The post on this blog that is most often read by readers is "Mobilization for national emergency: lessons of World War II for the age of eco-collapse," posted by me on April 15, 2011. This post has received 37.5% more hits than its next nearest competitor. It receives at least a few hits every week, sometimes even more than whatever posts have gone up that particular week.
I try to attach cosmic significance to the relative popularity of that particular essay compared to other entries on this blog. I'm not justified in finding such significance, of course. This blog doesn't get a lot of hits, despite my periodic hopes that it might break through to some sort of significant readership. I haven't done enough promotional work for that to happen, mainly because I have too many other things to do.
Still, I end up thinking about why some patchwork thoughts about economic production in World War II seem to be so interesting to the few readers who find their way here. In that essay, I tried to argue that industrial societies undergoing extreme disruption can continue to maintain basic government and business functions, even in desperate circumstances. Since national institutions and infrastructure did not rapidly, totally collapse under the extreme physical disruption of World War II, I contended that they would not do so under the extreme climate and resource disruption likely to emerge in the next 50 years or so (after that is another story).
I may nor may not be correct in my argument. Whether I am or not, I still think that national mobilizations for World War II provides one of the most relevant real-life examples of what a viable large-scale response to climate change and resource depletion would look like. Such a response, currently, is not politically feasible. I believe this will change, sometime between now and 2050, as the physical consequences of planet wide ecological collapse become ever more direct and undeniable to national governments. And even to avid readers of the mainstream media.
We can see tantalizing early hints of a sea change already. The United States and Russia are making plans for the industrialization of the Arctic, for example. The two governments, we can infer, see where the planetary ecology is headed and what will be necessary -- in their view -- to prosper in a changed world. U.S. and Russian efforts are underway to establish oil and gas drilling around the Arctic Ocean on a massive scale, with planned military and naval deployments to support economic development efforts. These plans suggest the eventual establishment of frontier towns and ports along the Arctic Ocean, as conditions there become increasingly temperate, the ice retreats, and the tundra thaws. Eventually, there will be cities -- communities of tens of thousands of people or more. In and around them we will see the coming and going of tankers, freighters, submarines, aircraft carriers, helicopters, strike aircraft, and troop formations.
To me, as someone who cares about the future of the Earth's biosphere and the creation of social systems based on something other than predation, this is all horrifying. Mainstream media and policy wonks, once they awaken from their current zombified stupor of ecological ignorance, will see the Arctic industrialization and arms race -- of course -- as a complex series of trade offs among ecological, economic, and geopolitical realities. In the reality that exists outside of such ideological blather, the development of the Arctic will help ensure that human civilization burns.
The rest of us will be left to pursue more local solutions, carving out a tolerable existence at the neighborhood, town, and city level as best we can -- within the constraints of larger systems of power and force. Those systems, increasingly, will be operating under emergency conditions, seeking to maintain order and prioritize the flow of remaining resources to corporate and military assets vital to the enrichment of nation-states and their ruling elites.
My own part in all of that will consist of finding ways to put my 2014 law degree (fingers crossed) to good use, helping to prevent the worst local abuses (e.g. natural gas fracking, abusive behavior by leaders of military facilities) or lay the local foundation, ever so tentative and fragile, of a potential post-carbon, post-corporate future (through, for example, changes in rules for land use and economic exploitation).
It will not be boring.