The triple threat is the juxtaposition, simultaneously or in rapid succession, of three seemingly independent but synergistic phenomena. Together, they will challenge our economies, our sense of well-being, and if we’re not careful, our very humanity.
The first threat is peak oil, the sharply increasing price of petroleum and all things that require petroleum to make them or to get them to us. This will occur (if it has not already occurred), when the world extraction rate begins to decline but demand for petroleum continues to rise. We’re far more dependent than we realize on cheap fossil fuels; when we can’t depend on them any more, it will change our lives in ways we can scarcely imagine.
The second threat is catastrophic climate change – you’ll notice we avoid the comforting sound of “global warming.” When we first started talking about the Triple Threat, Exxon-Mobil and its allies had succeeded in obscuring the hard facts about catastrophic climate change and man’s role in causing it. Thanks to Al Gore and his allies, however, we have now reached a tipping point on the public awareness of climate change. Most every well-informed citizen knows about it, and most understand our role in it and how much of a threat it is. Consequently, there’s less information here on LetTheSunWork about climate change than there is about the other two legs of the Triple Threat, simply because the subject is so well-covered elsewhere.
The third threat is overpopulation of the world. None of the other challenges we face would get more manageable with more humans on the planet, and each of them would be easier to address if there were fewer of us.
Each leg of the triple threat is, by itself, a daunting challenge that will require us to redirect resources and to marshal our collective creativity and willingness to sacrifice for the common good. Together, they will pile up in an unprecedented assault on civilization as we know it. For starters, you can say goodbye for the foreseeable future to economic growth.
Peak oil will decimate much of our transportation infrastructure, making it harder to move people and products from one place to another, particularly if we need to move them quickly. Because modern agriculture is basically a process of using soil to convert petroleum into food, peak oil will drive up the cost of food dramatically, even if we’re not so foolish as to try to grow vast quantities of corn for ethanol.
Catastrophic climate change will displace hundreds of millions of human beings because of drought, floods, and intense storms, and then when sea levels rise, perhaps by as much as 20 feet, the numbers of displaced people will number in the billions. We will experience a new vulnerability to infectious disease, but we will lack the manufacturing or medical capacity to address it in a meaningful way. The world, already struggling with starvation because of peak oil, will find its ability to provide relief severely constrained.
The overpopulation of the planet will magnify the intensity of each of these incidents. While they are happening, the media and many of your neighbors will lament the “rotten luck” that caused all of this to come together, amid a spoken or unspoken optimism that it will all be better next year. You will know better. You will know that the survival of the human race depends on getting population to level off and then decrease, to find ways to use dramatically less energy than we have in the past, and to find new strength in community.Changing minds won’t be easy, but nothing important ever is, and this is important.