In 2006 I started a web site called “the-coming-war” to document my concern that a succession of increasingly Right-wing US Presidents would only lead to one conclusion: a world war. The phrase “the coming war” was lifted from a book written in the 1980s concerning a war between Japan and America. [Today it is more associated with John Pilger’s work “The Coming War on China“.] When I became actively involved with the communitarian post-carbon movement in 2008 I folded that web site into my blog and thought little more about it. Obama replaced Bush and we all breathed a sign of relief. The European Union, China and America finally came together on the Paris Accord on Climate Change and it looked as if my concerns were unnecessary. Then came 2016. We are now firmly on course for a massive period of scary instability in world affairs that we have not seen for 80 years. If you are not terrified by this you either want it to happen or have no idea what is going on.
The sudden lurch to the Right in US and UK politics was so sudden and abrupt many are calling it a coup. Maybe yes, a coup, but not at all unexpected. As I have detailed on this blog before long periods of austerity by fiscal conservatives can lead to Fascism. It did in the 1930s and it is doing so today. What is austerity? Austerity is more commonly thought of as political-economic choice concerning the balance between private and public spending. Politically it is associated with times when capital dominates over labour. In other words democracy is weak and corporations are powerful. The people do not get what they want whilst a small elite section of society get everything as gifted to them by a compliant Government sector who is beholding to that elite for their power.
The key element here (as experienced by most people) is scarcity. Scarcity of work, lack of money, poverty, inequality, lack of opportunity, low pay, no place in university, no hope for the future. Austerity as a political choice can engineer scarcity in a time of plenty. We saw that in the 1930s. What about now? It is tempting to view all events through the lens of Peak Oil and Climate Change and do our little Cassandra-meets-Nostradamus act. Forecasting is a mugs game. What we do know is that the impact of resource depletion upon advanced societies will only be viewed in the rear-view mirror. In theory we still live in a time of plenty. However the developing world is rapidly catching up and a billion middle-class Chinese people will want a lot of cars, energy and oil. Scarcity is always just around the corner. There will be no bang of drums when we reach peak – just the deafening sound of war.
For some people it genuinely sounds like war will solve all problems. Adolf Hitler wrote of war in “Mein Kampf” as some national right of passage that was necessary for Germany if it was to gain living space. According to him Germany was over-populated. The tune doesn’t change but today’s fascists wear sharp suits and enjoy all the benefits of the best education money can buy. In 2017 the alt-Right are in power again and emboldened. Today they are less shy as to their ambitions. At no time since 1940 have we heard such blatant designs proposed for other people’s resources.
War is NOT inevitable. Like austerity it is a choice. There is another way. There is always an opportunity for transition to a post-peak world.
In this blog over the last 9 years I have increasingly veered from Post-Carbon topics and onto geopolitics. Trying to put a wall between these two is impossible. Transition is a deeply political (if not party-political) choice. You cannot solve the problem in your own home if the house next door is on fire. Everything we do will come to nothing if our national governments think that National belligerence will solve a crisis of scarcity.
What we need is MORE co-operation. We needs more facts. More experts. More pragmatism. The current populist mood [stoked up by the relentless propaganda of our extreme-Right-wing media] is firmly entrenched into the familiar patterns long dead from the 1930s. The judiciary are the enemy of the people. Facts and experts are ignored in favour of just how people “feel”. Adolf Hitler and Oswald Mosely shared their hatred for experts and facts. Real world evidence always denies the Fascist his power. Fascism is nonsense. It destroys everything it touches. Hitler wanted to make Germany great. His efforts destroyed Germany and only liberal democracy rebuilt it.
We stand once again at a precipice. We have a choice. Once again the barbarians are out the gates of our civilisation. Scarcity is going to become less and less a choice in future. We either transition peacefully or we fight it out in some future vision of dystopia. Today’s current wave of Fascism will end the way it has in the past. Europe has a leading role in beating Fascism in the world. We can no longer look across the Atlantic for some power-house of freedom when that power-house is over-run by the Nazis in the Whitehouse. Europe now stands alone with Nazis to the West and a resurgent Fascist-Russia to the West. It is no surprise that those Fascists in America and Russia wish to destroy the economic power house of Europe. It is becoming the last bastion of freedom in the Western World. If it falls we all fall.
The last thing any nation needs now is division. All the problems of scarcity can be handled by working together rather than competing. Our civilisation must stand firm against the forces of un-reason. Their can be no withdrawal from the enlightenment. We are people of reason, people of science.
We have seen the future. You can see it in the cinema and on the page. The dystopia of Margaret Atwood’s “The Handmaid’s Tale” and P. D. James’ “Children of Men” are now our guides. World history 1933 to 1945 is our guide. We know how this ends. If we wish to peacefully transition to a life after fossil fuels then we must preserve a civilisation that is capable of making that transition work. Europe is our last best hope of that. What other choice do we have? Shall we ignore the endless waves of climate change refugees? Shall we impoverish ourselves for the sake of austerity then keep out the very source of our prosperity? Shall we doom ourselves to endlessly do the wrong things because we blame experts rather than politicians for bad decision making?
Today I hold my head in despair at the rise of the barbarians. So few have yet to step back and take a look at the bigger picture. That big picture is scarcity and we either get a grip or we enter a new Dark Age from which our civilisation may never recover. This is a call to arms. We must defend our civilisation and its democratic values. This is our tool set for the transition. Henceforth I will make no apologies if this blog is political. I have no faith in politicians or political parties. They are a means to an end. That “end” is our peace and prosperity. Our hope for a better tomorrow.
So it is time to dust off everything I wrote for “the coming war” and consider that maybe I was right in the first place. War is coming and we cannot ignore it. Maybe THIS IS the fight I have always been fighting. It is sad times indeed when I just wish for the next four years to be over without everyone dying in a thermonuclear war or the economy collapsing.
I don’t want to imagine a future where I lead my daughter out into a post-apocalyptic landscape as depicted in “The Road“. I dream now of a reversal of the utter insanity of a Britain withdrawing from free-trade Europe. If we are to change the world for good it will only be within Europe. Yet we are governed by politicians who desire for us a Maoist/Schumpterian creative/destructive British version of Pol Pot’s “Year Zero”. Britain could have stayed “Great” but it is on course to become the North Korea of Europe: xenophobic, closed, nationalistic, paranoid and nuclear-tipped.
I though I lived in a rational world where the decisions our politicians made about policy were aligned to the reality of scarcity. We may have not agreed about the solution but we all knew what the problem would be. Those days are over.
So if realising “Post-Carbon Living” means fighting Fascism and supporting Europe then these will be the main topics on this blog henceforth. This is the fight of our lives. And like the folk stealing themselves in 1939, to face the Nazis, we must commit ourselves to this because EVERYTHING ELSE FOLLOWS. We cannot commit ourselves to much else until we own this playing field.