It is clear that we need to prepare. What isn’t clear is what we might be preparing for. No one knows or can know. But I spend a lot of time trying to imagine what might happen and how it might come down.
I know there is talk (and the possibility) of a sudden collapse and anarchy with people dying and neighbors shooting each other to protect their own resources. But I wonder how, specifically, this might come to be. I can somewhat understand a sudden currency collapse. This seems like a very serious catastrophe with dangerous consequences, but temporary.
The far more serious scenarios, it seems to me, have to do with the end of fossil fuel and the depletion and ruin of the environment. And of these, the loss of cheap energy seems the most immediately problematic. But this seems like something that will happen over one or more decades. I imagine that once we can no longer keep up with oil demand (peak oil), the prices will go up dramatically. Once this happens, the economy will take a blow, with more and more self-perpetuating unemployment.
But, at the same time we will all be clamoring for alternative energy. There will be a mad dash to develop and expand renewables. Things like wind power, which don’t always make economic sense now, will certainly make sense with 200 or 500 dollar oil. This will put some people back to work. There will also be dramatic cuts in consumption and increases in conservation. Most of us in the US can do with out most of what we buy. All economies will be contracting dramatically. This will cut demand. And I bet we would be surprised how fast we can build the infrastructure we need to shift over to a post oil world. My fear is that we need to do this while there is still oil to accomplish the task!
Couple the oil shortage with a currency crises or collapse and the is no question that we will need immediate alternate sources for water, food, heat, etc. But I expect that the currency crisis will level out. A new currency system will likely be needed. But I don’t understand this. My limited understanding is that currency problems in other countries ended because of a rescue by larger countries. Obviously, there is no one big enough to rescue the US. So, how might this occur and how might it play out? How could a new currency be created? Could our current currencies be saved by default and the switch off of a credit based society?
Is there a scenario where we do not experience the sloping decline of fossil fuel? Is there some evidence to predict or suggest a sudden cliff on the other side of the peak?
One thing I assume is that industry leaders (including politicians) will hang on to the dream till the last possible second. But won’t their ability to sell us on a bright future end far before the fossil fuel runs out? Won’t the prices and the real explanation speak much more clearly than any story that might be crafted?
I can foresee a happier, healthier, more well-adjusted, less alienating world running pollution free on a far smaller amount of renewable energy. I just hope we pull it off with enough surplus energy to keeps us supplied with medicine, musical instruments, recorded music, insulation, coats, heat, food, books, etc.
So, what might happen? How might it look? This seems the first question to ask in answering the question of what might we need. I assume some things will be needed in any scenario, and some not. What are your thoughts?
The source of the decline/disruption matters in the sense of whether it is a temporary matter or a long term change. It is one thing to prepare for the grid being down for a week or two due to a regional ice storm where help is coming from afar versus it going down due to a nationwide cyber attack in which no help is coming and it is potentially of very long duration.
The other way of looking at this is the pace at which the decline/disruption unfolds. Peak oil implications are more gradual than abrupt. You have some time to adjust and react. You don’t just wake up one morning and find out gas for your car is no longer available. The economic implosion that we are in the midst of had its foundations created over the past few decades with the actual unraveling having begun over two years ago. It is a slow but steady burn so to speak and in either event (peak oil, economic implosion) we have had the ability to adjust and ready ourselves if we chose to do so. I don’t mean that to sound like we can fully mitigate such things but nobody should be caught completely by surprise if they have any awareness of the world around them. Anything that brings down the grid without warning on the other hand leaves us only as prepared as we happen to be at that moment in time.
The major slow change items that we have fair warning to prepare for are peak oil, economic implosion, and climate change. The sudden changes include the grid going down due to cyberwar, other forms of terrorism, a severe pandemic, or rmajor earthquakes perhaps. Even then it matters a lot whether we are talking a regional event vs a national event. By slow change I don’t mean perfectly steady. The economic implosion has been anything but steady but it is taking years to unfold. It accelerated last autumn and it will accelerate again but I don’t think it is a foregone conclusion that it just goes off the cliff and society ceases to function on a single day at some point. It could but it is not what I am expecting.
Natural calamities (ice storms, Katrina-like hurricanes, and major floods for example) are somewhere inbetween. They come on quick but you have some warning that they are coming.