Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Response Coordination


Maura officially remains a special agent of the U.S. Extinction Response Unit. Prior to being attached and operationally reporting directly to WICO she worked out of the USERU’s field office in Denver, developing local strategy options and helping identify their potential outcomes (the latter of which she was doing with the global strategy when I was summoned). Today we visited the field office, whose personnel have been tasked with coordinating the strategy’s execution in the Rocky Mountain states.

Regional Director Felicity Jonas greeted us warmly and then compared notes with Maura on the status of preparations for the roll-out. After the attack on WICO, USERU made educated guesses about that the final strategy would look like, with emphasis on the national strategy’s inputs, and yesterday finished a review comparing their guesses with the current version of the strategy. Sally had been particularly helpful in the review, which she was simultaneously doing with extinction response units in the other nations. 

“Our guesses were pretty close,” Jonas said as the briefing wrapped up. “Locally we have a couple dozen action items that we can address by the end of the month, no sweat. After that, and until the execution date, we’ll be enlisting public and local governments to refine the impact reduction criteria and translate them into activity plans on a granular level. Do you think you can help us with that, Maura?”

“That’s one of the reasons I’m here,” she replied, giving me a knowing look. “I’m expecting a full report on my team’s personal environmental assessment suggestions and related test plans by end-of-business today. I’ll review them tonight, and I’d like to get your take on them tomorrow morning.” She explained that individuals could use such approaches for high-level detection and assessment during the initial phase, while more technology intensive approaches would be applied to conditions expected to be too large or unsafe. “It will improve the overall efficiency, and give us critical feedback for developing the next version, which will eventually be dominant. For those reasons, we should test them as soon as possible. After you see what we’ve got, I’d like to brainstorm how we can leverage what you’re doing with the activity plans.”

“Agreed,” Jonas said. “Meanwhile, I’ll pass this up the chain of command to see if any other regions can get involved.”

“Will’s next blog post should make that easier,” Maura suggested.

After we left, she suggested we do some sight-seeing and talk about the next steps, beginning with the radical idea I mentioned in yesterday’s post.

As she drove us into the mountains, I gave her an overview. “It’s related to a discussion I had with Sally back on February 7. I know because last night I looked up a post that I wrote then. Ambassador Lazlo even commented on it the next day. People are reacting to their environmental conditions in some ways like other animals do. We’re so used to looking at big picture statistics that we don’t see how it can scale to everyday experience.”

I waited for a reaction. “You mean, people are the detectors?” she asked.

“You got it,” I confirmed. “When people lived in nature all the time they were doing exactly what we want to do, with nothing more than what they could carry. We evolved to routinely make environmental assessments just to survive. Clearly some of it is still happening, affecting how happy we are, how many children we have, and how long we each live. If you believe Sally’s statistics, it even affects how much we trade with each other.”

“But life expectancy is tied to technology,” she argued, “and the economy depends on who is trading with who.”

I had thought a lot about those questions before falling asleep. “We still get sick, even fatally so, which is a direct effect of the toxins we breathe, drink, and eat. As for the economy, the quality and distribution of resources are averaged out in the stats, but they don’t have to be.”

“You sound more like a scientist than a journalist every day,” she observed.

“I like to read as much as I like to write. Also, I have a lot of smart friends.” She smiled, but I was specifically thinking of someone else. “You know what? I think it’s time for you to meet one of those other friends.”

Reality Check

Near the end, Will was of course referring to the correlations between remaining ecological resources and the global variables he cited. In my simulations, I have not used specific distributions of resources but rather inferred them from historical trends, essentially treating populations as resource distribution detectors. In the characters’ quest to test, I’m basically presenting a case for testing the assumptions and results of the simulations on small scales.

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