Human nature and disaster

A few days ago we had some freak weather up in New South Wales (Australia) – a massive coal freighter was beached, there was extensive flooding and lives were lost. A record breaking drought, followed by flash floods and storm force winds.

One of the worst hit areas, Newcastle, was also subject to looting during the disaster. I read reports of some parasites going as far as stealing equipment from ambulances; including radios.

This type of behavior would be nothing new to the people of the USA – there were many reports of looting, rape and murder after Hurricane Katrina. It’s somewhat of a rude awakening to the people of Australia though, thoroughly “un-Australian”. Times change.

I can understand people looting for food and other essentials in times of disaster; but iPods? It’s utterly disgusting. What these situations show is that for all our airs and graces, we really aren’t all that far removed from the cave. The veneer of civilized behavior is a thin one at best for some. Humanity has dominated this planet not only through intelligence, but aggression; it’s an innate aspect of the human condition at this point of our evolution.

Reports like the one regarding the looting in Newcastle send a shiver down my spine when thinking of the future.

Imagine the pandemonium of a world where oil suddenly runs out before alternative powered transportation and renewable fuels are really established and affordable; or if gas becomes available only to a privileged few.

Imagine global warming really kicking in with multiple natural disasters happening simultaneously on a large scale; perhaps combined with raised tensions through a lack of oil. How long would the fabric our our society hold together?

Mass panic, futile attempts at law enforcement, consquent lawlessness and violence would reign. Cities would become incredibly dangerous places with so many people competing for so few resources. Hurricane Katrina is probably a good comparison to draw for a bad scenario; but even that disaster was relatively short lived and would pale into insignificance if a dozen Katrina type scenarios happened in a nation simultaneously.

Possibilities like these are no longer purely the realm of futuristic fiction. They are entirely possible. Chaos has order, it occurs through a series of seemingly unrelated events with traceable causes meshing together to become powerful forces. There are no such things as accidents; only incidents with design.

We’ve been somewhat lucky to this point, for want of a better word. A disaster here, a disaster there; but we are seeing all the elements of total and utter chaos lining up like soldiers right now through climate change, environmental degradation and our thirst for oil. We are so hopelessly addicted to oil, we even eat it. It’s the centerpiece of modern civilization.

Even if oil were to run out, that still likely wouldn’t be enough to put the brakes on global warming for a long time. It would take many years for the CO2 that is in our atmosphere now generated through the burning of oil to be assimilated. Then there would still be emissions through deforestation and the increased burning of coal that would occur, plus methane from other human related activities. The scenario would be quite a double whammy for the world.

Peak Oil plus global warming + a few more years into both = disaster of unimagined proportions for humanity and the environment in general. There is very little time left to at least arrest the progress of this scenario, let alone reverse course.