A visible manifestation of the escalating clusterf**k was the ‘fuel crisis’ which manifested itself back in September. What sparked it was BP having a few glitches with their tanker deliveries to the petrol station forecourts which saw a few of them have to close for a short while. It could have just stayed there if it hadn’t been for the mainstream media picking up on the story, spinning it for a bit of sensationalism and hey presto, a small proportion of the populace panic and start queuing up at petrol stations to ensure their tanks are full. As we saw back in March 2020 at the start of the coronavirus crisis, it only takes a few extra people rushing out to stock up to knock a finely calibrated supply chain out of kilter resulting in the sight of empty shelves. The sight of empty shelves then prompted more panic buying in a self reinforcing feedback loop. This is what happened with the petrol situation. As with empty supermarket shelves, closed petrol stations sparked a sense of panic in some people.
For a complex array of reasons, there’s a shortage of truck drivers, not just here in the UK but in many other countries as well: Driver shortage is pan-European – Global Cold Chain News – 24.08.21. We live in a society where (too)much of what we rely on, particularly food, comes to us via complex, ‘just in time’ supply chains. As you can imagine, being short on HGV drivers to move our food around is going to have an adverse impact on the food supply chain. These are a couple of pieces from the Alternative Estuary blog on the need to shorten food supply chains and gain more control over where our food comes from: Keeping it local and under our control – August 9, 2021 and: Building community resilience – securing the food supply – July 21, 2021.
Obviously, these two pieces are referring to the need for long term, holistic solutions. Meanwhile, the mainstream media have picked up on the growing number of glitches in the food supply chains and hey presto, in a self fulfilling prophecy, there’s now panic buying: Panic buying is back! Shoppers queue to fill up trolleys with toilet roll and other essentials after one in six couldn’t find what they wanted on the shelves as supermarket bosses are told to co-operate to save Christmas and petrol shortages continue – 10.10.21.
On top of this, there’s the issue of soaring gas prices which are threatening to plunge many domestic consumers into fuel poverty as we move through the winter towards next spring, plus disrupting and even halting industrial production: Ministers clash as industries pushed to brink over soaring gas prices – i news – 10.10.21 and: Gas crisis: Government faces growing pressure to tackle rising energy costs amid warnings of difficult winter – i news – 09.10.21.
And…as well as all of the above, there’s a CO2 shortage which is adversely affecting the food industry. This piece explains why there’s a shortage and what impact that’s having across various sectors: CO2 Shortage: Why Is The UK In Trouble? – HuffPost – 21.09.21.
So there we have it – a perfect clusterf**k situation. Some of the issues are arising from panic buying which turns a glitch into a self reinforcing crisis. That can’t hide an over reliance on overly complex systems that until now, have never really been stress tested. Now they’re coming under stress for the first time, some of these systems would appear to have been built on little more than hubris. By the way, this is coming in on top of an NHS that yet again, has not adequately prepared for winter, as it has not done now for many years.
When there are shortages of, or supply chain issues with, fuel and food, a fair chunk of an already spooked population will be looking to government to ‘sort it out’ by any means necessary, regardless of the cost in personal freedom. Which is why, now more than ever, we need grassroots mutual aid projects to help us meet our needs without having to rely upon a government that does not have our best interests at heart. On a positive note, there are actually many examples of grassroots mutual aid projects that are doing the business in their communities – here are just a couple of examples: Cooperation Town and: South Norwood Community Kitchen.