Gail the Actuary, who often writes about peak oil and resource scarcity issues at The Oil Drum, makes the case here that we're on borrowed time. But unlike Jeremy Grantham, she doesn't think we can do anything about it:
There is no real solution to our predicament. Even if a cheap liquid fuel could be found in abundance tomorrow, at most what it would do would be move the problem down the road a little way. Population would continue to grow. Pollution would become a greater and greater issue. We would have more problems with fresh water. We would likely come to another limit, in not too many years.
This pessimistic outlook is oddly embraced by one of the writers at Ecological Sociology:
What I love most about Gail's presentation is that she finally concludes that "there is no solution." This is the conclusion I came to almost a year ago. When you put the whole ball of wax together, you have to face that fact that there really is no solution. That's either a 'bad thing' or a 'good thing' depending on what is collapsing and whether you're really invested in keeping it going. What is collapsing is globalized Capitalist civilization, and frankly, I'm not sorry to see it go.
This cavalier attitude really rubs me the wrong way. The dominant global economic order may well be poised to collapse, but wishing for it to happen strikes me as insensitive to the amount of suffering that would occur. And just out of curiosity, exactly what sort of (sustainable) economic system does this writer see rising from the ashes? [UPDATE: Shaun's response is here.] Thankfully, a much less depressingly fatalistic view can be found over at the Oil Drum thread:
From what I see in urban Seattle, the generation of people in their 20's and 30's are developing a very different set of expectations than the generation before them. Younger people are driving smaller vehicles if not walking or biking, living in smaller spaces, delaying having children, renting instead of owning, spending their money on experiences and good food rather than consumer goods. It reminds me most of European urban living where a high quality of life requires a much lower level of consumption. I'm not disagreeing with Gail's premise at all. The current Business As Usual is not sustainable. What people often miss, however, is that there is a generational change underway and that the upcoming generation may not want or miss the current BAU. In other, less well endowed countries there will undoubtedly be much misery in the years ahead (see Somalia today). But in the US at least, there are (and always have been) many ways to live within our still bountiful resources. It won't necessarily look like what many people think of as 'normal' today. But for some of us it will be a very welcome change. Be the change you want to see in the world.
Indeed. It's also better than waiting (expectantly) for the world to crumble all around you.