Dmitry Orlov

October Rains

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Published on Peak Surfer on October 24, 2016

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"Regardless of whether this prospect pleases you or distresses you, the technosphere is going to fail you."

We penned this piece in mid-October, when the Nobel Prize for Literature was announced. We are inside China at this time and China is not on speaking terms with Google, so we have not been able post to blogger, or even moderate comments coming in from postings we set for timed release when we departed the USA in September. That is until now, which must mean we are back in US air space.

Bob Dylan is now the first songwriter to win the Nobel Prize for Literature. When we were 17 and he was 22, he wrote:

 

Come senators, congressmen
Please heed the call
Don't stand in the doorway
Don't block up the hall
For he that gets hurt
Will be he who has stalled
There's a battle outside
And it is ragin'
It'll soon shake your windows
And rattle your walls
For the times they are a-changin’.

In recent years the senators and congressmen have been doing more than their share of hall blocking, and now they are trying to hide the embarrassment of the current presidential campaign behind a smokescreen of Cold War newspeak.

It was not enough to blame Russia for everything from doping in sports to Wikileaks. The NY Times and the K-street crowd keeps pushing NATO to the point where it is beginning to rub the Bear the wrong way. Illegally imposed sanctions for opposing the rape of Ukraine, specious accusations about a passenger jet downing or the US-sponsored ambush of a UN aid convoy, and wingnut accusations of Russian aggression in the Middle East go unchallenged in the Western press. According to the Clinton campaign, we are supposed to believe Russia is taking a hand in the US election, tilting the polls in favor of Putin’s best buddy, The Donald. Meanwhile, in the skies over Damascus, the Blue Angels are about to test their metal against the aeronautically and metallurgically superior Red Air Force. The Cold War is about to get hot, and all the Joint Chiefs need is a nod from the new POTUS. Either of the candidates will do.

In Shrinking the Technosphere (New Society Publishers, October 18, 2016), Dmitry Orlov observed:

 

The Russians, with Syrian, Iranian and Iraqi help, are swiftly rubbing out America’s pet terrorists with equanimity and poise, while their erstwhile supporters in Washington are visibly demoralized and spouting preposterous nonsense. But there are still some important lessons to be extracted from all this—and we should extract them before it all gets covered by a thick layer of dust.

***

Regardless of whether this prospect pleases you or distresses you, the technosphere is going to fail you. There is simply not enough easy-to-exploit, concentrated, conveniently located nonrenewable natural resources left to sustain a global industrial order. … The technosphere, as a single, integrated, emergent intelligence, is in extremis. As it enters its death agony, its previous depredations may come to seem mild compared to what happens next.

In reviewing Orlov’s book for a cover blurb, we picked up our worn copy of Ivan Illich's essays.  "Specific diseconomy" is a term he used, as a measure of the degree of institutional counterproductivity that is occurring — referring to the exact degree to which, for example, the medical industry induces illness, educational institutions induce ignorance, the judicial system perpetuates injustice, or national defense may make a nation less secure. When specific diseconomy is on the increase, this means an institution or industry is increasingly counterproductive to its original intentions.

Illich wrote:

 

 

I choose the term "conviviality" to designate the opposite of industrial productivity. I intend it to mean autonomous and creative intercourse among persons, and the intercourse of persons with their environment; and this in contrast with the conditioned response of persons to the demands made upon them by others, and by a man-made environment. I consider conviviality to be individual freedom realized in personal interdependence and, as such, an intrinsic ethical value. I believe that, in any society, as conviviality is reduced below a certain level, no amount of industrial productivity can effectively satisfy the needs it creates among society's members.

This parallels how Orlov breaks down Vladimir Putin’s September 28, 2015 address to the UN General Assembly, in which he proposed “implementing naturelike technologies, which will make it possible to restore the balance between the biosphere and the technosphere.

We take the liberty of providing a long Orlov excerpt here, both because Putin is in the news these days and because we think we may have reason to revisit this subject in future essays.

 

 

 

Since Putin seems to have an uncanny ability to make his words stick by altering reality to conform with them, it makes sense to carefully parse the phrase “implementing naturelike technologies” with the goal of gaining a better of understanding of what Putin meant by it, and what he might be up to. This particular phrase is harder to parse than the previous two [earlier discussed in Technosphere], because the Russian original, внедрение природоподобных технологий, is laden with meanings that its English translation does not directly convey. 

 

“Внедрéние” (vnedrénie) can be translated in any number of ways: implementation; introduction; inoculation, implantation (of views, ideas); entrenchment (especially of culture); enacting; advent; launch; incorporation; adoption; inculcation, instillation; indoctrination. Translating it as “implementation” does not do it justice. It is derived from the word “нéдра” (nédra) which means “the nether regions” and is etymologically connected to the Old English word neðera through a common Indo-European root. In Russian, it can refer to all sorts of unfathomable depths, from the nether regions of the Earth (where coal, oil, gas and various ores and minerals are found) to the nether regions of human psyche, as in the phrase “недра подсознательного” (nédra podsoznátel’nogo, the nether-regions of the subconscious). It can very well mean “implantation” or “indoctrination.” 

The word “природоподóбный” (priródo-podóbnyi) translates directly as “naturelike,” although in Russian it has less of an overtone of accidental resemblance and more of a sense of active conformance or assimilation: “beseeming of nature.” This word could previously only be found in a few techno-grandiose articles by Russian academics in which they promote vaporous initiatives for driving the development of nanotechnology or quantum microelectronics by simulating evolutionary processes, or some such. The basic thrust of their proposals seems to be that even if our devices become too complex for human brains to design, we can let them design themselves, by letting them evolve like bacteria in a Petri dish. But it is hard to see how this interpretation of the word is at all relevant. Also, based on what Putin said next, we can be sure that this is not what he had in mind: 

“We need qualitatively different approaches. The discussion should involve principally new, naturelike technologies, which do not injure the environment but exist in harmony with it and will allow us to restore the balance between the biosphere and the technosphere which mankind has disturbed.” 

These were the two sentences that made an alarm bell go off in my head. I had thought that same thought before, but I had never heard it expressed quite so cleanly and crisply, and certainly not before the United Nations General Assembly. And so I thought, “OK, why don’t I start working on that?”

But what did he mean by “technologies”? Did he merely mean that what we need is a new generation of eco-friendly gewgaws and gizmos that are slightly more energy-efficient than the current crop? Again, let’s see what may have been lost in translation. In Russian, the word технолóгии (tekhnológii) does not directly imply industrial technology, and can relate to any art or craft. Since it is obvious that industrial technology is not particularly naturelike, it stands to reason that he meant some other type of technology, and one type immediately leapt to my mind: political technologies. In Russian, this term is written as one word, политтехнолóгии (polit-tekhnológii), and it is a word that sees a lot of use in Russian public life. At its best, it is the art of rapidly shifting the common political and cultural mindset in some generally beneficial or productive direction. At its worst, it is an underhanded attempt to manipulate public opinion for private benefit.

Putin is a consummate political technologist. His current domestic approval rating stands at 89%—the remaining 11% disapprove of him because they wish him to take a more hard-line stance against Western aggression. It makes sense, therefore, to examine his proposal from the point of view of political technology, discarding the notion that what he meant by “technology” is some sort of new, slightly more eco-friendly industrial plant and equipment. If his initiative succeeds in making 89% of the world’s population speak out in favor of rapidly adopting naturelike, ecosystem-compatible lifestyles, while the remaining 11% rise up in opposition because they believe that the rate of their adoption isn’t fast enough, then perhaps climate catastrophe will be averted or, at least, its worst- case scenario—the one that includes near-term human extinction. I hope you will agree that, given the scarcity of other such proposals from supposed world leaders, and given the success of his previous initiatives, this new one might be worth a try. 


In Easy Rider, there is a surreal experience at a commune where the Kid and Captain America stop before going on to Mardi Gras. The scenes of domes, naked children playing in dirt, gardening and tai chi seem out of a Fellini film. Dennis Hopper directs Laszlo Kovac's camera to make a 360-degree pan across the faces of the hippies, some serious, some grinning, others just zoned out. Wyatt likes the vibes and wants to stay, but the Kid is creeped out and wants to hit the road.

Later, after the bad trip in New Orleans that winds up in a cemetery where Wyatt confronts his demons, there is catharsis. “We blew it,” he tells the Kid. They hop on their low-riders and motor back towards the commune.

Shortly after that is the famous scene of them getting blown away with a shotgun stuck out a window by some rednecks in a pickup truck on a southern backcountry road. It was open season on hippies. Who knew?

Orlov’s book, providing a healthy dollop of real-world narrative, in the end offers serious advice. You can skip the cemetery trip. Get a tiny house up a long dirt road or a house boat. Tune in, turn off, drop out. If enough people do that, who will they send to the Russian front?

 

I saw ten thousand talkers whose tongues were all broken
I saw guns and sharp swords in the hands of young children
And it's a hard, and it's a hard
And it's a hard, ha-ha-ha-hard
And it's a hard rain's a-gonna fall

Collapsing Civilization and its Blogging Discontents

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Published on The Doomstead Diner on August 14, 2016

http://1.bp.blogspot.com/-rWEE9cGuth0/UTUzgmBCBJI/AAAAAAAAAek/cDDwxCFlYYI/s1600/LS801_Freud_Civilization+and+Its+Discontents_14.jpg

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For those of you with some passing knowledge of "Great Works" of literature, non-fiction and history, you will no doubt recognize that the title of this blog is a play on the title of a book published in 1929 by Sigmund Freud (yes, that Freud), Civilization and its Discontents.  It's one of those "must read" books they pitch out at you in college courses that track the history and development of Western Civilization.  There are many others in this list of "must reads", The Prince by Nicoli Machiavelli, City of God by St. Augustine and Adam Smith's On the Wealth of Nations to name a few.  You can get all these books in nicely bound leather volumes now published by Harvard Classics for the low, low price every day on Ebay of anywhere from around $50 for a full 23 Volume set ($2.50 a book including shipping!) on up into the hundreds, depending how good an Online Shopper you are.  If you are really clever you can get all of those and thousands more as e-books for even less money or even for free.  I love freebies on the net! 🙂

http://goodereader.s3.amazonaws.com/blog/uploads/images/harvard.jpg

Many if not most of these books were written in the 16th-19th Century, although the examples I gave like Freud's tome came in the early 1900s and Augustine's take on civilization came in the 5th century, around the time of the collapse of the Roman Empire.  All taken together though, they pretty much represent the way Western thought evolved after the Romans lost their hold on the world and as a new civilization in the west rose to replace it over the course of a full millenia of time.

In Freud's book, he postulates that general "unhappiness" that many people immersed in a "civilized" society comes from conflicts between the needs & desires of the individual, which get restricted and legislated by the competing needs and organization of the society as a whole.  Being more or less obsessed with sexual issues, Freud focuses down on the insatiable desire for sexual gratification Homo Saps appears to have, versus all the laws, taboos and restrictions societies generate to keep this bizness under control.  Since Freud himself was immersed in the western culture of the time, his viewpoint is obviously skewed by this, but there is still a lot of validity to the observations anyhow.  They also do generalize to other areas BESIDES sex, like money, wealth, fame etc, but since Freud was so sexually obsessed himself, it permeates his writing and you just can't get away from it.  Once you get past his sexual obsessions though, Freud has a lot of interesting observations on society, civilization and the individual.  Carl Jung had similar sexual obsession issues, but Carl was a bit more cagey about it than Siggy was in his writings. lol. This seems to be a ubiquitous problem amongst people who gravitate toward Psycholgy as a profession.  I don't think I ever talked with any psychologist who was not absolutely consumed with sex as a motivator.

OK, so that gives us a little history and background to get started with this discussion, which is focused on a more narrow slice of the civilzation pie through history, specifically what is going on RIGHT NOW in the world at large and then also in our own little slice of a slice of history, the collapse blogosphere.  By no means of course am I Sigmund Freud, and by no means do I expect this blog to make it onto the Harvard Classics reading list, but on the upside here it is all available for FREE on the internet! So, since nobody except me has to pay for this, let me get rolling here!

On the gross scale of society in general, discontent is manifest all over the place these days.  Terrorists are obviously not very content people and neither are crazed Psychos and Lone Shooters hitting various Malls, Bars, Restaurants and College Campuses either.  There simply is NO WAY blowing away dozens or hundreds of innocent people demonstrates much contentment, if anyone can make a case for that one I am all ears.  The Black Underclass is none too content these days in the FSoA, despite the fact they mostly are still getting fed on the SNAP Card program issued by JP Morgan Chase. See Ferguson, see Baltimore, see BLM for a snaphot of the discontent in this group.   The Muslim underclass in Europe is none too happy either, nor are the longer term paleface residents of this neighborhood getting inundated each day with still more "rapefugees".  Muslim women in France are discontented because "Burqinis" have been outlawed on the beaches of Cannes.

Burqini                      vs                            Bikini

http://i.briefreport.co.uk/upload/news/large/16/13/Ad_201671569_e1459589338805.jpg   http://orig04.deviantart.net/690f/f/2013/171/a/5/annali2583_by_wildplaces-d69tw0a.jpg

You may indicate your preference on Female Beachwear in the comments

Our POTUS Candidates here in the FSoA don't seem too content with ANYTHING, even though they have absolutely ZERO in the way of reasonable ideas that could do a damn thing to assuage this discontent.  Julian Assange obviously is not very content trapped inside the Ecuadorian Embassy in London for the last 4 years, although granted this is likely a much better prison to be caged in than GITMO.  About the only people I can think of who might be somewhat content these days are folks like Lloyd Blankfein, doing God's Work as he runs Goldman Sachs or Elon Musk as he borrows endless amounts of funny money on the taxpayer dime to build space rocket toys and gigafactories in the middle of the Nevada desert.

Discontent is also on display every day in the collapse blogosphere as factions fight it out, Extinction vs Renewables, Economic vs Climate Collapse, Hyperinflation vs Deflation, Nuke Pro vs Con, Rich vs Poor…there's no shortage of disagreements.  There is however a serious shortage of workable solutions to all these problems, thus the discontent.

On top of this problem is that by now everyone who writes on these topics has carved out his or her own space and acquired his or her ow commentariat, which tends to be a reflection of whatever the spin of the main blogger is for the site.  Fed up with contrarians and trolls taking opposing viewpoints on their websites, these viewpoints are simply disappeared by the site owner, and eventually all opposing viewpoints are squashed out as these folks quit in frustration or just get outright banned.

By no means is the Diner immune to the problem here either.  I've had at least a half dozen Diners quit over the years because they were discontent that their spin was not well received, and about 4 I have had to silence because of the constant stream of insults and ad hom argument coming off their keyboards.  At a certain point "Free Speech" gets squashed simply because people can't be polite to each other when they are so discontented.  They don't feel other people are paying enough attention to their spin on the "truth", and so they begin to lash out and good clean debate gets flushed down the toilet.

If it weren't for the fact I run the Doomstead Diner, I would be effectively cut off from just about every major blog commentariat concerned with issues of collapse.  Dmitry Orlov, Guy McPherson, Gail Tverberg, John Michael Greer & Jim Kunstler all eliminate my posting nowadays.  Ugo Bardi still approves my posts, but it's not a very active commentariat over there on Cassandra's Legacy.  I can still post on r/collapse, but that is more of a news ticker than a blog.

My discontent with this situation is that the whole collapse blogosphere has become extremely polarized.  When I originally began the Diner my hope was to unify all the people writing about collapse, so that together we might have a stronger voice and get more attention than by each of us playing in our own little sandboxes.  The eact opposite has occured, and now each little sandbox has its own insular Group Think and the divisions between them greater than ever. I doubt you could bring Dmitry Orlov and Guy McPherson to the same conference and not have a fistfight break out. lol.

http://www.azquotes.com/picture-quotes/quote-polarization-affects-families-and-groups-of-friends-its-a-paralyzing-situation-a-civil-mick-jagger-69-76-13.jpg

The biggest problem is with the blogs pitching the spin that the situation is Hopeless, both the ecosphere and the Human Race are irrevocably Doomed.  First off, this provides a fabulous excuse for inaction which then turns the idea into a self-fulfilling prophecy.  The second major problem is the commentariat of these blogs provides a home for fanatics who reinforce each other, while at the same time flaming anyone who does not toe the party line.  You see this most clearly on Nature Bats Last and Our Finite World.  Forget about participating in those commentariats, I don't even bother reading them anymore because you know precisely what everyone is going to say in every thread.

So, in ths Sea of Discontent what is the future?  It looks like a One-to-the-Many break up, much like we see Europe breaking up these days on the geopolitical level.  The heyday of what cooperation there was between the collapse bloggers probably came somewhere between 2006 and 2014 or so, and we have now passed Peak Cooperation and are moving toward Peak Isolation.  Everyone has their own part of the Collapse Elephant they are examining and coming up with different descriptions of what the Elephant actually looks like.  About the best the reader can do is surf between the sites and try to put together his or her own composite picture of the Elephant.  If you are the chatty type, pick your favorite site with the spin most closely matching your own, believe whatever it is that makes you happy, and chat with other True Believers rather than be discontented all the time.

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Stranded Expectations

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Published on Peak Surfer on July 19, 2015

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 One of the birthplaces of civilization is having its cradle rocked again. Apart from the subjugation of women, children and slaves, Greece's beta version, going back 2500 years, was pretty cool – men in togas strolling though olive groves asking existential questions about life, the universe and all that. An updated version, without the wars, slaves and chauvinism, might not be half bad.

Today Greece is the European Union's current favorite whipping boy – the example to be made in order to keep all the other Ponzi'd patsies in line. It is no small irony that despite street protest bringing a new, defiant Syriza  (“from the roots”) government to Athens and a resounding No! Icelandic-style referendum placing Greece in technical default, the realities of needing a cash drip to keep pensioners breathing and buses running have given the upper hand to German, French and British banksters. 

The irony is compounded when one glances at the score sheet for total debt to GDP, with China at 250%, Germany 302%, Greece 353%, USA 370%, Britain 546%, Japan 646% and Ireland at an enchanted 1,000%.

Commented Dmitry Orlov:

The IMF won't lend to Greece because it requires some assurance of repayment; but it will continue to lend to the Ukraine, which is in default and collapsing rapidly, without any such assurances because, you see, the decision is a political one.


After the US-controlled International Monetary Fund acknowledged that Greece has no possibility of ever repaying its debts, the central bankers’ bank, the Bank of International Settlements, recently issued a very blunt warning

“[T]he world will be unable to fight the next global financial crash as central banks have used up their ammunition trying to tackle the last crisis."


If neoliberalism has a Hall of Fame, surely China has a bronze bust somewhere near the entrance. Literally millions of Chinese, newly employed and making consumerist wages, have opened stock trading accounts. For them, its the Roaring Twenties. What changed? China took extreme measures to increase the liquidity in their financial system – precisely what the European Central Bank denied to Greece. 

Liquidity is what pays off the account holders in the event of a run on the bank, because in reality, banks don't store money or any other assets, they only record accounts of running debts. Liquidity builds confidence. Liquidity is what Ben Bernacke forced down the throats of the Wall Street cabal to staunch the bloodletting in 2008. When Europe pulled the liquidity backstop away from Greek banks, ATMs ran dry and depositors took a haircut on their holdings, but systemically, it was much worse than that.

 


 

Greece, Spain, Portugal, Italy and other debtor countries have been under the same mode of attack that was waged by the IMF and its austerity doctrine that bankrupted Latin America from the 1970s onward.

–Michael Hudson

Currently, the average USAnian's net worth is at a record high, but if you were to try to find that average person, it could take you quite a while. Seventy million US citizens are teetering on the edge of financial ruin. They’re one paycheck away from default on their mortgage or health insurance premium. How does one explain their record high net worth? (a) concentrations of extreme wealth at the top of the pyramid; (b) inflated real estate and other asset valuations; and (c) inflated valuation of the dollar, backed by nothing more than vivid imagination. Fantasy is infectious, so there has been a capital flight to Turtle Island on the expectation that it would be a bastion of stability, its deregulated regulators standing as a tall cliff over the tsunami about to engulf the world economy.
 

Hellenistic Greece "Diadochen1" by Captain_Blood – Own work.
Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

The Greeks invented modern banking a couple millennia ago – credit based trade, hedge funds, options, foreign exchange, and so on. And, as we might expect, what's happening in Greece now is nothing new. Athens suffered a land and agrarian crisis in the late 7th century BCE and its citizens took to the streets, throwing bottles and protesting food prices. The Archon (city manager) Draco made severe reforms in 621 BCE ("Draconian" they were called), but these failed to quell the conflict. The crisis lasted another 27 years until the moderate reforms of Solon (594 BCE) lifted austerity while paying off creditors, with the added benefit of firmly entrenching the aristocracy.

The first financial crisis happened in Greece around 600 BC. Since then, Greece has defaulted on their loans more often than any other country in the modern world. In the past 200 years or so, Greece has defaulted about half the time.

Even though Greece has already received $284 billion in bailout money over the past five years, they still couldn’t get it together. One reason why was because most of that money went to financial institutions, and only a small portion went to the people.

Another reason why was due to their pension system. By now, everyone has heard the stories of the hairdresser example… That is, someone who’s worked as a hairdresser for three years, then retires around age 50-55 and receives nearly a full pension. Multiply this by more than two million pensioners, along with a whole lot of other financial problems, and you see why Greece is in such deep trouble.

Aden Forecast
 


Our spider senses tingle when we hear someone reading from one of Ronald Reagan's index cards about mooching welfare mamas driving a Cadillac. Those spendthrift pensioners! Originally the Greek debt was owed to French, Dutch and German banks but now is owed mainly to agencies like the European Financial Stability Facility, run on behalf of 19 governments, that most recently lent Greece (to kick the can down the road) 145 billion euros borrowed from the bond markets at high interest. Hmmm. Sounds a lot like the sub-prime market of, say, 2005, with European banks in the position of Countrywide and AIG.
Brian Davey writing for Feasta says:

If you kick the can down the road repeatedly you eventually run out of road. What should have happened much earlier in this process was an admission that the French, Dutch and German banks had made a mistake lending to Greece and they should have taken their loss. Perhaps Greek officials and Goldman Sachs, which helped to hide the fact that Greece could not pay, should have been prosecuted.


Davies goes on to draw the crucial link between energy and economy:

[W]hile Greece (and Spain and Italy and Ireland) was growing there were good reasons to send money to Greece – to invest in the building of holiday hotels for example, or in the building and civil engineering companies that built the hotels and the roads to the resorts. This was not buying and importing Greek goods – but it was putting money back into the pockets of Greeks in the form of investment in the business activities of a growing economy. If deficit countries are growing then mechanisms will exist to recycle purchasing power internationally. Once growth stops then there is no reason to send money to deficit countries and they are in trouble – as has happened throughout southern Europe and Ireland. I think that this is the most plausible way of seeing things. And the reason that growth began to fall off was rising energy prices because of depletion, because we are reaching the limits to economic growth. Because energy enters into all economic activities this undermines growth because people and companies struggle to service their debts AND pay the higher energy prices. That’s the ultimate reason that interest rates had to come down through quantitative easing.

 
Looking at a historical chart of US debt, one sees that it remained virtually unchanged from first ill-fated settlement in the 16th century, showing only slight bumps with each major war, until approximately 1970 when it went ballistic. What happened then? Gold bugs will tell you it was Nixon taking the dollar off the gold standard, unleashing the beast of fractional reserve banking and fiat currency. Rather, we find it more plausible that 1969 was the year US oil production peaked and, like their Greek counterparts, US companies began to struggle to service their debts AND pay the higher energy prices.

The US trashed Bretton Woods when it took the dollar to the oil standard by getting Saudi Arabia and other producers to sell their oil for dollars only. If you wanted to buy oil you needed dollars, and so dollars flowed back into the US, favorable trade balances masked the dollar's inflation (and the massive debt to sustain cheap energy) and American banks laughed all the way to the voting booths.

Meanwhile, life in Greece goes on, amid the financial wreckage. As Jan Lundberg, who has been trying to revive commercial sail transport in the Mediterranean (to replace more than four million fishing and small cargo vessels now spewing oil smoke and bilge) reports:
 

The jump in homelessness, many of the housed doing without heat in winter, and foregoing improvements in life that people had grown accustomed to, are well known. So it is no wonder that money is almost universally seen as the problem and the solution. The once hopeful consumer population has been ravaged: 1.3 million people, or 26% of the workforce, are without a job (and most of them without benefits); wages are down by 38% since 2009, pensions by 45%, GDP by a quarter; 18% of the country’s population unable to meet their food needs; 32% below the poverty line. Almost 3.1 million people, 33% of the population, are without national health insurance.


The ECB could solve Greece’s problem with a few computer keystrokes. The effect would actually be to stimulate the European economy.
 
Instead, Greece remains a whipping boy to keep the rest of the periphery in line. If either side decides to reject the latest deal, we could see an exit from the European Union, and a return to the drachma. This would likely be good for Greece but not for the EU, which could then see so many countries exit that the central currency tumbles into obscurity.

If Greece switches to drachmas, the funding possibilities are even greater. It could generate the money for a national dividend, guaranteed employment for all, expanded social services, and widespread investment in infrastructure, clean energy, and local business. Freed from its Eurocrat oppressors, Greece could model for the world what can be achieved by a sovereign country using publicly-owned banks and publicly-issued currency for the benefit of its own economy and its own people.

 Jan Lundberg says:

There are two kinds of people, whether in Greece or elsewhere: those who welcome or understand that fundamental change and discontinuity are inevitable, perhaps on the way too soon for convenience, and, those who fervently want the level of income and consumption of the past — regardless of economic and ecological realities. Fortunately for Greeks, they have a continuous and ancient society under the surface of the unstable transnational corporate state.


Summer in Greece often brings wildfires and this year is no different, although climate change doesn't help. In 2007 one fire covered 25.000 hectares north of Athens and as we write this flames are again creeping towards Athens from the North and the government has called out the Air Force and Army to help fight 34 separate fires. Isn't it lucky they still have organized fire departments and emergency responders there? They have come very close to not having that.

Greece is retracing its steps back through the ascent of Western Civilization to an earlier era when the best hedge was a good olive press. Many there, as elsewhere, cannot imagine losing the perks of advanced civilization. Stranded expectations – whether in Athens or Brussels – cloud peoples' thoughts. We are all Greeks. Harder lessons are coming. 

Chaos: Practice and Applications

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Luciano Podcaminsky

Luciano Podcaminsky

Published at Club Orlov on March 10, 2015

 

The term “chaos” has been popping up a lot lately in the increasingly collapse-prone world in which we find ourselves. Pepe Escobar has even published a book on it. Titled Empire of Chaos, it describes a scenario “where a[n American] plutocracy progressively projects its own internal disintegration upon the whole world.” Escobar’s chaos is tailor-made; its purpose is “to prevent an economic integration of Eurasia that would leave the U.S. a non-hegemon, or worse still, an outsider.”

Escobar is not the only one thinking along these lines; here is Vladimir Putin speaking at the Valdai Conference in 2014:

A unilateral diktat and imposing one’s own models produces the opposite result. Instead of settling conflicts it leads to their escalation, instead of sovereign and stable states we see the growing spread of chaos, and instead of democracy there is support for a very dubious public ranging from open neo-fascists to Islamic radicals.

Why do they support such people? They do this because they decide to use them as instruments along the way in achieving their goals but then burn their fingers and recoil. I never cease to be amazed by the way that our partners just keep stepping on the same rake, as we say here in Russia, that is to say, make the same mistake over and over.

Indeed, Escobar’s chaos doesn’t seem to be working too well. Eurasian integration is very much on track, with China and Russia now acting as an economic, military and political unit, and with other Eurasian states eager to play a role. The European Union is, for the moment, being excluded from Eurasia because it is effectively under American occupation, but this state of affairs is unlikely to last due to budgetary problems. (To be precise, we have to say that it is under NATO occupation, but if we dig just a little, we find that NATO is really just the US military with a European façade hammered onto it Potemkin village-style.)

And so the term “empire” seems rather misplaced. Empires are ambitious undertakings that seek to exert control over their domain, and what sort of an empire is it if its main activity is stepping on the same rake over and over again? A silly one? Then why not just call it “The Silly Empire”? Indeed, there are lots of fun silly imperial activities to choose from. For example: arm and train moderate opposition to a regime you want to overthrow; find out that it isn’t moderate at all; try to bomb them into submission and fail at that too.

Some people raise the criticism that the empire does in fact function because somebody somewhere is profiting from all this chaos. Indeed they are, but taking this as a sign of imperial success is tantamount to regarding getting mugged on the way to the supermarket as a sign of economic success. Success has nothing to do with it, but Escobar’s “internal disintegration” does seem apt: the disintegrating empire’s internal chaos is leaking out and causing chaos everywhere. Still, the US makes every effort to exert control, mainly by exerting pressure on friends and enemies alike, and by demanding unquestioning obedience. Some might call this “controlled chaos.”

But what is “controlled chaos”? How does one control chaos, and is it even possible? Let’s delve.

Chaos Theory

There is a branch of mathematics called chaos theory. It deals with dynamic systems that exhibit a certain set of behaviors:

• For any causal relationship that can be observed, tiny differences in initial conditions cause large differences in outcome. The hackneyed example is the “butterfly effect” where the hypothetical flapping of the wings of a butterfly influences the course of a hurricane some weeks later. Or, to pick a more meaningful example, if the stock market were a chaotic system, then investing a million dollars in an index fund might result in a portfolio of about a million dollars a few months later; whereas investing a million and one dollars might result in a portfolio of minus a trillion dollars and change.

• Unpredictability beyond a short time-period: given finite initial information about a system, its behavior beyond a short period of time becomes impossible to predict. Since information about a real-world system is always finite, being limited by what can be observed and measured, chaotic systems are by their nature unpredictable.

• Topological mixing: any given region of a chaotic system’s phase space will eventually overlap with every other region. Chaotic systems can have several distinct states, but eventually these states will mix. For example, if a certain bank were a chaotic system, with two distinct states—solvent and bankrupt—then these states would eventually mix.

Mathematicians like to play with models of chaos, which are deterministic and time-invariant: they can run a simulation over and over again with slightly different inputs, and observe the result. But real-world chaotic systems are non-deterministic and non-time-invariant: not only do they produce wildly different outputs based on very slightly different inputs, but they produce different outputs every time. What’s more, even if deterministic chaotic systems did exist in nature, they would be indistinguishable from so-called “stochastic” systems—ones that exhibit randomness.

Control Theory

Another branch of mathematics deals with ways of controlling dynamic processes. A typical example is a thermostat: it maintains constant temperature by turning a heat source on if the temperature drops below a certain threshold, and off again if it rises above a certain other threshold. (The difference between the two thresholds is called “hysteresis.”) Another typical example is the autopilot: it is a device that computes the difference between the programmed course and the actual course, called an “error signal,” and applies that error signal to a control mechanism to keep the boat or the plane on course. There are many variations on this theme, but the overall scheme is always the same: measure system output, compare to reference, compute error signal, and apply it as negative feedback to the system.

In order to apply control theory to a system, that system must obey certain principles. One is the superposition principle: output must be proportional to the input. Left rudder always causes the boat to turn left; more left rudder causes it to boat to turn left faster. Another is time-invariance: the boat reacts to changes in rudder angle the same way every time. These are necessities; but most applications of control theory make an additional assumption of linearity: that changes in system behavior are linearly proportional to changes in control input. Since all real-world systems are non-linear, an effort is usually made to endow them with a relatively linear flat spot in the middle of their useful range. Turn a boat’s rudder a little bit, and the boat turns as expected; turn it too far, and it stalls and no longer works.

Applying control theory to chaotic systems is tricky, because of the issue of “controllability”: is it possible to put a system in a particular state by applying particular control signals? In a chaotic system, very small error signals can produce very large differences in system output. Therefore, a chaotic system cannot be controlled. However, an uncontrollable system can sometimes be stabilized and made to cycle around within a particular, useful, or at least non-lethal, part of its phase space. Generally, to stabilize the system, it must be observable: it must be possible to measure the output of the system and use it to issue corrections. However, even an an unobservable system can still be stabilized, by detecting its state periodically and applying a control signal to push it incrementally in the right direction.

Here is a real-world example. Suppose you are hurtling along a slush-covered highway in a subcompact car with bald summer tires. At some point a very minor perturbation of some sort will transform this controllable system into an uncontrollable one: the car will start spinning. Since it can no longer be steered, it will slide toward the barrier on one side of the highway or the other. It will also become unobservable: with the driver spinning along with the car, it will become impossible to observe the car’s trajectory based on short glimpses of the roadway spinning past. Can this situation be stabilized?

Yes, it turns out that it can be. This is a trick I learned from a jet fighter pilot, which I was then able to apply to the exact scenario I just described. If a jet starts tumbling out of control, the pilot’s job is to get it to stop tumbling and to get it back to level flight. This is done by twisting one’s head back and forth in rhythm with the spin, catching glimpses of the horizon, and working the yoke, also in rhythm to the spin, to slow it down, and to make the horizon go horizontal.

In a car, the driver’s job is to get the car to stop spinning without hitting the barrier on either side of the highway. This is done by twisting one’s head in rhythm to the spin, catching glimpses of the barriers on each side of the road, and working the steering wheel, also in rhythm to get the car to stop spinning while keeping it away from either barrier. If the car is spinning clockwise, then a clockwise twist to the steering wheel will move it forward, a counterclockwise twist will move it backward, and a stomp on the brakes will slow down its forward or backward motion somewhat.

This is typically the best that can be done in controlling chaos: using small perturbations to keep the system within a certain range of safe, useful states, keeping it out of any number of useless or dangerous ones. But there is one more caveat: such applications of control theory to chaotic systems require finding out the properties of the chaotic system ahead of time. That’s rather tricky to do if a system evolves continuously in response to these small perturbations. In situations that involve politics or military matters, applying the same control measure twice is about as effective as telling the same joke twice to the same audience: you become the joke.

The moral of this story should be obvious by now: as with the car on a slush-covered highway, any fool can get it to spin out, but that same fool is then unlikely to have the presence of mind, the skill and the steel nerves to keep it from hitting one of the barriers. Same goes for the would-be builders of an “empire of controlled chaos”: sure, they can generate chaos, but controlling it in a manner that allows them to derive some benefit from it is rather out of the question, and even their ability to stabilize it, so that they are not themselves hurt by it, is in grave doubt.

 


Dmitry Orlov is a Russian-American engineer and a writer on subjects related to “potential economic, ecological and political decline and collapse in the United States,” something he has called “permanent crisis”. He  has written The Five Stages of Collapse and Reinventing Collapse, continues to write regularly on his “Club Orlov” blog and at EnergyBulletin.Net.

Financial collapse leads to war

From the keyboard of Dmitry Orlov
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BurningRubles

Published at Club Orlov on March 3, 2015

 

Scanning the headlines in the western mainstream press, and then peering behind the one-way mirror to compare that to the actual goings-on, one can’t but get the impression that America’s propagandists, and all those who follow in their wake, are struggling with all their might to concoct rationales for military action of one sort or another, be it supplying weapons to the largely defunct Ukrainian military, or staging parades of US military hardware and troops in the almost completely Russian town of Narva, in Estonia, a few hundred meters away from the Russian border, or putting US “advisers” in harm’s way in parts of Iraq mostly controlled by Islamic militants.

The strenuous efforts to whip up Cold War-like hysteria in the face of an otherwise preoccupied and essentially passive Russia seems out of all proportion to the actual military threat Russia poses. (Yes, volunteers and ammo do filter into Ukraine across the Russian border, but that’s about it.) Further south, the efforts to topple the government of Syria by aiding and arming Islamist radicals seem to be backfiring nicely. But that’s the pattern, isn’t it? What US military involvement in recent memory hasn’t resulted in a fiasco? Maybe failure is not just an option, but more of a requirement?

Let’s review. Afghanistan, after the longest military campaign in US history, is being handed back to the Taliban. Iraq no longer exists as a sovereign nation, but has fractured into three pieces, one of them controlled by radical Islamists. Egypt has been democratically reformed into a military dictatorship. Libya is a defunct state in the middle of a civil war. The Ukraine will soon be in a similar state; it has been reduced to pauper status in record time—less than a year. A recent government overthrow has caused Yemen to stop being US-friendly. Closer to home, things are going so well in the US-dominated Central American countries of Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador that they have produced a flood of refugees, all trying to get into the US in the hopes of finding any sort of sanctuary.

Looking at this broad landscape of failure, there are two ways to interpret it. One is that the US officialdom is the most incompetent one imaginable, and can’t ever get anything right. But another is that they do not succeed for a distinctly different reason: they don’t succeed because results don’t matter. You see, if failure were a problem, then there would be some sort of pressure coming from somewhere or other within the establishment, and that pressure to succeed might sporadically give rise to improved performance, leading to at least a few instances of success. But if in fact failure is no problem at all, and if instead there was some sort of pressure to fail, then we would see exactly what we do see.

In fact, a point can be made that it is the limited scope of failure that is the problem. This would explain the recent saber-rattling in the direction of Russia, accusing it of imperial ambitions (Russia is not interested in territorial gains), demonizing Vladimir Putin (who is effective and popular) and behaving provocatively along Russia’s various borders (leaving Russia vaguely insulted but generally unconcerned). It can be argued that all the previous victims of US foreign policy—Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria, even the Ukraine—are too small to produce failure writ large enough to satisfy America’s appetite for failure. Russia, on the other hand, especially when incentivized by thinking that it is standing up to some sort of new, American-style fascism, has the ability to deliver to the US a foreign policy failure that will dwarf all the previous ones.

Analysts have proposed a variety of explanations for America’s hyperactive, oversized militarism. Here are the top three:

1. The US government has been captured by the military-industrial complex, which demands to be financed lavishly. Rationales are created artificially to achieve that result. But there does seem to be some sort of pressure to actually make weapons and field armies, because wouldn’t it be far more cost-effective to achieve full-spectrum failure simply by stealing all the money and skip building the weapons systems altogether? So something else must be going on.

2. The US military posture is designed to insure America’s full spectrum dominance over the entire planet. But “full-spectrum dominance” sounds a little bit like “success,” whereas what we see is full-spectrum failure. Again, this story doesn’t fit the facts.

3. The US acts militarily to defend the status of the US dollar as the global reserve currency. But the US dollar is slowly but surely losing its attractiveness as a reserve currency, as witnessed by China and Russia acting as swiftly as they can to unload their US dollar reserves, and to stockpile gold instead. Numerous other nations have entered into arrangements with each other to stop using the US dollar in international trade. The fact of the matter is, it doesn’t take a huge military to flush one’s national currency down the toilet, so, once again, something else must be going on.

There are many other explanations on offer as well, but none of them explain the fact that the goal of all this militarism seems to be to achieve failure.

Perhaps a simpler explanation would suffice? How about this one:

The US has surrendered its sovereignty to a clique of financial oligarchs. Having nobody at all to answer to, this American (and to some extent international) oligarchy has been ruining the financial condition of the country, running up staggering levels of debt, destroying savings and retirements, debasing the currency and so on. The inevitable end-game is that the Federal Reserve (along with the central banks of other “developed economies”) will end up buying up all the sovereign debt issuance with money they print for that purpose, and in the end this inevitably leads to hyperinflation and national bankruptcy. A very special set of conditions has prevented these two events from taking place thus far, but that doesn’t mean that they won’t, because that’s what always happens, sooner or later.

Now, let’s suppose a financial oligarchy has seized control of the country, and, since it can’t control its own appetites, is running it into the ground. Then it would make sense for it to have some sort of back-up plan for when the whole financial house of cards falls apart. Ideally, this plan would effectively put down any chance of revolt of the downtrodden masses, and allow the oligarchy to maintain security and hold onto its wealth. Peacetime is fine for as long as it can placate the populace with bread and circuses, but when a financial calamity causes the economy to crater and bread and circuses turn scarce, a handy fallback is war.

Any rationale for war will do, be it terrorists foreign and domestic, Big Bad Russia, or hallucinated space aliens. Military success is unimportant, because failure is even better than success for maintaining order because it makes it possible to force through various emergency security measures. Various training runs, such as the military occupation of Boston following the staged bombings at the Boston Marathon, have already taken place. The surveillance infrastructure and the partially privatized prison-industrial complex are already in place for locking up the undesirables. A really huge failure would provide the best rationale for putting the economy on a war footing, imposing martial law, suppressing dissent, outlawing “extremist” political activity and so on.

And so perhaps that is what we should expect. Financial collapse is already baked in, and it’s only a matter of time before it happens, and precipitates commercial collapse when global supply chains stop functioning. Political collapse will be resisted, and the way it will be resisted is by starting as many wars as possible, to produce a vast backdrop of failure to serve as a rationale for all sorts of “emergency measures,” all of which will have just one aim: to suppress rebellion and to keep the oligarchy in power. Outside the US, it will look like Americans blowing things up: countries, things, innocent bystanders, even themselves (because, you know, apparently that works too). From the outside looking into America’s hall of one-way mirrors, it will look like a country gone mad; but then it already looks that way. And inside the hall of one-way mirrors it will look like valiant defenders of liberty battling implacable foes around the world. Most people will remain docile and just wave their little flags.

But I would venture to guess that at some point failure will translate into meta-failure: America will fail even at failing. I hope that there is something we can do to help this meta-failure of failure happen sooner rather than later.

 


Dmitry Orlov is a Russian-American engineer and a writer on subjects related to “potential economic, ecological and political decline and collapse in the United States,” something he has called “permanent crisis”. He  has written The Five Stages of Collapse and Reinventing Collapse, continues to write regularly on his “Club Orlov” blog and at EnergyBulletin.Net.

Extinct—Extincter—Extinctest

From the keyboard of Dmitry Orlov
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Image: David Herbert

Image: David Herbert

Published at Club Orlov on February 17, 2015

 

This blog is dedicated to the idea of presenting the big picture—the biggest possible—of what is going on in the world. The abiding areas of interest that make up the big picture have included the following:

1. The terminal decay and eventual collapse of industrial civilization as the fossil fuels that power it become more and more expensive to produce in the needed quantities, of lower and lower resource quality and net energy and, eventually, in ever-shorter supply.

The first guess by Hubbert that the all-time peak of oil production in the US would be back in the 1970s was accurate, but later prediction of a global peak, followed by a swift collapse, around the year 2000 was rather off, because here we are 15 years later and global oil production has never been higher. Oil prices, which were high for a time, have temporarily moderated. However, zooming in on the oil picture just a little bit, we see that conventional oil production peaked in 2005—just 5 years late—and has been declining ever since, and the shortfall has been made up by oil that is difficult and expensive to get at (deep offshore, fracking) and by things that aren’t exactly oil (tar sands).

The current low prices are not high enough to sustain this new, expensive production for much longer, and the current glut is starting to look like a feast to be followed by famine. The direct cause of this famine will not be energy but debt, but it can still be traced back to energy: a successful, growing industrial economy requires cheapenergy; expensive energy causes it to stop growing and to become mired in debt that can never be repaid. Once the debt bubble pops, there isn’t enough capital to invest in another round of expensive energy production, and terminal decay sets in.

2. The very interesting process of the USA becoming its own nemesis: the USSR 2.0, or, as some are calling, the USSA.

The USA is best characterized as a decomposing corpse of a nation lorded over by a tiny clique of oligarchs who control the herd by wielding Orwellian methods of mind control. So far gone is the populace that most of them think that things are just peachy—there is an economic recovery, don’t you know—but a few of them do realize that they all have lots of personal issues with things like violence, drug and alcohol abuse, and gluttony. But don’t call them a nation of violent, drug-abusing gluttons, because that would be insulting. In any case, you can’t call them anything, because they aren’t listening, for they are too busy fiddling with their electronic life support units to which they have become addicted. Thanks to Facebook and the like they are now so far inside Plato’s cave that even the shadows they see aren’t real: they are computer simulations of shadows of other computer simulations.

The signs of this advanced state of decomposition are now unmistakable everywhere you look, be it education, medicine, culture or the general state of American society, where now fully half the working-age men is impaired in their ability to earn a decent living. But it is now particularly obvious in the endless compounding of errors that is the essence of American foreign policy. Some have started calling it “the empire of chaos,” neglecting to mention the fact that an empire of chaos is by definition ungovernable.

A particularly compelling example of failure is the Islamic Caliphate, which now rules large parts of Syria and Iraq. It was initially organized with American help to topple the Syrian government, but now threatens the stability of Saudi Arabia instead. This problem was made much worse by alienating Russia, which, with its long Central Asian border, is the one major nation that is interested in fighting Islamic extremism. The best the Americans have been able to do against the Caliphate is an expensive and ineffectual bombing campaign. Previous ineffectual and expensive bombing campaigns, such as the one in Cambodia, have produced unintended consequences such as the genocidal regime of Pol Pot, but why bother learning from mistakes when you can endlessly compound them?

Another example is the militarized mayhem and full-blown economic collapse that has engulfed the Ukraine in the wake of American-organized violent overthrow of its last-ever constitutional government a year ago. The destruction of the Ukraine was motivated by Zbigniew Brzezinski’s simplistic calculus that turning the Ukraine into an anti-Russian NATO-occupied zone would effectively thwart Russian imperial ambitions. A major problem with this calculus is that Russia has no imperial ambitions: Russia has all the territory it could ever want, but to develop it it needs peace and free trade. Another slight problem with Zbiggy’s “chessboard” is that Russia does have an overriding concern with protecting the interests of Russians wherever they may live and, for internal political reasons, will always act to protect them, even if such actions are illegal and carry the risk of a larger military conflict. Thus, the American destabilization of the Ukraine has accomplished nothing positive, but did increase the odds of nuclear self-annihilation. But if the USA manages to disappear from the world’s political map without triggering a nuclear holocaust, we will still have a problem, which is that…

3. The climate of Earth, our home planet, is, to put it as politely as possible, completely fucked. Now, there are quite a few people who think that radically altering the planet’s atmospheric and ocean chemistry and physics by burning just over half the fossilized hydrocarbons that could possibly be dug up using industrial methods means nothing, and that what we are observing is just natural climate variability. These people are morons. I will delete every single one of the comments they submit in response to this post, but in spite of my promise to do so, I assure you that they will still submit them… because they are morons. [Update: yup, QED.]

What we are looking at is a human-triggered extinction episode that will certainly be beyond anything in human experience, and which may rival the great Permian-Triassic extinction event of 252 million years ago. There is even the possibility of Earth becoming completely sterilized, with an atmosphere as overheated and toxic as that of Venus. That these changes are happening does not require prediction, just observation. The only parameters that remain to be determined are these:

1. How far will this process run?

Will there still be a habitat where humans can survive? Humans cannot survive without plenty of fresh water and sources of carbohydrates, proteins and fats, all of which require functioning ecosystems. Humans can survive on almost any kind of diet—even tree bark and insects—but if all vegetation is dead, then so are we. Also, we cannot survive in an environment where the wet bulb temperature (which takes into account our ability to cool ourselves by sweating) exceeds our body temperature: whenever that happens, we die of heat stroke. Lastly, we need air that we can actually breathe: if the atmosphere becomes too low in oxygen (because the vegetation has died out) and too high in carbon dioxide and methane (because the dead vegetation has burned off, the permafrost has melted, and the methane currently trapped in oceanic clathrates has been released) then we all die.

We already know that the increase in average global temperature has exceeded 1C since pre-industrial times, and, based on the altered atmospheric chemistry, is predicted to eventually exceed 2C. We also know that industrial activity, thanks to the aerosols it puts into the atmosphere, produces an effect known as global dimming. Once it’s gone, the average temperature will jump by at least another 1.1C. This would put us within striking range of 3.5C, and no humans have ever been alive with Earth more than 3.5C above baseline. But, you know, there is a first time for everything. Maybe we can invent some gizmo… Maybe if we all put on air-conditioned sombreros or something… (Design contest, anyone?)

2. How fast will this process happen?

The thermal mass of the planet is such that there is a 40-year lag between when atmospheric chemistry is changed and its effects on average temperature are felt. So far we have been shielded from some of the effects by two things: the melting of Arctic and Antarctic ice and permafrost, and the ocean’s ability to absorb heat. Your iced drink remains pleasant until the last ice cube is gone, but then it becomes tepid and distasteful rather quickly. Some scientists say that, on the outside, it will take 5000 years for us to run out of ice cubes, causing the party to end, but then the dynamics of the huge glaciers that supply the ice cubes are not understood all that well, and there have been constant surprises in terms of how quickly they can slough off icebergs, which then drift into warmer waters and melt quickly.

But the biggest surprise of the last few years has been the rate of arctic methane release. Perhaps you haven’t, but I’ve found it impossible to ignore all the scientists who have been ringing alarm bells on Arctic methane release. What they are calling the clathrate gun—which can release some 50 gigatons of methane in as little as a couple of decades—appears to have been fired in 2007 and now, just a few years later, the trend line in Arctic methane concentrations has become alarming. But we will need to wait for at least another two years to get an authoritative answer. Overall, the methane held in the clathrates is enough to exceed the global warming potential of all fossil fuels burned to date by a factor of between 4 and 40. The upper end of that range does seem to put us quite far towards a Venus-type atmosphere, and the surviving species may be limited to exotic thermophilic bacteria, if that, and certainly will not include any of the species we like to eat, nor any of us.

Looking at such numbers has caused quite a few researchers to propose the possibility of near-term human extinction. Estimates vary, but, in general, if the clathrate gun has indeed gone off, then most of us shouldn’t be planning to be around beyond mid-century. But the funny thing is (humor is never in poor taste, no matter how dire the situation) that most of us shouldn’t be planning on sticking around beyond mid-century in any case. The current oversized human population is a product of fossil fuel-burning, and once that’s over, human population will crash. This is called a die-off, and it’s something that happens all the time: a population (say, of yeast in a vat of sugary liquid) consumes its food, and then dies off. A few hardy individuals linger on, and if you throw in a lump of sugar, they spring to life, start reproducing and the process takes off again.

Another funny aspect of near-term human extinction is that it can never be observable, because no scientist will ever be around to observe it, and therefore it is a non-scientific concept. Since it cannot be used to do science, the scientists who throw it around must be aiming for an emotional effect. This is quite uncharacteristic of scientists, who generally pride themselves on being cool-headed and prefer to deal in the observable and the measurable. So, why would scientists go for emotional effect? Clearly, it is because they feel that something must be done. And to feel that something must be done, they must also feel that something can be done. But, if so, what is it?

Always first on the list is the effort to lobby governments to limit carbon emissions. This has not been a success; as to one of the many reasons why, consider point 2 above: the USA is one of the biggest offenders when it comes to carbon emissions, but the rotting corpse of America’s political system is incapable of any constructive action. It is too busy destroying countries: Iraq, Libya, Syria, Ukraine…

Second on the list is something called geoengineering. If you don’t know what it is, don’t worry; it’s largely a synonym for mental masturbation. The idea is that you fix things you don’t understand by using technologies that don’t exist. But given many humans’ irrational belief that every problem must have a technological solution, there is always some fool willing to throw money at it. Previous efforts along these lines involved the idea of seeding the oceans with iron to promote plankton growth, or putting bits of tin foil in orbit to reflect some of the sunlight, or painting the Sahara white. These are all fun projects to think about. How about using nuclear weapons to put dust into the atmosphere, to block out some of the sunlight? Or how about nuking a few big volcanos, for the same effect? If that’s politically difficult, how about something politically easy: a limited nuclear exchange? That will darken the skies, bringing on a mini nuclear winter, and also reduce the population, which will cut down on industrial activity. There are enough nuclear weapons to keep the planet cool for as long as it takes us all to die of radiation poisoning. This geoengineering solution, along with all the others, is in line with the popular dictum “If you can’t solve a problem, enlarge it.”

And so it seems to me that all the talk about near-term human extinction is just so much emotional hand-flapping designed to motivate people to try things that won’t work. Still, I believe the topic is worth pondering, for a simple reason: what if you don’t want to go extinct? We’ve already established that human extinction (whenever it might be said to occur) will never be observable, because no human will be around to observe it. We also know that population die-offs happen all the time, but they don’t always result in extinction. So, who will be most likely to die, and who might actually make it?

First on the list are the invisible victims of war. By now lots of people have seen photographs of piles of dead Ukrainian soldiers left to rot after another failed attack, or videos of residents of Donetsk expiring on the sidewalk after being hit by a government-lobbed artillery shell or mortar. But we don’t know how many children and women are dying in childbirth because the government has bombed maternity clinics and hospitals: such casualties of war are invisible. Nor will we be shown footage of all of the Ukrainian retirees expiring prematurely because they can no longer afford food, medicine or heat, but we can be sure that many of them won’t be around a year hence. When it comes to war, there are just two viable survival strategies: refuse to take part; and flee. Indeed, the million or so Ukrainians that are now in Russia, or the million or so Syrians who are no longer in Syria, are the smart ones. The Ukrainians who are volunteering to fight are the idiots; the ones who are fleeing to Russia to sit out the war are the smart ones. (However, the Russians, who are volunteering to protect their land and their families from what amounts to an American invasion, are clearly not idiots. They are also winning.) In this sense, war is a Darwinian process, delivering extinction to the foolish.

Next on the list of extinction episodes to avoid happens in major cities during a heat wave. It’s happened across Europe in 2003, and resulted in 70,000 casualties. In 2010, a heat wave in the Moscow region (which is quite far north) resulted in over 14,000 deaths in Moscow alone. The urban heat island effect, which is caused by sunlight soaked up by pavement and buildings, produces much higher local temperatures, driving them over the threshold for heat stroke. While the fossil fuel economy continues to operate, cities remain survivable because of the availability of air conditioning; once it shuts down, urban heat wave extinction episodes will become widespread. Since 50% of the population lives in cities, half of the human population is at risk of extinction from heat stroke. Therefore, if you don’t want to go extinct, don’t spend your summers in a city.

The list of places you don’t want to be if you wish to avoid extinction gets rather long. You wouldn’t want to live in California, for example, or in the arid southwestern states, because there won’t be any water there. You wouldn’t want to live along the coasts, because they are likely to be flooded by the rising oceans (they will eventually rise over 100 meters, putting all coastal cities underwater). You wouldn’t want to live in the eastern half of North America, because, paradoxically, a dramatically warmer Arctic region causes the jet stream to meander, producing increasingly fierce winters, which, minus fossil fuels, will cause widespread deaths from exposure. Even now, a bit of extra snow, which is likely to become the new normal, has caused the entire transportation infrastructure of New England (where, luckily, I am not) to roll over and play dead. Nor would you want to live in any of the places where the water source comes from glacial melt, because the glaciers will soon be gone. This includes much of Pakistan, large parts of India, Bangladesh, Thailand, Vietnam and so on. The list of places where you wouldn’t want to be if you don’t want to go extinct for this or that reason gets to be rather long.

But the entire northern half of Eurasia looks quite nice for the foreseeable future, so if you don’t want to go extinct, you better start teaching your kids Russian.

 

 

Dmitry Orlov is a Russian-American engineer and a writer on subjects related to “potential economic, ecological and political decline and collapse in the United States,” something he has called “permanent crisis”. He  has written The Five Stages of Collapse and Reinventing Collapse, continues to write regularly on his “Club Orlov” blog and at EnergyBulletin.Net.

Masters of Parallel Universes

From the keyboard of Dmitry Orlov
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cat

Published at Club Orlov on February 10, 2015

 

Much as we may dislike the fact, the results from quantum physics are unequivocal: parallel universes do exist. Schrödinger’s cat is both alive and dead, at the same time, while it exists as a probability distribution, which is resolved into either a live cat or a dead one by the act of opening the box and observing it. But until the observation is made, both parallel universes can be said to exist, and there is no way for us to know which one of them we inhabit.

Quantum effects dominate in the micro realm of subatomic particles. For instance, the laptop on which I am typing this contains millions of transistors which are created by implanting ions into silicon substrates to create patches with built-in electric fields and interconnecting these patches with etched aluminum wiring. Each transistor relies on the phenomenon of quantum tunneling: while in normal physics it is impossible for an electron to find itself on the wrong side of a built-in electric field, in quantum physics the electron is a probability distribution, not a particle, and quantum tunneling works reliably enough to support the entire electronics industry. But if you scale your circuit up, the chance of a pickup truck successfully “tunneling” through a brick wall becomes too minuscule to be of practical interest. It is still possible, but it would take anywhere between right now and several lifetimes of the universe hence to observe that result.

Oddly enough, such quantum effects are quite normal to observe within the political space. Here the physical objects involved are far too large to give rise to the parallel universes of quantum physics, but the narratives they give rise to are not. This is because the narratives are a matter of perception, and there can be historical periods, such as the present one, when the peephole through which the political establishment and the mainstream media allow us to see the world becomes so tiny that it becomes a toss-up as to whether or not any given photon will manage to find its way through it.

Here, reality becomes fractured into parallel universes as soon as we make the realization that we are being lied to. Were there weapons of mass destruction in Iraq? No, and the vial of white powder which Colin Powell menacingly held up at the UN was fake. The Iraqi mobile biological weapons factories did not exist. Was Al Qaeda active in Iraq prior to the US invasion? No, we know that it wasn’t. These lies are now known to be factual—uncontested, commonplace knowledge. Next: do we make the arbitrary leap of judgment and declare that that’s all the lies we will have ever been told, or do we admit the possibility that this is only the tip of an iceberg of lies, that lying is a modus operandi for the operatives behind them? If we do, then, to be conservative, for every official narrative we must construct one or more unofficial but also plausible (and perhaps much more plausible) narratives. Each of them constitutes a parallel universe, and we can’t know which of them we inhabit until some happy accident—a leak, an investigation, a damning bit of physical evidence, or an outright admission of complicity or guilt—collapses the probability waveform, destroying all the parallel universes but the real one.

Many people have been conditioned to think that this is the realm of “conspiracy theory.” Unfortunately, the term doesn’t apply. First, the existence of a conspiracy has to be accepted as a given: nobody ever perpetrates a heinous act of murder, mayhem and destruction by telegraphing their intentions ahead of time. If they do, the event usually doesn’t go off as planned, and in such cases it is usually announced that a conspiracy has been uncovered and a plot thwarted. Thus, the use of the term “conspiracy” is gratuitous; it goes without saying that there always is one. Secondly, the term “theory” is gratuitous as well: a theory is a mental construct designed to account for a given set of observations. But what if all you do is point out the observations (which are in the public domain, there for all to see) and make no effort whatsoever to account for them?

However, there is one theory that accounts for a very large class of such observations, and it is so simple that it is often overlooked. It is this: that the government and the official sources of information are normally lying. We already know that they have lied in the past (Iraqi WMD and al Qaeda in Iraq are two particularly well-known examples, but there are many others). The question then becomes, When did they stop lying (if in fact they did)? Was there a conspiracy to stop lying? There would have to have been one, because we certainly haven’t heard any statements made by public officials to the effect that “We will now stop lying.” Or did they spontaneously all stop lying at the same time? The probability of that happening is pretty low; it could, of course happen—any time between right now and several lifetimes of the universe hence. So if you believe that they have indeed stopped lying, then I suppose that makes you a conspiracy theorist par excellence. The conservative assumption is that they are still lying.

There are lots of people who have been working to keep these parallel universes alive in one form or another, by collecting and collating bits of information, by offering partial explanations, by evaluating the official explanations as to their logical consistency. They have been doing this in spite of being ostracized as “conspiracy theorists.” To be fair, they have sometimes been glorified as “truth-seekers” or “truth-tellers” and that must provide an ego boost for some people. But really what they have been doing is generating, and sustaining, alternative narratives and keeping parallel universes alive, so that at some time in the future we will find out which one we have been inhabiting all along.

Some people make the mistake of refusing to listen and to explore these parallel universes, because it makes them ill at ease not to know which one they happen to inhabit. But if you accept the extreme likelihood that the official narrative is a bunch of lies concocted to hide the truth, then there is some comfort to be gained in at least knowing something that might not be a lie. Once the initial hesitation is past, it becomes a fun, if somewhat macabre, hobby, because puzzling evidence jumps out at you just about everywhere you care to look.

An important precondition of being able to interpret the result of Schrödinger’s thought experiment is being able to figure out what a cat looks like. Here is a specific example. Currently, there are two parallel universes. In one, Russian troops have invaded Ukraine. In the other, Russian troops did not invade Ukraine. What makes this difficult is understanding what is meant by Russian troops. There are Russians in eastern Ukraine. There are troops in eastern Ukraine. A lot of the troops in eastern Ukraine are in fact Russian. But there are no Russian troops in eastern Ukraine. Get it? To qualify as actual Russian troops, they would have to have enlisted in the Russian military, and would have to take their orders through the Russian chain of command. And these ones obviously don’t. There is a strong political connection with Russia, but the military one is tenuous. The latest “proof” of Russian invasion, offered by the Ukraine’s president Poroshenko in Munich, consists of some Russian internal passports and military service certificates found in eastern Ukraine. Funny thing is, when you are inducted into the Russian military, you have to surrender those civilian documents. Sometimes a perfectly viable, though quite short-lived parallel universe can be concocted by twisting things in small ways.

But most of the time a parallel universe pops into existence when things get twisted in impressively brazen and shameless ways. A lot of people start with 9/11. The twin towers collapsed because they were hit by jet airliners because, you see, kerosene melts steel. Was it special, magic kerosene, and were the buildings were made of special, magic steel? Maybe that’s why since then skyscrapers can’t be insured against fire any more. Previously it was thought that skyscrapers can’t collapse due to fire because they are made of steel, and a hydrocarbon-based fire isn’t hot enough to melt it. What fools those civil engineers must have been! Turns out, all you need is some kerosene!

Then the two skyscrapers spontaneously collapsed into their own footprints—all on their own—and so the entire industry of demolition experts (whose job is to mine tall buildings with explosive charges and detonate them under computer control to keep the buildings from toppling over) has since been retired. Skyscrapers are now known to pose a huge fire hazard due to the melty steel of which they are made, and they must all be demolished right away. But don’t hire any demolition experts, since we now know that their entire industry was a hoax, because skyscrapers collapse into their own footprints all by themselves. Just take some retired old jets from American Airlines (they have plenty of them) and fly them into the skyscrapers unmanned using remote fly by wire technology.

Another “plane” hit the Pentagon. That plane had no engines, since none were found (but in spite of this it not only flew, but executed a pirouette worthy of a jet fighter). Also, it had no seats (the passengers must have mimed sitting down and buckling up) and no luggage (they must have traveled really light). The perpetrators’ identity was found out thanks to a passport found at the World Trade Center site. It was a magic passport; unlike the steel girders of the twin towers, a kerosene fireball could not even singe it.

Fast-forward to the latest staged atrocity: the Charlie Hebdo massacre in Paris. The perpetrators were clearly well-trained, disciplined commandos, who executed a flawless mission, making it likely that they were special service people of some country or other. But then one of them magically forgot his ID in the getaway car—just like that passport magically found in the wreckage of 9/11. (Do commandos take their civilian IDs with them when they go on a secret mission?) And then the alleged driver of the getaway car surrendered to the police, saying that he has an ironclad alibi. The fact that he surrendered was reported in the media; the reason why he surrendered was not. And then the person charged with conducting the investigation killed himself while working on his report. Did his report agree with the official narrative?

Reminds me of another staged atrocity: the Boston Marathon bombing. The very large number of special ops people milling about the scene before the firecrackers went off has been noted, but clearly they had nothing to do with it—they were just enjoying their day off, all dressed the same. The two patsies who were blamed for it—the Tsarnaev brothers—were well-known to the FBI. After the firecrackers went off, a crew of specialists immediately descended on the scene, with actors posing as victims and fake blood being tossed about. Video evidence shows them taking a long time to stage photo-ops of the supposed atrocity.

The ensuing media campaign with “Boston Strong” stickers was identical to the “Je suis Charlie” campaign following the Charlie Hebdo event. And as with the Charlie Hebdo event, there was a concerted effort to kill the alleged perpetrators before they could answer any questions in ways that might contradict the official story. In the case of the Tsarnaev brothers, the attempt to kill the younger one failed. The boat in which he was hiding, scared and unarmed, was riddled with bullets, and after he surrendered an unexplained emergency tracheotomy was performed on him, but he is still alive, and defiant of the efforts to frame him.

But the most interesting part came after the event, when Boston was placed under military occupation, with residents forced to stay inside their houses for fear of being machine-gunned down by troops rumbling down the streets in APCs, supposedly in pursuit of a couple of kids. The real rationale for the event was to impose martial law on Boston (the cradle of the American Revolution) on Patriot’s Day (which commemorates a signal event that started it). If you read into these events just a little bit, you just might come to the conclusion that the US is no longer a constitutional democracy but a military dictatorship and a police state ruled by an oligarchy that likes to stage gruesome special events to show just how far above the law it really is.

Or take the Malaysian Airlines MH-17 shoot-down over Eastern Ukraine last year. Again, the media campaign was clearly set up before the event. The clairvoyant western observers know who to blame: it was the “Russian-backed rebels” and they used a weapons system provided by Russia. This was repeated endlessly, using a technique used in advertising: “proof by repetition.” Never mind that the rebels had no ability to shoot down that airliner. But the truth has been slowly dribbling out. Flight MH-17 was shot down by a Ukrainian jet fighter from Dnepropetrovsk using an air-to-air missile. (The rebels had no aircraft; why was it armed with one?) The name of the pilot is now known. The person who identified him is in Russia, in witness protection. Russian investigators are pursuing leads, and there is a good chance that we will eventually find out who issued the criminal orders.

I could keep going in this vein for a really long time, piling bits of puzzling evidence upon other bits of puzzling evidence. But the whole point of this exercise is to try to get across to you of one very simple, basic point: if you insist on ignoring all the obvious lies you’ve been told for years and years and dismiss everything but the official narrative as a “conspiracy theory,” then that makes you something of a mind control victim. And I don’t want you to be a victim.

One last thing: if you find yourself living in a Schrödinger box, do what you can to avoid ending up dead. I’ll leave it up to you to work out out the details of that, but the hint is simple: your likelihood of ending up dead is higher if you believe in lies. Don’t be a dead cat.

 

 

Dmitry Orlov is a Russian-American engineer and a writer on subjects related to “potential economic, ecological and political decline and collapse in the United States,” something he has called “permanent crisis”. He  has written The Five Stages of Collapse and Reinventing Collapse, continues to write regularly on his “Club Orlov” blog and at EnergyBulletin.Net.

No Escape

From the keyboard of Dmitry Orlov
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Orlov island

Published at Club Orlov on February 3, 2015

 

Quite a few of those currently inhabiting the belly of the decrepit and senile beast of western industrial civilization are experiencing an extreme sense of unease about what the future is likely to bring. But living with such a sensation is less than pleasant. In some other, perhaps less civilized language, the resolution to this crisis may be expressed as a special way of being, but in the language of civilization, the only possible work-out is through taking action. We must DO SOMETHING!

After all, who would want to not care about things that aren’t important at the moment, not think about objects that are not immediately and tangibly present, not treat depictions or representations as real or valid—but rely exclusively on their own perceptions, and perhaps those they share with those few people who are close to them? A decidedly uncivilized person, by most people’s standards. But we must remain civilized, and to be civilized means to always be driving towards some destination, even if it is an imaginary one. “Stop the world, I want to get off!” some of them exclaim in exasperation. But they are willing prisoners of this metaphor of the world as purposeful action, and their talk of escape is a mental loop (an escapist one) within another mental loop (from which there is no escape).

And so they must DO SOMETHING. But it turns out that they can’t because of another mandatory element of civilized existence, which is to have and to own… stuff. Now, owning something is not exactly an action; it is a state of being, but a rather impersonal one: person X owning a thing is exactly the same as person Y owning that exact same thing. Nevertheless, civilized persons are very much defined by the things that they own, the brands they favor, and the physical setting they demand. So they must do something about their civilized existence, but that civilized existence demands a house with electricity, running hot and cold water, heating and air conditioning, a car, a pile of electronic toys and an even bigger pile of stuff they never actually use, but simply have.

What prompted me to think about this? First-hand observation, actually. I just started a house-sit at an off-grid house on one of the lagoons in the Bocas archipelago in northern Panama. The house is rather well set up: lots of solar panels and battery banks, internet access via a network of wifi repeaters, a rainwater collection system, a dock with two power boats (the nearest town is 30 minutes away at full throttle), a big orchard out back that produces bananas, plantains, mangoes, a cat and a dog… It’s quite an establishment, and it has to be lived in and attended to at all times, to keep entropy at bay. This house is by no means unique: it is part of a constellation of similar houses which dot the surrounding shores, whose residents are quite gregarious, with powerboats crisscrossing the lagoon as they go visiting. It is all quite civilized. Some people here have a survivalist mindset, and feel that, being ensconced in their outposts in the mangroves, they are well situated to ride out the process of the whole world going to hell in a hand-basket.

And then right next door live the local Indios. Two Indio kids show up almost every day, a 5-year-old and a 3-year-old, paddling an ancient-looking cayuca carved out of a tree trunk. They hang out next to our dock, which attracts fish, which they catch for their family meal, one fish right after another, using hand lines with unbaited hooks, while their parents are off tending a patch of something or other edible out in the jungle. (The concept of child care is somehow completely missing.) Some older kids show up sporadically, who are of dating age, and since dating now requires having a cell phone, which needs to be charged, they bring us their cell phones, with chargers, in plastic bags so that they don’t get wet while they paddle over, and ask us to charge them.

These Indios inhabit a wild, roadless terrain, half-water, half-jungle (the nearest road is a two-hour hike over a mountain pass), do not avail themselves of any government services, don’t have bank accounts and trade a little or work as day-laborers for the few things they need. They are the happiest, most congenial, most carefree people it has ever been my privilege to encounter. They wear threadbare hand-me-downs (shorts and a t-shirt is almost too much clothing in this climate) and live in little shacks on pilings nailed together out of sticks that they probably salvaged as driftwood. They get around on foot or in cayucas which they carve out of trees. Their goal-directed activities seem limited to finding food and tending their few and humble possessions. They take long mid-day naps in their hamacas and paddle out to the middle of the lagoon in the cool evenings to socialize, where I can hear their laughter until well after sundown.

But we can’t be like them, now, can we? We need all this stuff: solar panels, banks of lead-acid batteries (I need to check the electrolyte levels today), propane appliances for hot water and cooking, demand pump for the water system, wifi repeaters for the internet… Whenever it is left unguarded, the whole compound needs to be locked down tight because otherwise it might get looted (there is a machete under the bed). The stable of speed boats, which are the only way to get in or out, has to be maintained. And to keep it all together somebody somewhere has to fly jet aircraft, perform rhinoplasties, tweak high-frequency trading algorithms or do something or other purposeful and goal-directed, because these things don’t pay for themselves, you know.

I suppose I could do something purposeful and goal-directed like that too, because I did, once upon a time. But I don’t, because, first of all, I don’t want to. Secondly, I have my own purposes, goals and methods. Spending winters in the tropics rent-free is, I believe, a worthy goal. Building an absolutely amazing houseboat that sails is another, and I am ready to put up with having to engage in other, unrelated, purposeful, goal-directed activities in order to raise the money. (Rhinoplasty, anyone?) There are a few more. But I refuse to rush, because that would spoil all the fun. And so I’ll do a bit of blogging, and later on today I’ll go visit a nearby organic cocoa farm. And I have no idea what I’ll be doing tomorrow, and that, I believe, is just fine.

 

 

Dmitry Orlov is a Russian-American engineer and a writer on subjects related to “potential economic, ecological and political decline and collapse in the United States,” something he has called “permanent crisis”. He  has written The Five Stages of Collapse and Reinventing Collapse, continues to write regularly on his “Club Orlov” blog and at EnergyBulletin.Net.

2015: Grounds for Optimism

From the keyboard of Dmitry Orlov
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orlov 2

Published at Club Orlov on January 6, 2015

 

This may seem like an odd line of reasoning to pursue given what everyone else seems to be saying. Some are thinking that 2015 will be a repeat of 2014 with a few incremental changes (always a safe bet, but makes for boring reading) while others are warning of the potential for a nuclear confrontation between the US and Russia (always a possibility, on par with an asteroid strike or a supernova in our galactic vicinity). But this is all more of the same. The interesting question to ask is, How has the ground shifted in 2014, if indeed it has?

To my mind, the really interesting development of 2014 is that the world as a whole (with a few minor exceptions) has become quite lucid on the topic of what the United States, as a global empire, is and stands for. It is now very commonly and completely understood that:

1. The United States is an evil empire, attempting not so much to rule the world as to disrupt it to its short-term advantage.

2. The United States is failing, as an empire and as a country, and no amount of fraud, mayhem, torture and murder is going to save it.

3. The United States is still quite powerful and can cause massive damage on its way down. This damage must be contained, while plans are drawn up for an international arrangement that will arise upon its demise.

Looking back on 2013 and before, such sentiments were already being expressed, but on the fringes and quietly. The difference is that in 2014 they became commonplace knowledge, and their expressions thundered from presidential podiums. What’s more, there just isn’t that much of a counterargument being voiced. I don’t hear a single voice out there arguing that the US is a benevolent force that is on the up-and-up, would never hurt a fly and is the permanent center of the universe. Yes, some people can still think that, but it’s hard to see value in such “thought.”

There are still a few holdouts: the UK, Canada and Australia especially. But even there the true picture is being distorted because of their Murdockified national media. Judging from what I hear from the people there, they are almost uniformly nauseated by the subservient pro-US antics of their national leaders. As for the EU, the image of political uniformity presented by Brussels is largely a fiction. In the core countries of Western Europe, business leaders are almost uniformly in favor of close cooperation with Russia and against sanctions. Along the fringe, entire countries appear to be on the verge of switching sides. Hungary—never a friend of Russia—now seems more pro-Russian than ever. Bulgaria, which has had a love/hate attitude toward Russia for centuries now, seems to be edging back closer to love. Even the Poles are scratching their heads and wondering if close cooperation with the US is in their national interest.

Another major shift I have observed is that a significant percentage of the thinking people in the US no longer trusts their national media. There is a certain pattern to the kinds of messages that can go viral and spread wildly via tweets and social media. Fringe messages must, by definition, stay on the fringe. And yet last year something snapped: a few times I ran a story in an attempt to plug a gaping hole in the US mass media’s coverage of events in the Ukraine, and the response was overwhelming, with hundreds of thousands of new readers showing up. What’s more, a lot of them have kept coming back for more. I take this to mean that what I have to say, while by no means mainstream, is no longer on the fringe, and that bloggers have an increasingly important role in helping plug the giant holes in national media coverage.

Of course, the national media still has an important role to play. For instance, I have no idea how big Kim Kardashian’s derrière is—but I hear it’s big in the media. Can it sing? And so if you are looking for authoritative information on that important subject, then American national media is your friend. But for most non-ass-related things, it seems to me that the Americans who run the nation’s political and media circuses broke a fundamental rule, which they apparently forgot, because it was first expressed by an American by the name of Abe Lincoln: “You can fool all the people some of the time, and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time.” In case somebody out there in the media realm is tired of playing it safe and printing stuff that’s only fit for wiping your Kardashian with, here are a some points for you to try to refute:

1. Economic inequality has to increase continuously, until the whole thing crashes, because that is the only way to continue propping the financial bubble while the real, physical, productive economy is actually shrinking. The rich can’t possibly spend all of their money in the real economy. Instead, the poor things have to content themselves with investing in various luxury items, which they can’t use all the same time, and so most of them sit and slowly decay. Or they put their money into paper wealth of various kinds—and that, of course, is very good for the financial bubble. In any event, if you have a financial bubble you need to prop up no matter what, in the face of serious physical limitations on land, energy, fresh water, high-grade ores and other essential industrial feedstocks, then your best bet is to do the reverse-Robin-Hood thing and go rob the poor and give to the rich.

2. Worldwide chaos must be driven up because that’s the only way the US military can justify its existence. It is a very expensive military, but not a particularly effective one. (Just the new F-35 fighter cost over a trillion to develop—and yet it is a complete dud of a project and may never even go into production.) But in spite of this lavish spending the US military is incapable of scoring a decisive victory in just about any conflict, against any adversary, no matter how weak and impoverished, and their end result is always some sort of ongoing low-grade conflict that can flare up again at any time. Nevertheless, it can still threaten the weak and the poor, and use these threats to its financial advantage. But the only way to make these threats effective is to destroy some country on a semi-regular basis: “Nice country you got there! We’d hate to see it go the way of Libya.” A military confrontation with any of the real military powers—Russia, China, India, even Iran—is, of course, entirely out of the question, because a single humiliating military defeat for the US (which is inevitable given its track record against smaller, weaker adversaries) would be sufficient to undermine the entire program of US militarism.

3. As another American (Dwight Eisenhower) once put it: “If you can’t solve a problem, enlarge it.” But it stands to reason that you do have to solve a problem once in a while; you can’t just go on enlarging every problem you see ad infinitum. Now, what problems has the US solved lately? Anything good happening in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Syria or Ukraine? No, worse than ever. How about financial reform in the wake of the narrowly averted collapse in 2008? No, and there is another big one coming up in the form of the fracas in the fracking patch due to low oil prices. Anything good to report on health care reform? No, it’s more ridiculously bloated and expensive than ever. Student debt repayable now? No, not by a long shot. How about an effort to reduce carbon emissions, to postpone (no longer to avoid!) the eastern seaboard, where half of everything is, going underwater? No, not a glimmer of hope. Problems with runaway public debt or unfunded government liabilities solved? No, there have been no efforts in that direction at all. Is the country still on course for national bankruptcy and collapse? All systems check, go with throttle up!

Now, your mileage may vary, but I have discovered that a surprising number of people around the world (though not especially in the US) is now very much clued into these things. And that is something that makes me feel optimistic about 2015.

 

 

Dmitry Orlov is a Russian-American engineer and a writer on subjects related to “potential economic, ecological and political decline and collapse in the United States,” something he has called “permanent crisis”. He  has written The Five Stages of Collapse and Reinventing Collapse, continues to write regularly on his “Club Orlov” blog and at EnergyBulletin.Net.

Peculiarities of Russian National Character

From the keyboard of Dmitry Orlov
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Ancient Slavic god Zimnik: a squat old man, long hair the color of snow, wears a white coat, always barefoot. Carries an iron staff, one swing with which instantly freezes everything solid. Can summon snowstorms, ice storms and blizzards. Goes around taking whatever he likes, especially children who misbehave.

Ancient Slavic god Zimnik: a squat old man, long hair the color of snow, wears a white coat, always barefoot. Carries an iron staff, one swing with which instantly freezes everything solid. Can summon snowstorms, ice storms and blizzards. Goes around taking whatever he likes, especially children who misbehave.

Originally published at Club Orlov on January 13, 2015

Recent events, such as the overthrow of the government in Ukraine, the secession of Crimea and its decision to join the Russian Federation, the subsequent military campaign against civilians in Eastern Ukraine, western sanctions against Russia, and, most recently, the attack on the ruble, have caused a certain phase transition to occur within Russian society, which, I believe, is very poorly, if at all, understood in the west. This lack of understanding puts Europe at a significant disadvantage in being able to negotiate an end to this crisis.

Whereas prior to these events the Russians were rather content to consider themselves “just another European country,” they have now remembered that they are a distinct civilization, with different civilizational roots (Byzantium rather than Rome)—one that has been subject to concerted western efforts to destroy it once or twice a century, be it by Sweden, Poland, France, Germany, or some combination of the above. This has conditioned the Russian character in a specific set of ways which, if not adequately understood, is likely to lead to disaster for Europe and the world.

Lest you think that Byzantium is some minor cultural influence on Russia, it is, in fact, rather key. Byzantine cultural influences, which came along with Orthodox Christianity, first through Crimea (the birthplace of Christianity in Russia), then through the Russian capital Kiev (the same Kiev that is now the capital of Ukraine), allowed Russia to leapfrog across a millennium or so of cultural development. Such influences include the opaque and ponderously bureaucratic nature of Russian governance, which the westerners, who love transparency (if only in others) find so unnerving, along with many other things. Russians sometimes like to call Moscow the Third Rome—third after Rome itself and Constantinople—and this is not an entirely empty claim. But this is not to say that Russian civilization is derivative; yes, it has managed to absorb the entire classical heritage, viewed through a distinctly eastern lens, but its vast northern environment has transformed that heritage into something radically different.

Since this subject is of overwhelming complexity, I will focus on just four factors, which I find essential for understanding the transformation we are currently witnessing.

1. Taking offense

Western nations have emerged in an environment of limited resources and relentless population pressure, and this has to a large degree determined the way in which they respond when they are offended. For quite a long time, while centralized authority was weak, conflicts were settled through bloody conflict, and even a minor affront could cause former friends to become instant adversaries and draw their swords. This is because it was an environment in which standing your ground was key to survival.

In contrast, Russia emerged as a nation in an environment of almost infinite, although mostly quite diffuse, resources. It also drew from the bounty of the trade route that led from the Vikings to the Greeks, which was so active that Arab geographers believed that there was a salt-water strait linking the Black Sea with the Baltic, whereas the route consisted of rivers with a considerable amount of portage. In this environment, it was important to avoid conflict, and people who would draw their swords at a single misspoken word were unlikely to do well in it.

Thus, a very different conflict resolution strategy has emerged, which survives to this day. If you insult, aggrieve or otherwise harm a Russian, you are unlikely to get a fight (unless it happens to be a demonstrative beating held in a public setting, or a calculated settling of scores through violence). Instead, more likely than not, the Russian will simply tell you to go to hell, and then refuse to have anything further to do with you. If physical proximity makes this difficult, the Russian will consider relocating, moving in any direction that happens to be away from you. So common is this speech act in practice that it has been abbreviated to a monosyllabic utterance: “Пшёл!” (“Pshol!”) and can be referred to simply as “послать” (literally, “to send”). In an environment where there is an almost infinite amount of free land to settle, such a strategy makes perfect sense. Russians live like settled people, but when they have to move, they move like nomads, whose main method of conflict resolution is voluntary relocation.

This response to grievance as something permanent is a major facet of the Russian culture, and westerners who do not understand it are unlikely to achieve an outcome they would like, or even understand. To a westerner, an insult can be resolved by saying something like “I am sorry!” To a Russian that’s pretty much just noise, especially if it is being emitted by somebody who has already been told to go to hell. A verbal apology that is not backed up by something tangible is one of these rules of politeness, which to the Russians are something of a luxury. Until a couple of decades ago, the standard Russian apology was “извиняюсь” (“izviniáius’”), which can be translated literally as “I excuse myself.” Russia is now a much more polite country, but the basic cultural pattern remains in place.

Although purely verbal apologies are worthless, restitution is not. Setting things right may involve parting with a prized possession, or making a significant new pledge, or announcing an important change of direction. The point is, these all involve taking pivotal actions, not just words, because beyond a certain point words can only make the situation worse, taking it from the “Go to hell” stage to the even less copacetic “Let me show you the way” stage.

2. Dealing with invaders

Russia has a long history of being invaded from every direction, but especially from the west, and Russian culture has evolved a certain mindset which is difficult for outsiders to comprehend. First of all, it is important to realize that when Russians fight off an invasion (and having the CIA and the US State Department run Ukraine with the help of Ukrainian Nazis qualifies as an invasion) they are not fighting for territory, at least not directly. Rather, they are fighting for Russia as a concept. And the concept states that Russia has been invaded numerous times, but never successfully. In the Russian mindset, invading Russia successfully involves killing just about every Russian, and, as they are fond of saying, “They can’t kill us all.” (“Нас всех не убьёшь.”) Population can be restored over time (it was down 22 million at the end of World War II) but the concept, once lost, would be lost forever. It may sound nonsensical to a westerner to hear Russians call their country “a country of princes, poets and saints,” but that’s what it is—it is a state of mind. Russia doesn’t have a history—it is its history.

Because the Russians fight for the concept of Russia rather than for any given chunk of Russian territory, they are always rather willing to retreat—at first. When Napoleon invaded Russia, fully planning to plunder his way across the countryside, he found the entire countryside torched by the retreating Russians. When he finally occupied Moscow, it too went up in flames. Napoleon camped out for a bit, but eventually, realizing that there was nothing more to be done (attack Siberia?) and that his army would starve and die of exposure if they remained, he beat a hasty and shameful retreat, eventually abandoning his men to their fate. As they retreated, another facet of Russian cultural heritage came to the fore: every peasant from every village that got torched as the Russians retreated was in the forefront as the Russians advanced, itching for a chance to take a pot shot at a French soldier.

Similarly, the German invasion during World War II was at first able to make rapid advances, taking a lot of territory, while the Russians equally swiftly retreated and evacuated their populations, relocating entire factories and other institutions to Siberia and resettling families in the interior of the country. Then the German advance stopped, reversed, and eventually turned into a rout. The standard pattern repeated itself, with the Russian army breaking the invader’s will while most of the locals that found themselves under occupation withheld cooperation, organized as partisans and inflicted maximum possible damage on the retreating invader.

Murmansk, 68°58′45″, pop. 300,000. January 12: first sunrise in 40 days. Length of day: 38 minutes


3. Dealing with foreign powers
Another Russian adaptation for dealing with invaders is to rely on the Russian climate to do the job. A standard way of ridding a Russian village house of vermin is simply to not heat it; a few days at 40 below or better and the cockroaches, bedbugs, lice, nits, weevils, mice, rats are all dead. It works with invaders too. Russia is the world’s most northern country. Canada is far north, but most of its population is spread along its southern border, and it has no major cities above the Arctic Circle, while Russia has two. Life in Russia in some ways resembles life in outer space or on the open ocean: impossible without life support. The Russian winter is simply not survivable without cooperation from the locals, and so all they have to do to wipe out an invader is withhold cooperation. And if you think that an invader can secure cooperation by shooting a few locals to scare the rest, see above under “Taking offense.”

Russia owns almost the entire northern portion of the Eurasian continent, which comprises something like 1/6 of the Earth’s dry surface. That, by Earth standards, is a lot of territory. This is not an aberration or an accident of history: throughout their history, the Russians were absolutely driven to provide for their collective security by gaining as much territory as possible. If you are wondering what motivated them to undertake such a quest, see “Dealing with invaders” above.

If you think that foreign powers repeatedly attempted to invade and conquer Russia in order to gain access to its vast natural resources, then you are wrong: the access was always there for the asking. The Russians are not exactly known for refusing to sell their natural resources—even to their potential enemies. No, what Russia’s enemies wanted was to be able to tap into Russia’s resources free of charge. To them, Russia’s existence was an inconvenience, which they attempted to eliminate through violence.

What they achieved instead was a higher price for themselves, once their invasion attempt failed. The calculus is simple: the foreigners want Russia’s resources; to defend them, Russia needs a strong, centralized state with a big, powerful military; ergo, the foreigners should be made to pay, to support Russia’s state and military. Consequently, most of the Russian state’s financial needs are addressed through export tariffs, on oil and natural gas especially, rather than by taxing the Russian population. After all, the Russian population is taxed heavily enough by having to fight off periodic invasions; why tax them more? Thus, the Russian state is a customs state: it uses customs duties and tariffs to extract funds from the enemies who would destroy it and use these funds to defend itself. Since there is no replacement for Russia’s natural resources, the more hostile the outside world acts toward Russia, the more it will end up paying for Russia’s national defense.

Note that this policy is directed at foreign powers, not at foreign-born people. Over the centuries, Russia has absorbed numerous immigrants: from Germany during the 30 years’ war; from France after the French revolution. More recent influxes have been from Vietnam, Korea, China and Central Asia. Last year Russia absorbed more immigrants than any other country except for the United States, which is dealing with an influx from countries on its southern border, whose populations its policies have done much to impoverish. Moreover, the Russians are absorbing this major influx, which includes close to a million from war-torn Ukraine, without much complaint. Russia is a nation of immigrants to a greater extent than most others, and is more of a melting pot than the United States.

4. Thanks, but we have our own

One more interesting Russian cultural trait is that Russians have always felt compelled to excel in all categories, from ballet and figure-skating to hockey and football to space flight and microchip manufacturing. You may think of champagne as a trademark French product, but last I checked “Советское шампанское” (“Soviet champagne”) was still selling briskly around New Year’s Eve, and not only in Russia but in Russian shops in the US because, you see, the French stuff may be nice, but it just doesn’t taste sufficiently Russian. For just about every thing you can imagine there is a Russian version of it, which the Russians often feel is better, and sometimes can claim they invented in the first place (the radio, for instance, was invented by Popov, not by Marconi). There are exceptions (tropical fruit is one example) and they are allowed provided they come from a “brotherly nation” such as Cuba. That was the pattern during the Soviet times, and it appears to be coming back to some extent now.

During the late Brezhnev/Andropov/Gorbachev “stagnation” period Russian innovation indeed stagnated, along with everything else, and Russia lost ground against the west technologically (but not culturally). After the Soviet collapse Russians became eager for western imports, and this was quite normal considering that Russia wasn’t producing much of anything at the time. Then, during the 1990s, there came the era of western compradors, who dumped imported products on Russia with the long-term goal of completely wiping out domestic industry and making Russia into a pure raw materials supplier, at which point it would be defenseless against an embargo and easily forced to surrender its sovereignty. This would be an invasion by non-military means, against which Russia would find itself defenseless.

This process ran quite far before it hit a couple of major snags. First, Russian manufacturing and non-hydrocarbon exports rebounded, doubling several times in the course of a decade. The surge included grain exports, weapons, and high-tech. Second, Russia found lots of better, cheaper, friendlier trading partners around the world. Still, Russia’s trade with the west, and with the EU specifically, is by no means insignificant. Third, the Russian defense industry has been able to maintain its standards, and its independence from imports. (This can hardly be said about the defense firms in the west, which depend on Russian titanium exports.)

And now there has come the perfect storm for the compradors: the ruble has partially devalued in response to lower oil prices, pricing out imports and helping domestic producers; sanctions have undermined Russia’s confidence in the reliability of the west as suppliers; and the conflict over Crimea has boosted the Russians’ confidence in their own abilities. The Russian government is seizing this opportunity to champion companies that can quickly effect import replacement for imports from the west. Russia’s central bank has been charged with financing them at interest rates that make import replacement even more attractive.

Some people have been drawing comparisons between the period we are in now and the last time oil prices dropped—all the way to $10/barrel—in some measure precipitating the Soviet collapse. But this analogy is false. At the time, the Soviet Union was economically stagnant and dependent on western credit to secure grain imports, without which it wouldn’t have been able to raise enough livestock to feed its population. It was led by the feckless and malleable Gorbachev—an appeaser, a capitulator, and a world-class windbag whose wife loved to go shopping in London. The Russian people despised him and referred to him as “Mishka the Marked,” thanks to his birthmark. And now Russia is resurgent, is one of the world’s largest grain exporters, and is being led by the defiant and implacable President Putin who enjoys an approval rating of over 80%. In comparing pre-collapse USSR to Russia today, commentators and analysts showcase their ignorance.

Conclusions

This part almost writes itself. It’s a recipe for disaster, so I’ll write it out as a recipe.

1. Take a nation of people who respond to offense by damning you to hell, and refusing to having anything more to do with you, rather than fighting. Make sure that this is a nation whose natural resources are essential for keeping your lights on and your houses heated, for making your passenger airliners and your jet fighters, and for a great many other things. Keep in mind, a quarter of the light bulbs in the US light up thanks to Russian nuclear fuel, whereas a cut-off of Russian gas to Europe would be a cataclysm of the first order.

2. Make them feel that they are being invaded by installing a government that is hostile to them in a territory that they consider part of their historical homeland. The only truly non-Russian part of the Ukraine is Galicia, which parted company many centuries ago and which, most Russians will tell you, “You can take to hell with you.” If you like your neo-Nazis, you can keep your neo-Nazis. Also keep in mind how the Russians deal with invaders: they freeze them out.

3. Impose economic and financial sanctions on Russia. Watch in dismay as your exporters start losing money when in instant retaliation Russia blocks your agricultural exports. Keep in mind that this is a country that, thanks to surviving a long string of invasion attempts, traditionally relies on potentially hostile foreign states to finance its defense against them. If they fail to do so, then it will resort to other ways of deterring them, such as freezing them out. “No gas for NATO members” seems like a catchy slogan. Hope and pray that it doesn’t catch on in Moscow.

4. Mount an attack on their national currency, causing it to lose part of its value on par with a lower price of oil. Watch in dismay as Russian officials laugh all the way to the central bank because the lower ruble has caused state revenues to remain unchanged in spite of lower oil prices, erasing a potential budget deficit. Watch in dismay as your exporters go bankrupt because their exports are priced out of the Russian market. Keep in mind, Russia has no national debt to speak of, runs a negligible budget deficit, has plentiful foreign currency reserves and ample gold reserves. Also keep in mind that your banks have loaned hundreds of billions of dollars to Russian businesses (which you have just deprived of access to your banking system by imposing sanctions). Hope and pray that Russia doesn’t put a freeze on debt repayments to western banks until the sanctions are lifted, since that would blow up your banks.

5. Watch in dismay as Russia signs major natural gas export deals with everyone except you. Is there going to be enough gas left for you when they are done? Well, it appears that this no longer a concern for the Russians, because you have offended them, and, being who they are, they told you to go to hell (don’t forget to take Galicia with you) and will now deal with other, friendlier countries.

6. Continue to watch in dismay as Russia actively looks for ways to sever most of the trade links with you, finding suppliers in other parts of the world or organizing production for import replacement.

But now comes a surprise—an underreported one, to say the least. Russia has just offered the EU a deal. If the EU refuses to join the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership with the US (which, by the way, would hurt it economically) then it can join the Customs Union with Russia. Why freeze yourselves out when we can all freeze out Washington instead? This is the restitution Russia would accept for the EU’s offensive behavior with regard to the Ukraine and the sanctions. Coming from a customs state, it is a most generous offer. A lot went into making it: the recognition that the EU poses no military threat to Russia and not much of an economic one either; the fact that the European countries are all very cute and tiny and lovable, and make tasty cheeses and sausages; the understanding that their current crop of national politicians is feckless and beholden to Washington, and that they need a big push in order to understand where their nations’ true interests lie… Will the EU accept this offer, or will they accept Galicia as a new member and “freeze out”?

 

 

Dmitry Orlov is a Russian-American engineer and a writer on subjects related to “potential economic, ecological and political decline and collapse in the United States,” something he has called “permanent crisis”. He  has written The Five Stages of Collapse and Reinventing Collapse, continues to write regularly on his “Club Orlov” blog and at EnergyBulletin.Net.

Trying to Stay Sane in an Insane World- At World’s End

Off the keyboard of Jim Quinn

Published on The Burning Platform on September 10, 2013

Cuckoos_Nest

Discuss this article at the Geopolitics Table inside the Diner

In the first three parts (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3) of this disheartening look back at a century of central banking, income taxing, military warring, energy depleting and political corrupting, I made a case for why we are in the midst of a financial, commercial, political, social and cultural collapse. In this final installment I’ll give my best estimate as to what happens next and it has a 100% probability of being wrong. There are so many variables involved that it is impossible to predict the exact path to our world’s end. Many people don’t want to hear about the intractable issues or the true reasons for our predicament. They want easy button solutions. They want someone or something to fix their problems. They pray for a technological miracle to save them from decades of irrational myopic decisions. As the domino-like collapse worsens, the feeble minded populace becomes more susceptible to the false promises of tyrants and psychopaths. There are a myriad of thugs, criminals, and autocrats in positions of power who are willing to exploit any means necessary to retain their wealth, power and control. The revelations of governmental malfeasance, un-Constitutional mass espionage of all citizens, and expansion of the Orwellian welfare/warfare surveillance state, from patriots like Julian Assange, Bradley Manning and Edward Snowden has proven beyond a doubt the corrupt establishment are zealously anxious to discard and stomp on the U.S. Constitution in their desire for authoritarian control over our society.

Anyone who denies we are in the midst of an ongoing Crisis that will lead to a collapse of the system as we know it is either a card carrying member of the corrupt establishment, dependent upon the oligarchs for their living, or just one of the willfully ignorant ostriches who choose to put their heads in the sand and hum the Star Spangled Banner as they choose obliviousness to awareness. Thinking is hard. Feeling and believing a storyline is easy.

 

A moral society must be inhabited by an informed, educated, aware populace and   governed by honorable leaders who oversee based upon the nation’s founding principles of liberty, freedom and limited government of, by and for the people. A moral society requires trust, honor, property rights, simple just laws, and the freedom to succeed or fail on your own merits. There is one major problem in creating a true moral society where liberty, freedom, trust, honor and free markets are cherished – human beings. We are a deeply flawed species who are prone to falling prey to the depravities of lust, gluttony, greed, sloth, wrath, envy and pride. Men have always been captivated by the false idols of dominion, power and wealth. The foibles of human nature haven’t changed over the course of history. This is why we have 80 to 100 year cycles driven by the same human strengths and shortcomings revealed throughout recorded history.

Empires rise and fall due to the humanness of their leaders and citizens. The great American Empire is no different. It was created a mere 224 years ago by courageous patriots who risked their wealth and their lives to create a Republic founded upon the principles of freedom, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness; took a dreadful wrong turn in 1913 with the creation of a privately held central bank to control its currency and introduction of an income tax; devolved into an empire after World War II, setting it on a course towards bankruptcy; sealed its fate in 1971 by unleashing power hungry psychopathic elitists to manipulate the monetary and fiscal policies of the nation to enrich themselves; and has now entered the final frenzied phase of pillaging, currency debasement, war mongering, and ransacking of civil liberties. Despite the frantic efforts of the financial elite, their politician puppets, and their media propaganda outlets, collapse of this aristocracy of the moneyed is a mathematical certainty. Faith in the system is rapidly diminishing, as the issuance of debt to create the appearance of growth has reached the point of diminishing returns.

 

Increase in Real GDP per Dollar of Incremental Debt

“At the root of America’s economic crisis lies a moral crisis: the decline of civic virtue among America’s political and economic elite. A society of markets, laws, and elections is not enough if the rich and powerful fail to behave with respect, honesty, and compassion toward the rest of society and toward the world.”Jeffrey Sachs

Five Stages of Collapse

The day of reckoning for a century of putting our faith in the wrong people with wrong ideas and evil intentions is upon us. Dmitry Orlov provides a blueprint for the collapse in his book The Five Stages of Collapse – Survivors’ Toolkit:

Stage 1: Financial Collapse. Faith in “business as usual” is lost. The future is no longer assumed to resemble the past in any way that allows risk to be assessed and financial assets to be guaranteed. Financial institutions become insolvent; savings wiped out and access to capital is lost.

Stage 2: Commercial Collapse. Faith that “the market shall provide” is lost. Money is devalued and/or becomes scarce, commodities are hoarded, import and retail chains break down and widespread shortages of survival necessities become the norm.

Stage 3: Political Collapse. Faith that “the government will take care of you” is lost. As official attempts to mitigate widespread loss of access to commercial sources of survival necessities fail to make a difference, the political establishment loses legitimacy and relevance.

Stage 4: Social Collapse. Faith that “your people will take care of you” is lost, as social institutions, be they charities or other groups that rush to fill the power vacuum, run out of resources or fail through internal conflict.

Stage 5: Cultural Collapse. Faith in the goodness of humanity is lost. People lose their capacity for “kindness, generosity, consideration, affection, honesty, hospitality, compassion, charity.” Families disband and compete as individuals for scarce resources. The new motto becomes “May you die today so that I can die tomorrow.”

The collapse is occurring in fits and starts. The stages of collapse do not necessarily have to occur in order.  You can recognize various elements of the first three stages in the United States today. Stage 1 commenced in September 2008 when this Crisis period was catalyzed by the disintegration of the worldwide financial system caused by Wall Street intentionally creating the largest control fraud in world history, with easy money provided by Greenspan/Bernanke, fraudulent mortgage products, fake appraisals, bribing rating agencies to provide AAA ratings to derivatives filled with feces, and having their puppets in the media and political arena provide the propaganda to herd the sheep into the slaughterhouse.

The American people neglected their civic duty to elect leaders who would tell them the truth and represent current and future generations equally. They have neglected the increasing lawlessness of Wall Street, K Street and the corporate suite. The American people have lived in denial about their responsibility for their own financial well-being, willingly delegating it to a government of math challenged politicians who promised trillions more than they could ever deliver. The American people have delayed tackling the dire issues confronting our nation, including: $200 trillion of unfunded liabilities, the military industrial complex creating wars across the globe, militarization of our local police forces, domestic spying on every citizen, allowing mega-corporations and the financial elite to turn our nation from savings based production to debt based consumption, and allowing corporations, the military industrial complex, Wall Street, and shadowy billionaires to pick and control our elected officials. The civic fabric of the country is being torn at the points of extreme vulnerability.

“At home and abroad, these events will reflect the tearing of the civic fabric at points of extreme vulnerability – problem areas where, during the Unraveling, America will have neglected, denied, or delayed needed action. Anger at “mistakes we made” will translate into calls for action, regardless of the heightened public risk. It is unlikely that the catalyst will worsen into a full-fledged catastrophe, since the nation will probably find a way to avert the initial danger and stabilize the situation for a while. Yet even if dire consequences are temporarily averted, America will have entered the Fourth Turning.”  – The Fourth Turning – Strauss & Howe – 1997

Our Brave New World controllers (bankers, politicians, corporate titans, media moguls, shadowy billionaires) were able to avert a full-fledged catastrophe in the fall of 2008 and spring of 2009 which would have put an end to their reign of destruction. To accept the rightful consequences of their foul actions was intolerable to these obscenely wealthy, despicable men. Their loathsome and vile solutions to a crisis they created have done nothing to relieve the pain and suffering of the average person, while further enriching them, as they continue to gorge on the dying carcass of a once thriving nation. Despite overwhelming public outrage, Congress did as they were instructed by their Wall Street masters and handed over $700 billion of taxpayer funds into Wall Street vaults, under the false threat of systematic collapse. The $800 billion of pork stimulus was injected directly into the veins of corporate campaign contributors. The $3 billion Cash for Clunkers scheme resulted in pumping taxpayer dollars into the government owned union car companies, while driving up the prices of used cars and hurting lower income folks.

Ben Bernanke has peddled the false paradigm of quantitative easing (code for printing money and airlifting it to Wall Street) as benefitting Main Street. Nothing could be further from the truth. He bought $1.3 trillion of toxic mortgage backed securities from his Wall Street owners. He has pumped a total of $2.8 trillion into the hands of Wall Street since September 2008, and is singlehandedly generating $5 billion of risk free profits for these deadbeats by paying them .25% on their reserves. Drug dealer Ben continues to pump $2.8 billion per day into the veins of Wall Street addicts and any hint of tapering the heroin causes the addicts to flail about. Ben should be so proud. He should hang a Mission Accomplished banner whenever he gives a speech. Bank profits reached an all-time record in the 2nd quarter, at $42.2 billion, with 80% of those profits going to the 2% Too Big To Trust Wall Street Mega-Goliath Banks. It’s enough to make a soon to retire, and take a Wall Street job, central banker smile.

“The money rate can, indeed, be kept artificially low only by continuous new injections of currency or bank credit in place of real savings. This can create the illusion of more capital just as the addition of water can create the illusion of more milk. But it is a policy of continuous inflation. It is obviously a process involving cumulative danger. The money rate will rise and a crisis will develop if the inflation is reversed, or merely brought to a halt, or even continued at a diminished rate. Cheap money policies, in short, eventually bring about far more violent oscillations in business  than those they are designed to remedy or prevent.” Henry Hazlitt – 1946

Any serious minded person knew Wall Street had too much power, too much control, and too much influence in 2008 when they crashed our economic system. When something is too big to fail because it will create systematic collapse, you make it smaller. Instead we have allowed our sociopathic rulers to allow these parasitic institutions to get even larger. Just 12 mega-banks control 70% of all the banking assets in the country, with 90% controlled by the top 86 banks. There are approximately 8,000 financial institutions in this country. Wall Street will be congratulating themselves with record compensation of $127 billion and record bonuses of $23 billion for a job well done. It is dangerous work making journal entries relieving loan loss reserves, committing foreclosure fraud, marking your assets to unicorn, making deposits at the Fed, and counting on the Bernanke Put to keep stocks rising. During a supposed recovery from 2009 to 2011, average real income per household grew pitifully by 1.7%, but all the gains accrued to Bernanke’s minions. Top 1% incomes grew by 11.2% while bottom 99% incomes shrunk by 0.4%. Therefore, the top 1% captured 121% of the income gains in the first two years of the recovery. This warped trend has only accelerated since 2011.

The median household income has fallen by $2,400 to $52,100 since the government proclaimed the end of the recession in 2009. Real wages for real people continue to fall. A record 23.1 million households (20% of all households) are receiving food stamps. After four years of “recovery” propaganda, we are left with 2.2 million less people employed (5 million less full time jobs) and 22 million more people on SNAP and SSDI. A record 90.5 million working age Americans are not working, with labor participation at a 35 year low. Ben’s money has not trickled down, but his inflation has fallen like a load of bricks on the heads of the middle class. Bernanke’s QE to infinity constitutes a transfer of purchasing power away from the middle class to the bankers, mega-corporations and .1%. This Cantillon effect means that newly created money is neither distributed evenly nor simultaneously among the population. Some users of money profit from rising prices, and others suffer from them. This results in a transfer of wealth (a hidden tax) from later receivers to earlier receivers of new money. This is why the largest banks and largest corporations are generating the highest profits in history, while the average person sinks further into debt as their real income declines and real living expenses (energy, food, clothing, healthcare, tuition) rise.

Screen Shot 2013-03-04 at 12.35.48 PM.png

Ben works for your owners. Real GDP (using the fake government inflation adjustment) since July 2009 is up by a wretched 5.6%. Revenue growth of the biggest corporations in the world is up by a pathetic 12%. One might wonder how corporate profits could be at record levels with such doleful economic performance. One needs to look no further than Ben’s balance sheet, which has increased by 174%. There appears to be a slight correlation between Ben’s money printing and the 162% increase in the S&P 500 index. With the top 1% owning 42.1% of all financial assets (top .1% own most of this) and the bottom 80% owning only 4.7% of all financial assets, one can clearly see who benefits from QE to infinity.

The key take away from what the ruling class has done since 2008 is they have only temporarily delayed the endgame. Their self-serving exploits have guaranteed that round two of the financial collapse will be epic in proportion and intensity. This Fourth Turning Crisis is ongoing. The linear thinkers who control the levers of power keep promising a return to normalcy and resumption of growth. This is an impossibility – mathematically & socially. Fourth Turnings do not end without the existing social order being swept away in a tsunami of turmoil, violence, suffering and war. Orlov’s stages of collapse will likely occur during the remaining fifteen years of this Crisis. We are deep into Stage 1 as our national Detroitification progresses towards bankruptcy, with an added impetus from our trillion dollar wars of choice in the Middle East. Commercial collapse has begun, as faith in the fantasy of free market capitalism is waning. The race to the bottom with currency debasement around the globe is reaching a tipping point, and the true eternal currencies of gold and silver are being hoarded and shipped from the West to the Far East.

Monetary Base (billions of USD)

When the financial collapse reaches its crescendo, the just in time supply chain, that keeps cheese doodles and cheese whiz on your grocery store shelves, Chinese produced iGadgets in your local Wal-Mart Supercenter, and gasoline flowing out of gas station hoses into your leased Cadillac Escalade, will break down rapidly. The strain of $110 oil is already evident. The fireworks will really get going when ATM machines run dry and the EBT cards stop functioning. Within a week riots and panic will engulf the country.

“At some point we are bound to hear, from across two oceans, the shocking words “Your money is no good here.” Fast forward to a week later: banks are closed, ATMs are out of cash, supermarket shelves are bare and gas stations are starting to run out of fuel. And then something happens: the government announces they have formed a crisis task force, and will nationalize, recapitalize and reopen banks, restoring confidence. The banks reopen, under heavy guard, and thousands of people get arrested for attempting to withdraw their savings. Banks close, riots begin. Next, the government decides that, to jump-start commerce, it will honor deposit guarantees and simply hand out cash. They print and arrange for the cash to be handed out. Now everyone has plenty of cash, but there is still no food in the supermarkets or gasoline at the gas stations because by now the international supply chains have broken down and the delivery pipelines are empty.”  Dmitry Orlov – The Five Stages of Collapse

We are witnessing the beginning stages of political collapse. The government and its leaders are being discredited on a daily basis. The mismanagement of fiscal policy, foreign policy and domestic policy, along with the revelations of the NSA conducting mass surveillance against all Americans has led critical thinking Americans to question the legitimacy of the politicians running the show on behalf of the bankers, corporations and arms dealers. The Gestapo like tactics used by the government in Boston was an early warning sign of what is to come. Government entitlement promises will vaporize, as they did in Detroit, with pension promises worth only ten cents on the dollar. Total social and cultural collapse could resemble the chaotic civil war scenarios playing out in Libya and Syria. The best case scenario would be for a collapse similar to the Soviet Union’s relatively peaceful disintegration into impotent republics. I don’t believe we’ll be this fortunate. The most powerful military empire in world history will not fade away. It will go out in a blaze of glory with a currency collapse, hyper-inflation, and war on a grand scale.

“History offers even more sobering warnings: Armed confrontation usually occurs around the climax of Crisis. If there is confrontation, it is likely to lead to war. This could be any kind of war – class war, sectional war, war against global anarchists or terrorists, or superpower war. If there is war, it is likely to culminate in total war, fought until the losing side has been rendered nil – its will broken, territory taken, and leaders captured.”The Fourth Turning – Strauss & Howe – 1997

In Whom Do You Trust?

“Use of money concentrates trust in a single central authority – the central bank – and, over extended periods of time, central banks always tend to misbehave. Eventually the “print” button on the central banker’s emergency console becomes stuck in the depressed position, flooding the world with worthless notes. People trust that money will remain a store of value, and once the trust is violated a gigantic black hole appears at the very center of society, sucking in peoples’ savings and aspirations along with their sense of self-worth. When those who have become psychologically dependent on money as a yardstick, to be applied to everything and everyone, suddenly find themselves in a world where money means nothing, it is as if they have gone blind; they see shapes but can no longer resolve them into objects. The result is anomie – a sense of unreality – accompanied by deep depression. Money is an addiction – substance-less and unreal, and sets itself up for a severe and lengthy withdrawal.” Dmitry Orlov – The Five Stages of Collapse

Our modern world revolves around wealth, the appearance of wealth, the false creation of wealth through the issuance of debt, and trust in the bankers and politicians pulling the levers behind the curtain. The entire world economic system is dependent on trusting central bankers whose only response to any crisis is to create more debt. The death knell is ringing loud and clear, but people around the globe are desperately clinging to their normalcy biases and praying to the gods of cognitive dissonance. It seems the only things that matter to our controllers are stock market levels, the continued flow of debt to the plebs, continued doling out of hush money to those on the dole, and of course an endless supply of brown skinned enemies to attack. With every country in the world attempting to the same solution of debasing their currencies, we are rapidly approaching the tipping point. India is the canary in the coal mine.

Government, Household, Financial & Non-Financial Debt (% of GDP)

An exponential growth model built upon cheap plentiful energy and debt creation has its limits, and we’ve reached them. With the depletion of inexpensive, easily accessible energy resources, higher prices will continue to slow world economies. Demographics in the developed world are slowing the global economy as millions approach their old age with little savings due to over consuming during their peak earnings years. Bernanke has already quadrupled his balance sheet with no meaningful benefit to the economy or the financial well-being of the average middle class American. Financial manipulation that creates nothing has masked the rot consuming our economic system. The game has been rigged in favor of the owners, but even a rigged game eventually comes to an end. Americans and Europeans can no longer maintain a façade of wealth by buying knickknacks from China with money they don’t have. The US and Europe are finding that their credit is no longer good in the exporting Far East countries. This is a perilous development, as the West has depended upon foreigners to accommodate its never ending expansion of credit. Without that continual expansion of debt, the Ponzi scheme comes crashing down. As China, Japan and the rest of Asia have balked at buying U.S. Treasuries with negative real yields, the only recourse for Ben has been to monetize the debt through QE and inflation. The doubling of ten year Treasury rates in a matter of three months due to just talk of possibly slowing QE should send shivers down your spine.

We are supposedly five years past the great crisis. Magazine covers proclaimed Bernanke a hero. If we are well past the crisis, why are the extreme emergency measures still in effect? If the economy is growing and jobs are being created, why do we need $85 billion of government debt to be monetized each and every month? Why are the EU, Japan, and China printing even faster than the Fed? The answer is simple. If the debt was not being monetized, it would have to be purchased out in the free market. Purchasers would require an interest rate far above the 2.9% being paid today. The debt levels in the U.S., Europe and Japan are so large that a rise in interest rates of just a few points would explode budget deficits and lead to a worldwide financial collapse. This is why Bernanke and the rest of his central banker brethren are trapped by their own ideology of bubble production. Just the slowing of debt creation will lead to collapse. Bernanke needs a Syrian crisis to postpone the taper talk. Those in control need an endless number of real or false flag crises to provide cover for their printing presses to keep rolling.

There are a couple analogies that apply to our impending doom. The country is like a 224 year old oak tree that has been slowly rotting on the inside due to the insidious diseases of hubris, apathy, selfishness, dependence, delusion, and debasement. The old oak gives an outward appearance of health and stability. Winter has arrived and gale force winds are in the forecast. One gust of wind and the mighty aged oak will topple and come crashing to earth. I think an even more fitting analogy is the sandpile with grains of sand being added day after day. Seven out of ten Americans receive more in government benefits than they pay in taxes. Goliath corporations and the uber-wealthy use the tax code and legislation to syphon hundreds of billions from the national treasury every year. We spend $1 trillion per year on past, current and future wars of choice. Annual interest on the debt we’ve racked up in the last few decades already approaches $400 billion per year. The entire Federal budget totaled $400 billion in 1977. The sandpile grows ever higher, while its instability expands exponentially. One seemingly innocuous grain of sand will ultimately cause the pile to collapse catastrophically. Will it be an unintended consequence of a missile launch into Syria? Will it be a spike in oil prices? Will it be the collapse of one of the EU PIIGS? Will it be an assassination of a political figure or banker? No one knows. But that innocuous grain of sand will trigger the collapse of the entire pile.

Worried people are looking for solutions. They often get angry at me because they don’t think I provide answers to the issues I raise about our corrupt failing system. They want easy answers to intractable problems. Sadly, I’ve come to the conclusion that our system and majority of citizens are too corrupted to change our course through the ballot box or instituting policies along the lines of those proposed by Ron Paul and many other thoughtful liberty minded people. We are experiencing the downside of a representative democracy.  Once a person is democratically elected a gulf is created between the electors and the person they elected, as the representative becomes corrupted and bought by moneyed interests. Elected officials become a class unto themselves. The political class grows to be puppets that resemble human beings but are nothing but cogs in a vast corporate run machine, pawns in an enormous game of chess played by powerful vindictive immoral men.

There are no cures for our disease. It’s terminal. Anyone telling you they have the answers is either lying or trying to sell you something. More people and organizations are on the take than are playing by the rules. The producers are being overrun by the parasites. The barbarians are at the gate. An implosion of societal trust is underway. The next stage of this crisis, which I believe will materialize within the next twelve months will try the souls of the weary.

“As the Crisis catalyzes, these fears will rush to the surface, jagged and exposed. Distrustful of some things, individuals will feel that their survival requires them to distrust more things. This behavior could cascade into a sudden downward spiral, an implosion of societal trust. This might result in a Great Devaluation, a severe drop in the market price of most financial and real assets. This devaluation could be a short but horrific panic, a free-falling price in a market with no buyers. Or it could be a series of downward ratchets linked to political events that sequentially knock the supports out from under the residual popular trust in the system. As assets devalue, trust will further disintegrate, which will cause assets to devalue further, and so on.”The Fourth Turning – Strauss & Howe – 1997

As a nation we have squandered our inheritance, born of the blood of patriots. A freedom loving, liberty minded, self-responsible, courageous people have allowed ourselves to fall prey to selfishness, apathy, complacency and dependency. Once we allowed our human appetites of greed, power seeking, and control to override the moral responsibility for our own lives and the lives of future unborn generations, collapse was inevitable. The danger now is what happens after the unavoidable collapse. Will the millions of dependency zombies beg for a strong dictator to protect them, provide for them and lead them into further bondage? Or will the spark of liberty and freedom reignite, allowing citizens to throw off the shackles of banker and corporate control? I believe most of the people in this country are good hearted. We are merely pawns in this game of Risk being played by those seeking power, wealth and world domination. We are all trapped in our own forms of normalcy bias. Have I cashed out my retirement funds, sold my suburban house and built a doomstead in the mountains? No I haven’t. Do I second guess myself sometimes? Yes I do. But even the aware have families to support, jobs to go to, bills to pay, laundry to do, lawns to mow, and lives to live. I can’t live in constant fear of what might happen. We only get 80 or so years on this earth, if we’re lucky. The best we can do is leave a positive legacy for our children and their children. A drastic change to our way of life is coming, but most of us are trapped in a cage of our own making.

Each living generation will need to do their part during this Crisis if we are to survive the coming storm. Since no one knows the nature of how the next fifteen years will unfold, it would be wise to at least make basic preparations for food, water, heat and protection. This is easier for some than others, but you don’t have to star on Doomsday Preppers in order to stock up on items that can be purchased at Wal-Mart today, but won’t be available when the global supply chain breaks down. Make sure you have neighbors and family you can rely upon. A small community of like-minded people with varied skills is more likely to succeed in our brave old world than rugged individualists. With no financial means to maintain our globalized world, living locally will take on a new meaning. After much turmoil, chaos, violence, and likely mass casualties the best outcome would be for the Great American Empire to break into regional republics, incapable of waging global war, led by law abiding moral liberty minded individuals, and willing to trade freely and honestly with their fellow republics. Daily life would revert back to a simpler Amish like time. Would that be so bad?

This Fourth Turning could end with a whimper or a bang. There are enough nuclear arms to obliterate the world ten times over. There are enough hubristic egomaniacal psychopathic men in power, that the use of those weapons has a high likelihood of happening. It will be up to the people to not allow this horrific result. I love my country and despise my government. The Declaration of Independence clearly states that when a long train of abuses and usurpations lead toward despotism, it is our right and duty to throw off that government and provide new guards of liberty. My family comes first with my country a close second. I will fight with whatever means necessary to protect my family and do what I can to influence the future course of our country. Time is running out. Will we have the courage, fortitude and wisdom to make the right decisions over the next fifteen years? Will we choose glory or destruction? The fate of our nation hangs in the balance. Are you prepared? Are you ready to fight for your family and your rights?

The Fourth Turning could spare modernity but mark the end of our nation. It could close the book on the political constitution, popular culture, and moral standing that the word America has come to signify. The nation has endured for three saecula; Rome lasted twelve, the Soviet Union only one. Fourth Turnings are critical thresholds for national survival. Each of the last three American Crises produced moments of extreme danger: In the Revolution, the very birth of the republic hung by a thread in more than one battle. In the Civil War, the union barely survived a four-year slaughter that in its own time was regarded as the most lethal war in history. In World War II, the nation destroyed an enemy of democracy that for a time was winning; had the enemy won, America might have itself been destroyed. In all likelihood, the next Crisis will present the nation with a threat and a consequence on a similar scale.The Fourth Turning – Strauss & Howe – 1997

 

 IT’S OUR CHOICE.

Fire, Feminism & Collapse: Part II

Off the keyboard of Gypsy Mama

Published on The Butterchurn on June 10, 2013

GailsMugShot-1

      VS

dmitry

Zawacki vs. Orlov in the Thrilla in Doomervilla

Discuss this article at the Epicurean Delights Smorgasbord inside the Diner

Time to continue the bottle slingin’

Upon first glance at Gail’s blog Wit’s End, I connect with the sense of artistry that we seem to share.  She posts many images to her blog, all designed to help her share her thoughts both visually and textually.  I’ve always been one to visualize my thoughts and am most clearly a visual learner.  She also posts many images of (and in) nature…which I also connect to.  I feel the most spiritual when I am surrounded by nature.

Barfight2I suppose it makes sense that I can connect to a female author’s blog much faster than a male blogger’s corner of the net.  However, upon inspection, there are a few less welcoming aspects to Club Orlov.  Orlov’s blog typically has one or two images per post. (The Age of Limits post being an exception)  His written word is shrunk by the banner of self promotion that careens down the right side of the screen. (Can’t blame the guy for trying to make some cash off of his readership, I guess).

Also…I don’t really understand the premise of naming your blog “club *insert author’s last name*.”  This can easily come across as a bit egotistical…but maybe I am just not seeing the entire picture here.  I mean…I DID just read the guy’s blog for the first time yesterday.

It should also be noted that I respect both authors for what they are attempting to do in the doomer community.  Spread the word, share their knowledge, give us some fair warning…all that.  I have just heard about Gail because of the debate I’m discussing in both this blog and the last (good thing there was a debate so that I could learn about her, right?), but I have been aware of the name “Dimitry Orlov” for a few years now.  My husband (author of Epiphany Now) has been following Orlov and his blog for years.  He owns most (if not all) of his books.  He respects the guy, and feels that he is an intelligent voice to listen to.

Anyhow, I’m writing not to belittle the knowledge and authorship of both Club Orlov and Wit’s End…but to instead give a “newbie’s” interpretation of both authors and their messages, while also chiming in about the bit of rivalry that has seemingly arisen between them.

Onward to my response of Gail’s written word and visual stimuli:

I’ve obviously been on a “Mothering” kick, as you can see in the past few blog posts.  Our second son is three weeks old today…so I suppose I have good reason to be bursting with nurture.

Gail seems to be focused on nurturing Mother Earth and protecting our throne (Nature/our shared planet) throughout her blog.  When first reading Orlov’s comment about Gail being a part of the 1% via an SUV escorted tour of dead leaves…I was intrigued to find out what the hell he was talking about. Gail is highly concerned about trees dying from pollution and climate collapse in general.  Valid concerns.  Any one who understands that our bodies need to breathe oxygen to survive should be concerned about the future of our trees, at least.  So…after reading both sides of the attack, I find Orlov’s jab and comment poke about “dead leaves” to be a bit callused.

“To be able to criticize, one must first rise above that which you wish to criticize.”- Orlov

I will state, however, that I’m not sure that all of the photos of trees and leaves that Gail posted on her blog are proof of her theory.  I’m no expert in horticulture, but I’d guess that poor soil conditions might cause some of the fallen leaves, maybe even some of the disfigured, withered leaves to appear.  Now, are poor soil conditions a part of the Earth’s dangerous CO2 levels that she speaks of?  I’m not sure…but I’m skeptical.  Maybe the trees she photographed were affected by all of the vehicles pulling up into their habitat to attend the conference?  Perhaps they didn’t care for the burnt petroleum coming from their tail pipes?  Just sayin’…I’m curious.

My curiosity led me to this article about Maple Tree Decline, in particular.  Looks like I’ve got a point?  (any correction or input is appreciated).  Although I assume Gail was photographing leaves surrounding the Age of Limits Conference and not an Urban area, there is still an argument to be made about the affect of vehicles invading the habitat of these photographed trees?  I’m still unsure…she did mention that all different species of trees were affected.  Hmm…

Overall, I applaud Gail’s concern for nature and the dying trees and plants who are a part of it (I’m a plant lover, myself).  I seem to notice that Males (especially male doomers) are more focused on the political spectrum of collapse study and debate.  So there’s some basic male vs. female generalization for ya.

I admire both Orlov and Gail in their ability to share their belief systems openly.  I’m just saddened to see the battle of words slung around like the wet mop used to clean up the alcoholic spillage off the bar floor after the roadhouse romp has been played out.

The beauty of free thinking and free speech, as especially pertaining to the written word, is that we can all focus on the things that concern us most.  We can be passionate about these topics…but we cannot belittle those who are focused on a topic that we don’t care to pay as much attention to.  That is, we can’t make fun of someone for being hellbent on saving the bees when our own belief system says that we are facing a much larger problem, say…human extinction. (Which I haven’t really researched into and at the moment, don’t really believe is a possibility within my lifetime or the lifetime of my children).

In short, don’t poke at someone’s belief system as related to the big picture of what we should be concerned about in this world.  Just be glad that they are showing concern about important issues that surround us.  They could just be concerned about making sure their football team beats their rivals, and nothing else.  Football being a topic that I could give…maybe a pinched off shit about.  Football= the little picture.

Once Gail began describing her visit to the Age of Limits conference, I instantly connected with her reasoning for attending such an event.  Aaron and I wished that we could have attended the conference, wholeheartedly, however unrealistic and ambitious that wish may have been (I had just given birth at the time of the conference).

Being a 30-something child of the 80′s…I don’t find may people my age with whom I can connect with when it comes to my belief system of how I think the access to infinite resources will end.  I’m still in the early stages of acceptance when it comes to understanding that collapse is coming.  I’m not sure if I’d be able to give an educated opinion about how fast I believe said collapse will arrive…but I sure as Hell believe it is coming.

infancy

The infancy of acceptance.

I am at the stage of understanding, as of late, in which I’m beginning to expand my reading coverage of the topic of collapse.  Before, I was just prepper hoarding useful materials that could be helpful to us when collapse hit: seeds, mason jars, needle and thread, gardening and cooking know-how.  But still, no matter how deep I am into my collapse infancy beliefs, when I read Gail’s words, “No matter how peacefully collapse is internalized, it’s really lonely if you know hardly anybody else who shares that perspective.”  I understood.  I had felt the emotion of those words before.

I also felt hope for acceptance after reading this paragraph:  “I approached the weekend as a watershed event in my own personal journey towards reconciling with the irreversible and unavoidable morass that characterizes our foolish predicament.  After five years since learning about the converging catastrophes that loom in our future (indeed have already begun), I am ready to move past grief, past attempts to persuade, and on to calm acceptance…and finding something worthwhile to do with the time that remains other than track the path of decline.  It was refreshing to find it’s possible to share bemused laughter at our intractable conundrum.”

Hopefully, with the support of my partner and online community, I will be able to get to the stage of true acceptance much quicker than 5 years from now… ;)   I’m thankful for those who have lived this process of awakening before me!  It helps me move along through the process much more fluidly than it was for the early doomers before me.  I’d imagine there is much more information out there for the new batch of Neos than there may have been before the “green” movement.

Further into reading, I saw that Dimitri Orlov’s speech was not the only one criticized by gender issues from the members of the crowd.  Apparently Carolyn Baker was also approached by issues.  She told a fable of a wife who practiced getting close to a tiger to help her husband overcome his PTSD rage after returning from war.

There were a few women who looked at the story from the perspective of the tiger…who they felt was abandoned and neglected of trust after the wife had achieved her goal of attaining a whisker.  A strange perspective on the overall message of the story…  I feel that the tiger in the story, if it felt any form of loss…was probably more upset that it wasn’t getting fed every day vs. depressed about being abandoned.  I doubt that it felt betrayed.  I think it might probably be more on the HUNGRY side :)   I also feel as if the women who made this comment MIGHT possibly be animal rights activists…who are a little on the extreme side of their support of animal preservation?  Are we preserving the feelings of animals now…I mean, since we know what they are thinking and how they feel and all?  Sure…the tiger may very likely go through a bit of depression after the story’s wife stops coming to him daily.  But…how do we not know, without being a Dr. Doolittle, that he tiger was depressed because he missed the juicy tenderloins he’d been gobbling up over the past few months?

sad

Then there was a point made by a few women in the audience who complained of the apparent weight put on the story’s wife to perform the role of nurturer because this husband had made the decision to go to war.  This husband, they complained, was putting undue pressure onto his wife by choosing to go to war in the first place…making the wife the victim of the actions of her husband and the PTSD he’d been afflicted with while at war.

Well, well well…could these women have possibly been married in the past?  I find this doubtful.  In my opinion, a husband and wife are a TEAM.  Surely the wife and husband discussed the man’s decision to go to war in the first place, right?  I mean…did he just come home one day and say, “Hey honey, pack your shit, we’re moving!  Oh, and… I’m headed off to war!  Hang in there while living alone!  I don’t care what you think about my decision.  Peace, woman!”

war

Here, one might argue that perhaps the husband in the story was a member of the armed forces, and that he HAD to go to war.  Perhaps the decision for him to go to war had been made for him by his superior officers and the Department of Defense.  But still, my point remains…didn’t the husband and wife discuss his decision to become an active member of the forces in the first place?  Think they might have made that decision together?  A good husband and wife would.  A healthy husband and wife always communicate their true feelings and thoughts when an important decision is made that involves both of their futures.  Because I feel this way, I find the audience members response to the topic of “it was the man’s decision to go to war” pretty flippin’ ridiculous and downright annoyingly feminist.  In fact, it is this sort of logic that makes the word “feminist” pretty close to a slur in the minds of many.

Enter our adversary, Dimitry Orlov, and his presentation on communities.  Orlov’s question and answer session was RIPE for some feminist fueled debate.  Carolyn Baker’s presentation seemed to get the estrogen protection flowing…so when Dimitry spoke of communities that were patriarchal and known to carry histories of abuse among their community members…a wildfire was sure to erupt once the comments were welcomed.

Orlov’s mistake of mentioning an Amish “gunshot wound” inside a discussion involving all things domestic violence really got them going.  So, when he continued into his question and answer session by discussing how Russian women believe that feminism is a failed experiment in the west…and then carried on even further to claim that the Pussy Riot women were idiots (which he may have stated to try to get a quick laugh?)…it is no wonder that the women hung around after the speech to shoot eye darts at him in their firing circle.  Mr. Orlov should have spoke before Ms. Baker, I guess.  At least the attackers aren’t sexually racist when it comes to picking their targets, right?

To the speakers’ defense, it must be fearfully difficult to answer any question appropriately among a group of highly passionate doomers.  For instance, “Hey Dimitry!  You’re facing animal rights, freedom of speech and PTSD…Fuck one, Marry one, Kill one…annnnnnnd…. GO!”

 

Looks like this bar fight between Gail and Orlov, as seen in their blog comments, may have started up just before “last call for alcohol.”  That roadhouse was, again….RIPE for a fight!

ripe

Ripe

One thing that I have truly noticed, being new to the idea of collapse, is that those who are “aware” are also passionate.  They are, in fact, usually passionate about more than one basic issue, too.  I suppose it makes sense that when you are of the opinion that the entire structure for which our society is based on is set up to fail, you might want to be informed and loaded with mounds of facts to back up your claim.  This requires one to be passionate about their belief.  If you have researched the idea that our industrial civilization is eventually going to regress or cease to exist…and STILL believe that it will after said researching process…you know what he hell you’re talking about.  You are PASSIONATE, downright LUSTFUL about your beliefs.

———

passion flower

Passion Flower

Passion (from the Latin verb patī meaning to suffer) is a term applied to a very strong feeling about a person or thing. Passion is an intense emotion compelling feeling, enthusiasm, or desire for something.

The term is also often applied to a lively or eager interest in or admiration for a proposal, cause, or activity

———-

(yes…I keep using Wikipedia references…which, I am aware can be altered by just about anyone with a brain…but when I use these references, I agree with their definitions)

Note this particular Wiki definition’s Latin root:  “Pati:  meaning– TO SUFFER” Well, well,welllll…there we have it, doomers.   We have gotten so deep into our beliefs, so deep into acquiring the TRUTH, that is, that we are destined to become passionate about said beliefs and are therefore, destined to SUFFER for them.

Sadly, this suffering will include arguments between not only those who have not yet been awakened to the truth, but also among our fellow believers…our DOOMER COMMUNITY.  Let’s try to remember this the next time one of the main passionate speakers in our community has the balls to get up in front of a group of OTHER suffering, open eyed, open eared sponges to give their thoughts and emotions about topics that we all agree upon.

Can’t we all just be tolerant of each others opinions?  Time to ban together, put down the broken bottles and help clean up the mess, folks.  Let’s just all go have some coffee, eat a little fruit, over at The Diner and talk it out like adults.

passion fruit

Passion Fruit

Musings from the Age of Limits

Off the keyboard of Harry J Lerwill

Published on the Doomstead Diner May 24, 2013

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Discuss this article at the Age of Limits Table inside the Diner

Age of Limits 2013 Website

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Forgive any typos or autocorrect fun, I’m writing on an iPad in the middle of a forest…

We took a long drive from Pittsburgh to the age of limits conference in Pennsylvania, down winding roads and through verdant green forests, a stark contrast to the dry, arid California weather we left behind. The humidity is a surprise after the dry air of home, not the best foreshadowing of restful evenings, particularly for those camping for the first time – like my wife, Barbra.

To be fair I have been ambiguous when she’s asked about our destination.  Her idea of camping is anything short of a three-star hotel.  I would have been traveling alone, had I uttered any of the hot-button words, such as “humanure”, “camping” or “off the grid”.

We stopped at a store to pick up an air mattress, pump and bedding, items too bulky to transport as carry-on from home.  I find it crazy that it cost us less to buy the items new, then donate them when we leave, than to bring our own with us.  The occasional glance from the drivers seat made me think that the game might soon be up.

A brace of ducks welcomes us to the sustainable community we will be staying at these next four days, relaxing outside the door to the main farm building.  I approached cautiously, not wanting to startle them but they seemed very comfortable with them.  I was still deciding to go left or right around when a lady came out of the building and welcomed us.

We left with directions to the camping site and a “car camping” pass on the windscreen and gently grove the minivan to the designated spot.  As I inflated the air mattress and placed it in the back, the wife called out daughter back in California.  Snippets of her side of the conversation were carried on the breeze.

“I don’t know where we are, somewhere in the woods in Pennsylvania,” she told a laughing teenager back in warm and sunny California.  We’d taken her on a very different road trip the weekend before, four days in Las Vegas, experiencing the excesses that we are here to escape.

The sleeping arrangements completed, we wandered down to the “starvin’ artist” – the catering for the event, situated in a beautiful pavilion built from local materials by the members of the community.  A hot meal was just what we needed and we sat down with a number of other earlier arrivals, although it was soon interrupted by the arrival of a thunderstorm, the driving rain coming in almost horizontally; a flurry of activity ensured as water was swept off the end of the deck multiple times, an Herculean task the two lads threw themselves into with enthusiasm.

The only speaker present at the meal was Guy McPherson, my first chance to meet the gentleman. One interesting anecdote, Guy did not coin the term “NTE” and is not that fond of acronyms.  If he had to give it a label, he’d have called it “near term human extinction”,  a phrase he sees as having less hubris.

After a brief pause to write, we head back down for the meet and greet. On the way I ran into the founder, and arranged to interview him over his experiences setting up four quarters, the challenges he’s faced, and the long journey to where they find themselves today.

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Meet and Greet your Fellow Doomers

 

Friday, May 24, 2013

Thursday night was colder than expected, the novel experience of camping in a car did not impress the wife much, but she is resolved to be a good sport.  It’s a sobering experience to live in a car for a couple days, an eye-opener to the collapse that is happening to hundreds of people each week. A long discussion on how we would cope should this happen ensued.  This is definitely an experience to bring a significant other along for.  If it survives this, it’s a good sign for sticking together through what lies ahead.

Not only are there “real” flushing toilets at the camp, the showers are hot, real hot! Coffee came first though, provided free by the wonderful volunteers.  A quick conversation with other early risers and I got ready for breakfast.  For a “small” setup the breakfast was wonderful, sausage, eggs, potatoes, and plenty of orange juice, with more wonderful conversation.

The event started with Oren covering some practical matters, followed by his experiences setting up the four quarters interfaith sanctuary over 18years ago.  4Q was originally an attempt to set up an ecological camp ground that would appeal to the more ecologically minded.  Pennsylvania was chosen over Maryland due to the differences in planning and zoning regulations, an aspect of doomstead~location that has been in the forefront of many people looking to escape the oncoming collapse.

The questions were excellent, covering topics as diverse as property ownership and health care; it’s a sobering thought that personal collapse comes with consequences, when we get sick in a post-collapse world, death is the likely outcome.  Questions of ethics were also raised, such as what would happen post-collapse if people turned up at their lifeboat. Many questions that we’ve asked ourselves and our forum friends.  I encourage people who are looking at setting up communities to listen to both the talk and the question and answer session.

John Michael Greer was the second speaker, with a talk on the future, what we though we would get and what we’re actually getting, and how that disconnect happened.  For readers of the archdruid report the topics were familiar, yet his light-hearted delivery takes the edge off the description of a very uncertain future.

The concept of near term human extinction inevitably came up and John Michael’s response surprised many who think his view of post-collapse is incompatible with that of Guy McPherson.  Greer sees a massive die-off in humanity’s future, just on a different time scale, along with a faith that nature will get through the bottleneck we are creating in the ecosystems. He also pointed out that the theory McPherson has may gain wider acceptance than his own theories of collapse, for reasons he’s covered in his blog many times: we will do anything to avoid having to make changes in our own lives.

Albert Bates was the next up, with a lecture on the top of the Unibomber.  I was very surprised to learn that the Unibomber was not only a Harvard student at fifteen, he was also recruited by the MK-ultra program and the abuses he was subjected to at the hands of the experimenters may have played a part in his radicalization. After the background information on Ted, the presentation moved onto the famous manifesto; a document well worth reading from a collapse and resource depletion standpoint. I many ways the bomber was right on target with the problem of technology, although no amount of hindsight on his motives can justify the murders this terrorist perpetrated on innocent people.

Another fine meal followed, roast beast and vegetables, and even finer conversation around the table.  A quick break while I tried to upload the audio files of the talks so far, with no success. I such a rural location the signal is really weak, so readers are going to have to wait a little longer before they an listen to them.

Carolyn baker was the last presentation of the day; drumming, a story from Korea, and a number of relationship exercises that unfortunately do not translate well to an audio format.  When I get home I will separate out the story and upload it, but the rest of the audio file will not do justice to the presentation.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

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Doomers huddle around the Campfire

The temperature on Friday night dropped to around thirty four degrees, making me very grateful the wife had driven down to Cumberland earlier to pick up extra bedding, and we spent the night snuggled up together while a full moon shone through the windows.  I woke up feeling much more refreshed than the previous morning, and thankful to attribute the aches and pains of the prior morning to jet lag instead of middle age.

The first talk was by Albert Bates on the global ecological village movement, and it was by far the most useful talk for me so far.  Most of the topics covered by the other speakers I was familiar with, but the size and scope of the Eco village movement surprised me.  He shared a considerable amount of information The Farm, it’s successes, it[s failures, it’s struggles and and the struggles they have helped others overcome, from earthquake relief to bringing fresh water to villages in South America.  I am looking forward to following the leads his presentation has opened up.

Again, I found myself reassured that the questions we are asking on the Diner, the solutions we are proposing are not new, there is a Wealth of experience from those who have done this already.  While we may feel isolated and apart with only our digital connection at present, it is comforting to know that we are not the first pioneers to walk in this direction, desiring to walk away from empire, as McPherson’s lecture later in the day was titled.

Gail Tverberg, or Gail the Actuary, as she is often known, spoke next, a recap of the evidence of collapse which most readers here will be familiar with. I slipped out and left the iPad with my wife and spent some time catching up with JMG and getting to know a few of the attendees better.

Orlov was the next speaker up, with a digression from his usual talk of the five stages of collapse, instead venturing into the realm of experiencing collapse as we are now going thought it.  While little of the presentation was new to me, Dmitry’s delivery was excellent and his humorous viewpoint was a stark contrast to the next talk after dinner.

Guy McPherson’s talk was on walking away from empire, a process he started a number of years ago, with his leaving academia to pursue self-sufficiency in the property he calls the mud hut.  His experiences going off grid –with no experience at constructing a straw bail house or dealing with ducks, goats or pocket gophers –was encouraging to those who, like Guy, do not know a screwdriver from a zucchini.

I was surprised that Guy sees his experiment of walking away from empire as a failure, for reasons he outlined.  Empire is still here, it still surrounds him,and after entertaining over six hundred guests at the mud hut over the last few years, very, very few have followed his example, much to his apparent despair.  Even walking away from the modern, energy wasting world left him with an ecological footprint that would translate to more than four earths required to support seven billion living off grid.  Why?  Because we, living in America, are still responsible for the footprint of the US military which consumes more energy than many sovereign nations.  A sobering thought.

Guy is a fantastic and humorous speaker, and offers to pay half of any travel costs to come and speak, asking only his needs are met.  He practices rather than preaches a gift economy, giving away copies of his DVD and asking nothing in return, although he accepts donations.  I’ve heard accusations on other websites that he promotes himself, that he runs his message as a business, that he promotes his ideas to make money. That is more a reflection of the society we live in and the expectations we have.  While I am not convinced of his interpretation of the climate change data (tomorrow’s talk) I have no doubts of his sincerity.

The last event was Carolyn Baker, a ritual on grief that the wife and I chose not to attend, since for us grief is a personal thing, even though it is a common theme this weekend.

Still no luck getting the data uploaded, although I will walk to a higher point try again later tonight, although I have to accept that when collapse comes to my door then these difficulties may seem pretty quaint and minor.

A few people attending will be dropping by, apparently I’m not the only one seeking online forums and places where the focus is on practical responses, rather than a running commentary on the collapse.

This is Haniel, Doomstead Diner News, signing off for the night!

IMG_20130525_182005

Guy McPherson presents Uber Doom under the Big Top

Sunday, May 26, 2012

Walking down to the shower and toilet block this morning, I realized something odd.  As I listened to the birds sing and enjoyed the warmth on my back, I realized for the fist time in as long as I could remember, I saw smiling before my first cup of coffee. Or perhaps it was the fact that that the land so resembles the place I grew up in South Wales. I have given up on ever returning there to live, the climate data indicates it’s not going to be pleasant there.

Another excellent breakfast preceded the first talk of the day, Dmitry Orlov on communities that abide.  Using examples of communities like the anabaptists, the kibbutz movement in Israel and others, he outlined the key aspects of one communities that have withstood the test of time.  One point I found key was a common ideology that all agree on, such as the religion of monastic communities, a common rejection of technology, or some other aspect that is largely unquestioned.  He covered the way many communities establish commonality via dress or practice, as well as the social strategies they use to survive in a sometimes hostile world.  One thing intentional communities have in common is they have often been persecuted.

The next speaker was Gail Tverberg, with a fantastic presentation on the financial aspects of the collapse clearly underway around us. I’m trying to figure out how to take her presentation –available inside the Doomstead Diner –with the audioo recording to make a narrated video presentation of the data. Follow the Gail Tverburg thread inside the diner to keep up to date on that project.  I’m not promising anything for reason I’ll get to at the end.

McPherson was up next.  This was one of the talks I was very interested in hearing.  Back last January, the interpretations of the data regarding climate change took a more serious turn, and Guy McPherson was raising alarm bells regarding the latest climate data.  I said at the time that I would reserve judgment until after this Age of Limits conference, since there’s been significant chatter in the blogsphere about the subject.

There’s no doubt, the data is frightening.  In the audience was a climate scientist who travels all over the planet gather data and doing the actual research, not just interpreting data.  He was very clear, the scientific community has no doubts the planet is warming and we’re the primary cause.  There’s no doubt we’re heading to an ice-free Arctic by the end of the decade and possibly in only a few years.

There are some negative feedback loops being triggered, which Guy does not touch upon, but nowhere near the number of positive feedback loops which are already underway.

I still believe that the interpretation of the data is overly pessimistic, but only on scale, not direction.  One thing I feel is important is the term: Near Term Extinction – it’s a phrase that Guy did not invent and does not particularly like, he prefers “Near Term Human Extinction; I don’t think he’s that impressed with our ability to wipe our species.  I agree with him on this, let’s write out “Near Term Human Extinction” every time in full, as a reminder to ourselves that this is not a catchy f***ing phrase, the survival of our children are at stake.  The survival of my cat’s grand-kittens are at stake.  The survival of the trees, whose shade I appreciated over the trip, is at stake.

A few of the flaws I believe exists in the data have already been highlighted here; the conflation of hydrates and clathates, the heat island effect in the plant flowering data in the Boston area, and land based methane out gassing sizes compared to ocean-based out gassing which diffuse though the water column and are thus reaching a kilometer across when it gets to the surface.  However, we’re arguing about if we’re executing two hundred species a day with shotgun or a fifty caliber machine gun, I don’t think nature really cares which one we abusing it with.

While I may disagree with the interpretation of the data and believe that humanity will face a bottleneck rather than complete extinction, I have no doubt of Guy’s sincerity, or his compassion for both humanity and the rest of the planet we are destroying.

McPherson see’s his experiment of walking away from empire a failure, and that is something I do disagree with intensely. While our wonderful American military squanders the equivalent of four earths (if all the world all lived like we do, that’s how many planet’s we’d need to support the military alone) and thus we can never truly be free of empire, if his message means that one day soon, we’ll only wipe out a hundred and ninety nine species a day, his efforts are worth it.

One disturbing trend I found out about is that McPherson is often asked to speak, but those invites are withdrawn when the seriousness of his conclusions are realized.  People, particularly people in power, do not want this message getting out.  The climate scientist present, who’s worked for NASA on the data Guy is interpreting, was very clear – the government is suppressing the data and using all the techniques pioneered by the tobacco industry, to sow doubt where none should exist.

If you have the opportunity to invite McPherson to come and address a group, be it local doomers you know, a transition town group, or any other bunch of people who are willing to pull their head out of the sand long enough to look around, I encourage you to do so.  He is an engaging speaker, he puts an element of mirth into his presentation which makes the very bitter pill a little easier to swallow, and if only one person changes his or her lifestyle as a result, it will be worth your time to organize.

Lodge notes.

Companion President, Mr. J.M. Greer, opened the Artemis Lodge #1 of the Order of the Long Descent in due form at 6pm.  The following officers were appointed:  A charming lady by the name of Kelly took the Vice President’s station.  Haniel Was appointed Warder. His beautiful wife (I’m biased) was appointed Conductor.

Following the opening, companion President (Greer) proceeded to lecture the assembled companions on the role and structure of lodges and how they may be of benefit.  While Masons, Oddfellows, Grangers and members of pretty much any fraternity would have recognized elements of the ritual, the main sources of inspiration was Order of Washington and the Women’s International Auxiliary of the Brotherhood of Streetcar, Electric Railway, and Motor
Coach Employees.

JMG explained how corporations, the way they were originally set up in the US before the supreme court gave them more powers than you or I could ever hope for, are still a valid way of funding an operation and as the government’s ability to help gives way to communities learning to help themselves, still has a purpose.  There’s nothing wrong in issuing shares to start an intentional community, just remember to retire them appropriately and not view them as a ticket to the rentier class.  Churches regularly used share issues to fund a new building, and the parishioners regularly dropped those shares in the collection plate, effectively destroying that debt.

A lively question and answer session followed, using the format used in lodges of all types, the speaker addressed the chair, was recognized, and took their turn speaking their mind or asking a question. A number of members of other types of lodges, including some masons, added their thoughts and experiences.

The lodge was closed in due form at 7:30pm.

Respectfully submitted,

Harry J. Lerwill,
Warder, Artemis Lodge #1 of The Order of the Long Descent.

 

Harry J. Lerwill was raised in a poor mining village in the South Wales Valleys, where family values, the joys of home-grown and home-cooked meals, and a deep community spirit far outweighed the bleak prospects of life with collapsed fos-sil fuel industry: coal mining. Three decades later, he is an I.T. Manager in California, choosing to walk, rather than fall, down the far side of Hubbert’s peak, and looking forward to those same benefits as we rediscover the joys of a slower lifestyle. His first short story, “Caravan of Hopes” is published in the anthology, “After Oil: SF Visions Of A Post Petroleum Future”.  Harry’s blog is Post Peak Local Search on Blogspot.

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