Wednesday, June 6, 2007

the present is pregnant with the future

“the present is pregnant with the future.”
--voltaire



so maybe you’ve come to realize that we just can't keep going on like this.

cheap, abundant oil will eventually be a thing of the past, and alternatives to oil won’t keep us anywhere near our current levels of energy consumption. all systems dependent on cheap oil will have to be redesigned or they will fail.

these are the articles of faith for peakniks, and once you’ve gotten your brain around them (which may take some time), the next question is – what can we do?

what moves do we make? should we move from the suburbs to the city and prepare to stand in breadlines? move to the country and become farmers? should we get our own unabomber shacks and stock up on ammo?

and are asian pirates really coming to plunder cascadia??

spend some time googling and you’ll find there’s no shortage of advice out there based on no shortage of bleak predictions. we can at least take some small comfort in the knowledge that everyone who has made these predictions will turn out to be a little bit wrong, while others will be very wrong. (that's about the only safe prediction there is.)

having said that, i can’t help but check my own personal crystal ball and report what i see there:

* system failure means, among other things, economic catastrophe or even collapse. the economic angle is the only real angle as far as our politicians are concerned, which is (ironically) why no serious political discussion about ramping down our energy use will take place until it’s too late. keeping the economy running today will be seen as more important than what may happen next year.

* folks who deny that anything is wrong with how we live or that unwelcome changes may be coming will try to stay in denial as long as they possibly can.

* oil rationing will begin by means of higher prices. everyone will suffer but the poor will be hit hardest and first.

* people who never before thought about where their food came from will become intimately acquainted with their shrinking food chain. people who know how to grow some of their food will do best.

* life will get very local. eventually people won't often venture beyond a 100 mile radius. transportation will mean bikes, trains, and feet (human or animal).

* doing the typical survivalist thing - retreating to an isolated cabin (full of weapons) - is a really bad idea for lots of reasons. very few of us will be able to take care of all our food & water needs alone. we'll need other people. social networks will be more important than ever.

* small cities (less than a million) are probably the safest bet - larger cities will be hellish and middle-of-nowhere towns will be cut off without cheap transportation.

* money will be worth less (if not worthless). your 401k retirement isn't gonna happen. having goods to barter with (shampoo, razor blades) and good social connections will be what's valued.

* no matter where you live or how friendly you are, utopia isn't happening either - peak oil will hurt everyone.

collectively we face some huge obstacles, but the “relocalized” future will mean there won’t be one big collective but several small ones spread out over the more habitable regions of the world. some communities will deal with these issues head on and in a realistic fashion, and some simply won’t. few of us, regardless of country or economic condition, would cheerfully agree to live with less (although there are some excellent folks who are trying.) the majority will try to keep everything running the way it is for as long as they can. most people won’t change until they have no other option. and even then most still won’t change. you would do well to stay out of their way and take care of yourself, your family and your neighbors (assuming you know and like your neighbors.)

other predictions:

incidents of road rage will gradually decrease. standing-in-line rage and waiting-for-the-train rage will increase. drunk driving will decrease as drunk walking and drunk bike riding increases, with fewer innocent bystanders injured. people will eat more real food and less food “products”. you'll see fewer obese people and more homeless people. you’ll see fewer cars with only 1 person in them.

if things get really bad, stockbrokers may be retrained as undertakers.

but civilization won't collapse. law and philosophy and art will survive. some folks will keep their mozart sheet music and their pianos in tune. people will never stop painting and writing and singing and dancing.

love was never powered by oil. real love might make a comeback.

2 comments:

David said...

Very nice blog. I hope it grows and prospers, seeing as how it's not oil-powered. Oops, maybe it is. But as long as the oil lasts, I'll be reading. Cheers!

-- David

John Michael Greer said...

A good clear summary of the situation. Thank you for adding to the sanity in a conversation that sometimes gets pretty crazy.

-- JMG