Thursday, August 02, 2007

Adam's Story: Tillicum River

This narrative is the fourth part of an exploration of the five themes from my Archdruid Report post “Glimpsing the Deindustrial Future” using the tools of narrative fiction. As with the first three portions of “Adam’s Story,” the setting is the rural Pacific Northwest during the second half of this century.


South of the army roadblock, the coast highway swung inland and wove through hills. For three days Adam and Haruko saw no further sign of the Cascade Republic’s forces, or for that matter anyone else. Even before things began falling apart, those hills had been all but uninhabited, a region of timberland and hiking trails pierced by a few roads but never really settled. Now, other than the highway and the healing scars of logging during the war—the government fueled its tanks and planes on wood alcohol once the last overseas oil was lost, and ravaged much of the nation’s woodlands doing it—the hills looked as though they had never been visited by people at all. The woods to either side of the road offered little in the way of forage; it was a hungry time.

Early on the fourth day, the low rumble of diesel engines echoed off the hills behind them, and the two of them hurried off the road and hid in dense brush upslope. Adam worked his way to a place where he could glimpse the road below. Half a dozen trucks painted army green roared south at what he guessed was top speed. After the last echoes died away, he and Haruko picked their way warily back down to the road and followed. A few miles onthey came to a crossing where a road headed east toward the cities of the interior. Tracks in the duff showed the trucks had gone that way, and others had come from the south and taken the same road east.

“What do you think?” he asked Haruko. “South or east?” They’d talked over their route more than once, trying to guess whether the coast or inland offered the best hope of a place to settle.

“They drove like men going to fight,” she said in her halting English. “If there is war in the east, maybe south is better.”

Adam nodded. “I was thinking something like that.” South it was, then. They followed the highway south for the rest of the day and spent the night in a sheltered place just off the road.

The next morning dawned gray. After they shared the last of the food from Pells Falls, they went on. Before noon, the road wrapped around the side of one last hill and turned west. Off in the distance, where the line of a river met the sea’s edge, streams of woodsmoke rose from a patchwork of grays and browns that could only be a town. A few more hours, walking past buildings that had been stripped of anything useful, brought them to another crossing, where the highway veered south and a sign said WELCOME TO TILLICUM RIVER and pointed west.

They followed the arrow. Most of the ground on either side of the road had been cleared and turned into fields—potatoes and garden truck, mostly, along with Adam guessed was ripening grain. Ahead, the town’s edge resolved into a long gray shape that turned out to be a high wall made of broken chunks of concrete mortared roughly together. There was a gate in the wall where the road reached it, and a chair beside the gate, and a man sitting in the chair.

“Afternoon,” the man said as they walked up to the gate. Portly and graying, he had an old blue policeman’s cap perched on his head, a metal badge pinned on his shirt, and a revolver tucked unobtrusively into his belt. “What can I do for you?”

“Afternoon,” said Adam. “My wife and I are looking for work.”

“That arm of yours get in the way much?”

“There’s plenty I can still do.”

The man looked them over, nodded. “Here’s the rules. If you got a gun, you leave it with me, and my deputy frisks you and searches your packs before you get in. Any trouble, any stealing, we chuck you out without your gear, and don’t even think about coming back here, ever. You think you been cheated by somebody, talk to me or the mayor. Got it?”

“Got it.” Adam took his father’s pistol out of his pocket and gave it to the man, knowing he probably wouldn’t see it again: not much choice now, and he had so little ammo that the gun wasn’t that useful anyway. The man called out something, and a younger man with a badge on his shirt came from inside the gate, patted Adam and Haruko down, dug aimlessly through their packs, and said, “Clean as a whistle. Where to?”

“Earl’s. He’s been looking for help since Anne took sick.” To Adam and Haruko: “Earl Tigard is a good friend of mine. Give him an honest day’s work and he’ll treat you right. Mess him over and let’s just say I ain’t gonna be happy.”

A few minutes later the deputy was leading them through the streets of Tillicum River, past houses with vegetable gardens and henyards around them. “Around five hundred,” he was saying, “half or thereabouts born here, the others from towns on the coast that didn’t make it. Where’re you from?”

“Learyville,” Adam said. “North of the Meeker and back up in the hills.”

“Heard of it. Here there’s a hydro plant that still works, so we’ve got some electricity; the soil’s good and so is the harbor; we get ships sometimes, going up and down the coast, and they’ll trade for food and water. And we get people coming along the road, some honest, some not so honest. That’s why the wall’s there; we had raiders a couple of times.”

“Must have taken a lot of work to build that.”

“Yeah. Everybody puts in one day a week on town projects. That means you two, too; Earl’s day is your day so long as you work for him.”

They turned a corner onto what an old sign still labeled Main Street, passed a library that still seemed to be open and a couple of businesses that were clearly shut for good. Another old store front further on had a wooden sign above the door with some symbols Adam didn’t recognize.

“Excuse me,” said Haruko then. She didn’t speak much to strangers, not with the risk of being recognized as nanmin. “That is – Buddhist?”

“Yeah, that’s their church,” said the deputy. “Are you Buddhist?” When she nodded: “Well, there you go. You wouldn’t expect a Buddhist church here, would you? But they had a retreat center upriver back in the day; a lot of them went there during the last part of the war, when food got so scarce, and they came here when the raiders got to be too much of a problem.

“It’s a real mix here. Back when I was a kid you’d see a lot of tension. The old mossbacks and the greens didn’t agree on much of anything, some of the Christians didn’t like having Buddhists around, and the folks from Mississippi – we got a bunch of ‘em resettled here after they had to evacuate the Hurricane Coast – there was some trouble between them and the locals for a while. But that’s mostly past history these days. People pretty much get along.”

“You get any trouble from nanmin?” That was a risky question, Adam knew, but the sooner he and Haruko knew the town’s attitude to the refugees from Japan, the better.

The deputy gave him a quick glance, hard to read. “Not really. They had a camp upriver by the old Buddhist center, but they kept to themselves. I don’t know if they’re still there, with the soldiers coming through – did you run into ‘em?”

“A couple of times. We saw them leaving this morning. What’s with that?”

“Off to fight some other brand new republic. That’s what I heard, at any rate; no one’s saying who attacked who.”

Two more streets, one with a half dozen children playing ball right there in the middle, and then they came to a big Victorian house surrounded by gardens that hadn’t been tended much in weeks. “This is Earl’s,” the deputy said. Then, shouting: “Earl? You home?”

Earl Tigard turned out to be an old man with the straight posture and buzz-cut hair of a retired soldier. He was eager enough for help – his wife Anne had some kind of heart condition that nobody could treat these days – and they settled on room, board, and four credits a day. “One credit’s worth an hour’s work,” he explaned to Adam, “and everbody in town will take ‘em for anything they want to sell. Might come in handy.”

Before long Adam was in the backyard splitting firewood while Haruko tackled the kitchen: the old division of labor was coming back pretty widely now that it made economic sense again. The firewood was a mess, part of it salvaged from dismantled buildings and riddled with nails, part of it knotty hardwood from trees he didn’t recognize. Still, he’d reduced the woodlot to some semblance of order and made a good start on the garden weeding before Earl came out to call him in for dinner. The meal was plain solid fare, as good as anything he’d had since Learyville, and afterwards they all sat in the living room near the fire, sipping cups of dandelion root coffee and talking, while the night closed in outside.

“Oh, I grew up here,” Earl said at one point, leaning back in his chair. “Alice and I both. Got married right out of high school and moved all over everywhere when I went into the army, then came back to settle when I left the service in ’42. The place had changed a lot. All these greens, talking about organic process and local dependency and all that stuff. I thought they were nuts.” He chuckled. “I guess even a broken clock tells the right time twice a day. We’d have done a lot worse without them.”

“I saw some pretty good gardens in town,” Adam said.

“True enough. You do a lot of gardening?”

“I used to get some pretty good asparagus up in Learyville.”

Earl looked wistful. “God, I used to love asparagus. We haven’t had any since the grocery stores shut down; nobody grew it here, and we haven’t been able to get any in trade yet.”

Adam thought of the six asparagus crowns wrapped in cloth in the bottom of his pack, but said nothing. Later, he thought. If –

That last word was still on his mind as he and Haruko settled down under the covers in the spare bedroom they’d been allotted. Haruko had been thinking, too. “Adam,” she whispered, “maybe we should stay here.”

“If they’ll let us,” he whispered back. “We’ll just have to see.”

Wind hissed in the trees outside, and somewhere in the middle distance a dog barked. Adam pulled her close and tried to silence the questions that circled endlessly in his mind.


Cynthia said...

I just wanted to thank you for writing this. I'm enjoying it immensely and check in every day to see if there is a new chapter.

While the reasons for their dilemma are somewhat sad, there is a part of me that thinks it wouldn't be so bad to live in that town either. Now or in the future.

barry stoll said...

jmg -

i've been a huge fan (is "fan" the right word?) of your blog since i discovered it last year. i’ve read just about everything you’ve posted online, and you’ve given me much to think about and pushed my brain in a few unexpected directions. i always enjoy the trip.

while i appreciate your non-fiction more than your fiction, i think both provide a valuable service. please keep doing both.

i do have one question about this week’s post: how is it that the good people of tillicum river "pretty much get along"?

how can folks from a wide range of backgrounds, religions and political beliefs get along, especially during times of scarcity? isn’t this unprecedented in human history? are retired soldiers and hippies and buddhists and southern baptists really going to share resources nicely and leave the fighting to the professionals?

what do the tillicum folks know that the rest of us don’t? maybe you’ll cover this in a future installment?

-- barry stoll

Chaos said...

Really enjoying this fiction with the previous ones. Obviously, you have a talent for narrative. Would like to follow up on a response you made to an earlier post, that "it's far more often the countryside that empties out; cities shrink but survive, unless they're subjected to repeated military attack." Would you be willing to expand a bit more on that one? Have always assumed that cities, because of large populations of non-self sufficient people and requirements of large amounts of high quality energy, would be the first to collapse.

John Michael Greer said...

Thanks to all for the positive feedback! Cynthia, I wish I had the free time to post daily! As it is there'll be one post a week, and the last chapter of "Adam's Story" will be in three weeks. If you'd like to live in a town like Tillicum River, well, now's the time to bring it into being, and there are plenty of towns in good locations to start with.

Barry, one of the interesting things about putting a group of people under prolonged survival stress is that you generally get one of two diametrically opposed outcomes: either they cut one another's throats or they become friends for life. In Tillicum River it happened to be the latter, though as the deputy said, it took some time to work out that way.

The community had two things going for it -- first, no group had a monopoly on food or arms, so there was a rough balance of power; second, there was an immediate and severe outside threat (the raiders the deputy mentioned) to make the alternative to cooperation painfully clear.

Chaos, that's a subject for a post all by itself; I'll plan on that in the next week or so.

awlknottedup said...

This is a comment on several posts as I have been on the road wandering up into Washington and back.

First, on the subject of the military having fuel. Think about how peak oil could play out. As supplies dwindle and demand increases, the only outcome will be increasing prices. As prices increase some new sources will come online but the trend for supplies will be down and unstoppable. Somewhere along the line those with the power will figure out that unless they gain control of the supply they will be left out. One group that will control the supply will be the military with its insatiable demand for fuel. The rest of us will not have motor fuel but the military will have plenty in the name of national security and we will let them. So in any scenario, the military and its favored government cohorts will have fuel for jets and tanks for many years long after there is no available supply for anyone.

Second point is that many people forget about institutional and cultural memories. Even in situations of total collapse some people retain memories of how things were done so no matter how bad it will be very difficult to completely forget everything. For example it will be difficult to forget that clean water and proper refuse disposal are very important to a society's health. Some will forget these lessons but those that remember will have the greater control. Another more difficult example is that some drugs such as penicillin are easy to make and that knowledge will also be part of a future power structure. Again the military will retain that knowledge to retain its power. I am still trying to develop how this could play out but I see not a total collapse but a fall back to say a pre industrial European society with better public health.

IN the latest story the existence of a local hydro power plant is an important factor to the towns well being. Again as oil becomes scarce along with other fossil fuels we will see more emphasis in nuclear power. It will in fact be shoved upon us despite its long term hazards and extremely high costs. Hydro plant maintenance will still require some outside resources and those resources may well be diverted to the nuclear industry, again with the military leading the way. Let us not forget that the Atomic Energy Commission was originally formed to improve our knowledge for nuclear powered warships.

I am not sure how this will all play out, it is far too early to see into the murky future. I do know that the military will play an increasing powerful role and they are getting valuable urban warfare experience right now. Whether that training is too early is hard to say, the military always fights the last war over in any new war.

yooper said...

Hello John!
Thanks again for you're story! It's by far the very best sceniaro, I've ever read, hands down. Coming from a cyclic view, it's progressing much as I expected. This does'nt take much thought, as it has happened in the past, right? History repeating itself?

I do have some questions, much like chaos, has related, remember I alluded to this last week........ You must answer this question, John, I have been asking this all along, eh? Perhaps, we'll talk about this on another post, as you suggested.

I'd like to get into perhaps a Native American cyclic view versus the western cultural linear view, I can relate to this, and to you're story. Please hear me out...

In it's purest form the Native American's cyclic view may be, "live for today, prepare for tomorro... In that order. There is much to be said of that, as too much concentration living in the past or future, cannot be healthy. There's also alot to be said, as being content today and not continously looking for a better tomorro..........Progressing....

That, John, is indigenous as living in a certain parallel, now, as it has been for thousands of years..... Again, I would like you to consider this............. This is living, in a linear society, which I might add, that you are a part off, (like it or not). No? Tell me that western culture is not linear!

We both know it is, can you provide any evidence that this type of thinking will not be the same in the future, as it has been for thousands of years? What exactly happened to the Greeks, and their mythology? This I can assure you sir, is where pigs grew wings! This is something you must contemplate. Can you be so sure that there's not a beginning with no end? That is, no end? By no means, am I defending this culture, however, this is the reality we all must live with....(believe it or not).

Back to you're story...This man who sits on the gate, does he not question they're intentions? Perhaps how they can provide their little society in furthering their progression? These are your own words John, you must come to terms with this....In truth John, what can put Adam's mind at ease?

Adam is certainly smart enough knowing he cannot make it on his own. Period. Even the asparagus in his pocket cannot save him! Does not aspargaus not only thrive,"in between parallels?" Now, I'm getting a little deep here.

The bottom line of my arguement here John, is that the Native people have adapted to this present enviroment, the ones who did'nt DIED. What have you to say about that? Now, put that into context, what have you to say? Quite sadly, I don't "invision" any resurrection of the Native communtity, and if there is, it will be in the afterlife........No cycle here John, just straight into the bucket,(at least on this level or plain)....Care to agrue the point? Each day presents new ground, hopefully, we all can deal with it, despite our differences.

Thanks, yooper

Thanks, yooper

Bill Pulliam said...

Home is where you plant your asparagus, indeed!

I was glad to see the mention of the environmental devastation that biofuels could create. "Renewable" resources (e.g. soil, timber) are only renewable up to a point; beyond that they become exhaustable extractives. As many have pointed out, our rates of energy use are beyond what can be supplied by biofuels in a renewable fashion.

yooper said...

"Adam's Story", is a great piece of art, carefully crafted. It is a believeable sceniaro that takes place in the second half of this century.

By keeping the story extraordinarily simple, the artist has managed to focus on Adam's thoughts and only mentions past events in passing. This leaves one's imagination begging for answers. But are they any? To Adam, he just simply accepts this and moves on.

Now, upon entering Tillicum River, Adam questions, is this the place to settle? Soil and a harbor good enough to support five hundred people. A community willing to accept even more people.

People often ask me would Michigan's U.P., be the place to settle? I'm very reluctent to answer this question...The soil is extrememly poor here, so poor, that "primitive people" had to migrate though the land to take advantage of the season and what that particular piece of land offered. Poor soil = poor people. The land could only support X amount of people. These early Native Americans subsisted in many small "bands", perphaps a dozen or so people, or family, that roamed the countside. It's these bands that make up the "tribe". This naturally would have been impossible if not for the harvest of protein from the water, mainly fish.

The fishery in this water was depleated decades ago. Oh, oh... Without being consistently supplied, it does'nt take much an imagination to invision not only a hugh die-off of the population, but perhaps an complete extinction process.

Quite sadly, and with tears in my eyes, I'm unhappy to report, that these people have becomed "petro-people" too. These bands of people, now live close together, in neighborhoods. In an attempt to become "self-sufficent", revenue is mostly acquired from local casino operations.

Years ago, I agrued, for more of an argricultural base, only to be laughed at. I could'nt blame the people after being so poor for so long, to have the "good life", that this casino industry brought.

If we are experiencing a "decline" now, and as some suggest,have been for the past 30 years, what could "time" be described, for what surely lies before us in the very near future?

Thanks, yooper

John Michael Greer said...

Awlknottedup, those are all very good points. The factors that make for continuity often get neglected in peak oil discussions, thus the "Y2K Fallacy" of overnight collapse. One of the reasons I expect a rhythm of decline and partial recovery during the Long Descent is precisely that once the initial crises are over, people will dust off anything they can find that might help things along.

Yooper, it seems to me that you're getting tangled up in abstractions: "cyclical" versus "linear," and so forth. Both of those are among the narratives people use to make sense of their relationship to time, and there are also others. The Tillicum River police chief sitting at the gate may have thought of his job as trying to make progress happen, or he may have thought of it as trying to cushion decline -- I didn't happen to ask him when he was sitting there in my imagination, scratching the back of his neck and looking forward to a beer when the gate swung closed for the night -- but neither choice changes the fact that he and the rest of the people in the future I'm envisioning are having to make do with a lot less energy and resources than you and I have today.

Bill, yes, I wanted to work that in somewhere. One of the massive blind spots in most pictures of the future is the assumption that the way we live today is perfectly normal and reasonable. It's not; for the last two centuries we've been living like lottery winners, throwing the fossil fuel equivalent of cash around at preposterous rates, and many people literally can't conceive of having to get by on the levels of energy that can be extracted from the ordinary cycles of nature sustainably. Thus, as you've suggested, things may get messy.

Yooper (again), I've also heard people insisting that some isolated, impoverished corner of the country is a good place to go in the face of imminent peak oil, and I have the same reaction you have. It's the old fantasy of "heading out to the territories" blended with an attitude that treats our fellow human beings as ignores the possibility that not every other human being is a threat. More on this next week.

What would I call the future that's shaping up in the aftermath of the last few decades of decline? More decline. Some of it will be a bit faster, is all.

John Michael Greer said...

Speaking of the speed of decline, there was a delicious little bit of irony in last night's
Reuters report on the stock market's tumble Friday, which was sharp enough in the last hour that the NYSE had to slap curbs on downside trading. Reuters commented:

"The sharp declines prompted the New York Stock Exchange to institute downside trading curbs at 3:29 p.m. (1929 GMT)."

That GMT time seems somehow apropos...

bunnygirl said...

I'm enjoying your post-peak fiction a lot. It's good to see I'm not the only one who envisions an uneven collapse.

If history is any guide to the future, some places will prosper, some will fail utterly, and many more will just limp along.

When one looks at what happened to Western Europe as Rome's power slowly crumbled, one sees the rise of a lot of small kingdoms and fiefdoms. Some areas were easy pickings for invaders and raiding parties (Huns, Vikings, Moors, etc). Some places were unsustainable and died. Most towns and villages quietly went about their business and did just fine.

Cities are pretty much the same. If the resources are there, population will decline, maybe even drastically, but the city itself will still get along. Rome and Chang-an are good examples of this. A city can fall victim to devastation of war or climate change, like Petra and Copan, but mere population density isn't enough to kill a city.

When an overarching civilization fails, survival becomes local. How that plays out is as unique as the experience of each affected community. In a post-peak world, war, disease, pollution, water, soil quality and location, location, location would be the big deciding factors.

yooper said...

Hello John!

First and foremost, I want readers's to know exactly where I stand.. Even though, we perhaps see time and the spiritual world, in a different prospective, I'm argeeing with perhaps 99.99% of what you're conveying. Period. This is not uncommon, for a cyclic view and linear to coincide
..Moreover, John, I feel that you've shared you're thoughts with me, that I upmost respect, and have grown to admire......

I have related on other posts, I, consider you my "friend", perhaps my only friend in electronic communcation, definitely none greater than you.

Perhaps, in an attempt for readers to know me better and to add fuel to you're fire, John, let me continue to what might be a rather long post.

As a young, "whipper snapper", I ventured out to the front yard. There, I found a Union belt buckle that was nailed to a "virgin" pine. How odd, this was, as it seemed to almost reach the heavens,(about 20 feet up the trunk of the tree). As I ventured further, I came to another very old pine that had a piculiar curve to limb on the lower trunk, this, I was assured that a man was hung on by my great aunt. She was just about my age when that event happened. Upon further exploring the property, I found old fence line, barbed wire, that was actually in fencing a standing of very tall timber.....

I am very fortunate to have been raised on land that has been in our family for over 150 years! This in itself puts me perhaps at an advantage than most readers, what time might mean at a certain location.

Certainly, alot of water has passed beneath our family bridge and some tall tales too, to go along with it! However, let's just suppose, that this might give me an advantage in predicting in what times might be in the future, if times where to "cycle" back. This concept, I refer to as "back pedaling" or cycling back.

In the land that I live in, is small, everybody knows everybody. In this land, people describe me as "nobody's fool". I'm often cited as, "what goes around comes around!" I'm no "average bear" when it comes to cyclic ideas, in fact, I've spent thousands of hours in research, and pratical field "experiments", testing this idealism, in our natural world. Through this investigation, I've found absolutely no answers as to why, certain spieces will cyclically raise and and fall in population dynamics, within a predictable measure of time. My only offering of this occurance, "to be devine in nature".

However, humanity's population has NEVER been cyclic. I dare anyone to show me where our human population has "cycled" in a PREDICTABLE MEASURE OF TIME.

Ok, back at the "family farm". History, shows, that through out the years, the farm has seen periods of growth, even fast growth. It has also seen periods of decline, even "fast decline". These are periods when men had to fight both world wars and finally abandon the farm altogether for better wages in the industrial society. Let's think about that that....

So, of what I know about population levels here in the past, and veiwing history as, pedaling backward and going foward into the future, I can only at this point in time assume that John's vision of the future to be accurate. As I've said here and other posts, history does prove this point, it's fact, and undisputable.......

Again, thanks John! The logic you're displaying here is the "rock", which people can safely cling too. The "a
pocalyptic collaspe" has no bearing at all, it has never happened again, and again, NEVER.

Thanks yooper.

Bill Pulliam said...

Hmmm.... so the NYSE doomsday clock already reads 1929? Spooky...

I remember not long ago when the biofuels fad was really starting to ramp up, I did one of my little back-of-the-envelope order-of-magnitude calculations that I have gotten a bit notorious for over in those woodpecker circles. Being a systems ecologist by formal education, the question of whether biofuels were indeed energetically a realistic "substitute" for fossil fuels lept to my mind immediately. So I plugged in my order-of-magnitude numbers about primary production per square meter, effiiciency of crop yield, and US energy consumption. The number that dropped off of the back of my envelope for how much land area would be needed to support the US energy habit was about equal to the entire acrege of arable land in the continent, intensively managed for nothing but oil or ethanol crops. "Interesting," I thought, "so I guess we'll all just drink everclear and eat corn sillage and rapeseed hulls, since there won't be any land left for anything else. But we'll still have our cars, that's the most important thing." Since then of course I've seen many real analyses that use far more detail than fits on the back of an envelope, which have pretty much come to the same conclusion: another of those many "Inconvenient Truths" that average citizens and policy makers just really don't want to think about.

John Michael Greer said...

Bunnygirl, the twilight of Roman Europe has been one of my primary models since I first fumbled my way to the concept of slow decline quite a few years ago. What you've described is pretty much exactly what I've envisioned.

Yooper, of course population doesn't follow a smooth, predictable cyclic curve. Check population cycles among arctic hares -- it's jaggedly up and down, with a rough periodicity at best. The one thing you can be sure of is that when population gets above carrying capacity, it's going to go down. Human beings are the same way, and we're way above carrying capacity just now. Same math, same results.

Bill, I think a lot of people with any sort of ecological background did the same kind of back of the envelope calculations -- I did mine as a slide rule exercise, and then checked the figures on a calculator (got 'em right, too). It's the people who've never noticed that ecology is a science, not just a set of buzzwords, who insist that we can run our SUVs on biodiesel. This is one of the reasons I've been urging people in the Druid community to get a good basic grasp of the environmental sciences -- lacking those, we really don't have a clue about the basic material realities of life on earth.

Toomas (Tom) Karmo said...

Thanks, everyone, for comments!

I'd like add facts on two specific points.

(1) Yes, Bunnygirl, we must keep an eye on Roman history. But we must beware of taking too sanguine a view. Although Rome itself continued to function as a city after the fall of the Empire, not all its imperial centres continued. It is interesting to compare the fate of Italia with the fate of Britannia. Londinium was entirely abandoned some years or decades after the formal, year-409, severance of Britannia from the disintegrating Empire. The invading Saxons eventually founded a new settlement, with some name such as Londonwic that I cannot recall exactly, a couple of kilometres upstream from the ruins of Londinium. Elsewhere in Britannia the archaeological record is similar: we find town life coming to an abrupt end at some point in the 400s, with no attempt at even minting of coins after 409. (A big hoard, of 15,000 or so coins, from an archaeological dig somewhere in the east of England tells a sad story: the most recently minted coin is from 408 or so, and many of the coins are clipped at the rim, suggesting a period of some years in which coinage circulated in a vandalized state.) There was enough of a Church presence in Britannia for the Continental clerics to have some kind of dealings with Britannia as late as the 420s or 430s. After that, we have darkness, with no documents at all, and only shadowy mythology of "Vortigern" and "King Arthur" and the like. Written records pick up again some generations later. By the 800s and 900s, we have a wonderful literature in Anglo-Saxon, with "Beowulf" and "The Wanderer" and "The Dream of the Rood" and the like - but it is not Latinate literature at all. I remember a fragment from "The Wanderer" commenting on Roman ruins: "Eald enta geweorc idlu stodon" ("The old works of giants stood idle").

It might now be useful for other people to give us more background on the pattern of post-imperial deurbanization: there was collapse in Britannia, we know, and yet a much more moderate decline in Italia: what, then, happened in Hispania and Gallia? To what extent did town life continue?

(2) Yes, indeed, Bill and JMG, we must have hard, non-nonsense facts and figures on biofuels! Here is a further small contribution: Eugene P. Odum tells us on p. 102 of the 1997 edition of his ecology textbook - that is the edition entitled "Ecology: A Bridge Between Science and Society - that running the average American motorcar on ethanol for one year requires dedicating to the ethanol crop three hectares, or eight times the acreage that feeds a human being in the poor countries.

yooper said...

ozuptOk John, you have my undivided attention..I have just viewed photographs of surrounding communities who had power,(electricity), in the late 1800's and early 1900's. I'm just astounded! This power could only have came from our local hydro plant.

Now, this power must be supplemented with power from over 300 miles away to meet the demand for even the small town the hydro plant is located, let alone to communties 80 miles away, as it once did...Sure I know demand is'nt the same, but all the same..

I'm going to investigate this matter to the fullest extent. Now is the time,(anyway you view it), to come to some concrete answers, if can be.

Thanks, (again), yooper