Bourgeois society stands at the crossroads, either transition to Socialism or regression into Barbarism.
- Rosa Luxemburg, "Junius Pamphlet" 1916

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Day 2: There must not be blood. An American city confronts peak oil, July 2015

Duke City
Saturday, July 4, 2015
9:15 p.m. MDT

Compiled from staff and volunteer reports.

1: Downtown Albuquerque, July 4, 2015

22 people are known dead and at least 200 believed wounded in Albuquerque in the last 24 hours, as protesters engage in running street battles with Albuquerque police and elements of the New Mexico National Guard.Casualty estimates come from sources at Albuquerque area hospitals.

All of the dead and injured reported so far are civilians. State government sources have not released casualty figures among police and National Guard forces. Eyewitnesses claim multiple instances of police or Guard personnel being hit by gunfire from street protesters.

Sympathy street demonstrations have broken out in Santa Fe and Las Cruces, although so far the demonstrations there have been peaceful.

New Mexico Governor Susanna Martinez has declared a state of emergency in Albuquerque, effectively placing the city under martial law. By the governor's order, a 24 hour curfew went into effect in Albuquerque at 4:00 p.m. today. Persons other than police, military, or emergency services personnel found to be present outdoors will be fired upon. The Speaker of the New Mexico House of Representatives, Democrat Raymond Lujan of Grants, has vowed to challenge the governor's emergency declaration in court.

Governor Martinez refused to comment on reports that she has asked U.S. President Mitch Daniels to deploy regular army troops to the state. Pentagon sources have suggested in recent months that ongoing combat operations in Mexico, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Venezuela would leave little manpower for suppressing domestic disturbances in the continental United States.

The violence in Albuquerque began yesterday, with a clash between protesters and police at a local supermarket that left five demonstrators dead. The protest was called by community leaders in response to the mounting food crisis in the city.

Street battles in the ensuing 24 hours suggest more than anger toward the police. Signs and slogans among protesters have denounced food shortages and high prices, also accusing local supermarket chains of cronyism in food distribution.

More than a dozen supermarkets were reportedly damaged in today's fighting. The South Valley Albertsen's store where the street battles began yesterday has burned to the ground. Fire department personnel trying to respond at the scene were met with automatic weapons fire from surrounding buildings.  

Gunfire from police during the day's violence was repeatedly met in kind by local residents. Protesters used automatic weapons, Molotov cocktails, and rocks to inflict a so-far unknown number of casualties on police and National Guard forces throughout the city.

 2: New West National Bank, near Coors and Central

One report claimed that an improvised explosive device (IED) destroyed a police patrol car in the South Valley, but the report remains unverified.

A source with an Albuquerque activist organization, speaking only under a guarantee of anonymity, claimed that the violence could soon escalate dramatically. According to this source, meetings of key community members at secret locations spent the day debating a coordinated response to the violence. The meetings apparently failed to reach a consensus.

However, one group favored escalating the so far piecemeal armed attacks on police and Guard units into an all-out armed insurgency. Members of this group include several veterans of the U.S. military, with combat experience in wars spanning the last fourteen years.

One veteran is said to favor massively destructive guerrilla style attacks. These attacks would use car bombs and other techniques faced by American forces in the ongoing global U.S. war to suppress Islamic insurgents and other "assymetric" opposition.

Other activists have reportedly gone so far as proposing an alliance with the city's gangs and drug cartels. 

A larger group, according to the source in Albuquerque's increasingly underground activist community, favors a peaceful resolution to the crisis. Under their proposal, the Archbishop of Santa Fe and other religious leaders would mediate an end to the confrontation. Albuquerque residents would pledge to abandon violence, while state and city authorities would accept formal, face-to-face talks with community leaders to address the ongoing food shortage and economic crisis.

 3: Central Avenue, downtown

The source who described this proposal emphasized the growing desperation of many ordinary citizens. "We've got unemployment over twenty percent. A lot of people are running out of food, and they've got sick family members who can't get care because they got no insurance. And the government is cutting people off from all kinds of help. Medicaid, unemployment, welfare. They're closing the schools. They say there's no water rationing but the utility is cutting people off anyway. And it's a hundred fucking degrees every day. Everybody's tired of it. Something's got to give. When people are desperate they can do anything."

The source who made these remarks self-identifies as a supporter of the peace proposal being discussed by activists. The source agreed to speak about the proposal, and the more violent responses under consideration, in order to head off a worsening of the current situation.

"But the government's got to give, too," the source emphasized. "They can't keep doing this shit to people. They've got to talk to us, about ways to start helping people. Organizing neighborhoods to start living a different kind of life. Because the old days, they aren't coming back. Wal-mart and partying on payday and going to the mall. That's done. The government's got to start helping people deal with that."

The source wouldn't offer a precise prediction of what will happen next. Nor would the source speculate on how the debate in Albuquerque's underground will go. The activist only repeated the need for action amidst growing economic collapse. "If this keeps up," said the activist, "things are going to get bad. We won't be a community no more. We'll be the resistance."

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Public domain images from Wikimedia Commons:





  1. Presumably, by 2015 things would be tight in many other places too? Both inside and outside the U.S.? Any cities/states/countries better prepared for this crunch? Will that be part of the story? Also, you've got to tell us now how Daniels got the nomination, and who he beat in 2012 and how.

  2. Hey there,

    I do intend to address developments in the wider world as well, yes. Not sure how much detail I will go into; a project like this can easily spiral out of control if the scope expands too broadly.

    My main goal for now is to illustrate tangible, on-the-ground consequences of peak oil in one particular place.

    Not sure if I'll go into details on how Daniels got the nomination. That again would be "mission creep" for purposes of this scenario.

    I considered making the president a second term Obama, but I wanted to examine a federal government that was basically uninterested in helping out at the municipal level. Even more uninterested than would be the case under a Democratic presidential administration. Obama would at least be inclined to make token efforts of assistance. Probably more than that, his supporters would argue. I wanted to go in a different direction, hopefully steering mostly clear of my fondness for left-wing scaremongering in the process.

    I consulted a couple of speculative blog posts on how the GOP primaries might play out in 2012. I wasn't so much trying to predict the outcome as choose one that might be plausible and make the scenario "feel" a bit more real. If I chose Sarah Palin, for example, that would be too distracting and strike a lot of readers as unrealistic. Whatever her real chances of getting the nomination are (I think they're very low), the presence of such a polarizing figure in the scenario would also distract from its main purpose of examining local implications of peak oil.

    Mainly I just like to write science fiction-y stuff that strives for a semblance of plausibility. I hope fictional scenarios can help readers ponder policy implications in a concrete way that policy-wonk position papers, useful as they are, can't duplicate.

    This all started as a result of thinking about the recent military reports on peak oil, which give the middle of this decade as a rough time frame for when global oil production might start to decline. I wondered what that might mean for daily life, figured the sort of scenarios I'm playing with here might be a good way to explore that.

    I deliberately chose a provocative set of events to start things off -- riots, guns, etc. -- as an attention grabber. I may tone the drama down a bit if I keep up with the series. In other words, the violence in Albuquerque will probably stop, giving the writer (and the reader) a chance to pause for breath, look at the bigger picture, and begin to think about nuts and bolts responses to the dire events unfolding in the world...