Balloon seeks pin

I speak openly about myriad ongoing collapses, regardless how others respond. Among the costs: Rumors of my insanity have spread beyond the institution I departed and throughout the nation’s hallowed halls. Apparently I’ve contracted a rare disease, which explains the insanity. I can only hope (i.e., wish) it’s not fatal. Further evidence I’ve lost my mind, according to former colleagues: My wife, refusing to live with a crazy man — and you’d have to be crazy to leave a tenured gig as full professor at the age of 49 — chooses to stay in Tucson.

A line from Hunter S Thompson comes to mind: “I wouldn’t recommend sex, drugs or insanity for everyone, but they’ve always worked for me.”

The single best word I can come up with to describe the response to my actions: sad. That the self-proclaimed intellectual elite in this country find simply unfathomable the decision to pursue morality over money is as sad as the wise ape finding itself in the midst of two dire fossil-fuel predicaments.

The moral imperative associated with abandoning imperial pursuits hasn’t caught on yet among my ivory-tower colleagues. Although this makes me sad, it comes as no surprise to me: In my experience, university administrators reward unethical behavior and punish people for acting ethically. Reflecting culture, universities are structured to generate financial wealth for those at the top of the pyramid.

Indeed, this propensity for the easy and hence immoral life, underlain by evolution, likely is the primary contributor to both fossil-fuel predicaments. We have trapped ourselves in civilization, thus in the cities. The results likely will be catastrophic for industrial humans, as they have been and continue to be for non-industrial humans and non-human species. After all, you know the line about the root of all evil, and you also know how Ponzi schemes turn out.

On the topic of Ponzi schemes, consider two seemingly disparate examples. A chain letter is illegal because early adopters steal from future participants under false premises. When this same phenomenon occurs at the level of a nation, it’s not called a Ponzi scheme. In that case, the relevant term is “good monetary policy.”

Let’s ignore for a moment the collapse of my ego and contemplate the other collapses, with my usual focus on the environment and the industrial economy. As I’ve suggested previously, if you think the latter is more important than the former, try holding your breath while counting your money.

On the topic of environmental devastation — the one that really matters, if we’re to avoid our own extinction — we have the federal government is hindering investigations in the Gulf of Mexico, even going so far as to crack down on science and scientists under the guise of homeland security and intimidate scientists who might reveal the truth. We wouldn’t want American citizens to know about massive fish kills. I suppose that’s better than ordering the assassination of U.S. citizens on U.S. soil, as the Obama administration now claims as a right of the executive branch. Consistent with governmental lies willingly ignored by the media, the feds refuse to investigate the events of 11 September 2001, the so-called date of infamy characterized by the mother of all coincidences.

The federal government’s response to citizen outrage is to quell the outrage and continue rewarding the companies driving it. Consider, for example, the Orwellian U.S. Department of Homeland Security tracking people who protest energy companies, then sending the data to the energy companies. Apparently my tax dollars are being put to good use: spying on fellow citizens to benefit Big Oil.

Bread and circuses aside, we’re on the verge of an international food crisis. In other cultures, food and water are free. In this culture, the financially wealthy are further enriched because we place our food and water under lock and key, and the key is given to the rich. Coincident with locking up the food, we’re also on the verge of an unprecedented dose of austerity plunging the planet into new financial, monetary, economic and social chaos.

Global climate change stands as a fine example of environmental collapse. On that front, climate scientists continue to equivocate, giving Glenn Beck and his ilk every opportunity further confuse a country filled with environmentally illiterate citizens consumers. It doesn’t help that the all-star of the climate-change “movement” is Bill McKibben, who believes real reform lies in solar panels and wishing Barack Obama will take meaningful political action. But Obama know we’re running out of the lifeblood of civilization, so he’ll use any means necessary to secure black gold. Without cheap oil, as I’ve pointed out innumerable times, we cannot experience economic growth. Even Shell Oil admits we’re headed for an oil shock, although they put the timing far enough into the future than nobody will actually care. And please remember the Khazzoom–Brookes postulate: Energy efficiency and conservation cannot be used to solve this particular predicament

Further into the subject of environmental destruction, with a tad of human brutality thrown in, the Toronto Sun reveals what any sentient person already know about Afghanistan: It’s a worsening imperial disaster that threatens to take America into the abyss. Iraq might do the trick first, even without “combat” troops there (the non-combat troops look a lot like combat troops, though). Sandwiched between those two countries, Iran is beating the drums of war.

In short, the U.S. has lost control of its own destiny. That’s what the undulating plateau of oil extraction will do for a country wholly dependent on ready access to cheap oil. Even data provided by BP acknowledge we’ve passed the world oil peak, with no appreciable increase in extraction since 1998. Small wonder the industrial economy has suffered a lost decade, and is headed for Dow 2000 and the biggest bear market in three centuries.

Meanwhile, as if there remained any doubt, neoclassical economists have proven themselves uniformly worthless. Needless to say, American politicians, media outlets, and citizens continue to worship them, which is completely consistent with our inability to process reality.

After all, the recession is over. According to the economists, it ended in June 2009. I’m sure the boys at the unemployment office will be pleased to hear it. Lest you think it’s time to buy stocks, that particular market is stunningly overpriced, which helps explain why insiders are selling at 290 times the rate they are buying. According to Charlie Munger, Warren Buffett’s sidekick at Berkshire Hathaway, all you un- and under-employed losers need to suck it in. Yes, this is the same ultra-wealthy Munger who last week assured us there’d be more economic pain to come (though undoubtedly not for him) and seven months ago told us, with respect to the industrial economy, basically, it’s over.

Nietzsche’s maxim comes to mind: “What doesn’t kill me makes me stronger.” For me, here and now, it’s a race for my physical body, with the outcome seriously in doubt. For the living planet, the race is vastly more important, and the stakes couldn’t be higher: Can we pop the balloon called the industrial economy before it kills the remainder of living planet? How much longer will we trade food for fuel, imperial luxury today for starvation tomorrow, economic growth for a an overheated planet, and life for death?


This essay is permalinked at The Gable Grey.

Comments 47

  • nice goat how much milk she give in day ???

  • Yes, rafique pathan, she’s a beauty. Our single adult gives 3-4 quarts (i.e., 3-4 liters) per day. The 7-month-old doe will start producing milk after she is bred, probably within a few months. Current production is sufficient for everybody living here, but there is not enough left to make cheese. When the kid comes online, we should have enough milk for drinking and cheese.

  • Bravo..somebody making sense at last. Insane? I think what is happening on our planet deserves that title. Treading on peoples already sore corns is painful and that is the noise you hear. Believe in yourself because their are plenty out there who agree and see the same pending hell on earth get ever closer…until for some it will be too late….all respect and praise to you Guy…

  • ProfEmGuy:

    There is nothing wrong with your mind,or your ego.Both are stonger and
    more healthy than ever.The world is growing more and more insane,so any
    rational,thinking person stands out more starkly than ever before.Please
    believe me when I tell you that it is not you —-it’s THEM—it really

    Now be proactive.Relish the fact that you are one of the very,very few
    people in the world with the ability to think straight.Very few people
    really know how to think.You are one of the rare ones that does.

    Double D

  • Plenty of people through out human history have been labeled insane and been vindicated, you’re hanging with some good company Guy.

    Plus if being sane means living the lives most of the deniers live, I pick crazy =)

    Of course many of us have been told we need our head examined, but then I consider anyone who believes “this country is the greatest” and loves the capitalistic (planet killing) system we live in, is IMHO in great need of psychological help themselves.
    I try and ignore crazy people =)

  • Guy, thanks for this wonderful essay. I’d send you over some of my late-season cucumbers in gratitude, if you lived closer.

    It is a strange thing, this mass denial of our society. Perhaps it is Western society’s detachment from the natural world that renders it incapable of appreciating its numerous, obvoius predicaments.

    I watched “Superman” (the Chris Reeve one) again the other day, and the willful blindness of the leaders of Krypton to their plight offers a stunning allegory to that of our own feckless lords. (Interestingly, you — like Jor-El — choose to remain, instead of moving somewhere safer…)

    I find myself alternating from a kind of mild depression — probably because so few others in my day-to-day life worry about the things I do — to a plateau of calmness. I wish my wife were more “on board” than she seems, though I can hardly blame her for worrying more about us keeping our jobs and staying current on our bills than about Peak Oil, climate change, expanding the garden, et cetera. How do you and your wife view (as a couple) your approach to life nowadays?

    Autumn’s fast approaching… best of luck to you and yours in the months to come, Guy.


  • speaking of alleged insanity — take a look at this historic travesty:

    80 12th STREET, SUITE #307
    “Supporting Fair and Proper Due Process in Medical Peer Review without Compromising
    Medical Ethics or Patient Care”

    In 1847, Dr. Ignaz Semmelweis pioneered the prevention of transmission of disease by washing hands (Prophylaxis), reducing the mortality rate due to Puerperal Fever from 12% to almost ZERO by enforcing the washing of hands with chlorinated lime.

    At the time, Dr. Semmelweis’ hypothesis was considered extreme and was widely rejected and ridiculed. When he refused to compromise his beliefs, the hospital that employed him was pressured into terminating his clinical privileges. Semmelweis’ sole “crime” was that he proposed a contrarian idea to current thinking, which directly challenged the (incorrect) current medical theories of his time.

    Despite the continued ridicule, hostility, and unemployment, Dr. Semmelweis tirelessly promoted his theory, sometimes denouncing physicians who refused to wash their hands as irresponsible murderers. His contemporaries eventually concluded that he was crazy and, in 1865, committed him to a mental institution where he was beaten to death by guards.

    Dr. Semmelweis’s theory was considered irrelevant, until Louis Pasteur connected germs to disease, and Prophylaxis is now considered standard practice around the world. The 1800s medical community’s refusal to consider his theories earlier clearly resulted in the continued unnecessary spread of disease and death throughout the world.

  • lessons from history (return to the movies) —

    I watched the old movie “Becket” last night on DVD, with Peter O’Toole and Richard Burton is a great flick. In one scene, King Henry II is being counseled on horseback by Thomas a’ Becket on the realities of empire and dealing with insurgency with the following quote: “It is the goal of the occupying force, not to crush, but to corrupt”. In the movie, the Normans from France as the descendents of William the Conqueror have occupied England and are battling an insurgency led by the Saxon clergy.

    This concept of corruption of the occupied continues to this day. The US corrupted Iraqi officials to form a puppet government and quit fighting the occupation in exchange for money and local power.

    But in Afghanistan, while Karzai and a few allies would play ball, the Taliban (corrupt certainly within their own paradigm) refused to be corrupted into playing along with US interests and so become “the enemy” although George Bush tried to recruit them earlier.

    The Iranians, Venezuelans, and North Koreans refuse to be corrupted and thus have become demonized and subject to threats and intimidation, if not attack.

    American academics are long corrupted. They know from where their bread is buttered. State land grant colleges are corrupted into full aupport of extractive management of range and forest. Harvard facilitated mind control experiments, including LSD and got as a form of “blowback” the Unabomber thirty years later.

    The entire government of the US is corrupt from top to bottom — bought and paid for.

    Guy McPherson is certainly a contrarian, I would say. But his positions are not primarily contrarian — they are drawn on priniple and the product of exhaustive research into reality. If Guy is insane, it is that he wants to live and see the world live in a context of universal self-extermination in a suicidal, omnidal culture. And Guy refuses to be corrupted.

    When our society cannot corrupt those who reject or worse, those who illuminate its failings, those persons are accused of insanity, driven to the periphery, isolated, and discredited. Fortunately, the world is so large now that its periphery itself is very large on the human scale. So, unless they physically imprison Guy as they did Semmelweis, and the guards beat him to death, Guy can go on in his goathood and reach a large audience.

    Goats have a bit of an advantage because when you look them in the eye, you might think they are insane. But they really aren’t, and they are not corrupt. Guy has a magnificent platform from which to work, and those who crave reality do well to listen to him and benefit from his goat wisdom and perhaps his soft cheeses…

    Stan Moore

  • Guy,
    I am in awe that you gave up a tenured professorship, one of the ultimate refuges for hundreds of years now. Being tenured, you probably didn’t even need to clean the garden dirt from under your fingernails before coming to work.
    For most of us who are not firmly in denial, but who still have a strong presence in the world of salaries and mortgages, it will be a matter of having a foot in each world until we are doing a split! I doubt it will be as graceful as the ideal Dmitry Orlov talks about in his Social Collapse Best Practices: “Just gently ride it down to a stop and jump off.”

  • HThanks for the great essay Guy.

    You might like to check out this ‘with no appreciable extraction since 1998’. May I suggest you mean ‘with no appreciable increase in extraction since 1998’. Small errors are so easy to make when you are looking at the big picture. And you are always firmly focused on the big picture.

    I’m in the middle of an election in which the ‘major’ issues are parking changes, a bigger road bridge across the river, a new art centre, more recreational walkways …..

  • Thanks for the compliment, Kevin Moore, and for catching my error. It’s been fixed. Good luck with that election, which mirrors the ones in this country with respect to issues of perceived importance.

  • The handwringing over our by now assured destruction — and with it, a sizable majority of other species on the planet — is an inevitable response for someone possessing integrity. God knows my hands are sore from it. But I don’t delude myself that most people have integrity or are in any way prepared to face the awful truths that are converging on us. So while I grieve for the losses we will incur and the losses we have already caused (we’re still situated in the twilight time lag between cause and effect), I can’t help but feel some compassion for the frailty and weakness of the typical human ill-equipped to deal with the onslaught of reality.

    To pluck just one example from the annals of history, in the 13th century, the Cathars went singing to their deaths (at the hands of the Catholic Inquisition) with an admirable composure and lack of fear, confident in the belief that they were being released or delivered to something better. On a related note, Muslims and Christians share a belief in the afterlife and are often perfectly willing to commit atrocities in the here and now because, well, such atrocities don’t matter. What matters comes later.

    The masses probably won’t go singing to their deaths. Their faith/delusion isn’t that strong. Instead, it already appears that we’re going down in a hedonistic orgy of gluttony and denial. We’re modern-day Neros, fiddling as the planet (rather than Rome) burns, knowing nothing we can say or do will alter the outcome of the conflagration.

  • Guy,

    I’m a psychiatrist. I’m familiar with a lot of different kinds of insanity, and some of the thought processes and written expressions of people suffering from such conditions. I’ve read only a little of the stuff here on your site, so far. Based on that information, I’m already pretty sure that “insanity” is not what’s going on with you. In fact, I think your problem is the opposite – you are miserably failing to maintain your delusions.

    But really, what do I know? My friends (and kids) just keep telling me that I need to focus on the good news, and stop reading so much negative information about peak oil, climate catastrophe, economic collapse, end of democracy, etc., etc.

    I guess it’s part of learning how to cope with the loss of our former happy delusions about reality and our future. Some are further along that path than others. Most of us will continue to hang on to the old, socially acceptable, seductive dreams, which have seemed to work so well in the past. We will choose to ignore the new, evolving, and horrifying events until the day we lose our jobs, our rides, our heat & AC, our homes, our food, our entertainments, and worse.

  • In this insane world, being sane is insanity… ;-)

  • “For me, here and now, it’s a race for my physical body, with the outcome seriously in doubt”

    I run 12 km every day, plus 200 pushups, plus 50 pullups, plus 400 abdominals. Do this 5 days a week, become a good shooter, produce food, and do not worry about your body.

    After all, the average inhabitant of the empire is a fat big baby… poor bastards… :-)

  • A girl at my sons’ school wrote this haiku. An eleven-year-old’s generous understanding of the denial.

    If you could hold Earth,
    Like a bird’s delicate egg,
    You would not drop it

    — Bella Griscom

  • That looks like an oberhasli doe. We have 5 of them now and are milking two. Kidding is not as straightforward as you might think – good luck. We have had two doelings born here that are fine but have lost one doeling and one buckling in the kidding process. Hope you have some experienced vet techs with small hands around for the first fresheners.

    I have been thinking about your discussion of wells on an earlier post. We have a small river running behind the house and a deep well that relies upon electricity.
    I grew up without running water or electricity from June through early September when my family went to an isolated spot on an island in Lake Huron. I have decided that it is not worth my while to pipe hot and cold water throughout my house once the lights go out. I am getting a good steel hand pump on the well to keep the delicious drinking water going as long as I can. Then I will use a cistern or tank filled by ram pump for irrigation of garden and animal watering in the non-freezing seasons. Maybe I should get a big Berkee filter. You have started me worrying about clean water again.
    I have a masonry stove named Roth (because I cashed in my IRA to pay for him.) He has kept us warm for three winters now and is much simpler than a solar electric system. I couldn’t afford both.
    Whenever I have to go into the city and I look at the people stuck on those horrible highways crammed with cars backed up for miles I am just terrified. How can they not know and what will they do when they realize?

  • Jean, I am in awe of you!
    If I did that amount of exercise I wouldn’t need to worry about my body either..because it would drop off.

    Guy, ( I know I’m probably going to get hell for this one but here goes).

    There was once a man who knew a big storm was coming, he knew it was so large that once it came it would engulf everything. So he laboured and toiled to make a big boat. For 120 years he worked in clear blue skies with no hint of the coming catastrophy. People came and laughed at him regularly, you couldn’t blame them he was building a boat in the middle of the desert!!
    After the boat was finished the rain began and the people stopped laughing.
    (names have been withheld to protect the innocent and to save me getting my ass kicked)!

    Point being, you know what’s coming. Its a burden of knowledge to be sure. People may not understand you, they may think your crazy. By the time they realise they are wrong it will be too late.
    you can only keep doing what your doing, what else is there?

  • Very well said, Brutus. Thanks for the complimentary and informed comment, Evan Jackson.

    Jean, nobody’s going to mess with you. After reading your comment, I need a nap.

    What a wonderful Haiku, Andy Brown. Thanks for sharing.

    Ellen Anderson, point taken about kidding. The goat you see bore 3 kids in February. In total, we had 8 kids in 72 hours with no difficulties. But we were glad to have a long-time goat owner here — and she’s also a nurse midwife — as the first set of triplets came into the world.

    Sue Day, thanks for your comment, which hardly merits an ass-kicking, at least in my book.

  • Balloon Resists Pin – As I’ve said here before, my greatest worry is the resilience of the industrial economy, not it’s vulnerability. The empire has many tricks up its sleeve. With the levers of stimulus, quantitative easing, helicopters strewing money from above, we’ve been able to mask the real decline in GDP with anemic growth. With the stick of state and the thugs to intimidate scientists, we keep big oil bringin’ home the bacon. With drones and missiles and payola we keep the brutal boot of techno-war on the neck of our hapless victims. In short, imminent collapse is, I’m afraid, wishfull thinking.

    I do wish for a pin to pop this baloon. But with the technology, the installed capital base, the still-flowing gusher of fossil power and might, this empire is not going to go down without unleashing maximal damage. I guess I’m saying, We need to hope for its demise, but soberley prepare for its godawefull resilience.

  • “Apparently I’ve contracted a rare disease, which explains the insanity. I can only hope (i.e., wish) it’s not fatal.”

    Let us pray that it is becomes very contagious.

  • More wisdom from the movies —

    I am watching “The Book of Eli” on my computer via DVD (a little at a time). Denzell Washington plays a rootless survivor in post-Apocalyptic America. In one conversation with someone he meets, a young person asking about life before the apocalypse, he describe an aspect of life before the collapse: “We wasted so much, we threw away things that today people would kill for now”.

    Sounds about right…

    I enjoyed that Haiku about the earth as an egg.

    I listened to a wonderful version of “If I Were a Carpenter” by Robert Plant (formerly of Led Zeppelin) which showed his tender side and tender voice with acoustic and orchestral accompaniment to a lovely song.

    And then I re-arranged the first verse in honor of our friends, the insects and their romantic world as follows:

    If I were a carpenter ant
    and you were a ladybug
    Would you live with me on this plant
    and would you carry my little grubs?

    I think this leans within the bounds of sanity :)

    Stan Moore

  • Yes but you have to remember guy that I was talking about Noah’s ark.

  • Stan: If you want to talk movies, don’t forget the original ‘Alien’. Poor Rapley cannot figure out any sensible explanation for the apparent sabotaging of her scientific recommendations until she manages to override the command block and get into ‘Mother’ [computer system] where she discovers the real agenda of the mission and the fact that there is a rider: ‘Crew expendible’.

    ‘On the Beach’ ha a lot to recommend it: the people of the Melbourne region face the inevitability of a cloud of [deadly] radiation arriving. Denial, bargaining, acceptance, with a dose of ‘live it up while we still can’. The motor race is a must-see classic.

    Another must-see classic is ‘The Day The Earth Caught Fire’ (1962), which was incredibly prophetic, with a great depiction of how governments mishandle crises …. even if the science of the Earth being tipped off its axis is a little ‘wobbly’.

  • Helen a question: Have you ever used a ram pump before? We are wrestling with how we get water to the house we are building. We have two spring fed ponds, at the bottom of our property and about 30 feet of elevation to deal with. They stay clear of ice in the winter right next to the spring’s outflow.
    You mentioned solar being a too expensive option. We know another couple living close to us who is also ” doing it”. Two neighbors (2miles away) and we’re both growing bloodroot. Their solar array is 350 watts. We live about an hour outside of Ithaca which has the 2nd least amount of sunshine in the US. This couple went through last winter and only had to recharge their batteries twice off of their generator. We just received our system from a company called wholesalesolar out of California. 500 watts for 4,200 dollars delivered, and that includes everything you need (yes, batteries too) to get your 12 volt system up and running. We bought the system because it was another learning curve we didn’t want to deal with.
    Sunday we are going to look at a wind turbine that was put up by a man who buys from us at the local farmer’s market. It’s 3 50 gallon drums cut in half and mounted on a pole, and all framed in with logs cut from his property. If he has 300 dollars in it I would be surprised. We will get more info on Sunday. Our primary goal in using the wind as a direct attachment to a 12 volt heating element in a water heater to either heat or preheat the water in the winter. This solves the water problem, and we substitute water for batteries as the store of the energy. We studied using some kind of eddy current system for heating the water but as far as we could find out that just seems theory at this point.
    Jean: you gotta do it. We farm full time, and run in the mornings, ride with the fluid trainer at night, and lift weights. What I found is that if you can get by that first sense of being overwhelmingly tired, that the farm work gets easier and easier. One thing about farm work is that you do these repetitive actions that will eventually cause your body to go out of balance. Before you know it your back will “go out” or something else stupid will happen. The other activities with a little yoga bring it back.

    Best hopes,


  • Dropping out of the industrial capitialist economy is a tool only available to the small minority of humans who live in one. Even then it ain’t easy. Unlike the vast majority of our species who live lives so close to the ground there’s no where to drop to, we the entitled have the luxury of choices.

    About 30 years ago i dropped out, bought a bit of land in BC, hand cleared enough forest for a big garden and free rangeing chickens. The little cabin kept growing as the family did and after working day and night on it all for all that time i never could quit working outside the little organic farm as a carpenter. Lesson learned? Even a dropout is connected to everything, if you’re alive you’re connected by your breath, your stomach, etc., if you’re dead you’re still totally connected, this time via the worms and mircobes, the forces and fairies.

    Back then it seemed possible, especially as there was an early 80s recession up here in BC, that a person could live a cash life, could raise a family without being beholding to the beast, could even be an example to others that it could be done. Of course that was a pipedream, very few folks, then or now, are interested in a lifelong vow of poverty, sweat and mixed success. Some folks in some places succeeded well enough to have formed the roots of today’s organic foods and local markets, our little attempt was maybe ahead of its time, maybe behind, but one thing it wasn’t was the vechicle to social justice or change that i envisioned, just lottsa hard work.

    What really happened was that the cycles of planting, tending and harvesting, of winter, spring, summer and fall, of rain or drought became my cycles. They snuck up on me, turned me on to the everyday miracle all around us, tuned me in to our immersion in-not seperation from-the miracle. We are all interconnected so actually dropping out is immpossible, we can though use the process of learning to live with nature and wanting less material goods as a tool for individual awakening. We can’t drop out of the planet killing greed machine totally, but we can resist.

  • Jean Says (quoting Guy):

    September 22nd, 2010 at 9:42 am
    “For me, here and now, it’s a race for my physical body, with the outcome seriously in doubt”

    I run 12 km every day, plus 200 pushups, plus 50 pullups, plus 400 abdominals. Do this 5 days a week, become a good shooter, produce food, and do not worry about your body.

    First, don’t get me wrong; it’s great that you stay in shape.

    But it’s a bit of a waste of energy, no? Exercise is a modern invention, created in response to our daily activities being insufficient, due to the help of several hundred “petroleum slaves.”

    The time and calories you spend on this physical maintenance could be spent scything a field of oats, putting up hay for the winter, gathering firewood, etc. — all things I suspect are similar to things Guy is doing on a daily basis.

    In the future, exercise will disappear for most people. Instead, we’ll call it “earning our keep.”

    Guy, I think you spend too much effort being concerned about what others think. Pythagoras said, “Rest satisfied with doing well, and leave others to talk of you as they please.”

    This has a practical side. The time and energy you waste in self-defense — both to others, and to yourself — detract from getting the real work of the word done.

    Yea, so you’re insane. So what? Keep doing what you’re doing, and let others speak of your sanity (or lack thereof) among themselves.

  • Hi Guy,
    I was hoping to see you at the Gila River Festival but I, too, had a presentation that afternoon and had some preparations to take care of.
    I’ve been reading your thoughts, as well as the smart, witty, and reasonable responses from your readers. I “went dark” on August 12 and turned off my computer and the t.v.. Haven’t missed anything, except your blog, hence my “cheating” by checking in on your latest thoughts.
    I laughed when I saw your topic today, because my friends and family are all a little worried about me, too. I’ve been making serious preparations, including gardening, a greenhouse, food storage, water catchment, filtering, etc. I’m still a long way from being self-sufficient, but I’m at least aware of what we’re probably facing. When I try (or tried, as I’ve given up) to talk to people around me about what’s coming around the corner, most don’t want to hear about it. There are plenty of people who do get it, though, and I keep running into them in the strangest ways, the most unlikely places.
    I live in a tiny town in southwestern NM. We’re unincorporated so we’re on our own–no Big Daddy. We operate strictly on volunteerism and it all works damn well. The interesting thing, though, is that within the last year, I have noticed a huge increase in the number of people doing serious gardening, raising chickens for eggs, tending bees, and generally making this community more independent than ever. We’re doing a lot of bartering here and sharing our resources and knowledge.
    We didn’t get together as a community and decide to do this, it just seems to be happening “organically”. It seems that even people here who don’t see the writing on the wall, or don’t want to talk about the coming collapse, sense that something needs to change.
    It’s a good place to be, I think, and I’m going to continue to hunker down and stay “dark”, except to check in here once a week to see what you’ve got to say. Stay “crazy”. It’s the only sane response to what’s going on.

  • Just as an amusing aside, I went to a candidate meeting yesterday where it was declared by one of the candidates that it was ‘not possible to produce food other than via the factory system’, and that we ‘need gowth in population to solve our problems’.

    I’m so glad I’m part of the ‘insane’ group, even if the ‘insane’ are such a tiny minority at the moment.

    As for moving water: a bucket on a rope is the system that has proven fairly reiablke for several millennia. If you need to carry out serious irrigation in order to grow food you are almost certainly living in the wrong place.

  • This thread is a gold mine – both your essay Guy and *all* of the remarks.

    Thanks all for posting. It’s hard to hide among the Bodysnatchers. It’s good to know there are others who don’t point and scream ;)

  • Guy, I probably told you this already, but I spent the last three years of my professional career as a senior intelligence officer at the Department of Homeland Security. I let a friend talk me into leaving the Defense Intelligence Agency to do infrastructure analysis at DHS (threats to the US infrastructure). I spent 10 months at the NAC (Nebraska Avenue Complex) across from the American University. All I can say is, what a mess. Orwellian? That about describes that place. What a mess and what a bunch of nut cases. The senior leadership was mostly out of their minds. They asked me one day how to protect the food and ag industry and I told them the only way to do it was to go back to the 1960s, lots of small factories and producers, a target set too difficult to destroy. They went flipp’in nuts when I said that. Yup, just got to protect those corporate interests! I was then sent into exile to the National Counter Terrorism Center because I just wasn’t towing the party line.

    I have to agree with the professional analysts comment, your not insane, you have simply woken up and see the world for what it is. We are screwed and nothing is going to stop it now, and the US GOV will do its very best to try to keep everything just rolling along. That will make the fall even harder when it comes.

    For the benefit of the other readers, I bought a horse powered treadmill this past week, a modern one designed to replace the electric motors so common on modern farms that do so much of the work. Now, off to find a team of draft horses to complete my transition off from fossil fuels, as far as the house and the farm are concerned. Horses and horse drawn equipment are going to become real popular in the coming years. Get yours while you can.

    I left DHS three years ago this fall and have never looked back. I lost 30 lbs, my blood pressure went down and I am really enjoying life now.

    Sue Day, nice comment about Noah, talk about being unpopular, that is until the last minute…opps, where’s all the water coming from??? Sink or swim boys and girls!

  • i’m sorry for getting your name incorrect previously, robir.

    stan moore, i relate to questioning the bounds of sanity. as if there exists a distinct line separating sanity from madness! for what it’s worth, u strike me as sane, or at least a reasonable facsimile thereof.

    ed, i too am about an hour’s drive from ithaca. perhaps 2 hours from u, or 2 minutes, more likely somewhere in between. if guy doesn’t mind, he has my permission to pass along my email address to u. i might like to get in touch.

    interesting observations and good advice, imo, bob riley and jan steinman.

    i second navid’s sentiment re. this blog.

    unlike most of the contributors to this blog, at least according to their own accounts, i’m not making serious preparations for the future. this may be because i really am crazy, learned helplessness perhaps, or too depressed, or too stupid or lazy. i’m in a currently easy situation, on social security disability, living alone in my own home, not worried about much near term, except a sudden economic shock like an episode of hyperinflation, which i have done my modest best to prepare for.

    i’ve been socially alienated and isolated for so long, i don’t know really how or why it started. it was way before i got wise to the ways of this insane world we live in, if indeed i possess at least a modicum of wisdom now. i’m troubled greatly by this. gaining the perspective i now share with u certainly doesn’t make it easier to reach out to most people.

    i realize how vulnerable being dependent on a government about to become as financially bankrupt as it’s been spiritually and intellectually for quite some time now, makes me. i sort of realize it, can’t say i do down deep, or else i wouldn’t be frittering away my time as i am presently. i’m banking on the idea/hope that however collapse plays out originally, while there may be much hardship, it’ll be years before government safety nets totally disintegrate.

    anyway, i wish now to bring up a couple of possible indiscretions, taboos with possible negative ramifications. i just hope no one gets hurt in the process.

    these are things i think wouldn’t be taboo, or avoided, in a sane culture. the first is fear of death. i think this fear is bad. not that life isn’t to be cherished most of the time, but i think there are times when choosing to die on one’s own terms, as much as possible, is wise. terminal, debilitating, painful illness is a good example.

    who knows what’s coming in detail over the next 10-20-30-40 years? all we can know with certainty is that as resources deplete, climate changes, etc etc., our population and wealth boom are going to go bust, and life is going to become increasingly difficult and dangerous for most if not all of us. perhaps more so than we will be able to handle.

    so that’s one thing i personally want to do, is confront and overcome my current likely excessive and unhealthy fear of death and dying, because i’d like to be better positioned to take charge of arranging my own, if the time comes when i’ll wish to do so. if that time never comes, i suspect that my life will improve a lot simply by no longer fearing the alternative so much.

    the other taboo i wish to bring up at this point has to do with using illegal substances/drugs in the pursuit of consciousness expansion, enlightenment, and improved communications and relationships. i have limited, mostly positive experience already in this area. i’ve read much that intensely intrigues. i wonder if any of u share this interest, or perhaps have experiences/knowledge to share.

    finally, i’m very impressed with sue’s compassionate spirit as manifested by her posts. i’m curious about how she became so, and if she can teach/transmit any of that spirit to me, for i believe i could use it. so if u’re interested, sue, and guy doesn’t mind passing along my email to u, i’d like to explore a personal correspondence.

    the virgin terry

  • Bob Wiley,

    I concur with your observation that we cannot “drop out”. Through my own efforts to change my life in order to better face the realities at hand, I’ve had to come to terms with my own fantasies:

    1. Escape to a rural life somewhere nice.

    Reality – most of rural America is badly degraded land thanks to cattle grazing, farming practices, mining, logging, oil and gas drilling, etc. In fact, rural America is mostly very poor (trailers, or as an upgrade, a manufactured home, plus a late model beater or two, or three, in the driveway) and all horribly tied to the fossil fuel economy. On top of this, land prices are out of reach for people like me in most parts of the country. In context of a deflationary recession/depression, the purchase of land, especially without debt, is prohibitive.

    2. Grow your own food and live sustainably.

    Reality – Sustainability is mythical. It harkens to a time when we were largely hunter/gatherers. Given our degraded world, our current levels of population and the massive die-offs of species everywhere, the idea of living “in balance” with Nature is cruel joke.

    3. Support local efforts (i.e. Transition Town) to transform the consciousness of our communities.

    Reality – Especially in this time of financial hollowing, local governments everywhere are overwhelmed with simply staying afloat. It’s cuts, cuts, cuts… everywhere. New ideas? Well, how does the concept of “Peak Oil” fly with your city or county leaders?

    So, BW, I think you have done well to find the “true value” of your work – and that is connecting with the miracle…

    May you all enjoy the Harvest Moon on this Equinox.

  • Hey Randy I enjoyed your post. Being a Farmers wife and Horse woman I would be very interested in hearing how you get on. Please keep us posted literally!

    Terry, thanks for the invite to Email you. Guy has passed it on and I will send you a message shortly. Thank you also for your kind words. I am touched.

  • Wow too much good stuff here. Thanks.

    On the exercise question. I’m 54, and a year ago I hurt my back. We sell greens and micros to restaurants to make the farm pay for itself. I know how to keep my back in good shape. Do the yoga in the morning, and a couple of planks before you go to bed. I wasn’t doing them. The result was that I had to harvest, plant and weed on my knees for almost 2 months. Once my back improved my knees were shot for a good 3 months. I had to slowly build up the muscles around my knees with specialized exercises. All better now and still doing all of the exercises. We do most of the work on the farm by hand. Yes we get enough exercise just doing the farm work, but I think you need to do more.
    A bucket and a pail will do fine when we have to. We put in a hand pump 2 years ago, and have never used it. It’s there when we have to.
    Mark: one strategy that some of the farmers we know when they started was to drag a single wide out there and plunk it down. Cheap and you hit the ground running. We still live in a barn that we partially rennovated, and we’re in the process of building a bermed house.
    The soil here wasn’t great we when we arrived. We used to write alot on farmer’s website, and almost all of them agreed that the first thing you do is put up some kind of greenhouse, and get working on the soil. Get very familiar with floating row covers. Using them will double your harvest of alot of produce.
    Sustainable yes it can be done, wouldn’t be alot of fun, and we would get a little tired eating corn pones, and potato cakes, but it can be done. Price of land can still be had where we live for 1K per acre. Most farmers won’t pay more than 1200-1300. They figrue they cannot make money off it.

    Best Hopes


  • Randy:

    You might want to check out.

    Farmer Browns Plow Shop at 585-567-8158. We meet him at a NOFA conference a couple of years ago. He’s been using horses forever, and since our booth was next to his, it became very obvious that everyone knew him.



  • Speaking (earlier) of Dr. Semmelweis, who was declared insane and beaten to death by guards in an insane asylum despite his crucial contributions to public health, which have been affirmed by history, it is relevant to note that the 2009 Semmelweis Award went to Professor Peter Duesberg of UC Berkeley, who challenged the HIV as cause of AIDS hypothesis. Dr. Duesberg is one of the most brilliant and accomplished virologists in the world, yet continues to be demonized and have funding and reputation demolished by his persistence in challenging the medical status quo on AIDS.

    Below is a link to a recent paper published by Dr. Duesberg and colleagues in the Elsevier journal “Medical Hypothesis” refuting a recent publication that attempted to assassinate his character and his science once again, and I continue to find Dr. Duesberg eminently logical and persuasive, calling into question in my own mind the sanity of the opposing medical profession:

    The facts speak for themselves.

    Stan Moore

  • Well, since armies exist, what I do every day is not specially difficult. In some forces, it’s expectable doing this training daily and then spend the rest of the day working (doing all kind of stuff). You would be impressed by the pressure that a body can resist if your mind is strong enough.

    I’ve trained more than this and after that , I spent the rest of the day rebuilding a bridge (much harder than feeding animals and growing tomatoes). So, train, ladies and gentlemen! When you get a good level of fitness, it’s enough training 3 days a week.

  • Welcome to the incredible Economic Undertow blogroll. Anyone (besides myself) who puts the peak of available oil – and the ongoing economic consequences that we are currently living – in 1998 is a winner.

    The curve fitters will win in the end; it does not matter who is paid off it matters who is correct. In the land of the (energy) blind the one- eyed man is king.

  • A great line from Cluborlov: ‘Individual insanity is rare, but group insanity is, unfortunately, the bane of societies that are nearing their end.’

  • Dear Guy McPherson,

    Thanks for all you are doing. In an effort to begin responding to your remarkable perspective, please note that “the issue”, aka “the mother” of global challenges presented to humanity, is undeniably the colossal scale and growth rate of absolute global human population numbers in our time. As I see it, that is a true statement.

    Why are the numbers of human beings on Earth skyrocketing? That is the question. Please notice that virtually every ‘expert’ on the planet refuses to respond to this single question.

    Unchallenged empirical evidence exists (and is everywhere ignored) of a non-recursive biological problem that is independent of ethical, social, legal, religious, and cultural considerations. This means human population dynamics are essentially like the population dynamics of other species. It also means that global human population growth is a rapidly cycling positive feedback loop, a relationship between food and population in which food availability drives population growth, and population growth fuels the impression that food production needs to be endlessly increased. The evidence indicates that as we increase food production every year, the number of people goes up, too.

    With every passing year, as food production is increased leading to a population increase, millions go hungry. Why are those hungry millions not getting fed year after year after year… and future generations of poor people may not ever be fed? Every year the human population grows. All segments of it grow. Every year there are more people growing up well fed and more people growing up hungry. The hungry segment of the global population goes up just like all the other segments of the population. We are not bringing hunger to an end by increasing food production; we are giving rise to more hungry people. Please note that there are more hungry and malnourished people on Earth today than were alive on the planet in the year of my birth.

    Perhaps a new biological understanding is emerging with the apparently unforeseen and unfortunately unwelcome research. It is simply this: as is the case with other species, human population dynamics is primarily a function of food availability. Human population dynamics is essentially common to the population dynamics of other species.

    What happens if it turns out that human population dynamics is similar to, not different from, the population dynamics of other species? What does that mean? From my humble inexpert perspective, it means increasing the large-scale production of food worldwide equals increasing numbers of human organisms on Earth; less available food for consumption equals less humans; and no food equals no people.

    Imagine our failure to acknowledge that human population dynamics is similar to the population dynamics of other species as the greatest misperception in human history because this failure could eventually result in a human-driven global ecological wreckage of some unimaginable sort. In such circumstances would experts not have a duty to science and humanity that would lead them to correct so vital a mistaken impression of what could somehow be real? It appears to me that many too many experts have willfully rejected the best available science of human population dynamics by ignoring certain evidence and choosing to let stand, as if scientific, preternatural thinking based upon specious understandings derived from inadequate ’scientific’ investigations.

    Extant research of human population dynamics appears to directly contradict the near-universal misconception that humanity needs to increase in a seemingly endless way global food harvests in order to meet the needs of a growing population. The best available research indicates just the opposite: that, just like other species, the size and availability of the human food supply is the independent variable upon which the global human population depends for existence. The human community has a food distribution problem, not a food production problem.

    Please note, too, that this relationship cannot be conveniently passed over as a “chicken and egg” situation. That appears to be one of the ways many people have found to miss the point of the science. Because an adequate enough understanding of the relationship between food supply and its effect on human numbers have profound implications for the future of life as we know it on Earth, perhaps this relationship could be made the subject of authentic communication.

    All this is remarkably simple and straightforwardly presented, I believe. If this hypothesis is somehow be on the right track, then at a minimum the human community would need to be made aware and to share understandings of the implications of exploding human numbers worldwide.

    Many voices, many more voices are needed. The passivity of elective mutism that denies what is known to be real is every bit as destructive of the world we inhabit as the pernicious activities of the self-proclaimed masters of the universe among us.

    Comments from one and all are welcome. Let us agree to overcome the deafening silence of “the powers that be” as well as their global gag rules regarding human population dynamics and human overpopulation of the Earth because silence threatens the future of children everywhere as much as the plundering, overconsuming and hoarding of greedmongers.



  • Great essay. I think one of the reasons that people cannot or refuse to see the coming imminent collapse of industrial civilization is that they compartmentalize. They look at each resource and each technology as a separate issue. Thus the need for roads and road equipment to transport solar panels is not an issue to those touting the wonders of solar energy. I tried to point out that there are no electric bulldozer plans over at The Oil Drum. I get shown some large piece of electric machinery used in coal mining as proof that large electric equipment is feasible (missing is the super duper extension cord that powers the beast) and another dump truck (powered by an overhead electric line like used in the past for trolleys). Those are supposed to be answers even though our highway system is not always close to electric power plants nor does it have power lines running overhead.

    Further it is assumed by many (mostly unconsciously) that sunlight and wind are currently doing nothing and therefore taping them will have no consequence to our environs. And of course taping them in a small way doesn’t. But taping them in a large way means that we are removing them from what they are doing. We once thought that oil and coal were sitting around doing nothing except maybe holding up some rocks and soil. But in fact they were sequestering CO2 and releasing that in a large way has had drastic consequences. Yet those who tout solar and wind ignore the fact that making grand changes in “what is” on a planetary scale will have consequences. Perhaps huge arrays of solar panels would cool a warming planet. Perhaps they would readjust our climate in unpredictable ways as might huge arrays of windmills. We are learning that predictable climate is essential to farming success. Do we want to do further planetary experiments.

    Another thought problem that hides the coming collapse to even most Peak Oilers is the Energy Input for calculating EROEI. If you use cost you incorporate salaries but if you calculate by pure energy the human energy is never included. At present human energy input is far more than calories burned, it is calories burned by dependent children, personal transportation, housing, heating and cooling etc. The energy is supplied via wages but that doesn’t mean that it is not energy input.

    For instance when Brazilians harvest sugar cane by hand (up to 10 tons a day per worker) that energy input is not added in but when Midwest farmers harvest corn with a machine the energy input for the machine and its fuel is calculated. So would the ERoEI of sugar cane ethanol go down if the used machines instead of human machines and would the ERoEI of corn ethanol go up if we used human labor for the harvest?

    How much energy credit a human gets varies – the Brazilian worker gets a bare minimum while the tractor driver gets a much bigger energy credit. All of this seems irrelevant but it is not. The most important energy to humans is food energy, but we loose sight of that in a country of abundant food. As it once again regains its primary focus in our lives (as no doubt it has become to those living in tent cities in the US already) we will once again find that calculating how much human energy we put into a task is once more as vital to us as it is to the Cheeta preparing to run a gazelle down.

    Well just nice to have a place where collapse is understood to be the welcome event that just might save the human species!

  • Bob Wiley,

    I concur with your observation that we cannot “drop out”. Through my own efforts to change my life in order to better face the realities at hand, I’ve had to come to terms with my own fantasies:

    1. Escape to a rural life somewhere nice.

    Reality – most of rural America is badly degraded land thanks to cattle grazing, farming practices, mining, logging, oil and gas drilling, etc. In fact, rural America is mostly very poor (trailers, or as an upgrade, a manufactured home, plus a late model beater or two, or three, in the driveway) and all horribly tied to the fossil fuel economy. On top of this, land prices are out of reach for people like me in most parts of the country. In context of a deflationary recession/depression, the purchase of land, especially without debt, is prohibitive.

    2. Grow your own food and live sustainably.

    Reality – Sustainability is mythical. It harkens to a time when we were largely hunter/gatherers. Given our degraded world, our current levels of population and the massive die-offs of species everywhere, the idea of living “in balance” with Nature is cruel joke.

    3. Support local efforts (i.e. Transition Town) to transform the consciousness of our communities.

    Reality – Especially in this time of financial hollowing, local governments everywhere are overwhelmed with simply staying afloat. It’s cuts, cuts, cuts… everywhere. New ideas? Well, how does the concept of “Peak Oil” fly with your city or county leaders?

    So, BW, I think you have done well to find the “true value” of your work – and that is connecting with the miracle…

    May you all enjoy the Harvest Moon on this Equinox.

  • New Jersey, I have to add something to your point #1: Look around some more and you will find there is plenty of wornderful land in rural areas out there. If food was once grown there, soils can be restored and sown again.

    I became un-retired a couple of years ago and got a real estate license when it became apparent that three good friends here were going to have to move due to age and health concerns, and they were having a hard time selling their houses. Two of the three are now sold, thanks to my connections in the bird and science world. Retirees who need to move closer to cities and health care are one big source of vacant houses in rural areas. These houses tend to be well-maintained, and often have wonderful gardens and orchards, now all of which are too much for the elderly owners.

    Lots of non-farm working people live in rural areas and move around, selling and buying. One current source of good homesteading properties in my area are the younger people of working age who were telecommuting to jobs all over the world, and who during the recession got laid off. Decent houses with lots of land, some of them as short sales or foreclosures. And in my very rural area, Border Patrol agents live here who get transferred and are moving up the ladder and have to sell. I have been asked to list two of these in the past 4 months.

    If you find a good piece of land, inquire about depth to ground water, availability of locals to help with bladework and contrustion, and high-speed internet (nice to have while it lasts). These in my mind are more important than soil that’s been over-farmed or over-grazed – easy to fix with composting & green manure, and/or fencing. Old mobile homes here are happily towed off by a local farmer who uses them for (probably illegal) farm worker housing, or scrap metal – have helped several friends buy places here with that problem, now long gone.

    If you’ve only lived in suburbia, one big adjustment will be how you fit into your neighborhood. A nice things about living in a really rural area is that pretty soon you don’t have any neighbors. What you have are friends who live next door. We are all here because we want to be independent, but we realize we are interdependent too as so we watch out for each other and share advice, tools, and time, and a lot more.