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How Climate Change and Resource Scarcity Threaten Democracy

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There is much written about the causes and consequences of climate change including extreme weather events which are already occurring, and anticipated rising sea levels, melting ice caps, and mass extinctions. There is also a lot written about the immediate steps mankind must take to avoid unmitigated disaster.

Less is written about the irreversible events that are already in the works, based on the one degree Centigrade of global warming that has already occurred. The reality is that if we miraculously reduced CO2 to pre-industrial levels overnight, it would take 50 to 100 years to undo the damage we have already done.

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Not much is written, either, about the extensive resource shortages that are anticipated in both the developing and the developed world over the next two decades. Nor the implications for military and population control planning. Both Richard Heinberg, of the Post Carbon Institute, and international affairs and military analyst Gwynne Dyer have written quite coherently on the subject. Heinberg, in his 2004 book Powerdown: Options and Actions for a Post Carbon World and his 2010 book Peak Everything; and Dwyer, in his 2009 book Climate Wars.

Powerdown by Richard Heinberg

Peak Everything by Richard Heinberg

Climate Wars by Gwynne Dyer

Heinberg mainly addresses how central government is likely to manage an increasingly restive population in a time of widespread water and food shortages. Dwyer is more concerned about Pentagon and British military planning for what they regard as inevitable "climate wars" triggered both by competition over scarce water and food and by an epidemic of failed states. (In Dwyer's view, countries become failed states for one reason: their inability to feed their population).

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Both Heinberg and Dwyer have excellent YouTube presentations regarding their work is a talk Heinberg gave in New Zealand in 2007. is a brief talk by Dwyer regarding his book Climate Wars. on Heinberg's website also provides an excellent summary of social control options.

I strongly recommend people check these sites out, as this is an extremely important issue for American progressives to follow and discuss. In New Zealand we already have our own Civil Collapse Strategy Group as part of Transition Towns New Zealand (see Unfortunately I don't see anything comparable happening in the US.

We're Out of Everything

Personally, as a strong civil liberties advocate, I am most interested in Heinberg's work around resource scarcity. Partly because I share his concerns about the fascist, gulag style government likely to be implemented in many Western democracies. And partly because he goes into greater detail about what ordinary citizens can do to prepare for the crisis.

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Heinberg admits he is more concerned about resource scarcity than climate change. He says it's obvious that people aren't scared enough of climate change to do anything about it. And it's not just oil and natural gas we're running out of. He cities a number of credible studies revealing that in the next 15-20 years, we will also be out of coal, uranium (there will still be coal and uranium in the ground but extracting it will be incredibly expensive), rock phosphate (needed for industrial agriculture), fresh water, topsoil, grain, fish, arable land, minerals and precious metals (including Indium and Gallium, which are needed to make solar panels).

Goodbye Southern California

Heinberg makes it clear that vast urban centers in dry areas like southern California will simply not exist two decades from now. For two reasons. Owing to dwindling fresh water supplies everywhere there will be no way to supply drinking water to millions of people between Los Angeles and the Mexican border. And because of skyrocketing fuel costs, no one is going to transport food 5,000 miles (as they do now) to feed them.

Major Social Upheaval is Inevitable

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I am a 63 year old American child and adolescent psychiatrist and political refugee in New Zealand. I have just published a young adult novel THE BATTLE FOR TOMORROW (which won a NABE Pinnacle Achievement Award) about a 16 year old girl who (more...)

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