Sunday, December 03, 2006

Some ramblings

These are very rough pictures of the future and focus on food because thats what im most familiar with.

In the short to mid term future the price of oil will skyrocket due to varying factors, terrorism, peak oil, growing demand etc. This will greatly increase the cost of transporting and producing food, touching every aspect of society and thrusting us into a long term energy decline.

In the mid term future most of the worlds current grain baskets such as the US will become grain importers due to climactic disruption, salinisation, topsoil loss, increased pest and disease problems etc.

Western civilisation in the mid to longer term will begin to seriously decay due to an inability to maintain our current high level of organisation (both social and physical). This will result in fragmented distribution systems and nation states which are unable to combat guerrilla warfare and quasi civillian resistance groups.

These three predictions are by no means defeinitve but i believe that we will see all of them occur in my lifetime

The Scenario

During 2010 the price of oil doubles then doubles again due to peak oil and an American invasion of Iran, this coincides with continuing drought in Australia and the american wheat belt. Over the next decade the world begins to undergo a financial and energy crash which is tied to major food shortages. New Zealand while well placed to survive both of these undergoes a major shift in lifestyle as food and transport become hard to come by.

Idealised Response

As middle New Zealand starts to experience rationing and shortages of food a decentralised food production network springs up with anarchists/activists involved in skill sharing with the large numbers of newly unemployed and actively planting perrenial fruiting species on vacant land throughout the citys. This at home food production naturally occurs as people get hungry and are naturally interested in growing their own food. Community gardens form a hub for seed and fruit trees and become hubs for education and resources.

Sanitation, electricity, food and water networks begin to fail as the state becomes unable to maintain them. The state, short of resources and finances is unable to invest in the rail network and to invest in low energy transport networks. Degrading infrastructure and suburbs that cannot produce food electricity or deal with sanitation are gradually emptied. Those that stay in the city unable to rely oncentralized infrastructure begin to develop ad hoc solutions. Things such as composting toilets become the norm as synthetic fertilisers are non existant and food production becomes highly important. Various water collection and storage technologys become essential especially with rainfall coming at unpredictable times.

With limited amounts of machinery and degraded soil in many places agroforestry systems such as food forests become widespread and eventually become the backbone of our food production networks. They also prove resilent to climate change as they are structured and work like real forests holding onto moisture and building up fertility. Climate change does hit pretty badly in places in New Zealand and dairying is sharply reduced - some land is abandoned but much is redistibuted to those leaving the city desperate for land.

Local government and citizen groups provide a quasi state solution with assemblages of people with common goals providing many services such as policing/justice, energy and water etc which are currently provided by the government. People come to realise that sustainability is key and new spiritualitys and belief systems arise which are not based on exploitative relations with the land and others.

Overall resources are used to facillitate a transfer to a low energy use society - this is driven from a local level by those who will be most affected by a energy collapse. Local communitys take control of food and infrastructure networks. Their is a slow migration from the city to the countryside and small farms once again become the mainstay of New Zealand agriculture. Local communitys develop and become self supporting as they are forced to.

Activists and left wing politico's see the energy descent coming and start working on projects that will be useful during and after the crash. Community gardens and guerrilla gardening are begun well before the energy descent. Rather than pressuring the government to sort things out activists support communitys during their struggles against those that would attempt to take resources or power during the collapse.

Dimmer picture - another vision of the future

As people begin to experience record high levels of unemployment and food shortages the country experiences a swing towards the right, rampant nationalism and racism are openly expressed by both the public and politicians. A highly right wing government is initially elected and rapidly cuts back on personal freedoms in the name of security, racism becomes ingrained in public policy. After failing to halt the slide into poverty New Zealand the government is overthrown in a peoples coup. The peoples unity government quickly falls apart without the loyalty of the military or the capital to maintain degraded distirbution networks.

New Zealand enters into a strategic pact with Australia and America and every attempt is made to continue our current consumption levels both of oil and other material goods. As part of our agreements with the states our army is placed on the front line in arab and african nations with significant oil reserves. Our coal supply is almost sole exported to members of this alliance. The kyoto protocol and all other such agreements are scrapped in favour of coal power generation, nuclear is also widely adopted.

While some people do start growing some of their own food it only produces a tiny amount of peoples daily requirements. When things get desperate this food is stolen by hungry neighbors and mobs of hungry unemployed start raiding those with resources. This isnt helped by attempts to prevent rioting by nationalising all resources.

By attempting to sustain growth we use up all those resources we could have used for a transition to a sustainable culture. Spiralling descent is added to by tropical diseases which start to sweep through a malnourished population. Eventually Auckland is sacked by rioting youth, abandoned and weeds are left to grow through the pavement as office towers collapse. Activists believing this is the long awaited moment attempt to take power and when successful inherit a crumbling nation, attempting to sort things out they start to use force widely. This backfires on the activists who are themselves shot in another coup

The country fragments into several warring factions with hundreds of thousands of boat people fleeing Australia and Asia forming raiding partys which move through the country looting and taking land.

In Summary

Both the scenarios are just things to get people thinking, in reality neither and both of the above will happen. Their will be some really inspired change and some oppurtunistic looting. Which scenario occurs is largely up to the populace.


Anonymous said...


thought provoking...

Eabha the Kiwi said...

I'm so down with scenario #1.

John D

John said...

yea i think things might actually go really well if things got a bit crazy - I think a lot of scenario one will probably occur.