how to save theworld? 2000-2045

Discussion in 'Tin Foil Hat Lounge' started by Tango3, Jan 31, 2007.

  1. Tango3

    Tango3 Aimless wanderer

    sorry text deleted for rather obvious copyright.

    One man's "post oil wind down" predictions based on"Theslowcrash" a post oil essay by ran priuer

    y Cyndy sent me the link to this prediction of life in the year 2000, written in 1961, before the Beatles, before the Kennedy assassination, and before personal computers and the Internet. Like most futuristic predictions of the time it was optimistic, focused on domestic life and heavily laced with amazing technology, especially transportation technology. It was mostly about having more, fancier stuff. And like most short-term predictions, it forecast more dramatic changes in the next X years than had been seen in the previous X years.

    Cyndy also links us to this extraordinary article by Ran Prieur, The Slow Crash, which predicts civilization will end not with a bang but with a whimper:

    What I'm focusing on here is the scenario that includes only events we're reasonably sure about: the end of cheap energy, the decline of industrial agriculture, currency collapse, economic "depression," wars, famines, disease epidemics, infrastructure failures, and extreme unpredictable weather.

    If that's all we get, the crash will be slower and more complex than the kind of people who predict crashes like to predict. There won't be any clear before, during, or after. Most people living during the decline and fall of Rome didn't even know it. After the 1929 stock market crash, respectable voices said it was a temporary adjustment, that the economy was still strong. Only years later, when we knew they were wrong, could we draw a line at 1929.

    I suggest we're already in the fall of civilization. In 2004 the price of oil doubled, bankruptcies and foreclosures accelerated, global food stockpiles fell to record lows despite high harvests, an apocalyptic religious cult hacked an election to tighten their control of the world's most powerful country, and we had record numbers of hurricanes and tornadoes -- and a big tsunami to top it off. If every year from here to 2020 is half as eventful, we'll be living in railroad cars, eating grass, and still waiting for the big crash we've been led to expect from watching movies designed to push our emotional buttons and be over in two hours.

    You know how it goes: Electricity and water and heat are off and not coming back on. Food and fuel will never again be coming into the cities. People "revert to savagery" or "anarchy," running wild in the streets killing and looting. If you live in the city, you will have to kill people to steal their food, or even eat them, and they'll be trying to do the same to you. If you live in the country, you'd better have a big gun to fend off the hordes of starving urbanites scouring the countryside. This condition will last until a strong leader rebuilds "civilization."

    I'm not entirely sure that the election was stolen, although Rayne has got me deeply worried about it. But the fact that both the US and China became net importers of food last year for the first time in half a century should be setting off alarm bells. So should the re-election in the most affluent country in the history of the world of a self-proclaimed "war president". So should the break-up of arctic and antarctic ice, and the plan by China to achieve US per-capita levels of wealth (and hence consumption) by burning huge amounts of coal and continuing to increase its use of oil, mostly from the Mideast, by 16% per year. So should the corporatists' rejection of Kyoto and of any limitations whatever to its staggering economic domination and the resultant subjugation and exploitation of much of the third world as impoverished, horrifically polluted, downtrodden economic colonies.

    Here are some of the key points that Ran makes about The Slow Crash, with my own two cents thrown in:
    • Peak Oil won't lead to Mad Max-style gangs stealing gasoline, but rather increasing unreliability of electrical power in the West (especially in poor areas, where residents will, like they do now in poor countries, find other make-shift ways to keep warm and heat their food), long line-ups, and (at last) conservation. "When the lights go out, we won't go berserk, we'll just go to bed earlier." We waste so much energy, that we can do with a lot less without hardship. But look for the suburbs, where dependence on oil is heaviest, to be hard hit by the resulting depression.
    • There will be famines, but they'll be like famines in the past -- isolated, endured, and mostly peaceful. They'll just be more frequent, so the 80 million who starved in Mao's China won't seem so remarkable or unusual. We'll see a huge increase in food costs, because oil is such a key component of the modern Western food system, and we'll get less variety in the stores and some rationing, but we'll also see a huge shift away from extravagantly wasteful agricultural practices (such as the use of 70% of farmland for animal feed and grazing). But except for the rich, we'll go vegetarian, we'll adapt, there will be no suffering here.
    • There won't be anarchy. No need for a gun to protect you from roving mobs, because individuals in desperate straits are smarter and have always found better ways of making ends meet than attacking rich white guys' houses. There will be lots of people begging, though. In economic depressions, there always are. "The function of propaganda is not to tell us what to think but to sink us deeper in what we already thoughtlessly believe: in this case, that in the absence of central control we get a dog-eat-dog universe full of shocking crimes. That's what we have now. The every-man-for-himself morality is a symptom of a culture that uses excess wealth and zero-sum competition to maintain hierarchy. In the absence of wealth and control, people get nicer. We learn to take responsibility, to work together, to help each other." That's precisely what happened in Argentina when the economy collapsed recently. Look there to see our future.
    • "I expect [ideologically-driven] genocide to compete with famine for the number two spot, still well behind disease, which historically has always been the biggest killer."
    • The slow collapse of the US dollar will make most imported goods unafffordable to most Americans, and lead to a rebirth of entrepreneurship and home-grown manufacturing. It will crush the economies (like China) dependent on US imports. Again as in Argentina recently, self-employment will be the only option for most Americans, and it will be subsistence but not uncomfortable. Interest rates will spike as a result. The burst of the housing bubble will follow, and after an initial rash of foreclosures we'll see what we always see when creditors realize they can't get blood from a stone: debt forgiveness, or at least indefinite deferral of repayment requirements. "One piece of advice: If you can sell off your stocks and get enough money to pay off your house, hurry!" Or you could be like Bush with his giant debt and play chicken: Bet that when you and a few hundred million others can't repay your mortgages that the banks will be forced to string you along indefinitely, that the bluff is just too big to call.
    At this point I part company with Ran: He gets into secret weapons, mass killings and even a "human consciousness shift". I know the latter, a great global "awareness" and coming-together idea is very popular among today's young, and among techies and sci-fi fans, but to me it is the antithesis of Ran's Slow Crash. If such a thing is possible it is far further in the future than the bullet-points above, so far away that I think it is foolish to think about it -- it's beyond the predictable 'event horizon'. What Ran predicts in the five bullets above: Oil crisis, large but localized famines and epidemic diseases, global economic depression and a resultant interest rate and debt crisis and 'pulling together' and more, local genocides, makes sense to me, based on everything I've read, and on my instincts. So I'm going to pick up from that point, and make my prediction for 2045, the same short-term forecast period as the 1961 technophile's prediction with which I started this article. Here we go:
    • Between now and 2045 the price of oil will whipsaw, caught between the natural supply/demand upward pressure (which suggests it should be selling for $160/bbl, not today's $45/bbl) and the political pressure, short-term greed, and ultimately (when the depression hits) inability of people to pay for it even though they need it to sustain their economy, all of which will put downward pressure on the price. Like the weather and currency and interest rates, we're in for a very rocky ride. We will learn to conserve, ration, find other ways, some healthy and some (burning coal, wood and nuclear) not, to get energy, and we'll get used to long line-ups followed by brief periods of surplus, and regular, lengthy blackouts.
    • The immediate consequences of this instability will be: (a) more political and military intervention by the West to try to control supply and hence prices; (b) the end of low interest rates and low inflation rates, as the oil price jumps trickle down through everything we consume that depends on oil, from food to cars to plastics to fabrics, but again, we'll see these rates whipsaw, and speculating and hedging the sudden up-and-down changes will become a Western obsession; (c) the demise of the US dollar as the dominant currency in favour of a much more stable combo of the Euro and the proposed new all-Asian currency unit, and the subsequent slow but steady decline in the value of the US dollar; (d) a global economic depression, as living beyond our means catches up to us -- the US and its main suppliers, China and Canada, and suburbs in urban agglomerations worldwide, will be the hardest hit; (e) a crash in stock markets and in Western housing prices, followed by a flood of money from third-world corporations and their richest citizens to buy up Western property at fire-sale prices, and then a prohibition on ownership of property by non-residents.
    • By 2045, in the face of this economic tumult, we'll have a New New Deal. The untrammeled 'free' market economy, 'free' trade, globalization and corporatism will have been completely discredited, and people will be working together at both a community and a national and international level to rebuild the economy. Unfortunately, short-term expediency will again dominate thinking at the expense of sustainability, so while 2045 may be a banner year for human cooperation and collaboration, it will be just one more horrific year for the environment. Conventional wisdom will be that we just won't have the luxury to worry about our planet's health when human health and well-being are in such precarious condition.
    • In 2045 the global footprint, the amount of resources used by humans as a percent of the planet's ability to regenerate them, will be about the same as it had been a decade earlier, about 300% (today it is 120%). The burning of coal and wood will have been the greatest contributors to the increase, along with population growth, which will defy optimistic predictions and track the UN's 'upper-middle' forecast track, reaching 9 billion by 2045 with a projection of 12 billion by 2085.
    • Famine will have hit in several areas of Asia, Africa and Latin America, but the total death toll of 200 million since 2010 will not have significantly affected total population. New epidemic diseases will have become the newest fear, with new annual outbreaks becoming the norm, and 10-20 million dying each year, but again, not enough to significantly offset the immigrantion-driven overall population increase. Part of the New New Deal will be the prohibition of using land for animal feed or grazing, and scientists will have already come up with vegetable-based proteins to substitute for animal proteins, so the people will have become vegans without even really being aware of it -- they will still call the vegetable-based protein foods they buy 'meat' and 'eggs' and 'cheese' and they will still look and feel and taste the same. Because of health scandals and financial non-viability, fish 'farming' will also have ceased and animal proteins will have replaced this food sector as well.
    • The loss of almost all Earth's forests, much of it for the burning of wood for fuel, will have accelerated global warming and made weather enormously unpredictable. It will also have led to the desertification of most of Earth's former rainforest areas, and the complete inability of vast areas of the planet to support any agriculture whatsoever (since there will be insufficient oil to waste on soil fertilizer). A large proportion of agriculture will have moved indoors by 2045.
    • The first great fresh-water shortages will have hit by 2045, following three consecutive very hot years, and fresh water will be rationed. Use of fresh water for non-essential purposes like watering lawns will be a criminal offense. But although the rationing will hit some industries especially hard, just as the New New Deal was starting to work, the shortage will not be life-threatening.
    • The big corporations of 2005 will mostly still be around in 2045, but mostly by default: Their stranglehold on the economy will have stifled innovation and entrepreneurship through most of the intervening 40 years, until they too fell victim to the Great Depression of the 2030s. The period from 2035-2045 saw the big corporations lay off most of their already depleted staff, and cease most operations, but sit on their accumulated wealth. Entrepreneurs followed the example of early 21st century Argentina, seizing and occupying the idle facilities of these big corporations and running them as co-ops, as part of a huge entrepreneurial decade-long boom driven by economic desperation, modest 'subsistence' expectations, and great collaboration and ingenuity of people with no other way to make a living. The fight over 'squatter's rights' to idle corporate assets still rages in the courts.
    • Nuclear weapons were first deployed in 2015 in a war between India and Pakistan, which then exploded into a regional war encompassing the Mideast and seeing the limited use of new nuclear weapons by the US to protect its strategic political and economic interests there. Since that time they have been used again by the US in wars in Venezuela, Libya, Congo and Indonesia, all ostensibly for peace-keeping purposes.
    • The United Nations continues to meet in its new headquarters in Brussels, but since the US withdrew in 2010, its power and authority has been greatly diminished.
    • Terrorists from 35 different countries have made attacks on other countries, in addition to the never-ending cycles of civil war that continue to plague most of the third world. Terrorists attempted to use nuclear weapons on several occasions, but only once (in Indonesia) successfully. International terrorist organizations now prefer to use biological weapons, which require much less money and no state sanction to develop, and which have successfully been used in attacks on dozens of countries. There is a never-ending 'arms race' between new bioweapons used by extremists and the development of vaccines and anti-toxins and inoculation of people in the wealthy nations in response to, or anticipation of, each new development. Ten times as many Westerners die from effects of the vaccines and anti-toxins as die from the weapons themselves, but neither number is yet large and it it considered an inevitable cost of the war on terrorism.
    This prediction may sound dire, but it's not all that different from what the world went through in the 1930s and 1940s, and humanity is essentially the same species now we are then. I'm also not predicting anything radically different from what the world has already seen, in one form or another -- no unprecedented crash, no global plague, no end of civilization or of the world as we know it. That could come later in the century, but not by 2045. Contrast this world in 2045 versus 2005, and compare the degree of difference between 2005 and 1965, and I think you'll see the changes are comparable, consistent and, sadly, recurrent. What I'm predicting is not inconsistent with the predictions in The Fourth Turning, a well-researched but annoying 1997 book that tells us we're destined (or doomed) to repeat the cycles of history at an ever-increasing scale of magnitude.

    In 2045 I will be, if I'm still alive, 93 years old. My grand-daughters will be about the age I am today. I can picture them now, lamenting, on whatever takes the place of blogs by then, the malaise of our society, its short-sightedness and preoccupation with immediate crises, our inability to learn the lessons of the past. They will be pleased about the growing awareness of the need to, and willingness to, conserve, and about the re-birth of entrepreneurship and innovation in the search for answers to the pressing economic and social problems of the day.

    They will probably still have big mortgages, and the threat of foreclosure will hang over them, as it will everyone else, but that will be just one more of the daily stresses they have learned to endure, to adapt to, as we have in our time. They will live more for the moment, in their 50s, than I do today in mine. But as the clock ticks on, as the overpopulation and despoiling and exhaustion of the planet continues at an unceasing and inexorable, but almost imperceptibly slow pace, will they still cling to hope that the next generation will be able to solve the problems they leave unaddressed? Will they even notice that the fate of all life on Earth has probably already passed The Tipping Point? Should we expect them to be any different from us?

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