Going back to the land in the Age of Entitlement

This essay is rife with the type of self-indulgence I try to avoid, often unsuccessfully. It’s a summary of my life’s story. It begins by insulting the readers, before the end of this first paragraph, and it ends with an unavoidably maundering, self-absorbed synopsis of recent, personal events. I doubt it’s worth your time to read. But I’m a poor judge of what works for people here. My latest essay was a thoughtful collaboration with three brilliant scholars (and me), and it generated little attention. So maybe the readers of this blog are similar to the rest of the world’s industrial citizens, more interested in personal-interest accounts than serious information that impacts your lives.


During my youth, I was immersed in a culture of extraction and consumption. I was born in the heart of the Aryan nation in a small mining town in the panhandle of Idaho and I grew up in a tiny, redneck, back-woods logging town. Consumption was, and is, the prevailing culture in the United States. As with the extraction of ore and timber needed to support the unquestioned goal of economic growth, the consumption of materials and the costs associated with that consumption rarely are brought before the citizenry for critical evaluation. We live in the Age of Entitlement, assuming we deserve all we unquestioningly consume.

Although a majority of my school-age classmates denigrated education and wound up working in the mines or in the woods, I took a different route. Inspired by the words and examples of my parents — both lifelong educators — I vigorously pursued advancement through education, and completed a Ph.D. only nine years after I graduated from high school. Not surprisingly, my university degrees in forestry and range science focused on the production of natural resources. Higher education led to a twenty-year career at a major research university, where my teaching and research focused initially on management of natural resources and, later, on a life of excellence.

During my final decade in the classroom, I took a strongly Socratic turn, asking my students how to pursue a life of excellence. Bound together as a corps of discovery in the classroom, we focused on the six questions Socrates found so relevant to the human condition and a life of excellence: What is courage? What is good? What is justice? What is moderation? What is piety? What is virtue?

Throughout my career in higher education, I nurtured the personal and professional growth of students and I questioned myriad aspects of contemporary American culture, typically via guest commentaries in various newspapers. Neither individual attention to students nor questions about culture were welcomed by university administrators, but my tenured status and international reputation for excellent scholarship allowed me to pursue the work I loved. In addition to writing numerous articles and books, I delivered about ten presentations each year to a wide range of audiences, from student anarchists to the U.S. Department of Defense.

Working at a major research university required me to live in a in a city, the very apex of empire. For years, I avoided the nagging voice in my head as it pointed out the horrific costs of imperial living: destruction of the living planet, obedience at home, and oppression abroad. Eventually, though, I could no longer ignore the powerful words of Arundhati Roy in her insightful 2001 book, Power Politics: “The trouble is that once you see it, you can’t unsee it. And once you’ve seen it, keeping quiet, saying nothing, becomes as political an act as speaking out. There’s no innocence. Either way, you’re accountable.”

And then there’s the philosophy of Camus, which reminds us about the absurdity of our existence as well as finding worth in the act of rebellion. Rebellion cannot be meaningfully pursued while one is shackled to an imperial institution, as Chris Hedges points out in this week’s excellent essay, “Calling All Rebels.”

I departed university life for many reasons, among them to dedicate more time informing the world’s citizens about the consequences of the way we live. My message centers on the twin sides of the fossil-fuel coin: global climate change and energy decline (commonly known as “peak oil”). After all, the most important race in the history of humanity is under way, although the world’s governments and the mainstream media have failed to give notice. The world’s climate is changing at an accelerating rate, with profound implications for nature and the humans who depend on the natural world. In addition, the world’s energy supply is rapidly declining, which is leading to significant contraction of the world’s industrial economy. These unprecedented phenomena impact every aspect of life on Earth, notably including our ability to protect the living planet on which we depend for our own survival. Time is not on our side.

If we continue with business as usual, we likely are committed to a 4 C rise in average global temperature by mid-century. Such a profound and rapid rise in global temperature will reduce, to near zero, human habitat on Earth. A reduction in greenhouse-gas emissions by at least 80% represents the single remaining hope to save the living planet on which we depend. Such a reduction in emissions of greenhouse gases will require either a near-term trip to the post-industrial Stone Age or a rapid accounting for the actual costs associated with consuming fossil fuels. The latter will require immediate recognition of the explicit links between environmental protection, social justice, and the human economy and therefore an unprecedented transition to physical economics. Either way, we’re nearing the end of the Age of Entitlement and drawing inexorably closer to the Age of Consequences.

Although ecological forecasting is fraught with uncertainty, there is little doubt that some options have been permanently closed and others pose significant challenges in the years ahead. For example, long-term economic growth is precluded by inaccessibility to inexpensive sources of energy, and we are committed to at an average global temperature increase of at least 2 C. Dealing with the two sides of the fossil-fuel coin — global climate change and reduced energy availability — will require enormous courage, compassion, and creativity.

In addition to inspiration and motivation, we need practical, local solutions to mitigate for climate change and energy decline (it is too late for societal-level solutions to either predicament). Local solutions must be based on a realistic set of assumptions about climate and energy, and my message centers on the moral, philosophical, and pragmatic aspects of climate change and energy decline. My writing and presentations describe the nature of our predicaments, offer a series of assumptions based on forecasts for climate change and energy decline, give a general template for action, and then deliver a series of practical solutions within the realm of strengthening the links between environmental protection, social justice, and the human economy.

But, as should be obvious, I’m having damned little impact. I know exactly three people who, influenced by my message, have changed their lives in any way at all. I am one of them. The other two made minor changes in lifestyle when they began sharing their property with me. Considering how difficult it is to change ourselves, we shouldn’t expect to be able to use words to change others.

At the height of a productive career characterized by frequent awards for teaching and research, my moral compass drove me away from the relative ease of a highly paid job in exchange for the joy of stewarding life in a small community. More than two decades after I started down the academic path that led to a productive career in the ivory tower — and much to the amazement and criticism of my colleagues — I returned to my rural roots to live in an off-grid, straw-bale house where I practice my lifelong interest in sustainable living via organic gardening, raising small animals for eggs and milk, and working with members of my rural community.

I am fully aware that rural life has its benighted side. Walking to school at the tender age of ten, a classmate three years my senior aimed a rifle out his bedroom window at the base of my neck. I kept walking, and failed to mention the unremarkable event to my parents for two decades. It simply never came up. But society has changed during the last forty years, and my new rural community is not as benighted as the community of my youth. We understand and appreciate diversity in various forms, and members of the community seek to emphasize the attributes that bring us together, rather than those that drive us apart.

As I look out the picture windows of the mud hut this overcast morning, snow-capped mountains in the nearby wilderness provide a stunning backdrop to the last few sandhill cranes in this small valley. The cranes are among the last to leave their winter home before heading north for an Idaho summer. They remind me that some things are worth supreme sacrifices. Some things are worth dying for, the living planet included.

It’s not at all clear that my decision to abandon the empire was the right one. I know it will extend my life when the ongoing economic collapse is complete, and I know it is the morally appropriate decision (as if a dozen people in this country give a shit about morality). But Albert Einstein seems mistaken, at least in this case: “Setting an example is not the main means of influencing others, it is the only means.”

My own example has generated plenty of scorn, but essentially no influence. On the other hand, the imperialism of living in the city and teaching at a university has rewards that extend well beyond the monetary realm. I miss working with young people every hour of every day. I miss comforting the downtrodden, notably in facilities of incarceration, every day. And I miss afflicting the comfortable, notably hard-hearted university administrators, at least weekly.

So here I sit, alternately staring at the screen of empire and staring out the window into timeless beauty. I contemplate the timing of imperial collapse and the implications for the tattered remains of the living planet. Half a century (and one week) into an insignificant life seesawing between service and self-absorption, I wonder, as always, what to do. My heart, heavy as the unbroken clouds overhead, threatens to break when I think about what we’ve done in pursuit of progress.

Spring’s resplendence lies ahead, with its promise of renewal. Is there world enough, and time? Will we yet find a way to destroy a lineage 45 million years old, or will the haunting call of the sandhill crane make it through the bottleneck of human industry?


This post is permalinked at Counter Currents.

Comments 127

  • Guy ~ Indeed, once you’ve seen it, you cannot un-see it. I know it is only a matter of time before we reach the “age of consequences”, and I continue to be amazed at how most people I know continue along the path of “not seeing” – no matter what I might say or evidence I might pass along.

    I sympathize with your sentiments and longings for a life and career gone by. The changes you’ve made in order to stay true to your beliefs were profound indeed. As Michael and I find ourselves here in Brazil, seeking a similar path that is taking much more time and with much less (so far!) success, I too sometimes wonder what the heck I’m doing! But when I think of going back to the life I left (and what an exciting, pampered life it was) I see what “I see” and I can no longer imagine finding the same happiness or satisfaction in that lifestyle.

    I also know that the world we humans have created/destroyed will certainly come to an end/cleans itself of us, no matter what I do! It might be the crash of the economy, a nuclear winter, an environmental disaster, or a “visitor” from outer space, or any combination of these things; it is inevitable whether or not I change my lifestyle.

    At times I think I should, like most people, just live life to the fullest, take advantage of every “American industrial complex” lifestyle I was born fortunate enough to have access too. As I venture through South America I find myself feeling grateful for the comforts “money” provides, while at the same time I feel guilty for the exploitation I am participating.

    I also long for the gift of words and writing that people like you posses. I only wish I could influence others in the ways that you do with your words and actions. All the reading and knowledge I’ve gained just stays locked up inside me. I influence practically no one, barely making a difference for even my own family.

    As I imagine you sitting there in your beautiful straw bale house, contemplating your future with a heavy heart, I want you to know that you’ve set an example for at least one person, and certainly many more than you realize. If it weren’t for you, and the inspiration I gain from you through your actions, your sacrifices, and your words, my own path would seem much more lonely.

    You are in my thoughts often; you influence me, you inspire me and you remind me what I dare not forget. Keep giving Guy, especially to the young people you long for the most; it is their future you will impact and they will be grateful.

  • I really look forward to your musings. Thanks for sharing that.

  • An interesting life story and certainly no one has a right to say you went down the wrong path. You did not mention the woman in your life as you have before so I hope everything has worked out ok in that respect with your big change in lifestyle. I myself “see” what is going on and even though I know that we are all headed for trouble sooner or later I can see that just about all of us will not adopt the simpler way of living at least to such a complete degree. I think I know why. A long time ago I moved from wisconsin to colorado and took a trip up to central city which in the early 70s was still an old mining town that had not been converting into its present gambling casino form. There was an old graveyard there with everyone buried in it from the 1800s. The headstones told a story that hollywood never will about rough times that humanity has endured for thousands of years. The average age of death appeared to be quite often in the 40s with a very large number of women dying in child birth as well. Bodies worn out by hard labor and disease. The number of dead children who expired before age 2 was incredible. It is hard for us to imagine a world now without antibiotics where merely getting an infection from a rusty nail means blood poisoning,gangrene and the choice of amputation or death. Below was a display of dental tools in a window. They looked like something out of a nightmare. At the time slavery of humans and animals including horses was world wide. If only human or animal muscle is available to do work instead of machines then this is not something that should surprise us. In the end I cannot blame humanity for struggling to escape these conditions and for being unwilling to return to them.

  • Thanks to Stan Moore while I am at it for his response on my questions about hawks.

  • Happy birthday, Guy.
    I’d suggest that in fact Einstein was correct; in despair you think and feel what you chose has no influence, no radiating lines of energy. Stop thinking, as societal humans universally do, only of humans.
    F**k the humans.
    Dropping off the grid; husbanding and nurturing, instead of destroying; building local community; planting permanent crops; allowing ‘pests’ to live, and achieve harmony with their predators and you and yours; culling animals for food: developing a template for sustainable life is of deep and lasting value. And if you turn out to not be heeded by your fellows, it is because homo sapiens is undeserving.
    Our species’ arrogance is astounding…we feel ouselves the crown of creation, all reality here to do our bidding. Now we, through shortsightedness and greed, stand on the precipice of disaster, concerned with our continuation while mostly oblivious to hauling the rest of creation down with us. Our solution to the vast damage our puny wisdom and technology has wrought?
    More technology, developed and deployed by our puny wisdom.

    You spend your life nowadays learning wisdom, not just knowledge. My hat’s off in respect.

    The road I took to get to this keyboard may differ from yours, but as you noted; once seen, you cannot un-see. So here we are. For my part, I see BAU winning the battle, and losing the war. At least I will likely be gone by the time the lathe of the Correction is in full swing, whether from natural causes or from an angry fascist (also perhaps a natural cause). One of my family members met his demise that way, in fact, a few years ago. So I know well what’s coming. Life is beautiful, but fleeting.

    But I intend to leave behind scattered groves of walnuts, chestnuts, filberts, butternuts, white pines, white oaks, hickories, and others, and, if time allows, the mycellium that attend them…some of these I hope will live, and provide food and shelter for whatever survives the Correction. I’ll be dead, and whoever survives will have no idea of the provenence of those trees, but maybe they’ll sit down on a sunny spot under their shade and collect the nuts, and store them, and as a result not starve just yet.
    It’s all I got. But it will do. And I’m mighty glad for the chance to visit here, in the meantime.

  • ProfEmGuy,

    So,what was the insult in the first paragraph ?

    Can you send me a picture of Frank Jr.? I’d like to proudly show it to my friends at my Fiesta de Cumpleanos tonight.


    Frank Mezek

  • Guy,

    Yes, you managed to piss me off during the first paragraph. Speaking of self-interest, your present post is filled with it. “It’s me that brought all these students out of the darkness with the power of my intellect and the truth of my word. It’s me that’s made these tremendous sacrifices. It’s me that should be listened to. Why isn’t everyone following me?” What a load of crap. Yes, you are whining and seem to need a pat on the head.

    Let’s get this straight. Yes, you were just like the majority of the people in the “consumer” society, living with all the luxury, oblivious to what effect your actions were having on the rest of the world. How long ago was it that you made the change? Forty years? Ten years? Three years? So now you’re slamming everyone who has not quite made a transition yet, all your benighted readers who see there is a problem but have not quite figured out how to make a change? In 2001 Arundhati Roy’s correct response to your former life-style should have been to just slap you up alongside the head.

    Okay, you were bad, now you’re a saint. And everyone but you, every single last one of the rest of us, does not measure up to sainthood.

    As for the previous article, maybe a bunch of us miscreants don’t have a load of debt. Maybe, just maybe, we are already working out ways to clear what debt we have. Maybe we don’t have a mortgage because we worked hard over years to pay it off. What’s in the article for us?

    For that matter, did you accumulate a boatload of assets when you were raking in the salary of a tenured professor and then use that lump of cash to finance your new life-style? What are you suggesting? Should the rest of us become squatters rather than trying to buy those few acres that could allow us to live like you?

    Nature Bat’s Last has pulled my chain. Normally, if I want to get angry I just go down to the tire store and watch Fox News.

    Michael Irving

  • Hello Guy,

    I bumped into one of your discussions on either the Energy Bulletin or Peak Oil News websites maybe six months ago and since that time I have found your posts both informative and insightful. As is probably no surprise, each of your posts has echoed my own sentiments on the issues of peak resources (no longer am I only concerned with fossil fuels), climate change, the implosion of our “free market” economy which is anything but free and what certainly seems to me to be the unraveling of the western lifestyle as we have come to know it. Throw in a media (and a government) that is no longer capable of telling the truth and couple that with a public that, by and large, seems incapable of hearing and digesting the truth and making the huge changes that altering our path require and the chances for making proactive change are vanishingly small.

    Like you Guy, I have felt conflicted and pulled in different directions by these times. As a long time businessman and executive I have frankly delayed far too long in making the kinds of drastic changes that I believe we will all be making in the not too distant future and I’d much prefer to be proactive. I could rationalize the need to provide for my family until my three sons could make their own way in the world, or how I could more effectively facilitate change from within the corporate world, or a host of other excuses for not taking major changes…but I won’t.

    While a part of me dearly would like to buy a simple little place in the country and become as self sufficient as possible I see such great possibilities for building resilient local community economies and helping to prepare others for the coming changes that I can’t quite bring myself to sequester myself from those that want to change (even if they haven’t yet figured that out). I want to help create community comerce and trade models (cooperatives?) that bring together tomorrow’s new breed of business owners…farmers, butchers, bakers, cobblers, carpenter’s, doctors, teachers. There will probably be just as much commerce conducted via barter as there is with any form of cash or currency.

    One way or another we will be living in a simpler society. We will certainly consume a whole lot less, both in terms of energy and physical goods. And there will almost certainly be a whole lot fewer of us in the coming decades.

    I have come to accept (and to a grudgingly admitted level of anticipation) that our lives as we have known them here in the U.S. are about to change drastically. What I wrestle with now is how the collapse and transition will occur. A quick meltdown based on a singular event or series of events. A long slow descent. Something in between. A series a rapid drops interspersed with periods of relative stability and ever lower levels of complexity. Who knows!

    Do I make the choice to stay in my current suburban community knowing that transportation will likely be problematic and country living tantamout to isolation.

    There are a few folks out there who see the big picture Guy. Keep on writing, for them, and for those who will follow.

    I don’t have all the answers, heck, I don’t really have any answers. But I’ve always thrived on change and I am going to do my level best to prepare myself, my family and my community (wherever that ends up being) for the uncertain world that lies directly ahead.

    Thanks so much.

  • Thank you for sharing your story. I feel, however, that this approach – withdrawal – won’t achieve much. For you (or anyone who pursues it), personally, it will have an affect. But it’s, excuse me for saying it, entirely selfish, and utterly human – it is withdrawn from the earth.

    The reason I say this is that you point it out yourself. The distance you feel between yourself and the habitat outside your mud hut is the same distance you feel between yourself and the world of technology through the “window” of the computer.

    Close the distance.

    By taking yourself out of the man-made world, you’ve removed your influence from the lives of the students you formerly taught. Unless you’re posting on Facebook 100x per day, or doing some other multi-media guerrilla assault on culture (which isn’t a bad idea…), you aren’t reaching those minds anymore.

    And so you’ve removed yourself, to complain about what is, but have no effect on it.

    Sorry to be so blunt, but I’d rather (selfishly) see you and everyone else with similar feelings coming together within the Sities…finding solutions…promoting real change.

  • Ah… lots of introspection from people… I like it. My few cents… Guy, a person who leaves an ego-bound job will always have a hard time for sometime afterwards. Part of your identity is gone. I felt it years ago. It passes once you rebuild your identity along different lines. Find young people to work with in your community… Er… is there a real community where you live now?

    I am dismayed you point us to Chris Hodges’ rant. I am sick to my soul of people who are invested in heaping abuse on the rightwingers and the religious. When in doubt, blame the right! The IRS is our friend! WTF? And he is an idiot for calling for “open and direct defiance” — yeah, I am sick of intellectuals calling for others to man the barricades while they stay safe away from them. Moral autonomy is not about throwing yourself into the gears of the Machine. That’s just doing again and again the same thing that has not worked out so well, for thousands of years now. Well, sorry to go on about Hodges, I am bummed you like that sort of thing. I was under the impression that I am more in sync with you.

    Also, I do not think we humans have the ability to protect the living planet. But she can protect herself and will. Time is on her side.

    You want to have more impact? Here are some questions: Are you trying to be a hero… as you saw yourself in the university setting, perhaps? Does this make sense in the new setting your have chosen? Are you lonely? Is the cloud in your heart connected more to that than what you are actually doing? And could it be that the path you have taken is the right one, it’s just that some significant piece of it has not been added yet?

    Thank you for the sounds of the cranes. Made my morning! :-)

  • Guy,

    I owe you an apology. I did not have to be rude and condescending. I keep forgetting the rule: “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.” In the future I’ll try to take deep breaths and think before I spew vitriol.

    Michael Irving

  • clearly you have more work to do in the garden

    get cracking!

  • Er… did not mean to sound like the Spanish Inquisition…. ;) … just wondering if some of those questions could be of use…

  • Go Guy! Real change is when we as a species hit rock bottom and then realize the deep shit we’re in. This train called civilization will not slow down as the cliff approaches. Convenience is our crystal meth and once you’ve had a taste fo-get a-bout it! I for one am glad someone is out there “beyond civilization” living and walkin the walk. I have a plan thanks to you DJ and DQ… so keep on truckin brother..

  • Re the previous posting, there’s not much about getting out of debt now that’s news in these circles, that’s been the advice of theautomaticearth bunch for over a year now, probably two if you count when they were still at the oildrum, so that posting wasn’t exactly hot news to stop the presses for. Sort of like writing a posting that says something like: we’re entering into a recession that’s probably going to turn to a depression soon. People will be like, ummm, yes, I knew that already.

    It’s tempting to actually respond to this posting here, but it’s hard to tell if you’re just having a bad week/month or if you’re actually really trying to figure out if you’re taking the right path.

    Oh, and speaking of paths, make sure to pick up Legge’s Tao Teh Ching and Chuang Tzu, usually found in two volumes as The Texts of Taoism, Dover has them, easy to find. A lot of the problems we think are all new and exciting really aren’t that new or exciting, though they are to us, because they are happening now, here, to us, but there’s not a lot about this situation that I can see, except for the global scales involved, that is actually that new. Then when the crash we expect drags out and doesn’t go bang like we were hoping there’s this sort of anticlimactic letdown.

    I’m noticing a lot of pretty major timing errors, came across this piece on depression/recession seems fairly realistic re the time scales involved here, minus discussion of the peak commodity issues.

    But the actual question you ask here, it’s interesting, but the answers are not well suited for glib internet polemics I think, something all too jaded about this method of communication.. as with TV, on the internet too, at some point you have to notice that the medium is the message, and then start to wonder about the medium itself. No answers, but just saying, there are patterns here too.

  • I must say I enjoyed the mixed response to this mini auto-blog-ography of yours. I think Mr. Irving was a little harsh with you, but in some strange way I share his resentment. I’m envious that I’m not in a position (neither in the financial nor in the rural know-how sense) to dedicate myself to the natural mud hut life wholly… just yet. But I could live vicariously if you’d write more about the rural garden and less about the roaring gloom. That may be asking too much, I know.

    I’m not going to share my personal story here, as you’ve provoked so many of your followers to do with this post. (Does “followers” sound cultish to you?). Instead, I will try to influence you with my words because I think it’s possible. I disagree with you when you negate Albert Einstein’s proverb, “Setting an example is not the main means of influencing another, it is the only means.” You set a high standard through your example, no doubt causing those around you to reexamine themselves, and their lives.

    As your student, I’m here to tell you that I want to learn how to survive without cushy conveniences in the way that you do. I want to learn how to form community bonds while foraging for fruits or while planting a food forest. In fact, I think it’s perfectly clear that many of us do. Many young people do feel the impending doom of the economy and the hopelessness of actual change in modern society. There’s a food revolution building in the urban sphere. What’s more, people are finding innovative ways to use “wastes” (food and other) generated by the industrialized masses to sustain little slices of nature and to create communities of like-minded naturalists anywhere they can.

    I don’t believe you mean it when you say, “we shouldn’t expect words to change others”. Words are the most powerful agent of change, they give structure to the voice of movements and revolutions, but their power is contingent upon their audience. I think if you wrote more about your hands-to-dirt efforts and less about The Fall (or Correction, according to Vertalio), you’d see your efforts to incite change aren’t as futile as you make them sound. You do have an impact. But don’t get any ideas about starting a cult…

    As you read these posts along with mine, you no doubt realize that you’re not disconnected at all. You write-preach out here in the blogsphere to a sympathetic and engaged audience. And so, you’ve not abandoned your influential role as a teacher, only your bureaucratic position as an educator.

    It may benefit you to open your eyes to the students, to remember us as your audience. In other words, take that damned doombucket off for us once in a while (let us see your pretty side, with your funny mustache).

    Side note: Mr. Vertalio, where is your magnificent food forest?

  • Guy, for what it’s worth, I think your current melancholy might be due to the fact that you’re still living in two worlds. You’re still drawn to the old existence–you haven’t totally left it yet. You’ve planted yourself too close to that which you are attempting to leave behind. Maybe it’s like you’re on the ultimate camping trip and are homesick. As long as there is the option of slipping back to this side, the enticement will be irresistible. But wait until the whole thing comes crashing down for real and the options have vanished and you will see what you have created for yourself in a whole new light…it will truly become your new reality, and you will be able to embrace it fully. So, that’s my theory.

    Cindy Winkleman, your point about having all this information and it’s just locked up inside is one I make to myself all the time. I read, read, and read some more with a frenzied obsession, about all that is and must come to pass, but it stays locked up inside, eating away at my spirit.

    What’s an old woman of limited means to do on her own? I have minimal influence on my sons or anyone within my social sphere. How do we find our little community if we don’t already have it? We can’t just go waltzing into someone else’s community at a moment’s notice and expect to fit in. (Well, maybe Gaviotas is a possibility.)

    Relationships take years to build and if we’ve spent the better part of our lives among the wrong sorts of people, well then what?

    I admit to misty-eyed dreams of a little ecotopia with extended family and other kindred spirits living in small houses on the land–like Vera’s old European villages, but my reality is impossibly far from that. My sons think I’m crazy so they’re unlikely to go along with any such nonsense.

    I don’t know how to leap across that gap (abyss?) into the lifeboat, so I’ve largely resigned myself to going down with the ship, but perhaps trying to do some human good for others along the way. I know my life isn’t worth warm spit in the overall scheme of things.

  • This is why I stopped contributing to the discussions on this website. The majority of the regular comments are self-absorbing and lack deeper phlisophical meaning. Don Henley was right when sang in his song ‘frail grasp of the big picture’, that most Americans were ‘bloated with
    entitlement and loaded on propaganda’. By the way Guy, you may have influenced more people than you think. It’s just that some of your deeper thinker readers don’t have the need to give their pennie’s worth on every article, like most of your airhead regulars.

  • Dear Guy McPherson – Turning points in one’s life are never easy and sometimes they bring us the “oh, sh*t” attention we weren’t seeking. I think your posting is a kind of knee-jerk reaction to a place where frustration builds and builds, and where the familiar release valve follows a soothing path.

    I’m not one for many words, except to make a brief suggestion that the next time you feel this urge, this need as you did overnight Sunday, that you stop in your tracks and spend time examining what’s there. You’ll be greeted by a pool of emotions, with perhaps matching images, and it would be okay and a good thing to quietly sit in that place for a while, breathing in silence. From my own experience, it’s kinda fascinating to seek and grow in that way. Not too scary like meeting our maker or something, getting to know who we are by peeling those onion-like layers!

    Gotta also tell you that I found your childhood experience arresting. I’m sorry that in that one split second you were threatened as though you did not matter. You did and you do. It’s a significant life moment that was all yours to live and explain, a little boy minding his own beeswax.

    So, maybe it’s about you in silence, and about the world at large in bright lights little mud-hut city?

    Under our breath let’s all rename this week’s post to include the Age of Enlightenment, shall we?!!

    Stay the McPutt-Putt course, Doc. You’re doing swell and you’re doing important good work.

    Most sincerely,

    Marguerite Daisy

  • teetering,
    I really like the translation by Hua-Ching Ni, The Complete Works of Lao Tzo. It is modern and allows more time for thinking about the ideas rather than having to first translate the translation. It seems to be saying exactly the same thing that more literal translations say but is just a lot easier to understand. Maybe I just need training wheels. Of course Legg’s might be just as good or better.

    Michael Irving

  • “…some of your deeper thinker readers don’t have the need to give their pennie’s worth on every article, like most of your airhead regulars.”
    Although we seem able to parse sentences, and spell.

    I note a certain malaise in this thread, perhaps born of despair that when we die, things will not continue on as they are, only without us. Until recently, only religious apocalypsistas thought so, and they were, to date, uniformly wrong. But now we know things we never did before; down to the molecular level, and from the depths of space to the deepest ocean trench. Ironic; at the moment of our greatest knowledge we realize we have put the whole of life at risk. Maybe that’s as it should be. I hope we’re up to the task, though if Business As Usual continues in the driver’s seat, skepticism seems valid.
    But yesterday was the unofficial first day of Spring here…a lone turtle sunning on a log, the first grackle at the feeder. Maples begin to bud out; here we go again. On days like this I know I’m no more important to the planet than that turtle, and it’s a blessing. Take what you need, and leave the rest, as they say.

    Susan…can you join a CSA? It’s a chance to get outdoors, in the company of the like-minded, and end up with glazed carrots or mixed salads that will say more to those sons than words will. Bounty like that speaks directly to their bodies. We give our minds overdue import, I suspect, ignoring the bodies that grew from our basic genetic contract. Our bodies know much more of vital importance than our minds ever will. Which suggests that old saw: actions speak louder than words.
    So, Guy, don’t regret action. Minds (words) battle with minds (words). Actions leave tangible evidence.
    And, Emma…the forest exists in the future. I planted those trees at home, and use their nuts and seeds, and wild ones I collect, for the project. I’m only planting seeds; at home and in nearby conservation areas, and at the more distant properties of friends. ‘Seed forests’. The actual forests would take a thousand years to spread outward one hundred miles, more or less, given favorable conditions.
    It’s just an act of faith. Although I am noticing seedlings, so…

  • During my final decade in the classroom, I took a strongly Socratic turn, asking my students how to pursue a life of excellence. Bound together as a corps of discovery in the classroom, we focused on the six questions Socrates found so relevant to the human condition and a life of excellence: What is courage? What is good? What is justice? What is moderation? What is piety? What is virtue?


    This posting seems to be more about learning and communities of learners in the face of adversity, rather than you yourself, at least to me.

    So maybe the readers of this blog are similar to the rest of the world’s industrial citizens, more interested in personal-interest accounts than serious information that impacts your lives. (???)

  • At some point, the students must take up the master’s tools.

  • Guy:
    The road to the examined life is filled with the potholes of self-indulgence. You just don’t want to get stuck in one.

    I was delighted to come back from a winter stay in Laos to find that Nature Bats Last has been revitalized, with new and intelligent people commenting–notably Michael Irving. The turning point, I think, came when you declared independence from John Michael Greer’s solipsistic metaphors and started using your scientific training to start witnessing the world. Hence the appearance Sandhill Cranes and the deep sadness that goes with their beauty.

    What you’re doing is deeply important, probably more important than what you did in the classroom. It’s certainly more ethical, considering that a bachelor’s degree means debt-slavery for most of its holders these days. It’s enough to be a careful and credible witness, because it’s difficult, as some of the previous posters note, to see what’s really going on in the moment. Your blog is one of the few that believes in the scientific method and all that it implies.

    Lots of the other collapse blogs promote metaphors that have been expanded into prophetic meta-narratives, ala Toynbee and Spengler. But America is not Rome. The Second Law of Thermodynamics is not a metaphor, it’s the Second Law of Thermodynamics. Civilization is not a steam engine. History is a lousy predictor of future events because there’s a tiny but profound disconnect between past and future–the present, with all its messy data and fluxing parameters.

    For me, the essay that awakened me to the end of normalcy was Bill Joy’s April 2000 essay, “Why the Future Doesn’t Need Us.” But your writings have contained that same style of clear thinking, as have some of Charles Hugh Smith’s writings, notably his recent rant on what a threatened industrial state will do to protect itself.

    Since my own 50th birthday in 2000, thanks to Bill Joy, I’ve been thinking of how I want to spend my life until I die, which is what I should have been doing all along. The death of a civilization is good for a brief peak in consciousness, which is more of a silver lining than we give it credit for.

    The key term for me is witness. One of the most powerful acts we can do is the act of witnessing, and that’s where you’re world class. Scientific training combined with an appreciation of the beauty of the world is a powerful,even gut-wrenching combination. But most of us have bought into the idea that we have to say what it all means–the NSF grant view of science–which requires that we have to shoehorn the world into blind metaphors or choose between a limited number of pre-articulated realities. There’s a reason for all those blind alleys out there.

    R.D.Laing shows the dynamics of our perceptual situation in The Politics of Experience, if you are interested in seeing where I’m coming from.

    You could increase your influence and number of readers by publishing every Monday, and announcing that as policy. Give the curmudgeonly Michael Irving a guest spot if you need a break from time to time. Ask some of your regular contributors to speak out of their high seriousness rather than their low goofiness. It’s admirable that you allow all comments, but you can ask for a few moments of thoughtfulness as the price of admission.

    I tell my writing students that one reason to write is to recreate the lost texts of the Library at Alexandria. The ones I’d like to read are the ones that witnessed their world, described what wonders they had lost, and committed the occasional act of self-indulgence.

    Incidentally, Laos is a relatively untouched country. A geriatric communist oligarchy and unexploded U.S. ordinance has protected it from Thai and Chinese capitalism. But that’s changing. It’s probably worth the jet fuel to go see it while you can.

  • Sir
    I am a senior citizen that never had the opportunity to attend your
    classes or even to be able to be a student at college or university. The change you have made in your life style allows me to become your student for, at least, a little while. Thank you for that.

  • From the Age of Entitlement.. to the Age of Consequences… no question about that we are at the beginning of this one and it will be very difficult ! We created this crisis, now we have to pay

    i wonder… can we find our way for an Age of Empathy?

  • Craig Moodie,

    I’m hoping you check back for this. I have two things for you. First, I’d like to say (……) about your comment.

    Second, I’ve been thinking about you a lot over the last several weeks and was hoping that you would give us some new insight from a different part of the world. Sometimes it feels that those of us here in the US are perched atop a tall building (like the Eiffel Tower) and it’s gyrating wildly, generating that sick feeling I get on a Ferris wheel when it stops at the top and the person with me starts rocking the seat. It looks like a really long way down from here. I’m not saying that people in other situations around the world are lucky not to be at the very pinnacle of civilization (consumer civilization—has nothing to do with intellectual or spiritual value). I’m just saying that the crash may be most shocking for Americans. I’m also not talking about your particular situation; I’m guessing you have more stuff than I do, more money, more toys, more of everything. You are, however, from a different place and, just as conditions in my neighborhood are not like east Los Angles or Manhattan, what’s going on where you are might shed some light on the world situation. I’m guessing South Africa is way different from the US. Help me out.

    Michael Irving

  • As usual, lots of good comments already, though they tend to stray far afield. I have only a little bit to add.

    Guy, your central question appears to be, “why don’t people recognize what’s happening, take it seriously, and translate it into meaningful action?” I can think of lots or reasons why not. Personally, I’m with you on the first two but lack courage for the third (to which anyone could object that I’m not really serious.) My assessment of the masses, though, and probably our political and educational leadership as well, is that they’re all distracted with the needs of the moment and can’t formulate or enact a long-term plan when it contradicts short-term comforts. It’s basically the same story as your peers who, as students, refused to bother studying and are now trapped as the bottom of the labor pool. (Ironically, that may not be a bad place to be fairly soon.) Unless I’m mistaken, you see this same short-termism throughout nature, where one organism or another is perfectly able to kill its host, overexploit its niche, or ignore an impending catastrophe. We’re just like them except perhaps for our ability to see disaster coming a little more clearly (and perhaps in bringing it down upon ourselves).

  • Michael Irving, Legge’s translations benefit from a few very critical advantages: 1 – he disliked Taoism (he considered it inferior to his own Christianity, weird as that might sound today), but he was a good and honest translator, in the classical tradition that is largely gone now from what I can tell. This made him tend to just translate what is there, and not cram on the unfortunate new age garbage that later efforts tend to often fall into. 2: he translated this before any of the 20th century new age type thinking even existed to corrupt the ideas, especially psychobabble type thinking. 3: he had no preconceived notions about the books, since his translations were basically the first ones made that were complete; 4: he translated all the relevant materials around the books too, like the I-Ching, so he had a pretty deep immersion in the area. On the down side, sometimes he insisted on trying to recreate the poetic portions of the Tao Teh Ching to somewhat annoying degrees.

    All our translations, as far as I know, suffer from excessive wordiness (like injecting ‘it’ or some pronoun where none exists), which always force at some level a meaning that is not there in the terse originals. Legge tended to simply include the the key meanings of each term he was translating, so once you get a feel for that, you basically understand that a term like ‘firm and correct’ has one single character referenced. Plus, nobody has created a full Chuang Tzu translation that I’m aware of yet. It’s the Chuang Tzu, by the way that demonstrates so clearly that many behaviors we engage in have predictable results, from trivial to complex (ie: lying down makes you tired, unable to focus, that is, don’t read lying down), including behaviors that are directly related to the topics of this posting. Thinking you cannot learn from history I believe is a tacit admission that one has in fact failed to learn from history, and in no way proves that you can’t, it’s simply a string of words tied together and posted in a comment thread. But it certainly fits in well with the view that our modern industrial age loves to promote that we are very special creatures in our very special privileged age, far too special to be understood… happily other thinkers of the past were not burdened with such intellectual baggage and so can provide useful insights into some pretty basic and fundamental parts of existence.

    With the Tao Teh Ching, the real problem is that it appears that nobody translating it has actually reached the point of connection the book is discussing, or insists on doing some type of comparative religion crap on it, and this creates a subtle corruption in their selections of which terms to use to translate the terse characters. I poked around a bit in a few chapters and did a literal translation of a few of the more interesting chapters, and the difference was really amazing, in fact, the original words were pretty much crystal clear, as were the actual structures of the characters, if you can get a sense of the referent, the thing that can’t be explained or spoken. This problem is very evident in chapters 1 and 10 especially, but since I was doing character for character translations, it’s pretty time consuming, and prone to error of course.

    Given that there’s already some errors implicit in the book you mention, that the Hua Hu Ching is by Lao Tzu, it’s unlikely to go uphill from there, I found some samples on amazon but they don’t seem to have anything to do with any work by Lao Tzu I’ve ever seen.

    But honestly, the more I read this stuff, the more I realize that the book won’t work if it’s being filtered so heavily by translator’s interpretations. The extra words may appear to help, but they don’t, it’s my belief that they actually essentially guarantee that the book will fail to achieve its goal.

    If you want direct fairly honest efforts, grab the versions based on the much older Ma-Wang-Tui texts (which pose another problem, being a sample set of one find, two partial books, we can’t actually know that these are more or less authoritative except for the fact they are older), Henricks made a decent one, and Victor Mair made one fairly recently, these aren’t bad. These were terse back then too, so don’t think this is just some matter of Chinese/English, it’s more than that, but the more they pile on-top of these works, the worse they get in my opinion. Addiss/Lombardo made a fairly nice terse one too. None are great, but they aren’t bad.

    The key ideas are this: “my words are very easy to understand, but few will understand them” (and in failing to do so, I might add, are creating translations that make such a failure even more likely). And that these are not metaphors for anything, they are direct statements which like Zen Koans become immediately clear, aside from the translation messes, when the connection of the way is established. I would suggest that in fact, much of these works is actually designed to help you achieve that connection. After studying these things for some 25 odd years, at times I think I might have caught a faint whiff of what’s actually going on here, but it’s not easy.

  • sorry, ‘nobody has created a full Chuang Tzu; should read:

    nobody other than Legge has created a full Chuang Tzu translation yet (this might have changed in the last decade, I don’t keep up with this stuff that much re new works)

  • Hey Guy,

    It’s been another long winter in very rural Minnesota, but my wood supply is adequate and the larder is half full. We’ve been here for a beautiful and challenging 40 year’s and the routine is anything but dull. We call it “Cabin Fever” and put on another pot of tea. The long winter is our inward time and with the longer day’s and melting snow a awakening to the bustle of spring “rocks our world” It’s been a pleasure to pass some time feeling your thought’s and getting to know some of your contributor’s. We seldom feel it necessary to respond, but it’s been a great afternoon…remember to feel the flow and “live easy”. Soon need to pull the plug on this computer near the vernal equinox and return to the realities of the homestead.

  • First off, regarding the previous post on debt, I agree with the commentators above who pointed out that the “get out of debt” issue has been pretty well explored by numerous bloggers and even journalists. As an added comment, I thought the co-authorship didn’t work that well. The post struck me as disjointed – the clear voices of the individual authors came through loud and clear at the expense of coherency.

    Secondly, you wrote: “I know exactly three people who, influenced by my message, have changed their lives in any way at all.” That is not only inaccurate, but also unfair. Richard Heinberg writes in his most recent blog posting about the thousands of people he meets who are changing their lives to forge a new and de-industrial future. You are one of many sounding the alarm and taking concrete steps toward a better future. There are lots of us, and I include myself, who are actively seeking ways to change our lives, but aren’t as far along as you are. Furthermore, cutting the cords that bind is difficult, particularly when family and children are involved. I have come to think of the whole endeavor more as a process than anything else.

    Lastly, how can you be so sure you’ve had no impact? Judging by the responses to your post, this hardly seems the case. Perhaps, it is meant rhetorically. For me, though I mostly prefer not to comment on your posts, I read them without fail. You have had an enormous impact on my views, which dates back to your early newspapers articles on peak oil. Even for those who think you a crackpot and an extremist, you have had an impact, though maybe not the one you might prefer.

    As a side note, I have enjoyed the posts regarding Taoism. I am of the opinion that study of the Way holds the key to understanding and facing our Great Predicament.

  • “I am of the opinion that study of the Way holds the key to understanding and facing our Great Predicament.”

    So am I.

  • Take heart. Change is coming, and sooner than almost everyone expects. When that happens, the Pareto Principle means that people with understanding and a plan will have great influence. You’ll be one of those people.

  • Michael, South Africa is a mix of first and third world. Our major cities look no different to any city in the US regarding infrastrucure etc. South Africa is the economic power house of Africa operating under the same freemarket principles as the rest of western civilisation. The majority of the population ( +/- 75%) are low income earners. Unemployment runs presently at about 30%, and increasing. To answer your question regarding how different South Africa is to the US, not much. There is an old saying ” when America sneezes, the rest of the world catches a cold”. This has proved to be true, as we have not escaped the economic meltdown that the Western world is experiencing. The people are up to their eyeballs in debt, unemployment is rising and most people, regardless of income are living from paycheck to paycheck.
    Most of them, just like most Americans are also under the delusion that the economy is going to recover sometime soon. You see, we are not protected from Mainstream media propoganda. You know “green shoots,jobless recovery etc”.
    We however, don’t only have a crumbling economy to worry about, South Africa has one of the highest crime rates in the world and i’m not talking about petty crime. Violent murder, farm attacks, rape, car hijacking, armed robberies and home burglary are all common practice. There is not one person I know that has not been exposed to some form of crime or another. Personally, my wife, when working as a branch manager at one the local banks had an AK47 held at her head. As the economy worsens I can only see situation deteorating further. Our local police force are pretty ineffective as our government still blames the previous sins of apartheid as the primary cause of the problem.
    For the average white citizen the problem is further exacerbated by being discriminated against in the workplace, with radical affirmative action and black empowerment programmes that were introduced at the end of apartheid. This has resulted in a radical drop in standards in the service sector of the economy. One area close to my heart, is the deteoration of waste water treatment reulting in a massive increase in pollution of our rivers.
    Another area which white citizens have to contend with is the threat of of losing one’s land to land claims/grab under the guise of readdressing the sins of apartheid. I must add that I was never a supporter of apartheid, however what we are experiencing in South Africa is what we would call “reverse racism”.
    On a happier note I am in the fortunate position of having just sold my business ( yes, I was a capitalist once ), and have just purchased a 4000ha game reserve in Botswana’s Tuli block and my entire family are relocating there in April to work with the wildlife and also to live off the land. Botswana is not only one of the most stable countries in Africa but also the world. An added bonus is that it only has a population 1,5 million people.
    I hope this maybe enlightened you somewhat to the situation somewhere else in the world. Perhaps, it may not be that bad where you are, considering.

  • Teetering,

    Wow! Interesting comment. I am going to have to re-read it a couple of times and think about what you said. I will note one thing, however, about being more comfortable with the newer translation I mentioned. I wasn’t making the case for it being more correct or better. I just noted that in my limited capacity to understand the philosophy the more contemporary language selection helped me. Other translations have been overly poetic (as you noted) which forces the original into an English language box and for me becomes hardly understandable. Or some try to use the flow of the original more exactly, which forces English into the Chinese language box. Neither works well for me. I’m thinking that the same case could be made for Christian bible translations, with the added problem of transposing Aramaic into Greek, into a non-modern form of English, to be translated in my brain into modern English. Of course all of these would probably be helped if I had one religious bone in my body.

    Thanks, by the way, for your informative comment.

    Michael Irving

  • Craig Moodie,

    Great response and I thank you for it.

    4000ha is huge. If you get a chance, fill me in on your accommodations, the environmental conditions, and the extant wildlife. More information about the species you will be managing for and how you do that would be interesting, too. Will you be using hunting and/or photographic safaris as revenue producers? What’s your thumbnail business plan?

    As for your comments about South Africa, it sounds grim. I was aware of the dichotomy between 1st and 3rd worlds living side by side, however, I didn’t realize the crime problem was so bad. Hope your wife got through her experience unscathed. Getting out of the country seems like a good choice even if your primary motivation was the game reserve. What are social and economic conditions like in Botswana?

    Finally, regarding “America sneezing, and the rest of the world getting a cold.” Assuming Guy’s premise, that SHTF is at hand (I completely agree with that) then what are your plans for weathering the coming storm when it hits your part of the world?

    Michael Irving

  • Michael Irving, I read some of these versions side by side last night, and I think overall, I’d recommend the two volume Texts of Taoism because of Legge’s excellent notes and comments, as well as the Chuang Tzu complete translation, and the Stephen Addiss / Stanley Lombardo Tao Te Ching translation as maybe the closest to the original out there that I’ve seen in terms of well translated and well structured. I haven’t read the version you’re mentioning, but again, simply by the fact that the translator lumps a secondary, probably much later, Taoist work in with the Tao Teh Ching, when it’s fairly universally admitted that we basically know nothing about even the author of the first work, if there even was a single author, makes everything else fairly suspect in terms of translation choices. Usually you can tell pretty easily by skimming over a few key chapters.

    Believe me, you want the Chinese flow, you would be amazed at how the actual structure and meaning and rhythm becomes clear, I was.

    If you want the concepts expanded more, then Chuang Tzu does that, lots of concrete examples, metaphors, stories, all designed to say what Lao Tzu said in very few words in a lot more words, in case the brevity didn’t work as well.

    Here’s a more or less literal translation of part of chapter 10, keeping all key words translated with the same english words:

    Circulate spirit
    Embrace the one
    Energy not leaving now!

    Concentrate spirit (breath)
    Achieve yielding (tender, gentle)
    Energy infant child now! (soft, tender, yielding, open, without ideas or illusions)

    Wash away, remove (obstructions and obstacles, illusory visions)
    See the profound
    Energy without flaw now!

    Love the country (land)
    govern the people
    Energy without doing now!

    The gates of heaven
    Open, Close
    Energy acts female now! (open, receive, be receptive, do not push or try to lead)

    Pure understanding
    Reaching everywhere
    Energy without knowledge now!

    The Bible stuff is very interesting too by the way, same problem with translators who either have an explicit or implicit agenda, or who simply fail to grasp the flow of the words because they fail to grasp what is being said, and so change the translation because otherwise it doesn’t ‘make sense’ to them. I recently read a very good rendering of some key passages, I guess one would call it exegesis that was done in the early 20th century, before the main texts of the Gnostic gospels were discovered, and the guy had actually figured out the implicit meaning largely I believe because he roughly grasped what the actual content was.

    Not having a religious bone in your body is going to make it a bit harder to access this stuff though, since this is one of the more intensely spiritual (spiritual as in spiritus, breath, that which animates) books out there, but a non-politically correct version, anti religious to the extreme, if by religion you mean hierarchical systems designed to hold back, tie back (religere), people from knowing (gnosis) themselves (to know yourself is the most difficult thing, Socrates, Lao Tzu). Speaking of spiritual, I just learned that the great plains Native American (Sioux, Pawnee, Cheyenne etc) term that is usually rendered ‘Great Spirit’ actually is more accurately rendered: Great Mystery, the Profound, the Sacred (Wakantanka). Same rough description the Tao Teh Ching uses… odd that.

  • Guy,
    In response to your ‘insult’ in the first paragraph, my sense is that the reason your ‘personal-interest’ postings garner more responses than your reasoned ‘solutions’ postings is that somehow people know that we cannot ‘think’ our way out of this crisis. The nature of the problems we’ve created are so complex that we aren’t going to be able to back out of them, and at best might mitigate them.

    Simply put, no one really knows what to do. So we look to others to see what they’re doing. Not proposing…but doing. Like leaving academia and living on the land.

    To see someone such as yourself, with whom many readers of this blog can identity, make the decision and reap the consequences of going back to the land, we can learn from your experience and better discern the cost-benefits of our own fight-or-flight-or-sleep dreams.

    Thanks for being a pioneer. I’d imagine many feel you’re just a few years ahead of where the rest of us will be (or want to be).

  • Alan Zulch, I agree, that’s why I started reading this blog too, was interested to see someone actually trying at least one of the avenues being suggested, and especially someone who can write fairly well. Whether I agree with the concept or not, I can’t really say personally, obviously going back to the land isn’t going to scale at all, but as one possible direction, I’ve been tempted by it many times myself, and long before this collapse stuff got popular to talk about, and not because of those ideas, just because it’s more sane in many ways.

    But I do think if you move to the land, you should do so primarily because that’s what you want to do, and that’s how you want to spend your life. Fulton Hanson nailed it as far as I’m concerned, that’s why you live on the land. I don’t personally buy the collapse narrative that everything is going to go up in flames and we will be fighting barbarous hordes for food, I’m sorry, but that vision I think has a lot more to do with watching too many movies and tv in general than it does with any reality on the ground here in the USA at least. Things can and do change, and they will, how, hard to say.

    Colin Cambell really hit this about 12 years ago when he said: when peak oil hits, you will see wide instabilities in the global economic system, failures, then slow recovery, leading to rising oil prices ($82 a barrel today), leading to a new collapse, all on a fairly slow and tedious downward trajectory. A good description of our current situation so I take that as basically what’s going to happen. No signs of catastrophic failure yet, just more and more instability globally.

    But I like seeing someone who is doing what he thinks will work, even if it doesn’t, so what, you move on and life goes on, it’s a good time to get over this overblown, overvaluation of individual life anyway, things will go on.

  • Hi Guy,

    This seems like about the end of this comment section, so I wanted to really send a few words to you…in the form of another story. I’m not even sure of the point of it except to throw it out there to point out some similarities and differences.

    I did a hitch in the Army, then graduated from the U of Mn. and kicked around for awhile in corporate America, became disgusted, met a lady and headed for the country…with a old truck and $800. Hooked up with a small community in Northern Minnesota and really started going through major changes. We knew nothing about living on the land, raising food, kid’s, shelters…nothing. I was 27 at the time and really full of myself. That was 40 years ago and what a ride. Just learning how to financially support ourselves seemed impossible. Everbody around us already had a lifetime of practical skills that basically put us on the bottom of the heap. There were no jobs. We had to earn the right to be there or leave.

    The protection of community bought us some time and a local farmer had a old abandoned house that we could tear down for materials in exchange for farm labor. We were in. We took that two story farmhouse down a board at a time saving everything including the nails. At that time Bucky Fuller had published a book called “utopia or Oblivion” and we were off to build a dome. I had never built a bird house let alone a geodesic dome. Well it turned out beautiful…a 33′ diameter–5/8th sphere with massive passive solar. I remember my lady pulling nails up to the time of giving birth to our first child. I felt good about my callus’s and I was ripped with muscles. There was no going back to the cities or the old life, we were pioneers

    Our community grew to 24 and our extended community was hundreds, it was a terrific time. No jobs so everyone dug deep inside and worked for themselves. I never had another “job” again after that. The challenges of Minnesota homesteading were formidable, but we just loved the freedom and commeraderie. Our garden flourished, my chimney cleaning gig help out and we had our first daughter.

    So, on and on. I admire your ability to actually consciously choose a radically different path coming from the protected walls of academia. The transistion to homesteading is not a easy step, but once the jump is made and the landing isn’t too hard, the rewards are subtle. Our old van ran great for 18 years and carried our family down to rural Mexico for twelve winters. We just closed our place down for two-four months every winter and just went sunnin’ in Mexico and central America. We would camp all winter and head home in the spring. This worked great for us until our oldest reached 7th grade and then we quit roving so much. We ended up with four great kid’s and managed to get three through private colleges and the youngest had two years of nursing school…so far.

    We ended up falling in love with Mexico and built a casa in the foothills of the Sierra Gorda Mountains of the state of Queretaro. My third daughter and I (possibly others) will take a road trip this April to once again clean out the cobwebs, and pound down some beans, rice gorditas and a little Pulque.

    So can’t you tell us more about your actual journey to the straw house and what it means to your soul. Sure there are second thoughts, but your there and that counts…forget the collapse. It will just fall around you and you will still be standing. Let it happen and go with the flow. It’s great to move off the cement and breath free. If your neighbor’s are anything like mine, embrace them. Do you live in a township? We had town board elections Tuesday night and 86 people showed up…for a town board election??? It was a blast even though a friend from a neighboring tribe lost by 50 votes. Our township stand between us and the county, state and the Feds. It is our first line of defense…get to know those folks

    Well, now it’s 12;30 and i’ll be worthless tommorrow. That’s what your article did for me…I guess you had a impact wouldn’t you say. It was great talking with you and email me at yahoo.com if you would like. Sorry I got so long but it was fun to look back…it’s been a great ride.

  • Teetering,

    Thanks again for your comments. I’m especially glad you referred me back to Fulton Hanson’s comments. I have a couple of return comments.

    When I noted that I didn’t have a religious bone in my body it was just a poor way of noting that while I can find important ideas for living in religious writings, they hold no magic for me. That said, I guess you can see why I have some disagreement with your comment about “overblown, overvalued individual life.” If there is no expectation of an afterlife (not counting recycling by worms and bacteria or the carbon cycle) I am left with just this one life only; and it is so beautiful. It’s pretty important to me and I am unwilling to leave it any sooner that I have to.

    The second thing I would note has to do with your seeming cornucopian belief that everything will work out in the end, no matter what. I think that one only has to ask a few questions to belie that expectation. For example, absent unlimited fuel how do our “1500 mile meals” get to us? Absent unlimited natural gas how do most Americans and Europeans heat their houses? Absent abundant lithium how do we transition to electric cars? Absent abundant rare earths how do we construct solar panels and wind generators. Absent unlimited diesel and fertilizer how will we continue the green revolution in agriculture? With every tick of the clock our resource base is slipping past the peak. With every tick of the clock the human population is expanding and they all want more, and why not? The global south only has to look at us to see what the good life looks like. All respect to Colin Cambell, but I wonder if 12 years ago he was factoring in the growth in consumption by increasingly affluent populations in China and India. We have had about 100 years of exponential growth fueled primarily by cheap, seemingly unlimited oil. Now we have reached a point where half of the available oil is gone. I think it is unrealistic to think the demand will shrink on this descending side of peak at the same rate it grew on the ascending slope. The UN estimates 9 billion people by 2060, 50 years from now. 50 years ago there were half that many. To me, at least, it seems unlikely that twice as many people will only demand half as much fuel. How will we keep from seeing those barbarous hordes you mentioned?

    It looks grim to me.

    Michael Irving

  • Michael, decent questions. First, your question re religion begs the question, as they say. In other words, you’re defining religion as that which requires an afterlife, ie, religion per se means a system of thought that places the present on hold for some illusionary after life. Not sure where you got that idea, it’s not in Taoism, it’s not in Buddhism, it is in the more primitive, statist, hierarchical religions like Christianity and Islam. The Way per se is present, always. It can’t be anywhere else. That’s one of the essential points, ie, that it is precisely NOT somewhere else, sometime else, it is here, always.

    Same re the second point, when I say: things will work out, I’m not referring to things as they are re our absurd modern society’s expectations and consumption patterns. I mean that things must return to the way. This return is not optional, in other words, there is no fantasy world out there where humans become so exhalted that they can pick and choose their futures, like: hmmm, you know, I prefer continuing carbon fuels consumption to support lifestyle x or y; or: hmmm, you know, I think I’ll pick solar powered cars instead; or: I don’t agree that the world has a finite resource base to support its population, so this talk of limits is irrelevant.

    All these stem from a core problem, humanism. Humanism was attacked in the Tao Teh Ching, in its confucian form, by the way, repeatedly and explicitly. That’s why I like this book, it is not politically correct.

    Are there barbarous hords in Russia right now? Were there when the USSR collapsed? I guess you could call the Russian Mafia barbarous, but it wasn’t a horde, and most people just dealt with the poverty. What happened there from what I can tell is very non-exciting, life expectancy dropped, population stopped growing, shrank in fact I believe, I think it’s still shrinking, I’d have to check the CIA fact book website to see.

    Note the implicit assumptions in your response, primarily this one: when I say ‘things will work out’ you assume I’m being cornucopian. When I say things will work out, I mean things will work out. Unsustainable living is not sustainable, and MUST work out in the end, there is no alternative universe where things do not work out. Abandoning natural sustainable ways must end in failure, there is no optional outcome. For some reason this idea is hard for people to get, I’m not sure why. Individuals are existent but they are smaller than the social body, which is smaller then the ecological niche they inhabit.

    Balance and equilibrium at some new level must occur, there is no alternative, and it most certainly will not be technological in the sense of heavy toxic manufacturing of gadgets and trinkets to keep the natives amused.

    The population must return to a sustainable level, there is no alternative, it’s not a choice, as soon as the word sustainable is used, then unsustainable societies are ruled out, not as a choice, but because they are not sustainable.

    When the original people came to the North American continent, from what I’ve gathered, there was a huge change, a bump, all the large animals, Mammoths, etc, were killed off, then some kind of adjustment occurred, and some, but not all, groups achieved an ecological equilibrium state, it probably took a long time, and it required the formation of taboo systems that simply did not permit non-sustainable activities to take place, not as knowledge, but as deep taboo. The Cheyenne I found especially interesting in this regard, they had heavy taboos that prevented over-population and over-hunting. It’s my belief that all sustainable societies become so not by choice or rational decision making but by a direct connection to the way via the curandero/shaman members of the tribe, heavy taboos that restrict behaviors that will destroy the ecosystem, and assorted other adaptations. Failure to achieve this equilibrium state, such as with the Mayans, results in failure of the society at large, and a re-adjustment of population to fit the new level of available resources.

    Humanism is in my opinion simply the logical outcome of Christianity, ie, replacing the central force, already hopelessly abstracted, with ourselves, our egos, our alienated and disconnected individuality. A materialized Christianity that is. Exactly as Nietzsche said, that is. Not, that is, progressive in the slightest.

    The Kogi are especially coherent on this question, and are especially interesting because they have enforced non-contact since they fled the Columbus era forces and set up housekeeping on their mountain retreat.

  • teetering,

    I see you are indeed a serious student of the Way.

  • Mark, as you can see by the excess of words I’m typing, I’m at best a mediocre student, sad to say. I’ve made too many mistakes I think to really find my way so I just do what I can given the restrictions I operate in and from. Which isn’t very good, but that’s life.

  • ENRON redux or another criminal conspiracy:

    Story in 3/12/2010 Wall Street Journal and elsewhere;Examiner:Lehman Torpedoed Lehman.

    Crooked accounting and more,get it all on-line.Criminal Bastards !!!

    Frank Mezek

  • Teetering, Micheal; it’s no small feat to reject humanism, but I agree it’s the sustainable path. Religions, of the Book among others, may well be the filter that led to humanism. If two dozen or so was/is an ideal community as hunter-gatherers, then how did we maintain order, status, continuity, in much larger groups? What’s kept societies from forever fracturing into smaller warring bands? Force of arms seems insufficient.
    Maybe religion served that purpose, by moving the focus of thought from the outer world inward, to the group, and man, itself. Lions, once simply themselves, became symbols to be worn. Our relationship with animals devolved; from dancer among equals, to conqueror of the wild and shepherd of consciously bred, infantilized domestic breeds. As these degraded beasts became our totems, our metaphors, we reflected infantilization ourselves, having forgotten what it meant to be whole. And once forgotten…

    Nice to see the Way offered as path. I feel humbled in present company; the text I originally owned, and once read often, is the Modern Library edition translated by Lin Yutang. The Reader’s Digest version of Tao, perhaps. But I loved it dearly.
    I will hunt for the Legge set, and thanks for the tip.

  • Teetering,

    It wasn’t my intent to argue religion with you. I agree about Taoism, disagree about Buddhism (reincarnation and all), I agree about Abraham’s trio, and I’ve got that about the Way.

    Your Russian example was not a good one in my estimation. You know I was talking about the possibility of hungry people searching for food after a breakdown in our “warehouse on wheels” delivery system. Russia had food, transportation, and housing. I was thinking about West Africa.

    Regarding cornucopia, I can see this is a game of splitting hairs and being just as precise as possible. My old clunky brain jumped to an unsupported conclusion. For example, if we were on the Titanic after it hit the iceberg and you said to me “things will work out” I would have jumped to the conclusion you were talking about rescue. Actually you would be talking about how balance would be maintained when our rotting corpses sank to the sea floor and returned our encapsulated energy to the universe. That’s true, and makes everything right with the universe, but it might be a hard sell for the passengers.

    You note that one example of balance was the extinction of the mammoths in North America at the end of the ice age (I am not willing to go to the place where I have to define North America, mammoths, and fix the date at 11,000-10,000ybp). Anyway I agree with you that “humans in–mammoths out” is a form of balance. However, that is not balance in any sense that might have been seen as a good thing by a thinking mammoth. Likewise, the problems I alluded to suggest a coming big reduction in the human population should we try to continue along our current path. A huge population reduction would probably not be looked upon as balance by the individual humans involved. I’m guessing people will see it as a catastrophe, a disaster, TEOTWAWKI. For a mammoth facing extinction it was TEOTWAWKI and so it will be for us.

    In contrast, you were pointing out that we are living unsustainably and that people just can’t get that through their heads. You were pointing out that unsustainability would lead to an adjustment similar to the extinction of the mammoths.

    Didn’t you just correct me for saying the same thing you said? Except of course you are cool with it and me, humanist that I am, I’m gnashing my teeth and ripping my clothes as I consider the prospects of our offspring.

    Michael Irving

  • Vertalio,

    I like Lin Yutang as well and compare other texts to it.

    Michael Irving

  • michael and others, All monotheistic religions through their doctrines make their followers all humanist. However, the strongest humanist movements in the world today those attended to by atheists. These are registered orginisations endorsed by people like: Richard Dawkins,Sam Harris and Christopher Hitchins.
    For the purpose of discussing sustainability don’t you think a more appropiate way of determining one’s stance is you are either anthropocentric or non-anthropocentrism.
    Anthropocentrism and sustainability are like oil and water. They will never go together.

  • I’d say the Russian example was a good one, because we have food transportation and housing. Not perfect, because the Russians are consistently fond of allowing oligarchs of various stripes to come to power, Czars, Stalins, Lenins, Putins, and their various large scale ones. But as Orlov has pointed out, they had some advantages over us, namely more tightly built cities, more or less ownership of flats, and less of that rugged individualism that Americans have.

    The West African example has from what I can see virtually nothing culturally or historically in common with us, so it’s hard to see why that should be taken as an example.

    I can see, I think, that you’re kind of stuck in this Anglo/American model of thinking that says: either we continue business as usual OR there is a massive and instant collapse, since of course it’s unthinkable that a far more tedious slow grinding down, reduction of birth rates, etc, type collapse might happen. Did we have a full collapse in the Great Depression? The Russian example too, again, did they have a roving horde collapse? I’m starting to think that a lot of people online have come to get some kind of emotional charge out of doomerism, because it’s hard to really see any historical or other grounds for it, in my opinion at least. This isn’t to say things will not collapse, per se, of course they will collapse, they can’t go on as they are. But slowly, think of the hubbert peak, for example, the USA still produces about 6 or so million barrels per day, the peak was 1970. This to me is a far more realistic model of collapse than most. Japan essentially collapsed in many ways in 1980s, and has been funding themselves by weird arcane financial devices ever since, which are too bizarre for me to understand. Are they subjected to roving hordes of starving people? Japan is financially and socially not so very different than the US.

    Looking at the USA as a fairly large and powerful entity, then looking at some very real decisions it makes now relative to resource allocation, here’s what I see, and again, this is very much like Russia: we allocate currently I believe roughly 20% of the US budget on interest and servicing payments on a national debt that has grown to proportions that are no longer serviceable, ie, we are throwing this money away. We maintain a massive bloated military presence, with I believe thousands of totally useless bases around the planet that costs us roughly every year about 50% of our budget, last I checked anyway, especially if you include the current 100+ billion we are throwing away on our Iraq/Afghan adventurism. Based on the Chinese and Russian militaries, I’d say the USA can maintain a fine defensive military force for probably 5% of our current expenditures, especially if we stop giving the corporate freebie handouts to groups like blackwater/halliburton mercenary forces.

    What this means from what I can see is that, we are basically servicing two primary cancerous entities: the global and domestic financial sector, and the military industrial complex. For some reason I almost never see people talk about what the country is actually doing with its money, which I find somewhat odd. Now, if you take a situation of major social stress, where domestic political problems finally expand to the degree that a political group has more to gain by leaving the sphere of finance/military interests and supporting some real changes (as happened to some degree in the great depression, another historical landmark that we are fast approaching), like defaulting on our debt and dismantling our currently deficit funded military system, then we suddenly have a radically different situation to work with. Virtually unimaginable in our current corporate run media system, lobbyists who dictate legislation directly, but not impossible to visualize.

    Instead of trying eke out spending decisions based on a fraction of our current tax income, we could, by removing ourselves from globalized economics in general, and by defunding the military industrial complex, which is almost taboo to mention in our current system, Obama won’t even suggest that obliquely for example, we suddenly have a brand new ball game. As with sustainability, a lot of this will have nothing to do with our desires, and a lot more to do with reality, ie, if we can’t borrow money to fuel our military expansionism, then we can’t do military expansionism. If we can’t pay our debt off, then at some point, coming soon I’d guess, that debt has to be destroyed, it’s happened repeatedly all around the world, and there’s no magic reason the US won’t do it, they won’t want to, but they may have to. Same for debt funded petroleum purchases, if we need to borrow money from the Saudis or Venezuelans to fund our oil habit, they may just find that maybe it’s a better deal to sell to people who pay cash, like the India/Chinese groups. Especially as supplies start to drop. Then suddenly we are at an instantly lower consumption level, and would need to very quickly change from car based culture to something more localized, zero decisions involved. Same for health care, so called. Remove more, death rates increase, population drops rapidly, who can predict such things really?

    These are just some scenarios of what can happen, not necessarily what will happen, but I find these far more likely with real-politics in the USA, including some types of neo-fascist counter reactions that would result from the mere threat, fear exploitation, of those roving hordes of (you know everyone thinks this…black people), than the system degenerating into roving bands of hoodlems, maybe that’s because I’ve usually lived in big cities, in borderline ghetto areas, so I get my news about the cities from the cities themselves, not from tv or other fear mongers. Some places will clearly become extremely unstable, for varying times, and some may become largely non functional, but the story is always more complicated than it seems, and the timelines from what I can see are running at a fraction of what the most prominent doomers were saying over the last 10 years, and in my rapidly adapting personal view, this error in timelines is NOT random, it’s directly caused by a faulty premise, ie, a mistaken core assumption of some type. But I don’t honestly think standard doomerism is based on facts or reasoning, it’s some kind of desire gone woefully astray, some weird failure of something in our culture, I can’t put my finger on it, Freud, who I loathe in general, called this our cultures death wish, and that might be what it is.

    Since this is far too long, I’m not really responding to the other points. I’m not a humanist, I dislike humanist thinking, it strikes me as the problem, not the solution, so I have very little interest in it in general. Things will not be nice, and our era of excess consumption is being sped to an increasingly rapid end by the massive wave of Chinese/Indian me-to actions. I don’t think any one solution will cover what will become an increasingly localized situation, I don’t see any point in looking to Africa or even China because the people have a deeply different history and type, and have consistently formed cultures that reflect these differences.

    Re Buddhism, Zen Buddhism pays only lip service to the reincarnation thing, and Buddhism also has different levels, the public, where such things are given to the people, more or less like Christianity does (ie, give alms for good kharma so you can be reborn into a better life), then inner teachings, where such simplistic formulas are dissolved in a delightfully deconstructionist manner.. ie, here is logic, now let us dissolve it using its own premises… here is your idea of buddhism… now let us dissolve it so you can achieve the actual end, beyond all ideas and thinking.

    blah, too many words… hah hah.

    I don’t know though, it’s unclear to me how you are seeing my words, seems like you’re popping them into black/white structures, I’m not interested in black/white ideas, they don’t work, they don’t correspond to reality. When I say things will work out, for example, I mean it on every level, our culture will grudgingly adapt itself piece by painful piece, by necessity, not by desire, the end result will be the true return to the Way, which is impossible to avoid because nature has no interest in our self-centered ideas. We will stop importing oil we can’t afford, we will dismantle our military because we cannot today afford it, though I think the rest of the world loves seeing us pour our futures into maintaining that corrupt system, it finally has destroyed what they could not destroy, the most powerful empire on the planet. Remember, here in the US we can easily live on 10% of what we think we need. On every level. We just can’t for the most part visualize that reality, because we watched too much TV (and we have all thrown out our TVs haven’t we? If not, why not?)

    And yes, I’m working on some ideas for other writing, I didn’t intend to get into this stuff here, sorry, Guy, I’ll try to avoid this stuff in the future, but you have collected a somewhat interesting group of readers here, at some point if you follow the various resources online, you will end up here… like a thread….

  • Craig, you got that exactly right. All the religions and replacements for religion share the notion that humans are separate and apart from the rest of life, better somehow or more evolved. We don’t merely participate in the parade of life, we dominate it.

    Personally, I’ve never quite understood why Dawkins, Harris, Dennett, Hitchens, et al. reject religion and immediately seek to replace it with ideologies that repeat the same fundamental error.

  • craig moodie, glad you brought those guys up too. I can’t stand those writers, they just are making careers of creating absurd conditions that show pretty much zero understanding of anything beyond simplistic, crude, scientific materialist humanism. Just another symptom of deep disconnections leading to flailing about randomly, picking ideas from here and there to bolster the disconnection.

    I was talking to a friend about some of these questions, and I suddenly realized: if gnostic means knowing, then a-gnostic means not knowing. Talk about a revealing term! Hardly something to be proud of. And atheism is from what I can see simply a weird little offshoot of modern humanism, sort of like libertarianism is a weird offshoot of modern free market corporatism.

    My new method, which I’m having good results with, is assuming that what people have said over and through time about religion, connection, their practices, their view of what is larger or outside of man, is largely correct, as long as its a direct practice, not mediated by excessive hierarchical power structures. Mircea Eliades seems to have used this method to very good results, and it certainly makes it a lot easier to follow other people’s over time reasoning about reality, a lot easier than the current model, which is: oh, everyone prior to modern scientific industrial culture man (the one destroying the ecosystem due to his massive disconnection to everything) is right and everyone else throughout history has been deluded, wrong, superstitious.

    And now it’s time to go to the farmer’s market before it closes…

  • everyone prior to modern scientific industrial culture man (the one destroying the ecosystem due to his massive disconnection to everything) is right and everyone else throughout history has been deluded, wrong, superstitious.

    whoops, too fast typing, should be:

    everyone prior to modern scientific industrial culture man (the one destroying the ecosystem due to his massive disconnection to everything) is wrong, throughout history has been deluded, wrong, superstitious, and we, all knowing from our exalted science, which is by definition true and correct, are of course, true and correct. An interesting feature of all organized hierarchical religious systems, in fact, you might say the defining element, is the insistence that they are sole purveyors of truth. All other systems are deluded. In other words, science is a true religion, and has a priesthood, high priests, dogmas, etc. Science, sadly, being a true religion, cannot see this simple fact.

  • Teetering, that’s some fine writing. I am wondering… would you elaborate on “the story is always more complicated than it seems, and the timelines from what I can see are running at a fraction of what the most prominent doomers were saying over the last 10 years”…? I am not quite sure what you meant by that, and it seems important to know. Thanks!

  • Brutus, well said. What makes me wonder about this stuff in general is that it’s not hard to get out of this restricted mindset, relatively speaking. That Dawkins crowd is typical of most atheists I’ve ever come across, very confused, often from a fundamentalist type background (including scientific fundamentalism, the most pernicious type we have going today, forget about Islam, that’s just a flicker in the wind compared to what science tries to do), often you’ll find the people raised in some sort of setting like that, whether standard religious, science based, or whatever. But the Dawkins types are easy to understand, they are fundamentalists in the crude simplistic sense, they need to feel they control the knowledge, that they are above things, it’s just standard humanism, nothing more. Exactly, that is, the opposite of what systems that seek (re-)connection strive to do, Zen, Taoism, Gnosticism, pretty much any localized practice, tribal stuff, etc.

    I hit difficulties with chapter 21 of the Tao, that’s a very tough nut, but some people in this thread have been very helpful in cracking it by providing what I believe is a well considered, well stated, counter view to what that chapter is trying to accomplish. As it says explicitly in Chuang Tzu, it is more useful to see what a horse is by means of what is not a horse than by what is a horse. Or something like that.

    I don’t remember who some time ago posted the Bukowsky poems, but that to me is so much more clear as a guide than any intellection of these issues (ie, see what’s in front of you as clearly as you can). Or the first hand life on the country accounts up thread from here, which I really enjoyed reading, that view is nice, I come from a farm family too, but opted against the life in my teens, wanted to do other things, so I consider that decision largely already as having been made, though I love gardening and would do it to the end of my days if I had land to do it on, which I don’t.

    The farmers market was pleasant as it always is, I gave my money this week, as I do every week, to local farmers, sorry corporate food, maybe some other time. Rode my bike there. Watched a guy play guitar, he was really good, had to give him some money. Got some bread from a coop bakery, it’s much better than commercial junk and it’s the same price. Different people were walking around, weird to see actual diversity in day to day life, flawed as the idea might be. No TV to corrupt my thinking so nothing much to do there.

  • Teetering,

    My response after reading your last several posts has been, “What the hell is this person talking about?” Then I read your last couple of sentences about science and realized that you don’t understand what science is or how it works. Without that knowledge discussions of resource depletion and its consequence would be difficult.

    I read a little further up the page and realized that you may be one of the fortunate people who have never been poor and therefore can’t quite wrap you head around the concept, except intellectually. I would challenge you to, as you say, “…easily live on 10% of what we think we need.” Let’s see, in terms of money, is what we need $30,000 a year (10%=$3,000), is it $20,000? Is it $20,000 for a family of four? ($20,000/4=$5,000 x .10 = $500). Now scale that. If you think the Great Depression was no big deal I suggest that you’ve never talked to anyone who lived through it.

    I think you have no idea about what has been going on in West Africa for more than a decade. You’ve used Orlov to explain why Russia’s collapse wasn’t bad at all and talk dismissively about doomer thinking regarding collapse. I would remind you that that same Dimitri Orlov suggested there are five general stages to collapse, explained why Russia didn’t slide all the way down that scale, described why he thinks the US could be a remarkably different story, and described an outcome that looks suspiciously like parts of West Africa. You point out that the US is like Russia in that it has food, transportation, and housing. You obviously haven’t taken the time to think about what a disruption in our fuel supply might have on those three items. Orlov points out that a significant amount of food used by the Russians was locally grown, contrast that with food on your table. Orlov points out that efficient public transportation systems serving much of Russia’s population continued functioning through their collapse period, contrast that with our system. Orlov points out that during the collapse people still had a place to live, contrast that with the foreclosures rippling through our country.

    Oh, and on a more personal note, you weren’t even subtle when you called me a racist. I resented it.

    Michael Irving

  • I don’t want to cause you grief, but I’m fully up on most key facets of resource depletion, falling aquifers, commodity peaks, production methods of oil, gas, rare earths, EROI, blah blah, all that stuff, etc.

    I know what poverty is because I like that condition, I choose it, I prefer it, for various reasons I won’t trouble you with since you won’t understand them any better than apparently anything else I would type, and I can promise you, I have lived at times on less than you would dream of as possible, in situations far too precarious for my taste, both abroad and here. Not that such a discussion should even require such statements, but since you brought it up, now let’s hear about you and your expectations, clearly you are in sheer terror of losing something or other you view as absolutely vital to your existence, what is it?

    To be honest, I’m glad you aren’t getting what I’m talking about, I think if you were, I should probably start to worry pretty seriously about having made a huge mistake, but no fear, it appears I may be somewhat on the right track so far.

    My comments about race were talking about typical USA TV watching white people living in their little boxes, afraid to step outside their doors. As they say, an insult is like a drink, it affects one only if accepted. Since you chose to accept it, even though it wasn’t actually even being offered to you specifically, that’s really in a sense all I needed to see.

    Although don’t worry, I don’t mistake that trite feigned outrage at such an accusation, which is largely a requirement for modern political correctness in general, for any real statement of belief on the topic. In other words, its totally irrelevant to me if you’re a racist or not, most people, inside, are, some aren’t, others actually know real races and know what they like or don’t like about the various groups, from experience, that’s how humans have, by the way, pretty much always been, so there’s no need to feign outrage. Personally, I like the open-minded ones though who will actually talk to a gringo like me and not just judge me for being another lame white boy, and I assume they feel the same way, ie, respect is a two way street, highly non-theoretical, exchange in the real world.

    But you sold me, thanks, I’m one step closer to not teetering anymore, but it will take a bit more work on my part before I can really embrace the downhill ride as much as I did the uphill one.

    Re your other points, make up your mind, is the great depression a good analogy or isn’t it? You seem torn, unable to decide. I think it is. Why do you keep suggesting I think a decline/deflation of inflated consumption patterns will be pleasant? Clearly this is something going on in your head, I just think it’s necessary, and long term highly desirable, we have to return to sustainability, period, and the longer we wait, the less we will have left. So why any outrage at all about the costs of decline, which is inevitable? This makes zero sense to me, I don’t understand your logic here at all, have you actually sat down to think of your views in a coherent manner at any point? To me it appears you are just reacting to things you want but fear you will lose, or simply fear, that’s as an outsider’s view, just mine, nobody else’s, but I do not understand what you think is going to happen here, or why. You seem to think that we can A: not avoid collapse, but B: oh the pain of change. Why not just go with change and forget the attachments to the old ways? I believe the winners in this game will be the ones who do this the best, and the losers will the ones tearing at their hair moaning about how the changes and lowered consumption patterns are the end of the world, blah…

    Rome ground down, it didn’t collapse puff in a ball of smoke, here today, gone tomorrow, it morphed, changed, disintegrated, reintegrated and so on, power centers shifted, things got strange, alliances, wealth, all changed but not very fast. Fluidity is the key here, not some weird desire to hold onto what common sense should clearly show can’t be held on to.

    Thanks for helping me clear some things up for myself, sorry to anyone else reading this thread, sometimes I find it helps to bang out comprehension in this way, maybe not the most elegant method, but it works.

    Back to the starting point, for me: the tao teh ching is dealing with the problems of return to working conditions. It’s a powerful tool for this purpose. It’s not made for everyone. Attachments will make you unable to understand the changes that are coming, and will cause fear and other weird emotions that are not productive. Not everyone is going to win this game, nor should we expect that to happen. Searching for answers from the system that is failing is in my opinion a singularly bad idea, though it will be the dominant idea for years to come. Young people will be spared this since they wll grow into a system of constant deflation and decline, and will understand how to cope with the situation just fine. Older people are the ones who will usually but not always be unable to adapt. Have fun, heh.

    Michael Irving, thanks for being a perfect foil, sometimes I just have to make the internet do some of my work for me, it’s the least it can do after all the work I did with it… but here’s a hint: when you don’t understand what someone is talking about.. stop and think a bit, you don’t have to, but it’s not a bad idea. If you don’t want to re-examine any of your core assumptions about life, that’s fine, most people don’t.

  • Just one more thing, re your comments on Orlov, I’ve read his stuff, I understand his points, you don’t need to repeat them to me as if I’d never seen the stuff, in general, I try to avoid talking about things I don’t understand, but what you seem stuck on is some linearly precise model, where an example is either exactly fitting, OR it is false.

    Given this model of thinking, I have no idea how you then settled on about the least likely prototype/model for the USA, West Africa, as a model to consider, unless…. The trick with using mental models is to think for yourself, see the similarities, see the differences, see the type of person involved in each culture, their history, abstract from that, then do some thinking. This process is known as thinking for yourself I believe.

    Orlov is smart, I like him, I do not see the collapse of USSR as a mirror image of the future grind-down/collapse of the USA, and if you take a big breath and go back and read what I said, you’ll find that’s exactly what I said. Again, black and white world views are useless in understanding the real world, as are either/or fake comparisons, and other contrived mental devices. It has however far more similarities culturally and industrially to the USA than West Africa does, how or where you got that idea stuck in your head is absolutely beyond me.

    There was a very good OilDrum.com poster, from Pakistan, don’t remember his name, who actually did some real research work on land masses, agricultural capacities, and he soon found that in fact, the USA is, per capita/land per person, one of the best places out there to be during any substantial collapse, because of its relatively good top soil, climate, and so on, compared to other places. And least likely to require huge population adjustments in the process. So we’re lucky to be here, not somewhere else.

    Guy, sorry, just had to work some stuff out, sometimes the urge just comes over me, you actually, in my opinion, raised a very real question in your posting, and I don’t think you were wrong to ask that question, or question your assumptions in the way you seem to be doing, that’s very important to do as time goes along, it certainly set something ticking in my head, as you can see… apologies though, this stuff is probably best left elsewhere in the future.

  • vera, sorry about missing your question, I’m really trying to work this stuff out myself as I write here, these are real questions.


    vera, thanks for demonstrating that writing just can’t work for everyone, that’s a good thing to remember. I always figure some people will get the points, others will resist, others will question.

    Let me apologize, again, to anyone reading this, or just skip it, this is off the top of my head, uncomposed, fresh. Just the way I like it, so that’s life. I’m trying to figure these questions out too because I need to, and I need to get that done quite quickly.

    The response here is complicated because the situation is complicated, what is going to happen in the high Andes is not what is going to happen in Kenya which is not what is going to happen in Northern California which is not what is going to happen in Siberia. As soon as globalism, global trade, etc, starts to crack and fail, then these attempts at single global models are also going to fail right along with it, and we’ll be left right here, where we are, and that will be what we, or our kids, will have to deal with.

    Re timelines: I got back into following this collapse story in about 1999, when a friend into such things told me about dieoff.org the now legendary, among doomers, site created by Jay Hansen, an ex computer programmer (note that this fact is very relevant to his story) who began to note that we had hit or were hitting resource constraints. He then proceeded to assemble what was at the time a fine collection of material on resource constraints, peak oil, population densities, that type of thing.

    There was one problem though, he was primarily a computer programmer. He had and continues to have, really bad understanding of some parts of humanity and life, particularly anthropology, philosophy (the two keys to understanding what we actually are, unfortunately), because he’s a relative latecomer auto-didact, ie, he has gaping holes in his methods and material, massive ones. Sadly for him, he gained quite a bit of notoriety, almost web fame, for this. So the end result was, he didn’t train his mind in how to think, he had already done that with programming, and programming, unfortunately, is not a good training ground for thinking, it’s too linear and rigid, and far too simplistic to handle as a method real world situations which are far more fluid and fine grained than any software application can ever be, no matter how many lines of code it has.

    So he ended up using some pretty bad models and samples, such as Easter Island and one up in Canada, both as examples of overshoot. Problem is, both had weird environments, very harsh, very slow growing, and most important, no contact with other land. Go down to Venezuela, I am assured by my friends who go there frequently, and you can see the stuff grow back almost in real time, tropics, you know. So that was a really sloppy way to suggest dieoff in the first place. Again, we live in a complicated, diverse system, there isn’t one single ecosystem, there are lot of them, each reacts differently to stresses, same with people and types, races of people, each is somewhat different, you can’t generalize about them as groups with a single behavior.

    If you forget the current narrative, and think back on doomerism in general, you’ll recall that the world was going to end with a bang with backyard nuclear fallout shelters in the 50s, in the 70s and 80s and probably today, it was going to end in race war, so you’d better get ready and create your armed compounds, you know those brown people are going to come get you!

    Amazing stuff, comical in its pathetic-ness really, but real. So this doomer narrative we are now in is not a new thing. I don’t have any information about pre world war 2 thinking along these lines, so no comments about that part of our history.

    This doesn’t mean we aren’t in for massive, and very large, and very necessary, changes. Painful. People will die. They will not live as long as they expect to. It just makes me personally really question and suspect the motivations, emotions, desires, etc, that push the doomer story to the fore, especially when no good models can be shown that support the thesis. Jared Diamond’s book Collapse was a real eye opener for me, I’d been reading online people referencing the Easter Island collapse for years, and when I read Diamond’s research, it all came into focus, how the stuff really happens, how slow it is, how undramatic, how lacking in seeing what’s going on, because it’s happening too slowly.

    Here’s an example: I believe about 15 months ago, Ilargi from theautomaticearth.blogspot.com confidently stated that we would not recognize the USA within I believe the next 12 months. Well, I still recognize it, and I see the changes and morphings going on, and I see what is failing, but I recognize it. We’re in a recession heading towards a major depression, slowly. Most people, like Kunstler as well, were predicting full collapse in months, maybe a year or two. All these predictions have failed to come true. I have to judge cultural commentators like this, almost all auto-didacts (self educated), almost all lacking in any serious background in their chosen fields of polemics, by their results, and so far, the results aren’t very impressive. But I still like Kunstler, I think his Long Emergency book is more or less on the mark, though things are slow to unravel.

    Other areas you can see this emotion driven response were, for example, in 2008, when oil shot to about $145 a barrel briefly, probably primarily based on the amount of capital flowing into the oil futures market, all these peak oil types instantly were saying that things were over, now it was collapsing. Prices dropped, resumed their steady upward motion, systems strained, the dramatic collapse failed to materialize.

    Meanwhile, serious professional writers (people whose livelihoods depend on them being more or less right most of the time, like Doug Nolan, prudentbear.com, who has been right now for about 10 plus years re his warnings on credit and other bubbles) on say the economy are pointing to huge warning signs, noting the development of the looming depression, but for some reason, maybe because they really study their history, maybe because they have a good sense of how capital actually works in reality, I don’t know, they simply see something that very much resembles what is happening, a grinding down, decay, coming monetary adjustments, almost certainly a depression in the sense of a fundamental winding down of the economy to some lower level.

    My gut feeling is that there is some emotional need to see a dramatic collapse, like on tv or in the movies, and almost an aversion to seeing the possibility of a slow, gradual, drawnout, totally undramatic process, punctuated by moments of instability as the system tries to achieve a new equilibrium point in a situation of maxed out raw material production coupled with increasing competition for those raw materials. China at this point, within the irrationality of them trying to fully industrialize, is acting fully rationally, buying up global assets as fast as they can, particularly long term commodity contracts, and in the process, dumping as many US dollars as they can, as quickly as they can, by converting them to hard assets.

    That’s one part, incomplete, and believe me, this is off the top of my head, sorry for any mistakes or oversights.

    The second part is the actual story of collapse. First, I would suggest you just stop thinking in those terms. The disaster to the natural world has already occurred. As far as other life forms are concerned, the collapse has been underway for centuries now. Massive species extinction, monstrous loss in bio-diversity, total and utter disconnection from natural flows and processes on our parts, etc. So to take some ridiculous humanist position where you cry over the fact that nature has to re-establish an equilibrium with one population massively overshot, I don’t know, that’s not collapse to me, that’s recovery. Maybe it doesn’t matter what words you use, maybe it does. I think it does.

    So I’ll call it recovery, both for us and for the planet. That process of recovery is going to be painful, but it’s going to be very different based on the environment of each local area, the types of humans who inhabit those areas. Just look at iceland, for example. Iceland, being a largely democratically valued country, where people do not view one person as intrinsically superior or inferior to another, is not going to handle the situation the same way as say Kenya or Sudan, with its ethnic splits, dry climate in parts, oil in others, Arab north, African south.

    So one narrative simply is not going to cover this as it unfolds, it’s going to be complicated, how much power corporations can retain in the process, how much political influence they can buy, these will all result in fairly different outcomes overall.

    I wish I had written down every doomer claim as I came across it, but honestly, to me they were just weak data points, ideas, that might or might not have real truth values.

    The key is community, real, non virtual, non internet, community. At least as far as I can tell that’s the key. And being realistic, adapting, not holding onto the past, not expecting the future to be more than the present re overall consumption patterns, or even life expectancy. It’s boring, just is, nothing dramatic, things develop, changes, adaptations.

    The story is more complicated, see, I gave one example of my morning, where I did only things that could help build a positive tomorrow, all small, I give money to people I like, and give as little as I can to people I don’t like, like corporate people. So what happens is this: by doing this, positive social behaviors are supported, and negative ones are not. How else anyone can expect to ride this downhill roller coaster is beyond me, like, what? Keep giving money to the Walmart corporation? Keep supporting agribusiness? That’s really going to help things along, sure. Keep watching TV with some lame excuse about how you can stop any time you want, you just don’t want to? Every dollar you or anyone else spends is a direct vote for the system you want. Forget about the token symbolic votes of our current elections, take a look at your daily votes.

    Support any real political processes that reject death systems, like real, non corporate backed or funded populism? It’s all so slow and boring, almost tedious, I take it all back, here’s to more doomer porn, here’s to big bang endings that are really exciting.

    Explicitly, it looks to me like most current doomers of all sorts are missing their estimates by both time and by severity, and they are missing these estimates consistently. What is not being missed is the massive destruction of our real ecosystem, and this is going to force bigger and bigger long term population reductions on us, the longer we hold out, the more foolishly we keep desiring the latest trinkets we line our walls with, the worse it will be long term. But this is long term, it’s not tomorrow. If best estimates, ie, worst case scenarios bear out, we will have massively overheated our planet, causing damage that will be unfixable, and which will last about 1000 years. That’s probably about enough time for the planet to start fixing itself, not enough to recover the lost bio-diversity, but maybe enough to give us a new chance, this time minus the easy to access raw materials, which should help us a lot in our next go round.

    and with that I click submit, too hard to edit using these text boxes… change is just going to be the way things are, no big deal, it’s the way things have always been. Don’t you think the Native Americans saw the European’s coming as the true disaster it was for them? They did, rightly so. And we too will see the loss of our way of life, worthless and absurd as it is, as it recedes and fails, as a total disaster, panic time, woe unto us, etc. And that’s what I think really is at the heart of doomerism to be honest, just wanting that last rush before things grind down. Because grinding down, it’s just so boring, so tedious… we’ll see though.

  • Here’s my guess, by the way, adding up the pieces: humanist, panicked about change, clearly has something to lose, or believes he does, deep faith that science is true and all unbelievers are merely misguided and do not understand the hallowed scientific method… it just came to me, just a guess, but I’m going to guess we have a professor here in our midst. Or something like that. That would account for the panic I hear in the voice, the inability to question the humanism etc, the ‘not a religious bone in my body’ statement. Nice gig if you can get it, high price to pay though.

  • You got some action with this post, Guy.
    Good point, Craig. Spot on.

    Teetering, on the brink;
    Followed most of that, I think, and wanted to answer to my flavor of doomerism, though I call it “the Correction”…I chose to become a carpenter, not a scientist; though I still read too much and suffer the attendant confusion and so this may reflect that.

    For me, it’s a choice. I have learned that one fine not-so-distant day I will die and return to the earth and vapor, and so far seem fine with that. Chose to not have kids, so no worries on their behalf; though I fret for friends and strangers and loved ones, I also fret for Atlantic White Cedars and New England cottontails and fungi and suspect they will have it as bad. Even assuming the vast absorption capabilities of the ecosystem, changes are here and BAU guarantees they multiply. Even in the long grinding down you describe, local weather events will have more impact perhaps than transport woes, and we’re seeing that more every year. Food should become sporadically available due to crop failures, and particularly if the new humanists have their way and consolidate production while patenting germplasm. I see no way around that detail, save local changes being made, and it’s to be local worldwide.

    Of course, while this goes on in front of our noses, (if you spend time outdoors, you’ll notice local extinctions yourself) the culture sits and watches the glass teat or dives into Facebook instead of getting outside and dirty.

    Ergo my doomerism; I flog this ‘Preforestation’ pony in a tiresome manner, behaving as if the ‘doom’ result is inevitable, which of course it is for all of us personally and as a culture and nation though I have no idea what forms that will take or evolve to and won’t be here in a corporeal form anyway. Nuts and seeds go in the ground, with a spadeful of live dirt from near the parents when I can, and in a thousand years there may be trees where there would not have been. The conceit that we have no chance gives the sowing act a sort of Noah-ish flavor, though the ark in this case is the generations of seeds over time.
    As one who struggles to be non-humanist, the idea of the damage done and still to come is what crushes my soul, and why I feel less compassion when the discussion turns that way. BAU will consume itself, but will destroy far too much else besides.
    Of course, suggesting doom stirs the new humanists to ever-greater goals of technical derring-do; mirrors in space, minerals in the oceans, a million windmills, whatfuckingever. The solution to human arrogance and technology is always: more arrogance and technology. So maybe it’s too counter-productive, at that. Hmm.

    Tend your garden, I’ll tend mine, and someone will eat.

  • vertalio, thanks for that, you nailed it, more or less. The good thing, if we can call anything in this situation good, is that as our civilization hits the peak of maximum complexity, which it has (computers, cell phones, etc), we assume that this complexity will maintain itself as we head downhill, but it won’t. Maintaining systems like the internet requires a massive base of computers, hardware, wiring, and a lot of power. All these depend on economies of scale, and when that scale declines, a lot of the stuff becomes basically instantly non-viable from an economic perspective. It’s the same with air travel, during the oil price spike, airline executives came out and said their business model fails at about $100 a barrel, period. This past year the global air travel industry lost something like 9 billion, despite the previous year’s massive consolidations. Capital does not work well when the businesses lose money every year, the bond holders and bankers start to get grouchy. So barring a full return to very expensive state subsidized airlines, which will, again, be hit by the economy of scale problem with aircraft building, we’re looking at the potential for some very rapid readjustments here, mostly quite positive.

    Techno-utopianism is just a mental disorder, always has been, always will be, total failure to actually think anything through, the only reason we got where we are today is because we had cheap and easily accessible oil and coal. Which we will do our level best to burn up, creating exactly the scenario you describe.

    I saw those changes you describe when I lived up near the Cascades in Oregon, the rain forests were dry. The Mount Hood Glaciers on my map from the 70s were almost totally gone. Not subtle.

    I think however I have slighly more hope for the long term (definitely NOT the short term however) political process. All these criminal enterprises like Monsanto etc rely on legislated protection rackets, ie, corporate avoidance of real responsibility, and that protection can be removed with almost no real affect on the real human race. It’s just cutting the teat off, and admitting that creating more food for more humans just means that more humans will die when the actual decline starts. Currently humanism, as you so eloquently put it, simply raises its hand in horror that more humans cannot be generated, and so stops real reforms from happening, but I look back at the Depression to see the intensity of change that can happen with the proper political power base. I’m not being an idealist, but change of this sort can happen, and it has happened at various points, and it can happen quite quickly once things have grown sufficiently unstable. The changes in the USA from Hoover, BAU liberal type candidate, aka Obama, to Roosevelt, who actually created most of our modern system, workman’s comp, medicare, etc, were amazing, especially if you consider the raw power and wealth controlled by the interests who he opposed in these reforms. This was a huge change, and it only happened because BAU failed totally.

    The guy I really need to read is Joseph Tainter, Collapse of Complex Societies, I want to see how he tracked that process, I think it will be very relevant to our situation. Library doesn’t have it though, and it’s a very expensive book.

    I’m going to guess that nature is very powerful, and very resilient, long term that is. Especially if we push resource consumption way past the limits, but we’ve already done that, thereby ensuring our numbers must drop to lower levels fairly rapidly as biological systems go. The things that worry me most are the long term messes we are creating, especially nuclear waste and some other variants of extremely toxic materials in concentrated forms, these are things we will I think come to regret more with every passing decade, especially as we being to lose the ability to process or handle them due to the high costs involved.

  • By the way, there’s some very interesting things happening in the USA, number one being the Native Americans spreading back through the land, in very large numbers. There’s so much intense racism in most white liberal circles though that they can’t even see this fact. These Natives are bringing some very interesting religious practices with them, which are also spreading quite rapidly, and quite organically, both in their home countries and here. I have had the great good fortune to be allowed to participate in some of these. Non Hierarchical, direct, with lineages that go straight back to original practices. Not new age crap, not perverted big box church born again garbage, direct, local, and from what I can see, real.

    Consider this a koan, it’s not very hard to figure out once you take your blinders off.

    These people are very cool, by the way, a lot of them farm and do other things like that, though most of them don’t even know the word political correctness.

    The meek shall inherit the earth, I believe the Bible said. And it appears to be happening. I raise a glass to them, and hope for the best while expecting the worst.

  • I have not read all the posts – just skimmed,
    some people clearly have too much time on their hands.

    Atheism is evidenced based – it is not ‘fundamentalism’.
    A good scientist always doubts, the basis of good science,
    ie show me the data!
    No wars/genocidal atrocities have been committed under
    the ‘banner’ of atheism.
    Clearly the ‘enlightenment’ never reached the US.
    There is a lot to be said for logic, rationality, the socratic
    tradiiton etc, unfortunately very little evidence of it in the blogging here.

  • Interesting you mention the Native Americans…my parents just this morning floated they’re considering selling their land in NC to the Cherokee. Their home is and was once a sweet site, where a branch meets a small river, gently sloping southward, clayey but fertile. Lots of quartz and flint chips.

    Do you know of any good resources on the organizational structure of the traditional Five Nations? I know Franklin and Jefferson drew on them for inspiration, I think Paine too, although he always gets the short end of the Founders stick, but as you say; non-hierarchical and egalitarian not to mention well-fed, the colonies early on had numerous laws and attempts at taboos as so many Euros fled the feeble colonies to join tribes. Bringing more disease, I suppose.
    There is a beautiful symmetry to them re-storing the land, especially if they drag the lucky ones along. My grandfather collected a number of ethnographic tomes from the early 20th century describing various tribes’s music, legends, agriculture, crafts, organization, so forth…some describing digs and such in Guy’s neighborhood, all through mid-America, New England, the Guineas; always found it inspiring, fascinating, and hard to believe it all gone. In my heart it wasn’t. 1491, by Charles Mann, suggests how deeply agricultural they were, the whole hemisphere, massive land-forming and far greater numbers than the histories tell.

    And actually, I agree with the possibility of rapid political change and action. As you note, FDR’s structures we seem intent on currently dismantling came quickly. And as the fail sets in, Americans have a built-in advantage in that rugged individualism, the ability to adjust on the fly so lacking in more class-rigid societies. Just as in the Normandy invasion, as the officers were killed the GIs huddled in spots, re-organized, and began plowing ahead again. The Germans were by most reports quite impressed.

    Interesting times.

  • matt, thank you for carefully repeating as many cliches as possible within the shortest possible amount of space, impressive. Atheism isn’t evidence based, it’s a blatant failure to pay attention to thousands of years of direct evidence. Doubt is great, why not try some yourself, start with your fundamental notions of what reality is, that’s usually the best place to start. Self, Object, and so on. The faithful always view their matter of faith as self-evident, thanks for another shining example of this case.

  • Thanks, everybody, for the superbly introspective discussion. You make this blog worth reading, with essays that often are longer and more thoughtful than the posts that spark them. My delayed response results from (1) wanting the discussion to run its course, (2) being busy with construction of a partially subterranean straw-bale greenhouse (which is stressing my mind, body, and bank account), and (3) hosting a visit from a former student at the mud hut this weekend and most others.

    Michael Irving, your first response was the right one, and you’ve no need to apologize (although I did warn you an insult was coming). I needed a slap up side the head. Still do.

    vera, sorry the link to Chris Hedges annoyed you — personally, I appreciate his calling for a Jeffersonian revolution, even though it’s too late to make much of a dent in the corporatocracy we’ve become. As I’ve pointed out before, the left has departed this country and the false dichotomy between “left” and “right” is strictly a media-promoted weapon of mass distraction. If you need 15 reasons for a revolution, read this.

    norberto rodriguez, I certainly hope we’re headed for the Age of Empathy. And I think we are, in some locales.

    Thanks to empathic first-time comments from Chuck, Josh, Susan, dollie hunter, and Fuller Hanson (great story, by the way, from the latter). And Marguerite, welcome back from a long respite.

    With respect to the completion of the ongoing economic collapse, I think Rome is a terrible example (along with most historical examples, for that matter). History might be a (weak) guide, but we’ve never experienced declining energy supplies before, not in the two-million-year history of our species. This time, in other words, is bound to be a lot different from slow declines of past empires. We’re occupying suburban hell, and the so-called economic recovery in the U.S. is a scam, the global systemic crisis is bound to strengthen in the second half of this year, hyperinflation is lurking just around the corner (even as the government tries to hide it), as oil priced in excess of $80/barrel is just the beginning of our economic issues, U.S. debt bombs are on the verge of exploding even as contraction is just getting started, the federal government is insolvent and is considering devaluing the dollar, financial collapse appears imminent as even economists admit in this fragile empire. China’s abandoning the U.S. dollar and a major French bank is still warning its investors to prepare for complete collapse of the world’s industrial economy by the end of 2011, even before oil priced at $225/barrel in 2012 brings it all down. According to Marketwatch, the collapse will be swift, silent, and certain. I could go on, as I often do. But that’s enough to digest for now.

    In other words, I’m standing by my original predictions: no cars on U.S. highways in 2012, and the end of western civilization by 2018. Both figures indicate a rapid descent into anarchy (if we’re lucky) or chaos (the more likely outcome). You’d be wise to start preparing for a serious crisis. If, that is, the ongoing economic collapse hasn’t already taken you down with it.

    Inspired by the comment from Emma, I will spend the next few essays describing the arrangements we’ve made at the mud hut. I’ll organize them according to the Big Four of survival, probably with one essay dedicated to teach topic: water, food, body temperature, and community.

  • teetering,

    what? I can safely assume english is your second language.

    to roughly quote Voltaire

    ‘I love a man who seeks the truth,
    and I hate the one who claims he has it’

    doubt doubt? what a lovely post modern conundrum, been there done that.
    French theory is junk! The world has moved on.

    ‘Atheism isn’t evidence based, it’s a blatant failure to pay attention to thousands of years of direct evidence’. seriously WTF :)

    45% of US citizens dont believe in the theory of evolution.
    Show me your balls and I will test the ‘theory’ of electricity
    with some jumper leads :)

  • The key china numbers are here: ustreas.gov. Updated every month or so. That chart is worth tracking, it’s pretty direct data. It’s obvious China is preparing for a drop in value of their dollar holdings, they are spraying dollars across the globe as fast as they can to pick up hard commodities, sort of like musical chairs, last one left holding the dollar bag loses…

    Those numbers aren’t complete because they don’t show that China is moving from long term bonds to short term, I believe almost exclusively, though I don’t follow this stuff in detail, having concluded that too much focus on economic issues appears to cause brain distortions in otherwise reasonable people. Money is just a web of trust between holders of debt, more or less. It’s not real, and it was one of the things that made me re-evaluate what core Buddhist teachings say about the web of delusion / illusion we live in. What happens if the USA defaults on its debt? Not a lot, in my opinion, beyond a decompression to more sane levels. I was reading in oildrum comments (good info there if you avoid the babble) and someone who sounded like they know what they are talking about pointed out that sovereign / state debts are not collectable on default, ie, our states can default with no repercussions, there is no way to get the money back. Could an abrupt adjustment be simply wiping the major debt clean and accepting that you can’t borrow more? Driven by necessity, not by desire? Not saying it will happen, but it could.

    I’ll take the 2012 no cars, no way, I’ll put money on that if you want, some reasonable amount, don’t agree, way too soon, completely unrealistic. Believe me, my little lifetime bicyclist car hating heart was just thrilled when an almost instant 10-20% in driving happened at about > $4 a gallon here, and I’m not going to get my hopes up again just to have another let down. Much as I loathe cars on pretty much every level, 2012 is not realistic in my opinion, not at all. Decline, worst case, yes, but none, no, that’s simply unrealistic, faulty premises I suggest politely. Come for a visit sometime here, you’ll see, these ideas will vaporize.

    Not arguing the majority of the facts you list in the general sense, when I’m in the mood I’ll put up the occasional blog posting on that stuff too, but I think there are outcomes that might not be so evident at this early phase of great recovery/depression 2. Fuel can go far or it can be wasted, today we waste it, grotesquely, but tomorrow we can be putting around on various weird devices we find here and there, car pooling in a more asian/third world way, ie, pickups used for buses like they do in Thailand. Lots of paths ahead.

    But no argument with the overall view of the structural shaking that is going on. But look at Iceland. That’s not history, that’s now, they just kicked out their rightist gov, they elected a lesbian woman, they just voted to NOT pay the gambling debts of the banks just recently. The corporatists have such a stranglehold on information flows that they make us think that they are some magical entity that can’t simply be unplugged, which is like their greatest fear, that someone realizes this, so keep up a constant barage of fud and spin to avoid that core fix, which is about the easiest political fix in the world, remove corporate personhood, remove avoidance of legal responsibility for anti-social actions, etc. Not hard to do at all, but we’re not ready for that step yet, not until things are bad. Given our massively overconsuming ways, we could easily drop by 50%, ie, to roughly euro levels, without much inconvenience beyond some bumpy years. Ecosystems have failed and been overexploited re energy sources plenty of times before, I think it’s a fine model to look back, it just hasn’t happened globally yet, what’s that look like? nobody knows, we have to wait and see.

    But time is close for putting the cards down on the table and playing your hand, I’m leaning towards the returning natives to be honest, if I can find a way in, this discussion is my way of trying to make those decisions, which I have to make anyway since there’s few other logical outs at this point.

    Remember, the economy was going to fail last year too…

  • matt, you have never questioned a single premise you are promoting as the only rational course, I doubt if you’ve even questioned what rationalism even is to be honest, or what reason itself is, how it functions, what its role is in our functioning. Yet you have the audacity to talk about doubt and questioning as if you’ve ever done that, when all you’re doing here is repeating childish formulas as if they are some deep ideas. Try actually thinking and reflecting sometime, or not, I don’t care what you do, it’s kind of fun if you ask me, but I’m a fan of that type of thing.

    This stuff is kind of basic, you know? You’re not really even getting the beginning of what I’m talking about here, so there’s not much hope for anything beyond that. I’m not talking about stupid blind followers of tv preachers, to put it simple enough terms to register somewhere in your mind, hopefully.

  • Matt, sorry, forgot to recommend a book that might help you out: Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason, it’s pretty good. Get back to me when you’re done with it and we can have a nice chat, oK?

  • Does techno-utopianism respond to lithium too?

  • teetering,

    its matt not Matt,

    I prefer Wittengenstein, my uni professors always referred
    to Kant as Can’t.

    ‘you have the audacity to talk’ – now thats gold!

    ‘you have never questioned a single premise you are promoting as the only rational course’ again, plain english please.

    All I suggested was, as an atheist I have an evidenced based view
    of the world. That is all my Aussie brain can deal with.
    (notwithstanding the proven benefits of meditation)

    perhaps what you are talking about is the ‘boundary of language’ LW.

    All philosophy reaches the limitations of language pretty quickly.
    Perhaps thats why you are into the mind bending stuff.

    ‘Get back to me when you’re done with it and we can have a nice chat, oK?’

    What? when I can understand Kant? That is never gonna happen.
    Even within academic circles, there still some debate about what
    he was on about.

    Of course the mechanics of language construct our thoughts,
    but that is all we have.

    You write with a feminine voice, sorry about the balls thing. :)

  • teetering, your proposed bet is as ridiculous as your logic. Completion of the economic collapse by the end of 2012 is quite reasonable whether or not we encounter $200 oil. After all, the industrial economy runs on cheap oil, and we passed the world oil peak in 2005 so the days of cheap oil are long behind us. The U.S. powers the global economy, and the U.S. economy is already dead by any reasonable measure … at this point, the industrial economy remains upright only because we can’t afford the necessary funeral. Whether the Barack Obama/Goldman Sachs administration can continue using smoke and mirrors to levitate confidence in the ultimate con game for another year remains to be seen. But they certainly can’t keep this fiscally bankrupt nation running much longer.

    On a personal note, with respect to your nonsensical bet, I’ve already made my bet. So have you. There’s no need to extend the bet to the realm of personal finances because if I win, you cannot pay (that’s what collapse means). I don’t think paying a visit to your neighborhood, regardless where that is, will vaporize my ideas … if only because they are rooted in reason, not wishful thinking.

    Ponder these lines from the Christian Science Monitor as you go about ignoring the reality of the ongoing collapse:

    “Even if America taxed 100% of all household wealth, it would not be enough to put its balance sheet in the black. And Professors Rogoff and Reinhart show that when external debt passes 73% of GDP or 239% of exports, the result is default, hyperinflation, or both. IMF data show the US already too far gone on both scores, with external debt at 96% of GDP and 748% of exports.”

    “The rioters can go home, in other words. The system will collapse on its own.”

    On a philosophical note, Kant lost all credibility in the eyes of any self-respecting rationalist when he dreamed up with the notion of the categorical imperative. He then proceeded to build an entire (flawed) philosophy around it.

  • matt,

    I’ll bet you hadn’t heard about those thousands of years of direct evidence atheists haven’t be paying attention to. I’m sure he/she wouldn’t offer to share just one piece of that evidence. But there is a way you can access it. Just click your heels together three times and repeat, “There’s no place like home, there’s no place like home.”

    He/she has the sickness that Lao Tzu refers to:

    “He who overrates his intellectual achievement
    As definite truth is deeply sick.
    Only when one is sick of this sickness
    Can one cease to be sick.”

    Example: “This stuff is kind of basic, you know? You’re not really even getting the beginning of what I’m talking about here, so there’s not much hope for anything beyond that. I’m not talking about stupid blind followers of tv preachers, to put it (in?) simple enough terms to register somewhere in your mind, hopefully.”

    I’m pretty sure he/she probably understands what Lao Tzu meant better than Lao Tzu did. He/she might well respond, “Lao Tzu says a Sage recognizes the sickness and is therefore not sick. Since I have superior understanding of everything I put my mind to, I am clearly a Sage. Ergo, as a Sage I am not sick.”

    Lao Tzu might respond:

    “He who overrates his intellectual achievement
    As definite truth is deeply sick.
    Only when one is sick of this sickness
    Can one cease to be sick.”

    (Theory of electricity. Woot!)

    Michael Irving

  • Sheesh. I run off and testosterone poisoning takes over. C’mon, snarks, a little epistemological humility would not be amiss. On both sides.

    Guy: As for the bet, I’ll bite; I am with teetering. I will bet a bushel of potatoes against a silver dime that there’ll still be cars on the highways of America in 2012. :D As for the fall of western civ by 2018… if it doesn’t will you agree to go about in sackcloth and ashes for three months as penance for yanking our chain? Without some cost, you’ll be just another in the long line of doom predictors who just shake off their wet fur and go on to predict another one, a little ways down the road. Gets tiresome.

    Amazing how Kant gets dragged in, out of the blue. Myself, I am a fan of his just for his understanding of the ends and means problem. It is not morally permissible to treat humans as mere means for some noble end. If only people paid attention!

  • vera (and all others who want to place a bet they cannot lose): this bet of yours is asinine. It’s strictly a one-way bet. I understand the wish to keep the casino culture alive, and to make yourself the casino, but I’m not biting. After all, if I’m right, you cannot pay. Unless, of course, you manage to survive the walk as you bring me the potatoes, which seems exceedingly unlikely.

    I hate to get ornery, but will you people please pay attention to evidence for a change? No amount of wishful thinking or reading of your favorite book, The Secret, is going to keep the industrial age churning along for another decade. We passed the world oil peak five years ago. Do you really think there will be no consequences for the industrial economy, which depends completely on ready supplies of cheap oil?

    Will somebody please show me a single shred of evidence to suggest we can keep the current game going beyond 2018? Note: history is not evidence.

  • Guy McPherson, just a few points. Great philosophers tend to write one great work, then just riff on it to decaying results after that. Sometimes they’ll build up to it with some earlier works. Rarely they will keep churning stuff fairly high quality out, but that is not common. So talking about losing credibility isn’t really relevant, the work stands on its own, judge it by itself. The creative energy of a 35 year old almost never matches that of a 40 or 50 year old, the work is the best the organism can do as it creates it. No self, just a flow, and the work is a manifestation of that flow. Trying to plug in individual moments in philosophy into some larger dogmas, say rationalism, is interesting if you’re a professor writing about the history of thought and need to tie everything together neatly, but it’s pretty useless when dealing with the actual work except as background information.

    I agree the categorical imperative (Critique of Practical Reason, for those counting along at home) was very weak, in fact I doubt I even own it any more, mostly just rehashing and spinning wheels, but I am disappointed that you even refer to it as having any meaning, but that doesn’t have anything to do with the primary Critique, which I take it you haven’t read, most people haven’t, or have tried and failed, because… well because it’s really hard to read, even translated from the insanely long German original sentences. It’s far more useful to think of great works of Philosophy the way you think of a musical composer’s work, ie, Judge the work, not the canon as a whole. However, it’s not possible to discuss these works using cliff notes internet babble, you have to read them, in their entirety to judge them, I’m sorry to say, it’s like having an opinion about a Beethoven symphony without listening to it.

    The purpose of serious philosophy is training the mind to avoid errors. Usually it doesn’t work, but that is the point, ie, knowing yourself. But let’s leave this to the side, it’s irrelevant to your current choice and statements, although not completely, but for the terms of the bets we’ve made, the time for this learning is past, it’s just slightly annoying to see stuff misrepresented in such severe ways, but that’s just how American academia is, not much to do about that problem.

    However, this is all neither here nor there, you have made your bet, and your bet doesn’t include this stuff, you’ve left it behind counting on being right. But I don’t see this as being right or wrong at all, you simply have decided that you’ll be best off farming, not a bad bet on an individual level (but ONLY on that level), I’d probably make the same one if I had the resources to buy land, but honestly, I might not, I like cities, things are happening here, you can watch the undulations of the world so much more clearly than you can from the internet out where you are, the realities are more concrete, I get to meet people on the edges, suburban housing repo men, for example, who know exactly what’s going on.

    But the internet is a crappy source of information if it’s not all being directly filtered through the lens of real daily experience, it distorts everything in subtle to not so subtle ways, again, the medium is the message, so counting on it for your primary information inputs is, while a lot better than tv, not nearly as good as the real world. I’m betting on the real world. And partially-rational online arguments and debates are even worse.

    I agree re the bet, consider that a statement of my belief you are wrong in this regard, as I noted about, and the wrongness isn’t absolute, it’s more a matter of degree, time lines are wrong and severity is wrong. That’s my bet anyway, and I’m betting its wrong based on every piece of history and serious research I can find.

    Make sure your real motivation for believing what you believe isn’t emotional, ie, an attachment to the bet you have made.

    Here’s my bet, let’s forget this silly debate type method:

    My bet is that we are facing a huge wave, google / youtube big wave surfing videos to get the image in your mind. Big waves are monstrous entities, massively powerful beings, each face is different, one might have a 15, 20 foot vertical drop, another might have a smooth curve. There is a way down this face if you do not mistakes and have trained for it, have the skill, etc. Most people will wipeout. To get down the face you have to not be afraid of failing. The moment you fear, you will fail.

    Some types of waves are not surf-able, because the crest crashes all along its face at roughly the same time, these are known as closeouts. Like real waves, our big waves here are going to come in sets, each member of that set will be surf-able, though each can cause a fatal wipe-out.

    I’m fond of this analogy, and I think it’s very close to what will happen, except you’d have to imagine an ocean that also has a steady downhill trajectory attached to it somehow, ie, the trough of each wave is lower than that of the previous one on average.

    The point of my comments on rationalism is that rationalism is a foolish method to use to face a problem caused by rationalism, ie, the attempt to control and dominate the ecosystem, northern european born and bred, unknown in most other cultures. Arrogant beyond belief in believing it is the sole purveyor of truth. All the sources you are relying on are deeply immersed in the rationalist view of matter and reality. I am betting these are VERY bad sources to rely on, and I am further betting that a return to fundamental first principles is a good bet. Further I’m assuming that it makes no difference if I personally live or die, and I’m also assuming that the Tao is exactly correct when it states that the sage, having given all that he has, receives all he will need. So what I am doing, and have been doing now for about 4 years, is giving all that I have. I’m, in other words, betting on this with my life.

    I’m also betting that scientific crude materialism is worthless in the coming future, it will do nothing to help me get down the face of this wave, and the waves following. In fact, I am further betting that following such practices has always been a bad idea, there is nothing going on here that is new.

    Here’s some real metrics that go beyond silly pointless predictions of the day of failure, which, as I noted, above, have all been wrong, consistently.

    These are VERY concrete, no need to speculate.

    Since we are looking at a highly complex system, the metrics to use are those of the components of maximum complexity, airlines and computers.

    The collapse of the global air travel industry is the key, and here are the metrics of real collapse.

    Phase 1: has already occurred, fuel price spike forces global reorganization of air travel, consolidation.

    Phase 2: we are in it now. Airlines lost 9 billion last year despite record seat occupancy rates.

    Phase 3: petroleum prices rise above critical 100 per barrel rate, because of hedging, some airlines can sustain such a price hike for about 1 year, some can’t. Forced with a decision to subsidize or not, phase 3 will be the ability of governments to subsidize air travel at some level.

    Phase 4: will be the inability of governments to subsidize air travel. This phase will roughly correspond, though not quite, to the stage you believe, hope, I would suggest is the more correct term, will come re cars in 2012. Since there’s no way there’s not going to be any cars, really, please, too many mad max viewings?, I think the airline metric is much more reliable, since it’s actually going to happen in almost any realistic scenario.

    Once phase 4 is hit, and oil stays above 100, which it may not do, I believe Rubin is seriously wrong about his price predictions, for the simple reason that the planet cannot pay prices above about 120 for any sustained period of time, and he should know that perfectly well, since he is one of the guys who noted the last dip down caused the first recessionary downturn, along with the financial stuff, anyway, assuming for the sake of argument oil does dribble up around the 100 per barrel mark before dropping again, we’ll see I assume some government takeovers of airtravel, or behind the back raw subsidies. The ability to do this will depend on the cash flow of the governments, and I think that’s why air travel is an excellent metric to use, and will be a very good non-biased, non-emotion driven gauge of real world financial flows.

    The second metric is the internet. That is also roughly as complex as air travel, relying on millions of distributed nodes, what we call computers, connected by other computers, which we call ‘routers’ and ‘switches’. The ongoing functioning of the internet means the system is working, period. It is too complex to work if the system has failed in any major way.

    Note, however, that the internet has some good breathing room, for example, if all sources like youtube and file sharing are cut at the ISP level, we can drop the bandwidth required to run the web by a massive amount, basically overnight. So it doesn’t have to be all or nothing.

    Because the internet is so unitary in its web of nodes, in terms of one part being interchangeable with another, the phases will be fairly minor.

    In no particular order, here’s what I’ll be looking for:

    * ISPs cut off large file size data exchange, that’s video streams, file sharing.

    * websites go out, especially large scale websites, for intermittent periods. Running sites like facebook.com or google.com requires massive server farms, connected directly to the primary data trunk lines that form the spine of the internet.

    * regional nodes fail due to primary data trunk line failures, bankruptcies, and so on. As with air travel, such failures will be good metrics for the ability of the government to respond meaningfully, in terms of bailing out, nationalizing in some way, etc. As long as the government is able to do this, the scenarios you are betting on will not occur, because the system is still functioning.

    I strongly urge you to stop reading economists and start focusing on the real material reality of what makes our system run. Economists were 99% wrong at every stage, and have always been wrong, that’s because economics is NOT a science, it’s basically just a way to help adjust one particular system, and only in normal times. The only guys I have seen who have been consistently right were outside financial industry guys who work in the market and are able to think and see clearly, without emotions. A simple test for any economic writer, foolproof really, is to see what they were saying 5 and 10 years ago. Almost none pass this test. A few do. But what happens to finance should be considered merely an after affect of what is going on in concrete material spheres, the actual use of the exchange tools money provides.

    So this metric is my suggestion, I guarantee you it will be far more accurate than quoting economists and pundits you come across while surfing and clicking links. Make up your own, it’s pretty easy to do, just note complexity, and then track that complexity. Cars aren’t very complex, neither are roads. By driving slower with fewer people you instantly double, triple, quadruple, or more, mileage per person.

    There’s one more aspect to my bet, but I’ll keep that to myself, since I’ve already said it in a few different ways, there’s no real reason to repeat it.

    Matt and Michael, I’m sorry to not read or respond your comments, I’m not in the mood for internet debates, I’m more interested in picking the right line to start the first big wave down. I’ve always loved that type of activity, and I see no reason to face this situation with any different attitude, death is far less scary when you’ve faced it than if you haven’t, and it’s certainly easier to see ways through this with less resources if you are already used to having fewer things, same with security. Professors, for those of you who don’t know, are very fond of security, Guy your decisions aren’t deviating from this fondness, personally I gave up on security and decided to just do what came along, always have, and will do so until I die, which could be soon, doesn’t matter to me, I already have lived a life better than most people in terms of experiences, and I’ve seen what I wanted to see, learned what I wanted to learn, so really everything for me is just gravy after this, but if I can add some more gravy after this, fantastic, all the better… here’s a glass raised to Guy and his bet, thanks you all, I’ll check back now and then, not often, there’s no benefit in rehashing or engaging in debates about what you already have decided to be the right path.

    Nice lyric I heard yesterday:
    This is not mono
    this is not stereo
    this is for folks
    with more than two ears
    -Mad Professor

    Anyone who thinks the truth is rational is seriously off base, you’ve been suckered by a soulless system into parroting what it wants to be true, and such an error will lead to picking what I believe is the wrong bet. But each to their own, everyone is free to put their cards down and go with their hand… thanks Guy for giving this method a try, you never know of course, so have to try a bit of this and that.

  • Guy, you’re the professor, you understand about — or should — strawmanning your opposition! Who the hell here is wanting to keep the casino culture alive?! You wanta be a prophet? By their fruits ye shall know them. If I am right, send me a silver dime. I think the post office will also still be operating in 2012.

    Btw, getting condescending is no argument, now, is it? Of course the system is coming down and changing, as we speak. So cut the bull with the predictions… all it does is yank people emotionally, just like the fundies do with their end of the world bullshit.

    “Will somebody please show me a single shred of evidence to suggest we can keep the current game going beyond 2018? Note: history is not evidence.”

    The current game is already over. But what exactly will happen by 2018… nobody knows. A long descent, is my own sense of it.

    Teetering, that was a 3 ft post, right? They are not allowed in veraworld. Too hard on the ole eyes.

  • By the way, had you read the first Critique, you’d know that Reason, when pushed beyond the bounds of experience, does consistent and very predictable things. Those things are very simple to understand: construction of a beginning, and construction of an end. This goes from the Big Bang theory to the financial big bang and instant collapse (but where is it, why isn’t iceland failed? …. don’t ignore evidence just because it fails to fit your model…) you, and many others, are looking for. Because this error is so consistent, and is largely ahistorical, when you see it, you should let warning flags go up. In other words, when our minds start to build worlds free style, disconnected from the fundamentals, reason per se exposes its failures as a tool. I look for waves, undulations, continuums that is. The untrained mind allows itself to fall into theories of primal beginnings and final ends, it’s the same as if you’re talking about the final judgement or the big band of collapse. Anyway, just something to think about, if you are inclined to think about it, makes no difference to me in any larger sense, I’d be a fool if I trusted sources less fundamental than those I’m looking at to sway any decision I make, thanks for the vine, as they say on radio….

  • vera, sorry, yes it was, my eyes are old too, chuckle….

    Here’s a few things you need to know about professors: they are used to, from their positions as teachers guiding and molding the young, being considered right. This creates some sort of sloppy mental habits, which being out on the farm relying on the internet for info certainly doesn’t help at all (just look at, for for example, Ted Kazinsky, now sitting in maximum security isolation for the rest of his life… he also made his little house in the country, and relied only on third hand information to form his views). It’s just a career danger, and I don’t hold it against them, though of course I also know what to look for, since I have spend may years around them. But here’s a small hint: it only took me about 6 months of graduate classes to figure out that the academic world is largely worthless…. same for most of the creative people I tend to associate with. The smartest ones, of course, never even bothered going that route, I wish I’d had the good fortune to be one of them, but that’s life.

    This becomes a problem when they get to concrete predictions like 2012 no cars, which are pretty much patently absurd, that’s… let me count on my fingers… 20.5 months from today, roughly. Ilargi on the automatic earth screwed up like that too, amusingly, and rather than just admit error, has been digging himself ever deeper into his flawed views, where money is more primary than the real world…

    Saying history is not evidence is one of the most absurd statements I’ve ever seen. You mean the built up sample set of human behaviors and activities is not to be considered as evidence of future human behaviors and actions? That’s about the most clueless statement I’ve ever come across, don’t know which poster wrote it, I hope it wasn’t Guy, that would make me lose most of the respect I have for him… if such statements in any way reflect the views of doomerists, then I politely suggest anyone reading this thread look for more wide ranging opinions, and consider this merely one small data point to use in forming your own views.

    Vera, judging roughly from where this thread has gone, I suggest you make sure to expand your direct social networks as actively as you can, materially, and spend far less time reading stuff like this online, that’s my plan too, I’m not impressed.

  • When you’re right, you’re right, teetering. :-) I am planning to do some major “expanding” along your lines this year.

    And as for that 2012 no car prediction, here is my challenge to you, Guy. If you really believe it then you are about to place an order for a mule and a sturdy Amish wagon, right? Don’t wanna wait till the last minute rush! Are you putting your money where your mouth is?

  • vera, apparently you haven’t been paying attention. I placed my bet by putting all my money, time, security, and sense of morality into the mud hut. This is where I’ve placed my picket-pin in defense of wildness.

    For that, I don’t need a mule, just as I’ve never used a bicycle since I grew up. I’ll walk, thanks, just as humans did for two million years.

    teetering, placing me into a category with all other professors is analogous to placing you into a category with all other dumbasses ignorant spiritualists. My commitment to a life of service keeps me writing here and speaking elsewhere. If I were selfishly interested only in my own security, I’d spend my time preparing for completion of the collapse instead of attempting to inform others about the approaching economic tsunami.

  • No… I suppose I must not have been paying attention after all. Not riding a bicycle since growing up… that’s supposed to be a… good thing? Is there some kind of manifesto here on the site that I have not been able to find?

  • vera, my bet is placed, with the arrangements I’ve made at the mud hut. Your bet is placed too, by not making similar arrangements. I’m betting you won’t be able to pay if I win the bet — that’s what economic collapse means, after all. That’s why your bet is ludicrous, and why similar bets are offered all the time: You can’t lose, and I can’t win. It’s the perfect sucker bet, but I’m not the sucker you think I am. The obtuse reference to bicycling, which most people seem to think will somehow save the industrial age, just indicates I don’t need assisted transportation. I’ve got two legs, and they work fine. When they don’t, a bicycle won’t help.

  • Curiouser and curiouser. There was mail delivery before industrial civ, Guy. There was transportation then too… for thousands of years. Horses and oxen and boats. You may not approve of them, but there is no reason why they would not be around, is there? And… er… why is it that it’s important to shun mules in our future? I am obviously missing something here.

  • vera, I have nothing against animal power, and I suspect we’ll be using it again in a very few years … but only after we have a lot fewer humans. When we last had 30 million people in the U.S., we also had 30 million horses. Now we have 310 million people and 3 million horses. Think the Pony Express will make a big comeback the day after the industrial economy fails?

    Using history to make predictions is fraught with peril. We are not simply going “back” on the same path we followed “forward.” That’s the problem with your villages, too … not enough resources on Earth to get them up and running for 6.8 billion consumers, all of whom want something bigger and “better.”

  • So if you are not against horse-power, and you think that cars are done for in a little over a year, why aren’t you getting one? Or organizing a horse co-op?

  • Stop me if you’ve read this one, vera, but apparently you haven’t been paying attention: I don’t need a mule. I’ll walk, thanks, just as humans did for two million years. Mules have environmental costs, and I just don’t need one. And unlike just about everybody else in the empire, I don’t have to have what I don’t need.

  • I think I understand now. Ya could have skipped the condescension, no?

  • Mounted bicycles can grind corn, move water, churn butter, ice cream, and many other things. They may not last forever, but are nothing to sneeze at.

    Besides, what else can we do then with our old baseball cards?…

  • I am pretty partial to bicycle power, vertalio. Heading into a Scavenger Age, it makes all the more sense…

    I went a-reflecting last night about this thread, and Guy’s repeating himself about the “sucker bet”… Teetering and I called him out on his predictions; in a small and whimsical way, we tied it to performance. And this was — as I see it — hugely unwelcome.

    A sucker’s bet? To me, a sucker’s bet is taking seriously the predictions of the various internet prophets of doom, who are all eager to stir up the rabble shooting from the hip. But when it comes to holding themselves accountable in some way, that is not wanted. Is Guy going to come out in January 2012, and admit to feeling sheepish about his prediction? Will he be willing to express his regret publicly? And is he going to *learn* from it? Or is he going to be of the number who are happy to forget what they said and keep on churning out more stuff in the same vein?

  • vera and the bicycle gang:

    It’s not that I’m opposed to bicycling for other people. I’m just not interested myself. And I agree that use of leg power, instead of arm power, is an efficient use of personal energy.

    My reference to the sucker bet expresses my attitude about the one-way bet, which has become very tiresome because half the people I know want to sucker me into it. It’s the perfect bet for you because you literally cannot lose, so I can understand your passion for it. But I cannot win, so I’m not interested.

    If I’m proven wrong on 31 December 2012, I’ll be very, very sad … not because I cannot take the humility, but because every day in overshoot is another day to be reckoned with later, and also another nail in the casket for our species and the many others with which we share the planet. And, too, I made my bet by quitting my cushy job and joining the urban poor (I spent all my retirement funds on the infrastructure at the mud hut). You’ve made your own bet, although you don’t seem to recognize it. When the industrial economy fails, you’ll be scraping out a damned meager existence, if you survive. With luck and proper preparation, I’ll be thriving.

    Finally, I must point out that my predictions are intended to inform people, not scare them or invite their inevitable scorn. There is plenty of evidence to support the notions that (1) we’re in the midst of economic collapse, and (2) the collapse will be complete within a few short years. On the other hand, I keep asking for evidence to the contrary, and the only response is vitriol. I think if you look up the definitions, evidence and vitriol are not synonyms.

  • Guy: But all that does not address the point I raised. I did not ask if you are going to be sad for the Earth in 2012 if cars are still on the road. I asked if you will cop to failed predictions.

    Are prophecy-type of predictions intended to inform, or to scare people? Are they intended to present the facts, or are they generally intended to manipulate people’s feelings? I open that question to the thoughtful folks here.

  • “I asked if you will cop to failed predictions.”

    Of course, vera. As I have before in this space. But my humility notwithstanding, the living planet is the important thing, don’t you think? Any chance you’ll join me, at some point, in trying to save it?

    I have no interest in scaring people with my evidence-based predictions. If it’s fear you want, there’s plenty of religious prophecy rooted in ignorance. I tend to shy away from that nonsense. But to each her own.

  • Vera,

    I find it interesting that you are allying yourself with teetering to poke fun at Guy’s prediction. Teetering went out of his way just prior to your alliance to point out that you, Vera, couldn’t read. You asked for a clarification and he responded with:

    “Vera, thanks for demonstrating that writing just can’t work for everyone, that’s a good thing to remember. I always figure some people will get the points, others will resist, others will question.”

    Remember, just after that you were chiding some of us for an over abundance of testosterone.

    Michael Irving

  • I am not sure what your point is, Michael. Are you wondering why I was willing to overlook teetering’s misstep and not willing to overlook the pitfalls of Guy’s predictioneering? Btw, how do you look at the whole predictions business yourself?

    As I am following some of the links here, I am learning that I am only one in the long line of people who have given Guy negative feedback regarding this issue. I would be interested in your perspective as a long time participant.

  • Vera,

    Probably still a testosterone problem.

    As for your second question regarding Guy’s prediction, I will tell you the truth; it is of no importance to me. Whether there are no cars on the road on December 31. 2012 or not is such a minor point I have not thought about it. Let me explain.

    I agree with Guy’s assessment of the situation, i.e. we have reached the point where we are sliding over the top of Hubbert’s peak. There will be less oil available every year into the future. Further, we are on a near vertical slope in terms of demand. All around the world there are billions (with a B) of people who are discovering what it is like to have 5, 10, 20 energy slaves working for them. They like it. They want more. They want 200, like people have in the US. They want a car, 2 cars, a house, a bigger house, maybe a boat, or a snowmobile, or an ATV. They want what we have because every second of every day our corporate propaganda machine (through the echo chamber of their country’s corporate propaganda machines) is telling them how wonderful it is. And it is. Soon, probably very soon, the downward production curve and the upward desire curve are going to be at odds. In the US during the ‘70s only about a 5% reduction in the amount of oil led to mass disruptions. In 2008 $4 gas was enough to crash the economy (according to some). China is faced with a population that has just become aware of how cool it is to have a bunch of stuff. Now their factories are humming, building things to sell to us. That gives them money in their pockets to buy some of that stuff too. When the get stuff they want more stuff. The stuff is made out of oil. The toys/cars etc. are made out of oil (plastic, steel, transport). The food they eat is made out of oil (tractor fuel). China will either have to cool off their economic growth and deny their people the stuff they associate with the good life, or they can corner the market on oil like they’re doing in Venezuela and other places already (remember Venezuela now provides a significant part of our oil). Where does China get the money? They cash in the Treasury notes they got from us. How do we pay them off after spending trillions (with a T) to continue to float our sinking economy?

    That’s just one example. Add to that climate change, rushing toward us, add peak natural gas (heating, fertilizer), add peak coal (electric), peak lithium (batteries), peak rare earths (wind generators, photovoltaics), peak uranium (bombs), and on and on. For me the future looks bleak. So what to do, hope?

    Hope for me is the wish that the my grandson will be able to finish high school and will not then join the military because there are no other jobs; but that’s not until 2013. Hope for me is that my granddaughter will have enough time to finish college; that’s in 2012. Hope for me is that my son will get his house paid off; again 2013. If Guy is correct none of my hopes will be realized. So yes, I hope that he is wrong.

    I will borrow from teetering’s the wave as a metaphor but not to paint a heroic picture of a person (surrounded by a certain magical radiance) driving down through danger, facing almost certain death, as he seeks a route into the future. The wave I see is that tsunami that was captured on video as it smashed into the coast of Indonesia. We live on a planet where, absent cheap energy, we’re told perhaps half a billion people can survive (probably a lot less). Even if 500,000,000 people make it through the coming bottleneck that means that thirteen of every fourteen people must be eliminated. So, what to do?

    If 13 of 14 are going to be eliminated then what can I do to be the fourteenth? From my prospective the fall will be very fast. The span of time Homo sapiens have been on the planet is less than 200,000 years. All of the peak events I listed above will happen within this century, one two thousandth of the species’ existence. All of these events will happen within the lifespan of a child born today; very fast. Scientist can’t even assure us that the earth will even be fit for human habitation by the end of the century, if the methane in the permafrost, under the arctic ice, and on the sea floor is released.

    Pick you scenario. Oil supply drops>resource wars. Oil supply drops>food transport stops. Oil supply drops=agriculture sputters= people starve. Hungry people >anarchy>medical system breaks down>pandemics. There are a hundred more.

    Ten years ago I could almost see the future. Now it’s as if I were blind.

    So, what to do? I am doing the only thing I can do. I am preparing in a way I hope will give my family some chance of making it through the bottleneck. I have land far from any city. I have water. I have a garden. I raise chickens. I have wood for fuel. I have skills. I built this house and taught my son how in the process. I taught my youngest daughter that if you can read you can do anything. I taught my grandson how to build a chicken house last summer. My eldest daughter has another whole set of skills to call on. I’m hoping I’ve been able to build some resilience in to the lives of my family.

    So finally, to answer you question. Do I think Guy is correct in his 2012 prediction? No, but perhaps that’s only because I desperately hope for more time.

    Michael Irving

  • That is a fine response for which I thank you, Michael, and I agree with much. I have a whole other bit in response to it, but it will have to wait for a moment, while I deal with the other issue and avoid a 3 ft post. :-)

    Let me tell you where I am coming from in my criticism. There are two ways to share bad news with someone. Let’s use medicine as an example. A patient is dxed with significant diabetes. One doctor says, if you don’t change your habits, there is high likelihood that the disease will eventually severely undermine your life. She pulls out some nasty pictures and patient stories and graphically shows this person what happens to advanced diabetes people. Gruesome stuff. She is attempting to wake this person up by providing unshieldingly honest information. No problem here! Go doc!

    But consider another doctor. He provides similar sort of information, then informs the patient that if they don’t change their habits, they will be dead in 3 years. Now having been on the receiving end of manipulative, mendacious, spirit-crushing physicians, perhaps I am overreacting. You tell me. But what I see is a crusading manipulator who uses people as means to his “noble” goal of waking people up and making them do the “right thing,” whatever that right thing is in his book.

    In my book, the second doctor is playing God and being disingenuous. In other words, he is exhibiting arrogance and dishonesty, because he is pretending to knowledge that is just not available to a human being. And third, he is being just plain unethical, because he is using the patient as mere means to his own end. He jerks people around with manipulative projections of his own mind, when they *desperately* need honest, unbiased information to go on into the future. Unbiased, that is, by any personal axe the doctor is grinding at the moment.

    That is exactly what civilization does, doesn’t it, manipulate people in the name of some fancy goal? Looking at Guy’s previous posts and comments, what is his current prediction failure? 100% as some commenters have said? You’d think that would speak for a need for correction, but noooo! He merrily launches more of the same, and as far as I have been able to see, discounts all criticism of it from peers and blog readers both.

    Guy says he cops to his failed predictions. Bull. He admits them, then does more of the same. That is not taking responsibility. That is saying, yeah, I know, and I don’t care. I have constructed this whole justification scheme. I say to myself that in the past, scientists’ reluctance to make predictions explains the mess we are in, and “it is my obligation to sound an alarm.” So hey, I am entitled! Guy actually had the gall to say recently in one of his predictioneering screeds “if my predictive ability is decent.” Huh!? Talk about self-serving cognitive dissonance!

    The last effing thing I need is self-proclaimed experts who think they are entitled to f**k with my head and my emotions as suits them. Hello?! That is what this civilization does!!!!!

    Thank you for listening. I had to get this off my mind and heart.