Doomsday cookout

July 27, 2008

He’s no wacko. This friend of a friend is rational, educated, and well read. Personable, too. Yet his vision of the world’s immediate future, though short of apocalyptic, is bleak.

We’ve met several times in small social settings. At the first I learned he was an avid proponent of the Peak Oil school of thought and liberally shared his views: the world is beginning to run out and we’ll soon see the effects, not just in soaring fuel prices but food shortages and, eventually, economic collapse. He spoke not grimly but with the determination of someone certain of the road ahead. That was three years ago.

“It’s all happening,” he said Sunday at a birthday party for his four-year-old son. As we talked, he cooked burgers and hot dogs in his double-lot backyard south of Portland. Vegetables and fruit were ripening in lush gardens and trees — food that is to be canned. Inside he has a large cache of dried foods that won’t perish for twenty-five years. He also has a stockpile of firewood, high-capacity generator, and lots of gasoline.

It’s all about the children, he said, squinting against the grill smoke. “Being able to raise them. That’s all that matters.”

We discussed the likelihood of the Bush Administration attacking Iran or sanctioning an attack by Israel that would inevitably involve U.S. forces. As our kids played nearby, we also talked of how an attack might trigger a war encompassing the entire Middle East or even World War III given Russia’s support of Iran, accelerating the calamity he sees ahead. Or at the least, so disrupt the oil trade that unprecedented economic depression would grip the globe.

Later, as I left with my family, I joked that I’d email him if war with Iran begins. “If you still can,” he said.

On the drive home, I worried that he’s prepared and I’m not. Not just unprepared in the practical sense of stockpiling essentials. I’m not ready to alter my reality by donning doomsday glasses. But he’s probably right.