Holiday Repost: Farewell to 2014

For what we are about to lose, Dear Lord, we thank You. (Photo by Terren in Virginia/Flickr)

For what we are about to lose, Dear Lord, we thank You. (Photo by Terren in Virginia/Flickr)


[The Daily Impact is on hiatus for the holiday season. For your consideration, I leave you with a repost of a meditation on “The Last Good Year,” and a reminder that in 2015 it would be well to Brace for Impact.]

Thanksgiving is coming, and Christmas and Kwanzaa and Hanukkah and New Year’s, and we should make the best of them. These are the good old days, and we should celebrate them well, because we are probably not going to see their like again. Gas is cheaper than it was, and we should go to see the relatives this year, because next year will be different. Food is a little more expensive than it was, yet we should eat hearty nevertheless, because next year will be different. We still have plenty of water (if we don’t live in California, or Brazil, or North Africa, or any of a multitude of other places being seared by implacable drought) but, because of changing climate and advancing pollution, next year could be different. The lights are still on, but the aging grid is creaking and groaning with the effort of meeting our burgeoning demand, and next year could well be different. Eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we diet.

Predictions are dicey things, and are more often than not fatal to the credibility of the predictor. Premature declarations of the end of this, or the beginning of that, are legion — and legendary. From the Age of Aquarius to the light at the end of the tunnel, from the Rapture to Armageddon, history is lettered with the remains of discredited prophets. Why would anybody willingly step into their ranks?

First because many prophets are not really discredited. The fact that the big San Andreas earthquakes predicted to decimate Los Angeles and San Francisco have not yet happened, does not mean that the forecasters were wrong or that the quakes are now less likely to occur. To the contrary, they become more likely with each passing day of accumulating strain on the fault, and the prophets will be redeemed in the most unfortunate way. Similarly, those who have predicted that increasing population will exceed the carrying capacity of the planet, or that oil demand would exceed supply, are not wrong because they thought it would have happened by now. It is not the date on which a thing does or does not happen that matters; it is the thing itself, and its causes.

Secondly, there is a moral imperative. As I postulated in Brace for Impact, if you see a child playing on a railroad track in the path of an approaching train, you have no choice but to make a choice — between trying to save him and ignoring him. Basic human morality reduces that choice to one acceptable course of action. Unseeing him is not an option. Nor can you avoid the fact that your choice will affect the rest of your life. (Now, our world is full of people who, when they hear you shout, “That child is in danger!” will say in response “Why must you be so negative? Try to be more cheerful about things.” Ignore them. Though it be obscured by clouds of ignorance, the moral imperative is still there, hard as granite.)

So, because I must, here is a short list of the things that are bearing down on us like runaway trains.

  • Financial collapse. There are so many bubbles reaching maturity in the near term — the subprime auto-loan bubble, the overvalued stock bubble, the China real-estate bubble,  the fracking bubble, to name the biggest — that it is likely that this time, more than one of them will burst at once, with far worse effects that when the housing bubble went up all by itself, or the dot-com bubble, alone.
  • Oil Depletion. The biggest con, and the one with the worst side effects, is the proposition that America is at the beginning of an oil renaissance, when it is in fact at the end of the oil age. When the giddy optimism among investors and the general public is blown up, by events likely to occur next year, this will be the unkindest cut of all, and will likely start, or contribute to, a cascade of crashes. When it happens, everything made from oil will return to its former high prices and keep on going up.
  • The Water Problem. 2015 is probably going to see the first climate refugees in significant numbers leaving California’s Central Valley, and possibly parts of Arizona, Texas and Nevada, as well as Sao Paulo, Brazil and parts of China and India. For America, the loss of confidence in technology and a beneficent God implied by the loss of California agriculture to drought will be crushing.
  • The Rotting Infrastructure. Every physical system in America, from highways and bridges to the electric grid to water and sewer systems to dams, ports and airports — even the credit-card system — has seriously exceeded its design life and its design capacity with no provision having been made for its replacement. Like the big earthquake, it is impossible to predict when any one of them will fail, yet impossible to believe that they will not.

What this prophet sees for next year is not yet The End of the World as We Know It, as in the ultimate crash of the industrial age, but another nasty shock as our economic tectonic plates sink jarringly to a lower level from which they will not rise again, as happened in 2007. That may make the final fall, whenever it comes, shorter, but no more pleasant.

So raise a glass, and hold a feast, in honor of 2014. May we always think fondly of the last good year.

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9 Responses to Holiday Repost: Farewell to 2014

  1. Avery says:

    For people hungry for new content, here’s some:

    The cover story in Fortune magazine this month is declaring the financial world to be at the peak of a bubble.

    The guy making the proclamation? None other than Allan Sloan, a veteran reporter whom I’ve admired for his financial insight since I was a little kid. I had one of his articles clipped from Newsweek and hanging on my wall at age 11 (I am now 27).

    Meanwhile, the Financial Times says the NY Fed is investigating the price of ETFs. They seem to have consistently good performance in the face of market fluctuations, and the underlying small cap stocks are illiquid. And ETFs are already known to accelerate stock market crashes.

    This is the second investigation in 2 years. The results of the last investigation weren’t so hot either:

    Merry Xmas!

  2. Tom says:

    I expect a cascading collapse beginning any day and continuing from then on (to the Stone Age) beginning with some “black swan” event that could be environmental, social, political, or economic (hell, it could even be SOLAR) in nature. I certainly don’t want this to happen, but it seems inevitable at this point. i’m not prepping or otherwise trying to stave off my own demise and only expect to witness the beginning scenario and subsequent social deterioration.

    Best of luck and continued good health for everyone in 2015! Mr. Lewis, all the best to you for your consistently good work. Enjoy the holidays!

  3. Peter says:

    I’ve been enjoying your writing since coming across it this year. I’ve just re-located to Lynchburg, Va and would like to know if you have fellow-readers down my way. It would be good to meet other thoughtful and aware folks-I’m just a little leery of “ultra-conservative preppers”, if you know what I mean. Do you know Bert in Berkeley Springs? He owns a bookstore there, is very aware of these issues, and might want to carry your books or host a signing.

    • venuspluto67 says:

      I’m just a little leery of “ultra-conservative preppers”

      You mean to say you don’t believe that Hussein Obama is going to confiscate all our Bibles and replace them with copies of Heather Has Two Mommmies???/? Why do you hate ‘Murka so much??/?!!!11!

      • Peter says:

        I’m more concerned that Faux, exude me, I mean Fox Network will be installing a new OS when I inadvertently glance at screen, since it’s hard to avoid in these parts. I was going to ask for Al Jezeera News, but thought better of it…..

    • Tom Lewis says:

      Don’t know where the readers live, if any near Lynchburg perhaps they could self-identify to you. Next time I’m in Berkeley Springs I will look up Bert. Thanks for the tip and good luck in your new community.