Recently, a colleague of mine - Lloyd Walker, to whom I am indebted - brought to my attention a page of 40 maps that might interest a futurist . The accompanying map was one of them. Apparently, a cargo of rubber dolls was lost into the Pacific in 1992, and this map charts where they made landfall, and in what volumes. It charts not only the route of the flotsam, but also an idea of the time scale used in reaching the eventual destination.
So what, you might say? Wild card thinking involves the connecting of apparently disparate data points so that we are not surprised by apparently unlinked events which combine to give us a nasty shock. A recent story about Fukushima caught my attention, and as I read it, I thought of this map . Apparently, the highly radioactive and highly toxic water that has been used to cool the reactors at Fukushima has been leaking into the Pacific Ocean. The water is so toxic that can deliver a 5 year dose of radiation to casual bystanders. 400,000 tons of water are held at the site, 300 tons of which have leaked into the Pacific Ocean.
Much of the radioactive waste will initially stay close to the coast of Japan. However, over a period of time, a combination of wind and tides will disperse it, but to where and when? The model provided in the map gives us a clue about the eventual destination - initially back around the Pacific via the west coast of the US and Canada as early as this year, then eventually the Great Barrier Reef, the Spice Islands, then perhaps the east coast of the US and Canada by the end of this decade, before eventually arriving off the coast of Europe from 2025 onwards.
This is a nightmare scenario in itself, but it could get a lot worse. There is minimal earthquake protection afforded to the tanks holding the water. Another round of seismic activity in their area could well spill a much larger volume of the toxic water into the Pacific Ocean. That would make things a lot worse. At the moment this remains a remote possibility, but that is the core territory of the wild card scenario. The consequences of this happening would be so bad that surely we would want to protect ourselves from it happening?
If so, we could start by bullying the Japanese government into acting to make the water tanks resilient to further seismic activity. We could also act to create an international framework through which the eventual clean up of the toxic waste, when it makes landfall, is paid for by the Japanese authorities. Much harm will be done to marine life in the intervening period as the waste makes its way around the globe, and that ought to be compensated as well. We live in a highly interconnected world and these small events in far off places can have profound consequences upon us. That is what defines wild card events.
© The European Futures Observatory 2013
 http://www.eufo.org/uploads/1/4/4/4/14444650/wfr_june_2013_aguilar-millan.pdf for my article 'Playing The Wild Card'.
 http://twistedsifter.com/2013/08/maps-that-will-help-you-make-sense-of-the-world/ for the set of 40 maps. We have used Map #19.
http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/asia/radiation-crisis-at-japans-fukushima-nuclear-plant-deepens-as-threat-level-raised-to-serious-8778137.html for the background story about the leakages from Fukushima.