And, then, I flip to the next page (or turn to a different publication), and I find an article in which Robert Prince, co-chief investment officer at Bridgewater, the world's biggest hedge fund firm, is quoted as saying that he and his managers are preparing for at least a decade of slow growth and high unemployment for the big developed economies. Mr. Prince describes those economies — the U.S. and Europe, in particular —as "zombies" and says they will remain that way until they work through their mountains of debt.
And Sears Holdings, like so many companies over the past three years, is downsizing and closing several of their stores, to the tune of potentially 9600 jobs lost.
It's hard to know what to believe these days. The media seems to be contradicting itself. Even Ron Paul, whose philosophies on a great deal of things definitely don't match my own (in particular the environment and the origins of the species :), says that he believes the "Internet" (which would be blogs, like mine ;) before he believes the news media.
A couple of years ago, I participated in the flurry of blogger New Year's predictions. It was fun. I'm not good at it.
But I don't think one has to have any particularly powerful prophetic abilities to see what's happening and to take a guess at where these current events will lead us.
So, just for shits and giggles, here are my 2012 Forecasts:
- We haven't heard the last of the OWSers, but I don't think they're going to be sitting as peacefully in protest as they were during this past fall. When they go back into the streets en masse in the spring, and as their voices are ignored through the summer (and as the election nears), they will become a little more insistent. I don't think it will be pretty.
- The economy will continue to tumble. Mr. Prince states "slow growth." I think he's being optimistic. I think there will be no growth, but I think the numbers will continue to be reported as if growth is happening, i.e. the media will gloss over or ignore the first few months of the year when there will be no spending, except on the "bare necessities" - like heating oil and food. Then, during the summer months, there will seem to be some growth, as those who are still able to do such things, are taking their vacations. At the beginning of the school year, there will be the typical surge in spending for "school supplies", followed by several months of non-spending, followed by the usual, very likely more subdued than in the past, holiday spending orgy - which will be a whole lot less like an orgy and a whole lot more like a middle school round of spin-the-bottle. Something like 75% of our economy is consumer spending, and there will be a lot less of that, overall and compared to other years, but it will be spun to look as if good things are happening.
- The price of oil will continue to bounce around the $90/per barrel range, but most people won't even realize it, because, unless there is some major civil unrest in the Middle East, decreased overall demand will keep prices relatively stable.
- A lot more people will be jumping on the austerity wagon and looking for ways to cut the budget and live more frugally, but none of them will want to feel deprived. So, I predict that this will be a pivotal year for those writers and teachers whose focus is on low-impact living and skills. People are already looking for that sort of information and finding blogs, like mine. There's definitely room for more people with good advice on how to live better with less.
- There will be no one, single, catastrophic event that pushes us into Armageddon ... except, maybe, the outcome of the 2012 US Presendential election ;).
I had a very nice discussion with a friend of mine. He asked me if I've always been a "happy" person, which considering I'm a doomer was kind of a funny question to be asked. The fact is, though, that I am happy, and I'm thankful for my amazing life, and I'm acutely aware of how good I have it.
I replied to him that I used to consider myself a pessimist with hope, but I think that's not true. I think I've never been either, optimistic nor pessimistic. Rather I've always been aware that I am in control of my happiness, and that, even during those periods of my life with things weren't going so well, I knew, at some level, that I could make things better by making different choices - not easier, mind you, but better - and just for clarity's sake, better - for me - doesn't necessarily equate to more of any particular thing.
In fact, I don't think more is the better life that any of us are going to realize - Robert Prince says for the next decade, I think for a lot longer. I'm pretty well convinced, based on what I'm seeing, that the civilizations we have built around unlimited growth and a belief that we can have infinite wealth in a limited and finite planet are doomed.
But I know, that if we're willing to make changes in our lifestyles, we won't suffer as the world around us goes crazy.
I'm also pretty convinced that if we don't willingly make changes, we'll be forced to do so anyway.
Change doesn't have to be a bad thing. It doesn't have to be uncomfortable or scary or painful, but just let me say that making changes, because we want to make changes is a LOT easier than making changes because we are left with only a very few choices. Then, it can be all three. We don't have to go there.
Traditionally, New Year's is a time when people will resolve to do some thing or other ... and usually, fail to keep that promise to themselves. Maybe this could be the year for all of us that we shed "old, tired traditions" and habits, and learn to live differently ... perhaps, better ;).
And speaking of promises, a few weeks ago I was honored as the featured blogger at BlogHer.com. In recognition of that honor, I offered a copy (or two ;) of Surviving the Apocalypse in the Suburbs. So, using the highly technical method of writing names on slips of paper and having Deus Ex Machina draw them out of a hat, I'm pleased to offer copies to 4BushelFarmGal and Herbs 'N Chocolate. Please leave a comment with your name and contact info. Your comment will not be published :).
Thank you to everyone who commented and continues to comment. I love getting comments, and while I don't always reply, I love hearing your voices and am so thrilled that someone out there is not just interested in reading my ramblings, but also interested in sharing his/her own stories. I learn a lot from you all.