Having recently watched James Cameron’s “Avatar”, I read with some interest Michael T. Klare’s op-ed at the CBSNews’ website titled “Will Earth’s Last Stand Sweep the 2013 Oscars?, in which he sketches one possible world view of the year 2144, the time that “Avatar” happens in, and one I feel could very well come to be.
(Michael Klare is a professor of peace and world security studies at Hampshire College in Amherst, Massachusetts. He is the author of “Resource Wars, Blood and Oil” and “Rising Powers, Shrinking Planet”.)
“It’s the torrid summer of 2144, just a decade before Avatar begins. (That movie takes place in summer 2154, after a flight from Earth that, we’re told, involves six continuous years of sleep, which helps us backdate Jake Scully’s Venezuelan combat tours.) As it has been for decades, the world is at war, with competing power blocs fighting bitterly over a diminishing pool of vital resources.
Three great power centers dominate the global resource struggle, all located in the northern latitudes where the climate still remains tolerable and the land still receives sufficient rainfall to support agriculture. The first of these, in whose legions both Scully and Quaritch fight, is the North American Federation, founded after the United States, facing desertification in its southern half, invaded and absorbed Canada. The second, Greater China, incorporating northern China, the Korean peninsula, and eastern Siberia (seized from Russia in a series of wars), dominates what’s left of Asia; the third, the North European Alliance, encompassing Germany, Russia (west of the Urals), and Scandinavia, relies heavily on Arctic resources. As in the world portrayed by George Orwell in 1984, these powers continually jockey for dominance in shifting alliances, while their armies face one another in the torrid, still relatively resource-rich parts of the planet. In this neo-Orwellian world, warfare and the constant pressure of resource competition are the only constants.
Thanks to global warming, the planet’s tropical and subtropical regions, including large parts of Africa, the Mediterranean basin, the Middle East, and South and Southeast Asia, as well as Mexico and the American Southwest, have become virtually uninhabitable. Many island nations and coastal areas, including much of Florida, Bangladesh, Vietnam, Sri Lanka, Indonesia, and the Philippines, lie under water. Critical raw materials like oil, coal, natural gas, uranium, copper, and cobalt are perennially scarce. Starvation is a constant fear for those not affluent enough to pay for increasingly expensive genetically-modified crops and meat produced on corporate farms with multiple chemical inputs.
Large-scale industrial civilization still persists, but many once-industrialized areas have been abandoned, and what factories and transport systems remain are constantly constrained by limited energy supplies and the lack of steady flows of vital resources. Oil is particularly hard to come by, and so, in all three power blocs, its use is largely restricted to the military, security forces, emergency services, the largest of corporations, and the very rich. (If you want to get a sense of such a world, imagine Mel Gibson’s 1979 movie Road Warrior on steroids.) Other sources of energy, including natural gas and uranium, are also in increasingly scant supply. Renewable sources, including wind and solar power, help to make up some, but not enough, of the difference, while a shortage of critical minerals — copper, cobalt, tin, manganese, titanium — limits the scale of many industrial undertakings.
For ordinary people — and only somewhat less so for the elites of the planet’s heavily militarized states — survival is a constant struggle. Outside of the industrialized power centers, life involves a daily search for food, water, and energy of any sort, as well as whatever precious goods (gems, weapons, bits of technology) might be traded to get those basics. For the big corporations and their government sponsors, as they send the Scullys and Quadritches to the distant corners of the planet to enforce their will, the struggle is no less fierce for control of the world’s few remaining deposits of oil, natural gas, coal, copper, and uranium.”
Chilling in its forecast but most people reading this will say to themselves “That’s over a hundred years from now, why worry?”.
Well, Responsible Survivalists worry about things that will affect their children and their grand children, that’s what being responsible is. More over though, the world Professor Klare lays out won’t be one that just appears over night. The conditions that create such a dark and brooding future will happen over time. Time that you and I will likely live to see.
And we are already seeing such conditions now.
If you have been reading the news this past year, you will have noted I hope the world wide buying spree China has been on, gobbling up long term contracts for essential resources from copper to coal, and especially oil. Unfortunately while most of the Western World stay glued to their televisions watching “American Idol” and our elected officials here in the US play partician games of chicken, the Chinese are already running the next, most important Olympic Sport, “Grab It Now, While You Can.”
Will the rest of the World wake up in time. Can you depend on our governments for your survival?
I doubt it, don’t you?
So become like China, look to securing your own future and that of your family, by securing the resources, the knowledge and the skills beginning now, that you will need in the future of the 21st century.
Follow Up – Dated 03.01.10:
“China eyeing perks of ice-free Arctic”
“China has started exploring how to reap economic and strategic benefits from the ice melting at the Arctic with global warming, a Stockholm research institute said Monday.
Chinese officials have so far had been cautious in expressing interest in the region for fear of causing alarm among the five countries bordering the Arctic, the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) said.
“The prospect of the Arctic being navigable during summer months, leading to both shorter shipping routes and access to untapped energy resources, has impelled the Chinese government to allocate more resources to Arctic research,” SIPRI researcher Linda Jakobson said.”
As I said earlier, China gets its. Do you?
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