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.

 Sharon

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

  1. Fairy says:

    I got a grant from the federal government for $12,000 in financial aid, see how you can get one also at http://couponredeemer.com/federalgrants/

  2. Organic Libertarian Farmer says:

    I think there will be all of what Sharon is suggesting and more. More good and more bad. Location by location. We will polarize with people we feel the most comfortable with or who are close geographically. Re-localization almost requires that. Thinking globally is good if you can transport the goods to other places and have excess in yours but if not, we have to find a way to work together daily. That means neighbors, friends, etc. Despite whatever is happening out there in the world.

  3. [...] or even think about it. But, we will have to face it sooner or later. Check out her full post here: http://sharonastyk.com/2008/12/15/2009-predictions-its-hour-come-round-at-last/. In previous years, I was fairly lighthearted about my predictions – this year, I don’t find it [...]

  4. How hubris, corruption and greed resulted in the colossal collapse of the global economy.

    In a world in which too many politicians are posers; too many economists are deluded; too many business powerbrokers with great wealth are con artists, gamblers and cheats; and too many of their absurdly enriched minions/’talking heads’ in the mainstream media parrot whatsoever serves political convenience and economic expediency, Jim Hansen’s truth about climate change is buried amid cascading disinformation and anti-information developed from a `tool box’ of pernicious rhetorical devices.

    Steven Earl Salmony
    AWAREness Campaign on the Human Population,
    established 2001
    http://sustainabilityscience.org/content.html?contentid=1176

  5. auntiegrav says:

    Mostly agree with you: except 2005 was peak oil production, I think.

    I am going to stop commenting. (prediction) I will leave a note here for people to read:

    “If you want to really understand a problem you are concerned about, I can help you. If you want to be comfortable, I cannot.”

    This may also turn into a sign by my driveway. “Questions answered truthfully: $100″

    I think there will be a demand for it, don’t you?

  6. scott Hague says:

    Don’t you feel that one of the key elements to all of these problems is the excessive overpopulation?
    It seems like almost all our current problems can be linked back to overpopulation yet it’s something that you rarely hear people or the media addressing. Maybe this collapse will have one effect of making people think twice before they have a large family that who consume such a huge share of food, water and energy.

  7. auntiegrav says:

    I’d like to answer Scott above…
    It isn’t the number of people, it’s what they consume and do. The universe works on Net Creativity. Every species survives or goes extinct based upon whether it provides more future usefulness (creativity) than it consumes in resources. Humans are the only species TRYING to consume more than they create.

    It’s all in the marketing.

    The resources to be most concerned with are not food, water, and energy but cleanliness, climate, and decency.

    The concept that species compete with nature or each other is wrong. Those that survive are the ones that cooperate with nature: the best “fit”.

    Humans have created a niche by forcing nature into human terms. This, in turn, has created a very narrow niche of homo sapiens that is dependent upon Systems of systems. One catastrophe and the vast majority of the middle of the Bell curve are wiped out. Civilization (city-based culture) is not all it’s cracked up to be. Most of America is civilized now, and unable to live without urban-type systems and subsystems.

    Poor logistics for such a rich country.

  8. Dave says:

    from Richard Heinberg’s “A letter from the future”

    http://www.richardheinberg.com/museletter/110

    “Naturally, some of the first effects of the energy shortages showed up as economic recessions, followed by an endless depression. The economists had been operating on the basis of their own religion – an absolute, unshakable faith in the Market-as-God; in supply-and-demand. They figured that if oil started to run out, the price would rise, offering incentives for research into alternatives. But the economists never bothered to think this through. If they had, they would have realized that the revamping of society’s entire energy infrastructure would take decades, while the price signal from resource shortages might come only weeks or months before some hypothetical replacement would be needed. Moreover, they should have realized that there was no substitute for basic energy resources.

    The economists could think only in terms of money; basic necessities like water and energy only showed up in their calculations in terms of dollar cost, which made them functionally interchangeable with everything else that was priceable – oranges, airliners, diamonds, baseball cards, whatever. But, in the last analysis, basic resources weren’t interchangeable with other economic goods at all: you couldn’t drink baseball cards, no matter how big or valuable your collection, once the water ran out. Nor could you eat dollars, if nobody had food to sell. And so, after a certain point, people started to lose faith in their money. And as they did so, they realized that faith had been the only thing that made money worth anything in the first place. Currencies just collapsed – first in one country, then in another. There was inflation, deflation, barter, and thievery on every imaginable scale as matters sorted themselves out.”

  9. [...] Casaubon’s Book » Blog Archive » 2009 Predictions: Its.. [...]

  10. [...] 2009 Predictions: Its Hour Come Round At Last Ok, what about the coming year? While I think 2008 was when most people first realized something was wrong, I

  11. [...] ORIGINAL BLOGPOSTI’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. [...]

  12. Mike says:

    Sharon,

    Come on, get specific. Lay it on the line. Otherwise, it whiffs of just another psychic scam.

    Of course, noone can actually predict the future. If anyone could, there would be no state lotteries in operation. So, go ahead, jump in with both feet. Let’s hear some real grit.

    Your gift of gab is great. Say something. Don’t be campaigning for the post of prattle bot.

    I predict that by the time Obama’s proposed economic stimulus legislation is enacted [which I doubt that it ever will be], the country will become aware of the fact that his effort to create three million new jobs will be trivial compared to the many more millions of jobs that will have already been lost [roughly 2 million in 2008 and another, what, 3-5 million in the first quarter of 2009?].

    Keep up the good work.

    ~Micheal~

  13. Ron says:

    I don’t fault the predictions but it boggles my mind that she can be so wrong about the real cause of global warming. A political position?

    Ron

  14. [...] Last year Sharon Astyk predicted that Hillary would not win and the economy would tank (via casaubonsbook). [...]

  15. Earl Killian says:

    Remember that predictions say more about the seer than the future.

    What then is the point of predictions then? It is precisely for the seer to better know his or her self. As usual, George Orwell said it well:

    We are all capable of believing things which we know to be untrue, and then, when we are finally proved wrong, impudently twisting the facts so as to show that we were right. Intellectually, it is possible to carry on this process for an indefinite time: the only check on it is that sooner or later a false belief bumps up against solid reality, usually on a battlefield.

    To see what is in front of one’s nose needs a constant struggle. One thing that helps toward it is to keep a diary, or, at any rate, to keep some kind of record of one’s opinions about important events. Otherwise, when some particularly absurd belief is exploded by events, one may simply forget that one ever held it. Political predictions are usually wrong. But even when one makes a correct one, to discover why one was right can be very illuminating. In general, one is only right when either wish or fear coincides with reality. If one recognizes this, one cannot, of course, get rid of one’s subjective feelings, but one can to some extent insulate them from one’s thinking and make predictions cold-bloodedly, by the book of arithmetic. In private life most people are fairly realistic. When one is making out one’s weekly budget, two and two invariably make four. Politics, on the other hand, is a sort of sub-atomic or non-Euclidean world where it is quite easy for the part to be greater than the whole or for two objects to be in the same place simultaneously. Hence the contradictions and absurdities I have chronicled above, all finally traceable to a secret belief that one’s political opinions, unlike the weekly budget, will not have to be tested against solid reality.

    George Orwell, In Front of Your Nose, 1946

    The point of predictions then is learn why you are right or wrong, not to pat yourself on the back for a good batting average. For that reason, the why of predictions is more important than the prediction itself. I therefore encourage you to put more why into your predictions. It would be best to separate them into individual posts to discuss each one, instead of making a big amalgam.

  16. Randy says:

    Interesting post, but in order to have peak oil, you have to be near the end of an industrial run-up. Oil is based soley on demand and in a recession oil is a bad investment. We may actually never see peak oil again for some time into the future. What money the big oil companies made in 2007 was it. This is why I invested in commodities (Platinum) at the height of the stock market (12000) and then sold just six months later for a good profit as the market began to crash. Still, however, commodities are a bad investment in a recession because there is less industrial need for oil, gold and platinum which is used in electronics and catalytic converters respectively as well as makes nice coins and collectibles. The old saying “Buy when everyone else is selling and sell when everyone else is buying” is a moto that works for everything from houses to stocks to shoes. Buy low sell high. It is a principle you common people never figure out because you are like my dog and pretty much follows the pack never thinking much how things work over long periods of time. In the 1970s the world was going to cave in from global cooling, then in the 1980s and 90s it was the Ozone whole and then came global warming only to find us pretty cold this winter. But I love my dog.

    One thing you didnt mention was the complete sell out of guns by the end of 2008. This started immediately after the elections. Money people had went toward the purchase of weapons. This was never told much by the press, but even as I write this manufacturers shelves are completely devoid of all assault style weapons or anything of quality. I understand this will change in the next few weeks as manufacturers gear back up since they were caught off gaurd by the rush. It was caused mostly be a Democrat sweep of Washington D.C. which left gun rights advocates fearing the worse.

    Without a doubt the job situation has taken a turn for the worse as in any recession. However, a look at the stock charts show that the stock market actually bottomed around Nov 20, 2008 and is inching back up ever so slowly. This usually happens at the end of a recession. Since the stock market is always forward looking, it does not actually follow other government numbers (such as unemployment numbers). Unemployment has its major shoot up at the very end of a recession because actually employers react lately to news. In fact, due to low interest rates, some Mortgage companies have had to recall people they just fired a couple of weeks ago as mortgage applications have climbed in understaffed departments.

    So I would not put too much doom and gloom into the predictions of 2009. Everything works in cycles whether it be the climate or economics. Which brings me up to your Global Warming prediction that is TOTALLY AND ABSURDLY Retarded. Man kind has ZERO effect on the climate. In fact, Jupiter has gone through almost identical patterns as earth and it is because of our distance to and the activity presented on our solar system’s SUN. Yep, it is all based on the sun and forces in the galaxy far beyond our control. That is why the icy swaths of Greenland were once green just a thousand years ago. It is all cycles tha range from hour to hour to century to century.

    HAVE a NICE DAY!

  17. [...] I always thought it would be a momentous occasion making headlines around the world. The truth, as Sharon Atysk has pointed out, is that we will probably only know for certain in a few years time, at which stage [...]

  18. [...] really felt like doing much this week, I’m not sick or anything, but certain things, such as Sharon’s predictions for 2009, the lameness that is my job (and my insecurity and fear to try to do something different with my [...]

  19. Dave says:

    Do we create the pathways for collapse by continuously being the harbinger of that message? If we BELIEVED in societal reinvention, must it predicated by collapse? This to me sounds very fear based.

  20. [...] 2008 predictions about our society and economy were mostly right on. Here’s her 2009 gambit. Sharon’s predictions for 2009Excerpt:"I called this year “Here be Dragons” arguing that this was when the maps we use to [...]

  21. Elizabeth says:

    This advice is really going to help, thanks.

  22. If anybody thinks that the economy has bottomed, he/she is in for a shock. 2009 will be remembered as the year that Obama destroyed the market.

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