Wednesday, January 07, 2015

A Camp Amid the Ruins

Well, the Fates were apparently listening last week. As I write this, stock markets around the world are lurching through what might just be the opening moves of the Crash of 2015, whipsawed by further plunges in the price of oil and a range of other bad economic news; amid a flurry of layoffs and dropping rig counts, the first bankruptcy in the fracking industry has been announced, with more on their way; gunfire in Paris serves up a brutal reminder that the rising spiral of political violence I traced in last week’s post is by no means limited to North American soil.  The cheerleaders of business as usual in the media are still insisting at the top of their lungs that America’s new era of energy independence is still on its way; those of my readers who recall the final days of the housing bubble that burst in 2008, or the tech-stock bubble that popped in 2000, will recognize a familiar tone in the bluster.

It’s entirely possible, to be sure, that central banks and governments will be able to jerry-rig another round of temporary supports for the fraying architecture of the global economy, and postpone a crash—or at least drag out the agony a bit longer. It’s equally possible that other dimensions of the crisis of our age can be forestalled or postponed by drastic actions here and now.  That said, whether the process is fast or slow, whether the crunch hits now or a bit further down the road, the form of technic society I’ve termed abundance industrialism is on its way out through history’s exit turnstile, and an entire world of institutions and activities familiar to all of us is going with it.

It doesn’t require any particular genius or prescience to grasp this, merely the willingness to recognize that if something is unsustainable, sooner or later it won’t be sustained. Of course that’s the sticking point, because what can’t be sustained at this point is the collection of wildly extravagant energy- and resource-intensive habits that used to pass for a normal lifestyle in the world’s industrial nations, and has recently become just a little less normal than it used to be. Those lifestyles, and most of what goes with them, only existed in the first place because a handful of the world’s nations burned through half a billion years of fossil sunlight in a few short centuries, and stripped the planet of most of its other concentrated resource stocks into the bargain.

That’s the unpalatable reality of the industrial era. Despite the rhetoric of universal betterment that was brandished about so enthusiastically by the propagandists of the industrial order, there were never enough of any of the necessary resources to make that possible for more than a small fraction of the world’s population, or for more than a handful of generations. Nearly all the members of our species who lived outside the industrial nations, and a tolerably large number who resided within them, were expected to carry most of the costs of reckless resource extraction and ecosystem disruption while receiving few if any of the benefits. They’ll have plenty of company shortly: abundance industrialism is winding down, but its consequences are not, and people around the world for centuries and millennia to come will have to deal with the depleted and damaged planet our actions have left them.

That’s a bitter pill to swallow, and the likely aftermath of the industrial age won’t do anything to improve the taste. Over the last six months or so, I’ve drawn on the downside trajectories of other failed civilizations to sketch out how that aftermath will probably play out here in North America: the disintegration of familiar political and economic structures, the rise of warband culture, the collapse of public order, and the failure of cultural continuity, all against a backdrop of rapid and unpredictable climate change, rising seas, and the appearance of chemical and radiological dead zones created by some of industrial civilization’s more clueless habits. It’s an ugly picture, and the only excuse I have for that unwelcome fact is that falling civilizations look like that.

The question that remains, though, is what we’re going to do about it all.

I should say up front that by “we” I don’t mean some suitably photogenic collection of Hollywood heroes and heroines who just happen to have limitless resources and a bag of improbable inventions at their disposal. I don’t mean a US government that has somehow shaken off the senility that affects all great powers in their last days and is prepared to fling everything it has into the quest for a sustainable future. Nor do I mean a coterie of gray-skinned aliens from Zeta Reticuli, square-jawed rapists out of Ayn Rand novels, or some other source of allegedly superior beings who can be counted upon to come swaggering onto the scene to bail us out of the consequences of our own stupidity. They aren’t part of this conversation; the only people who are, just now, are the writer and the readers of this blog.

Within those limits, the question I’ve posed may seem preposterous. I grant that for a phenomenon that practically defines the far edges of the internet—a venue for lengthy and ornately written essays about wildly unpopular subjects by a clergyman from a small and distinctly eccentric fringe religion—The Archdruid Report has a preposterously large readership, and one that somehow manages to find room for a remarkably diverse and talented range of people, bridging some of the ideological and social barriers that divide  industrial society into so many armed and uncommunicative camps. Even so, the regular readership of this blog could probably all sit down at once in a football stadium and still leave room for the hot dog vendors. Am I seriously suggesting that this modest and disorganized a group can somehow rise up and take meaningful action in the face of so vast a process as the fall of a civilization?

One of the things that gives that question an ironic flavor is that quite a few people are making what amounts to the same claim in even more grandiose terms than mine. I’m thinking here of the various proposals for a Great Transition of one kind or another being hawked at various points along the social and political spectrum these days. I suspect we’re going to be hearing a lot more from those in the months and years immediately ahead, as the collapse of the fracking bubble forces people to find some other excuse for insisting that they can have their planet and eat it too.

Part of the motivation behind the grand plans just mentioned is straightforwardly financial. One part of what drove the fracking bubble along the classic trajectory—up with the rocket, down with the stick—was a panicked conviction on the part of a great many people that some way had to be found to keep industrial society’s fuel tanks somewhere on the near side of that unwelcome letter E. Another part of it, though, was the recognition on the part of a somewhat smaller but more pragmatic group of people tht the panicked conviction in question could be turned into a sales pitch. Fracking wasn’t the only thing that got put to work in the time-honored process of proving Ben Franklin’s proverb about a fool and his money; fuel ethanol, biodiesel, and large-scale wind power also had their promoters, and sucked up their share of government subsidies and private investment.

Now that fracking is falling by the wayside, there’ll likely be a wild scramble to replace it in the public eye as the wave of the energy future. The nuclear industry will doubtless be in there—nuclear power is one of the most durable subsidy dumpsters in modern economic life, and the nuclear industry has had to become highly skilled at slurping from the government teat, since nuclear power isn’t economically viable otherwise—it’s worth recalling that no nation on earth has been able to create or maintain a nuclear power program without massive ongoing government subsidies. No doubt we’ll get plenty of cheerleading for fusion, satellite-based solar power, and other bits of high-end vaporware, too.

Still, I suspect the next big energy bubble is probably going to come from the green end of things. Over the last few years, there’s been no shortage of claims that renewable resources can pick right up where fossil fuels leave off and keep the lifestyles of today’s privileged middle classes intact. Those claims tend to be long on enthusiasm and cooked numbers and short on meaningful assessment, but then that same habit didn’t slow the fracking boom any; we can expect to see a renewed flurry of claims that solar power must be sustainable because the sticker price has gone down, and similar logical non sequiturs. (By the same logic, the internet must be sustainable if you can pay your monthly ISP bill by selling cute kitten photos on eBay.  In both cases, the sprawling and almost entirely fossil-fueled infrastructure of mines, factories, supply chains, power grids, and the like, has been left out of the equation, as though those don’t have to be accounted for: typical of the blindness to whole systems that pervades so much of contemporary culture.)

It’s not enough for an energy technology to be green, in other words; it also has to work.  It’s probably safe to assume that that point is going to be finessed over and over again, in a galaxy of inventive ways,  as the fracking bubble goes whereved popped financial bubbles go when they die. The point that next to nobody wants to confront is the one made toward the beginning of this week’s post: if something is unsustainable, sooner or later it won’t be sustained—and what’s unsustainable in this case isn’t simply fossil fuel production and consumption, it’s the lifestyles that were made possible by the immensely abundant and highly concentrated energy supply we got from fossil fuels.

You can’t be part of the solution if your lifestyle is part of the problem. I know that those words are guaranteed to make the environmental equivalent of limousine liberals gasp and clutch their pearls or their Gucci ties, take your pick, but there it is; it really is as simple as that. There are at least two reasons why that maxim needs to be taken seriously. On the one hand, if you’re clinging to an unsustainable lifestyle in the teeth of increasingly strong economic and environmental headwinds, you’re not likely to be able to spare the money, the free time, or any of the other resources you would need to contribute to a solution; on the other, if you’re emotionally and financially invested in keeping an unsustainable lifestyle, you’re likely to put preserving that lifestyle ahead of things that arguably matter more, like leaving a livable planet for future generations.

Is the act of letting go of unsustainable lifestyles the only thing that needs to be done? Of course not, and in the posts immediately ahead I plan on talking at length about some of the other options. I’d like to suggest, though, that it’s the touchstone or, if you will, the boundary that divides those choices that might actually do some good from those that are pretty much guaranteed to do no good at all. That’s useful when considering the choices before us as individuals; it’s at least as useful, if not more so, when considering the collective options we’ll be facing in the months and years ahead, among them the flurry of campaigns, movements, and organizations that are already gearing up to exploit the crisis of our time in one way or another—and with one agenda or another.

An acronym I introduced a while back in these posts might well be worth revisiting here: LESS, which stands for “Less Energy, Stuff, and Stimulation.” That’s a convenient summary of the changes that have to be made to move from today’s unsustainable lifestyles to ways of living that will be viable when today’s habits of absurd extravagance are fading memories. It’s worth taking a moment to unpack the acronym a little further, and see what it implies.

“Less energy” might seem self-evident, but there’s more involved here than just turning off unneeded lights and weatherstripping your windows and doors—though those are admittedly good places to start. A huge fraction of the energy consumed by a modern industrial society gets used indirectly to produce, supply, and transport goods and services; an allegedly “green” technological device that’s made from petroleum-based plastics and exotic metals taken from an open-pit mine in a Third World country, then shipped halfway around the planet to the air-conditioned shopping mall where you bought it, can easily have a carbon footprint substantially bigger than some simpler item that does the same thing in a less immediately efficient way. The blindness to whole systems mentioned earlier has to be overcome in order to make any kind of meaningful sense of energy issues: a point I’ll be discussing further in an upcoming post here.

“Less stuff” is equally straightforward on the surface, equally subtle in its ramifications. Now of course it’s hardly irrelevant that ours is the first civilization in the history of the planet to have to create an entire industry of storage facilities to store the personal possessions that won’t fit into history’s biggest homes. That said, “stuff” includes a great deal more than the contents of your closets and storage lockers. It also includes infrastructure—the almost unimaginably vast assortment of technological systems on which the privileged classes of the industrial world rely for most of the activities of their daily lives. That infrastructure was only made possible by the deluge of cheap abundant energy our species briefly accessed from fossil fuels; as what’s left of the world’s fossil fuel supply moves deeper into depletion, the infrastructure that it created has been caught in an accelerating spiral of deferred maintenance and malign neglect; the less dependent you are on what remains, the less vulnerable you are to further systems degradation, and the more of what’s left can go to those who actually need it.

“Less stimulation” may seem like the least important part of the acronym, but in many ways it’s the most crucial point of all. These days most people in the industrial world flood their nervous systems with a torrent of electronic noise.  Much of this is quite openly intended to manipulate their thoughts and feelings by economic and political interests; a great deal more has that effect, if only by drowning out any channel of communication that doesn’t conform to the increasingly narrow intellectual tunnel vision of late industrial society. If you’ve ever noticed how much of what passes for thinking these days amounts to the mindless regurgitation of sound bites from the media, dear reader, that’s why. What comes through the media—any media—is inevitably prechewed and predigested according to someone else’s agenda; those who are interested in thinking their own thoughts and making their own decisions, rather than bleating in perfect unison with the rest of the herd, might want to keep this in mind.

It probably needs to be said that very few of us are in a position to go whole hog with LESS—though it’s also relevant that some of us, and quite possibly a great many of us, will end up doing so willy-nilly if the economic contraction at the end of the fracking bubble turns out to be as serious as some current figures suggest. Outside of that grim possibility, “less” doesn’t have to mean “none at all”—certainly not at first; for those who aren’t caught in the crash, at least, there may yet be time to make a gradual transition toward a future of scarce energy and scarce resources. Still, I’d like to suggest that any proposed response to the crisis of our time that doesn’t start with LESS simply isn’t serious.

As already noted, I expect to see a great many nonserious proposals in the months and years ahead. Those who put maintaining their comfortable lifestyles ahead of other goals will doubtless have no trouble coming up with enthusiastic rhetoric and canned numbers to support their case; certainly the promoters and cheerleaders of the soon-to-be-late fracking bubble had no difficulty at all on that score. Not too far in the future, something or other will have been anointed as the shiny new technological wonder that will save us all, or more precisely, that will give the privileged classes of the industrial world a new set of excuses for clinging to some semblance of their current lifestyles for a little while longer. Mention the growing list of things that have previously occupied that hallowed but inevitably temporary status, and you can count on either busy silence or a flustered explanation why it really is different this time.

There may not be that many of us who get past the nonserious proposals, ask the necessary but unwelcome questions about the technosavior du jour, and embrace LESS while there’s still time to do so a step at a time. I’m convinced, though, that those who manage these things are going to be the ones who make a difference in the shape the future will have on the far side of the crisis years ahead. Let go of the futile struggle to sustain the unsustainable, take the time and money and other resources that might be wasted in that cause and do something less foredoomed with them, and there’s a lot that can still be done, even in the confused and calamitous time that’s breaking over us right now. In the posts immediately ahead, as already mentioned, I’ll discuss some of the options; no doubt many of my readers will be able to think of options of their own, for that matter.

I’ve noted before more than once that the collapse of industrial society isn’t something located off in the nearer or further future; it’s something that got under way a good many years ago, has been accelerating around us for decades, and is simply hitting one of the rougher patches of the normal process of decline and fall just now. Most of the nonserious proposals just referred to start from the insistence that that can’t happen. Comforting in the short term, that insistence is a rich source of disaster and misery from any longer perspective, and the sooner each of us gets over it and starts to survey the wreckage around us, the better. Then we can make camp in the ruins, light a fire, get some soup heating in a salvaged iron pot, and begin to talk about where we can go from here.


Myosotis said...
I don't know exactly what changes are right to make in my life. But there are a few things I'm intending to do more in the coming year. More weaving, more attending Friends meeting and trying for more meals with friends. Of course those don't use much resources and keep me from things that do use up a lot.

1/7/15, 7:14 PM

D.M. said...
Funny you should mention eating soup from an iron pot, as that is pretty close to what I was doing while reading this blog post.

1/7/15, 7:15 PM

Myosotis said...
That said, using less heat has meant some difficulty fighting mold here. (Western Oregon) Any of you wonderful people have suggestions on preventing that?

1/7/15, 7:17 PM

Martin Vachon said...
"You can’t be part of the solution if your lifestyle is part of the problem." It's probably the future's cornerstone to which the current mainstream collective mind will most object.
The current mainstream collective mind has recently evolved to expect any concept, even sustainability, to fit within a growth paradigm while, in fact, sustainability will certainly need to fit a degrowth paradigm for a couple of generations.

1/7/15, 7:32 PM

Chris G said...
I've been planning now since about this summer to start a small-scale neighborhood garden project. That sounds grandiose; I'd like to minimize my personal indentured status. Working as an elder care provider, I can often work nights, which is usually like having a difficult baby - I can sleep a good enough amount to leave days free. With that rent-paying foundation, I will be going into my neighborhood and asking people if they want to have gardens in their yard, if so we can split the produce, you pay the up front costs (I can find manures for free around town, just the cost of hauling, and of course I want to stop the flow of useful humus going from people's trees in their yards directly to a toxin-infested dump. That is, I "gleaned" about 60 bags of leaves this fall, and I think it'll go a long way); and I supply the labor and expertise. (I'm no master gardener here, but I'm competent enough to make it a trade, and keep pursuing it.) I can take on between 5 and 8 gardens, I expect totaling roughly 600 to 1000 sq ft. I can probably sell some of the produce at the local farmer's market, or simply around the neighborhood.

The advantages are the small scale, the use of currently unused, almost-free resources (leaves and manure) in a pretty sustainable way, and use of "transitional technologies"(car to haul around soil, the municipal irrigation system, the wealth of information from online and library sources).

I dream about how this approach so usefully dodges needing any bureaucratic support (mostly), how it's very fractal - how it can grow without much outside support, how it deals with employment problems, indebtedness problems, pollution, waste, and reliance on unsustainable fuels.

I'm pretty much adapted to LESS - although I will say I think there are better stimulations than what industrial society has on offer, so I think untangling from its mind-forged manacles need only be re-interpreted as Less of this stuffy, narrow stimulation, and more stimulation by personal creativity. I do believe ... perhaps even a majority of people desire the disentanglement from industrial lifestyle ... but don't know where to start. But the beginning can be as simple as not wanting all those chemicals in your baby's food. And starting with a garden to be free of that, a lot of other minor, almost invisible insurrections can be deployed.

1/7/15, 7:33 PM

August Johnson said...
@JMG - Here's an example of what you're talking about that I ran across a couple weeks ago.

Notice point #3:

"3. Don't sacrifice comfort. Sure, I can reduce my energy expenditures a great deal if I lowered my thermostat to 63 during the day, made everyone wear sweaters and hats at home. But that's not going to happen..."

We tolerate wide swings in temperature in the house here, even when it was well below freezing here a couple weeks ago, we'd find it at 59-60 in the house in the morning, fire up the woodstove for a few hours and heat the house up. The stove wasn't fired any more until evening for a couple more hours and left to die out when we went to bed. NO heat from any other source. Now that the temps are in the high 30's to 40's, the stove only gets fired in the morning.

Yes, we could keep the stove running all day (and lots of people do) and keep the house at a nice 72 but that uses a lot more fuel. I like when I can carry enough wood for 2 days with one arm. Good insulation also helps, but not trying to keep a tightly controlled temp makes a huge difference!

There's plenty of downed wood on the property here, but the less of it I use, the longer it'll last and the more time I have to do other things like working on the garden, hopefully setting up and writing about the Ham Station, etc.

1/7/15, 7:33 PM

William Church said...
Looking forward to the discussion btother John. I just happen to have a nice cast iron skillet and can fill it with deer steak and have it sizzling in no time flat.

Lots of fear and confusion out and about. I have to say that not knowing how to earn a living, feed your family, put a roof over your head will do that to you. Security might be the most scarce commodity to acquire these days.

I've been told that the old mountain men would go on expeditions that traversed hundreds of miles of strange country with no more in the way of directions than a map drawn in the dirt with a stick. Or a 5 minute saloon conversation. As long as the directions came from a reliable source who knew the route firsthand.

You've covered the ground John. That means a lot.


1/7/15, 7:37 PM

Mark Sebela said...
“We will not have any more crashes in our time.”
– John Maynard Keynes in 1927

“I cannot help but raise a dissenting voice to statements that we are living in a fool’s paradise, and that prosperity in this country must necessarily diminish and recede in the near future.”
– E. H. H. Simmons, President, New York Stock Exchange, January 12, 1928

“There will be no interruption of our permanent prosperity.”
– Myron E. Forbes, President, Pierce Arrow Motor Car Co., January 12, 1928

“There may be a recession in stock prices, but not anything in the nature of a crash.”
– Irving Fisher, leading U.S. economist , New York Times, Sept. 5, 1929

“No Congress of the United States ever assembled, on surveying the state of the Union, has met with a more pleasing prospect than that which appears at the present time. In the domestic field there is tranquility and contentment…and the highest record of years of prosperity. In the foreign field there is peace, the goodwill which comes from mutual understanding.”
– Calvin Coolidge December 4, 1928

“Stock prices have reached what looks like a permanently high plateau. I do not feel there will be soon if ever a 50 or 60 point break from present levels, such as (bears) have predicted. I expect to see the stock market a good deal higher within a few months.”
– Irving Fisher, Ph.D. in economics, Oct. 17, 1929

October 28, 1929 "Black Monday"

1/7/15, 7:37 PM

Kyoto Motors said...
I had to laugh when just this morning I heard on the news mainstream economists insisting that this is just a temporary downturn, and that 2% growth is not only to be expected, it's to be seen as "not too bad", as in the new normal... I guess they're at least lowering the bar somewhat.
Everyone is looking at the positive of lower gas prices: "it's good for the economy!" without context, this seems valid. And in some ways, I suppose there's truth to it. But for context, I'd suggest people visit Richard Heinberg's column at []
He even references your work, as you probably know!
Anyway, I should probably finish reading the essay of the week here, before going on and on.
Thanks in advance!

1/7/15, 7:39 PM

Kaitain said...
John Michael, did you see this headline from a month ago on, an energy industry website?

"Falling Oil Price slows US Fracking: The oil price sudden drop from $100 to $67 highlights how U.S. fracking companies are vulnerable to pricing pressure by Saudi Arabia, hell-bent on stomping the American Oil Revolution out of existence."

Apparently, it's those dastardly A-rabs who "hate us for our freedoms" and who are "hell-bent on stomping the American Oil Revolution out of existence" who are responsible for the collapse of the fracking industry, rather than the triumph of thermodynamics, geology and economics over wishful thinking and the funny-money economy. ;-)

1/7/15, 7:40 PM

GawainGregor said...
Not necessarily for publication, but it is gratifying to read in word what the spirit has communicated daily these past months. Of note esp the disgusting stimulation so pervasive in daily life. We embrace the challenge of divesting essential life functions efficiently and honorably. Look for tips in the jar shortly,

1/7/15, 7:40 PM

Kaitain said...
I expect that few if any new nuclear power plants will actually be completed in the US, partly because even with all of the government subsidies, the economics just don’t make sense and the costs are too high and partly because of the Fukushima Daiichi incident. Remember that the first wave of nuclear power plant construction in the states ground to a halt after the Three Mile Island and Chernobyl disasters. I think Fukushima has reminded a lot of people of why commercial nuclear energy was a spectacularly bad idea to begin with…

1/7/15, 7:41 PM

Iuval Clejan said...
The EROEI for ethanol is low, but apparently it can still be worth it to make it. One big advantage is that it can be made locally without much capital investment. Do you have an opinion on ethanol (read David Blume, the ethanol guru). I am skeptical about it, but haven't investigated enough. My cornucopian friend is trying to write a business plan for an ethanol plant to save this intentional community from having their land sold to someone else, so this is not just academic.

1/7/15, 7:55 PM

Andy Brown said...
As I read this it is 5 degrees Fahrenheit (-15 C) and the wind is howling. Truly an night to grieve for the way we've squandered a civilization.

1/7/15, 7:57 PM

Dylan said...
Over the last three years, reading The Archdruid Report has guided me to a place inside myself where I'm keenly anticipating making that camp in the ruins, eating together around that fire, and talking to my companions past the fear that's kept us isolated from each other for so long.

You've consistently warned us against the illusion that this will be easy. The truth is a hard, hard thing, but it's also the only place to begin a journey into real openness and fellowship.

Thanks again for your work. It looks like it'll be an interesting year, and I'll look forward to your continued writing even as I prepare my campfire hospitality.

1/7/15, 8:00 PM

Matthew Heins said...
The image I have in my mind is of a man in robes with a long beard calmly, but resolutely, grabbing the little hammer, breaking the glass, and pressing the Dark Age Alert button.

Beyond suggesting a basic principle of: Work for a Very Bumpy Transition, Prepare for a Global Dark Age, I will wait to comment further as you proceed.

Thanks. And if this is intended to one day be a book, you've got at least one sale.

1/7/15, 8:07 PM

RepubAnon said...
Call me a pessimist, but I think what will happen is that the ultra-rich will invest heavily in robotic technology. There's more than enough resources around to support a world population 1/10th the current size. Thus, the ultra-rich will use robots to support their lifestyles, with some human servants for status (celebrity chefs and the like).

The rest of us will be left to starve and die outside the robot-defended gated compounds, or be killed by the robotic defenders.

1/7/15, 8:08 PM

Yupped said...
I do like the idea of making camp in the ruins and talking about where we go from here. One of the problems I find now in moving towards a future of LESS is that it's a lonely business in practice - plenty of company on the Internet but not so much in the flesh, at least not in my neighborhood, But as we continue on down the road that campfire is going to be quite a bit more crowded and the conversation quite a bit more honest and practical.

1/7/15, 8:14 PM

Pinku-Sensei said...
"[S]quare-jawed rapists out of Ayn Rand novels"--I see you haven't forgotten what you wrote on Christmas Day of 2013 about the GOP being full of crypto-Satanists who hide their worship of Anton LaVey's idea of The Devil behind an adoration for Ayn Rand. As for Ms. Rand herself, her ideas on love and sex can be summed up by a diagram on how to succeed as one of her characters where every "good" choice leads to rape.

As for the main topic of your essay, how to "collapse now and avoid the rush" by coming to terms with LESS, I tell my students about one dozen ways they can reduce their demands for energy, food, and water, the majority of which are about reducing energy, along with examples of how I've done each of these myself. In addition, I try to break down their blindness to whole systems endemic to today's Americans. My students have to research all of the materials and processes required to manufacture a common item such as a cup, towel, diaper, or bag and identify all the steps that involve energy. The point is for them to realize that every step requires energy, including use and disposal. That's one way to make them think about less energy.

As for less stuff, my students are already getting the message about the wastefulness and other hazards of bottled water and might see how others deal with less stimulation by creating instruments out of salvaged materials and then play them in an orchestra. They and I found that last example inspiring.

Just the same, when they determine their environmental footprints, most of them end up with life styles that require five or more Earths if all seven billion humans lived the way they do. Too bad there is only one Earth.

1/7/15, 8:22 PM

Dan the Farmer said...
Some days I wonder what we'll have to do in order to receive your weekly missives, once the internet becomes less dependable. Our cable companies workers have been on strike, and service is occasionally slow. It's kind of like when a storm takes out the power lines and I think that someday they won't come back.

I think about the easy to order non-essentials. I just ordered a whole bunch of rainbow Chanukah candles for a distinctly non-judaic initiation ceremony. It makes an interesting juxtaposition with this week's blog.

Along with that I'm to find three ways to live more lightly on the earth. First is going to be a greater reliance on bio-fuels, since my oil furnace smells like the heat exchanger is toast and the pellet stove seems to work well. Second is greater dedication to calories from my own garden. I'm still pondering #3. It sounds like the next month will offer guidance.

1/7/15, 8:25 PM

Bill Pulliam said...
Oh, I can't imagine that we are anywhere near rid of fracking! One price collapse can't kill such a beast. We always try to nurse our ailing industries along. Every time the price rebounds enough, it'll sputter back to life for quite a while yet. The oil industries have made their choice, that was they way they decided to go, and they will keep at it.

1/7/15, 8:27 PM

Ángel said...

I started reading your writings two years ago -The Long Descent first and then your blogs and books (and Richard Heinberg's)- and that changed my life. I was quite depressed at that moment because all my readings about peak oil were on the fast-apocalyptic side of the decline (Martenson, Orlov, Foss...). I guess I still had faith on the religion of Progress.

As result of these readings I slowly started changing my lifestyle: I started a garden in someone else's backyard, I got plot in a Community Garden, I get my foods from local CSAs, joined a transition group, got rid of my TV, I use my bike as main transportation, got rid of my driver licence, asked my wife to join a carshare cooperative, I learned canning and preserving and old-style recipes, I became debt-free and so on. I also learned from you the importance of learning new skills vs trying to accumulate money or gold. Not sure if all these things are going to make the rest of my life less painful but, at the very least, you gave me hope and, more importantly, something to fight for.

Thank you very much, JMG.

-Coins tinkling in Archdruid's tip jar-

1/7/15, 8:32 PM

Kutamun said...
Yes , make preparations but dont panic , and continue to have a foot in each camp if you need to. In my area there are plenty of people who upon realising industrial civilisation is in decline and in trouble have fled to the bush , bought a few acres and are loudly extolling the virtues of thus newly discovered mythical beast " the community " of which they of course must be at the centre . These people dont seem to realise that there is already a community long established and in place , one with its own set of values and unique internal logic and hierarchy . Having grown up in the bush myself , i understand that community is not about standing around the local footy oval holding hands singing kumbayaya , extolling the virtues of "intentional community " and / or denouncing or denigrating anyone who still remains connected in some way to the faltering industrial apparatus , which will inevitably fail regardless of wether you choose to impoverish yourself or not .

In Australia , at least , living in a bush community is all about "unintentional community " , that is , you interact spontaneously , go about your business quietly , dont make too much noise or upset the locals with grandiose communal schemes that they were obviously too dopey or uneducated to organise themselves . Help out if you see a need , ask what you can do to help .Accept that if you were not born in the area you will probably never be viewed as a local but a perennial outsider , though your kids will be eventually seen as locals , particularly if they play sport and go to school there . Dont shove green or leftist memes down anyones throat , the two being somewhat indistuinguishable in Australia at least ..if you are very skilled at something , this will be quietly recognised by word of mouth in due course .

Be careful aligning yourself to any particular meme or viewpoint , i get the sense that many of the people who are in the bush now living in gentrified eco homesteads that are being heavily subsidised by passive income / large quantities of fossil fuel or government handout in healthcare or direct payment will in many cases not be able to sustain their presence for ling when things start to get really tough . There will be a massive change of the guard . Many of the ideologically driven intentional communitarians and collapsitarians may well be rissoled and the old guard locals will come to the fore with their network of intergenerational contacts and mutual support networks . Go quietly and humbly in the meantime and have a bet each way would be my advice dear punters ; watch the Old Conservative spirit of Burke quietly rise , which is what the Archdruid is suggesting may well happen , i gather .

1/7/15, 8:35 PM

Joe said...
"The almost unimaginably vast assortment of technological systems on which the privileged classes of the industrial world rely for most of the activities of their daily lives."

Dear privileged JMG,

What will you do when the internet and the book publishing industry fail? Just curious how you will get food.

1/7/15, 8:37 PM

9anda1f said...
Shiny, new technological wonder and perhaps an attempt at a new energy bubble? The moon, helium-3, and fusion:

1/7/15, 8:48 PM

trippticket said...
@Myosotis, you could always try a drying carrier like isopropyl alcohol mixed with the anti-fungal essential oils of your preference! Just spray on and around damaged areas.

@Chris G, amazing how easy it is to find this path with a new baby to consider, isn't it? That's what really got us moving 7 years ago.

@August, wide temperature swings are part of life around here too. I've seen 48 and 96 on the same day when I lived in a tent, but our little cottage moderates those swings considerably these days. Tonight, staring down single digits, however, I'm burning the midnight oil, and red oak in quantity!


1/7/15, 9:04 PM

pyrrhus said...
Living these days in the southwest, I love the advantage of having 76 degree weather on Jan. 7, but I see a massive water crisis coming, and very likely before any major energy crisis. We moved from the midwest, which increasingly looks a financial catastrophe followed by the energy fiasco. Any ideas?

1/7/15, 9:28 PM

trippticket said...
As posted last week we are getting our LESS strategy ironed out these days after 6 years of studying and acting on the precautionary principle. Passive homestead and viable business moving right along; the Montessori school where I teach organic gardening, permaculture, and herbalism is paying both obvious and subtle dividends; and now plans to install first 30 or 40 trees of a joint cider orchard are coming into focus for spring.

However, some of us hard-heads have taken a long time in coming around to the more spiritual aspects of paradigm shifting. Over the last year or two, I've been studying and practicing some of your druidry work, reading more Harrod Buhner, among others, and recently have picked up dowsing as my new "stimulation". I particularly enjoy map dowsing. Opens up some deep frackin' possibilties to this formerly narrow mind, I gotta tell you.

One of the coolest things I've discovered about this new training is that it can be draining - mentally, physically, the whole works. Magical training seems to have a built in negative feedback mechanism that keeps the practitioner from getting ahead of himself. When I do simple things, and experience some success at it, it is exhilarating. When I try to do too much it can put me out of commission for days. I find a great deal of comfort in discovering this actually.

Just out of curiosity, is this a common finding? It seems beautiful to me. And do you have any suggestions for a newbie in training? Besides the obvious "take it slow" that already seems so elagantly built in?

Hope this was relevant enough and interesting enough to warrant the space.

1/7/15, 9:39 PM

John Michael Greer said...
Myosotis, uncertainty is a good habit to have. The old Latin motto solvitur ambulando -- solving it as you go -- makes a viable strategy in confusing times.

DM, we had bean soup for lunch, out of an iron pot, so the image came readily to mind.

Martin, I'd say more than a couple of generations -- if things follow the usual pattern, as I expect, it'll be degrowth for the next five centuries or so.

Chris, that sounds like an excellent plan -- certainly good enough to earn tonight's gold star.

August, yeah, and that's exactly what I'd expect from the Daily Kos: the sort of privilege-bunny tokenism that plays so well on the comfortable left these days.

Bro. Will, thank you. I do what I can.

Mark, exactly. You'll doubtless have seen exact equivalents of all those statements in recent media.

Kyoto, please do laugh. The more people laugh at economists, the better we'll all be. As for Richard Heinberg, no argument there -- he's always worth reading.

Katain, oh, no question, they'll come out with every possible reason other than the limits to growth to explain the impact of the limits to growth.

GawainGregor, thank you!

1/7/15, 9:50 PM

Lilith Aurora said...
I'm at a point in my life where it wouldn't be much of a stress to do with LESS. I have a computer and a job, but I am vehicle-free and currently residing in a lovely winter resort (better than calling it a homeless shelter). So, I can't really do anything to "my" windows, since I don't have any. I can turn the light off on my side of the room and use the computer less...
I don't even cook!
Flashes of inspiration have been coming to me through these posts, perhaps exquisitely envisioned through your metaphor of the campfire and soup.
Being one of the "homeless" in an industrial society, one is surrounded by pressure on all sides to simply attain the means to be like everyone else, over-using and over-spending, and (most likely) overworking. But, reading your blog, it seems sometimes like one of the most futile things I could do: slaving for a car, working to afford rent in some overpriced, overheated one-bedroom apartment, etc.
It would make so much more sense, in my position, or anyone else going through similar trials at the 'bottom' of the privileged nations, to learn to live outside of the system. I am not quite sure how to do this, however, especially with such crazy laws around forest habitation and winter weather that gets below zero.
It would be a bit of a stretch for me, but small lessons and babysteps in that direction have accompanied any half-hearted effort to: get a second or third low-paying job, beg for financial assistance for a car, etc.
So, yes it is hard to be part of any solution without the very resources and materials that are causing such problems..but I'm looking for a way.

1/7/15, 10:07 PM

John Michael Greer said...
Katain, no argument there -- that's why I put the ruins of dozens of half-completed nuclear power plants all over 25th century America in my SF novel Star's Reach.

Iuval, the only way your cornucopian friend has any chance of making money selling ethanol right now is if he's in the moonshine business; fuel ethanol is a huge money-loser. Run, don't walk, to some other option.

Andy, no argument there at all.

Dylan, you're welcome and thank you!

Matthew, thank you -- that's a great image. Yes, it's going to be a book, with the working title Dark Age America.

RepubAnon, er, you've been reading too much science fiction (or the press-release equivalent). Do you know how long true believers in progress have been predicting that the same advances in robot technology were right around the corner? (Hint: about as long as the equivalent claims have been made for fusion.) That is to say, your reality check just bounced.

Yupped, true enough. Still, even though we're thin on the ground, there are a lot more people at that metaphorical campfire than there were ten years ago!

Pinku-Sensei, the diagram's great -- thank you. As for your students, in my experience, the step from seven earths down to six, or even six and a half, is a lot harder than the steps from there to three, or two, or one, or less than one; once you get started, the road becomes easier.

Dan, not to worry. Once the internet starts to become unstable or large areas begin to lose service, I'll begin morphing this into a monthly print newsletter. Enjoy your initiation!

Bill, oh, there'll be some fracking going on for a while to come, just as there's been some fracking going on since the 1970s. It's the frantic despoiling of every patch of shale on the continent that will go away once the boom turns to a bust and a lot of investors lose their shorts.

Ángel, many thanks!

Kutamun, why, yes, I am indeed suggesting that...

1/7/15, 10:12 PM

onething said...
I look forward to the less stimulation part. John Taylor Gatto in Dumbing Us Down mentions that not only the waste of time in public schools but also television culture has robbed kids and families of the unstructured time they need to thrive and be creative and connected.
In my youth, people still played board games. My sister and I invented alternate alphabets so we could write each other in code. I'm sure they were very easy to crack...I think these electronic entertainments are like candy, very hard to resist and easy to get addicted to, but you really feel better without it. People will get very creative very quickly if their toys get taken away.

1/7/15, 10:16 PM

Andrew Crews said...
John Michael,

My wife and I live in a small one bedroom apartment where I cook all of our own food. We do not have any expectation or desire to live the lifestyles of our parents. In fact I think we are at our happiest camping and hiking with minimal material things. I think many people in their 20's like myself have found it pointless to acquire material wealth and are instead searching for inner wealth of a more abstract kind.

In my area have seen many people try communal living with urban garden projects. I can't help but be skeptical of the hippy lifestyle and I find many things about it completely naive and their vision of the future. Other communities in the area are Mennonite and not so friendly to outsiders. With such a wide array of people and belief systems and the way people have "atomized" across the country over the past 100 years it has occurred to me there is likely no community of similar thinking people "to be found."

On Cars:

I have thought long and hard about the car-less lifestyle and have deemed it impractical for myself for the time being. I think there may be a sedentary strategy for approaching this future of "catabolic collapse", but there is also a nomadic strategy. I think automobiles will remain and important part of the latter in the decades ahead, but the way they are used may change drastically. Trips will not be taken lightly and I think people may find their hybrid electric cars very cramped to try and live out of if it were necessary. I try to drive as little as possible and stock up as much as permitting when it comes to groceries and other consumables.

Many people of my generation and demograph have given up the idea of owning land, a house, or having children. With so much speculative imaginary wealth thrown into assets its really impossible to do so, and then there is of course the debt issue. We have replaced houses with apartments and children with cats and dogs. At some point in the future I think a new equilibrium will be reached and assets will deflate massively. I don't see any sense of a nation full of foreclosed houses and commercial space and a nation full of homeless people.

You have made it clear how disastrous acting on a vision of the future can be with progress. I hope to make my best decisions by listening to the present and the world around me this very day. Another wonderful post, looking forward to staying tuned! ;)


1/7/15, 10:24 PM

Lilith Aurora said...
My comment was getting too long, so here's some more. Thinking out loud, JMG; I do not want to imagine what is in store for most people in a situation similar to mine. I fear things will get extremely horrific and ugly for urban homeless in the years to come, and am lucky to be one of the few who can get out of here, if only for a short time, to a supportive relationship situation. It will give me some time to think, which is mostly what I've been up to: reading these blogs silently and any other material I can grasp. It's time for action, though. Too much stalling on my part.
One of the unsung skills on this blog, imo, is wilderness survival. Of course, this gets bandied about by the "prepper" community so much, as though everyone will be rushing out into the boondocks to their The word "survival" itself has come to sound ridiculous, thanks to the paranoid chicken littles, but it's going to be important to regain and circulate that knowledge in a world where easy medical care may not be handy much longer.
However, it is a lost art and something at least a few people will need to brave if there's much hope of an integration toward the rhythms of nature and the Earth. Perhaps houses themselves require too much strain on the environment, and are getting in the way. Hell, a few centuries ago, they certainly caused a problem for Europe once all the trees were gone!
I wouldn't recommend braving the wild alone as a good idea during crisis moments, but it's probably going to happen and who's in a better position than someone without a home to begin with hah.

What is puzzling and depressing to me about the 'preppers', is their lack of action. I believe you mentioned once, their main move seems to be just buying more things. But, how many of them are actually testing themselves, right now, to deal with those crises?
It's not the most optimistic approach, but lately my mind has wandered in the direction of great expanses of forest (the few left), deserts and tundras. I'm more than likely to put it off for a while longer, not wanting to damn myself with ignorance like that poor guy "Into the Wild" but I'd like to get started before it feels necessary..

1/7/15, 10:24 PM

Vesta said...
Dear JMG,

At what point in the spectrum of life styles do we become part of the solution rather than the problem? I many readers of this blog fall in an uncomfortable grey area. Like myself.

On one hand, I run a small business that does low-tech, low cost home energy upgrades, and each year we produce net energy savings on the order of that used by half a dozen households. My kids are adopted and walk to school. We grow some of our own food. Our house is small, old, and efficient.

On the other, I also fly occasionally with the family. And sometimes drink wine and eat foods from continents away. And often drive. And use the internet. And participate in myriad other social and financial activities that directly and indirectly support the current status quo. Some of these I might forgo, but only if I were willing to lose my wife and perhaps my children.

The difficulty is not just living with LESS. I welcome that. The real hardship for me is how to do so without losing the people I love.

1/7/15, 10:26 PM

YCS said...
The way things are in my part of the world, Millenials are completely oblivious to the fact that their lifestyles are completely unsustainable. When truth comes knocking it'll be very messy. LESS, I suspect will be involuntarily adopted by those that want to survive.

I've talked a bit about the psyche in my first proper blog post, if people want to read:

YCS (aka YJV)

1/7/15, 10:36 PM

Paul K. said...
In terms of renewable energy not being able to sustain the "lush life," I understand that intuitively. However I'd like to see numbers. When I go looking for numbers on this, most of what I see is hand-waving or commentary. But no careful analysis. It looks similar to the people pushing the "renewable can sustain it all" message. Lots of high level talk.

Has anyone found a careful analysis of how much "renewable" energy actually could be generated over the coming decades? And I mean including numbers, and some educated guesses around scarcity and pricing of inputs to make the infrastructure. I'm not looking for a high-level "debunking" but rather a thoughtful projection, hopefully with curvy lines, showing how far it'll get, how fast, and what the back end of the decline might look like. thanks.

1/7/15, 10:43 PM

MindfulEcologist said...
I found less stimulation a necessisity when I became serious about maintaining a daily meditation practice. A quiet mind is needed to think, to concentrate. Including it in your 'convenient summary' LESS is a stoke of genius in my book.

Has anyone else noticed how extremely strange our device addictions have become? I walked into an eatery and every person was working a "smart" phone and for a moment it was down right eerie. Or how easily private, loud music became such an obsession you need to look to check if someone's plugged in before saying anything to them? I really think it is one of the inner equivalents of the outer pollution overtaking us. Less stimulation indeed.

Your stadium of people can make a real difference. If they are aligned with reality while everyone around them hosts delusions, they are far from powerless. Is that at least part of your idea? With Gaia on our side ...

1/7/15, 10:48 PM

John Michael Greer said...
Joe, I'm way ahead of you. The big publishing corporations are on their way out, no question, but publishing on a smaller scale was a successful gig in the 16th century; I've built my career as a writer with smaller presses of the kind that can manage the transition. I make very little money from the internet; when it starts becoming unstable, this blog will morph into a print newsletter, or possibly a column in a magazine -- another thing that was a successful concern before the industrial revolution. Meanwhile, I've got two plan-B professions already lined up, in fields that historically do well in depressions, and am getting the necessary training and experience right now. And you?

9andalf, the creme de la vaporware! Since nobody's got a working fusion reactor and the US hasn't put an astronaut further out than low earth orbit since 1972, that one's laughable -- but you're right, it'll doubtless get its share of heavy marketing.

Pyrrhus, under most circumstances, your best bet is to adapt in place. Mind you, that's difficult without water! If you can arrange for a stable water source, even if it's scant, that's one thing; if not, heading for wetter country might we wise.

Tripp, yes, it's hard work -- and yes, the line between what's appropriate at your level and what's pushing things too hard is a fairly common discovery, and one to pay attention to. Glad to hear you've hit it, though -- that usually happens with the more serious students. Other than "take it a step at a time," the best advice is what you learn from your own experiences...

Lilith, you've already landed amid the ruins; now it's a matter of figuring out how to navigate the rubble. I've never been in your position, so don't have a lot of first-hand advice to offer, but I hear from (and about) more and more people every year who have dropped out of the mainstream economy and are managing to get by; you might see who you can find who's already there, and see what they can teach you.

Onething, the interesting thing is that at this point I've heard from a number of people who've made the transition to a low-energy lifestyle with children -- and after a fairly brief bout of withdrawal, the kids are much happier. That gives me a lot of hope.

Andrew, glad to hear that you've collapsed ahead of the rush! If a car is useful or necessary for you right now, by all means -- each of us has to make his or her own choices.

Vesta, pretty much everyone in the industrial world lives in the gray area. As I noted in response to Andrew, we each have to make our own choices, some of which will work and some of which won't. There are no prizes for moral purity, just a series of adjustments and transitions -- that is to say, life.

1/7/15, 10:53 PM

Lilith Aurora said...
So, I suppose a question I've been asking myself and have found I can't adequately answer: What role might an individual of very little/unstable means have here? There is surely something one can do?
Knowledge has and can be a great ally, to oneself and others, but there comes a point when it needs to be applied.
Living alone in the wilderness obviously won't do much for others, even if it's done successfully, but perhaps being able to share that acquired wisdom with loved ones and the greater community could make a difference at some point?
I mean, what else is there for the plebian other than complete disconnection from the way things are currently going? I'm not really in the mood to just sit around and bear it, but starting a revolution myself seems kinda bloody and dangerous. (Forgive me for so carelessly throwing responses to previous blogs together, this has been stewing for some time)

1/7/15, 10:56 PM

John Michael Greer said...
YCS, no question, a lot of people are going to figure things out only after a couple of quarters attending that venerable institution, the School of Hard Knocks.

Paul, I'm partial to Tom Murphy's blog Do the Math and the writings of Ozzie Zehner on that subject.

MindfulEcologist, why, yes, that's part of the strategy. The rest? Stay tuned...

1/7/15, 10:58 PM

Scott said...
Dear Archdruid,

If I May humbly submit my own personal steps towards living in a LESS world:

In a few years, once the mortgage is paid off, jettison the office job - and also the car

Over the past five years, I have taken a fit (albeit middle aged body) and molded into "very fit" and "skilled" (yoga, crossfit, martial arts). My future "career" plans will be in the "security" realm - preferably guarding people over facilities (or "stuff").

Also, have been both mentally and practically preparing for living without heat; here is an interesting article about folks who do this now:

Note that some of these people live in cold parts of the country- it can be done (I live in eastern Pennsylvania- near where washington crossed the Delaware).

Thanks so much for this great blog!


1/7/15, 11:10 PM

Brian Bundy said...
re: Myosotis said...
That said, using less heat has meant some difficulty fighting mold here. (Western Oregon) Any of you wonderful people have suggestions on preventing that?

I have had some luck with a light spray of 1:1 vinegar and water in areas that tend to grow mold. Easier if you catch it before it gets started. I'm in western WA so we fight the same wet climate issues.

1/7/15, 11:43 PM

Cherokee Organics said...

I've always felt that the rise of indebtedness in governments, other entities, households and people is a fine measure of the decline. For if those examples in other circumstances led economically profitable existences, then there'd be a surplus, and at that point indebtedness would decline - or even shock, horror - stagnate. That thought alone is enough to send the average economist running for cover! ;-)!

I've often explained to people that the larger economy is not really much different to that of a household. Sure the printing presses can be spun and military pressure can be exerted, but eventually someone, somewhere has to cough up for the inevitable bills for day to day expenditure and additional infrastructure.

Oh yeah, I forgot to mention that whether we as a society invest in additional infrastructure, or not, entropy ensures that if it is not maintained properly then it slowly degrades year by year. Entropy gets all of us in the end.

I think about these sorts of things because the farm here is not connected to very much in the way of the sorts of infrastructure that people are familiar with. It is an eye opening experience.

What a score too with the prediction of forthcoming bankruptcies with the fracking companies. I'd say congratulations but perhaps I know a bit too much about the human side of such things. Incidentally as a small side note of interest, in the past few months, I've spotted many of the top end of town sort of people here selling their expensive houses and moving into the rental market. Very interesting indeed! I guess most games have an end game?

One of the things that I worry about is that the industrial agriculture system requires such huge inputs to maintain existing yields in ever poorer soils. It has been my observation that every time an agricultural system increases yields over that provided by nature through energy intensive methods, then there are unintended consequences which require further applications of more stuff. There is a complete failure to think about the entirety of the system. A good example here is: Strawberries. They produce very strongly in November and early to mid December, then they swap from producing fruit to producing more runners (i.e. new strawberry plants on long tendrils). If I was to extend the fruiting season for strawberries, I'd have to start replicating the earlier conditions of Nov and Dec. This means more shelter for the plants and much more water, which means much more stuff. And stuff will eventually get harder to obtain in a declining system – even water.

Renewables... They're really great, but honestly I get tired of explaining to people that here at this location you get a reliable average of 1 peak sun hour per day for three weeks either side of the winter solstice. That means my 4.2kW solar array will provide 4.2kWh per day and the system itself uses up 0.5kWh per day of that amount. There is no more to be had for love or money out of the system. They always look at me and say, “surely this can’t be true” as if I had a reason to lie about it.

A couple of months ago, local people were harassing me to attend a local meeting about renewable energy (I suspect it might have had something to do with the transition movement). I declined because their basis of belief was so very wrong. They kept repeating a mantra at me about how battery prices would come down and the technology would just get better. Batteries however are such a mature technology, I just fail to believe that mantra.


1/7/15, 11:45 PM

Cherokee Organics said...
“less” doesn’t have to mean “none at all”. Of course and I totally agree with you. Someone sooner or later always says: I'm not moving into a cave! What does that even mean? Do they think we live in some sort of episode of the Flintstones up here? Pah. Less can be very pleasant indeed, it is just a really hard sell for those that have a lifetime of indoctrination.

Please spare a thought for our friends in the state of South Australia who have suffered through some full on bushfires in the past few weeks only to then cop a massive dump of rain from the tropical low: Emergency teams race to northern SA to prepare for its biggest rainfall event in 30 years. The damage to their soils will be huge.

Haven't seen much of the rain here at all though. That's life when you're upside down on this fine planet!



PS: I've got a new blog entry up discussing: waste and stuff; hot weather; accidentally falling over; concrete steps; rocks (how good are rocks?); wombat photos; wetlands; and squeaks! All good stuff: Everything including the squeak

1/7/15, 11:45 PM

Cherokee Organics said...
Hi Myosotis,

You have to sort out your underfloor ventilation. If the house was built on a concrete slab, then things are not that good for your future.



1/7/15, 11:54 PM

Edward said...
@August Johnson:
63 (18'C) degrees!? No line drying? Poor baby.

As we would say in the antipodes - he needs to harden the frell up.

1/8/15, 12:09 AM

Toro Loki said...
Well . I just went through a short power outage here. Just a few days. I survived fine. But I really missed enough light at night to read by. Also missed music to listen to. Think I need to go get a guitar. Or a piano :)
BTW, I don't know how to post a link here using the cell phone. But I just read an amusing story on BBC World News....
Seems some Islamic State police officers are getting their heads cut off. And having a cigarette shoved into their dead mouths...
That is rather twisted humor. But that's what you can expect naked apes to do when you try to get heavy with them.
Don't worry about fanatics... They will get their just desserts.
Reminds me of Robespierre and the Terror after the French Revolution.
If somebody can find that article and post it here I would be grateful.
Thanks. Keep up the good work.

1/8/15, 12:22 AM

Marc L Bernstein said...
Some of your readers are old and their health could be better. I'm one of them, although at age 63 I imagine that a few of your readers are older than that.

My ability to start fresh and build a new life is quite limited. I'm accustomed to a computer, an internet connection, light bulbs, a microwave oven, a refrigerator, a washing machine and a clothes dryer. I drive an automobile. I'm hardly alone. So many in our society are privileged in a similar manner without realizing it, and this type of extravagant lifestyle is not going to be available for much longer, except for the very wealthy.

Given my circumstances, I have decided that educating young persons makes the most sense for me, for now and for the reminder of the productive years of my life.

It's really rather difficult to communicate systems thinking, global awareness, ecological appreciation, a respect for ideas, a fondness for learning, etc., because you have to compete with or overcome various unconscious assumptions that persons may have, along with all of the messages they might be getting from assorted authority figures. Many persons simply won't listen to ideas by themselves. Ideas have to be part of a narrative that they understand.

Sometimes you just have to realize that leading by example is the only really effective way to influence others.

As you say,

"You can’t be part of the solution if your lifestyle is part of the problem."

It's about as simple as that.

1/8/15, 12:55 AM

Jason Heppenstall said...
A timely prognosis JMG. I myself have been trying to live by the concept of LESS - it's what I wrote my blog postabout this week. Frankly I didn't need much of a push to ditch the mind-numbing and soul-crushing office job, but it is still rewarding on many levels to know that what I am doing fits into a broader picture. You might be amused to hear that posters have appeared all over the London Underground telling commuters that their jobs are pointless. It certainly tickled me.

One thing I have noticed more of recently is anger. Cherokee pointed out that anger is a mask for fear, so that makes sense. This is especially obvious today in the wake of yesterday's attacks in Paris. There is a lot of vitriol spewing from formerly calm people - I fear that we may just have crossed a rubicon in Europe. On the one or two occasions I have tried to point out that if we stopped invading and bombing predominantly Islamic countries, raining down remote-control death by drone and propping up corrupt leaders - then maybe 'they' wouldn't want to exact revenge on us. Heavily-armed 'freedom-hating' maniacs don't just magically emerge from a vacuum.

But many people are in no such mood for such wooly thinking - they demand blood. Unless something miraculous happens in the meantime I can see France putting the Front National into power. This would soon be followed by similar parties in Scandinavia and elsewhere.

Time to hunker down, pick your fights wisely and live with LESS, methinks.

1/8/15, 1:46 AM

Dan Stoian said...
Why John, I have followed your blog for some time but never actually felt the need to comment.

Maybe I am now in a certain mood or something but the thought of not being able to read your weekly column, as brought up in the comments by a few of my fellow readers - while being a rather distant prospect in the future, sparked in me the will to post.

As such I would like to suggest that, when time comes, you would take into consideration that some of your current readers are pretty much scattered around the world - such as my case - and consider an option for spreading your ideas farther than the reach of a printed piece that would not involve the infrastructure you are using today. What comes first in mind is shortwave ham radio and a few good friends around the world - which you can easily get a hold of once you will start using your ham radio setup on a regular basis. You will perhaps realize that the people you get to know and meet via radio alone become, in time, a sort of second life that you have in parallel with your first "real" one. Which happens today as it is on the internet - albeit with one rather significant difference: the people that are able or willing to build or even maintain in good working order a hf radio setup are rather different from the screen swiper variety you will find around on the blogs. So when need will arise I am sure you could find a way to broadcast your column to some youf your more distant readers - or listeners as it well may be.

On another hand I appreciate your take on the civilization around us from a country that has only recently seen the benefits of the capitalist industrial world as we have been under a rather strict dictatorial ruling until 1989. I still remember the garden plots - established through mutual, tribal-like agreements among neighbours being maintained around the high rise condominiums, that used to feed the people as food was sometimes in short supply. Right now those patches of land are occupied by car parking spots, for while yesterday people used to have no other personal transportation device than a bicycle - save for the luckiest that eventually got a car, once the common folk were able to get their hands on western produced vehicles everything changed and car ownership skyrocketed. I can still remember the stories of my uncle recounting how he and his family stood watch at the potato crop by night so they would not be stolen just before harvest time - this happened a bit longer ago, in the 60's or so. Given all of this I am dumbfounded by the fact that it only took one generation (aka 25 years) for people to forget all of this and take for granted a type of industrial capitalism that brings you everything you are programmed to want on a silver platter, if you would only follow the rules of the system and become the nice, obedient cog that you are destined to be.

My only gripe is that when I tell people that all of this happening around us is only a short ride on the expanding economy rollercoaster that is bound to also go down now that it went up, they look at me with incredulous expressions on their faces and state that "it can't be that bad" and "they'll figure something out" - no matter what their social or cultural background is, worker class, clerks, academia, you name it.

Somehow I can understand that after just having gotten to this lavish lifestyle, as you call it, they would want for it to continue, but from want to reality there is a long way and they seem not to understand all that's involved.

Still, I have managed to find a few folks that somehow have a clearer view of the events and I am trying to expand this circle of friends in the hope that someday we will be able to help each other in a new kind of economic environment.

Best wishes for you and your folks and hope to hear your words on shortwave radio when the time shall come.


1/8/15, 2:15 AM

sgage said...
@ Bill Pulliam,

"Oh, I can't imagine that we are anywhere near rid of fracking! One price collapse can't kill such a beast."

Meanwhile, look what was on the front page of the NY Times this morning:

U.S. Oil Producers Cut Rigs as Price Declines

"With oil prices plunging at an ever-quickening rate, producers are beginning to slash the number of drilling rigs around the country."

“Demand for rigs is falling off the cliff,” said Joseph Triepke, a financial analyst and managing director of Oilpro, an industry publishing company. “Exploration and production budgets are down anywhere from 30 to 40 percent and the cuts are happening faster than we thought.”

1/8/15, 3:30 AM

martinhensher said...
I'm looking forward to where you take us over coming months! A request, though. It is the collective that I really long to hear about and debate now, not just the individual. My vocation is public service - helping public health systems to fall apart in the most controlled and slowest way possible, in our context here. In the long descent, while things will get worse and harder and poorer, I am sure you would agree that - in the lifetimes of most of your readers - there will probably still be governments, and probably still be people like me trying to serve the common good. How we do that, and how we revive the real traditions of democracy and good government for the people that have been slowly starved of legitimacy these many years - that's what I'm hungry to learn and to develop. Like you, I tend to chuckle at the grandiose schemes to save the world. But there is nothing wrong with managing decline as wisely as possible, and that needs more than our individual family and personal responses.

I should declare that I am an economist by training. I certainly laugh at many of my colleagues. But then my discipline has also produced some true giants. It's perhaps not a coincidence that it hasn't done so since the 1970s ...

1/8/15, 4:06 AM

jean-vivien said...
My nation is still wrecked with emotion today as I am writing, yet more gunfire occurred this morning, claiming anoter policewoman's life... but ever since yesterday evening I have been wondering. After all, such attacks routinely do happen in remote places like Iraq, Pakistan or Kabul. And then it's no big deal to us.
So what if we are fighting the wrong battle, or asking the wrong questions to ourselves ? Is it truly, as I hope it is, a moment where we can stand for freedom of speech, or is it not the standoff of the bourgeois intellectual / upper middle class ? Terrorism does not pop out of nowhere. Maybe we have been locked in a social conflict which is cristallyzing only now, but has had ample time to ferment...
I now believe that these questions are central to this blog's project : pursuing Green Wizardry and appropriate skills may be the easiest part of the journey, what will be considerably more difficult is dealing with the overall social context especially when the latter comes under increasing stress.
You were mentionning police brutality in the US, and loss of allegiance on the part of said forces of order. Well here the opposite will happen, a growing sense of legitimacy for and solidarity with a state body among which are to be found some of yesterday's and today's martyrs. But that will only reveal an even wider gap between France's have and have-not's. It sounds like we are opening Pandora's box, cutting one bit of adhesive tape at a time. In that context, adcquiring the appropriate tech skills will amount to a ridiculously tiny challenge compared to the skills required for avoiding strife and conflict.

1/8/15, 4:53 AM

Scyther said...
Backing up somewhat from the topic of what readers of this blog can (or can't) do for themselves, I agree with Bill that tight oil will probably never go away, and more generally - and ominously - is the reality that humankind will still burn through the almost equal amount of fossil fuel that it already has. Barring some kind of meteorite strike or massive volcanic eruptions that would totally destroy human civilization.

I don't think climate change will prevent the conversion of most of the remaining reserves, and the vast majority of humans have zero interest in LESS. If true, that necessarily means that "business-as-usual" in the face of the inevitable will be the order of our days.

1/8/15, 5:17 AM

Thomas Mazanec said...
If enough "Frackers" go broke at the low price of petroleum, wouldn't supplies shrink, the price rise and make the survivors profitable again?

1/8/15, 5:31 AM

Tomuru said...
I live in Montevideo, Uruguay. It seems like a very livable city of 1.5 million. The section I live in has 50 to 100 trees and I have seen no one out collecting deadfall as I do. I have built my first jet stove outside in the back for summer cooking. I had BBQ chicken several times. I have a plan for a cob wood stove and oven indoors. Even here in a second world country people throw out a lot of useful stuff. I have salvaged some sheet steel for making the grates and dampers for the stoves. I keep up with the news just out of habit. I am concerned that the people in Washington will press the nuclear button as things go downhill. Putin is already for that given their testing of delivery systems in September of last year. Downhill for 500 years would not be so bad if it wasn't for the nukes I suppose. I also worry about warlords like the situation in Mexico's failed state. Any thoughts?

1/8/15, 6:16 AM

eagleriver said...
Perhaps the increase in earthquakes will help people realize the dangers of fracking much like Three Mile Island did with nuclear energy years ago. This is in the news, here in Texas, the heart of fracking country:

1/8/15, 6:17 AM

Shane Wilson said...
One thing that can't necessarily be taken for granted anymore is the willingness of the up and coming BRICS powers to continue propping up the existing order. As they become more and more confident and flex their muscles more, I see it entirely possible that rather than propping up the existing order, they exploit the crisis to their own benefit. They're certainly behaving more confidently on the world stage. I'm sure they'll use the fracking bust to their advantage.

1/8/15, 6:18 AM

Violet Cabra said...
It appears to me that LESS isn't necessarily only less energy, stimulation and stuff. It is, implicitly, an investment in a different value system. While this value system is usually, at least tangentially concerned with the miraculous living planet Earth, this isn't necessarily the main or only emphasis.

Since I began living on communes, squats and farms about 7 years ago I've been able to live a very creative life. I have had the opportunity to learn much about cooking, gardening, carpentry, and have had the time to, rather rigorously study history, spirituality, herbalism, drawing, yoga and languages. Much of the time I've been able to study on my own time between 2 and 6 hours a day, and these included times I was living in a tent for months or the squalid attic of a punk house.

The point I'm making is that having embraced much LESS, my life has been enormously enriched.

When we step away from the dominant paradigm of mindless consumption we become free to create our lives with values and standards that are more rewarding than mindless consumption. The only thing it requires is the spiritual strength to make one's own path and the discipline to stay on it.

1/8/15, 6:31 AM

Violet Cabra said...
Myosotis, I haven't tried it, but I've read that mixing borax in paint can do much to reduce mold growth. Borax is super alkaline and when mixed with paint can, according to my research, create an environment with a pH that completely inhibits mold growth.

Best of luck. Mold is terrible.

1/8/15, 6:33 AM

avalterra said...

You have a fiction writing contest. You should have an "alternate energy" contest and have people send in their looniest ideas. I will bet that more than a few will end up appearing in the media.

I'll start. Giant springs! Yes, you see we can wind them up using animal power (horses mules etc.) then just like the wind up toys of your childhood we install the coiled spring into your car and you got motoring down the road! A completely carbon neutral (except for animal flatulence)fuel source.

Think I can get some government funding/investment money for it?


1/8/15, 7:07 AM

Greg Belvedere said...
I have probably said this before, but I find LESS an incredibly useful rule of thumb. Everyone has a different situation and we can't make all the needed changes overnight, but everyone can get started by doing with LESS.

In line with some of the optimistic observations you made last week, I have noticed many people of my generation (I'm 33) picking up things that their parents never learned, but older generations did not think twice about. Gardening, knitting, soap making, brewing, food preservation, etc. Not all of these people have post-industrial society in mind. I think that perhaps on a subconscious level people realize these will be good skills to have in the future, but for now they are just hobbies.

I'm beating the rush collapsing. I'm getting better at growing and preserving food. I'm thinking about a new career when my kids go to school (though I suspect I will at the very least spend some time supplementing their education given the quality of public schools in the US). I'm reading up on herbal remedies and making some of my first. I have used teas made by others for some time, but now I'm considering this as a future career. I'm also trying to figure out ways to put my library background to use outside of the public library system. Currently I'm concentrating on the home economy as a stay-at-home dad. My wife is the bread winner. She is a small animal vet, but she could potentially transition to large animal if demand changes.

1/8/15, 7:28 AM

Joe Roberts said...
I agree with you, but I admit to sometimes being boggled by just how extensive the stores of "half a billion years of fossil sunlight" and organic compounds that become petroleum really are. It's incredible: how much is used the world over every single day, and we still haven't run out of it. Not arguing in the least with your premise -- obviously it's a finite resource and peak oil is a reality -- but I do also stop sometimes and gasp at how enormous the underground reserves of this stuff really was before we got to it.

1/8/15, 7:35 AM

The other Tom said...
I discovered your blog last summer and have been busy "catching up." Both of your blogs have become vital to my sense of community. It is an advantage to get a wider context on ideas I've been trying to experiment on for years. I'm getting a sense that Well of Galabes is the foundation and ADR is where the "rubber meets the road." I had already wondered what you were going to do post-internet and am glad you plan to keep writing. You never know, the grid may collapse sooner than we think.
@Lilith Aurora, I have been in a similar place, I think, although anyone scraping by is in a unique position. For me, the most difficult aspect was being alone and invisible in strange places. Being in a survival mode is more practical in a familiar forest. My life feels more secure in my native northeast than it did in other parts of North America. When I worked in other areas I found that working in smaller towns was better because I could walk short distances to a campsite. Also, since all the options seem to be low paying jobs now we may as well do the jobs that develop skills that may still be viable after the crash. Trades, cooking, handyman work, caretaking, etc. should still be useful after most professions are irrelevant.

1/8/15, 7:48 AM

rsuusa said...

I have been homeless although it was a long time ago and things were somewhat different in the eighties and nineties. One thing I remember about being without a steady place to live was that everyone always congregated together in the city and my own experience was that the fewer people I ran into the better. Of course I needed the things that other people had so I ended up looking for friends family or random supporters myself. Then I joined the Army and was brought into the world socialism where almost everything was provided for you. Later I took the skills I learned on the streets and the outdoor skills I learned poorly in the Army and combined them and with some minor hiccups I was able to live quite happily outdoors with very little material support in ostensibly public lands. But I was on the West Coast and that really made a difference. In the winter you can head South and West toward the coast and when things warm up and the snow begins to melt you can head higher and deeper into the national forests that run North-South across almost the entire length of the West coast.

The law is never on your side even when it is and I’m an attorney now so trust me on this: you have no practical rights whatsoever even if the regulation or laws say otherwise. As a consequence you will want to avoid contact with agents of the state, ranchers and most people really so it ends up being a pretty lonely experience. Food was never a problem as long as you have keen eye for it and are willing to keep moving. Sickness like sudden flu which I got once, from a hiker I met, can really be a set back as could serious injuries (although I was lucky enough never to have one). With the exception of a sleeping bag camping gear was useless it all just fell apart within a few weeks but then again you don’t really need much just a way to carry some things like a sleeping bag, pot, spoon and whatever you use to catch small game (squirrel, grouse, and fish figured heavily) and keep warm. Avoid firearms they add too much weight and trouble because law enforcement will stop you from time to time on roads and resupply and they are noisy. I could never shake my addiction to caffeine and I frequently found myself in a sort of paranoid fascination with the prospect that I wouldn’t be able to resupply with instant coffee or that I might run out of flour another item I always carried. Bizarre scenarios would then fill my head with the terrible consequences of what could result and then I’d forget about it for a while and a few hours later the odd paranoia would begin again. As I said loneliness was a major issue. I’ve often wondered whether there could be some way to engage in that lifestyle more collectively perhaps with seasonal gatherings but I’m not sure what happens when you age or become disabled.

1/8/15, 8:16 AM

peakfuture said...

For a good analysis of renewable energy and what it can do, check out:

Lots of levelheaded thinking, IMHO.

The cognitive dissonance of all of this stuff is what gets me the most. Some people have literally said, "Please don't bring that stuff up [environmental degradation, economic collapse (even slow collapse), Peak Oil, lack of democracy, modern distractions...] any more."

People have asked me what they should invest in, and my stock answer has evolved to, "Invest in yourself and your community, and invest in low-tech things, if you are going to get into any technology at all."

1/8/15, 8:18 AM

Luddene Perry said...
I live by myself, so I realize it would be hard to get others to live the way I do. While I do want to save energy for environmental reasons, first and foremost I’m trying to save money because I live on an extremely small SS check. I have no central heating system and mostly heat with wood with some electrical for backup. My bedroom regularly dips into the 40s by morning (the secret to being comfortable is to use fleece throws as your sheets). The first rule for coping with this is ACCLIMATE. I didn’t start heating this winter until 2nd week in December and then only because it dipped below 0 outside. Over a few weeks your body gets accustomed to the lower temps (I understand you also burn more calories that way). My first objective is to keep the pipes from freezing and then I think about myself. I don’t heat the room – I just heat me.

One of my biggest expenses was the gas bill to run the hot water tank. Four years ago I turned off the tank May 1st and used a black hose in the sun – works great. I built an outdoor shower that I can use thru about Sept 15th. This is the first winter that I haven’t turned the hot water tank back on and I’m just fine. I bought a 6 gallon restaurant-style aluminum stock pot that I heat in the morning and it stays hot without additional heating for 6 hours or more. The second rule is to stop taking a shower or bath everyday – what a waste! I average about 2 baths a week – but then I live by myself – so who’s to complain?

The washing machine is outside, so it doesn’t get used in the winter. I never use laundry soap; I use the waste water to irrigate during the summer. During the winter I hand wash most things and it’s not as difficult as some might think. I have been amazed at how clean things get using a washboard.

All my north facing windows have styrofoam boards cut to fit that I use year-after-year. My south facing windows either have heavy-lined curtains or styrofoam boards that I pop in overnight. Also on the south side of the house I have built a greenhouse that regularly supplies heat while the suns out.

I understand most people can't imagine sleeping in such a cold bedroom or heating on a stove. However, I suspect we ought to get use to it; someday it may be the only way we can live.

1/8/15, 8:25 AM

Matthew Sweet said...
Esteemed Archdruid,

Not two days ago, I went and looked up your post from 2011, near the end of the Green Wizardry arc, wherein you discussed true voluntary poverty as a strategy to prepare for the impending crash and ongoing crisis. Interesting timing eh.

I'm glad you are moving on to talking about what we can DO. I'm frankly sick of talking about what is happening, why it's happening, who to blame for it happening (all of us), and so on. It's a bit late to be agonizing over the details and a bit exhausting trying to convince people about the subjects at hand.

My wife and I (and baby girl) keep house hunting for a nice rural property for which I have high aspirations on the Green Wizardry side of things. I lack many of the skills needed to implement those things, but a lack of expertise is no excuse (as I have to keep reminding myself). There were plenty enough people who immigrated to North America in the colonial days who went from city slums in industrial Europe to wide open plains over here who had less of a clue and fewer resources / sources of information (internets) than I do, so what's my excuse again?

Meanwhile, I just keep my fingers crossed that the crash doesn't result in the elimination of my knowledge-economy intermediation-laden government job before I can make a few mortgage payments, stow away some savings, plant the vegetable garden and buy the chickens for the hand-made coop.

1/8/15, 8:31 AM

Cathy McGuire said...
You can’t be part of the solution if your lifestyle is part of the problem. … On the one hand, if you’re clinging to an unsustainable lifestyle in the teeth of increasingly strong economic and environmental headwinds, you’re not likely to be able to spare the money, the free time, or any of the other resources you would need to contribute to a solution; on the other, if you’re emotionally and financially invested in keeping an unsustainable lifestyle, you’re likely to put preserving that lifestyle ahead of things that arguably matter more, like leaving a livable planet for future generations.

This is so true!! I see it all the time with friends and family who give lip service even to the small things like recycling, let alone buying secondhand, let alone living without!! When it comes to looking at processes around my little ‘stead, I try to imagine the line of energy that is required; what will I be committing myself to needing if I sign on with this tool or process? I need to balance processes that I can physically do with things I can afford. But thinking about it systemically ahead of time saves a few dead ends.

As to less stuff – that confronts me more and more, as I see the crazy actions and costs that are built in to our plastic-and-chip devices! I am old enough to remember no devices, one phone/tv in the house, no internet, etc – and it’s eerie (as I think someone else mentioned) to see how hooked folks are on their devices, even in public! And I just read a news piece about how smartphones are replacing other stand-alone tools like cameras, pedometers, etc. I do worry that some useful tools will become too obsolete (ie: unrevive-able). I still have film cameras, even one that took a single sheet of film in the back – but film is becoming unavailable – I’ll have to keep an eye on the chemicals needed to make photo-sensitive paper and see if it can print direct…

And as to less stim – a friend of mine is seeking retirement, and she is conscious enough to realize that she will have some emotional baggage around not having “work status” – she says she is torn emotionally. I haven’t yet broached to her that everyone is torn emotionally – often, but the fast pace of our lives mean we aren’t conscious of the inner conflicts – so that is one barrier most people have to slowing down! Dealing with our ambivalence to life is an important growth step; one the Americans in general seem to not be taking… but that’s generalizing, and I know some (of all ages) are…

Part of the theme of my new novel (chapter/week available at ) is learning to adapt to situation – and what it feels like. I’m trying to describe various adaptations and the mindsets required… challenging, but I think stories do help when nonfiction can’t evoke the feelings involved.

1/8/15, 8:40 AM

Harlan Bjornstad said...
I'm looking forward to more of this subject: what to do? Just wanted to say for now that my wife and I like to live by the phrase “one big step at a time.” I'm lucky to have grown up in a household run on a shoestring budget, and under a mother who truly had skills at householding, and insisted that we kids take part in the work. Still, for nearly two decades, after leaving that home, I lived the easy comfortable option, and only in the past few years have returned to those rooted skills: cooking, baking, washing clothes by hand, growing our own food, preserving it. (This next season—the next big step for me—is learning to grow medicinal herbs). Again, we like to say, “one big step at a time.” Be ambitious. Avoid, as you say, the tokenism. But also expect it to take awhile. You can't get the whole way there at once, and you can't let a little bit of failure, or even a lot of it! make you lower your sights. Have faith too, that after getting through the necessary pain involved in learning—you'll find yourself in a happier place. For myself, I've been astonished at how much better I feel about my life, now that I've recovered these skills and added to them. How much more competent. How much more creaturely. How much more human. I should add that your blog has been a huge source of inspiration in my work. The comments included!

1/8/15, 8:44 AM

Vic Postnikov said...
I just want to second to Dylan, he said what I wanted to say. And also I thought, JMG, you would be glad to know that I have translated your posts over the years into the Russian. My only wish now is to reserve a place near the campfire with all your friends when lights go down.

1/8/15, 8:48 AM

Brian said...
This is not the first fracking company bankruptcy. Fracking companies have been filing for bankruptcy since at least 2012. See and for just two of those old reports.

As someone living on the Utica shale and cheering Cuomo's ban on fracking (though it was doubtless for the wrong reasons, it was a good decision), I've been keeping tabs on this for years. One of my arguments for the NYS moratorium was that the longer we stalled, the more it would be obvious that fracking can't work economically as well as ecologically. And sure enough, there you are.

1/8/15, 8:55 AM

sgage said...
Following my earlier link to the venerable NY Times, here's another take on the fracking bubble collapse from Truthout, a 'progressive' rag. Yes, prepare for a (rather pathetic) onslaught from the mainstream media to the tune of 'it's all because the Russians are funding anti-fracking protests'. As if anti-fracking protests have had any effect whatsoever on the feeding frenzy.

Anyway, for your amusement:

Russia Blamed, US Taxpayers on the Hook, as Fracking Boom Collapses

1/8/15, 8:56 AM

Joe said...

As for me, I am gradually increasing food production and reducing outside inputs. If money disappeared tomorrow, my wife and I wouldn't starve. But getting to that point is hard work and a full-time job. It takes lots of practice and preparation, plus the land on which we labor.

Brilliant author that you are, it still must be a full-time job. Glad to hear that you have a plan. I thought perhaps that you were sacrificing your family's future for the greater good of getting the word out now.

1/8/15, 9:16 AM

Laylah said...
Looking forward to this sequence of posts a lot! My only "resolution" for this year is to buy less and make more (and work on skills from carpentry to spinning, in the process) -- it'll be good to have some weekly inspiration for ways to focus.

1/8/15, 9:16 AM

Tom Hopkins said...
I am thinking of yupped's comments about feeling alone in trying to live a LESS lifestyle. I found the most helpful thing for me was to go the Age of Limits conference in pennsylvania. There is something emotionally profound about being on that mountain, sharing community meals, and beibg part of a fellowship where people are at least trying to live a voluntarily collapsed lifestyle. I also found it helpful to actually see our archdruid in person so i could make the connection to a face when reading the report.

1/8/15, 9:22 AM

Colin Flood said...
I think this whole orientation is interesting. I probably make about $24,000 a year before taxes, and don't see a refund ever since I defaulted on my student loans -- and this is the most money I've ever made. The only thing it's gotten me is a shared, drafty apartment with electricity and hot running water. No Internet, no phone line, we do most of our own cooking, I regularly run out of minutes on my phone, I don't have a car -- it's hard to imagine what I could do without that would appreciably improve my readiness for collapse. It's not about LESS for me -- it's about more. How will I get access to the things I need (food, shelter, heat) if I can't buy them? It seems to me that it's less about lifestyle than it is about the support system for the lifestyle -- global transportation of things that could be locally produced, industrial agriculture when local organic feeds people too, throwing electricity at mechanical tasks, and a massive waste of human labor at jobs like mine that serve no social function; hence my presence on this forum in the middle of the workday. If I'm right about this, we need collective, political solutions. I'd love this forum to be a place to discuss and enact them.

1/8/15, 9:32 AM

Unknown said...
"...the regular readership of this blog could probably all sit down at once in a football stadium and still leave room for the hot dog vendors."

That would be a pretty small stadium, < 45,000 (with more than enough hot dog vendors).

Unfortunately, your style of writing is easily understood by most. :-( I wish it were!

1/8/15, 9:35 AM

Clay Dennis said...
I think that Dmitry Orlov does a good job of clarifying the double-bind that you have outlined for us in todays great post. We must all move towards the low energy future that the world has in store for us as rapidly as possible. But acheiving purity in a low energy lifestyle is not only difficult to accomplish for most of us but also undesirable at this point in time. The living arrangment that might be successfull when collapse has moved further along might not be successfull today.

So in my situation, if I was to try and make a living building handmade farming tools from scrap metal now I would fail ,because there is still too much competition from mass produced tools, and not enough nearby folks that need hand agricultural tools. So I get the bulk of my income building fancy architectural metal work, and helping my industrial clients fix their cnc machine tools, though I know these things will not survive the next big step down the collapse staircase. But I learn as much as I can now, and aquire as many handtools and collaborative partners as I can now so I can make the shift later.

1/8/15, 9:40 AM

Erica H said...
Absolutely the same in rural Oregon, where I live. It is humorous and a bit nerve wracking when a city dweller decides to relocate here, which happens from time to time. They come in with big ideas about this community that typically revolve around themselves. If they are smart they soon realize that their worth in the community is directly related to how helpful they are to others in daily life. Nobody cares if they were once a hotshot somewhere else. My best advice - and I know this well because I was once a newcomer here - is to put all your ideas on the shelf when you come to a rural community and just be as cheerful and helpful as possible. Find out what things the locals say they need and do that. After a while you might be able to quietly integrate one of your shelved ideas but most likely you'll discover that they were rather silly and will be too busy getting actual work done to bother with them. Moving to a rural community is a humbling experience and if you let it be, a deeply rewarding one. I could write a whole bunch on this topic - it really fascinates me!

1/8/15, 9:52 AM

daelach said...
@ Myosotis: applying any anti-mold stuff is useless unless you fix the cause - except if you just want the mold to get away for long enough so that you can sell the house. The cause is that the relative humidity is too high near the walls (like in a tent overnight), especially if they are the coldest point. That happens often when you put new thermo windows into an existing building. Before, the windows were the coldest point, and water used to condense there. After, it goes to the walls and yields mold. Even worse if the old windows were leaky and the new ones are not. All in all, it is really bad to just put in new windows, but that's done fairly often since it saves a lot of energy with little investment - at the price of ruining the whole house afterwards.

Another bad idea is heating across rooms. The warm, moist air goes into a cold room, cools off, and while the absolute humidity remains the same, the relative one goes up, and when 70-80% are reached, the mold says "hi". That's especially a problem if you have a point-like heating (e.g. an oven) in a big room. Even worse when that heat point is far away from the outer walls because the chimney is in the center of the house. If there is no heating in a room, it is better to leave it cold because that will also stop mold.

Construction faults like cold bridges are also an issue, like concrete balcony stays. Buying a hygrometer for checking the humidity close to the outer walls generally is a good idea.

Solutions: First insulate the outer walls, then do the windows. You could add some styrofoam plates outside, but that can give problems with algae, especially when the toxic finish washes down (and then contaminates the soil). Plus that they are expected to last about 20 years, which is not overly useful for the future.

Adding a thick layer of glass wool onto the existing outer wall and then laying bricks over it, thus building a second outer wall around the house, is more expensive, but should last. Obviusly, that costs less for a smaller home, plus that a smaller home has less outer area over which it can loose heat. Maybe the LESS thing should be considered here. Or maybe selling the house and building a new, small one with good walls could be another option.

Anyway, with cheap, thin outer walls, you will always have problems. That type of house featuring a big housing area at a low initial price is a product of cheap heating and cooling energy and just will not do well under scarcity conditions. In that case, it could make sense to get a real house either built of stone or even of massive wood (if built correctly). Preferably from before the big oil boom, i.e. from times when people still knew how to build. You can fix a good old house that has some issues, but you can hardly fix a newer house that is an issue.

Provide airflow, and for saving energy, you can use a heat exchanger (encapsulated tubes or so) so that the outgoing warm air heats up the ingoing cold air without mixing. Or in summer, the other way round. You can use thermosolar heating. That's especially useful if the seasons where you need to heat up the house have quite some cold, but sunny days. Even if that isn't enough, it is still helpful to cut down the amount of gas, oil, wood or whatever.

1/8/15, 10:27 AM

beneaththesurface said...
I look forward to your future posts discussing what can be done beyond the necessary LESS lifestyle. While I can certainly do more in terms of learning new skills and becoming more self-sufficient, I feel I have already adopted a lifestyle of LESS. What I feel a calling for now, is something more than just a goal of doing the least harm, or increasing my own resilience and survival chances.

I am especially awaiting your future posts on libraries. I have a desire to work in the field of deindustrial libraries, but I have no idea how to start such work. I work at a public library, and while I enjoy the dwindling traditional library services that still remain, the larger library trends that I witness daily have been an education on what not to do. Some of my colleagues suggest going to library school (or i-schools as some of them are now called), but that seems like a wrong choice for me, considering that by and large I won't be able to learn what I want to learn from a contemporary library and information science degree. What's the alternative? I don't know of any official networks of people to connect with, nor any apprenticeship programs for an aspiring deindustrial librarian. I'm hoping I can find some guidance in your future series of posts.

1/8/15, 10:47 AM

Mark Luterra said...
If the next bubble is in green energy, I'm hoping it's at least the sort of green energy (hydro, solar, or wind) that leaves a legacy of ongoing production. Even if the bubble pops and new construction stops, solar panels and wind/hydro turbines will keep on turning (and generating at least enough money for maintenance) for 30 years or so, ever-so-slightly easing the peak oil energy crunch. The same can't be said for 60%-a-year declining shale wells, or 1:1 EROEI corn ethanol dependent on continuous subsidies.

The problem, I suppose, is that tried-and-true, low-margin projects don't offer the promise of high returns, tipping the balance in favor of some much-less-useful vaporware.

1/8/15, 10:52 AM

Adrian Ayres Fisher said...
And in another department of the ongoing collapse, it's been discovered that since 1970, wild animal populations worldwide have been cut in half. A corollary to this is that prior to European incursion in my part of the Midwest (currently 1 degree F at lunchtime), each family band would, in winter, require an area of roughly five square miles to be able to hunt enough food to survive without depleting animal populations.

It seems to me vital that if people have access to any land at all, some thought should be given if possible to considering and accommodating the habitat needs of at least wild native plants and hopefully other non-human members of the biotic community.

1/8/15, 11:07 AM

Cathy McGuire said...
@Lilith: I appreciate your speaking up to describe one aspect of the catabolic collapse, and to talk about your challenges in dealing with it. If this might help, I found this link over at Ran Prieur's blog - an interesting interview with a squatter community of several blocks! in Detroit, the very low-tech, almost self-suffient lifestyle, and the new problems they are having because the rules of squatting have drastically changed in Detroit :

Detroit squatter community

I've also posted it on the green wizards forum, for discussion.

1/8/15, 11:11 AM

Dave Stoessel said...
My lifestyle is part of the problem but of course not intentionally so. I could buy 40 acres and a mule but I am actually better at dentistry. Many of us rich people "know" the problem, we just don't have a very good method of suddenly playing a different game. Resilience is a group phenomenon. The cure for being rich is becoming poor but very few of us are willing to take Christ's advice to the rich young man. I am in fact an "older" man; and have not unduly spoiled my children but their conditions in life have given them "expectations". They have gone to college to participate in the actual world that currently exists. If it fails tomorrow they have heard me pontificate about E Schumacher and Limits to Growth and will have to change accordingly. So I am all ears for your suggestions to change. Just don't expect us to give it all away before it disappears on its own.

1/8/15, 11:12 AM

Adrian Ayres Fisher said...
My family has been LESSening for years, slowly but steadily (in part thanks to your influence, JMG). As you say, nothing is black or white in this regard; no one can be "pure," and we certainly are not, but we continue to make the effort.

Yet I also believe that looking for, communicating with and working with others can help develop pockets of LESS, as it were. And to me there are certain situations in which a whole community can and should band together to resist environmental incursions by some corporation or other. I'm thinking of the petcoke terminals in the Calumet area of Illinois, for example.

Right now the snow is blowing sideways outside my window, it's a balmy 63 F indoors and I just ate a sandwich made with homemade whole wheat bread (we'll have our chickpea stew tonight.) Making bread is one of those useful skills that take practice to get right. Luckily, my family patiently ate my early productions. :)

1/8/15, 11:31 AM

heather said...
Almost a whole stadium full? I like our chances! ;)

"Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has." - Margaret Mead

I'm not sure I agree with the second half of the quote above; our host here outlines many broad historical and cultural forces that are not "steerable" by even a full stadium of thoughtful folks. But if we think of "change the world" literally, as in "make things discernibly different than they would otherwise be", then the first half of the sentence works for me. How many people doing with LESS, organizing neighborhood homemade potlucks instead of fancy dinner parties, and keeping their kids' birthday parties LESS over-the-top, and offering barters with their friends, and talking about why they are doing these things, would it take to bring LESS into the popular lexicon, to make it a "thing"? An aspirational goal rather than an embarrassing necessity? There was, after all, apparently one guy with a "grumpy cat" and an internet connection, and look where that's gotten…
--Heather in CA

1/8/15, 11:54 AM

Jerry Silberman said...
Assuming there is an Age of Limits conference this year, and assuming that you will be there, will this be the thrust of your presentation?

my sense from attending last year for the first time was that the crowd contained a majority of people who get it about limits and collapse and are ready to think about and organize about the direction you are pointing to in this post.
Jerry Silberman

1/8/15, 12:07 PM

kerry russell australia said...
I have been trying to come to terms with matters of great change in my mind and in my way of living since around 1984 when I was a student in Art School - a visiting lecturer matter-of-factly stated that continuing cultural and technological "progress" was only a belief, not a certainty.
I was stunned as I believed that civilisation was just that - a continually upwardly progressing entity. I realised I believed it as I breathed air, even while doing my best to act the cynical lefty, greeny, activist.
The ladder as metaphor for progress in wealth, career spiritual afterlife, as well as art is used everywhere I would say I fell off that ladder on that day. I haven't stopped coming face to face with my beliefs. it's the ones you didn't know you had that really floor you. Thank you for your work JMG, you are one of the sane.

1/8/15, 12:15 PM

zentao said...
Hello John Michael,

An excellent post! I would caution that any camp fire gatherings in the outskirts of cities or in towns should have a few sentries posted; not for people for but wild dogs. Russian friends have told me lots of stories of problems with wild dogs – you don’t want to use a loud weapon either, since that just attracts more of them…

One suggestion, which I hope gets some traction, that I have mad to local folk is to group together in the near-term. Many people, particularly the younger set, are barely able to get by with the under (or non) employment currently available and are somewhat ‘trapped’ in many urban areas trying to move ahead as much as possible. I certainly don’t feel that these areas are very good choices. I have suggested that groups get together and then look at purchasing property in more rural areas – somewhat like the old ‘communes’. Then they can continue to work in the city but gradually build up the rural property as a group.

I think that this would also help with the common personality of those that seem most aware. Many of these folk are somewhat ‘misfits’ for the general herd so grouping together does not seem to come naturally. A common goal of getting a rural place set up might be a great path forward.

I am very much looking forward to seeing your ideas and suggestions.

I feel it is very unfortunate that many are saying they are “too old” for any living standard less than what they currently have. My mother is 72 and lives completely off grid in an 18x26 cabin. She is quite far north in Ontario and, for example, recently went through a week of -20℃ (-32 with wind chill). Water often freezes near the front door during the night but her wood stove keeps the sleeping loft very comfortable. Her wood fired sauna is great this time of year. Her lifestyle is tough but then again, as she often states, it is also the main reason that she is as healthy and capable as she is.

I recommend people take a look at the movie “Happy People” for a few ideas on cold weather low-tech living…

1/8/15, 12:21 PM

Maxine Rogers said...
My husband and I followed your advice to collapse early and avoid the rush. We own a tiny farm outright, produce most of our own delicious food and do not own a car. We heat with wood from our woodlot and have a clothes line. Our life is delightful and healthful. We read books in front of the fire in the evening with maybe a glass of homemade cider. We both became happier and less stressed without the car. I think most people are afraid of making the LESS changes because they think it will hurt somehow but I can say our changes have only made us happier and healthier.
Thanks for your articles and books.
Hugs from Max

1/8/15, 12:25 PM

Michael Stephenson said...
Myositosis, you could install a heat recovery ventilation system, so you are able to take the damp air out of your house and bring fresh in. That may fall into an unsustainable technology category, but it is something you can do now to solve your condensation problem. Also don't dry clothes indoors without cracking a window. Preferably dry on a line outside, if you can build a roof over your line you can dry your clothes and not have to worry about a bit of rain.

Also make sure your damp problem isn't caused by a faulty roof.

1/8/15, 12:26 PM

Kathleen Quinn said...
A year or so ago (maybe 2?) you asked the readers of your blog to step away from their computers and turn down their thermostats 3 degrees, which I did, to much complaining by the family (that put us at 59F). Last night, with the mercury set to hit -8F, we turned our furnace on (to a balmy 60F) for the first time all winter. It was great. But what’s really great is that since I first turned that thermostat down at your request, we’ve come to find 55F (with our woodstove) completely acceptable (though most days we can get it quite a bit higher than that if we want to). Hard to know how low we can go, but I suspect it’s a good deal lower than 55, if needs be. As temps will rise into the 20s tomorrow, the furnace will go off again. Our goal is to make a tank of fuel last 2 years. When we first moved in 8 years ago, we used 3 tanks a year. Heading in the right direction, anyway. Thanks for the nudge.

This year’s resolution is to stop producing garbage. The usual kind, plus recycling and fossil fuel-based emissions too. Seems straightforward on the surface, but I am finding it profoundly difficult, in large part because of the time commitment and planning involved. From eliminating car trips to producing every food item from bulk/whole ingredients to keeping up with the goat milking/egg collecting to finding a home for outgrown clothes/unused household items I spend hours of every day in support of this resolution. It’s Day 8 of the new year, and I am already exhausted by the effort. And I actually know what I am doing, more or less.

For me, the furnace example and the challenges of achieving my resolution are powerful reminders of the importance of making these changes right now instead of waiting until we are forced by circumstances to do so. I can’t imagine just beginning down this path in the teeth of crisis.

It is also a reminder that for millennia, humans didn’t need to worry about what to do with their garbage—I suspect my grandparents, as children living in poverty, produced next to none (though what they did produce I bet was burned on site, like on most farms back in the day). And I bet the tasks I find most challenging in my pursuit of the “no garbage” lifestyle—sweating over the canner in summer for example-- were done side by side with others—making tedious tasks more endurable, if not downright enjoyable. That’s the part I want to work on this year, because at the moment, to quote Yupped “it is a lonely business in practice.”
Though perhaps we won't be lonely much longer...

1/8/15, 12:28 PM

daelach said...
RepubAnon: And how do the commodities come into the gated communities? Where will the raw materials be from? Who will repair their robots, with what parts, where shall they come from? Who will guard the whole supply and manufacturing chain? Given that electronics need raw materials from all across the earth and thus a globalised transport economy, which is precisely what will cease to exist? Or, to begin with, who will work and guard the acres with their food? And if they put up enough mercenaries to force some slaves, then these will find out rather sooner than later that they'd be better off disposing of the rich and putting themselves in their place. That's what happened e.g. in Ancient Rome. That's how the warlord society will come, see earlier TADR articles.

If they even make it to that stage, which can be doubted given the senility of the current elites. It's possible that the people dispose of them earlier because they figure out that they can't afford the rich any longer.

You see, the skills required for being a ruler in a dark age have little to nothing in common with those required for tapping a complex financial system in a parasitic way. That's why we will see a near 100% change of the elites.

@ Pinku: You'd be astonished how many (though by far not all, of course) quite average, healthy and well-emancipated women actually like "soft games" with the right partner, with being tied (but not including pain, that's much less common). Not because of "Shades of Grey", that selling success just made it obvious. However, the basis is not "his" strength, but "her" trust to "him". While "he" may have the dominant position within the game, "she" decides whether there is a game at all - an interesting dominance inversion. Actually, "he" may lead, but only because "he" serves, which is why "she" allows "him" to lead. So the big difference to rape is that "he" knows perfectly well that in order to repeatedly have such a game with "her", "he" has to take care that "she" enjoys it as to be inclined for another round. And "she" knows that "he" knows that, that's trust. I used quote marks because the whole story works the same way if the roles are exchanged.

No wonder Rand never understood this delicate twofold matter; the narcisstic, selfish psychos she adored were never trustworthy to begin with. That's an important point because our whole current elite (of the very Rand type) doesn't get what being an alpha is all about, namely making the best decisions for the whole and therefore enjoying the trust of the people and thereby earning a somewhat bigger share. As in the small scale example above, leading and serving must go hand in hand. As soon as an elite looses track of that, their decadence begins, preparing their fall.

For the LESS thing.. given how much basically useless waste of resources our culture is endulding in, there is also a positive aspect: how really much we can drop before things get really ugly. However, it's hard to make some car-addicts understand that their heads will not explode if they don't turn the ignition key every day. Or to tell the always-on smartphone addicts that their lives will not end if they cannot see what their "friends" are doing any moments.

Strange, isn't it - e.g. cocaine is outlawed although it ultimately destroys just the consumer himself. Oilaine destroys whole regions as seen with fracking. Cheap consumoine gratification shots as co-addiction destabilise the whole global ecosystem. And yet, the latter two drugs are legal.

1/8/15, 12:29 PM

Eric S. said...
There’s a wide spectrum of people who make up the “we” you’re invoking. Even within that relatively small range, there are people at every place from outright denial through fear and acceptance. There are technotopians and apocalyptic defeatists. There are people who were responding to the future in useful, productive ways then got distracted or burnt out. There are people who have cast a casual glance at an essay but don’t read it too deeply. Even among readers have chosen to try to do something there’s a wide spectrum from the person who is committed but hasn’t acted to the person who has mastered a trade, collapsed ahead of the rush found a niche with all the awkward grey spaces in between. That leaves the question: how little is too little? How late is too late? Does the line get drawn when someone falls through the cracks? When the next wave of crisis gets underway in their neighborhood? Or is there meaningful work to do for anyone alive in a still extant civilization? What would be your advice to a reader who is collapsing but didn’t get to avoid the rush? Or who may be getting exposed to these ideas for the first time through a book decades from now when the next wave of crisis has already turned into a chapter in a history book? There’s also the “we” that is our friends, family and community members who may be skilled craftsmen, gardeners, healers, and tinkers but don’t think in the least about personal responsibility or lifestyle change. The skill it takes to build a costume by hand from scratch to dress as a space hero at an entertainment conference is still a valuable skill, and I have some friends who do things with wood, metal, or live plants I could never hold a candle to who also foam at the mouth if I blaspheme the sacred NASA. What might they bring to a camp among the ruins? For me… I was looking over the curriculum for AODA yesterday, since I’m planning on sending an application at the end of the month, and I was really impressed to see how much the basic requirements of the order act as guideposts along the way toward pacing and focusing the very types of life changes you’re discussing here. I’m looking forward to working with it.

1/8/15, 12:51 PM

AngelusCruentus said...
One quibble, thought, or observation -

When the Federal Government is no longer able to enforce such things as drug prohibition due to limited resources, people will once again have easy access to easily cultivated or synthesized substances that are anything BUT unstimulating. From personal experience, I can safely say that there are many naturally growing entheogens that make something as superficially absorbing as video games seem utterly, pathologically boring in comparison.

1/8/15, 1:02 PM

Jo said...
It is one thing to intellectually acknowledge the truth of what you and many others are saying, another thing altogether to take action.

I think most of us are fairly comfortable in our lives and it takes a huge emotional wrench to make change. In my case it was a recent divorce which forced me to examine every assumption I have based my life on hitherto, as I travelled into a very dark place and back and plumbed the depths of emotions I had swept under the carpet for decades.

The upshot of facing my deepest fears and surviving is that I am just not afraid anymore. It is a wonderful feeling of freedom. Now I can look squarely at the issues of downsizing, living more simply in line with my principles, living with much LESS, and these things seem quite minor compared to the emotional work I have already done.

This year I am planning not buy anything new - I am middle class and middle aged, and can make do with the considerable amount of stuff I already have. I have enlarged my garden and will be attempting to base my diet more around garden produce. I have a list as long as my arm of skills I want to practice and learn, and have the intent of forming closer links with friends and neighbours to share and learn skills and share around all the stuff we suburbanites have in abundance.

And yet I don't think I would have been doing any of this had I not been so shaken up by a huge life-event. This is a story I have seen over and over - people don't change while they are comfortable. I am very grateful to have had to face my own highly uncomfortable period of change and introspection forced upon me, because life on this side looks so much more interesting and fulfilling, if less comfortable.

1/8/15, 1:10 PM

Scotlyn said...
My husband was 26 when he spent a few thousand pounds on getting rurally connected to the electricity grid, after a lifetime without. He did this within a couple of years of coming into sole possession of forty acres and a rotting/crumbling thatch cottage, in which he spent a couple of dark, demon-haunted winters before abandoning it to the elements and getting a mobile home.

During recent discussions we've had on engaging in a LESS inspired "powering down" plan, I asked him what was his most important reason to connect to the grid all those years ago. He answered with a single, emphatic word... "Light!"

I shall be happy to do without so much that became commonplace in the years since... But I shall procure that this man never has to go without light... Now, to start learning about home-grown electric lighting...

1/8/15, 1:23 PM

Chris Chester said...

I'm looking forward to future posts about practical things one can do to achieve the LESS you mention.

My first epiphany about the sustainability of the unsustainable came around 2011 — a few months before I found this blog and commenting community. (Which were a calming influence while I coped with a future redefined.)

I like to think I've made some progress. We moved from two cars to one, which we only use on the weekend. We moved from the 'burbs to D.C., allowing me to walk or bike to work. I've been cultivating a practical and detached perspective on physical possessions. We're cooking more, buying our food locally, and trying to minimize consumption. The changes are largely cosmetic, but they’re something.

But my problem moving forward is essentially twofold:

First, I work in journalism, a profession that lately requires being inundated in all things frivolous and digital in order to stay on top of the pile. By disengaging from the beast, I’d be undermining my livelihood. I've always been very technologically oriented, and I just don't think I have the practical skills at the moment to move to a lower-energy job that can put bread on the table in the long term. On the plus side, I work in public radio, so my conscience is largely clear. (Feel free to contact me if you’ve got any story ideas from western Maryland, by the way, I think that’s technically within our coverage area.)

Second, trying to be part of the solution quickly runs up against the problem of family. Even if I was eventually able to get my spouse to see what the future has in store for us, there is no conceivable way I could convince my parents or in-laws — who are more firmly entrenched in unsustainable lifestyles than almost anybody I know — that doing with LESS isn’t willful self-destruction. It’s less a problem at the moment, but if we have a kid or two in the years to come, I can only imagine the hysteria it would cause.

I just don't think most in the upper middle class circles I was born into are capable of viewing the world differently until fate actually smacks them in the face. I guess I shouldn't exclude myself from that statement either.

But you can only change what you can change, and I aim to try.

1/8/15, 1:41 PM

onething said...
JMG or whomever,

I was thinking the other day that I don't really get what y'all are saying about solar being somewhat unsustainable in that it requires a certain amount of infrastructure and industry to produce. OK, so it does. But, in the lifetime of a solar system, how much energy does it put out compared to the input that originally made it (including batteries)?

Jason Heppenstall,

Somehow I thought Europeans were less clueless.

A very good and true point you make.

And thus the recent post called "Involuntary Simplicity."

Hmm, I sometimes wondered at, say, the Hawaiian indigenous refusal to engage in mining, thinking it a bit too restrictive, but perhaps given human nature and the nature of how things develop over time, it is wise to stop before you really get started, avoiding ending up like we are now, literally pulverizing the bedrock of our existence.

1/8/15, 1:45 PM

BoysMom said...
@Dave Stoessel
I understand where you are coming from, from the perspective of the next generation down the road. My parents are highly educated university professors.

To be sure, dentistry is a necessity, and generally a good thing, and you should use your good skills. When your grand children are adults, what will you have left them? The skills and tools for more primitive dentistry than what you currently can practice, but better than existed 200 years ago? A home that, while in town (which is no bad thing) is sturdy, efficient with the fuel procured from the local forester, and provides ample garden space to grow both vegetables and the herbal aids to the dentist? You are in the best situation to obtain such a home, with an eye to a dentist fifty years from now and what he will need to sustain his practice.

40 acres and a mule are an answer, but there are many other possible answers, and unless you find yourself yearning desperately for the acreage and mule, keep to your current trade and plan to pass it down to the generation after your children. It is an excellent trade and one which can be well taught by the time-honored apprenticeship system when the current governmental regulations have been set aside as impractical.

1/8/15, 1:54 PM

John Michael Greer said...
Lilith, we'll be talking about that in the posts ahead. Revolutions aren't part of the plan; it's a source of wry amusement to me that so few people realize that the word "revolution" literally means "going around in a circle..."

Scott, excellent. What you call "security" has a different name in dark ages, but heaven knows it's a job with a very long tradition behind it.

Cherokee, it's been my experience over and over again that the people who insist that it's possible to maintain a middle class level of energy use on renewables are all people who've never actually had to rely on renewables for any but a cosmetic portion of their energy use, if that. I've considered sometime putting together an anthology of essays by people who actually live on renewable energy, talking about the realities -- though I'm far from sure it would sell worth beans, since so many people are so heavily invested in the fantasy.

Toro Loki, a piano's very hard to keep tuned if you've got temperature variations; the guitar might be more sensible -- or you could get radical and try a folk instrument such as a dulcimer, which is (a) less expensive and (b) easy to care for, and still produces beautiful music.

Marc, one of the things that makes LESS such a powerful strategy is that the bar is set very low. I also have an internet connection, light bulbs, and central heating, but people give me the dropped-jaw look when they find out that I don't have a cell phone, say, or a microwave, or what have you. Without completely remaking your life, I bet you could easily find ways to use LESS, and that will give you more credibility in teaching others.

Jason, I loved the posters! As for the potential Rubicon, I'm worried that you're quite right. It may get very ugly in Europe in the years immediately ahead.

Dan, funny you should mention shortwave; I've recently read that a lot of the old shortwave stations have gone off the air -- which might leave room for new stations, as a venue for alternative media and the like. I've got enough on my plate that launching a shortwave station is a bit more than I can take on just now, but I could certainly see that as an option for some aspiring green wizard...

Martin, the problem I see over and over again with discussions of the collective is that they become excuses to ignore the individual. That said, I'll have some suggestions to make as we go, but be warned that top-down change on a political level is not going to play a large role in those, for reasons I'll discuss at length.

Jean-Vivien, thank you for asking some of the questions that have gone unasked! Yes, we'll be talking about that as well.

Scyther, the awkward detail that's becoming increasingly clear as the fracking bubble winds down is that not all energy resources are economically viable. The sheer inefficiency of a system based on the extraction of personal profit may turn out to be the saving grace of the system. More on this soon!

Thomas, not if it was never actually profitable in the first place, but merely managed to look that way due to an influx of investment money.

1/8/15, 2:11 PM

Clark Harris said...
My wife and I are building our home in a small rural community and planning for a time when petroleum is no longer viable. One of our greatest challenges is working with my father who assumes that some high tech solution will save us. Personally I have always favored low tech solutions like hand pumping water, passive solar heating and walking/biking, while he is always talking about how Elon Musk is building a factory in Montana to produce the batteries that will power a nation of private electric cars and how strontium will power our cities. I don't know whether my biases are blocking my vision or his are unrealistic. What I do know is that I am preparing for the worst and until the Internet fails, I appreciate what seems to be one of the only sane voices around.

1/8/15, 2:12 PM

Jason Heppenstall said...
@JMG. Your talk of filling a stadium immediately brought to mind Monty Python's Philosopher Football. In such a stadium I can well imagine the Fast Collapse All Stars, known for their fiery bursts of speed and fancy footwork, taking on the more solidly defensive Long Descent United. Richard Heinberg would be the ref.

Philosopher Football

@Onething - It only takes a few clueless people acting emotionally to reach a critical mass. Much as I don't like to bring up Hitler, when the fervour among Germans reached fever pitch the thoughtful people who objected to him sensibly shut up and blended into the background. I'd say it was a form of survival strategy.

1/8/15, 2:20 PM

John Michael Greer said...
Tomuru, I've discussed the issues surrounding nuclear war in a deindustrializing world here. As for warlords, yes, you'll get them; it's not as big a change from the current situation as many people think. More on this as we proceed...

Eagleriver, I certainly hope so!

Shane, and that's an important part of the overall picture, too.

Violet, well, of course! I don't talk about that much here, because so many people brush such points aside as so much hippie-dip nonsense, but it's true -- everyone I know who's embraced LESS has a better, richer, and more interesting life than those who are still in the belly of the beast.

Avalterra, don't tempt me! Hmm...

Greg, when I get into the next big sequence of posts here, I'll be talking at length about libraries and what people with library skills can do. It's a big part of the overall strategy. More soon!

Joe, it's good to be boggled. The sheer thumping vastness of it all needs to be grasped, so that you can get a sense of just how bizarrely abnormal the human lifestyles built on that absurd torrent of unearned wealth actually are.

Other Tom, glad to hear it. The relationship between the two blogs is a little more nuanced than that, since there are different roads met by different rubber in each...

Luddene, excellent. By doing that and sharing the knowledge of how to do it with some degree of comfort, you're building a foundation upon which a lot of things can rise.

Matthew, understood, but there are still people who can be helped to grasp what's happening and why, and this blog is aimed at them as much as at those who already get it.

Cathy, all good points. The value of standalone devices may be something I need to discuss as we proceed.

Harlan, nicely put -- and it's pleasant, by the way, to see a word like "creaturely" used in a sentence; not something I can count on in modern discourse!

1/8/15, 2:41 PM

John Michael Greer said...
Vic, thank you! I've seen some of those posts -- are you the one who put the five-part "How It Could Happen" series in Russian? If so, many thanks indeed; I've gotten a lot of readers from those.

Brian, thanks for the correction.

Sgage, funny. Blame the Russians! Blame the Arabs! Blame the Martians, for that matter! Anything, anything, but the faintest hint of an admission that maybe the whole thing was a bubble from day one...

Joe, good. Even in a fully nonindustrial society, not everyone works full time raising food, and while I have a thriving garden, I expect to make my living in a different way.

Laylah, I'll see what I can do.

Tom, glad it worked for you.

Colin, you've already collapsed -- good. Now it's time to figure out better ways to get by in the ruins. That's a challenging task, but you've got a head start over the many other people who will be doing the same thing willy-nilly over the years to come.

Unknown, it's considerably larger than that. Counting all the many places where this blog appears, it probably has a million readers a month -- a third of that on this site, the rest in the dozens of other venues that host my posts -- and if half those are regular readers, the stadium would have well over 100,000 people in it. Mind you, I have no idea how many people football stadiums hold these days, so that may still be on the small side!

Clay, and of course that's also a crucial point. We're not in the dark ages yet, and surfing the waves of transition is the order of the day.

Beneath, as I noted to one of the other librarians here, I'll have a lot to say about that shortly. Stay tuned!

1/8/15, 2:53 PM

Diotima Mantineia said...
John, I've been watching a BBC series on YouTube called "Tales from the Green Valley" -- here's the blurb: "In this BBC documentary series we get to follow a small group of historians and archeologists as they recreate farm life in the age of the Stuarts. They wear the clothes, eat the food and use the tools, skills and technology of the 1620's for one year"

It's fascinating, and I think gives an excellent view of the kind of farming and technology we might expect in the future -- which involves a whole lot of hard work!

Now that I am well into my 60s, and I've been growing/raising a fair amount of my own food on my land for 15 years, I realize just how hard it would be to supply a family with few outside inputs. Sometimes I worry, because my ability to put in a full day of hard physical labor just ain't there any more, and all but one of my neighbors are not very friendly to this odd and clearly not Christian God-Damned Yankee ( Yankee -- northerner who stays up there. Damned Yankee -- Yankee tourist. God-Damned Yankee -- a Yankee who comes down here and stays)

But I have years of experience in raising food organically and a degree in Soil Science, so I suspect I can even teach my farmer neighbor a few tricks about raising food without outside inputs. I expect that level of knowledge might even overcome religious prejudice. But oh, how I wish I had neighbors whose world view was closer to my own.

1/8/15, 3:08 PM

Shane Wilson said...
JMG'S talked about people flooding cities as collapse accelerates, but it might be a good idea to go against the flow and move to a rural area. A different outlook--in the industrial system ending now, social services and other resources are concentrated in the urban areas, but those resources are not sustainable as decline accelerates. Rural areas are going to have the basic resources needed, as well as demand for labor as industrial ag winds down. Besides, the cost of living is much cheaper. Depending on the community, the ability to know your neighbors and form bonds is easier, simply because there are fewer people to get to know. Also, the social fabric is less frayed, depending on the community

1/8/15, 3:19 PM

Patricia Mathews said...
@JMG = I paid good money back in the day to subscribe to Suzette Haden Elgin's print newsletters, before she went digital - and later went dark as her memory failed her. IIRC, it was about $25/year back in the 1980s. If someone gives me a conversion factor (Ye olde retired bookkeeper's mind being offline now) I'll drop that amount in your tip jar. Both blogs.

@Cherokee - New Mexico went through that a couple of years ago. The fires followed by flooding wiped out Dixon's Apples,a long-time beloved orchard in the mountains.

@August (?) - you can get indoor clothes racks, cheap. Set the rack up indoors, wash them in the morning, put them away the next morning. Even a fleece couch throw. And they'll dry on the outdoor line in low temperatures, too, at least here in the high desert.

@all you tough guys and gals - at 76, I can't function in cold weather, even in hats and heavy sweaters, unless I'm out walking. And as a social primate still, feel bad about it, but there it is.

1/8/15, 4:04 PM

Kaitain said...
Sgage said: “As if anti-fracking protests have had any effect whatsoever on the feeding frenzy.”

I have to respectfully disagree. I think that protests and other forms of public pressure have made a positive difference in encouraging a number of state and local governments to ban the practice within their jurisdiction. And now we hear that Obama is saying he will veto the Keystone XL pipeline if Congress sends him the bill.

Protests certainly aren’t a cure-all, but along with other pressure tactics they can be useful. Here in the Pacific Northwest, we have had many proposals for coal export terminals to supply coal from the Powder River Basin to China. There have also been proposals in many communities to build natural gas export terminals as well. A few have been built but most are going nowhere, even though local governments and chambers of commerce have been overwhelmingly in favor. Why is this? Because these proposed terminals have spawned grass roots protest campaigns, lawsuits and delaying tactics like demands for more environmental impact studies. In many cases, the companies have simply given up after years of delays and wasted expenditures. In the town I live in, when Millennium proposed turning an abandoned aluminum plant into a coal export terminal, local government officials though it was a done deal. They want the tax revenue pretty badly and have been pushing hard for the project.

Five years later, it still hasn’t been built, the citizenry is up in arms over concerns about pollution and traffic jams (16 1 mile long trains crossing some of the busiest roads every day would create a LOT of problems and make it very difficult for emergency response vehicles to reach certain areas while the trains are passing through) and there is no end in sight for the delays. Just recently, the State of Washington announced it would be requiring yet another environmental impact study for the project. I suspect that Millennium will eventually have to pull the plug after pouring too much money down this particular rathole and getting nothing out it but a bunch of bad publicity. A proposal for a natural gas export terminal in a nearby town was defeated a few years ago as well after angry citizens made their voices heard and the company faced one procedural delay after another until they finally gave up.

Yes, we cannot stop the feeding frenzy outright, but we can slow it down and delay the heck out of it until economic forces and other factors make it untenable. As Fabius Cunctator, George Washington, Mikhail Kutusov and Vo Nyugen Giap all realized, you can often win by delaying your enemy even if you can’t beat him outright by spinning things out and imposing unacceptable costs until he finally gives up because he can’t afford to continue the fight.

Here are a couple of relevant links:

1/8/15, 4:05 PM

artinnature said...
I've been sitting on our "collapse now" story for quite some time, it looks like this weeks post is a good place for it:

My wife and I were married in 2003. Since we both had very secure jobs, good benefits, made plenty of money and had no kids and no plans for them, we decided to build a big custom house. That happened in 2004. The house was 4400 square feet...the three plus car garage was 800 square feet. We had a new BMW and a new VW Passat, I had plans to add a sports car or an SUV.

In early 2006 we both realized that we were not being fulfilled by our well compensated jobs, our mostly neo-con upper midwest city, or even by our big new custom house. We decided Cascadia was the place for us. We put the house up for sale and left everything behind in July of 2006, including an incredible amount of stuff. We rented a 1500 square foot house sight unseen for the fist year fairly near my wife's job, I became self-employed. Our big custom house did not sell, the real estate bubble was popping. We finally sold our house in January of 2007. Although we took a big financial hit and owed a lot of money, it still felt like we made the right decision by leaving it all behind.

in July of 2007, while paying off our debt on our "dream house", we moved to a different (1400 square feet) rental house closer to a community we liked, and still felt like we made the right decision. I sold the BMW and bought a used, compact, four cylinder truck that I use for work. That rental situation didn't work out, so in July of 2008 we moved to yet another rental house (1290 square feet) in the center of the same town, which we still really liked. We had to get rid of a lot more stuff...and didn't miss any of it. We were then within walking distance of groceries, banking & most other services, including the train station...but not my wife's job. We got rid of the VW Passat and bought a Toyota Prius. Other than commuting, we started to do a lot of walking instead of driving.

In 2010 we finally paid off our debt related to the "sale" of our house. the next year, in 2011, my wife became self employed. She found an office space one block from our rental house and she started walking to work. The Prius was now a grocery getter and vacation car. Continued...

1/8/15, 4:25 PM

artinnature said...
A year later in 2012, our work was going well and we started considering buying a house. We looked at the smallest, oldest and least expensive houses that were still within walking distance of my wife's office. We were outbid many times by much wealthier parties, often paying all cash and then demolishing the small, old house and building a mansion...or two. Finally in April of 2014 we bid on another little old house. This one was a 1942, 800 square foot summer cabin with no garage and was on a very soggy but sunny lot. The house was exactly the same size as our garage back in the midwest. After a long convoluted process we ended up getting the house. There was less competition since the lot was so wet, which posed difficulties for building mansions. After getting rid of even more stuff we moved into our "new" old house on April 22, 2014. My wife's walk to work is now seven blocks. In November we sold the Prius and became a one truck family (anyone interested in my "Prius Story" just let me know).

After a long summer of pulling this old decaying house from Gaia's grip, tree removals, dirt moving and garden building, on December 12 we installed a modern, efficient but used woodstove that I acquired through barter and turned off the furnace, hopefully for good. We've been heating our "appropriately sized for two people" house completely with wood since's not difficult with only 800 square feet. All of the firewood is salvaged and split by me.

Some other things that we're doing, that if you told me ten years ago I would be doing, I would not have believed: saving my own urine as garden fertilizer, making my own deodorant, not using (hair) conditioner, no showering every single morning, cooking in cast iron most days, letting the house temp drop to 52 most nights and 58 most days in the winter, saving rain water above ground in tanks and below ground in swale & pond, giving excess garden produce and baked goods to neighbors and receiving eggs, honey, preserved food in return, making my own tomato sauce from my own tomatoes, grinding my own garden herbs & spices in a mortar & pestle, driving no more than three days each week and sometimes not at all, and on and on. Each step along the path has been more and more rewarding...the road definitely gets easier.

Cheers from Cascadia

1/8/15, 4:28 PM

Greg Belvedere said...

I would personally advise against going to library school, especially if you are already working in a library. I found it frustrating that I got a degree only to end up spending a lot of my time doing work formerly done by clerical staff. If you can already do research there is not much about library work you can learn at school that you can't learn from a textbook. Though an MLS would get you a higher salary, it would also cost you a pretty penny and it is debatable it is worth the cost (and potential debt).

If you would like a run down of some of the textbooks used in an MLS program I can give you a list of mine (I graduated in 2007). Many of the trends in libraries also bother me as well and it would be nice to connect with some other people in the field who are thinking about post-industrial libraries. Perhaps the network you seek could grow out of that. If you are interested I have a gmail account you can reach me at. Put a period between my first and last names and you have it. This invitation extends to any other interested librarians as well.

I have been thinking about putting together some kind of post-industrial library group, but I have my hands full taking care of my toddler. However, I could make time if other readers show interest.

JMG, I'm definitely looking forward to reading your posts that deal with libraries

1/8/15, 4:33 PM

August Johnson said...
@Patricia Mathews - Don't worry, I know about and use drying racks and the like. My post was just pointing out an example of JMG's point about people just wanting to do the least possible and then thinking they'd actually done something without giving up anything.

1/8/15, 4:49 PM

jean-vivien said...
Thanks for those who share their sympathy for what happened here this week.

@Chris Chester :
All it takes to apprehend Green Wizardry without fear is actually just that... being Technologically-Oriented ! It just takes time to get used to a completely different set of technologies from the one you are used to.
Imagine someone who has been speaking English and only English all of his life... and one day had to learn Chinese all the way up to fluency level. It gets hard ! But in this case you are free to choose the angle of your approach, to make for a smoother learning curve.

@Jason :
The Fast Collapse All Stars really makes my day thanks ! But I fear that, after Matt Savinar went out of the Champion's League, and Mike Ruppert went through a personal crisis which took his life, we are only left with James Howard Kunstler as Bersek Sprinter of Realistic Doom. And Gerald Celente carrying the towel.
Compared to Jim's prose, this blog reads like My Little Pony.

To utter the last words I do have on the topic of terrorism, and how we choose to react to it. There were already horrid attacks on our soil, three years ago. A fanatic went riding a scooter and shooting people. But it came as the Presidential Campaign was running in high gear, and all we were thinking at the time was whether Nicolas S., former President, would be able to instrumentalize the deed to bid for reelection and tighten the powers of the State over personal freedoms.
At least for me, the fact that he chose to act the bigger person and not to use those attacks to his political benefit was a relief, with little regards for the victims. This is a very horrible and cynical admission to make, I know... I would react differently now, most certainly.
I guess the perception of terrorist attacks draws a lot upon symbolism and social context, which may be a subject for the Galabes' blog. And I understand a little better now, in terms of feelings, how a certain Head of the United States could get away with leading his Nation into war based upon make-believe stories in the wake of 9/11.

Regarding the Front National : unlike Homeopathy, the more you delute its ideology, the less its influence. But if you reject it openly, it grows. That party has been skipped from the preparation of the national gathering to commemorate the recent attacks.
That is the best strategy to award your average populist party a good winning : in a context that allows it to adcquire a certain dignity and public respect, the other parties's refusal to talk to it (for understandable reasons) gives it back some of the strength it has lost by trying to look dignified. At the end of the day, the party gets a wider fanbase due to its increased respectability, and at the same time adcquires legitimate weapons in the form of the other parties' tangible and un-democratic rejection.
The only way to thwart such parties is to let them speak openly and prove their (in)ability to practically manage circumstances. Ridiculous CAN kill politics, after all. Right now, they probably lack the skills to govern, which is why the other politicians do not mind keeping them strong but on a leash, since it preserves the status quo as well.

1/8/15, 5:02 PM

Bill Pulliam said...
About the future of fracking again... here's the thing:

The present-day scenario does not say to me that fracking is past its time. It says to me that it is actually still too early in the depletion process for large-scale fracking. Just look at the coarse picture: We are seeing a glut because of demand destruction and overproduction. If this drives the price too low to make fracking economically viable, then why doesn't it just go back to sleep and wait for the next round of price spikes, then come back with a vengeance?

I suppose the way this fails to happen is if demand destruction continues fast enough to counteract depletion. But that has not occurred so far in the long term (just in the short-term peaks and crashes), so I'm not sure why it would in the near(ish) future either.

1/8/15, 5:15 PM

Yupped said...
Excellent comments this evening. I did want to say a big Thank You to all this blog's commenters - you have all been a virtual campfire for the last several years for me. I don't really know any of you, other than from your comments, but you've all been a great source of encouragement and useful perspective for me. Thanks again, and I wish you all a kind and gentle downslope in 2015 :-)

1/8/15, 5:52 PM

Mojoglo said...
I am glad to see a fellow journalist (Chris Chester) chiming in. I've been a peak oil-aware journalist for about 8 years and even wrote a three-part series on the topic for the newspaper I work for in North Carolina. I can relate to the dilemma he faces working in the media while trying to use LESS (stimulation). I actually work on the digital side at my company and promote social media use among my colleagues. TV is not my problem (the only reason I have one now is that my husband wants it), but I'm pretty much online all. day. long. But I do have a strategy, and that is as long as I'm in the biz, to choose the least stressful position possible. I moved from reporting (with its demanding work hours) to more of an editing position so that I could work a fixed schedule with little night and weekend work. Just that change freed up enough time and energy to work on other LESS/sustainability goals like gardening. Yes, I'm vulnerable to layoffs long term, but no more than I was as a regular reporter.

I have other strikes against me -- a daughter with a genetic condition that requires some medical management and a spendthrift partner.

I used to argue, but now I just focus on my goals and hope he will follow. Through persistence I eliminated all of my personal consumer debt in 4 years (I just have a modest amount of student loan and a mortgage left), and I bought a house in a working class neighborhood that is well-suited for downshifting and living poor. I'm prepared to leave the industry if I need to as I'm not interested in chasing jobs all over the country.

JMG's advice has worked well for me and it is because he's done a good job preparing folks for the suck. It's so easy to play the victim, to waste time on shoulda-coulda-wouldas (and I still do that sometimes). The key is to stick with the path long enough to start seeing results.

1/8/15, 6:35 PM

Myosotis said...
daelach, bless you for thinking I'm a home-owner. I'm 24, that won't happen for a good while if ever. This is an apartment I'm renting and it's been a few things that have gone moldy, not the walls.

You had some good information though, thank you. For now, we've killed what we can see and are heating a little more. Up to 60 for at least a few hours every day. Hoping that helps lower the humidity.

1/8/15, 6:45 PM

Repent said...
I feel similarly.

Last week, unexpectedly, the transmission on my car went. The auto mechanic estimated it as $1,750 + taxes for the repairs. So I felt an immediate dilemma, fix the 8 year old beater or buy something else. (I also considered being without a car)

In evaluating my options I stopped at a car dealership to see if I would qualify for a car loan for an advertised $9,000 used car. The resulting conversation with the finance manager left me (and him) reeling in shock.

I asked for a 1 year loan for the car, about $900 per month assuming some interest on the loan. He told me the minimum terms on all car loans start at 3 year terms. Also, with my poor credit history the loan would be financed above 18.9% interest for the 3 year term, and that the payments on a new car would actually be lower than buying the used vehicle. In essence, to finance a $9,000 car I would have to pay $450.00 per month for three years, so the real cost of the car with interest is $16,200.

This made no sense to me at all. He went on and on about getting into a new car to reestablish my credit score, to which I told him that I had no desire whatsoever to reestablish a credit score. I buy everything I need in cash, except for cars and houses which require a loan. With this HE was flabbergasted, questioning me saying things like 'buying things with cash is part of the reason you don't have a good credit score' and so forth.

In the end I turned the car down, deciding to fix the old car as the cheaper option to avoid the interest expense. Again, he didn't know what to make of this exclaiming that 'Everyone wants a brand new car, with the loan at the minimum payment possible!'

I told him that I don't buy anything that I don't need. in fact I'm simplifying my lifestyle and giving stuff away; what would I need a good credit score for? He then (quite frankly) told me that the auto business has changed since 2009. The focus was changed so that they charge up to 1000% markup on replacement parts for cars that fall apart with normal wear and tear, this forces people to either drive new cars or they make their margin on the car repairs instead.

I left feeling stunned. How can such an outrageous car financing scheme be regarded as normal? Surely this won't persist into the far future?

1/8/15, 7:00 PM

sandy said...
Greetings from BKK- For those thinking about doing LESS in a foreign country, i will relate my experience (condensed), and some tips. I got off the weary-go-round in 1991 and moved to Bangkok, with only $1000 savings. I had discovered since graduating from college in 1969 that working hard in a corporate environment would not secure the American Dream unless you were good at office politics as well. I purchased 3 homes, and had to sell all at cost after 3-4 yrs due to layoffs and having to move for a new job. So after being sent on trouble-shooting trips to Thailand several times, i decided to give up my $5000 per month job and move, planning on teaching English for $500 per month to survive. Heh. This did not go as planned; the first 3 yrs i had to beg for help from friends in America when the monthly gig got cut short, or didnt come in. This happened about 3 times per year, then i got better at financial planning, and rejected some contract offers.
I was very lucky to have such friends. Also, i learned to keep quiet when watching locals solve a problem and not say, 'Thats not how we did it in America.' This is kinda like moving to any new community, especial rural. The pace of life is gonna be different, usually slower; dont try to speed it up. Often there is a good reason; the first being you will get dehydrated and suffer heat stroke. The customs are different as well; another opportunity for learning. The cost of living here is less; i have always lived on the 5th floor of a cold water walk-up 15 meter sq apartment. I keeps your legs and lungs strong, and only costs about $80 per month, utilities another $70. Food from the market for my wife and i costs $250. Good luck in your Mission Impossible.......rabblebabble

1/8/15, 7:24 PM

Toomas (Tom) Karmo said...
Dan Stoian and JMG: Dan's idea of shortwave broadcasting is helpful. It is true that broadcasting, as opposed to a back-and-forth conversation between two parties, is forbidden in ham radio by FCC rules. However, JMG might be able to cultivate a relationship with social-fringe, political-activist shortwave broadcasting station (as opposed to ham-radio station) WBCQ in Maine. WBCQ is duly licensed by FCC.

Further information on this broadcaster can be had from and from the (easily-Google-locatable) Wikipedia article "WBCQ_(SW)".

Up to 2012 or so, when the demons of decline were less active in Canada than they now have become, there was a radio shack on the University of Toronto downtown campus. I would sit in this shack on many Sunday afternoons, listening among other things to WBCQ. WBCQ had a nice programme on ham radio in the late Sunday afternoon - as well as other, perhaps more eccentric, more political offerings at other times of the day and week.

I would listen to WBCQ in late Sunday afternoons on 7490 kHz in the 41 metre band. The rig in the shack was a good ICOM 756-II Pro, duly grounded, and fed by a longish run of coax to a roof-mounted dipole. With that setup, WBCQ was positively blasting in - as clear as any local broadcast-band station, I think attaining S9 or S9-plus on the meter.

The favourable S-meter reading makes me think that WBCQ could be picked up even with poor equipment. Admittedly, trying just now, with my own poor 1980-vintage DX-300 general comms receiver in my basement apartment, with my long indoor random-wire antenna, I get nothing. But it may be that WBCQ is not on the air just now, or alternatively that at this time in the evening Toronto is sitting in the WBCQ trasmitter's skip zone; the skip zone is bound to move around as afternoon gives way to dusk and as the dusk gives way to deepening night.

It might make some sense for JMG to explore the possibility of a minor working relationship with WBCQ. If the WBCQ managers have sense, they will air JMG pro bono, say for twenty minutes a week, in the knowledge that airing JMG will increase their listener base. Many of us in this pleasant football stadium of a crowd will try to hear JMG on the air, even if the Internet (and with it the ADR pageset) stays up.

Hastily, cheerfully,

Tom = Toomas Karmo

20 or 25 km north of Toronto downtown

www dot metascientia dot com

Toomas dot Karmo at gmail dot com

Canadian ham callsign = VA3KMZ

1/8/15, 7:24 PM

Toomas (Tom) Karmo said...
PS: JMG, yes, indeed, a lot of shortwave broadcasters are off the air. We now search essentially in vain even for the BBC. Last time I checked, perhaps a year ago, there was still activity from China and Russia. I think I heard little or nothing from Voice of America. Shortwave in the 1960s, when I had access to Dad's low-quality Hallicrafters S-100, was a different proposition - BBC World Service, BBC North American Service, Radio Prague (wonderful, and deeply tragic from August 1968 onward), Radio Mock-ba (this I listened to rather often, without telling Mum and Dad, wooden though the impeccably American-accented Muscovites actually were), Radio Nederland, the Voice of America in Estonian for people back home, etc etc. Around 2010, I found out that a close, dear relative back home had been listening surreptitiously to the very same Voice of America Estonian programming that I had been listening to in safety, as a 1960s resident of Canada. - Oh, and the BBC North American Service, with e.g. the radio skit featuring two girls, approx as follows: "Priscilla, you really MUST meet Gregory, - Well, what's he look like, Elspeth? - Oh he is about 6 foot 3, and rather craggy. - Oooooh. - And he plays the oboe. - Oh MY. - He drives a red Jaguar. - Oh, oh. - He works at something rather elaborate in the City, commodity futures, I THINK. - Heavens. - I think his cottage is in Provence, or maybe in Tuscany. - Elspeth, this is incredible. - He is, ah, American ...[several seconds of radio silence, technically called 'dead air'], really, Priscilla, he is very NICE. [more dead air]" - And the BBC letters-to-broadcaster, read out on the air, often deliciously rude, from real-life retired colonels-living-in-India and the like, read out if necessary with rude sound-effect. There is a good American saying for all this, "Puhleeze, DON'T get me STARTED."

Tom = Toomas Karmo = VA3KMZ

1/8/15, 7:28 PM

Philip Hamilton said...
Howdy All

For those of you who think that tight oil will be around for a while. Or that tight oil will never go away.
You may want to consider this..


1/8/15, 7:36 PM

Angus Wallace said...
Hi all,

Quick comment about house temperature. We don't heat our place at all, though we live in a very mind climate. Lowest temp inside the house is just below 13 C (about 55 F).

It never bothers me or the kids, but it does my wife so I bought her an electric throw. It's a hybrid of a couch blanket/throw, and an electric blanket for the bed. It uses about 40-60W of electricity (ie. same as a standard incandescent light bulb) and is _extremely_ warm. Certainly it would keep one warm at temperatures much below ours!

1/8/15, 7:51 PM

Toomas (Tom) Karmo said...
Jeepers. Now that I am started on shortwave, it is hard to stop.

The worst thing that even happened in broadcasting happened on the BBC (how could it be otherwise?), back in the 1930s. The programme may have been emitted from Daventry in the Midlands on the then "Empire Service", in which case it would have gone on a mix of frequencies, and perhaps on a mix of appropriately directed beams, to all culturally significant parts of the globe. At any rate I around 1980 met a person of South African extraction who said that a relative of his had heard this particular 1930s catastrophe in Durban or Capetown or some such.

I believe the programme went out at a time of diplomatic tension, when the listeners would have included defence analysts for the Reich. The analysts would have been keen to appraise the strengths and weaknesses of the UK, both in a technical and in a political-diplomatic sense. Their analyses would have been inputs to policy making at the highest levels.

The BBC was covering the Review of the Fleet, at Spithead.

The Review involved a big array of battleships being first picked out in electric lights, with the illumination then dramatically - temporarily - extinguished.

As bad luck would have it, the BBC announcer was drunk.

The Empire, plus the Reich (one imagines in London, within the walls of Mr Hitler's local Embassy; and, one additionally imagines, in Berlin), then heard approximately the following:

[announcer, slurred] The Fleet----itsh lit up, with LIGHTSH.

[a moment later, as the lighting is temporarily turned off] The Fleet----itsh ... **GONE**.

[long stretch of dead air, I imagine for something like 30 seconds]

[new voice, from London studio:] We regret that technical difficulties oblige us to discontinue our transmission from Spithead.


Tom = VA3KMZ

PS: On checking my facts before posting this, I find that the actual broadcast, minus the London announcer's contribution, is on YouTube. One can
look for "Drunken commentary, Royal Navy - BBC radio 1937", or one can just go to Presumably we have to thank the BBC for diligently keeping those shellac audio-recording platters in its vaults, undamaged even in the Blitz. (Gerry had mag tape for audio archiving, but the BBC had only platters.)

1/8/15, 7:56 PM

YCS said...
I just saw this and thought you might find it amusing. Maybe they should also write the number of seconds in which a human would naturally die in those conditions:


1/8/15, 8:20 PM

Moshe Braner said...
Regarding the renewable energy fantasies of the comfortable, I keep chuckling at the popularity of the "net zero" concept. I sometimes bother to expound in various forums about how the grid does not store energy, only financial credits. What's left unsaid is that a vast infrastructure of non-renewable generation, transmission lines, and finance, is needed to make that "net zero" lifestyle possible. And I havn't yet mentioned what it takes to build an electric car.

Moreover, to me the solar panels on the roof and the air conditioner in the window (or electric clothes dryer, in Arizona, in a solar-panel-rich neighborhood I've read about that forbids clotheslines) are unrelated. They could be miles apart and owned by different people and the grid wouldn't know the difference. But the people enamored of the concept may think of the connections differently. You are what you finance?

Meanwhile here in Vermont it's been rather cold (-16F or so last night) - it certainly takes more than an armful of logs per day to keep warm. But those logs are "net zero" carbon. And cut from naturally-dead trees in my back yard - they don't tax those yet!

1/8/15, 8:22 PM

jcummings said...

I wonder too if library school might be kind of like ag school. What you might learn in the average ag program would set you back in terms of how to farm in a regenerative or even sustainable way.

1/8/15, 8:24 PM

jcummings said...
Jmg - having read a few years into your early posts, I have no doubt of your prescience - even for such difficult to predict areas as the near term future. I have noticed a shift in tone. Your earlier essays can be characterized as having an overarching tone of "wry amusement". It would actually make a good drinking game to follow how often this term appears...

Lately, though, and I think this essay is a good example, your tone has a much more of an urgency. More of a fire and brimstoneish quality.

As you move ever more away from the fringe, do you find your sensibilities evolving? Is your message, in fact, more urgently delivered now? Am I making this up?

I myself, find your writing to be soothing. I think much less apocalyptically these days. Its so much more fruitful to think about the next stair step down from here rather than a collapse situation. Thanks!

1/8/15, 8:38 PM

Auriel Ragmon said...
JMG, I truly appreciate your blog!
I've gained a lot from of it the two years i've perused it, and i think I will get more wisdom as I access the older stuff!
I live on five mostly undelovped 5 acres in WA with 2 very large donkeys and 3 dogs, a nice veggy garden which mostly produces in spring and summer. My wife works for the state whilst I complacently take care of the acreage and do stuff for our local food co-op.
We're not consistent on our energy as we bought a house that was 'all-electric' 20 someyears ago, but we do have a nice wood stove downstairs. As we live 12 miles from town a car is necessary, as is a truck for hauling hay.
I canned several quarts of tomato sauce this fall, and many packets of string beans. We also ate some of our onw corn this year! And we have lots of small potatoes and winter squash to eat yet, so we are starting to bloom a bit.

Here's to you, John, and to your bolg, which has been an inspiration to us!
Jim of Olym

1/8/15, 8:54 PM

Terry Vaughn said...
In the mid-70s I met some people living in voluntary poverty. They lived in abandoned houses and fed themselves from food thrown away at farmers markets. People were required to quit their jobs before joining any of the households. In the restrooms the graffiti was in four languages.

Far from being put off by them, I found them to be the most human and most comforting people I have ever met. Even so, voluntary poverty was a bigger step than I was willing to take back then, so I moved on.

This is the first time I have ever spoken of those people because I knew there was no way I could make anyone in my everyday world understand what they were like or how they made me feel. What a funny thing then, to find myself closing that circle at this website.

1/8/15, 9:02 PM

Nathan said...
Let the subsidy race begin!

1/8/15, 9:22 PM

John Michael Greer said...
Mark, that would be nice. My best-case scenario is a huge PV buildout, with speculative solar farms sprouting like mushrooms on federal subsidy dollars; when they go broke, salvaging the PV panels for pennies on the $20 bill will be a good way to get a home system cheap. Of course there are plenty of less pleasant alternatives.

Adrian, yes, that's also something that needs to be factored into the process. I'll have something to say about it as we proceed.

Dave, living with less takes skill and practice. If you cling to absurd amounts of energy, stuff and stimulation until it's dragged from your grip, you've just given up any chance to develop the necessary skills and get the necessary practice, and that means your life is going to be a lot more miserable than it has to be. Since we're not talking all or nothing, why not take a few steps in the direction of LESS, so you get some of the learning curve out of the way before the floor drops away from beneath your feet?

Adrian, no argument there! "Pockets of LESS" is a nice metaphor.

Heather, good question! I suggest we try to find out...

Jerry, I talked about this extensively at two of the three Age of Limits events; I'm not sure it did much, to be honest. Still, we'll see.

Kerry, thank you! You're exactly correct, of course -- it's the beliefs you don't realize you have that clobber you. A good deal of the work of this blog focuses on showing people what they actually believe, and then talking about that.

Zentao, to my mind, even if all that comes of "grouping together" is a revival of viable cooperative living arrangements, in which people figure out that they have responsibilities as well as privileges, that would be a significant step in and of itself.

Maxine, thank you! It's a source of much encouragement to me to hear from those who get it...

Kathleen, you're welcome, and thank you for the good example!

Eric, I know, it's a very diverse crowd around the fire here in the ruins. That's another of the things I find very encouraging. I have no idea how little is too little and how late is too late; all any of us can do is try, and see what the results turn out to be.

Angelus, for that matter, once you get past the initial stages of practice -- which involve a certain amount of drudgery -- spiritual or magical practice is a source of experiences that make video games seem just as dull.

1/8/15, 10:23 PM

Scott said...
To JMG, thanks for the encouragement- just got back from Aikido class, and now onto the exercize bike!

To everyone,

My url link to the article on people voluntarily living without indoor heating didn't quite come thru - if you google: "New York times living without heat", the top link will be the desired article. I would like to encourage everyone to check it out; it can be done!

I once mentioned to my mother (who doesn't agree with me on any LESS topic in the slightest) that humans have only been "home dwellers" for a small fraction of our species existence, and "heated home dwellers" for an even shorter time. I got the blank stare of incomprehension in return - or maybe she just didn't WANT to think about it!

An unheated home still keeps the wind, precipitation, bugs and sun out - and can provide some safety for you and yours to live and sleep behind locked doors - and some safety for your "stuff" when you are absent. More importantly, both now (under the current legal system) and in any imagined future (by me), it provides you with "a place that's yours" - commonly recognized. Heat (and a/c for that matter) is optional - and might be something we all might have to learn to live without - so why not think about preparing for this eventuality - or even doing it now ("freeze now and beat the rush" :-)


1/8/15, 10:28 PM

John Michael Greer said...
Jo, that's an excellent point -- fortunately or otherwise, a lot of us are facing dramatic personal changes in the years ahead, so with any luck that will encourage some to take the necessary steps.

Scotlyn, that's a worthwhile challenge. There are proven ways to get the very modest amount of electricity needed to power a couple of light fixtures, and at a time when the grid is showing signs of instability, getting some such system up and running is a good idea. I'd encourage you to get working on it, if you're not doing so already!

Chris, understood. Each of us is in a different situation, with different options, opportunities, and limits. As a reporter, I wonder if you can quietly start finding stories about people who are using LESS and having a great time at it -- having those in the media now and then might be a good source of encouragement for those considering such steps.

Onething, that figure only covers part of the total system cost -- it's like saying you can afford a car because you can pay for the gas to drive it home from the lot. In order for you to have a solar panel, what else has to exist, and be fueled, supplied, paid for, etc.? That's the whole system cost, and for PV, it's huge.

Clark, a lot of us have friends or family members who believe devoutly in the Church of Progress, and there's usually not much you can do, other than try not to get into fights and keep on doing what works.

Jason, funny. I can definitely see Jim Kunstler going back to throw a pass to Dmitry, while I sprint to intercept...

Dio, of course it's hard to produce everything yourself -- that's why peasants who do that own so little. A little trade and labor specialization goes a long way. As for neighbors, well, remember they may be thinking the same thing about you!

Patricia, thank you! I have no idea what the conversion factor would be, though.

Artinnature, thank you. That's a very encouraging story!

Bill, not if the extraction was never economically viable in the first place -- not in terms of money, but in terms of the real wealth (energy, labor, resources) that had to be poured into it. If shale fracking was never more than the petrochemical equivalent of, and I think that's likely the case, it doesn't matter how high the price of oil goes -- it'll still cost more to extract than the oil is worth. More on this in an upcoming post.

Mojoglo, good to hear. Do you have any influence on what stories get into the paper? If so, as I noted to Chris, making sure that there are stories about people using LESS and having a great time at it might make a real contribution.

Repent, your intuition and common sense are quite correct: that sort of thing is stark staring mad. It exists because, right now, the manufacture of debt is the only really profitable business in the US; even if you can't pay the loan, it can be packaged and sold to someone as an "investment," and used to keep the charade going a little longer. Eventually? Down it goes, but when that'll happen is a good question.

1/8/15, 10:46 PM

John Michael Greer said...
Sandy, thanks for the info -- those who are considering overseas relocation will want to have that in mind.

Toomas, I wonder how difficult it would be for a nonprofit to get an FCC license for shortwave broadcasting? That might be a very good move for alternative media types just now. As long as they stayed away from the liquor cabinet while reporting the news. ;-)

Philip, thanks for the link.

Angus, and that's a good example of how to adjust to someone's needs. Thank you.

YCS, I do indeed find it amusing. Consider, for that matter, what's going to happen to the guy skydiving on the high gravity planet -- he didn't seem to be wearing a parachute...

Moshe, exactly. The phrase "green tokenism" comes to mind.

Jcummings, the shift is real. It's hard to keep an air of amused distance when the endgame is unfolding and a lot of people around you, who have made zero preparations for the mess that's on its way, are facing a really ugly future. As I've noted repeatedly, the Long Descent is made up of a fractal mess of crises on many different scales, some of them whoppers -- and it seems to me that one of those latter is imminent, right here, right now.

Jim, glad to hear it. Consistency is much less important than making steps in the right direction.

Terry, thanks for passing that on. Do you know if any of those people are still around? If so, I bet there's a lot to be learned from them.

Nathan, too funny. "Nuclear turns to salt" makes me think of Lot's wife, or perhaps of Cinderella's carriage turning back into a pumpkin...

Scott, thanks for the update -- and glad to hear that you're putting the time to good use. It's a long time since I practiced aikido, but the word "onegaishimasu" still comes readily to mind!

1/8/15, 10:58 PM

Bogatyr said...
JMG, I've used one of your posts - The Gray Light of Morning, not the How it might happen series - as reading/discussion material with one of my more advanced students here in St. Petersburg. He's an intelligent and well-connected entrepreneur, so I wouldn't be at all surprised if he's passed it around. It may be that I was responsible for a few new Russian readers!

Sandy - very interesting to hear your story, and hi from a fellow English teacher. I'm in much the situation now that you were then, so it's good to hear you got through it. Which part of Bangkok are you in? How's your Thai these days?

Yupped - I'll second that. This virtual campfire has been a great comfort - and inspiration - for me as well over recent years.

Zentao - a very good point. Can we expect to see dog packs growing, I wonder, as pet-owners decide they can't afford Fido any more and abandon their dogs? Quite possibly. I was attacked by a pack once in Bali, when I took a shortcut through an empty mall, not realising that was their lair. It was terrifying; luckily, I wasn't too far from the exit when they started to circle me, and I managed to get out unscathed. Wouldn't like to repeat that experience.

It's a problem that's common in many old Warsaw Pact countries not just Russia. Colleagues who've worked in Romania says it's really bad there (perhaps some of our Romanian friends can confirm?).

The Russian Cossacks used a short whip called a nagaika, with a lead weight at the tip, as both a replacement for spurs, and to fight off wolves and dogs. There's a group in Texas doing some work with these whips, btw.

Still responding to zentao, "Happy People" is a great movie. It's on Youtube in several parts, if anyone wants to watch it (Part 1).

1/8/15, 11:18 PM

Cherokee Organics said...

I'm sorry to have to agree with you that the anthology would be a bit of a dud idea. I’d be happy to contribute a charming anecdote or twenty if the project was a goer?

Still, for some amusing title suggestions for the anthology:

- Stuff you should probably know about renewable energy systems before you talk about them;

- Three things renewable energy can't do;

- Zen and the effectiveness of solar panels;

- War, peace and renewables; and

- A wombats guide to the effective use of solar energy.

You know, if I had to pick a title, I'd go with the wombat. It might just work - well maybe anyway?

Wombats are sensible creatures and so last evening, the biggest of them all was out having a good solid feed before the tropical monsoon worked its way south east to the farm here. Wombats most certainly know something about solar energy and the weather! Even the spiders hadn’t quite left their webs last night.

This morning though was a whole different environment as outside here is just grey and foggy and it has drizzled all day long and looks as though it will continue to do so for the next couple of days. Honestly, the dogs haven't done much more than sleep today and occasionally harass me for some food.

Back to the wombat though and its prediction for the weather today was indeed correct and the 4.2kW of solar panels have generated 2.8kWh of energy in the entire day.

On a serious note, you have inspired me to include daily details of what those solar panels generate during the depths of winter on my blog. It should be quite enlightening for the true believers out there.

I have to laugh sometimes because I spotted an article recently which touted Germany's renewable energy generators produced 25% of that countries annual power. It is a real achievement and kudos to them.

But then, I said to myself, yeah what happened at night or when the wind didn't blow or during the depths of winter? It defies my imagination completely to believe that any point on the map in Germany could receive more winter sun than here.

The whole failure to think in systems just astounds me.



1/9/15, 12:46 AM

Cherokee Organics said...
Hi Kutamun,

Excellent! You have captured the exact spirit that I see here.

I'm not going to lie to you as it has been a tough social system to negotiate and after 8 years I'm still a Johnny come lately.

What is interesting is that sometimes when I think I've made a massive social faux pas, I've actually earned a modicum of respect for giving someone from outside the area who was making a nuisance of themselves a bit of a kicking - which was well deserved.

Anyway, I try very hard to walk the talk and show that new blood in an area isn't always a negative thing. I open this place annually for the locals and a good time is had by all - but importantly people see what is possible. The funny thing is that I get dropped in on from time to time to see how things are actually going in the real world of the day to day. Oh yeah the social complexities are just complex and I'll be a Johnny come lately here to the day I die.

Hope you are getting some rain up your way and I hope that you are going to the Seymour expo come Feb.

PS: I reckon you are right about the future posing a change – so many people up here rely on fossil fuels and super that they’re in for a bit of a shock.

Hi Jason,

Many thanks. I really enjoy your excellent blog posts!

Hi Patricia,

Thanks for the link. They certainly moved to greener pastures. The images were/are amazing. I always worry a bit because it takes so many years between planting and harvesting for long lived fruit trees such as apples. Wombats think in those terms, but people sure don't!



1/9/15, 1:11 AM

Jason Heppenstall said...
@Chris Chester

First, I work in journalism, a profession that lately requires being inundated in all things frivolous and digital in order to stay on top of the pile. By disengaging from the beast, I’d be undermining my livelihood.

That describes my situation five years ago. I had got into journalism on the mistaken assumption that I would be doing something useful. In short order it became clear that the role of the media at this point in time is to amplify the narrative of our times and parrot out unthinking propaganda. It's a big part of the problem.

Still, it doesn't have to be like that. I launched a couple of local newspapers and sites that featured local news, events and buy/sell/swap. This could be done in my spare time and - in the case of the online one - didn't cost anything.

I had three rules. 1. Make it readable and interesting 2. Make it useful 3. Make it ethical (i.e. no selling out to big advertisers).

People will instinctively appreciate it.

You can probably rope in a few other disaffected journos to help out - there's a ready supply of them. If and when your online newspaper/magazine gets firmly embedded in the local area you can explore print options. Otherwise you could go straight into print as a news sheet, if you have some cash. Find someone who's good at sales but hasn't yet sold their soul to the devil.

If you work at it you'll be performing a very useful local service, will have an interesting job and a means of making a living.

Just remember, keep it local - just how local is something you'll have to decide for yourself. Hold in your mind an image from the future of people riding their horses into town to pick up the latest copy, hand cranked out on a printing press and still smelling of blackberry ink.

1/9/15, 1:17 AM

Cherokee Organics said...

I just had an insight: Most of the problems with terrorism is that we publicly speak words of ideology when heading off to war. We shout democracy and freedom - whatever they happen to mean at that time.

The problem arises when a portion of the affected population is too naive to understand that the wars are not fought for ideology, but instead for crass geo-political, resource and energy reasons.

Indeed, it is always something of a surprise to us in developed nations when that affected population starts returning the ideological favour in the form of terrorism.

For what we sow, we reap in return.

This is in no way meant to be disrespectful to the dead on injured on either side of the fence. It is merely an observation on our motives being reflected back at us.

It might be easier if shook lose the shackles of ideology and told it like it is...



1/9/15, 1:41 AM

Vic Postnikov said...
JMG, your five articles can be found here (just in case) I wish I could do more. I also translated your Theory of catabolic collapse which I think can be applied to various cases, including Russia/Ukraine.
Your blog was recommended to me by Doug Tompkins a few years ago. I think we're on the same wavelength despite being separated by thousands of miles. Waiting for your future postings.

1/9/15, 2:01 AM

Anne Patterson said...
Just came across this great quote which really resonates with this post

A Message From The Hopi Elders
"You have been telling the people that this is the Eleventh Hour.
Now you must go back and tell the people that this is The Hour.
Here are the things that must be considered:
Where are you living?
What are you doing?
What are your relationships?
Are you in right relation?
Where is your water?
Know our garden.
It is time to speak your Truth.
Create your community.
Be good to each other.
And do not look outside yourself for the leader.
This could be a good time!
There is a river flowing now very fast.
It is so great and swift, that there are those who will be afraid.
They will try to hold on to the shore.
They will feel they are being torn apart and will suffer greatly.
Know the river has its destination.
The elders say we must let go of the shore, push off into the middle of the river,
keep our eyes open, and our heads above the water.
And I say, see who is in there with you and celebrate.
At this time in history, we are to take nothing personal. Least of all, ourselves.
For the moment that we do, our spiritual growth and journey comes to a halt.
The time of the lone wolf is over. Gather yourselves!
Banish the word "struggle" from your attitude and your vocabulary.
All that we do now must be done in a sacred manner and in celebration.
We are the ones we have been waiting for!"
- Oraibi, Arizona, Hopi Nation

1/9/15, 2:19 AM

Mean Mr Mustard said...

"Meanwhile, I've got two plan-B professions already lined up, in fields that historically do well in depressions, and am getting the necessary training and experience right now."

I'll hazard a guess with the Archdruid's Microbrewery...!

cheers! :-)


1/9/15, 4:32 AM

Scyther said...
Actually, thinking about it some more, without knowing fine details that we can't know, Bill's idea that fracking will become viable further down energy descent might be so, or it might also be so that it and high-tech "green" technologies are both bubbles supported by good solid high-grade crude.

1/9/15, 5:39 AM

Justin Patrick Moore said...
For those who aren't aware of it Willow Crow has one of the best blogs on the intersection between druidry & sustainable living around. She does a great service by sharing with us her own journey and the green wizard skill set she is building. Find it here:

1/9/15, 6:23 AM

beneaththesurface said...
@Greg Belvedere, jcummings, JMG:

Thanks for your comments. Yes, I've come to the same conclusion too that going to library school would be a bad idea, for the same reasons, plus these additional reasons:

1. I already have a job at a library, so I don't need it to get a job. My pay is decent enough, at least for the modest lifestyle that I'm living on. (Though I'm not under the illusion that my job will be around forever.) I find experience is what is important. Some study on one's own can be beneficial, but that does not need to be through an official degree program.

2. I find that not having a MSL degree, therefore not having an official title of "librarian" (I am called a "library associate"), actually gives me more freedom at my job. In the eyes of the public, no one knows that I'm not an official librarian. I am allowed to do most kinds of work that librarians do (programming, story times, book displays, reference help), but I have less responsibility expected by my manager. If there are a few programs I want to do during the year I can do them, but it's the official librarians that are responsible for making sure the regular programming gets done. If I was an official librarian, I'd get asked to do more things that would give me ethical quandaries, such as teen video game programs. As an associate, I am a little more able to avoid participating in those aspects of contemporary libraries I despise. Also, I prefer working part-time, since it gives me time to write, read, and do work in the informal economy. My workplace has part-time options only for associates, not librarians.

3. Ever since I graduated from college with a degree in anthropology in 2001, I have stayed out of school. I find I have developed more as an autodidact, reading hundreds of books, seeking learning experiences on my own, being free to learn what I want, being in charge of what "assignments" I give myself. I think I'd find being back in school frustrating and confining.

4. From what I understand, library and information science programs these days are heavily focused on electronic media and not what would be important for deindustrial libraries. When I look at the courses in a typical MLS or MLIS degree, most don't interest me. There are a few areas sometimes covered in degree programs that I would like to study and learn more about: the history of libraries, the history of the book, and storytelling (particularly cross-cultural perspectives, focused on the oral tradition). But I figure I can learn about those areas without paying lots of money to some graduate school.

About starting a post-industrial library group: A group of six Age of Limits attendees who were interested in discussion and collaboration about cultural preservation and libraries started an email group. So far, a few of us have shared some ideas, and nothing more has happened from it. If any reader is interested in being a part of it, email me at rwhite at fastmail dot fm and I'll let you join.

1/9/15, 6:31 AM

bcwoodcarver said...
How do you and your readers(me included)square the circle of computer use to get your message out. The power consumed by the posting of this bog, the reading of it and the commenting on it, consumes huge amounts of energy.

1/9/15, 6:34 AM

Chester said...

You make a good point. It's hard to check those unconscious biases about what constitutes technology, even while reading JMG knock down the religion of progress. But if I make the deliberate choice to approach collapse technologies the same way I would javascript or something, the mental barriers come tumbling down.


I like the way you think. My current position involves mostly web work and social media promotion, though I'm encouraged to get out and report as well because I have a better sense than most of the kinds of things people will actually read. Compared to a straight reporting position, it's not that stressful at all, the hours are regular, and the stability is good. We're in the same boat!

I admire your attitude about your partner, and I think you're right: you just have to work towards a future that makes sense to you, and any good spouse will follow.


That's the plan, but it's a bit difficult in D.C. proper, which is in some ways at the heart of the beast. I've been working on a project with our environmental reporter about the vulnerabilities of the grid, though, so I'm making some headway.

1/9/15, 6:51 AM

Paulo said...
A few folks have talked up-thread about relocating to a rural area should a collapse situation begin to unfold, (at least more visibly). My suggestion is to do it well ahead of time, maybe right now.

We live in such an area and have done so for 10 years. As someone mentioned, we can live here for for another 20 and will never be 'locals'. You have to have been born here, attended the local school, worked in the woods or at least your Dad was a logger, and so on. Gradually, those folks are dying out or have moved on themselves, but integration for many is a slow process. Even though we moved here from just 40 miles away, and my background was in logging support, plus I worked as a local teacher, our place in the scheme of things is somewhat half and half. If you don't hunt and fish and drive a truck you won't really fit in unless you have an 'in'. It is just a fact of life. By all means, garden away as we do, but trying to set up permaculture groups, sharing networks, food banks, or a transition network, you might as well put a for sale sign up right now and get it over with. I do hunt, fish, drive the truck, and like to drink and have people over so it works for us. My wife also does volunteer work for various events so we know folks. It is a pretty simple recipe for getting along, smile and fit in.

As for showing up when times get tough, I really don't think you would be welcomed unless you live with a relative. We already have our poor folks that need the odd bit of help, and hurting that need some firewood dropped off, etc. Newcomers have to bring something to the table, pure and simple.

My son and I live on two of the few places with river access. We let our friends use the ramp, and docks etc., but long ago stopped giving access to strangers. A lady across the river calls the cops when people fish in front of her place or she kayaks out to them and suggests they need to move on. This winter a father and son team stopped in and asked if they could shoot an elk on our property. They were very nice, and while feeling bad about it I said, "no". They were from the city and obtained a limited entry draw, but we put up with the elk all year and feel locals should have first dibs.

It's just the way it is.

regards to all

1/9/15, 7:27 AM

Bill Pulliam said...
JMG re: frackers... yes, however, the frackers themselves make their decisions to drill or not based on the cash flow. All those additional costs are externalized and born by society as a whole, not the energy industry. So if the cash flow switches to positive again, why won't they resume?

A more interesting side of this is that according to conventional wisdom, the oil surplus should be stimulating a global economic upswing. But, so far, it isn't. Is this a manifestation of catabolic collapse? Even with "cheap abundant energy," the maintenance costs of global industrial civilization are eating the "energy boom(let)" and not leaving anything for "growth?"

1/9/15, 7:52 AM

Ed-M said...
Excellent article as always, JMG!

Your NewYear's prediction last week on racial strife appears it will probably be fulfilled -- two days ago a black guy from Pennsylvania apparently tried to run down a set of police officers as he recklessly drove at high speeds in a fire lane at Varick Street, Manhattan, as he was coming out of the Holland Tunnel.

Penn. Man Attempts To Run Down Officers - Police Sources.

http://nydailynews. com (posting via cell phone so I can't get the exact link, sorry!)

1/9/15, 8:20 AM

Stacey Armstrong said...
Nice timing with this post in relationship with the last two. I carved out some time to catch up on the goings on here this morning and wanted to offer a Latin phrase that has been echoing through my thoughts and deeds since rereading a part of Alice in Wonderland in November. Festina Lente. Make Haste Slowly.

I am finding everyone's comments and work this week quite bracing.

I quickly tried to find a previous post here that offered the experiment of giving something up in your life that would embody LESS. There was another step ..... Not talking about it. This has been an incredibly rewarding often hilarious experiment for me.

Festina Lente. (In a rallying kind of way). Stacey

1/9/15, 8:24 AM

Unknown said...

"You can’t be part of the solution if your lifestyle is part of the problem."

Hear Hear. This summer we finally managed to get underway with condensing our lifestyles, swimming a bit upstream with the collateral fallout of collapse - the draconian new rules of engagement in the consumer mortgage industry that made selling our suburban home an epic trial.

But we did eventually remove from the NYC region to the E. Panhandle of WV, in a smaller house with more land, in a less costly and more sustainable semi-rural region with more resilience to collapse and less dependence on modern technocivilization. We're, as has been coined, trying to collapse gracefully and condense our lifestyles.

Work to do. This came with an immense STUFF penalty, the disposition of will be a challenge for our household's near future. But the wife and I are old enough to see the fracture lines spreading, and try to get out from under the larger falling blocks. As a Graphic and Web Designer, I am well aware that my profession will be one of the first to likely evaporate. We're already seeing the seeds of it's demise - Design graduates are entering the industry as unpaid interns in lieu of being paid, with massive student loan debt. But the devaluation of their labor, talent and skill, is a sign of the unraveling of traditional contracts with the owner class.

Keep the insightful thoughts coming!

1/9/15, 8:25 AM

Dave Stoessel said...
Thanks for your kind and thoughtful suggestions. My grandfather was a dentist in the Depression and was well off enough to help many people get by and start businesses. As a Lester Brown fan in the early 70's my choice of career was partially predicated on my grandfather's experience of being a help in hard times. I just thought our comeuppance would come a little quicker...My career is winding down now and I have not had to trade an extraction and partial for some chickens. I have also not been promoted to grandfather status---yet. JMG is on the right track, I was just making excuses so I could enjoy a skiing trip or bike trip to France. My wife and I can do LESS, my point was matching requirements to conditions; not being in a hurry to go rural when the Long Descent is 100-300 years.

1/9/15, 8:25 AM

Eric S. said...
Thanks, and I guess that idea of dissensus and experimentation is what it all really comes down to. I’ve really been appreciating your comments and responses on this week’s report. A lot of people I discuss these ideas with don’t disagree with me, they just feel helpless. I hear “I’m struggling to get by as it is right now, much less put away for organic food or solar panels. I certainly can’t afford to think about whatever the future holds right now” from many, many people. I have one very dear friend who gets extremely upset and begs that the subject be changed when I have conversations about the de-industrial future, or about strategies and concepts such as LESS with her husband who is my best friend and a regular reader of your books. She grew up in a situation of extreme poverty, never knowing where her next meal was going to come from or how much longer a roof would be over her head. Now that life has turned around some and she’s got some security, talk about LESS, or about the long descent just reminds her that one day she may be right back where she started, triggers those memories and throws her into a fight or flight mode. At the same time, she’s a gardening enthusiast and has taught me a lot about using seed catalogues and growing food in balcony containers as well as some tricks she used to get by when she was struggling to survive. That alone is a lot, but she still gets upset and defensive with talk about the future. I know a lot of other people who have just lost jobs or are having debts catch up to them who have decided that they can’t really think about lifestyle choices because life isn’t leaving them any. It was a roadblock for me too back when I first started reading and decided that changing had to wait I owned a house and had space for a 10x10 vegetable garden with a rabbit hutch, solar heaters and a workshop for tinkering. That really is the hardest thing to get over, letting go of the need to do it all and embracing is the idea that small, humble steps actually matter. That’s often where people stop. I’ve seen you emphasize that point often in comments, but I’m not sure if there’s been an essay on it. Could you link me to it if you have?

1/9/15, 8:28 AM

Ed-M said...

I hear ya! Right now my partner and I are living in an abandoned house that's falling apart slowly. Still, we can't stay there for long because the neighborhood is gentrifying - two houses are going up in the vacant lot across the street and another two houses are going up in another vacant lot two blocks away. Problably, the future owner-occupants of the houses across the street will call the city to complain, or the city will finally take the house from it's owner and sell it at a sheriff's sale. Either way, we'll have to move out. Lving in the woods is no option for us, since we're older (mid 50s), not hardy and unskilled in wilderness survival. And men's shelters would be two dangerous, since both of us appear to be vulnerable; we're liable to be mugged!

Well at least I'll be getting a small income from an inheritance invested in a trust in a couple of full moons. Problem is, the people who will manage it, whom I call my "benefactors," want me to jump back into the typical American lifestyle with both feet. For me, that means having to rent an apartment, get a job, and commute in insanity-inducing traffic each day. Ditto for my partner.

1/9/15, 8:35 AM

Ed-M said...
Adrian Ayes,

Lucky you (see my comment to Lilith above). Here in New Orleans, we had to contend with temperatures dropping down into the low 20s accompanied by 25 mph winds. This is the first time we've experienced weather like this since we moved down from Boston in 2000.

1/9/15, 8:38 AM

daelach said...
@ Toro Loki: If you are looking for a beautiful instument that doesn't need much care, that you can easily transport, that is affordable and where there are tons of tune books, then you might also want to have a look at the "tin whistle". A six-holed flute without flaps. The best bet is to get it in the key of D because that way, you can play tunes in D and G, which are the keys most of traditional Irish and Scottish are noted in.

In "Star Trek - Next Generation", Picard aqucires such a flute in one of the episodes. I'd advise to go for the traditional, oldschool Clarke with the wooden plug, $15 at Amazon (B001B9JZ78) - remember, keyed in D and not C. Avoid the ones with plastic tip. Besides, the Clarke is from before the oil era. In fact, I'd buy two of them as to have one spare. I can warmly recommend the "Tin Whistle" book by Bill Ochs together with the CD ($16 at Amazon, 0962345679).

@ Mysostris: Oh, renting, yes.. mmhh, what you can also do is keeping at least four inches of distance between any furniture and the walls. Best if you avoid putting furniture at outer walls at all. You might think of getting pressure pots for the kitchen. First, that saves energy, and second, it lowers the amount of damp. Before opening, cool it down in the sink by letting cool water run over it. That way, less damp gets out when opening the lid. Avoid drying clothes inside, and avoid plants inside.

@ Jean-Vivien: Mes condoléances aux concernés en cette affaire; que la France en fasse le mieux.
(My condolences to those concerned in that matter; may France make the best of it.)

1/9/15, 8:50 AM

avalterra said...
Ahhh the next shale oil has arrived...

1/9/15, 9:39 AM

Matthew Sweet said...
Forgive the venting in my first comment. Despite my "throwing my hands up" post and the frustration expressed therein, I do appreciate the value of continuing to get the message out there.
On that subject, someone with skills in photoshop or some such software should go about designing a snazzy infographic for the LESS acronym that can be passed around for e-consumption.

1/9/15, 10:08 AM

chrome_fox said...
Thank you Archdruid for another enlightening post. Having followed your blog for quite some time, I know that my own lifestyle is not sustainable. At the back of my mind, I know I am part of the problem for these main reasons:

1) Family expectation. For an Indonesian Chinese like me, the idea of perpetual progress seems to be ingrained into our culture. The idea of being poorer than your parents or living with LESS is definitely not very welcomed in the family. There is a high expectation that the next generation will be more successful and attain more wealth than the parents' generation. That is the definition of a successful and prosperous family. This drive might be why Chinese have keen business acumen.

2) Skill set that is incompatible with post-collapse period. I am trained as a software programmer with data-mining / analytical skills and majored in Economics. I am not sure for how much longer will the current Internet infrastructure be available at such low cost. Regardless, once the cost of maintaining the whole Internet infrastructure grows higher due to higher energy and component costs, my skills will most likely be made obsolete.

3) Living in a metropolitan city-state (Singapore). Given Singapore's role in facilitating global financial, trade, transport and oil system (Singapore refines approximately 1.3 mil barrel per days) and reliance on tourism, the citizens have benefited tremendously from the globalization and technology revolution. So much so that most people have taken this growth and economic climate as normal. Believing the system's foundation is strong and everlasting, they seek to enrich themselves with more wealth and comfort. I personally have never heard any of my friends (in mid 20s) express concern regarding the sustainability of the whole system. Instead of living with LESS, most people want MORE.

Regarding stimulation: Most people are also so absorbed with their smartphones, mainly playing games or watching videos; Parents are distracting their children with smartphones whenever possible to keep them quiet. I see a generation of overtly-stimulated children in the making, and I do fear for how this stimulation is re-wiring the children's brains.

For this year's resolution: I am thinking of learning how to do pot-gardening for this year and make do without air-conditioner at home.

Anyone has any suggestion on what other actions a person living in a metropolitan city like me can take to prepare for the collapse?

1/9/15, 10:31 AM

Leo Knight said...
Yesterday, I watched one of your lectures on YouTube. You mentioned how critics lambasted James Howard Kunstler for predicting the rise of piracy. "How could such a thing happen in the modern world?" Fast forward to Somalia. Everything old is new again.

Regarding robotics, I'm sure you know the word "robot" comes from a Czech word for "slave." In a declining world, full of violence, desperation and poverty, ruthless people would find a ready supply of biological "robots."

Some years ago, at the height of the "reality TV" craze, PBS did a series of re-enactments where modern people tried to live as their historical counterparts did. I remember in particular "Frontier House," where the participants had to build and maintain a Montana homestead, c.1889. Only one family was judged to have been unable to survive the winter.

The final episode shows one family at home again in a palatial Malibu mansion overlooking the ocean. Each person is in a separate room, doing their own separate activities. More than one of them laments their isolation, and misses the closeness that they had in their little cabin.

I don't know how to do a link, but Google "PBS Frontier House." The rest of the series, 1900 House, Colonial House, etc. may serve as examples of LESS in practice. You can probably find most of them online.

1/9/15, 10:33 AM

Moshe Braner said...
Wow, and now even Gail Tverberg is essentially saying "pray", or civilization is finished.
(see last paragraph). This is quite a change from her usual dry, impassionate tone. And the hidden assumption is that God would want to save the banksters from the planet. She needs the archdruid's perspective that, yes, there was life on Earth before industrial capitalism.

1/9/15, 10:34 AM

William Church said...
Good points Bill. I wonder though what level of impact the blowback will have on our ability to finance fracking going forward.

It may be that a stricter financing arena will push off the day it continues a while. Maybe the oil glut is very short lived.

Trying to forecast economics means more and more predicting politics. Not easy at times.

1/9/15, 10:50 AM

redoak said...
As usual, an excellent discussion, I really enjoy sitting here around the campfire with all of you! I’m usually pretty quiet about my personal choices regarding LESS (especially online), but given some of the great comments above, and a little free time this afternoon, I thought I’d share a thing or two I’ve learned.

From a superficial perspective my family is pretty conventional. My wife and I both work 40 hours a week, the kids go to public school, we commute in cars, and carry iPhones in our pockets. But we also apply ourselves to LESS with some real commitment. We garden and can extensively. I learned to timber frame and built our house and barn with traditional joinery, hand tools, and oak pegs. We run a small flock of chickens. We heat exclusively with our own wood (I installed a masonry heater in the center of the house, pricey up front, but I’ll never pay a heating bill again, and the pizza oven is awesome!). I’ve become a tolerable small engine mechanic and a competent logger, among a dozen other skills necessary to building a house by yourself: plumber, site work, electrician, carpentry, etc.

For me LESS isn’t necessary yet, but it is still choice worthy and deeply satisfying. As my wife likes to say, LESS is a great way of life regardless of any future necessity for doing so. Tonight when I split some wood for the evening fire in that hand built barn, I plan to take a little tug from the Jameson’s to toast all the excellent ADR’ers getting more LESS in their lives.

1/9/15, 11:46 AM

Rebecca Zegstroo said...
Oh, come on industry will be fine for centuries to come. The human race has learned so much since Roman times. The US Navy announced last year that it had made a breakthrough in controlling fusion. We're all set to expand in every direction. The announcement was a little heavy on the "may", "might", "could", and "if"; but give them a break. Big science takes time.

Dream over. Time to get back to planning my garden.

1/9/15, 11:56 AM

onething said...

The only odd part about your story is that you consider an 8 year old car a beater. If you can afford $900 per month payments, why not just fix the trannie?
To be sure, in the past getting a one-year car loan would be easy enough, but I expect as things get worse, financial types will find more and more ways of extracting money through fees and interest. But you talked to the guy at the car lot. Why not go to a bank? I bet they would have given you a one-year loan.
That guy was probably right about a lot of people, but not everybody. I don't know that most people really add up the interest on a long term loan or compare the amount they will pay with differing loan conditions. The main thing, though, is that 18% interest is very high. It doesn't hurt to have a good credit score. It got me an interest-free car loan once, and I bought new even though I don't believe it is generally a good idea because a used car loan required interest.

1/9/15, 12:58 PM

zentao said...
Hello John Michael,

I thought I would add a few other thoughts to my earlier comment (thanks for the vote in favour, by the way).

The first is for those folks thinking that LESS is impossible, I present the following article from 1970 for a “commune” less than 15 minutes down the road from my mother’s place. They are still going strong more than 40 years later:

“Mike” (not his real name) is alive and well – Beaver, as he is known, is still the main person at Morning Glory (he is now in his 60’s). They still live off-grid and pretty much are 100% self-sufficient. They have a vibrant community and are a great place to learn how this can be done. Beaver started the place with $100 since that was what he had in his pockets after going AWOL before being shipped to Vietnam…

The second point is for those discussing wood heat (in the USA) to realize that you have until Feb. 5 of this year before the new EPA regulations kick in…So get your stove now.
Note the “burn bans” for older stoves.
And this loops me to the third point: consider the long-term implications of ever-tightening government regulations in your area…LESS is great, unless it gets you on the “radar” of those who want you to be part of the herd…

1/9/15, 1:26 PM

LewisLucanBooks said...
@JMG - Haven't read or seen them yet, but as to living with renewables - Book: "Off the Grid" by Vannini & Taggart. Their film is called "Life Off-Grid."

@ Dioyina Mantineia - Thanks for the tip on "Tales from the Green Valley." You might also check out "Monastery Farm," "Victorian Farm", Edwardian Farm", "1940 Farm" and "Victorian Pharmacy." It was a BBC series. I always picked up some useful skills from those. BBC. There was also a PBS series, "Colonial House", "Pioneer House", "Texas Ranch House", "1910 House", and "1940 House." I think all are available on YouTube.

@beneath the surface - A few years ago, University of Maine had some on-line library courses. You could get an AA in Library Technology, or, a BA in Library Technology or a MLS. All on line. And, at that time, they didn't charge out-of-state fees for on-line courses.

I worked for a large regional system. When I worked in the big branches, it was pretty much just clerical "check 'em in and check 'em out." But when I worked in the small rural branches, I got to do a lot of reader's advisory and reference. work. So, I cherry picked the courses from the University of Maine. Children's Literature, Young Adult Literature, two reference courses, etc.. I even took the cataloging course. Do to my age, I decided not to pursue any of the degrees.

@ All - Ah, yes. Doing with less. A much to long story, but the water where I live is pretty iffy. Just went through a 24 hour period with no water. Last week there were 3 days with no water for 6-8 hours. Our longest stint was 8 days. But, I muddled through.

Between reading the posts and posting, I've been refilling jugs, buckets and big tubs.

1/9/15, 1:26 PM

hapibeli said...
Toomas====WBCQ is online...

1/9/15, 1:56 PM

Nastarana said...
I also would like to hear some ideas about how libraries might be organized and managed in coming years. I have what I believe is a fairly good small library (in some subjects) for which I would like to find a permanent home. However I think setting up a non-profit organization, as those currently function, would be counter productive, for several reasons.

Anyone with experience in thrift or 2nd hand retail has met Mr. or Ms. Neat Freak, who thinks nothing of tossing out dumpsterfuls of "stuff" "because we want our store to be nice". Better the landfill than have to sew on a button. Furthermore, the term 'library' still has status symbol connotations, even if library staff are paid miserable wages, thus ensuring that news of a non-profit "library" will attract every social climbing sociopath within three counties. And then, of course, there are the various political correctness brigades.

1/9/15, 2:34 PM

Cherokee Organics said...
Hi JMG and everone,

I just thought that it might be worth expanding a little bit on my previous comment about terrorism because a lot of the readers here may say: Yeah, what do you know about the subject?

It is a fair comment too. The unfortunate thing is that I know quite a bit about the subject, because every summer some nefarious individual(s) may or may not attempt to destroy the land and infrastructure here – they got very close indeed last summer. In fact, it is not an exaggeration to say that people die in these situations - not to forget the wanton damage to all of the birds, animals and the forest itself up here.

That is the reality. The only difference is that those nefarious individuals are not politically motivated and are universally condemned.

And there's the crux of the problem and also the main difference.

It is worth remembering that we rely on ideology to cover over our crass actions in various foreign countries, those nefarious individuals can also shelter under the banner and legitimacy of an ideology.

Over the years many groups with political ambitions have aligned themselves with nefarious individuals to further their own political ends and it is an effective tool. The IRA is one such example which springs to mind and once they came in from the cold, they had an awful problem of what to do with the - let’s use the correct terminology here - criminals - that they had previously given legitimacy and shelter to.

It is worthwhile remembering that the actions of those few were not universally condemned at the time and terrorists also rely on that same shelter because in other times and other places, their actions would be described as the criminal actions that they actually are.

To rely on ideology – as we do and they do - means that a wedge is provided for those nefarious individuals to drive a stake right through the heart of society. Unfortunately, until we examine our own actions in the ugly light of day, there will be no peace and such things will continue.



1/9/15, 3:00 PM

Cherokee Organics said...

Oh yeah, I thought that because many people forget that we are actually at war - right now - the prescient words of the master Wu Tzu who wrote 3,000 years ago:

"In ancient times, the Prince Chengsang cultivated virtue, and put away military things, and his kingdom fell.

The Prince Yuhu put his trust in numbers, and delighted in war and was driven from the throne.

Therefore the enlightened ruler should ponder over these things; encourage learning and virtue in the kingdom, and be prepared against war from without.

To hesitate before the enemy is not a cause for righteousness; remorse for the fallen is not true humanity."

Just sayin, the bloke would have some interesting observations on our current situation.



1/9/15, 3:18 PM

Ellen He said...
Here's an interesting article w/ accompanying diagram about people's mindsets toward the uncertain future. I find the Hydra mindset, which seeks to make society reasonably antifragile, to be quite interesting.

1/9/15, 3:20 PM

Philip Hamilton said...

1/9/15, 3:22 PM

zentao said...
@ Bogatyr
Feral dog packs (coyotes) are a growing problem in many places besides Eastern Europe and I expect them to get far worse. Moscow has long had a problem but during the collapse they were extremely troublesome.

Friends spent time in the outskirts of Moscow as well as in Odessa during the collapse of the USSR. They encountered feral dogs a number of times and on several occasions were very happy that they carried quite large knives. Feral dogs can be very aggressive. Personally I favour a katana (kenjutsu is part of my background) but any large bladed weapon should suffice; I think this would be the #1 reason for some type of sword carrying as things go down the slope.

Happy People, a Year in the Taiga:

1/9/15, 3:23 PM

Philip Hamilton said...

1/9/15, 3:23 PM

Chester said...
@Jason Heppenstall

That's a good idea. My wife is a journalist too, and I think one of our pie in the sky fantasies would be to move somewhere like the Florida Keys and do a hyper-local news blog.

The problem these days is funding, but I think once we pop out a kid or two, one of us could be a full-timer somewhere with a salary and benefits and the other could take on such a project part-time and we wouldn't lose our shirts.

There's always a market for good local journalism if it's done, no matter how much people like to rail against the MSM.

1/9/15, 3:50 PM

Adrian Ayres Fisher said...
Sheesh, I thought New Orleans was always warm!

I feel for you in your situation and hope a workable solution will present itself.

I admit that when I mentioned my house being a "balmy 63 F" I was kind of boasting: our 100-year-old house used to be so leaky that whatever we'd set the temp at, the heat would run and run, especially in windy weather (when you could feel the drafts moving through the house). Brrr.

Then we did some of those sensible low tech things like adding storm windows, caulk, insulation and weather stripping, which did take some time to save up for and gradually accomplish. Now the place is much more comfortable and the furnace stays off way longer. Of course we also turn it down to the 50's (F) for sleeping or if away.

1/9/15, 4:28 PM

Ing said...
I'll bring some beans for the soup and warm my hands by this fire.

Our journey with LESS has taken some interesting turns, detours, and backtracks. In my day to day thinking about it I see what we haven't done and how far we have to go, but looking back I can see that we have accomplished a great deal and put even more into motion.

Our energy use concerns me, not because we use a ton but because we are tied to our vehicles to get to market where we sell our products. It's unrealistic right now to think of packing everything up on a bicycle with a wagon due to the nature of the driving and the roads in our area and I'm also not in good enough shape to make that 20 mile one way trek. The message for me in this realm, right now, is to take action in the area I have the most influence which is to get in better shape to have more options as things unfold.

While we've never been very materialistic, we still have accumulated lots of belongings and I spend a fair bit of time managing these belongings in a small space. We're fortunate to have lots of tools that make our lives easier and there are also places where I have been so pigheaded about not bringing in a new tool that actually would be a huge convenience and time saver. So I've been checking all of my assumptions lately in this area and have found some ways that I was tripping myself up unnecessarily. Some things can go, and some can come in.

Less stimulation is far and away the hardest area for me to work with, not because we are a modern gadget family but because I don't always filter well all the information, opinion, and expectation that comes in from those around me. I find it all too easy to see everyone else's points of view without a natural ability to keep it separate from myself. This is something I suspect will be helped by practices that are more likely to be discussed on your other blog.

We'll be planting more of our own food this year and that's a very exciting area of progress for us. I take great joy is sharing with and receiving from others doing similar things...much like around your virtual campfire.

1/9/15, 4:51 PM

Ing said...
Not for posting.

I don't know what kind of impact this might have on your message moderating, but the captcha isn't working right now. Thought you'd like to know.

1/9/15, 4:58 PM

Mark said...
@ Bill P - "A more interesting side of this is that according to conventional wisdom, the oil surplus should be stimulating a global economic upswing. But, so far, it isn't."

Remember as a kid playing "Monopoly", all 4 kids startout with some cash, and then one drops out as one amasses a fortune, and then another player drops out? Well, there's a generation that's not even being dealt in. I gather it's a worldwide phenomenon.

My first clue came in kindergarden, in another game called "Musical Chairs" where a chair was subtracted each round.

The subject of Oil always
reminds me of "The Rockford Files", where Jimbo goes undercover as
"Jimmy Joe Meeker", an Oklahoma OilMan, as he tries to see who's behind the shady dealings of a company which drills for oil in the ocean. (#78)

(I was housesitting last year for a friend who had ROKU, and saw the years when I was in the USMC and had no TV.)

I think too time is compressing as Life on earth is stressed by an over successful species.

The CSM reported a record grain harvest last year, but didn't mention what was done with the grain. You'll have to ask ADM and Cargill. Maybe they had a ceremony thanking the earth. Have we ever had a ceremony thanking the earth for all the oil?


1/9/15, 5:44 PM

Philip Hamilton said...
Howdy JMG,

I am a scyther, and it's nice to hear there are fellow scythers amongst your readership.
I am also a member of a community garden, where I mow (scythe) to keep the grass and other biomass down. And we use the non 'weeder' cuttings for compost.

The President of the garden, (who reminds me of one of your "Church ladies") does not like my scythings, she prefers clippings from a "motorised mower" to make her compost.
Just from a compost making perspective, this is wrong. Because of the matting effect of too many fine grass clippings. And from a 'energy literacy' point of view, clueless. Especially when the garden is ment to use 'permaculture principles' as guide.

Anyway, I came across this fabulous article that a friend, and fellow scyther posted on his fb page. It is from Mother Earth News, Issue #52, July/August 1978.
So being one of the admin, for the gardens fb Page. I shared it with this quote from the article as a teaser.
The quote is from Masanobu Fukuoka.

"Furthermore, with natural—as opposed to "organic"—farming, there is no need to prepare compost! I will not say to you that you do not need compost...only that there is no need to work hard making it. If straw left lying on the surface of the field in the spring or fall is covered with a thin layer of chicken manure or duck droppings, in six months it will completely decompose.

To make compost by the usual method, the farmer works like crazy in the hot sun...chopping up the straw, adding water and lime, turning the pile, and hauling it out to the field. He puts himself through all this grief because he thinks it is a "better way". I would rather see people just scattering straw or hulls or woodchips over their fields!"

Anyhow, I think it may not sink in, untill a few 'things' go away.
The article made me think we have to be more energy efficient in our labour. And both the article and the "church lady" made me think, we have to be more energy efficient emotionally.


1/9/15, 6:25 PM

Nathaniel Ott said...
Great post again JMG. LESS kind of reminds me of a comment an older acquaintance of my once made "People never really got around to the reduce part of Reduce, Reuse, Recycle." If it requires actual work or sacrifice its just to much to ask for.

On a side note and not really pertaining to this weeks post I had a quick question if you don't mind. Currently I'm considering studying to be a nurse(it was a toss up between that and environmental science). Part of my decision for a nurse was to have a profession (healthcare) that would still be useful as other job enlistment starts to wine down. I'm still at a point where I can switch to something else and was wondering if I was right about the nursing assumption. If not what would be a good study choice for people in the years to come who don't want to be unemployed soon after. Thank you for your input.

1/9/15, 6:28 PM

Nathaniel Ott said...
On another side note something you may already be aware of(it came out a fee years ago) but if not might find interesting. Recently I saw a Big Think video(Google michio making solar revolution) where Michio Making himself actually acknowledges Huburts Curve and the fact that were about to go down it. Of course he also notes a number of things you would Call vaporware as solutions to it.

1/9/15, 6:39 PM

CrispCrit said...
JMG - "er, you've been reading too much science fiction (or the press-release equivalent). Do you know how long true believers in progress have been predicting that the same advances in robot technology were right around the corner? (Hint: about as long as the equivalent claims have been made for fusion.) That is to say, your reality check just bounced. "

RepubAnon isn't wrong, in so far on the development of robotics. This isn't stuff "20 years out", it's happening *right now*. A great introductory wrap up can be found here. If that's a bit too wordy, there's the great "Humans need not apply video"

Probably the most informative quote from Pistono ...

" At the beginning of the 20th century we lived in an agrarian society that employed 98 percent of people. As technology progresses and old jobs are eliminated you kind of move through cycles of job elimination and job formation. At some point you run out of cycles where there are no more jobs to fill except for a very few highly specialized jobs, the kind of jobs that require many years of education."

Or as CGPGrey put in "Humans need not apply, "When your robotic competition is 10 cents an hour, a meatbag on minimum wage becomes unemployable" ...

Labour is on its way out. Whether that will be a good or bad thing I suppose is up for history to sort out

1/9/15, 9:52 PM

Paul K. said...
Thank you JMG and Peakfuture for the "hard" solar PV resources. Very interesting stuff, and precisely what I've been looking for.

For anyone looking for a good summary, here's a 10 page PDF:

1/9/15, 11:06 PM

Cherokee Organics said...
Hi Adrian,

Yes exactly. As a species we do not exist in isolation from the rest of the biosphere.

I'm doing a bit more than my fair share of feeding the animals, insects and birds here. It is like a festival of life out there some days!



1/10/15, 12:43 AM

Cherokee Organics said...
Hi Kathleen,

I feel a bit soft saying this, but 55'F is about my minimum for comfort level during winter inside the house.

At that temperature however, you'll keep plenty warm doing outside chores / work though. In a bizzare twist of fate that just happens to be the outside temperature here now at 8pm which is chicken supervising time (they'll be in bed by about 8.55pm tonight).

Great to read about your experiences and respect!



1/10/15, 1:02 AM

KL Cooke said...

"I'll start. Giant springs! Yes, you see we can wind them up using animal power (horses mules etc.)"

Paolo Bacigalupi had a similar idea. Only he envisioned bio-engineered elephants doing the winding.

1/10/15, 1:24 AM

Martin Vachon said...
Thank you for your dedicated work. It's so comforting and helping to read what you and the commenters have to say.

As an I.T. system engineer with a physics engineering degree, I'm in a situation similar to the one mentioned by people working in journalism. At the office, concerns are expressed that I should show more interest in owning and using the latest gizmos in my personal life. I clearly understand that by not showing this interest, I’m undermining my current carreer. I'm often wondering how they would react to any I.T. system design that would consider the very possibility that Internet may not always be readily available as today.

On a personal side, I'm really eager to go with LESS in my life and to move to a rural area but it conflicts with my wife's expectations. I'll have to make difficult choice, considering my loved two daughters, if I want to live in accordance with my beliefs and values and better prepare myself and above all my daughters to be happy with the future we are facing.

1/10/15, 1:59 AM

Nemo said...
@ beneaththesurface
Since I'm one of the MLS-holding librarians of the job, I may as well respond with some of my thoughts.
First, and most obviously, the choice to go to library school or not is your own. I enjoyed my experience and met a lot of cool people. But it's also pretty fluffy as far as advanced degrees go; I sometimes feel I could have spent my money better doing something else. When you're looking at schools, my biggest tip would be to look for an affordable program because once you graduate, I don't think anybody will really care about which school you went to. I went to a state university in Buffalo and since it was an affordable school in an affordable city, I'm not crippled by massive debt. (I'll confess having financial help from my parents, but I also saved money from working before library school and got a job at one of the campus libraries while I was a student too.)

Be aware that there is a LOT of competition for librarian positions because there are a LOT of underemployed/unemployed MLS-grads out there! (I'm one of them; my job is part time even though I'm the head of the local history department.)

I feel like post-industrial librarians can serve a vastly important role, but it may not be a PROFITABLE role. Again, I'm head of the local history department and I'm doing my best to preserve various texts and items relating to the history of the city and things of genealogical relevance to its residents. The previous local history librarian didn't really know or care about preservation and so the collection was a decaying MESS and it's been a lot of work to get things in archival-quality storage. But my budget is tiny, my position is part-time, and I'm definitely low on the pecking order after people who have been working at the library for decades!
My goal is to have large portions of the collection stored in a way so that they can safely sit on the shelf for 100 years and still be intact. Even if I'm not making much money at my job, I feel like if I can do that, I'm dong something that matters!

But I feel like the days may be numbered for comfortable careers in the public sector. I've signed up for a glassblowing class in the spring in the hopes that learning a traditional craft may be a workable fallback-plan. Or at least a hobby that can be turned slightly profitable with practice.

(I hope this comment isn't too rambly. I started writing it not long after waking up in the morning...)

1/10/15, 5:39 AM

DH Poser Chwee said...
Chrome_fox - I am also currently in Singapore. You can reach me at [email protected] for the next month or so. The internal security apparatus here is probably as big as the police force, so take it as a given that all communications are being monitored or recorded.

Places like Hong Kong and Singapore will face unique challenges in the near future, mostly due to the extremely high population density. When SARS hit Hong Kong in 2003, one of the worst outbreaks was in a highrise apartment building where the water supply was interrupted. A SARS patient puked into a toilet bowl when most of the toilets went dry - and that became the transmission mechanism to infect folks on multiple floors in double quick time. The truly scary part is that the majority of the food, energy and water supplies have to be imported, with very little local storage slack. So in the event of likely supply chain breakdowns as times get much rougher, you can figure out the implications yourself.

The local elites are just as incompetent and self-serving as the ones state-side. They were strongly pushing nuclear power as a 'viable' option on this island despite multi-varied and sizeable local opposition - until Fukushima happened. Lots of talk about "affordable" energy, though the bigger driver was probably the billions dollars in contracts that would have been awarded.

A small group of friends have discussed our options at length - the heated part of the debate is always whether its better to stay put or 'run for the hills'. This group came together much later in life, rather randomly, but everyone tends to be well-read (e.g. encountering 'Limits to Growth' in late teens, the Foundation series in early teens etc).

Personally, I've found ADR to be extremely uplifting, both in terms of framing and explaining the issues with a strong historical context, and also to simply know that other folks around the world have come to a similar understanding and acceptance of what is and what will be, yet doing what they can to mitigate the effects. About a year ago, I gave serious thought to setting up a local blog to hopefully provide more guideposts and useful suggestions for other people here. But in such a controlled political climate, advocating thinking or actions which undermined the current 'growth at any cost' paradigm is to invite swift and serious retribution. 'Cest la vie, we do what we can offline.

1/10/15, 7:57 AM

ed boyle said...
Long thread.

Usually I only participate on ideological stuff but yesterday riding my bike to work dropping
off the curb the main bar of the frame broke in half. I had slyly presumed I could replace everything on the bike as it broke, the frame would last forever. Ten years of almost daily stress. Aluminium. My dad was an old bike freak, collected many in back yard,had been a messenget boy in 30s montreal, got all his brothers bikes, had a car but biked to work in alaska in all weather.

My wife has cucumber plants, strawberries. Very little space but a green thumb. If we had money PV on roof would be nice.

keep fit, eat right. Then you can keep learning new stuff and take care of yourself. A lot of people are in really bad shape, diabetes, overweight, back problems. Older people dependent on care, meds. Without current system lots of those people will die a natural, early death. There is a good reason the age pyramid used to be a pyramid form, with few old people.

Sorry to hear about paris shootings. Difficult issues here. Repressed religios, ethnic minority,constant wars against them, illusion by press of absolute freedom to say anything against such people, who had perhaps nothing to lose. Press people were privileged. I read same mag fired a guy for a perceived antijewish statement about sarkozy's son maarying a rich jewish girl, then converting in 2008. So double standards.

Imagine a satire mag in usa constantly depicting jesus, mary, apostles in every imaginable negative aspect and attacking midwesyrn, southern fundies on religious grounds.

1/10/15, 8:34 AM

Varun Bhaskar said...

I'm planning on expanding my LESS training by heading out of the city for a year. I'm sick of trying to convince people to get their rears in gear. I'm trying to get to northern wisconsin to learn permaculture and earthen spirituality first hand. If I can tear my way away from the daily stimulation of the plugged in world I'll be able to make a leap in my practice.

I look forward to reading your proposals.



1/10/15, 10:23 AM

Ed-M said...
Repent, JMG,

I checked a pair of auto sales flyers from the local grocery store and found the prices were ASTRONOMICAL. For used cars. Some ads show what I consider to be reasonable prices from 15 years ago, only to find they are the required down payment! And at least one dealer is apparently willing to finance cars for NINJA clients... even for those with no driver's license!

1/10/15, 10:26 AM

LewisLucanBooks said...
@beneaththesurface - My official job title was "Sub 2"
(Substitute Clerical 2). I always referred to myself as "Not a licensed librarian." :-).

The director of the whole shabang really set the tone for the whole library. When I started, we had a director who wouldn't even say hello to anyone with less than an MLS. Even in the smallest rural branches (2 or 3 person operations) she always wanted an MLS on board. So, you had a lot of newly minted MLSs who commuted in from long distances and moved on very quickly. Back in those days, you couldn't even tell a patron where the rest room was. You had to refer them to a librarian.

Then we got a Library Director who knew everybody's name and wasn't so status oriented. The basic requirements for "branch head" changed to a BA in anything. That opened it up to more people from the local communities. I see some of the regional systems are moving to "BA in anything" model to run small rural branches. Fort Vancouver Regional, Snow-Isle Regional, etc.. Of course, some of it is economics. They don't pay the branch heads with BAs as much as branch heads with MLSs.

1/10/15, 10:28 AM

Patricia Mathews said...

From the back of an emergency-stash envelope of just-add-water pancakes:
*preheat skillet or griddle to 375."

From a pancake *recipe* in the daily paper, "*In a blender* mix milk, egg, vanilla, slowly add flour...."

And from an airline magazine article on a man who tried getting into the Maker movement - and attempted both knitting and cake baking (and therefore unrolled along cliched sitcom lines, leading him to dismiss the entire thing as faddish hobbies), " make frosting, I *needed a blender.* I don't own one and didn't want to run out and buy one..."

Odd. Neither my mother nor I ever needed a blender to make frosting in our lives. Nor did we wear out our arms beating pancakes or frosting for 3-5 minutes.

But note what presuppositions our newbie would-be cooks, or even quick-food preparers, are being fed. Shakes head.

1/10/15, 11:21 AM

latheChuck said...
A little more info on shortwave broadcasting... according to FCC regulations, any licensed shortwave broadcast station in the US must be intended for an international audience, and so there's a minimum allowable transmitter power (50 kW, I think) required. That pretty much puts it out of reach for a post-Internet society, in my opinion.

I like the idea of offering free programming to WBCQ (which is available via Internet streaming as well as shortwave radio), but who am I to urge JMG to take on another non-profitable project?

Another option is to arrange a ham radio "net", which is a pre-arranged gathering of ham radio operators who chat about whatever's on their minds. On Sunday nights, you can listen to the TAPRN "prepper net", which is kind of like a radio call-in program. A net will usually have a "Net Control Operator" who directs the sequence of comments. Unfortunately, there's no good way to cut someone short when they're off-topic or long-winded, but a skillful net control operator might keep track of troublemakers and ignore their requests to "check in". Ham radio regulations forbid "broadcasting", but if there's a regularly scheduled conversation where one of the participants has a clear idea of the topics to be discussed, well, it's almost the same thing, right?

One of my HF transceivers has been modified to also transmit in the broadcast bands, and I suppose I could get away with low-power broadcasting (150W, instead of 50,000W) to much of the US East Coast. The frequencies having been abandoned by actual broadcasters, who's to complain? But I really, really don't want to test the waters and risk losing all of my amateur gear when the FCC responds.

If the day comes when the FCC no longer has enforcement powers, we may reconsider this option.

1/10/15, 11:51 AM

latefall said...
re the Paris shootings:
I just came back from a march in a large french town. Not so much because I thought it was a dramatically world changing event, but because I feel relatively close to the specific target group. Also, I was a little afraid that it might push the FN (or equivalent in other European nations) situation further in a direction I don't want it to go. So I was hoping for a large turn out that would include many of the visibly Muslim people that populate the streets most of the time. Almost none of them were there. The march could have come straight out of the church at Christmas (+ a few leftish looking people). In my book that does not bode well.
However, when I got home I heard a convincing explanation from a friend of mine who had overheard an old lady with Algerian background talking for quite a while phone. After discussing various things they touched this topic as well and said she found it rather silly to make such a fuss about a hand full of dead people. Especially in the light of what is going on in the world at the moment. This of course ties directly back to my second sentence. She has a point. She's been feeling that feeling a whole lot longer, a whole lot more intense I believe. FN may be seen as a minor inconvenience from that perspective. It still does not make it more enjoyable to slowly slip in that direction. I might want to find a cop to have a few chats with over a cup of tea soon (the ones I need probably don't drink beer, hmpf).

1/10/15, 12:22 PM

latefall said...
JMG, although it is strictly speaking off topic (nuclear fusion) I ran into a nice bit of dialogue that I could imagine you would like to hear.
I would recommend to start at 3:00:00 and try to hold out to 3:03:53 at least - that is when
it gets to the interesting bit of emotions and reflections on technology (or lack thereof), on more than one level. Definitely got a thin teutonic smile out of me. But there's another nice bit of chronic science pathology, and of course the 30 year question as well.
If it tickled you enough to go through a full overview of fusion I would start with

I really like these podcasts because they usually are pretty much directly "from the trenches" although there are exceptions. And they don't get in the way - you can peel a lot of potatoes (or in my case pluck frozen sea-buckthorn berries) without getting bored.

1/10/15, 12:26 PM

latefall said...
Oh, forgot to say they have an episode on analog computers as well...

@Tom and other short wave radio fans: I am not sure if you are aware of this old time radio archive. I found it recently and am 2/3 through "The Pacific Story" (began 1943 and lasted 184 weeks, be sure to read why they made it in the first place).

There is A LOT:

1/10/15, 12:31 PM

latefall said...
@Chrome_fox: I was toying with the idea of a black soldier fly larvae production / food waste composting unit.
Although, I am still in the beginning of the drawing stage. There are commercially available units - but expensive and for standing deployment. I would like to design something that you can hang from your window sill (camouflage as largish flower pot thing). On top it may have a regular square flower pot but you can chuck in organic waste at the side of it. There's a couple of obvious design issues of course: safety, isolation/ventilation/thermal mass, compost in&out / cleaning, larva path, neighbor nuisance potential.

Alternatively you could do e.g. electronics fixing if that is more your thing. Some of that can be done with shoebox footprint.

If you are a full blood miner however I would strongly suggest to look for places in the "young peoples internet", especially the Chinese corner that have some patterns you also find in the peak oil/JMG/collapsian net and inject a few links e.g. to whole systems thinking (if that is not already more prevalent in the Chinese corner of the net). If it does not work pattern based, then you can maybe do it based on semantic links. Do a dump on JMGs articles and comments pages (with their admittedly relatively useless patterns) and look at the word corpus. Do that for 3-5 related pages (such as "Do the math", Orlov, Kunstler, Heinberg, etc) and start mapping and comparing these a little. See if you can latch this on to other corners in the web. For example I think that the channel very strongly resonates with JMGs more preppy side but I would expect that they do not know of each other.

1/10/15, 1:19 PM

latheChuck said...
bcwoodcarver: How do we rationalize the use of the Internet to prepare for a post-industrial future? One way to look at is that the network bandwidth needed to share these few pages of text is entirely trivial relative to the bits being sent as (mostly ignored) animated advertising on the margins of other sites. Streaming video requires millions of bits per second; text requires tens of bits per second.

Another thing to consider is that Google is constantly "pondering" (searching and indexing) enormous quantities of data, while this site mostly just sits here waiting to be viewed.

Finally, life is full of compromises, and we shouldn't let an insistence on perfect purity prevent us from taking small steps in plausible directions. If we're to communicate, this network is vastly more energy efficient than driving even a few miles to a "consciousness-raising" meeting.

Consider this: you can get a sense of the efficiency of your choices simply by the amount of heat they add to the environment. This little laptop isn't doing much to warm the room. But in a few minutes, I'm going to drive a few miles to my church building to make sure that the heating system can meet the expectations of our little community of believers. (It's been below freezing (outdoors) all day, which is unusual for this part of Maryland.)

1/10/15, 4:43 PM

Violet Cabra said...
chrome_fox, This may not be applicable given your circumstances but I've known people living in New Orleans who drank only rainwater that they caught themselves from their roof. This was fortunate because New Orleans harvest its drinking water from the Mississippi river, which is polluted. They also put obscene amounts of bleach into the water. Many people refuse to drink the water in New Orleans and instead buy bottled water, juice, soda or beer. By harvesting rainwater my friends were able to get good, clean water that was simply better than any they could buy.

In the same house they had a beehive inside a wall - siding on one side, plexiglass on the other. Once, while I was living there a friend came over and harvest about 5 gallons of honey and still left the majority of the hive.

Also, besides projects, I think that learning new skills is something that everyone can do. Cooking, carpentry, tanning leather, making candles, herbalism, sewing and other practical skills will serve you well regardless of circumstances. Furthermore if you, say, learn to sew now it will be much easier than if you wait until your quality of life depends on it. Learning any practical skill now means you will already know it later when it is likely that learning the same skill will be at much, much higher stakes.

In a similar vein making sure that you have people in your life that you can really trust is always important. This is especially so if you're trying to prepare for any sort of upheaval. Similar to skills, it is easier to take the time to find people you connect with and can trust before your life depends on other people having your back.

Hope these suggestions are useful to you. Best of luck with the new year!

1/10/15, 5:02 PM

August Johnson said...
@Lathechuck - Your net idea is exactly what was done by Cop McDonald with his New Directions Radio net and column in The Mother Earth News back in the 1970's. I really enjoyed listening to that before I got my license. I hope that we can get something like this started related to Green Wizards in the somewhat near future, but it's going to take enough GW Hams to participate.

Your other thoughts are like those hidden in the back of my mind too... It's really too bad about the 50,000 watt lower limit.

1/10/15, 5:57 PM

Nathaniel Ott said...
Michio Kaku. I hate auto correct.

1/10/15, 6:11 PM

sandy said...
Greetings from Big Mango-
@Avalterra- Paulo Bacigalupi published Windup Girl 2009. Keep thinking out of box.
@Bogatyr- Do you teach in Thailand? I'm in HuayKwang area. I learned to speak, read, write Thai first 6 mo; still ok. Dont 'listen' Thai so good tho. Retired on SS 2005, life easier until gubmint 'fixes' SS, so planning another career now. Keep ya eyes on tha prize.

1/10/15, 7:21 PM

WW said...
Part of my work has been a bit of quasi-Green Wizarding in residential energy efficiency, in and out of utility administered programs. I was going to say we think a lot about how to get people interested, but actually we've backed way up the road to wondering what the heck people are thinking now, if anything. On of the people who does good research on this is a lady named Susanne Shelton. I get the newsletter, so recently this landed in my inbox:
Words fail me...

With regard to living without central heat or AC, that's a lengthy disquisition, and probably off topic, but tons of houses were built to hemorrhage cheap energy at an uncontrollable rate. The reason is, it's cheaper for the home builder and home buyers expect to pay for natural gas, heating oil, propane, electricity every month forever. There's no solid reason a house needs to be that way, but it's a different house if it's not- there's no great retrofit for bad solar orientation, for example.

I've seen articles in the trade press that say things like "Why don't we just bulldoze the 5 million worst houses?" I've been in more than one myself where it's apparent that the best step 1 is an insurance fire and step 2 is a yurt. I'm not sure how to help those people, I don't sell yurts, and Earthships don't meet building codes here.

@Chris regarding propaganda, I once purchased a bargain bin book that was German press coverage of WWII, and recall reading an account of German armor reducing a house in a Polish village which a few Polish army regulars had been returning fire from to rubble described as "finally ending the criminal insanity of the Poles." The spooky part is realizing that good propaganda is cunningly calculated to match the crazy story the audience is already telling themselves in their heads.

1/10/15, 8:45 PM

LarasDad said...
@ daelach, thank you for introducing us to the "tin whistle" ... and for anyone wishing a taste I give you the Epic Tin Whistle Bros (I have no idea who the Lierman brothers are).

1/10/15, 9:32 PM

steve pearson said...
Couldn't resist chiming in on the subject of feral dog attacks.I spent June -Nov. of last year in a village in a remote valley in N.CA. I had no car, so went everywhere on my bicycle. I volunteered on the organic seed farm where my daughter works & was routinely chased by pitbulls on my way to the farm. They went away when yelled at, so I let it go at that.Once,riding through another part of the valley, I was attacked & fairly badly bitten.I lodged a complaint with the tribal police, which they promised to follow up on and never did; they have to walk a fine line between family & tribal loyalties & law enforcement.
I considered buying & carrying a pistol on my bike, but realized the cycle of escalation could lead to me being accidentally sideswiped on my bike if I shot someones dog, legality aside.In addition to avoiding certain parts of the valley, I bought a super soaker & filled it with bleach, which worked OK until the bleach ate away the rubber gaskets. I then rode with pepper spray & a machete.I am sure the sight of a 74 year old riding with a machete in one hand & pepper spray in the other was quite amusing to all who saw it.
Another problem is that the main industry in the area is marijuana growing and most growers get pitbulls to guard their crops, then abandon them at the end of the season.
Hey, I learned a new word from it all: trimmigrant.
All levity aside,the situation raises many questions of protocal & decorum, when moving to a strange rural area.
Happy new year to all, Steve

1/10/15, 10:16 PM

Bogatyr said...
@Chrome_Fox, I can sympathise with your position. I know Singapore very well: I have a Master's degree from NTU, and lived there for a number of years as a PR. Heh, as I sit here in Russia, listening to the Sunday morning bells of the Orthodox cathedral around the corner, those days seem very far away!

I actually considered becoming a citizen, but two things changed my mind. The first was that Singapore is completely unsustainable: it requires too much imported water, food and labour, and vast amounts of electricity. The second was the 'my' Singapore visibly diminished over the years I was there - the South-East Asian culture which remembered Malay as the lingua franca, where dialects are widely spoken, and traditional practices are observed. One by one, my favourite coffeeshops shut down, to be replaced by expensive tourist cafes; the population became increasingly PRC-dominated, with an English-speaking Evangelical Chinese elite running things. As DH Poser Chwee noted, the internal security is very tight, and I can see it getting tighter in future.

So, to answer your question... There are some grassroots groups involved in urban gardening/farming and that kind of thing - perhaps you can track them down. It may also be worth tracking down the remnants of the old culture while they're still there, and learning from them. For example, I remember watching a shophouse burn on Sultan's Gate street; I read afterwards that it was a blacksmith's forge. If there was one then (this was only a few years ago), there may be others. If you can find one, perhaps you can train as a smith (or, for the benefit of your family, an 'artisan metalworker')... Perhaps train in TCM: there are people teaching it in Singapore, not always officially....

1/10/15, 11:16 PM

KL Cooke said...
"But, in the lifetime of a solar system, how much energy does it put out compared to the input that originally made it (including batteries)?"

Who knew the solar system had batteries?

Sorry, couldn't resist ;o)

1/11/15, 12:36 AM

svealanding said...
It is so funny that just after reading your latest piece where you mention the new fantastic energy sources that will pop up (in the discussion) I find this "An endless sea of energy.". I guess there will be more to come.

By the way it was good of you to remind me, in your last post, that I can't expect to keep on the same old way, only using different technology. My mind shies away from that thought, it needs to be repeated to me everey once in a while since I tend to fall in to thought lines like "Well my new solar panels will do the trick for me.".

1/11/15, 2:09 AM

Bogatyr said...
Generally connected to the concept of LESS, many readers here may be interested in a two-part article on Rob Hopkins' blog. He interviews Azby Brown, an architect living in Japan, who has just published a book - Just Enough: Lessons in Living Green from Traditional Japan - on how Edo-period Japan realised it had reached the limits of what the environment could provide, and adapted a sustainable way of life. I've found it to be very interesting and thought-provoking. When (if) I get back to the stage of having a disposable income, I'll look at picking up acopy for myself...

Part One
Part Two

1/11/15, 3:37 AM

Bogatyr said...
@sandy - no, I just used to go to Bangkok from time to time when I lived in Singapore. I would usually just hang out in the Bangalamphu area, a street or two away from the river. I like the architecture and general vibe of that district. It's always seemed a good option as a cheap place to work - though on the other hand the English industry pays peanuts, so I'm not sure how things would balance out...

1/11/15, 3:42 AM

Bogatyr said...
@steve pearson - That's a very interesting anecdote! Do those abandoned dogs join existing packs? Do those packs survive, and form a new ecological niche? I'm really curious... Also interesting to read about the tribal police and their balancing act. I like the image of you cycling along with pepper spray and sabre <<<<<< machete - an early incarnation of a future NoCal Bicycle Dragoon Corps...

1/11/15, 4:01 AM

Ursachi Alexandru said...

While I enjoy most of CGPGrey's videos, it is hard to overlook his bias towards Star-Trek type futurism and techno-utopianism (like in his "Digital Aristotle" video). It is so easy to talk about how this or that shiny technology is the wave of the future when you ignore the tremendously complex supply chain which makes all of these gadgets possible, not to mention the geopolitical and economic arrangements which makes them affordable to only a privileged fraction of the world's population.

1/11/15, 7:13 AM

chrome_fox said...
@Violet and @latefall: Thanks for the inputs. At this point, the idea sounds so far-fetched that I can't even begin to see how I can start learning some of the points mentioned. Electronics sounds like something I can learn more about, though. Bought an Arduino unit to kickoff learning about simple data transmission / basic electronics.

I live on 19th floor of a high-rise apartment... In Singapore, most of the people live in high-rise apartments. I can't even begin to think of how I can do things like carpentry/collecting rainwater...

Anyway, on water conservation, Singapore has done very well, in my opinion. The waste water here are filtered and recycled as drinking water after going through treatments + reverse-osmosis. Of course this process requires energy while nature does this ecological service for free. Still, Singapore's water conversion effort deserves more attention.

1/11/15, 7:53 AM

Cathy McGuire said...
Wow, it's great to read about the various folks (especially new faces here ) who are doing their variations on LESS and giving estimates of how their field is reacting! It's like having a whole alternate newspaper in the comments section. I've really been enjoying reading.

Not totally on topic, but this seems a worrisome confirmation of climate change:

Hundreds of UK plants in bloom
Botanists have been stunned by the results of their annual hunt for plants in flower on New Year’s Day.
They say according to textbooks there should be between 20 and 30 species in flower. This year there were 368 in bloom...

As someone with beehives, I'm more acutely aware than ever of the times of blooming plants - the insects can't adjust like we can! But it means we might have to adjust in new ways - adjust to less food, figure out ways to pollinate gardens, etc. Another reason why it's so essential to start to garden now, while there's still time to practice! Book-learning isn't enough.

Speaking of non-sequitors, the fourth chapter of my novel Lifeline is up at I appreciate the feedback.

1/11/15, 7:55 AM

Bogatyr said...
Not related particularly to this week's topic, but since it's a theme that pops up quite regularly, UK readers may like this: Try your hand at using an antique printing press.

1/11/15, 8:26 AM

Clay Dennis said...
I am trying to do my small bit on education by working to get a post on peak oil and the rising unaffordability of car ownership in the local bike blog. This blog has a huge readership and is considered to be the news-of-record for all things bicycling in Portland OR. It tackles many worthwhile subjects the readers of the ADR would agree with, like living a car free life, Cargo bike heros and improving traffic conditions for bike commuters. They are now covering the recently disclosed data on declining VMT( vehicle miles traveled) in the U.S. over the last few years. But it is driving me crazy that the editorial staff, and all the commentors chock this up to Amazon and telecommuting.

I am having trouble getting them to accept any type of article on Peak Oil as it relates to car use trends, even when I water it down and leave out all references to collapse and financial troubles. Very frustrating that a group who's heart is in the right place, and doing valuable work to make cycling a viable transportation option chooses to ignore the elephant in the room. I am hoping recent events in the oil patch will awaken them, but untill then I gently keep trying.

1/11/15, 9:29 AM

Ed-M said...
Adrian Ayres,

Thank you! I expect things will get better for me and mine in the coming year. There's a catch, though. My siblings and "benefactors" expect me to uncollapse.


Well that's the fantasy of the elites and extreme technocornpcopiams, innit? Mind you, with the bott 9/10ths of the top 1% performing those jobs that can't be mechanized, robotized, and artificial-intelligentified, the top 0.1% think they'll have it made on Easy Street. And the extreme technocorocopians? We know their fantasy of a life of leisure for all as the 'droids take care of us simply ain't gonna happen.

1/11/15, 9:40 AM

Bill Pulliam said...
zentao -- just a complete digression about coyotes and canine taxonomy. The actual coyote is a specific native wild animal of North America, now known scientifically as Canis lupus latrans. A digression to the digression -- all wolves, domestic dogs, dingos, and coyotes are now considered by many to be subspecies of one species, Canis lupus, the wolf. Coyotes get their name from their distinctive group vocalizations, the name meaning "song dog" in Nahuatl, a meso-american language. They were also called "prairie wolves" in the past by euro-american settlers.

Domestic dogs gone feral are generally known just as "wild dogs" in America. Some scientists use the term "pariah dogs" for the animals like Dingos and Carolina Dogs that are descended from domestic dogs but have been feral for so long they have essentially reverted to wild yellowish wolves.

1/11/15, 9:43 AM

Nastarana said...
To add to what Violet Cabra said about learning skills now; at the present time, good tools are still available, though becoming scarce for sewers, at reasonable prices, depending on the skill. In a decade or so, excellent tools may become next to impossible to find.

1/11/15, 9:59 AM

Bogatyr said...
JMG, I can't help noticing that you're not as present in the comment stream this week as you usually are - I hope that all is well with you.

On the topic of LESS, community, hippies, etc, this blog post is quite relevant, from Andrea Hejlsov's "& the pioneer life" blog, about living off the grid in Sweden: The Gift of My Community. Interesting reading.

1/11/15, 11:28 AM

daelach said...
I'm making some simple clothing, trying how it works. In this case, I used a heavy old army wool blanket, cut out a piece (170cm x 110cm / 66.9" x 43.3"), bordered the edges and cut a slit for the head. Funnily enough, if front and rear shall be equally long when wearing, the front side has to be 10cm (4") shorter, so the slit must not be right in the center. Then I bordered the slit and used some linen sheet for a collar in the slit. That's less scratchy and keeps the slit from ripping.

The ponchos you get on the market are mostly either acrylic stuff that's highly inflammable and will be damaged by sparks at the first camp fire, or cotton that will not keep you warm once it gets wet.

Looks a bit like the poncho in the famous Eastwood spaghetti westerns - in fact, that's where I got the idea from. However, there's no pattern on my blanket. Anyway, much simpler to make than a jacket.

1/11/15, 11:29 AM

Shining Hector said...
At the risk of being the turd in the punchbowl (like that ever stopped me before), it is a statistical likelihood that at least a few 1%-ers are among your readership, even if they don't appear that heavily represented in the comments. Any plans on discussing how they can mobilize their resources to the problems at hand? This seems especially pertinent if we're not planning on "society" to fix our problems for us. Before Edward Bernays and friends, thriftiness was a pretty universal American value, I could see it becoming so again. LESS is an idea I can get behind, but then what do you do with all the even MORE that's left over after learning to be happy with LESS? Useful skills are nice, but you're not realistically going to actually get good at many skills significantly faster with extra money. A greenhouse and solar thermal water heater are cool ideas, but twenty of them seems a bit of overkill. Stockpiling gold, guns, and MRE's is just asking to get robbed, fair enough. So then what?

As long as they're not making their money at the direct expense of society, it seems forward-thinking folks with money might have more to offer than making the feel-good decision to cover the basics and then surrender everything else and live in voluntary poverty to be closer to the earth and incidentally not be as big a target for theft and/or retribution. Nice concept for a movie-of-the-week, but that seems a bit wasteful of potential in itself to me.

1/11/15, 12:15 PM

steve pearson said...
@bogatyr,The dogs that attacked & chased me were all owned by someone. There is a lot of meth & dope & related paranoia.It seems too, that to a lot of the local men, not having a pitbull, a truck and several guns would be tantamount to having their sexual organs removed.
The end of season released dogs from the plantations in the hills have, so far, been quietly terminated if they come into the valley.I don't know if some of them stay in the hills and mingle with coyotes, but so far there are no feral dog packs in the valley.Probably won't change while there are as many guns as there are in circulation.

1/11/15, 12:40 PM

Beret Stormo said...
While it is WAY off the beaten path, some might find the North House Folk School in Grand Marais, MN of interest. They teach boat building, timber framing, blacksmithing to knitting, spinning and even sauerkraut making. The emphasis is Northern but it would be a good model for other folk schools in other areas teaching their local crafts.

1/11/15, 1:26 PM

latheChuck said...
speaking of sewing... I went to a "garage sale" this afternoon which turned out to be more of an estate sale, and bought monogramming and button-hole accessories for my sewing machine (as well as six dozen canning jar lids, a pound of paraffin wax, a pounce wheel, and a Dymo label maker) for $20. The 86-year old woman-of-the-house said that she was keeping the sewing machine, though no one expected her to do anything very ambitious with it.

I explained to the middle-aged man in charge that I haven't done much sewing, but that I thought it might be a useful skill to learn for the next phase of The Great Recession. "Yup", he said. "We all know it's comin'."

Modern monogramming machines, such as the one that embroidered my call sign onto my ham-radio hat, are computerized (of course), but my sewing machine could probably be adapted to run on human torque. (I'll be looking to hungry neighbors as prime movers, if I can't get electricity.)

1/11/15, 2:30 PM

sandy said...
Greetings from the Big Mango- I just read abt this new book, 'The Great Transition' by Bonaiuti, econ prof at U. Turin. Near future in biophysical ecologic terms. Detailed review here~
Enjoy, rabblebabble

1/11/15, 2:35 PM

latheChuck said...
For anyone who's interested in "American History for Adults", I recommend "Back Story" ( "The American History Guys" host a variety of audio documentaries, with each specializing in a different century: 18, 19, and 20th. Today's program was about oil. (I did not know, for example, that the USA was the world's largest oil producer in 1972, or that the oil crisis of 1973 began BEFORE OPEC restricted supply and raised prices.)

1/11/15, 2:36 PM

latheChuck said...
daelach: in addition to the poncho, you need something to cover your head. I didn't like the way that knit caps squeeze and cling to my head, and don't fit either over nor under my ham radio headset, so I salvaged the hood from a worn-out jacket. The hood fabric had often been tucked inside, so it hadn't been exposed to the UV radiation that weakened the main fabric.

Monks wore hoods, you know, not just to be fashionable. Living in a college town, though, I see the PhDs strolling around after a graduation ceremony wearing their hoods... which I think look not the least bit practical.

1/11/15, 2:44 PM

Cherokee Organics said...
Hi WW,

That is spooky! They do say that history is written by the victors.



1/11/15, 2:45 PM

onething said...
Phillip Hamilton,

Re your linked article about the One-Straw Revolution, that is the sort of farming I want to try. And, I am planning to open up a new plot this spring for small-scale grain raising. It seems I may have made a stab at his methods once, with flowers, with miserable outcome.

As to the vegetable garden, not his method exactly, but related, with fair success except I lost the battle with the weeds.

It looks like you have not tried this yourself, either, but these are my questions:

1) Fukuoma indicates some weed control but some weed tolerance. Not sure how that works as weeds leave seeds if let alone. Whereas the method I am using, call it extreme mulching (no tilling) at least tries not to let the weeds go to seed, thus reducing them year by year. Fukuoma also indicates weeds will decrease year by year, I guess because he does things to give the crops an advantage. What is not clear is if he avoids letting the weeds develop seed.
I was assuming that my climate (Appalachia) might be similar to Japan, but our weeds get to be 4-5 feet tall or more by summer's end. They DO crowd out vegetables.

2) He says to sew the spring crop 2 weeks before the harvest of the fall crop and vice versa, so that the new shoots come up and have a growth start before weeds, but he also says that right after harvest you put straw all over the field to stop weeds. But won't that stop the new crop as well?

In my method, as in his, I take nothing but the actual vegetables (or gain) and return or leave in the soil everything else. For example, I cut a cabbage off at the soil line, and leave the roots intact.

1/11/15, 2:47 PM

Glenn said...
Clay Dennis said...
"I am trying to do my small bit on education by working to get a post on peak oil and the rising unaffordability of car ownership in the local bike blog. This blog has a huge readership and is considered to be the news-of-record for all things bicycling in Portland OR. It tackles many worthwhile subjects the readers of the ADR would agree with, like living a car free life, Cargo bike heros and improving traffic conditions for bike commuters. They are now covering the recently disclosed data on declining VMT( vehicle miles traveled) in the U.S. over the last few years. But it is driving me crazy that the editorial staff, and all the commentors chock this up to Amazon and telecommuting."

Ah, Bike Portland. Some of the regular commenters, such as 9watts and q'Tzal seem to have a clue. But yes, the main articles do frequently ignore the elephant in the room. The editor's approach seems more new urbanist and climate change oriented than considering energy limits. I still envy them; I'm working with a local NGO transportation group in Port Townsend, WA. There's a lot of liberal greenwashing in the local political structure, and very little action,even the low hanging fruit.


in the Bramblepatch
Marrowstone Island
Salish Sea

1/11/15, 4:01 PM

Thomas Prentice said...
boy is this a good one...jmg, please keep 'em coming ;)

1/11/15, 4:50 PM

Glenn said...
daelach said...
"I'm making some simple clothing,"

You might try contacting the local branch of the Society for Creative Anachronism (SCA) and the guild Arachne's Web (not to be confused with the band). They can teach you a lot about sewing, spinning and weaving. Their focus is mediaeval, but once you learn the basics of construction and pattern making you can design your own clothes.


in the Bramblepatch
Marrowstone Island
Salish Sea

1/11/15, 6:48 PM

Philip Hamilton said...

What I do in my home garden, is way too rad for the "church ladies" up at my community garden. I helped kick the garden off as a bit of 'community building'. I gave them a copy each of a "Weed Forager's Handbook", for Christmas. And the bewildered looks I got from each of them, as I handed them their copies was worth every cent.

You may want to have a look at 'Natural Sequence Farming'. Where you use weeds to build your soil fertility, slashing them before they go to seed. 'No till', that sort of thing.

But we will be slashing our weeds with scythes, rather then tractors.

1/12/15, 1:50 AM

Phil Harris said...
JMG & All
This week’s essay does a remarkable job in summarising the history of a powerful civilisation; the context and results of the promotion of extravagant lifestyles. Those of us inside the controlled climate of the machine though have very great difficulty in seeing out.

Back in the early days of steam railway there was discussion of what happened to the human frame (biology) when the iron horses travelled faster than previous experience (knowledge). We laughed later at this superstition. We could outrun fear, our psyche, and the mystery of time. We normalised the train wrecks (death), regulated timetables (and other magic) and picnicked (celebrated) on conquered mountains, all courtesy of a few shovels of best coal in a medium-size furnace.

I remember at the age of 17 travelling long distance train for the first time on my own: The Flying Scot going north to Newcastle; (a traditional joke in Britain talked of ‘taking coals to Newcastle’ where the coal came from). I had rarely been in a motor car and even more rarely over 60 mph. In those days they still served tea and coffee (and I had rarely drunk coffee) in good quality china brought to the table. I was going to interview for University entrance – a journey paid for by the University. So there I was to my new wonder, being ceremoniously served (“Coffee Sir?”) travelling at over 100 mph courtesy of some very fast shovelling, and heading into my future.

We travelled into the North Country belonging to my mother’s stories –grand parents, other lives. I saw then briefly one of the defining images of my life and education. This was something I had no real pre-knowledge of and had not been touched on in Mum’s stories. A Durham pit-village (coal); one-street of brick cottages sloped down to the mainline. This was a continuing 19th C reality in one glimpse. It is difficult to convey how much information can be provided by one swift real image.

There have been other such glimpses before and since – perhaps an equivalent in North America for those who have seen the film, might be one recreated in Paper Moon; the con-man (future) in his smart motor passing the ‘Okie’ outfit (financial and environmental collapse) travelling West – different planets two sides of the same road.

I have known wild regret at lost work and love, the meaning of the lives of others, and other such beautiful country.

I take off my hat to those who go before and to those who follow after. Years later, my boy led me on a climb in a remote mountain glen (pilgrimage): “as surely as the long light of midsummer / will return to these hills. / The here and now of antiquity / walks our present days, / by steep paths returning / to the same secluded ground, /Salmon running beside us / Unseen; memory into the pool.

Phil Harris

1/12/15, 5:39 AM

Unknown said...
Shining Hector - You could try using your vast sums to buy some goodwill from your neighbors. When you divest yourself of your wealth, you're not just throwing it into a void, after all. This seems to be a difficult concept for 1%ers, but if they can't think of anything useful to use their money for, maybe they shouldn't have control of it and keeping it at all is what's the "waste." Try sponsoring other people's skills. Perhaps the person down the road who's learning to sew could use a new sewing machine, or the aspiring gardener some cold frames. You can't learn everything, but when you recognize the existence of others as more than people who may potentially rob you, you don't have to. Knowing there are other people out there with the skills you don't have but who will use them to help support you is what builds a community. As a 1%er, your portfolio of investments in the goodwill of your brethren might be looking a little low, about now.

1/12/15, 7:25 AM

Rita Narayanan said...
From societies that lived as tiny tribes to just the other day....our social systems were grounded on a metaphysical understanding of what our place in the order is.

while everyone seems to be talking about oil & debt, no one seems to talk about this domain.

since time immemorial both classical & as well as shamanistic orders have been governed by some understanding of occult.Why then is this such a taboo?


1/12/15, 8:08 AM

Andy Brown said...
@ Nathaniel - regarding nursing as a profession. One thing I observed living in Kazakhstan during their mid-90's economic collapse was that nursing was probably one of the more useful skills to have acquired. For example, I knew several who had secured a roof overhead, because elderly people with few resources other than home ownership were happy to adopt a nurse into the household for obvious reasons.

If and when a wage economy collapses many extended families will re-consolidate themselves, but in our society families are scattered - so some of this will be "fictive kin" and nurse is always in demand for "adoption."

1/12/15, 10:11 AM

John Michael Greer said...
Bogatyr and all -- thanks, I'm fine; I've just been up to my eyeballs in work, with Masonic activities on top of that, and this post has been getting an unusually high number of comments. I'll try to field comments over the next couple of days, but no promises!

1/12/15, 11:40 AM

Andy Brown said...

I’m sure this has already crossed your radar screen, but the New York Times has an article - Banks brace for a jolt - which explicitly raises your point about whether the banks have set themselves up for a reprise of the 1970s-80s energy lending fiasco.

1/12/15, 12:13 PM

Bogatyr said...
JMG: glad to hear that all's well!

All the talk of the "Fast Collapse All-Stars" started the faintest of bells tinkling... and it's been nagging away until I realised what it was. Voila!

1/12/15, 12:29 PM

Dornier Pfeil said...
And the flagship of the mainstream financial media has just declared there is no bubble in the energy sector.
Of course they cheat by only referencing the stock prices of the 6 oil majors, the euphemism being "globally integrated oil and gas companies" and only with regard to a timeline measured out for 20 years, completely ignoring the shakeout going down right now in the unconventional carbon sector. Of course the majors have depressed prices, they haven't recovered from 2008 yet; if they ever will. There is a small irony in the fact that the majors will benefit from the frac bust because they have the resources to scarf up the minors at soon to be firesale prices.
On the bright side, there were a few commenters who saw through the slight of hand.

1/12/15, 12:57 PM

Dan the Farmer said...
I'm half way through Azby Brown's book "Just Enough". It sounds good in principle, but when you get into the details, there are the small issues of living in a military dictatorship and practicing occasional infanticide to control the population density. There are certainly lessons to be taken from the book, and as I said, I'm not done yet.

This makes me consider some ecological principles: In a given ecosystem niche, there is usually a limiting resource or ability (or maybe a few) that controls population. In Edo Japan, that resource seems to have been food/fiber/fuel supply. Looking at the "Happy People" videos of life in Siberian Russia, it seems that food is plentiful, but you have to have the cold resistance to live there. In some places, there is food and gentle climate, but the state of warfare, or of disease, or some other factor, controls the population density. Sometimes that's within human control and sometimes it isn't.

1/12/15, 2:59 PM

Dan the Farmer said...
Regarding sewing machines: I've picked up several from the transfer station in decent working order. I got a treadle base off the metal recycling pile a few months ago, and hope to mate it to a machine eventually. They are fairly durable, if taken care of. Many that I see are seized up because of being oiled wrong. WD40 eventually turns to gum. These things need very light machine oil. I use the same oil that I lubricate my electric hair trimmers with. With the right lubrication, protection from rust, and somewhat regular use, they can last a long time.

I'm somewhat picky about my clothes (although you wouldn't think it to look at me). There was a time in the late 80s and early 90s when I made my own pants regularly, because the styles were tight and I need more thigh room. (I had biker thighs) I made a pattern from a pair of Battle Dress Utility camo pants I'd been given. The hard part is the fly.

Years later, I had a conversation about simple clothing with someone who suggested that drop-front pants with buttons on each side would likely be easier. Overalls might be easier yet.

I've also made pants loosely modeled on the "Japanese Farmer Pants" once sold by Smith & Hawken, and those are almost the same as martial arts uniform pants.

My work shirts are starting to look a bit worn. These are the ones I wear to my paying job, which is crawling through basements and attics, looking for energy leaks, so they need to be tough but look decent for the clients. These are typically a solid twill button front shirt with a button down collar and front pockets. Very workmanlike. But a few friends of mine have been seen wearing French Sailor's Smocks, and these look practical and straightforward to sew.

Then there's footwear. I can knit socks fairly well, given the right yarn, but it's going to be hard to adjust to something handmade after my years of lightweight hiking boots.

1/12/15, 3:22 PM

Adrian Ayres Fisher said...
@Cherokee Organics
Hi Chris, re animals: your love of your land and its non-human inhabitants shines through in all your comments.

I've just been reading about the Rights of Nature as a legal construct. Now that's an interesting thought.

1/12/15, 3:27 PM

Unknown said...
(Deborah Bender)

Dan the Farmer wrote, "Years later, I had a conversation about simple clothing with someone who suggested that drop-front pants with buttons on each side would likely be easier."

The US Navy sailor's uniform used to have (perhaps still has) bell bottom pants of this kind with thirteen buttons. They were called "Thirteen chances to say no." In the 1960s, sailor pants were easy for civilians to come by in Army-Navy surplus stores, along with heavy wool pea jackets, but probably not any more.

1/12/15, 4:12 PM

Cathy McGuire said...
Hi, all -
Non-sequitor but I hope JMG won't mind. I'm putting this out in case there are any music-makers (I'm posting on a few sites): I just got a xeroxed, 3-hole punched copy of an old book, "Violin-making as it was and is" by Ed. Heron-Allen, and old enough that there's no copyright date - and has a statement in Latin on the frontspiece. Looks like an excellent guide to making violins - totally beyond my skills but it was 25 cents and I had to rescue it. So if anyone thinks they can use it, I'll mail it to them. First person who speaks up gets it.

1/12/15, 4:15 PM

latheChuck said...
Shining Hector and Unknown- I have some experience with donating cold frames. First, when my son was at a very green K-6 Quaker school, I donated a 4x4 foot cold-frame of 2x6 lumber with a slab of Polygal (r) insulated polycarbonate sheet to the school gardening project. Polygal's great stuff: lightweight, rugged, insulating, stiff... and I found 5 half-sheets in the "remnants" bin at an industrial plastics shop for $10 ea.) I delivered it to the gardening/science teacher. A month or so later, I looked in to see how things were going, and he admitted that he'd tried to transport it on the roof of his car, it had fallen off and gotten destroyed, and could I possibly replace it? "Sure!" I said. "But we'd have to order a 4x8' sheet. Catalog price for is about $100/sheet, plus $100 packaging, and $200 shipping. For $400, you can have one TWICE as big as the one I gave you. For $500, you can have two." He wasn't interested.

I tried again, at the 7/8th grade school. But they waited until Spring to set it up, instead of using it to grow greens through the winter, and it was too late to be useful. Come summer vacation, it went into storage. A few months later, when it could be put into action... it had been "tidied up" out of existence. Just some old boards and a sheet of plastic, in someone's eyes.

So much for charity! People see value in what THEY pay for, not what you find valuable. If money's not going to work in a speculative future, let them crank your lathe/grain mill/sewing machine/whatever, and RENT your "capital equipment" to them. If they lose interest, you can take it back and look for a more faithful disciple.

I picked lettuce from one of my cold frames to make green salads for three last night. Dawn temperature was 11F (-11C), but the sun was strong and we got above freezing during the day. (Washington DC suburb)

1/12/15, 4:46 PM

Stacey Armstrong said...

LESS leaning fireside economists. There is a thinking quagmire that often occurs when folks take up a hobby and then try to sell there skills or craft at a rate they feel they 'deserve.' Almost all the real value in my experience is not about the tokens, but embodied in the fact that something is made or mended by a person you know. I started quilt-making about a decade ago and now have a small inconsistent income from selling quilts but also doing mending and other sewing for people. When I began considering what other kinds of skills I could adopt to carry forward I finally decided it would be a good idea to expand my range of sewing abilities to garments. I now wear a number of things I have made each week. Once you start building a real community and taking up residence in it, many opportunities to trade or help someone else with your skills will appear.

If you need inspiration for art made of salvage in grinding poverty the quilts and stories of Gee's Bend Alabama provide a complex real world example.

1/12/15, 4:58 PM

Nathaniel Ott said...
@Andy thanks for the input, most of what you said are the reasons for why I was considering the profession. Not that its my only skillset or option like I said to JMG I'm still in a transition period. Just looking for some other useful skills. Thanks again for the advice.


1/12/15, 5:44 PM

DH Poser Chwee said...
On the issue of feral dogs... there are actually a small number that reside in the few remaining rural areas / nature reserves in Singapore. They started off as abandoned pets, with strays that stay within the city limits being picked up by an active animal society.

Anyways, reading some of the prior comments made me think about what kind of legal implements I could use to fend off the feral dogs in the future. That was a 'mind-trap' that resulted from reading a western-centric blog... because when I posed that question to my group of friends, they said I was worrying for nothing. Since we now have such a big population of chinamen here in Singapore, the dogs would get eaten before it'll ever become an issue!

Seriously, my friends were not being facetious or racist as they're mostly ethnic Chinese - but raised on a different palate, so to speak. Really goes to show that there will be local wrinkles to the developing situation.

1/12/15, 6:07 PM

Kyoto Motors said...
Dear Mr. Greer,
(continued from previous comment)
“I’ve been thinking about what you said (was it two posts ago?) with regard to a particular archetype within the mythology of progress, namely that of the hero who struggles against a status quo/ established, backwards, or otherwise regressive/ignorant way of doing things in order to cut a triumphant path of truth into the glorious future, and well, my paraphrasing may be lacking, but you know the type… This hero is personified in history by numerous figures in science, politics, and the arts. I can think of several off the top of my head from Galileo to VanGogh, Picasso to Bob Dylan. I’m guessing however that the narrative usually only holds water if you maintain a certain distance from the facts, which I suppose is how mythology works when based on real people.
If I’m not completely off the mark, your line of reasoning states that this particular narrative encapsulates the struggle and victory of progress, and serves as an integral part of that religion; that implicit in this is an ideological aspect that props up the predominant world view, and a particular set of values, as well as a political agenda of the ruling centres of power. At the same time I have to admit that there is a compelling aspect to many of these stories – dare I say – as an artist, they are inspiring!

Anyway, I wanted to raise two points. The first being that just maybe (quite possibly?) an archruid/writer/gardener (brewer – I’m guessing) who has made a stand and staked his reputation on a thoroughly researched alternative way of looking at the world; who leads by example, and teaches counter to the prevailing conventional wisdom (read: folly) of the times might fit that same narrative otherwise belonging to progress. I don’t mean to point this out as a criticism, but simply as a rather interesting irony (?)… I know I feel oftentimes as though most of all the world is marching to a different rhythm than me, but remain convinced that I have a particular insight and knowledge of certain truths (i.e. peak oil, limits to growth, ecology, etc.) that keep me going despite the pervasive collective denial all around. Could not progress be defined around these terms as we move forward, reframing it as “that which allows us to weather the storm?”

“The second point that came to mind was that, as powerful and as present as the archetype and mythology cited above is, most people follow a different path: that of conformity. I know many people who have abandoned a more simple, artistic lifestyle in order to earn more money doing something more corporate (or bureaucratic, or what have you), in order to provide more of this and that for a growing family. It’s the narrative of consumption and growth that people dutifully follow, and it is decidedly not one of heroically standing against anything or, for that matter, for anything except the main flow that everyone else seems to be following. Herein lies the deception of “progress”: We may worship the heroes of one narrative, and yet follow a completely different path instead. We have believed in one ideal while experiencing, for the most part the complete opposite: the investment in a way of life without a future…”
(more to come)

1/12/15, 6:56 PM

Kyoto Motors said...
Hello again,
(continued still…)
That was a year and a half ago.
Having said all that, I have to add that the economic forces in the contemporary urban environment are such that some degree of conformity is all but inevitable. Myself, I’ve gravitated toward gainful employment and the participation in the culture of conformity insofar as “dressing the part” is concerned – a simple matter of practical necessity; this despite a track record of being a subversively-minded artist for as long as I can remember. As a “practicing artist” I have more trouble with participation in the contemporary art world, where I believe the law of diminishing returns is manifesting itself in full force. But I still believe in creativity and expression as important spiritual aspects to a society that has largely turned its back on faith and religion. Which is to say, I don’t look at art-making as an economic pursuit but rather as a cultural “force”; I do wonder though just how justifiable it is to maintain said practice, when the cost of doing so is barely above the break-even point. I suppose I am constantly questioning my own way forward, given the insights on the probable future that I feel I’ve gained over the years. Sometimes I think inspiring others to be simply creative and critical in their thinking could go a long way. Other times I wonder if I shouldn’t just walk away from so much personal investment in what may just be a function of abundance industrialism…
And do what?

1/12/15, 6:57 PM

Adrienne Adams said...
I'm in kind of a funny position regarding LESS. I've been living on an island in the Salish Sea since 1986, a small rural community of old rednecks, back-to-the-landers from the 70's, and, more recently, a lovely bunch of young folks bent on living the simple wholesome life. Up until a year and a half ago I had only enjoyed indoor plumbing for around three years out of more than twenty. For twelve years, home was a small hand-wrought cabin with an outhouse, outdoor shower, and only basic electric features. I learned how to grow a garden and feed myself and my husband for a good part of the year. Divorce brought changes, and I found a young couple who had land and needed extra help. I lived in a craftsman-converted school bus for a year and a half while I improved a small cabin, adding real windows, basic insulation, and wiring.

(The bus was a treat to live in. I recommend it to everyone for some part of their lives!)

The cabin also lacked indoor bathing and toilet, and it took 5 years to get hot water for the sink. It was only warm when the wood stove was fired up, and about 5 degrees above ambient otherwise. The outdoor shower was shared between ourselves and the landowner couple living in their yurt.

I remarried after a few years, and my new husband and I stayed on the land until we parted amicably with the young couple. We landed in a new home on the same island, where we've been for two summers now. It is a newly built, right and well crafted modern house. Two toilets, even, and an indoor shower! We own three computers, three iDevices, and as of last month, three motor vehicles.

Our trajectory has been steadily moving towards greater comfort and energy consumption. I know it won't last. And I'm grateful for every blessed moment of it.

I've had a fair bit of living with LESS. I can deal with going out and thawing the shower, using an outhouse, having no internet, heating water on the stovetop, growing my own food, and the like. I know I can do that all again in a heartbeat. But right now we are enjoying this fading glory of industrial civilization, and giving thanks for these modern miracles. The time for harder living will come soon enough.

1/12/15, 8:26 PM

James Fauxnom said...
Dornier- Ha, seems like they always frame such conflicts as humans limiting progress rathering than admit any natural limits might exist. Energy returns, what energy returns? I'm throwing money at it so it must be good!

1/12/15, 10:40 PM

MP said...
JMG - I would imagine you are in the midst of putting together your latest weekly reporting. But I thought you might find interesting yet another thoughtful article about the fracking bust. This time from Nature:

It mentions that University of Texas study which I've seen in a few articles wondering around the inter-webs. In Summary (from naked capitalism): EIA bullish fracking forecasts are based on coarse-grained studies of major formations. New analysis shows such formations have smaller “sweet spots,” and so more conservative forecasts are warranted.

What with financial markets going all over the place over the past few months, I expect to see quite a few chickens coming home to roost by the end of 2015.

1/13/15, 4:18 AM

Bill Pulliam said...
Steve, Bogatyr -- Coyotes and dogs don't mix well. They tend to attack each other rather than intermingle, and the coyotes usually win. They are farther apart genetically and socially than dogs and wolves. So if you have a healthy population of coyotes (and most of North America does now, even suburban areas), dogs on the loose often don't live very long and can't really form self-sustaining packs anymore.

1/13/15, 1:53 PM

Thomas Mazanec said...
May I make a modest request? Could you make a post that is something like Why Technology Will Not Save Us, giving a point by point explanation of why tecnofixes like solar power will not solve our predicament, so I can refer a person who suggests solar power (like Kurzweil or Drexler), or fusion, or whatever, to one specific post instead of several occurring in different posts?

1/14/15, 4:18 AM

August Johnson said...
@Thomas Mazanec - I'd suggest this as a possible post. It's by Gail Tverberg, "Gail the Actuary" from The Oil Drum.

Ten Reasons Intermittent Renewables (Wind and Solar PV) are a Problem

1/14/15, 9:37 AM

steve pearson said...
Thanks Bill, That in addition to the guns would certainly explain the lack of feral dogs in the valley.There is a very healthy population of coyotes. I love to listen to them sing at night.

1/14/15, 10:16 AM

MawKernewek said...
I just noticed this paper from the Royal Society of Chemistry about the resource requirements of photovoltaic panels and thought I'd flag this up to readers:

It talks about the issue of scalability, of the thin-film PV technologies. Some of these metals are trace elements which are only extracted as by-product of other metal ores.

1/14/15, 11:41 AM

Raymond Duckling said...
@Thomas Mazanec

I wish what you want to do was possible, but I don't think it is so. The first lesser reason is that a solid argument such as those would cover a smallish book, definitively too long for a blog post. I attempted to write something similar, exclusively from the point of view of computers, and ended up with a series of 6-8 posts that made a very weak argument in my opinion.

But the stronger reason is that people are in general not moved by those kind of arguments. You present them with the facts, and instead of reasoning about those, they skim through the first few paragraphs and then decide to put you in the "jolly crackpot" bucket. If you push the subject they get angry and move you progressively into the "annoying weirdo", the "vaguely-threatening stalker" and the "bad influence".

So, unless there's someone dearest to you in the belies of the beast, it's not worth going there. Those that have in them to listen will listen. You just try to introduce them gently to the facts, let them grieve whatever they have to grieve, and keep moving on the available material.

1/14/15, 11:46 AM

latheChuck said...
Thomas Mazanec - The short, simple answer doesn't need a special post; it's just this: the planet is finite. Growth cannot continue infinitely. You can calculate how much land area would be required to provide all of our electrical needs with current PV technology, or with perfect 100% efficient PV technology, but just extrapolate "business as usual" growth in population, and electrical demand, and soon or later you run out of everything.

1/14/15, 1:24 PM

Mark Sebela said...

Dr. Michael Huesemann published an excellent book on the subject. John has covered much of the same ground.
"Techno Fix - Why Technology Won’t Save Us Or the Environment"

The book also provides some insightful views on the origins of progress worship/faith. You know it's bad when a German scientist/engineer claims technology won't save us;)

Here are some links to a lecture and an interview.


Audio interview

1/14/15, 2:26 PM

Caryn said...
I just stumbled upon this site through a link on Daily Kos and am finding these essays fantastic. One of the very best aspects of our high-tech lifestyles is finding voices like yours from all over the world that I would otherwise never have heard. Perhaps equally appreciated is the format to actually comment and answer back, to interchange ideas and read comments from other readers. THIS I would really miss from a low-tech life. Thank You!

For my own 2-cents 'back-talk', I would add 1 more 'S' to that acronym - (LESSS) in the idea of 'Security' or safety net.

I've been poor and struggling, (by Western standards) and have had the opportunity to be rich and very comfortable, now back to struggling. I suppose one could say the difference between a lavish, wasteful lifestyle and a much more economical one. The biggest difference and IMHO the one that I and most people have the hardest time adjusting to is the lack of financial safety net. If one has a safety net there a just a lot fewer sleepless nights. If the car breaks down - it's a minor inconvenience, not a threat to your job and lifeline, if your kid has a bad cough it's just a trip to the doctors, not a major worry that you might lose them. If you make a mistake and get a speeding or parking ticket for $200. it's a bummer, not a collapse of your budget and food off of your table for the next months, or late rent and therefore a threat to your very security. You have to live a lot more carefully and anticipate those slippery parts of the tight-rope when you have no safety-net and even then you can never be completely sure. You simply LIVE with insecurity.

THAT I think is the hard part of relinquishing the lavish lifestyle. As I said above, I've lived with that insecurity most of my life, it's not impossible, life can certainly still be fun and have moments of carefree bliss, but having the security of a safety net SURE is a heckuvalot easier. That would be worth addressing, no?

2/14/15, 7:39 PM