Defending agrarian anarchy

I can scarcely believe agrarian anarchy needs defending from anybody, much less me. After all, this close-to-nature, close-to-our-neighbors approach was the Jeffersonian ideal for the United States, as evidenced by Monticello and the occasional one-liner from Thomas Jefferson:

The result of our experiment will be, that man may be trusted to govern themselves without a master.

I would rather be exposed to the inconveniences attending too much liberty than to those attending too small a degree of it.

When the people fear their government, there is tyranny; when the government fears the people, there is liberty.

Jefferson did not call himself an anarchist, but his words and ideals indicate he strongly supported the rights and role of individuals, as well as a small government that minimally oversaw the citizenry. The Greco-Latin roots suggest the absence of a ruler, which seems like a good idea to me.

Like Jefferson, Henry David Thoreau idealized an agricultural society that was close to nature. Thoreau was a staunch defender of agrarian anarchy, and he focused even more closely on the individual than did Jefferson: “That government is best which governs not at all; and when men are prepared for it, that will be the kind of government which they will have.” To my knowledge, no state governments believe we’ve yet reached that point.

Fast forward to the late twentieth century, and we find several other philosophers defending agrarian anarchy. Perhaps the best known examples are radical thinkers Wendell Berry, Noam Chomsky (linguist, philosopher), and Howard Zinn (recently deceased historian). But the clearest voice for agrarian anarchy came from iconoclastic Tucson writer Edward Abbey in the years before he died in 1989:

Anarchism is not a romantic fable but the hardheaded realization, based on five thousand years of experience, that we cannot entrust the management of our lives to kings, priests, politicians, generals, and county commissioners.

Anarchism is founded on the observation that since few men are wise enough to rule themselves, even fewer are wise enough to rule others.

A patriot must always be ready to defend his country against his government.

In my dreams, industrialized nations are headed for agrarian anarchy. Many countries have been there for years and can show us the way, if only we allow them. If a region never acquired ready access to cheap fossil fuels, agrarian anarchy was an obvious approach. How else but a strong sense of self-reliance and dependence on neighbors to grow and distribute all food locally? How else but reliance on those same traits to secure the water supply, and protect it from insults? How else to develop a human community dominated by mutual respect and mutual trust? Contrary to our current set of living arrangements, no currency is needed: barter fills the bill.

For all these reasons, I’m less than thrilled with the United States as a place to mitigate in place and particularly impressed with many countries in central and South America. Belize remains my first choice, for reasons including English as the official language and a long history of multiculturalism (including neither a majority race nor a majority culture). Electricity is spotty at best, most people harvest rainwater and use hand-dug wells, and food is brought into every town every day. Big government is largely absent, and the notions of Big Ag, Big Ad, and Big Pharma are laughable.

Mind you, I’m not recommending Belize or any other central American country for anybody younger than my half-century of years. I suspect climate chaos will make equatorial regions particularly uncomfortable within a decade. Mitigating in place seems dicey at best but if you’re willing to pull up stakes and head for the poles, central American might well serve as an intermediate step on the way to a reasonably long life.

There are many disadvantages associated with a sedentary life. We don’t know how soon, nor how quickly, climate chaos makes any particular place uninhabitable for humans. Ditto for environmental collapse. But if you’ve considered these factors and concluded you’d prefer mitigating in place to hitting the road, I suggest thinking outside national boundaries.


This essay is permalinked at Island Breath.

Comments 106

  • I’m curious about the migration thing. As climate instability makes a lot of the middle latitudes less habitable, I imagine a lot of people will think about moving north. But I know from gardening in New England that cold is only part of the reason that the extreme latitudes haven’t usually supported large populations. Even when the weather is mild, plants don’t grow, because there simply isn’t enough sunlight. Does anyone know about any analyses about how far north agriculture can shift before it becomes impracticable?

  • People successfully garden in Alaska; I grew most of my food in the backwoods of Maine (and bartered for the rest). One can grow food anywhere. The key is knowing what to grow and when, and that is largely dictated by the local macro- and micro-environment as well as human resourcefulness. Phenomenological-based learning (hands-on observing, experiencing, and experimenting; not just reading texts) about the local flora and fauna is the first step; e.g. the native vegetation, pest populations, seasonal weather and climate.

    I suspect that one reason our ancestors were more resilient than modern man is that pre-modern agricultural peoples were nomadic or semi-nomadic. Our sedentary and deeply rooted way of life has been a dominant source of many of modern civilization’s maladies. Along with that is our prevailing domination and co-modification of our environment and the associated disconnection. It reminds me of several pathogens and parasites that inhabit their host, replicate and eventually kill the host before moving to the next one. And repeat.

    My current read is an archeological paper of hunter-gatherer nomads of Northern Mexico. As is implicit in all nomadic peoples, they followed their food – on hoof, stem/tree/ground, water, even short-term or seasonal cultivation. Simplicity and cooperativity (to borrow from the biological term) are implicit in this lifestyle. (perhaps this is why I have always been attracted to being a nomad….) In the future, we may have to migrate; or stay and die. And there will be people who will rather die than move.

  • “Mitigating in Place” versus Migration?

  • Oh for a crystal ball.

    I can see the dilemma for anyone in the US southwest

    The updated US Drought Monitor report should be avaiable soon. The current display (2nd Aug) looks grim.

    With wild fluctuations in currency values and the flight to gold underway (over $1800 last time I looked), it certainly looks as though the next 6 months will determine where most people are going to be trapped by systemic collapse.

  • guy, joe bageant wrote many of his essays from belize, where he lived much of the later years of his life in a small village. he’d often include casual observations of life there, but u probably know that.

    i think it’s more important to live in relative isolation, away from cities and suburbs, than it is to live in any particular country. of course, living in relative isolation fosters independence, cooperation with neighbors, and freedom from meddling ‘authorities’ (at least as long as one maintains a low profile). generally speaking, one must go where it’s either cold, dry, or rugged terrain, and be hardy and resourceful.

  • Jefferson did not call himself an anarchist …. he strongly supported ….. a small government that minimally oversaw the citizenry.

    That is MINARCHY, not anarchy. A little cancer, not no cancer. The gun is in the room, sparingly used, but at the ready, nevertheless.

    That government is best which governs not at all;

    Then it is not a gorernment. It is a precancerous condititon.

    A patriot must always be ready to defend his country against his government.

    The presumption is that there is a government: a gun is a party to the discourse.

  • Pretending to be on topic.
    People that appear to be sane, there are some left. Apart from the vast majority of presstitutes and polititutes, I’ve seen a man who appears to have clear answers, he even dares to question and correct the way he is addressed by the presstitutes. Excuse my German, I’d prefer to use worse language, just lack the ability in English ;-) Sure there’s a lot more ..titutes around.

    Now tell me, how can anyone in the Us not support the politics of this man:

    Do they not understand what he is saying, is it the lack of understanding the words he is saying?

  • Further pretending to be on topic.

    By the way, “we” are in full war crime motion once again, Iraq II, here
    she comes.

    If you’re capable of watching horrific pictures and/or want to listen to what the spokesperson of Gov. In Libya has to say, google for Moussa Ibrahim Libya.

  • Agrarian anarchy. I like the sound of that. Small, self-sufficient villages with the occasional traders travelling between the villages bringing luxury items. No cities. Maybe no towns.

    If however we have to revert to a nomadic hunter gatherer lifestyle, Australia will have to ruthlessly reduce its population, much more so than with agrarian anarchy. Before Europeans arrived there were between 318,000 and 750,000 indigenous Australians. At that time, the environment was still intact. If we’re lucky then, we’ll be able to have 318,000. So in a room of 70 people, only one person should be there. Add climate change to that … no, my mind can’t even go there.

  • Ghandi -In Gandhi’s view, violence is the source of social problems, and the state is the manifestation of this violence. Hence he concluded that “[t]hat state is perfect and non-violent where the people are governed the least. The nearest approach to purest anarchy would be a democracy based on nonviolence.”

  • The charkha (etymologically related to Chakra) was both a tool and a symbol of the Indian independence movement. The charkha, a small, portable, hand-cranked wheel, is ideal for spinning cotton and other fine, short-staple fibers, though it can be used to spin other fibers as well. The size varies, from that of a hardbound novel to the size of a briefcase, to a floor charkha. Mahatma Gandhi brought the charkha into larger use with his teachings. He hoped the charkha would assist the peoples of India achieve self-sufficiency and independence.

  • Given climate change, after the dieoff and governments fall, the best strategy may be herding, and finally hunter-gathering as a way to adapt to changing conditions. Some herders in Sibera live soley off lichen as passed through their reindeer. Assuming one lives beyond the dieoff that is. Not a strategy available while governments enforce land ownership

  • Bernhard,

    I still have my “Dennis Kucinich for president” bumper sticker on my truck. If he were to run again I would again support him and work for his campaign. Of course people in my neck of the woods think I’m a crazy commie. He walks his talk and consistently speaks truth to power. No wonder the Republicans have used redistricting to eliminate his Congressional District. He may run for an empty seat in Seattle, if the current holder of that office runs for governor. If not he may be pushed out of Congress, and his voice silenced, without even being voted out.

    Michael Irving

  • Guy,

    I have to admit that your current essay confused me. Mitigating in place in the US is a poor choice? Some countries in the tropics offer a better choice, but are bound to become poor choices within a decade? So what is it? It seemed, up until the last two paragraphs, that you were supportive of the idea of agrarian anarchy as a pattern for surviving the bottleneck. But then you hit us with this: “Mitigating in place seems dicey at best but if you’re willing to pull up stakes and head for the poles, central American might well serve as an intermediate step on the way to a reasonably long life.” Further, you suggest that mitigating in place is dicey because climate chaos or environmental collapse might make your chosen spot uninhabitable. Your solution is pulling stakes and heading toward the “poles” with a stop in Central America, which you suspect will become “particularly uncomfortable within a decade. So which is it, stay or go, poles or tropics? Why would someone sink all their resources into a move to the tropics knowing that within a decade they will have to make a further move to high-temperate or sub-arctic regions? Why not just make the poleward move at the outset?

    Also, we should move outside national boundaries to a better place (terra incognita) where we can practice agrarian anarchy, a system that is dicey at best (aka probably bound to fail). I hesitate to remind you that there is no extra-national terra incognita any more. I suspect instead you meant we should move out of the USA specifically, rather that outside of national boundaries generally.

    In the end it seems you are suggesting that agrarian anarchy itself might not be a viable solution and that instead the lifestyle we should adapt is …what exactly?

    Michael Irving

  • Michael

    Wish I’d see people/ politicians alike Kucinich over here. Can’t see one, only polititutes, the others maybe out of my sight, I dunno.

    The clarifications you ask for, about where to go, still laughing, thank you. The link to Island Breath – Hawaii might be an option, no? Never been there, but looks nice.

  • Several writers have made the point that you can gain a climate zone for each layer of covering that you put on your plants. We use two, the greenhouse twin wall and then plastic over the growing beds. Elliot Coleman said that he gets a zone by inclining the growing bed 5%. With no supplemental heat we have yet to loose any of our greens even when the outside temp is -10 degrees. We get some growth from the brassicas and sorrel that we bring in, but everything is very slow growing until the end of February. Lots that we would do over with the greenhouse when we rebuild but that will have to wait.

    Looking for some advice on flour corn. We had some really good results and now I don’t want to screw it up. Package said 85 days, and I have picked a few ears since the husks have completely dried in 80. I have husked them and now I’m drying them on the cob. In a month or two, we will remove the kernels and then dry in the dehydrator for growing next year. Am I missing something? Hate to screw it up after getting this far. Thanks.

  • Sorry for the lack of clarity, Michael Irving. Perhaps I’ve made it too obvious how confused I am … or perhaps I have come to realize no place is safe from environmental destruction, particularly climate change.

    I recommend moving beyond U.S. boundaries for anybody who is able. For people my age and older who are unwilling to adopt a migratory life, I suggest central or South America (with Belize as my first choice). Within the U.S., Hawaii is my first choice (Kauai, followed by the big island of Hawaii).

    Traveling remains a viable alternative for youngsters. In particularly, I suggest moving to central or South America for a few years — until the coming massive die-off of humans is largely complete — and then moving poleward.

    I hope this response provides sufficient clarity. If not, please let me know.

  • Kuchinich is among the best, but will he speak out about the treason that happened on 9/11. Of course not.

  • Guy,

    When you say a few years, are we take it you mean the next few years? If the massive die-off is to start very soon and last a few years, then short of nuclear war, is this to be the result of massive famine?

    Within the above time frame and scenario, suppose one can get to Belize with what you can carry in a large backpack, just how can one then get to say Edmonton Alberta post die-off? With all the disruptions, I have a hard time imagining any way other than walking.

    In fact I think if things are that bad, most everyone will be on foot trying to get some place else, that the die-off will be even greater because of the difficulties involved.

  • ed you have it on the flour corn. as you may know, older methods were to ‘shock it’-make tepees of stalks & all- & let it dry in the field. you’d lose some to rodents, & critters.

    i never dehydrated mine[might watch to not get it too hot]; i just put it on top of a freezer in our basement to dry, & thwart the rodents. for seed i have drywall bucket/dry iced some to remove the oxygen; on the cob. i heard on the cob will increase longevity. this is my seed corn if i have complete loss one year. for seed carol deppe says dry it & freeze to save long term; i’ll probably do some that way too. seems over done to me at times but we know good seed of this sort could be impossible to get.

  • Remembering some of my earlier readings, if anyone wants to get a vicarious taste of what it is to be a nomad, read about Tristan Jones, Ian Hibell, John Rakowski, or any single handed sailor or bicycle nomad.
    In the early 80’s I had the good luck to attend a presentation by Ian Hibell. These are the very unique people with the skills necessary to survive as nomands, at least today. Tomorrow will be harder.

    Occasionally I come across a nomad. About 17 years ago I was sitting on the beach at lake Atitlan, Guatemala. Here comes this European looking guy pushing a loaded mountain bike out of this jungle dirt road. He walks up to my Guatemalan good friend, and in perfect Spanish, asks directions for getting across the lake. I would have loved to have had a long conversion with him.

    A few years ago I was sitting on a beach in Santa Barbara, Ca (I sit on a lot of beaches), when a few guys on loaded bikes road up and started talking among themselves. These where not your average bike touring college kids. They were not bums either, but rather nomads living on the road. These people have a presence about them that you do not see in others. These very few have what it takes. The rest of us will be road kill.

  • I hate typos.

  • Curtis A. Heretic, when you say a few years, I definitely mean the next few years, primarily resulting from lack of potable water and food in cities filled with unaware or inattentive people. Within a decade, essentially all travel will be conducted on foot or via non-human animal power. As you indicate, the difficulties ahead will be extraordinary … as will the beauty, as the living planet makes a comeback of unrivaled magnitude.

  • Guy,

    Thanks. Hope we here somehow make it. It will certainly be the biggest event in human history.

    The current economic uproar will be only a very minor curiosity.

  • Guy, no plugs for Canada? A net energy and resource exporter, with land that is slated to get warmer and wetter while latitudes further south bake dry in the sun? A country that can lay claim to about a quarter of the vast, untapped riches of the Arctic Ocean?

    Or are you assuming anschluß from Amerika? With the Harper Government now in majority, it’s beginning to look like Vidkun Quisling all over again…

    Also to those recommending isolation: there’s more than one way to get that in a post-carbon world. We chose an island that is reasonably close to a major city while fossil energy is still reasonably cheap, but will get farther away as fossil energy gets expensive. Best of both worlds, or fatal mistake? We’ll see.

    In the meantime, it’s easier to harvest sustainable living education dollars than requiring people to travel three days on foot for a weekend Permaculture course.

    It’s also a fairly enlightened place. You’ll often overhear in casual conversation things like, “as long as the ferries are running.” People are preparing. I’d rather live closer to people who are preparing than isolated with people who are totally dependent on fossil sunlight, as many people in the out-back seem to be.

  • Bernhard, du bist grossartig. Your choice of US politician is right on. The problem is perhaps divided into a somewhat-pretend “marketing” problem with Kucinich–he’s too short and not Hollywood enough in looks–and then a more real ideological one–he is not a “business-party” team player, like Wall-Street Dems like the Clintons and Obama. Plus, all his positions favor the common working person, and that is not the corporate agenda or fate for the USA= U.sury’s S.ystemic A.pplication. You are in the same pot, though, cooking with us. Thanks for the German flavor.

  • Guy,

    Thanks for the clarification.

    I do not agree with you about adopting a migratory life as a strategy, although I freely admit I chose to anchor myself to this place back in the 70’s, a choice that had nothing to do with impending collapse. Here are some of my reasons:

    *Ecologic degradation—As noted literally hundreds of times here at NBL the environment of the planet has been enormously disrupted by man’s activities. Indigenous peoples in North America had an abundance of wild foods, clean water, and space that no longer exists. Following a collapse it will likely be decades, if not centuries before the environment will be able to support significant populations of hunting/gathering people. Further, the strategy of indigenous peoples in the Americas, at least after the original colonization, has been to establish as home base from which to exploit the resources of a landscape. They were not just itinerates wandering around the countryside. Some used a mixed bag of agriculture and hunting/gathering as their strategy. Others subsisted on what nature supplied. But always, working with knowledge passed down through generations, they developed an encyclopedic knowledge of what was available, where to find it, and when to look.

    *Food–It takes a tremendous amount of food to survive. Given the reduced capacity of the wild environment I think bottleneck survivors will have to be agriculturalists, at least in part. Gardens and mini-farms will be the main source of food for most who make it through the first wave of massive food shortages in the developed world—just as it is now in the third world. Basing survival on a strategy of hunting game and harvesting wild fruits is magical thinking. The North Koreans were reduced to eating grass during the latest food shortage; they didn’t do that because they are against eating squirrels or berries. Too few resources and too many people would quickly deplete the natural food resources of any area.

    *Security—There is safely in numbers. A community of agrarian anarchists such as you described in your post could provide more than just food, they could also provide a strong defense that would allow them to hold onto the food they produced.

    *Community—Living within a community establishes you as a member, it gives you standing. Other members of the community see you as ‘one of us’ instead of ‘one of the others’. It has always been the other, those outside of the tribe or village, who have been feared and mistrusted. That does not mean I think that is a right way to look at other humans, I just think it is the way it will be in a harsh world, especially one in which the rules of society have broken down. Traveling in such a world would always leave one as a target, or at least subject to mistrust.

    *Redundant systems—Establishing your spot in the world, and learning everything you can about it, puts you in a position to more fully utilize all aspects of that environment. You will be able to establish a garden and learn how to use it to produce food. You will learn were the wild food sources are and how to procure them. You will have like-minded people willing to support you if things go badly and, in turn, will be offered your support when they need it. You will be able to establish alternate sources of food, water, power, and security in advance of a complete collapse, rather than putting all of your eggs in one basket, or waiting until it is too late.

    *Chaos—Your suggestion that young people should adopt a strategy of traveling in Central America until the point of die-off, and then a move poleward, does not account for disruptions associated with collapse. Climate chaos, oil depletion, and population die-off will make it increasingly difficult to survive. Traveling (migrating) always leaves you living out of your suitcase and a suitcase does not provide room for very many options. I think the first people to die in a catastrophe are usually those with the fewest resources.

    Michael Irving

  • Guy said: “… I have come to realize no place is safe…”

    So it boils down to: There is no “safe,” only “safer.” And what is ‘safer’ today might not be so tomorrow.

    Something that sticks out in my mind while reading all the above including comments (so overwhelming sometimes) is Orlov’s discussions of dealing with excess time and boredom. That and his idea that communities will organize spontaneously (for better or worse).

    No safe, only safer.

    Sort of tangential to “Should I stay or should I go….”

    Desperate Journeys, Abandoned Souls: True Stories of Castaways and Other Survivors [Paperback]
    By: Edward E. Leslie, Sterling Seagrave

  • Terry, I’m with you on leaning towards the isolation plan.

    Primarily because of the microbes. The Rain in spain falls mainly on the plain and the Rise of Slime covers the globe ????

    Glad I don’t work for the CDC etc.

  • There is no right way to live as DQ has said. If individuals choose to stay put or move with the changing landscape…who is to say which will be more successful? At this point I’m not a believer in the life boat model. The margin of error is so small between a good harvest and disaster. Add climate change to the mix and now we’re just rolling the dice.
    I’m drawn to a primitive lifestyle. Being on the move and finding opportunities is risky but the start up costs are more manageable. Granted the skill set is enormous (like agriculture) but the work load is smaller. People creating temporary structures as a home base and moving around as the seasons change or as the weather dictates seems like an adaptable approach.
    Community is a tough nut to crack. There are no guarantees that current sustainable communities (far and few between at the moment) will be able to manage collapse and lend support. I think communities will evolve as collapse unfolds and being mobile allows one to find situations that meet mutual needs.

    That being said, I still think it is extremely wise to gain skills that lend themselves to communities. Homesteading is tough but if people want to eventually find a community and settle they will need agriculture to survive. I just think long term communities may be difficult to maintain in light of climate change.

  • Different people in different locations will find different solutions. After all you are most concerned with your own survival, the other guy has to find his own way.

    There are people today (at least a few decades ago) who were living as hunter/gatherers in the primitive areas of Idaho (I met one). Any that are doing it today, might not learn of collapse & die off for months or years. Even when they did, they might just shrug their shoulders and go about their business.

    Tom Brown, whose books I read 30 years ago, now teamed up with Ruppert, is the real deal. He has been teaching ground up survival for decades, and has a lot of former students out there.

  • Privileged,

    Try the early Tom Brown books. No hype, just the real thing.

  • I’ll check him out…thanks.

  • The Economist:
    On the Anthropocene, North Sea oil, Australia, food safety

    Britain’s oil

    SIR – You don’t need to be a Scottish nationalist first minister or an oil-industry lobbyist to be concerned about tax changes that may deter the recovery of even a drop of North Sea oil (“A deeper hole”, May 28th). Britain’s primary energy balance has been in deficit for seven years now, and is worsening by the month. This year it is likely to be 63m tonnes of oil equivalent and next year it may reach 70m tonnes.

    “Peak coal” for Britain passed in 1913, peak oil in 1994 and peak gas in 2000. Peak nuclear, at least for the time being, passed in 1998. Overall British primary energy production maxed out in 1999 at 263m tonnes of oil equivalent and next year production will fall to less than half that level.

    Energy consumption is now also falling, but nowhere near fast enough. The recent period of energy surplus hit its maximum in 1999 and by mid-2004 Britain had entered its second spell of deficit (the first ran from the second world war until 1979).

    The British government’s budget tactic of reducing consumption taxes, while increasing production taxes on energy, is simply perverse. It will increase the energy deficit, and aggravate the painful years of adjustment that Britain must face.

    Hervey Gibson
    Cogent Strategies

  • Kathy,

    Kuchinich is among the best, but will he speak out about the treason that happened on 9/11. Of course not.

    Which treason would that be? Where’s the smoking gun?

    Get serious! Kucinich already has enough of an image problem. The 9/11 conspiracy theory is just that, a theory. No matter how clear the trail of cause and effect might appear to you or me, embracing that theory, absent proof, would be the end of his career in politics. He would loose his all his credibility and his ability to effectively speak out in support of labor, minorities, and civil rights, and against the wars, the MIC, and usurpation of the Constitution by the Administration(s).

    Michael Irving

  • Very interesting discussion — a topic which I’m sure many of us have pondered repeatedly.

    Warning: I’m wearing my doomer hat today! :-)

    As much as I may personally romanticize times past, there is simply no way to compare the downslope of human preeminence to the upslope. While I tend to agree that post-collapse a hunter/gatherer, nomadic lifestyle may be the only way to survive, until we get rid of 95% of the world’s population, that just won’t be possible – at least not for any significant number of people.

    The damage we’ve inflicted on the planet, and thus ourselves, can’t be overcome quickly. Depletion of resources, draining of aquifers, extinction of wildlife . . . all these and more will make existence post-collapse almost impossible.

    The fun won’t stop just because the global economy does. Once the grid fails completely or the diesel fuel supply is interrupted, the 432 nuclear power plants located in 30 countries around the world will begin to meltdown and spread their toxic waste. That’s assuming that nuclear war doesn’t wipe them all out first. When you throw in all the other nasty places our governments and industries have created which are dependent on energy to keep them contained, it’s hard to imagine how anywhere on earth will be safe.

    The south pole is probably the only place on earth that will be habitable once this is all done with. I doubt more than a handful of breeding pairs would survive long enough to make it that far south. But, even if it’s significantly warmer and somehow some do make it down there, will it be possible to grow sufficient food?

    So, since I don’t have a lot of money, and I’m now building steam headed down the other side of 50, I’m going to stay put. My life expectancy may be shorter, it may be longer. The fact is I have no way of knowing. I really don’t think any of us does. As I’ve said before, the most I can do is to enjoy my life as best I can and live it to the fullest no matter where I am.

  • Michael Irving’s comments really hit the nail on the head.
    To simplify the problem – after the collapse, what would a nomadic person eat?
    I mean, right after the collapse, not decades later.
    In reality, such nomads would be better called “refugees”. Not a good strategy.
    Nomads of the past were following herds, moving domesticated animals to various feeding areas, or taking advantage of different food sources that grew in different locations at different times of the year. A modern nomad with no knowledge of these things would be moving from one disaster to another and would likely die even quicker than someone who stayed put and learned where to find food in his local area.

    Given all that, I do think that “agrarian anarchy” is probably the best way to go. The question is how do you get there from here.

  • I know what you’re thinking: ‘Should I go, or should I stay?’ Well, to tell you the truth, in all this excitement, I’ve lost track myself. But being Collapse will leave only 1 in 70+ people in this room, you have to ask yourself one question: ‘Do I feel lucky?’

    Well, do ya, NBLr?

  • Michael

    You surprise me sometimes. Not that you don’t have really good things to say generally, but this was an excellent commentary, and a fine summary of the issues a survivor should expect to face in the future.


    Well said. You have the situation we face well in hand. Climate change is the great reducer. The changes already in the pipeline will affect the earth for hundreds if not thousands of years, likely leaving vast areas of the planet near uninhabitable.


    Can’t see where the earth will make a remarkable recovery. In some areas it might, temporarily. But as said previously, climate change already in the works will likely render that recovery a brief one – at least for a lengthy period of time.

    But one thing I believe we can pretty much rely upon – this is the last civilisation, the last empire. When it falls, there can be no other, as the energy, rich resources, and the technology required to bring it back to life, even at a minimal level such as the early empires of the past will be gone. Humanity will be faced with a Stone Age existence in perpetuity, if it survives.

  • I have so often heard people disparage stone age existence. They often say they don’t want to live like animals etc. It hit me early this morning, if living like animals is so bad then the life of every animal on this planet must be unbearable and the kindness would be extinction of all living things. I suppose you could say then that the path we are on, extincting most life and possibly our own is the kindness. Let the Nukes fly for life is evil.

    On the other hand if life is good for the animals in the wild (and most of us believe it is better than being caged in a zoo despite guaranteed food and health care), then destroying the cage of civilization and returning humans to their freedom as the wild animals they are is the kindness and we can only hope it happens without massive extinctions.

    I haven’t decided yet….

  • victor said
    Can’t see where the earth will make a remarkable recovery. In some areas it might, temporarily. But as said previously, climate change already in the works will likely render that recovery a brief one – at least for a lengthy period of time.”

    climate change always makes winners & losers. my experience of nature over a decade or without the chainsaws, & bulldozers menacing you can hardly recognize a place that had been denuded. ma nature is very powerful & resilient. some places would dry up & parch but other areas will be the new temperate zones. i guess out of control heat could of course do in humans. of course pollutants also may thwart ma nature but still she has wowed me a number of times with her growth.

    & another yes to michael’s comment…helpful, thanks.

    also re jan’s comment/question; is there a reason that the southern hemisphere of the americas is preferred for the increasing warmer temps over the northern, other than radiation pathways via wind patterns?

  • Guy your two predictions with timetable really slammed me. I urge everyone to go back and read them, along with Kathy’s post at the end of the previous thread on water supplies, and food production.

    Sam, thanks for the response on the corn. We will save all the seed from the painted mountain which should be around 4,000 seeds. Oaxacan green still coming and looking really good. Hoping to have 10,000 seeds to put into storage. Will probably order more of both while we can just to make sure. Next up is the acorn, walnut harvest.

    Curtis, Brown is impressive. Its interesting to see Native Americans comments concerning him charging money for skills that he was given free of charge.

  • Mother Nature can recover, sometimes quickly, but at the end Permian the recovery not so. “for the next 500,000 years life itself teetered on the brink of oblivion” Increasing the methane burp has been implicated. “The cause of the burp was probably global warming triggered by huge releases of CO2 from the Siberian Traps” Quotes from

  • Methane Burp may have caused end Triassic extinction also
    “Under the right conditions, bacteria on the ocean floor tuck it away, but warming caused by the emission of carbon dioxide could have prompted the release of their methane. In the atmosphere, the methane would have caused more warming, and hence the release of more methane, creating a feedback, he said.”

  • sam

    Under normal circumstances I can see where you are quite right. To me, however, it is an open question as to the impact of 4-6 C average global temperature change on the earth’s environment, no matter where you might be. The other thing to consider is that the changes will be so rapid as to retard or even prevent any species’ ability to adapt.

    You might be right, but I have this feeling…..

  • I have so often heard people disparage stone age existence. They often say they don’t want to live like animals etc.


    Like it or not, they may have to deal with it. But the odds say they won’t have to worry about it…. ;-)

    In Britain, the Stone Age folks are thought to have had a healthier diet than now – less meat and more veggies – less work and more leisure time.

  • The indigenous Australian was definitely Stone Age. On our farm, we have occasionally found stone hand axes, spear heads and even very small cutting tools. Yet they were so well adjusted to this harsh continent. While the first Europeans almost starved to death, the Aborigines had no trouble finding food.

    They looked on in total puzzlement when the Europeans caught more fish than was needed. It’s a hot country with no way to store fish. Why not just fish for what you need today, then fish again tomorrow if you want fish again?

    A major celebration was held once a year when many Aboriginal tribes met at Mount Jagungal to enjoy the arrival of the “delicious” Bogung moth. So you would have to be prepared to eat what you normally wouldn’t touch!

  • There is no way back to the Garden of Eden, back to nature, and no chance of becoming the gods we appear to think we are now. We neither would want to overcome nature nor would we want to go back to nature. There is at least one more option: to find balance with nature. This could be a sensible, alternate path to the future and a goal to be reached with all deliberate speed for the sake of the children. After all, we are borrowing this world from our children. Surely we will not continue mortgaging the children’s future and ruining the planet all of us inhabit here now to the point Earth cannot be fruitfully inhabited by them and coming generations. Certainly not on our watch!

    Responsible people will have to stop colluding in elective mutism and ignoring the best available scientific evidence of human population dynamics and human overpopulation of the Earth. The time remaining for us elders to secure a good enough future for the children is fairly short, I suppose. We cannot effectively address any global challenge if we do not allow ourselves to understand from whence it orginates. If people cannot see that an actual threat exists for which the human species bears great responsibility, that itself is a problem to be understood and confronted forcefully. Fortunately many of us in this community can see that the family of humanity has a human-driven global predicament before us that has not been adequately acknowledged, let alone begun to meaningfully address and actively overcome by the human family.

    Some people say that we have too many challenges to confront now; that we have to deny how certain global ecological challenges are themselves posed to humankind by the skyrocketing growth of absolute global human population numbers. Unfortunately the human community appears not to have space-time available to much longer avoid facing the question of why looming threats to future human wellbeing and environmental health are occuring with such vengeance in our time. Please consider that we cannot wait “until tomorrow” to respond ably to such ominous threats as appear to be emanating from the colossal scale and unbridled global growth of human overconsumption, overproduction and overpopulation activities. Please take time to reflect upon the untapped potential of the human species. Within the human family there is the capability to deal with the formidable ecological challenges that are already visible on the horizon. Despite the pathetic ways we are behaving, we can do better than we are doing now much better than ostriches when it comes to choosing a posture suitable for seeing the world in which we live. Look up, look ahead!

    Human beings may be acting in our time as if we are more stupid than ostriches when we place our heads firmly in the sand while proclaiming we see what is happening. But the human species embodies so many more gifts from God than the ostriches, even though many too many of us with our heads in the sand follow leaders who take pride and engage in unsustainable overconsumption, overproduction and overpopulation activities that make our stupidity plain to see. How much longer will knowledgeable members of the human community with splendid gifts such as only human beings possess silently stand by and, by so doing, condone the incredible greed, the pathological arrogance, the extreme foolhardiness of a tiny minority of the family of humanity, that is not only ruling the world absolutely in our time but threatening to destroy life as we know it and the Earth as a fit place for the children to inhabit? A remarkably small group of self-proclaimed masters of the universe hold the ‘destiny’ of all in their hands. This elite international group appears to be operating behind the scenes these days and “growing” the global political economy to such a colossal scale that it could soon become patently unsustainable on a planet with the relatively small size, make-up and environs of Earth. Although we are presented with a virtual blizzard of propaganda to the contrary, our planetary home is not, definitely not “too big to fail.”

    Earth is bounded and finite; its ecology is frangible. It cannot be sensibly compared to a maternal presence, in the sense of it being like a mother’s teat at which humankind can forever suckle. Neither a mother’s teat nor the Earth is actually inexhaustible, despite the children’s fantasy and adults’ belief that either one is an eternal source of sustenance. The human family ignores human biological limits and Earth’s physical limitations to support life as we know it at our peril.

  • Steve you wrote “We neither would want to overcome nature nor would we want to go back to nature. ”

    1. I hardly think nature cares about our wants and nature is increasingly sitting in the driving seat.

    2. My point is that IF we think going back to nature is bad, we must think nature is bad and that is exactly the kind of thinking that has gotten us out of balance with nature. How can we live in balance with nature if we think living in our natural homo sapiens was is abhorrent. Your way of thinking about humans as being separate from the natural world is exactly what got us into this mess. I am not saying that you yourself are responsible. I am saying that you are subscribing to the thinking that got us in trouble.

  • Ed,

    To those critics of Brown, practically everyone gets a free education. That does not mean they are to work for nothing. They are giving back to society by being useful members and continuing to pass on their knowledge. He too has to support himself and family. Would they rather he not run his school, but instead be a Wall Street banker or a (gasp!)politician?

  • Dear Kathy,

    You seem to have missed the point of what I was trying to communicate. What would it take for you to reimagine the relationship between Humanity and Nature?



  • Steven Earl Salmony, you seem to have missed the point of what I am trying to communicate to you. I don’t have a “relationship” with Nature, Humanity doesn’t have a “relationship” with nature. I am a part of nature. Humans are a part of nature. We are designed to live as animals in the natural world. Living in civilization is living in cages. We seek relief from drugs and alcohol and through fast living, or counseling, or whatever else we can think of. But it is the caging that has made us crazy just as it makes the monkeys in the zoo crazy. The solution is not a more natural zoo, a bigger cage etc. The solution is returning to the life we evolved to live in. Our brain programs are set for stone age.

    It is the hubris of thinking we can control our destiny that got us where we are, and trying to solve the problems we have created by using the same mindset that got us into those problems won’t work.

  • My latest essay for Transition Voice came out today. It’s here.

  • Curtis:

    I’m trying not to be a critic of TBJ. Never meet him and have only read one of his books, and I don’t want to go to his school whether it is free or not. What I don’t agree with is this, and I guess this is a criticism. If Stalking Wolf in fact did teach TBJ for free, then it is up to him to continue that tradition, or he has misunderstood the message. This is the direction we need to be moving in.

    For those of you interested the beginner classes are offered at 800 dollars/week, and the normal class size is around 125.

  • Guy

    Excellent essay. Sometimes I wish I had been born a hawk……or an incurable disease.

  • Agrarian anarchy sounds great, but I wonder how it would work given current reality. There are too many of us to make it workable, unless, of course, one envisions the death of millions as part of the process. At this unfortunate stage in our history, I think the number of viable options available to us is extremely limited. Sorry to be so pessimistic.

  • I take it many people are aware of the following but perhaps not everyone is aware.

    Clearly a long period of unusually wet weather would allow things to return to ‘normal’. But continuation of present trends could well render large tacts of the US unrpoductive or even largely uninhabitable within a few years.

  • Ron Parry,

    Nicely said, and the “current reality” includes a lack of political will to even try to do anything about it. Perhaps a charismatic leader will appear and take control of the situation and set everything straight. Ooooops! Without “Big Brother” humans are not likely to make it through the bottleneck without a massive die-off, but with “Big Brother” who’d want to?

    You’re not overwhelming anyone here at NBL with your pessimism. Instead, I would question your optimism. Some/many here think the “death of millions” would be unbelievable good fortune. I am of the opinion that the death of billions is more likely.

    Michael Irving

  • Michael.

    I’m afraid you are almost certainly right.

    I recently got an email from a friend who has been travelling in SE Asia who said:

    ‘i have changed my outlook on life entirely on this trip.

    A. Man kind can’t be saved from the up coming calamity,

    B. Man doesn’t want to be saved from any calamities, what-so-ever.

    C. Man does’t deserve to be saved from any calamities.

    The reasons are clear firstly from the air – we are burning off gas on every oil platform in Asian waters. They are burning off more in a day than NZ could replenish in a decade of ‘Green efforts, even if they would.

    The shipping is profuse in these waters and the ships can be spotted easily from the air by their kilometres long sooty exhaust (apparently, the burn anything once they are out of sight of land).

    There is no need for SPF 15 in Asian cities. No UV makes it through the shroud of air pollution (I burn in ten minutes of NZ summer sun, yet i never got the slightest burnt in the cities of KL, Bangkok nor Ho Chi Minh). I burn easily in Taiwan and and out lying ares in the rest of the countries we have visited.

    The rubbish, the water pollution, the population growth and the over use of the terms around “Greening” are ??????. No one wants to change their life if it doesn’t add dollars to pocket book. And most live hand-to-mouth, anyway.

    There are so many people!!! There is so much graft and corruption, There is so much political tyranny. The way out for nature is to eliminate the cancer, us. I am going to live it up, die young and hope that no one I know suffers too much when their end comes.

    Granted, there will be some humanoids that will survive in some primitive fashion. There won’t be the resources to build the next great power source. What power is left will be guarded and consumed by the most powerful. And they will not give up their consuming ways until there is not enough left to build the next power form.

    Wind mills and bicycles and likely to be the last form available until parts run out. Bombs will be manufactured until the end.’

    He is contributing to teh meltdown by travelling, of course. But the way the system is set up, if he doesn;t use the oil, someone else will.

    We are all agreed that there is no leadership whatsoever in any western nation … other than leadership straight into catastrophe.

  • We are all agreed that there is no leadership whatsoever in any western nation … other than leadership straight into catastrophe.

    Nor does there appear to be any leadership from the East by the sounds of it.

    Yes, children. We are fucked. But we knew that, right? I feel like I am part of an audience munching away at popcorn, drinking a beer and watching an incredibly intense drama unfold – all the time making little comments like, “Look over there! No, over there! And there, too! Blimey! Oooo, that must hurt! Poor sods over there.”

    In the meantime, unbeknownst to the audience, the theatre is closing.

  • Kevin

    If I understand correctly, the La Nina conditions that have encouraged the drought in the Southwestern states might be returning again this fall and winter to prolong the drought. It is not looking good for these folks, nor their agricultural areas. And I suppose this also implies that Australia can expect more rains….?

  • Kevin, I am aware of the world drought monitor and also check out the Alabama drought monitor. Of course I only have to go out to my garden to know we are in drought (moderate per the monitor) and as I stand there watering I consider what it will be like to do this with water from our hand pump well.

    As far as your comments about the state of affairs on planet earth, I couldn’t agree more.

  • Victor.

    I get the impression people in Britain are starting to realise that ‘The party is over’. Three years of promises of ‘green shoots’ and ‘kick starts’, ‘stimulus’ and ‘easing’ have resulted in a deeper hole than ever, and the penny seems to be starting to drop at long last (though few people recognise the reason for the mess, nor how far past the point of no return most countries are).

    After months of frustration I finally managed to get the first print run (40 copies) of the new book, ‘The Easy Way’, a couple of weeks ago. The good news is that I have sold the bulk of that batch and pretty much covered costs.

    At this stage I estimate I have reached just under 1 in a 1,000 of the populace of the district and 1 in 100,000 of the populace of NZ: I cannot possibly compete with Harry Potter or the All Blacks in this culture of make-believe.

    I will discover over the coming weeks whether the level of interest in truth/reality increases or decreases.

    There does seem to be a kind of futility in attempting to wake people up at this stage but what how else can one spend one’s time productively?

    I think a closer analogy might be that the audience does not realise the doors are going to be locked and the theatre is going to set on fire.

  • When thinking of how the Stone Age folks thrived on sparse diets, it has to be remembered both that the environment had not sustained today’s despoilation and that the population was limited by the carrying capacity of the ecological system – sans fossil fuels.

  • Dear Kathy,

    You and I are likely going to have to agree to disagree, I suppose. Human beings evolved here and are subordinate to the practical requirements of biophysical reality, but human beings with feet of clay are much more than you give credit for.



  • Steven Earl Salmony, OK tell me just what a balanced world would be. Heck even scientists can’t tell us. When the end Permian extinction happened the 6% of species that survived for the next 500,000 years lived in balance did they not. Balanced is not an absolute and on this planet it is constantly changing.

    However hunter-gatherers lived their lifestyle for 200,000 years – in balance for several hundred thousand years. Civilizations have arisen and always crashed. Humans in civilization is not a balance that holds. The very nature of civilization makes that so. Civilizations require ever more resources to move to cities and deplete the soil. So it has always been and so they have always crashed.

    Meanwhile you keep preaching population control, but to achieve any sort of population reduction in time to save the soils would require far more than birth control. Thus bringing humans back into balance would require depopulation far quicker than even 0 children per couple could manage. Do tell, how do you imagine that could happen? Your world of imagining is just that a fairy land where if we have good thoughts about the future they will materialize in reality.

    You have consistently avoided discussing such things as the fact that after 1 child per family was initiated in China the population increased by 300 million. Meanwhile the enlightened population control Chinese are stripping ground water, polluting the air and maintaining strong control of their population. Should I put that into my imagining?

    I will agree however that disagreeing with you is a waste of time because you live in your head not on the ground. You live in fantasy not in reality. Unfortunately for us we aren’t in the Matrix where living in your head allows life in a virtual world. We are in this world, body and mind. We are animals with embedded programs that were fashioned more than 10,000 years ago when we were hunter-gatherers. It is the mismatch of those largely unconscious programs to the cage of Civilization that is going to do us in. It is either Stone Age or nothing, and the way we continue to pump CO2 into the air probably means another end period extinction is in the works. We will not be among the survivors of a release of methane from the ocean as in the past that created anoxia. No matter how hard we try to imagine breathing low O2 air it just doesn’t change the reality that we are Oxygen breathing mammals.

  • Kathy,

    If you still have water to water your garden, you haven’t hit the bottom yet. When you start looking with concern at your drinking water reserves, things get really dicey. 1 minute long showers, carting water for drinking and cooking, carting water for the animals and the toilet – and dying vegetable garden and trees – even Eucalypts. Those are my memories of our last full blown drought. It was then I decided that we would not go into another drought unless we had a composting toilet and our paddocks were set up for cell grazing.

    I hope Australia gets some more rain. I know many parts of the country are flooding, but where we are, we’re slipping back into drought. I’ve buried another 6 kids and lambs in the past week.

  • Nicole, yes I know we are not at rock bottom. But if we can’t grow any food to eat, after a while drinking becomes immaterial :( Last year the well started pumping mud and drilling tailings but never stopped as I stopped watering at that point. We still had flow into it, the flow was just not enough for the pull I was putting on it. A few days of not watering restored levels but I became much more cautious, used bath water and dish water for watering etc.

  • Guy,

    Good essay, Henry David Thoreau had things figured out many moons ago.

    Wanted to let you know our emails are coming back to us.

  • While Derek Jensen writes books, Marie Mason is sentenced to 22 years for acts preformed as part of the Earth Liberation Front. Per wiki According to Assistant U.S. Attorney Hagen Frank, about the prosecution seeking a 20-year sentence, this would be “the most onerous sentence imposed in a case of this sort”.

    Doesn’t look like the words of Jensen (apparently bereft of action) or the actions of Mason are doing much good. We are heading to the cliff regardless as Kevin notes so well above. But if you want to hear a good song about Marie see

  • From Climate Denial Crock of the week

  • This is really sobering and scary
    Fairewinds Report for Southern Alliance for Clean Energy on TVA Bellefonte Plant by Arnie Gundersen clip at
    Today the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy and Fairewinds Associates issued a report to the Board of Directors of the Tennessee Valley Authority regarding numerous concerns with the Bellefonte Unit 1 nuclear project. First designed with slide rules back in 1968, Bellefonte Unit 1 is America’s oldest nuclear power plant that has yet to generate any electricity. TVA began construction in 1974, mothballed the plant in 1988, and cannibalized the plant for scrap metal between 2006 and 2008. Alarmingly, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission recently allowed construction of Bellefonte Unit 1 by TVA to start again with its 1968 design and its 40-year old weakened foundation and containment. In the video and in its report, Fairewinds identifies seven areas of substantial risk for TVA if it continues to construct this aged facility.

  • Breaking records right and left – if world climate were the Olypmics we would be scooping up gold medals.
    AP) — Sweltering may have reached a new record last month, as Oklahoma racked up the country’s highest monthly average temperature ever.
    That’s the highest average temperature, for any month, for any state, associate Oklahoma state climatologist Gary McManus said.
    According to automated weather recording instruments, the state’s average for July was 89.1 degrees. That tops an average of 88.1 set in July 1954, McManus said.
    The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration on Monday reported that last month was the fourth hottest July on record for the U.S. and that Texas and Oklahoma had their warmest months on record.
    “We’ve been beating temperature records left and right, from the 1930s Dust Bowl drought and the 1950s drought,” said McManus, who admitted that’s not the kind of record you put on a Chamber of Commerce promotion.
    And it’s not like Oklahoma is alone in this.
    Nationwide, in the past 30 days 3,709 high temperature records have been set or tied.
    And, worse, there have been 7,410 records for overnight warmth broken or tied, meaning less chance to recover from the sweltering daytime readings.

    More at

  • But if we can’t grow any food to eat, after a while drinking becomes immaterial


    Drinking is always material, and should always be given priority. You can exist far longer hungry than you can thirsty…. :-)

  • One of the best quotes I have read for a while,from Ayn Rand of all people. ‘people can ignore reality but cannot ignore the consequences of ignoring reality’.

  • No matter how hard we try to imagine breathing low O2 air it just doesn’t change the reality that we are Oxygen breathing mammals.

    The present day concern is about CO2 is in the range of 350 ppm. Inside a room wih a large gathering of people the CO2 levels rise to the range of 1000 ppm. In the age of dinosaurs the CO2 levels were 600 ppm and it was also the time when the first shrew-like mammals (the ancestors to all mammals) survived and even thrived. Current atmospheric FiO2 (fraction of inspired oxygen) is 21% or .21 which translates into 210,000 ppm. Taking away 750 ppm for extra CO2 will give us 200,250 ppm.

    Of course climatic conditions then were different, and will be different in the future, a matter for concern.

  • That should be 209,250 ppm after taking away the 750 ppm for increased CO2 – sorry about my arithmetic: modern day calculators may have caused those brain circuits to atrophy.

  • Victor “Drinking is always material, and should always be given priority. You can exist far longer hungry than you can thirsty….” Victor you missed my point. Nicole was talking about the difficulty of getting water to drink much less water to water plants. My point was that if you were getting enough water to drink but not to water your plants, at some point that getting of water to drink would no longer matter as you would starve.

  • Robin, I was pointing to the End Permian extinction not the extinction of the dinosaurs by asteroid, but the extinction of 94% of all life. Michael Benton and others propose a methane burp from the ocean methane hydrates brought about by warming by CO2 from the Siberian Traps, caused a long period of anoxia.
    ” Hallam and Wignall focused on sections around the Meishan township. Working up through the succession, the last rocks deposited in the Permian were limestones containing diverse and abundant fossils, such as foraminiferans (microscopic shelled protozoans), brachiopods (lamp shells), and conodonts (jaw elements from primitive fish-like vertebrates). Rarer fossils include cephalopods (coiled molluscs that are distant relatives of the modern squid and octopus), sea urchins, starfish and small crustaceans called ostracods, all typical of warm, shallow seas. Near the top, there is extensive burrowing in the limestones, indicating conditions of full oxygenation. Clearly, life at this time was diverse and abundant.

    Then, suddenly, everything changes. The thick, burrowed limestones disappear, and with them the abundant fossils. The limestone is capped by a mineral-rich layer containing lots of pyrite – a classic marker of very low atmospheric oxygen. On top of this are three layers of limestone, mudstone and clay, encompassing about half a million years. These layers, numbered as beds 25, 26 and 27 in the Chinese system, tell how the crisis unfolded, so let’s look at them in more detail…

    The effects were profound and long-lasting. In the Meishan section, the Permo-Triassic boundary in bed 27 is followed by a succession of dark limestones and shales containing sparse fossils. This seems to represent a post-apocalyptic world, in which CO2 levels were still very high and the oceans and atmosphere were starved of oxygen. The 6 per cent of species that survived the initial onslaught were struggling. Normal recovery processes had not yet kicked in. When oxygen levels fall, plants and photosynthesising plankton in the sea normally replenish it by absorbing excess CO2 and generating oxygen. After the crash at the end of the Permian, perhaps oxygen levels had been driven so low, and so much of plant life had been killed, that this was impossible.”
    Michael Benton wrote When Life Nearly Died which is a worthwhile read IMO

    I never said anything about displacing O2 with CO2. O2 is created by plants and phytoplankton. We are well on our way to destroying the phytoplankton in the ocean by acidification. They produce 1/2 the O2 on the planet.

  • Oceanic oxygen concentrations did plummet during the Permian extinction, but that did not apply to atmospheric oxygen concentrations.

    “A pronounced collapse in atmospheric oxygen concentration occurred following the Permo-Triassic extinction, but this decline appears to have followed rather than driven the extinction.”

    Fire and Atmospheric Oxygen

    The atmospheric oxygen levels after the extinction fell to the range of 16% to 15%. Current levels are 21%.

    The cabin pressure in commercial airliners is maintained at 10,000 feet, which is 526 mm Hg (millimeters of mercury) while the sea-level atmospheric pressureis 765 mm Hg. The oxygen level remaining at 21%, the oxygen available at 10,000 feet in an airliner is equivalent to an oxygen level of 14.4% at sea level.

    The creatures living on land when the atmospheric oxygen levels declined after the Permian extinction had more oxygen than those travelling by air today.

  • Correction:
    The cabin pressure in commercial aircraft is maintained at the equivalent of 8,000 feet. (Military aircraft requrie supplemental oxygen by oxygen mask at altitudes over 10,000 feet and a pressure suit at 40,000 feet).

    The atmospheric pressure at 8,000 feet is 568 mm Hg and at sea level is 765 mm Hg. With the oxygen fraction in both at 21%, the oxygen available in the cabin of a commercial aircraft is the equivalent of an oxygen fraction of 15.5% at sea-level, in generally the same range as the oxygen available at sea-level with the atmospheric oxygen decline after the Permian extinction.

  • Used our Stainless Steel Steam Juicer for the first time yesterday. Limb broke off one of the apple trees, so we went ahead and picked the apples. We didn’t get much juice since the apples weren’t close to being ripe but we will probably get 10-12 quarts of apple butter. First batch was very yummy.

    Sam and Michael whatever you do with those water pumps don’t cover them too tightly with anything dark. I used an old blue kitty litter box and forgot to take it off after the rain stopped. Motor fried when the sun came back out.

    Best hopes,

  • Ed,

    Thanks for the tip.

    Michael Irving

  • Robin, Other scientists peg the number at below 15%
    The low oxygen levels during the Permian Extinction dropped even further during the Early Triassic, leveling off at a little below 15%. (Modern percentages are at 21%). It stayed near this level for almost 5 million years, from 245 to 240 millions of years ago.1 Early Triassic rocks found in Antarctica bear this out for they contain a rare, green mineral called Berthierine which cannot form when oxygen levels are high. Finding Berthierine in Early Triassic strata confirms the presence of low oxygen levels continuing well into the Triassic Period.2

    Eventually the oxygen percentages began to slowly climb, reaching 18% in the Middle Triassic, possibly due to the increasing number of plants pumping oxygen into the atmosphere as a byproduct of photosynthesis. But soon afterwards, these levels plummeted, and by the end of the period oxygen fell below even the lowest levels of the Permian.3 In fact, the oxygen levels of the late Triassic were at their lowest point in over 500 million years, since life has existed on Earth. This resulted in another mass extinction, where more species were lost than during any other extinction.

    Benton doesn’t claim that anoxia caused the extinction, but rather that it was caused by the extinction and the low levels prevented earlier recovery “After the crash at the end of the Permian, perhaps oxygen levels had been driven so low, and so much of plant life had been killed, that this was impossible.” However the article above points to lower levels at the end Triassic causing extinctions.

    I presume that people sitting in air liners are not trying to chase down a gazelle for dinner or dig a garden. Higher activity requires more oxygen, yes?

  • None of the “Extinction Events” have primary attribution to low atmospheric oxygen. Dinosaurs survived the late Triassic extinction.

    The adaptation of Andean and Tibetan indigenous peoples to high altitude hypoxia at altitudes well in excess of 10,000 feet indicate that humans can and do survive and function well under such condititos.

  • Well Robin my point was that if Nature provided certain events no amount of re-imagining will help. You have proved that I picked an example that has been proposed by some scientists, but not all, and is therefore in the category of controversial rather than proven. Many controversial new theories of course become accepted fact, but until they do they remain controversial. At any rate in an extinction event like the end Permian we would be done for along with the rest of the 90%+ that went extinct. Wiki says that it is the only known mass extinction of insects. There weren’t any mammals then so we have no basis for saying whether or not humans could have survived the end Permian events but if the insects went in large numbers I doubt humans would have survived. As you note some humans have evolved to live in lower O2 environs. Takes a while, not something you can do by wishful thinking is it?

    I should have given a better example, say that if you live on a shallow coastal land in an earthquake zone no amount of re-imagining will allow you to outrun the tsunami. If you live on an island just a few feet above sea level, when global warming raises the sea levels no amount of re-imagining will allow you to live underwater and breathe water instead of oxygen. If you live where global climate change is turning your land into desert no amount of re-imagining will allow you to survive by eating dirt instead of plants and animals. Or if you live next to Lake Nyos when it emits a cloud of CO2 you and 1700 other can die of anoxia and no amount of re-imagining will let you live.

  • The decline in atmospheric oxygen levels came after the extinction at the end of the Permian (Permian-Triassic) and was related to the loss of photosynthetic plant life.

  • Climate instability.

    I woke this morning to see snow falling in New Plymouth. As far as I am aware this is unprecedented in recorded history. Admittedly the snow was soon gone once the sun warmed things up a little but this does not bode well for the future, since 9 months ago we were experiencing unprecedented drought.

  • Attractive preternatural thought, theory and ideology are knowingly substituted for scientific evidence when needs of the super-rich and powerful require it. Broadcasts of what is politically convenient, economically expedient, socially agreeable, religiously tolerable and culturally prescribed are articulated so often by absurdly enriched talking heads in the mass media that what is illusory becomes readily mistaken for what could somehow be real. If no intellectually honest speech is uttered, no morally courageous questions asked, no pronoucements of what serves the interests of greed are to be doubted, no words of what could be real are to be spoken, is this not the way silence kills the world that virtually everyone claims to be protecting and preserving.

  • ed
    thanks; there is often so much of a harsh learning curve.
    we were in line with the storm that killed 5 at the rock concert with the wind gust, & collapse…& no power since. to maintain the 2 freezers we have i have a 1000w generator[more that one for backup]…spent most of the day getting to know that equipment, thought i had fried one of them til i read the manual, a couple of times, & got it going….powering this too of course.

    power co. says must increase rates due to repairs; may be several days w/o power.

    also potatoes..main/storage crop… did not come up; well actually about 10% did. soil was too hot i guess; second year of failure there; i got tiny potatoes last year.

  • Somewhat related post to agrarian anarchy . . .

    I just ran across a wonderful website detailing native plants and wildflowers. The part that I found most interesting is a section of the site which allows you to see a list of plants (flowers and trees) which are native to your state. When you click on a particular species, there is quite a bit of very helpful information. Some of that information includes how to plant and grow the species, the specifics of its size and growth habits, and – most helpful – its benefits. So it lists which birds, insects, and other creatures find the plant beneficial. This might be of help to you if you’re trying to eliminate a particular insect eating your garden and you want to attract the natural predator for it. This also might help as a hedge against climate change if you’re trying to plant species which have a wide tolerability for weather extremes.

    The other interesting bit of information included on many of the species descriptions is medicinal use. Many have asked me if I knew of plants and herbs which could treat various ailments – this might be a good resource for you.

    Here’s the link:


  • “Ghandi -In Gandhi’s view, violence is the source of social problems, and the state is the manifestation of this violence. Hence he concluded that “[t]hat state is perfect and non-violent where the people are governed the least. The nearest approach to purest anarchy would be a democracy based on nonviolence.”

    My dear, violence is only a tool. I hate violence; but there have always been and there will always be dead people during social changes. It’s inevitable.

    Every time I apply termomether on the city I’m more and more scared. England blowned away last week. Next one is Spain. The main hospital of this city is going to be shut very soon: government can not afford. Pharmacies are also in trouble, since the state can not afford to pay for the prize of medicines (in Europe the system is similar to the canadian one), and many of them are in strike. There are entire families sleeping in the street. 22% of the active population is unemployed. And growing. There are every time more policemen in the streets. For the first time in one century, hunger is appearing.

    One spark, one single dead… and this gundpowder barrel will simply KA-BOOM.

    I’m leaving this evening. I have serious things to do. Did you know that undesirable plants grow more in summer than in any other time? (irrigation system has this inconvenient): there is a lot of light, and I manage to keep the land rich and full of nutrients. I have to fight them nearly every day. :-)

  • Jean I always look forward to your perspective.

    We all have to deal with the undesirables, the trick seems to be finding something useful to do with them, it makes weeding alot of fun, well almost. Dandelions and burdock in the spring get eaten. We had a little rain recently and we had an outbreak of purslane and lamb’s quarter. The purslane went to market with recipe cards and sold out. The lamb’s quarter and the other stuff goes in with the ducks and chickens. They love it.

    When you get a chance look at these videos. Eilia’s methods of farming should work in your climate:

    Dr House, thanks for the link that looks like a good one.

    Sam, I hear you. We just trashed 15 starter trays (1,800 plants) that got powdery mildew. Bad news on the taters. There was a thread over on the permies website about people having potato problems. I’ll try and find it and post. In the end, nothing grows when the temps get into the mid-90’s not even corn. The oaxacan green we planted does seem to have done well, even in the heat. Originates in Mexico.

  • Thanks Dr. House. I have enjoyed learning about edible native plants. Right now we are eating maypops every day. Their range goes up to PA and with warming may extend farther now or soon and on page 8 of the site you list.
    They are largely drought resistant, perenial, and hardy (here I do have to defend against the Gulf Fritillary catepillars tho). I have to weed them out now so they don’t take over too much of my garden. I wait until the fruit drops, then hold them inside until they get wrinkled and start to turn yellow. Tear open and eat seeds and all – looks like snot, tastes yummy!

    I have used dried leaves to make tea and it does seem to be calming as it is reputed to be. Since I am a bit of an herbal skeptic, that probably means that there is some benefit. :) I think I have found about 3 natural cures that work. Maypop tea, tea tree oil and I can’t think of the third :)

  • Also a vid on Maypops by Green Deane at Eat the Weeds

    He has lots of clips on native edible plants of the South EAst
    From him I learned of Florida Betony which has a root that is similar in taste to radishes only better. It sprung up as a weed in my garden and I was weeding it out with little success until Green Deane educated me.

  • Kathy, you aren’t talking about mayapples are you?

    For all of you who took the plunge, you are in some pretty “good” company:

  • No No No Ed. I know what a may apple is. You being in NY do not know maypops – they are a vine. They have a flower that you cannot mistake. It is purple, frilly, with unusual stamens – the spanish called it passiflora incarnata – applying to its shape various religious meaning. Thus it is also known as passion flower – one version that grows in South America is the familiar passion fruit (Passiflora edulis). The North American variety is known as maypops – not sure why, it usually doesn’t sprout until June but if you step on the fruit it POPS. At which point I say Oh Shit as I have just lost a fruit to eat.

    Doing a search I see that some people call May apple may pops. But Mayapple is in the Barberry family and “Mayapple is a small understory plant with a very unusual appearance. When young, it has a single stem with a single, round umbrella-like leaf.” Its fruit ripen in May. Whereas Passiflora Incarnata grows as a vine – they say 6 feet but I think mine grow as much as 12 feet, they grow in full sun and have a purple not a white flower. Its fruits ripen in August on and the plant is often not out of the ground in May.

    I am pretty good a plant identification, unfortunately sometimes common names end up getting used for multiple unrelated plants.

  • thanks kathy…& ed; i was wondering the same re may apples.

    & yes jean ; weeding by hand is quite a job! i planted lots of sweet potatoes w/o rows, & now they are solid cover & have outrun most weeds; & covered the tiny paths every 12′ or so. our 80+ y/o gardener neighbor says the vines this year look better than any he remembers; lots of heat, moderate moisture.

  • Kathy/Ed/sam

    OK. This is my first year planting potatoes. Success! However, now, I am about to bring the crop in and have a question. Would it be harmful to till the potato plants back into the soil in place? Or should they go to the compost pile? Or should they be discarded?

    Many thanks for any advice.