Saturday, February 09, 2008

South Africa in the Premature Long Emergency

The Long Emergency: Surviving the Converging Catastrophes of the Twenty-first Century is a book by James Howard Kunstler (Grove/Atlantic, 2005) exploring the consequences of a world oil production peak, coinciding with the forces of climate change, resurgent diseases, water scarcity, global economic instability and warfare to cause chaos for future generations.

The book's principal theme explores the effects of a peak in oil production, predicted by many geologists, on American society as well as the rest of the world. In both this book and in his other writings, Kunstler argues that the economic upheavals caused by peak oil will force Americans to live in more localized, self-sufficient communities.

Letter from a farmer to Kunstler; It began with a few potholes in the roads, the odd interruption to the water supply in the suburbs, a couple of days with strike action preventing the delivery of municipal services – no garbage collection, protest action disrupting the mining industry and picketing & toy toying at shopping malls…It continued over the next couple of years, largely with disregard for the disruptions, a little irritation to daily commercial and home life by the lack of service provision in food, gas, water and power.

In recent months, at the receivables end of the supply chain, there was a little aggravation at the delays, the lack of service, the shortage of a few consumer luxuries in the retail shops…, ‘but hey, what the hell, this is a great country, we cannot fault the lifestyle, the weather…’. For a couple of months, perhaps a year back or so, there seemed little or no reason to change our way of life, our lifestyles…a little further down the road and the disruptions become more frequent, we learn to cope, learn to accept the rising cost of living, gas supply shortages in the Winter of 2007, the intermittent water disruptions, the odd power outage and the potholes. Potholes may well be the singular measure of the calamity we are in or about to face.

As we head into February, it will be interesting to see the economic figures; theoretically the revenue generation for the period should be down by at least 25% or something similar to the power outage percentages. Notwithstanding that the stock market took a bend downwards and followed the USA crash and the antics of the Societé General rogue trader. (Well done on the foresight, James). The South African property market is following suit, as well.

And just as we were wondering how the effect, implications and opinions of an emergency would pan out into daily life, what the tell tail signs would be… it happened, all of this is the short space of about 2-3 weeks, the realization dawns that it has begun, the country is experiencing and living through the beginning of the Long Emergency, rather unexpectedly and certainly too prematurely.

I proffer that the events in South Africa, tragic as they are, as they play themselves out, will give a good indication of the events that the USA and other countries will realize in the years to come as The Long Emergency’ comes to pass.