Archive for September 15th, 2008

Pre- (Marginally) Apocalyptic Reality Discussion

Sharon September 15th, 2008

I promise we will get to talking more about _Dies the Fire_ today – how could we not, with SM Stirling himself joining in the conversation? If you want to see what he has to say, check out the comments section of the last PA discussion if you haven’t already! But despite the slight overstatement of the above title (Y’all know I don’t think that this is an actual apocalypse, right?  At least not quite yet ;-) .), events of the last 10 days suggest that we’re on the cusp of a shift down to a much lower economic and perhaps energy state.  It might be worth talking about the disastrous reality before we switch to the novel.

 Think about it – a week since we nationalized Fannie and Freddie and all their bad paper.  It took months from the collapse of Bear Stearns to take down another major institution – a week later and Merrill Lynch and Lehman Bros are toast and Washington Mutual and AIG are hanging by threads.  Empty pumps in much of the South.  Oil prices dropping like a stone on the markets, while we’ve still got four or five buck a gallon prices due to Ike and Gustav and potential supply shortages running into next month.  Food prices up further, and a weak harvest in many locations. Oh, and hurricane season is only half over.

A while back I wrote a post called “The Juggler’s Lament” about the scenario runs in the latest, World3 version of The Limits to Growth:The 30 Year Update.  In it, I discussed what I think is the most disturbing conclusion of the scenario runs, and something that shows up through all the computer models The Club of Rome has been running for the last 3+ decades – that what happens in most models isn’t that one factor overwhelmingly brings about a collapse.  It is that so many factors begin to affect things that ultimately, the system collapses because it can’t cope anymore.  Our society is a very deft and talented juggler – it can handle a lot of balls, with only the occasional dropped ball. But add more and more and the drops get more frequent.  And there comes a point at which either the juggler has to accept he can’t take on any more balls, and just let them fall, or keep trying to keep things in the air, until they all fall down together.

Where are we headed?  I don’t claim to know.  But I think it is safe to say that right now our juggler is sweating and balls are falling.  And I think it is safe to say that we are headed towards an economic crisis that until recently, people haven’t much wanted to think about it.   And that’s on top of the ecological crisis.  My best advice is this – remember how I suggested everyone do a trial run of their preparations – well, maybe get ready for a trial run on the sooner side of things, and hope that it really is just a trial.

 Meanwhile, I encourage you to follow along with this at www.theoildrum.com and www.theautomaticearth.blogspot.com.  Don’t panic, though.  Remember, I’m sticking to my usual answer to the “when, (if at all) will things fall apart” question – you have at least until the weekend before the Zombies come.  Although I admit, this week that seems like maybe I’m pushing the optimism envelope a bit ;-) .

Oh, and tying this back to the Post-Apocalyptic novel book club, I think I owe SM Stirling an apology – I made a bit of fun of his cartoon villains, saying that I thought the apocalypse was enough of a story.  But I have to say, watching the suits divide up our future and shift the burden of rich people’s stock investment to tax payers makes me think we’ve got more than a few cartoon villains of our own – so maybe that’s a necessary feature after all.  Best hopes for good guys with swords and hang gliders to take them out before they sell off what remains of our future ;-) .

 Sharon