The Blowtorch Summer: A Prelude to a Dark Winter II
Evermore people are enthusiastically embracing greater freedom of movement with the arrival of warm weather and nationwide loosening of restrictions in public venues due to increased vaccinations and falling Covid positive rates. For these brief few blissful weeks it might seem like the Old Normal good old days déjà vu even amongst the “rubble” of a plethora of permanently closed businesses and leisure venues.
As the pandemic recedes to the background of mainstream media and inoculated people’s consciousness, the emerging brutal reality is that certain dynamics are converging that will define this New Normal post-pandemic era for the next several years.
Hyper Inflation & Meteorological Madness
The “super cycle” price surge in raw materials and commodities are raging through the system and are already adversely impacting the cost of all consumer items due to a severe supply & demand imbalance.
With respect to food emerging severe droughts globally will continue to super-charge food prices not only for this spring and summer rather through 2022 because droughts are impacting next year’s planting season.
The following comparative charts presented by the US Drought Monitor underscores the severity of the crisis-in-the-making that could lead to a national crisis. The year-on-year chart provides disturbing comparisons of drought conditions in May 2021 (first chart) to May 2020 (second chart) – a mere one year apart.
Drought conditions in the US May 19, 2020:
In North America these severe droughts are adversely impacting the bread baskets of the US and Canada. According to US Drought Monitor, drought has adversely impacted 88% of the US West in 2020 compared to 40% in 2020 against limited water irrigation.
The California snowpack is a mere 4% or normal and the big reservoirs are at less than 50% capacity. Furthermore the West, particularly California, is vulnerable to another season of severe firestorms, nature’s scorched earth policy.
The severe drought crisis is global causing agricultural havoc. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN 6 May 2021 reported the 11th consecutive month of food price increases.
One overlooked fact is that climate change has been used as a convenient excuse for water insecurity which has increasingly imperiled California and the US West for decades. Historically this region has experienced dry seasons and droughts. But the region’s dwindling water supplies are due to the explosive economic development through population and industrial growth that ranks California en par with the same population and GDP as Italy.
On the opposite end of the meteorological spectrum the Atlantic Meteorological Oceanographic Library, the research laboratory of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration organization, has provided their assessment of projected and intensity of hurricanes this season as depicted in the following chart entitled Unpredictable Danger: Hurricane Seasons Since 1967.
According to their forecast they predict 6-10 hurricanes this year with 3-5 of them to be become major hurricanes rated Category 3 or higher.
Ironically the onset of the hurricane season provides a deluge of rainfall in most areas that don’t suffer from water insecurity - nature’s perverse gross misallocation of resources.
These intense storms will also disrupt the fragile supply chain for goods & services as highways, roads, regional power grids will be compromised.
Starvation in the Bread Basket
The following are dynamics that will exacerbate the explosive increase in food prices with actual food shortages, not just logistical problems.
The continuing labor shortages at food processing plants and truck drivers to haul these food goods to supermarkets present another kink in the supply chain’s critical path. Furthermore some drivers refuse to haul goods because higher gas prices have resulted in loss of revenue for the haul. Exacerbating the risk is the shortage of spare parts.
Many large agribusiness companies such as Kroger are closing food stores in the midst of increased food insecurity for millions of citizens. According to their spokespersons, the closings are due to those supermarkets’ poor financial performance. Interestingly not only are those supermarkets located in poor communities, their elimination will create additional food deserts forcing the community either to spend monies for transportation in search of healthy food or purchase junk food from local businesses.
An alternative source for these poorer communities is food banks. However they are close to the breaking point in meeting demand and will collapse should food sources dry up.
In a potential prescient scene from the dystopic classic film almost a half century ago Soylent Green (1973) we could see riots at these food banks and distribution centers sites when there is an announcement that the food inventory is exhausted.
For the wealthy, well-prepared or the clever, one can still enjoy a natural, healthy meal as depicted in Soylent Green with Charlton Heston and Edward G. Robinson.
New Army of Homeless Families | End of Eviction Protections
On or about 30 June many states are issuing eviction proceedings against residents who have not paid rent. This might create a new army of homeless people and families whose only fault was working in the ‘wrong’ industry and job when the pandemic arrived. The following article entitled Emergency Bans on Evictions and Other Tenant Protections Related to Coronavirus provide a comprehensive explanation and charts by state concerning this matter.
Most people think of power grids becoming overloaded during extreme meteorological conditions combined with high demand and more recently cyber-attacks. However physical attacks have occurred as far back as 2014.
The Wall Street Journal article dated 5 February 2014 entitled Assault on California Power Station Raises Alarm on Potential for Domestic Terrorism when a San Jose substation was attacked for almost 20 minutes by a group of gunmen. The short embedded video within the article provides a comprehensive overview of the attack and subsequent follow-up investigation that went nowhere.
Officials have revealed that a physical attack on a substation is far more effective in bringing down the grid than a cyber-attack because it involves the destruction of hard to replace specialized equipment.
Chokepoints are Choking Economies
· In February a freakish arctic storm literally froze Texas operations, a leading energy producer and hub, for several days.
· In March there was the unprecedented short-term blockage of the Suez Canal by a super-size container ship, a critical global commercial waterway.
· In May a cyber-criminal group held the US East Coast hostage with a ransomware attack that shut down the Colonial pipeline.
The next major event may not be short-lived or immediately recoverable as the aforementioned ones. For this reason it could result in an urban security crisis, a different type of pandemic that cannot be resolved with a vaccine. It may be a merely question of time that another event could break the proverbial camel’s back.
The following chart entitled 2020 Saw Unprecedented Murder Spike in Major US Cities provided by New Orleans crime analyst Jeff Asher, compares the percentage change in homicides from 2019 to 2020.
The report added: “The U.S. also experienced its most violent year in decades with an unprecedented rise in homicides. The Gun Violence Archive reported that more than 19,000 people died in shootings or firearm-related incidents in 2020, the highest figure in over two decades.”
Updates for America’s two largest cities by comparing the first quarter of 2020 to 2021, shooting victims rose 43% in Chicago and 78.6% in New York with just the borough of Bronx increasing 165.7%!
The following chart provided by the FBI entitled How Americans Are Murdered (2019) examines the particulars of how Americans are murdered with firearms, not surprisingly, dominating the methods used:
As the economy worsens the most disturbing upward trend on the “street” level will be the following:
· Mass Shootings: As jobs shrink those who are laid off are at risk of becoming homeless, distraught or mentally unstable (with or without their medications due to lack of health benefits) and violently take out their frustrations in the most heinous ways at their former place of employment and/or residence.
· Domestic Violence: The cracking of the already fragile family unit will result in greater physical violence, including murder, in the home. Because of the worsening economy women will be unable to afford to leave and move elsewhere unless they can seek sanctuary with family and friends.
· Random Street Violence: The reduction in public health services will result in evermore citizens unable to secure medications and other social services. Cast adrift on the streets, their mental instability will only worsen as they become desperate and aggressive.
· Petty Crime/Shoplifting: Although there are jobs available for the unemployed they pay minimum wage or slightly above which doesn’t allow them to rent a cheap apartment. With “food & shelter” unaffordable the homeless population increases exponentially.
Disincentives to Work with Incentives to Riot
This may seem contradictory yet the government’s generous extension of unemployment benefits on top of stimulus monies disincentivizes the working population to seek employment. For this reason businesses are suffering from worker shortages. For certain industries such as warehousing, they are already aggressively installing high-tech automation which not only maintain operations but replaces most workers while maintaining a much lower overhead. Once the unemployment benefits end far more workers will be on the short end of the employment musical chairs game and fuel the upward crime trends.
Summer Blowtorch Weather | Mob Mindset
After the short-lived party, hot and probably hotter than normal weather will push desperate people to do desperate things. The vintage-aged and vulnerable grid could result in blackouts, rolling blackouts and brownouts. Food will become a luxury for many including the dispossessed middle class who’ll join their lower socio-economic brethren and engage in whatever activities necessary for the purposes of survival.
When it comes to survival, even the good citizens will resort to extreme violence if challenged coming between them and whatever they need particularly food. In 1906, Alfred Henry Lewis, an investigative journalist, lawyer and novelist, stated, “There are only nine meals between mankind and anarchy.”
From a demographic perspective the coddled Millennials, Generation X and Y have no real-life experience of the street violence and warped economies of the 1970s and 1980s. Self-absorbed and entitled, psychologically soft vs earlier battle-hardened generations they are disconnected from the advice of their Boomer parents and relatives who are the living memories of that arduous era.
Furthermore even the mainstream and social media will not be immune as journalists fall into that youngish demographic by failing to communicate the daily and long-term challenges to their readership. In other words without a reference of how to harden one’s mindset the psychological stress to cope will be enormous.
Globally local enforcement has been overwhelmed by increasingly violent protests. Domestically they are legally neutered by recently passed laws that make them personally liable for any lawsuits claimed by a civilian. Depending on the country security reinforcement whether the military, National Guard or National Police, greater firepower, more lethality. For example France’s National Police is answerable directly to the Minister of Interior. Finally, protests can be triggered by faraway incidents such as global protests over George Floyd’s death.
Initiating Your Prepper State of Emergency
The government and mainstream media have aggressively pushed forward the narrative that the worst is over and that the New Normal will not be that different from the Old Normal while eschewing economic red flags such as inflation, real estate bubbles, rising violent crime, among others. The simultaneous growth of these trends represent an unstoppable momentum that will not disappear in the short-term.
The surfeit amount of information provided by the long-term, pre-pandemic, online prepper community to the general public has not gone unheeded however far too many people are in denial that chaos is dancing on the precipice and can be triggered by either a domestic or international incident.
From a personal perspective preparedness is key going forward not only through this spring and summer rather well into the winter months. Your personal state of emergency should always proceed the government’s state of emergency because the only person ultimately responsible for you and your family’s safety is you.
© Copyright 2021 Cerulean Council LLC
The Cerulean Council is a NYC-based think-tank that provides prescient, beyond-the-horizon, contrarian perspectives and risk assessments on geopolitical dynamics and global urban security.