Wrong things wrong

by Brutus, who blogs at The Spiral Staircase

I tossed around in bed a few nights ago with insomnia. This happens a lot lately. As my mind wandered, it occurred to me that NBLers lob lots of accusations, judgments, and ridicule about what is wrong in the world today. So, too, do others of every imaginable religious, political, and intellectual persuasion. Identifying what’s wrong is, to use a bit of useless jargon from the military-industrial-corporate complex, a target-rich environment, and with so many diverse targets, it’s virtually impossible to be wrong about what’s wrong. But I contend that as a culture, we have nonetheless gotten the wrong things wrong.

We’re mostly unified at NBL in our belief that industrial civilization is breathing its last breaths even as we speak/type. (Though the comments are filled with pointless disagreements about what form the future will take.) And yet according to the MSM, our problems have more to do with a faltering economy, political infighting, ineffective public schools, recreational drug use, and those damned, dirty, heathen terrorists who hate our freedom. Don’t get me wrong: these things are problems, they’re wrong, but they’re the wrong things wrong. What really threatens us goes unnoticed except by a few. Strangely, those few are pretty noisy about diagnosing what’s going wrong. Klaxons ring all around, but responses range from incomprehension and indifference to straight-faced denial and even outright hostility. We’re assured, vehemently, that it’s we (NBLers and other doomers) who have the wrong things wrong.

Another thing occurred to me that sleepless night, namely, that normal human life-cycles might be described in terms of four phases: (1) growth, (2) achievement, (3) mature enjoyment, (4) and eventual death. If those phases were mapped onto empires or civilizations, they might instead be (1) building, (2) consolidation, (3) profit-taking, (4) and collapse. These phases are not wholly discrete, as different members of society rightly busy themselves with different phases simultaneously. Whatever phase of life one may be in individually, we appear on the scene at a time when our social institutions, our financial and political empires, and indeed our civilization all show abundant signs of imminent collapse.

Meanwhile, members of society are immersed in growing businesses, raising families, developing products, teaching students, and expanding wealth and influence, all first-phase behaviors. A few are preserving and defending worthwhile institutions against decay or corruption, a second-phase behavior, but they are relatively few. Some are manipulating and gaming financial and political systems for personal gain, third-phase behaviors with very limited futures. And finally, the entire population is suffering in varying degrees from deprivations of spirituality, health, education, community, and competent leadership. Except for health, these are not conventional measures of wellbeing, but they should be. Some folks even suffer lack of basic needs (food, shelter, and other sustenance), but that is not yet widespread in the First World. Collapse occurs when institutions can no longer withstand stresses, both internal and external, and fail either abruptly or in slow motion.

Robust activity in early phases and corruption in the final phases attract the bulk of our collective attention, distracting us from the background truth, namely, that all things have their moment and ours is nearly up. The U.S. has arguably been growing increasingly sclerotic and decrepit for sixty years or so, and the intuition of time running out is becoming overwhelming. As collapse and death stalk us, grace to accept our unavoidable fate eludes us, and so motivations purify in aged institutions, more so than in aged people, to self-preservation and survival. The last acts of desperate men rarely exhibit nobility; institutions behave no better. We no longer understand what it means to die well. This lost knowledge is evidenced everywhere as people, corporations, and governments founder and flail with the apparent attitude, “If I’m goin’ down, I’m takin’ everyone with me!”

One of several elephants in the room few have the integrity to recognize or acknowledge is that General Motors, AIG, CitiCorp, Bank of America, and others should all have been allowed to fail along with Lehman Brothers and Bear Stearns. They’re going to anyway, probably sooner rather than later. Similarly, governments around the world should admit they are living on borrowed time (and money), but I have little doubt that those who can will launch further resource wars in desperate bids to eke out their last few dying breaths. Such institutions have taken on lives of their own quite independent from the people they purportedly serve, and their own survival impulse trumps concern for others.

If institutions have abandoned their proper orientation in service to people, the same can be said of technology. Progress demands innovation, we think, but in tragically rich irony, those same technologies that promise progress in actuality deliver doom — another example of the wrong things wrong. Modern technology has driven two intertwined developments: a quick, dramatic increase in human population and the power to transform, consume, and thus destroy the biosphere. There is no larger truth, in my opinion, than our drive to survive, shared with all living things I will add, having caused us to kill off nearly everything, ending with ourselves. This is the ultimate thing wrong, but unlike other living things, we know we’re doing it and simply can’t stop. Call it the final, inevitable manifestation of Thanatos (Death) and his hoary siblings Hypnos (Sleep), Geras (Old Age), Oizys (Suffering), Moros (Doom), Apate (Deception), Momus (Blame), Eris (Strife), Nemesis (Retribution), and Charon (the Stygian Ferryman).

Over the past few years, I have come to regard with Sphinx-like stoicism our unconscious and perhaps chthonophagic self-destruction. As alluded to above, this is the dark, dreamy stuff of myth and so will remain for most of us submerged beneath layers of obfuscation and rationalization. A few poets may still exist who can tell the story adequately, but we can’t process poetry anymore, so the message will no doubt go unheeded. But let me suggest how the eventual realization of our being up Shit Creek without a paddle may finally dawn on the great, unwashed masses: the disappearance of toilet paper.

We’re all familiar various bodily complaints, such as fatigue, restlessness, toothache, thirst, hunger, and loss of youthful vitality. Hardly any of us knows what it’s like to suffer the indignity of dealing with our own shit without the use of toilet paper. Hell, in the U.S., we don’t even have the muscle control to squat anymore. We’re advised to stockpile other resources expected to fall into scarcity, but who remembers toilet paper? There will be lots of “oops!” moments, but perhaps none will repulse us so much as the inhumanity of our own vile, stinking, excremental filth. Add to this the fact that in our mad rush to digitize everything, we can’t even fall back to the Sears catalog or the Yellow Pages. Will this become the last, best use of books, newspapers, and magazines? Woe to the lonely librarian protecting the stacks with a loaded shotgun against the smelly, marauding hordes desperate for a simple wipe, ’cause you know that valuable resource won’t be wasted as reading paper.

With attention refocused on rather low subjects, let me also suggest that concern about passing through the coming Malthusian bottleneck overlooks the fact that humanity has already managed that feat once. Only a very few of the very many genetic possibilities make it through Mother Nature’s birth canal and are admitted to the pantheon of species. Once established, even fewer manage for long to avoid being excreted through Mother Nature’s sphincter. In a sense, they’re only slightly different aspects of the same winnowing evolutionary bottleneck: the elimination sweepstakes. Well, we’re definitely in the poop chute now. The question is not about what happens to us; we know what happens. We got ourselves too far into deep shit to be extricated now. Rather, the question is whether Earth can pass millennia of impacted, human waste without suffering harms so grievous she ends permanently disabled. We almost definitely won’t be around to know.

Comments 143

  • Thanks for your thoughtful contribution, Brutus. I, too, spend many a sleepless night, mostly worrying about the many things over which I have absolutely no control. I wonder what we’ve forgotten in our preparations here, and how we can better mitigate for what’s coming at us.

    In the spirit of stockpiling, here’s one list. I strongly suspect the most important item we can put away is awareness. When we’re caught up Shit Creek, even without a paddle, at least we’ll recognize the terrain and how we arrived there. There’s a lot to be said for preparations of the intellectual, psychological, and emotional variety.

  • It’d be nice to think we were going to be rich, fertile manure for the next generation of something. Alas, we’ll be the urban sludge that gets spread on a new golf course – a stew of de-natured feces, heavy metals, toxic chemicals and pharmaceutical cocktail.

  • Brutus, “toilet paper” – yep that will get them. We use cloth for pee and only paper for the solid stuff. A roll lasts about a month. However we have a nice stand of Stachys byzantina (lamb’s ears) that I use from time to time and it is softer than paper – here it grows year round. How about diapers? Does anyone use cloth anymore? And when the toilets don’t flush anymore the shit truly hits the fan but not long after people will discover why all early civilizations grew up near rivers or lakes.

    Meanwhile some shit hitting the fan in PA with a major fracking (its perfectly safe folks) spill.

    We have the makings of an environmental disaster in northern Pennsylvania at the moment. According to local Pennsylvania television station WNEP, a natural-gas well blew out in the middle of the night while crews were engaged in “fracking” activities:
    Bradford County’s director of public safety said a Chesapeake well went out of control late Tuesday night. That means the well blew near the surface, spilling thousands and thousands of gallons of frack fluid over containment walls, through fields, personal property and farms, even where cattle continue to graze.
    DEP is taking ground water and stream samples to determine the extent of the spill.
    Officials said fluids from the well have, in fact, contaminated Towanda Creek which feeds into the Susquehanna River.
    No injuries have been reported, but officials have evacuated the surrounding area as a precaution. A “major operation” is under way to kill the well and stop the flow, which, as of 1:50 p.m. ET, was still uncontrolled.

  • Guy some comments on the list – it is a good one, but I suggest people think hard about how to get by even more simply.

    Re 24. Feminine Hygiene/Haircare/Skin products
    When a woman was menstruating the slang term was on the rag. This is because rags were the sanitary napkins of the day – soaked, washed and reused. Re haircare – back to soap, forget shampoo, and skin products – a tad of cooking oil No need for anything special.

    Re 15. Grain Grinder (Non-electric) – we boil rice, corn (on the cob), why not other grains. Flour is cultural, not necessary. Just googled boiled wheat. The greeks have a dish called Koliva which is boiled wheat. Also in Lebanon it is called berbara. Grinding wheat, making it into bread and baking it are luxuries.

    RE 33. Clothes pins/line/hangers (A MUST) – good, but not a must. Women in many countries wash in streams and hang clothes out on bushes.

    re 62. Canning supplies, (Jars/lids/wax) At some point lids will no longer be available – they can only be used once. I doubt that even unused lids are good for decades as the rubber is likely to deteriorate. Also takes quite a bit of energy to process canned goods. Better to learn food drying, fruit cellar storage, and if the climate makes it possible winter crops for year round eating. Wax for jelly maybe can be reused but where will the sugar be coming from.

    I didn’t see alcohol – I would suggest it for disinfectant, pain killer before pulling teeth (pliers a must) and other surgery, barter, and other more obvious uses.

    List must have been made by a man – thread and needles a MUST along with extra buttons and patching material

  • Brutus wrote:

    “Another thing occurred to me that sleepless night, namely, that normal human life-cycles might be described in terms of four phases: (1) growth, (2) achievement, (3) mature enjoyment, (4) and eventual death. If those phases were mapped onto empires or civilizations, they might instead be (1) building, (2) consolidation, (3) profit-taking, (4) and collapse.”

    Check out “panarchy theory,” or “ruler of everything.” Google for CS Holling.

    It describes in similar terms the life-cycle of everything, from sub-atomic particles to galaxies and perhaps the universe itself.

    Of most interest is how panarchy describes this loop in terms of a three-dimensional space of time, energy, and connectedness. HT Odum (et. al.) tend to describe “connectedness” as complexity, as a function of energy, rather than an independent variable.

    I find panarchy theory a very well-thought-out, intellectually-satisfying explanation for what’s going on today. We are certainly in a state of both high energy and high connectedness, and panarchy theory dictates that we’re headed for a fall. (Or “omega state,” in panarchy vernacular.)

  • Brutus.

    Thanks for that.

    It seems to me we need to include profit-taking in the establishment phase of empires, since it was the profitability of empire building that encouraged it.

    The empire is now in the self-cannibalising phase, gobbling up assets and resources built up by previous generations, gobbling up people’s lives, and stealing from the future at an unprecendeted rate.

    Although most of humanity apears to be doomed, I don’t like the term doomer. I prefer the term truth-teller. Most people still run, but for a different reason.

  • Hi, Brutus,

    concern about passing through the coming Malthusian bottleneck overlooks the fact that humanity has already managed that feat once.

    Yeah, and I think we have a chance to do it again. The one plus of the more severe global warming predictions is that one or two of our previous bottlenecks demonstrate the fact we CAN adapt to a lower-energy, more ecologically “in-tune” lifestyle. Going into Australia and the nearby islands around 50K yrs ago, and the Americas about 30K yrs later, humans probably experienced a fair population explosion at first (because the local animals were completely ignorant of us), then died back as we killed off the big fauna. In both places, our culture stabilized again at something that was very sustainable over the long term (until Europeans came and destabilized it again).

    This time, obviously, the die-back will be significantly larger and more widespread, and global conditions give us a notable risk of nuking ourselves to oblivion (high but not 100%; I’d say 50:50). But if the nukes stay sheathed, I think there WILL be numerous pockets of people left to farm small-scale and scavenge whatever’s useful of the ruins for a long time to come.

    Good observations. I’d also basically reject any of the commercial hair,skin, beauty, etc, products because they’re TOXIC. (Small quantities of phthalates and numerous other things shown to cause cancers, reproductive harm, etc., over the longterm.) Many OTC things in stores today are, to some degree; it seems almost as if they’ve become a way for oil corps to “recycle” the waste material from fuel production. Yet another way the demise of the oil era could actually benefit us.

  • I wasn’t joking when I wrote that the four phases came to me in the middle of a sleepless night. I’ve seen phasic and cyclical theories before, especially the books Passages and The Fourth Turning, so it’s unsurprising that someone else has systematized similar ideas and called it panarchy, which is a new one on me. I may have reassembled some ideas and certainly can’t claim strict originality (nothing new under the sun). Nor would I presume to say in all seriousness that we will know the end of civilization has arrived when toilet paper is no longer available. That was for obvious effect.

    I do think, though, that our individual characters will be sorely tested as things get rough, and I suspect many of us will fail the test pretty horribly. This could be a protracted process, too, of more immediate concern perhaps than planning for a new paradigm to follow, if and when anything in fact does emerge. Prof. Guy picked up that thread in his comment about other preparations.

  • Thanks for the contribution, Brutus. Enjoyed it, esp the insight into cycles. As for your comment about the ability to adapt to a low energy economy, I would tend to agree. In the past this adaptation came with the promise that we could start anew, however, and rebuild. I was pleased that you mentioned staring anew but not necessarily with the idea of rebuilding. This is the last human civilisation. And this statement is not what you might have meant, it is the most logical conclusion to be drawn from the evidence around us.

  • Thanks for an insightful post!

    Just as normal human lifecycles might be described in terms of four phases: matching them up with the phases of life is the Hindu/Aryan tradition, we get:
    A. The Student Stage (1) growth
    B. The Householder Stage (2) achievement
    C. The Forest Retirement Stage (3) mature enjoyment
    D. The Forest Dweller or Ascetic Stage (4) and eventual death

    For oligochaete annelids chthonophagic activity means sustenance rather than self-destruction. Indubitably at a far remove from Homo sapiens (even though they have about 6 grams/100ml of hemoglobin – free, not in erythrocytes – with the only comparable protein in other non-chordate phyla being the hemocyanins of crustacea), they show how a different paradigm can lead to different results.

    Hardly any of us knows what it’s like to suffer the indignity of dealing with our own shit without the use of toilet paper.

    True. But there are nearly a billion and a half people in the Indian subcontinent that are acquainted with the Lota.

  • Connectedness…..we are so very connected throughout the world. We are not only connected through commerce, but also through the wonders of technology – specifically, the Internet. The Internet has become ubiquitous throughout the developed and developing world. It often runs our supply lines, our telephones, our inventory management, our financial management, our shopping, our deliveries….well….most everything these days. So much so that one really should ask the question, “What happens if the Internet goes down?”. Unlikely, you say? So was a 45 foot tsunami wave that put Fukushima out of business – unlikely indeed.

    I came across this article today, and thought I should share it. It says it all about our increased reliance upon a technology (actually, a set of technologies!) that has become almost as necessary to commerce as electricity, and growing more so every day. I was particularly intrigued with the phrase ‘online darkness’, an obvious analogy to an electrical blackout.

    I would be interested in comments about the points the article brings forward.


    A quote from it:

    The survey of companies worldwide suggested only 1% could function adequately without the internet.

    More than a quarter (27%) of those surveyed said they could not function at all if the internet went down, and one in five said a week without being online would be the death of their company.

    “In the past, network downtime might have prevented a batch of communication at the end of the day,” says Chris Kimm, vice-president network field operations EMEA at Verizon Business.

    “Today it could mean no phones, no e-mail, no customer database, no ordering systems, no supply chain visibility and effectively, no capability to conduct business.”

  • Robin,
    A Lota – I love it! We converted to composting toilets at the end of the last drought. Having to cart clean water just to flush it down the toilet was for me the last straw. But using a little water to clean ourselves appeals to me greatly. I was reading this interesting article about the value of sqatting as opposed to using Western style toilets – much more natural and efficient way of defecating. Again civilisation has taken so many of us in the wrong direction.

    “… The ideal posture for [elimination] is the squatting position, with the thighs flexed upon the abdomen. In this way the capacity of the abdominal cavity is greatly diminished and intra-abdominal pressure is increased, thus encouraging [elimination].1

    Dr. Alexander Kira cites an article in the journal American Anthropologist and draws the following conclusion: We must bear in mind that while we regard the use of the water closet as natural, we represent only a relatively small percentage of the world’s population, and a percentage that may be said, in an absolute sense, to be wrong, insofar as we have allowed civilization to interfere with our biological functioning.2”

  • Speaking of squatting, there are surfaces of the talus (uppermost ankle bone) and the tibia (main leg bone) that come together only when squatting: these surfaces for apposition are present at birth, but are lost in most Europeans / North Americans due to lack of the proper squatting posture. The British anatomy texts in medical school noted that they could be found in Asiatics: they were present in the local cadavers.

    Squatting Facets – Little Bones That Make A Big Difference

  • Lumping the other squating links in one comment to make it easier for approval:

    Ancient skeletons shaw evidence for squatting by the presence of squatting facets:
    Interpreting Behavior from the Human Skeleton: Looking at Squatting Facets
    (Sorry that this particular *.pdf is missing the images. But there is no dearth of images for “squatting facet” on Google Images).

    There is even a squatting facet on the femur, thefemoral squatting facet.

    And while this video has some inaccuracies in the narrative about the origins of the squat, it demonstrates the technique well:How to do the Asian squat

    And ofcourse, the Wikipedia article is de rigueur: Squatting position.

  • Victor.

    I believe the Internet could be maintained long into the future if TPTB choose to direct resources to it. The power consumption of telephone systems is very low compared to most other things, so even if electricity generation were to fall to 50% of current levels it could easily be accommodated. At the moment a huge amount of electricity is being squandered, just as a huge amount of oil is being squnadered.

    Although financial systems are obviously close to a major breaking point, generation systems systems appear not to be so. hydropower could maintain limited supply far into the future … I’m thinking of ‘Life After People’ -though distribution systems ARE very susceptible to storm damge, corrosion etc. and require frequent repair in some locations.

  • Sorry about the video link which for some reason starts near the end. It will shaw the whole video if “Replay” is clicked.
    However, here is a link that should not have that problem:
    How to do the Asian squat

  • Robin

    Good Video! Seems to work fine, though I am a bit stiff – didn’t do the warming up exercise (Step 1)!

  • Victor,
    Our business is Internet based. Most people find us on the Internet and purchase on the Internet. We don’t have a shopfront. I am very aware that this business will disappear as soon as the Internet (or power) goes down for the last time. So how much stock should we carry? Well, we import handtools from overseas, most of which arrive by ship, and when the global financial system goes down, we’ll be unable to import anything anymore. If we are unlucky, a shipment will be in transit and we’ll be down the money and the goods (unlike large businesses, we don’t get a letter of credit). So it is a constant juggling act at the sunset of our civilisation: how much do we import at any one time? What if we are stranded with no goods? What if we are stranded with no customers? What if we lose goods and money? Business at the moment is very risky. The conclusion we’ve come to is that it is worthwhile importing as much as we can afford at any one time because each order could be our last. We will bear the risk of losing money and goods on the high seas. If the Internet goes down and we are left with a large inventory of goods, well we have chosen the product to be something very useful after the Collapse so if we don’t sell them, we may be able to barter with them.

    We are however relatively unusual in the business world. Most businesses are no different to most people. They don’t want to know about Collapse and are not factoring it into their planning, and that includes the Internet going down for good.

  • Robin,
    That video is great!

  • Kevin

    The Internet is carried to your home on phones, cable or fibre-optic – all having relatively low power requirements – so you are mostly correct on that assessment. However, the data centres behind the Internet are huge users of electricity and without the services they require, the Internet would be useless. Also, of course are the end-user computers and servers that use significant power. There is also the upcoming problem of exceeding the maximum number of internet addresses available through the current IP v4. If we hit that threshold, and it is expected we will do so in the not to distant future, the internet will suddenly stop growing. What happens when a critical business function places limits upon growth? Could be a big problem. IP v6 is supposed to radically extend this threshold but it has been slow in coming – being an extremely complex effort, esp to make existing software compliant.

    And again, what happens when, as a result of peak oil, suppliers of Internet-related parts go out of business – servers, routers, switches, you name it…It is a very very complex system with several potential points of failure.

    It is a scary thought that a 75 year old woman could completely cutt off an entire country’s Internet access as happens to Armenia recently, but there you go – points of failure can be sudden, unexpected, unplanned for.

  • Nicole

    Sounds like you have a good plan! Bartering will become an essential art in the future. And to successfully barter, you have to have something someone else wants/needs – or be convinced that they want/need it!… ;-)

  • Where do you guys get your happy faces. I’d love to add them to some of my posts. It makes me feel good everytime I see one of yours!

  • @ Victor:
    I would be interested in comments about the points the article brings forward.

    Actually the network cables, transmitters, receivers, etc. are (relatively) low tech. The high tech part is in your laptop / desktop / minitower / tower. That is the microprocessors and the integrated circuits: semething we take for granted, but it is really a whole ‘nuther ball game.

    A YouTube video from AMD that gives some insight into microprocessor manufacture:
    From sand to chip – How a CPU is made
    Consider doing that with hand tools in a barn.

    And this one is from Lexar for their SD memory cards:A Behind the Scenes Look: How We Make Our Products.
    When most of humanity is involved digging up spuds for dinner, there won’t be sufficient resources to support this!

    And this is also worth eyeballing:
    Intel Factory Tour – 32nm Manufacturing Technique

    Remember, all those rane earth metals have to be mined and extracted from their ores and refined to fantastic degrees of purity. Even some of the water used has to be purified to extremely high degrees.

    I would like to hope that this gives one some deglee of comprehensios of the ENORMOUS HYPERCOMPLEXITY that happens to be at their command as they read tihs!

  • :-) = : – ) with the spaces removed

    ;-) = ; – )

  • Many of us transitioning to off-grid lifestyles will have (or already have) limited access to the Internet; in many cases, phone reception, too. In my soon-to-be small desert community, a few local businesses (which are also small) provide free Wifi access for community members and visitors. This is one example of many how a group of local people operate in the foundational concept of what ‘community’ is. It’s not a matter of choice in this remote community; it is born of necessity. In this manner, communities such as this will already be *in* the transition phase that must, and inevitably will, happen. (yes, we all have firearms, too)

  • robin re the squat
    i grew up welding; & the squat is the best position often…also gives a place to steady u’r forearms/hands for welding.

    having camped a lot…i call it ‘primitive furniture’. i was also taught the squat as a stretching/rest for my bad back. & yes it is a great position, perhaps over a slight depression for elimination. btw my knees are only so so …already surgery as a teen, & though i am somewhat carefully going down & up the position doesn’t bother them. as victor notes, i do think if one has not done squatting go easy at first…holding onto something helps.

  • A natural position for childbirth is squatting. I thank my physician for fending off the hospital nurses that vehemently protested my preferred position for birthing my baby in the mid-1970’s. In today’s medical community, however, I doubt that would be received at any level. To extend this issue, I don’t think the average American can even bend their body’s at most of their joints more than 90 degrees. We are too sedentary and fat.

  • Spent sometime in Uganda last summer and got my squat on. I really need to work on my technique though. Thanks for the tips.

  • Brutus, thanks for the great post! I know it was to make a point, but I admit that I’ve already stockpiled toilet paper. I only have about a 12 month supply so far and I’m not sure how toilet paper will fit into the scheme of things when we switch to composting toilets, but at least I’ll have a year to figure it out. :-)

    Victor, there are so many ways now that the internet is totally intertwined in our lives. Health care is a good example. The U.S. government is requiring that all medical offices, hospitals, etc. use electronic medical records (EMR) by a certain date in the future (2012?). In my office, we already use an EMR. My server is located in California. My office is in Arkansas. So what happens when the internet goes down? I can still treat patients, but I won’t have any information about them beyond a few basic facts that we keep in their paper charts. In addition, we order EVERYTHING over the internet: Xrays, labs, EKGs, medical supplies, etc. We pay all bills and payroll over the internet too.

    I don’t worry about my office so much because I’m the sole practitioner and can adapt fairly quickly, but the hospitals in the area are quite large with hundreds of doctors and thousands of nurses. Can you imagine the pandemonium when they suddenly can’t use their EMR? I sure wouldn’t want to be a patient there when that happens.

  • Let me settle this once and for all.All living things,and all institutions,cultures,civilizations,ect., based on living things,
    have a five stage sequence of : birth,growth,maturation,decadence,
    and death.

    We are in the death phase of industrial civilization.

    There you have it.

    Double D

  • Re squatting for elimination, when my father went to Brazil he discovered that even places with flush toilets, had no throne, just places for your feet and a hole. His hemorrhoids disappeared. When he came back he worked for a company that built medical facilities. He kept telling Drs about this but only one Dr. ever would listen to him. I have heard that women in countries that squat do not develop urinary inconsistence later in life. This site makes additional claims for health benefits – or more correctly lack of health problems http://www.toilet-related-ailments.com/squatting.html

    Sitting at desks may well be related to the epidemic of back problems in this country. We do a lot of harm by trying to avoid our nature. One study has shown a connection between breast cancer and tight bras. No confirmatory study because no further studies have been done. Wouldn’t want to find out that our cultural practices might be ruining our health.

  • My goodness, such a lot of talk about death. Ya’ll all are getting more like me…..

  • Terry, from the last discussion
    Yes I saw the angry cat video – whenever I need a lift I google funny animal vids!!

    Try this for the scythe video – better resolution http://scytheworks.ca/riseofthescythe.html
    The girl is said to be 14 years old. I stand in awe of her skill and find her work to be beautiful and inspiring, not words that roll off my tongue very frequently.
    That site has some interesting stuff on how to use a scythe etc
    From that page
    Creating a path with this tool, awareness becomes the key concept… considering the land, judging the lean, reflecting on the plants, examining the edge, musing over angles, noticing the stubble, contemplating movement, meditating on the breath…”

    So there you have it–a concise recipe. Short, accurate and yet so expressive of the fact that what I am attempting to write about is more than grass cutting. It is the peasant’s dance, the morning prayer under the sky…

    Axioms such as “If you cannot rest yourself while mowing, you are not doing it correctly” attest to the understanding that the task can be almost effortless.

    The practice of T’ai chi Chuan, with its emphasis on the executing of smooth motions while in a reflective state of mind, is a beautiful–even if idealistic–model.

    The concept of not “losing” the expended energy but rather guiding it in returning circular patterns, the manner of breathing and the related imagery I consider all very applicable to the art of hand mowing. Can we, one day, learn to guide the blade’s edge through the spaces between the plants’ cells? I think it is worth a try..

  • Brutus:

    Your essay focuses us on awkward unpleasantries, but ground-level truth is needed if the NBL discussion is going to leave the Mobius Strip. Guy keeps putting the links out there. You provide a clear-eyed exploration of their implications,and I thank you for that.

    One note on your final stage of the life cycle: Having taken care of [with a lot of gratefully-received help] a parent from the beginning to the end of Alzheimer’s, it seems like there’s a relationship between what the culture is going through and the current epidemic of dementia.

    I’m aware of the physical realities of the disease, but it also seems that our culture is culturing Alzheimer’s. We have an inability to remember the recent past or recognize the context of the present. Attention gets focused on the trivial. We are consumed by subliminal fear and paranoia. There are flashes of consciousness which quickly get overwhelmed by feelings of sadness and loss,which in turn are quickly denied. I can’t imagine all these things not having an effect on individual physiology.

    Your statement, “We no longer know what it means to die well” struck me as pointing to one of the few ways–living with day-to-day courage–in which we can change our personal futures, and, perhaps, alter the course of our civilization. The courage to see the truth will help us [to use an entirely different metaphor] notice the elephants crapping on our collective dining room carpet.

    Some asides: hand tools aren’t going to be a problem. I’ve used them hard all of my life, and, excluding handles, I have yet to wear any one of them out.

    The failure of large electrical systems will be a problem, as will radioactive and chemical contamination. Google didn’t locate its server-farms at the Dalles by accident. I’m hoping that the harshening climate of the Pacific Northwest will be balanced by the stability and relative non-lethality of its power systems.

    E.M. Forster’s The Machine Stops is a good short story that provides a schematic of the breakdown of complex integrated systems.

    Ron Rosenbaum’s How the End Begins is a good, if terrifying, analysis of the risks of near-term nuclear war.

  • A bottleneck may be necessary because 95% of homo sapiens are of no value to the super-intelligent machine collective. We are entering an era in which a small technological elite and their machines will be able to keep society running, and there is simply no need to expend resources on those who, genetically speaking, are incapable of contributing anything of value. You can think of this as an evolutionary coup by the most intelligent, a kid of “revenge of the nerds” on an epic scale. Ted Kaczynski had the future mostly right, but his mistake was not realizing that as a math PhD with a 168 IQ the future belongs to his kind and should be embraced. While this may all sound very brutal, it is also what nature calls “progress”.

  • Alpha I don’t think you will find many like minded people on this blog. However there is a like minded person over at http://thecosmist.com/ who might be interested in your agenda.

  • While this may all sound very brutal, it is also what nature calls “progress”.

    I doubt the rest of nature agrees with this definition of “progress.”

  • ‘There is no larger truth, in my opinion, than our drive to survive, shared with all living things I will add, having caused us to kill off nearly everything, ending with ourselves. This is the ultimate thing wrong, but unlike other living things, we know we’re doing it and simply can’t stop. -brutus

    disagree with the final statement of the last sentence. very few sheople imo are even remotely aware of our precarious predicament. the masses (and most ‘elites’, probably) are utterly deluded/ignorant, which is our greatest problem now, and going forward.

    when i saw the author of this most recent contribution was brutus, i looked forward to reading it, for i’ve been positively impressed with his past comments here. i must say i wasn’t disappointed.

    however, sheople are absurd, have been for who knows how long?, and give absolutely no indication this may change significantly in the future. to me this is the largest ‘invisible’ elephant no one wishes to see or acknowledge, for it leads to despair.

    most here surrealize our essential predicament. my chief criticism of brutus and some others is not acknowledging the role which human absurdity/insanity/stupidity plays. even now it may be possible (or maybe not) that climate stabilization and voluntary scaling back of civilization and population could prevent the nightmare collapse and destabilization of climate we fear. theoretically, that is. for in surreality, it would require not only acknowledging current human insanity/stupidity as the root problem, but coming up with a solution to this problem almost instantaneously. this, i think, falls into the category of the impossible/miraculous.

    i admire/respect jean for his practicality and determination to maximize his odds of survival, and desire to impart this to others. i just tend to feel it’s hopeless, for even if some like jean succeed for a while, i don’t anticipate humans collectively acquiring the sanity/intelligence required to avoid self destruction/extinction. i know extinction is inevitable, but we’re bringing it on ourselves now.

    ‘We are certainly in a state of both high energy and high connectedness’ -jan steinman -depends on what u mean by that. spiritually and emotionally, i think most sheople are very alienated, disconnected from one another. another manifestation of our collective insanity/stupidity/absurdity. another reason to despair.

  • Terry, you’re welcome to choose your own focus and write your own blog or guest blog. I don’t especially disagree with what you’ve offered in your comment, but I’m already despairing enough that to focus more on stupidity and insanity would probably put me over the edge.

    As to whether we know what we’re doing in our omnicidal fury, I daresay the full picture didn’t come into view until fairly recently. Malthus and Hubbert were aberrations almost no one quite believed at the times they identified our predicaments. So despite widespread denial and ignorance among the masses, I think it nonetheless true that we now know what was formerly hidden away.

    Last, the point to life is living, nothing less. The manner in which we live matters, and I’m not willing to do anything just to survive, but it’s still the object and end of being. Despair and extinction may be unavoidable, but there is still some time left for living.

  • ‘We do a lot of harm by trying to avoid our nature. -kathy

    thinking we’re separate from nature, or that by conscious choice and effort we can alter/improve upon our nature, perhaps is the crux of our delusion. relying on dogma, rather than science and openness to change, is the soul of stupidity. perhaps civilization is to blame for human disregard for nature. perhaps elite creation and control of civilized institutions that promote dogma makes us stupid. perhaps without civilization to warp and inhibit our instincts and intellects, we’ll be ok. that is, if we escape self inflicted extinction before then.

  • Fuel protests will hot up into the future now.


    I’m really surprised they have not started in Europe and the UK yet. There was a massive one in 2000 at a much lower price point. I hear grumbling, but no real action yet. It will come – it has to. Diesel here is already trading at the equivalent of around $8.90 per US gallon. You folks think $5 a gallon is bad?…. ;-)

    The price of transport underlies all costs of doing business – all costs. It is a basic component of the cost of anything today. There are limits to what any of us can afford to pay for any product. When transport costs go up, then the hit to profits must be absorbed or the seller must risk being priced out of the market. When the costs keep going up, then the seller must increase prices or face business failure.

    When the company providing transport can no longer hold back on increasing its prices for transport, then it risks going out of business. No transport. No goods.

    The Baltic Dry Index (BDI) right now is very low. The BDI is an index used by the dry goods shipping industry to indicate the price of moving raw materials by sea. The BDI is such a good indicator because the cost of raw materials are at the base of all economic activity for the civilised world. At its peak in 2008 the BDI was running at about 11K+ points. Now it is down around 1K – not good for the shipping industry which carries 90% of international trade. If during this time of low BDI, fuel costs increase significantly, this places huge pressures on the shipping industry, squeezing their already poor profits and if continued, threatening their ability to remain in business. If oil prices keep rising, these shipping companies will fail, as they can no longer afford to carry the cargo, or the buyers can no longer afford to pay. A very dangerous situation.

    With the BDI at a historic low, and oil prices continuing to rise , there can only be one ultimate result.

    And of course if fuel prices continue to rise, how much further can they go before the global economy can no longer absorb the costs of doing business? At some point you have demand destruction on a massive scale, and businesses begin failing all over the place. Nicole can no longer afford her imports because she can no longer be assured that she will have the customers who can afford her products. Since she must pay in advance for her inventory, her current prices must reflect the future costs of turning that inventory, costs that are continually rising. Not a pretty picture for anyone – not the producer, not the shipper, not the consumer. Everyone loses.

    And when the right combination of businesses fail, then the whole structure collapses.

  • Mmmm… this will be my last visit to civilization for a long time. Every time I see her face I find her more and more ugly.

    Last night I went for a walk; there are a lot of people sleeping in the street. I’m afraid that the next oil spike will degenerate in mass violence: social services have collapsed. Unemployment is oficially in 20%. I’m afraid that real unemployment data is twices much than that.

    And every day worse.

    Oil seems to be stable (Brent=124 $/barrel). Once it reaches 150, like the last time, food supplies will fail again. (They failed for a few days in 2008). Now I’m afraid that it’s going to be more serious.

    Mental structures of people have not changed. They’re still waiting for the things go better, but they won’t. They still want to be rich, even when they’ve lost everything they’re still greedy.

    It’s sick.

    My children will rule this land; but until that happen I’ll have to work and fight a lot.

  • Jean,

    Your words hearten me. Best of luck with everything.


  • John Rember – I helped with my dad’s end-of-life and dying, which took eight years. He had dementia. Your analogy is apt. His mental processes worsened whenever the toxins increased and improved with better diet. I see this all around me. Violent behavior is another one with links to both. I also witnessed the effects of legal drugs on his ups and downs. It appeared to me that anti-depressants played a very big part in his demise. Sadly, my mother, who eats and lives very green was worn to a nub by his care, and yet she could not stop pampering him with the foods he loved, even when it was so obvious the effect they had. I see the same problem with society being unwilling or unable to let go of indulgences that pollute, or use a lot of fossil fuel.

  • Jean, I find myself thinking of you from time to time, imagining you carrying on after the crash. My mind’s vision may have nothing to do with reality. Nonetheless I enjoy the vision of you and your donkey and your tribe. Best to you.

  • Rita, I stopped eating virtually all refined sugar about 25 years ago. Basically I was addicted and cold turkey was the only way to go. It didn’t take long before fruit began to taste sweeter to me than it had before, but sweet with all the various unique flavors of each fruit.

    Many people actually get mad at me if I won’t eat something sweet they have bought or made. Others feel guilty as they eat desert and I eat nothing. But I never find myself wishing to join in, nor do I feel deprived. Funny world isn’t it where people not only continue to eat what is not good for them but are bothered by others who don’t.

    Interesting article on toxicity of sugar http://www.nytimes.com/2011/04/17/magazine/mag-17Sugar-t.html

  • Dear Kathy:

    I’m thin (65 kg.), nothing to do with the image of a “strong man”. I’m going bold. Very soon I won’t be young. I don’t think like a state man… it’s more like the major of a small village. Can you believe that the young people of the small village near my farm want me to apply as their major? I’ve refused: I have no time to deal with burocracy, but I’ll think about it later.

    Thank God there are no landlords around, but I think that as the situation get worse and worse, riches will buy properties in the country, since the only source of real wealth in the times coming will be the land. You can believe me: I’m more worried about them than about the inevitable gangs of plunderers, since landlords will be very well organized; it will be difficult to beat them.

    Right now I’m enjoying in the rotten civilization; I’m going to have dinner in a restaurant, drink good wine and say good bye to the old world. Not everything was bad. In fact, our life war very easy. I consider that it was a privilege for us having the opportunity to study, to travel, to be well fed.

  • Jean – hmm going bold. I think you mean bald – losing hair on head, but going bold fits “not hesitating or fearful in the face of actual or possible danger”. You are definitely going bold into an uncharted future. :)

    My husband and I have started going out to eat more, buying overpriced out of area fruit (yummy pineapple today), etc. Well we can say this for sure of your future, you will not be bored.


  • Kathy – You and I are on the same page with many things. maybe everything, actually. It hasn’t been hard for me to live without the usual suspects, vacuum cleaner, washing machine, dryer, furnace, AC, anything-wrapped-in-plastic – even toilet paper, but the one thing that is a huge stumbling block for me is this very thing I am typing on at the moment. I make my living on it, do research, connect with people like you’all. I just love it.

    My theory has long been that when you are suffering from anything, like being overweight, for instance, that you only need to look for whatever it is that you don’t think you can live without, and that is most likely the problem. Indulgences have been at the bottom of more than one Reformation.


  • My children will rule this land; but until that happen I’ll have to work and fight a lot.


    Ownership of land – we can not own land – we can merely occupy for a time. Empire begins with land ownership.

    In the new world I would hope that we would have learned our lessons about ruling over others. You know what they say about the corrupting tendency of power. Power over others, whilst perhaps benign in the beginning, always decays into corruption and lust for more.

    Jean, unless the above was simply a shortcoming in your use of the language and you meant something entirely different, I hope you are not offended if I wish failure for you. I personally have had it up to my neck with land lords and rulers and the mess they have made.

    Can we not hope for better than a continuance of the psychology of Empire?….disappointing.

  • Rita [Indulgences have been at the bottom of more than one Reformation.]

    Hehe – having been raised Lutheran I get that one!!

    Yes, losing the internet will feel like a huge disconnection. But after the crash we won’t have time for it anyway.

    Here is an interesting thought. Think of all the houses with nailed down or glued down wall to wall carpet. OOOOH that is going to get nasty pretty quickly without vacuum cleaners. :)

  • kathy/Rita…or basements w/o dehumidifers.

  • or sump pumps…

  • ‘My children will rule this land’ -jean

    i second all victor said and then some. very disturbing choice of words.

    first, imo the idea of bringing children into a world facing what ours is, is utterly crazy and irresponsible. if u have any, there’s absolutely no way u can guarantee they’ll be shielded from what’s to come. i find it hard to believe that anyplace in southwestern europe perhaps with the exception of largely uninhabitable mountains) is remote enough from civilization to escape the mayhem to come.

    there’s an old saying i believe originates from asia, robin may be familiar with it, that goes ‘when elephants fight, the grass is trampled’. i’m afraid this world hasn’t seen the last of genocidal war. governments may soon be broke financially, but they’ll still have arsenals of mega-destructive weapons at their disposal. u think u can compete with that with a local militia of farmers???!!!

    then there’s climate change, which u’ll have absolutely no control over, and which may foil the best laid plans and efforts to survive.

    the idea of owning land, of ruling over it like authoritarian governments now rule over sheople, is the essence of ugly civilization.

    if u have children, u should hope for their survival. life’s a privilege, not a right. your words exhibit hubris, entitlement to domination, part of what’s so wrong with ‘our’ rulers now. u should hope your children gain ‘power’ by earning respect from others, rather than inheriting power from u like monarchs of the past. u should hope for a post collapse world free of authoritarianism. if u don’t, i’m with victor. i’ve had it with being ‘ruled’.

  • It sounds to me like maybe English is a second language for Jean, and the choice of words not the intent you guys are giving it. I took it to mean that after we are gone, our children will be left to “rule” or govern or make decisions. But “rule” is a word guaranteed to get a rise out a bunch of anarchists. :)

  • Brutus, the thread that I noticed in your essay was an ability to see what is – some access it some don’t. From reading here at this blog my anxiety has been increased.
    I found myself with a strong need for clear steps on how to proceed. What I have been given through recent reading on totally unrelated subjects is a different way. My reading points to the path that arises out of chaos. Something like the old start where you are and what you need will be there.

    Rita, your post on having given up x,y and z long ago helps me. I read what you have done and my doing it becomes a more real next step.

    Kathy, you mentioned having given up refined sugar and I am encouraged. My husband and I have been talking about taking that step.

    The community here is a way for each of us to be stronger. Thank you to all who reveal bits of their reality.

  • Thank you, Sarah. I can’t tell just anybody about my lifestyle, but it is always my hope to inspire someone. The next steps for me are to live car-free and disconnect from the power company. I have made my changes little by little. Basically, the dryer broke, so I hung up the clothes. The washer broke a few years later, and I washed them out in my bathwater. I had a gas leak, so when the gas guy said it was everything, I threw out the cook stove and shut off the furnace. Now I have a pantry where the washer and dryer used to be and a hot plate and a little wood burner for heat and cooking.

    Now the fridge has been unplugged for weeks, but I could turn it on this summer. I don’t eat meat or dairy that much. I can grow salad makings year round. I sprout a lot of things and play with that – haven’t mastered wheat grass yet. I have always doctored everyone around me with herbs and enemas. And I, too, use a pee rag and have a compost toilet in the garage. It is a nice piece of furniture with three buckets – the middle bucket is for saw dust.

    I get all my wood for free and cut it up by hand saw – just limbs, and wear several layers of wool, leg warmers, three pairs of sox, hat and scarf in the winter, even to bed. And yes, I am single. I’ve never met a man who would live like this. Hope this helps. It’s all a big adventure, like a game to me.

    I am trying to live on no money. The house is paid for, but it is true you can not own land as long as there are taxes…..and insurance is a big bite, too.

  • Ownership of land – we can not own land – we can merely occupy for a time

    That is also true of one’s body. And of course, sans ownership there is little or no reason to take proper care of it. The shrewdest attitude with such a paradigm is to squeeze every last bit of value out of the property before it slips from one’s family’s grasp, and not to waste anything on it’s longer term maintenance or upkeep.

    And animals can be quite territorial, defending their territory not only against other members of their species, but also against other competing species, as in the carnivora, both felids and canids. Songbirds are also quite aggressive in the defenso of their mating territories: their “songs” are actually threats and warnitgs telling others competing for the same niche to keep out. Ounce for ounce, a robin is a whole lot more ferocious than a hawk.

    One is reminded of the origins of words. When first settling into agriculture, the head of a group of companions (a company) was a captain (= head, in Latin); it still is so in the Army, and the head of a ship’s company is also a captain. The representative of the several groups that constituted a village was a mayor, and the representative of the military unit conscripted from a village was a major: although no longer conscripted from a village (except for the National Guard and Reserves), it is the next higher rank after captain (in the Army).

    The King’s representative (to several of the military units, or to several villages) was the colonel or the coroner (cognate with “crown”). Even today, the coroner’s authority does not derive from the county. The reeve of a shire was the head of the shire, with his authority deriving from the shire, and “shire reeve” became sheriff. After the Norman conquest (of England) shires became known for administrative purposes as counties, but the term “sheriff” remained, rather than “count” as in the continent.

  • there’s an old saying i believe originates from asia, robin may be familiar with it, that goes ‘when elephants fight, the grass is trampled’

    The saying that I am aware of is “when elephants make love or war, the mice should step aside”.

  • I should mention that I live in the middle of a small university town of about 70,000, in the part with all the little old bungalows, and I am not the only one who doesn’t mow.

    Lots of renters garden in this town. Some even have chickens and one has a goat.

  • Also reminded of the saying in military aviation (both the Army and the Navy):
    “There are old aviators
    And there are bold aviators
    But there are no old, bold aviators”.

  • Right at the beginning of this thread, Guy linked to a list of what we’d need come Collapse. I’d seen this list before and quickly dismissed it, but thought this time around I’d have a really good look at it. I found the list very strange. It seems to have been written more from the viewpoint of an army exercise or camping trip where life will soon be back to normal. Oh and by the way, let’s not do without our little luxuries even for the period of the exercise. It seems the author is stuck in the current paradigm.

    What I’m trying to put together is a list of items that will help me survive long term in relative comfort. If consumables are part of that list then they are there to buy me time to find a sustainable substitute. I needed to look at it from the point of view of necessary functions rather than specific items, e.g. find out what’s going on in the wider world versus radio.

    I elimated everything from the list that would be no use when fuel or batteries run out – unless they’d have a short term only use). This included Items 1, 6, 14, 16, 18, 23, 28, 34, 36, 38, 46, 66, 95. I reasoned that to spend money on such items as a generator at this point would be short sighted (we’ve already got one – maybe we should sell it to someone who likes this list). What could I substitute instead of a generator? In my case, it is a solar system, which we also already have, although we don’t have enough power to run a hefty welder. However, it’ll do most jobs that a generator otherwise would. When the solar batteries come to the end of their lifetime, then the panels will still work for many years so I can save up those essential jobs that will be much easier with electricity for when the sun is shining.

    A portable toilet is ridiculous. If you’ve travelling, a little shovel and a Lota (see Robin’s earlier comment) will do (can you see yourself loading the portable toilet on the horse ;-) (hope this works, Victor). If you’re staying in one place, get used to using a bucket and build a compost heap (See The Humanure Book). By the way, The Real Dr. House, toilet paper works very well in a composting toilet. You need carbon to balance out all of that nitrogen. We use both toilet paper and sawdust. Once the toilet paper is gone, we’ll use whatever carbon we can find.

    There were quite a few other ridiculous items: carbon monoxide alarm (use your brain and don’t let a room get too stuffy), paper plates (what is this? a picnic?), fire extinguisher (what about a bucket of sand?), baby wipes and antibacterial soap (haven’t you heard of water? Antibacterial soap is one of the evils of the current world that I’m hoping to never see again), bullions and soup base (learn how to cook), roll-on window insulation (what about curtains?),cots and inflatable mattresses (for travelling get yourself a swag, at home, ummmh beds?), chewing gum and candy (can’t you do without?), atomizers (what ??).

    I once read that a wise farmer has 5 years worth of hay in his hayshed at any one time to allow for drought, flood and other acts of god that lead to poor harvests. That’s the function I see the consumables doing for me. I’ll have a stockpile of grains, rice and pulses, but I will also grow what I can. I won’t keep flour lying around. It is either so lacking in nutrients that even the bugs won’t eat it or it’ll go rancid very quickly. Instead I actually think a grain mill is a good idea. Most people around the world grind some kind of flour, and I don’t fancy grinding the grain out in the paddock between 2 rocks. Oil comes up again and again, for lamps, for cooking. By all means get a stockpile, but be prepared to grow a crop for oil. We have a little oil extractor that you can use to get oil from seed and nuts. It was designed for third world countries.

    Clothing is probably worth stockpiling. Yes, we can grow the fibre, spin the thread, weave the cloth and sew the garment, but I for one will be pretty damn busy just growing enough food to survive. I’d like to give myself a really big running start on this activity so stockpiled work clothes, underwear and boots will give me that.

    One of the items that I found disturbing was a first aid kit. A first aid kit is just what it says it is – first aid. Designed for a world of ambulances, doctors and hospitals where your job is to if possible keep the victim breathing and keep him from bleeding to death. But what happens when there are no doctors close by, and hospitals and ambulances are a thing of the past. I think we are going to need something a lot more substantial than a first aid kit. The Real Dr House and Robin, do you have any ideas on this subject?

  • Where There is no Doctor 2010 – PDF …

    But as Chris Martenson pointed out in The Crash Course, the simplification will bring with it a regression in the sophistication: the Pediatric sub-sub-specialist will revert to “healer”.

  • I. too, had a chuckle from that list. Since I am pretty much a Zen Doomer, my list is short. I could load up the Civic with most of it. I have tools and sacks of food, books, a Berkey, a couple of good solar lanterns, wool blankets, two bags of clothes (winter and summer), four meditation cushions for my bed, matches (since I haven’t yet practiced with my striker to make fire without them), solar oven, solar food dryer, and a bunch of stuff that is waiting to go into a yard sale to make a bit of cash. And a Macbook Pro. No cell phone, though – I hate those things.

  • Nicole, you’re right that a first-aid kit doesn’t offer much help beyond the immediate concern, but sometimes that can be enough. Believe it or not, a first-aid kit might also make the difference between life or death. In the absence of antibiotics, even a simple cut that isn’t cleaned can lead to infection that spreads into the bloodstream leading to sepsis and death. So, personally, I think a first-aid kit is a good, and usually cheap, investment. It won’t last forever, and you won’t be able to refill it, but it will be useful while it lasts.

    Also, thanks for the information about toilet paper adding value to composting toilets. :-)

    @Rita Vail, wow! I’m impressed with the steps you’ve taken to live your life simply. You’re an inspiration!

  • Dr. – It’s my response to the despair of being part of the problem. I once saw a bumper sticker that read, “Save the Planet. Kill Yourself” and decided that I had to start shrinking footprints pronto. And I wanted to retire, but have no savings. So I did and I am. It seems to be working out.

    And to those who keep alluding to the idea that after TSHTF we will be very busy, I don’t find that to be true at all. It means not flying anywhere, and I use about a tank of gas a month, mostly searching for firewood beside the road. I don’t buy anything, except food. And gas. And books. The goal is to not need to buy food, or not much. I get a tiny check from SS but who knows for how long? So I try not to adopt systems that are costly to keep up. I would rather learn to live without electricity (people do – lots of them) than have to replace batteries, and panels can be hit by lightning. I’d rather carry two buckets than have a wheelbarrow with a flat tire. I’ve sold off power tools, and lots of gadgets. And most of the furniture. It’s so much easier to sweep and mop now.

    It makes me happy to hear that someone is inspired by what I have learned. It is not difficult, unless you have to deal with the opinions of others. I am a hermit, so it is easy.

    So the two most important things you need to begin down this path are: to live with people who will agree to it (or live alone) and to do it in a small, efficient space. I wish I could build my own little house, oriented correctly to the sun.

  • Rita Vail

    …simply inspiring…you might not find a man who would be willing to put up with a woman like you, but I reckon that you have met a bunch of fools…keep it up and give us more views into your lifestyle as time goes on…we pick up good hints that way.


    …that goes for you as well….I always enjoy reading your posts….full of delightful hints….


    ….really enjoyed your comments about word origins…however when you say:

    And of course, sans ownership there is little or no reason to take proper care of it.

    This is not true at all. I don’t own property, been a long time since I did. But when I move to a new house, I feel obligated to improve the land and grow things useful, even if for aesthetic purposes. The idea that if I don’t own it, I’ll sqweeze all its usefullness from it is an idea foreign to me.

    As for the territotial defense of an area by an animal, yes that is true – but the key word there is “defense”. But your point is a good one. However, I am of the opinion that we humans can do better than that if we set our minds to it. It is too easy to fall back on the principle that we are no better than the animals – I usually hear this argument when someone wants to justify something they couldn’t otherwise. The whole capitalist model is built on that assumption. I think we are better than that…. ;-)

    The Real Dr. House

    I agree, esp for many whose immune systems have been so weakened through the years by over-sanitary living. Children used to eat dirt from time to time and find all sorts of nasty things to get into. Nowadays we are shocked when little Tommy gets a bit of dirt on him. As a result our modern bodies have not been conditioned against some of the little creatures that might invade through an unavoidable liaison with Mother Nature…. ;-)


    Good God! I DO sound like an anarchist!!…… ;-)

  • I feel obligated to improve the land and grow things useful, even if for aesthetic purposes. The idea that if I don’t own it, I’ll sqweeze all its usefullness from it is an idea foreign to me.

    It would seem that Industrial Agriculture has little regard for the condition of the land: the topsoil is stripped in a few years. The ones close to the land are all employees in a gargantuan faceless corporation. No one person or small group of people working close to the land would develop a sense of personal ownerhip and responsibility. With that sense comes a concern for the value of the property and an effort to maittain and improve it.

  • nice posts; rita, & all! helps me feel calm/peaceful…even with acknowledging the coming tsunami.

    going to get the plywood soon to build a nicer composting toilet to encourage family members.


    i think separating out urine has several pluses; smell, & fertilizer…pros please advise if otherwise!

  • Sam -You are right about the smell It would help, but when I had a bunch of kids, I emptied the buckets often, and they did not smell much. Sprinkle with lime if they do or if you get bugs. Or use ashes. You have to clean them well and get new ones fairly often – it is a hard smell to get out. Maybe charcoal. Now that I live alone, I like to pee into a wide mouth jar and dilute it and pour it on some plants that need fertilizing. The garden is close by.

    I wonder if you can’t find an old cedar chest on craigslist to use. Get the buckets first, so you know how high it has to be. I got my compost toilet by marrying a cabinet maker. :)

    If you can rout out the hole so that the rim of the bucket fits snug, there will be no insects. The hardest part is the round lid, which also must fit snug, or make a square one and make a gasket. Mine is big enough to stand on for squatting. And it’s pretty, too. After all, fertilizer is as good as gold. Gotta treat it with respect. It is more motivating if you don’t have the money for soil supplements and no animals for manure. I’ve been doing this since 1976 and am careful with it. I like to have a separate toilet for guests, so I only use my own on the garden, after heating it up in the compost.

  • Sam – Oh wow. Just checked out the link. That is really nice.

  • sam

    cool….did you replace your old toilet in your house? Or is this located elsewhere….rather difficult for a renter…. ;-)

  • Sam, we separate most urine. Our bathroom has 3 buckets. One 5 gal bucket of leaves, one 5 gal bucket with a toilet seat resting on it for feces – top off each deposit with leaves – no smell even after 5 or so days to fill. One bucket for piss – no seat necessary for my husband, I sometimes move the seat from the feces bucket, sometimes just sit on the bucket. The piss bucket gets emptied daily with a bit of dillution (say 2 to 1) on plants on a rotating schedule that lives in my mind. Since my mind is losing short term memory, probably some get more and some less, but everything keeps on growing. I then rinse and give a bit of a scrub and set it out into the sun and move in yesterday’s bucket that had a full day in the sun. In the winter we don’t get smell. In the summer sometimes we do so I empty sometimes twice a day. Also I swab the bucket with a bit of hydrogen peroxide in the summer. It is the bacteria not the piss that makes the smell.

    At first I only used the resulting humanure compost on flowers, then on crops that grew up tall, now I use it on everything. Only get sick when I get around others.

  • Luffas – I grow luffas every year. Great sponges. Edible before they get to the spongy stage but we don’t find them wonderful so we chop them up young and feed them to the chickens. The ones that miss my harvesting become sponges. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Luffa

  • Rita [And to those who keep alluding to the idea that after TSHTF we will be very busy, I don’t find that to be true at all.]

    I am not very busy right now as I have retired and cut down on external activity. Although I wash clothes by hand which takes longer, I wash less clothes now so probably in total I spend less time on washing clothes. However when the shit hits the fan I will have to hand pump water and that is much more time consuming. Then I will wash clothes even less but still I will have to hand pump for drinking, animals, washing dishes, etc.

    If I want to grow all my own food I will have to triple my garden time. Buying groceries with a SS check is pretty quick. Growing and processing take time. I mulch my garden with leaves, lots of them, from town where I get other people’s raking work for free. When I have to rake all my own leaves I will considerably increase the time involved.


  • thanks pros!
    rita i forgot about squatting…wouldn’t work w/ the one in the link; & yes fertilizer is a serious motivation. bugs… hadn’t thought or hear about such but we have had lotsa trouble w/ ants the last summer; & beginning already this one too….& some in the bathroom too. thanks…last thing i’d want w/ introducing a new system.

    victor i’ve experimented w/ buckets, & am attempting to make us more resilient [no water needed, u get fertilizer…urine right now, composted poop later], & even mobile. as i look @ properties in upper mich. a lot of ones near water have septic problems… a 7k or so mounded septic requirement; so it is even a factor there. so the one i’ve settled on is for emotional comfort as much as anything. like kathy/rita i’ve used buckets enough to know, essentially no smells using sawdust, even in heat. the one adaption i may do is use a large funnel, rather than the adapted square container for urine to exit into a jug.

    kathy thanks; u’r system meets all my needs, & sound real practical!

  • And I’m busy trying to improve the soil of our 400 acre farm. I’m hoping that I can build the organic matter up to such an extent that it becomes a large sponge to hold water during droughts. We first started farming in 2003 and fell right into a drought that really only ended last year. We spent countless thousand of dollars on feed for our stock. Now however I’m building fences, lots of them. I hope to divide our land into 60 or 70 paddocks. So far we have about 20. The more paddocks I have the more often I can move the animals, not returning them to a paddock for months. This mimics how animals used to traverse the veldts of Africa. I have already seen an increase in organic matter, but I want it to get a lot better than this.

    The sad thing is that if we could get all farmers to farm like us, we’d be able to reverse Climate Change because we could take so much carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere and lock it away in the soil. But we can’t get them to change. So we beaver away on our little piece of Eden, hoping that the increased carbon in our soils will at least ameliorate the local climate.

    I’m going to enjoy reading “Where There is No Doctor.” Thank you for the resource. Funnily enough, we’ve almost in that situation now. We have so few doctors in country Australia that they have started closing down some of the smaller hospitals. It takes 3 weeks to get an appoitment to see your GP, and my husband and I live 40 km from the closest doctor anyway.

    The Real Doctor House,
    I’ll treat my first aid kit with more respect from now on. What are you going to do when you are required to do surgery without anaesthetics, etc.? Have you started stocking up on plants that could help you? As a GP, you probably wouldn’t do a lot of surgery now. I’d guess that in future, your community will expect you to do so.

  • Sam – My toilet box has a hinged top with the bucket holes in it, which you only raise to take out the buckets. One of these days I’ll get a web site/blog so I can show it.

    Kathy and Nicole – wow. Inspiring. I had a farm 17 years ago and was raised on one where we farmed with horses and by hand. I moved into town for the good high school and obsess over the town or country debate. Right now, I could live without a car easily, but have a small yard, all of which is garden, and grow a lot, but fruit is limited. Well, everything is limited, including how much time it takes me to nurture it. However, I no longer have to fight the critters for it. I can catch some rain water, use solar and wood, so will do better than most. I have no idea if I would be safer here, but probably. I could rent out two bedrooms to grad students, which I’ve done before.

    So what about safety? Argentina was a wild ride. Anybody put bars on the windows yet? I think about it. Right now I am planning some tall gates and fencing with bamboo that would make it difficult to break in here. I need solar lights. Kathy – what about a solar pump?

    It is hard to imagine EVERYTHING grinding to a halt. Surely the university will die a very slow death. I do look around for an eco-village to flee to sometimes, but would probably stand my ground and go down with the ship. I have children and grandchildren, mostly here. In the 70s I lived outside “the system” but there was commerce still. I think people will always strive to keep their personal economy going. I have worked for the rich a lot and could still. None of them think they are rich anymore, but that is very relative.

  • Nicole, two things that are going to be very useful post-collapse will be alcohol (the drinking kind) and opium from poppy seeds. The alcohol will be fun to drink and will help with killing germs. The opium will be useful for longterm pain.

    While I do some small surgeries in my office now (mole removals, draining abscesses, etc.), I’m sure you’re right that I’ll be expected to do even more invasive things in the future. However, there are very few surgeries that I would even consider, regardless the outcome; primarily because the patient would not survive the surgery, not to mention the post-surgical complications. Examples which come to mind of things I might be expected to treat and would likely attempt include setting a compound fracture (where the bone has poked through the skin), amputating a gangrenous limb, or perhaps removing a large skin tumor. But forget the idea of me attempting to remove someone’s gallbladder, appendix, or any other malfunctioning internal organ. It simply won’t happen. Not only would I not have sufficient experience, but the person wouldn’t survive the loss of blood and the post-surgical infection. Needles, suture, and instruments also will be non-existent very soon post-collapse.

  • On the issue of work-hours, wiki used to have a very nice article on this subject covering the number of hours the average person worked over the last few thousand years. I just checked and it’s been edited to include only a very brief paragraph about hunter-gatherers. The gist of the article used to be that the number of hours humans have worked has steadily increased over the centuries. Hunter-gatherers worked about 15 hours a week. The hours remained somewhat in that neighborhood until the industrial revolution at which point the hours soared. That’s what happens when you become a consuming society; you have to produce all the consumed stuff. That takes time and energy.

  • nicole foss… a particularly good interview imo. gosh, she sees this system hanging together…even if only barely… for decades. i wonder…


  • Victor:

    You’re absolutely right. Capitalism appears when the principle of accumulation appears. In fact english is not my second language: it’s my third one, because a think in french and spanish, not in english.

    What I mean is more or less: my children will be the humans of the future. Indeed, nobody can own the land: we belong to her.

    OF COURSE, I do not consider land as mine, but if some exploitaitor tries to control the 10 hectareas that feed me and make me into his slave, I’ll find out the colour of his guts. :-)

  • btw the above person is also known as stoneleigh of automaticearth.blogspot.com

  • sam

    The above which person?

  • Oh you mean ‘Nicole’! Of course!

  • Jean

    Thank you for that! You have restored my faith!

  • In this mad world, being sane is a madness, Sam.

  • thanks jean
    i forget sometimes.

  • Nicole! I wondered if you were the famous “Stoneleigh.” I love reading your work. Thank you, Sam, for the tip off.

  • Last night in the city: I’ll never return. I will not post for a very long while, my friends.

    As I told you, there is a financial crack incoming. I don’t know how serious it will be. As riots become more serious, it will be dangerous being in the streets, so these are my ideas:

    1.- If you’re living in a city, stay at home for one week or so.
    2.- Get a good pile of food, one or two firearms and ammunition: don’t shoot if you’re not shot before.
    3.- Get a camping gas to cook, although I think that it’s very soon for electricity to fail.
    4.- Do not leave children unattended.
    5.- Once things go back to “normality”, do not expect “good times”; simply find a way out of the empire.

    I’m going to get drunk. Tomorrow I’ll be in the real world again: scratching in my farm :-)

  • Victor, [It is too easy to fall back on the principle that we are no better than the animals]
    My position is that we are no better than and no worse than animals. We are animals. We believe we have something that some call “free will” but that is debatable.

    What we do know is that if you take an animal out of its native environment and put then in an unnatural environment such as a cage, behavior changes. I believe that we can look at civilization as the self caging or self domestication of ourselves. Our behavior is aberrant in civilization.

    As Robin noted animals have territories. Some have more rigid ones than others. Our chickens have 1 acre to roam – a somewhat more natural situation than most domestic chickens get. About 10 roosters and 60 hens are loose and they form into loosely 4 flocks with a head rooster and second and thirds. It is somewhat fluid and all roost in the coop at night. Bluebirds are I understand much more aggressively territorial.

    We are apes and as such we are related to chimps which are sometimes aggressively territorial. I would suggest the ownership that is core in civilizations is an aberration of normal territorial instincts. Our problem at the root is not our behavior but our lifestyle which turns normal behavior for the human animal into aberrant behavior. The fix I think therefore cannot be in exhortation to humans to behave better but in changing lifestyle back to the one we evolved in. We seem to have taken on that project of lifestyle reversal with out willing to do so…..

  • Jean, do try update us when you can. Enjoy your drunk and take something nice back to the donkey.

  • I’m not sure if I agree with the idea of less work coming in our post collapse world. We farm most of our property by hand. Just a walk behind for busting up the sod. We come pretty close to making a living with the farming and it really does take from sun up to sun down to keep up with it. Couple that with trying to plant berries, and other perennials, and every day is too short. We use a chainsaw to cut all our fire wood now. Scott Nearing said it used to take him two full weeks to cut all the wood they needed for their two stoves. My experience has been to make this work its constant hard work.

    Nicole: Have you used your oil press yet? We have a very small one, (brand name Piteba) which we have never used. Packed in there with PV panels and batteries. We looked at some bigger set ups, but they just looked bloody complicated. Another something that would break.

    Kathy: Envious that you can grow loufa. We tried. Had some good ones but mostly it wasn’t a good experience. If you can grind the loufa, and corn cobs, you won’t have to buy anymore vermiculite or pearlite. Good sustainable subs.

    Dr. House: We have had about 60 percent success with that list of medicinals that you looked at. Long way to go before we know what we are doing with them, but we wanted to get them started. All of them are either perennials or self seeding. We have good luck with Richters out of Canada (hope this is OK Guy, but may save people some time) for seeds and plants. Another place that has an amazing collection is Horizon Herbs. OSHA is one of those medicinals that I think you have to have. It is one of Buhner’s top 4, and the only place we could find either seed or plant was at Horizon. Just received the plants this week.

    Great comments. Nice break on another rainy day.


  • Kathy, I’m with you on the grains. We have a hand powered mill, but at some point the grinding plates aren’t going to grind anymore. Wheat and spelt berries, groats, or flint corn on a frying pan. Good stuff.

  • Ed, our late luffas don’t make sponges, just the ones that start early, so perhaps your season is too short. I don’t ever use vermiculite or perlite. I use soil and compost to make potting soil. Sometimes people throw away plants potting soil and all and if I pick them up I will add that to the mix, but soil and compost seem to work just fine. I did cut up pieces one year to put around lettuce seedling to protect from slugs and it worked, but I stopped doing lettuce as we like our french sorrel so much better and it never goes bitter.

    I think you are exactly right about work. Going back to subsistence farming is going back to a whole lot of work. I admire what you have done with your farm and know it has been a pile of work. Hunter-gathering has been documented to be much less work. But until dieoff clears the population and destroys official land ownership hunter-gatherer will be impossible for just about anyone who is not already a hunter-gatherer unless a very kind tribe take them in. Climate change may progress so fast that the skills tribes now have will no longer work. Fast climate change may wreck havoc on subsistence farmers too.

  • Strange things in the garden. No slugs sited. I mulch with leaves and while that is good IMO it does create a bumper crop of slugs. Ain’t seen a one this year. Wondering whether the long heat drought last year did them in. Also haven’t seen any cabbage moths yet. Seems like this time of year I am already battling their caterpillars on my kale and broccoli. Really nice to see them bug free, but why? These absences, while advantageous on one level make me worried on another. Slugs help break down organic material. Cabbage moths are pollinators.

    Anyone else seeing unusual absence of bugs?

  • Hominy – Here is one vid that tells how to make it – I have never tried so I can’t vouch for this http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a2NUqlsdZCE

    Not only does it allow you to use whole corn instead of grinding it, but the addition of wood ash (lye) increases the nutritional value https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hominy