paper Next Time

(Q) Will the current “disruption economy” interrupt the delivery of food, water and other resources?


(A) Disruption was just a buzz word among techies a few short years ago. Today it is part of everyone’s vocabulary. Our lives have been disrupted and we have a sense that disruption may be here to stay. Looked at simply, if “X” is disrupted, “Y” will be created. The death of X is the birth of Y. This happens all the time in our consumer driven world. Our current not-so-simple problem is that the human race may be the next “X”.

Disruptions are wake-up calls. We should all be awake and paying attention now. Long ago I was told that when it became time for everyone to wake up, they would. I am still not sure I completely believe that, but I am seeing that it is possible to get the world’s attention! Now that our eyes have been opened, we should look around at our strange new world and begin to look for solutions to our current predicament.

We have been fortunate so far. Toilet paper is flowing again, hand sanitizer is back on the shelves, and take-away comfort food is keeping everyone sane. But we didn’t pull it off as well as we could have. Our foolishness made good quarantine humor and conversation, but what if the shortages were more severe than toilet paper? What if the missing or stolen items were the very things that all of us X’s need to survive?

The answer to your question is YES, but not yet. Most of the food we consume is not local to us; it arrives from elsewhere just in time for us to find our favorite items on the shelf. For the most part, that is how it works in first world countries. Second tier and emerging market economies are not as fortunate, but they are following the same model. In a disruptive economy, we might all be in for a rude awakening. Many countries do not own their own resources. They have been sold or promised as debt repayment to wealthier governments. Resources in their raw form are called commodities in the trading world. Most of us are hardly aware that they change hands many times in a single minute. We are preoccupied with facemasks, vaccines, health care, and jobs.

Disruption is here to stay. We might not know how or what to plan for, but we should understand that what on the surface appears to be a temporary anomaly, or a novel “new-normal,” will in fact snowball into a larger cultural transformation that impacts us all. Since it is not here yet, it is hard to know what will be affected first or most. Study the supply chain of your most needed items and see where it is most likely to be interrupted. Find local sources. Keep a list of alternative resources. Without hoarding, maintain a small cache of basic necessities– the kinds of things that ensure your well-being and that of your family. Even if we prepare well, at some point we will all learn to do without a few things. We will learn the lessons that others have set as examples for us. We are amazingly resourceful when called to action.

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