If you have reviewed the evidence, and if you find it compelling, you probably have some thoughts about how the end of the world as we know it (TEOTWAWKI) will unfold. Here’s a chance to compare your scenario with those of others, for which I have provided highlights of content and an underlined link to articles or websites:
James Howard Kunstler has shared his scenario with us in the form of a non-fiction book, The Long Emergency: Surviving the Converging Catastrophes of the Twenty-First Century (2005), and a novel, World Made by Hand (2008), numerous op-eds and other articles, and his website. He foresees that “energy problems will synergize with the disruptions of climate change, epidemic disease and population overshoot to produce higher orders of trouble. . . . a historical period of potentially great instability, turbulence and hardship.” Those of us who survive will have to get by without fossil fuels, electricity, large scale industry, mechanized transport, modern medicine and pharmaceuticals, and all the miscellaneous and sundry merchandise we are accustomed to purchasing from local stores, but which originated thousands of miles away. The global economy, even the national economy, will be over. “We will not believe that this is happening to us.” The 21st century American lifestyle, which he characterizes at its worst as “families of overfed slobs driving endlessly around munching on Cheez Doodles and slurping iced beverages between stops at the WalMart and the Home Depot to wield Discover cards buying things made by Chinese factory slaves,” will be over.
We will have to “downscale and re-scale virtually everything we do,” Kunstler says. “Mega-cities” surrounded by endless tracts of “3000 square foot suburban McHouses” will not likely survive. “Small towns and smaller cities have better prospects.” “Our lives will become profoundly and intensely local.” He warns, “Places in America that can’t grow a substantial amount of their own food will be fucked.” This sounds familiar: A pre-industrial society centered around small towns and farms in which most people are occupied in working the land and making things by hand. A simple life. A hard life. 18th century life. The way things were 250 years ago in, say, upstate New York, where Kunstler makes his home today.
Sir James Lovelock, in his books, lectures, and interviews, says that the Earth’s climate is past the point of no return and destined for runaway “global heating,” as he prefers to call it. (“Warming is cozy and comfortable . . . . Heating is something you want to get away from.”) But at age 89, he does not expect to be around to experience the worst of it himself. In his book, The Revenge of Gaia: Earth’s Climate Crisis and the Fate of Humanity, he warns, “Civilization is in grave danger. . . . Earth is now returning to the hot state it was in before, millions of years ago, and as it warms, most living things will die. Once started, the move to a hot state is irreversible . . . . Before this century is over billions of us will die and the few breeding pairs of people that survive will be in the arctic where the climate remains tolerable.” His worst case scenario forsees civilization reduced to “broken rabble led by brutal war lords.” In an ideal world, or rather an ideal civilization, mankind would “overcome the self-generated threat of deadly climate change, caused by our massive destruction of ecosystems and global pollution,” and would “ensure that our numbers are always commensurate with our and Gaia’s capacity to nourish them . . . . a stabilized population of about half to one billion.” This we have failed to do, so “in the end, as always, Gaia will do the culling and eliminate those that break her rules.” He urges someone or some group to “write a guidebook for our survivors . . . in clear and simple words . . . from how to light a fire, to our place in the solar system and the universe . . . the key facts of medicine . . . the periodic table of the elements . . . the essence of what makes us civilized.”
Elsewhere Lovelock is somewhat more hopeful, at least holding out the possibility of island nations serving as “lifeboats” to save some survivors from the mainland and preserve the accumulated knowledge of civilization. In particular, “New Zealand could lead the world by being the perfect ‘lifeboat’ and taking that just right number of people that you can support and feed and the rest of it, and doing it building proper cities.” He anticipates that different groups of humans will take different paths to survival, but in this interview he expresses his certainty the human race will go on: “The human species has been on the planet for a million years now. We’ve gone through seven major climatic changes that are equivalent to this. . . . Glaciations and interglacials put the pressures on us to select the kind of human that could adapt. And we’re the progeny of them. And we’re just up against a new and different stress. Maybe we’ll come out better.” [UPDATE: In April, 2012, Lovelock revised his timeframe for the worst effects of climate change, saying "We will have global warming, but it’s been deferred a bit." This is the only real controversy among the great majority of climate scientists. As Katherine Bagley puts it, "Climate change is a matter of how bad and by when — not whether."]
Richard Heinberg sends us his scenario in the form of A Letter from the Future:
I suppose you’re curious to know more about what has happened during this past century . . . . We haven’t had anything like the global communications networks that used to exist. There are large parts of the world about which I know almost nothing. But I’ll share what I can.
As you can imagine, when the energy resource shortages hit the United States and the economy started to go into a tailspin . . . people became angry . . . . Of course, the government didn’t want to be the culprit, so . . . they created a foreign enemy. They sent warships, bombers, missiles, and tanks off across the oceans . . . . People were told that this was being done to protect their “American Way of Life.” Well, . . . it was the American Way of Life that was the problem!
The generals managed to kill . . . tens or hundreds of millions for all I know; the news media were never very clear on that . . . . Antiwar protesters were rounded up and put in concentration camps. The government became utterly fascistic in its methods toward the end. There were local uprisings and brutal crackdowns. But it was all for nothing. The wars only depleted what few resources were still available, and after five horrible years the central government just collapsed. . . .
What the people really needed was just . . . somebody to tell them the truth – that their way of life was coming to an end – and to offer them some sensible collective survival strategies.
Much of what has happened during the past century was what you have every reason to expect on the basis of your scientists’ forecasts . . . dramatic climate shifts, species extinctions, horrible epidemics . . . . led to the dramatic reduction in human population. . . .
Folks in the old days used to pour millions upon millions of gallons of water on their lawns. . . . These days water is serious business. If you waste it, somebody’s likely to die.
Starting many decades ago, people began – by necessity – to learn how to grow their own food. . . . The genetically engineering plants were . . . causing all sorts of ecological problems that we’re still dealing with, particularly the killing off of bees and other beneficial insects. The seeds of good open-pollinated food plants are like gold to us.
I did some traveling by foot and on horseback when I was younger . . . . People in different places have coped in different ways . . . . The indigenous people who were most persecuted by civilization are probably doing the best. They still retained a lot of knowledge of how to live simply on the land. In some places, people are dwelling together in makeshift rural communes; other folks are trying to survive in what’s left of the great urban centers, ripping up concrete and growing what they can as they recycle and trade all the old junk that was left behind when people fled the cities . . . . One of my biggest frustrations is the rapid disappearance of knowledge. You people had a mania for putting most of your important information on electronic storage media and acid-laden paper – which are disintegrating very quickly. . . . Young people look at the old magazine ads and wonder what it must have been like to live in a world with jet airplanes, electricity, and sports cars.
You’re probably wondering if I have any good news . . . . It depends on your perspective. Many of the survivors learned . . . to treasure good soil, viable seeds, clean water, unpolluted air, and friends you can count on. They learned how to take charge of their own lives, rather than expecting to be taken care of by some government or corporation. . . . The old religions have largely fallen by the wayside . . . . The kids today are eager to learn and to create their own culture. The traumas of industrial civilization’s collapse are in the past; that’s history now. It’s a new day.
I will be adding excerpts from other scenarios to this page. Meanwhile, click on the links below to see a representative sample of what’s on the web:
The rest of Ruben Bolling’s dystopian comic strip is here: http://boingboing.net/2012/07/25/tom-the-dancing-bug-what-wil.html
Nothing funny about these links:
This is not an artist’s conception of the future. It is a photograph of the present, taken by Jordy Meow on Gunkanjima Island, off the coast of Nagasaki, Japan. Abandoned 40 years ago, this island city’s sturdy concrete buildings have been reduced to skeletal remains amidst piles of debris by neglect and weathering. Should any modern city, perhaps yours, have to be evacuated and abandoned because of high radiation, plague, extreme weather, or other reasons, it would deteriorate similarly.