by Frank Johnson
The End of the Age of Excess (2008 – 2010)
For people living in there twenties in most western nations, this period of time will consist mainly of inconveniences, changes of plans, and lost dreams. Economic realities will be the first to strike before any actual resource frenzy. There will be less to go around for everyone, but luckily we waste so much there will be plenty of fat to cut. Costs of necessities like food, fuels, clothing, and anything imported will soar. Non-essential portions of the economy will suffer huge blows, trendy malls will be vacant, and five-dollar-a-cup-coffee shops will be scoffed at. You’ll wait in lines for hours to buy a rationed share of toilet paper, flour, sugar, and of course gasoline.
If you are attending or have recently graduated from a university, you may come to the realization that your education will not support the lifestyle you had expected it would or pay off the debts it cost you. You may get stuck working long term in jobs or organizations you once considered merely stepping stones or side jobs or even end up wondering what to do after being laid off from such a job.
You may return to live with your parents out of necessity (yours or theirs!) or stick in places with many roommates instead of living alone. The military will be a common alternative to under and unemployment to avoid debts. The path to the future will seem unclear to many as we watch many first time home buyers only slightly older than us lose their jobs and homes due to the constricting economy.
Limitations on transportation fuels will render some previous work, study, and living arrangements too costly to maintain. Air travel will become prohibitively expensive for those of us who used to fly to visit family or to attend school. Studying or traveling over seas will become much less common.
Political involvement will be popular as young people with little money and lots of time on hand to protest the lack of opportunities and voice their demands for ‘change’, however these proposed changes will be mainly window dressings and do little to address the real issue of resource depletion and peak oil.
At this stage it will be difficult to avoid noticing the growing numbers of the poor who did not have a “fallback” option in the economy like many middle class young people still do today. Poor neighborhoods will quickly become crime ridden “no go zones” for under funded police departments with low morale. Half vacant suburbs will fill with growing numbers of homeless. The remaining areas of commerce may only remain safe and orderly due to the presence of armed National Guard troops or paramilitary types, and trade may only consist of ration tickets or alternative currencies. Crime will be a real problem and the night will become more dangerous.
Immigration issues could be a hot point. As bad as it might become in the United States, peak oil could easily affect places in Latin America harder and sooner, sparking larger waves of immigration into a less well off, more edgy America. The inability of the government to assist so many people, and the competition for limited resources could rekindle racial tensions. Immigrants could become scapegoats for the economic troubles they had little to do with, while others may point out they add a greater burden to a struggling system.
The key point to realize here is during the initial phases of peak oil, the government will do its utmost to conceal the decline in production as a normal economic pattern, that while troubling, can be fixed and the good ole days will be back with the next bill to be passed, technology to be discovered, or currency to be unified. This will be a lie.
Break Point: The Furious Charge (2011-2019)
At some point in the future as most of us enter our thirties the world will undergo a great change. It may not happen all at once, and the changes will vary depending on the previous conditions, the culture of the area and what resources are available, but the general trend will be the same. Important government services will come from only local sources, not distant national ones. People will cling to the ideals of nations and democracy, but more overt control over government by those who control and operate vital local resources is much more likely.
Not all major cities or local governments will survive the transition from free close-knit states into linked but isolated units of power. Some locations might fall victim to civil unrest, natural disasters, or terrorism and become unsalvageable in the climate of limited resources. People in these areas could easily become victims of crime, refugees in their own nation, new members of the growing underclass in neighboring areas. Instant communications, once taken for granted, will be gone. News will be difficult to come by, and then will be tainted with misinformation, rumors, and propaganda.
Other more isolated areas may simply lack dense enough resources to be important to the new militant-utilitarian inspired United City-States of America and be left to fend for themselves the vast majority of the time. This will be a double-edged sword for people living in these more rural areas. The people will likely have to subsist totally on locally obtained food, provide their own security from numerous threats, and organize new local levels of government with no practical models currently existing for any of it today. While these people may have irregular contact with some sort of central government, they will more or less be on their own, or be forced to enter one of the major “federal ghettos”. What is worse is that the contact the outsiders do have with the government could very well just be the military collecting its “taxes” in kind at gunpoint. The major cities that do survive will be under martial law. The only operating organ of the government will be the military and it will be involved with every vital resource.
Wars, their duration, intensity, and results will also drastically change our future. Which regional power happens to dominate the remaining oil resources will be able to temporarily shift the burden of energy poverty on to other states. The wars themselves could be worse than simply going without fuel, if indeed nuclear or other weapons of mass destruction are used. To speculate further into such a future accurately is impossible.
Frank Johnson is a 25 year old single male who graduated from the University of Houston, with a BA in History, minor in Chinese Studies. Beyond history, his interests are the civilization series of strategy games, computers, and Japanese animation, and now clearly, peak oil. It would be fair to say unlike many others who have approached peak oil from a left-leaning political perspective of environmentalism, Frank very much came from a more historical, right-wing influenced position, but to the same ultimate conclusion.