Where is our civilization going? And how fast is it getting there? These are some of the questions being discussed over on the ArchDruid report. I like reading his report because he offers a well reasoned, historically accurate view of the world. I used to read all the conspiracy sites, but other than convincing me that much of the information that passes for news is fabricated for one purpose or another, it did little good in the real world. By this I mean that even if you knew for a fact that space lizards had taken over the government, how would this knowledge affect what your day to day activities were? I have some non-mainstream views of the world, but then again most people that do any significant work at Kung Fu are also non-mainstream too. I believe that peak oil is real, because the actual predictions made before the peak are consistent with what is actually happening in the world I can observe. There are other predictions that indicate infinite growth on a finite planet is not possible, so those predictions that involve infinite growth, or worse, infinite exponential growth (that the economy can grow at 4% compounded forever is good and healthy is one). So what is the value in these world views? The value is that seeing the world “as it is” will allow smarter choices, rather than being led down the garden path due to wishful and/or manipulated worldview. The current topic of discussion at the ArchDruid Report is the trajectory of our current civilization, and the American empire within it. He is making the argument that civilizations and empires have life spans, much as all other life forms on this planet. Much of the conversation has been on the subject of “but this time it’s different”, and the rebuttal that yes, this time is unique, just as every single person has a unique life, but we all are born, go through puberty, slowly age then get old and die. Some live a full life; some are cut short by accident or war. Our current situation is that we are a part of the American Empire and that empire is showing a lot of grey hair, and is getting short of breath when it attempts things that in its youth just got its blood flowing.
So how does this help on a day to day basis in the real world, as lived by real people such as us? It helps to see through the smoke and mirrors, and get a better handle on where life will actually take us. The stock market is not reality, and its ups and downs are only somewhat related to the question whether or not supper is affordable. Here are some of my predictions, and what I am actually doing about them (the most accurate prediction is useless if you don’t act on it). First, energy will get more expensive, in all its forms, the response is to improve the energy efficiency of my home, and add solar panels to reduce what I have to buy. Replacing vehicles at this point is more than I want to pay, but by combining errands, I can reduce the miles driven. Second, healthy food will get more expensive, so put in a garden, buy in bulk, make friends with a master gardener. Third, the health care system will become more and more stressed, especially as the baby boomers retire. Here the best defence is to stay in shape, and eat healthy. I already addressed eating, so here is where the plug for Kung Fu comes in, get in shape, stay in shape. This is an ongoing process of course. Another prediction that is directly related to Kung Fu is crime. As the economy hits the bumps in the road (aggravated by peak oil) crime naturally goes up. Only a small percentage of those without paying work turn to crime, but it can still affect you along the way (I shouldn’t have to spell out the connection between Kung Fu and self defence).
Now, the decline in this civilization will take its time, probably several generations, but the catch is that the decline tends to be patchy and localized. Some parts of the country are doing great, and others are in trouble. Right now, Alberta is the place to be (until the bill for flood damage comes in), but my parents told me stories from the 1930’s, when our economy wasn’t so great. I would rather be prepared and not need to be, than discover that I needed to prepare and no longer have the time and resources.