2009 Predictions: Its Hour Come Round At Last

Sharon December 15th, 2008

I’m writing this a little early this year – _Independence Days_ is due in a couple of weeks, and I anticipate a great deal of distraction as the end-of-the-year predictions really start pouring out, so I thought I’d jump the gun and make mine now.

But first, how did I do last year? (And note, just ’cause I got some right last year doesn’t mean that you should take my word as gospel – I don’t think that everything that comes out of my ass is the high truth, and neither should you ;-)

I called this year “Here be Dragons” arguing that this was when the maps we use to make sense of the world begin to fail us.  I think that was pretty accurate – I think most people still don’t really understand how badly our maps have failed us, how the operation of our economy, our ecosystem, our culture is simply different than what we’ve been taught.  I think we can all see that most experts are pretty lost too - not because they are simply stupid, but because they aren’t prepared to work off the map.  The stories we tell ourselves shape what we can see in the world – and the conventional narratives have undermined our understanding of the realities.

Here are my predictions for 2008 and my comments on how they came out:

1. This year, the words “peak oil” will go mainstream, but this mainstreaming will not be matched by a subtle or nuanced understanding of what the words mean. That is, peak oil will be used for political purposes, and not necessarily ones anyone will approve of.

- I called this one.  As oil prices rose, CNN and the rest of the MSM couldn’t get enough of PO poster boys Simmons and Kunstler.  But, of course it wasn’t really possible to create, in that media, a complex enough understanding for people to realize that peak oil hasn’t gone away just because prices have collapsed, that, in fact, for the long term, the collapse of prices probably ensures that we’re past peak oil. 

2. By the end of the year, there will begin to be runs on preparedness equipment and food storage, a la Y2K.

- It wasn’t quite as dramatic in the equipment department as Y2K, although woodstoves and electric bikes were backordered like crazy.  But the big story was people fighting over bags of rice at Costco and other stores back in the spring. And unfortunately, for other reasons, I think we may see this one again.  Called it.

3. The NeoCons will not go gently into that good night – there will be at least one serious surprise for us. G-d willing, it won’t involve the word “nukuler” or any of its cognates.

- I’d give myself 50% on this one – I think the build up with Russia was indeed a final Neo-con attempt to make themselves seem like the best answer to a scary world (and Alaska as our DMZ), but it wasn’t as dire as I feared.

4. Hillary will not win the 2008 election. Neither, despite all the people who keep sending me emails saying he will, will Ron Paul.

- Got it.
5. The economy will tank. Yup, I’m really going out on a limb here.

- Got it.

6. Many of us will find we are being taken more seriously than we ever expected. We will still be taken less seriously than any celebrity divorce, however.

- This was certainly true for me – I don’t really know how John Michael Greer, Kunstler and Orlov, for example, felt about it, but I was surprised at how seriously my predictions were taken, and how few people thought I was over-reacting, even when doing, say ABC affiliate radio interviews.  But, of course, there are limits to seriousness - fairly few people really critiqued the worldview, but comparatively few people paid attention, either.  

7. We’ll see food riots in more nations and hunger will increase. The idea of Victory Gardens won’t seem so crazy anymore.

 - Yup.  31 nations and counting had some form of food riot this year.  And Michael Pollan wrote “Farmer in Chief” and the “White House Farm” idea hit the blogosphere.

8. The biofuels craze will begin to be thought the better of – not in time to prevent the above.

- Called it.  The collapse of oil prices of course is doing its own work, but even before that, we were finally seeing serious questioning of the premise of biofuels hit national discourse, at least in Europe.

9. We will see at least one more image of desperate people, walking out of their city becuase there’s no other alternative. And a lot of images of foreclosures.

Part one of this is the only one I got wrong, and that only partly.  People were walking out of Houston, and a whole lot of people were walking around looking for Gas in Memphis and Atlanta, but it didn’t quite have the resonance of Katrina or 9/11 – the media wasn’t paying attention, so it wasn’t the kind of iconic image that I was expecting.  The second part I called.

10. TEOTWAKI, if it ever happens, will be delayed long enough for my book to be released this fall and to make back at least the advance, so my publisher won’t have any reason to try and sue me ;-)

- I’m not sure, but I think I might have actually made back my advance by now (all 4K of it), and my publisher is still in business.  Who knows, I might actually make a pittance!

Ok, what about the coming year?  While I think 2008 was when most people first realized something was wrong, I’m going to go out on a limb here (ok, not a huge limb, but a limb) and say that 2009 will be the year we say that things “collapsed.”  I don’t think we’re going to make it through the year without radical structural changes in the nature of life in most of the world.   I’m calling it, a la Yeats’s “Second Coming” the “The Year ‘Its Hour Come Round at Last’” 

 What do I mean by collapse?  We throw that word around, but it is easy to misunderstand.  I mean that the US is likely to undergo a financial collapse a la the Great Depression - widespread unemployment, lots of people facing hunger, cold and the inability to get health care, a disruption of what we tend to assume are birthright services, and a sense that the system doesn’t work anymore.  I don’t claim that we are headed by Thursday to cannibalism, however – what I think will be true is that we will often do surprisingly well in the state of collapse, as hard as it is.

 In previous years, I was fairly lighthearted about my predictions – this year, I don’t find it possible to be.  I really hope I’m wrong about this.  And I  hope you will make decisions based on your own judgement, not mine.  These are predictions, the results of my analysis and my intuitions, and sometimes I’m good at that.  But I do not claim that every word that comes out of my mouth or off my keyboard is the truth, and you should not take it as such.  You are getting this free on the internet – consider what you paid for it, and value it accordingly.

1. Some measure of normalcy will hold out until late spring or early summer, mostly based on hopes for the Obama Presidency.  But by late summer 2009, the aggregate loss of jobs, credit and wealth will cause an economic crisis that makes our current situation look pretty mild.  With predictions of up to a million jobs lost each month, there will simply come a point at which the economy as we understand it now cannot function – we will see the modern equivalents of breadlines and stockbrokers selling apples on the streets.

2. Many plans for infrastructure investments currently being proposed will never be completed, and many may never be started, because the US may be unable to borrow the money to fund them.  The price of globalization will be high in terms of reduced availability of funds and resources – despite all the people who think that we’ll keep building things during a collapse, we won’t.  We will have some variation on a Green New Deal in the US and some nations will continue to work on renewable infrastructure, but a lot of us are going to be getting along with the fraying infrastructure, designed for a people able to afford a lot of cheap energy, that we have now.  The most successful projects will be small, localized programs that distribute resources as widely as possible. 

I pray that we will have the brains to ignore most other things and set up some kind of health care system, one that softens the blows here.  If not, we’re really fucked – the one thing most of us can’t afford is medical care as it works now in a non-functioning economy.  Unfortunately, my bet is that we don’t do something about this, but I hope to God I’m wrong.

3. 2009 will be the year that most of the most passionate climate activists (and I don’t exclude myself) have to admit that there is simply not a snowball’s chance in hell (and hell is getting toastier quickly) that we are going to prevent a 2C+ warming of the planet.  We are simply too little, too late.  That does not mean we will give up on everything – the difference between unchecked emissions and checked ones is still the difference between life and death for millions –  but hideously, regretfully and painfully, the combination of our growing understanding of where the climate is and the economic situation will force us to begin working from the reality that the world we leave our children is simply going to be more damaged, and our legacy smaller and less worthy of us than we’d ever hoped. 

4. 2008 will probably be the world’s global oil peak, but we won’t know this for a while.  When we do realize it, it will be anticlimactic, because we’ll be mired in the consequences of our economic, energy and climate crisis.  Lack of investment in the coming years will mean that in the end, more oil stays in the ground, which is good for the climate, but tough for our ambitions for a renewable energy economy.  Over the long term, however, peak oil is very much going to come back and bite us all in the collective ass.

5. Decreased access to goods, services and food will be a reality this year.  Some of this will be due to stores going out of business – we may all have to travel further to meet needs.  Some will be due to suppliers going under, following the wave of merchant bankruptcies.  Some may be due to disruptions in shipping and transport of supplies.  Some will be due to increased demand for some items that have, up until now, been niche items, produced in small numbers for the small number of sustainability freaks, but that now seem to have widespread application.  And some may be due to deflation - farmers may not be able to harvest crops because they can’t get enough for them to pay for the harvest, and the connections between those who have goods and those who need goods may be thoroughly disrupted.  Meanwhile, millions more Americans will be choosing between new shoes and seeing the doctor.

6. Most Americans will see radical cut backs in local services and safety nets.  Funding will simply dry up for many state and local programs. Unemployment will be overwhelmed, and the federal government will have to withdraw some of its commitments simply to keep people from starving in the streets.  Meanwhile, expect to see the plows stop plowing, the garbage cease to be collected, and classrooms to have 40+ kindergarteners to a class – and potentially a three or four day school week.

7. Nations will overwhelmingly fail to pony up promised commitments to the world’s poor, and worldwide, the people who did the least harm to the environment will die increasingly rapidly of starvation.  This will not be inevitable, but people in the rich world will claim it is.

8. We will finally attempt to deal with foreclosures, but the falling value of housing will make it a losing proposition.  Every time we bring the housing values down to meet the reality, the reality will shift under our feet. Many of those who are helped will end up foreclosed upon anyway (as is already the case) and others will simply see no point in paying their mortgage when, by defaulting, they could qualify for lowered payments (as is already the case).  Ultimately, the issue will probably self resolve in either some kind of redistribution plan that puts people in foreclosed houses with minimal mortgaging, with foreclosures dragging down enough banks that people find it feasible to simply stop paying mortgages that are now unenforceable, or with civil unrest that leads people simply to take back housing for the populace.  I don’t have a bet on which one, and I don’t think it will be resolved in 2009. 

9. By the end of the year, whether or not we will collapse or have collapsed will continue to be hotly debated by everyone who can still afford their internet service.  No one will agree on what the definition of collapse actually is, plenty of people will simply be living their old lives, only with a bit less, while others will be having truly apocalyptic and deeply tragic losses.  Some will see the victims as lazy, stupid, alien and worthless, no matter how many there are.  Others will look around them and ask “how did I not see that this was inevitable?”  Many people will be forced to see that the poor are not a monolith of laziness and selfishness when they become poor.  We will know that we are in our situation only in retrospect, only in hindsight – our children will have a better name for the experience than we will, caught up in our varied personal senses of what is happening  Meanwhile, each time things get harder most of us will believe they are at the bottom, that things are now “normal” and adapt, until it becomes hard to remember what our old expectations were.

10. Despite how awful this is, the reality is that not everything will fall apart.  In the US, we will find life hard and stressful, but we will also go forward.  People will suck a lot up and retrench.  It will turn out that ordinary people were always better than commentators at figuring out what to do – that’s why they stopped shopping even while people were begging them to keep buying.  So they’ll move in with their siblings and grow gardens and walk away from their overpriced houses, or fight to keep them.  Some of them will suffer badly for it, but a surprising number of people will simply be ok in situations that until now, they would have imagined were impossible to survive.  We will endure, sometimes even find ways of loving our new lives.  There will be acts of remarkable courage and heroism, and acts of the most profound evil and selfishness.  There will be enormous losses – but we will also discover that most of us are more than we think we are – can tolerate more and have more courage and compassion than we believe of ourselves.   

An early Happy New Year, everyone.  May you know better than you deserve and see others at their best in these hard times.


88 Responses to “2009 Predictions: Its Hour Come Round At Last”

  1. peter in Aust says:

    Another great post. Events here in Australia I believe will of necessity follow a somewhat similar course. Our political leaders continue to throw money at projects that will be of little use .A growing percentage of people are aware of the hard slog that lies ahead. Regards.

  2. mike says:

    Fyi, Memphis did not have a shortage of gas. I live in Memphis and never had a problem getting gas. The shortage was more towards north carolina. I know asheville, NC had problems. My brother in law had to wait in long lines for gas.

  3. [...] Sharon Astyk Speaking Truth to Power Monday, 15 December 2008 ORIGINAL BLOGPOST I’m writing this a little early this year – Independence Days is due in a couple of weeks, and I [...]

  4. Linn says:

    Sharon, thank you… sounds about right to me. I am old. I watch. I do small acts of kindness. Give a little money when I can. Grow a tiny garden.
    Hope that my children are going to survive and accept the things they cannot change. My advice falls on ears that do not hear. (sigh)

  5. grace says:

    Linn…I am sorta old too, in my sense of things, just starting to become old and because of this feel it is my responsibility to get ENERGIZED.
    In coming times, if the “old hippy woman” down
    the road is moving forward with a smile on her face, then this is something of real value I can offer my community.

  6. chris says:


    Came here from Rod’s blog. Great post. My advice: Time to re-read/re-watch The Grapes of Wrath.

    There’s a speech in the movie, given by Ma Joad: Rich fellas come up an’ they die, an’ their kids ain’t no good an’ they die out. But we keep a’comin’. We’re the people that live. They can’t wipe us out; they can’t lick us. We’ll go on forever, Pa, ’cause we’re the people.

    Amid all the turmoil remember, the meek shall inherit the earth.

  7. micah pyre says:

    Waiting in a long line for gasoline doesn’t prove there’s a shortage. What it proves is that there’s a bunch of people freaking out about a possible shortage.

    In 1979 I was 18 years old and worked at a neighborhood Shell Oil gas station. I’d worked there for about a year when the “gas crisis” hit. I can tell you straight up and with no chaser, we NEVER received smaller portions of gasoline in the tanker trucks, and they kept their regular delivery schedule. What I did see, however, is a bunch of citizens freaking out about the POSSIBILITY of shortage, and therefore they were lining up in the station to top off their tanks with small 3 or 4 gallon amounts. The reason for line-up was freak-out, not shortage.

    Before anyone concludes that there is a gasoline shortage, it would help to track the tanker deliveries and amounts therein as those deliveries have been put to the underground storage tanks. Every gasoline retailer receives delivery invoices when the delivery is made. The proof of “shortage” is quite easy.

    The speculation of “shortage” seems a lot easier, though.

  8. yarrrr says:

    Many plans for infrastructure investments currently being proposed will never be completed, and many may never be started, because the US may be unable to borrow the money to fund them

    The problem with this is that we will be able to borrow whatever we want… everyone else depends on us… we get in front of the line for credit which takes away from the 3rd world… look for collapse there…

  9. Sharon says:

    Micah, not being able to get gas that you want to buy is a “shortage” – that is, it isn’t about the absolute numbers, it has to do with whether supply and demand can meet. If they don’t, its a shortage – so it doesn’t matter whether my gas station has three times as much gas as yesterday – if demand is four times higher, then there will be a shortage. The shortages were widely reported by the media – there’s plenty of video out there.


  10. A says:

    Good predictions for ’08. I’d say there were desperate people leaving thier cities/homes, but not Houston (hurricane?) or Atlanta (gasoline shortage?). The desperate people were in places like Florida, Phoenix and California’s central valley, where foreclosures are massive and whole housing developments now look like ghost towns. These people probably left in the dark of night and didn’t have media watching them like a hurricane evacuation. I predict that’s how the “collapse” migration will happen. One day we’ll wake up and families will be living together and the media will have missed the whole story.

    Looks like your ’09 predictions are based more on emotion, i.e. climate change rant. Not that I disagree, but the predictions don’t seem as black & white as 2008′s were. What I’m getting from your predictions in that in December of 2009 we’ll be living in a completely different world than we are today. I just hope you are correct about business as usual thru summer of ’09 as I have some last minute traveling I really would like to complete.

  11. Shelley says:

    You know, I think these predictions are spot on, but hopefully things won’t turn out to that dire. I also hopped over from Rod’s site. I think there will be many goods that come out of the collapse. I think first of all people will seek rootedness in their faith that they may have been too casual about lately. That is a good thing and will motivate more compassionate action than selfishness. I believe each of us will be in a position of NEED or a position of PROVIDING to those who need. There will be no middle ground. You either give or you receive. Period. I will not stand by and watch my neighbors children starve or freeze.

    I too believe 2009 will be a very bad time for too many people who never saw it coming and who have lost those basic skills that used to be universal, such as knowing how to really cook, or sew or knit, or walk(just kidding) or grow stuff. Those of us who know how to do these things need to be ready to teach.

    I am not sorry that all this is happening. I fear a great deal how it will affect me or my soon to leave the nest children. But I am also reading 3 cups of tea and realize that happiness, family, and life are not based on wealth, not one bit. We will be okay…even if we loose the house, the job, and so on. I agree with Sharon that the one thing that WOULD be devastating would be to loose health care.

    So sad. If global warming does happen quickly, move to Alaska. Our growing season gained 10 days in the past ten years. If that isn’t proof then i don’t know what is.

  12. Shamba says:

    Like Shelley, I personally find losing health care the most hair raising thing that could happen to us.

    And I’m not sure that you’re right, Shelley, when you say that “walking” is a skill lots of us don’t know how to do anymore! I know a couple of humans who don’t want to think of walking even a half-block and I’m not talking about in extreme heat either. We don’t get extreme cold where I live. so many of us seem totally unable to walk up a flight of stairs even once a day … :(

    These predictions, sharon, seem very common sense and probably most of them will turn out to be accurate. Not something I’m looking forward to though.


  13. Stephen B. says:

    I’ve been inclined to think, as you are Sharon, that the beginning of 2009 will be somewhat like the present – a kind of plateau if you will, as people wait to see what Obama brings us. Then when reality rears it’s ugly head again, down we go. On the other hand, post Christmas season retail layoffs and store closures could be eye-popping, so who knows?

    Still, I wasn’t quite thinking that our overall situation wouldn’t be as bad, as quickly, as you have us descending to Sharon. *Sigh*

    If we do fall and fail in a rapid fashion towards the end of 2009, I think the price of oil, even if/as supply peaks, will still stay below the $147 price of last year. To me, it seems that the nominal price of oil might have peaked, or put another way, due to poverty all around, Peak Oil might be playing out at a lower nominal per bbl. price than some of us once imagined. If the economic situation isn’t as dire as we’re talking about here, then nominal oil prices head back to probably test and break the old highs.

    In any case, I just placed my main seed order for my school’s garden/farm. Early? Yes it is, but I’m not taking any chances.

  14. Stephen B. says:

    I meant to say….

    Still, I wasn’t quite thinking that our overall situation WOULD be as bad, as quickly, as you have us descending to Sharon. *Sigh*

  15. Paula Hewitt says:

    nothing like reading your blog to brighten up my day. ;)
    i hope you are wrong, but i bet you arent.

  16. [...] Casaubon’s Book » Blog Archive » 2009 Predictions: Its Hour Come Round At Last I’m writing this a little early this year – _Independence Days_ is due in a couple of weeks, and I anticipate a great deal of distraction as the end-of-the-year predictions really start pouring out, so I thought I’d jump the gun and make mine now. [...]

  17. Major Wootton says:

    Thanks, Sharon. I’ll save your predictions. I did so with this piece by S. J. Masty fromthe British “Social Affairs Unit” blog, back in August 2005. Having read THAT helped prepare my wife and me for the stuff that’s been going on lately.


  18. WNC Observer says:

    Sharon: You’ve got a pretty good track record, given how difficult the prediction business is. Just a few comments, keyed to your predictions:

    1. Yes, things are going to continue to worsen throughout 2009 instead of rebounding. The thing that really worries me is our vulnerability to the unexpected – a natural disaster, a major conflict somewhere, civil disorder, you name it. There is the potential of what is merely bad becoming horrible very suddenly.

    2. Yes, in spite of Obama’s interest in infrastructure, we are going to see more and more things deferred, not started, or not completed, and increasing breakdowns. The real driver for this is going to be at the state and local level. What Obama is able to deliver is only a fraction of what is needed, and will be more than offset by other cutbacks as state and local governments tighten their budgets.

    As far as health care, I am afraid that we are too late to put together something comprehensive that makes sense. I am guessing that about the best we’ll be able to do is to beef up our public health system a bit to provide a little bit more of a safety net for those that are not able to have health insurance. There will be more public health clinics opened up, and operated for longer hours (maybe even 24/7 in many places), with the idea being to take a lot of the pressure off of the hospital emergency rooms. Even this will be expensive, but will be about the only thing we can possibly afford and that enough people can agree to.

    3. I doubt that 2009 is going to result in any sort of consensus wrt climate change. I do think that there is going to start to be more serious thinking about coping with the consequences rather than vainly hoping it can be stopped/reversed. In the US, for example, we are going to have to give serious thought about what we are going to do before much of south LA, south FL, and eastern NC are under water. Developed areas are going to have to be closed down and abandoned BEFORE they are covered with water, and residents relocated. Materials that might be reused will have to be salvaged, environmentally toxic materials removed, etc. We probably won’t be able to afford to reimburse property owners for their loss, but maybe some modest resettlement assistance might be possible.

    4. I agree, in retrospect 2008 will be seen as the year when the die was cast, when enough exploration and development projects were postponed or canceled or never considered to assure that depletion starts exceeding new capacity. It may be 2012 or so before that even begins to become something close to a consensus view. 2009 will be the year when the die was cast wrt renewables as well. There will never be enough renewables added to fully make up what is being lost each year in FF; we will always be “behind”, and sliding farther and farther back.

    5. I agree, though there might be some surprising upsides as well. Some stuff that people have been going to malls or big box stores could be just as easilly bought over the internet. Arguably, the more goods that are being delivered via UPS, FedEx or USPS, the more efficient it all becomes on a per-package basis, and this model might genuinely be more efficient than the trips by car to the mall. Local craftspersons, and local retailers stocking their merchandise, might be gainers too; this will require that craftspersons shift from catering to the upscale trade to a more downscale clientele. Local tailgate/farmer’s markets, CSPs, and community gardens should flourish. I am hopeful that there might be more interest in people forming buying clubs or co-ops.

    6. The impact on state and local governments is not going to be uniform, some will be hurt far worse than others. All are going to have to tighten their belts, but some areas won’t be that badly hit – at least in 2009. We are going to have to wake up in this country to the reality that we can no longer afford for our governments at all levels to do everything that we have wanted them to do. Some hard prioritization decisions are going to have to be made. The federal government is the least able to make such decisions, so it will be the local governments that will have to lead the way with this.

    7. Sad but true. With less humanitarian aid forthcoming, fewer countries (or their citizenry) will be willing to continue to extend a welcome to a US corporate or military presence. Whether TPTB (ordinary citizens are pretty much powerless and irrelevant in these things) want it or not, the US is going to forced by circumstances to start pulling back to its own borders.

    8. I think that one thing the Obama adminstration is going to have to do is to dust off the old Urban Homesteading idea. We won’t be able to save people who are underwater from foreclosure. What we can do is to help people who need a home to get into a house that needs occupants. The one thing that none of us want are masses of vacant foreclosed homes on the one hand and masses of homeless people on the other.

    9. I think that most people are still going to be hoping that this is just a temporary downturn, and that recovery is “just around the corner”, all the way through 2009. It will take at least a couple more years before significant numbers of people are really ready to admit to and to come to terms with the reality that the old good times are not coming back. There will be a small but increasing minority, though, that do come to grips with reality and get on with the task of adjusting to it and coping as best as they can.

    10. Yes. I also expect that there will be some sort of fad or diversion that sweeps the country and grabs everyone’s attention for a while – something totally out of the blue, totally left field, and seemingly not all that important. There always does seem to be something like that which comes along during difficult times. I have no idea what exactly it will be, but it will be interesting to observe.

  19. Gill says:

    Alright, I’ll say it. Your prdeictions are bullshit. Based on what? Vagueness and clip-reading speculation with no basis in actual research. You past predictions for ’08, More of the same-vague enough to be “correct” only in the broadest of terms. Others weren’t even close. You were the same type of people who were predicting $200-$500 for a barrell of oil. What happened to those people? Hmmm. Guess its always easier to go negative than too look for positive. Yes I donm’t deny we are in some serious times that call for a reordering of priorities, but its never as bad as people say(just like its never as good as they say either). Something about you fatalists-its like you almost want these things to happen so you can give us all a big “told you so”, or so you look like a prophet. Why not roll up your damn sleeves now and start doing some actual physical work toward helping, instead of simply spreading “awareness”.

  20. Sololeum says:

    Bit of an optimist there Shazza – there’s no way that you guys’ll get to June.

    Firstly your mall story says the Mall will probably be closed by June – retailers do 80% of their business in the Xmas season – if they’re doing ratshit now then they fall [email protected]!

    Secondly collapse – like peak oil is a rear-vision mirror thing – collapse started in 2008 and it started with the start of the recession in the US & Europe – 12 months ago now!!

    Sadly you’re right about the environment – unfortunately most people see the environment as an “other” and think it expendable – best possible solution would be a Manhattan size iceberg to be seen off the coast of NY! Our idiotic government here downunder with its 5% emission cuts dressed up as more would have been better off abandoning its commitment to CO2 cuts – then at least know where you stand!

    Your point 10 is dependent on Kunstler being right and Obama being a great leader in adversity!

  21. Devin Quince says:

    I agree health care is a sad state of affairs. My wife and I cringe when we look at our “health plan” and realize we pay 7000 dollars a year just to be able to pay another 5000 into an HSA plan for the deductible. Since we rarely use western medicine, we could do better with the cash in hand, but not in American land of free!

  22. Rebecca says:

    Sharon, your economic predictions are in line with George Ure’s, who is predicting things will really tank next year and the summer will be known as ‘the summer of hell’.

    There were serious gas shortages here in the south after the hurricanes. Locally, we were lucky: the city didn’t completely run out of gas, but at one point 9 out of 10 gas stations were out. I know people who slept in their cars and waited nearly 24 hours for the chance to get gas in Georgia.

    This sounds really bad, but it’s how I feel and a reaction to this whole mess: one of my primary reactions is sadness for the reason that I might not be able to have children thanks to this whole collapse. It’s probably a good idea not to have any at any rate, but I have a burning desire to be a mother -and all I’ve ever wanted is the one! But the way things are going, I’ll probably never be stable enough. (And adoption is not an option, not for someone of my faith and sexual orientation.)

  23. Ed Carp says:

    I think all the naysayers and the people calling BS ought to lighten up! After all, you’ve got to love somebody who says publicly “I don’t think that everything that comes out of my ass is the high truth, and neither should you”!

  24. Stephen B. says:

    Gill said: “Why not roll up your damn sleeves now and start doing some actual physical work toward helping, instead of simply spreading “awareness”.

    You HAVE to be kidding me? Clearly you don’t frequent this blog or any of the associated blogs or email lists of this community or you’d read time and time again of the things not only Sharon, but many others have been and now are doing in their families, local communities, and beyond to improve the outlook regarding food and family security, energy, and so on.

    Frankly, anything beyond this doesn’t even deserve a response.

    Stephen B.
    suburban MA

  25. Ron says:

    The planet is not warming, oceans are not rising, and the ice caps are not melting. Simply put, there is no climate crisis. I am tired of non-scientists constantly claiming the end is nigh. The sad thing about this whole climate change debate is that there are very legitimate, almost necessary, reasons to pursue a sustainable energy policy (Peak Oil being near or at the top of the list). Unfortunately, the discussion, like with so many other issues, has been hijacked by ideologues on both sides who won’t give an inch until they’re staring Armageddon in the face. That is the reason so many of your other predictions seem plausible given our current situation, not because New York is about to become a new Atlantis. Please don’t comment on climate issues until you at least understand general chemistry and physics.

  26. Marnie says:

    What’s with all the trolls lately?

  27. LeeAnn says:

    Sharon, re: #6, I assume you mean snow plows and not the kind of plows used for farming? Or is there no such tool as a plow in modern agriculture any longer?

    In the PacNW, we rarely see snow plows anyhow…although this week we did. I was wondering last night, what it would be like if the city/county couldn’t afford to hire folks to plow the streets or de-ice them as often. For a homemaker like me, I’d be spending a lot more of my winter at home. Few of my trips during the week are urgent and necessary enough to require risking our necks driving on icy streets. I’m having my groceries delivered this week; although we could do without if we had to–thanks, Sharon, for the Mrs. Mouse inspiration.

    The other thing I realized is that my small town-turned-suburb could become a fairly remote backwoods sort of place again, as it was during the logging and mill town era. I think services and stores will shrink back to the major cities and making trips into town will become a bigger deal again.

    Good list to think on, thanks.

  28. Tickmeister says:

    Sadly, I have to agree with about everything except the climate stuff. I’ll venture a prediction on that one.

    Once government budgets shrink to the degree that big money grants cannot be procured by making doomsday predictions about climate change, the experts will revert to the idea that variation in solar output is almost the sole determinant of climate, and there’s not a thing we can do about it. That may not fully play out in 2009, but I bet we will see a move in that direction.

    And no, I’m not a troll. I am fully into preparation for something close to economic collapse and I’ve been a small scale farmer/gardner all my life. Unfortunately I also have a couple of engineering degrees and I learned anough between classroom naps to be somewhat innoculated against unsupported speculation passed off as “scientific consensus”. Most academic specialists are very good at digging deeply into a very narrow problem, but are hopelessly inept at seeing the big picture. Most are also complete strangers to judgement and common sense.

  29. CrimsonCoconut says:

    I like your blog but its sad to see you’re sinking into a bit of cynicism, as most people are, although at least I don’t detect any shaedenfraude. It’s very, very easy to fall into that attitude, but I would like to make one prediction of my own:

    2009 will be the year that governments and people will get serious about Peak Oil- Not because we want to of course, but because we have to, and reports are pouring in from various organizations that the time to act is now, and everything we’ve been doing so far isn’t working. It’s time to try something else, and there are many, many positive possibilities that are afforded by a serious recession/depression, whatver you want to call it. I do think that we’ll get a New Green Deal. It won’t save us from all the bad stuff, but it will put us on a better path, and there will be plenty of jobs- We’ll still need electricians, mechanics, railroad workers, and urban designers, and since we don’t really want to build anything new that we don’t have to, retrofitting and recycling will become a big industry. Most of us can learn to grow gardens and shop for food locally. And the entertainment industry will likely do well too, since it has before in hard times. In short, this year is crucial- It is likely our last and best opportunity to effectivley respond to peak oil and climate change, and I think we’ll take it, since the alternative is becoming increasingly clear, and nobody want to go down that path.

    Of course, I could be wrong as well. Still, despite everything going on, I remain cautiously optimistic, if only based on the fact that we Americans are not as stupid and irredeemable as people like Kunstler would say. But, we’ll see!

  30. Pony says:

    I have to agree with Tickmeister. It really is hard to take global warming seriously when we have just had two cold damp springs and summers in a row in the PACNW and are now having a week of uncharacteristically cold weather. But I’ll accept that it may well be warmer in the polar regions and it is likely that we are in a period of climate change. However the polar areas on Mars are melting too, so how is that our fault? Better to blame the sun, accept that there is only a little we can do about it, and prepare to deal with the change.

    However, I have been a lifelong environmentalist, organic gardener, recycler, saver, non-waster, non-polluter, thoughtful voter and have always been prepared for hard times and emergencies, so I appreciate the ideas for dealing with change that I read on this blog and in Sharon’s book.

    Sometimes a case needs to be made very forcefully before political, social and communitarian action can be recognized as possible.

  31. Alan says:

    The trolls probably visit the Survivalist website that regularly covers Sharon’s blog and slink on over here to lay down some troll manure. It’s better just to ignore them because they’re not looking for a discussion anyway.

  32. Tickmeister says:

    Climate change action is a moot point anyway. The end of easy oil plus a global depression will do more to reduce CO2 output than all the Kyoto agreements and political armtwisting that could ever be done. Same to some degree with all other environmental issues.

    I don’t know for sure that the climate change alarmists are wrong, but I do know that we have real problems here and now. I personally am not willing to do things that will kill people in order to solve problems that may be imaginary.

  33. Sharon says:

    I don’t think most of them are trolls – my guess is that most of the ACC/AGW deniers come from Rod Dreher’s _Crunchy Con_ blog, and generally speaking, I’d rather have dissenters than not. It isn’t any fun here with universal accord ;-) .

    I’m not going to waste time debating AGW with anyone, or discussing the difference between regional weather and world climate – there are links on the sidebar if you want to explore the distinction.

    LeeAnn, yes, I meant snowplows – not farm plows. What I think will happen with agriculture is that unless the government invests seriously in agriculture, which I’m not sure they’ll be able to do but I’d recommend, fewer acres will get planted, and many farmers will struggle because the system is set up with agricultural middlemen and those middlemen are both suffering from the climate crisis and also really don’t have the interests of folks who eat at heart.


  34. Rebecca says:

    Its amazing how the trolls come out when someone gets popular. It’s even more amazing how many educated, intelligent people don’t recognize the truth about climate change. Anyone who lives close to the land and the seasons can see how wacky the weather and the clmate has gotten. That’s not to say Lovelock and his ilk are right (Lovelock’s an old man who sees the end of the world in his own death) but Hansen and others are.

  35. KatJ says:

    Wow, certainly an interesting response to your blog this morning! When I read it, I did the same thing I did when I read the first chapter of your book – I resisted the urge to cry, and then I read on. I for one am very glad that you are attempting to prepare the rest of us (those who will listen, anyway) for a radically altered future. I only regret that I didn’t find this blog sooner. I don’t usually spend a lot of time on the computer, and never even read a blog until I found out that you had one through your book. (I also read John Michael Greer’s blog now – The Long Descent is a great book as well.)
    But I try to read yours every day, and while part of me says, “No, things are going to improve – this is just temporary.” the practical part of me has been on Lehman’s website looking at wood cookstoves and washtubs. I have been stocking up on necessities (like food, which I consider a necessity) and canning jars, because I plan to can my produce next year, and seeds, of course, and books that will instruct me on the fine points of caring for goats, chickens, bees, etc.
    So, thank you again for informing us, Sharon. What we take from your blog is up to us as individuals. I choose to take hope and gratitude. Peace, y’all!

  36. Anonymous says:

    Here in central Pennsylvania the collapse is already happening, in the last weeks of 2008. The Holtwood Dam Project on the Susquehanna, which would have created enough hydroelectric power (plus installing fish ladders) for 100,000 homes, was abandoned because of high costs and lack of financing. Hershey Medical Center, as well funded as an institution as one can find, abandoned plans to build a Children’s Hospital, because financing could not be found. And this is an area that so far has not been hard hit by the economic woes. (and I went to buy a new couch at an upscale furniture store last night, and was told that they simply don’t know if they can offer financing to me or to anyone. They can’t get any answers.

  37. Brilliant analysis, as usual.

    I’m really intrigued with how often we as a country talk about “energy independence” rather than peak oil. Why do you think that is true? Is it just less scary sounding? I’d love to hear your ideas.

  38. Paul Moore says:

    Do you remember that little boy, Papa?
    Yes, I remember him.
    Do you think that he’s all right that little boy?
    Oh, yes, I think he’s all right.
    Do you think he was lost?
    No, I don’t think he was lost.
    I’m scared that he was lost.
    I think he’s all right.
    But who will find him if he’s lost? Who will
    find the little boy?
    Goodness will find the little boy. It always has.
    It will again.

    –The Road, Cormac McCarthy

    See you on the other side of this Susan and all.

  39. Paul Moore says:

    Sharon and all.

  40. Geoffrey says:

    So much suffering…

    I, too, hope that we’re wrong and that this doesn’t happen. I am also surprised at how seriously people take me when I talk about peak oil, because when I do, what I’m saying sounds crazy to me. But nobody really seems to want to do anything. It’s kind of the ‘it won’t happen to me’ syndrome, I think.

    Of course, I run into people to think that it’s unrealistic to expect that we will experience much of a reduction in standard of living, even though our way of life in the US and Europe is totally dependent on an endless supply of cheap power, and that the vast majority of people today, or at any time in history, never have and never will experience anything close to the level of affluence that the American/European middle class has enjoyed for the past few decades.

    For people who shrink at the word ‘collapse’, I wonder what they imagine ‘collapse’ is supposed to look like. I think that when it starts, it looks a lot like 2008– like major banks and retailers going under, all kinds of crises cropping up in our hopelessly complicated financial system, massive unemployment, etc.

    Anyhow, collapse is nothing new to most people in the world, whose standard of living is lower than most of us middle class Americans can imagine. We will simply be joining them, although, unfortunately, they will be the first and hardest hit.

  41. Gus says:

    It looks like most of what you have to say will probably come true. I do think, however, you’re way too optimistic. In an increasingly polarized, well armed society with a vast difference in wealth between the top and bottom, I believe we’ll see violent civil unrest on a scale unknown in this country’s history. We will come out of it a dramatically altered society, for both better and worse. Maybe we’ll finally be able as a society to focus on things that really matter, instead of Brangelina and American Idol.

  42. Tickmeister says:

    A final question for the man-made climate change believers. What would you have us do that isn’t going to happen anyway due to oil depletion and the oncoming depression?

  43. Nuno says:

    Regarding trolls that don’t interpret every single piece of news on economy and environment in the last year as worrisome:

    “First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win. ”

    Not sure catastrophes are a “win” though since we won’t be able to eat moral satisfaction. I’d rather have a Long Emergency than a 2009 one but I suppose it’s not really a choice at this point.

  44. micah pyre says:


    You missed my point. I’m not disagreeing with your tone of direness, nor about the direction in which we’re headed.

    I said my facts straight: the place I worked had NO shortage, but the APPEARANCE of shortage was created by panicked buyers of small portions.

    I’m just saying that it helps to use facts, rather than mere observation.

    As to your statement on videos being “everywhere,” I’m sorry — they didn’t work with me. The only video I know of was a local NBC affiliate that interviewed me while I worked at the pumps. I told the reporter the same thing I said here. The panic was just that — panic. There was no diminution of MY EMPLOYER’s supply. However, the panicked buyers lining up for tank-topping gave the APPEARANCE of a shortage.

    I’m not here to troll, unlike “Ron” above — who is likely Ron Bailey, a man who gets paid to deny global anthro climate change. I’m just saying, please don’t undermine your own predictions by failing to research carefully.

    Go read my blog if you think I’m a troll. You’ll find I pretty much agree with your perspective.

  45. [...] Astyk’s called 2008 pretty well and, with a couple of quibbles, I agree with her 2009 predictions. [...]

  46. Sharon says:

    Micah I didn’t say you were a troll, and didn’t think it – personally, I dislike the immediate labelling of anyone who disagrees with someone a troll, and don’t do it – but I was getting emails daily from readers (most of them known to me) describing their inability to get gas. Aaron Newton, with whom I wrote this book, for example, was filming his gas stations. To believe that the gas shortages in the region were not real requires me to imagine an unorganized conspiracy of people, many of whose integrity I actually know, arising to delude me and the national media. So I’m going to say that I suspect they were real (The Oil Drum did some useful analysis of how the supplies played out) regardless of whether your employer had enough or not – I certainly didn’t claim everyone was without gas – but some people were. I admit, I don’t have direct, on site knowledge – but I have enough on-site accounts that simply can’t be easily discredited that I take a single counter-analysis as what it is – a sincere description of what you experienced, and a useful data point (ie, everyone didn’t have the same problems) but not all there is to say.


  47. Sharon says:

    Tickmeister – Not go to coal. I mean there’s more, but honestly, the most dangerous outcome of peak oil and the financial collapse is that coal is comparatively cheap, and electricity and heat generated from coal are fairly easy to put in place – they don’t need new infrastructure. Now it is true that coal will run out too – but not as quickly, and without restraining coal use, we’re in trouble.


  48. dewey says:

    Certainly there were gas shortages, but Micah has a valid point in that there will be shortages of ANYTHING if people suddenly decide to start buying five times as much as usual. It is not the dairy industry’s fault if grocery stores are cleaned out of milk before a big blizzard. Many years ago, one of the talk show hosts (Johnny Carson, I think) made some joke about a toilet paper shortage. There had, in truth, been no disruption whatsoever in toilet paper supplies, but many of the people who heard him took it seriously enough to go out and buy extra TP, thus emptying the shelves. No “conspiracy” was required to give the appearance of shortage, and in a sense there was a shortage, since people who wanted the product could not buy it as usual, but no conclusion regarding the health or reliability of the TP industry could be drawn from the fact.

  49. Sharon says:

    Well, yes, but if you look at the oil drum’s postings from that period, that’s not the case. Things certainly weren’t helped by people filling up – but they filled up in response to the fact that they or their neighbors couldn’t fill up, ran out of gas and were walking down the highway looking for an open station. Deliveries of gas were constrained to a degree during late September and October. Except when comedians create shortages, it is never a single factor issue – that is, if people stocking up strip the shelves of bottled water, you don’t have an empirical bottled water shortage – but since the system is designed with some give in it, it can usually take this, and the next truck will have plenty of bottled water on it. If that stock up is followed by a disruption in supplies, you will see actual shortages – shortages that would have been smaller or more mitigated if people hadn’t acted, well, like people act. The word “multicausational” applies here.


  50. bryan says:

    Gill and Ron:

    Thank you for showing us the error of our ways.

    Climate Chaos is a myth, the arctic ice will never decrease, drilling in Alaska will have the price of fuel halved by next week, clean coal will save us and Sharon won’t lift a finger to help around here.

    Now we’ve got that all straightened out you can go back to the stock market and the rest of us will do some more canning.

    Thanks Sharon, you must be doing something right if the Bush supporters disagree with you.

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