Trump is slated to become our new Overlord, and a lot of people are really nervous, with good reason. I hope that people take care not to trample each other as they stampede toward the exits. Immediately after the election, the papers reported that so many people were asking about immigration to Canada that the Canadian immigration web site crashed. On top of that, there is now a movement for California independence. They are proposing to do it entirely legally and peacefully, via a California referendum and amending the U. S. constitution.
The threats to the Republic are greater than they have been at any time since the Civil War. Will the U. S. A. even be around in 10 years, in the year 2026? The year 2026 is an even decade away, the 250th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence, and follows two more Presidential elections, each of which promises to be just as divisive as this one. I hope that people who are thinking about leaving for Canada or working for an independent California will reconsider. If this is really the end of America, the results would not be good for the animals or the environment either, as I hope to explain.
Here are some ways the Republic could end:
1. We could see a steady progression of independence movements, with other states following the lead of California.
2. We could have a military dictatorship, either as a direct result of a Trump order or in response to a blatantly illegal Trump order. Former CIA director Michael Hayden has said that the military could be obliged to refuse an illegal order by Trump. They swear an oath to the constitution, not the President. That’s good, so perhaps we can breathe a little easier concerning an even more ominous possibility:
3. An all-out nuclear war. Millions or billions would die, and depending on how the planet reacts to a prolonged nuclear winter (or a “nuclear fall”), we would see the end of all human life on the planet, or if we’re lucky, just the end of modern civilization.
All of these results would functionally end the Republic, much as happened to the end of the Roman Republic in the aftermath of Caesar’s assassination in 44 BCE — even if the 50 states still constituted a single political entity, or if the Constitution were technically not violated. So much for life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
In the case of a military coup, the country would likely still be so divided (with lots of passionate Trump and anti-Trump people) that it would not be possible to return to civilian rule right away. The generals would discover that it would be necessary to stay in power for a while, and might run the country on a broadly centrist type of path. The country might get used to it and decide they like it. The Germans and Italians, before the Second World War, got tired of all the in-fighting among the various factions and were open to some decisive leader. What were they going to do — go back to democracy?
These scenarios may still seem far-fetched — though not as far-fetched as they were just a year ago. What might make these more likely?
The country faces actual problems to which there is no quick solution. Fundamentally, these problems concern nagging environmental issues which no one wants to confront, all of which make a “Trump apocalypse” more likely. Let me give you three such problems right off the bat: climate change, mass extinctions, and peak oil.
Climate change and mass extinctions will probably not have a direct impact on the economy before 2026. But they are extremely dangerous and endanger all life on the planet, including ours. Dealing with climate change will be expensive and require sacrifices. Not dealing with climate change, on the other hand, is unacceptable. Any government refusing to deal with climate change will simply turn everyone who knows the truth into an enemy, and this poisons the whole political process.
Peak oil, though, already is a direct factor in the economy. The peak oil theorists like Colin Campbell (the petroleum geologist, not the Cornell biochemist) were right. The era of cheap oil really is over, as Campbell accurately predicted in 1998, and all we have now is the expensive stuff, at least if we want to expand the economy. That’s what the oil that we have access to in North America really is: the fracked oil, the deepwater oil, and the Alberta tar sands oil. It’s not only environmentally damaging, it’s also expensive. Without oil shortages, we wouldn’t even be thinking about this stuff, much less actually producing it.
There is no “good” solution to the problem of peak oil — a solution that will maintain a healthy growing economy and “make America great again.” Oil is already too expensive to really sustain the world economy. But this expensive North American oil can only be drilled if prices are somehow kept high. We can evade this problem in various ways for a while, and Obama did a pretty good job of this; but the days of half-truths and equivocations are over. Soon we may be looking at permanent declines in oil production and without cheap alternatives, limits to growth will be enforced by nature.
The problem of resource shortages (of oil, water, and land) poisons the whole world’s political system. It triggered the Arab Spring and the civil war in Syria, which in turn drove a flood of refugees to Europe. It poisons trade, which is profitable precisely because wages and environmental standards are lower overseas. It poisons our health care system, which could be largely fixed with a whole-foods plant-based diet. But a whole-foods plant-based diet would cost too many jobs, hurt the pharmaceutical industry, and put farmers out of work, so political leaders evade the inevitable and necessary conclusions.
Do you think that going to Canada will solve your problems? The biggest immediate threat of a Trump presidency is getting blown up in a nuclear war, and Canada isn’t going to be that much safer in the event of a nuclear war than the United States. Oil shortages and climate change won’t spare you in Canada, either.
Do you want California to become independent? If California secedes, how are we going to elect Sanders (or Warren, or whoever) in 2020? Take a good look at the electoral map and try to do it without California. That really means abandoning the rest of the country to its fate. Other progressive states, abandoned in Trump’s America, would then scramble for independence as well, and that really would mean the end of the United States.
We need to ditch animal agriculture, reduce resource consumption, bring down population, and figure out how to live on less. We need to forcefully make this case first to our fellow vegans and environmentalists, and then to the country at large.
This is not an impossible task. When faced with a crisis, people can be convinced to make sacrifices for the common good. But first we need to build a consensus that radical changes are absolutely necessary. Leaving the country isn’t going to make these problems go away. By embracing limits we can deal with these problems. That will require a revolution both in our thinking and in our political and social system.