Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Heading Toward The Sidewalk

Talking about historical change is one thing when the changes under discussion are at some convenient remove in the past or the future. It’s quite another when the changes are already taking place. That’s one of the things that adds complexity to the project of this blog, because the decline and fall of modern industrial civilization isn’t something that might take place someday, if X or Y or Z happens or doesn’t happen; it’s under way now, all around us, and a good many of the tumults of our time are being driven by the unmentionable but inescapable fact that the process of decline is beginning to pick up speed.

Those tumults are at least as relevant to this blog’s project as the comparable events in the latter years of dead civilizations, and so it’s going to be necessary now and then to pause the current sequence of posts, set aside considerations of the far future for a bit, and take a look at what’s happening here and now. This is going to be one of those weeks, because a signal I’ve been expecting for a couple of years now has finally showed up, and its appearance means that real trouble may be imminent.

This has admittedly happened in a week when the sky is black with birds coming home to roost. I suspect that most of my readers have been paying at least some attention to the Ebola epidemic now spreading across West Africa. Over the last week, the World Health Organization has revealed that official statistics on the epidemic’s toll are significantly understated, the main nongovernmental organization fighting Ebola has admitted that the situation is out of anyone’s control, and a series of events neatly poised between absurdity and horror—a riot in one of Monrovia’s poorest slums directed at an emergency quarantine facility, in which looters made off with linens and bedding contaminated with the Ebola virus, and quarantined patients vanished into the crowd—may shortly plunge Liberia into scenes of a kind not witnessed since the heyday of the Black Death. The possibility that this outbreak may become a global pandemic, while still small, can no longer be dismissed out of hand.

Meanwhile, closer to home, what has become a routine event in today’s America—the casual killing of an unarmed African-American man by the police—has blown up in a decidedly nonroutine fashion, with imagery reminiscent of Cairo’s Tahrir Square being enacted night after night in the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson, Missouri. The culture of militarization and unaccountability that’s entrenched in urban police forces in the United States has been displayed in a highly unflattering light, as police officers dressed for all the world like storm troopers on the set of a bad science fiction movie did their best to act the part, tear-gassing and beating protesters, reporters, and random passersby in an orgy of jackbooted enthusiasm blatant enough that Tea Party Republicans have started to make worried speeches about just how closely this resembles the behavior of a police state.

If the police keep it up, the Arab Spring of a few years back may just be paralleled by an American Autumn. Even if some lingering spark of common sense on the part of state and local authorities heads off that possibility, the next time a white police officer guns down an African-American man for no particular reason—and there will be a next time; such events, as noted above, are routine in the United States these days—the explosion that follows will be even more severe, and the risk that such an explosion may end up driving the emergence of a domestic insurgency is not small. I noted in a post a couple of years back that the American way of war pretty much guarantees that any country conquered by our military will pup an insurgency in short order thereafter; there’s a great deal of irony in the thought that the importation of the same model of warfare into police practice in the US may have exactly the same effect here.

It may come as a surprise to some of my readers that the sign I noted is neither of these things. No, it’s not the big volcano in Iceland that’s showing worrying signs of blowing its top, either. It’s an absurdly little thing—a minor book review in an otherwise undistinguished financial-advice blog—and it matters only because it’s a harbinger of something considerably more important.

A glance at the past may be useful here. On September 9, 1929, no less a financial periodical than Barron’s took time off from its usual cheerleading of the stock market’s grand upward movement to denounce an investment analyst named Roger Babson in heated terms. Babson’s crime? Suggesting that the grand upward movement just mentioned was part of a classic speculative bubble, and the bubble’s inevitable bust would cause an economic depression. Babson had been saying this sort of thing all through the stock market boom of the late 1920s, and until that summer, the mainstream financial media simply ignored him, as they ignored everyone else whose sense of economic reality hadn’t gone out to lunch and forgotten to come back.

For those who followed the media, in fact, the summer and fall of 1929 were notable mostly for the fact that a set of beliefs that most people took for granted—above all else, the claim that the stock market could keep on rising indefinitely—suddenly were being loudly defended all over the place, even though next to nobody was attacking them. The June issue of The American Magazine featured an interview with financier Bernard Baruch, insisting that “the economic condition of the world seems on the verge of a great forward movement.” In the July 8 issue of Barron’s, similarly, an article insisted that people who worried about how much debt was propping up the market didn’t understand the role of broker’s loans as a major new investment outlet for corporate money.

As late as October 15, when the great crash was only days away, Professor Irving Fisher of Yale’s economics department made his famous announcement to the media: “Stock prices have reached what looks like a permanently high plateau.” That sort of puffery was business as usual, then as now. Assaulting the critics of the bubble in print, by name, was not. It was only when the market was sliding toward the abyss of the 1929 crash that financial columnists publicly trained their rhetorical guns on the handful of people who had been saying all along that the boom would inevitably bust.

That’s a remarkably common feature of speculative bubbles, and could be traced in any number of historical examples, starting with the tulip bubble in the 17th century Netherlands and going on from there. Some of my readers may well have experienced the same thing for themselves in the not too distant past, during the last stages of the gargantuan real estate bubble that popped so messily in 2008. I certainly did, and a glance back at that experience will help clarify the implications of the signal I noticed in the week just past.

Back when the real estate bubble was soaring to vertiginous and hopelessly unsustainable heights, I used to track its progress on a couple of news aggregator sites, especially Keith Brand’s lively HousingPanic blog. Now and then, as the bubble peaked and began losing air, I would sit down with a glass of scotch, a series of links to the latest absurd comments by real estate promoters, and my copy of John Kenneth Galbraith’s The Great Crash 1929—the source, by the way, of the anecdotes cited above—and enjoyed watching the rhetoric used to insist that the 2008 bubble wasn’t a bubble duplicate, in some cases word for word, the rhetoric used for the same purpose in 1929.

All the anti-bubble blogs fielded a steady stream of hostile comments from real estate investors who apparently couldn’t handle the thought that anyone might question their guaranteed ticket to unearned wealth, and Brand’s in particular saw no shortage of bare-knuckle verbal brawls. It was only in the last few months before the bubble burst, though, that pro-bubble blogs started posting personal attacks on Brand and his fellow critics, denouncing them by name in heated and usually inaccurate terms. At the time, I noted the parallel with the Barron’s attack on Roger Babson, and wondered if it meant the same thing; the events that followed showed pretty clearly that it did.

That same point may just have arrived in the fracking bubble—unsurprisingly, since that has followed the standard trajectory of speculative booms in all other respects so far. For some time now, the media has been full of proclamations about America’s allegely limitless petroleum supply, which resemble nothing so much as the airy claims about stocks made by Bernard Baruch and Irving Fisher back in 1929. Week after week, bloggers and commentators have belabored the concept of peak oil, finding new and ingenious ways to insist that it must somehow be possible to extract infinite amounts of oil from a finite planet; oddly enough, though it’s rare for anyone to speak up for peak oil on these forums, the arguments leveled against it have been getting louder and more shrill as time passes. Until recently, though, I hadn’t encountered the personal attacks that announce the imminence of the bust.

That was before this week. On August 11th, a financial-advice website hosted a fine example of the species, and rather to my surprise—I’m hardly the most influential or widely read critic of the fracking bubble, after all—it was directed at me.

Mind you, I have no objection to hostile reviews of my writing. A number of books by other people have come in for various kinds of rough treatment on this blog, and turnabout here as elsewhere is fair play. I do prefer reviewers, hostile or otherwise, to take the time to read a book of mine before they review it, but that’s not something any writer can count on; reviewers who clearly haven’t so much as opened the cover of the book on which they pass judgment have been the target of barbed remarks in literary circles since at least the 18th century. Still, a review of a book the reviewer hasn’t read is one thing, and a review of a book the author hasn’t written and the publisher hasn’t published is something else again.

That’s basically the case here. The reviewer, a stock market blogger named Andew McKillop, set out to critique a newly re-edited version of my 2008 book The Long Descent. That came as quite a surprise to me, as well as to New Society Publications, the publisher of the earlier book, since no such reissue exists. The Long Descent remains in print in its original edition, and my six other books on peak oil and the future of industrial society are, ahem, different books.

My best guess is that McKillop spotted my new title Decline and Fall: The End of Empire and the Future of Democracy in 21st Century America in a bookshop window, and simply jumped to the conclusion that it must be a new release of the earlier book. I’m still not sure whether the result counts as a brilliant bit of surrealist performance art or a new low in what we still jokingly call journalistic ethics; in either case, it’s definitely broken new ground. Still, I hope that McKillop does better research for the people who count on him for stock advice.

Given that starting point, the rest of the review is about what you would expect. I gather that McKillop read a couple of online reviews of The Long Descent and a couple more of Decline and Fall, skimmed over a few randomly chosen posts on this blog, tossed the results together all anyhow, and jumped to the conclusion that the resulting mess was what the book was about. The result is quite a lively little bricolage of misunderstandings, non sequiturs, and straightforward fabrications—I invite anyone who cares to make the attempt to point out the place in my writings, for example, where I contrast catabolic collapse with “anabolic collapse,” whatever on earth that latter might be.

There’s a certain wry amusement to be had from going through the review and trying to figure out exactly how McKillop might have gotten this or that bit of misinformation wedged into his brain, but I’ll leave that as a party game for my readers. The point I’d like to make here is that the appearance of this attempted counterblast in a mainstream financial blog is a warning sign. It suggests that the fracking boom, like previous bubbles when they reached the shoot-the-messenger stage, may well be teetering on the brink of a really spectacular crash—and it’s not the only such sign, either.

The same questions about debt that were asked about the stock market in 1929 and the housing market in 2008 are being asked now, with increasing urgency, about the immense volume of junk bonds that are currently propping up the shale boom. Meanwhile gas and oil companies are having to drill ever more frantically and invest ever more money to keep production rates from dropping like a rock Get past the vacuous handwaving about “Saudi America,” and it’s embarrassingly clear that the fracking boom is simply one more debt-fueled speculative orgy destined for one more messy bust. It’s disguised as an energy revolution in exactly the same way that the real estate bubble was disguised as a housing revolution, the tech-stock bubble as a technological revolution, and so on back through the annals of financial delusion as far as you care to go.

Sooner or later—and much more likely sooner than later—the fracking bubble is going to pop. Just how and when that will happen is impossible to know in advance. Even making an intelligent guess at this point would require a detailed knowledge of which banks and investment firms have gotten furthest over their heads in shale leases and the like, which petroleum and natural gas firms have gone out furthest on a financial limb, and so on. That’s the kind of information that the companies in question like to hide from one another, not to mention the general public; it’s thus effectively inaccessible to archdruids, which means that we’ll just have to wait for the bankruptcies, the panic selling, and the wet thud of financiers hitting Wall Street sidewalks to find out which firms won the fiscal irresponsibility sweepstakes this time around.

One way or another, the collapse of the fracking boom bids fair to deliver a body blow to the US economy, at a time when most sectors of that economy have yet to recover from the bruising they received at the hands of the real estate bubble and bust. Depending on how heavily and cluelessly foreign banks and investors have been sucked into the boom—again, hard to say without inside access to closely guarded financial information—the popping of the bubble could sucker-punch national economies elsewhere in the world as well. Either way, it’s going to be messy, and the consequences will likely include a second helping of the same unsavory stew of bailouts for the rich, austerity for the poor, bullying of weaker countries by their stronger neighbors, and the like, that was dished up with such reckless abandon in the aftermath of the 2008 real estate bust. Nor is any of this going to make it easier to deal with potential pandemics, simmering proto-insurgencies in the American heartland, or any of the other entertaining consequences of our headfirst collision with the sidewalks of reality.

The consequences may go further than this. The one detail that sets the fracking bubble apart from the real estate bubble, the tech stock bubble, and their kin further back in economic history is that fracking wasn’t just sold to investors as a way to get rich quick; it was also sold to them, and to the wider public as well, as a way to evade the otherwise inexorable reality of peak oil. 2008, it bears remembering, was not just the year that the real estate bubble crashed, and dragged much of the global economy down with it; it was also the year when all those prophets of perpetual business as usual who insisted that petroleum would never break $60 a barrel or so got to eat crow, deep-fried in light sweet crude, when prices spiked upwards of $140 a barrel. All of a sudden, all those warnings about peak oil that experts had been issuing since the 1950s became a great deal harder to dismiss out of hand.

The fracking bubble thus had mixed parentage; its father may have been the same merciless passion for fleecing the innocent that always sets the cold sick heart of Wall Street aflutter, but its mother was the uneasy dawn of recognition that by ignoring decades of warnings and recklessly burning through the Earth’s finite reserves of fossil fuels just as fast as they could be extracted, the industrial world has backed itself into a corner from which the only way out leads straight down. White’s Law, one of the core concepts of human ecology, points out that economic development is directly correlated with energy per capita; as depletion overtakes production and energy per capita begins to decline, the inevitable result is a long era of economic contraction, in which a galaxy of economic and cultural institutions predicated on continued growth will stop working, and those whose wealth and influence depend on those institutions will be left with few choices short of jumping out a Wall Street window.

The last few years of meretricious handwaving about fracking as the salvation of our fossil-fueled society may thus mark something rather more significant than another round of the pervasive financial fraud that’s become the lifeblood of the US economy in these latter days. It’s one of the latest—and maybe, just maybe, one of the last—of the mental evasions that people in the industrial world have used in the futile but fateful attempt to pretend that pursuing limitless economic growth on a finite and fragile planet is anything other than a guaranteed recipe for disaster. When the fracking bubble goes to its inevitable fate, and most of a decade of babbling about limitless shale oil takes its proper place in the annals of human idiocy, it’s just possible that some significant number of people will realize that the universe is under no obligation to provide us will all the energy and other resources we want, just because we happen to want them. I wouldn’t bet the farm on that, but I think the possibility is there.

One swallow does not a summer make, mind you, and one fumbled attempt at a hostile book review on one website doesn’t prove that the same stage in the speculative bubble cycle that saw frantic denunciations flung at Roger Babson and Keith Brand—the stage that comes immediately before the crash—has arrived this time around. I would encourage my readers to watch for similar denunciations aimed at more influential and respectable fracking-bubble critics such as Richard Heinberg or Kurt Cobb. Once those start showing up, hang onto your hat; it’s going to be a wild ride.


1 – 200 of 244   Newer›   Newest»
Zachary Braverman said...

I tried to read the book review, skimmed it really, but it was so badly written that I gave up midway through. It's hard to believe he was sober when he wrote it.

Violet Cabra said...

For the past week or so I've been reading Odum's Fundemental's of Ecology. In the sections on population growth the distinction is made between S-shaped growth and J-shaped growth.

S-shaped population growth typically happens in mature, healthy environments. It involves the population of the species rising slowly, increasing at a steady rate and an eventual gentle levelling off.

On the other hand, J-shaped population growth usually occurs in marginal and/or stressed environments. It involves the species experiencing an extremely rapid population growth and then a sudden violent crash.

Plagues of locusts frequently occur when desert soils are over-ploughed. Plagues of economic bubbles occur when the economic life becomes stressed or marginal such as the cycle of boom and bust around the turn of the century when the market became "polluted" by overproduction.

Likewise, as the economic base becomes more marginal, we are experiencing rapid successions of bubbles. Each drives aspects of the current economic ecology extinct. Jobs, or "niches", disappear and don't come back. Hopefully the old ecology will be followed by a more diverse and stable environment but who knows? The arctic supports huge boom-and-bust cycles and many nations end as failed states.

Pinku-Sensei said...

I was expecting another "Dark Age America" entry tonight, but I'm confident we'll have more of them in coming weeks. In the meantime, I found this update on the chickens coming home to roost that you observed in the past week's news more than welcome. That written, when I read the title, I thought of all of the ruined personal belongings headed to the curb and then the dump this week and last because of Detroit's latest experience with climate weirding, the record one-day rainfall that flooded out much of the metro area and made national headlines. The mayor of Warren, Detroit's largest suburb, claimed that the city's residents had lost more than one billion dollars (Dr. Evil impression optional) in ruined personal property because of the backed up sewage. I was lucky to have only experienced inconvenience, a tripling of my commute home to avoid the flooding and a delay of five days in my trash being picked up. The image of ruined investors and brokers jumping out of windows didn't even occur to me until the end of the essay. Oops!

As for the Ebola outbreak becoming a top story, I mentioned in a comment here that it looked concerning weeks ago. Honestly, Ebola scares me. I first read about it in "The Hot Zone," the very first chapter of which described the death of an Ebola patient on a plane back to the U.S. Stephen King described that story as "the scariest thing he'd ever read--and then it got worse." Fortunately, it's not an immediate threat to people in the developed world. That's small comfort to the people in west Africa, who are in immediate and growing danger.

"I would encourage my readers to watch for similar denunciations aimed at more influential and respectable fracking-bubble critics such as Richard Heinberg or Kurt Cobb. Once those start showing up, hang onto your hat; it’s going to be a wild ride."

Thanks for the heads up. Now I'm on the lookout for people denouncing James Howard Kunstler for his stand on Peak Oil. The last major criticism he got was for attacking WalMart, the purpose of which was as much to chase conservatives away from reading him as to defend WalMart. That reminds me; I have to listen to the Kunstlercast episode in which he interviews you. I have high expectations for it.

shady said...


I sometimes wonder if you moonlight as Ambrose Evans-Pritchard, economics commentator at The Telegraph in the UK. His articles on energy so closely match your template for a sermon from the High Priests of Progress that I suspect you are engaged in a bit of trolling to prove your own point!

Here is his latest on how we are in the midst of a seamless shift from Oil to Gas & Solar.

The best quote from the article: "Technology momentum is unstoppable, and one-way only."

The comments too illustrate the cognitive dissonance you talk about. You are either "pro-renewables" or "pro-fossils" but regardless of the team you choose, the reasoning is the same. Only one solution can produce the quantity of energy we need. So that is the only possible path.

Example: "The demand for cheap energy is never going away ... renewable energy sources are never going to compete with hydrocarbon resources."

Does it occur to the writer that while the demand for cheap energy may not go away, the supply is?

Anyway, has anyone ever seen JMG and AEP in the same room?

Derv said...

I had been hoping over the last few weeks that you'd touch on Ebola and the current Middle East fiasco, but after what's happened in Ferguson I was sure that at least would make an appearance. Obviously the first two don't necessarily directly touch on the future of America while the latter does, so maybe that's it.

It's pretty clear from the hilariously bad review that you are a mere useful prop to this McKillop fellow, who decided it was time for him to hop on his soapbox and announce the invincibility of Progress and America. It may remind you of pre-Great Recession rhetoric (rightly), but it brought to my mind something a fair bit older, namely the British loudmouths of the early 20th century who valiantly defended the eternity and youth of the British Empire to a crowd that hadn't been arguing with them.

Chesterton ripped them a new one, making the very observation you do: the need to shout over imagined critics tells more about the impending failure than the critics themselves do. It betrays a deep-seated insecurity in their worldview, much like a child staring at a dark closet saying "there are no ghosts" over and over again. If you really don't believe in ghosts, you don't feel the need to repeat it to yourself over and over. It's a fear reaction, plain and simple.

On a side note, I came across this video a few days ago and thought you and others would get a real kick out of it. It has nearly 2 million views on Youtube at the moment, and pronounces the end of human employment on account of our incredible technological progress. It even literally states, with no hint of irony, that "this time it's different."

Here you go:

John Naylor said...

I chuckled with Schadenfreude when I read The Great Crash of 1929 last year, but it's very sobering to imagine edging closer to another explosive crisis. I offer two more examples of birds coming home to roost that particularly caught my eye:

When 'Right-Sizing' Vacant Properties Goes Wrong

Yubari, Japan: a city learns how to die

Shane Wilson said...

One minor thing I wanted to point out that reinforces a point you've made before. When the Brown shooting first occurred, I was thinking, "where's Ferguson?" I'd never even heard of Ferguson before, even though I've been to St Louis more than once. Then I remembered what you and others said about the effect of peak oil on suburbia and large cities, and I thought," Ah! Ha!, the decline and deterioration of suburbia! " My guess is we'll see more rioting in places we don't know the name of circling the major cities, and less rioting in the urban cores that we know and expect to go up in flames.

AA said...

That book "review" by that McKillop fellow is rambling and incoherent. One would have thought a hatchet job would be more incisive, more logically connected.

Kyoto Motors said...

Hello Mr. Greer,
As usual, whenever you return to the subject of the fracking bubble, I read this with great interest. It's quite amusing indeed, the gaffes of public figures who should know better. I suspect, sadly, that most of McKillop's audience will be none the wiser...
Offline [just some copy editing notes]
type-o in the last paragraph (will/with), and then there's a question of syntax halfway through:
"That same point may just have arrived in the fracking bubble—unsurprisingly, since that has followed the standard trajectory of speculative booms in all other respects so far."
it may just be me, but should it not read:
unsurprisingly, in that it has followed the standard

Denis Landry said...

and a series of events neatly poised between absurdity and horror—a riot in one of Monrovia’s poorest slums directed at an emergency quarantine facility, in which looters made off with linens and bedding contaminated with the Ebola virus, and quarantined patients vanished into the crowd

Oh! Dear God!
Straight outta of a Bugs Bunny cartoon and the outer circles of hell.
Reading the news today is like reading a script of the outer limit TV series.
In fact, i don't think they had that much of an imagination, otherwise it be in th 'reject' pile

tom peifer said...

I live in a poor, rural area of Costa Rica.I rode a bike for 10 years, and pretty much adopted to a way less energy using lifestyle. It never ceases to amaze me how the average resident of a developed country takes for granted their 200+ energy slaves. How they will ever be able to downsize their carbon footprint is beyond me, and, I suspect, that precious few will do in voluntarily. Fortunately, my neighbors still do things the old way, or at least remember how to.

D.M. said...

It should be interesting watching this bubble pop since I am at ground zero.

exiledbear said...

I remember the .com bubble. And how right at the very end of it, the bulls were actively taunting the bears about it.

When someone is *that* confident in their polarity that they're willing to go attack, you're absolutely right, the trend is about to change.

Of course "about" could take a few months or weeks, depends on the size and length of the bubble.

Although I wonder what will screw the U.S. harder - a shortage of oil or a dollar death? If both happen at the same time, I'm entertaining the possibility that even if you have real money, there may not be any gasoline for sale.

On an unrelated note, I've finished kitting out my bicycle, and have made several test rides from one side of town to the other. I think I may wait until I need it before riding it on the streets (riding a bicycle in Murica isn't exactly safe, IMHO) until the level of traffic has dropped.

spoorsnyer said...

"It may come as a surprise to some of my readers that the sign I noted is neither of these things."

Had a good laugh at that, it was not a surprise, thats why I read your blog - for a refreshing view on events. Thanks.

Brien said...

Thank you for another illuminating article. I hadn't realized the full extent of the damage ebola was doing.

Awareness of peak oil - or at least awareness of crisis and decline - is gradually becoming common currency in the parish I'm a part of. I will occasionally make an offhand comment about modernity - say, that smartphones won't be with us forever - and I've been surprised by how often my companions don't even dispute it. Instead they become contemplative, giving a slow nod while lost in thought.

I note with hope their and my growing love of gardening and handicrafts, along with a growing dislike of debts. I note with concern the slowness of the change. The next crisis will hit us not even half-ready. We are all still American middle-class of one stripe or another and far too vulnerable to shocks in the monetary economy.

I'm trying to just borrow a page from St. Benedict: Pray and Work. Even in an apartment the rosemary needs drying and the beer needs bottling. My friend and choirmaster tells me the porter we made is quite good already, it will probably be splendid come Christmas.

John Michael Greer said...

Zachary, oh, I don't know -- I've seen people write that badly without chemical assistance of any kind.

Violet, let me first applaud your choice of reading matter -- I wish more people did the same. As for the future, though, here again it's always useful to watch what happened in previous cases, so you're not left hypothesizing about a sample size of one. In the wake of other civilizations that went through the arc of overshoot and crash, yes, the usual result is a much more ecologically stable society -- much smaller and less populous, but also much more stable.

Pinku-sensei, yes, indeed, there are more Dark Age America essays in the works.

Shady, I don't have to impersonate such people, or even hire them -- there are far too many of them willing to make fools of themselves for free.

Derv, which Chesterton essay is that? Clearly I need to read more of him. As for the video, very funny, and very sad -- it's always when a mythology is on its last legs that it gets restated in the most extreme and delusional form.

John, thanks for both links! As for Galbraith, that's a book I read every year or two, partly because it's so well written, partly because the same things keep on happening, and it's good to refresh my memory on the fine details.

Shane, that's a crucial bit of recent demographics -- a lot of former middle-class suburbs are the new ghettos, while a lot of inner-city neighborhoods have gentrified. The cozy suburban neighborhood where I grew up is nearly a slum today.

AA, I admit I was disappointed -- I enjoy a good hatchet job as well as the next guy.

Kyoto, remember that I can't edit comments! You're certainly right about McKillop's audience; I can only hope that, as so often happens with my critics, people will read his piece, scratch they heads, and look me up on the internet.

Denis, true enough. It's become a real comedy of terrors.

Tom, it's not actually that hard, as you've probably discovered yourself. It just takes either the will or the necessity to do so.

DM, keep us posted!

Bear, I'm guessing -- though it's only a guess -- that this autumn will see the collapse of the fracking bubble. My guess is that the dollar still has a few years left before it spirals into currency collapse. As for your bike, sounds sensible.

John Michael Greer said...

Spoorsnyer, thank you!

Brien, if you're following Benedict's advice, you won't go wrong. More generally, don't worry about how fast you're changing -- the future will give you some good hard shoves in the right direction. As long as you're part of a community and have at least a general sense of what's happening, your chances of landing on your feet aren't bad -- and that's as much as any of us can ask for.

larrykulesza said...

I have been lurking here since the "Empire as Wealth Pump" series. I am a refugee from the OIL DRUM seeking safe harbor. I am grateful for your "wholistic" thinking and reporting of our predicament. I'm an ol' back-to-the-lander hoping that I have the strength and intellectual capacity to be a conscious witness to these unfolding events. Thank you for your focus.

Pongo said...

I have anticipated the possibility of a domestic insurgency since 2007. I even made several (unsuccessful) attempts to cement it into the form of a novel or a screenplay, although now reality seems to be catching up with my attempted fictional narratives faster than I can revise them! But I've wondered about it a lot, and wargamed various scenarios in my head while attempting to fictionalize it. My sense is that a domestic insurgency would play out in one of two ways. In both scenarios you would be looking at a hodgepodge of different insurgent groups reflecting America's different ethnic and political divides, with the groups trying to be allies on paper even as many of them secretly plotted to undermine the others. The difference in the two scenarios would be determined by the way in which the insurgency began.

Americans of all political stripes love big, bold, dramatic gestures, shocks and awes and spectacular, symbolic events. If the domestic insurgents begin their campaign with acts of terrorism against elites - assassinating government officials or blowing up their vacation houses on Martha's Vineyard, for example - then things will likely get very bad very quickly. Remember the bloodthirsty reaction that the establishment had to 9/11. That's what happens when you penetrate the protective bubbles of their offices with hijacked planes full of their business associates. In that scenario I think you would see the rapid acceleration of police militarization, a very speedy introduction of further unconstitutional legislation and a fairly big redeployment of American troops from overseas back to the homeland. The military will do its best not to actually close any overseas bases (because they know that if they allow the facilities in places like Okinawa to be shut down they will never, ever be allowed to reopen), but they will bring quite a large number home.

On the other hand, if the domestic insurgency chooses to focus their efforts on rural flyover country and let the elites remain in their bubbles for as long as possible, it would be a much slower, lower-intensity affair. I think in that scenario many of our leaders would still do their best to maintain the empire and perhaps even continue some overseas military operations (imagine the Air Force bombing insurgents in Wyoming and Islamic militants in Somalia on the same day). The number of troops brought home from overseas would be much smaller, probably limited at first to military police, intelligence personnel and troops with other specialized training like IED detection and dismantling.

D.M. said...

Oh I definitely will keep everyone here updated as things unravel in the Williston Basin. Good thing I never planned on making it a permanent home and have been preparing move elsewhere as soon as I can, perhaps out of the U.S. always wanted to live in another culture.

Cherokee Organics said...


You have your Merlin hat, staff and cloak on today.

Hmm, Andrew wasn't very nice at all. It is quite clear that the article in question was written with some passion and fervour, but unfortunately it lacked both a plan and structure. Honestly, I had trouble following his train of thoughts (or thought stoppers).

Congratulations on being thought of as a worthy adversary!

I read that there has been a significant sell off of property in China recently. I also note that funds are flowing into the top end of the property market here. Oh yeah, youth unemployment is on the rise too.

The economy is to my mind simply a financial mirror focused on the process of extracting and utilising of the natural resources which may be available to that particular economy. Given that we are on a planet of finite resources, the whole economic processes are subject to diminishing returns.

I hope Andrew checks out your essay this week. He seriously misrepresented many of your ideas.

By the way, over here you - I believe - can get a financial planners license through an 8 day course. You know my opinion of them already, but the media here are starting to ask questions about the efficacy of the advice given a number of unfolding scandals... Watch this space.



PS: I have a new blog entry up too: An eggcellent mystery

Lots of cool photos and videos from the farm here.

Shawn Aune said...

I've seen it on Forbes blogs quite frequently lately.

Also there are a few people who ritually comment in defense of PeakOil. To them I'm grateful.

Val said...

I'd heard about the riot in Monrovia, but not about the theft of infected bedding, nor about Ebola patients escaping into the crowd: most disquieting. With those kinds of death rates, I am not complacent about such a communicable malady remaining forever far away.

I hope the fracking bubble takes its time bursting. No way are I or mine prepared for an imminent crash. There's hardly the sketchiest sense of community in this locale, and I suspect this is true for most of the United States. It isn't going to be pretty.

Roille Figners said...

I take it as axiomatic that every bubble is intentional on the part of the few people who come out ahead at the end. In other words it's a large-scale Ponzi scheme. (An apt term because bubbles are always wealth-concentrating, pyramidal in structure, exponential in growth, and must be sold to ever-increasing numbers of people to continue, and hence are unstable.)

Before the peak, when the press is dutifully herding suckers into the scam, and the thing is really humming along, everybody's making too much money to bother with critics.

The moment right after the peak (and right before the crash) is when those a couple tiers away from the top are acutely aware that it might collapse. The tense game of "how long to hold on" or "when to sell" begins. It's that kind of nervousness that's necessary for an outburst like this. Essential message, distilled: "Shhhh, you'll spook the marks!"

Roille Figners said...

Favorite verbal turd from the review BTW was "catabolic reactions in our human bodies release energy, they do not dissipate it."

Mainly this is a gem because release (i.e. dissipate) and dissipate (i.e. release) are sort of the same thing. Though honorable mention for luxuriously including the word 'human.' Lets me know we're considering only my human body, not all the other ones. Narrows it down.

Derv said...


It's from "What I Saw in America," where he discusses attitudes toward England. There's another section that I can't seem to find where he explains it more fully, but here's one part at any rate:

"They were on the defensive; and it was poor old England that they were defending. Their attitude implied that somebody or something was leaving her undefended, or finding her indefensible. The burden of that hearty chorus was that England was not so black as she was painted; it seemed clear that somewhere or other she was being painted pretty black. But there was something else that made me uncomfortable; it was not only the sense of being somewhat boisterously forgiven; it was also something involving questions of power as well as morality. Then it seemed to me that a new sensation turned me hot and cold; and I felt something I have never before felt[Pg 136] in a foreign land. Never had my father or my grandfather known that sensation; never during the great and complex and perhaps perilous expansion of our power and commerce in the last hundred years had an Englishman heard exactly that note in a human voice. England was being pitied. I, as an Englishman, was not only being pardoned but pitied...

But if English readers want the truth, I am sure this is the truth about their notion of the position of England. They are wondering, or those who are watching are wondering, whether the term of her success is come and she is going down the dark road after Prussia. Many are sorry if this is so; some are glad if it is so; but all are seriously considering the probability of its being so."

There was also this nugget of wisdom I believe you would appreciate: "The men who will not face this fact are men whose minds are not free. They are more crushed by Progress than any pietists by Providence. They are not allowed to question that whatever has recently happened was all for the best. Now Progress is Providence without God. That is, it is a theory that everything has always perpetually gone right by accident. It is a sort of atheistic optimism, based on an everlasting coincidence far more miraculous than a miracle. If there be no purpose, or if the purpose permits of human free will, then in either case it is almost insanely unlikely that there should be in history a period of steady and uninterrupted progress; or in other words a period in which poor bewildered humanity moves amid a chaos of complications, without making a single mistake... We have not yet seen the end of the whole industrial experiment; and there are already signs of it coming to a bad end."

Stuart Jeffery said...

The application of White's Law to the discussion is useful, but my rudimentary understanding of it is that it is generally perceived in terms of increasing energy and efficiency rather than in a declining scenario. That said, it still provides a stance of the link between energy and the economy (and culture) which is ignored by most media yet is fundamental.

I recall a useful paper from Australia that explored this link in some depth, but perhaps it is time for Greer's Law, the notion that the economy will shrink and culture will collapse as the energy per capital declines (with all other factors being equal)?

I think that there is a further aspect to the this, the movement of people to areas of higher energy per capita. Migration is a highly political football that the majority of politician aim at the vulnerable people trying to get to places where they perceive that they can live in some form of security. That football is going to get kicked harder as Greer's Law bites.

John Michael Greer said...

Larry, you're welcome and thank you!

Pongo, I expect the second option, precisely because the consequences of the first option would not further the insurgent cause(s). A low-key, evasive, is-it-really-happening strategy that concentrated on taking out local targets and building the infrastructure for a wider rebellion would, to my mind, be self-evident as the better option.

DM, thank you. I'll look forward to updates!

Cherokee, you know, I really do need to get an actual tall pointed hat and cloak one of these days. (I've already got the staff.)

Shawn, I'm quite convinced that Michael Lynch will go down in history as the Irving Fisher of the fracking-bubble crash.

Val, timing the bursting of a bubble is a very difficult art, but in your place, I'd work at getting closer to ready as soon as you can.

Roille, I don't tend to agree with your axiom -- I prefer a different one, the one that runs "never credit conspiracy for what can adequately be explained by stupidity" -- but the psychology of a bubble about to burst works out the same either way. As for the bit from the review, yes, I found that particular non sequitur a choice specimen!

Derv, okay, I'm moving Chesterton well up on the list of writers to get to. Good prose combined with clear thinking is always a good sign!

John Michael Greer said...

Stuart, when I studied ecology at university back in the early 1980s, White's Law was presented as a straight correlation with no inherent direction -- of course we were a lot more comfortable talking about decline and contraction in those days than people are now.

Wayne A. Shingler said...

I see he took a swipe at Jim Kunstler while he was at it. At least McKillop managed to spell your name correctly.

I hope you're right. If the fracking bubble is going to burst, I'd rather it happen before they can poison too many more water wells.

Siobhan Blundell said...

Dear JMG - please don't fall prey to hyperbole -

"wet thud of financiers hitting Wall Street sidewalks"

Studying U.S. death statistics, Galbraith found that while the U.S. suicide rate increased steadily between 1925 and 1932, during October and November of 1929 the number of suicides was disappointingly low.

Thanks for your writing
Siobhan Blundell

Rhisiart Gwilym said...

Copy of email to Andrew below. His thumbnail CV identifies him as a policy wonk amongst the EU technocracts. Straight out of college into that dream world, with - apparently - very little time between spent eyeball to eyeball with the harsher aspects of reality in many parts of the world. Nuf said!


Hi Andrew!

JM's response to your recent apparently-sight-unseen critique of his work is published today at TAR.

You've made a right twit of yourself, it seems Andrew; and for all to see too. Oh deary-dear!

My bullion-bets are entirely on John, every time, as an outstandingly-sound foreseer. I've been following him and his writings and lectures for years, and I know whereof I speak; and of his hit-rate as a seer.

As an oracle (sic!), you're floundering in his dust, old soak. Must do better. Much better, to catch up with the Archdruid. Don't take him on lightly; you need to be a heavyweight yourself, to match up to him. Try doing some genuine in-depth research into his output.

I would have posted this as a comment on your website, but the registration programme kept giving me the runaround. Bad omen! Still, never mind; I'll copy it as a comment on TAR.

Catch up soon, Andrew! When the Saudi America (hah!) fracking ponzi-bubble bursts and gives you pause to sober up and take stock, perhaps. You won't have long to wait.

Hasta la vista, baby! Byeeee! RhG

Rhisiart Gwilym said...


"Technology momentum is unstoppable, and one-way only."

You think that sounds like JMG? Sounds like a Progress troobleever to me. The last thing I'd expect JM to say.

Emrys Ifans ap Rhisiart is - well - ahead of the pack maybe; but an alter ego for an Archdruid? Don't think so!

edboyle said...

a lot more indication of a massive bubble and desperation on the part of the West could be observed by reading above link, than by waiting for an attack on PO activists in the West. I have become used to press economics, PO, etc. propaganda and in war zones in middle east one has little access. Cognitive dissonance is not so great. Combine several blogs which reveal western media bias based onSoros directed Ukraine Media Center and a knowledge of PO and fracking bubble and you get an idea of how desperate times are. The globe is undergoing wars for fracking in old coal areas of Soviet Union. Where next, India, s Africa, China. Perhaps a revolution in Tibet or Xinjiang province or Siberian coal areas, etc. could be arranged for. South America, Hermany, might want to restrict fracking, the last great hope for industrial age and a poten5ial new bubble. Is Nuland invested like Biden's son iin Ukraine energy sector?

Kutamun said...

Ebola - A river In Zaire ....
Zaire - a five act tragedy written by Voltaire , starring Sarah Bernhardt, ( close friend of Gustav Dore , and Nikolai Tesla ) in which the tragic fate of the heroine ( statue of liberty ?) is caused by the jealousy of her muslim lover and the intolerance of her fellow christians ....also starring Lusignan , a royal house of French origin that ruled the Kingdom of Jerusalem , Cyprus and Armenia ...
" Haemorrhage "
late 17th century (as a noun): alteration of obsolete haemorrhagy, via Latin from Greek haimorrhagia, from haima ‘blood’ + the stem of rhēgnunai ‘burst’.

Signs , signals , murders of crows gathering as a slight eddy disturbs leaves into the air ...indeed , Ebola is a haemmorrhagic disease , bursting blood , the vampires having gorged themselves to spectacular excess , begin to explode one by one , or perhaps all together ? ..Giants stirring beneath mountains in iceland , California , scorched , parched and cracking . An African American president reclines in Marthas Vineyard while the drums begin to beat , Shaka wakes fitfully as the jackboots clatter along cobbled street , media images of a negro man galloping his horse along Ferguson road , exhausted paramilitaries brandishing weapon threatens to kill onlookers ; in Gaza , bombs continue to explode while Ukraine marches toward all out war , IsIL beheads and crucifies its way through soon to be tripartite State , everywhere there is chaos , as heavily defended digital temples of Kronos begin to shimmer brightly , increasingly unstable ; yea , Dante lives , but which circle are we in ?? , could it be , that this is still the calm before the storm ?

What would Julius Evola think of mankind among such ruins , revolt in this " modern" world as we all attempt to ride the tiger ...??

Diana Haugh said...

Another body blow (albeit a smaller one) to hit the economy in 2016 is the insolvency of Social Security Disability. At that point, as required by law, the monthly benefit check ( on average 1,100.00). Will be reduced by 20 percent. Lest you agree with Forbes and WSJ that will be a good thing, consider how many of the 14 million recipients will be losing their apartments and the impact that will have on the already over leveraged real estate investment schemes. I work with these folk and know that they are already in the cheapest apartments they can find and have no disposable income. Fourteen million people being pushed into the brink of homelessness may be a small hit to the economy but combined with many other looming contractions and losses could prove to be a tipping point.

Phil Harris said...

A traditional story with a twist over at Ugo Bardi's blog just now: Italy: the story of the donkey and the economist.

And comments there by k-Dog> neatly quote both Jevons and White's Law . I see k-Dog reads ADR. I am pleased these matters are in current circulation: useful thinking all round.

I was intrigued by Chesterton. I had not read that book What I Saw in America: a touch of clairvoyance in GKC perhaps?


Phil H

Chris Balow said...

" . . . the next time a white police officer guns down an African-American man for no particular reason . . . "

JMG, why don't you wait for the facts of this case to come out before you decide what reasons the officer may or may not have had? You are aware, aren't you, that the young man was involved in the strong-arm robbery of a convenience store just hours before his confrontation with police? If anything, the situation in Ferguson demonstrates just how much black America tolerates and accepts criminality and thuggery amongst its young men.

Don Plummer said...

One advantage to a bursting of the fracking bubble might just be the preserving of at least some of our groundwater from contamination.

Interesting that McKillop couldn't spell James H. Kunstler's last name correctly. I always see correct spelling of names as an indicator of the author's ethos.

ando said...


I live three miles from where the young black man died, so I have seen some of the activity. I was hoping you would share your perspective. The only comment I would make is that this was not as casual as the neighborhood and the national media make it out to be. It appears that the policeman was attacked and injured prior to shooting. The young man possibly panicked because he had committed a crime in a local market, moments earlier. I agree with all of your assessment, and while it does happen, this does not appear to be a case where a young man was shot for walking while black.



Ronald Langereis said...

I appreciated "...the wet thud of financiers hitting Wall Street sidewalks...," phrase for its pure, literary quality.
In a different vein, I think you're under estimating - only joking - the ingenuity of the 'technology-will-save-us' crowd in their ability to divert attention.
Here's Ambrose EP's latest, based on Citigroups' Energy 2020 report,
In short, who cares about oil? As the legacy oil industry will founder within the next decade sending the Middle East up in flames, no worry. It's only a sideshow to be watched on tv, while chugging along comfortably on inexhaustible, clean NG reserves and booming solar.
A very comforting piece of journalism, much more so than your weekly blog, I daresay. But what an arrogant insult to the intelligence of the reader.
I hope I've put the record straight, one insult for another.

Andy said...

Hmm, looks like the offending review has been removed...

Diana Haugh said...

And here's another tailwind from the bottom side of the economy that has been little reported on; municipalities that are desperate for cash have begun selling their HUD financed low income housing assets to private investors who are eager to get their hands on the tax credits that go along Problem is the investors are then turning around and using these assets as collateral for new loans to finance further development Such extreme leverage puts millions of low income Americans at risk for loss of housing should things turn south a little and the investors go belly up and the housing projects are foreclosed on

Tony f. whelKs said...

Against my better judgement, I did go and read McKillop's outpourings, out of the sort of morbid curiosity I can normally resist. My one overwhelming impression was that it was an incoherent response, and as such very much in line with so much of what is happening around the world.

Incoherent responses seem to be very much the vogue - for instance, Ukraine, Iraq, Gaza... all over the place. Maybe it has something to do with being backed into indefensible corners, maybe because a rational response is just too taxing. He did remind me somewhat of the situation in Monrovia. The looting of the Ebola isolation unit was a chilling event, and for a number of reasons. The sheer medical facts of it are enough in their own right - the release of patients back to the community, and the taking of infected linen and other materials with their echoes of 'smallpox blankets'. But WHAT happened is only part of it - WHY it happened is almost as disturbing. The widespread instant communication provided by mobile phones and SMS combines potently with the heady mix of rumour, superstition and suspicion. In some senses, Ebola in West Africa serves as a microcosm of so many issues and the internet on the wider stage.

I may be stretching a point here, but I see echoes of various flavours of denialism in the west, fuelled by internet conspiracies and loss of faith in authority (in intellectual and political terms). To some in West Africa, the science surrounding ebola is seen as a 'colonial plot' much as many in the west see the science behind climate change as a 'liberal plot'. As has been said many times, everyone is entitled to their own opinions, but not their own facts. Get the facts wrong, and all you can offer is an incoherent response.

McKillop did a great job of misrepresenting the case he was arguing against, and irony of ironies, was very free with his accusations of rhetoric and sophistry. I could start to catalogue his logical fallacies, but strawman and ad hominem were as far as I got before losing interest in the project.

I hesitate to comment on Ferguson - from the media coverage over here it looks both complex and simple at once. I recall the recent riots we had here in the UK, where US commentators were seeing a politically-inspired uprising, whereas closer to the ground it was mostly consumerism-inspired criminality, once the initial protests provided a convenient cover for other kinds of opportunism. I suspect there's some element of that in Ferguson, too. Still, seeing all the stormtroopers on the streets, I can't help thinking that the best response to a pot boiling over is not to tighten the lid but to turn down the heat.

Interesting times indeed.

Kyoto Motors said...

This Chesterton fellow is my discovery of the week... I'll pursue that one for sure...
I hope to get around to reading JKG sometime soon as well. Knowing that you read it regularly is a pretty convincing sign that it must be important.
I came across the robot video as well... I think eyes must have rolled back a hundred times while watching.
when you mentioned Kurt Cobb and Richard Heinberg, I half expected you to add James Kunstler. But then again, he seems to have distanced himself from the center of the Peak Oil debate, while alienating at least one reader (as in yours truly)with some troubling expressions of bigotry and prejudice...
Anyway, I actually read your stuff thanks to him. And speaking of re-reading material, I keep returning to"The Wealth of Nature". The intro would make great high school material for kids graduating (or dropping out!)

exiledbear said...

re: ebola

Kills too quickly to really catch on. Flu, on the other hand, spreads much more effectively and kills much more effectively. Look at the hard numbers. Flu > Ebola.

re: Ferguson

Cynically, I would argue that all of the legislation about civil rights didn't make Murica less racist, but just more suppressed and backed up. The reasons for the suppression are rooted in various quirks of 20th c international politics but most of those quirks are gone now. So the suppression has been eroding as well. And probably will continue to erode.

And here's a narrative or theme to throw out there. You may not like it when you hear it, but humor me. Murica is in decline, right? But when you've chosen (or had chosen for you) a decline narrative, you still need a template on which to flesh out the plot details, right? I would like for you to entertain the idea that the template or model for the slide into poverty and ignorance - is Alabama in the middle 20th c.

U.S.A. - United States of Alabama.

Yeah. I know you wouldn't like it.

donalfagan said...

I think anabolic collapse refers to the economic steroids we've been taking. Off topic, I noted Star's Reach on a ScienceBlogs post about apocalyptic Cli-Fi, and one commenter thinks you and science should be better friends:

Somewhatstunned said...

JMG said:
I'm guessing -- though it's only a guess -- that this autumn will see the collapse of the fracking bubble.

Not that I'm wishing it to happen, but if that is the case, then it could be of assistance to us in England and Wales (bearing in mind the Scottish referendum in September that might put paid to the "UK" - a very interesting prospect).

I note that another of your Brit commenters is an anti-fracking activist - well, if your bubble pops then maybe I won't have to join her and become one myself - it'll save us all a lot of shouting if our bubble doesn't get the chance to inflate too much.

Btw, I was disappointed that I didn't get to meet you in person on your trip over here (but perhaps just as well - having read a couple of your books recently, I might have gushed!)

Btw(2), I've also been reading Odum - amazed at how all the enviro issues have been "there" since the sixties and seventies. I kind of knew that already, but seeing the evidence has left me feeling - well, like my handle ...

Shawn Aune said...


"Michael Lynch will go down in history as the Irving Fisher of the fracking-bubble crash."

I'm sure I heard Irving's ghost scoff when I read that comparison.

Joe Roberts said...

I went looking this morning for an article I read last weekend about the number of miles driven per year by residents of a four-county area in rural northern Wisconsin. It was a dramatically large number (millions of miles), and I meant the article to demonstrate the absurdity (singing to the chorus, I know) of expecting that the finite, though unbelievably abundant at one time, resource of oil could ever last indefinitely, considering that a population of perhaps just 30-40,000 people was driving that many miles per year. Magnify that by an order of millions, and so on and so forth.

Instead, I came across this article from 2002 from the same Wisconsin newspaper, which is hilarious in hindsight. Drivers were "going insane" that gas was $1.59/gallon locally, with gas headed for (gasp!) the unprecedented level of $2 for the summer, and all the panic that would entail. (For non-Americans, gas/petrol is about $3.49/US gallon in the Midwest now -- or 92 cents a liter -- which I know is still very low compared to European prices, though it's been consistently in the high $3s here as well).

How quickly we forget how much has changed. We adapt to new realities while still being blind to the most important ones. How well we incorporate elements of decline into our reality without recognizing them as such, like the proverbial frog slowly being boiled in water.

How naive and goofy will the articles of 2014 look to us in 2026?

Toomas (Tom) Karmo said...

@Brien: Thanks for mentioning Benedict and your parish. Your circumstances and mine are perhaps similar. I think that both of us living in apartments, and that both of us are yearning for something better. (In my case, I am barred from even putting my home-made selfwatering plant systems outside the door to my little basement, under the open sky: those pots, with their soil mix prepared under the guidance of the Mel Bartholemew's Square-Foot Garden book, have to sit indoors, in the window of the bedroom that I have converted into a compact book-lined library.)

It helps take the harsh edge off basement apartment living to live better in the imagination. Here is what I for my part imagine: (1) There is enough land to grow cabbages, tomatoes, and some root crops, and to keep a couple of bee-friendly Warre (as opposed to bee-oppressing Langstroth) hives. (2) Under the roof is a huge unheated room, for books and tools and lab bench, plus an unheated larder, plus an unheated alcove with composting toilet and solar-heated shower, plus a small parlour with Rumford fireplace, armchairs, and hammock. In a deep bed of wood ash in the Rumford fireplace sit a Dutch oven (for cooking hot meals), and a one-litre Pyrex lab beaker on iron trivet (for getting water for tea - either for myself alone or for up to two visitors). (3) The floors are brick, sloped to facilitate wet-mopping, with central drainage channel. (4) Much fuss is made of the Liturgy of the Hours (I **DO** in real life say it in Latin, these days, and I find this soothing and reassuring). (5) There is quite a determined push to do things in am Amish style, following the example of the "Plain Catholics" at (Well, in real life, I **AM** making some progress in getting rid of factory food - these days, the crockpot is used for curried veggies-and-lentils, etc. And I **HAVE** in the last few days learned to make a fine breakfast through soaking oatmeal overnight, with raisins etc, in milk or store-bought kefir. And I **DO** make tea from fine loose leaves, with Pyrex beakers, irradiating the water in huge,solid, 1980s microwave oven, using only a modest amount of grid power. And I **DO** in real life manage to get Real Cheese, in the form of an organic cheddar, from Toronto's Kensington Market: once one has tasted Real Cheese, the factory stuff seems rebarbative, sinister, neo-Soviet. Additionally, I **AM** in real life blessed with a Persian bakery, about 600 metres from my apartment, which offers a kind of Real Bread - flatbreads, in Persian parlance "taftoons", sometimes so oven-hot at the time of purchase that one risks burning the fingertips. Next, I suppose, will have to come a more Amish vest, to supplant the worn-out and only moderately practical black vest that I wear, with machine-knitted necktie, as I type this stuff.)

I also have the impression, Brien, that you are connected with a Catholic institution, Wyoming Catholic College. Do contact me off-list if you want to talk about this. I for my part would like to see more Catholic education - though in my case, along the lines of rigorous maths and physics, in a kind of exact-sciences counterpoint to the liberal-arts approach of Wyoming CC. In my own curriculum, there would be lots of lab work, some basic telescope work, and even a degree of attention to practical (especially Morse-code) shortwave radio. In addition to exact science, there would be some degree of practical biology, with trials of mycorrhizal associations; with microscopy of local soils; with pH investigations of local soils in what I think was the Old Way, through titration as opposed to glitzy electronic pH metering; etc. Huge sinks, of course; heavy slate-topped lab tables; machine shop; tutorials on glass-bending, even perhaps on glass-blowing; tutorials on soldering; ...


Toomas (Tom) Karmo said...

PS: For Rumford fireplace, or similar cooking arrangement, in parlour, Google for images of "Innermost House". The "House" is, or at least until recent years was, a place of transcendent beauty - the logical next stage, in circa-2010 rural California, of what Thoreau started at Walden in circa-1845 rural Massachusetts.

PPS: JMG: Although this is directed at Brien, perhaps you for your part could also venture on some brief remark or suggestion, say a sentence or two, as you generally do with your readers? It is good to keep learning things from you.


Tom = Tom Karmo

lay Catholic hermit,
or hermit-wannabe,
approx 20 km north of Toronto core

www dot metascientia dot com

Toomas dot Karmo at gmail dot com

Cathy McGuire said...

Wow – I tried to read his “comments” – not a train of thought so much as kiddy bumper cars! As someone who values critical thinking, I have to give him an F – he didn’t distinguish between his thoughts and those he was critiquing, he never seemed to complete a thought, and not once did he give references (hey, that’s what hyperlinks are for, these days – get with it!) to anchor his wild comments.

I picked just a couple of egregious examples:
I say it (peak oil) will be self-solving but not necessarily through progress. - so – he’s agreeing with you on the decline after all?? And yet the essay starts off as criticism.

enough to give every man, woman and child (if they drink alcohol) on the planet around 25 bottles each of 48-degree alcohol per year! And did he check to see if that is nearly enough for their heating/cooling, cooking, transportation, manufacture of items, etc? What does this little factoid mean?

India for example simply used a government edict or decree to outlaw all use of any fuel but natural gas for public transport and taxis in New Delhi. We can do the same. Now he strays into fantasy – let’s just make a dictatorship and outlaw certain fuels or fuel usage… Heck, the EPA is trying to just reduce emissions and they’re running into near riots!

Anyway, I couldn’t make heads nor tails of what he was actually saying about your book(s), nor what position he was taking – so I tried his most recent post… and it was just as bad. Does this guy think he is making sense? Honestly, the philosophy major in me (I aced Logic – too easy!) is itching to take apart the blog post sentence by sentence, to point up the logical fallacies and other thinking errors… but methinks he just likes to hear himself rant. Anyone who follows his blog posting probably wouldn’t understand the concept of critical thinking…

Oh, and if anyone wants to follow the ebola outbreak on a calm and rational site, check the daily postings here: The members include doctors and nurses and those who’ve been following dangerous epidemics around the world. (disclosure: I am a junior moderator there – helping out when the flu news gets too busy).

Eric S. said...

I’ve been having a hard time seeing Fracking as a bubble. I haven’t seen the thrust and enthusiasm behind it. It looks like it’s following more of a ragged decline than a sudden burst. My friend who works in the energy industry got laid off along with his entire office because most of the best Texas fields had gone under back in 2010, and the fields seem to get abandoned pretty quickly. It’s reminded me more of the cycles of boom and bust you see in the petroleum industry (I grew up in an oil town called Midland, Texas whose heartbeat was the rhythmic swell and the shrink of the population as drilling came and went. In popular opinion, what I usually hear is debates about whether it should be done at all and even supporters haven’t really attached the cornucopian rhetoric I’d expect from a bubble to it. I may just be looking from the wrong angle, or listening to the wrong voices.

The one thing I am seeing a classic bubble is solar. I’m constantly being bombarded with claims of solar power “replacing petroleum” and the rhetoric has been about getting rich by riding the next wave of the future. Probably the best example of the species was this seizure inducer: ( and they keep coming ( Recently even one of my coworkers quit to go get rich off solar. He was pretty right wing,so it isn’t just environmentalists and green liberals either. That collapse is going to devastate some of my friends who still believe they can power the future of their dreams on renewables without making major sacrifices. On the other hand, it’ll mean lots of cheap solar panels.

Ben said...

I would guess that, as with all collapses, the shale bubble will not go down evenly. A number of producers here in OK are fracking for NGLs and tight oil rather than the methane, so they may not get totally destroyed by a shale bubble burst. But I suppose that will depend also on how badly Wall Street wants to wreck the financial markets again...
Regardless, my wife and I moved back just in time for a front row seat. I thought the shale bubble would pop a few years from now. We shall see.

ZZ said...

I am curious why you choose the phrase "American Autumn" (British version) instead of "American Fall" (American version) which would be more appropriate and carry a nice pun as well.

Eric S. said...

Regarding the rest of the article:

Ebola: My first thought on seeing this epidemic unfold was the fact that you’d included a global pandemic of Hemorrhagic Fever (of which Ebola is a type) as major plot points in both Christmas 2050, and Adam’s Story. Because of the way it’s transmitted, I think it’s going to take a collapse in public health and sanitation throughout the Industrial world before a full on global pandemic is likely, but this is still going to be devastating. In the long term, a global pandemic of some sort is number 3 on my top 10 list of things that will probably kill me.

Ferguson: Even Egypt and China are speaking out on this one ( I wouldn’t be surprised if the next time something like this happens, the outrage that follows gets some foreign funding and support.

That article: I think my favorite bit was this one: “After the 1914-1918 war, and in the 1930s Great Depression the declinist genre went “near-viral”. During the 1930s everything, including industry declined but it was hard to point the finger at oil as even a minor cause. The End of Empires moved to center-stage as the elite's key obsession and we can ask a few questions to John Michael Greer. Did the Roman Empire collapse because it ran out of oil? Did the Ottoman Empire disappear because it ran out of oil?” So… the period from 1914-1945 wasn’t marked by the decline and fall of a 400 year old global civilization? And apparently you’re theory of catabolic collapse necessitates oil being the cause of the end of any civilization anywhere in time… That was entertaining.

DickLawrence said...

JMG & followers,
I met McKillop a number of times while active in the Peak Oil scene 2002 to 2010; he attended several of the international ASPO conferences in Europe. He was, if I recall correctly, flogging the concept that high oil prices were good for everybody in a convoluted "trickle down" sort of way. You can probably find some of his old screeds on the 'Net if you search for them.

His personality was the sort that seemed to take a perverse pleasure in contrariness, and he was always highly opinionated and seemed to have little tolerance for other points of view.

His writing style has not changed (nor does it require chemical assistance) - his was as convoluted and hard to follow then as it is now.

Dick Lawrence

Mark Hines said...

The burst bubble will not only affect the oil companies and the banks, it will spread to other sectors too. I was reading a couple of news stories where the fracking in Canada is stirring up natural radiation and polluting the water. Cattle are dying, and land is becoming infertile.
Also, in some areas of Canada, homes in the areas of fracking are losing their value as people are trying to sell to get out. Some are discounting the prices by as much as 50 to 60 percent. Banks are left holding the nonperforming loans. So the fracking bubble affects, food production, housing values, and the bottom line for banks. This could get ugly very quickly

Chris G said...

It may be worth evaluating the hypothesis that the sudden growth in human populations which is aided by fossil fuels also coincides with a time of expansion and domestication lands that are not in the human ecological niche such as desert lands, temperate land areas that don't have as much wat, all ofthat is driven by fossil fuels... expansion into the north and south beyond the tropics... expansion of large human populations into climates with cold winters in which nothing grows. Without fossil fuels, this so-called breadbasket of America is really just range land.

Avery said...

JMG, it's far from the stray independent analyst who is oddly worried about peak oil these boom days. Insider Michael Lynch, who describes himself as an editor of three energy journals, spends much of his time on Forbes writing articles about how peak oilists are unqualified high school teachers, activists, archdruids, etc. and were proven wrong years ago. Makes me wonder why he deigns to waste his time on us at all. (I sent him a peer-reviewed paper proving that conventional oil production has matched perfectly to peak oil models since 2004, and he hemmed and hawed.)

I must second the suggestion to bump "What I Saw In America" up on your reading list. It's a book like nothing else I have ever read.

Kyoto Motors said...

The J-shaped curve is olso referred to as the "hockey stick" in some circles - and not just here in Canada! ours is the era of hockey stick curves thanks to the exponential effect of fossil fuels. I recall the rather exciting revelation that was fleshed out in these reports a few years back that indeed the global industrial project is (and can only be) an economic bubble in tis own right. Which would be a perfect segue to resumption of the Dark Age America thread, I suppose...

Chris G said...

Regarding which comes first, fuel shortage or dollar collapse, I think they are linked. The ability of revenues to support the debt burde n that keeps money flowing, but not an excessive money supply (which causes inflation), requires inputs of "labor" which in our energy-resource rich economy such labor is performed by oil coal natural gas. When te supply of energy can no longer meet the illusory demands of the government and bank debt burdens, bankruptcies ensue. Eventually the shortage of energy reaches the Federal government. But it seems more likely that the rot will hit marginal communities whose demand for goods and services is supported by debt-financed governmt subsidies of various kinds - much of the government's function since WWII is to provide a dizzying array of subsidies here and there to prevent any kind of social decay. Just throwing raw energy at the problem will no longer be an option.

It is possible for formerly subsidized Communities to become somewhat more self-supporting through more ecologically sound practices such as local gardens and trade cooperatives, etc.

The hugest subsidies are paid for the military. It seems likely to me that te last recoverable fuels will end up going to the last war machines that guard those fuels.

Dammerung said...

You should be proud of such an attack on your writing! His tone comes across as breathless and at times barely coherent, and some of his sentences I had to read 2 or 3 times to make any sense of whatsoever. To your credit, I hardly ever find that the case with your writing.

Not to say I'm strictly convinced that your view of the future is inevitable, but it certainly needs to be recognized and integrated as a definite possibility.

stevenstrange said...

I respect your interpretation of Andrew McKillop's "review" as a signal of the growing desperation of those individuals highly invested in our current financial house of cards, and of the likely near term failure of that showy, but unsustainable structure.

Oh, but what a shabby, little signal it is. This "review" reads like a last minute term paper hastily constructed by a student without clear recall on where all the bits and pieces were copied and pasted from. It hurt my head to read it. If that shows the state of mind of a current financial insider, heaven help us.

In contrast, I am at the mid point of Star's Reach and I am trying to pace myself so I can prolong the pleasure of reading it.

Goldmund said...

John, so glad you mentioned recent events of domestic unrest in the USA. This has actually given me hope, because it tells me people are paying attention, that they care about justice and are unwilling to simply comply with the rise of the national security state and the destruction of our "democratic" republic. Here in Minneapolis, over the past few days, the military has been conducting "training exercises", flying helicopters low and at top speed over neighborhoods and through the canyons of skyscrapers downtown. The only problem is they never bothered to inform the public that this would be happening, they just did it, unannounced. Citizens here- including tea party Republicans- are outraged at what they see as an invasion of their community by an occupying army with attack helicopters (and yes, they are black!)that we the taxpayers paid for, and wondering aloud if they're preparing for some sort of insurrection. It looks all the world to us like a police state, accountable to nobody, is on the rise (and we had a taste of it during the Republican National convention in St. Paul back in 2008 when an army of robocops in military vehicles descended on our city). Fortunately people are resisting, so all is not lost. I love the fighting spirit and feeling of solidarity that arises in people when they've finally had enough!

Ed-M said...

JMG, excellent post!

I especially like your metaphor, "the entertaining consequences of our headfirst collision with the sidewalk of reality." Classic! It reminds me of a MAD Magazine cartoon satirizing Peter Pan, where he leads the children out of the London garret window as they sing "We can fly" and then plummet Earthwards.

On another note, I found something that is somewhat related to this post. NPR came out with an article concerning the advent of the post-Mycenaian dark age; it turns out that Mycenaian civilization was interlinked with seven other civilizations in the ancient Near East and Eastern Mediterrranean at the close of the Bronze Age (1177 BCE). It turns the initial cause according to this article was Climate Change - cooling of the ocean surfaces - that led to extended, extreme drought and the subsequent collapse of the eight interlinked, one might say globalized, cultures. And their descent appeared to take Dimitry Orlov's hypothesis as a model: first perceptible, then perceptible decline, the all of a sudden, everything at once. Then all the evils of sorting things out followed, ultimately with the arrival of a most dark dark age where even writing was lost.

The article also stated that the stressors of our globalized American civilization resembled most the causes of the collapse of the eight cultures.

Adrian Ayres Fisher said...

Hello, JMG,

Re the fracking bubble: I've been noticing some articles about near-future demand-destruction for fossil fuels owing to cheap renewables. Warning people away from investment in ffs.

However: To focus on electricity for a moment, my husband and I have run into an issue here. We have been working to make our house more energy efficient and have also reduced our overall energy use in part by just not using the stuff.

We would like to install solar panels, but our electrical use is so far below average that solar panel installation costs seem really high, even when taking advantage of available tax rebates, etc. We will work on scraping together the cash, but it seems to me this is a personal example of the kinds of hurdles facing those who would like to use solar.

Our local power plants are a mix of gas, coal and nuclear. I understand that gas prices especially are artificially low and we feel it is prudent to install panels given the likely future, but it is a tough nut to crack, and we are not so wonderfully self sufficient in terms of setting up systems of that nature as people like Cherokee Organics. (We are more self-reliant in other areas.)

Re the review: Sheesh! As a former English teacher and current occasional reviewer of books, I think the guy wrote in a hurry, has tried to cover too much ground, has oversimplified everything, including your and Kuntslers's ideas and analysis (not to mention Socrates' approach to philosophical discussion). He indulges in too much ad hominum argument, and doesn't substantiate his arguments with examples and furthering discussion.

And as you point out the angry and defensive tone comes through loud and clear.

Ed-M said...

Forgot the link:

Chris G said...

It's a curious correlation to have noticed. Right before the collapse, the pressures from the priests of material transcendence become most fervent and forceful. It can be quite a bit like an individual's transition from an ego-driven lifestyle to one that has been re-united to spiritual forces greater than self. There is the desperate reaching, the last gasp, and then... someone else's turn.

American culture is quite a bit like a 70 year old man propped up on amphetamines, burning fast thru te last bits of life force, thinking he's 40...

I find this incredibly misery and suffering-inducing.

It seems to me a big part of the problem (following the analogy of individual life to a civilizations life) is that te rational control center of this civilization, its brain or mind, represented loosely in corporate and government leadership, does not consider itself to be part of the body. It is burning up its body with incredible haste.

But that analogy design break down, because eventually the body ( which is the unceasingly dispossessed proletariat) is going to kill the mind, once the mind's protective layers have eroded (which is most likely precisely because the mind thinks itself immortal.and doesn't expect its mighty fortress ever to crumble... even as it crumbles, the mind busily convinces itself that its subjectivity remains sovereign over physical reality.

It's also curious how the same sort of mantra is repeated : "you just have to believe. If we all believe, If we all hold hands together and believe with all our hearts!"

Its kind of shocking how much a solipsistic needs others to concur with his or her miraculous mind-creations. This last-gasp desperation reveals the hidden self-deceit.

Piter W said...

Hello Mr Greer.

After a buddy of mine informed me about blog of yours, this one and the one about magic. I finally decided to comment.

My opinion is, based on personal experiences and learned from history, that you look at what humans will do when cornered with the reality check that they'll lose their standards of living ... overly optimistic.
Citizens of US already compromised much on behalf of their own stupid and corrupt government, on the premise of "increased security from Boo! terrorists" that it only can end in worse way than what you hope it to be.
I'm totally able to imagine that, after some ugly truths became undeniable and some distraction will be needed, people like you might land in "they were talking about it before, it's their fault!" labeled camp. God forbid if something like famine hits US. It'll be like seventeenth century witch hunts. You, as a nail that sticks out, would be convenient "sacrifice to make offal rain happen to someone else" short term startegy to show that "those in power" are still trustworthy because they are doing something, hunting these god-damned witches and druid eco-terrorists that magically dissapeared all of our Paradise!

I apologize if this sound like rant, but I believe that you might be unaware how low can humans jump ... not fall, but literally jump.

As a side note, your writing of magic reminded me of Terry Pratchett's witches. It was ... Headology, I think. And if I follow that idea, lots of people are chanting mantras and prayers to their uncaring god of Progress.

Concerning. I am almost happy that I live in country that is falling into ruin already thanks to irresponsible stupidity of it's ruling class. We will be at the bottom when higher developed countries will have to face the hard limits. At least Polish farming wasn't changed into industry yet ... God bless the techo-progress slack !

Lastly I would like to ask you a question that I believe I hadn't read in your blog before.
Isn't there possibility of a rebound ? Like making hydrogen/plant oil/gas engine to replace the existing gasoline engine ?
Stretching the agony till we hit other hard limits, as a civilization that turned into cancer ?

Jon from Virginia said...

Interesting that you mentioned Professor Fisher. After his famous quote and personal losses, he took the path of redemption through the valley of humiliation and created the debt-deflation theory of depressions (pdf warning), and the cure of narrow banking and sovereign issue, which he called 100% Money.

Ummm, debt-deflation theory without the long pdf? Well, remember that big purchases are usually made not with cash, but with money-and-credit, which we'll call Big MC. Imagine Big MC as a decayed looking guy with a hipster beard, a top hat, and a monacle. He mainlines speedballs of credit for his get up and go, and uses the soma of denial to sleep at night. Like most users, he needs more and more speedballs to go, and more soma to stop, until he faceplants on the hard concrete or reality.

Ray Wharton said...

Sobering matters indeed.

I took the time to read a few more of Andrew's posts, and found that his writing is generally very hard to follow, mostly because he uses the English dialect of 'political analyst' which is nearly untranslatable into most other dialects of English simply because its core narratives do not overlap with the most common core narratives of other cultures. I can tell that he is very upset about a lot of the goings on in the world, and many of the same ones that upset the readers of this blog. Also I think he is cognoscente of human costs which current instabilities foretell.

This is why some radicals call the American way of life 'Babel', increasingly the stories that individuals and groups live in to not speak to each other. Maybe in the extreme cases they do not even speak to themselves.

The events in Ferguson for example have done much, not just to show the true face of it police force, it has cast a destabilizing shadow over police everywhere. I am saddened by this, knowing what darkness the eclipse of that authority would bring. Recently I saw a gathering of police which filled me with fear, even though I am white and generally very careful not to get in anyone's way. I was so sad to feel that way. I feel unprotected and unserved, because if I needed police even if good officers were around (and I believe FoCo PD is relatively good) I would be afraid to call upon them. Since I do not contribute to the renter class in FoCo I feel a little bit unwelcome generally.

Fortunately I am being forced by contraction to take more and more active parts in communities which do have some sense of what is coming, despite an absolutly pervasive hopium habit in the area. If the bubble bursts that, on one hand, might stall out the development blight cursing this land, conversely I fear that we may be overrun by refugees from more critically unsustainable areas of the West.

You cannot predict the decay of an atom, but a black box prediction might produce a half life of 3 months for a bubble after such a warning sign. That's how I make guesses, for what its worth.

SLClaire said...

I live about six miles from Ferguson in another part of the northern suburbs of St. Louis and have friends who live there. Ferguson puts out a monthly newspaper, the Ferguson Times, which is distributed free to local residents and at local stores. We get a paper when my husband takes his mom grocery shopping there. Besides providing info on upcoming events in the area, it's a good source for how the town leadership portrays itself and the town. I'd put a link to it here except that it doesn't have a website.

The mayor of Ferguson, a young and energetic man of conventional views, writes a monthly column in the Times. He's been very proud of the town for spiffing up the business district and managing to attract a few nice restaurants to set up shop there. Recently he's taken to saying that the rest of North St. Louis County ought to take an example from Ferguson's playbook if it means to rouse itself out of the economic doldrums. A quote from his July 2014 column, in which he argues for Ferguson's annexing a stretch of unincorporated county to the north, exemplifies his and the leadership's attitudes before the recent troubles: "Over the past 20 years, Ferguson has made huge strides and huge achievements in its economic development efforts. We have successfully cleared many blighted areas, attracted new businesses, restored historic buildings, and built new ones. Unfortunately where Ferguson ends and St. Louis County takes over, so does much of those successes [sic]." There are lots of other subtexts going on here that I don't want to take the bandwidth to explain, but you can be sure that I and others in the area get them. I confess I've been harboring a bit of ill-will toward the Ferguson mayor and leadership as a result. It'll be interesting, to say the least, to see what he says in next month's issue. But I also feel kind of sorry for him and others who don't know what hit them and don't have the context to assimilate what has happened into their vision of happy little Ferguson.

Shane Wilson said...

I wonder if the powers that be still have enough duct tape to jerryrig another fix together to keep business as usual going. I don't know what qualifies as the perfect storm that sinks the ship, but the 1914/2014 parallels continue. Ukraine/Russia, China & its neighbors, ISIS, Ferguson, and countless other straws on the camels back. Meanwhile, American officials of either party can't seem to open their mouths without showing their ignorance and incompetence. Surely, China & Russia are very mindful of our domestic and international weaknesses and are going to take the opportunity to push full steam ahead/strike while the iron is hot. Another financial crash will be enough to push an already relunctant and reeling Europe into the arms of Russia. If Europe goes into freefall, they're going to grab the hand that reaches out to them--they won't care if that hand is Russian. If Russian can offer some kind of floor to stop the fall, Europe will take it. Considering how many of the members of ISIS hold European passports, Russia is the only country that can possibly offer Europe any kind of security against homegrown ISIS terrorism--it certainly won't be the US. I just don't know if this is the perfect storm or not. Guess it just depends on how much power the powers that be still wield to postpone things for another day, as well as how the rising powers respond. Would love to know your take, JMG.

Gwaiharad said...

Oddly enough, I get the impression, from reading that poorly-edited review, that while Andrew McKillop is trying to paint you as crazy and wrong, he actually agrees with most of your conclusions, on some level. Which just proves your point further.

As a side note, I got my hands on a copy of Spengler's "Decline of the West", per your recommendation. I don't know why I expected it to be an easy read... well, at least I won't be hurting for bedtime reading for a long while.

@exiledbear: I get around on a bike for most of the year with great success. The occasional near-miss, with its concurrent adrenaline rush, is just an added bonus.

@Pinku-Sensei: I'm not at all surprised that Ebola's become a top news story. After all, Stephen King's right. Ebola is really scary stuff. And media companies thrive on selling fear.

Shane Wilson said...

I read the review a while back, but it was so incoherent and irrelevant to what was actually in the Long Descent that I dismissed it. It was obvious that he hadn't read the book or had a basic understanding of the text...

dltrammel said...

Let me just say, the rioting and protests in Ferguson have had an almost surreal vibe to them here in St Louis.

I live just 7 miles away and my landlord/family friend owns a store across the street from the Ferguson police headquarters. I went down there a few days ago to drop off my rent and chatted with him.

During the day it has a feel of the old 60s anti-vietnam protests. Signs and people urging drive byers to honk in support. Protestors tried to take over his store in the name of the "People" a few days past. His customers stood up and chased the away.

Still once the sun goes down it turns into something out of "Black Hawk Down".

Groups of angry young black men with some whites and hispanics. Its poverty and rage that bonds them. And mistreatment from the police.

A mile or two away where the looting and real violence happens is just as tense.

Yet here I am a dozen miles away, going about my day to day, getting groceries and beer. Going to work. Watching TV. Its like a bad sitcom.

I do know this, at work, with a mixed race crew, we all but ignore the riots. I think that is because we don't want to admit that things are that bad. That there are simmering tensions that could just as easily set us at each others throats as in Ferguson.

Druid, you just continue to scare the crap out of me sometimes with how accurately you predict our future.

Couldn't you predict some joyful songs around the campfires? I'd sleep better at night...

russell1200 said...

What is strange with fracking is that there is pretty descent evidence that at least some in the industry are having their doubts: The civil litigation in New York revealing a cache of emails as noted in internal company documentation, Chesapeake Oil firing its CEO, the selling of large chunks of leases at 50 cents on the dollar. But as the CEO of Citicorp Charles Prince) noted back in the day, "As long as the music is playing, you’ve got to get up and dance."

And that's it. They are in the oil/gas business. It's how they make their money. They will keep moving along until someone sends them home.

On the rioting, I have been reading David Kilcullen's Out of the Mountains. While I don't find his idea about the coming age of the urban guerrilla to be all that exceptional, I find his depth of research and his lengthy annotation to be refreshing. A very good synopsis of a lot of info.

In the book he notes the brittleness of the Taliban's reign of terror in Iraq. You can rule by force, but if events take a turn, the power structure will fall apart very quickly. An example I am sure he would compare to the situation in MO.

exiledbear said...

The occasional near-miss, with its concurrent adrenaline rush, is just an added bonus.

Speak for yourself. I'm still riding, just not on the public streets. Fortunately, there's a nice trail not too far away that's closed to all auto traffic.

I did an honest 6.5 miles today and a really sketchy 6.5 miles back (it has electric assist, but I try to see every day just how far I can pull the deadweight before I run out of energy). Probably could've done more if I had eaten more for breakfast :P

Ursachi Alexandru said...

JMG, Shane Wilson,

I am all the more interested/worried about current events and the state of US-Russia influence in Eastern Europe because of this:

"In 2015, Aegis Ashore will be installed in Romania as part of the PAA Phase II. This deployed capability will use Aegis BMD 5.0 CU and SM-3 Block IB to provide ballistic missile coverage of southern Europe."

The Molotov-Ribbentrop pact reloaded...

wolfvanzandt said...

I guess one of the really disturbing signs (for me) is when it gets hard to tell rational people who have real reasons for their beliefs, from crazy conspiracy theorists.

I have noticed in business that, when a company is about to crash, they wait until the last minute to let their employees know. I don't know how many times I've heard stories of people going to work only to find their place of work locked up for good. I expect governments to do the same thing. There's a general assumption that there's a big difference between ethical behavior and "good business".

the Heretick said...

I don't think the killing in Mo was casual or for no particular reason, but hat is being debated hotly everywhere on the blogosphere, so i can't see the point of debating it here. I do however think that tragedies like this are bound to happen when 9/10ths of the population live in a frying pan.
Indiscriminate use of energy powers the beast which is the global economy, and of course social problems will get worse as this powers down. I think we are already seeing this.
The shale oil debacle was brought to us by the same people who said we had oil for forever and a day, so where is their credibility?
I can tell you, in rural TX, rural OK, they are busy as little bees, but the funny thing? Nobody seems to bee happy.

Philip Bridges said...

Another very insightful commentary on our self-imposed slow motion collapse. I subscribe to a popular investment newsletter, and last month it pointed out that the price of oil remains high despite record U.S. production of oil (from fracking} and a drop in oil consumption. The author commented that this apparent contradiction was possibly due to the increased use of available energy to get the oil out of the ground, with the obvious limit of using 100% of the energy from the fracked oil to remove the oil. So even a few establishment folks are starting to realize that this "new" oil source is a losing proposition. It is also funny to hear conservative commentator Joe Scarborough on the popular MSNBC show "Morning Joe" proclaim that in five years the U.S. will be an exporter of oil to the rest of the world. Another beautiful theory that will be murdered by some ugly little facts.

Adrian Ayres Fisher said...

Many thanks to the person (don't recall who, offhand) who recommended E. C. Pielou's After the Ice Age a couple of posts ago. I'm finding it very worthwhile. He was writing in 1990. Wonder what he'd have to say about subsequent developments since then--though one can imagine.

Hi Violet Cabra, Odum does explain everything so clearly, doesn't he?

Adrian Ayres Fisher said...


Cheers to you for your bike riding!

Yeah, finding alternate routes can be difficult--too many too-busy streets. I find myself often taking longer, less direct routes and sometimes ride on the sidewalks. There are way too many streets that are for cars only--no room for cyclists or pedestrians. Some places are really isolated by that fact.

Dan L. said...

@Chris Balow:

"You are aware, aren't you, that the young man was involved in the strong-arm robbery of a convenience store just hours before his confrontation with police?"

If you're aware of the robbery you must also be aware that the officer in question was NOT aware of the robbery and therefore that the shooting was not precipitated by it. Interesting that you would use an unrelated crime as justification for the shooting. Especially when that crime was the theft of a $40 box of terrible cigars. Should Brown have been punished for that theft and the violence employed in taking it? Absolutely. Was being shot down in the street proportional to the crime?

If it was a white person you wouldn't even think to suggest it.

" If anything, the situation in Ferguson demonstrates just how much black America tolerates and accepts criminality and thuggery amongst its young men."

You've just demonstrated how much you, as a part of white America, can tolerate black Americans receiving punishments disproportionate to the crime committed. I suppose if you're convinced that a petty thief deserves to be shot down like a rabid animal then it would seem tolerant to suggest that such a punishment is actually unjust.

I also can't help point out the large numbers of (largely white) bankers stealing billions of dollars by fixing price benchmarks. Or colluding with murderous criminal gangs to launder billions of dollars of drug money. None of these men were shot in the street for what they did. They weren't even arrested. Heck, most of them weren't even fined and almost all of them still have their jobs.

Just goes to show how much white America tolerates and accepts criminality among its young (old, and indifferent).

Toomas (Tom) Karmo said...

JMG, please don't be too shaken by Mr McKillop. As several have pointed out on this blog (but I want to add my voice to the chorus), Mr McKillop is an undisciplined writer. For journalists of that calibre, one has to feel sympathetic sorrow. What kind of living can so weak a scribe hope to make 20 years from now, when things have crumbled? As a newspaper reporter, for such newspapers as may still be publishing? As a professor of political science, for such Poli Sci departments as may still be teaching? I don't think he at present ranks as a tenure-track kind of guy. Indeed I don't think he would pass journalistic muster even at present, even at the humble _Truro Daily News_ in Nova Scotia, even at the humble _Liberal_ community-paper weekly here in Ontario's Richmond Hill.

If it is any help, I might remark that when I face stuff like this (Richmond Hill pro-development politician Karen Cilevitz bashed me up pretty hard on 2014-08-02 on her Facebook page, in our ongoing fight over the David Dunlap Observatory 77-hectare greenspace, on part of which poor, misguided Karen favours construction of 531 homes), I think about the Supreme Court of Canada or the International Criminal Court in the Hague. If somebody throws a half-eaten hamburger at a judge in the Hague, what does the judge do? Not a lot, I would conjecture - the clumsy missile, I would respectfully submit, can be of only transient interest to the tribunal.

taking a tiny break from some physics study,

Tom (= Tom Karmo)
(in Richmond Hill, approx 20 km
north of Toronto core)

Toomas dot Karmo at gmail dot com

www dot metascientia dot com

rapier said...

Investment in oil production and exploration in the US now accounts for 20% of all investment listed under industrial. Easily double the traditional number,sorry I can't site the exact numbers. These numbers reverberate through many economic statistics aiding the sad and difficult task of painting the necessary rosy scenario.

Many here have seen this
Based on data compiled from quarterly reports, for the year ending March 31, 2014, cash from operations for 127 major oil and natural gas companies totaled $568 billion, and major uses of cash totaled $677 billion, a difference of almost $110 billion.

My one caveat about this being a gigantic problem in the shorter run anyway is that $110bn isn't that much anymore. I don't know how the oil and gas producers can be bailed out but to do so in order to keep he game going would seem to be money well spent by the government to keep appearances and supply up and prices down.

Maybe the Fed could start buying oil company junk bonds. Which brings up the ongoing end of large scale printing, ie. Fed balance sheet expansion. The taper and end is going to be temporary I think. The next minor financial panic will force the Fed to print again. Which should make clear to all who is really in charge, the asset inflation folks. It the next round is enough to kill of faith in the monetary system is beyond my ability to guess.

John Michael Greer said...

Wayne, well, yes, that would be the silver lining in this very toxic financial cloud...

Siobhan, I know that as well as you do. It was a figure of speech, of course.

Rhisiart, thank you! And thank you also for a useful reminder that it's possible to give somebody a thorough hiding without resorting to obscenity. I'm sorry to say that I won't be able to post McKillop's response (which you sent in your second post), partly because I don't have his permission to post it, partly because it's full of profanity. Pity; the sullen tone of somebody who's realizing that he just made a very public prat of himself was really quite endearing.

Ed, maybe so, but this sort of thing has been going on overseas for decades, and public attacks on heretics in the financial media are a little more recent.

Kutamun, no, this is the storm before the real storm...

Diana, I'm well aware of the implications. The health of an economy depends on how much of the national income goes to the poorer half of the country -- those are the people whose income immediately becomes expenditure, driving the consumer sector. As they lose income share, the economy falters.

Phil, thanks for the link -- and yes, K-dog comments here occasionally.

Chris, no. The young man in question has been accused, on the basis of a blurry surveillance video, of having been involved in a convenience-store robbery -- and I would encourage you to reflect long and hard about whether you want to live in a society where being suspected of robbing a convenience store is grounds for summary execution. Furthermore, police all over the world have long had effective means of controlling noncompliant and belligerent suspects, other than pumping them full of lead, and police here in the US somehow manage to control noncompliant and belligerent white suspects perfectly well by those means; it's only when the suspect isn't white that emptying the magazine of a Glock into him becomes the first choice. Please stop and think about what you're saying before parroting the usual excuses!

Don, I consider myself fortunate that my name is fairly easy to spell.

Ando, please see my response to Chris Balow. Even the police admit that the officer who opened fire had no knowledge of the convenience store robbery -- and again, police in this country somehow manage to control belligerent and noncompliant white suspects without filling them full of lead.

Ronald, I really wonder sometimes if people like Ambrose-Pritchard are capable of basic math.

Steve Morgan said...

"Depending on how heavily and cluelessly foreign banks and investors have been sucked into the boom—again, hard to say without inside access to closely guarded financial information—the popping of the bubble could sucker-punch national economies elsewhere in the world as well."

Not all of that information is closely guarded. One of the local papers had this piece a few weeks back, citing $8.5 billion of foreign buying in shale plays last quarter.

A comparable piece on annual numbers from 2011 quoted $56.4 billion, a substantially higher quarterly rate. Out of a total "deal" number of ~$180 billion, that's not small potatoes. It might be safe to say that "heavily and cluelessly" accurately describes the involvement of foreign investors in the US shale bubble, especially because they typically buy "non-core assets" that companies operating on the ground are willing to sell.

Thanks for the heads-up this week about the appearance of important historical indicators. I've also been enjoying the Dark Age America series so far; it's been a helpful gut-check about just how substantial the changes we face over the coming decades (and centuries) really are.

The direct links to the pieces in the Denver Post are:

Violet Cabra said...

JMG, thank you for your patient and considered response!

you're right of course that after civilizations crash the succession of human culture have been far more stable.

I've just started the section in the textbook on seral succession, which is something you've touched on before in the ADR.

I forget sometimes that living things don't just exist because they do, they exist because they're adaptive. Human ecologies are the same way; one that is more adaptive will out-compete one that is less so.

So a more stable sustainable sere succeeds one that creates biomass quick as possible. Left to their own device fields of weeds become old growth forests and likewise human societies go from wasteful to a existing in balance with the ecosystem.

Of course the organisms that are prolific in one seral stage aren't usually the ones that dominate in the next. Which is why Abundance Industrialism is likely to be followed by Scarcity Industrualism, the Age of Salvage etc.

Do you think that the current string of bubbles are indications that the current seral stage of Abundance Industrialism is transitioning into Scarcity Industrialism, or do you think they are more of disturbances in the economic system that occur regularly like rat-floods after bamboo-flowers?

exiledbear said...

I find myself often taking longer, less direct routes and sometimes ride on the sidewalks. There are way too many streets that are for cars only

There's several stretches of road I like to call "the gauntlet" because there's no other option than to just share the road. Most people do go around you, but there are always a few good ol' boys. At least nobody's rolled coal on me.

I felt a lot safer riding a bicycle in the Netherlands. I do not feel safe riding on the public roads in Murica.

I suspect that will change as gasoline climbs. It has already gone from $2 to $4, I don't think it unreasonable to go from that to $8 or $10. If we do see hyperinflation, just imagine the decimal point shifting instead. $40/gal or $400/gal.

At some critical point, people will just stop driving and switch to two wheeled vehicles of various sorts, just because the economics will make them. Like in the third world - scooters and bicycles and small motorbikes.

Next month I'm going to get an endorsement for motorcycle riding. I may not need it but I want to have it.

Janet D said...

I think the race issue in the country is going to become a flashpoint for a lot of riots, esp. in the South-ish states. The tension there is palpable.

Hispanics are still being blamed for, well, largely for existing, particularly in large numbers on our borders. The fact that we exported convicted Hispanic criminals and gang leaders to the Central American countries in the 90's who are now warlords down there doesn't seem to factor in any one's mind. In this country, we think we can isolate ourselves from problems in the rest of the world.

When I lived in Seattle in the 90's, I used to think things between the races were *better*. I had a boyfriend who drove a Porsche (he was a nice man anyway) and he had a black friend. One day, I was riding in the car with both of them, and the black friend was driving. A police car - out of nowhere - pulled up RIGHT on the bumper of the car. Our black friend said, "watch this". He drove for the next 45 minutes, never breaking the law, but turning, changing lanes, going around a block, getting on & off the freeway, etc. The police car never budged from, literally, three feet off the bumper. It was my first (and only) introduction to the world of racial profiling and subsequent intimidation. Our black friend found it funny. I asked him why and he responded, "because I'm used to it, and I've been able to control this guy for the past 45 minutes."

I heard many more similar stories from him over the next several months. He was a law student, for God's sake, who'd never been in trouble with the law. Racial profiling exists in this country. Just because we whites are clueless about it (and therefore defensive), doesn't mean there isn't a powder keg of resentment in minorities all across this country.

exiledbear said...

American culture is quite a bit like a 70 year old man propped up on amphetamines, burning fast thru te last bits of life force, thinking he's 40

Or like a 50 year old man who has been diagnosed with cancer and is making one last desperate attempt to realize what potential he has in the time he has - by cooking meth...

Chris Balow said...

JMG, so instead, we should just assume that the officer did not have just cause? We should just list "white officer" and "unarmed black teenager" as the only two factors we consider before judging the situation? Because that's what you're doing here, and that's what all the protestors in Ferguson are doing. For all we know, the young man attacked the officer and tried to take his weapon (numerous witnesses have reported exactly that).

I know it's a minor point to the overall gist of your post here, but the media storm around this situation baffles me. The entire clip of a Glock, really? Michael Brown was hit with six shots--about 1/3 of the magazine capacity of a standard-issue 9mm Glock, meaning the officer stopped firing well before emptying the magazine. A 220 pound man juiced with adrenaline (or any other chemical, has that toxicology report come out yet?) might not drop until a sixth shot, compromises his central nervous system. The five that proceeded it could simply have been flesh wounds.

The emotions around the situation are valid--white officers here in the US have a long, sordid history of abuse against young black men. But that's all they are--emotions. I don't want to live in a society where young men are executed on the basis of blurry camera footage, true. But I also don't want to live in a society where our police officers are treated as murderers on the basis of, in this case, even less than camera footage.

Cherokee Organics said...


The cloak and hat is a really good idea, seriously!

Didn't you explain recently about the concept of historical ascendancy of some religions due to the simple fact that: "our wizards are better than your wizards". Just sayin...

We're so far past overshoot that any future declines in available energy will hit people where it hurts. That spot is the gut.

Hi Adrian,

A very excellent real world example of what I've been trying to communicate over the years: Solar electricity is excellent, but it is not economic.

I did a rough calculation and found that I pay about AU$0.80/kWh for electricity here. Also because it is a resilient system, it is really inefficient. However, it is not possible to increase the efficiency and economic viability of the system without resorting to the use of fossil fuels. That is the dirty little secret of renewables.

PS: I haven't forgotten to write the story about how to go about putting together a small off grid solar power system. I’ve just got to sort out the extra water storage here before summer hits in earnest. Already today in Melbourne it will be 20’C (I think that’s about 70’F) and it is still winter.



John Michael Greer said...

Andy, I just checked and it's still up. The URL, in case your software is garbling something, is

Diana, yep. When the municipalities and states really start having to sell off everything, expect the bottom to drop out in a lot of areas. That'll happen in different places at different times, but it's not far off in many areas.

Tony, exactly. If the police had simply let the protesters march for a couple of nights, and the state government had launched a big loudly publicized inquiry, this whole thing would have blown over. It's the misapplied force on the part of the authorities that has turned this into a powderkeg.

Kyoto, thank you! That's high praise.

Bear, if flu killed 60% of the people who catch it, I might agree with you. As for the United States of Alabama, in some areas, sure. In others, it'll follow a very different trajectory. More on this as we proceed...

Donal, if Science wants to come around sometime, I'll gladly hand her a beer!

Stunned, with any luck the implosion of the fracking bubble here will be soon enough, and dramatic enough, that the whole subject will be a dead issue for a long time to come. As for the Seventies, yep -- everything we're now facing was what they were trying to warn us about back then...

Shawn, the ghost in question may well be justified in doing so!

Joe, excellent! Looking at the past is exactly what you're not supposed to do in today's industrial world -- if you do that, you might notice just how badly current policies are failing, not to mention just how badly current assumptions are standing up...

Ed-M said...

@ZZ (8/21/14 7:59 AM): I'm sure JMG already addressed your comment, but I'm fairly aware that off of the NA continent, people tend to speak British English (or used to). BTW autumn is popular in New England as well.

@ Derv regarding the end of employment: this past.weekend NPR had an interview with a technology / artificial intelligence expert that machines that learn from experience will be eliminating half of all jobs at all salary / wage levels in 10 to 15 years' time. The descent can't come fast enough!

@Dennis regarding Liberia: the tragedy of the absurd of this would have been too much even for Monty Python!

@Chris (Cherokee Organics) regarding the "train of thoughts (or thoughtstoppers): I read Andrew's review and thought it was a train WRECK of thoughts!

Don Plummer said...

@Chris Balow:
In many of these cases where an officer shoots an unarmed black man, police have afterwards fabricated some kind of charge against the man in order to try and rationalize the shooting, to try and make the victim out to be some kind of troublemaker or would-be criminal.

At this moment in this situation, I wouldn't trust a word the St. Louis County police say about the character of Michael Brown, or of his alleged actions before he was shot in the street.

Don't forget also, Brown's body was allowed to lie in the street for several hours after the shooting. If a dog had been shot, the body would likely have been removed sooner.

John Michael Greer said...

Toomas, other than that I think you're approaching things in a very constructive way, I have no idea what to say!

Cathy, I certainly wasn't impressed -- in fact, I was disappointed; if somebody's going to try to give me a wallopping, it would be nice if they could at least write coherently. Thanks for the epidemic website link -- that may be very useful in the years ahead.

Eric, the bubble dimensions of fracking are most visible in the financial world, where fracking-related activities have been one of Wall Street's major profit centers for most of the last decade. The tower of unsustainable debt, all by itself, guarantees a messy crash. Mind you, you're right about solar and other alternative energy industries -- there's also a bubble there, though it's mostly chasing government subsidies of various kinds.

Ben, most bubbles pop unevenly -- look at the drastic variation in which real estate markets fell how far. Thus you're probably right about this one, too.

ZZ, because I'm old-fashioned and like the word "autumn."

Eric, oh, granted. Ebola is mostly a disease of extreme poverty and overcrowded conditions, thus my reference to the fact that its chances of becoming a global pandemic are not small -- though it could become a massive presence in sub-Saharan Africa, and if it gets to the poorer parts of Asia or Latin America there could be horrific scenes as well.

Dick, thanks for the details. I think I may have exchanged some emails with him back in the day, but they weren't of particular interest and therefore didn't get saved, so I wasn't sure.

Mark, exactly. It's going to be an all-round economic disaster.

Chris, exactly. Exactly. That bit of ecological realism gets you tonight's gold star.

Avery, yes, I've seen Lynch's articles. He's filling the same role as all those well-informed insiders who insisted, in the early autumn of 1929, that the market was sure to keep going up for years to come, and who criticized the few who disagreed as being as ignorant as, well, archdruids.

Kutamun said...

Andrew Mckilop, fascinating read , great to read someone who openly and directly attempts to debunk the Highest Priest of the peak oilers , albeit somewhat unconvincingly ..he seems to be saying that collapse is a multi faceted and complex affair , that is being caused by many things , which these days is true as various feedback loops are enacted . He overlooks , of course , that it was the discovery of large quantities of oil that enabled us to dramatically increase food production and hence population over the past one hundred and fifty years , enabling us to enact the division of labor , specialise , retire from food production into mega cities where we now exist , feesing iff Roszaks rapidly diminishing " urban margin" ( People Planet ) ...having said that , i am a little worried about Andrew , as like Nietzsche , he is umdoubtedly smarter than the average bear , he lacks meaningful transcendent function , which seems to be causing him much spiritual distress . Unable to see a way forward , he yearns for speedy collapse , which is where he takes most issue with JMG , as evidenced by his repeated reference to "plunging into the chasm of Olduvai " ...Andy , if you are reading , for heavens sake find some God other than reason .......
Cheers Kuta '

John Michael Greer said...

Kyoto, exactly.

Chris, of course they're linked -- it's purely a matter of which link breaks first, and at this point I'm guessing that it'll be the vast and unstable pile of Ponzi-scheme debt instruments that are propping up the fracking industry. As for the fate of the last fossil fuels, no argument there.

Dammerung, thank you.

Steven, I admit I was disappointed in McKillop's screed -- as I've mentioned elsewhere in this comment thread, if somebody's going to go to the trouble of walloping me, I wish they'd at least do it competently. Glad to hear you're enjoying Star's Reach!

Goldmund, they are preparing for an insurrection. Given the gay abandon with which the US has sponsored insurgencies and the overthrow of governments around the world, the US government has got to know that somebody -- and quite probably several somebodies -- will return the favor sooner or later. If I were the head of a foreign power hostile to the US, and had money to spare, I know I'd be using it to finance antigovernment agitation here in the US. It's an investment that could reap extremely rich returns, in economic as well as political terms.

Ed-M, I remember that Mad Magazine cartoon -- a blast (or splat) from the past. As for the Mycenean collapse, thanks for this -- interesting stuff. I find it amusing they labeled that "the last time civilization collapsed" -- presumably whoever wrote that headline never heard of a minor incident called the fall of Rome...

Adrian, don't try to justify solar energy on economic grounds -- I'll explain in an upcoming post why that's always a losing strategy. Do it because it's the right thing to do, and treat the cost not as an investment but as an offering. More on this later!

Chris, exactly. The way that civilizations drift into delusion, confusing their models of reality with reality, is something I'm studying closely at this point.

Piter, I'm not too worried. I get a quarter of a million page views here a month; somebody who posts a cute kitten picture can get that many page views in a day. My guess is that when it comes time to go hunting for scapegoats, as of course it will, the hunters will be chasing the traditional targets -- and the traditional targets this time may well shoot back. A colorful future, to be sure.

Jon, thanks for this! I didn't happen to know that Professor Fisher learned from his mistake and then suffered an acute attack of economic sanity. Many thanks for the PDF; I'll read it, see how it matches up to the actual behavior of markets and economies, and weave what works into my predictions.

Ray, exactly -- a black box analysis is the only kind that works when you've got a situation with too many unknowns. You look at history: how long has it taken from sign A to event B in the past? Very often, if you predict on that basis, you'll be right.

SLClaire, I wondered if that was the subtext. Just one more step in the schism in society Arnold Toynbee discussed at such length...

Kutamun said...

@chrisbalow , good on you mate , for endeavouring to not get caught up in some binary "all police are bad paramilitaries ", no doubt there are bullet spitting , brain dead lunatics among them , equally in a tiown like Ferguson , there would be many home grown good blokes and girls that play footy , baseball , fo to church, have kids in school, etc etc me they look tired, scared , bewildered,....caught up in things as much as the rest of us , after all, these people are generally not known for being deep thinkers and rocket scientists . I think this is what you are trying to say .
I like to think of the riot police in northern italy recently, taking off their helmets in solidarity with their plight. As JMG says , there are so many ways of bashing idiots into submission without killing them ( idiots come in all colors) ...The politicians and commanders who have steered the force this way are culpable here . Even in Melbourne , Australia , mounted police, swat teams and helicopters were sent in recently to bash the crap out of the greeny occupy protestors , in the middle of the city in broad daylight with the lord mayor in attendance ...people say white americans are racists , but in oz we simply shot and poisoned all our black people , to the point there are only a few left huddled in the outback in third world conditions . Good on you JMG for publishing the dissenting view off with his head ! Ha ha

John Michael Greer said...

Shane, it's a mess, no question, and I expect the US to take a beating economically and geopolitically in the years immediately ahead. That said, in the real world, all storms are imperfect.

Gwaiharad, it's the opposite of an easy read, because you have to learn to think morphologically to make sense of Spengler, and we're taught not to do that. That said, the effort is worth making.

Dltrammel, I wish the future was the sort of thing that makes for a good night's sleep. Sorry.

Russell, that's what I've heard from insiders, too. They know the babble about "Saudi America" is nonsense, but right now, that's where the money is.

Ursachi, I'm reminded of the entangling alliances and hair-trigger mobilization plans that tipped Europe into war a century ago.

Wolf, it's interesting to contemplate the idea of the US government hanging out a sign saying, "sorry, out of business" some Monday morning...

Heretick, no argument there.

Philip, good heavens -- your investment newsletter actually mentioned that? The energy cost of energy production is one of the things nobody, but nobody, has been talking about. If that gets into circulation, why, people might start wondering if you can extract infinite oil from a finite planet...

Adrian, it's a great book -- but Pielou was a she, not a he!

Toomas, I'm not shaken at all -- or rather, if I'm shaking in any way, it's with laughter.

Rapier, that's why I expect the dollar to survive the collapse of the fracking bubble. A lot of investments are going to go sour and a lot of jobs will be lost, but the show will go on, for a little while longer at least.

Steve, fascinating. Thanks for the information.

Violet, it's both. There's a seral change taking place, but there are also boom-and-bust cycles being triggered by the instability of the whole system. That's one of the things that makes all this hard to predict!

streamfortyseven said...

Re: McKillop - it's the same word salad you hear from the hosts and callers on "conservative" talk radio expressing inchoate rage that anything could be changing or that the US will have to change its ways, like it or not. He certainly mentions the word "Greer" in the same way that "Goldberg" is referenced in Orwell's 1984 for the Two-Minute Hate, so you must have gotten to him.
"Without fossil fuels, this so-called breadbasket of America is really just range land."

In Kansas, it depends. In the eastern 1/3 of the state, most land, including river bottom land, is still pretty fertile. The Tallgrass Prairie still exists, out to the Flint Hills, ending up near Salina, where Wes Jackson's Land Institute is located. He's doing some important work with deep-rooted perennial grain species: The other 2/3 of the state will either end up as scrublands or high plains desert, like Eastern Colorado - or straight out desert such as near Goodland. Look at Google Maps and you can see the plots of ground which are only green because of irrigation - they're surrounded by white sand...
It's a town of 21,000 people of whom 14,000 are black, and it has a white mayor, a white police chief in charge of a force of 55 officers, 50 of whom are white. The City Council has one black member, the school board is all white - maybe one Hispanic.

There's a voter registration drive taking place, started a couple of days ago. Eventually someone might think of mounting a recall campaign against the mayor and city council instead of waiting until the elections in April, and if that happens and is successful, there will be some major changes happening there, especially to the chief of police and his department. There might be some investigations and reforms put in place, too. It'll be interesting to see what the new minority population will do if these things occur and Ferguson finally gets a representative government.
Possible domestic insurgency:
1. #BlackOpenCarry "We demand the immediate end to police brutality, harassment, and murder of the people," says the Huey P. Newton Gun Club website. "We assert the right of the people, particularly those of color, to bear arms and protect themselves where local, state, and the federal government have historically failed to do so."

2. "To my eyes the police, whose business is peace, have no business strutting through the streets carrying M-4 carbines with reflexive-fire sights on top, surefire tactical flashlights on barrel-mounted rail systems slung from three-point harnesses, or white zip-tie flex cuffs over black-body armor, their eyes and faces obscured by gas masks and their heads covered with Kevlar helmets. A bunch of other combat veterans I stay in touch with online agreed. Indeed, besides black Americans, to whom these kind of disturbing images are hardly new, these veterans seemed the most irate, but also the most attuned to the danger posed by the cognitive dissonance of peace officers dressed for war—and not just in Ferguson, but in Boston in the wake of the marathon bombing."

OK, that should cover it for now.

Varun Bhaskar said...


Unless we have an Indian summer I don't see things spiraling out this year. There is a saying in the India-Pakistan-Afghansitan region “trouble comes with the thaw.” Meaning that trouble always comes when the weather gets warm and the high-mountain passes clear.

It is chilling that we've had two standoffs – one at Bundy ranch where federal agents were trying to enforce the writ of law, and one in Ferguson where the local authorities were trying to enforce the writ of law. The first thing I noticed during both confrontations is how much everyone was sweating. Let us hope this winter comes quickly and cools things down a little. I do not think that this year will be when those low intensity insurgencies start. We now have a slightly clearer picture of how things are going to develop and which groups can become antagonists and for what reasons. If the white militia's are galvanized it will be by the federal, if one of the minority militia's are galvanized it will be by local. Look, I don't want to antagonize anyone here and restart a tribal debate so let us just call them rural militia and urban militia.

This winter I think there will be consolidation of whatever factions are going to come into play. I've seen Black Panthers and Sovereign Citizens more active. At this point we will see how things turn out.

One good piece of news I can give all of you. The Socratic method of debate works, just got to keep asking questions. People I talk to regularly are starting to listen, many are starting to back down from their positions. Just gotta keep pushing.

@ Everyone else

If there was ever a time to help rebuild the fourth estate now would be that time. I don't know how all of you are getting your news but it abundantly clear to me we need a return to the traditions of journalism. The coverage of events in Ferguson, Africa, the Middle East, and other troubled spots are all about fear and not about the facts on the ground. That needs to change, if any of you are interested in becoming local correspondents please e-mail me at or register on the website at View on the Ground. I will provide training on the traditions of journalism, editing, and research support.

If anyone is interested, or knows someone who is interested, in taking over a technology blog that covers the appropriate technology movement definitely contact me.

I should probably also start thinking about a security blog.

@ Pinku and Cherokee

Okay, I've run into a slight problem linking your blogs. Would it be possible for both of you to register on my site? For some reason I can't provide accreditation without having your names already registered. Other than that everything is basically ready and I should be able to link your blogs the moment you've registered.



nr-cole said...

I remember a post on fracking some time ago where you mentioned how post-bubble, there will probably be a new speculative endeavour promising to satisfy the ever-growing energy demands of industrial civilization. Various crises and segments of the population who can't ignore them aside, this would have the function of providing hope to those who are feeling the squeeze and enabling a few more years of ignorance for those who aren't.

Given what I've heard from Steven Kopits on how capital expenditures in ALL unconventional oil are already being cut back because they can't pay for themselves, it seems like the aftermath of the fracking bubble is going to hammer the entire fossil fuel sector pretty hard. If there's massive economic stress from another round of unemployment, exploded pension funds, and slashed wages and public services, the ability to pay the high prices to sustain even the present level of production is going to be compromised. If it's not possible for the next energy-fantasy to come from fossil fuels, where will it be?

Given the fantasy status already attached to solar and wind, is it possible that we could see money pumped in that direction to build the massive wind and solar "farms" that greens dream of? Such projects aren't going to dig out a society where neither the people nor the system have any hope of surviving on energy that comes through a straw, not a fire hose, but it's not like fracking was ever sustainable either. I lack a solid understanding of how a speculative binge gets started, but I do think there are going to be a lot of people with a lot of powerful reasons to cling to anything that promises a way out, and it seems to me that all the ideological clashes between Left and Right in America won't mean a thing if a new oil-saviour isn't an option and there's money to be gamed.

Janet D said...

Re: global weirding. From today's paper:

"Lewiston, Idaho. Officials in some Idaho counties are declaring a state of emergency after ill-timed hail storms and several days of rain damaged crops....

...A state of emergency was declared this week after farmers on the Weippe Prairie (north-central-ish ID) lost a third of their spring wheat and 3/4 of their hard red winter wheat to a hailstorm. Further south, nine days of rain caused hay and wheat to mold and barley fields to sprout. Between 50% and 70% of the wheat, barley and alfalfa crops in Jerome County (southern Idaho) may have been lost. Twin Falls County is facing a similar situation."

Nine days of rain and a hailstorm in Idaho. In August.

Note: The Weippe prarie used to be nothing but camas fields (perennials), which could handle heavy rain and hail.

My takeaway: learn to grow/subsist off of more perennials. The sooner the better.

John Michael Greer said...

Janet, I hear stories like that from everybody I know who isn't white. It's from whites, and only from the clueless among them, that I hear claims that such things don't happen in the USA.

Bear, that's brilliant. I don't usually give out two gold stars in a session, but that metaphor earned one.

Chris, as a Vietnam vet I know likes to say, once is accident, twice is coincidence, three times is enemy action. Over and over again in recent years, police have gunned down unarmed African-American men, in situations where white suspects would have been handled by nonlethal means, and there's always a chorus of people who insist, oh, you shouldn't blame the officer, it might have been justified, and so on through a standard litany of excuses. The fact remains that the same behavior gets two different responses from police -- one lethal, one not -- depending on the skin color of the suspect. A failure to deal with that reality simply blinds you to one of the major forces shaping our future right now.

Cherokee, and that's a very good reason to make sure your wizardry is better than the next guy's!

Stream, I went back and reread his review, and I'm still scratching my head. Ten minutes of online research would have saved him from making a fool of himself.

Varun, perhaps not. A great deal depends, as you've suggested, on the weather; a great deal more, on whether outside forces are involved in the business in Ferguson, and what their plans are. We could simply start seeing long hot summers like those of the 1960s, with one city after another torn apart by riots, until the economic cost and international embarrassment becomes too great to ignore; we might see something considerably more troubling. It's definitely something to watch.

Cole, good question. Solar might be the next energy bubble, though the numbers from Europe are sufficiently depressing that that might not be viable. Wind has already shot its bolt -- everybody has a clear idea of what the actual returns are. My guess is nuclear: a big push to build lots of fission reactors, leading to spectacular corporate and governmental bankruptcies and a lot of half-completed reactor sites. If you recall WPPSS, you know the sort of thing to watch for.

Janet, camas is also very good eating, so it might be worth your while to learn how to grow it!

Toro Loki said...

Its interesting what you said about Ebola. I might be a little bit surprissed that this may be the first plague since the "Spanish Influenza" circa world war one, or thereabouts.
Considering modern modes of travel, ie: jet planes etc. I'm a bit surprissed a pandemic hasn't already broken out.
When I was training to volunteer with St. Johns Ambulance, there was a nurse giving a talk about her work in Africa. So I asked her about how Ebola was spread, and she said , by aerosol. Now, that's the easiest way for a disease vector to spread. So, I am really surpprissed that it hasn't already spread this far.
As for me, I am a recluse. So I don't really worry about these things.

Dennis Spottedwolf said...

Yo bro...been awhile so I slunk in to see whassup....and...happily...I find the 'pack' up to standards. I've been watching the fraggin' bubble with great interest for the last several and wonderin' how much, how fast, and how far it will push the financials further towards oblivionation. I think your analogy against the histories of collapse again bear witness...meticulously. In attendance at two events hosted by Trans Canada Pipeline and Enbridge wasn't hard to notice the willful shoving of their protocols down our indigenous collective throats. It feels like the 'fox is almost in the henhouse' for sure....and when it gets 'in' its shite will fill the place.

streamfortyseven said...

Re: McKillop - it's the same word salad you hear from the hosts and callers on "conservative" talk radio expressing inchoate rage that anything could be changing or that the US will have to change its ways, like it or not. He certainly mentions the word "Greer" in the same way that "Goldberg" is referenced in Orwell's 1984 for the Two-Minute Hate, so you must have gotten to him.
"Without fossil fuels, this so-called breadbasket of America is really just range land."

In Kansas, it depends. In the eastern 1/3 of the state, most land, including river bottom land, is still pretty fertile. The Tallgrass Prairie still exists, out to the Flint Hills, ending up near Salina, where Wes Jackson's Land Institute is located. He's doing some important work with deep-rooted perennial grain species: The other 2/3 of the state will either end up as scrublands or high plains desert, like Eastern Colorado - or straight out desert such as near Goodland. Look at Google Maps and you can see the plots of ground which are only green because of irrigation - they're surrounded by white sand...
It's a town of 21,000 people of whom 14,000 are black, and it has a white mayor, a white police chief in charge of a force of 55 officers, 50 of whom are white. The City Council has one black member, the school board is all white - maybe one Hispanic.

There's a voter registration drive taking place, started a couple of days ago. Eventually someone might think of mounting a recall campaign against the mayor and city council instead of waiting until the elections in April, and if that happens and is successful, there will be some major changes happening there, especially to the chief of police and his department. There might be some investigations and reforms put in place, too. It'll be interesting to see what the new minority population will do if these things occur and Ferguson finally gets a representative government.
Possible domestic insurgency:
1. #BlackOpenCarry "We demand the immediate end to police brutality, harassment, and murder of the people," says the Huey P. Newton Gun Club website. "We assert the right of the people, particularly those of color, to bear arms and protect themselves where local, state, and the federal government have historically failed to do so."

2. "To my eyes the police, whose business is peace, have no business strutting through the streets carrying M-4 carbines with reflexive-fire sights on top, surefire tactical flashlights on barrel-mounted rail systems slung from three-point harnesses, or white zip-tie flex cuffs over black-body armor, their eyes and faces obscured by gas masks and their heads covered with Kevlar helmets. A bunch of other combat veterans I stay in touch with online agreed. Indeed, besides black Americans, to whom these kind of disturbing images are hardly new, these veterans seemed the most irate, but also the most attuned to the danger posed by the cognitive dissonance of peace officers dressed for war—and not just in Ferguson, but in Boston in the wake of the marathon bombing."

OK, that should cover it for now.

Somewhatstunned said...

Re: American Autumn v American Fall.

Ahem ... alliteration is a traditional technique, both prosodic and poetic, of early, middle and modern English. I would expect a bit of bardic bravado from any druid!

Ursachi Alexandru said...

JMG, as someone said here, your predictions are becoming scarily accurate. I would like to say that I appreciate your common sense when you talk about what's happening in Europe today, the fact that you recognize the complexities.

I notice a very strange (and somewhat annoying) trend among "alternative media" in your country, including the peak oil scene: denouncing US foreign policy while, at the same time, jumping into Vladimir Putin's arms. I've been turned off by quite a few otherwise good websites/authors because of this kind of thing. Thanks for not being like that.

Radu Visan said...


Reading the comments I see I'm not the only one glad that the bubble is popping. I live in Romania and Chevron has been fracking up and down the countryside, digging exploratory wells, causing daily earthquakes in some areas and beating protesters in others, all with the tacit permission of our clueless and spineless government. I will be very happy to see them go away, but can't help but wonder what happens come winter, with those very interesting events to the east of us. Unless something changes between Russia and the EU, I think we can expect less gas at higher prices and a lot of people shivering and unhappy that we didn't keep those fracking guys around. It is also a presidential election year here that is shaping up to be a monumental fiasco, for different but related reasons, so protests and unrest are pretty much a given at this point.

Alexandru, my opinion is that the dice are already cast and our position towards Russia is established, with or without another missile shield. No matter what our country does now, we are a target when the United States collapses and NATO is left without its most powerful member.

Kutamun said...

Has anyone else noticed the role of the ubiquitous helicopter in the age of decline ?? ...nothing seems sexier to the average one percenter or brain dead technocrat than the ability to have a birds eye view , to arrive and depart in the guise of a giant flying insect, to take off and land on a dime .
I note that they feature prominently in Orwells 1984 ..
Invented by a Mage called Arthur Young , a fascinating fellow who later retired from industry to pursue a life of reflective philosophy ( the reflexive universe ) ,

"His purpose was to elicit the design of a psychopter as a "winged self" (The Bell Notes: a journey from physics to metaphysics, 1979). The cognitive "transmutation" could be framed in terms of what is readily termed "generalization". "

" He was the designer of Bell Helicopter's first helicopter, the Model 30, and inventor of the stabilizer bar used on many of Bell's early helicopter designs. He sought to generalize insights into the control of the flight of a helicopter -- which he framed metaphorically through 12 standard physical "measure formulae" -- in the quest for the design a "psychopter"."

Yeah , Psychopter - inherently unstable in all axis once pilot input is removed , methinks there is a missing element in this Wizards Brew , and the Jovial Daddy Worshippers seem to love to misuse it .
John Ralston Saul points out that as a weapon of war , these things are an expensive and abject failure , slow , easily shot down by any fourteen year old shepherd boy with an old Kalashnikov , requires artillery support and air superiority to be effectively deployed , so the argument goes if you have all that ...why do you need Psychopters ??

I suppose you dont have to be Albert Einstein to figure out that that they are most effective when deployed against civilian populations , in a surveillance/police state with the ability to be inserted almost anywhere . Particularly in an age where good roads and airports/fixed wing infrastructure are likely to have gone the way of the dodo ...

I think they are a failed technomimicry of a Bee ...ending up perhaps more as a Fly Lord ?

Jim R said...


I see that McKillop's maunderings are posted to a site with the name "market oracle".

And I seem to recall some speculation that the original Oracle operated in a continual state of delirium from hydrogen sulfide (or something) fumes emanating from the hot spring at Delphi.

So perhaps there's an explanation in there, somewhere. Not sure from what sort of swamp the Market Oracle works.

David from Normandy said...

Just wanted to thank you for your very interesting work.
From the other side of Atlantic Ocean, I'm reading you every thursday since I discovered your blog.
And I hope to continue for a long time.

Sorry for english, I read it better than I write it :)

Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Ed-M,

That is just too funny! Nice work.



Cherokee Organics said...


Ah, but of course! I'll have to work on the showmanship a bit. Hehe! Herbal lore seems to be an excellent vehicle for such things. Actually, I really do use the herbs here based on their historical uses and most of them do actually produce a positive effect.

I've been digging and moving clay all day, so I'm a bit tired now. However, I am looking forward to increasing the water storage systems here. More water equals more plant growth, the equation is not lost on me.

Water is the difference here. Incidentally, I'm starting to wonder just how cheaply you get electricity over in the US. My reasoning behind this thought is that the prevalence of drawing drinking water from deep wells requires such a mind boggling amount of energy. People have wells over here, they just can’t afford to use them. I just don't get it, unless the electricity is cheap so that you can ignore the cost of the pump to lift the water from a deep well.

Such things are always on my mind of late as I stand or fall on the reliability of the water systems here.

PS: I just had the warmest winter day since May!



Mister Roboto said...

Well, I'm not sure how much this McKillop goofball is representative of anything, but when I observe how increasingly disconnected financial markets are becoming from on-the-ground economic reality, I really think that something has to give soon. This is especially so when you recognize the obscene levels of indebtedness that are driving this disconnect, not to mention that the computer programs of the big financial institutions are the real players in the stock markets in particular.

Odin's Raven said...

It may be a sign of collapse when people, institutions and countries become inverted parodies of what they used to be.

Don Plummer said...

@Kyoto Motors, re. JHK's disturbing turn of rhetoric. I've noticed that too; he's now alienated at least two of his readers.

John, I prefer "autumn" also, following after Keats. Moreover, we don't call the astronomical event that will occur late next month the Fall Equinox.

Marcello said...

"Surely, China & Russia are very mindful of our domestic and international weaknesses and are going to take the opportunity to push full steam ahead/strike while the iron is hot."

I know that it has been hypothesized on this blog that the russians might be exploiting american fault lines but given how empty suits like Nuland have managed to snatch Ukraine from them despite over a decade of warning I find the notion that they could pull off something like that without getting caught rather debatable. And if they were to get caught there is no shortage of people in Russia that would gladly cause mayhem for some dollars and a ticket to the USA. That would not be a game I would play if I was in Putin's shoes.

mr_geronimo said...

I was thinking about what you said in the last Dark Age America post: all new technologies are ecological disasters waiting to happen. What about nuclear technology? In the new renaiscence a lot of hot elements will still be around. Our civilization digged and enriched a lot of uranium, stacked in convenient places and some of our knowledge about nuclear physics may survive in the future Byzantium (maybe the Great Lakes? Germany?). Is is possible that the second technical civilization will have another shot at nuclear power, learning something from our mistakes, using the elements we have alredy enriched? I belive that because they won't have ICBMs (no oil no big missiles) or planes they won't have millitary uses for nuclear power and they may avoid the distortions that those uses caused in our nuclear technology.

Or am i having the plutonium blues?

Yuri Kuzyk said...


The "review" reminds me of a rant on a forum, not something that should appear as a legitimate article. A very sorry comment on what passes as "news" these days (I mean, entertainment).

I'm not sure that you would have seen this article but it is quite a fascinating mash-up of several core problems. A maverick solar entrepreneur commenting on Bill Gates' proposal for ending "energy poverty". So fascinating on so many levels...Unfortunately it is on linkedin but perhaps you have an account there?

The title of the article is "Sorry, Bill Gates, But You're Wrong on This Issue" and is a response to this Gates initiative:

Note that Gates is referencing Lomborg! If this was a movie I think the plot would be considered too far-fetched; or is it simply some type of sarcasm among the hyper-wealthy?

Article is here (let me know if you need a pdf of it):

Anselmo said...

Thanks to your permission for to translate your post, I've posted the translation of this post at:

Your post has received praises from Spanish readers, but also a complaint, which I think is founded:

It is incorrect to use the term "America" or "North America" to refering to the USA. This can be interpreted as a disregard for the hundreds of millions of Americans, or north americans who do not live in USA.

Eric S. said...

Ok, that makes sense. It’s easier for me to follow your stuff on ecology and energy or on culture and religion than on economics, but I try. Every time you mention the fracking bubble, I look at the relatives in the family who are always chasing after crazy financial schemes and losing money on them, since they seem to be a good indicator but none of them have run off to buy any fracking stock (though I have heard buzz about solar panels), so I wasn’t sure where I should be looking. It sounds like the whole thing is inflating on the inside without catching the public this time around, then, (and if buzz on the street means anything, the public seems in general not too happy with fracking and what it’s doing to their towns) do you know if that sort of discrepancy between the general public and the stock market insiders is going to make things play out any differently than these things usually do? Houses, websites, and blue chip stocks were all fairly innocuous to the average middle class person. Also, I’d love to see some of the cornucopian ravings that are coming from inside the bubble, do you know what publications they all convene in?

thrig said...

So, feeding myself primarily off of the farmer's market is possible, though walking there and back isn't the easiest of things; also, additional trips would then be necessary to buy excess for preservation. Direct deals with some of the farmers might be a better idea, e.g. "could you swing by location X on your way in and drop off a 25- or 50-pound bag of wheat berries?" or to use a cargo bicycle, though that would likely increase my food requirements. A basket with wheels would require an even longer walking route due to somewhat lacking sidewalks most notably around the northeast corner of the University Bridge. I could walk on the road, though I do hear that is frowned on in America.

Hulless oats (from said farmer's market) are great, though really must be cut with a bit of rye, as the taste is too sharp otherwise. These can be ground when also feeding the sourdough. Otherwise, root veggies keep the best over the week (radish, turn-IPs, carrots, what I now know as kohlrabi, etc); wrapping them in brown paper bags and then that in plastic or Tupperware seems a good practice. Summer squash are also nice, as they do not require attacking with a huge knife, or hacksaw, and keep well.

Otherwise, the spammers are certainly pushing solar, per the mail server logs at work, along with the usual smattering of south beached whale diets, autos, medical things, vacation cruises, and various other HARPings. Nukes probably fail Parkinson's law of triviality, so do not get spammed about.

Grebulocities said...

One question I've had for a while: when did our news media start to resemble Soviet media in ridiculous propaganda value, and when did comedians start delivering better news than "real" news outlets? Conversely, sometimes our "real" news outlets deliver better comedy! Is this largely a product of the news media becoming increasingly undermined by their advertisers who represent their income stream? Or would the increasing ridiculousness of the facade people have to put up to pretend everything is normal result in this sort of thing even without advertiser influence on the erosion of media standards?

One of my favorite exercises is to open the New York Times in one tab and the Onion in an adjacent one, and flip back and forth. I often find myself laughing at what I think is brilliant satire, only to find I'm on the NYT! The best part of the NYT is "Room for Debate", which is basically just the Onion's "American Voices". But it's much better: it features real people who are supposed to be "experts", and you can click on their links and there's a more verbose version of their alternately ridiculous or obvious statements.

I pick on the NYT because it's our "paper of record"; accidental satire from other news outlets is just as common, but usually of a lower quality.

team10tim said...

Hey hey JMG,

Couple of things. First I got my copy of Odum's Fundamentals of Ecology from the local library's free rack. It's sad what get's cut, but it was nice to get a free copy.

Second, riots and the killing of minorities. A big chunk of riots and uprisings start with the shooting of some poor, innocent kid. But it happens often without starting riots. I view it like an avalanche, the trigger is a shooting but the cause is like the build up of snow on a steep angle. Riots tend to happen in unusually hot summers, in times of economic hardship or contraction, also in areas with substantial inequality, and lastly when the people in question are already busy nursing a grudge over something.

Lastly, Irving Fisher was a serious economist, after he lost his fortune and his credibility he took a fresh look at things. I think he did a pretty good job of it. But his precrash writings are more heavily cited then his debt deflation works. Bernanke refuted his work in his dissertation by not addressing his actual points. You know, griping about something without bothering to actually read it. I hear that's rather common.

Anyways, along the same lines, there is publication by Dirk J Bezemer titled "No One Saw This Coming": Understanding Financial Crisis Through Accounting Models (free download online) that looked through all the peer reviewed publications and found everyone who predicted the crisis with a methodology of some kind. It is very much in line with Fisher (very likely derives from in fact) Side note, most of the economists in academia that I know hadn't read it or heard of it last I checked in 2013.


beneaththesurface said...

During these last several months, I have noticed a greater volume than usual of news headlines that relate to peak oil and the limits to growth (though of course, the news items are discussed as single issues, without mention of the broader systemic trajectory they are a part of). You mentioned some of those news items in this week's blog post, though a number of others come to mind, for example: the massive loss of groundwater and the ongoing severe drought in California, or the water that had to be shut off for several days for half a million people in Toledo (Ohio) earlier this month.

At a family dinner last month, a crucial point was made clear to me through a discussion with my brother-in-law. Somehow we got into a discussion about peak oil and industrial collapse, which he knows is a subject continually on my mind. While he doesn't deny that fossil fuels are finite, he isn't completely convinced of the collapse worldview I have. Trying to conclude the discussion, he sighed, then argued, "Well, I guess I have more faith than you guys in people and the power of technology. I believe that when these crises happen and when times really get tough, it will finally force the right changes to be made, and collapse can be averted."

My sister and I both responded to his statement by saying, "But the problem is what we're talking about is not merely something that will occur in the future. Peak (conventional) oil is already a time in the past; it is not just some future crisis to deal with. It has affected and continues to affect us all to varying degrees and ways. We see no sign that society is responding appropriately with long-term thinking to the crises that have already occurred, so why would that change? We have already experienced the early stages of collapse; collapse is not just some future possibility."

I then exercised restraint and changed the subject, recognizing that differences of opinion on these matters are mythological in nature.

But the discussion did make me realize this: In order for people to argue that industrial collapse can be averted, they need to believe that it is something that could only occur in the future. But collapse is occurring now. There will never be a single point in time in which people will finally agree "this is the beginning." How can collapse be averted if it is already occurring??? Hence, denial often coincides with the belief that collapse is only a future possibility, not a present reality.

sgage said...

@ Toro Loki,

I think you were misinformed. Everything I have heard about Ebola virus transmission indicates that it is actually not aerosol vectored, and indeed is really not all that easily transmitted. You really need to come into contact with bodily fluids of an infected person to contract the disease. If it WAS tranmitted via aerosol vectoring, it WOULD be a global pandemic already.

Roger said...

JMG, you talk about the recent troubles in Ferguson.

I've been doing some reading (a dangerous thing) but I've read that what to do with young men has been a problem since the end of the last ice age, the consequent demise of large grasslands and the disappearance of the large herds of animals that fed on those grasslands. Why? Because hunting those large animals kept the young men of the clan and tribe occupied with something useful.

The solution? For a long while it was to get the young fellas a patch of land, a wife and some farm animals to keep their time and attention on something else useful, that is, farming and procreation. I know, that sounds patriarchal and oppressive and politically incorrect. But this is one view of events and maybe one with some validity. So don't shoot the messenger.

What has this got to do with anything? Hate to over-generalize, but it seems that there's a common thread here between the troubles of the Middle East and current troubles in America, that being large contingents of young men that are under-employed or unemployed and therefore unsuitable for marriage. Frustrated on multiple levels, nothing to do, nothing to lose and nothing to look forward to. And lots of time and energy for mayhem.

I know it's fashionable to scoff at history as bunk and boring and irrelevant. But I don't think it's overstretching facts to say that we've seen this recently and to say that it's been calamitous: German National Socialists that gave hungry and un-occupied young German men a uniform, a cause and something to do. And what did they do? They over-ran Europe and killed tens of millions.

It seems that various elites that have the most say in running things disregard longer term consequences and studiously disregard historical lessons especially when they conflict with shorter term interests. Violence and mayhem isn't an unavoidable outcome but hoping for the best isn't a viable strategy.

Neither is top-down funnelling of money ie income re-distribution social programs. It's an easy stop-gap but that's all it is because a young guy's self image and self esteem (yecch I hate that term but there I said it) comes from being useful with a wife and kids that look up to him as provider and protector. Take that role away from a large number of young men and you will have trouble. And, you know, I don't really care how retrograde that sounds.

Ed-M said...

Hi, JMG!

Well one reason why they forgot that one little incident called the fall of Rome, is that in recent decades historians were increasingly taking the view is not that Rome fell, but was subjected to a hostile takeover by the Ostrogoths under Odoacer. Anyway the West started to make a partial recovery under the Goths, and there was a sphere of Goth culture one might call Gothland, until the 6th or turn of the 7th Century, when Justinian expanded the EAST Roman Empire. Whole provinces, mind you, were depopulated due to Justinian's wars.

And there were a whole series of incidents during the 4th Century where the old Greco-Roman culture was rubbed out under the direction of the Christian (or Pseudo-Christian) emperors, beginning with Constantine and ending with Theodosius I; both of them were called "Great".

exiledbear said...

US government has got to know that somebody -- and quite probably several somebodies -- will return the favor sooner or later

Although at this point, I think it's just sheer subconscious paranoia on the part of the Feds.

I think that as strong as the BRICS are becoming, they do not yet feel strong enough to sustain some sort of covert operation like that. I wouldn't put it past them to give Murica a kick when she's down though. Several kicks in fact. But I think that all comes later. Most of them are old cultures that have been around the block several times, they're not rash people. Cold, calculating, experienced. But not rash.

The Feds see enemies everywhere these days. And you always find what you are looking for.

It's their world, and I wish I lived in some world that isn't theirs.

queeniemusic said...

This video literally states "This time, it's different!" at approximately 1:05.

Uh, no.

This sort of thing makes me worry the States are in for a bank holiday soon.

Adrian Ayres Fisher said...

Hi JMG and Cherokee Organics,

Thanks for the advice re solar. I went to the sign-up meeting last night and we are going to have the assessment done. And intend to go through with it.

I'm very comfortable with the idea of it being an offering. So much of what one does is in that spirit.

And JMG, it's great that Pielou is a she! It's nice to see my gender so well represented. That's what I get for not reading the bio.

Related: I think I recommended Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer some weeks ago and am recommending it again: the book combines biology with Potawatomi knowledge. She discusses the prophecy of the seventh fire, which in some respects speaks to the project that many in this posting community are about.

Joe Roberts said...

Per my earlier comment that linked to the hysterical (in both senses of the word) article on 2002 gas prices, I just want to acknowledge that I realize $1.59 in 2002 dollars is not the same as $1.59 today. In fact, it's the equivalent of... $2.11. This gives me a chance to plug the CPI inflation calculator, which is helpful (for those in the USA at least) for determining price equivalents across the years. Yes, it's a government website linked to official rates of inflation, but it's a good place to start for easy calculations.

Anselmo, without getting too far off track from JMG's post, I want to say I agree with your comment that American is an inexact term to describe those from the USA alone, but, for whatever historical linguistic reasons, it's the word we use in English. (There are, I'm sure you've noticed, lots of words in any language that don't stand up to rational scrutiny.) German does a good job compensating with its US-amerikanisch, but "US-American" and "USian" just sound coy and forced to native English-speaking ears. (Incidentally, in my experience, British people tend to use America to refer to the U.S. more often than we Americans do; we generally use America only in certain contexts — not sure why this is.)

jeffinwa said...

JMG, thanks for jumping back into the present this week, helps to keep it all real.

I've read reports that much of the violence and looting in Ferguson is imported, instigated by folks from elsewhere, some from West coast. Who benefits? Seems to me mostly the police state promoters.

JMG, please comment if you've any thoughts on this. Ebola can be cured/controlled with colloidal silver? I think that ionic and colloidal silver solutions do have some action against viruses and bacterias but data not skewed by agendas is not easy to find.

The fracking frackers are willing to frack the entire ecosystem just for a few more hours of their evil existence. They indeed are from Mordor.

Just read today that those bad bad Russians have delivered three more space launch rockets to the good ol USA; we can't get satellites up without their help nor visit the space station!

Cognitive dissonance is a way of life today; or is this just an example of holding two competing ideas at once.

RPC said...

The talk of Chesterton here lately inspired me to open "Heretics" again; I randomly stumbled onto the following nugget:
"It may be said with rough accuracy that there are three stages in the life of a strong people. First, it is a small power, and fights small powers. Then it is a great power, and fights great powers. Then it is a great power, and fights small powers, but pretends that they are great powers, in order
to rekindle the ashes of its ancient emotion and vanity.
After that, the next step is to become a small power itself."

Hmm, do we know of any nations that might be considered to be at step three?

Varun Bhaskar said...


I agree with you, the weather is only one contributing factor. I except it will be something like the 60s, long hot summers filled with tensions and political movement. Our slums are bigger now and wrapped around almost every city so it could happen almost anywhere. My facebook feed is awash in chatter from people trying to figure out what's going on. It gives me hope.

I also agree with exiledbear. There are only three countries (excluding the European powers) that can covertly incite rebellion on the home front. Russia, China, and India. India won't just because they prefer to trade, the Chinese are playing a longer slower game so they won't for another few years (with luck a decade), and the Russians don't want to cross that line, yet. They will but they haven't. It's a slow build-up for them too. I have my own trip-wires that I'm checking from time-to-time. I'll let you all know if any of them kick, for now I can safely say we should make it past this summer. Once again, I'll throw in an I hope. One can never be absolutely sure with these things.

You know, if you're pinged by 250k people then I don't have any doubt that someone in Washington is probably using your analytical model. It's too accurate not to use.



Rita said...

_Slate_ online magazine had an article about increased poverty in the suburbs. I live in a sort of odd area--pockets of development, some of it very high end, mixed with small rural properties, some of them old and shabby. Lots of "horse property" which around here means 1-3 acres, usually expensive. We also have a couple of small, older trailer parks. I notice an increased number of people who travel by bike, gathering aluminum cans, using repurposed baby trailers to haul their belongings. We also have a food bank. Ten years ago I would have laughed at the idea of a food bank in this community. On the north side of Sacramento is Rio Linda, known to "Ditto Heads" as home of the dumb. My son informed me that he had met 2nd generation homeless there--living along the creeks and undeveloped land, in empty barns, etc. All of this in sight of the state capital.
BTW "Ditto Heads" are devoted fans of Rush Limbaugh, who got his start on the local talk radio station back in the early 80s.

exiledbear said...

@roger: I somewhat disagree, in a cynical way.

If you give most young men three hots and a cot, weed, porn and an xbox, I think most of them would be happy to just sit around and not do much at all, at least as far as the outside world is concerned. I don't think having a wife and kids is as important to most young men as you think.

Ask some of those millenials who don't have a job sometime.

Will that actually happen as a matter of public policy? Probably not, because the thought of that offends most of the people in charge. Ironically, it would be cheaper to do something like that than to fund several standing armies to put down peasant rebellions, but that's the way they do things in this realm.

You can pursue happiness, you just can't have it.

AlanfromBigEasy said...

JMG wrote:

"White’s Law, one of the core concepts of human ecology, points out that economic development is directly correlated with energy per capita; as depletion overtakes production and energy per capita begins to decline, the inevitable result is a long era of economic contraction, in which a galaxy of economic and cultural institutions predicated on continued growth will stop working, and those whose wealth and influence depend on those institutions will be left with few choices short of jumping out a Wall Street window."

This is one of the core area's where I disagree with the ArchDruid.

White's Law states that, other factors remaining constant, "culture evolves as the amount of energy harnessed per capita per year is increased, or as the efficiency of the instrumental means of putting the energy to work is increased".

There are several examples (Denmark, France, Panama plus others) where positive cultural evolution is increasing both efficient use of energy and sustainable energy use. Particularly in the most vulnerable energy source, oil.

And, in Denmark and France, cultural and economic toleration of "stagnant" economies.

There are two alternatives to growth. One is collapse. The other is more or less stable consumption patterns from sustainable sources with long term moderately declining populations.

Cultures more evolved than the USA & related Anglo-American cultures may be able to, quite deliberately and logically, chose the second option.

PS: My SWAG is Panama will drop oil consumption fem 100,000 b/day in 2013 to 55,000 in 2020 and towards 35,000 b/day by 2030 or so. They may be able to raise that much bio-diesel from palm oil plantations.

The Panama Canal expansion is based upon more efficient use of oil. For a given hull shape and speed, energy use increases with the square of the length of a ship while the cargo increases with the cube.

Larger ships, going slower, burn less oil to transport cargo. (Add auxiliary sails, better yet).

Even if international trade drops significantly. I expect to see most cargo go through Panama in the largest possible hulls though the new locks in the future. Just fewer ships.

France plans (from memory) to reduce overall energy use (all types) by 2040 while improving their quality of life. Little of that energy will be fossil fuels.

Denmark plans to be fossil-fuel feee by 2050.

Now this leaves open the question, "What happens when some economics start to collapse while others do not ?"

Ed-M said...

Hi, Chris, and thank you!

I'm also thankful for the opportunity to visit your blog -- you have a very lovely hillside farm. ;) Far too many farms here in the US have either been consolidated into corporate ag-industrial estates, abandoned entirely, or allowed to fall into such disrepair that they look as if they belong in an Indian Reservation (our equivalent to your Aboriginal Reserves, if you have any).

Till next time,


sgage said...

@ exiledbear,

"I don't think having a wife and kids is as important to most young men as you think."

It's not that it's so important to young men - the point is that it's important to the society they're embedded in.

John Michael Greer said...

Toro, the nurse was misinformed; Ebola is transmitted by skin or mucus membrane contact with body fluids from a sick person. That's why it's especially dangerous in health care settings, and in places where poverty and overcrowding are common.

Dennis, I wish you the best in fighting that. It may well be an uphill slog, with China's rising power and thirst for fossil fuel.

Stream, "word salad" may well be the right phrasing, and that tells me I need to reread Gregory Bateson's work on schizophrenia -- he spent a lot of time making sense of the garbled statements of schizophrenics, and I suspect the same analysis might be applied with good effect to the babbling incoherence of our time.

Stunned, thank you!

Ursachi, I've noticed that too, and found it disquieting. When people who make a fetish of their American patriotism suddenly start slobbering over the boots of a foreign despot, you've got to wonder what's going on.

Radu, that seems like a reasonable assessment. I hope you and the people you care about are getting ready for the consequences.

Kutamun, I'm impressed -- not that many people are familiar with Young's esoteric studies. Still, it's utterly typical of our gizmocentric society that it should have fixated on a brittle, vulnerable, but showy technology for crowd control -- and lost track of the fact that once the shooting starts, copters are easy to down. Yes, a fly lord, definitely.

Jim, that's plausible enough. I wonder what kind of fumes are generated by fracking fluid...

David, thank you -- and you write English better than I write French, so don't worry about it!

Cherokee, I'd have to look into the cost of electricity in farm country; I don't happen to know it. Certainly, though, there are a lot of pumps churning away on US farms.

Mister R., it does seem that way.

Mark said...

+JMG, you said, Chris, exactly. The way that civilizations drift into delusion, confusing their models of reality with reality, is something I'm studying closely at this point.

I would recommend "The Greeks" by HDF Kitto, just finished re-reading. Interesting bit about Socrates, and Aschylus. Kitto's style is lively, despite an academic life. Although this book is more the drift from democracy, to .... empire. He helps with the meaning of words as used at that time, with the way we use them ,,, democracy for example,

The Best and the Brightest by David Halberstam also comes to mind.

Also, Fire in the Lake, by Francis Fitzgerald, and her Cities on a Hill.

For the opposite trend,from delusion to sanity, A Cultural History of Tibet. David Snellgrove & Hugh Richardson, 1968, 1995 What gripped me was the process of de-militarization and taking up monasticism in a arid environment. This book helped get me through the Reagon/Thacher years. After that I needed more books.

John Michael Greer said...

Raven, it's a standard phenomenon in human history. Remember that the Republicans started out as a radical left-wing party...

Don, some people do call it the fall equinox! Still, I prefer fall as a label for what happens to civilizations as they near the terminus of their decline.

Marcello, don't assume the game in Ukraine is over yet.

Mr. Geronimo, good question. I doubt it, since nuclear power makes no economic sense -- no nation on Earth has ever been able to maintain a nuclear power industry without huge and continuing government subsidies -- so my guess is that it'll be filed away as a laboratory curiosity.

Yuri, thanks for this! I do have a LinkedIn account, so read it. I'm not at all surprised that Gates is quoting Lomborg: wealth and privilege have a very famous ability to blind their possessors to basic common sense.

Anselmo, thanks for the link. As for the word "American," our language has no other adjective for a person who lives in the United States. I work with the language I've got.

Eric, make some time to read Forbes online, especially Michael Lynch's essays attempting to disprove peak oil. It's colorful, in much the sense that a really moldy pork chop is colorful.

Thrig, you do what you can. To borrow a phrase I've been thinking about quite a bit of late, we're in the interval between a death and a difficult birth.

Grebulocities, I've suspected more than once that when the Soviet Union's propagandists -- the ones who used to come up with such laughable stories for Pravda and TASS -- got laid off when the Soviet Union fell, they all got new jobs in the US news industry. It would explain a few things!

Tim, thanks for the recommendations. I'll give Bezemer as well as Fisher a look as time permits.

Beneath, good. That's one of the reasons I've been trying to point out here that the decline and fall of industrial society is already under way. If I can get that meme into circulation, getting more people past denial will be a lot easier.

John Michael Greer said...

Roger, I think it's more complex than that, but finding a constructive outlet for the rambunctious energy of young men is something that every society has to manage. I've suggested that that's what makes building big stone pyramids and the like such a useful habit for ancient societies -- the pyramids of Egypt weren't built by slaves, but by work teams of men who had nothing to do during the annual flooding of the Nile; there's even graffiti on building stones from this or that work team. On the other hand, yes, you can also harness that same energy to staff a private army of Brownshirts.

Ed-M, Bryan Ward-Perkins gutted that point of view in The Fall of Rome and the End of Civilization, but I'm not surprised that it's still around. Thing is, if we had written records from straight through the Mycenean collapse, you could probably make an equivalent argument -- no, it wasn't a collapse, the Mycenean world was just taken over by the Dorians, and so on. It's only the lack of records that makes the difference seem so huge.

Bear, I have my doubts about that. The first stage of the operation, the one we're in now, wouldn't be to overthrow the US government -- it would be to stir up trouble, spread disaffection, push a loss of legitimacy, and trigger the occasional local crisis so that the strategy and tactics of US and local government forces could be sussed out in advance. Gradually, as the project matures, larger crises could be arranged, or ones that spring up manipulated, always probing for vulnerabilities -- especially at times when the US is already committed to overseas crises. When the final push comes might not be decided until the last minute. Check out Sun Tsu, if you're not familiar with him, and the strategy is pretty clear.

Queenie, wait until they start insisting that the fundamentals are sound. When that phrase escapes the lips of a bubble-blowing flack, doom follows promptly and inevitably.

Adrian, I'm delighted to hear it!

Joe, thanks for the link -- yes, that's a useful tool.

Jeffinwa, I'm not a doctor and don't even play one on TV. You need to ask a qualified professional about that, not me.

RPC, bright gods. That's impressive -- and, yes, apt.

Varun, I'm far from sure that only three countries can play that game, but you're almost certainly right that it won't go all the way to insurgency or color revolution this summer.

Rita, fascinating. Thanks for the data point.

Alan, have you noticed that you trot out those two examples like incantations, despite sharp critiques from people who actually live in those countries, every single time I point out that the industrial world is in trouble? I have, and so have a good many of my readers.

Mark, thanks for the recommendations!

Redneck Girl said...

I reached adulthood in 1970graduating high school in that year. The fact of peak oil had been impressed on me during my time in high school. I had evidence of the fact that renewable resources were being abused in front of me being raised in a lumber camp in a rural, mountainous county. A slice of log about eight feet in diameter being on display in front of the local forestry station was considered noteworthy because the 'old growth' that was left then was only four feet in diameter. What little they haul out now is closer to half that.

The problem in the 70's was that peak oil was such an uncomfortable subject that American society had an infantile reaction to the thought of making do with less. 'We,' being so full of ourselves, just couldn't wrap our minds around being mature in regard to our environment. Eisenhower was right, we didn't pay attention to our Military/Industrial complex and our current situation is the result. Could we 'cop a plea' and reference the decision of the industrial leaders of the post war era to extend their profit opportunity by actively converting the country to a consumerist society? I don't think that lets us off the hook and its a moot point now.

I'm late to the party but I'll soon be in a position to buy some acreage where I can park me and my critters and can settle down to being a well preserved country girl growing most of my own food. It'll be better than sitting in this forty year old apartment building when the fresh fertilizer hits the auto impeller. (That would be when the Juan de Fuca plate dances!) Better late then never!


patriciaormsby said...

I just saw an interesting "sign" here in Japan, and am not sure what to make of it, but what the heck, I'll share it.
The Japanese mass media generally tow the American media line. (Politicians cannot stray very far either, or they wind up suicided. It's all pretty obvious.)

I keep an eye on events in Ukraine, having friends there and in Russia. Just a week ago, TV commentators in Japan were laughing at Vladimir Putin's popularity among Russians, and suggesting all kinds of bizarre psychological explanations for it. But then, and I recall it was exactly one week ago, they let it be known that Ukraine had used white phosphorus against rebel-held areas. It was a short piece, and anyone not paying close enough attention would have thought, oh well, there goes Russia again.
But today, prime time, Saturday afternoon, they presented Russia's side of the Ukrainian stand off, making a clear point of refuting everything presented up until now (by embarrassing a panelist with it, no less) about Russia being an aggressor.

Something shifted behind the scenes there. I don't know whether it is significant or not. I'm really happy to see this sudden honesty. I was expecting to have to wait three months, and then watch one a.m. documentaries.

Ursachi Alexandru said...

Radu, JMG

Romania only imports about 21% of the natural gas it uses:

The rest of it is Romania's own (remaining) reserves. There is even a new pipeline to be opened soon which will transfer some much needed non-Russian gas to Moldova:

That doesn't mean that we won't be affected if Moscow cuts off the gas flow, but it seems that we're arguably in a better position compared to most other EU countries when it comes to energy dependence on foreign sources.

Phil Harris said...

You wrote in comment just now:"['Overthrow'] would be to stir up trouble, spread disaffection, push a loss of legitimacy, and trigger the occasional local crisis so that the strategy and tactics of [...] and local government forces could be sussed out in advance. Gradually, as the project matures, larger crises could be arranged, or ones that spring up manipulated, always probing for vulnerabilities ... When the final push comes might not be decided until the last minute."

Somebody else seems to have read Sun Tsu. Ukraine started with some inherent (dis)advantages of course including a choice between two internal leaderships both with a network of wholly amoral and venal owners of leftover assets taken from an old Empire (including military kit and expertise).

Is this me getting a touch too "morphological" in my comparisons?


Cherokee Organics said...


Apologies, but I'm only half way through the extensive comments this week here. I salute you for keeping up with them all. However, I would like to point out something that seems quite obvious to me, perhaps because I'm from a similar but slightly different culture. I have read that Australian culture is somewhere between the US and the UK.

US culture pursues a policy of escalation. It doesn't have to be that way though. An alternative policy - just for one example - is engagement. Just sayin.

The dirty little secret is that an escalation culture is only possible when you have more energy to expend on an issue than your opponent. It would be useful for people to remember that much of the hardware being sent out into the field is heavily reliant on cheap energy. That is not a decision that I would have made.



Cherokee Organics said...

Hi everyone,

Just in case I wasn't 100% clear:

Growth is simply just another form of escalation.

Just sayin.


Tony f. whelKs said...

@Anselmo - it's one of the unfortunate limitations of the English language that the USA is often referred to simply as 'America', but I'm pretty sure it's not a deliberate slight on the other nations of the continent. You may be surprised how often people in the US often refer to 'England' when they mean Britain, or the UK, too.

But you made me review my usual usage, and I think I generally refer to 'the USA' for the country, although I do probably use 'American' for the adjective. When I'm being careful I try to remember to use 'US citizens' rather than 'Americans', though, for exactly the reason you mention - I do accept everyone from Ushuaia to Nanuvut as being 'Americans'. Occasionally, I use 'Turtle Island', generally to be provocative ;-)

To put the boot on the other foot, whilst I was in Latin America, I was amazed at how interested everyone was in European affairs - everyone was talking about the EU.... it was only when I came across my first instance of 'EEUU' that I awarded myself the Grand Order of the Facepalm.

Don Plummer said...

For what it's worth, and a bit off-topic, the use of "fall" for the season is an older usage, still current in North America but somewhat archaic in most other English-speaking lands. Some are surprised to learn that American English has evolved more slowly than British English. This, however, is typical of what happens to the language of a people who become separated from the language's core speakers--the language of the separated group becomes more conservative in its evolution. Icelandic is the premier example of this phenomenon, virtually unchanged even today from the language of the Vikings of a millennium ago.

Another example of the more conservative nature of American English is the persistence of word "gotten" as a past participle of "to get." And American pronunciations tend to be closer to those of the 17th century Jacobean era than are current British pronunciations, the British language having since that time gone through a second round of vowel shifting that the American language didn't participate in. (Note, for example, the different British and American pronunciations of words like "half." The first vowel shift, called the Great Vowel Shift, occurred in the 15th century, separating Middle English from Early Modern English.)

@Adrian--I just reserved a copy of Braiding Sweetgrass from our library.

I also dusted off my copy of Odum. I started reading it several years ago but never finished. I might have to begin it again. And I have Star's Reach in the wings; I didn't finish it when it was online, unfortunately.

Marcello said...

"Marcello, don't assume the game in Ukraine is over yet."

It does not matter how the game ends, Russia has already lost. The USA has managed to drive a wedge between Europe and Russia with a number of political, military and economic consequences favorable to Washington and unfavorable to Moscow.
Even if the separatists hold the line Ukraine will be an anti-russian state that the EU, not the USA will be forced to pay for. Devastated eastern Ukraine meanwhile will saddle russian purse.
The USA might get some flak for being a lousy ally but the gains-losses are much more favorable than those for Russia, which at best will only reduce the extent of its geopolitical losses.

"Tea Party Republicans have started to make worried speeches about just how closely this resembles the behavior of a police state"

While I cannot claim direct knowledge I have spent enough time on boards populated by american right wingers to get a glimpse at their opinions.
While they may fetishize small government, the constitution etc etc. they will still support the status quo if the alternative is ghetto mobs on the loose.
The USA is too balkanized for a 99% vs 1% fight.

Ray Wharton said...


Concerning young men, from the perspective of a millennial with out a job.

I am currently enjoy my last couple of years in this category and must confess to being a bit peeved by your cynicism, even though I will at the same time grant it a sharply limited degree of truth.

Right now I would love to have 3 hots and a cot, but am at peace with 2 colds and a sleeping bag. I don't do near as much to be an apprentice Green Wizard as I would like, but I maintain a couple large gardens, am learning to fix bikes, and and making gradual inroads learning to converse constructively with people about their experiences of decline. The trick is to draw out their own native terminology and narratives and to work with in them, rather than forcing another terminology and narrative into the conversation (even if we have access to such useful stories by way of Greer and the rest of this online discussion.) Mostly I wish I had some more stability in life so that my more ambitious Green Wizard projects could find a safe home (too many already have been lost to moves and abandoned by instability)

As for weed, porn, and video games I have in the past tried all three vices to deal with boredom and lack of direction, they are each of them effective in keeping ones energy dispersed (and therefore society safe) for a brief time; but they do not make for happiness. Video Games come closest because their is such a good simulation of achievement in those games and it can seem so real for so long. Over time the dose to maintain the numbing effects increases, fortunately for society but that time the 'young male' in question isn't very dangerous or capable by then.

Mr. Bear, I understand that my generation is not well, and even in my poverty and limited function I still find myself looking down on my peers for their addictions to the techniques you describe. But please, do not say such things! Every day as I try to live a tiny bit more sustainability I am mocked by Baby Consumers about how I am fated to do as they did and "not sell out, but buy in.". Should I get a job? Most jobs I can buy into are in the business of hurting my legacy. I earn some money gardening, enough to survive, and in my free time I study, so the life of the mind at least can continue to grow.

Roger is simplifying things too far I agree, but such is conversation. For example a wife and kids are low on my priorities because I cannot expect to give children a good life, and I am waiting patiently for a woman who is powerful and inspirational, I meet such women from time to time, but still they are rare. And Roger is right on one thing, if the young (those younger than I especially) are not given a constructive source of inspiration, they will become increasingly receptive to destructive sources of inspiration and will keep listening to music about fighting the society, and start enacting it too.

I petition the more aged ones who read this, do not treat young men like animals, because you do not want the result of that behavior. Animal drives are not just pleasure seeking, they also seek power, and achievement.

Treat them like men, and give them the power to do good things for love. This is the best thing in life. If you are not empowering pro-social behavior you are letting the seeds of anti-social or non-social behaviors germinate with out competition.

Ed-M said...

JMG, I'll have to take a look at Mr Ward-Perkins' work then! And the thing is, I'm not all that keen on the revisionist historians' Rome-didn't-collapse theory either. If one looks at a map of the Volkerwandersrung, it's little wonder the French and the Brits call it the Barbarian Invasions! Plus, there's the niggling little issue of lost arts, lost technologies, lost sciences and so forth that they seem to overlook.

And if it weren't for the Christians needing to read their books and make commentaries on them, Western Europe would've lost writing, too. Which means the ADR today would be in another language altogether, like Arabic, Hebrew, Russian or even Chinese!

Ed-M said...

One more thing, JMG -- As to the partial recovery in the West under the Goths? That would be the Goths starting to put their own civilization together from leftover elements of Roman culture and their own Barbarian culture. Unfortunately Justinian put paid to that, making the dark ages that much darker.

So just how civilized WAS Byzantium in the 6th Century???

Robert said...

As to why so many fervent American Patriots and conservatives have a man crush on Vladimir Putin it suggests to me that they love their country but are seriously alienated from its government. They would like America to have a "strong Leader" like Putin who would do to Wall Street oligarchs what Putin did to Khodorkovsky, oppose gay rights and stand up for "family values" Putin's brutal effectiveness in crushing the jihadi insurgency in Chechnya without "pussy footing around" and letting human rights get in the way probably appeals too.

It's not just an American problem but a European one as well. There is deep concern among some liberal journalists in Britain that Russian propaganda is effectively creating a "conservative and reactionary international" across large parts of Europe by appealing to our cultural conservatives. Many Europeans are alienated from the EU the way Americans are from Washington. Whatever Washington's faults it's infinitely more democratic than the Brussels insitutions. There's a feeling that a corrupt elite of bankers corporatists and corrupt politicians are destroying democracy and livelihoods across Europe because of the disastrous way the Euro was set up and the Eurozone crisis handled. Add to that the culture war in parts of Eastern Europe against Western values such as gay rights and you have a combustible mix.

When the French president Hollande, who is hugely unpopular in France, introduced gay marriage there was a massive demonstration against it uniting Muslims and the National Front. RT filmed it and when the demonstrators spotted the RT reporters they started chanting La Russie avec nous! La Russie avec nous! Russia with us! Russia with us!

Russia is scoring points in the battle for Urkaine as well. It has retaliated against the EU sanctions by sanctioning EU food exports to Russia which is seriously hurting European farmers. The US-EU intervention in Ukraine is hurting Europe a lot more than it's hurting the US. The Polish government may aspire to help "liberate" Ukraine from the Russian bear but Polish farmers now can't sell their apples. Which is more important if you're a Polish farmer - the geopolitical ambitions of your politicians or whether you can pay the bills?

Putin and his merry band may not be nice people but they're quite capable of punishing Western hubris.

wolfvanzandt said...

"Now this leaves open the question, "What happens when some economics start to collapse while others do not ?""

I think that highly connected communities that are independent and mentally prepared for whatever might happen have the best chances of survival.

Before retirement, I worked for a facility whose only referral source was the State. Although the Facility was doing everything pretty much right, they had dependencies with the State and the State was doing a lot of things very wrongly, so my job was dying out from under me, I was well into an area of diminishing returns, and I took an early retirement.

If these countries who are doing things right have any dependencies to other states, when the other states collapse, they'll be dragged down with them. If the citizens of the states that are in good shape don't care any more about their communities than Americans care about their neighbors, then they'll quickly succumb to internal corruption. If they're not mentally prepared for the novel pressures of a collapsing world, they won't have the strategies in place to counter the attacks from their environment.

exiledbear said...

@ray: Notice I didn't say whether it would be right or not, just an observation of something effective. Or something more effective at keeping peace and order than what the idiots in charge are doing. Governing 101. It's not pretty. Then again, seldom is this realm.

GenX is known for its cynicism. I foresaw a lot of what is taking place (just from logic, if this, then that kind of prediction) and I never had any kids. I'm glad I didn't. I'm sorry for your generation, know that I wasn't one of those who screwed it up. Maybe I can help fix things later. Maybe. I'm only one man with a limited amount of resources.

The next time you see some old fart running around in a luxury car though, know that you paid for it, in terms of opportunities denied.

Along with staying out of the official economy, which I think is smart, you might want to look at learning a foreign language and leaving this country. Too many entrenched elements here are clinging to the past - the future lies outside these borders, IMHO. If you're young, it's easy to do this - it gets harder the older you get. Old dogs and new tricks.

Bicycle mechanics are in demand everywhere, should be able to move somewhere and ply that trade.

onething said...

When it comes to ebola, we need to be accurate with our terms. Bodily fluids, as I understand, is like AIDS or hep C, difficult to catch and no problem sharing space with an infected person. This is obviously not the case with ebola, which if confined to 'bodily fluids' is more like sweat, saliva, tears, in other words, skin contact. I've also read that the CDC speaks in terms of casual contact, which apparently means being within 3 feet of the person. If that is the case, we're talking droplet (large droplet, which is not the same as airborne).

AlanfromBigEasy said...


Perhaps the delta between rational policies that lead to a better future and irrational policies that lead towards disaster are not so great.

Not so great that those living in them perceive the difference. A revolution in transportation and overall energy use does not feel like a revolution in transportation and energy use on a day to day basis. Just as the current slow motion disaster we are living in can be so easily denied.

Which is heartening because others may be able to make that short leap as well.

After discounting for changes in economic activity (recession) and price elasticity of demand, just redirecting public investment and public policies appears to reduce oil consumption by -3% per year without otherwise disrupting BAU.

Perhaps not quick enough, but one that can speeded up as economies decline and oil prices rise.

OTOH, it is difficult to discount Denmark's per capita carbon emissions reductions of -26.5% in five years.

If the Danes do not notice much change in their lives while doing so (we Danes still take too many vacations by air, and have too much household debt, etc.) so much the better.

And the French may notice a couple of new tram lines in town (but I do not use them, although I could in an emergency), or know of plans for a Metro in their Parisian suburb, and see a few wind turbines, and perhaps even notice more insulation in new buildings & retrofitted old buildings and more organic farms - but this will clearly not be enough to avert disaster in their view.

I do have a third, disparate example, Panama. Strong economic growth (+10%/year) coupled with policies that will show very rapid reductions in both oil use and carbon emissions in the future.

You, of all people, should know that popular perceptions are not the hallmark for reality.

The other paths available under White's Law are not so very different, day to day, from the path most of us are on towards disaster.


wolfvanzandt said...

ExiledBear, which country? Honestly, I don't see any country as safe. Sink now; sink later. I don't really like either option. A country can sink sooner from it's own stupidity, or be dragged down later by the stupidity of it's neighbors.

Shane Wilson said...

I've noticed some posters using the South as a strawman/scapegoat of a bugaboo of what might be awaiting the US in the future, and it bothers me that posters would mindlessly play into that demonization that has allowed Yankee America to preserve its false image of itself as the City on the Hill, and as a beacon of Progress. I'm using the term Yankee to imply both of its pejorative senses, the pejorative that Southerners use towards Northerners, as well as the pejorative that people in other countries use towards Americans and the US. For wasn't the South the Yankees 1st conquest, where it developed its protoimperial model that it then exported around the world? It's a shame that people can't find any better use of the Southern experience than as a scapegoat for the nation's racism, because the South was/is: feudal, non-progressive, agrarian, non-industrial, had a stable class system/structure. In short, it was the only alternative to the Yankee industrial capitalist progressive juggernaut with enough power to launch a war against it and, even after the loss of the Civil War/Reconstruction, maintained a culture that remained decidedly distinct up until the late 20th century. As the US goes in to terminal decline, it's a shame that Yankees can't find any other use for the South except as racial scapegoat, since the South is the only alternative in the US to the progressive, City on the Hill myth, having lost a War, gone through Reconstruction, suffered poverty, and actually struggled to come to terms with its racial past. Really, is the New South of the late 20th century, whereby the South was remade in Yankee/capitalist fashion any better than the Old South it replaced? Is remaking Southern race relations in Yankee fashion, frosted in a layer of hypocrisy and dishonesty, an improvement? I would say that tradtional Southern race relations are Yankee race relations, without the hypocrisy and dishonesty--I've met far too many African-Americans who have told me they prefer the upfront racism of the South to Yankee knife in the back racism, and have said that white people outside the South are no different than white people in the South. At least the South doesn't try to cover up and pretend like it never had slavery, like the Yankee states do (most Yankee states did not abolish slavery until 20-30 years before the Civil War) The story and history of the South has a lot to teach the US about decline and living with the negative consequences of the past.
Regarding Putin and Russia, I see him as very much a mixed bag, I really admire his ability to run circles around the West and the US diplomatically, and I don't automatically associate him with Stalin and the Soviets, and I think to automatically assume that he will do to Europe what the Soviets did if given the chance/opportunity is an error of judgement. Certainly, the gloves MAY come off in the future, but Russia does seem to be undergoing a renaissance of sorts, and present-day Russia does seem to be different than Soviet Russia. I can understand how citizens of the former Warsaw Pact countries feel towards Russia, but I'm still not certain that Putin will recreate the Soviet experience. I'm not naive regarding Putin, but I'm also willing to say he's different than previous Russian leaders, as well.

latefall said...

re Chesterton:
I am almost done with "Rural Rides" by Cobbett, which I startet directly after his "Cottage Economy". If I understand correctly Cobbett is somewhat relevant to Chesterton as well, but mostly links him with low tech rural living for me. Do yourself a favor and get a list of old units of measurement before you sit down with this though...

I've found reading almost exclusively 70+ year old books is a little like getting rid of TV.

I admittedly stalled on Spengler after reading a number of very "Prussian" quotes of his. Not very endearing - but I should not let that get in the way.
Notable exceptions of the 70 year rule include ecology books and a vain of red cross/crescent reports I recently dug up. Very pertinent to the insurgency discussion as well. Lots of good stuff there, just do a search for .pdf

re cycling:
Had my little one on the backseat for a ride out of town, the first time. Used up a lot of adrenaline... not good.
I wonder if it would help to use a strong "tire-perfume" that lingers and let's car drivers know that they got company.

re market oracle:
I am not quite through the comments yet but after skimming over the piece and looking at some of the titles and frequency of his other stuff I was inclined to think this was a case of moderately "friendly fire". Though admittedly the whole presentation did not really tempt me to dig too deep...

Ray Wharton said...


I don't think leaving the country is for me, I think disorder is everywhere, and at least here I know the score with my street smarts, in other countries I would be a perpetual sore thumb. Though I do need to learn much more Espanol.

Recently I have turned toward asceticism, part intentional, part pragmatic. I am pretty stubborn about staying out of the official economy, I think it will help me gain applicable experience more than job skills would.

The tricky thing is that I have people who are eager to offer me help, but mostly just a hand to get back on the boat named Titanic. So I float around and try to do little helpful things and pick of skills.

I reacted to your post because I feel like being a stoned gamer is exactly what is expected of my generation, and bonus points for holding down a part time job. The Baby Boomers are almost panicked by the though that a young person might not want to give up on ideals. I feel like any sense of morality or responsibly in my generation is treated like cloud headed idealism. It is said that cynicism is idealism after being hit with the reality stick a few times. I hope to show that cynicism can transition into stoicism over time.

Between my posting and your reply I went (in a nice car) with some retired folks to volunteer at a farm. Of course they just looked around, but I learned alot. I have compassion for the oldest, the silent generation. They often know, but they can do nothing but wait around to die. So I listen to them, maybe learn a little from people who remember a more real time. One man, a very wise old gent, passed out and had to be hospitalized. Strange times.

You comment about old people in nice cars has a substantial degree of truth, but it encourages a feeling about the world that I think will need little, indeed far far less, encouragement in the years to come.

David Petraitis said...


THe Monrovia Ebola facility was attacked on Saturday August 16th. The Ebola virus has (about) a 21 day incubation. Expect dire news from Monrovia around Saturday September 6. There will be a large uptick in cases. There will be a complete closure of the borders of Liberia. Just my own forward thinking...

Anselmo said...

All cases referred in this post: Riots caused by Ebola, unrest in Missouri, the various speculative bubbles. All them have a common factor, are manifestations of crowds psychology.

A sociologist called Gustave Le Bon in a book he wrote in 1878 remarked that masses behave as if they where young children . And this is a phenomenon which has shaped History and it is present in our daily life, manifesting itself in many ways as diverse as are the great desires of humankind . Example: the Crusades, the Witches´ Hunt, and the different economic bubbles.

The oldest case of collective self-deception that I know is the fall of the city of Troy. In the Iliad it is said that the Princess Cassandra was prophesying during years the destruction of the city, and no one gave she the slightest attention. And in the famous episode of the Trojan horse we see that the inhabitants of the city were so eager to the end of the war that they did not think about the possibility of the famous wooden horse was not an innocent gift.

I think the bubble fracking burst, will not reduce the faith in the progress. Because is too hard to think that the actual way to do Business As Usual, is finished

There are historical records that show us that the ancient roman town of Treveris in the century IV a.c, when his inhabitants were celebrating a festival , this town was sacked by a party of barbarians, and that after that the barbarians left the town,citizens of Treveris asked for money to the Roman Emperor for to continue with the festival.

A history similar can be tell about the citizens of Carthago.

Treveris and Carthago are good examples about that people loves to do business as usual, what in the case of the romans was "Panen et Circenses".

latefall said...

Excuse me but are you serious:
"The USA is too balkanized for a 99% vs 1% fight."

Can you get "too balkanized" for a fight - especially if the ruling majority is less than 1% (including their preatorian guard) in manpower?

"It does not matter how the game ends, Russia has already lost."
When you get into a conflict that does not allow significant plunder or privilege in consequence - you lost. I hope that will become increasingly clear that the ratio of people who gain to people who lose (independent of victory) severely reduces armed conflict above the level of robbing your next door neighbor and kicking people/countries when they are down.

What I assume will take its place is tripping people when they move rashly. And secretly pricking them when they don't.
I can easily imagine after MH17 fell out of the sky some bright young secret service cadet in China sharply drew in his breath and thought of the opportunities, but also the future potential in planting some evidence.
And as for ally - a lot of contracts will not be serviced once people see the dominoes fall in the other direction.

A bunch of countries I could easily imagine causing unattributable havoc (possibly through through means outside their compromised current agencies):
Several countries from South America, my bet would be those not involved in drug trade have more motivation, the others have better means but are not as reliable.
Large and mid sized European countries including Austria, Switzerland, and certainly France and Germany (Brooklyn bridge anyone?) could and possibly would act (one or two elections from now) - if Putin does give credible evidence for a reassessment.
Isreal certainly could but I see that as unlikely. Once Isreal is neutralized one way or another, I see opportunity from nearly anywhere in the Near East or Africa, especially with undisclosed Chinese funding. You know how many Chinese are in US universities, but there's a whole lot of Africans at Chinese universities too.
India I would say is unlikely - given how the dominoes seem to stand at the moment - though far from impossible. Pakistan on the other hand...

I would expect probing pricks at relatively generic security protocols more than at the infrastructure most of the time. Then one proxied low key dry run with local cascading effects in energy, mobility, and health care but low mortality.
And then the wait for the storm, possibly quite literally. Maybe a combination of low fuel reserves, one natural, and one not so natural disaster.
I could imagine no one could/cared to attribute the broken dams, low quality fuel additive, faulty power plant/power line maintenance, spike of forgotten suitcases, fake bomb threats, broken bridges, toxic waste spillage, forest fires, thermite residue, software glitches to anyone in particular. That may not be true for long lost surface to air missiles targeting the relief effort. Those would have been fired by some "crazy preppers"... - targeting domestic as well as Chinese relief efforts.

nuku said...

@ Ray and Bear: Re not having kids and leaving the U.S.A.: I too made the decision early on not to have kids. Partly being mindful of too many humans on a finite planet, and partly because I never had a deep desire to be a parent and make the necessary sacrifices in my own life. Why have kids if you don't deeply feel the need and are aren't prepared to take on a life-long responsibility?
I bailed out of the U.S.A. and settled in New Zealand 14 years ago in my 50's when it became obvious to me that the U.S.A. was in moral decline. What clinched it for me was the erosion of the separation of church and state. What US politician even on the local level would have a chance of election if they "came out" as atheist or even agnostic?
14 years ago immigration to N.Z. and OZ was do-able if you had university qualifications or a solid track record in a useful trade, having some money helped too. These days its even more difficult and quite costly just to apply.
As things get tougher in the world, the barriers to immigration are going up.

magicalthyme said...

Exiled bear, in an extremely rural village with little outside contact, ebola kills too quickly to spread beyond the village.

In the current situation, ebola has penetrated densely populated areas and is out of control. The incubation period of up to 3 weeks allows time to travel out of the affected regions.

The entire population of West Point -- some 20,000 people -- has been quarantined.

As a result of the single American patient who traveled while infected to Nigeria: multiple doctors and nurses are infected/have died, the 1st secondary infections are reported (2 spouses of infected medical workers), one infected nurse panicked and bolted the volunatary quarantine before showing symptoms, and a couple hundred people are under surveillance.

In the meantime, WHO has finally admitted that their numbers are vastly understated. There is a large shadow population of infected who have been hidden by their families in order to avoid quarantine.

Around the world, there have been numerous instances of people being quarantined after arriving from infected regions and then later showing symptoms. Just last week, Germany quarantined some 600 people who were exposed to a traveler from an infected region who turned up with symptoms.

John Michael Greer said...

Wadulisi, thank you. It's good to hear from someone else who was there, remembers, and is willing to talk honestly about what happened.

Patricia, that's fascinating -- thank you for the data point! Japan being Japan, I can't imagine that a shift that significant will have happened by accident, or without a change in the consensus of the people who matter.

Ursachi, that's also worth knowing -- thank you. I hope that people in Romania are starting to grapple with the challenges of living in a post-American world.

Phil, no, that's another good bit of morphological thinking. I'll let you draw the obvious conclusions.

Cherokee, I've just done page proofs for Twilight's Last Gleaming, the novel that came out of 2012's "How It Could Happen" posts. Here's a conversation between General Liu Shenyen and Fang Liyao, a professor of strategic studies at China's Academy of Military Science; they've just been talking about the US war with Japan:

"If you were the Japanese high command," said Liu, "what
would you have done?"

"Exactly what we’re doing in East Africa," Fang replied at
once. "Force the Americans to play the aggressor; their national
ideology doesn’t allow them to be comfortable in that role. Act
through allies and proxies, and maintain the good opinion
of neutral countries. Let the Americans think the initiative is
theirs, until it’s taken from them. Anticipate each escalation
they will make, have assets in place to counter each escalation,
and then wait for the next one. They will throw one asset after
another into the conflict, until everything they have is at risk,
and then—you know the rest."

Liu sat back in the chair, considering. "And if they escalate
even then?"

"We’ll be prepared for that as well. And when that doesn’t
give them the victory they expect—why, then they’ll be left
with nothing at all."

That is to say, yes, exactly. The only thing the US knows how to do is escalate, and that's an immense vulnerability -- one that's already being used against us, and will be used with even more effect in the years ahead.

John Michael Greer said...

Don, an English professor of mine back in the day used to talk about how the English language had a Great Vowel Movement in the 15th century...

Marcello, no, there I think you're mistaken. This is a long game, and who temporarily ends up in power in Kyiv is not the most important scorecard.

Ed-M, by all means read Ward-Perkins -- an excellent book, and very relevant to our current situation. As for Byzantium, that's a question that deserves close attention; I haven't had the chance to research the economic and social history of the eastern Empire in the dark ages, but it's worth studying.

Robert, exactly. Russia has had the good luck to find a gifted despot to lead it in this very difficult time, while the US has had the profoundly bad luck to get a flurry of incompetents in the upper levels of its government. Just one of those incidents of history!

Onething, granted -- "bodily fluids" in discussions of HIV was a euphemism for sexual fluids. In the case of Ebola, it's any bodily fluid -- sweat, tears, saliva, blood, you name it -- and since people with Ebola start to hemorrhage right when they're most riddled with the virus, it's all too easy to get a drop of something on your skin.

Alan, yes, and the flaws in that analysis have been pointed out here and elsewhere many times over -- for example, the extent to which the Danish "miracle" is simply a matter of having the fossil fuels that support the Danish lifestyle burnt elsewhere. If it's necessary for you to keep on clinging to that incantation to keep going with your own work, understood, but please don't keep on bringing it up over and over again here; it's not relevant to the present discussion, and it's just going to irritate your host. 'Nuf said.

Shane, oh, granted. The old sectional animosities are still alive and well, and a remarkable number of people who think of themselves as tolerant and free of ugly ethnic stereotypes will spout the most vile hate speech at, say, white people from south of the Mason-Dixon line. The South has no shortage of problems, but it also has no shortage of people who like to use it as a scapegoat.

Latefall, oh, I grant that Spengler is far from endearing. It's worth taking the time to get past the pose he had to take to get an audience in his own time, and listen to what he had to say.

David, exactly. That's pretty much what I'm watching for.

Anselmo, excellent! Le Bon is still very much worth reading, and relevant to the current situation (as to almost any political or social event).

Moshe Braner said...

The large number of doctors and other health care workers who have died from Ebola in W. Africa recently leads me to think that the disease is a lot more transmittable than advertised. After all, these are people who know about the risks, and take measures to protect themselves, and that was not enough. Moreover, it is exactly the attrition of health care workers, whether by getting sick themselves or by abandoning their jobs, that may allow the epidemic to get out of control. I also wonder about the security workers who are supposed to enforce quarantines, what danger are they in, and whether they'll stick to their posts. Whether this epidemic spreads or not, it will teach us about aspects of future epidemics.

Moshe Braner said...

Re: the fracking bubble. Clearly the shale gas is a financial bubble, as they've been selling it at a a huge loss for several years. Not as sure about the tight oil. Aren't they extracting that, at least, with some profitability? At least in some places, for the moment? Could the gas bubble pop while the oil bubble keeps going for a while? Or would the gas crash bring down the oil fracking too since some of the same companies, not to mention the same banks, are involved?

I've also been seeing the word "bubble" applied many times in recent months to student loans, not sure how that can be a "bubble" in the Ponzi sense, since people don't flip them at an ever rising price, AFAIK. Perhaps just the fact that significant investments by, e.g., pension funds, have shifted into student loans, as one of the few remaining ways to collect a significant rate of interest, is setting up for a fall. If many unemployed indebted former students refuse to pay, that sure would have repercussions for the financial institutions.

I find it ironic that the boomers, via their pension funds, are trying to retire on the backs of the students to whom economic opportunities are so sparsely offered. That will work about as well as the boomers trying to retire by selling their houses at inflated prices to, well, whom?

Moshe Braner said...

Sometimes it seems that trends in the US can be seen just by scanning the headlines in the very-condensed mobile version of Reuters news, which I read since it's so much less cluttered than most other news outlets. So for example right now their US news section starts with the following headlines as the top four:
- Obama orders review of police use of military hardware
- Protesters mark two weeks since police shooting in Ferguson, Missouri
- Two rallies, one racial divide over Ferguson shooting
- Thousands march in New York City to protest police chokehold death

Similarly telling is how they classify headlines into sections. For example, the "science" news section is usually mostly about spaceships. Right now, 5 of the top 10 headlines there.

Another sign of the times is that recently they've added a "Global Energy News" section. It holds a mix of items, from financial issues to climate change. But they do seem to grasp that energy issues have become quite prominent.

Shane Wilson said...

Fwiw, with the rise of broadcast media, the U.S. standardized one of its more archaic accents, Midwestern. The coastal accents of the South and Northeast were more cosmopolitan, influenced by more contact with Britain, and shared more pronunciations with Britain.
Mindful of the experiences of Germany during the Weimar republic and the Third Reich, I'm concerned about the push for gay equality in the midst of decline and collapse. I'm afraid that it will make easy scapegoats of queer people in a future reactionary antidecadence push. I think that the assimilationist push of mainstream LGBT organizations is disingenuous at best, as I'm much more comfortable with traditional cultures that have set aside roles for queer people that recognize and celebrate their differences rather than insisting they don't exist. I'm not at all certain that achieving" equality" this late in the game won't prove a mixed bag, at best.

exiledbear said...

ExiledBear, which country? Honestly, I don't see any country as safe. Sink now; sink later. I don't really like either option. A country can sink sooner from it's own stupidity, or be dragged down later by the stupidity of it's neighbors.

Stop thinking about safety and start thinking about opportunity. If the establishment basically won't let you get a job here, find some place where you can.

As far as which country has the most opportunities coming up this century, it's probably going to be the BRICS and whatever countries decide to orbit around them.

It is said that Africa of all the regions, has the least debt and that there is a potential for opportunities there. I don't think that time is now, but if you're young with nothing to lose, why not take some calculated risks and see the world?

If the weed/porn/xbox future doesn't hold any attraction for you, it's not a bad alternative...

exiledbear said...

The only thing the US knows how to do is escalate, and that's an immense vulnerability

In other words, Murica is easily trolled...

magicalthyme said...

re: ebola transmission. Airborne has been proven in laboratory conditions. A recent study had carrier pigs housed in a room with monkeys, but unable to touch. All the monkeys died of ebola and, iirc, necropsy indicated transmission via lungs. It does not appear to happen to humans in the real world, but that is not the same as not being possible. It is not aerosolized as tb is, but does appear to survive in large droplets. All body fluids carry it, including sweat, mucus, urine and feces, as well as blood.

David, the incubation period ranges from 2 to 21 days. There will not be a sudden uptick at exactly 21 days. In the meantime, the entire West Point community has been quarantined. Roughly 20,000 people are penned in with food and water thrown through wire fencing.


wiseman said...

On the topic of marriage and millenials, I am curious to know when this western idea of "marriage is about love" evolved ? I am sure it hasn't always been like that. In most ancient cultures marriage is about two families building cultural and business ties, it has nothing to do with individual love.

nuku said...

Hi JMG, in response to the question about Byzantine civilization,
An interesting book by the travel/historian writer William Dalrymple “From The Holy Mountain, A Journey in the Shadow of Byzantium” casts some light on conditions around 600-700AD just before the Moslem takeover. Dalrymple’s travels in the 1980’s were inspired by a manuscript written in 618AD by John Moschos, a monk from the monastery of St Theodosius, who traveled overland to Constantinople after his monastery was destroyed by Persian invaders.

Ursachi Alexandru said...


I wish that was happening, but of course, most people here are either ignorant of geopolitics or they just assume that the West will always out-fox Russia. I have a hard time explaining to some of my friends that the US is in actual decline.

Even if Russia falters along the way - and demography alone guarantees that it will eventually - the power vacuum left in the region by waning US influence will spell big trouble for us in the coming years and decades.

It makes me roll my eyes how many Eastern Europeans - our political leaders most vocally - are just begging the US to install their missiles and soldiers here. It's understandable considering our history with Russia, but I can't help but remember about the fate of "frontier imperial provinces" that you were talking about in an older post.

For a country like my own, the idea of neutrality is all the more untenable because we have a Romanian-speaking former Soviet state on our border. Since I currently spend my life between these two countries, the fact that I'm starting to learn the Russian language might not be an unpractical decision...

wolfvanzandt said...

ExiledBear, okay, I'll give you that. I'm not sure how long it's going to last, though. For myself, I suffer too much from the swapping checkout lane blues. I never benefit from moving. If I'm standing in a Wal-Mart checkout lane full of packed buggies and I move to another with one elderly lady with three items, you can bet the cashier with run out of quarters, the lady will have to fish around in her pocket book for food stamps, or she'll have a seizure and the other lane will empty twice before I get to the register.

We've considered several options but at least here, there's still some wild space to navigate. Move to Denmark, and you walk a day and you're in Germany. If people are shooting at you (either literally or metaphorically), degrees of freedom become a premium.

Neither here nor there for me - I'm retired and living a dream. Opportunities are a moot point for me. I'm just along for the ride from here on out (meaning, I go where my family goes).

heather said...

Terrific comments. Thank you all for continually broadening my perspective, and to JMG of course for setting and steering the conversation.

I live in Northern California "farm country", sounds like I am pretty close to Rita. We have solar panels that produce an amount of electricity almost equal to what we use over the course of the year, though we are grid-tied, so basically use the grid as our battery bank. The pricing system is tricky to figure out, with different rates based on how much you use (lower tiers of usage are cheaper than upper tiers), season, overall demand on the system/time of day… I begin to suspect that these are all fudge factors which allow the utility to charge as much as they think they can get away with. Twice in the past few years the people in my area have gotten mysterious rebate checks for periods up to six months in the past; I am guessing that the utility got caught overcharging and was threatened with a lawsuit/bad PR unless it returned some of the cookies to the jar. Anyway, based on what I could figure out from my cryptic yearly "true up" statement from the utility, it appears that the lower tiers of usage run around 13 cents per kWh, and the highest tier that we ever purchase from (in January, when our solar production is lowest) run around 23 cents. I think I recall from some earlier investigations into time-of-usage metering (an optional pricing scheme that consumers can sign up for to "reward" them for avoiding peak time usage) that the highest tiers can reach into the 40+ cents/kWh range. I don't know how these prices compare with other areas of the world, but I am quite sure that they are artificially low, since the true costs of electricity generation are no doubt still very externalized. In CA in particular, it's possible that some of the environmental costs of actually burning whatever fuel is used in the big plants are figured into the price tag, because of our relatively stronger environmental lobby, but surely the people in whatever regions are devastated to produce the fuels are not seeing the dividends of those taxes on the utilities.

heather said...

@Roger, exiledbear, and Ray Wharton: Yes, young men need a productive purpose to work towards, as do we all (if we are paying attention); yes, a family and a farm, or some other means of supporting the family, can provide that sense to some degree. But we are seeing the time when the farms are not easily available, and those jobs that are available don't fit the "productive purpose" part of the need. Yes, weed, games, porn all serve to dissipate that drive for purpose and numb the meaninglessness. So, I think, does joining the contemporary rat race in whatever capacity one can. My anguish is that we (as a society) cannot afford to waste that energy and drive. It's just as bad as wantonly burning fossil fuels. There are so many real needs in our changing world (which I salute Ray for finding the courage to address in his life, rather than numbing out with games or drugs or by putting on a necktie or a service-industry uniform and joining the consumer rush). The older generations, en masse, aren't going to address the changes we need to make to survive in a declining world if they can avoid them by any means. So those of us from those older generations who do have a clue (I include myself here, having just turned 40 and hearing the truth from JMG on a regular basis) need to find the way to offer opportunities to Ray, as he is asking for, and others in his position. We hear in this forum regularly from others in Ray's age group with his awareness. There must be many more "out there". And who knows how many would wake up from the glows of their screens if they saw more of their contemporaries acting with real purpose in the world, and join them?

I don't know how to offer meaningful opportunities to large numbers of young adults. But in my life, I know a smart, lovely young 20-something, a former babysitter for my children, who is currently adrift, working two waitressing jobs and searching for meaning. I can't fix life for her- what a ridiculous, presumptuous thought- but I can hire her for a couple of afternoons to help me put up my bumper crop of peaches, and pay her to help me organize the garden curriculum at my kids' school for a few hours, and look for other ways to offer mentorship in what skills and opportunities I do have. And I can talk, and listen to her, about the future as we each see it. I can offer her some sense that it's not "just her", and as the opportunity presents itself, I can talk about how I am finding meaning in an environment of decline. This may not be much, and I hope my efforts won't be patronizing- given my relationship with the young woman, I think they would be OK- but it's the offering I can think to make, right now, to the generation whose prospects are so screwed and whose potential our society is swilling just like light sweet crude. I challenge everyone reading this who has anything at all they can offer to young people looking for meaning and opportunity to find a way to engage. Get past the discomfort of the generation gap, get over your preconceptions, and make an offering. If the first one doesn't "take", make another, and keep trying. It's the least we can do.

Richard Larson said...

Of course there are people in the financial trade that would lie to sell a story, to avoid thinking about the truth of the situation, and/or to hide the truth from those on which they prey.

I think Archdruid title drew him to you first.

thrig said...

Not that farmer's market food is all hard work; why, the hullful buckwheat conspires at each step to get underfoot, and the soggy mustard seeds spent most of their time coalescing on the pestle instead of being crushed. How did The Ancients ever remove the hulls on buckwheat? There's plenty links for buying kasha, machines to hull buckwheat, and blogs about cooking kasha, but no details on what that clever machine does, exactly, to remove the hulls while leaving the grain intact. Maybe four hours into the Nth de-hulling session of the season someone was a like, look, we could just invade the Romans? Assents all around, and off they went. I have mastered the art of drying kale (electric oven. warm. mostly ignore for a while), though now I'm going to go out on something of a limb here, and make the wager that most others are not going to cook beans with kale stems and mustard of dubious vintage (review: surprisingly edible), and will instead ask where's the beef.

magicalthyme said...

Re: Ebola: WHO has just confirmed that the spate of deaths from GI hemorrhage in Rep of Congo are confirmed Ebola. Africa is in a bad way. As of yesterday the entire country of Liberia was now affected.

Moshe -- the infection of health care workers do not indicate easier transmission. However much they protect themselves while treating patients, they do not live and work in isolation. Brantly and Writebol are believed to have been infected by a local coworker who was helping them in the disinfection area, and later diagnosed (he died).

I do question the "not contagious until symptoms appear" claim. If you suddenly start to feel ill, were you contagious 5 minutes before you felt the first symptoms? An hour? Half a day? I believe there is a point before you notice the symptoms when you may be contagious. There's just no way to determine that specific point -- it's sometime after innoculation when the viral load has increased enough to transmit easily.


Phil Harris said...

JMG & All

I find this article interesting. Tell me if I am wrong, but I understand one of the powerful strands in American public/political opinion has come to fear the United Nations as the threatening invasive force that is the 'super-enemy'. This might not be an accident. In the same way,some majority of US public latterly is said to believe President Obama has not done enough to deal with "the bully Putin".

When I was a child and youth in the UK the UN appeared as an 'official' good thing! I noticed the change mentioned in this article more than 30 years ago.

The promotion of multilateral views – by founder of IPS in this article recounting the history - is not going to turn round an industrial civilisation, but I still prefer facts not to be just another manufactured product, a matter of 'market choice'. I prefer not to be bought and sold.

My 'ideals' are showing, no matter that I have long ceased to in believe in 'Progress' and 'Development'. World Governance ... hmmmm.

Phil H
(h/tip to Max, bless him, on a private list.)

Shane Wilson said...

Regarding moving, if every industrial society is destined to collapse eventually for lack of energy, including the powers of scarcity industrialism, then the U.S. will be ahead of the curve by collapsing 1st, so maybe this is the place to be, seeing as everyone except for the least developed will have to eventually.
Regarding the generational issue, I'm a part of a cusp/bust generation, gen x, and I feel like I straddle two worlds. The 1990s world that I came of age seems like a distant memory and an embarrassment, yet I won't be able to ride the remnants of postwar prosperity to death like the boomers and silent generation. I was blessed to be the last generation to grow up without the internet, the internet not becoming widespread until after I graduated high school.

Janet D said...

@Shane Wilson, re: a clarification.

I have no idea if my reference to the South inspired your rather label-filled rant or not, but I just wanted to clarify that in my post I was thinking of numbers, as in highest number of minorities. The South contains 7 of the 10 top 10 cities for African Americans, and Texas alone contains 4 of the top 10 cities for Hispanics. Therefore, in my line of reasoning, the places that have the highest concentrations of minorities are more likely to see increase race conflicts. This does not mean that other places in the country won't see racial troubles, but lower concentrations and more space probably means there will be fewer of them. The nature of the internet communication may have obscured my reasoning, but that is largely the place I was coming from.

Just as an aside, my brother was born in OK, I attended high school there, and I currently have two brothers in TX, a father in OK, and a variety of other relatives scattered throughout the Deep South. I am not a stranger there and my observation has been that the races are still largely segregated. That won't help matters when temps are high and supplies are running short.

Joe Smith said...

Shane Wilson, I've lived in the Midwest most of my life, and I can't say that I've ever heard or seen the word archaic used to describe the Midwest or its accent. May I assume you are not American? Permanent European-American settlement did not occur in the Midwest until the first several decades of the 19th century (even later in the century in the Midwest's westernmost regions). You write about the Midwestern accent as if it were somehow extant when Euro-American settlement began, as if it developed alongside the English of, say, East Anglia or even Jamestown, and not centuries later.

You've given me a reminder of how easy it is not to grasp the nuances of another nation, how difficult it is to get out from behind the wall of one's own cultural suppositions. You've given me a glimpse of how off-base Americans, for example, must sound when trying to describe the subtleties of British history.

«Oldest ‹Older   1 – 200 of 244   Newer› Newest»