Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Waiting for the Sunrise

By the time many of my readers get to this week’s essay here on The Archdruid Report, it will be Christmas Day. Here in America, that means that we’re finally most of the way through one of the year’s gaudiest orgies of pure vulgar greed, the holiday shopping season, which strikes me as rather an odd way to celebrate the birth of someone whose teachings so resolutely critiqued the mindless pursuit of material goodies. If, as that same person pointed out, it’s impossible to serve both God and Mammon, the demon of wealth, it’s pretty clear which of those two personages most Americans—including no small number who claim to be Christians—really consider the reason for the season.
A long time before that stable in Bethlehem received its most famous tenants, though, the same day was being celebrated across much of the northern temperate zone. The reason has to do with one of those details everyone knew before the invention of electric lighting and few people remember now, the movement of the apparent point of sunrise along the eastern horizon during the year. Before the printing press made calendars ubiquitous, that was a standard way of gauging the changing seasons: the point of sunrise swings from southeast to northeast as winter in the northern hemisphere gives way to summer and from northeast back to southeast as summer gives way again to winter, and if you have a way to track the apparent motion, you can follow the yearly cycle with a fair degree of precision.

This movement is like the swing of a pendulum: it’s very fast in the middle of the arc, and slows to a dead stop on either end. That makes the spring and fall equinoxes easy to identify—if you have a couple of megaliths lined up just right, for example, the shadow of one will fall right on the foot of the other on the days of the equinoxes, and a little to one side or the other one day before or after—but the summer and winter solstices are a different matter. At those times of year, the sun seems to grind to a halt around the 17th of June or December, you wait for about a week, and then finally the sun comes up a little further south on June 25th or a little further north on December 25th, and you know for a fact that the wheel of the seasons is still turning.

That’s why Christmas is when it is. I’ve read, though I don’t have the reference handy, that shepherds in the Levant back in the day kept watch over their flocks in the fields in late summer, not in December, and so—if the New Testament narrative is to be believed—Jesus was something like four months old when the first Christmas rolled around. As far as I know, nobody knows exactly how the present date got put in place, but I suspect the old solar symbolism had a lot to do with it; in those days, the Christian church was less prone to the rigid literalism that’s become common in recent centuries, and also quite aware of seasonal and astronomical cycles—consider the complicated rules for setting the date of Easter, in which movements of the sun and moon both play a part.

I’ve been thinking quite a bit about such things as the holiday shopping season stumbles toward its end and a troubled, weary, and distracted nation prepares to bid a hearty good riddance to 2014. Of course Druids generally think about such things; the seasonal cycle has had an important role in our traditions since those were revived in the eighteenth century. Even so, it’s been more on my mind than usual.  In particular, as I think about the shape of things in the world right now, what keeps coming to mind is the image of the old loremasters, waiting in the darkness at the end of a cold winter’s night to see the sunrise begin swinging back in the direction of spring.

Those of my readers who see such an image as hopelessly out of place just now have, I grant, quite a bit of evidence on their side. Most notably, the coming of 2015 marks a full decade since production of conventional petroleum worldwide hit its all-time peak and began to decline. Those who were around in the early days of the peak oil scene, as I was, will doubtless recall how often and eagerly the more optimistic members of that scene insisted that once the peak arrived, political and business interests everywhere would be forced to come to terms with the end of the age of cheap abundant energy. Once that harsh but necessary awakening took place, they argued, the transition to sustainable societies capable of living within the Earth’s annual budget of sunlight would finally get under way.

Of course that’s not what happened.  Instead, political and business interests responded to the peak by redefining what counts as crude oil, pouring just about any flammable liquid they could find into the world’s fuel tank—ethanol, vegetable oil, natural gas liquids, “dilbit” (diluted bitumen) from tar sands, you name it—while scraping the bottom of the barrel for petroleum via hydrofracturing, ultradeep offshore wells, and other extreme extraction methods. All of those require much higher inputs of fossil fuel energy per barrel produced than conventional crude does, so that a growing fraction of the world’s fossil fuel supply has had to be burned just to produce more fossil fuel. Did any whisper of this far from minor difficulty find its way into the cheery charts of “all liquids” and the extravagantly rose-colored projections of future production? Did, for example, any of the official agencies tasked with tracking fossil fuel production consider subtracting an estimate for barrels of oil equivalent used in extraction from the production figures, so that we would have at least a rough idea of the world’s net petroleum production?  Surely you jest.

The need to redirect an appreciable fraction of the world’s fossil fuel supply into fossil fuel production, in turn, had significant economic costs. Those were shown by the simultaneous presence of prolonged economic dysfunction and sky-high oil prices: a combination, please note, that last appeared during the energy crises of the 1970s, and should have served as a warning sign that something similar was afoot. Instead of paying attention, political and business interests around the world treated the abrupt fraying of the economy as a puzzling anomaly to be drowned in a vat of cheap credit—when, that is, they didn’t treat it as a public relations problem that could be solved by proclaiming a recovery that didn’t happen to exist. Economic imbalances accordingly spun out of control; paper wealth flowed away from those who actually produce goods and service into the hands of those who manipulate fiscal abstractions; the global economy was whipsawed by convulsive fiscal crisis in 2009 and 2009, and shows every sign of plunging into a comparable round of turmoil right now.

I wish I could say that the alternative energy side of the equation had responded to any of this in a way that might point toward a better future, but no such luck. With embarrassingly few exceptions, the things that got funding, or even any significant amount of discussion, were the sorts of overpriced white-elephant systems that only make economic sense in the presence of lavish government subsidies, and are utterly dependent on a technostructure that’s only viable given exactly the sort of cheap abundant fossil fuels that those systems are theoretically going to replace. Grid-tied photovoltaic systems, gargantuan wind turbines, and vast centralized solar-thermal facilities soaked up the attention and the funding, while simple, affordable, thoroughly proven technologies such as solar water heating got another decade of malign neglect. As for using less—the necessary foundation for anything approaching a sustainable future—that remained utterly taboo in polite company.

Back in 2005, a then-famous study done for the Department of Energy by a team headed by Robert Hirsch showed that to get through declining oil supplies without massive crisis, preparations for the descent would have to begin twenty years before the peak arrived. Since the peak of conventional crude oil production had already arrived in 2005, this warning was perhaps a little tardy, but a crash program focusing on conservation and the conversion of energy-intensive infrastructure to less vulnerable technologies might still have done much. Instead, we collectively wasted another decade on daydreams—and all the while, week after dreary week, the mainstream media has kept up a steady drumbeat of articles claiming to prove that this or that or the other thing has disproved peak oil. Given all this, is there any reason to expect anything other than a continuation of the same dysfunctional behavior, with the blind leading the blind until they all tumble together down the long bitter slope ahead?

As it happens, I think there is.

Part of it, oddly enough, is the steady drumbeat of articles just referred to, each claiming to have disproved peak oil once and for all. The last time the subject was shouted down, in the early 1980s, there wasn’t that kind of ongoing barrage; after a few blandly confident denunciations, the subject just got dropped from the media so hard it would have left a dent on a battleship’s armored deck, and was consigned thereafter to a memory hole straight out of George Orwell. Presumably that was the intention this time, too, but something has shifted.  In the early 1980s, when the media started spouting the same sort of cornucopian drivel they’re engaged in this time, the vast majority of the people who claimed to be concerned about energy and the environment trotted along after them with scarcely a dissenting bleat. That hasn’t happened in the present case; if I may indulge in a bit of very edgy irony here, this is one of the very few ways in which it really is different this time.

It’s worth glancing back over how that difference unfolded. To be sure, the brief heyday during which media reports took the end of the age of cheap abundant energy seriously stopped abruptly when puffing up the fracking bubble became the order of the day; the aforementioned drumbeat of alleged disproofs got going; those of us who kept on talking about peak oil started getting pressure from mainstream (that is, corporate-funded) environmentalists to drop the subject, get on board with the climate change bandwagon, and join them in the self-defeating rut that’s kept the environmental movement from accomplishing anything worthwhile for the last thirty years. In response, a certain number of bloggers and speakers who had been involved in peak oil discussions did in fact drop the subject, and those peak oil organizations that had committed themselves to a grant-funded organizational model fell on hard times. A fair number of us stayed the course, though.  Far more significantly, so did a very substantial portion of our audience.

That latter point is the thing that I find most encouraging. Over the last decade, in the teeth of constant propaganda from the mass media and a giddy assortment of other sources, the number of people in the United States and elsewhere who are aware of the ongoing decline of industrial society, who recognize the impossibility of infinite growth on a finite planet, and who are willing to make changes in their own lives in response to these things, somehow failed to dwindle away to near-irrelevance, as it did the last time around. If anything—though I don’t have hard statistics to back this perception, just a scattering of suggestive proxy measurements—that number seems to have increased.

When I speak to audiences about catabolic collapse and the twilight of the industrial age these days, for example, I don’t get anything like as many blank looks or causal dismissals as those concepts routinely fielded even a few years ago. Books on peak oil and related topics, mine among them, remain steady sellers, and stats on this blog have zigzagged unevenly but relentlessly upwards over the years, regularly topping 300,000 page views a month this autumn. Less quantifiable but more telling, at least to me, are the shifts I’ve watched in people I know. Some who used to reject the whole idea of imminent and ongoing decline with scornful laughter have slowly come around to rueful admissions that, well, maybe we really are in trouble; others, starting from the same place, now denounce any such notion with the sort of brittle rage that you normally see in people who are losing the ability to make themselves keep believing the dogma they’ve committed themselves to defending.

Even more telling are the young people I meet who have sized up the future with cold eyes, and walked away from the officially approved options spread before them like so many snares by a society whose easy promises a great many of them no longer believe. Each year that passes brings me more encounters with people in their late teens and twenties who have recognized that the rules that shaped their parents’ and grandparents’ lives don’t work any more, that most of the jobs they have been promised either don’t exist or won’t exist for much longer, that a college education these days is a one-way ticket to decades of debt peonage, and that most of the other  institutions that claim to be there to help them don’t have their best interests in mind.  They’re picking up crafts and skilled trades, living with their parents or with groups of other young people, and learning to get by on less, because the price of doing otherwise is more than they’re willing to pay.

More broadly, more and more people seem to be turning their backs on the American dream, or more precisely on the bleak waking nightmare into which the American dream has metastasized over the last few decades. A growing number of people have walked away from the job market and found ways to support themselves outside a mainstream economy that’s increasingly stacked against them. Even among those who are still in the belly of the beast, the sort of unthinking trust in business as usual that used to be tolerably common straight through American society is increasingly rare these days. Outside the narrowing circle of those who benefit from the existing order of society, a crisis of legitimacy is in the making, and it’s not simply the current US political system that’s facing the brunt of that crisis—it’s the entire crumbling edifice of American collective life.

That crisis of legitimacy won’t necessarily lead to better things. It could all too easily head in directions no sane person would wish to go. I’ve written here more than once about the possibility that the abject and ongoing failure of constructive leadership in contemporary America could lay the groundwork for the rise of something closely akin to the fascist regimes of Depression-era Europe, as people desperate for an alternative to the Republicratic consensus frozen into place inside the Washington DC beltway turn to a charismatic demagogue who promises to break the gridlock and bring change. Things could also go in even more destructive directions; a nation that ships tens of thousands of its young people in uniform to an assortment of Middle Eastern countries, teaches them all the latest trends in  counterinsurgency warfare, and then dumps them back home in a collapsing economy without the benefits they were promised, has only itself to blame if some of them end up applying their skills in the service of a domestic insurgency against the present US government.

Those possibilities are real, and so are a galaxy of other potential outcomes that are considerably worse than what exists in America today. That said, constructive change is also a possibility. The absurd extravagances that most Americans still think of as an ordinary standard of living were always destined to be a short-term phenomenon, and we’re decades past the point at which a descent from those giddy heights could have been made without massive disruptions; no possible combination of political, social, economic, and environmental transformations at this point can change those unwelcome facts. Even so, there’s much worth doing that can still be done. We can at least stop making things worse than they have to be; we can begin shifting, individually and collectively, to technologies and social forms that will still make sense in a world of tightly constrained energy and resource supplies; we can preserve things of value to the near, middle, and far future that might otherwise be lost; we might, given luck and hard work, be able to revive enough of the moribund traditions of American democracy and voluntary association to provide an alternative down the road to the naked rule of force and fraud.

None of that will be easy, but then all the easy options went whistling down the wind a long time ago. No doubt there will still be voices insisting that Americans can have the lifestyles to which they think they’re entitled if only this, or that, or the other thing were to happen; no doubt the collapse of the fracking bubble will be followed by some equally gaudy and dishonest set of cargo-cult rhetoric meant to convince the rubes that happy days will shortly be here again, just as soon as billions of dollars we don’t happen to have are poured down whatever the next rathole du jour happens to be. If enough of us ignore those claims and do what must be done—and “enough” in this context does not need to equal a majority, or even a large minority, of Americans—there’s still much of value that can be accomplished in the time before us.

To return to the metaphor that opened this post, that first slight shift of sunrise north along the horizon from the solstice point, faint as it is, is a reminder that winter doesn’t last forever, even though the coldest nights and the worst of the winter storms come after that point is past. In the same way, bleak as the immediate prospects may be, there can still be a future worth having on the far side of the crisis of our age, and our actions here and now can further the immense task of bringing such a future into being. In the new year, as I continue the current series of posts on the American future, I plan on talking at quite some length about some of the things that can be done and some of the possibilities that those actions might bring within reach.

And with that, I would like to wish my Christian readers a very merry Christmas, my readers of other faiths, a blessed holiday season, and to all my readers, a happy New Year.


Steven said...
The Last Train to Hogwarts

As you do, I often receive knee-jerk resistance to any positive incremental change that I suggest to people's lifestyles: don't watch TV one day a week (I gave it up over a decade ago), don't drive one day a week (I've never learned how to drive), or when I offer your suggestion of a lifestyle with LESS.

People reject constructive solutions that require hard work and sacrifice.

Too often they're looking for a solution in the form of a magic wand.

That's when I suggest a ticket to school of magic at Hogwarts.


12/24/14, 5:41 PM

NomadsSoul said...

Well said, a blessed holiday to you and yours.

Nomad's Soul

12/24/14, 6:00 PM

Tim Smith said...
As Yogi Berra is alleged to have said: "It's tough to make predictions, especially about the future."

We live in a world of straightjackets: politicians are constrained to behave the way they behave because they live in a world of money, and whence it can be obtained. They are beholden to their benefactors.

But so too are businesspeople, professionals, academics, and even, although to a perhaps lesser extent, honest trades workers.

You are correct that the change will come from outside the current establishment structure. That it will be minimally violent is the best we can hope.

12/24/14, 6:13 PM

Unknown said...
Ahh, hope for Christmas. My favorite present. I was pleased and surprised to see this PBS article with an archaeologist talking about the imminent decline of Western civilization being taken quite seriously -I hope you'll like it:

12/24/14, 6:24 PM

John Michael Greer said...
Steven, ah, but studying magic at Hogwarts also takes hard work and sacrifice. Maybe you should ask them if they've considered joining a cargo cult...

Nomad's Soul, thank you and likewise!

Tim, no argument there. It's those who have already left the current worldview behind, and paid the price of that journey out past what's acceptable, who are in a position to build something genuinely new.

Unknown, I saw that! Fascinating that such ideas are starting to get traction again in the wider culture.

12/24/14, 6:31 PM

Repent said...
I feel less fearful of the future if it will take decades to collapse. Catabolic collapse is the best case scenario.

I think is it hopeful that all the anti- police brutality movements are starting to make some ground.

Life is not all bad, this is one of the best things that happened this year:

Hopefully there will more of this cultural revival as sanity gains ground out of the ruins of madness.

12/24/14, 6:47 PM

August Johnson said...
JMG - Yes, like you I am starting to see a few acquaintances slowly starting to look in different directions for their lives. Definite hope there.

This has to be about the most outlandish pile of Cheer-leading fluff that I've ever seen! The only people I know that believe stuff like this are super rich and out of touch.

Everything Is Awesome!

Good news! The U.S. economy grew at a rollicking 5 percent rate in the third quarter. Oh, and it added 320,000 jobs in November, the best of its unprecedented 57 straight months of private-sector employment growth. Just in time for Christmas, the Dow just hit an all-time high and the uninsured rate is approaching an all-time low. Consumer confidence is soaring, inflation is low, gas prices are plunging, and the budget deficit is shrinking. You no longer hear much about the Ebola crisis that dominated the headlines in the fall, much less the border crisis that dominated the headlines over the summer. As Fox News host Andrea Tantaros proclaimed earlier this month: “The United States is awesome! We are awesome!"

Christmas present? No Captchas anymore?

12/24/14, 6:59 PM

onething said...
Well, I've made some changes. What percentage is driven by this blog and what by my own preferences I cannot untangle. But I have given up my job in the city and taken a job at home doing transcribing. This knocks out most of my driving, about 700 miles a month. I am selling my car. My husband has a car and we can share it. I am making quite a lot less money, so I am learning to be poorer. Off the bat, I save on gas and car insurance and other maintenance. Also had to stay in a hotel every other weekend. Now I will be in a much lower tax bracket.

I buy in bulk and preserve some food, started a vegetable garden and have things like potatoes and squash put away, and buy some things locally at the farmers market, so I figure that a trip to town need only occur once every two weeks.

I stay home, and don't buy anything I don't absolutely need. I'm spending a lot less money!

The chickens we started raising this year are about at break-even, I think, so far as money. But if we can get them to reproduce themselves, we may come out ahead. We wanted meat chickens. The store in town told us they were one breed, but they were really leghorns, tough even when a few months old and not quite grown. Finally, a young pullet began to lay eggs, which caused my husband to find her wonderful. Might as well keep her for the eggs, and well, she ought to have a husband. So we let the last two live, gave them names and their freedom. Now they provide us with endless entertainment as we watch their life and times unfold. Late summer, we ordered some real meat chickens because I have begun to learn that all chicken in this country, no matter how "organic" is an overbred, pathetic hybrid that cannot even reproduce and often die at 3 months from heart failure due to excessive growth.

These chickens have been a pleasure to raise, used to be terrorized by the two leghorns but now the leghorn rooster sees the possibilities for increasing his harem and is openly courting them. The other night he alllmost convinced two of them to come sleep over at his pad. We will let a few live, give us some eggs and see if they will raise chicks.

This spring I plan to open up a bit of meadow and try my hand at small grain raising. I may try the three sisters (corn, beans, squash) and/or some other things, like buckwheat or barley. If I can grow some corn and sunflower seeds, I might be able to provide a good bit of feed for the chickens which would actually be organic, as it is quite difficult to not have GMO feed for chickens.

So we are growing or raising a fair amount of our food, with an eye to providing even some staples, simplifying our lifestyle, selling a car and driving much less. We also bought some panels for a solar hot water system, but I don't know when he'll have time...meanwhile, to save on propane I have constructed out of a box about a cubed foot in size, padded the interior with various insulation, and tried bringing a long-cooking grain like rice or oatmeal to a boil, let it simmer about 5 minutes, and then put it in the box. You have to plan ahead because it does take longer, but you come back in an hour about, and it is done perfectly. In fact, the rice is fluffy. So, you've saved about 30-35 minutes of fuel. Another project this summer for which we have mirrors, is to construct a solar cooker.

12/24/14, 7:09 PM

jonathan said...
A happy christmas/yule/newtonmas to you and yours.
the ability of government and it's enablers to convince people that all is well is substantial, but not unlimited.
government agencies from the local police to the irs to the department of agriculture are being supplied with full military kit including ar-15's and armored vehicles. spying on americans proceeds unabated.
i have to assume that the likelihood of domestic conflict has been understood by our government for quite some time.

12/24/14, 7:20 PM

Moshe Braner said...
Ho ho ho! My weekly present arrived early this week. Thank you JMG!

"... any whisper of this far from minor difficulty ... subtracting an estimate for barrels of oil equivalent used in extraction from the production figures, so that we would have at least a rough idea of the world’s net petroleum production? Surely you jest."

- Since economists think of energy as a commodity like all others (and demand creates supply, dontchaknow), they count it like they count the GDP: every time money changes hands it adds up. They don't know how to subtract!

12/24/14, 7:23 PM

Moshe Braner said...
The mentioned "drumbeat" of peak oil denunciations has taken a bizarre twist recently, with the article in the journal Nature quoting research that predicts a peaking within this decade of the gas extracted via fracking, and then the angry letter to them from the EIA itself.

12/24/14, 7:44 PM

Shane Wilson said...
A request: does anyone know how to go about discussing decline with immigrants? Whenever I broach the topic with Spanish speaking friends, I get a blank look of incomprehension that is depressing. "El Norte", land of wealth and opportunity seems firmly cemented in place, and my interest and appreciation of their culture, work ethic, family and community structure is baffling to them... I'm not sure how to bridge the cultural divide discussing decline and what's in store for our future, and the importance of maintaining traditional ways of doing things.

12/24/14, 7:52 PM

Shining Hector said...
Yeah, I think I feel a bit of a shift, too. My thoroughly conventional mother notified me today that she's finally converted, and I don't sound like a conspiracy theorist anymore.

The upcoming posts sound really interesting. Honestly my TSHTF plans at the moment are leaning much more towards bugging out and buying a nice plantation somewhere in the tropics than hunkering down here and weathering the storm, and most of your predictions involving pleasant concepts like fascists or civil war just make that sound like an even better plan. I wish I could find the hope that we'll turn the corner, as I do in my heart believe in America and all it's supposed to stand for, I just don't see much real world evidence that the America I believe in has much in common with the America I live in. I'm just your bog standard idealist turned cynic, basically, as much as I'd prefer not to be. Where are you finding the hope to make a stand and try and make the best of it? I greatly admire the sentiment and wish I could find it somewhere in myself, but it's just not happening at the moment.

12/24/14, 8:31 PM

Cathy McGuire said...
Thanks for another intriguing and concise post. I'm hoping you are right and that the next generation(s)are seeing things more clearly than we did. I know I have gotten a lot more out of Christmas after I ditched all the commercialism - this year's tree was cut from my yard, and I was mindful of the sacrifice the tree made; a symbolic death in service of rebirth of the season. Turning it into a ritual rather than a decorative excess made it much more special.

I too have heard friends begin to look at the oncoming train and begin to accept that BAU can't continue... I hope it's enough. Richard Tarnas ( - not sure if I've linked that before)says humanity is having a "near death experience" and like all such, it can bring transformation - but there's no such thing as a "fake" near-death experience! Makes sense to me... :-}

May the season's turning be reflected in our own turning.

12/24/14, 9:16 PM

thepublicpast said...
Glad that I dodged the bullet that is US Graduate Debt, though the picture for University Students up here isn't all that rosy, either.

Thanks for the Sentiment. The wheel of the year keeps on turning, and I hope you have a blessed season as well.

12/24/14, 9:22 PM

Marc L Bernstein said...
Few people in our society pay much attention to when 1 season ends and another one starts. Since I took advanced astronomy 3 times while I was an undergraduate, I learned to become aware of a variety of natural cycles.

Your analogy of the pendulum for the seasonal changes is very good. I knew that the rate of change in the length of the daylight portion of a day is at a maximum at the equinoxes and a minimum at the solstices.

Our society is changing so fast now that people don't have the time to adjust their perspective or modify their behavior to correspond to the changes taking place now and those that are likely to occur in the future.

For example, it is bordering on insanity for people to encourage one another to have more and more children, particularly in poor nations that are already overpopulated. The whole continent of Africa is undergoing a runaway population explosion, and many African nations can barely feed themselves as it is. Yet the ideas of birth control and family planning are all but ignored on that continent, as discovered a few years ago by Bill Ryerson of Post Carbon Institute. A major disaster awaits Africa. Other overpopulated nations can be expected to experience some sort of famine in the coming decades, such as India, China, Indonesia, the Philippines, Pakistan and Bangladesh. Lester R. Brown regards food as the weak link among critical resources today, even more than oil.

Dmitry Orlov surmises that a major disaster awaits the people in the USA as well. The people here are simply not prepared for the simplicity and austerity that awaits them, to say nothing of a growing police and surveillance state, as pointed out by Paul Craig Roberts among others.

As Paul Ehrlich pointed out, when consumption is factored in, the USA is one of the most overpopulated nations in the world.

To make matters worse, governments change even more slowly than individual people. Some are regressing. By and large, the former confederate states in the USA have no clue what's going on, have regressed back towards irrationality and religiosity, cannot think well enough to understand concepts such as Peak Oil, and still maintain a cornucopian perspective circa 1950.

Small countries (or sparsely populated ones such as Norway and Sweden) can make changes more quickly than larger ones. Hence I am inclined to agree with the recent remark of Nicole Foss that the nations that are most likely to weather the storm of the coming financial, economic and technological changes are the smaller ones whose economies are at least partially based around organic agriculture, and which are not too dependent on imports.

Costa Rica, New Zealand, Uruguay, Denmark, Cuba, the Dominican Republic and a few others come to mind. Maybe Switzerland should be included.

Anyway, I look forward to your weekly posts. They are often insightful and informative and, as Richard Heinberg recently pointed out, entertaining!

12/24/14, 9:25 PM

John Michael Greer said...
Repent, curiously enough, we'll be talking about cultural revival in the not too distant future.

August, every time I see a bit of propagandistic garbage like that I'm more convinced that when the Soviet Union collapsed, all the people who used to come up with those absurd puff pieces for Pravda came to the US and went to work for our media...

Onething, excellent. It's hearing accounts like yours from people all over the country and the world that reminds me why this work is worth doing.

Jonathan, they'd be idiots not to see that. Given the enthusiasm with which the US has been funding and launching canned revolutions all over the world, they've got to expect blowback.

Moshe, that's the weird thing about macroeconomics. Most people in the field of microeconomics know that you have to balance your debits against your credits, but that clear knowledge gets lost once things shift to the macro scale. As for the fracking fracas, yes, that's been amusing to watch -- the frantic effort to pretend that the fracking bubble isn't a bubble is so central to the stability and potentially even the survival of the US at this point that I expect far more blatant nonsense than that from the EIA and other government agencies as we proceed.

Hector, glad to hear about your mother. I'd caution you, with regard to potential emigration, that Americans may not be particularly welcome elsewhere in the world as things come apart, and Americans with assets may be tempting targets for local governments and less official thieves alike. If you have ties to another country, that's one thing, and now's the time to strengthen them; if you don't, you could be putting yourself in more danger by leaving than by staying.

12/24/14, 9:30 PM

John Michael Greer said...
Cathy, the Tarnas piece is worth repeating. Glad to hear you're seeing your friends wake up too!

Thepublicpast, thank you and likewise.

Marc, one way or another, people's behavior will change, if only because a corpse doesn't behave much like a living human being. The sole question each of us has to answer is whether we change deliberately or have change of one kind or another -- quite possibly involving the alteration just noted -- forced on us.

12/24/14, 9:34 PM

Tripp said...
I can report from Georgia, for my family's part anyway, that gift giving was at an all-time low this year. That the majority of what was given was handed down toys, or handmade personally, like scarves and jam, or purchased local goods, like pottery and yarn. And that old animosities (some caused by having the audacity to talk plainly about peak oil and energy descent) seemed to finally have turned a corner toward reconciliation.

And that the ones who are still screaming denunciations at the top of their snarky voices simply bugged out and didn't show up. And yet they were sorely missed by the present company.

That my two young children, upstairs asleep in their great grandparents' very comfortable climate-controlled house for the third night, are beyond ready to return to their wood-fired, electricity-free life in their tiny mountain cottage to play with their chickens, rabbits, and new second-hand toys.

Thank you all for the constructive fellowship of the last 3 years, and we wish you a peaceful and productive new year. -Tripp

12/24/14, 9:56 PM

Rita Narayanan said...
Thanks to JMG and friends for a very stimulating & fulfilling blog space.

Also JMG enjoyed thoroughly your conversation with another favourite Kunstlerpodcast.

A very Merry Xmas and prosperous 2015!

12/24/14, 10:05 PM

Shining Hector said...
Yeah, good point. My main line of thought at the moment though is that I'm absolutely certain that Americans with assets will be appealing targets to local governments and less official thieves right here, and I have few cowboy delusions that a hard glare and a shotgun would help much were I inclined to take that route in the first place. Maybe a place that doesn't have as far to fall wouldn't have as much of a harsh adjustment to make. Grass is greener, I suppose. It's a tough call either way.

I heard a similar talk from Dmitry Orlov this week, and I find it interesting you two are probably in rather similar financial and philosophical situations, yet you've decided to hunker down and he seems to have decided that that is the absolute worst thing you could do.

12/24/14, 10:07 PM

Øyvind Holmstad said...
Even here in Norway you are changing peoples mind. Among the converters this year you find Eivind Berge, who, after he came upon yours and Tverberg's writings, became a peak-oiler. Two years ago he believed in Singularity. As most converts he has gone deep into the stuff:

By the way, what is your opinion about that Jesus was trained as a druid these 18 years absent of his life in the bible?

I just watched a documentary claiming Jesus went to Cornwall in England, to the tin mines, with his uncle Joseph of Arimathea. This is not so strange, as a Roman trade route went through Galilee at that time.

There Jesus got his healing skills from the druids, as they were well known with medicine and herbs.

They even interviewed an English priest, maybe from Cornwall, who was convinced Jesus stayed there among the druids for several years.

12/24/14, 10:47 PM

Svencow said...
Thanks for your thoughts Archdruid. I feel like a perceptual change is in the air as well, in people of all ages, though especially in the youth as you mention. Perhaps a rebirth is upon us.

As a side note, I was recently buying some used steel drums to fill with water to use as thermal mass in a greenhouse and the business was nearly out because two different people had bought 75 and 25 the day before. It was only the quantity to single buyers that was unusual to the proprietor, he typically moves the black steel barrels pretty quickly and the primary market from what he thought was for use as thermal mass. The fact that there is a thriving local business that exists to resell food grade barrels and totes is good news to on its own.

12/24/14, 10:55 PM

Øyvind Holmstad said...
@ Marc L Bernstein, Denmark is probably a better option than Norway, as only about 3% of our land is arable land. After the Black Death it took Denmark only a couple of generations to recover and reestablish their former population, while for Norway we needed a couple of hundred years for our recovery.

But I don't know how it's with soil degradation and so on in Denmark this time? Further Denmark back then had a rich wetland system that now has been irrigated for agriculture. They now try to restore some of their wetland systems, but the damage is too big.

Anyway, compared to our small percentage of arable land, Norway is among the most overpopulated countries in the world.

12/24/14, 11:09 PM

Chris G said...
JMG, I'm of the same mind that it does look promising in those respects. It is worth noting as well the simple possibility of disconnecting from the network and focusing in on ways to mentally change interpretations of scarcity and abundance. A lot of people are aware that lots of things do not abundance make. These folks, despite the predations of the madly possessed, will adjust well, and sustain. The Christmas you describe is a growing theme I hear from friends - and it is one of scarcity - of emotional and psychological scarcity. Many people are increasingly eager to bridge the gap that all this ... shtuff, puts between people, and between us and nature.

There is also an increasing sense of another kind of abundance than the industrial one. Not SUPERMANmarket abundance but chicken-in-the-yard, large leafy compost pile, fingers in the dirt, warm bodies moving in the sun and feeling the best virtual reality simulation ever, in the 4D world filled with real senses and a sense of deep time as well, in the garden. Just that simple step, seeing seeds spring into green with the sun and rain, seeing where it really, really all comes from - that it is given, not made, is such a promising awareness, even though much else that seems important, being that it seems to make us powerful, still has a hold on us. I would be remiss to fail to mention one of nature's most spectacular events - the daily sunrise and sunset, when the light feels so eternal, so momentous.

Folks in the yoga community generally have a lot to say about the art of letting go - that could well be a mantra of our generation, the people living through this next twenty years or so - we would all do well to entrain it - and keeping in mind that is no diminution of humanity to let go but rather a liberation from a possessive, unworthy lower power - such liberation permitting a reconnection to a higher power... we may well be watching the economy decline, and say good riddance, if only to all these "gifts" - how many times is that the toddler plays with the box rather than the toy in it? Heck you can give a kid a pile of dirt for free and he or she may well have more play time with that than all this plastic garbage. Life is a great thing in itself, not to be burdened with tons of baggage to carry around... in a magical bottomless bag hauled around by a guy who's fed too many cookies, and his eight pet reindeer....

Much thanks for your commitment to your work.

12/25/14, 12:06 AM

Avery said...
Marc, you wrote: "A major disaster awaits Africa." But the disaster is already occurring! Not only that, but it's fallen into the void of non-news, to the bemusement of news agencies. The Economist writes, "Another weekend, another two thousand-odd immigrants rescued by Italian sailors and coastguards in the Mediterranean. ... Stories of vessels entering Italian waters with four-figure human cargoes, which would have been front-page news a year ago, now barely warrant a mention." Even the New York Times had to admit that the only major report on this issue since 2013 was done by Vice magazine.

It's not like the media are consciously covering this up, or that it's too much work to hand someone a camera -- Vice shows that it's entirely possible to produce a documentary about it on the cheap. But what narrative does it fit into? There is a great and unstoppable movement of human mass across the Mediterranean right now. It is going on this very minute, boosted by Iraq 3.0 and the collapse of Libya, has been for several years, and probably will get worse in the second half of this decade. This doesn't fit into our narratives about everything getting better, the quest for equality and freedom, the evil guys on the other political side trying to ruin it for us all.

Like JMG points out above, our only hope is that people will begin to recognize that what is happening in the real world isn't fitting into our narrative. So here is part of that hopeful message: while some Africans nations are still booming this year and will have a pleasant Christmas, in other nations oil-related collapse has already begun.

12/25/14, 12:22 AM

Tom Bannister said...
Just had a thought, Your describing of the 'end of winter' brought to mind Spengler's Decline of the West thesis about the winter phase of western civilization. Quite simply the Faustian soul is finally exhausting itself completely and definitively. I reckon this would be the case about now even were peak oil/ climate change no problem. Quite simply people are getting bored with the empty Faustian ideal of transcendence into limitless space- its quite empty and lonely really.

Also I might have mentioned this before on this blog but I'll repeat anyway. One of the famous tech-copornican films often referred to is Back to the Future II where the hero's arrive in 2015 to find flying cars, self drying jackets and hover-boards etc etc. The failure of these predictions alone I reckon will add quit strongly to the sense of disenchantment felt by many westerners at the moment. (not accidentally too the film came out in 1988 or so- at the 'peak' of peak oil denialism).

As for your observations about the young, speaking as a young person I will add that even for persons who are not aware of the full ramification of the situation the fact remains, right in front of mine and the faces of my peers, that jobs are not easy to come by and study will land you in gratuitous amounts of student debt. Furthermore, there is no shortage of a general lack of enthusiasm for the dominant institutions of western society (big governments and corporations). Meanwhile the seeking of alternative ways is being increasingly popular. Wwoofing schemes are for example quite popular among western youths. I will repeat and stress here too, it isn't just a lack of jobs or resources that's getting us down, its a lack of meaning and purpose in what we do that is really biting. The Faustian soul really feels to be at its end. This does not of course mean whatever the youth do next will be good or constructive of course. still though, 'down to earth' type work (growing food, environmental work etc) does in my view anyway, hold a powerful sense of meaning for the youth of today. The problem for most of us is having an idea about where to start.

12/25/14, 12:39 AM

Bogatyr said...
I didn't know that about December 25th and the sunrise: very, very interesting. Whenever I get back to the UK, I'll have to dig out my copy of Julian Cope's book on stone circles, and the other books on paleoastronomy I bought 20 years or so ago!

"[A] hearty good riddance to 2014".

I suppose so. Globally, it hasn't been a very good year, has it? I have to say, though, that personally it's been a year of healing and recovery, following my personal fall from middle-class grace in 2013.

The solstice brought news that I'm to have another bite of the cherry, though; the arrival of the Year of the Goat will see me move once more to the Middle Kingdom, to a job that will give me the financial means to make some preparations for the coming crash. In a couple of years' time, once I have the money, I intend to train as an acupuncturist - there's a TCM university that offers a one-year qualification taught in English, which will do me just fine. I saw some years ago that alternative healthcare will be a good field to be in. While I'm saving up, I'll be able to take short courses in herbal medicine and medical massage as well... not to mention martial arts... This is it, though: the last chance before the storm.

At least personally, then, the winds seem to have turned positive. That said, there is an awakening sense of urgency around, isn't there? The image that springs to mind, for whatever reason, is of people rushing to build barricades before some tumultuous threat overruns them...

If you're celebrating Christmas today, nadolig llawen.

12/25/14, 12:42 AM

Philip Hewett said...
Fascinating insights and truly thought provoking writing. Clearly, America is not alone on this planet and it does not function in a vacuum. I'd be really interested in some extrapolation of your ideas from the dilemmas that you discuss to a global perspective.


12/25/14, 1:24 AM

Rhisiart Gwilym said...
Cathy M, why cut the tree at all? It didn't ask to make the sacrifice. Perhaps, in matters of sacrifice, it should only ever be something of ourselves, not the lives of other, not-really-consenting creatures?

In earlier times, living trees were hung with sacring decorations where they stood, until the end of the festive time; these offerings were then taken down and re-stored; or left to weather and evolve naturally back into the natural cycles. Additionally, my partner and I, at the Solstices and the Equinoxes, offer gifts directly to the trees themselves, of a kind which they would appreciate.

You can still see the decorated tree through the window, when you leave it where it is. You can even put presents under it for people to go out and find. Just now, the death of any tree is a small slip backwards. There can't be too many of them right now, alive and growing vigorously; possibly the best hope we have for a real, Gaian amelioration of the climate-shift careerings about of the weather; and without us having to do anything, beyond just leaving the trees, indeed the whole forests, safe to get on with doing what they do. Cheers! Seasons greetings to all.

12/25/14, 2:40 AM

ed boyle said...
ЙI am aLmost finished with toynbee short version. Always interesting just like you write digging up tidbits of little known historical comparison. If I had the 7000 page version I would find much more.

Protestants rebelled against catholicism to take sabbath as holy and reject icons and hold scriptures, including old testament , as extreme holy, a new form of bibelidolatry equivalent to icons of catholics. Essentially Luther and co. instead of going back to early church, Jesus was not interested oin sabbath, mosaic law, they were going back to judaic custom as a fetish.

secondly in 12th century church received aristotle and used his technique to develop debating tactics, analytical, critical technique which was seed of scientific thought in general in the common upper class education. Ironically rejection of actual scientific revolution, Galileo etc. by church was based on aristotle's doctrines and not bible so catholic church was disciple of aristotle and protestants pseudohebraic. All weird when Toynbee explains history and that is just a few pages. The whole text is filled with hu dreds of such ideas.

12/25/14, 3:36 AM

Phil Harris said...
A bit slow getting going but the ADR is a welcome read this Thursday Christmas morn, with my CAT (Wales) 40th Anniversary Mug ( ) of tea in my hand, having had a quick phone call from eldest daughter who gave me the mug. (We will hear from her ‘littlies’ later.)

Up here next the Scottish Border it is dark enough to view the ecliptic and the stars – Jupiter rising, moons and all over the small light of the farm on the eastern horizon at the solstice a few nights back, and all the stars very bright again last night. We briefly visited late afternoon on 21st the local stone circle that has provided wide measure of the skyline for 4000 years (this measure looks to sunset and we guess moon set).

Thanks. And “God Bless America”. (Sarcasm turned off despite I guess the profound ironies we might see in such a wish).

Phil H

12/25/14, 3:47 AM

Tom Hopkins said...
Thank you for this post. It certainly helped pick up my spirits this holiday season. I try to follow the LESS principle, but it can be frustrating. I look around and ask myself "what are you doing?". Case in point-a few months back i gave away my washer and dryer and went to board-bucket-line. What a pain. But my elecric bill is lower, and the clothes just as clean. It helps me to realize im not the only one trying. It also made me remember your point about

getting good at something before its too late. So i give some hard earned tips about hand laundry. Get a hot-dipped galvanized pail to prevent rust, a board with Spiral, and dont even consider a typical american wardrobe, extra linens or bath sheets. :-) beware the krampus!

12/25/14, 3:48 AM

mr_geronimo said...
The winter is ending here in Brazil too: the socialist cultural hegemony is breaking down after 40 years. They are peak political power and will go downhill. They broke their promisses and the future they ordered didn't arrive. And where it did arrive, Venezuela, Cuba and Argentina it became a nightmare.

Once that hegemony is gone it will be possible to debate about preparations for the climatic change and the desertification in the brazillian industrial core. São Paulo, the greatest city in South America didn't become Arrakis this year by pure dumb luck. How long until luck runs out and 15 million people are stranded in a dry megapolis?

Of course, such discussions about the reality of climate change and the reality of peak oil assume that the brazillians don't get infected by the virus that infected the american conservatives: denialism. And while i fight the culture war against the leftists i also try to warn the conservatives about peak oil, desertification and the death of Amazonia, hoping that someone will listen.

The problem is: science itself is corrupted by cultural marxism here. The Academia sold it's soul to the leftist project and are enemies in the cultural war. They sided with a dying system, like you said the intelectual class tend to do, in 'the sharp edge of the shell', and i'm afraid science will be one of the casualties in this kulturkampf.

12/25/14, 5:21 AM

Edde said...
Seasons greetings, John Michael,

THANKS for another in a long line of excellent posts.

We had the dark of the season underlined as our electricity was out for a large part a day (starting in the evening). I'm sure that intermittent power availability will be common as the years roll on.

Happy New Year!


12/25/14, 6:24 AM

peacegarden said...
What a pleasure to read your essay this morning. I look forward to the coming posts with gratitude for your scholarship and cogent writing. The Archdruid Report is indeed a gift. Thank you.
I see subtle changes emerging in the way several of our children are approaching the future…not quite the faith in progress and plenty they were taught to expect…more of a questioning attitude and a discovery of some simple ways of being in this world that bring deep satisfaction, such as hiking and camping with minimal equipment, the pure enjoyment of being in nature, growing interest in gardening. I don’t preach but hope to model a way of life that is not based on how much do you make? (wages and salary=worth), but how much do you make of living? (doing with less, growing our own, shedding what is no longer relevant, thinking of what needs to be preserved and how to make that happen). In other words what really makes life worth living.
To you and your wife, and all of the commentariat, a blessed season of going down deep, planting the seeds you want to see emerge and flourish this year ahead, nurturing them and resting in the sure knowledge that spring will come in her own time.


12/25/14, 6:43 AM

russell1200 said...
Per your gospel account:

The two synoptic gospels (Matthew and Luke) with birth stories have very different stories. The "birth story" we are told is an amalgamation of the two. Both stories are to some extent adding elements to the earlier Gospel of Mark and trying to explain to their contemporary audience how Jesus fits in with earlier prophetic scriptures.

For instance, Micah 5:2 it is foretold that the Messiah will be born in Bethlehem. This is the same question being asked by the crowd in John 7:41 when the crowd is confused about a Messiah from Galilei.

In Matthew, Mary has gone nowhere, she lives in Bethlehem and the wise men warn her that she needs to get away because of Hared. So after his birth they head to Egypt. On returning they are afraid of Harrods son, so they go to live in Galilei.

In Luke, there is a census, so they have to go to Bethlehem. There is no wise men or warning. So the parents have no reason not to go to the Temple in Jerusalem - where Jesus is swooned over by the prophetic Simeon and Anna. The Simeon and Anna story can't be made to fit well, so it is not included in the generic stories, and is usually brought up at the pulpit in isolation of the other pieces of the birth story.

Many of the other pieces in the two stories variously relate to earlier scriptural references to the messiah.

Outside the gospels, other than some disputed passages in Josephus, there is no contemporary recording of Jesus' life. The earliest written references to Jesus in the bible were written by St. Paul who did not meet the living Jesus. Paul does not have any great interest in the details of Jesus' life. Like John, he has a very involved spirituality that does not require exacting biographical detail.

12/25/14, 7:00 AM

Andrew said...
Mr. Greer,
As an educator, I can anecdotally support your assertion that many young people are aware that student loans represent the first step into the quicksand of becoming lifelong debtors. I think this is because many of them are living in households that despite being in an upper-middle class suburb have been struggling to stay afloat in the aftermath of the collapse of the housing bubble. This has made them a bit more receptive to discussions about the instability of the system in which they have been raised. Despite this, the relentless consumer propaganda is still the dominant force in their lives.
Although I live and work in a place that is part of the problem, as an educator I have the ability to help young people develop their minds. In that and other, more personal ways, I hope to affect change.
If I may, I would like to thank you and the countless others who have helped educate me about the predicament of our age. In particular, I would like to remember Michael Ruppert, who introduced me to the concept of peak oil and shocked me out of my intellectual torpor.

Best wishes,

12/25/14, 7:35 AM

GHung said...
Happy winter solstice to all, and especially to my solar-enabled friends (that would be all of you, like it or not). From the essay:

"...while simple, affordable, thoroughly proven technologies such as solar water heating got another decade of malign neglect.

Well, yes and no. While adoption of solar thermal; water heating, passive solar heating of structures, etc.) has been slow in the energy-saturated west, these technologies have made significant progress, especially in the water heating area. The evacuated tube water heating assembly I installed this summer, replacing our old home-built flat panels, works magnificently. JMG did a series some time back on technologies that may survive the technological bottleneck ahead, and vacuum tubes (for electronics) was one of those things. The evacuated tube water heater is simply a group of vacuum tubes (blown glass) with a sealed copper tube/fin assembly in the center which collects heat and transfers that heat to a simple copper manifold through which the water you wish to heat flows. There's a bit of 'phase-change' that occurs (liquid turning to gas inside the copper tube- AKA: boiling) which improves the efficiency.

These assemblies, courtesy of the Chinese, are now very affordable, and my assessment is that they could remain functional for decades. Not much to go wrong. Indeed, the most complex part of the system is the water pump and its controller. Glass tubes, copper, and a little liquid. I showed one of the tubes (every system I looked at came with spares in case of breakage) to my local glass blower friend and he said he could make them easily in his studio. He noted (later confirmed) that this is simply technology adopted from the production of florescent tube lighting.

I predict that this is one seemingly complex, though actually quite simple, technology that could be maintained in a technological collapse scenario.

Meanwhile, I highly recommend this solution for those who have interest in producing hot water (lots of it) with minimal inputs. We use the surplus for space heating (hydronic flooring), but mostly enjoy long hot showers, fairly guilt free; something of a medical necessity in our home.

12/25/14, 7:49 AM

Violet Cabra said...
Last year on Christmas was when I submitted my first comment to TADR. Participating in this online forum has been a constant source of hope in a cold season. Thank you everyone, especially JMG, for holding this space!

Re: alternative youth culture

I agree that it's has been deeply fascinating and heartening to watch more and more young people get hip to what's going on in the actual world.

Awhile ago I talked in a comment here about how milennials are on a spectrum that often includes, say, learning herbalism and being helpless without an iphone. In light of returning to my parent's house to take care of the animals while they vacation and actually seeing old high school friends and what they're up to, I want to revise my previous statement.

The one to two percent of the under 30 crowd who are preparing themselves practically for the future are actually a lot more capable in almost every way than their i-peers. Living with relatively little intimate interaction with the outside world I had forgotten the state of American culture. There is an enormous difference between "likely being able to survive with great difficulty" and "likely not wanting to survive without material goodies"

With the weird earthy kids there is, usually at least a real drive to find meaningful community. Often there is a strong desire for spiritual development as well. Both of these impulses are, as far as I've seen, interrelated. Being from the Northeast I have lived with a very high population of Jews. My dad is Jewish, although I was raised Unitarian. I bring this up because I've come to see, at least the queer contingent of earthy weird kids, as more descended from Magian thought than Faustian. "queerness" is perceived as this mysterious substance that unites those who believe in it in a consensus, similar to my understanding of "ruach"

Likewise how a medieval rabbi could travel from ghetto to ghetto and feel at home all around the medieval world, I as a literate, gardening, herbalist transwoman, can travel from queer punk house to queer punk house and always feel at home, if not have a space available to me indefinitely.

Punk houses have their own intricate dietary laws, cleanliness customs and ritual purifications.

It is interesting to me that in these spaces as much as half the people regularly come from a secular Jewish background.

I'm not sure what other alternative spaces look or feel like, although I would be curious to learn.

12/25/14, 7:49 AM

Tony f. whelKs said...
"As far as I know, nobody knows exactly how the present date got put in place, but I suspect the old solar symbolism had a lot to do with it; in those days, the Christian church was less prone to the rigid literalism that’s become common in recent centuries, and also quite aware of seasonal and astronomical cycles"

FWIW I am convinced of the validity of the solar connection for the dating of Christmas (in the Western tradition at least). The earliest known date reference for the nativity of Christ was the 'Chronography' of 354AD, which listed Dec 25th as the birthdate of Christ and also the feast day of 'Sol Invictus', the composite deity the Romans cobbled together from their native Sol, the Persian Mithra(s) and the Syrian Elah-Gabal. Under the Julian calendar which was currently in force in the Roman world, the solstice fell on the 25th. Although we have reformed the calendar since, we kept the nominal date intact, failing to reform it in line with the rest of the year.

On a more theological basis, Sextus Julius Africanus calculated from scripture that the Incarnation (like Creation) occurred on March 25th (the erstwhile vernal equinox) and a standard nine-month gestation leads to Christ's birth nine months later on the winter solstice (25th Dec at the time).

Other churches adopted different dates for the Nativity (eg Jan 6th in the Antiochene church), and the Western church only formally accepted Christmas as a ritual festival on Dec 25th in 527AD following the lead of Denis the Small (Dionysius Exiguus).

Interestingly, Sir Isaac Newton, who was born on December 25 himself, argued from scripture that the solstice was chosen for the Nativity in order to fulfil a prophecy of Malachi referring to Christ as the 'Sun of righteousness'.

Whether one celebrates the solstice, the 'Dies Natalis Solis Invicti', Christmas, Jul, Shab-e Chelleh or any of the other 1001 pagan variants, the psychological purpose of the event is clear, namely to inject some hope and light into the darkest days of winter - and 2014 is proving to be one of the darkest we have encountered for quite some time. I absolutely agree that the crass materialistic excess that has infected the season only adds to the darkness.

I don't have any idea how it could be enforced, but I'd love to see the principle that people should only be allowed to 'celebrate' Christmas if they also observe Lent. Observance of Lent would be more appropriate preparation for our likely future, I believe, and the benefit of a ritual cycle surely can't be appreciated if it isn't observed 'in the round'.

All that said, the season's greetings to one and all!

12/25/14, 7:52 AM

UnhingedBecauseLucid said...
["Some who used to reject the whole idea of imminent and ongoing decline with scornful laughter have slowly come around to rueful admissions that, well, maybe we really are in trouble; others, starting from the same place, now denounce any such notion with the sort of brittle rage that you normally see in people who are losing the ability to make themselves keep believing the dogma they’ve committed themselves to defending."]
I offer you as a christmas gift an absolutely splendid example of such behavior. If you can spare 1 minute 50 sec of your time, and overlook the source of the material...I think you'll get an enjoyable sardonic little grin out of it.

The segment of relevance is from 4:15 to 6:05

It's hilarious. I dare you not to laugh Archdruid, I dare you not to laugh !

12/25/14, 8:28 AM

Clay Dennis said...

In your reference to the young people who seem to be getting it. My little shop is in a part of town that used to be considered the "ghetto". In the last 10 years it has been reinhabited by young people looking for cheap rents within bike riding distance of downtown.
They do in fact seem to get that the world is changing though most of them don't have the same awareness of how or why it is changing that the folks reading this blog do. But they are doing most of the right things. 28% of all the workers in this part of town commute to work by bike. There is almost 15% that choose to go entirely car-less, choosing to walk, ride mass transit or bike. Coummunity gardens abound and they keep chickens in the yards of the big old houses that they rent and share amoung several people. They like barter, and vintage items over new. My favorite is a reawakening of trades and handcrafts. Young people are learning ( and becoming proficient) at making leather goods, backpacks, clothing, beer and even shoes. Few have cable tv at home and instead choose to listen to live music for entertainment.
But then I board the train for the suburbs where I live for now. The car lots and big boxes stores spread across the landscapes. People gleefully wash and shine giant new SUV's and are blissfully unaware of what fate has in store for them

12/25/14, 8:28 AM

David said...
I just heard a radio spot for Paralyzed Veterans of America, asking for support in getting veterans "the benefits they were promised." Goes straight to your point (repeated made) re the steady erosion of military "pay". My mind goes to Jefferson's essay " Fire Alarms in the Night," which be wrote later in life and expressed his worry of the unresolved contradiction of American slavery. This is yet another fuse slowly burning toward a potentially violent resolution.

12/25/14, 9:54 AM

Patrick DeBoard said...
Hi, JMG, I'm still reading it, but thought you might like to know there's a typo, where you mention financial collapses in 2009 and 2009, and we're about to have another? I repeated the typo for ya. :)

12/25/14, 10:09 AM

Dujinthehiker said...
Excellent post and perfect for the season. Thank you. It is refreshing to see glimmers of hope despite the grim picture. I found myself thinking of the Arab Spring when I read your article. There, despite decades of oppression and press censorship, and perhaps because of social media and cellphones, millions took to the streets and the weight of those masses caused nearly a dozen governments to fall. It took that - millions of people in the streets, silent, standing there, expressing disapproval, to bring change. Then of course it all has collapsed, over there, because those nations hadn't the history or institutions to take action and follow through. But here in America, if and when millions take to the streets, perhaps our two century legacy of law and institution and occasional leadership will enable us to follow through, and wrench this nation and culture from mindless growth and gimme gimme gimme to what the original founder intended - a nation of men and women making their lives in some form of peace and freedom and responsibility. We aren't there yet, by any means, but we may get there, in time....

12/25/14, 10:24 AM

Goldmund said...
Two things give me hope John. One is that whenever a crisis such as an extreme weather event (flash flood, tornado, 20 inch snowfall, etc.) closes down the city where I live (Minneapolis) it always seems to bring out the best in most people, contrary to conventional wisdom. People who were flipping each other out on the road the day before won't hesitate to pull over, jump out of their cars and help complete strangers stuck in the ditch with a level of enthusiasm that leaves you breathless. I've seen it happen many times. People will check up on their neighbors, share whatever they have with each other and show a kind of civic responsibility that seems lacking in ordinary times. I think that's why many of us look forward to disruptions in "business as usual"- for the sense of comradeship it seems to bring out in others... The other thing that gives me hope is the incredible social and political awareness I'm witnessing in young people these days. I've been involved in direct action campaigns for years and I've never seen such diversity (all ages and ethnicities) and political maturity among the younger crowd as I have in the current "Black Lives Matter" movement. The incredible solidarity, courage and organizational and leadership skills I've witnessed in recent actions have left elders like me staring in wide eyed wonderment. In short, I believe I'm experiencing the waning of the "Me Generation" and the rise of a new generation of humans who are watching each other's backs and seem to know instinctively that survival depends upon cooperation and sometimes personal sacrifice because "an injury to one is an injury to all", as the saying goes. I'm looking forward to your take on the cultural shift that is taking place right now. Happy Holidays to you and be well!

12/25/14, 10:55 AM

LewisLucanBooks said...
Where can I buy my very own megalith? Are they available on Amazon? Any designer megaliths? Will having one impress the neighbors and make them jealous? Is there a glossy niche magazine full of celebrity megaliths? Tongue firmly in cheek, Lew

12/25/14, 11:05 AM

mundanomaniac said...
Adding to Your sunrise-measures are the sunrise-metaphors. As You know, each sunrise is the ascendent of an unique day, hour, minute, second.
Since billions of years on this planet, which has to be renamed as "America" according to an empire in decay.

Adding to our politeconomical reasoning each Ascendent is a "new chance in the light of a never before matured hour" so freely after Walter Benjamin.

The adherents of the heroes of reason and enlightment didn't realize, that igniting a candle in a dawning room, puts the corners into the dark.

So we have to admit, that the destroing of the eternal balance of contradicting partners be favour of the unipolarity of "the winner takes it all", is the cancer of the creation.

With the miracle of the everchanging chances is dealing my conviction laid down weekly in my bavarian astrological contributions like this actual one.

To Your serious work all the best in the coming Year including the fitness required by mind, soul and body for Youd demanding intentions.


12/25/14, 11:23 AM

Therese Defarge said...
Mr. Greer, I was interested in your take on why Christmas is when it is.

I think it was something more. Most societies in the northern hemisphere had some sort of quasi-religious celebration to mark the winter solstice. Among the Romans, an extended period of celebration called the Saturnalia served that purpose.

Why Saturn? Probably an astronomical reasons, which I don't know. But astrologically the 21st was the end of Sagittarius ruled by jolly Jupiter and the beginning of Cappricorn ruled by Saturn.

Since the Saturnalia was a rowdy holiday, early Christians might have decided to compete with their own holiday of a more sedate nature near the solstice.

It would have made sense in the dead of winter to celebrate with evergreens and yule logs in the far northern reaches to represent rebirth and the return of light and greenery and to bring in the sacred mistletoe and maybe do some erotic doings underneath.

Recall in "The"Golden Bough" the author's observation that customs are immortal though religions come and go.

12/25/14, 11:48 AM

Brad K. said...

There may be a couple of other reasons for the splurging we call the Xmas season.

First, I am convinced that America is two to three generations past the time we could assume children were well-parented. That is, since Dr. Spock's baby book, and mass media, the concept of parenting a child has morphed into a romantic comedy, TV shadow of the real thing. Child-age whining played by merchandisers is a big driver in the Xmas rush.

Another factor is something you have brought out in the past, the need to appear to be affluent, regardless of the realities of family finances. Conspicuous consumption, bragging rights over the expense of toys, TVs, etc. played, again, by merchandisers, has lead to expectations of piles of dollars beneath that Yule tree. In other words, this is an exhibition of, if not downright degradation of morals and character (decadence), at least whistling in the dark.

Blessed Yule time to you and yours!

12/25/14, 11:57 AM

Carl said...
Dear JMG, I'm working on the shift this Christmas by explaining why I don't put extra holiday lights on the front of the house, and why we're not having an Xbox One video game system in the house as long as I'm living in it. These decisions might not make me the most popular dad, but someday they might thank me. Carl

12/25/14, 1:41 PM

Ahavah said...
You may already be aware, but the birth of Jesus of Nazareth was on the first day of Sukkot. They laid him in a "manger" - that word comes to western languages from the latin vulgate, which itself is a translation of the greek. The greek word used there in the NT is the same word used for the Hebrew word "sukkah" everywhere it appears in the LXX. The reason the inns were full is that women and children are not obligated in the oral tradition to live in the sukkah for the 7 days, only men were. The shepherds who supposedly visited are part of the sukkot liturgy developed in the Hasmonean era and still used to this day - each night one of the 7 founding fathers ( and modernly, their wives, too) visit in spirit (Abraham, Isaac Jacob, Moses, Aaron, David, & Solomon). Even the theme of Joy to the World is part of it, as the sacrifices offered were supposed to represent all the known nations of the world, and the prophet Zechariah mentions all nations would come to observe sukkot in the end of days. And so on - the story related in the NT dovetails amazingly to the liturgy, but all references to Judaism were stripped out of the official Christian texts and obscured with the non-historically verified census during Herod's reign. They even got the year wrong, as Herod died in 4bce (if I recall correctly).

And of course, Christmas was substituted because there was no way they could outlaw observance of Dec 25th and expect anybody to comply...if you can't beat em, join em, I guess. Ditto for easter (feast of ishtar).

On the other point, some of us are moving slowly because we're just not sure what to do. A lot of people say get a wood burning stove, for example. Ok, so, after the first year the US becomes like the first energy crisis and becomes completely denuded of trees. Then what? Or, learn to hunt. Well, again, a year or so and even all the rats and feral pets have been eaten - then what? Grow and preserve food is a good idea, as long as the starving neighbors don't find out you have stores laid up. In a crisis, it won't be a good idea to look well fed, I am guessing.

How do you decide? Solar and wind home systems are too expensive for most people without going into debt - but debt is bad and to be avoided at all costs. Small measures are helpful, but won't solve big problems when push comes to shove. Big measures draw attention to your home and basically advertise you have resources other people don't...

The consequences of choosing a mistake can be as bad as doing nothing at all, it would seem. (I am not advocating doing nothing!) I think more people would act if they felt more confident. I am just not sure where to find that confidence.

12/25/14, 2:22 PM

Odin's Raven said...
Thank you for this Christmas gift Archdruid! Best wishes to you for Christmas and the New Year.

One wonders whether America will be as fortunate as Athens and have a Solon of its own to free its citizens from debt slavery.

12/25/14, 2:52 PM

SLClaire said...
A happy Solstice to you, JMG!

Here in the St. Louis area, the 25th brought us our first sunny day, all day, in weeks. That was the best present I have received. Still, while the days will slowly get longer, the coldest weather of winter is yet to come. That's what I'm focusing on from your post. Even though I think you are right that a shift toward taking limits seriously is in process, I also think you are right that things will get worse before they get better. How long before the metaphorical spring arrives I don't know. Maybe not while I'm still alive. But as a gardener I know that the most appropriate activity for the coldest part of winter is preparation for the spring to come: planning the garden, figuring out what seeds need to be obtained and getting them, repairing tools, analyzing the previous season's results and learning from them. All those seem to me to have their analogs in work to be done as decline continues. I'll be planning for spring in both senses during this cold, dreary time.

12/25/14, 4:24 PM

donalfagan said...
A TAE commenter had this Zero Hedge link with T. Boone Pickens insisting to CNN talking heads that Peak Oil did happen in 2005:

12/25/14, 4:53 PM

Eric S. said...
Blessed belated Alban Arthuan and Merry Christmas. Thank you for this week. A message of hope is much welcome and much needed as this year winds to a close. There's been so much pain and frustration this year, deaths, systemic injustices that are driving people rapidly from frustration to outrage, to warfare. You offered us this on the day after we all cringed while the fundamentals of the global economy tumbled a little further down while the DOW Industrial average soared past 18000. I'm visiting my father this weekend for what may be our last holiday together as he moves into the final stages of a long battle with cancer just a week after losing my grandfather to hospital transmitted pneumonia while being treated for a minor hip injury. My father and I have been talking about crafts and skills. Where to start a path on the trade skills that draw me. He's a guitar builder and woodworker, and tried to impart his practice onto me when I was a teenager but it never stuck and never interested me since I was so caught up in thinking the only way to make a difference for the future was through activism. I deeply regret not having spent the time in his shop when I was young, but we've been talking about ways to carry that artisan spirit on and where I can start. Shoemaking has a special tie to the gods and myths that feed me and dad dabbled in leatherwork once upon a time. He doesn't get peak oil or environmentalism of any of that, but talking about crafting and trade skills and reading through the Green Wizardry handbook together has made us closer than ever even though our time together is short now. The lesson of this year has been to cherish life, to cherish the years of stability, make use of them, and to hold friends and family close. We don't know how long they may be with us.

Every time I read this blog and think on these themes, especially over the course of this year the words of Paul Simon have rung in my head as the song that defines our age more than any (a song, fittingly enough written during the oil crises of the '70s)

"I don't know a soul that's not been battered
I don't have a friend who feels at ease
I don't know a dream that's not been shattered
Or driven to it's knees

Oh but it's alright, it's alright
We've lived so well so long
Still when I think of the road we're traveling on
I wonder what's gone wrong
I can't help it, I wonder what's gone wrong."

Thank you for giving a light in the dark of the year... And the twilight of an age. And I hope these words find fertile ground and strengthen hearts to do what must be done.

12/25/14, 5:26 PM

Kyoto Motors said...

I don't always find the time to chime in here, but I continue to enjoy the weekly posts. You are not wrong, I think, about a shift in awareness... Tho' the danger of slipping into apocalyptic or utopic expectations is always afoot.
Anyway, I'm quite certain that the New year will be full of interesting developments on the energy scene. I thank you for the ongoing work, and look forward to your analysis.
As one who does still participate in the secular practice of exchanging gifts at Christmastime, I found your books made for some very apt presents ;-)
All the best to you and your loved ones!

12/25/14, 5:55 PM

Shane Wilson said...
@ violet
I just wanted to say that I think your observations regarding queer and Jewish culture are spot on-coming from a southern Baptist background, I've always had an affinity for the" people of the Book", and miss the Jewish culture that was ubiquitous in southern California, where I recently lived. I've always thought of Jewish space as warm and open, and had a personal affinity for it. As a gen X'er, I must say your observations regarding fellow millennials are spot on. I'm encouraged by the small fraction aware of and preparing for our predicament, as well as concerned and downright depressed regarding the screen addicted. I've read too many negative studies regarding mental and brain damage/alteration from screen usage, and it is very distressing to witness the damage among so-called" digital natives" I fervently hope that in the not-too-distant future, when we see a screen in the hands of a minor, we will react with the same disgust and horror as if it were cigarettes. Perhaps I'm too hopeful. Thanks for reminding me of my intention to contact and get involved with the Radical Faeries.
I wanted to 2nd your observations regarding youth and the" ghetto", certainly that's exactly what I see in Lexington's north side.
I'm just so glad that heads are coming out of posteriors, or maybe never entering posteriors in the first place for so many of today's youth. I must admit, I'm frankly embarrassed at my head in posterior misspent youth in the 90s, and that I'm just now coming around in my late 30s.
A recommendation to anyone emigrating, make sure that you're the one sparking the lighter under the American flag at the anti-America protest so that no one questions where your attitudes and loyalties to your native country lie. If the world's gonna hate America, and you're going to emigrate, make sure you're vocal about renouncing your native country. Even here in the U.S., conducting business in Spanish, and speaking Spanish is as much political as practical for me, more or less, my vote of confidence of who I think is more resilient practically and culturally, who I'm" siding" with. Sí, se puede.

12/25/14, 6:58 PM

Moshe Braner said...
"Sextus Julius Africanus calculated from scripture that the Incarnation (like Creation) occurred on March 25th (the erstwhile vernal equinox) and a standard nine-month gestation leads to Christ's birth nine months later on the winter solstice (25th Dec at the time)."

Hmmm, and I've been saying for years that the real reason April 1 is called "April Fools Day" is, well, see what happened 9 months later! :-)

But more seriously I think Ahavah's comment above puts it all together nicely.

12/25/14, 7:05 PM

The other Tom said...
Thank you, JMG, for all your fascinating posts.
It is a privilege to be in this community of people who are developing the skills and knowledge we will all need. I am definitely not the smartest person in the room here, which always means I am in a good place to help me evolve.
I, too, have observed a profound skepticism in many young people that business as usual will continue. Perhaps it is more instinctive than knowledge based, for many of them. But the younger people I meet do sense that a new way of life is coming, ready or not.
I am concerned about what everyone else will do, the millions who refuse to even consider industrial decline. For quite a few years now in America a large portion of the population has been angry, and most of them do not know who or what to direct their anger towards. (Just listen to AM radio.) It's like living in a town where half the citizens are psychotic. The darkness of it all reminded me of a Lew Welch poem:
"The Basic Con Those who can't find anything to live for,
always invent something to die for.
Then they want the rest of us to
die for it, too."
Those of us who have plenty to live for will know people who are stocking up on ammunition to defend their stored wealth. I have tried to carefully suggest to them that being useful to oneself and those who need you would be a more complete survival strategy, as well as a better community.
Several commentators have discussed the advantages of moving vs. staying in place. I am on the side of staying in a place you know, or "digging in," as Gary Snyder would say. To live like a human being, I think it is a great advantage to deeply know the local ecosystem and seasons and have a well established community. When cataclysmic changes come faster than we can understand them, I think being "dug in" and knowing one's neighbors is a good idea.
Again, many thanks for your work, JMG

12/25/14, 8:18 PM

Rita said...
Anyone who is raising garden, chickens, bees, etc. in an area frequented by bears should read _Out on a Limb_ by Benjamin Kilham. The entire book is a fascinating study of bear social behavior and thinking acquired by years of raising orphan cubs, releasing them into the wild and staying in touch with them. The appendix contains specific instructions on avoiding bad interactions with bears. Mostly this advice consists of warning to keep food sources closed off. But the author also suggests ways to protect chicken coops and beehives. He also gives advice on confrontations in the wild. Practical but also full of interesting speculation on the evolution of social intelligence.

12/25/14, 8:37 PM

Cherokee Organics said...

Many thanks for your sage words and as usual you have lifted a weight and yet also provided a puzzle to ponder, observe and interpret.

On a completely different note: I lunched yesterday with many people, but one of whom was a young lady who previously had only worked for NGO's. Now I use the word "previously", because due to cuts in government expenditure, she is now unemployed and I only discovered this fact after a bit of a ribbing as I caught her surfing the Interweb whilst at lunch. The truth about the unemployment status then rolled out. Honestly I never considered that the person in question may have been worriedly perusing job advertisements during a lunch. The thought had never even crossed my mind.

So, thinking to console the individual, I recounted my own story from the recession of 1990/91 where I had to take a debt collection job for a few years whilst some sort of recovery took place - just to pay the rent and put food on the table.

As they were a few years younger than I was, they had no memories of that time and had only witnessed a growth phase so unfortunately recoiled in horror at the story! Surely another job at an NGO would be just around the corner...

It is a pleasant thing to be calm and battle tested when faced with adversity. Just sayin...

Incidentally the Master Wu Tzu whose wisdom is also included within the version of the Art of War that I am reading would have much to say about the current governance.

Unfortunately for him, although he had extended his masters kingdom 1,000 leagues in all directions and recommended the general Sun Tzu, he was eventually killed by a group of nobles as he was something of a reformer and also a bit of a rough but yet scholarly character and through his real world military accomplishments proved the nobles to be the incompetent lot they actually were.



12/25/14, 11:24 PM

avalterra said...
Happy and blessed holidays to you and your friends and family. I have been following this blog for years now and I find it a constants source of strength and wisdom.

My lady and I are now looking at doing the "relocation to a more survivable community". If my job comes through we will be there before the Spring Equinox.

12/25/14, 11:31 PM

Cherokee Organics said...
Hi GHung: The controller can be eliminated through manual switching of the pump. I haven't quite worked out the pump bit yet though...

Hi Lewis: haha! As someone who has moved many rocks in their life, I kind of tremble at the thought of a megalith. It's a big job! That one is going to take a bit of time...

Hi Violet - Maybe cold for you, but down here at the bottom of the world it is sunburn weather!

Hi SLClaire - Winter is a good time for sleeping in and starting work later in the garden. But then being cooler, you can do so much more than at the warmer part of the year. All part of the turning of the seasons. It is a story older than any of us.

Hi Phil - Winter always produces the clearest night skies too. All the best with your star gazing. Did you catch the recent meteor shower?

Hi Rhisiart - haha! Before prodding others ask first what your own house is made of and where did that last sheet of paper come from?

Hi Tom Bannister - I'm really chuffed you mentioned Back to the Future II and hover boards. By chance over in NZ have you ever heard of the local lad Seth Sentry: Dear Science. I reckon they've already noticed...

Did you happen to note that Lorde has also released another track and curated the latest Hunger Games film soundtrack. I overheard one mischievous reviewer saying that it was the best part of the film!

Hi Onething - Find the weediest plant that the chickens can eat and then grow it. I grow Anchusa Semperivens here which is wonderful chicken feed and requires no care whatsoever. They didn't evolve to eat grain, we just feed them that because it is easy.

Hi Shane - Too easy: Wealth and opportunity are real but saving money by practicing the old ways are both sticking it to the man and also a good way to get ahead of the loco gringos wasting all that wealth and opportunity. Just sayin...



12/25/14, 11:47 PM

Derv said...
JMG et al.,

For what it's worth, there is actually substantive evidence for the birth of Christ being December 25th. Contrary to the popular belief (which was repeated here by people in the comments), Christmas was not instituted on December 25th to counteract Saturnalia, Dies Natalis Solis Invictii, or the winter solstice.

Christmas was officially "locked in" in 354, and Solis Invictii was instituted in 274, but Christmas was held as December 25th at least since the mid-third century. Sextus Africanus mentions in 220 AD that the Annunciation was March 25th, for instance (and nine months later, Christ was born obviously). This and a few other pieces of evidence suggest that, if anything, Sol Invictus was instituted in an attempt to thwart Christianity, not the other way around (assuming that Aurelian implemented the Dec 25th celebration at all, which is based on debatable evidence).

There is additional evidence as well. From Scripture and Tradition, it's clear that Christ was born six months after St. John the Baptist (Luke 1:26). Zacharias in Luke received his vision concerning St. John while executing his priestly duties, which was associated with Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement). In fact, the Dead Sea Scrolls confirm this, that Zacharias was the functioning priest in September, being from Abijah's lineage.

So Zacharias received the vision of his wife conceiving a child in September, and Elizabeth gave birth in June. The Annunciation happened when Elizabeth was in her sixth month, which was March (25th). So Christ was born on December 25th.

This all ties into one thing that just strikes me as utterly baffling, namely that modern scholars working with fragmentary records of events nearly two thousand years ago on a subject they aren't personally attached to think they know history much better than the people who actually lived in those times and dedicated their lives to these things. It seems like common sense that the Apostles and their successors would've known the details and passed them on, doesn't it? They did record the story and die for their testimony.

And would all of Christianity just shrug their shoulders if, after centuries, some emperor changed the date of Christmas to override a pagan festival? I suspect most Americans today care less about the Fourth of July than Christians did about the birth of Christ, but everyone would flip out if Obama tried to change it to, say, February 23rd. And if some historian from the year 2861 published a paper claiming that Independence Day was actually in February based upon fragments of a Cosmo article he found, we'd probably think he was an idiot.

Let's give the ancients a little credit, eh? Do the dates of St. John the Baptist's and Christ's births line up extremely well with the solstices? Absolutely. But I'd expect no less from the Creator of the Earth and its seasons. (And I might note that we Catholics can't go three days without some sort of feast day, so something was bound to stick somewhere.)

Not trying to create a big brouhaha over this whole bit. It's just a subject I know a little about and it's a story I've heard repeated so many times that my eye twitches a little when I see it.

12/26/14, 1:11 AM

Shining Hector said...

I dunno man. I probably think things through more than is typical, but my impression of an immigrant here who loudly proclaimed their hatred of their country of origin would be, in descending order - sycophant, spy/provocateur, and/or traitor. Not incidentally, none of these appelations would engender a sense of respect or trust within me. Immigrants I've known as a general rule don't hate their home country and usually have a sense of ambivalence or even longing towards it, which is perfectly natural. They've voted with their feet which place they choose to live in, though, which pretty much says all you need to know.

I'm not sure blowing smoke at the natives is a very good recipe for success. I'd think learning the language, treating people with respect, and making a meaningful contribution to the local economy would tend to give you a better chance of surviving some hypothetical pogrom than being remembered as the crazy flag-burning gringo who loudly proclaims his hatred of his native land at every opportunity.

12/26/14, 2:20 AM

Diotima said...
John, I was thinking about Peak Oil today as I was looking ahead astrologically to the square that is forming between Saturn and Neptune. This is a classic astrological signature for limits on oil (which is ruled by Neptune and Jupiter), and the price upheavals we are seeing now reflect the forming square. The aspect will not become exact until November, but it will be close most of 2015, and there will be two more exact aspects of those two planets in June and September of 2016. Jupiter will get the party off the ground in September of 2015.

I expect prices and markets for Crude Oil to be on a major roller-coaster over the next two years, and the reality of Peak Oil to really begin to sink in to the mass consciousness, which may presage a widespread willingness to bow to the necessity of conservation (no, I’m not holding my breath). Of course Saturn and Neptune can also herald the materialization of visionary technology, so I am hopeful — given this and other cosmic patterns — that there may be some breakthroughs in small-scale, efficient, renewable energy technologies, as well.

Thanks for another great post, and blessings of the season to you.

12/26/14, 2:35 AM

Shane Wilson said...
An addendum to my emigration/renunciation comment: considering that many people in other countries expect the U.S. to continue being superpower, and are frustrated and uncomprehending of our utter exhaustion and inability to do anything on the world stage, renunciation may NOT be the best idea if the locals are more frustrated than anything at our inability to "do" anything.

12/26/14, 2:47 AM

Shane Wilson said...
Secondly, regarding emigrating, JMG'S advice regarding having a useful skill(s) is timely. If you have a useful skill, and have made connections with your neighbors and are gifting some of your product, you're fostering goodwill, and are less likely to be regarded as the" ugly American" by your neighbors.

12/26/14, 2:52 AM

irishwildeye said...
Happy Christmas to you and all your readers.

Thanks for an inspiring and hopeful article to finish what has been a very grim year. Like you and many of your readers I also detect a distinct change in the air, more and more people are loosing faith in the narrative of progress. In particular I am inspired by the many young people who are not buying the narrative anymore.

Roll on 2015, in spite of the many gathering storms I am approaching this coming year with more optimism than I have felt for many a year.

12/26/14, 3:18 AM

Yupped said...
Dear JMG, thanks once again for all your writing and inspiration over the last several years. They've certainly been a key source of insight and encouragement for me as I found and started to navigate the path from MESS to LESS.

Looking forward to the new string of posts on future possibilities. We've just sold our house and will be moving and starting another mini-farm in New England next year. Our small herbal products business is doing OK, and we plan to focus on that and live as low on the hog as we can, with all kinds of backyard and basement tinkering projects planned. So, on to the next phase.

btw - My wife gave me Twilight's Last Gleaming for Christmas, and I just spent a long winter's night in front of the stove, getting about half-way through - I love it and throughly recommend it to anyone who wants a great page-turner. My daughter is eager to read it next. Great writing.

Thanks again, and many good wishes for a peaceful, enjoyable and inspired 2015.

12/26/14, 7:01 AM

heather said...
The moment when the sun started to move again for me came right here:
"If enough of us ignore those claims and do what must be done—and “enough” in this context does not need to equal a majority, or even a large minority, of Americans—there’s still much of value that can be accomplished in the time before us."
I deeply appreciate the writing in this post, which acknowledges the darkness but also offers a pathway, not to a Utopia, but to honorable and useful response.

I want to be one of the "enough". In the past year, JMG, your writings here and in your books and your other blog have moved me to make changes, internal and external, that I literally couldn't have imagined before, because you have helped me see the world in completely new ways. The commenters here have also greatly added to my understanding and my hope that there could exist, in time, "enough" of us to accomplish good and useful things. I look for ways every day to share bits of what I have found in the last year with the people around me; the reminder from JMG that we don't even need a large minority of Americans fully on board to build something worthwhile is immensely comforting. It means that I don't have to convince everyone- that is not my work. I am bracing for the winter storms, and feel connected to those of you here who are also stocking your metaphorical woodpiles and learning to fill those pantries with skills and knowledge and attitudes and understandings for the difficulties ahead (and now present!). I wish you all a blessed and productive New Year of continuing the work.

(And not to add to the crassness commercialness of the season, but I want to remind the rest of the readers that there is a tip jar at the top of the page in case you, like I, would like to help JMG support this space and this work, putting money where our mouths are. :)

Welcoming the light-
--Heather in CA

12/26/14, 7:47 AM

latheChuck said...
Aharah- "What to do (next)?" is always a good question, but the answer depends on where you're starting from. For me, the obvious things are to minimize expenses, and the most obvious of these is to cook your own food, planning for adequate nutrition at minimum cost. Minimize transportation costs by careful route planning and by getting no more vehicle than you actually need (if any). Minimize heating costs by insulating yourself first, then your home. Even if you're renting, you can add insulating window coverings and seal drafts.

We just installed grid-tied solar panels (not a permanent solution, but a step in the right direction). Calculating the subsidies and estimated power costs, they're supposed to break-even financially in 4 years, and keep running for 16 (at least) after that. At the moment (10:40, Dec. 26, Maryland), they're producing over 1.4 kW, and will peak around 3 kW this afternoon as the sun angle improves. By the summer solstice, we should get over 5 kW from them.

And thanks for the Biblical history. I don't know how you "build a brand and monetize" it, but you tell a good story.

And for everyone who's read this far, don't be shy about following your praise for a good weekly essay with a donation through the AD's tip jar.

12/26/14, 7:52 AM

GHung said...
@LewisLucanBooks who asked: "Where can I buy my very own megalith?"

Ask the folks down around Elberton, Georgia (USA): Georgia Guidestones

"The Georgia Guidestones is a granite monument in Elbert County, Georgia, in the United States. A message clearly conveying a set of ten guidelines is inscribed on the structure in eight modern languages, and a shorter message is inscribed at the top of the structure in four ancient language scripts: Babylonian, Classical Greek, Sanskrit, and Egyptian hieroglyphs.

The structure is sometimes referred to as an "American Stonehenge".[1] The monument is 19 feet 3 inches (5.87 m) tall, made from six granite slabs weighing 237,746 pounds (107,840 kg) in all.[2] One slab stands in the center, with four arranged around it. A capstone lies on top of the five slabs, which are astronomically aligned. An additional stone tablet, which is set in the ground a short distance to the west of the structure, provides some notes on the history and purpose of the Guidestones..."

I found this comment on the Guidestones amusing:

"Loris Magnani, an astronomy professor at the University of Georgia, questions how useful the Guidestones would be to survivors of civilization-ending cataclysm. The devices incorporated into the stones are "relatively easy stuff" that most human societies have developed early in their histories, he said.

"Don't get me wrong. As a monument, it's fine. There's nothing wrong with doing that," Magnani told CNN. But he added, "Every decent civilization going back to a couple of millennia before Christ has figured this out. How to make gasoline? Now that would be useful."

12/26/14, 7:57 AM

Pantagruel7 said...
Happy New Year/Solstice, I have become a regular reader of both your blogs, and I appreciate the high level of the thought and the writing that goes into them.

12/26/14, 8:27 AM

Nastarana said...
Dear Mr. Geer, I can report that a close relative who was till now your basic Anglo-Hispanic True Believer in Progress, Fun and Stuff, the more the better, has just announced no more excessive Xmasses, ever again. Exact words were "This is the last year I am doing this." Straws in the wind, perhaps, but even so, might be part of the larger trend. I am reminded of reading, somewhere, that mass delusion happens en masse, but people wake up individually.

Ahavah, about protecting the produce of your garden: Simple, one has already given away any surplus, as well as extra plants from winter-sowing. Membership in a church or some secular mutual aid organization can be helpful in finding willing recipients. I don't know how much Tony HIllerman really understood about Navaho culture, but I was struck by his insistence, repeated throughout his mysteries, that a Navajo who had been robbed of an animal, say, by another Navajo was liable to blame himself for not realizing the thief was hungry and given him help already.

We have far more to fear, I suggest, from various intermediaries, self-styled "professionals" about to lose their incomes and social status, than from our neighbors.

Is the census described in the NT "not historically confirmed"? I have always wondered, but, given our state of knowledge about the early Roman Empire, it is hardly surprising, just as it is not surprising that contemporary Roman writers would not have heard of Christ Himself. The census is very much in character with what is known about that hard-headed pragmatist, Gaius Octavius.

12/26/14, 9:22 AM

Jason Heppenstall said...
Greetings JMG and all - a very merry Solstice, Christmas and New Year to everyone.

Midwinter festivals certainly seem to be making a comeback in Britain. Last week's Montol festival here in Penzance, Cornwall, attracted a larger crowd than ever. I got to carry the Sun God and help set it on fire.

As for the year ahead, I'm expecting the official narrative to become more broken than ever. No doubt there will be a few fireworks too, but what type and what colour we will have to wait and find out.

Many thanks for your continued writings over the year.



12/26/14, 9:38 AM

daelach said...
@ lathe chuck: Concerning home insulation, please take care! If you insulate the windows and seal off the air leakages, then the home doesn't work as intended anymore. Before, the windows were the coldest spots, and the leakege provided airflow. After, the windows are warm and tight. What happens then is that the walls become the coldest surfaces, and you get mould fungus. I've seen that more than once after "low cost insulation" concentrating on the windows.

A home with mould fungus is basically inhabitable because it's very harmful to your health. Once mould fungus has arrived, it isn't enough just to apply some alcohol or so; basically, you have to hammer down the plaster and apply new one. All that with breath protection gear, of course.

Of course, that's not always the case, but before you try such DIY measures, have some construction engineer or energy consultant calculate your home. Especially if the home is rented because otherwise, the owner can and will sue you for compensation in case of mould fungus.

12/26/14, 10:49 AM

Michelle said...
To Carl, who has outlawed the XBox in his house: this past Thanksgiving, my four children (16, 14, 13, 11) spent several hours after dinner making, throwing/flying, crashing, re-designing, and generally having a ball with paper airplanes. My eldest approached me the next morning and thanked me, saying explicitly that the four of them were grateful that I had never allowed them to play video games or watch TV in the house, because otherwise they never would have had such creativity to have the fun with paper airplanes that they'd enjoyed the night before. Take heart - your choice is an excellent one, and your children will be better equipped for life because of it!

12/26/14, 10:52 AM

LewisLucanBooks said...
@ GHung - On reflection, I've decided to take a pass on the megaliths. Up here in Cascadia, Western Washington state, it seems like anytime anything interesting is happening in the sky (meteor showers, eclipses, etc.) we're socked in.

Speaking of modern manifestations of megaliths, down on the Columbia River near Maryhill is a replica of Stone Hedge. It was built as a memorial to the WWI dead of that county by a wealthy railroad baron. It's quit impressive. But if you go, watch out for the rattlesnakes! Lew

12/26/14, 11:06 AM

escapefromwisconsin said...
A long time before that stable in Bethlehem received its most famous tenants, though, the same day was being celebrated across much of the northern temperate zone.

Sorry to quibble, but it looks as though Jesus was not really born in a stable after all. It is apparenlty based on a mistranslation along with some cultural differences. As a historian and someone who commonly translates obscure texts from foreign languages, I'm sure you can appreciate that problem:

[evangelical scholar Rev Ian] Paul argues that the Greek word, "kataluma," usually translated as “Inn” was in fact used for a reception room in a private house – the same term is used to describe the “upper room” where Jesus and his disciples ate the last supper. An entirely different word, "pandocheion," is used to describe an “Inn” or any other place where strangers are welcomed.

Even if there were an inn in Bethlehem, Paul argues, Joseph and Mary would not have been staying there. The only reason for them to travel to Bethlehem for the census was because he had family there and if he did, the customs of first-century Palestine required him to stay with relatives and not with strangers.

In that context, the kataluma where he stayed would not have been an Inn, but a guest room in the house of the family where Joseph and Mary were staying. That could very well have been full with other relatives who had arrived before them.

“The actual design of Palestinian homes (even to the present day) makes sense of the whole story,” Paul writes. “Most families would live in a single-room house, with a lower compartment for animals to be brought in at night, and either a room at the back for visitors, or space on the roof. The family living area would usually have hollows in the ground, filled with straw, in the living area, where the animals would feed.”

So Jesus would not have been born in a detached stable, but in the lower floor of a peasant house, where the animals were kept.

12/26/14, 11:15 AM

Bogatyr said...
It seems that you, me, and everybody else here who fails to support fracking is a Russian agent! It was news to me; those Russians must be using some kind of remote mind-control...

This is according to no-one less than the Secretary-General of NATO, by the way: Russia in secret plot against fracking, Nato chief says. Even the right-wing Telegraph finds this hard to swallow, I'm guessing - judging by the space they give to Greenpeace's response.

I want to laugh at the sheer insanity of it... but I can't. It's just the last shred of evidence needed to confirm that NATO is now nothing more than the armed wing of Wall Street - and Wall Street wants a war.

There's a witch-hunt brewing, I fear.

12/26/14, 11:45 AM

Ahavah said...
@latheChuck - thanks, we just bought a house this past summer. It does need more insulation, we have figured out. We will be starting to garden in earnest this spring, but we do have a raised bed of garlic out right now. I do cook at home, learned canning at a young age, and have a few useful skills not common among the younger generation. We have five rain barrels ready to install in the spring as well. We have two paid for cars that will not be replaced when they finally die - we are strategically located within walk/bike distance of both our jobs, a grocery store, a ymca, and are only a block and a half from the bus stop. The kitchen in this house was a joke-the previous owners must have eaten out all the time, because it was a glorified closet with no counters, but we have space now for canning, drying and preserving as well as serious cooking. I have installed lines for drying laundry in the basement, so we only use the dryer to fluff things occasionally...that will knock a good 20%+ off your electric bill we found. We are well on our way to getting the small stuff worked out. Hopefully, the what next will make itself clear in good time.

12/26/14, 3:13 PM

Cathy McGuire said...
@ Rhisart: I didn't know that about the living tree being hung where it stood! I had to thin some of the volunteer firs in order to make room for my orchard - only a half acre, so I have to choose trees carefully. But truly, it's like having a foot in each world: knowing that this ecosystem doesn't exist for me, but also knowing I have to take care of myself somehow. The tree will be hung with treats for the birds as it slowly dries out near my shed, and then gratefully used for firewood.

@LewisLucan: Where can I buy my very own megalith? Aw, heck, Lew - you know we have our very own imitation Stonehenge right down there in Maryhill! With a view of the river, even. ;-)

12/26/14, 3:33 PM

John Michael Greer said...
Tripp, glad to hear it. A happy holiday season to you and yours!

Rita, you're welcome and thank you.

Hector, well, that's the great thing about dissensus; there's at least a chance that one of us will be right!

Øyvind, if I've rescued someone from the Singularity cult, well, that's one good deed. As for Jesus and the Druids, heck if I know -- I wasn't there at the time. ;-)

Svencow, fascinating. I can't help but daydream about some kind of solar thermal underground, in which sinister figures meet in the dark corners of vegetarian restaurants to pass old Zomeworks plans from hand to hand...

Chris, exactly. For all the turmoil and suffering that the endgame of the current order of things is going to involve, there are also gains.

Tom B., and that's also an issue. I should probably do a post one of these days on the manufacture of boredom by industrial societies -- a case could be made that that's far and away their biggest product -- and how that relates to the failure of the Faustian dream of transcendence through infinite expansion into the void.

Bogatyr, and a slightly belated Nadolig llawen to you too. I do celebrate Christmas as well as the solstice, yes -- one of the advantages of being a Druid is that it includes that sort of flexibility as a standard feature.

Phil, I've never lived outside the US, and the last thing the rest of the world needs is one more cluelessly parochial American telling it what to do. I'd encourage those who want blogs like this one, discussing the rest of the world, to get busy writing them!

Ed, exactly. It's a routine pleasure of mine to pull out one of Toynbee's volumes, sit down, and find myself considering some aspect of history from a wholly unfamiliar angle; he's good at that.

Phil, glad to hear that CAT is still chugging away -- as, of course, is the stone circle. Now there's a sustainable technology...

Tom H., good for you. That kind of personal action is worth any amount of verbiage, mine included.

12/26/14, 4:10 PM

John Michael Greer said...
Mr. G, science sold itself to the establishment everywhere; it's just that in your corner of the world, the establishment wore a different set of ideological trinkets than they did in mine. It's going to take a lot of hard work to get anyone to start treating science again as something other than an ideological weapon.

Edde, thank you! One more good reason to disconnect as much of your life as possible from the failing infrastructure of the old order...

Gail, many thanks. I'm heartened by the number of people who've commented that they also see the first whispers of change -- and when it's in the children, that's the most encouraging thing of all.

Russell, so? "Myths are things that never happened and always are," said Sallust. I'm by no means sure I'd agree with him about "never happened," but he's got one thing right -- the meaning and validity of a spiritual narrative does not depend on the historicity of the descriptive details.

Andrew, you're welcome and thank you!

GHung, I didn't mean to imply that solar thermal technologies aren't around, and haven't been improved -- it impresses me that gains so significant have been achieved in what is, by most measures, a mature technology. In a saner society, there would be solar water heater panels on every roof in the US sunbelt, and a lot of roofs outside it; it's the complete indifference to such a logical and obvious step that I had in mind.

Violet, it's quite possible that the Magian model is being revived here. One of the places where Spengler and Toynbee both fall down is in failing to grasp that there's nothing necessarily wrong, and may be many good things, about retaining the worldview and practices of a culture that is long past its creative age. Magian civilization is still alive, in Judaism, the Muslim world, and a number of other manifestations; it doesn't surprise me to hear that young people with a foot in both worlds are discarding a failing Faustian system and turning to something that has a tolerably good track record of surviving under harsh conditions.

Tony, I think that's an excellent idea! Our cultures' habit of cherrypicking the happy celebrations and ignoring the difficult ones -- or turning them into sticky-sweet parodies of themselves, as happened with All Hallow's Eve -- has little to recommend it.

Unhinged, I didn't even try to avoid laughing. That's quite the impressive bit of unintentional comedy. Thank you.

Clay, where is your shop, and in what city? It sounds like the kind of place I should visit one of these days.

David, yes, I've been tracking that. If anyone needed the best possible evidence that our current elite classes are acting like drooling morons, the way the current system treats its discarded vets is it.

Patrick, the first couple of times somebody mentioned that, I misread the typo! I may just leave it for the sake of entertainment; it was supposed to be 2008 and 2009, of course.

12/26/14, 4:31 PM

John Michael Greer said...
Dujin, sure, as long as you remember that the same rush of people into the streets is at least as likely to put a plausible demagogue into power, or result in civil war. Change is a tricky thing, and it's by no means safe to assume that any change must be an improvement.

Goldmund, thanks for the report from the trenches! I hope those same young people are also realizing that they have to change their own lives, to become the change they seek in the world, as Gandi said -- to my mind, the thing that doomed the activism of the Me Generation to futility was exactly their unwillingness to put their own lifestyles on the line.

Lewis, funny. There are people putting up megaliths all over the world at this point -- many but not all of them are part of the Druid community -- but they're not designer megaliths, except to the extent that somebody usually designs the placement and the astrological alignments. No, the old-fashioned bare rock look is still very much in style. ;-)

Mundanomaniac, you probably won't be surprised to know that I cast the Capricorn ingress chart for the US in the runup to the solstice!

Therese, of course there was more -- there always is. Cultural phenomena are normally overdetermined, with many different needs, drives, and causes feeding into each detail.

Brad, very likely. I tend to think of it as the normal concomitant of end-stage decadence: when you have nothing else to live for, no source of meaning or value, and nothing to look forward to except more of the same until you die, you go shopping.

Carl, excellent! You get this evening's gold star, for saying to heck with popularity and doing the right thing instead.

Ahavah, thanks for the data. As for confidence, the best way to find it is to just go ahead and find something to do, and when that's done, find something else.

Raven, maybe a Solon, maybe a Catiline...

SLClaire, exactly. Making sure the house is as stormproofed as possible is another important detail!

Donalfagan, I saw that! The thing that interests me is that they let that get on the air.

12/26/14, 4:48 PM

John Michael Greer said...
Eric, I'm very sorry to hear about your father -- that's got to be difficult.

Kyoto, many thanks!

The other Tom, no question, there are a lot of people whose response to the end of the American dream is white-hot rage aimed everywhere. How that rage will end up playing out is one of the wild cards just now.

Rita, thanks for the recommendation.

Cherokee, the one thing that's kept that sort of thinking in the minority here in the US is that we've been in prolonged and worsening economic dysfunction for decades. Everybody knows people who, despite education, training, excellent skills, and a good employment record, have been out of work for years and can't even get a job flipping burgers. It's only in the more privileged end of the upper middle class that any degree of confidence that the jobs will always be there can be found here.

Avalterra, best wishes on the job and relocation!

Derv, the concept of history is a social construct, and people in the 3rd century CE understood it in ways that don't have a lot in common with ours. For that matter, consider the concept of book authorship -- in the classical world, publishing a book under the name of some distinguished figure of the past was considered an honorable and respectful thing to do, rather than an act of forgery! The literalism I noted in my post is very much a modern habit, and its application to dates presupposes the modern concept of uniform quantitative time -- which, again, the ancients didn't have. Nor is it any kind of insult to the ancients to note that they had a different sense of time -- one that in many ways is more functional than ours.

12/26/14, 5:02 PM

MindfulEcologist said...
JMG - Your work is no small part of why this time there is something different, why a core remains dedicated. Patiently, entertainingly sharing your wisdom all these years is appreciated more than we can really say.

Heartfelt thank you. Wish you and yours all the best this holiday season.

12/26/14, 5:08 PM

Shane Wilson said...
Ahavah, I think you're in my area, and I'm part of a local homesteading group on meet up. It would be nice to meet and work together. Not sure how to contact you.

12/26/14, 5:21 PM

Tom Bannister said...
Yes Please! A post about the manufacture of boredom in industrial civilization and the empty Faustian soul would be lovely! On one hand it could lead people 'back to nature', on the other there's alcoholism or the quote "fighting for ISIS beats being on the dole".

Chirs (Cheorkie)- Its a tactic i intend to employ when talking about the decline of industrial civ. 'its 2015 and where are the flying cars!' also nope hadn't heard of him but I'll have a look at the link and Nope didn't know about Lorde and the new hunger games film. If its the best bit in film, wouldn't surprise me though. The first HG film was good, the second not so good tho. I haven't read the books so yeh...

12/26/14, 5:33 PM

Clay Dennis said...

My shop is in north Portland Oregon. An area that was once it's own town called Albina. After World War II the shipyard workers who had been brought in from the South to build Liberty Ships were forced in to this wedge shaped section of Stumptown through redlining and discriminatory housing policies in the rest of Portland. For the next 50 years it was an economically downtrodden and segregated part of the city. This all changed in the early 2000's when young people discoverd the, close proximity, cheap rents and excellent building stock that survived the destructive redevelopment l found in the fancier parts of town. The discovery of this part of town has come at a price as rents have been rising lately, and vacant lots with urban gardens have been sacrificed to large apartments to capatalize on the newfound coolness of the area. The original inhabitants are being priced out and have had to move to the outer fringes of the city where things are cheaper. But at least the new apartments are being built without any automobile parking. I can only hope that the short term building boom we are currently experiencing will end while we still have enough empty space in the neighborhood to grow food.

If you are ever back in this part of the country ,let me know, and I will be happy to show you around and buy you a beer in a local brewpub.

12/26/14, 5:35 PM

Shane Wilson said...
In spite of the incessant hype by the media, I really feel this was a subdued shopping season. I KNOW black Friday crowds were at a low.

12/26/14, 5:56 PM

Shane Wilson said...
I was really hopeful that the millennials would be the 1st generation to rebel against screens and digital technology, being the first generation for which the internet was ubiquitous and taken for granted. (Older generations who were not raised on a technology often never get beyond what I call the" greatest thing since sliced bread" affinity for a new technology) I was hopeful that they'd be more in tune to the downsides of screens and online tech. Now, I'm more convinced that any such widespread rebellion will have to wait for a future generation. Still, the 2-3% you mention is encouraging and matches my experience.

12/26/14, 6:09 PM

Dan the Farmer said...
At the risk of turning this into too much of a house repair discussion, I'm going to say, as a professional energy auditor (the farmer bit is not my current occupation), that tightening up windows is a fine thing to do. With any air sealing measures, be sure that there is adequate moisture control, and combustion air to anything that needs it. Don't fail to tighten a house up because of moisture issues. Instead, fix the moisture issues first. If necessary, put a membrane across the basement floor. If a cardboard box falls apart if left on the concrete, it's too wet. If there's exposed damp soil or gravel over damp soil, it's too wet.

Vent damp air at the source. Use your shower fan. Use your stove fan. If you need new ones, look into a heat recovery ventilator instead, which will get rid of the moisture but keep most of the heat.

Get a humidity gauge, a thermometer, and a hygrometric chart, and learn how to use all three together to understand dew point. If there's a surface that's below dew point, water will condense there. Work at air sealing your walls so that warm moist air from inside doesn't get part way through the wall and condense.

If your house is too dry in the winter it's because it's too leaky. If your house is too damp it's because you don't have enough moisture control.

Remember: Warm air rises, but heat moves in any direction by convection, conduction, and radiation. A well air sealed (and moisture controlled) house will feel a fairly constant temperature throughout, and will have a warm basement. Don't forget to insulate, air seal, and moisture proof the basement. It's often the single most cost effective thing you can do.


12/26/14, 7:37 PM

Derv said...

My comment about respecting the ancients wasn't really directed at you. Apologies for not making that clear. There are obviously a number of differing cultural conceptions that go into various approaches to history, but I do stand by my claim that Christ was really born on December 25th. There's a decent bit of evidence to back it. You may well say they didn't care about the literal date, and may be right in many cases (though the Easter date controversy of the 4th-5th centuries shows that particular dates really were important to many ancients).

I was just commenting as an aside how baffling I find it that so many people, including historians, start from the assumption that ancient claims carry no value and should be dismissed as the mad ramblings of backwards people. Chalk it up to the religion of Progress I guess, and the denial of anything supernatural; if I started from the assumption that nothing beyond my everyday ordinary experience could be real, I'd probably think they were nuts as well. I just don't.

Anyways, I wish you all a fruitful new year!

12/26/14, 9:00 PM

Erica H said...
On the topic of kids, TV and video games: my parents kept our TV in a closet when I was growing up and we only wheeled it out for special occasions like family movie night. I thought this was horrid for a while and wished for cable. I'm now extremely grateful to have spent my time playing outside instead and I find TV unwatchable at the best of times these days. My brain doesn't seem wired up for sound bites, ads, and pointless blather. I find it all very offensive to my senses. It's almost an impediment to me when I'm somewhere with a TV on.. I find it hard to carry on conversations over the top of it and I find myself wanting to get away from it as soon as possible. Thank goodness there's an "off" button.

12/26/14, 9:58 PM

steve pearson said...
@ JMG, Thank you and all here so much for another year of inspiration and intellectual stimulation My best wishes and blessings for whatever holiday you celebrate/relate to and for what will probably be an interesting and challenging new year.
@ Violet, Funny about secular Jews; I have been involved with fringe and alternative movements for most of my adult life and, statistically,secular Jews have been hugely over represented. At a rough guess secular Jews would be 5 0/0 of the western population and 1/4 to 1/3 of my friends and people involved in the things I have been.
Several lives and about 30 odd years ago I was involved with the Rajneesh movement. The most statistically represented groups were Jews, Germans and Australians: interesting and makes its own kind of sense.
@ Shane & Hector, I am half American by birth and was born in the US. I have lived all over the world and been quite honestly anti American, not gratuitously so, but to the same degree I am in the US, i.e. critisising what I thought wrong. I have always been well received and accepted as an individual. I think if you are willing to be an individual immigrant and not an " American", your chances of being well received are as good as your personality.
Cheers, Steve

12/26/14, 10:20 PM

Bogatyr said...
It seems that it's not just in the West that people are beginning to turn their back on the great god of Progress: China's mountain hermits seek a highway to heaven. There, of course, they have an extant older, mystical tradition to return to. I must say, the lifestyle appeals to me - but, alas, in the crowded UK there are no empty mountains to retreat to...

12/26/14, 10:29 PM

N Montesano said...
This work you're doing is educating people like me, for one thing. You're talking over my head, half the time, but I keep reading, and trying to convey the message to my own circle of family and friends, although that usually feels like a losing battle. We're renting a plot of land this year, in exchange for produce to grow more vegetables than fit in the back yard, with hopes of selling the excess at the farmers market. Plan B is to start a small vegetable farm; this will let me try out the idea while the paychecks are still coming in. Christmas gifts included a broad fork, which I'm excited to learn to use ... right after some weightlifting, because it's unexpectedly heavy. Progress, however incremental ...

12/26/14, 11:23 PM

AKM. said...
I don't know why the Trompe is not used more in rural/regional areas where there is plenty of water. Free(or near free) constant flowing pressurised air with which to run forges, generate electricity, even power light vehicles.
Mollison has spoken some on the system.

Just a thought.

12/27/14, 12:06 AM

Kutamun said...
Yeah reading Toynbee abridged version last night , and was blown away by his idea that Imperial Rome rather than being a discrete cultural movement was in itself a symptom of the last gasp decline of the old Hellenic civilisation ; in that vein , i started seeing the image that the decaying and corrupt American Empire might be a symptom of the decline of what might euphemistically be called "The Western Civilisation " ..Toynbee is a dude , no question, his grand - daughter Polly is a journo for " The Guardian "
Thinking about you dudes who are thinking of fleeing to South America , i started thinking about my own backyard ( Dunnunder ) and realised that the place was full of fleeing Nazis that no ine seemed to notice , as well as Milosevics troops from the 1990s war . At a more mainstream level , billionaires such as "Dick Pratt " of visy board was a Polish jew who changed his name and adopted the local anglo customs amd mannerisms and did very nicely , thank you very much . Even the Chinese people that run the local restaurant call themselves , " Tom and Agnes " . It is all about fitting in , being unobtrusive , changing name and appearance if neccesary , low profile , minimal reference to your past , no ostentatious wealth , marry a local would be a good idea . Of course America today is full of these people , they are probably mowing the front lawn right now if you live down south !
As an aside , i have been studying the finances of Australian states , and was shocked to discover that Queensland , which has a GDP of around 250 billion aus per annum , has been damaged by natural disaster to the tune of 5.6 billion dollars in the last three years . One storm alone caused one billion a few weeks back in half an hour ...the rest are floods, cyclines and drought , with 75 percent of the state currently drought declared . Now that is a significant climate change economic impact !

12/27/14, 2:40 AM

Thomas Mazanec said...
The Hubbert Curve is much like the Solstice rise (equinox), then slowing to a plateau (solstice in 2005), then a slope, then a cliff. When do we hit the Slope and then the Cliff?

12/27/14, 5:17 AM

Ben said...
Solstice greetings to you, JMG! (Is that how druids greet each other this time of year? I honestly don't know)

As always, an outstanding post. Even as far south as eastern Oklahoma, the days get uncomfortably short this time of year. Not as short as in NW PA, but I look forward to springtime.

I'm don't affiliate with any religion, but after 8 hours being tethered to a radio and a dispatch screen, getting out in the garden is a much needed time for meditation. Its funny how turning compost and moving mulch around the garden can be therapeutic.

I am confident that you are right that some people, of all generations, are turning away from the nonsense mainstream offers today as discourse. What keeps the hamsters turning the wheels in my brain is the concern that not enough people are taking the decline seriously. Many of us millennial are well aware that industrial is seriously fracked, But a lot of us are equally convinced that nothing can or will be done to un-frack things. I'm sure you have your own thoughts on why that may be, but I am curious what % of the population would constitute a significant enough minority to get valuable knowledge or techniques to the future at least?

12/27/14, 6:08 AM

Paulo said...
Good one JMG. For some reason I thought you would take a break this week and it was a delightful surprise to see this article.

When I hit the spot where you observed that 'this time around the reaction is different' I really sat up because I haven't yet noticed this. This time around I am simply ducking my head and silently carrying on. I have found my town friends simply seize upon issues or inventions to say, "all will be fine". They then send me links to something like gel-battery research, or Tesla, and remark how this will be the game changer, meanwhile plan and purchase a one month all-inclusive to Costa Rica. Another friend finally obtained his sky-diving license/certification as if flying helicopters in the high arctic isn't risky enough. Now he can legally jump out of perfectly good airplanes for fun. Other friends are planning retirement in 5,000 sq/ft homes (two grandparents need a lot of room you know). As for passing on to them little gems about 'infinite growth on a finite planet is most likely impossible', well, they don't even want to think about it much less listen to me. What I have noticed is the subtle change in our relationships as we drift apart and lessen our contact frequency.

Let me share our with you and other readers our Christmas and plans from northern Vancouver Island. We have some very good local friends who live a similar lifestyle. I went out and bought lots of good alcohol to supplement my wine offerings. We instructed them to not bring a thing, and if they felt like visiting instead of being at home on Christmas Eve, then please stop in. The house was warm and cosy from the woodstove, the radio played bluegrass, and the table was laden with food and every kind drink but you had to help yourselves! It was a blast. Instead of buying a bunch of useless crap for Christmas I made furniture for family and a dollhouse for my grand daughter. Those presents will last as long as they live.

Tomorrow, we start a week of supposed sun. I plan to take my 36 year old restored trail 110 and a small chainsaw and will cut out the many windfalls on a 6km washed out road that ends up at a deserted logging camp on Johnstone Strait. There are two fallen down old buildings on a beautiful bay surrounded by rocky bluffs. The next day I will bottom fish off the rocks for cod...maybe a halibut. Usually, I use a boat but it is winterized and the season is closed, anyway. I suppose this would be called poaching. I will then fillet the fish leaving the scraps for the eagles and we will enjoy fresh fish and chips that night.

The only noise will be an occasional tugboat or gulls. There will be sea lions and seals to curse (if they get too close and inspect my lines). I will have a thermos of tea and a fire to sit by.

That is Christmas on the west coast.


12/27/14, 7:38 AM

GHung said...
JMG said: In a saner society, there would be solar water heater panels on every roof in the US sunbelt, and a lot of roofs outside it; it's the complete indifference to such a logical and obvious step that I had in mind.

In a society where sanity has been financialized, it's more effective to plea to folks' financial sanity. In our area, most people heat their water with electricity, and when people ask how my new solar water heater is working out, I tell them; "it just works great. Think about that the next time you pay your electric bill since a big chunk of that is hot water."

Payback for solar hot water is quite short; two to three years in many areas. The other hook is that our state and federal tax credits pay back 65% of the costs; tax credits that can be used over five tax seasons. Our $2500 investment drops to less than $900. For many folks, that will mean a payback of a year or less, all things considered. Even without the credits it's a bargain, financially. Appealing to people's financial insanity is quite affective. See examples of complete systems here.

Regarding your mention, above, of the pump, etc. (constitutes an "active" system); this same evacuated tube technology also comes in a much less expensive passive version. The hot water tank is part of the roof unit into which the evacuated tubes are plugged. The water is heated passively and flows (via gravity) to the point of use. One only needs enough water pressure to keep the roof tank full (controlled by a float valve). These are very popular in the more challenged parts of the world. Not recommended for areas that freeze hard, even though most units come with an electric backup in the tank to prevent freezing and boost hot water during cloudy periods.

The tanks for these units are stainless and copper; should last for decades.

12/27/14, 7:51 AM

Leo Knight said...
Thanks again for your insights. I hope your holiday was peaceful. This was the slowest Christmas I have ever seen since I started working at this flower shop in 1982. Orders were way down. We are part of a delivery cooperative with 12 other florists. Co-op deliveries were frighteningly scarce. For holidays, we run 2 co-op meetings at 12:30 and 6:30 pm. In years past, we would normally send a truckload, 20+ packages to co-op, and get 25 to 50 packages per meeting as we approached the holiday. We would have at least 6 extra drivers to help deliver. This year we only sent 2 or 3 packages in per meeting. The most we got from a single meeting was 11. We only had 3 extra drivers, and probably didn't need that. I discussed this briefly with my family at Christmas. My cousin's husband is a homebuilder. The crash hit them hard, but he has actual construction knowledge, carpentry, stone, etc. and has taken jobs in repair, renovation, etc. to make up for some of the loss. Despite the relentless claims of "recovery," everyone I meet has similar experiences. That longest night might get very long and dark before the return of the light.

12/27/14, 8:17 AM

Cathy McGuire said...
@Clay Dennis: Hey, Clay- good to know you're so close! The Sweet Home green wizards will have to take a field trip up to your place sometime soon. :-)I've been enjoying meeting up with the various Oregon members of this blog - it's just nice to be able to chat with folks about all this without having them get defensive or scornful. And yes, let's build a groundswell for getting JMG back to (near) his old haunts for a lecture or something! :-)

There was mention over on the green wizards forum of an article, "What to Eat After the Apocalypse" which is about a book implying that we could feed everyone - just not on typical foods... worth reading just to see the good ideas and also the place where they fail in systemic thinking:

Also, for anyone who's interested, I've posted Chapter 2 of my novel Lifeline over at my blog:

Thanks all of you who have read and made comments - they're very helpful.

12/27/14, 9:00 AM

Violet Cabra said...

I haven't seen much in the way of rebellion against digital technology, unless you consider not having wifi in the collective house a form of rebellion.

Also notable, is the general distrust & dislike of social media, tho to be fair facebook is the easiest way to contact many of my acquaintances.

What I do see in queer culture, is a widespread disdain & criticism towards television, marketing and cinema. This quite frequently extends towards an avoidance of digital distractions, but certainly not always, and not as an established cultural ethos.

12/27/14, 9:00 AM

asotir said...
My local paper's almanac says that daybreak is still coming later. It doesn't start happening earlier until after the New Year. We are in the US Northeast, so I wonder if the cycle of when daybreak comes is different here than in the Mediterranean area?

12/27/14, 10:07 AM

Ed-M said...
Hi JMG! ;^)

Again, great post! And you're not the only one who's certain that the liquid hydrocarbons' plateau in extraction is coming to an end, instigated by the collapse in oil prices as MENA crude floods the market. And the US is not the only country that will suffer the consequences as the fracking bubble bursts. Russia, too, is and is going to suffer as Arctic oil extraction becomes more expensive than what Russia can get for its petroleum on the open market. And her Siberian reserves that she hoped to frack could stay "shut-in," permanently. Still, it's not going to be as bad as I think it could get here in this mess called the US... STEEP DOWN GRADE AHEAD!

12/27/14, 10:10 AM

Phil Harris said...
@ Cherokee
Hi Chris
Yes, the shooting star shower was great – the family lingered outside in the cold long enough to see some with fiery tails.

Today I warmed myself taking down a dead dry elm tree. The elm disease gets our northern elms although quite a few always survive. The English elms on the other hand in southern England – some must have reached 150 feet + or 50 metres – that I knew and climbed as a youngster, are just a memory now. (If anybody here knows where any survive let me know!)
It was good using the hand tools. There is plenty of wood for a while, though the bole was only 9 or 10 inches across where I cut it. Wood is not our main fuel, but we use it as a fuel-saver. Eventually we hope we should have reduced our house demand and can coppice enough of the faster growing kinds for most needs. The ash from the fire goes round our soft fruit (and recued our gooseberries a few years back) and round our fruit trees.

It is nice to think just now that you are into fruit harvest! Good luck with the rest of the season.
Phil H

12/27/14, 10:24 AM

Ahavah said...
@shane and anyone else in the Lex/Central Ky area: my gmail addr is missgayle55

12/27/14, 11:57 AM

Roger said...

They told us that that the point of a university education was to teach you to think. It took me a while to figure out what that meant.

So, yes, you learn to "think". You learn a body of knowledge and they test you on it. You mouth certain phrases, you perform mental gymnastics with pre-approved choreography. And they give you marks.

Which was a good preparation for the non-academic world. People like people that go along. Nobody likes people that do otherwise. Those are seen as spreaders of fear and doubt. I suspect that many professions are like that. Maybe archdruids excepted.

For example, in my line of work and in my circle you were expected to be middle class, to marry and raise a family with two cars and a suburban dwelling. And, especially, to own stocks or mutual funds. In addition, you were expected to drink alcohol and to smoke. It marked you as a substantial man.

I married and I drank alcohol. None of the rest though.

What happened if you didn't? Well, you were morally suspect. Maybe you're really one of those crazy, pot smoking, wife swapping environmentalists. So, say as little as possible but, if you have to speak, you explain your choice using conformist terminology. You see, both of us have demanding careers, we have no time, we don't want to commute etc. Keep it simple.

And bring the wife to corporate functions. There, you see, she's a respectable, university educated professional. And OH! she thought to bring her business cards. That's why I married her, she thinks of everything. Does that set everyone's mind at rest? And, FYI, I did the same for her at her company get-togethers. With matching socks even.

What happens when the world doesn't conform to conformist expectations? There's a problem. Do you draw attention to the discrepancies? No, you don't. You stay the course.

The real estate market blows up? Ditto the stock market? The banking system sinks into a swamp of fraud? No worries, it's fixable, they'll come back, they always do. You are quietly optimistic. You see, the Emperor DOES have clothes. He always did, he always will.

I learned a long time ago that people believe what they want to believe and no amount of facts or logic will help. I'm not persuasive enough to break people's mind-sets. Maybe it's a charisma deficit on my part. To speak up meant harming myself.

Anyway I figure that everyone has a brain and they have eyes. The question is do they choose to use them?

12/27/14, 12:08 PM

Varun Bhaskar said...

I also have good news this season. People are really starting to sit up and listen. All my friends are starting to talk about and train in non-system skills. Their also realizing that their lives are going to get very hard. They've all started reading again. Books are changing hands, debates are being held in the quite corners, so progress. Not big or loud but it's there. On Christmas I was having drinks with friends and one of them came out with the state "I really don't think industrialism was such a great thing." He is the youngest in the group and wanted to start reading. I gave him book suggestions.



Varun Bhaskar

12/27/14, 12:24 PM

MattMc said...
Well the new year is coming around, and I've got some plans for the workshop this year including some metalworking.

I came across this site which seems like an inspired start for the shed or basement inventor.

Build it Solar


12/27/14, 3:32 PM

Donald Hargraves said...
Probably the biggest change I've seen from last year is more in my perceptions than in anything else. Maybe it's where I'm standing at this point more than anything, but what I had seen as faces from last year seem more like masks that are beginning to slip around a bit, exposing faces underneath that aren't quite the same but not radically different – just dingier or darker, so to speak, than the mask being worn; otherwise there's no real difference between mask and face.

And as things begin to slow down, I sense - of all things - a weirding going on. Never mind gas prices going down; here's a personal example: Instead of the usual slow-down during Xmas season, seems instead to be adding on hours onto my workload. Whether it's because of personal actions by the dispatchers or a decision by the boss to not hire new evening workers before the new year (don't worry, I'm being paid, but still...) it's affecting my life in ways I had no way of predicting. I wouldn't be surprised to find people working (eating, sleeping) as 24-7 employees inside their cars alongside driverless Uber-mobiles – many Ambulance EMTs already have this lifestyle going on, and too many others are aspiring to that.

12/27/14, 3:50 PM

Cathy McGuire said...
It's good to hear about a slight shift in attitude. Sometimes I sense that in my friends, but over Christmas one of them was talking about the problem of good retirement homes for "us" in about 20 years... I didn't have the heart to tell her it wasn't gonna be our big problem. :-\

@boydtyr: but, alas, in the crowded UK there are no empty mountains to retreat to...
I hear you have some bodacious caves, though! Some man-made, but most empty. :-}

12/27/14, 4:57 PM

Brad K. said...

You are not the first to notice that American education is intended to train factory assembly line workers, motivated to perpetual ambition (unlimited growth/corporate profits).

Seth Godin's free e-book "Stop Stealing Dreams" makes a good case for condemning the course of American education.

12/27/14, 7:27 PM

John Michael Greer said...
Dio, hmm. I don't normally discuss the technicalities of astrology on this blog, so I'll be content with asking whether you've checked back to see what happened the last few times Saturn and Neptune were square one another.

Shane, and make sure that it's a skill your new neighbors consider useful, not merely one that you think they ought to consider useful...

Wildeye, I know the feeling: the rather ironic sense that the fewmets are about to smite the windmill good and hard, combined with a sense that things are finally looking up...

Yupped, you're welcome and thank you! May the move and the business both prosper.

Heather, your eagerness about becoming one of the "enough" gets you tonight's gold star. Thank you.

Pantagruel, thank you.

Nastarana, it's been my experience that the changes that matter always happen one person at a time.

Jason, and likewise! Glad to hear the old festivities are still thriving -- that kind of solid anchor in the cycles of time is worth cultivating, for reasons more relevant to my other blog than this one.

Escape, then by all means translate my reference into Koine Greek, and retranslate to suit your fancy! ;-)

Bogatyr, I'm far from sure Wall Street wants a war. Wall Street desperately needs something to prop up the fracking bubble, and the Russians are as good an excuse as any -- not least because, once you grasp that the fracking bubble is doomed, it's likely to sink in just how screwed the United States and its European allies actually are. More on this in an upcoming post.

Ecologist, I tend to see myself as a symptom rather than a cause. There were people trying to talk about the future in realistic terms in the early and middle 1980s, too -- it's just that nobody was listening. This time, people are listening, and that's a huge shift.

Tom, duly noted, and it's in the works. It actually leads directly into one of the places I want to take this blog in the next year or two, anyway.

12/27/14, 7:45 PM

John Michael Greer said...
Clay, thank you! I probably need to arrange a visit to Portland one of these years anyway, if only to spend too many hours and dollars at Powell's Bookstore; if and when that happens, I'll gladly take you up on the offer.

Shane, even the media was admitting that Black Friday sales were off by more than 10% from last year -- and that includes internet purchases. My working hypothesis is that the holiday season was a financial disaster and that companies that rely too heavily on the holiday season will be going broke in the new year.

Dan, excellent advice. Thank you.

Derv, oh, granted. I assume that when the church chose the date for Christmas, it knew exactly what it was doing, and did so for very good reasons; it's just that those reasons may or may not have much to do with the kind of uber-liberal historicism that shapes so many decisions today.

Erica, I'm with you. I can't stand the things, and will walk out of a restaurant that has them if there's another choice within walking distance.

Steve, thank you!

Bogatyr, thanks for the article -- that's really one of the more heartening things I've read this year. As for hermitages, isolated mountains aren't the only option, you know.

N Montesano, good. Those are solid, sensible steps.

AKM, well, what are you personally doing to get that system the publicity and popularity it needs? Someone has to do that, you know.

Kutamun, good. Yes, as I see it, western civilization peaked between 1815 and 1914; the fact that we have more shiny toys than they did doesn't outweigh the vast number of ways in which the cultures of that time were stronger and more viable than ours. The implosion of Europe in the 1914-1954 crisis left Russia and the United States more or less in charge of the smoking ruins; now that the era of US dominance is ending, we should see another steep jog downwards.

Thomas, there's no cliff, just a period of relatively rapid change. When? Stay tuned...

Ben, that'll do as well as anything else -- Druids don't have a single way of greeting each other, or for that matter a single way of doing anything else. Thank you, and best wishes for the solstice season to you and yours! As for the percentage needed, nobody knows -- and you might just be the one person whose decision to pitch in will put us above the magic number, you know. ;-)

12/27/14, 8:03 PM

John Michael Greer said...
Paulo, what a wonderful holiday. The people who are blathering about McMansions and the like have no idea what they're missing.

Ghung, I know! Solar water heating is to my mind the single best starting place for alternative energy, for those who can cover the installation cost (I'm still saving for that). On average, a US home can get 70% of its hot water for free from the sun, and most relatively sunny areas can get all, or almost all.

Leo, that's what I'm hearing from everyone, too. There is no recovery; there never was a recovery -- just a lot of statistical moonshine and handwaving. No question, the coldest days of winter are still ahead...

Asotir, the mornings still come a little later, but the evenings come later as well, and the interval between the two gets a little longer each day. The point at which the sun comes up over the horizon also starts shifting northward, as noted in the post.

Ed-M, this is a global issue, no question. Who'll get hit the hardest? Heck of a good question, to which I'm not prepared to offer an answer -- yet.

Roger, the job of changing minds isn't for everyone, no question, and there are far too many people who haven't changed their minds for decades and won't start now. In many cases, all you can do is shrug and go on with what you're doing.

Varun, that's excellent news. Thank you.

MattMc, thanks for the link! Several of my other readers have recommended it enthusiastically, too.

Donald, that sounds to me like a system that's running on fumes.

Cathy, oh, no question, there are still plenty of people who haven't gotten the memo. One at a time...

12/27/14, 8:17 PM

N Montesano said...
@Cathy McGuire and Clay Dennis; just wanted to introduce myself; am a bit southwest of Portland.

12/27/14, 10:00 PM

John Roth said...

About that “census” in Luke. Augustus apparently ordered three censuses during his reign, but they were all censuses of Roman citizens, not of the vast majority of people who were not Roman citizens. In addition, the notion that someone who was living in Galilee having to go somewhere else where they did not live and work for a tax census is, frankly, idiotic. That’s the only word I can use - Galilee was north of Samaria and taxes were based on what a particular region could produce, not on where someone’s ancestors lived several generation’s previously. If Augustus ordered a tax census, and I have no reason to doubt that he could have, it would have been a survey of what various regions produced so he knew how much tribute to assess.

I’ve been quite comfortable with the idea that the Lucan narrative is a fiction to support the idea that Jesus was the Son of God. Luke is writing to the pagans, not the Jews. In that time and place, to be accepted by the population as a Son of God, if your father hadn’t been declared to be a god by the Senate, there had to be a virgin birth. No virgin birth, no divinity.

The birth story in Matthew might actually be real, if you interpret several pieces symbolically.

@ escapefromwisconsin

Interesting point. I’ve always wondered about that “inn.”

# about megaliths.

You can make do with two poles placed properly. The oldest stratum at Stonehenge, for example, did essentially that. The megaliths are a later addition and were apparently used for community rituals.

@ Clay Dennis

It would be highly amusing if they build it and nobody comes.

@ Shane

It has to start somewhere. Also factor in that we’ve got way too many people for a sustainable society, so a lot of the ones with their noses in the latest iDevice will be roadkill. My theological base, which is highly unusual, doesn’t regard this as necessarily a bad thing. This may be the only time in the cycle of reincarnation when they can do it; there will be other lifetimes to do other things.

12/27/14, 10:38 PM

Diotima Mantineia said...
John — Yes, I have looked at oil price history vis a vis hard Saturn-Neptune aspects, and from what I see, (though it is obviously just one variable, albeit a major one) it tends to correlate with either remarkable stagnation (early 60s square, early 70s opposition) or remarkable volatility. Yes, the late 70s and 90s squares correlate with an uninterrupted steep rise in price, but the latest opposition in 2006-7 was very volatile, with major swings in both directions, which ended in a steep rise. I think we will see more of the same upcoming — we already are.

I note that a Jupiter-Uranus square was also active during the volatile time of ’06-’07, and Jupiter will form a T-square with Saturn-Neptune in 2015, while the Uranus-Pluto square is still in force. So, yeah, my vote is for considerable volatility, ending in a major rise.

12/28/14, 3:58 AM

Yanocoches said...
My impression over the past year has been that many in the doomer / collapse crowd have gone over to the near-term-human-extinction (NTHE) camp and have become preoccupied with the idea that we’re in a hospice situation and need to learn to grieve the impending loss of all life on earth due to catastrophic climate change (CCC). I have seen this transformation in the collapse support group that I’m a member of as well as in many of the online collapse blogs. I am too much a student of yours to think that this conviction is a very useful stance with which to approach the difficulties looming before us and have been struggling with how not to get caught up in the hysteria. The incantation you taught several years ago, “there is no brighter future ahead,” does not really satisfy is this case.

At the same time, my very best and closest friend who is the one who first woke me up many years ago to the mess of peak oil and all its unpleasant consequences now flirts unabashedly with the techno-fix camp and believes that there is a chance that “we” will discover some sort of unlimited energy source, e.g., Tesla coils, zero-point energy, capture of free flowing energy, or the like (details are vague), and be able fly off to Mars.

What are your suggestions for maintaining a realistic, down-to-earth attitude, a middle path so to speak in the face of these two extremes? Reading your weekly essays certainly helps, and I’m trying to curb my frustration, disgust, and outbursts of anger at these approaches and the people who proclaim them but don’t particularly want to isolate myself. That feels like the easy, habitual way out.

Thank you, Archdruid, and members of this online community for all the education and awareness building over the past years. Cheerful new year to all.

12/28/14, 9:19 AM

Ed-M said...

Well to hear Dmitri Orlov say it, is that everything's coming up roses for the Russians (except the LGBTs, who lost their freedom of speech and expression over there and are subject to invidious prejudice and persecution) as soon as the recent unpleasantness comes to an end, but I say he's full of "crullers." Because everytime the West goes into crisis, so far, it takes Russia with it and Russia suffers... A LOT.

12/28/14, 9:39 AM

Shane Wilson said...
@ Violet,
I'm just really surprised that the" digital age" seems to be considered so novel and great by so many people. I mean, the personal computer is over 30 years old, and widespread internet access is pushing 20. I guess I'm just over it all, see the downsides, and am ready for everyone else to get on the bandwagon! I don't see the "gee wizz" wonder of it all anymore. Lol :)
@ Steve
My experience outside the country is very limited, but, whenever I have traveled outside the U.S., even to Canada, I try to be very conscientious, observant, and am keenly aware of avoiding the "ugly American" stereotype (boorish, oblivious, loud, obnoxious, crass, condescending, disrespectful) It helps that I was raised in the South when it was still the land where people were raised with "the Bible in one hand and Emily Post in the other", so I have that background to tap into. Likewise, I remember when Yankees from up north would barrel in to the South like a bull in a china shop, with no respect for Southern etiquette, customs, and ways of doing things, and I wouldn't want to be regarded that same way abroad.

12/28/14, 1:30 PM

Shane Wilson said...
I'm not so sure that Europe will go down with the U.S. Notice how Putin has been styling himself as a Christian preserver of tradition while maintaining a hard line militarily? Also, notice how Russia has offered financial support to the National Front, Jobbik, UKIP, Golden Dawn, and every other euroskeptic right wing party, and they've returned the favor in kind? Seems Russia is positioning, via the right wing parties, to swoop in and pick up allies when the EU goes belly as the only credible alternative to an ISIL threat.

12/28/14, 1:44 PM

Cathy McGuire said...
@N Montesano: Yea! Another Oregonian GW! We'll definitely have to have a gathering this summer.:-)

12/28/14, 3:24 PM

Elizabeth Kennett said...
Dear Mr. Greer,

Re: the moving and placing of menhirs

Check out YouTube (while it's still up) and search for "walking moai". It actually looks more like fun than work!

Happy Holy Days, and a better New Year to us all.

Elizabeth Ann Kennett

12/28/14, 3:41 PM

Clay Dennis said...
N. Montesano

How far southwest of Portland? I grew up on a farm along the Tualatin River in washington county, which I wish I had inherited but is being put to good use a wildlife refuge. Speaking of Broadforks, they are easy to use but hard work. They are one of the things I make and trade for food credit with the local small scale urban farmers.

12/28/14, 4:56 PM

John Michael Greer said...
Dio, good. I don't claim to be a specialist in mundane astrology, but in your place I'd check the relationship of the Saturn-Neptune square to the relevant national and ingress charts -- or for that matter, to a chart drawn up for the first oil well (that would be 28 August 1859, Titusville, PA, time not specified but it would be during daylight hours and a chart could doubtless be rectified easily enough). Any of those might give you some idea of whether this aspect will be a stagnant, rising, or volatile one.

Yanocoches, that's a difficult question, since the answer depends partly on your own psyche and partly on the people around you. I'm not at all sure what to suggest -- but it's a question worth discussing and exploring, since there will probably be a lot of people flinging themselves into one or the other set of easy answers as things tighten up.

Ed-M, I don't speak for Dmitry, and I'm sure he wouldn't claim to speak for me! My working guess is that every economy in the world is going to be hit to a greater or lesser degree by the approaching mess, and a galaxy of factors including pure dumb chance will determine who gets hit how hard.

Shane, now consider how hard Europe would have to be slammed by crisis for popular majorities and decision-makers alike to be willing to walk into Russia's outstretched arms. That may well happen, but it's going to be a very rough road one way or the other.

Elizabeth, yes, I'm familiar with it! You might also want to check out Rob Roy's book Stone Circles, which is about people who build their own Stonehenges. That's an ambition of mine someday...

12/28/14, 6:51 PM

Doctor Westchester said...
@ Yanocoches

I've seen that effect too. One of the main people in my county's Transition Hub has become a major spokesperson for Guy McPherson. She seems to see no conflict between his NTE ideas and what Transition is supposed to be trying to do. As a result, Transition efforts on a county level are currently pretty much dead at this point.

Of course since peak oil theory has been completely disproven by the shale oil miracle [sarcasm on], there has been a tendency to center local Transition efforts on climate change alone. The results are very much as one might expect.

It will be very interesting to see what happens in the next year or two as the shale oil miracle, shall we say, goes up in smoke. While I might fantasize about people seeing the error of their ways in the near future, I understand that expecting mass breakout of insight during an active crisis might be a fool's dream. Being under stress is the worse time for being able to think differently about things.

12/28/14, 7:59 PM

N Montesano said...
Clay and Cathy,
I'm in Yamhill County. Would love to visit Clay's shop, and to meet you both sometime. If we can convince JMG to come back to visit Oregon one of these days, so much the better.
To stop borrowing the blog for the conversation, [email protected]

12/28/14, 8:36 PM

KL Cooke said...

Re: China's mountain hermits...

That's the nicest thing I've read in a long time.

For further insight, I recommend this:


"Here we languish, a bunch of poor scholars,
battered by extremes of hunger and cold.
Out of work, our only joy is poetry:
scribble, scribble, we wear out our brains.
Who will read the works of such men?
On that point you can save your sighs.
We could inscribe our poems on biscuits
and the homeless dogs wouldn't deign to nibble."

Han Shan

12/28/14, 9:07 PM

KL Cooke said...
"...what happened the last few times Saturn and Neptune were square one another."

I did a quick check--Indonesian Tsunami, Hurricane Katrina...

Uh oh. I live by the ocean. Drop in sometime.

12/28/14, 9:44 PM

Angus Wallace said...
Hi Ghung,

On solar, our place had an electric storage hot water heater when we moved in, which we replaced with a solar heater similar to the combined unit from your link (tank on roof with evac tubes plugged in). We're saving 6 kWh/day, and we're very frugal with hot water (ie. that consumption was just to keep the water in the tank hot -- it was not heating a lot of new water every day).

Our heater is a little different in that it has a heat exchanger inside it at mains pressure, so that while the tank is low pressure, the unit interfaces to mains pressure.

I've written more detail about it here (I've provided this link before at ADR, but it seems relevant again):

I also wrote a short article about the actual speeds realised by motorists, considering the time taken to earn the money to keep a car on the road.

Cheers, Angus

12/29/14, 2:21 AM

Cherokee Organics said...

Yeah, I've known what it means to do what it takes. Unfortunately people younger than I have missed that harsh lesson.



PS: I've got a new blog entry up talking about zombies, foxes, sheds, chippers and berries. Truly, I can't make this stuff up, that's what's going on here: The hills have eyes

12/29/14, 2:33 AM

Cherokee Organics said...
Hi Tom,

I haven't read the books yet either and probably with the stack piling up won't get a chance to. Hope you enjoy the song. "Dear Science - I just wanna let you know you let me down". It got quite a bit of radio play here. He's got a new song which I quite like too called Run. Very amusing - he tells a ripping yarn and has a great future as a story teller.

Hi Phil,

Great to hear that it put on a good show up your way too. It is something to see.

Yep the fruit is happily ripening now although the local parrots are really enjoying the nashi pears...

Ahh, did you know that the Elm disease has never worked it's way to our shores and their are great elm avenues of honour around these parts? They grow a bit weedy like around here, but I like them.

Incidentally, I found several new oak trees on the farm here from seeds which I threw randomly about the place two years ago. They're hardy. I've since caged a few of them so the wallabies don't eat them.

Nice to hear about your use of hand tools. Top work!



12/29/14, 2:40 AM

Scotlyn said...

John Michael, I've been "reading forward" in this blog from the beginning since I found it, and have just reached the "Gaianomicon" post of July 7th, 2010.

It is an extremely practical post I intend to share widely, however the link that you posted within it, to your collection of "Conserver" leaflets, is broken - in fact the Conservers website is not available at all.

Have you posted this .pdf elsewhere? Can you fix the link in the blogpost for the sake of future traffic there? (I will be sending some). Has your Cultural Conserver work gone to a different home than the website in the broken link?

Thanks so much,

12/29/14, 2:47 AM

Doctor Westchester said...

BTW, I just heard that because of the current low rates of interest, Britain is planning to refinance some remaining debt from a bailout of investors that were caught in the popping of a financial bubble - the one centered on the South Seas Company ... four hundred years ago.


12/29/14, 8:19 AM

Marcello said...
"El Norte", land of wealth and opportunity seems firmly cemented in place, and my interest and appreciation of their culture, work ethic, family and community structure is baffling to them..."

The drive to improve one's own (and family) condition seem to be pretty widespread across cultures. If there are economic opportunities to be taken, they will be taken, crocodile's tears in the wealthy West notwithstanding.

"But here in America, if and when millions take to the streets, perhaps our two century legacy of law and institution and occasional leadership will enable us to follow through, and wrench this nation and culture from mindless growth and gimme gimme gimme to what the original founder intended - a nation of men and women making their lives in some form of peace and freedom and responsibility."

The two century legacy of constitutional government was likely underwritten (it went the other way around too of course) by a very high level of material prosperity, even back in colonial times, and if what we assume here is correct this will no longer be the case. Now, maybe I am too cynical but I can't imagine a modern democracy surviving with an economic pie shrinking year after year (even if in an irregular manner): the conflicts between groups and classes trying to claw the slice they believe they are entitled to is likely to prove too disruptive, even if living standards will remain superior to colonial America for decades to come.
Also the US is not ruled by a tin pot dictator busy setting up his own debauched son for life rule; such setup makes for a pretty convenient target for everybody regardless of their position on the political spectrum.
A revolt against the existing american system is going to be hard pressed to come up with an unifying theme, while class based
infighting (jeunesse dorée vs sans culottes if you are fond of French revolution parallels) is bound to be behind the corner as the economic reality rears its ugly head; constitutional niceties are also likely to get trampled under such conditions, needless to say.

12/29/14, 8:39 AM

Ed-M said...
Hi KL Cooke!

Regarding your reply to Mr Greer the last two times Saturn squared with Neptune and vice-versa:

I live in New Orleans. Which is great, ;^p because most of it is below Sea Level including the neighborhood I live in. And I thought this town would not be lost until 2100 at the earliest!

12/29/14, 8:51 AM

Shane Wilson said...
I, too, find the" collective schizophrenia" of people's less than constructive responses to our predicament to be depressing. I think JMG has discussed it on the blog, but I see these unproductive responses as a death wish, an expression of" I want to die", since that's exactly what will happen when crisis comes.
Regarding Russia, they're right to regard the sanctions and other actions as economic war, and Putin rightfully detects defeat on the part of the U.S., which is why he's so bullish on Russia. He's betting that Russia will come out in a better position on the other end, and that Russia has more collective cohesion and resilience that the fragmented West/ U.S. Time will tell.

12/29/14, 8:56 AM

David said...
Hue-and-cry to bring the legions home from Britainia...

Fascinating to watch history echo in the present.

12/29/14, 8:56 AM

Ed-M said...

Well I did and do not expect you to speak for Mr Orlov. I know exactly what he predicts for the US, which I don't think is possible. I am certain there is no way the American elites will allow this country to collapse, fast and hard, without dragging everybody else down with it... which they are simply not capable of in my estimation.

12/29/14, 8:58 AM

LewisLucanBooks said...
@ Cathy, Clay & Montesano; Don't forget to send me an invite :-). I'm only 90 minutes north of Portland in Chehalis. Lew

12/29/14, 9:26 AM

Mrs. Glover said...
I want to echo the sentiments of other commenters who have complimented JMG on his terrific work on this blog. I have been following it since 2006 and 2007 and now own three of Mr. Greer's books. His writings (as well as those of Sharon Astyk and others) were influential in my decision to purchase a modest home five years ago in an affordable, racially diverse "transitional" neighborhood in the southeast. There is a strong DIY ethic here and veggie gardening is common. We also have two community gardens and several households that raise chickens for eggs. Potlucks and backyard bonfires happen on a regular basis, and even though the neighborhood has its challenges, I consider it a blessings (a calling, really) to live here. 2015 will be the year I focus on deepening my spiritual path. The Druidry as well as Modern Essene paths are really speaking to me right now.

12/29/14, 9:49 AM

Cathy McGuire said...
@ Dio & JMG: I don't claim to be a specialist in mundane astrology, but in your place I'd check the relationship of the Saturn-Neptune square to the relevant national and ingress charts
If I may mention Richard Tarnas again? His book "Cosmos and Psyche" is basically an historial look at the various transits across the world; he was a sceptic at the beginning but was really amazed at the parallels, and though it was published in 2006, he has a bit to say about what is/might be coming up... I still have one foot in belief/one in disbelief, but I have come around to his statements about a conscious cosmos, and that being able to sense fluctuations in energy helps ground one in here/now. I know this is better discussed over Well of Galabes, so I'll stop now.

12/29/14, 10:06 AM

Unknown said...
(Deborah Bender)

Another data point for the thread on people's thoughts about the future.

At a recent family gathering, I was talking to a younger relative whom I don't see very often. I worry about his family a bit because the part of the country they live in depends on infrastructure in defiance of the local ecosystem, and his career is completely based on business as usual.

I had the nerve to tell him that I thought his job would be gone in twenty years and that things were going to get more difficult and unstable. Rather to my surprise, he wasn't offended and he agreed with me about the career. He said that he wasn't particularly worried about himself, but did worry about his children's future.

I passed on JMG's advice that learning how to run a meeting by Robert's Rules of Order was a useful skill to acquire. That was a startling idea and I needed to explain why and how procedures for running a meeting democratically are important to local communities. He said he only had experience in decision making in very small groups.

At the two family gatherings this month, I was given opportunities to pontificate as an experienced elder to younger people who actually wanted to listen than I usually get in an entire year. I think this was a fluke.

12/29/14, 10:56 AM

Eric S. said...
"Eric, I'm very sorry to hear about your father -- that's got to be difficult."

Thank you. There's been a lot of loss and hardship this year it seems for everyone at all levels. I hear a lot of people saying "as rough as 2014has been, 2015 has got to be better."

I highly doubt that. I expect that 2015 may and probably will be harder, bringing more of the same and possibly worse. But hopefully, 2014 has been enough to sober us and brace us so that with some work 2015 can be more fruitful. I think that's something that can be hoped for even in the harshest of years.

12/29/14, 12:12 PM

nrgmiserncaz said...
I've made great progress on many fronts but I can't seem to get past the gift-buying thing with my wife. She feels so guilty about it. She knows she's fighting the prevailing culture and doesn't normally mind (never owned a dryer, cooks all from scratch, home-schools, etc.) but she can't get past this. She grew up very poor and had more than one Christmas with NO GIFTS at all. So it's a hard sell...thoughts?

12/29/14, 12:55 PM

Doctor Westchester said...

Sorry, the South Seas Bubble was only three hundred years ago. That of course changes everything.

12/29/14, 1:08 PM

heather said...
- Maybe this isn't one to fight as much as redirect. Is it about gifts for everyone, or for your kids?

The first step is to get over buying anything for adults. They get a jar of jam, a basket of fruit, maybe a scarf. But they're adults. It's fine to offer a loving token, but they can buy their own goodies.

I do admit that I fight my own urge to overindulge my kids. Though we didn't have a lot of money, my parents did Christmas up big when I was a kid, and it feels stingy to hold back with my own kids. But reminding myself that it isn't doing them any good to be flooded with material goodies, especially since it may be setting them up for unrealistic expectations in harder times of their lives (will they be able to afford big Christmases for their own kids? Is it smart to plant the guilt trap now?), helps me rein in my worst impulses.

But I do take pleasure in picking out things just for them, and seeing their surprise at opening things they didn't even realize they would like, but do. So I tried to walk a middle line, and choose wisely. 1. Nothing advertised anywhere that they've seen. (tv, grocery store, school...) No cartoon characters, no plastic junk. 2. Nothing passively entertaining. 3. Items that will plant the seed for things I actually want them to be doing. So my kids got rain gear, for adventuring outside even when the weather is bad. Whittling knives, and a book of project ideas. Small musical instruments (a well-made lap harp and a slide whistle.) oh, and books, lots of 'em. Grandparents who wanted gift ideas were pointed toward a chemistry set for my 10 year old and a scooter for her little brother. I tried to consider (à la Michael Pollan on food) whether my great grandparents would have know what to make of the gifts. And you know what? My kids didn't miss the usual flood of $&!@, still had plenty to open, and now have projects to keep them busy through the winter, and maybe a few beginning skills of their own. I know that it was still more than may be possible in future years, but I felt ok about it for this year. It's moving in the right direction, at least.

So maybe instead of completely ignoring the urge to give gifts, you and your wife can work together to find a mutually acceptable, pared down list that acknowledges both your values.

Hope this was helpful, and not just long.
--Heather in CA

12/29/14, 6:13 PM

PRiZM said...
Bogatyr, that was a heart-warming article to read! I've been living in China for the past 4 years and am constantly in contact with the Chinese middle class. The majority seem to be no different than most Americans and Europeans, persuaded and manipulated by government and media to continue the "spiral of doom" connected with the "cult of modern progress".

JMG and all, there is something quite astounding with mountains and the ability they have to preserve and be a bastion, a stronghold for flora, fauna, and ideas. Perhaps that's some of the reason behind the connection between the hills, and conservation, and hillbillies, amongst other cultural and idealology preservation. Granted, mountains aren't the only geographic features predisposed to preserve, but they do seem to have a track record of being one of the most effective areas. I find it interesting and want to explore ideas behind it..

12/29/14, 9:00 PM

mikerobertsblog said...
Firstly, I think there is a typo in your post, JMG. "2009 and 2009" should, presumably, be "2008 and 2009".

Secondly, I wish I shared your optimism. What I see is that the species, Homo sapiens, has a characteristic behaviour that we see. We can't expect that characteristic behaviour to change, I don't think, despite a few mutants who have different behaviour. I think it will take a serious environmental (in the widest sense of that word) change which forces a change of behaviour. I doubt that will come soon enough to avoid serious consequences. I currently favour climate change or dying oceans as the limiting factor necessitating serious change in some way.

12/29/14, 11:28 PM

Unknown said...
(Deborah Bender)

@nrgmisercaz--Why be an absolutist about this? There is nothing inherently wrong with giving gifts or exchanging gifts. The exchange of gifts is a true cultural universal, a practice found in some form all over the world from industrial economies to bands of hunter-gatherers. To refuse to give or receive in any way is to cut yourself off from society.

The main point of giving or receiving is that it acknowledges a relationship with the person or group on the other side of the exchange. For adults the symbolic part of the exchange is usually more important than the material part. Gifts are a form of communication. Like other forms of communication, it can be more or less honest and more or less understood the same way by the giver and the recipient.

In America it's typically the wife who is in charge of managing social relationships between the married couple and everyone else. If you are relying on her to do that work for both of you, she may be more in tune with the nuances of the relationships than you are. If you stop your wife from giving gifts, you are taking away one of her tools.

It might be worthwhile for you and your wife to discuss the names on your gift list. Are the two of you in agreement about what relationship you have (individually or as a couple) with each of them? Would you like that relationship to be better or different in some way? Does the kind of gift you have been giving express the relationship that you have or would like to have? What is your gift saying? Would a different gift (either a thing or an activity) say it better?

You probably won't be instantly in agreement on any of these questions, but if you have time to talk it out, you might both get a better understanding of how the other spouse thinks.

12/29/14, 11:38 PM

Varun Bhaskar said...

I may have a suggestion for both those problems, but the solution depends on how snarky you can be. One the problem of near term extinction people, everytime one of them goes off into a rant just say "so can I loot some of your stuff once you're extinct, you had some really good stuff that I could use." Once you challenge their beliefs with the idea of material loss the straighten out real quick. As for the techno-utopian nonsense just keep pointing out the current reality. Remember the decline is now, not later. You can't ignore 50 million people currently displaced.

Hope that helps.

12/30/14, 7:13 AM

N Montesano said...
Hi, Lew!
@ nrgmmiserncaz, but why get past an opportunity to offer joy? Why not use gift-giving opportunities to provide each other with high-quality, useful tools for your lifestyle, instead? You can support small companies, local if possible, but there are businesses well worth keeping in business even through mail order. Good quality tools are well worth having, but also something of a luxury. Really soft, comfortable wool long underwear, a stainless-steel food mill, a metal cherry pitter that will pit six cherries at a time, a really good hand mill and a broadfork are examples from my house from the past several years. They are all things that get regularly used, and all but the clothing will last a lifetime, and probably someone else's lifetime, too. Husband, a wood-worker, often receives good wood-working tools. Flannel-lined jeans; new house shoes, when the old ones wear out, a tool roll for chisels, sewed out of duck cloth, homemade flannel shirts. We also make gifts to give friends and family sometimes: jam, baked goods, beeswax candles, shaker boxes, etc. He's given me things he built; a new free-standing cupboard, one year, to hold all the jars I'd canned, that were stacked all over the floor; a shaker chair, sized to fit me. This year we gave some family toddlers tiny shaker chairs just their size, for Christmas. A friend gave us several bags of wool a couple years ago, and we use it to stuff the chair cushions, instead of buying foam, and sew the cushion covers out of muslin. The wool makes good dog toy stuffing, too, and you can sew the toys out of worn-out jeans. I stuffed a couple homemade bed pillows with it, too, but have had mixed success with those; the wool mats down and gets lumpy. He has given me, and we have given a friend, all metal sewing machines made several decades ago when quality was still important. They were bought used but in good condition, off Craig's List locally, and then carefully cleaned and adjusted. He also found a really nice treadle machine, in good condition, on Craig's list. We got my dad interested in ham radio, by giving him one for Christmas one year.
A friend inherited boxes of beautiful beads from her mother, and decided to honor the heritage by learning to make jewelry, which she now gives as gifts. It's gorgeous, and so touching to receive; it's always perfectly matched to the recipient. Another friend knits many gifts; a third sews, another gave garlic braids from her garden this year, with dried flowers woven in. I've given people pretty cloth shopping bags, napkins, and sturdy kitchen towels that I sewed for them.
There will always be people who'd prefer an Amazon gift card, but it's easily possible to at least eliminate a good percentage of meaningless stuff-buying, and retain the element of generosity and thoughtfulness.

12/30/14, 7:23 AM

Diotima Mantineia said...
John, thanks so much for that very interesting birth date -- the first oil well! I'll definitely check out that chart. I generally take a quick look at the ingress charts on my blog over on the Witches and Pagans magazine site, but it's an audience that is not all that interested in things like oil prices -- though, as I mentioned in my Capricorn ingress post, with Neptune in and co-ruling the 9th and co-ruling the MC, oil is likely to be a very major factor in foreign policy this quarter (not, of course, that the two are every really separable). Curious as to which national chart you prefer (though I realize this is probably better addressed over on Well of Galabes). I use Sibley (5:10 pm).

Cathy McGuire -- yes, Tarnas' Cosmos and Psyche book is a phenomenal work, and my copy is well-thumbed! His book on Uranus -- he prefers to call it Prometheus -- is also excellent.

12/30/14, 8:12 AM

Nastarana said...
Really, John Roth, hardly more "idiotic" than travelling to Jerusalem to present each and every new child at the temple, not to mention the annual Passover pilgrimage. European peasants may have never travelled more than 20mi. from their home, but the inhabitants of 1stC Palestine would seem to have been quite mobile in comparison.

I think it is generally accepted that Luke (Lucius) would have been a gentile if not a Roman himself. I wish someone would figure out whom Theophilus might have been.

12/30/14, 8:50 AM

Nastarana said...
About Christmas gift buying: Ritual gift exchange seems to be an important part of most if not all human cultures, from the distant past till now. Having said that, there is no excuse for the storefulls of plastic junk routinely purchases for Xmas and then routinely thrown away about six months later.

I have committed this year to giving up colored paper wrappings--for me a significant sacrifice as I dearly love to make fancy presents. The oldest grand is needing to learn to sew, so we will begin with reusable gift bags.

Emerson, of whose work I am mostly not a fan but he did have his moments, said in one of his better essays that gifts should be either fruit or flowers. Something extra, and easily used up which the recipient does not have to remember to get out whenever you happen to visit.

12/30/14, 9:04 AM

Eric S. said...
It's a bit late in the conversation I know, and is much more relevant to last week than this week, but this article really reminded me of the story of the Penn Square Bank story from last week with its colorful descriptions of expensive condos, gator skin boots, and crass parties.

Apparently an elite group of Noveau rich Bakken Shale tycoons just got kicked out of their own club house for being unable to pay over a million dollars in late rental fees:

12/30/14, 12:35 PM

David James Peterson said...
I did some research into the Trompe Air compressor after reading AKM’s mention of the device. I found several books from around 1900 that had some information on the devices.
Air Compression and Transmission by Halsten Joseph Berford Thorkelson
This book had some information on their power outputs, as well as some information on the cost for one of the systems (one system cost about $3 Million U.S. (inflation adjusted) and generated the equivalent of 477kW of compressed air. Another system, generated 1,200 kW, cost unknown)

Compressed Air Information, or, A Cyclopedia Containing… by William Lawrence Saunders
This book had more detailed information about their construction as well as references to patents.

Patent: C. H. Taylor,&hl=en&sa=X&ei=5AmjVPHhJsOtyASotIKgAw&ved=0CB0Q6AEwAA

Patent: Adolph F. Du Faur

Patent: George E. Waring

Overall, pretty interesting, but would take some resources to figure out an effective small scale system (still it seems that it would require a large creek and either a cliff or a very large and deep hole to build one, 240-ish feet to compress air to 100 psi, but that depends upon what end pressure is desired).

12/30/14, 12:52 PM

Ellen He said...
Over the holiday break, I discovered an interesting blog called 'Ribbonfarm' that seeks to help people change their perspectives and to cover familiar topics with novel perspectives. You may be wondering why I'm talking about 'Ribbonfarm'. I'm talking about it because it offers some interesting perspectives on how to leave the middle class and another interesting perspective on possible responses to unknown-unknowns. This holiday season, I received nothing but a few books for Christmas that had arrived a week or so earlier, a sign of the Decline. Of course, the more important personal decline was my mother's leg surgery, which resulted from bone damage from her eating too much cortisone medications to try to alleviate her lupus.

12/30/14, 3:14 PM

John Roth said...

On that date for the first oil well, Neptune is just four degrees (two years) shy of crossing the Vernal Equinox. Since Neptune is the signifier of oil, I suspect that the entire Neptune cycle from first crossing to next crossing (in 2025) has something to do with the entire cycle of discovery to final depletion.


I hate to say it, but while the time might give some results, the “Sibley” chart for the U.S. has been thoroughly debunked. Ebenezer Sibley never made a chart for the U.S. What he did was place the planets for noon at Philadelphia into the chart for the Summer Solstice at London, and proceeded to delineate that for the effect of U.S. independence on Britian. I’m not a fan of any of the July 4 charts; I use the chart for the opening of the Continental Congress. It’s got the advantage of having a close conjunction between the Moon (the people) and Neptune, and I’m sure that the members of the 1st Continental Congress would never have elected it if they’d have known about Neptune at the time. That conjunction is, I think, a really good descriptor of the population of the U.S.


I seriously doubt that anyone very far away from Jerusalem traveled there to present new children. If Jesus was presented at “the temple” for his bar Mitzfah, it would have been at the synagog in Sephoris, which was only a few kilometers from Nazareth, and had been called “the Jewel of the Galilee.” As far as Jesus’ early education is concerned, this is the elephant in the room. He would have had easy access to not only Jewish teachers but a selection of Greek philosophical schools. In any case, “Luke” was not a native of Palistine, and wrote in the late first century.

As far as the annual Passover celebration, most people didn’t go to Jerusalem each and every year. I suspect it was more like current Muslim custom for the pilgrimage to Mecca: one tried to get there once in the lifetime. It was the locals who crowded Jerusalem.

Theophilus means “lover of God.” I doubt that this was a person at all.

12/30/14, 5:27 PM

Cathy McGuire said...
@Lewis Lucan: Oh, yes - you'll get an invite! It's shaping up to be a real nice confab, one of these days. :-)
@N.Montesano and others: nice comments about gift giving. It's a bit of a dance, giving to those who haven't given up the consumer culture, but most of my friends and family know I mostly make my gifts, and as we all hit middle age, pretty much everyone is saying they already have too much stuff, so small and/or edible has been popular.

12/30/14, 8:27 PM

heather said...
Ellen He-
May I offer my sympathies on your mother's "personal decline", and my thanks for naming that concept for me? My mother is also suffering from health problems caused by too much medical intervention for a chronic problem, which cannot now be undone. I've been struggling to deal with this the past several months; understanding it in its proper context somehow helps. Of course it doesn't relieve her suffering, but I think in some way it relieves a bit of my guilt for not being able to "fix it"- find the right doctor or treatment to make it go away. Personal decline, yes, within a dysfunctional and declining system.
--Heather in CA

12/30/14, 9:17 PM

Bogatyr said...
PRIZM, I'll be moving to Beijing in March - where in China are you? It would be interesting to meet up with another TAR reader in the Middle Kingdom!

I'm glad that so many people found that article inspiring. It was inspired by Bill Porter/Red Pine's book, Road to Heaven, which is well worth reading.

The book also inspired a beautiful documentary by Edward A. Burger, which can be seen its entirety on YouTube: Amongst White Clouds.

12/30/14, 11:05 PM

LewisLucanBooks said...
@Heather - The way you go about picking gifts for your kids sounds very sensible, to me.

For some reason, when I was in my teens and early 20s, I always asked for kitchen gadgets. But I always specified that I didn't want electric gizmos. I wanted hand powered kitchen tools. I still have (and use) the grain mill, ice cream maker, apple peeler and corer and probably some other stuff I've forgotten.

Don't know where I picked up that old hippie sensibility, so early on. :-)

12/31/14, 9:04 AM

Cathy McGuire said...
One thought I've been having recently, as I watch the unfolding disasters around the world (airplanes, ferry boats, disease, etc) is that most of the time people (and even TPTB) jump in to rescue, assist, rebuild - and most of the time there is little/no discussion of cost; people do what has to be done, though later, once it's over, someone might grumble if the cause of the disaster was gross mis-management.

That gives me some hope that human nature has it hardwired to help in a crisis - so as things become more dire, more obviously broken (I know - how much more obvious does it have to be?)people will mostly pull together - our narcissistic culture is an overlay made of luxury and convenience, and might slough off when the media is broken and silenced.

Healthy New Year to all on this blog! I hope we have a great year of sharing our skills and learning new ones.

12/31/14, 9:13 AM

dippythegoof said...
Your blog has been blowing my mind for several years now and has inspired a lot of my blog posts. If you get a chance, I'd love it if you could read at least one of my recent essays at They're just over 1,000 words, so it shouldn't take long. I would've emailed, but I couldn't find your address.


12/31/14, 12:18 PM

Ed-M said...
@John Roth,

Could you clarify on the conjunction between the moon and Neptune being "a good descriptor for the population" of the United States? Briefly, of course.

I'm not up to speed on astrology. Sorry.

12/31/14, 1:28 PM

G E Canterbury said...
@Cathy et al - Please keep us on the list if you would like to assemble ADR readers in the Portland area for a meet-up next year - we live in Gladstone. Sounds like there's a good number of us in the area! Best wishes for the New Year!

- Grant and Stacy Canterbury

12/31/14, 3:37 PM

Glenn said...
"Cathy McGuire said...
@Lewis Lucan: Oh, yes - you'll get an invite! It's shaping up to be a real nice confab, one of these days. :-)"

We're up on the Olympic Peninsula. Haven't been to Portland in a few years, but might be able to depending on what we've got going on the homestead.

in the Bramblepatch
Marrowstone Island
Salish Sea

12/31/14, 4:42 PM

PRiZM said...
Bogatyr, I am in Dalian. It would definitely be fun to meet up with another TAR reader, especially in the Middle Kingdom. I'll be curious about how your views on China upon arrival, and if they change after some time here. How long do you plan to stay? Life is a bit restricted here, so come prepared! If you want to e-mail me, clintshafto (at) hotmail (dot) com, I'll give you a bit more inside information.

12/31/14, 8:49 PM

PRiZM said...
Bogatyr, one last thing.. as JMG has mentioned several times over the years, being a foreigner in a foreign country, especially one with US relations, can be .... uncomfortable. While no one has directly confronted me because I am American, there is an obvious difference in the way foreign people are treated here.. especially those from America.

1/1/15, 12:50 AM

mikerobertsblog said...
You may have missed an easy prediction (though I hope it's wrong) which is that there will be a last minute agreement on emissions reductions in Paris in December, but it will be couched in terms whereby most nations could get off the hook and continue their emitting ways for a long time (in the fossil fuels are there). Emissions will continue to rise past 2020, the supposed implementation year.

1/2/15, 1:39 AM

. josé . said...
A note on solar hot water, since that topic has come up. I live in a high mountain valley in Southeastern Brazil. It's been impossible so far to buy a decent photovoltaic system (I envy Cherokee Chris every time I see his setup). But solar hot water is common, and I had one put in.
As it happened, I sized it based on my experience in California, and ended up with a system that's a bit larger than I need. On most sunny days, I end the day with a 400l (about 100 gallon) tank full of water at around 80ºC. The water is chlorine free gravity-fed local spring water (Petrópolis is famous for its great mineral water), so long showers are a pleasure. But that's not enough to justify the abundance.
... so ...
My 55-gallon crafts beer production kit arrives later this month. It turns out that with a little dilution for cooling I can use 80ºC water direct from the tap for brewing, with only limited use of fuel for reheating. From now on, sunny days = brewing days :)

1/3/15, 11:47 AM