My formal background is in philosophy of science and logic. In college years (late 1970s) I came across LIMITS TO GROWTH, whose premises and conclusions I accepted. Not long after, as a consultant in systems and software, I became early aware of the Y2K situation, and observed at first hand the social aspects of the professional and public response (and lack thereof).
Just so you know, I don't believe much of real life falls into binary categories - yes/no, true/false. I prefer probabilities which fall somewhere between 0 and 1, and Fuzzy Logic wherein something may be both one thing and its opposite, simultaneously and to varying, overlapping degree. Thus, when I state or imply anything as fact, that's shorthand for I'm confident that...
Exponential growth in virtually all metrics of human economy is generates a tightly coupled decline in virtually all global resource metrics.
Each period of doubling consumes the equivalent of all previous periods, combined. It appears that we have passed global peak on a diverse array of resources necessary to present economic premises, without forseeable substitutes on the horizon. It is therefore probable that, in this doubling period, we will encounter critical depletion of necessary resources, and attendent disruption or failure of the global economy.
Energy, water and arable land stand out among these necessaries, with their corollaries, food and population.
The Industrial and Green revolutions have enabled the exponential growth of human population well beyond the carrying capacity of non-industrial and organic farming economies. When those revolutions falter and fail so will a large proportion of the population, feeding back into the general collapse.
I concur with Dmitry Orlov's Five Stages of Collapse, which I believe to be a good framework description of the process.
Short Term Prospects
Here's what I see as the likely-case scenario:
- Growth pressures weaken and destabilize the global economy through a series of crises (Jenga Effect).
- One or more trigger events occur, which initiate economic disruption, impeding flow of cash and credit (Domino Effect).
- Cash becomes scarce or unobtainable (closed banks), a currency crisis emerges (hyper-inflation).
- Cash is refused in exchange for goods and services (full-blown currency crisis).
- Workers abandon posts as payrolls are unmet and cash is, in any case, worthless, taking resources with them.
- The transport system having lost bankroll, man-power and heavily pirated, grinds to a halt.
- Supply on demand premise fails.
- Greater urban areas erupt into violence, destroying urban economic and physical infrastructure (no reboot).
- Food gone in urban areas, surviving population fans out into countryside, destructively reaping what food is available, and suffering high attrition (Locust Effect).
- Persons on critical medications/service based life support dying. High mortality among the very young and old.
- Domestic nuclear plants, lacking continuity of parts, personnel, coolant and materiel, begin descent toward criticality.
- Survivors to date begin to come to terms with the new situation, but with little knowledge or eco-infrastructure, face famine.
- Stable bands form, wild forage experience (good and bad) accumulates rapidly.
- When the nukes start venting, water- and windsheds will be impacted to varying degrees. Scenarios bleak.
Long Term Prospects
I foresee no reboot.
The premises that underlie the modern world shall have been irreparably violated. While collapse may have left unconsumed a pile of resources the equal of all that we've used throughout history, the easy pickings are gone. Remaining resources require a high tech, industrial economy to extract. Beyond a vanishingly narrow threshold, failure of the present economy will put the resources necessary to reboot forever out of reach.
Post-collapse, I see an extended period of Dark Ages most dire. While surface resources remain (material remains of the present), I see raider packs attempting warlord economies with varying, local success. After that, many of their victims will simply disappear into rebounding wilderness.
Extinction of the human species is a definite possiblity. But we've proven versatile. It would not surprise me if we made it through.
Beyond the Dark Ages of Transition, I see a return to neolithic technologies and modes of society. This is the source of my personal optimism (insofar as I'm at all concerned with what follows my personal TEOTW). More in other posts on why. Suffice it to say that I believe that our 10K year experiment with civilization has not been of net benefit to most human beings who've endured it.
If we care to attempt aid for future generations, I would turn attention to how the period Dark Ages might be shortened.
We're looking for the following in preparation for the collapse:
Social distance - Crowds will become mobs. At the very least, they will be laced with and hounded by parasitical yahoos.
Mobility - The ability to move in the face of changing circumstance I see as crucial. Bunker mentality hasn't worked out well, even for those with logistical support.
Skill Sets - The acquisition of skills increases personal value and capability. Once learned, you cannot be relieved of them.
Tools - A set of (hand)tools increases efficiency, freeing energy for other purposes.
Food Cushion - A lifetime supply of food is immobilizing. A food cushion should be enough to allow relocation and a period of perfecting forage skills and other learning curves.
Seed - Gardening will likely be an important supplement to forage. Non-hybrid seed kits grant a head-start. Gardens, I note however, can also be immobilizing. I tend toward hardy varieties that can fend for themselves, once established.
I'm often asked, how can you prepare for yourself, knowing so many around you will not make it?
My reply is that it's similar to coming to believe that our ship is sinking. We gather necessaries to evacuate and survive at sea. As we do so, however, we spread the alarm and attempt to persuade others to prepare, as well. When the time to abandon ship comes, we abandon ship. Once sunk, we might have it in our power to save a few. But taking on enough to endanger the lifeboat, is not an option.
I want suvival of as many as possible. I want viable, post-collapse community. I can't force it.
But this blog is a reaching out, now, to all who will listen...
THIS SHIP IS GOING DOWN!
PS. My Other TEOTWAWKI
There's another exponential growth curve running parallel to those we've discussed. That of technological growth.
The Kurzweil Singularity is the point when technological growth goes 'vertical'... when radical technological advance is virtually instantaneous.
There is a chance that this will, indeed avert our previous scenario. Not by miraculously providing new sources of energy, etc., etc., but by moving us and ours into the virtual realm of quantum computing. I won't go into it, here, but to me, it's quite credible (I have an information specialist background, remember?). It will solve our immediate problems (and by that I mean on a stellar time scale), but not in the realm of classical thermodynamics where our present concerns lie.
Problem is, it's a race to the finish between depletion curves and our ability to transcend them in a new medium. While Kurzweil's conjectures interest and intrigue me, my money's on that first version.
So pass me that Book o' Arcane Skills!