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Page added on December 31, 2008

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The Peak Oil Crisis: Civil Unrest

Before grappling with 2009, it might be useful to remind ourselves that there is a dark side to what lies ahead.

There was a little flurry in the news last week when it was discovered that the Army War College had released a report talking about preparing for civil unrest in the U.S. When you read the report, it turns out to be yet another warning about generals preparing for the last war. It devotes only three pages to the idea that the Army might soon find itself so embroiled in helping local authorities cope with civil unrest that international commitments, such as the war on terrorism, could become secondary concerns.

Since the close of the Civil War, America has enjoyed nearly 150 years of domestic tranquility. There were, of course the Indian wars, some labor disputes and a handful of urban riots in recent decades, but these were isolated and did not last for long. Even during the great depression of the 1930’s America’s social fabric stayed largely intact. Signs that these idyllic decades may be coming to close are starting to arise. In the last few weeks the deteriorating economic situation has seen serious disturbances in Greece and Thailand. We are beginning to read of disturbances in Russia and China.

Most realists foresee that 2009 will be a bad year with stock markets declining, unemployment rising, real estate values falling, government bailouts continuing, deflation morphing into inflation, the dollar falling, and oil prices rising. Thus far the economic downturn has not had a serious social impact. However, food banks are running short, shoplifting and other property crimes are on the rise, child neglect is increasing as is infant mortality. However, considering the pace at which people have been thrown out of work during the last year most seem to be getting by – so far.

Of all the world’s nations, America is probably the worst prepared to deal with deep, prolonged economic hardships, for more of us have disconnected from 19th century, rural, somewhat self-sufficient, lifestyles than in most other countries. In the 1930’s many found that they could still return to the family farm, where food, shelter, and meaningful work was available. In 2010 that option exists for very few; we have become dependent on a complex infrastructure fueled by oil for our food, water, clothing and warmth. Start reducing the flow of oil and increasing numbers of us are going to become increasingly desperate.

Falls Church News-Press

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