Not the Monthly Post

The Long View

For more than three years now, the themes of these online essays of mine—here, and in my previous blog The Archdruid Report—have had a relatively tight focus on the events of the present day. That hasn’t been accidental by any means. In 2016, strains that had been building for years within Western industrial civilization burst out into the open, upsetting a great many political and cultural applecarts and standing the conventional wisdom on its head. I trust I don’t have to whisper the words “Brexit” and “Trump” to make my point.

None of that was a surprise to those who understand that history is a circle and not a straight line, that civilizations have a life cycle and similar events occur at corresponding points along the great arc of rise and fall. Oswald Spengler, for one, wrote about the events splashed across recent headlines more than a century ago in the pages of The Decline of the West. He noted with dry Teutonic amusement how democracy turns into plutocracy as soon as the well-to-do learn to use money to manipulate the political system, how this leads to the rise of clueless elites too busy lining their pockets to notice what the policies that enrich them are doing to the rest of society, and how ambitious men—as often as not from within the plutocratic class—realize they can rise to power by championing the cause of the deplorables of their time.

Spengler called the charismatic populism that results from this process Caesarism, after one of the more memorable examples of the species. (It’s a running joke here on Ecosophia to refer to our current American example as the Orange Julius.)  The conflict between institutionalized plutocracy and insurgent Caesarism, Spengler showed, is an inescapable historical event once a society finishes its millennium or so of growth and settles into its mature form.  He predicted back in 1918 that this conflict would be the defining theme of politics across the western world after the turn of the 21st century. Look at today’s news and it’s hard to escape the realization that he was right.

Arnold Toynbee, at once more cautious and more meticulous than Spengler, avoided prophecy and contented himself with precise description of the way the process worked out in the past. In his analysis, successful societies thrive because their governing classes form what he called a creative minority—a group that wins the respect and emulation of the rest of society because it is able to come up with creative solutions for the problems that face a civilization in the course of its history. Too often, though, the governing classes stop innovating in any way that matters, and become more interested in trying to force problems to fit their preferred set of solutions than in adapting solutions to fit the current set of problems. They then become what Toynbee called a dominant minority, which no longer inspires respect and settles instead for grudging obedience.

Once a society is saddled with a dominant minority, there’s a set of standard moves that people within the society use to try to deal with problems that the people in charge are no longer trying to solve. Unless you live under a damp rock, dear reader, you already know all of them. Toynbee calls them detachment, transcendence, futurism, and archaism. Detachment abandons society to its fate by going back to the land, or off to another part of the world, or inward to a subculture airtight enough to shut out current events. Transcendence is the turn to religion—Spengler calls it the Second Religiosity—which comes in the latter days of every civilization, as people frustrated by this world place their hopes on another. Futurism is the attempt to build, or at least daydream about, a perfect society in the future. Archaism, finally, is the quest to Make (insert name of society here) Great Again by rejecting a failed status quo in favor of policies that worked in the past.

Toynbee had his preferences among these—he was a devout Christian, and it showed—but all four of the standard moves can be viable options, and futurism and archaism in particular can be political dynamite. The managerial upper middle class of modern Western industrial society, the creative minority turned dominant minority that runs the institutionalized plutocracy of our time, took over from an older generation of plutocrats in the wake of the Great Depression by way of futurism, borrowing the charisma of technological change by defining the changes that would give them more power as “social progress.” In the usual way of things, the first moves in that direction worked fairly well, the later moves not so much; for forty years now it’s been an open secret—outside the airtight bubbles the privileged inhabit, at least—that things have been getting steadily worse for most Americans in a galaxy of ways. The inevitable blowback followed.

In the long run, in other words, it doesn’t actually matter much whether or not Donald Trump wins a second term in next year’s election. (In the shorter run it matters a great deal, which is why I expect a bitterly fought election with plenty of vote fraud on both sides.) Trump has shown a rising generation of populist politicians that the neoliberal consensus can be defeated, and that there’s a growing and vocal constituency for politicians who reject the neoliberal habit of making token gestures toward environmentalist and social justice ideologies whenever the costs can be pushed off on the working classes, while shilling for the intertwined interests of corporate and government bureaucracies on every issue that matters. There’s still a lot of turbulence ahead, and plenty of tectonic shifts will jolt the political landscape in the years to come, but the neoliberal era is dead and a cartoon frog is hopping over its grave.

That being the case, this is a good time to step back and take the long view again for a while.

Now and again, since my blogging took its detour from discussions of the future, I’ve fielded questions about how well my predictions in past years have stood up. Of course a good many the people who’ve asked those questions have based them on colorful misunderstandings of what I’ve predicted; for example, it’s far from unusual for people to ask me, in tones ranging from baffled to sneering, why society hasn’t collapsed yet as a result of peak oil. Since I never said peak oil would bring about a fast collapse, this has been a source of wry amusement for me, but it’s also pointed up one of the constants of our predicament: the frankly weird way that so many people can’t imagine a future that isn’t either perpetual progress or overnight apocalypse.

Yes, I’ve written about this before. The Archdruid Report in its day had several posts in which I set out to analyze that odd mental hiccup and suggest ways to get around it and think clearly about the future. Back then, at least, it was entertaining to watch people listen and nod and then pop right back into the same bizarre conviction that the only alternative to continuing progress is total catastrophe—as though stagnation and decline, the everyday experiences of most people in most industrial nations for forty years now, can’t possibly happen. The one thing I found that seemed to do a reliable job of shaking people out of that weird mental fog was to talk turkey about what we can expect in the future barrelling down upon us—so that’s what we’ll do here.

What gives this a special piquance, at least to me, is that we can do this by turning back the clock to those not particularly thrilling days of yesteryear, the last time that the hard limits to economic growth were being talked about—yes, that would be during and after the oil price spike of 2008-2009. Veteran readers of The Archdruid Report and the other long-vanished peak oil forums of those days will recall one very large and vocal group of people, online and off, who insisted that technological innovation would surely save the day, and sometime soon we’d power our absurdly extravagant lifestyles by way of something other than fossil fuels. They will recall another very large and vocal group of people, online and off, who insisted that Transition Towns or some parallel ideology would save the day, and sometime soon we’d enthusiastically embrace lifestyles that, oddly enough, none of the proponents seemed all that interested in taking up here and now.  Finally, they will recall yet another very large and vocal group of people, online and off, who insisted that some vast apocalyptic event would make the whole matter moot, and sometime soon a handful of shell-shocked survivors would be scavenging for raw materials or reverting to hunter-gatherer lifestyles while the other seven billion of us, as the colorful French saying has it, chewed dandelions from the root end.

There were a few of us who said something much less popular. We predicted that the grand technological breakthroughs were not going to happen, and the grand social awakenings were not going to happen, and the grand apocalyptic catastrophes were not going to happen. What’s more, we offered solid reasons why none of these things were going to happen. We predicted instead that demand destruction and an assortment of temporary gimmicks would keep things rolling on, that measures of quality of life would continue to slide downhill, that politics and society would become increasingly fractured and irrational as people frantically tried to pretend that nothing was wrong, and that the prolonged and ragged process of decline I’ve called the Long Descent would continue to pick up speed.

We got denounced six ways from Sunday for saying these things. I can’t speak for the other people who made such points, but it was a routine amusement for me to have one and the same post denounced in blistering terms as mere nasty pessimism by believers in technofixes and great social transformations, and as mere blind optimism by believers in overnight apocalypse. At this point, though, looking back over the decade and a bit that’s passed since oil prices took off for the Moon in 2008, two things are quite clear. The first is that the people who busied themselves with these denunciations were wrong. The second is that those of us who stuck to our guns and disagreed with those wildly popular claims were right.

And now? I trust it won’t be an unbearable surprise to my readers when I predict that the decades ahead are going to see much more of the same thing.

To begin with, the hard realities of our predicament have not changed. On the day before I posted this essay, humans burned around 100,000,000 barrels of crude oil, 21,000,000 tons of coal, and 9,000,000,000 cubic meters of natural gas. We burned around the same amount the day before that, too, and we’ll burn the same amount today, tomorrow, and the day after. The vast majority of all the energy human beings use—well over 80%, including nearly all transport fuel—comes from those three forms of fossil carbon. (Solar power and windpower, despite all the ballyhoo, account for only about 3% of total energy production worldwide.)  All that carbon has to come from somewhere, and all of it goes somewhere else once it’s burnt.

Where nearly all of that carbon comes from is the world’s steadily depleting fossil fuel reserves. Are fossil fuel companies scouring the globe to find new reserves?  You bet. Do the new reserves they find each year equal the annual rate at which old reserves are being sucked dry?  Not by a long shot. If you were spending a couple of hundred thousand dollars a year and your income was only ten thousand a year, even if you had a fair amount in savings to start with, you’d be in trouble sooner or later. The same logic applies to fossil fuels.

Does that mean that sometime soon industrial civilization is going to crash to ruin because it’s run out of fossil fuels? No, though you’ll hear that claim made at high volume in the years ahead as the price of oil climbs further and then spikes. Does it mean that the solar and wind technologies that provide so small a trickle of global energy production today will miraculously become able to power our absurdly extravagant lifestyles all by themselves, or that some exciting new energy technology will pop up out of nowhere to solve all our problems? No, though you’ll also hear those claims being made at high volume. Those same claims got made during the energy crises of the 1970s and the 2000s, too, and I encourage my readers to look around and see how accurate they turned out to be.

No, what will happen is that energy prices will spike, people will panic, economies will lurch and shudder and go through troubled times.  Then another round of frantic jerry-rigging will find some liquid fuel source even dirtier and more costly than shale oil and another round of demand destruction will push more people into poverty, so that the charade can keep going. The price of fuel will never go down to what it was before the spike, energy costs will become an even greater drain on economic activity, the global financial system will be twisted into ever more baroque shapes to preserve the fiction of a free market, and more of what used to count as a normal lifestyle will become inaccessible to more people.

Meanwhile, the people who are expecting grand technological breakthroughs or grand social movements or grand apocalyptic disasters will be left in the dust by events, wondering what happened…just as they did when those same things failed to appear in the wake of the last two oil price spikes. Yes, they’re exactly the same things, too, right down to the details; it’s a reliable source of amusement to me that the technologies being promoted these days as game-changing energy innovations—wind power, solar photovoltaic power, breeder reactors, nuclear fusion, and the list goes on—have been promoted in exactly the same terms since my boyhood. Nor, to be frank, has there been any more noticeable innovation in grand social movements or grand apocalyptic disasters. As usual in our culture, the more bleeding-edge and innovative an idea is supposed to be, the more certain you can be that it’s an utterly unoriginal rehash of something that was already old hat when today’s nonagenarians were born.

But I digress.  Where nearly all of the carbon goes, in turn, is the earth’s atmosphere, where it messes with the delicate balance of the global climate. It’s going to be a couple of decades before it’ll be possible to talk about this and not get mired in endless misunderstandings, because the climate activists have not only done a stunningly bad job of making their case, they’ve allowed their cause to be hijacked and distorted by special interests with a range of unhelpful agendas. It was an act of impressive scientific stupidity, for that matter, to lump the complex shifts we face under the simplistic label “global warming”—Thomas Friedman’s label “global weirding” was much more accurate, but it didn’t fit the narrative the activists were pushing.

The Earth’s climate, reduced to simplest terms, is a heat engine that runs off the difference in temperature between the Sun and deep space. Back in 1772, James Watt launched the industrial revolution by figuring out that he could boost the efficiency of the crude steam engines then in use, and so get more work out of them, by reducing the rate at which heat was lost from the engine to the environment. Adding greenhouse gases to the atmosphere does exactly that, and the work that the Earth’s climate does is called “weather.” Thus the result of greenhouse gas pollution isn’t a steady increase in temperature—it’s an increase in all kinds of extreme weather events, coupled just now with a shift in climate bands that’s warming the poles.

Does that mean that sometime very soon industrial civilization is going to crash to ruin because of some climate-related catastrophe? No, though you’ll hear that claim made at high volume in the years ahead. Does it mean that solar and wind power or some new energy technology will save the day? No, though you’ll also hear those claims being made at equally high volume. Here again, those same claims got made during the previous energy price spikes of the 1970s and the 2000, with equally dubious results.

No, what will happen is that the annual cost of weather-related disasters will move raggedly upward with each passing year, as it’s been doing for decades, loading another increasingly heavy burden on economic activity and putting more of what used to count as a normal lifestyle out of reach for more people. With each new round of disasters, less and less will get rebuilt, as insurance companies wriggle out of payouts they can’t afford to make and government funding for disaster recovery becomes less and less adequate to meet the demand. Rural areas in the US that are unusually vulnerable to weather-related disasters will quietly be allowed to return to 19th century conditions, and poor neighborhoods near the coastlines will be tacitly handed over to the slowly rising seas. Meanwhile, the people who are expecting grand technological breakthroughs or grand social movements or grand apocalyptic disasters will be left in the dust by events, wondering what happened.

That’s the shape of our future.  It bears remembering, too, that fossil fuels aren’t the only nonrenewable resources that are being extracted at a breakneck pace just now with no thought for tomorrow. For that matter, the global climate isn’t the only natural system on which we depend that’s being disrupted by human pollution in ways that are already circling around behind us and kicking us in the backside. As Kenneth Boulding pointed out a long time ago, the only people who think that you can have limitless economic expansion on a finite planet are madmen and economists. In the real world—the world the rest of us, willy-nilly, are constrained to inhabit—actions have equal and opposite reactions, and trying to push the pedal of economic growth all the way to the metal all the time simply means that you run out of gas sooner.

That’s the logic of the Long Descent: the slow, ragged, unevenly paced, but inexorable process by which a civilization that’s overshot its resource base winds up in history’s compost bin. The Western world has been on that trajectory now for just over a century, and probably has another couple of centuries to go before things bottom out in a deindustrial dark age. Over the months ahead, with the usual interruptions, I plan on surveying what’s happened along each of the trajectories that are dragging us down. Two weeks from now we’ll talk about the first of those: the imminent return of peak oil.

392 Comments

  1. FYI ADJMG,
    I had dinner last month with someone in the Bakken Shale oil business. He said he has a 100% success rate in drilling, by which he means no dry holes, and that his break even cost is $40 dollars a barrel.

  2. Speaking of pushing the costs of climate onto the poor and working class, it amuses me to no end that the carbon tax here in Canada charges paper and plenty of foods a trumped up rate while exempting things like avocados, airlines, telecommunications, and others. In fact, given one of the quirks of it, airlines actually make money off of it. The quirk is basically that international flights aren’t charged the tax, while the airlines get to deduct all flights they make and get a refund as if they were charged the tax on everything.

    Thus, it’s a scheme to steal from the poor and give to the rich while claiming it’s addressing climate change. I think this is shown quite starkly by a simple detail one of my friends pointed out to me: it’s only passenger flights which get the funds back. Shipping things by air, which is how most of the goods used in the territories (which are among the poorest parts of the country) get there, is charged the carbon tax.

    Also, with regards to rural areas being allowed to revert to the 19th century, I know someone from a rural area which is already reaching that point. They got hit with some major storms close to a year ago, and some of their neighbors still haven’t gotten power back. They’ve quietly concluded that they probably never will: by the time the grid gets around to fixing the infrastructure they use, another storm will come through to knock it out again.

  3. Beautifully written, but maybe not accurate. Certainly a possible scenario but not inevitable. I’d be lying if I said your future won’t happen, but I don’t think so. Of course, only our great grandchildren will know for sure…

    I see a more likely alternative scenario. Over the next few decades or so, population stabilizes or even declines a bit. At the same time we do transition to mostly non-carbon sources of energy, as many states and countries are already doing for their electricity and are heading towards for their transportation. Eventually oil prices will decline as demand drops. We’ll probably stop using oil long before we run out, just because it’s a lousy alternative. Just as we stopped using coal and peat to heat our houses.

    I really don’t see any technical problem with this transition, though I’m sure technical innovations will make it easier . It’s more an issue of politics and will, and we are finally moving that way pretty rapidly.

  4. Hi JMG,

    I always enjoy reading these long view posts. They always help me keep my bearings in a rough sea of mass media noise.

    That said, as I finished the essay, I had an idea for you. Since you have dealt with the same old arguments for salvation and apocalypse, maybe you could harness them to your personal benefit. I’m thinking of a darkly humorous novella ebook in which there is another oil price spike that brings the global economy to it’s knees, but this time…. wait for it…. things are different!

    This time a grand social movement does rise up. This movement performs scientific research and delivers a grand technological breakthrough that appears to solve the energy and climate crises once and for all. The technology is hurriedly scaled up across the globe with no expense spared. Instead of the technology being civilization’s salvation it brings about a rapid collapse, total apocalypse, because at scale the technology produced some very nasty side effect which made things even worse.

    Enjoy the Fourth of July holiday. Be well.

  5. I used to watch Real Time with Bill Maher on HBO during the Bush Years but when Obama came in to office ,and even more so with Trump,he and his show became insufferable. He clearly became ( or always was) the mouthpiece of the Democratic Establishment with the same half-baked ideas. But this week my wife was watching his show and I overheard his ” New Rules Segment.” He was deriding the techno-utopian crowd for thinking we were going to the Mars or even the Moon again. His two sentence explanation pretty much summed up what you are saying. ” We are no longer the, mobilize to put a man on the moon in 9 years country. We are now the , Help I have fallen and can’t get up, country. “

  6. Good Day, JMG:

    I did not have much chance to comment last week due to our house move, but as the observations I wanted to share actually fit into your essay this week, perhaps that was kismet!

    So, my husband and I made the decision/realization that we are woefully unprepared to retire and spend our declining years in a genuine pioneer mountain bug-out home and sold our vacation/retirement house in very rural Wyoming. His job has led us to FL, (Floridians are crazy, so we fit in just fine), in a lifestyle we CAN navigate as we become feeble. We expect/hope – God willing – to be here for the next 3-4 years, then we’ll see.

    As we packed up our POD (self-pack moving trailer), it snowed or had freezing rains up to mid-June, it illustrated to me one of the reasons WHY we could not handle living there full time. ‘Global Weirding’ sounds spot-on to me. This region of the Rocky Mountains has always had long winters and snows heavy enough to cut our little town off from civilisation through the pass leading over the Continental Divide. The winters are in fact getting even longer and harsher. Summers are also getting hotter too, but that I don’t think is as established a pattern yet.

    Driving across the country I cannot count how many solar and wind farms we passed in many states, especially wind farms across the Great Plaines. I have no idea how effective they are or aren’t but I’ve not heard or read about any boom in energy from them. I was surprised to see how many there were, days and days of driving past them through OK, TX KS, NE. I had always hoped that such renewable energy, while unable to provide our current lavish-middle-class-lifestyles, would at least provide some level of energy sustenance as we stair-step down. Maybe not. It was also dangerously hot through these states. I’ve never felt that heat-sick before. Those may also not be inhabitable places as this “Weirding” progresses.

    The other thing I had not know and noticed quite starkly was just HOW low the lowlands across the FL panhandle, all of southern LA and eastern TX really is. It’s much lower than most of the FL “pan” or “finger” we live in. And all swampy bog/ natural canals and waterways of fresh water lakes and streams flowing into the Gulf of Mexico/seawater. Honestly, the wake of a motor boat could probably flood those highways. They’re going under before most of FL will and it will be a tremendous loss – whenever it happens. It’s a weird stunningly beautiful ecosystem of nature and a tremendously vibrant and delicious culture that has grown up along those bayous and waterways. Once again – I felt extremely blessed to have the opportunity to see it with my very own eyes – before it vanishes forever.

    Our last stop coming home to Tampa was overnight in Panama City FL which has not and probably will not ever fully recover from Hurricane Michael. Still a lot of debris of buildings and houses, forests of scrub pine broken like match-sticks, apparently over 1/2 the population have moved on and will not be moving back – same as NOLA post Hurricane Katrina.

    So – when you said “Does that mean that sometime soon industrial civilization is going to crash to ruin because it’s run out of fossil fuels? No, though you’ll hear that claim made…” I know what you are saying over all, so Agreed, but at the same time….Hmmm, weeeeeeeellll? Maybe not but in fits and starts, it will end that way for some cities and groups of people. It already is, isn’t it?

  7. Dear JMG,

    As a data point to reinforce what you’ve written here about the over-promised hype of renewables: just this past week I had the pleasure of being comically entertained by two major energy corps in Alberta as they sang their praises to solar power, distributed everything, Internet of Things, and much more hyper-complex “solutions” to fossil fuel use. It never fails that they exclude any mention of using less energy, less stuff less everything. Our way of life, as extravagantly wasteful as it is, must carry on no matter the cost.

    The bitter irony here is that I truly do care for the environment but when I see corporations hop on the “green” bandwagon, it makes me distrust the supposedly earth-friendly techs they’re pandering.

    One final observation about these phenomena is how it’s boomer generation folks trying to sell this stuff to younger generations, and I see the those same youth eyeing up the offer with suspicion. One lad in university made the very salient point that he could never afford these “green” solutions and asked where all this progress would leave him. The boomer’s response? Be more responsible with your money. How insulting!

    Thanks for all you do!

    Tim

  8. JMG,

    Are you aware of any history of community responses to the first two oil spikes, in the 70s and 2000s? It would be a worthy project for future historians, and maybe even help future communities learn from the past. I’ve interviewed some people over the years and have one interview on my blog right now, but have never had the time for such a massive project.

  9. Thanks for the good summary of posts of years past on Our Favorite Topic.

    I agree with the general trend of your future history scenario, with local modifications. While the decline will continue as you described, it will vary considerably from place to place.

    For example, here in Our Fair County, we’re contemplating sea level rise in the Pacific Ocean next door, at a steady 1.8 mm per year, which is tiny, and inexorable, that is, as long as current climate trends continue indefinitely, which they may or may not do. We began the process of planned withdrawal some 40 years ago when winter storms took out chunks of a coastal road. The process continues, slowly, as needs be.

    Local agriculturists are gradually increasing their acreage of fruit and vegetable crops, that suit our Mediterranean climate, for local sale in farmers markets. Several large chain stores have gone out of business. Plans are afoot to repopulate their buildings with local businesses and affordable housing. Increasing numbers of “homeless” (aka houseless) people are organizing to lobby for their own lifestyle. City plans to build a new multi-story parking garage are vociferously opposed by those seeking to decrease local private automobile travel in the downtown area and, instead, use the undeveloped space to create a downtown commons for a farmers market and other local gatherings.

    Here in the heart of High Tech, our Fair City and County is accommodating, adjusting, becoming more resilient and adaptable. The high pitched screams of the climate doomsayers and corner shouters fade away as the growth maniacs are increasingly outnumbered in City Hall and County Board of Supervisors chambers.

    It’s a long trip down the slide, carpeted with moss and ivy to smooth out the bumps. Those who don’t like the new trend will go elsewhere, those who stay will build the future, one project at a time.

    ‘Twas ever thus!

  10. Thank you for this intellectual bitter tonic! I think there is some collective understanding of the political realities and the return of peak oil — I’ve noticed a pervasive sense of mourning, which is probably polyvalent, but nonetheless seems interestingly timed.

    I, for one, found Toynbee’s discussion of the responses to a Dominant Minority fascinating. Over the years, I’ve tried out every single of the coping mechanisms he mentions on for size. Boy have I tried to find worthwhile Detachment and mostly just got high, been charmed by both Futurism and Archaism, and have written recently here on some personal experiences of Transcendence.

    The last option, in a certain sense, is just as of the world as any other. Monks of all traditions tend to do, to my understanding, a great deal of tangible good in their communities. And the Second Religiosity is a very big deal. Of course, I share Toynbee’s affection for religion. Detachment seems like a particularly bad strategy. Both Futurism and Archaism seem, with some back of the envelope calculations, to be rather hit or miss, with some good ideas but mixed with a lot of distortions.

    The return of peak oil is also a big deal. Another stair-step downward in the Long Descent. It seems well-timed with the rise of Caesarism. I imagine than that the old middle classes will be the ones that will be, as with the last peak oil scenario, thrown under the bus, just like the working classes were in the 1970’s. I expect to see many universities implode, and times get hard for many many formerly prosperous people and for many formerly prosperous areas to become largely impoverished over the next decade. As I mentioned last week, I take _No One Writes the Colonel_ as a very useful literary road map of the sort of misery in store.

    To my mind, the strategy of Transcendence has a lot going for it given this gloomy reality. Even in hard times one can open up one’s heart in prayer, and religion allows for great dignity even when deep in suffering, as well as immense and ineffable beauty.

  11. I have to admit I am one of those people who was expecting a massive change in social organization. I was thinking that the vast reduction in the cost of computer, communication and co-ordination would enable a very different form of social organization. I totally underestimated the ability of the dominate culture to use these new technologies to reinforce their own priorities.

    I was thinking that something like Bruce Sterling’s story Maneki Neko. would be possible.

    http://www.lightspeedmagazine.com/fiction/maneki-neko/

  12. John–

    It is, I suppose, neither here nor there, but the historian in me does wonder what event far-future historians will pick as the equivalent of the abdication of Romulus Augustus in the fall of this industrial civilization.

    The psychological and emotional dimensions of this process are often overlooked (not so much in our discussion here, but in other venues, it seems) and just speaking from my own experience of the last, oh, five years or so, that journey from “we must save the system” to “the system isn’t lost” has been a challenging one. That shape of the future you describe is by far more threatening to the average perspective than either grand glorious unification of the Singularity or equally grand glorious annihilation in the Great Apocalypse. To see everything around you slowly but inevitably fall apart and realize that nothing–absolutely nothing–can be done to stop it. Of course, understanding the broader perspective that the decay is only one bit of a never-ending cycle of birth-death-rebirth is the escape hatch out of the mental trap. That is a regular theme of meditation for me, particularly when I find myself embroiled in world events of the day (which is much less frequent now, fortunately).

    Being wary of extrapolating too closely from current cycles, would you expect a spike-bust-partial recovery cycle on the order of every decade or so? Would this cycle shrink (i.e. events become more frequent) as the collapse process continues? I’m suspecting that this coming century is going to quite *ahem* interesting. I should see the first half of it, perhaps as much as three-quarters.

    I do wish there was more we could do. But alas.

  13. I assume that the cycle of rising oil prices, demand destruction, new gimmicks and lower oil prices (which are higher than in previous cycles) won’t continue indefinitely, because at some point, there aren’t any more fossil fuels which can be economically retrieved. Do you have any idea what that will mean for the price of oil in the endgame maybe a few decades into the future?

  14. I’d only point out that John Michael Greer in his book on Atlantis pointed out that quite large catastrophes have occurred in the past and can be expected to occur again. As a (pre)historic example, Lake Agassiz (as much water as all the Great Lakes combined) seems to have emptied in as little as three years. While the loss of, say, Greenland’s entire ice cap in a decade would not be a universal apocalypse, it could easily kill or displace billions of people.

  15. The Western world has been on that trajectory now for just over a century, and probably has another couple of centuries ago before…

    “another couple of centuries to go” I think?

    Looking forward to the return of peak oil (your essay that is). I have skin in the game, as I spent 7 years creating the anti-growth documentary ‘There’s No Tomorrow’, which launched in 2012, just as the peak oil scene was imploding.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VOMWzjrRiBg

    I couldn’t have picked a worse time to launch it. The Post Carbon Institute guys tried to give it a push, but I was told that the title (which I hate) was too scary for the media. Which is one reason why I find the ‘Extinction Rebellion’ media traction so suspicious. Anyway, I digress, but could write a lot more on that suspicious phenomenon.

    My movie was primarily anti-growth. There is a point at the halfway mark where I wave a magic wand and turn the world over to renewables and nukes, and proceed from there to show the impossibility of infinite growth on a finite planet. Doesn’t stop the alt.energoids from waffling on in the comments about their favorite boondoggle. God help us.

    If I do a remake / book, I’ll definitely change the title to reflect the anti-Growth message, as 99.9% of the audience completely failed to notice it – so I’m glad that I’m not the only person to experience the joys of readers/viewers completely missing the point. Your writing on ADR was a huge influence on me at the time, and steered me away from an apocalyptic narrative, for which I’m eternally grateful. One person at the time commented “This movie is so depressing it should be sold with a shovel so we can dig our own graves”, and the next comment said the movie was “ridiculously optimistic”. I’m sure you can relate!

    I’ve been wondering when (not if) PO returns, what form it will take. I also wonder if my film will rear up to bite me in the behind, as it’s something I’ve put in my rear-view mirror. That said, it was screened at BRIFF (Brussels International Film Festival) a few weeks ago, but again, that’s French language, a different world it seems.

  16. If we assume that our sustainable energy consumption is around 3% of current levels, that puts us on a per capita basis somewhere around, to take a wild guess, what, the 1920s? Standards of living in that era with a few low-energy enhancements — like better vaccines, legal alcohol, same-sex marriage, etc — hardly sound like the hellscape some folks might be instinctively fearing.

    Or conversely, today’s society minus the internet, video games, and SUVs sounds like potentially quite an improvement, especially if we add in more actual human interaction, board games, and bicycles. Maybe we just need to market the Long Descent/LESS as a surefire way to never have to deal with an airline again.

    (I’m guessing someone on here will have the actual data close at hand to correct my 1920s guess in either direction, since I apparently didn’t hit on the right combination of keywords during some quick searching. And I used the current 3% wind/solar level as my rough baseline. If we didn’t have fossil fuels to support renewable energy infrastructure, maybe that would drive it down. On the other hand, if we prioritized it maybe we’d deploy more or conserve energy better, so our effective energy level might be higher.)

  17. So often after reading your posts, I want to quit everything I am doing and make a total change in my life, like become a preacher of the gospel of the Archdruid. But as you point out so often, changes aren’t made overnight, it’s a process, and there are lots of loose ends needing tied up. These long views are always appreciated. I wish the study of history was encouraged more, and taught better.

  18. I’ve been reading you for awhile and I’ve never figured out how you square you long decent with the fact that thermonuclear weapons exist. Do you think that during the decent major nuclear powers like Russia/USA/China will never go to war with each other? That seems ahistorical to me. Do you think they will not use such weapons even if the alternative is the annihilation of their government? I don’t suspect that will be true either, biased on how governments reacted to crisis like that during the past.

    I guess you could say that the annihilation of most major cities and the starvation of a good chunk of the populace due to nuclear climate change and the collapse of the industrial structures that keep people fed doesn’t quite count as a full apocalypse, but I’m not sure that’s how most people would see it.

  19. I would tend to agree. Depending on what rung you currently occupy on the socio-economic ladder, the increase you experience in discomfort and inconvenience will vary in the years ahead. Of course some have already fallen off the ladder. They don’t need to concern themselves with either in the conventional sense.

    Those in the lower income brackets will experience more of both while those still in upper middle class will still be able to maintain some level of comfort but will start to notice the inconvenience.

    Those at the top will see neither. They pay rather well for others to take care of anything that would be inconvenient. In other words, it will be a long steady grind punctuated by major incidents that will make life immediately more uncomfotable and inconvenient for those directly involved.

  20. No real arguments here, sir. Nevertheless, for those of us viewing the world through an occult lense, it can be confusing &/or amusing to see how the very same extreme dramatic resolutions to the trends of today (violent Apocalypse; free-energy Utopia) are being predicted/dreaded/yearned-for in the occult blogosphere. I can think of at least one blog that I quite enjoy, whose author I think by-and-large has it together, that is convinced that reverse-engineered hyper-driven vessels are even now sojourning beyond the orbit of Pluto, and that soon our elites will have to reveal the existence of viable Fusion-sourced electricity. No names given, of course, but I’m sure we’ve all encountered such a blog or one like it.

  21. Hello John Michael,

    Based on your recommendation back at ADR, I’ve started Decline of the West, and am about a third of the way through. Spengler is thorough, and quite the opinionated chap too. It appears that the strained relationship between Germans and Greeks goes back a ways. While I might, and do, quibble with some of his details, I agree that at least in broad brushtrokes, his theory is useful. Certainly it allows one to systematize the analogies that many people, myself included, have made between the actions of the present-day American Empire with those of past times, particularly the Roman Empire.

    So more to the point, I agree with you that neither archaism or futurism can save us from real physical limits. Even if we solved the hard engineering problem of fusion, we’d still hit some other limit – pollution, habitat destruction, arable land area, waste heat from fusion reactors, etc. I also agree that we have been following a Long Decline scenario up to this point. My possible disagreement with you is that the climate system seems to be nonlinear and semi-chaotic in the mathematical sense of chaos theory, meaning that the system tends to orbit around a metastable state, this state representing the mean climate, and the orbital variations corresponding to the short-term weather conditions. As energy is added to the system, the orbit gets larger, corresponding to wilder weather. So far, this is indeed what we are seeing. We know though, from paleoclimate studies, that the climate can shift fairly rapidly to a different metastable state, such as between warm periods and ice ages. Are you not concerned that as we add energy to the climate system that we force a jump to a new, and much less hospitable, climate state of the hothouse type, as seems to have happened at the end of the Paleozoic? An interesting article discussing this possibility, which given your interests, you may have already read, was “Trajectories of the Earth System in the Anthropocene” [www.pnas.org/cgi/doi/10.1073/pnas.1810141115] . What are your thoughts about this idea? Do you believe it to be a low-probablility event?

    Regards,

    Steve

  22. I remember first realizing the implication of peak oil back around 2005. After a few sleepless nights waiting for the grid to crash immediately, I eventually lost the panic but not the understanding of the hard numbers that make it a reality. ‘Fracking’ has been a wonderful gimmick for extending the life of our current reserves, and I’m sure there will be others, but that’s all it is. A gimmick, And one that causes earthquakes too! I look forward whatever side effects the next gimmick will have. Our society is dependent on oil, and all other concerns fall to the side when oil is the issue. In Canada, even our Greens want to dig up Alberta,

    I think you are dead right about many people being unable to perceive anything beyond an immediate apocalypse or unending growth, but I’ve found a very good example of decline in my small Ontario hometown. Back in the mythical 70’s, there used to be a passenger train that connected us with all of our local Imperial capitals. When I first started using public transit to commute back and forth between the town and capital, the trains were long gone but buses were frequent and affordable. Now, the schedule is severely restricted and trips cost almost twice what it used to, and if you want to commute regularly you better have a car (unlikely for a younger capital citizen at this point) or a lot of time and patience. If you look closely, you can already see the weeds springing up around Hadrian’s wall.

    @clay dennis – I caught that one too. I don’t normally like Maher, but that made me laugh!

    @Bipennisular JB – Can we keep some telnet terminals and old DOS RPGs? I’d be happy freezing the internet at early 90’s levels.

  23. Nicely done,I agree with the slow decline model, though I disagree with the C02 as climate knob theory, which is not well supported by the available evidence and has been used by the ruling elites, along with gender fluidity and anti-racism, as fuel for divide and conquer politics to keep the proles squabbling. By my lights, I’d offer up the post-Soviet space circa 1997 or present-day Ukraine as the models for the future the West has in store, with the West in gradual decline through 2023-24, when the decline accelerates sharply, and then 2029, when the wheels come fully off the bus and it is all-Kyiv, all the time.

    I also agree with your suspicion of techno-fixes for energy issues, or any issue for that matter, but I disagree about your point that no technologies are significant. Rosatom’s development of a successful fast breeder reactor in 2016 is a real game changer. It does not need U-235, but U-238, and in fact, spent U-235 reactor cores can be reprocessed and used to fuel the reactor, which I believe is being done now with spent rods from Fukushima. The recent HBO drama “Chernobyl” was, I am told, a direct cultural-economic attack by US/UK to blacken the eye of collective “Russia” as it rolls out this technology that people have been trying to develop for more than 50 years.

  24. I live in a middle class neighborhood. Last night, the power went out from about 9pm until 5am. There were two people on my street who hunkered down in their (engine running) cars with the air conditioning on. One of them was out there for the entire outage. You could feel a sense of panic: what will they do without their air conditioning, microwaves, online gaming, and C-PAP machines? I am confident both of the people in their cars were glued to their still-functioning smart phones.

    I was reminded of a scene from one of James Howard Kunstler’s post petroleum age novels where a stubborn old man is on the roadside with his stalled-out car. He’s stranded because of his futile efforts to fuel it with alcohol. Meanwhile, the protagonists pass him by with their horse and buggy.

    These people are nowhere near ready for an eight hour power outage, let alone a permanent one.

  25. @alliemims. Thank you for giving me a way to grind an old axe of mine. You said “…performs scientific research and delivers a grand technological breakthrough that appears to solve the energy and climate crises once and for all … Instead of the technology being civilization’s salvation it brings about a rapid collapse… because at scale the technology produced some very nasty side effects which made things even worse.”

    Because I totally agree that the research I’m following will “produce some very nasty side effects which made things even worse”, I think I can get away with bringing up the continuing research into cold fusion -which looks VERY promising. A description of what’s going on in legitimate research would be impossibly long in a comment, and there is no small number of links, rather dozens, ie, I give up on that.

    So, it’s hopeless to change minds on this, BUT I would like to affirm that eliminating nearly all combustion-related uses of carbon would save what’s left for useful stuff, yes, and brake/halt climate weird, but it would also ensure that nearly all the other limited resources would still be used up, just faster. (Because no population crash.)

    Ie, we stagger down the staircase of descent anyway. Just with a funny bump added on the way.

    Noted that the descent of our culture(s) would proceed regardless…

  26. Dashui, are you sure he wasn’t trying to sell you something?

    Will J, thank you for this. Can you post a link to a news story or other online source that confirms how the Canadian carbon tax works? I have a couple of other good examples of the way that climate change has been turned into a cash cow for special interests, and I propose to discuss that in an upcoming post, but I need a source to link to.

    Phil, yes, that’s also a very common belief system as decline begins to pick up speed — you very often get people in the comfortable classes convincing themselves that the current round of troubles will go away shortly and things will settle into a nice stable state. It never works that way, but the rise of the belief system seems to be hardwired into this part of the historical cycle. We’ll talk in upcoming posts about why that future can’t happen — if I may risk a spoiler here, it has to do some some very basic scientific princilples…

    Alliemims, why don’t you write that story? It’s your idea and your vision; stretch your authorial wings a little bit and give it a try.

    Clay, Bill Maher is saying that? Okay, we’re further along than I thought.

    Caryn, excellent! Yes, exactly. The end of the industrial age is already here, it’s just not widely distributed yet.

    Tim, I pity my fellow boomers. Most of them cashed in their ideals for nice corporate lifestyles. Now as old age and death looms up ahead of them, they’re busy trying to recycle the failed dreams of their youth — and inevitably those are coming out in corrupted forms, the sort of thing they themselves would have rejected with well-deserved scorn back in the Sixties. When they finally lose their grip on power, the generation that replaces them will reject everything they did and everything they were. It’s not a pretty sight!

    Brian, as far as I know nobody’s done such a thing, and the attempts I’ve made to interest people in the history of the 1970s appropriate-tech movement have gotten far more angry pushback than interest. It would be a worthwhile project, though!

    Michael, thanks for this. I hear similar accounts from various corners of the country, and that gives me a great deal of hope. Warren Johnson’s fine book Muddling Toward Frugality still, to my mind, offers the best strategy we’ve got — that is to say, coping with the changes as they happen, in a local, muddled, but responsive manner.

  27. John–

    Discussion of the long descent (and The Long Descent) often brings to mind a slim volume I once had, since given to my daughter, in which 100 classic texts were reduced to haiku. Malthus’ On Population, admittedly from memory, went as follows:

    People multiply,
    but food adds. The good news is
    there are wars and plagues.

    Wry humor indeed!

  28. 1) I second Ben’s question regarding nuclear weapons in the hands of wannabe Caesars; seems unlikely that they won’t be tempted to launch a few (or many) as their plans go awry and their greasy grip on power is slipping.
    2) It also seems to me that the increasing evidence that the publicly announced ‘worst-case scenarios’ regarding climate destabilization/global warming are actually turning out to have been wildly optimistic and the time scales for significant disruption are actually decades rather than centuries, would be a good topic for future posts. In particular the melting permafrost and shallow Arctic sea methane clathrates seem good candidates to produce the Black Swan event that pushes the climate into a pattern so chaotic that industrial agriculture just cannot cope with it.
    3) Is it possible that the species (ours) is sensing it’s own demise and that that existential terror is what subconsciously drives people into the 4 coping strategies you mention? (For what it’s worth, I chose Detachment and 30 years ago moved my family to a small, green island in Cascadia.)
    4) I would also love to hear any suggestions you have on dealing with the grief of losing many of our co-evolutionary species, both now and increasingly in the future. I have always been furious at the impoverished environment that my ancestors left me; clear cuts, rampant extinction, long lasting pollution, etc. and it breaks my heart that my grandchildren will be living through even worse. Though perhaps if you don’t know any better, it doesn’t matter?

  29. I hope you do not find this too out of line and of course just delete it because it is so off topic.
    I have just finished reading God Is Red (thank you so much for the recommendation).
    I wonder if you remember that Donald Trump gets a mention. I particularly noticed this because these days I am ecstatic to get to read anything with no mention of him. But there in Chapter 10 (2003 edition) is this:
    “The Judeo-Christian Deity, as a matter fact, has emotional characteristics that are quite common and can be easily identified in contemporary human beings. He has the egotism of Henry Kissinger, the stability of Donald Trump, the generosity of Edwin Meese, and the military mind of George Bush.”
    I almost fell out of my chair. Again, sorry for being off-topic but you are the only one I know who might find this of any interest.

  30. JMG, I concur except that my feeling is that your decline timeline is optimistically slow, due to a few other factors…In the US and Canada, and no doubt the rest of the world, the depletion of topsoil and freshwater aquifers is proceeding quite rapidly, and probably won’t be remedied until the next major glacial period..Also, Africa’s population is predicted to triple to 4 billion in the next few decades, yet no African country can feed itself even now…The mismatch between population and food promises a colossal encounter with reality….

  31. “…the annual cost of… disasters will move raggedly upward with each passing year, as it’s been doing for decades, loading another increasingly heavy burden on economic activity and putting more of what used to count as a normal lifestyle out of reach for more people.”

    That’s as good a description of “The Limits to Growth” as any I’ve read, though I’m sure you’re aware.

    “Orange Julius”

    Brilliant!!! I’ve been away too long if I missed that gem.

    David, by the Lake wrote:
    “To see everything around you slowly but inevitably fall apart and realize that nothing–absolutely nothing–can be done to stop it.”

    In the original reading of Pandora’s box, wasn’t hope considered the greatest curse of all? Of course, it was written during the Bronze Dark Age, so I think you’ve probably just illustrated why it could easily have been seen that way by many living through an era of terminal decline.

  32. I struggle to understand those who believe in the religion of progress. I also struggle with those who think the apocalypse is coming. Long slow decline has been my experience for most of my adult life. The roads haven’t been torn up and resurfaced for decades. The road crew just puts patches on the patches. Schools are closing. Here and there a house is boarded up. Storefronts are vacant and their “for rent” signs are dusty. In the past 5 years there have been more power outages than in the previous 25 years. For me, the long decline is tangible. I guess one’s vision of the future may depend a great deal on one’s zip code.

  33. Dear jmg

    After a lot of thought I’ve realised that there is unlikely to be any other energy sources besides the ones we already know (nuclear, solar ect) simply because there are no discrepancies in the various energy flows that power the various phenomena of our planet.

    And example of what I mean is the classic story of the scientist in the 19th century who said the earth couldn’t be billions of years old because after calculating how long it would take for the heat made from friction when the earth was made by asteroids smashing into each other the earths core would have completely cooled after a few hundred thousand years.

    It was only when we discovered nuclear materials that this energy discrepancy was explained.

  34. JMG, after I posted my question it occurred to me that in the last stages of the fossil fuel industry there will probably only a few countries with fossil fuels left, and they won’t sell fossil fuels on the free market; instead they would reserve them for strategically important purposes. So there possibly won’t be a “last oil price”.

  35. Bipeninsular,

    Check the graphs found at the following link:
    https://www.eia.gov/todayinenergy/detail.php?id=10

    You’ll find that the USA used about 25 Quadrillion BTUs in 1925, and about 100 Quadrillion BTUs in 2000. A quick check of US population shows 106MM in 1920, and 291MM in 2000, an increase of 2.75 times, while BTU usage went up fourfold.

    If we take JMG’s figure of 3% renewable, then we would get to allocate 3 quadrillion BTUs among 291MM people in 2000, probably more today, about 1 Quad per 97MM people where the rate in 1925 was about 23.5 quads per 100MM people. Compared to 1925, people using only the quads produced by solar and wind now are 23x poorer, or thereabouts.

    Doomed, in other words, is our lifestyle.

  36. Hi, and thanks as always for your reasoned point of view. It is refreshing, and I think as accurate as possible given our limited ability to know the future.

    The only thing that seems to be the wild card in our future is all that methane stored in the arctic. It seems like that it could bump up the weather weirding in a big way, if it all dumps out in the atmosphere. But you don’t think it will change the overall trajectory? I hope you are right … I don’t want it to be different this time for sure.

    Also, I had the most interesting experience recently at an Air BnB here in Vegas. The host invited me to stay for lunch and her son joined us. He is a senior in college. The host and her friend were talking about staying abreast of all the technological changes and how important it was to move with the times. The son said that things were not going to progress and that we would see some backwards movement because of the pollution and degradation of natural resources. And he did not seem particularly radical. It gives me hope that the next generation will be able to properly and responsibly manage our decline.

  37. Brian – re: history – I can’t speak for entire communities, but I was a child in the 70s and recall my parents installing a solar water heater on our roof. That thing lasted at least 30 years; it was still working when they sold the house in 2004. I never heard a peep about sustainability with regard to that device. My parents installed it for financial reasons, that it would heat water less expensively than the electric water heater we had. Mind, in WMass in winter, all it did was take some of the chill off, but every bit of savings mattered.

    JMG: some of us WERE listening, I promise! I was heading toward that path before I heard the words “peak oil” – my ex was (and is again) a pilot for American Airlines, who had just transferred to the Boston crew base on September 1, 2001, and had just landed from a trip on September 10th. I realized that my entire world had changed, though honestly I didn’t know by how much. I started canning and preserving food as my response; I was too pregnant to get a job. I think I came to understand about peak oil around 2007 or so, and took action from there. I got meat rabbits, then laying hens, then built a barn and got dairy goats, and planted fruit and nut trees all over my property. I bicycled a lot before a serious illness in 2010, but my children still bike most places. My four (now five) teenagers understand that we live in a period of decline/peak oil/global weirding, and about things like the ‘college bubble’ that’s been discussed here previously. I’m doing my best to teach them (and anyone else who’ll learn!) useful skills for the future we’re likely to have, rather than the mythical ‘permanent progress’ that the dominant narrative pretends is coming. Just wanted you to know 🙂

  38. For some reason, a couple of works by Ursula LeGuin come to mind: “The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas”, and “A Non-Euclidean View of California as a Cold Place To Be”.

  39. While it is not mainstream yet. There is growing talk that ‘The powers that be’ have been running a hidden geoenginneering scam, and that they have been artificially cooling the planet to keep business as usual running forever. The principal person exposing climate engineering is Dane Wiggington, a name which if you’re not familiar with yet, you’ll likely hear more about in the future. He had a notorious row recently with Guy McPherson, because he thinks Guy is overly optimistic about the future and that all of the aluminum, barium, and plastic nano-particulates that they are spraying into the atmosphere daily to cool the planet is going to kill all of us in short order. Guy thinks we’re all dead in 10 years, and Dane says the figure is closer to 5 years till human extinction, and Dane chides him for perverting the data to the positive.

    Dane makes an excellent and well researched statement that the powers that be are using ionosphere heaters to alter global weather patterns, and in particular they are artificially cooling the Eastern seaboard of the US to hide the fact of the catastrophic heating from the population centers for as long as possible. Dane has appeared on numerous alternative media platforms such as Lionel Nation, Greg Hunter, and others to expose overwhelming scientific evidence of weather tampering.

    While this differs from your claim that we have centuries left. I appreciate that you were right in calling out that there will be an escalation of panic about the environment in today’s essay. I’m certainly of the camp that the modification is likely necessary to prevent catastrophe, but ruining the biosphere and killing off all of the insects doesn’t appear to be a good trade off. I think the activities should be open, public and transparent and they deserve public oversight.

    Here’s Dane speaking about it if you are interested:

    https://youtu.be/kyxmrwbTKoM?t=118

  40. Great post JMG, reminds me of a lot of the work of our local (Victoria, Australia) energy descent guru David Holmgren, who also happens to be one of the co-originators of permaculture. One thing he stresses and I’m sure you will agree with is that the descent process is a change culture, with each generation most likely having to do different things to those before. Therefore when looking for personal solutions and ways to move forward we do not have to go completely back to square one straight away, and should focus on what we can do here and now.

    For example, after coming to terms with the problems we face some people try to go full blown self sufficient/off grid all at once, attempting to harness medieval skills such as black smithing and hand weaving. From the descent perspective, this is an overreaction, and what may be more relevant to our generation and particularly the next generation being born now is to learn how to solder hard drives back together, repair bicycles or fix pumps, along with the basic human skills of growing our own food and constructing our own shelter. With the amount of stuff we have laying around in industrial civilization any skills in salvage, maintenance and repair will be very useful. Future generations may have to utilize the much older skills, but it is doubtful we will have to. And as Gandalf said; ‘what weather they shall have is not ours to rule.’

  41. JMG
    Thanks for the reminder. Haven’t read ‘Muddling Toward Frugality’ in several years and was looking for something to read while waiting on ‘Providence’. (Shaun and I figured out what happened and it should be on the way.)

  42. Hi JMG,

    I’d like to know your thoughts on whether a hyper-inflationary event in the US could accelerate us into a “fast crash”, instead of the “step-ladder” crash you’ve described. I’m up near Seattle, and prices have been slowly, steadily moving up, and I’m getting the feeling that the Fed’s incessant money printing for the last 10 years is finally starting to gain traction in the “real” world.

    What I worry about, beyond the ecological collapse happening now, is how long the banking system can stay afloat in a hyper-inflationary scenario, and whether letters of credit with exporting countries could be maintained – meaning, how much “stuff” could keep coming here in that case.

    My opinion is that we only prevented an absolute implosion of the banking system, both West and East, 11 years ago because of the trillions printed out of thin air. Whether it’s a banking implosion or the dollar no longer being the world’s reserve currency, either would quickly send us into 4th world status (a lot of this country is already 3rd world). When the system gets another blow like that, printing may not save the day.

    It’s similar to what Derrick Jensen wrote long ago about ecological systems: they can sustain many blows and still look fine, but one more thing, however small, can hit that system, and overnight it can completely collapse. It was one stress too many, and what looked stable is quickly washed away. If we, the EU, Japan, hadn’t printed trillions (an absurd figure) over the last 10 years, what would the world and stock markets look like today? I think the Mad Max movies are popular because they tap into a deep premonition in our sub-conscious, that what happens there is closely approaching here.

  43. Oh, but there is a future for solar energy. It is cheap and does not require high-tech materials:

    http://www.solarfriend.co.uk/

    It is a DIY solar water heater installation, good for heating water for domestic uses. It eliminates use of fossil fuels (in this case natural gas) during the summer half of the year almost completely, and reduces it somewhat during the winter half of the year.

    The website does not state it, but by my own first approximation the contraption provides a Return on Investment of somewhere between 20 and 40 percent per year. Every year. (The website includes 11 years’ worth of the heater’s performance history). In England, a northern country not known for plentiful sunshine. Show me another investment which provides a similar perfomance with such a boring regularity… 😉

    And I suspect making a DIY roof-mounted solar water heater will be a thoroughly inventive process to anybody who never attempted a project of this scale before!

  44. RE: Boomers

    I’ve noticed with some amusement recently that Millennials are already beginning to have some feelings towards the Boomer generation, namely because Millennials are being blamed for the mess that is happening. There are too many meme’s and Mainstream Media pieces pointing the finger, saying “if the Millennials” would just do that. One of my Millennial workmates went off on a little tangent the other day and one piece I’ll never forget from it was his calling out of many problems we’re in because of the “entitled Boomer generation.” The backlash hasn’t started in full-force yet but there is some steam already building.

  45. John, et al.

    I have gotten the sense, in listening to folks talk about climate change, and even a little bit in some of these comments here, that there is a focused belief that the looming climate catastrophe is truly going to kill us all. It is a version of the apocalypse scenario we keep referring to in these discussions. Call me wildly optimistic, but I just don’t see it.

    The way I’ve tried to explain, when I do talk with people, is this. Yes, there’s a whole lot of pain coming, a good amount already baked into the cake, as it were. But life will survive. Life has survived far worse catastrophes than anything we can create. Humanity ain’t all that powerful, really. Our arrogance is truly amazing, when you step back and think about it. Life will survive. Humanity will even survive. Modern industrial society, however, will not.

    To the extent, of course, that we identify “humanity” with “modern industrial humanity,” then yes, “we” are all going to die. But something new will be born. Birth, death, rebirth.

  46. Violet, transcendence is certainly an option, and a good one, for those who are called to that work. Myself, I see all four as viable options — and after all, my novel Retrotopia is about as thoroughgoing an argument for an intelligent archaism as I could make it!

    Jeffrey, hang on tight. We’ll be spending some air time now and then but I should be able to manage a smooth landing!
    Skyrider, it’s a very common mistake of technological utopians to think that the ruling elites that benefit most from the existing order will meekly let power be extracted from their hands. Doesn’t work that way…

    David BTL, oh, that’s some distance off. It might be the abandonment of Washington DC to the rising oceans when we get the first really big meltwater pulse, but that’s only a guess. As for the pace of the crisis-and-response rhythm, I suspect it’ll be longer than a decade, and will vary quite a bit due to complex variables nobody can predict.

    Booklover, the endgame isn’t a few decades in the future. The endgame for fossil fuels is something more than a century in the future, when the last grubby, sulfur-laden tar deposits finally run out. By then petroleum will be a luxury product used only by the military, the government, and the very rich. In the meantime, I expect prices to spike, crash, level off, climb, and spike again at intervals for longer than I’ll be alive.

    RPC, of course…and then things settle down to a new, fragile stability at a lower technological and economic level. I’ll be talking about meltwater floods and marine transgressions at some length in an upcoming post.

    Dermot, dust off that film, give it a different title, and get it back out there! Now’s the time — people are starting to notice that the price of oil is creeping raggedly upward, and the idea of “degrowth” has a fair constituency in Europe these days.

    Bipeninsular, I’d have to spend some time digging to get the exact figure, but my guess is that 3% of current energy consumption would put us around 1875 rather than 1920. Still, your broader point stands. A literate, diverse, economically complex society with railroads, tall ships sailing around the globe, daily newspapers, public libraries, public schools, and representative democracy isn’t exactly a dystopia…

    Prizm, really, the best thing you can do to preach the ecosophian gospel is to make modest, sustainable changes in your own life, and demonstrate to everyone you know that it’s possible to have a good life using less energy and fewer resources. That’s where the rubber meets the road!

    Ben, there have been nuclear weapons now for just shy of 75 years. All that time, people like you have been insisting that a nuclear war can’t be avoided. Obviously there’s something wrong with their logic — and it’s not hard to show what that is. No government anywhere stands to gain anything by starting a nuclear war. That’s exactly the point: nuclear weapons are the most successful means yet devised to prevent all-out war between the great powers, by guaranteeing that both sides will lose. That’s why they haven’t been used, and why they won’t be used — and also why there hasn’t been a war between major powers since 1945. As for governments using them as an alternative to going under, er, have you by any chance heard of the Soviet Union? Do you know what happened to it? Did it use nuclear weapons before it went under? Exactly.

    Ssinkoski, that’s not a bad description of human history, you know…

    Disposium, occultists are members of the society in which they were born and raised, and have the same habits of thought as their non-occult neighbors. Unfortunately that means that some of them fall for obvious fallacies when those are popular enough.

    Steve, oh, eventually it’s quite probable that the earth’s climate will do one of its sudden shifts; those happen quite regularly, with or without carbon forcing, and our species has lived through several of them. To call the results “inhospitable,” though, is to lose track of the fact that hominids flourished quite well during the last really warm period, the Eemian. What happens in one of the Earth’s warm periods is that the efficiency of heat transfer from the equator to the poles increases, so that the equator warms slightly but the poles warm dramatically — thus during the last such period, the arctic coast of Canada had a Mediterranean climate, and crocodiles lived there. Will the consequences of such a sudden shift cause a lot of death and displacement of populations, and shatter what’s left of our current political arrangements? Sure, but that’s going to happen one way or another — and historical examples show that human beings, and indeed human communities, can weather even drastic shifts of that sort tolerably well. I’ll be discussing this in a future post; stay tuned!

    Andrew001, nicely spotted. Yes, that’s exactly the sort of incremental change we can expect.

    Casey, first, the fact that global weirding due to CO2 forcing of the climate has been used by various political groups doesn’t make it unreal, it just means that you have to get past the propaganda to see what’s actually happening. Second, about once a decade someone announces that the latest breeder reactor program is a game-changer. It makes for great PR, but once all the details come out it turns out that breeder reactors are just as overpriced and problematic as before.

    Kimberly, yep. How well did you fare?

  47. Dear JMG,

    Thank you for your response! While I can definitely see the merits of futurism and archaism, I struggle to see how detachment, without a strong infusion of either transcendence, futurism, or archaism could be viable on its own, at least in the present context. I’m curious and would like to be more broadminded; is there an example you see today that illustrates something you consider viable detachment?

  48. I agree with Phil. I am optimistic about changing our lifestyle and using renewable. Solar electric for example is not a mining operation. The cost and availability of solar exponentially grows more favorable on a sort of Moores law and benefits from the same kinds of silicon advances as has given us lower and lower cost transistors/computers. We just need to modify our lifestyles to use energy more during daylight hours……

  49. David BTL, a nice edged summary.

    Poet, (1) the Soviet Union had plenty of nukes on hand when it fell apart. Stalin and Mao both had nukes, and if you want to show me a better example of a homicidal dictator than those two, you’ve got your work cut out for you. The assumption that people will start throwing around nukes, just because somebody’s favorite apocalyptic scenario requires it, won’t hold water. (2) There’s a lot of apocalyptic rhetoric surrounding climate change, too, in case you haven’t noticed, methane is already entering the atmosphere from permafrost and shallow Arctic waters in large quantities, and it’s causing significant changes but not apocalyptic ones. The obsession with predicting “black swan” events misses one of the main points of Taleb’s book: if you can predict it, it’s not a “black swan.” (3) Those same four strategies have been used in the decline of every previous civilization — and by the way, it’s very common for people who embrace the strategy of detachment to convince themselves that the world they left is about to fall into ruin. (4) Your grandchildren will also get to see the other side of the coin — the first stirrings of the process of rapid speciation that will fill all those empty niches, as generalist animals and plants move into them and begin to evolve to fit them. Life is always about letting go of the past and welcoming the future, you know.

    Just Me, funny! That sounds like Deloria’s sense of humor.

    Pyrrhus, the population of Latin America and the Middle East was predicted to soar to appallingly high levels, too, and then the curves leveled off. I expect the same thing to happen in the case of Africa within the next few decades. Mind you, there will certainly be a lot fewer people around a century or three from now than there are today, but ordinary demographic forces will likely account for most of that, and those four guys on horses are always available to take up the slack.

    Adrynian, long time no see! Welcome back, and have a beer — or, if you’d rather, an Orange Julius. 😉

    Christopher, exactly. Exactly. I think one of the reasons why people are clinging so frantically to the paired myths of progress and apocalypse is that stagnation and decline are becoming so hard to ignore.

    J.L.Mc12, excellent! Yes, exactly.

    Michael, oog. I think I need to visit a nice clothier in the Lakeland Republic…

    Booklover, good. Yes, that’s very likely too.

    Aronblue, the methane’s already getting into the atmosphere — do you recall the news stories a while back about pools and shallow seas fizzing like soda pop? Or the craters being blasted out of Russian permafrost by methane explosions? That’s been going on for years now. You’ll notice a lack of apocalyptic consequences — though it’s certainly adding to the ice melt in the Arctic ocean and Greenland. Thank you for the story about the BnB — that’s very promising!

    Michelle, oh, I know. I hear from people who’ve done the smart thing fairly often — it’s just that there are so many who are still chasing the phantom of progress.

    Dwig, thank you; that’s high (if indirect) praise.

    Workdove, five years from now, when we’re all still quite alive, I’ll ask you what you think of that theory.

    Russell, my take is that there’s room for both approaches. It depends very much on who you are, what you want to do, and how deeply you plan on remaining integrated with an economy in decline. You’re right that the simplistic back-to-the-land approach doesn’t work well, but I know people who have done very well for themselves by relearning medieval or early modern skills. What I think we need more than anything else is dissensus — and yes, that’s the opposite of consensus; we need lots of people exploring as many alternative paths as possible, in the hope that as many good ideas will be turned up as possible.

    Janitor, you’re welcome!

    Tim W., hyperinflation can be stopped in its tracks by the simple expedient of issuing a new currency in limited amounts and defaulting on debts in the old currency. That’s happened scores of times in history. You might want to look up how Germany stopped its hyperinflation after the First World War if you want to know the details, The reason we saw all that money printing this last time around is that nobody wanted to let all those unpayable debts get revalued at their proper value of $0.00. The next time? We’ll see.

    Worker, of course! Solar thermal technology has a grand future ahead of it — not just for water heating, for a whole range of uses where modest temperatures are required. You can’t keep an industrial civilization going on that, but you can certainly provide yourself with clean dishes, clean clothing, and clean bodies — all of which are worth having.

    Prizm, oh, it’s building all right. You just have to look for it.

    David BTL, my take is that a lot of people want an apocalypse. That’s one of the oddest things about the whole business; if you point out that we’re not all going to die all at once, people get upset and start arguing with you, demanding that you give them back their beloved mass dieoff. It’s really rather eerie.

  50. Violet, Voltaire’s comment at the end of Candide is a great example; you can always just go cultivate your garden. That’s detachment, and for some people, it works well

    Marvin, sure, as long as you don’t look at the amount of nonrenewable resources and fossil fuel energy that go into those solar PV cells and installations, it looks very promising. As I noted to Phil, it’s very common about this time along the arc of decline for people to convince themselves that an unsustainable situation can be made sustainable by some gimmick or other — but it never works out that way, you know.

  51. Thanks for asking, JMG! I secretly loved the power outage. I plunked myself down on the couch and practiced my guitar by candlelight and then went to bed early in my blissfully dark and quiet house. Heaven!

    Here’s an article on HuffPo that frames Baby Boomers as a generation of sociopaths:

    https://tinyurl.com/y3mm7dca

  52. Violet – re monks. I think history shows that once large scale monasticism gets under way the effects can vary. Usually good for preserving any literature or art forms valued by the religion in question. Also has effect of removing a certain portion of population from the gene pool. Will Durant in his History of Civilization series asserted that Christian habit of celibate clergy damaged society while Jewish encouragement of marriage improved it. In areas with little civic development monasteries could provide safe hospitality for travelers, sponsor trade fairs, provide some shelter for the aged or infirm, etc. . OTOH if they got a reputation for harboring treasures they could attract raiding parties–not good for the monastery or the surrounding farms. Like most human institutions they could and did become corrupt. Once life gets easier and the local monastery becomes a place to park younger sons for which there is no land or unmarriageable daughters or general misfits the place fills up with people who don’t really want to be there. Like state colleges back when being a college student exempted men from the draft this distracts from the mission of the institution. Pretty soon the locals start to resent working hard to support fat monks and nuns with fur lined gowns and lap dogs. Read Canterbury Tales for a picture of this. On the other side of the globe Tibetan monasteries don’t seem to have done much in the way of care for their surrounding communities, being basically just another feudal landlord. I don’t think Buddhist monasteries in general had any emphasis on work and self support, as the various Western orders that followed the Benedictine rule or its variations did. The monks begged for their sustenance, which gave them humility and householders an opportunity to acquire merit. Obviously this discussion is solely of material costs and rewards and does not consider whether a society is benefited by a body of humans engaged in prayer for its benefit.

  53. I’m delighted to hear about this latest series, and look forward to reading the rest of it.

    Datapoint:

    The past few years have been interesting here in coastal BC. Housing prices skyrocketing out of reach while more and more housing gets built but brings no relief. It is looking like that is finally ending, but it hasn’t really changed in the city where I am yet. Plenty of low wage jobs, childcare is outragously priced if you can find it at all, probably because the low wages the childcare industry pays aren’t enough to cope with the housing prices.Ditto many other low-wage jobs, and while they’ve been increasing minimum wages, disability and income assistance rates they seem to be falling ever further behind housing prices. I’m relatively protected for now, since my landlady is awesome and my rent has been approximately keeping pace with the disability rates… even if I’m using way more the the amount I’m supposed to to pay for rent, and my ability to work at all went pphut last year and hasn’t come back yet.

    Life expectancy in BC went down in the most recent numbers, due mostly to fentanyl and related. The numbers of homeless have gone up, and the death rate of homeless people has gone up for several years running, the total in the past few years well into the double digits.

    Infrastructure seems to be being rebuilt or repaired at high speed. There’s lots of money around, for those that have it. So it still feels like progress is alive here for some. I’m expecting a housing crash. It is going to be very interesting to see just who has been swimming naked when the tide goes out, if likely very painful. To be honest, I’m hoping for that crash.

  54. Hi JMG. I apologize if this link has been brought up before.

    In the ‘Long Descent’ scenario, there seems to be an assumption that as things get raggedly worse, people just suck it up and, while they’re disappointed and perhaps even depressed about not having the standard of living that their parents (and then grandparents, and then ‘the ancestors’) had, they don’t seem to *do* anything about that. However, given the number of people who still haven’t connected the dots between the changes taking place in the natural world and the decline of living standards for people in industrial civilization, it certainly seems like they notice the decline and misattribute it to some other source, such as the other political party, people with different religions, or perhaps immigrants. It seems to be part of the human condition to “Otherize” some unfortunate out-group(s) in order to blame them for the decline, and from there it’s just a short jump to clearing them out of the way, taking their “lebensraum” or other resources, and thereby improving one’s living standard, and this can be done as long as there are outgroups that can be invented or created.

    This piece discusses the likelihood of a ‘fascist’ future (in the popular sense of an authoritarian, strongman-based government, heavy on surveillance and vanishingly light on human rights) as a response to the emergency of declining living standards. Do you think that we’re moving that way, and that something similar to what is described at the link will become the new normal?

    Thanks for considering.

    https://abeautifulresistance.org/site/2019/2/28/jthe-future-is-fascist

  55. marvin mots – Your analogy between PV electricity and microelectronics (“Moore’s Law”) ignores the fact that the amount of solar energy falling onto the Earth’s surface is absolutely limited and beyond our control: it’s about 1 kW per square meter. We’ve gone from 4% efficiency (1954) to 14% (1960) to 20% (1985) to 34% in 2016. Maybe we’ll get to 50% some day. Maybe we’ll get to 90% some day. But microprocessors have gone from 4 MHz to 2 GHz in clock speed (500x), disk drives have gone from 40 MB to 2 TB (50,000x) in 40 years, while solar panels were already at 20% 40 years ago and can never get to 100% (<5x). Regardless of technology, solar power is capped at 1 kW/meter-squared, and any device that costs more than [1 kW/meter x operating life-span] in energy can't turn a profit and won't be built for economic reasons. (This is a loose upper bound, selected for certainty; it's probably better to expect 300 W/meter-squared.)

    Dmitri Orlov points out that "solar panels are fine for keeping your lights on while the sun is shining, and wind turbines can power your air-conditioning while the wind is blowing."

    More helpfully, solar power can run air-conditioning and dehumidification during the day, when the sun is baking your house and the air outside is hot and humid. You could even make ice during the day, and melt it at night while a meager amount of electricity powers a fan to circulate ice-cooled air. But today, my electric utility provides approximately 1/3 of its energy from coal, nuclear, and natural gas. My rooftop panels, and those of my neighbors, amount to a fraction of 1%, so I might as well sell my excess into the grid during the day, and draw whatever I need from the grid during the night.

  56. Hey JMG,

    I am ready for another glass of Orange Julius! I respect the president for cancelling that airstrike on Iran. He actually has some backbone to go against the war party, which at this point is the entire american establishment. We probably avoided a big war, maybe avoided the “twilight’s last gleaming” scenario for now. I’m not seeing the media singing praise for this wise move, as they should. Would a different person (you know who) acted the same way if they were president? I think the outcome of the 2020 election will play a major role in our short term future.

    Regarding Baby Boomers I could say a lot. But a picture is worth a thousand words, so I’ll give you two (worth ~2000 words):

    1. “Question Authority”: http://www.bojidarmarinov.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2014/12/Question-Authority.jpg

    2. “Knock, knock”: https://pbs.twimg.com/media/BnoghEaIcAANhuW.jpg:large

    As for me, I’ve been using the L.E.S.S. formula for some years now to stay ahead of the curve. Less stuff and stimulation is definitely good for my mental and physical health. Less energy is trickier right now, I would need to change my living arrangements so I won’t need to commute as much.

    “Life is always about letting go of the past and welcoming the future, you know.”

    That sounds like a very liberal position. But one I happen to agree with. If the industrial civilization doesn’t serve people’s needs anymore then to hell with it. The same goes for the United States and any other country. Let it all burn, lets save the people instead. So something new can grow out of these ashes.

    P.S. I’d like to leave here a link to a previously unreleased version of “Time” by Freddie Mercury, recorded five years before his death, there is some simple beauty about this one, the lyrics are timeless too: “We might as well be deaf and dumb and blind, I know that sounds unkind, But it seems to me we’ve not listened to, Or spoken about it at all, The fact that time is running out for us all”.

    The link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LGjt291COa0

  57. Welll… we may end up very grateful for the salvific effects, especially upon crops, of our precious CO2 if the grand solar minimum scenario turns out to be right.

  58. One of the drawbacks to the supposed information age is how little quality information there really is out there. I’m a legal nerd and so I’ve taken the time to look through the act which created the Canadian carbon tax, and can follow some of the ins and outs of it: if I have enough free time I may just put together the summary of it that covers all the really atrocious things in there, but so far, I’ve yet to find anything online which discusses much of it….

    How’s your French? The French arm of the CBC might have something on it, but I’ve yet to see it if it’s there.

    “David BTL, my take is that a lot of people want an apocalypse. That’s one of the oddest things about the whole business; if you point out that we’re not all going to die all at once, people get upset and start arguing with you, demanding that you give them back their beloved mass dieoff. It’s really rather eerie.”

    It makes sense, in a twisted sort of way. Given how prevalent biophobia is, I think that a lot of people, at a deep, subconscious level, want a world without life. Since human beings are living things, of course we must die too. Thus why the proposed catastrophes are almost always created such that all life on Earth must die.

    As for millennial feelings towards boomers, there’s a ton of hatred from my generation towards the boomers, and well I don’t think it’s warranted, I see where it’s coming from. It’s there alright, but most of us won’t discuss things with boomers: there’s too high a chance of us being blamed for anything we try to bring up. So, this is building just below the surface, and when it reaches the breaking point, things could get really ugly….

  59. Anecdotally, The Long Descent makes perfect sense from where I’m sitting. At my day job at a tech startup, I’ve heard some bizarre things said with a straight face. Things like uploading our conscious to the cloud. Blood infusions from young people to live longer. Serious discussions about terraforming Venus. And so on. I should mention these are very smart, hard working and generally kind people who donate to charity and what not.

    Meanwhile, because of my wife’s superior frugality and business sense, we bought a rental condo a few years back. It’s one of those fading late 60s wood shingle fourplexes that no one really wants to live in anymore, but it does the job. We spruced up the inside real nice and I’ve managed it for the last 5 years. From the perspective of this post, it’s a front row seat into the decline of the working class. The typical applicant has 2-3 low paying part time jobs, shared custody of a child, a car payment they can’t afford and a string of charged off credit cards. And that’s the better applicants.

    I don’t look down on these folks. My dad wore a hard hat and I’ve had job titles such as Landscape Assistant and Janitorial Associate. I’ve been incarcerated for petty crimes and made plenty of mistakes. But sometimes I wish I could stage an intervention and say: Learn a trade! Stop buying stuff on credit! You’re a bad ass blue collar man! Start acting the part! But of course, I can’t. I just try to be the opposite of a slumlord and make sure the space is somewhere I wouldn’t mind my own kids sleeping.

    Sorry for the little novella here, but my point is I think the Tale of Two Cities is alive and well. And I feel like everyone is so glued to their screens (so many screens!) and superhero universe(s)… I just have the sense of impending doom, like… this cannot end well.

  60. re: Boomers

    I certainly miss Shane (RIP) – especially his comments (annoying, amusing, interesting frequently insightful) about Boomers; I (a boomer) made a lot of similar comments to my parents, back in the day (what goes around…).

    A pet peeve about all the Boomer bashing that’s ramping up is that I feel like the commenters should specify ELITE Boomers (the movers and shakers), having seen too many of my cohort (working class, hard-working) denied opportunities that went to the better-off because of class and/or racial bias. Even so, cheap gas and (eventual) Social Security provided the means for a more comfortable life style that what their parents had had growing up; that and cable television kept people quiet. Me – I did okay, through a twist of fate I was provided with an opportunities that I had never imagined (yes, I worked hard & was lucky, but it was nothing I was ‘entitled’ to). I do remember times though when I asked probing questions about economic growth and retirement income and i noted that continuous growth was impossible, they couldn’t shut me up fast enough (after all what would a female non-expert know?) This was back in the 1980s. Or, at the end of the nineties, when we were looking for a car (necessary in our part of the world, in part because the walkable part of town had been priced way out of reach, even for the middle class) – i got these ‘she must be crazy’ looks because i had the temerity to ask about the availability of smaller, more fuel-efficient cars. I do wish i had found other like-minded souls…

    I worry about the next generation and the next. Thankfully, my grown children are aware of declining conditions, yet are doing what they can to make a positive difference.

  61. I remember when I first started reading the ADR, I started discussing with another medic in 82nd how we would respond (individually) to social collapse scenarios while sneaking a smoke break behind our unit HQ, using the collapse of the Roman empire as a template.

    Our grizzled platoon seargant came out and reprimanded us for not doing something more productive with our time, and as he was walking back into the building, grumbled in parting “and we’re not the Romans, we’re the Vikings; stock up on all that shit if you want too, me or someone like me will thank your corpse for all the hard work”

    His historical innacuracy asside, it made me realize that for a any fit male between 18-35, everyone elses nightmare was just Western civilizations going out of business sale.

    I adopted that idea, mapped out all the shipping warehouses that wouldn’t be hit by rioters in the immediate aftermath of a disaster, and called it a day.

    Then my son was born and I’ve changed my plans. Now we live on a 1 acre property a days walk with from the nearest population center, produce 60% of our own food and are working on off grid back ups.

    I think how bad this is going to get is largely dependent on the ability of the working class to form families. The drastic change in how invested someone is in the safety of their community after having children cannot be over stated.

  62. I’ve long ago settled on taking the long view, with a big helping of detachment. I got too tired of listening to the jokes about the “peak oil fraud”, that was supposedly discredited, while waiting for the actual fraud of tight oil to burn out (yes, net energy matters).

    I’m presently bored to tears of explaining that while you can make a very nice EV, that has been true for a hundred years (and at that time they were even nicer compared to the horrid gasoline vehicles of the time), but that doesn’t mean you can make an automotive transportation system that works on EVs. There’s that problem of storing energy into some chunk of matter that you can then lug around with you (which requires a lot of time), whereas with fossil fuels that ancient solar energy is already stored in the mass. That explanation inevitably turns into a false claim that I must support fossil fuel use, followed by various forms of handwaving and rationalization. Because most people seem to see the automobile as the most important thing mankind has ever accomplished, and cannot imagine a world without it. It will go away nonetheless.

    I don’t think I’ve ever succeeded in convincing anyone that when they talk about switching to renewable energy, they’re really talking about switching from stored solar energy to the real time flows of energy. Mostly because almost no one I know, other engineers included, has any real intuition about what energy is.

    My views on peak oil have changed a lot since The Oil Drum days, and I see it now as the background crisis that will define, and drive, the collapse of this particular civilization. I’ll be living with that for the rest of this life, and probably the next few too. Whatever it is that I need to accomplish in this life or the next can be done regardless of peak oil or the ending of this industrial civilization, and my interests in deep history have shown me that humans have faced far worse. I also understand that no matter how well I might understand what is happening, I’m still a part of this world with relationships, attachments and obligations, and I won’t be able to separate myself from the fate of the wider society to any great extent.

  63. JMG,

    Another fine essay. I freely admit to the binary mode of thinking before I ran across your writings. After all, that’s what our education system teaches – right/wrong, black/white, rich/poor, all/nothing and so on. I honestly believe the computer age has contributed to this as well. At the end of the day, a computer can only count ones and zeros.

    However, while I have steered away from apocalypse and am more in the line of thinking of a Long Descent, I can’t help but notice the other influence your writings have on the topic – and that is the possibility of a more orderly decline, with cooperation among the masses in making the landing a wee bit more gentle. Paths of the future that include logical, “fair” and even sane approaches to dealing with mankind’s predicament seem to conflict pretty harshly with 5000 years of recorded history.

    I see famine and pestilence taking their fair share, but it’s the old warhorse WAR that will really tally up the numbers when it comes to thinning the herd. Not necessarily nukes, but the elites have fostered a fair amount of propaganda to keep the masses divided for their own profits, and I don’t see how that doesn’t end up translating to horrific violence. Mass migrations of desperation are the canaries in the coal mine – and the start of a dismal trend, IMHO.

    @Prizm – regarding generational battles. I recall as a kid watching an old movie with Anthony Quinn as an Eskimo, and one point he puts his mother or mother-in-law on an ice floe and pushes her out to sea, since she’s no longer able to contribute to the survival of the community. As a late Boomer, that’s how I see the rising tide of anger by the younger generations. Ten years from now I’d love to be collecting Social Security and living the high life in my Golden Years, but at this point I’m thinking I’ll be lucky to not be knocked over the head and be served up on a roasting spit for dinner.

  64. Kind Sir

    Maybe one point needs to be made more forcefully.
    Civilisation is not in decline because we are running out of energy.
    It is in decline for the same reason that my body is now starting a slow decline and in a few short decades will be a feast for some lucky worms. Some flies are already starting to look at me in a funny way.

    There is a time to be born and a time to die.
    Everything has a lifecycle.
    This is sufficient cause.

    Peak oil, climate change and even Donald Trump are not.
    The former two are not even part of the cycle.

  65. From what I can see, we’re rapidly running into peak garbage dump air space here in Oz, which is going to bite hard much sooner than peak oil. By ‘running out’ I mean the dumps for the east coast capital cities will fill in 5-10 years at current rates, with no alternatives within 3 hours rail transport. Exacerbated by no longer being able to ship ‘recyclables’ offshore.

    As JMG has observed, it seems easier to recycle bad ideas rather than come up with constructive solutions. Therefore, Councils and State Governments are all trumpeting their new generation ‘waste-to-energy’ plants which burn garbage to drive turbines, a particularly noxious, inefficient and polluting fuel source. Apparently this is ‘green power’ because of all the carbon ‘saved’ in energy production. No one talks about: the extremely toxic output of the plants (apparently it gets filtered and ‘disposed of’), the glass mountains continuing to build, the waste of organic nutrients, the waste of resource materials generally.

    A tax on packaging and/or garbage disposal, used to subsidise recycling/reuse/remanufacture seems more logical to me but I have no clue about how to get it on the agenda. The thought of having to negotiate across three levels of government due to Constitutional separation of powers is daunting – I suppose that’s the reason why politicians also have not proposed it.

  66. Hi Kimberly,

    Well, if anybody’s an expert on sociopathy, it’s a vulture capitalist… 😄

  67. Bipeninsular: I like your 3% idea, and it fits well with my optimistic view of the future. Add nuclear, hydro, geothermal and whatever else to your wind and solar 3%, and the world is looking like a pretty decent place. I think the kids will be alright.

  68. Archdruid,

    My best three guesses about the people who want the apocalypse to happen is one a deep psychological need to tell people “see, I fracking told you so.” Two, people really want a large enough portion of the population to die so that they can enjoy an abundance of resources. Three, they want a fast death because they don’t want to suffer through the reality of having less.

  69. Kimberly, you pass the test. 😉

    Pygmycory, many thanks for the data points. I wonder what it is about the west coast of North America that’s causing so many of the same problems to pile up there…

    Laureth, this is why it’s helpful to study history, and see what people actually do in times of contraction, rather than simply speculate. If you do that, you’ll find that genocides and the like are actually very rare in times of stagnation and decline. Genocides, like revolutions, happen in eras of expansion, when the expansion runs into some kind of roadblock and there’s a temporary downturn. Germany’s a great example; the German economy expanded, with modest variations from the business cycle, from the end of the Napoleonic Wars until the First World War — and then you had the postwar economic crises followed by the Great Depression. The Holocaust followed promptly. In times of sustained decline, by contrast, people turn to religion and seek new modes of social organization outside the decaying hulk of the existing order of things. Thus the future isn’t fascist, it’s Benedictine…

    Aspirant, two very funny cartoons and a lovely piece of music — many thanks for these.

    Onething, I have yet to see any evidence that we’re actually headed into a grand solar minimum. More ordinary fluctuations, sure.

    Will J, my French is good enough to do professional translations from French to English, so if you can find something on the French end of the CBC, please point me to it.

    Brian, thanks for this. I’ve seen the same thing in other contexts, so this makes perfect sense to me.

    PatriciaT, by most standards I’m also a Boomer, though on the trailing edge of the generation. I know there are some of us who didn’t sell out, and others who never got the opportunities in the first place! But it was very lonely there for a while, holding on to my ideals when everyone else in my generation was ditching theirs…

    Lucas, oh, granted. One of the standard features of the transition to a dark age is the rise of warband culture — the emergence of groups of young men who like to fight, led by charismatic leaders who are even tougher than they are. Warbands are the vultures and jackals that gather when a civilization dies and tear the corpse to pieces. If you’ve read any of the cycles of legend that came out of the last dark age — Beowulf, the Arthurian legends, the tales of Fionn mac Cumhaill, and many more — you’ll note that the heroes almost never get around to having children…

    Twilight, excellent. Simon and Garfunkel sang it a long time ago: “But a man hears what he wants to hear and disregards the rest…”

  70. Had to pinch myself reading the comments , felt like Archdruid Report 2007 redux, with all the usual tired counter arguments being proferred, and JMG patiently debunking them just as he was back then. What Druidic cycle could have triggered this return , i bet you had to gird your loins, guard your lamp and sigh ‘here we go again’ when you waded into this one JMG.

    Of course things are much worse now than they were 12 years ago, the climate has lurched toward the alarming, oil consumption has gone up from 90 million barrels a day to 100 million. One thing that has shocked me was the heroic success of the American shale fracking effort from zip to 11 million barrels a day , who’d a thunk it ? Never underestimate the tenacity and reaourcefulness of the Yanks. Of course they are using 20 million a day and the balance comes from the Middle East, Saudi and Iraq. So more terrorism and war, thank you very much.

    The Chinese dont have any oil to speak of,and are heading toward 18 million barrels a day consumption. The Indians dont have much oil. The Russians churn out 10 million a day , only use 3 or 4 (Chinas gas station). I imagine the Russians are one country that are a big chance to discover more oil under the thawing permafrost.

    The big Saudi fields like Al Ghawar have peaked, so the US need Irans 4 million a day and Iraqs 4 million a day more than ever before. The US is also militarily occupying the half of Syria that contains much of their oil as well. No oil is not going away, and when fracking does Peter out watch for some fire works then.

    https://www.mintpressnews.com/how-the-us-occupied-the-30-of-syria-containing-most-of-its-oil-water-and-gas/240601/

  71. On a somewhat related note, I’m considering compiling a comprehensive encyclopedia of alternative technologies. I was wondering if anyone would have any suggestions (other than the well known publications like Mother Earth News) for good source material.

    I’ve heard JMG mention the appropriate tech movement. I’ve searched my local library and found one copy of DS Savages “self sufficient country living” but other than that come up dry.

  72. Hi All,

    The discussion about “they’ll think of something” and “apocalypse” makes me think of the observation that my sister made. She remembers that when she was young, she really couldn’t imagine old age. Which resonated with me, because I can imagine being the same as I am now or death, but slow decrepitude just does not compute.—What will it be like to have a slowly debilitating, not immediately terminal illness?

    It is hard to feel positive or empowered when faced with a decline. Progress talks about a high tide lifting all boats, you don’t hear about boats that were lost, and any discussion about the people that miss the boat is pretty minimal (and a common rationalization seems to be they probably did something wrong or just couldn’t get with the program) so the people that follow the model can feel assured they won’t be left behind.

    But decline sounds like everyone gets pulled down, in my mind I imagine that it’s only the special, exceptionally clever people that won’t loose out massively. So I think the psychology of loss is a big part of my inability to imagine slow, small-increment, diminishment. The Shakespeare phrase “It is better to have loved and lost, than to never have loved at all” doesn’t fit for me. I would far rather not have something at all, than to have it, value it, and then loose it. As I understand it, most people are distressed and frightened by loss, When I hear, “we can’t maintain an industrial lifestyle on renewables” the idea of losing my home and my cats comes to the forefront. If all it means is that I won’t have television or wi-fi, then fine, I don’t have those anyway.

    Maybe a euphemism would be better psychologically for people like me: “The really l-o-n-g, slow, de-growth, really more of a gentle eroding with the occasional chip….😜”

    But in all seriousness, I do hope this blog and others help us get a grip on our denial and fear so we can all find better ways to talk about and think of strategies for the future.

    Sincerely,
    Candace

  73. Drhooves, I ain’t arguing. My point is not that we can prevent those four guys on horses from doing their thing; it’s that some of us, in some situations, might be able to choose a less brutal mode of descent, and make things a little easier for ourselves and others. There are plenty of examples of that over those same 5000 years, you know.

    DropBear, actually, the former two are part of the cycle. It’s absolutely standard for civilizations, as they age, to exhaust their resource base and pollute their environments. We’re doing it on a larger scale than previous examples, but it’s the same process by which the Mayans exhausted their soil fertility and caused anthropogenic drought by cutting down too many trees and decreasing evapotranspiration below a critical threshold.

    TamHob, may I suggest founding a pressure group, setting up a website, and trying to get some traction for the idea? That’s how political change happens, you know.

    Phil (if I may), if you add the other forms of renewable energy to sun and wind, you get all the way up to 8%. I’d encourage you to calculate how much energy you use in a day, and imagine what you’d have to give up to get by on 8% of that figure…

    Varun, those all seem plausible to me.

    Identitarian, yeah, I felt a very strong sense of deja vu when the usual evasions showed up promptly. Time for another good strong dose of clue syrup…

    Lucas, in my experience, if you want to find what’s left from the old appropriate tech movement, haunt the kind of big old used book stores that don’t cull their stock often, or ever. Look for the “naked hippie” section — it’s usually somewhere near the books on handicrafts. If you have the chance, pick up a copy of my book Green Wizardry — the bibliography contains a lot of books from that era.

    Candace, that’s an excellent point, and one I’ll address in a future post.

  74. @Kimberly Steele

    Here in Southern Indiana, we had a power outage for about 8 hours last week- my roommates and I (late 20s/early 30s) had a great time, lighting candles, playing cards, talking. Our neighbor (Boomer who chemically treats her tiny condo lawn), on the other hand, and to leave to eat at a restaurant just to stay sane…

  75. @Drhooves

    I wouldn’t worry too much if you have any kids or grandkids that you were kind too when raising. As a millennial that’s been firmly locked out of all the equity building assets available to elder generations, I couldn’t care less what happens to the boomers as a demographic, but MY elders will be taken care of. Especially since they make ideal childcare when I need to work “my” (landlords) land. If you don’t have any progeny, finding a young (13ish) to mentor “adopt” and invest in might be a Sounder retirement plan than any garuntee.

    Without the Boomer that mentored me and showed me how to get my juvenile record expunged, I never would have been eligible for military recruitment, and would be dead or incarcerated now. If it ever comes down to it, I’ll stack bodies for that man.

  76. @JMG

    I actually have a copy of green wizardry, but didn’t think to look in the bibliography. I remember the alternator-windmill idea perking my interest. Thanks for the tip!

  77. @Michael Lewis I assume you’re in California. The Mediterranean climate is one of the most misunderstood climates. Because of the dry summers, it’s miscategorized as a desert by those used to East Coast seasons. And therefore, it’s thought of as somewhere that can never be resilient, something like a Phoenix-lite in resilience circles, conveniently ignoring the fact that the Mediterranean basin has been inhabited for millenia. The Eternal City, anyone?

    Of course, water is a huge challenge, particularly because the population center is in the South, but I’d take that problem any day over say, heating the Midwest in the winter without cheap fossil fuel. For us, we just have to learn from our counterparts in the Mediterranean proper. Lawns and milk cows are out, hardscaping & olive trees are in.

    The bigger challenge will be car culture. California was built on cars. That’s true for all of North America but we have the additional problem that many neighborhoods snake high into dry canyons prone to wildfires, which are getting worse and worse. And all those folks can’t be easily re-located into the vestigial downtowns on the small areas of flatland that exist in coastal areas. The LA basin is the exception in that is has a lot of room, relatively speaking. Not ideal, but this gets the job done… https://la.curbed.com/2019/3/13/18264373/west-la-development-sawtelle-apartments.

  78. @ JMG are there any historical precedents for communities that developed a successful response to internal and external youth war bands? Maybe that’s how fuedal societies first established themselves?

    I understand a lot would be determined by local geopolitics and natural resource availability (my position in the adirondacks might be a completely different universe than brothers in SW new Mexico for example) but there must be some general trends that would be prudent to study

  79. John Michael Greer,

    If we accept the narrative that slow decline is inevitable and that we’re in the early innings (which I do), that still leaves the big problem: how? and… where?

    The Roman Empire is the canonical example, but for those that decamped to the Constantinople, it was mostly business as usual for another 1000 years. Those parts of Europe under Islamic rule (Cordova, Palermo) were humiliated perhaps but benefited from belonging to an economy and culture at its peak in the Middle Ages.

    East Asia in general is lacking a Dark Ages narrative. Civilization seems to wax and wane but perhaps the cultural homogenity and huge population density act as a bulwark against total loss of knowledge?

    The collapse of the Maya is a well known example, but Mesoamerica in general sense was pretty consistent in maintaining civilization for a very long time. The Olmecs, Toltecs, Mexica. It was just a continual passing of the torch until the Spanish arrived.

    My point is, are the Western European Dark Ages an anomaly or at least the less common outcome? How well does Dark Age America fit into the template?

  80. I have a few thoughts on this.

    My tendency is to think in apocalyptic terms if only because I’m a fan of post-apocalyptic literature. I’ve read A Canticle for Leibowitz twice, and Riddley Walker made a huge impression on me when I read it. However, in recent weeks I’ve come to feel that those scenarios are likely an exaggeration, and this week’s posting and some of the comments only reinforce that sense. I think it’s more likely that a gradual change of one sort or another is far more likely, and far more likely to integrate pockets of futurism, archaism, detachment and transcendence. I think that futurism and archaism are irrevocably opposed if one thinks in terms of progressivism and conservatism as exemplified in today’s America. I think that a transcendent futurism might be expressed by those (few) who believe in the rapture. I suspect that it might also be expressed by those neo-liberals who espouse what might amount to a neo-Puritan civil religion, who believe in a kind of utopia brought about by human effort. I suppose other combinations are possible. But a kind of middle ground, combining all of the above, is also possible, I think. We’ve already said last week that a spiritual path leads to a kind of detachment, though not in those words, and I think that engaged spiritual if detached people may see some value in tradition (archaism), and also some value in some modern accomplishments (and their potential continuation, so futurism). So, various combinations may be possible.

    It occurs to me that breakdown, whatever the cause, might in the end be “a good thing”, that it might be necessary for things to break down so that a future civilization can pick up the pieces and move forward in new directions that we can’t and won’t conceive because we are so fixated on progress, which is something linear. In other words, we might need a break so others can pick up and move forward in a new (progressive) but to us inconceivable (so effectively non-linear) direction.

    Uruguay also occurs to me. I didn’t know anything at all about Uruguay until the last FIFA men’s World Cup, when their performance, like that of Iceland, impressed me. I then read a little about Uruguay (I knew more about Iceland), and it seems that they’re a liberal democracy, whose energy sources are mostly renewable (hydro-electric, with some wind power as well). I don’t know how climate change will affect Uruguay. My point here is that, as we devolve from a globalized economy, some local economies (whether Uruguay or not) might succeed in doing very well. We simply can’t predict this, but it will create an interesting future.

    This leads me to my final thought for the moment. Various things that our host has said state that human beings do not, in fact, know everything, nor, in their current state, have the capacity for knowing everything. We are moving into a future that is, in fact, unknown, terra incognita. Some of us may die, or may luck out. We don’t know. As JMG has said (IIRC), and as Rudolf Steiner said many years earlier, we think in terms of abstractions. Life, however, is concrete (as Steiner also said). That, in some sense, is horrible for a modern person to contemplate, because it pushes them into dealing with their own lives, their own karma, will, and destiny. However, an unknown future forces one (forces me, at any rate) to deal with what needs dealing with, and that is, what do I need to do in this life to meet the Guardian of the Threshold, the guardian of the beyond? What else matters as much? Other than paying attention and attending to those to whom I have a responsibility, family, co-workers, neighbors, friends, nothing, really.

  81. @Rita Rippetoe

    The book ‘Farmers of Forty Centuries’ stated that it was Buddhist monasteries in China that took responsibility for road maintenance. These ‘roads’ are mainly narrow stone paved tracks just wide enough for a Chinese wheelbarrow. I’m not sure what the actual tie-in between Buddhism and road building was (there was a definite spiritual element apparently) but it was also a very valuable community service in terms of maintaining internal cohesion, stability and commerce. By comparison, the roads in mainland Western Europe were frequently impassable once the Roman roads degraded up until the industrial revolution.

  82. Regarding boomers:

    You would not *believe* the angry reaction I (millennial generation) got from my parents (boomers) when I uttered the following sentence:

    “Houses can’t be both a place to live and an investment, except for one lucky generation that makes sure its kids get neither”

  83. Hi JMG, this long view post is very welcome for me. It’s good to step back and enjoy a look at our time through the perspectives of past, future and philosophy.

    Reading through the comments, I wish your catabolic collapse theory was accepted and internalized by the majority. Then we could actually focus on the all too important details – like the impact of climate shifts or timing of regional step downs, without wading through hopium or risking being misunderstood.

    So I agree absolutely with your paradigm. There is nothing else that explains the apparently contradictory events out there (like the canadian carbon tax that another poster mentioned).

    But I have lots of questions that can easily be misinterpreted so I will ponder them a bit longer before asking, as I go through the rest of the comments.

    Thank you!

  84. @dashui – “breakeven at $40/bbl” – Ah, but what has been the oil price for Bakken?

    https://oilprice.com/oil-price-charts/block/1
    scroll down to “North Dakota”, to the right is a chart with pull downs,
    find Williston Light (the better grade), and look at 1 year.
    It was below $40/bbl from Nov 13, 2018 through Jan 29, 2019.

    While you’re at oilprice.com,
    https://oilprice.com/Energy/Energy-General/Shale-Pioneer-Fracking-is-an-Unmitigated-Disaster.html
    In 2017, the Wall Street Journal (fans of growth is ever there was) found $280 Billion in _negative_ cash flow in the “shale industry” between 2010 and 2017.

    The barons of Wall Street make their money in underwriting fees for stock and bond placements, so they don’t care if the purchasers loose money.
    Kinda like the underwriting fees they made on securitized home loans (that blew up back in ’08).

    @Caryn Banker – renewables are indeed growing, and fairly rapidly.
    But there is an awfully long way to go to get to 100%, and there are a lot of subsidies for fossil fuels:
    https://www.iea.org/newsroom/energysnapshots/estimates-for-global-fossil-fuel-consumption-subsidies.html
    (those are just monetary subsidies – never mind pollution…)

    And it is the rich(er) who benefit from them:
    https://blogs.worldbank.org/latinamerica/why-are-energy-subsidy-reforms-so-unpopular

    Though, just last month, U.S. renewables produced more electricity than coal.
    http://peakoilbarrel.com/eias-electric-power-monthly-june-2019-edition-with-data-for-april/
    And the UK just did 2 weeks without burning coal for electricity:
    https://www.theguardian.com/business/2019/may/31/great-britain-records-two-weeks-of-coal-free-electricity-generation

    But, much of that is due to substituting natural gas for coal as well as growth in renewables, though in many locations PV is much cheaper than fossil fuels, even natural gas.
    https://cleantechnica.com/2019/06/30/los-angeles-8minute-solar-announce-25-year-ppa-at-under-2-cents-per-kwh/
    https://www.lazard.com/perspective/levelized-cost-of-energy-and-levelized-cost-of-storage-2018/

    And electricity is just a part of the energy modern civilization uses:
    https://flowcharts.llnl.gov/

    += @JMG

    And apropos JMG’s comments about the clueless elites, the UK not burning coal story had this on the side: Uber co-founder spends $72M on mansion while Uber drivers are living in their cars and there’s a dramatic increase in L.A. homelessness:
    https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2019/jul/02/los-angeles-mansion-sales-homelessness-increase
    What’s really astounding for me is when I used Google satellite to view 406 Robert Ln in Beverly Hills, I find only 2 houses within a couple blocks with PV, and 3-4 with pool heating thermal arrays.
    Given how cheap solar panels are, how can these people live with themselves?

    John – I had the thought that (given the wacky carbon tax in Canada example), that California’s Zero Net Energy requirement for new homes starting in 2020 will be finessed by the Beverly Hills rich, in that they will be “remodeling” homes, not new builds, even if remodel means strip it to the foundation. Thus the peons in tract homes will be paying for net-zero, but the rich guys won’t.

  85. JMG, I had mentioned the crash of the oil industry in the mid of the 21th century because you wrote so in “The Next Ten Billion Years”. Now, it makes more sense to place the end of fossil fuels somewhat later.

    Reading the current essay, I was surprised to read about the four answers to the decline of a civilization by Toynbee, because I did study exactly these topics in the university library near me, which has the unabridged edition of Toynbee. During reading Toynbee, I thought that Trumpism and the backlash against globalization is an example of archaism. Toynbee chided the followers of archaism, futurism and detachment for their futile attempt; but every reaction to a crisis doesn’t work forever, so it is not necessarily the fault of the proponents of these solutions that they don’t prevent the fall of a civilization.

    I once read about the Crisis of the Third Century (on Wikipedia) and it seemed to me to have interesting similarities to the crises of our own time. Expressed in modern terms, the Crisis of the Third Century marked the end of globalization and the end of market economy as we know it; in the Roman Empire, it is defined as the border between Classical Antiquity and Late Antiquity.

  86. About the subject of climate weirding, I would like to point out that June this year brought record temperatures in the world, in Europe, and in Germany. It is unusual, because in Germany, heatwaves occur rather in July and August, rather not in June. Accompanying, there was a big forest fire in Southwestern Mecklenburg; one of the officials there said that he can’t remember that anything of this kind happened in Mecklenburg for a long time.

  87. I am not sure whether the comment section of your previous bogpost is closed now?
    This is my reply to your question:
    Helena, funny. Tell me this — if you were starving to death in a ditch, say, or being burned alive, those would also be “observations.” Would they matter to you? And if I stood by and said “don’t worry, you’re just boxing with your own inner demons,” would those words be of any help to you?

    Dear Mr. Greer, thank you for your question. You are thinking within a dualist-materialist paradigm.
    This essay by Prof. Richard Conn Henry titled the Universe is Mental rang a bell. When it rang I was standing at Seneca’s cliff (Ugo Bardi) and my mind was in despair over the foreseen collapse. Then this thought sailed into my mind, from where? Anyway, it went as follows: despair is sin. It was clear to me that this thought did not rise out of my habitual paradigm. Where did it come from? You are a mage, try to explain it to me.
    The notion the Universe is Mental (Dion Fortune?) triggered my imagination. Can I inhabit another world by means of another paradigm? Will another paradigm change one’s understanding of the sensations of pain when you are starving to death in a ditch? We both do not know since (very fortunately) we are not in that position. One always lives now within ones experience. Maybe an accomplished yogi could answer that question from his experience? But another paradigm may do the trick when your mind is collapsing from despair and your inner state feels like the devil on wheels. And maybe you can die with a mind at peace under awful conditions. As far as I could understand what was happening during some of the near dead experiences people went through; their inner state changed significantly in the proces of dying. Maybe despair is shadow-boxing with not-wanting the observation that is present in your mind? This is a blog, I must keep it short. We do not write long letters anymore. I combined the notion of the Universe is Mental (interesting) with the notion some climate scientist are communicating, humanity is in the proces of extinction (scaring). The weeping and grieving of despair they are exhibiting and recommending did not appeal too much to me. There is still enough life in me to do something else. And since it is way to hot to work in the garden I sit in the cave of my mind and watch the shadows of entertaining thoughts. Ancient myths, Persian mystics and quantum science suggest we are a Chimera (this notion I discovered at Ugo Bardi’s blog). What does the symbol of the Chimera represent? A no-thing, in no-time, in no-where. If you shift your paradigm from being a material body to being a Chimera why should you be a weeping and grieving Chimera if you may as well be a joyful one? Would appreciate to learn other people’s thoughts on this. I enjoy shadow-boxing together. Maybe we can cause some enjoyable new ripples in the Mental Universe. I am not discussing truth here so there is no reason to express any angry thoughts!

  88. Data points for you:
    We’ve have torrential downpours of rain here in eastern PA the past couple of years. The ground is beyond saturated. Now the damage is taking hold on homes built on hillsides in the 1950’s and 1960’s. Back then they just paved over anything they wanted and little thought was given to where the water went. In one case, they just paved over an entire creek!

    In our township driveways and roads with those large pipes underneath are eroding at a rapid rate, and some have just washed away during a downpour. The pipes/tubes are 2-3 feet in diameter and the floodwater just whisks them away like they are nothing. Last township meeting they said 30 residents were having big issues, and the paper covered one where ten feet of driveway washed away in 20 minutes due to flood water. The township last August spent $1.5M in emergency road repair due to flooding.

    Well people have been asking the township for help in replacing their driveways saying that the township was the one that installed the pipes/tubes 60 years ago. Of course no one has proof of it, and each repair would be $20k-$50k each plus since it involves water, the PA DEP has jurisdiction and multiple permits must be filed with them. Failure to file permits means fines and possible jail time for the homeowner. The township doesn’t have the money since they are spending it on emergency road repair.

    People who live in town have regular backups of the sewer water and storm water into their basements. The pipes meant to take the water away can’t handle the volume and now homeowner just know that rain=major clean up. I can’t imagine everyone is doing a good job at this cleanup and the mildew and mold growth has to be occurring quickly in these homes. The borough can’t just increase the size of the storm water pipe because it is a multi-million dollar project that again required PA DEP involvement and years of planning and permitting.

    What needs to be done is massive re-enginering of these housing developments, and no one has the time, energy or money to do it. Neighbors descend into conflict over what is the cause of the flood waters and who is responsible so it just gets ugly.

    All these homes are losing value fast. No one wants a regularly flooded house or one that needs huge repairs just to access it. I don’t think even those who are climate change believers saw this coming.

  89. @Workdove – and others leaning toward chemtrails belief….

    A good site debunking this
    http://contrailscience.com/

    ps. the whole “barium and aluminum” thing is based on atmospheric dirt collecting,
    but aluminum is the 3rd most abundant element of the earth’s crust, and barium the 14th.
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abundance_of_elements_in_Earth%27s_crust

    (barium is ahead of and several times more abundant than nickel, zinc and copper).

    @JMG – Spengler and Toynbee are on my reading list, but until then, quick question:
    Do they talk about specialization in complex societies leading to disconnection from reality and thus ineffective/wrong beliefs?
    For example, when essentially all people are farmers who literally live on their land, they can see personally that cutting down the trees on the hillside leads to soil erosion and decrease of groundwater so they’ll tend not to be so profligate.
    But when society is complex and specialized, and there are elites several layers of management removed from the land, when the head man wants the mansion warm and the baths heated, the trees get cut regardless of the opinion of the workers on the land. The caesars are concerned with politics and finance, not trifling details beneath their paygrade. And then the managers beneath them will paint the picture of the situation in a fashion that suits that level of management, to heck with the truth.

    BTW renewable electricity is at 9.3% worldwide electricity per the latest BP Statistical Review:
    https://www.bp.com/content/dam/bp/business-sites/en/global/corporate/pdfs/energy-economics/statistical-review/bp-stats-review-2019-full-report.pdf
    line chart pg 55, table pg 56.
    Or 4% of total primary energy, table pg. 9
    Better than nothing, but behind what’s needed to combat climate change, and unknown how far it can/will progress.

    BTW Caryn – one more reason you see all those wind turbines is that they pay the farmers/ranchers rent for their land – money talks. $5,000 to $8,000/year per turbine, or roughly $100/acre, essentially pure profit. Thus in Texas there is substantial wind power (in fact 1/4th of US installed wind, generating 24% of their electricity in April). And in Kansas, home of Flint Hills Resources (aka Koch Brothers), about 1/10th of US installed base.

  90. I needed this long reflective post this week. I am mentally drained from yet another round of Trump baiting the media and the dramatic outrage back at Trump. Meanwhile the alternative political party is offering things that so few want, it’s laughable.

    I feel like I’ve circled through the four alternatives you mentioned several times. While they work for a time, it always feels like a sort of bargaining. There isn’t much firm ground to stand on unless I create it and declare it.

    I keep saying that the election of Trump cause something to break in people’s brains. He severed the shared common reality of many. Granted it was a tenuous reality, but still something has completely broken. It feels like we are battling for what the new shared reality will be in this next election, and I share your assessment that the battle will be worse than 2016.

    I had the oddest experience last week. I went to a workshop last week and didn’t know any of the 225 attendees before hand. It was the largest group of unattractive people I’ve ever been around. Not ugly (I see ugly as an inside quality not an outward appearance), because when I talked with people they were very nice and we had good conversations. But their appearance on the outside was one of someone who has given up: hair not styled, cut or washed; clothes worn sloppily; body shaped from decades of sitting in sofas – wide in the backend and shoulders rounded; shuffling when walking and unable to get up stairs without major effort. Many spent the week looking down at the ground between sessions, and hung out with the same couple of people that they knew. During meals they at multiple desserts and drank multiple refills of sodas. The whole group occurred as a people that had gone through a traumatic event, and still dazed by what occurred, were having a hard time putting themselves together and food was their one reliable comfort.

    I’m so used to people trying to make themselves look more attractive to others and it was shocking being around so many people that just didn’t care to participate. “I give up” was the vibe I got, and I can’t blame them. The social media age has made it clear who is “in” and who is “out”, so if you are one of the out’s, why even try? And what is there to give one’s self to that isn’t mocked by the self-proclaimed elites and know-it-alls that traipse the halls of the online world?

    Interesting times.

  91. @Lucas

    Because of family history and the fact that I own a used bookstore, I have a collection of books from the back-to-the-land era. They are usually dumped as not worth anything, but since I know the value of them, I hoard them. I’m not willing to part with some of them, but could maybe find a way to get the information you are seeking to you.

    A really good one I have:
    Cloudburst: A Handbook of Rural Skills and Technology (1977) This one’s great because of the extensive diagrams and blueprints. It’s available online, not expensive.

    And a newer one:
    Handy Farm Devices and How to Make Them by Rolfe Cobleigh. First published in 1909, the copy I have is 1996 reprint. Also available online.

    You can reach me at info (at) redcartbooks.com and maybe I can help fill in more titles for you.

    Myriam

  92. JMG, your message is constant, and I think correctly so. Some of the comments have changed. I think several of the experiences posted here on involuntary collapse would have been shocking ten or twelve years ago.

  93. A further difficulty that poses itself during the accelerating decline of Western civilization in the next few decades is the subject of triage – current Western culture is totally unprepared to handle the question of who is getting which resources and who is left out, because the whole narrative of progress and the current Western ethics don’t have anything to say about this new and unwelcome situation. One can see this in how the chattering classes reacted to the fate of Captain Rackete, who was arrested by Italian authorities for aiding illegal immigration through emergency action towards shipwrecked refugees. It is one of many cases where actions that are on the surface noble and human can have problematical consequences like those which fuel what one could call Trumpism..

  94. According to Wikipedia the US is actually at 12% renewable, and climbing. Add in nuclear, and it doesn’t look so bad. Consider the countries and states that are nearly fossil free for electricity and see it can be done.The 100 years of oil we have sounds like more than we need to make the transition. I’m getting pretty optimistic. Will we do it? Maybe.

  95. One of the plot themes of the 21st century is going to be about expensive energy and how everyone deals with it. Energy is not going away, it’s just going to get more expensive. We had a preview of this during the 70s and it caused all sorts of changes, some of them unpleasant, a lot of them goofy, a few were OK. I suspect it’ll be the 70s on steroids and lasting much longer. The world will probably muddle through it.

    As far as climate change goes, well, you did say that nature is dynamic and responds in unpredictable ways to inputs. I would say that because of how politicized it has become, climate change is almost impossible to talk about anymore, and what you say about it is almost entirely tied to your political interests and nothing more. Because nature is dynamic and unpredictable, I won’t say much about it other than it’s – going to change.

    I’ll end with this though. So many young men, marginalized, without a place in society. No chance at a family, no chance at a job, etc. No purpose in life. Nobody advocating for their interests. Someone will take them and give them a purpose in this century. Someone will point them in a direction and say “This way”. That will be the main plot theme of the 21st century IMHO. What do they eventually decide to do?

  96. @ JMG, Will J

    Re the apocalyptic death-wish

    My take on it is that it derives from a craving for significance. The thought that our civilization, much less humanity as a whole, might be merely a transitory bubble in a frothing stream is unbearable to many. This is one reason I’ve found the discussions on Deep Time helpful and used some of that imagery in my meditation practice. I’ll admit to the emotional challenge of that work, particularly at the outset.

  97. >When they finally lose their grip on power, the generation that replaces them will reject everything they did and everything they were. It’s not a pretty sight!

    Already in certain corners of the internet, calling someone a boomer has become something of an insult.
    You Boomer!” they’ll cry. Usually tied to archaic political thinking, an inability to work computer tech properly and a finger wagging sense of entitlement. Even old music is being pointed out when it’s overly Boomer in nature. Broadcast TV is now primarily considered something only Boomers watch, especially the news, and it marks you as one if you refer to it when making political statements.

    And then there’s the whole Q phenomenon, which has also been tied to being a Boomer too. “Boomer Q-tard”, they’ll call you if you start quoting that anonymous poster.

    There were some positive aspects to the boomers though that are getting lost. Boomers were much more handy with tools than the subsequent generations, for instance. Many practical skills were not passed on. It’s going to be interesting to see how those practical skills are relearned.

  98. I suppose I should consider it a good sign that a new wave of technocornucopians and apocalypsos are showing up around these hallowed halls…

    I’ve certainly engaged personally in all 4 of your standard responses/reactions. First in detachment, when we spent our last money on land and a wall tent to live in while we built a cabin and opened up the forest around us for gardening and solar power, in order to ride out the inevitable crash. Next in futurism, reading and daydreaming at length about the ecotechnic future that we would be so much more prepared for than all the money-grubbing slackers around us.

    Third (and also first), in archaism, with an attempt to imagine and push change in the direction of yesteryear. Retrotopia is my favorite novel and I am a decided lower-tier Resto, just waiting on the rest of the party to coalesce. And lastly in transcendence, when I started a magical practice for real, and decided that I could be a good person (and hopefully a good example) living in a normal house in a normal neighborhood in a walkable downtown.

    These 4 ideologies almost strike me as 4 balancing elements in a healthy ritual…at least that’s how they’re swirling around in my head just now.

    Enjoyed it!
    Tripp out.

  99. Have you discussed Steven Pinker’s writings on this site? JMG, you wrote a very similar post as this one maybe ten? fifteen? years ago on ADR. You insisted that we should not approach the future with optimism. I disagreed with you then, as I do now. Some of us are not interested in “survival” in the world – we are only interested in wellbeing. It is the only viable orientation to living in this world. Take that as you will. But some of us are doing quite well in all respects – we are mentally, emotionally, and physically healthy, experiencing camaraderie, enjoyment, wellbeing, even wonder – doesn’t what our external circumstances are. It is the magical “secret” that you never taught, since your focus is the mantra that things “don’t get better.” Well, they actually do. They actually have. Really.

  100. I am a regular poster here, but will post this time under a neutral username, more for the benefit of search machines than of the other regular users. I think the perspective of the Long Descent is the most probable one and agrees best with my own experience over the last decades, and I don’t expect major disruptions over the next few years, but some irrational parts of myself seem to disagree a bit.

    I should say that I don’t remember ever feeling any premonitions in my life.

    Some weeks ago I set foot on US soil for the first time in years, an unavoidable trip. As the plane flew in over Chicago, I admired the lakefront and the green everywhere. Then we came to the airport, which is undergoing major construction work, and huge planes in plain white, without airline symbols, were parked in between construction sites. Suddenly, I felt a strong sense of approaching doom, as if these were preparations for war, trenches or whatever, and military planes. After landing, the huge and meticulous security apparatus, checking even transit passengers like me, didn’t really help (though I know it has been in place for years), but slowly over hours the feeling faded. I haven’t actually told anybody about this, as I felt so foolish.

    Then several weeks later I had a rather banal dream set in Germany, in a large office building. Suddenly, metal barriers were erected by people in uniform, barring circulation through all the major corridors. The pretext was some natural catastrophe, but the metal barriers had signage stamped on them which in the dream made it clear that the blockage had been prepared for weeks, and that some kind of coup was underway. Then I woke up.

    I don’t think war or a coup is imminent in either the USA or Germany. The rational explanation for my turmoil has probably to do with my close following of the strangling of Brazilian democracy at the moment. But I still feel surprised, because I have never gone through anything like either of these two experiences before.

  101. @JMG and @electricangel, thanks for the reality check, as I was still being a bit too optimistic. At least it’s not an overnight shift so there’ll be time for adaptation. And @Phil, I can only imagine the impatient eyerolls the kids will be giving us oldtimers when we grumble that these new ways of living are difficult to get used to.

    @Andrew001, oh I understand the feeling, I spent many an hour playing door games on BBSes back in the day. I think the best course long term is to try to convert some of the better games to tabletop formats. Salvaging and repairing parts can probably keep some things running for quite a while, but getting new components for a machine complex enough to run, say, DOS? That seems dicey without the backing of a relatively sophisticated industrial economy. I’m by no means an electrical engineer or anything like that, though, so take my two cents for what they’re worth.

    Also, a wave to fellow Floridian @Caryn. Welcome (back?) to the sunshine state! (Hey, Florida’s a peninsula full of peninsulas; a certain other iconic two-peninsula state, which I’m rather fond of too, doesn’t have a monopoly on that particular geologic formation.) A lot of the state shouldn’t end up under the sea any time soon. Unfortunately, the parts most at risk — the coasts as you mentioned, or anything south of Lake O — encompass both a lot of fragile ecosystems like the Everglades and a huge swath of the state’s population. There is a very, very large PDF available at https://pubs.usgs.gov/sim/3047/ that has a nice topographic map of the state.

  102. One of the unmentionable realities here in Oz regards the last round of demand destruction in 08/09 – it’s pretended that we sailed through the GFC unscathed. The truth is that the buying power of the currency was permanently devalued by 2/3rds with respect to 2000’s levels with no meaningful corresponding rise in wages. (see: http://pricedingold.com/australia/ ) The property obsessed mortgage holders were thrilled to see regular double digit growth in their (banks’) houses nominal value, while everyone else rightly grumbles about cost of living pressures.

    Every catabolic click of the ratchet hurts, a great deal. It’s no wonder society seems to be going stark raving mad.

  103. In most ways I agree – we’ll bump our way down while the money/power continues to do all it can to loot the world at everything else’s expense all the while doing what it can to maintain a regime of distracting bread and circuses.

    Perhaps where I disagree is on the apocalyptic end of the spectrum – prior civilisations were far more local and therefor the majority of the globe was entirely unaffected by their passing. Secondly those civilisations hadn’t polluted their environs in the way we have – they simply didn’t have the energy with which to do it. Outside of a major ( or minor nuclear) war a global apocalypse doesn’t seem likely – interestingly the etymologically word apocalypse is from an ancient Greek word whose literal meaning is uncovering or revelation – just what we’d need to spark that global change in consciousness that also isn’t happening. But our civilisation (what did Gandhi say when asked what he thought of western civilisation?) has been global and has despoiled our world on that scale and so I do think the descent could be far faster and the bumps far larger – for instance climate change/global warming/weirding could cause major crop failures that in a globalised food system could lead to famine on an unprecedented scale which would create a cascade of associated problems.

    Another possibility is we might see a number of nuclear power stations having Fukushima type meltdown – the GRACE satellites suggest that the rate of ice loss from Antarctica is doubling every 10 years – right now it doesn’t contribute that much to sea level rise but give it a few decades….. I think 60% of UK nuclear power stations are already considered at some risk of flooding/erosion and because we have no permanent store for our nuclear waste we store it at sea level indefinitely. Perhaps this is a forseeable problem, although I’ve no evidence anyone in power has forseen it – we’re building a new nuclear power station at HInkley Point, a site considered at risk of flooding/erosion – I think those in power think that technology is riding to the rescue so what the hell. Anyway my point is if we did get sufficient sea level rise to put those reactors at risk what other problems would we also be dealing with – that sort of sea level rise would probably have turned much of the UK’s best farmland into salt marsh if not sea and displaced millions of people on a small island that probably wasn’t big enough for them in the first place. What gets prioritised, what gets let go, what gets missed?

    For me this was the real insight of the Limits to Growth Report. That as we hit those limits we encounter problems and difficulties that alone are probably manageable but as they interact they become a single larger problem that is greater than the sum of its parts. So while I think the lessons of past civilisational decline/collapse are useful pointers to where we are, what we’ll reach for by way of solutions, how things might play out, I still think there are significant and unique differences in terms of scale and fragility between this civilisation and those earlier ones and those differences might throw up some nasty surprises.

  104. @laureth and JMG

    I took International Studies as a major (I know, I know…), and did my final research project on the link between environmental collapse and warfare. As GMG said, there wasn’t one. There is a lot of nice theory, much of it written by Thomas Homer-Dixon before he got famous, but there simply isn’t proof that it plays out that way. Much more likely the people either adapt or leave an area entirely.

    @Mesosylvania

    I’ve also noticed a geographical difference in how people deal with power outages. I grew up in small town with a power grid best described as ‘temperamental’. We took precautions, and to this day my Mom refuses to live anywhere without a wood stove hot enough to heat a few rooms (and cook eggs and coffee). Power outages didn’t bother me. In the city though, people tend to loose their minds, and completely freak out. We are so dependent on the juice here that its absence is scary.

  105. (from a public computer in a rich senior’s bubble in Florida) Enter, Stage left, Gaius Claudius Pulcher, self-renamed in plebian form as Clodius, and Big Sis and an entire forum-full of his deplorables and a sizeable set of gangsters…..

  106. @JMG, re: “Thus the future isn’t fascist, it’s Benedictine…”

    One hopes, then, that the folks who perceive the decline and get nervous about their place in it realize (sooner than later) that it’s relatively permanent, and not just a temporary dip that they can fix with a generous helping of authoritarian medicine, eh? In a few hundred years that conclusion may well be more obvious to more people, with a proportionate jump in the population of religious orders, but until then, say, in our lifetimes, the slow decline, while still the likeliest scenario, may not seem long-term or permanent to the violently optimistic motivated reasoners among us. The really long view is fascinating, of course, but the next few decades are more immediately relevant, and I’m curious how we get from here to there without the predicted fascist wave.

  107. @Candace on personal decline – Yes, I see that too. As a country boy my reaction to much of this has been to make a life where we substitute physical labor and doing things ourselves for fossil fuel energy. Trying for increased self-reliance essentially. My health is still good, but sometimes (as now) I have small injuries that make it tough to do the things I need to. My new job has slightly later ours and often I’m too tired when I get home, and motivation is lacking to change, get all dirty for an hour or so of work, then have to clean up again. I’d rather have a beer on the porch.

    Time passes, and the chicken coops I built are decaying, the dogs that protected them have passed on, and I need to work on the house with the limited time I have. The kids are moving out and/or involved in other things. I can clearly see how this will go, and as those aches and pains increase, perhaps combined with more serious issues for either my wife me, it will get tougher.

    Meanwhile my parents are now over 80 and still living at their place in the country as well. My Dad can’t operate all the equipment anymore, or climb ladders or lift things as he did. He needs to stop driving too. Their place is only 40min from mine, but that’s plenty far when I can’t keep up with my own.

    The point of this is to show how the nuclear family so beloved of American conservatives is actually a modern function of the industrial age and our fossil fuel “energy slaves”. Prior to this people lived in extended family units, or tribes, to allow for some back up and shared labor, and to permit people to care for those who were not well. Our infrastructure and our entire social arrangements built since the age of coal at least are unsuited to an age of decreased/more expensive fossil fuels, and trying to change just a part of that does not work well.

  108. “What will happen is”…. yes. We’re going downhill by degrees. The same degrees as in the old college joke… “B.S. – self-explanatory. Then M.S. – more of the same. Then PhD …. piled higher and deeper.”

  109. What a breath of fresh air… to finally find someone who views out lot the same way I do…with deep concern but acceptance of the cycle, however big or small it may be. The slow decent makes sense, but I’d really like to hear your views on the impact of food production/availability etc. Soggy fields make louse crops…and we have a lot of mouths that need feeding daily and I see huge global problems in this area that may accelerate decline significantly given hungry people will do just about anything to get food.

  110. Glad to see that you occasionally revisit the big picture, JMG. It is interesting to see over the years how our society is riding the rugged slope of the long decline.

    Regarding the predicament of fossil fuels, I was surprised to read a decent opinion piece regarding the impossibility of replacing fossil fuels with renewables within a short time period – published in one of Canada’s national newspapers! I guess the Chief Editor must have been on vacation or something to let something like this go to press: https://nationalpost.com/opinion/peter-shawn-taylor-a-rapid-transition-from-fossil-fuels-no-way-heres-why

  111. I think this feeds into the debate about unlimited immigration which neoliberals are so fond of because it makes us “diverse”. If there are no limits to growth (and this is what boomers generally believe), then why should there be any restriction on immigration? Only a racist fascist would want that!!

    It was interesting to see Merkel have 2 panic attacks on video. They pretended it was dehydration but part of me was thinking that maybe this privileged boomer who hates borders has now realised that she made a big mistake (that she can never admit to) but her body gives the game away anyway.

    And of course Mr “Build that Wall” gets reelected…

  112. The greatest difference between fossil energy and wind and solar is that fossil energy can be created on demand to match user demand. Wind and solar can be throttled back but can’t be boosted on demand reliably. Pure wind and solar systems can only deliver intermittently. Batteries to level out intermittency are expensive.
    For utilities, anything over 16% wind and solar is problematic because of the cost of batteries. The other option of course is to maintain fossil backup generators for the wind and solar, again at great expense just to pretend that you’ve gone renewable. You’re paying for belt and suspenders.
    Another option would be for utilities to go full renewable and intermittent and leave the on demand problem to the consumer. Consumer buys the batteries and inverters to level out availability. In Mexico, water delivery is on this model. Every house has a water tank on its roof. The utility runs its pump for part of the day to top off the tanks. Laundry rooms also have cisterns. Water for washing can be of lower quality than water for drinking which is sold in bottles at a cost of 75 cents usd for a 5 gallon bottle.

  113. JMG,

    You have alluded above, and from time to time in the past, to ideals that you have maintained through thick and thin, in contrast to most of your generational cohort. Could you perhaps provide a succinct and comprehensive account of what the ideals in question consist in?

  114. I think where this post’s reasoning is possibly in error is in discounting the shear magnitude of both our current human presence and consumption, both are at absolutely unprecedented levels compared with past civilizations. The evidence is piling up that we are collectively bumping up against and possibly already past several planetary tipping points. None of this was ever as significant a factor in the musings of Spengler, Toynbee, Tainter or most any other analysts of historical civilizational cycles. While I agree that our current mess incorporates many of the political elements of times past — of course they would, humans today are basically ruled by the same emotions and biological drives as our not so distant predecessors — our global industrial civilization seems to me a unique departure from anything in the past due to its shear scale and energy flow through, something I think downplayed here so as to shoehorn it into a historical narrative that fits with the “middle way” slow-motion catabolic collapse theory.

    As the typical investment prospectus boilerplate states, “past performance is no guarantee of future results”.

  115. Thank you for the retrospective, and for all that you have done these last many years. I’ve been reading you since around 2009, you have been such a helpful guide through some wild and crazy years. Your mantra – “there is no brighter future” has come to be my guide, although I confess to poking around in a few rabbit holes before I finally got my ticket for the clue bus. None of us are getting out of this descent, and the ride won’t always be enjoyable.

    Underlying that mantra there seems to be a stoical view of where we are and where we’re going. How did Toynbee see stoicism? As part and parcel of Transcendence, because it is partly a spiritual outlook at root? Or as a survival philosophy that builds once the wheels really come off? Or something else?

  116. Laureth – Thanks for the link to “The Future is Fascist”. In the last few years, I’ve come to appreciate how little I (now 60) was taught about the rise of Fascism. The short form was “The Germans were crushed by WW-1, and Fascism offered them a way to regain their dignity”. I now see a slightly longer form: excesses of capitalism and monarchy inspired communism, excesses of capitalism (including reckless banking) brought on the Great Depression, Communism offered one alternative, but the Nazi’s offered a less radical alternative (less radical, that is, if we ignore the racism). America, still having vast natural resources, could implement a third alternative (the New Deal) and assist the Communists in destroying the Fascists. … It’s not a complete theory of history, I know, but a work in progress, and the article you linked to is helpful.

  117. Casey said,

    “Nicely done,I agree with the slow decline model, though I disagree with the C02 as climate knob theory, which is not well supported by the available evidence and has been used by the ruling elites, along with gender fluidity and anti-racism, as fuel for divide and conquer politics to keep the proles squabbling.”

    Seems obvious, but no. Climate change is different. Climate Change is an exception. Yes, all the usual suspects that we have little trust in are behind this one but that’s because it’s true. Yes, (most) all the money is on the Climate Change side, and yes it is totally mainstream, and yes you can’t disagree on it and still have a career, and the news outlets that we don’t trust all promote it, but this time we should believe it. To be sure, nearly everything now is propaganda and spin with agenda, but not this time. And if you don’t believe it, we are free to analyze what your psychological blockage might be. A genuine difference of opinion isn’t possible, because Climate Change is true.

  118. Lucas – The Survivor Library project has assembled hundreds of books, free to download, describing household and industrial practices of the pre-digital age. Much of it assumes the availability of coal and cast iron, though, but there are still good ideas to be found. Casting iron might seems like a challenging project for a small community, but it’s nothing compared to a microprocessor “foundry” using extreme-ultraviolet photolithography on perfect crystals of doped silicon.

  119. Happy 4 July, Americans!

    You Brits can just sort of twist your sneaker toes in the dirt and mumble. But you get a hot dog or hamburger, too.

    The rest of you also get a hot dog or hamburger. And we have plenty—the whole darn country grills today—so you can all have seconds.

  120. @ Dermot M O Connor,

    I’m a big fan of There’s No Tomorrow! It’s been very useful for introducing my beliefs and concerns about the future to other people, in a way that doesn’t require them to visit any contentious discussion forums and doesn’t distract them with scary associations. (“You learned this from an Archdruid, did you?”) It’s also free of conspiracy language (“they don’t want you to know this!”) and psychoanalyzing of the audience (“you won’t want to face this because you’re invested in the myth of progress”) which I believe are off-putting even when true.

    I’ve linked dozens of friends and family members to TNT over the years, starting with my wife when it came time to explain why I wanted to go to the Age of Limits Conference in the woods of southern PA with a bunch of fringe figures in 2014. It hasn’t mattered that “peak oil was over” because they’re generally unaware that “scene” ever existed in the first place, and I missed out on it almost entirely myself.

    I introduce TNT in two different ways depending on the reason. For people close to me who are otherwise comfortably mainstream, I say something like, “Watch this if you want to understand some of the things I say and some of the decisions I make, because I’m acting on the belief that what it’s saying is sound and imminently important.” For people I know or meet who are observant and anxious about current trends but confused about their causes, I say, “Watch this if you want to better understand what’s going on.”

    I do usually tell people in advance to disregard the title, though, so changing it might be a good idea.
    And how hard would it be to issue a “pop up video” version presenting updated statistics in the few places that need them?

    The reactions that get back to me are distributed about as follows:

    20% “That’s all nonsense.” (Usually because some innovation not mentioned in the documentary is going to fix everything.)

    15% “I need to learn more about this.” (That percentage might seem high but I’m picking out unusual people to begin with. I refer those who respond that way to The Long Descent, Overshoot, and other books. Back in the day I would also send them to TADR.)

    5% “All that was already obvious.”

    60% “It makes sense, but I can’t really deal with it, so I’ll just hope for the best. Good luck with your thing, though.”

  121. I just came across a article relevant to this discussion. In it the author talks about that the Technosphere and it’s need for growth is what is really driving climate change. The idea being that we really aren’t in control and we think we are. This should come as no surprise to the group here as JMG has pointed out the religion of growth on a finite planet. The conclusion is that people really have to reimagine life that includes the ecology as significant as humans are. It was the first mainstream article I have come across that did’nt claim if we buy EV (Elite Vehicles) and build windmills, we can continue to have social media, iPhones and all the necessities. https://theconversation.com/climate-change-weve-created-a-civilisation-hell-bent-on-destroying-itself-im-terrified-writes-earth-scientist-113055

  122. If you want to see what decline looks like, come to my zip code in suburban St. Louis. I can point out to you the lots where the houses suffered fires or were abandoned for many years before the county finally had the money to take them down – and the lots won’t be built on again, because house prices here aren’t high enough to make it profitable to do so. I can point out the houses that have tree limbs on them from storms a year ago that are no longer habitable but won’t be torn down for years. Meanwhile they serve as attractive targets for copper thieves and other illegal activities. I can point out to you the house next door that was bought by flippers, the owners having moved because they can’t afford a private high school and don’t want to send their teenagers to the local public school, said school district having been through something like 4 superintendents in the last several years and which the state audited for questions about its accounting practices. I can point out all the house where the residents don’t mow their lawns for far longer than a richer area would let them get away with – and I am not blaming them for not mowing because there are lots of reasons that happens, but if we lived in a wealthier area the local authorities would not permit this kind of code-ignoring. I can drive you past the fire house that the fire department was forced to close a couple of years ago because they can no longer afford to operate it even after they got a tax increase passed a few years before that. I’m lucky to live on the side of the railroad tracks that the remaining firehouse is on; plenty of others aren’t so lucky. I can drive you past the two large grocery stores that closed when the major chain that owned them closed all its stores last year – and these were the stores my husband and I shopped at most often. I can point out closed businesses that were still going concerns several years ago.

    You want climate weirding? I can point that out too; the still-flooded Mississippi River is just a few miles away. A short drive across the river and I can show you fields that are still flooded and others, behind the levee, that were planted very late because of the excessive rainfall from April through June which greatl delayed planting. The Weekly Weather and Crop Bulletin, https://www.usda.gov/oce/weather/pubs/Weekly/Wwcb/index.htm, is admittedly dry reading (unless you enjoy weather and growing food as much as I do), but fascinating in the same way that an approaching train wreck is. That train wreck is the year’s harvest …

    And then there are the political shenanigans … a year ago Missouri’s then-governor agreed to resign in a deal he made with the St. Louis City prosecutor in agreement for not indicting him. Earlier this year the St. Louis County chief executive resigned after being indicted for a pay-to-play scheme.

    Sometimes events bring my husband and I to drive through wealthy areas of the county. I can’t help but admire the handsome and well-constructed houses, the well-kept lawns and beautiful flower gardens. I can understand why people living there do not take decline seriously. I don’t wish them ill will; if anything, perhaps oddly, I hope that they are happy and enjoy the beauty around them as much as I enjoy it when we drive through. I even hope they don’t have to wake up to decline, because it hasn’t been easy for me to live and I expect it will get harder. While I don’t regret the choices that brought me here, I do have days when decline hits hard at my mood level. This is one of them.

  123. Dear Rita,

    Points well taken! Of course, you’re absolutely correct that all human endeavors are susceptible to human corruption. Who was it who said “I can resist anything but temptation”? it seems also true to humans with corruption. The habit of parking well-to-do offspring in monasteries in particular strikes me as a bad idea. That said, once monasteries become a political fact they’re going to be….a political fact, and so those with political power will use them, negotiate with them, play hardball, etc.

    For these reasons I think that the way of the hermit may offer certain benefits that organized monastic life doesn’t, especially for folks who wish to offer their lives up to the divine. Then again, ideally monastic life would give structure, sustenance, and community for just this aim. The issue being is that once anything is an institution it can so easily become corrupted, and even needs to become somewhat corrupt to play politics. This to me is the fly in the ointment, but perhaps I’m needlessly cynical.

    That said, I think that simply having significant numbers of people dedicate their lives to prayer will have enormous benefits for society and, indeed, for individuals called to that sort of life. That said, it seems to me that monasteries will always be seen by those who wield political power in terms of expediency, as that is the nature of political power and hence the great conflict that Spengler points out between the Cosmic and Microcosmic — Politics and Religion respectively.

    To my mind the only solution then is to muddle on through!

  124. Hello JMG , thank you for your insightful article. In my view Global warming / weirding will cause a major climate event in the next ten years that will make the Katrina typhoon look like a local rainy day . I mean the destruction of an entire state or country . This should wake up populations and those in power and lead to real action to reduce CO2 emissions. Unless there is no way current societies can function at all without high CO2 emissions. The question is which of climate events and life without CO2 will be most painful? What do you think of my view ?

  125. @Bridge:
    Boomer is a strange way to describe Merkel. It’s not even a very fitting word in former Western Germany, where living arrangements in the 1950s were still in some ways worse than in the 1920s and 1930s , and the baby boom was handicapped by a lack of men. In former Eastern Germany, where Merkel grew up, it makes even less sense. I am always bemused by the American use of generational tags like Boomer and Millenial, because I feel the differences within a single generation are bigger than those between generations. Finally, if Merkel likes unlimited immigration, that is a late-acquired taste, since until August 2015 she showed no sign of it.

    Please note that I am not at all a fan of her, and furthermore I do certainly agree that since about 1980 every generation has had a harder time at landing a good job than the preceding one.

  126. A Happy 4th of July to all my fellow Americans.

    One of many reasons that a lot people invision an apocalyptic future is very poor journalism around climate change. Before I started reading JMG I had no idea humanity had ever went through really dramatic climate change. Sure we lived through an ice age but that took thousands of years to go away. I didn’t know that the climate change we are going to go through will be geological speaking normal. I thought it was unprecedented except for that asteroid that killed the dinosaurs. I am pretty well informed about these things but the journalism around climate change never gives these basic facts. It is fairly easy from reading regular mainstream articles on climate change to conclude we are toast and the butter already melted and flowed away.

  127. @Brian:
    People who fled from the Western Empire to Constantinople around the year 400 had 200 years reprieve. After the loss of Egyptian grain to the Saracens, the population of Constantinople fell from 500 000 to 50 000 in a few decades. No surviving chronicles were written in Greek from 634 to the 9th century. Literacy disappeared from the Balkan Peninsula outside Constantinople, Saloniki, Athens and Monembasia (imagine Sparta and Olympia losing literacy after 1400 years!). Many fled to Italy in the 7th and 8th centuries. After that, things slowly climbed up again.
    Things were similar in China and Japan: dark ages, but with a kind of safety net (JMG alluded to book printing last week). Read about the 4th and 5th centuries CE in China. Then read about the events of the year 750 in China, it’s an astonishing yarn, and things didn’t get really get together again until almost the year 1000. Compare Genji Monogatari to the Japan of the 15th century.
    So it’s not true that they didn’t have dark ages, it’s just that they were slightly less dark.

  128. @ JMG

    Thank you for another very thoughtful essay. The path may be down, but I’m glad we’re not going off a cliff.

    @ JMG, Bipennisular JB

    I thought the discussion of historical per capita energy use was interesting and found this. What I thought was interesting was how little energy use went up between 1820 and 1875, though by 1875 more coal was being used in place of other energy sources (mostly wood I think). By 1920, use was up noticeably and then shot up after WWII. I’m not sure what constitutes 3% of current use, but 1875 certainly preceded any significant uptick in energy use.

    https://ourfiniteworld.com/2012/03/12/world-energy-consumption-since-1820-in-charts/

  129. Oh JMG, I’m starting to understand why you do these “greatest hits” posts (aside from the fact that your record label wants a new album every week and you’re writing books on the side). These greatest hits posts attract the new kids who wear suspenders and have glasses (like “It’s Pat”), who want to test their latest theories and puff out their chests. These summarizing introductions help bring new kids into the fold, new kids who eventually follow you into dark deindustrial woods, where they get in shape and learn to eat wild roots, losing their suspenders and their pocket protectors in the process. May the audience ever grow!

    As for me, I’m coping the best I can. Living in an area with obscenely high rent will cut your carbon footprint like nothing else will. And yet, one thing which I think has not been emphasized here, and I think should be emphasized, but never will be emphasized (you’re not the man to do it, and no fault there), is that people tend to draw their happiness from their social lives, not their jerry-rigged deindustrial shower set-ups. So in other words, as much as one can cope with the long descent by doing weird stuff, one can maintain one’s happiness by having good friends and relationships.

    I think in my case I’m gonna do a large order of “normal” with a side-helping of Transcendence. I think this blog and the other blog compliment each other very well. I’m glad you’ve been successful enough at this that you can introduce some of your more “far out” ideas, as they are well-suited to helping us deal with the more mundane problems you discuss.

  130. Re: solar electric as an energy resource, I am NOT arguing that it is the solution to the dream of keeping a wasteful energy lifestyle with technology advancement, only that it allows a civilized life after collapse. In fact, “as long as you don’t look at the amount of nonrenewable resources and fossil fuel energy that go into those solar PV cells and installations” is wrong because the amount of energy used to make solar panels is LOW and getting LOWER every year in a kind of Moores law. Because of this, the amount of energy needed to make batteries to store the solar energy (and energy needed to transport and modify by large corporations) is much higher, and dominates the problem. An adjustment of lifestyle to avoid energy storage and use electricity only during sunlight (automatically turn off air conditioners etc during cloud cover etc) is a clear path forward of lifestyle compromise. I am doing this now. By reverting to our grandparents lifestyle, we can have tons of energy at the right time of day for a happy lifestyle at low cost. The energy required for solar panels themselves is very low and getting lower. This is a game changer that no one sees because they are trying to use solar to replace fossil fuel lifestyle, which it cannot. A life style change is needed! Why cant anyone understand that we need to make a lifestyle change and always expound conclusions based on an American lifestyle going forward? I installed an electric grid in the rainforest of Congo (Africa) last year at extremely low cost and saw gigantic improvement in lifestyle. Just not a wasteful American lifestyle. We need to abandon our boutique American expectations and open our eyes to serious opportunities.

  131. @ Sunnv, if they arent doing aerosol based geoengineering, they will be soon. If you don’t believe me just as John Brennan https://youtu.be/uIQDqxl9FtM?t=724

    I learned my lesson after snowden and assange. Its time to start giving the dale gribbles of the world the benefit of the doubt

    @ Myriam and Lathechuck many, many thanks for the leads. I’ll be following up on them shortly

    @luareth

    I think the most likely scenario isnt one big fascist wave, but a high and low tide of various wavelets. For all the polarization and rhetoric, and resurfacing of various ideologies in this country, our riots (outside of the ones directed at police) have been comparatively tame. If you go back and look at the Greeks during the height of their banking crisis (2010-12ish), they REALLY got into it. Clashes between crowds an order of magnitude (or two) more sizable and violent than any of the proud boys vs Antifa street brawls we’re currently generating and they’ve managed to settle down to something resembling normal. By the time anyone is hungry enough to elect a true fuher, I think our institution will have self destructed to the point that we just get a bunch of local and state il duce’s

  132. Work Dove & sunnnv – re: chem-trails. My first reaction is scornful disbelief… but then, I recall that hardly a day goes by without seeing contrails over my home (between Washington DC and Baltimore), and that “just plain old clouds” are a major factor in weather and climate. So, even though I don’t believe that anyone’s intentionally modifying weather (in particular, US East Coast weather), I have to admit that it’s more than likely that aircraft emissions of plain old water vapor (and CO2) are modifying the weather.

    Rumor has it that satellite weather photos may be edited to remove contrails so as not to cause confusion with actual weather phenomena. But if you search for “contrails in satellite”, you can see a gallery of satellite images with contrails, enough to persuade me that contrails ARE weather phenomena.

    As with astrology and UFO’s, there’s the “it’s all nonsense” argument, the “buy my book to learn amazing secrets” argument, and then the middle way: “there’s something going on here that we shouldn’t ignore”.

  133. Lucas, you’re most welcome. If I had to recommend one book for your appropriate-tech library, btw, it would be The Integral Urban House by Olkowski et al. It does a very good job of providing a guided tour to the basics; someone ought to get it back in print! As for successful responses to warband culture, sure. There are two that work pretty much every time. The first is feudalism — that is, getting a warband (locally produced or otherwise) to settle down and enjoy the benefits of a steady supply of food and alcohol in exchange for lots of chances to fight marauding warbands from elsewhere. The second is monasticism — that is, setting up a community that has nothing the warbands want and can provide services (for example, health care and recordkeeping) that warbands need once they settle down. That’s why your basic post-Axial Age dark age society consists of a warband with its leader, a monastery, and a lot of peasants who are relatively happy with the situation now that they don’t have to worry about being killed by raiders.

    Brian, the intensity of collapse in the European dark ages also varied considerably from place to place — everything from total collapse in post-Roman Britain to the maintenance of urban life and literacy in southern France. The difficulty, of course, is that predicting where things might be better or worse is a complete crapshoot. It depends very much on who migrates where, and that’s all but impossible to predict in advance. Since you’ve got a couple of centuries until full-blown dark age conditions arrive, though, other concerns might want to take priority for the time being.

    A Reader, that strikes me as a very senslble way to approach the uncertainties of the future.

    Tony B., yeah, I bet that set the cat among the pigeons good and proper!

    NomadicBeer, if my catabolic collapse theory was even understood by the majority — much less accepted! — a great many people in the comfortable classes would have to come to terms with the fact that they’ve flushed their children’s future down the ol’ crapperoo. Thus I expect people to do literally anything to avoid that realization. Humans gonna human… 😉

  134. Dear Mr Greer

    Great post. I wonder if you could clear up some confusion for me. I think it was Laureth who posted a link to an article titled “The Future is Fascist”. You said in response to Laureth that history indicates that genocides and revolutions are rare in times of contraction and decline and tend to occur in times of expansion when the expanding society hits a temporary downturn. However in other posts on the Arch Druid blog you have speculated that a fascist future is a possibility . I remember a post called “Strange Bright Banners” and you did another serious of posts about a scenario that could lead to the rise of a fascist dictator in America. This does seem to contradict what you were saying to Laureth.

    I wonder if you are thinking about dark ages when you were talking about times of decline and contraction. There is of course plenty of killing during a dark age, but it tends to take the form of a war band massacring a whole village in a blood rage, rather than some official who carelessly signs an order leading to thousands or millions of deaths in service of some abstract ideology. This tends to be a feature of civilisation rather than dark ages, and our civilisation still has some time to go before we reach a dark age.

    You said that genocides and revolutions occur when expanding societies hit a temporary downturn. We live in an expanding society that has now hit a downturn. Of course I realise that this downturn is permanent and been going for a while. However most people out there still think that the downturn is temporary and it seems to me that as long as people desperately cling to the myth of progress we are still in danger of a fascist future as they search for scapegoats they can blame for what has happened to them.

    When you were using the word future you might have been thinking of the next 200 to 300 years where as I am thinking to the next 20 to 30 years.

    (By the way when I use the word fascist to mean a totalitarian regime that kills thousands or millions. That regime could be run by communists, nazis or some other new fangled ism. It would also be run by religious fundamentalists. You only have not look at the fate of the cathars to see that genocide was a thing in the middle ages.)

    I will be grateful if you can clear up this confusion. I realise I may have just misunderstood what you were saying

  135. @Caryn

    You went to my hometown! I could have waved at you as you went by! Did you see the “share the love” guy out on the roadside, by chance? (he’s sort of a local celebrity). Probably loss of 1/2 the population is overestimating it a bit, but it has shrunk noticeably. We lost something like 20% of residential housing, it’s nearly impossible to find an affordable rental, so for those of us still here, it seems like everyone is camping out with friends or relatives (including us! Our house weathered the storm nicely, only to be overtaken by the rising water table months later, thanks to record rainfall and debris-choked waterways.), or living in RVs while they fight with insurance companies and try to salvage their houses. The local school system has mothballed a couple of elementary schools because enrollments are down something like 15% countywide. It’s a mess. I think we are all waiting for the official population numbers now– it is a matter of intense local speculation, how many people have actually gone.

    I don’t think the town will ever really come back to what it was. Demolitions are still underway for buildings that couldn’t be repaired. It’s weird driving by places, seeing the empty lot, and trying to remember what used to be there– like a memory glitch. So many empty lots now, and so much gone… no bowling alleys left. Only 1 out of 3 movie theaters still open (and that’s the second-run discount theater), dozens of churches still meeting in tents in the parking lot, or in school lunchrooms, already one month into this year’s hurricane season and still thousands of people with tarps on their roofs… it’s been a weird year.

  136. https://www.nationalgeographic.com/environment/freshwater/saudi-arabia-water-use/?fbclid=IwAR1r1QC1a98Djsz2WKorur6DQPeQBroRKQ-rd0zrTOJxZnn0HUUU6sSjV2A

    Interesting. Saudis have used up to 80% of that huge fossil water reservoir for totally unsustainable farming in the Arabian desert instead of using it as drinking water and having some more food imports. Whats going to happen in the future once all water is used up and oil wells go into decline? Saudi Arabia had a population of around 1,5 million in 1930, now around 19 times that.

  137. JMG
    two days late commenting, so it will sit at the bottom and maybe arise at some point. Yes, the big challenge will be the disruptions from the eratic weather. I suspect that a climate collapse of sorts is a stronger possibility than you suggest. The floods this year in the breadbasket will create ever so many economic disruptions later this year. In the Northeast, the cities up country will have very few years of economic stability as infrastructure degrades at a pace no one is prepared for. Sea level rise will be a ways off to force mass exodus, but the flooding, chaotic growing seasons and failing infrastructure will create a dire situation for our overly complex techno system sooner than I suspected even two years ago.

    Obviously for your thesis, the collapse of the complex “system” is the harbinger of a new dark age, but you seem to project that over a multi hundred year frame. Massive climate collapse and random events may hasten things faster than you project. We shall see.

  138. Lathechuck, you and others keep making the fallacious argument that renewable energies have to be swapped out with fossil energy as a baseline of comparison.

    “LIFESTYLE CHANGE!” OK?

    If you roll up your sleeves and do the work like I have, you will discover that alternate energy can be used at less than 10 fold the respective level (amount in kwh), with small lifestyle changes. I do not have time and space to argue back and forth about details in these internet chit chats, particularly when people refuse to abandon the American Lifestyle Intoxication. After I build out a couple tinyhouses with self sufficient energy (but which require LIFESTYLE CHANGES!!! get it?) I will write a book that both explains in detail and provides tools for others. Meanwhile, I am making prototypes on my small island in the Pacific and will continue to build energy harvesting and use grids in 3rd world countries, where the people are not intoxicated with the crazy, poisonous American Lifestyle.

    LIFESTYLE CHANGES: examples: boil water in the afternoon, use a thermos for night time. Cook with a crock pot, heat water for showers in electric heater, for use during days of no sunshine, no clotheswashing at night. Energy for night limited to computers, internet, TV and lights. Using non-commercial, low cost circuits with extra low cost panels, I can make hot coffee and cook pancakes, run small air con when it is overcast out or even raining. (but have to limit other appliances). The silicon manufacturing technology (production of silicon and later steps) is highly advanced and the energy needed to build solar panels is MUCH less than the energy for batteries, interaction with multinational corporations, banks, grid regulation, equipment for DC-AC-DC conversions and the like. Examine the EROI papers on this subject and you will see how most energy needed for solar is due to banking/corporations, complex equipment that doesnt last long, as well as our need to emulate the crazy non-patient American lifestyle.

  139. @ alliemims – your proposed story brought something to mind: LED (light-emitting-diode) lamps/lighting are super-efficient and long-lasting. So what happens as the price of these things drop? A lot more lights are used! Not a simple replacement with a equivalent amount of brightness. No. That would be too sensible. Just use more & more & more. (And then there are the issues off light pollution, mining/ manufacturing/ disposal pollution, resource depletion, adverse health effects, etc.). So, as far as “they think of something” goes, I hope they don’t.

  140. Sunnnv, yep. That’s a great example of the ways that climate change — a real problem, please note — is being hijacked for the benefit of the well-to-do.

    Booklover, Toynbee’s dismissal of three of the four responses has always struck me as simplistic. (Toynbee is great on details but, to my mind, weak when it comes to what to do about them.) Futurism, archaism, and detachment are all viable options for at least some people in at least some situations. As for European temperatures, yes, I’ve been reading about that — “way off the scale” strikes me as a good summary. Meanwhile Colorado is getting snowed on…

    Info, there are these things called board games and card games. 😉 I encourage you to give them a try — they’re enormous fun, at least as much fun as video games, and you play them with other people, too. (Of course tabletop RPGs such as Dungeons & Dragons or, ahem, the forthcoming game Weird of Hali, and tabletop wargames are also enormous fun, and you don’t need to use a single watt of electricity to play them…)

    Helena, too funny. A materialist-dualist paradigm? That will come as quite a surprise to those who’ve read the couple of dozen books I’ve written on spiritual philosophy and practice. Au contraire, the the fact that the universe of our experience is a mental phenomenon — the Principle of Mentalism, as the Kybalion puts it — doesn’t mean that you get to decide all by yourself what kind of experiences the mind of the universe is going to manifest for you. I’d encourage you to talk to one of the tens of thousands of people who tried to use the Law of Attraction to get rich in the real estate market in 2005-2008, and went broke as a result; alternatively, you might consider studying the other six laws of the Kybalion — especially the Principles of Rhythm and of Cause and Effect — to get a clearer sense of the powers and limitations of Mind.

    Denys, many thanks for this. That’s exactly the sort of thing I was talking about in the post: not the end of the world, but a really costly mess driven by climate change, which will end up pushing one region over the edge into 19th century conditions.

    Sunnnv, no, but Giambattista Vico — the grand old man of cyclic history, who wrote in the early 18th century — was on top of that. He argued that every society starts out with purely concrete thinking, passes through its period of greatest success and achievement when it hits the midpoint between concrete and abstract thought, and then comes apart when it goes zooming off into abstraction to the point of madness. In his typology, every society begins with the barbarism of sensation and ends in the barbarism of reflection. Look at the media these days if you want a fine example of the latter!

    Denys, that’s utterly fascinating. What was the class and cultural background of the attendees?

    Matthias, yeah, I think you’re quite correct.

    Booklover, there was a lot of talk about triage back in the 1970s — one of many things that got deep-sixed when it became fashionable to insist that limits to growth don’t exist. We’ll be talking about it again as reality gets a word in edgewise.

    Phil, that 12% is the case because so much manufacturing, which is very carbon-intensive, has been offshored to other countries. Still, if whistling past the graveyard makes you feel better, by all means carry on.

    Owen, I ain’t arguing. Why do you think I’ve done my best to make room for young men and their interests on my blogs?

    David BTL, I think that may well be part of it.

    Owen, I didn’t realize the disinformatsia around “Q” was mostly a Boomer phenomenon! Fascinating.

    Tripp, hmm! Not something I’d thought of, but you’re quite right. That could make a very solid meditative theme. What will your detachment separate you from? What will your transcendence seek out? What goal not yet achieved will your futurism seek to make real? What thing of value from the past will your archaism embrace and revive?

    Y. Chireau, Stephen Pinker ranks right up there with Bjorn Lomborg of Skeptical Environmentalist fame as a past master of the art of falsification through cherrypicking. Both are typical figures of this phase of the historical process, too; it’s always standard for the comfortable classes and their tame intellectuals to say, “Everything’s fine for us, I don’t understand why the rest of you are so upset!” Get outside the bubble and you’ll find that for most people in the industrial world, things are not fine.

    Somnia, thanks for the data points!

    Synthase, excellent! A lot of people miss shifts like that.

    Bruce, one of the things I find fascinating is the way that people so often get one implication of our advanced technologies and miss the other. Either they recognize that our technologies cause gargantuan problems but miss the fact that they also give us remarkable capacities for dealing with those problems, or they get the scale of our capacities and miss the scale of our problems. Factor them both in and they cancel each other out. Our problems and our capacities for dealing with them are sized for one another, the same way that the problems and capacities faced by Rome, or Babylon, or Sumeria were sized to one another; that’s why we face the same kind of Long Descent they faced.

    Andrew001, thanks for this.

    Patricia, yep. As Charles Fort said, it steam-engines when it comes steam-engine time, and when it’s time for Caesarism, the contenders and triumvirs and overinflated egos start heading for the Forum Romanum!

    Laureth, I’ve spent quite a bit of time in flyover country here in the US, the region at which liberals like to point when insisting that a new fascism is in the offing. In my repeated experience, there’s less scapegoating, less bigotry, and less of each of the other driving forces of authoritarian autocracy there than you’ll find in hip neighborhoods in Portland or Boston. In the poor neighborhoods of the decaying industrial town south of the Mason-Dixon line where I used to live, you’d go out on a summer evening and the people sitting on the porches, sipping beers, were never all of the same race or skin color. It was the rich neighborhoods where a black person couldn’t go without getting hassled — and it was those rich neighborhoods that filled up with Hillary signs in the 2016 election, by the way, while the poor mixed-race neighborhoods were full of Trump signs. There was a real chance that things could have gone down a fascist detour here in the US, but we dodged that bullet the same way we did in 1932, by electing a charismatic populist instead. If things go the usual way, we have another 70 or 80 years before things get crunchy enough to raise the same risk again.

    Patricia M, funny! I may repeat that; if I do, I’ll give full credit.

    Booklover, thanks for this.

    Ian, do you remember the food crisis of 2008-9? There will be more of those. Food prices in the industrial world will ratchet slowly upwards; starvation in the nonindustrial world will become more common; that will add additional downward pressure on birth rates and population growth, and make the risk of pandemics higher, since starving people are much more vulnerable to pathogens. It’s an ugly picture, but a familar one.

    Ron M, good heavens. I wonder how that slipped through?

    Bridge, I figured the whole point of permitting mass illegal immigration is to drive down wages to starvation levels so that the comfortable classes can keep their own cost of living down. The rhetoric, to my mind, is just rhetoric.

    Loboyjuanita, hmm! I wasn’t aware of that detail of Mexican water systems; thank you. It seems much more sensible than the way we do things up here in Gringostan. An approach to electricity along the same lines could work; alternatively, people can get in the habit of using electricity during the hours when it’s available, and not worrying about it the rest of the time.

    Nestorian, so you can flog a dead horse into paste by insisting that they’ve got to be objectively true or they can’t exist at all? Thanks, but I’ll pass; the habit of insisting that a spectrum can only consist of its two extreme ends is boring at the best of times, and of course it’s also bad logic.

    Jeff W., please see my comment to Bruce above. The scale of our impact is larger than previous civilizations, but it’s precisely as much larger as the scale of our capacities for problem-solving, so the two cancel each other out. The proof of this is the simple fact that all those supposedly imminent gargantuan catastrophes never get around to happening — just like the supposedly imminent gargantuan breakthroughs — while the ordinary process of decline and fall unfolds at its ordinary pace.

    Mark D, Toynbee saw Stoicism as a form of Detachment, and hated it. Me, I think he was jealous.

    Your Kittenship, and a happy cheezburger to you too!

    Jamie, thanks for this!

    SLClaire, it can be a rough row to hoe, no question. Just remember that the benefits the well-to-do have now will be more than paid for by the steep slope they’ll be sledding down in the future, while those who’ve collapsed ahead of the rush will have already found their feet.

    Tony, people have been longing for something like that for decades, you know. I don’t recommend betting on it. Au contraire, it’s the little shifts discussed further up this comment thread — the torrential rains flooding basements, the fields that can’t be planted, the slow rise of sea level — that’s the real story; waiting for a cataclysm means that you miss out on what’s actually going down.

    Will O, a good point!

    Ryan S, thank you for this! Yes, it’s interesting that during an era of massive industrialization, energy consumption barely went up — a reminder that there are ways to have a relatively advanced society without plundering the ecosystem…

    Merle, and that’s an excellent point, Industrial society in many ways is an attempt to make absurd extravagance replace a decent human life; it didn’t work too well, and those who downscale deliberately in advance of the rush can wave bon voyage to most of it.

    Marvin, okay, then we’re talking a similar language. I don’t think that photoelectric cells will be viable in the absence of fossil fuels — have you looked into the amount of solvents and other toxic petrochemicals that go into manufacturing PV cells? — but as I noted many years back in my book The Ecotechnic Future, there are other renewable technologies much better suited to a postpetroleum world, including local-scale windpower, micro-hydro, and a wide range of solar thermal technologies. We have some very rough sledding to go through before we get there, but if enough people can work on preserving renewable energy technologies through the dark age ahead, the societies that emerge on the other side can have a good chance at a much healthier relationship with the biosphere than we’ve had.

    Jasmine, it’s quite simple: we dodged that bullet. If things had gone otherwise, a great many Americans might have turned toward authoritarian ideologles as an alternative to a failed status quo, along the lines of my earlier writings. We got lucky, though, and enough of then turned to a crass but charismatic populist instead. The failed neoliberal system that might have turned into Weimar America is coming unglued around us, and we’ve got seven or eight decades to go before we run that particular risk again.

    Diz, and I’ll watch them with delight. A happy Fourth to all!

  141. @jmg Thanks for your reply … Clearly I need to get off collapse reddit … it’s become total doom porn and I don’t need it in my brain.

  142. Simo, what’s going to happen? Armed mass migrations. The Third World War, the battle lines of which are forming across Eurasia as I write this, will pit jihadi Muslim armies motivated by ecological collapse against basically everyone else. That’s why Israel is sending military aid to the Philippines, why Russia and India are cozying up, and why China is treating control of its western territories as the linchpin of its geopolitical position, and so on. What do they all have in common? Ongoing problems with jihadi terrorism and militancy. I’m very glad to be on the other side of the planet…

    Dan, we shall indeed see. I expect quite a bit in the way of local and regional disruptions from the destabilized climate, as I’ve tried to suggest in this post and elsewhere, but I expect the basic resilience of the major industrial nations to cope with those — badly, but well enough to maintain social cohesion and political and economic functionality.

  143. @Matthias To me Merkel is a boomer – she was born in 1954. Despite the lack of men, babies were still born in that era including her and there was the post war German economic miracle – in the West, at any rate which she later benefitted from.

    She certainly made up for her initial lack of enthuasiasm for mass immigration. In a documentary I watched it said she dislikes borders due to having to live behind the Iron curtain growing up.

    She also has no kids. As Taleb would say, no skin in the game.

  144. Dear Marvin Mots, to answer your question,

    Why cant anyone understand that we need to make a lifestyle change

    because their incomes and social importance depend upon the present day wasteful arrangements.

    One major political party and faction has an ingrained fixed idea, a monumental piece of invincible ignorance, that no one who is “in business” should ever have to loose money. Ever. For any reason at all. That is why Trump’s successive bankruptcies didn’t diminish their respect for him. He kept the loot, that makes him a winner. The other side is infested, like termites in an old house, with shallow, privileged office fauna who ain’t about to give up their perks and privileges, though the heavens fall. This bunch would happily collaborate with Tamerlane if offered position and privilege. Those reports of mass executions and skulls piled at the gates of the city–fake news, didn’t happen, greatly exaggerated rumors of atrocities.

    Furthermore, anyone who does live with less, or in any visible way detach from consumer society, can expect to be subjected to harassment and social pressure from both sides. Dirty hippie. Putting immigrants out of work. etc. etc.

    Dear whomever it was who mentioned neocon promotion of immigration, these sociopaths don’t give a blank blank about “diversity”. What they are about is importing their own private armies.

  145. JMG,
    I’m about two-thirds of the way through ‘Muddling Toward Frugality’. With a very few edits, it could have been written in 2008 or 2018 instead of 1978. Not much has changed – problems are just more so and people actually trying to do something about them probably fewer.
    Heck I’m still doing about the same work as I was then – and for more or less the same outfit (FRA and AAR with a spot here and there for a real RR). Not a great ride for this Boomer but an overall enjoyable passage.

    John – NJ0C

  146. TamHob–thanks for the info on Chinese monasteries maintaining roads. Makes sense that many would be narrow, as most parts of China could not afford to maintain horses or oxen to pull wagons.

    Those who would like a fictional view of the working of a large Christian monastery in the 12th century may enjoy the Brother Cadfael mysteries by Ellis Peters. I would note, however, that in my opinion the protagonist does not think or behave like an actual medieval man. Of course that is a problem in all historical novels–readers would be repelled at many things that would seem absolutely normal to an actual historical personage. Just as readers from other eras would be repelled by some our our thoughts and actions.

  147. @Bridge
    Re: Generational terminology

    I think we need to understand generational terminology a bit better. The terms used in the US are specific to the US: GI Generation (Greatest Generation), Silent, Boom, Gen X, Millennial (Generation Y), Generation Z, the upcoming Generation ? (Michael speculates on the name this one will be given in retrospect).

    The key thing is that the four generational archetypes cycle in every region on a very roughly 80 year period, but they are not synchronized between countries and regions. So do the four historical periods, and they don’t synchronize either.

    Ms. Merkel is not a member of the Boomer generation. That generation is specific to the United States, not to Germany. There is a German equivalent to the Idealist/Prophet archetype that the Boomers exemplify, but I have no idea what it’s called, nor do I have a good idea of what it’s like or what it stands for (and against). Whatever it is, it will be specific to the German experience, not the Anglo-American experience, and will be in reaction to the society that West Germany built after WW II. Unless I’ve got the timing wrong, she is a member of that generation, and has the usual pig-headed “I’m right and everyone else is wrong” attitude typical of idealists and prophets.

    Generational analysis is not “everyone makes it up as we go along.” There is a fair body of knowledge already accumulated as to how it works.

  148. @JMG I didn’t think of the monastic option. That’s a good point. Even if its no guarantee, (lindisfarne comes to mind) It probably has a lower mortality rate than the alternative. Although,I doubt I could inspire the required celibacy (In myself or others)

    If I ever get around to owning the expanse of pastured acreage surrounding my house ( fingers crossed that the next crisis hits property harder than food prices) I could build a handful cabins on the back stretch and lease them out for pennies to some old army buddies that have accidentally formed families and are having a hard time providing the necessities. That could lay the groundwork for something that could fend off whatever kind of warband culture that eventually rolls through – assuming we can pass it down to following generations intact.

  149. out of curiosity, is there any structural reason that the two approaches tend to be mutually exclusive? aside from the rare Charlemagne or Lui Bei the earliest fighters in a crisis seem to have no regard for preserving the valuable knowledge of the past. In fact a good deal of them seem to make burning the libraries somewhat of a past time.

    Is that up to the individual personality of whatever knuckledragger like myself steps out of chaos, or is there some kind of positive feedback loop that has to burn itself out?

  150. Hey, maybe all the perspiring writers here should have a first-draft contest. Like an ugly dog contest—the ugliest one wins. 😊

  151. Simon and Garfunkel sang it a long time ago: “But a man hears what he wants to hear and disregards the rest…”

    Indeed; The Boxer – one of my favorite songs on one of my favorite albums!

  152. Dear JMG,

    I did not ask with any ulterior motives, but simply out of a genuine and sympathetic interest. However, I understand why you are suspicious.

  153. @ Lathechuck & sunnnv Why guess or deny serious science? I doubt either of you or the denier you sited could last out a single hour of serious debate with Dane Wiggington. They are spraying us like rats, and expecting that the public will be so blinded by incredulity that they’ll never look at the evidence.

    The evidence is the only argument for climate engineering and solar radiation management. Debate the science not the narrative. https://www.geoengineeringwatch.org/

  154. Aron, r/collapse is useful in small doses. Too much of it, yeah, you can end up caught in a “we’re all gonna diieeeeeee!!! spiral.

    Janitor, I still consider it the best book written about what to do; the mere fact that so few people want to hear it doesn’t lessen the value of its message. (Marvin Mots, are you familiar with Muddling Toward Frugality? If not, it might be right up your alley.)

    Lucas, might be worth trying. With any luck, we won’t get deep into warband culture here in the US in this century, but it’s anyone’s guess. As for structural reasons for the difference, no, and in fact there are East Asian examples of monasteries that ended up fielding the toughest warbands in the region, so it’s possible to fuse the two.

    Your Kittenship, that would be a grueling experience for the poor judges!

    Twilight, yep — a fine song by a fine pair of musicians.

    Nestorian, thank you and so noted.

  155. @ Lucas T Jumper re aerosol based geoengineering

    If you’re the Lucas with a copy of _Green Wizardry_, you might want to go read it again, specifically the intro sections on matter and energy.

    Yes, aerosol based geoengineering has been PROPOSED, but the claims of the chemtrailers are that it is being done _now_, with essentially every big high-flying aircraft.

    Do the math.
    Think about how much fuel is being used by aircraft. Later Boeing 737 capacity is 6,853 US gal (25,941 liters). That’s 916 cubic feet, or 25 cubic meters, or a cube 9′ 8.5″ a side. That’s a lot of space, get out a tape measure and visualize that. The tanks fill most of the wings including the center section through the lower fuselage. That 6,853 US gal is going to weigh (at 6.8 #/gal) 46,600 pounds, or 21 (metric) tonnes out of a 80 tonne max takeoff weight.

    What’s the observation of condensation trails (contrails), aerial or on the ground in cold/humid enough weather? It is that combustion of hydrocarbon fuels creates water vapor and nucleation particles (soot, ash, sulfate aerosols), and in combination with the water vapor in the ambient air, the water vapor condenses/freezes on the nucleation particles and hangs around for a while due to high enough humidity/low enough temperatures.

    What’s the conjecture of the chemtrailers? That chemical sprays are sprayed out and form aerosol trails that gradually disperse.
    The logical conclusion is: the postulated chemtrails don’t get any help from existing atmospheric moisture (or oxygen in the air to create moisture), but must supply ALL of the material.

    So, if contrails under appropriate conditions are real, and one proposes to fake them,
    then one needs _approximately as much_ liquid in _volume and mass_ as the fuel making real contrails.

    Where is that chemtrail fluid stored in the aircraft? You need at least as much volume as the wings and center tank. And you need to manage weight and balance while it it sprayed.
    Is there not one Assange/Snowden/Manning/… among the hundreds of thousands of people all over the world with access to these aircraft to provide _verifiable_ evidence?
    Who does it and how it is pumped aboard the thousands of aircraft in full view of millions of people around the world?

    The US supplies 1.8 Million bbls/day of jet fuel, 75.6 million gals/day, 10.1 million cubic feet/day. The fuel infrastructure at airports of any size is obvious. How does a similarly huge volume of chemtrail agent make it to the airport? Where are the pipelines/tanks/trucks/barges delivering the purported chemtrail stuff?
    Who’s paying for the extra fuel to heft it into flight?

    If the chemtrailers are so sure, let them do some spectroscopy.
    http://www.cpubbq.com/2014/12/getting-straight-to-truth-of-chemtrails.html
    (no takers on this challenge, but wow! – the comment that some guy said “the Govt [has] molecules smaller than atoms”. So completely wrong.)
    Hey, some guy got $55,492 for his $10 potato salad kickstarter, why can’t chemtrailers do a spectroscopy kickstarter?
    https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/324283889/potato-salad/description

    NASA samples contrails, why not the chemtrailers?
    https://climate.nasa.gov/news/2601/nasa-test-jet-biofuel-may-reduce-climate-warming-clouds/
    Does no rich guy have any money left from buying (multiple) multiple-10’s-of-millions-of-dollars mansions to equip their private jet with air sampling to trail behind alleged chemtrail planes?

    Believing in chemtrails is as wrong as believing anthropogenic climate change is a Chinese conspiracy to dup the West into enacting economically suicidal laws.

    (Conspiracy) talk is the cheapest drug there is.

    I think “David, by the lake” is onto something with the quest for significance.
    cf. Frankl’s “Man’s Search for Meaning” and Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.
    If one cannot find something effective to generate meaning/significance in one’s life,
    then apocalyptic thought/grandiosity may seem appealing.
    Especially in light of the massive innumeracy and technical ignorance of vast numbers of people in the modern world.

  156. Surviving The Apocalypse in the Suburbs by Wendy Brown is a fantastic book that goes into the nitty gritty details of pragmatic collapse-before-the-rush strategy. I have taken much of the advice in her book to heart, for instance I planted a pear tree two years ago and raspberry bushes this year, plus milkweeds to be transplanted (during the planting moon, thanks JMG’s Encyclopedia of Natural Magic!) for the beloved pollinators. Brown has skills both in homesteading and conveying her knowledge so it can be used by the unskilled layperson. Furthermore, I believe Wendy Brown is almost old enough to be a Boomer!

  157. Speaking of people fleeing a mess I am reminded of some members of my husband’s family (his father’s cousin and family) who fled the Russians from Lithuania to Germany at the end of WWII. A horrifying story of hardship but all behaved fairly well personally. The 2 daughters had dementia at the end of their lives and I wonder if a combination of starvation and terror as young teenagers contributed to this.

  158. @Lucas T Jumper

    Reasons for library burning – I think libraries are big, vulnerable targets historically owned and run by mainstream elites. They are both symbols of elitism and help to propagate the ideologies and intellectual and cultural capital of the elites. The warbands that form towards the end of a civilisation, from the internal and external marginalised populations, are partly about looting physical resources but many also seem to have been very explicitly intent on destroying the hated corrupt elites and their culture. Therefore burning the libraries, the tax records, the land title records etc are all ways of both symbolically and actually destroying the elites.

    Theoretically, a smart forward thinking warband leader with ambitions of feudal kingship would loot all of the useful stuff before lighting the bonfires. However, I think there is always a massive disconnect between the aims and values of warband cultures and the aims and values of a civilisation’s elites. Therefore, the warbands often see the libraries as full of nothing but evil, corrupt, decadence with nothing of value to save and that need to be ‘cleansed’ in order to avoid corrupting their occupying culture.

    I note JMG’s recommendations about libraries always emphasise unobtrusiveness and ways of making them useful to and thus valued by ordinary people. I guess this makes them less likely to be a target of an internal mob and locals are more likely to risk their lives to save them from external raiders ala the Timbuktu manuscripts.

  159. And the winner of Most Vicious Draft is—the Archdruid! Who will come down from on top of the refrigerator to accept his award just as soon as we can prod the snarling draft back into its cage.

  160. My 26-year-old son is currently living and working in Silicon Valley– He found out pretty quickly that $1700.00 a month for a bedroom and shared bath was not going to get his student loans paid off. So like many of his peers, he has been living in an RV. His workplace is, fortunately, open 24/7 and allows him to park his RV in their lot, and use their showers and kitchen facilities. He is doing better than many of his peers, but is finding out by experience that, even though he makes twice what I do, it is very possible to be employed full-time and homeless.

    His goal is to become debt free in 2 years, then move somewhere else, build a house of some sort, and live mostly off the land with maybe part-time contracting and barter. His thinking is way out of the box and I hope things hold together long enough for him to get into a more stable situation.

    I expect to see more and more of this type of non-participation in tax-revenue-generating activities. It will be interesting to see the response of government

  161. @Simo and @JMG’s response

    Anyone here who has played the board game Risk knows you never get into a land war in Asia…..

  162. Great article John. One of the key impacts that’s starting to become obvious is the effect of extreme weather on food production. In France last month, a 12 minute extreme hail storm destroyed billions of euros of soft fruit production. The Government as stepping in to help farmers struggling from the disaster. How long can they continue to do that? Extreme wet weather this spring in the mid west prevented farmers from planting corn and other crops. I’ve no idea if the US government have stepped in to help farmers there, but its the same problem. Crop production is going to become more difficult. Food costs will inevitably rise to reflect less produce available. Those people with heavy mortgages are going to struggle to keep a roof over their heads and food on the table. The housing market will struggle, house price falls, negative equity, bank failure etc etc. In poor countries food related riots, governments having to subsidise food prices etc etc. People will slide into poverty slowly but surely. Those wage earners at the bottom already are in trouble, but the tide of trouble is rising to effect more and more of society and eventually that will reach the so called middle classes. What I’m not sure about is how fast the extreme weather will start to cause really painful increases in food costs. Its already happening, and I suspect the problems will grow exponentially rather than a steady increase, perhaps within 2 decades. Time will tell.

  163. Greetings all

    JMG wrote: ” what’s going to happen? Armed mass migrations. The Third World War, the battle lines of which are forming across Eurasia as I write this, will pit jihadi Muslim armies motivated by ecological collapse against basically everyone else. That’s why Israel is sending military aid to the Philippines, why Russia and India are cozying up, and why China is treating control of its western territories as the linchpin of its geopolitical position, and so on.”

    (1) Do you think that current world leaders are that far sighted? Muslim militancy seems to me to be primarily a creation of western governments to destabilise the middle east more than anything else.

    (2) Geopolitical moves across eurasia appear to me more motivated by US military pressures than by muslim militancy.

    (3) Let us not forget that muslim militancy in India is negligible and poses no threat to India as a federal state. They are whipping up islamophobia for idelogical reasons foremost. As for China they are, largely, creating a problem where very little existed. The pitiful militancy there posed exactly zero threat to the Chinese communist state. Their current islamophobic phase is largely ideological in nature. It is not a mere 3 million unarmed citizens in a semi desert environment that can pose any meaningful challenge to the very powerful chinese army. For all practical purposes, their western territoires are firmly into their hands. There are no internal or external ennemies capable of changing their hold there.

    (4) Ecological collapse in the middle east may mean armed mass migrations but middle eastern countries are surrounded by very very powerful non-muslim countries: Western europe to the north, Russia to the North East, China further on, India to the east. South of the middle east there is the Sahara desert or the Indian Ocean, both formidable barriers. Even the Mediterreanean is a formidable obstacle.

    I don’t think that the Turks will be agreable in allowing armed bands cross their country into europe. As long as there are viable states all round the middle east, its inhabitants have no where to go.

    (5) For what’s it’s worth, I see middle eastern populations largely unable to migrate and dying off on site. Still we’ll see.

  164. Dear JMG: Thanks for this discussion of the big picture. It will be good to read more big-picture ecosophia.net essays from you over the coming months.

    In looking at the current situation in anguish and fear, I found your remark timestamped “July 3, 2019 at 11:06 p.m.” consoling: ((QUOTE))Thus the future isn’t fascist, it’s Benedictine…((/QUOTE)) I am responding by directing particular attention to it, in the hope that others will join me in drawing out some of its practical, praxis-directed, implications. Perhaps someone will some day even write me, as Toomas.Karmo@gmail.com. I am no good as a correspondent on general politics, but can cheerfully write about Estonian gardening, about the scientific (especially maths-and-physics) vocation within the Catholic Church, and about aspects of Latin.

    (a) Perhaps there will be a few readers of ecosophia.net who will be feeling, as I do, that it is in our darkening cultural situation helpful to ponder Oblate affiliation with some particular Benedictine monastery? Back when I lived in North America, I became an Oblate Novice with the Archabbey of Saint Vincent in Pennsylvania, and yet felt unable to proceed to full Oblation. The suffocating culture of North America, with such things as its tacit support for an invasion of Iraq, was a relevant obstacle. Now, having relocated to my ancestral Estonia, I feel the same sort of Benedictine pull. We do not have Benedictines in this country, where indeed my Catholic community is a tiny minority in a predominantly secular society. Upon surveying the various conceivable European Benedictine options abroad, I feel rather drawn to the idea of a correspondence relationship with Pluscarden monastery in Scotland. It is helpful in this particular line of pondering to categorize Scotland as a Viking-periphery nation historically analogous to Estonia.

    Further, (b) there is (as has been pointed out here at ecosophia.net), the eremetical, as distinct from the mainstream-monastic, option. This option can itself be Benedictine in spirit. For the eremetical option, a kind of role model is supplied by librarian, mediaevalist, and human rights activist Sister Julia Bolton Hollaway – not, admittedly, in culturally rather nearby Scotland, but further afield, down in Firenze. I presume Sister Julia concurs with me in valuing the Rule of Benedict. Further, I know she and I jointly value the modern eremetical rule of Fr Justo (which we both have Web-published, in her case at http://www.umilta.net/eremit.html, and in my case at http://toomaskarmo.blogspot.com/2016/04/padre-fray-alberto-e.html).

    Sister Julia’s work on behalf of the marginalized, particularly the immigrant Roma (including the literacy classes she runs for them in a private library at Firenze’s Protestant cemetery), and her work on the late mediaeval mystic Julian of Norwich, can be followed at https://www.facebook.com/juliaboltonholloway. I think she and I would both say about all this stuff, at which I do badly but she does well – praxis, praxis, PRAXIS; it is actions that speak.

    Tom = Toomas (in Nõo Regional Municipality, approx 200 km south of Tallinn)

  165. “Muddling Toward Frugality” John, thank you very much for suggesting this book. (I am reading it now). I am surprised by how much each of us can do to adapt NOW to a frugal future. This should be a theme of many blogs but seems missing. See Chris Martensons recent essay at peakprosperity.com however, where he hits this nail on the head last week.
    .
    Regarding “but the chemicals!” fear that we need petroleum to make solar panels….. Chemistry science has advanced so much that we can interconvert feedstocks and virtually any chemicals into each other readily. In fact the most difficult (complicated) chemicals to make were naturally obtained initially from plantstuffs (taxol is an example). As petrol drops out of favor, other feedstocks from nature will be and are used to replace the simple and also exotic chemicals that are needed for any process. (small example: before the oil age, natural gas was being generated on site or at centralized
    locations from wood using extremely primitive technology, and we can do much better now) Specialty chemicals are not the issue in my opinion because they are easily made in the quantities needed from nature . The principles of economics mandate the use of fossil petrol inputs instead of natural feedstocks because the oil is cheap. (This is totally different than coming up with millions of tons of fossil petrol simply to burn for transportation)
    I explored this problem with respect to silver used in solar panels, with a solar manufacturing engineer as part of my job a few years ago, who reassured me that two companies had already processes for replacing silver with copper in the silicon solar panels. (i am more worried about the metals needed for this renewable energy) However, specialty chemicals are easily made. These are no brainer or simple problems. My point about Moores law was that new alternate chemicals, materials and processes are constantly found and improved and virtually all discoveries stay on the shelf until their specific parameters are needed. There are thousands of ways to convert light into electricity (some of these you can make in your kitchen but are not stable for long times outside). I am very optimistic that humanity can make cheap LEDs, batteries (thousands of ways with virtually unlimited variety of metals) and solar panels long into the future. If the Americans lack confidence or the will to do it, the East Asians certainly will.
    thanks again

  166. Thanks for the response – I hadn’t thought about the question of scale in quite the way you suggest and need to give it some more thought. I should fess up at this point to being somewhat invested in the idea of collapse – perhaps I have a natural pessimism or perhaps I see it as the only way to halt the destruction caused by our bio-cidal civilization. Even then I find your idea of catabolic collapse far more plausible than the idea of a sudden end to global industrial capitalism (one can hope though).

    But I still wonder….. When I read your response “Our problems and our capacities for dealing with them are sized for one another” my first thought was “we’re not dealing with them” by which I really mean we’re not dealing them in a way that looks sane to me – but if you understand ‘dealing with them’ as a sort of disaster capitalism, crisis as opportunity to line our pockets model along the lines of the response to hurricane Katrina or Pompeo’s recent speech about the loss of arctic ice – then yes we’re dealing with them and probably dealing with in exactly the ways prior civilisations did as they slowly collapsed.

    That said I’m still not sure we might not have seeded out future with some nasty surprises. Often when I’m being pessimistic someone will point out the human capacity for ingenuity blah blah blah – but mostly I think we solve problems in the same ways we always have – we’ve just thrown ever more energy and associated complexity at the them. Nate Hagens uses the example of milking cows – we did it by hand, then with small machines, then in larger units and now in massive fully automated computer controlled operations – but we’re still just milking cows. Hagens shows that because the energy used increases massively at each increase in complexity those more ‘efficient’ operations become uneconomic with just small changes in the cost of energy. I think he’s drawing on Charles Hall’s work on the metabolic costs of complexity – that as complexity increases the energy required to maintain it increases exponentially. If that’s correct then as available energy decreases we may find our capacities for dealing with problems recede faster than the problems themselves.

    Writing this I realise there’s still some part of me that so wants a rational response to what we’ve done to the planet and yet for all that I’m pretty certain we’re going to get a business as usual one. I recently came across the idea of humans as a hyper-keystone species (https://anthroecologycom.wordpress.com/2018/11/30/gaias-problem-children-humans/) an idea that points to such different possibilities at this time – possibilities that we can all enact in some small way but possibilities that business as usual will cannot even see. One might say that life will be ok, that it’s survived mass extinctions before and will do so again – but that’s not a timescale I or my children live on or experience the world on – more than that its a view of us as passive passenger (which is of course partially true) rather than active participant in nature’s process. I prefer that latter view.

    As an aside I’ve been reading some of the comments about monasticism – I’ve often wondered what role monasticism played as a means of population control in more ecologically balanced cultures.

  167. John, et alia–

    Re the question of nearer-term totalitarian tendencies

    I give you discussion of compulsory voting

    https://politicalwire.com/2019/07/04/clinton-would-have-won-had-everyone-voted/

    As mentioned last week in the open post, I *do* feel voting to be a basic responsibility of citizenship. Making it compulsory, however, is a bridge too far and infringes on a person’s basic right to withdraw and not participate. As a society, you cultivate the character of a solid citizen, not compel it.

    Furthermore, what happens when you force everyone to vote, but then they don’t vote as you want them to? This article strikes me as yet more straw-grasping.

  168. JMG about the workshop attendees – The cost of attending is what made this weird. It was $450 for the course, $400 for the dorm room and meals (it was at a college campus), and most people flew in because they were come too far, so another $400-$700. It wasn’t cheap!

    I live in a rural PA county and its common to see people at the store with dirt on their clothes and sweaty because they had to run out for something in the middle of working outside. But they don’t occur as repulsive, I guess because its clear that isn’t the way they normally are.

    It was as if all life drained out of them and they were walking zombies, mis-shapen and fueled by sugar.

    If this is how they show themselves in public, what does the inside of their home look like? (This is me channeling my grandmother.)

    I just realized We are a nation of people falling apart and that will doom us faster than climate, economy, or natural disasters.

  169. I just realized that I left out one important detail. The workshop attendees were all White. Every person there. One Black woman showed up Thursday to do a presentation. I’d have to say middle-class-ish, but as you’ve pointed out, that’s what we all call ourselves for the most part. They came from all over the US so I can’t determine if rural, suburban, urban. I’m guessing few were urban. I did meet someone who lived in Berkley, and he told horror stories of the homeless situation. But you already knew that.

  170. Caryn,

    I think that one of the best ways to get a better feel for the trends JMG is talking about is to drive across North America, pretty much exactly like you and your husband just did. I don’t know how often people do this, and really it shouldn’t be very often, but Ive done it several times over the past 23 years – mostly between Florida and Washington State, via S. Dakota.

    It’s, um, eye-opening. Especially for those of us from the wealthier (and warmer) East Coast states, where some of our cities have shiny metal mile markers every 2/10 of a mile because, well, because I guess we have more money than we know what to do with. Ive come across stretches of INTERSTATE HIGHWAY that were barely passable, Mexican-only townships, countless closed and shuttered exits and rest stops that appeared to be thriving at one time, “shovel-ready” project sites that were marked off and never gotten back to, bridges I almost refused to drive across, the list goes on.

    It ain’t all thriving, silky-smooth and well-lit stretches of I-95 out there for sure. And anyone who thinks otherwise prolly ought to go for a long drive…

    Congrats on what I think was a wise decision!
    Tripp

  171. Another data point:

    August 2018 We visited DC and in Union Station there is a tourist stand selling t-shirts, magnets, etc. Zero MAGA or Trump stuff. Not even a postcard with a reference to Trump.

    June 2019 I get off the train in Union Station and the same tourist stand is 1/3 filled with MAGA hats in various colors, Trump’s likeness on post cards, and MAGA themed t-shirts. Stand is doing a brisk business. I wait in line because I have to have a post card with the photo they used for the official portrait in government buildings (if you haven’t seen it, it will make you cry if you are part of the resistance, and LOL if you are a supporter https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefings-statements/white-house-releases-official-portraits-president-donald-j-trump-vice-president-mike-pence/ ). Gentleman running the tourist stand said even people who hate Trump come and buy the MAGA stuff and its his top-selling items.

  172. JMG,

    Excellent. Yes, that sounds like a very solid 4-part meditation series to me too. I have quick answers to each of those questions at-hand (e.g. I’ve made it one of my life’s goals to get streetcar service going in our little mountain town, maybe as a precursor to being elected mayor;), but a deeper exploration of each will undoubtedly turn up some interesting insights.

    Thanks a bunch.
    Tripp

  173. @Caryn Banker – a lovely movie about that culture in the time of climate change is “Beasts of the Southern Wild.” Love the little heroine as well! Especially when she sees the wild hogs as prehistoric monsters near the end.

  174. Lucas – If you do get some land, consider dividing the farm land into quarters. Put housing where the corners come together, so your farmer-residents are close enough to provide mutual aid. Add a workshop (and houses for a few craftsmen) and a school/church/social hall at the crossroads, and you’ve got yourself a village.

  175. Hi John Michael,

    Greetings, or should I cheekily suggest: Weekly notes from detatchment land? 😉

    Mate, I can’t believe people are still banging on about solar PV. It is just past mid-winter down here, and last Saturday the weather was so brutal that the 6kW of installed solar panels produced 0.6kWh for the entire day. That’s 6 minutes of peak sunlight for the entire day! The clouds were abominably thick and delivered two and half inches of rain over about 12 hours. The weather is great for filling up the water tanks, but not so good for providing electricity produced directly from sunlight. In point of fact, the various components in the off grid system used all of the 0.6kWh of electricity just doing whatever it is that they do.

    Anyway, my point is that sometimes this renewable energy technology produces nothing, and it is only ever as good as the worst conditions. I’ve noticed that people most definitely confuse their expectations with what is possible in reality. When dealing with nature, one must consider how to harvest.

    Mind you, I went to the pub for dinner and a pint of dark ale (Yum!) last night, and they told me that they lost their power Saturday night in the same storm and had to cancel a celebration of some of the local microbreweries efforts. A sad evening, and a very expensive one for them. There is a story in there about how decline actually plays out.

    You made a point years ago about the difference between a store and a flow, and it is a great analogy with which to compare fossil fuels (a release of a store of energy) and renewable energy technologies (an attempt to capture a harvest of flows).

    Cheers

    Chris

  176. Jasmine – Thank you for taking the time to define what you mean when you use the word “fascist”, because we’ve discussed historical fascism here in prior years, and it has only an incidental resemblance to your definition. Mass murder and ethnic cleansing have been committed by people proclaiming any number of economic theories, not just fascism.

  177. @John Roth

    It’s not all about America you know. I’m not American (though I did live there for a while) and I’m still Generation X.

    Looking at Western culture as a whole, Merkel is a Boomer and acts like it too.

    @JMG

    OMG

    A third World War of warband jihadis against the rest of us in Europe and Asia? I hope I’m gone by then.

  178. We had a one-hour power outage here between 4:30 and 6:15 pm due to a thunderstorm. I lay down with the blinds up and watched the rain for a while, then got my crocheting and went out to where the corridors in the building meet and there are windows on both sides. Met one old man who insisted on reporting the outage to Security, as if the lights weren’t out at the guard house as well. Finally went back and watched the rain again. Txt’d my daughter “Fireworks a no-go; The Lord provided them and is refilling the aquifer as well.” Power was out at her house too.

    I need to get a hurricane lamp or two, and some pull-top canned foods. Crackers and cookies do not quite cut it.

  179. Marvin – Sorry, but we’re talking past each other. I was just disputing your reference to “Moore’s Law”, which some futurists (not you) cite to assert that Technology will save us, with better solar panels, and better batteries, when we really need them. You and I agree that that’s just wishfully complacent thinking. Information processing has made great strides; energy, not so much.

    Keep us up to date on your tiny house development, and associated lifestyle changes.

    By the way, anyone curious about how effective HF ham radio communications can be can try listening to the annual “13 Colonies” special event (July 1-7). It’s sort of a scavenger hunt. There is one station in each of our original 13 colonies which is “serving” contacts, while everyone else tries to log a quick contact with them. (A contact usually takes well under a minute, but both stations demonstrate that they can hear each other.) All one gets for success is the fun of the chase. By listening to one of these special event stations, though, you’d hear many stations trying to contact them, and you could plot them on a map according to their call-sign. In an emergency, similar procedures could be used to pass useful information.

  180. John–

    Less the long view–though perhaps indicative of the long view of liberal democracy–but from my local paper re reflections on Independence Day and folks’ thoughts around WI.

    https://www.htrnews.com/story/news/2019/07/03/can-liberal-democracy-survive-future/1260979001/

    It is an interesting collection of opinions.

    I am admittedly curious to see what (ragged) trajectory events take as our highly-centralized federal bureaucracy and associated systems become less and less capable of solving our problems and people take matters into their own hands, whether at the state or local levels. There is a whole spectrum of scenarios and I’m sure we’ll ease into them (we likely have already), but will wake up one day and realize that the tide has slowly crept up the shoreline while we were looking the other way and now that shoreline is irrevocably altered. Understanding, of course, that nothing will occur overnight, but rather over decades. The possibilities are indeed sobering and I can only hope that we manage to avoid the worst of the lot.

  181. NOT NECESSARILY FOR POSTING

    John–

    Not directly relevant to this week’s post, but when my wife and I were out and about yesterday, we wandered into a shop of a particular nature up in Door county and I spotted this gem among the books being sold:

    https://www.amazon.com/Magic-Resistance-Rituals-Spells-Change/dp/0738759961/ref=sr_1_1?crid=1USWD4EQF5Q3P&keywords=magic+for+the+resistance+rituals+and+spells+for+change&qid=1562336236&s=gateway&sprefix=magic+fo+rthe+resist%2Caps%2C165&sr=8-1

    Just thought you’d find it of interest (or at least amusement).

  182. Upon further reflection as to why/how an opinion piece dissing the idea of a quick and smooth transition from fossil fuels to renewables would appear in a national newspaper, I believe that it supports the views of Western Canada. Of Canada’s two national newspapers, The Globe and Mail is biased towards Eastern Canada (and especially Ontario), while its competitor, The National Post, is biased towards Western Canada (and especially Alberta). The argument that we will be dependent on fossil fuels for many decades into the future ties in well with Alberta’s obsession with getting pipelines built to transport its bitumen to global markets.

  183. @Candace – Overshoot is one of the best, most accessible explanations out there. I wish I could buy copies for all my friends and a lot of strangers!

    @Lathechuck – In my view, New Deal type programs merely dip further into the “natural savings account” in order to increase prosperity temporarily. It’s a good enough boost in the short term that people start feeling better, but long term, it means that we’re running out of resources more quickly. Opinions and perspectives vary about whether or not that would be a good investment.

    @Jasmine – EXACTLY this: “We live in an expanding society that has now hit a downturn. Of course I realise that this downturn is permanent and been going for a while. However most people out there still think that the downturn is temporary and it seems to me that as long as people desperately cling to the myth of progress we are still in danger of a fascist future as they search for scapegoats they can blame for what has happened to them.” That’s what I suspect.

    @JMG – I’m from flyover country (Michigan). I don’t necessarily see ‘new fascism’ on my street, really, but I do see it in the scapegoating of asylum seekers (the whole “kids in cages, no soap or toothpaste” story). I see it in Charlottesville, with “good people on both sides” of the Alt-Right tiki torch march. I see it in the increasing thuggishness of police, and how they have more often taken advantage of the services of right-wing militias to subdue protesters (and in how those same III%ers protected the Oregon Republicans from having a climate vote). I see it in the normalization of these things, in neighbors and contacts that aren’t embarrassed over them any more and may even support them. I’d very much like to believe that the detention camps are just another zig or zag in America’s love/hate history with immigration (love the cheap labor, hate that it brings down wages and changes the culture), and that the militia/Nazi groups are just a passing thing that will go away when things become Great Again, but since the next “great again” will be a stairstep of catabolic collapse, I’m not that hopeful that these things are temporary. But if, as you say, there will be rising costs for food and energy, such that the bottom tier(s) will be priced out of the necessities of life, it’s hard not to imagine them wanting to take those resources from someone else eventually, rather than just waiting to die. (Your example of armed Jihadis motivated by ecological collapse is pertinent here. Maybe not the same jihadis, but others similarly motivated.) At any rate, we may agree to disagree here, and I’ll still be a fan. 🙂

  184. If, as the above article claims, there isn’t going to be a sudden, apocalyptic collapse of modern industrial ‘civilization’ and it can ‘drag on’ for a couple centuries more(!!), then I for one am glad, because then it will at least be possible for me to live out the rest of my years in peace (I’m 56 right now). With all due respect, though, I remain profoundly skeptical of this claim (that a sudden collapse won’t occur). There’s something known as a Seneca Cliff: the decline can seem gentle for a time, but will reach a point at which we’ll see massive, sudden collapse. There’s a more common metaphor for it: the straw that broke the camel’s back.

    Better prep than be sorry.

  185. I think about the fossil fuel crisis largely in terms of Hubbert’s peak – appropriately enough, that line of analysis places peak oil in the US around 1970 and globally around 2010, which is validated rather strongly by the advent of stagflation within a few years of each. By the same analysis Canada is projected to hit peak extraction in 2020. I wonder whether I’ll be less sanguine about the whole affair when it literally ‘hits home’ for me, but I’m cautiously optimistic on that count. Autumn is many people’s favourite season, there’s a lot to do if one is to put in an adequate winter store, but also a lot to enjoy.

    A Reader, I agree that Archaism and Futurism are irrevocably opposed, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they must be hostile. There’s a line of thought that some problems are so daunting they can only be started on by having multiple people approach the solution from opposite angles, to ‘hem it in’ rather than chase an ever retreating ideal. The progressive/conservative axis certainly seems set up for that, what we seem short on is the ability to actually synthesize opposing modes of thought. Would be good to have a real-life equivalent of the Glass Bead Game…

  186. I think one of the reasons apocalypse narratives are popular is that by eradicating the vast majority of things and people, the apocalypse opens a lot of space for a completely fresh start for the survivors. The dream of starting over from scratch – hitting the reset button if you will – is a powerful dream.

  187. @JMG: Thanks for the reply. I guess I find your statement “[o]ur problems and our capacities for dealing with them are sized for one another” unconvincing. It’s similar to “if we can create situation X, we can undo it”. Many actions, natural and not, are irreversible, possibly related to the 2nd law of thermodynamics. At least you can’t simply throw the gears in reverse, there may be many intermediate steps needed to get back to the original state, likely requiring quite a bit of additional energy and/or resources. A good analogy might be how a clear-cut mature forest must go through several intermediate states before it returns to a mature forest again, if ever. The notion that any problem we create can be undone seems to me just a variant of the techno-grandiosity James Kunstler has written about; the various geoengineering proposals seem a great example. We’ve tweaked complex planet-spanning systems that we don’t fully understand and which now appear to be going sideways at exponential rates. I see little meaningful counteractions, largely due to the scale of both our numbers and consumption levels and how both are maintained by the very actions driving the tweaks to the planetary systems. It really does seem a departure from historical collapse narratives.

  188. To Marvin Mots’ point…the house in which I grew up was built in 1946 and originally had a 115V service entrance with two 15A circuits. (Note that this is 7.5% the power of a modern service entrance.) This meant phrases like, “Could you hold off on using the toaster – I’ve got to cut a couple of boards” and (later) “the air conditioner is on for the night – no lights except for the bathroom if you need it” were perfectly normal.I don’t recall ever feeling “underprivileged”!

  189. I have come to acknowledge that I have practiced parts of the four responses to civilizational decline described by Toynbee: a bit of archaism in using some older technologies, a bit of transcendence in practicing a bit of occultism, Druidry and magic, and a bit of detachment, where I don’t partake in many social occasions, but a few select ones, like a good party, or an art exhibition.

    Besides, I’m astonished that this post still has generated so much pushback. I feels like the old Archdruid Report days: Here we’re going again…

  190. I’m probably ridiculously simplistic, but it seems to me that the answer to both fears of instant Apocalypse and Techno-utopianism must be:

    ‘Collapse? Of course, this is it, you are right in the midst of it’.

    Having gained that insight, the rest is reading the signs, and a good dash of intuition…..

    As for prepping, it has its place, but one must remember that there has never been fortress that didn’t fall, or a strong sword arm that didn’t eventually fail. I particularly like the old legends and myths that remind us of that.

    And’ of course, Stoicism.

    Accepting the transience of all things is the best way to stay calmer and more collected when the impacts of Collapse are felt.

  191. @Bridge
    Re: Generational terminology

    Perfectly true. It’s not all about America, although you might get that impression if you just look at Strauss and Howe’s work. Generalizing to the rest of the world is something that John Xenakis did in “Generational Dynamics” and the draft of “Generational Dynamics for Historians.”

    He has a great deal of analysis of different countries on his site: http://www.generationaldynamics.com/ww2010.htm.

    Here’s an example of how it’s done, using China as the example: http://www.generationaldynamics.com/pg/ww2010.cs.ch.htm. You’ll notice that he gives names to most of the generations, as well as labeling them with their archetypes, but those names have no relationship to the names of the generations in the US. As you say, it’s not all about the US.

  192. Hi,
    I’d like some advice re possible implosion of Old middle class. I’m studying classics at an elite British university. Luckily paid for by family so no debts. My plan was to teach classics at my old private secondary school (in London). I know this isn’t necessarily your area of expertise but what do you think the future of teaching will be and private schools in particular? Do you think private secondary schools will go the way of the collapsing higher education industry? Thanks!

  193. Kimberly, that’s an excellent book and one I can highly recommend also.

    JillN, one of the things a lot of Americans forget is that human beings by and large handle crisis fairly well. A few good books on how people got through the Great Depression, and how people dealt with the chaos of the Second World War, makes a great corrective to our myopia.

    Your Kittenship, funny. I keep a chair and whip handy to discipline my first drafts, and only occasionally have to break out the tranquilizer darts.

    E. Goldstein, yep. A lot of people are looking for ways to evade the parasitic elements of our current way of life, and quite a few are finding them.

    Austin, I’ll consider it. It’s a possibility I’ve been watching for a while now.

    Averagejoe, I expect the rise in food prices to be neither exponential nor linear, but — like most things in the real world — ragged, unpredictable, and uneven, a mix of sudden upward jolts, plateaus, and unexpected declines that never quite get things down to where they were. You’re certainly right that that’s going to play a large role in driving increases in poverty, though I expect to see — at least in the US — the new populism taking aim at the government policies that drive up real estate and rental costs, benefiting the well-to-do at the expense of everyone else. A sharp decline in housing costs could make it a lot easier for people to keep themselves fed as food shortages become more common — and of course learning to grow some of your own food, and to thrive on less expensive and more readily available foods, are worthwhile strategies as well.

    Karim, (1) of course you’re right that jihadi militancy was originally a creation of Western intelligence agencies. Unfortunately that genie is out of the bottle now — what Western power benefited from the recent massacre in Sri Lanka? (2) That’s not my take — it’s not in the interests of the US, for example, for India to provide military aid to Myanmar and coordinate counterinsurgency actions with the Myanmar military. (3a) India until recently did a very good job of maintaining peace among its many religious communities, and so has had little trouble with jihadi militancy outside of a few border areas, where it’s been funded by rival states. The problem of course with the rise of Hindutva in India is that it’s creating fertile ground for Wahhabi and other jihad-friendly movements in the Indian Muslim community, (3b) China is fragile; that’s one of the great lessons of Chinese history. The rise of Uighur separatist groups in Chinese Turkestan doesn’t look like a threat to Beijing unless you have some sense of the history, and realize that from Beijing’s standpoint that’s an existential threat. Here again, of course, the more they clamp down, the more likely it is for Muslims in China to be radicalized as a result. (4) Europe is currently awash with Muslim immigrants, and no significant steps are being taken to keep more from following. Turkey allowed a great many Syrian refugees to cross its territory into the Balkans. As for other nations, that’s precisely it — imagine huge refugee streams, armed with weapons looted from the armed forces of failed MIddle Eastern states, streaming east toward India, northeast toward the central Asian republics, north toward Russia, northwest toward Europe. They will not stop just because somebody tells them to go home. (5) They’re not doing that now — again, check out the flood of Middle Eastern refugees into Europe — and I see no reason to think they’ll do it when it’s a matter of migrate or die.

    Toomas, I would certainly encourage those who are comfortable with the Catholic faith to make a beeline to whatever level of monastic or quasimonastic involvement (such as membership in a tertiary order) they feel they can. Equally, members of other faiths with a monastic dimension who feel that that’s appropriate might wish to consider the same thing. That’s the wave of the future.

    Marvin, glad you liked Muddling Toward Frugality! Please, if you have the chance, let other people know about it — the more attention it gets, the better off we’ll be. As for the chemical needs of PV cells, I’m going to remain agnostic about the alternatives until I see them actually in use — “they’re always coming up with new things” hasn’t made fusion power viable, or salvaged a great many more supposed waves of the future! That said, I certainly support continued experimentation into solar electric technologies; I just want to make sure that people remember that we have other, proven renewable energy technologies — solar thermal, wind, and micro-hydro among them — which can certainly be viable in a postpetroleum world and can make serious contributions to human well-being.

    Bruce, of course we’re not going to get a rational response — human beings aren’t rational creatures, we’re just good at rationalizing our cravings and passions. Our capacity for dealing with our problems won’t enable us to solve them, just to engage in frantic coping maneuvers that will stave off total disaster, limit the reach of local and regional catastrophes, and cushion the decline here and there. That’s what other civilizations did on the way down, and it’s what we’re doing — and our coping mechanisms are on the same scale as our troubles, thus the ragged decline we’re in right now. As for monasteries as fertility control, yep — that and frequent small-scale warfare are standard methods to keep the birth rate down.

    David BTL, of course they’re grasping at straws. The difficulty the establishment Left faces these days is that they’re a privileged minority pretending to speak for the majority, and their bluff has been called. They’re going to be scrambling around for a while yet, trying to keep people from looking at the little man behind the curtain — and this is a great example of that kind of maneuver.

  194. JMG, I saw a shoggoth running (oozing?) down the street in terror, hotly pursued by your first draft… 😄

  195. @Goldstein

    Why is it, nobody wants to stay in Silicon Valley for very long, even though the weather is pleasant, the work isn’t physical and the food choices are among the best in the world?

    A good chunk is there to make a stake and then leave to go somewhere else they’d rather be? Nobody has any faith in the sustainability of the institutions or the place?

    Tell your son that Silicon Valley knows this and they will do everything in their power to keep him spinning that hamster wheel he’s on. He’s just raw meat to those companies. Tell him sooner is better than later. Tell him that Silicon Valley is only for learning and if you’re not learning anything interesting, it’s worse than useless, it’s a trap.

  196. Dermot,

    That was YOU??!!!! I recommend that video ALL THE TIME. It’s my absolute favorite collapse video. (My second favorite is a very dry lecture by Bartlett explaining the concept of exponential growth th exquisite detail… which is much harder to recommend to people.)

    Excellent work, my friend.

    Sincerely
    Jessi Thompson
    anotheramethyst

  197. Re: your discussion with Karim, if I may

    JMG, you always recommend checking hypotheses with history. Can you tell me any example of a population formerly or currently living in states, with organized armies, burocracies and rather powerful heads of state, migrating in mass outwards and destabilizing neighboring states or empires?

    All the examples of mass migrations I can remember originated with people that had never formed states: sea people, Arameans, Aryans, Huns, Germanic tribes, Avars, Slavic tribes, Tibetans, Mongols – all of them in their time were stateless. Of course “it may be different this time” 🙂

  198. @ David BTL

    JMG said: “Simo, what’s going to happen? Armed mass migrations. The Third World War, the battle lines of which are forming across Eurasia as I write this, will pit jihadi Muslim armies motivated by ecological collapse against basically everyone else. That’s why Israel is sending military aid to the Philippines, why Russia and India are cozying up, and why China is treating control of its western territories as the linchpin of its geopolitical position, and so on. What do they all have in common? Ongoing problems with jihadi terrorism and militancy. I’m very glad to be on the other side of the planet…”

    I think JMG’s comment ties into the discussion we were having last week regarding the decline of the US. The scenario JMG describes, or even low level terrorism and chaos in that part of the world, will keep other potential great powers who are located closer to the “action” busy for decades to come. If the United States can stay out of the mess and hold together, I think its relative isolation will make it possible for the US to remain a first tier power for many decades to come.

    Ironically, if the US doesn’t stay out of the mess, and any involvement is divisive here at home, it may also speed up the splintering of the union.

  199. @JMG, I am glad to see you return to the topic of the Long Descent; your insights on this subject are why I began reading your writing.

    @E. Goldstein, I can relate to your son. I am 24 years old and just walked away from a lucrative career in finance to live simply (if precariously). I see no compelling reasons to accumulate wealth in this era of collapse, and no ethical defenses for such excess either.

    I recently bought a new car (a 2008 RAV4) that is just big enough for me to sleep in. My intention is to live out of it and travel across the US; partially because I still have some unfulfilled wanderlust, and partially because I have calculated that such a lifestyle will be cheaper than paying rent anywhere I might like to live.

    My dream is to one day be able to afford to a rent a little house on some land, just enough to have a modest garden. I wish to learn useful skills–carpentry has always had a special allure to me (my pappaw was a carpenter)–and live a decent, happy life on poverty wages. I hope your son’s plan works out for him!

  200. With reference to people becoming refugees abroad as opposed to dying, I have to note that the different conflicts in the middle east have produced refugees in numbers that don’t match the number of people in the country or the death toll. The current conflict in Yemen doesn’t seem to be producing nearly as many international refugees as Syria did, despite Yemen having about 28 million people and Syria having about 18 million. Casualties of the Syrian civil war are somewhere between 371,000-570,000 according to Wikipedia, while figures for Yemen are harder to find and the most believable I get is 50,000 from the ACLED via the washington post(others are 10,000 staying still for years as the conflict continues) this number not including the many cholera and starvation deaths.

    I’d have to do a lot more digging to get reliable numbers, but there doesn’t seem to be a massive refugee crisis caused by the war in Yemen like the one caused by the war in Syria.

    I’m guessing that people in Yemen can’t get out as easily, and usually don’t come to Europe if they do get out. Perhaps the less welcoming climate for refugees in Europe plays a part, along with Yemen being a poorer country than Syria before the war began, therefore many Yemenis having less ability to pay to travel long distances.

    I think refugee flows may end up depending partly on the ability of those in need of refuge to get out, and the availability of somewhere for them to go.

    With reference to triage, it’s already happening. There’s a lot of people in the world today who are dying whose deaths could have been prevented. Primarily, it’s mediated by access to money and power. Will it get worse? Yes.

  201. Owen:
    Your comment, “There were some positive aspects to the boomers though that are getting lost. Boomers were much more handy with tools than the subsequent generations, for instance. Many practical skills were not passed on. It’s going to be interesting to see how those practical skills are relearned.”

    Boomers, especially the oldest cohort, were among the last generation to know and have regular exposure to people who had lived during a less-electric, low energy era. People born in the mid-1940’s had grandparents born at or before the turn of the last century when the average non-wealthy American lived modestly and most everyone had mastered a surprisingly long list of useful everyday skills. I was born at the tail end of the Boomer generation; my grandparents were born in the ‘aughts and lived a do-it-yourself life as a matter of course. I’ve often said that my grandmothers could make almost anything out of nothing and that’s only a small exaggeration. The legacy of resourcefulness and wide-ranging skills they taught me was greater than any amount of money I could have inherited from them.

    loboyjuanita and JMG:

    In the very earliest days of domestic electric power in the US, electricity was provided only at certain times of the day, most commonly in the evening when the breadwinner came home and wanted to read the daily paper (this was before radios and television of course). Women soon petitioned the power companies to turn on the juice on Tuesdays so that they could use their new electric irons. Ever hear of the old routine: wash on Monday, iron on Tuesday, mend on Wednesday, and so on? It was a real thing back in the day. Even the earliest generation of electric irons were easier to use than heavy sadirons that had to be heated on a stove.

  202. The current resource wars and endless economic shenanigans have all kinds of parallels with the delusional insanity of the Roaring Twenties and Great Depression. The finger-nail-grip hold Britian had on its reserve currency status made it belligerent and fragile. Decades of imbalance from punitive sanctions imposed on Germany by the Treaty of Versailles and on Japan by its forced reopening made them belligerent and ambitious. Belief by Soviets and Americans in their own Utopian foundation myths made them protective and ambitious. That heady mix led to a ruinous World War. Today, the United States is in Britain’s role, Iran/North Korea are in Germany/Japan’s, and China/Russia are in the US/USSR’s. And that heady mix will lead to…

    What confuses me is that I see at least as many parallels between today and the ramp up to WWI. Cyclical financial bubbles; delusional fix-alls like ZIRP, the Federal Reserve Act, and MMT; meticulously balanced military and trade alliances turning even tiny countries into potential proxy- or world-war triggers; a tired hegemon bloviating about ruling the waves or full spectrum dominance. We’re clearly perched on the brink of a World War, but which one?

    Does the rise of populism during the Great Recession point towards WWII, or does the populace’s unquestioned belief in the goodies of colonialism/progress point towards WWI? Is the US still the uncontested leader that Britain was going into WWI, or did 9/11 knock us down to the fragile state that Britain was going into WWII? Or is no soft landing lined up like what Britain had coming out of those two wars? Is Rome’s seizure by Alric/Odoacer or the debacle of the Spanish Armada (or, let’s not forget, Twilight’s Last Gleaming) a better model for the coming great war? Do you think there will be a first and second war for American succession, or will this be a one and done kind of thing?

  203. It’s a good time to be an old b*****d. Not so good for the young, propagandized in school, watching tv and phones, expecting a fairy tale to come through.

  204. This is one of the most encouraging articles I’ve seen in a while concerning people in the establishment starting to… get it.

    The author actually used data to show that most Americans are pretty united on their views towards political correctness and hatred, and also pretty united in their views on our governing officials and elites using language to separate and divide causing a lot of distrust. The also also uses some data to point towards a lot of the media being developed by “progressive extremists” which happen to be the smallest of all groups, and who also happens to be made up most exclusively of white, rich, university educated elites.

    Perhaps another four years of Trump will help the United States. He’s definitely helped assuage peoples fears of using language which could be construed as hate speech and he’s stopped pandering to the elites which has helped people feel more free to stand up for how they really feel.

  205. This morning when I came into work, I was presented with such a great example of the cluelessness of the elites. My call center manager sends us an e-mail which begins with “As I sit here at the end of the dock” and ends with “Sent from my iPhone.” The e-mail then goes on to talk about compassion and can-do attitudes.

    The irony here is rich. It’s July 5th, a day after a holiday which all of us were off, sandwiched between the weekend. Almost everyone has family which has gotten together after months of being apart. And a great many of us are unable to take time off to spend with our families and loved ones because it’s not paid time off, nor would such a request have been approved. Where was the compassion and caring when our schedules were made? And where was it when the rich boss reminded us they were enjoying the day off at the lake while we were all inside leashed to our computers? There is sadly a great amount of ineptitude amongst the well-to-do.

    And these constant, everyday reminders are probably a big reason I suggested how much I want to quit my job and go off preaching Ecosophian gospel. The time will come, one step at a time 😉

  206. Marvin Mots – Just another of my technical quibbles… the gas that can be produced from wood (when petroleum is lacking), is not “natural gas”, it’s “wood gas” (see Wikipedia) or “producer gas”. While natural gas is mostly methane (with some ethane), producer gas is mostly hydrogen and carbon monoxide. Of course, carbon monoxide is famously toxic, and no one would pipe it into their homes… unless the alternatives were worse: lump coal, or wood. (I suspect, without evidence, that the old dramatic trope of the suicidal housewife with her head in the oven made a lot more sense when that oven was supplied with carbon monoxide!)

    The bigger issue to consider is “how much wood would you need, to supply a society that wanted to use some of it to make solar panels?” And that, of course, depends on the population and its competing uses for wood (as home heating fuel, perhaps), and so on. One analysis of the fall of Rome claims that it just ran out of firewood (prior to the discovery of dried peat, coal, or oil, of course). Without charcoal, they couldn’t work metal; without metal, poorer tools and weapons, etc…

  207. JMG – You asked us to contemplate living on a fraction of our current energy consumption, and here are a couple of results I came up with: I pay about $800/year for natural gas. Of that, 5/6 is burned (in a high-efficiency condensing furnace) to keep the house warm during the cold half of the year, with the remaining 1/6 is burned to heat water for bathing and washing, as well as drying laundry when we can’t use the backyard clothesline. So, all I’d have to do to cut my natural gas consumption to 1/6th is stop heating my house! (It would actually be more practical to heat it to stay safely above freezing, and to stop bathing.)

    But that’s only the obvious “energy” I buy. If we eat $5000/food per year, the embedded energy in that food is vastly more than the natural gas bill. We went out to get a new computer today, since the old one is too small to accept the Windows-10 upgrade, and Win7 will be unsupported in a few months. Spending about $700 for a middle-of-the-road laptop and Microsoft office – who’s to say how MUCH of that is embedded energy, but it was a shock to realize that it was comparable to our annual natural gas bill.

    As for electricity, the PV on the roof covers that, with enough left over so we’ve covered the miscellaneous charges that come with being hooked up to the grid.

    Our biggest single expense is taxation (since the house was paid off), and how much of THAT pays for embedded energy? The US DoD is a massive burner of hydrocarbons, sometimes just to make people look up and marvel at jets swooping over Washington DC at the Independence Day spectacle.

  208. @ Brian

    Your link to the Sawtelle apartments was a flashback for me. I lived in an apartment right behind that place on Purdue thirty years ago. The housing is needed down there and hope the residents take advantage of how walkable the area is now. We still go there to eat and shop regularly at the nearby Japanese restaurants and markets.

  209. Dermot, thanks! Great video, I’ve included it as a resource in a course I teach on sustainability. One of the hardest things is to get people to see the systemic problem rather than the individual pieces.

  210. Lucas T Jumper’s comment about building cabins on a farm lot for his army buddies reminded me:

    There’s a small organization down in Alamogordo, NM, called Foxhole Homes. The founder is a man who works to prevent suicide in the veteran population, and he’s worked out plans to build sustainable shelters for the homeless veteran population. The main feature is a rear wall built out of tire bales, sort of a quick and dirty version of the tire walls that the Earthships use.

    As far as raising crops goes, southeast New Mexico will be SOL in coming centuries. But what I’ve seen of the design looks like a good first step towards building homes that cover the necessities of life, using something we’ll have plenty of – materials salvaged from landfills.

    Also, regarding archaism and futurism, I feel like right now a lot of people have bought into a fusion of the two – in other words, we long to go back to a past when the future was bright.

    And thirdly, it’d be nice to know how to pierce through the thick veil of amnesia regarding the fact that nuclear power generates radioactive @#$%-ing waste. We don’t know what to do with the stuff we’ve got, but the current crop of pixie dust snorters can’t seem to wrap their heads around the fact.

  211. HI Ezana,

    Yes, live out of your car NOW, at 24, because 30 years from now, if you have to sleep in your car you’ll be miserable the next day. Have a great time and please post travelogues!

    Hi Cliff,

    Foxhole Homes sounds wonderful. I hope it catches on. I’m going to make the features editor of our local paper aware of it & hope they give it a write-up.

  212. Similar to monasticism: https://www.cnn.com/2019/07/05/success/podshare-co-living/index.html

    “Housing costs have become so expensive in some cities that people are renting bunk beds in a communal home for $1,200 a month. Not a bedroom. A bed….

    “You get a bed, a locker, access to wifi and the chance to meet fellow “pod-estrians.” Each pod includes a shelf and a personal television. Food staples, like cereal and ramen, and toiletries like toothpaste and toilet paper, are also included….

    “And there are some ground rules: Lights out at 10 pm, and no guests allowed.

    “‘You can’t invite any friends over,’ she says. ‘Sorry. Just make new ones here.'”

    I suspect this setup will reduce the birth rate even without any explicit commitment to celibacy.

  213. Denys, middle-class white Americans, then. An interesting data point.

    David BTL, exactly. That’s one of the ways we can lower ourselves gradually down the slope.

    Denys, okay, that’s a major shift. The last few times I was through Union Station in DC the tourist traps were full of “ORANGE MAN BAD!” Stuff. If there are MAGA hats for sale there now — well, in the memorable words of Ghan-buri-Ghan, “Wind is changing!”

    Tripp, I’m going to spend some time exploring those myself, so you’re welcome and thank you!

    Chris, hope springs infernal, and all that. I hope the local pub figures out that it needs to have a backup in case of outages — and not a solar PV backup, either…

    Patricia, given where you are now, storm gear and food that doesn’t need electricity should probably be fairly high on the get-to list…

    David BTL, thanks for this. If history’s anything to go by, the big centralized bureaucracies will lose touch with what’s happening away from the core territories a long time before things come crashing down, and local jerry-rigging will be the order of the day. As for the book, yes, that’s the manual by Michael M. Hughes, the guy whose inept magical playacting has been discussed on my Dreamwidth account several times. I recommend it to intermediate students of magic — there’s a lot to be learned by picking apart the rituals and seeing all the ways in which they’re guaranteed to fail.

    Ron M., fair enough! That makes sense.

    Laureth, you might want to sit down sometime with someone on the right and hear how they understand the things you’re talking about; if you approach that with an open mind, you might learn some unexpected things. In the meantime, of course, we’ll both just have to see how events turn out.

    G Wang, people have been waiting for that straw for longer than I’ve been alive, and meanwhile the real story — the accelerating decline of our society — goes unnoticed. Mind you, of course it’s reasonable to prep; it doesn’t require the end of the world to make that useful. The rising tide of less-than-apocalyptic disasters is more than enough by itself.

    Christopher, no argument there — the Hubbert curve and its more generalized equivalent, the World3 base run from The Limits to Growth remain the best models we’ve got.

    Chris, I think you’re probably right.

    Jeff W, nah, you’ve misunderstood what I’ve said. The mere fact that our means of coping are on the same scale as our problems doesn’t mean we can solve our problems; it means that we have about as much capacity to deal with our problems as previous civilizations had to deal with theirs, and so similar results can be expected. Think of the way that global ciimate change and global food transport match each other in scale; the Mayans were dealing with regional climate change and could only transport food over regional distances to respond to it.

    Booklover, I’ve done all four as well, and there’s nothing wrong with that. They’re all valid responses. As for the pushback, I’m startled that there’s been so little — we may actually have made a little progress in getting a gleam of common sense in through the filters of the gizmocentric world view…

    Xabier, it’s essential to the logic of both extremes, the gizmocentric cornucopians as well as the Carnation Instant Apocalypse fans, that collapse is always in the future, never here and now. Both are ways of pretending that decline isn’t happening all around us.

    Dan, quite the contrary, I think that you may be preparing yourself for one of the few ends of education that still has a future ahead of it. One of the things that’s standard as a culture ends its age of innovation and settles into its mature form is that education returns to a classical basis, as it sinks in that a “relevant” education is useless in the real world and a systematic education in the supposedly irrelevant classics is the one thing that fits people for life. Stick to your guns; far into the descent, there will still be a need for people with a good general education, and if you can provide that, your chances of being gainfully employed are very high.

    Daniel, hmm! Well, that’s a surprise. Thanks for letting me know.

    J.L. Mc12, yes, I like to imagine societies very, very far in the future, for whom all the turmoil of our time is a matter of dim legends from the nearly prehistoric past, and which have long since worked out subtle and intricate ways of relating sustainably to the planet. Someday I’m going to write a long strange novel set in such a world, which next to nobody will read.

    Pygmycory, please see my answer to Karim above.

    Your Kittenship, I’ll go whistle it back to its kennel. Can’t have it upsetting the local fauna!

    John, thanks for this! That’s one of the gimmicks that’s used to force up rents and housing prices, for the benefit of the well-to-do and at the expense of everyone else.

    Matthias, no, you’re quite mistaken. Many of the Germanic tribes that invaded the Roman Empire were technically civitates — that is, they had embraced the form of state organization that was common in those days, as the nation-state is in ours. Many of the barbarian peoples who invaded China from the steppes at various points had a similar status vis-a-vis Chinese concepts of statehood. It’s very common for societies in the sphere of dominance of a civilization to accept some form of that civilization’s basic mode of social organization, however shallow that acceptance is — and then throw it off and revert to tribalism as things come apart.

    Ezana, it’s definitely time to revisit what’s happening in the ongoing decline!

    Pygmycory, of course. The size, timing, and direction of refugee flows in the century or so ahead of us, similarly, will be powerfully influenced by which nation-states are still in one piece in the region and which have gone to bits.

    Beekeeper, I’ve read that sadirons deserved the name! It’ll be interesting to see whether that sort of part-time electricity catches on again.

    Christophe, that’s exactly what we can’t know in advance.

    Dennis, talk to some of those young people. You might be pleasantly surprised to know just how many of them have already figured out the score.

    Prizm, thanks for this! That is indeed a promising article. As for the cluelessness of the elites, dear gods, yes. And it never occurs to them that people might respond to their boasting about sitting on the dock by wanting to push them off it…

    Lathechuck. good. And that’s exactly it — the scale of change that would be necessary to go to 8% of your current energy use would leave nothing untouched.

  214. John, et alia—

    Re the Middle East, empire, and the rest of it

    With apologies to our host for however much deviation from our topic this may be, I have to report, with some serious humility, that I received a profound lesson in the human element of all of this tonight. My RPG group met for our monthly get-together, looked forward to by all and the expected ribald humor was not at all absent, even though we all nearly died fighting red dragons. (Seriously, two of them.) Toward the end of the evening, however, topics turned to more recent events. And our group includes not one, but three military veterans (one female, two male). Yours truly, being the opinionated, historically-minded idiot that he is, persisted in arguing that 1917 was a mistake and that the subsequent empire was a waste and a mistake. These people, my friends, have bled in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the like. And who the frack am I to say their bleeding was pointless and in vain? One of the guys actually had a mini PTSD episode as we wrapped up and I felt like complete and total shale for not knowing when to keep my mouth shut. It was a very sobering and disturbing experience, to say the least. I will need to spend some time with this. I am not altogether sure exactly how to process it, despite the assurances of my friends, the veterans in question, that all is kosher.

  215. “The Western world has been on that trajectory now for just over a century, and probably has another couple of centuries to go”

    70 years ago “The Western world” had 40% of global GDP. Now it is 20% and dropping rapidly. This suggests that the “Western world” trajectory will have a shorter timescale.

  216. The elite town where I work had major flooding again this year. Flooding in 2013 overwhelmed a subdivision that had not fully recovered from massive flooding in 2006. Noble efforts to build a flood wall did not save people from chest high water in their basements. One of my students’ parents were financially ruined by the 2013 flood. The husband had no choice but to take a job offer to move out of state for significantly less pay. A friend of our family lost the house he had bought for his aging mother to a flood. His mom’s house wasn’t far from the flooded subdivision. The city ended up buying it back later for pennies on the dollar. The land wasn’t usable for housing. The flooded subdivision I’m thinking of was built in the 1960s. The whole area is a watershed to the DuPage River. Much of our area’s housing was built in the 1960s and it’s patently obvious the structures were not meant to last two decades, and here we are nearly sixty years later. Zero thought went into “Is this house going to be OK when the river floods?”

    In other news, I keep hearing stories about men who were highly paid executives now going through messy divorces (there are always at least two kids going to college, usually to private universities) via my upper middle class friends. These men always think if they hold out another year or two, they’ll land something better than the 50 to 80K per year middle management jobs with no retirement benefits they ended up with as gifts from friends after two solid years of unemployment. They don’t seem to realize they’re on an escalator going down.
    They aren’t fit, mentally or physically, to work in a warehouse, to deliver pizza, or to drive a cab, and for them, being told to make do with what they’ve been dealt is like when coal miners were told to “learn to code”. Very few are skilled enough in home repair or gardening to do anything for themselves, and tend to pine for the days when they could afford housecleaning services. To be fair, most of these men are 60 years old at the youngest, and in decades past would have been looking at a lifestyle of golfing and air travel in their golden years.

  217. Your attention please: JMG has recaptured and caged the savage first draft and I have made the shoggoth a nice cuppa to help her calm down. The emergency is over. You may all stand down and resume your normal erudite discussions.

  218. items in the news of late:
    –the bees are dying;
    –cockroaches are becoming immune to pesticides;
    –antibiotic resistance is especially problematic in—hospitals;
    –the current rate of species extinction is estimated at 1000times the natural, or background,rate;
    –the latest nominee to the federal reserve board is a fan of a zero interest rate;
    –the boeing 737max will be grounded until the end of the year;
    –the midwestern corn and soybean crops are taking a year off –a “gap year” if you will;
    –john bolton and mike pompeo are still the gold dust twins of u.s. foreign policy.
    nevertheless, i’m not worried for ourselves. . i have two lambs to slaughter next week, the potatoes are going great, the garlic harvest was terrific and cabbages, tomatoes, peppers and winter squash are proceeding apace .i have withdrawn from conflict and politicsas harry blackmun stated in a different context, “no longer shall i tinker with the machinery of death”.

  219. JMG wrote: ” imagine huge refugee streams, armed with weapons looted from the armed forces of failed MIddle Eastern states..”

    (1) I agree that the genie is out of the bottle. However where ever western aid is cut off to jihadi militancy it tends to collapse, see what happened to ISIS following Russian intervention.

    (2) Point taken

    (3) As for India and China their shortsightedness is creating that which they are trying to avoid! The Chinese state is fragile but resilient. Speaking under your correction, China either faced hordes such as the mongols who devasted everything or internal rebellions from its own masses. I am not too sure that fringe groups like the Ouigours ever managed to over turn the chinese state.

    (4) Quite so, I agree with you that faced with stark choices middle eastern population may be on the move. Now imagine the response of the Indian, Russian and western states to those middle eastern war hordes? Immediate military action that spares no-one. Where ever these war bands turn to, they will face formidable armies of highly motivated soldiers defending their homelands. Large scale blood shed ensues. I doubt very much that Turkey would have let armed refugees cross its territory. They did so because Germany rightly or wrongly opened its borders.

    (5) I agree that Europe has a more or less open door policy towards refugees. That may change abruptly at any time. My guess is that at a point in the future, european countries will close borders shut and enforce a strict border policy. It’s already happening in Italy and Hungary. With Brexit, european economic and social liberalism is coming to an end, populism is on the rise. Eventually, faced with existential threats, europe will have a shoot on sight policy towards refugees.

    As a summary, In my understanding, refugees armed or not leaving the Middle East will face armed opposition where ever they go. Trails of blood will follow. Few will ever make it anywhere….

  220. “Just another of my technical quibbles”
    Lathechuck, thank you for pointing out how producer gas from wood is an excellent feedstock (carbon monoxide and hydrogen are even better than natural gas) and reminding people that they should not breath this. Producer gas was phased out in Europe after WWII for use in farm tractors as causing too many deaths from those who did not take your advice. Chemical factories are not outlawed because they know how to make closed systems. I note that the US govt published a detailed DIY book for running tractors (heated the wood in a can attached to the tractor-right then gas going into carburator) off of this during WWII to help with agriculture during fuel shortages. That is a true fact: revision to older technology when petrol resources vanished. And the fact that parts of Europe ran out of trees a couple thousand years ago is also quite interesting but I am afraid not relevant to me without more.

    This arm chair chit chat keyboarding of conjecture is not satisfying and chews up scarce time. The internet is overflowing with endless conjecture and technical quibbles. However your personal explanation of real things/experience is interesting to hear about.

  221. Hi, once more!

    To finish off discussions on war bands, it seems to me that any state could collapse in the next 30 years in response to climate change, energy and resource depletion, environmental degradation and population explosion.

    The interesting question would be which ones are the most likely to implode and thus generate war bands. Are net food importing countries more likely to implode than net food exporters? Is country or population size a factor? Environmental degradation? Energy resources? Level of industrialisation?

    A question to all: would it be possible to come up with an index of state fragility that could compute the probability of a given state collapsing? It might come in handy!

    Thanks to all for the great discussions!

  222. Averagejoe, JMG, et al,

    Re: food prices and access

    Just one example in a galaxy of resilience approaches, but my wife and I have become good friends with a couple who are extensive organic market gardeners, in order to fill some of our needs.

    Market gardens always need picking in the days immediately after market. Veggies that weren’t quite ready for this Saturday’s market are often too mature a week later. Market gardeners are usually thrilled to have someone else pick the stuff that’s ready on off-market days.

    So I take a couple of hours on Sunday or Monday to drive out to their farm and glean green beans, squash, cucumbers, whatever needs attention, for the freezer and canning pot, as often as I can. I offer money but they never take it. If I don’t pick it then one or both of them has to, and then has to take it to the food bank on the other side of the county.

    In a sense, this arrangement is like bringing the food pantry into a more convenient U-pick arrangement. A win-win for everybody involved.

    And of course I grow what I can at home – figs, grapes, raspberries, herbs, eggs, mushrooms, etc – but that’s mostly because I can’t help myself!

  223. I’ve been reading your excellent blog for a while and this is the first time I’m posting!
    I was reading “Civilisation on Trial” by Toynbee and it’s interesting that he thinks that the next Universal Church at least in Europe will be an offshoot of Islam? What’s your view?
    I mention this because back in 1948 Toynbee specifically mentioned that he guessed it might be either the Baha’i or the Ahmadis. I don’t know if you’re aware of this, but the Ahmadis have had their headquarters in Britain since 1984 and were based in London until this year. Now they live in Surrey in rural England. I know about them because they seem to be the most active of all the Islamic sects in missionary activities. I’ve met a few and they seem to be a nice and peaceful bunch but I’m not sure if that isn’t partially due to being a weak and persecuted minority group…
    Anyway I think it’s interesting that a sect founded in Colonial British India now has its headquarters close to the heart of the former empire. A lot like Christianity travelling from Roman Palestine to Rome Proper. Apparently there are more Ahmadis worldwide than Baha’i (but maybe they fudged their statistics?) and they’re certainly more visible in the UK. I wonder what Toynbee might have made of it?

  224. As far as the technofix optomists go, I am in full agreement.
    However, when it comes to the catastrophists’ arguments it seems largely a matter of time scales. What you describe is a kind of slow catastrophe, i.e. the self destruction of Western industrial society as a process that will occur in staggered but gradual decline. There is very little recognition in your writing of the danger of nuclear (or other massively destructive) weapons though -and I have read many dozens of your articles and several of your books. The increasing pressures within a society of resource shocks can predictably lead to warfare, and history arguably shows this to be the case.
    Religious fundamentalists, especially those with state power and nuclear weapons capability (declared and undeclared) don’t feature much in the ‘Long Descent’. The pressures of heightened international tensions are, to them, confirmations of their apocalyptic prophecies, and it is this that lends more weight to the catastrophists’ arguments than you allow, I would argue.

  225. My husband wrote a novel about his family’s flight westwards. It is called “Sunrise in the west” and is available from Amazon if anyone is interested. The history is pretty accurate and also the incidents which he gleaned from the girls in the book when visiting them as an adult. If this too much like an advertisement please delete. It just might interest some people.

  226. “probably have turned much of the UK’s best farmland into salt marsh if not sea”

    Reading Bruce’s words reminded me of physicist Freeman Dyson’s autobiography. He grew up on a farm on the English coastline that was below sea level. They had dykes to keep the sea out, and one of his duties as a child was to open the barriers at low tide to let the fields drain, and close them again before the salt water flooded in.

    Obviously this is only feasible if there is quite a height difference between high and low tide. Where I live in the Western Cape, South Africa, our tidal range is about two meters, max, and this type of farming wouldn’t be practical. Wonder what the tides are like in Florida?

  227. John—

    Reflecting on my experience last night (Again, apologies for that. I was rather overwhelmed from the experience. The wine skin had been refilled far too many times and I ought to have known when to keep my mouth shut.) The emotional and psychological dimension of this decline is going to be quite a challenge, both in managing our own and engaging with others whose own lives have been impacted by our national foolishness. How does one say to a veteran of Iraq, for example, that yes, it was all in vain? (The answer is one doesn’t. I at least managed to get that part right.)

    I think that there was truth on all sides of the conversation. I kept pointing out that we were foolish to have entangled ourselves with Europe in 1917 and that we’ve been paying for that ever since. It was pointed out to me (correctly) that we *didn’t* make that decision and, right or wrong, we have to deal with the present reality, that a sudden and unilateral withdrawal would bring chaos. I don’t disagree that we need a planned disengagement, but we do need to disengage.

    The hard part was listening to these guys (and gal) talk about their own experiences and understanding how there was no way I could possibly understand what they had gone through. How their lives and bodies and minds had been impacted by the trauma of war. Who am I in such company? I know whereof *I* speak, the historical sequences which frame the events of the present day, but it is book-and-head knowledge, however accurate it may be, and not the raw, in-the-flesh experience of having your vehicle destroyed by an IED. These are both truths—or, more accurately, representations of experience—but come from very different places. How can one converse over such a divide? It’s just that I see these very real human beings having been fed into the wood chipper of our nation’s poor decisions and find myself confronted by the equally real, if secondary, emotional response to that fact.

    The long descent is going to be this sort of thing, over and over again. Frankly, I could use a good dose of detachment right now.

  228. JMG-

    The ‘sad’ in sadiron actually comes from Middle English and means ‘solid’, which these irons certainly were. From Judith Flanders’ most excellent book, “The Making of Home: The 500-Year Story of How Our Houses Became Our Homes”, the first electric iron, introduced in the 1880’s, did not have an internal thermostat, “It had to be unplugged after it was heated, and plugged in again every time the heat dissipated, but it was still much better – cleaner, and more efficient – than an iron heated on the stove.”

    In addition to Flanders’ fine book about the evolution of home and its contents, Jane Brox’s book, “Brilliant: The Evolution of Artificial Light” is an excellent history of, well, the development of artificial light and how the ability to illuminate the darkness has had profound effects on human societies. As has been discussed here and in ADR, every new technology brings with it intended and unintended consequences; many home technologies that we consider just part of the background of life have been around for a couple of generations, just long enough for us to forget how life was lived before them.

  229. Dear Mr Greer

    Thank your your response to my post about a fascist future. I have always thought that a fascist future is possible in America, but is less likely than in Europe for two reasons. Americans seem to have a much greater distrust of the state than they do in Europe. Fascism in the the the way I am using the word is about a totalitarian state and is more likely to occur in a country where people have a culture that wants a strong leader and a strong state. America has the most well armed population in the world and a culture that loves guns. Therefore the American population has the means to fight back against a totalitarian state in a way that people in London where I live would not have.

    Countries have different cultures and histories and are likely to go bad in different way. If America goes bad its more likely to happen through an insurgency/civil war. If you look at the death toll for the last civil war in America of about 600000 to a million in a population of about 40 million, then you are looking at a death toll that could come close to some fascists states (At least the less genocidal ones). Therefore not having a fascist future does not mean you are out of the fire.

    I do remember you saying that America dodged a civil war when it Elected Trump. You are also saying that it dodged a fascist future as well. I suppose what you are saying is that the alienated and well armed working class who live in the fly over states and in many cases have had military training, now feel that they have a stake in the system and are no longer ignored, because they have their man in Washington. I remember that you said just after the Brexit vote came in in 2016, that this was an event of historical significance as it may have delayed the inevitable schism between the internal proletariat and the dominant minority by a 100 years. (Not sure if these were your exact words) I am wondering if this is what you meant by those words. This is one of the reasons I voted Brexit is that the EU’s masters were undemocratic and becoming increasingly distant from the ordinary working classes of Europe. Looking at what they were prepared to do to Greece convinced me that the way the EU was going was more likely to lead to a fascist future or a war than to prevent it. Thats why I wanted out, because I wanted a government that was closer to us and that we could kick out of power.

    It is of course one of the paradoxes of history that the EU was created to prevent war and fascism and it is a pity that things have gone like this.

    By the way I have never liked Trump and think that he is vile and some of the things he says are racist. However I don’t think he is a fascist, although he may be the Aperitif before that happens. You say that trumps election may have put off the possibility of a fascist future by 7 or 8 decades. I think you’re being optimistic and that it may have put off that possibility by 5 to 15 years. I know you’re more likely to get a civil war that a fascist future, but both outcomes will be pretty terrible. Lets hope I’m wrong.

  230. Thanks, JMG. I will certainly get some food like that. Alas, the stoves here are all electric. My old house had a gas stove and gas water heater for just that reason.

    Funny story in connection with the outage: one of the residents kept insisting that if I had a cell phone, I should call Security and warn them of the outage. I could see out the window that the lights were out at the gate, and the stoplight just outside the gate. So I was quite sure that Security knew all about it – first-hand.

    Blatant greenwashing from the cafeteria and dining rooms: the takeout boxes boast of being earth-friendly compostable plastic. They can neither be recycled nor reused, but go into the trash. Out comes my old flat enameled metal round dish (with plastic top, alas) that fits so nicely in my light canvas pouch. Earth-friendly move #1: B.Y.O.T!!! And you need takeout: they serve you twice as much as any normal person could eat. “A machine for turning resources into waste at the highest possible speed,” to quote the guy in your mirror.

  231. JMG your response to Karim’s comment sounded more like the WWIII scenario…. WWIII was never discussed on the ADR nor on Ecosophia as far as I know.

    A third World War seems like pretty big deal. My biggest question about a third world war is, should the US be neutral in it? I think the US has some responsibility towards Europe for one reason only: our ideals about republic and democratic government originated there. “I have always reckoned the dignity of the republic first importance and preferable to life.”

    I think WWIII deserves a post of its own, tied into or after the series on the Return of Peak Oil posts coming. War is a big deal. “In War events of importance are the result of trivial causes.” -Julius Caesar

  232. Or, another way to state 8% would be to say that energy prices will be increasing ~12.5x. So if you’re paying $3 for gas now, that would be eventually paying ~$40 for it by the end. Not all at once and probably not in the form of gas in your car. We’d probably move to a world where any short range trip will be done by bicycle, medium and long range trips will be done by bus or train. Wherever it’s possible, stuff would come to you and not the other way around. Probably many more people living in cities, where the amount of travel can be reduced. And there’s economies of scale with energy use to be had in the cities, I’m guessing. Also a complete loss of freedom too, but that’s another post and topic altogether.

    We’re already starting to see that happening (sigh), I think the system knows where things are going and all the talk is about how can things come to you and not the other way around. And about how we can get the holdouts to all move to the cities.

    Like I said, it’s going to be a muddle-through. Things will suck, but the world will make-do and adjust. And you never do know – humans get their most creative and imaginative when constraints are put upon them. Always some wag out there that lives to find the loophole or the sweetest trade-off in everything. Things will get more efficient, least effort for most reward will drive everything.

  233. @JMG, Tripp, Methylethyl, Sunnnv and Peninsula;

    Thank You for your replies. We moved to Tampa 2 years ago and were just finally unloading/emptying out our old house in WY. I did really like Panama City, even seeing it amongst all the remaining devastation. We still talk, (muse) about moving there to be closer to our kids’ college in Tallahassee, but it all depends on DH’s job.

    Road Trip: YES! I felt a bit guilty squandering so much fuel, but a cross country drive is truly a great way to see ‘on the ground’, the state North America is in – as well as a joy to experience, (and the people! and the FOOOOD is freakin’ AMAZING!). The thing is – even where there are abandoned storefronts, rust-belt and loss; the people are awesome and they find a way to carry on and move along with their lives. We also muse quite often about just retiring to an RV and a nomadic life on the road, but don’t know how we could fuel that economically, so it’s likely to remain a pipe dream.

    I too, have definitely cycled through all 4 responses – as a previous thread described – it’s very much like going through Elizabeth Kubler Ross’s 5 stages of death.

  234. “I like to imagine societies very, very far in the future, for whom all the turmoil of our time is a matter of dim legends from the nearly prehistoric past, and which have long since worked out subtle and intricate ways of relating sustainably to the planet. Someday I’m going to write a long strange novel set in such a world, which next to nobody will read.”

    I’ll pre-order that book the second it becomes available!

    More generally, your blogs and books have been of enormous use to me – and a lot of fun as well. I have only commented briefly a couple of times, but have been a regular reader for years. My wife and I are making plans and laying foundation for a move from the suburbs to a small city with multiple strategic advantages for the long haul that most people don’t see. And you have been helpful in that planning, so we thank you, very much. We hope to meet you and some of the great regulars here in person next summer.

    And please do write that book. You know, in all that spare time you have. 😉

    Jeff H

  235. Patricia – Re: hurricane lamps. Something I’ve used for emergency lighting, which might be useful to you, too, is solar-powered light stakes. Poke them in the ground outside during the day, then bring them inside for a modest amount of lighting in the night. They’re much safer than an old-fashioned oil lamp: no fires, no burns, no glass chimney to break, easy to light even when soaking wet. They’re not expensive (about $4 ea.) when new, and since the batteries wear out eventually, you might refurbish some from a garage sale. You might also look at solar-charged camping lanterns, many of which include USB ports for charging a phone (or radio).

  236. Thank you for this and I am really shocked and worried about the relentless rollout of the internet of things, the smart cities initiatives and the very present threat of 5g with all the tons of raw materials that is being ignored by environmental organisations and the press. It seems more that insane that we are going into this with full verve ( when I say us I use that term very loosely)

  237. Oh and Thank You, Patricia Matthews, I have been meaning to see that movie. I will definitely look for it now. 🙂

    @Denys: I think I’m on the opposite side of the political aisle from you and I agree! I am equally drained whenever I watch more than a few minutes of the “News”. LOL. So, coping strategy = denials? turning it off and living in ignorant bliss, shuffle off to my workshop and make pretty furniture. 🙂

    I have also noticed in certain places a ‘slob-ification’, given up aspect to fellow citizens, and yes – it seems to come from the inside to outside. It is very sad to witness. BTW, I’m wondering what the conference was about? The attendees sound like my mother and her ‘Clutterers Anonymous’ conferences; but my mom and her clutterer, (hoarder) friends ARE already known to be struggling with a certain type of mental affliction.

    @SLClaire: I’m sad to hear that decline in St. Louis. Last year my family and I did a similar cross country road trip and stayed there a few days – definitely one of my favourite cities to visit. We were there (incidental to this conversation) to see Cahokia. I’m sure as a local, you know the history and vast reach of that ancient Mississippian cultural centre. Perhaps not your immediate zip code, or in the immediate future, but it struck me that that overall region would be a likely candidate for continuing human habitation. Clearly, it’s been hospitable enough for centuries. But, yes, I can appreciate, it’s cold comfort in the bumpy ragged road down from Industrial/fossil fuelled civilisation to whatever comes next.

    @Marvin Mots – yes, Lifestyle change! But the irony is – for most of us – it’s actually going to be a BETTER, (more fulfilling, stable, enjoyable…) lifestyle than the current typical-extravagant-Amrican- middle-class one we’re in. Double-Irony – the younger generations (like my kids – Gen-Z) seem to get this far quicker and easier than we Boomers 😉
    Finally –

    @Laureth – I’ve seen those things too and find them very alarming, especially dismissals of the treatment of those migrant children and people at the borders. I have to admit, however, I’ve seen mostly in social media discussions. There were a few in our (old, the town we just moved out of) little town in WY that I can put a face to a name, but even they only said those things online. They would not say them in public/in person. Which I find curiouser and curiouser. Are you seeing or hearing this from people IRL or also online conversations?

  238. JMG, in your response to Booklover about the absence of pushback you mention being startled. I am a bit less so simply because of the vibe of where I live. Please forgive any excess in poetic language, but I feel in the psychic ethers the sort of dewey sadness that accompanies the dawning of a painful realization.

    And with this I get the sense that people are starting to be able to acknowledge the reality of Peak Oil. Part of the religious work that I do involves gifting folks nectary plants to grow as a gift to the bees. Doing this has gotten me out of the house, and it has filled me with a measure of guarded optimism. It seems to me like a good deal of people are getting the premonition that it’s a good time to build a garden and plant some flowers that are good for the bees. Indeed, quite a few more than last season when I did this work.

    This may seem like a very little thing, but to my mind this is one of those small, sensible steps that reflect reaching the stage of Acceptance in the grieving process, the point where small, adaptive steps can be taken. I think that there has been a meaningful shift since the last time you wrote about Peak Oil. Of course, it this movement towards Acceptance isn’t evenly distributed, but it feels to me much, much broader that a decade ago.

  239. The last thing I wanted to say, (somewhat on topic) since many of us are talking about strategies during our individual descent, (growing food, salvaging/crafting/making, etc….) is that as a current salvager/crafter/maker a certain wave of reality has been slapping me in the face again and again.

    That is sales. It doesn’t matter how beautifully you can craft a garment or a piece of furniture or solar/waterRube-Goldberg-air-drivencar or general -Doo-hickey. Doesn’t matter how well it works. Doesn’t matter whether the economy or civilisation is on the upswing or the downswing, George-Jetson-futurist or Mad Max-Neo-Medieval peasant: if you cannot SELL what you have to offer, you will starve.

    So while we’re planning or LESS (or more!) futures – by gosh and by golly – also cultivate your sales skills. They never go out of style.

  240. JMG: “Someday I’m going to write a long strange novel set in such a world, which next to nobody will read.”

    Well, there’s a good chance that I will, so you can round that up to at least 1!

  241. Hi JMG,

    It seems to me that what you have proposed through your work has elements of all four of these strategies. If one envisions a possible future that embraces aspects of the past, focus on this solution and detaches themselves from the noise (even tending to your garden is part of this strategy), also detach yourself from the part of society you do not wish to contribute to and instead be the things you want to see. All of these behaviours, to me, seem quite in line with traditional religious teachings (certainly of the ones I am familiar with, at least) and create a strong opening for growth in this area. This has been my experience, at least.

    I don’t know how society at large will work through this, but I know that for myself it has become the major motivator for my actions. There is still more I can do, but I have found that allowing the truth of the energy situation to drive the search for “what to do,” my choices have been producing better results. I feel that my life now is far better than it was 10 years ago, all from placing value on the things I thought I needed to do because of the future I saw coming. These are things like working on my relationships with my neighbours, working to downgrade of my lifestyle, working in my garden, even the desire to have children I think I owe partially to this.

    This year I have been focusing rather intensely on my garden as it’s something I can do while I’m with my son outside in the evenings, and also by myself before I leave for work, (It’s something I have wanted to do more seriously for a while – we have been growing vegetables for maybe the last 5 or so years with increasing success, but I’m taking advantage of some things my son’s birth has brought about in my life – early bed times and a strong incentive to be outdoors being the main things in this case, to be more ambitious in this area). I don’t really see it as work really, now that I’m in it as my routine, it’s quite relaxing, especially as the sun rises in the background with the birds singing and squirrels rustling about.

    It’s a good way to get to know more people in the neighborhood too as gardening seems to be seen as a generally positive thing across many different value systems. People from all sorts of different backgrounds will stop to talk to me about what I’m doing – either joking with me about weeding if they catch me doing that, or sometimes a general compliment. Sometimes there are people who are surprisingly aligned in many ways to my way of thinking about the world and it’s been revealed through discussing gardening. Over the years I think gardening has been my opening point for my relationship with almost all of our neighbours. It’s made me much closer to the ones who do grow their own vegetables too, and I am learning a lot from them (and in places able to pass on bits I’ve learned).

    My plan is to start everything from seed indoors next year, and to use seed saving to really reduce the cost of everything. I think too, growing my own seedlings will be a good way to be able to give gifts of the extras as it really won’t cost anything to grow more than what I have room for in my yard – it’s actually better because I’ll have lots of back ups if the plants fail to germinate. This peak oil driven neighbourhood focused thinking has sort of tweaked my instincts towards always trying to take opportunity for chances to ingratiate myself to the people around me as a way of building good will (it’s a selfish way of thinking, but I think I am a selfish person and it’s better to harness that to do work with than try to deny it). I’ve found it works the other way too, if something bad happens to us it draws people closer. This thinking has turned some instances of bad luck on our part into an overall win for us.

    I hope that others are able to find positive changes in their lives stemming from coming to term with all of this too.

    Thanks,
    Johnny

  242. JMG

    I am very happy to see this blog wade back into the physical realm. While I enjoy the occult teachings I find it hard to find anything useful to add to the commentary.

    Have you read Randall Carlson’s essay on the carbon cycle http://geocosmicrex.com/global-change/carboncycle/
    I had heard mainstream climate scientists dismiss these arguments casually but if the studies cited are accurate it certainly blunts some the worst case scenario predictions. I have always been skeptical about how quickly they are to demonize CO2 while almost never mentioning the heat island effect.

    He also has a lot of information regarding the younger dryas impact hypothesis

    On the political front Matt Taibbi has an online book titled Hate inc https://taibbi.substack.com/p/introduction-the-fairway (some parts are behind a paywall but the first couple are public). Very interesting take on the media and it’s involvement in the election of Trump.

    I would love to hear your thoughts if you have the time to read these.

  243. Hi JMG,

    Thinking about this, the common thread, has me wondering about another aspect of the Cosmic Doctrine (going off topic for a moment!), a person has many Cosmoi within them, If you can find a single course of action that seems good across many of them it shows you a way to align disparate elements of your life. The must also be true across groups of people (and other things).

    As with all Cos Doc inspired thoughts I accept I might be approaching this entirely wrong…

    Thanks,
    Johnny

  244. Dear Karim and others discussing ‘WWIII’,

    If I may,

    Consider Spengler:

    “The Pax Romana had for the later soldier-emperors and Germanic band-kings only the one practical significance that it made a formless population of a hundred millions a mere object for the will-to-power of small warrior groups. This peace cost the peaceful sacrifices beside which the losses of Cannae seem vanishingly small. The Babylonian, Chinese, Indian, Egyptian worlds pass from one conqueror’s hands to another’s, and it is their own blood that pays for the contest. That is their peace. When in 1401 the Mongols conquered Mesopotamia, they built a victory memorial out of the skulls of a hundred thousand inhabitants of Baghdad, which had not defended itself. From the intellectual point of view, no doubt, the extinction of the nations puts a fellaheen-world above history, civilized at last and for ever. But in the realm of facts it reverts to a state of nature, in which it alternates between long submissiveness and brief angers that for all the bloodshed world-peace never diminishes that alter nothing. Of old they shed their blood for themselves; now they must shed it for others, often enough for the mere entertainment of others that is the difference. A resolute leader who collects ten thousand adventurers about him can do as he pleases. Were the whole world a single Imperium, it would thereby become merely the maximum conceivable field for the exploits of such conquering heroes. “Lever doodt al s Sklav (better dead than slave)” is an old Frisian peasant saying. The reverse has been the choice of every Late Civilization, and every Late Civilization has had to experience how much that choice costs it.”
    Vol. II p.185-186

    I think Spengler is absolutely correct; “A resolute leader who collects ten thousand adventurers about him can do as he pleases.” For this reason, I imagine that Western Europe will fall. Russia and Eastern Europe stand a better chance to my mind. I don’t know enough to speculate on India or China.

  245. @David BTL My pest control guy served two tours in Iraq. Came to deal with the squirrel that got into the attic. He said the worst part of being back in the USA is constant complaining. People never stop. Everyone thinks that they know better and run their mouth all the time. They should just shut up and get to work.

    So that’s another view of what a vet thinks of us.

  246. @Will @Caryn

    I’m not going to give specifics on the internet with its long memory, but it was a professional development conference with people learning skills from experts in the field.

    I was just really taken aback that individuals who came from all over and didn’t really know each other had such a cohesive appearance. We are such social animals as humans and typically in crowd photos people look generally similar because we dress like the others there. It’s just what we do!

    I don’t know why I think JMG can explain these random weird things that happen, but here I am trying to describe it and figure it out.

  247. The United States lost its creative minority relatively recently. In the Titanic, the billionaire John Jacob Astor IV chose to go down with the ship so that a woman or child could be saved. That generation was sent to boarding schools, where they endured harsh privations and strict religion. They learned discipline early.
    I don’t know when our creative minority was lost but part of the story is the rise of the New Left. After the Sixties, people became aware that the WASPs were the elite and demanded broadened access by others. The main means of entry to the elite was through elite colleges. Over forty years, a “meritocracy” arose, that entered the elite by passing a rigorous series of qualifying exams and education. By the time they’d risen into the elite, the meritocrats felt that they deserved to be there. Noblesse oblige fell entirely out of favor. I can’t imagine Steve Jobs letting a woman take his seat in the Titanic lifeboats. Jobs was creative but didn’t felt an obligation to greater society.
    To study civilization rising and falling, a good book is Ian Morris’ Why the West Rules – For Now. He traces the rise and fall of both Western and Chinese civilization. His conclusion is that the limiting factor is energy. Rome and Tang China could rise to a certain level of organization based on human and animal muscle power, but it hit a kind of ceiling. The West began to rise when it began to use wind, then fossil fuels, for energy.

  248. Hi, Lady Cutekitten –
    Thank you! I’d like to see them get some momentum. I don’t want to oversell it, as they’ve only gotten a few test models built. But I think it’s a good idea, and I like that the guy who started it has a particular focus, rather than trying to change the whole world all at once.

  249. David, so noted. For what it’s worth, I think of the alternatives that followed the final collapse of the British Empire in 1941. One of three nations was going to end up as the next global hegemon: the United States, Nazi Germany, or the Soviet Union. All things considered, which would you have preferred?

    Keith, not at all, because most of that shift has been a matter of the rise of other parts of the world, rather than the fall of ours — and since that shift took place at the same time that the global consumption of fossil fuel energy reached levels that were unimaginable a century ago, a vast amount of it was simply a matter of additional energy and the products of energy (i.e., wealth) going to the rising powers of East and South Asia. Look at the changes in wealth, corrected for inflation, in the western world and you get a better view of where we are in the curve.

    Kimberly, thanks for the snapshots of decline. This is the new reality…

    Jaymo, that’s what Toynbee called the strategy of detachment, and as you demonstrate, it’s a viable option.

    Karim, I ain’t arguing. I think the result of the upcoming Third World War will be a brutal defeat of jihadi migrant armies on the eastern and northern fronts, combined and then followed by a long and equally brutal struggle against jihadi insurgencies and warbands in various parts of the world. It’s the western front — that is, western Europe — where the outcome really is in doubt.

    As for other states — good heavens, yes. I expect failed-state zones to become increasingly common as time goes on, and those are the classic breeding grounds for warband culture. I don’t know of a good measure of the sort you have in mind, but you’re right that it would be good to have one.

    Tripp, thanks for this! That won’t work in a larger urban area — here in Rhode Island, there’s a farmer’s market every day of the week in one neighborhood or another, so what’s not ripe for our farmer’s market on Thursdays will be fine up in Pawtucket on Saturdays — but in a smaller area, it’s a good approach.

    Isabel, that’s a possiblity. Spengler points out that there’s a turn to religion at the end of every great culture’s Age of Reason, but which religion? That’s always a good question. It’s often something that offends the sensibilities of the elite, and Ahmadi Islam would certainly qualify. Still, it’s early days yet.

    Mog, I’ve actually discussed nuclear weapons at quite some length in my blogs and my books; in fact, I fielded a question on that earlier on this comment page. You can find one of my posts on the subject here. You’re quite right that what I’m suggesting amounts to a slow cataclysm, because that’s what happens in the twilight of every civilization — of course it’s punctuated and made messy by local and regional catastrophes on a much faster time scale, but we have those already.

    JillN, thanks for this.

    Phil K, thanks for this! Down we go…

    David BTL, I get that. The thing is, we’re all prisoners of our own experience. I have no idea what it’s like to have the kind of nervous system most people have, with mirror neurons that tell you what other people are feeling; I have no idea what people enjoy when they go to sports games, or what the rush of victory in a physical sport is like (yeah, I was one of those kids who never, as in not even once, managed to hit a softball with a bat.) And of course that’s not even counting the huge differences of culture, gender, and so on. One of the complexities of cultural change, decline in particular, is that it’s more common to be brought face to face with differences of that kind.

  250. Comments about solar lanterns very welcome. Ones stuck in the ground not feasible; I’m on the 4th floor. and the groundskeepers would assuredly not like me putting them out there. But camping lanterns? Will go looking for them, then see about scrounging a ride to wherever has them. Thanks, all!

    Of course – daytime, no problem; there is light coming through my two windows (Southwest wall.)
    Night, no problem, I’ll be asleep. It’s the evening that might drag.

    And thanks, everyone, especially my fellow Floridians. Live from Gainesville…

  251. @Denys:
    For work, I was just at a large medical complex a few days ago. I haven’t been around one of these health factories very much. The number of patients who had taken any care with their appearance was vanishingly small. At least half the people coming used the power doors to get in and out, although most of them appeared able to open a door unassisted. They seem to have given up…

    I just got an email from The Green Energy Consumer’s Alliance on how to Green The Grid! They’re trying to remind us that times of peak electricity use are in late afternoon in summer, so we should be sure to minimize our power use then. That is sure to Shave the Peak. It’s along way down the stair from reducing peak demand by a couple 1/10s of a percent to using a few percent of current energy use.

  252. One other thought on WWIII if I may,

    Apparently China is now holding somewhere in the neighborhood of two million Muslims in political internment camps, or perhaps “concentration camps” is a term that better fits the bill. China seems to come down really hard on fringe religions. There was — and probably continues to be — imprisonment, torture, and organ harvesting of Falun Gong practitioners. Point being, in the Western Provinces of China there are now huge numbers of Muslims held in open air prisons under the sinister name of “Vocational Skills Education Centers”. And indeed it seems, Chinese interests are all too happy to use these folks for slave factory labor.

    Apparently, many religious and ethnic practices of the Uighur people have already been made illegal. To my mind then, this war is already well under way. This sort of widespread, massive, and flagrant abuse of human rights does bring readily to mind certain excesses of Germany in the last World War.

    This situation is ugly in the sort of way exceeding the carrying capacity is inevitably ugly. I am no fan of Islam. Equally, I’m no fan of the Chinese state’s tactics towards religious minorities. No matter how you cut it, things are really, really ugly. So ugly, in fact, that I find it impossible to find myself even theoretically partisan.

  253. Hi JMG

    Good to read your consideration about the toynbean “heresies” in declining civilization, I have written also some articles about that some months ago.

    IMHO our civilization has much more capacity to create huge problems than to solve them. Take for example Fuckushima; we will never ever, jamás, niemals, jamais, clean the three melted cores, recover the material and send them to a “safe” place; not even if we expend thousands of times the costs of Apollo Project, simply the environment at the site is thousands times more hostile than in the space.
    Now they have built a wall of frozen earth to try to prevent the subterranean wáter from the mountains from washing the radiactive material to the Pacific Ocean, they have decrease the amount of radiactive discharge from 550 tons to around 100 tons, but with a huge manpower and energy costs, and waiting for a new earthquake or power outages to remove these barrieries. The radiative material, despite whatever we make, will go to the Pacific Oceans from now to centuries or thousands years, and the effect of 1760 tons or radiactive waste in the Pacific Ocean in the next centuries is unknown (Chernobyl had “only” 180 tons, so Fukushima is at least an order or magnitud worse accident than Chernobyl….but you know, they were russkies…)

    This is only one example, there are some hundreds nuclear power plants with their refrigeration pools filled with thousands of tons of wasted rods (because nobody wants a nuclear cemetery close) waiting for a “solution” and we do not have enough resources to treat them (even in the “first world”)

    Thanks to modern Science our civilization has convert the others’s civiization problems in peanuts; we have increased the magnitude of the problems in space and time, our science have converted the problems from linears to non-linear, from tractables to intractables, from local to global, from short term to thousands or hundred thousands years impact, we cannot solve them now and we will cannot solve them in the future with much less resources available, and the adaptation will be more difficult than in the past

    Well, I think this time could be different

  254. Hey Mr. Greer,
    I decided to read another 19th Century book, “Middle March” by George Elliot. They have much more longer and flowery sentences in books of that kind. Somehow, I think I will get through it. That would be a great idea. And, in other good news, I decided to become interested in the very subject that I never did well in, in School, namely mathematics. If I can only get my math skills up to my verbal skills, I would be actually recognized as above average in intelligence.

    One day, I hope to even become a mathematician. As silly as it sounds now, I used to endeavor to write fiction, Science Fiction in particular. That is precisely why I have such a high level of verbal ability. Looking back, had I told my teachers I wanted to be a mathematician, as an adult, rather than a fiction writer, they would actually have been much more supportive of me. After all, they mostly focused on math, in my school.

    Another mistake, life mistake, I made was to ever become interested in history. After all, no matter what one says about that topic, others might get angry with one. I try not to talk about all that stuff anymore. I can see if I can actually switch my interests. I suppose, I could even be interested in Pure Mathematics. I remember, even, endeavoring to teach myself the topic of Logic, out of a Logic textbook. Had thought myself to be very smart, and I was full of opinions. Still, since I only got merely halfway through the textbook, I have come to the realization that I am not quite as smart as I thought I was.

    Well, anyway, Arnold Toynbee and Oswald Spengler, however one may feel about them, had very interesting ideas about how history itself actually works: they were particularly fixated on the rise and fall of Civilization, over the centuries. And besides, I hope you are doing well today.

  255. @ JMG

    Re US hegemony

    Given our choice in 1917, I absolutely agree. But, of course, it was our joining the Allied side which led to Nazi Germany in the first place. Had the AEF not been in place, the German spring offensive in 1918 would have gotten much further and there would have been a high likelihood of a negotiated peace, as the two sides had been beating one another down for those years. It was the unconditional surrender forced on the Central Powers enabled by those fresh forces from the US, the crushing reparations, and national humiliation of Germany that set the stage for a charismatic non-com to take the reins of power those years later.

    I’d have preferred that we’d not chosen a path of empire, but psychologically, with the opportunities dangled before our nation, that was pretty much an impossibility.

    Re our experiences

    Quite true. I was being shown different perspectives, as I think my friends were as well. In the extreme near-view, their points are understandable, even if I don’t always agree. (Just as one example, the female vet has, among her other tattoos, a bloodied dagger on her shoulder with the Latin for “Kill them all and let God sort them out” which she had done in response to 9/11.) I had a nice talk with one of them, a disabled vet who owns our local birdseed supply store, for several hours this afternoon and feel much better now. (For one thing, it turns out that the mini-PTSD episode of our third friend was caused by fireworks going off outside, not our debate, which helped me feel less like a heel.) This whole experience has been an educational one for me.

    @ Ryan S

    Re our withdrawal fro empire and the holding together of the Union

    I don’t disagree and that is one of the things that gets me rather impassioned on the subject. (Which, in turn, can get into some awkward spots, like last night.) I believe very deeply that our best chance to hold as much of this nation together as we can will come from letting our empire to go so that we can utilize our remaining resources to address our internal issues, rather than squandering those resources on a dying empire we are going to lose in the end anyway.

  256. Hi JMG,

    On the topic of Boomer loathing, you commented:

    “by most standards I’m also a Boomer, though on the trailing edge of the generation. I know there are some of us who didn’t sell out, and others who never got the opportunities in the first place! But it was very lonely there for a while, holding on to my ideals when everyone else in my generation was ditching theirs…”

    As a fellow boomer (middle of the pack, 8 yrs. older than you) it’s hard to be favorably impressed by the legacy our generation has carved out until now. Some redemptive acts may still be in store but the track record so far doesn’t inspire confidence. While our influence will be waning, boomer peeps will still be controlling many levers of power for another 10-15 years. I think one of the best things we can do is willingly hand the reins over to the next generation of leaders in most all walks of life.

    The whole notion of ‘selling out’ is complex…there are many (most?) of us who didn’t sell out to the degree which warrants your contempt…it’s a spectrum you know! I think the blaming/condemning or praising/idealizing of generations is mostly unproductive…too divisive. What good will it do? Boomer bashing’s clearly on the rise though and lots of sharp Swiftian satire is indeed well deserved.

    I guess you’re a member of the generation’s final graduating class, John Michael. You’ll soon join the rest of us in the third Saturn cycleI How about a Hard Limits Ball to celebrate? Could a formal launch of The Ecosophical Society be in the works? Please keep us posted.

    As always, much gratitude for your deep, inspiring work.

  257. Hello JMG

    In your reply to Simo, you said:
    “what’s going to happen? Armed mass migrations. The Third World War, the battle lines of which are forming across Eurasia as I write this, will pit jihadi Muslim armies motivated by ecological collapse against basically everyone else.”

    When do you think these battles will start happening?

    Regards,
    SMJ

  258. @David BTL,

    I’m sorry to hear that you had such an uncomfortable encounter, but I think these encounters with the “Others”, a.k.a. people who are not like ourselves are very very beneficial. I’m learning of late often the best thing to do is simply listen and learn, and only teach/preach/spout my own opinion if asked. It shouldn’t invalidate your own perspective, but it does also validate theirs.

    & for what it’s worth, although I can see why they’d have the perspective they do – I agree with yours about our involvements.

  259. Beekeeper, I didn’t happen to know the etymology of “sadiron,” but I knew a couple of elderly ladies in the Grange who grew up using them — they lived in farm country before rural electrification was complete — and they had their own idea of where the label came from! Thanks for the reading suggestions.

    Jasmine, oh, none of us are out of the fire. Over the next two to three centuries, if historical parallels are anything to go by, global population will be declining to less than 10% of its current level, and those four guys on horses will have a lot to do with it. Even if we’ve dodged civil war and a fascist period here in the US, as I believe we have, there are some very, very hard times ahead here — and everywhere, of course. Yes, you remember my comments on Brexit correctly; the British elite class — which like most national elites these days, is loyal to its class rather than its country, and finds democracy an intolerable nuisance that gets in the way of its pursuit of its own advantage — has been slapped hard by the voters, and while much of that class is having a fine fit of hysterics at the thought that mere ordinary Britons, those (cough, cough, Bojo, Farage, Rees-Mogg, cough, cough) who realize that supporting Brexit and the cause of the deplorables generally is their ticket to power. I expect BoJo to be Prime Minister shortly — I’m not sure what it is about bad hair, but it seems to be a ticket to the top spot in politics just now… 😉

    Patricia, do you happen to know how to cook with a chafing dish? That’s one old-fashioned way to keep going during a power outage. Of course there are also camp stoves…

    Austin, I’ll consider it.

    Owen, that’s a very useful way to see it — and yes, our species will muddle through this, too!

    Jeff, you’re most welcome and thank you.

    Tidlosa, thanks for this. Heh heh heh…

    Planetpriya, it is insane. Remember that you can always choose not to participate! If you’ve got a smartphone, replace it with a dumbphone or a land line; don’t buy any appliance that connects to the internet; use the internet only when you need to; oh, and don’t forget to throw away your television, if you haven’t done that already! There’s a way out of the madness and it starts with your own choices.

    Violet, interesting. Well, I’ll hope that it spreads more generally.

    Caryn, of course — except that you can also do stuff that you personally can use, or that you can give to family and friends, helping to build a gift economy. The market economy is only one way to do things, and in an age of decline, it’s not necessarily the best…

    Tripp and Your Kittenship, so noted.

    Johnny, delighted to hear it. That’s exactly how the changes we most need will happen: starting with individuals changing their own lives and showing others that it can be done.

    Matt, I hadn’t seen Carlson’s essay, but the concepts are familiar and it’s good to see them set out in so sensible a form. Of course he’s right — one of the basic lessons of the environmental sciences is that any time you predict a linear response to a linear change in one variable, you’re wrong. (That doesn’t mean that CO2 pollution isn’t going to drive some messy changes in weather, but it does mean that there are countervailing forces.) I’ll consider reading Taibbi’s piece; generally speaking, I find his writing shallow and tendentious, but I suppose even a blind mouse can occasionally find a broken clock… 😉

    Johnny, good. That’s also an application of a very basic occult principle, the principle of analogy: if something works on one plane, there’s a good chance that something analogous to it will work on other planes.

    Tomriverwriter, we still had a creative minority as recently as the 1940s, so I’m not going to argue. We may well simply be in a replacement cycle, and another creative minority may be able to take the wheel for a little while yet.

    Violet, I ain’t arguing. China has a long history of religious groups trying to overthrow the government, so they’re hypersensitive about that; Islam has a history nearly as long of becoming the government, and that’s a very common jihadi goal; the two are guaranteed to collide messily with each other, and I suspect the long-term consequences will include at least genocide on the grand scale. One of the many reasons I’m glad to be on the other side of some oceans…

    DFC, I’ll make sure sometime to introduce you to your equal and opposite number from the cornucopian half of my critics, who will be just as sure that this time it’s different because our technology is so powerful — and who can also find a couple of good examples to cite, you know. The conversation ought to be entertaining.

    Twin Ruler, there’s no reason you can’t be a mathematician and still write science fiction, you know! Human beings aren’t limited to a single role in life — we’re not ants, much though some ideologies would like us to be. Enjoy Eliot!

    David, my guess is that if the US had remained neutral, and not flooded the Western Front with arms, munitions, fuel, and supplies in the spring of 1918, the German spring offensive would have broken through the lines and reached Paris; the negotiated surrender that followed would have turned France into a German client state; and Germany would have absorbed the huge eastern territories granted it by the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk when Russia surrendered. In 1925 or so, once it had recovered from the war (with the help of indemnity payments from France and Britain), German armies would have surged eastward and crushed the still vulnerable Soviet Union; unhindered by Hitler’s military incompetence, the conquest would have proceeded by stages, leaving a Greater German Empire that extended from the Atlantic to the Pacific by the 1950s. By now? We’d be celebrating the birthday of Weltkaiser Wilhelm IX — and I’d be typing this in German. I’m far from sure the results would have been better than what we ended up with!

    Jim, there are certainly some Boomers who didn’t sell out, but I won’t accept the claim of “most” — and I’m far from sure about “many.” I remember with painful clarity how quickly most of my generation went from talking about a sustainable future to cheering on the gluttonous extravagances of the Reagan era — oh, making a great show of hating Reagan, sure, but abandoning everything they claimed they’d stood for in the 1960s and 1970s so they could wallow in consumerism. Do you remember when American folk music went from something most Boomers listened to, and a good many of us played, to something that nobody talked about any more except to make banjo jokes referencing the movie Endurance? I certainly do…

  260. David By The Lake,
    We have compulsory voting in Australia and it is one of our good ideas right up there with the stump jump plough. You only really have to turn up to have your name marked off the roll and receive your voting papers. Then off to the private cubicle to vote (nobody is allowed in there with you) and write what you like. Next into the appropriate box with your papers and out to the sausage sizzle, buy some home-made cakes and lollies and off home. No mucking about with actually getting people to turn up to vote. No registering for a particular party and no mind-numbingly boring political talk at social occasions. You can vote early or have a postal or absentee vote.

    Matt the Slaker re occult teachings on this blog. I know nothing about this subject but slightly less of nothing than I used to. Obviously don’t comment but that doesn’t matter. Interestingly I find some of these posts lead me to take another look at what I actually believe myself. Anyway it isn’t my blog.

  261. @ JMG

    Re an uber zweites reich und weltreich

    A hegemony would have been a possible outcome, certainly. I’m not sure that the spring offensive would have done more than gotten Germany an opportunity to negotiate an armistice from a position of strength, as all parties were pretty well spent by that point. It is an interesting thought experiment, however, to consider the consequences of these various threads of possibility. A dominant imperial Germany, but no Holocaust, no Hitler, no Stalin. Better? Worse? Just different?

    Leveraging our oceans and building that self-reliant economy beholden to no one else would have given the US a solid chance to remain outside that sphere of dominance, I’d argue. Of course, I’m looking at this with hindsight. For someone to a) have the insight to foresee the threads of the future and b) restrain the urge of a nation to expand and dominate is a near-impossible task. Still, I think that adhering to Washington’s parting advice to “avoid foreign entanglements” would have served us well. Europe’s circus, Europe’s monkeys.

    At the end of the day, it is neither here nor there, as that path wasn’t taken. As my friends pointed out, we are involved, whether we’d prefer to be or not. And as a consequence of that, there will be further lives and resources squandered, whether we are staging a strategic withdrawal or fighting in vain to hold the untenable position. It is a sobering realization that there is no good way out of this mess, only various degrees of bad.

  262. Johnny:

    Most useful book for saving seeds properly is “Seed to Seed” by Suzanne Ashworth, worth every penny. There are recommendations for varieties that work best in your part of the US, exactly how and when to harvest, process, then properly store the seeds, which plants need to be isolated from related plants with which they’ll cross, how to overwinter biennials (cabbage, carrots, beets, etc.) for seed production and pretty much everything else you need to know.

    JMG-

    Sometimes we forget how recently isolated spots of the US were finally hooked up to the grid. The villages of Victory and Granby, Vermont, had no electricity until 1963 and I’ll bet the women there were using sadirons long after they’d become doorstops in the rest of the US.

  263. All – I don’t know exactly what kind of insanity this indicates, but in a suburb of Washington DC, a 7-year old child offered a “fashion prop” $100 bill at the school cafeteria. (It was about the same size and shape as currency, but states in bold letters that it is not actually money.) The school’s reaction? They called the police, who called the US Secret Service (which is the federal agency responsible for prosecuting counterfeiting). In another Maryland county, a 10-year old with learning disabilities had some mock $100 bills, and (again) local police notified the USSS. Fortunately, neither of the children was arrested. The police only came, they say, because they were called by school officials, and only contacted the USSS because “that’s the policy regarding counterfeiting”. I hope it was a slow day for actual crime.

    Also, we heard lots of informal fireworks banging into the night on July 4, despite every form of incendiary entertainment other than a charcoal grill being illegal. “What does it take to get that law enforced?” we wondered. Then, we found out from the next day’s newspaper. If you’re reported to be throwing firecrackers into the street to explode under moving vehicles, the police will come. And if you throw them under a (well-marked) police car, they will chase and arrest you. Especially if you have a friend making a video (i.e., creating evidence of your guilt) at the time.

    What’s wrong with these people?

  264. “Do you remember when American folk music went from something most Boomers listened to, and a good many of us played, to something that nobody talked about any more except to make banjo jokes referencing the movie Endurance? I certainly do…”

    Of course I remember the music scene but I’m curious to know what you mean by ‘folk music’…please elaborate. I was in college in the early to mid 70s and the ‘folk music’ scene of the early to mid 60s was well over. It’s hard for me to imagine what sort of folk music you were playing in the late 70s/early 80s. The soundtrack from the movie Deliverance gave a huge boost to the rise of Bluegrass music and anybody who would dismiss Earl Scruggs’ brilliant banjo picking is a moron.

    Looks like you’re not buying my argument about the Boomer Sell Out spectrum. I still find your judgement too harsh, tinged with bitterness. You must have really hated the 80s.

  265. Sorry for the late reply but i just have to jump in on the earlier issues about PV and Moores Law that marvin mots and Lathechuck brought up.

    PV’s will never go beyond 34% in a mass economic sense, the few panels that can are staggeringly complex and are only used in very specific examples (Space State, Mars Rovers). Panels that claim higher efficiency are typically just multiple various types stacked on top of each other, no one part of them is actually doing a full 100% transfer of energy.

    It is called the Shockley Quesser Limit, it is not a technical problem but a physics problem. 33.7% efficiency if the maximum capability due to how the elctronic spectrum works and how by absorbing one set of the spectrum prohibits you from absorbing the rest of it.

    This was first figured out in 1961, long before PV had even begun production.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shockley%E2%80%93Queisser_limit

    Secondly with Moores law, even it has upper limits and we are hitting them today. Briefly, in 2000 we hit the watts limit of how much energy and thus heat we could pump into a chip. In 2004 we hit the limit on how fast we could make transistors switch efficiently and in the next 5 years we will hit the limit on how small we can make transistors due to quantum tunneling. We are right on this limit.

    Essentially transistors are not absolute switches but merely electrical fields that fold back electrons from one side of the circuit to another. The smaller we make them the less potential we have to hold the electric stream back and the more potential for electron leaks and thus errors occur.

    This theory again is not a technical problem but a physics problem. It was first formulated back in 1868 a good 75 years ahead of the first computer being built but was more about general distribution.

    This has been given the name Boltzmann tyranny. The smaller the transistors, the less reliable we can make them.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Boltzmann_distribution

    The limit is considered to be around 5-7nm and we are already making 7nm chips. I posted a link on here for the previous ‘Open Post’ in regards to this. In 2018 Global Foundries one of the biggest chips makers on the planet gave up trying to go beyond 7nm as it is no longer economically viable to try and fight the limits of the universe.

  266. @ Caryn

    Re the experience

    Thank you. It’s all good, though. We’re an eclectic group, bound by a certain nerdiness (we’re playing old school D&D, after all) which balances out our differences. It was just a sobering thing, particularly for an INTJ like myself. An opportunity, however, to develop better skills in empathy and other related areas. Logic and analysis are cleaner and less threatening, but that’s not how people are, at the end of the day.

  267. Whenever I read prognostications of what the future holds, I always ask myself: What does the author want to happen?
    In your case, I think the answer is obvious. You hold fast to a Spenglerian cyclical birth-death scenario so you tend to fit the data to your suppositions.
    My own feeling is that you are wrong here. We already passed the collapse of six centuries of capitalism and have been embarking on a new managerial economic phase (see James Burnham). We are, so to speak, the barbarians of this new phase and it is evident in our culture. This is our first ever global civilization and how it plays out, no one can possibly know.
    There is one prediction that you made long ago that I do think is currently playing out. You predicted that there would be a few super-rich city states of technological dominance and that those people unfortunate enough not to be able to participate in such societies would be relegated to Braziiian-like favelas without electricity or running water. No one, including Trump -who just used them to get elected -cares what happens to the people who live there. I think that this is one prediction of yours that is most definitely playing out in real time.

  268. On the third world war,

    The western front is very much in doubt. At this rate one wonders if it will be a “front” at all. Though that sort of thing is mostly in Western Europe, and they share no direct land border with the middle east. Eastern Europe seems to be rediscovering its identity, on the other hand, and might fight. Will the western half of the continent allow them? (An actual dolchstoß?) Interesting times.

    I agree that if the war is fought, it will be won by the defense. Military technology is a bit lopsided for defense in this era. Machine guns, trenches and the like. Throw in air superiority for the defenders and I don’t know of any scenario (or even war game) where attackers get through. Never mind WMDs. Will the gloves come off? Nerve gas is basically insecticide that works on people, and it’s common to dehumanize your enemies as “cockroaches”…

    And nerve gas is much, much easier to make than nuclear weapons. Cheaper than bullets, IIRC, for killing in job lots. (Important in an era of scarce resources!) “Interesting times,” indeed. Any rough guesses on the timeline for the war? I’d guess 20-50 years, but that’s just a guess.

  269. First, a nod to a couple of reports from the field:
    One of the more interesting changes (to me) in response to the collapsing economy and global weirding is the happenings in Greene, Iowa. What was once a city with some decent plans to deal with expected flooding (there’s a pathway that runs through the southern part of the city the acts as a spillway for floodwaters) has suffered under three 100-year floods (at least one of them being a 500 year flood) in the past twelve years, and high spot which was long the edge of town has become a sort of town center (although instead of an actual downtown they have a Casey’s and a Dollar General).

    Second, a couple of links to topics of interest to this group:
    In reference to the article about how maybe humans are longer in control of things, here’s an article on Corporations as AI: https://patternsofmeaning.com/2017/11/30/ai-has-already-taken-over-its-called-the-corporation/
    The article was reprinted by both HuffPost and Counterpunch.

    Second, it now seems that Airline Contrails are now driving Global Weirding:
    https://www.sciencemag.org/news/2019/06/aviation-s-dirty-secret-airplane-contrails-are-surprisingly-potent-cause-global-warming

  270. @Lady CoL: I just might, thank you!

    @Tripp: That is brilliant, I will have to remember that strategy for my own foraging.

    I want to echo @Jeff Huggins: I would absolutely read a book set in a society far removed from our own collapse. This is a subject I’ve thought about myself quite a bit; thinking through the cultural, religious, and linguistic changes that are to come is very interesting to me.

    Re: the WWIII conversation, I think a major war between China and Russia is far more likely than the US entangling itself in some global war. Climate change is going to make that Siberian real estate look very tempting.

    As to this notion of a “Jihadi WWIII,” I think you folks are misreading the situation. I can easily see a Salafist bloodletting against Shia minorities in Sunni-majority countries, as well as war with Iran and/or Israel. I have a much more difficult time seeing these various weak/non-state actors coalescing into a force that could seriously threaten Europe in conventional warfare.

    What seems far more likely to me is the majority MENA residents dying where they are, while a courageous minority makes it to the gates of Europe, only to be mowed down at the border by fascist regimes.

  271. “Being in a crowd of 15,000 psychiatrists is a weird experience. You realize that all psychiatrists look alike in an indefinable way. The men all look balding, yet dignified. The women all look maternal, yet stylish. Sometimes you will see a knot of foreign-looking people huddled together, their nametags announcing them as the delegation from the Nigerian Psychiatric Association or the Nepalese Psychiatric Association or somewhere else very far away. But however exotic, something about them remains ineffably psychiatrist.”

    https://slatestarcodex.com/2019/05/22/the-apa-meeting-a-photo-essay/

    (Related to various Ecosophic concerns, not just Denys’ experience; e.g.

    “First, the billboards we shall always have with us. It’s easy to imagine this a modern problem, but apparently the generation that confronted the Kaiser was confronting annoying psychiatric advertising too. The Kaiser is gone; the annoying psychiatric advertising has proven a tougher foe.

    Second, psychiatry has always been the slave of the latest political fad. It is just scientific enough to be worth capturing, but not scientific enough to resist capture. (…)”.)

  272. David BTL, I’d take it one step further. Just as there’s no good way out of the mess, there was no good way into it, or away from it. History is like that…

    Beekeeper, interesting; I didn’t know that. I do know that rural electricity was scarce in the odd corners of Washington State until the Second World War.

    Lathechuck, Vico was all over that in the early 18th century. It’s the barbarism of reflection: the state you get to when the last traces of common sense dissolve in the face of too much abstraction, and people do stunningly dumb things because it never occurs to them to do otherwise.

    Jim W, all through the late 70s there were still people playing Appalachian music on mountain dulcimers, even in Seattle — that was where I lived at the time, I remember vividly the day in the 1980s when I went into a folk music store in the University district, where I’d purchased I don’t know how many volumes of dulcimer tab by Neal Hellman et al., only to find the section gone and the clerk telling me with a look of disgust, “we don’t carry that stuff any more.” He was right, too — “folk music” from that point on in a great many circles meant Irish music, or music from some other corner of the world, not under any circumstances anything that poor or working class white Americans had ever played.

    As for the 1980s, yes, they sucked — but again, a lot of what made them suck was watching people who’d spent years jabbering about how much they loved the planet and how they were going to refuse to conform to corporate America buying business attire and big cars, and looking at me like a slug in the salad when it turned out that I wasn’t interested in doing the same thing.

    Abby, that’s known as the fallacy of volition — the bit of false logic that claims that when someone predicts something, they want that thing to come true. By the same logic, a guy who pounds on your door at two in the morning shouting “Your house is on fire!” wants you to burn to death. It doesn’t contribute anything to the conversation, but if you want a source of cheap dismissals, sure, that’s a good place to start.

    Dusk Shine, there are various ways to kill lots of people at once. A great deal depends on how dispersed and highly mobile the invading forces are, and how quickly they get moving.

    Godozo, thanks for these.

    Ezana, I don’t see a war between Russia and China as an option any time in the next century. Those two countries have worked out an effective modus vivendi, and have the great advantage of common enemies. As for the jihadi issue, well, I hope you’re right, but I suspect we’ll find out otherwise.

    Arkansas, that’s vintage Matthew Smallwood! Thank you for posting it.

    S.T. Silva, somehow this makes me think forcefully of that very interesting but inconclusive book We’ve Had A Hundred Years of Psychotherapy and the World’s Getting Worse by James Hillman and Michael Ventura. I know correlation doesn’t prove causation, but you know… 😉

  273. Karim Janfeerally–I suspect you are correct about an all out military response to armed refugees in W. Europe. I think a side effect of this would be a severe blow to the West’s recently constructed self image as the part of the world that has grown past war. The EU in it’s gradually growing manifestations was a way of saying ‘Never again’. What will happen when politicians and the people have to admit that it didn’t work? The earlier attempts at peace between nations were frequently based on Christian sentiments about the brotherhood of man. These more recent attempts have been based on rational considerations of shared laws and mutually beneficial trade and so forth. If neither God nor rationality can tame the human beast–oh dear, what will become of us?

    As for WW III, years ago I subscribed to Cultural Survival Quarterly, the magazine of an organization dedicated to defending the rights of indigenous groups around the world. There was an issue back in the 80s that said WW III was already going on in the form of many small wars suppressing one cultural group or another–the long conflict in Indonesia, for example, the suppression of various ‘insurgent groups’ in the back hills or swamps of where ever. Remember the rebellions in Chiapas, Mexico, for example.

    A friend of mine has a married daughter who lives in SF. She and her husband met when living in separate studio apartments in the same building. They are now married, have a 6 year old child and are still occupying two separate studios, on different floors in the building. The rent for one studio is about $1550–a similar unit rents for $3500 today (SF has rent control on buildings built before 1970 or so). So they just can’t afford a one bedroom or heaven’s for-fend, a two bedroom apartment at current rents. My friend’s son is living in his truck and occasional hotel while selling some product at fairs. He has an MBA.

    I just got a survey from the Democratic National Committee–the section of foreign policy is a not so subtle piece of war mongering–questions about the aggression of Russia, the fight against terrorism and jihad, the dangers of China, etc. Not a single response to check along the lines of “bring the troops home and reduce the military budget.” And isn’t it amazing that Orange Julius is getting absolutely no credit for _not_ starting a war with Iran–whatever happened to “T is a terrible, irresponsible person. With his finger on the button we’re all gonna die!”?

    A friend who was an enthusiastic H. Clinton supporter and absolutely loathes T asked me who I thought was going to win in 2020. I said ‘Trump” and she sadly shook her head in agreement. We didn’t get into her reasons, except that the Democratic field just didn’t seem promising and was going to spend the next 10 months giving T all the ammunition he will need to defeat the ultimate nominee.She lives and works in a small town in N. Carolina, teaching at a small liberal arts college. She says that at least 40% of the population is on some form of government aid; and she thinks this is actually an underestimate–although some may be on Social Security or military or other government pensions since the area is popular for military to retire. This is a city that is practically giving away large abandoned homes mostly Victorians, some practically mansions but would take thousands to restore. But surprise, surprise, the furniture factories that were the backbone of the city economy for decades are all shuttered.

  274. Sorry if I basically asked the same question twice and didn’t move the conversation forward any.

    Violet said something about concentration camps of muslims in China. You said Islam has a habit of becoming the government, isn’t that the same thing many anti-semites have said about Judaism? I don’t find Shakespeare’s Shylock to be a very real or believable character. On the other hand, a hoard of angry hungry, people fleeing the middle east conjures up similar images to Shylock. What if the migration is not the result of a fanatical religious institution but people driven to extremity?

    Given enough creature comforts to the daily citizen, it seems even the most conservative religious leaders lose their grip over the masses.

  275. Dear jmg

    You’ve mentioned before that there is a possibility that Australia will become a client state of China.
    It has occurred to me a while ago that China could manipulate the various racist and nationalist groups we have by helping them go after Muslims
    Both the Chinese and a fair amount of Australians fear and hate Muslims so it’s not hard for me to imagine the Chinese government easing any fears those people would have with Australia being ruled by them simply by allowing them to go after muslims.

  276. JMG,
    Thanks for the linked reply, and sorry for not making a prior read through the replies here and for writing that you had glossed over the subject. You clearly haven’t.
    I can’t say that I am re-assured by the arguments that you make in the linked article though. There seems to be a contradiction here : that as resource crises start to bite, so the pressure for international confrontation increases; yet the deterence of WMD arsenals that have proven effective at preventing war between the great powers in the (respurce rich) post WWII period will, it is argued, act as deterents in the period of slow collapse that lies before us.
    So how would this actually play out? It’s hard to imagine a war where both sides agree not to use certain weapons. Once the fight starts, reason goes out the window.
    By many experts’ opinion, all current signs in international developments seem to indicate a move towards war. Historians of the Cold War regularly say that the ‘rules of engagement and diplomacy’ that existed in that period are now almost completely absent from the scene. If we consider the truly insane military commanders and spooks who actively pushed for nuclear war in the 60s (who thought that they could ‘win’)- but were kept at bay, can we be confident that their modern counterparts and the nuclear threat will remain contained in the age of political breakdown and increasingly automated and hackable systems ?
    I am not sure you compare like with like. Just as the norms of economics are different now we are on the downward slope, so are the norms of international conflict.
    You predict that US will gradually wind down its expenditure on the system of military dominance which currently forms so central a part of its economy. There is no sign of that as yet, with the Trump administration signing a colossal militrary budget last Autumn.
    Israel, as a nuclear armed country, needs mentioning too. The politics there are increasingly dominated by what can only be described as religious extremism of the most concerning kind. Will those rising to power there be contained by the ‘rationality of deterence and self preservation’ or by apocalyptic visions (aspirations?) that have unfolded over millenia?
    https://www.mintpressnews.com/third-temple-activist-movement-israel-theocracy-civil-rights/260142/
    I get your underlying argument that the drivers of change (civilisational rise and fall) are much bigger in scale and slower in action than most current affairs addicts can grasp. But we do seem to have gone down a cul-de-sac where all the routes of adaption to the resource crises have been closed and in truth we face an abrupt dead end (e.g. where is even the knowledge base in the ‘first world’ to live without fossil fuels ?).
    Elsewhere you have written that civilisations collapsing have previously seen huge depopulation (up to 80%). What seems to characterise this culture is the compressive effect of existing technology, which I think might well reduce the timescales of decline.
    I obviously hope not, but respectfully disagree with you on your surety.

  277. Early in the comments someone mentioned ‘You could feel a sense of panic: what will they do without their air conditioning, microwaves, online gaming, and C-PAP machines’. I get there are alternatives for air con, microwaving, online gaming but what are the alternatives for c-pap?

    Sleep Apnoea is my only chronic condition and I do use a C-PAP … if there are alternatives (or if there are alternate ways to treat sleep apnoea) you know about I would be most appreciative as that is the main thing I am hostage to the current system for 🙁

  278. @Lathechuck If you go to google.com/alerts and type in the words “student charged” you’ll get a daily summary with links to all the local news stories.

    If you want to be horrified and disgusted, type in “teacher charged” and look at the 30-40 teachers a day that are arrested for sexually assaulting student at school. Most never serve jail time and keep their jobs often moving to another district to do it again.

  279. @JMG @Peter Yet another division in our society I guess is people who take care of themselves, and those who don’t. So what are we to do with the people who don’t take care of themselves? Is part of the problem here that they don’t feel useful or there is a lack of purpose? They occur to me as “existing”, as opposed to “living”.

    I feel like its sign of collapse maybe manifested unconsciously.

  280. Johnny,

    Having children really does change things, doesn’t it. After we brought our eldest home from the hospital in May of 2008, in that cavernous carseat with giant hard and menacing buckles that I was sure were going to do more damage to that delicate little girl than an accident ever would, everything changed.

    We booted the television. We dumped the microwave. I started gardening, and spending time with my little girl in the garden. We got chickens – and chicken TV! (We actually had a chick brooder at one time that was an old cabinet TV with the innards removed, poultry cloth nailed across the openings, and a heat lamp hanging inside. The channel selection was limited, but thankfully we loved the one channel it got.) We replaced a lot of plastic with glass. We cleared the pantry of MSG, trans-fats, and HFCS (which was most of it). And we developed herbal options for products she would need so her life might be a little less toxic.

    Those herbal products then turned into a reliable business, which has accounted for about half our income for 8 years now. And that delicate little girl just turned 11, measures 5’5″ tall, has been doing jiu jitsu for 2.5 years, is in her own 2nd year vending at our farmers market (selling lemonade), and just used her lemonade savings yesterday to buy a fancy new sewing machine for herself with an eye toward making doll clothes, to go with the other “dollhousewares” she already makes.

    Proud papa, can you tell?? 😝

    They are truly an incredible blessing, and driver of change, in our lives. I hope I never disappoint her! Best wishes to you and yours. It sounds like you’re doing some great things!

    Tripp out.

  281. JMG – A follow-up thought to the “$100 play money”. I wonder whether it might be the case that elementary school cafeteria cashiers are not sufficiently literate (in English) to read the printing on the bill: “THIS IS A COPY MONEY” (in place of “IN GOD WE TRUST”) and “THE COPY MONEY OF XDOWMO” (in place of “THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA”). If someone was already making change for that $100 bill when a supervisor stepped in, then there’s another problem, besides the barbarism of reflection.

  282. @ JMG

    Re the “is-ness” of history

    True. Manifestation, in the end, simply is. I keep getting caught up in the particulars of this present round. Admittedly, I have a difficult time seeing people slaughtering one another as anything but “bad,” but in the grand scheme of the Dance, it is simply another cycle of birth-death-rebirth. (I amend one of my daughter’s favorite sayings to “All war is stupid, but some war is necessary.”) More fodder for mediation, I suppose.

    @ JillN

    Re mandatory voting

    I’ve heard that Australia has that. It still strikes me wrong, but of course, other nations are free to do things other ways. I feel strongly that people *should* vote, as responsible citizens, but for a government to *compel* voting is another thing entirely. One might have legitimate reasons for not voting (e.g. religious views) or one may simply choose not to. The libertarian in me says a person has that freedom.

  283. OK, so you’re talking about real Appalachian folk music…as you say, poor white people music. I had very little exposure to this kind of music until much later in life. I knew about the dulcimer because of Joni Mitchell, who brilliantly imagined new possibilities for the instrument in the late 60s. I’ve always wanted to own a dulcimer…still might get to it.

    Humans will always make music of course, it’s one of our species’ best and most unique features. It will be fascinating to see what new forms and revivals will emerge as decline and fall unfolds. New folk music traditions will be born. All the technical innovations which modernity brought (electrification, amplification, digitalization, recording etc.) will be around for quite a while still but for the most part everything’s going to get more and more unplugged and acoustic. That gets a thumbs up from me!

    I’m sorry the 80s were so tough for you. I was 26 when Reagan was elected but my scene wasn’t populated by the peeps you’re referring to. I was never corporate in any way, nor were most of my friends and acquaintances, never eager to acquire all the trappings of material success. Just trying to find my way in young adulthood. Maybe because you were in Seattle (Boeing, Microsoft) the corporate influence was overpowering? In any case, you’re right that there was widespread ‘selling out’ clustered around major urban areas.

    As the decade drew to a close I acquired a mortgage, got married and my first child was born. I was a full fledged grown up! We got our first Boomer prez in ’92 and have occupied the Oval Office ever since. Looks like the streak will continue until at least 2024 at which time the oldest boomers will still only be 62. So we could be stuck with a boomer bozo in the White House all through the 20s. Yikes…enough already! Tulsi in ’28!

    Thanks for the enlivening conversation.

  284. “Do you remember when American folk music went from something most Boomers listened to, and a good many of us played, to something that nobody talked about any more except to make banjo jokes referencing the movie Endurance? I certainly do…”

    Sorry, but as Jim W says – the movie you mean was ‘Deliverance’. OMG That was a great book and equally great movie. But yes it was really Bluegrass, not really folk.

    From my pop-culture husband (MASSIVE Bob Dylan fan); folk music was ‘revived’ by musicians including Pete Seeger, Joan Baez and her then- protege, Bobby Zimmerman, a.k.a. Bob Dylan. They were in turn inspired by Woody Guthrie. Dylan was really the leader of the folk music scene in the 60’s. His fans believed he was leading a movement of social change, not just playing music, more like religious acolytes. When he artistically/musically moved on to include electric guitar, many of his devoted followers/fans called him Judas, gave up on him and folk music. In truth, I think, like fashion, everything changes and it was just time. “The times they are a changing” – again!

    My 2-cents worth of Boomer sell out: The book “The Greatest Generation” was published in 1998. I’d never heard this appellation for my grandparents’ generation before, I THINK this was the first timeframe in which this generation was considered such. The Boomers were reacting and rebelling against said generation as having ‘screwed things up’ in straight-laced Eisenhower era, still also the Jim Crow era, and still pre-Stonewall LGBT era, pre-women’s movement, The Cold War, MK Ultra…….There were a heck-a- lot of things worthy of rebellion in the world the Greatest Generation built too. I and my husband were both born at the very tail-end of the Boom, so as children we both dealt with the negative fall out, (burn-out?) of the sex-drugs-rock-and-roll hedonism of the Boomers. I was a Punk in the 80’s, but yes, I supposed I sold out and got a real job when I got tired of living hand-to-mouth/underwater. Never had the opportunity to properly ‘sell-out’ though. LOL

    It’s always seemed to me that the stupidity of each generation only makes sense when looking at what came before.

    @JMG: re “SALES!” – yes, I agree, I did not add or state properly that ‘sales’ is also akin to relationship building, so barter with family friends and neighbours (and others – making friends of neighbours and strangers) is lumped in there with ‘sales’. Maybe It would be better stated as ‘relationships’. We humans are herd animals after all. 🙂

  285. John, et alia—

    One further point on reflection on my experience from the post-game conversation with my veteran friends. Talking through it with my wife the following morning, I commented that this was yet another directional nudge being given to me, calling me back again to the personal path and the inward-directed, versus the outward-directed and the seeking of solutions. (That is, a different version of “saving the system.”) Rather like going from the community garden to my backyard container garden. Drawing in, disengaging from the tempest. This is no small feat for one who is analytical by nature and an analyst by both training and profession. And yet, I can see clearly how I’m being presented with a very different kind of path. In the loooooong run, it is the better choice—I can see glimpses of that fact—but it still grates to see the world blundering into the abyss when less unpalatable options are still available.

    It does bring to mind whether or not that workshop idea I had for a discussion of ecological spirituality for the Energy Fair would be as useful as I’d first thought. Perhaps I’m being told to learn when to speak and when to remain silent. I’ll have to sit with all that for a while.

  286. I am trying to catch up with the comments before posting, but even with an extra day off that ain’t going to happen!

    1. I want to start by commenting on the recurrence of certain characters in different histories, as Oswald argued that Napoleon was morphologically correspondent to The Great Alexander to give an instance. And consider the comparison of Donald to Julius.

    The first image that comes to my mind is to picture the changing form of the leaves of annual plants as they bolt, preparing to set flower and seed. Consider the Spinach and the radish, both these plants have the characteristic of bolting which a farmer need keep in mind, but there are interesting differences between the two as well, for they belong to distant families of plants, and their flowering stage is quite different from on another in details of form. I mention this image to contend that two civilizations are like two species of plant, and that both participate in the same processes and phases of maturation, in this case ‘bolting’, but that owing to their different natures they manifest very differently.

    Caesar is a great case study in the phenomena which bears his name both because of the accident of history that Rome is a paradigm of history to the Faustian mind, and more importantly because of how open visible the flowering is. The fella makes a big complicated political name for him self champing a bunch of audacious reforms meant to help the back bone folk supporting the empire (his troops, who no accident he relies on completely to back every one of his power plays) and tip over the aple carts of the then powerful plantation folk. After various escalations leave him with out the means to sake his ambitions through plausibly defensible means his simply marches a giant army around securing victory by way of a massive civil war. This I compare to the first flower of a radish, when for the first time a petals opens one such a plant a new color clearly marks a phase change.

    Donald is a tolerably good comparison in many ways, like Julius his life was marked by a compulsion to prove his standing, and wild swings of fortune characteristic of high rollers. While Julius chose the military as his primary domain to prove himself, Donald went for business. Thus in both cases they competed in their respective civilizations industries of fundamental power. Generals in the late Roman sense were a whole different critter from anything late Faustian civilization produces, for the difference in scale of the two societies is enough to fit an extra layer of abstraction between the controls of power and the teeth. Interestingly this makes it harder to identify some of the phases in our civilization, and the distinctions more vague. Like the spinach plant, with out close inspection of the nodes one might fail to notice the first green flower, and the green flowers happen over the plant more gradually building to a transformation of the whole plant, rather than the addition of a flowering crown which draws the life force into itself.

    To illistrate this consider how both societies over generations have various figures that piece meal and abortively participate in the Cesarean form. Gaius Marius, for instance was a psudo flower, but never pollinated, never received the trigger to advance to the next stage of growth. And even before him the leaf of rome was changing from its younger days, changing in fiber and flavor. The whole of rome leaned toward Cesar, and in time a clear flower opened, with petals not to be confused with the leafs. Our society looks to me more of the spinach family, as the leafs and the very minimalistic petals are much less morphologically distinct, each leaf created from the meristem gets a bit more pointed, elongated, smaller, more and more like the little pollen fins that cluster around the stamens. Thus we see in Donald a break from the neo-liberalism, but not through a vast military victory, but by common day to day process of the ‘leafs’ becoming more and more petty, small. It is clear the spinach is bolted, but not through the reveliation of bright new colors, no through petty dusty leaves.

    Under the limitations imposed by the formal characteristics of a hyper industrial civilization, power rests less bluntly on the iron edge of a generals gaze, but on the decision of the business runner who the general is beholden to for equipment that could never be provided by the mere labor of army personnel. Rome had many civil wars, while there is a different cost benefit exchange to open conflict in a modern brittle society, such that wresting the levers of power by force is likely to leave one with a broken lever and nothing beside. Thus the American Empire has had its wars, its intrigue, and its lying and smirking spying and lurking power games, but the dominion the happen in has more dirrect emphasis on the tools of power today. Not the pillum or short sword, but the merger and the advertisement.

    The same, but different.

  287. @JMG,

    You said it! For my taste, there are rather too many ways to kill large groups of people. That was my late-night nightmare scenario, nuclear weapons seeming unrealistic. The maxim gun (or rather, its descendants) are probably going to provide carnage enough.

    @ David, by the Lake,

    If I were an American Republican, I’d try and make bipartisan alliance with the compulsory voting crowd and push it to the hilt. If all citizens are required to vote, then you’re going to need to identify each voting citizen at the polls to make sure they have performed that civic duty…
    (Italics are for denser republicans who don’t see the advantage. Of course that sort of horse trading for voter ID is impossible in the current climate.)

    @Ezana,

    Just because it’s being talked about as a world war doesn’t mean it won’t be a curbstomp. Japan never had a chance against the USA, for example. As for Russia/China — they’re allies right now, and building up quite a lot of trade infrastructure. Why should the Middle Kingdom conquer Siberia if they can buy its resources for less than the cost of a war? Someday, when (if?) China sees its own mass migrations, they’ll probably want that land. The middle east is so much more vulnerable to climate change, though, that it’s on a totally different (and much more rapid) time scale.

    @DFC,
    Think about radioactive decay for a moment. It’s exponential. Which means, yes, that core is slowly getting less radioactive over time. We can perhaps do something using robots about Fukushima in 10 years or so, and I think that’s soon enough that it’s not inconceivable that the Japanese government still have the resources and will to try.*

    It also means that if you go back in time, you’re looking at exponential growth of radioactive materials in the environment. I don’t have the figures on hand, but I recall that sometime after the Cambrian, there were beaches where one needn’t flip over to get a full-body suntan: the radiation in the sand would be enough to cook your bottom. That is to say, life can get on with frankly terrifying levels of radiation.

    That said? I think in another couple generations ocean seafood will be off the menu for some centuries, if not millennia. All of it, if our descendants want to avoid dangerous bioaccumulation of radioactives and other nasty persistent toxins guaranteed to get into the oceans. This may, in fact, be exactly what the oceans need to recover from the industrial era.

    *(I also think you’re underestimating the space environment! It’s pretty nasty. The prototype Soviet moon rover sent to the roof of the Chernobyl turbine hall got stuck on debris, but IIRC did survive the radiation.)

  288. “It’s the western front — that is, western Europe — where the outcome really is in doubt.”

    Yep. Western Europe already has millions of Muslims and many of them are sympathetic to Jihadi terrorists.

    Also the latest EU wheeze is not just an EU anthem (Beethoven’s Ode to Joy) but an EU army (something they swore would never happen). How effective would this bizarre polyglot army be against Jihadis? Not very I would say.

    The Russians and the Chinese would give them no quarter however…

  289. P.S. From the Gainesville Sun, a fine example of belief-policing by the learned professions. A plastic surgeon (one of the parties in a prolonged lawsuit over an antique car) had lost her privileges at two Atlanta hospitals, “including one that determined her “psychiatrically unsound” because she believes in reincarnation and clairvoyance,” she testified in a deposition posted to YouTube by an Atlanta TV station. However, she also believes herself to be the reincarnation of Catherine Parr, 6th wife of Henry VIII. YMMV. (“Your Mileage May Vary.”)

  290. I am glad to see a revisiting of long view topics coming down the pipe. I find it soothing, like the ol’ Buddhist meditation on one’s own skull decomposing in the future. Glad to see that you are still flanked from both sides for your optimism and your pessimism.

    I have been too busy busting it in the fields as a farm hand for market gardeners to keep up with the conversations here as much as I should like. Its grueling, and I am plotting how to up my status in the game, because as things stand, having collapsed and waiting for the rush I am nervous. At the moment providing for my folks as their money earning potential wains from the bottom of our societies working hierarchy is kicking my butt, and the thought of a future that gets harder still as I get older is daunting. I don’t really want to try owning or running my own farm, I really like doing gig work for other people’s farms better than being on the line for my own farm. I think that running ones own farm is less secure than being positioned to work for any number of farmers. That being said, I need to figure out how to get some more respect for my labor. The pay is getting better the last couple years, but the facts remain that the work is far more exhausting than most types of work around these parts, it don’t take too many hours of some tasks to end up too fried to book a follow up gig for the day. Also, the current gigs I have are economically dependent on selling frilly foo foo veggies to rich idiots, rather than growing hearty fair, which is well enough for the moment, but seems sketchy to count on.

    I am making a more to address this by working with a couple of local food groups to found a monthly discussion group about economic decline. Calling it the Hedge Group, modeled loosely on some of the green Wizard towers a few people have had luck doing, but tweeked to fit the cultural narratives of the folks around here. Interest seems to be pretty good so far, but we will see how it goes once the project goes live at the end of the month. I hope it might offer an opertunity to get more gigs doing work to get Green Wizardry type work. Wish me luck, there are good omens, haunting the farmers markets around here there is alot of awareness about for the instability of current systems, and genuine desire to talk about such things, especially with the working grunts.

  291. Michelle – re “That [solar water heater] lasted at least 30 years; it was still working when they sold the house in 2004.”

    This illustrates my view exactly. There are alternative energy strategies that are indeed workable, and there are others that will never live up to their promise. Passive solar seems to me to be in the former class. Particularly in the temperate latitudes, it seems to me that residential passive solar should be mandatory in all cases where it is feasible.

    Solar electric? A bit more problematic. EROEI is low and, at least for the moment, is dependent of fossil fuels to manufacture and distribute its infrastructure. But, as is often stated, there is a huge difference between just a little and none at all. It will indeed be interesting to see how this all plays out, but it’s pretty clear to e that our “on demand” lifestyle is going to have a pretty short historical time span.

  292. @JMG – Chafing dish! That’s right – if I’d remembered W of H: Kingsport – or for that matter, Sea Priestess, I’d have had my answer right there! Now to find out where to acquire one. Camping lanterns are readily available and cheap. My daughters have them soaking up sunlight on their windows-all-around sills at home. Not as feasible on the windowsills I have here, perhaps and with heavy overcast, but LED-with-batteries will work just fine. Thanks a bunch, you and everybody else.

    Also re folk music story – the clerk (how old was he, I wondered?) getting all snotty with someone asking for music that had just gone out of style. Hah! Some customer relations that was! Any kid gives me that noise, these days, I’d shrug and say “PK. That’s one more sale you’ve lost to Amazon.”

  293. Re: Fallacy of Volition – I think you’re right about that half of the cause-effect cycle, but it’s also true that many people make predictions based on what they want to come true. Certainly the techno-optimists all do.

  294. Re: generational blame game and “selling out”.

    Boomers (I am one) are no better and no worse than other generations. The vast majority of us -the greatest generation, boomers, gen-X, Millenials, gen-Z are mostly living the same lifestyles, or trying to. e.g. most are caught up in American Consumerist culture and devout followers of the religion of progress. No use pointing fingers, we each have left the world a bit (ok a lot) worse than it was when we got here. Once the last of us evily evil boomers dies off who will take the blame? (Or does the world suddenly become all sweetness and light once my generation is gone?)

    As for boomers selling out, I don’t know that most ever held -in a serious fashion- anti-establishment/countercultural values that could later be “sold out”. IOWs they never “bought in” to an alternative way of life to begin with.

    Sure on a Sunday afternoon while drinking and passing around funny cigarettes we’d tallk of starting a commune, but not one in 100K actually did it. Even fewer stuck with it. We may have had a copy of the whole earth catalogue and we may have dreamed of organic blueberry farms filled to the brim with the finest back to the land minimalism money could buy, but for 99% of us it was just talk. Just an early version of virtue signaling. I don’t see how people who never seriously valued anything but materialism can be accused of selling out. Of course I’m not talkiing about individual cases, just looking at it from a “big picture” perspective.

    JMG I’m sorry you felt lonely but you must have known you chose the path less trodden. It was boud to be a bit lonely.

  295. Jihadi-based WWIII data point:

    “As the president of Mali used to say: Mali for the moment is a dam; if it gives in, it risks invading the rest of Africa as well as Europe,” he says. “The Sahel is becoming an open military arsenal. There are more than 60 million weapons circulating in the Sahel. If the Europeans and the other powers are not stopping it, it is there in the Sahel, that’s what will obviously contaminate Europe and contaminate the rest of the world.”

    https://www.aljazeera.com/programmes/talktojazeera/2019/07/envoy-mali-sahel-crisis-spread-europe-190701130015844.html

  296. interesting source for data points on post-peak tertiary education in the USA, plus demographics:
    https://bryanalexander.org/

    especially interesting look at push-pull between current millennial and boomer students
    https://bryanalexander.org/demographics/opposing-ways-for-universities-to-support-senior-citizens-as-students-the-case-of-minnesota/

    An overview of US higher education in 2018 and where he thinks it is going
    https://bryanalexander.org/future-of-education/american-higher-ed-is-overbuilt/

  297. @Dusk Shine, if I could put a word in Trump’s ear, I’d want to make sure that every voter has their citizenship status checked… you know, to catch Russian agents.

  298. David BTL
    I did say you have to turn up. You don’t actually have to vote. Governments are quite happy to compel us to do lots of things. This is probably a more benign one.

    Re Baby Boomers
    It seems I am too old to be a baby boomer. Not by much. In my early 20s I can remember hearing lots of people younger than me complaining about the generation above, and pretty vitriolically too. What a mess they had left us with blah, blah, blah. I thought we had it pretty good. Nobody was obscenely wealthy but we mostly had enough and the freedom to use it. The irony is that when that older generation was of an age to start work they had the Depression and when they were ready to become householders they had to fight a war.
    We are all sucked into our own times and it is surprisingly hard to step outside. They did the best they could and now we have to do that too.

  299. Austin, okay, that’s an impressively cheap shot. I’ll accept an apology from you for trying to twist what I was saying around so you could equate it with antisemitism; alternatively, don’t let the door hit you on the way out. That kind of nastiness is not acceptable here.

    J.L.Mc12, that’s a real possibility. My guess, China being China, is that Beijing will be perfectly content with Australia retaining a nominal indepedence, roughly the same relationship your country has with mine these days, provided that Australia conducts its foreign trade in yuan, perrmits unrestricted Chinese investment, and accepts a steady stream of Chinese immigration.

    Mog, no, you’re missing the point. Nuclear weapons exist to prevent war between major powers. They’re there to make sure the fighting doesn’t start in the first place, and hostilities are limited to proxy wars and other indirect ways of conflict — and they do that extremely well. Thus the Soviet Union could plunge into economic decline followed by political collapse, and not be overrun by NATO troops even in its moment of greatest weakness…because everyone in NATO knew what would happen if they tried. That’s why we’ve spent nearly 75 years with no wars among nuclear-armed powers, and I see no reason to believe that the same logic won’t continue to work equally well when it’s our turn to plunge into economic decline followed by political collapse.

    More generally, people have been insisting back in1945 that a nuclear war was inevitable in the near future. They were wrong. Their countless successors were also wrong. Sooner or later, isn’t it time to look at that remarkable sequence of failed predictions and start thinking about whether the underlying logic might not be as sound as it looks?

  300. @ JillN

    Re mandatory voting.

    Understood. Others may see it that way as well. My strong libertarian streak disagrees and would put it on the same level as “you gave to attend the service, but you don’t have to sing the hymns.” It is one thing to have laws that constrain one’s actions with respect to the boundaries of others’ rights (theft, for example, or murder). That is the proper role of (limited) government. This, I would argue, is something else entirely.

  301. I wasn’t trying to imply you or anyone is anti-semitic, I was trying to draw historical parallels. I’m sorry.

  302. Warren Aus – Re: C-PAP machines… After my wife reported hearing me stop breathing from time to time when sleeping on my back, I had an “at-home sleep test” with an electronic monitoring device. Rather than take delivery of the device, though, I decided not to sleep on my back any more. I have a thick, firm pillow that supports my head while I lie on my side. (The bottom layer of that “pillow” is a folded blanket, not fluffy at all!) That seems to have solved MY problem, but I am not a doctor and this is not medical advice.

    I consulted with my doctor, reviewing the details of the over-night test and the potential for skin irritation and biological contamination of the CPAP machinery, and he concurred with me that, in my case, the machine did not appear to be necessary.

  303. Dear Ray Wharton, about recurrence of certain characters, I have been reading Braudel lately, sailing the wine-dark sea with Gian Andrea Doria and Don Juan of Austria, and when I read your post it occurred to me that Mme. Clinton can be perhaps compared to Catherine de Medici, instigator of the St. Bartholemew’s Day massacre. (The Battle of Lepanto took place in 1571, the massacre was a year later.) Mrs. Clinton seems to me to exhibit a similar stupidity and casual brutality as the French, actually Florentine, queen. I heard Mr. Greer say on a podcast once with Mr. Kunstler that Mme. C. seems to believe she is some kind of world historical figure, and maybe she will be remembered as the evil queen who destroyed a once great political party.

    Don’t knock those foo foo veges, them is what is keeping farmers on their land right now. Imagine something homely like kale, which I grow and like, becoming foo foo. I am still shaking my head over that.

  304. John, et alia–

    With respect to the trajectory of the long view, I am quite honestly still coming to grips with the limitations imposed on our choices. To invoke the shade of Hari Seldon (can you invoke the shade of a fictional character?), our civilization has a trajectory and an inherent momentum. While we cannot stop the basic course of events (the decline and fall), we *can* deflect it in small ways. I think this is what you are pointing to regarding the long game and the idea of reducing the pain to some degree but more significantly with influencing the collection of knowledge which makes it through the coming bottleneck of the looming Winter.

    To that end, I’d like to follow up on the tentative discussion from last week regarding a possible Wisconsin area get-together. I’ve put a placeholder blog site out there:

    https://ecosophiansocietywi.blogspot.com/

    I don’t mind taking the lead. Hey, that just means that if we do launch the Society, then Two Rivers gets to be the headquarters 😉 But seriously, anyone who’d be interested in doing something later this year (as I mention in the post, I was thinking someplace in Fond du lac in September, but it is open for discussion), please comment on that initial post with your name/email. I will not put those comments through, but simply gather the info so that we can get an email chain going and figure out what, when, and where. If we can be within an hour-plus for everyone, I think we could pick a Saturday, get together for a long lunch somewhere, and still get home at a decent hour.

    Gardening in the cracks of empire…

  305. Austin – Re: Islamic government. I recommend “Islamic Imperialism: A History”, but Efraim Karsh (King’s College, University of London, Yale University Press, 2007.) The claim that Islam is an expansionist ideology is not just something made up by xenophobic bigots worried about their daughters.

    As the Prophet Muhammad said in his 632 farewell address: “I was ordered to fight all men until they say ‘There is no god but Allah.'”

    And, lest you assume that this is an obscure relic of interest only to scholars of the era, it was quoted more recently “I was ordered to fight the people until they say there is no god but Allah, and his prophet Muhammad.”, Osama bin Laden, November 2001.

    Whether or not imperialism has been promoted by other groups, past or present (and of course it has, just ask a Cherokee), is not relevant to analysis of the recent and future migration of Islamic people into Europe and Asia.

  306. @ Dusk Shine

    Well, Fukushima reactor Nº3 used as fuel MOX, with plutonium, and the rest of melted core have some nasty Plutonium and Uranium isotopes of thounsands of years of half life, what have been released at the momento are mainly St-90 and CS-137 that have only 30 years of half life, but his is only an small part of all the radioactive material in the melted cores, so the risks are huge, and the challenges are unprecedeted.

    The desire to have more powerful weapons and cheap energy made us to ignore this Pandora box of nuclear energy and their huge risks. Of course nobody thought we would have to deal with some melted core, so nobody had a plan B to solve it..
    So now they have to start to créate a completely new techonology to try to solve this mess; many many billions only to lose many more billions but not to make proftis, to have more energy or to have new weapons only to lose more money. They will not spend the money in this (Japan or the rest of the world) just they have others priorities.

    As Heidegger said once: “Science does not think” (I add = “of its longterm negative consequences”)

    In 2017 TEPCO try to put a remote control camera in the reactor N 2 that they were developing during 6 years, it was intended to last some days, it last only some minutes, and, before breaking, it recorded 650 Sievers of radiation, it will killl a person in one minute, and they still do not know.where the melted cores really are in any reactor.
    They say the cleaning process will last 80 years, but they really do not know when it will be finish (I think, in fact, never)

    This is only an example, but my point is that there is not any civilization in the past that has changed the global climate in such degree and with so lasting effects; no other civilization has destroyed so many ecosystems, so many aquifers, so many top soil, so many species, has poured so many toxic chemicals and radioactive wastes all around the globe, etc…and no other civilization have had so many WMD ready to use (I am not so sure we are not going to use at least some of them)

    So when our host says he expects a reduction of the populaton around 90% globally compare today’s population in two or three centuries, I can agree with him and I think this is unprecedented in History because as far a I know, no other civilization has achieved this level of destruction in such a global scale in the past

    Cheers
    David

  307. John—

    I don’t know if this fits into the category of “long view”—perhaps indications of the middle term, rather. But I saw this

    https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2019/jul/07/donald-trump-alexandria-ocasio-cortez-evita-american-carnage

    and thought of previous discussions of the shifting sands beneath the current political structures. It’s almost as though, oddly enough to say, that Trump has more respect for AOC than the leadership of her own party. Talk about strange sights on newly forming political landscape…

  308. Violet, I respect and even admire a lot about Spengler‘s writings, but the part about ahistorical and passive Fellahin is quite ignorant and shows him shoehorning events into his rigid scheme. To use just the example of Egypt: what about the birth of monasticism? What about the cultural renaissance of the 10th century CE and the fierce debate between Coptic Christians, Messianic Shiite followers of the Fatimids and Sunnites?

  309. @Warren – Aus

    My father was recommended to go on C-Pap but hated the mask. Instead he attacked contributing factors – sleep position using pillows and my Mum to turn him, went to a herbalist to reduce airway inflammation and seriously reduced his allergen exposure, started riding his bike everywhere for fitness and found methods of weight reduction that worked for him. There are also larger or smaller surgical interventions but he has stayed away from those. Implicitly, he is also accepting the health risks of not fully treating a chronic condition – as more people will do as the costs of treatment become unaffordable, I suppose.

    @Patricia Matthews

    Copper chafing dishes turn up fairly often in our local antique shops, along with copper kettles and frying pans. They get salvaged from estate sales due to the snob value of displaying copper utensils, so they aren’t super cheap but still comparable in price to a (good) new camping stove. Do you have any antique shops around you which you could phone and leave your contact details if they come across one – to save you having to hunt for one yourself?

  310. Living through any form of WW3 really doesn’t appeal, and armed mass migrations from countries that have outgrown their limits and are being whacked by climate change appeals even less than many scenarios for WW3, especially with a religious war aspect thrown into the mix.

    But the history of the world doesn’t care about my opinion.

    Do you think there is an likelihood of the world managing to avoid this, or or is it a given at this point? Thinking it through as I write: I can kind of see early stages of the migrations as already happening, and we aren’t going to avoid climate change at this point, though we probably still have some control over how bad things get. I don’t think we can avoid tens of millions of people trying to migrate. There’s going to be major pushback against that. What happened in 2014 will probably end up looking like a tempest in a teapot. I feel sick.

    It occurs to me that some of the migrations are going to be from areas that aren’t muslim majority, like assorted island nations, some african countries, and probably some from mexico/central and south america. How does this factor into your WW3 scenario?

    This is one conflict that doesn’t have a just side to be on… the west’s hands are anything but clean given how much of climate change is our fault, and invading war bands are generally considered to be in the wrong.

    If things get as bad as I fear, all the peoples involved could be trying to survive in a colossal game of musical chairs.

  311. Christopher Henningsen: “I agree that Archaism and Futurism are irrevocably opposed, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they must be hostile.” At the time, I couldn’t think of an example where they could cooperate, so I qualified my assertion with “if one thinks in terms of progressivism and conservatism as exemplified in today’s America”. The mention of The Glass Bead Game now makes me think that we might be able to simplify detachment, transcendence, archaism and futurism (which are four) into disengagement and engagement (which are two). I think Hermann Hesse explores this from different angles in The Glass Bead Game, Narcissus and Goldmund, and Siddhartha. It also occurs to me that Western monastic Christianity, since we’ve been discussing this a bit, unites them both. For example, hospitality is a part of Benedictine monasticism, and various other kinds of engagement, such as caring for the sick or poor, and preaching or teaching, characterize various monastic orders. The Cistercians, who began as a strict Benedictine order, became known in time for their technology, some of which was based on ancient Roman models. This would represent a fruitful combination of archaism and futurism.

  312. A few belated comments.

    Currently, in some German newspapers /the taz and the Spiegel, among others) the refugee problem and Captain Rackete get quite a high priority, of course from the premise that Europe has to take in everyone and that it would be unethical to send them back to Libya. The refugees have probably not all the same character, ethnic backgrund and motivations, but it the first impression to me is as if Europe would want to commit cultural suicide.

    Secondly, one can probably find in many religions statements that confirm either positive or negative aspects of said religion, but even if only one percent of the refugees consisted of religious fanatics, that would still cause big problems.

    Thirdly, I would like to ask how to square the events and the conflicts in which the Muslim world is engaged in vis-a-vis Europe, China and Russia with the end of the Axial Age of which J. M. Greer wrote a while ago.

    Fourthly, I found it quite interesting, that J. M. Greer is glad not to be in Europe at the current time because of the problems the EU has dealing with immigration and cultural conflicts, because I myself are glad not to be in the United States at the moment due to its unraveling ecomomy,its weak and spotty welfare system, its expensive health care system and its political extremism and rancour. Probably, it is a thing of preferring the devil which one knows to the devil towards which one is not used to.

  313. A bit late in the comment cycle, but I wanted to add to Denys’ data points. I live in an upper-middle class/upper-class neighborhood in what is probably the most beleaguered East Coast city (you can likely reason out which one). The process of decline is certainly on display here, as well as egregious accumulations of wealth. Our neighbors are falling apart. Sweat pants are the standard attire, their hair is uncombed, they look like slobs all the time and totally wrung out; this is definitely new in the past year or so. My husband actually first brought it to my attention, and now I see it in so many of our neighbors. The more progressive or extreme leftist (and there are many), the more exhausted they appear. I get the sense that they are barely holding on and scrambling to get whatever advantages they can for their kids. I think it was Denys who also asked about the state of their houses – whew, everything is disordered mess! When neighbors pop into our house (we live in one of the few multifamily units in the neighborhood), they without fail comment on how it feels so calm. I’m pretty sure I have JMG to thank for that!

  314. Matthias said: “Violet, I respect and even admire a lot about Spengler‘s writings, but the part about ahistorical and passive Fellahin is quite ignorant and shows him shoehorning events into his rigid scheme. To use just the example of Egypt: what about the birth of monasticism? What about the cultural renaissance of the 10th century CE and the fierce debate between Coptic Christians, Messianic Shiite followers of the Fatimids and Sunnites?”

    Wouldn’t Spengler just point out that, by that point, the “Egyptians” that culturally mattered for what is being discussed, were part of the Magian culture? That these had significance inside the Magian crescent?

  315. @JMG, all
    Re: WW III

    I think we’re all familiar with the story of the Russian officer who stopped the retaliation for what turned out to be a sensor error. That turned up in the news again not so long ago.

    One of the fundamental pieces of the Michael Teaching is the notion of parallels, and that these have reality, just not a reality we can see from our location embedded in the Physical plane.

    That situation did cause a nuclear holocaust in another parallel. So did the Faulkland crisis when it spiraled out of control. There is at least one other.

    The reason WW III as a nuclear holocaust isn’t likely in our lane of reality is that Sentience already has several examples to experience. Another wouldn’t add anything, and there are more interesting possibilities to explore, such as the one we’re currently looking at.

    Parallels, which I don’t think I’ve mentioned before on this site, certainly change the way I look at history.

  316. JMG-

    There’s been discussion this week about the likely scenarios of a gradual decline and people’s reaction to it. In my own experience, things often happen slowly, but are punctuated by small, rapid changes that momentarily discombobulate and then things reset to another level. It seems to be the general consensus here that in the past, humans responded more or less rationally to declines and the basic structure of civilization survived; in other words, we didn’t go all Hunger Games.

    This came to mind when I read Rod Dreher’s most recent article about the late philosopher, Leszek Kolakowski, of whom I had never heard (another addition to the ‘need to read’ list). Dreher describes him as an ex-Marxist turned critic of Marxism. What I found interesting in light of the Eccosophia discussion is Kolakowski’s take on the essential importance of religion and tradition in maintaining a semblance of cohesion and sanity in society, the thing that keeps us from going over the edge. Here’s a little bit of an interview with Kolakowski from the article:

    “Gardels | It strikes me that totalitarianism of a different kind could emerge from the new global capitalist order—a totalitarianism of immediate gratification in which reason is conditional to self-interest.

    What is to defend dignity and human rights from total commercialization?

    Kolakowski | The absence of a transcendent dimension in secular society weakens this social contract in which each supposedly limits his or her freedom in order to live in peace with others.

    Such universalism of interest is another aspect of the modern illusion. There is no such thing as scientifically based human solidarity.

    To be sure, I can convince myself that it is in my interest not to rob other people, not to rape and murder, because I can convince myself that the risk is too great. This is the Hobbesian model of solidarity: greed moderated by fear.

    But social chaos stands in the shadows of such moral anarchy. When a society adheres to moral norms for no other reason than prudence, it is extremely weak and its fabric tears at the slightest crisis. In such a society, there is no basis for personal responsibility, charity or compassion.”

    There’s a lot more in the article here: https://www.theamericanconservative.com/dreher/leszek-kolakowskis-warning/

    So, here’s my concern: in the past, human societies, even those in various stages of collapse, have had strong religions and traditions that create limits to acceptable behavior. In the absence of those, such as in our modern, Western cultures, what is to provide the brakes that will keep us from the hell of anarchy? Might it actually, really, be different this time?

  317. @ Dusk Shine

    Re mandatory voting and the identification of (non)citizens

    An excellent point. Were I less libertarian-minded, and generally opposed to the idea in principle, I might pass that notion along. It is certainly worth noting that consequence when the topic comes up in conversation in leftward-circles.

  318. @Patricia Mathews,

    A few years ago, my wife and I stayed put and made do during a widespread five-day-long winter power outage (caused by an ice storm). Our only intent was to get by and get things done, not to imitate or rediscover practices from previous eras, but a lot of older traditions made a lot more sense afterwards. Of course you cook your main daily meal at midday; that’s when there’s good ambient light to cook by. Of course you put your beds in the “family” room where there’s a heat source sufficient to keep temperatures above freezing; isolated bedrooms are for other milder seasons. Of course you don’t leave anything in your home out of place overnight; if you do you’ll damage it (or yourself) when moving around in the genuine darkness. Of course you keep track of the phase of the moon and (something few recent-day novelists seem to bother to get right) the relationship between the phase and when it rises and sets, because that determines when you can easily move around outdoors after dark.

    These things aren’t hard to learn to do, though. Lack of “practice” shouldn’t really be much of an issue. The problem many people have seems to be the lack of any willingness to evaluate a changed circumstance, and compromise or adapt. During the ice storm outage, no one else in that (affluent suburban) neighborhood stayed, even though many of them had the material equipment (including portable generators, wood stoves, and even solar power systems) to keep things a lot more “normal” than we could. Of course, they had the easy alternative of going to nice hotels instead. (As did we, but we’re tightwads.) Whether and how they would have managed in place if there had been no other choice is hard to say. Practice in the very concept of making-do and adapting might be more important than practice in any specific skills for doing so. (Which is why one should bet on the working class in any real permanent crisis.)

    Two technological gadgets I recommend for present day power outage preparedness are glow in the dark tape, and those fake votive candles with dim LED lights you can buy in craft stores and dollar stores. Either one produces tiny amounts of light, not enough to actually illuminate anything but enough to see the light itself. That makes them useful for marking where things are (doorways, stairs, toilets) during the night.

    We use candles for room light and close work (and reading) during outages, because (unlike any type of battery) the shelf life of their stored concentrated energy is indefinite. But that’s based on outages being sporadic and temporary. Candles or oil lamps aren’t a step-down in actual energy use. A bright candle flame is about 80 Watts of power (99% of it heat).

  319. JMG, regarding that long strange novel…

    I don’t recall whether or not I’ve mentioned the graphic novel Time in your blog comments before. (If I have, apologies for the redundancy.) It was originally an xkcd webcomic page. It’s a quite remarkable work of speculative fiction, for more than one reason, and won a Hugo award (Best Graphic Story) in 2014.

    I don’t know if you’d be able to view/read it comfortably. It’s not video, but it’s in the form of 3,099 individual static black and white panels, all the same size, that you can view sequentially at your own pace using an online viewer. Most of the panels have no text and can be stepped through quickly. Viewing and reading the whole thing takes an hour or two; more if you pause to look things up or figure things out along the way.

    It was originally presented as one new panel appearing every hour, day and night, for some four months. This made it a unique experience for its original followers. But it was also a very unusual story for an entirely different and arguably more important reason. Shortly after it completed, I posted a review of sorts in its massive (then 1200+-page) discussion thread on the xkcd forums, which explains why I think Time is worth reading and might be of interest to you. (Unavoidably, even bringing it up in this context, or acknowledging that it’s a deindustrial story, spoils an aspect of the plot that the original audience got to spend hundreds of hours speculating about and figuring out.) Here is the relevant part of that review, edited somewhat to avoid any additional spoilers.

    —–

    “I’ve read a lot of SF stories about the distant future of humanity, on the scale of millennia or more…

    “Sometimes it’s a hero arising out of that future time who goes exploring in some forbidden zone, sometimes it’s a lost time traveler, but it’s almost always about discovering the future’s past. Whether it’s our great age of technological marvels now poignantly gone (John Cambell’s classic Twilight), or how we screwed up so badly that some other species had to take over (Planet of the Apes …), or how the current events of the decade of the story’s writing continue to be the primary force shaping the distant future (The Time Machine)…, the important thing is, it’s all about us! The year might be 227,652 AD “in the old human reckoning,” but we still get to be the heroes, or at least the villains.

    “Well, here’s the thing. Randall Munroe’s Time doesn’t fit that mold. It’s not about us. It’s about people in their own time.

    “We [avid fans who followed and discussed Time hour by hour] thought and sometimes wished it might be otherwise. For instance, many followers including me thought it would be cool if [the story’s protagonists] found the Clock of the Long Now. Because hey look, that’s a thing happening in our own time. If the story became about how they found it and what effects finding it had on them, then it would be all about us after all.

    “Many others wanted to know (and perhaps still want to know) whether the [major plot event] is “our” fault, a result of extrapolating present day… technological hubris into our own near future, thus inadvertently [affecting] theirs. Because if it was, then it would be all about us after all.

    “Maybe some of the [characters]’ knowledge or technology came from our time. Maybe not. [The protagonists] don’t know and, within the scope of this story, don’t care. Maybe their folklore… is partly about our huge present-day cities, the two things getting conflated in the future kind of like the way we often jumble together different “ancient” architectures even though they’re from millennia apart. Even if that’s true, that’s not what the story’s about.

    “Why, then, put deep time (on the human scale anyhow) in the back-story? Because it’s a story about time, and what time does is move on. For good or ill, we don’t loom over the distant future the way we like to think we do. The continents grind together or spin apart, seas rise and fall, the earth wobbles on its axis, the stars drift out of their constellations and eventually die. And after all that, it’s still now…”

    —–

    There’s nothing wrong with deindustrial fiction being “really about us,” by virtue of framing some juxtaposition or confrontation between The Old Way and The New Way, one of which (even if both are unfamiliar on their surface) is a proxy for our present selves or present-day world. Most of my favorite deindustrial fiction, and all the deindustrial SF I’ve written myself, is exactly that. And there are ways to make a far future ecotechnic novel like that too. But you wouldn’t have to. It might have more impact if it were a world in which we and our ways are simply and entirely absent.

    Or it might not. I suppose “novel that was obscure in its time and is nearly forgotten today but which deeply influenced a later generation of authors” isn’t what most practical working authors would deliberately spend their time on.

  320. @ Matthias, Violet, Arkansas (and JMG if he feels like it 🙂 )

    Re: your take on Fellahin passivity Matthias, I thought the same as Arkansas i.e. that Spengler would have answered you with reference to his Magian culture and how Egypt was at that point well inside its cultural energies / drama. However I imagine that’s not a sufficient answer to your objections.

    I am still absorbing the detail of Spengler’s work and would welcome any further thoughts you have on these issues, for perspective. The unabridged DoW is next on the list for me actually.

    Thanks

  321. I must add a caveat to my lates commentary. Today it is increasingly impossible to know what really does happen in a country or city due to the massive political agendas of the mainstream press, of mainstream websites and of most alternative sites, left or right. The only things where one can find out something in a more or less undistorted way is the place where one lives. In the city, where I live, there are natives and many immigrants. Immigrants and natives keep mostly to themselves, but except of occasional non-violent political demonstrations, life there is rather unremarkable with the exception of the occasional art exhibition or city festival. That doesn’t mean that problems don’t exist, but their occurrence and character depends on the place, where one lives.

  322. Walt F, In the winter, that waste heat from candles is a good and excellent thing during a power outage.

  323. Warren, it would be interesting to look up how apnoea (or apnea, as we spell it here) was treated before CPAP machines, and see if there’s a less energy-intensive alternative.

    Denys, that’s a complex ethical question. Of course in the middle to long run those who don’t take care of themselves will no longer be with us…

    Lathechuck, that would make sense.

    David BTL, your daughter’s saying strikes me as highly accurate.

    Jim, by all means get a dulcimer. They’re cheaper by an order of magnitude than most other stringed instruments of comparable quality, due to being insanely easy to make and having fewer structural issues than almost anything else, and if you look around you can still find a lot of really first-rate music for them. It’s precisely because it’s an instrument that any halfway decent woodworker can make that they’re well suited to the time ahead of us.

    Caryn, of course it was Deliverance — thanks for the correction. Is your husband at all familiar with the major role that dulcimer player Jean Ritchie played in introducing old-fashioned American folk music to the New York scene, where Bob Dylan et al. picked it up? There’s a lot of interesting prehistory there.

    David BTL, just remember that teaching by example is the best way of instruction in a situation like this. How you live your life is at least as important as what you teach in some more formal context!

    Ray, excellent! Spengler would have heartily approved — he argued, as you’ll recall, that every great culture has its own unique ways of seeing the world and acting in it, and that the life cycle of each great culture thus has the same broad morphology but expressions dependent on the culture’s own prime metaphors.

    Dusk Shine, that’s one of the things our civilization is very, very good at!

    Bridge, yeah, it’s a messy situation, and will likely get a lot worse.

    Patricia, funny. Yes, Mr. Trudeau, not getting everything you think you deserve is indeed the new normal. The story about the psychiatrist is fascinating; that she went public about it at all marks a significant shift.

    Ray, delighted to hear it! That could go very far.

    Patricia, we got ours at a used-junk shop, a very nice Korean-made model that uses alcohol rather than canned heat. I believe they’re still made, though. As far as the fallacy of volition, it doesn’t matter whether someone wants a given outcome, or for that matter fears it — a prediction deserves to be considered on its merits, not dismissed on an ad hominem basis because of someone’s feelings toward it.

    Christopher, now show me where I said that the Boomers were the cause of everything bad that ever happened to anyone. My point is that my generation had the chance to live up to its loudly ballyhooed ideals and set this country on a course for a more sustainable future, and it folded instead and condemned its own children and grandchildren to a miserable destiny. I’ve discussed that at some length here, here, and here. Other generations have faced similar turning points; some have risen to the challenge, some have crumpled before it just as cravenly as we did. It just so happens that the Boomers are the generation in power at the moment, and — as I suggested in those posts — their (or, rather, our) failure of nerve and will continues to shape this country’s collective nonresponse to the rising spiral of problems we face today.

    Oh, and the path I chose was the path that many, many of my contemporaries said they were going to follow. It came as quite a surprise to me at the time that so few actually did so.

    SaraDee, thanks for this. The president of Mali is quite correct, of course.

    Pygmycory, thanks for these!

    Austin, apology accepted. Please be more careful in the future.

    David BTL, yes, exactly! Each of us contributes a little push in one direction or another, and the vector that sums up all those little pushes affects the ongoing momentum of society. Enough little pushes, and certain shifts become possible. As for shifting sands, that’s a major factor — as we approach the massive political reorientation that’s a normal part of this type of historical changeover, such strange pairings will be increasingly common.

    Pygmycory, I don’t think it can be prevented at this point, but you’re right that the jihadi migrations won’t be the only huge movements of peoples. In the twilight of a civilization, mass migrations are standard; about the only thing you can do is try to live somewhere that’s not on a major migration route, and then adapt as best you can.

    Booklover, oh, granted! My working guess, though, is that over the next decade the situation here in the US will calm down considerably, while the situation in Europe will likely become a good deal more difficult.

    Ip, fascinating. Thanks for the data points!

    Simo P., no surprise there at all. Keep in mind that the comfortable classes aren’t loyal to their countries, only to their class interests, and as Trump is a threat to the ascendancy of those interests he’s being bashed internationally.

    John, fair enough. That’s not the way I tend to look at it, but to each their own.

    Beekeeper, the decline in traditional religion is a normal part of this phase of the historical cycle, and it’s happened in all other civilizations that have been through the same cycle. What we’re starting to see now are the stirrings of what Spengler calls the Second Religiosity, the resurgence of religion as a significant social force at the end of the Age of Reason; if it follows its normal trajectory, there should be plenty of religious movements in good shape as the decline accelerates.

  324. JMG: since I should tell you at some point I already have published translations of your articles (After the Prosthetic Society, Knowing Only One Story), might as well say the other author with whom I already did the same is The Last Psychiatrist …

    All: Radio War Nerd put out a free preview of their #187, “Climate Change & Wars” – https://www.patreon.com/posts/free-preview-war-28226937 (they also covered the Sahel conflicts in #172 and the revolution in Sudan in #178).

  325. Re WWIII

    In the main, I think the Archdruid’s take on the use of nukes is most likely correct, but I am not as certain as he seems.

    First, there is a scary number of religious maniacs for whom an all-out thermonuclear war would be just dandy, as it would result in the second coming of Christ, the Rapture and all that sort of malarkey. I have read that around a third of the senior military hierarchy consists of people of this persuasion. Pence, as Vice-President is just a heartbeat away from a presidency currently occupied by a overweight, cheeseburger-guzzling 70 year old.

    There are altogether too many of these maniacs too close to too many levers of power.

    As for the breakup of the old Soviet Union, this was an implosion, an internal collapse. The threat was not from without, and nuking someone would not prevent this.

    But imagine that either the US or Israel (or both) launched a massive though non-nuclear strike on Iran. Iran and its allies respond, Israel is pummeled by rockets, the US and its NATO poodles all get involved, which forces the Russians to enter the fray, and the whole thing metastacises into an all-out conventional war. Then, after some time, one side realizes that the game is up, their defeat inevitable. Might they not launch nukes in a last ditch effort to stave off conventional defeat, which would completely eliminate their voice on the world stage? This dynamic wasn’t present in the demise of the old Soviet Union.

    Antoinetta III

  326. @pygmycory,

    Absolutely. That “waste” candle heat in winter is useful, which is one reason I use them and also why I suggest using them in one room together, where the people (also about 80 Watts apiece, when resting!) also are. A freestanding candle convects most of its heat to the ceiling, but some styles of lantern collect the heat closer by, venting and radiating just enough to keep from melting the candle.

    I would caution against burning them while everyone present is asleep, though, unless perhaps the candles are in the most robust of noncombustible enclosures. Pets, half-asleep humans, and unexpected things that go bump in the night have a way of knocking them into harm’s way. You also have to exercise due caution regarding smoke, fumes, and ventilation. (Concerns about “using up the oxygen” in an enclosed room are usually exaggerated, but can put you in mortal peril if disregarded entirely.)

    All this applies to present-day preparedness. Don’t expect to be using a lot of candles in a deindustrial future. The vast majority of present-day candle wax is a petroleum product.

  327. @sunnv:

    Just so we are clear, that was a former head of the CIA peddling a narrative justification for aerosols. Meaning the will (likely) or already have (more likely) started goofing around with it.

    I’m not suggesting the plan has a snowballs chance in hell of working. I’m suggesting it hasn’t or won’t stop the foolish bastards from trying, and it will somehow make matters worse.theres historical precedent for it too. Keep in mind we are talking about the same state apparatus that used rooftop aerosols to intentionally poison St.Louis in the later stages of the cold war.

    Considering the historical popularity of eugenics with the oligarchal families that make up the leadership of institutions like our intelligence services, I wouldn’t be surprised if they killed a couple million senior citizens and chalked it up as a budgetary correction.

  328. “Christopher, now show me where I said that the Boomers were the cause of everything bad that ever happened to anyone”

    You didn’t say that. I was responding to more than one comment made by others as well as yours. That’s why I didn’t address the first part of my comment specifically to you. I admit I laid it on kind of heavy. Sorry if I gave the wrong impression, wasn’t trying to put words in your mouth.

    This blame the boomers thing (or just as often blame the Millenials) comes up frequently. Rather than point fingers, even at ourselves, lets start fixing things -together. There will be people in each generation willing to at least try to face the challenges. There will be many, in each generartion, highly resistant to change.

    “Oh, and the path I chose was the path that many, many of my contemporaries said they were going to follow. It came as quite a surprise to me at the time that so few actually did so.”

    You took them seriously? I don’t know what to say except that you may have been a bit too trusting. Makybe your own choice of a different path made you believe others were equally serious.

    I watched our parents generation fill the fridge and put a new car in the driveway every few years and move up to a nicer house once or twice before retirement, and plan nice vactions, buy new clothes almost weekly, ………..etc. I was unsurprised when most of our generation used the same blueprint.
    I’m unsurprised to see so many in the younger generations striving for that same lifestyle.

    I don’t think the problem is with any particular generation. I think it’s broader. Cultural. Educational.

  329. My Spengler was flood-damaged and it would take me some time to find the passage online. I remember him as saying that once a culture (like Egypt) reached its death stage, the great mass of the population live their timeless Fellahin life without caring for the great historical drama going on in the cities and among the ruling class.

    Monasticism is such a great counter-example because the first great hermites were dirt-poor peasants from Egyptian villages without a hint of Greek letters.

    Please correct me if I remember the passage wrongly.

  330. “Then this thought sailed into my mind, from where? Anyway, it went as follows: despair is sin. It was clear to me that this thought did not rise out of my habitual paradigm. Where did it come from? You are a mage, try to explain it to me.”

    I am neither JMG nor a mage, but that despair is a sin, and the lowest baseness of all, because the one subject to it holds one’s life in little esteem, was expressed by the chief arms instructor of Navarre in the late 17th century.

  331. Hi Warren, I was the person who made the original comment about C-PAP machines. I apologize for sounding so flip and cavalier; C-PAPs don’t belong in the same category as video games or microwaves. As far as air conditioning, a world without it could be deadly because too much heat can cause strokes. My husband has a C-PAP machine which he got shortly after his cousin, a father of three, suffocated to death in his sleep from sleep apnea. The point I struggled to make was that the average person (including myself) is far too dependent on fossil fuel goodies. I hope you are able to use some of the good advice from other commenters to ameliorate your apnea.

  332. @David BTL

    You mentioned your backyard container garden. Do you have any tips for making containers work without constantly shelling out for “potting mix”? An old recipe that includes dirt? Or anything? (IMX dirt turns to concrete and drowns the plants. When I lived in WI it was less humid than in RI where I now live, though…)

    @Walt F

    We learned similar things when we moved into our own house and had control over the thermostat and set it to 60F in the winter. Of course you put cushions on even comfortable chairs; cushions aren’t cold like the wood of the chairs is. Of course you have a throw rug by the bed; cold floor. Not to mention the usefulness of long underwear. And the tradition of having two or three layers of window dressing turns out to be useful in both winter and summer (no AC). Our old house is well laid out for passive solar and that helps maximize the usefulness of strategic opening and shutting of the curtains.

    We haven’t yet figured out how to confidently build or source a solar water heater and avoid Legionnaire’s Disease, though (we currently don’t have a water heater, we just pipe water through the boiler to heat it…helps keep showers short).

    BTW, during the post-Sandy power outage (5 days for us), we happened to have a “Candlelier” 3-candle lantern with a hot plate on top (heated by the candles), and we used it to make hot tea every day, and it really helped us stay comfortable.

  333. JMG – I am truly sorry about about how much of a gaff that comment I wrote was. I’ve gone to school with several people who practice Islam, one the most notable was in a poetry class, and my sister is very good friends with someone who grew up in Kuwait.

    I was not trying to accuse you or anyone of being prejudice. There’s a truism, that “it’s easy to be a saint when you live in heaven.” It doesn’t seem to matter what religion that is. My sister’s friend has family in Kuwait and I met them once when they came over to visit several years ago. This friend of my sister and I share common love of painting… The reason I bought up Shakespeare’s Shylock character up was because if there is a mass migration, driven by starvation, many of those migrants will be just people looking for a chance to survive.

    And when people are in extremity they tend to hold their faith a little tighter. Creating stereotypes about a group of people is never ok. What’s that saying that it’s better for 10 guilty men go free than one innocent man be punished? @Karim’s comment, and your response to it, mentioned the Chinese government. And if all of a sudden governments, like China, are outlawing, or creating internment camps for Islam, because there is mass exodus happening out of the middle east. IDK

    I say a lot of dumb things. A morally sticky situation like mass exodus is hard to talk about.

  334. To Beekeeper, thank you, I will take a look!

    To Tripp, thanks so much, and I appreciate hearing your stories.

    And yes, I think they can change you. I can’t say for certain that I’ll be able to directly pass any of this on to my boys, but I can see how interested my oldest is in what I’m doing already, and how he tries to imitate me, and I hope that some of that (with encouragement) shapes part of his sense of what is normal and how he might want to conduct himself in the world. At any rate I will pass much more of it along if I’m actually doing it! Congratulations on your daughter and your business!

    I wish I could say we’d ditched the TV, but we still have one. We don’t have cable (or wi-fi – and using the internet is inconvenient), so we don’t have the normal flow in, at least, and watch things from DVD. I would say this is marginally better, but I’m not giving us a gold medal in this dept. I find normal TV stranger and less interesting than I used to, when we are somewhere and it is on. It has an endless sameness quality to it now in my mind, where I might not see any of it for months at a time, but I never feel I’ve missed anything, it’s just still that perpetual stream that I don’t seek out. For my part I just don’t really give it time, and try to be outdoors instead, especially while the weather is nice.

    Thanks,
    Johnny

  335. A couple of thoughts come to mind. I remember buying a dulicmer back in the late 70”s and I think I had Jean Ritchies. I also tried 12 string guitar inspired by Roger McGuinn of the Byrds but in the end I settled for mandolin (first bluegrass then Irish) and now Irish Bouzouki which is basically trad Bouzouki with flat back and tuned down an octave from the Mandolin. Fun to play in the Sesuin though not loud enough for people to notice my mistakes 😉

    My roommates back at MIT all talked about small scale tech and communal living but very few ever did anything. I used to visit Arcosanti, the holy grail of architecture students back in the 70s, and while it continues, it never really got off the ground. Michael Reynold’s Earthship designs seem to be faring better with various adaptations to better solutions.

    Sitting in Ireland, watching the immigration problems is interesting. There is little assimilation with people coming and crime and rape in places like Germany are becoming a serious issue while Scandnavian countries are having similar issues where whole areas are “no-go” to the native population. Still waiting to see whether realism overcomes ideology.

    Ireland still has the advantage it add in the Middle Ages, we are a small island off off an island with no significant natural resources to steal so should be interesting..

  336. Hi JMG

    With regards to WW3 any guestimates on timescale? I need to know how long ive got to build my bunker! Cheers

  337. Hi John

    Fascinating post.

    I fully agree with you in regard to Europe’s coming fate and the comments of some of the Europeans on the board reflect the state of collective denial the continent is in.

    I wrote about this last year on my blog – https://forecastingintelligence.org/2018/02/18/islamic-volkerwanderung/

    I have sent your quotes on the coming jihadi invasion, driven by ecological collapse, to a few of my fellow Europeans recently and not a single one came back. “Freaked out” and “head in the sand” are the overwhelming responses so far.

    My comment, being based around the UK, is whether any future North American power would want to ensure Ireland and the UK avoid any direct invasion given the risks to the American heartland.

    And if a future US president decided that strategically they couldn’t afford the UK falling they would presumably have to prop up, at least, the French given the lessons of WW1/WW2 (e.g. access to the northern French ports).

    My working assumption is that whilst southern Europe is toast, northern Europe should survive although I suspect France will be cleaved in two this century. It is neither in the Russian or North American interest to see the fall of western Europe to jihadi armies.

    On a separate note, I recently completed reading this book which was very interesting. It covered much of your writing over the years. They forecast a deflationary collapse of the global economy at some point in the future rather than a hyperinflationary explosion – what is your take?

    https://www.amazon.com/Breaking-Point-Profit-Coming-Cataclysm/dp/1630060607

    Thanks

    FI

  338. @ Cary

    Re recipes for dirt and container gardening tips

    I’m early in the learning cycle for small-scale myself, but a few things I’m doing:

    1) We have a “soil bin” where all the soil goes to at the end of the season, mixing everything from all the various containers together.

    2) I plant beans/legumes with any compatible companion (e.g. potatoes, chard, lettuces) and utilize the nitrogen-fixing to augment that batch of soil (which then gets mixed in with everything at the end of the season, per #1 above)

    3) Coffee grounds get added on top periodically to appropriate crops (including as part of the “earthing up” of the potatoes). We also contribute to our neighbor’s compost bin and sometimes take a share of its production.

    It is early yet to fully assess the efficacy of these steps, but I’ve got lots of green stuff growing up, so something is working 🙂

  339. Re: emergency light and heat

    Our oldest son lives in a place that experiences frequent, but so far short, power outages. We bought him a couple of fairly low-tech items to help him out. First was a Dietz lantern that comes with a little grate and appropriately-sized pot so that when the lantern is in use for light, the heat generated can cook small quantities of food. Not tremendously efficient, but good enough for a single person living in an apartment. https://www.lehmans.com/product/dietz-oil-lantern-cooker-green/. There are a number of emergency cookers available, but the most efficient ones seem to be outside-use only, not an option if you don’t have an outside to use.

    We also bought him (and ourselves) a handful of solar light mason jar lids to put on canning jars I can’t use anymore because they have tiny chips in the rim and therefore will not seal properly for food use. If you don’t have canning jars, fear not: you should be able to bring home boxes of them from yard sales for very little money. I have the jar lights sitting on windowsills throughout the house to charge so they’ll be at hand if the power goes off unexpectedly. They don’t generate much light, but it’s sufficient for safely walking around and much safer than candles for a cat household. I think maybe crumbling a small piece of aluminum foil inside the jar might reflect the light better, but I haven’t tried that yet. Lots and lots of places carry them so look around for a good price. Here’s an example: //www.etsy.com/listing/188193139/mason-jar-solar-light-lid-silver-lid?ga_order=most_relevant&ga_search_type=all&ga_view_type=gallery&ga_search_query=solar+mason+jar+lids&ref=sc_gallery-1-2&plkey=b9681440a52acd848f459753ca4e2755ea017675%3A188193139

    David BTL and Cary:

    We do the same thing with exhausted plant pot soil and then add sieved compost and mix it in well. If you have a worm bin, you can also add the worm castings to your bucket of recycled soil mix too. Occasionally we’ll come across something else (a pail of peat moss found in the cellar of a recently-deceased relative, for example) to add, so our mixture is never the same. If I can find some coconut coir at a cheap price, that gets shredded and goes in too to keep the soil loose, which is important for seedlings. If you’re concerned about pathogens in the soil, you can sterilize it. We have an old 18-quart electric oven thingy (for sale pretty much everywhere around Thanksgiving, but keep an eye out at yard sales) that I can put outside on the porch, set for 300º, and leave it for an hour or two – outside is good, because soil cooking can get stinky. I only do this if the ingredients have come from dubious sources.

  340. gardeners–f you live anywhere near people who have horses they are usually willing to give away horse manure–horses don’t digest as thoroughly as cows so the manure should be composted to kill weed seeds, or dried over winter to keep it from being too ‘hot’

  341. @Jamie Ross

    “Ireland still has the advantage it add in the Middle Ages, we are a small island off off an island with no significant natural resources to steal so should be interesting..”

    Ireland is rich in fertile land and water. You can’t drink oil or eat gold. Ireland also introduced a blasphemy law recently (although it was repealed last year). Rumour has it the Minister involved in the law was paid by the Saudis to do it.

  342. HI Johnny,

    I very rarely see normal TV unless I’m having my car serviced or at someone’s house. Sportsball hasn’t changed much and probably never will. News is much more openly propagandistic than it was ten years ago. “Entertainment,” without exception, seems geared to teens and below, even though nominal adults are also watching.

  343. Dashui, yep. I’m not at all surprised — have people forgotten that the Shaolin Temple is Buddhist? The Theravadin Buddhist countries are on the front lines of current jihadi activity, and Buddhism has an extensive warrior tradition. As the battle lines of the Third World War take shape, expect to see much more along these lines.

    Walt F, thanks for this. One of the things I want to do with that long strange novel will be precisely to make us, our problems, and our entire civilization a matter of complete indifference to my characters — one of many mostly forgotten civilizations from the very distant past. Somewhere back then there was a civilization that put some machines on the Moon, and there was another that messed up the climate for 5000 years or so by burning something or other from underground — were they the same? Nobody knows, and it’s not as though it matters to anyone but a few hundred scholars, who have been bickering decorously about the subject for the last four thousand years and will never reach a conclusion. Once you get back before the Seven Luminous Dynasties, the records are sparse and contradictory, and this was at least twenty thousand years before that…

    Booklover, oh, granted. One of the downsides of the barbarism of reflection is that everything gets spun until it flies apart into meaningless fragments.

    S.T. Silva, so noted.

    Antoinetta, again, you’re missing the point. Precisely because all sides have nuclear weapons, you’re not going to see a conventional war between the US and Russia, or the US and China, or any other pair of nuclear-armed powers. It’s easy to spin some sort of imaginary situation in which that might happen, sure, and people have been doing it since nuclear weapons first became a thing in science fiction stories back in the 1930s, but every time any two nuclear powers have come close to that, they’ve backed down from the brink in a hurry, because everyone involved knows perfectly well that once the nukes come out everyone loses. That’s why any military strike on Iran is going to be purely a gesture, and once the Iranians test a nuclear weapon of their own — which I’m sure they will do the moment they think the Israelis are going to go beyond saber rattling — that’ll be game over for acts of war against Iran by other nuclear powers. Nothing Israel can possibly gain will be worth having Tel Aviv vaporized; nothing Iran can gain will be worth having the same fate visited on Tehran — and that, again, is why nuclear weapons are a very effective way to prevent war between nuclear powers.

    As for homicidal maniacs, er, were you under the impression that Stalin and Mao weren’t homicidal maniacs? They both had plenty of nukes. The point you’re missing here, as the old joke has it, is that crazy is not the same thing as stupid.

    Christopher, “you took them seriously?” I don’t know if you read the posts I linked to, but that’s exactly the tone of sullen nihilism I talked about there. Yes, I took them seriously and at the time, it seemed reasonable to do so. Other generations have risen to challenges equally great; ours didn’t. I don’t see any reason to ignore the difference or minimize the disastrous consequences of that failure.

    A Reader, that was a common take on things all over medieval and Renaissance Europe. Despair as the willful rejection of the possibility of hope was at the rock bottom of the list of sins.

    Austin, fair enough. You’re quite correct, of course, that mass migrations in a time of ecological chaos make for moral quandaries! My point in bringing up the rising spiral of events that seem to be leading toward a really ugly world war wasn’t to point fingers or cast blame. Islam historically tends to fuse religion and politics; China historically is exceedingly hostile toward religions with political ambitions; that combination guarantees a whole series of messy explosions with a high body count on both sides — and of course it doesn’t help that US and British intelligence agencies, with a degree of slack-jawed, drooling stupidity that makes mud bricks look like geniuses, have funded and encouraged jihadi terrorism over large portions of the Old World to try to mess with the Russians and the Chinese. As the trends currently in motion spin out of control, I expect to see a lot of useless deaths on all sides and a vast amount of religious hatred on all sides — not something we need more of…

    Jamie, thanks for this! I have several good books of Irish session tunes for mountain dulcimer, ironically enough. As for Ireland, your situation’s fairly good — as usual, the one problem you have is the country on the other side of the Irish Sea.

    George, anyone’s guess. The fact that alliances are already being formed against jihadi insurgencies when that’s the only common factor — what other security issues does Israel share with the Philippines? — suggests that it’ll be within a few decades, but that’s a guess at best.

    Forecasting, that’s a good harrowing prediction. My one quibble is that I don’t think the current set of Middle Eastern national governments will be involved (or still exist), but that’s a minor point. With regard to Britain and Ireland, if the US remains intact as a viable nation, maintaining control over the northern Atlantic will remain a central strategic mandate, and that means propping up Britain at all costs — whoever controls the major ports of western Britain controls the eastern North Atlantic, full stop, end of sentence. Irish neutrality is a good US investment as well, since Ireland has nothing we need but it’s crucial to keep it out of hostile hands.

    What other footholds the US may choose to keep will depend on circumstances — the move to make Poland a major US ally is extremely clever geopolitics in the current situation, and if the US intervenes in the Third World War I’ve described it would make a fine base from which US and Polish forces could join in an alliance of convenience with Russia and operate across the eastern European plain and into the Balkans. Pay close attention to US relations with Norway and Iceland also — especially as the Arctic Ocean becomes navigable, those will be crucial strategic pivot points.

    As for the book, I’ll have to read it and see what I think. One way or another, a vast amount of unpayable debt has to be liquidated, but it’s an open question how that will take place.

  344. JMG
    I usually find the comments in this blog touch upon my thoughts and I usually don’t respond but
    I drove over the Uncompahgre yesterday, and through Unaweep canyon, the canyon with two mouths and no head of the canyon, driving by the ghost town of my childhood after climbing to the top in my old pickup, wasting gas. This is the crowning achievement of the age of progress, but, I did salvage the journey by driving through my shadow, hidden in the precambrian depths of all this rock. This is extraction country, a colony of the colonies, ruled by the names of the previous peoples on the landscape near the northern edge of the old ones. and I am aware of the implications of devastating drought, but some people lived through the worst, I think. The top of the mountain showed fire damage from last year’s drought conditions, while this year the Colorado river has 20 times the water as last year. There is a housing boom in this city drinking the Colorado, with new houses on 1/4 – 1/5 acre lots going for 300- 400 K. This area will be the new place to live while the boom lasts, but this area has a long history of boom and busts, from oil shale, to fracking, uranium to coal, and superfund sites. And water. I can’t forget water here. Water for people, fruits and vegetables alfalfa and wine grapes. My water bounced all day yesterday on those dusty roads, and I made it a point to stir all the deep and breathe in the dust from the depths of time. I am a bouzouki player that plays my own songs, and when listening to my musical roots and branches I include Miles Davis, John Cage, the Grateful Dead and Doc Watson, but it started with the Kingston Trio, and KOMA, Oklahoma City, the only radio station that penetrated the big rock mountain that isolated us from the world. Jerry Garcia called it the “great folk scare” of the ’60’s, and that wasn’t all that scared the folk. I lived in a company town that held the secrets of cold war America. I joined the only game that would take people like me, the low church of the counterculture, and hung out in a psychiatric unit for 20 years. i listened to a thousand stories often attached to the big shadow, so I learned to put all that trash I heard out in the desert. Last year the rocks talked back, from showing me trash pits in the desert, to showing me a ripple in sandstone, easy to carry hand sized, expressing a wave trapped in time. I have lived here in this house 39 years, long enough to note a shift in climate zones. Our ground was sub soil scraped ground and now has trees and gardens, but it takes years to make it better. One wet year and there is a call to take more water for new costumers, and when that bubble pops, and it is dry again, or when the money runs out, ….. Last year I walked around, looking for rocks in the places where cactus died and the rocks could be seen. the mountains couldn’t be seen due to smoke and dust conditions, this year has more than average rain so it is cooler as well. The two extremes might be the present course and the new normal and it will assume the windblown structures of the dust bowl. The structures of the atomic age did not fare as well, the ghost town is scraped clean of nuclear legacy, but the ghosts of my remembered shadow past doesn’t need structures. I think the counterculture boomers had to learn to live with our values, discover our meaning and operate in the broad crucible of our culture, trying to live in a place outside of many of its shared values of consumerism, while still holding an ideal, even if it can’t reach the standards of high church. I have listened to the memory of the heated rocks in the shade of a baking day in the desert. I can remember rafting rivers and reading currents, filling my head with way of life poems and laws of the river. I have found the mineralized remains of creatures of the past. So yesterday I threw my net onto the mountain and it rumbled back, it took a long time to get here, and it will take a long time to leave. It didn’t give me a fossil to remember this great truth.

  345. Johnny,

    I’m starting to think that “outdoors” is a decent antonym for “television.” 😄

    Sounds like you’re doing it right to me.

    Tripp

  346. Despair as a sin is classic Christianity. “To despair of God;s grace is the Sin Against the Holy Ghost.” The original of “sloth” was not common laziness, but “Accidie”, which more or less sounds like clinical depression to a modern ear.

  347. @Johnny: Your kids are likely to absorb a lot more of your worldview and values than you consciously teach them. My grandparents on both sides are farmers while my parents moved into professional careers and my contact with the family farm has been minimal. Despite that, their way of looking at the world (make good use of everything you have, DIY is empowering, tradesmen are respectable, save up during the good times because they don’t last forever) has had a major impact on my perspective and made it a lot easier for me to adapt to a world without progress.

    The family stories, the choices that they made and the things that they did for fun with us grandkids all transmitted what they thought was important without directly telling us.

  348. Hi John Michael,

    I’ve noticed that you’re getting some push back on the issue of generational challenge (among other issues – who would have thought that people fantasize about nuclear capabilities?).

    To my mind, the ever increasing debt burden story highlights the choices that were faced and made. And from what I can see down here, the benefits of those choices appear to be favouring certain segments (classes) of the population at the expense of future generations and other classes. Of course I doubt very much that the debt will be repayable at any point. And the ever lowering interest rates are a sign that the need to appear to continue to service the debt is a real issue that can’t be lightly ignored.

    Of course, it is not lost on me that other classes within the population have competing interests in relation to the matter, and sooner or latter someone from within that class will connect up with the disaffected. Of that I have little doubt. The cake is baking in the oven, so to speak.

    Cheers

    Chris

  349. “Christopher, “you took them seriously?” I don’t know if you read the posts I linked to, but that’s exactly the tone of sullen nihilism I talked about there. Yes, I took them seriously and at the time, it seemed reasonable to do so. Other generations have risen to challenges equally great; ours didn’t. I don’t see any reason to ignore the difference or minimize the disastrous consequences of that failure.”

    Read them years ago when I first stumbled on ADR, and again when you linked to them. One man’s nihilism is another’s realsim. I agree that a certain percentage of the population was willing to face the reality that we were (are) running out of oil, and were willling to use less of it. What we seem to disagree on is the size of this group. To me they seemed to be a tiny subset of the general population which is why I didn’t take most of the talk too seriously. I recall one of the major paradigms of the era was that OPEC had pullled a fast one and that the price of oil was “artificially” high and we were not actually running out of oil. That denial coupled with the faith in progress has brought us to the present.

    I don’t see it as a failure of the boomers so much as a failure of all generations. Our parent’s generation wasn’t keen on slashing their lifestyle, and didn’t to any great extent except to find a way to deal with permanently higher gas prices. Our generation, in the majority, followed suit. Likewise the generations that have come after us. I agree we’ve failed to face the problem, and that the consequences have been disasterous.

  350. Now, this is a good ol’style Archdruid Report redux , Mr Greer … and in this kind of subjects I think my comments are somewhat useful.

    Well, I don’t have much to say in this subject that hasn’t been said in the ol’ADR, besides that I would call Trump Orange Crassus ( both him and Crassus got rich in dubious real estate businesses and both seem to have a horrible need to be considered a equal to the “good men” of the elites, a thing that actually got Crassus a mouthful of molten gold … ) and … global warming ( or whatever is the plume de guerre of that concept nowadays ).

    To be short, and while I agree with your concept that playing geowizard while not even being a good geoapprentice can’t give good results , for sure I would be more pliable to the defenders of the Global wierding if they admitted that they picked the more simplistic and scary ( and also already falsified ) for shock and awe value, if they stopped “adjusting” the past records and worst, if they stopped telling people to not believe their lying eyes and trust their models ( I, for myself , caught one of them doing the second thing regarding sea levels where I live ( in short, the station that measured the sea level had changed places ( with slightly diferent altitudes ) and the guy had joined the before and after ( 2 sets of data that were basically flat, with the second slightly higher due to a slight diference on altitude between the old and new station ) and tried to disguise the bad gluing work he had made with a averaging that had created a sea rise where there was none in the raw data ) and got a really bad case of the third ). You can get a lot on the short term with those tactics, but you will end branded a liar and no one that comes after will believe in what you said … even if correct … you might actually make more damage to what you say you’re protecting than the ones that do nothing to promote it.

    But alas, Global wierding present or not, sea rise or not, it changes little on the sort term: oil will get scarcer and of worse quality and its usage be restricted further and further ( say, I expect no one here believes that the bans on diesel engines that are being prepared on Europe aren’t because the elites think that diesel is becoming too precious to allow the plebs to continue using it instead of putting it on the planes and on the ships. Surely those guys that have planes reserved just for them to go around the world for photo ops and lobster dinners are surely worried about the rising levels of carbon dioxide … surely ). There is very liitle any of us can do to change the global picture, but all of us can do a lot to change our own personal trajectory in this time of ours ( the good ol’ “You can’t command the winds, but you can adjust your sails ” ) and in that I endorse most of your ( and others ) advice in here: spend less energy in general ( not that it is hard to cut a lot of energy spending in most developed nations ,especially , from what I hear, in the USA … I never undertood the visceral allergy most of the americans appear to have to not having a AC pumping hot/cold air at all times, like if humans could not deal with a wide range of temps just by putting more or less clothes ). Living with less is not living worse a lot of the times …

    That said, I wanted to comment on some of the subjects the comments brought up, if our host allows ( feel free to delete if too much off topic, Mr Greer:

    1) Nuke usage

    Besides all of what has been said above by Mr Greer, I would like to point that, while radioactivity can be around for a long time, nukes themselves have a very short shelf life ( so no, no Allmighty Bomb for you, Apes of the future 😀 ). First, the fissile material in the bombs ( and hydrogen bombs also have Uranium or Plutonium inside to kickstart them ) decays fast if the material is weapons grade; second, the radioactive material decay degrades the rest of the parts of the nukes ( both organic and inorganic materials get brittle if they get too much radiation ) and third, the delivery veicules ( mostly rockets ) also degrade. So in general, a nuke at best has a shelf life of a decade, decade and half. More, if you read the news on this subject ( I mean , the very little that ends up transpiring to the public ), you’ll learn that most of the nuclear powers slacked hard on renewing their nukes in the 90’s and early 00’s due to the end of the Cold War and have been trying furiously to get new nukes in the last years, so in the moment pretty much all of the nuclear arsenal of pretty much everyone besides the newcomers ( India, Pakistan and North Korea … and maybe Iran if the idiots in Washington continue to push them to the wall ) is a very big unknowable in terms of actually working at all … and that surely puts a lot of cold water in top of the warmer heads around ( like my father uses to say a loaded gun only scares the one in front of it, but a unloaded one scares the guy handling it as well 😉 )

    Second, and in spite all the doom and gloom people had and have about thousands of nukes flying everywhere if MAD fails, in reality only the Soviet Union actually tested if they could actually do a coordinated launch of more than one nuke ( they tested … two ). So, there is a decent possibity that, in the hypotetical scenario some world power decides to launch a nuke attack, that they press the red button RL equivalent to launch a nuclear fireworks and … nothing ( or more realistically, some nukes do get launched and work, but a significant number does fail in all kinds of ways, most likely harming more the launcher than the target )

    All in all, nukes as weapons are … well, unreliable. And everyone around knows it … they all just fear that someone is stupid enough to actually use them ( and so far, there was always enough adults in the room to avoid their use and sane countries actually forced a 1h cooldown between nuke launch orders and actual launch to specifically give time to cooler heads to defuse stuff ). If you think about it, it is just a slightly more bright version of the situation regarding chemical weapons … extremely good to spread fear, completely useless as weapons.

    2) Video games and computers

    A wild tangent to the OP topic, but have seen some comments around how video games and computer usage is a nono in the rough times we have ahead and how computers are expensive and energy hungry. There is some truth in it but …

    First of all, and while the Moore’s law is more or less dead for a decade or so ( don’t tell anyone, it is suposed to be a secret ) and while the graphics cards companies and the AAA video game producers have been working hard to prompt eachother into avoiding bankrupcy ( the new games need better graphics cards ,and because the graphics cards are better, we need new games ), leading to extravaganzas in both video game requirements and of graphics cards stats, there have been serious developments in making computers that both sturdy and energy efficient in the other extreme of things. Say ( and I’m not trying to sell stuff, Mr Greer, just pointing out examples ), single board computers like the Rapsberry Pi or the NVIDIA Jetson Nano, that are both reatively cheap, sturdy ( the lack of movable plastic parts helps a lot in there ) and that will be the rough equivalent of a medium computer of a 7-8 years ago in terms of stats ( aka, being perfectly capable of doing what most people do with a computer ) while consuming 5-10 W, making them usable even in situations you have to pedal to have electrical power … TBH, and after seeing one of those surviving a lot of abuse as the brain of a DIY weather station a friend of mine made , I would not be surprised to see some of them in working conditions after decades …maybe even in a decrepit and long forgotten SETI facility 😉 .Sure, you will not find them in Walmart and co, for some unknown reason [/sarcasm] , but I would say that if you want to continue using a computer in the long run, getting a bunch of those while they are still being done is a wise move.

    On the internet … well, as the ADR vets might remember, that was discussed a lot already. I would just say that the Internet is NOT JUST Facebook , Instagram, Netflix and Youtube and , if those disapeard from the face of the planet today, the bandwidth requirements would fall to less than a third of what they are … and if people got used again to the text based stuff of the early 90’s, it would be easy to revert the internet to work on top of ham radios ( in fact a lot of ham radio today is working in top of single board computers like the ones I described above … makes stuff far simpler for the operator ), that, for the most part, is a more robust and energy lean technology. Sure, that doesn’t mean that we will have it, just that it can still exist..

    3) Possible Futures

    I know that this will not convince a lot of people around, but, as far as I understand Mr Greer position, it was always that, having in hands the empirical historical data we have have nowadays, the more probable trajectory in the short term ( 1-2 centuries … remember historically short term 😉 ) we will see a ragged down descent to a XVI-XVII century lifestyle with hopefully some wiffs of modernity around ( like hopefully modern anatomy knowledge and most importantly, the willingness to test ideas on the terrain that is the increasingly forgotten core of the scientific method ) and that ,barring some completely out of the left field factor coming to play ( and those, due to their nature, can’t be counted on as certain ), that is pretty much a certainty. Sure, that does not exclude the possibility of a madman actually launching nukes as candies and making our planet a glowing rock or that , against all odds, someone tomorrow announces that he had perfected a cheap, portable and radiation free fusion reactor … but I would not count on that in either and planning on top that is foolish. It is the same situation than with your weather forecast: the fact that there is a possibity that the Sun might go out tomorrow does not make a good idea to plan your day with that as a certainty 😉

    Second, and this is a question to Mr Greer: while this is not a new idea at all in the Sci FI mediums, I have found that the number of Sci Fi plots ( either on video, book or game form ) that has a bright future on the stars after a ( most of the times glossed out ) 2 or 3 centuries of a dark age has been increasingly noticeable. I wonder if Mr Greer agrees with my idea that even the future in the stars crowd is feeling the winds of change …

  351. JMG, I’ve read most of your fiction and your book from the far future sounds like a real treat. I will point out that one of my favorite pieces of escapist pulp fantasy, the Lord Valentine’s Castle series, takes place on a world that was once part of a spacefaring civilization (hence the baroque variety of sentient creatures rubbing shoulders), but the resources for that ran out, and there they are.

    If I were wealthy, I’d commission a TV series in the vein of The Expanse where humanity has colonized the solar system, but is slowly realizing that in the long term, life is only possible on Earth, and the dream of voyages to distant stars is just that. Meanwhile, asteroid mining companies are finding less of whatever it is that enables human survival off-Earth in the Sol system than they extract every year…

  352. Climate changed induced population movement from North Africa and the Middle East is one major concern, but I worry more about South Asia. As temperatures and waters rise, where will a billion plus Indians, Pakistanis, and Bangladeshis go? The Himalayas are a hard constraint, so will Indians try to move through Pakistan? There is a nuclear war scenario right there. East through Burma? By sea to … where?

  353. @Bridge, you said:
    ***
    I think this feeds into the debate about unlimited immigration which neoliberals are so fond of because it makes us “diverse”. If there are no limits to growth (and this is what boomers generally believe), then why should there be any restriction on immigration? Only a racist fascist would want that!!
    ***

    Thanks for the clarity. The American public still operates under the capitalist assumption of unending growth. What we are getting instead is not even a zero-sum game… we are staring contraction dead in the face at the twilight of abundant fossil fuels. When the next leg down hits, advanced economies stuffed full of immigrants are going to find themselves nauseous from that influx, and there will be a gag reflex. (The re-election of Trump in 2020 will force the Dems to play ball.)
    Latin Americans may go home (they’ll have families and nations to return to), but the young Muslims in the EU will fight back. Today’s immigrant crime wave in the EU will turn to war. Trump’s war on illegal immigration will have the effect of making this future easier for Americans.
    When will Americans understand growth is over. The pie will never grow again – the best we can hope for is a temporary stop to the shrinking. Truly, “There is no Tomorrow”!!
    I’ll admit I nurse a small little wish that fusion works out. But the opportunity to push resources into that kind of advanced scientific R&D is coming to an end in the not too distant future.

  354. @David BTL & Beekeeper

    Thanks!

    Do you use the soil from the soil bin again the next season? Or do you let it compost for several seasons?

    My main issue with potting mix reuse is disease. 1st year peppers? Beautiful. 2nd year from saved seeds? What seemed then like a lot of anthracnose. 3rd year from freshly bought seeds? Completely covered in anthracnose lesions. Will try soaking in hot water before planting, but it really seems to be in the “soil,” not so much the seeds.

    I know someone in Florida who container gardens all winter and then lets the containers be sterilized by the sun all summer, and that works…because it’s Florida.

    I…think I need to learn how to run hot compost.

    Meanwhile…for looser potting medium, compost + coir?

    (Beekeeper, that Dietz is similar to my Candlelier, except it uses oil and the Candlelier uses candles.)

    @Everyone

    I *don’t* know how to cook on a chafing dish, so I looked online. I found many stern warnings not to. I also found this section of a 1918 Fannie Farmer cookbook: https://www.bartleby.com/87/0035.html “RECIPES FOR THE CHAFING-DISH.”

    Also. Saw this article on different reactions to the fact that some areas of Newport, RI now often flood at high tide: https://www.nytimes.com/2019/07/08/science/historic-preservation-climate-newport.html “‘We Cannot Save Everything’: A Historic Neighborhood Confronts Rising Seas”

  355. John–

    Re the stupidity of war and its occasional necessity

    A tail-end of the cycle reply, but I just wanted to say that I don’t disagree. I’d allow that war can be necessitated when a people/nation/tribe defends itself from an external force. The war itself is still stupid, but forced upon the defenders by the aggressors. The US has never fought a purely defensive war, though I’d say that the two wars of liberation (one successful, the other not) fought by the colonies and the Confederacy are close enough to be considered as such, as neither war would have occurred had the dominant power in question (Britain and the US, respectively) allowed the departing territories to depart peacefully.

  356. Lucas said: On a somewhat related note, I’m considering compiling a comprehensive encyclopedia of alternative technologies. I was wondering if anyone would have any suggestions (other than the well known publications like Mother Earth News) for good source material.

    Lucas, why don’t you join us over at the Green Wizards website, and help us do just that, compile a comprehensive set of books that covers all of the skills and knowledge someone needs to survive in the Long Descent.

  357. John–

    This actually touches on the theme for the post, in way…

    A real, actual, true public comment filed in a current regulatory docket for Wisconsin Public Service (one of the major investor-owned utilities in the state) for a rate increase:

    I do not want Wisconsin Public Service (hereafter referred to as “you”) to raise my electric rates, nor my natural gas rates, as you have proposed to do. I especially oppose the electric rate increases. You claim that you want to increase rates in order to spend money on acquiring the Forward Wind Energy Center and two solar facilities. I do not believe that solar or wind power is better than traditional fuels. Wind and solar are both worse for humanity and planet than nuclear power. I want to see you moving in the direction of increasing your use of nuclear energy. At the least, stop wasting money on “green” boondoggle. Traditional fuel sources for the creation of residential electric are better than wind and solar. Coal is awesome! Coal has done so much good for humanity! Oil-based fuels are also better, and have done great things for humanity! Wind turbines are a nuisance. They are an eye-sore. They create health problems for people living near them. Do not waste my money on such things! The same things can be said of solar farms; they are an eye-sore and they are not good for humanity.

  358. Cary:

    I haven’t had a problem with soil-borne problems in my seedling mix, but if you think that might be an issue you can always sterilize it either by using an electric appliance or maybe by putting it into a black bucket/barrel/garbage can and topping it with clear plastic or a piece of plexiglass and setting it outside in the summer facing south (I’m assuming you’re in the northern hemisphere). A solar cooker might work to get a higher temperature too. There are compost thermometers that can be used to find out how hot your soil has gotten and probably somewhere online that can tell you the target temperature to kill off viruses and the like.

    I have found that when the soil is too heavy (too little organic matter) the seedlings do not do well, they really do need something light. If I’m feeling flush, I can buy a big bag of seed starting mix for a couple of dollars in late winter that is sufficient for a few hundred small pots. Once the plants are established and it’s time to move them into larger pots they can handle less-than-perfect soil pretty well.

  359. re: nukes.

    The US nuke arsenal is entering a terminal decline phase do to an inability to manufacture more tritium to replace triggers . It’s highly likely that other societies will enter the same decline cycle and that nukes, germ warfare and a lot of the other nightmare weapons will no longer be something that can be used.

    Heck some modern militaries are already moving back to prop planes for cost efficiency in certain operations. I expect to see much more of this in the future and the mainline air force of many nations in the say 2070’s might look more like 1946 than 2018 . In time there won’t exist to any degree though a few military aircraft rigged up to run on syngas or biofuel might persist here and there as they are highly useful

    Now as for trains. I expect them to basically be for the elite and rare as we will have run to low on coal to run them and they use far too much wood or biofuel to be practical en mass. Same with trolleys

    The future is quite literally going to be filled with horse hockey

    Last culture, odds are diversity and tolerance as we define it today will probably not survive catabolic collapse. I’d expect a far more conservative and religious culture especially in the US. The kind of society we have now is predicated on softer living conditions than will exist in future America or Europe and if one looks at fertility only Conservative religious people have large families anywhere

    As Mark Steyn likes to say The future belongs to those who show up for it.”

    That said it won’t be a dystopia in 200 years, just materially poorer and spiritually richer ,a smaller, more narrow world but one with a future,

  360. Not sure if anybody will read this, but I have found the passage in Spengler that I was looking for, and which I strongly disagree with:

    “With the formed state, high history also lays itself down weary to sleep. Man becomes a plant again, adhering to the soil, dumb and enduring. The timeless village and the” eternal” peasant 1 reappear, begetting children and burying seed in Mother Earth – a busy, not inadequate swarm, over which the tempest of soldier-emperors passingly blows. In the midst of the land lie the old world-cities, empty receptacles of an extinguished soul, in which a historyless mankind slowly nests itself. Men live from hand to mouth, with petty thrifts and petty fortunes, and endure. Masses are trampled on in the conflicts of the conquerors who contend for the power and the spoil of this world, but the survivors fill up the gaps with a primitive fertility and suffer on. And while in high places there is eternal alternance of victory and defeat, those in the depths pray, pray with that mighty piety of the Second Religiousness that has overcome all doubts for ever. There, in the souls, world-peace, the peace of God, the bliss of grey-haired monks and hermits, is become actual- and there alone. It has awakened that depth in the endurance of suffering which the historical man in the thousand years of his development has never known. Only with the end of grand History does holy, still Being reappear. It is a drama noble in its aimlessness, noble and aimless as the course of the stars, the rotation of the earth, and alternance of land and sea, of ice and virgin forest upon its face. We may marvel at it or we may lament it – but it is there.”

    I disagree with this because the peasant population, after the end of Spengler’s 1000 year rhythm, is not purely passive and aimless. For example, he mentions hermits, but doesn’t acknowledge that monasticism in the 3rd and 4th centuries CE was a revolutionary movement, people living voluntarily in the desert for the first time in thousands of years, creating new forms of prayer and incidentally preparing the way for a clean rupture of Egypt from the Roman Empire.

  361. Beekeeper, thanks! I’m beginning to get the picture. The clayey soil in my yard is way too heavy, to the point that it even causes problems for bigger plants in pots. You’ve made me realize the problem is too little organic matter. I was lucky enough to buy a house with no garbage disposal (sounds silly but I mean it: no temptation) so I compost food waste in addition to yard waste. So now I have a plan: Get my compost to run hot (or try another idea to heat up old soil; getting a compost thermometer), and use my compost to lighten my soil for potting. Thanks again!

  362. Even as I try to adjust the ground clearance of my skids as I try to gracefully negotiate the curve of Decline, this passage caught my eye, “…democracy turns into plutocracy as soon as the well-to-do learn to use money to manipulate the political system, how this leads to the rise of clueless elites too busy lining their pockets to notice what the policies that enrich them are doing to the rest of society…”

    I have had a number of conversations, of varied satisfaction, on this topic, while the Right/Left Conservative/Liberal factions of my interconnected circles squabble over the toxic social issues the elites use to manipulate the electorate while they continue to shill for their Owner, who are quite content to hoover the wealth of the world to their coffers, with little or no concern over the rising disquiet among the serfs, or even the slow destruction of the infrastructure and economic systems they’re exploiting.

    This fellow, a card-carrying plutocrat, has come under vicious and inevitable attack as a “class traitor” for his unrepentant and heretical views – 

    “If we don’t do something to fix the glaring inequities in this economy, the pitchforks are going to come for us. No society can sustain this kind of rising inequality. In fact, there is no example in human history where wealth accumulated like this and the pitchforks didn’t eventually come out. You show me a highly unequal society, and I will show you a police state. Or an uprising. There are no counterexamples. None. It’s not if, it’s when.” – Nick Hanuer, The Pitchforks Are Coming… For Us Plutocrats, Politico Magazine, July/August 2014

    [ https://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2014/06/the-pitchforks-are-coming-for-us-plutocrats-108014 ]

    The date, 2014 – and his assessment, has only accelerated in the last half decade. Here and in the Archdruid Report, we’re tended to apply historical perspectives to current events, and yeah, Roman Empire, British Empire, French Revolution… trot ’em out. Police state, or pitchforks, or both, in no particular order, occasionally interrupted by Barbarian Hordes. It’s pretty much how these things play out. For my money, civil insurrection is an unpalatable option, having noted we’re STILL prosecuting the LAST Civil War – civil wars of course being anything but.

    Having relocated from the NYC area to the semi-rural WV Eastern Panhandle, I am well aware of the Urban-Rural, Salary-Wage Class divide. It seems to me that urban salary class dwellers are far more apt to buy into social progress or technological salvation as the solution to all problems. Rural wage-class (for farming) folk have no confidence in any such thing, and deeply distrust any sweeping social change will be of any benefit to them, and historically has proven the opposite.

    In the meantime, we have been gradually contracting our lifestyle, as the leading edges of the contracting economy tighten my income as a graphic and web designer. And our five acres are reasonably defensible, but I am still nice to my neighbors, no matter who they voted for.

    But Saint Carlin still has the right of it – 

    “They spend billions of dollars every year lobbying. Lobbying– to get what they want. Well, we know what they want. They want more for themselves and less for everybody else. But I’ll tell you what they don’t want.

    “They don’t want a population of citizens capable of critical thinking. They don’t want well informed, well educated people capable of critical thinking. They’re not interested in that. That doesn’t help them. That’s against their interests. That’s right. They don’t want people who are smart enough to sit around the kitchen table to figure out how badly they’re getting fucked by a system that threw them overboard thirty fucking years ago!” – Gerorge Carlin, “Life is Worth Losing”, 2005.

  363. I know this is very late but this is directed @Dermot.

    TNT is a fantastic piece of work, I always wondered how much work went into it as it is handled wonderfully.

    Yes the title is very alarmist but that was the only issue I ever had with it.

  364. Great summary of the political and environmental conditions that will dominate the next centuries. There are few places where the short term thinkers are adequately dismissed, and you do it nicely. Usually, people who claim to be thinking about the future have only succeeded in thinking beyond the current news cycle to what might happen 5 years from now. And then a rare article considers the fate of our grandchildren in 50 years time. But the arcs of civilizations occur over centuries and the succession of species occurs over millions of years, and planets and the universe care mainly about time scales of billions of years. In the times scale of centuries, your predictions are clear: slow descent to a deindustrial age driven by inexorable forces of resource depletion, pollution, and political dysfunction.

    Having read many of your blog posts over the last decade, I know that you see large fluctuations around the decline. Wars and new technology and ecological disasters and political movements will come and go, and all be thought of as the only thing that matters during the few years they dominate the news. I thought “Retrotopia” was an excellent counter to the usual vision of “dark age” in which you explored ways in which the deindustrial future could be an improvement in quality of life.

    I remain particularly interested in what parts of “modern technology” will remain dominant for centuries and how that will shape our future. It takes penetrating insight to see what of our technology will have staying power as the promise of “never ending technological progress toward the perfect life” is more obvious to everyone as a silly fairy tale. It seems that many people who are willing to talk about the silliness of techno-utopian dreams are also not familiar enough with the way many technologies work to accurately see what has staying power. Rather than looking like the 18th century, I think it is more likely that people will be patching together hardware to run their machine learning algorithms to predict the best way to transport food over a rail network broken by electrical power outages and the shifting control of various warlords. The main uncertainty is about the degree of political destabilization that occurs. It seem to me that this uncertainty is huge. In eras when warfare is minimal several centuries from now, we could easily support an average quality of life better than the current global average (which of course does not look like upper-middle class USA or TV families). It is even ecologically possible, although not likely for political reasons, that humans could learn enough from history to have an eco civilization with appropriate technology advanced far beyond what we use in 2019. But the current generation of 7.5 billion people have been promised that the techno-utopian future is going to be theirs in their lifetime, and the disappointment when reality collides with those expectations is what is producing our current political instability and will likely create much worse conditions in the century to come.

  365. “Genocides, like revolutions, happen in eras of expansion, when the expansion runs into some kind of roadblock and there’s a temporary downturn.”
    I don’t think that this applies to the Armenian genocide. That happened during the crescendo of the collapse of the Ottoman Empire. Most of the Muslims from what had been the European part of the Ottoman Empire plus Muslims from former Ottoman lands taken by Tsarist Russia crowded into Anatolia and decided to kick the religious minorities off the island, so to speak.
    The killing fields in Cambodia don’t seem like much of an era of expansion either.

Courteous, concise comments relevant to the topic of the current post are welcome, whether or not they agree with the views expressed here, and I try to respond to each comment as time permits. Long screeds proclaiming the infallibility of some ideology or other, however, will be deleted; so will repeated attempts to hammer on a point already addressed; so will comments containing profanity, abusive language, flamebaiting and the like -- I filled up my supply of Troll Bingo cards years ago and have no interest in adding any more to my collection; and so will sales spam and offers of "guest posts" pitching products. I'm quite aware that the concept of polite discourse is hopelessly dowdy and out of date, but then some people would say the same thing about the traditions this blog is meant to discuss. Thank you for reading Ecosophia! -- JMG

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