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Are We Facing the End of the World?

One of my readers scoffed that high gasoline prices will not mean that the world will end.

I agree. 

Honestly – I absolutely and completely agree.

It would take an awful lot for the world to end.

During two years of the reign of Ibbi-Sin, in ancient Mesopotamia, the price of grains rose to sixty times their normal price. SIXTY TIMES. That’s like paying $180 for a loaf of bread. Still think inflation is bad?

The world did not end. 

The great Roman Empire fell. 

The world continued, as it has through every major societal collapse. Sure, that set off the Medieval Period, the Dark Ages, but the truth is that the world did not end.

The Plague decimated a third of the population of Europe. 

The world continued (and flourished, in fact!). 

Genocides have wiped out entire populations and life went on.  

The Soviet Union disintegrated into fifteen small countries, and life continued.

And all of those are very fine to look at from the outside, or from thousands of miles away. During those times, there were certainly many who felt as though the world had indeed ended, and for some of them, it did. Many people starved to death, or died in other horrible ways.
We are heading toward a societal collapse. And, although there has never before been a world-wide collapse, the integration of economies may mean that this will the first. We have developed a worldwide economy and society based upon a non-renewable resource which is rapidly becoming depleted.
The world is not going to end.

Life will go on. The world will continue. Some people continue to believe that the change we are about to experience will be little more than a series of minor annoyances and lifestyle changes. Others believe that it will be cataclysmic. Others believe that the Rapture will happen in this generation and they, therefore, won’t be affected, so they’re not worrying.
Whatever you believe, we are beginning to feel the effects of those changes.

Lake Lili, a frequent reader here, lives in tourist and cottage country and has commented on the financial difficulties caused by higher gas prices in her community. Fewer travelers mean fewer rented cottages, causing people who have relied on tourist income to have difficulty paying bills. As they then cut back on spending, the loss of income is passed on to local retailers who depend on them.

Higher oil prices mean that fertilizer and tractor fuel for farmers is more expensive, as is the cost of transporting animals to the slaughterhouse and to the grocery stores. This leads quickly to high animal feed prices and higher meat prices. I have been having some sticker shock at Sobeys when I see beef selling for $36/kilogram (that’s $16/lb).

Chinese truckers are currently striking because of high fuel prices.

Higher oil prices have already begun causing a rise in food prices, shipping costs, and the price of anything made with petroleum. Combining that with a global economic downturn, and it means that prices are going up at a time when incomes are going down. We have seen that before throughout history, of course, right back to ancient times.

Of course, many of us are aware that environmentally-dirty, expensive methods, like oil sands and nuclear are being considered and used to attempt to gain just a little more fuel. It is becoming harder for anyone to deny that oil production has peaked. World oil production was 73.8 million barrels a day in 2005, 73.5 million barrels a day in 2010, and it is showing signs of being considerably less this year.

Japan is reeling under the effects of their need for vast amounts of electricity. The effect of that is reaching over to North American, as GM shuts down their plant in Louisana due to a lack of Japanese parts, and Toyota and Subaru have stopped overtime in order to conserve parts.  Limiting or eliminating nuclear means that Japan’s demand for oil will increase, and that will only serve to increase the prices more. Do not minimize the impact of that – Japan currently imports four million barrels of oil a day.

The Wall Street Journal is predicting that food prices will soon soar, something my astute readers already know, even though there may be a temporary drop in prices this summer.  The Food and Agriculture Organization does not expect a food crisis in 2011, but they are not ruling one out by 2012. (As an aside to preppers – use any decrease in prices as an opportunity to stock your shelves.)

The United States’ Energy Information Administration is predicting a 25.6% increase in the cost of heating oil for this coming winter, with natural gas expected to go up at least 10%.The American dollar, to which every economy seems tied, is losing value. The stock market is struggling.

And of course, more things are on the horizon, all in a terrifying spiderweb of cause and effect around the globe. All it takes is a nudge in the wrong direction – like an earthquake/tsunami/nuclear explosion in the tiny, heavily populated and economically enormous island-nation of Japan. The global economy is collapsing.

We are certainly not about to experience The End of the World. However, I believe we are soon to experience The End of the World As We Know It.

And to most of us, maybe it’ll be the same thing.
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