Jamai Cascio, co-founder of WorldChanging.com, has a great overview of the next 30+ years and the realities of our onrushing energy collapse. A lot of what he says resonates with my own sense of things. Much of my thought lately has been towards the deployment of local stabilizing systems and the the counter-imperative to our headless globalization. Really, we as a species are at a very sobering point in our history when all of the great modern systems we’ve taken for granted are being called into question. Is our world sustainable? Will innovation and collaboration win of ideaology and greed?
Over the next forty years, we’ll see a small but measurable dieback of human population, due to starvation, disease, and war (one local nuclear war in South Asia or Middle East, scaring the hell out of everyone about nukes for another couple of generations). Much of the death will be in the advanced developing nations, such as China and India. There will be pretty significant economic slowdowns globally, and US/EU/Japan will see significant unrest. Border closings between the developed and the developing nations will likely spike, probably along with brushfire skirmishes.
The post-industrial world will see a burst of localization and “made by hand” production, but even at its worst it is more reminiscent of World War II-era restrictions than of a Mad Max-style apocalypse. In much of the developed world, limitations serve as a driver for innovation, both social and technological. It’s not a comfortable period, by any means, but the Chinese experience and the aftermath of the Middle East/South Asian nuclear exchange sobers everybody up.
Imperial overreach, economic crises, and the various global environmental and resource threats put an end to American dominance, but nobody else can step up as global hegemon. Europe is trying to deal with its own social and environmental problems, while China is struggling to avoid full-on collapse. The result isn’t so much isolationism as distractionism — the potential global players are all far too distracted by their own problems to do much overseas.
[See also this post about resilient communities by Alex Steffen for a good link roundup (I’m not really in line with his notion that localism is not enough… i think it’s the best place to start).]