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    Thursday, September 15, 2005

    The Decline of Western Civilization

    Stardate 4558.7

    The scavenged and raped shells of vehicles littered the expressway as far as the eye could see. Most were abandoned when their tanks ran dry, and some were dumped afterwards, when all the useful bits were taken. A thin column of smoke rises from the south. Somewhere, an engine fires, and staccato gunshots are heard. The thrum of the engine dies out and animated chatter could be heard...

    "Jim we gotta get this siphoned fast... before the Feds arrive."

    "Yeah. Those bastards will go to any length to hoard every drop available. How the hell are the generators at the camp gonna stay on if we don't get any at all? I mean, the hydroponic greenhouse system is already on the fritz and everything else needs the power supplied by the genset."

    "Remember the old days? Cruising this very route in your Avalanche? That was freedom. Man, now there is no hope of ever feeling that again... and just getting by is tough enough now."

    Suddenly, the whop-whop of a chopper could be heard. It was one of the new fusion powered ones the Feds use for patrolling.

    "Oh shit... we're too late!"

    Machine guns blazed and the two men slumped over their cart. One of the cart horses whinnied in astonishment, as the slugs ripped through it's flank. These men had no vehicles, though their own guns now lay on the ground beside them... There are a lot of guns, and there is a lot of death.

    You see, when the planet's oil reserves dried up, humanity was not prepared. Alternate fuel and power sources were the stuff of science fiction or ancient history. At first, the changes were slow. The cost went up. It doubled, tripled, increased 100-fold, and finally, after half of Europe, and North America went dry, the US declared the consumption of fuel oil by citizens an offense punisheable by death. There was no help from the Middle East. The continued war between the west had stretched what loose bonds that remained to the point of snapping. They were nearly out anyways. Transportation and economics ground to a halt. No shipping. No trains. No aircraft. No SUVs. No cars. With the demise of transportaion in both the private sector and for the purposes of trade, countries started becoming isolated very quickly. Some people had to move away, using what means they could to get their belongings and families to places that were more self-sufficient. A few smart cars were around, but these were quickly confiscated by the Feds. Emergency systems failed, as nobody had thought to prepare for the inevitable and create emergency vehicles powered by other means. Sadly, a dying man would die. There was no ambulance to get him help. Riots broke out, and soon, food was short. People huddled together in small enclaves, with weapons to fight, and what small crops they could grow for food. Power was controlled entirely by the Feds, and apart from the odd hidden reserve of fuel or secret generators, the world became a very dark, quiet and unfriendly place. Nothing is free after all, especially fuel and electricity... With the collapse of the economy, mankind was on the brink of death.

    New technologies were being developed by the Feds, to power their war machine, and try to restore their former power and wealth, but it was hard work. They had some nuclear power still, but repairs and maintenance were difficult. The Feds controlled everything except the people. The only way to control the people was with guns and fear. They had developed some fusion engines for helicopters, planes and vehicles, but the cost to produce them was immense. With the collapsed economy, the Feds relied on slavery for labor, and fear to control the rest of the population. In order to build a fusion engine, they had to confiscate what parts, fuel and manpower they could.

    Your average person was stuck though. No gas to heat dwellings meant burning wood or coal for survival. Eventually, there was no wood or coal left around the biggest settlements and transporting it from further away was difficult with the methods at hand, and the constant risk of piracy. Everyone was burning wood for heat and light. The smoke began to damage the atmosphere even more than greenhouse emissions from the past. Soon, the smog-like atmosphere all but blotted out the sun, rendering solar power nearly useless.

    There was hope however. Some parts of the world were still untouched by the dependance on fuel. Suddenly, they were like super powers. In Central Africa, countries began arming and fighting border skirmishes as people from the north and the Middle East began to move south for food and more propserous lands. Island nations kept to themselves. Apart from sailing, there was no way to reach anywhere, and being able to transport goods on a scale needed was impossible using such crude methods. Eventually, the atmosphere would repair itself. The CO2 from constant burning would help the rainforests... the planet would flourish again after centuries of healing.

    It was time for mankind to grow up and start over, or perish... Mighty Mother Earth was cleansing herself, and when it was all over, a new civilization would develop.

    This could be one of any number of Science Fiction movies or scenarios from modern writing. Science Fiction. But every day, we draw nearer to it's realization. Airlines are going bankrupt because of fuel prices. Shipping costs are increasing. Manufacturing costs are increasing. Even garnering other natural resources and foods costs more. Soon, the price will reach the point where average people cannot afford to drive to work, or heat their homes with gas.

    Is mankind capable of using methods from the past, such as steam and coal for production? Is mankind willing to do that? Can we sustain our current levels of needs with such crude methods? The population is much larger now than it was in the 8th or 19th century...

    It is science fiction now, but so was landing on the moon.

    All opinions shared on this site are strictly my own. Some people may disagree and that is fine, but rude comments or overzealous debate will be curtailed. I enjoy civil discourse, and encourage independent thought. I oppose George W. Bush and his Wars based on lies.

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