Collapse and continuity

by Robin Datta

This is an attempt to address collapse in its greater temporal context.

Collapse is a regression that is perceived by the observer as a change of a large magnitude over a short period of time. This regression is in a direction towards the status quo ante. However, there can be many irreversible changes during the time interval measured from the status quo ante: in such cases collapse cannot produce an exact reversal to that prior state. Such regression is caused by the progressive and cumulative failures of essential components of a system, through their destruction, lack of maintenance, and/or lack of sustenance.

Collapse can occur in static systems as in the controlled demolition of a building, when the supporting structural elements are removed. In a dynamic system, such as a star, collapse occurs when the supporting forces, energy — generated through nuclear fusion — radiating outwards declines as the nuclear fuel is depleted: gravity in then unopposed.

A human society collapses when there is a progressive shortfall in meeting its needs. The most critical of these, as recognized by Abraham Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs are the physiologic needs. Respiration is of such immediacy that it is usually considered a given. The other physiologic needs are hydration, nutrition, and homeothermy (the maintenance of body temperature, through clothing and shelter). While community and its corollaries including security are essential in a larger frame of reference, they presume the adequate sustenance of the physiologic needs.

Meeting the needs requires the provision of items of daily use including potable water, food, clothing, shelter, etc. All of these are ultimately derived from Nature: sunlight, arable land, flora and fauna, wind, water resources, energy sources, etc. and these constitute the primary economy.

Conversion of items from the primary economy into usable items in the secondary economy is by the direction of streams of energy with appropriate skills (= services). Some items in the secondary economy represent very large amounts of embedded energy, as in buildings, bridges and other infrastructure.

To facilitate the exchange and transfer items of the primary and secondary economies, symbolic representations of value are used. These can be cowrie shells, wampum, disks of base or precious metals (coins), printed paper issued by an authority wielding force (government issued paper money) or even magnetized particles or a hard drive. The symbols can be represented by other symbols, such as collateralized debt obligations, certificates of deposit, and other derivatives, and even derivatives of derivatives.

A dollar or a dime is the promise of the state (not the cashier at Wal-Mart) to make good the value it represents in items of the primary or secondary economies when the cash is tendered. This promise is redeemed by making the symbols “legal tender”: coercion, through the threat of force, to accept it as the medium of exchange.

The tertiary economy can be expanded by producing more symbols and derivatives, all of them promising to make good at some future date, their purported value, in items of the primary and secondary economy. Larger numbers and longer times to redemption make for “fiat growth” in the tertiary economy even when the primary and secondary economies
may be contracting.

The critical factor in the industrial society that distinguishes it from prior societies is the ability to entrain massive amounts of energy. Harnessing sunlight by cultivation of plants and animals gave agricultural and pastoral societies an advantage over the prior hunter-gatherer paradigm. This exosomatic (originating outside the body) energy was far greater than the hunter-gatherers could command. It was increased further by many orders of magnitude when fossil fuels were harnessed. The endosomatic energy (originating inside the body) could be used to control exosomatic energy streams very many orders of magnitude greater.

Both agricultural and industrial exploitation of energy had limitations: arable lands and fossil fuels. But while arable lands may decline, appropriate practices can minimize this or even prevent it altogether. And depleted lands can be restored by careful management within decades — a human lifetime. Fossil fuels, on the other hand, take hundreds of millions of years to generate, and no such options are available to replenish them as their extraction proceeds apace.

Increased energy availability translates into increased availability of food: increased substrate in biological systems fosters growth and replication, In human terms this translates into increased populations. Populations increase pari passu with energy availability. Current human populations are sustained with significant undernutrition and starvation by the fossil fuel extravaganza. Depleting fossil fuels will result in depleting populations if energy availability declines with the fossil fuels: and as yet no alternate energy sources fill the bill, either in scalability or in energy return on energy invested.

Sustainability implies the continued fulfillment of the needs that maintain a system. In agriculture this can be approached by recycling the plant and animal (including human) waste/products back to the soil via composting. Fossil fuels however, cannot be recycled. Matter can and should be recycled.

Energy is a one-way street. The Three Laws of Thermodynamics (pertaining to energy) can be roughly summed up as:

1. Nothing is lost.
2. Everything turns to trash.
3. You cannot stop it or clean it up.

The Second Law reflects the direction of energy flows, from concentrated (low entropy) to dilute (high entropy). This implies the heat death of the universe, when the energy is evenly distributed throughout and puts a limit to sustainability. Sustainability comes with its time scale: when the scale is not mentioned, it is understood that it is so large that in is being excluded from consideration.

Marion King Hubbert’s time scale for petroleum depletion was derided and ignored until the reality loomed large. Then of course, every possible ploy was used to rebut and/or deny that prognostication, with little effect or mitigating the reality. Rather, they stalled any useful measures towards mitigation while the windows of opportunity were still open. With declining energy availability, any substantial adaptive changes to infrastructure are moot. The option to minimize trauma in this regression has been discarded.

Yet this tsunami is a wave, albeit of different magnitude and consequence. It is the first one in recorded history to affect humanity, but not the first bottleneck: it is estimated that at one time there were as few as six hundred breeding pairs of humans. There is less genetic diversity in all the nearly seven billion humans today than in a band of chimpanzees in the 3% of the DNA in which we differ from them. Our closest relative, the Neanderthals (now extinct for 32,000 years) had survived for 400,000 years — twice as long as we have.

Now, however, a substantial part of the carbon sequestered in fossil fuels through a combination of biologic and geologic processes over hundreds of millions of years is being released in hundreds of years by another of nature’s creations, another oscillation (or perhaps wild gyration) in the larger scheme of things as billions of individual human stories unfold in the denouement. The associated environmental impacts including pollution have engineered the sixth great extinction.

Extinctions, however, have been followed by luxuriant radiations, a diversification of the survivors, often from a very narrow origin. The derived branches carry traits marking their ancestral kinships. Prominent examples include the three pairs of legs in insects, the seven cervical (neck) vertebrae in mammals, and the bony configuration common to both the lobe-finned (sarcopterygian) fish and the four-limbed vertebrates (Tetrapoda — although some, including snakes and whales/dolphins have lost their limbs).

Yet the range of diversity in insects and mammals calls no attention to the limitations imposed by the three pairs of legs or the seven cervical vertebrae: the loss of biodiversity through repeated prunings is masked by the regrowth. Similar diversification could be hoped for after this sixth (and greatest extinction.

These prunings of the Tree of Life, however, were essential to us: each of them cleared the field for new radiations and diversifications that were cumulative from pruning to pruning and made Homo sapiens possible. The pruning of dinosaurs made room for mammals — and for primates (monkeys, apes and humans). We owe our existence to (among other things) the prior great extinctions.

The time scale to any future radiation and diversification might be estimated by looking backwards at the last great extinction, the one that retired the dinosaurs, 65 million years ago. Taken in the perspective of our genus — Homo — 2,000,000 years old, our species — sapiens — 200,000 years old, agriculture 12,500 years, written language 3,000 years, the recovery from the present extinction is far outside any human cultural context. Indeed, it could well be up for debate whether or not Homo sapiens would be extant on that time scale as the species we know today — even under the best of circumstances.

The replenishment of fossil fuels would involve a time scale of several hundreds of millions of years, combined with some very fortuitous circumstances, both geologic and biologic acting in concert. Barring some near-miraculous technology, another industrial age for Homo sapiens is not in the cards. Should another intelligent species appear in that time period, the biological drives may leave it susceptible to overshoot and dieback if presented the opportunity for unconstrained growth. Overcoming these drives may require a preponderance of wisdom to guide decisions and actions.

It has been suggested well before the fossil fuel depletion era that the absence of evidence for intelligent life elsewhere in the universe may reflect similar drives leading any and all intelligent beings to overshoot and dieback – and possibly extinction.

But even on a smaller scale, the transition through the current collapse and its bottleneck may bode better for those endowed with a measure of wisdom.


Robin Datta was born in Quetta, Pakistan in 1949. His father was one of three Hindu officers in the Pakistan Army, and a veteran of the Burma campaign of WW2 (Regimental Medical Officer). Robin attended nine different schools as his father was posted to different places. His mother was also an officer in the Nurse Corps of the British Indian Army in WW2. Mother’s native language Telegu, fatrer’s Bengali; common language English (British Raj for two centuries). Spoke English as first language, but had to unlearn it rapidly in NY. Also speaks Urdu, the lingus franca in those parts, natively.

Datta graduated with a medical degree from Bangladesh in 1972, and learned Bengali in the process. He learned history from the locals in order to graduate, and moved to New York in 1973. He served in the Army two years (one in Korea, and half a year in Desert Storm). Served three years in the Navy. Flight Surgeon in both branches of service.

Datta completed Family Practice Residency in Louisville, Kentucky, and passed board exams both in Family Practice and Emergency Medicine. He worked in Emergency Medicine 1983 to 2009 in Kentucky and California (San Jose, Hollister, Fresno). He is single (never married) and retired with no dependents.

Datta is not sure what to do next. Whatever it is, it must include the imminent collapse. He is open to any possibilities and suggestions.

Comments 143

  • Clarification: taking a history of the patient’s illness is an essential part of the practice of medicine. No matter where a person goes to medical school, learning the language(s) spoken by the natives is essential (if there are no interpreters). This is reflected in the fact that so many recent graduates of southern medical schools here speak Spanish.

  • Observations I mostly agree with, Robin.

    And thanks for reminding us about entropy. Biological systems use energy to combat entropy in the short term.

    ‘moved to New York in 1973’

    Yikes! Still there?

    ‘Datta is not sure what to do next.’

    Get out before the ‘starvation time’ (Jamestown 1609-10) commences?

  • Since my time in New York, I have lived (counting a week or more) in many places, currently in the land of nuts and fruits (California).

  • Robin, excellent essay. I contemplate the “grand scheme of things” from time to time when discussing our current situation and I appreciate having it presented so cogently. In a geologic sense, we are but a blip on the timeline. Of course, we live in the here and now and having an understanding of our insignificance doesn’t lessen my own sense of loss, injustice, etc. but at least it helps lessen the sense of hopelessness.

    Again, thanks for your insight.

  • Robin – Thank you for summing up my own thoughts in a more intellectual manner than I am able. It was good to see my internal feelings explained to me.

  • Wow. Thank You Robin for the wonderfully concise and hugely informative summary.

    When you discussed the human economy and the laws of thermodynamics, I was reminded of Life’s Economy – the Trophic (Energy) Levels of the Food Chains and how they expand and contract with each Extinction Event.

    The Alpha and Omega of life’s cycles are the Primary Producers (e.g. algae, blue-green bacteria, chemolithotrophs)at the bottom, and the Decomposers(e.g. bacteria/fungi) at the top. The least complex (the meek ?) inherit the earth as each extinction event eliminates most of the consumers in the middle of the food webs.

    This explains the “The Rise of Slime” that I’ve seen referenced many times the past decade – we’ve destroyed or are in the process of destroying many layers of life’s Current economy.

    Expanding on your Big Picture theme, it appears that “Life” is just another way the universe to spends it’s energy as it expands and cools. Living/animated Matter is no more unusual than the formation of elements in the fusion furnaces of stars?

  • House,

    “but at least it helps lessen the sense of hopelessness.”

    It also helps me feel less “guilt” for my past industrial/suicidal behavior. If I no longer condemn myself, I have more energy to survive.

  • And it helps me “forgive them, for they know not what they do”… when I see so many of the people I love continue to soil themselves.

  • Robin: I recall a preface in my high school biology textbook that postulated life itself as a fourth law of thermodynamics, a temporary reversal of entropy. While the idea doesn’t hold up in classical physics, it does hold up at the quantum level of human lifetimes or even the lifetimes of species.

    The seemingly eternal fusion reactions in our star guarantee that for all human problems, there is a continual source of new energy available to take out the trash. I’m aware that there’s a problem with where to put the trash, but various extralegal organizations are becoming expert at out-of-sight-out-of-mind dumping. I fully expect the hot debris from Fukushima to end up at the bottom of the Marianas Trench. No doubt life will colonize this new energy source, just as it has colonized the hot smokers in the mid-ocean ridges.

    Have spent the last week in Chicago, and as usual when I get in a city, I been wondering what force could so perfectly organize millions of people into what is essentially batshit crazy activity.

    The only biological analogue I can come up with is that of the colonial organism, where individual cells, while remaining biologically independent, are specialized to the needs of the whole. It doesn’t say much for the value of individual consciousness, or for our survival once we cease to be of value to the whole or once the whole disintegrates. Chicago doesn’t look like it’s going to disintegrate anytime soon, but it does have some monstrous potholes.

    Thank you for reminding us that these matters always look more manageable when subjected to a geologic [or Hindu] temporal perspective.

  • nice flow of logic, theory, & results. i wanted more @ the end…+ i found some calming feeling; maybe hope, as i read.

    important too there is a lot you lay out that i didn’t know, too much for first time thru.
    nice to get the big big picture[well geology would be bigger] in such a concise way & related to this very interesting juncture.

    Thanks robin!

    re what next: my first thought is wherever your ‘most connections’ is[has worked for me in the past]; that is where i’d consider strongly as a beginning place for the next wave[s].

  • Robin, good essay. I doubt however that anyone will get to be on the other side of the bottleneck via wisdom but rather will scrabble their way over the bodies of those who don’t make it. Will that impart wisdom once they get there? Maybe…

    Thought you might like to know my knee is all better. Your indicating it was probably a torn meniscus helped me do more appropriate self care. It was apparently one of those tears that are in the area where self healing can occur. Thanks for your comments on that matter. Guess I can garden a bit more until some other body part gives out.

  • symphony of words and ideas, robin. some i almost skipped over though, since it seemed directed towards a different audience, one in need of greater enlightenment. i wonder if we share this in common? i often find myself writing to a larger readership than i’ll initially reach, thinking/hoping perhaps like u to make the message so compelling it’ll spread by inspiration to some larger audience.

    ‘the transition through the current collapse and its bottleneck may bode better for those endowed with a measure of wisdom.’

    note here robin avoids the term ‘bode well’, the more common 2 word expression beginning ‘bode’. with collapse, there’ll be few if any happy endings. for many, the ‘measure of wisdom’ robin speaks of may consist of choosing/arranging the time and circumstance of one’s own death, to avoid much stress and pain. as to circumstance, my idle and perhaps poorly informed thoughts turn to something like a heroin overdose, as a relatively painless, and perhaps even blissful exit.

  • Robin

    Excellent summary, and intellectually gratifying as is usually the case with your statements.

    As for the bottleneck, I believe it will require wisdom to avoid madness and to deal with those gone mad.

    Speaking of Collapse, we often muse over such things as roving people desperate for food showing up at our doorsteps. We always seem to take the position that it will be others fighting over food, trying to take ours.

    I wonder if the thought ever occurred that we, as individuals, might be among those roving desperate masses?

  • Capitalism: It all comes down to profits…not people. Never has, never will.

    TEPCO refuses to build an underground containment facility to prevent the spread of the “melt-through” materials into the ground-waters because it would cost too much and also negatively affect their stock prices.

  • john rember,

    Regarding cities, Geoffrey West, in this interview Why Cities Keep Growing, Corporations and People Always Die, and Life Gets Faster, gives a very interesting explanation for the scenes you witnessed in Chicago.

    Since you’ve mentioned Thermodynamics, you may be interested in Kurt Cobb’s review of the book Into the Cool. Really interesting stuff is nonequilibrium thermodynamics (or NET for short).

  • This article is about rail mostly but the comment at the end caught my eye. This would Tainter’s theory on the collapse of civilizations – briefly diminishing returns on investments in social complexity.

    Flooding causes rail headaches

    “Sediment from the flood-ing has accumulated at the mouth of the Mississippi River, reducing the maximumdraft of loaded vessels leaving the Mississippi River to 43 ft.“Officials from the agricultural and marine industries are concerned that the significant silting and shoaling at the river’s mouth will threaten the ability of vessels to enter and exit the river. There is limited funding for the additional dredging needs caused by this year’s flooding,” USDA reported.”

  • There is limited funding for the additional dredging needs caused by this year’s flooding


    In a world of decreasing net energy per capita, we simply will not be able to carry on business as usual. Situations like this will become more common than not. We will see the need, but we won’t be able to afford the solution.

  • Thanks Robin. A thought provoking essay. One part in particular has refocused me on what I need to concentrate – the primary economy. Water, food, clothing, shelter. It is so easy with so much “collapse” information flooding in every day to get distracted by other things that may be in my sphere of concern, but not my sphere of influence. Also, I grew up a consumer in a consumer world and it is hard to turn away from some nifty little tool that will make our lives so much easier come C-Day. My essential checklist?

    1. Get the vegetable garden humming with vegetables growing all year. Ensure we grow enough so that we can store sufficient staples for the lean months (and years?). Learn to store and preserve vegetables whilst maintaining nutritional value. Aim: within 12 months to be free of the shops with regards to vegetables

    2. Get the food forest growing as many different perennials as possible, hopefully so that we can pick fresh fruit and other foods most of the year. Learn to store and preserve surplus. Aim: within 3 years (have we got that much time?) to be free of the shops with regards to fruit.

    3. Get a couple of bee hives and learn to care for the hives and extract the honey. Learn to cook with only honey as the sweetener. Aim: to have 2 active hives within 3 months.

    4. Get some grain crops growing and gain experience with growing, harvesting and storing grain. Aim: within 2 years to be free of the shops with regards all of our grain.

    5. Slaughter our meat animals on a regular basis and don’t buy any more meat from the shops. Learn to butcher and preserve meat with confidence. Aim: to provide all of our meat needs from on farm or hunting within one year.

    6. Get dairy animals (goats or cows). Learn to milk them and process the milk into butter, cream and cheese. Aim: to purchase a couple of dairy goats and make our first goat cheese within 12 months.

    7. Get a comprehensive medicinal herb garden growing. Learn how to prepare herbal medicines. Become very proficient in the use of herbal and orthomolecular medicines. Aim: to be pharmaceutical free within 2 years (this is probably the hardest to achieve)

    8. Improve the water harvesting systems around the farm. Aim: to have 300,000 L potable water storage capacity in tanks within 12 months. Aim: to have all grey water directed to growing areas within 12 months

    9. Become extremely adept at propagating plants from seed we’ve saved ourselves or from cuttings etc. and plant in pockets throughout our native bush in as many different microclimates as possible – some will survive. Aim: to be producing all our own replacement plants within 2 years.

    10. Become proficient at repairing and making hand tools using blacksmithing equipment and hand carpentry tools. Aim: to make my first hand forged items within 12 months

    There are other skills that would be wonderful to have if we only had 48 hours in the day, or a tribe/clan/village where skills could be spread over the group. The following is not comprehensive, but a beginning:

    1. Become proficient in bush carpentry using hand tools. (We can pick up this skill after C-Day as long as we have the tools)

    2. Become proficient at making cloth, baskets and ropes from local fibres. This includes growing, harvesting and preparing flax and hemp (where can I get hemp seeds in this crazy world?!), shearing wool and alpaca fleece, spinning and weaving fibres. (Stock up on cheap clothing and boots from China to see us through for a few years. I have spinning wheels, looms etc – just no time to gain proficiency)

    3. Become proficient at processing leather. This includes skinning, tanning (or using raw hide) and sewing or weaving into usable items.

    4. Become proficient at pottery.

    5. Learn to make candles, soap, hand creams etc. (Stock up to give ourselves breathing space).

    6. Build a foundry so we can make our own cast iron items from scrap metal lying around the place.

    7. Learn to drive and work horses.

    8. Learn to build wagons.

  • Nicole

    You must have land galore! Lucky you. I wonder how much of your list I could accomplish in my little back garden?…Easy answer? – not much….. :-(

    But I wish you well. You have a wonderful plan. Don’t know how close you are to water, but that is a consideration with the storage you have – a lot will depend upon the weather? And of course the weather will determine your harvesting potential as well. So in the end, you depend upon the forces of nature……

  • Nicole, excellent list! Very well thought out. I might add one other item: transfer as much of the survival information I have stored on my computer to paper so that it will be available to me when the lights go out. I’ve grown so dependent on “google-ing”. I haven’t seen a hardcopy set of encyclopedias in at least a decade.

  • Collapse is a fact when the system murders people with impunity, and then denies us the right to remember him. First they destroyed the man, then his webpage was erased, and finally they deleted the postumous page about him from Wikipedia. Go google ‘Thomas James Ball’ and get 30 million hits – and yet mainstream media chose not to to cover his death. Only his hometown reporters had enough courage to tell the world about what happened.

  • Nicole, thanks so much for that list. I have printed it out to serve as a general guide towards our own preparations. Most helpful!

  • I purchased the first “Foxfire” book last week and am about 1/3 of the way through it. Amazing what those people could do. I plan on getting the entire series, one at a time, over the coming months. The diagrams and interviews could prove most helpful.

  • Thanks to everyone for the positive comments. It was an attempt to cook up some “brain food”. Most NBLers are very well versed in Peak Oil & AGW – and also biodiversity loss. This was an eyeballing of the issues in the time frame needed for Nature to recover, quite likely far beyond the existence of Homo sapiens.

    Indeed most mammalian lineages except for shrews arrived on the scene after the departure of the dinosaurs but mammal lineages are much older than ours. When we look around at all the animals, we are the newcomers. Dogs may seem an exception but they are genetically grey wolves and breed freely with them through multiple generations: they are domestic breeds of the grey wolves, just like the breeds of others domestic animals produced by humans.

  • ~I>transfer as much of the survival information I have stored on my computer to paper

    Make that acid-free paper. Most paper turns brown in a decade or two and then disintegrates into flakes. We would like our archives to have better shelf life, maybe a cuople of centuries.

  • Nicole, when did you buy your property, about how old are you, and how much help do you have? The list that you have generated is very good. In fact we have worked our way through 1,2,3,4,6,7 and 9 of the first group, with varying degrees of success. The experience/knowledge needed for each of those is immense. We are mid-50’s, have owned our farm for 5 years, and get very little help, with one of us part time on the farm. I have hit the wall way too many times.

    What I find so important about NBL is it’s people approaching a set of problems for the same reasons. You can read the survival, permaculture, and doomer sites, but the reasoning behind those folks, actions are different.

  • Nicole,

    Thank you for your “essentials” list.

    A consideration for your list, probably for the back-burner in terms of priorities: microbial additions to your herbal/medicinal stock.

    Reading “Microbe Hunters” (Paul De Kruif), you can see that practical microbiology is possible under non-industrial conditions. You do not have to be Pasteur to do it, although it would certainly be a life-long learning process (just like learning to use beasts of burden, or learning to herd animals).

    But we have a big head-start over the Pasteurs etc, we have Bergey Manuals, etc (I don’t know about acid-free paper editions but…). Plus, it is a fascinating look into the personalities and primitive conditions at the time of the birth of microbiology.

    Someone should put together a “Where There Are No Microbiologists” (or antibiotics, etc) to add to the Hesperian Foundation’s collection.

  • John,

    Life doesn’t violate, or revers,e entropy. Life takes advantage of energy gradients but there are no life-processes (chemical reactions) that are not net-losers of energy. Even photosynthesis – with its careful building of carbohydrates one photon/ one electron at a time – is extremely inefficient.

    About our trash – life on earth might have got its start in those hot-smokers at the bottom of the oceans, and you are right about the microbes taking out our trash – some can gobble uranium, some can gobble up plastic… the microbes are the key at the beginning and the end of every cycle (carbon, nitrogen, sulfur, phosphorus,…).

  • Nicole,
    A couple of thoughts on your get ready list. Don’t wait to get into draft horses. Do that now as it takes time to learn and find a qualified trainer to help keep you from getting yourself killed. I have two Suffolk mares, 5 and 7 years old. They are 17 hands tall and weigh about a ton each. My trainer found this team for me and is working with me on using them. Training you to work a well trained team is very very important. You also need time to gather the tack (buy new or very good used) and equipment (plow, extra points, disc, drags, steel wheeled wagon (with modern bearings), a good manure spreader, mower (to do large areas that a European scythe would not be practical for) and maybe even a small grain binder to harvest that grain you are growing.

    Two, you didn’t mention firearms. You will need some to protect your farm/livestock/self and for hunting. I would suggest you start with an infantry rifle, an SKS in 7.62×39 would be a good choice (they are cheap and reliable) or a Marlin 336 lever action 30.30 for large game, a 12 or 20 gauge shotgun for small game/self-defense/ protecting livestock, a revolver (I carry a Super Blackhawk 44 magnum around the farm loaded with some snake shot and hollow points, it will stop the bull or a bear) and a .22 long rifle for small game. Oh, buy lots of ammo, gun oil and take the time to learn to shoot proficiently. Personally, I’m not real big on semi-auto or automatic rifles as most people never learn to use them properly and they are not as accurate as a manual reloading (bolt action or lever action is) and my goal is to avoid getting into any wars, so I would rather snip then let someone get into assault rifle range.

    Three, wagon making. Wow, big, big undertaking. Need to learn coopering skills and find all the necessary tools. Coopering is a lost art even out here in Appalachia. I rarely if ever see coopering or wagon making tools at auctions that is how long it has been since people abandoned the wooden wagon wheel and hub not to mention making and installing the iron tire around the wood wheel. My hope is that the steel bearings and wheels will last my son’s lifetime as that is one skill set that I just don’t know where I will find time to learn.

    Otherwise, very good list and worth while set of goals.

  • We have got to find better ways of raising awareness as well as educating others to the planetary emergency the human family appears to be unknowingly precipitating, the very emergency that is presented now here on our watch. It is incumbent upon every ready, willing and able person to take the measure of the admittedly huge, complicated and interlocking global ecological challenges that are emerging so forcefully and converging so rapidly in our time. The extent to which the clear and present danger already visible in the world’s oceans is derived directly from unbridled overconsumption, overproduction and overpopulation activities of the human species, there can be no doubt human beings can make such changes in our behavioral repertoire as can humanely alter the ‘trajectory’ of our soon to become patently unsustainable activities. That is to say, problems induced and driven by humankind can certainly be acknowledged, ameliorated, eventually addressed and ultimately overcome by the family of humanity. But not without a transformed consciousness steeped in intellectual honesty, moral courage and a capacity for bold action that is to be found in a new kind of leadership and followership. Not without a new vision of an alternate path to the future. Not without making such necessary changes as move the human community away from Rachel Carson’s “superhighway” onto a sustainable “road less traveled by.”

    It may well be that the overpopulation of the Earth is the “mother” of global challenges, one which has to be acknowledged and addressed, but human overpopulation is certainly not the only problem that must be overcome. Alongside the global ecological challenges presented by overpopulation, we have the colossal threat to human well being and environmental health that is just as surely posed to humanity and the future of life as we know it by a seemingly endless expansion of the global economy.

    It is as if each of us wants everyone else to make necessary changes, but not one of us is willing to do what is required. So many times I thought myself and heard from others, ” I would be willing to do A, B and C, things I would not do otherwise, but I will not be the first to do these right things.” As a consequence, everyone waits for everyone else. Nothing happens. This leads me to believe that our best hope resides in an idea many have already reported: shared sacrifice. But we cannot get to shared sacrifice if we refuse to speak out about why the sacrifices are required of us.This is why the silence of so many experts in the field of human population dynamics and overpopulation is so pernicious. We have scientific research regarding the human population, but experts have consciously ‘engineered’ a virtual blackout of the evidence. The vehicle for the blackout is their elective mutism. Silence is destroying the world.

    Early this morning I was reading about “the end of population growth.” I have seen similar statements broadcast everywhere for years. In light of extant evidence from science, statements of this kind appear to be elements of a ruse. Where is the science to support the idea that absolute global human population numbers will automatically and benignly stabilize a mere four decades from now? There is plenty of preternatural thinking and pseudoscientific theorizing about population stabilization and the end of population growth soon. But not science. Science regarding human population numbers is being ‘blacked out’ by too many experts who are ignoring the science on one hand, and refusing to refute what is unscientific on the other. This situation is tragic.

    Just over 50% of the world’s human population is 30 years of age or younger. What do you suppose billions of fertile young people, who are expected to be capable of reproducing in the middle of this century, will be doing with their sexual instincts and drives other than what human beings have been doing during the past several thousand years? Please, kindly take a moment to explain what you expect will occur that results in the consensually validated forecast indicating stabilization of absolute population numbers of the human species on Earth in the year 2050, given the fully anticipated young age distribution of a global population of 9+/-billion people at that time.

    I am firmly convinced that we can help our children escape the dark future that could await them should they be directed much longer down the “primrose path” marked by seemingly endless economic globalization and unbridled overpopulation, but their elders have got to begin speaking out now here about what is true and, in so doing, foster the requisite sharing of sacrifices. Perhaps necessary changes toward sustainability are in the offing.

  • The Bubels wrote probably the best book on root cellaring that exists. Here is a free shortened version:

    I like that they even have ideas for people that are renting.

  • RandyC: Right on the money.

    If you can’t protect your self and your possessions, then what do you have at all?

    If there’s one thing I do, it’s protection. ;)

    I do have to take issue with one recommendation however: The 30-30 vs the 7.62×39. Both calibers are ballistically so similar that whatever one can do, the other can too, but I wouldn’t use either for anything larger than a whitetail deer or bipedal animals, and even then you shouldn’t be outside 200 yards. I would especially not use them on “Large” game like bears, moose (Meese?) etc. Get you mauled if you tried that one…

    Great choice on the SKS over the AK pattern rifle for social purposes. While the AK is reliable in the extreme, the SKS is nearly as reliable, but significantly more accurate and doesn’t have the assault weapon look. If you do go with the SKS, however, modify it to remove the integral ten round magazine so it can accept the thirty rounders that are widely available for pretty cheap. The rifle itself can be had in very good or excellent for as little as $250. The modification can be preformed with a screwdriver and pliers, and the magazines can be bought at any online dealer or retailer/firearm store. The ammunition can be had for right around $150/1000 rounds.

    Be careful about saying the Bolt/Lever guns being more accurate than the Semis. I’ve got an M14 and several AR15’s that are both capable of putting ten rounds into one to two inches at 100 meters. Reason being that the nut behind the trigger is far more important to accurate shooting than the operating principle of the weapon.

    A great recommendation would to be to have any rifle in a military caliber, or one that might not be used by the military anymore. Examples are .223 (5.56×45), .308 (7.62×51), 7.62×39, or 30-06. They are extremely plentiful and very inexpensive compared to other calibers. Weapons in these calibers tend to be very reliable, and parts for them are ubiquitous. Anything in any military caliber is capable of killing whitetail sized or bipedal animals.

    I would recommend something in the AR15 family as they’re hands down the most popular weapon in civilian hands today, which makes getting parts for them a snap. That’s in addition to them being accurate, and very simple to perform maintenance on. The only problem with them is that they might cause quite a stir because it just SCREAMS “Dangerous!”

    Something in the B.A.R. family of hunting rifles would be nearly perfect. They are accurate, powerful, and people who don’t know any better only see a hunting rifle, not what reality is. One of those in .308 or 30-06 would be a great SHTF rifle.

    Personally I like revolvers, but a good semiauto pistol just can’t be beat. I like the Glock 17 in 9mm a lot. They’re simple, reliable, accurate, and each magazine holds 17 rounds. People like to denigrate the 9mm, but these are people that’ve never fired a shot in anger. This is going to sound callous, and maybe it is, but Georg Luger’s 9mm has been reliably killing humans since 1902. It is cheap and can be found almost anywhere. The pistol runs from $350 to $500 depending on your location.

    Of course, always follow all your local laws. DON’T. BE. STUPID.

    If you get a chance, read Fernando “ferFal” Aguirre’s Argentine experience during the 2001 Argentine collapse. He’s got a book about survival when TSHTF in Argentina.

    Found a small guide. Give it a read and see if you might want to buy his book.

  • Perhaps it is not only our fate as elders to confront certain obviously emerging and rapidly converging global challenges, it may also be that we elders are the last best chance for humankind to save itself and life as we know it from itself by choosing to change our ways and go in a different direction — along a path less traveled by — before it is too late for human action of whatever kind to protect and preserve what really matters most. There can be no excuse given, no logic contrived, no false promise made and no hopes deceitfully raised that can hide for long the willful blindness, hysterical deafness and elective mutism of those elders who see the human-driven global predicament that is present before our eyes and choose to do nothing but the unsustainable things we are doing now. Elders of my generation have responsibilities to science and duties to humanity that are being left unattended. Many too many leaders and experts are shrinking from the task at hand by playing the role of Nero, who fiddled while ‘his home’ was ruined. To have taken so much from this world, as my greed-mongering generation has taken, and to be ready and willing to leave so little to its children, come what may for coming generations, that my friends is beyond the pale.

    The silence of so many elders is pernicious because our elective mutism serves primarily to promote the narrow and private interests of self-proclaimed masters of the universe among us. It is precisely this arrogant, foolhardy, outrageous minority who human beings with feet of clay have unknowingly permitted to rule the world so absolutely in our time. What if these masters of the universe have taken the wrong road to the future, and have selfishly chosen to direct humankind down a “primrose path” to some sort of unimaginable global ecological wreckage? What if their ‘guidance’ is mainly self-serving and leads to the extirpation of global biodiversity, the irreversible degradation of Earth’s environment, the wanton dissipation of its limited natural resources and the ruination of our planetary home as a place fit for children everywhere to inhabit?

    If we keep following the masters of the universe down the road they have so adamantly advocated and relentlessly pursued, at some future moment in space-time leaders and experts are not, definitely not going to like what they are seeing occur on the surface of Earth. At such a time those human beings with responsibilities to assume and duties to perform will look back in anger and utter disbelief at what the leading elders in my greed-mongering generation did so stupidly and failed to do so magnificently.

    Never in the course of human history have so few acted in ways that are detrimental to so many. Never has a tiny minority in a single generation consumed so ravenously and hoarded so avariciously, come what may. It does not have to be this way. Yes, we can change and if we choose necessary change, then the future is open. There is much to do, much that can be done.

    As things stand now here and in many other time-spaces, the silence of human beings with knowledge of what is somehow real could not be more deafening, nor the dark clouds gathering before us more forbidding. Elective mutism by the knowledgeable has vanquished ‘the light’ and real hope for the future that science can provide to the human family. At the very same time, the mainstream media employs overly educated sycophants and absurdly enriched minions to broadcast support for all human activities that return profits and promote seemingly endless, but soon to become patently unsustainable economic growth.

    If the global overproduction, overconsumption and overpopulation activities of the human species have indeed precipitated the global predicament looming ominously before the family of humanity now, then the capability and power to do things differently resides within us, too. The opportunity presented now here is not one to be missed. Who knows, perhaps the children with thank us if we at least try to stop the greed-mongering; start doing the right thing; stop doing what is patently unsustainable and start moving in a new direction toward sustainable lifestyles and right-sizing “too big to fail”corporate leviathans before the world is ruined. After all is said and done, it appears beyond any questioning or reasonable doubt that our earthly home is not too big to fail; that the gigantic scale and worldwide growth rate of human overconsumption, overproduction and overpopulation activities cannot be sustained much longer by planet with the size, composition and ecology of Earth.

  • Turboguy,
    I’ve been told that at long range (for snipping) a bolt action rifle is more accurate because it is not gas operated but manually reloaded. The shell ejection apparently can impact accuracy. As to type of caliber you choose, it really depends on where you live. No moose or big bears in SW Virginia. The Marlin 30.30 works just fine at 200 yards and that is the most distance you will ever need out here in these mountains. It is effective against deer, Jersey bulls and 400 lb black bears. The Ruger Super Blackhawk is also effective against most threats I expect to face, but at shorter ranges. The last time I had a run in with a bear it was at 100 feet and I used my Marlin lever action (a cavalry rifle) to run him off. He left and is still living on the abandoned farm down the road (saw him last week but not up by my place).
    As to people shooters, well, that depends on what you feel you can spend. I have looked at the AR-15s and have fired the M-16 block 2 and the M-4 on single and three round burst. That was hard enough to control they (US Army) would not let us (a bunch of civilian DoD employees) fire their guns on full auto. My like for the SKS is it is cheap and reliable. Kind of known as the red neck deer rifle in the south for that reason, and ammo is cheap, my son just bought 1000 rounds made by the former Soviet defense industries in the former Yugoslavia in the mid 1980s, and they all came stripper clipped.
    I think it is a good idea to have a spread of firearm types as it gives you the means to defend in depth (sniping to assault, to close quarters.) I’m told that the Germans really hated the shotgun in WWI and sought to have it banned in Geneva after the war. At close range, a 12 gauge with tube extenders and buck shot is a nasty nasty weapon.
    As to pistols, we have both, there is a Baretta 9mm in the draw next to the Rugar. Great for rate of fire, but body armor will stop a 9 mm round, a 44 slug will kill by hydrostatic shock on impact (maybe not right away but that 44 is a big slug with a big propellant load). I think the average homesteader will have better luck with a revolver as automatics do jam. My son just sold his Ruger P-90 for that reason. The Baretta is a better pistol, but again, in close quarters, I will keep the sidearm holstered and use the shotgun until it is empty.
    I hope it never comes to all this, but I have no plans on defending my home from within as houses provide only concealment and not cover. Better to set up some protected positions around the property as the defense always has the advantage, you can dig in and force them to come up a steep hill after you.
    Excellent comments, you know your guns well.

  • Joe Bageant’s musings comes to mind – ‘deer hunting with jaysus!’

    good grief

    I am sure there is a blog somewhere for gun nuts

    Matty C!

    actually Rainbow Pie imo is a better book – god bless him

  • Some thoughts about order, disorder, entropy, and energy. I was taught about this in engineering, but in the thermodynamics classes I had, we didn’t go deeply into the matter of order-disorder. The equations using order were not usually practical for use in machine design, so there was not much focus on them in those classes. But it was mentioned that disorder tended to increase, and being interested in this subject far beyond my formal education, I’ve gone deeper into it on my own. My interest was because I was curious and troubled about how life fit into this concept. None of the explanations satisfied me. I thought about this on and off for years.

    Finally I figured something out, it explained things perfectly- except for one flaw, which had nothing to do with the understanding itself. The explanation I saw, said that Boltzmann was wrong to say that disorder tends to increase. My understanding said it was just the opposite, the order tended to increase. Whoa, major problem, to be saying such a thing. Boltzmann, major league player in physics, me, complete unknown, minor degree, dropout as far as working as an engineer in conventional ways, had mostly made my living as a carpenter to that point. But I stubbornly insist that status does not make science. Boltzmann was wrong, and I could, and can, say specifically why. And I feel that this has some serious significance when it comes to understanding life and our current problems.

    The trend of movement in physics, is the second law. Hot things cool off. Things go to equilibrium. We have a very hot star, and very cold space. Energy is leaving that star and dissipating outwards into space. There is enormous potential energy there, and it isn’t going to be gone for a very long time, but that is the trend. Hot, energetic things things cooling to equilibrium, energy dissipating outward, is happening with stars, and it happens constantly on earth with smaller things. Simple, basic stuff, nobody argues about it.
    Now, if I think about what happens in the second law more closely, I notice that really hot things tend to be atoms and electrons all bouncing around individually. That is what a plasma is. As a plasma cools, the electrons start to hook up with the atoms, and you have hot gas. Hot gas can cool and become liquid, and further cooling gives you solids.
    In each case, order has mathematically *increased*. Order is the number of possible ways of being of an entity or of a system of entities. If there is a small number of ways of being, you have greater order. If there is a high number of ways, you have greater disorder. With a gas, atoms or molecules can be in many, many different physical positions with each other. Lots of disorder. With a liquid, that is greatly reduced. The atoms or molecules are not going so far from each other, attractive forces are holding them together closer, the attractive forces are balancing the kinetic energy they have to a higher degree. And when it goes to the next step, becoming solid, the degree of order is even higher. Those atoms or molecules are in even more of a fixed position, the number of places they can be is even smaller. Fewer ways of being means greater order.
    Incidentally, we see this thing of fewer ways of being, being greater order, instinctively. Consider a pile of boards. If they are all the same length, then there is only one way of being for this measure of length of these boards, and we see that as more orderly than having many different lengths. If they are also all the same width and thickness and have the same surface finish and relative size and number of knots and are piled so they are all oriented parallel and even with each other, each of these things increases the order of the system of this pile of boards. For each thing, we are counting ways of being for a different measurement. With dynamic systems, we are merely looking at even more measurements of ways of being, considering snapshots of the system. If all the particles in a system had similar velocities, or accelerations, or spin, for example, you would have a system with a high degree of order. But we can easily see that highly energetic systems have lower degrees of order, merely considering this matter of where atoms tend to be in relationship to each other. Which is exactly what Boltzmann looked at. The measure of order he used was where gas atoms were likely to be with respect to each other.
    So why did Boltzman say that order tends to decrease? Because he didn’t look at it the way I am, obviously. He looked at a mental experiment of two separate gases, and a valve is opened and the gases mix. Order decreases with that. He wrote equations of how that disorder tends to increase. But such a mental experiment is not looking at the big picture of trends with the second law. His mixed gases are at constant temperature, constant energy level. If you look at the trend of the second law, as that container of mixed gases were to cool to the temperature of outer space, the gases would liquefy, order would increase with that, they might separate in even the very weak gravity of space, and that would increase the order even more, and finally they might solidify, increasing it more. *Increasing order is the thermodynamic trend, not increasing disorder*.

    Boltzmann and virtually everyone looking at what he said, have been extrapolating a mental experiment done over a very brief amount of time and no temperature change, to be the general trend. That is a huge mistake. But it was a mistake easily overlooked, because as I mentioned at the beginning, these equations he wrote involving order and entropy, do not have a lot of practical use in engineering.

    Life obviously is not about the maximum amount of order. Life is at a liquid stage of order, it involves dynamic order, many things moving, but moving as one. It is similar to orbits and whirlpools, dynamic, but impossible to have if there is too much energy. You can’t have things orbiting each other if there is too much energy- they separate. You can’t have a whirlpool if the liquid is vaporized. Merely the turbulence of boiling a liquid might destroy a whirlpool. Life is basically a chemical whirlpool. Its existence is quite predictable if you have the right elements to make it and the energy level is right- in our case, we are the just right, “Goldilocks planet”.

    The amount of energy that photosynthesis captures from sunlight, and the amount that sunlight drives weather systems, has been the right amount for life to grow in. We add in the energy from fossil fuels, aim that energy at ecosystems, and they crumble. The extra greenhouse gases can have big effects on the climate. In terms of energy, we are little different from what would happen if an asteroid slammed the planet, just a little more slow motion. We are using too much energy to have the maximum amount of dynamic order.

    Just like vaporized liquids have too much energy to be bonded together, people full of psychological energy at the ability to use fossil fuels, can have a hard time having relationships with each other. The bonds of attraction between people are ripped apart, people can be bouncing all over the place.

    The level of energy in a system, determines the degree of order. Too much energy, things rip apart, you have chaos. With the just right degree of energy, you can have a maximum amount of dynamic order.
    As energy level falls below this, you will have less dynamic order and increasing amounts of static order. Things freeze up.

    I see this everywhere. But of course, people have a great deal of energy in their beliefs that Boltzmann was correct and that the laws of thermodynamics are perfectly understood, and that energy of conviction is like having a satellite with escape velocity energy compared to me- they generally pass over my words as if they weren’t there. I watch them go, watch the frantic bouncing around of people who are supposedly looking for greater order, and sadly smile. When people have exhausted some of that energy, some may find such understandings as I have, more attractive, more interesting, more *vital*.
    As with the “principles for society”, that I wrote, one can go into considerably more depth with this. But as that seemed like a reasonable start to me, so does this. And the two things complement each other very well.

    Arthur Noll

  • Victor,
    We have 400 acres. I don’t know how big your back yard is (probably not 400 acres!), but there is a lot you could accomplish. With vegetables, the square foot gardening book and any permiculture book are pretty fantastic for small areas. Getting the biggest bang for your buck will be important. Grow upwards wherever possible. A food forest may be beyond you, but a food forest doesn’t have to be big – and do you have a front yard, or roadside you can spread out to? They have bee hives on roof tops in the middle of Paris so you should be able to get one. Grains? Get some other skills up because bartering will probably be how you’ll get grains. Meat animals? Pigeons, chickens, guinea pigs are all very valuable meat animals for small spaces. Dairy animals? Bartering again. Medicinal herb garden? Why not? Window sills can grow a lot of herbs. Be very selective. Water harvesting? You have a roof so collect water. That’s how most Australian farms get their drinking water. You’ll probably have to filter it, but you can make your own filter using charcoal from your fire (do you have a fire?). And grey water? Everyone should be using it. Propagating plants? We all need to be good at this. Planting in the forests? Well, plant anywhere. Become a guerrilla gardener. The more edible and other useful plant species we have spread everywhere, the more likely some of them will survive the climate holocaust. Repairing and making hand tools? Learn how even if you don’t have your own blacksmith’s forge and anvil.

    As far as our water goes, we have an aquifer that nearly ran dry in the last drought. The creek that runs through our farm has the fairly depressing name of Dry Creek! We want 300,000 L just so we can make it through a multi-year drought without running out of water. As a city slicker, I thought drought meant no rain at all. In our area it actually means insufficient rain. You have to have systems in place to harvest water very efficiently. Every roof on the farm, whether it be the house, hay shed, machinery shed, chook house etc. collects water into a tank. One day I’ll actually connect all of these tanks together (on the to do list). There are also ways to gentle water flowing over your land (Rainwater Harvesting, Vol 1 and 2, by Brad Lancaster). Every time I walk across our paddocks, I move a couple of fallen branches so they are lying on the contour instead of down the hill.

  • Dr House,

    Agreed! One of the reasons I keep on making myself lists of skills I need is because I’m trying to gather the written knowledge while it is still so readily available. I’ve even bought myself a book press (one of those nifty gadgets!) to turn the printed pages (yes, acid free) into bound books (and yes, I have the instruction books on how to).

  • Ed,

    We bought our property in 2003 so we’ve been at it for 8 years. I’m in my mid 50s. My husband is 70, which means I’m the farmer most of the time. Well done that you are so far down the list. My Achilles’ heel is gardening. I listen with envy when I hear Kathy and others talking of their accomplishments in the garden. Theory? Yep – got the theory. Animals – not a problem, but I just don’t have a green thumb – and I need to develop one (or even two) if I want to stay alive (which I do for many years to come – I love life). A light on the horizon – a Wwoofer is arriving on Thursday who sounds as if she is a gardener extraordinaire. I’m going to apprentice myself to her and try to get over my gardening blockage. We have found the Wwoofing program fantastic. We have 3 young ones here at the moment. They are a delight to have around, but also we achieve so much more when we have help. Oh, and building a root cellar is also on one of my lists. So thanks for that link.

  • Navid,

    Good thought. The only microbes I work with are the lacto bacillus from the fermentation of yoghurt, sauerkraut etc. I’ll get the books you recommended.

  • Randy C,
    You’re right of course. We need to get draft horses now. I sometimes get overwhelmed by the amount of extra work involved. A friend has draft horses and wants to bring one down to our farm so I can learn on a well broken in horse. Another friend has a coach and draft horses and is happy for me to come and learn driving. I know I shouldn’t put it off, but (sigh!). I want to build a direct drill seeder for the draft horse to pull so I can grow grain in my pastures.

    We have firearms on the farm – for shooting rabbits, foxes, injured animals etc. but nothing like you’re talking about. Australia has much stricter gun laws than America. A friend went to the Rural Land Protection Board and asked for 20,000 bullets (22 calibre). What for? the bloke behind the counter asked. Got a really bad feral animal problem was the reply. He has coated them all in grease and buried them. I think we’ll be doing something like that.

    Wagon making. I know. I know. Very difficult. However, my draught horse friends have made their own wagons and there is one retired engineer in the district who specialises in making the old wooden wagon wheels with steel rims – apparently very very well. I’m hoping either or both of these draught horse friends will join our little community. One of them is also an accomplished blacksmith, whip maker, shingle maker, etc.

  • Arthur,

    Interesting idea about the 2nd law. I have a masters in fluid dynamics from many years ago, and was never very interested in it or good at it, but what you say makes sense.

  • I just received my copy of “Deep Green Resistance” by Aric McBay, Lierre Keith and Derrick Jensen. So far have only read the Preface. The opening paragraph is confronting:

    “This book is about fighting back. The dominant culture – civilization – is killing the planet, and it is long past time for those of us who care about life on earth to begin taking the actions necessary to stop this culture from destroying every living being.”

    And another paragraph in the Preface:
    “Direct actions against strategic infrastructure is a basic tactic of both militaries and insurgents the world over for the simple reason that it works. But such actions alone are never a sufficient strategy for achieving a just outcome. This means that any strategy aiming for a just future must include a call to build direct democracies based on human rights and sustainable material cultures. The different branches of these resistance movements must work in tandem: the aboveground and belowground, the militants and the nonviolent, the frontline activists and the cultural workers. We need it all.”

    This book should be very interesting. It’s like nothing I’ve ever read before.

  • Nicole:

    1. Veggie Gardening. Get a greenhouse, even if its small. Use twin wall poly for the cover. It’s good for 10-12 years. Not sure if access to plastic will be part of our futre. Not only will you extend your season at least one month on either end you will also have a place to get your starters going. If you can find a way to have a concrete floor it is also where you can do your drying. Get a propagation mat or two, it will speed up your germination and increase the percentage of germination. Outdoors the best thing that you can do is improve your soil, that’s weed control and adding humus. We don’t use chemicals so the best way we have found to control weeds is get a huge piece of black plastic lay it in an area you want to bring into production next year. 12 months is enough to kill even the most stubborn quack grass. I know you have cattle, so they are probably your best source for improving your soil. Salatin has great techniques but his pasture improvements take years. You have given yourself 12 months. We buy around 25 yards of compost per year from a farm that has a methane digestor. It makes all the difference in the world. Find a source or create one. One thing that we did this year, that we should have done earlier was get a riding mower with a grass catcher. We are getting 100’s of pounds a week of the best mulch. Each time we harvest a section we turn that mulch under once again greatly improving the soil. Your woofers will probably turn you on to floating row covers. They make an incredible difference when used properly. When they get old and torn use them to cover areas when you direct seed. You should have to only water it once. Once again it will increase your germination rates. We are using small equipment, but most of our work is done by hand. Currently we are harvesting around 100 pounds of produce a week. Once the night shades, and bigger root crops come in, that should jump to 200 pounds per week.

    2 Forest Gardening: Biggest problem with forest gardening is the nut crops take forever. You have to buy them young, because you don’t want to disturb the tap roots of bigger trees. A good year of growth for a nut tree is 1-2 feet. We have planted Carpathians, Chinese Chestnuts, and Hazelnuts. They look great, and we may get nuts from the Hazelnuts next year. In the mean time we supplement by foraging from the already in place Oak and Black Walnuts. Here’s an interesting fact on acorns. I wrote to Kathy and Guy about this recently. You can apparantly use acorns for up to 50% of your chicken food. Use the one’s that have weevils and grubs in them. The ladies will like those better anyway. We will take our shade cloths down in September and use them to collect the acorns. Sunchokes, nettles, sorrel, and nodding onions have worked really well for us. Aronias, currants and gooseberries have worked done well. Left out alot, but time to go to work.

  • Ed,

    You sure you don’t want to come out and teach us on our farm for a while!

    I’ve been using some of the Salatin method for a while. Still got to get the meat chooks. Most of my energy has been going into improving the 125 acres of open land instead of the small vegie garden. Oh, and trying to survive 5 out of 8 years farming through drought. As you say, it is a slow job, but I’m gradually seeing some improvement. I’ve been thinking of a greenhouse. Did a quick calculation a few nights back on how many months we can potentially harvest our staples thus giving me the number of months we need to store. It makes a lot of sense to extend the harvestable months from both a nutritional and workload perspective. Turned a wheelie bin load of well composted humanure onto the orchard today. Covering the soil one tree at a time. It’s the best compost we’ve ever made. And we don’t really do anything (except make deposits then leave it to mature).

    We have about 150 hazelnut trees, some of which produce beautifully when the season is good. Nothing better than fresh hazelnuts. I’ve tried planting a few oak trees. Many have died. The drought did them in. I ran out of water for them. One has survived. I’ve surrounded it with acacias to provide it with more of a forest environment and nitrogen.

    I’m impressed with 100 pounds of harvest a week. I’d be lucky to get 2 pounds!

  • While scientists and other human beings with feet of clay struggle to reveal and report what could somehow be real, absurdly enriched minions, overly educated sycophants and other merchants of doubt, who have had their dishonorable propaganda broadcast everywhere in the corporate-owned mainstream media by self-proclaimed masters of the universe among us, commit crimes against humanity, life as we know it and the Creation.

    What greater shame is there than the sham that is being perpetrated now here by a tiny arrogant minority of extremely foolhardy greed-mongers, who can be seen leading humankind down a “primrose path” and turning the planetary home we are blessed to inhabit into a shambles, even in these early years of Century XXI?

  • Arthur

    Your post reveals an unfortunate failure to grasp the 2nd Law and the concept of entropy in relation to “order/disorder”. To be fair to you, however, this failure is extremely common among novices to the principles of thermodynamics, and is also one of the reasons that thermodynamics is not so much taught within the context of the rather ambiguous terms ‘order/disorder’ today as it was in prior years.

    The problem is that the use of ‘order’ and ‘disorder’ in thermodynamics is almost the opposite to that which you grew up with in common vernacular. This is why so many have a difficult time with applying these terms to thermodynamics.

    To make it as simple as possible, consider ‘order’, for all intents, to be perceived as the measure of energy required to keep a system ‘in state’. Higher energy requirements to maintain a system ‘in state’ result in a lower measure of entropy, or higher ‘order’. Conversely, lower energy required to maintain a system ‘in state’ leads to higher entropy, or a more ‘disordered’ state.

    ‘Order’ can be seen as an observation at the macroscopic level, as well as the microscopic level. At the macroscopic level order can be seen for example as well mixed, or homogeneous, overlooking the fact that at the microscopic level (the level at which thermodynamics operate) homogeneity (or ‘mixedupness’ is the state at which the object has a larger range of accessible possibilities (high potential energy). As an example, milk and coffee. Poor milk into coffee and from a macroscopic view (the view you grew up with and which you describe in your posting), you go from a system of apparent ‘high disorder’ to one of apparent ‘high order’ (after you let it sit for a while); however, from a microscopic (thermodynamic) view you pass from a state of relatively narrow energy dispersal (order) with fewer accessible possibilities to a comparatively low energy (disorder) state of equilibrium (widely dispersed energy) offering more accessible possibilities.

    This tendency towards confusion of the concept of order/disorder in thermodynamics is much of the reason why in more recent times, the teaching of thermodynamics has veered away from teaching entropy as a measure of order/disorder to the method of teaching entropy as a measure of ‘energy dispersal’. High entropy implies wide energy dispersal, while low entropy implies narrow energy dispersal.

    In evolutionary terms, its apparent contradiction to the 2nd law is an important one as you have well understood. The evolutionist answers this question by posing that the earth represents a closed system in which the sun’s energy is continually applied from the outside, fuelling the rise in complexity that has resulted in ‘life’ within the closed system of the earth.

    The problem I have with that approach is that the building up of complexity requires not simply raw energy, but intelligently directed energy. Agriculture requires not only energy, but intelligence behind the energy to apply it properly (as I have found with my little garden!) – a human – a skilled human… ;-) The building of a bridge requires more than providing energy to cement and iron. Left to the 2nd Law, the raw materials would simply sit there breaking down chemically over time, and the applied energy would dissipate. It requires that energy to be intelligently directed in the right amounts, at the right materials, in the right ways and at the right times to form the steel girders, cement the foundation, measure the angles and weight distribution, and all the other thousands of things required to turn raw materials and energy into a bridge.

    No one has yet answered that question adequately to me where the question of life on earth is concerned.

  • Nicole

    Excellent suggestions re:my paltry bit of land. I have thought of most of that and have weighted the idea of investing time, effort and money into it even though I am a renter. I have almost come to the conclusion that the closer collapse comes, the less likely it is that I will be thrown out of my house. So as long as I can make the payments between now and the onslaught of Collapse, there should come a point where as civilisation goes wobbly, I will be encouraged to stay by my landlord. BIG ‘IF’, I know, but it’s all I have…. :-)

  • Nicole, I wish you lived near. My wife and I want so bad to devote ourselves and our energy to someone’s land. We have many skills and much desire, but not the resources to create our own lifeboat. We have worked on several of your list items, but the one lacking and the one we really crave working on is land infrastructure. I am a builder/carpenter and my wife is a landscape designer/gardener. We lost our home to the recession and have done a good job of reaching a new equilibrium, but we now find ourselves landless… it’s frustrating. So if any of you are in the Pacific Northwest (USA) and would like to have two industrious and dedicated “servants” to work your land, here we are.

    Great thread here. I am really glad to have found this and appreciate the depth of conversation.

  • My interest was because I was curious and troubled about how life fit into this concept.

    Into the Cool: Energy Flow, Thermodynamics, and Life

  • Victor,

    I “own” 5 acres but have a mortgage, so consider myself a renter. I have a very, very hard time getting myself to “invest” in this property because I see too many families expiring now, and I do not think we are likely to make it to some major collapse event in which we would more or less be able to claim the property just because we live here (a faint hope, but not likely in our case I think).

    Excellent discussion.

    Two notes – evolution does Not see the earth as a closed system – it cannot be “closed” since it receives energy from the sun, and it releases energy (mostly heat) into space.

    Also, there is absolutely no need for “design” or “designers.” ALL that is necessary for life are the laws of physics and chemistry.

    We know the building blocks for the “Big 4” macroimolecules (proteins, nucleic acids, fats/lipids, and carbohydrates) all form spontaneously under the natural conditions that occur as a planet like earth cools off (See “Stanley Miller”).

    We know the clay, the mud, the smokers, the salt pools – all contained metalic and other natural catalysts, and the atmosphere and oceans contained the simple molecules and energy sources (e.g. lightning) necessary to recreate a Dr. Frankenstein Laboratory (joke, sort of0.

    We also know that there are “self-replicating” forms of nucleic acids and proteins – these would have been naturally occurring precursers to Life, and the first forms of “reproduction”. We also know simple lipids naturally form “cells”…

    Basically, it looks like Life will occur in any “goldilocks zone” (eg. the right distance from a star) and it forms as a sort of “natural precipitation” of energy and matter. It is as inevitable as the formation of elements.

  • Thanks for that link Robin – bookmarked.

  • If you look at the trend of the second law, as that container of mixed gases were to cool to the temperature of outer space, the gases would liquefy, order would increase with that, they might separate in even the very weak gravity of space, and that would increase the order even more, and finally they might solidify, increasing it more.

    The heat in the cooler medium is more diffuse (more dilute), more disordered. The heat in the hotter medium is less diffuse (less dilute), less disordered. The heat flows from the less diffuse, to the more diffuse – from less disordered to the more disordered. More structure means more order, as in solids; less structure means less order, as in gas. This is with regard to matter. With regard to energy, however, in a solid and a gas of the same material, the energy is more diffuse – more disordered – in the solid and less diffuse – less disordered – in the gas. The energy flow is from the gas to the solid: from the less disordered to the more disordered.

  • Robin Datta,

    Re: Into the Cool: Energy Flow, Thermodynamics, and Life

    Thanks for the head’s up. Since It was mentioned earlier in this thread.

    By me, oddly enough. A bit of credit might not go amiss.

  • Not to mention Geoffrey West, in his interview “Why Cities Keep Growing, Corporations and People Always Die, and Life Gets Faster”.

    But carry on. You get the nod. Your so far ahead of the rest of us. Or just a dinosaur.

  • Thanks for the head’s up. Since It was mentioned earlier in this thread.

    By me, oddly enough. A bit of credit might not go amiss.

    Thanks for the earlier mention. Unfortunately, neither of the links seemed to work.

  • John,

    “Have spent the last week in Chicago, and as usual when I get in a city, I been wondering what force could so perfectly organize millions of people into what is essentially batshit crazy activity.”

    You might have read it, but that statement reminded me of “The Human Zoo,” by Desmond morris.

    “How does city life change the way we act? What accounts for the increasing prevalence of violence and anxiety in our world?

    In this new edition of his controversial 1969 bestseller, The Human Zoo, renowned zoologist Desmond Morris argues that many of the social instabilities we face are largely a product of the artificial, impersonal confines of our urban surroundings.

    Indeed, our behavior often startlingly resembles that of captive animals, and our developed and urbane environment seems not so much a concrete jungle as it does a human zoo. Animals do not normally exhibit stress, random violence, and erratic behavioruntil they are confined. Similarly, the human propensity toward antisocial and sociopathic behavior is intensified in todays cities.

    Morris argues that we are biologically still tribal and ill-equipped to thrive in the impersonal urban sprawl. As important and meaningful today as it was a quarter-century ago, The Human Zoo sounds an urgent warning and provides startling insight into our increasingly complex lives.”

  • Nicole,

    You ask, “(H)ave we got that much time?”

    (This is my restatement of what you already know.)

    If writers talking about collapse know the answers then we have plenty of time, or conversely, you’re screwed. Greer, most recently in his last two posts, is back to assuring us that we are at the start of a three hundred year long contraction (followed by a stabilized, and much different future). Guy provides convincing evidence that civilization is toast before December of next year. Having a plan that will work for either scenario is the important thing. Making sure that, if Guy is correct, your plan gets you to spring 2013 and beyond, without starving, is vital.

    I think each of us has to determine (through trial and error, not wishing) what the minimum level of your four essentials is and then making sure those are covered now. If Guy’s scenario of a catastrophic and virtually instantaneous collapse occurs, and if it comes this summer (winter for you), the plan had better take that into account. Using your terminology, your plan should include:
    “Aim: Figure a sustainable way to provide the four primary economic elements for our household beginning right now; this would include 2000 calories per day for each human member of our household, sufficient clean water and shelter, and sufficient fodder for our meat animals.”

    You know all this already. If you were to pile a year’s worth of food in your living room, the pile would seem enormous. Throw in multiple adults and farm animals and it becomes daunting. Somehow, each of us will need to come to grips with how to come up with those resources on our own. The sustainability element is a problem too. If you are depending on your garden for survival you will have to feed your soil.

    For my family, it has become a challenge, but not without a huge measure of desperation. This morning, for example, five days into summer, my thermometer showed 33°F and I think I had frost on my metal roof. The consequences of only slightly lower nighttime temperatures would have been catastrophic, post collapse. As far as my garden is concerned, if a significant collapse happens anytime before August 2012 I am already growing my post collapse food. With no shops for re-supply, an untimely frost could have us eating grass like the North Koreans by next summer.

    Your plan is a good one, and your process (not the details) is similar to ours. I hope for both our sakes that you have enough time to bring all of yours to fruition.

    Michael Irving

  • Nicole:

    Your to-do list is a tall order to fill in a short period of time. My body bleeds for you.

    Sounds like your climate is workable year-round, though, which helps. But still …

    I’m (usually) buried six months of the year in mud and dealing with drought the remainder. Some years, workable months are slim and far between. It’s either sink to my knees or bring in a pick-ax to break ground.

    On the other hand, my climate doesn’t require a 79,000-gallon water reserve either (at least not yet). I wait out the drought and refill, and there’s been plenty of liquid sunshine the last few winters.

    Some considerations for your “essential” list:

    #5 and #6 – Raise what you enjoy eating otherwise you end up eating an awful lot of meat (or drinking an awful lot of milk) you really don’t like. Also, how your animal tastes is largely dependent upon what it’s fed. The same goes for milk and milk products (butter, cheese, etc). If you feed cabbage, what you get back is cabbage.

    #9 – Be cognizant of isolation distances and what’s growing natively. Many vegetables will interbreed with wild ancestors. They’ll also (happily) interbreed with domesticated cousins in the adjacent row. Pollinators and the wind mindlessly spread pollen between farms, even those miles apart. It’s easy to lose several years, thinking you’ve got good seed, only to discover what you’ve actually stored is another non-productive low-yield hybrid. There are manual pollination techniques you can use to (somewhat) control breeding. Any good vegetable book will discuss them.

    It’s often best to seed-save one or two varieties within a plant family per year. Any more and you risk cross-pollination and losing a growing season. Sometimes you can stagger blooming times, which helps. I only have about 90 good days per growing season to work with, so staggering is a challenge for me, but it’s possible with a milder year-round climate.

    BTW, you lose garden space once you start saving seed, so plan on working up a bigger plot. Annual seed can be harvested the same year; biennial plants will require ground for two years.

    #10 – hand forging is hard, hot work. It’s also loud. Depending upon where (and how) your forge is set up, it can also be smoky. Especially with coke. The noise is what kills me though. I can’t take the pinging, even with ear plugs.

    Re: shearing / spinning / weaving. These activities are self doable, but be aware, getting to the finished product is a looooooooong process. (I spin and weave.) Also, I never met a camelid (llama or alpaca) who enjoyed de-fleecing. They’d prefer to bite and kick the shit out of you. Sheep are relatively easy to shear (my preference). Goats tend to be smart enough to make the job miserable.

    Re: draft animals. I understand the allure of horses, but oxen may be another consideration since you already have cattle. I like bovines, so that’s a path I’ve taken. When started young, they’re relatively easy to train. I don’t have enough work to keep a steer team busy, however, so mine generally end up in the freezer. Historically, plenty of milk cows have also been yoked up. A little double duty never hurt any of them. Plus a bit of training makes all cows more manageable, especially if you plan to keep them around a few years. I’ve a pair of dairy heifers right now I’m considering breaking in.

  • My friends, I think I’ve figured out what this whole debate about man’s proper place in nature is about. In certain schools of occult thought (such as the Temple of Set), “white magic” or “the right-hand path” means the submission of the subjective universe to the inherent mechanical and organic patterns of the objective universe, while “black magic” or “the left-hand path” is the exercise of the subjective universe’s Will to Power over the objective universe. The extreme examples of the right- and left-hands paths today are the Primitivists and the Singularitarians, respectively, but this division has probably been around from the beginning.

    The modern West is an extreme example of a left-hand path society; we are governed by essentially Satanic ideas such as individual freedom, the total subjection of the natural world to the Will, the transcending of all limits, the breaking of all established rules, the violation of the cosmic order, etc. This explains why to the more traditional cultures of the world, we truly are the “Great Satan”.

    Personally I think this is good news, because I’m much more sympathetic to the left-hand path values than the traditionalist, naturalist and collectivist right-hand path values. As I see it, you need to choose sides, and either accept individual freedom and constant, disruptive change, or choose the traditional, restrictive but stable values of the hunter-gatherers, whose cultures went unchanged for millennia. Right now, it’s pretty clear that the Satanists are winning this cosmic battle handily, though they may be taking the world straight to hell in the process. There’s even a name for where we’re going that seems pretty accurate: “the Satanic Singularity”.

    Anyway, I hope you enjoyed this little lesson in occult cosmology, and I’ll see you all in hell!

  • Anyway, I hope you enjoyed this little lesson in occult cosmology, and I’ll see you all in hell!
    We smell you here and now.

  • Thanks everyone for your advice. Updating my list with your suggestions all the time.

    You have confirmed what I knew of myself in the past, but which is obviously still valid now. I was never very good at thermodynamics (in fact I hated it!)

    Today I received a lesson in humility. Got into the middle of a dog fight and my first instinct was “Get thee to a hospital.” On the way there I mused what I would be doing a few years from now in similar circumstances. Armed with modern wound dressing, a fresh tetanus booster and antibiotics, I was very grateful for our doctors, nurses and hospitals, but they won’t always be there. I think one of the greatest problems with the modern health system is that they have undermined my confidence of dealing with emergencies myself. So without antibiotics, tetanus, disinfectants and modern wound dressings, what should we be doing, Dr House and Robin?

  • Chris,

    We’re only half a world away! What have you got to lose?

  • navid

    Good point about investment. But what do you mean when you say that “I do not think we are likely to make it to some major collapse event in which we would more or less be able to claim the property just because we live here”? Are you saying that Collapse would not progress that far, or that your family would not survive that far into Collapse?

    Re: evolution

    A closed system may exchange heat (energy) with its surroundings, receiving energy from the sun in this case and dissipating heat into space. In this case space and the sun are considered part of the system ‘surroundings’. What you might be thinking of is a system with an adiabatic boundary – not capable of exchanging energy between the system and its surroundings.

    As for your comments about the various organic chemicals derived from experiments:

    Also, there is absolutely no need for “design” or “designers.” ALL that is necessary for life are the laws of physics and chemistry.

    I would retort that the problem evolution faces is precisely the laws of chemistry and physics.

    We know the building blocks for the “Big 4″ macroimolecules (proteins, nucleic acids, fats/lipids, and carbohydrates) all form spontaneously under the natural conditions that occur as a planet like earth cools off (See “Stanley Miller”).

    We know the clay, the mud, the smokers, the salt pools – all contained metalic and other natural catalysts, and the atmosphere and oceans contained the simple molecules and energy sources (e.g. lightning) necessary to recreate a Dr. Frankenstein Laboratory (joke, sort of0.

    The planetary atmosphere required for the formation of these basic building blocks is not an atmosphere friendly to supporting life – even the evolutionists will admit to that – and it presents a problem to them. No oxygen means no life. OTOH if oxygen existed at that time, all the base elements required for those building blocks would have oxidised immediately, preventing their production.

    We also know that there are “self-replicating” forms of nucleic acids and proteins – these would have been naturally occurring precursers to Life, and the first forms of “reproduction”. We also know simple lipids naturally form “cells”…

    How can anyone make the statement that these were “naturally occurring” at that time? There were no human observers, and there has not been (to my knowledge) an ability to recreate the conditions present at that time – Stanley Miller or not. We frankly do not know what the conditions were at that time. We can only guess based upon what we THINK we know today.

    Basically, it looks like Life will occur in any “goldilocks zone” (eg. the right distance from a star) and it forms as a sort of “natural precipitation” of energy and matter. It is as inevitable as the formation of elements.

    This is a profound statement of faith – not science. For the sake of argument, even if it were true (and for many reasons I fail to see how it could possibly be true) that these building blocks were “naturally occurring” at the time in sufficient numbers to be statistically relevant, it is a huge, huge step from these building blocks to ‘life’. It is a step which, if what you say is not only true, but also inevitable, then we could easily verify it – but we haven’t, and we are not likely to.

    To produce the basic building blocks and declaring that it is then inevitable that life will come forth is equivalent to laying out all the elements that make up a human being in their proper proportions, and saying that the laws of chemistry and physics will allow us to work on these elements to produce a fully functional, living human being. Well maybe, but REALLY? I don’t think so. And no one has demonstrated the process that will.

    To recreate the basic building blocks is but a tiny step in the overall process to the creation of a living cell. Indeed, the next step can be likened to suddenly being confronted with a 1000 meter sheer cliff to climb – that of forming the intricate components of the cell. And the next step beyond that can be likened to scaling a sheer cliff of 2000 meters – putting those components together into a working cell. And the next step is even greater, forming a multi-cell creature where the cells become co-dependent. And then there is the next unscalable – that of getting multiple cells to form an organ as part of a larger body – how does that happen? But you get the point where I am going with this. If it were so likely as to be considered “inevitable”, don’t you think we, using all our intelligence, and leaving nothing to chance, as supposedly happened in the natural world, would have done so by now?

    I think we have all become unknowing victims of the “flat earth syndrome” that has always infected humanity. When the scientific community has signed up to some supposition (scientists are human too!), the momentum created by it drives them to eventually treat the “accepted” hypothesis as a bona fide theory, and ultimately as “law” – Law of Evolution indeed…. :-) Everyone believes it, so it MUST be true! This, in turn, leads to an almost immovable inertia that prevents true progress being made as we must all conform to “accepted knowledge”.

    Don’t get me wrong. I am not saying evolution in the macro form has not happened. I am only saying that we can’t scientifically confirm it has happened. We don’t have a clue as to the actual processes involved – we only guess that it happened, or how it MIGHT have happened, because, frankly, we are then faced with the possibility of the alternative. Even the scientists themselves find themselves making statements of faith like yours – only they don’t (refuse to) recognise the nature of those statements as being faith-based, not fact-based.

    Life is incredibly complicated from the single living cell composed of myriads of chemical exchanges and processes and thousands of functioning parts working together in a highly synchronised manner (a miniature civilisation!) – to a collection of cells working as a unit, each with a specific job as part of a whole to form a single-cell creature, an organ, or a part of a larger body composed of organs, all doing their own duties for the benefit of the whole – to multiple bodies acting together to form communities or herds or flocks with each body performing its role in that community – to sets of communities (in the case of humans) that make up towns, then cities, then countries, then civilisations.

    This is complexity that no one can grasp. And to say that it all came about by blind chance acting within the realm of natural processes at work today is a statement of faith adhering to a mathematical probability that is so close to zero in my mind that one is tempted to give up and say it is impossible at best.

    I find myself incapable of making such a statement. And I think that if people were to give a serious and honest effort to examine what is being said in the light of reason and mathematical probability, they would have the same difficulty.

    Apologies for the length. I probably could have simply said, “I disagree” and have been done with it…. ;-)

  • Robin Datta,

    The links are duff, how right you are. I’ve managed to correct the problem.

    Kurt Cobb’s review of the book Into
    the Cool
    . Really interesting stuff is nonequilibrium
    thermodynamics (or NET for short).

  • I had thought that if there were mass defaults on mortgages, the banks would leave people in their homes rather than have empty houses, but here is another “solution” to the problem proposed in the book “Deep Green Resistance”

    “Economic collapse causing people to default on their mortgages? Fuel too expensive to run some machines? The capitalists will find a way to kill two birds with one stone and institute a system of debtors prisons that will double as forced labor camps.”

    This is not outside the realms of possibility. Getting debt free seems even more imperative than before.

  • Nicole

    Sorry to say but in the USA debtors prisons are already a growing reality – in some states people are actually being sent to prison for failure to pay a debt!

    Further FEMA has gone into contract for a series of detention camps to be built across the USA – large detention centres. And now, in violation of the Posse Comitatus Act the US military and local and state police are being trained to work with one another in certain locales. All part of the “public conditioning” effort on the part of the government to deal with anticipated mass civil unrest.

    I will be quite surprised if Australia does not do the same eventually. But perhaps you have your government more under control…. ;-)

  • Nicole

    Strangely enough, banks do not want people occupying foreclosed properties. I think this might have something to do with common law pertaining to possession rights of the occupier over time? Perhaps one of our lawyers can answer that one?

  • This is complexity that no one can grasp. And to say that it all came about by blind chance acting within the realm of natural processes at work today is a statement of faith adhering to a mathematical probability that is so close to zero

    A winner of multiple lotteries in a row: from the winner’s perspective, unlikely to be a consequence of chance.

  • A winner of multiple lotteries in a row: from the winner’s perspective, unlikely to be a consequence of chance.

    Well that says it all. I am a winner in a long series of lotteries. A dim and subjective idiot like myself who can’t see out of the box will say the winning of all those lotteries could not have been chance. But a truly scientific and perceptive person used to dealing with REAL objectivity can step out of the box and will see the situation for its brilliant and fundamental truth, right?

    Apologies to all, and in particular Robin, for the stamping of feet and turning red in the face, but that comment came across as rather arrogant to me, with a tinge of ad hominem and sprinkled with a bit of what sounded a lot like intellectual bullying…. ;-)

  • Yes, we have our Governments wonderfully under control. So much so that our landbase is being ripped apart by the mining industry with ever increasing speed and intensity. Every item of news pertaining to the Government tonight also seemed to be linked to making things better for the large corporations at the expense of the people. Oh yes, we really live in a democracy!

  • Nicole

    You’re becoming a radical!…. :-)

  • Rubber berm around Fort Calhoun broke when a piece of equipment hit it. Flood waters now in the plant. From the NY Times I love this part

    “OPPD planned to extend the barrier to 1,014 feet by stacking sandbags on top of some steel floodgates that protected the auxiliary building, and to use more sandbags to safeguard the water intake structure and its essential cooling water pumps.
    The NRC inspectors rejected that strategy. “The sandbagging activity would be insufficient,” the NRC concluded in a July 15, 2010, letter to OPPD. The half-inch cross section on the top of the floodgates was too small to support a 5-foot stack of sandbags hit by swirling floodwaters, the agency said.

    Duh, back to kindergarten and block stacking for these guys.

  • Here is the link for the rubber berm collapse.
    The picture is from Friday and seems to show flood waters already on the other side of the rubber berm.

    Its going to be a long summer. I note that my Google news home page has nothing about Fort Calhoun on it.

  • However my Google news home page does have this
    CNN) — The Los Alamos National Laboratory will be closed Monday as fire crews battle a wildfire raging nearby, a statement on the facility’s website said.
    “All laboratory facilities will be closed for all activities and nonessential employees are directed to remain off site,” the statement said. “Employees are considered nonessential and should not report to work unless specifically directed by their line managers.”
    The Los Conchas fire, which flared up Sunday afternoon, was reported to be less than a mile from the lab’s southwestern boundaries late Sunday, another statement from the facility said.

  • navid
    good points on goldilocks, re our place/time/temp etc. in the cosmos;n & our acting like caged animals more & more.

    & michael thanks for the comparison re time frames, & collapse.

    + much other great lists; info. gotta get the oversized planting of sweet potatoes in; around here one of the best dependable good storing crops.

  • rather arrogant to me, with a tinge of ad hominem and sprinkled with a bit of what sounded a lot like intellectual bullying

    May be that is the recipe for The Anthropic Principle.

  • Nicole:
    Armed with modern wound dressing, a fresh tetanus booster and antibiotics, I was very grateful for our doctors, nurses and hospitals, but they won’t always be there. I think one of the greatest problems with the modern health system is that they have undermined my confidence of dealing with emergencies myself. So without antibiotics, tetanus, disinfectants and modern wound dressings, what should we be doing, Dr House and Robin?

    I doubt I have much to add to answer your question other than the essay and comments from a couple months ago. But, I do have an observation: I work in the ER one night a week. I am regularly frustrated by the trivial cases which come in – mostly in the middle of the night. Here are just a few examples: a child falls and hits his lip on the edge of the bathtub. It bleeds a little, so off to the ER! An adult has a temperature of 99.8 and vomits once – off to the ER at 4 in the morning! A person was bitten by a bug two weeks ago but for some reason at 2:30 in the morning, they decide to come “have it checked out”. Nothing happening now other than their curiosity. I could go on and on and on, but the point is that it seems everyone – or at least a great number of people – has lost their ability to care for their own “emergencies”. While your injuries from breaking up a dog fight could certainly be an appropriate reason to go to the ER, you’re quite right that in a few years, that option might not be there. Short of giving yourself a series of rabies vaccines, the ER can’t really do much more for you than you can do yourself – clean and irrigate the wound thoroughly and let your body do the rest. Unless an artery was severed, even the bleeding is usually minimal.

    Since Robin has worked in the ER much more than I have, I’m sure he can add his own perspective, but from my view, an awful lot of people are totally and completely unprepared to care for themselves in even the slightest way.

  • Unfortunately, the body does not come with an “owner’s manual” and this is in many cases exacerbated by the endowment (or lack thereof) “between the ears”.

  • Victor,

    On family collapse – both. I think collapse will progress that far i n my locale at some point, I’m just not sure collapse will occur soon enough to make mute a mortgage. Also, I see many families collapsing now, slowly, one at a time. My family collapsed once, 6 years ago when I tried to “de-industrialize” us too quickly for the Mama Grizzly’s taste. Since then I have managed to duct-tape my marriage back together but in a strong wind… (kids don’t weigh much, they can be easily blown away ; )


    About evolution – the laws of physics and chemistry and the almost certainty of the formation of life. I teach several biology courses, and I include evolution in each course, so I know it would take more than a post here to clear up some of these issues.

    Every semester, in every class, I have students who, right during lecture, say out loud, “You’ll never get me to believe this stuff.”

    I just politely respond, “You do not have to believe any of this, just be able to spit it back out on the test,” and continue the lecture. I was once just as skeptical as them. And I know the power of the god-myths as well as our own brains propensity to frame everything from our “super-duper” human point of view. I think that until you see the data yourself it appears that evolution is little more than a leap of faith. After you become familiar with the data, not so much.

    The early atmosphere was perfect …. depending on the life form you are considering – which might be very different from the life forms you are familiar with today, several billion years after the soup has been cooking. Please do not discriminate against the non-aerobic organisms that came long before us and started this whole messy business;). And thank god/nature for climate change – if it were not for the blue-green bacteria, and the early algae, we oxygenites would not be here today.

    No one was alive back then to observe any of this – but we can see through time and space (ask the astrophysicist and astro-biologists) the same set-up occurring all over the universe, and we have a pretty good idea now of how early planets and exoplanets develop.

    The conditions of the early earth’s surface and its atmosphere were perfect for forming those basic chemical building blocks, and perfect for making them jump around until they formed larger molecules – we can replicate the process in the lab (see “Stanely Miller). A materials scientist or a biochemist studying natural catalysts and surface chemistry would drool over the prospect of watching it all happen – who needs to design an experiment under those conditions, just grab a beer and popcorn and watch nature take her course.

    The complex cells you see today resemble the early cells as much as our skyscrapers resemble mud huts. Remember, our “snapshot” of normal is the current picture, several billion years after Nature shouted, “GO!” A few simple lipids/fats will naturally form “micelles” in water… a few autocatalytic/self-replicating molecules (see rRNA) find there way into the “shelter” of the micelles producing a virus-like proto-organism… several hundred million years of this and you get an explosion of life forms, most of which will become extinct before they can form a branch of continuous life.

    A good start to understand some of the early events would be:
    the “Heterotroph Hypothesis” (Stanely Miller) for the early chemical evolution, and “Endosymboisis” for how cells like ours evolved from the earliest cells on our planet.

  • Nicole

    ” The capitalists will find a way to kill two birds with one stone and institute a system of debtors prisons that will double as forced labor camps.”

    This is not outside the realms of possibility. Getting debt free seems even more imperative than before.”

    Thank god for gun nuts. Thank gob I was raised in a hunting family. Better dead than government issued anything.


    Thanks for the link to Kurt Cobb’s review.

    Kathy – the Nuclear Condom Broke ?!?!?! Damn, there goes the neighborhood ;)

  • Debtor’s prisons or poor houses –

    The way down will look like the way up only faster thus the Inquisition (which we have now at Guantanamo) will not last hundreds of years.

    But not to worry, Comet Elenin (Extinction Level Event nine some say) is coming and its the end of the world as we know it in various ways (actually a brown dwarf, the planet Nibiru, alien space ships following its wake, or line up with earth and sun causing major earth quakes – for instance they lined up on March 11). Google it :)

  • The complex cells you see today resemble the early cells as much as our skyscrapers resemble mud huts

    The cells of our bodies are the descendants of the merger of two different cells. There is separate DNA from each of those cells: the nuclear DNA (the main DNA), abd the mitochondrial DNA. They are passed on to the next generation through different mechanisms. The mitochondria are inherited from the maternal line: they are present in the ovum before fertilization. Mitochondria make it possible to use oxygen. In plant cells the chloroplasts (the organelles that do the photosynthesis) also have their own DNA.

    So we are the descendants of two cell lines.

  • Las Conchas fire, now at 43,597 acres, has entered Los Alamos National Laboratory property and is zero percent contained

  • Nicole,

    Your comment earlier (“We love our scythes”) got me thinking. What else is there to do when you’re working your way down a long row? Anyway, my question is, what kind of scythe do you use? I have what Wikipedia labels as a traditional scythe. I read somewhere that some of the newer European scythes are lighter and easier to swing (I’m good for an hour then I have to take a break—like now). Also, what do you use for a sharpener? I’ve just been using a steel to keep the edge on and a regular sharpening stone if I bugger it up on brush.

    Guess I’d better get back to it before I stiffen into a permanent sitting position.

    Michael Irving

  • Robin,

    Basically that is right.

    Some “organelles” like flagella, mitochondria and chloroplasts (they also have their own DNA) are little more than “vestigial organisms” – they were once independent creatures but after multiple generations of living inside a host they lost their identity (most of their non-essential, prior “self,” DNA) and became a permanent part of a larger cell.

    (Endosymbiosis – Thank Dr. Lynn Margulis, she refused to stop looking, just like Barbara McClintock)).

  • Michael,

    We use the European scythe. They are much lighter and more ergonomic than the traditional English/American/Australian scythe. The blades are hand forged, made from a steel with less carbon than the tradtional scythe. The steel has been specially chosen to be hard enough to keep its edge, but soft enough to peen (i.e. hammer the edge flat, which both sharpens the edge and hardens it). So every 5 to 12 hours we peen the edge, but when we’re in the paddock, mowing, we hone the edge with a whetstone every few minutes. It works very well. You might find them less exhausting than the traditional scythe although it may also be that you are expending more energy than you need to when you scythe if you are scything from your shoulders instead of your hips. Peter Vido has developed a wonderful tai chi like scything style. As he says, he’s in it for the marathon not the sprint. He and his family can scythe all day without tiring.

  • It’s almost impossible not to begin using the laws of thermodynamics as metaphors for human behavior as soon as we find out about them, even though we would probably understand both classical physics and human behavior better if we kept them apart.

    A thought about complex systems: complexity does not mean instability. An example of a stable complex system is an ecosystem. Some ecosystems continue to function even when large holes are torn in them by extinction or habitat change or commercial genetic manipulation of their elements. The fact that we can project ourselves into a post-collapse future is a function of this persistence of complexity in the face of the forces arrayed against it. Most technology–even allopathic medicine–can be viewed as a simplification of complexity, not an elaboration of it.

    navid and goritsas:

    Thanks for the links. Will order the books and read the interview, as soon as I get over airport layover trauma.

  • John

    What you say about complex systems is true – they can be quite stable. But complexity leads to fragility, and fragility should not be confused with stability.

    Not certain I can buy into your statement about technology being a simplification of complexity, however. I suppose if one looks at it from the perspective that technology makes a bit of work simpler, I can see that. But from my view, technology is a tool, a tool used to perform work of some kind, yes, but also a tool that vastly increases the environmental footprint and aids in the development of further complexity. From the perspective of human civilisation, technology definitely increases complexity, helping us to manage even further complexity and consequently, adds significantly to fragility?

    Perhaps you could explain your statement a bit more?

  • navid

    You’re right – it would take far more than postings here to delve into the subject properly, so I am willing to agree to disagree for now…. :-) BTW, thanks for the suggested reading.

    And I do hope that your family is not forced some day to vacate your house. Things are, I fear, going to get pretty messy in the coming years. Above all, keep flexible if you can (though with children, flexibility becomes quite difficult, I know!).

  • Kathy

    My son and his family live in New Mexico, though south of Albuquerque, not north where Los Alamos is located. That is lovely country, and it is sad to see it going up in smoke. When I was last there, they had had fires in the area at that time (almost 2 years ago). The whole area looked dry and ready for more. Unfortunately, that has now happened….

  • Victor, no doubt there are more and worse fires to come.

  • status of Fort Calhoun nuclear plant per OPPD – I think they realized a bit late that its better to show at least something about what is going on

  • thanks for the nuke flooding link kathy!

  • Nicole,

    I’m very much into the tai chi idea. Given the way my hips feel this morning I must be working from them. I find that, like an axe (“if you have three hours to cut down a tree, use the first two for sharpening your axe”), if the tool is working the way it should, very little effort is needed to get a lot of work done. I sharpen mine every few minutes, too. Also, about the term “European,” while I know what you mean, I should point out that my scythe, here in America, is of the traditional English design, must be older than I am, and was made in Sweden, of all places. I don’t know anything about the metal but I have come to greatly respect the tools made during a bygone age, and think they will represent the cutting edge (pun intended) of tools for the future. Most of my whining was complaints from an old body rebelling after two hours on the chain saw, two hours raking hay, and finally three hours on the scythe.

    Michael Irving

  • Matt, my apologies for discussing something other than what you approve of.

    I will consider myself chastised, reprimanded, and corrected.

    Any specifics of exactly what we *CAN* discuss if not post defecation impacting oscillation survival?

  • Victor:

    Re: “From the perspective of human civilization, technology definitely increases complexity, helping us to manage even further complexity and consequently, adds significantly to fragility.”

    Technology (defined as a tool per your definition) doesn’t always increase complexity or environmental footprint. It depends upon scope of influence. If I design a tool to accomplish a task on my farm and that tool never leaves my farm then the global effect of that tool is limited and minimal. It’s never going to take mankind down, but could certainly make my life a whole bunch easier and safer.

    I wonder if you’re confusing fragility with dependence. The two aren’t the same although dependence can certainly lead to fragility if the dependence isn’t corrected.

  • Resa

    Technology is indeed tools. And you are correct – if you design a tool that is only used on your property and it never leaves, then it’s not going to take mankind down. But your argument is without the necessary scope, as I suspect you well know. Human technology has a huge impact upon the world’s environment and is directly responsible for a considerable share of pollution, deforestation, ocean acidification, CO2 emissions, land erosion, habitat loss, overpopulation, resource depletion, you name it.

    Dependence certainly has a lot to do with fragility. But in a complex system you can only hope to minimise dependence – not eliminate it (or ‘correct’ it, as you say). The more complex a system is, the more internal and external dependencies arise, which of course leads to greater fragility. Indeed, in a more complex system, many dependencies are indirect, black swans if you will, that appear when you least expect, and sometimes have the ability to bring the whole system down. How do you correct the dependence on parts that a piece of equipment has? You can keep spares on hand. You can improve the part so it has a longer Mean time between failure. But the equipment will most likely need that part eventually. What happens if it can’t be had?

  • Resa

    I forgot to mention. The fact that the tool never leaves your land is not always the whole picture. If that tool is made of metal, even if you re-fashion the metal, it means that technology off your land had to create it – mining, smelting, forging, shipping, sales, storage, etc., before it ever got to your property. Of course, if it is a piece of wood that you managed to extract from a tree that fell on your land, then perhaps you are correct. But even then, if you cut the tree with a saw, then you are back to square one – the saw had to be created – and the chances are you didn’t do that.

  • Turboguy!


    Michael Irving