Monday, June 3, 2013

The Perfect Storm

It's been a while since I've written on the topic of Collapse, so I'll keep this relatively short. It appears we're on the verge of the "Perfect Storm" in our industrial civilization, where many factors so perfectly come into alignment that things play out in a way and on a scale we could never have imagined.

The first storm front is the global political scene. The poltical leadership has not been effectively able to stabilize the Syrian situation, and various parties are in fact inflaming it by upping the ante in terms of aid and support for one side or the other. It would take very little for third parties to begin shooting at each other in a serious way, or the violence to spill out of the borders like so often happens with civil wars. It's one thing for that to happen in a post-colonial sub-Saharan nation, quite another thing for that to happen right in the world's "oil breadbasket." It doesn't take a great imagination or much more than a B-level technothriller writer to see where that has the potential to go, especially when the neighbors are nations like Turkey (dealing with a forced secularization of the world's most militant Islamic nation) and Saudi Arabia (where an entire population smolders under a brutal medieval theocracy). Or, if you want your foreign tensions spiked with a little ginger and garlic, North Korea looks ripe for an implosion as Kim Jong Un's leadership may be in name only, with a cabal of generals and other power brokers jockeying for position.

Then, there's the domestic side of things. While other Western nations are dealing with various political instabilities, America is outpacing them all. Whether or not Barack Obama explicitly ordered media spying and IRS intimidation, the reality is that he is president and his name will be attached to any scandal. On top of this, the people who identify with the political right could be well move from simply being in opposition to feeling truly alienated and no longer able to participate in politics. This crisis of legitimacy in government couldn't happen at a worse time -- if and when the narrative of transition into a post-industrial economy moves to the forefront, it will be necessary for the President to have the full faith and confidence of the American people, regardless of whatever direction things are going in by that point. It also doesn't take much imagination to see that certain parties within the U.S. might decide they want to go their own way again.

Finally, the last storm front is the natural world. Whatever the cause, the global temperature is rising, a couple of degrees in the last century. This doesn't mean much to some sectors of the American population, where the scientific process is as opaque as "mud on the fenders," but small changes in a delicately balanced system may produce big results. The past two or three years have been spiked with abnormally severe storms in the plans states. Are we going to begin seeing the warming of the ocean waters spawn "superhurricanes?" There are also more subtle and far-reaching things at work, too, with some people suggesting a "Sixth Mass Extinction," brought on by Colony Collapse Disorder and other factors. And, who knows when there might be another tsunami or Deepwater Horizon event to shake things up? What about a new flu pandemic? Or a Tunguska-like event, but directly hitting a nuclear plant, a major city, or an oil processing center?

So, there you have it -- foreign wars, a civilization unable and unwilling to address reality, and a world that has always been a little hostile to us. Anything can be addressed in small bites, but we seem to be getting to the point where we have to cram everything down at once and risk choking on it. Worse, for most of us, these factors are well beyond our ability to control or change, so we are left with doing what we can for ourselves and those we care about.