The Next 500 Years

Kimberly's picture

I have been thinking a great deal about the future lately. The curse of owning a human mind is the endless speculation that goes along with consciousness. Who can say if that speculation is rational? All I know is my mind likes to wander.

I’m no historian, but on occasion I have taken a hobbyist’s interest in world history. My study of history has informed me that civilizations, even the ones with the best of intentions like ours, collapse. I have also made a light study of Peak Oil Theory, which is the idea that our collective societies have accessed all the cheap, plentiful fuel oil we’re ever going to access.

According to Peak Oil Theory, we are now on the slow downward slope towards de-industrialization. Some in the Peak Oil scene believe this downward slope will be an instant apocalypse: meaning thirty years from now, the entire world will be a warmer, slightly more livable version of Cormac McCarthy’s novel/film The Road.

I do not subscribe to the notion of quick Armageddon, however, I also don’t chuck the possibility that bad, bad things will happen. I just don’t believe in the meme that says we’re either in the 1800s or beyond Thunderdome in thirty years or less. Building a doomstead bunker in a faraway place is the last strategy I would employ to avoid trouble, even if things were to get very shitty. For all my misanthropy, I like certain people and get along with them quite famously, so I’m going to stick with my tribe until after the flames come licking at my doorjambs.

Opinions rage across the interwebs pertaining to “What’s going to happen and what should I do to prepare?” In this essay, I will address the first part of that question to the best of my limited ability. I will address the second half of the question, “What would Kimberly do?” in a future essay.

In five years…

Hillary Clinton will be elected President of the United States due to the other side’s failure to present a strong enough candidate to defeat her. Hillary will be Obama 2.0, engaging in the same cronyism with the big banks, drone bombing civilians in the name of “peace” LOL, and pretending (just like Obama) she’s not a remorseless sociopath. The only positive thing about her presidency, like Obama’s, will be the fact she represents a marginalized group of people who have not been elected to the US presidency before. The shale gas bubble will burst, resulting in more of the same, a recession that pundits pretend isn’t happening. China will notice though, because any recession that hits the US impacts them because their cheaply made consumer goods won’t sell as well overseas. More European countries will fall to the bankrupt wayside in the manner of Spain and Greece before them. Extreme weather events will continue, such as the California drought. These events will be largely ignored. Real estate prices in Hong Kong, San Francisco, New York, and Paris will continue to skyrocket as if nothing were happening.

In ten years…

The US is smarting in the aftermath of the second Clinton administration, regretting many lost wars and misallocated resources. Europe is having extreme weather events now on a greater frequency. The first gas shortages hit the US, resulting in a great big “We told you so” from environmentalist groups. Gas shortages hurt the US economy just enough so that some rich people now deign to ride their bikes to work. No real investment is put into public transportation and no problems are solved. Unemployment among working age adults in the US is almost 50% and the numbers are cooked to make it look like 15%. Some countries in Europe start having problems with fascist, Mussolini-esque uprisings.

In twenty years…

The dollar collapses. The US goes to war (with someone, anyone!) as a result but is unable to muster anything that resembles confidence from the population at large. Though most still have access to the internet via handheld devices, homelessness is extremely common and for those who have homes, power outages and brown outs are a regular occurrence. The gas crises of the 2020s brought a conservation movement that genuinely helped the economy, but the right wing and the large corporations who are its right hand managed to siphon any benefits away by assuring the credulous populace that there is suddenly plenty of fossil fuel energy to go around. People believe what they want to believe right up until the dollar gets sucked into oblivion. America is thrown into a Great Depression. We’re talking bread lines, rioting, and hobos galore. Many smart, influential Americans expatriate, a further drain on American prosperity. California is now officially out of water. Property values are finally on a downward trajectory in Los Angeles. Things get bad enough in Phoenix, Arizona and places like it that people just pick up and move, never to return. The mass exodus from the American West to Elsewhere, USA begins.

In thirty years…

Unemployment in the US is now at 80% and entire shantytowns pop up in and around cities where suburbs used to be. The climate is screwed up, to put it mildly. Elephants, tigers, lions, manatees, and whales are now extinct. Many people are now vegetarian not out of choice but of necessity. There is a palpable sense that people are fed up with leadership, with leads to the beginnings of the first “New Religion” under several different names. The new religion isn’t new; it’s an earth worship cult born out of frustration with patriarchal religions like Christianity and Islam.

In forty years…

Big banks took the ultimate hit a decade ago, so most of them are gone. Many big corporations have either been swallowed by even larger ones or go the way of the tigers and whales. All consumer goods on the mass market are produced by three or less super-corporations that terrorize the planet, leaving a swath of destruction wherever they go. There is a super-rich, mostly white elite that dwells in the hallowed halls of said super-corporations, which create compounds for their members in isolated pockets of extremely decadent prosperity. The rest of us get by and life is hard but still pretty good. Communities form around rivers and lakes. A system of local farming and trade takes the place of the unreliable supermarket, which often runs out of food or prices food so unaffordably, nobody can buy it. Property is still priced ridiculously high considering nobody can afford to own a home. The oceans are becoming a frightening, increasingly dead place. This does not stop the super-corporations from stripping them of the last remaining sea-life with huge ocean trawlers.

In fifty years...

The super-corps have hoarded the last of the available gas. Nobody drives a car except in the super-rich compounds. Even so, the super-rich corporations that have replaced the US government have to go to war just to obtain the raw materials to stock their now-empty stores. Most people trade or barter rather than deal with the corporations, though there is always a set of “dreamers” who long for the elite life. The dry western part of the US is abandoned and informally returned to Mexico. Coastal cities are so regularly flooded, even they begin to see outward migration. Earth-worship cults become more enthusiastic as the Back to the Land movement takes flight. The War of the Sexes takes on new meaning as factions organize: the female-dominated Goddess religion of organic farming and pragmatic, Earth-oriented sensual spiritism, and the red-necked, right-wing, repressed old garde Jesus and Allah followers. North and South re-divide in the US, fomenting a new cold (possibly hot) Civil War. Similar lines are drawn in India and Europe.

In seventy five years...

America has broken into no less than four smaller states. Local, mafia-style governments subvert the will of super-corporations, which often bring brutal retaliation and war. Water is the new oil. For this reason, the super-corporations try to control it at all costs. There is the mass sense the Earth is undergoing a Great Dying. Long before super-corporations collapse, they will foist Soylent Green on anyone willing to eat it. They will barely hide the fact those who eat super-corporation fast food are committing acts of cannibalism. They seem to be expanding and prospering right before they peter out for good. The Earth worshippers celebrate their demise with violence. Rich people, those who thought they were safe in the compounds while employed by the super-corporations, almost uniformly end up with their heads on pikes. New, strict religious mandates mandate those who try to live ostentatious lifestyles are sent to a labor camp, beheaded, or tortured. The private car is like a distant dream. The suburbs are now all slums.

In a hundred years...

The climate is NOT GOOD. The Western US is all but abandoned. The oceans are striking back at foolish humans for ruining them. The Earth worship cults have won the day a little too late. Super-corporations have now been destroyed from the inside as well as being the target of the Earth cults, which are now the established world religion. The new, Goddess-centered religious feudalism is a hard life, but often not a bad one. Life, for the time being, goes on. Human population, which mushroomed to almost 12 billion during the last century, now holds steady instead of climbing.

In two hundred years...

Most major cities that mattered (New York, Shanghai) are under stagnant, acidic water. They take on mythological, Atlantis-like reputations. There is a huge split with the prosperous Earth-worshippers living as peacefully as they can around major waterways in walled cities. The Dark Ages are back and though many can farm, very few can read. All knowledge is preserved by the Earth Worshipping cults (now established religions) by a few "holy women" and men, though these libraries are in constant danger from marauding hordes of the Old-Religious, also known as Christians and Muslims who prey on anyone who isn't within the feudal confines of walled cities. Christianity and Islam are relegated to cult status. Sea life is 80% extinct except for a few hardy species. Dolphins, sharks, and all coral reefs are gone. Think of the American suburbs, where a multitude of flora and fauna ended up as struggling populations of geese, squirrels, rats, pigeons, cockroaches, and ants with the occasional deer or coyote. Die offs within the last hundred years finally start including humans, who shrink to a population of six billion, much better but still too much for an overburdened planet. The American South and West are apocalyptic wastelands where no sane person would travel. Most civilization of any worth has moved either north or far to the South. Africa is one vast desert with very little life. Cannibal hordes are the norm there wherever humans are found. Bumblebees go extinct along with 75% of all birds. All primates except humans are extinct. Amphibians are extinct. The Brazilian rainforest is about a thousand acres wide in the form of a struggling wildlife preserve in the middle of a vast desert.

In three hundred years...

Even the best efforts of the Earth Worshippers have not been able to save the Earth from the increasingly difficult climate. Human population is greatly reduced to about three billion. There is no gas left and no ability to pull energy from the ground. Every thrown-away scrap of aluminum or whatever that could be salvaged was already salvaged. The Earth Worshipping societies have done great considering what little they had to work with but it is not enough. The oceans are 100% dead. The weather is so bad, 90% of sea life is extinct and 50% of land animals are gone. Electricity is impossible to generate. People long for the “easy” days of subsistence farming. There is no concept of how easy we have it now, only the idea that almost every aspect of the twenty first century lifestyle was the pastime of the wicked.

In four hundred years...

The planet is virtually unrecognizable from an early twenty first century standpoint. 6 degrees of warming have occurred and human population is whittled down to a few hundred million. Superstorms are an everyday occurrence. Human civilization falls completely apart as even small wildlife like squirrels become extinct. Cannibalism is the norm, even among former Earth worshipping types. Excuses and justifications are found.

In five hundred years...

Humankind is as good as extinct. All the coasts are under water. The land is stripped bare. Constant dust storms and acid rain kill any attempt at agriculture. The last starving bands of humans scramble around in a desolate wasteland. Population is holding out at one million, many of whom are sea pirates with boats full of stolen, hoarded, and preserved food. Methane explosions have killed plenty that sulfuric acid rain and dust failed to kill. Even rats and insects are difficult to find because almost all life on Earth is extinct. Still, the last humans linger on as best they can for 300 more years, mostly eating each other. Nobody is exempt from being eaten -- it’s very common to see a human baby roasting on a spit. The oceans turn a bizarre shade of green and the sky darkens to a permanent orange-gray. The Earth will be fine though, give or take a few million years!

Okay, the above is only my opinion. I think all three scenarios: Insta-Apocalypse, my version, and humanity lasting for a hundred million more years have the same likelihood. This one is just my best guess.

That said, I’m really glad I didn’t have kids!