Fukushima: A Nuclear War without a War: The Unspoken ...

Living through the long decline

If you've paid attention and understand how to read between the lines, you might have noticed that our society has reached its peak. Generally speaking, things aren't going to get much better than they are today. In fact, most of the luxury we've grown accustomed to will disappear. You might get faster internet speeds, your telephone might learn some new tricks, but that's about all you can realistically expect to get.
We should count our blessings in fact, if we survive through the coming decades without people dying of hunger in first world nations. In many third world nations, that prospect is already unavoidable. The UN has declared the worst humanitarian catastrophe since world war II, because numerous nations throughout Africa face unprecedented famines, brought on by political instability, eroding soils, expanding populations and a rapidly changing climate.
You might have noticed that all these gleeful predictions that the whole world would soon cease to reproduce out of its own volition because girls are sent to school have so far ceased to apply to Africa. With every new revision of its population prospects, the United Nations target for 2100 creeps up. This is all due to Africans, who simply can't be made to agree that reproduction is a 20th century relic and the future lies in taking care of cats and dogs as you spend until your mid thirties finishing your Phd.
When it comes to Europe, there are two possible courses. Europe could embark on an isolationist course, trying to fence off its borders and ensure that the people who managed to kickstart the industrial revolution manage to survive through its hangover as well. This would require a switch towards a continent dominated by far right parties that hardly have a clue in regards to the kind of climatic catastrophe we have to prepare for.
The established European parties seem unlikely to drastically change course in regards to their political position on the growing migration waves that Erdogan and other dictators now happily use to slap freebies out of them like a giant piñata. They harbor the vision that every individual is a unique person with his own human rights that have to be enforced, ignoring the fact that we can only enforce the concept of human rights we came up with ourselves because we live in an era of abundance that is now drawing to an end.
During the refugee wave of 2015, mayors in the Netherlands proclaimed that "nobody sleeps on the streets" in the Netherlands, as they hurried to find shelter for all the newcomers. Well, they're about to face much worse. If you think you can sustain a world where nobody will have to sleep on the streets, reality is about to hit you in the face like a brick wall. Even the United States has tent cities filled to the brim with regular middle class professionals who fell on bad luck.
What I would like to know is what these European politicians who nearly annihilated our civilization in 2015 plan to do in the years ahead as the refugee crisis continues to expand. In 2015, we saw a fake dichotomy between "real refugees" and "economic migrants", the prior facing death in political violence, the latter seeking opportunities abroad. The idea was that the prior deserve a ticket to paradise, whereas the latter need to pull themselves up by their bootstraps. Well, in the years ahead, you'll notice these lines begin to blur further.
The economic migrants we speak of, are the same type of people living in overpopulated nations where people are dying of hunger. Before the industrial revolution, Niger sustained around 3 million people. Today it hosts 18 million, by 2100 it's expected to house 210 million people. If we discover economic migrants fleeing our way, it will be because the local economy will consist of the exchange of mud cookies and bullets. Europe will eventually figure out that it will have to choose between becoming a giant battered women shelter for sub-Saharan Africa, or accepting that its traditional vision of human rights will have to be abandoned.
If you wonder how I can be so sure of a catastrophe that lies ahead, consider that we house 7.5 billion people today on our planet and expect to have nearly 10 billion by 2050. Meanwhile, the capacity for feeding them is shrinking. In the past 40 years, we've lost a third of our arable land to soil erosion. Historically, this has brought multiple civilizations to their end. In the years ahead, the problem will get worse. In the Middle East, 550 million people are said to live inside “the margin of what is physically possible”. Guess where they'll be headed when the mercury smashes through said margin, which could happen in a few decades.
Similarly, a billion people worldwide depend to some degree on the coral reefs for nutrition. I don't know if you've noticed how the coral reefs are doing lately, but they won't be here anymore in a few decades. The temperature rise over the past 250 years has been mostly helpful to our civilization and increased yields, but except perhaps for some very Northern latitudes, we're now moving beyond the optimal range for agriculture, at a speed that vastly exceeds the changes we've so far experienced.
It would be catastrophic enough on its own if this were the only problem we faced, as these problems have historically brought down most civilizations. We face a different situation however, as we're also dependent for our way of life on non-renewable resources. Without oil, coal and natural gas, this party comes to an end. The fact that you can theoretically produce these resources on your own through photosynthesis doesn't get you very far when you're already struggling to feed everyone.
What's necessary is that you look at these problems with some degree of realism. This will be beneficial to you yourself. You might tell yourself: "I'm better off not knowing about all of these doom scenarios." Well, that's where you would be wrong. To start with, if you have options, you'd try to move away from a city like Los Angeles and relocate instead to a city like Invercargill, New Zealand. Most of us don't have such options of course, we're stuck right where we live today. If you live in the type of place where the death of a criminal at the hands of the police is enough to start a riot, any place would be preferable to that in the years ahead, when the government will place its priorities on encouraging the survival of those who can contribute to society over those who make a living by massaging your guilt feelings.
But what if you're poor? Even then, there are advantages to knowing that business as usual will not continue. Let's say you have a seventeen year old son who's planning to go to college to study something that's supposed to start paying off by the time he's in his late forties. Well, you might wish to make it clear to him that the world thirty years from now will hardly look like the world that economists and politicians plan for. If you're sacrificing earnings now, in exchange for earnings thirty years from now that will be taxed highly because the government will need the money to keep people from starving, how does this benefit you? You might wish to recommend learning a trade to your son instead.
Similarly, if you're in your twenties today and face the prospect of retiring at the age of 72, as I do, what point is there realistically speaking to saving for retirement? Do you think I'm seriously going to save a dime so that I get to spend it by the time I'm 72? Do you think I seriously trust the money will still be there? I have a pleasant job, but I'm not putting anything away for my eventual retirement. I trust that today's generations will empty the retirement funds before I'll ever get to stake a claim to them. In addition, realistically speaking I may simply never live to be 72. Ask yourself how many years you have left until retirement and ask yourself how the world will look by then. There is hardly a difference between the poor and the middle class today, how do you expect it to look in the future?
I'm well aware that generations that preceded me have had the same thoughts. Survivalists in the 90's must have thought the world would be in flames by now. Boomers who didn't bother saving for retirement because they figured Jesus would have returned by now are starting to sweat as they realize they didn't prepare for old age. The thing is however, that the failure of a prediction doesn't prohibit its predicted outcome from being correct. I can look at a 400 pound man and predict he'll have a heart attack in the next ten years. If it turns out ten years later I was wrong, that doesn't mean his risk of suffering a heart attack has dropped to zero.
What you're going to notice sooner or later is that we have not just failed to live up to the scientific accomplishments hoped for by our ancestors, we're going to fail to sustain the accomplishments they made. Consider for example, our discovery of antibiotics. You'll notice soon enough that these antibiotics will cease to work. We're similarly reaching the point where many of the pesticides we depend on will cease to work. We have a very limited range of fungicides and we're starting to face the question of whether we want to sacrifice yields or lives.
There will be real catastrophic collapses, of the type you see predicted by angry guys with blogs. I'm sure we will see places rendered uninhabitable by nuclear disasters, dams failing that kill tens of thousands of people in first world countries and render hundreds of thousands more homeless, I'm sure we'll see lasting power outages, or even dramatic civil wars between migrants and indigenous people. What happened in Japan was supposed to be impossible too, according to nuclear engineers. "If you were sitting on top of the plants' chimney when they were venting, you should probably give up smoking to return to your former life expectancy." Remember this old line by any chance? Those are the words of Josef Oehmen, an MIT scientist and they were parroted everywhere, until they were hurriedly scrubbed from the Internet. As is surprisingly often the case, the ALL CAPS rantings by basement-dwellers with tin-foil hats were closer to the truth than the soothing words of what we imagine to be credible experts.
I could dig up similar soothing commentary here on Reddit if I wanted, but I trust that you yourself remember the time when the narrative had not yet switched to of course you shouldn't build these wonderful inventions of ours near fault lines. I expect that genetic engineering will have its own Fukushima moment eventually when it triggers the kind of irreversible damage to our ecosystem that was supposed to be impossible, which will be followed by similar science-loving intellectuals on Reddit who will insist that those responsible were simply doing it wrong. The dramatic unanimous insistence by anonymous commentators on the Internet who seem to have no dog in the fight that vaccines and genetic engineering are safe is perhaps the biggest reason there is to worry about their safety.
In all likelihood however, places that suffer a dramatic collapse of the type seen in Syria or Fukushima will be in the minority. What the majority of you will live through is a slow grind, as the type of standard of living we can sustain begins to decline. Look at the Netherlands today and you will see prominent former politicians choose euthanasia with their wives, because their health is declining and they realize how terrible conditions in our modern nursing homes are. You can expect that euthanasia is going to be one of the new normals in our society, not because people suffer deeply, but because they realize we don't have the wealth available to us to guarantee them dignified lives when they become disabled.
Another trend you'll notice is that there will be no real genuine incentive to work for a lot of you. If you're not part of the ruling class and don't have some job as a code-monkey, you will work primarily out of status concerns. In the Netherlands and many other European nations, being a single mother on welfare earns you roughly as much money as working most full-time jobs would. The main reason more people don't apply for welfare is the fact that they discourage people capable of working from receiving welfare benefits, in addition to the public humiliation commonly used to encourage people to find something to do. Unless you're part of the small elite, it won't matter much whether you spend your day in a cubicle or watching tel sell commercials instead.
So how do you cope with this prospect? Well, if the middle class will be the same as the lower class, you could strife even harder to become part of the upper class that will prove to be the main target of the lynch mob. We all dream of having a mansion where we can live by ourselves without any neighbors, but those mansions are like an advertisement board encouraging criminals to break into your house and keep you hostage. If you don't plan on having your whole family carry guns with them continually, don't bother aiming for the stars. Aristocrats are beheaded, the poor starve in famines, but average people inherit the future.
Wiser than hoping to become part of the 0.1% is to accept the prospect that lies ahead of us and trying to make the best of it. Again, if you live in the kind of city where people riot whenever a criminal is put out of his misery, your priority should lie with getting out of there. Find a community of people who look and behave similar to you and settle down there. This is bigger than just ethnicity, social class matters as well. If you work as a bearded hipster with your own microbrewery, go live around other overeducated special snowflakes. You don't want to stand out from the crowd and you don't want your neighbors to pretend not to notice when you're starving or chained to a chair by criminals.
If you're part of an ethnic minority, you'll similarly want to live around others belonging to your community. If you notice the mentality is starting to look very grim, you'll want to work on getting out of the country. Three years before the Kristallnacht, Germany implemented laws defining who's a Jew and who Jews are allowed to marry. Hindsight is 20-20, but when you notice such tendencies emerge it's time to get out, as it's only downhill from that point on.
This ties into another grim reality, which is that if you're a Syrian or a Nigerian it makes perfect rational sense to try to flee to Europe, as the third world will suffer a dramatic population contraction. Europeans however will do what makes perfect sense for them, which is to try to prohibit you from entering their continent. The simple process of group polarization will likely lead even those nationalist parties who today see themselves as moderate and rational to implement policies that would horrify us today. Humans in an era of abundance are much nicer to each other than they are in an era of scarcity.
Perhaps equally useful advice is to plan for a lifestyle that is nomadic. The work I do allows me to live essentially anywhere. If I felt the need, I could theoretically move to Eastern Europe and keep the same income while cutting my cost of living by 50%. More likely, I would try to move to an impoverished rural region of my own country. I always have some Bitcoin I can hold onto as well, in case everything goes to hell in a hand basket.
If you decided to get a mortgage, so that you could build up assets that will make you rich thirty of forty years from now, my opinion would be that your decision was not very wise. Besides the fact that real estate may very well be in a bubble, you have to understand that the government will tax anything it can tax. It can't tax off-shore bank accounts, so it will happily tax your property instead. Look at Detroit, a failed community that has the second highest property taxes in the United States, to understand what will happen. By virtue of the fact that you own property, you become a cow to milk.
One important factor to consider is that a mortgage can have the effect of tying you to a piece of land. That's perhaps the worst problem you can be dealing with if your community faces social meltdown. If I have a mortgage that's higher than the value of the property I own and I need to pay a tax when I wish to buy a different house, how will I ever leave the place I'm stuck in? In Groningen here in the Netherlands, we have thousands of people who are stuck living in houses falling apart due to earthquakes. These people have mortgages and live in houses nobody wants to buy any longer, so they're stuck living in houses they fear could collapse any moment and unable to move elsewhere.
As we continue pumping up gas, the earthquakes they suffer will merely get worse. These people would have been much better off renting a house instead. Situations like these will be very common in my country as the sea level rises. Consider this: Almere is a city roughly 5 meter beneath sea level. The soil is expected to sink by roughly another half meter by 2050, while the sea can be expected to rise by anywhere up to half a meter by then. If you plan on buying a house there, I've got a bridge to sell you with it.
The ultimate form of nomadism is perhaps to buy a boat and to live on your boat. As babyboomers watch their pensions dry up, these boats might very well become quite affordable. A boat allows you to leave, regardless of where you live. Hurricane incoming? You leave. Some "youth" got shot after robbing a gas station? Time to set sail. The local dam is about to spil over? Time to leave. Some guy in a white coat on TV announces that there's "no reason to panic"? You leave immediately. This is the best option available to you that I can imagine.
Of course in the real world, you don't control everything. There's a lot of random chance involved when it comes to your survival odds for the years ahead, although the odds are generally stacked against you if you live in Niger or Uganda and in your favor if you live in Denmark or New Zealand. It's not going to go wrong simultaneously everywhere. It should be clear that it already went wrong in Syria and Yemen. These places will soon be joined by large parts of Africa, which will trigger unprecedented waves of migrants. Places like Japan and New Zealand may very well get through the coming decades unscathed. For the rest of us, that's unlikely to be the case.
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