How far will we go to secure energy? Clearly, to the ends of the Earth. And perhaps even to the end of the (living) world.
Judging from their actions, most people I know are more to committed maintaining their imperial lifestyles than in maintaining the lives of their children. Take a look around and tell me that isn’t how we managed to find ourselves in this dire array of interconnected predicaments. Empathy is so rare we treat it as a treasure. Which it is.
We’re willing to risk extinction by nuclear meltdown to keep the lights on. And not merely the extinction of other species, which we’ve been risking for generations. This time, we’re willing to take Homo sapiens into the abyss in exchange for hot pizza and cold beer. Meanwhile, governments of the world continue to cover up disasters as they occur. And we, the people, are willing to let them because we can’t handle the truth.
As if ongoing events in Japan aren’t enough to convince you that nuclear power plants aren’t a good idea — and apparently those events have failed to convince Barack Obama, who refuses to step down from his pro-nuclear stance — what about drilling for oil at depths we know are profoundly unsafe? That pesky Gulf of Mexico has sprung another leak, this time near yet another deepwater oil rig. Of course, this event isn’t deemed newsworthy, even as cleanup efforts have been under way for days. Increasingly desperate for crude oil, the International Energy Agency is begging Norway to ratchet up production. Sorry, no dice from post-peak countries.
And then there’s Libya, which currently supplies oil to industrialized countries at almost exactly the same rate as the so-called “spare” capacity. Take out Libyan oil, and the trip to $150 oil comes next week instead of later this year. Fortunately for lovers of American-style capitalism, BP has started drilling even as the bombs are flying. The ever-declining supply of Alaskan oil constrains options of the U.S. and its military allies to the approaches I’ve come to know and hate: abundant military action after generating an enemy Americans can hate (aka foreign policy) and printing money (aka domestic policy). Britain’s former Member of Parliament George Galloway understands our actions in Libya are all about the oil, and he’s even willing to talk about it (U.S. Congressional Representative Ed Markey agrees, as shown here).
Libya isn’t the only ongoing crisis in the Middle East and northern Africa. The whole region is aflame, and we can add Yemen to the list of crises threatening the Saudi Arabian underbelly (thus, the world’s supply of crude oil).
Among the prices we pay, apparently all too willingly: Ice is melting from Greenland and Antarctica at a rate surprisingly rapid, even to the global-change scientists studying the issue. This is merely one more notch in the miles-long belt of industry, yet another minor insult on an overheating planet. Tack on the couple hundred species we drive to extinction each day, along with utter destruction of every other aspect of Earth’s environment, and you start to get the idea our efforts aren’t entirely positive.
Adverse impacts of industrialization are not restricted to the environmental realm. They extend to the sociopolitical arena, too. Feudalism has arrived to the United States, along with fascism (wrapped in a flag and carrying a cross, as predicted by Sinclair Lewis). Here at home, the cost of living continues to increase while Republicans try to make it illegal for poor people to carry money. Continuing the long-term theme of U.S. foreign policy, we’ll gladly kill anybody and everybody who interferes with our access to crude oil. Then our beloved military will continue to disgrace us by posing with the tortured bodies of civilians they killed. If you try to interfere with foreign policy, you get an all-expense-paid trip to Gitmo Bay, where you get to reside for the rest of your days, courtesy of our very own torturer in chief.
Fortunately, western civilization and its latest, worst, manifestation — the industrial economy — near their end. We can add four more people to a large and growing group that foresees the end of empire within months: Gordon T. Long predicts end of fiat currency by the end of 2012 (also see Long’s essay about shadow banking here), Clyde Prestowitz anticipates an “economic earthquake or tsunami that will reset globalization,” Jim Willie has jumped on the hyperinflation bandwagon, and John Lohman indicates the Keynesian endgame has nearly run its course.
Seems I’m not the only optimistic in these parts.
The industrial economy was imploding before an earthquake and tsunami hit Japan. The world oil peak passed us by in 2005, as did the world peak in grain production (not coincidentally). But Japan is yet another straw on the back of the severely stressed camel known as the world’s industrial economy. Events in Japan are shaking the U.S. Treasury bond market and otherwise hastening the demise of the world’s industrial economy.
Not one single member of the corporate-owned mainstream media is willing to connect these seemingly disparate events. But, as should be obvious to anybody paying the slightest attention, each event is a stitch in a worldwide quilt. Each event indicates systemic collapse of the world’s industrial economy. If you’re waiting for the mainstream media to tell you when to launch your lifeboat, you’ll wait until it’s too late.
When is the correct time to flee an empire in decline? If you’re unconcerned about the morality of how you live and also about resistance against the dominant paradigm, then you probably have a few more months to suck at the teat of empire. If you’re concerned only about extending your own life, then you probably need not quit sucking until this summer, especially if your doomstead is field-tested and ready to go. If you’re concerned about whether and how you live, the time to leave is now. Or, judging from my own example and the difficulty of making preparations for a new world, a few years ago.