As a reader of Gail Tverberg's blog Our Finite World, I am privy to the fact that our world is soon collapsing. This is an open secret expounded in broad daylight and even in a friendly commercial-free environment, yet most people will never grasp it. The masses will starve to death or otherwise perish in the collapse thinking it is a political problem, and if only we had voted a different party into power who would have made some better decisions, things would have worked out. That is nonsense because we are facing a physical and ecological problem, to which there is no political solution. While I would love to be proven wrong, I have almost as much confidence in Gail's prediction of imminent collapse as the Second Law of thermodynamics, to which it is closely related. People who think sustainability is possible or renewables can save us have basically no knowledge of these issues. Likewise for people who obsess over climate change, which is rather like preparing to fight World War II before World War I. Read Gail's posts and comments, check her references and especially pay attention to the way she replies to all comments and convincingly debunks any kind of optimism, and it shall be intuitive to you too that we are collapsing.
I don't expect anyone to believe this simply because I say so. The impossibility of continuing our industrial civilization cannot be expressed in a single indicator or a few sentences. Declining EROEI comes close, but as Gail often points out, EROEI is not the whole story. You have to be willing to look at the whole picture and the various ways we are running into diminishing returns, which is something very few people can be bothered with. You have to understand concepts such as Liebig's law of the minimum, White's law, Jevon's paradox, the Constructal law, the concept of dissipative structures, the Maximum Power Principle and the Seneca cliff. You have to understand that life is in the business of entropy maximization, and now doing such a fabulously good job at it that the party will inevitably be over soon.
The meaning of life (at the level of physics, which rules biology) is to produce entropy. We are dissipative structures who came into being because entropy is created faster by our existence, considering the whole system. Dissipative structures arise in response to energy differentials. Our economy is also a dissipative system, whose function is to create entropy out of fossil hydrocarbons, which represent the greatest energy differential known to man. That is the only thing our economy knows how to do at this point, and when it fails to grow anymore it will collapse. Once again, you have to learn more about all these concepts to understand why it MUST collapse. Then you will understand that we need to preserve the whole industrial system to have any of it, which requires exponential growth since the whole thing is built on debt. Growth is no longer possible due to diminishing returns, so our economy must collapse. In time, other dissipative structures will emerge, but they will not be as grand or complex because the energy available to them is much too diffuse to produce anything like our industrial civilization. And all this glory was brought down by low oil prices, which is the proximate limit that we cannot defeat. Peak oil precipitated by low oil prices is exactly what Gail predicted (in December 2013 she explained why “oil prices don’t rise high enough” is the real limit), and it is happening now!
And not just oil, but all major commodities are now subject to deflation. Coal is also critically important, of course, and it is becoming unprofitable to extract as well. Deflationary collapse is thus already underway. The oil price will not go back up to the needed level of $100 or more per barrel. Instead, it will continue to decline until we are dead. If the oil price does go back up, it will only be a brief and useless spike because the world economy can no longer sustain such high prices. This is not a matter of OPEC limiting production, because that would have been futile anyway. The financial system is the operating system that the hardware of our civilization runs on, and it is totally dependent on growth to function at all. At some point within the next few years this system will seize up, leading to broken industrial supply lines, and there will be a forced localization of our economy. Since we can produce almost nothing locally in a world dependent on globalization, there will be immense suffering and a huge die-off. Any survivors will be limited to Stone Age technology or at best manual agriculture. The number of survivors could be as low as 100 million or probably no more than 10% at best.
There is nothing we can do to save industrial civilization or the bulk of humanity. Any attempt to prepare at a societal level will run afoul of the reflexivity trap and accelerate the problem by engendering fear and desperation. Any individual coping strategy is so fraught with risks as to be meaningless. You can prepare in various ways if you feel like it, but there is no guarantee it will do you any good the day business as usual (the legendary "BAU") ends. The end of BAU also means the end of all social movements, so our work as antifeminists will be done. Peak oil will destroy our enemies as surely as it will destroys us.
The best thing we can do now is to enjoy what we have until it is gone. Be thankful for the wonderful wealth we have. Marvel at the amenities of industrial civilization and the power of your hundreds of personal energy slaves. That is arguably not a bad thing to do even if I am wrong. Most people think of civilization as a permanent state that they simply take for granted. They think they will have access to things like hot showers, dentistry, pharmaceuticals, security and plenty of food as long as they live. The Olduvai theory tells us the lifespan of industrial civilization is more like 100 years, and even if it drags out a bit longer it will have been a mere blip. We shall soon find out if this turns out to be right. I think 2015 will be the year of the peak. This prediction will fail if commodity prices go back up and stay there, but that isn't happening, is it?