Bugout Bags 1

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Published on the Doomstead Diner on February 21, 2016

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Bug-Out-Bag-homeThere are probably 1000's of articles circulating in the Prepper Blogosphere with Bugout Bag (BOB) recommendations.  99.9% of them focus on what you should have INSIDE the BOB, and probably 90% of those focus on Wilderness Survival, so the contents tend to include stuff like campsaws, hatchets, firestarting materials etc, etc, etc.  Not to mention all the Gunz & Ammo it would be good to have along, if you are built like Arnold and can hump 200 lbs of gear around out in the bush on your back. How fucking realistic is this?

It is all well and good if you really figure on bugging out into the wilderness when TSHTF, but 99% of us are not going to be heading out into the bush when TEOTWAWKI arrives in your neighborhood, Yours Truly in particular.   I'm just not suited for that shit anymore, cripples don't last too long in the bush. What most people will be doing is similar to what the Syrians are currently doing, which is migrating to GTFO of Dodge in the old neighborhood, and then try to find a new neighborhood that is not doing quite so bad where they can set up shop and hopefully find gainful employment of some type.

Now, if you have a vehicle and there is still gas available at the pump, you're not too limited here on the bugout bag cntents, a typical SUV can hold a dozen of them with all sorts of great preps enclosed.  But of course, your typical Syrian doesn't have an SUV and even if he did he has to leave it behind for the trip to Sweden on the Refugee Highway.  All he can take with him he has to be able to realistically carry at least some of the time, but mostly heave it in and out of buses, trains and planes on the way to the Promised Land.

A similar situation exits if Katrina is bearing down on your hometown of NOLA, Wildfires are about to consume your Idaho Doomstead, or a Tsunami just washed your LA Condo out to sea. lol..  If you have a car, you may be able to bugout in that with a dozen large bugout bags, but what if there is a traffic jam or no gas left on the route out of Dodge and you have to abandon the vehicle?  You no longer can take the whole dozen bags with you, only what you can realistically carry, or Pull by Hand or by Bike if you have one of those available.

Thus the reason for this article, which is not to talk about what stuff your Bugout Bag should have in it, but just what should your Final Bugout Bag arrangement be, where you can carry the max amount of preps but still use the public transport systems of taxis, buses, trains and planes to get from TSHTF location to you are at to the not-yet-SHTF location you would like to get to?

RE-BackpackI happen to be expert on this topic for a few reasons.  First, early on in my life I spent several summers Interrailing around Europe, carrying everything with me I needed on the journey in a Backpack or wheeled luggage.  A fairly standard camping backpack on the first trip, but I changed methodologies on later trips so I could carry more, but have less shit stacked on my back at the same time.  Europe is NOT the Wilderness!  A hikers backpack is far from ideal for this sort of travel.  Train stations have smooth cement platforms, wheeled bags & carts work GREAT on them!  WTF do you want to have 100 lbs on your back when you can drop it on a dolly and just pull it behind you?

Second reason I am an expert is from my years driving OTR as a Big Rig driver.  In those years I reduced my personal possesions for carrying with me on the road to 5 bags/containers and a thermoelectric cooler.  They were fairly large, but not so large I couldn't easily take them out of the truck and transfer to my car when I got off the road for a break.  Of course in both cases I had a motorized vehicle with good cargo capacity, I didn't have to carry all the stuff around with me walking and yanking the shit around behind me.

Upon moving to Alaska, I reduced still further, so I could make the trip up here via plane and make my way through airports at least to the shuttle bus area to load my gear onto the bus.  This got rid of the 2 pvc containers, substituting 2 large soft side wheeled suitcases. Also a wheeled duffel bag, a wheeled carryon bag and a medium size backpack considered a "personal item" for carryon purposes also.  The 3 larger bags went into checked baggage, the 2 smaller ones came with me on the plane in the passenger compartment.  In those days fortunately you did not have to pay by the bag for checked baggage, today it would cost me an extra $75 on every flight to bring so much baggage.

This represents pretty much the maximum amount of stuff you can haul around on public transportation of various types, but I can tell you from experience it is pretty unwieldy.  You need to make 2 trains of your 4 wheeled bags, pulling one train with each hand with the backpack strapped to your back.  This gives you a very wide walking profile and you have no hands free to open doors, so unless the door is automatic and very wide, you have to bring one train through the door while leaving the other outside, leave that train and go back out to get the other one, rinse and repeat every time you have to pass through a door.  Its also quite heavy, which isn't too bad on level surfaces but anytime you go up or down an incline it becomes a problem.  Going up it is hard to pull, going down…they have no BRAKES!  lol.

For a 1 shot deal like the move to Alaska, all I had to do was negotiate 2 airports, I was dropped off and picked up in carz by friends on both ends so this was manageable.  If you are going to be on the road for a significant amount of time, this is just way too much stuff to be hauling around.

On my trips Interrailing around Europe, I found 3 bags to be maximum, a backpack, a wheeled carryon bag and a wheeled duffel.  On the train platforms to board and debark trains, I could carry the duffel and carryon one in each hand, heave them onto the train, board myself and pick them up, then find a seat and heave them onto the overhead rack.  I didn't have to check any baggage this way, which is good to do if you can because you won't have lost luggage problems.  If you are riding trains every other day or so for a couple of months, this is bound to happen to you eventually.

On planes nowadays as mentioned also you have the issue that checked bags cost money along with the possibility of being lost, but since you probably don't fly that often, for the additional carrying capacity a large suitcase or duffel gives you, it is reasonable to add one of these to your final bugout bag set.  However, it should only contain relatively large and bulky items that it won't kill you to lose or have to leave behind at some point.  All your most valuable stuff should be in the two bags that never leave your sight, your carryon wheely bag and your personal item sized backpack.  We'll look at those first for charateristics, features and quality you want to look for in those bags.

Carryon Wheely Bag

The airlines have a maximum dimension set for this bag, so it fits properly in the overhead compartments on the larger jets.  If you have such a bag with you on small regional jets, you're going to have to give it up on the jetway, but you can at least watch as they load it on the plane.  The Max dimensions are 9"X14"X22", so you should buy one that uses up every last inch of that, plus maybe cheats a little with some external pockets that if full would make the bag exceed these dimensions.

For this reason I don't recommend the hard-sided carryon bags, but rather the soft side ones made from ballistic nylon.  There are leather ones which are quite beautiful pieces of luggage, but they are outrageously expensive, they weigh a lot more and they are targets for thieves.  You don't want to look like a rich tourist as you haul your life possesions around with you on public transportation! important quality here is the wheels.  Here you don't want to scrimp.  Do NOT buy a wheely bag with cheap plastic wheels.  Look for one that has high quality in-line skate wheels with caged ball bearing hubs.  If you are going to be pulling the thing around on pavement and sidewalks besides the smooth floors of an airport, this is essential.

After the wheels, the next important aspect of quality are the exterior Carry Handles you will use when you need to pick the bag up and heave it onto overhead racks or on and off trains.  The bag will probably be fairly heavy, jam packed with some tools as well as clothing,and cheap handles will either give way themselves after a while or they will rip the bag itself, essentially ruining the bag.  You want good double stiched attachments with leather reinforcment at the attachment points.  There should be 2 handles, one on the top and one on the side, depending on how you need to pick up the bag at any given time.

Another great feature a few of these bags have is the ability to convert it into a backpack.  They have shoulder straps hiden inside a zippered compartment, and if for some reason you need to put it on your back these are great to have.  A typical example is if you have to climb a few flights of stairs with the bag.

Finally, one of the "cheats" some of these bags have is an exterior compartment which will detach from the bag to become it's own daypack, which is great to have once you find a hostel or safe place to keep all your gear while you explore a town looking for work, etc.  This allows you to skirt the limitation of only 2 carryon bags on an airplane.  You can't load these exterior pockets up though when doing airline travel, because then the bag won't fit in the overhead compartment.  Once off the plane though, it gives you great additional storage room.

Carryon Personal Item Back Pack

Like the main carryon bag the airlines allow, the "Personal Item" which includes things like briefcases, handbags and backpacks also has size limitations, and they are smaller than the main bag for carryon.  Here the limitation is 9"X10"X17".  However, I have never seen this enforced either going through security or boarding the plane, on several occassions while travelling I have seen people with two wheely bags of the maximum dimensions allowed for that.  As long as the item will fit in the overhead compartment, I think they will almost always allow this unless the flight is super crowded and they are running out of room in the overhead bins.  Your personal item is supposed to fit under the seat of the person ahead of you.  So they are reserving the right to take one of your larger bags off and drop it in the baggage compartment of the plane if necessary.'s worthwhile to stay inside the dimensions of what fits under the seat for yourself anyhow, especially on longer plane flights.  I usually have a water bottle, a banana and orange and a sandwich in the pack for food on the flight, since the offerings these days of plane food aren't too good and they are expensive too.  Getting this stuff out from the overhead bin while in flight is a pain in the ass.  Similarly, my laptop is in this bag, and I want EZ access to that during the flight as well, especially since nowadays you can get wi-fi on the plane while in flight.  Never know what will occur if I leave the Diner alone for a plane ride!  Trolls wait for these moments to go on the offensive. lol.

In terms of what qualities you look for in the personal item/backpack, this is mostly a matter of personal preference.  Some people like packs that have several different zuppered compartments to keep your stuff organized.  Others prefer one large compartment so they can if necessary fit larger items in the pack, and organize smaller items using the "bag in a bag" method.  I fit into the second category, and I like the bags that open at the top with a flap and drawstring rather than the zippered ones if I just had one of these, but I have several with different features.  You can bring more than one of these with you, an empty one folds quite flat and you can store it at the bottom of your wheely bag without taking up too much room.  It's always good to keep an extra bag or two folded inside another bag for use if you need it once off a plane.

Checked Large Bag/Trunk

The final bag is the large checked bag that will cost you $25 to haul on a plane these days.  No extra charge on buses, boats or trains though, and since this more than doubles your carrying capacity, definitely worthwhile to bring along in all but the most dire circumstances where you will be foot travelling long distances.

You have several choices here, Duffel Bag, Soft-Side Large Suitcase, Hard-Side Large Suitcase, or Steamer Trunk.,1&wid=300&hei=300,200_.jpg

Each of these bag types has it's own strengths and weaknesses, and you have to decide for yourself which one is the best for you, given what types of scenarios you see as most likely you will have to negotiate in a SHTF situation.  Let's look at each one for it's strengths and weaknesses.

Duffel Bag

This is the lightest and the cheapest of the large volume BOBs you might choose. You can pick one up at an Army-Navy surplus store for $25.  However, these are generally only good for clothing and they offer little protection for any items inside that might break with rough luggage handling. Besides clothing, you might fit in one of these a sleeping bag and pad, tarp, rope and paracord and other temporary shelter equipment that is bulky but relatively light, soft and pliable and won't be damaged if the bag is thrown around by the luggage monkeys.

Large Soft Side Suitcase

These also come in fairly cheap, though not as cheap as duffels. They offer a little more protection than a duffel for items that might be damaged, at least if you pack them well.  They also generally come with their own wheels and extendable pullman arm.  Some duffels also have this, but they aren't the real cheap ones from the surplus store.  There is a wide range of choices and quality here, ON SALE at Walmart you can find decent ones for $50-70 or so, but more often they come in over $100.  Like your carryon wheely bag, only buy one that has good in-line skate wheels, not the cheap plastic variety.  Even more than the carryon since it is bigger and will likely weigh more, it needs quality wheels if they are going to hold up for any length of time, particularly over rougher surfaces.

Large Hard Side Suitcase

Offers much more protection for the stuff inside than either duffels or soft side suitcases, but these are a bit heavier and they cost more too. A good one will set you back at least $150, and that is with good shopping.  Really good ones go for $500.  They provide better protection from theft than soft side and duffels, you can't easily cut the bag open with a knife to get at what is inside.  So in a Storm or Homeless Shelter situation, placed under your shelter bed it becomes a kind of "safe" while you are sleeping for your valuables.  It has a large capacity, around 50 gal for some of them, so you can fit a lot in there.  Full up, they are heavy though, and not easy to lift up, carry up stairs, etc.

Steamer Trunk/Foot Locker

By far, these give you the most carrying capacity, probably 50% more volume than even the largest hard side suitcase.  They also come in much cheaper than the hard side suitcases, $50-100 will get you a pretty good one.  The downside is of course the weight, unlike the hardside suitcase they aren't constructed from lightweight oil polymer materials, they are made from composite wood panels bolted together with some steel hardware.  The trunk itself even empty weighs around 20 lbs, and once full up is too heavy and unwieldy for even a Jumbo Size individual like Arnold to handle solo, except yanking it around on wheels.  In this case also, if it has built in wheels (like the one pictured above), because of the weight involved even high quality in-line skate wheels will be unhappy on anything but the smoothest surfaces.  Better choice is to use a folding dolly with small bicycle wheels stored inside the trunk as a transporter. Trunks have this name for a reason, they come from the era when rich folks travelled around on trains and steamships like the Titanic, weight and volume were not an issue and they had Negro Porters around who would haul their Steamer Trunks off and on the Ships and Trains as they steamed their way around the globe, the early version of the current crop of Pigmen who do the same thing faster in their Gulfstream V Private Jets.  For the typical J6P making a bugout though, they are just a bit too big and a bit too heavy to make a reasonable BOB.

It is still worthwhile to have one though as long as you still have a vehicle with enough cargo room to load it to, a cargo van or pickup truck generally speaking.  You can keep loaded in such a box a HUGE supply of preps, including quite a large supply of food, and as such is a worthwhile prep to have around (I do).  Just don't count on being able to use it once the gas becomes unavailable or you have to travel somewhere your car just won't get to.  You'll have to leave most of it behind, although you may be able to bring some along with a bag stored inside the trunk itself.

Now that we have a good idea of what your BOBs should be for the Final Bugout situation that is NOT a Wilderness Adventure with Bear Grylls,we need to decide just what are the preps you want to drop in these bags?  You can't take EVERYTHING with you that you might like to have along, and contents may vary depending on what the bugout scenario actually IS.  How far will you have to travel?  What transportation systems might you be able to access along the way besides your own two feet?  We do have parameters now in terms of total volume:

  • a  personal item with dimensions 9"X10"X17" for 1530 cubic inches
  • a carryon wheely bag of dimensions 9"X14"X22" for  2872 cubic inches
  • a large suitcase or duffel dimensions 28"X20"X12" for 5712 cubic inches
  • Total Space:  10114 cubic inches

For maximum weight, this can vary by individual and depends on what you are trying to carry, but for most people a total weight of 200 lbs would be the most reasonable to yank around without assistance.  Even that is quite a hig weight limit though,so we will keep our total load under that if possible. For myself in my current condition, 150 is probably the upper limit.  In the next installment of the series, we'll look at content choices for each bag that work within these volume and weight limitations.

The Paris Gravity Well 1

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Published on Peak Surfer on January 17, 2016


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"The idling of rail, barge, ship and pipeline traffic is the biggest change of its kind in 30 years."


   The World Bank Guys talked about rates of return and the burden on investors and the unacceptable cost of the doubling of the price of a kilowatt hour. Everyone there had said all of this before, with the same lack of communication and absence of concrete results.

Charlie saw that the meeting was useless. He thought of Joe, over at the daycare. He had never stayed there long enough even to see what they did all day long. Guilt stuck him like a sliver. In a crowd of strangers, 14 hours a day.

The bank guy was going on about differential costs. "And that's why its going to be oil for the next 20, 30 and maybe even 50 years," he concluded. "None of the alternatives are competitive." Charlie's pencil tip snapped.

"Competitive for what?" he demanded. He had not spoken until that point and now the edge in his voice stopped the discussion. Everyone was staring at him.

He stared back at the World Bank guys. "Damage from carbon dioxide emission costs about $35 per ton. But in your model, no-one pays it. The carbon that British Petroleum burns per year by sale and by operation runs up a damage bill of $50 billion dollars. BP reported a profit of $20 billion so actually its $30 billion in the red, every year.

"Shell reported a profit of $23 billion but if you added the damage cost it would be $8 billion in the red. These companies should be bankrupt. You support their exteriorizing of costs so your accounting is bullshit. You are helping to bring on the biggest catastrophe in human history.

"If the oil companies burn the 500 gigatons of carbon that you are describing as inevitable, because of your financial shell games, then two-thirds of the species on the planet will be endangered, including humans. But you keep talking about fiscal discipline and competitive edges and profit differentials. It's the stupidest head-in-the-sand response possible."

The World Bank guys flinched at this. "Well, we don't see it that way."


— Kim Stanley Robinson, Sixty Days and Counting: Science in the Capitol (2007).

 While the story coming out of the White House Press Room this week was phrased as a temporary moratorium on new coal mining leases on federal lands, the bigger story was in the details of the review that the President had ordered. Like Robinson's character in Sixty Days, the White House recognized that the real cost of coal is not currently accounted for in its price, so the new review will tally the environmental impacts, including destruction of public lands from air and water pollution from strip mining and failed mine reclamation, public health impacts from transporting and burning coal, damage from ash spills, greenhouse gas emissions and climate change. It will set a price on future leases based on this thoroughgoing review that brings the cost of coal in line with the reality of the actual costs.

If this had to be run through Congress, powerful coal-state Senators like Mitch McConnell would derail it before it got out of committee. As merely Bureau of Land Management regulatory policy, it falls under the Executive Branch, where the President's is the only opinion that counts.

Tomorrow senior politicians, digiratti activists and Hollywood stars ski into the Swiss resort of Davos for the annual World Economic Forum. The theme was to have been the 4th Industrial Revolution – robots, AI and the  biotechno singularity — but the buzz is all about the latest crash of the world economy.

The trigger for all this change may have been what happened in Paris but could not stay in Paris. In December we reported from the United Nations climate meeting where many of these same characters — John Kerry, Leonardo DiCaprio, Justin Trudeau, Angela Merkel — were on stage. We described then how an amazing role reversal was in progress and how it had transformed COP-21, midway through the second week of deadlocked negotiations.

The roles that switched were between the dominants, like Exxon-Mobil, Shell and BP, and the submissives — the entire renewables industry. Renewables are largely a digital world, enjoying advancements in crystal structure, solid state controllers, neodymium and other rare earth metallurgy that follow the proscribed arc of Moore's law, doubling in efficiency and halving in cost at close intervals, driving exponential adoption and dissemination.

Fossils, in contrast, are an analog industry, trying to wring the last drops of intoxicating elixir from the carpet of the pub after closing time. In 2015 those two curves crossed, and renewables are now cheaper (even free at some hours for select consumers in certain markets) while coal, oil and gas are queuing up outside bankruptcy court.

Salvaging beer from the bar floor after last rounds

The US Department of Energy reported this week:

The Short-Term Energy Outlook (STEO) released on January 12 forecasts that Brent crude oil prices will average $40 per barrel (b) in 2016 and $50/b in 2017. This is the first STEO to include forecasts for 2017. Forecast West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude oil prices average $2/b lower than Brent in 2016 and $3/b lower in 2017. However, the current values of futures and options contracts continue to suggest high uncertainty in the price outlook. For example, EIA's forecast for the average WTI price in April 2016 of $37/b should be considered in the context of recent contract values for April 2016 delivery, suggesting that the market expects WTI prices to range from $25/b to $56/b (at the 95% confidence interval).

The decline in oil price is too little, too late. It cannot keep pace with the price decline we are seeing in the clean tech revolution. Consequently, more people now work in the US solar industry than in oil and gas at the wellhead. In 2015, for the third straight year, the solar workforce grew 20 percent. Clean tech employs far more women than fossil, and 5 percent of the workforce is African American, 11 percent Latino, and 9 percent Asian/Pacific Islander.

At the same time, rear-guard action by the Coal-Baron-selected legislatures in Arizona and Nevada —  states that could be leading the nation in solar power production — have led to layoffs in the renewables sector. The pushback over solar and wind fees by grid owners, punitive taxes, and net metering promise to keep those states in the Dark Ages, as they did the United States for the past four decades.

In a famous L'il Abner cartoon, Pappy Yokum tells L'il Abner, "Any fool can knock down a barn, it takes a carpenter to build one." To which L'il Abner replies, "Any fool? Let me try!"

Listening to the Republican presidential candidates debate is like watching a Fox-den full of L'il Abners.

US Solar Power 2010-2015

So it is not surprising that at the stroke of a pen, three Republican appointees on the Nevada Power Utility Commission decided the fates of millions of ratepayers when they killed solar feed-in-tariffs in that state. It was not unlike Michigan governor Rick Snyder deciding to kill and maim thousands of Detroit residents by switching their water to a polluted source and then covering up the damage. You might say no-one gets killed or maimed from solar energy, and that's closer to true, but plenty more get poisoned every year from the fossil alternative.

The numbers being parsed in Davos will be puzzling to many attending that meeting. From a peak in January 2015 to last October, movements of crude by rail declined more than a fifth. The research group Genscape said rail deliveries to US Atlantic coast terminals continued to drop to the end of the year and the spot market for crude delivered by rail from North Dakota’s Bakken region “is at a near standstill.”

Just 5 years ago investors clamored for more tank cars to pick up the slack from overwhelmed pipeline capacity. Now those cars sit idle on sidings and no one is ordering more. Pipelines are idle too, as refineries on the coasts have found that it is cheaper to buy crude of higher quality than shale oil, shipped by ocean tanker from Canada, Nigeria and Azerbaijan.

Junk bond sales are all that supports
the fracked gas Ponzi scheme.

A Congress desperate to please its oil masters in an election year abolished four-decade-old restrictions on exporting domestic crude. While some tankers now take crude from the Gulf Coast to refineries in Venezuela, where the heavy sludges and half-formed keragens can be more economically processed because of fewer environmental restrictions, the US then imports back the finished products at a hefty mark-up.

The idling of rail, barge, ship and pipeline traffic is the biggest change of its kind in 30 years. And while the shift away from coal-powered energy, the long recession, and the petering out of the fracking and shale Ponzi real estate play would obviously lead to fewer tons, barrels and cubic feet being moved, it doesn't explain the full depth of the stoppage. The rail and barge slowdown is now spreading to more consumer-oriented segments. Intermodal carloads typically related to consumer goods fell 1.7 percent in the final quarter of last year.

"We believe rail data may be signaling a warning for the broader economy," the recent note from Bank of America says.

"Carloads have declined more than 5 percent in each of the past 11 weeks on a year-over-year basis. While one-off volume declines occur occasionally, they are generally followed by a recovery shortly thereafter. The current period of substantial and sustained weakness, including last week’s -10.1 percent decline, has not occurred since 2009."

“When people get hungry, governments fall” — Stuart Scott, Through A Dark Portal, Radio Ecoshock, January 13, 2016

If you can read the tea leaves, or even if you can't, we are now in the long slide. We will examine the financial road ahead, and the Paris Effect on that, in greater detail next week.













Baltic Dry Index hits All-Time Low

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Publishes on The Economic Collapse on November 19, 2015

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I was absolutely stunned to learn that the Baltic Dry Shipping Index had plummeted to a new all-time record low of 504 at one point on Thursday.  I have written a number of articles lately about the dramatic slowdown in global trade, but I didn’t realize that things had gotten quite this bad already.  Not even during the darkest moments of the last financial crisis did the Baltic Dry Shipping Index drop this low.  Something doesn’t seem to be adding up, because the mainstream media keeps telling us that the global economy is doing just fine.  In fact, the Federal Reserve is so confident in our “economic recovery” that they are getting ready to raise interest rates.  Of course the truth is that there is no “economic recovery” on the horizon.  In fact, as I wrote about yesterday, there are signs all around us that are indicating that we are heading directly into another major economic crisis.  This staggering decline of the Baltic Dry Shipping Index is just another confirmation of what is directly ahead of us.

Overall, the Baltic Dry Index is down more than 60 percent over the past 12 months.  Global demand for shipping is absolutely collapsing, and yet very few “experts” seem alarmed by this.  If you are not familiar with the Baltic Dry Shipping Index, the following is a pretty good definition from Investopedia

A shipping and trade index created by the London-based Baltic Exchange that measures changes in the cost to transport raw materials such as metals, grains and fossil fuels by sea. The Baltic Exchange directly contacts shipping brokers to assess price levels for a given route, product to transport and time to delivery (speed).

The Baltic Dry Index is a composite of three sub-indexes that measure different sizes of dry bulk carriers (merchant ships) – Capesize, Supramax and Panamax. Multiple geographic routes are evaluated for each index to give depth to the index’s composite measurement.

It is also known as the “Dry Bulk Index”.

Much of the decline of the Baltic Dry Shipping Index is being blamed on China.  The following comes from a Bloomberg report that was posted on Thursday…

The cost of shipping commodities fell to a record, amid signs that Chinese demand growth for iron ore and coal is slowing, hurting the industry’s biggest source of cargoes.

The Baltic Dry Index, a measure of shipping rates for everything from coal to ore to grains, fell to 504 points on Thursday, the lowest data from the London-based Baltic Exchange going back to 1985. Among the causes of shipowners’ pain is slowing economic growth in China, which is translating into weakening demand for imported iron ore that’s used to make the steel.

So many of the exact same patterns that we witnessed back in 2008 are playing out once again in front of our very eyes.  Below, I have shared a chart that was posted by Zero Hedge, and it shows how the Baltic Dry Shipping Index absolutely collapsed in 2008 as we headed into a major financial crisis.  Well, now the Index is collapsing again, and it is already lower than it was at any point back in 2008…

Baltic Dry Index - Zero Hedge

The evidence continues to mount that we are steamrolling toward a deflationary economic slowdown that is worldwide in scope.

Just look at the price of U.S. oil.  It just keeps on falling, and as I write this article it is sitting at $40.40.

The price of oil collapsed just before the financial crisis of 2008, and the same pattern is happening again.

And look at what is happening to commodities. The Thomson Reuters/CoreCommodity CRB Commodity Index has plummeted to the lowest level that we have seen since the last recession. It is now down more than 30 percent over the past 12 months, and it continues to fall.

So don’t be fooled by the temporary “stock market recovery” that we have witnessed.  The underlying economic fundamentals continue to decline.  We are entering a global deflationary recession, and the stock market will get the memo at some point just like we saw in 2008.

At this moment, global financial markets are teetering on the brink, and all it is going to take is some kind of major trigger event to send them tumbling over the edge.

And such an event may be coming sooner than you may think.

We live at a time when global terrorism is surging, relationships between nations are deteriorating and our planet is shaking in wild and unpredictable ways.

It wouldn’t take much to push the financial world into full-blown panic mode.  A major regional war in the Middle East, a terror attack that kills thousands, or an earthquake or volcanic eruption that affects a large U.S. city are all potential examples of “black swan events” which could fit the bill.

The global financial system has never been more primed for another 2008-style crisis.  Thanks to the fragility of the system, it could literally happen any day now.

So keep your eyes open – within weeks our world could be completely and totally different.

This Week in Doom June 8, 2015

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Originally published on the Doomstead Diner on June 8, 2014

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"Katrina washed away a lot of veils and took a lot of face masks off. Your politics cannot be bigger than your humanity. And in this case, we didn't need politics. We needed humanity." 

 ― Oliver Thomas

We always need more humanity, as events from Ferguson to Baltimore have shown, humanity is in short supply. We have used up our domestic sources, and replacements have not arrived in West Coast ports en route from China. As we dither, thousands are fleeing the conflicts in the Global South, some of them of our creation, others less so, and seeking refuge on the shores of Southern Europe. We think ourselves immune from their plight, but continuing drought makes our own day of reckoning more likely. It has not been so long since the Dust Bowl of the 1930s touched off our own internal migrations, with their own lack of humanity in response; recall the iconic photo of the message, "Jobless Men, keep going. We can't take care of our own," a message befitting Chambers of Commerce everywhere. Humanity is lacking in the meat suit known as extremist fanatic Ted Cruz, who has demonstated not only a lack of common decency but a tin ear for the moment that should disqualify him for not only pursuit of higher office, but also sitting at the adult table at dinner. And the G7 meets in some heavily guarded German village, discussing whatever the G7 discusses, casting lots for Greece's garments, and if humanity is mentioned, it's only on the menu.

Ships rush to rescue thousands of migrants stranded in Mediterranean

Even as I write this, ships from European navies and NGOs are working to locate and rescue migrants migrating from the global South to Europe. Federico Soda, a spokesman for the international organization for migration told CNN on Sunday, "the numbers are high and they are rising."

Calm seas and good sailing weather spurred a fresh wave of ships crossing from Libya to Italy. Nearly 3500 migrants were rescued on Saturday alone.

A spokesman for the U.N. refugee agency, UNHCR, said naval ships from Italy and Spain were also involved in the effort to rescue migrants on Sunday, along with the Italian coast guard.
The Italian coast guard has received requests for help from 14 vessels in distress, carrying an estimated 1,500 refugees and migrants, the UNHCR's William Spindler said.

They have rescued migrants from 11 vessels, and operations to find the other three boats and rescue those on board continue.

Desperate people from impoverished and conflict-torn countries such as Syria, Somalia, Sudan and Eritrea have put their lives

in the hands of human traffickers, and taken to sea to reach Europe in search of a better life. 

Those possessed of any empathy or human decency whatever can see in this issue a harbinger of things to come. Right now these migrants are landing in Italian ports, from Lampedusa to Sicily, from Reggio Calabria to Taranto. Many others have landed in Greece. The UN estimates that, as of the end of May, 90,000 refugees and migrants had crossed the Mediterranean into Europe this year. Just over half landed in Italy, with roughly 42,000 in Greece and the rest recorded in Spain and Malta. Some estimates have it that about 1,850 have died or were missing at sea.

This is a human migration unprecedented in recent times, and invites some questions,  namely, what would we do if faced with the same influx of migrants? The miserable wretches seeking succor or on Europe's shores are safely Over There, and not browning up our comfortable suburban neighborhoods. Yet that question has already been asked and answered Over Here with a depressing certainty.


Friend of the Diner and cross poster Tom Lewis, who runs a fine blog called The Daily Impact, reminds us of recent history:

In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, desperate citizens of New Orleans seeking water, food and shelter began streaming by the thousands out of the city on foot over the Interstate 90 bridge across the Mississippi River and into to the city of Gretna, Louisiana. The city had no electricity, no water, no medical services and little in the way of a functioning government. It had been this way for three days when the refugees began streaming in, and unless conditions improved almost immediately, the people were looking at severe privation. So they closed the city. Put a line of armed police across the Interstate Bridge and turned the refugees back.  Sorry. Can’t help you.

The story has haunted me for nearly ten years. Not just because it is one of the gnarliest ethical problems I have ever come across. But also because in the aftermath of the crash of the Industrial Age — perhaps well before the crash, during the current preliminary stresses — every one of us is going to face the kind of decision Gretna had to make. We will be asked to give help to distressed neighbors when giving that help will endanger our own survival. How will we answer?

Most of the current migrations have climate change as a root cause: drought, hunger and thirst, leading to revolution, conflict and chaos.  And before we get too comfortable, consider this: as Lewis points out, the states of California, Nevada and Arizona are slowly baking in the summer sun, snow packs gone, aquifers evaporating, streams parching, and the fruits and vegetables we depend on for summer salads going up in smoke. Lewis asks:

How long will it be before lines of desperate people begin trudging along Interstate 5 into Oregon (nobody in their right mind is going to trudge south, or straight east). And how long before Oregon says, out of the direst of necessities, “Sorry, can’t help you.”

And how long do we suppose it will be before one day, with the power out and the water off and the phones down and the food running out, our neighbor comes to our gate and says, “I’m hungry and I’m thirsty and I need your help.” Okay, that’s one question and it’s fairly easy to handle. Now the next question: what if, in a line behind him, there are a couple dozen more neighbors?

And before you are too quick to answer, remember Gretna Bridge. In separate CBS reporting on this incident, Oliver Thomas, president of the New Orleans City Council, said,

"Katrina washed away a lot of veils and took a lot of face masks off. Your politics cannot be bigger than your humanity. And in this case, we didn't need politics. We needed humanity." 

China Containerized Freight Index Collapses

Most of us who read and follow the Diner realize that the reason economies are stalling all over the world is that Joe Sixpack is tapped out. People in debt are not looking on new ways to spend; rather, they are trying like hell to get out of debt.  Thus, spending is slowing, and a Ponzi economy in which the only "growth" comes from consumer demand is showing weakness. It's only "weakness," if you subscribe to the market-driven philosophy of growth in every quarter, every week, every day. So if demand is down, the rubber has to hit the road somewhere. Wolf Richter noted "where" this week.

One thing the Chinese authorities cannot do is crank up the global economy and demand for Chinese goods. These goods are shipped by container to the rest of the world. But containerized freight rates from China have totally collapsed.

The China Containerized Freight Index (CCFI), operated by the Shanghai Shipping Exchange and sponsored by the Chinese Ministry of Communications, has not been put through the beautification wringer that other more publicly visible statistics, such as GDP growth, are subject to. It tracks spot and contractual rates for all Chinese container ports. And it plunged 3.2% this week to a multi-year low of 862, down 20% from February.

The trajectory of this terrible 3-month plunge:


For perspective, the index was set at 1,000 on January 1, 1998. Today, the index is 14% below where it was 17 years ago!

Of course, this is a three-month phenomenon, and not necessarily a harbinger of doom so much as a cyclical variation in trade.  Yet if Chinese made goods are not leaving China on freighters destined to your local Walmart so that you can enjoy "low, low prices every day,"  what are the implications?  And how long will this last?

It very well may be a blip in a long-term trend. Many goods formerly targeted for export may indeed be consumed within the Middle Kingdom in the future. Here's one stab at why.

Recently I visited with one of my best friends, a university prof just returned from a teaching gig in China– Xian, home of the terra cotta army discovered by a farmer and excavatied by Chinese archaelogists, in a dig that continues to this day. He and the team he was with were consultants to university professors in Xian, acting as the "pros from Dover" to train these Chinese professors in techniques of innovation. They worked with teams of university profs via interpreters using large group and small group instruction.  

My information is second-hand, conversational, and gained over cocktails, so this is anecdotal at best, representing, as my friend likes to say "an n of 1." By the actions of the Chinese it's unarguable that China wants to be better at innovation and out-of-the-box thinking, recognizing that this is essential for future competition. Seems that innovation is out of culture for the Chinese, who have operated in a top down, do-what-you're-told mode, as befits a centrally-governed people who have occupied the center of the universe for centuries. Those Chinese leaders who see the future clearly realize that they can no longer wait to be told what they need to do: they need to invent it. Hence my friend's trip, and doubtless the teaching trips of other Americans as well,  to try to get the Chinese to be less Confucian and more entrepreneurial in their thinking .

The stats may be off, but the gist remains:  ten years ago, there were 7 million Chinese enrolled in higher ed; in ten years they expect three times that many. And they want them ready to play at business on the world stage. Contrast those aspirations for a rising generation with those of the sclerotic FSoA, where we reserve higher ed for those with trust funds or a willingness to mortgage their futures with debt that is non-dischargeable through bankruptcy…

This little peek into China is seen at best through a series of reflections in a hall of mirrors; yet I have to say that the description of China is "toast" is premature and probably wrong. Especially given the success and deployment of renewable energy sources at a time when China's admittedly prodigious use of coal is in decline.

Chinese energy experts are estimating that by 2050 the percentage of China's energy requirements that are satisfied by coal-fired plants will have declined to 30-50% of total energy consumption and that the remaining 50-70% will be provided by a combination of oil, natural gas, and renewable energy sources.

The Chinese are serious about deploying them as a matter of policy, if for no other reason that to clean their air. To the extent that economic "growth" is wholly depended on available energy, the Chinese have a winning strategy using renewables. Plus they possess the political will to order it done. Yet there remains no free press; it remains under state control as immutably as our own remains in the iron grip of corporate collossi. There are likewise no independent Chinese bloggers or alt media. There is no open internet access. The Chinese ruling regime is repressive. My friend put it best when I asked: "Life for the average middle class Chinese is pretty good, as long as you don't make waves, ask too many questions, and are prepared to make do without a few things most of us take for granted. Like rights and freedom."

What seems unknowable is the effect of the sheer mass of numbers on the Chinese and international markets. By 2020 the Chinese will have more college educated graduates in the workforce than the size of the entire US work force. The mind boggles at what this might mean, particularly for a government that can order key investments by fiat.

Tone Deaf and Lacking a Soul

Joseph R. "Beau" Biden III, then attorney general of Delaware, addresses the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, North Carolina, on September 6, 2012. Biden, the eldest son of Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., died of brain cancer, his father announced on Saturday, May 30, 2015. (Photo: Todd Heisler / The New York Times)

This week, the Biden family had the sad obligation to say goodbye to Beau Biden after illness claimed him.  No parent should ever have to bury a child; Joe Biden has had to bury two. No matter where one may fall on the political spectrum, such moments of human pain and suffering call most of us to declare a pause in the name of common decency. Writer William Rivers Pitt wrote an elegy that was deeply moving and cut to the heart of the matter:

It is an old story all too often repeated: the children of the powerful wind up being terrible people. Beau Biden, who succumbed to brain cancer on Saturday at age 46, was a notable and underscored exception to that rule. He served as state Attorney General of Delaware, served in the Delaware Army National Guard's Judge Advocate General Corps, and did a tour in Iraq. In 2008, he introduced his father to the convention in a speech that knocked paint off the walls. He was widely considered to be the front-runner in the Delaware governor's race in 2016 before that wretched disease laid him low. He fought the cancer for two years, and his father's family grave plot has become crowded once again.

Vice President Biden had just been elected to the Senate when the accident in 1972 stole half of his family. He was virtually annihilated by the loss of his wife and daughter. He contemplated suicide … but he still had two young sons, both of whom were injured in the crash and were hospitalized. He rose, and persevered, and raised one hell of a son. Until his boys were healed, he put the Senate second. "As a single parent," recalled Beau Biden during that stirring 2008 convention speech, "he decided to be there to put us to bed, to be there when we woke from a bad dream, to make us breakfast, so he'd travel to and from Washington, four hours a day."

During a speech at Yale University several days ago, Vice President Biden said, "The real reason I went home every night was that I needed my children more than they needed me." Politics is a cynical business – if we all had a nickel for every politician's lie told every day, the recession would be over – but what Mr. Biden said at Yale is as much truth as you will ever hear from an elected official in your whole life…

… Life has beaten Joe Biden with rocks. He has buried a wife and a baby daughter, and now must bury a son. I find this to be purely unfathomable. The passing of Beau Biden – husband, father of two, soldier, public servant – is a loss to the nation, but that pales in comparison to the loss being endured by Joe Biden and his family.

Pitt is the recent father of a baby girl, and draws upon his own love and devotion to his daughter to understand the enormity of the loss the Biden family is feeling. You would think at times like this that common decency would be the order of the day. Ah, not so. Tone-deaf domestic extremist and American Taliban member Ted Cruz proved not only that he is not fit to govern, but is also unfit for the company of decent people:

Cruz, speaking in Michigan, trotted out an old line of his: “Joe Biden … You know what the nice thing is? You don’t even need a punch line. I promise you it works. At the next party you’re at, just walk up to someone and say, ‘Vice President Joe Biden,’ and just close your mouth. They will crack up laughing,” according to reports on

Cruz later apologized. On Facebook.  Politico reports that Detroit News reporter Chad Livengood tweeted he questioned Cruz about the joke immediately after the speech and that “the Texas senator turned and walked away.” Livengood described the reaction to Cruz’s joke as “faint laughter.” Which should tell you everything you need to know about this particular golem, and the people to whom he appeals.

Protests ahead of G7 meeting

What a meeting of the G7 be without protests? They have become an almost obligatory part of the decor. Once again, the owners have gathered together in a German Alpine resort to compare notes on how their legislation to enact the new world order is faring, faced as it is by the obstinacy of mere proles. And the subject of Greece might arise as well. And once again, mere proles have gathered together to underline their dissatisfaction.

Leaders from the Group of Seven (G7) industrial nations will meet on Sunday in a German Alpine resort town, as thousands protested on the eve of the two-day summit.
There were sporadic clashes with police and several marchers were taken to hospital with injuries, as thousands marched in the town of Garmisch-Partenkirchen on Saturday.
Protester Monika Lambert said she had come "to exercise my democratic rights to say that everything the G-7 decides is in the interest of the banks and capitalists".
The Germans have deployed 17,000 police around the former winter Olympic Games venue at the foot of Germany's highest mountain, the Zugspitze. Another 2,000 are on stand-by across the border in Austria.

Anti-poverty charity Oxfam, staged a protest Saturday that depicted G7 leaders with huge heads. Oxfam is urging G7 leaders to find the "right path" to overcome poverty and inequality. Steffen Kuessner, a spokesperson for Oxfam, said social inequality was missing from the leaders' agenda.

We remain shocked, shocked…

banksy 07-flower-thrower-wallpaperSurly1 is an administrator and contributing author to Doomstead Diner. He is the author of numerous rants, articles and spittle-flecked invective on this site, and quit barking and got off the porch long enough to be active in the Occupy movement. He shares a home in Southeastern Virginia with his new bride Contrary in a triumph of hope over experience, and is grateful that he is not yet taking a dirt nap.

Calvinball in Yemen

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Aired on the Doomstead Diner on April 1, 2015


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…Meanwhile, on the BIG 3 front, you can see ever increasing Polarization between the Ruskies, Chinese and the FsoA, a split in the currency regime and the ever increasing unlikelihood that anyone “in charge” of this clusterfuck will be able to do anything that keeps it from spinning out of control. Because in all reality here, nobody IS in “Control” of this, it is a systemic problem outside the reach of any individual, even the most powerful of individuals. They are governed by the events that take place and can only REACT to them, and there are so many Players in the game that Wild Cards get thrown out all the time, bollixing up any kind of Planning that might be done by anyone.

In just about all cases, the players finally resort to Violence of one sort or another regardless of the fact it doesn’t resolve underlying problems of resource depletion, other than it serves as a Death Vector eliminating some of the Overshoot Population. There are “strategies” and “game theories” putched around, but the rules change daily and then there are always new bunches of people who don’t play by those rules. It’s basically Calvin-Ball on a Global Scale with everybody flying by the seat of their pants…

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