Investing in Durability

Industrial society is fully committed to tossing the planet in the waste bin. The throw-away products of the Industrial Age became particular obvious after World War II, when the quaint idea of durable goods gave way to all the trappings of planned obsolescence. We invested heavily in items fabricated from non-renewable materials and specifically designed for one-time use, including now-ubiquitous diapers and grocery bags. And we made annual cosmetic alterations to every conceivable consumer product, from pens and kitchen knives to refrigerators and automobiles. Even consumer goods fabricated from renewable materials, such as wood, are routinely packaged in non-renewable materials designed for ease of discarding. The mass of transparent plastic wrap sold every day surely exceeds the combined biomass of all endangered species in the world.

At this point, there is no stopping the arc of history or the icons of industry. We’re all hanging onto the roller-coaster ride of economic collapse, which is fueled by the flawed notion of never-ending economic growth. Unless you’re planning to withdraw to an anarcho-primitivist society beyond the reach of the industrial world, there’s little you can do, as an individual, to mitigate the damage to Earth or your wallet.

If you are planning to withdraw, please tell me where you’re going, and send directions. If not, it’s time to start thinking about how you and your family or tribe will muddle through the years ahead. One word comes to mind: durability.

If that wasn’t the first word that came to your mind, I’m not surprised. Industrial culture has steered us, for the sake of economic growth, in the diametrically opposed direction for so long we usually fail to consider the obvious benefits of durability when making decisions about our own lives. It’s time to change that pattern of thinking, time to start thinking about our own individual futures instead of the future of the empire.

First, let’s consider what we actually need. Not want we want, which is the type of thinking that got us into this greed-induced mess. But what we actually need to survive as human animals. A group of students with whom I was fortunate to work last year laid the groundwork with a student- and southwestern-centric report. In this post, I focus on acquisition of a durable set of living arrangements for the post-carbon era.
Most accounts list at least three items requisite to human survival. We die within a few minutes without oxygen, within a few days without water, and within a few weeks without food. Each of these three varieties of death is allegedly painful and also uninteresting enough to merit much mention in the news (if you’re going under, you might as well make a splash). In addition to these three items, many people add a fourth: some means of keeping body temperature at a relatively stable 37 degrees Celsius. The usual approaches involve a mixture of shelter and clothing, although we’ve been using fire to warm ourselves for millennia and fossil fuels to cool ourselves for a few generations.

In addition to these four items, I believe a fifth is imperative: community. In the history of the planet, very few people have managed to live alone. Even fewer managed to maintain some semblance of sanity and happiness while doing so.

In this post, I will assume Earth’s air will remain sufficiently toxin-free to support human life for the next several generations. This assumption likely is unmerited in light of global economic collapse and the consequent release of toxic material into the atmosphere as nuclear-power plants melt down without proper planning. But, in the spirit of my usual unwarranted optimism and our individual inability to mitigate for such a dire outcome, I will restrict my discussion of durable living arrangements to water, food, body temperature, and community. I’ll provide a few examples of the investments I’ve made, and I welcome contributions from all readers.

The first and most important of my investments was, and is, not on my list of five items: information. After all, the more you know, the less [stuff] you need, so knowledge about surviving economic collapse is hugely advantageous. Considerable information is available at little or no cost via the local library and also Internet search engines. The usual caveats apply: much of this information is worth exactly what you pay for it, and you’ll need to provide the brainpower. I bought quite a few books, and borrowed many more from the library. Aric McBay provides an excellent primer with his brief book, Peak Oil Survival.

In the absence of fossil fuels, acquiring and delivering potable water is no minor task. Although age-old technology can be used to build aqueducts, I have a feeling we’ll not return to that technology in time to save modern cities. As a result, I think contemporary cities are the worst possible places to be when the grid fails. Without access to water, it will be difficult to rally the increasingly irritated troops into constructing an aqueduct. And then there are the pressing issues of pressuring the water-supply system, and getting rid of human waste in a safe manner. For the last few generations, we’ve avoided frequent, large-scale incidents of disease even while using potable water to distribute humanure throughout the entire civilized world. I doubt we can retain this indulgence much longer.

If cities are unviable, at least for large numbers of people, humans will be living in towns and rural areas, as we did for thousands of generations. For nearly all those thousands of generations, surface water was abundant and potable. Because of our historical and ongoing abuses to the planet, surface water has become scarce and undrinkable. As a result, we’re left with rainwater, subsurface water, or a system of purification that does not rely on fossil fuels. Rainwater is relatively easy to harvest and use. I will not discuss the many types of filtration that can be used, but even a cursory investigation yields several alternatives, with a wide variety of costs and benefits. Subsurface water can be brought to the surface with wells dug by hand, particularly in regions with abundant rainfall where the water is relatively shallow. Alternatively, individuals can harness fossil fuels to dig wells before the ongoing collapse is complete. Once the hole in the ground reaches the water level, a rope and bucket, hand-pump, windmill, or solar pump can be installed in the well to draw water to the surface. Life-giving water can be stored in cisterns, preferably far enough above the delivery point(s) to use gravity for pressure. Obviously, scaling up the acquisition and delivery of water to a few thousand people on the planet poses a serious problem. Scaling up to nearly seven billion human beings is almost certainly hopeless.

Water conservation is certain to come back into vogue. When we realize how precious water is, we will start using it more wisely. I suspect we’ll become far more accustomed to the smell of the human body again, and I doubt we’ll be using potable water as a vector for transmitting feces throughout the local area. A decent composting toilet is a great personal investment, especially if everybody in your neighborhood follows suit. At the mud hut, we have invested in rainwater-harvesting gutters and cisterns, a 3,000-gallon cistern for drinking water enclosed in a cinder-block wall, solar pump (with some backup parts), cast iron hand pump, and composting toilets. The entire set of materials and labor, including the cost of drilling a new well, cost less than a new car. Given the primacy of water to, well, every living thing, this investment is our most important one.

Food is similarly problematic for large numbers of people in the absence of fossil fuels for production and delivery. The industrial agricultural model relies heavily on inexpensive fossil fuels for manufacturing and applying fertilizer, pesticides, and water, and then again for harvesting, processing, and delivering food. In the United States, each calorie of food requires ten calories of fossil fuels, and the typical piece of produce travels 1,500 miles before reaching the grocery store. Obviously, this model of food production and delivery will not persist long into the future. And that’s a good thing, since industrial agriculture is simultaneously killing us and the planet.

Assuming cities manage to secure water for their citizens, they will have profound difficulties acquiring and distributing food. Again, small towns and tribal collectives present significant advantages relative to modern cities. Intensive organic agriculture, which can be practiced locally with no fossil-fuel inputs, can produce food for four to six people on each cultivated acre, which is approximately 10 to 20 times the productivity of contemporary industrial agriculture. The resulting food is well-matched to the local environment and it need not undergo significant processing or travel great distances prior to consumption. As with water, however, scaling up the production and delivery of food to billions of human beings seems highly unlikely. As with water, I doubt the near future will see us wasting a large fraction of our food, as we do today.

Our investments include ample time with shovels at the mud hut. We also invested in seeds and seedlings, hardware cloth to protect trees and planting beds from pocket gophers, and compost and horse manure to mix with the native soil. We picked up free, hand-me-down composting bins for our organic material, and we installed a water-delivery system throughout the orchard and garden areas. Gutters collect water, and inexpensive cisterns store the water harvested from the roofs of the straw-bale house and the old mobile home; the stored water is applied to the garden beds. We built a fowl coop from straw bales and leftover corrugated roofing tin, and filled it with day-old chicks and ducklings that now provide several eggs each day. I’ve constructed a goat pen, and soon will build a predator-proof goat run. The goats will provide milk, hence butter, yogurt, and cheese.

Food will be stored in a root cellar, as well as in a deep-chest freezer powered by the off-grid solar system and a multitude of surprisingly expensive canning jars. Fruits and vegetables will be canned in the old-fashioned, wood-fired cook stove in the outdoor kitchen. Finally, I have rifles and a shotgun from my youthful days of hunting, and ample ammunition to harvest the occasional deer or javelina meandering onto the property.

Echoing the way we treat water from the taps and food at the grocery store, we take for granted clothing and structures that maintain the temperature of our bodies. Nearly all modern clothes contain petroleum, and the systems of producing fabrics, stitching them into clothing, and delivering the clothes to users all depend heavily on fossil fuels. As with clothes, we rarely question the fossil-fuel-intensive heating and cooling systems that maintain buildings at a comfortable temperature. Given the near-term demise of broad-scale access to fossil fuels, we will have to make other arrangements to maintain the temperature of our bodies.

As with water and food, cities are poorly suited for temperature regulation. Once the stores are picked clean of clothing, living in areas dense with human beings likely will pose significant dangers, including maintenance of body temperature at a constant 37 C. Individuals and small groups of individuals will rely on simple, archaic techniques such as wearing layers of clothing and hats for personal warmth. (You thought your civilized ancestors wore hats as a fashion statement?) Hand-me-downs will come back in fashion, and we will pay close attention to maintenance of our bedraggled pants and shirts. (I’m sure you remember this one, although you probably haven’t applied it directly for a while: A stitch in time saves nine.)

There is much information to consider in the arena of body temperature, and specific topics range from insulating buildings to layering socks. A healthy dose of common sense, a bit of thinking outside the proverbial box, and a couple books by Cody Lundin are particularly valuable in this regard.

In a grand stroke of extravagance, we built a straw-bale house with superb insulation, passive solar heating (supplemented rarely with a small wood stove), and geothermal cooling. We pulled off this trick only by living frugally during a multi-decade, decently compensated career and then by cashing in our suburban home and everything else we owned, including life-insurance policies and retirement accounts. I bought a few pair of study work books, several pair of Carhartt pants (renowned for their durability), and plenty of sewing needles and strong thread.

I suspect community is the least regarded, yet most important, characteristic for the post-carbon era. All other preparations become moot if your neighbors take your water and food because they don’t like you, or don’t know you. Ready access to cheap fossil fuels has allowed us to ignore or disrespect people in close proximity while creating electronic “networks” of “friends.” That problem’s about to take care of itself.

A durable set of living arrangements necessarily includes substantive bonds between neighbors. If we are to thrive in the years ahead, we will need to share water, food, shelter, clothing, knowledge, stories, humor, and entertainment with the people in our community. I doubt we’ll readily tolerate the kinds of behaviors exhibited daily by the typically hyper-indulgent twenty-something in contemporary America. People who do not make a positive contribution to durable communities face a never-ending struggle with thirst and hunger in the perennially too-hot or too-cold years ahead.

My investment in community is ongoing, as I have described many times on this blog. I was fortunate to have the opportunity to develop a tenancy-in-common agreement with friends who have been valued members of their (and now my) rural community for several years. During the last two years, I have applied considerable elbow grease, my limited knowledge, and as much tact as I’m capable of mustering. I know these investments are necessary, and I hope they are sufficient, to get us through the challenging years ahead.

Durability has always been a wise investment. Now is the perfect time to make a personal investment in durability, for myriad reasons. For one thing, most sellers still think fiat currency is valuable.

Thanks to Matt from Oz for inspiring this post, which is online at countercurrents and Energy Bulletin.

Comments 37

  • Prof Em Guy:
    Yikes !!
    And you didn’t mention anything about how we are going to keep the beer cold,or for
    that matter if we will have any beer at all.
    After all that I’ll need an extra drop this evening.

  • When I find myself in a situation with cable television these days, I briefly turn to CNN to see if the tumultuous news of Iran and Honduras is more important than Michael Jackson at the moment. And of course, invariably, there are commercials. That in turn causes me to advance through several channels to observe Glenn Beck crowing about cap and trade. “Thank God for this station and talk radio, because this is essentially a limit to energy production! What if we NEED more energy?”
    You fail to mention an aspect of your community building Guy. That is your quality of giving things your utmost effort and attention in your relations with others. There are many folks who will share a meal with you. Goodwill. Forgiveness of others insulates you somewhat from your own mistakes.

  • Thanks Guy, I don’t know how I was the inspiration.
    I feel my voice comes across as a little belligerent, not my
    intention of course just trying to have a robust
    conversation, and have a laugh at my own expense.
    Even though, I have been disagreeable at times
    and as a consequence I have pissed a few people off.
    Anyway, I have read the Mcbay book, I left it on the
    coffee table, the wife was reading it while I was out
    one day. She said that some people are truly crazy.
    She thought the author was a complete lunatic.
    I said peak oil is a geological reality, blah, blah, blah.
    Apparently this quite common, one partner gets it and the
    other thinks its lunacy.
    Back to durability, this is a part of living I think about quite often.
    Our winter has been quite cold here, thermal underwear is absolutely
    amazing. (I wear them when I cycle in 0 degree celsius).
    We have a wood heater, it is quite small, it barely heats the
    lounge room. But thermals (poly or wool) make it very comfortable.
    If you had central heating, wearing thermals could save you a packet.
    Also hemp clothing is truly durable, worth purchasing if it is available.
    Good quality knives are life long investment, ones where you have to
    spend $60-100 each. Mundial are good quality and good enough for the
    household. The steel is reasonably hard at least compared to ‘Global’
    and probably about half the price for a set. A pasta maker is also worth
    purchasing. Simple to use, no electricity required.
    Anyway, I could make a very long list.
    Side note, this weekend I will be connecting my rain water tanks
    to our two toilets. So if the ‘shit’ hits the fan, I can still flush my toilet!
    As long as the tanks are full. (gravity fed ie if there was no power).
    I will still piss outside on the garden, even when the water is free.
    Our water bills here are set to double because of
    the extended drought/climate change. We currently pay about $1 per 1000L. So the payback for the tanks and the pumps etc will be about 195 years!
    I question all purchases even ‘environmental’ ones. The principle of less,
    not more, regardless of what it is. I know this pretty hardcore ecosophy.
    You could probably add transport to the list of essential requirements.
    (and a good pair of walking shoes)
    The cost of bike commuting to work this financial year has come to the grand sum of 50c. I had to purchase a patch. I disagree on what Orlov had to say about the limitations of bicycles in the future. I have made bikes from dumpsters that will give you year round commuting. Gears can be stripped down to create single speeds as long the gearing is suitable to your ability
    and terrain. Very simple transport at low cost. You can walk 5kmh,
    but you can ride 25kmh. I have scrounged enough brake pads to last me several lifetimes. Orlov, happened to talk about something I know about quite well and he was way off. Non durables, like tyres could be an issue.
    Tubes less so, I have tubes with 10 patches on them. I like the principle of trying to extend the life goods as long as possible, anyway….
    Frank, you know what they say, you should never meet your heroes,
    they will invariably disappoint, however I am sure in this instance Guy will be an exception to the rule. Also, bike riding applies to retirees as well,
    I witnessed hundreds of old ladies in their seventies riding bikes throughout the Netherlands, Frank you have no excuses. Plus exercise can stem the onsite of dementia. (recent study here). Since you are in your mid 70s
    and senility free you are probably not likely to lose your grey matter now.
    Though stay away from the grog.
    Yes a couple of the chapters in the Black Swan are bit mind bending,
    however, IMO the premise is sound. The uncertainty principle is not
    a cause for optimism or despair, – anything is possible, and be prepared.
    This gives me more comfort than any forecaster can. Orlov talks about the
    importance of psychological preparation, an economic collapse is no time to have a nervous breakdown.
    On Black Swan events –
    If California defaults on its municipal bonds, god knows what the consequences will be – a sharp rise in commodity prices, as investors look for other ‘safe’ havens. A loss of confidence may see other state municipal bond holders pull their funds as well, even at the federal level.
    I don’t think the Chinese want to hold anymore treasury bonds, they already have 2 trillion as it is. The chinese are talking about creating an international currency, they don’t want to undermine the US$ too much, maybe they are trying to have a bet each way.
    Clearly, I don’t have enough to do at work this week

  • A recent post by Tony Eriksen’s study of declining oil production, which is summarized in this Figure
    shows a slow decline in global crude oil production currently and then accelerating after December 2010.
    Because oil is used to produce oil, we must examine net oil production, which is what we have left after oil is extracted, refined, and delivered to market. The rate of decline in net oil production will be much steeper, as show in Murphy’s Figure 3.
    The drop in net oil production will probably be steeper than Murphy forecasts. Matthew Simmons estimates that a 100 trillion dollars of investment is need to replace the globe’s rusting infrastructure of pipelines, drilling rigs, platforms, and refineries. Much of this investment will require oil to manufacture, transport, and assemble this infrastructure.
    Also, as oil exporting nations consume more oil domestically and export less to the developed nations, the oil supply available to developed countries will be considerably less than shown in Murphy’s Figure 3.
    This analysis indicates that oil supplies for the developed world will decline precipitously beginning in the next two years.
    This suggests that a rapid economic global collapse will occur in less than 20 years.
    We need to focus on

  • Mind-blowing post this time Guy, it’s like reading one of those old Government pamphlets about how-to-survive-after-the-nuclear-bomb-has-dropped. It’s meant to be reassuring but it ends up being even scarier.
    Matt mentions California and it’s budget. A couple of weeks ago our NZ papers mentioned that Arnie Schwarzenegger is having a house built over here near Queenstown -does he know New Zealand is reckonned to be one of the safest places as the climate changes and global warming becomes ever more apparent? Is he the first bolter from the USA?! And Matt,according to journalist Gwynne Dyer we are also likely in the next 20 years to be trying to keep out hoards of Australian climate change refugees!
    As part of our Long Emergency preparations,by the way, we have just begun home-brewing and wine-making.(May as well be happy in our misery) How did people make alcohol in the days before white sugar? What will we do when it is no longer available?

  • Matt, you inspired this post with your recent question about durability. The list on this post is short, no doubt about it … my list of durable items for home-living and barter is very long, and any number can play.
    Daphne, alcohol is actually quite easy to make from any carbohydrate-rich substance (e.g., potatoes, peaches). Check this link, for example:
    Thanks, Professor Wirth, for the data-rich comment.

  • Sir Matt,
    You might find that the Humanure Handbook offers a much more simple (and ecologically responsible) approach than installing the tank-toilet system. Especially, as you say, should the proverbial shit hit the fan. Just know what you are doing.
    For many centuries China employed a cottage farm system that achieved greater yields per unit area than the current industrial methods. (Perhaps their population size is proof enough.)

  • I see that Cliff Wirth has a Ph.D.
    I’ve got a DD (Doctor of Divinity) degree,but don’t use it because nobody knows what DD
    means except my old profs at Harvard.Besides Doctor of Divinity sounds a little stuffy
    and people might think it doesn’t jibe with my life style.

  • ‘latherman’,
    I downloaded the humanure handbook some time ago (its free online),
    best book on shit I have ever read,
    if I lived alone in the country somewhere and had
    copius amounts of granulated carbon, I would give it a go.
    Bringing the family along for the peak oil ride
    is not easy – under statement. Even when using
    rainwater, it still feels like I am wasting water.
    You are spot about trad asian ag techniques.
    Frank, that title is unbecoming, it makes you sound
    far too refined!
    on inflation –
    governments have a tendency to inflate
    their way out of debt. (print money)
    This mechanism erodes the value of
    debt relatively.
    with deflation, this is diabolical,
    the value of ones debt rises relative
    to value of falling assests and incomes.
    Increasing debt levels during periods of expansion
    is the quickest way to bankruptcy.
    The false belief of exponential growth
    destroys companies and individuals every time.
    The reason we take out mortgages is the belief
    that inflation will reduce the value of the
    debt over time. If house prices were stable
    we would not borrow money to purchase them.
    We would simply save the princople.
    revelation – the real estate game is a ponzi
    scheme! The returns/capital growth is paid to
    the long time investors by the newcomers
    to the market. This works as long as debt
    levels can continue to rise ad infinitum
    and there is an endless supply of new investors.
    I second Daphnes comments about the post

  • I would like to propose an alternate view to Professor Guy’s emphasis on durability. Yes, durability can be highly beneficial in terms of survival implements. But I think that adaptability and flexibility in thinking and in pursuit of survival may be more important. Many human tribal cultures have survived for extended periods of time with a nomadic or hunter-gatherer or even nomadic pastoral existence. Climate may make permanence in a fixed location untenable. Certainly it is good to have a plan and probably good to have a location in mind to start the post-collapse survival routine. But being fixed on durability may make one and one’s tribe a fixed target for interlopers and usurpers. It may make one a victim of changing water tables. Mental adaptability can allow us and our tribes (communities) to rearrange our survival routines according to emerging realities. Flexibility in living arrangements may tell us that portability is more important than durability. We may want to be like the Plains Indians and use a bison stomach for water storage rather than a heavier, more durable ceramic pot. We may want to erect temporary shelters that can be torn down and discarded rather than investing in durable structures that tax our energies and make us targets from armed rivals.
    I agree with Guy that knowledge is crucial. Experience will come with time. Mistakes may be deadly. Hardships can be counted on. But survival instincts, once honed and refined, will become secondplace and life will get easier as the learning curve straightens out a bit.
    Be prepared to change, but take advantage of durability if you can. Energy saved is life itself at some point. Make a game of it, find simple pleasures and take setbacks in stride as best you can.
    Stan Moore

  • Excellent point, Stan, and it reminds me of something I’ve often written: History has been kind to travelers. Staying in one place could indeed be deadly. I’d be a wanderer myself, but for familial bonds.

  • matt:
    I agree,DD is too much.Besides it goes against the grain of my inate modesty.

  • Frank has a DD, while Cliff, Guy and I all have PhD’s. Damn, it’s amazing that anyone else reads this blog at all! But Frank, we do have a saying that’s been handed down in our family: “Cold beer is better than warm beer, but warm beer is better than no beer at all.”
    And Matt, about your comment, “Apparently this quite common, one partner gets it and the other thinks its lunacy.” After 28 years of marriage, I’ve found that statement to be true about a multitude of things, including flyfishing, golf, various types of TV programming and movies, and getting up early to go to yard sales.

  • Durability can also imply resilience and adaptabilty.
    Hunting and gathering is a far more
    efficient use of time and resources/energy.
    Interms of your own and what nature can provide
    given bio physical limits.
    This implies ones willingness to move
    perhaps out of neccessity.
    Creating a community/culture of
    transcience/movement is difficult to
    imagine given our obligations,
    connections,sense of place and ties.
    Perhaps the need to move/portabilty will dissolve
    one of those essential requiremnets for survival
    in the future. – ‘community’

  • ode to Alf,
    I was at the library yesterday writing the
    inflation ramble/post
    and reading the hysteria on the LATOC website,
    deciding whether to buy a hunting knife, sleeping
    bag or a micro generator. A seventy+ lady sat next to me
    and asked me how to use micro-soft word. She was
    writing a poetic eulogy for a dead friend.
    (he was 90). Anyway, I helped her for an hour
    to write this poem. What is it with the elderly
    and there assumption that their endless questions
    about the vagaries of WORD is not an imposition
    on my time!
    I was very courtesy, helpful and she was very
    grateful. I realised later that that generation
    has spent a lifetime helping others and voluneetering
    so in her mind it was more than reasonable to seek
    assistance from a stranger. Fair enough to.
    She thanked me at the end, and said that she could
    not give me anything in return. (words to that effect).
    I said ‘no worries, it will come back via somebody else,
    that is, what goes around comes around’. She said
    she really belived that, and she god blessed me
    as she left. Now to an atheist I found myself
    smiling, and really appreciating the sentiment.
    ah community….

  • Big Brother James:
    There are some things that only your best friends will tell you,to wit:Your wife is absolutely correct about flyfishing and golf.
    Don’t grieve,it is best that you hear it here.

  • Oh, I can’t resist.
    There is a certain 92 year old grandfather who arrives randomly and still doesn’t know how to keep his e-mail straight. No announcements, no concern for anything that might be going on, just question after question. (The same 3 questions mostly.)
    The mouse blows his mind. Once he opens every e-mail received, spam or otherwise (which is why he had to buy his own machine-“But they sent me a message, how do I know it isn’t important?”), he jumps over to where he is listed at 75 years old. He sure figured that site out! 8 hours later he leaves. No time for small talk, because oh retirement is soooo stressful. To be fair, life would be more difficult with hearing-aids and a pacemaker. However, it is my house. It would be nice to have a, “So what’s new and how have you been?” Sometimes my internet connection is “down” no matter what I do.
    Apparently people become even more self-centered with age. Which brings me to how this is relevant. We may not want to be too durable. Think of the overkill manufacturing that is happening with, say a package of cheese!
    Marriage should be durable. 92 is too late to realize that you don’t want to die alone.

  • Gosh! Guy, you attract an impressive blotter of warm-&-better beer swillers. If I had one lick of sense I’d be cowed by the company – no worries there, though. I’ll try to temperate my intemperance as I paddle about with the sturgeons and bluefins in your tank. I wish I had even less compulsion to go out and participate in the industrial economy than I do. I’d sit here, right now, and read every jot & tittle of commentary to your well thought sagery. Truly.
    In compliance with your request – I do here-by ask if any of the hunters in your camp know of a source of heavy denim-weight 60/40, poly/cotton-blend jeans of the sort that J.C. Penny & Monkey Ward’s sold back in the late ’70s & early ’80s. ( ? ) They were, apparently, too good ( durable ) to persist in the capitalist marketplace. I still have – and occasionally wear – a couple of pairs ( “boot-cut” flared legs & all ), but would like to have some newer ones (un-flared), as I consider wallowing into the dangerous territory of the next decades. As I mentioned to you, Guy, Carharts are fine for formal and ceremonial attire, but are hardly up to their hyped reputation as durable pants worthy of consideration as work-wear by members of the serfing classes. Hell, I’d settle for 50/50 poly/cotton ! !
    The perennial question dogs me – as, presumably-does-it, all of us – How will we get from where we are now, at the moment of Industrial Civ Denouement, to any likely sustainable point of tenure in the human occupation of the planet? ( Anyone ? ) I like what our friend Matt Holbert, a currently Spokane-perched, Peak-Oil-Intellectual said at dinner one night, as we wondered the question over the dregs of a tolerably bourgeois Auzzie Merlot. How will we get out of this mess – to get from here to ‘there’? Per Matt: “We’ll collapse our way out.” ( Not in one, but rather in several swell foops! )
    Still, I resist the directive to board my diesel-powered truck, to go fetch my diesel-powered brush chipper. It seemed such a benign occupation just a few short years ago. How I miss the Pleistocene.
    I’m thinking James might know Matt. Spokane seems, oddly (to me), magnetic to doom-obsessed futurists. Derrick Jensen and Robert Theobald come to mind, as erstwhile denizens of this otherwise flat-earth, mega-churched local culture. Maybe I just geo-pomorphasize excessive.

  • The previous Reverend Doctor (w/o the rest of it) does have a nice ring to it.

  • For a community of people in the world, but not of it:,193
    And these pants might last you Right Reverend:

  • Bubbleboy, while I wholeheartedly agree with your point that marriage should be durable, the truth is that most people who make it to 92 are destined to die alone, because the odds of both partners surviving that long are pretty slim.
    Stan, the major problem I see with a nomadic lifestyle is the very point that Prof Em Guy made – lack of potable water. When I was younger and went hiking, we would happily dip from the cold, clear water of any mountain stream and have a refreshing drink. By the time I entered my late teens this was no longer an option. Nowdays giardia and other contaminants make all natural streams suspect. The only safe source of water if you’re on the move is from natural springs, and those aren’t available everywhere.
    Sorry, just feeling cynical tonight. Been doing a lot of grief counseling in the last week in connection with a local homicide and I’m burned out.
    Frank, right on regarding fly fishing and golf! If golf is a pleasant stroll ruined, then fly fishing is working way too hard to catch a fish. Conservation of energy favors a worm and a mossy bank.

  • Tsk tsk,
    I hope all this adulation doesn’t go to my head.

  • Wendy:
    Just occured to me how valuable we are to the rest of the mortals on this web blog.
    Hope Big Brother James takes our superior wisdom to heart,and gives up his silly preoccupations with flyfishing and golf,and takes up something worthwhile.

  • California…
    Since I’m away I don’t really get to read the news or watch television as much as I’d like, but DAMN! What’s going on with California? It seems that every time I come over here something happens with the economy. Last time was when the DOW plunged 4000 in two weeks.
    Anyway, they’re talking about issuing IOU’s instead of actually paying the state and local employees. Today their credit rating got dropped to one level short of “Junk” status, though I believe that it’s been there a lot longer than that. I don’t know about the rest of you, but I have yet to find a business that accepts IOU’s as payment. I’d stay home. The risks of my civilian job are simply too great to take for no pay, and I know there’s other people in Law Enforcement that feel the same way. Imagine any major metropolitan area with a third of the police on the streets. Man, I’d have to get someone to record that riot in HD for me! It’d make the King Riots look like a picnic.
    I wonder when they’re going to turn on the “Magic Money Press” and crank out enough to get California back in the black until next year when this problem will start all over again. Short of massive cutting of all the feel good legislation they’ve got cooking out there, there is no hope outside of another bailout. Even that will only prolong the pain. There is simply nothing durable about what’s going on there.
    If wishes were horses, “California” would ride.

  • Turboguy, this “joke” seems relevant to your inquiry about California:
    A shipwreck washes ashore, onto a remote island, an American and three Ethnics (insert your own here; I’ll use Indians).
    One Indian says, “I’ll catch fish.”
    A second Indian says, “I’ll gather firewood and prepare a fire.”
    The third Indian says, “I’ll prepare a meal.”
    The American chimes in with, “I’ll eat it.”
    Neoclassical economists are fond of pointing out that, in the absence of the American, the whole system breaks down.
    The joke isn’t funny because the USA hasn’t manufactured anything worth buying for three decades. But economists still think we’re driving the world economy because we consume as if there’s no tomorrow.
    In the preceding story, insert “Californian” for “American.”
    As California goes, so goes the nation. California led the way to suburbia and the associated conspicuous consumption of baubles. But they also produce an enormous amount of the food we eat. California’s Central Valley is America’s salad bowl. If the ability of the California state government is reduced or obliterated, you can kiss goodbye the 3,000 mile Caesar Salad to which we’ve all become accustomed. Ditto an enormous number of goods that come through the ports along the California coast. Ditto for the delivery of gasoline and natural gas for the western half of the country.
    The United States is a coal mine, and California is the canary.

  • Total Turboguy:
    Our Total is back–signature exclam and all !!
    California has issued IOU’s at least once before,if memory serves me it was in the 1990’s.The Graduate was a great movie that examined typical Southern California mores.
    California is the quintessential Yuppie Scum social class state.Even has an android for governor.It’s revolting to see that plastic face on TV.Nancy Pelosi is another android.She’s in her 60’s but looks like a 25 year old.
    An Android is an artificial human that used plastic surgery to resemble a human.Ghastly,but no one in TV or show business is permitted to look older that 25.
    Another example demonstrating that we’re past the decadent stage and into the final
    death stage.
    Will grocers in California accept IOU’s for food.Can state contractors pay their employees with IOU’s.Is the s— going to hit the fan in California ?

  • Michael Jackson is apparently big news as a matter of national security.
    -Better to be hysterical about celebrities. Where is your patriotism?

  • I’d be curious to hear about the perspectives of Stan Moore and other Californians. Has the collapsing California economy had local impacts?

  • Why bother investing in durability?
    Humans will be extinct soon, and hopefully their artifacts will be undurable enough to not mar the future landscape of this fine ball of rock third from the sun, dude.

  • Local impact? You mean besides selling my house for $60,000 less than it was listed for three months previously, and feeling grateful to even get that? I hear from my friends who still live there that the commute traffic is much lighter now that so many people have lost their jobs, thus reducing the emissions impact on the environment. Always a silver lining…

  • ‘hansons prayer mat’ – the olduvai theory
    energy usage = standard of living –
    energy decline = decline in the standard of living – first rate statistical crap,
    hansons take – decline in energy availability = die off, result see above
    the energy usage in europe is half of what the average US/aussie citizen uses,
    by all accounts the standard of living, ie the quality of life is higher
    in europe. (the price of ‘gas’ is around $10 per gallon in Denmark).
    The average Cuban uses a seventh of the energy the average
    US citizen uses, and yet the infant mortality and longivity rates are
    better or comparable to the US.
    what gives, 90% of the blogosphere meg-doom hinges on the Olduvai theory and the statistical ‘analysis’ of prof duncan. If you still arent convinced
    by the ‘objectivity’ in the use of statistical data, check the out those nobel prize
    winning dim wits – scholes and merton. (sp?)
    there are so many variables, it beggers belief,
    our continued reliance on statisticans/economists,
    they invaribaly wrong and yet we still
    hang on their every word

  • matt;
    Are you familiar with Nassim Nicholas Taleb a/k/a “The Black Swan” and Howard Davidowitz. The people at PIMCO like Bill Gross are good.Of course Merton and Scholes are idiots,who made the mistake of putting their money with their mouths were,which financially devastated both of them.Their theories helped to destroy the world’s finacial system.
    Kunstler is a little wild,but his commentaries on contemporary society are right on.
    Of course our Prof Em Guy is the best.
    Promise you won’t let that go to your head Guy.

  • bubbleboy:
    Did you read Kunstler’s comments on Michael Jackson ? If not,then do so.
    I recommend that to everyone.