August 15, 2013 - Our behavior continues to indicate that we believe ourselves to be in control of our world. Not to pick on the president, but he’s just announced plans for updating the electric grid. The reason he’s doing that is that, just as the vast majority of Americans are unable to imagine a world without electricity, neither can he. Or maybe he can, and that’s the problem: people sometimes suffer from “kill the messenger” syndrome, and he absolutely does not want to be the bearer of that particular piece of bad news.
What most Americans want to believe, of course, is that we can have our cake and eat it, too. Burn coal, but not suffer from the consequences of doing so. Eat food made toxic by RoundUp, but not suffer the consequences of doing so. Drive cars, but not suffer the consequences of doing so. Feed farm animals with GMO foods, but not suffer the consequences of doing so. Drill for oil in the Arctic, but not suffer the consequences of doing so.
What will those consequences one day be? If we continue with business as usual, and the climate continues to warm, we can look forward to malaria, cholera, typhoid, dysentery, Lyme disease, Legionnaire’s Disease, and dengue fever, to name a few. We can look forward to thunderstorms accompanied by baseball-sized hail, winds of 100+ mph, and catastrophic flooding. Trees knocked down, roads washed away, cars so battered by hail they’re left undrivable. The end of modern transportation. No trucks, no trains. Storms so electrically charged, with wind shear so dramatic, that planes are unable to fly. No food, no clothes, no building materials. No medicine. What will we do without our antidepressants?
The wildfire season will have grown to rampant proportions, with fires burning year-round out West. In the eastern United States, the air will be so warm it can hold 10 percent more water than normal (we’re at 4 – 5 percent more right now). Humidity so high that outdoor work will be impossible during the day, and only a little better at night. Fracking will have made water scarce and/or undrinkable in some places. With the heat reaching unbearable levels for longer periods of time than ever before, air conditioning will be in record demand. A demand that cannot be met, with the result that neighbors will have to band together in one house one day, and in another the next. People will sleep in their basements at night. Stores will be unable to keep fans in stock, both because of the breakdown in transportation, and because of the rise in demand.
Many stores will go out of business because of customers’ inability to drive. As items disappear because factories have been shuttered due to lack of power, even online shopping will become a thing of the past, ultimately for the same reason. Remember the immortal words “reduce, re-use, recycle?” Flea markets will spring up everywhere, with I.O.U’s and local currencies supplanting the dollar. We’ll grow at least some of our own food, share and trade with neighbors, and make monthly visits to local farms in order to buy meat. Whether or not it will have to be consumed right away will depend on the availability of refrigeration.
And that’s if we’re lucky.