I have been thinking about writing about what it is like to live in a crumbling empire. Maybe I should, now that the Icelandic volcano is maybe slowing down.
I had a conversation with a couple of other science fiction writers when the Soviet Union collapsed. I pointed out that the US was not that much more stable than the USSR. One of the other writers said, "Absolutely. I give the US three more years."
This is typical of SF writers. We always think things will happen more quickly than they do. Anyway, that was 1991. Now, 23 years later, the US government and empire looks more and more dysfunctional. But it could still continue for decades. There is even (I suspect) some possibility that it could straighten itself out and keep going.
Immanuel Wallerstein, who is worth reading, says no. This crisis cannot be fixed. We are in for 50 years of chaos, as the whole world destabilizes. The question, according to Wallerstein, is -- what comes next? Will we build a better world, or will the bad guys build a worse one?
Right now the "first world" nations, the US and Europe and Japan, are all stuck in economic stagnation, which shows no sign of ending.
The US government seems unable to work on any of the country's problems, though it does manage to do an effective job of suppressing civil liberties.
America is entering another war. I have spent my entire life watching the US fight wars and covert wars. The old goal was to put a "more friendly" and "freedom loving" government in place. Usually this meant a rightwing dictator, such as Pinochet in Chile or the Shah in Iran. The goal these days seems to be to smash nations and create failed states, unable to protect their citizens or their natural resources. We see this in Iraq and Libya.
As climate warming gets worse and as resources become more limited, I expect there will be more wars -- to control oil, minerals, water, maybe land. And there will be civil wars, which the Pentagon appears expect here, among other places. It's the only explanation I can see for giving military equipment to American police departments.
The US should be planning for global warming, repairing old infrastructure, building new windmills, solar energy farms, dikes. Insulating every building in the country, for heaven's sake. Painting roofs white. This is not happening. Instead the money goes into war and policing and to the top 1%, who must be planning to buy themselves a new planet.
Boy, it is hard to write about this stuff. It's painful and angering. I can't imagine the greed and fear and failure of imagination that has gotten us here.
So what do we do?
It seems to me we are dealing with a huge failure of imagination. The people in power in the US and Europe ignore the huge environmental and social problems that the face the planet -- and them, since they are stuck here. SF writers turn to urban fantasy, when we should be talking about redesigning Earth. The time requires something like Kim Stanley Robin's Mars trilogy or Pamela Sargent's Venus trilogy. I'm not the person to write this.