Surveying the field and charting a course

It’s all the rage to talk about a double-dip in the industrial economy. That would be an economic trend in the shape of a W. I think an M is far more likely. The assumption of never-ending growth underlies all neoclassical economic assessments, but I think that assumption is about to break up on the shore of resource limitations.

How does one know what to believe, and who to trust? We’re surrounded by lies. During our finest moments, we don’t believe the media, the politicians we elect (from the very small slate of candidates selected for us), or the CEOs and NGOs to whom we give our money. Awash in misinformation yet surrounded by culture’s unrepentant, never-ending message, we vacillate between cynicism and swimming in the powerful current of culture.

Although the happy-talk Obama administration — and its proxy and partner in crime, the mainstream media — would have you believe the industrial economy has recovered, many signs indicate the impacts of the last oil price spike haven’t been fully worked out. The U.S. national debt rises every day, and it already exceeds the value of all currency ever produced and all gold ever mined. It cannot be paid off. Ever. If the notion of a Soviet-style default doesn’t give you pause, consider still-rising foreclosure rates, still-falling home prices, massive unemployment, financial bankruptcy at all levels of government, ballooning entitlement programs, and collapsing pension programs. This is merely the short list of economic issues we face. Needless to say, every single one of them is a profound surprise to the vast majority of neoclassical economists, few of whom saw this economic recession coming (as if passing the world oil peak didn’t provide sufficient warning, well in advance).

Knowing culture will lead us astray, we nonetheless invite scorn when we seek the truth beneath the cultural current of the main stream. Culture does not have answers to meaningful questions. But skepticism for the sake of skepticism is no virtue, either.

Applying reason as a path to knowledge (as I’ve suggested here and here, for example) is easy enough in theory. But in practice, it’s difficult to extract the facts and then synthesize them into a coherent message that guides the way. Much less the Way. And yet, we muddle along, individually and societally, relying on some inexplicable combination of faith and rational thought. For me, the guides include data (recognizing they are undoubtedly massaged before general release), historical anecdotes (ditto), my own dubious moral compass (shaped, necessarily, by culture), and an informed set of predictions from a variety of scholars. As with any gestalt, mine is formed from parts that don’t quite add up to the whole.

So how do we go from this list of economic issues to the notion of economic collapse? I’ve moved from imperialist city educator to economic doomer rural sharecropper in one (damned difficult) step. This move was driven by many factors, including the profound (and profoundly late) realization that we live immorally, buying and selling nature’s bounty at an imperialist whim. Another contributing factor was my strongly held suspicion that we’re headed for a collapse of the industrial economy by the end of 2012. If the industrial age does not end soon, we’re headed for the complete absence of habitat for humans on Earth. Obviously, there is plenty of disagreement with me on both points, and I’ve been asked to make my case. What tea leaves do I read?

I restrict this essay to economic collapse, thus leaving the issue of environmental collapse to previous posts (and perhaps future ones). The data on collapse are clearer than the rest of my guides, so I’ll start with them.

The data interact with other elements: History indicates 10 of 11 recessions since World War II and all 6 recessions since 1972 were preceded by a spike in the price of oil. The lifeblood of civilization, and its price, dictates the direction of the industrial economy. At some point, the price of oil becomes too great to maintain the industrial economy. In fact, a per-barrel price of $147.27 nearly brought the industrial economy grinding to a halt. Only massive, and massively illegal, intervention by the executive branch of the U.S. government kept the lights on in your grid-tied house, the trucks coming to the grocery store, and water coming out the taps. These actions have been written about widely. A quick search on “plunge protection team” is a nice starting point, although the issue is far broader than even omniscient Google reveals.

For information about oil supplies, I rely on Hubbert’s model and data from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Energy Information Administration (EIA). Hubbert’s model indicates we passed the world peak for crude oil in December 2005. Data from the EIA indicate peak month was May 2005. Because the industrial economy is barely limping along today, in far direr condition than when the price of oil exceeded $140, I doubt it will take a second round of $140 oil to bring the industrial age to its overdue close. Several forecasters suggest we’re headed beyond that mark with a year or so.

A little more from history: Empires fall. All of ’em, so far. Some fall slowly, others rapidly. Some fall with a modicum of grace, others with extreme violence. American Empire is so complex, so dependent on finite materials, and intricately connected with the entire global economy that it’s difficult for me to foresee a long, peaceful decline.

The industrial economy relies heavily on crude oil, and particularly inexpensive oil. We’re perfectly willing to spend $400/gallon for gasoline to support our imperial ambitions in Afghanistan if that’s what it takes to keep the price of oil at a reasonable level for us exceptional Americans. (How exceptional? Check the charts in this essay.) But when the price of gasoline exceeds $4/gallon in the heartland, there’s trouble brewing for our all-important economic growth.

In addition to the near-term price of oil, our empire is threatened by the ever-tightening grip of globalization, which ensures that economic collapse in any of the world’s large economies will lead, domino-like, to economic collapse throughout the industrialized world. This grip was allowed and facilitated by cheap oil, and it’s no coincidence that the end of the cheap-oil era resulted in financial crises throughout the civilized world. Today, Greece is the word. But Portugal, Spain, and Japan hover on the brink (Japan is the world’s second-largest economy). So does the U.S. and the remainder of the industrialized world, though you’d never know it based on mainstream media reports from this country. We have the advantages of the world’s reserve currency and the largest killing force in the history of the world (and the willingness to use it, everywhere, all the time). But when China stops buying U.S. Treasury notes, a process already under way, the de facto rate of interest will rise, taking us inexorably and likely quickly into the land of hyper-inflation. At this late juncture in the industrial era, the only questions of great significance are whether our bubble will pop before China’s, and which of myriad potential events will serve as the proximate cause to the end of American Empire. The price of oil was a trigger event, and it might be again. But it might not, too.

As far as my moral compass is concerned, I’ve written plenty about that. There’s no need to pummel the deceased equine yet again. Check the archives, if you’re interested. Or, for a different take on the situation, read this.

So much for the models, data, history, and my sense of morality. What about those voices I hear words I read?

When I open my browser to start the day, several tabs reveal themselves. Some of these websites give the facts, as accurately as they can be determined: Bloomberg energy prices, American stock markets, and the U.S. national debt clock. Others are information clearing houses with occasional original essays, notably including the sites of Matt Savinar, Mike Ruppert, Rice Farmer, and Chris Martenson, along with Energy Bulletin, Counter Currents, and The Oil Drum. Others provide synthesis and analysis: Business Insider, Baseline Scenario, Dmitry Orlov’s blog, Speak Truth to Power, Economic Collapse Blog, The Automatic Earth, and Zero Hedge. Finally, one tells me what people are thinking out there in the culture of make believe: MSNBC. Needless to say, that’s the scary one.

I’m not foolish enough to read every article, much less read every article linked from these pages. But there is plenty of fodder here, much of it informed by biophysical economics. Biophysical economists, unlike neoclassical economists, know about finite materials. As a result, the former know starvation can kill people. Any self-respecting neoclassical economist assumes the rumbling of his stomach will cause food to appear.

Now let’s pause for a quick story about neoclassical economists.

Four shipwrecked economists wash ashore on a deserted tropical island. The first Asian economist says, “I’ll gather wood and start a fire to keep us warm and cook our food.” The second Asian economists says, “I’ll find water.” The third Asian economist says, “I’ll find food.” The American economist sits down, smiles, and says, “When you’ve got that all taken care of, I’ll consume whatever you produce. You’re darned lucky I’m here: Without me, the entire system falls apart in a hurry.”

Note that confidence among U.S. consumers fell in April. Unexpectedly, of course.

We now return to our regularly scheduled essay.

Among the places these links lead are the following. This summer’s hurricane season likely will contribute to high oil prices. And we might not need the hurricanes: According to the International Energy Agency, world oil demand will set an all-time record this year, exceeding the amount actually being sucked out of the ground by 2.4 million barrels per day. The global financial system is primed and ready to implode. The Fed admits to breaking the law in the name of transferring wealth (and not to me or you). And the Fed, like the U.S., is bankrupt. That alone will cause hyperinflation. “Real estate built America, and it’s going to take it down. Foreclosures will be the wrecking ball for the American economy.” The economic crisis in Greece is just getting started. Recent reports of economic growth are mere mirages from the smoke-and-mirrors cabal behind the curtain (duh). More than half your tax dollars support the military (yeah, that’s sustainable; even an increasing percentage of military personnel is questioning whether they will accomplish their amorphous mission in Afghanistan). Warren Buffett bought the Burlington Northern Santa Fe railroad, calling it an “all-in bet” on the U.S. economy, as if he’d been reading the work of James Howard Kunstler. Buffett’s partner Charles Munger wrote a parable transparently about the U.S. economy titled, “Basically, it’s over.” A large European bank warned its clients about completion of the ongoing collapse by the end of 2011. The U.S. dollar will collapse, causing world economic collapse, by 2012. Catherine Austin Fitts moved from New York City to rural Tennessee to build a doomstead. As should be obvious, “from now on the risk of entering a collapse must be considered significant and rising” (pdf file). And so on. The evidence mounts daily, and it all points in the same direction.

My interpretation and synthesis of these many essays and the data on which they rely suggests the industrial age is near its terminus. How near? Recognizing the difficulty of predictions, and the animus they elicit, I’ll go out on the often-wrong limb of forecast and give us a 99% chance of “lights out in the empire” by 21 December 2012. And I didn’t even look at my Mayan calendar.

Reinhart and Rogoff’s 2009 book, This Time is Different, describes financial crises in 66 nations dating to the 13th century. For a change, I agree with the rallying cry of people subject to previous collapses: This time is different. This time it’s not one of 66 nations. It’s every country in the entire industrial world. Indeed, this time is different.

In short, civilization is only a few days removed from chaos or, if you’re an optimist like me, from anarchy. This has always been the case, for every failed civilization as well as the one left standing. With every passing day, we move further into ecological overshoot and also closer to the end of western civilization and its apex, the industrial economy. For most individual industrial humans, the end will not be welcome. But for the living planet on which we depend, and therefore our very species, the end of industry will bring a welcome relief from decades of oppression. It might even give us back our humanity while granting our species a few more decades of planetary existence.
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This essay was inspired by a comment from Marguerite Daisy. It is permalinked at Counter Currents, Bluegrass reVisions, and Island Breath.

Comments 66

  • Goldman Sachs has just been charged with fraud by the SEC.

    Again,they deny it–so once again–Nothing is confirmed until it is officially denied.

    It’s having a devistating effect on financial markets world-wide.

    Frank Mezek

  • Another way of expressing what I see as parallel to Guy’s vision: I see a huge edifice that is rotting at its foundation, little by little and day by day. When it reaches a critical point of weakness, the terminal collapse will come, but other forces than the weight of the edifice could precipitate the final collapse. A gust of wind, a shaking of the earth, an attack by a determined opponent, could bring the weakened building down.

    The weakening process is also multi-faceted. I see corrosion, I see bad design, bad construction methods, etc. These problems have a way of compounding one another and synergizing.

    In the local real world, I see empty storefronts where thriving bueinesses used to be in one of the most affluent areas of the nation. I see reduced consumer traffic on the highways and reduced foot traffic in the malls and restaurants, though a few businesses are still able to thrive while others falter.

    Tax revenues to governments at all levels are dropping. Governments are laying off employees and now considering the unthinkable — governments are being forced to think about ending pension programs for retired workers who have previously received generous pensions.

    Yet the public wants to be bailed out. Big Business wants more governmetn service to prop up their corrupt malfeasance. People want health care at reduced price, with the government funding that level of price they cannot afford. But they do not want increased taxes.

    The entire system of our civilization has reached its limits of sustainabililty some years ago and continued to grow. Contraction is unavoidable but collapse is now the reality staring us in the face.

    As Guy said, governments everywhere have concealed truths they know and molded the public to accept the unacceptable and believe that things are not so bad and are manageable. The collapse is actually being managed, but not to save the building. The direction of the final collapse is what is at issue for Obama and the government and even as poverty was never eliminated in the best of times, the welfare of the poorest will be the last priority in the worst of times. In fact, the final travesty has been and will continue to be the transfer of wealth from a vibrant middle class of well-off Americans (created by heavy debt) to poor workers unable to ever pay off their debts, but held responsible for them in perpetuity.

    When this reality reaches the American public, all hell will break loose. I still see a time coming, relatively soon, when Joe Blow goes to McDonalds to buy a Big Breakfast and put it on his Visa Card and finds his card canceled. When he cannot buy a carton of chocoloate milk for little Brittany Blow, he will freak out and want to kill somebody. Maybe anybody. And it will be on and the collapse will be terrifying when it happens across this land that used to be thought of the home of the free.

  • Allow me to post a brief rant on these general topics:

    It’s amazing isn’t it? Every month it seems there is some new environmental Black Swan event that causes massive regional or global systems disruption. If you have loved ones who still don’t get it, you should really sit down with them and explain that Hurricane Katrina, the Australian wildfires, Port au Prince and now the Icelandic volcano are the NEW NORMAL. The late twentieth century era of a smooth-running, neoliberal global socioeconomic order, in which international flights flew on time, money flowed smoothly across borders and the natural world was an afterthought, was a brief HISTORICAL ABERRATION. We’re returning to the chaotic, hostile planet that the prehistoric nomadic hunter-gatherers knew all too well; non-resilient industrial man is in for a profound humbling, and immense suffering.

    For whatever reason, mother nature has chosen this time to put the smack down on our fragile, hyper-complex global civilization, and no amount of Randian philosophy, Full Spectrum Dominance or Chicago school of economists can stop her. It’s way past time that we as a species stopped listening to the abstract theories of denatured urban dwellers, and started listening to the earth-centric wisdom of peasants the world over. They are our closest link to our pre-industrial ancestors, and have far more to teach us about how to survive the 21st century than any university academic.

    Got resilience? Better get some soon – you’re gonna need it!

  • Great analogy, Stan Moore. The foundation is rotten, the building is held up with duct tape and dental floss, and a tornado’s headed our way.

    Nice rant, Sean Taylor. I considered taking offense because of my long-time identity as a university academic. But I’m an earth-centric peasant now 🙂

  • Mr. Taylor, I second the sentiment of Guy… nice rant. Furthermore, your statement, “[w]e’re returning to the chaotic, hostile planet that the prehistoric nomadic hunter-gatherers knew all too well,” is the first astute observation that I’ve seen regarding the current world predicaments. In other words, most bloggers and their “followers,” talk and “debate” about climate change and economic collapse as something that “is coming,” as in a future event. (Of course, the MSM doesn’t “communicate” any of this to any degree.) I contend, as Mr. Taylor seems to allude, that both ARE happening NOW and have been for more than a decade! They are both intrinsically linked and, like the proverbial snowball, starts out rolling slowly then gathers momentum and speed as it journeys downhill. To date, that gathering momentum has been slow and “nuanced” (I hate that fucking word!) but, rest assured, just as the equations of growth and decay and Newton’s laws of heating and cooling describe, the curve rapidly goes exponential.

    As I see it, we’re way beyond the PSR, to borrow an acronym from _AVP_, and as the decline in “productivity” and weather-pattern disruption accelerate (and they ARE accelerating at near incomprehensible rates), utter and complete chaos can be the only result. Civilization and consumer culture are already dead but the mindless masses still happily carry on in their zombie-like behaviors. I find it particularly amusing that most still believe that the pursuit of wealth is a desirable, even meaningful, endeavor. All currencies of the world are already worthless… except to those still rooted in make-believe. Brooksley Born stated some time ago that as of July ’08 the derivatives market was “valued” at more than $680 TRILLION dollars, more than 10 times the GDP of every economy on the planet combined! How can anyone perceive that as any kind of “value?”

    Lastly, I’ve found myself greatly disturbed by a glaring omission in all the peak-oil posts and discussions. That being the absolute fact that when the next blocks-long lines of automobiles at gas stations form, flashback to the early ’70s, this time they will be worldwide. Moreover, it’s highly unlikely that any government in any country will “ration” that liquid resource in any “equitable” fashion. In other words, when the supply starts getting tight, the militaristic machine won’t go wanting and we peons will have the joy of fighting amongst ourselves for what is left. My guess is, there won’t be any “left.” Well before 21-Dec-12 the dust will have settled, except for the radioactive aerosols, and population and money will be of the least concern.

  • Most people have a favorite disaster scenario. Some favor global warming, others favor peak oil. Financial collapse is the favorite of many people but geological cataclysm is favored by others. Regardless of which disaster you may favor, the most immediate problem that develops as a result of any disaster will be related to food shortages. Already it is estimated that one billion people are starving on earth.

    Most disasters reduce food production or availability. Climate change causes flooding, drought and unseasonable freezes which all reduce food production. Peak oil reduces the availability of petro chemicals for fertilizer and pesticides as well as the fuel to transport food for long distances. Financial collapse makes it more difficult for everyone to produce and purchase food. Geological cataclysm can even cause an ex-president to apologize for policies that reduced the local food supply in Haiti in favor of imported rice from the USA.

    Even social disasters are most likely to cause suffering through starvation. When the structures we have built to serve us loose their way and begin to believe that we are here to serve them, they try to monopolize our sources of supply. Whether these are corporate structures, government structures, belief structures or religious structures does not change this pattern.

    Regardless of one’s favorite disaster scenario, certain things can be helpful for the people in our communities. Here are some things that I think we all need:

    Clean air to breathe.
    Clean water to drink and bathe in.
    Nutritious food to eat.
    Energy for heating, cooling, lighting, transportation and communication.
    Materials for making and modifying the structures we live in and the clothing we wear.
    Good health.

    Since many people cannot do a lot in their daily lives to insure that they have:

    Clean air to breathe.
    Clean water to drink and bathe in.
    Energy for heating, cooling, lighting, transportation and communication.
    Materials for making and modifying the structures we live in and the clothing we wear.

    I think it is most worthwhile to focus on doing what I can to insure that my local community has:

    Nutritious food to eat.
    Good health.

    In service to these goals, I have been gardening organically for the last forty years. I believe that the more available this kind of info is, to the people on the ground, the more all will benefit.

    I am also engaged in a related area of “grassroots” research. Several hundred non-academic researchers around the world are exploring the agricultural and social implications of some newly rediscovered minerals that significantly improve the growth, taste and nutrition of food grown in soils where they are applied. We have accumulated many reports of significantly increased plant productivity, nutrition, freeze tolerance and drought tolerance.

    These minerals can be concentrated using simple kitchen chemistry on sea water or rock source materials. (Anyone with access to fire and salt water can concentrate them.) They can also be concentrated from the air or from fresh water using simple mechanical “traps”. You will find a number of links to pages which describe the results of using these minerals for plant growth at:

    http://www.subtleenergies.com/plant-lynx.htm

    The simplest method for concentrating these minerals from sea water is also described on the page above and other open-source methods are linked.

    I think that it is also helpful to realize that growing soil increases carbon sequestration and that the use of these minerals with keyline plowing has doubled productive soil depth in one year.

    The best way to guard our life on Earth may be to garden locally.

  • Look who is tooting the peak oil horn now:

    https://www.theguardian.com/business/2010/apr/11/peak-oil-production-supply

    Curious this showed up only in the foreign press as far as I can tell.

    Kinda adds a heavyweight to your many excellent points, doesn’t it!!!

  • Colin Crawford,

    Help me out here.

    PSR=Physicians for Social Responsibility?
    PSR=Pacific School of Religion?
    PSR=Professional Satellite Repair?

    AVP=Alien vs. Predator?
    AVP=Anti-Violence Project?
    AVP=Avon Products?

    As for your note about the glaring omission in peak oil discussion I would suggest that your have not been paying attention. For example, you could check out the posts on the blog called “Nature Bats Last” by Guy McPherson and you will find just such a discussion on many occasions.

    Michael Irving

  • Stan,

    I do not agree with your assessment of the flow of money in our society and your insinuated blame.

    You state: “In fact, the final travesty has been and will continue to be the transfer of wealth from a vibrant middle class of well-off Americans (created by heavy debt) to poor workers unable to ever pay off their debts, but held responsible for them in perpetuity.”

    I read that to mean that the flow of money has been from the middle class to poor workers and you label that a travesty.

    I would respond that assessment of the money situation in this country would show that the flow of money has been to the rich from everyone else. More than 85% of the wealth of this country is in the hands of only 20% percent of the people. It looks even more unbalanced when you consider that just 1% controls almost 35% of our nation’s wealth. The actions of that small percentage are what have caused poor workers to be mired in debt. I would point to union busting to suppress pay scales, or overseas outsourcing to reduce costs that has destroyed our industrial base and with it decent jobs for workers, or unjust manipulation of rates by credit card companies, etc., ad infinitum, all of which are meant to concentrate wealth in the hands of the rich. Another example might be the military industrial complex that sucks up almost half of our federal budget. Where does the money come from to pay for that and who benefits? Taxes are the same. Exxon-Mobil has become the richest corporation in the world by sucking money in large part out of Americans and yet it pays no US taxes. I think it is possible to find many such examples.

    So, I think that the flow of money is not down from the middle toward the bottom but rather up from almost everyone toward to richest few. I think blaming the poor is a form of scapegoating advocated by a few to divert our attention away from what is actually happening here. Pay no attention to the little man behind the curtain.

    Michael Irving

  • Stan,

    Your comments were disturbing, to say the least, for an old guy like me. For example, your thought about governments dropping pensions for budgetary reasons has been running around in my head for the last two hours. What do you think the response would be from the retirees? What do you think the response would be from government employees who are working in part for the contractual benefits (which are rightly considered part of their pay even though some of it is deferred as a pension)? I’m thinking more than postal workers might be going postal.

    What about Social Security? Talk about a third rail. Maybe they would shut down the Defense Department first. I’m thinking there will be a time, not too far into the future, when young people will become really angry about the baby boomers and the amount of money going into Social Security and Medicare. What do you think?

    Michael Irving

  • My wording in one section of my last posting was very poor and proof that I sent the message out without carefully reading it. The transfer of wealth is from the vibrant middle class to the already wealthy and powerful, resulting in the middle class coming into a situation of debt peonage from which they will not be allowed to recover. The transfer of wealth is not to the poor, but expands the poor class by greatly eliminating what used to be a middle class that considered itself well-off, but in reality maintained a lifestyle based on a heavy debt load.

  • Um… looked into the claim of a French bank telling people collapse within 2 years… that’s what the headline says but the report itself does not. It says:

    “As yet, nobody can say with any certainty whether we have in fact escaped the prospect of a global economic collapse,” said the 68-page report, headed by asset chief Daniel Fermon. It is an exploration of the dangers, not a forecast.

    Under the French bank’s “Bear Case” scenario (the gloomiest of three possible outcomes), the dollar would slide further and global equities would retest the March lows. Property prices would tumble again. Oil would fall back to $50 in 2010.”

    They are advising people to buy sovereign bonds. They talk collapse but I don’t think they mean the same thing you mean, Guy.

  • I saw the new movie “The Joneses” today, which I recommend as a pretty good demonstration of the vanity, the harm, and the deliberate manipulations long associated with the “consume till you die” lifestyle.

    And while driving there, I heard some of the NPR Saturday program “This American Life” that focused like a laser on the deliberate shenanigans perpetrated by investors and hedge funds, etc with regard to Collatoralized Debt Obligations, Debt Swaps, and other instruments of mass financial destruction. It was clearly demonstrated that financial players deliberately chose to sell packages of known shady mortgages falsely portrayed as Grade A, which were doomed at the moment they were written. The financiers made more money betting against the mortgages than they made by selling them. This was absolute corruption layered upon corrupt layer after layer and which reaped huge profits while the scam lasted.

    Anyone from Obama to Geithner to Greenspan who claims that the collapse of the securities trade could not be predicted is professionally incompetent or morally bankrupt, but mostly the latter. The system was rigged to fail and that is why it was so important for them to initially deregulate the industry.

    If Americans had any brains at all, they would be steaming mad, but are so manipulated to lust for wealth that most Americans continue to simply wish the economy could be made to grow again so they can begin consuming and building yet more debt. It is as obscene as it is insane.

    Stan Moore

  • Um, vera: “Governments have already shot their fiscal bolts. Even without fresh spending, public debt would explode within two years to 105pc of GDP in the UK, 125pc in the US and the eurozone, and 270pc in Japan. Worldwide state debt would reach $45 trillion, up two-and-a-half times in a decade.” Guess what? We’re nearly there already, at 116pc in the US. In other words, the industrial economy is nearly as bad, 5 months later, as they expected for 19 months from now. For those investors who want to protect against currency collapse, “gold would go “up, and up, and up” as the only safe haven from fiat paper money.” The Fed has proposed getting rid of the fractional reserve system in this country, thus allowing banks to carry no cash at all to back deposits, a move that would further decrease the value of currency while increasing the value of gold. But you can’t eat gold.

    As far as the price of oil, the perception of continued economic growth will drive it higher. Collapse will drive it lower. Rinse and repeat, as we saw when oil hit $147.27/bbl then cratered to $32.40/bbl. People who understand peak oil know prices fluctuate as the industrial economy implodes. Those high prices lead to massive structural shifts in the economy and therefore to lower prices.

    If you do not interpret Société Générale’s report as a recommendation to get out of the industrial economy before it collapses, then you’re at odds with Ambrose Evans-Pritchard and Telegraph. Not to mention Warren Buffett, Charles Munger, Catherine Austin Fitts, IEA, Financial Sense and — as Mark points out — the U.S. military. The list is much longer, of course, as indicated above. But some people, thinking American Empire is too great to fall, will not be convinced until it’s too late.

  • Arizona health consultant warns of risks from cellphone radiation:

    http://www.mycapturesystem.com/files/Cell_Phone_Poisoning_Of_America.pdf

    I have heard much parallel information from other sources and am quite certain that the long-term effects of all this radiation will be disastrous for the physical and mental health of humanity. And when I see the ultimate ignoramuses wearing those devices attached directly to their heads (Bluetooth, etc), I see suicide in slow motion, approved and supported by complicit government which should never allow such devices in the marketplace. All the young children who are hooked on wireless are at risk of cancers in later life.

    One wonders how governments could allow this, but we have produced asthmas from coalburning in urban areas for years, allowed people to use tobacco, even tested nuclear radiation on unsuspecting members of the military. Healthcare better get reformed because the wireless revolution is going to stretch the need for cancer treatments beyond anything comtemplated in prior human history, just as the society is going bankrupt.

    Will the Chinese buy our bonds so that we can treat our own self-inflcted cancers while waging economic warfare against them and occupying countries they favor for the production of remaining energy reserves?

    The future gets increasingly ugly, no doubt…

    Stan Moore

  • “M” is for moving it right along, and it’s an achievement to turn the pages of analyses to reach the stage of a course of action. Thank you, Dr. McPherson, for your concisely comprehensive and necessary evaluation of where we’ve been so that we finally plan where we’re going.

    As we dust ourselves off, I fear that we are counting our blessings that the near-collapse wasn’t too bad, and that it could have been worse (after all it was worse for others). Fueled by the message that the dip in the pool of recession-depression has ended, we feel we’ve made it and celebrate with a mental sigh of relief, as we return to living and planning our lives where the day-to-day ground appears more solid under our feet. We have rationalized the economic impact and extreme societal contraction, choosing not to regularly notice the vast number of empty buildings with their various pleading signs starting to collect dust and graffiti throughout our neighborhoods and are again building new buildings. We are especially no longer seeing as clearly the first-wave of collapse victims who, along with their real stories, are becoming invisible. To regain our balance, we’ve formed a new set of boundaries from this traumatic experience, and better know where and how the new bottom sits and feels. Or so we think.

    We haven’t fully absorbed the mind-boggling level of engrained deceit the collapsing economy has uncovered, and don’t vocalize anything resembling realization. Perhaps the sheer volume of deception prevents a rumbling groan from leaving the deepest part of our stomach. I think we’re in shock.

    So, how do we go from this place of so-near collapse to charting our course of action, Doc?

    I ask one kind favor for when you further share your thoughts, Dr. McPherson, and it is to please acknowledge the challenges of dwellers of large cities. We don’t begrudge your decision to leave and the circumstances that facilitated your move. We simply request supportive understanding as we face the full reality of living under the bright lights of a big city.

    With your guidance, let’s chart the course of a best possible future.

    With gratitude,

    Marguerite Daisy

  • Marguerite Daisy, I don’t think cities are viable in our post-carbon future. They’re a short-lived affair, a relatively recent and soon-to-disappear arrangement. Of course, size matters … so I’ve no doubt towns and small cities will muddle through better than large ones. Ultimately, though, cities depend for their existence on resources from beyond the city limits. Never mind the immorality of living at the apex of empire — most people haven’t yet minded — cities simply are not viable from many perspectives, as I indicated here.

    When the lights go out in your big city, the water stops coming out the taps. Unless you can secure water, food, and a vibrant shoulders-to-the-wheel community, your city is in real trouble. It’s difficult to predict which comes first: total economic collapse could lead first to (1) light’s out and dry taps OR (2) complete social breakdown. But in a city of more than a few thousand hard-working people, either way spells an unpleasant death for most people.

    If you insist upon trying to help your city muddle through a future with no fossil fuels, you’d better (1) stop the local politicians from sucking at the teat of economic growth, and then (2) secure a viable set of living arrangements for everybody in your city — not to mention the ones nearby, who’ll be coming to pay a visit — in the absence of fossil fuels. If you’re successful at either approach, you qualify for imperial sainthood (imperial because cities represent the apex of empire).

    If you live in a desert city, as I formerly did, you need to steal water from other cultures and species. You need to steal fossil fuels to pump the water. You need to keep doing this forever, without interruption. I don’t think it’ll work, and I don’t think it’s a good idea. But good luck to you as you give it a try. And, for a change, I’m not being sarcastic.

  • Without any sarcasm, you did not understand my request, Dr. McPherson. And in the same cynicism-free vein, I would measure the ongoing quality of my morality to yours at any time.

    I have no colorful link to share here or here, or even here and here.

    Sadly, you missed the sparking chance of a mighty inclusive moment in planetary time, Doc.

    Thank you and good luck.

    Ms. D.

  • I’m afraid I misunderstood, Ms. D, and still misunderstand. What did I miss? What am I missing?

  • There may be big “cities” in the future (at least for a while). But they will be more like encampments once the electrical grid has gone down for good. Instead of Manhattan, think of the slums of Sao Paolo or Calcutta, where millions and millions of human beings squat in the dirt with their feces flowing down the middle of dirt roads, where they carry water in bottles and sell handmade trinkets to get enough cash to buy a few bites to subsist on for the day. That is what big city living will be like for most people around the world within the foreseeable future.

    There could be some of the crowd that made billions per head during their Goldman Sachs employment who will be able to stockpile luxury goods and generate their own electricity, import luxury foods and hire armed mercenaries to keep out the riff raff. Such people might build private armies to enhance their own security and become like medieval kings and royalty.

    Missing forever will be things like: the subway system of New York, the commercial airline industry as we have known it, the internet as we have known it, the American middle class as we have known it, reliable fresh water at the tap, WalMarts chock full of cheap merchandise from China, fresh produce year round, and endless luxuries like that for the common person. Hospitals, medicine, and police and fire services will be luxuries, too.

    Within a few years, if you did not grow it, you may not be able to eat it. You may be able to get acquainted with the nighttime sky because artificial lights at night will be unavailable. And you might find yourself healthier and happier than ever before in your life, if you can accept the realities of collapse and learn to live well in the emerging world of mud huts, bare feet and self-harvested water.

  • I know most of you live in the US but I’m quite surprised that none of you have mentioned the tremendous chaos in Europe due to the volcano. It’s marvellous how Nature has reasserted her power yet again but lots of people still don’t get it, still whinge about flying and being stuck in the wrong country/airport. As if we tiny little humans can control the planet! It’s these natural disasters which will finally unstick Big Business – huge financial losses for the air industry, huge losses for insurance companies etc. We live in NZ so haven’t been directly affected but my husband is due to fly to the UK next week to see relatives,it’ll be interesting to see if he can go.

  • There is a rule in economics that” Everything happens at the margin.”
    One final straw is all it takes to break the camel’s back.The almost imperceptible turning point here is the Icelandic volcano that could
    be the flexion point driving the world into the last,final Terminal
    Depression that I’ve discussed here previously.

    There was no economic recovery in Europe–the world’s weakest economic
    area.The volcano has probably delivered the coup de grace for Europe,and
    for the entire world economy.

    And the worst might be yet to come.The flyable air space in Europe will
    be so severely restricted, that there is a grave danger of a catastropic
    mid-air collision killing hundreds of people.This would destroy the world’s air line and tourism business.

    Is the Apocalypse nigh ??

    Frank Mezek

  • In Shakespeare’s Hamlet, Claudius instructs us, “when sorrows come-they come not single spies -but in battalions.”

    Kunstler’s latest comment on Goldman Sachs,makes it clear that all of
    Wall Street is indeed a criminal conspiracy.

    Human greed and nature (the volcano)and many other sorrows are out there.The many insightful,commentaries by my compatriots here document
    persuasively that THIS IS IT !!

    Frank Mezek

  • Nice, Frank Mezek. And during Shakespeare’s birthday week, too 🙂

  • We-ell-ell if you aren’t a ball of sunshine Frankie!

    Is the Apocalypse nigh? I hope so. I don’t know about the rest of you, but I plan to survive, and thrive, while everyone else is crying and dying in the streets. Yes friends, for some of us Ragnarok will be our finest hour, the day we’ve been waiting all our lives for, when the soul-deadening insanity of this civilization is finally cast aside and we can all start to live again. I will surf the tsunamis, dance upon the quaking earth, spear the long pigs where they stand and roast them over my fire — all the while chanting praise to the angry gods who have brought this great cataclysm upon us, finally ending the great age of darkness in which we find ourselves.

    Did I mention that I’m a closet cannibal?

  • more ‘(mis)information’ – from a well respected Australian economist

    http://www.theage.com.au/business/hyperinflation-is-a-hollow-threat-20100420-srsy.html

    the spurious link between starvation and cannibalism
    – pure popcorn – cormac is very entertaining

    – its the last taboo,
    it did not happen even during the famine in ethiopia
    during the mid eigthies

    you will have to get another hobby in the future before you
    are strung up and turned into fertiliser!

  • Mark Twain wrote of cannibalism as follows:

    A short story by Mark Twain
    Cannibalism In The Cars
    ________________________________________________
    Title: Cannibalism In The Cars
    Author: Mark Twain [More Titles by Twain]

    I visited St. Louis lately, and on my way West, after changing cars at Terre Haute, Indiana, a mild, benevolent-looking gentleman of about forty-five, or maybe fifty, came in at one of the way-stations and sat down beside me. We talked together pleasantly on various subjects for an hour, perhaps, and I found him exceedingly intelligent and entertaining. When he learned that I was from Washington, he immediately began to ask questions about various public men, and about Congressional affairs; and I saw very shortly that I was conversing with a man who was perfectly familiar with the ins and outs of political life at the Capital, even to the ways and manners, and customs of procedure of Senators and Representatives in the Chambers of the national Legislature. Presently two men halted near us for a single moment, and one said to the other:

    “Harris, if you’ll do that for me, I’ll never forget you, my boy.”

    My new comrade’s eye lighted pleasantly. The words had touched upon a happy memory, I thought. Then his face settled into thoughtfulness– almost into gloom. He turned to me and said,

    “Let me tell you a story; let me give you a secret chapter of my life– a chapter that has never been referred to by me since its events transpired. Listen patiently, and promise that you will not interrupt me.”

    I said I would not, and he related the following strange adventure, speaking sometimes with animation, sometimes with melancholy, but always with feeling and earnestness.

    THE STRANGER’S NARRATIVE

    “On the 19th of December, 1853, I started from St. Louis on the evening train bound for Chicago. There were only twenty-four passengers, all told. There were no ladies and no children. We were in excellent spirits, and pleasant acquaintanceships were soon formed. The journey bade fair to be a happy one; and no individual in the party, I think, had even the vaguest presentiment of the horrors we were soon to undergo.

    “At 11 P.m. it began to snow hard. Shortly after leaving the small village of Welden, we entered upon that tremendous prairie solitude that stretches its leagues on leagues of houseless dreariness far away toward the jubilee Settlements. The winds, unobstructed by trees or hills, or even vagrant rocks, whistled fiercely across the level desert, driving the falling snow before it like spray from the crested waves of a stormy sea. The snow was deepening fast; and we knew, by the diminished speed of the train, that the engine was plowing through it with steadily increasing difficulty. Indeed, it almost came to a dead halt sometimes, in the midst of great drifts that piled themselves like colossal graves across the track. Conversation began to flag. Cheerfulness gave place to grave concern. The possibility of being imprisoned in the snow, on the bleak prairie, fifty miles from any house, presented itself to every mind, and extended its depressing influence over every spirit.

    “At two o’clock in the morning I was aroused out of an uneasy slumber by the ceasing of all motion about me. The appalling truth flashed upon me instantly–we were captives in a snow-drift! ‘All hands to the rescue!’ Every man sprang to obey. Out into the wild night, the pitchy darkness, the billowy snow, the driving storm, every soul leaped, with the consciousness that a moment lost now might bring destruction to us all. Shovels, hands, boards–anything, everything that could displace snow, was brought into instant requisition. It was a weird picture, that small company of frantic men fighting the banking snows, half in the blackest shadow and half in the angry light of the locomotive’s reflector.

    “One short hour sufficed to prove the utter uselessness of our efforts. The storm barricaded the track with a dozen drifts while we dug one away. And worse than this, it was discovered that the last grand charge the engine had made upon the enemy had broken the fore-and-aft shaft of the driving-wheel! With a free track before us we should still have been helpless. We entered the car wearied with labor, and very sorrowful. We gathered about the stoves, and gravely canvassed our situation. We had no provisions whatever–in this lay our chief distress. We could not freeze, for there was a good supply of wood in the tender. This was our only comfort. The discussion ended at last in accepting the disheartening decision of the conductor, viz., that it would be death for any man to attempt to travel fifty miles on foot through snow like that. We could not send for help, and even if we could it would not come. We must submit, and await, as patiently as we might, succor or starvation! I think the stoutest heart there felt a momentary chill when those words were uttered.

    “Within the hour conversation subsided to a low murmur here and there about the car, caught fitfully between the rising and falling of the blast; the lamps grew dim; and the majority of the castaways settled themselves among the flickering shadows to think–to forget the present, if they could–to sleep, if they might.

    “The eternal night-it surely seemed eternal to us-wore its lagging hours away at last, and the cold gray dawn broke in the east. As the light grew stronger the passengers began to stir and give signs of life, one after another, and each in turn pushed his slouched hat up from his forehead, stretched his stiffened limbs, and glanced out of the windows upon the cheerless prospect. It was cheer less, indeed!-not a living thing visible anywhere, not a human habitation; nothing but a vast white desert; uplifted sheets of snow drifting hither and thither before the wind–a world of eddying flakes shutting out the firmament above.

    “All day we moped about the cars, saying little, thinking much. Another lingering dreary night–and hunger.

    “Another dawning–another day of silence, sadness, wasting hunger, hopeless watching for succor that could not come. A night of restless slumber, filled with dreams of feasting–wakings distressed with the gnawings of hunger.

    “The fourth day came and went–and the fifth! Five days of dreadful imprisonment! A savage hunger looked out at every eye. There was in it a sign of awful import–the foreshadowing of a something that was vaguely shaping itself in every heart–a something which no tongue dared yet to frame into words.

    “The sixth day passed–the seventh dawned upon as gaunt and haggard and hopeless a company of men as ever stood in the shadow of death. It must out now! That thing which had been growing up in every heart was ready to leap from every lip at last! Nature had been taxed to the utmost–she must yield. RICHARD H. GASTON of Minnesota, tall, cadaverous, and pale, rose up. All knew what was coming. All prepared–every emotion, every semblance of excitement–was smothered–only a calm, thoughtful seriousness appeared in the eyes that were lately so wild.

    “‘Gentlemen: It cannot be delayed longer! The time is at hand! We must determine which of us shall die to furnish food for the rest!’

    “MR. JOHN J. WILLIAMS of Illinois rose and said: ‘Gentlemen–I nominate the Rev. James Sawyer of Tennessee.’

    “MR. Wm. R. ADAMS of Indiana said: ‘I nominate Mr. Daniel Slote of New York.’

    “MR. CHARLES J. LANGDON: ‘I nominate Mr. Samuel A. Bowen of St. Louis.’

    “MR. SLOTE: ‘Gentlemen–I desire to decline in favor of Mr. John A. Van Nostrand, Jun., of New Jersey.’

    “MR. GASTON: ‘If there be no objection, the gentleman’s desire will be acceded to.’

    “MR. VAN NOSTRAND objecting, the resignation of Mr. Slote was rejected. The resignations of Messrs. Sawyer and Bowen were also offered, and refused upon the same grounds.

    “MR. A. L. BASCOM of Ohio: ‘I move that the nominations now close, and that the House proceed to an election by ballot.’

    “MR. SAWYER: ‘Gentlemen–I protest earnestly against these proceedings. They are, in every way, irregular and unbecoming. I must beg to move that they be dropped at once, and that we elect a chairman of the meeting and proper officers to assist him, and then we can go on with the business before us understandingly.’

    “MR. BELL of Iowa: ‘Gentlemen–I object. This is no time to stand upon forms and ceremonious observances. For more than seven days we have been without food. Every moment we lose in idle discussion increases our distress. I am satisfied with the nominations that have been made–every gentleman present is, I believe–and I, for one, do not see why we should not proceed at once to elect one or more of them. I wish to offer a resolution–‘

    “MR. GASTON: ‘It would be objected to, and have to lie over one day under the rules, thus bringing about the very delay you wish to avoid. The gentleman from New Jersey–‘

    “MR. VAN NOSTRAND: ‘Gentlemen–I am a stranger among you; I have not sought the distinction that has been conferred upon me, and I feel a delicacy–‘

    “MR. MORGAN Of Alabama (interrupting): ‘I move the previous question.’

    “The motion was carried, and further debate shut off, of course. The motion to elect officers was passed, and under it Mr. Gaston was chosen chairman, Mr. Blake, secretary, Messrs. Holcomb, Dyer, and Baldwin a committee on nominations, and Mr. R. M. Howland, purveyor, to assist the committee in making selections.

    “A recess of half an hour was then taken, and some little caucusing followed. At the sound of the gavel the meeting reassembled, and the committee reported in favor of Messrs. George Ferguson of Kentucky, Lucien Herrman of Louisiana, and W. Messick of Colorado as candidates. The report was accepted.

    “MR. ROGERS of Missouri: ‘Mr. President The report being properly before the House now, I move to amend it by substituting for the name of Mr. Herrman that of Mr. Lucius Harris of St. Louis, who is well and honorably known to us all. I do not wish to be understood as casting the least reflection upon the high character and standing of the gentleman from Louisiana far from it. I respect and esteem him as much as any gentleman here present possibly can; but none of us can be blind to the fact that he has lost more flesh during the week that we have lain here than any among us–none of us can be blind to the fact that the committee has been derelict in its duty, either through negligence or a graver fault, in thus offering for our suffrages a gentleman who, however pure his own motives may be, has really less nutriment in him–‘

    “THE CHAIR: ‘The gentleman from Missouri will take his seat. The Chair cannot allow the integrity of the committee to be questioned save by the regular course, under the rules. What action will the House take upon the gentleman’s motion?’

    “MR. HALLIDAY of Virginia: ‘I move to further amend the report by substituting Mr. Harvey Davis of Oregon for Mr. Messick. It may be urged by gentlemen that the hardships and privations of a frontier life have rendered Mr. Davis tough; but, gentlemen, is this a time to cavil at toughness? Is this a time to be fastidious concerning trifles? Is this a time to dispute about matters of paltry significance? No, gentlemen, bulk is what we desire–substance, weight, bulk–these are the supreme requisites now–not talent, not genius, not education. I insist upon my motion.’

    “MR. MORGAN (excitedly): ‘Mr. Chairman–I do most strenuously object to this amendment. The gentleman from Oregon is old, and furthermore is bulky only in bone–not in flesh. I ask the gentleman from Virginia if it is soup we want instead of solid sustenance? if he would delude us with shadows? if he would mock our suffering with an Oregonian specter? I ask him if he can look upon the anxious faces around him, if he can gaze into our sad eyes, if he can listen to the beating of our expectant hearts, and still thrust this famine-stricken fraud upon us? I ask him if he can think of our desolate state, of our past sorrows, of our dark future, and still unpityingly foist upon us this wreck, this ruin, this tottering swindle, this gnarled and blighted and sapless vagabond from Oregon’s hospitable shores? Never!’ [Applause.]

    “The amendment was put to vote, after a fiery debate, and lost. Mr. Harris was substituted on the first amendment. The balloting then began. Five ballots were held without a choice. On the sixth, Mr. Harris was elected, all voting for him but himself. It was then moved that his election should be ratified by acclamation, which was lost, in consequence of his again voting against himself.

    “MR. RADWAY moved that the House now take up the remaining candidates, and go into an election for breakfast. This was carried.

    “On the first ballot–there was a tie, half the members favoring one candidate on account of his youth, and half favoring the other on account of his superior size. The President gave the casting vote for the latter, Mr. Messick. This decision created considerable dissatisfaction among the friends of Mr. Ferguson, the defeated candidate, and there was some talk of demanding a new ballot; but in the midst of it a motion to adjourn was carried, and the meeting broke up at once.

    “The preparations for supper diverted the attention of the Ferguson faction from the discussion of their grievance for a long time, and then, when they would have taken it up again, the happy announcement that Mr. Harris was ready drove all thought of it to the winds.

    “We improvised tables by propping up the backs of car-seats, and sat down with hearts full of gratitude to the finest supper that had blessed our vision for seven torturing days. How changed we were from what we had been a few short hours before! Hopeless, sad-eyed misery, hunger, feverish anxiety, desperation, then; thankfulness, serenity, joy too deep for utterance now. That I know was the cheeriest hour of my eventful life. The winds howled, and blew the snow wildly about our prison house, but they were powerless to distress us any more. I liked Harris. He might have been better done, perhaps, but I am free to say that no man ever agreed with me better than Harris, or afforded me so large a degree of satisfaction. Messick was very well, though rather high-flavored, but for genuine nutritiousness and delicacy of fiber, give me Harris. Messick had his good points–I will not attempt to deny it, nor do I wish to do it but he was no more fitted for breakfast than a mummy would be, sir–not a bit. Lean?–why, bless me!–and tough? Ah, he was very tough! You could not imagine it–you could never imagine anything like it.”

    “Do you mean to tell me that–”

    “Do not interrupt me, please. After breakfast we elected a man by the name of Walker, from Detroit, for supper. He was very good. I wrote his wife so afterward. He was worthy of all praise. I shall always remember Walker. He was a little rare, but very good. And then the next morning we had Morgan of Alabama for breakfast. He was one of the finest men I ever sat down to handsome, educated, refined, spoke several languages fluently a perfect gentleman he was a perfect gentleman, and singularly juicy. For supper we had that Oregon patriarch, and he was a fraud, there is no question about it–old, scraggy, tough, nobody can picture the reality. I finally said, gentlemen, you can do as you like, but I will wait for another election. And Grimes of Illinois said, ‘Gentlemen, I will wait also. When you elect a man that has something to recommend him, I shall be glad to join you again.’ It soon became evident that there was general dissatisfaction with Davis of Oregon, and so, to preserve the good will that had prevailed so pleasantly since we had had Harris, an election was called, and the result of it was that Baker of Georgia was chosen. He was splendid! Well, well–after that we had Doolittle, and Hawkins, and McElroy (there was some complaint about McElroy, because he was uncommonly short and thin), and Penrod, and two Smiths, and Bailey (Bailey had a wooden leg, which was clear loss, but he was otherwise good), and an Indian boy, and an organ-grinder, and a gentleman by the name of Buckminster–a poor stick of a vagabond that wasn’t any good for company and no account for breakfast. We were glad we got him elected before relief came.”

    “And so the blessed relief did come at last?”

    “Yes, it came one bright, sunny morning, just after election. John Murphy was the choice, and there never was a better, I am willing to testify; but John Murphy came home with us, in the train that came to succor us, and lived to marry the widow Harris–”

    “Relict of–”

    “Relict of our first choice. He married her, and is happy and respected and prosperous yet. Ah, it was like a novel, sir–it was like a romance. This is my stopping-place, sir; I must bid you goodby. Any time that you can make it convenient to tarry a day or two with me, I shall be glad to have you. I like you, sir; I have conceived an affection for you. I could like you as well as I liked Harris himself, sir. Good day, sir, and a pleasant journey.”

    He was gone. I never felt so stunned, so distressed, so bewildered in my life. But in my soul I was glad he was gone. With all his gentleness of manner and his soft voice, I shuddered whenever he turned his hungry eye upon me; and when I heard that I had achieved his perilous affection, and that I stood almost with the late Harris in his esteem, my heart fairly stood still!

    I was bewildered beyond description. I did not doubt his word; I could not question a single item in a statement so stamped with the earnestness of truth as his; but its dreadful details overpowered me, and threw my thoughts into hopeless confusion. I saw the conductor looking at me. I said, “Who is that man?”

    “He was a member of Congress once, and a good one. But he got caught in a snow-drift in the cars, and like to have been starved to death. He got so frost-bitten and frozen up generally, and used up for want of something to eat, that he was sick and out of his head two or three months afterward. He is all right now, only he is a monomaniac, and when he gets on that old subject he never stops till he has eat up that whole car-load of people he talks about. He would have finished the crowd by this time, only he had to get out here. He has got their names as pat as A B C. When he gets them all eat up but himself, he always says: ‘Then the hour for the usual election for breakfast having arrived; and there being no opposition, I was duly elected, after which, there being no objections offered, I resigned. Thus I am here.'”

    I felt inexpressibly relieved to know that I had only been listening to the harmless vagaries of a madman instead of the genuine experiences of a bloodthirsty cannibal.

    -THE END-
    [Samuel Clemens] Mark Twain’s short story: Cannibalism In The Cars

  • reference link = http://www.last.fm/music/Dougie+MacLean/+videos/+1-3mbiUmxGbx4

    Dear all —

    I hope this link works so that anyone interested can click and listen to Scottish folksinger Dougie MacLean sing and play his guitar to his song “Eternity”.

    The song is not about golden eagles, but when I hear the song and my heart takes over, I feel like I am standing in golden eagle country, whether it be coastal northern California (where I live), or standing with the late Jeff Watson in the Scottish Highlands, or with David Ellis in Arizona or Mongolia, or in any piece of wild land where golden eagles live and where one can find the eternal connections with nature that are part of our primal essence.

    There is truly something eternal about the gaze of an eagle, and something mystical and magical can happen when one transcends the mundane affairs of life in this modern society and finds the inner spirit portrayed by a deep connection with nature.

    Stan Moore

  • My good friend Marguerite Daisy, lovely gal that she is, called me a couple of nights ago to shoot the breeze, as it were. She needed a sounding board and asked for my opinion on some things, and so we pondered for a good ol’ while.

    Following her insistent tugging at my ear’s string to direct my attention toward your blogging entries (she’s kind of irresistible that way), I agreed to make a visit. Why? For the simple reason that I sought inspiration of my own today and found some.

    Inspiration can be self-generated or so it seems, but I left the comfort of my cranium this afternoon to attend a presentation and panel discussion on climate change at my local university. First of all, I enjoyed the event from the standpoint of the quietly interested energy you could feel in the room (made up mostly of lovely young students and my guess is that there are some credits riding on producing a report due by early next week, but it was more than that). Community activists, called Climate Wise Women, shared their stories of how climate change impacts their lives and those of their communities every day. What emerged were compelling images of lives near and far motivated by a naturally evolved commitment to make a difference.

    A native of Biloxi, Mississippi, Sharon Hanshaw spoke of how, in its furor, Katrina was a truly different kind of storm. I found it interesting that to describe the unbelievable damage suffered by her community, this Climate Wise Woman defaulted to the dramatic special effects we see in movies in order to anchor a point of reference for this experience never before lived, never possibly imagined. Through her involvement and associations with the women of her community, she attributes perseverance as key to getting things done and considers it imperative to generate linkages with each other’s communities across our one world.

    Climate Wise Woman Constance Okollet from Uganda, Africa, described herself as being of the land, a paysanne she said. Only going back to 2007, she strictly recounted the challenges imposed by a climate going awry that destroys villages and crops with floods and drought. She speaks that there is now too little food to eat, and not enough water to drink.

    We heard from Ulamila Kurai Wragg who lives in the Cook Islands of the South Pacific where the sweet oranges used to make a popular citrus drink are no longer, as are gone those tasty worms that emerged from the sea and were celebrated in time-honored feasts, now known in one generation’s time as cultural anecdote by local youngsters. And when a traditional calendar used by islanders to predict planting times and weather patterns lost its reliability, communities shifted to tourism as their main source of revenue despite the increasing intensity and frequency of storms. Why not save it for the children, reflects this Climate Wise Woman.

    Other compelling perspectives were shared and guest and host scientists offered relevant research facts and commentaries.

    Overall, what struck me is the sense of place, history and belonging that radiated from the vivid accounts by these women, and love, love, love, of a people for a place called home.

    Love and courage, that’s the generous recipe they gifted us.

    You see, Dr. McPherson, if you position yourself to chart a course to follow — and I believe you are wanting to take this road because you hold important knowledge and have experienced know-how — it has to be inclusive of everyone.

    It simply cannot be about who likely will and who possibly won’t, and about chances are that rural areas win while the larger municipalities lose.

    When you hear from women, especially those with some years accumulated under the belt, there is no need to explain Empire-Anything by adding parentheses to provide greater illumination: We get it. Women, by the nature of how we have been defined and treated, understand the constraints imposed by society.

    And these days, we also know quite a bit about the famous color green. We know that light green can lead to neon green, all the way to green-washing, with its covered up yet engrained message to buy stuff. Got need? Here’s another fine product. Got no need yet? No problem, we’ll create a need for you with product to match. Beyond the messages to consume ‘til doomsday do us part, and beyond being conveniently thought of and referred to as consummate Consumers, we welcome the deeper shade of green coming forth.

    But are we also approaching a new precipice of prejudice if our language draws a dividing green line in the sand (I stop short of calling it green-lining) and begin to negate the survival of people before we’ve had a true chance to fully embrace solutions and become engaged in actively producing change.

    Time is truly of the essence at this point, it’s true.

    Inspired by these wise women today, I affirm my personal bottom line as a community advocate, then, to wholeheartedly support your submitting a proposal for a course of involved action in light of climate change, peak oil, and economic instability, something meaningfully applicable across local and national communities no matter the size, and adaptable at the international level.

    No small feat for sure. Not impossible in thoughtful incremental stages, perhaps.

    Do we have a deal Dr. McPherson that it is not about what one tries to forecast happening in the future, as it is about present-time involvement beyond the choice of one’s own personal accommodations?

    You outline a path, and I (as I know others) will support and carry-out your work as high and as far as possible.

    We await the fruit of your own dedicated and accomplished labor to further unite together locally and globally, and accomplish some very good preparation, mitigation, and preservation work for people and planet (and that includes polar bears, tigers, and fishies).

    With courageous conviction,

    Danielle Charbonneau
    Community Advocate
    Tucson, Arizona

  • Guy, I quite agree with your “interpreting Société Générale’s report as a recommendation to get out of the industrial economy before it collapses.”

    What I don’t agree with is your initial post which said: “A large European bank warned its clients about completion of the ongoing collapse by the end of 2011.” What Societe Generale seems to be doing is advising people on how to profit by the continuing economic unraveling. And remain top dogs. 🙂

    That’s why I said that by collapse they are not likely to mean what you mean by it. They are trying to maintain status quo by further financial finagling. Which, of course, bodes ill for the entire economic system as it’s constituted.

  • Danielle Charbonneau, I appreciate you taking the time to stop by with your words of wisdom. I take offense at the accusation of exclusivity, though, from Ms. Daisy and you. My writing spawned Sustainable Tucson, I taught for many years well beyond the fringe of acceptable behavior from the standpoint of university of administrators (my teaching included facilities of incarceration), and I am working with many people to bring this empire to its overdue close. I have offered, and continue to offer, methods for individuals and towns to avoid or mitigate economic collapse and global climate change.

    Whereas I appreciate your hopes and dreams for a viable city in our post-carbon future, I would be remiss if I failed to point out the prospects for such a future — and so I did. I would be remiss, as well, if I did not point out that cities are the apex of empire, and that in the absence of empire, cities cease to exist as a viable set of living arrangements — and so I did. By the way, if I seem to be incorrect about either point, please let me know. Are cities not the apex of empire? Do they not extract materials and return pollution? How are they viable in the wake of economic collapse (unless, of course, we build another empire)?

    I appreciate the Buddhist sentiment with its focus on today, but we should balance the omnipresent now with considerable concern for future generations. And if you have children, I cannot imagine trying to raise them in Tucson, Phoenix, or Las Vegas in the absence of food at the CSA, fossil fuels for heating and especially cooling, and water coming through the taps. In the absence of rapid, profound changes in the political scene — changes not even remotely in evidence at this time — we’re on a fast track to large-scale die-off in the cities.

    I’d like to prevent some of those deaths, which is one of the reasons I write here and elsewhere and why I was involved in the efforts of Sustainable Tucson and Poetry Inside/Out when I lived in that city. But it’s getting awfully late in the imperial game to “save” the cities, even if you believe they are worth saving (in which case, please tell me why the cities are worth saving). In other words, I’m completely in favor of saving the people in the cities. But not the cities themselves, which overwhelmingly cause the deaths of polar bears, tigers, and fishies.

  • I liked Danielle’s posting very much. It reminds me that different people have different roles in survival and women, especially poor women around the world have always faced daily survival challenges with a great deal of responsibility, ingenuity, patience, and comraderie. Many, many such women everywhere are firmly grounded in the real world of problem solving and have much experience in such.

    One of my favorite women in this regard is Vendana Shiva, a physicist from India who has become a very effective campaigner against destructive chemical-dependent, water wasteful, genetically modified, seed stealing, industrial agriculture.

    Another is Wangari Matthai of Kenya, who led the Kenyan women’s movement to replant trees to solve problems of deforestation.

    There are many others and many lead by example rather than by lecturing or publishing because their children have to be fed and they do not have the luxury of dealing with the abstract or analyzing the future in deep research as Guy McPherson has done and is doing.

    I see Guy as playing a complimentary role to what such women are doing.

    But there can be no mistake about one thing — we are in a different time frame now than even ten years ago. The problems facing the world are no longer “ordinary” and manageable as in the past. We are on the precipice of challenges to the survival of our species and our entire civilization, not just the problems of individual people in a safe and thriving world. For this reason Guy’s work is critical as it provides an overview to a situation that cannot be seen well from the ground. Guy offers a perspective that informs us of things beyond our personal viewpoint and expands the perspective in time and in space in a very critical way.

    At the end of the day, each person and each tribe, community, family group must take this knowledge and apply it to their own survival. Those with experience in facing daily challenges and who are willing to apply themselves, either in their mud huts or their grass huts or their straw bale houses or whereever they happen to reside will have a chance to survive, but also to thrive and find happiness in so doing.

    And women make this world liveable and worth living.

    Stan Moore

  • Danielle Charbonneau, it was only after studying Stan Moore’s comment that I realized you might be accusing me of misogyny. Is that correct? I hesitate to prepare a response unless and until I am sure of the charge. Thanks.

  • I did not read it that way. I thought she was accusing you of survivalist “save my ass and t’hell with the rest” attitude. (?)

  • You are essentially interested in a debate about what to do, not so much a conversation about how the collapse makes you feel.

    Leadership involves speaking both ‘male’ and ‘female’ language. ‘Male’ language is often considered more important because it has become the language of power. I will meet a woman half way. If she can’t debate, we aren’t going to spend so much time talking feelings. I will not give up manhood simply because women also exist. (Two-way street.) Once you take a step down the street (course) you have made a choice. It is impossible to then turn back, or, say, not see what you have glimpsed by taking the first step. The question now seems to be whether or not to continue. Not making a decision is also a decision.

    And in many ways, I feel that this is what I have been trying to talk about. If the only thing that matters is the feeling that I should bring forth 50% genetic replications, then this debate is fairly irrelevant. If feelings cause us to repeatedly blow it, then it is time to have a selfless debate. Me thinks, Guy, that you are guilty of stoicism, not misogyny.

    Stoicism (greek Στοά) was a school of Hellenistic philosophy founded in Athens by Zeno of Citium in the early 3rd century BC. The Stoics considered destructive emotions to be the result of errors in judgment, and that a sage, or person of “moral and intellectual perfection,” would not undergo such emotions.[1] Stoics were concerned with the active relationship between cosmic determinism and human freedom, and the belief that it is virtuous to maintain a will (called prohairesis) that is in accord with nature. Because of this, the Stoics presented their philosophy as a way of life, and they thought that the best indication of an individual’s philosophy was not what a person said but how he behaved.[2] Later Stoics, such as Seneca and Epictetus, emphasized that because “virtue is sufficient for happiness,” a sage was immune to misfortune. This belief is similar to the meaning of the phrase ‘stoic calm’, though the phrase does not include the “radical ethical” Stoic views that only a sage can be considered truly free, and that all moral corruptions are equally vicious.
    [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stoicism]

  • You write a lot of good stuff, Guy, but this thing always gets my goat:

    “Recognizing the difficulty of predictions, and the animus they elicit, I’ll go out on the often-wrong limb of forecast and give us a 99% chance of “lights out in the empire” by 21 December 2012. And I didn’t even look at my Mayan calendar.”

    In other words, “recognizing the difficulty of predictions and the animus they elicit”, you do it again. Apparently, I have been making the mistake of taking your forecasts seriously. The above are the words of a kidder. My apologies for not seeing it earlier.

  • Guy,

    Danielle Charbonneau’s and Marguerite Daisy’s posts remind me of the many conversations we’ve had about problems and predicaments. Again, problems can be solved, predicaments cannot. Predicaments are boundary conditions for the possible.

    The possibilities for the future are infinite. Although, (excuse the math), the possibilities are infinite/2. The are an infinite number of things that can occur, but there are also an infinite number of things that cannot.

    I think a good analogy would be if we put Danielle Charbonneau and Marguerite Daisy in the role of my grandfather, the owner of a small red and white corner grocey store back in Sagertown, PA. If you don’t mind, we’ll put you in the role of the cranky village cheapskate that came in one day and asked my grandfather for a nickles worth of cheese. My grandfather, irritated, replied he was sorry, but a dimes worth was the smallest cut he could make. The village crank responded, “okay then, cut me a dimes worth”. When the cut was finished the village crank then told my grandfather, “okay Kenneth, now cut that in half.”

    I do not know what the future is going to look like. But thanks to you Guy, and others, I have a better and better sense of what it is not going to look like. Not because those futures wouldn’t have merit in one regard or another, but because those futures are impossible.

    With that in mind, I try, when I consider how I might help birth the future, to remember the wise words of Aristotle:

    “When framing an ideal, we may assume anything we wish, but should avoid impossibilities”

    Wish I was there. Keep up the good work!

    Mike

  • vera, scientists make predictions. It’s what we do. They allow humans to do things otherwise unimaginable, such as take flight and sail the seas. If you don’t like my predictions, please ignore them.

    At your own peril, of course.

  • I think I will be better off to giggle at them. Seeing as you are not serious. 21 december 2012 indeed! Guy the joker. 😉

  • A couple of thoughts —

    I don’t think I would be giggling too hard. The death of a civilization is not a laughing matter, even if putting a precise date on it may be. The underlying issue is deadly serious and, indeed, will be a matter of life and death for a great number of people.

    Regarding the interplay between Guy McPherson’s work and the work of women towards their own survival, I think it would behoove the readers of this blog to go to the public library and read the book “Collapse” by Jared Diamond. And then think about Easter Island and the sites of other failed civilizations around the world, and ask yourself: why can I visit these places and not see little circles of self-sustaining women still holding on after their civilization has disappeared?

    The short answer is that all civilizations have structures and hierarchies, and those of modest means who survive by their wits and their collaborations in the midst of otherwise decadent and unsustainable civilizations are part and parcel of the civilizations nonetheless. When the civilization dies, the members of it die, too, or they move on and begin a new civilization somewhere else — usually with great difficulty.

    I think Guy McPherson is doing a very important job of emphasizing to his readers that business as usual for our civilization is quickly coming to a close. We are passing the peak of the entire civilization and about to drop off a cliff. The civilization has no chance of surviving in its present form, and anyone who thinks they can preserve a familiar lifestyle indefinitely is going to be mistaken, and if they are dependent on a life support system in terms of food, water, and other necessities based on the old and familiar, they will be like the fishermen (and their wives and families) of Easter Island after the trees were gone, the ocean-going canoes were gone and the land would not support their survival. They are gone, gone, gone.

    Guy is talking about making other, new arrangements and he is walking the walk, and not just talking the talk. I would advise listening to Guy and giggling with him appropriately, but recognizing the deadly seriousness of his communications, too.

    Stan Moore

  • Stan Moore, you know very well I am laughing at Guy’s silly antics, not at the upcoming collapse. Aren’t you interested in helping Guy come across as a serious scientist?

    As to civilization coming *quickly* to a close, how do you figure? Even on Easter Island, it took a century or two. Egypt, by the way, never did collapse. The pharaohs vanished but the civilization went on in less complex, more or less steady state form. The self-renewing Nile made that possible.

    I am curious, Stan… are you convinced we have just two years? What convinced you in particular?

  • Vera:

    We are in the death stage of our civilization.In every conceivable way
    this is evident.An example is the the utter depravity and degeneracy of many if not most of young woman today.The Amanda Knox story is not unusual.If you talk to any active,honest young woman today,the’ll tell
    you of friends or young woman they know that are not unlike Amanda Knox.

    I’ve commented here ad nauseam about this.The evidence of this is overwhelming.Please don’t tell us about exceptions that you know of.
    Understand that they are exceptions.

    Just talk to active,honest young woman,as I have, and they will tell
    you they have friends or know of what I have just written.

    Frank Mezek

  • Frank, just so. Civ is on the way out. Very likely, it’s got more than two years. Wishful thinking on anyone’s part does not add up to reality.

    Look, we have a culture in denial. They don’t want to see what’s coming and so they come up with endless baloney about “green shoots.” Do we need to create yet another version of baloney on our side of it with panic-mongering doomer porn?

  • Oh and one more thing. Civilizations do not keel over and die abruptly. They slide over time. Several decades, at least. More often centuries. So if you don’t want to hear about exceptions, please don’t feed me yours. A civ dying in 2 years would be a huge exception. In fact, unheard of.

  • Guy McPherson, by asking if I have accused you of misogyny by referring to someone else’s comment points to a question containing its own answer.

    I am not accusing you of misogyny one darn bit.

    Thanks.

  • Here’s my contribution to doomer porn:

    The North Pacific Gyre
    April 7, 2013

    Dear Mr. Fezziwig:

    I know you prefer my communications to be embossed on cream-colored heavyweight bond, but paper of any kind is in short supply these days. Anyway, Fed Ex and UPS have ceased operations. The Postal Service is down to that guy with the horse. The satellites have been fried by solar flares. I’m writing this on a flash drive and attaching it to the leg of an albatross, in the hopes that it will eventually get to Idaho.

    Last summer you instructed me to see which of your houses would be best for you and your family to wait out what you called The Mayan Troubles. I flew to New York, only to find your Central Park apartment being looted by unpaid traders from your Wall Street offices.

    Investigation revealed they had discovered you had bought gold with their paychecks. It’s good you weren’t there. I almost died when a bond salesman recognized me as your faithful go-to guy. If I hadn’t grabbed your Ming vase from its niche and broken it over his head, I would have joined all those investment bankers hanging from Central Park lamp posts.

    So on to Oregon, to your big house at Cannon Beach. I was able, by judicious use of the krugerrands you gave me, to board a coal-fired freighter headed for Los Angeles through the Panama Canal, which had been widened and deepened by the Great Asteroid of 2011. The ship, designed to run on diesel, broke down several times. We finally reached Los Angeles on December 21, 2012, the day the Mayans said the world would end.

    It was only the end of Los Angeles. We watched from the harbor as the city danced and burned. Our destination destroyed, we headed north, plowing through thousands of refugee-laden small boats, rafts, and surfboards all the way to Sebastopol.

    A day after we passed Shasta Crater, I used my last krugerrand to bribe a crew member to lower me and a Zodiac lifeboat into the ocean off Cannon Beach. He gave me a half-gallon of gas and told me I was lucky, as the crew planned to take the passengers to the Vancouver slave market and trade them for enough coal to get to Maui. A nice guy. I hope he wasn’t on Maui when the weaponized smallpox hit.

    By the way, you shouldn’t have built your ocean house so close to the water. Fortunately, I was able to recognize its roofline. When I saw movement behind one of the gable windows, I headed right to it. Your new manager Maria opened it and held a pistol to my forehead. It took some time to convince her I was a fellow employee.

    Sir, you are right about Maria. She definitely is a hot little Latin number. She was hanging in there for you, too, moving your Picassos up a story with every rise in sea level. She’d even secured your 42′ sailboat to the roof spire. Your Oregon security people, incidentally, have joined the marauders terrorizing the Portland-Eugene corridor.

    Within a week, we were hit by the tsunami from the Puget Sound quake. We heard the faint echoes of the sirens at Seaside, and then silence. Maria and I were barely able to make it to the sailboat and cast off. Your ocean house is gone, sir.

    I hope you made it to Idaho in your special railroad car and are not sitting on a siding somewhere in Kansas, shooting it out with the local militias. It’s occurred to me that all that gold won’t do you much good if people find out you have it.

    With luck, you’ve also made it into your panic-room-cum-wine-cellar, and you brought a corkscrew. I also hope you brought your wife and daughters. They will be more valuable than gold when negotiating with ex-security personnel.

    Please don’t go above ground, no matter how much you hate the dark. From what I understand from Radio Calcutta, Sun Valley is besieged by redneck cannibals on four-wheelers.

    Maria and I are fine. The boat is quite comfortable. We’ve got the solar still for fresh water, the solar charger for the shortwave and my laptop, and since Typhoon Omega, we’ve been surrounded by thousands of Chinese containers, floating free of capsized ships. We’re in the middle of the world’s biggest Wal-Mart.

    We’re eating well, and the Mister Doctor Ultrasound Kit we found in our nets has revealed that Maria is pregnant with twins. We’re calling them Adam and Eva. Good-bye, sir, and good luck.

    Your go-to guy,

    Tiny Tim Cratchit III

  • Vera,

    I disagree with you over the deaths of civilizations.Often there is one relatively quick
    catastropic event marking the end,such as the sacking of Rome in AD 410,
    or the conquest of the Aztecs by Cortez in 1521.But if you prefer,our decadent stage can be dated to at least as early as the 1890’s,so by that metric it’s been more than a century.

    And today there are so many potential threats that at least one must happen in the next two years,i.e.:Peak Oil,Greece and the other PIIGS,
    Goldman Sachs bringing down Wall Street,nuclear war,Global Warming leading to a huge natural calamity,the death of The European Union brought on by the crack-up of the PIIGS,die off of the bee population,
    and many, many others.

    The point is that in every conceivable way we have reached the absolute,
    extreme,that will allow us to go no furthur.

  • Frank, the sack of Rome was not the collapse of Roman Empire. As wikipedia says: “This slow decline occurred over an estimated period of 320 years which many historians believe finally culminated on September 4, 476 when Romulus Augustus, the last Emperor of the Western Roman Empire was deposed by Odoacer, a Germanic chieftain.”

    In fact, there were a number of subsequent sacks of Rome, and apparently there continued to be enough loot to make it profitable.

    As far as the Aztecs go, they did not collapse. They were conquered. Just like Hitler’s third reich was conquered. Conquest does happen suddenly. In conquest, one rapacious civ gets replaced by another rapacious civ. I don’t believe this is what you are foreseeing?

    Going by a vague term like decadence does not really provide any information to go on. Different people see decadence in different things. I think many people see western civ as being expansive until the 70s, plateauing, and now going into actual decline in the years, oh, since 2000, say. Regardless of our wishes, it has a ways to go, IMO, just like other Leviathans before it. I don’t think there will be a “lights out” moment any time soon. To use the same imagery, power will begin to be rationed like elsewhere in the world… and the gaps will grow greater over time.

    There are, of course, possibilities that would make the descent swift. A large asteroid, for example. Or a volcanic explosion the size of Toba, 71,000 years ago. But that is out of our hands entirely, and no doomstead would offer adequate protection.

  • For most readers, a line from No Country for Old Men comes to mind: “You can’t stop what’s coming. It ain’t all waiting on you. That’s vanity.”

    For others, who haven’t noticed what’s already happened as a harbinger of the near future, here’s a line from me: Keep the television turned on, resting assured your government and the Wall Street banksters who run it are fully in control and will never let you down.

    Quotes aside, here’s a line of thought. Instead of arguing about history or the speed of the ongoing collapse/decay, why don’t we discuss the preparations we’re making? Why don’t we assist others as they prepare, instead of claiming the collapse will never happen or will happen tomorrow? And why don’t we work harder to bring down the industrial economy that is making us crazy and killing the living planet, up to and including our species? Wouldn’t those activities be a good use of our time?

    The ongoing bickering reminds me of Capitol Hill. The appearance of Dems vs. Repubs, but the actuality that it’s Dem/Repubs vs. the people. We don’t have to fall for the bread and circuses routine.

  • Regarding predictions, whether by Guy or anyone else, the value in them is not the date or the timing of the collapse, but the logic behind the prediction. The key is to learn from the process of evaluation why the prediction was made, what the evidence was, what the strength of the evidence proved to be, what flaws or unexpected factors came into play, and what can be learned from the failure of a prediction to come true.

    The predictive science of global climate change is a perfect example of this. And the idiocy of people who cite failure of specific predictions to come true with regard to individual artifacts of climate change as meaning the overall science behind anthropogenic climate change is false is not only profound, but profoundly dangerous.

    The world is highly complex and so endless scenarios could be described as to how events could transpire. Plausibility is far different from certainty, and we have no way of knowing how factors can change based on decision making by people we have no control over. It should already be clear that the initial Peak Oil predictions were based largely on the assumption that rational government responses would take place, but those assumptions were clearly mistaken.

    There are many, many “wild cards” at play or potentially at play in the unfolding scenario of economic, ecological, and other phases or stages of collapse.

    One of the most interesting from my point of view will be the way the US government deals with Iran. I believe that if the US attacks Iran in a severe military attack, it will be a clue that the US government recognizes the irreversibility of self-induced collapse, and will be, in effect, saying that the end of our culture and civilization is immiment, and that such an attack will be an attempt to blame Iran for America’s failure and to shift public focus from the real accountability of America’s collapse. When that attack occurs, if it occurs, I believe that all hell will break loose, the US economy will likely be permanently shut down within a short period of time, and a possible world conflagration will be the short-term result.

    But it does not have to happen. I think George W. Bush gave serious thought to attacking Iran and was talked out of it by the US military itself. If Obama does it, I believe it will be a signal of his recognition that we are doomed and he will vainly try to reshuffle the deck through unnecessary and violent conflagration.

    But if this prediction is incorrect, the end is nigh regardless and it will come via a different scenario within the easily foreseeable future.

    Stan Moore

  • In reading through these comments one thought comes to mind: don’t judge the tea by the teapot…

  • Beware of another false flag attack. The next one will be much worse than 9/11. This will usher in marshall law in the USA.

  • We’ve gone from suspecting misogyny to feeling offended, two places we need to move away from, and one down with one to go.

    Dr. McPherson, I guess I think more about your accomplishments as being embodied in the expert whole of you, instead of via the elaboration of your many achievements. Maybe you wonder why that is. If I personally ask you a question or extend an invitation for assistance, you can be sure that a good portion of my impetus is the belief in your capacities and in your knowledge. So, I don’t attempt to accuse or diminish you, and you must understand that my experience does not equal yours and that my style and my emphasis come to you wrapped in the language of a different life package.

    How do we get over this type of misunderstanding?

    Honest to goodness, from my point of view right this minute it’s hard to talk about bringing down the house tomorrow morning at 11am when I see my women-sisters rise to the surface in involvement across the globe. Because of this, I tend to emphasize the bubbling now-moment in support of heavy-duty people connections that open up new channels for active association. I like this so much because it’s rewarding as can be (as well as more forgiving than ever, I believe, of the individual quirks we all have), and because it gets things done.

    My greatest life achievement might very well be the courage I muster to strive for this boundary-free local and global collaboration I seek and encourage, knowing that the collective breath we take on our life-sustaining planet is the beginning point of the common denominator in our human experience and response.

    You say that you can’t imagine raising children in Tucson, and yet babies are having their diapers changed as we speak (holy crapola); some of our older folks tapped their feet to the beat of Lawrence Welk on Saturday night; and families will gather in our barrios after church on Sunday. There is actual life behind the word denial that’s burning on your lips right now. I can’t acknowledge an apex of empire because that’s your language, not mine. I acknowledge the feeling I have that time is running out, and that I worry and get scared.

    You’re right that by the nature of how our cities have grown, we deplete the precious gifts we extract from our earth (you know, I’ve never really liked the word resource because it doesn’t sound right, somehow), and we have to change our ways very quickly and thoughtfully. We have to simplify our lives while also being mindful of how aspects of our human activities continue to affect each other. We should have always done this, and it’s our chance (and I’m inclined to think it’s our last) to recognize the basic elements of life and guarantee their preservation.

    Right now, we have to prepare individually and as a society to intensely hunker and anchor ourselves down to face the challenges that jeopardize life on earth. So when you propose charting a course, I perk up! I’m interested, even if your eye is on another direction. We need to better organize our communities and we need a plan to do it.

    Here we go: can you please help us refine a path that emphasizes an order and intensity to our focus so that we may elevate what works and substitute what doesn’t beyond the often underdeveloped, albeit true, clean-water/breathable-air scenario?

    Here is the type of involvement (rhetorical for this request, of course) that would bring me to the apex of excitement. What is holding back communities of all sizes from joining the Transition United States movement, and what can we do to promote momentum there? If Phoenix, New York City, Miami have not yet signed up to become official Transition Town Initiatives, how do we motivate them to enlist? Who do we call besides the Ghostbusters? How do we encourage those organizations that help others to assertively step up their leadership? If there is any criticism at all of those efforts already in place, how do we formulate appropriate recommendations for adjustment?

    We need Mexico to join us on board of the international Transition movement soon. And I don’t see one Transition Town Initiative anywhere in Québec yet? What’s up with that les amis?

    If it’s time to examine mass transportation and driving less to help mitigate the impact of peak oil and climate change, what else can we do to help us fill the buses and trains, and walk and ride our bikes safely every day?

    How do we enlist the support of the press to affirm their commitment to keep us well informed about the issues of our time (straight up, no chaser, the way we like it), by helping us understand relevant scientific data and by highlighting the urgent need to localize our lives. How do we work with the media to cohesively and consistently promote the implementation everywhere of rigorous energy and water conservation programs, starting with using the simplest, best working and least expensive methods (moving beyond the light bulb)?

    Once and for all, how do we reduce our use of paper in our homes, businesses and organizations to keep our beautiful trees standing up proudly for a long time across the planet? How do we finally safeguard forever the lives and natural habitats of our wild animals we love so much? Can we build less? How do we garden and share more?

    We’re in a bloody mess.

    Please help me and the other action figures across the world chart and fully embrace a brave new course.

    Now.

    Sincerely as always,

    Danielle Charbonneau
    Community Advocate
    Tucson, Arizona

  • Thoughts for Danielle —

    Dear Danielle —

    You have wonderful sentiments and express yourself very well. I think you should continue thinking about these serious issues and communicating your thoughts.

    Here is something I would suggest that you think about:

    Take your mind back to New Orleans and Hurricane Katrina. Think about the poor people who could not afford to leave town and who were stuck in their houses. Think about the unfortunate elderly who literally drowned in their living rooms and attics. Think about the poor in the hospitals who were, in effect, euthanized by medical staff who knew they would not be able to care for those people or evacuate them. Think about all those thousands of people who congregated downtown in places like the Superdome without food or water, forced to see dead bodies that had not been removed or even disguised. Think about the foul stench of human feces because the bathrooms did not work. Think about the violent crimes that began occurring because of the anarchy and lack of police protection. And the people waited for rescue and eventually the US Army came and the government organized a rescue, slowly but surely.

    But what would have happened if the government was not able to come to the rescue? What would have happened to all those poor people who could not evacuate the city and were forced into continued desperate privation, without food and water and sanitary facilities?

    That is what will happen to cities all over America in the foreseeable future. The point Guy is trying to make is that there will be no rescue for those poor people in city after city.

    All the love in the world will not save them. All the compassion that mothers feel for their babies and adults feel for their elderly parents and brothers for sisters and so on will not save people and many will die in agony. I am saying that millions, even tens of millions of people will suffer and die in this way.

    Now is the time for individuals concerned with their future survival to evacuate the cities and consider them as likely death traps. Mass transit will be utterly forgotten when the electrical grid is down, and it is going down in our lifetime. With no electrical grid, all the efficiency in the world will mean zero. There will be no water, food, refrigeration, gasoline, and there will be dangerous anarchy.

    This civilization will not fail in one day, but it is getting closer every single day. There is no possibility of saving it in the long term, though you may be able to make life better for a few before the collapse.

    There will be no transition and so transition towns are a fantasy. You have the right and ability to decide if it is worth your time and effort making doomed people comfortable and it may be a noble thing to do. But if you want to maximize the ability of people to live long-term, they need to begin to recognize what is likely to happen. People need to prepare for a collapse of civilization, not to try to prevent or prolong the interim by propping it up in vain.

    I suggest reading J.H. Kunstler’s book “World Made by Hand” and forming a view of what that world will be like in your area. That is the world we are headed towards and every day that passes takes us closer to that time.

    Lastly, you should be proud of your fearlessness in confronting Dr. McPherson with your views and concerns. Among other things, your sincerity should challenge Dr. McPherson to think about how to work on the art of persuasion a little bit more, as we all need to do.

    Regards,

    Stan Moore

  • Thanks for your thoughtful comment, Danielle Charbonneau. I share your anxiety about using the word “resources,” as I explained here. I will consider about your comment and prepare a response soon in the form of an essay.

  • Memo to our Stan (Stan Moore):

    What is this “Dr.” McPherson stuff.

    Is Guy a medical doctor or a dentist ?
    Me thinks not.However if you must call
    him “Dr.”—I insist that you refer to
    me as Reverend Mezek.

    Geezzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.

    Please reply so that we all know you
    got the message.

    Double D

  • A new essay written this morning:

    Superficiality, Artificial Prestige and the Collapse of Science and Civilization

    by Stan Moore

    Superficiality, Artificial Prestige and the Collapse of Science and Civilization

    Some day when archaeologists examine the artifacts and history of our civilization, they will marvel at how clever we were, and stupid at the same time. If they evaluate our “progress” towards self-destruction over several centuries, they will be forced to note the differences between knowledge and wisdom, between cleverness and ignorance, and between artificial prestige and real accomplishment. Our doom will be self-imposed, preventable, and all the more tragic. The collapse of science and academic training will be hallmarks of the collapse of our civilization, as the collapse will be top-down and engineered by the human failings of the “best and the brightest” of our time.

    The corporation Enron was the subject of a documentary film titled “The Smartest Guys in the Room”, and is an example of this sort of failure. Enron executives were clever bastards, and they were smug and self-assured and confident that they were serving the public interest. They figured out how to persuade government regulators and the public that their securitization of energy resources was actually creating wealth. They manipulated energy markets, drove prices through the roof, fleeced the public and public agencies, and enjoyed spectacular financial rewards individually and collectively – until they outsmarted themselves and everyone else and the whole enterprise collapsed in shame and criminal litigation.

    Goldman Sachs, J.P. Morgan/Chase and other financial institutions have done to economics, financial securities and investing what Enron did to energy. Once again, the “best and the brightest” in the world of mathematics, finance, computerization of securities trading, created the illusion of vast wealth. These people used political clout to remove prudent government regulation and to begin trading in instruments of mass financial destruction. When all was said and done, not only did they destroy the largest economies in the history of the world, but they managed to obtain government bailouts from their self-imposed failures, engineer the largest transfer of wealth in world history to themselves via government largess, and take their ill-begotten gains and use it to purchase real assets in the “real economy” in the form of real estate and other hard assets purchased with what in reality was worthless paper and artificial assets.

    The world of the biological sciences fares no better. Science has long been in the process of collapse even as it has appeared to be more sophisticated through the emphasis on high mathematics, statistics, and computerized analysis. The scientific literature, as in ornithology, is full of mathematics-oriented papers that get published as of value, but which are chaff and not wheat. Editors and peer reviewers seem to believe that the inclusion of technical jargon is what is really important, and that the actual data are inconsequential. The philosophy of science, which ought to be the pursuit of truth with a minimum of biases is distorted in favor of technical excercises from which real truth is often impossible to ascertain or is missing altogether. Artificial prestige is generated in the process, leveraging into further failure.

    A typical example of this failure in the biological sciences is Hawk Mountain Sanctuary and its so-called “conservation science” efforts and political/financial success. HMS learned long ago how to monetize raptors, much as Enron learned to monetize energy-related securities. This monetization of raptors has been effectively leveraged into power by funding other biologists through internship programs and outright donations by HMS to other raptor organizations around the world. Thus artificial prestige is generated, including the recent leveraging of a former HMS intern into the presidency of the Raptor Research Foundation despite probably the weakest resume in the history of that organization’s presidency.

    Moreover, HMS and other hawk migration entities have exploited the ongoing weakness of professional organized science to the publication of one weak paper after another in the literature, using mathematics to create the illusion of science in the alleged population indexing of undefined raptor populations around North America. There is no professional outcry over the exploitation of science in this way, because professional “science is now all about careers and raptor science more exploitive of raptors for career purposes than of real knowledge or conservation concern for them. The most effective proved means of artificial prestige in raptor science now is to use convenience sampling to generate mathematical models to create the illusion of conservation science. Everything is superficial, minimal, underfunded, understudied, overhyped, and exaggerated as to its conservation significance.

    Recent research in the Altamont Pass is another example of this failure. Statistical studies have taken place over the past decade using flawed methods that could not even pass the funding agency’s own peer review. But the studies were published regardless and management ensued. To the mind of the professional scientist who craves more funding and artificial prestige, bad data and flawed analysis can always be corrected by further mathematical “adjustments” such as “bootstrapping”. It matters not or very little if reality is represented by the results of the scientific method. What is important is that careers and artificial prestige be developed and maintained. The Altamont Pass has become a “feeding trough” for a select, incestual body of “conservation scientists” even as the underlying problems are unresolved. Worse yet, the underlying problems for raptors in the Altamont Pass are impossible now to accurately resolve with confidence, because all the number crunching has essentially made reality impossible to recognize.

    Our entire civilization is operating this way now. Tragically, even as careers have blossomed in all professional fields of endeavor, and as we have more PhD biologists and engineers and professionals in every field of endeavor, our civilization keeps listing and threatening to sink like the Titanic under the cold, dark sea of reality.

    All the artificial prestige that, in effect, bestows high status to the “elite” is dooming our entire civilization to collapse. It is almost funny to see the backlash that is emerging now, as anti-intellectuals such as Sara Palin vie for political clout on the national scene because the public is tired of being bamboozled by the elite and so many have become reactionaries and supportive of failure to the opposite extreme.

    Superficial excellence, artificial prestige, convenience in stastical sampling – these are “no way to run a railroad”. But that is how the railroad is being run. The train is about to jump the tracks and catastrophe is headed our way. And we may not even understand the catastrophe until it is too late to do anything about it.

  • Hahaha very nice work John Rember! I can see that you and I are on the same page about our near future.

    As a connoisseur of collapse, I would like to call people’s attention to the Bronze Age Collapse, which by all accounts was fast and furious, and featured burning cities, depopulation, sea invasions, revolutions and God knows what else — a cascading collapse precipitated by climate changes, resource shortages and innovations in warfare, among other things. Archaeologists have uncovered a “destruction layer” in cities throughout the eastern Mediterranean around 1200 B.C., featuring lots of ash and unburied corpses. So don’t give me this “long descent” BS, and get your ass out of the cities if you value your life!

    We’ve risen much faster than Rome or Egypt, and it’s logical to assume that we’ll go down much faster too. I don’t see how a civilization this out of balance and disruptive can just fade away slowly; it’s nuclear Armageddon, Mad Max, Super-virus, climate catastrophes, eco-apocalypse, terminal toilet paper shortages and a fast collapse for us I’m afraid. I’m expecting a spontaneous planetary freak-out any day now, along the lines of Mr. Rember’s story, as it suddenly dawns on a critical mass of humanity just how well and truly fucked we are and people start picking up the nearest heavy objects and clubbing each other over the heads at random until our problems go away. Oh well, it’s like that old song I guess: “C’est la vie say the old folks, it goes to show you never can tell!”

  • Stan, an excellent essay. Science became the handmaid of power long ago. If there is a complex future ahead of us, science and power should not mix, the same way religion and power should not mix. Bad bedfellows.

    In the coming simplification, many scientific hacks will have to find an honest way to make a living, the same way as tax lawyers and CPAs and many others parasitic on the real economy. And it’s about time.

  • vera, I think you’re confusing science with its application. Science is a way of knowing. It is a process. It is amoral. The knowledge and technology resulting from science can be put to many uses. Lately, most of the applications have been put to bad uses … but it need not be that way.

  • Guy, good job answering Marguerite’s questions! Of the limited number of your essays I’ve read this one demonstrates your talent for education Even a “lizard brain” like mine can appreciate that much. Kudos.

  • “The U.S. national debt rises every day, and it already exceeds the value of all currency ever produced and all gold ever mined. It cannot be paid off.”

    A good argument for preparing for hyper-inflation. I’ve been having a polite difference of opinion with Stoneleigh over at The Automatic Earth, who is articulately convincing that deflation is in our future.

    And what’s the deal with “$4/gallon gasoline?” That’s below what much of the world pays already! Here in Canada, it’s been $1.25 a litre, or $4.73 a gallon, and such a price has not wrecked the economy (yet) nor incited anarchy (yet).

    I guess my point is that when you have a fiat currency, numbers are meaningless. When priced in gold, oil has been fairly constant. I wish we priced everything in energy, but that would take an unimaginable force of will by our so-called leaders.

    “… civilization is only a few days removed from chaos or, if you’re an optimist like me, from anarchy…”

    I agree, anarchy is an optimistic outlook. Too many people (politicians, mostly) view “anarchy” as a “Mad Max” form of lawlessness, when what it really means is simply freedom from rulers. Perhaps that’s why politicians like to re-frame the word in a negative light.

    Anyone want to come up here and help us prepare for anarchy?

  • Thanks for the continued thought-provoking and well-cited articles, Guy.

    When I try to predict the near-term future (decade or two), a few things stand out:

    * Climate change will not not be drastic, relatively. In other words, it will still rain – enough for industrious Americans to collect and sustain life and subsistence crops throughout the year.

    * Americans have a lot of guns.

    * Humans are by their evolutionary nature very adaptable.

    * Most Americans are for the most part industrious and hardworking, moral and decent.

    When you put these points together, there’s a couple of scenarios. The first scenario is if food/energy/water supply lines collapse rapidly and nationwide:

    * People will adapt and deal with it, even in urban areas. They will harvest water, grow crops and small-animal protein in personal or community gardens. They will work hard, and cooperate.

    * In the short term, those who are not industrious will attempt to immorally take the resources of others by force. They will not succeed, because the hardworking “moral majority” will prevent them, by killing them with guns if necessary. So, there will be a ‘die-off’ in this perspective, of people who cannot or will not contribute to the survival of themselves and their communities.

    Now, that scenario is IF the water/energy/food collapse quickly and in near-totality. However, I don’t see that as likely. More likely is the second scenario, where resource declines are gradual, enough to be dealt with by government/corporate state and still provide enough to keep populations from rioting en masse.

    * In this scenario, government/corporate state control maintains minimal “rationed” levels of food/energy/water. This will strengthen the power of the state/corporate control (fascism).

    * Americans will be the proverbial frogs boiling in a pot without being aware of it. The quality of life will degenerate slowly, but not quickly enough for a majority of people to wake up and do anything about it. There will be occasional riots, but they will be quelled by the state with (propaganda-justified) force and brief increases in rationing. The plutocracy and corporatocracy will still rule.

    * This situation can endure for decades, even if overall resource production/availability continues to decline steadily.

    So, in other words, all data notwithstanding and all respect for your greater knowledge given – predicting the future is impossible, and I just don’t see as rapid of a collapse as you do. There’s still tons of resources to be had, even in an extended period of continually declining production. However, I think we will be much worse off because of that – we’d be better off if we were shocked into a different mode of existence, but we won’t be, so we’ll continue to put up with a increasingly dismal and hellish status quo.

    Thanks,
    — Chad