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Offbeat – 13 January 2012

2011 blew chunks, to put it mildly, and 2012 looks even grimmer. The reason you can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel is because the headlamp on the oncoming train is malfunctioning.

The celebrations, this year two hedonistic games of Scrabble in the back yard, to a soundtrack of other people’s fireworks, are over. I started smoking outside, a lot, in the course of last year, so there was no resolution to be had in that. This year, I am cutting back on coffee, and am down to two cups a day. Water is good, especially in these hot days.
There doesn’t seem to be much point in riffing on resolutions, other than to observe, that it is strange that we should begin each year by promising to undo damage that we do to ourselves.
Looking at the press, I see a lot of comment on 2011, and what 2012 will bring. I have decided to jump on the bandwagon and put down my take on the whole thing.
The good news is that I now have five confirmed regular readers. A very happy New Year to Paul, Linda, Frikkie, Suna and Estelle. There is also good news in the fact that the Mayan apocalypse, predicted by various wide-eyed kooks, won’t materialise. If you don’t believe me, wait until the end of this year. Now let’s skip to the bad news.
2011 blew chunks, to put it mildly, and 2012 looks even grimmer. The reason you can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel is because the headlamp on the oncoming train is malfunctioning.
The year ahead will be stocked with the usual stories of economic crisis, geopolitical threats, major climatic problems and disasters, hacking, crowd-sourced civil unrest, the march of fundamentalist Islam, endlessly dull spiels on US politics, and interesting science stories, that leave us wondering when? Superficially, it won’t be much different from 2011.  
Where I expect a difference in 2012 is in a confluence of events, that will probably go unheeded, but that should change things irrevocably.
The most important thing is that all major climate initiatives will go out the window or will be relegated to window dressing. Recovery from the sovereign debt crisis,will be given absolute priority. This means that industrial productivity and consumption will be pushed to the fore, and pollution will be back in fashion. Forget about renewable energy for now: it is expensive and there is no additional pool for making the investments. Kyoto will be abandoned or become something like lip service.
The second thing is that the poor will become more disposable. Climate change and population growth render existence tenuous. Between them, they create famine, wars and natural disasters. Some or other source mentioned that the human population would be ‘either 5 billion or 9 billion’ a couple of decades down the line. Obviously, the eventuality of losing a couple of billion souls is being considered. There is talk of a renewed drive for sustainable development on a global scale, but once again it is a case of too little, too late, with limited sources for funding.
The third thing to note is that, in spite of gains made in poverty alleviation, the poor will be placed in an even worse position by the cost of food. As sure as God made little apples, and investors demand continuous profit, commodities will be the next market boom. Food prices will continue to be a massive source of unrest. Factor in availability of land and water, and the picture becomes nightmarish.
Finally, there will be no significant global economic recovery in 2012 or in the years after. The various debts and losses have not gone away. They are merely being shuffled in a rather disingenuous shell game. What this spells is that the concept of growth will have to be reevaluated, sooner though probably later. The good times of rampant consumption as an economic driver have to come to an end. Perhaps this is the only bit of good news: sober realisation should be the basis for reevaluation and change.
Try as I might, I can’t see a return to the halcyon days. If 2012 is to be anything, it has to be a year of recognition of the magnitudes and realities of the problems which face us. If that happens, 2012 could be a watershed. If not, 2013 will be more of the same.

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