Last week, a fake news report on the internet declared that a solar storm would would interrupt radio and television transmissions and could even interfere with spacecrafts. A bad scenario, to be sure.

But later we were told not to worry because there is no sunspot activity and sunspots, particularly large groups of them, must be present before solar storms and accompanying flares can occur. Anyone with a telescope and a solar filter could have figured that out for themselves.

We’re all a bit inured to fictional “news,” so the no-show for the solar storm was no big deal. It did, however, highlight something serious and frightening, and that is how dependent upon technology we have become as a nation.

The fact is, a great majority of Americans would soon perish if our electric grid were knocked out. Some, living in rural areas, would have the know-how and savvy to survive and maybe even prosper. It is to those people that the less-adaptable would turn for sustenance.

Those rural Americans, mostly conservative in their political and social views, are the same group that liberals do their best to discredit and defame. So it would be ironic to the nth degree if, God forbid, a solar storm, or more likely, an attack upon our electrical grid by an enemy, put us back in the 19th century and the people who call us “deplorables,” “gun-toting bumpkins” and other childish appellations, were to turn to us for help.

Total dependence

Our near-complete dependence upon everything digital has changed us from a nation of jacks-of-all-trades to specialists who know nothing except that in which they specialize.

Modern “enlightened” Americans haven’t even the most basic notion of what it takes to survive in a world without electronics. Food, water, shelter and heat, our most basic needs, require people to grow the food, build the shelters, produce heating devices — all of which, with the exception of wood stoves, would be rendered inoperable in the case of an emergency — and locate potable water and make it available for our use. How many of us could accomplish even one of these tasks? Darn few, I suspect.

Nowadays, even our system of voting, with the exception of rural areas, depends upon electronics. Such a system must naturally experience problems, while the old tried-and-true method of manually placing an X in a box on a paper ballot never fails. In fact, some groups now advocate for a return to the paper ballot system.

Recreation and entertainment today center upon high-tech electronics. Our children, instead of playing outside and learning about the world (children see things in nature that adults mostly overlook), now sit inside, computerized device in hand, their eyes glued to a screen. That’s not living, not by a long shot.

Dubious progress

Of course our modern dependence upon technology has its pluses. Medical advances see us living longer and diseases that would once have killed us are mostly eradicated.

And sure, cell phones, those little handheld computers, are the greatest things since sliced bread. In fact, the large majority of us, even old fogies who do their best to eschew all things digital, have adapted to the brave new world. Octogenarians keep in touch via email and Skype. Computer programs help us to learn a wide array of skills without ever leaving home.

But with all this good news, comes an ever-so-faint call to get back to the basics. Or at least, learn some basic skills in the event of a national emergency.

And if and when such an emergency occurs, all the things we worry and fight about would become meaningless. All the liberal versus conservative friction would disappear. Politics would suddenly become null and void. We would all be forced to revert to our own resources, such as they might be.

In the case of the electric grid going down for an extended period, all our progress would be meaningless and useless. And then we would remember that at one time, America did just fine without high technology. Sailing ships, and later steamships, delivered goods and passengers the same as more advanced modes of transportation do today. Our railroads connected us much as interstate highways do today. And those steam-powered locomotives needed only coal and water.

Going forward

The last thing we need do is go back in time and revert to what we once were. Besides, it would be impossible. We lack the means to do that anyway. But at the least it would help us to learn a bit more about how to live without technology. And for that, rural Americans, those gun-loving, non-pc deplorables, may just be the ones to bring us back from the brink.

Tom Seymour is a freelance magazine and newspaper writer, book author, naturalist and forager. He lives in Waldo.