Sunday, May 11, 2008

Crisis? What Crisis?

While most people take comfort in knowing that they may be/are right, this is one case where I really, really hope that I'm wrong.

As of this writing, oil is over $126USD/barrel, the local gas station now charges $1.35 per litre of gas, food riots are occurring in Asia and Africa, global grain are increasing, leading to higher prices for staples here in North America and starvation and famine overseas, subprime mortgages are causing mass foreclosures and homelessness across America, and the world population just went past 6.666666666 billion people.

All of these are just ingredients to a perfect storm that will easily erode the global social infrastructure, leading to panic, chaos, civil unrest, and the downfall of western civilization.

This is something I've written about previously (see archives for more details) and I've realized that most people don't want to deal with it directly. Heck, I don't want to deal with it directly. The concept of the downfall of civilization is sobering and depressing. Who wants to think that their way of life is going to change for the worst? Who wants to think that all of humanity's great achievements will be lost and forgotten? Who wants to think about all of the mass employment that will result as the vast majority of industries dependent on energy will gradually become irrelevant? Aerospace, computers, film, electronics, robotics, automotive mechanics, airline travel, space exploration...all obsolete.

As much as I can hope and pray for a soft landing after our tumbling from the peak of civilization, I fear that it's not going to happen. Hurricane Katrina served as a horrible warning of what we can expect - the dissolution of social infrastructure leads to chaos. Katrina was evil mirror opposite of 9/11, where 9/11 was responded with an immediate outpouring of support, but the people of New Orleans were left to their own devices. So, when social infrastructure is completely powered by oil, what can we expect, except mini Hurricane Katrinas all over the world?

Ass-backwards approaches to the way we do things hasn't been helping matters along. In an effort to conserve oil, somebody thought it was a great idea to divert food stocks (ie: corn) and turn them into ethanol to power our monster SUVs and minivans, even though research indicates that the energy return on energy invested is negative. We regularly consume meat, even though we're essentially running at a fraction of energy efficiency, consuming 7 kilograms of grain to breed 1 kilogram of beef.

Many of our problems are indicative of a peak in oil production, given how much the price has increased lately (a gain of $30 a barrel in less than 5 months, $12 gain in less than a week), but we've been all focused on trying to curtail global warming and climate change. In effect, there's a strong possibility that the peak in oil production may essentially take care of the problem. With everybody priced out of the market and too poor to afford stuff, trucks will stop hauling our coveted Walmart crap across the country, China will stop spewing factory fumes into the air, and cars will be pulled off the road because no one can afford to fill up their tanks anymore.

Maybe, JUST MAYBE, after all the dust has settled, then we can work on rebuilding civilization to a more sustainable state. More emphasis on family, community, and the environment, less emphasis on consumption and individual achievement. The people will live healthier, happier, with less environmental toxins and pollutions and stress.

So will it be a soft landing or a crash landing? Well, at least if it's a crash landing, we'll recover faster.

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