This post won’t follow the format of preceding posts on our civilization’s fragility in that it doesn’t present an academic work related to collapse. Instead it looks at how world events can begin overlap and affect multiple systems. Some events we’re all aware of:
- The overthrow of Egyptian dictator – and U.S. ally – Mubarak and the new government that will eventually take power calls into question the last few decades of peace between Arab nations and Israel. Any large-scale war in the Middle East is a very bad thing for the rest of the (oil consuming) world.
- The related Libyan uprising against the rule of Muammar Gaddafi has caused fuel prices in the U.S. and elsewhere to skyrocket, threatening the already fragile financial recovery. What’s surprising about this is the relatively small amount of oil Libya supplied (about 2%), especially for the U.S. market:
[Libya] normally pumps around 1.6 million bpd, 85 percent of which is exported to Europe. Output is normally equivalent to about 2 percent of global consumption, and unrest has cut output to about 500,000 million bpd…
- The earthquake and tsunami in Japan have caused a generations crisis there that has endangered the financial solvency of Japan and sent shock waves into the global financial market:
The global financial turmoil sparked by Japan’s earthquake, tsunami and nuclear crisis — which has wiped out about $300 billion in U.S. stock values alone this week — is particularly troubling for the United States and several other countries, where an economic recovery has been showing signs of derailing because political unrest in Libya and the Middle East has led to a sharp run-up in crude oil prices.
- Though not in the news lately, the European debt crisis is still there looming around the corner, waiting to come back.
As political upheaval and natural disasters disrupt energy and other supply lines, the effects are felt throughout other systems and across the world. The nuclear plants probably melting down in Japan may slow plans for new nuclear power plants in the U.S. As nuclear power is the only energy source that has any realistic potential for replacing fossil fuels in the long-run, this only makes an American collapse more likely.
The world is getting closer to the edge. Additional natural disasters, political upheaval, or conflicts in critical locations could be enough to push civilization as we know it over the edge. I won’t say “the end is near” because the end is always near. Times like these we can get a glimpse of how close it is.