Recently, I’ve been going through the Crash Course materials from Dr. Chris Martenson (on his Peak Prosperity website; the Course is also available on Youtube). Broadly speaking, I like them. I’m only about halfway through, but the presentation is fairly well-done; particularly effective is his explanation of exponential growth. (I rather prefer Dr. Albert Bartlett’s explanation, though–part one is on Youtube here.)
For a break, I wandered around several of my “usual” stomping grounds–I’ve talked of them before, so won’t link to them here–and several of the same topics were listed: peak oil, community, economic collapse, climate change, and the cyclic nature of civilizations. I saw again brought up the possibility of a new “Dark Ages,” following an (apparently sudden) collapse of our civilization, lasting on the order of 500 years or so.
All of this got me to wondering what a post-collapse world would look like. This naturally involves quite a bit of guesswork, some of which can certainly be described as “educated.” Most of it, however, falls into the “wild-ass” brand of guessing.
I think that our future–say, perhaps 25 years from now–is going to be strikingly familiar in many ways, and strikingly different in many others. One way or another, we’re probably going to have an answer to the “debates” of whether Peak Oil and Climate Change are real. I think our economies are going to be predominantly local of necessity. Some of our amenities–the internet, for instance, or the phone system–are probably still going to be here. (We may not recognize them, but there it is…) Some of them will likely be gone (your propane grill may be a casualty; likewise your heat pump/air conditioner).
Will the United States still be around? I have absolutely no idea–but if current trends continue, I have my doubts, at least in its present form. What I don’t foresee happening is widespread anarchy in the streets, or a Mad Max-style dystopia. Local, or even regional currencies? Possibly. Barter? Absolutely. A smaller population? Unfortunately for many, yes; I think a disturbingly large number of people are likely to become far too acquainted with the realities of a “starvation diet.”
A lot of food is probably going to become local and organic, as gasoline and petroleum-based agriculture become prohibitively expensive. Much of what we’re used to at the grocery store will most likely go away. Year-round apples, oranges, and bananas? Probably not so much. Stuff the farmer in the next county could grow? Much more likely. Some “shortages” are inevitable; luxuries will probably become rarer and more expensive. (Your 4-cup-of-coffee-a-day habit might have to become one-cup-every-other-day. Or switch to chicory. Or herbal teas…) After all, coffee, tea, and chocolate were available in the 1700’s; they certainly weren’t as widespread as they are today. I think we’re headed back to a model more like the former.
Again, I have to take a moment to laud Kunstler’s books, particularly A World Made by Hand. I think he’s painted a pretty accurate picture of the day-to-day, if not necessarily the particulars of how things got there (or the magic, which really begins to play in the second book). I don’t think there’ll be a “bang,” and probably not much of a whimper; more likely, it’ll be muddling through one day at a time, and suddenly we find ourselves in a different place than we knew. Rather like what got us to where we are, today.
Now, back to those seed-beds…