“Hey, hey, hey, the end is near / On a good day, you can see the end from here.” – Joanna Newsom
“The main conclusion from Rick [Munroe]'s [ASPO] presentation was that peak oil is being examined closely and taken seriously by military analysts but not civilian authorities. What few plans that do exist on the civilian side are decades old. The implications of this are that North America ‘remains highly vulnerable to a liquid fuel emergency disruption’ and, since because there are only a few dusty plans lying around, there will be greater chaos than necessary.” – Chris Martenson (http://www.chrismartenson.com/blog/future-chaos-there-no-plan-b/46331)
“Can’t get no food to eat. Can’t get no money to spend.” – Burning Spear
“There is no one what will take care of you.” – Will Oldham
“As of now, I am in control here in the White House.” – General Alexander Haig
SUMMARY: Our military appears to be taking the risks of imminent peak oil shocks seriously. Our ‘civilian’ government, deep in the thrall of corporate short-term profiteers, appears incapable of processing such risks. When the shocks come like a kick to our collective American gut, I suspect that only one of these entities may survive. Guess which one? All hail President-General-for-Life Petraeus! …But then what?
HEY, HEY, HEY, THE END IS NEAR
I’m starting to get that feeling in my gut again – that tightness. It’s the same one I had in the Fall of 2008 when the industrial economy started writhing on the floor in it’s most recent fit of cheap-energy-withdrawal convulsions.
It’s a feeling that colors even simple everyday things I see with a dusky haze of foreboding: “Oh, look at that – they’re laying a cement foundation that’ll be a vernal pond in ten years.” Or, “I wonder what that nice, shiny office building’s gonna look like with a big, puffy Virginia-creeper sweater?” Or, “Will that devoted lawn-enthusiast, in a cackling fit of collapse-fever, burn his last gallon of gas to give it just one final mow?” Or, “So you’re spending $120,000 for your kid to go to college (i.e. parties), and then come home to raise a post-carbon family in your den?”
It’s like Jim Kunstler has crawled into my head and is giving me a running commentary on everything I see: “Some profound seismic infarction…now propels deadly tsunamis toward the land masses where money dwells. And when they break over the shorelines…” Shhh, Jim, I can’t hear what this person is saying to me.
And as the time-window for the expected oil shocks comes alarmingly into focus, and as the ‘Here-Comes-An-Oil-Crunch’ reports start to emanate from more and more mainstream sources, it’s hard to escape a feeling of dread for the coming craziness – whatever forms it may take.
Reports from the recent ASPO conference come off like a reading of a terminal diagnosis for a dying civilization: “I’m sorry Mr. BAU, but the tests indicate that you have maybe two years to live – four at the most.”
Of course, right now, Mr. BAU, doing his best impression of a petulant 5-year-old, is obstinately pretending not to hear the good doctor. But in short order, I imagine we’ll be seeing him take a somewhat different tack: “But…but wait! Please! I’m not ready! Please, just give me a little more time! I’ll change! I promise!” Then, as Dr. ASPO momentarily turns her back, we see that incorrigible BAU pop open and dribble down another 500-million barrels. Burp. Not enough! Cue food riots. Cue hurricane.
And as the sky darkens and the wind picks up, the angelic crooning of Joanna Newsome floats through an open window: “Hey, hey, hey, the end is near.”
OH NO, DEAR CITIZEN, NOT THAT TYPE OF CHANGE
It’s becoming painfully clear that the federal government, having been swallowed whole by the corporate-financial sector, and is incapable of even a shred of preparation for the impending economic/oil shocks. The myopic short-term-profit prime directive of the corporations is now being defended wholly and at all costs by both Democrats and Republicans alike – to the exclusion of even the most basic protections for the bemused and hapless citizenry.
Prudent, risk-based peak-oil preparations -- or even the vaguest scent that something profound and systemic might be terribly wrong with our civilization -- is just bad for the short-term bottom line. It’s a no-go. Obama doesn’t do THAT sort of change. You silly goose -- you thought he did? No, no, no. We can’t let reality be the enemy of the profitable. A suitable epitaph?
So, alas, there will be no strategic open-pollinated seed reserves; no extended electrical outage emergency plans; no equitable petroleum shortage rationing plans; no appropriate technology dissemination plans; no national community-gardening & local food-shed programs; no basic emergency survival skills programs; no permaculture-skills education programs; no emergency water-shortage plans; no community resiliency action plans; no conventional-rail refurbishing initiatives; no draft-animal breeding programs; no push to ramp up development of perennial polyculture; no push to re-establish local manufacturing of basic necessities. No nothing. Zippo.
There will apparently be nothing that smacks of ‘preparations for impending trouble’ coming down from our increasingly bizarre leaders. (“I am not a witch.” Huh?! “It is not entirely clear that something called ‘the climate’ even actually exists.”) As far as one can tell from public pronouncements, the federal and state governments will be doing about as much peak-oil preparation as the guy down the street with the tinted-glass Hummer, grilling a hearty slab of feedlot beef on his shiny new Climatemaster-5000 grill.
But surely there must be a good bit of secret, behind-the-scenes planning going on over there in Washington, right? Even if they can’t publicize it for economic reasons, they must be doing something to prepare for the coming energy shocks, huh?
I suppose one chilling sequence drawn from recent history may suffice here: a dark, fetid New Orleans Superdome, chaotically packed with thousands of forgotten refugees; food and water supplies dwindling; Our well-rested Commander-in-Chief decides it might be a good time to “fly to Washington to begin work…with a task force that will coordinate the work of 14 federal agencies involved in the relief effort.”; a two-year old sleeps in puddle of urine on concrete Superdome floor. (Re-live all the adventures of Brownie & Co. at http://thinkprogress.org/katrina-timeline)
So are you still with us Brownie? ‘Cause we’ll need ya like crazy. And pretty soon! How many FEMA trailers – I mean full FEMA strategic oil reserves -- ya got lined up down there? And are all the various sports stadiums set to accept the hordes of post-peak refugees? Good, good! And Dr. Chu – are you standing by with your Nobel-Prize-brand, energy-miracle wand? Get ready to deploy. And you, Santa Clause, …etc.
THERE IS NO ONE (BUT THE MILITARY) WHAT WILL TAKE CARE OF YOU
So, disturbing cheekiness aside, all past and present indicators suggest that neither the Federal nor the State governments will be of much help when we lurch down the next (possibly significant) stair-step towards our uber-challenging post-carbon future. And any hope we might still have for the government enacting some last-minute preparatory measures – however small – will likely vanish completely as the new election-cycle ushers in a deeply-disturbed crop of tea-partiers bent on completely eviscerating all government programs.
So where does that leave us when the imploding debt-energy crisis hits the fan and we find ourselves very suddenly in a no-credit, lower-energy reality? It very likely leaves us in a world of frenzied pain – and with a pretty significant power-vacuum all around us.
There will be a whole lot of people in places that are not their homes. A lot of people with a lot less stuff than they’re used to. A lot of people with less stuff than they need to get by. A lot of people with suddenly nothing to do. A lot of troubled youngsters with a newly-learned command of assault rifles. And a lot of people convinced that such-and-such a group is responsible for their sudden run of bad luck. And all that will tend to make for a lot of cranky people prone to unsavory behavior. (Insert favorite Kunstler rant about rampaging over-fed clowns here.)
I find it hard to believe that the neutered versions of the state and federal governments will do anything but shout meaningless slogans beseeching us to ‘stay calm!’ from their corporate box-seats, high above the frenzied mélange of sudden want and anger.
But wait! There does seem to be one sector of the reigning US leadership who ARE tuned-in to the impending energy catastrophe – THE MILITARY! Yes, our boys in green have crunched the freely-available energy numbers and determined that, yes, we seem to have a problem, Houston. See Rick Munroe’s recent ASPO presentation, as well as his excellent collection of peak-related documents – many from the military. (http://www.energybulletin.net/authors/Rick+Munroe)
And while I haven’t had the opportunity to comb through their internal files, it would be more than reasonable to presume that the military also have a whole lot of post-carbon action plans, programs, and initiatives all sketched out and ready to be implemented on a relatively short time-scale. Or do you think they’ll just neatly fold up their fatigues and walk away to take their places in the bread lines when confronted with a power vacuum of monumental proportions? Ha!
Moreover, military budgets are almost certainly NOT being eviscerated – nor WILL they be, even as we approach the precipice of BAU’s doom. Regardless of how many troops and hardware are muddling about overseas at any given time, is there any doubt that massive ‘securing of basic necessities’ and ‘domestic pacification’ programs could be initiated almost immediately by the military? Good God! Look at their budgets over the past 30 years. Were they spending it all on sensitivity-training seminars?
But what about the energy shortage? Won’t that hamper the military as well? Ha! In the event of the inevitable domestic fuel shortages, who do you think gets priority at the pump -- that forlorn Ford Escort stranded in your driveway, or the local M1 Abrams pacifying your neighborhood? Indeed, export-land-model be damned once the squeeze is really felt! If there is a drop of petroleum to be squeezed out of any riser or tar-pit in North America once TSHTF, who do you think will be there to greet it? Hoo rah! And you think those Mounties are gonna stop ‘em?
So let me summarize here: the US military almost certainly has (1) reams of clear-headed plans about what to do with all our soon-to-be-very-cranky citizens, (2) the organizational skills to carry out those plans, and (3) the physical & energetic means to get ‘er done. The Federal and State governments seemingly have little or none of any of these.
So goodbye sad, sad President Obama. And fare thee well to you too, tragically-befuddled President Palin. Let all red-blooded American citizens now raise up glasses in these troubled times to their protector-in-chief, their brave benefactor -- President-General-for-Life Petraeus!
KICKIN’ IT MARTIAL LAW -- TRANSITION TOWN STYLE
Now, I’m certainly not claiming that all this is the ONLY way everything could possibly play out. Obviously the whole situation is so complex that many futures are still possible at this point. Who knows? Santa might come to the rescue. But…it’s looking to me, more & more every day, that this ‘military ascendancy’ is one of the more probable futures beginning to coalesce out of the haze. I have to think that some version of extended martial law, explicitly stated or not, will greet us down the road at some point here.
So where does that leave you and me? What should we do – both now and into the future? Do we start preparing to rise up against our possible future military oppressors? Do we cache ammo to protect our homesteads against possible occupation? Or do we maybe join them to better secure our rightful share of the dwindling resource pie?
My recommendation, in the face of an increasingly-onerous future, is a lot less exciting, I’m afraid. It’s actually the same advice we need to follow if we wish to shake our current corporate oppressors. And it’s the same advice we’d need even if the corporate government was actually able to limp along through the coming shit storms. And, hey, it’s the same advice we’d need to follow even if NOBODY stepped-in to fill the coming power vacuum -- if we are to be left all on our own when the industrial ship inevitably goes down.
The advice is this: As we move into the post-carbon era, let’s try to construct our lives – at the individual and community levels – in such a way that we won’t NEED ‘them’ – their handouts and refugee camps; that it doesn’t MATTER who’s offering us assistance once the troubles come – or if nobody offers assistance -- because we just won’t NEED it. Let’s make our local communities as self-sufficient and resilient as possible, so that we can tell them, “No thank you. We’re fine. Not great, but fine. Hail Petraeus, and all. But thank you, no.” And then we ignore them.
Give to Petraeus what is Petraeus’, and f%*k-all to the rest. We don’t need it.
…But of course, that is all very easy to say but much trickier to actually accomplish. We have much work to do and little time to do it. Many physical preparations are needed. Much learning to be done. Countless community bonds to be connected. Spirits to be strengthened.
Check out www.postpeakliving.com, www.chrismartenson.com, www.transitionus.org/, www.carolynbaker.net/, www.johnnyseeds.com, and www.fedcoseeds.com. Read a book on permaculture, seed saving, root-cellaring, etc. Try those things at home. Plant an orchard. Throw a neighborhood party. Etc. etc. etc.
So is that too much? For these are truly monumental tasks that confront us now. The disconnect between where we are and where we need to be is so great, that it’s easy to get down and just want to give up. But we can’t. That’s not an option. And as Chris Martenson says, even a little preparation is far, far better than none at all.
So we'll do what we can, while we can.
Let’s get movin’.