Monday, June 02, 2008

Learning From the Collapse of Earlier Societies

Below is the latest PeakMoment Video.

This all sounds wonderful.

But the thinking that goes into believing that we can have a human friendly, controlled collapse, is the same thinking that got us into this mess. We want to believe that this time, things will be different.

No civilization has taken control of it's destiny during collapse and gone down in 'civilized' fashion.

Argentina and Venezuela are our best modern day examples of an attempt at a controlled crash. But they haven't depleted their oil reserves as completely as the US has.

There is no historical reason to believe that we can control our crash, and avoid the same self destructive actions that every civilization engages in, during it's death throes.

Even now, we are proving the rule with our wars of conquest in Afghanistan and Iraq. As the decline continues, the State will seek greater control over the citizenry and will zealously work to expand the wars and the funding for the same.

The United States is converting itself into a total war machine. Increasingly war is becoming the basis of the entire economy. Many people happily embrace this change. All of my life otherwise seemingly sane adults have told me that war is good for the economy. Yet history tells us that war is actually harmful to the economy. But for many of those people, they worked in industries that benefited for war. they would always argue that they preferred peace, while at the same time arguing that slaughtering people for money is a good business for the US to engage in.

Guy Prouty may well understand all of this. He might even agree with me.

I have often been accused of making the message too harsh. That Americans need sugar coating and lot's of corn sweeteners added to any truths they may consider swallowing. That Americans can't handle the truth. And those people are right.

And Guy Prouty is taken a little pinch of truth and is mixing it in with a gallon of corn sweetener.

He is right, the changes needed, will require a radically different mode of thinking. the change is so radical, that it would completely redefine us as a people and as a nation.

Though he paints a message of hope for us, he is actually painting a message of hope for our descendants that will come in a dozen generations or so.

As our population goes through the next bottleneck, only those with hardy genes and an evolved culture, with myths that are compatible with reality, will survive. We can pretend that we can do things to influence how all of this turns out, but in reality, the statical aggregate of all of our actions will overcome any individual actions we may engage in.

A number of friends have pointed out to me that only 20% of the people can recognize a problem that requires change. And out of that 20%, only 20% of them, will act on it. I have found this to be generally true. You see it in markets, in personal finance and many other endeavors in life. This implies that 96% of the people will follow the herd, even as 16% will know that even as they follow, they are on the wrong course.

The last 4% are the trailblazers. They see the new path. They see the herd. They choose the new path. The 4% don't change history. They do get written up that way. When the herd arrives in a new place, they'll come across a sign that reads, "Kilroy Was Here". And Kilroy will get written up in the history books. But change didn't occur when Kilroy was there. Change was enacted when the masses arrived. The masses would've arrived, even if Kilroy had never been born.

Guy is giving good personal advice. The advice is ageless. It predates the Ancient Greeks.

1. Stay out of debt.
2. Grow a garden.
3. Be as self sufficient as you can.
4. Make friends with your neighbors.

What troubles me is that I believe that so long as we sugarcoat the message, the 16% will do nothing. And until they act, the herd will just see the 4% as kooks. So for now, we will remain the borrow and shop society.

And this is the source of my pessimism. I believe in the power of change. But I do not believe that we can change until we're forced to.

Rather than shape the collapse, the collapse will shape us.


At 11:22 AM, Blogger an average patriot said...

There is a reason why the Romans or no one else has been able to beat it and we are doing the same thing. Some realize it is happening but do not want to fix it but rather capitalize off it. You can learn from History bu most choose not to but think of themselves that is why History is doomed to repeat itself until this whole thing called life plays itself out. How's the nephew?

At 11:40 AM, Blogger Weaseldog said...

He's enjoying his first day of work.

He got a job on a downtown skyscraper construction project.

He might be on a good career path for the future. Hands on jobs are likely to make a comeback as we enter the decline.

At 12:22 PM, Blogger an average patriot said...

That's fantastic Wease I wish him and you luck!

At 2:57 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

People complain about food prices, but they won't plant a garden. Years ago the gas man stole my stuff right out of my back yard. Stupid lazy no good bastidge. The breakdown will be ugly.

At 8:59 PM, Anonymous Janaia Donaldson said...

Thanks for posting the Peak Moment on your blog. I think that many of our guests on Peak Moment Conversations are in that 4%.

I'm not sure how the collapse will go--but I expect the U.S. may land hard, since we're so unprepared, and the corporate media is not letting people know.

We videotaped Richard Heinberg last Saturday on Peak Everything, and he said: "There is NO HOPE for a soft landing." We've gone too long without preparing to mitigate the effects of oil decline.

It'll come down to relocalizing. Redundancies, resilience in communities when the oil shocks arrive, and rationing, and the grid is down for days.

Not pretty, but better to be prepared than not--to use that healthy fear to act constructively.

We welcome folks to watch other Peak Moment Conversations with the 4%, at Join the dialogue on my blog at

We're planning to tape shows across the continent this coming fall & winter, and are doing a Friend-Raising: we're looking for (1) people and projects to tape, (2) places to park and stay along the way
(3) groups to present to and do a little fundraising
(4) funding large or small to pay expenses on our shoestring budget.

Gosh, I didn't mean for this to sound like an ad. Ya got me rolling. Big thanks for expanding the consciousness of folks around you, Weasel.

Janaia Donaldson (host of Peak Moment Conversations)

At 8:35 AM, Blogger Bukko_in_Australia said...

Relocalising does not have to be hard. That's just going back to how it was in the old days, before fast transportation homogenised us.

Take the city where my wife and I immigrated to -- Melbourne, Australia. (We like to think we're in the smart 4%. We saw the U.S. collapse coming and buggered off to a better place.)

Modern Melbourne is a sprawl of 2 million people. But right around the city centre are all these burgs that used to be independent towns. Places with names like Carlton, Collingwood, St. Kilda and a host of others. Each used to have its own identity, so much so that they evolved their own Australian Rules Football League teams. It's like if New York City had a professional sports league with a team in each borough. People would wear the team's colours, and it gave each "suburb" as they call them here, a sense of identity.

That's lost now that cars have made it easy to get across town. It used to be that a 2-kilometre distance was enough to create a community. As the car economy collapses, local orientation will rise again.

The local focus was built into the commercial grid. Each half-mile section of "old" Melbourne (can't be too old when the city wasn't more than a squat until the 1854 gold rush) is interspersed with shopping areas. There are grocery stores, restaurants, schools, doctors' offices and other essentials of life within walking distance for anyone who's not absolutely feeble. Only in the 1970s here (which is equivalent to where the U.S. was in the '50s) did suburban sprawl become the dominant force on the fringes. When car transportation becomes more difficult, people here will still be able to get by OK because of those old development patterns.

Like Janaia says, turning your eyes to your own backyard is not a bad thing. It stinks if you're in a sprawl zone where your nearest store is miles away, though. American civilisation will have to undergo big changes. There will be less of the "I hate cities because I don't want to be surrounded by a lot of people" mindset. You'll live in a city, or you'll spend all your money trying to get from Point A to distant Point B.

It will be a good thing to base your life around where you live, instead of focusing on somewhere else. Most of Europe lives that way. They're set up to handle the coming change. The big question is whether America will manage the transition well, or crack up.

At 8:45 AM, Blogger an average patriot said...

Gee Wease
I have been a bit caught up conversing and getting to know a like minded individual that retired and lives way up in Maine potato country. Pretty cool. Survival as you know is almost a 40 year subject to me. Excuse my nativities but who do I wan to check out? Anyway peak anything is ancient history. As I always say, be prepared!

At 9:14 AM, Blogger Weaseldog said...

Re-localization can be a good thing.

Where I see the big problem though, is in that we have more people than we can feed, without plentiful and cheap fossil fuels.

And the greatest problem I see with this, is irrigation. Much of the US can't produce at the levels that it does, without fossil fuel powered irrigation systems.

In the area that I live in, we have five million people living in place that agriculturally, could only support half a million, without fossil fuels.

The weather is unpredictable. Droughts and floods are common. Ground water is too contaminated to drink.

Even with fossil fuels, we go to water rationing almost every year.

Now, I'll probably stay. I grew up here. Most of my family was born here. But we have a lot of transplants from other regions of the country that will be wistfully dreaming of returning to better climes the first summer that the air conditioners all fail with a prolonged power shortage.

So those regions where irrigation is easy, the, soil is rich and the food is plentiful, will likely have to deal with a huge influx of immigrants.

As you argued over on PPLP Bukko, they are boiling the frogs too fast. Post Peak Oil is going to be a whole series of events, dropping frogs into hot water.

But we'll fight back, by having babies faster! Those black outs will be good for something!

AP, Janaia Donaldson is the woman in the linked video. Her site Peak Moment Television has some interesting videos. Global Public Media has more.

At 10:54 AM, Blogger an average patriot said...

Hi Wease
I thought that might be the case. after years and years and years of trying too educate people most are just going to go by the way side. this is just beginning and will be stopped by no one. As I keep saying at this point most an only hope to hunker down and make do. Be prepared, survive.
In the 70s After I got out of the service I was going to College and I had this survivalist lady friend that wanted me to go to Nova Scotia with her and her young son but I said it was to early. Not anymore! I was talking to Mike in the Northern Kingdom (upper Maine) and I just remembered one of my classmate 10 years back was up there teaching Cumberland County how to better utilize there potatoes. They will know now!

At 7:08 PM, Blogger Bukko_in_Australia said...

Tell me about irrigation, Wease! This is a dry-ass continent. Not so much in Melbourne, which is down south where it's cold and wet. (Weird how South = North here...) EVERYTHING needs to be irrigated, especially in the state of West Australia, where the wheat fields are almost like hydroponic sand pits. Lotsa sun, but all inputs like water and fertiliser need to be provided artificially because the soil is crapped out after millions of years with no volcanos or glaciers.

There's lots of water in the north of Australia, where they get tropical monsoons. The issue is, how do you do the equivalent of pumping water from Maine to Texas, in a nation where there's only 22 million citizens to pay for those infrastructure costs?

Aussies have done a good job damming the trickle-y little rivers they have, and they're building pipelines to move water around. Irrigation infrastructure can be a good thing. It makes jobs, provides a sustainable basis for basic needs like food and water, and can also knit a society together. Kinda socialistic, with people as a group depending on projects that they organised to create. But there's good socialism and bad socialism.

You've probably read "Collapse" by Jared Diamond if you're into thinking Big Thoughts about what's going to happen in the future. Great book, and it has a chapter about Australia. Diamond thinks this is a country that could go either way -- succeed or fail. I have to hope people here are sensible enough to make changes. Reading that book helped convince my wife and I that America might go the way of the Romans.

If you look at why the Roman civilisation survived as well as it did, it was their irrigation systems as much as the Roman Legions. When Mrs. Bukko and I go to Europe, we see remains of acqueducts like the Pont de Gard in France. They're all over the Middle East, too. The society that has water will continue, the one that doesn't will collapse like the Mayans.

At 8:52 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think the four points you highlighted are spot on.


Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home