The dawn of the new year – a time when the psychics among us are trumpeting their predictions and 16th century astrologer Nostradamus makes an appearance with his quatrains on what people could expect in the future. While I wouldn’t consider myself a seer, it occurred to me that I have made some predictions in the years since we started this blog. I thought it might be fun to take a look back and maybe make a few predictions for the upcoming year. In some cases, I have specific data to support my level of accuracy. In others, things are so obvious that all you have to do is look around.
Climate change will continue and get worse. Places that depend on pumped groundwater – read many of our grain-producing states – will deplete their underground aquifers to the point that water rationing becomes necessary. Places that are normally humid will suffer more floods. The concept of the Hundred Year Storm will need to be revised downward, to the Twenty or even Ten Year Storm. Yep, called that one. (https://www.ncei.noaa.gov/access/monitoring/monthly-report/drought/202113 https://experience.arcgis.com/experience/5dceec104a384df094e65af12a274959/ https://phys.org/news/2022-12-depletion-groundwater-california-central-valley.html https://www.verifythis.com/article/news/verify/extreme-weather-verify/extreme-weather-events-100-year-floods-storms-wildfires-more-frequent-often/536-3352b5ca-3b72-4215-8421-194dd761f40a https://appliedsciences.nasa.gov/what-we-do/disasters/disasters-activations/australia-floods-2022 https://arstechnica.com/science/2022/12/2022s-us-climate-disasters-from-storms-and-floods-to-heat-waves-and-droughts/)
Less travel, because gas and diesel will either be in short supply or too expensive. And by that I don’t mean vacation travel, I mean going-to-work-on-a-daily-basis travel. There will be less variety at the grocery store. There will be fewer imports and exports. There will be fewer products made of plastic. For that matter, there will be fewer petroleum products in general – fertilizer, some medicines, denture adhesives (who would have thought?), insecticides, perfumes, electric blankets. Parts of these predictions were accurate, not because of shortages in fuel supplies. I had trouble finding actual statistics on travel. The pandemic certainly put the kibosh on air travel, while soaring fuel prices meant people did a lot less driving. Political pressure and the release of US Strategic Reserve supplies helped mitigate some of the shortages. Commercial petroleum fertilizer is definitely less available and more expensive. Grocery stores have ongoing or periodic shortages of various food products, as do various other retail and wholesale sellers. What there is on the shelf is typically more expensive. (https://modernfarmer.com/2022/12/fertilizer-companies-cashed-in/ https://www.jeffersonsdaughters.com/2022/12/19/food-prices-2022/ https://www.statista.com/statistics/1003982/us-annual-person-trips-per-household/ https://www.cnn.com/2022/12/29/energy/oil-gas-prices-2022/index.html https://aspe.hhs.gov/reports/prescription-drug-price-increases)
There will be shortages. Americans may need to get used to the idea of standing in long lines, as Soviet citizens still do, for basics such as meat or bread. Modern medical care will become more difficult, as some medications become less available – that’s already happening – and because so much of our care relies on one-time-use-only things made of or packaged in plastic. I was caught flat-footed by the baby formula shortage and it never occurred to me that tampons would be on this list. But there are definitely shortages in many other areas. (https://yournews.com/2022/09/29/2424463/33-things-to-know-about-the-coming-food-shortages/ https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2022_food_crises)
There will be civil unrest, especially in the cities. Oh, yeah. January 6th, anyone? Wikipedia has 25 pages on the 2022 riots around the world. It was only 17 pages in 2017. (https://www.commondreams.org/news/2022/09/02/worst-yet-come-global-civil-unrest-index-hits-all-time-high https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Category:2022_riots)
There will be inflation, deflation and extreme surges in the stock market, if not another 1929 crash. Depending on the source, inflation estimates vary. Officially, it was 7.1 in the US as of the end of November. Deflation – not so much, but lots of experts warning to expect it in the near future. No actual crash yet, although I suspect a lot of people developed whiplash watching the volatility in the stock market. (https://www.in2013dollars.com/us/inflation/2012?amount=1 https://inflationdata.com/articles/wp-content/uploads/2022/05/Statista-Woldwide-Inflation1.jpghttps://www.jec.senate.gov/public/index.cfm/republicans/2022/7/state-inflation-tracker-may-2022 https://www.forbes.com/sites/georgecalhoun/2022/10/31/the-inflation-narrative-falters–instead-we-have-gluts-now-and-soon–deflation/ https://www.cnbc.com/2022/12/29/stock-market-futures-open-to-close-news.html)
There will be wars over resources. Ukraine is a good example of an actual shooting war over resources (in this case, oil and agricultural products, but you have to dig to figure it out). And there are also other factors in Ukraine. But Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan had border clashes over water in 2021. The Sierra Leone war over diamonds went on for decades. Ditto oil in the Sudan. (https://www.bbc.com/future/article/20210816-how-water-shortages-are-brewing-wars https://intpolicydigest.org/sudan-s-oil-war/ https://study.com/academy/lesson/sierra-leone-civil-war-summary-facts-timeline.html https://talkingpointsmemo.com/news/a-water-war-is-brewing-over-the-dwindling-colorado-river)
Communication will get dicey. Either I missed this one or it’s such a complex picture that it’s really hard to see.
Government may start to break down. Government effectiveness in the US was lower in 2020 and 2022 than it has ever been. Now, it’s important to recognize that the federal government was designed in a way that makes it less efficient, in order to protect the balance of power. However, anyone who spends a little time watching what’s going on in the halls of power typically sees a bunch of cliquish, back-biting, dishonest grandstanders who not only can’t but won’t work together for the good of the country. And that’s on both sides of the aisle. (https://www.mcc.gov/who-we-select/indicator/government-effectiveness-indicator https://tradingeconomics.com/united-states/government-effectiveness-percentile-rank-wb-data.html)
Bicycles may become the most common mode of transportation in cities and small towns. While not the most common method, the numbers are definitely growing. (https://www.zippia.com/advice/bicycle-industry-statistics/)
Food will be local and I suspect healthier. About 80% of the 2 million farms in the US are small farms. Local Harvest reports it has 4,000 listings in its directory. However, there’s no official tracking system for CSAs. The best I could get was from the USDA, which stated more than 147,000 farms produced and sold food locally as of April 2022; 78% sold within 100 miles of the farm. In 2015, it was 114,801 farm operators. (https://www.usda.gov/media/press-releases/2022/09/07/usda-announces-400-million-funding-available-create-usda-regional https://www.localharvest.org/csa/ https://www.nass.usda.gov/Newsroom/2022/04-28-2022.php https://quickstats.nass.usda.gov/results/EE7D813E-C648-378B-A464-FB8BAA63F6BD#080FD0F0-5214-330B-B52D-8D750892DB0D)
People are going to be a lot more interested in gardening for food, and those of us who save our own seeds may be able to develop a good business. Over 18 million people began gardening during the pandemic. In comparison, there were 1.26 million new gardeners in 2008. (https://gardenpals.com/gardening-statistics/ http://masterofhort.com/2014/03/home-gardening-statistics/)
Our rivers and streams may become less polluted once we don’t throw medicine down the drain and are using fewer chemicals in general. Can’t find any data on this one, but my gut is it hasn’t changed.
Barter will enjoy a resurgence; actually it already is, especially in smaller communities like mine. Again, can’t get any decent data.
Family and community will become more important, partly because you won’t be able to get away from them very easily and partly because you will need both to survive. This one is, I think, a mixed bag. Some families do seem to be closer. Others have fractured over such issues as vaccines and politics. I’ve seen figures ranging from 55% to 65% for the “we’re closer” contingent. But estrangement (as in “I’m done with my parents/children”) seems to be growing. Child abuse and neglect reports decreased during the pandemic, but no one knows if that’s because the actual reporting decreased. Teachers, for example, are specifically described as mandated reporters in most states; if kids aren’t going to school, teachers have less to report. https://www.aap.org/en/patient-care/family-snapshot-during-the-covid-19-pandemic/despite-the-pandemic-many-parents-report-family-closeness/ https://news.umich.edu/coronavirus-causing-conflict-between-parents-children/ https://www.bbc.com/worklife/article/20211201-family-estrangement-why-adults-are-cutting-off-their-parents)
Stock market volatility. Yep. See above.
More homeless. Numbers are really squishy here because the pandemic meant no one was out there gathering data. But anyone who hasn’t been living under a rock can just look around their community and see the numbers are up.
Effect of GPS on the human brain. I’m willing to bet that it’s not just GPS. Using any kind of technology on a regular basis is probably affecting our brains in a lot of negative ways. 2022 – To that I would add affecting our behavior. Jury is still out on this one, but I stand by my original comments. (https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2022/05/social-media-democracy-trust-babel/629369/ https://www.medicinenet.com/how_do_cell_phones_affect_a_childs_brain/article.htm https://www.opencolleges.edu.au/informed/features/digital-technology-shapes-cognitive-function/ https://wexnermedical.osu.edu/blog/how-internet-affects-your-brain)
2020 – On Coronavirus
Another safe bet: the numbers in the US are way under-reported because of small testing numbers. Depending on whose stats you look at, COVID cases may have been under-counted by as much as 60% in the US. That jibs pretty closely with what I saw in our clinic population. It’s become more apparent as home testing kits became widely available.
Yet another: since several of those either confirmed or being tested worked or lived in places like school or university dormitories, we can expect to have outbreaks in those institutions. How many schools and colleges closed or went to online-learning because of outbreaks in dorms?
The US health care system cannot handle the kind of pandemic occurring in China – we don’t have enough hospitals, enough beds or enough care providers. And we are already facing shortages of supplies and medications. Nailed that one.
At this point, you should be prepared for lock-downs – especially in cities – home quarantines, school closures, travel restrictions (already happening), cancellations of events with lots of attendees and shortages of food, medicine, basic supplies. Nailed that one as well.
The economic fallout from the pandemic is going to be a big problem in a world that is already teetering on the edge because of massive debt and financial bubbles. Oh, yeah.
There is no vaccine and if a vaccine can be developed, it will probably take 12 to 18 months. December 2019 to December 2020, right at 12 months.
I suspect we are going to have a coronavirus season of some sort pretty much forever, just as we have an annual flu season. Well, so far, that’s what we’re seeing.
I would expect the season to occur at the time vitamin D levels are lowest – late winter. Don’t know for sure, but it looks like it. However, the holiday season may be a factor, as people travel and gather in groups at this time of year. In our clinic we have seen surges after each major holiday this year.
We may get to the point where the virus is always with us but outbreaks occur during certain times of the year or if you get run down. See above.
The divisions in our nation have also been a long time coming and are not going to go away overnight. Political polarization has only gotten worse. Hate crimes are increasing: 7103 offenses in 2019, 8673 in 2021. In 2018, approximately 83% of those surveyed in one study reported instances of rudeness or incivility. One author reported 55% of survey participants said they had encountered rude behavior in 2011. In 2020, it was 76% for the same author. (https://www.brown.edu/news/2020-01-21/polarization https://www.justice.gov/hatecrimes/hate-crime-statistics https://www.apa.org/monitor/2013/11/rude)
Predictions for 2023 and Beyond
I like to joke that my crystal ball is cracked because I bought it at the Army/Navy surplus store. Sometimes, predicting the future is simply a matter of accurately assessing current trends and extrapolating what will happen in the future. If those predictions were made by someone like Nostradamus or found in the Book of Revelations, you also have to translate them from a different language or consider the context of seers who were living in a much earlier age. For example, how would a contemporary of Moses describe a spaceship? Sometimes it truly is a little uncanny. Leonardo da Vinci drew prototypes for parachutes, helicopters, tanks and submarines, none of which existed in his world. On the other hand, some trends are so blatant that anyone can make a prediction about what’s coming. At any rate, here is what I expect in the future.
- More social unrest.
- Increased tensions between countries.
- A true stock market crash.
- Inflation followed by deflation.
- Shortages of pretty much everything.
- Health care will be harder to find and take longer, with specialty care essentially non-existent for many people.
- More crazy weather.
- More species loss.
- Declining birth rates in most countries.
- Increasing censorship, both overt and covert.
- Increased polarization.
- The physical fabric/infrastructure of the country will continue to deteriorate – roads, bridges, buildings, power plants.
With a list of bad things like that, it’s hard to find the good. But there will be good – people will still fall in love and make lives together. People will continue to go into medicine and nursing, driven to help others heal. Firefighters and cops, volunteers with sandbags, emergency medical personnel and power company techs will be out there on dark nights to rescue, protect and repair. People will donate to worthy causes and have toy drives at Christmas. Parents and teachers will guide the children, spiritual leaders will guide souls. Others will rescue animals or take in refugees, serve meals to the homeless, plant saplings after forest fires and clean up graffiti in city parks. My hope is that in the long run, the good will outweigh the bad. Remember the line in the song Ordinary Miracles: “change begins with you and me.”