Occupy: Embrace what you are!

by John Duffy at Grow Food, Raise Hell

Since the beginning of the Occupy Wall Street protests in New York City and around the US and the globe, there has been a constancy of criticism coming from the entrenched establishment and its would-be supporters. It’s easy enough to ignore the banality and mindlessness of the critiques coming from this camp—critiques aimed at the supposèd lack of direction amongst Occupiers, or their supposed lack of employment, or their supposed lack of hygiene.

What is frustrating is the sideline coaching from non-participants who think themselves far too clever to get involved, but who nonetheless feel they know the exact direction and focus that the movement must take. It surprises me that Occupy Wall Street’s original impetus somehow slides over, under, and around the attention of those who proclaim to know what would be best for it. It surprises me more when Occupy participants miss the obvious reality of what I believe their movement is, so I will say it plainly here: Occupy Wall Street and its sister protests around the world are a cultural resistance.

It is forgivable to observe the name “Occupy Wall Street,” to see that the original protesters planted themselves as close to the heart of the financial death cult as the enforcement arm of the state would allow, and to arrive at the conclusion that all Occupy efforts are a reaction to monetary malfeasance, both public and private. However, it is clear with even a cursory study of the class demographics and ideological spectrum present that Occupy Movement groups are resisting a broader cultural meme—of which the recent fiduciary debauchery on Wall Street and in Washington is but one outgrowth.

Occupy protests have targeted everything from Goldman Sachs and Bank of America’s recent abundance of criminality, to homelessness, the degradation of the environment, the corporate influence in politics, the toxicity of the food supply, foreign wars, domestic repression, foreclosures, Wal-Mart, big Pharma, etc, ad nauseam. This plethora of targets, this seemingly endless hit list, is not as the critics smugly proclaim: a lack of focus or meandering of thought. Rather, it is an acknowledgment of the greater cultural malaise.

The challenge of focus for Occupy protests is not necessarily one of targets or tactics. Though strategic maneuvering of their members to the pinch points and bottle necks of the dominant culture is a conversation of constant necessity, more pressing is the discovery of the poisonous heart of the dominant culture. What is the common thread which grafts together the banks, the oil companies, the degradation of the planet’s ecosystems, the drugging of children, the indefinite detention of “terror suspects,” and the imprisonment of non-violent drug possessors?

To me, it seems clear that the dominant culture is a culture of domination. The dominant culture, the culture of industrial civilization — our culture — is a culture that rests on a foundation of violence, exploitation, slavery, and brutality. In the privileged West, it is harder to see this than in, say, the Niger Delta, the Brazilian rain forests, or in the sweatshops of Asia. To be sure, the barbarity of our culture is present domestically, but as most modern, “civilized” people have lost connectivity with the natural world, they likely don’t see their city, suburb, or local shopping mall as an exploitation of the land. Further, they take little notice of the flowers, the salamanders, the moths, or any of the over two hundred species which go extinct every day on Earth, including those who forever exit their own communities. Somehow, the exported violence of the tar sands mining operations in Alberta Canada, the Pacific or Atlantic garbage “islands,” or the petroleum wastes of Azerbaijan or newly liberated Iraq remain invisible to those who benefit from these graveyards the most.

Perhaps you don’t see the congruity between environmental destruction and the revolving door that exists between government and finance. Perhaps you don’t see ours as a culture of domination, of violence, of exploitation. Let’s look at it another way.

This culture is one in which it is not only acceptable, but celebrated, to destroy life for profit. Indeed, the only way to profit, the only way to generate material “wealth,” is by killing. A tree doesn’t become lumber unless you cut it down. Cows don’t become McBurger filling until they have been executed (and of course, tortured). Even humans don’t become laborers until they have been enclosed into a capitalist marketplace, off of and separate from the land, where they must choose between labor and starvation.

Thus there is a price tag hung around the neck of every living thing. Since the only laudable goal according to cultural dogma is the accumulation of excess capital, it is axiomatic that this culture will cut down more trees every year, drag more and bigger nets across the ocean floor every year, lay more concrete every year, burn more petroleum every year, in a never ending quest to convert the living planet into the abstract object of our insane festishizations: money.

Though it may be a bit heavy for some, it must be stated; capitalism is reaching its endgame. The growth requirement which capitalism has built into itself is now colliding headlong with the limits of the natural world, which provides all of the raw stock required by industry. Like an organism undergoing ketosis, the system is beginning to devour itself for sustenance. Governments create imaginary capital to patch over privately created black holes of debt, while financial institutions feast on the accumulated “wealth” of the poorer strata of western society by mechanisms like foreclosure, stagnant wages, increasing tuition, increasing interest payments, layoffs, and every other conceivable and now commonplace “austerity measure.”

It is this amalgam of symptoms of collapse that the people of the “first” world are now experiencing. Of course, these first-worlders have lived on the backs of exploited peoples, animals, and land bases for generations, all too happy to consume to their heart’s content in a drunken orgy of self-righteous hedonism. (In their defense, the masters of capital did scar these people at birth with the brand of consumption, bombarding them day and night with self defeating advertisements and a ceaseless campaign of pro-authoritarian, anti-life propaganda.)

This monstrous architecture has not only built into an impossible growth requirement, but also a series of premises concerning the validity of hierarchy. This is a culture of domination. Our culture regularly promotes and lauds the violence committed by armies and police against civilians. It regularly promotes and lauds violence committed by men against women and children. It regularly promotes and lauds the violence committed by humans against animals, against plants, against water, soil, and air. This culture reviles any violence in the reverse direction. Violence may not flow up the hierarchy without being met by immense over-pressures of force. Those at the top and their mercenary defenders will not allow their status to be questioned, let alone challenged. Hence, we witness the unfounded violence so far committed against Occupy protesters, despite their near uniform docile behavior.

Now that the maw of imperial capitalism is fixing itself upon the white people of the first world, now that a future of more luxury and entitlement is not a guarantee, there is a revelation to the true nature of the culture appearing to those willing to see it. The chant “banks got bailed out, we got sold out” rings of this dawning truth.

The system isn’t here for you—you are here for it. You are to turn your cog, move your little piece of the machine, keep it marching, keep it killing, and the moment you become a net drain on the architecture of this society, you find your place in the cast iron furnace next to the felled redwood, the poisoned aquifer, and the Bangladeshi slave. You will be chewed up and spit out like the expendable component that you are. It’s no longer just the exotic foreigners in some far away land who are getting in the way of profit, now it is you. Now it’s your family, your co-workers, your town that stands between a corporation and black ink on the bottom line.

This is the intellectual hurdle before the Occupy Movement. Do they dare shine a light on the built-in flaws of capitalism? Do they dare indict long held “self evident truths,” and stand united behind the idea that another world truly is possible? Themselves organized in an egalitarian, horizontal fashion, making decisions by consensus and demanding respect for all participants—do Occupy Movements dare recognize their anarchism, and move forward with stolid conviction that it is not merely a handful of nasty players they are fighting, not merely a corrupt electoral process, but toxic imaginings of power and right in the minds of the masters, and indeed, in the minds of all men born into the belly of this twisted device?

At the moment, many Occupy groups and members will hold up their hands and soften their voices to meekly proclaim, “Now, I’m not against capitalism or rich people,” instead hiding behind a desire for “financial fairness.” The problem is that one cannot, with full education on the topic, simultaneously believe in capitalism and financial fairness. Volumes on this issue have been written by men smarter and more articulate than myself, so I will spare the reader an extrapolation on this topic, hopefully sufficing to say that the logic of capitalism dictates that were one man capable of accumulating the capital to do so, he could buy all of the land in the world. Any logic that leads to that conclusion is not logic at all, and must be abandoned by all sane people.

If the Occupy Movement, fearful of public opinion, fearful of poll numbers and the manufactured and implanted concerns of fence-sitters, decides not to move forward and proudly adopt that theirs is truly a rejection of the dominant culture, it will stagnate. As this culture has made a mess of all of its participants psychologically and emotionally, it is folly to fear the misguided notions of non-participating members of the culture, especially at such an early stage of our collective activism.

On the other hand, if the Occupy Movement recognizes its true heart, embraces its foundational disdain for the culture at large, and follows through with whatever manifests from that heartbreak and that need, it has a chance to do something incredible: to inspire. To inspire true revolt in the hearts of all people. To inspire an outpouring of collective sympathy, a great sigh from a worldwide population subjugated for lifetimes upon lifetimes. The Occupy Protest Movement and all of its congruent revolutions around the world have in their hands, if they have the courage to use it, the ability to inspire one last flare up of human fire, human beauty, and human love amidst the hastening emotional sterility of the world. It is from these sentiments, from this rage and awe burning in our guts that freedom, peace, and communion are born.

Yet at this moment, a brave new world dawns. The empires of the world are increasing the scale of their violence as they scrape and claw for dominion of the remaining global hydrocarbon reserves, and capitalist institutions, including nations themselves, cannibalize one and other for survival. A shadow of tyranny and fascism is creeping forth, extinguishing the last remnants of freedom people have, and in this dark hour, I implore the Occupy protesters, of which I am a dedicated one: bring light, in what is otherwise a truly blackened future without us.

John Duffy is an artist, activist, and voice of the Grow Food, Raise Hell podcast. He currently resides in Austin, Texas.

Comments 63

  • Fantastic post John. For those who coach from the sidelines all one can say is what Derrick Jensen offers. We can have the greatest excuse in the world or we can have the world.

  • off topic:
    Island of Japanese Debris the Size of California to Hit West Coast of North America

    Giant Island of Debris from Japan Is On Its Way

    As the CBC notes, an island of debris the size of California is expected to hit North America:

    Some of the debris could be radioactive. As the Star notes:

    [Seattle oceanographer Curtis Ebbesmeyer] says he’s concerned that some of the debris washing ashore on Pacific Northwest beaches could be contaminated by radioactive material, suggesting Tofino should have at least one Geiger counter to measure radioactivity.

    rest and video clips at

  • On topic, how is Occupy planning to function if we have literal lights out (ie. no electricity) in 2012 as Guy as predicted?

  • MOSCOW, Dec. 26 (UPI) — There are as many as 25,000 hazardous underwater objects containing radioactive waste in Russia, emergency ministry officials said Monday.

    The ministry compiled a list of sea hazards, including objects in the Baltic, Barents, White, Kara, and Black Seas as well as the Sea of Okhotsk and the Sea of Japan, RIA Novosti reported.

    The hazardous objects include sunken nuclear submarines and ships carrying aluminum and oil products, chemicals and radioactive waste.

    Ministry officials said metal containers holding hazardous waste can eventually be eroded by sea water, resulting in leaks.

    Hazardous sites with solid radioactive materials sit on the sea bed at about 1,640 feet under the surface, Oleg Kuznetsov, deputy head of special projects at the ministry’s rescue service, said.

    “Should a major threat to the environment and people arise then the state will take effective measures to eliminate it,” Kuznetsov said.

    Read more: http://www.upi.com/Top_News/World-News/2011/12/26/25000-radioactive-sites-in-Russia/UPI-95031324938500/#ixzz1hrzc2bZ2

  • You have made many valid points that few would argue with John.

    ‘The dominant culture, the culture of industrial civilization — our culture — is a culture that rests on a foundation of violence, exploitation, slavery, and brutality.’

    Yes. However, all empires in the past rested on violence, exploitation and brutality, and frequently on slavery. The big difference between the present dominant culture of repression and those of the past is the number of ‘energy slaves’ people in developed nations have access to on a daily basis. Few people recognise their dependence on energy slaves or the consequences of remaining dependent on ‘energy slaves’. It will start to get very interesting when global supply of ‘energy slaves’ starts to significantly decline.

    Perhaps the ‘Occupy’ movement will morph into an ‘Evict’ movement -evict those who value money and power more than life.

  • A very thoughtful essay, John Duffy, thank you.

    The dominant culture derives its domination motif from authoritarianism: the acceptance of dictates from above as from “authority” and likewise issuing dictates to those lower with the insistence that they be accepted on authority. A “hierarchy” is a fiction maintained to define the places for the individuals in the ladder. Societal and cultural constructs, when parsed down to individual human interactions, can be seen as voluntary or with coercion, and in the case of coercion, the coercios being either overt or threatened.

    It is not clear that the “Occupy” folks wish to see the gun laid down, for such laying down will be tantamount to the disappearance of the state. In all too many instances, they look to the state to be the agency of the change that they desire.

    Nor is it clear that they understand or acknowledge the imminence of a paradigm shift: the pensive wish to resume endless growth and prosperity – with an ever increasing size of even the smallest piece of the pie, can be a motivational unercurrent. The desire for equitability at home while averting the gaze from the effects of imperial wealth transfer from the have-nots to the haves on the global scale is also an inconsistency.

    The flagrant and brazen abandoning of heretoore accepted norms of societal conduct is but a manifestation of the desperation of a wounded animal. The present paradigm is incompatible with and incapable of transition to non-coercive, cooperative conduct. Increasing variance with the norms of social conduct is to be expected to reflect the increasing direness of the circumstances – until an abrupt discontinuity permits the nurturing of other modes of conduct.

    The Occupy movement, for all its progressive features, is a wistful longing for a restoration of a paradigm passed.

  • More likely to morph into desperation and panic as their energy slaves disappear and the 1% tell them to shove it. Where was all the indignation when Reagan, was gutting the country? Oh, Reagan was a great president. Lots of good ideas. He had NO ideas. He was reading a script. He had dementia in 1950. Moron nation.

  • Yeah, it is hard to fully “occupy” the fact that there is no sustainable level of industrial civilization.

    I’ve been fortunate to interact with a few cultures that could survive the fall of the empire, until one factors in that runaway climate disruption and the extinction of most of the life on the planet is baked into the cake.

  • Kathy
    link to Washingtonsblog and Upi. Just a couple of hours and some of the links over there – is rippling through. Omitting truth in any case and outright lies over lies over lies as the norm.
    Since when has this norm been established, agriculture again?
    Is it the food that made us ill, is it lacking important nutritions?
    All I still want to understand is, why? Is it life itself carrying this disease? Must be, as we are part of life, yet is it restricted to humans only? To me obviously, though I don’t have proof about restriction.
    Is it a defect that occurred when developing brain, may it be just a little too much, or may it be loads too little?
    Why? ;-)

  • On Mr Datta’s comment “Nor is it clear that they understand or acknowledge the imminence of a paradigm shift: the pensive wish to resume endless growth and prosperity – with an ever increasing size of even the smallest piece of the pie, can be a motivational unercurrent”, “The Occupy movement, for all its progressive features, is a wistful longing for a restoration of a paradigm passed”,

    I would like to respond to this:

    1) Occupy movement is not set in stone, it is not a done deal, it is evolving. You can influence it if you wish by participating in it. What is clear is that it is open to new ideas and thinking. So suggestion is to go to the occupations and check your assumptions about who they are and if your current assumptions are right, then try to influence/change by spreading the awareness you have.

    2) Occupy movement is not completely locked into the growth paradigm. The end of growth book by Hienberg is among the top books at occupyeducation.org [which is in response to shutting down the library at OWS and in general the occupations], you can give your own suggestions [I have provided some]. Some of this was possible because a young filmmaker named Ben Zolno from post carbon institute went to OWS and did a teach-in [http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AAUrTFtcedo ], it did not happen automatically with reclusive people watching on TV or internet the occupy show, it happened because someone decided it was their moral imperative to go there and try something.

    I have visited a few times the nearest occupation when the movement started and have talked to several young folks there and have been surprised how many actually are aware of the realities. Their energy gives me hope and their energy is required for the revolution and they learn fast [they don’t have much baggage, younger brains are more malleable]. What the not-so-young need to do urgently is to get behind them, let the youth take charge and fully support their efforts, because they have the highest stake in the future.

    The role of eduction is vital. The problem is the way we deliver eduction presently is somewhat sterile, it lacks the emotional power that has to go with logic [you can never make any decisions if you base it only on logic]. We have scientists talking about global warming as if they are some outsider. While this view is important to correctly assess reality, it does not help at all when it comes to internalize the reality and rise to action. If the scientists are not rising themselves in proportion to the degree of seriousness of the issues the science is pointing at, the rest of the people are unlikely to rise. We need the scientists and academicians to start coming out in protests in large numbers [there are currently only a few who are doing this] and help in raising moral consciousness. Occupy movement’s way to educating is novel, fully participatory, non-hierarchical which makes it very authentic [I recall participating in a theatre teach-in and it was excellent, out in the open].

    Too often we give up even though we are fully capable of manifesting our wisdoms on a large scale [the biological gear is there, we just haven’t exercised it], we get into our reclusive worlds without appreciating that we are a wholly interdependent interconnected society currently. The solar panels and wind mills cannot be made without the global supply chains that are operating currently that were created by capitalism with all its badness of hiererchy, inequality etc. Most places we inhabit in the numbers we inhabit are not habitable without technology because technology has allowed us to expand and inhabit these places in the first place [using oil we have expanded our local carrying capacities to global carrying capacities], this started with fire, then agriculture, followed by coal, oil, gas.

    We sure have the power to change and we must change our mindset, the system and technology while carefully using the same on which we currently depend to change them.

  • If I may pick up the Cassandra banner for a bit, all of this “occupy” effort is moot. While I understand much of the motivation, and I appreciate the frustration and enthusiasm of those involved with the movement, none of it will make any difference.

    The obstacles we face as a species, as a planet, are not going to be fixed by changing the government, the way we do business, or even by changing the paradigm completely. The only way the species-ending obstacles we face: global warming, resource depletion, and over population, are going to be solved is to reduce the population drastically, right now. Not in 50 years, not even in 20; but, right now.

    The reduction in population would have to take the numbers down to a level less than when we started the industrial economy – so at least a reduction of 6 billion people. As there is no way that will happen without intervention – by humans or by nature – and humans have shown an amazing reluctance to do anything that truly addresses our problems, I’m betting that nature will take the first whack at the problem. My guess is that it will be soon.

    As I and others have posted before, we’ve built such a truly fucked up system that when the population begins to drop due to serious resource depletion, then the energy, resources, and brain power needed to prop up and contain all of the chemical nightmares we’ve created will be insufficient. Their contents will be unleashed and will finish off what’s left of life.

    So, if there was anything that the Occupy folks could do which would help it would be the following:
    1 – immediately stop procreating – any female who is less than 20 weeks pregnant should have an abortion. Every other couple should take whatever steps possible for birth control, preferably permanent (e.g. vasectomy, hysterectomy);
    2 – stop buying anything – start growing all your own food and making your own clothing;
    3 – give up all technology, including cell phones, laptops, the internet, and return to nature;
    4 – to accomplish this, start occupying large corporate-owned farms, taking the acre or so you need to survive, digging a well, building a small hut, planting a small crop, raising chickens and goats.

    I’m sure that other NBL readers can add to the list. Please understand that I’m completely serious. The only reason I haven’t completed steps 2 and 3 is because I’m still so plugged in to the industrial economy. But I’m working to fix that. If I was unemployed and looking for some way to protest in a meaningful way as many in the Occupy movement are, I’d be doing all of those things already. My plan is to have “lights out” later this year, no matter what.

    As I mentioned above, ultimately, none of our efforts will make any difference. Life as we know it is finished – the vast majority just hasn’t figured that out yet. But if, nonetheless, Occupy people really want to make a statement about what’s wrong in our world and what can be done to fix it, then what I’ve outlined would be more effective and would be much more soothing to the soul than sitting in some concrete cave in the middle of the very beast which has led to our destruction.

  • Another suggestion for meaningful ways to address the real problems we face: start occupying nuclear power plants in order to get governments to start addressing the serious threats these beasts pose. Sooner or later we WILL lack the energy necessary to keep them from melting down. Why wait for that day to arrive.? Let’s deal with the problem now! Shut down and decommission all 400+ nuclear power plants on the planet and start looking for workable solutions for disposing of all the radioactive waste.

  • As there is no way that will happen without intervention – by humans or by nature


    The US/UK/Israel brotherhood is working on a solution as we speak…should be carried out in 2012, I suspect… ;-)

    Unfortunately, nuclear power plants will not be shut down unless disruptive technology arrives in time to replace it. On the positive side, however, I don’t believe any more new ones will be built, unless someone decides to give Thorium reactors a go. But even at that, it takes decades to truly shut down a nuclear power station….we don’t have decades any way you slice it.

  • Is the fabric of industrialized society starting to unravel? Highly complex civilizations are more vulnerable to collapse

    “For what purpose does the government feel it needs to be prepared with years of supplies while, at the same time, telling the American citizens they only need enough supplies to last a few days?”

    Photos don’t lie: See the dramatic expansion of Canadian tar sands

  • @TRDH
    I agree with your assessment of a situation that few have any scope of. As my friends continue to have kids and throw first birthday parties I simply shake my head. My wife and I are moving in a direction that make many of them uncomfortable. So when we visit they make a point of telling us about their gardening plans or charitable contributions. The fact that the biggest blind side is upon us matters little. We hear the giant footsteps but ignore the consequences of the beat down that is upon us.
    OWS is (as John pointed out) reaction from the privileged to what the underprivileged have experienced their entire lives. I am in support of OWS and it’s evolution. Moving towards the exit of industrial civilization in any form is a good thing. I would like to think that as more people get involved and the movement continues to evolve the impending collapse will not be such a huge shock and more people will in fact welcome it and thrive in a way they never imagined. However my feeling is that this process will take years and as most of us are aware….time is about up my friends.

  • Listing a book about The End of Growth in the suggested texts does not take away the ridiculousness of targeting corporate power as the root cause of the predicament and invoking the intervention of the state to rectify the situation.  The “occupy” crowd is not out there to be educated, least of all about abandoning the way of life and the paradigm into which several generations of industrial civilization were born. indeed, if anyone “got it” they would not be out there with that crowd in the first place. Dr. House’s recommendations are quite to the point. 

  • Absolutely fantastic piece. A perfect summary of what is terrible about the dominant culture laid bare. Speak truth to power.

  • The empire is too strong and the thought police are everywhere.


    TRDH. Although your suggestion ‘start occupying large corporate-owned farms, taking the acre or so you need to survive, digging a well, building a small hut, planting a small crop, raising chickens and goats’ is perfectly logical, it is clear that the empire will use what resources it has to perpetuate its lies and will pounce on anyone who openly challenges the lies. The world we live in is truly Orwellian (and we know what happened to Winston!)

    ‘Life as we know it is finished – the vast majority just hasn’t figured that out yet.’

    As we have discussed previously, the vast majority will figure it out AFTER mainstream arrangements start to seriously break down. Much as we would like to see a paradigm shift over the next few months, it is clear that the empire will do whatever is required to maintain present paradigms via expansion of tar sands extraction, deep-water drilling, drilling in teh Arctic, fracking, currencies swaps -whatever they are- special drawing rights, stability funds etc.

    The scenes towards the end of the ridiculous ‘Speed 2 -Cruise Control’ are a perfect metaphor for the times: the cruise ship’s engine cannot be stopped and the ship cannot be steered; it ploughs straight through recreational boats because people are so absorbed in leisure activities they fail to notice the ship headed straight for them; it ploughs straight into a jetty, crowded because people fail to notice or take action until the last moment; it smashes through everything in its path until frictional resistance becomes too great and it finally comes to a halt.

  • This plethora of targets, this seemingly endless hit list, is not as the critics smugly proclaim: a lack of focus or meandering of thought. Rather, it is an acknowledgment of the greater cultural malaise.

    There is indeed no dearth of targets. That is becases they choose to wear blinkers and focus on their preferred grievances. As long as they ignore the causes of the overshoot the efforts directed towards the protean results of the overshoot are unlikely to be beneficial in the coming dieback. 

  • Professor Tom Murphy, an astrophysicist, in the latest post to his blog, Do The Math:

    The Future Meeds an Attitude Adjustment

  • @ The Real Dr. House: +1

    And yet here we our on our laptops, with our cellphones, and all the other trappings of so-called civilization.

    I’m a science educator currently working at the International School of Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia. I have literally spent my entire life attempting to understand our interaction with the rest of the planet. My parents were among the first to have an understanding of the issues. I say that with great pride. They raised us kids on a 20 acre organic farm in the hill country of northwestern Connecticut. I grew up milking cows, feeding pigs, turkeys, rabbits, chickens, goats,etc. . . reading Mother Earth News. They were friends with Ruth Stout. My parents wouldn’t allow a TV in the house, nor pasta, or candy, or store-bought desserts. We raised our food, made our own fun, and everyone thought we were weird. The best decision was no TV. Even now, at the age of 50 there is no TV in the house.

    My efforts at serious self-education started at the age of 10 when I ordered the 1,000 pg. tome by Bump & Gardner that delved into the management of the ruffed grouse. The day it arrived I read it cover to cover. It continued with a degree in Natural Resources from the University of Connecticut, and a stint as an intern at the Moosehorn National Wildlife Refuge doing early radio-telemetry study of woodcock.

    I made my first serious attempt at leaving the system in the late 80’s by quitting my bank job in Maine and starting a wilderness fly fishing destination in Labrador, 100 miles in by float plane from the nearest town. I built my first solar-powered off-grid home in Maine in the mid-90’s. The second attempt at leaving the system came soon after. This time it was a wilderness lodge 450 miles northwest of Anchorage, AK. I had my float plane license by then.

    The weight of the responsibility of bills, kids, etc. . . and I was back in the corporate world, back in banking, back in a cubicle. It is hard to fit back into a cubicle after being on the river 100 days a year. My personal high so far is 9 grizzly bears in one day.

    Along the way I realized that my head was totally messed up. With a small (really small) inheritance I went to massage school for a year, got nationally certified and state licensed in Massage and Shiatsu. Like the wilderness destinations, it wasn’t financially successful, but it was meaningful in ways not easily priced in dollars, not that that counted for much in the eyes of society. Besides, whoever heard of a massage therapist who went off into the backwoods of Maine in the wood/canvas canoe he had build and went hunting by himself for a week or more at a time? Weird.

    Starting in 1999 I worked for a fortune 100 financial company. It was such a copout. I literally felt sick to my stomach driving to work. I did meet my wife there, so all was not for naught. We devised a plan to escape and put it into action. We both escaped into education. She as an ESL teacher since she is French and grew up in Germany speaking French, German and English in the home, me into the Life Sciences.

    Along the way I had continued decades of self-study on what can broadly be described as Human Ecology. Modern agriculture, peak oil, renewable energy, climate change, permaculture, overshoot, and more. Slowly piecing it together, having a series of “oh shit” moments. The “oh shit” moments came more often and cut more deeply. The “Bush Years” were extremely disturbing. Finally, in 2007 my wife convinced me that we should become international educators. In 2008 we voted with our feet and became expat educators, or as I like to say, economic nomads. The pace of self-education picked up. We taught in Kuwait, traveled extensively in India, Oman, Jordan, Yemen. Yes, we went to Yemen and spent 4 days on Socotra Island, and 5 days in the hill country to the north of S’naa. We saw first hand what a broken country looks like. We realized that in Yemen the future had arrived, it simply was not equitablly distributed yet.

    We tutored like mad,saved our money, and bought a place in Alaska so far out we don’t have property taxes. We are building a house that will fossil fuel free. It is, as much as possible, adapted to place. We are not attempting to maintain a first world lifestyle in the face of resource exhaustion. We are using the energy of place; wood, water, gravity and temperature. We are surrounded by temperate rainforest, a declining human population, and are in a micro-community of people who by their nature are resilient.

    Given that the ongoing climate disruption is making the endgame all too clear, our hope is our kids, now in late teens and early 20’s might have a couple more decades of a decent life. For, like Guy, I have never convinced anyone that our civilization is a one-trial extinction event.

  • I LOVE this organization. They’ve supported my work, and will be hosting me in February (and Nicole Foss in January). Please join me in supporting them.

  • Random stuff:

    Per EIA gas down 5.9% and diesel down 3.9% in US

    UK: Burgalries doubled, theft of cattle and sheep up 270% in ’11

    Yup things are just great,

    Happy New Year NBL

  • Happy Collapse Year, everyone! :)

    I’ve got that “deep breath before the plunge” feeling today.

  • 2012: A Conspiracy Theory: “We’re screwed …. We’re turning our planet into a toxic gas chamber. Into a furnace. We’re Nazis. All of us.”

  • ‘The world we live in is truly Orwellian (and we know what happened to Winston!)’ -kevin

    i’ve never read more than a few pages of 1984, finding surreality ever more entertaining than even the best fiction. however i’m way familiar with orwell’s basic concepts. kevin’s comment got me curious to discover what happened to winston, leading to wikipedia’s informative article on the book. thanx for that. any description of surreality is incomplete without that rich adjective, ‘orwellian’, pregnant with nightmarish meaning.

    take for example the ‘thought police’. free thought and expression are anethema to authoritarianism. subversive thought can be dangerous if expressed well enough to encourage mass rebellion, so it pays to monitor/limit both. what i find most discouraging is that a majority of sheople appear to be dogmatically devoted to defend those ‘authorities’ they’ve been led to ‘believe’ in, both secular and religious. they need no urging to play the role of thought vigilantes, quick to shame and shuss deviant/heretical ideas/passions. it surreally makes me paranoid knowing i must chronically monitor/restrict what i (try to) communicate and do, particularly regarding sensitive ‘moral’ issues involving puritanical taboos, to other p(sh)eople. unless one knows the other(s) well, one must always assume one is dealing with thought vigilantes/police.

    segue to daniel everett’s book DON’T SLEEP, THERE ARE SNAKES kathy recommended in which the culture of a small group of hunter-gatherers in amazonian rain forest persist to this day, is described. i just finished the chapter describing their family/community life. these aren’t sheople shackled by shame or authoritarianism. they don’t give or take orders, no social hierarchy. no religious dogmas (until christian missionaries came), no puritanical elders making them ashamed of their bodies or sex. i found it edifying to read that such people still exist.

    a suggestion for fun: when u’re feeling good, perhaps at a party, try saying this as fast as u can repeatedly (it’s good for a few laughs):

    shackled with shame psychologically!

    combine extra large portions of contempt, fear, and anger, and what do u have? hate. it may be a foolish thing to express, but i feel hate for my dominant culture and it’s legions of true believers of various sorts. i’m counting on my continued obscurity as a harmless nobody to shield me from prosecution for this, and other thought crimes/sins. after all, it’s only criminal/sin if one gets prosecuted/persecuted.

    knowing that collapse! is coming helps put things in perspective, rendering toxic emotions harmless. soon enough, both the guilty and the innocent will be punished alike with nature at bat, dispensing blind justice. with that in mind, happy??? new year, nbl-ers!

  • kathy, your almost hometown of buffalo ny usa has only received 3.5 inches (about 9 cm) of snow so far this winter, less than 10% of average for this far into the season. it’s been too warm to snow most of the time. lake erie is 3 degrees c. above average for this date. looks like the lake might not freeze over much at all this winter, so maybe buffalo will make up it’s snowfall deficit with record february lake effect snows.

    i live not far from there. it’s been mild enough i haven’t yet had to turn on the heat in the main rooms of my house (i keep the heat off until it reaches 4c. inside) this has been by far the mildest early winter here of the past 10 years at least.

  • TVT, our winter here in northeast Arkansas has been unusual as well. We are running about 15 degrees above average right now – and have been for several weeks. We’re expected to remain in the 60s for at least a few more days. I was working outside today with no jacket on – at the end of December! Our lows have been much warmer than normal too – almost 20 degrees warmer. I noticed that my fig tree is beginning to put out sprouts. Today I was swatting at flies. I realize that two or three weeks of abnormal temps doesn’t mean anything by itself. But we’ve been having more and more of these abnormal temps – repeatedly and for longer periods. I’m not sure exactly how our local plant, insect, and animal life will respond to these deviations, but I suspect that my apple trees may not bloom again in the spring – they require a certain number of days below a specific temperature. The tics and other “pests” also likely will be far more abundant next summer as the temperature hasn’t been cold enough to kill them off.

    In addition to economic collapse, 2012 may just turn out to be the year that everyone starts to believe in global warming. Of course, as Guy has pointed out, even if they do, it’s already too late.

  • 2011 was Britain’s second warmest year ever – the warmest being a couple years ago. Last winter was one of the coldest. We seem to be driven to extremes year to year as the climate becomes more unstable.


    FYI. Winston learned to love Big Brother in the end – a truly soul-stripping finish to an exceedingly dark tale. Lesson? If human civilisation finds a way to survive over the next decades, it is likely that our world and ourselves will meet much the same fate.

  • tvt.

    What is amazing about ‘1984’ is that it contains so many of the elements of our present society -surveilance, continuous war, mind control, ‘disappearance’ of people, rewriting of history etc. Huxley’s ‘Brave New World’ covers most of the rest -the hierarchical society kept dumbed-down via ‘soma’ and mindless enertainment. And the misunderstood ‘Savage’.

    Another ‘must read’ (or must see the film) is ‘Gulliver’s Travels’ (Jonathan Swift), written around 1726. Politics has changed little in 285 years (other than the much greater damage politics is inflicting on humanity and on the natural systems that make life possible).


    ‘2012 may just turn out to be the year that everyone starts to believe in global warming.’

    Wishful thinking. (Unless you are predicting a complete implosion of present political-economic arrangments.)

    There is still far too much sequestered carbon that can be extracted at a profit for corporations to give up that game. After all ‘It is difficult for a man to understand something when his salary is dependent on not understanding it.’

  • “We’re screwed …. We’re turning our planet into a toxic gas chamber. Into a furnace. We’re Nazis. All of us.”


    Thanks for the link. This fellow gets it – truly. We are screwed from so many different directions now – really screwed…honestly, totally screwed. And if I hear one more idiot tell us that we must take action NOW, or in the next couple years, to avoid disaster, I will throw up. We already had our “NOW” moment – we are well past that.

    Back when the Russians first discovered the methane destabilisation in the Arctic regions, I knew we had already passed our “NOW” moment – it was history – gone forever…never to be recaptured. And now the end is accelerating towards us like a runaway freight train.

    And that is why I garden only for the psychological ease it gives me – not for survival. No one will survive this. The probability is that there will be no Bottleneck event now – indeed, whoever, if anyone, is still around 10 years from now will be experiencing what it feels like to approach the gates of hell.

  • And as for the notion that TPTB are preparing an underground ‘paradise’ for themselves to weather out the die-off, that is pure poppycock and bollocks. Let’s say they were. What will they gain by this? Let’s say they save 100,000 of the richest and most powerful and smartest of the entire sorry lot of us – hell no…let’s say they save 10M! – a gross exaggeration. Here are all these people living a life of relative ease in deep bunkers all over the world, stocked with champagne and caviar for all. They have put away enough to last 5 years, during which time we wretches at ground level are beginning to bake and die off like flies. Virtually all of the infrastructure that supports modern civilisation will be kaput then, as there is no one around to support it. The soil will no longer retain its moisture, offering it all to the gods of the air who refuse to release but small amounts back to earth in locations that are not friendly to agriculture anyway – so the ability to grow food on all but a very local basis, if even that, will be severely limited. No more factories. No more mining. No more oil extraction. Runaway nuclear power stations all over the globe.

    And here are TPTB, living a life of ease – if you call having to put up with fellow sociopaths in cramped spaces for 5 years, a life of ease. At some point, running low on supplies and putting up with failing equipment, they have to peek out and return to the top. What will they be faced with? Would YOU like to be one of them? I think not.

  • Happy New Year indeed! And it WILL be a happy one, I am certain. I mean, look at all the promising things happening around us!… :-)

  • Agreeing Victor.
    Thank you Guy for that link. I mean it’s ah,…


    Please mind the headline and the first part of the last sentence.
    At least occasionally.

  • This one might be for you Victor.

    I believe you have similar opinions about war then I have.
    Well at least I can get raging against war.

    Here is a link to:
    Explaining geopolitics in the 20th and 21st centuries, Robert Newman postulates that Western foreign policy has been a continuous struggle to gain control of Middle Eastern oil. Most of the major military conflicts, traced back to World War I, have been a struggle around oil, posing great concern for how we might respond to the advent of peak oil today.


    Thanks to all of you at NBL.

  • Victor.

    ‘The probability is that there will be no Bottleneck event now – indeed, whoever, if anyone, is still around 10 years from now will be experiencing what it feels like to approach the gates of hell.

    Whilst I agree with you that things are ‘extremely bad’ we cannot be sure that the Earth will become entirely uninhabitable. We are headed into unknown territory: the set of conditions currently prevailing have never existed before. Previous abrupt climate change events give a good idea what to expect but we cannot be certain of anything.

    There are regions of the world where the population density is quite low and an increase in temperature could improve the habitability, e.g. Greenland. So much depends on whether we succeed in ‘killing’ the oceans (or not). And those nuclear reactors you often mention.

    As for the ten year time frame, that may apply in New York, London, Hong Kong, Tokyo, Shanghai etc. but what about the Falkland Islands,


    or Stewart Island


    And Norway, northern Siberia, Alaska, northern Canada, southern Chile hold great possibilities for remnants of humanity after the die-off.

    It is worth remembering that people have coped with living in utterly appalling conditions in the past -the Black Death, concentration camps, the siege of Malta etc.

  • unless one knows the other(s) well, one must always assume one is dealing with thought vigilantes/police.

    i feel hate for my dominant culture and it’s legions of true believers of various sorts.

    Every human being, no matter how sociopathic/psychopathic has a moral core with a need to justify to oneself even the most immoral of attitudes and actions. One top person on Wall Street claimed that they were doing “God’s work”. Even the inmates on Death Row nurture such justifications. And those who bitterly lament their own degeneracy do so with the tacit acknowledgement that there might be an underlying substrate that could also have been good. 

    As long as one hews to the morally right at one’s root, it is unassailable. A personal preference for the universal rejection of the INITIATION of force cannot be argued against. It cannot be cast as immoral. Yet such a rejection, applied universally in real life would be tantamount to the disappearance of the state and all hierarchies.

    But the unassailability of that stance depends on its consistency, not just in preference, but also in thought, word & deed. To acknowledge anger, even to oneself, is the initiation of force in thought. Understanding this, one may seek the consistency that lends invulnerability to one’s stance. 

    i’m counting on my continued obscurity as a harmless nobody to shield me from prosecution for this, and other thought crimes/sins.

    The principle of universal non-aggression cannot be construed a crime or sin. 

    Winston learned to love Big Brother in the end – a truly soul-stripping finish to an exceedingly dark tale.

    Loving Big Brother is a manifestation of ignorance. Big brother – or any other hierarchy – is a fiction, no more a real entity than any organizational chart. Their purpose is to define the position of each INDIVIDUAL on the chart. One is not enamored of a chart. One must not fall into the trap of the personification of the chart – a trap that holds fast not only those who identify themselves with boxes on that chart, but all too many of those who have to deal with the boxed-in individuals.

    We are screwed from so many different directions now – really screwed…

    That’s what’s known as a clusterfuck.

    One can appreciate the sentiment underlying the title of James Howard Kunstler’s blog. 

  • Well…here we are….2012….what could possibly happen?

    Happy New Year to all you negative, doomer NBLrs….and the rest of you as well!

  • Victor,

    We’ve had most of day one and nothing has happened so far :) (other than a lot of rain)

    Bruce Willis (or some other superhero) should be able to save the world if anything crops up later in the year.

  • Kevin

    They should consider making a movie about 2012….O Hang on!…They already have!…Well, perhaps a sequel? The earth has broken up and the major cities gone, but America saves itself again by relocating Wall Street Banks, robbing the world to recapitalise, continuing economic sanctions against anyone who stands up to them, and using its military to bully the rest of the world. Blimey!…They’ve already done that as well!

  • I stand corrected.

    The Canterbury region continues to shake. There has been no serious damage but the lack of stability is gradually getting to those who have not left the region. Needless to say, many people are not in a position to relocate and have to take whatever nature deals out.

    There were also shakes in other parts of the world:


  • European leaders predict 2012 will be worse than 2011

    Our leaders are nothing if not perceptive.

  • Dead Blackbirds Fall From The Sky On New Year’s Eve In Arkansas Town —–AGAIN!


    This is going to be a great year for conspiracy theorists!…. :-)

  • Whilst I agree with you that things are ‘extremely bad’ we cannot be sure that the Earth will become entirely uninhabitable.

    I’d wager I could make a fair safe bet…if I could be certain there would be anyone around from whom to collect me proceeds…. ;-)

    So much depends on whether we succeed in ‘killing’ the oceans (or not). And those nuclear reactors you often mention.

    We won’t….and we won’t….

  • Correct…

    We WILL…..and we won’t…

  • Bernhard

    There is truth in what Lovelock says….enjoy life whilst we can…we have little other choice now.

    As for war, yes, it has always been about resources to feed an ever-growing and hungry civilisation. The development of cities, and by extension, civilisation, is tantamount to the development of a series of black holes which irrevocably draw into themselves resources from afar. In the last 150 years, as you note, this has all been about oil. We can call some manifestations of this ‘evil’ as with Hitler or Stalin or your favourite dictator, but it really doesn’t change the high-altitude picture one iota – it is the nature of civilisation to reach out and control its vital resources, no matter where they are or who ‘owns’ them. Civilisation must conquer, or die.

  • Whew, back to the farm after visiting family. Always good to see the family. Always very good to come home. I see I have a lot of reading to catch up on here. :)

  • But the unassailability of that stance depends on its consistency, not just in preference, but also in thought, word & deed. To acknowledge anger, even to oneself, is the initiation of force in thought. Understanding this, one may seek the consistency that lends invulnerability to one’s stance.

    Arthur Silber interrogates the nature of violence, the multiplicity of its forms, and the denial that makes a society founded on violence possible on his blog Once Upon a Time.

  • Kevin “It is worth remembering that people have coped with living in utterly appalling conditions in the past -the Black Death, concentration camps, the siege of Malta etc.”

    True, but people have never coped with an all out nuclear war or 400 nuclear plants going into meltdown. Siberia however looks like it will have little to worry about nuclear plants going into meltdown and probably don’t have to many sites targeted in the case of all out war, so perhaps humans will manage to hang on there. http://blogs.ft.com/energy-source/2011/03/16/the-nuclear-world-interactive-map/#axzz1iPTePPWW

  • Full article at http://www.washingtonsblog.com/2012/01/psychopaths-caused-the-financial-crisis-and-they-will-do-it-again-and-again-unless-they-are-removed-from-power.html
    Snippet below
    Mr Boddy is not alone. In Jon Ronson’s widely acclaimed book The “Psychopath Test, Professor Robert Hare [the world’s leading expert on psychopathy] told the author: “I should have spent some time inside the Stock Exchange as well. Serial killer psychopaths ruin families. Corporate and political and religious psychopaths ruin economies. They ruin societies.”


    A senior UK investment banker and I [were] discussing the most successful banking types we know and what makes them tick. I argue that they often conform to the characteristics displayed by social psychopaths. To my surprise, my friend agrees.

    He then makes an astonishing confession: “At one major investment bank for which I worked, we used psychometric testing to recruit social psychopaths because their characteristics exactly suited them to senior corporate finance roles.”

    Here was one of the biggest investment banks in the world seeking psychopaths as recruits.”

  • The link between “fracking”-related activities and earthquakes was thrown into stark relief over the weekend when a magnitude 4.0 quake struck Youngstown, Ohio – typically not a hot bed of noticeable seismic activity. The quake triggered shaking reportedly felt as as far away as Buffalo, N.Y., and Toronto.
    The temblor struck Dec. 31 and was the latest and strongest of 11 minor-to-light quakes that have hit the region since March. The epicenters are clustered around a wastewater injection well for a hydraulic fracturing operation.

  • TEPCO Believes Mission Accomplished & Regulators Allow Radioactive Dumping in Tokyo Bay
    Latest Arnie Gunderson vid – worth the time IMO

  • Kathy

    Further to your point about fracking:


    Even with a stay in place, however, experts say the quakes won’t be stopping anytime soon.

    “The earthquakes will trickle on as a kind of a cascading process once you’ve caused them to occur,” John Armbruster of Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory tells the Associated Press. “This one year of pumping is a pulse that has been pushed into the ground, and it’s going to be spreading out for at least a year.”

    Ray Beiersdorfer, a geology professor at Youngstown State University, adds to the Business Journal, “I wouldn’t be surprised if it continued for a year or so.”

  • On The World’s Reserve Currency: What’s Past Is Epilogue
    Submitted by Tyler Durden on 01/03/2012 22:48 -0500
    Simply put, “it does not last for ever” should be ringing in the ears of every investor in the world with more than a few millisecond return horizon. And neither do any and all chartalist conventions which rely on the articial construct of reserve permanence, for one simple reason – being artificial, means the theory is flawed from the beginning. But it is JPMorgan’s Michael Cembalest who frames it the best, “I am reminded of the following remark from late MIT economist Rudiger Dornbusch: ‘Crisis takes a much longer time coming than you think, and then it happens much faster than you would have thought.'”

  • http://www.crosscutsaw.com/
    site might be of interest to some of you. On page 5 of the catalog there are sharpening tools for sale.

  • I’ve posted a new essay. It’s here.

  • Thanks for reading, and for the comments. To be sure, OWS protests come from all walks, histories, and ideologies. Fortunately, many of the people I work with at Occupy Austin are very aware of collapse and energy issues. I personally facilitate a weekly tactics and strategies meeting and one of the first things I laid bare was that our goals have to be commensurate with our time and place. This isn’t the 60’s, we are in times of decline, and our goals and tactics must take this into account.

    We are building community, learning to organize without hierarchy, we are reclaiming public space to grow food, we are even patrolling neighborhoods with recent spats of violence against women. All of this is better than sitting at home on our couches.

    To all who doubt, to all who would rather criticize until the devil finally rings our bell, I have a challenge. If you think the Occupy activists are so horrendously misguided, go to your closest occupation site, and request to give a teach in about energy decline, collapse, etc. They would love it. Be patient with people. Everyone comes from different backgrounds, education levels, what have you. But give a teach in. Then give another. Suggest actions they can partake in locally to mitigate collapse for themselves. Scratch that, spearhead actions in your community to help mitigate collapse. Everyone thinks they know exactly what Occupy should be doing, but very few people show up and take the mantle on that particular task.