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Why Inter States?
The Bones of the Future
About the Author
Cast of Characters
energy returned on energy invested
Graveyard of Paradigms
The future can’t be predicted, but it can be envisioned and brought lovingly into being
- Donella Meadows, "Dancing with Systems," Whole Earth, Winter 2001
Sentient observers of the current scene are clearly frustrated by the remarkable homeostasis that seems to rule the scene, these horse-latitudes of history where the air is still and nothing moves and the mind is exhausted by watchful waiting
. - James Howard Kunstler, October 2013
The real lesson ... is the enduring power of bad ideas, as long as those ideas serve the interests of the right people
. - Paul Krugman. "Charletans, Cranks & Kansas," NYT, 6/29/2014
The struggle of this moment is oligarchy
. - Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-VT, on "Vermont Edition" with Jane Lindholm, Vermont Public Radio, 11/24/2014
Economic stability should NOT be a never-ending game of Russian Roulette. -
BoiseBlue, "The Unbearable Burden of Being Poor," Daily Kos, 1/16/2015
A Trilogy Set in Our Near Future
Available now from Founders House Publishing
View the Sept 2012
is the last installment posted. I am no longer distributing free pre-publication installments, since the publication of the first book,
(see above). Please
series is under contract with
Founders House Publishing
of Danville, Illinois. The first book -
- is now available in both e-book and print versions through Amazon.com, and through Smashwords as an e-book. The formal launch of
is August 3, 2015
Thank you for all your patience, interest, and encouragement along the way. And stay tuned in late 2015 for the second book of the
Dear Chinese Readers:
Since this site receives so much traffic from China, I am very curious about your reactions and feedback. Please post your thoughts about
at the novel's
page. Thank you!
The first "Oil Punk" novel?
Because I work in the renewable energy industry, I am experiencing first-hand how rapidly solar and wind energy are developing, how fast costs are falling, and how much capital is being attracted. I am personally optimistic about where this will lead, but wonder what sort of shock would be required to derail renewable energy and send America into the authoritarian, oligarchic fossil-fuel addiction described in
. Perhaps I am writing an alternative history-before-the-fact - a "speculative pro-retrospective." If that's the case, then - in the same sense as "steam punk" - this might be seen as an early "oil punk" novel. I hope that's the outcome, but fear it may not be.
What do you think? Post your comments and critiques at the
What if America failed to decisively turn away from fossil-fuel dependence when it still had the capital and geopolitical security to do so?
What if the disappearance of America’s middle class became a permanent condition, and, along with it, the disappearance of national popular democracy in all but name only?
What if the effects of climate change started to significantly affect U.S. politics and economics?
Set a generation from now, over 26 days in the mid-autumn of 2040,
explores these trends and their implications – at national, regional, state, family, and individual levels. Neither apocalyptic nor utopian,
is an attempt to create and explain a plausible future scenario, with a clear, move-by-move illustration of a pathway leading from one epoch in America’s history as a continent-spanning society to a distinctly different one - a socio-political "phase change". Employing a “grounded forecasting” methodology,
is intended for use both as an entertaining novel and as a basis for the exploration of multiple scenarios in which assumptions are tested and adjusted about ‘PEST’ (political, economic, social, and technological)
Imagined consequences of the above "what if's" include the full capture of the political system by extremely wealthy oligarchs, fusion of the Federal government and oligarchic fossil-fuel industry through a shadowy Energy Trust, and increased hurricane intensity. These are accompanied by endemic poverty in the vast majority of the population, a growing divergence of interests between state governments and regions vs. the national interest as a whole, as embodied in the Federal government, and the loss of U.S. geopolitical power and prestige as the U.S. becomes increasingly regarded as a failing state and global liability. Lurking continually in the background as a fundamental socio-economic vital sign is the inexorable decline in EROEI - energy returned on energy invested - as conventional fossil fuels are entirely replaced by more and more costly unconventional fossil fuels.
While this scenario might appear far-fetched and alarmist to some in the context of the United States of America today, one need only look at nations from Ukraine and South Sudan to China, Pakistan, and Russia today for living examples of the circumstances depicted in
. Have you ever heard of Gazprom? Pakistan's ISI? Why do you think that protesters filled the streets of Kiev during late 2013 and early 2014, leading to a coup and separatist civil war in the Russian-speaking East? Because they are Ukrainian?
Or can such things happen here?
Captain Mike Kendeil enjoyed six years of secure work with the US Army Corps of Engineers. But his military career has ended for health reasons, and he now has to make a new start in civilian life. His grandmother, Florence Trudeau, has a temporary job for him: helping her haul a shipment from the old family summer house on what remains of North Carolina’s Outer Banks to her home in Chevy Chase, Maryland, just outside Washington, DC. He meets her on Head Island as the story starts, awaiting her arrival in the devastated dunescape. Grandma Trudeau appears after nearly two weeks on the road, driving an impressive farm wagon pulled by her two-horse team. In 2040, despite the existence of advanced fuel-cell and hybrid vehicles, this is how ordinary people must travel and transport heavy loads. The prices of fuel and motorized vehicles have simply risen beyond their means, and the purchase of cars and trucks (along with many other things) has become prohibitively expensive for anyone but oligarchs and the federal government agencies that control the production and distribution of fossil fuels. By 2040, the optimism of the “Green Teens” is only a fading memory, and personally unfamiliar to members of Mike’s generation, who came of age in the early ‘20s.
is the story of an extended family spread from Virginia to Vermont as they cope with the challenges of daily life in a future impacted significantly by energy shortages, climate change, and the economic, social, and ultimately political dislocations that accompany them. A presidential election is approaching, ultranationalistic politics is regaining strength, and it is hurricane season again. The civilian society Mike Kendeil returns to has shown remarkable stability for more than a decade, given the depths of poverty many people have fallen to and the degree of terror and violence that preceded America’s turn inward. Advanced information technology – in its post-Internet virtual-reality manifestation as the VNET – remains a glue that holds friends and families together in this society of declining mobility. Less positively, the VNET also binds a generation of “onliners” in escapist distraction. America is still recognizably America, in spite of its migrating populations, profoundly altered patterns of production and consumption, fragile democracy, and the growing responsibility being assumed in local government by religious institutions. But all this is about to change. And foreign powers are watching closely.
Mike, Grandma, and the people close to them will soon have to start making plans and taking actions they never before imagined.
And, shortly after their reunion on Head Island, Grandma makes a secret revelation to Mike that could change their family’s fortunes.
COPYRIGHT Ralph Meima 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015
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