Sent in by a loyal reader:
By 2018, we'll be firmly in the post-industrial stone age. Kunstler's novel, A World Made by Hand, closely matches my outlook (I think we'll approach Kunstler's version of the world about a decade before his book suggests; it's set in ca. 2025). The final third of the book descends into distractingly silly superstition, but otherwise the book offers a plausible portrayal of our post-petroleum future. All activities have become very local, and the world has become very large. Travel is restricted, for all practical purposes, to walking and riding animals. Global climate change has warmed upstate New York, where the characters struggle to capture water, grow food, and maintain civility when civilization has failed. Violence is extremely local, unlike the violence we visit upon other countries, cultures, and species on an unrelenting basis.I usually catch sense of wistful anticipation in these Stone-Age prophecies, and I think much of this feeling arises from an alienation to technology and an imperfect grasp of how necessarily crude, unfair, and difficult this simpler life was.
Unlike the fictional characters in Kunstler's book, I see great hope and great beauty in our own post-carbon world. Despite the presence of a limited from of civilization -- there will still be a few functioning solar panels and windmills in ten years -- we'll be depending on each other and living close to the land that sustains us. Any stored food will be gone, the climate will be completely out of whack with our memory and expectations, but Earth and its native flora and fauna will be making serious comebacks. Most of the marauding hordes will be a distant memory, along with ammunition for the remaining guns, though the problem of evil will continue to appear on a frequent basis. People will continue to seek power, but the world to be conquered will be restricted to a sparely populated few acres.
We'll be thinking more, and differently, and undertaking a lot of manual labor. We'll struggle to feed ourselves, physically and emotionally. If we commit to a different set of arrangements than those to which we've become accustomed, the bounty of the natural world will assist with the former. The renewed and renewing beauty of the natural world certainly will help with the latter. [More]
The other angle I always ponder is the likely futility of beating such a dire outcome. If you prepared adequately for the end of the world, you would simply become a target for fearful neighbors. Imagine having power when all around you are freezing and hungry in a an ice storm. You think you wouldn't have visitors?
These scary scenarios strike me as jeremiads railing against current (sinful/wasteful) lifestyles and a longing for some crule justice to justify the author's sense of outrage. And right now, people will listen to you.
But the real test of belief is whether you sell out and move to a secret well-stocked cabin in the mountains, or just keep haranguing folks on the Internet.