May. 2nd, 2017

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Almost a decade ago, James Lovelock said that he thought climate change would be good for us in the way that WWII was good for Great Britain, that is, everyone will pull together and work toward the common good.

James Lovelock is a bit of a nut.

I've been thinking about this, about US response to real or perceived shrinkage of resources, and how different societies will deal with fewer resources. We have lots of food now. Lots and lots. But over the next decade, the cost of food will rise significantly. I think that within the next decade, there's a good chance that it'll go back to historical levels, more in line with the cost of food world wide. That means that the cost of what Usians buy now will almost double, from the average of 12% we spend today to 18% - 20%. And that's the average; 90% of Usians will be paying much more of their discretionary income for food.

As the cost of food goes up, and the availability of some things like coffee and bananas decreases, folk will become resentful, and the ones closer to the bottom will become very afraid. People who are honestly afraid do some crazy shit, like vote to take food away from someone else' children.

Or more like, slowly vote to take away services like after-school programs, well-child visits, psychological services, and on and on, until you get to everybody for themselves. It's like how the body will sacrifice internal organs, the liver or the kidneys, to send blood to the brain. The problem being that you can't live without your liver or kidneys.

Doug Sanders wrote in this Globe and Mail piece: "Sri Lanka, for example, is also experiencing a drought this year – its worst water shortage in four decades, one that has wiped out the entire year’s rice crop. Yet nobody in rice-dependent Sri Lanka is starving: The government simply spent $350-million to import enough rice to make up to for the losses. This hurt the Sri Lankan currency, but the economy has kept growing and people are eating."

Instead of being reassured, I wonder how often Sri Lanka will be able to do this?

On top of drought, we're looking at about 1.5" of sea level rise per year over the next ten years, which doesn't sound like much, but that's 15" in ten years, which is a hell of a lot. Between heat and drought in the desert states to flooding on the coasts, millions of people will be forced to relocate. You can think of it as a hundred Katrinas, stretched out over a decade, one after another. Most of those folks will have lost not only their jobs, but all the equity of their property.

Pulling back to look at the big picture, I can imagine that as the cost of food goes up and people have less discretionary income, they won't be getting that new phone or that new pair of jeans. And they won't be able to go grab a burger, because just the adult sandwich is gonna cost $10-$15, let alone the fries and the coke. And though minimum wage is edging up in some places, I don't expect it to double over the next ten years. Especially these next ten years.

According to the internet, the US has about 3,750,000 or so people working in fast food. I think that industry is gonna tank, and that there's not going to be a whole lot of jobs around for the two or three million people who'll be out a job. And of course, if won't just be these guys out of a job. Every other industry that depends of high levels of discretionary money spending will be firing staff -- clothing, books, toys, tourism. Millions and millions of people out of work, and even more, and those with fewer safety nets, in other parts of the world.

All of this at once. Now. Politically, policy-wise, I wonder what that will look like.


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