Published on The Doomstead Diner on March 7, 2017
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Oh, woe is life – The System says you can't even go off-grid, it's illegal !
The thing is, living off the land is only illegal in SOME jurisdictions. The authorities don't make up these rules because they want to keep you enslaved, although that may be the outcome. They do it because the cheapest way to provide amenities is to do it for everyone in a service area and share out the costs as much as possible. If you could then say "I don't want it and won't pay my share for it", that would make it more expensive for everyone else, your neighbours – a charming philosophy.
Of course the problem of finding an unserviced area when you live in the USA is hard, but it isn't hard in Third World countries, where people want be ON services but can't afford it. Just move to a Third World country, like I have – problem solved ! The first place I lived here didn't have ANY services. I never managed to convince anybody that THAT was a good idea, I don't know why, unless they were thinking of their comfort in old age. Are you expecting to have comfort in your old age? – ha ha ha ha, no chance. You're either going to be fit and strong and working hard dawn till dusk, or you are going to be dead.
The place where I am now has electricity, water and telephone – a really posh area, rent ~US$130 /week for a modern house (100 m2) on 8 acres of rainforest. The rent pays for reticulated water, but I don't use it, I collect rainwater off a tiny part of the roof (it rains a LOT here). When you collect your own rainwater, they still want you to pay your share of the cost of providing reticulated water.
5,000 Litre tank, 200 L barrel, 1,000 L open trough
The telephone doesn't actually work in the wet season, because the local watertable is so high it shorts out the copper wire junctions, so I've had it disconnected, and use an internet satellite dish instead (12 Mbps), which doesn't work when it's raining hard:
No reticulated sewerage, septic tank instead. (Note the tree branch which snapped off yesterday, that would have killed anyone standing under it):
No broadcast TV, radio or cell phone reception, only satellite dish again – a different one:
When you add in maintenance of the roads, rubbish collection, police services (which implies courts and prisons), ambulance services, nearby hospital services – all that stuff is nice if you can get it, especially when you are getting older, but it all costs money so you have to pay your rent, that's only fair.
When it comes to selling your excess garden produce to the public, First Worlders have got "the right" to expect that the food isn't going to poison them. So then there's got to be some kind of regulation: licensing and inspections and fees and taxes. In the Third World you have no such right, so things are much simpler.
After The Collapse, the USA will have much further to fall than here. But I still can't persuade any Amerikans to leave and get themselves organised in advance. Instead they fantasise about communities which are only going to cost a million dollars to set up, which of course is why they can't start now. They need (apparently) to buy the land first, even though all that property ownership system is certain to collapse. They need concrete and steel and timber and power tools – imagine nailing without a nail gun, so much hard work!
Over the weekend I saw an archeology doco on TV about life in the Scottish islands 4,000 years ago, where they had answers for all these things – stone houses, stone fences, stone tools. How do you shape a stone into an axe? – chip it lightly with another stone a thousand times, then grind it with sand, water and your hand. How do you make a hole in it for a handle? – get a dowel and some grit, and rotate back and forth a million times between the palms. What do you mean, you haven't got time for all that? – too busy watching TV and reading stuff on the internet?
Round here there are thousands of discarded stone tools. They mostly seem to be good for processing Pandanus fruits – scraping off the edible flesh from the bristles, and prising open the woody part to get at the nuts inside, which are tiny but nutritious.
The Stone Age is coming again soon, but no one wants to know, not even Diners:
"It's easy for you, you're single – my wife wouldn't let me."
"Amerika is the greatest country on Earth, and I'll shoot anyone who says otherwise !"
"I want to, but I can't afford it yet. Gotta work a bit longer first."
"I'll be dead soon anyway, so it doesn't matter, even if they torture me for being a dissident."
Published on The Doomstead Diner on February 22, 2017
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The world has been into The Collapse Phase since 2008, but it still has a long way to go. Financial collapse, energy collapse, environmental collapse, food collapse and population collapse are all looming. They are all interdependent, and it's due to ALL of them at the same time. Energy works according to the simple rules called The Laws of Thermodynamics, so it is easily quantified, and I find it easiest to be absolutely sure about that scenario. Others may focus on different aspects, but there the problem is more difficult to quantify.
With Peak Conventional Oil having come and gone, and Fracked Oil being so expensive that no one is making a profit on it, even with artificially relaxed environmental standards and ultra-low interest rates, the very best energy resource we ever had is now on the decline. If you measure the production rate of coal in tonnes per year, we are nearly at Peak Coal. But if you measure it in Joules (of Energy) per year, the lower grades (energy-wise), and subtracting the energy needed to move the stuff to where the demand is, mean Peak Coal has happened too. Peak Gas is not too far away either – a decade or two, depending on the rate at which demand for it grows, pipelines can be laid, new power stations built, and new transmission grids laid. So Peak Fossils is probably with us NOW.
Renewables (wind and solar) seem so obvious a solution at first sight, but the energy needed to build all the infrastructure to make it work, replacing the Fossil Fuel infrastructure which has been built up over a century, cannot be done in time to be completed before the Peak Fossils decline really bites. Of course if we had started 30 years ago, we could have done it comfortably, and we could make a significant start on it right now, but the full energy transition can never be completed. At some stage the question will come before governments: do we cut back on fossil fuel availability to free up the energy available to make more renewable infrastructure, or do we "keep the lights on" now and in the end fall short of total energy availability? – no prizes for guessing the outcome. So Peak Fossils is also Peak Energy.
And Peak Energy means Peak Industry, since all manufacturing requires energy. Yes, we could get more efficient at manufacturing, but that would require throwing away the old machines and making new, better ones, and that requires MORE ENERGY. It's a vicious circle. It may not be completely vicious at the moment, but it will be, as Peak Fossils progresses further into the decline phase. This represents an entirely new way of looking at thing – building more new stuff always worked pre-Peak, but it doesn't work post-Peak.
Peak Industry means Peak Jobs, and Peak Jobs means Peak Money-to-Spend in the shops. So it also means Peak Profits, and that just won't do because that means Peak Investment, Industry, Jobs and Everything.
There is NO SOLUTION – industrial civilisation is doomed without lots of cheap energy.
It's bigger than Trump, Xi and Putin can handle, so of course it's bigger than little old you and me can handle. We call it "Cognitive Dissonance" when people don't "get it". We call them "sheeple" and marvel how stupid they are, continuing to accept all the positive growth bullshit the Establishment puts out on the news every day. But what is so different about you that others can see? You still drive to work everyday, pay your taxes, buy your food in the supermarket, get new gadgets to play with – don't YOU look like a sheeple too, to the other sheeple? I know you "get it", because you're here at the Diner, but aren't you overwhelmed by the prospect of the future too, and sheeplish too? – I know I am.
When you have apocalyptic thoughts like this, they say there is something wrong with you. They call it "Post Traumatic Stress Disorder" or "Asperger's Spectrum Personality Disorder" or "Oppositional Defiant Disorder" or "Nihilist's Syndrome" or the catch all "Generalised Anxiety Disorder" or … whatever. Don't worry about it, because you are right – the system is fucked, and this can't go on for much longer. There will be a big die off, and whoever is left at the end will have to live without civilisation as we have known it.
Having a gun won't help, except in specially contrived Bruce Willis movie circumstances, where you are always awake and a perfect shot, and all the zombies are stupid and lousy shots.
Living in an old Minuteman missile silo, stocked with supplies, and hiding behind a pile of gold bars and your stash of solar panels, isn't going to help much. And what kind of life is that anyway? You can hide in the wilderness, living off the land, if you and your family are all super-fit and lucky – just like the gorillas and chimpanzees. But Nature tells us over and over again that it doesn't allow the old, sick or hungry to survive for long.
Zoo animals live approximately twice as long as their cousins in the wild, but what a price they pay. A life behind bars, with nothing to do. It's no wonder they all pace up and down and bang their heads on the walls. Regular meals, veterinary treatment, maybe even a mating now and then, but no stimulation of catching an interesting scent on the wind, only the stink of your own shit underfoot, and no thrill of the hunt.
So if you are a Killer Whale and you want to live a long time, go live at SeaWorld and do tricks in a pool for the audience.
But if you want to grab that fucking seal and thrash it about in the air for fun, then better to do that in the wild ocean somewhere, and put up with a shorter life ending in crippling injury and starvation, like all your ancestors did.
Civilisation breeds the survival instinct out of people, and instead grants them Human Rights (well, the rich ones anyway). I was watching a sob story on TV last night about this poor woman whose unborn babies all had Spina Bifida and had to be aborted, until the most recent one, where a team of 40 surgeons operated on her foetus in utero to correct the worst of the genetic faults. Amazing – that anyone should bother. But then we kid ourselves that we deserve it, because we all have Human Rights, don't we? It says so in the United Nations Declaration. Cue violins.
Some of Humanity will have less far to fall. If you are not lucky enough to have the United Nations on your side, then you will just have continue to manage living off the land as best you can. Your babies will mostly die in the first 5 years, so you had better have lots of them. Once your teeth are gone, your eyes too weak to see, and your bad back means you can't hunt any more, then it's time to go for a one-way trip to see the lions.
Such is Life as Nature meant it to be, so get used to it.
Published on The Doomstead Diner on January 28, 2017
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Taiwan has always been part of China, going back several millennia. Even the Taiwanese agree with that – only they believe THEY rule all of China, which is patently ridiculous. The split came about as a result of the Chinese Civil War in 1949, when Mao's communist forces took all of the mainland and Chiang Kai-shek's forces fled to Taiwan. No peace treaty was ever signed, and the UN now recognises the People's Republic of China as the true owners of the island.
The US then stuck its nose into Chinese business (as usual) and backed the hated Kuomintang government, Truman ordered the 7th fleet into the Taiwan Strait, which is only 77 Nautical miles wide, and nothing to do with the US, but enough for "Freedom of Navigation" rules to apply, even though the US has never signed the Law of the Sea treaty.
The CIA then organised a detachment of 12,000 soldiers to move to Burma and launch attacks on the southern Chinese border from there, despite protests from the Burmese Government. This officially lasted 4 years, and when the UN ordered them to leave, they officially did, but unofficially half stayed there as a
terrorist "freedom fighting" force.
In 1958 the US supplied Taiwan with fighter jets, anti-aircraft missiles and amphibious assault ships, in response to a PRC assault on those tiny islands in the strait.
In 1971 Nixon/Kissinger found it expedient to befriend China, which involved dumping ROC (Taiwan) from the UN (and its seat on the Security Council) and putting the PRC in its place. To get agreement with PRC, US had to accept having no State-to-State contact with Taiwan, though weaponising the island continues. In 2014, the US sold Taiwan 2 ex-US frigates, anti-tank missiles, Assault Amphibious Vehicles, and FIM-92 Stinger surface-to-air missiles, and in 2015 $1.83 billion worth of arms. Obama – the Peace maker, pivoting to Asia.
This was all part of the 1970s US response to US Peak Oil – off-shoring industries to cheap labour countries with no unions and no workplace health and safety regulations, effectively slave labour.
Now with China beating the US at its own game economically, Trump is saying "enough of free trade, let's scrap all our FTAs and put up trade barriers instead". China rubs its hands with glee, and steps up work on trade agreements. This will certainly backfire on the US.
Some people obviously have completely the wrong idea about what happened at Tiananmen Square – the result of only reading western media reports based on no US reporters there when it happened. Sound familiar ? The students, and separately protesting unionists, killed loads of Chinese soldiers, who had been wearing white gloves – indicating they were on ceremonial duties. Was "tank man" killed on the spot? – no.
The following day, "the gloves were off", and the Square was cleared of protesters. Only then did the western press get wind that something had happened, and made their stories up to show the Chinese Government in a bad light. In Australia, PM Bob Hawke actually cried while announcing that Chinese students in Australia didn't have to go back to such a brutal country, while backing scabs to break the airline pilots strike.
Totally fucking insane propaganda exercise.
This is what the students did to the soldiers in the name of Freedom and Democracy:
What did the students think they were doing? – defeating the entire PLA, to make the Government fall?
How angry do you think the PLA was when it came to clearing the Square?
What do you think the US military would do under the same circumstances?
US Soldiers (commonly referred to as "our boys") will shoot student protesters dead, and will drive people out of their homes and burn them to the ground with all of their possessions. That's what they are capable of.
"The State is a body of armed men" and don't you forget it.
Published on The Doomstead Diner on January 24, 2017
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I could have had a nice lizard for diner last night. Late afternoon the dog barked for no reason and didn't even bother to point out the window, let alone rush outside (she's getting old too). So I looked outside and saw this lizard heading towards the chickens gathered outside waiting for feed-time. It was big enough to take one of the chicks, so I rushed outside and the lizard went up a tree, but he couldn't get up further than about 12 feet because it was too thin. The dog managed to join me, but she couldn't raise another bark. We usually give them a bit of a scare then leave them alone to come down and slink away.
Later, on feeding time, he was still up the tree, only lower and facing downwards. If I had my spear finished, I could have skewed him, no trouble. While standing around pondering what to do, I noticed another stone becoming exposed as the dirt eroded away. I pulled it up and it was clearly another tool, fitting perfectly in the hand with no rough corners, but with a point and a cutting blade.
Also exposed were two arrow points, one with a triangular cross-section, and the other of the flat-blade variety. No doubt all of these things are much more worn than when at their best, and eventually left behind at an old camp-site here.
The soil here is not naturally stony, so every stone is worth a second look, and nearly all turn out to be tools – I've got hundreds of them. I'm still wondering how the house came to be put on exactly the same spot as an old camp-site.
You may remember seeing this earlier, when I was focusing on the fly, but the flower is of [i]Melastoma[/i] which flowers all year round, but only fruits in the summer.
If you were really hungry, as you would be as a hunter-gatherer, you would make a mental note whenever you saw one of these …
… to come back a few days later, when you would find ripe fruits. Of course you've got to get there first – food doesn't go begging for long.
Published on The Doomstead Diner on January 13, 2017
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When the Collapse starts, the best place to be is where the community is closely in touch with a sustainable lifestyle, otherwise known as the Third World. Here extended family ties are strong, most people eat from their own gardens and buy and sell at local markets. Also, if you worry about Global Warming, the best place to be is close to the equator, with volcanic soil, and with a maritime climate – where higher temperatures have the negative feedback effects of more clouds, more rain and cooler temperatures. That's why I live on an island in the South Pacific, in a modern house built in the tropical rainforest.
The summer wet season has just started, with more than 17 inches in 4 four days, which has its impacts. A quick tour – you did bring your water-proof boots, didn't you?
A big dead tree that overhangs my main walking track has been slowly leaning more, and eventually its half rotten base couldn't take the strain any more, and it fell into the adjacent canopy, making the track very unsafe now.
Moving on, this is a key spot, at the end of the ridge running down to the swamp, with a massive tree perched right on the tip. The swamp is on the fringe of a tidal estuary, so is sometimes filled with saltwater and sometimes with rainfall run-off. Here rainforest meets mangroves.
I'm told there used to be an old walking track around the swamp edge, before the bulldozer came and marked the property boundary. Behind me is the big tree, and just beyond that on higher ground is a special (sacred?) site, or a camp site for travelers. Quite a few rocks here, which must have been carried here. Lots of chips of splintered quartz, with razor sharp edges. What it really was, either everyone has forgotten, or they don't tell people like me. Note how the rainforest has recovered from the bulldozer here.
Off to the left is a shallow basin, filled with alluvial clay, and the water runs off towards the big tree. This is the area where I have been trying to help the forest to re-grow by cutting back the grass-sedge-fern thicket by hand, which stands up to six feet high, being careful not to harm any tree saplings.
Most grasses would wilt and die off after an inundation like this, but of course these grasses/sedges really love being underwater, (as do the paperbark trees), and are now preparing to go to flower. Before they flower they develop hairs on the stems that exude a kind of sugary slime. These quickly become teeming with bacteria, which give the dog sore eyes and ears, and infect any cuts or thorn jabs. Most plants here defend themselves with sharp edges (Sword Sedge) or thorns (Pandanus).
I might have to rethink this project somewhat, seeing it all laid out like this. All the tree seeds I have scattered here will have a really hard time to get going in the water-logged clay, and the grasses and sedges will be back in no time. We'll see.
Moving on, looping back along the edge of the basin, here is an old female Pandanus tree (multi-branched), all covered in moss and lichens, which tend to trap the spores of Basket Fern, which start living epiphytically on the trunk. The tree on the right is Melaleuca dealbata and the vine running up it is called Chain Fruit. This is on account of its seed pod is very constricted between each seed, so looks like a string of beads (My dog getting in on the action once again).
These catch tree debris and moisture for their survival, and also other fern spores like Elkhorn which also like the conditions. In the wet season Elkhorns produce these big flat outer leaves to protect their sodden spongy inner mass where the roots feed, and in the dry season they die back. Next wet season new leaves start to appear, and the longer fronds which will carry the next generation of spores.
Fern spores are clones of their parent, and blow away to become a microscopic sexual plant called a prothallus, that exchanges pollen (hopefully) with others through water and become fertilised (hopefully) to grow into the new fern plant. A prothallus doesn't have a flower, but does have an ovum where all the action takes place. It is a hopelessly random event, but the spores number in their billions.
Also moving in there are Pyrrosia Fern, with the big coarse leaves, and Vitella, the dainty little dangling ones. You can tell success at this struggle depends on getting sunlight, and managing to live on next to nothing from just falling debris – water not a problem.
On the way back to the house, another Pandanus tree, with moss, a new Elkhorn, an Eria orchid (I'm guessing), Vitella, and some Pyrosia round the back.
And finally an Elkhorn in all its glory.
With an environment like this, bursting with life, who would want to live anywhere else?
Ah, the rain has stopped, my satellite internet connection is back on, so after that brief respite, on with the doom.
Published on The Doomstead Diner on December 17, 2016
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The whole world is like a chessboard, the two main players are the US and Russia, (formerly the Soviet Union), but there are other players too. Saudi Arabia and Iran are important regional players in the Middle East, and Turkey wants to be important again as well. The objective of the game is to raise your own score, in terms of political influence and control of resources, and/or lower your competitor's score. Thus reducing a country to chaos can be bad for your opponent and hence good for you.
Saudi Arabia is Wahhabist Muslim and is the creator of Al Qaeda and Islamic State. Iran is Shi'ite Muslim, who are the principal enemy of the Wahhabists. Iran's allies include Iraq's Shia, Syria's Alawites (Assad), Lebanon's Hezbollah, Palestine's Hamas, Yemen's Houthis.
After WW1 the British and French, having defeated the Ottoman Empire and dissolved the Caliphate, redrew the map of the Middle East, settings up a mix of different ethnicities and religions in each country, so they would be difficult to rule, and therefore weak and dependent on imperial support. In return the West wanted their oil.
So in the 1970s, the US had a plan to undermine the Soviet Union by supporting Muslims against the godless Russians in what it called "the arc of instability" – Syria, Iraq, Iran, Pakistan and Afghanistan. Not being Muslims themselves, they needed the cooperation of a Muslim ally, which was Saudi Arabia (which turned out to be a very bad choice).
Saudi Arabia set up their Wahhabist proxy force, Al Qaeda, and sent them to Afghanistan with logistical support from Pakistan, and weapons from the US, to fight to Russians. This worked, but once the Russians had gone, the US lost interest in Afghanistan, though Saudi Arabia didn't. They cultivated the Taliban, and moved Al Qaeda all over the place in the Middle East and North Africa, and set up madrassas to teach their particular brand of Wahhabist Islam, looking to destablise regimes and bring about a new Caliphate with Saudi Arabia controlling Mecca and Medina, and naturally supplying the Caliph.
In 1979 Iran had had enough of the brutal US puppet dictator, the Shah, with revolutionary movements formed around the communists and the ultra-conservative Shi'ite clerics. The US chose to support the clerics, and assisted Ayatollah Khomeini to return from exile in Paris. The CIA helped him continue the Shah's work of killing off the extremist communists, and form a government with the moderate communists. Having consolidated his government, he then turned on the remaining communists, threw them in jail, where they were later murdered. Things were going well for the US – they had managed a real revolutionary situation and were still in there. Then Khomeini revealed that his Islamic Revolution was for all Muslims, both Shi'ite and Sunni, and the common enemy was the interfering western powers, with the US as "the Great Satan".
This was a major set-back for the US, and forced them to keep relying on Saudi Arabia as an ally against Iran, even though Al Qaeda was an enemy too in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria.
The first country for Iran to start exporting their new ideology to was Iraq, which was a Ba'athist (secular) state, run by the 20% Sunnis under Saddam Hussein. They were already strongly anti-Israel, "the Little Satan" and majority Shi'ite. The US supported Iraq in its war with Iran, but could only manage a draw.
Then in 1990-1 came Saddam's big mistake – Iraq considered Kuwait to be a province of Iraq (Basra under the Ottomans) and Kuwait was slant-drilling in the Rumaila oilfield to take Iraqi oil. Saddam thought it had a green light from the US to invade Kuwait, but somehow they got it wrong, or were misled. Instead they were quickly driven out of Kuwait by the US, and subsequently the CIA used a Shi'ite Iraqi proxy force under Allawi to try regime change which failed. Saddam remained under sanctions and CIA plots till the invasion in 2003.
In 2001 the US used the 9/11 attacks to justify invading Afghanistan and expelling the Taliban. This put the US at odds with Saudi plans. The Taliban melted away and left the US scrambling to find a puppet to run the place. This of course didn't work well, due to corruption and the opium trade, and the Taliban re-emerged to sew chaos which continues to this day.
In 2003 the US then invaded Iraq, overthrowing Saddam. Ironically this turned Iraq over to Iranian influence – Iraq was 60% Shi'ite, and Allawi became PM. Allawi had been given asylum in Syria during Saddam's final years, so was an ally of Assad.
So now Russia was close to getting Syria, Iraq and Iran back on its side, cutting off Israel from Europe plus Turkey. With former-Soviet Armenia onside, and Georgia partly dismembered by South Ossetia, it would be easy to form a bloc Russia-Georgia-Armenia-Iran-Iraq-Syrian. This would cut off Azerbaijan and all its oil from Turkey and the West – for a big win on the chessboard.
To make matters worse for the US, Turkey has Sunni Islamic ambitions too and obviously this doesn't fit well in NATO or Europe. Turkey has a Kurdish problem too, because the WW1 map split the Kurdish lands between Turkey, Syria, Iraq and Iran. The Kurds don't have any friends, but the US are using them as their proxy force at the moment in Syria and Iraq.
This of course angers Turkey, so Erdogan has invaded northern Syria to block the Kurds from controlling the entire Syrian border, and within Turkey the crack down on the Kurdish Turks continues. Meanwhile the (entirely credible) accusations of US involvement with the attempted coup, and membership of NATO and the EU, and the flood of refugees from Syria, are increasingly destabilising Turkey.
As the remaining civilians and rebels are being extracted from East Aleppo, and being let go in rebel-held Idlib, an important battle has been won, but the war continues. The US is putting more "trainers" and weapons into Syria, and the Russians are moving in two companies of their elite Chechen fighters, the Syrian tragedy is set to continue, and we remain on the brink of WW3.
So no white hats at all anywhere in the Middle East, and not in US or Russia either. However the duplicitous US and its tame media are so clearly struggling to find a coherent policy, and coming out with so much crap about caring for the children of Aleppo (but not about the children of Mosul, who they are bombing) that it makes Putin look really statesmanlike. Let's hope a new President Trump will sort it all out.