Industrial Age Near the End

SUBHEAD: If it suddenly ended tomorrow, could you somehow adjust to the fall?

By Guy McPherson on 18 January 2010 in Nature Bats Last -  

Image above: Noah and his sons build the Ark before the Great Flood. From (

We’ve all played the “what if” game, and specifically the one with a timeline. What if I had six months to live? Would I live differently? Would I see somebody, or some place? How would I “make my peace” with the world and those I love?

Let’s kick it up a notch. It’s not one of us with six months to live, it’s the industrial economy. Now whatcha gonna do?

Kunstler’s been wrong before, particularly with respect to timing. Me, too, for that matter. So we might be wrong again. But in this case Kunstler is synthesizing quite an impressive litany of thinkers with economic tendencies. And there is little doubt that the industrial age is nearing its end. If it’s not six months, it’s not much longer. So what if it’s five years? The same rules apply, as far as this game is concerned.

And even if the financial bandages applied by the world’s life-hating politicians manage to hold together the omnicidal industrial economy for a few more years, this is one of those cases in which it’s better safe than sorry. Getting on board a few minutes before the ship brings up the anchor is so much more comforting that striding onto the dock just in time to see the ship hit the open sea.

So, then, when do you call your children home? Or the ailing parents?

There is plenty to be done. For starters, nobody wants to be the last person into a community in disarray. Nobody wants to come skating in, unknown by the neighbors, when the food and water are running low. Nobody wants to be known at the new kid in town, regardless of her age. So there’s the central issue of building community in the community. As if that’s not difficult enough, in a culture anathema to community, there’s more.

It’s not just the human neighbors you’ll want to know. It’s the other, more indigenous, ones. Can you name ten edible plants native to your neighborhood? Can you grow them, or any others? What are the needs of the local animals? Where does the water come from? Does it require industrial treatment prior to human consumption? Is there an alternative source? Do you know how to treat the water so you, and other members of your community, can survive?

On the other hand, you can always take the Hemingway out (suicide). Many of the people I know, enamored with lives of comfort and unwilling to face the reality of the real world, claim to have selected this option. I suspect many of them will change their minds when the issue is forced upon them. Evolution — and its resulting absence of free will — is quirky that way.

One swing through the high price of oil took us directly to the Great Depression 2.0. What will the next swing bring? And when?

Time to start thinking. Time to start planning. The time to dig a well is not when you’re thirsty.

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