8th October 2021

Problems getting petrol?…

Supply chains everywhere are under strain – worldwide, Europe-wide, in post-Brexit Britain (especially, it seems).

You’ll have heard of the ‘just in time’ principle. Deliveries are scheduled  ‘just in time’ – to arrive at home, factory, depot or shop just when needed. Back in the seventies I visited a huge new ‘state of the art’ component storage warehouse. It’s all gone now. Now, hardly anything is stored. Everything should be delivered ‘just in time’. Until it’s not, that is….

In the immediate, of course, with shortages and panic buying, no one is talking about the wider implications: trucks use large amounts of fossil fuels; so do factories; roads need maintenance and improvement; countries are interconnected; folk fleeing war and terror and looking to better themselves emigrate and become immigrants – many more.

At the moment, attention is focussed on HGV drivers – pay and conditions; provision of parking and facilities. But what about ‘just in time’ itself?

It’s taken forty years for these ‘logistics’ systems to develop. Can they be dismantled? Should they be? Are we prepared – or able – to live differently; local supply, less driving, more storage, fewer contacts with foreigners?

Climate change may prove to be the thing that brings about such massive change but it’s not very visible. Petrol, pork, turkey and McDonald’s milkshake shortages are visible (as are higher gas bills…) – and remind us of how interdependent we are; how vulnerable. It’s only a few days before ‘just in time’ breaks down and our life is exposed for the fragile life it is… and then? Matthew 6:25–34, perhaps, or is that just too naïve for today’s world?

Michael Docker