Preparation

Be Prepared

gc2smOff the keyboard of Jason Heppenstall

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Published on 22 Billion Energy Slaves on August 26, 2015

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Always be Prepared

 
 
 
As a youngster I was a member of the Boy Scout movement and the motto that was drilled into us was “Always be prepared.” Prepared for what? Prepared for whatever life throws at you, was the answer I got. It seemed a pretty reasonable idea to my eight-year-old brain. By training us young boys (and girls, if you were a Brownie) we could learn to pre-empt danger by thinking about the given risks of any situation and either prepare accordingly or choose to avoid the situation entirely.
 
So how has it happened that we have ended up with a society whose motto seems to be “Never be prepared”?
 
Watching the wild gyrations of the major stock markets of the last few days I noticed a couple of things. When things looked like they were going to get bad, the TV and internet pundits generally said: “There’s nothing to worry about, this situation can’t possibly happen.” And then when things actually did get bad they tended to say “Oh, well we knew there was always a risk of this happening and it’s time we faced up to the fact that what we feared most but had left unsaid has come to pass.” And then, when the dead cat bounce took the markets higher again the pundits trotted out and said: “Everything is fixed! We told you there was nothing to worry about!”
 
The average small investor (if there is such a thing anymore, outside of China) must be squirming on his couch clutching his head as spasms of cognitive dissonance rack his body. “But they said it couldn’t happen!”
 
Yet one person who couldn’t ever be confused with a TV finance pundit this week was Labour MP Damian McBride, who advised his Twitter followers to stock up on canned food and water, withdraw their cash and agree a rallying point with friends in family in case of communications breakdown and civil disorder.
He wasn’t mincing his words.
 
And McBride isn’t just some lowly backbencher either – he was Gordon Brown’s adviser when he was prime minister, as well as being a senior civil servant at the Treasury. As such he must know more than most people how fragile the global financial system is.
 
Predictably enough, he was roundly mocked by the press for being alarmist. Twitterers everywhere joined in with the two-minutes’ hate. In a world where sentiment is more important than reality such boat-rocking cannot not be allowed to pass.
 
The news message right now, as I type these words, is that markets have recovered from their panic attacks (even though this is patently untrue). China has calmed the waters by lowering its interest rates (what they still have interest rates above zero?) and there is soothing talk of more stimulus measures. The long-feared rate hike in the US is also being talked down. Nothing to see here, move along.

 

 

 

If current newspaper editorials and TV finance channels could be stuffed together into a cultural blender and reformed into the medium of music they would emerge as some kind of gently soothing mood music – the kind they play in dentists’ waiting rooms in the hope that it’ll drown out the noise of the drill and cries of pain coming from the next room.

 
Of course, none of this matters at this point because what this week’s market carnage has shown is that central banks are not omnipotent and they may even be running out of pumping power for all the epic mega-bubbles that have been created in recent years. Even those who haven’t been paying attention must now surely be able to see that unleashing quantitative easing (i.e. printing money) is simply an exercise in transferring the private risk/debt of the rich into public hands. You can unleash the monetary floodgates all you like and watch as all that liquidity flows into the feeding troughs of the world’s financial centres leaving the real – productive – sectors of the economy high and dry while wrecking many of the aspects of modern life that allow us to consider our societies as civilised.  
 
This is certain to have real consequences in the real world as levels of debt continue to skyrocket, and the ability of the real economy as a whole to repay that debt diminish by the week. You can extend your credit limit to the Moon and back, but if your income is falling and you keep piling on the debt then you must know that some day there will come a knock at the door. So should individuals prepare for the ensuing calamity that this moment of reckoning will bring into being? Or should we just sit there on our hands humming Everything is Awesome and hoping that the moment will never come?
 
*I just checked the Cub Scout’s website and – sure enough – their motto is still “Be prepared” – even if it now has far fewer members than it did in the 1970s and is embroiled in a sexual politics wrangle.

Doctors & Scientists for Sustainability & Social Justice

Off the keyboard of Dr. Geoffrey Chia

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Published on the Doomstead Diner on January 20, 2015

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The Diner welcomes Dr. Geoffrey Chia  as a Guest Author, writing on Sustainability issues from the perspective of a Cardiologist-Physician in Brisbane, Australia.Geoff has published numerous articles in the past on Nature Bats Last, and in addition ran the discussion group D3SJ.org from 2006-2013.First up here, an Open Letter to the former members of D3SJ.org, followed by his article Advice for Sustainability Activists in 2015.  It’s another take on concepts we explore on the Diner, and Tom Lewis explores on the Daily Impact.  Not enough voices saying this yet though, and I will publish every last one of them that has the gist of this correct, which Dr. Chia does.We hope to hear more from him on the Diner as well, but this one is a good introduction to a voice that has been crying in the wilderness for a long time, before I even woke up to this shitstorm.  He is worth listening to.RE

Dear former D3SJers,

Below is my article “advice for sustainability activists in 2015”. Feel free to forward this email to everyone ad infinitum. After writing my article, I discovered this interview with Thomas Lewis, a journalist with many decades experience investigating and reporting environmental issues, who came to the same conclusion:
https://soundcloud.com/doomstead-diner/collapse-cafe-thomas-lewis

Here is a podcast by financial guru Richard Martin http://thewakeupcall.podbean.com/e/spreading-fear-or-providing-information-122214/

He sounds the alarm about the fraudulent and precarious nature of the global financial system. In particular he explains the bogus nature of the shale oil derivatives and associated junk bonds (collapse of which may well trigger the next, more catastrophic GFC). He is an expert in financial matters but unfortunately does not understand peak oil.

You may need to read the following a few times to fully comprehend the various machinations taking place today:

Current low oil prices are a result of demand destruction (slowing of growth in China + recession/depression everywhere else in the world), combined with the Saudis insanely continuing to pump their oil at full throttle (they are well down the slope past peak oil, but they still have the largest reserves in the world). Such Saudi behaviour defies logic in a rational market, but the political motives are clear (which the Saudis devised in conjunction with John Kerry in September last year) http://www.counterpunch.org/2014/12/16/the-oil-coup/

Predatory low oil pricing is now decimating the Iranian and Russian economies* and could even cause them to crash, an outcome greatly desired by the US who so far have been singularly impotent in forcing either regime to toe the US line. As for the Sunni Saudis, they regard Shia Iran as their heretical enemy and Russia as a godless Satan. This strategy, if drawn out, will also cause collateral damage to the US shale oil industry, however that was doomed anyway from the start. http://www.theguardian.com/business/economics-blog/2014/nov/09/us-iran-russia-oil-prices-shale In the short term, Bakken/Eagle Ford will continue pumping like crazy, even if no profit is made, as they are riding on the momentum from old investments (which will never see a long term return**). They need to maintain the illusion of ongoing viability, despite their lousy EROEI, to prop up their share prices and recruit more suckers investors. Furthermore Obama, as directed by his masters (the usual wunch of bankers) has now removed legal protection of public savings from oil derivative fraud (akin to the US government previously repealing Glass-Steagall) which means that if the oil derivatives collapse, the “too big to fail” banks will once again be bailed out by public funds obtained from taxes on the dying middle class and more quantitative easing (AKA printing funny money). Savings accounts will not be safe. Anyone else, everywhere else, who has been stupid enough to invest in the US sharemarket (perhaps your superannuation fund managers?) can kiss their investments goodbye.

What would you do if you were Russian or Iranian? Grit your teeth and ride things out till the oil price inevitably rises again and you can once more make a profit, then trade your oil in currency other than the US dollar (or use barter arrangements eg X barrels of oil for Y number of Chinese solar PV panels). Elimination of the greenback petrodollar is guaranteed to cause the collapse of the US economy. If Iran and Russia are however blocked in their attempts to recover from their own economic collapse and escape the petrodollar, they can always resort to the “continuation of policy by other means” to paraphrase von Clausewitz. If my country is imploding and the Saudis are to blame, I may as well lob a missile into Riyadh, as I have nothing to lose. And so the great game continues.

Meanwhile the dumb sheeple are blissfully pumping cheap oil at the bowsers to fill their monstrous SUVs but have no clue as to what is going on. What was Mr T’s famous catchphrase again?

Brand New Year, same old dirty tricks. Hope you have a happy one anyway.

Regards

Geoff Chia

*Iranian and Russian breakeven oil production costs are substantially higher than Saudi costs. Low oil prices cause the Iran and Russia economies to bleed money. Saudis can even price their oil below Saudi production costs for a while, due to their huge financial reserves.

**big players such as Shell and Sumitomo were well aware of the bogus accounting of shale oil returns, which is why they pulled out. Other players were captured by hubris and irrational exuberance akin to tulip mania. Money flooded into shale oil junk bonds as a result of the US Reserve Bank’s ZIRP, but the chickens will be coming to home to roost soon.

ADVICE FOR SUSTAINABILITY ACTIVISTS IN 2015

RATIONALE

  1. First and foremost, it is essential to understand and accept that the massive die-off of the majority of humanity (indeed, the majority of all species) is guaranteed and inevitable over the next few decades, no matter what you or anyone else does, even if all anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions were to cease immediately. Get over it. Stop wasting your precious time and energy trying to influence National1 or International policies. Even if you succeed in turning society around right now, we are well past the point that it will make any difference whatsoever. Runaway destruction of our ecosystems has spiralled out of control and we have already fallen off the cliff. In 2012, I myself abandoned the conceit and delusion that I could “save the world”, when the scientific evidence for the irreversible decompensation of our global ecosphere became overwhelming and indisputable. The mainstream media paint a false picture to the sheeple to keep them subdued and distracted, to avoid provoking mass panic. This article is meant for intelligent people capable of objective, reality-based thinking. The only thing you can do now that will make any difference, is that which lies within your own individual control. It is to determine your own personal fate.

  2. A small proportion of the population will be able to survive, even thrive, during and after the coming collapse. Who will they be? Those who prepare now and plan ahead will have the best chance. You must therefore seize your opportunity while there is still time, before the complete meltdown of this fraudulently propped-up global financial scam wipes out your bank balance, before economic collapse triggers the eruption of extremists in your neighbourhood (just as the Great Depression led to Nazism, the Greek implosion to Golden Dawn and the Syrian collapse to ISIS) and before all your options are lost. It is imperative you discuss with and advise people about the measures needed now, so that the tiny handful who are receptive to this message can mitigate against future hardships and horrors. If you fail to take action now and remain inert and paralysed like a stunned mullet, you are passively submitting to the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune and will very likely die horribly.

  3. It is not selfish to try to save yourself and your loved ones, while the rest of humanity perish. There is nothing noble about you going down in flames alongside the clueless sheeple and those denialists who reviled you in the past for being “alarmist”. Indeed it will be stupid and pointless for you to join them. They had their chance, refused to listen and will reap what they sowed. The people we should mourn are those who have historically contributed little to this global catastrophe, but who will suffer the most eg subsistence farmers in Bangladesh or Africa.

  4. The actions you must take to survive the great unraveling of industrial civilisation actually correspond exactly with the ethical actions you should take anyway to set a good example to others. The best way to convince others is not by words, but by deeds. To serve as a role model, to practice what you preach. There is no point campaigning to shut down coal fired power stations unless you first show others how they can live well without using coal fired power. Your actions will consist of drastically reducing your ecological footprint, liberating yourself from a corrupt, rapacious and destructive capitalist system and pursuing a meaningful and joyful life in a cooperative community. Talk less and do more.

  5. Do not get bogged down by the proponents of near term human extinction. They are a nihilistic cult with nothing to offer but inertia, hopelessness, misery and despair, despite their attempts to put a positive spin on suicide. Even if NTHE ultimately does occur, it still remains eminently worthwhile at this time for you to aim for the best quality, longest duration lifespan you can possibly achieve. For the patient with terminal cancer, the ethical physician must endeavour to minimise their suffering and maximise the quality and duration of their remaining life. As long as you are not in excruciating pain or in unremitting distress, your survival instinct will dictate that you keep on keeping on. Humanity’s best strategy to avoid extinction is not by attempting to preserve the cities nor prolong industrial civilisation (which is precisely what is destroying our living planet) but by establishing a multitude of self sufficient off-grid communities all around the world. All it takes to avoid NTHE is for just one community to succeed in the long term. By saving yourself you could well be saving humanity as a species.

ACTIONS YOU NEED TO TAKE NOW (IF NOT YESTERDAY) :

  1. Try to expand your social network. Seek out like minded individuals you can trust, who are interested in pursuing an ethical sustainable lifestyle.
  2. Withdraw your money from the Ponzi scheme known as the Sharemarket. Get rid of debt. Convert your cyberwealth into assets of real world value. Lack of finances is not necessarily an impediment to escaping the corrupt mainstream establishment. Practical knowledge, experience and abilities (carpentry, metalwork, plumbing, electrical, agricultural skills etc) will be in great demand, however simply possessing good common sense, physical health and a willingness to learn and contribute are the most important assets, which you can offer to homestead planners who will be keen to snap you up. The most precious commodities of the future will not be gold, silver or diamonds (which the wise will regard with disdain) but the qualities of trustworthiness, reliability and diligence. These are the riches of the future which will bind individuals and communities together.

  3. Purchase suitable land in a remote2 location with reliable fresh water supplies, as little affected by the future projections of climate change as possible, on which to establish your permaculture homestead.

  4. Construct one or more large lockup sheds (with attached large rainwater tanks), in which you can store agricultural tools, fertiliser, water purifying equipment, emergency food supplies and other essential startup items. One or more containers placed there will also be useful, if you can arrange that. When you ultimately empty out your large shed of its contents, it can be used as multipurpose building eg workshop, community hall etc.

  5. It may be necessary to erect a permaculture enclosure to protect your crops from being consumed by the local wildlife.
  6. Participants must construct their dwellings. These must be designed to be off-grid ie. completely independent of centrally controlled electrical, water and sewage utilities. Time, money and ethical considerations may preclude the construction of conventional concrete and steel buildings. Restrictive and backward codes of the local council may prevent you from building cheap, innovative dwellings such as Earthships (which are labour intensive and take a long time to build anyway). One way to bypass these obstacles is to construct tiny houses on wheels3. They cost less than 20% of a standard house, can be built to passive solar principles (and incorporate the essential wood stove/heater) and can provide all your usual creature comforts and amenities (even a home movie theatre) albeit in a smaller space. Furthermore they can be custom built by you right now, right where you live, then towed to your homestead later. Timing of the move is crucial and must obviously be done before the collapse of the current infrastructure leads to fuel scarcity and blockade of the highways. If time becomes very short, you can purchase a standard caravan immediately, although they are generally designed to be plugged into the grid and will not be ideal to live in long term (although much better than a tent).

  7. Security issues for your community may be the most fraught and difficult to work out. In the USA where guns proliferate, paranoia leads to the accumulation of weapons and fearful continuous surveillance. My advice to Americans is to move to Alaska, Washington State or Oregon. Even better if you can, is to emigrate to NZ, Canada or southern Chile (the latter only if you are a fluent Spanish speaker) which probably has the best long term prospects of all. In Oz, I personally favour remoteness, obscurity and good relations with your neighbours as the best means of protection4. Dogs on your property may help, but avoid aggressive breeds which may be a danger to children.

  8. The above steps will not guarantee you a good outcome (nothing can) but will dramatically increase your chances of achieving a good outcome. At the very least, engaging in hopeful activity in the company of other good people will shield you from despair. Even if things don’t ultimately work out, at least you will go down fighting and in control of your own destiny, rather than be a passive lamb to the slaughter. Apart from good planning, the main factors which will determine whether your community succeeds or fails in the long term will be the quality of your participants5, your framework of governance6 and a good deal of luck.

Geoffrey Chia, January 2015

Footnotes:

  1. Unless you live in NZ, which may be the only country in the world with any hope of saving the majority of its population. This is based on its favourable location and soils, low population density, high level of renewable energy infrastructure including electric railways and my belief (although I could be mistaken) that the majority of Kiwis are not certifiably insane (unlike the rest of the world where the inmates have taken over the asylum).

  2. Well away from large cities which will be the “killing fields of the future”. Small towns in agricultural areas may potentially be viable.
  3. Lara Nobel, a graduate architect now completing a building qualification, will be presenting this topic at the Queensland Skeptics meeting in Brisbane in March 2015. There is a wealth of information about tiny houses on the web.

  4. In the future time of petroleum scarcity, the “marauding hordes” will not be able to invade you en masse if your homestead is more than one fuel tank away from a major city and they do not know your location. Good neighbours can provide advance notice if random dodgy strangers are seen making their way on foot through the countryside. As survivors, they will be resourceful. If they also turn out to be decent and hardworking, let them share in your homestead chores with a view to eventually joining up.

  5. Every member must contribute. Psychopaths must be expelled. People steeped in non-evidence based bullshit (eg belief in homeopathy or that the MMR vaccine causes autism) must be excluded, because their forcefully held nonsensical and harmful ideologies will obstruct sensible decision making initiatives. People steeped in superstition eg belief in God, gods or ghosts must be excluded, because their delusions will distort rational thinking of impressionable young people and may pose a future risk of turning your community into a cult. The reason why this global human experiment is failing is because of idiocracy, ie. rule by idiots, who must be excluded from your community. The only hope for humanity is for sapient people to survive and populate future generations.

  6. The basic principle being that decisions must be made on the basis of evidence, reason and fairness to confer the greatest amount of good to the greatest number of people in your community on a long term basis.

Geoffrey Chia is a Cardiologist/Physician based in Brisbane, Australia, who convened the group “Doctors and Scientists for Sustainability and Social Justice” from 2006 to 2013

Reaching Limits to Growth: What Should our Response Be?

Off the keyboard of Gail Tverberg

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Published on Our Finite World on February 17, 2014

limits-to-growth

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Oil limits seem to be pushing us toward a permanent downturn, including a crash in credit availability, loss of jobs, and even possible government collapse. In this process, we are likely to lose access to both fossil fuels and grid electricity. Supply chains will likely need to be very short, because of the lack of credit. This will lead to a need for the use of local materials.

The time-period is not entirely clear. Some countries, such as Greece and Syria, will be seeing these effects quite soon. Other countries may not see the full effects for perhaps ten or twenty years. What should our response be?

It seems to me that there are many different answers, depending on who we are and what our goals are. The various options are not mutually exclusive.

Option 1. Make the most of the time we have available.

If there are things that are important to you, do them now. If you have been meaning to reconnect ties with family members or old friends, now is the time to do it. If there are things you would like to accomplish that require today’s transportation and services, do them now. If you want to support local charities, now would be a good time to do it.

Appreciate what you have now. We have been privileged to live in a society where transportation is readily available and where most of us can live in homes that are comfortably heated and cooled. At the same time, we can still enjoy many of the benefits of nature—clear skies and plants and animals around us. Life expectancies in the past were generally 35 years or less. Most of us have already lived longer than we could have expected to live in the past.

Develop stronger relationships with family and community.  This is likely to be a difficult transition. It is likely to be helpful to have as many allies as possible in transition. It may be helpful to move closer to other family members. Another approach is to form or join community groups, such as a church group or a group interested in common goals. The ties a person can form are likely to be helpful regardless of what path lies ahead.

Option 2. Prepare at least a little for the future

Learn to bounce back from downturns.  When I was an editor at The Oil Drum, I was editor for a letter from a man who grew up in Kenya and returned there practically every year. He told that the people in Kenya were very happy, even though they had little material goods and mortality was high.  One thing he mentioned was that if things went wrong—the death of a child for example—people were able to mourn for a day, and then move on. They also rejoiced in things we take for granted, such as being able to obtain enough food for the current day.

Do what you can to improve your health. In the United States, we have been used to a combination of practices that lead to overweight: (1) much too large food portions, (2) much processed food including much sugar and (3) lack of exercise. If we can change our eating and exercise practices, it is likely that we can improve our health. If healthcare goes downhill, fixing our personal health somewhat protects us.

Learn what you can about first aid. Injuries are likely to be more of an issue, as we work outside more.

We will need some specialists as well. As long as we eat grains, we will need dentists. As long as babies are born, we will need helpers of some type–doctors or midwives.

If circumstances permit, plant a garden and fruit or nut trees. Eventually, all food production will need to be local. Getting from our current industrialized agricultural model to a model with local food production with little (if any) fossil fuel inputs is likely to be a difficult transition. One approach is to learn what local plants, animals, and insects are edible. Another is to attempt to grow your own. Doing the latter will generally require considerable learning about what plants grow in your area, approaches to building and maintaining soil fertility, methods of preventing erosion, and a variety of related topics.

Find alternative water supplies. We currently are dependent on a water supply chain that can be broken in a variety of ways—drought, loss of electricity, storm damage, or pollution problems. If the long-term water supply seems questionable, it may be helpful to move to another location, sooner rather than later. Alternatively, we can figure out how to bridge a gap in water supplies, such as through access to a creek or lake. For the very short-term, a water barrel of stored water might be helpful.

Figure out alternative cooking arrangements. We humans are dependent on cooking for purifying water, for allowing us to eat a wider variety of food, and for allowing us to obtain greater nutrition from the food we eat, without chewing literally half of the day. We now depend primarily on electricity or natural gas for cooking. Determine what alternative cooking arrangements can be made in your area, in the event current cooking arrangements become unavailable. An example might be an outdoor fireplace with locally gathered sticks for fuel, perhaps supplemented by a solar cooker with reflective sides.

Store up a little food to bridge a temporary supply interruption. We have troubles today with wind storms and snow storms. There are any number of other types of interruptions that could happen if businesses encounter credit problems that lead to supply chain interruptions. It doesn’t hurt to be prepared.

Option 3. Figure out what options might work for a few years for taking care of yourself and your family 

We have a lot of goods made with fossil fuels that probably will work for a while, but likely won’t be available for the long term. Examples include solar PV, batteries, power saws, electric pumps, electric fences, bicycles, light bulbs, and many other devices that we take for granted today. Of course, as soon as any part breaks and can’t be replaced, we are likely to be “up a creek, without a paddle.”

I expect that quite a few of the permaculture solutions and organic gardening solutions are temporary solutions. They work for now, but whether they will work for the long term is less clear. We are not going to be able to make and transport organic sprays for fruit for very long and irrigation systems will need to be very simple to be resilient. Plastic wears out and even metal tools will be hard to replace.

Purchasing land for agriculture can perhaps be a partial solution for some individuals, with sufficient skills and tools. Ideally, a person will want to be part of a larger group of people using a larger piece of land, rather than a smaller group, using a smaller piece of land, because of the problem that occurs if one worker gets sick or injured. It may be helpful to have multiple non-contiguous pieces of land, to help even out impacts of bad weather and pests. Ideally, the land should be large enough so that part of the land can remain fallow, or be used for feeding animals, and can be rotated with crop-producing land.

Security is likely be a problem, especially if a single home is distant from other homes. Ideally, a family will be part of a larger group in order to provide security.

Other issues include inability to pay taxes and the government taking over property. Because of the many issues involved, any solution is, at best, temporary. Unfortunately, that may be the best we can do. As parts of the system fail, a local group may be able to support fewer people. Then the group will need to deal with how to handle this situation–everyone starve, or kick out a few members from the group, or attack another group, with the hope of obtaining control of their resources.

Option 4. Work on trying to solve the long-term problem.

There are many studies of how pre-industrial societies operated without fossil fuels and without electricity. For example, Jared Diamond gives his view of how some very early societies functioned in The World Until Yesterday. The Merchant of Prato by Iris Origo documents the life of one particular 14th century merchant, based on old letters and other documents.

Through studies of how past societies behaved, it might be possible for today’s people to develop a civilization that could be operated using only renewable resources of the types used in pre-industrial times, such as wood, water wheels, and sail boats. Such groups would probably not be able to use much metal or concrete because of the problem with deforestation when wood is used for energy-intensive operations. (Today’s so-called “renewables,” such as hydro-electric, wind turbines and solar PV require fossil fuels for manufacture and upkeep, so likely will not be available for very long.)  Heating of homes will need to be very limited as well, to prevent deforestation.

As a practical matter, the groups best equipped to make such a change are ones that have recently been hunter-gatherers and still have some memory of how they operated in the past. Perhaps some former hunter-gatherers could give instruction to others in sort of a reverse Peace Corps operation.

We do know some approaches that have been used in the past. Dogs have been used to help with herding animals, for hunting, and for warmth. Animals of various types have been used for transportation and for plowing. The downside is that animals require the use of a lot of land to produce the food needed for them to eat.

Traditional societies have used the giving of gifts and the requirement of reciprocal gift giving to increase the strength of relationships and as a substitute for our money-based financial system. With such an approach, a person gains status not by what he has, but by what he gives away.

Storytelling has been a way of passing on knowledge and entertainment for generations. Songs, games, and simple musical instruments are also part of many traditions. These are approaches that can be used in the future as well.

Option 5. Take steps toward getting population in line with likely long-term energy availability.

The world is now overfilled with people and with the many animals that people raise for food or as pets. Without fossil fuels and network electricity, we probably will not be able to feed more than a fraction of the current population of humans and domesticated animals.

Some steps we might take:

Keep family sizes small. Encourage one-child families. When a family pet dies, don’t replace it (or replace it with a smaller animal).

Eat much less meat. This could be started even now.

Option 6. Rearrange personal finances.

Paper investments are, in general, not going to be worth much, regardless of how we rearrange them, if resource availability drops greatly. Ultimately, paper investments allow us to buy goods available in the marketplace. But if there isn’t much to buy in the marketplace, they are likely to be much less helpful than we assume. Precious metals have the same difficulty–they can’t buy what is not available.

Purchasing land is theoretically better, but even land can be taken away from us by taxes or by appropriation. There is also a possibility that we may need to move, if conditions change, regardless of what property ownership conditions seem to be.

We need to learn to take each day as it comes. If we find that our bank accounts aren’t there, or that only a small fraction of the money can be withdrawn, or that the money is in the bank doesn’t buy much of anything, we need somehow to figure out a way around the situation. Very likely everyone else will be in the same boat. This is a major reason for working on substitute access to food and water supplies.

Option 7. Put more emphasis on relationships. 

Studies show that relationships are what bring happiness—not the accumulation of goods. Starting to work now on developing additional strong relationships would seem to be a worthwhile goal. In traditional societies, extended family relationships were very important.

Religions can teach us how we treat our neighbors and thus about relationships. A version of the Golden Rule (Do unto others as you would have then do unto you) is found in several major religions. Many readers of this blog have given up on religions as hopelessly out of date, instead choosing such “wisdom” as, “He who dies with the most toys wins.” In fact, this latter wisdom is clearly nonsense. We can expect our fossil-fuel based “toys” to lose their usefulness before our very eyes in the not too distant future. Ben Bernanke and Janet Yellen are not gods, even if we are told that they are all-powerful.

Another aspect of keeping good relationships is finding ways to mend broken relationships. One such approach is forgiveness. Another is through reconciliation procedures aimed at returning broken relationships to wholeness. Such procedures are common in small societies, according to Diamond (2012).

Option 8. Find ways to deal with the stresses of a likely downturn ahead.

As much as we would like to take one day at a time, oftentimes it is easy to worry, even though this does no good.

Even though we think we know that outcome of our current difficulties, we really do not. The universe has many physical laws. Ultimately, the source of all of these physical laws is not clear–is there a Supreme Being behind them? The story of natural selection is in many ways a miracle. The story of human existence represents more miracles—learning to control fire; learning to control our environment through agriculture; learning to modify our environment further through the use of fossil fuels. In my own personal life, I see a pattern of circumstances working together in ways I could never have expected.

We are not the first to go through hard times. Because of my background, I find myself comforted by many Biblical passages. I am sure other religions have other passages that are also helpful.

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for though art with me. Thy rod and thy staff they comfort me. .  . Surely goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life. . . (Psalm 23: 4, 6)

. . . in all things God works for the good of those who love him . . . (Romans 8:28)

For me personally, more things have worked together for good than I would ever have dreamed possible. I will not rule out the possibility of this happening again in the future, regardless of what the external circumstances may look like.

Option 9. For those who are concerned about Climate Change

In my view, the changes we are encountering will bring a quick end to the use of fossil fuels. Thus, the concern that future fossil fuel use will cause rapid climate change is over-blown. If individuals would like to personally reduce their own fossil fuel use, I would suggest the following:

  • Stop eating meat now, especially that raised in our current industrial system.
  • Get rid of pets that are not providing support functions, such as hunting for food.
  • Spend less of your wages. With more of the money left in the bank or in paper investments, this money will lose value and thus will reduce spending on fossil fuel-based goods and services. (While theoretically this money could be lent out and reinvested, lack of credit availability will put an end to this practice.)
  • Use a bicycle for transport instead of a car, when possible. Or walk.
  • Purchase a more fuel efficient car, if you need to replace a current vehicle.
  • Turn down the heat in your home or apartment. Don’t use air conditioning.

I would suggest quitting your job as well, but if you quit your job, the job is likely to go to someone else, resulting in the same fossil fuel use for someone else.  Even stopping a business you own will not necessarily work, if another business will expand and take its place. If the business that ramps up is in a part of the world that uses coal as its primary fuel, stopping your local business may lead to an increase in world carbon dioxide emissions.

 

Skilling up for the Future

Off the keyboard of Jason Heppenstall

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Published on 22 Billion Energy Slaves on December 15, 2013

Greg demonstrates how to turn a branch into a longbow
Discuss this article at the Doomsteading Table inside the Diner
As the end of another year hovers into view and the long dark evenings invite reflection we naturally start to ask ourselves what the next year will bring. On the economic front, things don’t look as rosy as we are told they are. The global economy is still running on the fumes of smouldering credit notes and the only difference now is that political and financial elites are telling us via a compliant media that the economy is fixed. Yet debt levels in all sectors are continuing to rocket and the feeling remains that this fragile economy is like a huge and intricate sculpture made of glass and could shatter with the slightest tap. Where will the tap come from? Will it be a China/Japan war? Will the ascendent Islamic militarism spill over from Syria and Iraq and come home to haunt the perpetrating nations? Or could it be a relatively minor black duck event, such as Slovenia’s credit collapsing and causing a cascading failure?

Who knows, is the short answer, but things cannot keep on grinding along as they are now. I now find myself wishing that things would speed up a bit before it gets much worse. With the signing of the latest ‘free trade’ agreements last week we now have the spectre of trans-national corporations being able to sue national governments for ‘lost profits’ based on national policy. A few have been quick off the mark to launch legal suits against countries and just in the last few days we have seen a Canadian gold mining company sue the Costa Rican government for protecting its rain forests, Philip Morris  suing Australia for trying to stop teenagers from smoking and the nuclear power industry suing Germany for phasing out nuclear power.

It will surely only be a matter of time before the likes of Monsanto sue European countries for protecting their citizens from the failed experimental poison that is GM food. Signs that they are getting ready to do so are evident if you look for them in op-ed articles in the press. So, to me this seems like the end game of out-of-control capitalism. People might be meek and compliant in the United States but in many corners of Europe, South America and Africa this is decidedly not the case. Might we soon see the whip back as people, indebted and impoverished, can take it no longer? Is a revolution on the cards? I’ve been reading about the history of Poland recently and that country would seem to be a contender for launching a revolution – the Poles don’t take much crap.

These are big questions and it’s interesting to speculate on the weighty matters of our age – yet it’s easy to get caught in the headlights, transfixed on ‘the news’. But from a personal point of view, being well informed about world events doesn’t amount to much of a survival strategy – we need to do other things too. Knowing the intricate details of how hedge fund managers are looting retirees’ pensions might be interesting on a cerebral level but it won’t feed you or keep you warm.

And so I find myself reflecting on what I have done and learned that is of practical value in 2013, and what I need to do next year.

Firstly, a big part of my year has been taken up with my piece of woodland. Having only owned it a year I’ve done what all good permaculture manuals tell you to do: I’ve observed it. This has been useful. I now know which bits get the sun at different times of the year, what kind of soil I have (good, with a ph of 7), where frost pockets form and what kind of animals and plants thrive there. This has all been very useful but I couldn’t just sit there looking – time is pressing! – so I was also doing and learning. I’ve learned an awful lot about trees and the art of coppicing, and I’ve learned about soil and how to enrich it on the one acre field that forms the centre of the woodland.

But what should I do with all that wood? It is mostly oak and chestnut, so it is far too valuable for firewood. Instead I have been learning to make things with it and thus add value to it as much as I can. I went on a bow making course last week with my friend Greg Humphries. He showed me how to use an axe to sculpt a piece of ash into a flexible bow. I also learned how to use a shave horse, a drawknife and a froe – and I’ve had a local blacksmith make me up a set of these tools that should last me a lifetime.

A longbow is potentially useful (and very dangerous!), although for the time being I’m sticking to my .22 air gun for the rabbits and squirrels which ruin everything I try to grow there (my descent from mild-mannered ex-vegetarian to ‘take no prisoners’ small mammal hunter was swift). As someone put it to me ‘You can either have squirrels, or you can have a woodland.’ And given that I am planting at least a hundred trees – mostly fruits, nuts and berries – next year, I can’t afford to share them with invasive rodents no matter how cute they look. Especially when they taste so good in stews.

Next year I am planning to learn how to make charcoal with the offcuts. I’m also planning to make rustic garden furniture, fence posts and a set of trestles for my wife’s upholstery business. Furthermore, I’m inoculating some piles of logs with different types of fungus to sell to local fancy restaurants, attempting to plant mistletoe seeds into the boughs of some large oak trees to sell at Christmas, and about 20 other small money making ideas that I’ll detail later on.

I’ve learned to identify locally edible wild plants thanks to the delightful Rachel Lambert, who has taken me on a couple of coastal forays. She also showed me which seaweed is edible and I figured out for myself how to harvest and cook mussels and limpets, of which there are millions here. I haven’t been out mackerel fishing yet, but that’s something I plan to get up to speed with next year, along with learning to sail.

I’ve ramped up my home food and drink production this year, making several different wines for the first time (the dandelion was a great success, but the plum was a disaster). Next year I aim to make 100 bottles – not only are they good to drink but they make great barter items and presents. I’ve also made sauerkraut for the first time, and have been experimenting with different sprouting techniques for pulses and beans. I’ve also been experimenting with making cheap, nutritious food using as little energy as I can, and spend at least two hours a day cooking. Next year I’m making a straw box for slow-cooking (I have also picked up an old pressure cooker and a recipe book from the early 1980s). I’ve given up eating wheat after reading Wheat Belly – probably the best thing I have done in ages as it has cured all manner of ills at a stroke.

Community is probably more important than anything else when things start going wrong, so I’ve been trying to get to know as many interesting people as possible in the nine months I’ve been living in Cornwall. I’ve joined the local Transition group (Transition Penwith) and can count on meeting people who ‘get it’ through that. I have met some interesting people through our children’s school and have been a member of various other groups, such as a Tai Chi club. Furthermore I’m now working in a shop one day a week at the local organic farm – Bosavern Community Farm – and was even nominated to be a board member there (but decided to pull out – long story). This part of Cornwall is packed with people who are making their own – often unusual – way in the world, which is why we chose to live here in the first place.

Furthermore myself and the folks who own the woodland next door to ours have put together a network aimed at connecting woodland folk in west Cornwall who are interested in reviving coppicing and orchard arts. We were partly pushed into this by local NIMBYs, suspicious of what we ‘hippies’ are up to in the woods, but it has got off to a great start. At our first meeting we thought only a couple of people would turn up, but in the event there were 16 – and a further 50 expressing interest! It seems that there are a lot of people out there who are keen to see a revival of woodland work as part of a more sustainable future.

All of these networks, activities and groups eat a lot of time, meaning that I haven’t been able to devote much to another trans-national project that has kicked off – the SUN (Sustaining Universal Needs) Project – initiated by RE at the Doomstead Diner along with a few of this blog’s regular readers and commentators William Hunter Duncan and Lucid Dreams. This is another exciting JDI (just do it) project that isn’t encumbered by bureaucratic red tape or idealogical orthodoxy.

All of this relates to another skill that has been more or less forgotten by most people in this day and age – democracy. For a democracy to work properly it has to be made up of informed and engaged participants. Yet most people today think that democracy is something clever and smart that we export to the oil-rich countries we have just invaded, a bit like Burger King and KFC. Indeed, it has become almost interchangeable with ‘capitalism’. This idea of democracy has to be rooted up and thrown on the weed pile along with the other weeds such as ‘technological salvation’ and ‘ infinite economic growth’ and ‘efficiency’. Being part of a group and/or participating in local political debates is therefore of prime importance if we want to have a better future. It should be something they teach at school.

So, there are lots of skills to learn, and the thing is that you can’t learn them all. Anyone who tries to become completely self sufficient will either have to be very very capable indeed (and still will have to live a very frugal life) or will learn the hard way that no woman is an island.

So, those are my skills, tell me yours.

Parable of the Fisherman: Anonymity in a Digital World

Off the keyboard of RE

Published originally on The Burning Platform on December 12, 2010

Discuss this article at the Frostbite Falls Daily Rant Table inside the Diner

Among many other things, I am a Fisherman. Even on the frozen lake outside my cabin now as the cold blankets the Last Great Frontier, I will Fish. 20 Below Zero, I will put on my Red Fox Fur Mittens, and I will still fish. I cut a small hole in the Ice, and I drop in my line to see what comes up. Its cold here in Alaska now in December, and often I come up empty, but still I will fish. I do this because I am a Fisherman.

Here on the pages of TBP (and now on the Doomstead Diner), I am a Fisher of Men. It can be cold here on these pages also, and here also I often come up empty. I seek no money, I have no PayPal account for donations. I don’t even get a kickback from your clicks on Amazon as JimQ does. I have only one reason for what I write, for why I fish on these pages, and that is to Save as Many as I Can. With that purpose in mind, tonight I will write for you a Parable of the Fisherman.

I will begin this essay tonight with a song from Billy Joel about the Fishermen of Long Island, the “Downeaster Alexa”:

Well I’m on the Downeaster Alexa
And I’m cruising through Block Island Sound
I have charted a course to the Vineyard
But tonight I am Nantucket bound

We took on diesel back in Montauk yesterday
And left this morning from the bell in Gardiner’s Bay
Like all the locals here I’ve had to sell my home
Too proud to leave I worked my fingers to the bone

So I could own my Downeaster Alexa
And I go where the ocean is deep
There are giants out there in the canyons
And a good captain can’t fall asleep

I’ve got bills to pay and children who need clothes
I know there’s fish out there but where God only knows
They say these waters aren’t what they used to be
But I’ve got people back on land who count on me

So if you see my Downeaster Alexa
And if you work with the rod and the reel
Tell my wife I am trolling Atlantis
And I still have my hands on the wheel

Now I drive my Downeaster Alexa
More and more miles from shore every year
Since they tell me I can’t sell no stripers
And there’s no luck in swordfishing here

I was a bayman like my father was before
Can’t make a living as a bayman anymore
There ain’t much future for a man who works the sea
But there ain’t no island left for islanders like me

Over in “The Real Terrorists” thread based on a Gonzalo Lira article, Stuck and I began discussing the moral and ethical issues involved in becoming a Soldier, which can label you either a Terrorist or Patriot, depending on the perspective of who writes the History Books, or who issues the current Propaganda. I pulled in a Pop Culture reference, the tag line from the AI WOPR program in the film “Wargames”, where the only “solution” the WOPR Computer found to the problem of Tic Tac Toe was not to play the game at all. Smokey of course flamed the reference, because understanding pop culture metaphors and their significance is beyond the intellectual capacity of the mentally challenged. Regardless of what such dimwitted, ethically bankrupt and morally repulsive Napalm Artists will write here though, not playing the game is a possible choice in many ways as we proceed through this spin down. In this post, I will present a few LEGAL means by which an individual can attempt to remove himself as much as possible from the “grid”, and not be forced into becoming a Tool for Evil.

As Stuck indicated in his posting, the choice of not playing the game isn’t always available. For the Iraqui or Afghani who has Ruskie or FSofA Soldiers occupying his towns and raping his wives and daughters, he’s got no choice, he has to fight, or surrender and become a Slave to the Conquistadores.

For the Sons and Daughters of J6P when Conscription starts, their choices will also be limited, as it will probably be a whole lot harder in this go round to escape to Canada than it was in the Vietnam Era, not to mention the Hosers will probably be conscripting up Soldiers as well. However, at least for the moment while the Military remains a Mercenary Force here, our young adults still do have the Choice available not to play the game. The guys who are sitting behind consoles at Norfolk or aboard Carriers flying drones didn’t HAVE to sign up, although with fewer Jobs available all the time besides selling your soul to become an Illuminati Killing Machine they are in a sense forced into this choice. Not quite so directly as someone living in the War Zone is though.

Much more than in previous Fourth Turning cycles, because of the Internet many more people are becoming aware now that this fight isn’t so much between Nation States as it is a fight between the Haves and the Have Nots. This knowledge is likely to become more widespread as the economic spin down proceeds, and it will be very interesting to see how the newly conscripted soldiers will handle what will increasingly become maintaining a Police State inside their own home countries, rather than fighting foreign wars. As with the Collapse of the Roman Empire, my guess would be that the Army will eventually break up into factions, and there will be many Assassinations of Illuminati by Rogue Generals in the various Armies seeking Power for themselves. Locally, said incipient Warlords will confiscate the property of most typical biz owners and landholders, creating small Feudal type states.

Now, in this scenario, at the beginning those who Rebel against the Illuminati and Boil them in Oil are the Good Guys. However, they can quickly Morph into being the Bad Guys once they become the Oppressors in their own local neighborhoods, so in many cases the process will repeat itself in a Fractal fashion as along the way former Good Guys are corrupted by Evil and become Bad Guys.

Remaining Alive as a Good Guy through this whole deal is a matter of luck for the most part, although good Planning and Preparation can help you in Not Playing the Game for a while, until the Big Show comes directly to a Theatre Near You. You can also help yourself by making Connections inside your local community and beginning the process of transitioning to a locally sustainable economy.

What are the most important Choices a Young Adult can make today to remain on the Good side of the line, and not end up becoming a Killing Machine for the Illuminati, and becoming Damned to Everlasting Torment Burning in the Fires of Hell? The first thing would be to move as far away as you can from the center of industrial society. The second would be to operate in all Cash, cashing your paychecks as soon as you get them if you are still employed. This will make your life harder to track in a database .Third would be getting rid of any Internet Accounts in your name, and a Cell Phone in your name. Use a prepaid Cell Phone for communications, and buy the minutes with Cash. Be ready to dispose of the Phone when TSHTF.

Buy a laptop at Walmart with Cash. Only sign on to the internet from Publicly Available WiFi locations, for so long as they still exist. To do Transactions on the Internet, use prepaid Visa Cards you buy with Cash, for as long as those are available (discovered since this is impossible to do on many websites, most significantly PayPal). Set up 2 or 3 separate Google Accounts using different prepaid Cell Phone numbers and do it from different computers you do not own, preferably in widely dispersed locations as you move outward from the center of civilization.

None of this is Illegal, its just making yourself as Anonymous as possible in the Digital Age. There are of course still other ways you can be tracked, such as with your Car and its Registration. If you have an Older Relative, preferably not with the same last name or better yet just a friend of an older relative (more removal), ask that person to register a used car you buy with Cash from an individual seller, not a Car Lot. Give this Older person Cash to pay the insurance. Somebody in a Nursing Home is a very good choice for this. Again this is not illegal, the Old Person is just “loaning” you his car, since he is not able to use it while stuck in the Nursing Home on a Respirator.

Do not Buy Property, and if possible do not even sign a Rental lease anywhere, find someplace you can rent month to month, or look in the classifieds for people seeking roommates, and again pay your share of the rent to them in CASH. Avoid putting your name or signature on ANYTHING. No loans, no leases, no bank accounts, NADA. Anything that requires a Signature, avoid like the PLAGUE. There shouldn’t be too much need for you to use Snail Mail, but if you do need to set up a Post Office Box and be ready to abandon it when TSHTF. Still, I would advise against setting one up because it will pin down your location.

Your Driver’s License is your greatest Vulnerability, and Driving is your greatest Risk in trying to stay Anonymous and off the radar. Go in TODAY and re-up your license for as long as you can, some States its 6 years before you have to go in and show up at the DMV to renew. However, once TSHTF, if you are Dodging the Draft, the minute you get pulled over for having a broken tail light is the minute you end up getting a Buzz Cut for Boot Camp when the Gestapo asks to see your Driver’s License. So practice being SCRUPULOUSLY legal when you drive, and limit your driving as much as possible. Do as much of your Commuting as you can by Bicycle or Public Transportation. Reserve your Car only for Emergency Bug Outs.

Obviously, if you are Employed anywhere you collect a Regular Paycheck attached to your Social Security Number, you are immediately Vulnerable. So the sooner you get off the grid of regular jobs with regular paychecks the better, though this is of course pretty difficult. However, there are many things you can do for CASH if you are young and strong, once you migrate out to the boonies you can do yard work, do painting or other house maintenance tasks or make like an Illegal Alien and follow the Ag Seasons, doing work harvesting or planting in various locales. If you are a good Mechanic, drop cards all around the neighborhood letting people know you will fix their cars CHEAP. My nephew who was UE for a few months kept his head above water this way. He raced on Dirt Tracks in better times, so his Garage is practically as good as a commercial one. He can yank out an engine and disassemble and reassemble it in a day. He had to do that after almost every race anyhow with his race car. If you are really bright with some money to wager, you might even stay ahead by front running the Fed for a while longer here. LOL. Of course, doing that through an anonymous account is quite difficult I am sure.

Ultimately of course, the best option is to get off the grid of money altogether and be able to find food yourself to barter with. I cannot recommend more anything for a young adult than becoming a Fisherman with your own boat, and moving to a location where there is still good fisherie. I have one friend who lives this way, he has a 30’ Downeaster he uses to fish all summer, he sells most of his catch for CASH. Winters, he plows snow, also for CASH. Sadly, we haven’t had a lot of snow so far this winter, so he is hurting some, but he has plenty of food in the larder, so his family is not starving here, and no SNAP card either. I started this post with Billy Joel’s sad paean to the Fisherman of Montauk and Long Island Sound, but to my mind it is the Fishermen who will make it though the Zero Point here. To do this though, you must place yourself in a neighborhood where there is still a good fisherie. The GOM is NOT a good choice here, unless you figure Corexit is a good Vitamin Supplement. I would advise though outfitting your Downeaster for a Sail Rig of course.

Like Bruce Springsteen in “My Home Town”, in the song the “Downeaster Alexa”, Billy Joel explores the loss of a livelihood as industrialization and financialization stole a way of life from the working man in this country. The Fishing Grounds of Montauk and the properties in the Hamptons these folks lived on became priced out of their affordability as the Pigmen of Wall Street made this property their Playground. For the Steel Mills of Pittsburgh and the Factories of Atlantic City, The Boss was RIGHT. Those jobs ain’t never coming back to these shores. For the Fishermen in Long Island Sound though? It may take some time, but one day they WILL return, far into the future no doubt.  .

 

I was eight years old and running with a dime in my hand
Into the bus stop to pick up a paper for my old man
Id sit on his lap in that big old buick and steer as we drove through town
Hed tousle my hair and say son take a good look around
This is your hometown, this is your hometown
This is your hometown, this is your hometown

In `65 tension was running high at my high school
There was a lot of fights between the black and white
There was nothing you could do
Two cars at a light on a saturday night in the back seat there was a gun
Words were passed in a shotgun blast
Troubled times had come to my hometown
My hometown, my hometown, my hometown

Now main streets whitewashed windows and vacant stores
Seems like there aint nobody wants to come down here no more
They’re closing down the textile mill across the railroad tracks
Foreman says these jobs are going boys and they aint coming back to
Your hometown, your hometown, your hometown, your hometown

Last night me and kate we laid in bed talking about getting out
Packing up our bags maybe heading south
Im thirty-five we got a boy of our own now
Last night I sat him up behind the wheel and said son take a good
Look around
This is your hometown

Decreasing opportunities for “paying” jobs will force many people off the monetary grid. In the end, this is how this monetary system will be destroyed, regardless of what Helicopter Ben does here. You will have to find ways to earn your living that are local and do not demand money as an intermediary. To truly KILL the Banksters, you have to “Go Galt”, and stop using their money. You will be forced into it eventually, but if you start NOW learning how to do it, you might be able to NOT PLAY THE GAME. For a while anyhow, until the Big Show Comes to a Theatre Near You. Then you will have to make your choices, and staying on the Good side of the line will always be difficult. It may cost you your life to stay on that side of the line, but its worth it for your Everlasting Soul to do so, even if you do not believe in the Afterlife. After all, if this is the ONLY life you will ever get and you only have ONE chance going out of it to be on the side of Good or Evil, do you want to leave the earth and your corporeal existence as an enabler of EVIL? I sure don’t. When the Big Show Comes to a Theatre Near You, when your own existence and that of your loved ones is Threatened, there is no more Hiding. Then you pull out ALL the stops, and you TAKE NO PRISONERS. Pick a means to fight and make your Final Stand against Evil. Whatever means you pick, make sure you take out as many of the Enemy as possible before you go to Glory in the Kingdom of Heaven. That is just the way I see it though, I can’t speak for everyone of course, and Jesus Christ probably would not agree with that philosophy. But then, Jesus lived 2000 years ago, not now, and he was thoroughly immersed in the paradigm of the Ag Society as it had developed in his time. We are in the post Ag Society now, on our way BACK and REVERSE ENGINEERING our way to a much different lifestyle than we have known over the last couple of centuries. If the good guys WIN this battle, for all our children who make it through the Zero Point it will be a Better Tomorrow.

RE

The Thin Line Between Global Collapse and Faith

Off the keyboards of Ashvin Pandurangi & JT

Published on Picturing Christ on October 3, 2012

Discuss this article at the Epicurean Delights Smorgasboard inside the Diner

I am pleased to present my first guest post here on Picturing Christ – an article by reader “JT”. His article focuses on one of the most basic questions that inspired me to start this blog in the first place – how do we truly respond to the systemic trials and tribulations that humanity faces in the upcoming decades? There are many blogs and websites dedicated to documenting these predicaments and offering advice on how to prepare for them.

Some of them even venture into questions of spirituality and faith from time to time. My own writings at The Automatic Earth over the last few months regularly touched on these issues. However, I recently started to feel like the constant divide between our Earthly predicaments and my spirituality was much too forced and arbitrary. I had the sense that there was a fundamental flaw in the process of offering insights and advice when they were artificially divorced from spiritual truths.

So, with that in mind, I was very glad to hear that fellow Christian and reader of PC also felt the same way, and decided to put those concerns into writing. As Christians, we cannot hesitate to rely on the word of God when it comes to all spheres of our lives. The fact that we may be talking about economics, finance, geopolitics, energy and environmental issues, psychology, etc. shouldn’t make a bit of difference. All of these issues are inextricably woven into the underlying philosophies of spirituality and faith, and, specifically, the God of the Bible and His word.

We are now living in a world where the structures that have come to dominate human civilization are crumbling. Financial contagion from the global banking crisis has spread to all regions of the world and is destroying economic growth. Tensions between Western nations and those in both the Near and Far East are growing, with several theaters of war already firmly established. Our total reliance on fossil fuels and industrial processes for global economic activity has destroyed our natural ecosystems and warmed our atmosphere to extremely dangerous levels, while also depleting those resources and creating the potential for systemic environmental, economic, political and social collapse.

So, before getting to JT’s excellent article, I would like to offer my own personal (yet brief) opinion on these grave matters of collapse and faith. The trying circumstances and events that confront all of us in the years ahead are exactly those which require us to remain resolute in the unconditional truth and morality of our faith. Jesus tells us that there will come a time in which “many will fall away and betray one another and hate one another… and because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold“. (Matthew 24:10, 12).

I believe that whether we are actually living in that specific time or not is irrelevant, because the underlying lesson applies to all times of tribulation before the second return of Christ. And there is no doubt in my mind that severe tribulations have already started to descend upon us, and that they will only grow more imminent and threatening to humanity over time. Therefore, we must always remember to be on guard and ensure that we are NOT the ones who are falling away from God’s truth, the ones hating each other or the ones watching our love for our fellow humans grow cold.

If our understanding and fear of systemic collapse ever begins to lead us towards such a mindset, then, regardless of whether we are physically prepared for Earthly concerns or not, we must immediately re-orient ourselves back towards our faith in Christ.

That being said, here is JT:

THE THIN LINE BETWEEN GLOBAL COLLAPSE AND FAITH

Having first read Ashvin’s writings on The Automatic Earth, I believe that many who are reading this article may be walking a path similar to mine and dealing with the same issues related to systemic collapse. I would like to pose a question to you all that has occupied my thoughts for some time – can Christians also be “preppers”? Can we honestly say that we are following Christ while we are also preparing for the collapse of the world systems around us?

There is one particular evening that I will never forget. My wife, I and another couple were having dinner, and we all considered ourselves to be committed, born again Christians. The topic of preparedness eventually came up in conversation. This was many years ago, before the financial disasters entered mainstream awareness and before peak oil was a serious concern. Many of our Christian brothers and sisters were already storing food, learning how to garden and how to recreate some of the lost arts and crafts, such as grinding grains, canning, shoe-making and tailoring.

At this time my wife and I still had young children, and we lived in a relatively wealthy suburb outside of Boston. While I was raised in a comfortable middle class home, my wife grew up in a world where a bowl of oatmeal or tomato soup was often your main meal of the day. She understood deprivation and what happens when things stop functioning well in society. Even so, her parents had taught her to always rely on God to get her through any situation. The discussion of preparing for disaster or social upheaval always made her uncomfortable.

At some time during the dinner, my friend announced that, in addition to food storage and other steps of preparation, he had purchased a gun to defend himself and his family in the event that the economic and sociopolitical situation became chaotic and violent. After hearing this revelation, my wife became incredibly agitated. She spit out her words with a force that surprised me:

“So does that mean you will shoot me and my children when we come to you begging for food? Where in the Gospels do you find that??”

My friend quickly tried to regroup, “Of course I wouldn’t shoot you or the kids. You are part of our extended family. We would share and make do.”

My wife was not to be consoled. “So we get to stand behind the barricade and watch you shoot down other starving women and children?”

Needless to say, dinner was over for that night. We have still remained friends, but the topic of preparedness is resolutely avoided when all of us are together. As I have become more aware of the issues of peak oil, as well as the immense fragility of our economic systems, the question has once again returned. As a devout Christian, should I focus on preparing for potential disaster or should I just rely on God?

Scripture does not seem to directly answer the question. The clear meaning of Matthew 6:34 is that we should not worry about tomorrow at the expense of today. So is preparing for a radically different future the same thing as “worrying”? More importantly, is prepping an attempt to rely upon our own devices rather than God? Does Matthew 6:34 prohibit us from acting on the knowledge that things are changing, and not for the better?

It becomes an even more puzzling issue when you consider the parable of the foolish bridesmaids described in Matthew. Jesus was clearly chiding them for their lack of preparation when he described the wise bridesmaids responding to the foolish who asked for their lamp oil – “since there will not be enough for us and for you, go rather to the dealers and buy for yourselves” (Matthew 25:9).

Yet, this parable was referring to the fact that we must have a certain level of awareness and preparation if we are going to enter the Kingdom of God when Christ returns. Jesus was mainly referring to a need for spiritual preparation, rather than a strictly physical process of preparation. There is no doubt that the last days will be characterized by much physical hardship, but it is critical to remember that we must always choose spiritual salvation and integrity over physical survival, if we are ever put in a position where such a choice between the two must be made.

The miracle of Jesus multiplying the five barley loaves and the two fish also tells us that Jesus has things under control and He will provide the necessary resources for us when we lack them. However, even He used the fish and loaves of a boy who had prepared for the day’s journey (John 6:9-11). And, once again, these miracles primarily point to the spiritual provisions of God in times of need, rather than physical ones (even though He may often provide us with both). So, after wrestling with this subject for several years, I have come to a formulation in my mind as to what I need to do and how I need to handle the issue of preparedness.

I have no issue with acquiring knowledge about the predicaments we face and what potential outcomes are likely to come. Knowledge is an invaluable tool, just like a hammer or a rope. It can be used for both good and evil. I believe that Christ wants us to be knowledgeable – to capture all knowledge that we can and to put it to use for God, His people and His Kingdom. Therefore, I have no problem with learning all that I can about these issues or trying to educate others about them as well. As we learn in the Bible, “an intelligent heart acquires knowledge, and the ear of the wise seeks knowledge” (Proverbs 18:15).

It is not wrong to be prepared, either. Hurricane Katrina, for example, showed me how our government cannot handle a single hurricane that was predicted to arrive many days before and impacted only one major metropolitan area. Therefore, it is clear that we will be on our own with all sorts of calamities, especially those which happen simultaneously and feed off of each other, and especially when our governments are even more strained financially. To have food, water, medicine set aside is to be prudent, as is to have a plan of action to secure our safety and the safety of others.

God told Joseph to store up the grain in the seven years of plenty so that the people of Egypt would have enough in the years of famine (Genesis 41:47-49), and Joseph was blessed for heeding God’s wisdom. We have a responsibility to be able to care of ourselves, our children, our parents, our communities and perhaps even strangers. This responsibility lasts every day of our lives – not just when disaster strikes. Saving and storing some of the surplus God has given us is actually a part of this daily duty. We are to be good stewards of the abundance that He has blessed us with, and we can pray that our blessings continue as they did with Joseph.

In stark contrast to that charitable nature, God has called very few (if any) of us to emulate Rambo or the Terminator, even in the face of extreme threats or adversity. Our Christian life, being only one part of the whole body of Christ, is necessarily a community life. Wherever we find ourselves, it is our duty to look at the needs of those around us and to work together to fill those needs. Part of our preparation needs to be the strengthening of bonds with our Christian brothers and sisters so we can carry each other through difficult times, rather than alienating them or treating them as hostile competitors.

Our own individual or family preparations should not overcome the rest of our lives. We should take prudent steps to care for ourselves, family and neighbors, but we cannot allow ourselves to become obsessed with those preparations. The acts of worship, work, education, community development, charitable works, etc., are all important and cannot be set aside to collect more stuff or to spend all of our time “getting ready” for collapse. As Jesus makes clear, we cannot ignore the present in the hope of having secured the future.

Jesus commands us to share our abundance and our skills with the less fortunate among us (Matthew 25:44-45). This command applies regardless of whether we are living in a pre-collapse or post-collapse environment. Does this mean we have to open our pantry to the desperate masses, so that we are completely wiped out and our families are left to die? I don’t think so. Does it mean we have to be alert and open to the needs of others around us and attempt to ease their suffering whenever we have reasonable opportunities to do so? Yes.

What is the limit of our charity? How far do we have to go? I don’t know, and I doubt there are any absolute answers. Each situation will present itself differently and, ultimately, we must above all seek to do God’s will (not our own) in each individual case. We need to be open to the idea that God may want us to share even when we are unsure if there is enough for ourselves and our family. There is no doubt that serving God will sometimes call for radical departures from our “normal” sense of what’s appropriate.

Another important question is whether Christians should use force to protect themselves, their families and their property? This is a very difficult issue for me. I do not own a gun. Several years ago, I would have unequivocally and judgmentally stated that Christians should not own guns; that Christians should never resort to violence. I would have said to rely on God, and He will save you. Recently, I have moved away from that absolute position.

There are instances in the Bible when God calls upon the strong to protect the weak, and we can all imagine circumstances when only physical force will stop the perpetration of hideous evil against us or those close to us. The Bible clearly states that “whoever shed’s man’s blood, by man shall his blood be shed” (Genesis 9:6), which implies that those people whose actions threaten or lead to imminent death of others have removed themselves from God’s protection and have subjected themselves to the proportional justice of man.

I have come to see that Christians, just like anyone else, may be required to defend themselves and those who God has placed under their protection. At the same time, though, I believe that the use of force on another human being should be avoided if there is any possibility of doing so. Such force should only be used after very careful and prayerful  consideration of the alternatives. The Bible repeatedly tells us that we should never be quick to “repay evil with evil” (1 Peter 3:9, Romans 12:17), and that we should always rely on our prayers to seek out God’s guidance and His will.

Therefore, physical force should be used in the smallest amount required in any given situation. Overcoming our enemies by wounding or killing them is never something about which we should be proud or about which we should gloat, but rather a course of action that we should mourn and regret with every bone in our body and all of our hearts. God is truly in control of everything, and once we have taken prudent steps to secure the basic well-being of ourselves, our families and our neighbors, we must rely on God to take care of the rest.

We have to remember the loaves of bread and the fish that Jesus provided to the masses. We have to be like the widow confronted by a creditor who wished to take her two sons away for the debts owed by her husband. All she possessed was a small jar of oil, but she trusted in God’s prophet, Elisha, and her oil was multiplied greatly by God so that she could pay off the debts and live off of the surplus (2 Kings 4:1-7). Many Christians may look on these events as irrelevant ancient history, but God is still very active in the world today. Many people find themselves buried in debt today, just as the widow was then, and God’s grace towards His children remains the same.

Therefore, be not afraid. The most important part of Christian prepping is to realize that God has not abandoned us. To paraphrase Saint Paul – governments will fail, pensions and 401K’s will fail, banks and commerce will fail, electricity and running water will fail, our political and social institutions will fail, but God’s love will never fail us (1 Corinthians 13:8-10). We must carry the joy of knowing Christ into the future. No matter what the future brings, He will be there with us. We need to find peace and we need to quiet our anxieties with this knowledge. We need to let this knowledge make us joyful and loving in the face of trials and tribulations.

The thoughts contained in this article are my own. They are a reflection of my own struggles to follow Jesus in a world gone mad. I claim no special knowledge or understanding of scripture or God’s will. No one should feel that I am telling them that they have to do things exactly the way I do, or believe exactly as I believe. Please do not feel judged by any of these words. God has given each of us a conscience and, if it be His will, He will put the Holy Spirit into our hearts and minds to show us what he wants for and from each of us as individuals. We each have our own walk of faith to follow.

God may be telling some of you to build a fortress and stock it with weapons and supplies to last a lifetime. To others, He may be telling them to renounce all of their worldly possessions and, like Saint Francis of Assisi, approach the world as naked as the moment they were born. He may be telling them to rely solely on God to clothe them, just as He did with Adam and Eve after the Fall (Genesis 3:21), and to fulfill their needs. Either way, I pray that my thoughts can be of some assistance to those who have the same burning questions.

And I recommend that everyone solemnly pray to Jesus and listen very carefully for His answers. Since we were all created as unique beings, those answers will no doubt be unique for each of us. I hope that I will receive comments and feedback from those who are reading this. God knows that I have much more to learn and that your comments will perhaps open my eyes to perspectives that I have not yet considered, and will help me ask even more questions that I have yet to formulate.

We are brothers and sisters in this journey. Please be gentle with me and with each other in your comments and replies. It saddens me to see the vitriol and petty remarks that many commentators dump on each other in some of the blogs that I follow. There are many people who are mean and judgmental just for the sake of building up their prideful images of themselves and stroking their egos. However, as followers of Christ, our goal should be to abandon our egos and our pride, and to do everything we can to support each other and build each other up.

Peace and Hope,

JT

The Uncoolness of DOOM

Off the keyboard of the Old Horseman

Published on Old Horseman on January 3,2011

Discuss this article at the Epicurean Delights Smorgasbord inside the Diner

It seems that a general sense of impending doom is going mainstream in recent years.  It’s getting harder and harder for many people to fully ignore the the signs and pretend that a return to conventional prosperity is just around the next bend…  In fact, a growing fraction of the population is becoming well-aware of the fact that there will be no real “recovery”, and that Business As Usual is gone for good.

Perhaps as a coping mechanism, the bulk of these doomers envision a “cool” kind of doom.  Usually imagining one extreme or the other in future scenarios.

The light side of Cool Doom is a vision of some kind of Great Depression v2.0.  Sure, gas and food will get expensive.  The economy will continue to collapse.  But those who think ahead, plant backyard Victory Gardens and invest in high MPG automobiles will be okay.  Especially if they “re-localize”, support farmers markets, and think in terms of “building community”.

The dark side of Cool Doom is the hardcore, post-apocalyptic vision of the future.  Hiding in bunkers from radioactive fallout.  Fighting off mutant zombies and jackbooted stormtroopers.  Just like in a Sci-Fi fantasy or video game.
The handy thing about both versions of Cool Doom is that they relieve the doomer of the need to make any REAL changes in his or her lifestyle.

The light side Cool Doom means you take up gardening as a hobby and get a hybrid instead of a big SUV.  Maybe you actually talk to some of your suburban neighbors or “near-by” family about emergency plans, and stock some dry goods and bottled water.  No big deal, really.

Cool Hippie Doom

 The dark side of Cool Doom means that you take up shooting and gun collecting as a hobby.  Maybe stock a Bug-Out Bag, or even remake your basement into a bunker.  The kind of stuff that’ll let you make a kick-ass last stand long enough to see those who laughed at your doomerism get munched by zombies before you go out in a blaze of glory yourself!

It's all fun and games until somebody's brain gets nommed

 Almost nobody likes to think about the more likely scenario: Uncool Doom…  No hippie-dippy kumbaya neosuburbia…  No mushroom clouds or Mad Max…  Just an irregular, but increasingly steep decline.  Fuel getting more and more expensive, then less and less available until driving at all becomes problematic.  At the same time employment opportunities dry-up, meaning you’ll need to drive even farther to find decent work.  With so much competition for ever-fewer jobs, pay will be miserably low, while goods and services, which will be in shrinking supply, cost more and more inflation-devalued dollars.  Knowing they can’t afford high bills, people will cut-back on their household power usage, only to have the utility companies compensate for below-expected demand/income by raising rates and cutting staff and upkeep on the already decrepit power grid.

The problem with this relatively boring, Uncool Doom is that you actually have to make real, sweeping changes in your life to prepare for it.

The private automobile is most obviously doomed.  You need to plan for a future without one, which probably means moving to a city where public transportation is available, a reasonably self-contained small town where everything you need in within walking or bicycling distance, or out to a self-sufficient farmstead from which you won’t need to venture often and which can produce fuel for transportation when it is necessary.  The auto-dependent suburbs will continue to fail, and faux-doomsteads (auto-dependent suburban households out in the sticks) will fail even faster.

The fiat “dollar” economy is disintegrating, and paper wealth of all kinds is going with it.  The whole system of people being employed in make-work occupations to be paid in dollars which they can then trade for everything they need is hopelessly inefficient and cannot long endure.  Already jobs are being phased-out in favor of people relying more directly on Government for a growing number of the things they need.  This means that you either need to reconcile yourself to being a ward of the state (giving the Government ever-increasing control over your life), or you have to become independent of the Government and its currency system.

Widespread GovCo infrastructure and goods distribution is a reflection of the now-deceased growth economy.  It won’t take an EMP from a nuclear attack to kill much of the power grid.  It’ll only take the cost of supporting so many miles of power cables to supply a decreasing and increasingly moneyless population of customers.  It won’t take zombie attacks to shut-down the rural supermarkets.  It’ll just take increasing operation costs and spiraling prices nobody can afford.  The time will come when, even if you have a mattress full of Federal Reserve Notes, there won’t be anything available to buy with them outside of the major cities.

The probable form of doom is uncool because you CAN prepare for it.  But this preparation means doing uncool things like moving out of suburbia and away from “normal” life.  Largely disconnecting from the people and groups you know are doomed, even if they are family.  And planning for a vision of the future most people absolutely refuse to see.

This is how most people will perceive you.     Cool Doom can really be a cop-out.  Light-side Cool Doomers imagine that not that much needs to be done, and can blame future failure on the lack of social enlightenment in society.  Dark-side Cool Doomers can imagine that nothing they could do would be effective against the living Hell of the future anyway, so why bother?
But let’s face it.  History tends to be uncool in real-time.

Knarf plays the Doomer Blues

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