Ever watch Zardoz?
Reading about rising food prices around the planet, Geoff's post about tent cities in LA, and Andy's rant about a mortgage broker who bought too much house with an interest-only loan and now is on food stamps, makes me wonder just how far are we from an even more split society.
Rising energy prices will usher in new technologies to support our current lifestyles (airgel insulation for our mcmansions, high mpg cars for our commutes). Should the cost of energy continue to rise, people will have the incentive to geolocate near work, school, food, entertainment, so we should see the rise of the city, and the citification of some suburbs, while other suburbs wither and die.
That pales in comparison to higher food prices. The incentive will be to eat more energy-cheep foods, which will be good for all the vegans, and even better for everyone else. But that's only if you had enough money in the first place. If food's a big slice of your budget, you can either work even more, or steal what you need. Government food programs will only expand or people will riot.
Given the incentive to live closer together and the increasing desparation of the poor, those who have will increasingly distrust those who don't and segregate themselves, so our cities will move from what felt like a neighborhood to what feels more like an occupation zone.
Of these dystopian possibilities, food seems more immediately solvable than energy. We've increased global food production before, we'll do it again (even if Australia becomes a desert). And barring other energy production methods, we'll all be cruising around in electric vehicles with pro-nuclear power bumper stickers as those nuclear plants come online.