Cities

Responding to Collapse, Part 5: finding a small town

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Published on The Easiest Person to Fool on December 28, 2018

 

 

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In my last post I started talking about moving from the city to a small town as a way to make adapting to collapse easier, and I listed a number of criteria for choosing a small town. Today we'll be looking at some of those criteria in greater detail.

As before, credit goes to Don Hayward, Joe Clarkson from the comment section of this blog, and, new this time, to Category 5, from the Dark Green Mountain blog and the Doomstead Diner.

Looking back on the criteria I laid out last time, I can see that I should have divided them into two sections— picking a town where you can live while BAU is still working and then picking a town that will also be livable after BAU is no longer capable of supporting us. For the next while we will find ourselves living in two worlds—trying to make enough of a success of life in BAU so that we can afford to disentangle ourselves from BAU and get something started to replace it.

So, to get started, just exactly how far from the city do you need to be? I am very much a "shades of gray" guy, so my answer will be in terms of a spectrum rather than a single hard number. Here in rural Canada we tend to talk about distances in terms of driving time. I would guess that an hour amounts to around 50 miles. I live about three hours from Toronto, around two hours from many other cities to the south and east of here, and about an hour and a quarter from the small city to the northeast. I am not considering a move to get farther away, so if pressed for a definite answer I would say somewhere between an hour and two hours is a sufficient minimum distance. To be cautious, err on the long end of that range, and of course I'm not saying you shouldn't be more than 2 hours from a city. On the other hand, you may find you need to be close to a city for a while yet and accordingly place yourself at the lower end of the range, while remaining aware of the greater risk that probably entails.

Many cities are quite close together and there are whole areas where there is nowhere far enough from a city to meet my distance criteria. Moving away from your current city but toward another one clearly won't help.

By the time collapse has progressed far enough for this distance to be a real concern, transportation fuels will be in short supply, either because of genuine shortages, market malfunctions or supply chain breakdowns. Initially they will be "rationed by price" to the point where they are not affordable for most of us, or they will be outright rationed by the authorities. Then there will be intermittent interruptions in the supply. And at some point beyond that these fuels will not be available at any price. So the distance from the city would have to be covered on foot or bicycle, making it, in effect, considerably longer. That two hour drive would be a multi-day walk for most people, if they could manage to do it at all.

There are several reasons for wanting to be this far away:

  • in the city there are limited opportunities for adaptation in the face of infrastructure and supply chain failures—the resources you need are just not available locally. You need to be far enough away from population centres that the local resources can support the local population
  • there will be social unrest and civil disobedience (much of it justified) in many cities—violence that you don't want to get caught up in
  • as conditions worsen in the cities, there will occasionally be waves of refugees fleeing from them. I think the aim of people in small towns like mine should to help those refugees, but if there are too many we won't be able to help them and things will go badly for both them and us. So, we want to be far enough away that the distance acts as a filter and reduces their numbers to something manageable.
  • it seems likely that there will epidemics from time to time, especially as public health systems start to fall apart. It would be good to have some distance between you and any city that is being ravaged by an epidemic. A sort of geographical quarantine.

But the main reason you're moving to a small town is for what's there, not what you are trying to get away from.

What size of small town you should be looking for?

Zero is the wrong answer. As Douglas Ruskhoff says, "being human is a team sport." You can't accomplish much, especially in the long term, as an isolated individual or family. Even a group of a few families will find themselves struggling just to survive. In my opinion, remote, isolated survivalist compounds or even lifeboat eco-villages have little future. More people means a greater range of skills and talents and more redundancy in the support systems you need to set up.

I don't think there is much hope of retreating to the wilderness and surviving by hunting and gathering, either. There is very little wilderness left and what is left is not so completely untouched as it once was. The effect of this is to make hunting and gathering more difficult and it is, in any case, a skilled and demanding lifestyle, especially if you weren't born to it. Learning those skills, when you aren't living in a group where most people already have them, would be very challenging.

What you really need is a community that is viable now, as part of "Business as Usual", and which can adapt as collapse progresses and then still be viable under post collapse conditions.

Now I will agree that for some activities a lone individual is best, and for others 2 to 5 people is ideal. But these are specific, short duration jobs within a larger context.

At this point some of you are probably thinking of "Dunbar's number"—"the cognitive limit to the number of people with whom one can maintain stable social relationships—relationships in which an individual knows who each person is and how each person relates to every other person." That number is somewhere between 100 and 250 people, and there is definitely something to the idea. But I would say that this is more like the lower limit on size for a viable community. Larger communities are made up of smaller, overlapping circles of people who know each other in the "Dunbar" sense.

The upper limit on the size of a viable community is determined by how many people the surrounding geography can support without fossil fuel powered agriculture and shipping. Typically that would be a few thousand people, possibly as many as 10 to 20 thousand in ideal circumstances. A counter example would be Edo (now Tokyo) during the days of the shoguns, which grew to over one million people without the benefit of fossil fuels or modern technology. But these days climate change is reducing the carrying capacity of almost every area, and you must remember that the size of small towns will increase first as former locals return from the city and then again as refugees arrive. Set your upper limit around ten thousand to begin with.

So, distance and size will help narrow things down somewhat, as will the climate change based criteria I mentioned previously. But still, which town to pick?

Probably the most important consideration is connections in the community. If you grew up in a small town, if you still have family there, or even close friends, then that town has to be very high on your list of places to consider. If you have limited resources, those connections may prove vital in making your move possible.

Next, I think you have to be looking for a place where you can find accommodations and earn a living in the short run while "BAU" is still in operation. As Category 5 suggests, once you have found a likely looking small town, it would be a good idea to live there in rental accommodation for a year or two in order to get to know the place better. It takes more than a few brief visits to really size a place up and figure out how to fit in. And for those with limited resources, renting on an ongoing basis may in any case be a better alternative than taking on a mortgage you can't really cope with. In today's uncertain market, it's wise let your landlord take the risk of investing in real estate.

Financial considerations also have to be very high on your list of priorities. Eddie at the Doomstead Diner has written an excellent article entitled "Some Inconvenient Truths About Collapse Economics". He challenges the idea, common among kollapsniks, that the only things worth investing in are preparations, gold, silver and farmland. At some point in the future that may be true, but you have to have a plan for surviving in the meantime, and that will likely involve taking part in an economy that you know has a limited shelf life—even putting some of you money into conventional BAU style investments in the short term.

I'll be going into more detail on this in a future post, but some degree of preparation is a very good idea and you should spend some money on it, but not every cent you have. It is also good to have some ordinary cash on hand, and even some actual physical gold and/or silver carefully hidden where you can get at it if you need it. Farm land, while it is tempting, is currently very expensive per acre and since it comes in large chunks, likely to be out of reach for most people. Remote farms may cost less, but leave you too isolated.

When I talk about "collapse progressing", it may sound like I am envisaging a uniform run downhill, but my regular readers will know this is not the case. Collapse progresses unevenly, unsteadily and unequally. This is good news if you are thinking of moving, because there is likely some place where things are better than where you are now, especially if you are flexible and willing to adapt to a new situation. There are "eddies" in the stream of collapse, places where things occasionally stand still or even improve somewhat for a while.

I think this is very true of both real estate and employment considerations.

A great many cities are experiencing real estate bubbles today. Accommodation costs a lot to buy or rent there and the situation is only getting worse. This is less about the demand for housing and more about malfunctioning markets and people with money trying to find somewhere to invest it at a good rate of return. But since there is no real demand to justify those real estate prices they will eventually decline, and decline precipitously. The trick is to get out with your assets intact before that bubble bursts.

Aside from high prices caused by investment bubbles, there is also often a clear relationship between distance from good employment opportunities and the cost of housing. Housing in small towns away from big employment centers (which are almost always in cities) is very likely to be less expensive. So if you don't mind a longer commute, if you can telecommute, or if you can make the big leap of finding work away from the city, you will likely find housing that costs less.

But I've read that in the United States towns with more affordable housing also offer jobs that pay less, so moving there may not solve your problems. It seems to me that this will be determined by what level the minimum wage is pegged at, if there is one. So states (provinces here in Canada) with a decent minimum wage would be a good place to look for work.

Handymen and skilled tradesmen are most always in demand, as are skilled professionals. Even small towns have a few relatively unskilled jobs in service industries and there will be seasonal work in agriculture and tourism. One of the few justifiable reasons for delaying this move is to find a job to support you in your new location. Just don't make this an excuse for not moving.

I live in a small town that is in an economic eddy, being a bedroom community for a nearby nuclear plant which employs several thousand people. (It's one of the largest nuclear generating developments in the world.) This is "energy sprawl", where lower EROEI energy sources require a lot more infrastructure, and just happen to create jobs building, operating and maintaining that infrastructure in the process. So such opportunities do exist.

How you approach these opportunities will largely depend on your own personal circumstances—your socioeconomic class, in particular.

The Upper Class

If you are a member of the upper class—the "one percent"—you can do as you please, at least for the moment. But in a really serious financial crash, your wealth is likely to evaporate, and you probably don't have the sort of skills that will be needed in the aftermath. For all I care, you can jump out a fortieth floor window and end it all quickly. But if you hope to survive, you'd better be prepared to fit in and keep a low profile, among people who are likely to be resentful of the rich, who they see (correctly) as responsible for the mess the world is in.

No doubt though, you will be focusing on ways of keeping BAU rolling along and maintaining your status within it. Good luck with that.

The Middle Class

Indeed, a willingness to let go of BAU should probably be seen as the distinguishing difference between the middle and upper classes. Though currently, especially in the U.S., many middle class folk mistakenly think that if they support policies that benefit the upper class they will themselves eventually be able to ascend into that class. Of course, the upper class does everything they can to encourage that attitude, with no intention at all of benefitting anyone but themselves.

There are two traps here: one is thinking that you have much chance of joining the upper class and the other is thinking that it would do you any good if you did. If you're currently in the middle class, you likely have enough resources to respond to collapse in a fairly effective fashion. Don't miss the opportunity.

If you already own a home or at least have quite a bit of equity in it, you may well be able to sell it, buy a house in a small town and still have enough cash left over to retire early and invest in preparations. You should do this soon, before the real estate bubble bursts. If you are already retired, you can probably do the same thing and end up in better financial shape than if you'd stayed in the city.

If you are middle class but younger, you are likely working at a job that is keeping you in that class, and this will make the proposition of leaving the city much harder to consider seriously. But perhaps you can commute or even telecommute from a small town. Or find a small town with a local industry that needs people with your skills. If you are renting or have only recently bought a home and don't yet have much equity built up in it, then renting in a small town may cost you substantially less than your current rent or mortgage payments. Don't make the mistake of believing that real estate prices will keep going up forever.

All middle class people should look ahead to days of further economic contraction and consider taking a "deliberate descent" approach to life. That is, learn to live with less, so that when that is all you have left, it won't be so much of a shock. As John Michael Greer has said, "collapse now and avoid the rush." And of course, living frugally will make your resources last longer.

The Lower Class

It can be difficult to see where the line should be drawn between the middle and lower classes, so I am going to simplify things and lump everyone who has a somewhat decent, secure job with benefits, and who owns a home or is renting while saving with a reasonable expectation of being able to buy a home in the foreseeable future, into the middle class. We'll leave other assets and debts as an issue for another day.

Below that is the lower class which for the purposes of this discussion includes, at the upper end, those who have a job and can afford accommodation and a vehicle to drive to work, down through those who have to choose between accommodation and a vehicle, and may end up working but living in a vehicle, through to those who are jobless and homeless. The majority of these people, if they have a job, are members of the "precariat". That is, their job is not in any way secure and does not pay enough to make the rest of their lives secure either. If you are a member of the precariat, you don't need to be told about "deliberate descent"—you're already living it, though I would guess not willingly.

No doubt it is somewhat presumptuous on my part, as a relatively "fat cat" middle class guy, to offer advice to lower class people. Though I did grow up on a small family farm in a family that was just barely middle class at best. And my kids have certainly spent their share (and more) of time in the precariat. But I don't really have a lot of experience at being poor and when I have problems, I am accustomed to using money to solve them. For people in the lower class that’s rarely an option.

Nonetheless, I have a few things to say that I hope may be of help. Lower class people are, I think, farther along the collapse road than the rest of us, and may well be less bothered as things fall further apart—it will all just be more of the same shit to them. Psychologically they are quite resilient but, materially speaking, they have very limited resources to deal with specific problems as they arise, and in that sense they will be harder hit. So, for lower class people, the need to get out of the cities is no less, but the challenge of doing so may be greater.

Many of the problems faced by people in the lower class come from the degree of isolation in which they find themselves. I think there are great possibilities for small groups of disadvantaged people to get together and share housing, food, transportation and so forth. Sadly, we have largely forgotten the skills for getting along in such circumstances, or have been convinced by those who are in power that such skills are worthless. The neo-liberal approach of using money to mediate all relationships between people leaves us at the mercy of those who control the money and that of course is exactly what they want. I think there is a lot of potential in various sorts of co-operative ventures to break out of this trap.

I've been doing a bit of reading at Sharable, a website that "aims to empower people to share for a more resilient, equitable, and joyful world". This is essentially what I am talking about here. It would certainly be a move in the direction of the adaptations we'll have to make down the road in order to succeed in small isolated communities.

Well, I think that's enough for now. Next time we'll continue with this, looking closer at criteria for choosing a small town as place to live as BAU goes further downhill and we can no longer rely on it completely for the necessities of life

Tribute to the City

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Published on Pray for Calamity on March 24, 2016

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The vernal equinox has come and passed and with it the official start of spring is here in the northern hemisphere. Across the countryside Jane Magnolia trees have awoken. Their hundreds of fingers each cupping rose colored blooms like candles, as if they were so many tiny lavender hands offering up communion to the sun. Daffodils peer out of the hillside clearings like periscopes or perhaps yellow gramophones all playing a song of rebirth to call back the songbirds and honeybees. The energy sequestered in the root-balls and mycelium mats as the land went to sleep the last few months has begun surging upward, and it is hard to not feel it flowing through me as I walk my land taking stock of which fruit trees and berry bushes are producing buds. A good friend of mine, and mentor, once told me that I am doing well if I can establish two fruit trees per year. Looking at my spread of apple trees, it looks like I am on track to have done well in that regard. My partner does all of the work to care for our bee hive, and after donning her protective veil for a spring inspection, she reported to me that the hive is in great condition. I have heard it said that bees surviving the winter is what converts one from a bee-haver into a bee-keeper.

Our garden calls for much attention, and each week I spread a truck load of wood chips on the walking paths, which were first covered with flattened cardboard. Hopefully this effort will buy me a few years of relatively weed free walkways. Mint is returning with a vigor, and the strawberry leaves are vibrantly green. Kale, spinach, beets, and parsnips have been seeded, and I am keeping a keen eye for the first asparagus shoots. This year I have to grow significantly more food than I have in the past, as my partner is returning to work full time and I will be staying home during the week days with our daughter. In the short term we will have less money, but I will have more time to attend to tasks around the homestead. Walking through the garden brings me such a deep sense of calm as I talk to the plants and lose myself in my many tasks. Starting seeds is a great way to practice slowing oneself down, especially small seeds that tend to stick together like those of tomatoes and carrots.

I find myself happy as the sun tans my shoulders and a red tailed hawk cries from its nest somewhere high up in the trees behind me.

February was the warmest month in recorded history. The record it broke for such crowning glory had been set in December. February temperatures saw the Earth cross the two degrees centigrade above pre-industrial average barrier that has been established as a hard danger zone by climate scientists. It was an anomaly, for now, but one that is likely to rear itself again and again. The most dramatic warming has been in the Arctic, which bodes ill for jet stream patterns as well as summer sea ice coverage. Time will tell if we see our first ice free Arctic this summer. Somehow the magnitude of the crisis of climate change still seems to evade most general discourse despite the pomp and show of the electoral season now in bloom in the US. There are lots of grand promises being hurled at the public about bringing manufacturing jobs back stateside. If that is not the dictionary definition of cognitive dissonance then I do not know what is. Industrialism long ago set us on a crash course with calamity, and now that the calamity has begun to rain down upon the world in the form of mega droughts, fires, famines, and super-storms, those angling for positions of power are promising more industrialism.

Of course, it is not even a job in a factory per se that most Americans dwelling in the rust belt actually want, it is a secure living situation. They want their basic needs met in a way that does not leave them uncertain and wrecked by stress month after month. It is a culture of production organized and operated through the machinations of capitalism that requires that people work a job in order to have these needs met in such a satisfactory way. When politicians say “Jobs!” it has become a Pavlovian response for the middle, and formerly middle, classes to come salivating like starving dogs to desperately pull a lever in their favor. They forget that first the food, and the land, and the ability to provide for oneself had to be taken away before they could be forced to work jobs for these things. A great deprivation preceded the creation of job economies whereby everyone was made to punch a clock and become the automaton of some civilized production scheme in order to have enough to eat and a place to sleep at night. This deprivation now long forgotten, people have no memory of themselves as anything but workers, and so they beg for work.

Neo-liberal capitalism may be the dominant platform by which this scheme is globally enacted, but it is merely the software that operates on the hardware of the civilized model of human organization. It is key to recall that ecological decimation was the order of the day long before the advent of capitalism. Forests had been clear cut from the Levant, through Greece and across Europe and the UK as civilization marched across the ancient world, slashing and burning its path to conquest and dominion over greater and greater expanses of the Earth. This pattern was repeated globally where ever civilizations formed. The Maya deforested the jungles of the Yucatan Peninsula long before Europeans brought their particular version of civilization to the continent and eventually ran head first into the consequences of such short sighted actions. The Aztecs, who may have created one of the more arguably “sustainable” cities in Tenochtitlan, did so on the backbone of war, expansion, tribute, slavery, and human sacrifice. Sure, they recycled their human excrement for crop fertilizer in their Chinampas, but they also relied on the growth of the territory that they dominated through blood shed. Food, firewood, and other material goods flowed into the city from outlying tribute towns where common people had to work to not only provide for themselves, but to pay a quarterly tribute to the city center of the empire.

Such is the way with cities. Goods and raw materials flow in and waste flows out. Cities harvest the natural wealth of outlying areas, and this model is now global, with powerful nations harvesting the material wealth of poor nations. No matter how desperately people may want to believe in the idea of the “sustainable city,” it is a contradiction of terms. Austin, Texas proclaims itself “America’s most sustainable city,” yet every day truckloads of food make deliveries while truck loads of garbage and waste are removed. The city depends on dammed lakes off the lower Colorado river for water which will one day fail to support the city’s growing population, and which in the present deprive down stream communities. According to 2010 data, households in Austin spent the most money on gasoline relative to other American cities. And Austin continues to grow, to cover more of the land in concrete preventing the recharging of the Edward’s Aquifer and demanding more energy for cooling as the city can have over one-hundred days in a year that breach one-hundred degrees fahrenheit.

A recent study calculated how much food the city of Seattle could produce based on how much solar radiation falls on its potentially farmable locations, including parks, rooftops, and yards. Even selecting crops that grow well in Seattle’s climate conditions the study’s authors determined that the city could provide only one percent of its food needs. If the streets and sidewalks were ripped up, the number could rise to two or three percent, but the city would lose functionality. After all, even if day to day travel was carried out on foot or on bicycle, deliveries with diesel powered semi-trucks would still be necessary for everything the city’s inhabitants required, from clothes, to air conditioners, to building materials, and of course, the other ninety-eight percent of the food they could not produce for themselves.

Sustainable living and cities are not compatible. This is not a matter of ideology. This is a matter of hard material reality, and suggestions that somehow 3D printing or vertical farms or a population fed a steady diet of algae shakes will be just the miracle we need to upend hard material constraints are at best, petulant whimpers of those who have become accustomed the vast wealth of selection that living in a first-world city provides, or at worst, Kubler-Ross stage three bargaining, hoping that somehow, by some stretch of compromise we can sustain the unsustainable.

But we can’t. Not without expansion. Not without tribute. Not without an exploitative power dynamic and flows of violence that may or may not be visible from the comfortable confines.

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Hot coffee is a miracle, or damn near one. Every morning millions of Americans have a cup or two of hot coffee, the beans of which were grown in Columbia, or Ethiopia, or Hawaii. Maybe those Americans have tea grown in India or a banana grown in Peru. They pull on shoes made in Vietnam and perhaps ride their bicycle made with bauxite mined in Australia on a road paved with bitumen from Alberta. Perhaps these Americans stop off at a local food co-op or farmer’s market where they purchase some locally grown kale. They take pictures of the fresh eggs at the market with their iPhone which has a slew of globally sourced components buried within it, and they post this photo online with the help of a network of satellites and tag it with some cute caption about sustainability.

When the average American city dweller thinks about urban living, they likely think of the comedy clubs, the used book stores, the fusion restaurants, or the bars. They fail to think about the global hegemony of the United States military and how a worldwide network of bases has laid the foundation for dollar dominance. Most of the American or European or Australian or Canadian city dwellers who stammer on about generating green, sustainable cities are not picturing the mega-cities of the world like Dakha or Rio de Janeiro. Millions of children living in the squalor of slums and favelas, tin roofed shacks and human waste littering the streets and waterways are not what the white first worlders are picturing in their minds when they declare the supremacy of urban existence. Even the relatively lucky people in Hong Kong or Manila live in crammed, small apartments set inside concrete towers that resemble prisons more than anything else.

The wealth extracted from around the planet by western powers over the course of centuries, a process which went into overdrive in the twentieth century, has absolutely skewed the perceptions of those average citizens who reside within these conquistador nations. Like Tenochtitlan, the US and its neo-liberal capitalist crony nations exact tribute from the global poor. We may not adorn ourselves in exotic feathers and obsidian jewelry, but our sneakers and our jeans and our lattes and our cellphones will never be sustainably sourced and manufactured within the footprint of our home city limits. It is just not possible. We can have civilization, or we can have a livable planet, but we cannot have both.

Phosphorous leaches from agricultural and manufacturing sources into water ways. Eventually it alters the chemistry of these waterways creating the conditions that support toxic algae blooms. Power plants are often built along waterways. Coal fired plants have been using rivers such as the Ohio as a waste dump for decades. Radioactive tritium has been leaching into the groundwater from the Indian Point nuclear plant in New York, and the leak is getting worse. The Turkey Point nuclear power facility is leaking waste into Biscayne Bay just outside of Miami.

Often when I discuss the destruction wrought by civilized existence, the first critique hurled in my direction is that, “We cannot go back.” On this point, I agree. We cannot go back because civilization has greatly destroyed the ability of so many natural systems to harbor life. Industrial civilization will decay and fracture in the coming decades and centuries. I do not know how this process will play out or how long it will take to complete, but I feel that I could safely suggest that several generations from now the people who are making new ways of living will curse the stupidity and greed of those who poisoned the water. They will wonder what demons possessed our hearts with such a dark poison that we could so callously wipe out the other living beings who we rely on for survival.

In the dry wastes a young girl will dig for tubers amongst a backdrop of drought ravaged trees and the charcoal remains of those that burned in the previous season. Seeking a nourishing root she finds the bric a brac of our brain dead culture; a plastic fork, a beer can, rubber testicles that once swung from a pick-up truck’s trailer hitch. Yee haw.

Her family boils caught rainwater unaware that it contains heavy metals which will be responsible for some of their eventual deaths. They will laugh, as people do, and they will tell cautionary tales about a long ago world in which people set the sky on fire.

Whatever gods there may be forgive us. We were drunk on oil and pictures of ourselves. We really wanted good jobs.

The Permaculture City: Cities as Complex Systems

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Published on Resilience on September 8, 2015

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The following sections are excerpted with permission from Chapter 1 of Toby Hemenway's new book The Permaculture City, published by Chelsea Green.

When a permaculturist sees words such as “function” and “synergy,” it sets off lightbulbs in his or her head. Function, for example, indicates a relationship, a connection between two or more elements. A road functions to move traffic, thus the road has a relationship with vehicles, and it mediates the movement—that is, it makes connections—between the traffic, its origin, and its destination. Knowing a function, in turn, leads us to identify the items and processes necessary to fill that function and also points to the yields created when that function is filled. Thinking in terms of functions, then, is a powerful leverage point, because it identifies needs, yields, relationships, and goals, and it helps us spot blockages, missing elements, buildup of waste, and inefficiencies in the various flows and linkages that are part of that function’s workings.
 
This means that when we look at cities, their residents, and the other components of urban life in terms of their functions, we can spot the factors that influence how well they are able to perform those functions. Then we can study, understand, and direct those factors and influences in ways that will create and enhance the functions and properties of cities that are beneficial, such as community-building public plazas, parks, and structures; open and supportive marketplaces; and habitat-creating green space; as well as human elements such as responsive policy processes. We can also spot and damp down the negative factors. Once we’ve done this, the next step is to evaluate, to see how well our changes have moved us toward a more livable, and life-filled, environment. That is the heart of design.
 
The importance of the three primary functions of cities—inspirational gathering space, security, and trade—is also visible in the negative. When cities grow ugly or inhumanly scaled, when they are crime-ridden or prone to raids, or when their industries fail, urbanites retreat if they can to the suburbs, the hinterlands, or another more functional city. Those who can’t leave often crowd—or are forced—into ghettos and enclaves. The movement of people in and out of a city is useful feedback about how well that city functions and what needs to be redesigned…
 
 
Cities as Complex Systems
 
The sciences of complexity studies arose in the 1960s and 1970s and spread, because they were so widely applicable, from the arid realms of theoretical physics and mathematics to other disciplines. A subdiscipline of urban planning, sometimes called complexity theory of cities, emerged in the 1980s and has since generated a blizzard of publications and experiments in urban design. I will give an overview of the origins and tenets of complexity theory of cities as it relates to permaculture. For those interested in exploring the intersection of urban design with complexity theory in more detail than I can offer here, a good place to start is an anthology of articles collected under the title Complexity Theories of Cities Have Come of Age, edited by Juval Portugali and others.
 
Understanding that cities are a form of complex adaptive system has helped urbanists restore some vibrancy to moribund metropolises, so it’s worth understanding a little about these systems. The general “messiness” of cities has been irritating urban theorists and planners for centuries, but it wasn’t until recently that urbanists truly understood that it is just that messiness that gives cities their life.
 
The urge to rationalize and give order to cities—which, incidentally, culminated in the dehumanizing urban-renewal projects of the 1960s—has its seeds back in the Enlightenment era. Philosophers and scientists of that day, inspired by the successes of Newton, Galileo, and Kepler at finding simple laws that explained and predicted mechanical action, began thinking of nature and the universe as a machine that could be dissected, rebuilt, and controlled. Once they saw that planets and falling bodies operated by simple rules, some of them began extending the machine metaphor to the living world.  Soon farming and forestry were remade in the image of the machine, and this mechanical worldview spread to human systems as well. The standardized, abstract measurements of the metric system supplanted local and traditional units that once kept their uses connected to natural objects and activities. An acre, for example, was the area of flat land that a pair of oxen could plow in a day; an inch was the length of three grains of barley laid end to end. A meter is just, well, a meter—and since the 1983 General Conference on Weights and Measures, defined as, “the length of the path travelled by light in vacuum during a time interval of 1/299,792,458 of a second.” How’s that for abstract?
 
Tested land-use customs that had been culture- and site-specific were swept aside by nationwide property laws, official languages taught in state schools extinguished dialects and indigenous speech, and major cities such as Paris and Washington, DC, were rebuilt on rigid geometric patterns.
 
This attempt to impose a clockwork order on the confusing welter of urban life, while making cities more comprehensible to travelers and tax officials, reached its peak in the neighborhood-razing visions of New York’s Robert Moses, the sterile facades and inhuman whole-city plans of Le Corbusier, and the crime-ridden high-rise projects of south Chicago and countless other cities. As the failures of what has been called high modernism became obvious in the 1970s and 1980s, architects, planners, officials, and urban dwellers began to see that a machine city is a dead city.
 
Right at that time, though, several countering forces were emerging. One was an activist revolt against large-scale urban planning. As so often happens in the simultaneous emergence of parallel ideas whose time has come, this grassroots movement was also gaining academic legitimacy in work by theorists in the developing new complexity sciences. Mathematicians, ecologists, economists, and planners alike began to spot the consonance between complex systems such as weather, forests, neural networks, markets, and cities. Some of these complex systems could adapt and learn, while others, like the weather, could not. The former came to be called complex adaptive systems, or CAS. Researchers soon determined that to be able to learn, adapt, and evolve, CAS needed to possess certain features:
 
1.  They are composed of autonomous agents; that is, their parts work according to their own internal operating rules, whether they are nerve cells, trees, or people.
 
2.  These agents interact with each other according to certain (often simple) rules. A rule for a bird in a flock may be, “Keep the bird ahead of you at a 45-degree angle and 3 feet away.” These simple rules can result in stunningly complex behaviors, as anyone can attest who has watched a shimmering flock of birds spin patterns against the sky.
 
3.  Those new behaviors are an example of emergence, which is the appearance of novel properties that can’t be predicted by studying the parts in isolation. Watching a single bird in flight would never let you predict the intricate, captivating dance of a swooping flock of birds. Studying one cell of a slime mold would never suggest that as a group they can merge to fashion a bizarre mushroomlike colonial structure for reproduction.
 
4.  The agents respond to changes in their environment via feedback. They sense some of the effects of their actions, which allows them to adapt and learn.
 
5.  CAS usually exhibit homeostasis; that is, they self-regulate and “tune” their behavior to certain states that are preferred over other, less stable states, and they can return to these states after a disturbance. These states are usually far from equilibrium. A mammal, for example, maintains its body temperature independent of both the air temperature and how hard it is exercising. If it were at equilibrium, it would be at air temperature—and it would be dead.
 
6.  These systems maintain themselves in a rich, possibility-filled region between perfect order and total randomness that complexity thinkers call the edge of chaos. An organism, for example, contains proteins that are made to a specific pattern but are constantly moving in and out of that pattern as they are built up and broken down in metabolism. But metabolism isn’t chaotic. It follows specific pathways and rules. We can see this also in our genes. They generally are built to a set DNA sequence and pattern, but occasional mutation and regular recombination permit new possibilities to emerge. Perfect order is dead, while complete chaos allows no structure. Life and other complex adaptive systems attune themselves to the fecund, creative place between frozen order and seething randomness, to the edge of chaos, and thrive there. Healthy cities do the same.
 
In summary, CAS contain many autonomous parts, they respond to changes via feedback, and they form self-organizing, self-maintaining assemblages that display emergent properties. So how do the principles of CAS apply to urban permaculture?
 
Those principles suggest that rigid planning that leaves no room, or even not enough room, for spontaneous self-organization will create sterile cities. Strict top-down planning is anathema to CAS, including cities; it imposes a rigidity that eliminates adaptability and spontaneity. On the other hand, pure bottom-up accretion of elements with no rules or pattern at all approaches chaos and can result in grossly unequal distribution of resources, incoherent layout, gentrification, food deserts, and the other ills that plague many cities. Thus urban design methods that provide enough organization in the form of simple rules but create the conditions for spontaneity to occur can take advantage of the ways that cities behave as CAS. What does that look like?
 
One of the first to grasp the importance of urban life’s lack of tidiness was Patrick Geddes, a biologist who later turned to sociology and urban planning. Geddes was a student of Thomas Huxley, the man known as “Darwin’s bulldog” for his fierce defense of the theory of natural selection, and Geddes brought his own appreciation for evolution and life’s spontaneity to urban design. During the late nineteenth century, when Geddes was practicing, the common view was that cities were simply “architecture writ large,” mechanical elements assembled on a large scale. Geddes taught that every city evolves in both a historical context and a unique geographical setting, and any planning that ignores or attempts to remake these will harm those who live there. But Geddes was nearly a lone voice against the rising influence of those who saw the city as a machine, and their views dominated the first six decades of the twentieth century.
 
Figure 1-1. Emergence in action. The slime mold Dictyostelium germinates from spores as individual cells that remain independent until food becomes scarce. At that point the cells aggregate and can move as a multicellular organism in the pseudoplasmodium or slug stage. This “slug” slithers to a well-lighted, open place and transforms into a mushroomlike fruiting body that then releases spores. The slug and the collective fruiting body possess properties not present in the individual cells, such as the ability to form complex shapes, solve mazes (in the slug phase), and release spores (the fruiting body). Illustration by Elara Tanguy

How Sustainable Can Cities be When They Can’t Even Deal With Their Own Shit?

Off the keyboard of Allan Stromfeldt Christensen

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Published on From Filmers to Farmers on August 11, 2015

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A sewage treatment plant in Hamburg, Germany: The shit never looked so pretty (photo by
Mark Michaelis)
 
Discuss this article at the Kitchen Sink inside the Diner

The Dr. Pooper Papers, Issue #3:

Just this past week the City of Toronto was informed by the Ministry of the Environment that it must now notify the public whenever water treatment plants are bypassed and raw sewage is sent into Lake Ontario. These occurrences are said to be due to heavy rains taking their toll on Toronto's "old sewer system," something that is said to occur about three times a month, year round.

According to Mark Mattson, director of the charity Lake Ontario Waterkeeper, Toronto's streets and harbours were inundated with more than a billion litres of sewage in July 2013, when more than 90mm of rain fell on the city in just two hours. This, however, doesn't seem to be a freak occurrence, as New York State similarly enacted laws this summer requiring public notification within four hours of raw sewage being sent into its watersheds.

"I think there's a real demand for this information," said Mattson, a point that's hard to refute since the "boaters, paddlers and hikers on many of the rivers and trails" that Mattson mentions likely don't want to come across invasions of floaters on their Saturday afternoon strolls.

But where Mattson gets it wrong, I think, is in his assessment of the problem. As he puts it, "people don't really realize that in Toronto we've got these 70-year-old pipes based on a totally antiquated understanding of how the city works." And as the Toronto Star article further explains, "the current sewers were built with different demands in mind, and… the aging infrastructure is failing to keep pace." In other words, Mattson (and perhaps even the Toronto Star) don't really grasp how cities "work," nor realize what are at the heart of the demands of "current sewers."

 

Could industrial civilization soon be shitting bricks?

 

First off, the gross expansion of cities, exemplified by London, England in the early 1800s following the enclosure of the commons, was invariably made possible by copious inputs to feed and supply the masses, inputs delivered via coal-powered rail transport. However, the massive amount of human effluent created by the massively accruing populations had to be dealt with somehow, and the only way to do that was by creating sewer systems – sewer systems that back in the day required millions of bricks for their construction. And to create those bricks required a corollary massive amount of heat to fire them. Short of completing the razing of England's forests, that would never have been possible were it not for the recently tapped into fossil fuel supply of coal. In other words, fossil fuels are required to create the physical conduits for sewage systems (the bricks, and now concrete and metal pipes), never mind all the energy necessary to bury (and maintain) those systems, as well as to operate the centralized treatment plants. (Prior to fossil-fuelled treatment plants, and in some cases continuing to this day, raw sewage was simply dumped into oceans and other large bodies of water.)

But here's the rub: supposing that the City of Toronto (or whichever other city) has the hundreds of millions, if not billions, of dollars to revamp its aging sewage infrastructure, there's not a chance it's going to have the resources to do so again in the 70 years or so when its infrastructure once again becomes aged. Why is this?

 

Windmills and solar panels won't be able to power this (photo by Washington State Dept of Transportation)

 

The world is now on the cusp of peak oil, meaning that in 70 years or so it will very likely be impossible to do a do-over upon a large city's sewer system. We will be long past Hubbert's peak, and there simply won't be the required energy to power all the machinery to do all the heavy work, nor to maintain it all. As just one example, in 2008 a crack was discovered in one of Toronto's sewage tunnels, a problem which could have foreseeably seen the effluent of 750,000 Torontonians escape into the nearby Don River. Although three years of delays ensued, the repairs were finally completed, and below its $40 million budget. Nonetheless, since such occurrences are destined to occur in the future, it's worth wondering about how long such repairs will be energetically viable for.

This then begs the question: If the underlying infrastructure of industrialism's major metropolitan cities (as well as its smaller cities) is based on a system necessitating copious amounts of fossil fuels, how are they going to manage when that energy subsidy starts to shrink away? In other words, forget about all that feel-good local food stuff for a moment and ponder this: since the modern city and its packed-like-sardines populace (which produces obscene amounts of human effluent in historically unheard of concentrations) is dependent on fossil-fuelled porcelain goddesses to whoosh away its effluents (with potable water!), how do our megalopolis' (and even smaller cities) deal with all that effluent when the superstructure becomes less and less serviceable? Upon taking energy supplies into account, it should be readily apparent that myopic concerns over Saturday afternoon floaters is the wrong way to be looking at things. But while the situation in Toronto highlights a particular aspect of the systemic problem we face, oddly enough, Toronto also provides us with a hint towards the direction we should be taking here – but unfortunately only a hint.

 

Cob in the Park (photo by A Great Capture)

 

Just down the street from where I used to live, at Dufferin Grove Park, a community project was put together called Cob in the Park. It consisted of a beautiful cob structure, as well as a compost toilet for use by children using the nearby playground and wading pool. So I one day took a stroll over to the park to check out the loo. But after endless and fruitless searching I later discovered that although the project had the full backing of the local city councillor, the composting toilet aspect of it was nixed thanks to a tiny minority of nearby residents who claimed that the loo would (supposedly) not be properly maintained and so pose a health hazard. As a result, an excellent opportunity for Torontonians to learn about the ecological cycles of their own effluent was lost.

But since we can now readily see that our industrial approach to dealing with our effluent cannot be indefinitely maintained, it should be obvious that the problem isn't about straw-man arguments over compost toilets which (supposedly) won't be maintained, but that the true problem is that the status quo industrial system can't be maintained. In other words, instead of deferring to buttons, levers and other engineered advancements ("progress"), we're literally going to have to learn how to deal with our own shit, and methods are going to have to be devised to return the nutrients within that shit to the land.

To help us make the transition, it might be helpful for us to make note of how we got here in the first place. The reasons behind all this are of course wide and varied, perhaps beginning with our tapping into fossil fuels of which made the large-scale approach to human effluent possible in the first place. Couple this with bureaucrats and engineers who often have a penchant for applying techno approaches to every problem (and even non-problems!), and you get the centralized system we currently have, a literal mess waiting to happen (and now happening!).

To single out bureaucrats and engineers is a bit unfair though, since there also exists a widespread Victorian priggishness amongst the general population: the stuff that goes in the top end is endlessly glossed over by self-important sophisticates and the like, while what comes out the other end is quickly whisked away with the flick of a lever, out of sight, out of mind.

To see all this in action, one only needs to look at the tool which has very much helped us get to where we are today, which is our language. As already mentioned, there exists a fair amount of awareness about the need to protect our watersheds, and amongst foodies and the like, a concern (be it superficial or not) about our foodsheds. However, the trifecta is not complete, and our language thus lacks the necessary structure to fully comprehend the issue. This need to ultimately deal with our own effluent in an ecologically sensitive manner therefore begs the suggestion:

The next time you find yourself at a dinner soirée or cocktail party and the conversation turns rather dry, don't be afraid to turn to your neighbour, and with the utmost glee, excitedly ask, "So. Would you like to hear about my shitshed!?"

New Collapse Survey: Best Collapse Survival Locations & World’s Worst City Survey Results

survey-says-2Off the keyboard of RE

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Published on the Doomstead Diner on August 11, 2015

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survey-says

Discuss these results at the Surveys Table inside the Diner

Last week we surveyed the KollapsniksTM on where the WORST places to be as Collapse moves around the Globe.  Results for last week's survey are down at the bottom of this page.

For this week we look at choices for the BEST place to park yourself would be.

https://www.ctbto.org/uploads/tx_ctbtoslider/HA09_007.jpg

Tristan de Cunha, Edinburgh of the Seven Seas

Take the Best Collapse Location Survey HERE

For last week's survey, once again there were some surprising results..

Not too surprising was Las Vegas was ranked worst, because most respondents come from the FSoA and they are mostly Kollapsniks well aware of the water problems in Vegas.

http://s1.ibtimes.com/sites/www.ibtimes.com/files/styles/v2_article_large/public/2015/04/22/lake-mead-1.jpg

However, Sao Paolo has worse water problems already, but was ranked 3rd below Mexico City.  I also found it surprising New York Shity was ranked above Phoenix as worse.  Phoenix has the same water problem as Vegas, NY still has decent water supply.  Also, as center of Finance, the economy in NY still is kind of functioning.

It's also hard to imagine how Baghdad can be ranked less worse than NY?  It's a fucking war zoe already AND a desert!

My guess here is the survey respondents stopped after making acouple of selections because it is too long.   Future Surveys will have fewer choices.

World's Worst Cities Survey Results:

  1 2 3 4 Standard Deviation Responses Weighted Average
Las Vegas 4
(12.12%)
2
(6.06%)
1
(3.03%)
2
(6.06%)
1.04 33 9.76 / 36
Mexico City 1
(3.03%)
1
(3.03%)
0
(0%)
2
(6.06%)
1.48 33 10.15 / 36
Sao Paolo 1
(3.03%)
2
(6.06%)
3
(9.09%)
0
(0%)
1.3 33 10.39 / 36
Los Angeles 1
(3.03%)
1
(3.03%)
3
(9.09%)
1
(3.03%)
1.14 33 10.91 / 36
Beijing 0
(0%)
0
(0%)
0
(0%)
1
(3.03%)
1.34 33 11.18 / 36
New York 8
(24.24%)
0
(0%)
2
(6.06%)
0
(0%)
1.46 33 12.48 / 36
Phoenix 1
(3.03%)
1
(3.03%)
1
(3.03%)
1
(3.03%)
0.98 33 12.52 / 36
Delhi 0
(0%)
0
(0%)
3
(9.09%)
1
(3.03%)
1.11 33 13.48 / 36
Chicago 1
(3.03%)
1
(3.03%)
1
(3.03%)
1
(3.03%)
0.95 33 14 / 36
Rio de Janeiro 1
(3.03%)
2
(6.06%)
0
(0%)
1
(3.03%)
1.14 33 14.7 / 36
Baghdad 10
(30.3%)
0
(0%)
2
(6.06%)
2
(6.06%)
2.07 33 14.7 / 36
London 0
(0%)
5
(15.15%)
0
(0%)
3
(9.09%)
1.14 33 14.82 / 36
Moscow 0
(0%)
1
(3.03%)
1
(3.03%)
3
(9.09%)
0.92 33 15.33 / 36
Calcutta 2
(6.06%)
4
(12.12%)
1
(3.03%)
2
(6.06%)
1.28 33 15.85 / 36
Houston 0
(0%)
0
(0%)
2
(6.06%)
1
(3.03%)
1.23 33 15.88 / 36
Singapore 1
(3.03%)
0
(0%)
1
(3.03%)
0
(0%)
0.92 33 16.36 / 36
Riyadh 1
(3.03%)
5
(15.15%)
1
(3.03%)
0
(0%)
1.57 33 17.3 / 36
Berlin 0
(0%)
1
(3.03%)
3
(9.09%)
3
(9.09%)
0.98 33 17.67 / 36
Miami 0
(0%)
2
(6.06%)
1
(3.03%)
0
(0%)
1.32 33 18.09 / 36
Dallas/Ft. Worth 0
(0%)
0
(0%)
0
(0%)
2
(6.06%)
1.42 33 18.3 / 36
Tokyo 0
(0%)
0
(0%)
0
(0%)
0
(0%)
1.11 33 19.36 / 36
Detroit 0
(0%)
0
(0%)
2
(6.06%)
0
(0%)
1.32 33 20.76 / 36
Nairobi 0
(0%)
1
(3.03%)
1
(3.03%)
0
(0%)
1.36 33 20.79 / 36
Tel Aviv 0
(0%)
0
(0%)
0
(0%)
1
(3.03%)
1.34 33 20.94 / 36
Delhi 0
(0%)
1
(3.03%)
1
(3.03%)
4
(12.12%)
1.28 33 21.03 / 36
Tehran 0
(0%)
1
(3.03%)
1
(3.03%)
1
(3.03%)
1.34 33 21.24 / 36
Sydney 0
(0%)
0
(0%)
0
(0%)
0
(0%)
1.14 33 21.97 / 36
Athens 0
(0%)
0
(0%)
0
(0%)
0
(0%)
1.4 33 22.36 / 36
Madrid 0
(0%)
0
(0%)
0
(0%)
0
(0%)
1.59 33 24.21 / 36
Paris 0
(0%)
0
(0%)
0
(0%)
0
(0%)
1.4 33 24.67 / 36
Caracas 0
(0%)
1
(3.03%)
0
(0%)
1
(3.03%)
1.55 33 25.24 / 36
Buenos Aires 0
(0%)
0
(0%)
1
(3.03%)
0
(0%)
1.62 33 26.06 / 36
Wellington/Christchurch 0
(0%)
0
(0%)
1
(3.03%)
0
(0%)
1.55 33 26.27 / 36
Lisbon 0
(0%)
0
(0%)
0
(0%)
0
(0%)
1.52 33 27.3 / 36
Helsinki 0
(0%)
1
(3.03%)
0
(0%)
0
(0%)
1.74 33 28.82 / 36
Honolulu 1
(3.03%)
0
(0%)
0
(0%)
0
(0%)
2.51 33 31.09 / 36

 

Survey: The WORST City to be living in is…

Off the keyboard of RE

Follow us on Twitter @doomstead666
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Published on the Doomstead Diner on August 4, 2015

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survey-says

Discuss this at the Surveys Table inside the Diner

Trying to figure out exactly where you want to GO to hole up in the face of Collapse is tough, but knowing where you DO NOT want to be is a little less tough.

Big Shities!

http://www.worldchangecafe.com/wp-content/themes/currents/functions/thumb.php?src=wp-content/uploads/2014/11/collapse.jpg&w=800&h=365&zc=1&q=90

http://www.ssn.tv/wp-content/uploads/2014/07/NYC-1.jpg

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/8/8b/Kibera,_Nairobi_May_2007.jpg

http://www.ttcollege.edu.sa/img/Marketing/MKT%20/558244.jpg

http://www.pulsamerica.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2014/03/favela.jpg

Deathtraps waiting to happen, all of them.  They all require copious energy to run their water pumping and sewage treatment plants; they all require huge power plants run by Coal, NG or Nukes; they all require daily shipments of food grown often thouands of miles away on a daily basis, aka they are ALL utterly unsustainable in the not too distant future. Besides that, they are all jam packed full of people who generally HATE each other.  So you really don't want to be living in any of them.  They are unlikely to be nice to each other and helpful when the food runs out.

http://blog.bitovi.com/images/zombie-apocolypse/zombies.png

However, there are gradations from Bad to Worse to Horrible and Horrendous, some will go down first and others will take longer to be emptied of Homo Saps, one way or the other.

I am sure to get complaints over Shities that I did NOT include in this survey, and there are many.  However, it is already a tough ranking job here to do, and I'm not sure many Diners will have patience to even try it with this list.  I'm not sure *I* have patience for this!  They are ALL FUCKED!  Eventually anyhow.  Still, worthwhile to figure which one are fucked soonest and hardest.

So, in this week's Doomstead Diner SurveyTM, you have the opportunity to rank which Big Shity is the positive WORST one to be living in, and which ones are a little less worse than that.

I think if we get a decent sample size, some of the intermediary Shity Rankings will be interesting.  For instance, how do Berlin and Paris rank against each other?  Beijing vs NY?  Etc.

Definitely I am curious as to which Big Shity is ranked WORST. since there are a lot of REALLY BAD ones on the list. LOL.

Results up next week on the Diner Blog.

TAKE THE SURVEY HERE

RE

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Alternate Perspectives

  • Two Ice Floes
  • Jumping Jack Flash
  • From Filmers to Farmers

Meanderings By Cognitive Dissonance     Tis the Season Silly season is upon us. And I, for one, welc [...]

The Brainwashing of a Nation by Daniel Greenfield via Sultan Knish blog Image by ElisaRiva from Pixa [...]

A Window Into Our World By Cognitive Dissonance   Every year during the early spring awakening I qui [...]

Deaf, Dumb and Blind Who Is Better at Conceding They Are Wrong - Conservative or Liberal Extremists? [...]

The Apology: From baby boomers to the handicapped generations. by David Holmgren Re-posted from Holm [...]

Event Update For 2019-07-14http://jumpingjackflashhypothesis.blogspot.com/2012/02/jumping-jack-flash-hypothesis-its-gas.htmlThe [...]

Event Update For 2019-07-13http://jumpingjackflashhypothesis.blogspot.com/2012/02/jumping-jack-flash-hypothesis-its-gas.htmlThe [...]

Event Update For 2019-07-12http://jumpingjackflashhypothesis.blogspot.com/2012/02/jumping-jack-flash-hypothesis-its-gas.htmlThe [...]

Event Update For 2019-07-11http://jumpingjackflashhypothesis.blogspot.com/2012/02/jumping-jack-flash-hypothesis-its-gas.htmlThe [...]

Event Update For 2019-07-10http://jumpingjackflashhypothesis.blogspot.com/2012/02/jumping-jack-flash-hypothesis-its-gas.htmlThe [...]

With fusion energy perpetually 20 years away we now also perpetually have [fill in the blank] years [...]

My mea culpa for having inadvertently neglected FF2F for so long, and an update on the upcoming post [...]

NYC plans to undertake the swindle of the civilisation by suing the companies that have enabled it t [...]

MbS, the personification of the age-old pre-revolutionary scenario in which an expiring regime attem [...]

Daily Doom Photo

man-watching-tv

Sustainability

  • Peak Surfer
  • SUN
  • Transition Voice

Good Times Traveled"Water may stain the frescos, earthquakes may close the tunnels, but the temples will survive. [...]

Clash of the Negative Emissions Titans: Cannabis, Meet Biochar"These signs and portents point to a coming Anthropocene that will not be your daddy’s World Wa [...]

The Real Climate Debate"That lump in your throat you feel listening to someone laying down hard truth in a poetic way [...]

Riding the Whale’s Tail"Our biological and cultural blinders are equal in every way to those worn by Material Evangeli [...]

Carbon in the Dale"Rather than put back the coal mines, we should seriously think about putting back the forests. [...]

The folks at Windward have been doing great work at living sustainably for many years now.  Part of [...]

 The Daily SUN☼ Building a Better Tomorrow by Sustaining Universal Needs April 3, 2017 Powering Down [...]

Off the keyboard of Bob Montgomery Follow us on Twitter @doomstead666 Friend us on Facebook Publishe [...]

Visit SUN on Facebook Here [...]

Today's movement to abolish fossil fuels can learn from two different paths that the British an [...]

Why has it taken so long for the climate movement to accomplish so little? And how can we do better [...]

To fight climate change, you need to get the world off of fossil fuels. And to do that, you need to [...]

Americans are good on the "thoughts and prayers" thing. Also not so bad about digging in f [...]

In the echo-sphere of political punditry consensus forms rapidly, gels, and then, in short order…cal [...]

Top Commentariats

  • Our Finite World
  • Economic Undertow

Yeah, I suppose the only strategy at this point is to do what works, borrow ever more, even if it me [...]

"A crash of Deutsche Bank has serious implications for the world’s financial system because the [...]

https://z3news.com/w/bank-run-begun-deutsche-bank-germany-largest-bank/ That's another linked s [...]

yes, let's sing! Deutsche Bank Deutsche Bank uber alles Biggest bank run in der Welt [...]

Hi Steve. I recently found what I believe is a little gem, and I'm quite confident you'd a [...]

The Federal Reserve is thinking about capping yields? I don't know how long TPTB can keep this [...]

As some one who has spent years trying to figure out what the limits to growth are. let me say that [...]

Peak oil definitely happened for gods sake. Just because it isn't mad max right now is no indic [...]

@Volvo - KMO says he made some life choices he regrets. Not sure what they were. And I don't th [...]

RE Economics

Going Cashless

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Simplifying the Final Countdown

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Bond Market Collapse and the Banning of Cash

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Do Central Bankers Recognize there is NO GROWTH?

Discuss this article @ the ECONOMICS TABLE inside the...

Singularity of the Dollar

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Kurrency Kollapse: To Print or Not To Print?

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SWISSIE CAPITULATION!

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Of Heat Sinks & Debt Sinks: A Thermodynamic View of Money

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Merry Doomy Christmas

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Peak Customers: The Final Liquidation Sale

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Collapse Fiction

Useful Links

Technical Journals

Climate change mitigation targets have put pressure to reduce the carbon footprint of cultural herit [...]

In February 2019, central Canada, and especially the province of Saskatchewan, experienced extreme c [...]

Incomplete climate records pose a major challenge to decision makers that utilize climate data as on [...]