The detritus of empire

The Economist finally showed up for the party, admitting late last week “the worst economic performance in 26 years could still be described as better than expected.” Yep, the vaunted hyper-conservative journal of record for the hyper-conservative financial sector finally conceded the economy’s in the tank and, calling it a recession, “this one is getting worse.”

I’d have never seen that one coming. Oh, wait. I guess I did, along with a whole lot of other people, virtually none of them economists. One of the people who saw this coming long before me was Matthew Stein, who presented an incredibly optimistic view of human response to the ongoing economic collapse in an interview with AlterNet the same day the Economist sounded the belated alarm.
How to deal with the impending failure of technology? I recommend a long look at Matthew Stein’s comprehensive handbook, When Technology Fails. I picked up a copy of this book a few years ago, and I suspect I’ll be referring to it often at the mud hut.
In the short term, I’m fortunate to live in a major metropolitan area while developing infrastructure at the very rural mud hut. Such an arrangement allows me to scoop up discarded, but perfectly useful, stuff from the alleys in my neighborhood. For example, I recently put free double-paned windows into the straw-bale fowl house. We’ll likely have the happiest ducks and chickens in the country. In the long run, — by which, in this case, I mean a year — the city is the worst possible place to be. On the other hand, as the economist John Maynard Keynes pointed out, “in the long run we are all dead.”
And while I’m on the topic of dumpster-diving as a means of inexpensive acquisition, one of my undergraduate advisees is working on her senior capstone course. The title: scavenging the detritus of empire as a basis for post-carbon living.
Don’t you love the optimism of youth?

Comments 9

  • Reply to Helen:(see previous “Limits to Growth”) Yes,Fountain Hills still has the world’s tallest fountain.C.V.Wood Jr.,it’s builder had an interesting history. He built the original Disneyland in Anaheim,CA (it was not built by Walt Disney,and it was not Disney’s idea) ,and moved the London Bridge to Lake Havasu City,which he also built.He was building a new Disneyland in Tokyo,when he died in 1990.But if you Google his name you’ll probably see his named mentioned for winning the World’s Championship Chili Cookoff.I was privileged to know the insiders on the original Disneyland,and have some fascinating stories on it and Walt Disney.
    Would you like to know why Mickey Mouse has round ears? (mice have pointed ears).If anyone is interested just let me know.

  • I could have sworn I posted here…

  • Reply to Total Turboguy:
    Your posting appears on the previous “Limits to Growth”. This has happened to me several times.We don’t know when Professor Guy is going to put in a new article,and his
    latest always comes up first when you log on,so you have to go back to the article in which you were posting.Is that clear.I know what I want to say,although it might only be clear to me.

  • No Frank, I’m pretty sure I posted in here. I talked of how I will not call depression until way late in the game because as it stands now we’re just not there yet.
    I must not have hit post. I get sidetracked at work sometimes. It was quite the post too! Darn.
    Back in the Great Depression we had more than 25% unemployment and the GDP had fallen more than 15%. We’re just not there yet, thus I’m not going to be calling out “Oh SNAP!” without at the very least hearing the fat lady three quarters of the way though her song.
    Now when I do hear her belting out a funky beat I *AM* going to do my best to get the heck out of this city and as far away from here as I can. Things will be bad in the country, but here in the city it’ll be all the worst parts of the bible!
    Two good questions I ask myself:
    “But Turbo, won’t it be nigh impossible to get out of dodge with the very foundations of civilisation crumbling around you?” I know but this is where my job is and the bottom line is that I like money. It helps me eat and I like food just as much as I like money. Money and food are non negotiable. Work says that I have to live in the jurisdiction I work in so I have an interest in keeping it dirtbag free.
    “Shouldn’t you already have a place in the boonies?” Yup, but a better boonies will be somewhere south of here where it’s not so damn cold all the time. Also see #1 above. 100 degree heat is nowhere near as dangerous as -35. With water, shade and food you can do pretty well for a week or so in 100 degree heat. You wouldn’t last a day outside at -35. Without really good protection, lots of shelter, a pile of burning logs and twice the normal amount of food and unfrozen water I wouldn’t even wager you’d be alright for four hours before you were a goner. Cold is just that bad.

  • Total Turboguy:
    In the Great Depression most people knew someone who lived on a farm.This is the only thing that prevented mass starvation.What are we going to do in the Terminal Depression?
    If you don’t like cold,what are you doing in Minneapolis?

  • Yeah I know all about most people knowing so-and-so owning a farm thing. More on that, just about everyone knew how to grow *SOMETHING!* That luxury just isn’t there anymore. Also people from back then kept everything! My house is an old house built in the 1880’s. It was there during the Depression. The woman that owned it before my family bought it, and I bought it from them, literally lived there until she died in the house at nearly 100 years old in 1980! My basement was full of old “stuff.” I actually found a jar of insectacide with a label that reads: “Made with DDT power!” I couldn’t believe it, and guess what? It worked like a charm on the anthill outside last summer. The stuff was still good.
    I’ve got a little room down there with drawers and drawers of screws, nails, tin, old tools, jars, etc. The stuff is still useable! Nowadays people just throw away anything and everything even if it’s simply fixed. Last week I brought my Mp3 player that stopped working after a fall into the shop and fixed it. Two solder connections had come loose. Literally ten minutes after bringint it in it was good as new.
    What are we going to do nowadays? Starve. Prey on each other. Good people, when faced with starvation, raise the ‘Jolly Roger’ rather quickly. (To paraphrase from a Heinlein quote) People think, “I’ve got a gun or two and am totally willing to use them for my own benefit, why not just take what I need from others?”
    Let the welfare system go bust for a few weeks. After sweating it out for that long, the people that rely on that government handout will come a’knocking… Or looking to plunder. It really depends on how much of a threat they perceive you as. Bet on it. I’m a lone white guy that drives a police cruiser living in the crappy end of town and have for a long time. They all know I’m a cop and I’ve arrested most of them or a family member of theirs. I’m pretty high on the threat warning indicator. The hippie commune down the street, well, the dirtbags threw rocks through their windows then beat them up when they came outside to investigate. I guarantee they won’t be coming to me, but those hippies’ll be getting theirs.

  • As for why I’m living in Minneapolis, Refer to #1 in my previous post.
    “I like money”

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