Recently 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:
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:
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?
The intriguing graphic above is from a Rutgers University study asking whether 9/11 or The End of Oil could be the catalyst for the predicted ‘Fourth Turning’. The graphic is available in a legible wall-sized version on the site.
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My Bio, Contact Info, Signature PostsAbout the Author (2016)
--- My Best 100 Posts --
Preparing for Civilization's End:
What Would Net-Zero Emissions Look Like?
Why Economic Collapse Will Precede Climate Collapse
Being Adaptable: A Reminder List
A Culture of Fear
What Will It Take?
A Future Without Us
Dean Walker Interview (video)
The Mushroom at the End of the World
What Would It Take To Live Sustainably?
The New Political Map (Poster)
Complexity and Collapse
Save the World Reading List
What a Desolated Earth Looks Like
Giving Up on Environmentalism
The Dark & Gathering Sameness of the World
The End of Philosophy
The Boiling Frog
What to Believe Now?
Conversation & Silence
The Language of Our Eyes
Cultural Acedia: When We Can No Longer Care
Several Short Sentences About Learning
Why I Don't Want to Hear Your Story
A Harvest of Myths
The Qualities of a Great Story
The Trouble With Stories
A Model of Identity & Community
Not Ready to Do What's Needed
A Culture of Dependence
So What's Next
Ten Things to Do When You're Feeling Hopeless
No Use to the World Broken
Living in Another World
Does Language Restrict What We Can Think?
The Value of Conversation Manifesto Nobody Knows Anything
If I Only Had 37 Days
The Only Life We Know
A Long Way Down
No Noble Savages
Figments of Reality
Too Far Ahead
The Rogue Animal
How the World Really Works:
If You Wanted to Sabotage the Elections
Collective Intelligence & Complexity
Ten Things I Wish I'd Learned Earlier
The Problem With Systems
Against Hope (Video)
The Admission of Necessary Ignorance
Several Short Sentences About Jellyfish
A Synopsis of 'Finding the Sweet Spot'
Learning from Indigenous Cultures
The Gift Economy
The Job of the Media
The Wal-Mart Dilemma
The Illusion of the Separate Self:
Did Early Humans Have Selves?
Nothing On Offer Here
Even Simpler and More Hopeless Than That
What Happens in Vagus
We Have No Choice
Never Comfortable in the Skin of Self
Letting Go of the Story of Me
All There Is, Is This
A Theory of No Mind
The Ever-Stranger (Poem)
The Fortune Teller (Short Story)
Non-Duality Dude (Play)
Your Self: An Owner's Manual (Satire)
All the Things I Thought I Knew (Short Story)
On the Shoulders of Giants (Short Story)
Calling the Cage Freedom (Short Story)
Only This (Poem)
The Other Extinction (Short Story)
Disruption (Short Story)
A Thought-Less Experiment (Poem)
Speaking Grosbeak (Short Story)
The Only Way There (Short Story)
The Wild Man (Short Story)
Flywheel (Short Story)
The Opposite of Presence (Satire)
How to Make Love Last (Poem)
The Horses' Bodies (Poem)
Distracted (Short Story)
Worse, Still (Poem)
A Conversation (Short Story)
Farewell to Albion (Poem)
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