Future scenarios for post-recession America (poll)


The concept of a techno fantasy future for America started back in the 1950s.


Techno-Explosion would follow the exponential growth that the human species has been following since it discovered and utilized fossil fuels. Oil has become the prime source of energy for our modern civilization. With oil peaking, we will have to find some way to exponentially grow utilizing a exponentially growing energy source. Such sources of energy would have to be tremendous as oil is, in essence, condensed sunlight, a highly dense form of energy. Technologies such as fusion, nanotechnology, or a genetically altered biological process would be most apt to perpetuate this exponential growth. We would grow until we leave the planet and continue to grow exponentially for all time.

What would this scenario leave us with? My opinion is it would leave us the cancer of the universe. Growing for growth's sake. Ever consuming both planets and stars for their matter and energy. For if we don't change our culture of growth we will be doomed to repeat it for all eternity. Perhaps creating Dyson Spheres to encapsulate our star to harness the full power of the nuclear reactor we orbit around. This scenario to me is interesting and disturbing. Evolution determines that we will forever change, a techno-explosion deems us to evolve into cybernetic organisms scouring the universe for ever increasing demands of matter and energy. Considering the fact that the vast majority of non-renewable resources on this planet have or are peaking production. We would have to find a new energy source very fast and move from this planet very soon to make this a reality. Wasn't China planning on putting a Man on the moon recently?


Imagine an effort on par with the wartime buildup seen during World War II towards creating a green economy. That is, what would be needed to create a 'techno-stability' economy? We would have to mobilize and put to work every man and woman towards this effort. We would utilize all the known renewable technologies and scale them up. Wind and solar power, and electric vehicles all would be on the table. We would have to eliminate our financial industry because it functions only by the idea that the future will be exponentially bigger then the present not a steady state. Our whole financial industry works by loaning people money and asking for that money back plus interest, if the economy doesn't grow only remaining steady how could that system function? In the Crash Course, Chris talks about the imported oil energy equates to 750 nuclear power plants. If we wanted to take the equal the present day energy from our imports we would have to multiply our solar power by over 2000 times. )He speaks about this around the 5:15 minute mark here.)

I want to share my opinion. We won't see every American home having a solar panel and electric vehicle. Unfortunately for the past decades[image-1] China has steadily been buying up the rare earth metals all around the world. 95% of all Rare earth metals are produced in China now. Rare earth metals are important metals used to create high powered magnets for electric engines (neodymium); thin filmed solar panels need gallium to produce the coatings with. Lithium is a less rare element that China holds a control over the companies that mine this metal. Lithium is used for the most high tech batteries. These resources are rare, as well as remote locations that require mind boggling amounts of energy to extract. Entire mountains need to be removed in order to extract even a few pounds. Another opinion of going this route I want to clarify is the subject of climate change. The embodied energy of solar panels is humongous. In order to produce solar panels currently you have to utilize large amounts of fossil fuels further pushing our atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide higher. As our current federal government plans to spend billions of new highway projects and lackluster amounts of money towards renewable energy, this course is probably not what we undertake. The facts are we are too heavily indebted to the very countries that own the resources we need to create such a techno-stability pathway. Would China lend us more money so we could buy their resources and become more energy efficient and productive then them?


We have 5% of the total world population and consume 25% of the worlds daily oil production. For the past 150 years our culture has been growing exponentially culminating in the modern day age of the internet, intercontinental flights, and Dunken Donuts. Our American culture is based upon continuous consumption of ever growing amounts of resources from other countries. We have built our entire society around the use of cars. Since the inception of the car we have been sprawling away from cities in vast expanses of cul-de-sac laden suburbia. This reliance on a finite resource coupled with a mentality of exponential growth leaves us with a dilemma of monumental proportions. The very fuel we use to go to the drive threw at a fast food joint, is also used to create the very food that fast food place serves you. For every calorie of food you eat, 10 calories of oil were used to create it. Oil has weaved its way into everything of our modern day living. This very laptop that I'm writing on is made mostly of plastic a oil derivative. When the production of oil peaks, the price of oil will skyrocket, crash, skyrocket once more, and crash again. It will follow a every growing steady decline. The pace of this decline will determine the future scenario,  as oil is the main source of our energy used in America. What occurs to the suburbs when gas becomes too expensive to purchase? Keep in mind: most grocery stores have a 3 day supply of food.

The Export Land Model:


The export land model is important to understand as it could be the reason collapse happens. The crash course talks about this here at the 8 minute mark. When oil wells production decreases, exports of oil are eaten from both ends from depletion and domestic consumption. This results in a quick reduction of exports from oil exporting countries. This could create massive price hikes and food shortages if the perception of demand outstrips supply - all bets are off as large stores of oil will be bought up as the perception of shortages will be induced. Say didn't the Chinese just buy up alot of oil?

Collapse will be a drawn out process taking over a decade to fully happen. We will have a long emergency that will never end. Perpetual economic depression will reign unless something is done drastically to reduce our use of oil.

What would something drastic look like?

Creative Response: Permaculture

A drastic change would look like us beginning to change individually while working as a community.


We must make a rational and educated decision to lower our energy use and reliance on fossil fuels. For both peak oil, and climate change forewarn us of disastrous consequences of our modern day way of life. We must have a creative energy descent. In World War II a Victory garden movement started to help reduce the demand on farms for the war effort. Millions of home gardens sprung up nationwide providing nearly 40% of the food for America. Our agriculture system in America utilizes nearly 30% of our fossil fuels. That could be lowered or nearly eliminated if we all gardened around the places we live. Creating a local food system that employees people and provides healthy fresh food. What we need now is a not a increase in industrial output, but a increase in creative output towards using less energy. Utilizing the internet we can connect and collaborate to create such creative ways of reducing our energy use. We need to utilize technologies that can be created locally, like rain harvesting and energy efficiency technologies (such as planting large trees around your home to provide shade). Instead of heavily investing in solar photovoltaic, the least energy intensive method would be passive solar to warm homes, and geothermal air conditioning that uses a style of placing long tubes underneath soil to cool air before it enters a home or solar thermal that utilize the radiance of the sun to generate steam to propel a turbine.

You can't export jobs overseas in the energy efficiency department. Energy efficiency would be a very important part of shifting downward: we would heat our hot water in the sun, focus on retrofitting our homes to be more efficient, and possibly go as far as tearing down long foreclosed homes to create solar homes that don't even need air conditioners. We would get creative and utilize our remaining fossil fuels to decouple ourselves from their use altogether. We could begin to work as a community towards projects to brace our local area for resilience of energy price spikes. I brought these ideas up in my first post.

For too long in America we have been lead by our childish egotistical wants. We must focus once more upon our needs and on efficiency in the systems that we have designed. For the past 20 years the word "globalization" has been used to describe our economy, but I view the future as more "local". A localization effort that puts people to work creating the necessities locally around where they live. We will reform community and create a more democratic equitable lifestyle. A move away from domination and towards partnership. Less dependence on inputs from outside our own country and more dependence on the labor and resources of our own lands. Lets begin the healing process of our environment, our consciousness away from consumerism, as well as our economy, by giving people meaningful and productive work. This will begin a shift towards a truly Partnership society.

[poll id="61"]


Eric Stewart

Director of Code Green Community

Follow me on Twitter: @code_green


Previous Posts:

Our economy is unsustainable. That means at some point in the future it will cease to be sustained. People will lose homes and jobs, and lifestyles will change. Sound familiar to our present day scenario? In my previous post I added a link to the Crash Course, a video series about the challenges America faces over the coming 10 years from our oil addiction: our generation gap of baby boomers retiring and not enough workers to pay for their retirement, our incredibly increasing debt, our lack of savings, and our exponential growth due to fossil fuel consumption resulting in a degrading supply of resources as well as destruction of the ecology we depend on for life. Peak Oil was another issue I brought up in a recent blog. All of these issues will bring about future scenarios that can play in multiple ways. (You can watch these videos from my post here.)

The context of this post will follow the future energy descent scenarios created by David Holmgren, one of the founders of Permaculture, as per his website Future Scenarios. These scenarios deal with the responses we can go forward with after the peak production of oil arises. Our country imports nearly 70% of its oil - how can our country continue this path of exponential growth if other countries deteriorate in oil exports?

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