Like an Elevator When the Cable Breaks

According to Mark Twain, “civilization is the limitless multiplication of unnecessary necessities.” It seems western civilization is just about done with the mindless multiplication of anything, much less unnecessary nonsense.

It’s too late for a fast collapse of the industrial economy. According to every significant index, the U.S. hit its economic peak in 2000. We’ve been in the midst of an economic recession since 2000. We’ve been mired in an economic depression since 2008, when the industrial age came within an eyelash of reaching its overdue terminus.

Even Ben Bernanke admitted as much, years after the meltdown on Wall Street. When all the banks fail — or even a significant proportion of them — we’ll suddenly lose access to the fiat currency that allows the current set of living arrangements to persist. I strongly suspect the high price of oil had a lot to do with the near meltdown in 2008, a notion consistent with oil price spikes preceding every economic recession since 1972.

When the next spike in the price of oil hits us, we’ll see another huge downturn for the industrial economy. According to more than 70 pundits, it’ll be the one that puts western civilization in the abattoir. This would be no surprise, given the fragility of the industrial economy and its near-termination back in 2008, when it was on much stronger footing than now. Oil priced at $140 barrel is almost certainly coming this year, and that should do the trick, much to the astonishment of those who believe the industrial economy is unaffected by spikes in the price of oil, or that its long-time decline can turn into a collapse.

Even Bank of America has joined the rising tide of voices calling for the price of crude to exceed $140/bbl within the next three months. And no wonder, with OPEC raising expectations of world demand after Saudi Arabia and OPEC have peaked.

As I’ve pointed out many times, and as Japan is making clear right now, economic growth is all about oil consumption. We’re falling off the oil-supply cliff this year, according to many sources, including the U.S. Department of Energy’s Energy Information Administration and the Joint Operating Environment of the U.S. military.

I don’t know the terminology for a sudden stop of the industrial economy. I don’t think terms such as hyperinflation and deflation apply, and economists rarely use the phrase, “industrial economy crushed by Godzilla.” As with any leap off a skyscraper, it’s not the fall that’s fatal: It’s the sudden stop at the bottom.

The rapid collapse of AIG back in September 2008 is a harbinger of an equally rapid failure of the Fed, hence our entire monetary system. The only difference is that this time there will be nobody to bail out the ultimate backstopper and, as a result, we will observe the long overdue termination of a failed experiment.

Here’s one analogy: We’re in an aerial tram, suspended a few thousand feet above the valley floor by a sturdy, steel, 2-inch-diameter cable. But the cable is comprised of thousands of tightly wrapped strands, all of which are hundreds of years old and half of which have already broken. The remaining strands are breaking at an increasingly rapid pace as the pressure builds. The U.S. Federal Reserve Bank has been holding this sucker together with duct tape and baling wire, but King Ben is fresh out of both items.

I find it a bit odd — no doubt because of bias inherent in my life as a scientist — that artists have a better understanding of reality than do scientists. Matchbox Twenty provides one example.

And while we’re on the topic of rearranging the deck chairs as the Titanic takes on water, the international community is rightly aghast at North Korea for spending a fortune on its military when its populace is suffering. Nearly one quarter of North Korea’s population is either starving or at risk of starvation, according to a recent UN report, yet its government pours money into missile and nuclear programs. Such behavior seems to be the height of irrationality, especially when you consider they stole the model for this behavior from the U.S.

I realize you and I had little to do with the dire straits in which we are immersed (i.e., we didn’t fuck it up). But we’ll be paying a high price.

No matter how many times I point out the acceleration of this ongoing slow decline, people take issue. I suspect it’s the primary reason Energy Bulletin and similar websites do not carry my essays. It can’t happen here. This time is different. There’ll be plenty of warning. And so on. In response to the insanity of the herd’s groupthink, I turn to Nietzsche for solace: “The individual has always had to struggle to keep from being overwhelmed by the tribe. If you try it, you will be lonely often, and sometimes frightened. But no price is too high to pay for the privilege of owning yourself.”

The seemingly rapid collapse of the former Soviet Union — the latest superpower to hit bottom, never to recover — actually took a few years to transpire. The collapse was faster than the ongoing collapse of the current system, but I have the distinct impression Obama is a conniving version of Gorbachev. A few informed people saw the Soviet collapse coming and sounded the klaxons, but government officials did not post warning signs on the nightly news. Quibbling over minor differences between socialist news delivered by and for the Politburo and fascist news delivered by and for the Corporatocracy seems irrelevant at this point. As Oliver Stone points out, Barack Obama could take a lesson from Mikhail Gorbachev about how to dismantle a dysfunctional empire that has long overstayed its welcome.

Warning shots have been plentiful. The masses have completely ignored these many shots. The next shot likely will be terminal for the industrial economy.

The decline of the U.S. industrial economy has been a slow-motion, ongoing process, albeit with several steps down along the way. If we’re lucky, the next step leads right off a skyscraper, thus leading to a sudden stop at the sidewalk below. Obviously, this is the only legitimate remaining opportunity to prevent the near-term extinction of the many species we drive to extinction every day, as well as our own species. And, of course, it will allow us to see the end of Twain’s limitless multiplication of unnecessary necessities.


This essay is permalinked at Island Breath and Running ‘Cause I Can’t Fly.

Comments 83

  • Good one, Guy.

    When I think about the whole slow/fast crash notion, I tend to look at what is happening as the collapse of a global civilization…not just the death of the western economic model. So when you think that our ability to store wealth (and thus create a wealth disparity and a much more stratified society) started maybe around 6000 or so years ago (probably much more), the amount of time that we have been going through an obvious implosion has been slight by comparison…pretty much like someone around 60 years of age being diagnosed and dying within the space of a month (if you assume that the collapse is playing out over 10 years or so…it’ll probably be a LOT less as things accelerate).

    A pretty fast crash for a human…and just as fast for a 6000-year old collective.

  • It reminds me of a story: A handsome man, well-educated, fine family, large house, mindless well-paying job, 2.3 children and 1.4 dogs, and a comfortable lifestyle. One day his car’s tires are flat, but he keeps driving because he doesn’t want to deal with it. When he gets out of his car, he steps on broken glass and his feet are sliced. But he keeps walking because he doesn’t want other people to know he hurts. His wife and children die in a tragic car accident, but he smiles at his co-workers and responds that his family is fine and happy. As he arrives home, his house has burned, but he moves into the garage and sets up house as if it was his real home all along. When he opens his garage door to go to work, he finds that the neighborhood was just bombed, but he walks on the sidewalk reading his newspaper as if nothing around him has changed. Arriving at his desk, he notices that someone moved his paper and pens and he explodes. His comfort zone has finally been challenged and he can’t deny that all is not right. He then shoots his co-worker in the next cubicle because “It’s all your fault!!!!”

    The human mind is an amazing organ that creates a reality that really only exists for itself. And some are better at it than others.

  • My doubts for a fast collapse (w/in a year) lie in the fact that we have not begun to see the bloodshed that comes with the last gasps of industrial civilization. Don’t get me wrong, there is plenty of bloodshed at the moment but I believe we ain’t seen nothin’ yet. IC will fight off collapse and take plenty of us with it before complete and utter collapse occurs. The real fight for resources has just begun in my estimation.

  • Einstein used the thought experiment of an elevator approaching the speed of light to conceptualize how extremely quick motions differ from those that are well described by classical Newtonian mechanics.

    We were building nuclear bombs before we really had any grasp of how his understandings are really definitions of the world in which we live.

    When we can do damage to earth/people/cultures with an idea, we run with it. When an idea gets in the way of wanton destruction for the profit of the few, we claim it to be short-sighted. Then we demand approval from political committees to fund scientific proof of fact from committees. hmm…

  • The denouement may well occur with Obamachev & Co. at the controls. In that case Dmitry Orlov’s FUSA (the “F” in this case is “Former”, not what the video suggests) could come to be in the lifetimes of most persons alive today.: and in that case Obamachev may well be the last president.

  • I just posted this to the prior thread before I read Guy’s excellent and relevant new one above. It seems appropriate to post it here as well? Hope you don’t mind.

    On the subject of oil. It is true that because oil is priced in US Dollars, and the dollar is weakened, there will be a corresponding increase in the price of oil. Whilst this is an important and significant point, this does not account fully for the increased prices of oil.

    One must consider the oil available on the market rather than the total production levels. This point is at the heart of the Export Land Model derived by Jeffery Brown. There exists total production. There exists internal use by the exporting country. As the exporting country’s population rises and its inhabitants’ standard of living is increased, more of their produced oil is consumed internally. The oil not used internally by the exporting country is the amount actually placed on the market and exported.

    Here are the numbers for the years 2005, which presents the peak “Available Net Exports” through 2009. You will see a definite trend here, will you not?

    2005 46.0 mb/d
    2006 46.0 mb/d
    2007 45.2 mb/d
    2008 45.2 mb/d
    2009 42.8 mb/d

    But there is another factor – the China/India effect. As these heavily populated countries develop economically, their oil imports have risen dramatically out of proportion to the rest of the world. Factor their increases into the mix, and the result is the Available Net Exports for the rest of the world:

    2005: 40.8 mbpd
    2006: 40.5
    2007: 39.1
    2008: 38.6
    2009: 35.5

    Now you begin to see the real trend. The decrease in ANE for that period and the ensuing oil price spike was surely the trigger for the financial implosion in 2008.

    The ANE is still decreasing, and according to westtexas, a major contributor to the OilDrum, might see a level of only 27-30 mb/d by 2015. If true, this is a very serious problem for the industrial economy of the world.

    Read more about this in the article and the comments area of the OilDrum:

    BTW – Saudi Arabia lies on a frequent basis.

  • Collapse is, from the long-term perspective, sudden. From a current perspective it can be a long, drawn out affair. But what is more interesting is that something in our nature prevents most from seeing it until it is essentially over. Then they raise their dazed and confused heads above the rubble around them and wonder what happened, and why they weren’t warned.

    People like Guy, Dmitry Orlov, Mike Ruppert, Derrick Jensen, William Catton and many others, however, seem to have special sight. While others are busy living their lives, these few see things that others can’t see, or refuse to see.

    I am reminded of the movie “Sixth Sense”. Like the little boy, they “see dead people everywhere”, or in this case, a “dead civilisation”. To them it has already happened.

    This is a dead civilisation walking.

  • Self-delusion and denial are protective mechanisms in which people deal with change, challenges, and trauma. Jensen describes and discuses this in one of his books. Two of the most prevalent contributing factors to this entire situation is hopelessness and helplessness of ordinary people. I hear this all the time, even in academia. “What can I do? I can’t change anything.” So they continue on as they have been. And then it becomes glossed over with denial and ready acceptance of any false promises that may offer hope. Not to mention that they are caught in the middle of the Big Game Players – politicians, religious leaders, money mongers, etc., who know how to play on the psychology of the masses.

  • “I don’t know the terminology for a sudden stop of the industrial economy. I don’t think terms such as hyperinflation and deflation apply”

    a great parse!

  • macrobe

    So true. And there are plenty of players out there who are ready to lead the masses to the promised land – for a profit of course… ;-)

  • Like most peak oil theorists, you are totally focused on reserves to the exclusion of an obvious alternative hypothesis.

    The Israel megamachine will exploit all of it.

    When Iran is attacked, as per the Oded Yinon Plan, your prognostications about oil supplies & prices will ring all too true.

    Correct conclusions, faulty & distorted premise.

    Guy says above;

    “When the next spike in the price of oil hits us, we’ll see another huge downturn for the industrial economy. According to more than 70 pundits, it’ll be the one that puts western civilization in the abattoir. This would be no surprise, given the fragility of the industrial economy and its near-termination back in 2008, when it was on much stronger footing than now. Oil priced at $140 barrel is almost certainly coming this year, and that should do the trick, much to the astonishment of those who believe the industrial economy is unaffected by spikes in the price of oil, or that its long-time decline can turn into a collapse.”

    “Even Bank of America has joined the rising tide of voices calling for the price of crude to exceed $140/bbl within the next three months. And no wonder, with OPEC raising expectations of world demand after Saudi Arabia and OPEC have peaked.”

  • Guy, you might have missed this “leading indicator,” but I believe Moody’s has “virtually” downgraded the US$.

    While it maintained the official “aaa” rating, I believe it issued a caution with that rating this morning.

    I just heard a quick blurb on CBC, and a quick Google revealed nothing.

  • Ah, here is the Moody’s US$ story:

    “Moody’s warned on Monday that it could move a step closer to cutting the U.S. Aaa rating if President Barack Obama’s tax and unemployment benefit package becomes law.”

    Nothing to see here, folks. Just another bankster blackmailing the US working class. Move along, now.

  • In a chess game,the treat is more potent than it’s execution.So too in the financail markets.The United States is not going to default on it’s
    debt—it doesn’t have to.There are enough tricks to keep things going until July,and after that POTUS has the authority to ration the money.He can decide who gets paid and who doesn’t.

    No,the real threat is the world wide perception that we don’t have things together.When we reach the ceiling sometime around May 16,and do
    nothing about it,panic ensues. When that happens we’ll see a run on the US Dollar,and commodity prices,including gasoline,will go much higher.

    May 16 is not far off.That is why I emphasize that the proximate cause
    of higher–much higher gasoline , is the weak dollar.Proximate means close,very near,as in
    May 16.

    Double D

  • Guy,

    I know that some will say that just by living in the bowels of the beast that is the US economy we get some of the blame for fucking it up. That may be true, but you could use the same argument to blame the man-on-the-street in Moscow for fucking up the Soviet Union. But there is enough to be depressed about without taking on a big load of guilt too. I think I must be getting better. In the face of the hugely negative message you handed us today your Katie Goodman clip had me laughing out loud. In fact, I’ve had a silly-ass grin on my face for the last two hours. A famous philosopher once said, “A spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down, in a most delightful way.”

    Michael Irving

  • Attention readers of you have been targeted for memetic attack by the super-intelligent Omega Brain. Prepare to be assimilated into the post-Singularity collective or face elimination. Resistance is futile.

  • Victor,

    Thanks for that very interesting assessment regarding Available Net Exports. I am not sure if your last estimate (from westtexas) of 27-30 ANE was including or excluding China/India, but I assumed the latter. In either case it is not good. It seems to be saying that, even if Guy is completely wrong in all of his estimates of what will happen in the near term, we will still be at a place where the USA would be claiming between 50 and 60% of the world’s supply of oil exports by 2015. At 27-30 ANE (excluding China/India) some countries will have to go without (maybe the UK would just give up using oil). In the face of this some folks who laugh at the idea of catastrophic collapse are also belittling the possibility of resource wars in the near future. They claim doomers are delusional.

    Michael Irving

  • ‘If we’re lucky, the next step leads right off a skyscraper, thus leading to a sudden stop at the sidewalk below. Obviously, this is the only legitimate remaining opportunity to prevent the near-term extinction of the many species we drive to extinction every day, as well as our own species.’

    Unfortunately I do not see that happening. TPTB will keep this game going for a long as possible, whatever the future cost.

    And the bulk of the general public still remain clueless about everything that matters.

  • Kevin … let’s create a new game.

    So to create we can tell each other stories.

    We are walking into the unknown. As of now we can still turn around and see all that we have known. Soon we will be further along this journey and when we turn around to look back there will be very little or nothing familiar.

    We each have the wisdom to move forward. We each know how to let go and embrace what is our future. We each will do this in our own unique way and because of that we together will create a new way.

    Katie Goodman tells our story very concisely. The words we add to the story will best come from honoring the unique wisdom and power that only each particular individual can give.

    To honor our wisdom and power to create a new way it our only ‘Katie Goodman’ hope.

  • We can build a new world from the ashes of the old.

  • Better yet, RanDomino, we can stop our building, let the world rebuild itself, and honor it by living in harmony with other living things again, as we used.

  • we will still be at a place where the USA would be claiming between 50 and 60% of the world’s supply of oil exports by 2015,/i>


    Yes, the figures already include the China/India effect which is shown below:

    2005 5.2 mb/d
    2006 5.5 mb/d
    2007 6.1 mb/d
    2008 6.6 mb/d
    2009 7.3 mb/d

    I believe the numbers will be worse than westtexas posits by 2015, due not only to below ground factors but also currency issues and resource wars adding high risk to oil-producing areas. Resource wars are already happening and have been for some time now, though they will likely get worse – not only for oil, but for food and water as well as America continues to bring freedom and democracy to the world (the oil-rich parts anyway)!

    People sometimes forget that the Middle East is one of the fastest growing centres of population in the world. These are no longer a few nomadic tribes – they are building huge cities. And cities require lots of resources – esp oil.

  • TPTB will keep this game going for a long as possible, whatever the future cost.


    Not just TPTB – WE (the general population) will try to keep it going as well. We will follow the lead of TPTB whatever they ask of us and whatever we believe to be in our best interests.


    The words we add to the story will best come from honoring the unique wisdom and power that only each particular individual can give.

    I wish you were right, I truly do. But my instinct tells me that only a few will exercise such wisdom – the vast majority will act as the vast majority have always acted throughout time.


    We can build a new world from the ashes of the old.

    How? Give us some of your thoughts.


    Better yet, RanDomino, we can stop our building, let the world rebuild itself, and honor it by living in harmony with other living things again, as we used.

    Precisely. I think Mother Nature is going to take the lead anyway from here out…. ;-)

  • We are beginning now to see it happen. OPEC must increase supplies before June or we will see <$130 oil.

    The question is, do they have the production capacity to do this? Not likely. 3Q11 should be interesting. 2012, even more so.

  • I was surprised to see this new book released. We don’t get a lot of open discussion of oil issues in the midwest.

    Book explores ramifications of a world without oil
    April 18, 2011

    WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – In Steve Hallett’s new book “Life Without Oil: Why We Must Shift to a New Energy Future,” the Purdue University plant scientist tackles the world’s energy problems from a different perspective – that of an ecologist.

    Hallett, an associate professor in Purdue’s Department of Botany and Plant Pathology, argues that energy is the driver of our society’s success and that the loss of abundant supplies of oil will significantly impact all facets of society.

    “You tend to hear about oil from oil guys and plants from plant guys. And that makes perfect sense. What you don’t get is the connections among those fields,” said Hallett, who authored the book with Jon Wright, a journalist who has extensively covered energy issues. “Making connections is what ecologists do.”

    In an admittedly pessimistic view of the world’s energy issues, Hallett argues that throughout history all societies have collapsed, usually from the loss of a necessary resource. For our current society, that resource could be oil.

    “We have a couple of choices: We either collapse, or we shift to something else,” Hallett said.

    A graph in the book shows the use of oil for energy as a large spike that began its ascent about a century ago and reaches its final descent about a century from now. That spike, Hallett said, is like an ecological input. The upward portion of the spike has advanced society rapidly, while the downward may create a difficult future.

    Energy-rich oil has improved our ability to produce more food, both agriculturally and through fishing, for example. That has led to a rapid growth in world population, which necessitates more oil to keep people fed. That oil, Hallett said, is causing spikes in carbon emissions, which is a factor in climate change.

    “You can see the sudden explosion of positive and negative through the same window,” Hallett said. “The bigger our economy gets, the faster we use fossil fuels and the faster we run out.”

    Hallett believes the world has reached its peak in oil production – give or take a decade – and is heading into an oil decline. The world will either have to significantly cut energy use or find an alternative source.

    Hallett also discourages the belief that human ingenuity will create a solution. He said the difficult truth is that the world can’t continue growing, either physically or economically, and expect to survive.

    “We’re constantly faced with these intractable problems, and we usually find the answer in more of something. We’ve come to the point where that won’t work,” Hallett said. “We’ve filled up the world with enough people, exhausted too many of its resources, and we need to settle into a lifestyle where we don’t feel the need for constant progress and growth. You can’t grow forever. We will reach limits, and the book argues that we are reaching those limits.

    “There are some things that just run out and cannot be replaced, and oil is one of them.”

    “Life Without Oil: Why We Must Shift to a New Energy Future” was released in March by Prometheus Books. It retails for $26 and is available through most bookstores and online booksellers

  • ‘Resource wars are already happening and have been for some time now, though they will likely get worse – not only for oil, but for food and water as well as America continues to bring freedom and democracy to the world (the oil-rich parts anyway)!’ -victor

    war, the great x-factor in collapse! totally agree, victor. u forgot to mention, however, that in addition to bringing ‘freedom and democracy’ to places like iraq, humanitarian mercenaries like turboguy! bring joy/toys into the lives of deprived children! see, war isn’t all bad!

    ‘People sometimes forget that the Middle East is one of the fastest growing centres of population in the world. These are no longer a few nomadic tribes – they are building huge cities. And cities require lots of resources – esp oil.’

    unbelievable the idiotic development that’s been taking place in abu dhabi? (sic), i think it’s called. 150 story skyscraper, indoor snow skiing in one of the world’s warmest places, artificial islands, … monuments to peak oil insanity.

  • Check this out:

    The S&P outlook cut comes after the International Monetary Fund (IMF) warned last week that the size of the US deficit created instability in the financial markets.[/quote]

    The credit cards are running out.

  • Kevin [Unfortunately I do not see that happening. TPTB will keep this game going for a long as possible, whatever the future cost.]

    They will try. TPTB are not gods although some have posited that they are shape shifting aliens. :)

    I think they are out of options and that very soon they will fail. I hope I am right.

  • Sudden stop (economics) – no thesaurus results

    Monster Crash, a musical tribute to the 2008 economic crash

  • Turboguy,
    Regarding your BBC link:

    Note that the administration and the Fed are both denying there is any problem, stating instead that the nation’s financial situation is fine and that the nation’s political leaders can be counted on to come up with a plan to meet the debt challenge.

    Unlike their response to smaller countries, the IMF and S&P are handling the 500 lb. gorilla very gently. That timidity is likely to allow Wile E. Coyote to overshoot the cliff edge even further.

    Michael Irving

  • For all you hunter gatherer types, I wanted to share this picture with you. It’s the most recent one on our blog, and it shows where we are currently digging ramps. We can dig 30# in about a half hour. Not our property, but we have transplanted and seeded 1,000’s on our land. First green up, and we should have sorrel in quantity next week.

    Kathy, do you want to trade dogs?

  • Kathy.

    I believe TPTB will be out of options the day the bulk of the general populace recognise TPTB for what they are. It seems to me that day is quite a long way off. In the meantime most people on Earth will continue to suffer death by a thousand cuts and not recognise who is weilding the blade.

  • Ed, no way will I trade dogs :)
    You are doing amazing stuff. Someone just told me that maple syrup had more antioxidants than blueberries. Could have something to do with all that boiling down and concentrating eh? Blueberries are on the bushes and my mouth is watering for that treat to come.

  • nice ed! thanks!

  • The Guardian reports:

    A US nuclear power company has disclosed that one of the tornadoes that hit the US at the weekend, killing at least 45 people and causing widespread damage, forced the shutdown of two of its reactors.

    The series of tornadoes that began in Oklahoma late last week barrelled across the country, with North Carolina, where 22 people died, the worst-hit state.

    The US nuclear safety regulator said on Mondayit was monitoring the Surry nuclear power plant in Virginia. Dominion Virginia Power said the two reactors shut down automatically when a tornado cut off power to the plant. A backup diesel generator kicked in to cool the fuel. The regulator said no radiation was released and staff were working to restore electricity to the plant.

    The tornadoes were among the worst in the US in the past two decades. Last year, 10 people died in a tornado in Mississippi, while 57 were killed in North and South Carolina in 1984 and 330 across the south in 1974.

    Two of the survivors of this year’s storms, Audrey McKoy and her husband Milton, who live near Raleigh, North Carolina, told the Associated Press they had seen the tornado bearing down on them over the tops of pine trees. At a nearby farm, winds were lifting pigs and other animals into the sky. “It looked just like The Wizard of Oz,” McKoy said.

    They took shelter in their laundry room. After they emerged, disorientated, they realised that the tornado had turned their mobile home around.

    The national weather centre in Raleigh issued detailed descriptions of the tornadoes and their paths of destruction.

    One of them, with winds greater than 100mph, destroyed trees, ripped off roofs and wrecked power lines. It hit Shaw University in Raleigh and then strengthened to 110mph. “Snapped trees crashed on to and through numerous homes all along the path. It is in this area where three fatalities were reported when two mobile homes were thrown 30 to 50ft [nine to 15 metres]. Nearly all of the mobile homes in the park sustained some type of damage,” the weather report said.

    Thousands of workers from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the national disaster organisation, are being deployed in North Carolina to assess the damage.

    The North Carolina governor, Bev Perdue, interviewed on the NBC Today programme, said the storms had ripped through homes as if they were made of paper.

  • Victor, when you get a chance please let me know all the things that you have done with the nettles. I’ve stir fried it, made tea and will dry it this year, and I have read that you can make amazing thread from the stems. We’re not putting it in with our nightshades. It grows on the crappiest soil that we have, and we rotate our crops every year. The last thing we want are our nettles mixed with greens.
    We are doing alot with blocking 14 comfrey aka Russian comfrey. We’re not eating it, but using it for its ability to bring minerals from below. Plant it in our orchard, and trying to create at least a 1/2 acre fertilizer garden with the comfrey. If its called Russian comfrey you have to know of other uses. Any help is really appreciated!! Good background can be found if you google Ragmans Lane Farm. Quite an amazing operation in the UK.


  • Kathy, I’ve heard that about maple syrup as well. We tapped 13 trees this year, and we have enough syrup for pancakes twice a week for the whole year, and a couple of other yummy meals. The amound of work was minimal.
    The place we dig our ramps now is owned by an Amish couple. We bought some raw, unfiltered, goldenrod honey from them. Unbelievable. I will never be able to go back to the garbage we were getting before.

  • Ed you can feed comfrey to chickens. I know there is some worry about using it for humans causing cancer, but my friend in the animal business says not to worry, chickens don’t live long enough! I mix it with other greens so they don’t get too much. I tried a comfrey poultice on my knee and it didn’t seem to help at all despite multiple applications. My neighbor thought it helped with some bee stings she got. That is all I know for sure but in limited amounts I think you could feed it to your goat. However the vid in this blog shows a goat saying no thank you to comfrey – funny

  • You can use comfrey as fertilizer. I wrap a leave around a piece of potato when planting for potassium. I soak the leaves in rain water for a few days and pour on tomatoes. It’s the roots you use for healing. Chop and smash a big, juicy one and layer it on a bruise, sprain or broken bone. You have to replace the poultice a few times for a serious injury. One of it’s names was Knitbone.

  • Oops. Hadn’t read the link above. It’s good. I want to add – the bees like the blooms. It really is prolific, but I like the leaves for compost. It is easy to dig up when you want the space for something else. Just let the roots dry out or they will grow in the compost. And if you don’t like the smell of rotting comfrey, keep the tea in the shade and don’t let it sit too long. It is good, free fertilizer, apparently as good as urine.

  • Looks like we are in for a really bad one the next time the financial system implodes.

    But, the agency’s analysts warned, “we believe the risks from the U.S. financial sector are higher than we considered them to be before 2008.”

    Because of the increased risk, S&P forecasts the potential initial cost to taxpayers of the next crisis cleanup to approach 34 percent of the nation’s annual economic output, or gross domestic product. In 2007, the agency’s analysts estimated it could cost 26 percent of GDP.

    Last year, U.S. output neared $14.7 trillion, according to the Commerce Department. By S&P’s estimate, that means taxpayers could be hit with $5 trillion in costs in the event of another financial collapse.

    Experts said that while the cost estimate seems unusually high, there’s little dispute that when the next crisis hits, it will not be anticipated — and it will likely hurt the economy more than the last financial crisis.

    And as we have said on many occasions, globalisation has made us tightly connected in ways we do not understand:

    The continued rise of globalization and the separate growth of derivatives — financial instruments that aim to spread risk — have led to greater connections between countries, industries and companies, Williams said. The level of so-called interconnection has tied firms to one another in ways experts do not completely understand. Regulators and policymakers didn’t know how interconnected various banks and insurance companies were prior to the near-financial meltdown of 2008.

    Because the giant insurer American International Group, better known as AIG, was connected to so many firms through derivatives, policymakers felt forced to bail the company out when it ran into trouble.

    “Systemic risk knows no national boundaries,” said Williams, who published “Uncontrolled Risk,” a book on the topic, last year. “It is not random or a force of nature, it is man made. [And] the global financial market remains fragile due to weak policies, lax regulation, poor accountability and systems not designed to capture global risk management.”

  • Give Mother Earth the same rights and privileges under law that a human gets? Perhaps not a bad idea. Thanks, Bolivia.

    Bolivia takes a hard line on global warming at the UN. Who stands against them? The entire world. What does that tell you about our prospects for survival?

  • Robin

    Excellent audio interview. It points out some really fundamental problems with the nuclear industry. Global ubiquitous under-regulation, revolving door government agencies captured by the industry, and over-powerful political lobbies. This is serious stuff.

    Indeed, the problems above can be applied to many industrial sectors and has the same results across the board – banking/finance, pharmaceuticals, chemicals, energy, food/agriculture, water management, and on and on.

    The connection between government and the industries that it is supposed to be regulating is completely broken in all areas – just another expected outcome of an over-complex civilisation.

  • Ed

    Don’t know much about Russian uses of Russian comfrey. My wife says that it didn’t really grow in her area. Sorry I can’t help you there.

    As for nettles, as I said they are good companion plants helping such as horseradish, tomatoes and potatoes to produce better. Nettles are also apparently good to repel aphids, black flies, and such. If you make a herbal tea from them, you can spray that over plants to help against aphids and fungal disease.

    Sounds like you have a really great place there. I’m envious!

  • Rita, the roots may have more of the good stuff in it but there are plenty of sites that advocate using the leaves for a poultice or compress

  • Kevin, I don’t think TPTB are one front. They are many. And they have different agendas, thus the attempt by some of the US PTB might be twarted by say Chinese PTB. While all may be intent on keeping the whole thing from collapsing, they are IMO incapable of neglecting self interest entirely. They want it to hold together with their country on top. Thus they may actually make if fall sooner. Further, the attempts to shore up the financial situation seem to be making it more fragile rather than less. There are things TPTB don’t control like wildfires and drought in Russia during wheat season.

    As for the People, well they are fickle bunch and succumb to the “maddness of crowds” whether it be for new fashion or for loyalty to their gov’t. The longer they retain that loyalty the more precipitous will be their abandoning of that loyalty IMO.

    “We’re actually seeing Texas burn from border to border. We’ve got it in West Texas, in East Texas, in North Texas, in South Texas – it’s all over the state,” Texas Forest Service spokeswoman April Saginor told CNN Radio. “We’ve got one in the Dallas area that’s four fires that have actually merged together.

  • I’ve heard that it is fantastic fodder for cattle, sheep and goats, but you have to dry it first as they won’t touch it fresh. I think it is as high in protein as lucerne hay (alfalfa) although it is better than lucerne because it is all leaf whereas lucerne is mainly stem and you have to be very good at making hay to ensure you don’t lose all the leaf in the process.
    I’d be surprised if comfrey caused cancer. Could be just one of those incomplete scientific studies that abounds when natural remedies are researched.

  • Oops – I’m talking about comfrey in the comment above!

  • As I have mentioned before Letters of Credit are one of the vulnerabilities to our system. They are about trust between PTB, not the people. In order to ship goods from say Thailand to the US the guy in Thailand wants to be sure he is paid, but the guy in the US wants the goods in hand before paying. So banks step in an guarantee the payment with a letter of credit. Better explained here at wiki

    In 2008 according to some there was the beginning of a crisis on this front as banks became leary of issuing letters of credit. No trade, no economy. Just one of the ways lack of trust among the PTB can sabotage their atempts to hold stuff together.

  • kathy/kevin
    i tend to agree that tptb can’t work together when it is not clear that doing so is in their best interest.

    i believe the ‘bankers’ [as a profession]have had the primary ‘say’ so far. i often think bankers are the closest knit group…worldwide, that is…the world has ever seen. unfortunately at some point the ‘dogs of war’ will be given much more say; & they have the significantly the opposite trait as a group.

  • victor
    nice catch re financial ‘risk’. as per my comment above, the bankers are starting to fight out in the open.

  • sam

    Good comment about the bankers being the elite among the elite….everyone borrows from bankers….the government, the people, the corporations, even small bankers. They are getting to a position with the bailouts that they will end up owning most everything. With the creation of derivatives, they made themselves too big to fail. Since they are too big to fail, we can not afford to let them sink, since then all holders of derivatives (most all corporations, mutual funds, insurance companies, untold numbers of investors, pension funds, you name it!) would demand payment that could not be paid – it is a huge Ponzi scheme. Since we can not afford to let them sink, we the people must assume their bad debt obligations. This means the government has to borrow the money to relieve the bankers of this debt. We the taxpayers then get stuck with paying it off by having our social safety net removed, our wages lowered, our pensions cut and our human rights abused. The bankers then get to borrow money against the government for free, then purchase government obligations with that money and earn a nice interest on it, making the government borrow more to pay their interest. Meanwhile the bankers, are in the business of buying up real assets all over the globe with their money. It is an incredibly ingenious scheme. Criminal, but ingenious.

    The military is theirs – they don’t have to worry about those folks. they can influence countries to go to war. Indeed, between the bankers (from whom all governments have to borrow to wage war) and the military/industrial complex (who make the bombs, depleted uranium, weapons, and all the sophisticated weaponry, plus the contractors who come in afterwards and rebuild the occupied country’s infrastructure) and the oil companies (who ideally assume control of that county’s oil resources for huge profits) war is unending. They really don’t care if we win the war or not – that is not the point. The point is to keep the war going for as long as the stupid “patriotic” population is wiling to fund it, making huge huge profits for them.

    But which is richer? Of course, many would argue that the oil companies are really behind most everything, including the bankers – not certain about that one, but it has got to be close… ;-)

    Of course, one can also make the point that there are elite in every country, and then there are THE Elite, the global elite, who are far more powerful than the ‘national’ elite. The Global Elite hold no national loyalty. They don’t give a shit about national boundaries. It is they who virtually own every country on the earth, either directly or indirectly. But Kathy is right – even the Global Elite have differences of opinion and differing strategies and often compete. But rather than being a conspiracy, they are instead a culture, who share common goals and worldviews – they might just differ on how to reach those common goals.

  • About comfrey – I think some rats in a lab somewhere had liver problems from it. It’s interesting how many plants are toxic to one species, but not another. I’ve been gathering material to write an article about toxic plants, but find there is so much info and it is so complex, I haven’t got it down yet.

    Toxicity is a slippery problem in general. A tiny bit can be medicine. When is a toxin not a toxin? When is an asset not an asset? When is civilization not civilized? When we move out of town to live in the wilderness, did another piece of wilderness just bite the dust?

  • Rita, yes so many things in life are slippery. Salt is one. It is a necessity, beneficial, harmful and deadly all depending on dose. I for one will eat comfrey if nothing else is around. But right now we have so many other greens I just use it for chickens, mulch, and pollinator attractant.

    Re civilization you could say that civilization is by and large never civilized although some in a civilization act civil :)

    When a new species invades an environment it seems that something always bites the dust. If you assume all niches are filled, anything added takes away. I seldom bother then to carry a bug outside as some do, because I feel it likely that all bug spaces are already filled. :)

  • Rita,

    Oleander is widely used here in the Sonoran desert.It grows so quickly,providing a natural hedge fence,that can grow up to 20 feet.It’s flowers are beautiful.It needs little water.It’s very thick.

    A group of boy scouts used Oleander wood for their cooking camp fire.
    They all became very sick,some required hospitalization.I’m told Oleander is the most poisonous plant to humans and animals.

    Double D

  • This was at M Ruppert today …
    speed climbing no ropes.
    He called it a perfect metaphor.

  • Thanks Victor.

    There are a couple of comfreys some have more alkaloids than others, and I believe those are the ones that will a number on your liver. For now, I’ll take alcohol over comfrey in the ongoing destruction of my liver.

    Kathy, we are going to cover the area that we grow asparagus in with lifestock salt. Apparantly cannot kill the asparagus, but will even get rid of quack grass. I’ve heard because it is related to seaweed or
    originated in countries near the coast. Looks like its finally time to secure your seatbelt, and put your pillow on your lap. Food riots in Kenya, and Uganda, trucker’s strikes in Shanghai.

    Best Hopes

  • Ed, I don’t have significant weed problems in my garden as I started with heavy cardboard and leaves and just add more leaves every year. Luckily I didn’t have Johnson grass or bindweed as they are hard to get out. So my asparagus gets leaves, leaves, bit of manure, more leaves. Been eating it for about 2 weeks :) Edible pod peas in a few days. I can smile about our early season fro about 2 more weeks I think, then summer heat and drought will set it. Well with luck we will have a month before that comes.

    I do have a small patch of nut grass that goes right through cardboard, leaves etc. and is hard to weed out. OTOH the corms are edible but small and they are extremely hardy so perhaps I should be glad they are there.

  • Dated Brent Spot $124.42

    Gold $1504.65

    CO2 392ppm

    Stands of the cable getting weaker.

  • Gold $1505.40 – going up, anyone!
    Silver $45.60 – you’ll get altitude sickness with that one soon

    Had a long conversation yesterday with one of the few remaining in our area who still knows how to live without power. He thinks he’ll get by just fine when Collapse comes because he grows or hunts his own food and has for years. Mightn’t get chocolate anymore though. Likes to go to bed early and get up with the sun so won’t miss electricity much. Won’t need fuel because there won’t be any point going to town if there’s nothing in the shops. Will miss the chainsaw, but will just have to sharpen up his old axe. Now a draft mule would be nice because they live for 40 years, are really hardy with good feet. And he could ride it or work with it. Just make sure you get one that’s been treated well and has a good temperament. Their kick will bring a bull down, and kill you or a dog outright. And he’ll have to try to stay healthy, but when your time’s come, your time’s come. No point getting into a stew about it.

    What a refreshing attitude! I’d better start looking for a draft mule!

  • Alternatives to Nihilism, Part Two: Lead Us Away From Here

    Nerium oleander is well known as a poisonous plant in the Indian subcontinent, and is reputed to have been used in a salad to do away with husbands. It has very potent cardiac glycosides with effects similar to digoxin, and its toxicity can effectively be treated with Digoxin immune Fab (Fragment Antigen Binding = the pant of the gamma globulin antibody molecule which binds to the antigen – the molecule is shaped like a “Y” and the Fc, Fragment constant is the stem of the “Y” and is the same for all antibodies of that class in each species, while the Fab is the rest of the molecule, and is specific for each antigen). Digoxin immune Fab is marketed as Digibind for the treatment of digoxin toxicity.

  • Nicole

    What a refreshing attitude! I’d better start looking for a draft mule!

    Indeed….it is always nice to hear about someone like that. As for the mule, seems to me that if we are lucky and more survive than I think, then more farmers will be out there in the future….that should give someone the opportunity to raise draft mules for a living. Also, someone to make and repair ploughs and harnesses, make and repair wagons? Jean is learning to make leather boots – that’s a very good idea. I reckon there should many opportunities to learn new skills and trade on them when the time comes.

  • Kevin

    Strange you don’t hear anyone speaking of a collapse in oil prices any more…. ;-)

  • Corrigendum: “Fc” refers to “Fragment crystallizable” because of the identical composition of all the fragments in each antibody class – it is constant within each species.

  • Victor,
    We really need to start learning these skills now – not when the time comes.
    I live in a fairly remote area and there are at least 4 people who have skills to pass on to me including blacksmithing, breaking in horses for riding and harness, farming with horses, timber felling and milling the old fashion way – axes, cross-cut saws etc., trapping, making timber houses using just axes, broad axes and cross-cut saws to prepare the timber, wagon making, leather work using rawhide, and a number of other traditional crafts. Yet one of them is almost 80 years old, another is going on for 70, but has a dicky heart with poorly fitting artificial valves. It looks fairly bleak for both of them when medicines are no longer available. Luckily the other two are in their 50s so will hopefully be around for some time yet.
    We still have time now to learn these skills before they die out. As we don’t know who is going to come through the bottleneck, the more people who have the skills, the more chance we have of emerging at the other end with the ability to establish a functioning village styled society as opposed to hunter gathering. Australia’s not a good place to be a hunter gatherer. I don’t like witchetty grubs!(No, I’ll be honest – I don’t like the thought of witchetty grubs. If I were hungry enough, I’m sure I’d get to like them just fine.)
    There are some traditional skills that were so common, nobody thought to write anything down about them. Scything was one such skill. And when the tractor appeared, no one thought we’d ever use scythes again, but people are using them now, trying to pick up the skills that came naturally to every farmer just 50 years ago. I was taught to peen my scythe by an Austrian who had taught himself and practised conscientiously. He was very good, but the other day I was showing a group of people how to peen and one of them was a blacksmith who specialised in hand forged tools. He looked at how I taught him then quietly took the blade out of my hands and started peening. I had peened by steps. First do this then do that. He peened by asking the metal what had to be done. The results were superb. I learned so much from watching him work for just 15 minutes. This level of skill or artistry is not to be underestimated. Find the people now and learn from them.

  • Nicole

    Totally agree. These skills exist yet today, but are relatively few in number now and fairly widely dispersed. So when Collapse happens, what then are the chances for 1) many of these people surviving in a particular area (having the skills is no guarantee of survival), 2) enough skills being available to a surviving community, as they will be scattered all over.

    Whilst I agree that these skills may well survive Collapse, they will be too far between to be of much use in building new communities.

    The key is small communities sharing skills learned before Collapse, and coming together for common security and living support. The ideal scenario, it seems to me, to be one in which people in a particular area seek each other out, and learn from each other these skills, beginning the process of putting together a new localised infrastructure modelled after the ancient one. Then when disaster happens, they can come together as a working community.

    I still maintain that not much can be accomplished on an individual basis. There are too many things that can happen to an individual in times of chaos.

    Jean also has a sound strategy of not trying to form a community in advance, but preparing the way for when Collapse happens to be then in a position of leadership, knowledge and skills to bring others who are not so prepared into the fold. This perhaps could be accomplished be a few dedicated people in a particular locale who can then provide the leadership for those who are willing and able to receive instruction and make the necessary sacrifices after Collapse.

  • nicole
    He peened by asking the metal what had to be done.

    nice!! one of my favorite things to do is learn from, ‘the old timers’. i receive in spades; & u can see the glint in their eyes from giving, & feeling meaningful. our not needing these skills due to fossil fuels is tragic in multiple ways!

  • I keep asking but the metal is silent. Perhaps it doesn’t like me. Of course, I have to do this when no one is around for obvious reasons.

  • Ah Victor,

    It’ll come. That moment of enlightenment!


    China’s coming collapse

    The Middle Kingdom’s prosperity is an illusion. And when China finally falls, we’ll all feel the pain.
    By Jason Kirby

    …But simply because China has twisted and contorted its economy to generate empty growth doesn’t mean its future success is guaranteed. Quite the opposite. China has failed to learn the most important lesson of being a modern, thriving economy, says Chovanec at Tingshua University. “Failure is very important for any economy. To have businesses fail, to have people lose money, to have the stock market and real estate go down, is all really critical, because it teaches people what is a good investment, and what is a waste of resources,” he says. “Unless you have that, then people will think they can put their money into whatever they want, and they’ll always make more money, until the costs get socialized and everybody wonders why everyone in China is so poor.”

    Not that you’ll hear frank talk like that from most investment bankers, business consultants or in corner offices in the West….

    i’ve been reading signs of this in a no. of places. long article but presented, & connected a lot of dots…a race to the cliff’s edge…who will be the winner!

  • Since you need a donkey to get a mule, why not stop there. I believe they are less fussy eaters, certainly need less food, and have been the choices of peasants for eons
    google donkey cart for images like this! Not only do the demonstrate the power of of donkey but also the ingenuity of turning old cars and trucks into donkey carts

    But never overload your donkey cart

  • nicole/victor…dad i think used to also listen to the ping. he rarely shaped steel..i was quite young… but when he did he would often hit the anvil between blows…twas musical…one of the things u could tell he really enjoyed.

    victor get a dead blue tooth; it’s a great cover for all sorts verbal not ok’s.

  • Watch this young woman scythe circles around a tractor

  • Watch this young woman scythe circles around a tractor

    Hmmm…don’t think so…

  • Victor commented: “The key is small communities sharing skills learned before Collapse, and coming together for common security and living support.”
    I am seeing increasing revitalization of basic survival, self-sufficiency and craftsman skills here in the US. Small scale and community level. This is encouraging, no matter what happens.

  • Victor, those were circles she was scything and that was a tractor in the center – its a joke. But more importantly she was scything with apparent effortlessness because she had a good stance and rhythm – I found it a pleasure to watch. If you watch it to the end a quote by Gandhi comes up

    Gandhi wrote, “Its a tragedy of the first magnitude that millions of people have ceased to use their hands as hands. Nature has bestowed upon us this great gift which is our hands. If the craze for machinery methods continues, it is highly likely that a time will come when we shall be so incapacitated and weak that we shall begin to curse ourselves for having forgotten the use of the living machines given to us by God.

    Some interesting stuff here

  • Sam, on your “China’s Coming Collapse” comment: It’s not going to matter who gets there first!

    We’re all so connected right now that when one of us goes down, we’re all going to go with them a day later.

  • kathy, the donkey video was hilarious! did u watch the related one of the angry cat?

    unfortunately the scything video didn’t transmit well, but i loved the gandhi quote. civilization diminishes us in many ways. it’s too bad most humans, maybe the whole species will die along with it when it’s gone.

    otoh, maybe that’s best for gaia and life overall. (hey gary peters! u still here? notice i just did what i harshly criticized u for: inappropriate, superfluous use of the word ‘maybe’. yes, i’m a mean hypocrite! i apologize!)

  • When the cable breaks on a real elevator, the safety brakes immediately engage (the weight on the cable was all that was holding them off) and the elevator car, after a sickening lurch, comes to a halt, stuck in place.
    If only our civilization had safety brakes, instead of being in denial that there is a need for any such thing.