A small but callousing grasp of our impending future can be had fairly easily by taking any given appliance of modern convenience and running it’s non fossil fuel burning counterpart with it. In our polarized age teasing out nuances can be a tricky proposition. Something that seems to be overlooked by my friends putting environmental concerns in the vanguard of their priorities is just how much more productive fossil fuels make us at a task. This isn’t to say overall it is a net good, however. It is much less hassle (and costly) overall to bike a given distance than to take a car. But, in shear productivity the fossil fuels win out, which is why those who lack access to them are completely out competed. The chainsaw beats the ax, the rototiller beats the hoe, and the pimp beats the ho. A single gallon of gas has the same amount of energy as hundreds of man hours of work.
The blind singular obsession with productivity is in no small part responsible for the mess we are in, something that business oriented types don’t quite seem to grasp. It is fairly common enough for members of our species to get hung up on a goal and not consider the ramifications. “More for the sake of more.” In video games you can spend hours “farming” (beating enemies so that you get experience and/or loot) so that you can go get new weapons and skills and go on to farm bigger enemies. It is fun to watch the numbers keep crawling up and tinkering with things and save up for a big buy. The balance must be made though, it is entirely too possible to lose vast chunks of your life to games. Some members in the manosphere get a similar problem. The drive for novelty can metastasize and become all consuming, aspiring players may commend a man for being disdainfully blasé while swamped in the company of beautiful women, to everyone else the exercise seems a bit pointless. This can mostly be mitigated with a bit of grounding in experience and perspective.
The blood curdling reduction in available resource abundance due us in the coming years is what stems from this capability difference between blood and oil. As more and more proverbial ax’s supplement and even replace chainsaws, there are going to be ripples everywhere. In our ax example overall firewood availability would drop of course. Wielding hand tools is drastically more hunger inducing and much more wear and tear on the body, we’re also not even taking into account the decrepit state of fitness most people are in. These would place more strain and demand on already reeling systems of food and health care.
Reading into any current business book an overall motif that comes out is to hire only A+ people. These are the best, brightest, most motivated individuals. They will go above and beyond in their duties and bring all manner of benefits to your fold and everyone will have a great time. Your productivity will boom. These are the Olympians, they eat sleep and train their one specific task.
In and of itself there is nothing wrong with that, other than the No-Shit-Sherlock element. However this leaves everyone else. A and A- aren’t going to cut it, and so have to redouble their efforts to get ahead. The B students can rally and still do tolerably good for themselves but not as much nor as easily as they might have in years past. Among these ranks you’ll find the majority of your natural aristocracy, those who would learn and practice simply for the sake and virtue of learning and practicing. These will mostly adapt and get along.
The lower ranked classes are progressively in worse and worse trouble and dysfunction. They crack open cheap beers, not books. When they manage to get work they all but certainly require the motivation of a pencil crisply smacking a clipboard and a glowering manager to get any work out of them. They’ve been left behind and they know it, on some level. The liberal crowd is big on defending them and drumming up high minded rhetoric but the fact remains,you are better off without them. Some people just want to drink themselves to death.
The problem is, is that their still there. Still needing food and the other human accouterments. What do you do with those who can’t help themselves in this economy? Currently they are bought off with food stamps and welfare. This isn’t a rhetorical question, it is a major blind spot in our culture, and will have to be addressed sooner or later. Some (many?) people are simply not well suited for a market economy. Alternatives and options however are currently few and far between.
With a sudden drop in productivity per person afforded by dwindling energy concentrations however, more and more people are going to need to be more generalist as demand for necessities (if hopefully not luxuries) remains. More people can start picking up relatively cheap ax’s and making at least some of their own firewood, and tending their own gardens. This will take a bit of pressure of centralized systems, and it will also leverage the magic of what is reserved for the realm of the entrepreneur. Doing a monotonous task goes from drudgery when getting paid poorly to, well, more meaningful drudgery when doing it results in something productive for you and people you like. There is a copious amount of motivational literature on finding useful and beneficial things to do with yourself that other cultures seem to have as standard issue, or at least no enterprising authors have taken to producing the fanfare. Japan is renowned for inculcating honor and devotion into its people, though breaks in the facade come our way in the stories of the grass eating generation.
With the great success of sites like Pinterest coupled with a dearth of cheap mass produced junk made in far away places, and growing numbers of people once again actively producing their own goods and services, a possibility for the coming years may be a resurgence of craftsmanship. This will likely be a tide to ebb and flow with the times, but anyone who has ever picked up an old handmade tool or artifact from the turn of the century and before has probably experienced that tacit feel about it. Another human being very competent in their work and most likely working with better stock than what is commonly available today, put a part of themselves into that thing. The malign neglect afforded the 4th great R (Reduce, Reuse, Recycle) Repurpose is already underway having dust and rust buffed off. Towards that end the dark horse material of the future will probably not be some hyper alloy or man made plastic, but wood.
Wood is one of our lovely background technology/materials so ubiquitous and so marvelous it is exceedingly difficult to really appreciate. Wood can last for centuries if kept dry. Wood is also biodegradable and most environs conducive to human life readily reintegrate wood back into the ecosystem. Wood is one of the strongest materials on a per weight basis. Wood objects can be reassembled and reconfigured cheaply and easily in most cases into all manner of different objects, shipping pallets can become shelves, raised garden beds, and fencing with literally no structural structural change. As stated earlier when the wood has outlived its useful life, assuming it hasn’t been treated it can return to the soil, or, if properly dry, it can serve a final time as fuel.
Our continents have been denuded of trees before, so as wonderful a resource as it is, we must be very careful to conserve and steward it. Relearning to work with organic growth will be a stern lesson for our culture. An ax and brush blade can still quickly clear out a decent sized tract of land in a day. Regrowth back to a given level, even using coppicing methods, is measured in years.