- We're fucked. The world is going to slowly decline into subsistence living or medievalism; in all likelihood it will start happening within our own lifetime (if we're very lucky we might die before it gets too bad).
- We might have the slight satisfaction of watching Australia slide into anarchy first.
Here's what Diamond has to say about Australia:
Ecologically, the Australian environment is exceptionally fragile, the most fragile of any First World country except perhaps Iceland. As a consequence, many problems that could eventually become crippling in other First World countries ... such as overgrazing, salinization, soil erosion, introduced species, water shortages, and man-made droughts ... have already become severe in Australia.He goes on to say:
Australia is the most unproductive continent; the one whose soils have on average the lowest nutrient levels, the lowest plant growth rates and the lowest productivity. That's because Australian soils are mostly so old that they have become leached of their nutrients by rain over the course of billions of years.And further:
Australia's first farmers were inadvertently mining their soils for nutrients. Thereafter, nutrients have had to be supplied artificially in the form of fertilizer, thus increasing agricultural production costs compared to those in more fertile soils overseas.What does it all mean? As the global system degrades all those agricultural inputs that Australia needs to sustain crop production will become harder to source and more expensive. The same system degradation will affect the importation of food. And eventually those frequent droughts will equate not to loss of export income but loss of life. Presto! Instant Mad Max-land.
Before we get too comfortable at the thought of our cousins being repelled by the Indonesian navy, we should remember that a smaller world will cause problems for us as well - for starters, when most people's attention is focused on where the next meal is coming from, the labour value of bureaucrats like me will fade to nought; hell, they'll probably burn us at the stake as witches. New Zealand does has an advantage in the agriculture stakes over Australia because our happy slice of volcano alley gets refertilized on a regular basis (on a global timescale anyway); but I'm not sure the land will support all of us for long without inputs like fertilizers (weed killers are not so much of a problem; with the death of bureaucracy there will be a glut in the labour market of people willing to spend their days scrabbling around on their knees in the dirt).
Survivalists should probably start considering buying some land (preferably near a river or a stream) and learning how to grow crops without inputs (or at least inputs you can't improvise from the land around you). If you can site yourself close to coal country all the better - trees are too valuable as a nutrient source for the land to be used for firewood. And as pointed out by Bruce Simpson on Aarvark, your local landfill could be a goldmine for metals and other useful stuff that will be scarce after the long slow apocalypse.
Of course, it may never happen - in which case you've got a nice place in the country to retire to.