Monday, January 04, 2010
Hello and welcome to a new year and a new decade. I'm sorry for such a lull in posting but last year just seemed to snowball. I was glad to have some time over the holidays to sit down and rest up. Now here I am ready to move into 2010.
Sharon and I will be teaching two online classes and the first, 'Finding Your Place' starts tomorrow. It runs for six weeks. The second, 'Farm and Garden Design', will start in mid-February. Send me an email if you'd like more information. We have spots available in each. aaron AT henandharvest DOTCOM
I want to take a look at my predictions for 2009 and make a few for 2010. More than wanting to be proven right (or wrong in terms of the scary ones) I find this a useful exercise because it helps me to see how my perspective changed over the course of the year.
1. 2009 will be the year when citizens of the United States begin to seriously question beliefs that until recently were widely held and never questioned.
I think this was true for some people. I might so far as to say it was true for a good number of people but that depends on what I meant by "seriously question beliefs". Certainly our monetary system was questioned. The ability of our government to address the situation was and is still being questioned. If people in the US aren't questioning widely held beliefs they are certainly more skeptical and cynical and unsure about how likely we are to return to normal, whatever that is.
2. We will see food-related violence next year.
There was rioting last year but nothing like 2008 when food concerns were a major contributor to that sort of violence. The shortages didn't materialize to the extent that I thought they would.
3. Shortages of goods which were previously very accessible to you and your family will no longer be readily available.
This was true for many families but not for the reasons that I anticipated. As I review these predictions it occurs to me that I expected physical shortages of goods, including food, to cause more significant problems. In 2009 I came to realize that while it is important to pay attention to the primary mainsprings of the difficulties we face (resources depletion, energy descent and climate change) we actually experience these problems in secondary and tertiary ways that also need attention. It's not so much that goods were physically less available but that more of us couldn't afford them.
4. President Barack Obama will not save us.
And of course he didn't. I said before his election that he would only be useful as a tool of change if we could leverage him. It turns out other forces were better at that. I think he could be a useful counselor during the downturn but I think more and more people are beginning to believe that he won't be able to make the sort of changes necessary to avoid or even significantly mitigate the problems we're facing.
5. Things will get crazy, I mean bat shit crazy.
This was too vague and too silly of a prediction. I hope to be more precise with my language in the future but no, things did not get bat shit crazy. It was an interesting year but no extraterrestrial contact or disintegration of the US.
6. The price of oil will spike... I’ll go out on a limb and say $80/barrel oil again by October of 2009.
This morning oil is trading for $81.24 /bbl. When I made that prediction last December oil was trading in the $30s. I'll just pat myself on the back and move along.
7. Which is about the time the stock market will reach a low of somewhere in DOWJ 5000 territory.
I got this one totally wrong. Again I see the need to try and better understand the economic implications of problems we're facing. Until recently I attributed the stock market rally to the government bailouts which made a lot of money available- money that poured into Wall Street. I read this article yesterday though that suggests the US government and/or the Federal Reserve might be buying stocks. Regardless the market rallied in a big way in 2009.
8. A growing sense of community will build in town and cities and neighborhoods all over this country.
I did see more of this in 2009. Some people have continued to cling to the trap of materialism throughout the econommic downturn but others have looked to more meaningful aspects of life for fulfillment.
So how about 2010? A few quick predictions.
1. The US will not be able to continue to sell debt at the levels it wants to. I'm guessing this will lead to higher interest rates. 2010 might be the year the whole thing is revealed to be a ponzi scheme but at very least it will become clear that the days of cheap credit are over.
2. An increasing number of municipalities will go bankrupt. I'm going to stop short of predicting the bankruptcy of a US state like California or New York, although I don't think that impossible during next year. I do think the bankruptcies of lots of smaller cities and counties will make the news.
3. The organization of old and new aid groups will attempt to take the place of failing local and state governments. Aid agencies are already under great strain but I think in 2010 we will see a rally of local support for the increasing numbers of people negatively affected by the downturn.
4. The US will shift the focus of its military operations from Iraq and Afghanistan to somewhere else. Military spending is such a huge part of our economy that I don't think we can afford to bring the troops home, so it's likely we'll just enter into a new conflict, justified to us in the name of terrorism and homeland security. Yemen? Iran? Pakistan?
5. A Black Swan - some large, hereto unexpected event- will prove a game changer. Notice my change in perspective and language. It's not that I think next year will be "bat shit crazy" but that it's likely an unforeseen event will make things, um, more interesting.
6. We will see an increase in crime. During the past several years a decrease in overall crime has been the nationwide trend. I think 2010 will be the year that changes. I think an increase in the desperate situations of many will lead to an uptick in crime. I'm not suggesting a huge increase but a noticeable increase.
7. Oil will reach above $100 and likely stay there for a significant amount of time. I see volatility in the price of oil as the economy declines and then stabilizes, declines and then stabilizes, wash, rinse, repeat. I'm not sure though that we can destroy enough demand to offset the declines in production and the increasing amount of oil used by exporting countries. Keep your eye on Mexico.
8. The stock market will finally run out of ponzi fuel. We will see a low in the 5000s. If at first you don't succeed in predicting a stock market decline...
9. The Republicans will recapture a significant number of seats in Congress causing even more inaction and gridlock among politicians in Washington and more public anger towards what will increasingly be perceived as a Democratically caused economic depression. Both sides of the aisle like to rewrite history or at least ignore parts of it. It's the Republicans turn. Incidentally I think this could set up the election of a demagogue to the White House in 2012 but it's still too early to tell how fast the political crisis in the US will follow on the heals of the economic one.
10. Food shortages will be widespread. This will be in part because more people will be unable to buy adequate nutrition. But I think there could be more to it than that. The USDA has simultaneously declared a significant number of counties in major agricultural states to be primary disaster areas (30%+ crop loss) while predicting record harvest. ? I'm not yet sure what's going on here but reports from last year suggest weather-related crop loss was significant. If so we could see much higher prices for food in 2010 which would leave more people hungry.
I hope that 2010 is a bit more cheery than I am predicting.
Happy New Year to everyone.