Collapse

Collapse? It’s already here.


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Anthony Freda

Originally published on the Doomstead Diner on January 22, 2019

The future is here. It’s just unevenly distributed.”

–William Gibson


UPDATE January 27: On Friday Jan. 25 Trump had signed a three-week stopgap bill to reopen those parts of the government shuttered through February 15. Democrats are happily spiking the ball in the end zone, but as the reliable and prescient Dahlia Lithwick writes in Slate, the utterances of Trump, Lara Trump, Wilbur Ross et al may have played as clueless out here in the cheap seats,  but served to reinforce traditional Paul Ryan small government talking points, where every social calamity can be addressed via a bake sale or barn raising.

It’s too easy to say that the enduring lesson of the shutdown is simply that Trump and his plutocrat Cabinet are hilariously clueless about how most of us live. The real story is much more grim: They are also trying to other us against one another, positing government workers as unpatriotic if they decline to work for free, and lazy for being unwilling to put the president’s interests ahead of their own.

Government workers have bought a brief respite from further financial calamity for a few weeks, but there is nothing currently on the political horizon that indicates we won't be right back here in three weeks. At least Trump won't have to face the specter of plane delays in and out of Atlanta for the Super Bowl. (Had he interfered with the High Rollers getting their footbaw on, they'd have been burning crosses on the White House lawn on Monday.)

And nothing changes the central thesis of the article: that the mass of Americans are two-three paychecks away from the economic abyss.


Within the Diner much discussion revolves around understanding the various vectors of collapse: fast collapse, slow collapse, Seneca cliff, plague, Carrington/electromagnetic pulse event, climate catastrophe,… how will collapse overtake us?  This screed's purpose is to suggest  that collapse is already here.

Testifying to Congress in the Clinton years, Fed Chair Alan Greenspan explained the success of the boom economy he led as based on what he called “growing worker insecurity,” and thus created the notion of "the precariat." In Greenspan's terms, when working people are insecure, they are unlikely to make demands. Good for business, good for investors.

 Noam Chomsky summarized:

… If working people are insecure, if they’re part of the precariat, living precarious existences, they’re not going to make demands, they’re not going to try to get better wages, they won’t get improved benefits. We can kick ’em out, if we don’t need ’em. And that’s what’s called a “healthy” economy, technically speaking. And he was highly praised for this, greatly admired.

We should have expected nothing less from Greenspan, a member of the inner circle of Ayn Rand, Satan's vicar on earth. The current government shutdown, wholly created by the Orange Shitgibbon, now reaches its fourth week and reveals a new layer of precariat. Look around– over 10 million federal workers, with supposedly middle class jobs, find themselves playing insulin- or groceries- or rent- roulette. 

Like most Americans, federal workers live paycheck to paycheck, and have to scramble to meet their obligations. Since Individual-1 has a long and ignoble history of stiffing people who worked for him, this shutdown might have been expected. Yet the wall, that fetish object of the right, might have been advanced by legislation at any time over the last two years. Yet it was not, for the simple reason that most border state Republicans realize it's an idiotic thing to do with billions of dollars, and don't want any part of it. Only after the Democrats took control of the House did "the wall" rise to the level of "emergency."

That the rich get richer and the poor get poorer seems baked in to American life. "Middle class" means today that you're poor, but without a meth habit. In spite of the fact that we're told that the economy is strong, with unemployment at all-time low, most Americans do not have as much as a paycheck in savings and cannot withstand a major unplanned expense. Aside from the fortunate few who maintain an employer-supported 401(k), fewer workers have adequate savings for retirement. 

The functional cutoff point for being middle-class is whether the family has health insurance. Meaning real health insurance, as opposed to those predatory options that cost $600 dollars a month with $5000 deductibles, rendering them useful only in catastrophe.

One step, one inch at a time..and all by design. The squeeze on workers has been incremental and has unfolded over time, enabled by politicians who have dutifully passed the legislation handed them by the donors who own them. All leading to a pervasive sense of helplessness, and a collectively inability to imagine fixing what's broken: not only the flawed distribution of income, but larger issues like climate change. Complicated issues require long-term thinking, which is difficult to entertain when the wolf is at the door and you're figuring how to "stretch" your insulin to stay alive for the month.

A second generation of workers unable to save, living from paycheck to paycheck, and living in fear of uncertainty of the next missed paycheck comprise a new level of "precariat." Now swollen by 10 million federal workers, and sustained in part by spontaneous eruptions of generosity in the form of food pantries and relief efforts in evidence all over the country.


Two articles made similar points: that collapse American-style is already in progress and well on its way, the culmination of decades-long trends. The #Trumpshutdown brings those trends into relief.  

Why American Collapse Is Only Just Beginning (Not Ending)

Umair Haque describes Six Megatrends That Will Shape the Future, in terms readers of this website will recognize. He is not optimistic about summoning the political will to address the needs of ordinary people (working healthcare, higher education, safety nets, or retirement), because even  though those are what most Americans want, their efforts will run headlong into the waves of organized money marshaled to make sure such solutions never happen.   

The average American’s plight is so desperate that people in other rich countries can scarcely comprehend it. Dying from a lack of insulin? The elderly working at Walmart? Less than a week’s pay in savings? It sounds like a dystopian film, not reality. Yet this points to my second megatrend. American incomes have been flat since the 70s — but all the while, the basics of life, all the things above, from retirement to healthcare, have grown in price…

 

 

Authoritarians don’t need a majority — they never have, and that is foolish myth promoted by American intellectuals. It’s enough for fascists and tyrants to capture perhaps 30–40% of a nation to take over its institutions, norms, and future — because that 30% is like a wrecking ball, that can be used to intimidate, bluster, threaten, and bully (as long as the rest is split). That fringe, lunatic 30% now controls America wholesale — not just making any kind of progress not just impossible, but demanding wholesale regress: banning books, taking science out of schools, putting fundamentalist religion into public life, and so forth. That is my fifth megatrend, authoritarianism, and I am sorry to have to tell you that it will not stop with this President — it will continue, gain strength, and shape America for the foreseeable future…

…my sixth megatrend: ignorance. It is not just American economics, politics, society, and culture which have failed — at a deeper level, American thought has failed. Its intellectuals cannot explain decline, its pundits predict it, its gurus understand it, or its leaders fix it. That is because American ideas became ideologies — capitalism, individualism, aggression, cruelty, rationalism, selfishness, greed — which are all obsolete now.

Normalcy bias keeps us underestimating the breadth of financial stresses on our neighbors, and blind to the human toll of living with collapse with the wolf at the door. We become numb to the overwhelming despair, rage, and anxiety of living in a collapsing society. Many have responded to our neighbors' need with spontaneous outpourings of relief for the affected. But such decency can only deflect the trends of larger American society that is increasingly broke, and as unable to keep its promises as it is to maintain paved roads.


Daisy Luther's article, Here’s What an American Economic Collapse Could Actually Look Like, is worth the read. 

Image result for what american collapse could look like

When we think of “economic collapse” we think of the desperation documented in places like Venezuela or Greece. Starvation, lack of medical care, and waves of suicide by people who simply can’t cope: an apocalyptic breakdown that is immediately visible.

Here in America, Luther also notes collapse is gradual, It will seem like it’s just individual families having a hard time, with money problems out of our hands. The shutdown illuminates a financial divide getting larger. Expenses that are normal will soon become luxuries. How much of a stretch is it to imagine that no one will afford to pay their utility bills? 

Jefferson County in Alabama is the state’s most populous county and also its poorest. One of the poorest of those poor areas is Birmingham, Jefferson County’s largest city. Here water and sewerage bills have quadrupled in the last 15 years and with combined sewerage and water bills coming in at around $300 a month, this leaves the same amount out of the average social security check of $600 a month to cover everything else, food, clothing, and all other utilities. Low paid workers, of which there are many fare no better.

Many people have opted to buy drums of water from petrol stations rather than pay their ever increasing bills. They use these drums of water for drinking, washing and in their portable toilets which can be seen dotting back yards across the area, the modern version of the outhouse. They pay a fee to a sanitation company to remove the waste. It’s cheaper than letting the city take care of it.

Rather than expecting single vectors of large scale catastrophe, look closer to home.  Take a clear-eyed look at the decline that’s already at hand, then consider our options in a world where only rich people can afford electricity, running water and food all at the same time. As we remember that the average American lifespan has decreased for the third consecutive year, and that many fellow citizens find themselves living hand to mouth in a developing nation.


Two existential threats shadow these observations and pose existential threats to humanity:  the threat of nuclear war, with us since 1945. and environmental catastrophe, obscured by a propaganda system that tries to convince people that climate change is just a liberal hoax.

We find ourselves slipping bit by bit down the trajectory John Michael Greer has titled the Long Descent—the process by which every previous human civilization has ended in a dark age. Not something that can be stopped or reversed; merely observed as it unfolds. The normalcy bias noted above tells us that this is as bad as it can get— right? That things cannot possibly get much worse —  and at every juncture, we will go on being painfully wrong.

Collapse is not at hand in America. Collapse is here.


banksy 07-flower-thrower-wallpaperSurly1 is an administrator and contributing author to Doomstead Diner. He is the author of numerous rants, screeds and spittle-flecked invective here and elsewhere. He lives a quiet domestic existence in Southeastern Virginia with his wife Contrary. Descended from a long line of people to whom one could never tell anything, all opinions are his and his alone, because he paid full retail for everything he has managed to learn.

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

Responding to Collapse, Part 4: getting out of the city

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Published on The Easiest Person to Fool November 21, 2018

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Responding to Collapse, Part 4: getting out of the city

 
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In my last post I talked about the economic contraction that is being caused by declining surplus energy and the collapse which that contraction, combined with the effects of climate change (covered in the post before that), is likely to cause.

My conclusion was that we will have a good bit of adapting to do and it will be much easier to do in rural areas than in the cities. So I advised that, if you currently live in a city, you should be considering a move to the country. But I didn't go into much detail about this moving and adapting and now I intend to remedy that. I should give credit in advance to my friend Don Hayward for sharing with me his thoughts on the subject, and taking part in many good conversations that have allowed me to clarify my own thoughts. Similar credit is due to "Joe", from the comments section of this blog.

It will no doubt be obvious to my readers that I am figuring this out as I go along. Whether I've got it right is, of course, open to discussion. I also reserve the right to change my mind as I learn more.

In a post some months ago I expressed the opinion that the reduction in our impact on the planet following a major financial crash would be mainly a matter of drastically reduced levels of consumption, particularly in the developed world, and that there would not be a major reduction in population at that point. After considerable reflection, I have to say that especially in large cities, the combination of climate change and supply chain interruption following a global financial crash will lead to greater loss of life than I had previously thought. Of course it is hard to predict, but I think this will lead to an actual reduction in population, perhaps by a few billion people.

I still believe that planetary resources will still be sufficient to fuel some sort of recovery as we rebuild the virtual organizational systems lost in the financial crash on a smaller, more local scale. But if we don't learn to live sustainably, that recovery will see us plowing through the remaining resources and there will be another crash, an agricultural one, mainly effecting the more populous areas and reducing the population to a few hundred million. One thing I am pretty sure of is that the predictions of a world population of 9 to 10 billion later this century are not going to pan out.

I am still expecting a slow and irregular collapse. Even without the localized catastrophes that will no doubt happen, the contracting economy will lead to a slow crumbling of industrial civilization.

But now let's return to our scheduled programming, so to speak. The question for today is what sort of adapting am I talking about and why do I think it will be easier in well chosen rural areas?

For most people the hardest thing about collapse is facing up to the end of progress. Adapting to this big change in how we think about the world, and our lives in it, is challenging. But it can be done, and most of the effort takes place inside your head. So it doesn't much matter where you are for that part of the process. It does help if you have a supportive family and community around you, though of course that is true of anything you try to do.

But once you've decided that life is still worth living, you're faced with the many practical issues of staying alive in a collapsing world.

For most of us, staying alive means taking part in the economy—having a job or collecting a pension or the proceeds of investments, so as to have the money needed to procure the necessities of life. Since the economy is contracting fewer jobs are available and many people are unemployed, or "under employed" at best. Pension and investments are under some stress but not doing so badly, though a financial crash would certainly change that.

At the same time, in many locales, housing is getting more expensive and the ranks of the homeless are swelling with the unemployed and even the working poor, many of whom are living out of their vehicles.

That contracting economy also means that less money is being spent on maintaining infrastructure, which is gradually decaying as time passes. And in an effort to keep the economy growing, regulations intended to protect the environment are being repealed and efforts to cut back on the release of greenhouse gases and reduce climate change are being abandoned.

This means that what were once minor inconveniences will grow into catastrophes. Here is a brief and probably not complete list of such events:

  • The degradation of the natural environment due the load placed on it by the human race, mainly manifesting as climate change, ocean acidification and various other pollution related problems, as well as degradation of the environment due to resource use and habitat destruction.
  • Failures of the physical built human environment, mainly infrastructure— water supplies, the power grid, and transportation and communication infrastructure.
  • Failures of the virtual built human environment—economic contraction, financial crashes, failure of the credit systems which make commercial enterprises possible and have largely replaced cash for individuals, breakdown of governments as economic contraction starves them of financial resources, degradation of the fabric of our communities, social unrest, and war.
  • In some sense food is at the intersection of our natural, built and virtual environments, and as such, we can expect there to be problems in production, processing and distribution of food. These will lead to famines in many cases.
  • It also seems likely that there will be an increase in severe epidemics. I am not as well informed as I'd like to be about this, but it seems that hunger, poor sanitation and crowding in slums and refugee camps will be contributing factors.

So, we are going to find ourselves poorer and adapting to getting by with less. Less energy, less stuff and less stimulation, to borrow a phrase from John Michael Greer. This will mean a significant reduction in our level of comfort and convenience but given the high level of consumption in the developed world, there is quite a bit of room for this sort of adaptation. I think there is good reason to believe that many of us will survive, find a livelihood and maintain a sense of self worth even with drastically reduced consumption of energy and material goods.

When it comes right down to it, the bare necessities are energy, food and water. All three are going to be in short supply as collapse progresses over the next few decades, and those shortages will frequently lead to crises. The term "necessities" implies you can't adapt to such shortages, at least not in the long term. All you can do is try to be where they are less severe.

Cities rely on supplies shipped in from other locations. Before fossil fuels, the largest cities had populations of one million or a little more, and that only in ideal circumstances where water transportation made it possible to bring food in from a large enough surrounding area to feed that many people. Cities today rely on complex infrastructure powered by fossil fuels to supply their inhabitants. They will be in deep trouble as collapse progresses.

On the other hand there are many rural locations where:

  • adequate energy can be had locally in the form of firewood, which can be cut by hand if necessary
  • potable water can be accessed from already existing wells that can be converted to hand or wind driven pumps, or surface water that can be used with fairly simple filtration or treatment
  • sufficient food for the local population can be grown on existing farmland within walking distance of town, without fossil fuel powered machinery
  • the population is small enough that organizing such alternate arrangements will not be impossibly difficult to do when it becomes necessary.

This is the essence of why I think we will have a better time adapting to collapse in rural areas. Yes, it will require some degree of advance preparation and a willingness to accept a less affluent lifestyle, but it is all quite doable. As always, what I am recommending here as a viable response to collapse will only work if relatively few people follow my advice. But somehow, I don't think that will be a problem.

The standard trope in discussions of collapse and in collapse fiction is that the most extreme sort of catastrophe happens very quickly, widely and early in the process of collapse. Things break down pretty much completely over a period of days, and people are left thirsty, hungry and freezing in the dark. The sort of perfect storm it would require to have all this happen at once all across even one city, much less a whole country or continent is pretty unlikely in my opinion, though it does make for exciting stories.

After this fast and drastic collapse it is assumed that there will be roving hordes of hungry people leaving the cities to engage in looting and other violence in the countryside, leaving a trail of destruction behind them. But we should bear in mind that, even in the unlikely event of such a collapse, people can't walk far on empty stomachs, especially when they aren't used to walking much at all. Thirst and hunger are debilitating and in a fast collapse most people, caught unawares and unprepared, would not think to head out until they were already in pretty desperate shape. If this really were to happen, what you would end up with is piles of corpses along the sides of the roads, gradually thinning out as you get farther out of the city.

But of course, that is not the way I see it happening at all. Long before things have broken down completely, economic contraction will leave fewer and fewer people with jobs to keep them in the city. At the same time, infrastructure and supply chain failures will become more frequent and more lengthy, providing the nudge that people need to get them moving. First there will first be a trickle of people leaving the cities, mainly those who left the country to find jobs in the city in the recent past. Later on, there will be a wave of refugees leaving the cities following each new disaster.

While governments still have the wherewithall to do so, many of these people will end up in refugee camps. But as economic contraction eventually starves governments to the point where they simply don't have resources to do much of anything, those camps will stop being serviced and people will be left to their own devices, both in the cities and in the camps. And by the time things have broken down completely, there will only be a few people left in the cities.

The actual facts about how people respond to disasters paints a very different picture from what most people expect. There is a deep human need to come together in crises to take care of each other. And contrary to the horrific picture of typical reactions painted by the "disaster mythology" (especially points 2, 3 and 4 in that article), in fact communities often do come together to help themselves in the most extraordinarily positive ways. This works best in communities where people already know each other and where things haven't broken down to the point where there are hostile factions that are basically at war. And of course, it requires at least a minimum of the resources needed to keep people alive (energy, food, water). These resources are far more likely to be available outside the cities.

It has also been suggested, that when the financial sector crashes, the commercial sector must fall apart too for lack of working credit arrangements, and with catastrophic results. I don't agree—even a worldwide financial collapse will hit some areas harder than others and will proceed, as I have said before, unevenly, unsteadily and unequally.p>

From personal experience in agriculture and the power industry I would predict that the people at the workface in critical industries will simply refuse to set down their tools when the results would be disastrous, just because banks are no longer doing their part. Alternate credit arrangements will be set up, involving handshakes, records kept on paper and promises to straighten it all out after the dust settles, rather than let people freeze and starve in the dark if there is any alternative at all.

Make no mistake, I don't mean to suggest that "Business as Usual" can continue on after a major financial collapse using jerry rigged credit arrangements. But there is a vast distance between BAU in all its glory and complete collapse where everything quits working. There is a lot of inertia in the systems which we most need to keep working: the power grid, industrial agriculture, the various systems by which fuels, especially diesel fuel, are distributed, and transportation and communication. This sort of thing will mitigate to a degree situations that would otherwise be thoroughly catastrophic.

So, anyway, you're going to move to the country, to position yourself where surviving collapse is the more doable.

The first thing to decide is when you should make this move. Many people, who live in sheltered circumstances, don't realize that collapse has already been happening for quite a while and that parts of many cities are already nicely along their way in the process of collapse. And it appears that we are in for another financial crash that will make things much worse. You want to leave well before your personal resources have become so depleted that you can't make the move successfully.

So this is more urgent than you might think. Still, I'm not suggesting you leave in a panic today. But do start preparing right away, and leave as soon as you can do so in an orderly fashion with a workable destination already arranged. You don't want to end up in one of those camps. Nor do you want to end up as one of a large wave of refugees arriving in a rural community, especially if that community is unprepared for you arrival, as will likely be the case.

This is more than just a matter of getting out of the cities before things get really miserable there. It's going to take some time to get set up where you are going and to become integrated into your new community. At the moment, people are still leaving small rural towns to find work in the city, but the day will come when that flow reverses. You want to be seen as a relatively old hand in your small town when that happens.

One of the challenges of the slow and uneven collapse that I am predicting, and which has indeed been going on for several decades now, is that there is never going to be a day when you can say at bedtime, "yep, industrial civilization collapsed today." Looking back years later it will be more obvious that collapse has been happening, but still hard to pin down a specific date for when it happened, even in any one location.

If you are at ground zero for one of those catastrophes I listed, there will usually be somewhere else where things are better and you can go as a refugee. But waiting to be a refugee, or worse yet a victim of catastrophe, is exactly what I recommend you don't do. As I have said before, the only real choice you have is to be part of the influx of refugees or to be among of those who are welcoming that influx. I would say that the latter role is very much preferable. A timely move, before things get serious, can put you on the right side of things.

But where to go? In the second post in this series I identified a number of criteria for selecting a new location, based on avoiding the worst effects of climate change:

  • well above sea level
  • not at the top of a bluff overlooking the sea that is being gradually eroded away
  • not situated so as to take the full brunt of tropical storms
  • not in the floodplain of a river
  • not in a desert or semi-desert that relies on water from fossil aquifers that are being depleted faster than they are replenished or rivers fed by melt water from disappearing glaciers
  • not subject to hot season temperatures or heat waves that are not survivable if the power goes out or you can't afford air conditioning
  • receiving enough rain to allow for agriculture largely without irrigation
  • with a growing season and soil that will support agriculture

Now based on the need to get out of the city and find a location where adapting to post-industrial collapse conditions will be easier, we can add a few more criteria:

  • far enough from the city to avoid the worst of what's going to happen there and so that the waves of refugees will be largely spent and small in number when they arrive at your location, and to be isolated from epidemics as well
  • in a small town (a few hundred to a few thousand people) or on a farm near such a town
  • where the surrounding agricultural area can support the local population using low tech, sustainable agricultural methods
  • where there is still some standing timber, mainly for firewood, but also for all the many other things that can be done with wood
  • where the ground water or surface water is potable or can be made that way with simple filtration
  • where you have connections in the community, or where you can make those connections with some work hard
  • where you can initially earn a living or set up to live off your savings/investments/pension

There are a few things that such a community needs to be prepared to do and you should work toward being in a position to encourage that preparation. At some point the trucks are going to stop running. You'll need to get by on local resources.

  • Many small towns have a water treatment plant that relies on chemicals that are shipped in on a "just in time" basis. A stockpile of those chemicals and/or a plan for moving to an alternate source of potable water will be critical.
  • You will need a plan to feed the populace when the grocery store shelves are empty, using local farm products, so that people don't panic and start helping themselves to, and in the process destroying, the stock and crops on local farms.
  • It will only be a matter of time until your connection to the power grid fails. Firewood, wood burning stoves, lanterns and so forth will be in short supply and you'll want to be prepared.
  • While perhaps not quite so urgent, some thought should be given to how welcome refugees. This is on humanitarian grounds, if nothing else. A community that is willing to drive refugees away at gun point, will eventually be willing to treat its own member just as harshly. Your remote location should ensure you won't be overrun, that a manageable number of refugees show up. Your aim should be to treat these folks as well as you treat yourselves and, without abusing them, to turn them into a resource rather than a burden. You will be switching over to a lifestyle where people are needed to replace automation, so that shouldn't be too hard.

It would be excellent if the existing authorities were aware of what's coming and had plans to deal with it, but I should think that is pretty unlikely in most small towns. Better to get to know some of the locals, particularly farmers, well enough to be able to get together with them and organize what's needed when the time comes. If you set a good enough example, others will follow.

More on that, and other practical considerations, next time.

 

Responding to collapse, Part 3: Declining Surplus Energy

 

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Published on The Easiest Person to Fool on October 26, 2018

 
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In my last post I talked about responding to changes in our "natural" environment caused by climate change. Today I'll be talking about responding to changes in the human part of our environment, the part that we have created, both the "built" physical environment and the social environment.

We are social animals and also technological (tool using) animals. For the last few million years our ancestors evolved to live in groups and use technology. In one way of looking at it, our techniques for working together in groups are an organizational technology that greatly amplifies what we could do alone.

At any rate, for a long time now we have been dependent on technology—we certainly aren't much good alone, naked and empty handed. Technology needs energy to make it work and for most of our history that energy has come from food via muscles (human or animal), biomass (mainly firewood), and to a lesser extent wind, moving water and the sun. But over the last couple of centuries we've added cheap and abundant fossil fuels to that mix of energy sources. We've gradually become dependent on a global network of complex technology powered by those fuels for the very necessities of life.

This is a cause for concern—what if energy were to become more expensive and/or less abundant? As it certainly seems likely to do in the near future. Well, in short, the way we live would have to change, becoming less energy intensive, and it seems very likely that the planet would no longer be able to support so very many of us. It can barely support the number of us that are alive today, so this would mean a significant dieoff of the human population. And the climate change related problems we talked about last time will only make this worse.

Of course this is nothing new. I've discussed the ideas of carrying capacity, overshoot and dieoff many times over the years on this blog. But the devil, as they say, is in the details and if we are to discuss strategies for living through collapse, we need to look closely at those details.

The economy is a major and critically important part of the modern human environment and one that is fueled by energy, so I see depletion of fossil fuel energy resources (often referred to as Peak Oil) as the major challenge as far as the human built environment goes. To really understand that challenge, it is important to understand a bit about "biophysical" or "surplus energy" economics. Have a look at those links for more detail, but I'll try to explain in brief.

First, why is energy so critical to the functioning of the economy? Modern industrial processes are significantly more productive than the cottage industry of just a few hundred years ago, and it requires a lot of energy to make them work. The energy that drives these processes is worth far more in terms of the goods it produces than the price that industry pays for it. As such, energy is far more than just another commodity. And it must be abundant and cheap, if industry is to be profitable and the economy is to continue growing.

Second, why are fossil fuels such an important source of energy? Basically because they have been abundant, cheap and convenient to use. When I say cheap, I am not just talking about the cost in dollars, but in the amount of energy it takes to access fossil fuel energy. This is defined as the "Energy Returned on Energy Invested" (EROEI). Early in the twentieth century, when oil came into prominence as an energy source, it took just one barrel of oil to get 100 barrels of oil out of the ground—the EROEI was 100. The "surplus energy" was over 99% and this was a tremendous stimulus for economic growth.

Since we have developed fossil fuel resources on a "lowest hanging fruit" basis, the easiest to access, highest quality sources have gradually been used up. Modern oil discoveries rarely have an EROEI better than 10. Unconventional sources of oil, such as fracking and tar sands, have even lower EROEIs. And sadly, the renewable energy sources that are being considered to replace fossil fuels also have very low EROEIs. Even lower if you add in the energy storage required if intermittent sources like wind and solar are to be put into practical use.

The important thing to understand here is that there is a very clear link between the average EROEI of a country's energy sources and the strength of its economy. As that average EROEI goes down, industry starts to become less and less profitable. Below 15 this gets very serious—it becomes difficult to raise capital to start new endeavours and existing businesses find it hard to stay profitable. As the average EROEI decreases further, infrastructure replacement and even routine maintenance of infrastructure becomes difficult to fund. Industrial civilization starts to crumble and the kinds of heroic efforts it would take to save it are beyond its capabilities.

Conventional economists are blind to this and assume that as one energy source runs out, demand will successfully fuel efforts to find a substitute. Without a clear understanding of EROEI, evaluating the merits of such substitutes can be very difficult. Already we are seeing "energy sprawl" as wind turbines and solar panels are springing up everywhere, but with such low EROEIs that they are actually lowering the average EROEIs of the systems they are being added to.

Some people argue that there are huge reserves of unconventional fossil fuels, enough to last for centuries, "so where's the problem?" The problem is that these unconventional hydrocarbons have such low EROEIs that they are not a solution—pursuing them just makes things worse.

The same is true of nuclear fission—lots of fuel, but such a low EROEI (around 9) that it's no help. If at some point we manage to design practical fusion reactors, it is pretty clear that they will be so complex that their EROEI will be even lower than fission reactors, making the abundance of fusion fuel a moot point.

The essence of our situation here in the early twenty first century is that the problem of declining surplus energy doesn't have a solution. Of course, in addition to that underlying and insoluble problem, there are lots of things wrong with our social/governmental/economic systems that make the situation even worse. Definitely it would help to fix these problems, but it is important to keep in mind that, even if they were all fixed, everything wouldn't suddenly be OK—the main problem would still exist. And because of declining surplus energy, it's going to get harder and harder to fix anything.

So, what to do? Well, we just have to adapt to these new realities. Here I am going to borrow some ideas from Prof. Jem Bendell's essay "Deep Adaptation", particularly his three Rs.

Bendell is mainly concerned with climate change and after doing a review of the current findings of climate science, he concludes that "collapse is inevitable, catastrophe is likely and extinction is possible". Considering declining surplus energy and the resulting economic contraction as well as climate change leads me to the same conclusions, maybe more so. Even without any catastrophic events, the slow collapse of industrial civilization, brought on by the falling EROEI of its energy sources, is surely an inevitability. And we should be planning our response to such a slow and tedious collapse, which will require a great deal of adaptation to our new circumstances.

There are many forms of denial that people fall into when faced with the certainly of collapse. Not surprisingly, most people see their continued livelihood and their feelings of self-worth as being dependent on the possibility of ongoing material progress. This is the "religion of progress" which is so central to our modern society. Collapse, of course, means the end of material of progress, and immersion in a complex predicament beyond our control. Admitting this is even possible has, at least initially, a crushing effect on most people.

But, for those who have overcome their denial, Bendell's three Rs hold the key to successful adaptation.

First comes "Resilience". This means having the personal resources—emotional toughness to keep going in the face of collapse and the willingness to adapt to conditions that we have been taught are simply unacceptable (involving a significant reduction in our level of comfort and convenience). I am currently reading Resilience, by Rick Hanson, which gives an abundance of advice on achieving a greater degree of personal, internal resilience.

The alternative is to continue with denial, or having accepted the reality of the situation, give up and abandon any attempt to adapt. To do so is a great pity, since the situation is potentially survivable. Not to minimize the rigors of collapse, especially of the kind of dieoff we will eventually be facing, but there is good reason to think that some of us will survive, find a livelihood and maintain a sense of self worth even with drastically reduced consumption of energy and material goods.

In order to be among those who survive, resilience also involves having accumulated some physical and social resources which will tide us through when the system that currently supports us falls apart, allowing us to hang in there long enough so that we have a chance to adapt. These are the things we will decide we do really need to keep in order to meet our basic needs—safety, satisfaction and connection. Our ancestors did this for millions of years without the help of industrial civilization, so I think there is some chance we can do so as well.

Next comes "Relinquishment". This means deciding what we need to let go of in order to not make matters worse. Clearly, many aspects of modern industrial society cannot be sustained and will have to be abandoned.

Lastly comes "Restoration". This means deciding what can we bring back to help us with the coming difficulties and tragedies. In building our modern world there is much that we have set aside, old things that can brought back and put to good use in our low energy future.

I could spend one or more posts looking at the details of these three Rs, and it is likely that I will. I think there are many different approaches that should be tried, and of those, quite a few that will be successful to some degree. The main thing is that people actually give it a try.

So, we started out to have a closer look at the details of collapse in order to gain a better perspective on strategies for living through collapse and after it. I think an understanding of surplus energy's role in economics and the three Rs outlined above is a good start. But to delve deeper into this, I think we need to take a look at mankind's disturbing tendency to group together in ever large settlements. We tend to focus on the advantages of living in cities and to ignore what it takes to make a city work, how it can stop and what might happen when it does.

Cities rely on long supply lines and extensive infrastructure to supply their inhabitants. Our failure to maintain that infrastructure and its resulting decay is already leading to intermittent outages of services for which there is no local alternative. At some point the line between outage and catastrophe blurs and not long after that it becomes unavoidably clear that collapse is really happening.

Now I am a country boy, so perhaps I am biased, but it is my contention that cities are going to be very hard hit by collapse, even the sort of slow collapse that I am talking about. I think that escaping to a more rural area before collapse progresses much further would be a good idea.

The key question, though, is why do I think things will be any better in rural areas?

There is no doubt in my mind that the crises related to supplies of energy, water and food (the basic necessities), which will no doubt occur as industrial civilization crumbles, will effect rural areas just as much as urban ones. People in rural areas are just as much a part of "Business As Usual" as people in the city, just as dependent on long supply chains and complex systems. And when there are disasters, relief efforts are likely to be focused on large population centres, ignoring the rural areas just on the basis of what will help the most people with the least effort.

But we are already seeing the US federal government tapering back on relief efforts in response to hurricanes and passing the responsibility off to the private sector. There is little reason to believe they will do any better. And not far down the road local communities, be they urban or rural, will find themselves essentially on their own when the going gets tough.

The good news is that there are many rural areas where:

  • adequate energy can be had locally in the form of firewood which can be cut by hand
  • potable water can be accessed from already existing wells that can be converted to hand or wind driven pumps and surface water that can be used with fairly simple filtration or treatment
  • sufficient food for the local population can be grown on existing farmland within walking distance of town, without fossil fuel powered machinery

Sure, it will require some degree of advance preparation and a willingness to adapt our lifestyles, but it is all quite doable. This is not the case in the city, where local resources for self-sufficient living are simply not available.

When I speak of rural areas, let me make it clear that I am talking about small towns of a few hundred to a few thousand people, surrounded by farmland, not isolated farmsteads. It will take more than a single family or two to make this work. Indeed isolation is one of the most debilitating conditions that you can find yourself in as a human being.

During the last few decades neoliberalism, in its endless search for profit, has done its best to monetize every human relationship and to isolate individuals from each other. The declining economy is leading to increased under employment and unemployment, poverty and homelessness all of which stresses our communities and isolates their individual members. And civil unrest is growing as inequality between the upper and lower classes increases and the degree to which the lower classes are being abandoned becomes more obvious.

But many small towns are a long way behind cities on that curve and their communities are still intact enough that co-operation is possible when it becomes clear what is required. And during a slow collapse it will gradually become more clear what the situation really is. To enough people, at least, that those advance preparations will get made. Collapse aware people have an important role to play there.

For a long time now, young people have been moving from areas like the one where I live to the cities in order to get an education and find work. The day will come (as I understand it already has as conditions have worsened in Greece) when the situation in the cities will be so bad, they will start to come home to take advantage of the somewhat better situation in the country. They will be able to pitch in and help their families adapt to collapse.

So far I have been talking about adapting during a slow and steady collapse. But of course catastrophic events can by no means be ruled out. In particular, our financial systems are largely virtual and as such are subject to extremely fast collapse when they fail. They will be the first to go, and that will have a negative effect on everything else.

It appears to me that most real economic growth ended in the 1990s and since then growth has largely taken the form of financial bubbles, fueled by debt instead of energy. Those who have money are desperate to find somewhere to invest it at a good return, but profitable, growing businesses are becoming rare, so instead they invest in ever more speculative endeavours. That's fine as long as the price is going up, but every such bubble is looking for a pin to burst it. A few months ago I said that we can expect a financial crash of greater magnitude than 1929 or 2008, sometime in the next few years and nothing has happened since then to change my opinion.

Already we have had a minor spike in the price of oil, trouble for the currencies of emerging market countries, and some indication that the long running bull market may be coming to an end. We are in the middle of this and it isn't yet clear if this is the start of a recession, or if the economy will rally and put off the big crash for some months or years yet.

When that crash does happen, I think that even in cities most of the population will survive the initial days of a financial collapse, mainly because of heroic efforts on the part of individuals in shop floor and low level management positions in supply chain and infrastructure organizations. The people at the tops of those organizations will be largely paralyzed, or at worst doing exactly the wrong thing. But even a worldwide financial collapse will hit some areas harder than others and will proceed, as I have said before, unevenly, unsteadily and unequally. And that's a good thing, because it means when things get really bad locally, there may well be someplace to go where things are better.

I expect there will be some reduction in our population due to supply chain failures following financial crashes. But the big dieoff that lies ahead of us will happen when industrial scale agriculture (both conventional and organic) comes hard up against resource limits—mainly fossil fuels and mineral fertilizers.

Still, it is possible that in the wake of a financial crash the stereotype of a city full of people starving in the dark with no help in sight will occur occasionally. For the vast majority of the unprepared people in that city this will not a survivable scenario. For anyone who really has no other choice but to stay in the city for now, it might be best to have a few weeks of food, water, etc. on hand and plan to stay at home during such a situation, keeping a very low profile, until things settle down and only then head for the country.

But you and I, of course, will have long since moved to a small town at a safe distance from the city. The standard trope in discussions of collapse involves our little town being overrun with roving hordes of hungry people engaged in looting and other forms of violence. I think this is unlikely. The key is to be farther away from the city than most of its population can walk on empty stomachs, which is not that great a distance. Thirst and starvation are debilitating and most people will not think to head out until they are quite desperate.

A few people will no doubt make it through though. It is my opinion that it would be better for everyone involved to welcome them with food and medical assistance, rather than fight them off with guns. It will be a bit of a trick to be set up to do that and in my next post I will look at the practicalities of moving to a small town in the country and getting ready to cope as the pace of collapse increases.

 

Responding to Collapse, Part 2: Climate Change

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Published on The Easiest Person to Fool September 15, 2018

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These squash just climbed up and helped themselves to a seat.

The title for this series of posts started out as "Preparing for collapse", but in my last post I immediately went into a rant about how I see a hard, fast, world-crippling collapse as pretty improbable. What I'm observing instead is a slow collapse that has already been happening for several decades and will continue for several more, albeit with much the same end result as a fast collapse. KMO, one of my favourite podcasters and a follower of this blog, suggested a better title would be Responding to Collapse, and that's what I'll be using from now on. Thanks, KMO.

Of course, I expect that the degree of collapse will become more intense as time passes, and it is that which we should try to prepare for (or respond to). Times will become gradually harder and occasionally bad things will happen that make things quite a bit worse all at once. But things will be much worse in some areas than others and if you are clever you can arrange to be where you'll miss the worst of it. Though if you think you can arrange to miss all of it, you're kidding yourself.

Over the next few posts I'll be offering some rules of thumb for surviving collapse. But always remember not to follow any rule off a cliff. Look at your own current circumstances and adjust my ideas fit.

All of what I am suggesting here only works if the great majority of people ignore my advice or, more likely, never hear it in the first place. One of our biggest problems, now and for quite a while yet, is that there are too many people living on this planet. If a great many people where to head in the direction I am pointing, the advantage of being there would immediately go away.

This is already starting to play out in some parts of the world where things are getting bad enough politically, economically and/or climate-wise that many are leaving in desperation. I am talking about places like the Middle East, North Africa, Venezuela and to some extent even Puerto Rico, where people are leaving for the mainland U.S. in droves. As the numbers of refugees mount the welcome they receive gets less enthusiastic. But bear in mind that the only real choice you will have in this situation is to be part of the influx of refugees or to be among of those who are welcoming it. I would say that the latter role is very much preferable. A timely move, before things get serious, can put you on the right side of things.

And those of you who applaud their government for clamping down on immigrants and immigration, consider this: if your government is so ready to mistreat "those people", how long will they hesitate to treat you similarly when it becomes convenient? Better to take part in the political process (vote, as a minimum) and work towards a government with more humane and progressive policies.

Some of those bad things that might make you want to move will be caused by climate change and today I'd like to focus on the negative effects of climate change, specifically higher temperatures and changing rainfall patterns.

I should say in advance that if you are in denial about climate change, please go somewhere else where you'll be more welcome. I simply don't have the energy or inclination to engage with you. As far as I am concerned it's happening, we're causing it by adding CO2 and other greenhouse gases to the atmosphere, and it's going to get worse for quite a while yet. Especially since it doesn't seem like we are going to do anything about reducing green house gas emissions until collapse forces us to drastically reduce our use of fossil fuels and our level of consumption in general. At the same time, I give very little credence to those who talk about near term extinction of the human race. That's way too much of an easy way out, and little more than an excuse for inaction.

Much of how we have come to live over the last few thousand years was determined by the climate, which has been fairly stable and accommodating to the way we practice agriculture. Based on this, we have been a very successful species, at least if you judge by how we have spread over the planet and how our population has grown. During the last couple of centuries energy from fossil fuels has enabled us to become even more "successful". We have overcome some challenges that had previously been insurmountable and managed to feed an ever growing population.

The Green Revolution involved some "improved" plant varieties that give startlingly better yields in response to optimized irrigation, fertilization and pest control, all of which have been facilitated by the ready availability of cheap energy. Unfortunately, this has involved the use of non-renewable resources such as fossil fuels, the water in fossil aquifers, and deposits of potash and phosphorous.

We've managed to live and even farm in areas that were previously deserts. and we've been able to ship food from all over the world to areas where the population couldn't even remotely be supported by local agriculture. But the days of cheap fossil fuels, fertilizers and pesticides, abundant fossil water, and low cost worldwide shipping (with refrigeration as needed) are coming to an end at the same time as the climate is going crazy. We're are going to have to adapt as best we can.

So, let's have a closer a look at the consequences of climate change.

There is no doubt that the climate is warming worldwide and will continue to do so. That warming is much more intense in the high latitudes, leading to melting of major ice shields in Greenland and Antarctica. Mountain glaciers are also melting and disappearing at an alarming rate. To make matters worse, the water and land exposed by melting ice is much less reflective that the ice was and retains more of the heat from the sun rather than reflecting it back into space, leading to even more warming.

Ice is only about 89.5% as dense as sea water. This is why about 10% of the mass of an iceberg sticks out of the water, and why when ice floating in sea water melts, it does not change the level of the water. So the ice covering the Arctic Ocean will have no effect on sea level as it melts. But ice sitting on land does increase sea level when it melts and runs into the sea. This is true of the ice in Greenland and in mountain glaciers, and of much of the ice in Antarctica.

The loss of mountain glaciers also effects the way in which precipitation is stored and flows into rivers and we'll get to that in a moment, but for now, let's concentrate on sea level rise.

Interestingly, sea level isn't the same everywhere. When we speak of altitudes "above sea level" we are talking about "Mean Sea Level", which is an average level of the surface of one or more of Earth's oceans. But what we are concerned about here is the actual sea level at any particular location, and this can differ quite a bit from one location to another, and from one time to another, as the sea is in constant motion, affected by the tides, wind, atmospheric pressure, local gravitational differences, temperature, salinity and so forth. In addition to melting ice, sea level has been increasing during at least the last century as the oceans have heated up due to climate change. Further, many human settlements are built on river deltas, where subsidence of land contributes to a substantially increased effective sea level rise. This is caused by both unsustainable extraction of groundwater (in some places also by extraction of oil and gas), and by levees and other flood management practices that prevent accumulation of sediments from compensating for the natural settling of deltaic soils.

Here is an interactive map that illustrates what areas will be flooded as sea level rises. You can select the amount of rise and scroll around and zoom in to see the effect on the parts of the world that interest you most.

When I initially looking at that map, even with the sea level rise set to the highest level, it didn't seem all that bad—there will be lots of dry land left. But, zooming in and giving it a little further thought, I realized that the missing piece of information is what currently occupies the relatively small areas that would be flooded—a whole lot of people, many of whom are living in the world's largest and most economically important cities.

It's hard to nail down how many people will get their feet wet for any particular increase in sea level, but I did find one article that discusses this in some detail.

The writer says,

"Current estimates for the absolute maximum sea level rise, if the glaciers at both poles melted, range from 225 to 365 feet, with the latter being more likely accurate. If sea levels rose that much, coastal lands would be depressed several meters and transgressive erosion would also occur. So, for instance, even though Long Island has many points that are above 300 feet or so, none of it would survive the transgressive erosion because it is all glacial till. It is hard to extrapolate from the numbers above to a 100+ meter rise, and improper to do so, but consider that if the human population is concentrated near the seas, and 10% live below the 10 meter line, then it is probably true that well more than half live below the 100 meter line, and many more within the area that would be claimed by the sea through erosion and depression."

But while all that ice may well melt eventually, most sources predict that sea level will only go up a few feet during this century. That would be less destructive, but even moderate increases in sea level combined with more severe and more frequent storms, and with tides (if the timing of those storms is bad), will result in previously unheard of damage to seaside settlements. We've already seen some of this with Katrina, Sandy and several storms (Harvey, Irma, Maria) in the fall 2017, that hit the Gulf Coast, Puerto Rico and Florida. As I write this, Hurricane Florence is heading for the Carolinas. It promises to last longer and bring with it a lot of rain due to the unusually high temperatures associated with it

Clearly, you'll want to be away from the seashore. But you don't want to jump from the pan directly into the fire, so we need t look at what other climate change related problems you might face farther inland. In an attempt to increase the content value of this post, I found some more maps which illustrate the effect climate change is going to have over the coming decades.

Climate change is a global problem, but in my search it became obvious that quite a lot more information is available for the U.S. and Canada, and since many of my readers are from North America, I'm including some of that information here.

Looking at those maps and a lot of other study led me to the following conclusions:

Tropical storms can do quite a bit of damage fairly far inland—look at what Maria did to Puerto Rico—even the mountainous inland parts of the island. This is something to take into consideration if you currently live in the Caribbean, near the gulf coast of the U.S. or near the eastern board of the U.S. Tropical storms in the Pacific and Indian Oceans are not something we hear much about in the mass media in North America, but they do happen and have lots of potential for damage to human settlements. If you live where this happens you're probably well aware of it and can take it into account in your plans.

People are often proud of the way they have managed to rebuild after storms, and this is fine if you're talking about storms that only happen once a century or so. But as storms become more frequent the financial resources to rebuild every few years will dwindle away. The best time to move is when things have recovered nicely from the most recent storm, but well before the next one. Of course, if it looks like recovery isn't going to happen, then it's time to get out, regardless of the cost.

It always astonishes me the way people are willing, perhaps even eager, to build or move into accommodation on the floodplains of rivers. The story is always that the river floods only very rarely and hasn't flooded in a long time. Now that sounds to me like a promise that flooding can be expected shortly even without climate change. But as climate change brings more violent storms even outside the tropics and changes in the pattern of precipitation and spring melting of the winter snow pack, more frequent floods are a certainty. So don't be fooled when moving into a new area—stay away from floodplains and areas likely to be undercut by erosion.

Heat waves are becoming more common everywhere, but particularly in the tropics. Many areas will eventually get to the point where they will be uninhabitable for large parts of the year if you don't have air conditioning or housing designed to cope. As always, the poor will be hardest hit.

The lack of water can be just as much of a problem as too much.

Already deserts are expanding and they will continue to do so, consuming the semi desert areas surrounding the desert where people have been living and are now forced to leave. This is already happening in North Africa and the Middle East and is the root cause of a lot of political unrest.

Droughts are becoming more common and are striking areas that traditionally have not suffered droughts. The Pacific Northwest, including California and British Columbia, is one such example. Even areas such as the one where I live, which is getting slightly more precipitation overall, are suffering from changes in when the precipitation happens. In the case of southern Ontario, we're getting more precipitation in fall, winter and spring but less in the summer. This is a problem for agriculture hereabouts, which has traditionally relied on getting a sufficient rain in the summer.

There are areas in the southwest of the U.S. that have traditionally been seen as deserts, but during the twentieth century were made to bloom, using water from pump from fossil aquifers and rivers dammed and diverted. Unfortunately the aquifers are just about depleted and all the water in the rivers is being used while demand still grows. As precipitation decreases and temperatures increase even at higher altitudes, there is less accumulation of snow and glaciers melt away, meaning that rivers fed by melting snow and ice run dry earlier in the summer, if they run at all.

There is a great deal to be said about areas outside of North America, but this would require a lot more research on my part and delay the publication of this post even more. But I was reading recently that Spain and Portugal are experiencing a severe drought, and it is expected to get worse.

People have difficultly responding rationally to these sorts of problems. Slowly increasing temperatures, slowly rising sea levels and slowly spreading desertification are the kind of thing that we tend to let future generations worry about, thinking it's not going to happen here, not just yet anyway. Then one day it does happen and many are caught unprepared.

Catastrophes that happen irregularly and unpredictably, like storms, heat waves, droughts and forest fires, are the kind of thing we live through and convince ourselves won't be happening again anytime soon. But as climate change progresses, they will become ever more frequent and more difficult to recover from.

Don't be caught in denial—where ever you are, you'll be experiencing some negative effects from climate change. But in some places, those effects will be overwhelming and the only viable response is to move away. Better to be well ahead of the rush. If you own property, better to get it sold while there are still buyers who haven't caught on to what's happening.

So, you're looking for a place that is, and will continue to be:

  • well above sea level
  • not at the top of a bluff overlooking the sea that is being gradually eroded away
  • not situated so as to take the full brunt of tropical storms
  • not in the floodplain of a river
  • not in a desert or semi-desert that relies on water from fossil aquifers that are being depleted faster than they are replenished or rivers fed by glacial melt water
  • not subject to hot season temperatures or heat waves that are not survivable if the power goes out or you can't afford air conditioning
  • receiving enough rain to allow for agriculture
  • with a growing season and soil that will support agriculture

In addition to the problems caused by climate change, the other two main concerns of this blog (resource depletion and economic contraction) are going to see most of us becoming quite a bit poorer, and not relying on anything that uses much energy, including shipping things in from far away. Most of our own food will have to be grown locally and the smaller amount of "stuff" we consume will be made locally.

In a future post (coming soon) I'll be talking about coping with the challenge of finding and fitting into a community that can survive under these conditions. For now I'll just say don't assume that collapse will relieve you of the necessity of earning a living in the growth based capitalist economy. It's going to take a long time to switch over to a low energy, low consumption, non-growth economy and in the meantime, most of us will have to keep a foot in both worlds, and initially mainly in the currently existing world.

So any plan for a move will have to take into account the necessity of earning a living where ever you go. You may well find that the pressure of earning a living pushes you in the opposite direction from what collapse related planning would indicate is best.

Next time I'll look at the socio-economic side of things—the problems caused when we are surrounded by too many people and by too few, often at the same time.

 

This Week in Doom, October 7: It’s Ovah


That-Was-The-Week-That-W-That-Was-The-Week-473964gc2smFrom the keyboard of Surly1
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Originally published on the Doomstead Diner on October 6, 2018

“Unimpaired prosperity cannot withstand a single blow; but he who has struggled constantly with his ills becomes hardened through suffering; and yields to no misfortune; nay, even if he falls, he still fights upon his knees.”
― Seneca, "On Providence" (II, 6-10)


So Bart O'Kavanaugh has been steamrolled onto the Supreme Court, the crowning achievement of Mitch McConnell and the cult of vicious, old, white bigots now known as the Republican Party. The lying racist traitor in the White House nominated a lying, movement-conservative hit-man to the Supreme Court, whose nomination was a sham orchestrated by a smirking reptile willing to break the Senate. McConnell was willing to go to any lengths to tip the Supreme Court for a generation and secure Karl Rove's "permanent Republican majority" against any reform laws that might be passed by some future Democrat Congress.

Orange Jesus enjoys 85 per cent approval among Republicans, even as those who identify as Republicans shrinks to 26 per cent of the electorate. What that will mean in the coming midterms is anybody's guess..

Give mad props to Trump: he understands his marks, a base of pimple-backed mouth breathers certain that no matter how low their circumstances, they are still better than women. The GOP has constructed an entire political party out of such swamp creatures, and nourished it by feeding their rage and paranoia.

They love Trump's utter shamelessness about sex, money, and basic human decency. When the Kav nomination seemed to be wavering, he stood up a rally in Mississippi where he went against the advice of counselors and openly mocked Dr. Christine Blasey Ford.  As a creature of television, Trump knows audiences. And that where he goes, the cameras must follow, and that his most outrageous pronouncements will be excerpted and repeated, repeated, repeated on the cable news programs that exist as filler to hold aloft pods of commercials for reverse mortgages, dick pills and psoriasis meds.

Give Trump credit for dragging this nomination over the finish line by putting steel in the spines of a handful of wavering senators out of step with the GOP's geriatric junta. Loathsome homunculus Mitch McConnell (R-Tartarus) gave full credit to "the mob:"

“We refused to be intimidated by the mob of people that were coming after Republican members at their homes, in the halls. I couldn't be prouder of the Senate Republican Conference."

McConnell had the audacity to thank the grassroots activists who spoke out against Brett Kavanaugh's sham confirmation as part of a "mob" who has finally energized the GOP's base for 2018, "the one thing (the R's were) having trouble doing." Whether or not he remains grateful on November 7 remains to be seen.


Sens. Susan Collins and Jeff Flake Are Frauds, Plain and Simple. Their Kavanaugh Votes Show It.

The demand for the FBI to investigate, as Splinter’s Rafi Schwartz observed last week, was “a classic Jeff Flake move to cover his ass.” It was a fig leaf and a nod to process to get Flake, Collins and Murkowski in line. The investigation spoke only to nine witnesses, Ramirez and a phalanx of Kavanaugh frat boy friends, who observed the code of Georgetown Prep omertà and said nothing. They did not speak to Blasey Ford, Julie Swetnick, or to the dozens of others who desperately called offering corroborating information.

Anyone who expected anything other than a "yes" vote from Jeff Flake (R-Handwringing) or Susan Collins (R-Hypocrisy)  was kidding themselves. Flake received enough phone calls threatening his prospect of post-Senate guaranteed lobbyist employment to bringhim to his knees. And Collins raised a brief murmur of self-importance on Friday to make the most of selling out her female constituents. Her vote has already raised $2.5 million for her as yet-unnamed Democrat challenger. 

Topher Spiro observed that

"To Flake” is now a political verb: “to make speeches, tweets and gestures only to be a coward when it truly matters”

Medhi Hasan of The Intercept put it best

Never again believe Sens. Susan Collins, R-Maine, or Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., when they claim to be critics of Donald Trump or posture as “moderate” Republicans.

Never again let the media call them the “swing” voters in the Senate or “our best hope for profiles in courage in Congress…”

The debate is over: Collins and Flake are frauds, fakes, pretenders. Their high-minded claim to bipartisanship was always an act; a (melo)dramatic performance. Unlike their fellow so-called swing voter Sen. Lisa Murkowski — who will vote against Kavanaugh thanks, in part, to “Alaska’s complicated politics” — Collins and Flake were never going to oppose Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court.

Perspective: remember that Collins has voted with Trump 79 percent of the time — or 4 out of every 5 votes. Flake has voted with Trump 84 percent of the time.  Alligator mouth, hummingbird ass.

The votes of Flake and Collins flatly assert they didn't believe Blasey Ford. But men never believe the women. Ask any victim of sexual assault who has reported the crime. This simple fact has fueled the #MeToo movement, and has enraged men. Trump and his idiot son, Donnie Half-Scoop, were on the trail last week procliming that American men are under attack. Just running the tried-and-true right wing playbook: reflexive snap into the victim pose when caught out, then attack-attack-attack. This invariable follows lie-and-deny-deny-deny. As for the aftermath of pent-up "rage" of female voters as November approaches, who can say? 

Jessica Valenti observes the disconnect across the gender divide in Kavanaugh is the Face of American Male Rage. One in six women is sexually assaulted in the US. The assault marks a woman's life, and often expresses itself in addictions of various kinds, sexual promiscuity, trust issues, difficulties in future relationships, and occasional blasts of volcanic anger. 

 Even as women calmly and expertly explain the ways in which men have hurt us, our pain is immediately drowned out and glossed over by men’s belief that they should not have to answer to us, of all people.

One of the cruel ironies of sexual assault and harassment is that the traumas which frequently inform the trajectory of women’s lives are often not even worth remembering to the men who have inflicted them. And are certainly worth denying, when a job is on the line.


Great Leaps in American Collapse

Umair Hague is quickly becoming one of the more dependable writers documenting American collapse, joining emigre Morris Berman in his assessment that we Americans are on the collapse clock. He traces the escalating sense of unease, lack of faith in institutions, and the falling dominoes of ruinous decisions that have led us to the current era of "smash-and-grab" looting beloved of fascists and their apologists.

Umair notes that in a the same week we have installed an "accused rapist as a Supreme Court justice for life, the Nobel Peace Prize goes to a man and a woman who’ve fought to define mass rape as a war crime. It’s vivid evidence: the world’s richest country is a ruinously failed state, plunging into an authoritarian abyss."

As Americans, we are so relentlessly propagandized and bought into our founding myths, we can no longer discern reality.

"One of the greatest ironies of American collapse is that American leaders thought that it was defeating the terrorists which would give Americans a sense of safety. But predatory capitalism was producing a greater feeling of unsafety, threat, danger, the sense of living in a hostile, unsurvivable world, among Americans than cave-dwelling terrorists ever really could. America beat the terrorists — but it never beat the capitalists." 

Before Haque came along,.Morris Berman had traced the Great American Unwind across a series of books. Decline started with Reaganomics, when we learned that "government was the problem," and we stopped investing in ourselves . As a result, by the 90s we lived shorter, poorer, uglier lives than Europeans, And then 9/11 happened, resulting in another decade of underinvestment while sieving off small fortunes for war profiteers and fortunate sons. Few societies survive such cannibalization of resources for long. At its height, Rome had 33 foreign bases;  today the US maintains over 1,000.

When the history of American collapse is written, I think it will be seen as a series of great leaps, which punctuated slow, steady erosions, corrosions, and crumblings. In norms and values, among institutions and expectations, of rules and responsibilities — until at last democracy itself was a smoking, belching wreck, and in its place arose every kind of backwardness, from authoritarianism and kleptocracy to theocracy and fascism.

American hegemony has resulted in a world where people no longer feel safe. Infrastructure and systems crumble around us, the chance to live a better life fades, and no past promise is guaranteed to be negotiable in the future. Even those able to put aside some crumbs for the future have no guarantee they won't outlive their savings, or that their small sums will be safe from inflation or currency debasement. American society has becomes a kind of jungle, a war of all-against-all, where it’s every man and woman for themselves, and the big fish eat the smaller.  

Smash-and-grab late stage capitalism has resulted in heavier burdens borne by the productive class while social mobility has eroded. My wife has observed that time was when a well-turned out young women with confidence and a gift of gab could talk her way into most any party. Today such a woman would never get past the bodyguards. With commoners divested from a financial stake in the system, and political power concentrated in an oligarchy shaking them down for pocket change and waiting to steal the coins from the eyes of their corpses, one wonders who will be eager to fight the next war.

Another recent post from Umair, Why America’s a More Violent Society Than You Think. is also on point.

"Americans aren’t just at the risk of being shot, or their kids shooting each other — they’re forever at the brink of of losing their livelihoods, homes, belongings, incomes, families, health, and even their lives. Bang! Gone. The spectre of ruin, just one step away, is relentless, and it never ends, tires, or changes. Hence, the average American lives his whole life under an ever-present billy-club of threat and intimidation — of genuine and very real violence befalling them, if they’re not 'productive' or 'useful' or 'employable' (or even 'healthy' or 'strong' or 'young') enough."

And he sounds very Berman-like when he says

… the U.S. is first & foremost a business and the vast majority of its citizens are brainwashed to believe hustling, opportunism, hyper-individualism, and climbing the ladder are exemplary "qualities."

For those interested in Morris Berman and what he is up to, he has released a new book, "Are We There Yet," which consists of a collection of lectures, unpublished essays and reflections on the continued decline of American Empire. Berman has been living in Mexico since 2006, and writes and speaks at length about the sense of community found in Mexico and so missing in the US with its culture of "hustling."

In a recent podcast interview   Berman said 

Sociologists who've written about how in America the religion is America itself… it doesn't matter how good your empirical data are, people caught in the mythology of the "American dream” will  not change their mind based on any factual material. In the industrialized or industrialized world in terms of health care quality, America's number thirty-seven. Most Americans believe it's number one! It's a debacle, a tragedy.

These kinds of facts don't matter and that's when their faces get red they start to spit and wave their arms because they understand that some level that you've got the fact all they've got is the myth and the myth is thin by now.

America will have tried everything to salvage the Empire to no avail and its foreign interventions will continue to fail. Like Alfred McCoy and others, Berman sees the next 2008-style event coming in 2020-21, then the Crash From Which There is No Recovery in 2026. Interestingly, a number of those interested in the question of civilizational decline have all come to the same conclusion independently and almost precisely to the same years.

When asked what he would tell young people asking about their futures, Berman replied

I would say that leaving the country is a sign of great intelligence.

I give lectures and young people come up to me and they say, "what should I do, what should I do," and I say, "Look you're not going to take my advice but I'll give it to you straight.  One of the best things an American can do is emigrate.

What do you think is waiting for you forty years down the line? 40 years in the future:, we will be at war with a country on the other side of the planet that poses no military threat to us whatsoever and will have spent ten trillion dollars. Doing it, we're going to loot the Treasury for no good reason at all. There will be no social safety net, no social security, no Medicare, no Medicaid, none of that will be available to you. And if you're lucky enough to get a job (which will probably be flipping burgers at McDonald's), you're not going to be able to retire because you're not going to be paid enough to be able to afford private health insurance, food, a car, a house.

Whatever you think, you will not be able to retire and you'll die like a dog. Now it's up to you whether you want to stick around. But… forty years from now you're going to say, "You know some guy came to our college when I was an undergraduate and we thought he was a nut case, and he told us all of us that we should emigrate, and now I'd give my left arm to have taken his advice."

Of course the question that remains is, "Go where?"


Surly1 is an administrator and contributing author to Doomstead Diner. He is the author of numerous rants, screeds and spittle-flecked invective here and elsewhere. He lives a quiet domestic existence in Southeastern Virginia with his wife Contrary. Descended from a long line of people to whom one could never tell anything, all opinions are his and his alone, because he paid full retail for everything he has managed to learn.

Preparing for Collapse, A Few Rants

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Published on The Easiest Person to Fool July 25, 2018

Discuss this article at the Kitchen Sink inside the Diner

Beans and Squash in My Front Yard Garden

For a while now I been promising that when I got some other things out of the way, I'd actually talk about preparing for collapse. And that is just what I'm going to be doing in this and the next few posts.

Unfortunately, my crystal ball isn't any better than anybody else's, probably worse than some. What I'll be recommending will reflect my own biases and weaknesses. But even so, I think I do have some insights that will be of value to many people.

Among these insights are a few things that I feel the need to rant about. Let's get that out of the way first.

Rant 1: A Fast and Hard Collapse, NOT

I should admit that by using the phrase "preparing for collapse" I am really being somewhat misleading. As I see it, collapse is not a single event that will occur at some point in the future, but a process that has already been going on for several decades, since the oil shocks of the 70s. Progress has been coasting slowly to a stop while collapse gains momentum. This will continue.

I certainly don't buy into the whole idea of a hard, fast, apocalyptic collapse. That is a fantasy that allows us to imagine getting rid of many of the less pleasant aspects of modern life all at once. Get it over with and start fresh, so to speak. In particular, I think many people see the complete and final collapse of the financial system as freeing them from oppressive debts and jobs they hate. A pretty drastic way to solve those problems….

And of course many of us have been influenced by apocalyptic fiction. A sudden and cataclysmic event certainly sets the stage for a dramatic story. But let's try to keep reality and fiction clearly separated in our thinking here.

At any rate, what I want to talk about is how to survive the slow and unsteady collapse that I believe we are experiencing, so that is what I'm going to do. There is much less to be said about surviving hard, fast, widespread collapse because it is much harder to do and there are fewer strategies that are likely to succeed. Still, much of what I have to say would apply to some extent, should I turn out to be wrong and things all fall apart all at once.

As I have said before this that collapse has been and will continue to be uneven geographical, unsteady chronologically, and unequal socially. Certainly there will occasionally be sudden downward bumps, but in some locations more than others and effecting various social strata differently. And then there will be a partial recovery and things will carry on for a while, somewhat worse than they were before.

This will continue on for quite a few more decades before we finally reach the bottom and the dust begins to settle. At that point, in a few lucky locations, there will still be people arguing that nothing much has really changed. For most of us, though, it will be clear that a great deal has changed and not for the better. Already the world is significantly different than it was when I was young and the strategies that served well in those days are not something I would recommend now.

Perhaps most importantly, we'll need to recognize that collapse is happening and act appropriately rather than carrying on doing the same old thing, trying to fine tune a system that is fundamentally broken and wondering why things don't improve.

Rant 2: Lifeboats and Eco-Villages, NOT

For quite a while yet it will not be feasible for most of us to completely sever our ties with BAU (Business as Usual). We'll find ourselves going in two directions at once, trying to prepare for collapse while still being dependent for many of the necessities of life on the very system that is collapsing. Of course, part of our preparation will consist of reducing key dependencies. But it is challenging to reduce those dependencies when BAU can supply our needs for less than they can be produced locally. This makes it hard to earn much of living as a local, sustainable producer—the prices you have to charge mean that only those who are well off can afford to indulge themselves with your products.

Many have suggested setting up a lifeboat community or an eco-village in a remote location and waving BAU goodbye. Some days it is tempting, but there's a long list of problems with that approach. It's hard to find a group of people who are both interested, willing to sever their ties with BAU and competent. It costs a lot of money to set up such a project. There are getting to be fewer and fewer remote areas that BAU has not claimed and/or spoiled, and where the locals would welcome you. Those that are left are less than ideal (to cold, too hot, too dry, too wet, poor soil, etc.). In any area where farming is feasible, there are likely to be property taxes and building codes. So you can't completely withdraw from the money based economy if you are going to pay your taxes, and it may be difficult to build the way you'd like to without running afoul of the building code.

Better to reconcile ourselves to having a foot in both worlds for now, and whole heartedly become a part of the communities in which we find ourselves living. We can quietly prepare for the day when BAU is more obviously faltering and local production can compete successfully. Of course some communities are more suitable for this than others.

Rant 3: Renewable Energy and Eco-Modernism, NOT

There are some people who recognize problems like peak oil and climate change but think they can be solved by switching over to high tech, low-carbon renewables (mainly wind and solar) and re-organizing things to be more efficient, allowing us to go right on with a green washed version of BAU, and keep the economy growing. These folks don't understand the economic problems with the low EROEI of renewable energy sources, or the degree to which those energy sources are dependent on fossil fuels for their manufacture, installation, operation and maintenance.

Eco-modernism is a particularly egregious example of a plan to fix our problems using technology. It relies on the idea of absolute decoupling. That is, being able to reduce our impact on the resource base and environment while still improving our standard of living and allowing the economy and our population to grow. So far, our best efforts have only achieved a small amount of relative decoupling. That is, at best, increases in population and standard of living have led to slightly less than proportional increases in impact, but nothing approaching decreases in impact.

Looking realistically at what technology can do, I find it hard to see how it could be otherwise and expect that collapse will force us to reduce both our population and level of consumption. At such lower levels of consumption, energy use and technology, renewable energy sources such as biomass, wind, moving water and passive solar will no doubt supply essentially all of the energy we use. But nowhere near enough to support the sort of high tech industrial civilization we have today.

Rant 4: Violence, NOT

Violence is another area where ideas based on apocalyptic fiction are likely to lead you astray. Conflict is necessary to make a story move along, and a long tradition of collapse porn saturated with interpersonal and inter-group violence has lead many people to see that as the only way things can unfold. Food becomes short, the "have-nots" go after the "haves" and mayhem ensures. This may make good reading, but it's not so much fun in reality, and certainly not something I'm interested in.

So, I am not a survivalist, and you won't find me talking much here about security and defense. There are lots of other sources of that sort of information, if it interests you. I'm more interested in not being where the fighting is likely to break out and setting things up in the community where I am so that co-operation is a more likely outcome than serious conflict. Like giving people better alternatives than violence, meeting them with food rather than guns. The trick is being able to do so.

Rant 5: Back to the Good Old Days, NOT

A number of well known voices in the "collapse sphere" have claimed that recent advances in social justice such as feminism and equal rights for LGBTQ people are likely to be rolled back during collapse. The argument is that these freedoms are possible only in a society with lots of surplus resources. These guys are men who are obviously uncomfortable with what they see as disadvantageous changes to the power structure of our society. They have a socially conservative fantasy of collapse putting them back in charge. But really, that is not the way it works.

First of all, while we will be returning to levels of energy use and material consumption that were common one or two or even more centuries in the past, it isn't really possible to go back to the way things were then. We are starting from a different place, we know a lot of things now that we didn't back then, and formerly oppressed people who have been given a chance at equality aren't going to give it up so easily.

Second, if you look across the world and throughout history, the patriarchy is far from universal and many societies working at very much lower levels of consumption than ours have functioned quite well as matriarchies or anarchies. A patriarchy is neither the most natural way to organize human societies nor the most efficient.

I am an old white guy too, if I can accept social changes, so can you.

Rant 6: Saving the World, NOT

Some have accused me of being out to save the world. It's pretty clear that by the world, they mean "Business As Usual" and in my opinion that world needs not to be saved, but to be shut down as quickly as possible. Sadly, this isn't going to happen voluntarily. Too many powerful people and institutions have a vested interest in keeping things going as they are. Heading straight toward collapse, in other words. A collapse that will see a drastic reduction in human population and consumption of resources per capita. This isn't going to be much fun to live through and many of us won't. The only good thing about it is that it will be the undoing of the very system that caused it. And when it is over it may be possible to continue on in a more modest, less destructive way.

Rant 7: Crunchies and Woo

I've noticed lately that posts on this blog often draw positive comments from people who go on to make it clear that they are "Crunchies" who believe in one sort or another of idea that isn't supported by the evidence, that isn't reality based—what I call "woo". After they've said such nice things to me, I always feel bad having to break it to them that I don't agree. Most of these folks are organic farmers or gardeners, who have bought into the "naturalistic fallacy" and think that everything that's natural must be good for you. In fact the products of organic farming and conventional farming about equal in terms of safety these days. That's good news for the many people who can't afford pricey organic food and don't have a garden to grow their own. The bad news is that both conventional and organic farming are also about equally unsustainable, mainly due to their reliance on energy from fossil fuels. We need to develop a "sustainable farming" that's based on science, not woo.

The tagline for this blog is "A reality based approach to life in the age of scarcity." When I use the terms "evidence based" or "reality based", I mean ideas that are supported by the scientific consensus. Many people today unfortunately believe that the scientific consensus supports BAU, and that's no wonder since BAU does its best to encourage that view. Fortunately, it's not true. The scientific consensus support some things on the Crunchy side and some things on the BAU side, because those things happen to be true. The scientific method is an excellent tool for filtering out biases, political or otherwise. There really isn't any good reason for ignoring its results.

But to be clear, comments from Crunchies of every sort are welcome here, just be aware of what the project of this blog really is and, that if you are pedlling woo, you'll get a gentle but firmly negative response.


But enough ranting for now. Time to talk about what we can do to prepare for the continuing process of collapse. We need to anticipate where current trends are taking us, and harder still, when things as likely to reach a tipping point and changing more drastically.

First off, I'd say that if you are new to this, give it a year or so to sink in before making any big decisions, and don't do anything rash in the meantime. Then you may want to consider some changes in the way you are living. What those changes might be will be the subject of my next few posts.

We'll be considering the following subjects, and probably a few more:

  • where you want to be—where bad things are less likely to happen
  • who you want to be with—people you know, trust and can work with
  • what you are doing—something that can support you, and allow you to develop the skills and accumulate the resources you will need

While waiting for my next post (these things often take a while), here are a few links to articles which may be of help:

On this blog:

Sharon Astyk hasn't been very active as a writer lately, but her earlier writings are a great source of practical advice on "Adapting in Place", which is exactly the sort of preparation I'd advise you to do.

This Week In Doom, Sept.9: Crazytown


That-Was-The-Week-That-W-That-Was-The-Week-473964gc2smFrom the keyboard of Surly1
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Originally published on the Doomstead Diner on September 9, 2018

“Real power is, I don't even want to use the word, fear.”

 ― Donald Trump, interview with Bob Woodward, 2016  


This was a week in which the pace of bizarre and unsettling news swirling through the White House could only be described as "epic," a thesaurus full of superlatives thus drained. Excerpts from Bob Woodward's book, “Fear: Trump in the White House,” dropped, with the usual eruptions of "Lies!" and "Fake News!" uttered by the usual suspects. The book, which will be officially released on 9/11, promises to be a devastating, meticulously researched account of the Trump Presidency. This is Woodward's eighth book on a President; over 40 years, few have challenged his veracity. The book will be consulted as a first draft of the history of these dark times.

Major takeaways are that the work culture of Trump's White House is so toxic and volatile that many of 45’s top staffers are in the habit of working around a scattered, unstable and uninformed boss.

Trump has been floundering and reacting out of stress as a result of the Russia investigation and related probes. "Fear" was the first of a one-two punch, followed up by the "Anonymous" op ed published in the NYT.

 5 Takeaways From Bob Woodward’s Book on the Trump White House outlines key points, with few surprises:

  • The Russia investigation is a constant source of anxiety for Mr. Trump, and his lawyers.
  • Mueller engaged in lively conversations for months with Mr. Trump’s lawyers.
  • He's as ill-informed as you think: Trump’s advisers are repeatedly stunned by his lack of interest in and knowledge of major issues. 
  • Trump himself was not a primary source for the book.
  • John F. Kelly, the chief of staff, quickly soured on Mr. Trump

White House press secretary perpetual-motion-lie-machine Sarah Huckabee Sanders channeled her best Tammi Wynette with the usual dispatch:

“This book is nothing more than fabricated stories, many by former disgruntled employees, told to make the president look bad… Democrats and their allies in the media understand the President’s policies are working and with success like this, no one can beat him in 2020 – not even close.”

At least she's consistent. Trump was in rare form:

“The book means nothing, it’s a work of fiction…If you look back at Woodward’s past, he had the same problem with other presidents, he likes to get publicity, he sells some books."

Doubling down, he later tweeted:

Isn’t it a shame that someone can write an article or book, totally make up stories and form a picture of a person that is literally the exact opposite of the fact, and get away with it without retribution or cost. Don’t know why Washington politicians don’t change libel laws?

Those quoted rushed to declaim their innocence and to deny that they had said any such thing. Mattis was quoted as saying Trump had the "understanding of a fifth-or-sixth grader." Kelly is quoted as saying of Orange Jesus, “He’s an idiot. It’s pointless to try to convince him of anything. He’s gone off the rails. We’re in Crazytown.” His former attorney, John Dowd, gets credit for “Don’t testify. It’s either that or an orange jumpsuit.” Gary Cohn removed papers from the Resolute desk. Trump is quoted as having called his attorney general "mentally retarded,” and a "traitor." Just a taste: the first ones are free.

Woodward's usual technique is to exhaustingly interview many people people close to or in the White House on "deep background," meaning their anonymity is assured. His books are based on hundreds of hours of firsthand reporting. 

Woodward's reputation is pretty bulletproof. Not every detail is assured, but the gist is that his accounts are remarkably reliable. All 18 of his nonfiction books in the past 35 years have been national bestsellers and 12  have been No. 1 national nonfiction bestsellers. He also takes to the lecture circuit, where my wife and I saw him, and formed a minority-view opinion of his act. Yet for all that, he retains more credibility than the White House's current occupant.



Top appointees are ‘thwarting’ Trump, says ‘senior official’ in administration in New York Times opinion piece

The number two punch is the memo by "Anonymous" published in the NY Times. This really has our boy spun up, inviting him to instruct house hobbit Jeffy Bo to search for the guilty author, even though such an investigation would be patently illegal.

The unnamed author wrote:

“We believe our first duty is to this country, and the president continues to act in a manner that is detrimental to the health of our republic. That is why many Trump appointees have vowed to do what we can to preserve our democratic institutions while thwarting Mr. Trump’s more misguided impulses until he is out of office.”

The Times column — headlined “I Am Part of the Resistance Inside the Trump Administration”, described a curious flavor of resistance is is indeed:

Ours is not the popular “resistance” of the left. We want the administration to succeed and think that many of its policies have already made America safer and more prosperous…

There are bright spots that the near-ceaseless negative coverage of the administration fails to capture: effective deregulation, historic tax reform, a more robust military and more.

This ain't a "resistance" I recognize. We're supposed to be somehow grateful?  Charlie Pierce said it best when he called out

… the careerist bleatings of anonymous sources who would like you to know that, by enabling El Caudillo Del Mar-a-Lago and his long, slow slide into howling madness,they are really keeping him from doing some real damage to the country, and shouldn't we all be grateful for their noble, selfless work. 

What the writer wants are Trumpian policies with less baggage, like fewer tweets or porn star payoffs. Trump later tweeted a one-word, all-caps reaction: “TREASON?” The search for the author began almost immediately and continues.

What this op-ed represents is and attempt to build lifeboats for those inside-the-Beltway conservatives who find themselves part of the Trump administration, but who envision the coming endgame, and imagine a life after Trump as part of a ruling Coalition of winners who will inherit power after the Great Man is gone. This is the same technique employed by conservatives after Bush the lesser, in which they shunned Bush, donned tricorn hats, and branded themselves "Tea Party independents." This only works because Americans, as a rule, remember nothing. Not for nothing did Gore Vidal once referred to this country as the "United States of Amnesia."Thus we will we skate on the frozen lakes of hell before Trump offers testimony to the Special Counsel. 


​Short takes

Some other things happened this week, but you may already be familiar with them. The confirmation hearings for Brett Kavanaugh occurred this week featuring a great deal of contention over hidden papers, demonstrations, and debate about whether or not the nominee had lied to Congress under oath..

Senate concludes Kavanaugh hearing

Harris puts Kavanaugh on edge with Mueller question

Sen. Kamala Harris put Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh on edge with a surprise question at his confirmation hearing on whether he spoke with anyone about the investigation into Russian election meddling. This after a week of scorched-earth procedures and tactics to prevent Trump from appointing his own judge in a possible future impeachment trial. This includes the Republicans hiding documents proving that Kavanaugh may have committed perjury. Whether any of this will be enough to derail his confirmation is not known.


The Collapse Of Society Is Coming

Michael Snyder sees harbingers in the fact that the rich have their own plans to survive the coming economic collapse (caused by out-of-control algorithms and flash trading) in survival bunkers being shipped from a Texas warehouse to the shores of New Zealand, where they’re buried 11 feet underground. The rich are planning their bolt-holes. Their plans don't include us.

Obama delivers full-throated rebuke of Trump's presidency

BHO returned to the campaign trail ahead of the midterms to rally the troops for the midterms, calling out Trump by name: "He is a symptom, not the cause." Obama is absolutely right, but he's decades too late. 

The loutish, bigoted and aggressively ignorant nature of the Republican base has never been a mystery to anyone… since Lee Atwater unleashed "Willie Horton" nigh on to 40 years ago….except, apparently, to Republican analysts, pollsters, ad-men, every Never Trump Republican now out pimping a book, every conservative think tank, media outlet and the entire Beltway political press. And any right wing troll who wanders into these hallowed grounds.

As noted above, Republicans rebranded themselves as a mighty army of Imaginary "Independents" who always arrive on the verge of saving us all from the Extremes on Both Sides. They are trying to escape the righteous judgment of history by rebranding themselves as some sort of faux resistance.

The "Tea Party" was always an astroturfed fraud. Nothing less than a heavily funded, carefully coordinated political playtoy designed to herd the rubes — the latest layer of Koch-funded, Fox News-promoted bilge splashed over the same goddamn box full of bigots and Bible-thumpers who have comprised the backbone of the Republican Party for most of my adult life.

After they led Poppy away by his drool-cup, there were four kinds of people in the GOP: traitors (e.g. the Kochs), messianic dominionist nut jobs (e.g. Pence), useful idiots (e.g. Tea Tarty), and geriatric bigots on holiday from the John Birch Society. They have always been with us, but we made them wear shoes and leave the room when company came. These people are less conservatives than dangerous, bomb-throwing, vehicular-manslaughter-committing white nationalists and nazis.

In Conservatives Without Conscience, John Dean had it exact:

“Probably about 20 to 25 percent of the adult American population is so right-wing authoritarian, so scared, so self-righteous, so ill-informed, and so dogmatic that nothing you can say or do will change their minds… They would march American into a dictatorship and probably feel that things had improved as a result. They have the mentality of ‘old-time religion’ on a crusade and they generously give money, time and effort to the cause. They proselytize; they lick stamps; they put pressure on loved ones; and they revel in being loyal to a cohesive group of like thinkers. And they are so submissive to their leaders that they will believe and do virtually anything they are told. They are not going to let up and they are not going to go away.”


They remain a minority, which is why they have to ease into control, one child-kidnapping, sanctuary-denying, flag-worshipping, pro-torture, Nike-burning, intolerant, anti-choice, anti-science, Republiconfederate skirmish at a time. No faux-sincere op-ed can disguise the cornpone, “Aw Shucks” Christopathy that, seen over the course of decades, has bumrushed this country relentlessly towards the coming authoritarian nightmare.


banksy 07-flower-thrower-wallpaperSurly1 is an administrator and contributing author to Doomstead Diner. He is the author of numerous rants, screeds and spittle-flecked invective here and elsewhere. He lives a quiet domestic existence in Southeastern Virginia with his wife Contrary. Descended from a long line of people to whom one could never tell anything, all opinions are his and his alone, because, by making every mistake in the book, he paid full retail for everything he has managed to learn.

 

How I Survived Collapse: Chapter 15

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Published on The Doomstead Diner February 16, 2017

 

Discuss this article at the Collapse Naratives Table inside the Diner

Karl woke up early, and set about his usual routine of collecting chicken eggs, milking the goats and watering his raised beds, then headed inside for a shower and to brew the morning coffee.  The sound of the water running in the bathroom and the jostling around in the kitchen awakened Karen, and she followed Karl after he finished the morning cleanup, and took his humanure out to the compost pile, covering it with wood chips, straw and leaves to let it ferment.  Although he had a flush toilet and a septic system installed, he hardly ever used it, not wanting to waste the precious nutrients and fertilizer contained in his own excrement.  He had installed the septic and toilet early on in building the earthship, before he had learned all the techniques of Permaculture and how to compost your own waste to recycle it, but had hardly used it over the last decade.

Karen observed Karl taking out his morning poop and emulated him, shitting into the clean bucket that Karl had left next to the flush toilet after taking his own waste to the compost pile.  The bucket had a nice Camping Toilet seat on it and was quite as comfortable to poop in as a normal toilet.  Actually even more comfortable since the squatting position was closer to the normal position Homo Saps who do not use toilets take in defecating.   Kenny heard Karl and Karen trudging over to the composting area, and took his own bucket of shit from the van, and then walked down to the stream to give the bucket a rinse out before putting it back in the van, in it's storage compartment beneath the bed with his 1 gallon piss jug.  Rather than taking a shower as Karl and Karen had, Kenny took a Sponge Bath utilizing water from one of the two 5 gallon water containers he always kept topped off in the van.  One container held non-potable "grey water" which he usually got from the streams in the area and was used for washing purposes, and the other contained his drinking water, which he generally got from the Missoula City water system, filling Up a gallon jug every so often when using a public bathroom in a convenience store, of at the Fitness Center where he worked out in the mornings.  He also had a water filtration and purifying system, including a small distiller he could use to distill otherwise impotable water if he had to.  That generally had not been necessary so far for him though, through the last winter he simply melted snow for drinking water.  The streams in the area also were generally quite clean and free of pollutants or bacteria, and just boiling some water from them was good enough to make it potable.

Kenny wandered up the hill to the house after getting dressed, and found Karl and Karen busy getting breakfast ready in the Kitchen.  He poured himself a cup of black coffee, nicely brewed from the fresh coffee beans he had brought with him from the gourmet roaster in Missoula.  It was WAY better than Maxwell House!  Kenny was not looking forward to the day when good coffee was no longer available!  How would he manage to get going in the morning?  This aspect of the future was not something he liked to contemplate, it might be better just to be BBQed up by Zombies!

"I've got to head back to my place after breakfast, I have the Sunday afternoon shift at Quinn's." Karen said.

"Why don't you cut back on your hours at Quinn's and spend more time out here?  Karl asked.  He was really enjoying having Karen's company.  "Huckleberry really seems to like the place and all the extra space to roam around, plus she seems to have made friends with Mr. Ed and Quick Draw." he added as an enticement.

Karen frowned, thinking.  "I don't know dad.  I'm not sure I am ready to be a full time doomer yet.  Plus, most of my friends are at Quinn's, and if we are going to get a community together I need to spend time with them."

Karl nodded his head, slightly disappointed.  "Yea, that's true.  Having the condo in Lolo is also good to maintain so probably just a couple of visits a week on days off is the best plan until we have a SHTF scenario."

"I'll make sure to get days off on the weekends so I can be here when Kenny comes." Karen said, smiling at Kenny.

Kenny smiled back, looking forward to getting to know Karen better and working with her.  Her engineering knowledge would come in very handy with many of the projects he was hoping to build.  The only problem was Kirsten, he couldn't stop thinking about her either!  The female companionship thing was getting complicated, and Kenny could almost see why Karl had chosen the life of a Solitary Man.  Almost.  His close companion behind the zipper of his Levi Strauss jeans argued otherwise.

After doing the dishes and getting her bag packed, Karen got Huckleberry into the back seat of the Ford Escort and headed back out to Civilzation in Lolo.  Not that Lolo was much of a town of course, but it still ran on grid electricity and had a local grocery store, and the drive on State Highway 93 wasn't far to the Walmart Supercenter either.  She was still adjusting to the idea that all the conveniences she had taken for granted growing up were going to disappear, although neither Kenny nor Karl could put a precise finger on the date, nor even could RE on the Diner.  The more she read though, the more convinced she became that these folks were right, and things would probably start to deteriorate faster with the election of The Donald as POTUS. She had been a strong Bernie Sanders supporter during the primaries, and was devastated when the nomination was stolen from him by the criminal Clinton Gang.  Besides all the economic and climate problems she was becoming aware of, Global Thermonuclear War seemed a strong possibility also with a clown like Trump in the White House.

Once the goodbyes were said, Kenny and Karl waved to Karen as she headed out the private road and back to civilization and they walked back toward the Earthship to get ready for a day of prepping.

"So, what kind of plans have you got for today Kenny?  We can't really do much more work on getting the Cable System and Funicular Railroad set up until you pick up more hardware next week at Home Depot in Missoula."

"I have a couple of projects to do over on my property I brought some supplies for starting.  I want to put together a picnic table that is more permanent for outdoor eating than the folding table we had breakfast on last week, for one thing."

"That shouldn't take long between the two of us if you have all the materials, maybe a couple of hours." Karl replied.

"Probably not." Kenny agreed.  "Although staining it and coating it with linseed oil and polyurethane will need to be done over the next couple of weekends.  I also have a bigger project to start on, I want to excavate and build a Walipini Greenhouse on the property as well."

"How big a Walipini were you planning on excavating?" Karl inquired.

"I was thinking about 20' by 60' " Kenny replied.

"That is a fucking BIG hole to dig Kenny!" Karl laughed.

"Yea, I figured to dig it out would take me most of the summer, doing a little each weekend."

"Fuck that idea." Karl replied.  "I'll rent a Daiwoo Back Hoe and Front End Loader and we'll get the excavation done in a weekend, no problem.", Karl proposed.

Kenny laughed.  "Yea that certainly would speed things up!  I didn't really consider doing that because first off I didn't want to spend the money on the rental, and second I've never used one of those monster machines."

Karl waved his hand in the air.  "The money is nothing.  A weekend rental for a Back Hoe costs maybe $1000 the most, and I think I can get one maybe for free from a contractor in Lolo who built a lot of the cabins up here.  I own several of them and had them built as rentals and for sale over the years.  He'll probably let me use one for a Moose Roast or some Venison."

"Well as long as you drive it Karl, I'm certainly good with that!", Kenny laughed.

Karl threw a few of his own tools into Kenny's trailer, and they made the drive over to Kenny's property via the logging roads.

"It sure would be nice if we could take a more direct route from your property over to mine." Kenny observed.  "We gotta drive over 20 miles here, but your place is really less than 5 miles away as the crow flies."

"Yea, it would be nice to have such a road, but tough in practice to do. There are 3 other privately owned properties between here and your place, and we would need permission from all of them to build a road, or even just cut a decent trail.  I know the people who own these properties, at least I have talked with them a few times.  They are well to do Dentists and Doctors mostly who would not be amenable to a road being build on "their property".  Isolationists mostly who just like to have their own hunting land and a nice summer cabin to vacation with the family."

Kevin sighed and nodded in acceptance.  "Yes, most of the people who actually still have enough money to make preps and buy land still buy into the old memes, and wish to 'go it alone', not working together with others to 'Build a Better Tomorrow', as RE often says in his Tag Lines.  You and me are rare breeds I think, unfortunately, thinking about the fate of others as we plan for ourselves.  Most people brought up in the acquisition culture of the Industrial Civilization cannot grasp this, and desperately hold onto their meme of Private Ownership of property."

"A direct road isn't really necessary right now though, the surrounding roads are not too bad, although the road up to your property is not being maintained these days.  In the future, after TSHTF, we can maybe build a more direct route. It would be a big project in any event to even make it passable for my Polaris Ranger EV.  We would need to build a couple of bridges and do quite a bit of earth moving too."  Karl concluded.

Construction of the Picnic Table went pretty quickly, just a matter of bolting together the 2X4s for the most part for the table top and benches, just using the stock 8' length for both.  About the only thing the least bit tricky was cutting the 45 degree angles for the X-pattern legs, which just took a quick line from a protractor to do.

After finishing the table, Karl and Kenny took a walk around the property looking for the best spot to excavate the Walipini.  Kenny used the opportunity of the exploration to bring up Kirsten.

"Karl, I have a little problem.  On Friday before I drove up this weekend I met someone who I know from High School.  We are supposed to go camping next weekend together and I am not sure if I should bring her to my property or not. Karen is also supposed to be coming up next weekend and I want to see her too."

Karl let out a belly laugh.  "Did you ever have to make up your mind?", he said, quoting the title of an old song from the Lovin' Spoonful written by John Sebastian Kenny had never heard.  "Man am I glad I left that shit behind, it can drive you insane."

Keny nodded. "No shit.  First in High School I couldn't get a date to save my life, now there seem to be females everywhere.  It's driving me nuts."

"No worries Kenny, you only have about another 40 years or so of being driven crazy by this problem." Karl said with a grin. "Once you hit your 60s it calms down some, although some guys never escape it."

"Only 40 more years to go?  Shit, we'll probably be extinct by then!  I'll never get any peace!" Kenny said semi-sarcastically.

"Life sucks, and then you die.", Karl remarked philosophically.  "Far as it goes, I'd love to see you hook up with Karen, but far be it from me to get in the middle of anyone else's love life, that's even worse than managing your own.  You'll have to figure that one out for yourself."

"Gee, thanks Karl, you're a fountain of wisdom." Kenny remarked sarcastically.  "What about the other problem though, should I bring her up here, or maybe just go over to Lolo National Forest and do some camping there without telling her about the property?"

Karl gave this some thought for a bit as they reached a nice portion of the property that had a slope facing to the south for excavating the Walipini.

"Probably not a good idea yet to bring her over here, until you are more sure of where you are going with it.  You could bring her to the Lean-To though, and Karen and I can meet you there.  Then you can really experience torture trying to make up your mind." Karl remarked.

"Great!  Another fucking pearl of wisdom from the wise Guru! Kenny remarked with an eye roll.

Karl pursed his lips. "Personally, I think it would be rather humorous."

"For YOU maybe!" Kenny replied.

Karl shrugged.  "It's your problem, not my problem.  Now, what do you think of this spot for the Walipini?  Good southern exposure, nice slope to cut into."

Kenny let go of the discussion about the females.  Karl was obvious not going to be of any help, and actually seemed to enjoy his suffering.  He vowed to himself to get revenge on Karl for this someday.  He'd find a female to sic on Karl to invite to the community!  He couldn't be as immune to the attraction as he made himself out to be!  That would serve him right!  Kenny satisfied himself with this nefarious plan and got back to discussing the Walipini.

"Yea, this looks pretty good, although it's a lot of trees to cut down.", Kenny remarked with sadness.

Karl shrugged.  "The trees are no more permanent than you or me, and someday after we're gone new ones will grow in their place, or maybe they won't if the climate change gets bad enough.  Meanwhile, if we're going to grow enough food beyond what we can hunt and gather out of Lolo for a full community of people, we're going to need more than just my raised beds and greenhouse garden."

Kenny nodded in understanding.  "Yea, that's true.  Sure will be plenty of wood for the next couple of years for cooking and heating and campfires.  Lotta wood splitting to do."

"No worries on the splitting Kenny, I have a Champion Hydraulic Wood Splitter for this.  I quit on splitting with an axe and wedges when I hit 60."

Kenny still had trouble believing Karl was 66.  Other than his complaints about arthritis in his knees, he was even bigger and more robust than his daughter, maybe 6'3" and 220 lbs.  He looked to Kenny to be in his mid 50s.

"A hydraulic splitter will certainly make that job easier.", Kenny remarked.  "We'll need to get it over here though to get the job done."

"No problem there, I can drag it over with the pickup, it's on wheels.  Once we cut the trees into sections, Mr Ed and Quick Draw can pull them over to the splitter back in your campsite area."

"That works.", Kenny replied.  It was getting late in the day and the sun was beginning to set, so the two friends walked back to the campsite to get in Kenny's van and head back over to Karl's place for dinner of some Smoked Trout from Karl's freezer, honey glazed peas and carrots from his garden and from his bee hives and butter from the goat's milk.  They spent a couple of hours surfing the internet for Doom Newz, beginining with the Doomstead Diner, where the regulars were all napalming each other as usual.  They spent time together composing up a PM to to send to RE once Kenny got back to Missoula and could use an anonyomous connection to the internet.

"Greetings RE!

I have been a lurker on the Diner almost since you began it in 2012.  I am a regular reader, and get many of my ideas from your website.

Currently, together with a friend we have a large property in the lower 48 we would like to get a SUN☼ Community going on when TSHTF.  However, we are highly concerned about security and about simply inviting people to the place now, which would make it too widely known.  We estimate our possible carrying capacity for our land to be about 200 people, although it could be substantially more since the properties are adjacent to a large National Forest.

Do you have any suggestions on how we might find some people, but not necessarily give them the location of the Doomstead at this time?

KennyK"

Civilization and Collapse

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Published on Momentum Institute on Fenruary  11, 2017

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Merry Collapse Christmas 2016

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Published on The Doomstead Diner on December 25, 2016

dd-analytics-12-4-2016

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http://upload.smileyswelove.com/uploads/775/smiley-7488.jpgMERRY COLLAPSE CHRISTMAS DINERS!  http://upload.smileyswelove.com/uploads/775/smiley-7488.jpg

Here on the Doomstead Diner, we've been tracking Collapse Issues since February of 2012.  A few of us were members of the Reverse Engineering Yahoo Group which I ran from around 2009 to 2012.  I myself began participating on Collapse oriented forums in late 2007.  There are many others with a much longer history than this, going back to the 1960s even with Rachel Carson's Silent Spring.

https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/564x/5f/a3/6d/5fa36da2a07877aa8ad5165626158056.jpg The Environmental movement had its heyday back in the 1970s, with the first Earth Day on April 22, 1970.  This also coincided with the "Back to the Land" Movement, spearheaded by Hippies like Albert Bates, one of the founding members of The Farm, and scientists like Ugo Bardi, one of the researchers of the "Club of Rome" which produced the first "Limits to Growth" Study in 1972.  Both Albert and Ugo are still active as Environmentalists, and I cross post their work regularly on the Diner.

Sadly of course, all those years of environmental activism and scientific research that demonstrates the mess we have been making of the planet has not done a whole lot to stop it, at least globally.  In given locations it was occassionally successful, but generally speaking the problem just moved somewhere else where the local Goobermint was amenable to having the local environment destroyed in the name of PROFIT.  So industry which once polluted places like Love Canal in Amerika moved offshore to places like Guanzou Province in China, polluting the water there instead.

I personally was not a huge Environmentalist in my 60 years walking the earth in terms of any activism.  I was always disgusted by the rape of the earth through the period, but I never really did anything to stop it, and in fact contributed to my share of the destruction by buying all that gas I burned in my motorcyclez and my carz along the way.  I also rode plenty of Subway Trainz in the years before I could afford a car or motorcycle, and they also burned plenty of fossil fuels and fissioned Uranium in Nuke plants to keep electricity flowing along the third rail so the trains would run, and there were many days I forgot to turn off the lights in my room when I went out to play, needlessly burning still MORE juice and putting more carbon into the atmosphere.

Baby_LambThen I also ate lots of Animals, mainly Chickens and Cows and Baby Lambs, who all farted and put methane up in the atmosphere on the way to my dinner table.  After eating them, I also farted putting still more methane up into the atmosphere.  I cannot calculate what my particular contribution was over these last 60 years to total atmospheric carbon or climate change, but I am sure it is greater than most of the people currently living on earth.  These days, I try to reduce it some but since I still live in a 1st world culture and need to get around on Buses, Trains, Planes & Automobiles and I still need to EAT, I continue to be a big ass Carbon Emitter into the atmosphere of the planet.

I came into the World of Collapse not because of Climate Concerns, but because of observations on how the economics of the world were breaking down in the aftermath of first Bear Stearns and then Lehman Brothers during the 2008 financial crisis.  This led me to investigating many things related to that, like Peak Oil and Climate Change and Ecological problems, and as each year has passed since that time, all of those problems have grown larger.  The Climate issue appears to be growing much more rapidly than predicted even back only so far as 2008, and this problem now gets more attention overall than economic issues do, at least on websites besides the Diner that I frequent like r/collapse.  Climate problems are considered an existential problem core to our very EXISTENCE on the planet, whereas Economic issues are considered temporal and mainly a math problem and distribution problem overall.  Long as the planet itself is capable of supporting life, economics seems secondary to people who are climate concerned as a priority.

Finite_Resources_smI do not tend to hold this view, I think climate issues are survivable for at least a portion of the population currently walking the earth, though probably not all that many.  The TIMELINE to a final extinction of the species Homo Sap remains an open question, and is highly disputed, although it is sure to come at some point.  It goes from as short as less than a decade according to Guy McPherson of the Nature Bats Last blog to as long as 300M years when the SUN puts out too much radiation for Eukaryotic organisms to survive on the surface of the Earth.  Well, even longer if you believe that we can migrate off the planet to other star systems with the techno- folks like Stephen Hawking and Elon Musk, but IMHO that is not gonna happen. We are planted on Planet Earth, this is where we were born and this is where we will die, at some point in the timeline.  Our real near term issues come in how we organize the society and distribute out the resources we still can access economically.  Then we gotta figure out how much we can produce each year and how much that production can support in terms of total population size.  We are time-limited as all living things are including planets.  We just need to figure out how to live just as long as we can in the timespan alloted to us.  Figuring out that question best I can is what I do on my blog here, the Doomstead Diner, and it keeps me very bizzy. LOL.

My opinions on this are not all that popular, I have people from the cornucopian side of things who despise me because I say we have limited resources and too large a human population that needs reduction; and then on the other side I have Extinction Afficionados who think everything is HOPELESS, and NOBODY can survive for even 10 more fucking years! I am too HOPIUM FILLED for these people, and deluded. You can't strike any kind of middle ground with either of these types of ideologues.

goldfallingThere are numerous other issues that are more temporal that cause conflict, like the issues about who our political leaders will be, whether they can make some difference in the collapse trajectory, whether using Gold as Money would make any difference, etc, etc, etc.  If you take a particular stand on some of these issues, it gets you as a Blogger a constituency that supports you.  For me though, I tend to bounce through these issues and have positions that one consitutency or the other does not support, so I NEVER make everyone happy.  "You can make some of the people happy all the time, all of the people happy some of the time, but you can NEVER make all the people happy all the time."  I live that cliche just about every day on the Diner, my home as a blogger and analyst of collapse.  I am also not a real compromising sort of guy, and get in arguments all the time, both with commenters on my blog as well as with other bloggers who treat the subjects of collapse with their own spin on it on other blogs.  I take no prisoners in an argument, I hold grudges a long time, I FIRE BACK in the Chicago Way and I make enemies because of that. So it goes.

Which now brings me to the point of this whole diatribe, which is to look at where the Doomstead Diner is AT after nearly 5 years of operation chronicling the World of Collapse?  We have seen our ups and downs over the years here, and it's always tough to figure out just how well you are doing.  Google Analytics as of 12/4/2016 is up as the Header Graphic for this article, the Daily Users Chart.

Based on records of hits inside the Diner Forum, the Peak of the Diner Popularity came around 2014.  This period was also when the Alexa Ranking for the Diner was at its Peak, we hit around 75,000 Globally at that point.  BUT, Alexa changed their algorithm AND the numbers of hits on the forum are always pretty suspect, because MOST of them are BOTS.  You can get millions of hits (we did), but only a tiny fraction of them are real Human Eyeballs.

Yearly Summary New Topics New Posts New Members Most Online Page views
+ 2016 1814 24042 111 225 6501924
+ 2015 1223 30473 514 166 6725102
+ 2014 704 22376 122 182 9137030
+ 2013 757 25870 486 260 4100268
+ 2012 1075 13992 567 325 1734447
+ 2011 1 1 1 1 0

Diner Forum History

Over time though, you do get a decent idea of how many REAL DOOMERS are out there reading your website.  We have had some up and downs over these years, our Video & Audio material brought in some folks and that was likely responsible for the peak period in 2014 for page hits.

http://www.pastorburnout.com/images/burnout-90345_640.jpg In the last year we suffered a decline in total hits, I attribute that mostly to a lot of Burnout in the Collapse Crowd.  It basically plateaued out at around 320 Users/Day, according to Google Analytics on the Diner Blog anyhow.  But then we have Facepalm users, Twitter Users, YouTube Users, Soundcloud Users and Reddit Users also to try to account for.  Tons of crossover involved here, so tough to determine what the total individual and independent readership is for the Diner.

My BEST GUESS on this is around 1000 Global Diners who hit one of our sites once a week or so.  Maybe 300 who drop on the Diner daily to see what is cooking in Collapse.  Given a Global Population of over 7B people, this is NOT making a huge impact!  LOL.

At the same time though, the Diner DOES do better in terms of daily readership than most other Collapse Blogs out there and stays out of that sub-1M category of personal blogs most of the time on Alexa. The total readership of ALL collape blogs at this point still remains pretty small, my estimate for that is around 50,000 people globally interested in the topics of collapse who regularly surf the web on such topics.  So I am OK with capturing 1000 or so of them each month for a read on the Diner.  I would like more of course, but it's a reasonable number of people to be reaching each month.

If you look at the Google Analytics chart I put up from last week at the top of the article, you'll see that the last 90 days we did see a significant upward bump in users, about a 25-30% increase.  This coincides with a few recent events on the Diner.

underground-home-kirknielsendotcomThe first main one is the beginning of the publication of the Serial Novel, "How I Survived Collapse".  I took myself off of doing Video discussions and Audio Rants to devote myself to this project instead, and apparently Kollapniks like fictional representations of collapse issues, these chapters get a LOT of page hits.  On the downside, the YouTube and Soundcloud Diner channels get fewer hits without steady new material going up.  However, you only have so much creative energy to expend in one day.  You can't just print up creativity every day like you can Fiat Money. lol.

The next reason I perceive as important are political events ongoing that the Diner has focused on, namely the Election of Trumpty-Dumpty and the ongoing protest at the Standing Rock reservation against the DAPL p‬ipeline.  In both cases, the MSM Newz on these events is very poorly covered, and/or full of bullshit.  So people are out there looking for other perspectives and information on these topics, and various Diners are contributing their analysis to the subjects, providing more original material on the Diner.

standing-rock-black-snakeFinally, a main reason for the now again increasing popularity of the Diner is that many of the other bloggers who treat collapse issues have tapered off in how much and how often they will write.  "Collapse Burnout" is a problem for many bloggers who have written on these topics for years, and even if they are producing new material it's mostly rehashing stuff that has been said a million times before and basically beaten to death, unless of course you are a Newbie to the World of Collapse.  If you're not a newbie though, writing and rewriting the concepts you focus on can be tiresome after a while.  I fight this battle against burnout by examining the newz and looking for new insights and changes in the dynamic, which are always occuring even if the underlying principles of collapse don't change all that much.

The fact fewer bloggers are writing now also means I don't Cross Post as much as I used to from other bloggers, but that turns out not to be such a bad thing.  Fact is, people who read the Diner also read the blogs of the other people I cross post.  I cross post to keep the blog fresh each day for newbies, but for long term Kollapsniks they don't come to the Diner to read those blogs, they read them when they originally were published on that blogger's website.  Cross Posting less means I post more Original Diner Material, which apparently is what the readers want.  Of course, producing enough original material up to the High Standards of the Diner for every day publication is somewhat difficult. lol.

All in all, it was a good year for the Diner moving through Collapse.  Hell, at least we are still up and running, right?  The NSA hasn't taken us down yet, and we STILL have not made the list of Fake Newz Websites. 🙁  1000 regular readers who drop by the Diner for a collapse meal a few times a month isn't too bad, although I would like to see more of those people contributing Inside the Diner on our Forum. Hashing out the issues with others is really the best way to get further insights, in fact for myself the reason it took me so long to start a blog was because I like dialogue and argument more than I like expository prose writing, although I can do that most certainly, at great length too! lol  I got more prose up on the web than Shakespeare and Tolstoy combined!  Argue the quality all you want, but in word count this is no contest at all! 🙂  Still, it is much more enlightening to exchange ideas with other people, even if periodically they piss you off a whole lot.

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESAnother significant milestone for the Diner is we held our 2nd Convocation this year at the Inman Harvest Day Festival in South Carolina.  This was in conjunction with trying to get our SUN☼Project off the ground, and we got a great reception from the local movers & shakers there, but NO MONEY! lol.  So SUN☼ is still just an idea, it hasn't yet become a reality and maybe it never will, but that doesn't really matter all that much.  The most important thing is to get the MESSAGE out to people that this style of living we have grown up with just is not destined to last all that much longer.  In the longer term, SUN☼ type communities will evolve if Homo Sap is to survive on the planet a while longer, because we CANNOT survive with the way we are living now.  It would certainly be better if people got started on this shit NOW rather than waiting until after TSHTF, but if you can't get the locals to pony up some money for it, you are just SOL there.  Sadly, I am not a Billionaire who could finance the whole thing himself, I wish I was, but I ain't.  So if the people themselves who would benefit from a more resilient community will not pony up, you're stuck in neutral, which is where SUN☼ is right now.

Hosp_BedOn a personal level as regular Diners know I struggle with deteriorating health issues resulting from my spinal injury, and struggle as well with getting the Title to the Entitlements I was promised when I set out working for 40 years inside the Industrial Economy.  I won some of the battles so far, but the War goes on here on this still.  I didn't end up as a Homeless Cripple Freezing to Death on the Streets of Palmer, Alaska as was my fear for the first 7 months of this adventure in my life, at least not yet anyhow. On the upside to it, I did get some time in "Retirement", about a year and a half now so far, and I really like retirement.  I get up in the morning (or afternoon, or evening) when I feel like it,  I spend my day reading and writing on topics that interest me, and I got no Boss I need to keep happy so he writes my paycheck each week.  I got no tests to study for in school and no traffic or stinky subways to ride on to get to work or school.  I do have a crew of somewhat testy Members, Mods & Admins here on the Diner I don't always keep happy and which can be somewhat frustrating, but at least my living does not depend on keeping them happy.  It's also most certainly NOT a "cult", since most of the time nobody agrees with me! lol.

TrumpigAs of now, 2017 looks like it will be a watershed year in the World of Collapse.  The election of Trumpty-Dumpty and his installation of Billionaires, Corporatocracy CEOs and Military Generals as Cabinet members and his Advisory team speaks clearly to exactly what kind of "Populist" this jerk is.  It boggles my mind that people are so foolish as to buy any of the nonsense he spouted out through the campaign. It's a fucking GUARANTEE he will eviscerate civil liberties, curtail free speech & freedom of assembly and increase the power of the Police State, all the stuff Libertarians say they are against!  He's also obviously going to give away the store to fellow plutocrats and .01%ers, he's already stacked the whole fucking cabinet with them! Jamie Dimon and Carl Icahn are his economic advisors here for crying out loud! He's going to shrink the Military?  Are you fucking NUTS?  He's already appointed 3 Generals to his cabinet, one of whom worked for General Dynamics after leaving the military! He's up for a new Nuclear Arms Race!  He's got Jamie fucking Dimon & Carl leveraged buyout Icahn as his leading advisors on the Economy!  Can you get more status quo BAU Military-Industrial-Banking complex than this?  This is "draining the swamp"?  More like "swimming in the swamp".

Besides the mockery of His Trumpness as POTUS, we also have just all sorts of shit going on across the pond in Eurotrashland.  The Italian banks are teetering on collapse and as I write this article, the current plan is for the fucking BROKE Italian Goobermint to Nationalize and Bailout Banca Monte dei Peschi di Siena, because of course it is TBTF.  Precisely where and how the Itie Goobermint will get the money to do this bailout remains unclear at the moment.  Then after the Italian banks, you got the German ones like the Big Kahuna, Deutchbank, also not looking too good on the balance sheet.  However, you tend to suspect that the Goldman-Sachs cavalry will somehow ride in to the Rescue of these Zombies one more time.  Maybe.

http://www.dailystormer.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/02/petry.jpg After that are all the "Populist" (aka Neo-Nazi Right Wing) reactionary parties that have cropped up in Eurotrashland and further elections are sure to result in Goobermints which cannot effectively Goobern anyone.  At least half the population totally despises Da Goobermint even before they actually take office!  It doesn't matter who it is or which side of the lefty-righty divide they come from, they just can't do anything to stop the collapse of their economies.  Various plutocrats from one side or another can be made happy, but this does not create more jobs for J6P and total tax revenues for all the states continues to be eroded.

Then you got my favorite Snake Oil Salesman Elon Musk who continues to sell the fucking stupid idea we are going to replace the entire fleet of ICE carz and truckz with EVs powered by Batts produced in his "Gigafactory", slated to be the largest building on Earth if/when it gets finished.  He's ALSO going to "Go Where No Man Has Gone Before" and set up a fucking colony on Mars!  NASA couldn't do this in the last 50 years, but Elon CAN!  He's a can-do entrepreneur!  What fucking idiot buys this crap?

Meanwhile here on Earth, you got cities from Sao Paolo to La Paz to Johannesburg running short on water and forest fires burning all the time and oil pipelines leaking, suicide and overdose epidemics, a new shoot-em up on a college campus or nightclub once a week, but HEY! don't worry, be HAPPY!  Take another Fukitol Pill, you'll feel better in a jiffy!

http://www.athensvoice.gr/sites/default/files/imagecache/image-477x305/article/52317-115682.jpg I do not have any expectation of having a shortage of collapse topics to write about as we move into 2017, nor do I expect to burnout writing about them either.  I have great stamina for this stuff, I'm going on near a decade now of writing about the topics and I feel like I am just getting my stride! lol.  Collapse is a MARATHON, not a SPRINT!  It may seem slow to you in human years, but in fact it is going quite rapidly not just in Geologic time but in Generational time also.  "Collapse" isn't coming "someday", it is here with us right now and we are all living it in one way or the other, to one extent of knowledge or denial of it or another.

The BIG QUESTION of course everyone always asks me as an Official Collapse Pundit is whether this will be the year THE Collapse occurs, as in the lights all going off, shelves all going empty, ATMs outta cash and Zombie Cannibals roaming the streets eating children for breakfast?  I'll go out on a limb here and say I do not think 2017 will be the year of the Zombie Apocalypse, at least not here in the FSoA.  One thing I have learned in my years writing on this topic is that the "system" or "matrix" (whatever you wish to call it) has a lot of inertia.  It's rolling down a hill, gathering speed, but it's not off the clif quite yet, the Wile E. Coyote Moment has not quite arrived.                                                                 

zombiesI do believe though at some not to distant point in the future of this timeline we will witness a discontinuity, I just hope I am alive long enough to witness that from this side of the Great Divide and write about it.  Not that I really want to see a lot of Death & Destruction before I die, but I do want to see "TEOTWAWKI", or "the end of the world as we know it".  The exercise we have put ourselves through as a species and this planet and other creatures who inhabit it through from the Age of Agriculture through the Age of Industrialization MUST come to an end, regardless of all the pain and suffering that will come along with that.  I believe that some Homo Sap will make it through the Zero Point to the Other Side, and those who are left standing will be better for it, a new species in fact.  I won't be there (at least in this broken down body anyhow, maybe my spirit reborn to a new one), but I will smile from my side of the Great Beyond as a Better Tomorrow emerges.

Anyhow, New Year's Eve approaches now, 2017 is arriving and at least unless Nibiru collides with the Earth in the next few days, we'll have another year in Collapse to observe and record here on the pages of the Doomstead Diner.  I would like to close here with a special note of thanks to my fellow Admins here on the Diner, who tolerate my idiosyncracies and who have proven to be good friends IRL as well as in cyberspace. To Surly, to Eddie, to Monsta, to Lucid Dreams & Gypsy Mama and to Palloy, Auld Lang Syne.  To all the rest of the Diners, I wish you also all the best in collapse in 2017.  Thanks to all for your participation and help in making the Doomstead Diner #1 for Doom on the Net!

Be sure to stop in at the Diner next Sunday for Surly's recap That Was the Year That Was in Doom, and drop in periodically for more Chapters of How I Survived Collapse!

Kollapsnik Kitten comes to Breakfast at Tiffany’s

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Published on The Doomstead Diner on August 28, 2016

 

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Newz from Inside the Diner

 

One of my neighbors recently got a kitten which they are keeping as an "outside cat".  He (or she, I haven't checked the gonads) wanders around and shows up on my porch regularly when I go out for a smoke to further destroy my lungs.

This has been going on for the last week, and I chat with the Kollapse Kitten when it jumps my fence and arrives, scoping out the 100 or so square feet of the porch area.  KK does not have much to say to me so far but is a good listener while I have a smoke.  Hopefully if I keep talking it will learn English and perhaps be able to communicate with me telepathically.

The trick though has been to keep KK from actually getting INSIDE my digs, which are PRIVATE PROPERTY!  If I leave the back door open, KK can sneak in, and I don't want to be cleaning up kitten poop or kitten piss in the digs!  I have been successful in this battle this week up until tonight.  Tonight when I opened the door to the porch to go out and poison myself further with Nicotine, KK slipped by me to head inside and investigate my digs.

Fortunately, KK seems to trust me so capturing her and picking her up to pitch back out the door was not too hard on this occassion, but my guess is if the little devil keeps at it this won't be so EZ in the future.  There are tons of places in my digs I cannot get to easily that this quick little monster can.  I am also not exactly really fast these days.

I do enjoy talking to KK on the porch, but I don't want the animal trapped in my digs when I go to sleep.  I will try to get a picture of him/her in the next couple of days, I am quite sure more return visits will come so this won't be too hard.

———–

KK's got U by the shorthairs my friend.
Whose training whom emotionally ?   :icon_scratch:
U need a captive audience during smoke break time…..

I've decided to name her/him Kollpsnik.  :icon_sunny:

Kollapsnik did not show up for my first smoke break of the day today.  :(  Must be bizzy exploring elsewhere in the complex.  Kittens have very bizzy lives.

I like having a pet I don't have to take care of, feeding, cleaning the litter box, taking to the vet etc.  This is like having all the best parts of having a pet with none of the work.  ;D

RE

I'm sure KK feels the same way about U 2 …… BAH HAHAHAHAH

When I sit out on the back patio here at Kathy's place & watch all of nature frolic in the living desert
during my smoke break I get the same enjoyment.

Must be the resonant connection involved. The speed & pulse of nature vs. the speed & pulse of biz i ness …..  :icon_sunny:

————

From Palloy

I've never met a cat that would reliably "Come here", but they do respond to the sound of food being tipped in to their bowl.  So I suggest you get a resealable bag of kibble and a metallic bowl, and always put it down outside.

The Dog and the Cat

And Adam and Eve said,
“Lord, when we were in the garden, you walked with us every day.
Now we do not see you any more.
We are lonesome here, and it is difficult for us to remember how much you loved us.”

And God said, “No problem!
I will create a companion for you that will be with you forever
and who will be a reflection of my love for you,
so that you will love me even when you cannot see me.

Regardless of how selfish or childish or unlovable you may be,
this new companion will accept you as you are and will love you as I do,
in spite of yourselves.”

And God created a new animal to be a companion for Adam and Eve.
And it was a good animal. And God was pleased.
And the new animal was pleased to be with Adam and Eve, and he wagged his tail.

And Adam said, “Lord, I have already named all the animals in the kingdom
and I cannot think of a name for this new animal.
And God said, “No problem!
Because I have created this new animal to be a reflection of my love for you,
his name will be a reflection of my own name, and you will call him Dog.”

And Dog lived with Adam and Eve and was a companion to them and loved them.
And they were comforted. And God was pleased. And Dog was content and wagged his tail.

After a while, it came to pass that an angel came to the Lord and said,
“ Lord, Adam and Eve have become filled with pride.
They strut and preen like peacocks and they believe they are worthy of adoration.
Dog has indeed taught them that they are loved, but perhaps too well.”

And God said, “No problem!
I will create for them a companion who will be with them forever
and who will see them as they really are.
The companion will remind them of their limitations,
so they will know that they are not always worthy of adoration.”

And God created Cat to be a companion to Adam and Eve.
And Cat would not obey them.

And when Adam and Eve gazed into Cat’s eyes,
they were reminded that they were not the supreme beings.
And Adam and Eve learned humility, and they were greatly improved.
And God was pleased.
And Dog was happy and wagged his tail.
And Cat didn’t care one way or the other.

– Anonymous

—————

I was meaning to ask you about the outdoor pet thing
in winter up there.

Surely the neighbor's aren't going to leave that poor cat
out side when it's snowing & blowing ?
If that's their intention, knowing you, you'll let Kollapsnik in your Mchuvell
at least until the storm passes. Right ?

I'm sure they keep their back door open so it can travel in and out at will during the good weather.  It will probably stay inside most of the time when it is cold.

I certainly would not let it freeze to death like a homeless cripple kitten on the streets of Palmer, Alaska.

 

 

RE

 

 

——————-

KK hears me come outside and jumps up on her fence.

KK-1

I invite her over to discuss Kollapse issues

KK-2

KK Prowls the Porch to make sure everything is in order

KK-3

KK-4

KK-5

KK-6

Smoke Break over, time to go home

KK-7

"Hasta la Pasta, RE" says KK.  Those were her first English words I received telepathically!

KK-8

 

 

 

 

Open Letter to The Zeitgeist Movement

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Published on the Doomstead Diner on August 25, 2016

 

nationofsheep

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This open letter to The Zeitgeist Movement replaces an essay I originally promised to Diners, "Peak Oil Revisited Part 2: Why business as usual guarantees that global industrial collapse will be complete by 2030". I have not had the time to elucidate all aspects of my argument in detail and Dr Louis Arnoux is probably doing a better job with his articles on this topic anyway. He is a true energy expert, I am merely a lay person trying to interpret the thoughts of the experts for the general public.

The other "Peak Oil Revisited" essay I promised, "Part 1b: Is an International Standardised Energy Dollar feasible?" has proved to be much more complicated than originally envisioned and is the lowest of my priorities at the moment. Even if an ISED is feasible it is unlikely to ever see the light of day for political reasons.

Graph1 TheELM   Graph2 ELM over NetEnergy   Graph3 net energy cliff

Graph 1                                                        Graph 2                                                        Graph 3

OPEN LETTER TO TZM:

by G. Chia, August 2016

Dear L and C (Queensland TZM organisers),

As you know I ran sustainability meetings for doctors and scientists from 2006 to 2013. I note your Zeitgeist group is holding a meeting on sustainability on 10 September 2016. As a starting point for your discussion you may wish to display on your projection screen the letter I wrote earlier this year to "Doctors for the Environment Australia" (see attached pdf). When I subsequently met with the Queensland DEA representative, Dr David King, he could not offer any factual or logical objections against my letter. His only comments were that although my views were consistent with those of many scientists, he felt he had to give DEA members "hope". DEA are operating on the false hope they can fix rampant global warming which has now spiralled out of control. They have completely ignored more immediate energy and economic issues.

Energy analyst Dr Louis Arnoux has informed me that world average1 EROI (energy return over invested, or to use the proper mathematical description for this ratio, energy return divided by energy invested) for petroleum fell below 10:1 a few years ago. Dr David Murphy's figure for world average EROI of 17:1 for 2013 was an overestimate because Murphy himself wrote in his paper (published by the Royal Society) that his figure did not account for the energy costs of fuel refinement and transportation2.

According to other EROI luminaries, Drs Hall and Lambert3, a ratio of 10:1 is the minimum required for a complex industrial economy to function properly.

Some parts of the industrial world can continue to function at present because they have captured4 the few remaining high EROI (>10:1) sources for themselves. Others areas eg Southern Europe are losing or have lost access to such high net energy sources ("Hi-NES")5, hence they are now deindustrialising and collapsing. The rest of the world will never industrialise. We have no significant liquid hydrocarbon replacements for conventional petroleum. Unconventional petroleum, with its woeful EROI of 3:1 or less, is an environmentally devastating scam and a stock market Ponzi scheme.

Decline in Hi-NES is the primary reason for the current global economic contraction6, a fact that conventional economists are too venal or too stupid to acknowledge. The present low price of oil is deeply misleading and is hiding the fact that oil has become less affordable/available for most people around the world due to demand destruction and deflation, temporarily freeing up more oil for "lucky" countries such as Australia.

Dr Jeffrey Brown's export land model (ELM) shows that oil availability for oil importing countries will eventually fall off a cliff (see graph 1 from postpeakliving.com in which I have corrected a caption: the red line shows GROSS world oil production, which does NOT take into account the energy invested in that oil production. Hence the yellow circle is an overestimate of when zero oil will be available to oil importing countries). A more accurate curve on which to superimpose the ELM should be downslope of the Net Hubbert curve as shown in graph 2. Prior to me doing this, I do not believe anyone else has combined ELM and EROI concepts and it is high time someone did so.

A most vital concept to understanding why global industral societies will soon suddenly and catastrophically collapse, just as a teetering Jenga tower suddenly collapses, is the mathematical fact that the net energy available (= energy return minus energy invested) falls off a cliff when EROI declines to 5:1 (see graph 3).

Sudden catastrophic collapse is consistent with the view of Dr Ugo Bardi, one of the original "Limits to Growth" scientists, who calls this phenomenon the "Seneca cliff". Dr Bardi is an incredibly smart scientist whose dire warnings over many years have been blithely ignored by all the stupid sheeple around him, hence he titled his blog "Cassandra's Legacy".

In human terms, plummeting EROI in the absence of any plan to transition to a post carbon lifestyle, will mean social breakdown, war, starvation7 and mass die off on a monumental scale. No part of the world which depends on petroleum will be spared.

We can understand why TPTB promote false hopes for the future to the clueless sheeple, using extravagant bread and circuses like the Olympics. Such theatrics keep the herd distracted and subdued. Be assured that once the masses revolt, the drones will be deployed.

On the other hand, offering intelligent people false hope for the future is in my view deeply inappropriate, especially if useful measures can be taken right now to mitigate impending hardships. Unfortunately the window of opportunity is closing fast. What is your transition plan?

You may vehemently reject my warnings and choose to ignore this letter because everything seems "fine" to you now, however denial will not make a looming catastrophe magically disappear.

One of your previous speakers promoted manned space travel to Mars. How useful, do you think, is that sort of meeting?

Regards

Geoffrey Chia, August 2016

 

Footnotes:

  1. Global "average" EROI of below 10:1 at present means that most oil fields now yield EROI below 10:1 (eg perhaps only 8:1 or 6:1). However there are a few oil fields which continue to yield a high EROI (eg perhaps 20:1), oil fields which the vultures are now circling.

  2. Murphy DJ. 2014 The implications of the declining energy return on investment of oil production. Phil. Trans. R. Soc. A 372: 20130126.

  3. Lambert, Jessica G., Hall Charles A. S. et al. 2014. Energy, EROI and quality of life. Energy Policy 64:153–167 "There is evidence…that once payments for energy rise above a certain threshold at the national level (e.g. approximately 10 percent in the United States) that economic recessions follow. "

  4. Such capture can be accomplished by fair means (eg providing useful products to the oil vendors in exchange for their oil), or foul (eg the criminal protection racket known as the Petrodollar).

  5. Being starved of credit

  6. In China, intolerable pollution has been a major factor for their economic slowdown, as well as the marked reduction in overseas demand for their industrial output

  7. Mass agriculture is crucially dependent on petroleum (also natural gas)

A Conversation with Deb Ozarko

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Published on The Doomstead Diner on June 1, 2016

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Unplug front cover With this podcast, the Diner welcomes Deb Ozarko to the pantheon of Diner Cross Posting Bloggers.  Deb has her own blog debozarko.com and is author of the book Unplug.  She works as a graphic designer and lives on the Sunshine Coast of British Columbia.

I ran into Deb's most recent blog Letting go in a World of Collapse: A conversation we're too afraid to have a couple of weeks ago in a link on the Reddit Sub r/collapse, and themes in that blog are similar to ones that have been explored for quite some time on Guy McPherson's blog Nature Bats Last.  As regular Diners know, I take issue with both Guy's timeline to extinction as well as his philosophy on how to deal with ongoing collapse psychologically.  I also did not find it true that "this is a conversation we are too afraid to have", since we discuss this topic all the time on the Diner. lol.  So I invited Deb in for a podcast to further discuss these issues in depth, to get a better handle on her current thought process.  She is relatively new to the world of Collapse and these concepts, so it appeared to me a great opportunity to explore how a recently awakening mind is processing the information.  Also valuable was the opportunity to get a female perspective on these issues, since they tend to be few and far between across the blogosphere, particularly in the commentariat.

I hope you enjoy the podcast, and below you will find the blog which inspired the conversation that we're NOT too afraid to have on the Doomstead Diner. 🙂  -RE

Letting Go of a World in Collapse: The Conversation We’re Too Afraid to Have

  • May 10, 2016
  • by Deb Ozarko

“Courage is an inner resolution to go forward despite obstacles; Cowardice is submissive surrender to circumstances. Courage breeds creativity; Cowardice represses fear and is mastered by it. Cowardice asks the question, is it safe? Expediency ask the question, is it politic? Vanity asks the question, is it popular? But conscience ask the question, is it right? And there comes a time when we must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular, but one must take it because it is right.” —Martin Luther King Jr.

NOTE: This post/essay is filled with considerable depth. As such, it is my most important post to date. The content is raw and lengthy. It is the voice of my heart … my stark naked soul. This is part one of a 3-part series. For those who courageously venture through it all, I honor and thank you from the depth of my soul. For those who prefer reading in pdf format, I’ve created a downloadable pdf file of the essay in its entirety that can be read in multi-page format.

******

A few weeks ago an email from a podcast listener arrived in my in box. It read as follows:

Deb,

I’ve recently discovered you and your work. Your work is amazing, however it’s filled with too much hope in today’s world (Hopium). We are already in the 6th mass extinction with tipping points long passed. There is NO saving the ocean, saving endangered species, saving the forests, saving humans. It’s too late. THIS is the message that needs to be shared…how we live and die at the end of human civilization.

Love, AV

My initial read through triggered a wave of irritation peppered with self-righteous indignation. How dare anyone tell me that my message is filled with “too much Hopium”.

When the wave passed however, what remained was a feeling of deep sadness. I realized that the initial irritation emerged from a part of me that didn’t want to be called out on my denial. In my heart and in every cell of my being, I knew that she was right.

In recent monthly posts, I’ve alluded to the rapidly imploding, pressurized global energies I’ve been feeling with heightened intensity. For the record, I don’t profess to be psychic. I don’t channel non-physical entities, swing pendulums, or commune with guides, angels, ET’s, or fairies. I have no crystal ball, magic wand, tarot cards, or ouija board. I’m fully embodied and plugged into my heart and the energies of the Earth—deeply grounded in my profound love for Gaia.

After numerous conversations with others who are intuitively connected, including local indigenous wisdom, I know that I’m far from alone in feeling the alarming Earth energies that are playing out. Although my heart knows how dire the planetary situation is, I’ve sidestepped the deep inner truth that I carry. With receipt of AV’s recent email however, I know that I’ve been called out. I feel that it’s incumbent upon me to now step in to where I’ve been too fearful to go.

I confess that I’ve mastered the art of procrastination with the paralytic inertia I’ve been feeling while writing this post. I’ve been grieving, feeling, and processing my own denial as I navigate the collapsing energies that have descended on my heart. This is why an April post wasn’t written. I’ve been struggling for the proper words for this month’s blog post/essay, figuring out a way to give voice to a tough conversation that scares me. But the thing about tough conversations is that, well, they’re tough conversations. The only way to say what needs to be said is to just tell it like it is. I’ve finally reached a place of acceptance where I’m able to write this post from a place of transparent authenticity.

It’s Over

Over the past few months I’ve been feeling a greater sense of grief over the state of the world with the accelerating breakdown that is playing out in every aspect of life on Earth. I’m finding it increasingly difficult to navigate this Gaia Grief as I call it, knowing that everything I love so dearly—animals and nature—are being mindlessly consumed, commoditized and destroyed with reckless abandon. Joanna Macy calls this breakdown The Great Unraveling. The word that resonates most with me is collapse.

I’m blessed to live in a stunning location that is energetically charged by rainforests, mountains and ocean. I live in a state of perpetual awe for the beauty that still remains in this part of the world. As such, I’m aware of the “thinness” of this magnificent place, where the veil between the physical and non-physical world is virtually non-existent. Unlike a city with its denuded, unnatural landscape and the incessant noise from honking cars, blaring music, car alarms, machines, construction, techno-distraction, and the mental static of worry, busyness, fatigue, anxiety, and irritation, Earth energy is much easier to feel here—especially for the energetically sensitive like myself. I feel what is unseen and unheard by the collective, and which is subsequently ignored and denied by our culture. The Sunshine Coast is a true barometer for what’s really occurring in the world on a non-physical level. For me, this is truth.

The internal guidance I’ve been receiving is arriving with a clarity that is beyond what I’m used to. The message is clear: get out of the system. Collapse is upon us. It’s no longer some distant event. It’s happening now and it’s happening faster than anyone can predict.

Along with the clear message to extricate myself from the system, I’ve been having repetitive premonitions that won’t let up.

These premonitions have a persistent ocean theme that come with two words, “It’s over.”

My intellect is grasping, trying to understand what the “it” is that’s over. Is it literal: the collapse of our oceans? Is it our dominant patriarchal worldview of separation? Is it our consumptive culture of infinite growth, ignorance, distraction, and relentless destruction? Is it our biosphere? Is it humanity? Is it life on Earth? There’s no doubt that we’re collectively committing ecocide, is it more?

As my mind struggles for answers, my heart doesn’t care. Content is irrelevant. To my heart it makes no difference if the “it” is cultural, economic, ecological, or human collapse. Rather than allow my mind to exhaust me with possible future scenarios, my heart has chosen to be fully present with what is. In this acceptance, I’ve unleashed a force from within that knows that no matter how it all plays out, it’s ok, because the love in my heart remains steadfast through it all.

In Praise of Mortality

Despite our widespread willful ignorance, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to understand that a consumptive way of living that devours non-renewable “resources” with reckless abandon cannot last.

If “it’s over” means the end of life on Earth, there are worse things than the end of Earth’s surface humanity—such as continuing in a way that systemic tyranny and desecrating consumption reigns, while free-will, freedom and awakening to inclusive consciousness is forsaken.

As Peter Russell says, “There’s no blame for the crisis we are in. Any intelligent technological species has the potential to become a magnificent flowering of consciousness, but the side effects of its rapid evolution mean that it only has a short window of time to complete it’s evolutionary journey. Facing the end of our species could in itself be the wake-up call we need.”

One manifestation of our collective insanity is that we’ll do anything to deny our own mortality. We’ve all known since early on that we’re going to die and that our mortality is ensured, but ironically, we have a death-phobic mindset in a culture that is driven by a death urge to compulsively destroy life.

This is insanity.

Most people exist as if they’re never going to die—invincible … immortal. Yet they don’t really live either. The level of anxiety and depression is profound. The world is filled with hopeless, unhappy, self-loathing people. By avoiding all conversations about pain and death, slavery is ensured and the masses never break free from their own misery.

Facing our own mortality can be, in many cases, a radical awakening into a more sacred connection with all life. In my own life, the most liberating, expansive and transformative experience was the untimely death of my mother. As painful as it was, it altered my perception of reality and connected me to a deeper love for life.

I believe that if we faced the fact that we may be coming to the end of our incredible evolutionary journey as a species, we can live with more love in our hearts than we’ve ever known. To me, this is a beautiful thing.

As Joanna Macy says, “There is absolutely no excuse for making our passionate love for the world dependent on what we believe the outcome will be: whether life continues on or not. In this uncertainty, we come alive.”

Collapse

I realize that warnings of ‘collapse’ and the end of civilization are often viewed as fringe or controversial, but I believe that on some level, we’re all feeling it. To the naked eye, things may look “ok”, but lurking below the surface, we know something quite different.

Collapse is not a new concept. Civilizations have risen and fallen repeatedly throughout history. The difference this time however, is that collapse is not isolated to a particular civilization, it extends to all life on earth. It is the sixth mass extinction event that gets little airtime in our truth suppressed world.

We’ve had endless opportunities to wake up and alter our course throughout history. Instead, we’ve chosen a deeper coma of separation by remaining slaves to our cultural conditioning. We now have more babies, more consumption, more violence, more ignorance, more denial, more entitlement, more arrogance, more selfishness, more depression, more anxiety, more addiction, and more distracting and destructive technology to drive us farther from our souls. The increase in human population is directly related to the escalating violence and destruction in our world.

As Derrick Jenson writes in his book, Endgame, “The culture as a whole and most of its members are insane. The culture is driven by a death urge, an urge to destroy life. From birth on, we are individually and collectively enculturated to hate life, hate the natural world, hate the wild, hate and fear animals, hate women, hate children, hate our bodies, hate and fear our emotions, hate ourselves. If we did not hate the world, we could not allow it to be destroyed before our eyes. If we did not hate ourselves, we would not allow our homes—and our bodies—to be poisoned.”

If we could only stop the war on our souls, we would stop the war on the Earth and everything else.

Our dominant culture is built on the foundation of separation and violence. Rape of the Earth is rewarded, peace on Earth is punished. Lies are honored, truth is vilified. Ignorance is coveted, wisdom is ridiculed. Even the so called ‘awakened’ remain trapped in the conditioned entitlement that perpetuates the slavery, oppression and slaughter of animals for their flesh (meat), ovulations (eggs), and maternal secretions (dairy). Everything that represents the feminine/life—particularly animals and nature—is fair game for obliteration in our anthropocentric patriarchal culture. Sadly, with women influencing more than 85% of household purchasing decisions, and unconscious decisions as the norm, the destructive forces of patriarchy infect us all.

With a rapidly growing critical mass in a coma, our ecocide is rendering planet Earth uninhabitable. The planet cannot regenerate itself as quickly as industrial culture is destroying it. Even the antiquated notion of linear Newtonian science brings with it alarming predictions. What Newtonian science fails to recognize however, is the organic, non-linear nature of Gaia. Gaia is a living organism and linear scientific predictions just don’t work for the rapid acceleration we’re now experiencing. We’ve set off so many positive feedback loops that we’re officially on a runaway train to a greater hell than we’ve already created. When the web of life breaks down, collapse accelerates and there is no certainty … no predictability.

Newtonian science speaks from a linear cause and effect worldview. If “x” continues to happen, then “y” will happen in 10 years they tell us. It always seems like a distant event that may or may not happen should we decide to curb our consumptive ways. We tend to face problems with facts, figures, statistics, extrapolations and rationale. We think that we can master the world with a three pound hunk of watery flab—our almighty brains—but this only serves to distance us from the source of our greatest potential and the place where we most need to go: our hearts.

We’re not only living through startling ecological, economic, system and cultural collapse, but most frightening of all, we’re living in a state of collapsed consciousness, where fear, denial and ignorance reign supreme. Our cultural story of separation/patriarchy has been fundamentally contradicting truth, love and life for several thousand years. It is therefore, contrary to the essence of who we are. As such, we’re confused about who and what we are as a species, especially within our modern, narcissistic technological civilization. Because we’re so unsure of our identity as a species, we’ve lost our sense of belonging in Nature. This disconnect from the web of life has sadly brought us to where we now stand today.

Lately, I’ve been wracking my brain trying to figure out what the purpose of homo sapien is—and always has been for that matter. I keep coming up empty. Biologist Jonas Salk said, “If all the insects were to disappear from the earth, within 50 years all life on earth would end. If all human beings disappeared from the earth, within 50 years all forms of life would flourish.” Such a tragic statement about how far we’ve strayed from the web of life.

While every other form of life on this planet intimately knows its place in the web of life, what the hell happened to us? Surely we were not created with the sole purpose of forgetting who we are so we could gobble up everything in our path leaving a trail of toxic trash in our wake while destroying the biosphere in the process. Despite everything pointing in that direction, I have a hard time believing this could be so. Despite my own imperfections, I know that it’s not so for me, but do I confess that I’m confused. According to Eknath Easwaran’s translation of the Bhagavad Gita, “Since the Self is the core of every personality, no one needs to acquire goodness or compassion; they are already there. All that is necessary is to remove the selfish habits that hide them.”

So the problem is not a lack of goodness and compassion, the problem is a lack of interest in expressing goodness and compassion—especially in ways that are not conditional or fragmented.

For most of my life, I’ve felt like I’ve been shouting love and compassion for animals, the Earth, and the human soul into a hurricane hoping for someone … anyone to hear me. But sadly, love and compassion are not big sellers in the paradigm of separation. Six pack abs? For sure! Sixth mass extinction event? Meh. Scarf down another bacon cheeseburger, chase it with a beer and Prozac and all is well.

On a deep visceral level, I know that the world I now live in is nothing like the world I grew up in. The degradation of human consciousness that has accompanied the population explosion is significant. Despite my lifelong work for a kinder, more compassionate world, I now wonder if it’s worth the effort anymore. I feel the bittersweet pain when I sit by the ocean with my partner and dogs admiring a beautiful sunset knowing that the oceans are plasticized beyond repair and are now nearly devoid of life. Spring comes earlier every year, flooding is more intense every year, heatwaves last longer every year, larger algae blooms choke the ocean every year, drought descends earlier every year, fire burns more aggressively every year. And yet we still do nothing to change our ways.

As comedian Jimmy Kimmel says, “2014 was the warmest year on record. Until 2015 was the warmest year ever. Now 2016 is already turning out to be warmer than either of the previous two years. You know how you can determine if climate change is real? When the hottest year on record is whatever year it currently is. That’s how you know. We’ve had 15 of the 16 hottest years ever since 2001.”

If we’re really honest with ourselves, as was written in the email from AV, tipping points are well behind us and there’s no hope for salvaging our broken world anymore. Quite frankly, why would we want to continue on with what is so blatantly cruel and destructive toward life anyways? Because it’s familiar? I don’t think so.

We’ve had ample opportunities for transformation. So many wide open doors to walk through, and each time we’ve chosen to slam the doors shut, throw on the deadbolts, toss the keys, and relocate every piece of furniture to ensure our containment. With our refusal to walk through however, we’re now locked from the outside as well. In his book Endgame, Derrick Jensen asks, “Do you believe that this culture is going to undergo a voluntary transformation to a sane and sustainable way of living?” Most of us know that the answer is a resounding NO. With our collective indifference and denial, we’ve thrown away all opportunities for a global transformation in consciousness.

We’ve had all of the knowledge, technology, creativity, ancient wisdom, and inspiration to create a beautiful new world for several decades, if not much longer. Instead, we’ve chosen the familiar coma of our antiquated separation-based worldview. The only changes we’ve experienced are those that clearly show how far we’ve strayed. The explosion of humans on the planet—all indoctrinated into the paradigm of separation—is the perfect recipe for biosphere collapse.

We’re rigid in our worldview and refuse to look outside of our mechanistic conditioning. We persist in having having the same old conversations that we did hundreds of years ago. Sexism, speciesism, racism, and many other ‘isms are as prolific as ever. Climate change deny-osaurs abound. Quite honestly, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if there were many who still believed the world was flat.

As I write this post, Fort McMurray Alberta, the infamous oil and tar sand hell, is burning up. How tragically ironic. And while desperate conversations about anthropogenic climate change spring to life, the denial-infected masses angrily pounce on the harbingers of truth, denouncing their message as “preying on tragedy to further their climate change ‘agenda’”. WTF?

While this armageddon unfolds in my neighbouring province, red tides are choking out life in the ocean, coral reefs are dying, and the ever so eloquent Sarah Palin (sarcasm intended), in the full-on glory of her ignorant arrogance, bloviates about the great climate change hoax. Yes folks, 97% of scientists are wrong because Lady Palin said so. If that’s not enough, her bloviating partner in ignorant arrogance, Donald J. Trump is a few steps away from accepting the keys to the white house.

Methinks we ain’t seen nothing yet.

Enjoying the Collapse

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Published on Reddit on May 29, 2016

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Abandoned Malls & Vaporwave

If I wanted to limit myself to posting profoundly insightful things, I'd have to post once a month perhaps. So, today I want to discuss something that simply happens to entertain me. I'm part of an age cohort that happens to remember the nineties, but only very vaguely so. We're the echo-boomers, born from around 1989 until 1992. During that period there was a small but significant spike in birth rates around the Western world. If you were to ask your parents however, they'd insist that the collapse of the Soviet Union and the fall of the Berlin wall had nothing to do whatsoever with your birth. So for us, our experience of the late nineties and its culture consist of vague unreliable memories and an abundance of toys. My girlfriend insists that she remembers how it was, despite being two years younger than me, but I struggle to believe her. I think she remembers hearing the echo of that culture in the early '00's, although it could be argued that's what I heard myself as well. Still, I have some memories, particularly, I remember an atmosphere of exuberance.

I personally think that I got an odd version of the 90's and turned into a rather odd person, because of the fact that my father got laid off from the government somewhere in the late 90's. At the time, if you lost your government job, the government would continue paying you a monthly severance package practically equivalent to the salary you used to earn, until you found a new job. The state traditionally takes care of its own people very well here in Europe. My father's job would probably put us in the upper-middle class bracket (if my mom would have a job too, but she didn't), but he hated the job and most of his colleagues. As a result, my father didn't really want to find a new job at first. My parents would earn some money on the side by selling scrap metal or participating in surveys, which was more than enough to get by. Then, after years of unemployment when it did become useful to find some extra money, it proved to be somewhat difficult.

I think this environmental upbringing plays a role in the fact that I'm not very interested in participating in the economy. I was quite proud of the fact that my parents didn't have to work and made no secret of it to the preppy kids I went to junior high school with who'd ask me what my father does, because they grew up with parents that based their self-image on their petty jobs and taught their children to do the same. Personally, I believe I got the best of both world. I have vague memories of economic excesses and did not have to suffer poverty as a result. When I became mature and began to think about the world, civilization began to horrify me, almost driving me into insanity. Now that I am an adult, I woke up from my slumber to realize that civilization has already started to fall apart. The signs are everywhere and even regular people are starting to notice them.

Ted Kaczynski claims in his manifesto that the atmosphere of the nineties was rather critical of progress. That's not what I remember. I remember corporate guru's, paid hundreds of euros an hour to give pep talks based on buzz-words to cubicle-concubines. I remember stock markets that were going to keep growing forever. I remember the end of history, as neoliberal democracy was going to conquer the whole world. I remember sitcom television series, where the main characters suddenly had more money than they knew what to do with and decided to invest it in ridiculous ventures. I remember good television shows and arty farty computer games. I even remember people thinking that diversity would make our nations stronger and allow us to enjoy experiencing exotic cultures. People thought that they had won, that the good times would last forever.

If I was born a few years later, I'd be a rather ignorant person, with no idea of what went wrong and how things used to be and what made people take the poor decisions they took. If I was born a few years earlier, I think I'd be a rather miserable person. I would have grown up in economic growth and become psychologically dependent on it. I'd be stuck somewhere with a petty job and I'd probably be in the prime of my life now and suffering the effects of the economic downturn, watching my hopes for the future fall apart. Never having hope or goals for the future meant I never had to suffer disappointment. Being an echo boomer means that I've never had any experience with the economy as anything other than a beast of burden that has broken its leg and struggled to pull the plow ever since. I don't remember how things used to be before temp-contracts and waiters with Phd's, all that I remember is tasting the fruits we used to harvest in those earlier days. Instead, I've somehow always known that I would have to live through the collapse and that regardless of what I do, I won't be prepared for it.

I can't deny that I'm surprised by how long they have managed to drag the process out. It's something that used to bother me, but I'm beginning to come to terms with it. I used to hope that I would be a teenager during the collapse, one day waking up to a catastrophe of Venezuelan proportions and living as a permanent nomad from that point on. I still think a fast collapse may be better, for a variety of reasons, but for me this situation works too. It's the difference between watching someone paint a landscape and wandering into an art gallery. I will learn to better appreciate things that future generations will take for granted. And believe me, there is plenty to appreciate out here.

Let us start for example, with the fact that you and me get to watch everyone's utopian dreams end in profound humiliation. We get to watch the babyboomers be confronted with the reality that they won't get to live like modern day aristocrats after retiring. We get to watch every technology that was supposed to protect us from the consequences of our own greed fail to deliver. And perhaps most importantly, we get to dance on the corpses of our predecessors. It's fun to watch how the shopping malls are gradually deserted and once busy streets now house only money laundering jewelers and second hand stores kept alive with government subsidies. For future generations, abandoned shopping malls with flickering lights overgrown by vines and mosses are a self-evident part of the landscape. For me, they're orgasmic.

The advertisements once meant to seduce us into consuming now serve as a source of hilarity, as we don't have money left to consume with. This led to perhaps the most beautiful thing of this decade, vaporwave. Vaporwave was made for a generation of people for whom prosperity is an unreliable childhood memory. It's the international anthem of every abandoned mall around the world. Nobody invented vaporwave, it simply emerged spontaneously as a collective hallucination of dementing patients who struggle to remember their childhood. It seems inevitable that capitalism will now aim to mass market this anthem of its own decay, like a cancer patient selling tickets to his own funeral. Some people feel upset about this, but I don't see why you should. It seems that we struggle to understand that there can be life after the peak. The Russians and the Japanese had to learn to accept this, now it's our turn. In America and Western Europe, the post-peak world began in the year 2001, when it became clear that we still had problems. The level of wealth we reached in 1999 will never be experienced again and we should be glad about it. What lies ahead now is a long descent, with bumpy plateaus that prove to be unsustainable and tend to be followed by rapid collapses. As of speaking, the bumpy plateau we've been on since 2009 is rapidly coming to an end.

My recommendation to all of you is to learn how to enjoy the decline. Abandoned buildings are a treasure trove of mysteries and sometimes even wealth. Do not become too physically attached to any place, as everything you see will disappear. Abandoned buildings will be destroyed, even as beautiful wastelands will be filled with new offices and shopping malls as a product of wealthy people's inability to accept that their way of life is coming to an end. When you find yourself mourning the ruins of today that are demolished to hide the decline, remember that the ruins of tomorrow are built today. If you ever doubt whether God loves us, remember that rising CO2 concentrations lower the light compensation point: The amount of sunlight needed for a plant to gain more carbon than it loses. As a result, plants of all kinds will be able to grow in places that would have been barren under our previous climate due to insufficient sunlight. An overpriced McMansion built today will come to house trees growing through its roof, their lives made possible by the abandoned SUV rusting away in the garage. After years of suffering through this mediocrity, what lies ahead for us is more beautiful than what we can begin to imagine.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Is a 100% Renewable Energy World Possible?

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Published on Cassandra's Legacy on May 19, 2016

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I am reporting here the results of a small survey that I carried out last week among the members of a discussion forum; mainly experts in renewable energy (*). It was a very informal poll; not meant to have statistical value. But some 70 people responded out of a total of 167 members; so I think these results have a certain value in telling us how the experts feel in this field. And I was surprised by the remarkable optimism that resulted from the poll.

This is what I asked the members of the list

The question is about  the possibility of a society not too different from ours (**) but 100% based on renewable energy sources, and on the possibility of obtaining it before it is too late to avoid the climate disaster. This said, what statement best describes your position?

1.  It is impossible for technical reasons. (Renewables have too low EROEIs, need too large amounts of natural resources, we'll run out of fossil fuels first, climate change will destroy us first, etc.)

2. It is technically possible but so expensive to be unthinkable.

3. It is technically possible and not so expensive to be beyond our means. However, it is still expensive enough that most likely people will not want to pay the costs of the transition before it will be too late to achieve it, unless we move to a global emergency status.

4. It is technically possible and inexpensive enough that it can be done smoothly, by means of targeted government intervention, such as a carbon tax.

5. It is technically possible and technological progress will soon make it so inexpensive that normal market mechanisms will bring us there nearly effortlessly.

As I said, it was a very informal poll and these questions could have been phrased differently, and probably in a better way. And, indeed, many people thought that their position was best described by something intermediate, some saying, for instance, "I am between 4 and 5". Because of this, it was rather difficult to make a precise counting of the results. But the trend was clear anyway.

Out of some 70 answers, the overwhelming majority was for option 4, that is, the transition is not only technologically possible, but within reach at a reasonable cost and fast enough to avoid major damage from climate change. The second best choice was option 3 (the transition is possible but very expensive). Only a few respondents say that the transition is technologically impossible without truly radical changes of society. Some opted for option 5, even suggesting an "option 6", something like "it will be faster than anyone expects".

I must confess that I was a little surprised by this diffuse optimism, being myself set on option 3. In part, it is because I tend to frequent "doomer" groups, but also on the basis of the quantitative calculations that I performed with some colleagues. But I think that these results are indicative of a trend that's developing among energy experts. It is an attitude that would have been unthinkable just a few years ago, but the experts are clearly perceiving the rapid strides forward of renewable technologies and reacting accordingly. They feel that there is a concrete chance to be able to create a cleaner world fast enough to avoid the worst.

I understand that this is the opinion of just a tiny group of experts, I understand that experts may well be wrong, I understand that there exist such things as the "bandwagon effect" and the "confirmation bias." I know all this. Yet, I believe that, in the difficult situation in which we find ourselves, we can't go anywhere if we keep telling people that we are doomed, no matter what we do. What we need in order to keep going and fight the climate crisis is a healthy dose of hope and of optimism. And these results show that there is hope, that there is reason for optimism. Whether the transition will turn out to be very difficult, or not so difficult, it seems to be within reach if we really want it.

(*) Note: the forum mentioned in this post is a private discussion group meant to be a tool for professionals in renewable energy. It is not a place to discuss whether renewable energy is a good thing or not, nor to discuss such thing as the incoming near term extinction of humankind and the like. Rather, the idea of the forum is to discuss how to make the renewable energy transition happen as fast as possible; hopefully fast enough to avoid a climate disaster. If you are interested in joining this forum, please write me privately at ugo.bardi(zingything)unifi.it telling me in a few lines who you are and why you would like to join. It is not necessary that you are a researcher or a professional. People of good will who think they have something to contribute to the discussion are welcome.

(**) The concept of a society "not too different from ours" is left purposefully vague, because it is, obviously subjected to many different interpretations.Personally, I would tend to define it in terms of what such a society would NOT be. A non-exhaustive list could be, in no particular order,
 

  • Not a Mayan style theocracy, complete with human sacrifices
  • Not a military dictatorship, Roman style, complete with a semi-divine imperial ruler
  • Not a proletarian paradise, complete with a secret police sending dissenters to very cold places
  • Not a hunting and gathering society, complete with hunting rituals and initiation rites
  • Not a society where you are hanged upside down if you tell a joke about the dear leader
  • Not a society where, if you can't afford health care, you are left to die in the street
  • Not a society where you are worried every day about whether you and your children will have something to eat
  • Not a society where slavery is legal and the obvious way things ought to be
  • Not a society where women are supposed to be the property of men
  • Not a society where most people spend most of their life tilling the fields
  • Not a society where you are burned at the stake if you belong to a different sect than the dominant one
 
Many other things are, I think, negotiable, such as having vacations in Hawai'i, owning an SUV, watering the lawn in summer, and more.

 

 

 

 

Sabotage

hathawaygc2reddit-logoOff the keyboard of William T. Hathaway

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Published on the Doomstead Diner on April 28, 2016

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Discuss this article at the Collapse Narratives Table inside the Diner

 

 

Here at the Diner we're discussing the Collapse of Industrial Civilization from a variety of perspectives: survivalists, socialists, anarchists, and wildists share their approaches to the future. The following interview presents an anarchist view.

 

Saboteur

An interview with a domestic insurgent

 

From the book

RADICAL PEACE: People Refusing War

By William T. Hathaway

 

I first met the man we'll call Trucker in 1970 at a rally against the Vietnam War. Our demo was going to start on the Berkeley campus and continue with a march down Telegraph Avenue. This was shortly after the National Guard and police had murdered six demonstrators at Kent State and Jackson State, so the mood was extremely tense. The Berkeley city government had denied us a permit to march and called in police reinforcements from Oakland. The Oakland cops had a reputation for brutality (based on their treatment of the black population), and we were expecting an ugly and possibly violent confrontation. Out of fear, many people decided not to march, but others of us argued that marching was now more important than ever. We needed to defy the government's attempts to scare us into silence.

 

After speeches and music in front of Sproul Hall, we marched off the campus and were met by a wall of police sealing off Telegraph Avenue. Some of our hard-cores in front tried to break through the barrier but were clubbed down. Cops began firing what looked liked shotguns, and people started screaming and running in panic, but it turned out to be tear gas.

 

A demonstrator wearing a biker helmet, swim goggles, and a cloth around his face picked up a gas canister with gloved hands and hurled it back at the police — a classic scene of a brave individual defying tyranny. Inspired, I pulled off my old green beret that I'd been wearing and used it to protect my hands as I scooped up a hot canister and threw it back where it came from. I thought about all the grenades I'd thrown in Vietnam and felt much better about this one.

 

The first line of cops, those who were firing, wore gas masks, but those behind didn't, and I felt a surge of triumph seeing them run from their own gas. But the ones in masks kept advancing and firing, looking like robots.

 

The peace marchers fell back, fleeing down side streets. Agonized from the tear gas, I sank to my knees, hacking convulsively. My eyes were seared, nose and throat raw, skin burning. Through the tears I saw the guy in the biker helmet approaching. He helped me off the street into a doorway and pulled out a first-aid kit. From a squeeze bottle he squirted glycerin water into my eyes and nose, helped me rinse my mouth and throat with regular water from a canteen, then rubbed moist baking soda under my eyes. He was firm but gentle, like a good combat medic. I saw the cloth around his face was a towel wet with vinegar to absorb some of the gas. This man was equipped.

 

As soon as I could walk better, we straggled away from the scene. The police strategy had worked: the march was broken up, scattered in all directions. We walked down to People's Park, angry, bitter, exhausted.

 

The park was full, and no cops dared to show, although they and other agents were probably there undercover. Joints were being passed around, and we got high. Smoking grass back then had an innocence to it that it hasn't had since. Cannabis helped us to abandon the death world we saw around us and resurrect our child-selves. Stoned people were learning to play again, singing, blowing giant iridescent soap bubbles, juggling pine cones, tossing Frisbees back and forth. But under it seethed a mood of defiance and rebellion. A statement in Ramparts magazine summed up our feelings: "Alienation is when your country is at war and you want the other side to win." But I would have spelled it a-lie-nation. A group of conga drummers were playing, and their furious, insistent beat seemed to herald a rising tidal wave of protest that would sweep the militarists out of power.

 

We didn't realize it at the time, but this wasn't the beginning of the wave but its crest, and in the next years it would dwindle down. But this was better than no wave at all. It didn't sink the ship of state, but it did slosh over the deck. And now a new one is rising that may go even higher.

 

The events of the day bonded Trucker and me as friends, and although our lives took different directions after that, we stayed in touch. Years ago he went totally underground, changing his identity and location, and since then all I've had for him is a webmail address, through which we held the following interview.

 

Hathaway: Why don't you start by telling us why you became a saboteur.

 

Trucker: Well, like Jerry Garcia said, "What a long, strange trip it's been." After you went back to New York I joined an anarchist affinity group, and we worked with the Weather Underground to move demos in the direction of revolt — trashing the headquarters of war corporations, barricading the entrance to the Oakland Army Terminal, throwing rocks at the cops. By then the fuzz had refined their tactics and had special squads that would target the activists, rush into the crowd and grab the hard-cores. They clubbed me, kicked me, punched me, then charged me with assaulting a police officer. I did four months in the Alameda County Jail. Later I found out our group had been infiltrated. One guy who was always pushing us to be more violent was actually an agent. He gave them all our plans, even photos of us he'd made with a hidden camera.

 

After that I gave up on groups and since then have focused on individual guerrilla insurrection, autonome actions, monkeywrenching the machine. Especially now with the Patriot Act, that's become the safest way to work. There's a good book, Leaderless Resistance, on how to organize that without getting smashed. You can't totally prevent being infiltrated, but you can prevent the agents from knowing much.

 

Hathaway: I remember back then you were complaining about all the infiltration, and I thought you were paranoid, but it turned out you were right.

 

Trucker: Yeah, the government took our threat very seriously and did everything they could to smash us. But they couldn't.

 

Once the war was finally over, I and lots of other people were totally burnt out. We needed a break, to depressurize. But after a while exhaustion turned to apathy, and many people lost interest in the ongoing struggle.

 

I remember when Nixon violated the Paris Peace Agreement by refusing to pay the reparations we'd promised to help Vietnam rebuild their infrastructure and buy medical supplies. Refusing this humanitarian aid was an outrageous, criminal act, and some of us tried to organize a mass protest. We ended up with a hundred people on the steps of the San Francisco County Courthouse. The momentum was gone.

 

I too began to focus more on my personal life. I'd met a woman I wanted to build a future with. We were both tired of being poor. Living on the fringe is a struggle, it wears you down. Neither of us wanted to work for the Man and go the yuppie route, and we wanted something with a bit of adventure to it.

 

I'd done a little dealing before, but now we got into it in a big way. Just grass and hash, though — natural plants. I never liked hard drugs. Went to Mexico and spent a long time in Michoacán finding a good connection. Not just price and quality, but also good personal vibes.

 

We moved to San Diego, and I cut my hair and shaved my beard. Customs was using dogs on the border by then, but we came up with a way to beat that. Formed a little company called Baha Divers, stenciled this on the sides of a van. I'd drive south across the border about every other day with the van full of scuba tanks and gear, supposedly to give diving lessons to the tourists at Rosarito Beach. The US border guards thought of course American tourists would rather learn to dive from an American. In Mexico we sealed the stuff inside the tanks. We filled them with hash because it's more concentrated. I had cut the tanks in the middle and had an airtight way to reseal them. Then we would wash them off with ammonia, to get rid of any smell. The first couple of times I was totally nervous and was afraid the guards would pick up on that, but they didn't. Pretty dull bunch. After a while they didn't even bother to put the dog in the van, just waved me through.

 

People I'd known in the Bay area were now spread all over the West Coast, so before long we were supplying all the way up to Vancouver.

 

But one day the border guards flagged me into the inspection lane. They knew exactly what they were looking for, took the tanks apart and handcuffed me. It turned out that one of our guys on the Mexican side had got busted by the Federales, and he traded his way into a lower sentence by ratting me out.

 

It looked bad, like I'd be going back to the Bay area — all the way to San Quentin. But we hired a very good, VERY expensive lawyer, and he got me off. I had to plead guilty as part of a plea bargain but ended up with a suspended sentence.

 

I decided to get out of the business. By then our savings were enough to buy a spread of land with an old farmhouse in Oregon. We settled down, went back to college, got involved in local issues and environmental organizing.

 

Then it all exploded in our faces. We let a guy, friend of a friend, stay with us for a couple of weeks. He was going through hard times and needed some peace and quiet out in the country. He was active in the Black Panthers, and so of course the cops were hassling him, but what we didn't know was that they had warrants on him for the armed robbery of three supermarkets. They tracked him out to our farm and arrested everybody there, charged us all with the robberies. He had some of the loot with him, and he'd given us some bills that turned out to be marked, so that tied us in. Cops found a few pot plants in our garden and added drug charges. They could tell we were radicals, so they wanted to send us away for as long as they could. Considering the other busts, I was looking at major time as a repeat offender.

 

We decided to scram. Sold the house and land. Our forfeited bail took a huge chunk of that, but since we weren't going to pay taxes, we came out OK. With the help of some of our old contacts, we transferred the money off shore, then followed it and kept moving, got passports under new names. We thought about staying overseas and becoming ex-pats, but we both missed the USA. The thing is, we like the country. We just don't like the people running it.

 

We had some facial surgery — my wife loves her new nose — and after a couple of years came back as different people. We haven't been back to the West Coast, though, don't want to push our luck. And we're super law-abiding, except of course for the small matter of burning military vehicles.

 

Cutting ties was hard. Both our are families are conservative and had shut us out a long time ago, so that part wasn't so difficult. That was pain we'd already gone through. But we had to let go of a lot of friendships. We have webmail with a few close and trusted folks like you, but none of them know where we live or our names.

 

Hathaway: Thanks for including me on your list.

 

Trucker: Well, we go back a long time. And those were very formative times.

 

But by the time we came back, the country was deep into the Big Chill. Straight and retro. Women were abandoning feminism and returning to femininity, joining the Fascinating Womanhood movement. Guys were majoring in business and wearing suits with suspenders like their grandfathers. Bill Gates replaced John Lennon as the generational hero. Disgusting.

 

Maybe as part of our trying to fit into the mainstream, we became tamer ourselves. Got married, in church yet. Stopped smoking dope … pretty much at least.

 

Politically, we started thinking that the way to bring change was through the Democrats, gradual reforms. Now we see that was a trap.

 

We turned radical again when Clinton ignored the chance for disarmament that the collapse of the Soviet Union offered. He could've turned the end of the Cold War into a new era of peace. Instead he saw the chance for empire and went for it. Modernized the military with high-tech weapons, clamped sanctions on Iraq that led to millions of children dying from lack of medicine, bombed Yugoslavia and built a huge base there. Rather than communists, the people who opposed the empire were now called terrorists.

 

Domestically he declared war on welfare. Thanks to his policies, millions of single mothers were forced away from their children and into crummy, low-paying jobs. Their kids grew up just as poor but much more neglected.

 

Underneath the big smile, Clinton was just a loyal servant of the corporations and the military. Both Clintons are masters of giving the impression of working for real change, but it's just show. And Obama is even better at that show than they are.

 

The Democratic Party leadership serves the interests of the mercantile side of the business establishment. They support slightly higher wages and unemployment benefits so people will have money to keeping buy stuff. There's nothing wrong with that, but it doesn't go any farther than that. The basic injustice of the system is never challenged. The Democrats just bring mildly expansionist policies to stimulate the economy.

 

The Republicans bring mildly contractive policies that serve the interests of the fiscal side of business. They keep wages low, which holds costs and inflation down and thus preserves the value of capital.

 

Although these two tendencies conflict, they're two complementary ways that corporations maintain their control over us, two sides of the same gold coin. Both are necessary for them, and trading the power back and forth keeps things running in a wobbly balance.

 

The goal of both parties is to continue this system with little changes here and there, fine tuning. Neither one is going to take it apart and rebuild it, which is what we need. And both parties support an aggressive foreign policy to force US economic and military power into other countries, which is what nobody needs except the corporations they represent.

 

Although there's little difference in their policies, there's a great deal of difference in how the parties are marketed to us. Liberal candidates are sold as figures of great hope. We're supposed to think, Finally someone who'll change things. But their changes turn out to be trivial. The system stays mostly the same, and we slump back into disappointment. As the disappointment builds to mass discontent, another fresh liberal face is presented to us with new slogans. But they're all tied to the system. The only candidates that have a chance of getting nominated are those supported by business. They're in their pockets. That's the price of their coming to power.

 

Look back in the past. The only major changes to come out of congress have been the New Deal in the 1930s, passed to stave off a total economic collapse, and the Civil Rights Act in the 1960s, passed under the threat of armed insurrection. And congress has been whittling away at them ever since.

 

We have to take the power away from both parties, close down their whole show. Or else we'll keep on being their vassals.

 

We fall for their shell game because we have a desperate need to believe the USA is a great country and our personal lives will turn out well. So we ignore what our leaders are doing in the rest of the world and cling to their mirage of a better future. That's comforting. But things are not improving, they're declining. And that'll continue until we get rid of this corporation government, both parties. We can't build a new system until we break the power of the current one.

 

Hathaway: How are you trying to do that?

 

Trucker: After Bush & Co invaded Afghanistan and Iraq, I knew I couldn't just sign petitions and march in demonstrations anymore. That wasn't going to have any effect on these guys. I had to do what I could to keep them from waging war, to take away their equipment, to bankrupt them. The people running the show are just businessmen. If they see it's costing them more than they can get out of it, they'll stop. So I decided to start destroying expensive military items.

 

I took off in a pickup truck with a camper and a dirt bike to become a domestic insurgent. Slept in the camper so I didn't leave records at motels. Showered at truck stops. I used the bike to scout out targets and escape routes.

 

I found out that security around the big bases was tight, so I started checking out National Guard branches. I liked the idea of taking revenge on the Guard for Kent State. I found a unit that had all their trucks and humvees locked in the motor pool behind a chainlink fence, but someone had left a staff car parked behind the building. I guess the colonel didn't want to have to walk very far.

 

I decided to go for it, but this first time was damn near my last. I set myself on fire. I made the mistake of starting at the top. I poured gasoline over the trunk of the car above the gas tank, and then more under the tank. But without my knowing it, the gas ran down onto the sleeve of my coat. When I flicked the lighter, my whole arm caught fire. The car did too, of course, and I had to run away from it with a blazing arm. By the time I got the coat off, I had third degree burns. Hurt like hell but I couldn't scream. Scared to.

 

But it was great seeing the car go up. When the vapor in the gas tank gets hot enough, it explodes, not a huge explosion, but enough to set off the whole tank, which erupts into a fireball that swallows the car. You can feel the concussion and a blast of heat. Everything is flames. It's quite a scene, a real charge.

 

Getting away, I could hardly steer the bike, my arm hurt so much. I didn't sleep that night because of the pain. Terrible oozing blisters, skin peeling off. I'd brought a first-aid kit with salve and stuff, but this was way past that.

 

I was afraid to go to the emergency room because they might call the cops — a guy comes in with burns right after an arson fire. But next morning I headed for the down side of downtown.

 

I had tried heroin once years ago and didn't like its down, shut-off feeling. But now I needed it. I went to the bus station, knowing that's a good place to score in most cities. I could pick up on dealer vibes, having been one myself, so I talked to this guy who was hanging out there, standing and looking around rather than just sitting and waiting for a bus. At first he was suspicious, but he sensed I wasn't a cop. A dealer has to have that instinct or he won't last long.

 

I probably paid twice as much as his regular customers, but I got a balloon. Mixed a quarter spoonful with orange juice, drank it down. Bitter. I threw up and had to take some more. But a half hour later I was fine.

 

I bought the newspaper and read about "Arsonist Torches National Guard" with a picture of the burned-out car. I felt great. I knew that the money it was going to take to replace that car couldn't be used to bomb Afghanistan. This had a lot more impact than writing a congressman or shouting slogans in a protest march. It made a bottom-line difference. I wanted to save the newspaper, but it could've connected me, so I threw it away.

 

By then I was getting woozy. Went back to the truck and passed out. Pain woke me up in a few hours, I took some more smack and nodded out again.

 

I've still got the scars, patches of turkey skin.

 

Hathaway: That didn't make you stop?

 

Trucker: No, it made me realize what all the people who've been hit by US napalm and white phosphorous are going through. Right this moment men, women, and children are crying in agony because of our bombing. And they don't have the luxury of pain killers.

 

It's worse for the kids. They have a lifetime of pain ahead of them, because the scars don't grow. As the skin around them grows, that stretches the scars. The tissue becomes very thin and sensitive. It hurts for the rest of their lives.

 

Hundreds of thousands of people in Vietnam and Cambodia are still living with this on a daily basis. And now Iraqi and Afghan children are facing this future.

 

My pain gave me just a taste of what they are suffering. It also made me aware how terrible it would be if someone got caught in one of my fires. I'd never torch a building. Just vehicles. I even look in those to make sure no one's sleeping in the back.

 

My burns made me see that what I was doing was important, trying to stop this war machine.

 

If Americans knew, I mean really opened our hearts to the mass suffering we're inflicting on Iraq and Afghanistan at this moment, we'd overthrow this government. Not to mention what we did in El Salvador, Nicaragua, Chile, Indonesia, the Congo, Iran, and so many more. But we don't want to know. We turn it off — it's a long ways away. And the media sure don't want us to tell about it. Their job is to distract us from it with all sorts of nonsense.

 

We close our eyes to the killing because it conflicts with the patriotic fantasies about America we learned as children. Reality is too disturbing, so we deny it. Our love of country has blinded us.

 

But deep down we do know. We push it away, but it sinks into our subconscious and festers there and pops out in sick ways. That's why we have so many crazy shootings.

 

We're convinced our society is good, because that's what we were taught. But good societies don't kill millions of people. Pathological ones do that. And you don't cure pathology with reforms. It needs major surgery.

 

Hathaway: What do you see as your greatest triumph?

 

Trucker: The Air National Guard watches their planes pretty carefully, but I found one parked at an unguarded airstrip. This was in the middle of the day, and I was hoping it would still be there at night. It was, and no one around. I needed more gas because the flames had to reach higher, and I wasn't sure where the tanks were. I soaked some boards with gas and laid them against the fuselage and on the wings. The plane went up fine. A beautiful sight. Had a different smell because of the kerosene.

 

Hathaway: Are you going to get more planes?

 

Trucker: I hope so, but the vehicles are easier to find. My favorite are the deuce-and-a-halves, those big trucks with canvas covers. They make a huge fireball, and they're expensive. That's what this game is about — make the war too expensive, so it becomes bad economics. There's lots of ways to do that, and this is my way.

 

A couple of times a year, but not in any regular pattern, I take off and look for targets of opportunity. My wife keeps the home fires burning while I go out and set a fire. I follow the basic principles of guerrilla warfare — pick the time and place to attack, make it quick, and get out before the enemy can react.

 

Once I almost got caught. I always pick Guard units of the edge of town, somewhat isolated. Those are less likely to be patrolled by the police, and they offer quicker access to escape routes, trails where only the bike can go. This place looked good, and they'd left a truck out. Right after it erupted in flames, though, I heard a siren and saw flashing lights. A patrol car must've been cruising nearby.

 

He was between me and my escape route, so I had to take off on the bike in the other direction. He saw me, even though I was running without lights. I was hoping he'd first go to the fire, but no such luck — he charged after me. The bike is fast, but so was he. I kept turning corners because I could do that faster than he could, but he caught up on the straights. I zigzagged back onto the main road towards the escape trail, but by then other sirens were approaching from different directions.

 

He was right behind me as I got to the trail. I was afraid he was going to run me over and claim it was an accident. As I slowed down to turn left onto the trail, he swung beside me into the oncoming lane and blocked me off. I couldn't turn, just had to keep going.

 

Up ahead was an intersection. I sprinted towards it and swung a wide U-turn in the middle of it, so I could get back to the trail. But he turned his car sideways to block the road. His front tires covered the right shoulder I wanted to drive on, and I couldn't turn sharp enough to get behind him.

 

I was still going fast and had only a split second to react. I plunged the bike down into the drainage channel next to the shoulder of the road, right in front of his headlights. I could barely hold it stable. I skidded on the wet bottom of the channel, almost laid it down, but kicked out with my foot and managed to stay up. Then I hit an old tire and lost control. The bike bounced up and keeled over, and I scraped through the mud, wrenching my leg and banging my knee, and finally stopped, front wheel still spinning. I was hurting and covered with dreck.

 

The patrol car was backing around to get me. My engine had stalled, but it started again on the first kick. I roared up the side of the channel at an angle, back onto the pavement.

 

The cop was closing fast, and I moved onto the shoulder so he couldn't cut me off from the trail again. Another patrol car was speeding from town, red lights flashing, siren blaring, but he wasn't close yet. Approaching the trail, I slowed just enough to slue through the turn. As I careened down the trail away from the road, I imagined the cop swearing at me in frustration.

 

I was on a tractor path leading into a big area of cornfields, and the tall corn swallowed me up in a second, friendly and protective. It was dark in there, but I kept my lights off so they wouldn't reflect off the stalks and show my position. I slowed down and laughed out loud in the warm, fragrant September night.

 

The fields ran for miles, gridded with other tractor paths, and I was sure they couldn't find me here in the dark. The feed corn was so dense that even with a helicopter they'd have to be right above me before they could spot me. I was safe here until dawn.

 

This was my territory now, but the streets were enemy territory, and I was going to have trouble getting out of here. When I had to try, my best bet would be a road with lots of traffic, so I could blend in. The cops couldn't be everywhere.

 

A state highway ran north of town, and I headed for it, now pushing the bike so they couldn't tell my direction from its sound. It took hours. I had to cross a couple of gravel roads, first waiting out of sight until it felt safe, then running across. Finally I could hear the highway ahead. It was almost dawn, but I wanted to wait until rush-hour traffic, so I lay down and tried to sleep. The ground was cold, I was hungry, my knee hurt, and a field mouse scampered over me, but I managed to doze.

 

About 7:30 I crept up towards the highway, peering out from my tractor path, afraid again. To my relief, there were enough motorcycles on the road that I figured the cops couldn't stop them all. I waited until I felt lucky, then started the bike, accelerated along the shoulder, and joined the stream between two big trucks. I saw one cop, but he was going the other way. I kept expecting a patrol car to pull beside me with a shotgun leveled out the window, but it didn't happen.

 

I stopped in the next town and hid the bike near a shopping center. I was covered with mud, so I bought new clothes, cleaned up as best I could and changed, then ate a big farmer's breakfast of steak and eggs, grits, and three cups of coffee. It was the sort of place where cops might stop for doughnuts, but none came in. Poor guys must've all had to work overtime.

 

I took a cab back to near where my truck was parked, drove back to the bike and loaded it in, drove a hundred more miles, and collapsed into the bunk. My body was still clogged with fear, my leg was swollen and aching, I had a nervous tic in my cheek, but I was almost glowing with bliss as I sank into sleep.

 

It was a long time before I went on another sabotage mission, though.

 

Once I had a close call at what looked like a perfect set up — a humvee parked behind a Guard admin building, secluded, dark, no one around. As usual I waited an hour after the bars closed, so the streets would be emptier. Also it was a regular work night, so fewer late partygoers. But as soon as I took the lid off the gas can, this car pulls in and two guys get out, drunk. They were fumbling at their zippers to piss when they noticed me by the humvee. They shouted at me — probably thought I was trying to steal it. Seeing their chance to become heroes, they forgot about their bladders and started towards me. One of them pulled out a knife.

 

Part of me wanted to throw the gas can at them and light it, but I couldn't do that. I know what burns are like. Instead I threw the can at an angle between us. The gas spewed out in a long trail, and when I lit it, the flames leaped up, high enough to reach their zippers if they'd tried to get through. That stopped their charge long enough for me to take off on the bike while they were shaking their fists and swearing at me.

 

Never did get that humvee. Went back a year later and everything was locked up.

 

Once I found two humvees and a truck parked together. What a blaze they made! Someday I'm hoping to get a whole motor pool … or a squadron of planes.

 

Hathaway: Some people would call that violence.

 

Trucker: Violence means harming living beings. I'm very careful not to do that. It's only because our culture worships property that we see destroying war machines as violence. What I'm doing is depriving the military of their tools of violence. I'm decreasing their ability to harm people. Since they refuse to disarm, I'm doing it for them.

 

But I admit I've got some psychological quirks. I like fire — the huge eruption of flames is magnificent. Torching is an adrenaline high … like dealing. Apparently I need that. Maybe that makes me neurotic, but if so, I've managed to channel my neurosis into a socially useful activity — destroying war machines. The real crazies are those who go along with this system and think they're sane.

 

It's probably true that certain personality traits make people more likely to oppose their society. But conservatives use that to discount the rebels' objections by branding them abnormal. They say radicals have psychological problems, they're not well adjusted, they have a bad relationship with their father.

 

But what does it mean to be well adjusted to a society like this? It means you've accepted and internalized its values. If you think about what those values really are, it's insane to do that. The people who do are normal only in the sense that they're the majority.

 

And since most fathers are the spear carriers of patriarchy, since they are the power structure, how can we not oppose them? That kind of authority needs to be defied.

 

Having a "good" relationship with your father isn't necessarily good. It tends to make people support the powers that be, to want to please them. Kids who need their father's approval turn into toadies. That's the only way to please a patriarch. If we want to build a new kind of person, we have to become different from the old kind, and that usually means displeasing them.

 

Hathaway: Would you prefer matriarchy?

 

Trucker: I'd prefer no-archy. No group should have power over another group. That's what anarchy means.

 

Conservatives conveniently forget that they're supporting this culture because of their own personality traits. And look at those — the desire to placate authority rather than defy it, to actually become the authority and have power over others, to preserve with violence if necessary an unjust economic system that denies the majority of humanity the basics of a secure life. Those are conservatives. And if you put them under pressure, they become fascists, as we're seeing.

 

Hathaway: You're in your sixties now. Do you have a protégé, someone to, so to speak, pass the torch on to?

 

Trucker: No. This business is too risky. I'd feel terrible if something happened to them. Also there's the security issue. With all the government surveillance and infiltration, this sort of work has to be done alone. No one knows what I do except my wife, and they can't make her testify against me.

 

Hathaway: Why tell me?

 

Trucker: I know you won't turn me in. And if they waterboarded you — always a possibility these days — well, you don't know where I live or what my name is now. All you have is a webmail address.

 

But it is a calculated risk. I want to go public in an anonymous way to let people know what's happening with the resistance movement. The government is hushing up about all the sabotage that's going on. It's not just me. I'm just a small part of it. There's a growing movement to undermine the machine from within. People are trashing recruiters' offices, slashing their tires, cutting their phone wires, grafittiing-out their billboards. In universities they're squirting glue into the locks of ROTC departments, stealing their mail, hacking into their computers. The government and corporations have had to set up internal security units to catch their own people who are sabotaging them — leaking secret memos, destroying equipment, zapping computer files. An autonome threw a log under the wheels of an arms train and derailed it. It's only a matter of time before a vet sets up a mortar outside an air base and starts blowing up Stealth bombers.

 

The war is coming home where it belongs. But this is just starting, and the government doesn't want people to know. They're scared it'll spread.

 

Hathaway: Do you want it to spread?

 

Trucker: Yes. I'm convinced that's the only way to stop these wars. Make it too costly for the USA to extend its empire. We need to lame the beast so it can't attack anymore. We have to maximize chaos on all fronts, a thousand different kinds of uprisings so the country becomes ungovernable. That's the only way to break their hold and build something new.

 

Hathaway: That's going to make things tougher at home.

 

Trucker: Yep, it will … for a while. And that's why a lot of people are against it. They don't want to lose their comfort level. That's more important to them than the lives of millions of people overseas … and the lives of their own grandchildren.

 

You can't blame people for wanting to have a pleasant life, but in times like these that turns them into accomplices with the system. The only way life can stay pleasant now is if you play along. The punishments for opposition are getting increasing unpleasant.

 

But rebelling is invigorating. It's an authentic life, not the superficial pleasantries of a lackey life.

 

Even the lackeys are going to lose their precious comfort level before long. Things are getting worse and worse here because that's the nature of the system. It devours everything.

 

The country is run by corporate robots. They're squeezing the people at home and strangling them overseas. And the military is their enforcer. It's become a monster rampaging out of control, fighting enemies that it itself created, like Saddam Hussein, Osama bin Laden, the Taliban. This beast knows only to kill, and it does that reflexively, mechanically, massively. The leaders elected to stop it end up serving it. Amerika is running amok in a mania of unconscious killing. Amerika is a berserker battling the universe, a gut-shot hyena devouring its own entrails.

 

We have to stop doing this … and we can. We don't need to live this way, by bombing and killing.

 

I want people to know there's a movement here to resist militarism. It's rolling. They can be part of it … in many ways.

 

Hathaway: Would you recommend that people burn trucks?

 

Trucker: I would not. It's very dangerous.

 

Hathaway: What would you recommend that people do?

 

Trucker: That's a question only they can answer.

 

Hathaway: What if you get caught? Would you shoot it out?

 

Trucker: No, I don't have any weapons. I don't believe in killing people for peace. And cops are still people.

 

I'd probably spend the rest of my life as a prisoner of war in Guantánamo West, that new supermax in Colorado.

 

Hathaway: Doesn't that scare you?

 

Trucker: You bet it does. But even if that happens, my life will have meant something. I'll have done what I could to stop this monster from invading more countries and murdering more people.

 

But I don't think it will happen. I'm very careful. I want to continue the struggle. As Ed Sanders said, "Resist and Survive."

 

*

"Saboteur" is a chapter of Radical Peace: People Refusing War, which presents the experiences of activists who have become criminals for peace, defying the government's laws and impeding its capacity to kill: http://media.trineday.com/radicalpeace. William T. Hathaway is an adjunct professor of American studies at the University of Oldenburg in Germany. His new book, Lila, the Revolutionary, is a fable for adults about an eight-year-old Indian girl who sparks a world revolution for social justice. Chapters are posted on www.amazon.com/dp/1897455844. A selection of his writing is available at www.peacewriter.org.

 

 

Japan: The Canary in the Coal Mine

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Published on The Economic Collapse on April 5, 2016

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Watch Japan – For All Is Not Well In The Land Of The Rising Sun

Tokyo - Public DomainOne of the epicenters of the global financial crisis that started during the second half of last year is Japan, and it looks like the markets in the land of the rising sun are entering yet another period of great turmoil.  The Nikkei was down another 390 points last night, and it is now down more than 1,300 points since a week ago.  Why this is so important for U.S. investors is because the Nikkei is often an early warning indicator of where the rest of the global markets are heading.  For example, the Nikkei started crashing early last December about a month before U.S. markets started crashing really hard in early January.  So the fact that the Nikkei has been falling very rapidly in recent days should be a huge red flag for investors in this country.

I want you to study the chart below very carefully.  It shows the performance of the Nikkei over the past 12 months.  As you can see, it kind of resembles a giant leaning “W”.  You can see the stock crash that started last August, you can see the second wave of the crash that began last December, and now a third leg of the crash is currently forming…

Nikkei - Federal Reserve

And of course the economic fundamentals in Japan continue to deteriorate as well.  GDP growth has been negative for two out of the last three quarters, Japanese industrial production just experienced the largest one month decline that we have seen since the tsunami of 2011, and business sentiment has sunk to a three year low.

The third largest economy on the entire planet is in a comatose state at this point, and Japanese authorities have been throwing everything but the kitchen sink at it in an attempt to revive it.  Government stimulus programs have pushed the debt to GDP ratio to 229 percent, and the quantitative easing that the Bank of Japan has been engaged in has made the Federal Reserve look timid by comparison.

But none of those extraordinary measures has been successful in stimulating the Japanese economy, so now the Bank of Japan has been been trying negative interest rates.  Unfortunately, these negative rates are also having some unintended consequences.  According to the Wall Street Journal, the negative interest rate program is putting additional stress on the Japanese financial sector…

The Bank of Japan started imposing a minus 0.1% rate on some deposits held by commercial banks in February, meaning that those banks now have to pay a small fee when they add to their money parked at the central bank. The financial sector has suffered amid worries that banks can’t pass on negative interest rate to their depositors and therefore will take a hit to their profits.

I would keep a very close eye on the big banks in Japan.  It is my conviction that there is a lot more brewing under the surface than we are being told about so far.

In addition, many analysts in Japan are complaining that all of this manipulation by the BOJ is essentially destroying normal market behavior.  The following comes from Bloomberg

Nobuyasu Atago, who also had worked at the BOJ and is now the chief economist at Okasan Securities Co., pointed out that instead of serving as a important source of cash for borrowers, the credit market has become a profit center for dealers looking to buy securities from investors and sell them to the central bank. While the strategy may be lucrative now, financial institutions face the risk of massive losses, he said.

“By making the trade with the BOJ the only source of profit, markets are exposed to unexpected volatility when that trade ends and the BOJ moves toward the exit,” Atago said. “Markets are being destroyed.”

The more global central banks try to “fix things”, the more they make our long-term imbalances even worse.

To me, it makes no sense to have a bunch of unelected, unaccountable central planners constantly monkeying with the financial system.  In a true free market system, we would allow market forces to determine the course of events.  But of course we don’t have a free market system anymore.  Instead, what we have is a heavily socialized system that is greatly manipulated by the central planners.

That is why global financial markets gyrate wildly if Janet Yellen so much as sneezes.  They know who holds all the power, and investors are constantly on edge as they wait for the latest pronouncement from our central banking overlords.

At this point, 99 percent of the global population lives in a country with a central bank.  Our world is more deeply divided than ever, and yet somehow everyone in the world has agreed to adopt this insidious system.

It sure is quite a coincidence, isn’t it?

Getting back to Japan, things are so bad now that the Japanese government is actually considering giving gift certificates directly to low-income young people.  The following originally comes from Bloomberg

The Japanese government plans to include gift certificates for low-income young people in its fiscal 2016 supplementary budget, Sankei reports, without saying who provided the information.

Recipients would be able to use them for daily necessities.

The government sees gift certificates as more effective in stimulating consumption than cash handouts, which may be deposited.

This is what the end of democracy looks like.

When the government just starts handing out money like candy, you might as well turn out the lights because the party is over.

Since 2008, global central banks have cut interest rates 637 times and they have injected approximately 12.3 trillion dollars into the global financial system through various quantitative easing programs.

Has all of this monkeying around solved our problems?

Of course not.

Instead, our long-term problems have grown progressively worse and now a new financial crisis has begun.

Keep an eye on Japan, and also keep an eye on Europe.  Huge problems are bubbling right under the surface, and when they come bursting into the open they will deeply affect the United States as well.

 

 

 

 

 

A Demon Haunted World

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Published on Pray for Calamity on March 31, 2016

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Earth_Goddess_by_stolen_designsShe picks up a stick. Her two year old hands are pristine, without callouses. Standing straight up she begins to walk forward on the path that leads along a ridge line deep into the forest. On uneven ground her steps still betray a clumsiness, but she overwhelms her lack of experience with exuberance and then turns to see me walking a few steps behind her.

“Dada get a big stick?”

She wants me to use a hiking stick as well. Last year I would carry her in a hiking pack, and I would use a large stick for support as I navigated slopes and downed tree trunks. Now she imitates the habit using the small bit of hickory in her hand, poking the ground with it as she walks, and she expects me to do so as well.

“You want me to find a hiking stick?”
“Uh huh.”
“How about this one?”

Leaning over I pick up a bowed piece of a fallen branch and proceed to snap off the twigs that jut from it in crooked tangles. It is a brittle piece of wood and suffices as more of an accessory than anything, but my daughter is happy that we are now both equipped for our walk. She turns once more down the path. A two year old girl takes confident steps with her hiking stick in one hand, and a plastic pink magic wand in the other. We are going out in search of fairies, and she flat refuses to embark on such an adventure without her wand.

Economic collapse finds itself a popular plot device across a broad spectrum of the internet. Those who anticipate such a collapse monitor the details of international trade, noting the ups and downs of stock and bond markets, currency values, volatility and shipping indices. Economic collapse is one of those concepts that is out the door and around the world generating hype, fear, and sales of pocket knives before anyone who would take the time to explore its value can even settle into an armchair. As with so many other premises and cliches we are bombarded with, most people take for granted that the economy is even a thing.

In 1776 Adam Smith published his magnum opus, “An Inquiry Into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations,” in which Smith establishes the now firmly entrenched and wholly mythical notion that barter societies preceded the invention of money, which was an inevitable progression due to its efficiency at facilitating trade. In “Nations,” Smith also establishes the idea that the economy is even a thing that exists and that can be studied. Of course, it will be men like himself that are capable of doing the studying and imparting their wisdom onto the world. It is quite a ruse, if you think about it, inventing a specter and then inventing the business of studying it.

When we speak of “the economy,” what are we even talking about? The Dow Jones Industrial? The S&P 500? Or are we merely speaking of some amalgamation of the habits and behaviors of humans which combine to provide for our daily acquisition of needs? It may seem silly to question because it is such a prevalent notion in this culture, but for the majority of human existence, there was no economy. It was an idea that had to be invented, and now, there are whole academic wings dedicated to the maintenance of the idea, as well as sections in newspapers and channels on television focused solely on its changing winds. Those who lord over such institutions have their charts and maps and a host of methods for describing the economy to everyone else. At times, they speak of their trade as a science, which would lead one to believe that the thing which they observe is predictable, that they could establish some level of capable control over it. At other times, the economy is a wild thing, and it moves and thrashes of its own chaotic will like a storm squall.

So people watch the signs. They generate charts. They consult the experts. Some believe that the economy, despite its tantrums, is an all loving God that will always rise again, and so they tithe. Others believe the economy is a false idol set to feast on the souls of the avaricious or the merely ignorant, and so they prepare.

As someone who long ago came to the conclusion that the civilized method of human organization is one that is always bound to fail, I have many times put forth the suggestion that we need to transition into living arrangements that do not rely on the creation of cities. This is all to say, I have an anti-civilzation philosophy, which to the uninitiated perhaps seems extreme or absurd. Consider quickly, this definition of civilization offered by wikipedia:

A civilization is any complex society characterized by urban development, social stratification, symbolic communication forms (typically, writing systems), and a perceived separation from and domination over the natural environment by a cultural elite. Civilizations are intimately associated with and often further defined by other socio-politico-economic characteristics, including centralization, the domestication of both humans and other organisms, specialization of labor, culturally ingrained ideologies of progress and supremacism, monumental architecture, taxation, societal dependence upon farming as an agricultural practice, and expansionism.

To be against civilization is not to be in favor of some inhumanity towards others, but simply to believe that urban development, infinite growth, ecological destruction, social stratification, agriculture, etc. are ultimately unsustainable pursuits that are dooming our possibility of existing very far into the future. Further, the anthropocentrism inherent in such societies results in the widespread extirpation of the other beings with whom we share this planet.

Suggesting that we abandon, once and for all, the project of civilization is often met with a buffet of criticisms. That civilization gave us the sciences, and the sciences – usually now expressed simply as Science! – gave us a candle in an otherwise dark, demon haunted world, is usually proffered as reason enough for humanity to continue on a civilized trajectory. Critics of anti-civ ideas would have us believe that as primitive people we lived in constant fear of disembodied spirits that stalked and haunted us, manifesting as sickness and death that we could not otherwise explain. Science! they claim, was a great demon slayer that has brought illumination in the form of germ theory and biology, and thanks to optics of all kinds, both micro and telescope, we can see that the universe both minute and macro is not subject to god or djinn, not spirit or elemental but merely to the wind of a grand mechanical clock of subatomic particles and fundamental forces.

What light! It bathes us in such cleansing luminance! Fear not as you walk through the world sons of Ptolemy and daughters of Hypatia!

Now check your stocks. There are movements in the markets. How is your 401K?

More is happening in the space around you than you can possibly imagine. Your body is equipped with various sensory abilities that allow you to gather information about the world around you, and this information is used to generate a picture of existence that you as a biological entity can use to go forth and attain your survival. This picture exists in your mind only, and it is further shaped and formed by your particular biological makeup, as well as the cultural programming that you have been inculcated with since birth.

The world you see is not the world I see, let alone, is not the world an owl, or a butterfly, or a snap pea sees. Human societies have a habit of claiming that through their sciences that have been able to package and interpret reality as it is. The fun sets in when we notice that each of these societies that has claimed such a handle on reality have all, in fact, had different descriptions of reality.

Again, more is happening around us than we could know. We are filtering. We are constructing from the pieces we capture. We are naming and simplifying and manufacturing volumes of symbols. In a sense, we must do so so as not to be crippled by the overwhelming weight of all that we experience. But ultimately, more is not included in our picture of the world than is included. The cutting room floor actually contains more reality than the final film playing out in our heads.

It is this understanding that stays my hand when others might wave theirs in dismissal of the disembodied phenomena that live outside of the lens we in the modern industrial world currently use to view our surroundings. Those who fear the crumbling of the city walls for what hordes of demons might come rushing in like a torrent to corrupt our understandings so finely crafted over centuries of weighing and measuring might do well to look around and see which demons already stalk the streets and halls. We have traded one set of lesser gods for another. You many not make offerings to the spirits of rain after holding the dry dirt in your fingers, but your faith in tomorrow’s full stomach might have you watching for a little green triangle to come drifting across a stock ticker. Where a few centuries ago a geomancer may have cast a chart that relied on the anima mundi – or soul of the Earth – for its answers, today’s economists are numerologists drawing meaning from the staggered lines that connect disparate values of commodities and currencies, hoping to tease from it all some prediction about future well being.

Am I attempting to claim that germs do not exist? Of course not. Am I attempting to claim that science has produced nothing of value? Of course not. I am simply suggesting that civilized life has not rid the world of demons, but merely shifted the demons we concern ourselves with. Priests have not gone out of fashion, to be sure, they just wear a different costume and spin incantations of a new variety. This class of priests extends far beyond the realm of economics, and the demons they promise to exorcise can be found anywhere uncertainty and fear have taken root. The simple fact is that life is a dangerous pursuit, and we all enter into it with a debt. We owe our lives and will all be held to account sooner or later. If we do not create cultures capable of accepting this most basic truth, we will invariably create cultures that attempt to mitigate our fear of death with palliatives. The palliative du jour in our particular civilization is technological domination of the ecological systems of the Earth, and it is this behavior that is responsible for the variety of cataclysms now unfolding globally. Sea ice melt, top soil loss, forest die offs, oceanic dead zones, mass extinction of species, climatic disruption; all have now long passed the formative stage and are well underway.

But so afraid of the dark beyond the city gates, the civilized world clings to their neon gods. They pray to markets and justice, progress and innovation. The Maya may have found it prudent to sacrifice some humans, perhaps by throwing them into a cenote or by letting the blood of a Pok-ta-tok victor to replenish the vigor of the tree of life. We modern civilized are far more sophisticated, and instead sacrifice the salamander, the Ash tree, the island chain, the clean flowing river, the indigenous tribe, or the global poor.

If we refuse to defecate in the river because we consider the water sacred and believe it contains within it a spirit of its own, does it matter? The water runs clean. If we continue to clear cut jungles so as to mine for rare Earth metals using diesel fuel and laborers fed mono-crops all because we believe that technology will somehow repair the wounds we have inflicted on the living planet, can we really claim that our demon free world is now safer?

She kicks up leaves as she walks.

“Shh!” I crouch low, squatting on my hams and I tap my ear with a forefinger. “Listen.” My daughter emulates my posture and I cannot help but smile. She looks out into the mass of trees before us. I whisper when I ask her if she sees any fairies, and she whispers her replies.

“Yes.”
“How many?”
“Two fairies.”
“What color are they?”
“Blue.”

The afternoon sunlight is gold as it falls all around us. We stay there a while and I tell her that we must not disturb the fairies. We tell them that we are not there to do them any harm. We are nice people, we assure them. We hope that they are safe in the forest and we wish them well in their endeavors. After all, the forest can also be home to goblins, which is why I am glad my daughter had the foresight to bring her wand.

Creativity & Culture in Collapse

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Published on The Doomstead Diner on March 27, 2016

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As a student of Collapse Dynamics, I'm always looking for signs of collapse in various areas in our civilization.  I was drawn to the topic first by the collapse of the Investment Banks Bear Stearns & Lehman Brothers back in the financial crisis of 2007-2009, which is really still ongoing but reached a crescendo during this period.  It will eventually be followed by an even BIGGER crescendo, but for the moment it just plods onward with various smaller changes in tempo and volume.

There are many other areas beyond just the financial ones that reflect ongoing collapse,  Climate Calamities and Wild & Wacky Weather being other examples of Collapse Catastrophes we have to examine on virtually a daily basis these days.  Then all the Geopolitical manifestations of collapse, from the non-stop wars in MENA to the ever escalating Refugee crisis of displaced Homo Saps, either because of the wars or climate change, or both in synergy.  There are so many manifestations of collapse these days it's almost impossible to keep track, and there is a tendency in many people to internalize this as "normal".  "There will be Wars and Rumours of Wars" always as a Fundy friend of mine often says, and of course Floods and Tornadoes and other weather related disasters go back to time immemorial.  So you can't point to one flood in Texas and say "See, this is EVIDENCE of Collapse!".  By itself, it's not evidence since there have always been floods.  There also always have been companies going out of bizness, store closings and booms & busts in various industries, so if you point to any one of these things to bolster the argument collapse is underway, the Denier of Collapse will simply point out such things have always occurred in the past.

http://kimbiggio.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/09/Calvin-Hobbes-Its-Not-Denial-poster.jpg

This is a general failing of all anecdotal examples, just about EVERYTHING always occurs at some frequency, from wars to tornadoes to corporate bakruptcies to mass murders.  Holding up any one of these things as an example of Collapse in Action merely invites the criticism of "Wars and Rumours of Wars".  To demonstrate anything of this sort "scientifically" you need STATS!  You need to show that such events are occurring more frequently and/or are greater in intensity than they were before.  That is of course a very hard thing to do, since in most areas of collapse appropriate statistics are not collected by anything approaching a credible level by any credible agency at all.

Who believes the stats pitched out by the BLS (Bureau of Lies & Statistics) these days?  You have to be brain dead to buy those stats.  What about GDP figures pitched out by Da Fed or the People's Bank of China?  Do you buy that shit?  Do you buy the financial reports from the TBTF banks on the state of their balance sheets and non-performing loans?  Even with stats, you can't evaluate the truth of anything too well most of the time, because stats themselves can be manipulated in innumerable ways to show whatever you want them to show.  If you believe that Near Term Human Extinction is imminent, you Cherry Pick data to show that, as Guy McPherson does on Nature Bats Last all the time.  If you want to manipulate your energy company's stock price, you over estimate recoverable reserves and then revise the estimates later.

So finding metrics upon which to establish collapse is underway is pretty hard to do.  More and more people can "sense" it these days, thus the popularity of Prepper websites and Zombie movies.  Sensing it and demonstrating it though are two very different issues.

I do have a new metric though to observe cultural collapse, and it is in the film industry.  AKA Movies or Cinema, depending on the crowd you happen to be hobknobbing with.  If you are at the Cannes Film Festival, despite the name of the festival everyone calls it "cinema".  If you are chatting at the bar, it's "Did you see this movie?".

This collapse has been building over time, first with the decreasing revenues overall for the film industry, and then pretty observable with the low ratings and stupid controversies surrounding the latest in the Academy Awards extravaganza, where sadly for the Black Community no People of Color got nominated for anything significant.  Beyond this though and IMHO more significant is just the complete lack of interest in the current crop of actors and celebrities paraded out for this Dog & Pony Show for the masses.  There was a time back in the early years of Television when the Academy Awards were a HUGE ratings engine, mainly in the years when Bob Hope was the Master of Cermonies, and then after him Johnny Carson.  There have been a parade of different MCs since, from Billy Crystal to Chris Rock, but you could see the deterioration underway after the Carson years.

The actors getting awards now also have diminished significantly in quality.  Leonardo DiCaprio is OK, but he is no Marlon Brando or Jack Nicholson.  The films themselves while they may get decent Box Office sales from an increasing population size generally suffer from a lack of originality, other than new and more eye popping CGI graphics.

What really hit me in the last week on the Entertainment Newz front on my Google Newz Headlines was the newz that 2 of my favorite pop culture film/TV shows were being dusted off for yet another go round, Indiana Jones is coming back and so is Xena, Warrior Princess.  Arnold is talking about another Terminator movie too.  I started thinking about how the film and television industry is just loaded up these days with Sequels and Remakes of old material.

There are now 22, count 'em 22 James Bond 007 films.There are 12 Star Trek films & 6 Star Wars movies.  The list of Robin Hood remakes and adaptations is endless.  The first one appears to be a silent film circa 1908. Mel Brook's Men in Tights is still the best though. lol.

Essentially, all the good themes have been explored already, and what the film industry does is dig up popular themese from the past, populate the story line with the latest generation of actors and spruce it up with new CGI technology to present the same narratives to a new generation of Movie Goers or DVD buyers.

Of course there have been remakes going back to the silent era, and many films are remakes of plays or adaptations of novels, so themselves were not original material, but now it is the quantity of remakes and sequels that has become overwhelming.

I personally don't go to the movies anymore, nor do I own a TV.  Going back at least a decade or so, both had begun to bore me.  I was a TV addict growing up, watching probably an average of 5 hours a day in my peak TV watching years.  Those were the days when they re-ran old movies and old TV shows, and it almost didn't matter what time of day it was, I could find something to watch on one of about 7 channels that were available over VHF frequencies in NY Shity.  There were another 2-3 channels that came in OK over UHF as well, but they didn't usually have anything worth watching on them.

Today, when I am in a hotel room somewhere on the few occassions I venture from home, I can flip on the big screen TV in the hotel room with 100 channels, and not a damn thingis  worth watching.  Not to mention the fact that whatever is on is jam packed with commercials unless it's a pay service.

So it's really no wonder that the Academy Awards get low ratings, nobody really gives a rat's ass who wins the little statue.  The only thing people care about with respect to celebrities these days is what kind of scandal they get immersed in, drug rehabs, divorces, sex change operations or whatever.  I didn't watch the Academy Awards this year of course, but I bet you dollars to doughnuts the speeches were boring and the jokes were flat.

A while back I wrote an article where I pegged the year which IMHO was "Peak Movies", which was 1968.  This was a year for quite a few other peaks, like Peak Assassinations and Peak Riots too.  Older folks than me often put the date of Peak Movies earlier, and younger folks put the Peak Movies later than this date, so it is somewhat subjective.

Ugo Bardi though put up a graph a while back which traced "Peak Rock Music" as defined by Rolling Stone's "Top 500" vs. US Oil Production, and the charts are astonishingly similar.

https://www.overthinkingit.com/wp-content/uploads/2008/09/rs-500-us-oil-production1.jpg


Here again, you seem to see the cultural peak of Amerikan Empire coming around 1965 or so, with local Peak Oil production shortly following that around 1971, and by my estimation Movies hitting the middle ground right between in 1968.

Correlation is not Causation of course, at least not necessarily, however it is remarkable how both cultural aspects of the society and available energy in the society seem to match up.  In speculating on why this is so I have three working hypotheses:

1- On the upswing of available energy, all things seem possible, which gets the creative juices flowing in the artistic members of the society

2- New technologies developing inspire artists to create in new ways.

3- Both artists and aficionados of art have more free time and money to appreciate artwork of various types.  They gravitate to the latest types of artwork available in their culture for the most part.

In the Music Industry, the New Technology to develop was Amplified Music and the Electric Guitar which first hit the scene in 1931, but really took off in the early 1950s with the mass produced Fender Stratocaster.  This of course is also when "Rock & Roll" really took off as well as the dominant music style of the late industrial era, now in its declining years.

Invented in 1931, the amplified electric guitar was adopted by jazz guitarists, who sought to be able to be heard in large big band ensembles. Early proponents of the electric guitar on record included Les Paul, Lonnie Johnson, Sister Rosetta Tharpe, T-Bone Walker, and Charlie Christian. During the 1950s and 1960s, the electric guitar became the most important instrument in pop music.[1] It has evolved into an instrument that is capable of a multitude of sounds and styles. It served as a major component in the development of electric blues, rock and roll, rock music, and many other genres of music.

In films after their initial invention by Thomas Edison, the first major technological improvement was the addition of sound in "Talkies".  This preceeded the invention of the Electric Guitar by a few years, coming in the lat 1920s.  The first major motion picture to feature soun was "The Jazz Singer" with Al Jolson released in 1927, just 4 years before the electric guitar

Film technology continued to develop, and got a real kick start in the 1940s with the development of films that would record in native color.  There were color films made going back into the silent era, but they had to be hand colored.  Probably the first major motion picture to feature color was the Wizard of Oz in 1939, and the contrast between the stark B&W panorama of Kansas and the Color of Oz really brought home the visual impact to audiences of the era.

Through the 1940s and well into the 1950s though, color in films was more or less a 50-50 proposition, and even in the 1960s many filmakers elected to use B&W either for their own artistic aesthetic or due to budgetary constraints.  Color Film remained much more expensive than B&W film well into the 1960s and the beginning of the "Kodachrome" era.

Film technology continued to improve using miniatures and animation techniques through the 1960s, which were applied mainly in the Sci-Fi genre like "2001: A Space Odyssey" in films and the television series "Star Trek".

These enhancements contributed enormously to the popularity of this type of film, and to the meme of perpetual progress as well.  Sci-Fi and fantasy films of all sorts began to take over, and on a cultural level this is where the art became divorced from the reality.

The reality in fact was that after making the expeditions to the Moon in the 60s, the NASA Space Program basically hit a wall, the big wheel in the sky Spce Station never materialized, only a few RV sized modules labelled the "Intenational Space Station" dropped into low Earth orbit mostly carried up there by Ruskie Rockets.

http://cdnwine.diario1.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/11/satelite.jpg

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It is at this point the cultural memes and artistic representations began to become repetitive, basically milking every last ounce out of the ideas while in reality the surrounding culture was deteriorating, and the art became just facsimile of art done before, rehashed for the next generation of Homo Sap.  It is degenerate art, and the generation growing up viewing it knows that, at least on a subconscious level.

To maintain the DREAM, decades were spent evolving ever increasing debt in pursuit of this dream, and it continues onward today in the ckepersona of folks like Elon Musk with his "Power Wall" batteries, EV Carz and Private Space Rocketry program.  Where does the money come from for a Rocket Program?  It makes no money and they crash expensive hardware all the time, along with killing the occassional test pilot.  Obviously, the money comes from debt, and Elon Musk's great gift is to be able to get the folks ho issue debt out to issue out BILLIONS of it so he can pursue these dream projects.  Richard Branson does the same thing.  The shit never makes any money, it's not "productive", but it sells the dream and more debt is issued to pursue that dream.

The future if we are to have one lies in LETTING GO of these dreams and leaving behind the sick & deteriorating culture of consumption that surrounds those dreams, but this is something that few individuals in this society wish to do, and none of our political "leaders" wish to do at all.  The Donald's sound bites talk about "Making Amerika Great Again", as if we could go back to those halcyon days of the 1950s when Harriet had a nice hot dinner waiting for Ozzie when he came home from work and the Beaver played baseball in the sandlot with his friends.  We CAN'T go back to those days, no matter how much The Donald or Jim Kunstler would wish it to be so.

You variously hear the cliches that "Art Imitates Life" or that "Life Imitates Art".  In reality, Life and Art are one in the same thing, and our deteriorating culture runs in tandem with our deteriorating civilization, one just reflects the other.  To know that collapse is real and apparent, all one needs to do is walk around a Mall that still has some stores open and look at theChinese manufactured junk they are selling.  All one has to do is go to the movies to see "Superman vs Batman" for another regurgitation of a tired myth.  All one has to do is flip on the TV for a rehash of "Xena: Warrior Princess".

I won't be watching the new edition of Xena, nor will I go to see the new Terminator film Arnold says he is going to make.  I won't have the dreams of my youth destroyed watching derivative television series with new actors or film sequels with aging ones.  They are artifacts of the past, nice in the memory but just a reflection of a bygone era that will never come again.  I have let it go, and I kiss it goodbye.

 

http://img07.deviantart.net/d03a/i/2008/262/4/a/the_kiss_by_neminat.jpg

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Knarf plays the Doomer Blues

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