The next twenty years are very unlikely to be like the last twenty years. Most of the time, it is reasonable to expect and plan for the future on the basis of the recent past. This is how we are wired and the force of habits and the power of cultural inertia make this kind of thinking natural.
However, for all the reasons I have listed here (and quite a few more, which include consideration of the present economic situation and a debt-based economy that requires continued growth (or at least the perception of the likelihood of continued growth over the long term) to prevent meltdown), I am fairly pessimistic about the likely economic, social and/or political stability of the coming decades.
I am no prophet, nor a prophet's son and I make no claims to predicting what is likely in a massively complex and historically novel globalised system with all kinds of unexpected feedbacks. It is also very hard to be precise about the level of severity we're talking about it. I expect that we will face more than a recession, and something larger than the credit crunch of 2008.
However, I don't think we're talking Mad Max or The Road anytime soon (unless global tensions reach a point where someone reaches for the nuclear option, in which case all bets are off). But we're also not talking Star Trek or even . I think the possibility of political and/or technological silver bullets to avoid the raft of approaching crises is low enough to make it reasonable to hold a fairly bleak outlook.
There are three interconnected systems that are currently under grave threat, and the failure or further deterioration of any one of them will have significant knock-on effects on the others. These are economy, energy and ecology, or finances, fuel and flora & fauna (and fresh water and flooding and fires). I've written primarily about the third category, with occasional references to the second (especially regarding peak oil). In more recent weeks I've been learning quite a lot more about the first, and the ways in which the failures of the other two can be magnified and brought home by the financial system.
I plan to say more on this in due time, but I thought I'd flag the development of my thinking and suggest two presentations that might give you a taste of the kinds of things I've been pondering recently. Both are far from perfect and contain material or emphases which I think are wide of the mark, but at a broad level, I suspect they are identifying some of the most pressing issues of our day.
The first is this talk recorded at the Transition movement conference earlier this year by Stoneleigh, one of the authors of The Automatic Earth blog (H/T Sam and more thoughts here).
The second is called the Crash Course by Chris Martenson. This one is quite a bit longer, but most of the meat is in the second half so feel free to skip the explanations of what money is and how credit works if you like.
Both these presentations major on the first of the three crises (i.e economic), not because it is necessarily the most dangerous, but because it is most likely to make itself felt first and most directly. I suspect that the ecological crises which are largely in the background of these presentations will ultimately prove to be larger and more significant in the long term.