Down the Collapse Rabbit Hole
Published on The Doomstead Diner on March 19, 2017
Discuss this article at the Kitchen Sink inside the Diner
Once you start digging into Collapse and its various ramifications and possible scenarios, you descend into an enormous Rabbit Hole, and it's one most people don't even want to contemplate at all.
As a result, no matter what evidence you care to provide, how good your Power Point Presentation is or how many scientists, economists and social pundits (Bloggers) you Interview, what you mostly get back are Blank Stares, followed swiftly by Denial and various ideas of Techno-Triumphalism & Cornucopianism. The Sheeple just don't WANT to believe that the dream they were sold of endless progress, endless growth and an eventual and inevitable destiny of Colonizing the Universe with Homo Sap Meat Packages is not our Ultimate Destiny. They definitely do not want to acknowledge that a Collapse of this Dream is likely to occur within their own lifetimes.
So, if you have explored the Rabbit Hole some, with this group (the majority) of people, you have virtually no chance of getting through to them at all, you're just banging your head up against a brick wall. But what about the people who have become to one extent or another aware of collapse (and there are more of them all the time)?
These people (who I refer to as Kollapsniks) come in quite a few different flavors, and have widely divergent views on what trajectory the collapse will take, and what they see as the most likely outcome. These divergences of opinion lead to disputes within the Kollapse Kommunity, which given it is pretty small to begin with means what you get out of it are a lot of tiny splinter groups which all argue with each other, even more than they argue with the dominant Techno-Triumphalism spin!
Amongst the Kollapsniks though, you run the gamut from those who believe in Renewable Energy as a long term savior after a period of economic collapse, all the way to those who believe in a Near Term Human Extinction, currently predicted for as soon as 2026 by Guy McPherson of Nature Bats Last, aka "Dr. McSerpent" or "Dr. McStinksion" here on the Diner. There are a few different flavors of Kollapsnik between these extremes though, so for today's essay I will detail some of them that I have run across during my travels down the Rabbit Hole over the last decade. I will work my way from the "least kollapsy" to the "most kollapsy", more or less in order although there are variations here to consider in the taxonomy.lol.
#1- Renewables Kollapsnik (RK)- RKs acknowledge that the fossil fuel economy is destined for death, but feel it is still possible for an econonomy based on renewables to substitute for it, and moreover keep a significant portion of the current 7.3B people on the planet alive utilizing those renewables, along with other techniques like Permaculture, Hydroponics, etc. Wind power and Solar PV are the most prominently featured forms of the RK future scenario, although other forms of renewable energy like wave and tidal power from the oceans and geothermal from global hotspot are also featured occassionally. There are also some who feel that Nuclear techologies such as Thorium can provide clean power, or we might even invent Cold Fusion in the Nick of Time!
#2-Long Emergency Kollapsnik (LEK)- "Long Emergency" is James Howard Kunstler's of Clustefuck Nation's term, John Michael Greer from The Archdruid Report calls this "Slow Catabolic Collapse". In both cases, it's more or less the "slow boiling frog" theory of collapse, which has it that we will gradually descend as more and more things become dysfunctional, but there really won't be a "definable moment" where the observer could say "THIS is where the collapse began!". How long this Long Emergency actually IS before what we are accustomed to now and what our final outcome might be differs from one afficionado of this theory to another, some put the Slow Catabolic Collapse over as short as a 20 year time span, others go for 100 or even 1000 years on this. Rome did not Collapse in a Day, of course, so this is the Historian's Eye view of thigs.
#3- Fossil Fuels Can Last Kollapsnik (FFCLK) – The FFLCLK sees that the overall FF economy can't last long term, either for economic reasons or climate reasons, or both. However, the FFCLK believes there are enough FFs that can still be pumped up at positive enough EROEI to transition us into the #1 RK paradigm. FFCLKs tend to ignore the ongoing and increasing problems with climate disruption, as well as ongoing pollution problems, and just focus on how much FF energy they believe is still accessible and can be used to power the industrial civilization and keep feeding the 7.3B Homo Saps infesting the planet.
#4- Amish Kollapsnik (AK) – AKs generally believe we can retrace back to around an early 18th Century level of techology, pre-steam engine. This is based on animal labor and often permaculture as well. It's a sort of Agrarian-Utopia vision. Sometimes they acknowledge for this to even be possible at all you would need a massive dieoff of Homo Sap population, others contend that if everybody did it and performed Best Practices in terms of raising food and stewarding the land, we could in fact feed all 7.3B people currently walking the earth, and perhaps even more than that. AKs are often "off grid" Boomers who retired (collecting a Pension and or Investment) and own their own Doomstead, although there are younger ones from the GenX demographic also. Few Millenials are loaded with enough FRNs to buy their own Doomstead, they go out WWOOFING if they have this philosophy. This basically means being a slave for Room & Board on the Doomstead of some Boomer.
#5- Fast Systemic Cross Contagion Kollapsnik (FSCCK) – The FFCCK is an afficionado of the work of David Korowicz, the Irish Theoretical Physicist who analyzed the various dependencies we have in our currently very complex system, along with the inability to backtrack on much of it because the prior systems we depended on have been for the most part disassembled. This is the "irreversibility" concept. For instance, you can't instantly go back to animal labor on the farms, because most of the horses were ground up for dog food in the early part of the 20th Century. To re-breed up enough of them to do all the work necessary that tractors currently do would take a generation at least, and then all those horses would need to be fed too! This makes the AK scenario look pretty bad, at least for keeping 7.3B Homo Saps above ground anyhow.
#7- Mad Max Kollapsnik (MMK) – The MMK sees a massive dystopian world of the future coming down the pipe in fair short order, so also fits into the #5 category. Besides Mad Max, this also includes other dystopian films like Children of Men and The Road. You can think of it as "Zombies Gone Wild", and Cannibalism is the main cuisine here during this period. The general outcome of this period is #9 Extinction, although some MMKs might buy into #8 Stone Age, as long as the neo-cavemen are allowed to eat each other in a sustainable fashion. Long Pig. "It's what's for dinner." lol.
#8- Stone Age Kollapsnik (SAK) –The SAK doesn't think we will even be able to keep smelting metal long term, both because of energy depletion as well as depletion of the feedstock mineral ores and ability to mine them up. This leads to mostly a Hunter-Gather type of society and technology, or quite simple horticulture rather than what we currently think of as agriculture. The paradigm clearly cannot support the current 7.3B people, so a dieoff of Homo Sap is required for this paradigm to work at all, if it can work. Precisely how that dieoff will go down is not too certain, nor how long it will take to play out too certain either. The long term for this though if it does play out this way is that eventually small tribes of people establish themselves on portions of the remaining good arable land on the earth surface at a decent enough AGT to survive a global climate change regimen that brings the AGT up a high as +10C from the current average.
#9- Near Term Human Extinction Kollpasnik (NTHEK) – The NTHEK sees the entire situation we are engulfed in as utterly HOPELESS, nothing can be done to save Homo Sap at this point, and probably most of the other higher life forms on the planet besides maybe the Tardigrades. Doing any kind of preparation for the world to come besides being psychologically prepared to die is a waste of time. You are in Hospice care now with Terminal Cancer, and you have only 9 years left to live, so you should live them Excellently in the Hospice Care Facility for the soon to be Extinct Homo Saps, playing Bridge and Chess and maybe even fucking if you can still get an erection. lol. This is of course something of a dead end (sic). The main conversation amongst the NTHEKs is about how awful Homo Saps are and how they deserve to die ASAP. IOW, as a group they tend to be highly misanthropic and highly nihilistic. Very depressing folks to be around for too long, it can make YOU want to commit suicide to "Save the Planet. Kill Yourself", as is the credo of the Church of Euthanasia. This Church really should not exst at all on this side of the Great Beyond, because if the folks running this show were all the least bit honest, they would have ALREADY slit their wrists!
OK! Now that we have some kind of taxonomy and defintions for various flavors of Kollapsnik, what can we deduce from this? Well, first there is tons of crossover between various areas, for instance you could be a slow kollapsnik who believes in an Amish end game, or a fast kollapsnik who does. Those are not mutually exclusive categories. Similarly, Mad Max might only last a short time, or could go on for centuries or even millenia! You can't KNOW the future for sure here, you can only speculate on what it might be.
Here is where the real problem lies in terms of getting any kind of cooperation between members of the collapse community goes is concerned, which is that despite a lack of concrete evidence which could "prove" any of these scenarios as even being the most likely outcome much less the ONLY possible outcome, each kollapsnik is so convinced of his own model he/she is not real willing to consider any of the other ones as a realistic possibility, unless it is pretty close to his/her main model. This is particularly true the more extreme the viewpoint, with the folks who believe in Near Term Human Extinction being the most fanatical and calling everyone else a denialist and deluded fool. Rather difficult to have a civil conversation with these folks.
Besides your favorite Kollapsnik flavor, another area of profound disagreement is how many people will be left standing after the collapse and how many people could the earth actually support in a sustainable fashion? These numbers go anywhere from Zero of the NTHEK up even past the current 7.3B people here now by some extremely optimistic cornucopians. For most kollapsniks though it's somewhere between those two numbers, and a popular one often thrown around comes off the Georgia Guidestones, which call for a reduction down to 500M Homo Saps. Others are more optimistic in the 2-3B range, although it is kind of hard to call anyone who thinks 4-5B people will die in the near future an optimist. It's also hard to imagine year in and year out of the massive death toll you would need to accomplish this in even 20 years. It completely dwarfs the entire death toll from WWII including the Holocaust EVERY YEAR, for 20 straight years!
There are some pundits who make a statistical argument on this, saying that if we just lowered the birth rate by a couple of percentage points and the death rate went up by a couple of percent, we would get all the dieoff we need to reduce population in 50 years or so. That might be true, but it seems unlikely to me that this is how it will play out. I expect large scale famines to occur periodically either from climate change or wars or both, and those famines will take out large chunks of the population in one quick bite. Mostly in the 3rd World to begin with, but eventually moving to 1st World countries too. Somalia seems to be experiencing both the climate and war problem as far as feeding their population right now.
Contemplating how Goobermints will respond, how they will fail and what might take their place also provides another taxonomy amongst the Kollapsniks, and numerous areas of disagreement among them which usually end up in a Napalm Contest. lol. Here are few popular scenarios pitched out by Kollapsniks, in no particular order.
#A- A One World Fascist Goobermint will evolve with a single worldwide currency, usually figured to be the SDRs that the Bank for International Settlements created out of a basket of other currencies including Precious Metals. This will be an Orwellian Police State, with anyone who is not a member of the current Elite used as Tax Slaves to maintain their power and privilege.
#B- A neo-Feudalist model will emerge, with a breakup of large nation-states into Regions controlled by individual Warlords and their armies. Once again in this scenario, Slavery is the generally accepted economic model for most of the population besides the Elite. The main difference from #1 is you might exchange one set of Uber-Meisters (UM) for another, and the total territory one UM controls is smaller than the full globe in size. Various UMs will be in a perpetual state of War with neighbors fighting over resources. It more or less corresponds to Mad Max, although with a little more order imposed by the Warlords, not complete anarchy of small gangs.
#C- A large scale Communist/Socialist Model will emerge, Nationalizing everything from Food Production and Distribution to the Banking System, to Health Care, Housing and Transportation. Everyone will be employed by the State and paid by the State. This is the Nightmare scenario for the entire alt-right Collapse Blogger coalition, from Jim Quinn on The Burning Patform to the Tyler Durdens on Zero Hedge.
#D- Massive breakdown on the large scale will develop many smaller Tribes of people without any real type of Central Goobermint at all. Sometimes this is looked at as a kind of No Goobermint Libertarian-Anarchist Utopia where each of these individual groups functions autonomously on their own patch of land. Other folks vew this result as a Mad Max type of anarchy where there is no law and most of the day is spent raping, pillaging and murdering others.
#E- No Goobermint – Because everyone is Dead. That's the NTHEK POV.
Now, except for #1 and #5, the Goobermint solution to collapse doesn't have to be the same everywhere and probably won't be. So you might have some neighborhoods running a neo-Feudal model, some running a Commie model and some running a Tribal model. It depends a lot where in the timeline you are, the further out you go the less likely the larger organizations of Goobermint are possible and the more likely you will have smaller tribal models. It also depends on population density, places with higher density are more likely to be in the neo-Feudal or Commie models, low density locations Tribal.
That's more or less a full overview of the current taxonomy in the Collapse Blogosphere, although I'm sure there are more distinctions that could be made. These are the main camps though, and differences between the outlook between them is what drives all the arguments (AKA: Napalm Contests) that go on in various commentariats and between bloggers. Kollapsniks tend to be very passionately attached to their particular POV, and no amount of debate will change their minds once set into one of these viewpoints. The arguments between the people with different POVs also become predictable and repetitive if you have been around the collapse blogosphere long enough.
For my own POV, I am a #8C long term and lean toward Fast Collapse but with a period of Scavenging that lasts maybe 100-200 years before Homo Sap is back to near-complete Stona Age. There might be some basic smelting of metal for things like axles, knives, axes and scythes, but none of the complex manufactured and machined items we are used buying at Home Depot.
Just because we'll likely have simpler tools and a more "primitive" style of living doesnt mean we can't retain a lot of knowledge and have a culturally rich society. We can still have music, we can still have literature, we can still contemplate the universe and do mathematics. We can enjoy the spectacle and chronicle the history as the Beauty of Nature is Reborn over the millenia, and Mother Earth recovers from the devastation of the Age of Oil. At least the few survivors will be able to do that anyhow. I do not expect to be one of them. I will however observe it from my Perch in the Great Beyond, as today I observe it from my digs on the Last Great Frontier.