Every year about this time, little snow globes with winter scenes, snowmen and Santa appear on store shelves. As long as they are not disturbed the “snow” stays at the bottom of the globe. Shake the snow globe, and you have an instant blizzard. Fortune tellers, on the other hand, have frequently employed crystal balls to foresee the future. So what happens when you combine the two globes?
You get a situation that gives a glimpse of the future from current events that occurred during an intense snow storm. On Oct 29, the Northeastern part of the US was blanketed by a very heavy snow storm, unusual for its intensity this early in the winter season. The trees, still having their fall foliage, acted like giant strainers, catching and trapping much of the heavy wet snow. Predictably, the snow laden branches came crashing down on power lines all over the Northeast, blacking out large areas. The state of Connecticut was especially hard hit, the second time in as many months.
At first the inconveniences of the power outage were endured for a few days. Not only were residences affected, but the business sector was also powerless from the effects of this intense storm. After three or four days, people were becoming impatient, especially in hard hit Connecticut. After about a week of being without power, the public was getting very upset with the pace of power restoration, complaining loudly and frequently to their government officials and the utility. What made them even more distressed were the daily pronouncements from the utility and government officials that the power will all be restored “tomorrow”. Tomorrow came and went, in the dark. Even today, some 15 days after the initial snow fell, there are isolated places in Connecticut without electricity.
Being without electricity is very distressing. I know from experience. In 2005, we had an ice storm in early January that knocked out power in our neighborhood for 9 days. It was an eye-opener to see how dependent we had become on the genie in the wall outlet.
Peering into this combo snow globe-crystal ball of the Oct 29 storm, what can we foresee? Well, I think we can see what the public reaction will be when we start having energy shortages in the fossil fuel sectors. First, there may be annoyed resignation over the service stations being out of fuel. After three or four days pass and still no fuel, annoyance may turn to anger. After seven or eight days, anger may give way to rage. The public won’t have the visual reminders that a snow storm has left behind. Instead, there won’t be any fuel energy, and the sky may be sunny, and the birds are chirping. The culprit for their discomfort won’t be anywhere in sight. Public and private leadership will be passing the same information, “Tomorrow, everything will be restored”.
We in the peak oil community keep wondering when someone in leadership, either in the government, or in industry will own up to the dilemmas of peak oil. The truth is, they never will utter the words “peak oil”. To do so would beg the questions of “Exactly what did you know, and when did you first learn of it?” and “Why have you done nothing to prepare for this situation?”
What comes after rage? It all depends on the individual, and their circumstances in life. You may have rage turn to action, such as the Occupy movement. That will probably not be as effective or visible, because the fuel won’t be as available for them to travel to a point of protest. I believe rage will morph into fear. As the realization that a “normal” tomorrow isn’t likely a part of our future, the fear will encroach on everyone’s lives. People with great fear are prone to making all sorts of bad decisions, even those in top levels of government.
I feel we will see much of our remaining resources squandered, both individually and collectively, in an effort to re-establish some kind of familiar normal. The only way I know to prevent this type of activity personally, and calm some of the butterflies in our stomach, is to do a little something every day, every week, every month to prepare you for the inevitable decline in our energy futures.
We know in the peak oil community, that the day of permanent loss of personal fossil energy is drawing close. By preparing now for this future, we are letting the “snow” in our personal snow globe settle out, so we can see our choices for the future clearly. Most, unfortunately, will be trapped by the “snow” in a physical, mental, and emotional blizzard within their personal snow globes and therefore see no future. Our society is in for great turmoil, the likes of which we have never seen.
Take a sheet of paper. Write one thing you have done in the last 30 days to prepare for the future. If the page is blank, then my crystal ball sees a blizzard in your personal snow globe.
A snow shovel won’t help!