The Heirloom

The Heirloom is a riveting, fast-paced story about some of the characters caught up in a rapidly collapsing United States. This tale meets the plausibility test requisite of a any good novel. On that front, I find it far superior to James Howard Kunstler’s post-peak superstition-laced novels, World Made by Hand and Witches of Hebron.

Author Richard Davies is adjunct professor of English at Wichita State University. This debut novel is intended to be the first of a trilogy.

Cover art by Charlotte Martin

The central characters are Jerome Naiche, an internationally renowned physicist from UC-Berkeley and Harris Red Moon, his much-younger, self-absorbed assistant (i.e., driver). Naiche sees the light about “free energy” toward which he has spent his career work working just as the nation is unraveling. He co-opts techno-optimist Red Moon into driving the two of them to the eponymous heirloom farm in North Dakota, where Naiche’s daughter Kathy founded a back-to-the-land movement 16 years earlier (Kathy’s son Ben is the product of a one-night stand with Harris when she visited her professorial father in Berkeley). The rapid escape from Berkeley for the interior U.S. leaves behind Red Moon’s on-again, off-again girlfriend Emma, an activist for Earth Liberation Front.

At the most superficial level, The Heirloom is a battle between the newly enlightened professor and his long-time, techno-optimist driver. But this personal battle is a foil and metaphor for the larger struggle being waged between the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and a nascent anti-civ movement. Davies imbues his characters with sufficient complexity to destroy potentially abundant stereotypes: There are no white hats to inform the reader which of the characters are good guys, and no black hats to indicate the bad guys. These are real people with significant differences of opinion based on emotions rooted in personal histories.

The story is focused on characters and the rapidly changing world they inhabit. Davies subtly weaves in several important concepts while challenging mainstream views. The long-sought miracle of free energy, in the form of fusion, is a central theme. But Davies acknowledges early in the book that free energy doesn’t eliminate limits to growth (p. 23): “Even if fusion could be put in place with a finger-snap, the result would not be freedom but an immense population increase—until population growth stopped when the least link in the chain broke. No amount of energy in the world could make new, green, unpolluted, biodiverse land, or fertile oceans, or fresh water unless you counted desalination which would lead to immense piles of salt that had to go somewhere, which would lead to toxic salt dumps, which would lead to changes in the ocean’s chemical balance, which would lead to a plankton die-off, which would lead to the loss of half the world’s oxygen production, and which would lead to the death of the human species.” Most of the characters in The Heirloom, reflecting most people who have not thought about the issue as deeply as Davies, never awaken to the simple fact that there are limits to growth. Harris Red Moon is the archetype of this shallow level of thought.

Davies understands academia (and also recognizes academia as a mirror of American culture), and he provides a subtle overview (p. 25): “Intercut with stock images from past senate visits were the absolute realities of life as an academic: the petty budget concerns, protecting one’s fief, the need to never appear ridiculous or out of step, the careful cultivation of one’s facade. Except for the freakish outlier, the star performer, or rainmaker, the academic species was surprisingly herd-like. Change was not in its vocabulary.”

Climate chaos makes an occasional appearance, as when the prominent physicist’s daughter, who runs the heirloom seed farm to which Naiche and Red Moon make their initial escape, pragmatically considers how to produce food in light of environmental collapse (p. 89): “Unfortunately, she had to presume that industrial man would continue to produce toxins and thus continue to induce climate change. This would cause the collapse of the ecosystem, and the real question would become, which way did the tipping tip? Would the world see a collapse of the thermohaline cycle in the ocean and thus a new ice age? Or would warming continue, forcing life to fall back into the Arctic and Antarctic regions? She sighed. How could she prepare for all these things? The undoing was as dangerous as the doing.”

The Heirloom covers a lot of intellectual ground without leaving a small geographic area. In addition to serving as a penetrating look at our present and our potential future, it serves as a coming-of-age story for Ben Naiche, grandson of the reborn physicist and son of Kathy (the physicist’s farmer daughter) and Harris Red Moon (the physicist’s long-time assistant). Young Ben is torn between the rapidly vanishing techno-world and the rapidly vanishing remnants of his native heritage. Like me, and most thoughtful people, he is torn between his own narcissistic desires and the longing for a more durable future for humanity and the living planet.

Ultimately, The Heirloom is a wide-ranging tale about the human experience. It is about life, love, death, honor, and people struggling to make their way in a world not of their choosing. The characters are developed sufficiently to become familiar. I cheered and booed along the way, sometimes at the same character.

For me, a novel is worthy if it satisfies two criteria: It tells me something about the world and something about the human condition. This book easily passes these tests, and it’s enjoyable, too. I recommend it very highly.


This review is permalinked at Energy Bulletin, Island Breath, and Community Based Economics.

Comments 109

  • Guy, do you know where the book is available? all I can find is a kindle edition.
    I haven’t read any fiction (except msm) for awhile and this sounds like something I could get into. Thanks

  • Well, time to put my librarian skills to work.

    First of all, Sue, what area do you live in? I might be able to use a computer system I have access to to find it in your nearest university library, but I’m not sure where your nearest university library is.

  • Off subject but of note – another summer of wildfires may be ahead.
    By KEVIN LEWIS Herald Editor
    For the fifth time this year and third time in a week, Plainview has set a high temperature record.
    While winds were between 20-30 mph much of Saturday, the temperature rose to 91 degrees, eclipsing by one degree the old record of 90 set for that date in 1952.
    Previous high records set so far this year happened last Sunday (93) and last Saturday (91) along with March 17 (89) and Feb. 16 (84).
    The area likely won’t see another temperature record today as highs are expected only in the lower 70s. However, high winds will remain, blowing out of the west at 30-40 mph with gusts up to 60 mph. As a result, some forecasters are saying wildfire weather conditions today could shape up to be among the worst in Texas history.
    Key weather factors include pervasive drought conditions, high winds, high temperatures and low relative humidity. Those weather conditions along with record-dry vegetation increase the potential for wildfires not only starting but also spreading quickly.
    Texas Forest Service, the Texas Division of Emergency Management and other state officials have been watching the weather forecasts for several days. According to National Weather Center meteorologists, the conditions are probable for a regional wildfire outbreak similar to the ones that occurred April 9, 2009, across the Southern Plains of Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas, claiming 147,924 acres, 111 homes and four lives

  • Sue,

    Unfortunately, the novel is only available as a download. I decided to approach publication this way due to a couple of factors, chief of which is time. When I finished the novel, I realized I was in a quandary–we live on borrowed time. If I had gone the traditional route, I would have expected anywhere from six months to a year running down an agent. Should I have found one, the chances of finding a publisher would be a real crapshoot. Maybe, maybe not. Let’s say the agent was really hopping and got it accepted within six months. That’s a year. Now, from my friends who have published, they tell me to expect two years before the book hits the shelves, and since I am an unknown, don’t expect any promotional support.

    That means three years until publication, no support, and the very good possibility that everything will go sideways before even one of my books is purchased. I figured that this way at least it would have a chance.

    You can download the Kindle reader for free from the Amazon site. On the righthand side of my book’s Amazon page, you will see the different formats available. You do not need to purchase a Kindle.

    I have heard of just in time publishing for producing hard copies, and I am looking into it.

    Thanks for your time and hope you get to read the novel. I’m shooting for a late August release for the second in the trilogy.

    Richard Davies

  • Thank you Richard
    I understand your situation and didn’t realize I could download a reader for free, I’ll give it a try.
    Thank you for the offer Librarian, I did check out our local and came up empty.

    I think we’re going to have a repeat of the dust-bowl in certain areas this year, just a feeling though. The 1/4 mile wide tornado in Iowa last night, the 1/2″ hail that just came through here or the destruction being caused by numerous twisters tearing through Wisconsin atm…

    We’re not in Kansas anymore Toto.

    Oh, and Ruppert is calling for collapse in July
    (could we hope for the 4th?)

  • Richard: some feedback:

    I found you book on Amazon (after including your name as a search term – w/o it you’re invisible)

    I don’t (and won’t) own a synthetic “book” reader (IE: Kindle) but based on your statement that I don’t need one to read you book I looked on the Heirloom page for non-Kindle reading options which, after stumbling around a bit I admit are there -sort of – but if I hadn’t arrived at that page w/ your assurance that I didn’t need a Kindle to read the book I certainly wouldn’t have figured that out from what Amazon has showing there.

    After finding the “Kindle for PC” page I clicked on DOWNLOAD and noticed that it was 17+ mb which, almost certainly, means a substantially larger software install size. I’m simply not willing to put Amazon’s proprietary bloatware on my HD To read your book.

    I can understand your reluctance to subject yourself to the conventional publishing route but I feel the path you’ve taken sends conflicting messages. The fact that has Guy has recommended your book suggests that you “get it”. But the fact that you’ve chosen a technoporn delivery system like Kindle suggests that you don’t. Kindle could be the poster child for for our scientistic, gadget-obsessed culture that can’t put it’s toys away & grow up even though the End is Neigh.


  • Richard/Guy

    This book sounds like something I would very much like to read. And the fact that you have chosen the electronic format to publish is a good decision in my mind, esp in light of the challenge that is currently set before us. We need to make use of technology whilst we have the time. Kevin Moore published his book via a print-on-demand self-publishing facility on the internet. I bought a copy a couple years back. It looks like another feasible way forward for you.


    I originally grew up on the plains of Northwest Texas, not far from Plainview actually – poor, barefoot (had one pair of holey shoes for school), and full of the imagination that only a young boy with nothing else occupy his time could possess…;-) I remember well the weather we faced in the early 50s. We had sandstorms so thick that they would hang about for days at a time and we would have to turn our car lights on to go about. It was mostly red sand so the entire area looked like some surreal scene from Mars.

    BTW, Ruppert has been predicting “Collapse in three months” since I can remember… ;-) He’s entertaining and has a fairly good feel of the direction we are headed, but I don’t take him too seriously any more – at least as a “weatherman”.

  • Victor, I’m a bit torn.

    On the one hand, I’m almost hoping that the collapse happens as soon as Ruppert’s predicting, because then Americans would actually have a consensus as to what’s happening to them and we wouldn’t have this sick culture where people are condemned and judged for their own misery.

    On the other hand, a collapse of civilization would send most people on a scramble for food and shelter, and the spare time to READ would become a luxury.

    So I don’t know. I have several impulses within me warring with each other. I love civilization’s expansion of the mind, but I hate the way it seems to suppress human conscience. Is it like that for all of you as well?

  • Librarian

    Anyone who says civilisation does not have its good points is simply not rational. Unfortunately, however, there will come a time when choice will be taken out of our hands. If the masses ever actually came to believe Collapse was imminent, there would ensue such chaos as you have never imagined. I personally believe that the masses will NEVER come to accept Collapse, even as it is happening. There are some things simply too frightful to accept.

    I fear Collapse. I fear it with every bone of my body. I do not want it to happen. I know for certain that I and so many that I know and love will suffer immensely. TurboGuy is right – Collapse is not a thing we should wish for. OTOH, Collapse is necessary to save the environment, and perhaps to save ourselves as well in some small way – as a species. There is no way to avoid it, even if we (global society) suddenly decided we would. So I too am torn. Do not feel that you are the only one to feel that way.

  • nice dialog guys!!!

  • @ Ted Howard
    Please have a look at the comments at “Missing the forest and the trees”.

  • @ Ted Howard
    Don’t have a look over there, lol. For some reason the comment section there seems closed.

    As I didn’t want to start the nuclear issue here again I thought it better over there, doesn’t work.

    SANG. Your article has kept me thinking. Nuclear technology. It truly is one of the worst, no, is the worst hazard mankind has done to this earth as it finally may turn out, when things fail on big scale.

    “top level brainstorming exercise with engineers in the US” is there more information available on this?
    Also the bit about SANG. Is this your “invention”? It is at first, shocking, after a while, the only thing to do if mankind ever wants to show responsibility. Nightmare to prevent unthinkable nightmare.
    I’d love more information and exchange on this.
    If you like please use email.

  • Just one of many options in self-publishing:


  • Victor, Librarian, collapse was out of our hands from the moment our civilization began, just as whether we die is out of our hands from the moment we are born. While we might affect the timing a bit, every civilization before us has collapsed. Tainter in his excellent book “Collapse of Complex Societies” explains what is the common feature of collapse – diminishing returns on investments in social complexity. Richard Duncan has documented that long before energy peaked and plateaued, energy per capita peaked and plateaued.

    If you are born, you die. If you become a civilization you collapse.

    Since it is inevitable and all the signs say it is near, to wish for it to come as soon as possible is just wishing for the least bad, the bad that leaves something for the future. But sometimes, even though I am totally aware of how bad this bad will be, I just want it to be over and done with come what will come anyway.

  • Kathy, just be careful you don’t turn into a nihilist.

    I actually speak to conservatives online sometimes, and it turns out that one of their biggest reasons for refusing to take us seriously is that they (wrongly) compare us to over-dramatic goth teenagers who think that pain is all there is to life, so we might as well all die and have “death be our salvation.”

    Just be very careful.

  • Richard and laffin_boy, et al: A short discussion of electronic v. traditional publishing, titled “The Way We Live Now,” on my blog at http//

    Have downloaded The Heirloom and will try to read it in time to comment on this thread.

    But while I’m here,even though Librarian cautions against nihilism, isn’t it possible that industrial civilization, with inhuman intelligence, has refused to solve the problem of nuclear waste storage as a way of holding humanity hostage? If civilization collapses, the storage ponds go dry and we have on earth five hundred or so long-term lethal radioactive sources, well distributed so as to irradiate farmland and water everywhere. It’s neutron-bomb warfare, without the war. And you were worried about people with guns.

  • Librarian – I am not an ist or an ian, I have my own thoughts. If sometimes they line up in part with some ist or ian you can put me in that category if you want – doesn’t make it so. Death is a salvation to many. Hospice patients are people who understand that and want to avoid being “saved” to suffer longer. Death does not appear as salvation to the young and healthy who are full of dreams. Death is inevitable for creatures that are mortal and a mercy for those who face unbearable pain. Do you seek to make me stop talking about a reality we all have to face by warning that I might become a nihilist.

    Can you not read my words. While sometimes I wonder if extinction of humans might be best, you will note that I usually express hope for a quick end to civilization in the hope that it would happen in time leave some sort of livable planet for future humans and other creatures. Would I escape your charges of nihilism if I hoped that this planet’s ravaging civilization go on as long as possible to kill off life in the oceans, flood helpless populations all over the world, kill of the plankton that create half the O2 in the environment (which we humans can’t live without) make larger ozone holes, spread drought, floods, violent weather all over the planet, melt the glaciers etc.

    If I took a bullet to save my grandchild would that make me a nihilist?

    You are playing with words, time to get out of your library and spend some time in the real world. Those words are useful but they are poor representations of the reality.

  • Laffin_boy,

    That is the dilemma, isn’t it? Given that we are in a world which has removed the option of opting out from the vast majority of people in the industrialized world, how does one do “what is right?” I cannot go out into the “wilderness” and go back to nature; I don’t have the skills. Everything I was taught related directly to being a part of the paradigm. When I teach at university, I often feel conflicted. Even though I tell my students about peak oil and other issues, show films like, “The End of Suburbia” and “What a Way to Go: Life at the End of Empire,” print out excerpts of Jensen’s “Endgame,” and generally tell them that they are buying into a dying paradigm, I still grade their papers and issue a grade that will cause them to be processed further by Planet Killer U.

    Derrick Jensen speaks to this issue in “What we Leave Behind” when he notes that he still drives a vehicle. He says, and I paraphrase, those people who insist that we not use the master’s tools to disassemble his or her house are essentially surrendering their agency. If I can disseminate what I believe is a novel that will, I hope and pray, help people to see the problematic thinking that goes with our industrialized world, maybe people will, as Jensen says, “Decolonize their minds.” Before one can actively thwart the planet-killing machine, all thoughts of allegiance or relationship with the machine must be removed. Those who look back longingly on tech after it is gone or who have a “pre-cog” moment where that anticipate missing that tech sabotage their own ability to destroy the machine. You cannot destroy that which you deep down believe is essential to your life and living.

    Quandary indeed. I am often taken by the tendency of many people, activists, politicians, scientists, bartenders, waiters, nurses, teachers–hell–everybody, to focus on the minutiae of an argument rather than the underlying fundamental problem, which is the destruction of the planet upon which we all rely. I’ve had students mock me for using a computer and then dismiss out of hand the entire argument I’ve just proffered. I understand the tendency; I just don’t accept it as helpful.

    In fact, I often, in a bid to instill reverse psychology, ask students if they’ve seen the movie, “The Matrix.” Most generally have. I recount the scene where Neo visits the Oracle who tells him certain things, not what we the audience expected, and he himself seems stunned, and she tells him, “don’t worry,” handing him a cookie fresh from the oven, by the time you eat this you will have forgotten all about this nonsense and you will remember that you don’t believe in this “mumbo-jumbo” at all, and you will leave and feel “right as rain.” The students usually smile with that post-ironic half smirk so common today. And I continue, “By the time you reach the stairs, exit the building, and get into your cars, you too will have forgotten what I’ve just said. But, every time you eat a cookie, or see the Matrix, or notice gas prices rising, you will remember that Matrix cookie, and you will remember that civilization is on its last legs. Enjoy your cookie.” The students who fixate on minutiae generally ask at this point, “What kind of cookie?”

    Ultimately, civilization will collapse. The only question is will we destroy the planet for all the other non-human people.


    Richard Davies

  • To John Rember,

    Thanks for the discussion on publishing! I hope you enjoy the novel.

    Richard Davies

  • Ah, John, you’re forgetting about radiation hormesis. Inhuman intelligence refused to solve the problem of nuclear waste storage so we could live longer.

    It’s a healthful thing!

  • First of all, it is very preposterous that a daughter of a prominent professor would mate with a mere indian driver without contraception, and it is even more unlikely that the father would have tolerated the assistant even after that deed, since the child’s color would make it obvious about who fathered it.

    Plus, it is also very unlikely that the virile Harris would mate with someone with an opposite thought, diametrically against it. If anything he would be too happy to inform her to the authorities.

  • Resa, you’re just a little ray of [unshielded] sunshine.

  • Jaime,

    Mere “Indian driver?” “Child’s color?” I think I know where you stand. The permutations of the human interrelationship are infinite as are the moment to moment emotional needs of people.

    And, thank the stars for that!

    As a professor who has seen many professors up close and personal, your observations are completely off base. Prominent professors have seen their children get AIDS, knocked up, and/or marry crack addicts, thieves, and heaven forfend…Republicans!

    Get out there and broaden your horizons. You might be amazed at what you see.


    Richard Davies

  • Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, Kathy, I apologize.

    I didn’t mean “you’re a nihilist.” I only cautioned you against it because I was afraid you might look bad to conservatives.

    Of course I read your comments, and you’ve mentioned your hospice work multiple times.

    I was not criticizing you, I was trying to say, “Conservatives THINK we’re nihilists, and let’s not give them an excuse to think they’re right about us.” I was NOT trying to say “we’re actually nihilists.”

    I apologize to you, ma’am, if I expressed myself badly. Please forgive me, ma’am.

  • Librarian, OK sir, acknowledged that you did not say I was a nihilist only that I was in danger of becoming a nihilist. I owe the apology on that one.

    BUT….what difference does it make what Conservatives think of me? In case you haven’t noticed, Obama is almost exactly like Bush and in some cases worse. Does that do any good when it comes to conservatives.

    I hope you are not saying that I should express on this site only views that reflect well on Liberals and avoid saying my own views. I am not a Liberal or a Conservative. I don’t bound myself that way. In fact being on this site and reading Guy’s essays has strengthened my views about the necessity of collapse to save the planet.

    Since I believe that the continuation of industrial civilization will head us into climate change so severe that it will end human life on earth, I would be a nihilist if I hoped for industrial civilization to continue as long as possible.

    I do not believe that there is anything we can do to stop civilization from killing itself, and Derrick Jensen type actions I don’t think would speed it up.

    But, I am not going to squash down my beliefs for conservatives. I don’t play that game. It should be clear to all that it does no good.

  • “Bolivia is set to pass the world’s first laws granting all nature equal rights to humans. The Law of Mother Earth, now agreed by politicians and grassroots social groups, redefines the country’s rich mineral deposits as “blessings” and is expected to lead to radical new conservation and social measures to reduce pollution and control industry.”

    Full story and video at

    Back in my Christian days I worked briefly at an organization that did development work in Bolivia. We lived in a dorm with a family from Venezuela (non indigenous and middle class with two overweight kids) and two indigenous men from Bolivia who were there for some training. One night at dinner my son was whining because he didn’t want to eat his veggies, and the Venezuelan kids were crying because they didn’t want to eat all their food. The one Bolivian man remarked “In your country the kids cry because they don’t want to eat, in my country they cry because they don’t have enough to eat”. It wasn’t judgmental sounding, just an amazed observation that ever a child would cry for being told to eat something.

  • Kathy, so true.

    Conservative/Liberal…two sides of the same bad penny. Obama is Bush is Clinton is Bush; all opportunistic lampreys sucking the life out of society. Best to go on ahead and offend both at the same time and be done with the labels and divisiveness, and free up more time for the garden. Hard to take offending one or the other seriously, considering the grave peril all species currently face to their continued existence — even spineless invertebrates like politicians.

    Anyone who thinks today’s liberals are any better than today’s conservatives, has not yet taken the red pill.

    Drop out of that old right/left paradigm, which chooses our arguments for us, and sets the parameters therein. It has only as much power as we give to it, anyway. The subjects discussed here at NBL are the marrow of true human experience, within which political labels are irrelevant, even absurd.


  • Well then I apologize. I won’t bring up those labels or that paradigm again.

  • Since it is inevitable and all the signs say it is near, to wish for it to come as soon as possible is just wishing for the least bad, the bad that leaves something for the future. But sometimes, even though I am totally aware of how bad this bad will be, I just want it to be over and done with come what will come anyway.


    You are on a much higher spiritual plane than I. Though intellectually I accept Collapse as inevitable, and even necessary for the survival of the world and possibly even the human species, and though I am emotionally prepared for the worst to come, especially in light of current events in the world, and though I plan daily in so many small ways for it, still yet, I fear it. And whilst it is inevitable that I will die as will you and every other human, yet I fear death as I believe most normal humans will. And whilst I know in my heart and in my mind that there will be much suffering, terrible suffering, yet I fear to suffer and I fear the suffering of those I love and those in the world who must go through it.

    Unfortunately, unlike you I do not seem to have the capacity at this point to look Collapse in the face and proclaim, “Come on….Let’s get it on!”. And perhaps that is in no small wise because I have not had the exposure to pain, suffering and death which you have had in your life.

    Perhaps your experience has hardened (strengthened?) you over the years to accept such in life with a sort of fatalistic two-fingers-in-the-face-of-death attitude – a kind of “Death and suffering are part of life. Get over it!” attitude. But it hasn’t me. And I suspect it hasn’t others as well. Indeed, I must admit that it sometimes sounds hard to me. And maybe that sometimes frustrates a person like yourself at times. And maybe that makes me and those who feel as I do weak, and perhaps that is a correct assessment.

    I must admit to dangling on the fence where it comes to Collapse. At times I have an “In-Your-Face!” attitude to it, and at other times, it is “Woe is me and everyone else!” attitude.

    Sorry for the rant.

  • I suddenly lost my Internet connection last night. It was like sudden cold turkey! What to do? What to do?

    Pathetic…. ;-)

  • Chris Hedges’ latest….brilliant.

    A nation that destroys its systems of education, degrades its public information, guts its public libraries and turns its airwaves into vehicles for cheap, mindless amusement becomes deaf, dumb and blind. It prizes test scores above critical thinking and literacy. It celebrates rote vocational training and the singular, amoral skill of making money. It churns out stunted human products, lacking the capacity and vocabulary to challenge the assumptions and structures of the corporate state. It funnels them into a caste system of drones and systems managers. It transforms a democratic state into a feudal system of corporate masters and serfs.

    And again:

    The demonizing of teachers is another public relations feint, a way for corporations to deflect attention from the theft of some $17 billion in wages, savings and earnings among American workers and a landscape where one in six workers is without employment. The speculators on Wall Street looted the U.S. Treasury. They stymied any kind of regulation. They have avoided criminal charges. They are stripping basic social services. And now they are demanding to run our schools and universities.

    And lastly:

    “The greatest evil perpetrated,” Hannah Arendt wrote, “is the evil committed by nobodies, that is, by human beings who refuse to be persons.”

    As Arendt pointed out, we must trust only those who have this self-awareness. This self-awareness comes only through consciousness. It comes with the ability to look at a crime being committed and say “I can’t.” We must fear, Arendt warned, those whose moral system is built around the flimsy structure of blind obedience. We must fear those who cannot think. Unconscious civilizations become totalitarian wastelands.

    “The greatest evildoers are those who don’t remember because they have never given thought to the matter, and, without remembrance, nothing can hold them back,” Arendt writes. “For human beings, thinking of past matters means moving in the dimension of depth, striking roots and thus stabilizing themselves, so as not to be swept away by whatever may occur—the Zeitgeist or History or simple temptation. The greatest evil is not radical, it has no roots, and because it has no roots it has no limitations, it can go to unthinkable extremes and sweep over the whole world.”

  • Victor [And whilst it is inevitable that I will die as will you and every other human, yet I fear death as I believe most normal humans will.]

    I think we humans actually fear dying, and we fear losing expected time on earth. We don’t even know how to address in our mind non-existence. We don’t fear it so much as we just can’t imagine it. I am sure that there are many religious people who fear hell or that they will be reincarnated at a roach. But if you have no belief in an after life there is just a void. But we enter that void fearlessly when we go to sleep and gratefully when we go under anesthesia for an operation.

    Dying is something to fear, for whether in times of chaos or times of settled living, dying is seldom easy. We all envy the bloke who dies in his sleep for good reason. And we fear missing out on events of living that we expect, although those whose lives are miserable with no hope of improvement sometimes take their own lives in order to avoid more misery.
    An interesting watch is “You Don’t Know Jack” about Jack Kervorkian with a stunning portrayal by Al Pacino. However the one state (Oregon?) and the few countries that allow Dr. assisted suicide have had relatively few people avail themselves of it.

    I make light of collapse sometimes (I’ll miss the bananas) because while I can’t deny what is coming, sometimes it does overwhelm me, not the deaths so much as the ways of dying that we have hidden from our minds. Starving, yep people are starving now. Rape, yep people in the Congo especially face not only rape but rape with broken bottles jammed up inside them. War, yep not only war on your own soil but children captured and forced to become soldiers and kill their own people. I could go on. This is happening now, and I expect some version of it to happen here. Are these deaths worse than a battle with cancer that causes unbearable pain that must be born every day for years. I don’t know, but we are not familiar with these ways of dying and certainly not familiar with chaos.

    I don’t deny the coming of collapse, but I don’t deny that much of the time I block it because what is the point. The idea that early collapse will save the planet is in fact the only way I can bear it. The fact that everyone will die anyway is the only way I can bear thinking about huge numbers of deaths in a short period of time.

    Reading Tainter is in a way a comfort. The inevitably of civilization collapse when complexity out runs available energy, is the only way I can deal with the total failure of the right and left, the conservatives and liberals, the do gooders and the corporate vultures and myself to save the planet in a way livable for future humans.

  • Hey Richard,
    Thanks for telling us about the free download. It is totally cool! Only took 3 minutes to install (then 15 minutes to register because I couldn’t remember my amazon password or even which email I used. Ha ha) Never wanted a kindle because who needs to be tied to yet another electronic gadget? But I am more then happy to download books onto my laptop which I am already attached to, unfortunately. I do hope you manage to get the book in hard copy since that will out last the collapse unlike my computer. Besides I like reading in the bathtub. Keep us posted. :)

  • ‘There is a huge difference, as Socrates understood, between teaching people what to think and teaching them how to think.’ – from the hedges article quoted and discussed by victor.

    i’ve always been skeptical of the idea that sheople can be taught ‘how to think’. they can only be encouraged to do so, in my opinion, and in most cases they still won’t do so to my or your satisfaction, perhaps because they simply can’t.

    i’m skeptical because i certainly don’t consider the formal schooling i received as having encouraged independent critical thought, and this was of course way before the recent emphasis on rote learning and testing of ‘no child left behind’. i’m skeptical because i have a couple of relatives who are now retired ex-school teachers who imo are among the dumbest, most dogmatic sheople i know. so i tend to doubt that ‘no child left behind’ is any great departure from the past. it seems to me that for a long time now ‘public education’ has been elite controlled and designed to produce narrow ‘thinkers’ who are best suited for an insane culture of greed, inequality, and scientific illiteracy. this perception has been well reinforced from reading john taylor gatto, especially his book DUMBING US DOWN.

    besides, how much does any of this ‘reform’ debate matter, knowing it will all be moot shortly in the face of collapse?

    as for the death debate, i contend that any collapse preps are incomplete without including thinking about and preparing for humane suicide, preferably with support of loved ones.

  • @virgin
    If you don’t mind, my opinion on thinking. I adore the great potential mankind has within on this. Or, considering the state we are at, maybe better, would have.
    As socialising already starts with birth or even the circumstances of gravity does influence the well being of an unborn, I believe in this early age the chances of a human becoming able to think by him/herself are prepared then already.
    Don’t know whether you know Prescott:

    It is worth to read all of it, if time is short on the page further down:
    “The Long-Term Consequences of Infant Pleasure and Pain”
    He had the chance to do analysis on different cultures, that this isn’t possible any more due to the vanishing, or better extinction of so many cultures is a pain that is so painful for itself.

    But, I believe the grounds for brain development and the ability to think are prepared at very early stages.

    Totally agree on your arguments further.
    My experience with school when eight was like this, tried to ask questions, tried to find out what is behind – if things are like taught – what are the arguments? Wasn’t possible unfortunately, so I “dropped” out of school when 8, thought – the shortest way out of this system. Means I had to stay for another 7 years, it was a boring hell. When 18, realised this was the mistake, decision made when 8!

    Also, I’m sure that the powers are not interested in self thinking people and organise schooling this way, I also believe that the school system, much alike society, is a self sustaining system of stupidity.
    Due to dropping out all those that don’t comply, partly, due to the great success in making man comply. So we are the beginning again, when is the ability to think, “born.”

    Regarding humane suicide. Yes, I believe too that is important, still have no clue as to how.

    But, there is this most beautiful spring here, so let us enjoy.
    Love and Peace

  • For a book already on Kindle, CreateSpace, an affiliate can print it on demand if so authorized.

  • Teaching how to think:
    The Trivium method

  • Th history of public education in the US was formed by the elite over time. The normal child is “educated” to assume a “positive” role in American society. They are taught facts, and other content, taught to obey those higher in the hierarchy, work hard, obey the law, die in wars, and above all – consume.

    VT – you were never taught how to think critically in public education because it is not generally taught – purposefully. The PTB do not want people who are capable of asking the right questions and challenging their strategies. This goes back many years – far before your time.

    Some might say that public education in America is a story of devolution, a strategy of dumbing down passed on from generation to generation.

    Critical thinking can be taught. Logic can be taught. It can be done at an early age. But it is not. And never will be.

    As for pre-school children not being taught critical thinking, this is simply a result of the uneducated passing on their master/slave education to their children, with each generation becoming less capable of original thought than the previous one.

    The elite want producers and consumers. You don’t have to think well to be either of those. And as long as public education exists in America, you won’t.

  • But, I believe the grounds for brain development and the ability to think are prepared at very early stages.

    The Bomb in the Brain

  • VT – besides, how much does any of this ‘reform’ debate matter, knowing it will all be moot shortly in the face of collapse?

    Knowing how to think critically and logically will always be an invaluable tool for the human. Any survivors of Collapse will quickly learn that.

  • Carrie,

    Wonderful! I hope you enjoy the book.

    It seems that Robin Datta has a suggestion for a hard copy. I’ll check it out. Thanks, Robin!!

    Richard Davies

  • Terry, I had a friend who was listening to a local talk show one time. The subject was education. A person called in and asserted that he sent his kids to school to learn math and reading, NOT how to think.

    As far as your comment about skipping out before it gets too nasty, it is a hidden thought that many have had. I have posted this before by Utah Phillips – The Miner’s Lullaby. In this case the miners carried morphine for self release in case of a mine disaster, but it was a well hidden secret, because they were at the time largely Catholic immigrants for whom a shortened end time was forbidden.

    Bernhard you wrote “Regarding humane suicide. Yes, I believe too that is important, still have no clue as to how.still have no clue as to how.” You can google self deliverance or right to die. There is a book called “Final Exit” as well by Derek Humphrey.

  • I have been thinking about this subject all afternoon. I think that the hardest thing to think about is not our human mortality, but rather the thought that maybe there is no meaning to our existence. I am not sure what meaning humans have, except as being the only self aware observers who can love the beauty of this world, appreciate their own and others emotions and the like.

    The one thing I am sure is that if we extinct ourselves for our comfort, pleasure and even for our ability to gain ever more obscure knowledge, our run on earth as humans will mean nothing. IF we want being human to mean something, this civilization has to crash for the planet to remain habitable.

  • Richard, do update us if you get hardcopy. I would love to read your book, but I don’t have a laptop or Kindle and I cannot sit for long at my computer without some one of my body parts complaining.

  • I really do not understand why the public is not mad enough to choke when such as this is revealed:

    Wall Street and all the other ultra-rich of the world apparently no longer have a need for privately obtained money – they just use the Fed as an open door to the US Treasury borrowing at 0 percent interest, loaning it back to the government at 3 %, and then using off-shore banking to avoid taxes on the interest earned. Even Wall Street wives are in on the borrowing.

    Good God! When will Americans rise up and DO something about this criminal activity that is bankrupting the people of the world?

  • More on shale gas:

    Shale gas ‘worse than coal’ for climate

  • Finished The Heirloom. It’s of serious interest to the NBL community, as it explores a plausible collapse/die-off and yet doesn’t assault the reader like McCarthy’s The Road. It moves right along and reinforces the idea that however much any of us might want to generalize about the end of the world, when it does finally come we’re going to be confined to our individual perspectives.

    The book also envisions young people in a post-collapse community, and they’re different creatures from their parents. It recalls Richard Heinberg’s “Letter from the Future,” which suggests that future generations might not be all that tolerant or respectful of the accomplishments of their elders.

    I was disappointed that the early references to the entirely artificial world of academe were not developed further. People who have spent their lives inside the ivory tower either clearly see the arbitrary and absurd nature of what constitutes reality, and leave, or they are so identified with the academic routine that they’re trapped in it forever. For selfish reasons, I would have liked to have seen what happens to committee chairs when there’s no committee and no chair.

    In the book, a scientist who has the secret of fusion energy keeps it to himself because of a stroke or the voices of spirits [take your pick]. So civilization is doomed to energy starvation by one man who can see that fusion would just allow humans to run roughshod over the planet for awhile longer. This example suggests that for scientists and the rest of us, civilization is an act of faith, and if the faith is lost, scientific progress stops. That might seem obvious, but it’s possible to look at the current slowdown in scientific discovery as a manifestation of apostasy.

    [One of the reasons Guy’s mud hut is so dangerous is that it exists in solid counterpoint to the great hollow fraud of finance and pretense that most of us depend on for our sustenance. If a picture is worth a thousand words, four straw-bale walls are worth four thousand pictures.]

    The world of The Heirloom is just as real as the world we inhabit, and I say that knowing that it’s fiction. I think its vision of tribalism is more benign than the tribalism I see in action around the world, however. At the risk of sounding like a broken record, I also want to know what happens to the spent-nuclear-fuel pools when no one’s around to keep them topped up.

    On Kindle: I don’t know how long the electronics of a Kindle will last, but I suspect that with a cheap solar charger and all the free books you can download, the $140 it will cost you might be one of the best investments you can make pre-collapse. In a world where portability will be a survival trait, you can pack a library of 3500 books in your pocket, and chosen well, those books will save your life. They might not be the books that you can get free. But Charles Hugh Smith’s Survival Plus is $5, and I’d rather have that on my Kindle than spend the same money for a crafted microbrew down at the local pub.

    Some books that came to mind while reading The Heirloom:

    Childhood’s End by Arthur C. Clarke, about aliens who turn the world’s children into aliens. A parable for the age of social networking.

    A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court by Mark Twain. A manual for creating late 19th century industrial technology from scratch. The original steampunk novel. Free on Kindle.

    The Sibling Society, by Robert Bly. Human development, or lack of it, in an age of electronic reality.

    Love in the Ruins, by Walker Percy. Life gets crappier and crappier. The stock market goes up and up and up. Walker Percy is a funny man if you like dark and prescient humor.

    Anyway, congratulations on the book, Richard Davies. Thanks for an entertaining read and a credible exploration of a future that resonates with our present.

  • Victor thanks for the heads up on the latest Tabibbi article in Rolling Stone. But you are wrong, these guys are trying to speed up the collapse of industrial civilization. They are the heroes of the age :)

  • John

    Thanks for the excellent review of Richard’s book. I too have downloaded it and am trying to find time to read. One question though in reference to the following quote:

    In a world where portability will be a survival trait, you can pack a library of 3500 books in your pocket, and chosen well, those books will save your life.

    Do Kindles use batteries?

  • Kathy

    But you are wrong, these guys are trying to speed up the collapse of industrial civilization. They are the heroes of the age

    LOL….thanks for adjusting my attitude!

  • John

    One other note in reference to the following quote (I’m really not picking on you!!!):

    At the risk of sounding like a broken record, I also want to know what happens to the spent-nuclear-fuel pools when no one’s around to keep them topped up.

    When Collapse comes, spent-nuclear-fuel pools will be the least of our problems. It will be the live reactors that will give you nightmares – UN-spent fuel. UN-managed reactors. Incredible possibilities for global coverage of ionising radioactive fallout.

  • The reason you folks are having to put up with me right now is that my wife is working another night shift (she’s a nurse). So I am alone, bored, and dangerous.

  • So to add to its burgeoning arsenal of advanced weaponry that we all are so grateful for to protect us from all those hordes of TERRORISTS, the US now adds lasers from ships to render inoperable all those Somali pirate ships that up to now those poor military buggers have been so defenceless against! Your tax dollars at work.

    As the video shows, the lasers are extremely effective against outboard motors! You can now relax. America is still in charge.

  • Victor:

    Have you considered getting a puppy?

    I don’t know how many rechargings the Kindle battery will take–I assume that it’s limited–but if it’s like my old laptop, it will work while being charged, even when it won’t charge anymore. The power it draws is low enough that a small solar panel should be able to supply its operating energy. So you’ll have to read in the daytime, but that will save on candles. I realize the Kindle–and the solar panel– won’t last long enough for the great-grandkids, who probably won’t be able to read anyway.

    On the spent-fuel issue: It’s my understanding that these storage pools are so crowded with spent fuel that without a water/boron moderator, things will melt together/catch fire/vaporize and put all sorts of long-lived transuranics into the atmosphere. In terms of quantity of radioactivity, the spent fuel accumulated exceeds the unspent fuel in the reactors, but it looks to me that both are variations on the same problem: without people tending fission reactors and a civilization to educate and support those people, radionuclides will get into all the air we breathe and all the food we eat. Not as bad as asbestos, but still enough to temper one’s joy while hefting the first freshly-harvested turnip of the summer.

  • Glow-in-the-dark turnips might be an interesting conversation piece, albeit a bit hot to handle….

  • @ bernhardr. -dr. james prescott. there’s a name i’d forgotten. i think i first came across his work in a playboy magazine article many years ago. btw, i tried several different links to try to access your link to one of his articles, none worked. interestingly, one of the links i tried was to a hustler magazine article. i find it more than intriguing that a much vilified industry (pornography) took such interest in this subject, when i don’t recall seeing it elsewhere. anyway, i am quite familiar and a fan of dr. prescott’s work and conclusions. yes, i agree that our species is almost surely capable of much more thought and rationality, but perhaps only under radically different cultural conditions. those now so restrict our freedom and development.

    r. datta thanks for the renewed link to freedomain’s the bomb in the brain.

    ‘IF we want being human to mean something, this civilization has to crash for the planet to remain habitable.’ -kathy

    i believe if we want to live meaningful lives period, this civilization must die. we must be free to be ruled by instinct and reason, rather than by dogma addicts and their institutions.

  • Robin, your thoughts that my knee was probably a meniscus tear led me to read all I could about it. I decided to give self healing some time and followed all the instructions about self care (well mostly, I didn’t rest as much as I could have, spring, garden you know). But at any rate it doesn’t hurt anymore and the swelling is 95% gone. I continue to wear a knee brace and am being careful not to turn it again. But just wanted to say thank you for putting me on the right track.

  • From Jesse the Ventura
    Letter to the ruling class

    You control our world. You’ve poisoned the air we breathe, contaminated the water we drink, and copyrighted the food we eat. We fight in your wars, die for your causes, and sacrifice our freedoms to protect you. You’ve liquidated our savings, destroyed our middle class, and used our tax dollars to bailout your unending greed. We are slaves to your corporations, zombies to your airwaves, servants to your decadence. You’ve stolen our elections, assassinated our leaders, and abolished our basic rights as human beings. You own our property, shipped away our jobs, and shredded our unions. You’ve profited off of disaster, destabilized our currencies, and raised our cost of living. You’ve monopolized our freedom, stripped away our education, and have almost extinguished our flame. We are hit… we are bleeding… but we ain’t got time to bleed. We will bring the giants to their knees and you will witness our revolution!


    The Serfs.

  • Re: “What happens to the spent-nuclear-fuel pools when no one’s around to keep them topped up.”

    Fortunately, within a week after reactor shutdown, the decay heat of spent fuel is less than half a percent of the reactor’s original core power, and it continues to decay as time passes. Still, the spent fuel is usually stored for a year or so in a cooling pool before being reprocessed or packaged up for permanent disposal.

    There are a number of permanent disposal options under consideration. Some are in the design phase. The one I was involved with used vitrification to convert radioactive waste into glass. Once solidified, the waste would then be stored in a permanent repository. (Budget permitting) a plant should be fully operational by the end of this decade.

    So, bless technology’s heart. We won’t need someone to stand by and top off into perpetuity. We’ll just need someone to run the glass shop.

  • By the way, the U.S. is no longer the only culture that’s pursuing profits above all else.

    Sweden’s gotten in on the act, although unlike us they’re not doing it to themselves.

    Check this article out:

  • Librarian

    You have presented the case for the Corporate culture throughout the world. This is precisely where they want to take all countries eventually. First, they want to lower taxes. Then they want to destroy the workers’ social safety net. Then they want to destroy the rights to collective bargaining. Then they want to destroy decent wages, working hours, benefits and pensions.

    Out of this they hope to gain a largely desperate and cheap unskilled workforce who will fight for jobs. There will be a middle class, but a much smaller one composed of skilled workers, technology experts, scientists, you name it – those skills that come at a higher price and represent the real consumer power.

    My opinion only, of course.

  • Kathy

    Nice words. Unfortunately, simply noise barely audible over the background. Jesse Ventura represents no threat to TPTB, and therefore he is still alive…. ;-)

  • Resa

    What if the reactor is not shut down? What happens if the workers simply walk away or otherwise prevented from returning to maintain it or systematically shut it down (which as I understand it can take years?).

  • Victor:

    You’re confusing reactor shutdown with reactor decommissioning.

    Shutting down an operating reactor is relatively quick. When the earthquake hit in Japan, the Fukushima reactors were immediately SCRAMed (shut down). Within seconds, decay heat was down to 7% of operating power.

    Decommissioning a reactor takes years.

    I’m puzzled however. Why would you assume workers would simply walk away? We’ve had three major reactor incidents (at least that the press got ahold of). In none of those incidents did workers simply walk away. On the contrary, they did everything within their power to get the situation under control.

  • To John Rember,

    So glad you enjoyed the book. You’ve put me in some remarkable company. Good luck to you come the long emergency!


    Richard Davies

  • @VirginTerry
    Sorry the link didn’t work out, I tried, works from over here.
    Would you mind trying this one?

  • Resa

    During Collapse, all manner of things will happen, both to people and to the ability of companies to operate – everything from starvation and disease to transport problems (you can’t maintain a plant if you can’t get to work), parts availability, many things. It is not that people will walk away. It is that they will not be able to run the plant any longer for whatever reason.

    The most critical problem that nuclear reactors, indeed with all commercial and government operations, will face is loss of workers during die-off. As I have indicated before, the most vulnerable part of civilisation lies within its defining structure – the city. When the ultimate effects of peak oil are upon us we will see a complete breakdown in transport and food services. The cities of the world will be devastated, cut off from food, water, supplies and transport. When that happens the real die-off begins. And when the real die-off begins, then all those specialities that cities are responsible for will be severely impacted. The cities are the centres of education, production, skilled workers, management and control, technology, etc.

    When this happens, all nuclear reactors will be at risk, like everything else.

  • The power of Words –

  • @Victor
    The video, thanks:-) invitation for tears.

  • What have the done to the rain

  • Resa, per the book “The World Without Us”- “in places like England’s Windscale plant… vitrified waste is stored in air-cooled facilities. One day, should power go off permanently; a chamber full of decaying, glass embedded radioactive material would get steadily warmer, with shattering results.” I would presume they wouldn’t bother with air-cooling the waste if it wasn’t considered necessary.

    from wiki “The plant has three process lines and is based on the French AVM procedure. Principal item is an inductively heated melting furnace, in which the calcined waste is merged with glass frit (glass beads of 1 to 2 mm in diameter). The melt is placed into waste containers, which are welded shut, their outsides decontaminated and then brought into air-cooled storage facilities. This storage consists of 800 vertical storage tubes, each capable of storing ten containers. The total storage capacity is 8000 containers, and 5000 containers have been stored to 2010. Vitrification should ensure safe storage of waste in the UK for the middle to long term.”

  • Victor, Kathy,
    Thank you for those links.
    Here is one that you may have seen, but each time I look it, it gives me hope:
    The Lost Generation

  • Nicole, Whew…. I hope there is hope…if collapse unfolds as many of us expect the hope will be found not quite as that video poem portrays, but in the kind caring deeds, sacrificial deeds in the midst of decline of lifestyle, untimely deaths and even chaos.

  • Victor spot on re Jesse – he is alive, but no longer governor, and inhabits the fringe far enough to discount. I remember I was disdainful of a wrestler as governor but he is far more aware of what is going on in the world than most in politics. I now enjoy listening to him. :)

  • Kathy

    Yes, he is fun to listen to….you almost wish he was in charge… ;-)

  • Nicole

    Cool video. I sometimes wonder why I am not so creative as that! Enjoyed it.

  • Satoshi Sato, a Japanese nuclear industry consultant, called the current line of attack a “waste of effort.” Plant instruments are likely damaged and unreliable because of the intense heat that was generated, and pumping more water into the reactors is only making the contamination problem worse, he said.
    “There is no happy end with their approach,” Sato told CNN. “They must change the approach. That’s something I’m sure of 100 percent.”
    After the 1986 Chernobyl accident, the world’s worst to date, the Soviet Union encased the plant’s damaged reactor in a massive concrete sarcophagus. Iida said Fukushima Daiichi’s reactors remain too hot to pour concrete, but he suggested pouring a slurry of minerals and sand over them to carry away heat before encasing them.
    And Was said the reactors have to be cooled in order to let the molten fuel harden again: “Only when it solidifies are you sure you can contain it.”
    Gary Was is a nuclear engineering professor at the University of Michigan and a CNN consultant.

  • Librarian – I’ve been thinking about your comment for the last couple days.

    “I actually speak to conservatives online sometimes, and it turns out that one of their biggest reasons for refusing to take us seriously is that they (wrongly) compare us to over-dramatic goth teenagers”

    What exactly is a “Conservative?”

    What is a “Liberal?”

    Am I a Conservative? I’m sure you’d say so, as I believe that I am politically to the right of you. At the same time I’m sure that I am considered to be a far lefty to others with my whole pro choice and pro gay rights, decriminalization of Marijuana and keep the government out of all of our lives stances. (*GASP!* And I’m a police officer!!! You’d be surprised to find that most officers believe as I do.)

    The awesomely funny thing about those archaic labels is that they can arbitrarily given depending on the situation! I get called a far rightwing bigot because I believe in the right to keep and bear arms, but in the same breath, my defense of a woman’s right to choose labels me as a far left nut!

    The best part is that the Far Left and Far Right are exactly the same! If you take out the issues they’re both saying the same thing:

    “I can do what I want and the government needs to stay the heck out of my life, but those people over there!” *Points* “Those people shouldn’t be doing that and a law should be made to make them stop that!”

    “That” can be anything from nonpractice of religion, Marijuana, Gay relationships, gun rights, even preparation for collapse! (Seriously, there are laws specifically against doing what Guy is doing)

    So because I not only want the government out of my life, but yours too, you know live and let live, does that make me a “Conservative” or “Liberal?” What are you?

    And who the heck cares what someone else thinks about what you say or are? You subordinate yourself to those whom you fear labeling you as a silly overdramatic goth teenager if you start caring what other people think about you. I’m not even pointing out that one need not be a “Conservative” or “Liberal” to consider you such as both are perfectly capable. Hell, you don’t even know those people, who cares what they think? Let them think what they want, if you are proven in the end to be the Ant, rather than the Grasshopper, who really is the teenager? (Be it emotionally or physically)

    And Kathy, your fixation on dying is going a little further than nihilist, bordering on fatalist. My advice to you:

    Always fight to the last mile, to the last bullet, to the last breath. – The Trader

    I hope you don’t think that your life should be squandered the way you sound like it should. If you’ve got as many years under your belt as I believe you do, shouldn’t you try to pass as much experience and knowledge you’ve got on to those around you as possible? Someone as experienced as you would be a huge advantage in survival. I’ve been around the world going on three times now, seen the worst in people and the best, watched the sun set in Antarctica, and fished the Panama Canal, fought across scorching hellholes in Iraq and Afghanistan, and fed starving children in Africa and Japan, and there are STILL things that you know that I, and those around you, will never without your, or someone just like you, help.

    I feel sorry for you if you don’t think so too. Sounds like a waste to me.

  • Turbo, of course I am fatalist about death – it is our fate to die because we are mortal. Here is an example of the absurdity of our societies death denial – if someone is on death row with a date just a few days away for their state execution, they will be prevented, if possible from committing suicide. One is not allowed to want to die, or to take your death out of the hands of the state even if the state is planning to take your life. On the other side death row prisoners get mad at any other prisoner who gives up on their appeals. They are not allowed to become weary and just wish for it to be over.

    Betcha you would feel differently if you ever became a quadriplegic. Some go on with all right – I have known quadriplegics who are cheerful and still find pleasure in life and some who want life over and cannot even manage it. Steven Hawking certainly has gone on without his limbs working or even his voice, but hey he has money, he’s not stuck in a poor person’s nursing home or a vets hospital. But I am guessing that if you became a quadriplegic you would be emotionally devastated by not even being able to wipe your own butt or itch your own nose or change the channel on the tv without hoping some nurse will come by to help you (if she’s not in a bad mood or you haven’t pissed her off).

    You have seen the movie Johnny got his gun? If not you must. Another movie on the theme says it all in the title “Whose Life is it anyway”. We don’t get to give permission for our birth, but we should be able to say if we don’t want to live.

    I think under all your bravado you are a very very scared man and the fact that a person can talk openly of death terrifies you. Death is the one certain event in our life, why shouldn’t we talk about it??? It is the most eventful event in our life. Why would anyone want to avoid discussing it??? I know I am weird in that I do talk about it, but is isn’t logical to avoid this most certain and momentous event of our life. That we do is because our unconscious brain steps in and saying “no,no,no don’t talk about that, don’t even think about death”.

    I am 62, still alive, have helped save lives, never taken a life, have helped people down on their luck, and helped people go through the transition of death more peacefully because I was not in denial. I wouldn’t mind missing the collapse, but if my kids and grandkids come here I will pass on what I can, and then because I value their lives, when I become a burden rather than a help I intend to exit. Does that sound like a waste to you? If I was on the Titanic and I gave up my room in a lifeboat to allow someone else, say a young pregnant mom room, would that make my life a waste.

    But if people want to go and have no obligations, well after all, whose life is it?

  • Victor:

    I gave you fact. You’re giving me conjecture. There’s a world of difference between the two.

    I agree we’re in for interesting times. How it all pans out is anyone’s guess. And it is a guess. We don’t have computer models capable of handling all permutations of all the variables.

    I received a biannual update from one of my alma maters yesterday. A team of social, geographical, and anthropological scientists has received $1.2 million to fund a study of human response to climate stress. The team will select “one or two climate events,” identify a couple of populations “likely to be most affected” by those events and model how those populations “might react” if those events occurred. They agree that their efforts are “only the first step toward predicting complicated human response.”


    Hands down, you’re the queen of Web browsing. And the great thing about our internet is you’ll always find someone willing to share your view. Ain’t 7 billion co-habitants comfy?

    “The World Without Us” borders on speculative fiction. Again, no one knows with certainty what our future holds. Not even I.

    It’s fruitless for me to debate cherry picking. I would question, however, why you think air-cooled is synonymous to air-conditioned.

    BTW: I’m not pro-nuclear.

  • Resa, air cooled and air conditioned are not necessarily the same although one of the definitions of air cooled is air condtioned. I apologize for misstating that. Trust me I googled definitions.

    OK if you just put it in a building with air in it that would not require electrical energy. But usually just putting something in a building is not described as air cooled. If not air condition it would seem to imply some form of energy driven air circulation at the least. And if energy driven air circulation is needed then, it is needed and something someone doesn’t want to happen may happen without it.

    I did another search on simply the words “air cooled vitrification” (time about 30 secs) and found this From the picture in the article it would be hard to see how any natural air flow could be used to cool the containers of vitrified waste. And if they don’t need to be cooled it is hard to see why they would describe them as air cooled.

    Why is this cherry picking? If casks of vitrifed nuclear waste don’t need cooling, the cost cutters are not going to cool them. If this cooling is going to cease when the grid finally collapses shouldn’t what happens to that waste in that situation be a part of the discussion? Shouldn’t we know how long they can go without cooling in case of a power outage like the Northeast grid failure of 2003?

    Since no one knows what the future holds which is true, why do any risk analysis of anything at all.

  • Some very interesting discussions going on here – that’s one of the reasons I love coming to this blog. Let’s see if I can give it yet one more twist. :-)

    I’m a big time movie fan. Whenever I can find the time I’ll buy a DVD and watch it. If I like it, I’m liable to watch it multiple times over the years. My partner also likes movies but our tastes are quite different. Case in point: recently he brought home a DVD of the first season of “The Walking Dead”. It’s a series on AMC about the end of the world brought about by some disease which turns people into zombies. Definitely not the kind of show that I would watch normally but in the interest of togetherness, I sat down determined to be openminded about it.

    Technical issues aside I wonder if the authors are not collapse aware. Substitute the zombies with starving sheople and you’ve got the very things we discuss here on this site. Collapse of everything – utilities, food supply, water, etc. – because there wasn’t anyone at the switch anymore.

    The last episode has the main characters holed up in the CDC. They were hoping they would find a cure there. But instead they found one die-hard scientist who refused to give up. The rest of the staff had either succumbed to the zombie disease, run away to spend their last days with their families, or had committed suicide because they couldn’t deal with the reality of collapse. The facility was being powered by generators since the utilities were off. The kicker was that the facility is booby-trapped so that in the event of catastrophic power failure, and the containment fields keeping all the bad bugs securely locked away stop working, then the whole building explodes.

    There are many technical issues with the show, some glaring, some only minor, but overall, I found it quite interesting how plausible the collapse scenario is.

    If you’re at all a fan of movies, you might want to check it out.

  • Well then Kathy: Are you a Quadriplegic? Probably not. At least I hope you’re not. It’d take Stephen Hawking a couple hours to write that, and it took you a matter of minutes.

    That said, your strawman brings a smile to my face. Betcha you’re right, though. Thankfully neither of us are in that position, nor God (Or whatever you believe in) willing never will be. ;)

    Am I scared? Good question. As someone that has actually faced a very terrible tortuous death at the hands of a tenacious, vicious, evil enemy, I’d be a fool not to. Wouldn’t you say? Your talk about death, however does not terrify me. You’ve been there to see death and comfort the dying, a laudable act. I was the reason. It gives a unique insight that I hope you never have to have forced upon you.

    If you see that as bravado or fearfulness you’re sadly missing the point.

    You seem to have this singular fixation on death which borders the obsessive, which is simply not healthy and I’m not the only one that has called you on that. If you’ve given up without reason and want to checkout of this mortal coil before your usefulness is up, more power to you. There’s the door and your uselessness is assured. I pity you.

    If you’re not, by all means, put on your big girl pants and TEACH a skill to your kids, grandkids, or great-grandchildren! Something they can use. Gardening, hunting, making clothes, obtaining food from somewhere they might not think is food, how to be a good person, integrity, getting water, fishing, value of life (It really is precious and can be snatched away in a moment!), hell, ANYTHING! Get them off the couch and away from the colossal waste of time, American “Idle.” They shouldn’t have to log on to this website to glean some knowledge from you, you should give it to them freely and openly, face to face.

    I, and several other officers, volunteer our time to kids of low income, wounded, or dead veterans and teach them fieldcraft, land navigation and marksmanship. I pass on to others that which they might find useful; something the military taught me. It’s giving something back. It is a truly magical moment when the light turns on above their heads and they “Get it!” Guy Mcpherson was, and I believe still is having students go to the secret house of mud so they could LEARN something other than what’s on MTV. Shouldn’t you follow suit?

    You’re 62, about three years younger than my mother and father and 27 older than I. To this day, one thing I am absolutely terrified of is the wrath of my mother. I’m 6’2″ and 190, she’s 5’3″ and 135 pounds of pure rage! She and my father are a font of knowledge that they are passing on to younger generations, myself included, to this day. They haven’t given up, why should you? (As it seems) You’re better than that, and you’re better than me. Don’t let us down.

    Good Luck Kathy. :D

  • House, I’m going to start following your blog. I accidentally clicked on your name and up popped your site. The “Not a Drop to Drink” article is particularly good as were the others I looked at.

    You’re one interesting dude, and someone that gets “It.”

    I didn’t get to watch but one episode of “The Walking Dead.” It was the one where the guy fired the .44 magnum in the tank, but since the DVD set is now out I look to rectify that.

    I saw the barter clinic entry. You are truly a good person. It is an honor to correspond with you sir.

  • But at any rate it doesn’t hurt anymore and the swelling is 95% gone.

    Unfortunately most multicellular creatures are designed to pass on the DNA and then perish. The creatures are vehicles for the DNA, and are themselves disposable in the “grand scheme of things”: it shows up in humans with the frailty and problems that beset one as the years advance.

  • Turboguy, funny, I live in a civilization that is committing suicide but for me to talk of anyone making that choice individually is bad and to acknowledge the inevitability of the most inevitable event of our lives is a fixation or obsession. I think it is sick to NOT to talk of death when we are on a train we cannot or will not stop that is heading to a cliff. You previously told me not to wish for collapse soon as it would be so bad for individuals living through it. I could say that YOU in wishing this insane civilization to go on longer are wishing for the suicide of our whole species along with the extinction of multiples of other creatures. This inability for people to see the direction we are heading seems to me to stem exactly from this aversion about talking about death.

    You wrote: “You’ve been there to see death and comfort the dying, a laudable act. I was the reason. It gives a unique insight that I hope you never have to have forced upon you.” Of course I am going to have death forced on me. I am mortal. If you mean you hope I never have Quadriplegia forced on me, I hope that as well. But my argument about it was not a Straw man. You perhaps missed my comment – the last one I think on the last topic – it was to you about a man I used to visit who was more than paralyzed in all four extremities – he was unable to speak, could only indicate yes or no, and was plagued by seizures numerous times a day that were very painful and left him screaming – that he could do. He was 35. When he and his wife found out the Drs. had no hope he would ever improve, he sobbed. His wife wanted to help release him from life but feared that she would be prosecuted and she had two young children to care for. Should this man be chastised for not wanting to continue a life of pain with no ability to do anything other than be a burden. What cruelty to say to such a person you should want to live as long as you can.

    I applaud you for teaching willing students skills. My sons are only marginally interested in gardening, and their wives….well, when your children grow up they make their own choices. I don’t have many other skills, I can kill and dress a chicken (but not grow enough food for a flock post collapse, so there will be one grand stew with the neighbors and we will try to keep a few for eggs), saw wood with a hand saw, when my wrist and elbow aren’t acting up.

    I believe it was Bernhard who mentioned a friend proposing SANG – a group of elderly people who would man the nuclear plants to keep them watched over for the rest of society after collapse set in. While fanciful, I could see that as perhaps the most meaningful thing to do with my end years.

    Well, think of me what you will. Fight to the end. Go for it. I will keep on as long as I am useful. In writing about the hunter-gatherers of the Kalahari, a man who spent a lot of time with them experienced what happens when the elderly can no longer keep up with the tribe that has to migrate long distances. They build a hut of thorn branches and leave the elderly behind, not with callousness but with great sorrow. They know that the wild animals will get through the branches before long. They sorrow but the elderly do not complain and the young know that this will happen to them to if they live that long. They do this so the tribe can live and live on in each succeeding generations. No denial there. We the modern, the civilized, can’t even give up our cars for the survival of succeeding generations.

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

    I wrote an essay for this blog – you may be surprised that it is called Lessons on Living

  • Resa
    I gave you fact. You’re giving me conjecture. There’s a world of difference between the two.

    You gave me a fact because I asked for it. I gave you what you consider “conjecture” because you asked for it:

    I’m puzzled however. Why would you assume workers would simply walk away?

    I gave you a very realistic scenario of Collapse, and you seem to mock me for answering your question. What part of my answer was conjecture? The idea of Collapse? The idea of cities devastated by the impact of the other side of Hubbert’s curve? Die-off?

    True, the details of the unfolding of events and the timing are subject to pure conjecture, but the major events represented by the above are not a matter of speculation at all, in my opinion, but unavoidable consequences of a sudden withdrawal of vital energy feeding an infinite growth economic model sustaining 7 billion people on the earth. No conjecture about it.

    I asked you a question and you apparently misunderstood my point. What happens if an operational nuclear plant is left standing on its own for whatever reason without going through a shutdown or decommissioning process? Simple question.

  • Kathy, you said: “Of course I am going to have death forced on me. I am mortal. If you mean you hope I never have Quadriplegia forced on me, I hope that as well.”

    I was referring to being forced to take a life, not having death forced upon you.

    Again, I still think you can find some usefulness even when your example would be left behind. There’s a reason you’ve amassed all that knowledge! To pass it on to others. Do so! Don’t be such a curmudgeon!

    If your children won’t listen, I know a mess of people who’d love to have someone with years of experience behind them showing them what to do, when to do it, and how. I’m not exactly someone that’s good at gardening or growing anything other than a cherry tomato plant once. I’m far better at breaking stuff! My significant other, on the other hand, could grow anything she wants to! She once grew so many tomatoes she wound up in USA Today and almost in Guiness. (The book, not the drink)

    Someone like me, and I’m certain that there are many around you there in Tennessee, would absolutely love to learn how to unlock the soil. If you need someone to keep the horde away from your produce, hey I’m your guy. When it comes to making plants grow, I’m woefully inadequate! I don’t know how deep, what time of year, where, how sandy, how much sun, etc. to even grow grass, but I’d love to learn.

    People are never useless. It pains me that you think they are.

  • ‘Here is an example of the absurdity of our societies death denial – if someone is on death row with a date just a few days away for their state execution, they will be prevented, if possible from committing suicide. One is not allowed to want to die, or to take your death out of the hands of the state even if the state is planning to take your life.’ -kathy

    seems to me it’s sadism, not death denial, which motivates dogma addicts and their institutions to thwart suicide attempts of suffering sheople. they know we’re going to die. they just want to make sure we all get a full quota of pain and suffering in life, so they deny us the right to a relatively dignified death of our own choosing. part of that pain and suffering is knowing that these assholes think and act as if they own us, as if our very lives belong to them, just as george carlin and freedomain say. we’re sheople, human livestock.

    post collapse, maybe we’ll regain our humanity. perhaps i should just speak for myself. i certainly feel my humanity has been severely compromised, if not completely destroyed.

  • ‘To this day, one thing I am absolutely terrified of is the wrath of my mother. I’m 6’2″ and 190, she’s 5’3″ and 135 pounds of pure rage!’ -turboguy!

    turboguy!, i wonder if u’ve checked out some of the links which have recently been posted to this blog by robin datta and bernhardrohrbeck re. the psychological origins of human social violence. probably not the sort of stuff a surreal life action hero like yourself is into, i’m afraid, so i’ll clue u in on what the science says: social violence, those inclined to mayhem and murder like yourself (if your word can be trusted, and one properly perceives state sanctioned violence as surreally no different than ‘terrorism’), are very often the product of childhood abuse and neglect. according to this research in fact, it’s crystal clear this link between childhood trauma and adult violence.

    i have no way of knowing whether anything u say is true, and frankly, your various somewhat outlandish claims and macho projection of personality have my bullshit antennae at high alert, but regardless, claiming to be a killer of ‘bad guys’, true or false, suggests a personality drawn to violent behavior, which is why i found that odd comment of yours i just quoted above about your ‘terrifying, rageful mother’ particularly intriguing, in light of this research into social violence’s psychological origins.

    i’m perplexed that no one’s confronted u previously, as one who claims to be a violent ‘police officer’ with a license to kill ‘bad guys’, on a blog whose participants seems to be predominantly anarchists staunchly opposed to state sanctioned violence. i find your comments often absurd, annoying, and offensive. your comments to kathy strike me as condescending, like those of a troubled child seeking to get attention from an adult by misbehaving.

    maybe others here are afraid of u, maybe i should be, but the distance and impersonalness of cyberspace embolden me. that, plus the knowledge that deep inside every adult bully is likely a scared wounded child.

  • Victor:

    (Sorry for the lateness. I’ve got a full-time job and a packed life.)

    No mockery intended. My apologies if my response came across as such.

    Re: “You gave me a fact because I asked for it. I gave you what you consider “conjecture” because you asked for it.”

    I didn’t request conjecture, although I didn’t specifically state otherwise either. You indicated a concern for workers walking out on a nuclear reactor site. I wanted to know what data you had to support that concern. To date, I haven’t seen any evidence of abandonment by nuclear workers. On the contrary, I’ve seen self sacrifice.

    Any number of post-Collapse scenarios are plausible. I could counter with an equally speculative one. The global population recognizes imminent Collapse. Nuclear plants are pro-actively shut down and decommissioned. Spent fuel is cooled and packaged for long-term storage. We enter the Dark Age.

    I won’t speculate, however, because I honestly have no idea how future events will unfold.

    As for what becomes of an unattended operating nuclear reactor (a stretch, because everyone would have to be wiped out simultaneously). Nuclear plants have built-in safety features. They also have back-up plans, back-up personnel, and back-up back-up plans and personnel. The Fukushima reactors automatically SCRAMed upon trigger of seismic activity. Low water level, faulty equipment, and temperature and pressure rises can also automatically initiate a SCRAM. Of course, worst-case scenario, the SCRAM fails and an incident occurs.

    The external radiation level of fresh unused uranium fuel assemblies is generally negligible (other types vary). Spent fuel, however, is high-level waste and requires attention. At least until it’s cooled sufficiently (a year or more ) for dry cask storage. Dry cask storage doesn’t require water, pumps or electricity. It’s an interim storage solution, good for 60-100 years, dependent upon design. Bear in mind, the decay heat of spent fuel is down to about 0.2% by the time the spent fuel goes into the casks. Also the spent fuel continues to decay while entombed.

    Spent nuclear fuel can also sit (almost) indefinitely in an uncompromised cooling pool. There’s a spent fuel pool about fifty miles from my place. It’s been there for decades.

    Vitrifying nuclear waste is one form of long-term storage. The molten glass (a blend of additives and nuclear waste) is poured into stainless-steel canisters and sealed. Once the glass has solidified, the exterior of the canisters are decontaminated and then transferred to a ventilated (air-cooled) pit. (I’m not sure where Kathy’s air-conditioning comes in.) The end goal is to store such solid waste in deep geological boreholes or repositories. Yucca Mountain was once considered; it’s currently off the table.

    Again, I’m not pro-nuclear. And no, I’m not saying the industry’s 100% safe or 100% non-toxic. I just prefer to deal with facts and reality. Speculative freak outs and scaremongering solve little.

  • Kathy:

    It’s been a long day and I’m wiped out. Please see my response to Victor.

    I will say, however, that risk assessment is a large part of a long-term nuclear waste implementation. I’ve seen design specs 1,000s of pages long.

    Are such risk assessments perfect. No.

  • I just prefer to deal with facts and reality. Speculative freak outs and scaremongering solve little.


    I will refer you to Kathy’s comment here about risk assessment. Speculation (conjecture) is a necessary facet of risk assessment as you well know in your business – you have to ask the question, “What if…?”, in order to account for as many possible permutations of risk that you can reasonably assume. NOT to do so is simply bad planning and opens you up for disaster. Conjecture is not unreasonable; indeed, it is a good thing when done based upon fact and realistic assumptions.

    Scaremongering OTOH is is conjecture without a reasonable or rational basis to influence people’s behaviour. The Government of the United States invented the War on Terror by creating an all-present and all-powerful enemy that shrouded themselves in darkness and fanaticism in order to frighten the American people into accepting a large build-up of imperial power at home and overseas.

    I believe the people on this site are generally in the business of risk assessment and mitigation – not scaremongering. If you believe folks like me to be scaremongers, then you have misunderstood our intent completely. Collapse of civilisation is inevitable, and might even be imminent if some folks are correct in their analysis. Die-off is a natural and necessary consequence of the sudden removal of energy from the system. This is not scaremongering. This is an inevitability.

  • Resa, sorry to bother you on a long day, but you didn’t address my post at all second post on the subject at all. Perhaps you missed it. I acknowledged that air cooled might not mean air conditioned. I admitted it could be through natural air flow, but that it might be via fans. So, ventilated how – by natural ventilation or fans? That strikes to the heart of the argument, what happens if the grid goes down never to come up again. If any electricity is needed to maintain the vitrified waste what happens when it doesn’t flow?

    Looks to me like nuclear risk assessment never goes beyond scenarios where power out for a few days.

  • Terry “seems to me it’s sadism, not death denial, which motivates dogma addicts and their institutions to thwart suicide attempts of suffering sheople. ”

    In the case of people on death row, it is probably more POWER (which steadily devolves into sadism per the Stanford experiments )- the state claims its total right to your life, the right to kill you and the right to prevent you from killing yourself.

    Watched a movie the other night – Mangel Pandey – the Rising Pandey was a martyr who helped spark what the Brits called the Sepoy Mutiny – 90 years later the Brits were finally kicked out but the Rising did end the British East India company who were making big profits off of raising opium in India and selling it to China. Pandey stood up alone to the British Army, but the Brit general said, don’t kill him I want him alive. So he put is rifle down and put his toe on the trigger. The Brits treated him to save his life and then hung him. But they miscalculated. Some men have more power dead than alive and then what can the merchants of death do. How they fear martyrs, men and women unafraid to die.

    As my favorite songster sings, the powers that be need watch out when the people have “nothing left to loose”, as the Bolivian Cochabamaba protests proved.

  • Turboguy, should the military tell military doctors to stop doing battlefield triage?

  • OK enough talk of death, I’m going to be positive today. Luckily we have had no more loss of chicken fetuses since our dog killed that weasel and I got one big rat in a trap. Oops death in that one

    OK had a great stir fry last night, lots of veggies in the garden and chicken meat from the rooster we killed last week. Ooops

    OK been getting our ground ready for planting. Dug out some of the composted manure from the chicken coop, rich dark stuff. And the fun is that when I dig the hens join in and scarf up the big fat worms I turn up. Ooops

    Ok kale is doing well so far. Lots of fresh greens. No cabbage moths yet, just a few pesky harlequin bugs but they are easy to spot and slow so I can crush them with ease. Ooops

    Well Ok then I will just go get a breakfast of fertile eggs. Nothing like chicken fetuses for breakfast. Ooops


  • Kathy

    I’m dying to see your garden!…Oooops….:-)

  • nice! good to start off the day w/ a little humor.. as in gallows!