Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Nice day for an apocalypse

It's time for another doom post; various portents and omens have been crossing the threshold all day.

First, some old reliables:

James Kunstler takes advantage of the warm weather on the East Coast to worry about the really warm weather that might come in the summer. He prophesies food shortages:

My guess is that the weird weather we are getting will increasingly affect crop yields. With populations growing, and weather anomalies increasing, grain surpluses worldwide are now at their lowest point in decades. All the major grain-growing regions have suffered either significant drought (US, Australia, Ukraine, China, Argentina) or flooding (East Africa, India) in recent years.

John Robb warns against "catastrophic superempowerment" (there's the new word of the day), which basically means technology getting into the hands of those who wish us ill. Specifically, he is worried about bioterrorism. Nuclear technology turns out to be difficult and expensive and require scarce expertise. On the other hand biotech is trending towards being extremely cheap and simple. He puts a black twist on another catchy new phrase, "tinkering networks", which is usually used by enthusiastic theorists of open-source and the like:

Not only will large events be more likely, we will likely see the development of a fat tail composed of small events by careless practitioners as tinkering networks develop to take advantage of this newfound superempowerment. Finally, as we saw with Phishing networks, some of these tinkerers will naturally flow into criminal networks that will actively produce weapons of bioterror for profit, and thereby become critical contributors to the global open source war now underway.

Next, on a lighter note of doom the Idiocracy DVD is out today!

Finally, a bold offering by a new name (to me anyway) in doomsaying, Dmitry Orlov, who tells us in Closing the 'Collapse Gap': the USSR was better prepared for peak oil than the US, that we fat-assed Americans are much less prepared to weather a catastrophic economic/social/climactic collapse than the USSR was.
Slide [6] An economic collapse is amazing to observe, and very interesting if described accurately and in detail. A general description tends to fall short of the mark, but let me try. An economic arrangement can continue for quite some time after it becomes untenable, through sheer inertia. But at some point a tide of broken promises and invalidated assumptions sweeps it all out to sea. One such untenable arrangement rests on the notion that it is possible to perpetually borrow more and more money from abroad, to pay for more and more energy imports, while the price of these imports continues to double every few years. Free money with which to buy energy equals free energy, and free energy does not occur in nature. This must therefore be a transient condition. When the flow of energy snaps back toward equilibrium, much of the US economy will be forced to shut down.


Slide [7] I've described what happened to Russia in some detail in one of my articles, which is available on SurvivingPeakOil.com. I don't see why what happens to the United States should be entirely dissimilar, at least in general terms. The specifics will be different, and we will get to them in a moment. We should certainly expect shortages of fuel, food, medicine, and countless consumer items, outages of electricity, gas, and water, breakdowns in transportation systems and other infrastructure, hyperinflation, widespread shutdowns and mass layoffs, along with a lot of despair, confusion, violence, and lawlessness. We definitely should not expect any grand rescue plans, innovative technology programs, or miracles of social cohesion.

Slide [8] When faced with such developments, some people are quick to realize what it is they have to do to survive, and start doing these things, generally without anyone's permission. A sort of economy emerges, completely informal, and often semi-criminal. It revolves around liquidating, and recycling, the remains of the old economy. It is based on direct access to resources, and the threat of force, rather than ownership or legal authority. People who have a problem with this way of doing things, quickly find themselves out of the game.

Read the whole thing, as they say. The gist is that the US hypercapitalist society is going to be much less adaptable to new conditions than was the grungy, corrupt, crony-based culture of the USSR. This guy and Jim Kunstler would get along well.

Now I'm going to go hide under the covers.

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