In what has become a predictable status quo, President Obama recently renewed our official state of emergency with respect to the so-called War on Terror. It’s far too late to declare a new normal; we’ve been in this holding pattern for 16 years now. The article linked above provides this useful context:

There are now 32 states of national emergency pending in the United States, with the oldest being a 1979 emergency declared by President Jimmy Carter to impose sanctions during the Iran hostage crisis. Most are used to impose economic sanctions — mostly as a formality, because Congress requires it under the International Emergency Economic Powers Act.

In his term in office, Obama has declared 13 new emergencies, continued 21 declared by his predecessors and revoked just two, which imposed sanctions on Liberia and Russia.

Pro forma renewal of multiple states of national emergency is comparable to the 55-year-old U.S. embargo against Cuba, due for reauthorization next month, though indications are that the embargo may finally be relaxed or deauthorized. Both are examples of miserably failed policy, but they confer a semblance of power on the executive branch. Everyone knows by now that no one relinquishes power willingly, so Obama, like chief executives before him, keeps on keeping on ad nauseum.

Considering Obama’s credential as a Constitutional scholar, relatively unique among U.S. presidents, one might expect him to weigh his options with greater circumspection and with an eye toward restoring suspended civil liberties. However, he has shown little interest in doing so (as far as I know). In combination with the election only a couple months away, the U.S. appears to be in a position similar to Germany in 1932 — ready and willing to elect a despot (take your pick …) and continue its slide into fascism. Can’t even imagine avoiding that outcome now.

The surprising number of ongoing emergencies makes me point to James Howard Kunstler and his book The Long Emergency (2006). Though I haven’t read the book (I’m a failed doomer, I suppose), my understanding is that his prediction of a looming and lingering emergency is based on two intertwined factors currently playing out in geopolitics: peak oil and global warming. (“Climate change” is now preferred over “global warming.”) Those two dire threats (and the California drought) have faded somewhat from the headlines, partially due to fatigue, replaced primarily by terrorism and economic stresses, but the dangers never went away. Melting icecaps and glaciers are probably the clearest incontrovertible indications of anthropogenic global warming, which is poised to trigger nonlinear climate change and hasten the Sixth Extinction. We don’t know when, precisely, though time is growing short. Similarly, reports on energy production and consumption are subject to considerable falsification in the public sphere, making it impossible to know just how close in time we are to a new energy crisis. That inevitability has also been the target of a disinformation campaign, but even a rudimentary understanding of scientific principles is sufficient to enable clear thinkers to penetrate the fog.

I have no plans to return to doom blogging with any vigor. One emergency stacked upon the next, ready to collapse in a cascade of woe, has defeated me, and I have zero expectation that any real, meaningful response can be formulated and executed, especially while we are distracted with terrorism and creeping fascism.

  1. John Eagan says:

    You should read The Long Emergency, along with the book he wrote as a kind of followup and extension, Too Much Magic.

    I’m not going to try to speak for Kunstler, or summarize the whole book, but his arguments in The Long Emergency are about more than the changing climate and our petroleum problem. Just to pick out part of the complex story, one part of the scenario involves the world of banking and finance, somewhat related to the grand suburban project, and increasing oil problems throwing a wrench in that works, with all the lunacy and even frauds involved in it (finance, that is), including all the schemes of “financial derivatives” and mortgage finance. He forecast all that imploding in a major way when he was writing, back in, what, 2004/2005 or so, and basically, what he was talking about coming over the horizon is more or less exactly what happened just a few years later.

    • Brutus says:

      Thanks for your comment. The elements you describe are perennial themes on Kunstler’s blog, Clusterfuck Nation, which I read every week. No surprise they’re also in the book(s). My entry and investigation into doom and collapse preceded my learning about The Long Emergency by a little bit, and the literature (including blogs) has by now grown rather voluminous. I’ve not read quite a lot of it, actually, but I also need no further convincing. Retracing those steps does not hold any appeal, much as I admire Kunstler’s writing. Similarly, one book (two volumes, actually) by Derek Jensen was enough — not because I’m sticking my head in the sand and refusing to consider what he has to offer but because I’m already convinced. As the old saw goes, it’s all over but for the shouting (or as I’ve modified it, but for the suffering).

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