Many readers don’t notice the pages beyond the blog, up at the top of the page. In an act of shameless self promotion, I bring to your attention four media moments. Three are behind us, recently, and the third is a call-in radio show next week.

Details for all three events follow, and just in time, too: We’re on the brink, and the Fed has spent all its bullets. On the other hand, as I’ve indicated previously, I suspect the industrial economy will keep lurching along, with politicians cheerleading for torture, destroying the rule of law, and making us less safe. But I hope not, just as I hope we terminate overshoot as rapidly as possible. Goldman Sachs has joined the substantial group calling for a spike in oil prices by 2012, an event likely to terminate the industrial economy. Are you willing to bet against the most profitable bank in Wall Street’s sordid history? The associated benefits extend well beyond when and who we torture, as I’ve pointed out countless times.

But I digress. Back to the point, in four parts:

1. I was profiled, favorably, by the national poetry examiner at a month ago.

2. My presentation at the International Bioenergy Days was written up in the Rock River Times about a week ago.

3. I was quoted extensively on the Conscious Discussion blog this morning. The brief essay includes a link to an earlier interview on the Conscious Discussion radio show.

4. Next Monday, 15 November 2010, I’ll be featured on a call-in radio show broadcasting from New York state. You can listen and call in between 7:30 p.m. and 8:30 p.m. EST (4:30 – 5:30 p.m. on the left coast) to WJFF Connections with Dick Riseling on Radio Catskill. Listen live at the home page or catch the archived version here.

Finally, I have a new and improved booking agent. If the industrial economy insists upon continuation of the ongoing planetary destruction, I’d like to point out the madness in every possible forum.

Comments 61

  • Fantastic! I can’t wait to listen to the radio call-in show. Good luck Guy!

  • If your booking agent sends you up to BC, let us know and perhaps we can arrange an engagement on our little island.

  • i’ve been listening to some of guy’s audio links, gathering that he’s boned up a lot on agw and the positive feedbacks which will likely cause the process to ‘runaway’ beyond a certain point (possibly/likely? already reached). this is the basis by which he claims we could be looking at extinction in a few decades.

    i’ve boned up to on the subject, and agree with the assessment up to the point of the quick extinction prognosis. here we part ways, certainly with re. to the time scale involved. i think it’s more likely to take centuries, rather than decades for gw to become this severe, and i don’t think it’s a sure thing it ever will. i don’t recall coming across any persuasive argument for such a rapid timetable. however, whether it’s decades or centuries makes little difference in the long run.

    another point of contention regards a collapse timetable. i disagree with guy’s and other’s assertions that it’s going to be so sudden. in this post, guy’s saying the next oil price spike in a year or 2 could spell the end of industrialism? i think this is almost as absurd as those who deny peak oil and the idea that industrialism is threatened at all by resource depletion.

    there will be a rather steep down slope for global oil production, but i don’t think it’ll be so steep as to qualify as a cliff. the next oil shock, like the last, won’t be the last of the oil shocks, and won’t spell the death of global industrialism. it will be part of an ongoing process of price volatility, and economic contraction. this is nature’s way of saying loud and clear, bau no longer applies. price spikes will be like economic body blows or head shots, to make an analogy to a boxing match, but this fight will be a war of attrition, not a quick knock out. just like the last time (only worse this time, as it will get progressively worse with future shocks), after causing a good deal of economic contraction/pain, the price will come back down, and the economy will revive somewhat, until the next spike.

    of course, strict rationing will be going into effect. more wars will probably be fought to try to obtain control of what’s left. domestic politics will radically change. it could all get very crazy, within the relatively short time frame guy is projecting for total collapse to occur, in 15 years or so. but total collapse? guy, u’re making it out to be more of an event than a process. i think it’ll be more of a process than an event, a process which will take decades, not years, to play out fully, unless war/terrorism considerably speeds up the process.

    that said, i still think that guy’s approach to preparation, like that discussed by most participants here, makes a lot more sense than mine and that of others who, for whatever reason, are acting most of the time as if there is no big emergency going on.

    judging from many of guy’s links in his posts, he obviously is well read on the current economic chicanery designed to keep bau (business as usual) going as long as possible. severe economic collapse, with hyperinflation a likely scenario, promises to play a prominent role. i think this is our most immediate concern.

    all kinds of variables and unknowns are at play with something so complex as this collapse. i’ve become quite attached/fascinated with this blog, and others like it, because i wish to learn as much as i can, and to counteract the dulling/denial effect of mainstream blissful ignorance. i hope to get much more serious and detailed in my own preparations. right now, i have a case of deer in headlights syndrome. profound disbelief, fatalism, whatever.

    in summary, i disagree with the timetable for complete collapse and potential extinction being espoused here. otoh, this blog’s helping me realize that collapse is both imminent and real, and promises to bring radical changes, challenges, and hardships, in the next few years. it will only get worse as time goes on, too. i think part of my fatalistic paralysis comes from the perception that this thing’s a force of nature, like a tsunami, which in the end will make all attempts at mitigation absurdly ineffective. better to think more positively, isn’t it?

  • Terry,

    I think each of us will assess the collapse and time table through our own personal experience. If you neighbor loses his job, house, car, health care, etc. then it is a steep slope. If it happens to you, then it is a cliff. Do you know anyone who is devastated? What is their assessment? What are some of your cutoffs, 40%, 50%, unemployment?
    Even if every house in the neighborhood is burning but yours, is this still not a catastrophe? If everyone else is toast, don’t you think you will soon be next?

  • Your efforts to educate people are remarkable. Best of lucks.

  • Terry, you might want to read the book “When Life Nearly Died” by Michael Benton. He has studied the Permian extinction and believes from evidence that there was a huge relatively quick release of the methane frozen in the ocean. All that methane would send warming skyrocketing.

    Other climate scientist now think that some climate changes have taken place in decades rather than centuries.

    My personal feel is that in this highly globalized, industrialized world things are so interconnected and interdependent and we are propping up so many parts of that structure that it will only take a few major props to fail for the whole thing to come down. Efficiency has come to mean such things as Just in Time inventories, labor force pared to the minimum etc. A major pandemic like the 1918 flu might put out of commission so many workers who do water, sewer, electricity that it would have major repercussions on societal functioning.

    Well I have a lot more thoughts on these lines, but need to go feed chickens so I will stop there. Of course a nuke war would bring everything down quickly if not totally and it seems to me to become ever more likely.

  • Guy. Your writing is informative and entertaining. (I was rereading your ‘public health’ speech of 2007 yesterday) Nobody knows the timing for collapse, but the trends you highlight are irrefutable. Just don’t push too far too fast and get yourself assassinated. TPTB stop at nothing to protect vested interests.

    Kathy. I totally agreee. All the evidence indicates that the conditions that made civilisation possible were dependent on a farily stable atmospheric CO2 content of around 280ppm. Evidence indicates that CO2 above 350ppm leads to fairly rapid positive feeback mechanisms being triggered. And yes, abrupt climate change can occur in a matter of decades. The meltdown of the Arctic in the past 30 years is just a portent of what is to come. (The three greatest meltdowns all occured in the past three years).

    Here we are at around 390ppm and adding around 2ppm per annum. If that is not a recipe for catastrophe, what is? Not only do we have the prospect of unstoppable positive feedback mechanisms triggering a rapid rise in average temperature, but also the oceans have not been as acidic as they are now for aeons. All the CO2 we release has to end up either tbe in the air or in the water -and neither is any good. I’ve forgotten the figure -is it 18 billion tonnes per annum? I have been pointing all this out for over a decade, and (like Guy and so many others) have been largely ignored. And just in case anyone has forgotten, higher ocean temperatures reduce their capacity to absorb CO2 and will eventually result in the oceans becoming sources of CO2 -thereby magnifying other positive feedback mechanisms.

    There are unspeakable truths, such as: dead oceans = a largely dead planet. How ‘fortunate’ most people know no chemistry.

    Terry. Back in 2004-5 many of us thought we would experience ‘oilcrash’ by 2010. We were partly right. Yes, much of the global economy has been badly crippled, but is has staggered on (largely on the back of unconventional oil making up for shrinking conventional oil extraction, it seems). I suspect it will stagger on for several more years, rather like the economies of the early 1930s. Vested interests have far too big a stake in present arrangements to allow them to crash quickly. However, I agree with Guy: falling EROEI must swamp attempts to preserve status quo within a decade. Of course, it is possible TPTB can see some advantage [to themsleves] in crashing the system early, before it collapses under its own weight.

  • Kevin, Terry,

    If I am understanding this ( ) correctly, Guy’s time line might just be on the long side. Things will fall and fail so fast at an 8.3%/yr decline rate that everyone will get motion sickness.
    The IEA too is betting on some pixie dust to buy some time.

  • I’ve got lots of interviews on my You Tube account

  • Kevin, thanks for reminding everyone that rising temps aren’t our only problem. When ocean acidity is talked about often plankton are mentioned as dying, reducing the base of the food chain in the ocean. In other articles plankton are credited with creating 1/2 the oxygen in the atmosphere. Just recently plankton dying from warming and acidification and their function as producing oxygen have been mentioned in the same articles. Maybe some scientists are getting worried. Perhaps a new study that estimates 40% of the ocean’s plankton are gone. “until now, conventional wisdom has been that big ocean impacts might not be seen until the second half of the century.” If confirmed it is another something moving faster than thought possible.
    Anoxia has happened before on planet earth “The world nearly suffocated about 250 million years ago, according to a new study of oxygen levels drawn from sediments laid down around the time of the biggest mass extinction in Earth’s history.”
    “In the view of Professor Ervin Laszlo, the drop in atmospheric oxygen has potentially serious consequences. A UN advisor who has been a professor of philosophy and systems sciences, Laszlo writes:Evidence from prehistoric times indicates that the oxygen content of pristine nature was above the 21% of total volume that it is today. It has decreased in recent times due mainly to the burning of coal in the middle of the last century. Currently the oxygen content of the Earth’s atmosphere dips to 19% over impacted areas, and it is down to 12 to 17% over the major cities. At these levels it is difficult for people to get sufficient oxygen to maintain bodily health: it takes a proper intake of oxygen to keep body cells and organs, and the entire immune system, functioning at full efficiency. At the levels we have reached today cancers and other degenerative diseases are likely to develop. And at 6 to 7% life can no longer be sustained.”

    On the economic front, some changes take place gradually but then there are Ponzi schemes. Ponzi’s collapse suddenly. One day Bernie Maddof’s funds are a lucrative investment. Wake up the next morning and all your investment is gone. I would suggest that the world economy is a Ponzi scheme. In the last decade or so trillions of dollars of investment have been created out of thin air. Right now gov’ts around the world are desperately propping it up. Maddof could fall without major worldwide consequences so he was allowed to fall. But the global economy needless to say no PTB want to fall. Unfortunately the same greedy look after yourself mode is going on in the worldwide propping up…

  • Climate change and Hollywood, a bit of humor but a sobering clip from 1958 that pretty accurately predicts climate change. It was known, nothing was done.

  • thanks for that interesting informative video link, kathy. i had no idea that such knowledgable references to the danger of agw existed in any commercial media.

    i hope my criticism of guy hasn’t chilled discussion recently. not many posts.

    convulsions. that’s what we’ll see as industry goes down. hyperinflation in the u.s. likely this decade. in it’s aftermath, most people will be a lot poorer, and have to learn to get by on a lot less. in addition, unemployment may rise dramatically. the social and political fall out will be big and probably horrible.

    this is what happens when a whole culture loses touch with surreality, and is unable/unwilling to behave rationally. with economic contraction inevitable, convulsions, instead of rational adjustments.

    i predict convulsions of various types and extremes are what we can all look forward to for the ‘foreseeable future’, i.e. the rest of our lives. economic, social, political. a period of increased international war and terrorism, hopefully not involving ‘wmd’s, and increased domestic repression and crime. instead of guy’s wished for quick demise, a relatively drawn out process of unpleasant, ugly, shocking convulsions.

    it’ll be hard to take shelter from this storm. certainly smart to try to do so now, well in advance of the crowd.

  • looking forward to hearing u again on the radio, guy.

  • Curtis. Thanks for that.

    ‘The 68 mb/d of crude oil from fields producing in 2009 is now estimated to drop to only 16 mb/d by 2035. They use a decline rate of 8.3% which is in complete agreement with my team’s research. The IEA says that 60% of oil production in 2035 must come from fields not yet even found.’

    In view of the declining rate of oil discovery and the fact that we have used up practically all the ‘easy’ oil, it very much supports the prognosis of significant oollapse of complex systems by 2020, with breakdown of economic growth models well before 2015.

  • Guy, I got a chance to listen to some of your interviews. Great talks, although a bit more reserved than what you write here. That I understand. Regarding fires, as you note in the future we will have less resources (money and fuel) with which to fight them. That holds true for all aspects of our general welfare and is totally in line with what Joseph Tainter shows happens at the end of an empire. Problem is that this empire is global so there is nowhere for the citizens to migrate to.

    Some one sent me recently a humorous take on immigration – the immigration of liberals to Canada. Dmitry Orlov says that one of the characteristics of those who weathered the collapse of the Soviet Union was humor and he both recommends it and exhibits it in his writings. So with that I am providing a link to some humor for the end times.

  • Kevin,

    At this point no disaster plan for Western Civilization, even if there was one, could be started.
    The only things that can be done are on an individual basis. Have your house paid off, have good neighbors, have a garden (this can only be a minor supplement), have repair skills and tools, have experience living frugally, have a few months of food and medicines in the house, keep your head down, and hope to outlast the unprepared. As long as local services stay up, you have a chance.
    It is easier if you are in good health, and do not have dependent children or aging adults to care for.
    Make sure your teeth are in top shape.
    If you have a house, do any necessary repairs now, upgrade your insulation, develop or enhance your gardening skills using only hand tools and non hybrid seeds, etc.

  • Kevin,

    Here is a followup, with a link to the original post at the end.
    The original was posted on TOD, with comments afterward.

  • Curtis A. Heretic,

    I’ll start with a disclaimer: I am NOT ready for the world that’s coming and I agree with you on tools, garden, head down, etc. But…

    I have a question regarding your comment in which you recommend keeping your head down and suggesting that only (?) if local services continue do we stand a chance. What about solar electric generation? By placing panels on the roof you would NOT be keeping your head down. By NOT installing some kind of electrical generating system you are putting yourself in the position of depending on the continuance of local services (electricity = not local at all). Seems like a damned if you do, damned if you don’t situation. Are you suggesting that if the powers that be provide electricity you will use it and if they don’t you will just do without? Does that apply to water and sewer too? Also, when you say that a garden can “only be a supplement” are you suggesting that you will be depending on some farmer to grow your food for you and if they don’t you are resigned to starving?

    Would you amplify you ideas?

    As a post script I’ll note that I’m much more concerned about the big cougar that went through my yard 10 minutes ago than the collapse of civilization some time in the future.

    Michael Irving

  • Guy, best of luck with your new and improved booking agent. I look forward to reading or hearing your take on “the madness in every possible forum.”

    I’m spending this weekend at American Indian Science and Engineering (AISES) National Conference. This years’s conference is titled “POWER UP” (the irony !!!) and is geared toward complete assimilation of native youth into the dying industrial paradigm… We could really use someone like you here this weekend.

    Terry – about the rate of collapse. Consider Samsam Bakhtiari and his “Four Phases of Transition”:

    “But even during that rather benign T1, the unexpected might become the rule and the orderly ‘Pre-Peak’ rapidly give way to some chaotic ‘Post-Peak.’

    And as for how much we do not know in a post-Peak Oil world, as Dr
    Bakhtiari noted, that could be analogous to the phenomenon known as “flash evaporation.”

    That is, if you raise the temperature of water to something well below its standard boiling point, but then rapidly change some other condition, such as lowering the atmospheric pressure above the water, the water “boils” at a lower temperature and lower pressure regime.

    This might be considered similar to some abrupt, unanticipated event reducing the supply of oil; for example, warfare, natural disaster, or unexpectedly rapid depletion and decline in a major oil-producing region of the world…”

  • @ Michael re: ‘damned if you do,…’

    In central VA where I live, I expect to have electricity for some time even if it’s intermittent. The same holds true with municipal water and sewer. Regardless, I would never put a PV or solar hot water system on my roof because I don’t want to attract attention.

    Instead, I have a small portable thin film panel which connects to a battery recharging station. I think I bought it online at Real Goods in CA. This will keep the flashlights and lanterns running. On my wish list, I hope to purchase a more sophisticated system: the Powerenz 150. I’m making sure my purchases for post petroleum living are things that are durable and portable in case we need to relocate.

    Here’s another idea. When I closed my office, I kept all the emergency battery back-ups / surge protectors for the computers. Turns out, these work great with my LED Christmas lights when we lose power. I just keep one plugged in and charged all the time. With a little painter’s tape to hold up the lights, in 10 minutes I can provide enough light in our kitchen / dining area during an outage to eat and play games by. It makes a huge difference with my clan who abhor camping!

    Hoping to maintain my family’s existing lifestyle is pointless, and besides, I can’t afford to ‘go off the grid.’ JM Greer talks about a ‘permanent camping trip’ and I’m fine with that although I know my family will not adjust well. Personally, I think we are headed toward a lifestyle more similar to the early 1900’s at the time of rural electrification.

    Thanks to everyone for their comments.

  • Michael,

    Glad to expand and clarify.

    Good critique. You can only play the hand your were dealt. We have all chosen the table to sit at. Now we have to continue playing and the stakes go up.

    First of all “head down”, means stay out of trouble with banks, government, bill collectors and people around you who do not share your views and might be a hazard to you in difficult times. Only my wife hears my ranks. Anyone not getting it, certainly will not buy in based on one of our rants Keep your mouth shut!
    I certainly am not criticizing Guy’s efforts, but I think he speaks to a lot of people that already get a lot of it, and are motivated to find out more. To most people the response is, “peak oil? What’s that?”.

    A lot depends on your location. Guy has made an excellent choice of locations. It allows him to do all that he wants and is able to. I live in a far suburban location of a large mid western city. Building codes and such limit the things I can do to mitigate infrastructure failure. Even if I could make changes such as solar cells (possible), or wind turbines(not likely) , or digging a latrine in the back yard, I would stand out as a bright light to all the bugs on a summer night if the power fails. Guy is remote enough, I hope, that if Tucson has civil unrest for any reason, it will not reach out to him. At 50 years old he has more to lose in terms of years and has more energy to put to the task. At 67, I have fewer years at stake. I certainly want to go as long as possible, but to try and sell my house, find another location and make the move, which may not turn out as well as where I am, would take more years than I think we have at this point.
    Gardening, as I well know, is very labor intensive. I was doing this 35 years ago in another location. I have been living here for 13 years, and started my garden 2 years ago. To resume this labor at 65, you have to be dead serious. Except for 2 neighbors and one other person in the neighborhood, no one else gardens. I am considered a “curiosity.” Think of the attraction I would be if I tried some of the other things. I share tomatoes, peppers, zucchini, etc. with the neighbors. We all help each other now, so it hopefully will hold up going forward.
    Cooking, sewing, repairing of cars (at least for a while)to save money, repairing of bicycles, use of hand tools, CPR. I also have excellent martial arts training, and was a 2nd degree black belt instructor. The training was as much mental as physical. The skill will always be with me.
    My wife and I have 4 bicycles from the 70’s and 80’s that I have the specialty tools (absolutely necessary) to maintain them forever(stock inner tubes).
    Back to food. Gardening is food 101. Animals is a lot more. Guy can give you the list of issues, but the obvious are food and shelter for them, plus health care (not covered in Obama’s new plan.) My daughter-in-law is a vet, but lives 2000 miles away. Hard to get enough calories and protein without grains and animals.
    Of course personal health care is a big one. Ever try to fill your own tooth? Stitch a wound? Remove your own appendix? What about antibiotics for that wound? You will find that you will be forced to do without a lot of things, but antibiotics is not on of them. If heart medicines, insulin, and antibiotics are not readily available, the herd will thin very quickly. Just people trying to do things that they are unfamiliar with will cause a lot more accidents, which will add to the attrition.
    If you are in an isolated place for the winter, and we hit a rough time, and your next trip to town is in the spring, you will have a big surprise. Think Rip Van Winkle.
    Like it or not, you will always count on others. The farmer has also to count on others. We all will. The idea is to be useful also, so that you have something to give in exchange, even if it is only “holding the other end.”
    A big advantage the doomers have, is the awareness of the dangers and the clues to what is happening. Nothing (except war perhaps) happens everywhere at once. Watch what businesses are failing (car dealerships are a good one because of the capital and jobs involved), what cut backs local government is planning (just today, police cuts considered), gas and oil prices ( ).
    The merger of United Airlines and Continental was really the capacity elimination of one airline. I just flew from LA to Chicago on a UAL 757, capacity 182 with about 40 empty seats. First non capacity flight I have been on in 3 years.
    As things happen you can continuously reassess the situation where you are.
    That’s all for now, feel free to continue the discussion.


  • re. “Doomer stereotypes” – reading this site, a friend of mine who just recently became familiar with the real threat of collapse noted what struck him was how different we REAL “collapsniks” are from the stereotypical mad-max, gold-hoarding, bunker survivalists caricatures he was expecting.

    Gardening, small animal husbandry, connecting with neighbors, “permanent camping trips,” simple health care methods, not drawing attention to yourself… THESE were topics he could wrap his head around and get excited about.

    Thanks to all for the contributions here, and especially to Guy for having this forum and for acting as a living example of real “doomers.”

  • The release of the IEA graph showing that the peak of conventional oil happened in 2006 leaves me with come pretty strange feelings. We have been so sure of it, and yet until it receives this validation there always was that doubt way at the back of my mind. Another feeling is the gratitude for those folks who explained what was happening over and over again. There was a man who went by the name of Weaseldog and he used to post alot at klusterf*ck, this had to be 6 or 7 years ago. Reading what he said convinced me to get out of the stock market when it first went through 12K. He also said that conservation wouldn’t help either. If you keep your thermostat at 62, and next year you cut back to 57, what are your going to do the year after that? People like Guy, and Ron Patterson, Westexas who just keep beating the drum, and asking nothing in return. We’re pretty much done with our preps. I wish the nut and fruit trees were a little bigger, and the root cellar needs to be done, but from a hearty thanks goes out to all those who kept up the message.

    Our PV’s when they get installed will not be on the roof either. They will be behind the house. We have plans for a windmill, but I’m not too sure about that for the reasons others have given. One preperation that some of you might consider is storing kerosene. I did a little research and found some folks that stored it for Y2K and have just used it and it burns quite well. Some other people posting said they had used kerosene that was up to 15 years old.

    The house is pretty much closed in now, and the temps in front of the windows get up to around 105. I did alot of research a few years back on Phase Change Materials (PCM). They were a big deal during and after the Arab Oil Embargo. Some pretty smart people came up with some formulas that they patented. Those patents have expired, and I was able to find the formulas. Not sure if it is worth it here in NY with our lack of winter sun, but some of you living in areas where there is lots of sunshine in winter. I’ll put up the link if anyone wants them.

    Last of all, I thought it was illegal to use/posess a cross bow in the US. An aquaintance of mine was telling me how he just returned from a hunting trip, and he killed his trophy with a crossbow at 75 yards. I’ve always thought that a crossbow would be something you might want to have in a post peak world but never pursued it.

    Kathy: has parsley seeds has effective agains arthritis.


  • Michael,

    A post above jogged my memory. Forty years ago I read books by Bradford Angier, such as “How to Stay Alive in the Woods”. Nixon was POTUS at the time, so it seemed like a good idea. As an extra credit exercise, I was able to start a fire for breakfast using only matches that I had water proofed, a small ax, and the dry center pulp from wet wood, in the cold rain in the Lake Louise campground in Banff NP in Canada. Ah, the joys of tent camping in the cold rain in July.


  • Tom Brown Jr. is the real deal.

    “The Tracker”, Tom Brown Jr. is riveting.

  • Ed, “Dating back to ancient times, crossbows have been traditionally employed in combat. A highly obsolete weapon today, the crossbow is sometimes used for hunting wild game. In Alabama, crossbow hunting was originally only approved for use by disabled hunters. However, since 2005, it has been legal for anyone to hunt with a crossbow in Alabama, with a few restrictions.”

    Read more: Laws for Hunting Crossbows in AL |

    Re back pain/arthritis cures, you really don’t want the complete list of all we have tried, many highly recommended by people we know. Despite recommendations from friends or the web none have helped. At some point you just get weary of the next “try this, it works” promise. The fact is that the machinery that supports us wears out, just as cars wear out. You will note that complaints about aches and pains come more often from older people than younger people. Old does that to many people. There is no cure for aging. Hair changes color (you can color it but you can’t make it grow out the color it used to be) hair thins, skin texture changes, teeth wear down, etc. It is a totally natural process, however objectionable. We are mortals and on the way to the grave things begin to change and fail. When this happens varies from person to person, and some things can be slowed or temporarily eased. But the grave is everyone’s final destination and most totter their way to that resting place.

  • Curtis, thank you for your excellent and informative posts.

  • Jb,

    Thanks for that interesting information. I had never heard of the Powerenz 150 (that’s not very surprising). It is an alternative to the kind of array that is normally associated with solar electric generation. The LED Christmas lights are also a good thought, a way to get a lot of useable light distributed throughout a room with very low power. Still, they depend on regular AC charging to be effective.

    Sharon Astyk has advocated a very low power approach to electricity (post collapse) that centers on tools like self-charging flashlights or radios that are wind-up stand alones. As I understand it her reasoning suggests that the main problem, long term, would be batteries. I think that off grid systems have to have a continuing source of batteries over the long haul, just like every few years it is necessary to replace your car battery. With that in mind, a person could spend many thousands of dollars ($28,000 gives you approximately what an “all electric” house would use) but would still be out of luck within a decade without new, replacement batteries. So, she continues, better to start planning now for a low (electric) power existence and channeling your resources in that direction rather than trying to continue business as usual by replacing AC from the grid with DC from your solar array.

    I think Transitions is advocating PV systems going forward but I don’t know what their response is to the battery problem.

    Not having electricity is a problem. For example, raising water 25 feet from my spring-box to my garden via a mechanical process, rather than using an electric pump, would be a challenge. The water in our well has to be lifted hundreds of feet. It might as well be on the moon. Depending on summer thunderstorms to arrive just in time to adequately water my garden is just wishful thinking so some kind of appropriate technology (a la Greer) will be in order (maybe deep mulch + cistern + rain dance).

    Of course my wife suggests that, as old as I am, by the time it gets really bad I’ll have croaked anyway, so why worry. “Hmmmm, how many flights to Australia is my prepping costing?” “What? I could have bought a motor home?” “And why should I worry about my carbon footprint anyway when my neighbor doesn’t think about his?”

    Maybe I should trade in my Internet handle for “conflicted.”

    Michael Irving

  • Curtis A. Heretic,

    Thanks for expanding on your ideas for me. Allow me to focus on the age issue for just a second. It seems appropriate since I’m the same age you are. If Guy is correct things will get very bad before you turn 70. Using Navid’s link, Dr. Ali Morteza Samsam Bakhtiari states that things will be really bad by the time you are 74. Even Greer is thinking before you’re 77 things will have slid a long way. Of course as Kathy keeps reminding us, we all die. We do not, however, have to step in front of a bus.

    I’ll use the old Art Linkletter quote my mother liked. “Growing old is not for sissys.” As you’ve done with your garden, even us old guys have to “man up” a little. We probably won’t have the luxury of flying south every winter to chase a little white ball around a big lawn.

    Michael Irving

  • Michael,

    Sharon Astyk and Guy are doing just about all any of us “doomers” can do. We would all like to do more. We all have our limitations of knowledge, resources of time and money, and other situational constraints. I feel I am doing as much as I can by staying where I am and making the best of it. Our older bodies can only be pushed so far so fast. I am still in pretty good shape and health. Good diet, vigorous daily exercise, etc. I am not giving up easily. I am just admitting to my limitations.
    In a way, I always trained myself for this by the mental and physical activities that I have undertaken and enjoyed throughout my life. After my initial 12 years in IT as an employee,I became a consultant for 32 years before my recent retirement, during which time I only worked 30-35 hour weeks for an average of 8-9 months a year. My love of my interests and activities, camping and traveling being a big one, I made sure I got as much out of life as I could. A quick examination of the tax tables was enough to convince me working beyond a certain point each year was a total waste of time. I did not want 1/2 or more of my marginal pay to go toward taking a politician to lunch, or paying for his indiscretions. I took off many summers to go camping. This was during the high times when work was plentiful, and I knew I could turn it down as I wanted, knowing it was always there when I was ready. Even now, I have no regrets as to the many contracts I turned down (many were working for sociopaths). The breaks allowed be to recharge and get to this point before the grave. I had no illusions. I knew propping up West Civilization was a waste of time. Morally, personally, and practically. As I said before, this is what I have expected for decades, going back as far as “The Population Bomb”, by Paul Erhlich.

    Back to you,

  • Sue,

    Thanks for the compliment. I am enjoying everyone’s participation.


  • Curtis A. Heretic,

    Oh, another thought Curtis. I forgot about the Bakken Shale. As my neighbor keeps telling me there is actually enough oil that you will be 1577 years old before we need to start worrying. That’s money in the bank! It’s all systems GO until 3510 AD. Happy motoring.

    Camping is great. Of course your mileage may vary. My wife insists that we live like we are on a permanent camping trip already without ever going anywhere. Maybe that’s because she hasn’t seen the Wind River Range.

    Michael Irving

  • Michael,

    Let him invest in digging it out, and offer to pay him $3/gallon. I would tell him, “Go, have a good time. I am sure you are right”. Just don’t answer the phone when he calls.

    Yes, we have camped from the Florida keys and Everglades, to Gaspe, to Vancouver, to Baja and hundreds of points between. Instead of working to buy “stuff”, I bought time to go camping. If I have a regret, it is that I still spent too much time doing meaningless work for sociopaths.


  • The idea that we will be able to carry on for umpteen decades into the future on some sort of undulating plateau of economic disorder in the face of peak oil and the depletion of other critical natural resources, albeit at a somewhat lower standard of living, has the feel of wishful thinking to me. The human race as many have surmised is faced with an extraordinary set of problems, unique in its history, it cannot hope to deal with without significant die-off (at least 80%, and likely more, and perhaps even extinction) and a relatively quick (as natural processes go) transition back to our original state, though in highly degraded circumstances from where we found ourselves in our early history.

    These are not problems that are set before us to solve, but instead are problems that on a much deeper level represent symptoms of an underlying terminal condition much too advanced and complex to solve, or even to alleviate. You can attack the problems (over-population, peak oil, climate change, water scarcity, soil/mineral/metal depletion, wars, social instability, class inequality, et al), but as you solve one (if you are able to), you will likely cause multiple others to arise in its place or make the others worse. The size and complexity of the human condition is such that it cannot be touched without further injury, nor can it be left alone in hopes of natural healing. It is truly a case of “Can’t hold on – Can’t let go”.

    If I might expand upon this idea (as briefly as possible for your sakes), I would ask you to rise above the treetops for a moment to observe what is happening from an exceptionally high altitude devoid of irrelevant details. From one perspective I see the natural world in terms of generally sustainable communities of competing (and co-operating!) plants and animals. Each of these communities rest upon three major pillars (to my way of thinking):

    1. A Population Level capable of sustainable procreation
    2. Adequate and Available Resources
    3. Technology (tools)

    These pillars are forged together into sustainable living systems by the actions of an “economy”, whether natural economies (in the case of the animal or plant kingdoms subject to the forces of natural supply and demand surrounding them) or derived economies (in the case of human civilisations who add to the above trade, commerce and monetary systems ). This “economy” is in fact a system of processes and structure providing necessary links between members of a population, the resources necessary for survival, and the tools (technology) they employ to apply those resources to their needs. By definition, all economies must live within the global ecological constraints of the natural world – there are just so many resources available at a given time in a given place, resources that may or may not be refreshed over time. For most creatures adequate resources imply potable water, energy (food, transport, etc.), breathable air, protection from each other and the elements, and a favourable climate permitting adaptation. You might be born with the tools (technology) to survive – claws, fangs, wings, quickness, a sharp eye, acute hearing, intelligence, etc. Or you might use the surrounding resources available to create your own tools – sticks, rocks, fire, hammers, ploughs, swords, electricity, etc.

    Further, there is a definite set of relationships between the “pillars” and existing alongside the economy which cannot be permanently overcome. Populations are dependent upon available natural resources. The fewer resources it has available to it, the less the sustainable population possible. The fewer the resources, the less technology that can be sustained or accessed. Reduce the technological capability and you reduce the population level that can be sustained. Large societies are by default complex societies with ever-growing specialities. As specialities grow, so does the technology to support them. As specialities grow, the more dependent society becomes upon them and the more complex our relationships become, and the more fragile this immensely complex machine called civilisation.

    In the case of humanity it must be observed that certain decisions were made that propelled us into an unsustainable position with regard to the natural order of things as described above. The reasons for making these decisions or how we might have been forced into them, is irrelevant for the purpose here: the fact is that the decisions were made and each had consequences that led to our current intractable state of disconnection with the natural order, living not only beyond our means but also, and much, much worse, depleting the future resources of our progeny leaving them with limited means to sustain themselves into the future. Three of the more relevant decisions:

    1. The adoption of commercial agriculture. This allowed mankind to coalesce into cities and countries and empires and develop specialities whilst being supplied food from the outlying lands. We left our hunter/gatherer/subsistence farming mode of life where we had to lead tough lives within the natural harmony and constraints of our surroundings to take the path of the conquest of Nature instead.

    2. The adoption of an infinite growth economic model where the “sky is the only limit”, wherein the natural world was considered infinitely rich in resources and expansion capability, and where the only limiting factor was price. This lead among many other results to the creation of monstrously efficient devourers of resources and creators of new technologies incorporated under the legal framework called a “corporation” whose sole legal purpose and responsibility in life was to generate capital and profits for its investors and to externalise as many costs as possible.

    3. The adoption of fossil fuels as our primary source of energy. This allowed the human race to step beyond the natural carrying capacity and constraints of the world and pursue our own destiny without many of the limits imposed by our natural surroundings. It allowed for the Industrial Age, the Information Age, the Green Revolution, and the progression of technology to undreamed heights. Plastics, global transport, computer technology, modern medicine, the petro-chemical industry, water and food storage and distribution, commercial agriculture, modern infrastructure (paved roads, modern buildings, air conditioning, heating, aviation/auto/rail industries, computers, wind/solar/nuclear/hydroelectric/geothermal/ wave/coal/oil/gas power generators, et al). These all, and more, came from and are dependent upon fossil fuels, a limited non-renewable resource.

    These decisions ultimately affected every human on earth, even the indigenous throughout all the continents and islands, either positively or negatively, directly or indirectly. And we and our children and all following are now irrevocably committed to the results. Because of the nature of these decisions, there is no ability to back off and pursue another path without huge, and perhaps even mortal, cost to mankind.

    Further, the huge population gains afforded by the adoption of fossil fuels and the fossil-fuel-based technologies developed over the last 200 years have made for an extensive impact upon global resources like potable water, arable land, forests, biodiversity, food, minerals, and metal ores.

    We are now locked into a world system derived from and critically dependent upon infinite growth and cheap, available energy to feed that system. To date we have, as a direct result of a global decision to employ fossil fuels and to build a global economic structure dependent upon cheap credit, grown a population at least three times the natural carrying capacity of the world. We have already over-extended ourselves and are busily sawing off the branch we rest upon. Indeed, once we have reached a point where either (or both) resources and/or credit limits are imposed, the bubble will have no choice but to burst. The only remaining questions are – when, and how long will it take to happen and what will be the lasting impact upon mankind as a species?

    Today as the growth energy of modern civilisation threatens to contract due to scarcity of resources and over-leveraged capital, we will reach a point where major systems will collapse, for a variety of reasons. Food, transport and the global electrical grids are most at risk. When these are finally impacted (and they most surely will be), starvation, disease and pestilence will result and major die-off suffered across the world. Huge resource wars will likely break out among the nations of the earth, and even wars among factions within a country. Critical industries will break down because of crippled global financial systems, rapidly rising costs, a breakdown in the global shipping industry which currently supports 90% of global trade, and lack of people to support the industries (due to die-off). A global die-off will have a quick and disastrous impact upon the ability to maintain modern technology. Critical parts and supplies will become scarce due to economic conditions and the lack of skilled people to operate them, and modern technology will begin a cascading collapse over the course of a relatively few years.

    I believe that those who envision that we will simply go back to a lower standard of living for a time but bounce back someday with a small, but technically advanced, society will be sorely disappointed. Modern civilisation depends heavily upon (1) adequate and available and affordable resources, (2) a high level of technology and (3) huge numbers of people to service that – both as producers and consumers, generating the economies of scale that make possible modern life. Mass consumerism funds research and development to advance technology and global access to resources. The economies of scale inherent due to mass consumerism allow the development of technologies that would not normally be developed due to exorbitant costs – such as advanced specialised medical equipment, and it funds the development of new technologies, tax revenues for social services, infrastructure maintenance, military protection, etc. Take these things away by reducing the population to a relative few living without benefit of a modern economic infrastructure and hugely increased costs of living (food, shelter, transport, utilities) coming from the ongoing corrosion of the economy by ever-declining oil production, and you have a truly desperate situation imposed upon modern civilisation and the technology infrastructure it supports.

    Resources, technology and masses of people. Deplete any of these, and all modernity enters a quick and dirty death spiral – the cusp upon which we stand today. I believe that population and technology are directly proportional. Virtually unrecognised, or at the least under-emphasised, by both the general population and academics alike, is the fact that modern technology relies not only upon resources and energy, but heavily as well upon hordes of people, skilled and unskilled, to support it worldwide – lose the people and you lose the technology. There are reasons why technology and populations fed off each other over the years, and reasons why as population grew, technology became more available and complex. I believe that a small population (<1 billion) living within the constraints of a much simpler and localised social structure cannot maintain adequate support for any level of modern technology due to its heavy reliance upon multitudes of consumers and producers. We no longer have a choice. We can do nothing politically, technologically, socially or scientifically to prevent what must now happen. As soon as the bubble was created, it was destined to burst. The fate of this bubble of civilisation (commercial farming, the building of cities, specialisation, global communication, global commerce, et al) was pre-determined when humans first made the decision to abandon the hunter/gatherer/subsistence farming lifestyle to plough the land and feed their people from its harvest.
    I do not believe the Great Unravelling will happen gradually (with linearity), nor can I believe that it will happen exponentially. It will be a mix, and worse. At first we will endure an undulating, but progressively declining, plateau of global commerce as our ability to feed the “machine” with cheap energy depletes, and we live through a series of economic highs and lows where demand destruction affects the prices and availability of fossil fuels, our prime source of energy. As, however, the rate of production of oil (which energizes 90% of modern transport and commerce) begins its terminal decline, as it must, then this will ultimately remove permanently from us the ability to recover from contracting economies and to maintain current population levels. As true shortages of energy impose themselves upon humanity, our ability to transport goods and grow food will be seriously impaired, leading quickly to significant price spikes across all products and commodities, resulting in collapse of the financial infrastructure, global die-offs of entire populations, economic and political chaos, and resource wars in many places.

    As populations and economies collapse, there will at some point follow a quantum step decrease in technology support as critical technical infrastructure collapses. The most significant impact of the collapse of technical infrastructure will be the loss of the incredibly complex electrical grids that power everything, including communications and the Internet. Such a loss has, of course, significant implications. And it cannot be avoided. As the lights go out, people will be cast almost immediately into the Stone Age again.

    Dust to dust. Earth to earth. We began as creatures of Nature, subject to Nature’s economy. We will, if we survive as a species, return to Nature, only this time severely chastised, never to rise again as a complex society. For at that time our easily and cheaply extracted oil and other fossil fuels will be essentially inaccessible, easily mined metals and minerals will be gone, potable water will be difficult to obtain in most parts of the world without affordable diesel and electricity, most of the agricultural areas of the world will shut down as there will be reduced ability to irrigate and fertilize a soil made sterile through industrial processes highly reliant upon fossil fuels.

    Some will survive for a while, re-using what by-products of civilisation remain – until climate change seeded today begins to take effect in their areas. (NOTE: The effects of climate change and global warming have only started – there is much already in the pipeline that will have significant and lasting impact upon the global environment – even if we were able and willing to shut down all carbon producing activities immediately). Eventually, re-use of products produced by modern technology will decline, as nothing lasts forever. Even those survivalist communities who had the foresight to build their communities in remote areas will, if climate change does not impact them through increasing droughts, flooding, severe hot and cold spells, find themselves more dependent upon modern civilisation and its accompanying technology than they ever thought. As their modern windmills break down, as their solar panels deteriorate, as their water sources dry up, their clothes wear thin, their medical supplies run dry, as their metal-based tools wear out, and the surrounding forests and land is deprived of trees and wildlife by desperate people, most of these communities will fall as well, leaving only isolated and small, scattered communities of people who were lucky enough to find themselves in the right place at the right time surrounded by the right mix of basic skills, resources and natural environment to live off the land. Ultimately, these folks will have to revert to a semi-nomadic life as most of the indigenous peoples of the world have always done in order to survive season to season, hunting and foraging as they can, producing primitive tools with whatever they have naturally available, and with perhaps a bit of subsistence farming thrown in.

    There is no escape.

    We cannot count on salvaging anything of the modern civilisation as we know it today. The best we can hope for today is that communities are formed by thoughtful folks in places deemed least likely to be severely impacted by climate change already in the works, and that these communities work hard and quickly to develop a permaculture-based, localised economy with links set up between communities in the same geographic area to promote skills, re-use, commerce and mutual defence among them. That is a reason why the Internet should be used whilst it remains possible. Use today whilst you can. So much is available to us today that will be gone in the future. So prepare now. Stop trying to save today's world and move on to the next whilst you can. Stop hoping something will come along that will save the day like in the movies. This is no movie and the ending will be so different. Put your hopes and energy into building a new world. I am an old man now, so there remains little that I can do for myself to survive the coming holocaust, but I can encourage the younger lot and advise that now is the time to prepare for your destiny and that of your children and their children. It is imperative that like-minded people like yourselves begin now to communicate with each other (as you of course are doing, but we need this on a wider scale, I fear), coalesce regionally, pool resources and begin the process of building actual communities and developing scarce old skills. Failing this, God help us all.

  • Albert Bates writes of climate change efforts at
    He writes “There is fresh meat in Cancun, including some inexperienced groups still enamored of the vision of a low carbon future that might be achieved just by signing a few international agreements, eating fewer animals, driving hybrid cars and changing light bulbs.

    To the veterans, who are less like drunks and more like near-suicidal PTSD sufferers, a dramatic reduction of energy consumption in a complex society seems quite unlikely, absent some catastrophic event, which in their darker moments some have even begun to hope for. Even Peak Oil is moving too slowly, with shale gas and biofuels propping up near-term supplies. We need a supervolcano.”

    He also quotes George Monbiot which I am excerpting below

    “How should we respond to the reality we have tried not to see: that in 18 years of promise and bluster nothing has happened? Environmentalists tend to blame themselves for these failures. Perhaps we should have made people feel better about their lives. Or worse. Perhaps we should have done more to foster hope. Or despair. Perhaps we were too fixated on grand visions. Or techno-fixes. Perhaps we got too close to business. Or not close enough. The truth is that there is not and never was a strategy certain of success, as the powers ranged against us have always been stronger than we are.

    Greens are a puny force by comparison to industrial lobby groups, the cowardice of governments and the natural human tendency to deny what we don’t want to see. To compensate for our weakness, we indulged a fantasy of benign paternalistic power – acting, though the political mechanisms were inscrutable, in the wider interests of humankind. We allowed ourselves to believe that, with a little prompting and protest, somewhere, in a distant institutional sphere, compromised but decent people would take care of us. They won’t. They weren’t ever going to do so. So what do we do now?

    I don’t know. These failures have exposed not only familiar political problems, but deep-rooted human weakness. All I know is that we must stop dreaming about an institutional response that will never materialize and start facing a political reality we’ve sought to avoid.”


  • Robert Atack. I checked out your YouTube site. Today my husband and I listened to Peter Lloyd on National Radio. Excellent talk – Thanks we will explore more that you have posted. I subscribed as well.

  • Victor, what can I say – yes yes and yes.

    I perhaps talk about dying more than is considered normal. I have apparently from a young age been able to deal with death better than others. It has its advantages to see death more clearly. I could visit nursing homes that others avoided because it depressed them. I could have joy in easing a Hospice patient’s last days and not be devastated no matter how much I came to care for them. I could work in the children’s home in Port-au-Prince and not let the nightly loss of life affect my ability to care for the living.

    Early on when I learned that Peak Oil was imminent, I spent some time looking at implications and decided that there was to be a huge dieoff. I was depressed for a bit but then it dawned on me that of course no one was going to die who wouldn’t die anyway, it was merely a matter of timing coupled with people dying in ways they never expected and of course the matter of whether their genes continued on into the future. Although of course absolutely true, my ability to state that often upsets people. But in fact I think that once you get clear on your mortality (far easier to do if you are “over the hill”) one can stay more clear headed.

    A friend told me that her father when dying of cancer said to her “quality of life matters”. No doubt his quality of life had greatly diminished and death began to look as the better of two bads. And so I continue to urge people to prepare in ways that give them pleasure now and forget this goal of “surviving longer”, “surviving through the bottleneck” or what ever surviving they imagine. We don’t survive in the end. But we are alive today and as we prepare for a changed future we can enjoy coming closer to the planet that gives us life for a time and then returns us to the earth to nourish other life.

  • Victor. I agree with much of what you wrote, but would like to point out that there were some important steps between your 1 and 2.

    The rise in human population was quite slow prior to the Industrial Revolution, and starvation and plague periodically wiped out much population growth. It seems to me that the 14th century Europena lifestyle was more or less infinitely sustainable and could have persisted had there been no further technological development, technological development being the fundamental flaw or ‘sin’ of humanity.

    I put it to you that it was the development of steam pumps that really set humnaity on course for self-annihilation. Pumping water out of mines permitted ever faster consumption of coal, leading to ever faster development of metallurgy, culminating in internal combustion engines and electrical grids etc.

    The development of steam pumps was dependent of a long series of prior technological developments, commencing with the smelting of metals, and including the invention of gunpowder, the development of the ability to bore canons, blacksmithing and the fine machining associated with clockmaking etc. -all regarded as marvels in their time.

    How many people now have the ability to carry out basic metallurgy? I suspect just a few thousand, and I suspect they would be in isolated communities Africa or Asia.

    The average human on this planet, and particulalrly in western societies, has never been more disconnected from the natural world and never been more helpless than now.

    Ii was a bad weekend for me: I was shocked to discover that the organiser of a new sustainability initiative, someone who has superficially been active in the field of sustainability for many years, had never heard of Albert Bartlett! There is a veritable mountain of superb material available that will never be accessed.

    If those who are motivated and active are so uninformed, how can there possibly be amything other than widespread catastrophe?

    Kathy. ‘All I know is that we must stop dreaming about an institutional response that will never materialize and start facing a political reality we’ve sought to avoid.’

    Yes, governments, councils, and BAU CEOs will continue to push the fantasy agenda to the bitter end, and the bulk of the populace will continue to have faith in the fantasies and those who promote them.

    We are on our own, ‘all 15 of us’.

  • Victor,

    Thanks for that clear-eyed assessment of the past and present, and the bravery to look deep into the future (although probably not so deep into time).

    Your assessment of the role of the masses in driving technology was very interesting. I had not thought about it that way, instead I was thinking of technology being the driver and creating the conditions necessary for our huge population. I see now that is a “chicken or egg” situation.

    Your contention that there is no chance of a high tech/low population future civilization seemed spot on to me. Regenerating a complex, technology-rich civilization is made infinitely more difficult because we’ve used up all the easy stuff. Bringing in the first oil well was something that could be done with hand tools and human scale labor. Bringing in the first well of a regenerating civilization 3 miles under the Gulf of Mexico…not so much.

    I’m old too and I agree that the main task for us oldsters is to help in preparing systems that will assist younger folks as we transition into what looks to be a bleak future. I just wasn’t thinking that training regimen should include the best ways for converting ’57 Chevy bumpers into spear points.

    Michael Irving

  • It’s Sunday, so I hope people don’t mind a little sermon….

    I’m enjoying these posts, but I hope people realize that it’s all story telling. On this particular blog people have a story about the future that involves collapse, die-off, return to the Olduvai, etc. There is little attempt to prove this story, just people telling their versions of it repeatedly until the story becomes accepted as true. That’s called a myth folks, just like the stories told in church or the tales the “cornucopians” and “Singularitarians” tell themselves on their blogs. The future has a way of disappointing all prophets, but that never seems to stop anyone!

    I suspect that doomers are not so different from the Singularitarians: they’re rational materialists, often ex-scientists like Guy, who are experiencing a deep spiritual crisis at the prospect of material decline and death. The doomers have chosen to emphasize the negative side of the materialistic coin, but this is a spiritual choice, not an objective understanding of the world. I feel compelled to keep making this point, not because I’m a troll but to try to help people step back from their myths and see the deeper spiritual issues at work. If you can somehow detach yourself from the material world, realize that the universe is far stranger than anyone’s models, and that death may not be the end of the story, then suddenly these myths lose their power.

    I do agree that the world is entering a period of crisis, but it’s not at all clear how things are going to play out, so I would just advise people to keep an open mind and not get stuck in a story that is so dark and horrific. I’ve been stuck there myself, until I realized that my beliefs were literally destroying me, mentally, physically and spiritually. Beliefs are incredibly powerful things, sometimes self-fulfilling prophecies, so I don’t really see the point in believing in the darkest myths imaginable unless you’re some kind of masochist or a very twisted soul.

  • Sean, I’m still a scientist (though I believe rationalist is a better term). I believe in a physical, material universe. And I see good news coming from economic collapse. We might even allow our species to persist a while longer, and we’ll certainly allow that fate for many other species. No magic is needed for this scenario to unfold.

  • Sean, your mistake is to assume that the “dark and horrific” is the end we “doomers” (a convenient label, by the way) envision. I suspect that most others view it as I do: simply a journey to a better, more balanced existence, for all life. It is easy to get caught up in the manner of collapse, I suppose, and to lose sight of a positive result of said collapse. We are all living in a civilization in collapse; those of us who recognize it, and the few who are actually adapting behavior and lifestyle to survive, are enjoying a life richer and more fulfilling than any that industrial society has offered.

    You are right, in that we are telling stories here; but that does not make them less true. If indeed they are ultimately powerless myths, as you suggest, then I will take them over those vomited up by industrial society any day.

  • Sean,

    The pain of birth can be horrific. And sometimes a young woman late in an unplanned (and unwanted ?) pregnancy may feel fears that destroy her mentally, physically and spiritually. But that won’t change the fact that she is pregnant.

    Civilizations are not static, they are constantly changing. The hunter-gatherer /”olduvian lifestyle” never went extint, it just became very rare – there are still many tribals out there still today.

    With this transition this time, maybe industrialism will become the rarity, and pastorial, agri/permaculturalism will become the norm. Maybe even a small sub-population of Homo somewhere, someday will become cyber singularitarians.

    What an incredible journey : )

  • Sean. I must counter your incorrect presumptions. Firstly, I recognised that the present way of life was (is) doomed long before this website even existed. I am sure that is true for many others.

    NBL is a place where people of like mind have congregated because the ‘stories’, as you call them, told here tend to be amongst the most reality-based stories on this planet. The stories of collapse are firmly based on the best available data and therefore can hardly be described as myths.

    Although I am not currently working in the field of science, I am not an ex-scientist. Once a scientist, always a scientist. The scientific way of thinking does not depend on employment.

    As for ‘choosing to emphasise the negative’ I must say: “No, not at all.” What could be more positive than promoting strategies that could maintain life on this planet beyond this century? (as opposed to not promoting them and ensuring life on this planet is largely terminated by business as usual, almost certainly within a few decades). The fact that most people do not want to listen does not negate the narrative.

    Reality is such that if we wanted to be utterly gloomy we would believe the International Energy Agency’s [mythical] projection for substantial growth in oil extraction over the next couple of decades that would render the Earth uninhabitable at a faster rate than is already occuring .

    Whether deep spiritual processes are at work is not provable one way or the other by the scientific method and is highly debatable; I think most contributors to NBL would agreee that the present world has all the appearance of being in the hands of ‘the devil’. Certainly, evil surrounds us and is the guiding hand for most occicial policy.

    Unfortunately, once you know the truth (that we have been lied to from birth by an empire that is destructive and unsustainable) you cannot unknow it.

    In my experirence is is only those who do not know the facts or do not understand their implications who argue against the inevitability of collapse and fail to see that an early collapse is the best outcome possible.

  • Thanks everyone for your gracious comments. I do not always encounter such rational and friendly responses. I’m suspicious!….LOL

    Kathy, thanks for your words about dying. You (and really Sean as well) point out quite correctly that what we are faced with is a spiritual crisis of the first order. Life ..the possibility of imminent death…and how we each and as a people face this very real possibility in the not too distant future. Is death the end? Or as Sean points out merely an entry to what lies beyond? Is death, as Kathy beautifully points out, a continuance of life in that death feeds life in an endless and incredibly elegant cycle? A spiritual crisis indeed.

    Kevin, thanks so much for your comments. I expected nothing less from you!… ;-) You are quite correct in that the steam engine changed everything, and also that it was itself the product of a string of technical accomplishments over the years. I did indeed consider that event. But instead I chose the one defining action on the part of man that energised the modern age and all its possibilities and without which we would likely still be stuck with wood-powered steam engines, and not much beyond. But I readily see your point and respect your view on that (and especially with the comment on metallurgy – an incredibly important point!).

    Sean, you are quite correct. I AM a “doomer”, but not because I revel in the dark side of life, but because after a lifetime of studying humanity and its impact upon the ecology of the world, I could come to no other conclusion as regards our ultimate PHYSICAL destiny. I do not believe this view to be a myth, or a story. It is a well thought out, careful analysis of the historical and current state of affairs we are faced with as a species upon the earth. We are, after all, the only species capable of self analysis and the ability to decide our own destiny – which is part of the reason we are in this pickle – we have other basic character faults that inhibit good decisions, like our seeming inability as a species to look beyond the immediate. On the spiritual side of things I take your points and agree, as before-mentioned, that in the end, it remains a deeply spiritual matter whether we choose to recognise that or not.

    Michael Irving, thanks for your feedback as well. I came across the concept that technology and population levels are related only recently as I noticed that there seem to be many books and papers discussing technology driving population, but almost none that implied the population might drive technology as well, and indeed was likely the original driver – so I cannot really sign up to the idea that technology and population are a “chicken and egg” situation, but instead it was humans dealing with burgeoning population and the need to survive and prosper that drove us to invent a new tool, the plough, that enabled commercial farming, specialisation and the formation of cities and empires. However, that being said as to the answer to this “chicken and egg” thing, I would heartily agree if you said that technology and human population now share a deeply symbiotic relationship.

    This came to me when I was confronted with the likes of John Michael Greer’s assessment of the future of mankind – that (if I interpret him correctly – many apologies if I don’t) humanity would go through an excruciating collapse of civilisation that would in stages covering hundreds of years lead us to a significantly smaller (relative to the present) global population leading a sustainable lifestyle powered by advanced sustainable technology. I began to think about this by looking at our present level of technology and attempting to analyse just what it takes to create, design, engineer, produce, distribute, store, sell, and finance technology today in terms of people. I also had to look at the industries and people required to indirectly support those technologies, from those who produce the food that technologists must eat to those who support the other underlying technologies that must pre-exist in order to produce any given technology. I was led to the conclusion that today’s world is so tightly inter-connected and interdependent that almost any major industry is highly dependent upon literally masses of people acting as both consumers and producers, and that mass production and mass consumerism fuel virtually all advances in knowledge and information and technology today – indeed, that if we were to experience a major population decrease (thus a significant decrease in mass production and consumption), it would quite quickly lead to multiple quantum step-downs in technology capability. No linear decrease. No geometric decrease. Instead we would likely witness a relatively quick succession of discontinuous, quite discrete, downward spiralling steps the end of the path at which we would find ourselves without the means of a return since all low hanging resources fruits have long been picked and have by then lost the means to reach the higher branches. I must say I was both surprised and chilled at the conclusion.

    May I also take just a moment to thank you all for your kind acceptance of me? I only recently was recommended this site as one where I might find folks of similar mind and stimulating thought. I am usually met with a rather deafening silence when I speak of such things elsewhere… ;-)

  • Sean, industrial civilization has made life rather easy and comfortable for first world countries. Third world countries, especially those that have some natural resource the first world wants, are already in a doom scenario and have been so for some time. Agent Orange, Bhophal, Depeleted Uranium, oil pollution in Nigeria, etc. And today 200,000 more people will be born than die. Do you dispute any of that. If you have the guts check out this link which pictures babies born deformed from depleted uranium because of the US imperialistic war in Iraq.

    I do not consider it to be doom thinking to want these horrors to stop. The negative side of the materialistic coin is not a spiritual reality for the people impacted by first world greed, it is a horrific reality. Float if you will in your myths of blessed future but take some time out to check out the real world beyond our borders and more and more within our borders. The horror is already here and spreading, just those in the floating party of 1st world life refuse to look down and see. The sooner it plays out the less people who have to go through it and the more of the planet is saved for future humans and creatures. This is not doom, this is hope.

    I expect that in fact you have some magical thinking that our discussions here are “bad luck” – that naming collapse makes it more likely. It is a very common form of mystical thinking in humans. But while my belief that I might have a car accident might make me scared and a poorer driver and more likely to have a car accident, do you really think that discussions on NBL will make collapse more likely, make it become a self fulfilling prophecy in your words?

  • Quantitative Easing Explained – Humor

  • Enjoying the discussion as much as anyone can. Although, I am wondering whether there is there is a “definitions thread” where common acronyms are defined?

  • “Quantitative Easing Explained”

    Kathy, loved it.

    Mike, not always being up to date on these things myself, I usually give it a quick Google….works nearly every time.

  • Victor, your comments are incredibly insightful. I also recently found Nature Bats Last (NBL) and am glad to be where people can see more deeply into how things fit together. On other sites people will say such things as “well we humans lived without electricity before, we can do it again”. But building that infrastructure on the way down is quite different from building it on the way up. As things collapse few are going to think we need to start forging metal again with a blacksmith. And the high density fuel a blacksmith used, anthracite coal or heart wood is mostly gone. Who when their lifestyle is collapsing will start tanning leather to make the bellows to heat up the smithy’s fire. I could go on and on. Guy I heard you talk about rain collection barrels on one of your talks. My guess they are plastic as you mention preferrable colors. Oak barrels are oak colored. You mention pasteurizing water in glass bottles. When all our saved bottles are cracked will there be a glassblower to make more.

    I had a dream once early on in all of this. In the dream, much like the man in “In the God’s must be crazy”, all the remaining people were taking the metal and marching to the sea to get rid of it. In the dream it seemed the right thing to do. I remember feeling a deep sense of peace about it. Ah well just a dream. No doubt we will cling to our steel fashioning it more into swords than plowshares.

    Re life beyond this life I enjoy the words of Epicurus
    “Faith in immortality was born of the greed of unsatisfied people who make unwise use of the time that nature has allotted us. But the wise man finds his life span sufficient to complete the full circle of attainable pleasures, and when the time of death comes, he will leave the table, satisfied, freeing a place for other guests. For the wise man one human life is sufficient, and a stupid man will not know what to do with eternity.”

  • Kathy,

    Great quote from Epicurus, thanks.

  • “But building that infrastructure on the way down is quite different from building it on the way up.”


    So so true! We still have people with these skills, but they are few and far between, as they say. On the way, every town had its blacksmith and tanner and cobbler and tailor and candlestick maker. Not so today. And when the collapse comes, these folks will be scattered to the winds, IF they survive starvation, disease, pestilence and roaming gangs. It’s the same with so many other of the old skills – today they are more isolated curiosities than real needful jobs. Tomorrow they will be in high demand. But even if you have the skills, you might not have the equipment or supplies to apply those skills, as you rightly pointed out. A huge number of things will have to come together for any particular community of people to survive permanently.

    That is precisely the reason we need to take action NOW – form those communities, gather the necessary supplies and equipment, train up on the skills, disconnect from the current grid. Today might be our only opportunity to get this done whilst we have the technology to position ourselves. Frankly, I don’t know if it can be done, given the absence of low hanging fruit.

    All I know is that we are in a lot deeper shit than most of us realise, and we truly need to get our heads together to chart a way forward. That’s where our creative energies should be spent in these times, I think….

    It might be that the best we can hope for is to form communities and try to work out jointly what is possible given the resources we might have.

    I am certainly open to suggestions there…

  • Victor,

    How can you motivate and get people to act before the panic? Right now most people are still going about their daily lives. Until they are face to face with house loss, job loss, health crisis, etc., they will continue as usual. Oh, you might get 1 or 2 interested for a few weeks, but beyond that the only sustaining motive is money. Even, fear and pain wane with time. People have to be pushed out of their current position, and have no way of avoiding any new situation without considerable effort. Even hurricane warnings, which are within the experience of those being warned, are to a good degree discounted.

  • Mike,

    Don’t feel like the Lone Ranger. I have to Wiki everything. Just yesterday Kevin (I think) was amazed by the fact that one of his associates didn’t know who Albert Bartlett was. To which I thought, “Who?” So, following the links out, just like I do with Guy, I got a delightful math lesson. For me, that is one of the best things about NBL (Nature Bats Last [Ha!]). There are so many really smart people here and they have such a wide range of experiences and ideas that sometimes I feel like a wide-eyed schoolboy sitting at the feet of Socrates. In this school they even let you speak.

    Michael Irving

  • Curtis,

    That is precisely the problem. We are creatures who have a short-term mentality. Present me with a crisis, and I will react accordingly. If it is not a crisis now, or I do not perceive it as a crisis, why bother? Perhaps it will never come about…then all that effort wasted. It is only a story. Not provable. A myth. Might well never happen.

    This is why it will be virtually impossible to do as I suggest…perhaps there are a few of us in the world who see this coming, but so what?


    Prof Bartlett is excellent. So many people have learned from him.

  • Victor, you got me thinking. It is pretty hard to build the kind of community you suggest when you can’t get people to see where things are headed. I have been involved in some attempts at community in the past (before my peak oil awareness). Too many young people were just playing at simple living for my taste (as in let me help you in the garden for an hour so I can “experience” gardening sort of attitude).

    Although there may well be exceptions, in most cases I think most communities of cooperating people will form when the shit hits the fan and not before.

    BUT what about this. If we want to give a gift to the future why not a library of useful texts. Perhaps each of us can share book ideas of useful instructions for simple living. I am thinking wildfoods, insects, making rope, soap etc. Especially those of us who are older could be building up libraries for the future. It is often hard to know what books will have really useful, simple information so if we share with each other those that we have found to be well done, we might simplify the process of leaving a trove of “lost” knowledge.

    Stockpiling really useful tools to help transition might be another gift we can give. I have a lifetime of bow saw blades (plus a stockpile of vaseline which keeps the blades from rusting between use), and 800 hours of emergency candles. Matches, matches, matches in plastic zip bags. So cheap. So valuable. But again a book or description of how to make fire without matches would be a boon.

    We have a hand pump in a drilled well. Perhaps that will help community form here when it is sorely needed even though I tend to be a loner. We will share water with all….

    As I work in my garden I like to think I am giving a gift to the future as I build fertile soil. I don’t know who if anyone will use it. I don’t know if my sons or my husband’s kids will come here. I don’t know if climate change will turn Alabama into a desert. But the soil is getting so lovely as the years go by. Rich in color, texture and smell. Well it is a gift to me now and the worms and biota that inhabit it. Maybe it will serve someone else as well…

  • Kathy,

    Wouldn’t it be great if an organisation (small, but with a global reach) could be formed that could formulate a practical strategy for survival, collect supplies and hardcopy survival information, plant these in various prime locations across the world, seek out potential contacts who when TSHTF will likely then step up to the plate and provide scarce skills and knowledge? Surely there exists some small set of crazy people who might be willing to fund such an operation if it were well thought out. The ideal would be to prepare the ground for those who are unwilling or unable to act now.

    Just thinking off the top of my head….

  • Victor one group has stockpiled seed
    “Barely two years after it opened, a unique Arctic “doomsday” stockpile of all the world’s crop seeds has reached the half-million species mark, the foundation that oversees it said Thursday.”

    Personally I prefer to do things personally. My experience with groups is not good. I was involved with Habitat for Humanity when it was barely off the ground floor. Within 10 years it became BAU (Business as Usual) IMHO (In my humble opinion).

    So I do what I feel I can do and leave organizing to others. We are involved in a small group trying to save our Town Charter so we can keep development out. 2 years in and I am sick and tired of the infighting and hassles. And these are my neighbors with whom I will have to try to work with post collapse. It is not promising. They brush me off when I tell them it doesn’t matter because development isn’t coming. They think the recession is temporary.

    So I will buy more tools and order any “how to” book anyone tells me would be good. I will save more non-hybrid seeds. But searching out folks to fund and facilitate a larger project I will leave to others. Anyway I don’t think we have time. Guy wrote “Of the fifty or so energy-literate scholars I read, about half indicate the new Dark Age starts within a year, and a large majority of the other half give us less than two years” I think that is about right. Hopefully time enough to get in this year’s seed order for those things I haven’t started saving seeds for yet.

    And as I have stated before I doubt we ride this out without the Nukes going off.

  • Just finished listening to your live radio feature. Well done, Guy. I hope others heard your message too, and not just heard but really *listened*.

    As far as your comment about national and local leaders doing nothing about making changes and in fact sweeping your message under the rug, I believe their general policy is summed up by this line from the movie “Men in Black”: “There’s always an Arquillian Battle Cruiser, or a Corillian Death Ray, or an intergalactic plague that is about to wipe out all life on this miserable little planet, and the only way these people can get on with their happy lives is that they DO… NOT… Know about it!” In other words, the leaders of our culture are very aware that their livelihoods depend on the status quo. They don’t want to worry their constituents because most people will not act appropriately on that news; they’ll just panic and vote for a different leader who will tell them what they want to hear. People just want to get on with their happy little lives. But I’m preaching to the choir here…

  • Wendy,

    Preaching to the choir, yes, but it is important for us (readers here and like minded people) to keep reminding one another that the Arquillian Battle Cruiser is coming and that even though we are listening to a different drummer that does not mean he is playing the wrong tune.

    Michael Irving

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