Excerpts on Education

The blogosphere is rife with discussion of education, with a particular focus on higher education. In the spirit of beating a dead horse joining the fray, I’ve dredged up a few excerpts from Letters to a Young Academic, a book I wrote in 2003-2004 (and which was published in 2006).

This book is my most comprehensive piece of social criticism. Reading these excerpts gives a glimpse into how well I fit into the academy, even though I’m leaving out the parts about an empire in decline (which was obvious even in 2003).

I appreciate your tolerance of references to earlier chapters (which were written as a series of letters). If you find these references too onerous (or better yet, too tempting), feel free to track down the book at your local library.

Chapter VII

According to Louis Schmier, Valdosta’s inspiring teacher and philosopher, “Education boils down to acquiring the desire, confidence, and courage to question the answers.” Good teaching instills these traits, thereby encouraging students to a life of intellectual inquiry. Such inquiry requires that each of us admit our ignorance, and relish the opportunity to overcome it. We are all ignorant, albeit about different things. Learning from each other allows us to employ collective action in the battle against individual ignorance.

Whether two heads are better than one depends on the heads in question. But it is difficult to imagine a scenario in which a dozen humble, appropriately motivated heads are not better than one. This is essentially the idea of a “corps of discovery” to which I referred in my description of subject-centered education, but with a good dose of humility tossed in to the mix.

As I mentioned earlier, the “sage on the stage” philosophy of teaching has been largely abandoned by contemporary educators in this country (if not in China, Africa, and England), in part because students do not learn particularly well from this approach. In addition, there is every reason to believe we can all learn more by starting from a point of humility that recognizes and values knowledge from all points in the classroom. If you are more intelligent than students in some sense, you likely are less intelligent than some of them in many other arenas. For the most part, it is your persistence rather than your intellect that is rewarded by a position in academia.

With that in mind, I encourage you to remember who works for whom in the academy. For starters, you serve the students (and through your scholarship, the remainder of society), and so on, down to the university president. You will not be surprised to learn that administrators often forget how this works: As you’ve likely heard, power corrupts, thereby turning educational hierarchy on its head. Ideally, a department head works at making it easy for you to work for your students. (In my case, the opposite is true. But I know there are department heads who follow this model.) Higher-level administrators, in turn, work for the administrators “below” them on the organizational chart, securing funding, buildings, and infrastructure to support higher learning.

What is higher learning? My favorite definition was provided by Thomas Angelo in a 1993 issue of the bulletin of the American Association of Higher Education: “Higher learning is an active, interactive, self-aware process that results in meaningful, long-lasting changes in knowledge, understanding, skills, behaviors, attitudes, beliefs, opinions and/or values — that can not be attributed primarily to maturation.” This seems a reasonable definition for all education, instead of simply the “higher” variety.

The goal, according to this view, is to produce long-lasting change in our students. Notice that knowledge and skills represent only a portion of higher education’s broad goal. Ultimately, the primary focus is on changes well below the surface: understanding, behaviors, attitudes, beliefs, opinions, and values. If all goes according to plan, we change ourselves in the process of changing our students. In the best of all possible worlds, we all learn empathy, that rarest of attributes that, in sufficient quantities, would eliminate racism, sexism, inequity, poverty, and war from the planet. Personally, I’ve rarely had an argument or taught a class in which I was not changed by the experience.

As with much of what we do, when we are acting in the best interests of our students, we will meet considerable resistance. The difficulty and discomfort associated with learning makes many people quite averse to it. Further, as former President Bill Clinton used to say, “People like change in general, but not in particular.” Most people especially dislike changes that strike closest to them, and there is little doubt that learning is on this list. Perhaps the best we can hope for is to serve as role models, reveling in the experience of learning and hoping students will follow.

On specific role we can serve is that of inquisitor (with a small “i”). By constantly probing, and encouraging students to do the same, we often discover that we know more than we first imagined, especially collectively. In addition, the practice of posing questions and using evidence to answer them is a valuable exercise in and of itself.

Perhaps the greatest source of humility surrounds us every day. When I was a child of about ten years, I used to lie on the backyard lawn nearly every summer night, staring at the haunting mystery of the starlit sky. The Idaho town of a few hundred people in which I lived produced little light pollution, so with unaided eyes I could see the stars of Pleiades and all the brighter stars. Many of these nights under the stars I wept uncontrollably at my insignificance in the universe. I had never heard of Carl Sagan, but I knew I was cosmically inconsequential, dwarfed as I was by the “billions and billions of stars” above me.

I am humbled that, like the millions of other species on planet Earth, we find ourselves in the magnificent position of occupying the only planet in the universe known to support life. My humility grows deeper when I realize that we have no idea how many species share the globe with us, not even within an order of magnitude. I marvel at the beauty, wonder, and complexity of each one of these species. Then I marvel at our power as we single-handedly drive half the species with which we share the planet to extinction.

That we have this power is truly awesome. That we use it to exterminate the species with which we share the world is the height of hubris.

These days, I rarely cry when I gaze upward at the night. But I often weep when I realize how badly we are misusing our power.

Life, in its myriad forms, is almost certainly the greatest wonder in the universe. In the universe, as far as we know, life is restricted to planet Earth. Arguably, the other great wonder of the universe is the human mind, that complex product of natural selection that allows us to ask who we are, how we came to be, and why we are here. It’s the mind, in other words, that inspires sufficient awe to bring us to tears in the face of nature’s grandeur.

Chapter XV

The entire system of public education in the United States was designed specifically to prevent students from thinking for themselves. That’s a pretty strong assertion, so I will review the evidence that supports it.

In an earlier letter, I quoted Jules Henry’s book, Culture Against Man: “School is indeed a training for later life not because it teaches the 3 Rs (more or less) but because it instills the essential cultural nightmare fear of failure, envy of success, and absurdity.” Henry reached this conclusion after spending hundreds of hours in the classrooms of our public school system and reviewing a mountain of published evidence. His scathing critique of American culture strongly supports the notion that individuality and creativity are purposely eviscerated from students well before they complete high school.

The roots of the cultural crisis run much deeper than the counter-culture days of the 1960s, and well beyond the sphere of education. But education has long been fundamental to the destruction of individuality, creativity, and, for lack of a better word, soul. Consider, for example, a few words in a speech to businessmen by President Woodrow Wilson: “We want one class to have a liberal education. We want another class, a very much larger class of necessity, to forgo the privilege of a liberal education and fit themselves to perform specific difficult manual tasks.” Wilson’s sentiments echoed those of William Torrey Harris in his 1906 book The Philosophy of Education: Ninety-nine [students] out of a hundred are automata, careful to walk in prescribed paths, careful to follow the prescribed custom. This is not an accident but the result of substantial education, which, scientifically defined, is the subsumption of the individual.” In vogue with his time, Harris extended the idea of subsumption to the land as well as the individual: “The great purpose of school can be realized better in dark, airless, ugly places …. It is to master the physical self, to transcend the beauty of nature.” As I indicated in previous correspondence, Harris was the U.S. commissioner of education from 1889 to 1906.

Harris was not the only influential educator willing to express his desire for docile American citizens during 1906. That same year, the Rockefeller Education Board, a major advocate of compulsory public education, issued this statement: “In our dreams … people yield themselves with perfect docility to our molding hands. The present educational conventions [intellectual and character education] fade from our minds, and unhampered by tradition we work our own good will upon a grateful and responsive folk. We shall not try to make these people or any of their children into philosophers or men of learning or men of science. We have not to raise up from among them authors, educators, poet or men of letters. We shall not search for embryo great artists, painters, musicians, nor lawyers, doctors, preachers, politicians, statesmen, of whom we have ample supply. The task we set before ourselves is very simple … we will organize children … and teach them to do in a perfect way the things their fathers and mothers are doing in an imperfect way.”

The statement by the Rockefeller Education Board and the book by Harris were preceded a year earlier by Elwood Cubberly’s dissertation at Columbia Teachers College. The future dean of education at Stanford University wrote that schools should be factories “in which raw products, children, are to be shaped and formed into finished products … manufactured like nails, and the specification for manufacturing will come from government and industry.”

Tracing these ideas further back in time, we find the 1888 Report of the Senate Committee on Education, a summary of which is provided by a single sentence on page 1,382 of this gargantuan document: “We believe that education is one of the principal causes of discontent of late years manifesting itself among the laboring classes.” According to John Taylor Gatto, award-winning educator and author of the 1992 book Dumbing Us Down, the committee was justifiably nervous about the high qualify of education provided by nonstandardized, local schools where students were actually taught to think for themselves. The Senate Report parallels the 1897 writings of famous philosopher and industrial educator John Dewey. Dewey’s famous pedagogic creed, first published in The School Journal, included this thought about the role of teachers in society: “I believe that every teacher … should realize he is a social servant set apart for the maintenance of the proper social order and the securing of the right social growth.” Cubberly provided the “proper social order” and the “right social growth” less than a decade after Dewey and the U.S. Senate supplied the rationale for herding the masses on behalf of business.

In other words, the captains of industry and leaders of government set out to create an educational system that would maintain social order (and increase their profits). How? By teaching students just enough to serve industry but not enough so they could think for themselves. Questioning the sociopolitical order and communicating articulately were not part of the plan. Americans were to become drones in a government-subsidized country ruled by corporations. While Reagan-era neo-conservatives were excoriating communism as a system in which government controls industry, they were promoting a system built on an even worse idea, one in which industry controls government.

Mind you, the development and implementation of K-12 concentration camps is not part of some giant conspiracy. Rather, it is the outcome of the way our educational system was created. Most of the people who originally developed the system believed they were doing the right thing, and they did not try to hide their plans or intentions. It was completely consistent with the perspective, derived from religious organizations, that the domination, cohesion, and vitality of society were inversely related to individualism; permitting free inquiry and action were anathema to control by religious societies and also by corporate society.

Today, the blueprint of “education to serve corporations” remains unchanged. Although the reasons behind the blueprint have been largely obscured by history, they are still known by many contemporary educators. As clinical psychologist Bruce Levine wrote in Commonsense Rebellion: “I once consulted with a teacher of an extremely bright eight-year-old boy labeled with oppositional defiant disorder. I suggested that perhaps the boy didn’t have a disease, but was just bored. His teacher, a pleasant woman, agreed with me. However, she added, ‘They told us at the state conference that our job is to get them ready for the work world … that the children have to get used to not being stimulated all the time or they will lose their jobs in the real world.'” In other words, citizens who are capable of thinking for themselves cannot properly serve the corporations that run the country.

The main point of this history lesson is simple, and you’ve heard me say it before: Get used to swimming upstream. Most people do not want to think for themselves (or perhaps they actually think they are doing so, which is even more terrifying). In fact, they have only rarely been asked to think for themselves. A century of standardized education in support of business pushes society ever closer to corporate hegemony and therefore, in the case of American-style capitalism, ever closer to exterminating the world’s cultures and species. A fine recent example of standardization at the expense of thoughtful reflection is the federal No Child Left Behind Act, a bill strongly supported by Business Party I and Business Party II before being signed in January 2002 by self-proclaimed “business” (and later “wartime”) president, George W. Bush.

None of which gives you the right to surrender, of course. If resistance is futile, all hope is lost.

I think the short video below gets it right, for the most part, in a palatable manner. Thanks to now-and-then commenter bubbleboy for sending it my way.


This essay is permalinked at Energy Bulletin. They like my writing, especially if it has nothing to do with energy and the consequences of expensive energy for the industrial economy.


My monthly essay for Transition Voice is out today: If the Earth could talk.

Comments 116

  • Yes and it took me 3 years of living in the USA to identify what was WRONG with the education system I found myself involved in through my children and that it had NOTHING to do with my inability to adapt to a different system in a different country, but that the education system itself resembled not at all that which i was transplanted from. As an educator myself it wasn’t until the discomfort reached epic proportions for my lads that I looked deeper and discovered the problem wasn’t one of adjustment at all. It was one of not being allowed to ask questions and be creative. Unfortunately for them the extreme’s could not have been sharp from a collaborative vertically grouped educational base in Western Australia to a regimental lock step elementary school in upstate NY…..

    I now home school my kids….. I have been an educator of primary school children over 20 years and mistakenly thought i was well equipped to help my kids adapt to learning in what appeared on the surface a similar system to Australia.

    How wrong i was. I should have realized when i looked at the buildings… that was my first clue. They look like prisons not places of enlightenment. But that’s just me.

    I really dislike the word Hegemony and how it has become a blueprint for mediocrity and obedience. Indeed we will continue to swim upstream and against the current… because anything else is giving up. Thanks for a great read. Wendy

  • Thank you Guy for the work you do in educating others. We too home schooled our children up through 3rd grade and often wonder why we didn’t go longer. Probably didn’t have the confidence that we could teach them something different than what the system teaches.

    Both my husband and I have been trying to find others to share our homestead with and have noticed how people all want to have their own possessions (material wealth). The education system promotes more competition than cooperation which breeds more self-centered behavior, greed and wastefulness.

    My husband attended a parochial school for nine years that taught strict obedience and not to question authority. We should of been taught to question authority as well as their answers, I believe Jim Hightower stated this several years ago.

    We are encouraging people to buddy up like they did in school with fire and tornado drills. Our first post, Time to Find a Dance Partner speaks of the opportunities that await those who are able to share emotional support, resources and skills rather than “go it alone.”

    You can follow us at http://embracingcollapse.blogspot.com/

    thanks again Guy,

  • Thanks for the link to your website, Gardengate. I encourage readers here to check it out, and to especially note the invitation to work with others who’ve already done much of the heavy lifting. This looks like a great opportunity to me.

  • “Being intelligent is not a felony, but most societies evaluate it as at least a misdemeanor.”

  • Guy, thank you. Wish I could have had you for a teacher. Some students however think anyway. Quietly sit in class behaving, and thinking…. I was pretty lucky to live in a suburb of Buffalo that had well funded schools and teachers with some better understandings of the point of education.

    From the last topic thanks for the link about the nukes – not pleasant reading – chilling in fact when you let it set in.

  • Turbo to continue from the previous thread, I am amazed that I tell you a smattering of what I do in the garden and you anoint me as maestro :) However I do feel a bit about my garden – it is a cooperative venture with me and the plants. I direct a bit and let them also direct me. How do you teach that to anyone else? You can teach bits and pieces but how do you teach anyone to learn from their plants. I tell people that and they look at me like I am crazy. This relates to what Guy wrote above. People who come out of our education system want you to tell the to do x and y to get z. I don’t work like that.

    I am no good with estimating measurements so I can’t say the size of my garden for sure – maybe 1/4 acre. I can tell you my garden is not big enough to feed me and my husband but it gives us maybe 1/2 our food. It has taken 10 years to turn it from clay ruined by cotton farming and logging into something I am almost satisfied with. I have hauled in loads and loads of leaves for mulch from town. Frankly with body parts giving way I am doing a bit less each year – just letting parts sit fallow. Don’t give me a pep speech please about how vigorous your mother is at the same age. Genes and history give us each unique situations. The meniscus tear in my good knee this year has really put a crimp in my activities. My bad knee was from a ligament tear or strain digging potatoes 12 years ago. It has never been the same. It bothers me now some because I am using it to compensate for the new injury. I am trying for self healing on the tear as I don’t have insurance, and the operation I have read can lead to early arthritis, and it would put me totally out of commission right when my major work is starting. I have my little wheeled garden stool which sort of solves the problem of not kneeling or squatting. But getting back up is an event in itself that takes a moment of contemplation about foot and hand placement.

    But here is the elephant in the room. Climate chaos. I have gardened from Buffalo to Tn to California, to Georgia, to NC to AL. Each local has its own climate and soil and there is a learning curve to go through each time. Now that I have AL down pretty good, in comes unpredictable climate change. Humans developed agriculture upon which civilization was built during 10,000 years of unusually stable climate https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2009/nov/30/era-of-climate-stability-end Now things begin to wobble. What that meant for us last year was the longest hot spell I remember. We have had hotter, but not that hot that long. Add drought. Our well started pumping drilling tailings so I had to reduce and in cases stop watering and sacrifice some plants. But even things that got watered suffered. I knew that grains produce significantly less as the heat rises. Well I found out so do field peas and green beans. Field peas are a staple – easy to grow, easy to dry – very nutritious. My yield was about 1/2 normal and green beans down by at least 1/3. And then I contemplate pumping with the hand pump well….. and try another “supposedly” heat resistant variety here and there with not a lot of success.

    It will get worse not only in temp rise but in the kind of variability of climate that makes planning a garden, farming, nigh unto impossible. This shit has only just begun to hit the fan.

    Any rate my best advice would be for you to adopt a peasant farmer, if they would be good enough to share their skills with you. Peasant farmers, the despised of the world, are agricultural survivors par excellence.

    Meanwhile I will garden till I can’t. It is my joy.

  • As a high school teacher all I seem to be doing lately is shaking my head. My last few weeks in the public education system will be bitter sweet. On one hand I will miss my students and their bulletproof mentality. What I won’t miss is the process used to break their will. Twelve years in and I’m out. I’ve seen and experienced enough to know why collapse is upon us. We are creating mindless consumers and I simply can no longer participate in this mess. That being said, I am thankful for the experience. It has taken me to a place in my life that is exciting and full of promise. I look forward to becoming a student of life.

  • Thanks for sharing that with us Guy.

    I find myself increasingly at a loss for words as the big picture becomes clearer, and I realise the level of corruption and manipulation that characterises the system.

    Professor Paul Connett recently toured NZ to raise awareness of the fluoridation scam.

    Fluoride has been added to drinking water for decades on the basis that it improves the resistance of tooth enamel to decay. It turns out that the studies that ‘proved’ the case for fluoride were unscientific, and the benefits grossly exaggerated. There is accumulating evidence that fluoride is a serious health hazard, and one study China clearly indicates high levels of ingestion of fluoride reduces IQ.

    I had always regarded use of fluoride as a dumbing-down agent something of a ‘conspiracy theory’ but now I’m not so sure. Fluoridation commenced in the US (as a means of getting rid of waste from fertilser production?) and is prevalent in nations heavily influenced by the US.

    More food for thought.

    Fluoridation will cease when the industrial system collapses. It’s just a question of how long we have to wait.

    Whether flouride causes dumbing down or not, its effect is insignificant compared to the effect of television. We can choose not to watch the garbage that comes from the box, but can those who have been brainwashed into believing the pabulum is real and worthwhile make that choice?

    Though we can disengage from the insanity of maintream culture, we cannot escape the pollutants that industrialism puts into the general environment. Nor can we challenge the system. I see the delegation that went to London to hold BP to account were quickly disposed of by the system.

  • very, very nice Guy. u’r words about the stars, the cosmos; & extinction gave me new appreciation for u. thanks.

  • Kevin, a good book on the fluoride subject is “The Fluoride Deception” – fluoride was first a waste of the early nuclear “In essence, the uranium and fluoride that was necessary for enriching of the uranium and produced this by-product ” It is a waste of phosphate fertilizer processing and also a waste of aluminum processing.


    I have tiptoed around this subject with my son because his wife is a dentist educated in the US system and thus indoctrinated on fluoride. Recently the top level to be added to local water supplies was reduced. And somewhere between when I was a kid and now there are warnings about not using fluoride toothpaste for kids under a certain age and not swallowing it.
    Keep out of the reach of children under 6 years of age. If you accidentally swallow more than used for bushing, seek professional assistance or contact a Poison Control Center immediately. As with other toothpaste, if irritation occurs discontinue use.
    DIRECTIONS: Adults and children 2 years and older. Apply toothpaste onto a soft bristle toothbrush. Brush thoroughly after meals or at least twice a day or as directed by a dentist or physician. Children under 6 years: To minimize swallowing, use a pea sized amount supervise brushing until good habits are established. Children under 2 years: Ask a dentist or physician.

    After a few back and forths recently with my son, I told him continental Europe added toothpaste for a while, but stopped in the 70’s. If it really helped with tooth decay why wouldn’t they have noticed and re-instituted it. He stopped discussing it with me then.

    They live in Hawaii which doesn’t fluoridate and think that is why the observe more cavities in kids there. I suggested perhaps diet, attention to tooth care, and even genetic differences in the population might also be reasons that could be posited. Didn’t get anywhere…..

    Whether it dumbs us down or not I don’t know. The book I mentioned talks about dental fluorosis and bone cancer and hip fractures in elderly women as risks of fluoride ingestion.

    Jared Diamond suggests that selection may have dumbed us down. The hunter-gatherers he lived with relied on their wits for survival and wits therefore would be selected as a trait. Obviously many jobs in Western Civilization don’t require much in the way of wits and thus there would be no or less selection pressure for intelligence.

  • As usual, deeply thoughtful posts by Dr. McPherson both here and at Transition. Of course with TEOTWAWKI “ejumacation” (to use a term I learnt in rural Kentucky) will also necessarily be part of that shake-up, and one can only surmise what might emerge on the other side of that bottleneck.
    Having had only postgraduate clinical training in the uS, I had no occasion to acquire any familiarity with the system. And the military training is a system unto itself. The only time I have ever been inside a K-12 school (in this country) was to vote because the polling station was set up in that school. What seemed most surreal about it was the provision of plaques and trophies on display commemorating feats involving the propulsion of spherical and toroidal objects through space and of locomotion. There was not a single instance of the commemoration of academic achievement. One would not be able to guess that the place had anything to do with ejumacation. And indeed, it is a subtle reminder of where the priorities are: where I went to school the plaques and trophies were for academic achievement. Later I came to be aware that academic achievement is intentionally downplayed to promote “equality”. One has to be grateful to “the gods” that one did not spend one’s formative years in such a system.
    Of course, if academic achievement were ip be nurtured and acclaimed, it would upset the apple-cart. Hence the outliers, particularly when nonconforming (as they are wont to be) have to be labelled and chemically treated.
    The key to survival for the intelligent in the system is twofold: putting on a charade of participation, and engaging in the deceptive practice of appearing mediocre: both contribute to the training of the successful psychopath/sociopath.
    And the system provides training rather than education. Training is the acquisition of a skill set (inclusive of a dataset/knowledge base), however sophisticated. this acquisttion enables one to deal with conditions and situations described within the scope of that skill set, be it carpentry or neurosurgery or theoretical physics. It is the ability to deal with a novel situation – such as the zone of inhibition around a mold in a petri dish, or the persistence of what appeared to be static in a radio telescope, the former leading to penicillin and the latter being identified as background radiation providing evidence for the Big Bang – that separates the educated from the technicians. Such instances are not infrequent with individual patients in medicine, but one has to have sufficient “training” in that field to recognize it in others.

  • Kathy:

    I did see your air-conditioning / air cooling comment yesterday, but due to fatigue and a full agenda, didn’t have time to address it last night.

    I have a response posted.

    There’s one for you too, Guy.


    Yep, bajillions of events are considered in a risk assessment. (Something has to fill those 1000s of pages.) And agreed, conjecture is a good thing when based upon fact and realistic assumptions. I’m not convinced, however, that everyone on NBL is in the business of risk assessment and mitigation. There’s a lot of wishful speculation.

  • “Jared Diamond suggests that selection may have dumbed us down. The hunter-gatherers he lived with relied on their wits for survival and wits therefore would be selected as a trait. Obviously many jobs in Western Civilization don’t require much in the way of wits and thus there would be no or less selection pressure for intelligence.”

    Give the movie… er… Documentary Idiocracy a watch… Actually don’t, it’s very scary and dumb all at the same time. While it’s a quite stupid movie, it slams close to home how we as a society have collectively lost a staggering amount of intelligence. It is particularly apt when it comes to the absolute travesty our public education system has become, the subject at hand in this entry.

    My favorite quote from that movie is: “Oh yeah, I like money!”

    I find it an absolutely surreal moment to be in 100% agreement with you Privileged. It is deplorable how our public school system doesn’t just have as a side effect to tear out the individuality, free thinking, and worst of all critical thinking skills, it seems as if that is the main reason our children are sent there! If you’re done with the dance, good luck to you in your future endeavors.

    On your garden Kathy: And this is why I kept insisting you were a treasure, Kathy. You can do things with a patch of dirt that I would only walk across like a heavy footed baboon. (Or Terrorist ;p Terry) While I, or someone like me might not be able to pick up level of mastery you have attained, we’d glean a pointer or five, and would probably pass them on.

    And that’s the rub. Giving as much as you got. You’re the ant, show others how to be too.

    I understand injury to legs. Got banged up pretty bad over in the box. Broke my Fibula, Tibia, the malleolis OFF my tibia and dislocated my right ankle in one swoop. Not to scare you, but the injury didn’t hurt a thousandth as much as the SURGERY! Changed me as a person, that pain did.

    Must not have been drinking my flouride! ;)

  • Ah Turbo thanks for the comment. I see you found a new nemesis in The Virgin Terry. It just seems like yesterday we were doing battle. Welcome back.

  • Kathy,

    Time to move north, perhaps?

    Michael Irving

  • Oh, he’s hardly as formidable an opponent. ;)

    His heart’s in the right place though. :)

  • Broken bones, if the fragments are properly aligned and immobilized, could heal with good results. Cartilage injuries, such as menisceal tears, do not heal: even surgery consists of smoothing out the jagged edges and corners. The loss of cartilage trimmed away in surgery contributes to age-related degenerative arthritis.

  • Although individual cases can vary widely, the ankle has (and needs) less mobility and is a more stable joint than the knee: knee motion limitation tends to to be more symptomatic. Chronic ankle problems are sometimes treated by an arthrodesis; not so with knee problems.

  • Excellent post, Guy. As usual you confirm my worst fears about our globalised society. And I can so clearly see where I am a product of that education in so many ways. Profoundly and personally disturbing.

    Just as the corporate culture has stretched its power and influence across the girth of the world, so has it begun to capture education from the earliest age. Indeed, even openly more and more as we as a society are beginning to gratefully accept direct corporate support for our various educational institutions – as long, of course, as the training given promotes certain corporate standards and ideals.

    Loved the video you embedded – says it all for education. Education today indeed is not a grand conspiracy, but in reality a deeply embedded sub-culture, part of and fully identified within a greater corporate culture.

    The corporate culture IS the new world culture. It must pervert and subsume governments, cultures, religions, the arts, educational norms and business practice, forming them into a cohesive wholeness of a production/consumption global society.

    It’s weakness, however, and consequently the greatest danger to mankind and the natural world, is that it is a mindless, amoral and rapacious behemoth bent upon one and only one goal – profit.

    God help us.

  • Resa

    There’s a lot of wishful speculation.

    You might have a point there….Sometimes I wonder how one can possibly think that things will be suddenly rosy after the Collapse. In the first instance we will in actuality be extremely fortunate to survive as a species. In the second instance how can anyone believe that those who survive will be endowed with any other ideals and behavioural standards than those they were formed with prior to Collapse? I believe it might take several generations to form a new cultural set.

  • Though we can disengage from the insanity of maintream culture, we cannot escape the pollutants that industrialism puts into the general environment. Nor can we challenge the system. I see the delegation that went to London to hold BP to account were quickly disposed of by the system.


    I am not so optimistic that we can ‘disengage from the insanity of mainstream culture’. The system we live in is too large, too complex, too permeating to disengage. It has a life of its own, and we as individuals are but small cogs in that vast machine. We can’t disengage – we can only misbehave…. ;-)

  • Robin, what I read says that meniscus tears if on the outer edge can heal on its own depending

    “How your orthopaedic surgeon treats your tear will depend on the type of tear you have, its size, and location. The outside one-third of the meniscus has a rich blood supply. A tear in this “red” zone may heal on its own, or can often be repaired with surgery. A longitudinal tear is an example of this kind of tear.”


    Since I have improved so much wouldn’t that indicate some self healing?

    Any rate like many who are uninsured, self rationing of health care will increasingly be the norm.

  • Michael, the terms Climate Warming gives people a false idea. Climate chaos is more likely. The problem is partly what the weather is, but even more so how predictable the weather is. People can learn to do quite a bit of farming in dry areas. But if it suddenly turns very wet it can ruin the crop. Likewise if you plant planning for wet and it suddenly turns dry you are in trouble. People say oh we will farm in Canada. Well you move up to where the permafrost is the permafrost will become unfrosted but you will have very different soil from Kansas (not to mention having to rebuild a whole infrastructure and abandon the embedded energy in the old location at a time when energy is becoming scarce). This is family land of my husbands family. We have talked of moving, but we won’t. The thought of starting over somewhere else as I have so many times in the past is not a happy thought for me. We will die here – whenever.

  • Resa, I understand about cold storage and how the ground can be a heat sink. The pictures still lead me to believe that there is more heat generation than can be covered by heat sink – they looked pretty close together and numerous. I wonder if your cool buildings would stay cool if you had a small electric heater in them – or quite a few small electric heaters. Despite a few more web searches the closest I got to fans is one that article about it mentioned the word ventilation.

    You wrote “The link you provided in one of your earlier posts brought up an illustration of the vitrified waste storage facility at Sellafield That solid waste is stored below-grade in what appears to be a concrete vault. ” So at least as far as Sellafield we would both be standing on conjecture and neither standing on facts eh?

    All that said the ground is great for cooling. We have an old dug well that is dry and I have thought of lowering crates of food down in it for storage. In TN they just buried potatoes in pits in the ground packed with straw. I didn’t know how that kept the critters out but old timey folks are the experts on old timey solutions which is all we are going to have soon.

    Gonna be interesting when folks find themselves without electricity and the windows are all painted shut and the trees that would have cooled their houses non-existent.

  • And yes, it’s probably going to take a couple of decades to convert our current stockpile of spent fuel from pool to dry cask storage. And then it still needs to be processed (and transported) for long-term disposal (somewhere).

    I don’t think anyone in the nuclear industry will argue the above. From experience, however, they probably wouldn’t label it a nuclear nightmare. Victor’s scenario (no mockery intended!) more aptly fulfills that role. – Resa from the previous discussion


    Comments/questions on the above statements you made. Re: What if we do not have a couple of decades before Collapse? I understand when you say that this scenario is not a reasonable one within the industry – I suspect virtually no one in the industry anticipates complete Collapse of civilisation in their assessments… ;-)

    Secondly, I agree that the problems you have outlined can not be considered a nuclear nightmare. These are problems that likely have a solution waiting somewhere – just not now. But what about the scenario I envision – complete collapse of global human civilisation, eventual permanent lights out, and the eventual total disruption of food and fuel supplies? What happens to a nuclear reactor if it is not given human attention because its skilled support force has been wiped out from starvation and disease? Or what happens to the reactor if a permanent outage is experienced and there is a severe disruption in fuel supplies for backup generators?

    Please don’t consider this conjecture. It is quite feasible if we experience general Collapse.

  • Kathy

    Climate Chaos is a pretty good term for the short to intermediate term – though I prefer Kevin’s ‘Climate Instability’ – chaos is..well…too chaotic. Climate instability is not only bad for farming in that you lose the ability to predict, but it is punishing for bio-habitats as plants and creatures must adapt faster than they are capable of – seasons changing at different times, unpredictable weather – upsetting their ability to time their natural processes and forcing them to move to areas where they have little experience.

    Long-term – climate chaos (due to an upset in equilibrium) gives way to a new climate equilibrium – a permanent change to a more stable environment, but perhaps a much less friendly one to life.

    And that change to a future permanent state might well be much faster than we might imagine. I like Lovelock’s view that the environment is not simply geo-process (a purely physical set of processes), but depends heavily on the life-forms inhabiting the environment. His thesis is that if climate instability disrupts biodiversity and habitats enough to kill off certain flora and fauna, this will accelerate the final equilibrium state in a quantum stepwise fashion. He maintains that his modelling indicates that this final step to equilibrium could take place within a few decades or even faster. He has a simple model that takes both physical and biological systems into account, rather than the traditional physical only used by all other models today. This, of course, is consistent with his opinion that the earth as a whole is a living organism, dependent upon all its component parts to provide a place friendly to life.

  • Victor, ok instability and return to stability perhaps, although this 10,000 year run is considered by scientists to be extraordinarily in terms of its unusual stability. LESSON ONE: STABILITY REQUIRED — Civilization-scale human agriculture requires a certain degree of climatic stability and is thus an artifact of the abnormally-stable Holocene period during the past 10,000 years. We almost certainly need to maintain this stability for agriculture to function on anything close to its present scale. http://www.energybulletin.net/52833

    BUT – we require food on a regular basis. Agriculture is a one or two season project each year. If crops fail and you cannot import them you have to wait until next year. If crops succeed but fail in storage (remember the potato famine) you import if you can, move if you can, or starve if you can’t do the other two. Most humans can’t go a full year without food. Multi-cropping is some defense but lowers total yield (or increases acreage needed)if you plant for say 2 contingencies and get right on one but not the other (plant one variety for drought and one for supper wet conditions for instance). Outcropping gets a yield for the whole area IF all conditions are correct. In climate stability mono-cropping works fairly well. In climate instability it can lead to huge disasters.

    Here is what is in store for us in the agricultural weather situation in US this year (conjecture of course :) ) but it fits with what has increasingly become a highly difficult situation for farmers – sent to me by a friend in the meat business http://beefmagazine.com/cowcalfweekly/0408-another-dust-bowl/

  • State governments controlled by Democrats are putting in place some of the deepest cuts in public education funding in history, matching their counterparts in Republican-controlled states. The result is a looming wave of layoffs for teachers, increased class sizes, and school closures

  • kathy/victor
    last nite i pulled up a pfd on the little ice age; really a misnomer per the pdf…i’d put a link but i have such a slow computer that i went to bed getting it…& other articles i’ve read. i’m doing this research in part attempting to get my family to move to upper mich. [low pop. density] & because orlov mentions us going into another mini ice age in his the Nation interview; & the link i posted several threads ago stated that these major climate changes can happen in a matter of 1 or 2 decades, but also in as short a time period as 5 years.

    kathy u’r point about the warming part not being apparent, so much as [victor/kevin] climate instability was also true during the little ice age. the cooling was only .6 degrees C[globally i presume]. but the radical cold waves around the north atlantic were such that they were significant enough to disrupt farming; & there were times when north america was hit by cold but europe was warmer than recent winters…indeed instability. it did center in europe.

    kathy re our gardening here; summer before last was wet & some cooler. i had corn that finally dried out enough to grow; & it took off & jumped 2 ft. in 10 days; then some of it molded instead of drying out in the garden in the fall.

    so last summer i planted a lot more in beds & higher areas; & due to heat/dry had to abandon most beds & replant where i could. i’m still pondering for this planting season; & may wait a bit longer than usual. challenging!

  • kathy thanks for the weather link.
    The Ohio and Tennessee Valleys will also see wetter-than-normal conditions. Cooler-than-normal temperatures will continue in the Great Lakes states south into the Ohio Valley. These conditions could lead to later-than-normal plantings in the affected regions.

    yep, if accurate, like summer before last…but our spring has been very quickly warm after an unusually cold…lengthy spells.. winter. i feel a bit compulsive with all this tea leaf readings , & we are not even dependent on this food yet. i recall a death bed reminiscing of an asian grandfather recounting his gardening record…because it counted!

  • Kathy,

    “Damn,” he said, eyes wide in total shock, “You mean Global Warming is wrong? It could be Global Climate Chaos? Oh my god!”

    Just reminding you that you were the one talking about the heat.

    “We have had hotter, but not that hot that long. Add drought. Our well started pumping drilling tailings so I had to reduce and in cases stop watering and sacrifice some plants. But even things that got watered suffered. I knew that grains produce significantly less as the heat rises. Well I found out so do field peas and green beans. Field peas are a staple – easy to grow, easy to dry – very nutritious. My yield was about 1/2 normal and green beans down by at least 1/3. And then I contemplate pumping with the hand pump well….. and try another “supposedly” heat resistant variety here and there with not a lot of success.”

    Michael Irving

  • sam

    So true about gardening and predictability. The greenest thumbs in the world are frustrated when Mother Nature decides to show us who is in control. This is one of the things that concern me most about those depending upon good gardening skills in the age to come – decreasing ability to predict, and thus to know what to plant and when. This is bad enough when one has to rely upon a commercial crop coming in – it is catastrophe for those whose lives depend on it!

  • Michael, I was talking about the heat here now as one aspect only. So I could move to a place with less heat and climate instability could rock it around to where I would have been better to stay put. The fact is that once we are dependent on what we grow locally, we can grow in a variety of climates but they had better be relatively stable. People grow food in climates warmer than this was the last year, but they have adapted crops and methods. But they expect pretty much the same thing year to year. I is happening that less and less do we know what to grow.

    But as I noted were I younger and this not family land for my husband and collapse so near I would consider moving anyway.

    Water is going to be a biggie. It is no accident that early civilizations grew up around secure water sources, rivers and lakes. Besides fresh water for drinking and irrigation they provided transport and in many cases fertilization – the Nile Delta being a major example. Now we have spread over the whole planet and often great distances from fresh water. Sure we can use oil to power drills to tap ancient water reservoirs but well we all know the problem with that. Meanwhile the glaciers are melting and the reliable rivers are going to become less reliable. Too bad for humans.

  • My husband and I were talking all this over breakfast of chicken fetuses and he said he saw an article about monsoons affecting earthquakes. Here is a short article http://www.smh.com.au/environment/climate-change/longterm-climate-change-link-to-earthquakes-20110413-1ddaw.html I printed out the paper linked to at the bottom but haven’t read it yet.

    Also read this this am “It’s possible that this growing sense of human control over nature was enhanced by a period of a few hundred years in which there may have been less than the usual number of civilization-threatening natural disturbances. ” by Michael. I would like to see more on that. http://www.energybulletin.net/stories/2011-04-15/planet-strikes-back

    Personally I don’t think the planet thinks or plans but what happens can take on the feel of intentionality. And what has been for hundreds or thousands of years can feel stable when in fact it is a blip in the nature of an ever changing planet. A blip that was useful for us. But what moves evolution on is changes in environment. Changes give dinosaurs their day in the sun and then other changes give mammals their day. One environment lets anaerobic bacteria flourish and then they poison it with their o2 wastes and have to move underground giving an whole new set of beings their go at it. It is not the fit that survive, but those that are fit for the specific environment they find themselves in that survive. They have programmed in them fitness for one environment and then bite the dust when they become unfit, not because they changed but because the environment did.

  • Peripheral menisceal tears can heal; but abating pain can also be from the edges of a tear becoming less sensitive. In that case “locking” may recur with less pain.

  • Robin thanks. I am hoping for the healing, but being very careful and realizing that without surgery I might just have to be very careful the rest of my life. Feel like an old lady as I walk more slowly, move sticks out of the paths etc. Remember thinking it was funny when I was young to see older folks being so slow and careful…. I only have twinges now, but it feels fragile. Still got 3 years till Medicare kicks in….oh yeah they are preparing to dismantle that.

  • [Still got 3 years till Medicare kicks in….oh yeah they are preparing to dismantle that.] Kathy

    IF the US is still operating in 3 years, you should still have Medicare coverage – the new voucher system – for knee work you should get all the Medicare coverage that $5 will give.

  • But at least you can be thankful that you don’t have an evil socialistic system like ours…. ;-) That would be dreadful!

  • Medicare, Obamacare and whatever else: all woven into the web of hypercomplexity: unlike a spider’s web which becomes stronger with each additional strand, here they are more like cards from a deck. Each strand can hold on its own, but not so each card in the House of Cards.

  • Speaking of a socialist system of medical care, one anecdote about the British system notes that a patient was awaiting a hip replacement surgery. The preoperative medical examination was done by an internist and duly submitted to get approval for being put on the waiting list for the procedure.

    After a wait of a better part of a year. a couple or weeks before the date of the procedure, the patient had a heart attack, was hospitalized and discharged a few days prior to the surgery.

    Upon return as scheduled for surgery, the examination done months before to obtain approval was used as the base of the medical record for the surgery. Non-cardiac surgery is contraindicated in the weeks after a heart attack, but since the recent event was not listed, the surgery performed as scheduled with an “adverse outcome”.

    Big brother isn’t watching when in does not involve Big Brother’s interests.

  • I might just have to be very careful the rest of my life.

    Instructions for Walking Meditation

  • Big brother isn’t watching when in does not involve Big Brother’s interests.

    Errors happen in any system, I’m sure you will agree.

  • Victor:

    Re: “But what about the scenario I envision – complete collapse of global human civilisation, eventual permanent lights out, and the eventual total disruption of food and fuel supplies? What happens to a nuclear reactor if it is not given human attention because its skilled support force has been wiped out from starvation and disease?”

    Ummmmm … multiple catastrophic events occurring simultaneously. A stretch (no mockery intended), but let’s go with it. (You’ll have to bear with me, however, because even with a degree in fiction, my speculative capability ranks at the low end of the conjecture scale.)

    To evaluate, let’s piece out your scenario.

    1. Complete collapse of global human civilization. The first thing I’d question is how we’d get 7 billion people on-board to recognize (let alone agree to or accept) total collapse. Jean (on his donkey) I’m sure would thumb his nose and go his merry way. I know I would.

    Our resources aren’t evenly distributed. Some countries are fossil fuel rich. Others have abundant agriculture. Population varies: some places a dozen deep, others lucky to have a dozen. Not everyone’s globally structured or indigenously/locally handicapped. Cripes, we don’t even all speak the same tongue or use the same symbols to represent language.

    2. But let’s assume 7 billion people do agree and recognize collapse, which brings us to “permanent lights out” and “total disruption of food and fuel supplies.” Actually, there are many populations today that experience such conditions. They survive. Humanitarians have stepped in and lessened the blow in some regions, but remove them and I suspect once the weakest succumb, the rest re-group, re-adapt, re-populate, and re-conquer what remains. Humans are exceptionally good at that sort of thing. (BTW: so are bugs, microbes, and rodents.)

    3. Moving on to our “skilled support force has been wiped out from starvation and disease.” First off, starvation and disease aren’t equivalent. Although science fiction easily de-populates countries and planets by virulent disease, in reality, such seldom occurs. Diseases are (mostly) host and environment specific. And as luck would have it, genetic diversity works in our favor. Also, a disease that kills off 100% of its dinner plate limits its survival. True, we now have super-bugs, but even they haven’t (yet) penetrated the general population, preferring to stick to compromised individuals instead.

    As for starvation. It’s a slow, slooow, slooooow death, taking months/years to accomplish with a handful of food here and a handful of food there. Many concentration camp and POW internees were reduced to shells and yet survived. Some even made it out.

    4. But let’s assume we’re down a skilled work force. Fossil fuel’s gone. Transportation’s dead (except for Jean’s donkey). Manufacturing’s terminated. Under such conditions, I’d question why a nuclear reactor is operating at all.

    With no workforce, uranium’s not being mined or fuel rods being assembled. With no fuel, ore’s not being transported or fuel assemblies being delivered. With no fresh nuclear fuel, reactors are putting out less and less power. More importantly, without a customer base to financially support the nuclear industry, why are plant owners or governments running them in the first place? There certainly is no longer a profit incentive.

    5. But let’s assume nuclear plant owners and governments are of a benevolent mindset and refuse to cut nuclear power as long as a human remains standing.

    Unattended, the reactor has to do the thinking. Fortunately, a lot of such thinking is built into its operation and it knows to SCRAM should the water level fall too low or the temperature rise too high or a critical part mal-function. Within a second, decay heat is cut to 7% of operating power. Within 15 minutes, it’s down to 2%. Give it a week and it’s down to less than half a percent, still radioactive, but a fraction of what it once could kill.

    But what if the reactor should have SCRAMed and didn’t, or it did SCRAM but the cooling system failed?

    Now we’re in nuclear nightmare territory.

    But look at the bright side. Who’d be around to appreciate the fireworks anyway?

  • We are under tornado watch with a number of ominous looking red lined boxes on the NOAA map headed in this general direction.

    Updated: April 15, 2011 10:45 am ET
    Blizzard Conditions: In April!
    by Jonathan Erdman, Sr. Meteorologist
    A powerhouse storm is hammering the Plains with heavy, wet snow and high winds.
    Already, a foot of snow has been measured in western South Dakota. Drifts to two feet have been observed by National Weather Service meteorologists in North Platte, Neb.
    Motorists were stranded for up to 8 hours overnight on a stretch of Interstate 80 between Ogallala and Paxton, Neb. due to multiple accidents, prompting a shutdown of I-80 west of North Platte.

  • Kathy:

    Re: “So at least as far as Sellafield we could both be standing on conjecture …”

    Absolutely. I’ve never been to Sellafield. The link you provided goes to a newspaper article written in 1989. That’s 22 years ago.

    I have no idea how many of those storage cells are full. Just because there’s a lid in a vault doesn’t mean there’s anything under it.

    I have no idea how old the original waste was. 50 years? 20 years? Did it come from 5-year-old recently cooled spent fuel (unlikely) or 20-year-old dry cask contents (more plausible)? Is it low-level or high-level waste? Decay heat varies with type of waste and decreases with age of waste. In general, vitrified low-level waste (once cooled into glass) can be stored in a trench and covered with soil.

    Most wet spent fuel is cool enough to store in a dry cask anywhere from 1-5 years (the later is more common). Per the US NCR (I’m quoting here), “the maximum heat generated from 24 fuel assemblies stored in a [dry] cask is less than that given off by a typical home heating system in an hour. As the fuel cools further, the heat generated decreases over time.”

    Again, dry cask is interim storage. Vitrification is long-term storage. Typically, interim stored waste is monitored and evaluated for years (10, 20, 30+) before been converted to a vitrified state.

    Although I don’t see any special suits on the plant workers, I do see monitoring equipment, which is to be expected in an industry as heavily regulated as nuclear is.

    (Perhaps Victor could scoot over to Sellafield some evening and give us the low down on its vitrification setup.) (hint, hint)

  • Kathy:

    Re: (my previous post) “In general, vitrified low-level waste (once cooled into glass) can be stored in a trench and covered with soil.”

    Just to clarify: please be aware that these trenches are licensed, monitored, regulated, must meet structural waste storage criteria, and are only located in specific, controlled environments.

    I don’t want you to think you can bury a canister of vitrified low-level waste in the backyard next to your prize-winning rose bush.

    It’s still radioactive.

  • Kathy:


    “It’s still radioactive” should be “It’s contents are still radioactive.”

  • Guy,
    Have you seen this link? http://www.paulgraham.com/nerds.html He likens US schools to prisons. That makes sense in the light of your article.
    Sadly in Australia where we have often over the years scoffed at the artificial and predatory nature of so much of the US, as portrayed by the media, we see our country adopting much of the worst of American culture. Australia schools in big cities have therefore their “prison elements” too. My son was one of those doped up on dexamphetamine so he could sit still in class. He did not fit into the school society and left when he was 16. He has struggled with unemployment and low paid jobs ever since. That is despite coming from a relativel affluent family with his mother (me) having 3 degrees (Science, Engineering and MBA). I have often thought he is better suited to the world that is coming than if he had followed the “successful” path of career, long hours, high stress, credit cards and large mortgages.

  • charles hugh smith believes he has figured out the ‘con of the decade’…


    if i understand correctly, the QE2 will be removed,until interest rates rise significantly, then the financial elites will buy the high interest long bonds, & severe austerity will be accepted to bring down our deficit…& get interest rates down;

    so we are then paying the financial elites, who saved us by buying our bonds [ones with the high interest rates] & “Then the taxpayers transfer more wealth every year to the Power Elites/Plutocracy in the form of interest on the Treasury debt.”

    the good news in this from a NBL/Guy viewpoint would be the crash would be this summer…this would kill the stock market, & commodities[per el gallinaso in the comments @ automatic earth, it would be a ‘nuclear’ crash of such]; & …from my perspective nothing this big & complex has much chance of working reasonably so in essence we get a global financial collapse.[the context for a lot of this speculation, & similar speculation @ theautomaticearth is bill gross’s funds…largest bond fund in the world… getting out of treasuries; even shorting them, & also in cash; & being very outspoken about such…something is up!}

  • With increasing climate instability, I feel the pressure to become more aware of the language of the plants and animals as they react to the coming weather long before we notice a change.
    This is how the Australian Aborigines survived and prospered in our harsh and unpredictable climate. For example, they described this season as “wet becoming cooler” and “The time of the year when the cries of the Marrai’gang (Quoll) seeking his mate can be heard through the forests and woodlands, and when the lilly pillys ripen on the trees. However, when the lilly pillys start to fall, it is time to mend the old warm cloaks from last cold season, or make new ones, and begin the yearly trek to the coastal areas.”

  • nicole, i read much of the article which among other things likened public schools to prisons. found much of it insightful , but as is too often the case, i was frustrated by the writer’s overlooking of certain elephants in the room. the main one in this case being that there’s nothing surreally public about ‘public’ education. no public participation in creating the agenda or curriculum or execution of what’s taught. the curriculum and culture of school is created by ‘elites’ and executed by highly trained (indoctrinated) ‘experts’. it’s purpose isn’t to foster happiness or social cohesion, but to foster obedience to ‘authority’ and to create ‘productive’ citizens.

    the problem with ‘public’ ‘education’ has the same source as all social problems we face: gross inequality and misplaced values of those with the most power, and ‘common’ sheople who are too inclined to worship/obey/trust ‘authority’.

    civilization breeds insanity. isn’t it a good thing it’s going away?

  • Ummmmm … multiple catastrophic events occurring simultaneously. A stretch (no mockery intended)>

    Interesting statement that, Resa. What you seem to be implying with it is that you believe the idea of a sudden and catastrophic collapse of human civilisation to be not only unrealistic, but improbable.

    I think I have located the point at which we disagree.

    The first thing I’d question is how we’d get 7 billion people on-board to recognize (let alone agree to or accept) total collapse.

    You won’t have to get agreement. Complete collapse of human civilisation does not mean (necessarily) that no one survives, as you imply by your statement about Jean. It means that the structure of modern civilisation would collapse, leaving people to fend for themselves. And you are correct – Jean would indeed thumb his nose at that because he is as prepared as anyone to do without. The fact that our global resources are unevenly distributed is precisely the reason that efforts to localise will fail in most places – because those unevenly distributed resources are connected today with a global transport and distribution system which will fail when Collapse comes. People even in remote places are highly dependent upon resources located on the other side of the world.

    But let’s assume 7 billion people do agree and recognize collapse, which brings us to “permanent lights out” and “total disruption of food and fuel supplies.” Actually, there are many populations today that experience such conditions. They survive.

    Not without industrial food production. Most will starve. Besides, these are not the areas I am concerned with in this discussion. I am not aware of any nuclear plants located in remote areas without electricity.

    But let’s assume we’re down a skilled work force. Fossil fuel’s gone. Transportation’s dead (except for Jean’s donkey). Manufacturing’s terminated. Under such conditions, I’d question why a nuclear reactor is operating at all.

    Indeed, which brings up the question in the first place. The reactor is still operating because no one is willing to face the reality of Collapse – it is a psychological thing. We won’t turn off the lights – they will have to go out themselves.

    Unattended, the reactor has to do the thinking. Fortunately, a lot of such thinking is built into its operation and it knows to SCRAM should the water level fall too low or the temperature rise too high or a critical part mal-function. Within a second, decay heat is cut to 7% of operating power. Within 15 minutes, it’s down to 2%. Give it a week and it’s down to less than half a percent, still radioactive, but a fraction of what it once could kill.

    But what if the reactor should have SCRAMed and didn’t, or it did SCRAM but the cooling system failed?

    Now we’re in nuclear nightmare territory.

    After all this time, you finally answer my question, or at least a start on it. Why didn’t you just say this in the first instance – or did you have a point you wanted to make first?

    If the cooling system fails because there is no electricity to fuel the cooling pumps, or if something happens to the source of water for the cooling pumps, – what then?

  • Resa

    My take from this discussion is that you do not believe in the notion of a Collapse of civilisation? If not, I suspect our difference of opinion lies in the definition of the terms ‘collapse’ and ‘civilisation’.

    I define ‘collapse’ in this context as an abrupt failure of of the global system upon which we all depend, resulting in a broken system incapable of function.

    I define ‘civilisation’ as the singular structure by which humanity derives the natural resources to survive and prosper, characterised by specialities (technology), cities, and commerce.

    Perhaps not the dictionary definitions, but good enough to discuss perhaps?

  • Hunter-gatherers are not a civilised society. Small, localised agricultural communities are not civilised society. Civilisation is characterised by the growth of cities and commerce between them.

    It is an important distinction. Humans do not NEED civilisation to live. But unfortunately that is where the vast majority are today. We all to one degree depend upon the processes and products of modern, global civilisation to survive day-to-day. Please do not underestimate this dependence. It is deep and it is strong and it is pervasive. Out of the 7 billion folks on this earth, very few have no connection to today’s civilised society and at least 80% of them are alive only because of fossil fuels.

    Remove fossil fuels and you remove most of humanity from the earth. And as Richard Duncan and others have pointed out, even reducing fossil fuel availability to a point in a system requiring continuous growth and investment will initiate a chain reaction that will in a few decades at most result in permanent global blackouts, the die-off of at least 90% of human population, and a return to the Stone Age.

    I believe that it will happen much quicker due to the nature of our globalised, just-in-time economy which essentially connects all humans with each other in a mutually dependent, and extremely fragile, web of complexity. The size and complexity of this web makes it virtually impervious to massive change, even should we decide to do so, which considering our nature, is improbable anyway.

    It is a proven fact that complex networks are fragile and subject to complete failure if attacked at the right points. The more complex, the more vulnerable to sudden collapse.

    And such a collapse will be irreversible, as the skills and resources to re-connect and re-vitalise it will have been destroyed or made unavailable by the initial Collapse. It is much like the collapse of a spider web. The web is quite strong and a very complex piece of art. But attack it in the right places, and the first gust of wind that comes along will tear it to pieces. Once torn, it can in no fashion be put back into place due to its fragility and complexity. It must be re-woven by the unfortunate spider.

    In the case of modern civilisation, this re-weaving will never take place. The skills will be gone, or hopelessly scattered across the globe in the remaining surviving communities. The natural resources upon which we depend are mostly of a lesser purity now, requiring the tools of modern civilisation to extract and refine them.

    The Global Warming we have initiated has caused climate instability that will accelerate over time even if the whole system collapsed today, making it grievously difficult in the future to re-establish a dependable agricultural system and to maintain manageable fresh water supplies. Because modern technology will no longer be available, many people who survive the Collapse will be driven to search out new sources of food and water on a frequent basis as climate change envelopes the earth.

    To believe that we can down-size, re-group, re-conquer is unjustified hubris. To believe that technology will in the end save the day is also wishful thinking. To believe that there is a political solution is simply not true. This is not a movie. There is no happy ending here. The hero does not save the day, nor does he or she have super-human powers. It makes no difference that the world is falling under the control of corporatism, or that we wage wars, or that we conserve energy, or we implement new alternative energy supplies, or that we find cures for cancer, or whatever comes along. Indeed, whatever we do that we think right and good will only make things worse, as Professor Bartlett is fond of saying.

    None of this is conjecture. None is a work of fiction. It might happen in various multiples of ways, and over short or longer periods of time, or in a certain sequence – all of which are of course highly subject to conjecture and creative thought – but in the end, the collapse of modern civilisation MUST happen, as it can do no other.

  • victor
    the collapse of modern civilisation MUST happen, as it can do no other.

    even as an individual…collapse or immanent ‘collapse’ is generally how we change. as civilizations there has only rarely been significant change w/o collapse; it is built into our nature; & the larger the group…global re financial,’just in time’, agricultural, fossil fuels, etc….the more ‘baked into the cake’; we will only change via collapse!

  • Victor, EXACTLY.

    What humans have done in the past no longer applies. Humans have risen from the ashes of previous civilizations, but our civilization is unique. None has ever existed before that is global in nature, in which each part is linked to the other in so many ways that we don’t know or understand them until something goes wrong, and where there is no where left to run.

    When the volcano in Iceland, shut down air traffic in Europe, who would have thought it would cause problems for farmers in Africa. Well some farmers in Africa have stopped growing food for themselves and are growing flowers for people in Europe and they have to be flown in daily to be of any use because flowers don’t last long. Sure they can go back to farming for themselves to eat. But if all flights in the world get grounded at the end of the growing season, they may not last until the next growing season is over.

    It is nothing but conjecture to posit that this will all hold together indefinitely and it is conjecture as to how it will fall, but it has been proven over and over that civilizations eventually collapse, and this civilization is bigger than any and encompasses the whole world. Just as a rather small event triggered the 2003 Northeast Blackout it may well be small events that have cascading effects – which brings this scene from the movie V for Vendatta to mind http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GPfI9oxZuEo Or nature may step in with a huge solar storm event that takes out our overly complex grid. Complex structures can appear robust but often are vulnerable. The human body, in seemingly healthy shape can be brought down quickly with the blockage of a blood vessel while all the rest of the body is in functioning order. The vulnerability cannot be seen from the outside.

    Populations of creatures fill up the available niches in the environment. Humans before agriculture numbered it is estimated 1 million. By the year Jesus was said to have walked the earth 200 million. 1800 1 billion. There is no reason to think that without the advances of those years any more people could have lived, and I hardly think it conjecture to imagine that as we go backwards we will necessarily go back in numbers, but since we have ravaged the soil, the air and the seas it is hard to see how the planet could support even those numbers at similar stages on the way back.

    Victor is exactly right. This must happen. No fiction or conjecture. The conjecture can only be about when and how and how much the planet is destroyed as a place that humans can live in, and whether or not we go extinct.

    Ocean acidification and warming are killing plankton in the ocean. Mostly this is just seen as affecting other ocean life that we eat which use plankton for food. But plankton make 1/2 of the O2 on the planet. The connection just jumped out at me but until recently I had not read that anyone had gotten worried about anoxia. (even though it is believed to have played a part in the Permian extinction event). But recent finds that show that perhaps 40% of the plankton in the oceans may be gone has spurred some to look beyond their place in the food chain and on to their function in keeping us breathing. So smart we are and so damned stupid.

  • Perhaps Victor could scoot over to Sellafield some evening and give us the low down on its vitrification setup.

    Might do that someday, but in the meantime…

    This link gives a high level view of the Vitrification process:


    This gives a short overview of the Vitrified Residue Returns process at Sellafield (you get a glimpse of the storage facility):


    This is a link to the Sellafield Waste Management site:


    A browse through this site is interesting.

    The vitrification storage facilities appear to be above ground facilities and air-conditioned.

    Hope this is helpful.

  • sam

    The interesting thing about this coming collapse is that, unlike previous civilisations which occupied a set geographical area separate from other civilisations (Chinese, Arab, Mayan, Aztec, Greek, etc.), this one is global encompassing virtually all of mankind. There is no new place to expand into, no way to re-start, no way to re-build.

    This is much more than a ‘change’ process: this is a ‘dying’ process, the ‘end’ process, from which no new civilisation will emerge, nor this current one reconstructed.

  • victor back in the KMO interview post re greer’s not addressing historically this collapse is different; u had this to say…which though lengthy, all of it helps me soak in these ideas/issues;

    “At the risk of splitting hairs, I might also bring to everyone’s attention that there is a big difference between the term ‘civilisation’ and that of ‘empire’. Empires, like the Roman Empire, are groups of countries ruled by a single entity. Civilisation, on the other hand, is more characterised by culture and way of life – most commonly associated with its basic atomic element, the city.

    The Roman Empire fell over the course of hundreds of years. But the cities comprising the Roman Empire carried on, though perhaps morphing into new forms and outgrowths of civilisation. The Roman Empire died. The Roman civilisation evolved, as did the Greek civilisation, and the Persian, and the Ottoman, etc.

    Historically, Empires – East or West, North or South – rose and then crumbled. But the impact was largely regional, and life in the cities carried on. You still had Rome. You still had Athens, Constantinople, Cairo, Alexandria, Jerusalem, Beijing and many other historic cities where civilisation carried on and evolved as separate, or even loosely associated confederations tied together by regional trade. And you had new cities being born and starting to thrive over time.

    Today, you have an entirely different situation than that ever faced by mankind. The cities all share the same industrial base and depend upon each other for food, fuel, manufacturing, natural resources. All are supported by a global, just-in-time distribution network based 98% upon oil products. All are globally connected centres of education, mass production capability, skills, and financial services.

    This is tantamount to a vast global machine – far more complex than any one person or group of persons can comprehend, and can neither be controlled or directed by any single entity. In other words, it has a life of its own, much as Gaia. Such complexity is without precedent in human history. But one thing we do know about complexity. The more complex the network, the more fragile it becomes, and the more subject to sudden systemic failure. As I have mentioned before, it has been estimated that in such a system, approximately 20% of the industries are critical to the functioning of the whole. And that 20% of those industries are critical to their support. In other words, attack the correct 4 percent of the system, and you bring it all down.

    This is hugely different than the Roman Empire, or any other human organisation is history; therefore, it cannot be compared as there is nothing to compare it to.”

  • sam

    I stand corrected. Please mentally remove my reference to Greek, Chinese, Arab civilisations. They did not collapse. They evolved. Good catch. And it is great to know that someone is actually reading what I say…. ;-)

  • On another form of education – military education

    How Not To Win Wars
    By Fred Reed
    April 15, 2011 “Information Clearing House” — Ever wonder why the US military can’t win wars? Why a few ragtag guerillas could send it running out of Somalia (Black Hawk Down)? Why one guy with a truck bomb could chase the Marines out of Lebanon? Why the attempt to rescue the hostages in Iran was such a disaster? Why the world’s most expensive military can’t win its unending wars against peasants with rifles? How is this possible?

    full article at http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article27899.htm

    After you read the article, I think you would have to agree that if the US wants to play last man standing it will in the end resort to unleashing its nukes suicidally and that will be that for civilization. We can hope that they have the sense in the end not to play that game for that will be the collapse that is most likely I would think to extinct humans. But the attitude towards climate change would indicate that TPTB are totally unable to believe that climate change could collapse civilization much less that it could extinct us. In fact unfortunately extreme scenarios are not even accepted by many who comment on this site, despite extreme scenarios happening with ever increasing frequency.

    It is the inability of even the better informed to see that civilization collapse is the only way to avoid total destruction of the environment we need to live that contributes to me being depressed. The “cheer up it won’t be so bad” informed people convince me we are doomed. If by some chance we are wrong about civilization collapse, then civilization will surely collapse. In case that isn’t clear here it is again, if by some chance we are wrong about civilization collapse (by other causes), then civilization will surely collapse (by extreme climate change).

  • Terry [civilization breeds insanity. isn’t it a good thing it’s going away]

    What you think 1 million sane humans is better than 7 billion insane ones? :) Yes, I think it is better that it is going away, hopefully soon enough for some sane humans to live.

    Nicole thanks for sharing about your son. I am glad I got my kids through school before all the doping began. And yes, watching the flora and fauna was in fact some of the earliest evidence of climate change as noted by scientists who were able to collect enough data to know what it meant. All too often I know something is different, I just don’t know why. No slugs this year. A happy circumstance but it makes me uneasy. Was it the heat last year? Earlier than usual mosquito larva in buckets collecting rain water for the garden. Strange yellowing on my green onions.

    Tough not only on farmers to have the signals changing, but even on H-G or indigenous folks who have found environmental signals to be reliable in the past.

  • The Reality of gasoline prices:

    The proximate cause of the current strong rise in gasoline prices has little to do with supply and demand.The real reason prices are rising
    is the decline in the US Dollar.Crude oil,like almost all internationally traded commodities,is denominated in US Dollars.Gold,silver,copper and agriculural products are also going up.

    You’ll notice this close inverse correlation between the US Dollar and
    commodity prices,because producers and sellers of commodities must demand more dollars as the value of the dollar declines to offset the
    losses they would sustain when converting dollars to their relatively
    more expensive local currencies.

    Ergo,as the dollar declines in value gasoline prices must rise.As more people learn this simple economic fact,they will demand to know why the
    dollar is weak.It has to do with American irresponsibility and profligacy.We did it to ourselves.

    The movie version of Atlas Shrugged has just opened in a few theatres.Towards
    the end of Ayn Rand’s monumental novel,a giant banner is unfurled between two New york City skyscrapers with the words “Brother You Asked
    For It”.

    The reasons for the decline of the US Dollar are many.I’ll leave it to the rest of you to explore those causes.

    Double D

  • Frank

    As I understand it, there are several reasons for the increase in price of oil, the dollar playing only a part in that.

    As for why the dollar is weak, you can probably thank Wall Street and the Fed for that, and the government for creating the policies allowing it, I reckon.

  • A question for this new discussion: Outside a global catastrophe, say South polarized X class solar flare, comet/asteroid, Yellowstone Caldera Supervolcano, why is there a belief that there could be a sudden catastrophic collapse?

    I respectfully disagree with that belief, unless your examples are on a timescale of global proportions. In human timescales, we won’t all go to bed one night, safe, fat and happy, then wake up the next morning to defecation impacting oscillation. (Barring a global level catastrophe, of course)

    The “Great Depression” didn’t happen overnight, nor the collapse of Argentina, nor did the fall of Rome. It was years in the making in all cases, and years in the execution. Collapse will be closer to the frog in the hot pot than the flipping of a light switch, in my opinion.

    Sure, at some point we will all notice that something changed, and collective say, “Oh scheiss!” But an over night change is the least likely scenario. Even if the only scenario is an oil collapse, as it is beginning to be believed that we’ve begun the descent into post peak living, even that isn’t going to seriously impact us overnight. More likely it’ll start to do serious damage to the economies of the world at large, increasing every year, until such point that the world population realizes that something is very, very wrong, well that of developed, first world nations anyway. The third world and developing nations are the canary in the coal mine. When they start failing… well more than they are now, and wide scale, continent level, starvation really kicks off, that is when you’ll really be able to see that we’re in for it.

    If we’re all standing in the tide, and it’s better to be further out, when the tide goes out, we’ll still have our feet in the water, they’ll have long since been left high and dry and help won’t be in the cards for them.

    In the end I doubt that things would get back to stone ago levels, or even bronze even in a solar flare event. The oil age didn’t really get rocking until the very late 1800’s and early 1900’s, and the world was still operating without internal bathrooms, semi trucks, cars and electricity. (Strangely enough, my house wasn’t originally electric! There’s still gas piping for gas lights in the walls! Found that out last night while fixing tenant damage.) I believe that after a time of dark ages immediately after a collapse, we’ll reach an equilibrium at mid 1800’s level civilizations and population levels, and hang there for a good long while.

  • Turbo, if it doesn’t it will.

  • Victor:

    Thanks for the vitrification links. Although I’ve been out of the nuclear waste industry for 15 years now, I still find the science behind it utterly fascinating and appreciate your legwork.

    You say: “The [Sellafield] vitrification storage facilities appear to be above ground facilities and air-conditioned.”

    I saw nothing in your material to substantiate the above-ground storage of vitrified HLW. The photo on page 2 of the HLW_Sel_ltd.pdf, the top photo on page 1 of the Vitrified_poster.pdf and the bottom photo on page 6 of the Waste_man_final.pdf all display vault lids in a concrete floor. (The big machine that’s running around in the photos is not a canister of vitrified HLW; it’s used to remove canisters from storage below the lids in the floor. Also, that big tall building proudly displayed in two of the PDFs is the Residue Export Facility. Sellafield has the capability to ship vitrified HLW back to its country of origin.)

    I also saw nothing to substantiate air-conditioning of the storage vault itself. (I don’t doubt it has ventilation.) I do see a lot of above-grade electronic hydraulic and monitoring equipment, which wouldn’t surprise me requires appropriate cooling. But then the UK isn’t known for super-high temperatures year-round, so that may not be a major issue. (BTW: I currently work in the electronics industry. Talk about cutting the juice to that air-conditioning hog! The cooling required by server farms dedicated to running the Internet is astronomical.)

    I found it most interesting that Sellafield divides its radioactive waste into three categories: low, intermediate, and high. It doesn’t vitrify its low-level waste (goes to some disposal site at West Cumbria), turns its intermediate-level waste into grout (another long-term option I was involved with for a short time), and only vitrifies HLW. The project I worked on only divided radioactive waste into two categories: high and low. But then it also predominantly dealt with historic, defense, and research waste. Sellafield is dealing with some historic, but largely a variety of commercial, industrial and power plant waste. Different strokes for different sources.

    BTW: That process diagram at the bottom of page 2 of the HLW_Sel_ltd.pdf is basically what I’m familiar with. Also, on that same page there’s a reference to the transport flasks used to return vitrified waste to its country of origin. To wit: “Designs have been developed which employ natural cooling of the vitrified waste and have demonstrated impact protection and containment.” There are two types of transport flasks. One is used to transport and then store the vitrified waste at its destination; the second type is used to transport the vitrified waste and then be returned to Sellafield for re-fill.

    Also, the HAL that’s referred to in all the PDFs is a liquid/sludge form of radioactive waste. It’s pre-vitrified. Please don’t confuse the two.

    Again I’ve never been to Sellafield. Any first-hand knowledge you can provide is appreciated. Please prove me wrong.

    I’ll address your civilization issue in a separate post.

  • “I am routinely accused of being an insane terrorist because I want to terminate the industrial economy, thereby giving our species an opportunity to persist a few generations longer. At this point, with our knowledge of the adverse consequences of civilization for non-industrial cultures, non-human species, and even the persistence of our own species, how can any sane person want to keep the industrial age alive?
    In the race between collapse of the industrial economy and climate chaos, it seems climate chaos won. Words are no match for the sadness I feel. I can only imagine the agony of parents as they comprehend the horrors we have created for them, and especially for their children. Or perhaps this childless atheist — as I am labeled by every writer who pens me into a story — cares about the future of humanity more than most parents. After all, nearly every parent with whom I speak — failing to notice the dependence of the industrial economy on the environment — is far more interested in growth of the former, for their child’s sake, than with protection of the latter (for their child’s sake).”
    Guy McPherson

    Extinction event?

  • Victor:

    RE: “I’ll address your civilization issue in a separate post.”

    I mean at a later date.

    It’s the weekend and semi-dry. I have a ton of stuff to get done and (nope) a discussion on civilization collapse doesn’t rank high on the to-do list.

  • In the US we use about 375 million gallons of gasoline a day http://ask.yahoo.com/20040507.html
    Each ten cents of price increase is then 37.5 million dollars a day pulled out of the economy. Each dollar is 375 million dollars per day lost for other purchases. Or $136 billion dollars a year. Gotta hurt after a while eh?

  • ‘I believe that after a time of dark ages immediately after a collapse, we’ll reach an equilibrium at mid 1800′s level civilizations and population levels, and hang there for a good long while.’ -terrorist!

    i’ll deal with collapse conjecture later, maybe a later post. now i wish to elaborate on our previous discussion.

    i find it exceedingly odd how distant/disengaged sheople are to one another. here u ‘casually’ toss out a comment about a terrifying mother and no one picks up on it, except me.

    my mother terrified me at least once. i was very young, but emotional traumas create strong impressions/memories.

    my mother was 9-14 years old when her small eastern european nation became engulfed in the 2nd world war. occupied by russians, then germans, then russians again. it separated her family, and she never saw her father alive again (her mother died years earlier, so losing her father made her an orphan). she experienced hunger and other things she didn’t like to talk about and never did. i don’t know what those things were, but what she did and said to me strongly suggest some abuse which made her hate men.

    i think what she said and did to me was very psychologically destructive, which i’ve been paying for since. being damaged goods, i married foolishly, tried to deceive myself i was doing the right thing. fathered a child, which at the time made me feel guilty, knowing i wasn’t prepared for the responsibility. i ended up essentially abandoning my daughter to her mother in the wake of a bitter divorce when she was just 2, and now as an adult she practically hates me.

    war traumatically disrupts lives, with consequences that reverberate for generations. i don’t know why this isn’t obvious to more sheople, precipitating more fierce pacifism. war is awful. no sane intelligent species should engage in it, especially when possessing the wisdom and knowledge to artificially limit fertility and thereby eliminate the need for more barbaric methods of population control.

    unfortunately it seems our species has come to value knowledge much more than wisdom/philosophy, making us idiot-savants.

    anyway, terrorist!, i want u to know that offhand remark of yours didn’t escape me. we may be more alike than u thought.

  • on the topic of war, here’s a link to a page that has a brief video snip from a movie soon to be released titled THE LAST WAR CRIME. looks like it’s going to be a good movie.


  • Ah, Kathy, surely you’re not that gullible!

    RE: “A Survey of the World’s Radioactive No-Go Zones”

    I’ve been all over one of the places listed. I have solid knowledge on another.

    Again, not pro-nuclear, but can you say scaremongering?


    Yeah, keep throwing your web links up. I’ll ignore the rest.

  • Victor:

    Gonna do this in one fell swoop … (Others jump waaaaaaaay ahead if not interested.)

    Thanks for providing definitions. It’s less wearying when I don’t have to second guess what’s being implied.

    “Civilization is the singular structure by which humanity derives the natural resources to survive and prosper, characterized by specialties (technology), cities, and commerce.” Actually, I can excuse myself from this definition because I don’t qualify according to another of your statements: “small, localized agricultural communities are not civilized society.” I reside in such a community.

    “Collapse is an abrupt failure of the global system upon which [civilization] depends, resulting in a broken system incapable of function.” Years ago I restructured my first house, a 90-year-old beat-up former farm rental. It was a mystery undertaking and in the beginning I frequently got stuck. I’d fret about it all week thinking there was no resolution. And then the following Saturday my significant other would show up, take one look, tell me to cork it, get his hands dirty and fix it.(Yes, he was a keeper.) One time I asked how he knew he was doing it right. He said it didn’t matter. If it didn’t work, he’d simply do something else. I’ve followed that advice since, and by God it works. So, whereas in your global existence, a “broken system may be incapable of function”, in my local one, we just figure out another way to get the job done.

    Which brings me to your statement: “In the case of modern civilisation, this re-weaving will never take place. The skills will be gone, or hopelessly scattered across the globe in the remaining surviving communities.”

    I mean this in the kindest way. You need to find yourself a whole new crowd. Those skills still exist and they aren’t that scattered.

    RE: “What you seem to be implying is that you believe the idea of a sudden and catastrophic collapse of human civilisation to be not only unrealistic, but improbable.”

    No, I don’t imply either. What I meant by “multiple catastrophic events occurring simultaneously” being “a stretch” is that an occurrence of such is extremely small. Not improbable. Not unrealistic. Just very, very, very small. Think risk assessment.

    RE: “[Complete collapse of human civilization] means that the structure of modern civilisation would collapse, leaving people to fend for themselves.”

    People are already fending for themselves. And not only in undeveloped countries.

    RE: “The fact that our global resources are unevenly distributed is precisely the reason that efforts to localise will fail in most places – because those unevenly distributed resources are connected today with a global transport and distribution system which will fail when Collapse comes.”

    Au contraire. Unevenly distributed resources create a haven for budding commerce (or takeover). A fossil fuel rich country needs food. An agriculture rich country has food to spare. A swap ensues. For example: We may be hurting for crude but Saudi Arabia isn’t running out anytime soon (at least not by 2016). However, Saudi Arabia will quit growing wheat by 2016 because of water scarcity. Its citizens, however, enjoy wheat products. We have lots of wheat. Other countries have similar situations.

    Sure there’ll be losers. There always are.

    Does Britain have anything to swap?

    RE: “People even in remote places are highly dependent upon resources located on the other side of the world.”

    Depends upon what you mean by remote places. If it’s my local, uncivilized agriculture community, not so much. If it’s the Antarctica, yep, those people better get their butts off that heap of ice.

    RE: “Not without industrial food production. Most will starve.”

    This is a quasi-truth. I know it makes great journalism and scares the fricking hell out of urban dwellers. For that reason, I’m going to let it slide because, frankly, urban dwellers are freeloaders anyway.

    RE: “I am not aware of any nuclear plants located in remote areas without electricity.”

    But they’re located in areas of temporary electricity. China, India, and Pakistan all have large (poor) populations living with power-cuts.

    RE: “After all this time, you finally answer my question, or at least a start on it. Why didn’t you just say this in the first instance – or did you have a point you wanted to make first?”

    Absolutely. Why spoil the story by telling the ending first. Besides, you already knew the answer.

    Chernobyl comes to mind.

    Actually it’s a little more complicated because extent of damage depends on fuel mix, age of fuel rods, containment compromise, type of leakage, weather conditions, location, time of year, wind direction, population density, etc., etc., etc.

    RE: “If the cooling system fails because there is no electricity to fuel the cooling pumps, or if something happens to the source of water for the cooling pumps, – what then?”

    You already know the answer to this one too. Fukushima comes to mind. How many people died there?

    Again, actually a little more complicated. Extent of damage depends upon age of spent fuel, containment compromise, type of leakage, etc., etc., etc. You get the idea.

    As I mentioned before, should conditions become impossibly dire I have to wonder why a plant owner and/or government would continue operating a nuclear reactor.

    Ah, shucks, perhaps I won’t need to ponder such an eventuality. There’s this in the most recent OPEC Monthly Oil Market Report: “According to Barclays, in order to rebalance the US natural gas market via higher demand, it would be necessary to shutter a large amount (13-26%) of total North American nuclear capacity.”

    So, a desire to increase demand for natural gas may (naturally) take care of our future nuclear nightmare issue.

    As previously stated, I can live without the industry.

    I know the above is long-winded. Hopefully I addressed your concerns.

  • Turboguy

    You raise some really good points, two of which I will single out for comment. First, the idea of “suddenness”. Your point is well taken. I should have been clearer with my definitions. I am not prepared to make the statement that collapse will happen “overnight” – go to bed a well fed worker with a good job and a happy family, wake up the next morning a starving pauper with no future. You are quite correct. It simply doesn’t happen that way. “Sudden” must be taken from a more panoramic view of history. “Sudden” might be 20 years. It might be 2 or 3 years. From the perspective of mankind’s time on earth as a civilised set of societies, however, it is a mere blink of the eye – thus “sudden”. Hopefully, that will clear that up a bit?.

    As for the resulting state of equilibrium we will attain as a species, I must differ with you here. In the 1800s mankind was still operating from an infrastructural base that had been in place for thousands of years, relying primarily upon ancient agricultural practices, work animals, manual labour using tools that had been created over time and improved upon gradually – though even then it was experiencing an accelerating change begun from around the 15th century. By the middle of the 20th century for the vast portion of humanity that infrastructure was completely replaced with an entirely new one dependant 100% on oil.

    Under the new infrastructure farming is no longer a business carried out by millions of local farmers over the world feeding local communities and regional cities. It is a mega-industry run on industrial principles using modern oil-based technology from sowing, to cultivating, to chemicals, to pesticides, to fertilisers, to irrigation, to harvesting, to storing, to transporting, to distribution, to processing into food products, to storage again, to further distribution to the end supermarket which itself is a marvel of globalised technology. All other commercial industries rely upon essentially the same structure (which of course I have highly simplified for sake of space).

    It is this total reliance upon modern technology and globalised transport and communication that forms both the incredible strength but also the Achilles Heel of modern civilisation. There are few instances where anything other than a limited form of localisation is even possible today because of our deep reliance upon products from all over the world. It used to be that a country, even a locale within a country, was relatively independent, relying upon local (or regional) farmers and relatively small local, family-based industries to provide the means of community support – this of course is a picture of the 19th century and prior for much of the world, though even at that time the infrastructure was already undergoing rapid evolution to the new one to be completed in the 20th century. This ancient infrastructure came with its own set of knowledge, skills, and tools. More importantly, it came with an ingrained cultural view and set of values that are largely lost today – especially in Western civilised areas of the world. A child at that time grew up with a world view quite different from a child today, and by the time he(she) was an adult had accumulated a vast array of simple skills and knowledge that are no longer needed or obtained today.

    For most of mankind’s history the community was quite different culturally than the modern community. There was far more interdependence and social cohesion among the people of a community than there is in today’s highly individualistic, technology-based society. This interdependence was a necessary component for survival of the community, and had been for thousands of years. This is no longer true today as survival often depends upon distant resources and people and ubiquitous communication facilities.

    Since we have completely replaced that infrastructure and its cultural basis, we can in no way return to an earlier way of life because the knowledge, tools, skills, and very importantly, its embedded cultural aspects, are mostly gone now (though the cultural aspect still remains in many parts of the developing world).

    Suddenly (defined above) remove globalised and even national transport, effectively cutting people off from the resources needed to survive and they will have no base skills, knowledge, tools and social cohesion upon which to fall back on, and no time to acquire such things – remember it took thousands of years for people to develop the first infrastructure. It won’t be re-done overnight. Indeed, it won’t be re-done at all to a large degree because it depended upon higher grade natural resources than we have available to us today. High grade metal ores that could be easily processed at lower temperatures provided by basic furnaces, simple access to fresh water for drinking and agriculture, fertile soil, availability of natural building products, local availability of animals for work and transport and consumption, skills and resources required for basic local industry such as making shoes, processing textiles into clothing, blacksmithing, and a thousand other skills and tools that used to be common skills and knowledge in every community. Today, only a relative few have such knowledge.

    When collapse happens, the modern infrastructure will give way. As I have mentioned on previous posts, it will take only perhaps as little as 4% of industries to collapse and the whole structure will fall flat – as an example banking, transport, shipping, parts/supplies industries. These will in turn cause severe supply and business disruptions for the rest of the industrial base, including the food industry. At some point in city after city, country after country, the lights will go out, never to come back on again. When the lights go out, and since our survival depends wholly upon electricity today, and since we don’t have the ancient infrastructure to fall back on, those areas affected will be instantly transported back to the Stone Age.

    You might say that there are plenty of areas in the world today without electricity and they seem to get by ok. This is true, except for one thing. These areas often depend upon the electricity others use to provide food, clothing, medicines, and building components, weapons, transportation and tools and which are then sold to these folks. Everyone is connected today. Only a few remote tribes are free of modern, globalised civilisation.

    How fast can all this happen? Well, it could take some years – the system is too big, complex and of huge inertia. But once it starts falling, it will gain momentum, and in the end collapse quite quickly area by area of the world. But at the point the lights go out for people, it is suddenly (overnight!) gone for those folks. The combination of a global banking catastrophe and oil production finally falling off the other side of Hubbert’s curve (likely around 2012-2015 period) will be all that is necessary to significantly accelerate the process that has already begun (yes, we are experiencing the first level of irreversible collapse at this moment).

    Apologies for being so longwinded about this. I had to struggle to keep it this short! You can appreciate the vastness of the subject.

  • Resa

    First, sincere apologies for implying that small communities are not civilised. I was unclear there. What I was trying to do was contrast societies that are composed of simple small agricultural communities – much like many of the North American tribal systems in days past. Other systems relied upon hunter-gatherer ways of life. It was in contrast to these two basic forms of human community that I was contrasting today’s vast, inter-connected, inter-dependent system of farms, small communities and cities throughout the world. In no way did I mean to offend anyone living in small towns.

    For some of the remainder of your reply above (and thanks for that) please refer to my response to Turboguy. Hopefully, that will address some of the issues you brought up concerning the ability to “fix it when it fails” – there’ll be no fixing. We will all end up as relatively isolated communities faced with a sudden lack of food, water, transport and electricity. You won’t “fix” that.

    People will die. Many, many people will die. And as you say, starvation is a long process, but it happens. But I suspect most people that die will do so from thirst, rather than lack of food. When the electricity goes and you turn the tap and nothing comes out, what you are going to do? This is why people need to take the time to consider Collapse – make it a higher priority… ;-)

  • Resa

    Oh and yes! You have quite answered my question – nuclear nightmare indeed….as I believe politics and irrational hubris will keep the reactors going even when things start falling apart. This is a very, very dangerous situation the world faces with the potential to make significant areas of the world uninhabitable.

  • Resa {You need to find yourself a whole new crowd. Those skills still exist and they aren’t that scattered.}

    Down here, where I will end my days, they still know how to make nooses. The order of the day will be re-lynching, not re-weaving. Maybe you live in a nicer part of the world, and if I went around creating words for wishes I might miss the ominous undertones in the words of my neighbors. Jean is far more realistic than you IMO, in fact Turboguy is more realistic too and expressed why I shouldn’t wish for collapse – murder, rape. And he is right and I fear those things but still wish for collapse as the only alternative to runaway climate change.

    And water – right on there Victor. When this area was settled water was nearer the surface and people could settle here as my husband’s forefathers did because they could dig wells by hand. When the Chattahooche was dammed the wells started drying up. Cause and effect – I don’t know. People began to drill wells but then the county got a grant and most signed up for city water. We didn’t. 10 years ago we put a bit of money into drilling a second well and installing a hand pump. Far as I know we are the only ones for miles with a hand pump. Last year our other drilled well was pumping sludge. Who knows how long even our hand pump well will give us water. Even if people can hike here or hike even father to the mighty Chatt, they will only get enough for drinking – not enough to water through our ever more lengthy droughts. Many here are old timey families who could begin to re-use abandoned skills and teach them to others, but the water will be the limiting factor. The population will be defined by the most scarce necessary resource. I believe someone put that into a law but I won’t google it for a link.

  • Resa [Ah, Kathy, surely you’re not that gullible!
    RE: “A Survey of the World’s Radioactive No-Go Zones”
    I’ve been all over one of the places listed. I have solid knowledge on another.
    Again, not pro-nuclear, but can you say scaremongering?]

    Resa the title of the article is not as important as the content, in that it points out that there have been far more accidents than the public usually knows about. We both know that titles get picked by magazine editors for eye catchiness. So apologies for not noting that when I posted it.

    As you well know, the danger of nuclear exposure is, except in very high doses, RISK. It means that you and others have been all over one of those places for a limited time and have in some small measure increased your risk of cancer. Since cancers take time to grow enough to be known and since other exposures cause cancer we don’t know if that increased risk has affected you or not. We know that time of exposure matters and since you were all over the place but don’t live there your exposure is less – which is why despite all the lies the Soviet Gov’t told about how bad Chernobyl is there remains an exclusion zone for humans. And yes I know it is flourishing and wildlife has returned. But again cancers take time and most wildlife doesn’t live as long as we do.

  • The population will be defined by the most scarce necessary resource.


    Very true. In those cases where there is local water, starvation might be the issue. In this case, however, I suspect that the final cause of death will not be starvation per se but an infection or disease attacking whilst the body and its immune system is weakened from lack of food. Or the failure of a vital organ for the same reason. Our doctors can likely give us better informed advice in this case.

  • Victor,

    RE: your response to Turboguy.


    Michael Irving

  • Here is an article where one man convinced his and surrounding vilages to practise water conservation to the extent that water levels in their wells rose from 60 feet down in 1991 to only 15 feet down in 2008, and their villages became green and covered with vegetation in the middle of a barren landscape. http://www.ashoka.org/files/Laxman.pdf.
    Some of you might find the article a bit confronting as Laxman uses religion to impress on the villagers the need to treat water as precious. He also comes from the royal line in his district so is treated with respect by the villagers. However, I think the main point is that if you are using clever water harvesting systems, you don’t have to end up with sludge in your wells, or in our case having to cart water during the drought for our cattle, sheep and goats.
    For my husband and me, it comes back to the problem of not having enough manpower on the farm to make the changes we know are possible in the timeframe we need to make them. Hopefully, as more people are attracted to join us, we’ll be able to increasing our farm’s resilience to climate change – and increase our own resilience to Collapse.

  • Well, I had not written for a long time, but I have to take my lands back to life after the winter. I have also built a better irrigation system: the solar plates feed my bank of batteries reasonably well in spring; I use three small water pumps to feed the water depot and then, this water depot, by gravity, keeps my plants well irrigated. my estimation is that I can feed an entire family with my 10 hectareas, and probably 2-3 farm animals like Salomon, in addition to hens and rabbits.

    Today I’ve eaten one of my rabbits, and after having lunch I came to the village. Salomon (my donkey) has eaten more than me and he’s probably doing a siesta right now. :-)

    I have a lot of spare time. Silence is the song of the nature. I spend at least 3 hours a day reading, or writing my diary. I’m learning how to work the leather (I could not live without boots). Now I bake my own bread, and I’m able to produce garlics, weed, white and red beans and many types of vegetables. In fact, I feel that I’m human again. I’ll never wear a necklace again. I’m thin and strong, but now I feel even stronger. I’m in peace with this planet… finally.

    LADIES AND GENTLEMEN: stop these debates and start to prepare right NOW, seriously. WTI is at 109 $/barrel, and european Brent has risen to 124. When we reach 150 $ (aprox.) food supplies in the cities will start to FAIL. In less than 2 months, if this goes on this way, we’ll have another financial crisis: the age of growth has FINISHED. Very soon, cities will be the scenario of bloody riots.

    Accept it, adapt or you will not survive. It’s all I have to say.

  • Nicole, I have no problem with someone using the word sacred instead of precious to accomplish a valuable goal. Images and symbols are how we process information. It is when we process the symbol with reality that I have a problem. The image of mother earth is a very useful image to find our place in the natural order. The sacrificing of animals to a symbol to appease it is the beginning of losing track of the useful symbol. So we went from worship of nature to worship of God to ransacking nature.

    How can I take Jehovah worship and use it to convince my neighbors that flush toilets are an abomination?????

    Identifying time as a problem is something you see clearly. The Hirsch report said “Initiating a crash program 20 years before peaking could avoid a world liquid fuels shortfall.” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hirsch_report#Mitigation

    It was published in Feb. 2005. But you are not a nation and I hope you find the help you want and that my fears of chaos are over exaggerated.

    For a few years after returning from Haiti I took a serotonin re-uptake inhibitor. What I found interesting about it was that none of my views and opinions about the world changed. I still found them valid. I just didn’t care any more.

  • Darn, not “when we process the symbol” but when we “imbue the symbol”. Gotta re-read my posts before I hit submit. :)

  • Terry, as you know we all have mothers. Some worse than others, all with shortcomings. As a mother I tried to overcome some of the faults of my own mother and probably swung too hard the other way on some things. My brother on the other repeated at least one serious mistake with his adopted daughter. I am not going to go into detail about my mother because she is dead and I just have to make the best of what I got and try kick her out of my brain and just be me. If I let her live in my brain she wins. Kick mom out, kill her in your brain. No easy task, but a worthy venture. Mom is not holy – to everyone else unless you have siblings she is just another person.

  • Terry: I’m not going to engage in previous discussions across blog posts with you. If you wish to continue that discussion with me, we can, but by all means, we can continue it in the previous post where it will not disrupt the current one.

    That said: Do you read/Have you read Heinlein? He is by one of my favorite authors, and my favorite to quote. Read his quotes on Pacifism. I wholeheartedly agree that war is horrible, having been in the thick of it myself. You learn things in war that have absolutely zero basis in the real world. I shouldn’t have to know that there’s “No getting clipped by a 30 millimeter.” And, “MAN! A skeletal hit from those 168 grain 7.62 will take a leg clean off!”

    And you’re right, the universal losers of war are women and children. It’s funny how much the women and kids in Iraq absolutely love the American Soldiers and the feeling is mutual. We call the kids “The Meestas” as every time a crowd of the urchins shows up, the first, and only in many cases, word of quasi English they know is “Meesta!” I kept having people send me toys from home like balls of all types, beanie babies and candy. One time we had four boxes of MRE’s and were sitting down to eat. The meestas learned of our presence and about twenty of them showed up, so they got MRE’s too. If you’ve never seen twenty hyperactive kids with a fresh 1500 calories of “food” dancing around in their bellies, eight soccerballs, a bag of Doritos, and six Americans with fifteen Iraqi security trainees, singing terrible songs, it’s a sight to see. There might have been a mother or two cursing our hides when bedtime came around that night.

    I never claimed that we were any different from one another, you did. ;) I try to focus on our similarities rather than our differences, and haven’t got time for stupid labels like “Conservative,” “Liberal,” or even “Terrorist.”

  • Jean

    That is a lot land. Are you certain you can only feed one family on that??

  • Depending on the quality of the lands. I chose the location of my farm very carefully: it’s black, very fertile soil (with the exception of the clay I mentioned before). I have a small river next to them, so I have all the water I need. I’m thinking about to sell my excedents in the village market, every friday.

    I remember that I read that in medieval Spain, every family father used to have a surface of about 6 hectareas as a prize for fighting against the arabs: 6 hectareas were considered enough to feed him and his family, and it’s the maximum you can work with no animals. So I designed a slightly bigger farm for security, and also to pruduce the food for my animals. Consider that I have no family right now, so I’m quite content about my diet! :-)

  • BTW, I’m building my greenhouse right now: cristal, obviously: nothing about plastic. It’s very useful to prepare the crops of tomatoes and onions.

  • Victor: Your points are well taken, but maybe I just have more faith in our farmers, which may or may not be misplaced. I totally agree that we, as a civilization have forgotten much and lost touch with the Earth, but not all of us have, and the lessons of the past will be relearned. While we totally agree that the amount to actually begin a catastrophic collapse is a remarkably slim margin, I have to disagree with you that nobody knows the secrets anymore.

    It’s why I prefaced the collapse with the statement that initially post collapse, there would be a time of “Dark Ages” where die off, starvation, metropolitan exodus, strife, civil unrest, etc take place. Who knows how long that would last. I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t know.

    As Resa correctly pointed out, the cities are deathtraps, full of people who have no idea how to survive if the tap water is turned off for two days, much less forever! I should know, I live in one! Much of the collapse speculation SHOULD scare city dwellers! It is they, or we, who will see the worst parts of it. If magically the government of the United States ceased to exist tomorrow, (That means no more “Please don’t riot” bribery checks on the 15th) the cities of the United States would be aflame in two weeks, and free fire war zones in a month! After that, the people of the cities will have eaten all the food possible left in the cities and, like a swarm of locusts, will try to move out to where the food grows.

    There you’d have a showdown. People who live in the country saying, “Ummmm, no…” to people who can offer nothing saying, “Give…” and “You owe me…”

    Those farmers and small towners could get back to the Earth rather quickly if they needed to. At least I like to believe they could.

  • Absolutely agree. Remember: as civil unrest grow, do not wait until things come back to “normal” situation. Simply go away, AWAY FROM BIG CITIES. Having a farm next to Boston would not be very intelligent. :-)

    The nearest “city”, in my case, is a 30,000 people town, 250 Km from here.

  • Jean, you are right of course. Anyone wanting to extend their survival beyond the collapse should start now and really should have started long ago and shouldn’t waste their time on these discussions. Endless discussions on the web are as useless as sitting on the deck of the Titanic listening to the band play as the ship goes down. However there aren’t enough lifeboats and some of us like the music. I yield my place on the lifeboats to any you want to bring in on yours.

    I have thought ever since I started blogging peak oil that it was very likely that there were aware people who were already preparing, quietly learning, building, stashing and not spending any time on the web except to garner info. I think such people are probably not doing anything to draw attention to themselves such as commenting on blogs. :) Here in the US especially not drawing attention to yourself seems wise. I don’t know any such people, I just hypothesize them. I started making preps some time back but sons won’t buy in, move here and help and this old body goes down hill more quickly than I thought would happen. So, I have pulled out my deck chair, stocked up on booze, now Victor would you please pass the popcorn.

  • Turboguy!

    How are you ? So nice to have you back.Have you been reading what I’ve been saying about you.It’s been met with disbelief here.

    For the rest of you,you should know that our Turboguy! lives among those
    who will be the first to riot.He knows first hand of that which he speaks of.We can therefore learn from him.Listen then carefully when
    he speaks.

    As for my comments on the US Dollar and crude prices,I emphasize that although there are various reasons for the rise in oil prices,the PROXIMATE, near term,most immediate reason is the weakness in the US Dollar.The straw that breaks the camels back is seperate and discrete. .

    Double D

  • Kathy

    Popcorn on the way….need something to wash it down with, however… hint hint

  • Turboguy

    Subsistence farmers and small commercial operations might have a chance if they don’t use diesel, or tractors, or pumps or power tools, or if they don’t use Monsanto seeds or need pesticides, herbicides, fungicides, and fertilisers. If they have ready access to potable water for drinking, cooking and irrigation (if required in your area). If they have an independent source of heat (don’t use LP gas, heating oil, or such). If they can operate without electricity both in the field and in the house. If they have a pantry full of guns and ammo (though not sure what happens when the ammo runs out). And if they have no need for purchasing clothes, medicines, equipment and the like. If they are lucky, they won’t require a doctor or a veterinary. And if the climate stays stable in their area. It would also be helpful to have a few working farm animals to help with the fields. Beyond that they should have little problem when TSHTF.

  • Kathy, I’m writing a diary precisely because of this: the following generations will want to know why their world is so different. They will want to know what happened, they will want to know the mentality of thi amazin era of growing and technology.

    As social conditions deteriorate in Europe, I find quite stressing visiting a city: Madrid, Barcelona, Marseille, Paris… are every day more and more violent. As unemployment grows and social protection systems collapse, chaos starts now.

    Of course I will not call the attention giving the geographical situation of my community: it’s in the ass of the planet, that’s enough.

    Now I’m worried about getting some basic stuff to arm the few young people around here and organize them. I’m not a prophet, or the leader of a sect, so I’m not talking about these things to these farmers until they need to know them. At that point I will train a couple hundreds of adults, and by doing so, I will guarantee the creation of a sustainable community, able to resist and prevail in the middle of chaos.

    That’s the aim of my life.

    If your sons do not want to listen now, wait a couple years… you simply build a sustainable farm for them and wait until they have to leave the globalized world: your grandsons will rule your lands and prevail: that’s the aim of your life… and forget about the popcorn.

  • Thanks to all of you who continue to bang the drumb. We continue to prepare going to into our 5th year. Jean I like the way you think, but there are probably alot of ways to fill your extra time, especially this time of year. Kathy I owe you some answers and probably some more questions, but its spring and that will have to wait. 100’s of perennials, trees, and berry plants still to go, and busy splitting everything that can be split. Great success with some plants doing hardwood propagation. From one elderberry plant we have 50 new ones ready to go in.
    Best to all,