I was ten years old when The Limits to Growth first saw print. I have a dim memory of seeing a newspaper article or two about it, but I had other things on my mind in 1972—my parents got divorced that year, and an already difficult childhood promptly got much worse—and several years passed before I found time to read it. Its portrayal of a future of hard limits made immediate sense to me. Somehow I never managed to absorb the widespread American conviction that there will always be more so long as you whine for it loudly enough, and so the book became one of the volumes that shaped my youthful sense of where the future was headed.
In the 1970s you could talk about such things. The public library in Burien, Washington where I got most of my reading fodder then was well stocked with books on energy and the environment. If I couldn’t find what I wanted there I could catch the Route 130 bus to the downtown branch of the Seattle Public Library, not yet replaced by the monument to architectural incompetence that now squats on its site, and bring home a double armload of volumes on similar topics. By that time, too, I had read enough to follow the logic of The Limits to Growth in detail.
It was not, as the corporate media insisted it was, a prophecy of doom. That’s one of the details that got swept under the rug by the mainstream back in the 1970s and still gets swept under the rug by the project’s critics today. The point of The Limits to Growth was that we as a species, and as a community of nations, had a choice. We could rein back on economic growth ourselves and embrace the promise of a steady state future in relative balance with the global biosphere, or we could ignore the limits to growth until we slammed into them, and topple over into a long ragged decline ending in a new dark age.
That was the choice. It’s crashingly unpopular these days to suggest that we could have chosen the former option, but that’s just sour grapes talking: we didn’t make that choice while we could, and so it’s emotionally easier for a lot of people to insist that it was never an option at all. I remain convinced that it could have happened. We had a window of opportunity; between the total failure of our managerial elite in the Vietnam war, the trauma of the 1973 oil embargo, and the revelations of government corruption and abuse of power that followed Watergate, enough people in the United States had been shocked awake, and we could have made the necessary changes while there was time for them to matter. The US Bicentennial in 1976 brought us close to that choice—closer, I think, than ever before or since—as a great many Americans thought about what we’d lost in our frantic quest for empire overseas and excess at home.
But we didn’t make that choice, and here we are.
I think most people have noticed that since the Covid shutdowns, product shortages have become a routine part of everyday life here in the United States. They aren’t drastic shortfalls, and which products are in short supply or absent from the shelves varies from place to place and even from store to store, but unless you shop at high-end stores that cater to the privileged classes, you run a fairly high chance of finding gaps on the shelves whenever you go shopping. To the extent that the media talks about this at all, it blames shipping and trucking problems on the one hand, and labor shortages on the other. Those are doubtless involved. With most industries dependent on just-in-time ordering, to begin with, the Covid shutdowns threw a monkey wrench into inventory systems that only work given stable conditions, and the shockwaves are still moving through a global economy too dependent on centralized production and worldwide transport.
The shutdowns also played an important role in the labor shortages, in an ironic way. One consequence that the politicians who ordered the shutdowns seemingly didn’t anticipate is that solitude and isolation give people the chance to think clearly about their lives. (That’s why monks and nuns live in what amount to permanent shutdown conditions.) Here in the United States, at least, one major consequence is that a very large number of people realized that their lives suck, their jobs suck, and the scant pay and benefits (if any) offered by their employers aren’t worth the miserable conditions, humiliating policies, and grotesque abuses of power that so many of them are expected to put up with in exchange for the privilege of having a job.
The result is being called the Great Resignation. One recent poll found that 55% of employed Americans are actively looking for other work. Quite a few people—I haven’t been able to find any hard numbers—are finding it under the table. The underground economy is a huge reality in today’s America, where a flurry of rent-seeking gimmicks on the part of governments, banks, real estate companies, and other financial parasites make it impossible for many perfectly legal businesses to make a profit if they follow the rules. One consequence is that businesses that have to operate aboveground are being squeezed hard by staff shortages.
I’m far from convinced, however, that the transportation bottlenecks and the labor shortages are responsible all by themselves for the increasingly common sporadic shortages that leave store shelves empty across the United States. One of the reasons I doubt this, in turn, is a famous chart from The Limits to Growth, which is shown below. Up to this point, as studies have shown repeatedly, it’s been more accurate as a model of the global economy than either the optimistic handwaving of its critics or the apocalyptic models brandished about by believers in sudden collapse. Take a good look at it, and notice that the first thing that happens to break the pattern of business as usual is a relatively steep decline in industrial output.
I’d like to suggest that the decline in output predicted in this chart is an essential part of what’s driving the cascade of spot shortages at present. Given the nature of today’s global economy, groaning as it is under the burdens of dysfunctional centralization and excess complexity, a flurry of seemingly unrelated shortfalls and delays is exactly how a contraction in industrial output would show up first, as marginal producers of components and raw materials fail to contribute their quotas to the manufacturing sector.
If this is correct, we have reached the point at which the decline in resource availability and the increase in the total pollution load on the environment and economy have begun to throw monkey wrenches into industrial output. If that’s the case, and the Limits to Growth model continues to be correct, the torrent of consumer goods that has defined so much of life in the world’s industrial nations is coming to an end in our time, and a cascade of other changes will follow in turn.
To make sense of those changes, let’s take a closer look at the chart and the logic underlying it. All the great scientific discoveries are based on immense simplifications. When Isaac Newton realized that the same force that causes an apple to fall from the tree keeps the Moon falling forever around the curve of the Earth, he erased a vast number of complicating factors to get to the principle that mattered. The creators of the World3 model that generated the chart above did the same thing in a smaller but still important way. To avoid the endless squabbling over which resources could substitute for other resources, they lumped all resources together as a single factor and tracked that factor’s availability over time.
They did the same thing with each of the other variables, lumping them together into broad categories: food, pollution, population, and industrial output. Then, using historical data as a basis, they worked out the relationships between these categories and put them through many different runs, each time tinkering with the variables or the relationships among them. Their critics went out of their way to avoid talking about this, because it didn’t matter what the authors of The Limits to Growth did, they got the same results—even with infinite resources, for example, population, food, and industrial production eventually tipped over into decline when the pollution curve went vertical. The standard run, which is the one shown here, embodied their best estimates, and the actual curves have followed it more closely than any other.
One of the advantages of lumping the variables together is that the myopia of single-factor theories is much easier to avoid. Back in the heyday of the peak oil movement, those of us who were paying attention to the big picture constantly had to remind others that petroleum wasn’t the only resource being used at unsustainable rates. These days, in fact, it’s hard to find a resource that isn’t being overused in this way. Did you know, to name just one example, that the world is running short of sand? The condominium in Florida that suddenly collapsed a little while back was an early casualty; corruption in the Florida building trades is legendary, and so plenty of contractors have been using cheap beach sand in place of proper building sand to make concrete. That yields weak, brittle concrete, with results we all saw in the headlines.
Thus we don’t have to run out of a resource entirely for shortfalls in that resource to affect industrial output. If a resource runs short and prices rise, that imposes one kind of burden. If it runs short and producers replace it with something substandard, that imposes another kind of burden. There are many other options, and all of them load costs on the economy. Those costs can be shoved off on someone else for a while—the economic history of the last half century is in large part made up of increasingly frantic attempts to shove off the costs on anyone within reach—but eventually they rise to the point that they cause enough interference to the production of goods and services that industrial output suffers.
The same rule applies to pollution. However you pollute the environment, somebody pays the bill. If you dump toxic waste in the river, people living downstream have higher medical costs, and that burdens the economy. If you put in water treatment plants to keep it from harming people downstream, this isn’t cheap, and that burdens the economy. If you modify your plant so that you no longer dump it in the river, you have to pay for it to go somewhere else, and that burdens the economy. If the cost of pollution mitigation gets too high, your plant goes out of business, and that burdens the economy. However you spin it, the economy gets hit, and eventually the total cost of dealing with pollution rises to the point that industrial output suffers.
As the chart above shows, industrial output isn’t the only thing to tip over into decline when this happens. Food peaks about the same time that industrial output does, for similar reasons, though it declines more slowly thereafter. Most of my readers will have noticed that the price of many foodstuffs is up sharply over the last year or so, and here again, sporadic shortages of some foods have become common. Some countries in the nondeveloping world have begun to face significant food shortages of a more general kind. Insisting that these are the result of the current round of droughts, and therefore don’t count, misses the point: “pollution” as a category includes, among many other things, the dumping of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, and its impact on the economy includes the costs of drought and other results of climate change.
If this is what’s happening, what can we expect? First of all, many goods and services will become less available over the years immediately ahead. Some goods and services will rise dramatically in price as consumers compete for a diminished supply; some will be available at some times and places and not at others; some—especially those that don’t have any real value in the first place—will simply stop being made altogether. By 2100, if the World3 model continues to be accurate, industrial production will be about what it was in 1900. Population will still be around twice what it was in 1900, however, so serious poverty will be very common.
Meanwhile food prices will rise as food becomes less available. Some of that can be made up by cutting down on food waste—a fantastic amount of perfectly edible food is simply thrown away in the industrial nations nowadays—but not all. Population will peak and begin a slow decline not long after food and industrial output peak, and so outright starvation will tend to be limited to impoverished countries and classes except during periods of climate change-driven crop failure, but food costs will rise to make up a much larger share of family budgets in the years and decades ahead. Learning how to make cheap healthy foods stretch as far as possible will be an essential skill for most people as we proceed.
Global population is already cresting and the peak is nearly in sight. Even if no major disruption happens—a major war, a pandemic with a notably larger body count than the present example, or what have you—many people alive today will see Earth’s population begin to shrink. Some will see peak pollution, though that’s a little further in the future. By 2050, if the World3 standard run turns out to be correct, resource availability will have bottomed out at close to sustainable levels, all four of the other variables will have turned down hard, industrial output in particular will be at a modest fraction of current levels, and we will be living in a different world.
Now of course the first thing that comes to a great many minds when any such scenario gets discussed is flat denial, and I expect to see a lot of that. The second thing is the plaintive insistence that there must be some way to avoid having to go through the future thus sketched out. There was a way to do that, but the past tense—“was”—is essential here. If people had listened and taken action fifty years ago when the warning was first given, we’d have had plenty of time to make a smooth transition to a sustainable steady-state economy, back when our resource demands were much lower than they are now and the planet’s capacity to manage pollution wasn’t anything like so overburdened.
We didn’t do that, and now it’s too late. It really is as simple as that.
That doesn’t mean that all we can do is sit on our hands, moaning plaintively and waiting for death. There’s still an enormous amount that can be done to cushion the descent and make sure that as much as possible gets saved. (If you want to know the details, I’ve written half a dozen books about that, and I’m far from the only writer to have done so.) I know people who are doing many of those things, but they’re working on their own, or with the help of a few friends and allies. For the time being, most people are still stuck in the paired delusions that the universe will cater to their cravings no matter how extravagantly absurd those might get, and keep them from having to face the consequences of their actions no matter how callous and clueless those might have been. So far, at least, I haven’t yet seen anything that makes me think many of them will shake themselves out of that self-defeating trance.
That said, there are some eerie similarities to 1972 just now. The United States has just suffered a humiliating defeat after a long, clueless, and overwhelmingly corrupt Asian counterinsurgency campaign; the price of oil has been climbing raggedly upwards toward the edge of crisis territory; issues of political corruption and abuse of power are on a lot of Americans’ minds at the moment; and in a few years, in 2026, we’ll be celebrating the 250th anniversary of American independence. The same challenge we failed to confront fifty years ago faces us once again in even more unyielding terms. Maybe it’s possible, even this late in the game, that enough people will recognize the situation we’re in, and make the necessary efforts and sacrifices to do something constructive about it.
I admit that it seems unlikely to me. Still, when I look out the window at the bleak and battered landscape of a civilization in decline, what comes to mind more often than not these days is a song that was popular around the time The Limits to Growth originally saw print. To me, it has always summed up the spirit of the movement toward sustainability that rose and fell in those years. Some of my readers will doubtless find it naive and sentimental, but then that was said quite often of all the alternative movements of that era. Maybe we need to let go of the comforts of fashionable cynicism and find the courage to affirm such things again. Maybe a prayer for nonbelievers, to quote a line from the song, is what we need just now. We’ll just have to see.
I read The King in Orange and the part with Spengler talking about civilisations falling to Destiny and Incident – and I thought that should be a mechanic in a roleplaying game. Also the way people complain about the Limits to Growth model reminds me of RPG fans arguing over whether a system has too much crunch or isn’t crunchy enough. 🙂
“a flurry of rent-seeking gimmicks on the part of governments, banks, real estate companies, and other financial parasites make it impossible for many perfectly legal businesses to make a profit if they follow the rules”.
Two things come to mind: Adam Smith was adamant about his disgust for ‘rentiers’ within the economy he saw, studied, and proposed – something no longer part of economics theses, texts, and practices!!
Secondly, as part of my sarcastic streak, maybe we could find a functional deworming product like Ivermectin that would work on these parasites!!
While I agree with everything you so eloquently stated, I don’t believe ‘choice’ is in the cards for the immoral majority. 50 years of collective narcissism is now baked into the cake. It will take at least as long to break the cycle. But yes, prayer is what we need, and subsequent divine intervention to head off the future we deserve.
It’s funny, I’ve noticed these supply issues. A lot are being blame on Brexit across the water, but in my (low cost) local supermarket the distinct lack of certain vegetables is concerning me. Though I’m not surprised, most of the food starts to rot within a few days.
We’re looking at an increase in the carbon tax here, about 7.50 euro per tonne every year up until 2030, which has always struck me as another example of shifting the cost onto the consumer in the hope of changing behaviour. But again, this will impact on the working class the most, who have the most to lose. What’s worse is that we’re about to engage on a major home renovation scheme to the cost of about 50,000 euro per household. They say they’re going to give us grants and low-cost loans, but a family on the dole wouldn’t be able to afford that. If they can actually afford a place to live in. I know it’s the typical managerial “thing” of offloading their cost onto others, but in the post covid era I can see the gap between rich and poor grow even bigger. I wonder if you are thinking on similar lines? And where does that lead?
When I was young, stupid, and too full of myself I was disdainful of John Denver. Decades later, hearing the first few notes of his songs makes me glassy eyed now. Such shameless generosity of spirit, such goodness and warmth in one human being, we will never see his like ever again.
I’m the same age as you JMG, and while I don’t remember the release of Limits of Growth, I do recall the Vietnam and Watergate debacles, the oil embargo of 1973 and the efforts towards reducing pollution and conservation. I checked out the Limits of Growth a few months ago and found it to be interesting and relevant – well ahead of its time in some ways.
You’re absolutely correct in that when the fork in the road appeared, the U.S. and the rest of the world took the path of greed and “higher” standard of living versus facing the realities of a finite planet. This especially is true, IMHO, with the topic of population. And of course pickup trucks and later SUVs, as “bigger is better” for many.
It’s definitely looking like food and energy products, which have been kept artificially low in many cases through subsidies and tax breaks, will lead the charge into the new normal in the future. The chickens of bad choices are coming home to roost, and the finger pointing will only get worse. Maybe the good news is that Covid will have to take a back seat to the problems of obtaining food, shelter and clothing, as those essentials become more scarce.
My vote for the great prophetic song of the 70’s is ” There is only so much oil in the ground”, from 1975 by the legendary Oakland Funk and Soul band “Tower of Power”.
I haven’t noticed any commodity shortages here in Israel since the very first days of covid, and there is no talk of shortages around here either.
Which makes me question your assumption: if the shortages you have in the US are caused by declining industrial output, wouldn’t they hit the peripheral vassal state before they reach the metropolis? This makes me think that these shortages are at least immediately caused by local US conditions (though of course the LTG model gives them their broad background).
What do you think? I don’t know what’s going on in the rest of the world. And here too food prices are rising.
I couldn’t agree with you more. The throwaway consumer society of two years ago has come to an end. The present shortages are not some temporary anomaly or aberration. They’re here to stay and probably grow worse.
Thank you for this JMG. I often turn to the music of that era for a little comfort and hope. I think Ruins by Cat Stevens also grasps some where we are now. I hope that my children and I can, as the it says in Rhymes and Reasons, find a better way.
Interestingly, in Germany, I don’t see much of any shortages; maybe, the effects of the decline of industrial output will show up at different times in different regions of the world. These shortages are the factor which make me think that the Internet of Things will remain a fad, among other things, because there is already a shortage of computer chips, which would have to be implanted in many more things than now to make the Internet of Things work. And that is not even including electrical power, presumably in the form of batteries, for these things.
Quite a while ago, before the Covid pandemic, I already saw it coming, as I looked at the diagram for the World 3 run, that in the timeframe of 2020-2030 there would be disruption due to the steep decline in industrial output.
Until now, we have had more or less business as usual, but the fall in industrial output promise to be culturally quite disruptive: for the religion of progress (when fewer and fewer goods are available), for consumer culture (when gadgets disappear, because they are too expensive to produce). Besides, as in the 20th century there was economic growth among other things due to economies of scale, the coming decades will see diseconomies of scale: the fewer and fewer of a certain good is produced, the more expensive that good gets. There are already examples in the domain of photographic slide films: films have gotten more expensive, or, when the demand was too low, disappeared, or in the case of Kodachrome, after stopping production, the production could not be restarted, because the production process for Kodachrome is already too complex for that at the present stage of the decline and fall of Western civilization.
I woke up this morning feeling like all the effort I’ve put into building home made alternate energy contraptions out of stuff other people threw away over the years was a silly waste of time. Then I read your post, and rather suddenly felt all that effort was the most important way I could have spent my time. Thank you for reminding me! Cheers!
I don’t see these shortages in supermarkets in the area where I live, here in Spain. However, there is a real crisis in electronic components for car industries…These are the firms that are in troubles here (in spanish)
When they run out of certain electronic components (oh just-in-time philosophy!!) they send car plants workers to home, 2-3 days a week, nearly every week. It’s a surrealistic and never ending trouble.
” Here in the United States, at least, one major consequence is that a very large number of people realized that their lives suck, their jobs suck, and the scant pay and benefits (if any) offered by their employers aren’t worth the miserable conditions, humiliating policies, and grotesque abuses of power that so many of them are expected to put up with in exchange for the privilege of having a job.”
Oh, not only in the Unites States…
I’d like to suggest that the decline in output predicted in this chart is an essential part of what’s driving the cascade of spot shortages at present.
The world economy is a debt-based system that requires growth to survive, and there’s no longer the underlying resource expansion to support that growth. IMHO these economic, political & social issues are all symptoms of that system beginning to come apart at the seams.
There seems to be good evidence that caloric restriction can lead to greater longevity, provided that the limited calories we do consume is loaded with nutrition. Eating can resemble good writing: no empty words (“calories”), every word loaded with meaning (“nutrients”). I’ve personally found that burning calories before breakfast is a great way to tell my body to switch to burning fat; my appetite is notably less than otherwise throughout the day. In poorer countries, where avoiding starvation by any means might be the order of the day, caloric restriction would be callous advice. But in affluent countries, it could be a win-win; the reduction in food intake would be a reduction in waste (in the sense of producing shorter life/poor health) and over the longer term also a lessening of medical burdens, marginal food production, etc.
I have been rereading your Archdruid Report essays and they are eerily prescient. I find everything falling apart on schedule and think this a good thing as there must be an end to this disaster of a civilization. I don’t find all this wealth makes people happy or content. Indeed, I see people creating pain and hardship for themselves at every level of prosperity.
The true problem is the sheer number of humans and once these numbers go down, I believe nature will be able to recover, quickly in some cases and over geologic time in others.
Right from when I was a little girl, growing up in an ugly ribbon town, I felt there was something wrong and grotesque in the way we lived so apart from nature. I have a cozy, tiny farm and enjoy all the, “hard”, work and coexistence with the animals and plants around me. I have never been happier. I believe that people will be happier once they adapt to doing with less, A walk to the beach is much more pleasant than a flight to Mexico and a holiday there. I know because I have done both.
Wow, what a wonderful blast from the past that song is. That song took me back to my misspent days as a hippie. I still have a collection of “counter” culture books and publications that I found inspiring. I had gotten hooked on TMEN at about issue 10 and really wanted to do the back to the land thing. However, it required a long winding detour to achieve but, I think I am mostly there in my own backyard. I only wish I started earlier.
No matter, here I am growing as much of my own food as possible, participating in the local economy, practicing living on less with some successes and some failures and constantly looking for moral support to continue to swim against the tide. I think a lot of my friends and acquaintances think I am crazy and we don’t seem to have much in common any more.
That last one is the one I am really struggling with, especially during this crazy time. I am pretty sure I need to find other means of personal fulfillment and put some time into those just to help keep some balance, but it could just be that it is peak harvest season and I feel run ragged.
Anyway, cheers to one and all for your own individual efforts to adapt to the long decline.
Why do you believe that pruning our civilisation back to something healthy would have been possible fifty years ago, but that it is too late now? Yes, we’d have to cut far more aggressively now, especially given a larger population to support, but I can’t see any *physical* reason we couldn’t do it…
Hello all. This month I have “eccentric, iconoclastic, fringe” American post that relates rather well to the post above and JMG’s excellent analysis of the situation.
It is a brief look at the life of Harlan Hubbard and his wife Anna. As I say in my essay, Hubbard “Out-Thoreaued Thoreau” in his off the grid, voluntary simplicity, way of life.
I came across a quote from William Blake while reading a really good book on Druidry…
“One law for the lion and ox is oppression.”
It seems rather appropriate just now.
I think, and hope, the job shortages are causing some employers to rethink mandates. Especially here in flyover country… I’m not sure about elsewhere. Fingers crossed.
My 18 year old dog has a mild eye infection I would like to stay ahead of. Called 4 vets in New Hampshire as I was in NH this morning and heading back to Massachusetts. Dropped in on 2. No one will see her for 3 weeks. Not even an emergency visit for an extra charge. Will need to bring her to an animal hospital hospital to be seen. Luckily I still have the antibiotic eye drops for my other dog who passed last Spring and will use those to treat and watch closely. I pressed a secretary about the lack of availability and she said no staff. I asked if they were actively hiring and she said yes but no takers. No stuff. No staff. Plenty of covid shots though.
As an aside about moving in response to the current situations. I have set up residency in NH. Registered car and voting. Was going to retire there in 2 – 4 years. I’ll be ready if work cuts me loose to grow into something completely different for the last third of my. life.
Sitting here lost for words, but that song got my tears flowing. Thank you John.
Yorkshire, it might be fun to devise a game of civilizations in which Spengler and The Limits to Growth provide the basic principles!
Bruce, Adam Smith also thought corporations — joint-stock companies, as they called them in his day — were a really bad idea, as they separated profit from responsibility and therefore guaranteed bad outcomes. He was a really smart guy. 😉 As for a dewormer, I wish!
DaveT, that’s a very easy and fashionable attitude these days. It’s also an attitude that the establishment has worked overtime to try to get people to believe. I’d encourage you to consider shaking off the programming you’ve accepted from them, and consider other possibilities.
Adrian, I’ve heard about the rotting vegetables from a lot of sources recently, and am very curious if anyone knows what’s going on. As for the way that costs are being pushed off on the poor, that’s standard practice in an economy in decline, and tends to last until it leads to civil unrest and radical political change.
Nedwina, every single one of us has the capacity to achieve that generosity, goodness, and warmth. All it takes is sustained effort. Why not try to move in that direction?
Drhooves, yep. We took the easy way out, and now the bill is coming due.
Clay, that’s another great one!
Omer, no, when an empire is failing all remaining resources go the periphery in an attempt to stave off collapse, while the center hollows out. Brace yourself; once the US is no longer able or willing to guarantee Israel’s survival, your country has a very rough road to walk.
AA, that’s what I expect.
Chad, there’s another fine blast from the past! I wonder if some record label would be willing to put together an album of 1970s eco-music…
Booklover, I hadn’t heard that about Kodachrome — what a perfect metaphor for the twilight of the industrial age!
Chris, thank you for making that effort! Now’s the time to consider writing a book, based on your experience, to help other people do the same thing.
Chuaquin, many thanks for the data points. I’m glad that people in Spain are also noticing that their lives suck…
TJ, we’re going to be discussing that in much more detail shortly.
Gregsimay, well, people have been pushing that point of view hard for the last sixty years, and the main result is that everyone I know who’s worked in fast food talks about the painfully thin women in office clothing who come up to the drive in window every evening to order a couple of burgers, a jumbo order of fries, and a milkshake, and then wolf them down in the parking lot before driving home…
Maxine, that’s just it. Those of us in the comfortable classes of the industrial world have had absurd amounts of wealth, and has it made us happy? Not that I can see…
Kay, thanks for this. I’m hoping, among other things, to encourage those who have a clue to network with each other and feel a little less lonely.
Alice, we had half as many people on the planet then, and much more than twice as much of all the nonrenewable resources we’ve squandered. That lower population and those more abundant resources were essential to making a transition to a steady state. We have too many people to support and too few resources to support them with — and now industrial product is dropping and so is food availability. The roller coaster has reached the top; it’s rather too late to try to get off…
Justin, thanks for this!
DenG, that’s what I’m hearing from elsewhere. Things are really shutting down.
Goldenhawk, it does that to me sometimes, too.
I tell everyone that people change their behavior for two reasons: cost and ideology.
Cost is easy to understand: suddenly, you either can no longer afford something or you can.
Heating the outdoors with giant space heaters on a cafe’s patio is a great example. It’s even possible to air-condition a cafe’s patio by spraying with mists of water. Once you heat the outdoors (or cool it), vastly expanding the possibilities of seating customers outside, you want to keep doing it. It’s necessary! Or so you think.
Behavior changes do to cost don’t always last.
Ideology is harder and much larger. The culture shifts. You get religion or lose it. All your friends are doing or not doing a given action. You wake up one morning and say “I can’t live this way anymore”. Some piece of reality pierces the veil and you can’t ignore it anymore.
Ideological changes last in a way that cost changes do not.
We changed our behavior in many ways decades ago, both for cost and ideology. If I didn’t spend $$, I could have more choices available for my family. But it was really hard, swimming against the tide. Few people voluntarily choose austerity when austerity is cold and forbidding, and worst of all, NOT FUN.
Austerity can be a challenge but it’s so worthwhile in the long run. Plus, every day, I know I use less than I could.
I am in Canada, and we are seeing shortages here, although much less so than last year. This year, I’ve noticed
-wire for jewelry making (only some brands in some stores)
-oatmeal (large bags)
-bike and skateboarding gear
-toilet/kitchen paper (nothing like last year, minor)
-fruit from the Okanagan
Except for the bike/skateboarding stuff, it has all been minor and intermittant. Last year it was toilet and kitchen paper for months, masks, gloves, etc, some medications (one of mine wasn’t available for months and was a significant problem for me. A factory shortage apparently. Another stopped being made and I had to switch to another brand) baking supplies, oatmeal (especially larger bags), pasta and pasta sauce. Fruit from the Okanagan. Bikes and bike parts. Kickscooters. There was a few weeks in march/april when the shortages were really bad, but after that it has been workable, except for the medications. Now I keep at least 5, preferably 6+ months of that one on hand, since it reappeared and is no longer in short supply.
Skuttlebut from shopowners on Etsy is that Canada Post is less reliable than normal and there are more delays and lost items, leading to unhappy customers. They are still claiming covid as an excuse for this.
Prices on some stuff has gone up, too.
I made a meme last week of a P. T. Barnham photo and the words: “I’m already over the next existential crisis”, for Benny Wills “Meme Monday show. I think it’s OK to dial back the cynicism too, as Louis Rossmann of Right to Repair has advised. Since I have even more moons than you, I decided some time ago to not live in fear, and act as though the atmosphere of fear that most have acclimated themselves to, _does not exist_ To live in that vibe is like moving the song Country Roads into Minor Key:
So a couple of years ago I got an old Suzuki motorcycle, a red leather jacket, new jeans, and cowboy boots, and I epoxied tin foil onto a cheap helmet. Just to laugh at myself. Which moves me into the Major Key of joy.
And cars, of course, though that hasn’t affected me personally. Can’t afford to run one anyway!
I can definitely see the collapse of globalization ahead.
You can’t have true globalization of industry, commerce, entertainment, etc. without three vital components.
World-wide near-instantaneous communications. (So you can tell the factory in China to change their production.)
Rock-bottom manufacturing and transportation costs. (So you can ship raw materials to China, have them turned into finished goods, and then ship them back while still making money. Flying airplanes loaded with cut flowers on a daily basis is a textbook example.)
Stability. It’s hard to run a factory overseas if you have to worry about rebels overrunning the factory, thieves hijacking the trucks, and littoral piracy as soon as you leave port.
There are plenty of other factors but these seem very important to me.
I read the Limits to Growth in my Poli Sci 101 class as a 17 yo freshman in college in 1973. It made immediate sense to me, as we were in the middle of gas rationing at the time, and it has steered my life ever since. The 1970s were a great time for me – because I was young, of course – but also because I had hope that people would wake up and choose sustainability. It has been an epic disappointment. I watched as all around me, my classmates embraced the shallow consumerist lifestyle with every excuse in the book. I ended up feeling very isolated, angry and judgmental. This is why discovering the Ecosophian community here are few years ago has been such a mental lifesaver for me. I thank you all for your wise commentary.
JMG – thank you for the John Denver song. I echo Nedwina in my past opinion of Denver (although I always loved Country Roads) and how that has changed. Rhymes and Reasons brought tears to my eyes.
A Prayer for Nonbelievers applies to so many things right now. Most immediately for me is the further isolation I now experience from my “progressive” friends who won’t even consider early treatment options for the disease du jour and embrace the business as usual of the public “health” establishment as the inevitable and only course of action.
For those who do video, I would like to share this tour of my garden with my 7 yo neighbor. This is what gives me hope and this is my prayer for nonbelievers: https://youtu.be/hMsdMdx-4Qs
Limits to Growth, is a totally easy concept to understand. If anyone here has ever played the Microsoft PC game Age of Empires it follows this idea. You start off your civilization and you gather resources to watch it grow. The more resources you gather, the larger your population grows. Oops, eventually you run out of resources so you have to land grab to keep your population growing. Oops again because you ran out of available land. So onto taking resources away from others by either invading or killing your neighbors and they are attempting the same. As your resources shrink so does your population until it finally collapses.
I was reading an article by James Corbett from the Corbett Report and James is a pretty sharp tack just like this author, except he “doesn’t” believe in Limits to Growth. In fact he says we should have more babies and there will always be more resources available in the future.
Thanks again for once again putting the present context within the bigger picture. It is refreshing to find places where people openly discuss limits, as there’s little or no discussion, and often outright denial of limits (both ecological and other kinds) in the larger society.
I have found that one of the concepts, that your writings have also emphasized, I have found immensely helpful in my life during the past decade is how limitation can be the source of freedom. I have found this true in many contexts: whether ecological limits, my own psychological and physical limitations, creative work, etc. This is so counter to so many of the cultural messages prevalent in our society. I find that people and institutions (and this is true across the political spectrum) have trouble understanding the concept of limits and the need to embrace them to achieve any optimal results in any endeavor. In mainstream society, it sometimes feels like heresy to suggest that there are limits to anything!
The concept of “freedom” in the industrial growth mindset is shallow to me when it becomes equated with freedom to over-consume & freedom to exploit. I’ve explored how embracing ecological limits, whether on a personal or societal level, can actually be a source of freedom. For one of many examples, I have not flown in an airplane in nine years and don’t plan to again unless there’s some extraordinary circumstance that I feel justifies it. However, this self-imposed limitation (upon recognition of larger ecological limits) has not made my life poorer; instead it has enhanced my life and made me feel more free in some ways. It is forced me to value exploration in geographical areas closer to home. I still do occasional long-distance travel, but it is much more intentional, slower, less frequent, and more meaningful when I do, within the limitation of no flying. Slow travel, whether it is long-distance walks, or cross-country train trips, or the one time I’ve traveled across the ocean and back via cargo ships, has been a much more adventurous, exciting, enriching and freeing experience for me.
And in a different context: In the past year and a half, I’ve been dealing with my life’s first major health issue, recovering from the aftermath of a mysterious illness in early spring 2020 (presumed Covid, but never proven). Personal reflection on the concept of finding freedom within limitations has been important in my healing process. As someone who regularly hiked and ran, I mourned the loss of capability to do those activities, even if it may not be a permanent loss. But I reminded myself I still had limitations of some sort in my pre-illness life and had to work with them to live optimally; my limitations were now just different. At some point in the grieving process some degree of acceptance of the present set of limitations comes. I have been able focus on what physical activities and non-physical activities I can do within my current limitations and optimize actually doing them, and I think that has helped me heal.
I think entire books could be written that are not yet out there exploring how limitation can be the source of freedom. Serious reflection on this concept will become all the more necessary as we stumble down the decline curves of that famous chart in The Limits to Growth.
To the point of The Great Resignation:
@ Chris #12. I’ll second our host.
Write that book! Thanks to the miracle of indie publishing, you can make it available.
I’ve done the same.
You do not know who you will reach, whose life you will touch or change.
You don’t know whose life you will save because they learned how to do ‘X’ from you.
So write and publish that book!
One disagreement I could make with the model is the assumption reducing pollution would always be a costly process. In a lot of cases that will be true but there are exceptions. Drax power station has masses of scrubbers and a substantial chemical plant to remove nasties from its smoke. Those nasties are then condensed into trainloads of material, mainly for the construction industry. While I don’t know the exact cost and energy balance, that would pull things back in a far more positive direction.
Beyond that there are some pure increases in efficiency. This example is more to do with safety and production efficiency and the principle is the same. There was a manufacturing plant that had a terrible safety record involving forklift trucks. Nearly every time something went wrong it involved a forklift somehow. They did a major rethink involving safety but mainly introducing the Toyota Production System. One of the principles of TPS is manufacturing in small batch sizes. Once they started doing that, the product could be moved on hand trolleys. They never had to learn how to safely use forklifts and could just sell them.
Does the World3 model account for those kinds of improvements in efficiency?
In the UK, there’s currently a shortage of the small vacuum filled test tubes used to draw blood. Now I’ve written that, I can see what a ridiculous sentence it was. Anyway, I’m due to head out to the local GP practice next week where they were supposed to be extracting the usual set of byproducts they use for an annual checkup. Apparently the government has instructed all non urgent uses of these tubes to be postponed so I’ve no idea if appointment will go ahead as planned.
A few days ago, the media screens in public transport have shown the recommendation
to wash your clothes instead of buying new ones, selling some product of course.
That’s all the same a new angle there.
The unnerving screens inside public transport have been around for a couple of years.
They inform about the most general news in the world and who is to blame this time,
so as usual, sell products and deliver tepid jokes, along some crisis hotline info
for troubled adolescents or their unfortunate parents.
A notion of not buying new stuff is certainly a premiere though, as I would recall.
I haven’t noticed any empty shelves here, but then I live in the wealthy parts and
only buy basic stuff.
The more established working class migrants seem irate, as far as I can tell through
a couple of conversations with them over summer.
One told me he was told to buy an apartment if he couldn’t afford to rent one (which my PMC
peers commonly do). Sounds like the old Marie Antoinette joke. Though she reportedly
never advised to eat cake, that notorious phrase certainly catches a sentiment of its time.
And this one angry working class man (about 45-50 years old I guess) pointed to me while
telling me about it, and I feld like he proposed me the question: your fellow PMC (or what he calls us) peers are that stupid, are you? I smoked a cigarette with him between doors and sidewalk and could only do as much as to confirm that I understood his rantings about my society, our state, and all the usual irritations.
I am keenly absorbing what the social environments I pass by try to communicate.
We’ll see if I’ll think back to this moment in the near future as one of significance;
He liked the idea that we should relocate industry and production back to our nearer environment,
for the sake of jobs and livable wages.
I think the same ‘my job sucks’ effect is happening in Canada too. There are definitely staffing shortages.
On a personal level, I’m trying to get an online jewelry making business to actually make money. Income minus expenses was actually a positive number last month. Gosh!
Maybe I can make this work after all. Or not, we’ll see.
I want to see if I can make this work before going to look for a little part-time joblet again. I’ll give it until January.
Speaking of other sorts of limits coming into play, and scenarios first discussed in the 1970s (and straight outta Retrotopia):
Reuters: Launching into space? Not so fast. Insurers balk at new coverage
01SEP2021, Hussain and Cohn
“An ever-swelling amount of space debris is threatening satellites that hover around Earth, making insurers leery of offering coverage to the devices that transmit texts, maps, videos and scientific data, industry sources said.”
Les sanglots longs des violons de l’automne blessent mon coeur d’une langueur monotone. Tout suffocant et blême, quand sonne l’heure, je me souviens des jours anciens et je pleure.”
I find the above poem very much a propos….
You said, “If you put in water treatment plants to keep it from harming people downstream, this isn’t cheap, and that burdens the economy. If you modify your plant so that you no longer dump it in the river, you have to pay for it to go somewhere else, and that burdens the economy. If the cost of pollution mitigation gets too high, your plant goes out of business, and that burdens the economy”.
There is one possible workaround around this in the domain of water treatment – it’s called a Constructed Wetland, and based on what I’ve seen, it would fit neatly into the appropriate tech suite. It utilizes phytoremediation, and it has already proven its mettle in cleaning up both domestic wastewater as well as industrial wastewater (there is a book containing case studies on the same). It’s a win-win situation: cleans up wastewater, doesn’t consume too many resources, doesn’t pollute much, and doesn’t hurt the economy much either. Not to mention, of course, the fact that it has a low maintenance cost as well as low building costs.
Here is the link to the song that I like, Jackson Browne’s “Before the Deluge”.
I am grateful to JMG for many years of excellent writing and insights. I’m glad I have the print version of his collected AR essays on my shelves. I am in a remote area and internet service is spotty. It wouldn’t surprise me if it ceased altogether at some point. I’ve been collapsing early and avoiding the rush for well over a decade now, but now there’s a new sense of urgency – things are accelerating. Another poster mentioned how tired he is after harvest/farming every day, and I concur. It’s the sense of urgency that pushes me and my wife to work harder, longer, skipping meals sometimes. So much to do in the farming area, but also making efforts to connect with the community, something we knew would be hard to do when we recently moved from a very small farm we’d had for years and into a bigger one in a different area, much better for a number of reasons but without the accrued social capital slowly built over the years. No man, or woman, is an island. We know we don’t have much time to make significant connections, but we’re starting on that path through kindness and generosity, always gifting some of what we grow, being willing to lend a hand or an ear. I suggest those who are only now getting started in the rush to collapse to cultivate not just their rows, but their neighbors as well.
I have a question for JMG and commenters. “A fool and his $ are easily parted”, true. But considering shortages and declining industrial output, would you say that’s not true, or not completely true, anymore? We have some small savings, and we’ve been spending in things we know we’ll need, such as seed, tools and materials. We plan to keep some, but don’t have a lot of faith the financial situation can hold much longer. That said, me and others have been saying that for the best part of 20 years now, and somehow the illusionists have managed to keep the thing running with baling wire and tape, creating $ constantly, increasing debt and so on. What would, in your opinion, be the smart thing to do? $ in the bank, or materials and supplies in the barn?
I think the big difference this ’70s is there’s no ’80s coming afterwards, at least, not for Murica. Or maybe it’s the Soviet 80s that’s coming. There was no Morning In Russia during the 80s. Only Chernobyl and Afghanistan.
And Dyefitsit, always dyefitsit, in every store.
Up here in northern New Hampshire, there are spot shortages of various items (accompanied by little apologetic notes by the store). While basics are still available, the shelves no longer groan with stock as they used to do. A favored brand of ginger ale vanished from the shelves in early spring and has not returned. A minor issue to be sure but a troubling harbinger of things to come. While prices have gone up some, the habits ingrained in me by my Depression era parents help me to economize.
The situation in the health care industry here is becoming dire with no help to be found anywhere. As my brother’s mobility declines and dementia progresses I have begun looking into placement in a nursing home so inadequate staffing is naturally a big worry if and when I do get him placed. Salary seems to be the issue with pay scales lower than in other industries so no surprise people are gravitating to where the money is.
Shabbiness of infrastructure is visible as well. Yesterday’s newspaper showed a 95 year old church in Manchester which has a crumbling bell tower that will need to be torn down before the building can become safe for use again. Deferral of maintenance is certainly responsible but lack of funds no doubt lie at the bottom of that as well.
In spite of the pressure from agri-businesses, local farms are hanging on and in some instances even prospering. Our local food coop is doing well and the farmers’ market here in town has had its best season ever.
With the future bearing down on us, I think there are enough foresighted people here that we will able to adapt but we will no doubt have to fight all the way against what others will certainly see as a reversal of ‘progress’.
I forgot to ask you in my previous comment, so I’m asking you this question: why do you think peak pollution is likely in the future? Could a strong case not be made for the statement that the world as a whole is already at peak pollution? Or is it some regions, and not all, that you say will see peak pollution in the future?
Limits To Growth: Maybe you mentioned it, but you may want to have a look at
Update to Limits to Growth: Comparing the World3 Model with Empirical Data
by Gaya Herrington
This is the submitted version of the following article: Herrington, Gaya. 2021. Update to
limits to growth: Comparing the world3 model with empirical data. Journal of Industrial
Ecology 2021; 25: 614– 626 which has been published after peer review in final form at
https://doi.org/10.1111/jiec.13084. (copied from my local pdf)
It is a review of Limits To Growth which includes a) recent available data and b) a scenario with slightly different (starting/boundary?) conditions, using double resource input called BAU2.
This added scenario BAU2 (double resource use) fits best – and it includes some changes on the outcome, including some different observed variables will hit the maximum first. And “Pollution” (read Climate Change) will exponentially (and quite early) hit the diagram borders.
“Great Resignation” – great wording! It reminds me of the endless Roman civil wars. These civil wars (imho) always have been only bloody quarrels within the Roman elite. And the leaders fled from Rome to Ravenna when resignation started to take over.
To connect with something you wrote about earlier, if obesity and pollution are more or less proportional to each other, obesity should peak sometime in the 2030s and then go into decline?
What weird timing! Today I cooked my first rice and beans dish which was a qualified success (too much rice and not enough spices but still good feedback!). What struck me was how cheap the entire dish was! Remarkable.
I have a question for you. I’m currently re-reading Dark Ages America and one of the things that re-emerges during the Long Descent is the primacy of productive assets, particularly arable farmland.
I know you are not a fan of “investing” but for those lucky enough to have lots of wealth in, say fictive paper assets, would a smart strategy be to diversify into farmland and presumably commodity type investments given we are entering an era of shortages and inflation.
Where we live in the UK, we are seeing serious problems with delivery of goods and rising costs. This has a local complexion, Brexit impacts, but is also a global issue. I can assure you that what you describe is happening across Europe as well.
I am afraid I take a more cynical view. I seem to have been born with a vulgar (as Henry James described it) and cynical mind. I am inclined to believe that many folks understand quite well what is happening around them, but hope and plan that they get to be in charge someday soon.
I can remember when organic products were prohibitively expensive for anyone on a small income. Now, conventional food prices have risen so much that the price differential between the locally produced organic product and the supermarket version has shrunk to the point where one might as well buy the good stuff. Furthermore, the local farm might still be around when supermarkets are closing.
Thanks for the John Denver!
I used to feel like @Nedwina above… but I have grown to really like John. (My wife and I listened to him when we were in West Virginia earlier this summer.)
Here is my favorite John Denver, in collaboration with the Muppets (back when the Muppets were folksy).
Article from the NYT, saying that we should be expecting shortages and supply chain snafus to continue until at least some time next year, and this is the subheading:
The World Is Still Short of Everything. Get Used to It.
Yes, I made the point about warnings only helping people who heed them recently, also using Limits to Growth,which I read as a teenager in the early 80s and found convincing.
“In fact, of course, we could have taken the warning of “Limits To Growth”, “Peak Oil” and “Global Warming” and used them to make changes.”
Back in the 2000s when I was doing most of my research (I’m about a decade younger than you) I found that much of what I needed to read, like key books on energy ratios, was from the 70s. I wasn’t an adult in the 70s, and didn’t read the books then, but I remember the 70s as the only really “free feeling” decade of my life. The adults generally seemed to enjoying themselves, despite the oil shocks and stagflation. That changed in the 80s.
My 83 year old dad is still working in the packaging industry. The clients he serves are having trouble getting paperboard, plastic items, and a whole range of other supplies. Stock has to be ordered months in advance whereas before it was only weeks. Even when ordering is done well in advance, there are no guarantees the stuff will arrive. No stuff and no packaging means no product. No product means no profit.
People still have not figured out that food shortages are coming. I’m glad I have a yard and I’m glad I started growing Jerusalem artichokes this year. They’re a weedy Midwestern native perennial tuber, sort of like a potato but better for diabetics and those with blood sugar issues. Once I have lots of them, I’ll be sending them to any reader of this blog in the US who wants them. I’ll guerrilla plant them in abandoned areas when nobody is looking. It only takes a couple chunks of the tubers to start a prolific source of nutritious food.
I find myself constantly having to adapt and diversify my business just to survive and keep my foothold in the lower middle class. It’s exceedingly difficult to be a small business owner in the US right now. If high commercial rent doesn’t get you, then the costs of running a legal, above-ground will. My current space is next to a business conducting illegal activities; they are doing just fine because they were never legal to begin with. Every time I get a leg up, the government makes up new COVID restrictions designed to close my doors while keeping Target, Walmart, and Costco alive.
I was born in the 70s and as a young child, I knew our blasted landscapes of giant shopping malls and office parks were unsustainable. Part of me is glad that it will soon be over but the other part is scared of the consequences. I’m also culpable for the mess because I drive a car and I regularly shop and work at the same blasted malls I despise. Ugly malls and roads are my lifestyle.
Thanks for posting that old song by John Denver. It’s lovely. Do you think music like John Denver’s can achieve mass popularity ever again? Once upon a time he was well ensconced within the Top 40.
I don’t want to over do things, but if you are right then we are just past the peak of industrial output. From the graph, it appears that past peak, the slope is very steep, does that mean that at any time from NOW on we can expect significant and prolonged industrial goods shortages? In effect, it is time’s up.
Re: Comments number 8 and 11 (Omer? and Booklover), it’s also possible that because your countries, using different supply chains than ours (and perhaps not relying on sea shipping to the same degree that parts of the US do), aren’t seeing what we’re seeing. I’ve heard that a container ship used to cost ~$1000 to ship goods from overseas but now the going rate is somewhere around $25,000 to $50,000 in some cases. Also, in the case of the US, which relies on China to a great degree, this reliance has shown its weakness as China goes through waves of Covid-response that sometimes mean closure of shipping ports/portals. For example, the latest – https://www.freightwaves.com/news/shanghai-airport-facility-in-covid-lockdown-cargo-backlog-expected
“That lower population and those more abundant resources were essential to making a transition to a steady state.”
Hmm. Accuse me of being a user of copium, but I’m not convinced. What would we have needed those resources for, especially given that we couldn’t rely on them to meet the ongoing maintenance costs of what we built?
Railways? Solar water heaters? Bicycles, composting toilets, intensive gardens? If it’s raw materials you’re after, we’ve already mined and refined far more than we need to accomplish those goals. The one thing we have today that I can see being hard to maintain is semiconductors, but even then taking a couple of decades steps back would allow a country to maintain that industry rather than relying on Taiwan (and we didn’t have personal computers back in 1972 anyway, did we? Before my time, but I don’t think we did…)
@Chris Rice: If you don’t mind, I (and I suspect many others) would love to hear about some of your “home made alternate energy contraptions out of stuff other people threw away”. Do you mind talking about them, or have you a website we can look at? Thanks.
Hello JMG, I have been studying human cognitive biases. One of them is called ‘ Pain-avoidance denial. If reality is too painful, people distort it until it becomes bearable. Another one is group- think: When everyone around has the same idea, it is very hard to think different. The way to transcend those biases is to be aware of them when they happen.
On another note, I found it shocking that the industrial output in 2050 will be one-third what it is now. I guess one can live ok with 2/3rds less yet it is a very steep slope down.
Ever-astute Archdruid, out here in California we have quite the situation with backed-up container ships off the coast of LA and Long Beach:
The backup is due to an interesting convergence of causes. Covid, yes, but also general labor shortages and the really big killer: the ships have gotten larger so now they can carry more containers, but the ports can’t process more containers! Ya gotta have the cranes and crane operators, and the trucks with drivers to move the containers away from the port, and the rail lines to carry the containers into the interior. Rail lines are maxed out, truck drivers are increasingly scarce, highways near the ports are overloaded.
Lots of articles out there about this situation, but this one has some very interesting graphics and commentary: https://www.freightwaves.com/news/california-port-pileup-breaks-record-and-imports-still-havent-peaked
Per the food situation, I’ve personally noticed that various fresh foods here in SoCal are having increasingly short at-home shelf-lives; blueberries and strawberries falling prey to mold rapidly, even when carefully refrigerated. BUT they were on sale! Hmmm, is there a connection there? Looks like empty shelves isn’t the only problem; shelves full of delayed-in-shipping food that is spoiling might be even worse!
This post feels like a requiem. I planted apricot and apple trees 12 years ago and finally was really thankful for them this past spring. Their blossoms and the fruit that followed brought me hope along with some tasty jam and pie.
Sometimes I kick myself for not doing more while hoping for a different outcome to our predicament.
I’m waiting on parts for my car so it can pass inspection due yesterday. I took in it last week and parts that are usually in stock are just poof. The new oven we bought last fall has had to be repaired three times under warranty and we just called for a fourth repair. My last trip to the grocery store the big bags of rice were gone and I saw a restaurant worker come in and load up on what he could use, so their supply is broken too.
It’s been shocking for a lot of people to go from the bit of a boom under Trump to this long drawn out disaster. We are all waiting for the other shoe to not just drop but stomp on us.
Two questions – will DC be able to centralize in some way to implement citizen internal passport/ID to distribute resources? I’d throw the V word on there but I think keeping it broad is better.
You mentioned in a reply to Omer that resources go to the periphery and the center gets hollow. I recall Nicole Foss at the Automatic Earth saying that resources are pulled to the center to prop up the power center, and the periphery is drained. I observed Nicole’s theory in action when I turn an accidental turn into an older Maryland suburb and saw their roads and sidewalks were so nice when ours just crumbling. Clearly DC based workers had the resources we didn’t in rural PA. So is the trend now reversed and cities are going hollow and the rural areas are in better shape?
My first exposure to the concept of “limits to growth” was through the scifi writer Larry Niven. He is one of the best examples of the “We’re all going to the stars!” faith and managed to work some snide references to natural limits and the appropriate tech scene into his stories. I was a big fan if his back in the day, but most of his work hasn’t aged well in my view. My favorite example is his description of how we’ll eventually want to dismantle the solar system and build a Dyson sphere because “we’ll need to use all the energy the sun puts out”.
That aside, Niven did write a series of fantasy stories set approximately 10,000 years in the past. This was a world full of humans doing magic, mythical creatures such as unicorns, etc. The premise was magic is a finite nonrenewable resource which many beings (the aforementioned unicorns and their friends) use in their metabolism. This limited resource is also used by humans for their own magical purposes. The plots in this series are set in the time when this magical resource is almost exhausted leading to civilizational collapses like Atlantis and the extinction of werewolves, centaurs, unicorns, gods, etc. It’s a clear reference to the 70s oil crisis, and highly entertaining. The short story “What Good is a Glass Dagger” is a great entry point for anyone interested.
I wondering if our Learned Host is familiar with Niven and has an opinion.
Lately I have been struggling with anger about the coof and other infringements, so it is wonderful to have a reminder that there is a much longer timeline in the works. That John Denver song really hit me because I have to learn how to make my heart squishy which goes against all the survivalist thinking. I never had kids mostly because they are too expensive nowadays, but that does not mean I can’t try to get back some of that wisdom that I lost somewhere along the way.
Oddly enough, this morning I read a remarkable speech (posted by Gail Tverberg) given by General Hyman Rickover in 1957 to the Minnesota State Medical Association. He was a man with vision and understanding, not unlike yourself it seems.
An exrcerpt: “But the most significant distinction between optimistic and pessimistic fuel reserve statistics is that the optimists generally speak of the immediate future – the next twenty-five years or so – while the pessimists think in terms of a century from now. A century or even two is a short span in the history of a great people. It seems sensible to me to take a long view, even if this involves facing unpleasant facts.
For it is an unpleasant fact that according to our best estimates, total fossil fuel reserves recoverable at not over twice today’s unit cost, are likely to run out at some time between the years 2000 and 2050, if present standards of living and population growth rates are taken into account. Oil and natural gas will disappear first, coal last. There will be coal left in the earth, of course. But it will be so difficult to mine that energy costs would rise to economically intolerable heights, so that it would then become necessary either to discover new energy sources or to lower standards of living drastically.”
Ah, those heady days in the mid 70’s, steeped in the Foxfire series, when it was darned sexy to live in a teepee beside a garden plot on disused land! In some important ways I’ve not strayed too far from those ideals and practices but that community is virtually gone. So much more important and timely then are your efforts and those like Orlov and Kuntsler. I do see efforts to reinvigorate the movement, challenged by distance more than anything, gain some momentum. Orlov has published some important corrections to his Communities That Abide work that may prove to be helpful to the community.
It’s very helpful to me to cultivate the images of a functioning society that emerges on the other side and your book Retrotopia has helped me with that and to communicate that vision to my community. You’re doing some very important work extremely well, so thank you.
Thank you for your post, JMG.
“when an empire is failing all remaining resources go the periphery in an attempt to stave off collapse, while the center hollows out”
Interesting… I’ve always thought a society would behave like a human body. First, you get cold hands and feet (no blood), then you would faint (no blood supply for the brain), and only after that your heart would be deprived from blood – no heart beat. That’s when you die. I observed this dynamics growing in Soviet Russia. Moscow and (to a lesser degree) Saint Petersburg were supplied with basic necessities way better than periphery. People from the periphery would make shopping trips by train to these cities.
A lot of things are failing at once. One thing not mentioned is money. The banks of the world create money, but that has its limits as well. We’re about to see that shortly in China. Their excesses and low prices have for decades masked the consequences of many of our problems.
“Some of that can be made up by cutting down on food waste—a fantastic amount of perfectly edible food is simply thrown away in the industrial nations nowadays—but not all.”
So you’re saying we’re at peak dumpster food to?? (Some of us still like to hop in the dumpster for free food now and then)
Btw, I was looking at your books in this vein, and wondering, which of them would you say is the best? I’ve been reading your blogs for over 10 years, so am very familiar with all the concepts, but haven’t read many of your actual books on the subject (with 70+ books, plus all the recommendations for other books I get on here, its a bit hard to keep up!!)
“…naive and sentimental…”
Sentimentality is in short supply in our modern world – I find a lot of hope in sentiment, provided they are positive and affirming. I find prayer is a good thing – it helps to bring out our best sides and efforts ore than ruminating darker and darker futures. Finding joy in the simple things is what people need to do – sunset, a field of grass, the waves on the beach – all these things resonate within us, and modern society has dumped them in favor of bad news, gadgets and widespread fear.
I don’t view your choice as naive, but were I to do so, I would contend that the naivete of children should be part and parcel of our viewing of the world. It refreshes the spirit and soothes troubled minds, and most minds are plenty troubled these days.
So you chose well with your song, and I’ll be happy to hum it the next few days!!
speculation follows. I don’t know really anything about the economy, though I did grow up during the Cold War.
at least part of the US’s failture at adopt a steady state model would have had to do with the Cold War. the US wanted to seem to provide an alternative to the Soviet (and Chinese?) model, where customers could have their consumerism catered to and capitalists could have more than they needed. and state-controlled scaling down of industry would made it look as if the Soviets had it right. also, because of the Cold War,
the US would not have wanted to appear weak in terms of nuclear armaments, which at the time I think both sides continued to build.
I was of the generation that was trying, in 1972, to disconnect from the dominant culture and find a new way–by moving to a place where we could live much more simply and more in tune with the natural rhythms of the earth. It was a hard slog, but I remember that at 27 years old, I had the energy and faith to keep going for a number of years. I’m not sure what actually happened, but it got harder and harder. The draft was trying to catch so many of the young men, and they were desperate not to “go dying in the jungle for nothing” (as they saw it), so some of them left the US. The economy got harder and harder for me to cope with, as a person who needed to work for a living. I kept going in a communal setting until I was so hungry I couldn’t do it any longer. Some people in my generation went back to school and got MBA’s, but many have continued to try to find a sustainable way to live. I am so encouraged by some of the comments I read on this blog by people much younger than I am, who are still trying to do that, but with much more information than I had. I agree with you that not many people are paying attention to the decline, but I’m hopeful that young people will continue to search. For me, I’m old now, but I still live as far outside the mainstream as I can–I’m happy there.
Best advice I ever got: To arrive in time, you have to walk slowly enough.
Thanks for your response and encouragement. They mean a lot. I have made several different attempts to setup networks of like minded people; backyard gardening with friends that at least did want to garden at one time, including seed starting, canning parties, cooperative buying of necessary items. This seemed to work, sort of until the work became too hard or these same friends had to work too hard for cash or became disabled in some way.
I also helped to run a very local farmers market in a blue collar neighborhood that did pretty well until farmers markets were all the rage and people stopped coming to our market because there was a closer one near by and they didn’t have to go west of the freeway to the poorer section of town. I came to believe that it is only people with money that buy at farmers markets because the produce is usually more expensive. The growers want a living wage, but poorer people that lived around our market still shopped at Walwart.
I am very open to other suggestions and I am really excited by David Holmgren’s RetroSuburbia ideas. I think my neighborhood would be ideal for this kind of thing modified somewhat to fit US land use ideas and I have been doing what I can to connect with those neighbors. Most recently it was a gopher eradication effort between 4 neighboring houses.
“Ideology is harder and much larger. The culture shifts. You get religion or lose it. All your friends are doing or not doing a given action. You wake up one morning and say “I can’t live this way anymore”. Some piece of reality pierces the veil and you can’t ignore it anymore.
Ideological changes last in a way that cost changes do not.
We changed our behavior in many ways decades ago, both for cost and ideology. If I didn’t spend $$, I could have more choices available for my family. But it was really hard, swimming against the tide. Few people voluntarily choose austerity when austerity is cold and forbidding, and worst of all, NOT FUN.
Austerity can be a challenge but it’s so worthwhile in the long run. Plus, every day, I know I use less than I could.”
I know what you mean by ideological changes. I had one such after I was laid off from my last corporate job and embarked on a quest to find the several different ways I could bring in needed cash. That epiphany was much more potent then my hippy days idealism. However, it was at this time that I went full bore on the garden and preserving the produce as well as finding and doing business with as many local producers of food as I could.
You are right that austerity isn’t much fun or glamorous and not many care to join you in practicing it, but it would be nice to have a small circle of friends or neighbors who were of like mind. Still keeping my eyes open for them.
Great essay, as always. It getting hard to ignore the help wanted signs, empty shelves, rising prices, etc.
Slightly off topic, in response to the open post last week, Peter Van Erp was looking for a list of drugs pulled from the market. Here’s a list:
Teresa, a good workable summary.
Pygmycory, thanks for the data points.
Teresa, I’m pretty sure that part of what is going on is that the second and third of those are breaking down.
Seaweedy, I know the feeling. It took me a long time to get past the feelings of anger and dismay at watching my generation flush its ideals down the crapper, not just once but over and over again. But it’s not a good space to inhabit. Thanks for the video!
Rod, the notion I mentioned in the post — that there must always be more, if only you whine for it loudly enough — is very deeply entrenched these days. Corbett is clearly a victim of it.
Beneaththesurface, thank you for getting it. The recognition that limitation is the source of freedom is heresy in our society precisely because it’s true.
Patricia M, thanks for this!
Yorkshire, they took that into account in the model, yes.
Andy, I heard about that. The phrase “a shortage of nothingness” comes to mind.
Curt, fascinating. Thank you for paying attention…
Pygmycory, delighted to hear it. Do you have a website? If so, post a link.
Flagg707, yes, I saw that! The space age is ending — better go tell Elon…
Karim, thank you! Yes, very much so.
Viduraawakened, the main cost is usually to purchase the real estate, since here in the US, at least, land near the water is usually at a premium. But yes, it’s a more efficient way to do things. Have you looked up what it would cost to make enough of those to take care of all the waste water in the US? Or a significant fraction?
Ivan, that’s another great one. Thank you.
Avocado, that’s one of those things that’s very hard to tell. Money in the bank will be crucial so long as you still have cash expenses to pay, and when that will stop is a very, very hard thing to time…
Owen, if we’d stuck to our ideals the 1980s would have been a very different time. Yes, we may be seeing a Russian 1980s this time around.
Jeanne, many thanks for the data points. I hope you can make it work.
Viduraawakened, the reason the LTG model put peak pollution in the future is that as resources decline, more and more waste has to be generated to get at what’s left. We haven’t hit the point yet at which that stops being an issue.
Stilltherebemore, I’ve seen it. I find some of the other tests of the theory with empirical data more convincing, and they tended to follow the standard run.
Owen, that’s quite correct.
Forecastingintelligence, I’m glad to hear you enjoyed your rice and beans! As for farmland, remember that “ownership” is a very complex, abstract matter just now, which may not survive the curve of decline for very long. If you aren’t living on the farmland, your chances of controlling it for the long term aren’t good…
Mary, well, we’ll see, now won’t we?
Justin, too funny. Thanks for this.
Pygmycory, hey, at least they’re admitting it.
Ian, agreed. Most of the books I rely on for that end of my studies date from the 1970s.
Kimberly, the new version of my Sacred Geometry Oracle was delayed for a while because the printers couldn’t get the card stock, so I hear you. “Nimble” is the adjective that matters these days! As for John Denver, I certainly hope so — though to make that happen, the big corporations that control the music industry (and mandate a specific, tepid style of pop music) will have to lose their grip.
Karim, yes, that’s exactly what it means. “Hurry up please, it’s time!” — as the character in T.S. Eliot’s poem phrases it.
Alice, okay, so you disagree. Tell me this. Is that disagreement going to motivate you to get up off your rump and go to work making the transformation happen? Or is it an excuse to ignore the situation and hope that someone else will fix things for you? In my experience, when people insist that we still have time to make the transition to a steady state economy, the latter is almost always what’s going on…
Tony, those are among the many cognitive biases, yes. As for the slope, I know. Get ready for it.
Bryan, as I said, transportation issues are certainly part of the picture. I’m far from sure they’re all of it.
Denis, I don’t think the DC elite can wipe their own noses without help right now, so I don’t expect to see anything productive coming out of it. As for the centers of power, they’ll cling to what wealth there is until the bottom falls out. Eventually the rural areas will be in better shape, but it’s going to take some rough transformations to get there.
Lothar, I remember those stories of Niven’s very well! I thought they were fun and thoughtful. I wasn’t a great Niven fan generally, though I liked some of his earlier novels; the “Magic Goes Away” stories, on the other hand, were faves.
Aloysius, it’s hard work but worth doing.
Susan, thanks for this. He was paying attention — too bad so many people ignored him.
Gawain, you’re welcome and thank you. Rekindling a little of that enthusiasm and hope strikes me as something worth doing just now.
Kirsten, it depends on what you mean by periphery. I’m talking about the defended periphery of the empire, not the rural hinterlands.
Bradley, I’ll be talking about that soon. The very short form is that you’re quite correct: governments and central banks have tried to make up for shortfalls of physical resources by mass producing money, and the long term effects of that will not be good.
Anonaceae, peak dumpster food is upon us! As for which book is my best, depends on genre. To my taste, After Progress is the best of my books on the future of industrial society; The Druid Magic Handbook is the best of my books on occultism; and The Shoggoth Concerto is the best of my novels.
Oilman2, thank you for this!
Ria23, that was certainly part of it.
Katherine, I know. I was younger than you but I remember how hard it got to keep going.
Kay, thanks for this. I suspect the Green Wizards forum may be a good place to talk about options along these lines.
Anonymous, many thanks for this.
Karim#39 – lovely poem! (Chanson d’Automne). Did you know it was used as a code for the D-Day invasion? https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chanson_d%27automne
@ Avacadogrove # 42
Get the supplies in the barn or pay off debt.
If you can store those goods safely so they’re ready and usable when you need them, you’re gold.
Pay off debt. If you don’t owe, your (fill-in-the-blank) can’t be repo’d.
Do keep some money in the bank for taxes.
Even if you own your property free and clear from the bank, the county will foreclose if you don’t keep up with the taxes.
At least half the population wasn’t old enough or born enough in the seventies to make any choices, no wonder “OK Boomer” became a derisive slur.
It is, of course, massively unfair that we all got the consequences of other people’s choices dumped on us, but other than abandoning them in assisted living facilities to never see another human face (which seems to be well underway this last year) and ignoring their final resting places, there’s really no revenge possible, and what on earth (or off it) is the use of revenge anyway at this point? Seems pointless to me.
Nothing will undo the choices they made, and it’s for us youngsters to go forward. (Be nice if they’d retire from politics, though wouldn’t it?) Youngsters, heh, fair number of us are middle aged already.
I’m sure most of you know, but if you don’t, one plus to Kimberly’s project is that Jerusalem Artichokes are a kind of sunflowers, and look like all the other sunflowers, though small on the flower side. To busybodies, they are just stray sunflowers, probably from somebody’s bird feeder. And very hardy, very neglectable. I don’t personally like the flavor, but keep them around anyway.
A client just emailed that he can’t order LVL lumber (structural beams made of laminated thin plies of wood, similar to plywood). They are a way to use more of the wood from the tree, but add layers of complexity and extra material. Fits right in with the standard run.
Thank you JMG.
I read your book ‘ Dark Age America ‘ last week. I had useful insights about the likely scenarios that can unfold in the decades to come.
I found the chapter on the political unraveling particularly interesting. I think you describe the elite ‘ hiring ‘ the external barbarians at some point to help them manage the unfolding chaos in the empire, and they realize too late that they have hired their replacements. Today, we already have drug gangs in the US and in Europe that are helping to keep the population in check.
In terms of non-physically violent barbarians, I see this:
1*mid-size business and big business acting as economic barbarians – at least some of them.
2*this is more controversial: the different communities and minorities in Western countries acting
like barbarians at the social level against the previously established order of the empire
3*people on social media acting as online social barbarians
Do you have some thoughts on these three points?
Thanks, JMG. I have been following and agreeing with you since the days when you had 20 comments. I live in a subdivision that is starting to look third world, with a grocery store that has more empty shelves, all the time. I practice LESS and have been studying the aspects of spirituality that are not what Amazon enlightenment gurus make small fortunes selling. I was curious if you saw Decline Spirituality as an issue related to Ecosophia? You have dealt with how religion and spirituality might evolve, but I was thinking some familiarity with prayer and meditation may me useful to the clueless, during the population decline, when the rubber really meets the road.
I appreciate you efforts,
Thanks for sharing the sweet John Denver song, I don’t think I’ve every heard it.
Now when I go into a store and see shortages on the shelves, hear about construction material or semi-chip shortages, I’ll just think, “this is what decline looks like”. That makes things much more clear.
Thanks for a reminder of our place in the larger picture and for a John Denver song. One of earliest memories is of my dad holding me above the crowd at a John Denver concert at the Minnesota State Fair.
I do hope we see another John Denver in my lifetime. For now I am heartened by a particular unity theme I keep encountering in country music, e.g.
We’re All in the Same Boat
Be a Light
There are actually enough people in your area that buy new clothes instead of washing them that someone saw fit to make a PSA? That’s shocking to me.
Industrial pollution controls are a discretionary cost that will be cut in an attempt to maintain growth and production in the face of shortages and spiraling costs. Just witness the Trump administration’s willingness to gut environmental protections in an attempt to kickstart the economy. That seems like a good reason to expect pollution to get worse even as industrial output declines.
@Darkest Yorkshire @JMG
I’m a total dork for TTRPGs and can talk a lot about some of them (not the playing systems themselves, but the general feel of them when looking through the Core Rule Books and watching others play) but I’ll keep it relatively short.
If there’s a valuable learning and teaching tool, It’s TTRPGs like Pathfinder, Shadowrun, DnD, Starfinder, Call of Cthulhu etc. I’ve personally learned A LOT about the world, magic and myself through such things because often times the characters people resort to and create are reflections of themselves. Basically writing a story and have people interact with the world and have the dice (risk) decide their fate. In fact that’s why Homebrew campaigns are usually really fun even though hair ripping occurs half the time from stress from planning and dealing with obnoxious players, but even then there are a few premade adventure paths where modifying them according to what players need to stay interested/proactive is usually found to be relatively easier. I think of it in the way of economics, Central planning vs. Free market. Players are limited as to what they can do according to the rules outlined in the Core Rule books and by the DM who creates house rules to make a system more or less crunchy for his players, but the DM has to follow his own set of rules which are generally not written down but boils down to “don’t be a donkey!”. Usually the knowledge is obtained through talking to others with experience and experience from both playing and DM-ing where running the stats on the likelihood of survival and having to trade off is expected and one has to deal with it. If that “flow” doesn’t occur or is not efficient when playing in general, the game turns to crap for everyone until some kind of change happens be it getting a talking to, getting kicked out or having players drop out of the game, things happening and falling through to the point that playing isn’t really worth it anymore, or changing the story/objectives all together and sometimes starting over. hopefully what I said makes sense, if it does, doesn’t it already sound kind of familiar? If it doesn’t I apologize.
As for my opinion on today’s blog, I honestly sense and think that many of us are wanting to and are actually regressing into older fashions, older ways of life, older ways of belief, because the life we lead now is honestly the reason why anxiety and depression are on the rise and people are so insufferable (In a way we already regressed to the 60’s as far as gender and race studies go but everything is flipped, now we’re heading back into the 30’s- 50’s) but I sense a crack or rather glitch in the system and I don’t know what exactly that is, but it’s certainly not something that can be predicted or measured, not easily anyways. Are times going to get dark? the answer will more or less be yes, but I think the world in general is waking up to realities that played out already about a hundred years ago just barely in time, but is it enough to make some sort of difference? who knows, the dice have not been completely cast and buffs and boons have not been added from other players, NPCs, and the DM of all DMs in this campaign whatever it’s called. The old empires have fallen and as Nietzsche has said, will never be empires again. I suppose the reason for that lies in the hard lesson and reasoning people eventually learn when dealing with addicts, horses, and truly malevolent individuals.
I also just finished the King in Orange and I just lent it to one of my coordinators who’s interested in conspiracy, illuminati, alien type stuff. Been recommending it to my Christian and conservative peers, been recommending it everywhere where it’s relevant and appropriate. I’m surprised I even found it at all at a place such as Barnes and Noble (ah yes I remember that day. Made the decision to by the book after I put the Origins of Totalitarianism by Hanna Arendt right next to Capital, The Communist Manifesto, other works by Marx and Engels, and The Prince over in the Philosophy section. I’m not sorry).
I recently read an article by an intelligent journalist in a respectable publication, that seriously argued degrowth was misguided because : (i) it’s unfair, and (ii) something something clean technology will have to be invented, because (see point 1). That’s the level of discourse in the mainstream right now, like something you might hear in a school playground.
Though, these days, the arguments I encounter around climate change are less debates on whether it’s happening, and more finger-pointing, assigning blame, and a shrill insistence on ‘x’ solution that conveniently requires only other people to make uncomfortable changes. Commenters fall into their familiar political and tribal patterns with clockwork regularity. ‘The 1%’, ‘corporations’, ‘Boomers’, China and globalisation are convenient scapegoats, depending on your political inclinations.
You would think, now that we (broadly) have consensus on the scale and devastation of the oncoming catastrophe, that people would be agitating for drastic action (as they happily did when faced with the much milder threat of covid) but no. They quibble over tax and carbon credits and lab-grown meat and then book their next foreign holiday. Perhaps it’s because it’s too slow for us to perceive as a threat, but if so it’ll only be slow until it isn’t anymore. I am reminded of accounts from the Titanic disaster: it was at first quite difficult to persuade many passengers to climb into the lifeboats – they balked, frightened of the tiny flimsy boats and the vast dark sea. The great ship was mighty and solid under their feet, and nothing looked amiss. By the time the danger became apparent, there were few boats left. The analogy is apt, except Earth doesn’t come with lifeboats, and there is no Carpathia steaming in to save us.
Lothar von Hakelheber
I remember those! They were quite good, and well worth a read. I found them in a university library in the 2000s.
“Tell me this. Is that disagreement going to motivate you to get up off your rump and go to work making the transformation happen?”
Well, I don’t see who else is going to do it. I believe it is possible, not that it is likely. You believe that it was possible back in the 70s. That it didn’t happen then doesn’t appear to have shaken your belief.
I’m well aware that such a transformation would involve quite a dramatic pruning. I grew up on space colonisation forums – doing the math is my immediate response when someone says something is or isn’t possible. A sustainable earth-based civilisation isn’t going to have cars, or sewage systems, or steel and glass towers (I wince whenever I see art of a ‘sustainable city’ that involves those). But I don’t think we as yet lack the resources needed to make that switch (and given that post-apocalyptic megacities are filled with abundant resources such as copper, glass, and steel, I’m not sure we ever will).
>shelves full of delayed-in-shipping food that is spoiling might be even worse!
Used to be, every housewife knew how to can and preserve, even if she lived in the city. Food used to come in season and then disappear.
Enjoyed the retrospective on both LTG and John Denver. Both my dad and I read LTG when first published. As you highlight, humanity had a choice to make. Sadly, humanity chose poorly.
A fine lament to poor choices is to be found in the cover of “Sound of Silence” by Disturbed. When Paul Simon heard the cover he remarked it was the way the song should have been sung in 1964. Hearing the lyrics recast by Disturbed is for me a reflection of a society already in decline when first performed by Simon and Garfunkel.
In particular (parenthesis mine):
And in the naked light I saw
Ten thousand people, maybe more
People talking without speaking
People hearing without listening
People writing songs that voices never shared
And no one dared disturb the sound of silence (apathy and indifference)
And the people bowed and prayed
To the neon god (TV) they made
And the sign flashed out its warning
In the words that it was forming
And the sign said, “The words of the prophets are written on the subway walls and tenement halls
And whispered in the sound of silence”
As to today, I take heart in new music and musicians. One such is Angelina Jordan from Norway. Presently only 15, yet wise beyond her musical years. Her original “What is Life”, sung at 12, and covers of former greats like Frank Sinatra’s “Fly Me to the Moon”, Dinah Washington’s “What a Difference a Day Makes”, Gershwin’s “Summertime”, and The Beatles “Yesterday” all reflect musical discretion and taste. A far cry from the rubbish broadcast over the “neon god” of Simon’s “Sound of Silence”.
All of which is to say, there are many examples from the arts and elsewhere of a return to meaning, taste, civility and sensibility. Sooner or later, the broader masses will tire of the endless rubbish couched as art and mass culture. One suspects that sooner to be the nearer of now. One also suspects that any future is best served with a humility and gratitude that respects the best of what we where while honestly embracing the challenges we face.
All the best.
“Adrian, I’ve heard about the rotting vegetables from a lot of sources recently, and am very curious if anyone knows what’s going on.”
Shortage of cold storage – both due to rising demand from online shopping, and those rentiers using the facilities as “investments” rather than essential facilities (I coincidentally have a meeting on Thursday with someone from the South Island Prosperity Partnership about just this issue, as well as other supply chain and infrastructure issues).
Behind paywall, but the first paragraph is interesting. https://www.scmp.com/comment/opinion/article/3138124/how-pandemic-turning-cold-storage-logistics-hot-niche-industry
The grocery store I shop at also had the entire frozen food section rot a few weeks ago when the temperature regulators broke and no one noticed until something smelled. (The staff took it well – a man, pushing a cart slowly, clutching his stomach, thousand yard stare. A woman walking past throws her arms out, asks theatrically, “Are you here for the party, Greg?!” “Every day, Moira, every day”. They’re still hiring…). So local shortages of replacement parts, repairmen, new machine shipments may be adding up.
Data point: in farming country north of Edmonton, trying to source a manure fork attachment for my tractor. None available from dealership til next April. Cost of steel has gone thru the roof, cost to build locally: $3000. Nobody is selling used. Wound up with a cash deal for a set of spikes and a welder to rig an attachment to the bale spears we already own.
Wikipedia actually has an entry on the 2020-2021 global ship shortage crisis. While most of the causes are unrelated to LTG, the following little paragraph is…fascinating.
“In 2021, Taiwan experienced its worst drought in more than half a century, leading to problems among chip manufacturers that use large amounts of ultra-pure water to clean their factories and wafers. For example, TSMC’s facilities used more than 63,000 tons of water a day, more than 10 percent of the supply of two local reservoirs.”
The source given is New York Times.
Shortages only of high end products, here in Portugal, blamed on shipping bottlenecks, notably fruits from Brazil. The prices are rising fast and serious, building materials and iron tools (also tools for agriculture). I guess I will have to build with stone, as my grandparents, better looking and not more expensive than concrete. Food prices are also starting to rise, but not shortages so far. It is hard to understand how come shortages happen in mighty USA before in a poor peripheral country in Europe…
Great comment, my only suggestion would be to replace limits with complexity. A quote i came across years ago that i’ll always enjoy
“I’m called ‘the poorest president’, but I don’t feel poor. Poor people are those who only work to try to keep an expensive lifestyle, and always want more and more,”
“This is a matter of freedom. If you don’t have many possessions then you don’t need to work all your life like a slave to sustain them, and therefore you have more time for yourself,”
clay dennis @ 7
Throw in ‘What is Hip’ .. to bracket much of the fustercluck we to find ourselves in.
About the observed differences in shortages in USA, Israel, Germany: I wonder if part of the picture is that Europe and its neighboring regions are politically fractured. There are many more or less independent political entities in close distance that each have their unique relationship to the Land of Stuff (I really like Chris’ blog articles, by the way!) and the Land of Resources. Even if a country has it really messed up with one of those two, it might still have workable relationships with another in close distance that’s on better terms with them. So there’s a complicated network of relationships which might provide some stability.
The United States, on the other hand, are one very large, geographically rather isolated entity that’s easy to push against if you’re powerful enough. It’d be interesting to hear about the situation in Australia in this regard. If I understood what Chris writes on his blog, the Land of Stuff is already applying some leverage against them but I have no idea how this works out in real life down under.
I am constantly shaking my head about the attempts of some of the Europeans elites to sabotage the North Stream 2 pipeline and their dreams of building liquid gas terminals that’ll dispatch tankers delivering US fracking gas. At least in this regard there has to be some brain left in the ranks of our current leadership and they seem to withstand the US pressure. If they don’t get this pipeline running we better prepare for many cold and dark winters in the not too distant future.
As for the future of all this… Not too long ago I read an interesting article by a Chinese analyst for which I unfortunately do not have a link anymore… The very rough summary is that “Once China feels strong enough (which is not far away) it will simply ignore the US and there will be little they can do about it.” I believe for Europe this will mean that, once the United States finally has to pull the plug, it will just descend into meaninglessness and possibly get a taste of what it means to be a colony…
I forgot ‘first things first’: Thank you for this post on Limits To Growth. Still too many don’t want to listen.
Regarding the review mentioned: be it as it may. (Including: 50 years ago the computers (the math behind the calculations) could not handle such a runaway scenario.)
The detail I run into ever again, since I discovered LTG: in any scenario, including the standard run, there is the peak population event. Can anyone imagine ‘- 1% population decline last year’?
I remember John Denver. Then I looked up what happened to him – he died flying his plane because he failed to refuel and couldn’t change the fuel tanks. Denver was a pilot with over 2,700 hours of experience. While his heart was in the right place re the environment, like so many people he lived a very high carbon lifestyle.
I will probably be alive in 2050. I imagine the believers in progress will still exist then, but there will be less of them thankfully.
“come and stand beside us, we can find a better way”
Those words are my world now. I’m your age JMG, and in Grade 6 I was one of 2 students who walked out of school to protest in Vancouver about the Amchitka Nuclear test. I am settled about what is coming because I’ve thought about it for most of my life. I spent many years getting through anxiety and depression, and have come out the other side, strong enough to build a resilient (I hope!!) future for my family. This blog is important to me; reminded as I am about being an outlier in a consumptive world. Thankfully my husband and adult daughter share many of my values. I used to tell people I moved to SaltSpring Island BC because I was weird everywhere else. Now I live in Northern Vancouver Island and see a few “weirdos” here too 😉
Thanks for being you JMG – over the years you’ve stood beside me to find a better way.
One other thing – I have decided to start a little “guerilla information campaign” in the school where I teach or possibly in a wider area. For a start I will put up the graphs of the limits to growth together with a qr-code that’ll guide to some information about it at several locations without further comment. The intention is to pour out a steady trickle of information that might shake up a few minds that are awake enough to realize what they see. I’ll be grateful for suggestions for other materials I could use. I won’t use memes or anything like this. Just graphs, possibly quotes, or maybe somebody has another idea along these lines?
Oh I have so many thoughts on this weeks post but I have such trouble forming one sensible comment…
JMG, I also suffered a tragedy at age 10, the death of my only sibling, an older brother in a crazy random accident- it made the local news and was in the paper (remember “the paper”?) and I know it changed the way I see things. Yes, there are limits. Yes, we will all die.
That was 1987. I graduated high school in the 90s. I recently heard you mention on Legalise Freedom “the end of history” and I remember that. My generation also got “Life After God” by Douglas Copeland. All these various things and many more influenced me, and for some reason, I was also always aware of and interested in appropriate tech, living below your means, gardening, etc.
Now I find myself with a small house and a small garden in a forgotten about working class corner of town, occasional informal work, a granddaughter I often watch so her parents can work…my daughter doesn’t drive…. I’m not entirely sure where I’m going with this. It’s certainly not concise!
I guess I’m saying, I am just like the people you often talk about in your books and on your blog(s). My husband and I took our kids out of the school system years ago, we budget for things, we have a mixed race family. I think our family was just naive enough to think we could make a go of it outside of formal systems. And we have! I have a great life and live without so many things most Americans think are necessities. We collapsed early to avoid the rush. The limits to growth definitely have me concerned and I know things won’t be as easy for my granddaughter, no matter how much we try to prepare.
I do pray. Everyday. I am also so grateful for this community and for your work, JMG and others like you. I was eager for this weeks post because I knew you would articulate what we are feeling and experiencing so well. Thank you.
It’s at TheEcoJewel.etsy.com.
I make wirewrapped beaded jewelry and hair accessories. I use beads from thriftstore finds whenever possible, and the little fabric bags that come with are also sourced second hand. I recently started using compostable mailers for shipping.
I’ve trying to make it as low-impact environmentally as possible. I would also like to avoid contributing to the people making quartz-mineral beads getting silicosis from the dust due to inadequate/non-existant safety precautions. I thought that if I source stone chips second-hand, then I can avoid contributing to this with my jewelry-making.
My wife and I like to say that “all food costs the same – it’s just how and when you choose to pay for it.”
You can eat cheap junk food and spend more on corrective medicine; or you can eat really good food (whatever that means to you), especially food that you grew yourself or bought directly from a local farmer, and chances are your medical bills will be substantially lower. Especially if you add the bulk of your medicine to the gardening or DIY venture as well. And of course that’s not nearly as difficult as it sounds, it’s just that we’ve been lead to believe that we need to involve a professional at every turn.
But it’s all part of one system, and it has a collective cost. I have to agree, the authors of the LTG chose wisely when they decided to go with such broad categories.
Thanks a bunch for helping me see the bigger picture.
My electric grinder is not doing so great so yesterday I picked up a couple expensive sharpening stones from an importer. I do not know much about that stuff but when he asked me what I was looking for I told him “something that will keep my tools sharp in a grid down situation” and it set off quite the conversation. He told me that while he still has some stock the manufacturer is mysteriously no longer taking calls, and soon it will be impossible to find materials of this quality in our part of the world. He said he is no longer selling to mall ninjas or collectors and is focusing people who will actually use his stuff for agriculture. I could tell he was worried. If it was just a clever sales pitch then it worked great, because I picked up a couple extra tools as well.
JMG, et al,
In regards to rotting produce, it’s an interesting question. I’d be curious to know how widespread it is; I haven’t run into this personally but most of my veggies either come out of the garden, from the farmers market, or from farmer friends. Generally speaking there, I haven’t noticed any difference, and I don’t know of any particular reason I would expect to.
I would assume it would be related to supply chain issues. One possibility is that the produce is taking longer to get to the store and therefore closer to its expiration date. This could be due to having to source from different locations or, probably more likely, general issues with the transportation infrastructure. There are clearly major problems with moving product around the world, including the crunch in shipping containers right now. Remember, too, that it is not just that fresh produce is often shipped in from across the globe, but food often can be grown/caught/otherwise sourced at one point in the world, shipped halfway across the world to be processed–cut, packaged, canned, etc–and then shipped back again halfway across the world, even to the place it started off from in the first place! To the degree that this takes place with perishable products, produce or otherwise, I would assume even small snags could create increases in spoilage given that the food system is in many ways “just in time” like the industrial system.
This could also be an issue with other mechanical elements, not just the actual movement. Long distance shipping for perishable products means you need reliable freezers, refrigeration, or good insulating capabilities–or all of the above. If there are increased problems with keeping these systems running and effective, that could be leading to more temperature swings or more time during the shipping process where food gets outside the optimal temperature zone for long term storage. My experience with storing produce for longer periods is that the temperature and humidity can be really important when you’re talking about trying to keep something from rotting over the course of weeks or months rather than just throwing something freshly harvested in the fridge for a week. If it’s becoming harder to maintain the equipment that guarantees these standards, that could be leading to a lot more time in sub-optimal conditions. And given the state of our regulatory system, I imagine that situations even technically outside allowable parameters could be happening regularly without produce being disposed of, etc, as it just keeps getting pushed through the supply chain in hopes of recovering cost.
Another possibility could be issues with farm labor. I don’t know all the ins and outs of industrial agricultural production, but timing of harvest is always important in such a complex system that requires holding times, long-distance transport, etc. If harvests are off their ideal timing due to labor issues–or even due to aforementioned transport/mechanical issues forcing different harvest schedules–than it may be that hitting your harvest a bit off target could reduce the effective storage time for the product, putting even more pressure on an already dysfunctional transportation system and leading to greater loss and spoilage.
One last thought as I think through this more. We are seeing more pest and disease pressure on produce as climate change and other ecological disturbances continues to wreak havoc on climate and local ecosystems. Damage from pests, lurking disease, fungal infections–all of these can lead to greater perishability, not just before harvest but even after harvest with small blemishes or undetected infection that quickly spreads into mold and disease, etc. And of course this can again be exacerbated not only by longer transport but by inconsistent control of humidity and temperature, which could create conditions for better fungal growth.
Given the multiple stress points that seem to be arising in our complex industrial systems, my guess is that many or all of these factors play a role. It would also be in line with some of what you write in this post, that small breakdowns create major problems throughout a complex system. That said, I can think of at least one person I know who works with a produce supplier; I’ll see if I can find out any insider knowledge about what might be going on, or if he’s seeing greater than normal loss in their supply chain.
P.S. One thing I’ve noticed recently is a local grocery chain boasting on billboards that their produce standards exceed the USDA’s. I’m not sure I’ve seen that theme from them before. I don’t know if it’s coincidence or a tacit acknowledgement of increased spoilage suffered by the consumer and an attempt to market that your produce is likely to last longer if purchased there? Maybe not, but it’s interesting.
I do hope we can rise to the challenge this time, though probably we’ll throw ourselves into the next “Morning in America” energy boondoggle: nuclear, most likely, since it has a devoted fanbase among the elite who are convinced it’s the solution to our energy problems and has simply never been allowed to prosper due to greed and irrational fears (see also: communism).
That said, I ran across a sign just today that belief in Progress is cracking: this article by Antonio Garcia Martinez, a true believer in Progress, in which — amid an intelligent if overly-nerdy analysis of the abstract patterns playing out in society — he bemoans a widespread desire to rewind time to a better point in society, saying “Everyone, not just conservatives in the Buckley mold, now stand athwart History desperately yelling ‘Stop!’”
(Also, in his discussion of the widespread loss of faith in institutions, he falls into a bizarre trope I’ve seen from other believers in Progress: having detailed just how untrustworthy existing institutions are, he bemoans how terrible it is that the Internet has made us distrust them so much. Has anyone else run across this particular bit of illogic?)
Re: the rotting veg. The food starts to rot the moment it’s picked, so food transport is a race against time to get it to the shelves while it’s still salable. It’s likely that in our time of disrupted transport, some veg has spent too long sitting on a dock somewhere and therefore run short of shelf life once it’s bought.
This of course puts the advantage to local producers and buying directly from the farmer, which are both better for the producer but a threat to all of the intermediaries.
Amazing that beer in the UK is another product suffering from shortages!
The past two years have been a good learning experience for a lot of us, especially in helping us to understand what the limits you’ve been warning of us would look like. I wish I had done more to prepare for the forced dealing with limits that has been suggested. Instead, the wife I married from Russia has learned a ton from my insistence to live life as I wanted.. while she learned a lot first hand about limits, and the freedom from limiting oneself, I scoffed at the idea of limiting myself. Now, after ten years being married, and a couple years into our experience here in the USA, I’ve found a lot of value in her ideas of limits, while she’s grown more interested in experiencing the American life! Funny how we shape our futures, hah!
One thing she and I have talked a lot about is food. It was interesting when we first got together how she decided to go on a raw food diet. A huge change I noticed about her, other than the weight loss, was how much more disciplined she became. While breastfeeding now that’s not something either of us will talk about, but she wants some other limits on her food. From what I learned last time I’ll definitely be more supportive. It makes me wonder how such small acts of limitation can grow into something much more powerful…surely many religions and spiritualities have tapped into this idea and why they have diets with restrictions. I imagine those are the sort of changes we’re probably seeing in people now and that it could catalyze around something to make a useful change in the future.
RE: money in the bank
There’s been a few other comments like this I’ve seen, and one I’ve definitely pondered a lot about. There was a video I saw once while on a plane, which had talked with a Russian who advised that many Russians will spend money while they have due to seeing what happens when the value of your money goes to naught over night. While I’m still cautious thanks to my Russian wife who didn’t share the opinion, things like my 401k feel as if they’d be a huge waste if not taken advantage for a different investment soon.
Speaking of limits, I’m curious just what our collective limits are in the USA for putting up with corrupt, deceptive government and media, especially in light of the Great Resignation. I’m guessing this is in part an act against the structures allowed by the government. Is that all though? Or what other shapes might we see in the future as middle class continue getting the squeeze? I have a feeling a lot depends on the outcomes of the recall in California and the election in Canada.
@Gawain re: comment #64, what were the corrections he posted? I remember reading his original blog posts and the “commandments” he distilled things down to, and if he had updated information I’d be curious about it. I tried some quick searching and only turned up his older work, not anything that looked like corrections.
For a musical counterpoint to the song linked in the above post, try Van Groover’s “I’m Innocent” from the album Honk If Parts Fall Off.
And give the cover art a look while you’re there.
Another data point? Over at Data Secrets Lox (a forum associated with Scott Alexander), Forward Synthsis posted a pro-Progress but impressively-intelligent explanation of why overpopulation and resource limits matter, contra the usual canards marshaled against them:
(I don’t know that my edited quote does it justice, so I’d encourage others to consider reading it for themselves.)
@Kay Robison #72 and others who would like to try to create and run a farmers’ market. Here’s some notes about my experience doing it for many years, as a grower myself:
A market manager doesn’t treat everybody the same. He has to create a community centered around local food. That’s his job description. So his first tier, his favorite folks, are the growers themselves. He scouts for them all the time. Development has gobbled up farms everywhere, so you have to unroll the red carpet for the few remaining growers of any size. Most markets have a flat rate for all vendors. That makes no sense.
You need quality local growers that will vastly exceed the quality and freshness of store bought produce. They are rare. Their prices will be higher than the store’s, too. That’s OK. That’s what real food costs. There’s always people willing to pay more for better food, and they tend to visit farmers’ markets.
Growers shouldn’t pay. You need them there. From the midsize farm to neighborhood amateur growers and community gardens, you not only will let them vend for free, but help them in any way you can. The core is this group of growers. Your market will not make it without it.
Then you get the growers to donate a bit of what they grow to the musicians, yoga teachers and such that are necessary to organize free activities that attract traffic. You can also organize free gardening and urban farming workshops, taught by yourself or the other growers. Hobby gardeners, beekeepers, picklers and such come to the workshops to connect with experts for knowledge, and there you have the seed of your market.
Your second tier of vendors is people who make good food, but don’t grow it. They pay a modest rental, and are expected to spare a few free tacos or croissants for the kids’ activities people or Elvis impersonators you have that week. Food trucks, bakers.
Your third tier is people who pay a still higher price to be there with handicrafts and art they make. They are very plentiful. Everybody thinks he’s a great artist. They subsidize the first two tiers.
The final tier is an almost infinite supply of lost souls that want to sell stuff they don’t grow, cook, or make. They pay an outrageous fee, in advance, no exceptions. You tell them “no” every time they come to inquire. Made in China, no. Too tacky and too crappy, no. There’s a t-shirt guy already, no. You take a few of the least bad. You don’t want too many of these because they could ruin your market. So you say “no” a lot, and somehow they want it more when they get a “no” and insist. It’s human nature. Many will be middle aged folks with a “great non-gmo, organic, sustainable, not animal tested, gluten free & vegan” nail polish or diet aid. People with a franchise in some online pyramid scheme or direct-sales cult. They provide the bulk of the money you need.
You need the money to hire a general liability insurance for market hours, so if anyone trips and wants to sue you the ins co. pays the ambulance chaser $20 grand or so to split with the guy who fell down and says his back hurts. Could have happened anywhere, it happened at your market, you need insurance. That will set you back between a thousand and five a month for a weekly 8hr market day depending on size and traffic.
Then you have to pay yourself and any labor you need to hire. You may not be that good with promotion, say, so you pay some dude to maintain a website and send out press releases. A club or church or VFW may have someone in their staff or volunteers that already does that and can just add your stuff. But it’s important to know that the internet is only so useful, paid or not, and that personal, one-on-one relationships, excellent quality in the food products and to a degree in everything else, a fun atmosphere, groups of friends and different people making a visit part of their routine are the real important factors that make or break markets.
You’ll have to deal with many hucksters from Google down to a local guy in his mom’s basement that promise the world if you have a big web presence. Don’t spend much money on that. Just set up a page that visitors can check out and link to, with a “what’s fresh at the market” section, new vendors, upcoming activities. Publish photos there every week. Make sure your photos show a crowd, a fun moment, something memorable. There’s dull times at any market, slow days, but you don’t want that in your page. Your own satisfied customers will do all the web work you’ll ever need when they share their microgreen and kombucha lunch on a picnic table watching a mime perform, and when their friends check on the link, they find more images of that cool place they need to visit next week.
Ideally, you want to work with a nonprofit or chamber of commerce that has ample grounds, a mailing list, a structure they want to add the market to, under their own name. You contract running the thing for them. A non profit is best of all. You get free labor, community service workers that need to do hours and you put them to open tents, sweep the grounds, bring coffee to the musicians. DUI cases for the most part. I had a serial flasher, a Harley old girl type, that kept lifting her shirt. Same deal with a stripper very proud of her new silicone. Also a millionaire, and he scrubbed toilets for years and was the best worker I ever had, before finally telling me of his large fortune. When he got his license back, he special ordered a very fancy car from Britain, and started driving it to market to clean the johns. He still needed hundreds of hours. He never thought of bribing me for the hrs and avoid the toilets. Pity. At the market, we called those community service people “slaves”. “You got slaves today? I need help unloading the truck”
You have to be somewhat media savvy and be able to write good copy and take pics for local rags and websites. Every time a tv show or magazine visits to do a story, you give them some of your or the other growers’ produce, treat them to a free lunch or latte, and say thank you. Invite them to tour the farms if they need material, or to cover your gardening workshop, environmental rally or food sampling. Most media of any kind need to fill up their pages with something, and will take you up on the offer. The growers glow. They are doing well. All prosper.
It helps to have an outdoor stage for your activities, picnic tables, green areas, benches, and some storage available. Vendors usually bring their own set up, but it helps to have a few spare tents and tables for emergencies. If the organization sponsoring the market has a supply, you can offer a set up ready market, where vendors arrive to find their booth ready for them, and charge more. You need free parking. You need toilets. Not portapotties if possible, but they’ll do in a pinch. You need running water. Ideally your location will be along public transit or a busy road. Bike and pet friendly, too. All these are things you will be looking for when establishing a potential site for your market.
Farmers markets are great places for single people to meet. Make sure you have something that attracts women, like free yoga, and many men will start showing up. Many gay couples are formed too. Best place to flirt under the sun. Families like it that it’s open air, the kids can run around a bit and get tired, bring the dog, and it feels safe. You need coffee. You can’t sell alcohol. Cooking demos excluded. If you get a chef doing a “cooking local” free demo, and giving samples of the dish for free, you can figure out ways to have white wine & locally grown berry spritzers around, or something like that. It’s surprising how many will crave that at 10am, and put $10 in the donation jar for it. Vendors who cook on site need certain certifications, like safe food handling, as well as fire dept. regulations regarding safety. You need to keep copies of that on file, after figuring out who needs to show you what. Growers and crafts vendors generally don’t need any specific permits. Seafood and prepared food vendors are the ones with the tightest requirements, so make sure they’re up to date. You don’t need to see their business tax returns, that’s between them and the IRS.
There’s a lot of pretentiousness and hype going on at markets, and that’s the element that will fade away as times get harder, but in the meantime it can help you get established during the fat years. Only a few of your growers will be certified organic. They’d need an office staff to get the certification and are not that big so they can’t afford the official label. However, many grow organically and you have to be able to explain and defend this. You can’t let anyone make claims that are not true at your market, so in cases like this, you have to insist they can tell customers their produce is organically grown, but not certified organic.
If the food sucks, the market sucks and will fail. You need to either be a grower yourself or knowledgeable enough about growing food, because you’ll visit every grower that you allow to be there often to verify they are legit. Markets are full of people claiming they grew something they are reselling, or claiming something is organic when it isn’t. If your market is open year round and you live in an area that doesn’t have production during some months, you can allow some non local produce, making sure that’s made clear by the vendors.
You have to be the security person, unless you’re going to pay someone to do it. You have to call the local PD sometimes, but it rarely goes beyond that. It can be handled.
People have found and returned wallets at the market, helped complete strangers. For some people, the weekly market visit will be all the social life worth anything they have. You have to create trust, joy, pleasure. A moveable feast that comes back to life week after week, year after year. Local farmers need that. They benefit from the market, don’t have to pay middlemen and connect directly with customers, so they become more profitable, don’t sell the land, keep putting seeds in the ground, and so the area becomes stronger and more resilient in terms of food security. The community benefits from all this, too, as local growers prosper and re-invest in the area, free activities become available, friendships are established and there’s an alternative to the big box stores available that makes shopping both more fun and meaningful.
You nurture a big group of friends and a strong market community. It’s the only way to compete against bad food. So I hope you can use this advice if you decide to start something in your town. Good luck!
JMG — I appreciate your links to appropriate songs for our times, this time being the John Denver song. I’m familiar with some John Denver songs, but not that one. (I was born in 1979).
A few years ago, in one of your comments you linked the song “Dust in the Wind” by Kansas. That was the very first time I remember hearing that song and it deeply resonated with me. Since then, I’ve listened to it a lot, and it was one of the first songs I learned how to play when I started learning ukulele. When listening to it, I find solace when grappling with the impermanence of life, whether it’s me, industrial society, or the changing natural world. It helps me embrace more of a deep time perspective and find the beauty in a decaying society. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tH2w6Oxx0kQ
As someone who’d rather not spend too much time online, I sometimes question whether I spend too much time looking at comments. But I’ve been exposed to enriching articles, stories, ideas, and songs I may not have in other places, which is what keeps drawing me back.
BoysMom, nobody has yet said “Okay, Boomer” to me, but if they do, I’m not going to object. My generation has a lot to answer for. Yes, it’s going to be up to the younger generations to pick up the pieces after my generation’s total and abject failure.
Peter, thanks for the data point.
Tony, all those are classic phenomena in a decaying civilization, but they’re not the same thing as the barbarians. Remember that actual, physical violence is the basis on which every civilization lives and dies — there’s a reason our police and soldiers carry guns! — and that when our civilization goes down, it will be at the hands of armed warbands.
Mac, that’s a valid point and I’ll consider writing about it in upcoming posts.
Karl, you’re most welcome. John Denver had a lot of good music — check out “The Eagle and the Hawk” sometime. Yes, this is what decline looks like; might as well get used to it. 😉
Mark, thanks for this! If that sort of thinking is spreading through country music, that’s an excellent sign.
Copper, I won’t argue a bit. I played a lot in my teen years — D&D (back when it was three staplebound booklets), Chivalry & Sorcery, first generation Call of Cthulhu, Traveler, and the never to be forgotten (and uproariously funny) Tunnels & Trolls — and learned a lot from them. I should have some good news along these lines to announce shortly, btw…
Zergonipai, I’m pretty sure the reason why people are freaking out so melodramatically over a virus that’s not significantly more dangerous than the flu is precisely that it gives them something to be afraid of that doesn’t require them to let go of their privilege or give up the fantasy of perpetual progress.
Alice, if you’re actually willing to take action, I have no complaints. I think you’re wrong, but I encourage you to go out and try to prove otherwise.
Resipsaloquitur, the original is a very, very good piece too. Thanks for this.
Svea, thanks for the data point.
Tidlösa, fascinating. Yes, that would fit the model.
Gabriela, the USA isn’t mighty any more. (What happened in Afghanistan should have told you that.) The USA is a hollowed-out shell of its former self, hopelessly in debt and saddled with a clueless managerial aristocracy that can’t wipe their own noses without help.
Nachtgurke, that seems very plausible to me.
Stilltherebemore, I can imagine it quite well, having read accounts from societies that went through such contractions. Sometime quite soon I’ll be discussing the economic implications, which are immense.
Bridge, it’s always useful to distinguish between an artist and his or her creations…
SecretDi, you’re welcome and thank you.
Nachtgurke, hmm! An intriguing idea. Nothing much comes to mind, but others may have ideas.
Wendy, you’re welcome and thank you also!
Pygmycory, thanks for this. I hope those readers of mine who are in the market for jewelry are paying attention.
Grover, you’re welcome. Thank you for embracing the challenge and running with it.
Aloysius, I don’t think it was just a sales pitch. Those are serious concerns.
Joel, thanks for this. That’s interesting about the sign in the store!
Slithy, fortunately nuclear power can’t pay for itself, so I doubt it’ll get any further this time than it did last time.
Prizm, good. Yes, deliberately choosing a limit is a source of self-discipline and thus of power. As for putting up with bad government, people will put up with enormous amounts of tyranny but they generally lose tolerance for incompetence very quickly. Combine the two and you’ve got a country that’s about to go up like a crepe Suzette.
Rhydlyd, thanks for this!
Slithy, good heavens. Basic common sense creeping in?
Beneaththesurface, “Dust in the Wind” is an old favorite of mine. The first time I read Stormbringer, the last volume of Michael Moorcock’s Elric of Melnibone series, that came on when I was on the last page, which was apropos…
From last week’s discussion, here is a site I found with at least some of the FDA-approved drugs that were yanked. Maybe a good start for Peter’s list, though by no means comprehensive.
Doesn’t seem my html worked. Here is the plaintext. https://prescriptiondrugs.procon.org/fda-approved-prescription-drugs-later-pulled-from-the-market/
Thank you so much for that song. I had never heard it before. Quite emotional listening to that after reading your blog today. You encourage the heart.
The more I watch the public/world’s reaction to the US withdrawal from Afghanistan, the more I think it was so incompetently done that we’re looking at a Twilight’s Last Gleaming moment, JMG thougths?
Have you or anyone heard of “Reiss water”? Also known as “juvenile water”? That is water at depths >20,000 feet, and claimed to be in great abundance. I’ve heard conflicting claims regarding the ease and amount of such water found back in the 60s . If–and it’s a big if–it is possible to tap into significant juvenile water, then while we still have the energy and the drilling infrastructure, we could at least have more fresh water than might otherwise be possible.
Re caloric restriction: it’s indeed not an easy routine, even when done occasionally, but if events force a restriction in available calories, then making the most of fewer calories is one way to adapt. Depletion of fertile topsoil and leaning on NPK doesn’t help the cause of high-nutrient fruit and vegetables. Soil restoration will be one of many critical activities going forward.
There’s a potential consequence of the decline of civilization/resources as outlined in your writing that I haven’t seen mentioned before. It has to do with one of your other books Monsters. As resources become scarce thoroughly cremating and embalming all of our dead may just not be a practical use of dwindling resources which could cause a return of vampirism to countries that haven’t had to deal with it for a long time as one example. Maybe encounters with other Monsters will see an increase in frequency and potentially severity as well.
JMG, well this is good to know what the real barbarians will look like.
I remember participating in a game of paintball and thinking ‘ Who lives and who dies in this is entirely random ‘ . I guess cultivating serious security skills will make a real difference, yet I think when the violent ones are inside the gates it is much better to be far away from the zones of conflict.
Random Thought: (On Israel)
Its not a particularly sophisticated thought.
But, I think that, when the US is gone, Israel will just go with a certain foreign policy that almost seems to have worked for it for nearly a thousand years. (Actually, isn’t it just the foreign policy plan of every minor power? See, not sophisticated)
1) Straddle trade routes, and skim off of economically valuable activity.
2) Buddy up with the nearest major power(s), for insurance.
3) Look kinda impressive enough that they’re allowed to keep doing #1, seem worthwhile in #2, and so that non-committed fights aren’t really worth it for whoever feels like dominating them a little.
I clicked on the song linked in the last paragraph, sure that it would turn out to be “Suicide is Painless” (the theme from M*A*S*H),
I disagree that we (collective “we”) ever had a choice. Any population group that practices restraint, will tend to get swamped by rival population groups that do not. One way or another, we’re going to hit those resource limits. The only alternative I can think of would be a global totalitarian “water empire” that forces everyone to behave in the desired ways. (The Baha’is seem to support and expect this.)
No real shortages here in Taiwan that I’ve noticed, although I am fond of milk (which is usually imported from Australia), and find that I have to go to the store at exactly the right time of day to get the kind I like. When Americans started hoarding rice and toilet paper a few years ago, the stores here put exactly those two items on sale! Anyway, here’s hoping our luck holds out. (Of course there’s always talk of an invasion.)
JMG, your post has made me terribly ‘homesick’ for the early ‘70s and the feeling of hope and optimism despite the crises that mired us down at that time. A feeling that we could change our ways and actually build a better world. From scratch. To be honest, I don’t think that I have ever recovered from the shattering of this beautiful vision that I had mentally devoted myself to back in the day (Naïve? You bet! But I was permitted to be naïve at the time – I was born in ’63, after all).
I read both The Limits to Growth and Future Shock when I was 16 (the former I adored; the latter I loathed and made me feel like slitting my wrists). I have certainly taken a lot of flack from never deviating from belief in the predictions baked into the base model. And events over the past decade (and more recently) seem to have vindicated my belief in it.
Oddly enough, I don’t recall this song by John Denver, even though I knew and adored many of his songs when I was growing up (and still do). His songs always went straight to my heart. This one, even more so, now that I have heard it.
I, too, share a pessimism that society will wake up in time to seek the wisdom of the children and the graceful way of flowers in the wind. Those brave souls who have bucked the trend and live a life of LESS and in harmony with nature and the limits that it imposes have all my respect and they definitely inspire others to follow in their footsteps – but their efforts at the physical level is as insignificant as throwing a thimble of water at a raging forest fire. Naivete and genuine hope have become withered, dessicated flowers. I think that at this point prayer is all that we have left. Not to diminish the power of prayer; after all, do we not have the common saying (attributed to Jesus in the books of Matthew and Mark) “prayer moves mountains”?
The first concert I ever went to was a John Denver concert at Weber State College (now University) in Ogden, Utah. I was seventeen and smitten with a girl that wanted zero to do with me but she loved John Denver. It is a treasured memory.
The first time I read “The Limits of Growth” was in my freshman year at U of Utah. Scarred me for life I would posit.
I guess what I am trying to say here that you scare me sometimes. You tie together things from the dark-deep past that I passed by and I am just now trying to “circle back” to address in my dotage.
Being the quintessential “Boomer” I can only say what ever boomer should have graven on his headstone. “It seemed like a good idea at the time!”
But for what it is worth, a lot of us oldsters are discovering just how wrong we were. I kinda pity the current resident of 1600 Pennsylvania . He is trying to prove, beyond all rational cues to the contrary that the decisions we were made were correct.
John: We will follow the path you have outlined and that the Club of Rome argued for fifty years ago. Doesn’t mean that we have to like it, or it will be fun. But follow it we will.
Oddly enough, I’m kinda looking forward to it.
@Avocadogrove when I lived in Albuquerque, the Farmer’s Market for our neighborhood was held in a city park. No bathrooms, but there were coffee shops etc within driving distance. Being a city park, there was a sand-filled playground for the little kids, and a bench nearby that was actually under a tree (many of them weren’t.) I recognized so very, very much of what you said! The stand with the honey was always the most popular, and in early August, the green chile roasters would be set up. There was always someone with crocheted items. BYO H2O, but homemade lavender lemonade was for sale. Oh, does that bring back memories!
Are you referring to this UnHerd article by Tom Chivers? https://unherd.com/2021/08/who-would-kill-children-to-save-the-planet/
I find UnHerd valuable in general but I take issue with Tom’s Progress-based perspectives. That said he does have a point, which is that degrowth will inevitably involve population decline aka more death, and folks who promote it as government policy generally fall into the camp of wanting austerity for others so that they can maintain their lifestyle.
I’m not sure that degrowth is something that ought to be pursued at the government level, and I feel the same way about climate-related policies. We will get degrowth whether we want it or not, and preparing for it is helpful, but pursuing it through legislation may not be.
About defending the periphery: Trier (Augusta Treverorum), one of the four capitals of the 4th century Roman empire and near the Rhine frontier, was in a building spree right up to 378 AD, when emperors stopped residing there and it went promptly in a tailspin. However, in the 5th century it was still an island of (relative) order in lands abandoned by the empire.
Rome and Constantinople were amply supplied with free grain until Egypt and Tunisia were lost over the 7th century, and even after that were relatively well supplied, compared to the rest of the Roman lands.
From your argument, it would seem that the rest of Italy, Spain, Greece etc. should have been relatively undersupplied in comparison to both the centres (Rome and Constantinople) and the frontiers. I don’t know enough classical archaeology to say anything about that, or about the corresponding period of other civilizations.
On the electronics shortage:
I am far from an expert, but it is part of my job to keep the small company I work for supplied with the electronics we need, and things are looking better. We have actual delivery dates for things that we couldn’t get for a long time, and some things that were unobtanium are back in stock.
Several distributors have told me that the problem is tantalum supplies. On the surface, this makes sense, as tantalum is needed to make precision oscillators. One of the worst shortages has been GPS and Real-Time-Clock (RTC) chips, both of which need very accurate timekeeping to work at all, and
a tantalum shortage would make those chips scarce. However, tantalum prices have been stable since the early 2000’s. So I do not think that there really is a tantalum shortage.
On labor shortages:
I don’t know what to make of the labor shortage. There has been a perpetual “STEM shortage”, which is code for “we would like to hire competent software engineers for $40K a year in expensive cities, and we are upset that the government has not allowed unlimited immigration to make that possible”. On the other hand, the young woman who rang in my cat food purchase recently said she was thinking about moving back in with her parents in a small town, because housing is so expensive in the city.
@ Kimberly Steele #53 – I also grow Jerusalem artichokes, out here in Western Washington State. Mine never flower, but that doesn’t seem to be too unusual … but to my point (there was a point?) The chokes can cause digestive problems, even in small amounts.
Not to get too graphic, but I couldn’t stray far from the bathroom, for most of a day. But their are solutions. The article mentioned lemon juice. I’ve read other places that cooking them in any acidic food, will take care of the problem. Lemon juice, anything tomato based … vinegar.
I haven’t quit worked up the courage, to give it a try. But, I will. Also, they can be invasive. So, I’ve got my planted in a big barrel. Lew
1. “The Long Descent” is a great summary of JMG’s view of our place in history, in my view.
2. In the UK, Mary Harrington has been bringing the idea of progress as a belief system to popular consciousness, on Unherd and the Triggernometry show. I feel the tide really is turning.
Dear Mr. Greer, and Commentariat – Western Washington State, here. Kinda rural. I had some transportation issues, and wasn’t able to get out much, the last nine months. Those are solved, so I hit three of the discount groceries, to hunt, forage and gather. In general, inventory seems a bit thinner. But, there are still bargains, and treasures to be found. Those places are pretty hit and miss, anyway, so, no stress.
Things I’ve noticed shortages of. Canned diced tomatoes. There are still other canned tomato products, around, but it’s a lucky find, to find them. Canned garbanzo beans. Canned refried beans. Some bar soap brands. Some tooth floss products.
I live in government subsidized senior housing. We get three food boxes, a month, from various sources. Again, hit and miss. But, I’ve noticed “good” stuff is getting thinner, and there’s more “junk” food. Dairy is a bit thin.
Speaking of the Great Resignation, well, first a bit of background. From the time I was 14 (and there was berry picking and paper routes, before then), til I retired, I was never unemployed for more than two weeks. I had some pretty odd jobs, along the way, but always had an eye out for something better.
I overheard an interesting exchange, at one of the food stores, today. Two young (to me. Probably 30 or so) folks were talking. He was a new employee of the store, and she was, I think, maybe an old high school buddy. The grocery (Grocery Outlet … a chain), by the way, has a reputation for treating it’s employees well. He commented that the supervisors, weren’t hovering over the employees, all the time. They showed up, occasionally, just to check in. And THEY THANKED HIM!” The two folks I was eavesdropping on were both gob-smacked. Just floored. Lew
Another long running shortage is ammunition and reloading supplies, as in powder and primers. They have been in short supply for a year and a half now, and seriously crimped my target shooting.
Canning lids are nearly non existent too.
And the hot summer did heavy damage to Eastern Washington’s potato harvest. They are reportedly small and misshapen. My red potatoes did practically nothing, although the Yukons did OK. They are smallish, but made up a decent bucket full.
Late corn was a complete wipeout. The cabbage never set a head, it decided to be kale or something.
And the soft winter wheat crop is down a full third from last year. A bad year for agriculture here.
I am in an online Environmental Science class and the graph from World3 was in my chapter 1 quiz. I flipped out! It’s making it’s way into mainstream academia and that is at least an improvement. Still, it really is bleak when we look at all the consumption still going on… a prayer for the non believers indeed…
This post really makes me want to skip college to focus on my homestead but I really want to pursue a career in soil science and horticulture. Then there’s all the predictions I’ve been hearing about 2022 being the real year of plague and civil unrest… it’s hard to want to leave my homestead (where I currently live with my mother because I’m poor but only in the financial sense) to go to some distant town and take student loans to get a degree to earn money to pay my loans then live only decently during descent… bleh! what a predicament.
I’ll stick through it though. learn some things, give some things up, save some things.
Thanks for lighting a fire under my *** or at least making me aware of it. 🙂
Kyle, thanks for these.
Naomi, you’re most welcome.
Austin, we’ll know that when we see what happens over the next six to twelve months here in the US. I’m not going to say it can’t happen.
Greg, thta’s funny, in a bleak way. After all this time, you’d think people would ask the obvious questions — “What role does Reiss water play in the natural systems where it exists, and what will happen if we start extracting it?” How many times do we have to make that same stupid mistake before we learn?
Trystan, only if the methods for constructing an etheric revenant have been preserved in enough detail. My hope is that they’ve been lost.
Tony, exactly. The only way to win is not to play.
Lain, except that they’ve managed to make themselves hated by all their neighbors, and those neighbors have far more resources and people than Israel does. I expect things to end badly, just as they did every other time Israel has been an independent Jewish state — in much the same way, and for most of the familiar reasons. (Consult the Bible if you have any questions…)
Bei Dawei, as I noted in my post, that kind of sour-grapes thinking is very common. Obviously I disagree.
Ron, I understand the feeling of pessimism. You might reflect on how much effort the establishment has put into convincing potential dissidents that they have no hope of making a difference.
Degringolade, I’m also looking forward to it. A friend of mine mentioned that she’s feeling as though life is becoming an adventure again — and there’s a point to that feeling.
Matthias, that’s certainly what my reading leads me to think.
Justin, many thanks for the data points.
Russell, I’m delighted to hear about Harrington’s writings — I’ll check out her work when I next have time.
Lew and Siliconguy, many thanks for these data points also.
Marcos, good heavens. That’s good to hear.
@Tony, this might explain a little better.
RE warbands, decaying civilization, and the legitimate use of force.
Or rather, the monopoly on the legitimate use of force. In any given civilization there is some subset of the population that uses violence, or the threat of violence, to establish order. Very few of us live in a situation where there is any dispute over who that group is. For most of us it is something very close to ‘the police’
There can be nested or parallel systems, like the elders of the Navajo Nation settling internal maters in one way and using the US courts for external matters in another. It can be much more complicated with, let us say, good family men with totally legitimate businesses in Chicago mostly observing state and federal law in some places and paying lip service in others while adhering to a different set of codes in private matters slightly less legitimate businesses. And it can be vague with poorly defined boundaries between where a family’s autonomy conflicts with the central authority over what constitutes strict/abusive parenting or lax/negligent parenting.
One might quibble over who is really in charge or what ‘legitimate’ might mean when the mob is operating basically unchecked. But no one has any doubts that one civilization is over when armed men march in to a city and say that they are in charge now and here is how things are going to be from now on, like the Taliban just did in Afghanistan. The USA will be over when armed and organized groups do that to enough US territory that the remaining pieces are now things like the United Republics of New England of the former United States.
We are not at that point. I would say, that we are closer to the point where Rome couldn’t afford the Roman Legions on its boarders and started hiring mercenaries for less.
JMG, I’ve been reading the comments at your Dreamwidth account every day for the past few weeks. Last night I “spontaneously” put on a John Denver album (for the first time in decades) to share with my daughter. I guess I’m traveling on your wavelength!
re: periphery vs. center getting more resources.
My best guess is that peripheral areas that militarily or economically critical are assigned a high priority and get good resources. No one was going to just abandon Roman Egypt. So does the capital in the center, especially the powerful classes. So the roman patricians and wealthy do fine until very late in the game.
Areas within the home nation that aren’t major power centers tend to be under-resourced and languish (like maybe rural italy outside rome), while peripheral areas of low priority first languish, then abandoned entirely relatively early. ie. roman britain.
The importance of the books that you read during your formative years really can’t be overstated. I’ve been working through the books I *wish* I’d read during my formative years, taking many suggestions from your “deindustrial reading list” of a few years ago (which, of course, included LTG).
Like Nedwina, Seaweedy, and John Patrick Moore, I have attempted a mature reevaluation of John Denver, but his work still rubs me the wrong way for some reason. Stan Rogers, however, is one of my favorites: folksy, epic, rousing, heartbreaking, earthy, and the only popular musician I know of who spoke the uncomfortable truth that petroleum saved the whales (for a while, at least).
I’m reading From What Is to What If, by Rob Hopkins of Transition Town fame, which touches on this same topic, somewhat. Essentially it argues that in order to deal effectively with climate change, we need to cultivate our imaginations.
True enough, but these sorts of books are growing increasingly frustrating for me to read. The basic subject is one I care about deeply, but there’s a naivete here that’s hard to take.
Hopkins writes as though climate change is some sort of new information, and that we still have time to do the Care Bear Stare hard enough to avert disaster. The premise is basic liberalism: Our systems, economic, social, what have you, are perfectible, we just need to come up with what changes will lead to climate perfection. The basic warp and weft of our lives can be changed by the proper implementation of rational policy.
He also writes as though the desolation of the Western imagination is some sort of weird glitch or oversight. As though we somehow stumbled into massive oversaturation of digital technology, and our schools just happen to be nightmare factories, and somehow we’ve been subjected to eighty years of intense advertisement and no one has really thought to point this out.
These aren’t whoopsie-doodles, or minor flaws in an otherwise functioning system. These problems have been a long time coming, and are the results of deliberate decisions made over and over again.
I’m probably being too dour, and taking my frustrations out on the author. I hope Hopkins succeeds in galvanizing people into taking action, and even five years ago, this book would have been a godsend to me.
A while back Jordan Peterson had a fellow on his podcast from the Cato Institute. This guy had written a book on the bright future ahead for the planet, and why no one should be a “doomer”. The transcript is here, https://www.humanprogress.org/jordan-peterson-podcast-transcript/.
Peterson can be good when discussing psych and men’s issues, but is completely clueless when straying into economics and ecology. There’s one thing I want to point out about the interview. They began a discussion about the miracle that occurred during the mid-1800’s, when suddenly prosperity and population exploded like a “hockey stick”. And so Peterson asks the Cato guy, what could have caused this?
So I’m sitting there waiting for them to say the magic 3 letter word: “oil”. Just say it so I can hear what else this genius has to say. But they don’t. Mr. Cato says, it’s really a mystery why population exploded at that point. We have some theories, though. Ok, I think, say the word “oil”. And he says it’s probably due to the liberalization of economic policies around the world. And I’m flabbergasted listening to this hothouse flower go on about the importance of maintaining free trade and the evils of protectionism, and if this evil is avoided, the economy will surge another 6 fold over the next 80 years. Yes, 6 fold.
(search for the words “hockey stick” in the transcript to see this part of the conversation.)
This Cato guy is a perfect example of the managerial salary class – completely clueless of resources, physics, ecology, and economics. And shocked why anyone would want trade protectionism. And DC, Brussels, London are loaded with these eggheads. And that’s why my normie friends imagine a green, clean, electrified car world run by super-intelligent AI and mock me when I say it’s all nonsense.
Derrick Jensen in this year’s “Bright Green Lies” also blows these ideas straight into the dumpster: https://derrickjensen.org/bright-green-lies/ .
Sorry, I had to vent. I can’t believe the nonsense I see nowadays.
Idaho’s potato crop is not looking so well either.
Siliconguy, It has rained steadily through July and August in upstate NY. Half my potatoes rotted when I left them out to cure during our one sunny week. I think it was because of high humidity in the air. A farmer from whom I buy said he is not bringing potatoes to market at all this summer and neither are some of his neighboring growers. The air is buzzing with mosquitoes, I have to wear a net outside, and toads are growing fat. The beginning fall garden of mostly leafy greens is looking not to bad so far. Beginning last year, all sorts of DIY supplies have been in short supply: seeds, caning lids as you said and chest freezers are just a few.
@ Pythia # 75,
Yes and yes, indeed, it is a lovely poem and I came across it in a film on D Day while still at college!!!!! A German officer was uttering it in the film while contemplating the incoming disaster awaiting them. I had goose pimples all over while watching this film: “Le jour le plus long”.
A famous french singer “Serge Gainsbourg” used part of this Paul Verlaine poem in a song: “Je suis venu te dire que je m’en vais”. On Youtube you can find multiple versions of it. Very nostalgic.I do not recommend listening to this song if you are sad or depressed though!
At the very least we can say that the French know how to write poetry and sing (among other things of course)!!!!
Hey hey JMG,
The graph in your post is shaded in past the year 2000. The original 1972 graph didn’t have the dividing lines so reading the year was more difficult. When I learned about Limits to Growth on The Oil Drum it was mentioned that LtG had been dismissed in the decades earlier as a failed prediction because people misinterpreted the time on the graph. Thinking that the peak and crash had not happened in the 80’s or 90’s and so the whole prediction was wrong.
It is a trivial and easily rectified misunderstanding, but that was enough for a lot of people to write it off. It is probably more accurate to say that was enough for a lot of people who didn’t want to hear what it had to say to dismiss it.
This time it is more difficult to dismiss what with temperatures rising and the corals bleaching and whatnot. It reminds me of a story I heard once Refusing the Call: A Tale Rewritten, oh, who knows where.
Though much that could have been saved in the last 50 years has been lost there is still much that could be saved. There’s no certainty in this business except the certainty of what will be lost if nothing is done.
It’s a shame we don’t have some plucky young hobbits and a wizard…
Thanks again for all you’ve done,
OMG, a song from JMG! Unfortunately I’m not a “Premium Member” so not allowed to watch or listen to the video. Scrolling through the comments, it appears to be something by John Denver. If you can tell me the title, I can try looking it up elsewhere.
I always loved “Dust in the Wind” too. It’s one song I figured out on my own how to play on the guitar, until my husband demanded I quit playing the guitar. (Single large room house for 20 years.)
My back-of-the-envelope calculation suggests that it takes about four times more energy to pump water from 20,000 feet down than to desalinate the same quantity of seawater, and that doesn’t include the energy cost of drilling four miles. Also likely to have very high levels of dissolved minerals including things like arsenic and lead. Also the temperature at that depth is ~200ºC, and working with water as a supercritical fluid is challenging (i.e. it will flash to steam once the pressure drops below a certain point).
So…geologically interesting, economically impractical.
Thank you for your reply. As for the space factor, that could sure be a problem in a few settings, but considering the extremely low costs as far as the other aspects of the process involved (compared to conventional water treatment plants), I believe it could still be workable.
Not all constructed wetlands are necessary large in size. I haven’t read enough, but I think connecting a number of small CWs in some sort of battery system might help do the job in some settings. For example, in many chemical plants, heat exchangers are connected in networks to do the job better (IIRC, it’s called ‘pinch analysis’). Maybe a similar approach could work w.r.t. CWs?
Thank you for your reply. I’m not surprised that Trump doesn’t take environmental issues seriously (although I’m not American, so I could be somewhat uninformed on this), I had seen, long ago, a video where Bernie Sanders said that Trump thinks climate change is a hoax created by the CCP in order to boost the Chinese economy at the expense of everyone else.
Well thank you JMG for keeping your head back in the day and for being such a powerful prophetic voice for so many people. We’re 40 years from that wrong-turn moment – enough time for the boomer generation to grow and now begin to fade from the scene – and it will be the children of the last 20 years or so who will have to pick up the pieces over the next few decades and deal with the consequences. There won’t be any choice in the matter, it will be adapt or die time for many.
So, for all those who’ve already done a bit of collapsing, or who have a basic understanding of what’s happening, or who’ve learned some skills or built some things of use for the future we’re going to get, well we can all be useful helping and teaching the younger generations what we know.
“Chad, there’s another fine blast from the past! I wonder if some record label would be willing to put together an album of 1970s eco-music…”
Sweeeet! let me know when its out 😉
Dear Mr. Greer & Commentariat – An article in our local newspaper, tonight, about local shortages ….
To set the scene …. Small town in Western Washington State, (kinda) rural. On Interstate 5, halfway between Portland, Oregon and Seattle. That’s why they call it Centralia. 🙂 Lew
Bridge, #97/ JMG.
Regarding John Denver’s airplane: It was a Rutan VariEze that he had been test flying, I think with the intent of purchasing. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rutan_VariEze. All VariEze’s were amateur homebuilt.
The airplane carries 2 people, pilot included, is made out of foam and fiberglass (not unlike a surfboard), with a 100hp engine, and was typically built by skilled-tradesmen class, middle aged men in their garages. It was relatively cheap to build, except for the aircraft engine and instruments, of course. It is less resource intensive than a small car; empty weight 580 lbs. My father considered building one, and in the mid-late 1970’s he and I went to the Mojave Airport to see Burt Rutan, the designer, give a presentation & tour on building the airplane. I remember it well.
The airplane is generally excellent and safe, with forgiving flight and handling characteristics. But it has its quirks. It has 2 fuel tanks, one buried in each wing. When one tank empties, the pilot has to unbuckle himself, and turn around to reach back and switch the fuel tank selector valve. John Denver knew about this, and knew one tank was low before he took off. But he hadn’t practiced the procedure on the ground, and when he needed to figure it out in the air, he lost control of the aircraft, and that was it.
John Denver’s flying habits (i.e. light planes) made his life-style no more carbon/energy intensive than that of anybody who drives a car. (Apologies for letting my irritation show)
There will be an interesting dynamic as the world gets poorer, that of its impact on birth and death rate. Generally poverty is associated with increases both birth and death rates suggesting that average life expectancy will take quite a tumble and be more pronounced that the smoother reduction in total population.
This further impacts on a potential loss of wisdom and knowledge (not that there is too much knocking around at the moment).
For some unaccountable reason, I always find your comments deeply engaging. You must be touched by some spiritual influence…
Regarding your comment 99: What have you got against memes? They are potent, self-propagating, and one meme is worth a thousand words… Seriously, a meme is just another tool which can be used for beneficent or malefic purposes. A campaign such as you are contemplating is just the sort of thing they are good for. The hard part is devising the meme.
Blessings upon you and your project.
That was an excellent post, topped off by a John Denver song, which I’ve never heard before, that was so poignant, yet beautiful, and captured the essence of our time perfectly. Music has a way of conveying a message that words alone can’t do; it’s magical.
Thank you, Averagejoe
“There are actually enough people in your area that buy new clothes instead of washing them that someone saw fit to make a PSA? That’s shocking to me.”
There has been a sharp increase in deposed clothing in recent years apparently.
In the whole country. Someone said it was due to such a rapid turnover in fashion trends-
one way or another, too much clothing has been thrown away. Allegedly at many times even without being worn. That made it to the news accompanied by a moniker some years ago on these same public transport screens, and now in comes this recommendation…
Shopper-Consumer culture I’d say, coupled with online ordering and home delivery.
Let’s see what these 1984 devices recommend next. I will inform you.
“The underground economy is a huge reality in today’s America, where a flurry of rent-seeking gimmicks on the part of governments, banks, real estate companies, and other financial parasites make it impossible for many perfectly legal businesses to make a profit if they follow the rules.”
That’s why there needs to be a debt jubilee every 7 years. Debt Jubilees in canceling debt and making lenders eat the costs is in the long run is very effective parasite load shedding.
Lew, you say you live in Western Washington State? Near Bellingham? There is a group of 4 of us Ecosophians who meet weekly, a 5th person has declared plans to join us this week. If you’re nearby and interested, I’ll send details; you can reach me at my gmail dot com address, use my handle (without the space) as the address.
Hello JMG and my fellow commenters,
I’d like to know more about the labor shortage in the US due to the development of an underground economy. In my book, that’s a sign of impeding collapse a.k.a. the canary in the mine.
Contrary to most other commenters, I don’t have any shortage related to food and grocery supplies to report from here in France. I can get common vegetables and meat from local sources through the small outlet in my little town. Prices are kinda high nonetheless. Beer flows from Belgium and Germany. Tap water’s still drinkable and bakeries are busy and well stocked. For now.
Problems arise when you go to your local hardware store or need supplies for a job. There’s still a little lumber, cement is rather uncommon as are plastic and copper tubing. Glass and aluminium are overpriced. Rumour has it that compounded window systems are in shortage. I’ll try to investigate deeper next time I run an errand at the hardware store.
The fact is that the housing industry faces shortages of good construction lumber among other things. I’ve read that french forests are overexploited since 2010 by foreign buyers who leave next to nothing to national industries. Therefore, we must import our own lumber. This situation became worse since the covid crises as far as I know.
@Lew et al. regarding artichokes of Jerusalem (a.k.a. topinambours here)
Rinse them well in slightly acidic water before peeling them.
You can cook them in water if you add one spoon of baking soda.
You can roast them too in a little fat as you do with onions.
Topis contain inulin as their main energy stock which contrary to starch is not a glucose-polymer but a fructose-polymer. Humans lack the enzyme to digest/hydrolyse it. We can digest starch because our saliva contains an enzyme, the amylase that drives starch hydrolysis into overdrive in our stomach.
So when inulin reaches your intestine unprocessed the gut flora starts getting at it hence some flatulences (bacteria don’t just break inuline into fructose, they digest the fructose releasing carbon dioxyde).
If Lew has the symptoms he describes when eating artichokes, it may mean that his gut flora doesn’t have species able to digest inulin. Maybe trying to ferment artichokes of Jerusalem just as one does with cucumbers will do the trick ? Lew, do you similar digestive issues with cabbage or common artichokes?
Copper #83, have you seen the Stream of Blood https://www.youtube.com/c/StreamofBlood/videos and Glass Cannon Network https://www.youtube.com/c/TheGlassCannon/videos channels? They really showed me the potential of RPGs. I’m a management consultant and human factors specialist and while watching the games found myself thinking all the ways I could use what I know to enhance the game – in character, not just as a player. I’m pretty sure I could break most of the key premises of Vampire the Masquerade with careful planning and thin-blood alchemy. 🙂 I actually learned things about being a revolutionary from the Anarch army in Vampires of Pittsburg, the Kenahora campaign of Blades in the Dark, and the eviction module in Cyberpunk Red.
If preparing games stresses you out, I’ve recently read Encounter Theory, Play Unsafe and Return of the Lazy Dungeon Master. They’re all about the most efficient, stress-free and fun ways to plan and play. I haven’t used them personally but the best GMs I’ve seen recommend them and they make sense. Also very interesting was Thoughts on Forging in the Dark, a guide to hacking / modding the Blades in the Dark system.
I was thinking what the most linear and on-the-rails adventure possible would be, and came up with a dungeon with every room in a row one after the other. The PCs would have to go through them in the set order and couldn’t get lost. 🙂 I’m most attracted to open world but am intrigued by games with more plot-forcing elements. Agon is at the lower end with Fiasco and Ten Candles at the high end. I’m both fascinated by the mechanics they use to do it and feel oppressed by the freedom they take away.
Have you thought about designing games of your own?
Thank you for this post. In a perverse way I was hoping for an update such as this from you because it confirms several experiences I’ve had in my (well-off, western European) country since June. All of these are things you’ve talked about endlessly on your blogs but living through them in person really was a completely different experience, and brought home the gravity of the evolving situation.
Despite shopping at a slightly more upscale supermarket chain than the average (very middle class type thing), product shortages did suddenly occur on the shelves around the beginning of the summer. At first it was exotic or wasteful stuff like pre-chopped vegetable mixes or spices and curries for cooking, then it was meat (the beef section especially has practically vanished), even pre-made microwave meals started shrinking both in shelf space and size, despite a 20% increase in price over the past year the portion size and variety of ingredients was considerably lowered, to the point even my modest appetite isn’t sated with one of those. Eventually the spices were replaced by watered down and more expensive substitutes with far less taste, just to fill the shelves again. Whereas most of the store was once jam packed with products, lots of the food aisles are starting to look more spaced out. This hasn’t hit the non perishable products, for the moment at least.
Then in July, my area experienced the worst floods in living memory, leaving hundreds if not thousands of houses damaged and destroyed and killing dozens of people. Thankfully I was unaffected as my flat is on a hilltop, although I lost electricity for 2 days and natural gas for over a month. I cluelessly tried to drive to work that morning because I had a very urgent appointment, and I can say with certitude it’s the first time I’ve felt truly at nature’s mercy, driving through town after town whose lower streets were completely flooded, and eventually being trapped outside the city when the last bridge flooded (I was forced to drive over to some relatives out of town to spend the night). The major roads in my city, one of the biggest in the country, have still not been reopened because repair efforts have been dogged by lack of materials, expertise, and manpower. Indeed, they are not scheduled to be reopened before next year because of problems with changing all the electronics inside some of the tunnels (speed and security cameras, digital displays). This has made commuting in the city (thankfully not my case as I work on the outskirts) into a living hell for many people, even as public transport continues to be crippled by covid restrictions on passenger occupancy, causing a huge surge in car usage.
In august I had a small project planned at a nature preserve I volunteer at that involved using some cheap untreated OSB wood panels to close off part of an old bunker to encourage bat hibernation. The person I was doing this with (an independent contractor who was also a volunteer working for free here) was shocked when he went to get the panels and discovered the price had more than tripled since last year, and he reported similar price increases for many of the basic raw materials he uses for his job. He is also very afraid of the consequences on construction and repair work, infrastructure maintenance, and industrial output, to the point he’s started homesteading (with a vegetable garden and a chicken coop) and acquired a firearms license and a shotgun, no easy feat in my country.
Of course through all this, the increase of the price of oil also didn’t go unnoticed.
There is also the matter of international trade. Indeed, having ordered several products overseas over the past few months, every single one of them has been hit by considerable production delays, far in excess of what could have reasonably been expected a few years ago. Based on the sellers’ communications, there appears to be a global shortage of shipping containers, or means to move these containers about. The prices to ship products have increased in an extraordinary fashion, by one seller’s reckoning a 2-3 fold increase since last year (from 8000$ to move a batch of their products abroad to 22000$ in the most extreme case), and equally massive waiting times in shipping fulfillment once those increased fees have been met.
I feel like all this may come to a head this winter or the next, as the de-nuclearisation of our power grid continues apace with no substitutes besides buying our neighbour’s surplus, as the government has been warning of rolling blackouts for some time now.
I don’t really know how to conclude this, except to say I feel somewhat overwhelmed with all these events happening (to quote Hemingway) “gradually, and then suddenly”. I’ve put together some preparations for the winter just in case (basic stuff like candles, extra blankets, cooking stuff that’s not electricity dependent and warm clothes) but still, as I’m young, rent a flat, and have few savings I hope there’ll still be time to transition to a more resilient lifestyle in a few years when I’m in a better more independent situation.
I can speak to the food rotting. I live in the Pacific Northwest. Last year we had a salmonella “scare” with the onions, which were being imported from the States. As a canary in the coal mine for these things, I can tell you the onions have been bad before and remain bad – when you peel them the innermost layers are not white but clear, not hard but gooey. I have slowly been able to eat less and less produce. It’s the lettuce, the spinach, the cauliflower, the celery… the seasonal, local blueberries! The food is literally rotting, even the local (& organic, if the farm’s big enough to pay for that certification).
I don’t know what it is. I’ve considered ill will, stressed and stretched practices, antimicrobial resistance,…
I’ve been trying to buy a bike since last August (1500USD to spend, expensive to most people, cheap according to my best pal bike fanatic 🙂 ). Even prepared to wait months to get it, no takers! Talking to a friend who works in import / export, and apparently there’s a worldwide shortage of shipping containers (important as most actual products come from China). This was aggravated after the first wave of Covid, as there was a rush to buy, and the two main ports on the west coast of the US didn’t have time to reload the empty containers to take them back to China… so now the containers aren’t in the right place to be used!! Apparently things are more difficult in Europe as the US is prepared to pay more to use the containers. I did get a bike on Facebook Marketplace for 30USD (not a theft, I visited the seller’s house), not quite the right frame size, but will do for the moment.
JMG et al,
Do you think the curves modelled by LtG will still match reality on the downslope? I am thinking here of the “Seneca Cliff” (Ugo Bardi).
There are many possible problems with the expectation of smooth descent – from the fact that the current system is predicated on growth to the model of catabolic collapse that you created.
Is it possible that LtG is optimistic on the downslope?
>I expect things to end badly, just as they did every other time Israel has been an independent Jewish state
You know, the last time Irael was an independent state was around the time of the Late Bronze Age Collapse…
>Things I’ve noticed shortages of. Canned diced tomatoes. There are still other canned tomato products, around, but it’s a lucky find, to find them
Same here. One week you might find your favorite brand of crushed tomatoes, next week, they’re gone. And of all the things to be in shortage of! One or two tomato vines will produce more tomatoes than you know what to do with! I guess you could think about growing your own and canning them but oh wait, canning jars and lids are all gone too.
And some other poster noticed that real food has decidedly gotten scarcer than the junk food has. Yeah. I’ve noticed that too.
Dyefitsit, dyefitsit wherever you look. It makes me want to sing, sing, SING
Soyuz nerushimy rezpublik svobodnik…
Other Van islanders here (think I even saw someone else). Saw some of the same shortages you have, vitamins seem to be getting scarce again and I have been told some water treatment products are in short supply. Restaurant and medical personal also seem to be in short supply and the medical personal situation here and in BC confuses me lately. The province somehow was allowed to bring support staff back as union staff yet little is done for clinical staff. Then there are the questionable if not suspicious leading of protestors to the hospitals and alleged attacks on staff…not encouraging. I did note the normally odious, bullying, corrupt leadership of Island Health publicly spoke about it, very strange. Atmosphere here seems to be getting pretty tense as fall comes along, hope everyone is prepared.
JMG – your writings have clarified for me (forwever, effectivey) the impasse between a worldview where your two options are capitalism and communism. That entire dichotomy hinges on viewing the derivative world (financial and otherwise) as primary and “Natural”, so that you are oscillating forever between the evils of capital hoarding in the form of either predatory robber barons or a totalitarian state. Which one you prefer literally amounts to a body count or misery index, itself symptomatic of the evacuation of all spiritual value. No world can be in any sense natural which is not by definition sustainable. I’m thankful I live in America’s hill country, and am not going to migrate to Abkhazia any time in forever. However, most Americans think that it is natural to live in a mechanistic world that cannot even close its own “trash loop” by not destroying its future: for us, assets and liabilities are terms which actually reverse any meaning they could possibly have by viewing everything in short term cash value. An ancient book or scroll is a cultural asset whose main value is unquantifiable, even if it can be sold for millions at auction. When and if it degrades, unnoticed in a cave, it goes back to net Zero and is not a long term source of pollution, visible or invisible. Potentially, it provides purpose and meaning for those who preserve it, re-copy it, or rebind it, assimilate it, or otherwise avail themselves of the potential wisdom. A car that gets junked out after 15 years is in every way an enormous long term liability, unless it can be salvaged. But for what? Making other cars? We won’t know what to do with all that metal for a long time, if we can even successfully smelt it for castle doors. And the pollution is palpable. Americans think our health care system is the best, although the conditions it is best at treating (car accidents, shootings, etc.) are largely a function of the very idea that your body is a temporary “facility” you use for pleasure, factory labor, etc., enhanced by the gadgets which then make us ill and fragile. Our societies were organized to exploit coal, gas, oil, etc. and harness us for GDP. As China has made clear, other people(s) can do that just as efficiently if not more so, using Communism 2.0 (Dmitri Orlov). So now we have a choice: American style socialism and soft totalitarianism or continued Black Rock style exploitation and warfare, versus backing up and accepting limits, and recovering the “permanent things” (Russell Kirk). Thank you for putting enormous amounts of effort into making the second a viable option for the ordinary confused person (me). It’s nice to imagine a world where technology isn’t a slave to ideology of any kind, but used in the context of wisdom traditions. The vaccine (to me, if I may be forgiven for harping), seems to be a perfect example of this – the embrace of a short term asset (you really are GOOD for 3-6 months, assuming you don’t “crash” and burn) in exchange for an open-ended liability of potentially enormous downsides, including permanently toxifying your immune system in a way that ensures you will be an evolutionary dead end compared to “primitive” peoples elsewhere that shrug and weather the storm with older technologies, including the idea that you vaccinate by free choice or just help the extremely vulnerable. It’s all about trade offs. I am praying that all the people who took in good faith are protected by their immune systems, and most especially that those who don’t aren’t collateral damage. Somehow we have to recover the idea that our most precious assets are things that are free that we are not used to feeling gratitude for, and that most “assets” we are marketed are only assets to those doing the selling. It’s time to Scour the Shire and learn from Tom Bombadil, and move on with Life. Looking forward to the Ring ending up in Mount Doom. I would like to see a new America, where the old promise of what we really had emerges into organic predominance for the first time. The thieves ran the dreamers out the first go around; maybe the dreamers can make a come back, dreaming of a Utopia built on the idea that Tech-Utopia ain’t possible, but maybe, a humane existence is. Now it’s back to finding a used potter’s wheel, and collecting old books, for me….
a song I keep playing to myself over the last decade is Buffalo Springfield’s ‘For What it’s Worth’,
it always seems to be relevant to whatever is churning through the news cycle of the day,
The limits of Growth report was launched into an already polarised debate, BAU and orthodox Imperialism was in trouble, the business community was already launching a counter offensive and LTG had to be shunned and dismissed,
an indication of the push back is the Powell Memorandum, it’s an informative read in hindsight,
Ralf Nader got named personally in the memo,
at the same time there was a big shift in television media, what came to be known as the Rural Purge, all the folksy country shows got dumped and tv was ‘urbanised’
“CBS cancelled everything with a tree in it – including Lassie.”
in response to a backlash from viewers ‘The Waltons’ was commissioned and aired in a ‘death slot’ hoping it would underperform and get quickly cancelled, instead it became an enduring hit that lasted a decade,
I don’t think the battle that started in the 60’s ever ended,
if the Cold War was a battle between ideological Super Powers, there has, similarly, been a Cold War between the Power Elites, comprising the establishment, and the people in the domestic arena,
as the power and hold of the State diminishes, it’s ability to fight external and internal Cold Wars may falter and the tide might well finally turn in favor of the people everywhere.
Thanks for the response, JMG. Oh, I do reflect on the non-stop bullying of the establishment on ‘oddballs’ like us. But I’m the kind of person whose inner resolve is strengthened by such bullying (perhaps it is a fatal flaw – or saving grace – of the Celts?). And I do what I can by word and action to spread dissensus. I’m just not one to dream that in the teeth of our perfect storm of crises there will be a soft landing (I know you didn’t say that will happen – but of course it is a common delusion brought on by bad binary thinking). The opportunity given in the ‘70s came and was squandered. That boat has sailed. We’ve all got a tough row to hoe ahead of us. Fortunately, I like to hoe.
I hope you don’t mind if I add some thoughts of my own. You think that it is still possible to transition to a sustainable society. I think that is still theoretically possible. The problem is that few people are willing to make the sacrifices to do it. Many of us are still clinging to the religion of progress and are unwilling to give it up
If we had started to transition in the 1970’s we would have had a much easier time of it due to lower population, greater resources etc. The transition could have been done gradually without turning people’s lives upside down. To transition now would require a world war two like mobilization and transition of society, and I see very few people who are up for that. The only things likely to cause such a transition now would be a crisis like a war, large scale food shortages that didn’t just affect the poor, a massive oil crisis etc. This could spark what one could call a retrotopian response of the kind mapped out in Mr Greer’s novel of that name. The problems is that it could also spark something nastier, like civil war, revolution, totalitarianism etc. Unless people are willing to move on mass towards a sustainable society it won’t happen.
Although maybe I should add that we will eventually, move to a sustainable society. But that isn’t going to happen until we move into a dark age, maybe a hundred to two hundred year away. But I don’t think that’s what you meant.
I wish you all the best. At least you are thinking about this and that is a good thing. It can be difficult to get your hear round this if you are still attached to the myth of progress.
About two years after the credit collapse of 2008, I was sitting in a bar with my best college friend and a couple of other buddies. For arguing that banks and bankers had a primary responsibility for the credit collapse, and that resource constraints were putting a drag on recovery and would continue to do so over time, my best college friend stood over me in the bar shouting for everyone in the bar to hear, “Resources are abundant! You are a total piece of ****, a total ******* loser, a worthless idiot and a ******* waste of a life!” I haven’t seen him since.
He was a Vice President at a Fortune 500 at the time. He is COO now. Last I heard he traded out his 3500 sq ft, $800,000 house for something bigger and better. I’m working in the local parks for $18/hr.
But I am working through your Octagon Society training, I’m working through the cards and Levi’s “doctrine and ritual”, I am studying your work on green wizardry, I have a deep knowledge and understanding of plants and gardening, and a wealth of knowledge and professional skills in the building trades esp construction, quite talented at taking what other people treat as garbage and making beauty and function. My college friend’s “bread and butter” is standardized testing. On balance, I’m doing just fine.
Otherwise I saw in his outburst tidings of what the reaction will be among the PMC esp, as bubble economics, pollution and resources constraints drop anchors on this ship of Progress.
Let me throw out a data point I just heard. Last night in Central Park, 3.1+ inches of rain fell in 1 hour from the remnants of Ida. Apparently this crushed the old record of 1.9 inches in an hour, set less than two weeks ago during Henri!
Hi John Michael,
The Limits to Growth book (which I’ve read), actually discussed the ‘no matter what we did to the variables, the results were the same’ predicament. And the implications weren’t lost on me either. Did you notice that at the stage of industrial output peak and decline, the resource curve is half of what it was only just recently? And here we are today.
I noticed that postage of e-commerce has been halted for three days on this side of the continent, with the health subject which dare not be named taking the blame.
I converse with a broad range of people and I hear about supply shortages all over the shop. And it has rather surprised me that nobody seems to consider just how odd a situation it is. Anyway, I tell people now to act if they have the opportunity to do so, because my best guess is that things will get worse – not better. I’m often left wondering what I’ll be blindsided by, but you know, I just make do, somehow.
Less stuff since 2008. Ups n downs since but looks like we’ve topped out just as predicted.
It’s somewhat comforting to know there are shortages in the first world too. Not because I like their citizens were suffering, but because in the third world many people tend to believe shortages are just a problem related to poverty and an evil cabal treating them unfairly. Well, my list of shortages here:
-New cars. Used cars prices are soaring, so I sold mine for almost the same price when I bought it. No plans to buy a fresh one.
-Cell phones, computers and electronics.
And food prices are rising steadily.
What disturbs me is almost nobody seem to find out the actual cause of this mess: peak oil. Instead, what I hear is a rush to blame everybody else: the Government, elites, USA, the filthy riches, or what have you as a fashionable scapegoat. If you can’t point the actual reason, what you will get is a wrong solution. Where I live, the demagogues has made up the solution is a new Constitution. I’m not holding my breath to see how that “solution” will work.
This post brought me back down memory lane in a good way. John Denver was some of the first music I remember from my youth, very positive experiences when the picture wasn’t even half painted yet. I grew up not to far from where your at on the South shore of MA. Was so different back then: many small farms in backyard gardens in tight knit small/ medium community towns with positive civic relations. Even during some of the rough patches in the 70s people had support systems and were helping each other so much and got along so much better than the present. I visit friends periodically, so sad it has given way to subdivisions and shopping plazas much the same as everywhere.
One thing that I notice at least for me that seems to have an adverse affect on society is the frequency of moving around. Especially where I am at now, building a support system with people is difficult. I have now been living in the same town in the deep south for over 20 years and once you get to know someone it is not to long before they move, most of the time job related. I also see and here of many folks having to travel back and forth somewhere cross country to tend to a relative(s) who has fallen on hard times due to health or situational, many with little to no family or friend support system. Reading history people did not appear to move at this frequency unless there was some type of upheaval due to war, famine, etc. I think all the moving around has played another big part in the economically controlled demolition of our society and is going to make things difficult going forward when folks even families have to eventually move closer and get to “know” each other again let alone building back actual communities of positive and useful civic relations.
I don’t mean to be be overly cynical, but I need to ask – who is this “we”? Except as a rhetorical flourish, do entities like “we as a species” or “we as a community of nations” really exist in any serious way? Isn’t it true that for entities to make choices, they need to have functioning decision making faculties? And yet, does “we” have this faculty, as a species or as a civilization? Or is it rather the case that politics (the executive end of we’s decision-making faculty) and the media (the contemplative end of we’s decision-making faculty) function primarily to serve their own interests and not as organs of the greater “we”?
Now leaving aside the cynicism, I get what the writing’s purpose is. It isn’t meant to be a dry rational dissection of the concepts it discusses but to be rational and at the same narrative-building, setting up an alternate story that would do its best at making the most of the world we have. I admit that the word “we” has its place there.
Still, I have my doubts about the “we” on the level of societies and nations. I was born in the 1990s and my impression is that if any combination of pronouns defines the thinking of my generation (and the future in general), it is not “we” but “us and them” . This is especially true on the scale of a society, nation or the world.
Finally, I am not a complete cynic myself. I get that in some sense, the “we” needs to exist, I just want to limit my thinking to the “we” that can exist. As I can see it, a “we” can exist on a smaller scale, in culturally and spiritually tightly-linked communities and families. I think thinking in terms of a “we” on the level of these entities is rationally grounded and also benefits from the infusion of optimism that you tried to channel with this blog post. But above the level of a medium-sized community, no ounce of effort should be wasted there – that is how I feel.
PS: I get that there’s other writings of yours that basically align with the ideas in this post (and even parts of this writing align with it). I just really am hyperallergic to the word “we”. I developed this allergy back 5-6 years ago from reading leftist and mainstream environmentalist articles and I’m afraid it cannot be helped.
Dear JMG et al,
Limits to Growth is still the best model for global development that I have seen, 50 years later. How come? Has anyone seen anyone do a continent-by-continent simulation, or finer granularity in any other sense?
If anyone is interested in running the World3-model, you can download the OpenModelica software package and run the model with the different scenarios as described in the book. You can also pretend that you are a global dictator and tweak population growth etc, to see how your world would develop. Everytime I try this, I get a collapse, often sooner rather than later…
Here is a link for instructions: https://openmodelica.org/images/docs/SystemDynamics-World3-Simulation-with-OpenModelica.pdf
A side note on the name of the book. I think the title is misleading. It is not only the growth that is limited, rather the absolute volume of the human economic activity. A better title IMHO would have been “Limits to Civilization” or “Living inside Limits” or “Tread Softly”.
I would also like to give another book recommendation: “The Invisible Hand? – Rise and fall of market economies”, by prof. Bas van Bavel. He is a historian who has looked at several market economies in the history of mankind and found that they all follow very similar development patterns, on the timescale of centuries. He is not strong on the energy side, but very, very strong on the political power side. He shows that the economic elites always purchase more land and real estate. They purchase political power to change laws in their advantage, and pull out more and more assets away from the market. One of the stunning developments was how the living standards of farmers in the Netherlands continuously declined from year 1300 until 1800. The main protein source changed from meat to cheese to beans.
And he has a lot to say about the current turn of events, where the elites build oligopolies.
I will go back to the garden, good luck everybody! May your harvest be bountiful and rich!
Enjoy the bumpy ride!
“That said he does have a point, which is that degrowth will inevitably involve population decline aka more death, and folks who promote it as government policy generally fall into the camp of wanting austerity for others so that they can maintain their lifestyle.”
Failing medicine and coronavirus does look to be a relatively gentle measure compared to other forms of degrowth.
I don’t question the limits to growth at all. It’s rather intuitively obvious if one thinks logically about the issue. However, I do try to look at things from all sides. The population has roughly doubled since 1972. I’m assuming the projected population decline today is more from famine, disease, etc. than less sex, so, wouldn’t the population in a steady state have continued to rise resulting in a steadily declining standard of living as “slices of the limited pie” became steadily thinner? Of course that will happen now in a much more unpleasant way but that seems like a very difficult selling point. Western people, and particularly Americans, enjoy their prosperity and pleasure. The American Dream held our nation together and now that it is failing, our nation is failing with it. It probably wasn’t realistic to think that they would embrace the idea that they would never have more than they had at that moment, and increasingly less, because sometime in the distant future the unparalleled magnificence of Western Civilization will crumble. I really don’t see them doing it today. I think their reaction will be to throw tantrums rather than soberly face the truth. Unfortunately, a *big* part of that is that, for many reasons, a great many modern people’s lives are virtually meaningless without consumerism and conspicuous consumption. Asking people to embark on a project of spiritual enlightenment is far greater task than even asking them to give up fast fashion which will be challenge enough.
JMG – while this is more regarding resource use than industrial output, I just can’t resist sharing this article on how to prepare for prolonged power cuts (which will definitely be featured in our collective ragged future, as it presently is in New Orleans and vicinity):
I have only one word to describe it: pathetic. I mean, really? Is that all there is to say on the subject??? May the Gods help those who use this article as their ‘prepper bible’!
Some recent events have the family coming together to do long range planning and the main subject will involve disposition and use of the family farm. Your subject here has inspired a string of thoughts about a monastery of sorts dedicated to research and preservation of appropriate tech and living. These thoughts are entirely unformed as of now but I feel inspired and pressed to execute a plan now. To that end, I would appreciate any referrals to books, blogs or publications that deal with the theory and application of the concept. I will move the development conversation to Greenwizards in the coming weeks and hope as many here as have an interest will join us there.
A funny from norway. I just read a review of a book about climate change from a leading politician bigwig. His solution? Create a whole new state department specialy dedicated to “tackle” the issue… just what we need more of!
I like the term managerial class. Since it so well pinpoint whats really going on deep down.
What happens to a lot of electric cars over here? Turns out it is so expensive to fix and there are insurance issues with the battery if they get a little bump. So they get scrapped and sold as parts to europe.
About storing vegetables, I find that pit storage really works well even into the depths of winter.
Selling local food and farmers markets. Check out reko rings. Its a more efficient version of a farmers market.
I think we are at peak output now. Just visited oslo and my oh my! Electric scooters, bikes and cars everywhere. Everyone on a smartphone, me included. Norway is especially cushioned though. But the descent will come nontheless. And lots of good things will come out of it. Time to put our hands and feet on the ground. These coming years will be really interesting!
Booklover & Mr. Greer,
I hear ya.
After all, back then it twas Simon that said .. “Momma don’t take That Kodachrome awaaay!”
@Stilltherebemore #96 and all: You asked if anyone could imagine a 1% population decline. Well, here’s an odd little data point that might connect with that idea.
Karl Denninger writes that he’s been following stats on the workforce of “non institutionalized civilian population” (those over age 16 who are not locked up) for 20 years. Typically, there’s around a count of 2 million +/-. I’m not savvy about these numbers, so can’t comment on it — but Denninger is, and he’s found something very strange.
In the most recent report, that number has dropped to 1 million. I had to let that sink in… 1 million LESS people in the workforce over age 16 outside of prison/institutions.
He’s not making any immediate conclusions about this; could just be a bureaucratic “fat finger” incident. He’s going to be watching the next report very closely. The comments to his article are also worth a read.
Dear JMG et al,
I just listened to the song that you linked to. John Denver.
Oh, my dear God. I remember those days. The hope and sweetness of his music. It sustained me as a young teenager.
In later years, I pored over the couple volumes of Stewart’s Brands huge books and looked to a wonderful better future. I remember when Jimmy Carter put solar panels on the White House and I remember when Ronald Reagan took them down.
I had a bottle of Coke the other day. A real bottle of Coke in a glass bottle. It was made in Mexico. What the hell.
But, it reminded me of the simplicity of life in the 1970’s when I was 10, 11, 12 years old. In those days our biggest worry was who was going to win the Little League baseball game. I wax nostalgic.
However, this song and these memories are potent. Those of us who remember the the goodness and decency of earlier times in our lives have a superpower. We remember when life felt sane by greater or lesser degrees.
Is it possible to conjure, from our memories, the goodness and love that was there and bring it into reality here?
Archdruid, what say you? Is there a way?
Life and Light,
On shortages. I live in PMC Central – Wash DC. Yes, we got them big time. What I had to was to subscribe to two box food services who have ties with farmers to get my vegetables and protein. Yes, I had to learn to cook with the seasons in mind.
What I have discovered is that people forget about food being in season. Like in the fall, you get tomatoes but not strawberries. Growing up in Northern Maine, we had to know our seasons for when to plant, hunt, and pick berries. I can still remember – blueberries in August, blackberries in Sept…. etc.
The other thing I noticed is how detached people are from the natural world. I would tell my neighbor about the downy woodpecker and the pileated woodpecker and other woodpeckers I have seen. He response – oh – the small one and the big one. They are all woodpeckers to him.
When I point out basil or mint growing in the front of the building, people are like “wow” you know plants. I whip out my trusty field guide, and voila, here is the plant. Do people use field guides any more?
Yeah, where I work, we sometimes get a lot of food bank stuff because we are a charity. What’s really interesting is in the last few weeks we’ve been getting low cost crips, cans of beans, etc whereas before we would’ve gotten a lot of veg and or fruit. Indeed, ever since Covid started we lost out on a lot of meat deliveries too, and until a few weeks ago most of the veg that came in was either packet stuff or veg on the verge of going off. On the plus side its less work for me.
It’s odd. It’s almost as if we’re getting the sludge at the end of the barrel (the cheap knock of cereals, biscuits) which has been resting in the store until we’re given it near its expiration date? At the same time the high quality foodstuffs are dwindling?
@Tim Thank you for your post. Interesting insights.
Mark and JMG,
Re: country music as a herald of the future. I listen to a lot of independent country, folk, bluegrass, etc. in recent years there has been a very interesting trend outside of the mainstream. A lot of young people are returning to a pre-war style of these genres. They are collapsing to what used to work to avoid the rush.
Just off the top of my head, I could name half a dozen or more successful country artists in their 20’s or 30’s who started as homeless buskers. For example, Charley Crockett is a half black, half Cajun young man raised by a single mom among poverty and family tragedy, listening to rap music. You would think he might be a rapper, but no. He spent years as a homeless drifter busking for money in the US and Europe with what he calls a Texas-Louisiana boogie woogie. It’s fantastic. Doesn’t sound like anything Nashville would have produced any later than the 1950’s. And he just made his Opry debut.
There is also a trend of former anarchist punk rockers and drug addicts getting themselves together to be moderates playing real old fashioned roots music. These are people who hop trains to go to gigs. For example, Benjamin Tod and his Lost Dog Street Band have accepted the limits of poverty in order to play powerful and painful music that he would never be able to as part of the mainstream. This wouldn’t be strange for punk rock, metal, etc. For modern country, it’s surprising, and trending.
Even outside of the “former homeless” ranks, you have people like Colter Wall, who plays a style more western than country at times. The closest thing to real, classic cowboy songs you’ll find since pre-war. And with it, the politics of country seem to be shifting to include more moderates and liberals among the youth, though they all seem to belong to the just-gettin’-by class.
It looks to me like the younger generation is circling the wagons around the last country and bluegrass music that was really good, cooking up a dutch oven full of beans, and picking out the old songs while the world falls apart around them.
In a previous post, you said that the purpose of this world is as a kind of training ground for souls at a certain level of spiritual advancement to move on to the next level. You argued against the notion that the entire world could advance spiritually because this would undermine its purpose.
It seems to me that this might explain why we failed, fifty years ago, to redesign our society for a smooth transition to sustainability. Such a redesign would have required the degree of compassion for future generations and capacity for self-sacrifice that people are incarnated here to develop. It’s something that most people don’t have because, if we had it, we’d have moved on from here.
I have noticed a definite difference between the high-mileage food in the stores, which does seem to be spoiling quicker, and the food I get directly from local farmers, which seems to last as long as ever.
One of those farmers was complaining to me about her labor situation. She used to hire Mexican farm workers before the Trump administration put a stop to that. Very few Americans grow up on farms anymore and those that do generally don’t want to work as farmhands on somebody else’s farm. So she ends up with students on summer break. Many of them have never even kept a potted plant alive. She has to teach them everything. Then just when the harvest is starting to come in and her labor need is at its highest, they all go back to school and she has to start the hiring process all over again. The Mexicans she used to hire all grew up on farms, so they came in knowing what they were doing and just needed a quick bit of training in the way her particular operation works, and they stayed all the way through the end of the harvest. She misses them.
Re. shortages of canned goods – I follow Huntsman on Twitter (a supply chain guy), so I am not surprised by this at all. A couple of months ago there were warnings about a shortage of cans. No cans, no canned tomatoes, even if you have the tomatoes.
Re. my own hope to avoid collapse… collapse can be quite vague around the edges. I guess I’m trying to speedrun it and the ensuing dark age in a somewhat controlled way, whilst everyone else is busy collapsing (my thoughts on civilisational pruning are here – https://midwinterspring.substack.com/p/civilisational-pruning). I don’t think political unity is essential – the end of the post-roman dark age is generally held to have happened when Europe was politically fragmented, and the end of the Greek dark age came with the rise of the city-states.
With that in mind, I’m wondering what it means for the zeitgeist that Asimov’s Foundation series is being adapted for TV – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X4QYV5GTz7c A show about trying to keep a fire burning through the end of the world and beyond? Why *now*?
Meanwhile, in an allied country:
Thank you for your very detailed list of the necessities for a successful farmers market. I started as a vendor and later joined as a board member of the market I spoke of and I remember every effort we made in alignment to your list.
In the beginning we were the second market in the area and that alone brought people to our market just to see what was going on and vendors had fewer choices and did both markets since we are on different days. Once there was more competition between markets vendors had more choices and went were the customers were. Something of a chicken and egg problem; no customers, no vendors; no vendors, no customers. We tried everything we could think of (everything on your list in fact was in place in the beginning) to get both customers and vendors to our market.
As I said in my earlier post, our market was located in a very “underserved”(that is why it was started there to begin with), blue collar neighborhood. It seemed the perfect place(in a beautiful old park) and to begin with it was. However judging by how fast we lost customers and vendors to other markets in “better” neighborhoods, it occurred to me that we were dealing with a mismatch of class and economics. The people who lived around our market would have welcomed all the resale vendors and their cheap Chinese junk and over stock products. We ran them off regularly and probably ran off the local customers as well. I basically had to stop being a vendor there (no sales) and resigned my position as president of the board(no improvement in market conditions) to save my sanity.
As a vendor of hand made clothing items I can tell you how difficult it is to compete with cheap, disposable clothing that resellers will bring in. People look at my stuff, good as it is, walk down the line to the reseller or importer and spend their money there. I sometimes think that it makes them feel wealthy when they can buy several items of cheap clothing instead of only one item of something I make. To sell my goods I have to go to where the money is and the markets I attend aren’t in blue collar neighborhoods or they have been gentrified.
I don’t think it is enough to just supply all the items on your list to have a successful market. I think the market has to match the social and economic realities of the area it is in. We didn’t do that and other markets did.
Re: Reiss water aka juvenile water aka primary water
Just looking at the diagram on the homepage of the Primary Water Insitute, it seems like, if they’re right and there’s a layer of primary water in the mantle, that water could be holding the upper mantle up. Note sure that tapping it is a great idea.
Now, to be fair to them, (a) this is just looking at an oversimplified diagram, and (b) their actual plan isn’t to tap into the mantle resevoir, just to drill into underground springs that haven’t made it to the surface yet. That presents a different risk: if they’re wrong about the origin of those springs, then they’ll just end up tapping groundwater and depleting it further.
One ironic result of the hedonistic path taken by Americans is that a huge percentage of us have become overweight and unfit, much less healthy than the Americans of fifty years ago..There wasn’t one fat kid in my high school class, now they’re everywhere, even here in the Southwest where people can exercise outside every day of the year, and many do…
On the subject of agriculture, which has always interested me, perhaps due to all the farmers in my bloodline, I think the Limits to Growth projections are far too optimistic..Even the media has run articles on the alarming declines in the aquifers which support much of US agriculture..There are already areas that cannot be farmed anymore, and the problem is worsening as deeper and deeper wells are drilled, at great expense, to capture water from other wells essentially…Erosion of topsoil is also a major issue, though no-till farming has reduced the rate of loss in some areas..Fertilizer doesn’t provide nutrition, topsoil does, and in some places 90% of the soil that existed in 1900 is gone…
you’re venting to the right people. My sympathies, that sort of thing is maddening, and it’s everywhere.
Owen @ 166,167 About Israel, I think you might be suffering from a bit of chronological confusion. The Exodus is thought by most historians of whom I am aware to have taken place sometime between 1500 and 1100 BC or thereabouts. One fellow on you tube thinks some of the Hyksos/Shepherd Kings became Israelis. The main attraction of that dating is that it allows one to assume or suppose that the Red Sea disaster can be explained by the eruption of Santorini. The Biblical description does seem very like a tidal wave. That dating of the Exodus, before or around the time of the Bronze Age Collapse would place the rise of Israel as beginning after the Collapse, around 1100-1000 BC. and I think most historians would agree with that dating. Such chronology as can be derived from the Bible does fit in with what we know of other East Mediterranean civilizations. Also, was not Judea more or less independent under the Maccabees? Until some one of the high priests was fool enough to call for the assistance of one Gaius Pompeius Magnus, and the rest we know.
I happen to have been reading this morning a description of the geography of the East Mediterranean littoral by Michael Grant, The Ancient Mediterranean (1969) p. 65
“Greater Syria just does not exist. Far from being clearly defined, the territory did not need three modern Israeli-Arab wars to show its grievous lack of the geographical unity which enabled other Mediterranean countries such as Italy, Greece, Egypt or Spain to grow at different times into defensible national states.” So, by Grant’s account, Israel’s problems begin in geography. That doesn’t change the reality that when you move into a tough neighborhood, you need to get along with your neighbors.
Tomatoes can be sun dried in hot climates or roasted in a slow oven (or maybe over charcoal?). No need to buy scarce canning equipment, run up the electric or gas bill and the concentrated flavor is far superior to the canned product, IMHO. I found a vegetable dryer 2nd hand about a year ago. The dried or roasted maters can be frozen or probably, I have not tried this, submerged in either salt or oil.
You know that agricultural production, and then population, are supposed to start declining not long after industrial production peaks?
According to the World Food Programme, acute food insecurity has been getting worse starting in 2017. We’re now at a 5 year high. The main reasons are conflict, economic shocks and weather extremes.
While I take the WFP’s pronouncements about the immediate future with a grain of salt because it is in their interest to make current/immediate future situations sound bad, when the data on the past few years is grim I sit up and pay attention.
Now that you mention it, it is true that Rome suffered more than other cities in the western roman empire before its own fall in the 5th century. It really amazed me that nobody rushed to defend Rome during the 2 or 3 years Odoacer roamed the Italian peninsula before assaulting the capital of the empire. In what is now France, Germany and Spain, not to mention the Eastern empire there was still a roman rule, with armies and generals, with councils and tax collectors, but nobody cared about the Senate or the emperor… I suppose that is what happens to “clueless managerial aristocracy that can’t wipe their own noses without help”, right?
“Is it possible to conjure, from our memories, the goodness and love that was there and bring it into reality here?”
@ Viduraawakened #45 and increasing pollution.
Do you remember backyard wood-burning boilers to heat your home?
I do. IIRC They were popular the last time home heating costs soared.
They were also widely disliked by everyone who didn’t use one as they were filthy, pouring out smoke close to the ground rather than at least 1 & 1/2 stories up like a house chimney would.
People will burn ANYTHING to keep from freezing in the winter and to eat. If you’re cold and hungry and your kids are cold and hungry, you won’t care about the pollution you’re making.
Freezing in the winter is, by the way, yet another reason to insulate your house and your person. Buy those second-hand cheap comforters at Goodwill Bargain Bin today!
@JMG, Degingolade: You wrote… “Degringolade, I’m also looking forward to it. A friend of mine mentioned that she’s feeling as though life is becoming an adventure again — and there’s a point to that feeling.”
JMG… I know you have plenty of topics to write about, but I’d be curious to hear more about the sense of adventure in all of these situations we find ourselves in. It seems like this would be healthy to cultivate. & I feel that way too, so this is just my plug for a post on the topic, if of course, you are up for it and care to say more.
Shortages: Yesterday, buying paint for a room my wife and I worked on over the summer (we spent a lot of time stripping paint off baseboards, window frames and doors… restored those with danish oil, now painting the walls.) They wouldn’t sell a sample color because of shortages of resins in Texas. I talked with the guy at the paint store and he said it was from the ice / freezing storm that happened in Texas this past Winter. (Not C19!). This morning after dropping a stray cat who adopted us off at the vet my wife called and asked if I could do her favor before I went into work. She runs a school kitchen. The bread delivery guy didn’t have bread. Just buns and other stuff she ordered. So I had to drop off some extra loaves at the school.
Just two that I noticed in less than 24 hours. Oh, and a roll of masking tape cost 8 bucks. Wow.
@ Avocadogrove #113.
Thank you for a great summary of what a farmer’s market needs.
It’s eye-opening how much work goes on behind the scene.
Bill and I are indie writers so we participate in some of our local farmer’s markets and craft shows. I always wonder about the differences between them and how they’re run.
Thanks again for the backstage peek.
Public transit probably isn’t the right target audience for an ad telling people to wash their clothes and wear them again rather than throwing them out… one needs more money than sense for that kind of wastefullness.
JMG, someone did come and buy something. Many thanks to that person!
Dear Mr Druid
Some comments on the supply chain and shortages. With Covid the economy was shut dawn. For whatever reason, things did not crater and the supply chain withstood the initial shut dawn quite well. Now, as the economy is being re-opened, there are some issues as we are in uncharted territory.
In my opinion some of the problems are structural problems and not really related to decline but to other factors. These factors include increased number of monopolies. When one company (or group of companies) produces 80% of the worlds anything (say bike parts) there is no market response and likely no sense of urgency in fixing any problems. Some types of retail were really hurt by the closings – say specialized clothing – and are just now selling off the 2019 inventory they could not clear in 2020. This creates all kinds of ripples.
Concerning food I personally have not heard of anyone going hungry. Not getting your favorite brand of canned tomatoes hardly constitutes a crisis. Retail has become overly complex with too many SKU’s and we have become used to many different options for a jar of mustard. As someone who shops in a smaller grocery store I am always amazed by the selection in a large grocery store, and I am used to the occasional empty shelf. The farmers markets here are abundant as usual, and as usual some items have better years than others. The grapes and watermelon this year have been plentiful, bountiful, and cheap. Cherries and tomatoes not so much. Gardeners understand this.
Maybe because I am a size big and tall I am used to limited choices in clothing. Growing up I always looked a bit rough not because of lack of money but lack of options. Going into a running store and having 75 choices of size 14 is a luxury and maybe a more normal state of affairs is 4 choices and a wait of 12 weeks. The same can be applied across our society
what does dyefitsit mean?
@ Ron M: Yes, pathetic from the standpoint of a serious prepper. But a good many people don’t even know to do the things the article mentioned, I’m not kidding. Remember, CR is a magazine for people who buy things. (Most clueless – some years back, they followed an issue on being green with “Gas grills you have to have!” Big ones. )
Ad Freedom through limits:
That’s what I gathered from Epictetus’ Enchiridion. I would say a message is: find the limits of what is in your power and what isn’t, then concentrate on your manoeuvering space and you will draw satisfaction of the great challenge to live within your limits to the fullest.
So I would interpret it.
I enjoy hiking and exercise too. The question of what will I do if I am more physically limited often arises.
Probably delve deeper into meditation, visualization and other aspects of the mind.
My meditation practice is on a hiatus because physical exercise and daily action are currently more my priority.
But the depth of mastering one’s mind is arguably greater than the depth of mastering the mind’s focus on the body. This I have interpreted out of one of our hosts suggestions the other time at least and I would agree.
Lastly I’ll cite Nassim Taleb’s mention of a french university professor in the 1950s, whatever his name was.
He lost his manhood parts in the second world war, but was known as a great seducer of his female students, and we may speculate how he dealed with his limitations there.
I find it hilarious and somewhat motivating.
As a resident of Poland, a post-Eastern-Block country, I find it quite ironic that likely in a couple decades my living conditions will be similar to those of my grandparents at the same age… On the flip side, although I was raised already in conditions of relative wealth, I know that people can not own a car, wake up at 5am to wait in a line for bread, and buy oranges and soda only for Christmas – and it’s not really a big deal, as long as you have food on your plate. Poverty doesn’t scare me; the possibility of war – though not yet on the horizon – is what really gets me.
That being said, knowing what’s most likely ahead, I have quite an unusual goal for a person in their twenties – I’m trying to save enough money to buy a plot of land. And I recommend anyone who’s still got a few decades ahead of them to do the same.
Mary Bennett said:
“… I can remember when organic products were prohibitively expensive for anyone on a small income. Now, conventional food prices have risen so much that the price differential between the locally produced organic product and the supermarket version has shrunk to the point where one might as well buy the good stuff. Furthermore, the local farm might still be around when supermarkets are closing.”
Joel Salatin (Virginia, USA) suggests that small-ish farms can produce nutrient-dense food and sell directly to consumers at retail rates similar to supermarket food sourced from the global market. In ‘Fields of Farmers’ (2013).
Fritter, glad to hear it. What did your daughter think of it?
Pygmycory, exactly. I see you’ve been paying attention. 😉
Anthony, at least for now, there’s still time to reread them.
Cliff, I share that frustration with Hopkins and his ilk. He’s treating an effect as a cause, and pretending that the thing he thinks will save us — handing more power to the managerial class, which they will use to enact the latest fashionable policies — isn’t the thing that got us into this crisis in the first place. The first thing we need to do with our reawakened imaginations is imagine a world where the bureaucrats in which Hopkins puts his trust get honest jobs hoeing potato patches…
Wetdog, exactly. That’s the grand delusion at the heart of our civilization’s failure: the notion that policies enacted by managerial elites are the only things that matter, and mere physical reality means nothing. I’m not generally a Derrick Jensen fan, btw, but Bright Green Lies hit it out of the park.
Siliconguy, thanks for the data points!
Tim, funny. I was thinking of that post just now, too…
Patricia O, good heavens — here it’s free for the listening to everyone. The song is “Rhymes and Reasons” by John Denver.
Viduraawakened, I’m not at all opposed to the use of newly constructed wetlands to deal with pollution — the crucial point is that you have to take scale into account. Here in the US it will be a problem in many, many settings.
Yupped, yep. I’ll keep teaching as long as I can, but I turn 60 next year and sooner or later it’s going to be up to others.
BB, if it happens I’ll be the first to let everyone know!
Lew, thanks for this!
Stuart, the birth rate in the US went down during the Great Depression, so poverty as a result of economic decline may not make the birth rate rise — quite the contrary.
Averagejoe, you’re most welcome.
Info, try getting that one through your local legislature…
Sébastien, all I have on the underground economy right now are anecdotes, though I’ve heard a fair number of them. Thanks for the data points!
JW, fascinating. Many thanks for these data points as well.
NomadicBeer, so far the curves in LTG have been much more accurate than any of the alternatives. I see no reason to doubt that they’ll continue to be accurate. I created my theory of catabolic collapse by generalizing from LTG, you know.
Owen, er, no. The last one was the Hasmonean kingdom, which was founded in 140 BC, became a client state of Rome in 63 BC, went through a long series of alterations of status under increasingly tight Roman rule, and was finally wiped off the map after the Jewish revolt of 66-70 AD. The one before that was the kingdom of Israel, which was founded in the 10th century BC, split into two fragments around 930 BC, and was wiped off the map by the Babylonians in 578 BC. The kingdom of Israel, in point of fact, emerged out of the chaos left behind by the late Bronze Age collapse; the tribal societies out of which it was organized were typical of the post-collapse Levant, and a case could probably be made that the Jews started out as refugees from the collapse who, in the usual way, constructed a national mythology to explain how the twelve tribes that formed their confederation were connected.
Celadon, excellent! One of the classic ways to break the power of a binary is to recognize that the two sides are minor variations on a common theme. That’s certainly true of capitalism and communism — the only difference between them is whether the industrial means of production are owned by rich individuals or by government bureaucrats. Once you see past the binary, you can start asking the questions that matter — as indeed you’re doing.
Matt, now’s the time to see if the thing can be done.
Ron, no question, we’ve got a tough road ahead of us, but I think it’s possible to accomplish some things worth doing with the time we have before us — possibly more than fashionable pessimism would suggest. One way or another, it’s time to work.
William, he wouldn’t have melted down like that if he didn’t know that you were right. I expect to see a lot more meltdowns along those lines as we proceed.
Blue Sun, I’ve seen some harrowing images of New York flooded last night, and we had a flash flood warning here in Rhode Island — fortunately the rain wasn’t quite as heavy by the time it got to us.
Chris, and here we are. Making do somehow is a very useful skill!
Justme, thanks for this. Yes, we’ve topped out, and now the roller coaster ride begins.
Edu, unfortunately that’s going to be a common reaction. Thanks for the data points!
Prack45, that’s a real issue. It’ll be interesting to see how things sort out as travel becomes more difficult.
Sam, that’s a lot of emotional loading to pile onto a simple inoffensive pronoun!
Goran, fine granularity is not necessarily an advantage — as I noted in the post, extreme simplification is essential if you want to get past the details to see the overall patterns. Thank you for the book recommendations, and happy gardening!
Info, that’s one possible track of events I’m having to consider just now.
Bruce, no, the declining population isn’t from famine and disease. Birth rates decline when people realize they can’t afford to raise children, and it doesn’t take much to tip population growth into population contraction, especially with death rates rising modestly. As for the rest, well, sitting on one’s hands moaning plaintively doesn’t sound like much fun, so why not try to achieve something better?
Ron, oh, I know. Fortunately anyone who’s interested can find prepper sites that can set them straight.
Gawain, The Integral Urban House and The Book of the New Alchemists might be very worth your while.
Seideman, too funny! Of course the answer to every problem, according to the managerial class, is to hire more members of the managerial class…
Polecat, I was thinking of that song too!
Debtfree, now you know what I’ve spent the last fifteen years setting in motion. Can it be done? It’s worth the attempt. Let’s start with a simple question: what would you need to change to bring a little of that goodness and love back into your life and the lives of those around you?
Neptunesdolphins, thanks for the data points. I have field guides, for what it’s worth!
Adrian, thanks for this. That’s significant.
Kyle, wow. I’m absolutely thrilled to hear this — I didn’t expect it to happen yet, and it’s an excellent sign. If young musicians are already going back to the old strong modes of music, our chances of making a better transition this time have gone up by a serious amount.
Joan, and yet sometimes people do come together to face the crisis of their time instead of crumpling. People in Britain and the US did that in the Second World War, and somehow didn’t ascend to a higher plane. 😉
Alice, political unity can be a disadvantage in such times, which is why I’ve talked about the dissolution of the US in so much of my fiction. I hope it doesn’t come to that, but I’m afraid it probably will. As for the Foundation series — hmm! I hadn’t heard about that. (I pay zero attention to TV.) Yes, that says something; depending on just how lame (read: woke) it turns out to be, it might even have an impact.
Migrant Worker, good! I’m glad he noticed.
Pyrrhus, it fascinates me that so many people pay attention to only one side of the balance. As drought seizes the west, growing seasons out east are lengthening dramatically and rainfall seems to be increasing. The same thing is happening in other parts of the world. As for topsoil, all the more reason to refocus on intensive organic growing, which builds soil…
Pygmycory, thanks for this. That’s worth knowing.
Justin, I’ll consider an essay on that theme. Thanks for the data points!
Pygmycory, glad to hear it.
A1, as I noted in the post, yes, those are among the factors involved. As for your broader point — sure, substitution will be easy…at first. It’s a long road down.
Spiritus, countries like yours are better prepared for what’s coming than countries like mine!
My song offering from that time for these times is this one by Don McLean.
So there’s no need for turning back
‘Cause all roads lead to where we stand
And I believe we’ll walk them all
No matter what we may have planned
Call it sour grapes if you will, but I agree with those who doubt the existence of a “we” able to make a decision to take a different path on a national or regional scale circa 1980. In 1980 I was a college student campaigning for John Anderson and his proposed national gasoline tax (50 cents a gallon, which would have been an over 40% price hike at the time). That was the only national-scale political proposition directly against growth (though it was posed in terms of “make America stronger by reducing dependence on foreign oil;” how quaint) that I can recall from any time in my lifetime. The Limits to Growth was one of several influences toward that position. Perhaps it was an influence on Mr. Anderson too.
Anyhow, history records the results of that… but if I’d tried just a little harder, been just a little more convincing, had just a little more faith that change was possible…? Nah. And would Anderson’s plan have even worked out for the better, overall? Hard to tell. In fact, give me a time machine ride to 1972, send a thousand people, and even with our foreknowledge I still don’t think we could change much in the ensuing ten years. If that “we” includes myself I’m inclined to part with any regrets about what I did and didn’t do. And if it doesn’t, it just seems like wishing for different weather.
That’s the “all roads lead to where we stand” part. But the present, the perpetual crossroads, is different. We’ll walk them all—that sounds like dissensus. And circumstance. Should I worry about what the other kids were or are doing? Not according to my parents, who seemed to think they were constantly jumping off bridges. It’s not “we” who make choices, it’s me. So will I stand (per your song), or walk (per mine), beside you? I don’t think I’ve ever not, even when going different directions, if that makes any sense.
An interesting thing to observe is the lack of coverage of “historic” events. Yesterday in PA we had 6 inches of rain within 16 hours. Locally there is a Facebook page where people listen to the scanner and post all the calls that come in. The also provide a topic where people can post pictures and videos of what is happening during these historic weather events. It was really horrific last night. At least two dozen families had to be rescued out of their homes when the tiny creeks near them went to 12 feet high, flooding out their first floors. We can all follow along with this on Facebook. Amazing work of local volunteer fire companies to save people through the night. But our local county newspaper has nothing on any of this. Just a total news blackout of the devastation and heroism. They showed some flood waters in roadways and talked about power outages, but ignored actual historic happenings. Rescuing two dozen people from their homes is a big deal around here.
I don’t get the news black out. Is it because it is everyday people helping their neighbors and we can’t talk about that because it isn’t some government program coming to save everyone? Is it because it shows just how helpless we are against nature’s forces?
We ourselves spent the evening using the shop vac to suck up a steady stream of water coming in our basement. We estimate we took up 160 gallons of water which if left to run free would have covered the floor in about 2 inches of water.
Thank you for giving me some reassurance the the government who can’t wipe itself isn’t likely to implement a universal ID of some kind. I saw yesterday that Apple is implement an online driver’s license in a new feature of the iPhone. So the universal ID’s/vax passports will come from the corporate side first I guess.
“the birth rate in the US went down during the Great Depression, so poverty as a result of economic decline may not make the birth rate rise — quite the contrary”
That’s just one example. The overall global evidence strongly suggests that poorer countries and areas have higher birth rates.
In the August post, The Future is a Landscape (https://www.ecosophia.net/the-future-is-a-landscape/), several commenters wondered where one might look to learn more about the severe drought(s) that afflicted the western part of the US. I found our host’s suggestion of E. C. Pielou’s After the Ice Age a great start to understand some of the climatic forces at play across diverse regions (mostly concerning North America).
I followed that up with Brian Fagan’s The Long Summer: How Climate Changed Civilization (probably also recommended by someone here) and must say that while Fagan does generalize and broadly extrapolate information to assist in the “readability” of the narrative, the book is highly recommended to anyone here who’s interested in how climate fluctuations have affected specific (worldwide) regions and human endeavors in those regions. It’s quite enlightening to consider the sweep of human history (and all the ways societies assumed they were somehow special in their attempts to out-survive the limits placed on them – and yes, this includes our own society) against the backdrop of world-changing bio/climato/geological systems and their fluctuations.
I’m reminded how unwilling humans are to believe we’re animals no different from the others (because: tech) when in fact we do truly animal things. At the ground-level of biology, we procreate when times are good, only to see our numbers decreased when they’re not – and we moan (and mourn) that biomechanism that assists in species’ long-term survivability.
My sense, as I’m finishing up this book is that … um… things are going to “get real” for us and soon. There’s little slack in our system and brittleness is never good.
As we hit the point where limits are making themselves known, Fagan reminds us: “From casual raids to endemic war is but a short step when populations keep rising and foot shortages become more commonplace.”
“The first thing we need to do with our reawakened imaginations is imagine a world where the bureaucrats in which Hopkins puts his trust get honest jobs hoeing potato patches…” – JMG
I just want to add that I believe in dismantling the existing bureaucratic structure, retiring all the existing policy makers and enforcers (and forbidding them from ever working in government again), and putting in place a new government system whereby the only policy that gets implemented is one in which the policy maker had lived under said policy for at least one year continuously.
Want to occupy foreign countries and arm rebels forces, etc? Great, here’s your equipment, go have at it.
Want to dictate what crops farmers can grow and at what price? Perfect, here’s your farm and equipments, go make a go of it.
Want to force children to sit at desks all day in masks to learn the garbage in the curriculum? I have a chair for you right here and if you even make one peep, no fresh air for you!
Want to defund police? You have been given a home on the “wrong” side of town to live in now.
No one who makes this monster of a government we live under suffers the consequences of it. They all know someone who allows them exceptions. They send their kids to private schools and hire or are given private security. They live in gated communities.
All I want to do is scream “shut up!” every time I see them speak or publish anything.
So yeah, I need to create some of that joy and freedom of the 1970’s as mentioned by Debtfree up thread.
Slightly off-topic: I love John Denver. So much.
On topic, I work for a large manufacturing company in the building trade, and we’ve already had a couple of situations where raw materials were not available and alternatives had to be sought and approved in quick time. In the past few months, I could almost hear upper management breathe a sigh of relief: “COVID’s over! We can go back to business as usual!” I’ve tried to suggest that just maybe unexpected shortages are the new normal, but that goes about as well as you’d expect.
I’m also dealing with cat food shortages! Fred Astaire, the 14-pound doofus, has a delicate digestion and needs special food that has been almost impossible to get. It requires a change of strategy, like toilet paper and flour did for awhile, and I expect a long list of other things will in the upcoming years.
Fortunately, I basically solve problems and find ways past roadblocks for a living, so I’ve got a few skills and a fair bit of stubbornness on my side. I’m also fortunate that while my job can very much suck, my home life is great — better than I’d have guessed it could be if I’d been guessing 40 years ago. We’ve expanded the size of our pantry and keep more staples on hand. And I am seriously considering taking up birdwatching.
I assumed it meant “deficit”
I grew up with Barry McGuire’s “Eve of Destruction” in 1965.
Yeah, my blood’s so mad, feels like coagulatin’
I’m sittin’ here just contemplatin’
I can’t twist the truth, it knows no regulation
Handful of Senators don’t pass legislation
And marches alone can’t bring integration
When human respect is disintegratin’
This whole crazy world is just too frustratin’
And you tell me over and over and over again my friend
Ah, you don’t believe we’re on the eve of destruction
It’s been a long eve, 56 years, but I think the fabled “interesting times” might finally be here.
The easiest explanation for bad vegetables is shipping challenges. There are a great many fruits and vegetables that aren’t commercially available at all because they can’t be delivered to the market before they spoil. If shipping is taking longer, more vegetables will be reaching the edge of that limit. Or sporadic extended delays will push even ordinarily reliable produce to the edge.
now that everyone’s a movie star, as an artist of many disciplines, i no longer do irrelevant sofa art anymore or even wanna write because it just becomes consumed popcorn–so any writing i do publicly is plans for myself or anyone following in my general direction. / instead i perform in Real Life by always asking one more question than i “should” and i leave the apartment early to give others and myself extra time for the unexpected conversations that might happen, and i work on being publicly vulnerable on purpose or angry or sad or grateful.
if i mess up or blow someone off, i sit in the bathtub and think or discuss how i can fix it, with James. then i go back out and try and fix it. even if it means i look like i’m having a tantrum. i’m inhabiting my ever-changing role as the coyote demon or trickster, but trying to do it with GOD, which is tricky at times. back to Levi’s know yourself first dictum. the small diabolical ego can always wiggle and slither into any play, so i keep myself as clean as possible by having my own vulnerable open soul in the game. it’s how i work on an audacious humility. i have to be able to take a punch.
i do what i used to do in private in PUBLIC now. i got tired of being used on the low for regular people to wipe themselves on for a break, while i’m barely hanging on, and have turned things the other way– where i’m powerful and have the endurance and groundedness to keep going– by being unapologetically wrong messy open …just plain HUMAN.
“That’s just one example. The overall global evidence strongly suggests that poorer countries and areas have higher birth rates.”
That’s cherry picking, since it just proves the point, it would seem, by the back door: poorer countries today have higher birth rates because of the Green Revolution, modern medicine, and industrial agriculture exported or levied by First World countries with loads of excess energy or access to such. I would imagine that birth rates went down dramatically during the Time of Troubles in China, as well, although there may be a few exceptions. The classic example is the Roman Empire. Keep in mind that impoverishment (here) won’t mean The Great Depression – it’ll mean the new Dark Ages.
@ Info – that’s a mind blowing thought. I wonder if it has crossed anyone else’s mind that Coronavirus was the demigods answer to all the whining cries for “More” and “Make the world perfect for us”. I’ll have to think about that one. It would make sense if, back of the Woke Utopian mindset, is a feeling of, if I can’t have this, I don’t want to live. Not sure I like considering this one. What if this is “the most merciful way” to “end it all” and have a real Great Reset? Brrrrrrrrr
JMG, what’s your take on the alternative news space claim that resource depletion and global warming are a contrived narrative to manufacture a fearful sense of scarcity. With the end goal of persuading people to not reproduce, thus reducing global population. Thanks
Owen, Mary Bennett,
I checked the timing of the bible against the bronze age collapse some years back, and came to the same conclusion as Mary Bennett.
Potential shortage of magical sugar water – right on cue. What are you drinking? :-/
Sometimes we end up reproducing whether we intend to or not, so if that’s the scheme, it’ll work about as well as all the other schemes of educated fools have. As Michael Crichton noted, “Life finds a way.”
I still say the solution to 99.98% of the world’s problems is twofold: STOP EDUCATING FOOLS and REMOVE THE CURRENT CROP OF EDUCATED FOOLS FROM POWER. Don’t harm them—just remove them from office.
Walt, that’s a fine one! As for the last time, er, do you really think you were personally responsible for what happened?
Denis, that doesn’t surprise me at all. The last thing the corporate media wants to talk about is just how difficult things are getting…
Stuart, “the overall global evidence” is a vague generalization that covers a vast amount of variation due to cultural and historical factors; it’s because the managerial class relies on such vague generalizations that so many bad decisions get made these days. Historically and culturally nuanced parallels are much more useful as a guide to what happens. In the case of the Great Depression, it’s the same culture — and crucially, it’s also a society that had been prosperous and then got poor, where your “global evidence” is primarily from countries that have always been poor. Compare the birth rate in the post-Soviet countries of eastern Europe and Eurasia — here again, as standards of living dropped, so did the birth rate. Equally, look at the evidence from the late Roman empire, where impoverishment was followed by steep population declines. Specifics matter!
Temporaryreality, many thanks for this.
Denis, that strikes me as a very good plan! Or, rather, two very good plans. The first is to make sure that the managerial class gets to experience the consequences of its decisions; the second is to get some more joy and freedom in your life.
Maria, many thanks for the data points.
Martin, another grand old song.
Blackoak, it’s an understandable mistake. The elites are definitely trying to stampede people, but they’re doing it because resources really are running short, and they want to make sure they can cling to their comfortable lifestyles. That’s why all the measures they propose limit resource access to the poor and the working classes while leaving plenty for themselves and their flunkies.
Jay, too funny!
@Lunar Apprentice – Thank you for your kind words! As for the memes… perhaps it’s just my personal taste. But on the other hand, a carefully chosen graph can do miraculous things… When they were pushing hard against Sweden for their “irresponsible” handling of the current crisis, I happened to stumble over a plot that shows the mortality of the Swedish population since roughly 1850. That was certainly an eye-opener of a very special kind…
But of course you are right, too, and when I think about it I have to admit that I may have seen memes that could possibly work for my purpose… I shall give it a try!
Off-topic – Over at dreamwidth I read what you wrote about your daughters shoulder-problems a while back. It was kind of touching since a close relative of mine had the same problems and underwent the same therapies when he was younger. And although my kids are much younger than yours, I can certainly emphasize with your and your daughters worries… I hope your daughter is doing fine and that she will get out of this with a healthy arm and shoulder (and the rest of it, too, of course 😉 )
I swear it’s on topic; have you ever played that game six degrees of Kevin Bacon? Where you try prove that everyone in the world knows each other by starting with anyone and then trying to link them through a chain of associations back to Kevin Bacon in six degrees or less? I can prove that Canadian rock music is actually the most inspiring, starting literally anywhere.
So, the current city manager of Burien, Washington is Brian Wilson.
Brian Wilson was also the name of the frontman for a band that some people may have heard of called the Beach Boys.
The Barenaked Ladies once did a song about Brian Wilson and it turned out he has a pretty good sense of humour about himself, so he did a cover of it at one of his live performances, which I read about in a very funny interview with BNL frontman Eddie.
On the same album as Brian Wilson (Stunt), there is a song called “It’s All Been Done” which I thought people here might get a kick out of; and they happened to sing that one live at Farm Aid in Virginia in 1999.
Which is when Prince said we were all supposed to party like it was.
In the above interview, Eddie tells a funny anecdote about Prince:
“..one time I was asked about Prince thinking [Barenaked Ladies’ fourth album] ‘Stunt’ was the greatest album of the year on a radio station, and I completely lost my mind because I’m a massive fan of his. But I tracked down the source of the quote and it was me in another interview talking complete nonsense saying, ‘Prince thinks ‘Stunt’ is the greatest album of the year!’, and it was printed as if it was true.”
So, back at the Barenaked Ladies – they sang the theme song to The Big Bang Theory, thus allowing me to prove that listening to Canadian rock music is exactly equivalent to prayer for non-believers.
Oh, rats, that was seven steps.
(post sunning thoughts)
i do this also because i realized that cool had become co-opted. i knew how to wear bitch-face anytime on the street because i could summon it up from inside even though i’m goofy as hell. but then i realized EVERYONE who had a happy childhood and comes from upper middle class could also do bitch face as if they were from the streets.
my vanity as an artist wants to be first. (Dear Violet that’s what i mean about making your proclivities work for instead of against you) i don’t have the alphaness of Papa G or my other friend at the gym, a huge dark skinned brother who’ll blast the Carpenters from his little radio while waiting for buses. that is alpha to be the first one back out to say, “I LOVE THIS JOHN DENVER SONG”
i fold. i’ll be SECOND or seventieth now.
and so i realized it was edgy and harder than anything to be intimate and look anyone in the eye and say how you really feel in that moment. it took me practice. and it’s so unusual, it is my protection! who knew! to scare the wrong dangerous people away, who knew all i had to do was be true?
surrendering is our strength.
anyhow, so to bring back your nostalgia and not WASTE it, LIVE IT. live what you MISS! just like my epiphany at how out of whack we are as a world society and even in our sexual roles, was when i realized women don’t TIP. we’re not socialized to take care of anyone in that thankless way.
we want THANK YOU. tips and men and honor in their world is actually unspoken and timeless. they don’t count on thank yous as their love is often ignored or unknown, unseen. but FELT. oh, very much felt. for THAT is my only true superpower.
like my last date asked what was my specialness? i answered nothing. i just think differently. my god is different so i come up with different answers as to what i wanna do with my time on earth.
but my god enables me to see and feel secret love.
so if women don’t tip on the low, then what else do we not see or remember? that there were moms who pushed us together and out of our comfort zones and introduced us at birthday parties. my mom was a 70s feminist single mother so it was the OTHER people’s moms, the ones everyone looked down on as ..quaint, old fashioned, dumb… they KEPT SOCIETY TOGETHER.
they nudged us together or apart at the school dances. they dragged the wallflowers into the middle of the room and fluffed up our hidden talents.
that’s what i miss, and i have had to get over my own fears of other people rolling their eyes at me, to say “I LOVE THIS JOHN DENVER SONG!” and then i see how they ARE still little children like ME and they love it when i force us all to introduce each other at the gym. i often say, “i’m being like romper room lady and introducing people to each other from now on like it’s the 1980s.”
and NO ONE ROLLS THEIR EYES. they smile and relax because they also are nostalgic for the little middle aged mom who’s not trying to be hot and young, but wears bunched up elastic waste bands and uses her love and ability to see the best in us so that we may once again meet each other at our bests.
that’s what i’m nostalgic for. i miss those ladies. and that’s why i became Kitten over here / mostly in real life but it leaked online. it’s a code that this is a private ME now. the one who used to make fun of girls who wore pink and now that’s ALL i wear out of penance for ever denying The Carpenters or John Denver as i pretend their records weren’t right next to the stack of Curtis Mayfield or the Best of the Supremes.
i’m nostalgic for a time when we thought intermarrying and mixing and all this acceptance of different roles wouldn’t lead to just more rigid sexual racial or social roles.
i’m nostalgic for 1972 when riding my 2-wheeled bicycle i learned with all the free time of the 1970s childhood when we could walk to school and stare at ants before setting them on fire (i’m going to hell) and learning how to ride all day without training wheels was LIFE.
so then i AM all this, bicycle included, and i can’t fake a thing. just like when i was a kid.
i told my date that i didn’t have any special talents like his clairvoyant/empathy claim, but that when i tried to be an upstanding high-achieving liberal yuppie thing, all the magic DIED. i stopped noticing feeling seeing the magic. i assumed it was a chilhood imagination hoping wishing.
so now i’m not nostalgic at all anymore bringing what i miss back into the NOW. whew… all adventure let me tell you.
bitch face came easily when i was young because i’d learned to take a punch without crying. the world is like that now. i know the truth of underneath bitch face, no matter how seemingly thick and deep….
it’s finally running out of “game,” wearing the elastic bunched up waist band and admitting to yourself and the world: “I LOVE THIS JOHN DENVER SONG!”
that’s the XIII card to me and why i’m optimistic about our ability as artists thinkers writers DOES to change the rhyme here.
we need new STORY. in play. ideas tested in real life. that’s the adventure. you’ll never be bored trying to live out your sense of honor.
i write as the blue line sketch for how to live the nostalgia. i’m not ready to blast John Denver just yet. but i’ll admit i used to sing along to “Fly Away” with the “Have You Ever Been Mellow” lady.
that was also the year i found a stack of porn magazines out on the curb in West Virginia. nothing was ever the same for me after that Bicentennial, either.
but since then i’ve also rediscovered my patriotism and appreciation for what the forefathers of this country wrote.
i’m also nostalgic for accidental pink in an era where everyone’s a porn star now, too. but in being vulnerable i’ve also rediscovered my innocence even as i’m old enough to be wearing my own bunched up ALL elastic pants.
and that’s why i am the invisible ladies we’ve forgotten because they were so…provincial and embarrassingly unsophisticated to the feminist movement.
ha! who’s laughing now?
I MISS JOHN DENVER!
Here is another example of how the neoliberal PMC has been exploiting the COVID-19 mess in a desperate attempt to cling to power, this time from Down Under.
This seems to be over-the-top, batshale crazy, even by the standards of authoritarian wannabe dictators here in the states like Governors Gretchen Whitmer, Jay Inslee and Kate Brown. I would be interested in hearing from our readers in Oz and what their experiences have been.
Some remarks made about the possible higher resilience of eastern European countries compared to the United States as well as remarks to WWII made here sparked a few thoughts that I’d like to share…
1) Resilience: We have a rather strong community of Russian emigrants in the part of Germany where I live. I talk to a few of them occasionally and I see the way they are living and I can say yes, there’s a real difference to the average German or for that matter to the way the average member of the US forces stationed here lives. While the “Russian way” is quite often not very shiny, it certainly does seem to be very robust. And “they” seem to have a strong community and rather large family clans, which is certainly an advantage in troubled times.
2) Speaking of troubled times I was thinking about WW II and the huge differences of losses the western allies scored compared to what the Soviet Union experienced. The most recent number that came across my way just recently is that the Soviets lost more than a hundred thousand lives alone when they crossed the river Oder. The strength of the German army that was bound at the eastern front was many times higher than what the western allies had to face. And the Soviets scored massive victories against the Japanese, too, and rumor has it that it was the dropping of two nuclear bombs that prevented them from invading Japan. While I personally can’t find any glory in such numbers but only misery and suffering and I pray every day that we don’t have to face anything like this anytime soon – this tells you something about the power that’s waiting there in the east. It’s only my gut feeling and that may be worth little – but while I can easily imagine the east unleashing a might comparable to what has been before, I fail when I try to imagine the same for the western alliance. The recent tactics and losses applied on the battlefield seem to prove my point, but who knows. Still I think there’s a lot of truth in it when some say that “our” competitors on the global stage just have to wait…
@alice – the likelihood of the possibility of transition at this late date seems to me to be driven as much, if not more, by cultural factors than by the physical.
Lack of imagination (willful or not) and viable, working examples are the major things we need to overcome in this regard.
Post-Limits to Growth, who could have foreseen Ford US auto sales down 33% because of a chip shortage.
But what I really wanted to say: If Generac can put solar panels on roofs and store the energy in batteries in those sleek rectangular, wall-hangin devices, what about move one freebie over: Let’s collect rain-water and use it to flush toilets.
In fact, someone needs to do a study: what would happen if all rainwater in the US was collected and stored? Where, I dunno, in barrels or such. Would evaporation from the oceans still supply enough rain water? Imperfect thinker that I am, I realize it’s probably to expensive to stop rainwater soaking into the ground, but still. Let’s harvest rainwater and use it to flush toilets. Another water-consuming behemoth is the beer industry, so maybe water could be capture, stored in pipes closed-circuit, and used to heat and cool the brewing process.
I learned some time ago that if I wanted to keep the few friends that I had, that there were four subjects to avoid; religion, politics, lawn care and John Denver. I should probably add NASCAR to that list.
Hi John Michael,
Thanks and learning how to make-do takes an incredible amount of practice, needfulness and brain re-wiring! 🙂
Hey, I mentioned that I’d been ferreting away on the problem of the current working, and I had a flash of insight this morning. The pressure (what I tend to think of as the carrot and stick aspect) with this working is being applied upon individuals. It has the effect of leveraging the old divide and conquer strategy and that is partly how it gains some strength. It’s an odd one, that’s for sure. The way out of the maze for the unwary is to come back into the fold. As you well know, marketing has been working on building those pathways for many years.
Tell ya what, I’ve heard that when people believe that they have nothing to lose, they can sometimes rashly roll the dice and gamble it all, and I have an inkling that that may indeed be taking place right now, thus the sense of ‘all or nothing’ which is kind of pervasive nowadays. Such reactions (for that is what it is) are also replicated in the chucking down of an ultimatum, which is always a very unwise course of action.
Dear JMG thank you for your reply, tomorrow at sunset I will be reading your reply at a mountain top, before the sun sets in ocean here in the most western part of Sweden. As the sun starts to set though I will do something important to me. I will stand up facing the fading Sun as the sky starts to fire in different colours. Facing the Sun I will bow my head in respect, I will raise my right arm and right hand in a fist first, and then with a V. My left hand will be placed on my chest so I can feel my heart pumping. I will give thanks for your writing and helping me reach this place. With this strength I will share with you and the world, what powers a norse Goddess of desire can bring to into your life. Her name is many Hnoss/Hnossa/Ebba, what the Gods intended as a joke we humans take seriously…. Thank you… Words are difficult… Tusen takk… we say in the North… At night the stars will come out, are we human because we gaze at them….? Do the Stars gaze back at us…? That is a good question… This Adventure has just gotten a Clapton tune and a guitar riff…. May Hnossa provide you your wishes, protect your health, and bring you what your hearts Desires… Best Regards Martin
I am aware of a plan to drill for water from some depth, not quite 20000 feet, but up to 5000m. This wasn’t in order to obtain water, but for the geothermal heat. United Downs Geothermal, Cornwall There are also plans to use the minerals found in such water at depth, such as Lithium.
I grow (among other things) 3 kinds of fruits ‘none-shipable’ on our city speck of domiciled dirt – namely Loganberries, Sour Cherries, and Huckleberries – All freshly unobtanium in any store! … the first two due to fragility in handling/shipping, due to their softness.. and the last due to harvest impracticality, being so small a fruit (takes forever to stem the darn things!). Still, I harvest all three, canning them into jam, conserves, or chutneys. What we don’t consume we give away to those we know who’ll utilize them.
Beats buying them commercially.. canned in syrup of questionable provenance.
And whoever up top who mentioned canning lids being hard to find .. yeah, for sure! I snap them up whenever they intermittently materialize on the canning aisle shelf.. There’s a tool that supposedly enables one to pop off a metal jar lid without damaging it, to be reused at least a few more rounds before discarding. I think I’ll purchase one if – if their even available that is
Slightly off topic, but also of relevant.
Basically the article complains of how the author is tired Mens Group work because it doesn’t really address any of the deeper issues of today (He stresses He’s not trying to turn Mens work into political activism).
The short answer to a lot of his issues is that Men groups work is often dominated by the affluent PMC and so therefore are often not prepared to ask any of the deeper questions about the environmental crisis that we’re in, or about Modern feminism (basically an arm of the PMC nowadays).
Personally I’ve found the wisdom of Robert Bly’s Iron John to be highly complementary to what I’ve learned from your work over the years. But of course, Most of the Men reading Iron John (especially in the PMC) likely haven’t thought about their affluent polluting lifestyles etc etc…
Incredible, is it not. Next thing you know, Morrison(sp?) be fully decked out – to the nines .. in a Darth Vader getup!
As for our stateside mini emperors?? .. pray that they don’t alter their dictates any further. Ventilation shafts abound … never know who’ll get tossed into one.
“Grandma’s Feather Bed” was a hit!
i was raging at the radio while listening to our local radio station and a voice told me (okay, for the third time but louder and third time is a charm because i talk smack but to keep this 5X leo humble, i prefer to automatically assume all my inner voices are rampaging clever slithery ego moves towards some tiny nefarious fulfillment, and my own ego exhausts me if/when i’m not pointing it properly. and i hate admitting i’m wrong. so those are my checks and balances. sick or not? –shrug– you say tomayto i say tomahto… it all comes out in the wash), anyhow, this louder third-time’s-a-charm voice said IF YOU THINK ALL THIS LACK OF DISSENTING THOUGHT IS SO DAMN DANGEROUS, THEN STOP YOUR POINTING AND YOU PITCH YOUR OWN RADIO SHOW TO BE THE VOICE AGAINST THIS YOU’RE CRAVING TO HEAR.
(that’s the voice of the thick middle aged woman in elastic waistband pants STILL very much with me, calling me out on complaining and sending me back outside to apologize for being a wuss and not taking responsibility. see how marvelous they were? they made PEOPLE many times over.)
so i write the station manager and pitched my roundtable idea before i could talk myself out of it and possibly end up at the long biomass fuel line for us serum-holdouts. i thought of myself as a VISUAL person. dark rooms and microphones is like more ranting via email just out loud. i’m trying to be in THE WORLD. not dark rooms ranting alone!
but now that it was out in the open i cared.
so i felt nervous nauseous and like hiding under the bed when he said he’d think about it and i waited all week and felt nauseous when i saw he wrote it’d be best for this kinda thing if we talked over the phone.
wow… if you only knew the kind of emails i’d fire off at the DJs at that station. it’s a miracle he didn’t send the cops over here.
all this… they know how i think and their license is up for renewal so they’ve got a file open for comment and they’d consider this when they’re already starting to talk biomass fuel lines for their Nice People Clean Future without us, we who’re considered by our former loved ones to be beneath the expensive snotty little dogs happily welcomed into supermarkets, diners, and hotels or rooming houses as well as administrative jobs everywhere and anywhere or nowhere if they never want to go outside in the world ever again.
so i have a telephone talk with the station manager next Tuesday late morning pacific time. i hope i don’t spit pea soup and twist my head around out of these nerves.
p.s. James just put on the John Denver song prayer now as he’s making dinner!
@Adrian, I hope your charity is doing okay; I saw the Mustard Seed went under.
I’d heard the same about meat, actually – that’s a big abattoir limitation problem as well as storage – but SIPP published a report on that that suggests Cowichan/Duncan is working on getting a community owned one up and running soon.
I also actually learned today that the former owner of McCain’s, the company that essentially knows more than anyone else in the world about custom cold storage lives in Greater Victoria. And we also know that people in the region have already started using ocean-based geothermal for distillation cooling – they figure it saves a million litres of water a year compared to comparable distillation, and produces a billion BTUs of heat they exchange with a business next door. We have a sewage treatment waste heat recovery system, too, with unused capacity suitable for commercial or light industrial, that maybe could generate the additional heat for processing facilities adjacent to the storage. I feel pretty okay about our chances…
Or, apparently we could invest in massive marinas for super yachts, which is a huge untapped resource for economic rebooting coastal cities- 96% of billionaires with the money to buy a superyacht don’t, because they’re dotcom gen x and snot-nosed millennials and they’ve invested in dumb things like private planes, bug outs in New Zealand, drugs, parties, bitcoin and the space race (but the real space age technology is in the yachts for water desalinization, and we’re about ten years away from truly game changing electric batteries for those…shhhh). The 4% currently drop $30,000+/boat/year on things like art, collector books, artisanal food wherever they go – they caused a flower shortage in Victoria last year, with just the demand we already have from that facility. The problem though is that even the existing ports are going under, because they are really hard to secure, and the crime in Victoria is ten times worse than even reported in the papers; the high end businesses just won’t talk about it because if their customers were to know how bad its gotten, they’d be even less likely to come here, now. The police won’t do anything about crime now unless actual life is at risk, they’re so flat out. So all those expensive stores and neighbourhoods feel like they’ve just been politically neglected by the current council.
Too bad the good money and political support never goes where it should, eh? 🤑
Oil. Was pondering the symbolism of the next Chinese New Year: the Black Water Tiger. Sounds auspicious for China cornering the majority of oil in the world, even through war.
I saw that earlier today. That’s shocking. Do you know if people there can avoid the law by getting rid of their smartphones? I realize not an option for everyone, unfortunately, but it would be my choice if I were there.
Looking just now into Australian mythology does not give me hope for the situation Down Under. It seems to me that Captain Cook has now come for the descendants of Europeans to deprive them of their way of life, much as he came for the Aboriginal Australians in the past. Karma, in a sense, but not one of the prettier senses.
One possible (again, just going off the Wiki page) source of hope is in the Rainbow Serpent, the original creator god of Aborginal mythology. Since it’s both creator and destroyer associated with the natural order of the world, it seems a natural choice to take down an industrial European government. If an anti-government, anti-Progress movement takes up its banner, it could be a force to be reckoned with.
THAT SAID: I would generally recommend white Australians avoid praying to it, joining the movement, or otherwise invoking it. Not only for reasons of cultural respect, but because if such a movement unleashes the Serpent’s destructive force, it’s going to be swimming in raspberry jam. Either the movement and the government will destroy each other, or the movement will self-destruct shortly after its victory. So if you can’t get out of Australia, at least try to lay low, enjoy the fireworks, and pray to your gods they don’t land on your house.
Keep in mind that the above of course is just speculation from a clueless white person who — thankfully — doesn’t even live in Australia.
I remember well the early 70s and the focus on sustainability, and alternatives to the wasteful practices of the day – and present day. There were all kinds of books about growiing your own food, building homes, adapting existing homes – I stilll have a copy of The Integral Urban House. Is it my immagination or did we, very breifly, accept that the world had limits and that we had to change how we live? Or is this just rosy nostalga ? I understand that we (well 98% of people) rejected the concept of limits, but it really seems to me that a lot of people “got it” at least for a few short years. Am I misremembering?
Just to wade in on the argument about Israel,
I will say up front I am not unbiased – and these are just my opinions and others may have different ones. I believe the prophecies in the Bible that Israel, the people, will never be scattered again, despite it’s nation’s past history of failure, but there are several things that Israel has in its favor, which it didn’t have before.
The whole state is militarized. You see 18 year olds everywhere carrying weapons almost as big as themselves. And most citizens (except the very old and very religious) probably now have military training. These young ‘uns are very well trained. And scary. (I have had personal experience of just how seriously they take their job. It is as if the survival of the State rests on each of their own individual shoulders). Israel also has nuclear weapons. One of only nine nations to do so, I believe. And I am quite sure they would use them if they felt it necessary for their survival. Bravery and sacrifice is celebrated. I think that’s a sign of a civilization on the up and up, myself.
Who is actually going to take them down?
Lebanon is a failed state and so is Syria, in all essentials. Their citizens are leaving the area as fast as they can get out. They are mainly propped up by interested parties, and remittances sent home, at this stage.
Jordan and Saudi Arabia and Egypt have enough to do with keeping terrorism under wraps, and their own borders and ruling elites secure, to worry about Israel. And that’s likely to stay the same for many years to come, in my view.
Sure Israel has a terrorist threat, but it keeps the Israeli forces sharp and whippy (and sometimes benefits the leadership of Israel too!). The Americans and EU are partially responsible for some of the heat in the situation in the West Bank and Gaza – and if they no longer had such an interest, (compare the Trump effect to the Biden effect) I think the Israelis are more than capable of doing what it takes to reduce the threat. if the situation in Gaza and the West Bank or even Israel deteriorated to the point that the State itself was threatened.
Iran is a real threat. But again Iran’s leadership is caught up in its own battle for survival at this point. Their people are running out of water and patience. I expect the Iranian leadership to fall before Israel does, despite their threats. It might be helped down that path of course…..
At this point, Russia has a working relationship with Israel, A good many Russians holiday during the winter in the Gulf of Eilat. Sure. the Russians have a few spats with Israel, at times, but If you have a good look at the deeds of Putin, you will see many examples of quiet cooperation. One of the reasons for that is because there are an absolute ton of Russian – Jewish emigrants in Israel. There are many family links there – and it suits Putin I think to have a stable State in the area. Don’t underestimate the contribution that particular gene pool makes to the State of Israel and it’s leadership, I would say, when considering the issue of survivability.
China is not a threat per se to Israel either. They just want in on any deals that they can strike.
Generally the interests of China and Israel do not conflict anyway, as far as I can see, except in so far as Israel is an ally of the US.
The Americans do give billions of dollars to Israel but it is in military aid, and on the understanding (as far as I am aware) that Israel does not develop its own military hardware industry, but buys their armaments from the USA. So, in a sense the USA aid to Israel is an under the bed subsidy to the USA military complex. If that aid was stopped, Israel would probably be manufacturing weapons in the Negev like crazy – and I am sure the Chinese would be happy to finance them too. Or maybe India? They have a common enemy in militant Islam after all.
I could go on and on, but I will just mention in passing – the State of Israel is growing both in terms of population and emigration – that is a plus for long term success, The emigrants who come there have the same mindset as immigrants the world over – which is a drive to succeed. I understand there are more start ups in Israel than many other places in the world. And there is a drive for sustainability too. Many houses have a solar water heater because of the lack of fossil fuels in their country (although oil has now been discovered off the coast). They are developing de-salination technologies which will benefit the entire region – and everybody is aware of how their input into agriculture including extremely prolific milk sheep and cherry tomatoes and drip agriculture. Many of these technological advances have the capacity to benefit, and have benefited – the entire world, but also their immediate neighbours.
So whilst I think militant Islamic groups are always going to cast longing eyes on the real estate Israel occupies, there are more advantages to the leadership of their countries, and other major world players, to keep Israel on the map -with the exception of the mullahs in Iran – and not enough incentives to put blood and treasure towards getting rid of it.
I do think that Israel will probably have a bumpy path for a while, as the American Titanic nosedives. I agree with that assessment, Mr Greer, but I do think the State of Israel will survive the transition. The British thought the Israelis would collapse too when they left.. And that didn’t exactly happen. Israel did a lot of fighting and a lot of raising funds from the Jewish diaspora – and they pulled through. Who knows, maybe this time, Russia or China or India will also help them? A lot of odd alliances, which we perhaps wouldn’t expect are probably going to happen, as American hegemony unwinds.
@Pixelated (#236): as a big fan of the Bare Naked Ladies and Canadian rock in general, I wholeheartedly support your thesis!
@Patricia M (#212): thanks for this. I guess that I find it difficult to imagine that people could be so coddled and clueless that the CR article could actually provide useful info. Not as though I doubt you; it just shows how limited my imagination is, having spent significant periods of time in my formative years living without running water, electricity and other basic amenities that most people in the over-developed urban centres take for granted.
Archdruid and company,
I work in the access control industry meaning we deal with nothing but hardware, as a result of my position I get to work with maintenance workers from every company in the city. The stories I’ve been hearing from them about parts shortages is really fascinating, and I’ll get to that in a minute.
In my industry the most common item we sell is a simple schlage ‘C’ five pin key. It’s used in the majority of residential, commercial, and industrial settings and every hardware store and lockshop carries them in abundance. At least that was true until June. Suddenly we can’t find them anywhere, our two massive security hardware suppliers are digging through their warehouses trying to find just one box of keys. Each box has about 50 blanks, and one of our suppliers managed to find six in one of their warehouses! Not six boxes, but six blanks.
Try to understand that the security and maintenance industry does not work the same way other industries work. We don’t do “at a moments notice ordering,” because maintenance and construction demands are largely impossible to time. In any given city, there’s no way to predict when permitting approval will be given, what changes the city inspectors will require, or what new demands the client will make so it’s largely impossible to time things the way the groceries or automotive times their production line. Security and maintenance suppliers maintain massive warehouses with back stock, and yet all of them are scrambling for parts.
Now there are two scenarios I want you all to imagine. The first one is the simple matter of training an apprentice tradesperson into a master. Training isn’t just a matter of time, but also a matter of material. In my own training, the number of mistakes I made and continue to make are pretty significant, but not a big deal because material costs are relatively low. Cut a key wrong? No problem, they’re five cents a piece, just recut. Now imagine what happens once material costs rise, each mistake become considerably more expensive, and training also becomes less forgiving. What’s that, you’ve tried to wire that system the wrong way for a third time when you’ve been told not to? Guess you’re out a job. That’s what life looks like in the third world.
The second scenario is what happens when a maintenance worker can’t keep a regular schedule due to parts shortages or costs. In the industrial world our “built environments” are incredibly complicated and require huge resource inputs to remain in working order. Largely people ignore these costs because there’s a series of negative reinforcements that insure that companies maintain each and every part of the environment to specific standards. The fire inspector comes by every year to make sure everything is up to code, batteries are changed out in the fire system, sprinkler values are replaced. What if that doesn’t happen?
Suddenly every built environment turns into a hazard because replacement or repair gets put off due to cost limitations or lack of personal. Both are already starting to hit every building in our country, every trades person I talk to is telling me that their companies are understaffed or aging out, that they are struggling to find basic parts for this or that thing that seems minor at the moment, but won’t be in the long run. Everyone is staring at the big infrastructure failures like bridges and roads, but no one is thinking about the small parts that are breaking down here and there. Expect to see more structure fires in the very near future, electrocutions, plumbing breakages, and the list goes on.
Recently I saw a rant about Ivermectin seekers. The PMC author of this rant either didn’t know or didn’t care that the Japanese equivalent of CDC has been recommending Ivermectin since February.
It’s not about public health (in the unlikely event you had any lingering doubt). It’s about clinging to power.
Re birth rate: it also fell like a stone in the 90s in East Germany and, I think, other Eastern European countries. The relevant part may be the sudden loss of job security, not long-term poverty.
Pixelated, funny. Burien wasn’t a city yet when I lived there!
Galen, I saw that. Weird.
Nachtgurke, I’ve envisioned Europe a century from now divided between Russian client states and Muslim-majority nations, so this seems quite likely to me.
Jenxyz, er, has it occurred to you that the rainwater in question is what fills rivers?
Chris, that’s occurred to me as well. A lot depends on just how far the all-or-nothing crowd is willing to go.
Martin, you’re most welcome and thank you.
BB, that’s really good to hear. Any time people notice just how completely the interests of the managerial aristocracy have taken over from everyone else, there’s a gap through which other possibilities can be born.
Erika, excellent! Get out there and rattle ’em.
Mark, a case could be made.
Christopher, you’re not misremembering. I recall that too — and I also have a copy of The Integral Urban House…
Naomi, you’re certainly welcome to disagree with me. Now we’ll see which of us is correct.
Varun, many thanks for the data points. All of that makes a fine case study of catabolic collapse.
Matthias, thanks for this! I was going to use Eastern Europe as the next round of examples…
“Info, try getting that one through your local legislature…”
Agreed. Wall Street and its ilk hates not being able to parasitize the productive classes.
“Birth rates decline when people realize they can’t afford to raise children, and it doesn’t take much to tip population growth into population contraction”
I suspect a lot of it is instinctual too. Subtle changes in environment will flip switches in many people’s mind.
If people are far more demanding of quality of marriage partners that will reduce the marriage pool and likelihood of marriage and the numbers of people even ending up married.
In the Medieval period 10-20% of people never married:
“The Western European pattern of late and non-universal marriage restricted fertility massively, especially when it was coupled with very low levels of childbirth out of wedlock.”
This along with other instinctual changes may drive down the overall birthrate.
Another way to degrowth in a way that is going to be very unpopular. Is to reduce childcare subsidies and other child subsidies along with it.
My father was born in 1899, the youngest male of 9 children. His father was the owner of a general store and he offered (had to offer, more like) credit for his products. Sometimes people couldn’t pay so he foreclosed on the land of his creditors after likely a long, long time (grandfather was respected and well liked). I imagine, but don’t know, but he also bought land. He sent all 7 of his daughters to 4 year colleges so that they would have a potential source of income aside from their husbands. A college degree was all you needed to be a school teacher in those days. See, the laws of the time were very adverse to women who had been stolen from and abandoned: this was a kind of insurance against it. Fortunately none of my aunts married thieving or stupid men. Grandfather also set income from the land he acquired into a trust, with the income divided for his children. More insurance for his beloved daughters. He was long-headed during a time of a certain kind of scarcity.
This, in rural eastern North Carolina. People of all kinds and classes looked after one another, knew one another. My father, who died when I was young, often went to ice houses (which sold coal as well) and tobacco auction houses (where our family sold some of our farm product). He knew every man who worked there from managers to the “lowest” workers, their families and children and was interested, asked after them and gave them all the respect they were due as men. As a non-affiliated lawyer (not in formal practice), he often worked for the poorest pro-bono. I remember bushel baskets of vegetables coming to our house that we then redistributed when we couldn’t use it all, as was often the case. Even the poor he did things for had their pride, wanted to pay him back somehow.
The farmland we owned was farmed by local farmers who rented sections from us, and was worked by others who lived on the farm in poor but (I think, I was in it often enough) adequate housing. I don’t know what they earned beyond their labor, or how. The land was farmed in rotation, with each section getting a year fallow. Tobacco, soy beans, peanuts, corn, cotton. I don’t know in what order. No fertilizer was used even when I was a child. Just crop rotation. Oh, and crops of pine trees of some sort, very straight growing. We made our big money on the sale of those trees every five or so years. Oh and the actual manager owned vast tracts of land and was the smartest man in four counties. If you met him, you would have thought him some kind of country rube. God help you if you actually believed that. I’ve never met a smarter man, one more capable and able.
Not a lot of money changed hands. People had it hard. We were the landowners living there. My mother tried to live large among her friends in the nearby towns. Dinner parties and clothes from New York. It embarrassed me, my father, my brothers, but even she couldn’t do that 100% of the time, and she knew how to talk to our neighbors even if they weren’t her favorite company, having grown up on a poor ranch in West Texas. The town’s population was maybe 150 souls.
If this sounds idyllic, it wasn’t. There was a lot of prejudice, a lot of racism, and not only from the privileged or people of pallor. But it was pretty much a very personal world to grow up in.
My point in this reminiscence is not to have a jolly time talking about it. I, too, read LTG. I also read Herman Kahn’s anti-LTG opus, which I took to be data-filled fantasy. But a lot of people didn’t, a lot of sober-sided managers didn’t. Hence some of what we’ve endured since then.
My point? I feel sure we are headed back to a much more personal time. Not so much moving around. Living large will have to be done locally, if it’s done at all. We’re going to be forced to know our families and neighbors better whether we want to or not. More mules, not so many cars, a lot of shoe-leather expended. Maybe even no more air conditioning. Some people may even discover how to live out real ethical principles of behavior against long odds. It will be much harder to hide your character from others. Loin-girding time, I’d say.
A little naive sentimentality is needed right at the moment.
Scientific American just published this article about how the new “advanced “ nuclear reactor designs have had their benefits exaggerated by their proposers, mainstream science is waking up more and more to technology’s diminishing returns.
@ Lunar Apprentice # 159 – Unfortunately, I live south of Olympia and north of Kelso-Longview. But thank you for the invite. I’m kind of an old fellow, and haven’t been out of my county, in years. Haven’t even done a short hop on the freeway, in months. I wish we had a Green Wizard group, in our county. Lew
Brother Greer, *you* wouldn’t get “OK Boomer”ed, for the simple reason you aren’t ever going to tell the kids they just need to stop being lazy and work part time to pay for college while they go full-time, follow their dreams and the money will follow, or any of the other million-and-one clueless statements that older generations aim at the younger!
There’s no good answer that will give my kids the easy life my parents had, or even the in-between life we’ve had. We just have to get to work, acknowledge life isn’t fair and never was, and get on with doing what we can, which is nicely counter-cultural, so at least we have cool and edgy going for being responsible these days.
@ Galen and others horrified by what is happening in Australia, I could add some comments here but I’ve previously written an in-depth post for those who might be interested: https://simonsheridan.me/covid-19/the-coronapocalypse-part-35-the-land-of-the-unfree-and-the-home-of-the-safe/
I can’t remember who said it now, but it was once noted that the problem with Australians is not that we are descended from prisoners but that too many of us are descended from prison guards.
@ Sebastian Louchart # 160 – Thanks for the information on how to cope with the Jerusalem Artichokes.
I haven’t eaten many regular artichokes. They don’t grow here, outside of greenhouses. So, they are very expensive, and, the ones I see are shipped from far away, and look very sad. 🙁 . I have had them pickled, and had no problems with them. Pickled, they’re great on pizza, with chunks of chicken, dried tomatoes and feta cheese.
I have no problem digesting cabbage, broccoli or brussels sprouts. In fact, I eat a lot of all three. In general, my digestion is, I think, very good. So I think my gut fauna is in pretty good shape. I make a lot of what I eat from scratch, and pay attention to good ingredients. I eat pretty far down the food chain, and, really limit my intake of dairy and meat.
I have around 300 cookbooks. But a lot of them aren’t recipe books, they’re books ABOUT food. The history and how people adapt to what’s available. I’m assuming, but are you in France? I have about 15+ books on French food and cooking. Not the haute foods, but more the French regional and country-side cooking. Lew
Re: Reiss water. My question presupposed, especially in the context of ecosophia.net, that we would of course first seek to understand the nature of Reiss water and it’s role in the mantle, etc. If-again, a big if–it turned out to be like a once-pristine Ogalala system, we then could consider how to use it wisely (unlike what we had been doing with the Ogalala.) It would indeed be nice if some of it could be responsibly be used as an additional source of fresh water. It may not stop Nebraska from looking like the Sahara in 2500 AD, but it may alleviate human suffering in this century.
Your comment raised for me an interesting question: Should we avoid using any finite resource given that it’s ipso facto unsustainable? One answer: We should use the finite resource if it allows us to harness a sustainable resource to the point that it can support its own infrastructure for a stabilized, sustainable population. Per your essay this week, we had a fighting chance 50 years ago of achieving this, and preserving a decent standard of living. Now–and let’s not underestimate the resources wasted in the intervening decades of warfare–it’s choosing the least-bad option.
And that’s why, emaciated women at fast food joints and past aquifer abuses notwithstanding, proposed ways to make the best of a deteriorating situation shouldn’t be dismissed out of hand. For example, declining male fertility is a serious problem in industrialized nations (mainly due to estrogen mimics, I think,) De-industrialization may reverse this decline, but would it do so soon enough to avoid population collapse, or an inverted population pyramid? Any sustainable technique that can extend the years of vigor can compensate for a declining birth rate, while increasing the number of productive adults.
Hi PygmyCory (#25), JMG and all–
I feel your pain with the shortages PC;
We have concatenating shortages that compound the problems of the next shortage in line–
As PygmyCory mentioned, here in British Columbia Canada, in the Okanagan there is usually a lot of food being grown locally. My wife and I have been canning our fruit with a boil canner, but there are limitations to that technique. So in March, we put in our order for an ‘All American Pressure Canner.’ I was flabbergasted when they told me it would take them until September to fill my order!
Meanwhile, over most of 2020 and early 2021, it became impossible to find canning jars or the single-use metal lids they require.
Finally the canning jars and lids became available, and we stocked up. However, the Okanagan has been on fire all Summer with a drought and heat wave. The nearly-constant smoke blocked a lot of sunlight and decreased the crop yields here.
Shortage of durable canning equipment
Shortage of jars and single-use lids
Shortage of food
We have the canner now, the jars and lids. We are now able to can almost any food. Plan is to can up a supply of food that can cover us through Winter. Best to practice doing this now, while it is (hopefully!) not our only option.
I think we will need to get good at food storage as time goes on– We are now looking for canning jars that do not require disposable lids to work– ie., completely re-usable canning jars and lids. Maybe it is possible to come up with a work-around for the metal lids.
Does anyone have a good reference on the history of canning? I know it originated in Napoleonic France, and wonder what the jars and tops were like back then. Probably 100% re-usable…
Jenxyz #241, the King of Ceylon’s water management policy was “Not a single drop of water shall reach the sea!” 🙂 Rainwater can also be used in washing machines (and ovously to water the garden). In dry enough climates it can be worth using bath water to flush toilets. Not worth it elsewhere usually because it needs more stuff like filters and UV lights to prevent bacterial growth. I saw a documentary about green technology and the manager of a brewery said their water recycling system (I think it was anaerobic digestion) was saving them millions of dollars a year. It sounded like he could barely believe it even as he was saying it.
Lew, with JMG’s permission,
can I ask if we can get in touch directly?
I moved relatively recently in your area (some miles east, halfway to the mountains) and I am still learning about it and trying to get to know people.
Alternately, if you know any group online in the area that is close to the spirit of this blog, I would like to join.
I have an address from the big G (nomadic.beerbeer).
Nachtgurke, Matthias et al about Eastern Europe
Yes the population dropped like a rock in the 90s with some countries losing a quarter of their population (decreased births and emigration).
I do think at least some of the countries here will survive, but they will have a series of deep shocks. With the exception of Hungary, most of the leaders and technocrats are basically EU puppets that follow in lockstep the orders from the centre.
In exchange for that, they got some economic help which raised the standard of living in the cities. That is actually bad news long term.
The good news is that the countryside still has many people that keep the traditions (for example permaculture is just a new name for some of these old traditions).
I remember Dmitry Orlov’s observation that during collapse the positives can turn into negatives and the other way around.
For example the corruption and laziness of the authorities might be useful if EU dictates ever more stricter lockdowns.
That being said, the city residents are just too eager to mimic the west – only economic collapse can wake them up.
Interested parties might want to see what Dennis Meadows has to say, looking back on LtG after 45 years. For me, the most interesting was how they developed their model in the first place, with all the discussions of what were the relevant factors to consider. And also the question of why they didn’t include technological progress in their model aka “they’ll think of something”. Dennis says that ultimately, technology is just a tool, a means of obtaining a goal. It is the goal that is important, not so much how you get there. Technology might delay the final outcome a bit, or shift the limit from one factor to another running into shortages, but it’s not going to make a big difference.
Limits to Growth After 45 Years – Dennis Meadows at Ulm University
@Slithy Toves – the question is not so much – are we overpopulated. Of course we are, and our population is in overshoot, which is an incredibly common situation for any species given that:
1) all species reproduce many more young than can survive on available resources
2) no species can fail to find its population limited by increased disease and death caused by reduced resources
3) no species can fail to find its population limited by increased disease and death caused by living in its own increased wastes
Your quoted commenter says: ”
“Whenever I say we are “overpopulated”, the answers I get in return are “we are not overpopulated because we could ‘just’ do X’…” The “X” being some form of human action.
Your quoted commenter goes on further to point out that those getting exercised about “underpopulation” – ie too few births to replenish a specific native cohort – are chewing on the other side of the same cud.
That is to say, some of the feedback loops that are commonly seen in nature when a species overshoots are also at work already here, and this produces different “pockets” of differently flavoured predicaments here and there.
And yet, the illusion governing all such arguments seems to be, what is the true value of “X”? What is THE human action which – presuming we could bully others into co-operating – could solve whatever problem is identified.
Perhaps, we could simply recognise that we are a population in overshoot, that we are already encountering some, and about to encounter many more of nature’s feedback loops which generally succeed at re-adjusting population numbers to resources.
That is to say, perhaps we could recognise that the value of “X” is elusive, and that the nonhuman world is already taking many of the actions that will reduce our numbers and re-adjust them to resources over the next few decades and centuries – whether will we or nil we.
@Varun, re: #257
I work at a school and used to be the lock and key guy, so I can appreciate buying key blanks by the box. We had our 65 year old bathrooms remodeled over the summer. We had to start school w/o bathroom doors and with incomplete tile because of shortages.
When I was at the paint store they had signs announciing that certain lines of paint are not currently being manufactured and they don’t know when the willl be.
It’s getting crazy out there.
PS – less that last post sound like it is pessimistic, it is not. There are many things that each of us can do to make life more pleasant, or at least more bearable for one another, and the good news is that we will never run short of opportunities to do so.
But, in my humble view, the idea that there is some value of human powered “X” that can solve ALL the problems, is a delusion that wastes much of our time, and distracts us from practical things that DO lie within our power.
Greetings mr. Greer.
I can’t keep up with all the many interesting comments by fellow readers, but I’ve been following your writings for a long time (over 10 years I think), and I seem to recall recently reading a view you held that not many people are actually following in practice your advice of “collapse now and avoid the rush”.
The reason why I can’t keep up with the comments, and why I almost never write any of my own, is because my life is dedicated to Earth, and I was already on that path (of returning to a saner, more natural way of life) since childhood. As an example, I clearly remember having heard about pollution from cars when I was somewhere around 8 years old, and promising myself that I would not get a driver’s licence until I could have a really ecological car. And I’ve kept my promise: I still don’t have a driver’s licence at age 37, and from the looks of it I never will. This, along with building my own earth house, and planting trees, and growing some food, and heating and cooking exclusively with firewood, leaves me with little time for reading, even such a worthwhile writer as yourself.
This leads me to believe there are likely to be others in my situation: already doing the work of building new ways to live on Earth, but with not enough spare time on their hands to make their work known.
In any case, I have a request for you, if I may.
I’m following along with the study of Lévi’s book (very slowly and with little chance for regular meditations), and am finding it extremely useful so far. And, if I’ve understood you well in other contexts, there is a Path of the Sun (occultism, ritual magic), a Path of the Moon (mysticism, prayer, contemplation), and a Path of the Earth – but for this last one, I haven’t found much of a previous trail to follow. I’ve seen the part on your Druidry Handbook that speaks of reducing your ecological footprint, etc, but this for me is not nearly deep enough, and the kind of ritual I perceive you have developed around Druidry seems to me a bit too much Sun and not enough Earth, if you get my meaning.
Is there any direction you can point as to how to deepen the Path of the Earth, all the way to its core?
Thank you very much for all of your work. You have made a very significant contribution to my life.
OMG! you have to see this…
There was also this powerful song that probably disgraced Michael Jackson enough with the powers that be to gain him a well publicised accusation of wrongdoing https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=XAi3VTSdTxU
Late to the party as usual, I want to thank you for this insight. I’ve been struggling to come to a big-picture understanding of the supply chain problems, which each look different in detail. However, that’s just what you would expect in the LTG scenario.
I think there may be an additional angle, the idea triggered by comments in a recent Charles Hugh Smith piece – that of the fall of empire. What would it look like when 5% of the world’s population no longer get 30% of the stuff? Probably a lot like shortages and price increases. I’ve wondered how much Chinese domestic consumption is contributing.
This is all really hurting our ability to produce product at work, as it is all the companies that we buy from, the effects cascading through the whole economy.
Thanks for the response. I live in a place with a long tradition (dating back centuries) of land ownership and the rule of law. Barring an invasion by a vast Muslim army later on this century (hopefully France and the UK will avoid that fate – or at least northern France) buying arable farmland within walking distance should be safe enough.
The challenge is that the farming families tend to avoid selling land and keep in in the families. However, I’m sure at some point we will see a glut of supply come onto the market.
In regard to assets in general, you might be interested to know an interesting analyst I have discovered – his track record is very good – who is predicting a peak in stock markets in 2023, after which there is a huge crash of approximately 80%. His work is based on Elliot theory and references a Elliot theory analyst who successfully forecast the 100 year bull market that commenced in 1941.
Not bad, given that in 1941 everybody in the States was very bearish about the stock market (after the Great Depression). At the end of the day, its only one theory, but his basic analysis is that the S&P will peak around 6000 in a melt-up top in 2023 before crashing by 80%, partially recovering (Fed to buy ETF’s), a further crash in the 2030’s, before it bottoms and starts recovering in the late 2030’s (analyst suggests the Fed will monetise not only ETFs but also individual stocks at that point).
So, it looks like the Federal Reserve will by the 2040’s wholly own the US stock market which strikes me as plausible and what’s left of the “free market” will due in 20 years or so.
Also interested in your thoughts on this piece – https://www.zerohedge.com/personal-finance/social-security-will-not-be-able-pay-promised-benefits-2034
I came across your blog while going through Jamie Ross’s things. ..And after I read this one, I passed it on to all our children (young adults in their 20’s and 30’s now).
Jamie moved us (4 kids, 7 cats and myself) to Ireland in 2013 to give us the opportunity to “collapse” ahead of the curve.
We managed 4 years ago to purchase a home and almost 1 acre of land. We set up a poly tunnel and started learning how to grow foodstuffs and herbs. After Jamie’s passing I doubled down. The land is filling with raised boxes and currently we are building a greenhouse.
I want my adult children to understand where food comes from. I want them to know how to grow their own food. We live surrounded by farms so it’s easy to rely on them, but I don’t want them to learn that. They agreed and have stayed with me through C lockdowns (ours were pretty severe) and we have found JOY in reconnecting to the Earth in healthy ways.
This is Jamie’s legacy. This is also your’s John.
Jamie held you in very high esteem. Thank you ..from all of us.
Hi John Michael,
I believe the birth rate has dropped here too – and my best guess is that is due to job insecurity.
As to your musing, well I’m not really sure, but it is very possible I’m going to find out. There are days I do actually wonder whether I’ve woken into a nightmare. What do you? Looking into peoples desires, there is the constant theme that things return to normal, whatever that was. But with the various limits falling like repeated hammer blows at this peripheral locale of Empire I do actually wonder how that will all play out. Certainly I would not have guessed that things would look like they do today. Guess I need to read better fiction.
Hey, any idea when your Arthurian book will be released? Where is Arthur? That is the question. 😉
On the future of Israel, I think Israeli national mythology is essentially Assault on Precinct 13. They want to fight against those kind of odds and win.
Hello, everyone, I’ve been lurking for a while but haven’t commented before. I want to thank everyone here for talking about the things no one near me wants to talk about and helping me feel less alone. I only know one other person who isn’t vaxxed in my deep blue state.
This morning I was feeling overwhelmed by bad news when I found this music video clip. It’s in the Irish musical tradition, with a message of hope and connection through music. It made me feel better…maybe you would enjoy it too? The singing is lovely. It’s called Music’s Harmonies, a song in the time of covid.
Chris in VT
Lloyd Kahn’s book’s, starting with Shelter (pub. 1973), followed by Shelter II, and Tiny Homes – a copy of which I own .. are worth a perusal, just to get an idea of just how resourceful people can be when it comes to imaginative and practical home building/construction. What I see built out, just about everywhere, is dull, repetitive, brain-draining dreck .. where the public is continually mesmerized and held captive, with the name of the game being speculation .. standing side by side with a grifter’s churn. Perhaps, as governing institutions hasten their own discombobulations, such kinds of construction variability – brought forth with a more holistic approach in mind – will flourish .. once the staid and rigid wall of municipal code/Big CONstruction is leveled down to size!
I think your observation that the Limits to Growth model lumps all industrial Output into one variable is key: there will be so much more variability in our future than we can even conceive of now.
And this can be seen historically. I’ve been listening to the History of Byzantium podcast. The host has a knack for really getting into the minds of the Romans (as they thought of themselves until 1453… and anecdotally as some Greeks living in what is now Turkey called themselves until WWI.) Constantinople was so well defended that the Roman emperors were able to survive the very worst of times still in power, and had several periods of growth and contraction during the dark and middle ages.
Charlemagne was crowned “Holy Roman Emperor” partially because ~400 years after the fall of the Western empire, there was no conceivable alternative to larger scale social organization than empire. In hindsight we see the formation of what would become our modern nation-states, but back then this was just an evolution of the late Roman pattern of generals declaring themselves caesar. Continue this cycle in your head: more and more generals declaring themselves ruler, norms being put in place on how to declare yourself ruler. That’s how you end up with Feudalism. We only define it as an “ism” now.
I am interested to know:
why does topsoil nourish plants but not fertilizer, or did I misunderstand what you wrote?
I am very interested to know. So fertilizer is N-P-K, the crucial elements…
what does topsoil deliver, then? Other Minerals?
Do plants still grow when topsoil is gone but fertilizer is applied?
Is there anyone technically savvy enough about the electric grid to tell me:
– if there is overproduction of electricity that cannot not be exported, what happens? Do the transforming stations blow up?
– if there is underproduction of electricity ie too much demand, what happens (if nothing is done) ?
Oh man, that song hit hard. Thank you for introducing me to it, as I’m fan of 60s and 70s music (despite my young age), never heard of this fella.
Unfortunately, I’m yet to read your books on decline and sustainability, but I’ve been slowly digesting the ideas and warming up through your blog, to gradually manifest and practice them. I’ve also downloaded a couple of classics from this awesome site: https://ardbark.com/
We are going through tough times indeed, each nation in their own way. And it’s touching to read your reminisces on that moment of hope and change around 1972, the afterglow of that period is persisting in our collective consciousness and we should bring it back as much as possible. It’s also comforting as a native Middle Eastern to hear and know about US citizens who truly aspire to these ideals and are against what their government did for other countries along their own, makes me at ease and hopeful for democratic civilizations despite the current chaos.
It’s something I’m constantly thinking about, that is how to preserve the ideal and remaining aspects of Western civilization and incorporating them as much as possible into my native culture without losing roots and identity through the decline. Our spiritual traditions are something I wouldn’t worry much about as they are constantly practiced and deeply itched into our lives, but it’s the new and especially technical culture of the West that I’m worried about, so far it’s not affecting the ecology. The notions and accomplishments of freedom and how that was constitutionalized in your culture is something I wouldn’t wish humanity to lose.
Than you John again for reminding us of the possible path we are heading to.
The past few months have been much tougher than usual. This post is very helpful. We certainly need a dose of optimism to look past the tyranny of the immediate and find the strength to keep working on our “personal collapse”. There are some encouraging signs, like the two dozen School Board recalls that are underway. This could be potentially the beginning of the rediscovery of community by Americans.
Now for some comic relief: The US government, among other grandiose nation-building projects in Afghanistan, also spent at least $787 million on “gender programs”. As part of these programs, they conducted sessions introducing Western Art to Afghan women, by using examples such as (I had to double-check if I wasn’t reading The Onion or The Babylon Bee when I read this bit) Marcel Duchamp’s Urinal.
Where I live, public transit isn’t a thing of the poor, although rich people of course usually own cars.
The core of my city is rather wealthy, and the majority of the PMC use public transport.
Owning a car in this city is possible but you pay dearly for parking, and it’s only granted in your own district. Otherwise you need to fill a costly parking ticket. That’s why my car is at a relatives place in the suburbs (rarely used).
The city I live in (Vienna) is to a bigger extent still a traditional layout with multiple storey buildings and narrow roads (see it on google maps).
Suburban structures like in the US do exist, but to a much lesser extent, and are usually well connected to public transport and to historic city centers.
Using public transport is common for the urban middle class here. In many cases, though not always, it’s much faster than going by car.
City and village centers in Austria also die economically due to shopping malls in the periphery, but they still retain some function usually.
The suburbanized happy motoring car dependency certainly exists in Austria too, but it’s still far from the monopolized extent it has in the US.
The railway network of this country is also extensive, still well maintained and widely used. Public transport is usually available pretty much anywhere. Of course, in the country side people will have a car usually. but all cities in Austria do have a decent bus system at least.
The crappy city Salzburg where most rich and super rich live is also the worst when it comes to public transport, and the ugly suburban structures that have metastasized in my lifetime do actually resemble their US role model. The country certainly has tried to emulate the US, but fortunately it still fails in doing so entirely.
I missed including the news article on that Afghan art project, by none other than Rod Dreher.
Thanks for the song. I think that religious beliefs have a lot to do with how people approach the planet and limitations and resources, and with it, which is why it’s so important that, if Ecosophism becomes a movement in the future, we spend a lot of time clarifying certain things. If you believe that your time on Earth is one shot and done, for example, there’s a lot less motivation to conserve for the future than if you believe in reincarnation that’s tied to the same planet.
When I was heavily involved in the New Age movement, for example, the belief was that your thoughts literally make reality. This means that most New Agers ended up thinking that you could wish for eternal prosperity and so it would be, so the environmentalism around that movement was more focused on stopping polluting industries and filling the gaps with dreams and wishes such as 100% clean electric cars and nuclear fusion plants.
Likewise, belief in a single God vs belief in many Gods, belief that the landscape is inherently inanimate and doesn’t have a will of its own (like scientists do), belief in karma, these all inherently determine how people react to Limits to Growth. Lots of people will see that chart and think, “We better party as hard as possible while we still can,” for example, because they lack the long view of development of the soul.
I think the failure of your generation, of my parent’s generation, was a failure of spiritual transformation and understanding more than anything else. It was the 60s followed by disenchantment followed by prosperity Gospel for many.
@Copper (#83) 😉 to @Darkest Yorkshire @JMG
What a bunch of dorks we are indeed 😀
I’m running an Eberron campaign with the Spanish Flu Epidemic in mind. But engineered…
Speaking of games as a tool for learning/teaching, I think boardgames are good too. We played Pandemic with friends during lockdowns here in France (guess we didn’t respect those by the way). As a team of rag tag geeks, we had a better record fighting four viruses that the entire french elite with one not-so-lethal one 🙂
As I stated here already, dealing with strong negative feedback loops in a game has two main drawbacks : it makes developping the game harder because it’s rather non-predictible or the feedbacks are too punishing for the average player and the game is a commercial failure. So far, the best attempts I know (because I actually played them) were CivIII and Alpha Centauri.
It is much better dealt with in a boardgame where resources are literally a finite stock unless you carve your own tokens/meeples under the table as long as the game proceeds.
Another good insightful article – many thanks. For me it was timely. A friend posted a dismissal of Limits of Growth and idea of De-growth – good examples of the handwaving of ignorant critics and their view that we don’t understand economics and how the world works. I would appreciate your take on such articles..
All the Best
@ JMG – first off, great essay. I love that John Denver can still worm his smiling way into people’s consciousness. And I think you’re right, that there’s an outside chance that in the next few years, a green, ‘better’ vision, could find its way into America’s collective unconscious.
This essay really got me thinking, and, in short, I wonder if what is missing, or, put another way, how we might use the upcoming window of national malaise, to worm a better idea into the national consciousness, is an animating idea. Bear with me on this, but I’m thinking of the “BIG IDEAS” that have animated so much of American history. I’m thinking that some idea, short and succinct, tangible, imaginable, but also malleable enough, could become a rallying cry for renewal, or even a new American ethos, over the next decade. Whether it’s the “City on a Hill”, “We, the people…” or “Manifest Destiny”, and yes, each of those ideas really took hold of the imaginations of a great many Americans, and shaped the country we have today. Yes, in the real world, they often involved, ahem, problematic, solutions to some problems, but, we still talk about them as being at the core of the American story.
I’d like to think “retrotopia” checks those boxes I’ve laid out, but I feel like it needs an added something. I’ll be damned if I can think of what that would be, exactly. “Make the past the future again”? What do you think?
Pixellated, what happened to the Mustard Seed? I’m looking at it online, and it doesn’t look like anything’s happened to it in the past few years. What am I missing?
More data points and then some.
The Washington Examiner, a Conservative magazine, has noted that the U.S. is declining. They have written about the drop in children being born, the cities and the high crime rate, the flailing of the people in charge to pretend otherwise, and the local distrust that people in cities and elsewhere have in authorities. In short, we are going to h-e- double hockey sticks in an handbasket. Of course, they seem to think it is those pesky Progressives who will have to answer for it.
Meanwhile, in Loudon County (VA) a very wealthy county, parents are battling the Progressive authorities about critical race theory and mask mandates. There is still a huge underclass of “bubbas” living there who dislike being told what to do by the moral police.
Wash. D.C. has seen sky-rocketing murder rates among everyone. Children being stabbed while playing basketball or leaving school. Old people being shot while walking outside. Mothers being shot by stray bullets while sleeping in their beds.
The mayor tried to appease the Black Lives Matter people with window dressing, but the Metro Police are now understaffed and under siege. And we are having police killing people (not featured on the news).
The irony of all of this is that D.C. is no longer Chocolate City but is Vanilla through gentrification. All of the old Black neighborhoods are being made into PMC havens with Starbucks and dog parks. Meanwhile, everyone is being priced out of their homes and moving into the neighboring counties. Therefore, the city filled with the moral police should be more peaceful, etc, etc.
They tried to integrate the School Without Walls by doing outreach programs in all of the Wards. The poorest Wards (8 and 7) have only three student attending the School. The reason the parents give for not wanting their children to attend – they do not feel welcome in a wealthy White majority school.
@ Nachtgurke – re: Soviet losses during WWII – You’re not wrong. I’ve read multiple places that about 90% of German military casualties lost during WWII occurred on the eastern front. Had the Western Allies, for whatever reason, had to fight Germany (and the other Axis powers) alone, the death toll might have been unacceptable to the American public (to say nothing of the British and other allies).
The flip side, of course, is that lend-lease aid amounted to about 25% of Soviet GDP during the war years. Without American boots, rolling stock, jeeps, trucks, canned food… I’m not sure the Soviets could have survived the Axis onslaught. Or, if they had, they may not have been able to take the fight all the way to Berlin.
But that’s all counterfactual, and while I love to go deep down the alternate history rabbit hole, it doesn’t have a whole lot to do with the future.
I’m still skeptical about Russia’s long term prospects, mostly because they too, have incredibly low fertility rates. Last I checked, the official number was around 1.25 children per woman. And, last I checked, the Russian state has a pretty robust social safety net that seeks to pay for a lot of the costs of having children. Granted, my information is about ten years old, so those things, both the fertility rate and the social safety net, may have changed a lot since last time I checked.
All of that said, if we could have this conversation in one hundred years, I wouldn’t be surprised to find Russia on the rebound, and the preeminent power on the western end of Eurasia. They’ve been down before…
@Darkest Yorkshire, my eight-year-old designs boardgames, but has now decided he’s going to make video games. This is his mind-map of the adventure he intends to code: . Yes, those are trees with tentacles, and their offensive defense is to drop attacking acorns. The forest is reportedly on fire to give the wood cutters “time to do something else”.
Checking my clock, it does appear to be that time:
Bring out your girlie guns and vulgar internet celebrities, y’all!
(Canadian actors do it better) Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings.
Locally speaking, to quote Weezer, “Good to see you lying there in your Superman skivvies”.
“That’s just one example. The overall global evidence strongly suggests that poorer countries and areas have higher birth rates.”
I think high birth rates in general are directly connected to an agrarian lifestyle, ie if there’s many subsistence farmers.
On a subsistence farm, many children are a helping hand, it pays to have many children. So it is in Africa, also in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
In Pakistan, Zia Ul-Haq willfully forbade contraception. The consequence allegedly was that Pakistan has foregone mechanization in agriculture, so there is still manual work instead of machines.
In communist Romania Caucescu also forbade contraception and fostered high birth rates.
I have a theory that this is to prevent certain minorities from multiplying too much in proportion to the rest of the population.
On the other hand, post-soviet countries also has low birth rates when they were very poor.
The empty mechanized agricultural landscape of the industrialized world does not produce many children, neither do cities in general.
As far as I know, the same trends were visible in the ancient roman empire – birth rates declined and the rural hinterland depopulated, save for the slaves that toiled there, instead of machines today.
@ Tony. ” and their view that we don’t understand economics and how the world works…” Bah, standard hand waving. This is like CNN proclaiming the headline “Leaders Are Worried About _______” and turns out it’s their in house pet intellectuals they are interviewing….might as well say “the news is that the NEWS is worried about what Americans are thinking”. It’s a self-referential bubble. They keep insisting, loudly, that No, you don’t understand _______ fill in the blank, Reality is this way. That’s almost always a tip off that they are just saying they can make up what Reality is, if that’s their only argument. It’s also an ad hominem. Ad Hominems are valid if they have at least one adequate OTHER argument with them. Since they live in a bubble, they think Economics trumps Energy, with Economics defined abstractly as “the science of material physical exchanges in financial terms, WHICH TRUMPS HARD SCIENCE AND ENERGY LIMITS”. This is absurd. So they never have an adequate other argument. Their But what else can they say, really? You can’t be too mad at them. They have nothing else.
Chris in VT #288:
We two are also non-vaccinated Vermonters, but we assume that everyone in our village has had the jab so we don’t bring it up.
Where are you in the state? We’re in southern Windsor County.
Emmanuel Goldstein #272:
Good for you for getting an All-American! They’re really the best available and you’ll be so pleased with it. I bought mine around 2001 for the then-exorbitant price of about $130; now they’re several times that. It’s pretty much the only time in my life I’ve been ahead of a wave.
Here’s a quick article about the development of canning: https://www.thespruceeats.com/brief-history-of-canning-food-1327429
I read somewhere or other that when commercial food preservation moved from glass jars to tin cans, can openers had not yet been invented so people used inventive and sometimes dangerous means to open their canned food.
Not the OP, but food is currently being grown without topsoil, or any soil for that matter. It’s called hydroponics. Whether it’s a good thing or not is not for me to say.
My parents loved Salzburg, although the last time they were there was in the early 1960’s before coming to the US so it was probably quite a different place then. I was probably there too, but at the time too young to remember any of it.
JMG and Justin Patrick Moore (Ref #206) I wrote this response over at my Dreamwidth dwelling (https://degringolade.dreamwidth.org/247452.html)
Since it was so long, I didn’t want to post it here and inconvenience folks, so Justing Patrick, there is my response to you question.
Yes, organic multi-culture without irrigation or using well water would be the ideal way to preserve farmland for posterity, but that’s not going to produce the volume of food that the world currently demands from the US and Canada..The vast majority of countries are not self-sufficient in food, including China, Japan, and every country in Africa..So…aquifers are. being drained, and topsoil destruction has been rampant in the US, which has farmed the same soil for 2-300 years in many areas, and of course much farmland has been lost to urbanization..When the Ohio Territory was settled, topsoil was reportedly 6-7 feet deep..now it’s less than a foot..And the nutritional content is much lower..The Scientific American published an article a while back showing that the nutrition in oranges had dropped more than 80% since the 1920s..That topic quickly became radioactive, but it’s a fact that explains some of America’s decline in intelligence…
Chris in VT #288:
Thanks for that excellent Irish music video, a beautiful reminder of what really matters in life. The time will come.
I see your point, but I don’t think the two situations are really comparable. For one thing, losing a war in pre-nuclear days was generally followed by being looted and possibly occupied, not generations in the future but immediately, so fear is an effective driver of civic-mindedness. For another, wartime sacrifices are understood to be temporary, lasting no more than several years, with some form of normal to get back to at the end. Transition to sustainability meant abandoning a way of life that we didn’t just find pleasant but that we had been told was noble and patriotic because it demonstrated that free markets were better than communism. Frugality was seen as doubly unpatriotic because it was both pessimistic (demonstrating less than perfect faith in capitalism) and useless for the great task of convincing the many new nations just emerging from the shadow of 19th-century imperialism to side with us rather than the commies. There was also a deep fear that the engine of industrial prosperity would be stalled if simple living caught on and people stopped buying. (I remember that Aldous Huxley, in the backstory he gave for the society he depicted in Brave New World, wrote that the turning point came when a bunch of Simple Lifers were gunned down.) On top of that, there were still people who expected a world-ending nuclear exchange at any moment, not as many as in the 1950s but the expectation still had a high enough profile to provide waverers with the justification to stick with what they knew. A societal commitment to transition back then would have involved a degree of farsightedness, compassion, and trust in facts rather than persons that is rare in individuals, never mind whole populations.
On another topic, do you think the labor shortages have anything to do with the recent attempt by the banks that OnlyFans did business with to force OnlyFans to drive sexually explicit material off the site? The OnlyFans subscription model provides a safe, discreet, and secure medium for sex workers (mostly women) to sell nude photos and videos directly to customers. If I were young and broke, it would sound much better than retail or waiting tables. If I needed a lot of young, cheap labor, I would hate OnlyFans and all its ilk.
“…do you really think you were personally responsible for what happened?”
No. I was trying to dismiss that very notion, but the single word “nah” failed to strike the right sarcastic note to make that clear.
My issue is about the distinction between a desired outcome, and a plan or scenario by which it might come about. Computer programming, management, and other occupations amount to forming the latter, given the former. (But some people have trouble making the distinction. It’s a common failing in present-day corporate management, for instance. Charged by higher-ups to increase sales, instead of thinking about how, they’re likely to simply pass that intention down the chain of command, until every minimum-wage sales rep in every one of their stores is handed “increase sales” as a quarterly performance goal. Yes, this really happens.)
To phrase it in a way that doesn’t oppress any innocent pronouns, I don’t see any plausible scenario by which the appropriate-technology and sustainable-living movements of the 1970s could have become widespread enough to have led to a significant reduction of the negative trends (rising population, resource depletion, globalization, complexity, etc.) since then. Of course if they had become that widespread we’d all be better off today, but how could that have happened? “If more people had heeded TLtG, if there hadn’t been powerful self-interested opposition to it with the ability to shape public opinion, if people in general were more forward-thinking…” and so forth all seem analogous to the “if I’d tried harder…” sentiments in my post that rightly prompted an “er…” from you.
The problem with the narrative of the great missed opportunity of the 1970s is that in hindsight, that opportunity was illusory, and implying that any present one has an even slimmer chance, because of that missed opportunity, is self-defeating. Without hindsight on the present we can’t say whether any apparent opportunities are similarly illusory; there are good reasons (including grim ones, like necessity being more imminently on our side) to expect that they’re not.
(There were seeming missed opportunities fifty years before Frodo set out on his quest too. Come to think of it, it mostly falls to Gandalf and Bilbo to regret them, while the current ring-bearers are more concerned with staying ahead of the Black Riders and orc armies.)
Re: Israel. Many years ago, when Jimmy Carter was making a big deal of trying to broker a Middle East peace deal, I sat in a lecture hall and heard Noam Chomsky dissect the process as follows:
When America’s elite wants something done that is so contrary to the values of the voters that they can’t send U. S. soldiers to do it, they call on the Israelis. To make sure that the Israelis aren’t in a position to say no, they go to some lengths to encourage hatred of Israel among Israel’s neighbors. So when you see news of American politicians working for peace in the Middle East, you can be confident that it’s window dressing. Peace in the Middle East is the last thing our leaders want.
This implies that, once America’s elite is no longer in a position to whip up hostility to Israel, its neighbors might eventually get used to it and some kind of semi-peaceful coexistence might eventuate.
Hi Kyle, thank you for sharing that.
As time passes since my youth (I’m 40), it’s been difficult to realize that the genres and subcultures (musically and more generally) that were brave and dignified then, now just aren’t. I remember, somewhere along the way, reaching the realization hip-hop, punk, house, grunge, etc. were products of a particular time and generation, and would go through their own cultural and commercial trajectories, and in any event won’t mean to younger generations what they meant to mine. And, following on, that newer generations will generate their own forms that will be equally brave, dignified, honest, and necessary to them–and equally unexpected and inexplicable to older generations.
So I’ve expected that my future grandchildren’s music will be something I’ll have to accept and respect without understanding. I still expect that, but it will be a welcome surprise if American roots music turns out to have a place in the mix!
If you care to share more names, I for one will check them out! I can contribute one: Samuel James, an awesome traditional blues guitarist and singer I used to see around town when I lived in Portland, Maine. Search up his songs “Camus” or “The Here Comes Nina Country-Ragtime Surprise” for a taste.
@ Dennis Michael – re. “When I was heavily involved in the New Age movement, for example, the belief was that your thoughts literally make reality.” If those people had realised the degree to which it is our DEEDS that literally make [some small part of] reality, while our thoughts can do so only inasmuch as they influence our deeds, the whole New Age thing might have done some good! 😉
Beekeeper in Vermont #307, woohoo, that makes four of us! Probably there are more but people are so touchy these days, I don’t broach the subject either. I’m between Brandon and Middlebury now…I relocated from the Burlington area last spring. What a relief to be out of the city. I’ve been enjoying your posts.
Goldenhawk #310, I’m glad you liked the video and I’m looking forward to that time too!
Chris in VT
I don’t think you need to do anything special to drop the birthrate in North America. The birthrate has already dropped below replacement rate – years ago for Canada, and I believe the USA quite recently. The only reason Canada’s population is still growing is that we take in close to 1% of our population in immigrants per year right now. The pandemic has dropped the birth rate still further, in both the USA and Canada. It also dropped the marriage rate, which has implications for future births.
There’s been a tendency for women to delay having children later and later the past few decades, and some things I’ve read suggest a fair number of millenial women are delaying things so long that by the time they’re financially stable with a stable relationship, they are running into biological limits and are struggling to bear children. Not all of them, obviously! My neighborhood contains a couple of daycares, parks with playgrounds, and an elementary school, so there’s kids under the age of ten everywhere I look.
Childcare, university, and housing are getting unaffordable for many. I strongly suspect this is most of the reason why the birth rate is so low.
JMG, you’ve mentioned before you believe there may be “islands” in a declining world where things remain similar to what they are now for a long time. I’m curious, do you think there could be “islands” where technology actually still advances significantly for generations? I wouldn’t think this necessarily conflicts with your overall thesis.
For instance, in the area where I have the most knowledge, biotechnology, there are quite a few advances already in the pipeline for the next decade that will likely add healthy years onto the average lifespan (gene therapies, senolytics, etc). One could imagine a minority of the world population going into an accelerating future while the rest of the world still declines/stagnates. Possible?
@info Re: Western European fertility
Thanks for the Hajnal line, I hadn’t heard about that!
On the other hand, while Protestant English and Scots(men) have often written about their (procreative) self-constraint in comparison to those licentious, poor, Catholic Irish, Italians etc., I once saw a calculation (forgot the link) that showed that no other population in known history has ever had as many descendants as the English and Scottish ones of around 1600. After all, they filled Britain itself up to a very high density, and at the same time contributed strongly to the filling up of North America and Australasia.
Now let’s see how birth rates continue into the future.
When I was living in Rio de Janeiro, I had a hard time convincing anybody that, according to official data, natality was now at less than replacement rate for _all_ women in the state. I trust the official data on this, since nobody has the least incentive to massage population data downwards, and everybody has an interest to massage them upwards. People would always answer with some anecdotes about poor women having six children. The thing is, you see mothers (and fathers) with children on the street, but you never know if the adult you see on the street is childless.
Those are huge incentives to invest as strongly as possible in basic sanitation and education, since every single child will be important for the future economy (if one is not already inclined to consider every child a gift from God). Up to 2016, the petroleum royalties were destined for basic education. Now, the profits go tax-free (for 30 years!) to American and European petroleum companies, as a fine example of the wealth pump JMG has so often talked about. But I digress…
The current electrical grid requires the power generated and the power used to be in balance.
If more power is generated than used, what happens as a direct result is that the generators speed up, just like a car engine speeds up when it produces more power than is needed to keep the car at its present speed. This increases the voltage and the frequency of the electricity generated. That’s undesirable, as electrical equipment is designed to work at the standard expected voltage and frequency. (In the U.S. that’s 120 volts and 60 cycles per second.) Such changes are instantly detected and various forms of negative feedback are applied to correct the imbalance. Depending on the kinds of generators involved and the time scale of the adjustments being made, the feedback might include:
– Reducing the power going into generators, such as by reducing the fuel flow, water flow, or steam pressure. (This is like taking your foot off the gas to keep your car running at a constant speed when it needs less power, such as going downhill. Note that the motors in small portable gas-powered generators are regulated to do that automatically, so they run at a constant speed and produce a constant AC voltage whether anything is plugged into them or nor not.)
– Shutting down individual generators when fewer are needed
– Diverting power into an energy storage system such as pumped hydroelectric reservoirs or battery banks (though the grid overall has very limited capability to do this at present)
– Lowering the price charged for electricity to encourage more consumption to balance the extra available production
The same applies exactly in reverse when the power generated is less than demand. The immediate effect is a decrease in the voltage and frequency of the electrical current being generated, which is detected and compensated for using the opposite of the various ways just described (increasing generator power, bringing additional generators or stored power online, raising the price, etc.). When those feedbacks are insufficient, lower-voltage lower-frequency power will exist in the grid, which is called a brownout. Since brownouts can damage electrical equipment, circuit breakers (that do the same thing as the ones in your home, but on a much larger scale) completely disconnect parts of the grid where brownout conditions exceed the allowed limits; this of course is called a blackout or “interruption of service.”
The whole system is complex, not just in the sense of having a lot of parts and a lot of different processes all going on at the same time, but also in the sense of being beyond the ability of our mathematical and computational tools to fully understand it or to accurately predict what it might do in every scenario.
People trying to preserve food without canning lids – dehydrator does everything, too, and less power needed (none if you can swing solar).
I never have 40 lbs of tomatoes ripe at the same time, so I just slice and dry small ones, or make sauce of the big ones, then dry them. Then to cook with later, just rehydrate. With cucumbers it’s weirder, but if you slice then season them, they are like potato chips.
Also lighter in case you need to say, flee your house quickly for some reason and want to bring food…
Info, I suspect most of it’s instinctive. Human beings have all the instinctive reactions of other social mammals, and birth rate management is something most species have hardwired into them. Like other species, we breed more when more children is an advantage, and breed less when it’s not.
Clarke, thanks for this. Yes, I expect patterns like these to become common again in the years ahead.
MJ, I ain’t arguing!
J.L.Mc12, good heavens. Let me look out the window to see if the moon is blue.
Sister BoysMom, oh, granted, I wouldn’t be stupid enough to say that, because that had already stopped being true by the time I graduated from high school!
Greg, I appreciate hearing that you’re aware of the issues in extracting a resource without first figuring out what doing that will do to the broader system! Unfortunately most people these days aren’t. In theory, you can use a nonrenewable resource temporarily to bridge the gap to a renewable one; in practice, “temporarily” always turns out to be “until it runs out” — Jevons’ Paradox is worth reviewing here — and then there’s the damage done to the broader system. As for proposals to make the best of a deteriorating system, the point of those emaciated women is precisely that many of the things currently being marketed as ways to make the best of this or that don’t actually do so, but because they’re fashionable, they get propped up by various kinds of hypocrisy and subterfuge. The idea that people will thrive on a much lower calorie count is one of those; it works very poorly in practice for most people, but it’s enforced by cultural fashions (and heavily promoted by the multibillion-a-year dieting industry), so a great many people in the privileged classes pretend to abide by it and then chow down on fast food to avoid malnutrition.
Martin, thanks for this. I had the chance to talk to Dennis a couple of times during the heyday of peak oil, and he struck me as a very thoughtful and interesting guy.
Tiago, thanks for this. It’s always cheering to hear from one of the people who really is walking his talk. As for the path of the Earth, let me think about that and see about a post on the subject.
BB, okay, that’s a hoot.
Dorda, thanks for this. Yes, that’s another good one.
Twilight, that’s another important point, and one I haven’t talked about for a long time: the end of US global hegemony means the end of the tribute economy, and a massive contraction in available goods here in the US. If it was just us having shortages, I’d assume it was just the end of empire that was doing it.
Forecasting, if you’re in walking distance you’re close enough. I’m thinking of idiots like Bill Gates who think that anyone is going to care about their theoretical ownership of property thousands of miles away. The stock market analysis is interesting, and certainly the role of the Fed is completely plausible. As for Social Security, I’ve assumed for years that I’d never get back a cent of the money that I’ve paid into it, so this comes as no surprise.
Laurie, many thanks for this. I’m glad to hear you’ve landed on your feet and that you and your children are doing well.
Chris, I wonder when they’ll realize that “normal” is never coming back. As for my book on the Grail, I’m still waiting to hear from the publisher.
Yorkshire, that’s been hardwired into the country’s mythology since the Iron Age. They always succeed for a time, and then go under.
Chris in VT, many thanks for this!
Polecat, there’s another blast from the past! I still have my copy of Shelter.
Jack, history’s an excellent model for the kind of variability we can expect. As for feudalism, it’s the normal result of the decline of a civilization, for exactly that reason — it’s what happens when the administrative structure of empire is reworked through generations to rely on personal bonds and personal capacities.
Aziz, thanks for this. For what it’s worth, I expect to be doing a lot more posting about sustainability issues again over the months immediately ahead.
Collapsenik, one of the things that made the Afghanistan fiasco so perfect is that the alleged experts who ran it spent so much time and money on this sort of drool-spattered idiocy. They were so fixated on their blind faith in progress (as they defined it) that it never occurred to them what this would look like to anyone outside their bubble…
Ramaraj, thanks for this.
Dennis, that’s certainly my take on things. One of the many ways in which my generation failed is that it almost embraced a spiritual approach to living, and then backed frantically away from that the moment it became clear that they’d have to accept less lavish lifestyles…
Tony, I’ll see if I can find time to read them, but there are only so many hours in a day, and cornucopian arguments all rely on the same handful of logical fallacies and therefore aren’t very interesting to me.
Ben, that’s very likely true. Do you have any suggestions?
Neptunesdolphins, many thanks for the data points.
Degringolade, thanks for this.
Pyrrhus, nor is anything else. The question that concerns me is what will produce enough food to support the sharply decreased population we’ll have as the curves on the graph continue to play out.
Joan, obviously I disagree. As for OnlyFans, did you hear that they were forced to back down?
Walt, sometime when I have more spare time I’ll collect a list of the indicators that moved in the right direction all through the 1970s. The movement toward sustainability was nothing like as small or as unpopulat as you’ve suggested, and if it had continued to build on its successes, rather than collapsing in on itself, I think a transition could have been accomplished. But of course we’ll never know…
Joan, you might want to tell the Israeli government that. They’re not exactly laying the groundwork for peaceful coexistence now, while they still might have time to do so.
Kel, the detail that gets left out of such models is how much of modern technology depends on imports of nonrenewable resources from all over the world. To manage further technological progress, the “islands” you’ve imagined would have to maintain military control over resource-rich sections of the planet, and keep extracting those resources for the advantage of a few while the many do without. That’s not a recipe that keeps well, not least because targeting the resource flows would be an obvious route to power for demagogues and ambitious generals everywhere else on the planet.
That said, I expect it to be tried — New Zealand is very clearly being set up as the elite refuge where the rich expect to keep their cozy lifestyles while the rest of the planet crashes and burns. Attacks on vulnerable resource flows would be one of many ways for the rest of humanity to strike back, as of course they will. There’s a certain macabre interest in wondering whether Mark Zuckerberg will dine on Bill Gates or vice versa once protein supplies drop to the point that cannibalism comes into fashion…
Jean-Baptiste (offlist), every time I post something about the limits to growth I can count on dozens of people trying to pick a fight by insisting that the conventional wisdom can’t possibly be wrong. I delete them, because anyone who wants to hear that viewpoint can tune into the corporate media any time they want to. So you might consider saving your breath.
@ Curt (#292)
Overproduction of electricity is the easier – and much less common – of the two problems. As production outstrips demand, the line voltage rises (think of it like pressure in a water pipe), prompting system managers to scale back production. This is usually just a matter of throwing some switches to take individual generator units offline until needed again.
Underproduction left unchecked will result in a “brownout” condition where the voltage drops, making lights go dim and more sensitive electronic devices shut down altogether. Most utilities have prevention strategies in place, such as time-of-use billing and selective load shedding, that help reduce the frequency and severity of these events, but they still occur. In the more egregious cases, low priority customers (such as those in rural areas) will be rationed, with power available only at certain times of the day and/or on certain days. Telephone systems usually continue to function unimpeded at these times because they operate on semi-autonomous 48Vdc power that is backed up by huge battery banks.
The recent drive for development of wind & solar power has nothing to do with the environment, but is instead motivated by the threat of chronic underproduction due to the looming resource shortage. I don’t know how things are in other places, but here in Ontario there are no more rivers left to put hydro dams on; building new nuclear plants is political suicide; rising petroleum prices are making conventional turbines uneconomical; and neighboring utilities have little if any surplus to sell. So what’s left? Solar and wind farms that generate at a typical cost of around $0.50/kWh that is then sold retail for an average of around $0.11/kWh.
So of course, in fine PMC style, Ottawa comes to the rescue with the objective of eliminating petroleum-fired private automobiles. Marketed as an environmental protection policy, the true objective is to shift the petroleum demand so that the utility corporations benefit from lower costs in their conventional generator systems while the automobile owners (who are mostly poor working dolts like me) carry the extra burden. And more besides, considering that the additional energy losses in: (a) converting mechanical energy to electricity; (b) storing that energy in battery systems; (c) retrieving energy from those batteries; and (d) converting the electricity back into mechanical motion; reduce the overall energy efficiency from an already-abysmal 20% or so down to the lower end of single digits. Smooth move, Ex-Lax!
Sorry for the ranting, John. As a professional engineer in the electrical industry, I find this blatant stupidity rather annoying, especially considering most of the current shortage situation – of which this is but one manifestation among many – could have been prevented sixty years ago just by properly applying my grandmother’s axiom of “waste not, want not.”
One thing I would like to clarify for people having this discussion. Simplified, childbirth rates are generally determined by child mortality rates and amount of money/resources required to raise a single child. During times when the cost of raising a child is low, populations swell. As populations swell, the cost to rise a single child goes up substantially due to increased competition, driving down childbirth rates down (possibly below replacement) and eventually you hit an equilibrium that leads to negligible population growth / decline subject to external shocks like immigration, plague, war.
In competitive societies / classes like upper class coastal America, for example, having a kid costs a lot, and it takes a long time for standards to go down after resources decline. So, less resources means less kids, until sometime in the future standards fall, the country is emptier than before, and a rebound can take place. Russia is a good recent example that comes to mind that followed that pattern if my memory serves me correct.
Peculiar circumstances also matter. Japan is going through a contraction right now because all economic activity is centralized in a few cities. Those city centers have gigantic stable or even growing populations where having a kid is extremely expensive. However, the rest of the country (the countryside) is being hollowed out completely despite it being affordable to raise kids there, as there are very few jobs due to the extreme centralization.
JMG, I too would very much welcome a post on the path of the Earth.
@Ron M – I forgot, you also liked Buffy! I’m seeing the throat singers PIQSIQ next Saturday, the same place I saw her a few years ago. I have all their cds, but I hope their merch mask gets here in time so I can be the complete fangirl. I figure if I gotta wear a mask…
William Hunter Duncan at #173
John Michael Greer at #216:
That was quite a meltdown. BCF (best college friend) was loud and public. As if you had insulted the BVM (blessed virgin Mary) in medieval Europe. And BCF was denouncing you in case the Inquisition had ears in the pub walls.
But BCF worships Progress. (Point of doctrine: the BVM is not to be worshiped; she is to be revered as the greatest of the saints — a distinction often overlooked. But those who love the BVM know she forgives us ignorant savages.) Could be BCF knew (unknowing?) you were right and that’s why he was so loudly righteous. Could be you insulted his god. Maybe it was a combo platter.
John Michael Greer:
(Maybe should be in an open post, but sort of related due to comments on Trump’s environmental policies.)
Thank you for all your talk of climate change, now showing up as global weirding. Hooboy, the chunk of arctic atmosphere that visited in February helped convince me. Previously blew off all preaching from gulfstream greenies (a sub-species of limosine liberals). “They talk the talk but don’t walk the walk. They’re just trying to grab more money and power.” Well, maybe they are. Don’t mean climate change ain’t a thing.
Gulfstream greenies are getting more and more razzing. Wonder if Trump will make use of that.
Naomi #255: I’m presently reading Guillaume Faye’s *Prelude to War* and he makes one very important point. In the long run it doesn’t matter how well trained 15 million people are, nor how much outside support they get, when they are surrounded by several hundred million hostiles. Fighter jets and nuclear missiles are great, but at the end of the day wars always come down to how many boots each side has on the ground.
Curt @ 292: a couple of useful terms used by the power grid folks:
Curtailment – this is when a source is told to reduce or eliminate their contribution to the grid.
Load-shedding – when the grid operators eliminate/disconnect certain users or even parts of the grid in order to keep what remains in balance.
A little web-searching will get you all sorts of info on the details once you know those are the two terms you’re looking for.
I wouldn’t call myself a member of the “professional managerial class” , though I am undeniably part of what you’d call the salary class. My paychecks come from the federal gov’t, several of my co-workers are super into investing and stocks, and I’m an outlier by far in both my “realistic” (or pessimistic as they’d call it) outlook on the future and lack of panic regarding COVID (which it turns out I might actually have right now, test results pending).
Anyway, a couple of my co-workers have been regularly telling me that I ought to put my retirement fund into the higher risk categories because I’m young (early 30s), and even though the market will always boom and bust, the net gain is positive. They point out the example of my admittedly -not- financially responsible co-worker whose retirement accounts aren’t anywhere near the level of theirs, and suggest that I follow their advice.
Problem is, I’m thoroughly convinced (as are many here) that the rule of “long term investment gains” only makes sense in an age of expansion, and to expect the stock market to be remotely profitable in an era of economic decline and contraction is unwise. But how can you argue with that worldview? After all, other than a few major hiccups (the great depression chiefly among them), that *has* been true basically for the past few centuries.
Other than investing in useful community skills (for example, I know how to make soap, wine, and a few other commodities) or hoarding non-perishable valuables, exactly how does one best invest ones resources in anticipation of an era of decline?
Question aimed at JMG really but open to whomever has opinions/insights/anything other than wall street dogma to offer.
@ JMG – Unfortunately, I am not near the poet Horace Greely was, nor the wordsmith Thomas Jefferson was, nor the orator John Winthrop was.
I like the idea, as a slogan, of “Make the past the future again”, but I can say, for sure, that the riff from which it derives would alienate half of America, without them giving it a second thought. Plus, I’m not much for sloganeering, anyway, even if it can be effective.
More to the point, in each of those historical examples, the phrase derived from a larger text. I’m currently working on a short story (at 12k words long, I’m not sure ‘short’ is an accurate description), that I hope is the scorching satire of the corruption and cluelessness endemic in America’s institutions. I’ve had a couple friends beta read it, but it probably needs the go-through of a professional editor. Maybe it can fire some imaginations, once I get it published…
Have a good Labor Day weekend!
@ The Commentariat as a whole: Does anyone else want to throw out some “pro-green” slogans along the lines of “Make the past the future again”?
So the latest plan our dear elitist leaders have for us is the cashless society. I was asked when I withdrew money today at the ATM “Would it inconvenience you if you couldn’t use cash at the shops?” I said yes, not that I expect my opinion to count for anything. It has already been decided for us, even though only the elite want a cashless society.
What is the point of this? Is it another way to rustle money out of thin air like QE? How does digital money work in an era of decline?
I remember seeing a press release from some “progressive” group talking about what a wonderful sign of progress it was that a group of female Afghan university students in Kabul had earned graduate degrees in critical theory, intersectional theory and feminist studies. Not that it’s going to do them a bit of good now that the Taliban is back in control. May end up sealing their fate in fact.
The cluelessness and self-imposed stupidity of the liberal elites has reached the level of self-parody, something Malcolm Kyeyune, William Lind and others have been pointing out. I suppose that’s the sort of thing that comes from living inside a bubble for too long.
@Chris in VT #288: thanks ever so much for posting that video! It brought tears to my eyes. Believe it or not, I used to play that song (The Minstel Boy) on the (Scottish) bagpipes when I was a boy. And now I find out that it is a song that commemorates the Irish Rebellion of 1798. Odd indeed! Then again, my piping teacher – who wore a kilt 24/7 and was highly respected by the best pipers in Scotland – was actually Irish (George Beelee, 1903-1978, RIP)!
@Curt #291: very briefly, topsoil is to NPK fertilizer as vitamin pills are to a well-balanced diet. A healthy topsoil is an ecosystem of mind-bogging complexity whose interactions with the plants is still poorly understood, but what little we know is truly amazing. There are loads of books on the soil ecosystem for the layperson out there, but my favourite (so far) is Teaming with Microbes by Jeff Lowenfels & Wayne Lewis… in case you want to learn more.
My roommate and I, who were born at opposite ends of the 1960s, have been talking recently about missing the spirit of the 1970s, so thanks for a well-timed post. There did seem to be genuine interest then in the (less technological, more human-scale) skills and lifestyles and community of the past. Young as I was, I do remember a feeling in the air that the country had started down a wrong path to Empire and that we should turn back to being the republic we were originally intended to be. Maybe there never was a real chance to choose a different route, but for a handful of years it felt like there was…until the 80s happened and suddenly the 70s had never been about anything but wide lapels, disco, and ugly shag carpets. Memory hole, indeed.
The local CBS affiliate has finally noticed the shortages in the grocery stores and is blaming them on a new spate of hoarding. This in spite of the fact that the shortages of last year never actually ended, they just shifted from one product to another to another. The latest item to be MIA is frozen blackberries, which is hardly catastrophic but means I haven’t had my favorite smoothie (cherry, blackberry, raspberry and pomegranate juice, yum!) for a couple of weeks.
On the bright side, the Minnesota State Fair reopened this year (2020 being the first hiatus since the polio outbreak of 1946). Very sensibly, they’ve done it without attempting to impose a vaccine or masking mandate, the second of which would be impossible to enforce and the first of which would have caused a seismic uproar. For the non-Midwesterners in the audience, this is THE central ritual of our culture: Christmas, the Olympics (if they gave out medals for craftwork and seed corn, that is), and Fourth of July rolled up together with all the food fried and/or served on sticks. Nothing that’s been done this entire pandemic has been as alienating as cancelling the Fair. Everyone I know is too afraid to go, but we’ve been twice and are going a third time, to be sure to soak up enough ambiance to get us through winter. I’ll give your regards to the goats and the chickens tomorrow!
glad to hear it. I was thinking North America centrically, of course. Europe is a lot less like that.
Where I am now, a lot of people use public transport… but it does skew to lower-income, plus people who care about either the environment or are just frugal. None of whom are likely to be throwing clothes out without ever washing them.
In the small town I lived in about 10 years ago, the bus system was very heavily skewed to low income. Plus the environmentalist mayor of the time who walked his talk. The bus system went from being nonexistant evenings and sundays to being rare evenings while he was in office. Then got a bit worse again after he left, though thankfully sunday service continued.
Got to wondering about the population plot. A lot of people think it requires a major die off. Doesn’t really. A lot of glossing in the following. Find a loan amortization program or spreadsheet – set loan to 7874 billion the payments to 0 and interest rate to the growth rate. Play with it – just like buying Elon’s big toys.
Current world population is 7.874 billion.
The current growth rate is 0.43% – one extra new baby in every 200 people (total new babies – total deaths / total population).
Assuming the rate continued to 2100 the world population would be 11 billion people.
If suddenly there was just ONE more death that the number of babies born per 100 population giving a growth rate of -1% the world population in 2100 would be 3.6 billion about what it was in 1968.
With two extra deaths (growth -2%) the population in 2100 would be 1.6 billion! The population would be cut about in half by 2055.
To put in in sort of personal terms it means about half of every one you know who has contract the dreaded spiky virus would die. For some that is no one for others that it could be a large number. (According to the John Hopkins Covid Dash board about 219 million people have contracted it. About 2.8% of the world population. Doesn’t matter if it is accurate for this.)
Now to ballpark the MiGo, They must have been averaging about 5 to 8 percent of the population a year. Busy bugs….
John – Coop Janitor
To Emmanuel Goldstein (#272) re: re-usable canning lids, great news! There are re-usable canning lids! Non-BPA plastic lids and rubber gaskets. The lids are hard to damage with normal use. The gaskets apparently may wear out over the course of many years, though mine haven’t yet. Names to investigate are Tattler and Harvest Guard. I know that orders were slow to be filled in the past 18 months but I believe Tattler at least is mostly caught up.
More evidence the decline in industrial production is accelerating now that we have hit that tipping point, as predicted by the LTG models. General Motors is shutting down most of its North American auto plants temporarily due to a worsening shortage of computer chips.
Chris in VT:
So you escaped from Wokestan on Lake Champlain – good for you! I haven’t been to Middlebury in a long time, but I get the impression it’s nearly as far left as Burlington, or maybe that’s just because of the coddled students’ tantrums over at the college.
@pygmycory, ah, my mistake – the CBC site must have updated its cookies again and given me Ontario news in my local section.
I got this headline:
Mustard Seed declares bankruptcy, announces closure after asking members to help pay off debts.
Apparently the rest of the Coven Market is still going strong, for any Hamilton readers.
@Pixelated – PIQSIQ is seriously cool. Enjoy the upcoming performance and bet of luck with their mask merch! When I was growing up there were so many talented Canadian musicians (The Guess Who, Chilliwack, Alice Cooper, Joni Mitchell, Neil Young… the list goes on and on). Among the current crop I am fond of the Headstones and the Sheep Dogs and so many Celtic-themed groups from down east (and even Nickleback in small doses). My daughter was a fan of Shawn Mendez way back when he was still recording videos of his compositions from his bedroom in Pickering.
“The idea that people will thrive on a much lower calorie count is one of those; it works very poorly in practice for most people, but it’s enforced by cultural fashions (and heavily promoted by the multibillion-a-year dieting industry), so a great many people in the privileged classes pretend to abide by it and then chow down on fast food to avoid malnutrition.”
Its for Pastoralism to make a comeback. Meat, Dairy, Fish and Eggs are very nutrient dense foods that cannot truly be provided for by grains.
I have read that Peasants that subsisted primarily on grains were far more malnourished compared to the Pastoralist Steppe Nomads who are taller and stronger.
Although the introduction of Potato from Latin America may have tipped the scales of nutrition for peasants given its greater nutrient content than the grains they were eating. Not to mention it is far more easily grown in greater quantities per hectare too.
@Ben re: #300, what about something along the lines of “self government” as the next big idea? Maybe there’s a snappier way of putting it. I’ve been thinking lately that re-embracing that concept would go a fair way toward solving some of the problems we’re facing. For starters, it’s immediately obvious how just ludicrous the notion of *imposing* self-government on another nation is.
There’s also the slippery question of who exactly this “self” is. Is it a people governing itself? Individuals governing their own lives? It leads naturally into a discussion of federalism, or if you’re Catholic or a EUreaucrat the term is subsidiarity.
It’s not quite as arrogant as “city on a hill” either. Still, if we live more in accordance with our principles and ideals, perhaps we can be a role model that others can find inspirational again — if they want.
If you’re looking for something specifically geared toward a Retrotopian vision, though, I’m not sure what to suggest. There’s the idea of sankofa (the glib way I heard someone describe it: if you leave the house without your keys, go back and get them!), but that’d probably draw more puzzled looks than even “subsidiarity” would.
Otherwise, maybe take some adjective or phrase commonly used for the future and turn it around, e.g., “bright past”?
Good luck, though! People are probably hungry to embrace new ideas, and given the endless supply of really bad ones out there…
“On the other hand, while Protestant English and Scots(men) have often written about their (procreative) self-constraint in comparison to those licentious, poor, Catholic Irish, Italians etc., I once saw a calculation (forgot the link) that showed that no other population in known history has ever had as many descendants as the English and Scottish ones of around 1600. After all, they filled Britain itself up to a very high density, and at the same time contributed strongly to the filling up of North America and Australasia.”
Indeed. Sounds a bit like projection at the time. Not so true nowadays though.
BIG JILM (no. 330), I did the same (choose the more conservative investment fund). I don’t mind other people being wealthier than me. I consider myself lucky to have enough.
@Kyle, JMG, country and folk music folks.
It’s a pleasant surprise to see Benjamin and Lost Dog Street Band referenced here. I was part of that underground folk scene for a while, and even played shows with Lost Dog, Billy Strings and many others making big names for themselves these days. It’s good to see them making out! Another one you might check out is Sierra Ferrell, she just put out a new record called “Long Time Coming” and it’s pretty great. We got it on vinyl. Mixture of classic country, hot jazz and folk.
“That said, I expect it to be tried — New Zealand is very clearly being set up as the elite refuge where the rich expect to keep their cozy lifestyles while the rest of the planet crashes and burns. Attacks on vulnerable resource flows would be one of many ways for the rest of humanity to strike back, as of course they will. There’s a certain macabre interest in wondering whether Mark Zuckerberg will dine on Bill Gates or vice versa once protein supplies drop to the point that cannibalism comes into fashion…”
I’ll offer an opinion on that (Speaking as a NZder). Its true that New Zealand is likely to remain more politically stable than many other parts of the world through the long descent, though whether we feel like respecting the wealth and abstract property rights of Billionaire refugees from a fading imperial power is another matter entirely.
As for cannibalism, politically incorrect though it is to say this, It was an ancient Maori custom to consume the flesh of ones defeated enemies….
“Collapsenik, one of the things that made the Afghanistan fiasco so perfect is that the alleged experts who ran it spent so much time and money on this sort of drool-spattered idiocy. They were so fixated on their blind faith in progress (as they defined it) that it never occurred to them what this would look like to anyone outside their bubble…”
I’m reminded here of a certain Nassim Taleb quote: “These people couldn’t find a coconut on coconut island!”
They seem to be addressing the population problems with their clot shot If you think things are crazy now, wait till the vaxxed start dying, God help us all.
“The cluelessness and self-imposed stupidity of the liberal elites has reached the level of self-parody”
Not to mention the cluelessness and self-imposed stupidity of the conservative elites. Welcome to the two-party system!
Here’s an interesting update on a Remote Viewing project that’s looking at what things will be like in 2060: https://www.schwartzreport.net/wp-content/uploads/2021/09/2060-VI-galleys.pdf
Just another question. Is your book on the Holy grail, the sequel to ‘the Seccret of the Temple?’ or is that something else?
Scotlyn, so noted.
Nemo, exactly. If the biggest fool in the world says that the sun is shining, that by itself doesn’t prove that it’s cloudy.
Big Jilm, I’ll be talking about that in a couple of weeks. The short form? No investment holds its value in a contracting economy. Sorry.
Ben, fair enough. Maybe something will occur to you, or to one of the others in this conversation.
Bridge, it’s a means of social control. If your money is digital you can be deprived of it instantly with a few keystrokes.
Sister Crow, many thanks for the data points. Please do say hi to the goats and chickens!
Janitor, good. Very good. That’s exactly it — demographic shifts don’t require mass slaughter. A few less births and a few more deaths every year are quite enough to do the trick.
Galen, thanks for this. It’s definitely picking up speed…
Info, er, where did you get the idea that it’s an all-or-nothing thing one way or the other? Mixed farming in which grain provides calories and some proteins, legumes provide calories and other proteins, and animal foods provide most of the proteins, is also an option — and a very successful one.
BB, I hope you can prevent your government from becoming a wholly owned subsidiary of the rich bozos who plan to turn your country into their private fiefdom. Otherwise, well, “The flesh of your CEO sticks between my teeth!” comes to mind…
Dennis, if that happens, at least it’s going to be self-terminating…
Mike, fair enough. Now we’ll see if it’s any more accurate than, say, the remote viewers who expected big things in 2012.
BB, The Ceremony of the Grail is the sequel to The Secret of the Temple. There may be a third book in the series eventually, but my thoughts on that are very inchoate at present.
@Chris at Fernglade – ultimatum – like a statement of conditions, a proposal, a proposition or a final offer?
Seems unwise to play at this stage of the game in your neck of the woods; I hope no one is trying it, mate.
I know it’s not as bad as all that here yet, but it’s gotten me pretty down lately, too.
I was actually having my usually daily walk on the beach, thinking this time I couldn’t resolve a work related double bind and I felt very stupid… Unless, I thought, it was actually a false choice, and not a double bind after all, could that be right? – and as I thought that, I passed a book sitting on a giveaway pile on the side of the road, which was “Sacré Bleu: a Comedy D’Art” by Christopher Moore (the jacket informs: New York Times Best-selling Author of ‘Bite Me’ and ‘Fool’). Which is exactly the sort of pep talk I expect from the universe when I’m in the dumps at this point. Which, as I walked, made me angry (that love and light crap everyone else seems to get when they need picked up would be nice once, you know?), and so then rather spiteful. But then I reasoned that if the gods do understand us better than we know ourselves, that would be the point – as that usually means the next thing that’s going to happen is me putting my back into being very annoying and right, which usually cheers me right up.
What also cheers me up is listening to the Saskadelphia album by the Tragically Hip – a good portemanteaux of Cree and Greek. I’ve never heard Gord scream like he does for Ouch; would be hard on the vocal cords. Though I’m more partial to Not Necessary.
BIG JILM: regarding the stock market, and those lovely charts that show it inexorably climbing higher through all the slips and crashes … they’re very convincing until you notice that they all start in 1930. Crank the dial back, and you’ll notice that those who bought in 1928 were net losers until 1955.
Also, infinite growth in the stock market presumes infinite growth in a wider economy, so there’s that. On top of all that, the Internet’s research into Gamestop stock is currently exposing vast amounts of book-cooking and outright fraud by the large institutions. Short interest is routinely misreported, large numbers of stocks are being sold off-market for undisclosed prices, and the SEC is missing in action. Here there be dragons, and most of the numbers you’re seeing are cooked.
I’ll add to my previous comment about improved chip availability (from my perspective), that costs are up about 25%, and I am only buying about 3000 semiconductor chips a month and maybe 30000 resistors, capacitors, etc. There is no way I could find enough chips to keep, say, Toyota, humming along like it was 2018! The costs are acceptable, because my company’s product is only about 5% semiconductor by price.
Here in Canada, the “labor shortage” has a lot to do with low-wage workers not being able to find housing anywhere near work, and finding it more economical to live with their parents on benefits or marginal employment in small towns. From my perspective, this means that the long descent has made many low-wage businesses uneconomical. The businesses have tried and failed to foist the costs onto their employees, and now they’re squeezed between going out of business by raising prices to pay higher wages or going out of business by not having employees.
In Nova Scotia, lots of tenants are faced with 100% rent increases as the landlord class takes its revenge after two years of rent control that will end next February. Things aren’t good.
Electricity cannot be overproduced. The power production system monitors load (demand) in realtime, and produces exactly what’s needed continually. Increasing load lowers the system voltage, and even exerts subtle downward influence on the line frequency; these are measured, and are the feedback to prompt the power production system to adjust its output. There are daily and seasonal cycles (along with weather-dependent variations) in demand which are predictable and bounded, making systems operations and planning feasible.
If the load exceeds capacity, then the load is brought down by whatever means necessary. There are ways to forestall this with, say, incentive pricing to reduce demand during peak load times. Large industrial consumers, or even the public, may be asked to cut consumption when the system is near its limit. More drastic measures include rolling brownouts or blackouts (California has seen quite a bit of this of late). Failure of these measures can lead to physical failure of the grid, as we saw in Texas last February.
“BB, I hope you can prevent your government from becoming a wholly owned subsidiary of the rich bozos who plan to turn your country into their private fiefdom. Otherwise, well, “The flesh of your CEO sticks between my teeth!” comes to mind…”
The thing is, from what I’m hearing The central government’s grip on the more remote regions of the country is already becoming difficult to maintain. For example, the government have recently done a deal with Maori Tuhoe tribe in the remote Urawera region on the east cape of the north island. This region is now officially semi politically autonomous. I’ve also read about some quite juicy deals being done by the government with some of the more powerful Gangs (officially to help combat drug issues and poverty within marginalized people/parts of the country, though I suspect its more of a strategic retreat from parts of the country they government can no longer maintain a reliable presence in).
In reality of course, since the British Crown arrived in New Zealand, they’ve done strategic deals with different factions of Maoridom where they couldn’t;t exercise effective direct control (as they did in many places they colonized). This is simply a continuation of that strategy.
The remoter part of the country are also not uncommonly where those “rich bozos” have set up their Roman villas errr I mean mansions/holiday homes…
And by physically failing, the grid can automatically cut power to certain sections, or there can be physical hardware failure that results in total power loss to part of the grid until the damaged equipment is repaired/replaced.
Kenaz # 328
Not always. The Romans were often outnumbered.
Israel was also outnumbered in the Arab Israeli War and the 6 Day War and the Yom Kippur War.
I read assessments of the risks to the Jewish State in various Israeli-English- publications and what Israel mostly seems to fear is a combined simultaneous attack by terrorist groups such as Hezbullah from Lebanon and Syria and Hamas/Islamic Jhad in Gaza – combined with Palestinian and Arab unrest inside Israel – But its more the deaths which would result – not that it would destroy the Israeli State.
And Israel fears Iran, of course. A nuclear Iran is a real threat. Yes. But Iran is facing enough problems with her own population with protests right at the moment, and its likely to get worse.
That’s quite an interesting perspective on Israel and different than perhaps you might read in the mainstream news, which really only reports her conflicts. There is actually a huge amount of diplomatic work which goes on between Israel and Jordan and Egypt.
Lebanon and Syria? Yeah.. not so much. But, Syria has her hands full at the moment…. And Israel is pretty much engaged full time too in keeping her from getting to a point where she could launch a full scale attack. And the Lebanese economy has gone into free-fall. And Hezbullah is very unpopular at present in Lebanon. Just getting enough food to eat and fuel to drive their cars is the main worry of the Lebanese people, not attacking Israel.
I think the policy of “Divide and Conquer” is what worked for the Romans too, thinking about it. And the British, of course… And I think the Israelis are pretty much doing the same in their own way.
Hi John Michael,
Considering the LTG graph to its logical conclusion reveals that as a species we can heal ourselves body, spirit and mind, if we but care to also heal the land. So much is obvious, but is it palatable?
Alice, Sewage systems are both necessary and possible in low tech communities. Mohenjo Daro had quite an extensive sewage system, I believe, and Rome had its cloaca maxima. Pre industrial towns which lacked sewers generally had some sort of night soil pick up crew. It was said the the nine cisterns outside the walls of Paris where the muck was deposited were the cleanest places in Paris because farmers came from all across the Isle de France to collect said muck, which they dug into their fields. I think that is how they, independently of the Chinese and others, discovered the technique of double digging.
Aloysius, what is a mall ninja?
Curt, when I worked at a thrift shop, I was amazed by the volume of NWT (New With Tag) clothing we received in donations. I recall one boxful of NWT children’s clothing from a famous, upscale designer. We sold the lot on eBay.
Pyrrhus, I have seen on several fora this notion that China is not self sufficient in food or can’t feed all its’ people. Allow me to suggest that you might have fallen for a meme someone or other is promoting for their own purposes. China exports food. Furthermore, geographically, China is essentially three yuge river valleys. Think Mississippi Valley x 2.5. Granted their rapid industrialization has caused some environmental degradation, just as it did here; I imagine they are smart enough to deal with it just as we have.
Jenxyz, rainwater recharges groundwater. There is a county in Colorado where it is illegal to collect rainwater. I think that is terminally stupid because water you use to irrigate your garden filters back down to the water table. What the unfortunates in that county would need to do is excavate some swales.
I would not venture to guess what will become of Israel, or other small ME countries in the decades and centuries ahead. I do know that for centuries, at least 10 of them, Jews and Moslems were allies, so I imagine they could become so again. What is abundantly clear is that the American public is no longer willing to spend money and lives in overseas wars. At the same time Biden was announcing the withdrawal from Afghanistan, his CIA director was in Jerusalem telling the Israelis that no, this administration is not going to attack Iran. I gather the head of Mossad was ready with prepared propaganda detailing how the newly elected president of Iran is the latest evilly evil reincarnation of AH himself. Nothing doing, some of us would like to be reelected, said the CIA guy. Also, Iraq convened a summit between Iran, Iraq and KSA . AFAIK, we were not invited. Macron was there and IDK about Israel. Now that no one can hide behind American military might (or the illusion thereof) ME leaders have to start talking to each other.
Kay Robinson, maybe if you build it, they will come? Please try to remember that a lot of people have been hurt over the past decades. Some very badly. Many of us have bad experiences and memories of joining. Time and money spent to promote someone else’s social class aspirations. Or, something good gets rolling and then the factions show up, you know who they are. Organizations need funding and the funders have their own agendas. Non profits have to have advisory boards and the board members have agendas. Or they want jobs for their kids, meetings in expensive eateries, conferences. Conferences are the worst. I have never seen one yet that wasn’t a colossal waste of time and money.
“Info, er, where did you get the idea that it’s an all-or-nothing thing one way or the other? Mixed farming in which grain provides calories and some proteins, legumes provide calories and other proteins, and animal foods provide most of the proteins, is also an option — and a very successful one.”
Oh sorry. I was thinking about Vegans and their solutions to weight loss including cutting out all animal products.
That includes their attempts at farming. And then comparing them to Pastoralists.
Mental error on my part.
“There’s a certain macabre interest in wondering whether Mark Zuckerberg will dine on Bill Gates or vice versa once protein supplies drop to the point that cannibalism comes into fashion…”
Made me snort in my nettle tea.
@ Jenxyz says:
September 2, 2021 at 6:24 pm
The way that you can use rainwater catchment without too much ill effect is when it is used on the land you collected it, not to far out in time either.
So, if you had a septic system or small household sized wetland treatment, then you could flush your toilet with the rainwater collected on your roof. Or shower or wash your dishes. You would be trying to put that water back into the ground is the point, where it was going to go anyways.
But, if you lived in the city around here, toilet water is treated and then straight out to sea ! Same for all household water. So, then it bypasses the groundwater, streams and rivers.
Best practice is to not use water for your toilet wastes at all. Use a composting system, for example. And if you catch rainwater, use it for showers and dishwashing as long as that is grey watered into your yard and water the garden so it goes right back into your yard soil as the rain would have done, just delay it a small amount.
Pixelated #304, the link to the mind map didn’t come through.
There’s a considerable variety of remote viewing predictions. According to people who know him, Ed Dames has been predicting the end of the world by various means for over 40 years. Conversely Lyn Buchanan said while nothing obvious would happen in 2012 it represented a tipping point or point of no return, beyond which certain things became inevitable. One of which was a far more agricultural future.
@Beekeeper in Vermont
True, there’s hydroponics. Though topsoil certainly is very important.
I wonder about the efficiency of natural plant growth versus hydroponics, also
in terms of quality.
With animals I know: the more they are fed various good stuff, the better they taste.
The industrial meat is from fast growing animals stuffed with antibiotics and hormones,
and while their industrial feed contains everything they need to grow obviously,
they taste like nothing.
Many people love the glamourous tourist front of this city. The flipside is that those without money have
to live in very narrow, stuffed districts, often without ANY greenspace our leisure space like parks.
Some Junkies set a park bench on fire two years ago because the last area in their district where they could
mingle outside of their tiny apartments was to be plastered with new construction, leaving this district
without any recreational spots!
The city is in general very expensive, which is a heavy burden on those not from the middle to upper class.
I know someone who lived in this bad district and I visited a couple of times in these years.
Somebody was shot to death by an unknown passer by there for example. It’s not a ghetto like in other
countries with wild gang wars and shootouts with the police. Still, things do happen.
My friend reported to me a general high level of aggression in this district, not limited to any demographic there actually. He saw an attempted mugging and there have been successfull ones too.
When I passed the city train station one winter night, there was an encampment of about 20 gypsies, sleeping besides the station in sleeping bags. Almost quaint. In Vienna where I live there is homelessness, you got people sleeping outside too, but I haven’t seen it to that extent. Also when I was a youth and visited bars and discos there, the atmosphere was really aggressive. Occasionaly youth gangs would roam
the bars and look for a victim they could single out, kick to the ground and mug. Tourists usually dont notice.
Once I talked with friends about this at a restaurant hut on a mountain, and just in that moment (synchronicity) there was a report on the radio that somebody was beaten up and then rammed with a car on top of that. Many don’t believe it, because their superficial looks don’t notice any of what I say. If you are wealthy, you don’t have to deal with this. Politics in this city favored car travel to public transport, which is especially inefficient. The city suffocates from traffic congestion. The surrounding areas, once quaint rural landscapes that could be from “sound of music”, have now been plasteres with ugly american style suburban settlements, without a good public transport concept. Of course the erratic and scattered structure of new settlements does not help.
If you take the industrial city Linz for example, public transport is much cheaper and more efficient, living is much cheaper, and even the hinterlands are well connected by public transport (and by private transport from the VOEST steel works, but the public may use it too).
That’s quite a contrast.
Vienna has the best public transport and always guarantees some access to recreational space even for the lowest classes. Public transport is cheap and very efficient, even at night time. You can avoid aggression and violence most of the time.
That’s my take. Salzburg is a good example for me: where the wealthy spread their interests too much, everybody else looses. At the time your parents were there, I am sure it actually WAS quite the charming place, and its sorroundings too!
Thank you for your helpful summaries on the electric grid!
Thanks for this short info on topsoil!
Yes, the resources are certainly available on the complexity of microbial interactions…I’ve heard a bit on it.
But asking here on ecosophia is a little more direct and efficient for me 😉
Yes, that makes sense to me! I mean, New York seems to be a bit the city in the US where public transport has good coverage like in Europe… Here in Vienna it works perfectly with trams, buses and subways day and night, though on weekdays after 12 midnight its a little less available, but it still is. It’s cheap and the urban PMC use it extensively, because it just offers many many advantages over using a car, which is a drag here.
This study might be slightly off-topic, but I am posting this as it talks about Joseph Tainter’s theory as well as the LTG (download link is https://sci-hub.ee/10.1007/s41247-018-0049-0). Its conclusions I found somewhat troublesome (is that the right word?), so I’ll just quote it:
“This behavior qualitatively corresponds to Tainter’s proposal about the relationship between complexity and productivity of a social system and the curves produced by the model are well comparable to the qualitative ones that Tainter reports in his work (Tainter 1988). However, there is a fundamental difference: the models tell us that the decline in complexity of the system is the result of the diminishing returns of the exploitation of natural resources rather than, as proposed by Tainter, the result of an intrinsic property of diminishing
returns of complexity itself. It is nevertheless remarkable how Tainter’s insight can be reproduced by dynamical
Isn’t even mathematics, which is not exactly resource-intensive the way, say, engine design is, also subject to diminishing returns? Also, aren’t the trends of resource depletion partially influenced by increasing technological complexity? I suspect that the study authors are believers in Progress.
Ron M #334 – that makes my heart glad. I didn’t know about the song’s history. No wonder it made me feel better. Thank you for bringing music into the world. You said you used to play bagpipes…but you don’t anymore?
Beekeeper #340 – Yes, I’m an escapee from Wokestan on the Lake lol I’ve spent most of my life in Chittenden County but I’m more of a moderate. I’ve gotten the impression that Middlebury has some of the annoying woke nonsense like Burlington but I have a blue collar job and spend most of my free time at home. I love my state and kind of wish we’d go back to our live-and-let-live roots. There are a ton of Karens running around right now. Let’s put them to work hoeing potatoes alongside the PMCs mentioned earlier in the comments! They need an outlet for all that finger-pointing bossy energy.
Re developments in Australia
A political opposition is forming, though I grant you it’s small and seems mostly confined to quite conservative/right leaning politicians and media (though the mass protests themselves are very diverse). The Liberal Democrats (libertarian right flavoured), United Australia Party (Trump like populism) and One Nation (working class conservative populism) may not get a lot of respect from the PMC but their politicians have been attending the rallies and it’s getting reported in the small rightward oriented media that we have and on social media. Since a large proportion of the protestors are recent working class immigrants this could have a fascinating impact on right/left politics.
However, Simon S’s analysis of Australian culture through the Covid lens also seems quite accurate, unfortunately. In the US, it seems like your system of States has allowed for a variety of government covid responses to be trialled. Some more collectivist and some more individual liberties focused. In Australia, our system of independent states has seen each state government competing to offer more perceived safety to its citizens through ever harsher authoritarian measures in a ratchet effect. I think I need to go read some Jung about constructive ways to deal with people caught within the Orphan archetype.
Sorry to jump off-topic, but I’ve been following with interest the discussion about vaccines representing a wound to the worldview of non-stop progress; the “cargo cult of science” wherein people think that if they create a vaccine, then the pandemic will magically end.
It reminds me of something that I experienced when I was in medical school, some years ago, which was this: I had a hard time relating to many of my classmates, and after much contemplation, I realized that part of the reason was that they had PMC backgrounds, and I didn’t. The PMC is defined not just by its money, its power, or its level of material comfort, but its worldview is quite foreign to anyone who grew up middle-middle-class or lower.
For instance, two features in particular stand out to me, about the PMC-striver worldview: there is very little conception of interpersonal or group loyalty (“it’s all about me and my advancement”), and they will do anything, adopt any fashion or view, that confers “status”. These are hard to understand for anyone with a background in, say, sports, or the military, where team cohesion is paramount.
I agree with the interpretation of the vaxx as a religious totem for the PMC. This might be opaque to anyone not familiar with today’s medical culture, but there is a religion of Medical Progress, and in this religion, there are Appropriate Authorities (“priests”) and Rituals that have to bless things, or else people shouldn’t be allowed to access them.
So as an example, if you want to understand why so many PMC doctors, and others, are busy clamping down on therapeutic treatments, it’s as simple as realizing that these people really believe that if the Priests haven’t blessed something, then it mustn’t take place. In this worldview, receiving the blessing from the WHO, CDC, or the like, and undergoing the ritual of appearing in a peer-reviewed journal (preferably one with a lot of status), are tremendously important, and if something hasn’t gone through these steps, then it’s impure. A thing is not legitimate until it has passed these steps – but for RELIGIOUS reasons, not SCIENTIFIC ones (when any Joe can download the numbers and crunch them in his basement, as we’ve been seeing).
This helps explain the fervour to ban ivermectin: PMC’ers look on with horror because they really believe that it’s impure for plebs to use a drug like this if it hasn’t undergone the appropriate rituals (“it hasn’t been blessed!”). They really believe they’re saving the masses from themselves – like, they REALLY believe this. It’s hard to grasp for anyone not sharing the worldview, but I guess it’s similar to the way that many westerners would view a tribal nomad seeking aid from his family gods.
As someone in their late 20s I thought I’d weigh in on the birth rate debate.
There has been a huge rise in antinatalism among my generation for a number of reasons:
(1) there’s a general knowing that any child born today will be financially worse off than their parents – we are all much much worse off than our parents and it’s painful to think of how much worse it could be by the time kids reach working age.
(2) there’s alot of climate despair among my generation (and the one below ours) and a sense that it’s a boulder rolling down a hill that will only get worse. So again, any kid born today will have it tough – so even those who are financially comfortable are cringing at the thought of mass migrations, fires, water wars, crop failures and the like.
(3) we feel like our parents and grandparents ‘failed us’ – they lived it up by wrecking the climate and binging on fossil fuels, essentially ‘stealing from the future’. These same people remain in power now and are continuing to make real bad choices which continues to make future living conditions worse. This has led to the ‘feeling’ that just having kids now days is failing them because their future has already been stolen from.
(4) the most important one imho – there’s a dire lack of spirituality among youth. Parapsychology and the like had effectively been relegated to the dark corners of society by the time we were born. So almost everyone believes in nothing but the material. This leads to the conclusion of ‘why bring someone into the world just to suffer?’
Hence the antinatalism. Indeed those having kids are labelled as ‘selfish’ in many circles.
I’ve been canning for decades and tried the Tattler lids, none of them ever sealed properly no matter what I did. Is there a trick that I missed? Maybe I got a couple of bad boxes? I keep a huge stock of metal canning lids on hand at home because for years I’ve made a habit of buying a couple of boxes every time I see them in a store. Still, it would be nice to have the option of reusable lids if I could just get them to seal right.
For the person/s keeping track of shortages: only once so far this year have I been in any store that had canning lids actually in stock on the shelf. In the years PC (pre-Covid) every supermarket always had plenty on hand during the summer. Flour, especially organic flour, used to be easily available, now it’s hit-or-miss. Sometimes the shelf will be empty for many weeks.
Best of luck to all of you there in NZ when we offload our parasitic billionaire class. I don’t believe that, as a group, they have given their plan any really deep thought, because living well in the midst of needy people and social upheaval necessitates constant diligence and ever increasing fortification. Maybe they’ll eventually learn that there really is no completely safe place and that money can buy only so much security. Or maybe they won’t.
I was between my freshman and sophomore year of high school during the summer of 1976. John Denver was my favorite singer. I remember my family traveling to several bicentennial festivals and being very interested in the 200 year old way of life that was on display. My dad (shockingly, because he was so conservative) had subscribed to Mother Earth News from the beginning and collected old tools. My mom rebuilt Aladdin Lamps from parts she found at flea markets. There was definitely a vibe in the air that year.
When I try to remember back to what changed after that for me in my small town culture, the things that come to mind are 1) Starwars, 2) glittery gold eyeshadow, and 3) disco balls. Still, when I headed to college in 1979, it was to study architecture because I wanted to build solar and underground houses. Instead I was immediately seduced by modern architecture, modern design, and modern living. It was like something changed my course and I went astray. I didn’t even have the awareness to judge that it was the wrong direction.
Your investor friends would probably say that you can’t time the market. What’s equally true is that you can’t time history, not down to the year. What I mean is this – Will investments become worthless next Tuesday? 3 years from now? 30? Remember when the “end” came in 2008 ? Maybe the great contracton started in 1929. I don’t know when investing will quit paying, and neither does anyone else. I believe it will be a long ragged process lasting the rest of my life (I’m 65) but of course I could be wrong.
The NYSE was established in 1792, and it wasn’t a new idea then. IOWs stock investing has been around a long time and under conditions that were very different than today. I suspect there wiill be stock markets 200 years from now, just as there were 200 years ago. Of course that doesn’t mean that many invstors won’t take a bath sometime between Tuesday and 200 years from now.
We know empire is coming to an end. But it may hang on for several more decades. We know fossil fuels are running out, but there may still be around for decades. Profitable investments may be around for a few more decades as well, and that would take you into your retirement years. Then again the bottom could fall out in the next few years.
The safe play is not to invest at all, that way you can’t loose. Neither can you gain. Since you are young you might consider taking a moderate risk. Or not. It really depends on your own risk tolerance.
As far as investing in a contracting economy, you already invested in accquiring skills. Soap making is an ancient and honorable craft. OTOH, Ivory soap has been around since the late 1870s and manufacturing in the 1870s had a definite “post industrial” look, compared to today. If P&G can make Ivory cheaper than you can make your soap maybe people in the future will buy Ivory instead of your craft made soap? Isn’t artisan soap really something for the well heeled? Could you really make it as a soap maker competing with P&G ? OTOH you can barter your soap for other good and services. P&G can’t really do that.
The thing is to not get to far ahead of history. Don’t get ready for the end of manufacturing because manufacturing will still be around for as long as you will. Soap, and shoes, and kitchen ware, and many other items will still be factory produced items 100 years from now. The factories may “regress” so that they look more like something from the 1800s than the factories of today, but they’ll still beat out the individual craftsman for productivity and price, just as they did 150 years ago. Remember Adam Smith’s famous pin factory which he uses to illustrate the division of labor – that was approximately two and a half centuries ago. No individual pin making craftsman could compete with the pin factory.
You can’t go too far wrong with developing skillls – at least you’ll be able to do for yourself- but they may not provide you with a living. I can make my own wine thank you. OTOH if your product is of very high quality people – those who can afford it- might pay you handsomely. So much depens on luck and local circumstances.
A few of notes on my previous post (#337) on population decline.
The population figure came from the first place big G showed when I search for ‘death rate’. https://www.macrotrends.net/countries/WLD/world/death-rate
In my lifetime (1947-2021) world population has gone from 2 billion to 8 billion. That is an average growth of 2% per year.
If the net population growth rate was -7% (7 more people died than were born per 100 people) there would be less than 4 billion in 2031, less than 2 billion in 2041 and less than 1 billion in 2051. It is not hard to imagine scenarios that could produce -7% for a period of years. JMG’s hypothesis about the JAB being one (and not worst case).
If you don’t know who Albert Bartlett is and why the number 70 is important you need to go to
and watch the at least the first video (even if you don’t like videos). He is talking growth but decline is just negative growth and works the same way.
John – Coop Janitor
Beekeeper and Chris
I’m also in your state and in your shoes regarding current medical events,
I’m in the big city but looking for an exit ramp. Nice to meet you virtually.
Mr. Greer wrote:
Jean-Baptiste (offlist), every time I post something about the limits to growth I can count on dozens of people trying to pick a fight by insisting that the conventional wisdom can’t possibly be wrong. I delete them, because anyone who wants to hear that viewpoint can tune into the corporate media any time they want to. So you might consider saving your breath.
I can understand the pushback. I remember having to study the book – Limits to Growth – and finding all sorts of statistical errors. Which meant of course, the authors were writing hogwash. But, the essential idea of limits is a good one.
I believe that when it came out, people were just celebrating going to the moon and all of that. I think that how could anyone think of limits when we were having manned space ships going to the moon! Of course, there are no limits. (Limits? We don’t need no stinkin’ limits!).
I believe the pushback comes from the idea of how gloomy and how dismal can this be. We are all doomed! Therefore, we have to negate anything that speaks of a decline. It means an eventual death. Of course, at the time the book came out, people felt the need to push it away. They couldn’t cope with the idea of endings.
My belief in why is because of the Christian idea that is awash in modern culture. Everything is an upward pointing arrow since Christ rose from the Dead and we are all awaiting the final Coming. Of course, that did drive the Industrial Revolution and give more credence to ever advancing progress.
I see the idea of pushback on limits even in the brain recovery industry. Everyone is geared to have us brain injured folks be restored to what we were before the injury. However, that is not going to happen. What serves people is learning to live with the limits. I have a happy contented life. I am 12 years beyond my traumatic injury, and am at peace at being restricted in what I can do. I have learned to be a nifty problem solver when faced with a wall like going to the library.
Going to the library makes me ill and have seizures. Too much stimuli both external and internal. So, I learned to limit my visits to 15 minutes. Go with a list of authors to read. Limit myself to 6 books. Limit myself to certain stacks such as mystery. Go with a buddy to pull me out when I am overwhelmed. And finally have my emotionally support stuffed ladybug at hand. — I list all of this because it means that I have to have internal discipline to accomplish what I want to do. I have limits and work within them. The limits help me stay well and still achieve what I like.
Freedom lies within the limits.
@Darkest Yorkshire here it is – used the wrong dreamwidth code.
He’s now added a farm for an as yet unspecified reason.
we’re not alone!
so i wore my “LIVE FREE OR DIE” shirt with newly-added stars of david with the gritted teeth and buggy eyes on each arm to the gym, and the bus driver all down Potrero ave protected me on my bicycle. he left me wide berths to go around cars double parked in the bike lanes and held up traffic to do so. when we parted, he raised his fist in the air frantically.
on my way out of the gym, a woman said, “by the way i LOVE your shirt!” as she walked past me.
and as i was riding a fully-loaded bike full of groceries back up Potrero avenue, a kid on a hover board was waiting at a red light next to me. he took off his helmet to say, “HEY I LOVE YOUR SHIRT!”
and thanks, Papa G, for the up nod regarding the radio show. i was– and still am– very nervous and hope i do right. to keep my own ego out of it, i’m gonna not use my real name. i’ll use Kitten so i don’t accidentally try to sell books or anything. a lot of people are there using their airtime to pitch their own works or businesses, and there are the old timers who treat it as sacred.
i wanna be the latter kind of elder in my own polyester double-knit stretch pants with elastic waistband and the bead of fabric plastic that was the fake pleat down the front. the most vain thing i wanna do is pull my crochet cardigan back up over my shoulders.
James is gonna co-host with me and also be my body guard. i had some really bad stalker problems that were the gargoyles telling me to quit the public life of writing or being whatever i was.
i’ll let y’all here know when/if this happens because even though it’s a local radio station you can hear it live online, too (or past shows for up to 2 weeks) online.
i’m not so nervous when my ego’s out and i know if i just set my head and heart right, i’ll be a vessel, a spokesperson… for you know who!
see? you can pick fights with the world but once you admit you like John Denver songs, there’s no unringing that proverbial bell and trying to swagger again.
oh yeah.. that IS the swagger!
our jobs as artists thinkers and magicians is to not only come up with new stories but figure out how to sell ’em in the first place. this is the Highest Art of Seduction anyone can learn. and all we’re selling is themselves… what we already have, who they and we already are.
heaven IS here within us! why we gotta go around with bitch face all the time? there’s no god in bitch face.
Chris in VT #371:
Hoeing potatoes would be a wonderful outlet for all their energy and there are a lot of dairy farmers who are desperate for extra help, too. There’d be no time or energy left for Karen-ing after a long day managing cows.
Meanwhile, Phil Scott (our governor) is busy crowing about his success managing the virus in Vermont, although it’s certain that his efforts, all carefully in compliance with CDC advice, had considerably less to do with the outcome than he thinks.
I guess it was lucky for my parents to be able to see Salzburg when they did – and don’t get the idea that they were wealthy people, not even close. I still have some of the photos they took and virtually everything is of some historical significance because neither ever had any interest in things contemporary or in social climbing. Our visits to places in Austria were mostly day trips because they couldn’t afford to rent a room at a hotel. Still, until they died they had fond memories of Austria.
Oh, and your comments about the decline of Salzburg could be said for many, many places in the US: sparkly on the outside, decaying on the inside.
I think you make two mistakes when predicting Israels future in the Middle East. The first is that it will be pretty much the same as it is now once the U.S. empire shrinks to global insignificance. The other is assuming that its threats will come from a single nation state like Syria. I would offer this scenario to consider.
Once the US is out of the picture much of Israels High Tech economy disappears due to lack of customers ( since they are broke) or the collapse of joint U.S., Israel ventures such as the big Intel factories. This will cause the first stage of a population exodus, shrinking the economy and the IDF. Next the capacity of the IDF and the airforce will wither due to lack of spare parts and support from the U.S.Some kind of dispute with Hamas might set it off. This time the IDF might try a ground invasion of Gaza like 10 years ago, but this time they will run in to the buzzsaw of Iranian copies of Russian anti-tank missiles that are waiting in concrete bunkers 30 feet down, ready to pop up in secret tunnels. Then in a rage the Israelis will use the remnants of their airforce to heavily bomb Gaza. This will piss of Egypt and without the heavy hand of the U.S. they will open the southern border of Gaza to weapons and millions of jihadis from all over the Muslim world. At the same time Hezbollah will unleash their 150,000 rockets and missiles ( which are much more sophisticated now with Iranian help). The missiles in the Iron Dome defense system will quickly be depleted ( with no us resupply) and all Israel will become a hellscape. This will cause another wave of massive immigration. At that point Hezbollah, Hamas, the SAA, the Houthis, the Quds force, the Egyptians and angry Iraqi militias will sweep in from all directions overwhelming what is left of the IDF. I think the nukes will not be an issue as trying to use them against these diverse and close up enemies without national capitals as targets will be like Joe Biden trying to use Nukes against the next capital takeover.
We don’t make bar soap, but we do make our own laundry soap. Tis much cheaper by volume than purchasing a finished commercial product. The ingredients (either Zote .. or Fels Naptha soap, washing soda, and water) used in doing so are very inexpensive, and still readily available … so far ..
One can store the dry ingredients in quantity, to be utilized as needed. We save $$ doing this as in other things .. like .. GASP! .. line drying our clothes, sheets, towels etc. (How Gauche!!) when the weather co-operates. Nothing beats a line dried bath towel for quickly wicking up moisture off one’s bod.
Lunar Apprentice (358) “Electricity cannot be overproduced. The power production system monitors load (demand) in realtime, and produces exactly what’s needed continually.” – how do solar and wind generated power fit into this, or are they so small a percentage that they are insignificant?
Beekeeper (375) “I’ve been canning for decades and tried the Tattler lids, none of them ever sealed properly no matter what I did. Is there a trick that I missed?” Tattlers are a bit fussy. There’s definitely a technique with them, putting the rings on, backing off a quarter turn, then tightening it fully when it comes out of the canner. I have had more failures with Tattlers than with metal, but I can either a) use the thing immediately, or b) re-process it in the next batch without losing a lid.
n.b. someone mentioned re-using the lids. It’s strongly Not Recommended. That said… if I can get the lid off without leaving a ping in it, I’ll re-use it – but only for high acid foods like jellies or applesauce.
BB, that’s good to hear. I hope plenty of Maori refused to get vaccinated.
Chris, depends on who’s making that judgment!
Info, oh, granted. I want to see them try to farm the dry regions that are great for livestock grazing but don’t have enough water for grain…
Seaweedy, just one of the services I offer. 😉
Yorkshire, I know. One of the reasons I discount remote viewing predictions is that they’re so different from one another, one of them will probably be right by mere chance…
Viduraawakened, that’s one of Ugo Bardi’s classic pieces, and yes, it needs to be read in context. It still makes a strong case for the relevance of resource limits.
TamHob, thanks for the updates. BBC today is claiming that Morrison is beginning to back down from his shutdowns-uber-alles policy; I hope that (a) that’s true and (b) he finishes the process.
Bofur, thanks for this. That’s just it — faith in progress is a religion in every sense, and these days, it’s increasingly fundamentalist. “Fauci said it, I believe it, that settles it” is basically the mindset of the true believers at this point.
Sammy, thanks for this. That’s usually what happens in societies in decline, for what it’s worth.
Land Lizard, a lot of people in those days got distracted and diverted that way. I think the reason I didn’t was Aspergers syndrome…
Janitor, many thanks for these.
Neptunesdolphins, and yet despite those supposed statistical errors, it’s still done a better job of predicting the future than its rivals.
Erika, delighted to hear this. I’m not surprised — I suspect there are a lot more silent refuseniks out there than anyone realizes — but I’m delighted.
Greetings to New Zealanders reading here. The real problem you folks will be having isn’t the billionaire escapees, annoying though they might be, it is their entourages. The Davos crowd do nothing for themselves. They are always accompanied by secretaries, personal servants, mechanics for the auto and plane fleet, sometimes their own chefs and gardeners, and security detail. Those followers in turn have families and the families have families–but what about Grandpa/Uncle/Auntie?–a veritable small town per each billionaire of folks of varying backgrounds and no loyalty whatsoever to your country. You were maybe thinking billionaire immigration might result in a few jobs for New Zealanders? Dream on. Furthermore, none of the followers are remotely interested in collapsing in place. They want and expect their own comfortable living quarters, access to the best opportunities for their children, including places at your best universities, their own hi-tech hi-fashion lifestyle. That is why they take such jobs in the first place. There will be no Green Wizards among them but your intelligence agencies will kept busy monitoring the embedded agents in each entourage and your law enforcement will have their hands full with all sorts of smuggling–but Madame brought in illegal furs, so I thought I could too–and other chicanery.
Christopher Hope @377 The quality of ready to wear has gotten so bad that some men and women are making decent livings with custom made clothing–the styles and colors you like that fit the size and shape you are right right now today. One does need fairly good, or at least well maintained, equipment, and dedicated space. What is holding back crafts vendors is copyright restrictions, which might or might not be enforceable but the retiree who makes potholders hasn’t the means to sustain a court case.
#361 “Syria has her hands full at the moment…. And Israel is pretty much engaged full time too in keeping her from getting to a point where she could launch a full scale attack.” I guess that is one way to put it. In other words, keeping Syria destabilized, and who cares about the suffering imposed on ordinary Syrians? Mme. Clinton’s bloody hands are all over this mess, that being one of many reasons why she will never be President. Has it not occurred to the American Zionist faction that increasing numbers of us voters and taxpayers are getting fed up with us being implicated in these kinds of crimes.
Pixelated #381, that link isn’t working either. The text is green but it doesn’t go anywhere.
Every time I argue with believers in Progress I feel like the man in this commercial:
Just watched the Swedish evening news, guess what, they mentioned “the international crisis in logistics”, warned about shortages, price hikes, “plan your Christmas shopping in advance”, etc, but without any details about what goods could be affected! The official explanation is the COVID pandemic. For a moment, I assumed our host might be exaggerating *slightly*, but it seems the ball is rolling…
@ Steve #323 and electricity.
Good lord. Bankruptcy looms when production costs are four times selling costs.
However, there is some waste in the system (not much, but some). Every time I walk around, I see porch lights burning 24/7 for no discernable reasons.
Does anyone remember the early 70’s? I remember every kind of extra electrical usage went away starting with outdoor Christmas displays. It took years for them to come back.
My parents would leap to turn off the lights in empty rooms.
Today, I have friends who not only leave the lights on in empty rooms, they play the TV and radio to the empty room.
Watch all that go away.
@ Sister Crow #335 and the state fair:
If it ain’t fried, it ain’t food.
Mmmmm. Fried salad (yes, really) followed by fried ice cream (yes, really)!
The ultra-low calorie diet seems expressly designed for people who don’t do hard, physical labor.
Doesn’t the army feed soldiers in the field something like 4,000 calories a day to keep them going? No restricted calorie diets there!
Thanks for the John Denver! I was raised on John Denver, Simon & Garfunkel, and of course The Beatles. I remember playing the guitar and singing this song for my grandparents and their friends when I was 13 or 14. Seems a little cheeky now, but they seemed to like it.
I also sang Poems, Prayers & Promises
Things that we believe in
How sweet it is to love someone
How right it is to care
How long it’s been since yesterday
And what about tomorrow?
What about our dreams, and all the memories we share?
Good stuff for a growing boy. I was born in 1968, but I remember the 1970’s very fondly. Things did seem a lot happier back then. Maybe it was just my youthful exuberance, or the people around me, but there were a lot of fun times.
It would be good to recover some of that exuberance and optimism. All the doom and fear surrounding us now is not healthy or productive. I for one will stand beside you. I know you’re a mage, and probably casting a spell on me, and I like it.
To reach for the heavens, and hope for the future
And all that we can be and not what we are…
Hi Michele, Re: your comment 386.
First, I should give my (modest) qualifications: I’ve had two careers, the first as an electrical engineer, mostly in the aerospace industry, then as a physician (recently kaput). I’ve prepared to enter the electric utilities industry by obtaining my EIT (Engineer In Training) license, and am pursuing employment prospects there. So my pertinent background is that of a diligent student.
I gather you’re asking what would happen to excess power produced by wind/solar. In the US solar/wind power has never made up a significant fraction of generated power, on the order of 1%, so has had no effect with regard to potential overproduction.
IIRC, Denmark achieved 20% of its grid power from wind, and at that level, it started getting difficult to match generation with load at all times. If you’ve got low load at 1:00AM, and the wind is kicking up, maxing out your wind-turbine power, then you have to either shut down some wind turbines or even shutdown other producers outright, and the latter can be a problem: Nuclear power plants are designed to run at a fixed output. It’s extremely uneconomic to reduce their output, and when you do, the response time may be slower than needed. Coal-fired plants are similar in this regard, though not quite as rigid as nuclear. So nuclear and coal meet base demand. Swing demand is met by natural gas-fired turbines, and hydro-power, which are the quick responders. Solar and wind can’t meet base demand because they are too variable, but they can’t meet much swing demand either because they usually don’t vary with demand, especially wind. In principle, there could be storage of excess production, and the current technology to do this is pumped water storage or massive sodium-sulfur batteries, but these technologies scale no larger than would service a neighborhood or small district, and are not widely used.
So wind/solar can’t contribute much, maybe 20% max, to overall power production until you figure out a way to instantaneously match production with demand, or economically scale up storage of production.
Anyone out there more qualified than I am, feel free to chime in.
I seen the band Kansas got mentioned, so I cannot help sharing a link to the album art for monolith, I find it very powerful and topical.
OK. Flagrantly OT: https://lithub.com/substantial-satisfying-hard-to-digest-how-apple-pie-is-like-america/?utm_source=pocket-newtab
But oh, how satisfying to my soul and my palate. Especially the snarky comments from the other side of the pond, to which we Americans thumbed our noses and went “Nyaaah, nyaaaah!”
Chris in VT #371: bagpipes was my first musical instrument (of many) and my first true love. I was the youngest piper in my city’s pipe band (at 10 years old) and had the incredibly good fortune of being instructed by the greatest pipers alive (through a summer school organized by my dear piping teacher). Then, in the course of two years my life was turned upside down (parents divorced; moved many times) and my piping teacher died of cancer. Life – and my musical energies — took a different path after that. But to this day the wail of the pipes is the sweetest sound to my ears. And my heart is always in the Highlands. Thanks for asking. And thanks again for sharing the song… it was the first time I had heard it in 45 years!
*This is an off topic post*.
I do this now instead of waiting until for your end of the month open post, lest I forget. The following is a comment on the Naked Capitalism site, which I believe you frequent. It has to do with the covid business, and the commenter, who goes by the handle IM Doc, is a doctor in a smallish hospital in a smallish town. He’s had a lot of experience with all this. The bottom half of his (long) comment here might be of interest to you. Please forgive the length.
September 4, 2021 at 3:17 pm
I have been doing a great deal of research about a past pandemic which I have never spent much time investigating – the Great Russian Flu of the 1890s. This has always been thought to be an actual influenza – but recent genetic and virologic studies are showing us that this was very likely the introduction of Coronavirus OC43 to the world.
Many many physicians at the time were chronicling that the symptoms of this “flu” were different than any other influenza had ever been. Even Sir William Osler, in written statements in his textbooks of Internal Medicine, was of the notion that the symptoms exhibited by patients during that pandemic of the 1890s were really not like the normal flu. His books were written in the decades immediately leading up to the “real” influenza pandemic of 1918. And the one symptom that over and over described by numerous physicians that were writing at the time, including Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, was depression. This just does not happen to any degree in true INFLUENZA and many remarked on the difference.
It must be noted that the word “depression” is a rather modern word and a modern construct. This construct is from our very reductionist, form-filling out, check the boxes modern medicine. “Depression” today is a drop bucket of multiple different diagnoses of the past. FYI, there are many things like this in medicine, not just depression.
Conan Doyle and Osler would have used more prominently the diagnosis “melancholia” to describe what we commonly use as “depression” today. But interestingly enough, contemporaneous medical writers of the 1890s often used a completely different word with a completely different diagnostic meaning to describe what they were seeing in patients of that pandemic. That word is ACEDIA. I have seen it used repeatedly in my research of the pandemic of the 1890s.
The difference is completely lost on us today – but it is actually a very important distinction. ACEDIA is an old medieval concept which is very difficult to describe. Basically it means a depression of the soul. A SPIRITUAL depression. While melancholia was more of a behavioral depression. Mainly having to do with living with consequences of behavior or reaction to events in a patient’s life.
Interestingly, when I am really talking to these POST COVID patients today – it is indeed more consistent with the spiritual and soul exhaustion of ACEDIA – and not behavioral or reactive like most depressions are. I have occasionally seen this ACEDIA type of depression before, but it is now just one patient after the other. I am also seeing ACEDIA like depression repeatedly in patients who have never had COVID. It is a sign of the times. In the days of Osler and Conan Doyle, they had no way to test patients for the presence of the virus and just assumed everyone had been infected by the miasma. I think today I am seeing this in POST COVID patients and non-infected as well.
The writers of that era in the 1890s were unequivocal in what they were seeing in their coronavirus pandemic – an epidemic of ACEDIA in those who had had the illness. I find it profoundly fascinating that the exact same type of thing is happening in our coronavirus patients and our COVID world today.
KMA #379 Hello and nice to “meet” you. I hope you find a safe place to land. The local news reports coming out of Burlington are alarming. It used to be a very safe and pleasant town. Is that why you want to leave?
Beekeeper “Oh, sure, Gov Scott, it was good politics that kept us safe from the virus!” (eyeroll) I wonder how much of that was just PR to help the tourism industry. Or maybe we’re lucky because we’re mostly rural….and it’s summer.
JMG (et al) – I was a big fan of the Foundation Trilogy (and only the original three books), and when I saw the link to the trailer of the new production (by Apple), it inspired me to search for “Isaac Asimov Limits to Growth”. And one of the things that popped up was this:
“Few writers have addressed the problem of human over-population so perceptively as
the late science popularizer and futurologist Isaac Asimov (1920-1992). His essays on the
topic written and published 25-30 years ago are still relevant. The important things he has
to say are: 1) over-population is threatening civilization; 2) there is an “ideal” or optimal
size of human population, which we should strive for; 3) population is several times greater
than it should be; 4) efforts to lessen poverty and otherwise improve quality of human life
are being thwarted by over-population; 5) our best option is to limit population growth and
reduce the present population; 6) intentional or planned population reduction can only be
achieved if undertaken as a global goal of humanity; and 7) success in planned population
reduction will be accompanied by benefits at every step of the way.”
A little later in this essay, we read “Asimov thought that the earth’s climate was getting colder, whereas we now know that it is getting warmer.”
So, next time to run into someone who doesn’t remember that Science was forecasting global cooling, just a few decades ago, you might present them with this.”
“Walt, sometime when I have more spare time I’ll collect a list of the indicators that moved in the right direction all through the 1970s. The movement toward sustainability was nothing like as small or as unpopular as you’ve suggested, and if it had continued to build on its successes, rather than collapsing in on itself, I think a transition could have been accomplished. But of course we’ll never know…”
I would be very interested in that list. And beyond that, an assessment of the turning points. For instance, what might have been the next indicator or milestone, had movement in the right direction continued?
How would major growth-related issues outside of energy efficiency, such as family size, immigration, imports/exports, land development, financial systems, and the Cold War have been advanced politically against entrenched opposition?
I don’t think the movement was small or unpopular, but there had to have been reasons it didn’t thrive. The parts of it that I saw (I was a kid, of course) were mostly focused on home economy, some of which backfired when e.g. homemade rooftop solar water heaters proved troublesome and paid work could make more money than saved in the time spent maintaining them.
How’s this for sour grapes: year after year, friends and relatives and neighbors say they envy my unpowered push mower. The quiet, the lack of fumes (or, nowadays, a long power cord or touchy heavy batteries), the safety, the reliability, even the exercise. But I’ve never once convinced anyone else to try one, not even to borrow mine for a day. Liberal or conservative, rich or poor, my age or younger (I’d hesitate to recommend it to anyone much older unless I know their medical condition), the response has been the same: “It takes longer, and you have to push.” It’s the “you’ll shoot your eye out” answer* that blocks all better solutions. That, in a nutshell, is the kind of bedrock barrier the sustainability movement faced.
But, things have changed and are changing. Fuel or electricity for a power mower is still readily available, but paid work isn’t as rewarding, the grid utilities that enable the easy choice for doing things are less reliable, and many of the end products available aren’t as good as they used to be, let alone as good as what you can make or grow yourself. Those might (and in the longer term, must) outweigh contrary trends, such as most people knowing less about how to do things than they did in the 70s.
*Refers to the popular U.S. movie “A Christmas Story,” in which a boy wants a BB gun for Christmas but all the adults in his life respond to his wish with “you’ll shoot your eye out!” which he knows makes any further pleading useless.
I’ve enjoyed all of your Ecosophia comments. They’re practically poetry. I’ll listen to any radio show (or podcast, Twitch feed, or whatever) you put out there, if I possibly can.
Since others were mentioning things they noticed shortages of, and I went to the grocery store this morning:
– Sodas and sparkling water were rather low of stock
– Microwave bacon and certain other “lunch meat” sort of foods were very sparse on the shelves.
– Beef jerky is sparse
– Bottled water was about half capacity
– No restrictions on purchases (e.g. “limit 2 per customer”)
– This is a holiday weekend, and a lot of the shortages are items associated with camping or barbecuing
– Bread, canned foods, staples, etc. looked fine.
– There were at least two stockers on the floor with their carts, so I might have just showed up late in the stock cycle.
“Info, oh, granted. I want to see them try to farm the dry regions that are great for livestock grazing but don’t have enough water for grain…”
I also remembered reading that. Peasants used to be more malnourished before potatoes arrived since there were frequent grain famines during winter in Europe. And Grain isn’t such a complete package of nutrients compared to the Potato.
And Potatoes massively improved the health of those who consumed them:
And there is this quote from a book I remember reading:
“The Chinese noted with surprise and disgust the ability of the Mongol warriors to survive on little food and water for long periods; according to one, the entire army could camp without a single puff of smoke since they needed no fires to cook. Compared to the Jurched soldiers, the Mongols were much healthier and stronger. The Mongols consumed a steady diet of meat, milk, yogurt, and other dairy products, and they fought men who lived on gruel made from various grains. The grain diet of the peasant warriors stunted their bones, rotted their teeth, and left them weak and prone to disease. In contrast, the poorest Mongol soldier ate mostly protein, thereby giving him strong teeth and bones.”
And we now know as a result of modern science that being adapted to Ketosis allows people to go days without food. So long as that food is highly nutritious and pretty high in good fats.
@Lady Cutekitten #258
This is the second time I’ve heard someone say this week that Japan officially recognizes Ivermectin as a treatment for COVID. Insofar as I know, this is not true. Japan has gone along with the suppression of alternative treatments, making a show of busting a group of people last year for importing olive leaf extract (if I recall correctly), said then to help prevent severe illness. After that, everyone has shied away from even proposing unofficially recognized countermeasures. There has been no mention whatsoever of hydroxychloroquine or Ivermectin in the press. They apparently have not prohibited the sale of the latter, as I was able to obtain it via a Japanese trading company, and there was quite a wait for it, suggesting people are d