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Distributed Production in the Age of Disruption

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It was 2012 when I stumbled upon my first micro-distillery. Initially, I was simply excited about having come across something novel and having found another pathway to source locally. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized, and came to understand, how crucial micro-distilling was to creating resilient communities.

Flash-forward 8 years later, and enter the coronavirus pandemic and COVID-19 emergency. Whole cities, entire nations, billions of people in lockdown. Global supply chains broken and in tatters. Store shelves completely emptied of hand sanitizer and isopropyl alcohol. Who steps in to fill the void? Local micro-distilleries.

The thing is, the disruption caused by the coronavirus will not even begin to compare to the disruption we will experience from climate change. The web of global commerce, almost entirely dependent upon the use of fossil fuels, automation, and shipping, will become untenable, suffering one catastrophe after another. The solution to this terrifying realization: distributed, decentralized production.

This is what I realized when I got into craft distilling. Having grown up in an extremely isolated corner of Montana, I understood what it meant to be at the very end of a long supply chain. Having worked for years in incident management, I recognized the risk disruptive events posed to a system reliant upon centralized production, monopolistic distribution models, and long-haul trucking over lengthy transportation routes. In this context, micro-distilling appeared. This, more than any other factor, was why I created MicroShiner — to help drive the development of distributed distillation capacity across the landscape.

Why distilling? Because, as I have mentioned before, alcohol in general, but distillation in particular, plays a critical role in the establishment and maintenance of human civilization. As we have seen in the crisis caused by the coronavirus pandemic, distilleries produce a lot more than just liquor. And that liquor they do produce is capable of preserving vast amounts of calories from surplus fermentables for indefinite periods of time, which could mean the difference between life and death to an isolated community.

This is why distributed production capacity is so important. When we have the ability to produce things locally, particularly necessary items like preserved food and electricity, disruptions to the supply chain are much less relevant. It doesn’t matter if Kentucky gets hit by a tornado or California is destroyed by an earthquake (fortune forbid they do), because the basic needs of each community can be met locally.

That is the definition of resilience. That is the intent behind distributed systems. That is the mission of MicroRyu.

Paul Beran — 1964 — Rand.org




microryu is a school of thought that celebrates decentralization

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Cobey Williamson

Cobey Williamson

small is beautiful

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