A Gazillionaire Looks to the Future: Sees Pitchforks

Rick Hanauer surveys his realm. On a clear day, you can see disaster.

Rick Hanauer surveys his realm. On a clear day, you can see disaster.

One of the Masters of the Universe — he bankrolled the startup of Amazon.com, for example — has peered through the bubble of wealth that surrounds him and has glimpsed a terrifying future. Now, the opinions of the rich and powerful have no enhanced value because of their status and deserve no special attention; to the contrary, they are highly suspect given their destructive record. But given the almost universal tendency to defer to people who accumulate money, it’s worth quoting them on the rare occasions when, like a stopped clock, they are in fact correct.

So when Seattle entrepreneur (from the French, meaning “between jobs”) Nick Hanauer publishes an open letter in Politico to his fellow .01-percenters, warning them that unless they change their ways they will come to a bad end, well, it’s worth a listen. Continue reading

Indian Summer: Apocalypse Rehearsed

Australian heatwave causes wildfiresThis is a shape of things to come: intolerable heat persisting for unprecedented lengths of time; failure of the electric grid when it’s needed most; hundreds of deaths from the searing heat; unreasoning violence spreading across the county like fire. India had it all last week, and the relief brought by the (late) onset of monsoon rains may be scant and temporary. This is the specter of climate change made real, made explicit, in the present tense. And still the world acts as if it’s the other guy’s end of the boat that’s burning, no worries here. Continue reading

IPCC: Wolf! Wolf! No, Really, Wolf!

The last house on Holland Island in the Chesapeake Bay, possibly one of the first casualties of climate change induced storms and rising seas. Think they had any warning? (Photo by baldeaglebluff/Flickr)

The last house on Holland Island in the Chesapeake Bay, possibly one of the first casualties of climate change induced storms and rising seas. Think they had any warning? (Photo by baldeaglebluff/Flickr)

According to the world’s largest assemblage of climate scientists, the view forward is bleak. The UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) says we should expect:

  • millions of people to be displaced by rising seas and more frequent raging storms;
  • more droughts, and more intense heat waves, in more places;
  • extreme shortages of food, fuel, and medicine around the world.

That’s what the IPCC said in its first report, published in 1990. In reports issued every seven years since, including the one out today, it has said the same things, with increasing urgency and certainty. Continue reading

Critical Acclaim Greets TRIBULATION, a novel of the coming crash

Front CoverCritics across the country are heaping praise on Tribulation: A Novel of the Near Future by Thomas A. Lewis, editor of The Daily Impact and author of the 2009 book Brace for Impact: Surviving the Crash of the Industrial Age. The novel picks up on one of the scenarios of collapse laid out in Brace for Impact, and imagines how it might play out. Kirkus Reviews calls it “A riveting, somewhat terrifying work of political speculative fiction…a thorough takedown of corporate statehood, blind wastefulness and human greed.”

Lewis says he was inspired to write the novel by a TED talk he heard broadcast a few years ago in which a storyteller made the point that humans are not wired to enjoy or retain facts, but they remember as good story forever. He thought it might be useful to array the arguments for impending collapse, as laid out in Brace for Impact, in a story telling how the crash might affect a family, and how they might react to it.

The story begins with Brian Trent calling his retired father, one day in the near future, to say, “We’re going to the Farm,” William reacts with alarm. Because Brian, a top reporter for The Washington Post, is really saying that he believes the country’s economy is about to crash, and he and his family are heading for a sanctuary they’ve prepared in the mountains of West Virginia. William does not believe that America could come apart…until he sees it start to happen, with unbelievable speed, the very next day. Continue reading

NASA Study: Irreversible Collapse Likely

Mayan ruins

The sudden crash of a wealthy, technologically advanced civilization is not rare in history. Can you say Mayan? (Photo by amber.kennedy/Flickr)

A major, multi-disciplinary study combining the perspectives of theoretical mathematics, natural and social sciences and — gasp! — history, among others, has concluded that a total, irreversible collapse of the world’s industrial civilization is both likely and imminent. The peer-reviewed study, which has been accepted for publication in the journal Ecological Economics, confirms in detail the conclusions of my 2009 book Brace for Impact, the premises of The Daily Impact, and the scenario of my forthcoming novel Tribulation. Continue reading

Time Running Out for Egypt, Iran

Egyptian riot police whale on opponents of Mubarak, as they would later on those of Morsi, and now on opponents of the army generals, temporarily back in charge. The prognosis is not good. (Photo by Oxfamnovib/Flickr)

Egyptian riot police whale on opponents of Mubarak, as they would later on those of Morsi, and now on opponents of the army generals, temporarily back in charge. The prognosis is not good. (Photo by Oxfamnovib/Flickr)

Never forget that where you see rebellion, it arises from terrible privation and loss of hope. Nor forget that where you see privation and despair, you will soon see rebellion. It does not matter whether Egypt is governed by the army or the Muslim Brotherhood, by a dictator or a democrat; what matters is that the Egyptian people cannot get enough food, water or fuel. It does not matter whether Iran is governed by a cleric, a moderate or a Southern Baptist; if the people do not have enough food, water or electricity, the government will fall. And that won’t solve the problems. Continue reading

Methane Feedback: “Instant Planetary Emergency”

The outline shows the normal extent of Arctic sea ice. This is where it was in the summer of 2012. But wait there's more. (NASA Goddard photo)

The outline shows the normal extent of Arctic sea ice. This is where it was in the summer of 2012. But wait there’s more. (NASA Goddard photo)

A cascade of recent studies concludes that warming Arctic permafrost and ocean floors are on the verge of emitting massive methane eruptions that will quickly load the atmosphere with many times more greenhouse gas than has been produced during the entire Industrial Age. The ensuing warming will so destabilize the climate that a mass extinction may follow that could be the worst in 300 million years — since the so-called “Great Dying” of the Permian Period wiped out 90 per cent of sea life and 70 per cent of land animals. (Please insert the latest “how-could-there-be-global-warming-when-it’s- so-cold?” joke here.) Continue reading

Apocalypse When, Again?

Never mind the iceberg. Should we steer mostly to the left, or to the right?

Latest from RMS Titanic:  Nothing bad has happened yet.

Do prophets of doom grow tired of warning against a doom that never seems to happen? Of course we do. But what really saps our spirit is not the jeering from the Business-as-Usual advocates, but the inadequacy of their thinking. It’s not the heat, you see, it’s the stupidity. To reason that because a thing has not happened yet, therefore the prospects of its happening are diminished, is not supported by any accepted rules of logic, and is a staggeringly dumb idea to cling to along the San Andreas Fault. (Of course, delay does not make a thing more likely to happen either, except in earthquake country.)

Other evidence must be consulted, and a review of the things that have not happened in 2013 may help us to decide whether they are more or less likely to happen in 2014. Continue reading

Egypt: Apocalypse Now

What do the Egyptian people want? Islam? Democracy? Or is it just bread, and a way to survive? (Photo by Jerry Jackson, globaltechfirm/Flickr)

What do the Egyptian people want? Islam? Democracy? Or is it just bread, and a way to survive? (Photo by Jerry Jackson, globaltechfirm/Flickr)

Disregard anything the poets and pundits are saying about current events in Egypt as long as they are rhapsodizing about such irrelevancies as democracy vs. tyranny, secularism vs. radical Islam, or when a coup is not a coup. Listen only to those who recognize that Egypt is being sledge-hammered by a perfect storm of peak oil, peak food and peak water, exacerbated by a strong dose of climate change. Egypt is a failing state, whose failure not only will destabilize an entire region, but foreshadows the similar failure of every state whose existence depends on cheap and plentiful oil, food and water. Continue reading

9/5/2000: Apocalypse Rehearsed

Hurricane Sandy brought New Yorkers a brief taste of Apocalypse Then, bit it wasn't close to 9/5/2000.

Hurricane Sandy brought New Yorkers a brief taste of Apocalypse Then, but it wasn’t close to 9/5/2000.

A fascinating retrospective by Kathy McMahon, a clinical psychologist who blogs as “Dr. K., the Peak [oil] Shrink,” details the little known (in this country) and little remembered (anywhere) story of what happened when the oil supply of some industrial European countries was briefly interrupted by their own citizens. The breathtaking speed with which the grocery stores emptied, the gas stations closed and the economy flatlined are instructive, and predictive. Too bad nobody knows the story. Continue reading