Ten Non-Surprises

Ten Non-Surprises

To stop my mind from flying around in circles worrying about ‘everything’ I have decided to record the things that I know are going to happen anyway – no matter how hard we try to avoid them.  That way I can stop wondering if I can or should do anything to divert these bundles of sadness from their destined trajectories and instead carry on with preparations to make the best of the coming times.

The occurrence of the following ten things in various forms global and local will not surprise me in the coming decades.  In fact, after much contemplation about New Zealand's social and political position and the inertia of vested interests including the majority of elected 'representatives' and professional advisers at all levels of public and private affairs I have satisfied myself that what ever efforts we may apply to these matters we are unable to turn sufficiently away from our present path to avoid these Non-Surprises.   

I am content that I am unable to make any suggestion to anybody else that will make any material difference to the course New Zealand and Humanity generally are pursuing.  Therefore this post is not to be taken in any way as a criticism of efforts being made by others, rather it is a statement of my own belief.  

As I have said before, I believe that the time for attempting to plug the holes in the sinking ship is now behind us, and we should devote our remaining resources and energies to building life boats to carry us in as much comfort as possible to our new future.  

I therefore relieve myself of my previous duty of trawling the global media for signs of change for the better and for blogging and petitioning the 'powers that be' to seek change to the current course.  Instead the only ‘news’ concerning these matters that is of any interest to me is that either these things have somehow been permanently avoided (say; a Grand Power assumes total control of global fossil fuel production and resource extraction and immediately institutes a 10% reduction in global production every year for the next seven years), or are likely to be much worse or occur much sooner than expected (say; rising Arctic ocean and air temperatures lead to abrupt releases of calthrates and tundra methane, collapse of Greenland and West Antarctic Ice Sheets). 

I would like to know about Black Swan events and no doubt I can rely on friends (or the appearance of fire and brimstone on the horizon) to appraise me of these as and when they occur.

1    Air temperatures will continue to rise. (Some locations become uninhabitable.  For example towns in central Australia where temperatures of 48°C were recently recorded. Changes in crops grown/not grown in many areas, inability of many crops to cope with higher temperatures or frost-free growing seasons. Failure to establish heat-resistant crops in time to replace lost production.  Insect issues including increased crop damage, loss of pollinators. Reduced food production and higher food costs.  Draconian and misplaced controls on food production, distribution and storage.  Relocation of populations. Civil unrest.)
2    Droughts will become more extreme and frequent. (Impacts on public water supplies, farm production and viability and on frequency and extent of fires. Failure to develop water saving schemes to serve key food production areas.  Miss-allocation of funds and resources to poorly chosen agricultural pursuits. Failure to develop and utilise all available public lands including National Parks and reserves as forest food gardens where some portion may survive climate change to provide useful food production on the 'commons'.  Increasing cost of food. Abandonment of farms and towns. Unemployment and population relocation.)
3    Storm events will become more extreme. (Damage to and eventual abandonment of storm and flood-prone areas, increased damage to land and soils impacted by drought, unaffordable insurance policies and hence inability to obtain finance to build or rebuild, reclassification of land to prevent development. Loss of property values. Inability to afford repairs to important infrastructure or to build works to withstand storms.)
4     Predictions of end-of-century sea level rise moving to substantially higher values than the current 1.5 metres.  (Refusal of insurance for coastal areas and consequent collapse of coastal property markets. Impact on coastal food production areas [delta areas producing rice, for example]. Relocation of populations, Civil unrest and increased pressure on remaining land and food production areas.)

5    Increased fragility of financial systems and ever-increasing risk of progressive and sudden collapse of key components of the system.  (Higher rate of failure of major financial institutions and big and small businesses.  Failure of some businesses and systems to recover from collapse cycles.)
6    Increasingly frequent malfunction of local banking systems due to electricity or internet failures. (Cashflow machines empty, banking system disabled, commerce ceases or becomes cash- and paper-based.  Inability to buy or trade fuel due to cash purchase requirements on service stations by their fuel suppliers.  Failure of ‘farmers markets’ to provide food supply due to reliance on financial and energy systems. Food riots. Breakdown of law and order. ‘Arab Springs’.)

7    Progressive increases in cost of energy – especially oil.  (Reduced operating margins for businesses, reduced spending power for households, spiralling economic and business failure and unemployment.)
8    High risk of sudden failure of oil supply to New Zealand due to increased demands of ChIndia and other remaining production hubs, corralling of global oil supplies by major importers and increased internal consumption of exporters.  (Failure of national and international public and private transport systems. Abrupt disruption to commerce and food production and distribution. Breakdown of law and order. Use of the armed forces against the people.  Repressive but ineffective responses to the demands of the population including takeover of privately stored supplies.)
9    Increased burning of coal to fuel power supplies and industry - mostly overseas but partly using coal exported from New Zealand. (Failure to develop and install local demand reduction and energy storage solutions that would cope with energy supply variations arising from 100% renewable energy sources.  Failure of raw material supplies for development of renewable energy sources. Continued growth in greenhouse gas emissions and thus temperatures - see above.)

Political and Social
10  On-going efforts to solve problems by increasing rather than reducing the complexity of local and national governments, infrastructure and social support systems.  (Increasing cost of government and development, higher taxes and rates, transfer of subsidies and support from programmes supporting underprivileged and disadvantaged people to funding the operation of the increasingly irrelevant bureaucracy,  increased ‘mindlessness’ of law-making and enforcement.  Dissemination of misinformation about the cause and effect of the crisis.  Further reduction in effectiveness of representation and democratic process, increasing instances of non-compliance with ‘bad’ laws and rules, increasing separation between policy directions and the actual condition of the people.  State assuming more local powers to support failed councils (e.g Christchurch). Increased spending on projects and services that exacerbate already-bad conditions [e.g. Roads of National Importance]. Increased un-democratisation and privatisation of key public service utilities and functions.   Failure to allow domestic rain water collection and use, composting toilets and domestic greywater re-use in all areas currently served by expensive and poorly-performing water supply and sewage systems..  Failure of utilities including energy suppliers to provide required services and of councils and government to restore useful control and function of utilities to the people. Increased civil unrest concerning representation and governance and increasingly heavy-handed anddesperate responses by local and national government agencies.)


None of the above will surprise me, and unless the biggest possible Black Swan event of all occurs (viz.; a complete change of mind-set by every human being on the planet Earth to restore and operate the Earth as a ‘commons’ for the gentle benefit of all) I do not see any of these issues being avoidable.

Thus I choose to watch with interest the coming times, while focussing my attentions fully on making all possible preparations for me and mine to deal intelligently with whatever comes to give us the best chance for some of our DNA to make it though.

Nigel Williams
12 February 2013