In January of last year, I published a book called “The Collapse of 2020.” It was inspired by a $1,000 bet I had made in 1995 that Western civilization, a victim of powerful modern technologies out of control creating environmental, political and economic disasters, would collapse in 25 years.
I thought I would write a book to see just how accurate my prediction had been.
I wrote then that the collapse had not completely occurred but that it seemed imminent in any direction you looked, and I would wait until the end of the year for a final decision.
I thought of “collapse” as not being something like the implosion of a building, a sudden complete act, but rather like an avalanche, moving downward destroying everything in its path until finally the village was buried.
At the end of the year, the judge whose opinion my betting partner and I had agreed to accept gave his decision: I had mostly won in the environmental phase, seeing how global warming was an undeniable phenomenon imperiling the Earth; I had not won in the political because most governments were still functioning even if poorly; and I had lost in the economic area because the stock market was at an all-time high. Therefore, I lost.
I responded that if I had won about the environment, that in itself was causing a collapse that covered everything else. That the coronavirus had shown just how corrupt and inefficient almost every government had been, and millions of lives had been lost, pretty good evidence of debilitation if not collapse. And that the world was in a depression as deep as that of the 1930s, even though the richest nation had decided to create nonexistent dollars out of the air in order to keep people fooled that times were good and not to look behind the curtain.
I said I had not lost and would not pay. I may not have completely won, since much of the world was still functioning in familiar ways, but given its parlous state, and the downward direction in which it was heading, I certainly didn’t lose.
And let me add a personal note: When I published the book I was living Mount Pleasant, a city no longer a town that since 2008 I had found to be decidedly pleasant despite having no mountain.
Then in March I came down with a chest disease that was probably a form of COVID-19 and spent a week in the hospital, with only my wife to give me comfort. That was when the pandemic was declared and I knew that its consequences would be disastrous, in fact that it would expose all the weaknesses of political and economic systems that I had written about in my book.
That’s when I decided to leave South Carolina and move back to the town where I was born and grew up, Ithaca, New York. I decided that I wanted to be near my family, and I found a place where my son-in-law is only minutes away and my daughters are within hours. I decided that there would be food shortages and supply lines disrupted, so I am in farm country with dozens of working farms all around me. I decided that there would be political unrest in most cities in the land resulting from economic stress and political ineptness, so I moved to a small village on the outskirts of Ithaca (where I can see across Cayuga Lake to the small village where I was born), where very little disputatiousness exists and people know how to be neighbors.
I thoroughly enjoyed my time in Mount Pleasant and made lifelong friends there.
But I know I made the right choice. When our civilization continues to collapse, I will be able to survive for as long as the Lord allows.
Kirkpatrick Sale is the author of 14 books, including a history of SDS, the 1960s student group, that will be reprinted in the fall.