This excerpt from Richard Heinberg’s latest book, Afterburn: Society Beyond Fossil Fuels is heavy reading, but necessary.
It isn’t possible to summarize briefly, so I’ll extract three chunks. The first paragraph aptly sets the scene.
Fight of the Century: Localization in a Globalized World, by Richard Heinberg (Common Dreams)
As the world economy crashes against debt and resource limits, many countries are responding by attempting to salvage what are actually their most expendable features—corrupt, insolvent banks and bloated militaries—while leaving the majority of their people to languish in “austerity.” This has resulted in a series of uprisings, taking a variety of forms in different nations. Such conditions and responses will lead, sooner or later, to social as well as economic upheaval—and a collapse of the support infrastructure on which billions depend for their very survival.
As such, the emphasis returns to local strategies.
Thinking in terms of simplification, contraction, and decentralization is more accurate and helpful, and probably less scary, than contemplating collapse. It also opens avenues for foreseeing, reshaping, and even harnessing inevitable social processes so as to minimize hardship and maximize possible benefits.
I’m especially struck by Heinberg’s description of popular uprisings and their likelihood. It is a them only recently considered by local writer Erica Rucker in LEO Weekly: America is burning: indignation and the end of civility.
A global popular uprising is the predictable result of governments’ cuts in social services, their efforts to shield wealthy investors from consequences of their own greed, and rising food and fuel prices. In recent years, recurring protests have erupted in Africa, the Middle East, Asia, Europe, and North America. The long-range aims of protesters are in many cases unformulated or unarticulated, but the immediate reasons for the protests are not hard to discern. As food and fuel prices squeeze, poor people naturally feel the pinch first. When the poor are still able to get by, they are often reluctant to risk assembling in the street to oppose corrupt, entrenched regimes. When they can no longer make ends meet, the risks of protest seem less significant—there is nothing to lose; life is intolerable anyway. Widespread protest opens the opportunity for needed political and economic reforms, but it also leads to the prospect of bloody crackdowns and reduced social and political stability.
“When the poor are still able to get by” reminds me of another bit of timeless wisdom.
Mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed.
You may recognize it. That’s Thomas Jefferson.
(Thanks to Jeff G for the link)