Top 4 Decentralization Benefits & Advantages in Environmental Disasters

Top 4 Decentralization Benefits & Advantages in Environmental Disasters

3-minute read

Here are my experiences on the benefits and advantages that decentralization offers through the lens of environmental disasters.

 Astonishing how this is merely a fraction of global environmental disasters, but from 2017 to 2020, the six crises below painfully illustrated to me the importance of decentralization. 

Environmental disasters and other crises (in general) expose supply chains' weakest links. Globalization has allowed businesses to reap immense profits by allowing for sourcing of the extraction of materials, manufacturing, and labor costs to be done in regions where costs are lowest in price. Consumers gain an immediate benefit of having cheaper product and service costs; however, both consumers and businesses end up paying for more significant consequences in the long-term. These externalized costs show up in the form of supply chain breakdowns, failures to respond and be resilient to disasters, and unfortunately, it is the most economically vulnerable people at the bottom of the pyramid who bear the brunt of these costs.

Decentralization Hurricanes of Benefits and Advantages

Decentralization is a state of operation where systems are locally dependent and self-sustained. 

Category 5 hurricanes Irma and Maria devastated the Caribbean Islands, where I had spent several weeks on a house building project. In addition to having homes, roads, and commercial buildings destroyed, Puerto Rico (as well as other islands) had lost access to potable water, electricity, necessary sanitation infrastructure, and was in critical demand for food.

In my network, I came to discover that there were already individuals who were fortunate enough to be owners of solar panels, rain tanks, water filters, and edible gardens. They were generating their own electricity from solar power, collecting food from their trees and vegetable garden, as well as collecting, storing, and filtering rainwater. These individuals had decentralized their dependencies on some of the most basic necessities of life—unlike the millions of people who were left to desperately search for solutions to the lack of food, water, and energy.

Inspiringly, these self-sufficient individuals became hubs for community support and resilience. They shared excess supplies of what they were able to harvest, store, and generate.

Fiery Benefits and Advantages to Decentralization

Wildfires in California were familiar to me, as more than 20 years of my life exposed me to dozens of them. The fires from 2017-2018 would scar me for life. They were some of the most destructive and hottest fires that burned the homes of my friends and came right up to my doorstep. 

Being forced to leave your home to run away from an environmental disaster that could destroy everything you have ever owned, items in which you have bestowed countless memories, is an experience I will never forget. You find yourself suddenly assessing what is truly important to you and will occupy the precious little amount of what you can take with you.

In just two years, I was impacted by: 

  • 2017 Detwiler Fire 

  • 2017 Thomas Fire 

  • 2018 Woolsey Fire 

  • 2018 Camp Fire

With urgency, I have trenched fire lines, irrigation lines, installed water tanks, and collected food and fuel in these terrifying situations.

Wondering what's going to happen to your rent, utility bills, job, and credit card payments is secondary. 

Family, friends, food, water, energy, shelter, and where you are going to poop and pee are your top seven concerns.

I quickly learned that the people who have fire-resistant homes (built of bricks, clay, or adobe— and there were not many) usually fared the best than the rest of us. People who had fire-resistant homes, water storage tanks, solar panels, fruit trees, and vegetable gardens were in the best position. When there was plenty; guest rooms, water, food, and energy were shared.

A COVID-19 Poop-demic of Benefits and Advantages to Decentralization

decentralization benefits and advantages toilet paper

Now COVID-19. This pandemic has kicked our global and local economies square in the head. As disappointing and in some ways comical as it is, toilet paper became worth more than gold for a moment. 

In one hand, every store was out of stock and people were fighting over it. On the other hand, the more resilient and unaffected people in my network had bidets or were practitioners of using and growing mullein and lamb's ear (plush plant leaves) for their toiletry needs.

Create a list of pros and cons to owning a disaster-resilient home, growing food, harvesting and storing water, and producing your own power.

What are the benefits and advantages that decentralization has to offer you, your community, and the world?