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PostApocalypse Studies
Acknowledging the Confluences of Catastrophes

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Confluence #1 [CSP]: Climate Change, Species Collapse, Peak Oil

We find CSP to be the most credible Confluential Collapse among our triumvirate. In this Confluence, Climate Change -- even "merely" a two or three degree average change -- will have profound effects far beyond what we are seeing in the late Null Decade of the 21st century.

Hypotheses Regarding Climate Change:
  1. An increase of dramatic coastal events such as record tides, hurricanes, tidal waves, and red tides;
  2. Drought and deluge conditions in areas of the world accustomed to neither;
  3. Changes in prevailing winds and in prevailing currents, because of changing temperature gradients;
  4. Earlier springs, and later falls across the northern breakbaskets
  5. Increased meltoff of Greenland and the Arctic, flowing massive fresh water into a fundamentally salt-water system
  6. Methane releases of massive proportions from now-rotting post-permafrost, exacerbating the greenhouse effect
  7. Political upheaval, because the populace "gets it," while the moneyed interests controlling governments struggle to maintain their lucrative status quo through denial, halfmeasures, and delaying tactics
  8. An increasing population of "telecommuting refugees" (among first world nations) and "teeming refugees" (among developing nations) move inland from the coasts
  9. Catastrophic insurance, and the reinsurance industry itself, has a crisis of liquidity, as do multinational banks, retirement funds, and other large financial organs deeply invested in the status quo.
Hypotheses Regarding Species Collapse:
  1. Pollution -- plastic in the sea, hormones in the water, fertilizer runoff, chemical stews, pesticides, herbicides, and a thousand other elements that our natural world never evolved to defend against is stressing most organisms.
  2. Many birds have evolved to have their eggs hatch when a particular larva or insect emerge at a particular few weeks in the spring. If those larva don't come out, or come out too early because of a warming climate, the chicks will literally starve. Imagine that, times a thousand thousand relationships that have evolved over ten thousand thousand years. That delicate web is distressed.
  3. Extinctions are happening at an increasing rate, most from human actions, and are expected to increase. Biologists, currently mute, may begin to become militant.
  4. As the climate warms, the oceans absorb more CO2. This in term creates carbolic acid, essentially acidifying the ocean worldwide. This is currently killing the coral reefs, as that carbolic acid prevents the formation of calcium carbonate, the hard stuff that forms not just corals, but also clams, mollusks, snails... At the current rate of acidification, the reefs are unlikely to survive beyond ten to fifteen years. Tens if not hundreds of thousands of species are dependent on those reefs as their primary ecosystem.
  5. Infestations of out-of-control organisms -- some benign, some certainly not -- erupt in various parts of the world, as the controlling species (of bird, wasp, ladybug, raptor, krill, ant) precipitously declines, because some other species upon which it depends, has died out.
  6. Huge swathes of forest, farmland, and ocean become dead zones, via infestations and species imbalances, no unlike the Chesapeake Bay's -- and the Gulf of Mexico's -- oxygen-free "zones of death," though the causal agent is different there.
  7. Agriculture becomes very difficult, especially in large-scale plots. Local, hand-tended agriculture, with hand-fertilized plants, may begin to sweep the backyards of even suburbia.
  8. Bacterial, viral, and microbiotic species seek new arenas for survival, which will likely include sparking new diseases and antibiotic and antiviral-resistant infections, affecting the already-weakened immune systems of most vertebrate and invertebrate species. (note: this is distinct from the Plague Scenario described elsewhere.)
Hypotheses Regarding Peak Oil:
The final Confluence is Peak Oil, which increases the costs of addressing both of the previous two. If you are new to Peak Oil thinking, you may want to visit The Oil Drum or other Web resources for an overview of Peak Oil.

The fundamental premise is that humankind has already expended the most easily acquired oil and natural gas in the world. The most easily pumped has been pumped. Everything else costs more energy to get out than before, causing a spiral in costs and availability.

  1. When humans reach the tipping point (and many say that happened in 2006), then the cost of energy begins to inevitably rise dramatically and rapidly. For modern society, when oil hits $125/barrel to $200/barrel (or $5-$10/gallon), then many aspects of our energy-intensive society become exceedingly costly.
  2. With Climate Change's destructive wrath hitting the coastal zones disproportionately, the need for steel, concrete, aluminum, as well as other construction supplies, will rise -- all oil- and energy-intensive activities -- as will the costs for those basics.
  3. The suburban lifestyle of an hour-long commute each way becomes untenable. Those $700,000 mini-mansions far away from public transportation, with their poor insulation and high ceilings, plummet in value, leaving the upper middle class with negative equity across the US and other parts of the developed world.
  4. All transported commodities cost two to three times as much to transport from place to place -- food, medicine, clothes, tools, etc.
  5. China, Russia, and the US all burn the cheapest energy source -- coal -- for raw energy, adding carbon to the atmosphere, exacerbating Climate Change and Species Collapse.
  6. All oil-derived commodities (fertilizers, pesticides, plastics, etc.) double to triple in basic costs, affecting all industries dependant upon them.
  7. These higher transportation and production costs raise the projected and actual costs of nearly all remediation projects, decreasing the political will (and the tax base) to address:
    • environmental dead zones
    • migrations and refugees
    • rising waters
    • collapsing financial systems
    • collapsing agricultural systems
    • overwhelmed medical and public health systems

As should be clear from the above, these interdependent Scenarios are intertwined, and functionally impossible to treat independently. To fully reckon the social, economic, political, environmental, even cultural characteristics of an Apocalypse (as is made clear in On Confluentialism, in contrast to the Institute for PostApocology's more limited approach, not to mention our former colleague Frank's KissMyA**pocalypse site), it is vital to apprehend this Apocalyptic scenario from a Confluential perspective.

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