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Oct 012012
 

The US alone uses a staggering 35+ billion disposable diapers every year. A worldwide shortage is about to occur.

Our first ever article on this site was about how a fire in a factory in a small town in Germany had worldwide implications in terms of creating a global shortage of a material needed in the production of new autos (in their brake and fuel systems).

This one fire in one factory created a supply chain problem for 3 – 6 months, and we used this to show the way the world is becoming increasingly dependent on – and vulnerable to – obscure things in far away places.  Rather than the world becoming more ‘fault tolerant’ and the global economy meaning we have more and more sources of everything and anything, the exact opposite has happened.  Production of sometimes critical items has been concentrated in only a few places, to serve the entire world.

It is almost six months from that inaugural post, and so to celebrate our ‘six month anniversary’ we’d like to circle back to where we started, and offer up another surprising example of a supply-side vulnerability.  This time it is with baby diapers.

A fire – this time in a chemical factory in Japan – has killed the production of a chemical used in disposable diapers – the chemical substance that makes the disposable diapers so super-absorbent.  This one factory had been producing 20% of the world’s entire supply of the chemical, and there was already a tight supply situation.  Details here.

So dropping from 100% to 80% mightn’t seem like a big deal, but it could have a massive impact on diaper pricing, potentially even doubling their cost, until such time as new capacity comes on-stream.  Think of it like a freeway – at 80% of capacity, even at 95% of capacity, traffic flows smoothly, at 100% of capacity, traffic jams up and at 101% of capacity, you have an instant parking lot.  Just like a small change in freeway traffic can have a big change in the driving experience, the supply/demand curve shows big changes in pricing can be caused by only small changes in demand.

What This Really Means to Us as Preppers

Of course, most of our lives were unchanged by the loss of the German factory’s chemical production and its impact on new auto manufacturing, and most of our lives will be unchanged by a diaper shortage too.  We’re not suggesting you need to stockpile obscure chemicals used in either auto or diaper manufacturing!

We’re simply offering this up as another example of how the world is becoming more vulnerable to unexpected events and the potentially major and long-term disruptions that may follow from them.  Rather than becoming more fault tolerant, today’s society and economy is more fault sensitive.  A prudent prepper is aware of the vague vulnerabilities in the world today, and carefully identifies the key critical parts of their life and their lifestyle, and creates backup plans for how to safeguard these things in the event of future disruption.

Whether you’re planning to withstand minor or major events, for the short-term or the long-term, it pays to be aware of what you rely upon and need, and to ensure you have plenty of this on hand.  If you wear glasses, you make sure you have spare pairs, just in case.  If you need medications, you keep as abundant a supply as you can, so if there’s a supply disruption for six months or a year, your personal health isn’t compromised.

And of course, if you like to, ummmm, eat food and drink water, you make sure that if there are disruptions to the supplies of both, you have alternate sources or supplies on hand for these essential parts of our lives, too.

Happy prepping.  Thanks for your support these first six months.  Hang around – we’ve lots more planned for the next six months and beyond – always assuming, of course, that we don’t have the shit hitting the fan in the meantime!  🙂

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David Spero[suffusion-the-author display='description']

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