All things that have a beginning, have an end.
Many authors have posited, in both alternate history and future history ways, that The United States of America will at some point either morph into something larger, something smaller, or become something as significant as a postal address. In the classic bright-future Star Trek, for example, the United States existed until 2150, when it joined in a planetary wide government. Heck, it is even a good long trope.
The granddaddy of all breakups, of course, is one that has already happened – when the Confederacy declared independence, and we wound up with this:
How the United States may break up has been discussed many a time, but what I’m finding is that many of the new versions of the US split along state lines, and that may not be realistic. There is a great book (and a corresponding video version) of “How The States Got Their Shapes” which is highly entertaining and engrossing, and shows that a lot of what we’ve got now is based on some pretty random events.
Years ago, I read The People’s Almanac, and in it, there were two proposals for restructuring the existing United States into something more “workable,” as the old borders of the states (especially the earlier ones) were drawn far before modern life emerged, as noted above. Now, this may have been a pipe dream (how many state legislatures would voluntarily dissolve, and how many governors would give up power?), but in the reality of a diminished resource world, new ways of administrating things may be needed. Some may come about peacefully (we hope), and some may not, but in the end, things may be reshuffled a bit.
Here, are some of the restructurings that were imagined:
The first restructuring, with 38 states:
The second, more radical restructuring of Stanley Brunn, with 16 states;
This sort of restructuring has been revisited from time to time, again, in more academic ways; the Nine Nations of North America breaks the US up into these regions:
There are variations on this theme; here, by Colin Woodard, are eleven nations, with some finer detail at the county level:
Now, this is all well and good, but some of these maps and re-imaginings were done years ago, and with a vision that this would be an administrative shuffle, not something brought up by the stresses of a changing environment and energy. They do point out that our current administrative divisions are arbitrary at best, and practically no states have been untouched by these imaginings.
In 1998, a Russian predicted that the US might break down in this way:
Having Canada rule over the CNAR, or China ruling over California seems a bit far fetched; and for people in Tennessee joining the European Union, it might be a bit of a stretch.
The fictional versions of a reshuffled United States of America are based on different stressors; a limited nuclear attack, economic collapse, and/or environmental changes. For example, from the television series “Jericho”, a simple map was made after a whole bunch of nuclear devices went off in a few cities, and we wound up with this:
From John Michael Greer’s “How It Could Happen” (the web version), we’ve got the Republic of New England, a smaller thirteen state America (with the District of Columbia becoming the newest small state), Confederacy 2.0, and California, Texas, and Florida going their own ways; from his blog, it was unclear on how the western states would go; might they form up to be something like the Allied States of America, from the Jericho map, minus Texas and California? It was unclear how some states went (for the smaller America; Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, Kentucky, West Virginia, Virginia, Maryland, Delaware, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Washington D.C. makes 14; perhaps Virginia joined Dixie 2.0? The quote from How It Could Happen, Part 5 gives:
The senator filled him in. “We’ve been at the Senate Office Building on the phones with the states all morning. The seven eastern states that voted against ratification are in. So are Ohio and Delaware—they called off their conventions once Nebraska made it moot. New Jersey only ratified because of Trenton; they want in, and Kentucky talked it over and decided they’d rather be with us than with the South… …marking off twelve states across the eastern core of the continent: from New York and the mid-Atlantic westward through Ohio, West Virginia, and Kentucky to Illinois, Michigan and Wisconsin, linking the Atlantic, the Great Lakes, and the upper Mississippi. It was, Bridgeport realized, a viable nation.
From James Howard Kunstler’s World Made By Hand series, (A History Of The Future) (To be done!):
From Whitley Strieber’s and James Kunetka’s Warday, where a very small nuclear attack renders modern America a shell of its former self, California goes its own way, and the nation of Azltan in the Southwest starts to emerge and flex its muscle. Some candidates for Azltan are shown below (in dark red), and clash with the idea that Texas and California will have their own independence in that fictional treatment.
Some of the issues that may make this moot are the ones that have nothing to do (or mostly nothing to do) with human agency; for example, ocean level rise. In JMG’s Star’s Reach, ocean levels have risen significantly; at 30 meters and 60 meters, a lot changes on the East and Southern coasts (and Florida goes away!), making the 16 state US a pretty dicey proposition:
Another problem may be the issue of nuclear power plants. If they fail catastrophically, natural transport routes and agricultural lands that we’ve known in the past may be unpassable/uninhabitable, and may make for unnatural boundaries. Here are the locations of the nuclear power plants in the US, and what their fallout patterns look like:
A few common themes:
Texas – Texas seems to go its own way. It has always been the “Lone Star State,” and it may live up to its name (or not). Strong influences from the south of the border may make part of its territory become part of Aztlan.
California – California will either become a republic again, or divide into northern and southern regions.
New England – These states seem to stick together, and have a common culture; they may want to band together.
Not shown on these maps are two US states that will have a few interesting choices to make:
Alaska – Alaska has a lot of natural resources, and who knows how this “Texas of the North” will go. Given its proximity to Canada, it might cosy up to regions in western Canada, which might be going through its own convulsions. Correspondingly, the Maritime Provinces might join a Republic of New England, and the Quebecois could get their wish of independence.
Hawaii – I once visited Hawaii years ago, and during my tour of the Iolani Palace, it was shocking to find out how it became a part of the US (essentially, it was stolen). If the US starts to break apart, Hawaii might find itself as a lucrative trade stop (perhaps too lucrative, to nations west of it), and might go back to an independent kingdom, or be subsumed into a Californian or Alaskan nation.
Questions, as always:
- Which of these maps seems the most realistic? The most impossible?
- Which states are most likely to fragment? The 16 and 38 state maps show that many states aren’t really cut out to be states in the best of times; in the worst of times, will we see things like Northern and Southern California come into being? Who goes first?
- There are legal issues for simple state splitting, but even in the simplest of splits (Northern and Southern California seem logical), how does it happen politically? What are the day-to-day mechanics of this? This all sounds like the mechanics of a divorce, and even in amicable ones, this can get complicated!
- The flags of California and Texas are well known, and might be the de facto representations of new nations or regions. There’s even a flag of New England. Who will take the flag of the US, and modify it to suit their purposes?
- There should be some talk of Mexico and Canada in all this; after all, if the borders of states dissolve, perhaps even the borders of nations will become fluid. Thoughts?