By almost any metric you want to choose 2008 has been a shitty year. Economically, the sub-prime sneeze of 2007 turned into our new reality of the “Global Financial Crisis™” and only looks to get worse in 2009. Politically, despite the ascendency of left leaning governments in many parts of the world, there been fuck all done to address inequality in our society, with the voters of California even turning back the clock by voting to abolish gay marriage in their state. Environmentally, the Murray Darling system threatens to turn back into a series of muddy puddles, while wingnuts continue to deny that humans have a part to play in climate change, if they even admit that it exists.
While the dramatic decrease in the price of oil this year may initially seem to be a good thing, the reality is that price volatility in the oil market is one of the predicted signs of peak oil, so it’s unlikely that we’ll be enjoying petrol at a dollar a litre for very long. Having ignored our looming energy crisis for another year almost nothing has been done to prepare for it, with road spending once again greatly outweighing mass transit investment and renewable energy sources still not making a big impact.
There’s no doubt that our entire planet is faced with some pretty daunting challenges, and I believe that we have the capability to deal with almost all of them, be they environmental, political, economic or religious, but there simply doesn’t seem to be the will to make the changes necessary. I think that 2009 will see more of the same, lip service paid to big problems, while simultaneously searching for magic bullets which will allow us to continue our lifestyles without sacrifice.
The irony in refusing to address difficult problems is that we end up making the consequences worse. We’ve already seen that this year as the hyper capitalists of Wall Street who have for years decried any government intervention have ended up being largely owned by the US Treasury because of their own reckless greed. I don’t think that it’s inconceivable to suggest that Climate Change and Peak Oil denialists actions now will only lead to greater government intervention and regulation once the consequences start to become impossible to ignore; the very thing that they are actually railing against today.
What I’d like to see in 2009 is some actual leadership from governments on issues like energy scarcity and the environment. I think that the looming economic hardships will probably make people more receptive to the message that we need to re-evaluate our consumption based lifestyles and economy and shift to a model where sustainability is a key part of our thinking. For my part, I’m going to get my bike repaired and try to use the car less, and I want to have more edible stuff growing in the garden in the next twelve months.
Goodbye 2008, don’t let the door hit you on the arse on the way out.