ON THE COMING PROBABLE COLLAPSE OF HIGH TECH CULTURES
We don’t have to wait for global warming to bake us in the inescapable atmospheric oven before we begin to suffer. The collapse of techno civilization will come even sooner, where, in a normal summer afternoon at 50C/122F in the shade, where often there is no shade, you will not be able to run your A/Cs due to prolonged blackouts, and you won’t be able to have even temporary relief with your car’s A/C, because there will be no gasoline to run your car.
This will come abruptly in the not too distant future, perhaps a matter of one or two decades if not mere years, when our ever escalating demand for oil intersects oil’s own geometrical decline. Given that peak oil is long past, while peak demand is still somewhere in the murky future, the crash is inevitable. I have always shaken my head in disbelief when I read about projections saying that by year 2050 we will have cut oil consumption by so many percent. It never fails to amaze me to see people still buying new gasoline cars, when the days of affordable oil, and of oil itself, are numbered.
The oil-price graph will have peaks and valleys in micro-adjustments to supply and demand, but it will be in a generally upward trend due to the ever-rising demand and the ever dwindling supply. And there will come a time when one of these peaks will rise so high as to be unreachable by individuals and corporations alike. Oil companies are deviously inducing consumers to burn as much gas as possible for their maximum short-term profit, but in so doing, they hasten their own demise, alas, along with our own.
When this happens, the energy-dependent societal infrastructures, most notably the transportation system, especially that sector dealing with food distribution, be it in the form of trucks, trains, ships or planes, will all more or less grind to a halt. Grocery store shelves previously brimming with imported food such as spinach from China or bananas from Latin America, will be empty. Gasoline pumps will be dry. Abandoned car will be everywhere, many with keys left in the ignition, and no one will steal them.
Those who are well grounded in the global communication network, such as FaceBook, and cell-phones, should get used to the idea that the World Wide Web will have disintegrated, and they will feel isolated.
When we have fuel and food in the same sentence, something has to give. In the face of severe fuel and food shortage, and they are related, we have to decide on whether to use our drought shrunken crops of soy and corn for food or for fuel (ethanol), and in the case of food on whether the soy and corn should serve as human food or cattle feed, bearing in mind that it take 10-20kg of feed to produce 1kg of meat. If the former, the cattle will starve, and if the latter, then while the super-rich will continue munching on juicy steaks, the masses of humans will starve. The sad situation is that even the best scenario is a bad scenario, because there is simply no net-good human action that will result in any good scenario.
Major metropolises such as London, Los Angeles or New York City, and cities that are normally hot and dry, like Las Vegas or Phoenix, will not be pleasant places to be in. Given the stagnation of the food transportation system, most food available will be locally grown, it will be difficult to grow enough food within a large city to feed the entire populace, especially factoring in water shortages. I would not rule out emaciated corpses in the street. Law and order will have broken down and robbing and looting will be commonplace. And when it comes to the dead of winter closing in, many will be frozen to death.
Residents will try to emigrate to surrounding areas, by bicycle or on foot, but where are they to go? Along the miles and miles of hot and dry highways people will drop like flies. And those surviving will overwhelm the surround rural areas. If your family has a small farm on the outskirts of a major metropolis, consider it taken over and you possibly ousted if not killed. I suspect that gun-fire will be a common sound. The murder rate will be by the dozen per day.
There will be areas where the impact will be less severe, which are already serviced by electricity grids centred upon extant large-scale solar and wind installations, e.g. parts of eastern California and central Texas. Bear in mind, however, that most of our day to day commodities are derived from oil, including all plastic products, tires (each car tire requires 7 gallons of gasoline to make), pharmaceuticals, electronics, computers, buildings, and basically everything that requires oil to manufacture (e.g. entire cars). So, once these items have been used up, it cannot be expected that new products will take their place.
This does not necessarily mean that there will be no oil left anywhere in the world, but much of it will be in government controlled storage facilities for the most essential of governmental services, perhaps to the tune of several hundred million barrels in the United States. This may sound like a lot, but the formula is that one billion barrels can feed the current U.S. demand for only 8 weeks. If civilian usage is cut off, it would last longer, but not forever. And a large part of it will still go towards the military against likely oil-grab invasions, or worse, towards invading another country for their oil-in-storage, or whatever oil fields that still remain. Canada, with its still extensive tar sands, for example, will be a prime target, and the Arctic, with its ice cap melted off and its polar oil reservoirs accessible to deep water drilling, as well as its easily accessible methane hydrate deposits on land and on the shallow continental shelves, will likely be a global battlefield.
So, what can the individual citizens do to ensure their own survival? This brings us to the concept of the deep rural green community, which should have the following properties:
1. It should be beyond walking distance from a major metropolis, and topographically easy to defend.
2. It should be water-self-sufficient, i.e. on a river-front, lake-front, or has its own year-round stream or well, as well as enough rainfall.
3. It should be food-self-sufficient, i.e. endowed with a good stock of foundational organic seeds (no Monsanto please!), and enough land to produce enough food for the entire community.
4. It should be energy-self-sufficient, employing renewable energy sources only with on site solar panels and wind turbines, some biofuels, all electric appliances, including electric vehicles, solar cars for long distance travel, and enough batteries to store enough electricity.
5. It should comprise people with a broad range of knowledge and skills, including academic, agricultural, medical and technical.
6. It should be animal-friendly, both domestic and wild.
If you would like to explore this idea further, please like and comment.
Good luck to us all.
Anthony Marr, Founder and President
Heal Our Planet Earth (HOPE)
Global Anti-Hunting Coalition (GAHC)