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Why I didn't make predictions

Since 2006, I’ve been making annual predictions about what would happen in the coming year, and well, this year, I didn’t. Part of it was because I spent a week travelling and had limited time and internet access, but if I’d really wanted to, I could have made it happen. The project of prediction, however, has come to make me a little queasy, particularly watching the degree of anxiety brought up for some people by empty-headed projections like the Mayan apocalypse.

I’ve always prefaced any predictions that I make with the fact that you should remember what you are paying for my opinion and judge it accordingly. Some years I’ve been astonishingly (especially to me) on-target. Some years I’ve been much further off. It never mattered much, because I know I’m guessing and reading trends about as well as anyone does. But ultimately, I thought about it and decided that even slightly-tongue-in-cheek crystal ball gazing just isn’t the most interesting thing I can do, and I think for the environmental movement generally, it is probably destructive.

Since I began seriously writing about peak oil and climate change, I’ve seen a lot of people make predictions – some of them very specific predictions, and often, been very wrong. Every time someone is wrong about one of these specific predictions, it erodes credibility, and it fixates people on a specific time, rather than on the general trends, which are very, very clear. I don’t actually care which year we slide off the oil plateau that much, nor which year it becomes impossible to ignore climate change – we know both those things are going to happen. I’ve come to think that trying to time them shifts the focus to the timing, not to the process – because, of course, for peak oil, climate change, our economic crisis and the world food security crisis, we’re not talking about things that are going to happen, but that are in various stages of already-ness. We’re here.

So I’m giving up my end-of-year predictions to focus on what is, and where that leads us. When we get there is anyone’s guess. Where we are going is much clearer territory.


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