Engaging collapse

Living in two worlds is quite the challenge, as I’ve indicated before (here, here, here, and here, for starters), and as everybody who’s given it a whirl can attest. The events of the last 24 hours have given me a trenchant reminder. Well, two, to be precise.


The first reminder came when I presented, by invitation, at a fire conference in San Diego, California. I spoke at length about the impacts of fire-suppression activities on natural communities. Anybody who’s spent a little time on the fire line and paid attention knows that the adverse consequences of quelling a fire often exceed the adverse consequences of the fire itself. I started with a little Greek philosophy and a quote from the Tao Te Ching before stretching the single-sentence description to nearly 20 minutes, along the way pointing out the obvious: When the world economy collapses, as it surely will, we’ll no longer need to worry about the impacts of fire-suppression activities on wild nature. Peak oil made an appearance on 4 of the 48 slides, and I spent about 5 minutes on the topic.
The first question came from the back of the room: “Are you for real?”
My first thought was to enter the realm of postmodern philosophy, thus allowing me to return to the philosophical beginnings of my presentation while probing the nature of our existence, individual and collective. But I don’t think that’s what he meant, so I played along. I then spent considerable time explaining the ongoing collapse in clear language that almost nobody was willing to understand.
Denial runs deep in the empire. It was as if they’d never heard of a recession before, much less a depression. Or a Depression.
Back in Tucson a few hours after engaging a room of denial, the second reminder appeared in the cover story of this week’s issue of the local counter-culture rag. It’s a compelling story, told sufficiently well to evoke tears as I read it. It’s a reminder that we can do many things to help others and ourselves as the world comes down around us.
I know, I know. Some of my readers think the world is not coming down around us. But, for the girls in the detention facility, the roof has already caved in. Fortunately, several of us chose our date and place of birth with considerable care, so we’ve been immune from lives filled with hate and hatred, impoverishment and poverty, disinterest and disharmony. And the inordinate amount of wisdom that results from a life on the “wrong” side of wealth, hence justice. Trust me: Our time is coming.
So what?
So get active. Witness some hard times, and help people who are experiencing them. You might be surprised what you’ll learn from people you hear described as “stupid” and “poor.” You might learn about real riches, instead of the illusory ones. And I guarantee you’ll learn about wisdom, if you’re wise enough to pay attention.
I’d love to hear your ideas about how to engage the collapse, while also nurturing and learning from people who beat us there.

Comments 31

  • Acknowledge the scope and direction.
    For example, there are folks peddling real estate – residential houses – as “bargains” and folks buying them: a trade in the corpses of suburbia. The latest post on James Howard Kunstler’s “Cluster**** Nation”, Does Mr. O know points in the right direction.
    Then as Richard Heinberg suggests, acquaint oneself with a activity in the categories of “grow it, make it, fix it”. That will be keeping close to reality. Advanced degrees in Sociology, Business Administration, Economics and the like will be at a significant remove from “hands on” reality.
    Help others to help themselves: get them to training in carpentry, metalsmithing, animal husbandry and such in preference to interior design or advertising.
    Spread the word that the carrying capacity of environments have been exceeded; the criteria of fitness for survival will undergo marked Change™ (word in effect trademarked by the incoming Administration).
    Mr. O is right; his Administration will be a time of Change™; however the nature, direction and degree may be beyond his or anyone else’s (jointly or severally) control.

  • Hi Guy,
    A group of us met you in Ukiah, California at the world’s first organic micro-brewery restaurant. It was Friday, June 20. Everyone here knows that date well. Starting that night, and going into the next morning, the summer solstice, we had the incredible lightning storm that caused hundreds of fires in Mendocino county. While most of the discussion that night with you was about peak oil and the upcoming collapse, we did spend a bit of time talking about fire safety. Jeff (my partner) and I had spent the three years we’ve owned our property trying to find out how to do a “prescribed burn” on the wild forested part of our land. It is an area expected to burn every 30 years or so, and it had been 34.
    Well, that following week we had our “prescribed burn.” Lightning started fires to our west *and* our east, both in wild, heavily forested areas. Over the succeeding days, the fires burned toward each other, becoming the Jack Smith (canyon) fire. At night, it was quite beautiful, the ridges glowing in the dark, with an occasional 50′ (or larger) roman candle shooting up as the dried moss on a tree’s trunk and limbs ignited.
    The next Friday night we were asked to evacuate because CalFire wanted to do a “back burn,” burning from a dirt road on our parcel down to the area that was already burning, in an attempt to stop the fire from spreading to the neighbors’ houses. It truly was a huge blessing. This all happened before the financial collapse, so we had professional fire fighting support. (That may not be available in a few more months.) And it indeed took out almost all the fuels that we had been concerned about. We do have a few spots that are “moonscaped,” but no one was hurt. And now, in typical California winter style, the entire area is bursting with fresh green shoots.
    As for living in two worlds, it gets weirder and weirder. Most of our closest neighbors totally get it about peak oil, community and self-sustainability. Dozens of folks came out to fight the fires, and knew what they were doing from years of experience! The publicly supported radio station has programs that help folks become and stay self-sufficient, and in fact, most of the county probably understands.
    But hearing about the auto company CEOs and their plans for sustainability is like peeking into a dystopian fantasy world. The financial collapse and the wild gyrations the governments around the world are taking to prop up the system are amazing. There is so little clear-headed understanding. And so much investment, emotional as well as financial, in finding some way to make the Ponzi scheme continue to work.
    Strangely enough, the best suggestions I’ve heard were on the media – from Michael Pollan and Michael Moore. Pollan says to plant a 5-acre sustainable farm on the White House lawn (like Eleanor Roosevelt did), and model a different way of eating to people. Moore says to make bail-out money to the auto workers dependent on a total re-tooling to make ONLY electric and hybrid cars and public transportation vehicles. The third part of the solution (not on the mainstream media) is, of course, complementary currencies or strong, flexible barter systems.
    Any thoughts on these ideas?
    Thanks! And hope we get to see you again before the situation makes it impossible or unwise.

  • One of the keys to enacting change and to surviving the coming changes is to be informed — to NOT be fooled by the deceptions and the distortions of reality brought to bear by the system.
    One of my favorite singers and musicians is Scottish folksinger Dougie MacLean. I love almost every song I ever heard by him, but some of them are songs of social conscience, like the song “Shame”. The lyrics are posted below and the point of greatest interest to me to share in this regard is that we can be among the once who are not fooled, and thus act accordingly.
    The sound recording of this song is wonderful, even better then the raw lyrics:
    SHAME
    Music & Lyrics by Dougie MacLean. Published by Limetree Arts and Music
    Shame shame on you ruthless selfmade man
    Oh you’ve loaded your ambition on the children of this land
    And shame shame on your great eternal plan
    It’s your own diseased direction
    You’ll get there any way you can
    CHORUS
    Oh but we can see you now
    You can’t fool all the people
    And we don’t believe you now
    You can’t fool all the people all the time
    Shame shame you see our lives a market place
    Oh we’re all consumer units in your greedy little race
    And shame shame on your vision of our life
    Your friends are carved with conquest
    Upon the handle of your knife
    CHORUS
    Shame shame on your cool stock city guile
    Oh you’re pressed into your business suit and polished to your smile
    And shame shame on your brute dishonesty
    You manipulate the numbers
    But don’t intend to set them free
    CHORUS
    submitted by Stan Moore
    Petaluma, CA

  • engage the collapse?
    I am buying bullion
    and planting fruit trees
    collapse 1 year from now, I dont think so, there is
    many years of hardship and no growth before that
    will happen, massive demand destruction for oil has pushed
    the negative effects of peak oil into the medium/long term.
    (the first oil crisis in the 70s, pushed Hubberts predicted
    peak beyond 2000)
    As massive demand destruction unfolds the necessary
    adjustment will be made in consumption, transport, energy
    expansion/growth and food procurement.
    as stated before your collapse will happen elsewhere
    – it is happening now in sub saharan africa
    you will still be writing this blog more than 1 year
    from now predicting the ‘end of empire’.
    perhaps you should explain what you imagine the
    end of empire to be. Paint us a picture.
    Despite having an degree in art history
    I difficulty imagining the vision you have
    for a post peak oil planet.
    Hate to be a recalcitrant, but I am Australian
    after all.
    matt c, melbourne

  • thanks stan
    thanks for the poetic interlude
    matt c

  • Below are the lyrics to yet another Dougie MacLean song, and another song that is very touching when sung by Mr. MacLean (and I have heard him in concert at the Freight and Salvage concert hall in Berkeley, CA).
    The key word that is not used in the song, but is implied is “subsistence”. We have to learn to live sustainably on the land. This means that we can take for ourselves enought to live sensibly, but when greed enters the picture, we tend to take the natural capital instead of just the annual natural interest of what the land produces. This problem can happen at low human population densities as well as at high densities. Several species of North American wildlife were driven to extinction at low human population densities, and others nearly so. For instance, sage grouse were nearly driven to extinction in the early part of the twentieth century, made a bit of a comeback after the Taylor Grazing Act was first implemented, and now are in severe decline again despite living in the lowest density human population areas of the U.S.
    The Dougie MacLean song is called “Family of the Mountain” and it shares the sadness of people close to the land who watched new, but not improved land management damage their land and their way of life…
    FAMILY OF THE MOUNTAIN
    Music & Lyrics by Dougie MacLean. Published by Limetree Arts and Music
    Change crashes down around my family of the mountains
    Newer ways have come, people talk about things they could never know
    And as the old ones look around at what’s been left for them
    They see the land they gently touched
    It’s tethered now to the rich man misery
    CHORUS
    Let them be
    You see they’re running scared
    Let them be
    Now you’ve taken what they shared
    Their lives have been broken enough and cannot be repaired
    Prosperity has come but not for my family of the mountains
    The quiet and gentle ones, they had no ambition fired by greed
    And as the old ones look around at what’s been left for them
    They see the land they gently touched
    It’s tethered now to the rich man misery
    CHORUS
    Time passes on and so does my family of the mountains
    The older ways have gone, people search for a past that was always there
    And as the old ones look around at what’s been left for them
    They see the land they gently touched
    It’s tethered now to the rich man misery
    CHORUS
    submitted by Stan Moore
    Petaluma, CA

  • Memo to Matt of Oz:Matt,I wrote a blog just for you on positive thinking, at Professor Guy’s previous entry “Change We Can Believe In” If you haven’t read it please go back and do so know,and let me know what you think. I’d be interested in your reply.Thanks,Frank

  • For my wife who is engaging collapse:
    River Mother
    With a bare-footed child in tow she makes her way down to the river. Not everyday. Not like Mass. But not much different either. Other women come too, mostly with children. They come to sing and to talk and to watch their children grow up naked and covered with mud.
    She stands in the river up to her thighs. She is naked too. The women form a circle and answer the singing of birds with earth songs, carried away by the river’s endless baseline of water tumbling effortlessly over rock. The women are strong and courageous. The only blackberrys in this crowd are those gathered along headwater streams. There are no facebook pages either. They meet in their circle fully human, laid bare one to another, together feeling the strength in the water.
    The river binds them. She is happy because it is flowing well. It is her teacher. It models resilience in the face of catastrophe. She knows about the retreat of late-summer sea ice. She knows about the tundra lakes, the methane hydrates and the looming threat of Greenland’s ice cap. Still, she is laughing, her child is splashing in the river like a frog. He’s making algae balls. He is part of the river. She is raising a river. Her child, floating in an eddy, is only a whirlpool, like those little vortexes made on a lake’s surface when a canoe paddle finishes its stroke. She loves the whole of his being, so the water is sacred. Strangly, she is not afraid; even rivers die.
    Funny, she thinks, that the universe is accelerating its expansion and, yet, everything at a smaller scale wants to hang together. What the hell is gravity, anyway? And science, ah science; what other surprises do you have? Chaos, okay, I can deal with that: life’s a pinball game, random, random, random. And sure, I’m a great ape, descended from sea worms with dark dorsal nerve cords. But what about love, what are you going to do with that? Its another force lacking a particle and that’s really going to screw up your math.
    She opens her eyes suddenly, surprised by a screaming red-tailed hawk. It’s an immature, muddling through as a second-year bird; his whitish tail a reminder that he’ll have to earn his namesake. Then the singing begins again and the future fades out. She is in the water now. The sun is shining now, and right now the children are playing in the cattails. Songs flow out of the circle like a prayer. Then the future returns. She sees collapse, and die off, and all the ecological bottlenecks lying dead ahead. She sees mass extinction and the end of the Holocene. She even lets herself imagine the river dry. Across the river her child is calling; he’s made the biggest algae ball ever. She looks again into the faces of the river mothers. Their song is not a prayer of hope, it is a prayer of thanksgiving.

  • Frank and all
    I guess I am missing the message in what you are trying to say
    besides the obvious.
    The path to cynicism is easy. (there is a famous quote that expresses
    it far more eloquently). I am guilty of negativity and tend towards pessimism.
    At work I am on committee – The ECG (environmental co ordination group).
    I am there to represent the infrastructure depart. We discuss current
    and future enviro projects, wetlands, greenhouse gas mitigation etc.
    Anyway, we have just produced ‘the climate change action plan’.
    In front of various managers I called it ‘the greenwash action plan.’
    (yes I am still employed). I am a ratbag, a very frustrated one.
    Basically, the 100 page report was tinkering at the edges,
    (as all governments are doing at the moment, stalling etc). I said
    as long as we have economic growth and expansion in the muncipality there
    will never be a reduction in co2 emissions. I know this is hardly a
    revelation, but to my colleaugues it was akin to admitting insanity.
    (if that is possible). I have volunteered to be delisted from
    the group on the grounds that I cant keep my mouth shut. I dare
    not mention peak oil publicly. I have mentioned it to engineering
    work mates, their response is distinctly cornocopian – ie
    we will just invent something, I say to them, you cannot invent energy.
    (these are bright people)
    If climate change is ‘code red’, ie a global emergency then changing
    the light bulbs is not going to cut it. At the moment council
    has half the engineering department working with half of the leisure rec
    depart trying to design systems to work out how to water our football/cricket
    ovals. Its fucked. We are clueless on the big picture, we lack forethought.
    We are good at being reactive, but very poor at being proactive. The human
    condition has two modes – complacency and panic.
    Having said all of the above, I perhaps have more faith in my nation than you
    do in yours. I cannot see catastrophy looming despite the reality of our
    shared knowledge.
    However,…
    Just reading Michael Pollans -The Omnivores Dilemma. The US’s food system
    is perhaps much more oil dependent than Australias. It takes almost a barrel
    of oil to produce a steer. EROEI in the production of beef is very poor.
    In Australia our beef is pasture fed, and the pasture for the most part is naturally fertilised.
    Your beef is corn fed (unnatural for the bovine, all sorts of anti biotics are
    employed to keep kidney infections at bay).
    Corn production ie the ‘industrial miliary complex’ is fascinating and
    disturbing. Fossil fuel based fertilisers are used in the production of the corn,
    the wastes from the feedlots are discharged and find their way to the gulf.
    Very linear, very fucked up.
    The point is there is a lot of ‘fat’ in the systems that can be done away with,
    to help mitigate the energy descent fast approaching. These energy based food
    systems will need to change radically, and they will. Furthermore the corn
    fed beef has a high fat content. Cheap energy = lots of fat. We could all
    lose some weight! In natural systems wild food is very lean, ie very little
    fat content. We have created an unnatural food system based on cheap energy.
    as mentioned previously, food is our biggest challenge
    anyway I am rambling, I have to put the kids to bed, excuse the typos
    regards
    Matt, Melbourne
    ps – my ‘santa rosa’ plum tree is looking fantastic

  • Matt –I want to address your issues, but don’t have much time this morning. Winston Churchill once gave a talk in which he said it would be a lengthy talk because he did not have time to prepare a short one. Well, I don’t have time to make a lengthy or a pithy reply other than to say that in many ways I agree with you, but the important realities that will force collapse on us prematurely are: (1) inequitable distribution of resources and effort favoring the needs of the elite and (2) lack of truthfullness and lack of accountability by the American government and lack of public involvement requiring honesty and integrity and accountability by the government.
    I have to leave it at that for now.
    Stan Moore

  • Memo to Matt of OZ:
    “On the Beach”,the 1959 movie about the last living humans takes place in Autralian on the beach.We might all have to actually come visit you Matt for our final days.Can’t think of a better place than an Australian beach–make sure you make emergency provisions to keep enough Foster’s cold.It is the best thirst quenching beer in the world.Which beach would be best for us ?.

  • Frank
    Between Boxing Day and New Years I go camping with the family to
    the Lorne National Park. Where the forest meets the sea.
    The area is called the Great Ocean Road.
    We stay in the national park – no toilets, no water, but its free.
    (the elite pay $2000 a week to stay in ‘nice’ accommadation)
    The ocean is 200m away, its pristine, wild and beautiful.
    You know the southern coast of Victoria has the most species
    of marine plants in the world. We have a couple amercians working
    in the botany depart. at melb uni, drawn to Australia for
    this very reason.
    Anyway, here is a few doom facts about the SOE (state of the enviroment)
    I failed to mention in the last blog. Yes Frank its all fucked up.
    18 months prior to the olympics China imported 1 million cubic metres
    of planked timber from Indonesia. The timber was used for basketball courts
    etc. The timber was merbau, a very slow growing rain forest timber.
    The chinese stripped rainforest for a two week sporting event!
    The thing about a habitat or an intact ecology is that once it is destroyed
    it is gone forever. Revegetation is a waste of time. The soil chemistry, micro flora
    and fauna ecology is far too complex to be replaced with some tube plantings.
    The head of Ecology of Australia recently said this privately, let me say it again,
    Reveg is a waste of time! If we all new this the logging of old growth forest would
    cease. Once it is gone it is gone forever. If you are purchasing timber make sure
    it is certified by the FSC – Forest Stewardship Council.
    Recently I designed a streetscape for a shopping strip. Anyway as I was ordering the
    street furniture, I questioned the provenance of the timber to the retailer. Nearly
    all of the suppliers contacted used Kwila (rainforest timber from PNG and Indonesia).
    I asked them if it was certified, they said yes and sent me a copy of the certification
    from the ‘Indonesian Forest Commission’ – read bogus. I questioned the legitimacy of the certification to the supplier. He got quite angry and said I was the first person to question it.I suggested thats a big problem if no one questions it. He did not get the subtlety
    of what I was saying. Anyway, I found a supplier who could use recycled timber
    with a 10% premium on the price. The point is this story is pathetic, I ordered
    5 street benches and spent 1 day (tax payers money) on the phone trying to find an appropriate timber. I did not have to do this, I thougth it was important to do so, anyway.
    Recently I spent $4500 US (my own money) to travel and document the cycling infrastructure of Denmark and Netherlands. Anyway I wrote 5000 word report with lots of pics and recommendations
    for my municipality. (I did mention the prospect of peak oil in the report by the way).
    I gave the report to 5 managers. Resposne – no response!
    Yes, we are behind the eight ball,
    we all have different ways of dealing with it
    cheer up Frank, things could be worse?
    Matt, Melbourne

  • Ya Matt,
    You can’t get anything done W/O annoying people.Pardon the DXing code.I get Australia,New Zealand,North Korea,China and Japan loud and clear here on my short wave receivers.The DPRK(North Korea)national anthem is beautiful and inspiring in the morning.The closest I’ve gotten to you is the Cook Islands and Bali.So looks like you have the place
    for us to spend our last days.But I don’t understand Aussie football,even though I hear it often.
    I’m looking at the sociological and psychological change happening to the human population.The best human qualities come out in a Depression.So called “success” is the worst thing that can happen to a human–bringing out the worst in human nature.So the great positive is that suffering brings out the best in people.The closer the nexus with nature,the better the person.
    Frank,
    In the Sonoran Desert.

  • I work in a jail, with mentally ill adult inmates. More and more I am coming to see what they have to teach me about survival in a world with few resources. Somehow, they manage to carry on. They are often more connected with community and more prepared to deal with shortages and limitations than anyone else I have dealings with on the ‘outside.’
    As a budding Taoist, I would be interested to know which part of the Tao Te Ching you quoted in your presentation at the fire conference…

  • It’s getting harder to imagine society devolving into complete chaos in four years. The crash community seems to have underestimated the effect of demand destruction on the role peak oil is playing in world economics. When I first talked about peak oil with my mother, the first thing she said was that oil should be reserved for essentials like medicine and food transportation so as to ameliorate the impact of the crisis. Initially, I dismissed this as “peak naivete,” but now am beginning to wonder if we won’t be forced to do exactly that and thereby massage a hard crash into a prolonged soft landing. It’s easy to say we can’t have an economy on 66 million barrels, 58 million, etc., (i.e. on production reduced 9% per year), but could that mean instead that the economy we can’t have is the one we have known? What IF oil use were restricted to the essentials and there weren’t a Walmart full of plastic baubles from the other side of the world everywhere you turn? Of course, I’m still on board with the existence of peak and the ultimate collapse of western civilization, but I’m noticing America has so far to fall that maybe 2012 won’t be catastrophic, but just a crummier version of 2008. If pressed, I’d say I’m wrong, but could I be right?

  • I think Matt and Jeremy are badly misreading what is happening now. Petroleum price reductions are a bad thing, not a good thing. They are an effect of a bad economy, which is getting much worse by the day and which is in free-fall right now. And the facts and figures provided by the government are rigged and false and misleading and deliberately so.
    Low fuel prices and the closely related lack of credit and finance will soon mean that even less fuel will be available in a year or two because less investment in production will be possible. Economic growth will be impossible to generate in a low-energy environment, which is exactly where we are headed. I say that the collapse we are facing right now will be permanent in important ways.
    The government is lying to the population with its facts and figures on the gross national product, the national debt, unemployment figures, etc. The situation is already far worse than we are told officially and the economy is dropping like a rock. The resultant pain is just now being felt by large numbers of people, but those numbers are going to increase dramatically in the next few months and through the next year.
    Collapse is a process, not an event. Economic collapse is well under way. Abundant energy drives economic growth. That is a thing of the past and when we reach the end of Hubbert’s Peak (plateau) and start going steeply down the other side, the increase of pain will be dramatic. This is something that can only be verified by graphing the production value after the fact, but we are due to see this graph starting any month from here on out, and watching that graph go down with increasing steepness will be watching the collapse of our economy and ultimately our civilization.
    The shrinking economy will mean several things. Less tax revenues for public welfare, infrastructure, military, social servies. The U.S. military role and world policeman is about to end. Fanatics in the government could very well decide that the huge investment in arms must be used before it is lost, and this could lead to nuclear war and species annihilation.
    We have not even began to experience the effects of global climate change on our economy yet. But soon it will happen. More severe storms, more hurricanes, more emerging diseases, distress in food production, etc. will add to the present economic stresses.
    I predict right now that 2009 will be the worst year anyone likely to read this posting has ever experienced. The shit is going to hit the fan, and I predict that Barack Obama will start showing gray hair before the year 2010 is here. Barack Obama is going to privately have to admit that the phrase “Yes we can!” is BS and he will learn important lessons in humility and futility. His solutions will have the potential to backfire into hyperinflation and possibly worse if he decides to play the military card by provoking more military conflict with nations like Iran or Pakistan.
    I think 2009 will be a year of undeniable collapse, or maybe the preferred term, used by James Howard Kunstler in this week’s piece is “contraction”. Kunstler sees the whole world contracting. I do, too. This is dangerous because the people are still being told by Obama himself that he plans a program to produce “sustainable long-term growth”. Obama said that yesterday, and it is evidence of insanity. Obama is likely to “solve” the wrong problems. Instead of rebuilding the infrastructure of the old, defunct paradigm, he ought to be building a new infrastructure. Most of all, he needs to tell the people the truth about where we have come from and where we are headed. We had better get the mentality of manning the lifeboats before the ship sinks, and Obama is trying to get the engine revved up for increased speed.
    Stan

  • Stan,
    That’s pretty much what I thought. I was just wondering why, although everything peakists say is true, there is still food on store shelves. I know those who have an insight into the future tend to overestimate the rate of change. I know we’re still screwed, though.
    Thanks,
    Jeremy

  • What a great article! You look like you were enjoying yourself.
    I think many fear The Collapse will end in chaos and violence. I think we will see a lot of goodwill and generosity. At my own university, I see my peers take active roles in bettering the community despite economic hardships. For example, my coworker, whose father died in the Von Maur shootings a year ago, has taken a large role in Teammates. Teammates is a mentoring program for troubled adolescents. He was profiled in the Lincoln Journal Star and encouraged others to join the program, and it is seeing an increase in mentors. At the Friendship Home, a program to help women and children of domestic violence, I’m grateful to see students help rebuild collapses in other’s lives.
    We can all do many things to help others as the world comes down around us. I think many of my peers see that clearly. Many of us disregard ideals of our baby boomer parents and do not assume lifelong prosperity or entitlement.

  • For Theresa, with apologies for the considerable delay, here are the words from Tao Te Ching I used at the beginning of my talk:
    When man interferes with the Tao,
    the sky becomes filthy,
    the earth becomes depleted,
    the equilibrium crumbles,
    creatures become extinct.
    Thanks for all the excellent comments. And Margaret Wade, I hope we meet again.
    I’ll be in Santa Barbara in early January. Any readers there?

  • “Depression” is an interesting example of how language changes and a word can come to mean something opposite to
    it’s original meaning.Depression in it’s current meaning was coined in the Herbert Hoover administration to soothe
    the American public into believing that the economic collapse wasn’t a panic or crash–but something much milder–
    mearly a “Depression”.Fascinating.

  • Thanks Guy; I have a different translation but that looks like Chapter 29 to me. The TTC has a lot to say about meddling and greed, and I find it very helpful in a lot of situations.
    All the best to you,
    Theresa

  • Stan
    there is nothing to ‘misread’,
    no one can misread the future.
    The ‘net’ is littered with ‘casandras’.

  • Prison garden project for women
    see: http://www.cityfarmer.org/prison.html
    I saw mention of this on Stan Goff’s blog at feralscholar.org. A very nice sort of way of connecting people with problematic backgrounds with productive and healing interaction with nature and with other people.
    Stan Moore

  • Note to Matt —
    You say now that no one can read the future, but you have already predicted inevitable societal collapse in the future. The question, then, becomes the timing of inevitable collapse in the future. You seemed a day or two ago to claim that current trends argue for a later collapse. And I said and still say that you are misreading the significance of current short-term trends and that they actually allow for fulfillment of Professor McPherson’s predictions regarding the coming calendar year.
    I don’t know where that leave us, but I continue to see trends very much in line with emerging chaos and financial collapse in 2009, which could lead to even more severe problems, including collapse of democracy as Americans have known it, collapse of food production and resultant serious hunger in America and other phases of the process of collapse. I continue to say that collapse as I have discussed it is a process and not an event, but we are now facing a period in America which will result in significant pain for the American people that has not been experienced here in a number of decades, if ever.
    Stan Moore

  • despite what I have said,
    I am weary/wary of prophecy,
    as we all should be.
    there is an assumption that 99.999999999999999999 of the population
    is sleep walking into the future, and the corresponding .0000000000000000001
    of the pop can foresee a die off scenario.
    This figure would suggest that there is a depletion of rationality
    amongst the peak oil crowd.
    I believe there will be massive change,
    (massive change may not be a ‘collapse’,
    maybe a slow collapse – ie eco-technic future?)
    I am trying to be optimistic),
    as I have said we need to define ‘collapse’
    to debate what we arguing about,
    having said the above, I am naturally disputative,
    dont take offence, the written word is much
    harsher than the spoken word.
    I dont necessarily disagree with all that has been said,
    somebody has to play the devil to ground and firm your arguments.
    regards to all
    car free Matt, Melbourne

  • A couple of points for Matt —
    I think it is very clear that the public is uninformed, misinformed and disinformed on MANY aspects of the control of their lives. This is well-documented and the only rational explanation whey people, especially Americans, continue to act out of their own best interests in many ways. Thomas Frank wrote a pretty good expose of this phenomenon recently in his book “What is the Matter with Kansas”. Noam Chomsky wrote an important book called “Manufacturing Consent” which shows how the powers that be maintain control by nefarious means.
    The difference now is that mankind is approaching certain limits to world resources that have never been reached before. Richard Heinberg calls it “Peak Everything”.
    No — we cannot unconditionally read the future, but the science of probability and statistics demonstrates that if we make rational assumptions about trends, we can make rational predictions about what will probably occur next. And in the case of collapse, we must and I think we do understand that society will attempt to avoid symptoms of collapse, even by irrational means. This can include propping up a national economy that is unstable and unsound with injections of billions of paper dollars on the hope and mythology that somehow a foundation of paper will hold up an entire society until society’s self-inflicted woes are healed.
    Speaking of predictions, I don’t know you, would not recognize you if your photo was sent to me, but I can predict that you will go for a bicycle ride before Sunday. And I predict the U.S. economy will crash with severe pain for millions during 2009. The same sort of predictive process is involved, and I could be wrong in either case, but I think the probabilities are in my favor.
    Lastly, denial can be an effective mechanism for peace of mind, though reality always has to intervene. The realities we face, whether we like them are not, are forcefully intervening in the lives of many right now as jobs are being shed in the world economy like water off a duck’s back. People without jobs have a hard time feeding themselves and paying off their personal debt, and the U.S. government is probably far less proficient at helping everyday people than many other governments around the world, because of the tendency to favor the elite and let their well-being “trickle down” to those down below. But like you said regarding some ecosystems, when the damage is done past certain thresholds, recovery is impossible, which probably means improbable. The great American ecologist Aldo Leopold, speaking of overgrazing in the desert Southwest of the United States, said that some damage could only heal in geological time frames. That means a LONG time in my vocabulary.
    On the other hand, bald eagles are showing up in my area now, which is delightful. The local common black hawk is still present at the Laguna de Santa Rosa and paid little heed to squadrons of white pelicans flying in formation overhead. So there are good things happening in our world despite the self-induced travails of humanity.
    Stan Moore

  • Memo to Matt of OZ:
    Matt, If you could understand and believe The 3rd Generation Rule,you would see that Our Stan is correct.I’ve been thinking about this for many years. I’m amazed at just how simple and obvious this works,because human nature never changes.Very few people have ever known how to think,so the world had to carry everything to it’s most insensate extreme in everything.It’s a house of cards.One bank-Lehmann Bros.,was the one card that caused everything to collapse.In the` last Depression it was one Austrian bank that brought down the house of cards.
    But the details are unimportant so long as you understand that economic history must,in the essentials,repeat itself every 3rd Generation.This is very well documented,no need to repeat the details,which I’ve gone into many times here.
    Every Depression must,of necessity, be worse than the one before.The world barely survived the last one.In the 1930’s
    many contemporary observers thought we were going into total collapse and anarchy.For many reasons,conditions in every
    important way,are much worse this time.Just think of the 100’s of millions of people facing starvation because the factories they used to work in producing worthless junk for the Yuppie Scum of the world are now closed.Most of the world’s auto dealers have to close,and most of the retail stores likewise because of the extreme glut of everything,
    including houses.
    It was glut that caused the last Depression,glut in agriculture,real estate,factories.The glut this time is incredibly
    worse.I could spend hours going into the details.To me it is as simple and obvious as the fact that 2+2 =4.

  • Goodwill and Generosity.
    As much as I want you to be right Brady, I just don’t see it happening. Crises bring out the best in people it’s true, but it also brings out the staggering worst possible in people. I remember the quotation: “No good deed goes unpunished.”
    I live in a rather not so nice area of a major metropolitan area. People are living in comparative abundance right now and I dare you to walk down many of the streets with a twenty dollar bill clutched visibly in your hand. I don’t actually think you’d make it more than afew blocks before you were robbed, probably at gunpoint, possibly getting stabbed in the process, for your twenty. All I need do is point at the Katrina aftermath as a great example. Sure there was great generosity, the rest of us had loads extra to give. The people of New Orleans who were quite literally fighting for their lives weren’t giving anything to anyone they weren’t forced to.
    I may be cynical (I am a police officer and have to deal with the dregs of society on a daily basis) but I just don’t think there’s going to be a lot of generosity going on unless you call it generosity when a desperate person takes what you have at the point of a gun.

  • Total Turboguy,
    I understand,I live in the ghetto of Sun City,but the residents are older,Christian and law abiding.Our problem is the outlaws that cross the street from Youngtown.Fortunately we have the world’s most famous sheriff,Sheriff Joe looking after us. There’s a rampike in my front yard and plenty of beautiful cacti as I’m in the Sonoran Desert.
    Hey,how you coming with that beautiful waitress ?
    Frank

  • Stan
    you are right, I will race this Saturday and ride with the lads on sunday.
    I am familiar with Chomsky, I left him a decade ago for my bike, compost and chook poo.
    Stan you are on to something – ‘gold backwardization’ occurred a week ago,
    for those in the know this is serious doo doo. The fiat currency (paper money)
    is toast. Look up Professors Fekete analysis of the situation, the economic
    crisis may get us before peak oil does.
    ‘Gold bugs’ have beeen looking at the kondratieff theory as an indication
    that now is the time to buy bullion (if you can get it). Bullion buyers
    are anticipating the worst, at the end of the day you cant eat money,
    gold included.
    The pop is clueless, if you did a vox pop 99.99% of people would never have
    heard of peak oil. Are we really on to something? There are equally a number
    of economists that are positive about the future as there are ones that are
    apprehensive. Nouriel reckons its all fucked up.
    a good quote I heard the other day that was pertinent to Guys previous posts
    about Obama –
    ‘the problem with polictics is that the government always gets in.’
    ciao