Advice on the end of the world as you know it


Some of my writing over the years has been imbued in the background with a sense of impending catastrophe, some cataclysmic change coming. I have often wondered whether I am referring to some massive event in the world that I foresee but only as vague shapes that shift – dust devils – or whether I am just clothing some issue in my own life in the form of such a metaphor. What, after all, do visions of worldly disaster have to do with a Daoist and Zen Buddhist? It's just the play of maya. Dismissible illusion. Samsara, not Nirvana. Yet still the themes return.

The doctrine of the Endtime is powerful, and feeds on many transient factors that have nothing to do with an Apocalyptic scenario in the strict sense. In the 80s at the height of the Cold War many of us lived in fear and to some extent almost expectation of nuclear annihilation. Then came the fear and expectation of a giant meteorite hitting the earth, climate shift, new Ice Age, new plague. You work your way through those. Then it was the new terrorism, whether clandestinely carried out on their own people by states wishing to introduce martial law by the back door or by various bogeymen credited with such acts like Osama bin Laden, whose complexion these days appears computer-generated. In my life two pubs I regularly drank in have been blown up by terrorists on nights I wasn't in them, and the prospect of being run over by a car or dying of cancer are ever-present threats. It's pointless worrying about things that may never happen.

But still the undercurrent of impending societal collapse has informed my writing. It gradually seemed to me that this sense got clothed in various forms, but in essence it was the very same undercurrent running through all the forms. Offsets to this were limited, although potentially powerful if they could be translated into realities, usually ranging from the power of consciousness to completely elevate itself above the mundane transient world into another dimension, and rescue of the world by aliens, which is often the equivalent of the Second Coming for people with a bong on the mantelpiece. But still there remained the practical matter of living on the earth day in day out with what seemed like galloping fears of something looming that every one of us would have to address in some way. Although most would completely ignore it until it was upon them, and then they would be engulfed by utter chaos. It's often how other people react to disaster that makes it a real disaster.

Well now what looks like the very real societal change of magnitude is on its way, in the sense that a few people are talking about it at last: the global oil production peak. Last year I thought it was maybe 10 years away. I'm reconsidering. I think it may well be imminent. Now this really isn't just a vague fear of impending disaster cycling through yet another of its various guises, this is where the pattern will set solid and each person will have to think how they're going to deal with it. The world economy will collapse, famine will visit the developed nations. People in cities and built-up areas won't be able to get enough to eat. The supermarkets will be boarded up, no food on their shelves. The tractors will be rusting in the fields. Those who go back to the horse-drawn plough will not be delivering their produce to the cities. And this will start to happen remarkably quickly.

People surrounded by vast oceans better make sure they like where they are and it can support of a completely different lifestyle, because air travel will first become a privilege of the rich and later the planes will be stranded on runways, homes for pigeons with grass and weeds coming up through cracks in the tarmac. Yet what leaders of nations are talking about this? The response has to be individual. If they're not talking about it at the time when it really matters and trying to conserve what energy resources remain to buy a few years to transfer over to a completely different way of life, I can't see as they're going to be any good at organising resources when they become scarce. It is more likely martial law will be imposed, favouring the rich and powerful. Poor urban people, such as myself, if we remain in the city are likely to simply starve in our own dwellings while outside the window is a picture of anarchy and chaos.

In some respects, all this is to be welcomed, in that it will be the thing that finally does away with the rut and false values of modern life. But mainly because you have to welcome the inevitable, I find, or it will subsume and destroy you. The art will be in securing a completely different lifestyle before it is too late. Now I myself have few wants and haven't bought into many of the structures that are going to collapse, car, mortgage, and luckily am not at present dependent on pharmaceuticals. But I am in the wrong place. So for some years I have considered where the right place will be. My vision of the future is one of wandering over vast open plains, and ascending great mountains where there is an eremitic culture. But I have always put off looking on it as something that would become necessary.

Without a shadow of a doubt, all of our lives in industrial nations are going to change without oil. The kind of society I envisage coming about I welcome, but to reach it there is a corridor of fire to go through. Now I've been thinking about this for years, and I fear it. So how much more will someone fear it whose world becomes that inevitability in the space of, say, three weeks, when the appalling truth takes hold that gross dependency on oil has built up a superstructure of industrial society that will simply collapse. The shells of cities will remain, but any people left in them by the time the awful truth dawns will be seriously freaking out. That is likely to be most people, because most people don't take things like this seriously until it is too late. Judging the moment to leave is not easy, and where to go to is another problem. In general, though, I think one finds one's destiny just by making a move. You don't have to have all the answers neatly worked out beforehand, all you need is a general direction to head in. It represents a serious commitment to personal change ahead of global change that will force it anyway, but perhaps too late for you if you've been tardy.

This is a geological change, and there is nothing we can do to alter a fact of geology, that the fuel built up over millennia is almost gone and it is not the point at which it runs out that chaos sets in but the point at which the peak of production is reached. There's still oil, but it will become prohibitively expensive as demand calls on ever decreasing supplies. This is the period when history shows us that governments will lie the most to their people. This is right now. It's starting. Individuals have to acquaint themselves with these facts and decide what they're going to do. They have to make a plan of their own, because they're going to be facing a hail of propaganda aimed at quelling panic. It will be said that the peak will not come for at least 20 years, it will be said that alternative sources of energy will come into their own. Fusion will be in the news again. There will be lots of pictures of high-tech windmill fields shown on TV, powering a few lightbulbs. The images of what might have been, put forward as a tangible future. Too little, too late.

I'm in no position to think about acquiring land anywhere and farming it. I have no money. And besides, I think the idyll of local agriculture is just as much an illusion of salvation as any other. Ownership of anything but a few personal items easily carried will become a thing of the past. The successful humans of the future will be nomadic peoples, eking out survival at first but later organising in communes. The world as I have known it, I have found, is surprisingly easy to leave behind when there is a big fire to sit around and good people to share stories with. Anyone who has been to any kind of festival has had a taste of this, perhaps helped to attain visions of the future on acid and mushrooms. None of it involved living in cities did it?

I have sometimes wondered why I have remained in the big city for so long, but the plain truth is that I have had things to do here, living in this way. But the wake-up call has come, and I am understanding things obscure even to me in my own writings over the years. The last thing I am is an Apocalyptic person, but I am a realist and futurist. And this is a real future and needs a response. It's astonishing, in some respects, to find that the very thing I have desired as a way of life will be forced upon me, and not only me. So perhaps I desired it not simply because I resonated personally with it, but because I saw it was the future. For me, therefore, it is but a short step between a fearful dread of it and a joyful acceptance of it.

I sometimes think time marches on, I'm not getting any younger, and do I really want to spend my 50s and 60s wandering over great plains of the earth, blown like a cloud by the wind. Wouldn't I rather just remain in my comfortable centrally heated flat messing around on a computer and getting my shopping at the supermarket? And then I remember things I wrote as long as 20 years ago, that hinted even then that all this would come to an end. Sure, I'll carry on as I have been for a little while yet. This is where my chosen life study comes in handy, that of discerning omens. The omens will tell me when it's time to leave, enough time to have a head start. Then everything I suppose to be my world I will voluntarily collapse ahead of time. It's not as if I haven't been writing this way for some time. The difference is that now I'm listening to my own prophecy, my own knowingness of what is coming.

Perhaps in time this site will start to resemble a little oasis where you learned a few things from some old nomad temporarily sitting under a palm and going nowhere in any great hurry, who one day was just gone. Warnings are often appreciated best in retrospect by those who still have a little time to act on them. But for the masses, trickle-fed by mass media, what a shock it will be when they are first forced to think for themselves. Even tinned foods buried in a cellar have a shelf life. Ammunition runs out. Digging in in some rural enclave to protect what you have is sure to backfire and leave you stranded and attacked. The successful ones will disperse to the four winds some time before the collapse, knowing the inevitability of its arrival. They will have got used to the idea that it could come far sooner than most realise, and this will give them an edge. What if it comes tomorrow? Is your mental state ready? If not, you will in all likelihood never be ready, you will put off taking it seriously, and that position is not so far off from those who have never even heard about any of this.

I'm no longer concerned about shouting it from the rooftops. A mass exodus would only be a hindrance to have ahead of you. Far better to have that behind you and so far behind that you are not merely an advance part of it or someone followed, rather you are One Who Went Before. Some will find you, eventually, you'll probably be a tribal chieftain on the plains or a sage in the faroff mountains by then. The world of sorrows will be so far away from you you might still have a few things to say to people for whom it is all too recent to take in. Society adapts, new roles are born. A few survive, many perish.