Wednesday, May 20, 2015

The Era of Impact

Of all the wistful superstitions that cluster around the concept of the future in contemporary popular culture, the most enduring has to be the notion that somehow, sooner or later, something will happen to shake the majority out of its complacency and get it to take seriously the crisis of our age. Week after week, I field comments and emails that presuppose that belief. People want to know how soon I think the shock of awakening will finally hit, or wonder whether this or that event will do the trick, or simply insist that the moment has to come sooner or later.

To all such inquiries and expostulations I have no scrap of comfort to offer. Quite the contrary, what history shows is that a sudden awakening to the realities of a difficult situation is far and away the least likely result of what I’ve called the era of impact, the second of the five stages of collapse. (The first, for those who missed last week’s post, is the era of pretense; the remaining three, which will be covered in the coming weeks, are the eras of response, breakdown, and dissolution.)

The era of impact is the point at which it becomes clear to most people that something has gone wrong with the most basic narratives of a society—not just a little bit wrong, in the sort of way that requires a little tinkering here and there, but really, massively, spectacularly wrong. It arrives when an asset class that was supposed to keep rising in price forever stops rising, does its Wile E. Coyote moment of hang time, and then drops like a stone. It shows up when an apparently entrenched political system, bristling with soldiers and secret police, implodes in a matter of days or weeks and is replaced by a provisional government whose leaders look just as stunned as everyone else. It comes whenever a state of affairs that was assumed to be permanent runs into serious trouble—but somehow it never seems to succeed in getting people to notice just how temporary that state of affairs always was.

Since history is the best guide we’ve got to how such events work out in the real world, I want to take a couple of examples of the kind just outlined and explore them in a little more detail. The stock market bubble of the 1920s makes a good case study on a relatively small scale. In the years leading up to the crash of 1929, stock values in the US stock market quietly disconnected themselves from the economic fundamentals and began what was, for the time, an epic climb into la-la land. There were important if unmentionable reasons for that airy detachment from reality; the most significant was the increasingly distorted distribution of income in 1920s America, which put more and more of the national wealth in the hands of fewer and fewer people and thus gutted the national economy.

It’s one of the repeated lessons of economic history that money in the hands of the rich does much less good for the economy as a whole than money in the hands of the working classes and the poor. The reasoning here is as simple as it is inescapable. Industrial economies survive and thrive on consumer expenditures, but consumer expenditures are limited by the ability of consumers to buy the things they want and need. As money is diverted away from the lower end of the economic pyramid, you get demand destruction—the process by which those who can’t afford to buy things stop buying them—and consumer expenditures fall off. The rich, by contrast, divert a large share of their income out of the consumer economy into investments; the richer they get, the more of the national wealth ends up in investments rather than consumer expenditures; and as consumer expenditures falter, and investments linked to the consumer economy falter in turn, more and more money ends up in illiquid speculative vehicles that are disconnected from the productive economy and do nothing to stimulate demand.

That’s what happened in the 1920s. All through the decade in the US, the rich got richer and the poor got screwed, speculation took the place of productive investment throughout the US economy, and the well-to-do wallowed in the wretched excess chronicled in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby while most other people struggled to get by. The whole decade was a classic era of pretense, crowned by the delusional insistence—splashed all over the media of the time—that everyone in the US could invest in the stock market and, since the market was of course going to keep on rising forever, everyone in the US would thus inevitably become rich.

It’s interesting to note that there were people who saw straight through the nonsense and tried to warn their fellow Americans about the inevitable consequences. They were denounced six ways from Sunday by all right-thinking people, in language identical to that used more recently on those of us who’ve had the effrontery to point out that an infinite supply of oil can’t be extracted from a finite planet.  The people who insisted that the soaring stock values of the late 1920s were the product of one of history’s great speculative bubbles were dead right; they had all the facts and figures on their side, not to mention plain common sense; but nobody wanted to hear it.

When the stock market peaked just before the Labor Day weekend in 1929 and started trending down, therefore, the immediate response of all right-thinking people was to insist at the top of their lungs that nothing of the sort was happening, that the market was simply catching its breath before its next great upward leap, and so on. Each new downward lurch was met by a new round of claims along these lines, louder, more dogmatic, and more strident than the one that preceded it, and nasty personal attacks on anyone who didn’t support the delusional consensus filled the media of the time.

People were still saying those things when the bottom dropped out of the market.

Tuesday, October 29, 1929 can reasonably be taken as the point at which the era of pretense gave way once and for all to the era of impact. That’s not because it was the first day of the crash—there had been ghastly slumps on the previous Thursday and Monday, on the heels of two months of less drastic but still seriously ugly declines—but because, after that day, the pundits and the media pretty much stopped pretending that nothing was wrong. Mind you, next to nobody was willing to talk about what exactly had gone wrong, or why it had gone wrong, but the pretense that the good fairy of capitalism had promised Americans happy days forever was out the window once and for all.

It’s crucial to note, though, that what followed this realization was the immediate and all but universal insistence that happy days would soon be back if only everyone did the right thing. It’s even more crucial to note that what nearly everyone identified as “the right thing”—running right out and buying lots of stocks—was a really bad idea that bankrupted many of those who did it, and didn’t help the imploding US economy at all.

It’s probably necessary to talk about this in a little more detail, since it’s been an article of blind faith in the United States for many decades now that it’s always a good idea to buy and hold stocks. (I suspect that stockbrokers have had a good deal to do with the promulgation of this notion.) It’s been claimed that someone who bought stocks in 1929 at the peak of the bubble, and then held onto them, would have ended up in the black eventually, and for certain values of “eventually,” this is quite true—but it took the Dow Jones industrial average until the mid-1950s to return to its 1929 high, and so for a quarter of a century our investor would have been underwater on his stock purchases.

What’s more, the Dow isn’t necessarily a good measure of stocks generally; many of the darlings of the market in the 1920s either went bankrupt in the Depression or never again returned to their 1929 valuations. Nor did the surge of money into stocks in the wake of the 1929 crash stave off the Great Depression, or do much of anything else other than provide a great example of the folly of throwing good money after bad. The moral to this story? In an era of impact, the advice you hear from everyone around you may not be in your best interest.

That same moral can be shown just as clearly in the second example I have in mind, the French Revolution. We talked briefly in last week’s post about the way that the French monarchy and aristocracy blinded themselves to the convulsive social and economic changes that were pushing France closer and closer to a collective explosion on the grand scale, and pursued business as usual long past the point at which business as usual was anything but a recipe for disaster. Even when the struggle between the Crown and the aristocracy forced Louis XVI to convene the États-Généraux—the rarely-held national parliament of France, which had powers more or less equivalent to a constitutional convention in the US—next to nobody expected anything but long rounds of political horse-trading from which some modest shifts in the balance of power might result.

That was before the summer of 1789. On June 17, the deputies of the Third Estate—the representatives of the commoners—declared themselves a National Assembly and staged what amounted to a coup d’etat; on July 14, faced with the threat of a military response from the monarchy, the Parisian mob seized the Bastille, kickstarting a wave of revolt across the country that put government and military facilities in the hands of the revolutionary National Guard and broke the back of the feudal system; on August 4, the National Assembly abolished all feudal rights and legal distinctions between the classes. Over less than two months, a political and social system that had been welded firmly in place for a thousand years all came crashing to the ground.

Those two months marked the end of the era of pretense and the arrival of the era of impact. The immediate response, with a modest number of exceptions among the aristocracy and the inner circles of the monarchy’s supporters, was frantic cheering and an insistence that everything would soon settle into a wonderful new age of peace, prosperity, and liberty. All the overblown dreams of the philosophes about a future age governed by reason were trotted out and treated as self-evident fact. Of course that’s not what happened; once it was firmly in power, the National Assembly used its unchecked authority as abusively as the monarchy had once done; factional struggles spun out of control, and before long mob rule and the guillotine were among the basic facts of life in Revolutionary France. 

Among the most common symptoms of an era of impact, in other words, is the rise of what we may as well call “crackpot optimism”—the enthusiastic and all but universal insistence, in the teeth of the evidence, that the end of business as usual will turn out to be the door to a wonderful new future. In the wake of the 1929 stock market crash, people were urged to pile back into the market in the belief that this would cause the economy to boom again even more spectacularly than before, and most of the people who followed this advice proceeded to lose their shirts. In the wake of the revolution of 1789, likewise, people across France were encouraged to join with their fellow citizens in building the shining new utopia of reason, and a great many of those who followed that advice ended up decapitated or, a little later, dying of gunshot or disease in the brutal era of pan-European warfare that extended almost without a break from the cannonade of Valmy in 1792 to the battle of Waterloo in 1815.

And the present example? That’s a question worth exploring, if only for the utterly pragmatic reason that most of my readers are going to get to see it up close and personal.

That the United States and the industrial world generally are deep in an era of pretense is, I think, pretty much beyond question at this point. We’ve got political authorities, global bankers, and a galaxy of pundits insisting at the top of their lungs that nothing is wrong, everything is fine, and we’ll be on our way to the next great era of prosperity if we just keep pursuing a set of boneheaded policies that have never—not once in the entire span of human history—brought prosperity to the countries that pursued them. We’ve got shelves full of books for sale in upscale bookstores insisting, in the strident language usual to such times, that life is wonderful in this best of all possible worlds, and it’s going to get better forever because, like, we have technology, dude! Across the landscape of the cultural mainstream, you’ll find no shortage of cheerleaders insisting at the top of their lungs that everything’s going to be fine, that even though they said ten years ago that we only have ten years to do something before disaster hits, why, we still have ten years before disaster hits, and when ten more years pass by, why, you can be sure that the same people will be insisting that we have ten more.

This is the classic rhetoric of an era of pretense. Over the last few years, though, it’s seemed to me that the voices of crackpot optimism have gotten more shrill, the diatribes more fact-free, and the logic even shoddier than it was in Bjorn Lomborg’s day, which is saying something. We’ve reached the point that state governments are making it a crime to report on water quality and forbidding officials from using such unwelcome phrases as “climate change.” That’s not the action of people who are confident in their beliefs; it’s the action of a bunch of overgrown children frantically clenching their eyes shut, stuffing their fingers in their ears, and shouting “La, la, la, I can’t hear you.”

That, in turn, suggests that the transition to the era of impact may be fairly close. Exactly when it’s likely to arrive is a complex question, and exactly what’s going to land the blow that will crack the crackpot optimism and make it impossible to ignore the arrival of real trouble is an even more complex one. In 1929, those who hadn’t bought into the bubble could be perfectly sure—and in fact, a good many of them were perfectly sure—that the usual mechanism that brings bubbles to a catastrophic end was about to terminate the boom of the 1920s with extreme prejudice, as indeed it did. In the last decades of the French monarchy, it was by no means clear exactly what sequence of events would bring the Ancien Régime crashing down, but such thoughtful observers as Talleyrand knew that something of the sort was likely to follow the crisis of legitimacy then under way.

The problem with trying to predict the trigger that will bring our current situation to a sudden stop is that we’re in such a target-rich environment. Looking over the potential candidates for the sudden shock that will stick a fork in the well-roasted corpse of business as usual, I’m reminded of the old board game Clue. Will Mr. Boddy’s killer turn out to be Colonel Mustard in the library with a lead pipe, Professor Plum in the conservatory with a candlestick, or Miss Scarlet in the dining room with a rope?

In much the same sense, we’ve got a global economy burdened to the breaking point with more than a quadrillion dollars of unpayable debt; we’ve got a global political system coming apart at the seams as the United States slips toward the usual fate of empires and its rivals circle warily, waiting for the kill; we’ve got a domestic political system here in the US entering a classic prerevolutionary condition under the impact of a textbook crisis of legitimacy; we’ve got a global climate that’s hammered by our rank stupidity in treating the atmosphere as a gaseous sewer for our wastes; we’ve got a global fossil fuel industry that’s frantically trying to pretend that scraping the bottom of the barrel means that the barrel is full, and the list goes on. It’s as though Colonel Mustard, Professor Plum, Miss Scarlet, and the rest of them all ganged up on Mr. Boddy at once, and only the most careful autopsy will be able to determine which of them actually dealt the fatal blow.

In the midst of all this uncertainty, there are three things that can, I think, be said for certain about the end of the current era of pretense and the coming of the era of impact. The first is that it’s going to happen. When something is unsustainable, it’s a pretty safe bet that it won’t be sustained indefinitely, and a society that keeps on embracing policies that swap short-term gains for long-term problems will sooner or later end up awash in the consequences of those policies. Timing such transitions is difficult at best; it’s an old adage among stock traders that the market can stay irrational longer than you can stay solvent. Still, points made above—especially the increasingly shrill tone of the defenders of the existing order—suggest to me that the era of impact may be here within a decade or so at the outside.

The second thing that can be said for certain about the coming era of impact is that it’s not the end of the world. Apocalyptic fantasies are common and popular in eras of pretense, and for good reason; fixating on the supposed imminence of the Second Coming, human extinction, or what have you, is a great way to distract yourself from the real crisis that’s breathing down your neck. If the real crisis in question is partly or wholly a result of your own actions, while the apocalyptic fantasy can be blamed on someone or something else, that adds a further attraction to the fantasy.

The end of industrial civilization will be a long, bitter, painful cascade of conflicts, disasters, and accelerating decline in which a vast number of people are going to die before they otherwise would, and a great many things of value will be lost forever. That’s true of any falling civilization, and the misguided decisions of the last forty years have pretty much guaranteed that the current example is going to have an extra helping of all these unwelcome things. I’ve discussed at length, in earlier posts in the Dark Age America sequence here and in other sequences as well, why the sort of apocalyptic sudden stop beloved of Hollywood scriptwriters is the least likely outcome of the predicament of our time; still, insisting on the imminence and inevitability of some such game-ending event will no doubt be as popular as usual in the years immediately ahead.

The third thing that I think can be said for certain about the coming era of impact, though, is the one that counts. If it follows the usual pattern, as I expect it to do, once the crisis hits there will be serious, authoritative, respectable figures telling everyone exactly what they need to do to bring an end to the troubles and get the United States and the world back on track to renewed peace and prosperity. Taking these pronouncements seriously and following their directions will be extremely popular, and it will almost certainly also be a recipe for unmitigated disaster. If forewarned is forearmed, as the saying has it, this is a piece of firepower to keep handy as the era of pretense winds down. In next week’s post, we’ll talk about comparable weaponry relating to the third stage of collapse—the era of response.


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Yossarian said...

I know you do a lot of podcasts and it must get annoying, but I'm curious if you've ever been approached by Charles Marohn of Strong Towns to appear on his podcast?

I recently finished reading Green Wizardry (great book!) and the last few paragraphs of the section on transportation seem to say exactly what Charles Marohn has been saying.

I know Jim Kunstler has been on the Strong Towns podcast, and maybe an echo chamber of agreement isn't what Chuck is going for these days on his podcast, but man oh man I'd love to hear you chat with Mr. Marohn. You have such a radio friendly voice.

Matt said...

As I read your words "and a great many things of value will be lost forever" BBC Radio is talking about ISIS's destructions of ancient ruins in Syria - being lost a second time around, in another collapse.

Cherokee Organics said...


Sometimes I suspect that deep down people want others to wake up to the crisis of the age so that they can share the burden of knowledge with them. However, I also suspect that they still want others to do the heavy lifting.

The forest here has taught me that things that look solid and aged can in fact be blown away in a very short period of time only to be replaced by an entirely different forest. It is quite dynamic really. The Aboriginals wisely sought to reduce the impacts of change in their environment by first reducing their impact on that environment and then - shock, horror - actually acknowledging that the system they found themselves in was in fact far more fragile than they'd considered and taking appropriate action. Of course they would have gone through the usual overshoot process and inevitable pain before coming to that conclusion though.

Exactly, the inequality of wealth distribution is at odds with more traditional economies that seek to ensure that wealth (I'm talking real wealth not money) doesn't end up in the hands of a few. I said recently, that the superannuation system here which takes 9.5% gross employee earnings and funnels that into the "investment" economy is a fundamental error and has led to the sort of unreal rise in investment vehicles that preceded the 1929 crash. It may be fair to describe it as a ponzi scheme which a person is forced into. Too bad the funds weren't forced into the consumption of real world goods and services, but then that would drive inflation, wouldn't it?

Incidentally, I overheard a conversation yesterday between a couple of well-heeled boomers that were decrying the state of the budget deficit and then in the next breath saying that given how low interest rates are the government should merely borrow more. And what is that government pursuing - oh that's right rebates for nanny's, too bad about spending on infrastructure... It aint going to end well for them!

One of the problems with the Great Crash was that people often borrowed to purchase shares in the hope that money could create money. And they may not have been incorrect either, but money can lose money just as easily and when real world incomes and resources couldn't field the margin calls then the people were bankrupted. And they may have been able to field the first few margin calls too but eventually they got done in a process of slow attrition.

Of course we are trying very hard to purchase real wealth with paper IOU's which may or may not even been payable - and other countries know this. And we're acting as if it doesn't matter. There is just so much wrong with that it is scary.

Yes, don't get involved is a good idea. The only rational response can be on the home and local front.

An ADR brekky too this week! Much more enjoyable than paying the plethora of bills.... Oh yeah, I'm planning to use some of the left over juice from the recent round of Quince poaching to make a Quince wine. Should be good!



PS: There is a new blog up: Pole Position. El Nino is coming so I've been busily trying to get the infrastructure and surrounding forest into a condition that reflects that massive risk. More home cooked dog food action. Dare I mention this? Whatever ;-)! I put in a new water tank and you can see how that was done. The new firewood shed is complete and getting filled. Tomatoes, two weeks out from winter and still producing. Too many bulbs - what was I thinking? And lots of house construction stuff. Lots of cool photos and an enjoyable read!

electricangel1978 said...

One thing to recall about the stock market "crash." By June of 1930, the stock indexes had returned to 75% of the value they had had 9 months before, it was only after the passage of Smoot Hawley that the real decline commenced with the market going to 1/10th of its September, 1929 value.

Have you read david Stockman on the fraud of the financialized economy? It tracks your ideas about the 1920s.

Kutamun said...

Strange thing about the resilience movement , which seems to be gathering strength out of the ashes of the sustainability movement ( Dr Nelson Leebo 111) ; a large number of oeople contained therein are undoubtedly of the educated middle classes , as such equipped among the first to intellectually grasp the ramifications of resource depletion and climate change ( Hines - " Post Industrial Gentrification of the Rural American West ") . At the moment the rust belts are quiet deer parks populated by bewildered remnants defunct earlier times , and increasingly by sometimes smug middle class elites seeking safety from the gathering storm , myself included . We gather our nuts and tanks , start our little farms like squirrels preparing for winter , our mantra is " community " and " local " , the new jargon of an emerging rurallly based middle classed elite . Status is measured by the length of ones tenure in the locality ; to be born in the locality is to be truly aristocratic , to be employed solely in the locality confers a minor peerage . The chimps will always formulate new hierarchies when it comes to peeling the bananas i suppose .

I get the feeling that once the masses are unceremoniously excommunicated from the industrial morass , the countryside will become awash with the detritus of this upheaval , and it will be interesting to see how the middle class resilience mindset copes with the arrival of tens of thousands of depressed , angry and impoverished plebes looking for their share of the vanishing pie . Locally grown organic food could well be at the top of their list ! . I suspect an altogether different mindset will become handy . Reminds me of a book mentioned by Orlov by an Argentinian guy ( during one of their collapses ) who used to get his wife to film their running gun battles with the interlopers for him to present to the law when they finally arrived days later , so he didnt get locked up .. He became quite expert in such affairs ..

Andy Brown said...

You've mentioned several times recently that the process of collapse is fractal, and I find that a very useful insight. In fact, I suspect it has a lot to do with how long people can hold onto pretense. Collapse has already happened in everyone's town as certain people slide out of the normal economy. But it's happened to another extreme in McDowell county West Virginia or the Pine Ridge reservation, and yet another extreme on the hellscapes of western Syria, Yemen and northern Nigeria - or the brothels of Siberia and Brazil.

In comparison to others somewhere else you haven't collapsed - not really, not yet. And yet other places - confident in their pretense, advertise that your failures are local - and as you say in your essay - you just need to stick with a program to turn it all around.

Collapse isn't a stairway so much as a complicated little cataract - tumbling down in extreme slow motion. Riding your little leaf down through it you can look to eddies along side, falls below, and no stable, even water level to gauge by.

Stu from New Jersey said...

We're certainly a target-rich environment, as you say, which can get on one's nerves.

And yet, most of the fascination in life that I experience in my old age is a result of seeing what was coming: Gardening, which has intrigued me now for ten years; home-brewing, taken up as a necessity, but an enjoyable activity nonetheless; a newfound spirituality rooted in my gardening, and more. I think I prefer non-pretense to pretense!

And, of course, wonderful blogs like yours. Thanks for the many hours of study and thinking that have meant so much to many of us.

John Roth said...

Interesting post. I'd like to add a data point. It doesn't have to be as bloody as the French Revolution, and it doesn't have to be as financially catastrophic as the Crash of 1929.

When I was working for TransUnion, we had several expat Russians on the floor, two of them in my software development unit. I asked them whether anyone had seen the collapse of legitimacy in the Communist Party that led to the breakup of the Soviet Union. They said, no, nobody had seen it. One week everyone still believed that the Party still knew what it was doing, the next week they didn't. It was that fast.

Ray Wharton said...

Very interesting. The idea that someone, anyone, could be "serious, authoritative, respectable figures" is the most difficult idea for me to communicate. Your post on the possible rise of fascism is obviously brought to mind; my experience from discussing some of the ideas in that post is that my peers are so frustrated with authority after a life time of never once seeing an authority figure they found respectable, that they cannot imagine what such a figure would look like, and thus do not include any such figures in their imaginings of the coming era. Of course they, each in accordance to their sub-culture, have many celebrity leaders. You are such a leader to one tiny subculture; I take your ideas seriously, your advice to be authoritative, and your work respectable. It seems that so long as you don't go looking through the wrong seeing-stone or wearing the wrong rings, if you catch my meaning, you will likely stay to the sidelines of the age of impact, leaving the limelight to the "serious, authoritative, respectable figures" more interested in the magnitude of their message than the meaning of it.

I can imagine such an authority figure. Using the symbols of my subculture I would paint a picture of a young enthusiastic person who waxes on about farming or ecology or freedom or the oppressed or tradition or some fine thing, and casts the obvious mistakes of the old regime in the most sinister of light. For people living in the dark even that sinister light may have more warmth than most today would guess. Depending on which "Clue Character" is seen holding a weapon, all the once friends and allies of that character should be wary (choose your friends wisely during the era of pretense). Symptoms of the problem once unspeakable will be spoken about, and then yelled about, and finally screamed about. Sadly the time of speaking will be short, and the time of yelling long. The Authority Figure may recommend many sound ideas to some problems, but there will be no way to stop these ideas for copying themselves mindlessly to be applied to issues they have nothing to do with. Buying stocks is an obvious fix to people selling them, had that been the real problem all the better, but it treated a symptom and with a toxic dosage. Checking the power of the first and second estates was sensible, going to the extremes of the revolution was tragic. Will the solution be environmental restoration "work crews"; an iconoclastic rejection of certain 'bad guy' technologies; a ruthless winnowing of certain governmental or economic powers? Maybe none, maybe some mix, maybe things not polite to discuss even in these fringes of subculture. Regardless, though what little survives of our culture's checks and balances will be stressed greatly by the impact and will be unlikely to check the rampant over applying of the new Figures 'programs', then there will be the time for screaming.

Might look like Boris Yeltsin if he got his start in an local food coalition, anti free trade group, as an environmental activist, a homeless advocate, or in veteran affairs.

Not to dwell on the gloomy, stay out of histories way, and plant lots of squash!

russell1200 said...

I have been reading David R. Stone's "The Russian Army in the Great War" and it plays out in similar ways to the French Revolution. The Russians have lots of problems during the war, but they are far from being the worst off of the major combatants, and many of their military issues, particularly lack of ammunition and equipment, were corrected by 1917. But it all begins as a political unraveling, a cascading collapse, that takes place over a series of leaps and bounds. As the Author notes, a lot of the results were contingent on the acts of the participants, but once it got started, something was going to happen.

The current play out of the Arab Spring is a little too close to our own actions to be comfortable, but looks like the various countries are running the gamut of possible outcomes.

If you are in the middle of events, it is all very apocalyptic, but most of the world isn't going to stop what its about just because your having issues.

Revere T said...

Even if I end up as one of the "people who die before they otherwise would", I'm grateful that I've been able to spend at least 25 years in this incredibly fascinating time and place in history. Thanks for all you do, JMG. Your essays have helped me appreciate the uniqueness and fragility of the situation we modern people find ourselves in, and that in turn made my life just a little bit more fun.

S.Treimel said...

It seems then, that the reasoned response to the impending impact is to implement one's plan for creating a modest, sustainable livelihood, and work with like-minded neighbors when feasible, but to avoid getting conscripted into any large-scale government or authority-promoted schemes for 'restoring our country'. Is the best course found in working locally? How do we sort out workable solutions from all the B.S. that will be promoted?

Steve Morgan said...

Just wanted to let people know that we're planning a get-together for readers in Colorado along the Front Range. Details on the Green Wizard forum at:

peakfuture said...

I've wondered about this very question of awakening (, and you and JHK have written some very realistic fictional situations that might be the impact event - the use of a nuclear weapons on US soil, or the sinking of a US carrier or two.

I was a bit confused - you wrote in the start of your essay that people ask you what event might shake people out of their complacency, and then write, "The era of impact is the point at which it becomes clear to most people that something has gone wrong with the most basic narratives of a society."

If I'm reading this thesis right - there is an Event, and then an era of impact that is a long drawn out process, that takes a few months or years where people wake up, but the event itself doesn't change people overnight.

I looked up the unemployment rates after 1929, and it took four years for unemployment to go from 5% to 25%. How about something like Pearl Harbor? Life might not have changed that quickly (it took time for us to ramp up wartime production), but were people slow to accept we were at war?

When people ask about event X or Y shaking people out of their complacency, what sort of events were they proposing?

PeteAtomic over at JHK's blog a few weeks ago suggested that if people get hungry, that's one way to speed up awareness.

buddhabythelake said...


Insightful, as usual. I have been finding echoes of your narrative everywhere lately. Either the cracks are widening or I am simply becoming more aware of their presence. (It's probably a combination of the two, truthfully.)

An example: I was reading a "news" story lamenting the state of our languishing infrastructure and our corresponding inability to do anything about it --

What was most interesting, however, were the hundreds of comments. Mostly partisan snarlings of one stripe or another, but if I stood back and viewed them as a whole, I saw a huge warning signal flashing "CRISIS OF LEGITIMACY" over and over. It reminded me of the narrative "asides" you sprinkled throughout Twilight's Last Gleaming, where a Joe Q. Public figure would sit back and wonder "Why *am* I putting up with this crap?"

The small shove over the big cliff may be closer than we realize.

Steve Morgan said...

"we’ve got a global political system coming apart at the seams as the United States slips toward the usual fate of empires and its rivals circle warily, waiting for the kill;"

My wife and I were talking about this the other day, noting some of the parallels between now and a century ago with rival powers waiting in the wings to take over global power from a decaying empire.

As a thought experiment, we tried to imagine what would've happened to the UK if the US and Germany, rather than fighting each other, had allied to overthrow the British empire and divided the spoils. That's the kind of table the US is setting for itself these days, pushing our rivals into each others' arms.

Regarding the third thing that can be said for certain, it reminds me of something I read years ago. "There is no brighter future ahead." Keep that in mind, and it's easier not to fall for things that sound too good to be true. Any response proposed by the talking heads to whatever crisis comes our way is likely to fall into that category.

Gee, you mean all I have to do to fix the crisis is vote for you / put my money where you tell me to / buy the new gizmo you're promoting / scapegoat who you tell me to?

I'll just wait to find out after these messages.

Patricia Mathews said...

A large section of this column came through in my browser in teeny-tiny print; about the size of the "small print" in contracts and software agreements.Just thought you'd like to know.

Derv said...


I'm really liking this schema. It's nice, after such a lengthy focus on the long-term future (your five minutes to five billion years from now post, the five century model, etc.), to return to the present.

I've often said recently to people that this must be exactly what the late 20's/early 30's must've felt like. All the talking heads are spouting nonsense and grand visions, while literally every person on the street thinks the system is royally screwed up. The dissonance lasts only until the populist tide overwhelms inertia, and seeing it unravel in real time is downright eerie.

I've also noticed recently a growth in the use and acceptance of collective power. Everything from the Arab Spring to Occupy Wall Street to the Tea Party Movement to the recent race riots show it. It's even recently happened on my school's campus, where the president of the university was nearly ousted by the students (for the first time ever).

This will seem downright wacky to many, and perhaps is a better fit for your other blog, but it reminds me of an event found in numerous Catholic prophecies throughout the centuries (and no, it's not the end of the world). A period called the Chastisement is predicted, where basically the "ideology of France" is overthrown in violent fashion. A period of economic depression and scarce food leads to Europe-wide revolution (starting in France, Italy, and England). Islam and Russia are involved in a massive, but quick war in Europe right around the old Iron Curtain line. Natural (and perhaps supernatural) disasters accompany this, which lasts for four years. Afterward a new stability forms, where people are poorer but happier, religion reflourishes, and monarchies return in some places.

Obviously most people would take this with a grain of salt, but I do believe it applies to our present era. I can provide sources if anyone is interested. I don't expect anyone else to believe it, but it sure seems spot on, and it's something to think about.

pyrrhus said...

My nomination for proximate cause (though of course all of the other factors you describe will be at work too) is the California drought, which could last a century. See The West without Water, by three UC scientists. The Goldilocks climate of the last 150 years is coming to an end. Part two may be a general cooling due to the solar minimum we are just entering.

Pinku-Sensei said...

Of your two historical examples, I can think of only one where there was a reasonable counterstrategy to the conventional wisdom, the 1929 crash. There, if one held onto cash, preferably in a mattress and not in a bank, and kept ones mouth shut about it while learning a practical skill and cultivating good relations with the neighbors, one could do OK. As for not trying to build a utopia of reason during the French Revolution, what was the alternative--emigrate to the U.S. or a present or former French colony (except Haiti, where the colonial overseers would be run out in a little over a decade) and live life in exile until the rubble stopped bouncing? I have a feeling that surviving the coming age of impact might look more like the latter than the former.

Speaking of people trying to avoid or mitigate consequences, last Friday was National Bike to Work Day. That's a small way to "collapse now and avoid the rush." Some people in Michigan are doing just that, as bike commuting in the U.S. has increased 62% since 2000 while it has increased even more-69%- in Michigan during the same time period.

On the other hand, the latest environmental initiative from the White House, a plan to preserve pollinators, has nothing to do with "collapsing now to avoid the rush." Instead, it's an attempt to prevent an environmental catastrophe from ruining business as usual.

As for "apocalyptic fantasies [being] common and popular in eras of pretense," the second most popular movie last weekend was Mad Max: Fury Road." The critics loved it for its artistic use of action, great performances, and exploration of themes as diverse as feminism, resource use, and the place of the individual in society. Yes, it’s a serious film in the middle of driving across the Outback and blowing things up. Just the same, it shows how Americans (and Australians) have difficulty imagining a future where one is unable to drive, peak oil not withstanding. I'm looking forward to seeing how it fares in competition with Disney's "Tomorrowland" this weekend. That movie's about how the shiny retro future we were promised 50 years ago is in danger. Disney has no idea.

pyrrhus said...

Cash was king in the 1930s. J.Paul Getty bought up many small oil companies for much less than the value of their reserves with the cash he had accumulated, thereby cementing his great fortune when demand returned, and without risking much.

Cathy McGuire said...

Another clear and concise depiction! And I concur that folks don't see what's absolutely in front of them - if you read the New York Times of Fall 1929, Winter 1930, etc, you will not see any description of a Great Depression - it's just some minor financial fluctuation! My jaw dropped as I read the archives, looking for some sense that they "got" what happened - nope. BAU even as folks were jumping off windowsills (and they barely mentioned that, too). So I don't have much hope that today's media and society will "recognize" the elephant herd in the living room.

But some people are getting it - I just ran across an article by Richard Heinberg, saying how you convincing described capitalism as a negative externality generator: The IMF Tells a Half Truth

And in another article over at Resilience, Robert Jensen says: …whatever small victories our movements achieve, I don’t see a pleasant future for large-scale human societies on this planet, and I don’t think there’s much that can be done at this point to change that. We are failing. But it’s impossible to predict the trajectory for all this, and even if we could predict the intensifying collapse with precision, there are lots of things worth doing to make life better for people and the planet. In contributing to those projects, one builds a decent life.

It won't be enough to help mainstream culture, but it encourages me to read others who are realizing what I am realizing - that things are getting rocky and it's not a temporary fluctuation.

Dave Zoom said...

We have technology dude " so did the French at the time of revolution they had new and improved cannon, rifles, the new printing presses, education, a myriad of new inventions ,the begining of the huge industrail inervation.
Everything accept food.

pygmycory said...

Any ideas on what mass actions we will be pointed towards to fix near-term messes? I'm assuming it probably depends on precisely which of them explodes first and/or most thoroughly.

I suppose if a major war explodes, it would be to go and fight. Or if economic collapse, then spend money and/or buy stocks. I can't see that one getting much traction since they did that earlier and most people don't have much they can spend. They might try 'have a revolution complete with gillotine', which would be messy and isn'
t likely to fulfill people's hopes in an era of decline. The current elite is going down one way or another, though. If climate change, then a mass build-out in renewables. A good idea, but needed to happen 20 years ago and is now likely to run head-first into competition with people's daily needs.

I sometimes wonder if Canada will follow a similar path to the USA, or if we will diverge fairly soon. I'd like to see a divergence, and think there is still some hope. I don't think things here have gone as far into decline as in the US. The safety net doesn't seem as frayed, and while the healthcare system has major problems with waiting times and cost inflation it is massively more affordable than the one in the USA.

The politics here are rather different in that we have multiple parties that have a significant number of seats in the house of commons and I think there is a higher likelihood of change at the ballot box rather than via revolution. I'm a bit worried that only some of the green party seems to have any inkling of peak everything and decline as a possibility. The NDP mean well but most of those I've spoken to or listened to don't seem to have a clue. If we did somehow get an NDP majority government, it would likely be sideswiped just as badly by events as the conservatives. Everybody's plans are too grandiose and often address the wrong things, or do so in ways that will fall apart as soon as the other shoe drops.

It's an election year, so I've been thinking about that quite a bit.

Aron Blue said...

I think someone may have mentioned it in the comments last week, but what you're writing about right now truly resonates and sort of chimes with Orlov's book The Five Stages of Collapse. Which I highly recommend also. Thanks for all you do. It's so helpful and real.

fudoshindotcom said...


The U.S. government certainly seems oblivious to the fact that an increasing number of main-street citizens have lost all confidence in the ability of elected officials to enact any useful legislation. Most of the opinions I hear discussed are based on disgust and distrust. That crisis of legitimacy you mention may be considerably further along than those in power realize. The militarization of police departments is, I think, an indicator that events are going to play out much the same as they did in the examples you gave. I've no doubt that very serious people will be dispensing advice on how to proceed to the masses. I do wonder though, just how many in those masses will have enough disposable resources left to follow that advice. My hope is that not many will since the real intent of such advice is to prop up the tottering wealth and power bases of the privileged few. Those people would be far better served, and in turn be of better service, using their remaining resources learning a sustainable living skill-set. Who knows, we might even pick up a few good Druid candidates.

Yupped said...

It's interesting that the real meaning of the ancient greek word "apocalypse" is a lifting of the veil, a revealing of information that shows the truth of things. So in that sense the age of impact may be an apocalypse, with the storyline finally acknowledging that the sunny uplands are no longer within reach.

Still, my guess is that a reasonable majority of individual people and communities, and some whole countries, will be well into the impact, response and breakdown phases before the official storyline of the industrial leadership class acknowledges the age of impact. As you have explained before, the stakes are so very high - religious belief in progress, salaries, egos and lives are all on the line.

backyardfeast said...

An offering on the extreme end of the Era of Pretense; one of those entries that could have won your recent SpaceBats contests, except that it's not fiction...sadly.

It's a classic: don't worry about running out of resources on earth, because, Space Mining!

Yup. We can use ice from the moon to help us mine metals from asteroids and other planets. Really. It's only 20 years away! We're just studying to see whether it's economically viable.

Honestly! You can't make this stuff up!

escapefromwisconsin said...

Speaking of the French Revolution, the Marie Antoinette award goes to -- America's poor are 'envy of the world,' says richest Congressman

And, speaking of clueless elites, in addition to banning testing the water and the mention of climate change in government reports:

A billionaire oil tycoon, who is a major donor to the University of Oklahoma, approached a dean at the school demanding that the university fire scientists who were studying the link between fracking and the increase of earthquakes in the oil-rich state.

Val said...

"It’s as though Colonel Mustard, Professor Plum, Miss Scarlet, and the rest of them all ganged up on Mr. Boddy at once, and only the most careful autopsy will be able to determine which of them actually dealt the fatal blow."

Ah! Just like in "Murder on the Orient Express," which is almost as good as "Death on the Nile."

"...once the crisis hits there will be serious, authoritative, respectable figures telling everyone exactly what they need to do to bring an end to the troubles and get the United States and the world back on track to renewed peace and prosperity."

In locales less hard-hit by decline, it might be a case of "...back on track to further war and imperial domination," I fancy.

The part that really scares and depresses me is where you say that vast numbers of people will likely die prematurely. At that point I think I'd like to put my fingers in my ears and start loudly chanting "la, la, la" until Ebola comes, or TB or whatever.

Repent said...

I've been reading from one of your druid magic handbook and you spoke about a 'coincidence engine' and wow did this ever resonate with me. As a 'Gen-x' fellow with baby boomer parents, I was raised as an atheist, so coming to terms with enchantment, and magic are something, exciting, never discussed, an anathema topic that I've never considered before. (I can't wait to finish your book)

As mentioned in a previous post, I bought your book in a new age bookshop which has a huge sign on their front door that read 'No energy vampires allowed'. Out of curiosity I looked this up and this also resonated with me. Coincidences seem to abound recently. The link about energy vampires suggested that human's have recently speciated and that a sub-species of humans, the ruling sociopaths, are merely mimicking human behaviors and are acting as a parasite off of human society:

I think the age of impact is nearing as you have suggested. That people are starting to look for scapegoats, and someone to blame, this is perhaps the first symptom of the process you have described.

Excellent post as always!

Indrajala said...

Do you think this era of pretense is also reflected in the widespread casual consumption of anti-depressants? Despite everything supposed to be going great, there's plenty of people who are mentally unwell and only function with chemical support. It has become perfectly normal to remain on those meds indefinitely (and this goes for all social classes, even the posh folks at country clubs). There's the pretense that all is well, but deep down many people intuitively feel very unwell. The actual sources of anxiety are seldom addressed.

architrains said...

JMG, I'm not sure how closely Archdruids follow popular music, but a recent hit song called "Pompeii" by the group Bastille has been on heavy rotation in my personal listening for the last year or so. I think those guys must read your blog, because it hits all your points about pretense, impact, and the cyclical nature of history.

The rest of what I've been listening to is my collection of superhero themes.

Despite as much as JHK and others spit on the current superhero craze as power fantasy wish fulfillment, I think some of it does have a useful place as the era of impact closes in. The Marvel movies have been repeatedly surprising me with their explorations of real world and somewhat current philosophical issues (especially the nasty potential of "big data" carried to its ultimate conclusion in The Winter Soldier). The really useful piece I take away, though, is the ability to identify with a character that never gives up.

The fractal process of decline means that the era of impact can start hitting small niches well before it is felt by the society at large, I believe. Lately I've been feeling it's close in the architecture profession, and maybe the building industry at large. Clients have pushed fees as low as they can go, government clients are cutting costs everywhere they can on Tea Party principles, and firms are competing for an ever-shrinking pie slice as the goal for everyone is to get the big projects that don't come very often anymore. Project managers are quietly going out of their minds, and my young peers increasingly don't look at advancing to that level of responsibility as desirable. I think 2008 hit the Boomer principal class like an iceberg, but instead of getting everyone into the lifeboats, they want their final legacy to be saving the ship, and so are putting everyone aboard to the impossible tasks of patching the hull and pumping water while building a bigger ship.

It would be easier to walk away, but the traditional methods of building construction I work with in historic preservation are one of the pieces of knowledge I want to ensure gets delivered to the future. Hence my personal Steampunk Sustainability project, and the need for some inspirational figures that don't give up or shirk giving 110%. And when things start getting really dark in the age of impact, having Steve Roger's impeccable moral compass as an example of personal conduct out there in the ether can't be a bad thing.

team10tim said...

Hey hey JMG,

As with so many things John Kenneth Galbraith put it well "the enemy of conventional wisdom is not ideas but the March of events". In a period of rapid change, like now, convential wisdom doesn't inform on what to do. It informs on what worked in the recent past, during the last big change. Odds are that advice will be less than helpful in the next big change.


I R Orchard said...

Pinku: "holding onto cash in the mattress"? It will need to be a very lumpy mattress if the currency goes they way it does in most failing societies. A wheel barrow full to fill a shopping basket. Better to stock up on garden and carpentry tools. A box of nails could be worth more than their weight in gold.

John D. Wheeler said...

"People want to know how soon I think the shock of awakening will finally hit, or wonder whether this or that event will do the trick, or simply insist that the moment has to come sooner or later."

For the better part of two decades, had anyone asked me, I would have confidently replied that once the production of oil leveled off and the price hit an all-time high, triggering a massive economic disruption, masses of people would finally have such an awakening.

You can imagine what a bitter disappointment 2009 was for me.

flute said...

The world, of course, is not just the US of A. I suspect the Impact will come at different times to different regions of the world. Greece, for instance, has already been hit by some kind of impact, and might expect another one soon.

John Michael Greer said...

Yossarian, no, not that I recall. I do podcasts fairly often -- they're free publicity, and usually pretty pleasant as well -- so you might drop a note to Mr. Marohn and suggest me as a guest.

Matt, yes, I heard. Human beings disgust me sometimes. :-(

Cherokee, exactly. "The only way to win is not to play."

Electric Angel, back in the day they called that the "sucker's rally." It used to happen fairly often after a big crash. Yes, I've read Stockman's piece -- he's far from the only one who's noticed the vacuum at the center of our economy, though.

Kutamun, oh, it's going to be a rough ride for all concerned, no question.

Andy, an excellent metaphor.

Stu, you're welcome and thank you!

John, maybe so, but given the mass of unresolved problems and ignored predicaments we're facing, I think odds are that it's going to be at least as bad as both.

Ray, you're of a generation that's learning to distrust any claim of authority, especially when it comes from somebody "respectable" in the terms of the mainstream. That's far from universal among the generations older than yours.

Russell, good! Reading that kind of case study is a very good bit of practical preparation, btw -- it helps you avoid many of the common misunderstandings of the nature of collapse.

Revere, you're welcome and thank you.

S. Treimel, there is no one answer that will work for everyone. That's why dissensus -- the deliberate avoidance of consensus, so that as many different avenues as possible can be explored -- is so important just now.

John Michael Greer said...

Steve, those do seem to be taking off. I hope everyone has a great time!

Peakfuture, I wasn't very clear there, was I? What I meant to say was that there's usually a point at which most people realize that something has gone very wrong, but they almost always assume that the broken system can be put right and everything will be just fine again. They don't realize that the system is flawed -- they think that it just stopped working, and can be kickstarted back into motion.

Buddha, I'm getting that impression as well. It's possible that the end of the United States may be much more sudden than anyone expects.

Steve, it's good advice. ;-)

Patricia, I know -- I think I have it fixed now. My word processing program and the Blogger software have these disagreements from time to time!

Derv, fascinating. That's not a prophecy I'm familiar with -- though admittedly European Catholic thought isn't my strong suit.

Pyrrhus, if I were a bookie I'd start a betting pool: who wants to bet on what cause for the next big lurch downward? There's certainly plenty of options.

Pinku-sensei, the best move if you were in France in the wake of 1789 was the same as the best move if you were in central Europe in the 1930s: go somewhere else, fast. I'm far from sure there's anywhere to go this time around, though.

Pyrrhus, and if we were just talking about another depression, that would be good advice.

Cathy, yes, there's really nothing like reading contemporary documents from other crises to get a sense of the mass cluelessness that tends to define popular consciousness in such times!

Dave, good. Mention that to today's technogeeks, though, and you can count on hearing that overfamiliar bellow, "but it's different this time!"

Pygmycory, it really does depend on the exact nature of the crisis, and on what's circling in the collective imagination at that moment. Usually, though, it involves an attempt to keep on behaving as though business as usual was continuing: buying stocks when stock prices are skidding is a good example of the species.

John Michael Greer said...

Aron, you're most welcome.

Fudoshin, yes, I'm seeing more and more of that. It's not simply the traditional American distrust of politicians; there's an edge to it, and a widening distrust of the entire system and all its works. This looks more and more to me like a classic prerevolutionary situation.

Yupped, I expect that decades from now, when the entire crisis process is over, there will still be politicians insisting that it's just a temporary blip in the rising curve of American progress and prosperity...

Backyardfeast, many thanks -- that's a classic.

Escape, thanks for those -- two more classics.

Val, I know, but that's the way massive crises play out. How many of the people who were living in central Europe in 1935 got to live out their normal lifespans?

Repent, welcome to a larger world!

Indrajala, good. It's indicative that a sixth of Americans apparently find their lives so miserable that they can't face each day without medication...

Architrains, the mere fact that a band named Bastille had a hit titled "Pompeii" is synchronicity enough for me! As for superheroes, I'm not a great fan -- I followed Batman and Green Arrow pretty much religiously in the late 60s and early 70s, but not since -- but if they speak to you, well, we all take our inspiration where we can find it.

Tim, nicely summarized.

John, I can indeed. A lot of people had high hopes that the masses would get a clue -- but they never do, you know.

Flute, well, of course! As I've noted here many times, I talk primarily about the US here, not because it's the whole world -- or even the most important part of it -- but because it's where I live and, unlike most Americans, I know I'm clueless about the rest of the world.

Kutamun said...

Gday Pinku Meet My Sensei ; had an email chat with another well known peak oil writer during the week about the Mad Max Film and its lack of usefulness in comprehending our current situation in any literal sense , he basically said the same as you that he saw it as pudding proof that people simply cant or wont let go of "happy motoring " . As an Aussie though who feels sort of propietary about the old dog food eating Max ...; the early films seem to follow various stages of civilisational decay , as Max had a wife and was in the police force in the early ones , there were towns and evidence of some social cohesion and authority . As time goes by he becomes the road warrior and enters the wastes, becomes isolated ; then we see Tina Turners Bartertown , a new type of human settlement with methane energy source and wrecked airliners lying around . The Citadel of Fury Road is i guess another step down from Bartertown , though there does seem to be a more apocalyptic element to this one ... Still , looking at this latest " Fury Road " closely , i feel it best serves as a metaphor for industrial society as it currently sits (at least at a metaphysical level ) , that is , we are all crazy , lacking water , seeking elevation , enslaving or rejecting the female principle outright , militarised , forming dictatorships and neo feudal aristocracies as we tear along at breakneck speed through the wastes , war boy "Kamikrazies " with nitrous boosted overheating engines one and all , Rictus Erectus Viagrus , obsessed with the ring and gripped by the Gotterdammerung ....well , at least i am , anyway ! Arr arr arr

Ares Olympus said...

Oh, I'm a little disappointed by this "era of impact" essay, at least it doesn't help me see any boundaries, but I've long used the 2008 financial crash as a boundary that we are IN the "era of impact" now, and if you listen to serious economics they're not just singing happy songs. They are deeply worried.

Paul Krugman might be the chippiest serious economist recently confessing a fear that he had for years that he might be a fraud, and yet in his mind the financial solutions to restore liquidity was wildly successful in keeping the system going, avoiding the second great depression, and NOT (so far) creating massive inflation that all the pessimists were claiming would happen. Still, he also admits he has no clarity how we move out of this zero-interest "era" and that this is the new normal, and savings accounts will have negative-effective interest rates compared to inflation.

A decade ago I'd have gone with peak oil as the driver of crisis (impact), but now it seems clear its the econonic/financial system that's the key to how things fail.

At a personal level the predicament seems to be that in a growing economy, borrowing money to invest (in stocks, home, education, etc) pays off more than not, but in a contracting economy (or an inflating one that is an effective contracting one by median wealth) most investments built on debt fails to pay off the debt.

Since the government (or central banks) are the only institutions that can afford to lose (as long as its sovereign fiat debt) we have to expect these institutions will grow ever more powerful.

So to me this is where the Tea Partiers and Libertarians hold some sway for me. Liberals like Bernie Sanders would love to promise free colledge education for all young people, while doing nothing to control costs, imagining raising taxes on the top will pay for it. But however its funded really the effect would be ever greater top-down mandates against over-indebted universities until they all start popping into bankrupcty.

So in summary the nature of fiat money means we can predict (1) ever greater central control (2) ever greater local bankruptcies of cities, counties, states, colleges, as well as private companies, all looking for bailouts that each encourage the next domino.

So there's a debtor's dilemma here - if you're underwater in effective net debt, you keep borrowing more, since it'll never be repaid anyway, and sock aside some sort of wealth that won't be seized by a bankrupcy, while others if you have a positive net worth now, you could see all your useless assets, pay off all debt, and then redirect that wealth closer to home?

And such questions exist for individuals and corporations and every government institution.

But maybe the "era of impact" isn't caused by financial excesses, but a military conflict, like your story of a great military loss?

Anyway, betting on large market losses, and ever greater federal control and ownership is an easy one, and maybe the next step is while a negligent central ownership is overwhelmed, local forces start redividing resources and assets on their own, legal or not?

Occupy might still have a mission to complete, a decentralized Robin hood crew that meet local needs and dares anyone to stop them? Okay, they still may need some work on breaking their consensus chain of command, but it seems a good bet otherwise!

Morgenfrue said...

I wonder how much influence the respective US and European impacts will have on each other. The US has enough going on to cause its own implosion, and likewise for Europe (especially the EU as a whole), but if one sets off, will the other follow like a scaffolding with the supports kicked out?

Does anyone have any recommendations for good Depression-era memoirs? I always enjoy looking up the book recs here - recently read How to be a Victorian based on a few repeated recommendations here, and enjoyed it very much.

Spanish fly said...

I agree with you, Mr. Greer.
There will be apocalipsh*t, not apocalipsis.
It's going to rain a lot of poo, so please open your umbrellas.
Here in spain there are municipal elections next sunday, and...oh my gosh, both government party and wannabe politicians
keep talking about our great...economical recovery.
If it follows the usual pattern, as I expect it to do, once the crisis hits there will be serious, authoritative, respectable figures telling everyone exactly what they need to do to bring an end to the troubles and get the United States and the world back on track to renewed peace and prosperity. Taking these pronouncements seriously and following their directions will be extremely popular, and it will almost certainly also be a recipe for unmitigated disaster.
(end quote)
Oh, I'm afraid we have some young and handsome demagogues (leftists and conservatives)working in next local poo rain, they fit in your description of Bonaparte epigons.

Odin's Raven said...

Not even Jesus expected to awaken all the people. Instead he is supposed to have told his disciples to concentrate on what they needed to do:

Matt 8:22
Matt 8:22 'But Jesus said unto him,Follow me; and let the dead bury their dead.'

Luke 9:60
Luke 9:60 'Jesus said unto him, Let the dead bury their dead: but go thou and preach the kingdom of God.'

Greg Belvedere said...

I speculate the response from authority figures will resemble the current handwaving by US politicians about America becoming energy independence, but with a bit more force to back it up. I look forward to next week's post.

A new Stay At Homestead Dad post is up. This one shows why it makes sense for more families to have one partner stay at home. I started thinking about writing on this subject after catching the video of a speech you gave last year in the UK.

Denys said...

Over the past twenty years, I've commented more and more to my husband "what, are we in high school again?" So often people are pretending to be one thing or another and the race to get the most likes on Facebook/Instagram, and have your kids in all the right activities and sports - always sports. (American schools would improve considerably if they privatized the sports programs and got them out of e schools.)

Parents complain of a hamster wheel of busyness but they all jump on it wanting to look good and be liked.

The other comment I make often is "how much debt are they in?" It is so painfully obvious that people are spending way above what they can afford. Kunstler made the comment once on his podcast (paraphrase), "no neighbor will mention that they haven't paid their mortgage in several months."

When the chickens come home to roost, we are going to need bucket loads of compassion for people, not finger-wagging and "I told you so."

I could see someone making a living just listening to people's tales of woe, like a confessional booth, and then giving them a bag of good luck charms to ward off the unfortunate events. I could also see the suicide rate going up, but whole families, not just individuals. I could also argue that people's huge weight gains over the last couple of decades are kind of a slow suicide. No one could make the arguement they didn't know gaining 100, 200 pounds was bad for their health.

My grandparents were born in 1920 and were totally cash in the mattress people. They distrusted banks and 98% of other people. In their experience growing up with zero government safety net, they kept close with a few people they trusted and their motto was "tell no one nothing" because people would just take from you and there was nothing you could do to get it back.

Shawn Aune said...

The posts that really hit home with me tend to end up on paper and randomly distributed throughout my community at places where consumption happens on a large scale.

A lot of paper last week will be followed by a lot of paper this week.

I thank the trees for their service. They thank me for not printing a Chik-fil-A coupon.

I think they very much approve of the content.


Yupped said...

Another interesting historical example is Great Britain in the run-up to WWII. The political establishment, the "appeasers", were in a state of pretense regarding Hitler's real intent. This lasted through Munich in 1938 and into the "phony war" period in 1939. Only Churchill and a few others saw the extent of Hitler's plans, with the final impact for western Europe coming in May 1940.

The appeasers weren't consciously pretending, though: having come of age in WWI, they couldn't conceive of anyone really wanting to start another European conflagration. Even Churchill, who was able to see Hitler for what he was, had his own delusions, believing in the British empire's power long after that power had waned.

The pretenders weren't, mostly, pretending consciously, but were just stuck in patterns of thought that prevented them from seeing the forest for the trees (until Hitler came crashing through that forest in the Ardennes). I think that's true of many today.

Laney said...

My mother turned six years old on Tuesday, October 29, 1929. She grew up one of six children on a 40-acre farm in Louisiana. She has no memory of things suddenly getting worse: her family owned no stock and the Dust Bowl didn't include Louisiana. She remembers one uncle who sold off the chickens one by one to buy gasoline for his car; when the last chicken was gone, the car went up on blocks in his yard. But her family was never hungry, and they offered food and shelter for work to the unemployed who came through their small community. That collapse differed according to employment, location, and economic status, much as any looming on our horizon will. The trick, it seems, is to determine where to settle in and what to do when you get there. And many of us will choose to do what we can with what we have where we are. said...

The imminent apocalypse scenario came up yet again in a recent conversation with a friend - apparently on 29 May there will be a pole reversal, and he is heading to higher ground the day before, in anticipation of a tsunami, or whatever have you. In the same conversation, he mentioned one of his friends is trying to sell kilos of supplies (grains etc) that he stockpiled for when the end of the world was going to happen, a few years back (and are now losing freshness etc). I had a good laugh at that one.

Personally, May 29 is my last day of work (heading into maternity leave) and I've got a whole lot of garden planning and planting to do, including soil enrichment with worm castings, a year old "fish brew" waiting to be opened and added to the soil, and planning a larger chook enclosure. These are the things that bring immense satisfaction and grounded-ness (if that's a word!) at a time when I see many people getting caught in the endless dramas of apocalypse scenarios, delusions, or despair. Thank you for another excellent post.

Matthew Casey Smallwood said...

I think the phrase "remarkably similar to meat" is telling, along with the the point that ""Once we can grow the tissue in a reactor the size of an Olympic swimming pool, we should be able to achieve that sort of volume," Post said. "For perspective, half a swimming pool would allow us to feed about 20,000 people for a year.""

Additionally their calculation of bio-footprint undoubtedly leaves out the cost of the oil that is hidden in the infrastructure. Not to mention that the whole thing is way more creepy than just raising your own cow & sacrificing him/her when they are over the hill. Couldn't you eventually grow milk? & then, why would anyone need/want a cow? Unless they were a nonconformist? Wouldn't the cows object to this?

I also note that ISIS (according to the European papers) is getting its funding from the smuggling of oil. You can't make it up.

Finally got your meaning about doing prophecy from the warning tone in the voices of the shills: they are the canary in the coal mine, or (rather) the annoying parrot. All of this is taking on a surreal tone, as I filter advertising on TV (at work) & the news through the awareness that deep down, everyone really knows what is happening. The subconscious of those with the most to lose & the most to sell is a great way to predict the future on this one. Why ten years though? Couldn't the timing drag on? Or are you talking about the first big shock wave that can't be hand-waved off stage?

Matthew Casey Smallwood said...

JMG, Rosenstock-Huessy (a "theologian" who btw may interest many of your readers, as he is a bit unorthodox in his approach, coming at things sociologically) remarked in Out of Revolution that in 1500, the Catholic Church looked eternal, a phase that all orders (at least in recent times, and according to the laws of human depravity) go through at the peak of ossification. Then, 17 years later, Luther nails up the 95 Theses.

"As mentioned in a previous post, I bought your book in a new age bookshop which has a huge sign on their front door that read 'No energy vampires allowed'. Out of curiosity I looked this up and this also resonated with me. Coincidences seem to abound recently. The link about energy vampires suggested that human's have recently speciated and that a sub-species of humans, the ruling sociopaths, are merely mimicking human behaviors and are acting as a parasite off of human society:"

Repent, the idea of social deviation is found in Tradition, & always has been. You can find this idea in works like Our Thoughts Determine Our Lives (by Father Thaddeus) - there is a mental biosphere, which is more or less toxic, that "iron age" intellectuals are dominated by, and filter down to the "peasants". We share a spiritual environment, in other words. Daniel's interpretation of Nebuchadnezzar's dream highlights the motif - Gold ages become silver, silver becomes bronze, bronze iron, and then comes decay. Concretely, human beings share their bad thoughts and amplify them. There are ways to stop this, traditionally, and traditional religions used to explain the process a little more clearly.

fudoshindotcom said...


I don't know much about the mechanics of revolution. It looks as though the desperation plays of the privileged few, to maintain the status quo, are working quite well to drive increasing numbers of people into "economic non-personhood". Doesn't this essentially force on them exactly the type of freedom of thought and feeling of discontent that will likely lead to revolution?
Are they not, by their own actions, driving the nails into their coffins so to speak?

Avery said...

I read this post this morning and just nodded along, but reading it again this evening, I am really struck by this line:

"If it follows the usual pattern, as I expect it to do, once the crisis hits there will be serious, authoritative, respectable figures telling everyone exactly what they need to do ... Taking these pronouncements seriously and following their directions will be extremely popular, and it will almost certainly also be a recipe for unmitigated disaster."

I assume you based this prognostication on similar events in the past, like the French Revolution you mentioned, or maybe Nazi Germany in the wake of WW1. But the coming collapse will be much larger than the collapse of Germany or France. This is going to be an entire global system that will suddenly recognize not only that thing needs some tweaking, nor that there are some "bad guy" countries out there who need to be put back into line, but that the entire project has failed. What kind of authoritarian will fill that enormous void?

Looking again back on that line, it is hard not to think of the Christian prophecy of the Antichrist; and indeed, any hardcore fundamentalists out there will be acting similar to a way you recommend, regardless of what advice you give them.

Staid said...

Speaking of people who simply do not get it I was watching a story on an online news program and the host was talking about how the motive for wars in the Middle East is the pursuit of oil interests. He then went on to say that he personally has no interest in oil because he has an electric car. Apparently because he does not have to put gasoline into his electric car means that he is independent of the fossil fuel based economy, notwithstanding the fact that he makes his living hosting an online news program. Perhaps the online program he works for uses an alternative “electric internet”?

Martin B said...

Don't expect leadership from any of our current generation of Western leaders.

It used to be that running your country was the pinnacle for a politician, recognition for a long and responsible career in public service.

Now it seems to be no more than a box to tick on the way to the REAL career -- becoming a heavy-hitter on the international speaker circuit, and member of commissions, head of NGOs, etc etc. All the money and prestige, schmoozing with the rich and powerful, but none of those pesky voters to answer to.

Obama and Cameron must be watching Bill Clinton and Tony Blair's careers, and rubbing their hands with anticipation.

donalfagan said...

I like this post. I have to admit it would feel good to see all the cornucopians forced to admit they were wrong - but that sort of thing only happens in bad movies and the Red Guard's staged public confessions. Seeing Jeb Bush squirm over whether he would have invaded Iraq is about as close as we get to such an admission, though it was interesting to read reports that Kerry met with Lavrov to essentially give up on the Ukraine strategy.

jonathan said...

there are excellent parallels between the crash of 1929 and the present. with respect to the event that could trigger an era of impact i'm inclined to consider another economic crash as the most likely candidate. however, there is one major difference between the 1930's and the present. in the 1930's, the important "stuff" was still there. most of the oil was still in the ground, the land formerly owned by bankrupt farmers was still there, the factories may not have been running, but they could have been restarted at a moment's notice. the great depression was more of a political problem than an economic problem.

today, in contrast, the tools that might have been available to kick start the u.s. economy are absent; the oil largely used, the factories gone for good and much of the farmland paved over for housing developments and mini malls. an economic calamity now on the scale of the stock market crash is likely to have much greater and longer lasting effects.

Mister Roboto said...

One thing that occurs to me in determining the "when" for these ages you are discussing is the fact that it's very difficult to break them down into discreet eras, and you have to nuance your understanding of the timeline. For instance, I would call the first half of the seventies (the start of 1971 to the end of 1975) the Age of Normalcy transitioning into the Age of Pretense. I would call the second half the seventies The Age of Pretense eclipsing the fading-out Age of Normalcy. 1981 would mark the full flowering of the Age of Pretense.

I would call from 2006 to possibly this year or next the Age of Pretense transitioning to the Age of Impact, or maybe the "unstable years" of the Age of Pretense. What is about to start, I believe, is the Age of Impact eclipsing the fading-out Age of Pretense. I can imagine the full flower of the Age of Impact arriving in or by 2021. And I fully understand that some people including yourself might dispute my timeline in some ways.

Lawfish1964 said...

Great post, as usual, JMG.

I'm with Pyrrhus, in that I think the California drought will be the initial black swan. When Lake Mead runs out of water and there's no more power coming out of Hoover Dam, Katy bar the door! I think that will be the domino that tips the stock market into crash. Once that happens, I believe we'll be fully into the era of impact.

k-dog said...

Excellent and thoughtful you see what lies before us clearly.

"Apocalyptic fantasies are common and popular in eras of pretense, and for good reason; fixating on the supposed imminence of the Second Coming, human extinction, or what have you, is a great way to distract yourself from the real crisis that’s breathing down your neck."

This is interesting but I wonder this time if there is not some truth in the apocalyptic fantasies. Not that I say the world will end in an apocalyptic drama which challenges the laws of nature and physics like the Hollywood fantasy of an enormous tidal wave surging around the planet but as you say Colonel Mustard is in the library with a lead pipe, Professor Plum is in the conservatory with a candlestick, and Miss Scarlet is in the dining room with a rope. All three are itching to kill. Multiple trifectas of doom now face us. The world will not end but the world as we know it must; from which a recovery will be impossible.

The world will not end but if you were in France a couple of centuries ago and the guillotine blade was whistling through the air falling towards your neck you might not agree.

Yet you have given us some serious advice. We can have fun speculating on apocalyptic possibilities but we should keep these speculations reasonable and in check; remembering they are speculations only.

I think one of the things you are telling us is that speculations in times of impact become confused with fact.

Denys said...

Are we taking wagers on the trigger moment? I'm going to go with something in the food supply sending people over the edge into hoarding, mobbing grocery stores, and black market selling "safe" food. Maybe chicken with this bird flu? I'm thinking it could be any food that we eat continuously as Americans and a catastrophe happens to it and other countries refuse to export it to us. Wheat, chicken, beef, corn, milk......a disease wiping out all of and animal or plant is something that repeats itself in history.

Wolfgang Brinck said...

As we fractally enter the impact phase of collapse, it might be worthwhile to contemplate what sustainable living looks like. My approach has been to look at population numbers before European immigrants arrived in various parts of the Americas.
California, where I now live, in pre-colonization times is thought to have had roughly 300,000 people living in it. Currently it has over 30,000,000 people. If a return to truly sustainable living is in our future, then it seems like a hundred fold reduction in population would also seem to be in our future.
The reduction in population would probably happen in a ragged sort of way. Most immediate might be population flight in response to a prolonged drought. Downstream might be further emigration in response to the decline of electricity, irrigation pumps being the largest user of this commodity in the state.
No irrigation pumps equals no agriculture in a large part of the state.
Given California's climate, the dream of permaculture farming might well be impractical. Adjusting to living off seasonably available food might be more reasonable. I suspect that farming was sustainable only in a world with a stable climate. But that climate has been turning more and more unstable over the last few decades. Rather that trying to adapt in place, more people may try to find their luck elsewhere.

Thomas Daulton said...

Interesting that you chose the phrase "crackpot optimism". I once mentioned a classic book by Philip Slater ("The Pursuit of Loneliness"), and Slater quotes some other author as saying one of the defining qualities of the era he wrote the book (1970s, re-released in the 90s) was "crackpot realism". He defined the term as "the insistence that you invest another half-million dollars into a failed project, because 'one doesn't just junk a project one has already spent fifty thousand dollars on'". We know this today as "The Sunk-Cost Fallacy" but he was talking about broader attitudes more than just money: failure to give up on an idea that has worked in the past, when it is manifestly no longer working. Crackpot realism is, I'd say, the somber and serious pursuit of the ultimate logical consequences of a bad assumption about the world, in the face of reality and evidence (e.g. "The Market Will Always Go Up")

I suspect we can name a crackpot delusion that is distinctive to each of your five phases of collapse. To me it would sound a little schlocky to re-use the word "crackpot" five times, (or perhaps you don't object to it). Instead of "crackpot" we might perhaps say the Age of Pretense is defined by Delusional Realism; the Age of Impact is defined by Delusional Optimism; and so forth. Maybe something to keep in mind as you finish the columns in this series.

Thomas Daulton said...

Oooooh, and I just noticed "Architrans" comment after I posted my own. I'm a Civil Engineer, a field different but closely related to architecture, and I've been seeing some of the same things Architrans describes. I try to explain this to my co-workers and friends, but nobody seems to believe me. Nice to have a vote of confidence from another observer. The United States is already a very developed country in terms of infrastructure (which Architects and Civil Engineers are both designing). The easy stuff, the clearly needed stuff, the projects with a high benefit-to-cost ratio, have already been done in the US. The "low-hanging fruit" projects are already gone in our professions. We already built our shining new highway systems and our massive dams, mostly back in the 50s. Yes, our civil infrastructure is now crumbling, but infrastructure repair and maintenance projects are far less "sexy", in part because they are inevitably more complicated, more of a pain-in-the-neck to design and to implement, and have a far, far lower benefit-to-cost ratio. They're less profitable and less "sexy" ergo they are far under-funded and work on such things is less available... compared to grandiose studies of proposed projects that go nowhere, vacuous masturbatory regional planning documents, and so forth. Our profession is slowly moving in that direction -- each day we are less and less the bold developers improving the quality of life for our fellow citizens through clever shining new infrastructure; each day we are more and more like bureaucrats writing self-indulgent and speculative reports and fantastical designs that will never be built. Only large entities like governments can still afford to finance such frivolous and vacuous work -- and at that, it's less and less the local governments, and more and more the regional or national ones -- so my view from the inside, as a worker, is that Architects and Engineers seem to me more and more like our projects are pointless and crazy. We are becoming just another set of hogs feeding off the trough of old wealth, rather than creative minds pursuing clever new improvements to real peoples' individual lives.

cacaogecko said...

Here in Costa Rica its still mostly an agricultural economy and many folks, though relatively poor, grow their own beans, corn and raise chickens for eggs and meat. The infrastructure out in the country is still pretty basic. Most families still have some land they can work on, and their parents still know how to grow food and the public banks don't use depositor's money to play the stock market. Simplicity and poverty might be advantageous in a collapsing world.

Caged Writer said...

The other day I read on an article titled: " The Awful Truth about Climate Change No One Wants to Admit" was wondering if you had read it as your column today resonated with it.
I thought the Vox article was a concise explanation concerning the pretense and avoidance expressed by most every pundit, politician, and scientist concerning climate change. It clearly described how the climate point-of-no-return consistently moves into the future with each update from the IPCC and other climate scientists.

Excellent column today, John.

Autumn Crow said...

Shortly after I was reading this entry, I listened to a Democracy Now podcast discussing the Islamic State. One of the guests mentioned a book, 'Syria Burning: ISIS and the Death of the Arab Spring'. I haven't read the book, but the title got me to thinking about the connection between the two. I wonder, is the current situation in that part of the Middle East an example of the "response" phase you'll be talking about next?

The Arab Spring seemed to have all the hallmarks of an era of impact that you discussed. Especially I remember the wild optimism that peace and democracy were going to flower everywhere, so everyone, join in on the revolution! And now, so many of those revolutionaries are either exiled, imprisoned, or on the way to the gallows.

Hello... said...

yes, John Michael Greer, you DO have a radio-friendly voice and you're calming. Very calming. I actually just read the first comment and said to James, "i wanna find more John Michael Greer podcast interviews again."

to me, you've become what Walter Kronkite was to my folks' generation.

Thank you (and back to my reading the comments),


Kyoto Motors said...

It's true. I still find myself holding onto that belief: that one day the great awakening will surely occur... despite my awareness of the unlikely nature of the possibility. What can I say? I've been programmed by the culture of "hope"...
As for overgrown children closing their eyes and ears and screaming, well, I have some first hand experience with actual children who do this, and I can say it is specifically to ward off the Voice of Reason and other forms of adult based perception. Insofar as this behaviour shuts down all dialogue, it is unfortunately pretty effective :-P

Hello... said...

Revere T wrote: "Even if I end up as one of the "people who die before they otherwise would", I'm grateful that I've been able to spend at least 25 years in this incredibly fascinating time and place in history. Thanks for all you do, JMG. Your essays have helped me appreciate the uniqueness and fragility of the situation we modern people find ourselves in, and that in turn made my life just a little bit more fun."

I AGREE! Sometimes i think "WOW" that i'm alive now and fit enough to handle the upcoming revolutions, because when my threadbare "career" as a writer/artist/performer fell apart in this new san francisco, i felt like an old, fat turtle fighting for her life from her BACK, flailing arms and legs.

i gave up the phone and most internet, and now i lift weights and dance almost religiously, and it's enabled me to feel grounded and ready to fight whatever comes with a jujitsu grace (i often lose it on the tech people, but James/Thor is grounding and beautiful at landing me gracefully from my bouts of frustrated rage and sadness and terror).


omerori said...

I'm still under the strong impression of your posts from January saying things like "it's crunch time!" and predicting a big inflection point within a year or even less, triggered by demand destruction and the fracking bubble blowing up. Now you hesitantly expect the age of impact to arrive within a decade or so.
So... a change in forecast? I'm planning my life according to these things!

Clay Dennis said...

Not to be a contrarian, but I do think it will be different this time. Not in the way the Silicon Valley Tech optomists or the the Wall Street stock pumpers think it will be. The one thing that is different than in the other historical examples of collapse is our civilizations ( western industrial civilization) absolute reliance on several very fragile and energy dependent technologies ( discussed at length on this blog). I agree that we will not run out of food, or water or undergo political upheval any faster than out examples from the past, but when the age of impact is upon us ( my bet with the doom bookie is by the end of the election of 2016) then the first thing to go is personal automobile transportation for the masses. This may seem like just a small step down the stairs of collapse for those of us who bike, or walk in small towns but for the bulk of americans it is the central activity in their lives. I return every day to my condo in an unusual node on the light rail tracks of suburban Portland. Surrounding this tiny haven of public transportation are car lots, car washes, car repair, muffler shops, body shops etc. for as far as the eye can see. People think their lives are over if they can't park right next to their destination at the strip mall. We will certainly not collapse in to the dark ages when the age of impact arrives, but when they can no longer drive most people will think they have. I think this will happen abrubtly and will not be viewed as a small setback by anyone in mainstream america. The only bright spot is that the angry mobs in suburbia won't make it very far on foot.

GreenEngineer said...

The second thing that can be said for certain about the coming era of impact is that it’s not the end of the world.

Indeed. However, if I'm understanding you correctly, the era of impact IS the end of the world as we know it.

This is not to say that all social and cultural institutions will be swept away overnight, but that the assumptions that so many have hung onto for so long will be revealed as illusions. For people who are heavily invested in those assumptions, the psychological impact is likely to be equivalent.

Hello... said...

My dear REPENT! you said: "I've been reading from one of your druid magic handbook and you spoke about a 'coincidence engine' and wow did this ever resonate with me. As a 'Gen-x' fellow with baby boomer parents, I was raised as an atheist, so coming to terms with enchantment, and magic are something, exciting, never discussed, an anathema topic that I've never considered before. (I can't wait to finish your book)"

and yeah--"magic" is making a serious comeback for me in this era and i'm not thinking it's a mistake now that everything we say or write or do is being tracked.

but i also believe this is about i can/should/ought to say about it online. it ceases to become "magic" the moment you think you've figured it out, have underlined, and italicized it.

james and my father say that, and they're right. it used to freak me out like i should put wind chime sounds to every event but that KILLS it.

i think this is actually even more important than hiding away and having your own bunker underground because of the hordes of zombies.

how do you jujitsu zombie energy????

THAT is the question for me and every day out in public is a new adventure in surfing the "thanatos" death out there, and coming home not in lonely tears of despair.

THAT is what makes life art and endlessly interesting now.

i've seen the Twilight Zone warnings about having bunkers and food stockpiled while my neighbors jump me.



(i'm home sick so it's fun reading/writing here today)

Susan J said...

Nicely done, JMG. I especially like the compactness of the fifth paragraph. May I please quote it in my economics blog? I will title it "Concentrated wealth guts the national economy."


Hello... said...

Whoa! John Michael Greer, "Repent" had me going to your other site on your other work sides, although i have a hard time pulling them apart but i see how it's "necessary."

thanks for doing what you do. it's so beautiful to see a man living out his life so generously in service to others', trying to ground--if not "ameliorate"--our terror and lack of understanding.

it is time for me to take my new acceptance and understanding of the truth smuggled in our myths and legends.

i cannot thank you enough.

i find you quite a Father figure of the miraculous sort in this day and age. Thank you so much.

you are eternally patient with all the directions coming at you and are a beautiful example of grace and strength in action.


Heian said...

Not sure if its sad, funny or scary looking at our foreign policy here in Norway. Just as the decline of the American empire seems to be really picking up speed we decide to join in on the sanctions against Russia. Not sure if they are just clueless or its pressure from America/EU.
Oh, and our new fighter plane is supposed to be F-35 (Lardbuckets) so there goes our future airforce down the drain.

Was som talk last week about young people being more aware that things are falling apart.
One place i see it alot is in music, in 2011 Rise Against relased a album Endgame that sold very vell in USA atleast. (Nr2 on billboard 200).
Recommend checking out the lyrics for the last song on that album, wich is also called Endgame.

In 2014 the metalcore band named Architects released the album Lost Forever//Lost Together, i quess its probably not the most popular style of music in here) :-)
And the last song on that album, The distant blue, sort of sums up alot of what you been talking about here on the archdruid report. I find the last part of the song especially interresting since it seems to be touching on the new religous sensibility mentioned in several blog posts last year and your book after progress.

Heres the lyrics for the song

"That distant blue, thats me and you
It was from there that we all grew
Framed in space, our first home
All those beating hearts
That were made of stone
We were disaster built from flesh and bone

Their bodies made a mountain, a ladder to the stars
When they reached up to the sun, it only left them with scars
All the saints and the sinners will reap what they sow
So they stood back and watched their bitterness grow

They couldn't tell the cure from disease
They no longer knew their want from their need
They "#¤%#% the future, forgot the past
Nothing built, was built to last

A common ground, now we see
That connected us like the land and the sea

That distant blue, thats me and you
It was from there that we all grew
Framed in space, our first home
All those beating hearts
That were made of stone
We were disaster built from flesh and bone

Caught in a web, don't struggle free
This is all we've got, so just let it be
If we save ourselves, we'll feel so small
We'll ask ourselves why we cared at all

Blueback said...

Here is another obvious sign we are in a pre-revolutionary situation: a recent upsurge in the number of police officers being targeted for assassination.

damnthematrix said...

I love this blog, but I am flummoxed you can't spell pretence - with a C - doesn't your spell checker point that word pretense out to you? There's no such word!

Blueback said...

I follow Russian news media and the Russian blogosphere pretty closely. There are a great many Russian analysts, including highly respected academicians and intelligence analysts, who say that a revolution, civil war, breakup of the USA or a combination of the above are probably inevitable in the near future.

The Russians are already making preparations to deal with the likely fallout, including taking steps to reduce their economic exposure to an implosion of the US economy, modernizing and strengthening their military defenses, and shoring up their defenses against renewed attempts to instigate new color revolutions in Russia or what the Russians call the "Near Abroad". The Russians fully expect that as the USA collapses, the American political, corporate and national security establishments will lash out in desperation and they are taking steps to guard themselves and their allies with that in mind.

John Michael Greer said...

Ares, well, I can't satisfy everyone. I suspect, though, that you can't see the boundary I've traced because we haven't hit it yet.

Morgenfrue, no argument there. Exactly how the unraveling of Europe and the USA will impact each other is a major question, to which I don't yet have more than the most speculative answers.

Spanish Fly, of course. Bonaparte wannabees are among the occupational hazards of the era of impact.

Raven, true enough.

Greg, nah, the current handwaving is all about "don't worry, we've got it fixed." The rhetoric of an era of impact is all about "we all" (meaning everyone but the political class, of course) "need to roll up our sleeves, tighten our belts, and get to work" -- doing something counterproductive, of course.

Denys, your hypothetical profession used to have names such as "witch," "hoodoo doctor," "diviner," and "priest/ess." It's a perennial growth industry in hard times, for good reason.

Shawn, glad to hear it. If you have the chance to plant some trees or perennial plants now and then, that's also a response they appreciate.

Yupped, yes, 1939 is another very good example. I should probably do a post on that one of these days, because there are ways in which the international situation has much more in common with that than with, say, 1914 or 1789.

Laney, very true. I hope you've learned as much as possible from your mother about how to get by in hard times; that sort of knowledge is well worth having.

Tomatina, hmm! I somehow managed to miss the pole reversal prophecy. Do remind your friend, once the date passes without incident, that he was wrong.

Matthew, ten years is a guess. I expect the first really big economic shock to come a good deal sooner than that -- I'll be startled if we get through this year without a major crisis -- but how long it takes for the crisis to break through the last fingernail grip of complacency is a good question. Thanks for the tip about Rosenstock-Huessy; I'll check him out as time permits.

Fudoshin, ka-ching! Exactly.

Avery, but the entire global system isn't suddenly going to realize that its entire project has failed. That's exactly my point. Decades after any sane person will have come to that realization, vast numbers of people around the world will still insist at the top of their lungs that there was nothing wrong with the industrial project, and they can too have all the goodies they think they deserve. Many of those people will be in positions of power, in those societies that haven't yet replaced their senile elites with competent thugs. This is what I've been saying all along, you know...

John Michael Greer said...

Staid, a fine example of the current fashion in nonsense. Thank you!

Martin, true enough -- and of course there are plenty of other reasons why we can't expect leadership from the current round of soi-disant leaders.

Donalfagan, exactly.

Jonathan, well, of course -- and the US in 1929 also hadn't backed itself into the other half dozen or so massive crises that it's built up for itself over the last three decades or so. That's why we're facing the end of a civilization, not just a common or garden variety economic collapse.

Mister R., good! I wouldn't quibble with your timeline at all, as it happens.

Lawfish, well, we'll see.

K-dog, oh, it's going to be a mess, no question. Again, a good look at the collapse of any dead civilization will show the same kind of ragged trifecta of doom -- Mr. Boddy gets clonked over the head with the candlestick by Colonel Mustard in the library, staggers into the conservatory to be stabbed by Professor Plum, and crawls into the kitchen, where Miss Scarlet is waiting with the rope...

Denys, hmm. I don't want to fall afoul of the laws concerning internet gambling, but it might be worth starting an informal betting pool -- perhaps on the Green Wizards forum -- where people make their guesses. The one thing I'd require is that everyone agree that if they're wrong, they admit it publicly.

Wolfgang, I haven't forgotten about the post on Peak California. Mass migration out of the formerly Golden State? Already baked into the cake.

Thomas, "crackpot realism" was C. Wright Mills' phrase originally, and yes, I modeled "crackpot optimism" on it. I don't know that every phase has its own form of crackpottery, though it's at least possible; I simply wanted to point out one of the most widespread delusions of our time, the bizarre conviction that everything somehow has to turn out the way we want it.

Cacaogecko, got it in one. The lower down the pyramid you are, the less of a distance you have to fall, and the more of the skills you'll need at the bottom you already have. That's why I'm encouraging people to collapse now and avoid the rush -- that is, to embrace simplicity and poverty now, while they still have time to get good at it.

Caged, yes, I read it and appreciated it. It's good to see someone admitting that those who insist that everything's going to be fine if only (fill in the blank) are shoveling smoke. Everything is not going to be fine. Industrial civilization is crashing into ruin, billions of people are going to die before they otherwise would, and an immense wealth of natural and cultural treasures will be lost forever. The question is solely whether people are going to do what they can to make things a little less worse, or whether they're going to shout "Whee!" as the roller coaster heads down a slope from which they will not rise up again.

John Michael Greer said...

Crow, yes, it's a classic example, complete with the seizure of power by extremists in the wake of the collapse of the existing order. Not a pleasant thing to live through -- even for those who manage to do that improbable task.

Hello, thank you.

Kyoto, understood. It takes hard work to break out of a socially encouraged delusion.

Omerori, I still expect the economic implosion this year. This post is about something a little different -- the point at which people stop pretending that nothing is wrong and start pretending that what's wrong can be fixed.

Clay, and where do you get the idea that everyone is going to lose the ability to drive, all at once? We live in the world's second largest producer of crude oil, and even if the US loses the ability to import oil from overseas -- which is quite possible -- all that'll mean is that the poor will be squeezed off the roads. The very widespread and popular fixation on words like "sudden," "total" and "complete" isn't particularly useful in making sense of the future.

GreenEngineer, good! Exactly -- but the world in that sense has been quietly dying for years now.

Susan, thank you; you may indeed reprint it, as long as you include a link back to the original post.

Hello, er, a father figure? I hope not; my goal is to be the knowledgeable friend who can point out the scenery and the places to avoid in the unfamiliar city of the deindustrial future.

Heian, thank you. I may just have to give that a listen.

Blueback, yes, I've seen that, and yes, it's a classic sign that things are moving toward a flashpoint.

Matrix, congratulations on becoming a bona fide grammar troll! I don't get those too often. For the record, I don't use a spell checker, and my dictionary (which is the kind printed on paper) includes both spellings of pretense as valid.

Blueback, yes, but I'd encourage you to read between the lines. If the Russians aren't doing everything in their power to fund and further some such revolutionary outburst , they'd have to be idiots -- and they're not idiots.

Patricia Mathews said...

@ Ares Olympus et. al- I, too, have always dated the Age of Impact (under another name) to 2008, except for a few moments when it seemed that 9/11/2001 was it. Main Street knows where it's at, and my kids, affluent youngsters (though they wouldn't see it that way) who travel extensively, do not argue with my perception that we're an a period analogous to the 1930s. In fact, they seem to be doing what they can to prepare for it.

I date the Age of Pretense from dear Ronnie's Morning In America speech - we all, truly, wanted to believe him! It has been a rather long period as such things so, though prolonged *crises* are nothing new in history. I give you the 30 Years War in Germany, or for a megaCrisis, Rome's Dying Republic era, which like our own 1914-1954 period, actually produced a highly visible Lost Generation! (Clodius Prettyboy, his sister, Catullus, et. al.)

(I finally realized their Latin Wars, c. 90 BCE, was not a WWII analog, but a Vietnam analog. Both sides fought like tigers, and then the winners gave the losers everything they asked for. That's an Awakening-Era war if ever I saw one.) And 9/11/2001 was a flash in the pan, whose impact on our society ratified what was already being done by the War on Drugs.

The Crisis of today is the Great Recession, which is clearly still on. Peak Oil is the MegaCrisis, and those specialize in prolonged Ages of Pretense. Note the efforts of Augustus to keep up the pretense that he was merely a very rich and popular private citizen, and the Republic was functioning as always, only a lot better! It took Tiberius to ratify the change that had happened decades before.

Or look at the 14th and 15th centuries in England and the North of Europe (and for different reasons, Spain) - the medieval order's death warrant had been served by the Great Plague, but it took the corpse a long time to die.

I hope this helps make sense out of what's happening today; we're superimposing a regularly recurring cycle on top of what I feel quite confident in calling a megaCycle because they deal in *massive* changes.

Ed-M said...

Excellent article as usual, JMG! I read Robert Scribbler a lot and he's reported on the super el niño that's supposed to hit later this year. I think that will be the impact, at least for the global warming deniers.

Blueback said...

JMG said: If the Russians aren't doing everything in their power to fund and further some such revolutionary outburst , they'd have to be idiots -- and they're not idiots.

Payback for all those color revolutions and a great opportunity to cripple a longtime geopolitical rival, among other things. I have already heard of propaganda being aimed at disaffected conservatives (RT News, among others) and at aggrieved minorities (I remember someone a while back had mentioned threats to provide military aid to Mexican nationalists in the Southwestern USA in retaliation for said color revolutions in the Near Abroad), so I have no doubt those efforts have already begun…

latheChuck said...

The comment about everyone struggling to keep up with the neighbors, no matter how much debt it requires, leads me to this thought. If I collapse now, I take some of the pressure off of my struggling neighbors. It's so EASY to keep up with me. Pack a peanut-butter sandwich and a bit of fresh fruit for lunch, and stroll out to the highway to meet a carpool... in every weather. Conspicuous poverty is a gift to those who think they need to compete.

Thomas Prentice said...

It is always a letdown when I come to the end of one of your posts; I want it to go on and on and on. I also agree about your Walter Kronkiteness.

As I was reading Adam Hochschild's "To End All Wars," I was stunned at how much the complexities, alliances, aggressions and stupidities of the pre- war-of-empire I in 1914 were reflected in such ominous detail by the mirror of US empire/eu/Nato/ AnglosSphere/imf/Ukraine/Venezuela/ pivot-to-asia/bubbles/wealth inequality/abc/xyz and sundry insanities of 2014. To the point that I was often in fight-or-flight.

And feeling quite helpless to boot. Only now there is the nuclear option that did not exist then nor in 1939.

I am actually more apprehensive about the Israeli nuclear arsenal and the fascists whose fingers are on or near that button ... and now the Saudis want some of the Pakistani nuclear bombs and meanwhile Iran apparently has nothing of the sort ... and after all that hysteria ... ?

sgage said...


"I date the Age of Pretense from dear Ronnie's Morning In America speech - we all, truly, wanted to believe him!"

No, not all of us. Many of us knew right then and there that the US was sticking its collective fingers in its ears and going 'na na ns' whatever.

When I heard the election results, I knew in my gut that America had failed some kind of a test. Well, in a 'democracy' I suppose we get the 'leaders' we deserve.

But no, a lot of people were not in the least deceived by Ronnie Rayguns. A lot of people knew exactly what game was being played out. And we are still reaping the whirlwind today...

casamurphy said...

I'd like to add a third musical recommendation to this thread of comments: "Staring At the Stars" from Passenger's All The Little Lights album. I think this song captures well the mood of giving up pretense and heeding warnings about impact. I prefer the full arrangement version over the acoustic version.

Revere T said...

Some of Russia's efforts to encourage discontent in America are pretty out in the open at this point. A few days ago, I started to notice these rather loud RT posters around the Seattle area.
This campaign seems to be targeted at my generation, which came to political consciousness during the whole Iraq debacle of the early 2000s. I hope most of my peers are savvy enough to see though what seems to me to be a pretty obvious propaganda ploy.

John Michael Greer said...

Ed-M, good heavens, no. The global climate change denialists respond to every disproof of their position by doubling down. If the Greenland ice sheet were to suddenly break up and plunge into the sea, flooding every coastal city on the planet, the Koch brothers' paid and unpaid shills would yell all the more loudly that nothing of the sort was happening and the (allegedly) liberal media was just making it all up. They don't have to tell the truth, and they know it -- they just have to keep on parroting the party line.

Blueback, exactly -- and those events will have begun many years ago, and probably shifted into overdrive in response to events in Syria and Ukraine. Revenge is a dish best served with vodka and zakuski...

LatheChuck, true enough. I'm not sure your neighbors will see it that way, though!

Thomas, I'm not too concerned.

Casamurphy, it's on the list.

Revere, I saw those same posters in New York City last fall. A very clever, effective propaganda push, made all the more plausible by the complete sniveling spinelessness of the US mass media.

Laney said...

Damnthematrix: Mr. Greer was most gracious in his response to your grammar trolling, but you might want to check your regional assumptions before correcting his excellent American English again. Nobody here spells the word pretence. It may be pretence in most English-speaking countries, but it's pretense in American dictionaries, with pretence listed as an alternate that is preferred in England, Australia, and Canada. JMG is really quite literate:)

Kutamun said...

From " The Daily Reckoning "
The second reason, according to Goldman, is that they believe OPEC will continue to ramp up production to match this increase in supply from the shale producers. They will continue to do this as they won’t want to give up any market share. It will effectively become a game of attrition as the big players squeeze out the marginal operators.
This contrasts markedly with BHP Petroleum’s chief Tim Cutt, who this week spoke to the Australian Petroleum Production and Exploration Association (APPEA) conference in Melbourne.
His concern is the opposite. He’s worried the industry is not uncovering enough new discoveries to cover the future demand for oil. He believes that the shale industry in the United States will peak in the next decade, which ultimately will lead to a spike in oil prices once known oil reserves start to decline.
Part of his argument is that the world consumes over 30 billion barrels of oil a year. Although by his estimates there is currently an oversupply of about one or two million barrels a day, in the long term, the industry is not even covering half of this consumption from new sources.
This is what he had to say:
‘In the past four years discoveries were less than 10 billion barrels per year and in 2014 they amounted to less than six…That's only a fifth of current consumption!’
The recent reduction in oil prices has led to oil companies dramatically cutting their exploration budgets, thus further reducing the chances for more new sources of oil.
You don’t need me to tell you how important oil is to the world economy. And as the two divergent views from the market experts highlighted above indicate, the longer term outlook is anyone’s guess.
What we can agree on is that there is currently an oversupply. So in the short term, don’t expect to see oil revisit anywhere close to 2014s highs.
Matt Hibbard,
For The Daily Reckoning

Susan Farque said...

Perhaps, to a lot of people, the end of the world as we know it may seem a lot like being caught below decks on a sinking ship. The realization that there is not going to be an escape, that they/we are going to drown, or suffocate, isn't something they will concede until it happens. I think for most of us there is always the thought that there will be a rescue before the end, even as our noses are pressed into that last little air pocket in the corner and we claw our way past all the other trapped people to get one more breath.
Having been raised by depression era parents and taught skills to "get by" because we were "poor" (even though I didn't know it),I still fell into the bliss of the last few decades, the glamour of the American Dream, and didn't see what was inevitable. Now I scramble to teach my children the skills my parents taught me about survival by living it and asking them to help me do things. Yes, the inlaws think I am cracked, but I remember how much better life was being raised doing these "chores".
I still find myself thinking that somehow my family will survive, and be happy, during the coming hard times.
I, like others here, leave your blog on tables at work along with other "gifts". I don't think the upper management folks will be allowing this much longer, however. My children were raised to listen with respect to others so we discuss these topics, among others, at our weekly "family dinner nights" along with gardening, methods to preserve food, rainwater collection systems, etc., and my collection of material on pre-industrial revolution ways of doing things grows daily. The kids and grands love to poke through my library and frequently ask what new stuff I have found.
Thank you for what you do, and thank you to all those over the years that have provided interesting and informative comments here.


fudoshindotcom said...


Ka-Ching! Had me laughing hysterically. It is so gruesomely appropriate to ring the register for someone who's spent the past four years an "Economic Non-Person". Thank You!

LatheChuck- If I may share an observation with you. In my experience a life lived in simple poverty exacerbates pressure on competitive minded people rather than alleviating it. A recent conversation with a friend went something like this;
Me: If you go shopping and buy a stick of deodorant, a tube of toothpaste, a bottle of scrubbing cleaner, a bottle of antacid medicine, and an air freshener how much would you spend?

Him: About ten dollars.

Me: I'd spend fifty cents.

Him: Yeah, right!

Me: That's what a box of baking soda costs here.

Him: Uhhhh...

Me: It's also ecologically sound and beneficial for septic systems.

Him: Really??

Me: You do realize that means 95% of the cost of your purchase was unnecessary and irresponsible?

Him: Wordless dejection followed by abrupt subject change.

I've found a life of poverty and simplicity to be quite the opposite of the deprived existence most people seem to believe it is.

Karim said...

Greetings all!

JMG wrote " I'll be startled if we get through this year without a major crisis" and "1939 is another very good example... "

For some time I have a feeling that the international situation is getting very close to some sort of dangerous flash point from which there will be no turning back.

I have little to say other than to quote this poem of Verlaine:

Les sanglots longs
Des violons

De l'automne

Blessent mon cœur
D'une langueur


Tout suffocant
Et blême, quand

Sonne l'heure,

Je me souviens
Des jours anciens

Et je pleure;

Et je m'en vais
Au vent mauvais

Qui m'emporte

Deçà, delà,
Pareil à la

Feuille morte."

For those unfortunate souls not fluent in French here follows a translation in English:

With long sobs
the violin-throbs

of autumn wound

my heart with languorous
and monotonous sound

Choking and pale
when I mind the tale

the hours keep,

my memory strays
down other days

and I weep;

and I let me go
where ill winds blow,

now here, now there,

harried and sped,
even as a dead

leaf, anywhere."

Hello... said...

latheChuck wrote: "Conspicuous poverty is a gift to those who think they need to compete."

"conspicuous POVERTY"! i LOVE that! it IS very hard being conspicuously poor: most of us artists have those class-nightmare stories of going out with a group and eating a side salad and water but sweating out the split of a bill with filet mignon and wine.

it's HARD to clear your throat through all the carefree laughter and say, "can't afford it, period." makes people verrrrrry uncomfortable and they start chirping nervously and you can see how much debt they're in by how high their voice is and how fast they chatter.


ALSO, John Michael Greer:

re your "Fatherliness", please don't sidestep such a moniker. I was gonna let it go, but i slept on this and i shall not.

i was born to an ivy league feminist of the seventies and as a life long, card carrying "Feminist," i've since recanted my capital "F" feminism because it became too specialized, ELITIST and lost its way as it chopped down men and became more about women having the rights to be just as exploited/exploitING and jerky as men in power.

but many women didn't get that feminism was NOT about crushing OTHERS beneath them. but that's this system where any "ism" gets over-simplified and corrupted, elitist, and doesn't turn into freedom for ALL.

besides, feminism netted a lot of abuse to men (and others) on the ground and i've seen it first hand.

first is that it denied men's own mystical depths of love and nurturing. we expected men to suddenly open the doors AND read our minds and give us 20 orgasms just with their poetry.

oh. and they had to make MONEY, too. lots of money. and have power.


i've seen it render men confused, hunched over in shame, and ending sentences in question marks. and NO ONE's having fun with how it's all netted out.

that's why i'll not let it go when you shrug off any note of beautiful fatherliness.

that's a GOOD thing to me, and part of what's also missing in this disintegrating culture. pride of loving and caring from a place of being a bit of an ELDER.

and MEN have been my most mystical and alpha dog teachers, and have taught me how to love myself without abuse, and be the kind of unapologetic woman i don't see anymore: i love my own body, i love my stretchmarks and apologize to them when i remember as i'm dancing in the sun.

i had to stop demanding my father (or other men) speak to me the way I WANTED as a female (as a daughter dragged to my mother's lesbian therapy world i loooove talk talk talk and words, constant words), and i've had to learn to hush and FEEL my father's love (and pain). and who HE is.

and others.

men have helped me go to the outer edges of myself as an artist first, and now a woman. James/Thor is a god to me and we're way past any "stages" as i've known him almost 20 years now and love him more than ever. and he's just my FRIEND now.

i love him so jelly-roll complicated.

i love the best of you men and when i see a nowadays rare, but regal example, i can't help but jump up and down and say THANK YOU.

so thank you, John Michael Greer. take it. OWN it! you're absolutely beautiful. your beard and all. you're just gorgeous and generous in many layers of ways. it is obvious you work hard at being here on this earth as your SELF.


--erika again

Patricia Mathews said...

Check out the premises of the new movie TOMORROWLAND. If that isn't an Age of Impact foundational myth in the making, I don't know what is!

Replaces the Age of Pretense MAD MAX thesis ("Civilization will crash, but we can drive all over creation as much and as fast as we want in huge noisy machines, with the usual massive Hollywood property damage, anyway.

Ursachi Alexandru said...


Your country is building up its military capabilities here in Romania and across Central-Eastern Europe. I think those fellow citizens of yours who live in poverty would be very happy to know that their government spends millions to defend countries they've never even heard of.

Our situation is similar to Cuba in the Cold War: too close to a hostile big power, making friends with their enemies, and playing a very dangerous game by doing so.

Eduardo Martinez said...

It is fashionable to state that our present debts are unpayable. Not true. The money to repay those debts is out there in the system because, quite simply, money (or 97% of it to be precise) is created as debt. Total debt = total assets. Debts can always be wiped out by wiping out assets. I suggest the age of impact will start with a currency revaluation or very high inflation event. A time went assets disappear to pay off debts.

Bogatyr said...

@Karim: I can't help thinking that you're referencing "The Longest Day"...

Clay Dennis said...

I was sitting down to justify my idea that the first significant outcome of the age of impact would be most people losing their ability to drive. But after some thought I now agree that this is a simplistic and not very usefull analysis of the situation.
If we start from the premise, that we both agree is possible, that the U.S. loses its ability to import petroleum from the rest of the world early in the age of impact. Then if we also assume that by then the tight oil boom will have run it's course and the wells drilled during this time will be well down their rapid depletion curves. This leaves us with about 6 million barrells per day of petroleum in the U.S. We currently use about 18 million barrells per day. The interesting, and scary, issue becomes how do we deal with this politicaly. Does our disfunctional government and senile elite impliment rationing with necessary allocations to agriculture, transportation, infrustructure repair and chemical feedstocks ? Are we too far down the rabbit hole of market economics and let the rationing occur on a purely price/affordability basis. Does everyone from the middle class on up continue driving while they slowly starve to death and the electrical grid falls apart due to lack of repair? Does this lead to a major and potentialy violent political rift.
My idea that we would make the right choice and allocate our scarce fuel rationaly, leaving out happy motoring, is the engineer in me talking. The historian or political realist would agree that things will be much more complicated than that, and far less rational.

Denys said...

Calling all readers who live in suburban Philadelphia! Interested in getting together and talking about ADR, the JMG books, and projects to downsize your life? Please go over to the green wizards site where we can connect and pick a date, time and location to meet. See the post titled Meet up in SE PA

Myriad said...

The list of potential crisis points, which reminded you of Clue, reminds me of a different pop culture reference: "Round up the usual suspects!" There's a bit of cynicism therein: the implication that the real killer might be among the usual suspects (which is they they are the usual suspects in the first place) but probably isn't (which is why the phrase suggests mere going through the motions). It underscores the importance of being prepared for the predictable consequences of disruptive events, because the events themselves are unpredictable.

The breaking point of the era of pretense, I imagine, will have to be a literal breaking point. Not necessarily the breaking of a thing, but at least of some major ongoing taken-for-granted continuity. After all, the reason collapse is fractal is the ability to contain and limit shocks by shutting off (as you described two weeks ago), cutting off, sloughing off, breaking off, the most troublesome parts. That process can be, and currently is, surreptitious: a lot of little pieces breaking off can go unnoticed by the remaining collective. Big important pieces, not so much.

Fractals and all-or-nothing (nonlinear) thresholds are concepts that go hand in hand. For instance, fractal clouds form when the threshold between a lot of condensation and no condensation at a given point in the sky is sharp. When that condition doesn't apply, you get hazy blobs of overcast instead. The power grid is like that too: at any given receptacle, the power is either on or off (with rare exceptions), but the future pattern of where it's on and where it's off over time is likely to be fractal indeed.

John Barth, in the obscure masterpiece Lost in the Funhouse, discusses forces creeping against hidden thresholds:

"For ages the fault creeps secret through the rock; in a second, ledge and railings, tourists and turbines all thunder over Niagara. Which snowflake triggers the avalanche? A house explodes; a star. In your spouse, so apparently resigned, murder twitches like a fetus. At some trifling new assessment, all the colonies rebel."

So: the end of the era of pretense comes when something breaks at the larger end of the fractal's scale. Actually, not quite. It actually comes when the collective decision is made (by choice or necessity) to let that fracture stand. To not make the commitment or effort to reclaim the region/segment hit by flood/insurrection/whatever. To "cut off the infected limb." The headline of import isn't something like "drought drives millions out of California;" it's more like "Congress votes down relocation assistance for California refugees."

(Because of that, my best-guess timeline for this era extends somewhat farther than yours, though we seem to agree about requiring more than one more major crisis yet to end it. I could be wrong. Yay dissensus.)

I think this formulation tells us a little bit more about the post-crisis crackpot optimism phenomenon. It's the backlash, the attempted revoking, of that inevitable sacrificial decision. In your historical examples and every other one I've looked at, the common motif is to join/rejoin the collective. Jump back into the market/movement/commons. It's an obvious and even commendable impulse to undo the fracture. It's doomed to fail (and make things worse) because the fracture was only a symptom. "Stay on the sinking ship, and we can all climb up to higher decks together, hand in hand." Or less metaphorically: "Welcome back to the new improved Soviet Union."

You probably already know that Mandelbrot coined the word "fractal" from the latin fractus, "broken" or "fractured." An irrelevant but interesting bit of irony. Fractal decline is fractured fracturing. Oh frack!

Revere T said...

Ooo, are we making an Age of Impact playlist? I have so many tracks I could contribute, but the first that comes to mind is "Go," by The Cat Empire, from their 2013 album Steal The Light.

Now I don’t know what you’ve been told
Every little goldfish is not gold
Every little viper’s not your friend
And a million dollars is not how this story ends
Doesn’t mean a thing
Catch it on the wind, throw it to the sea
There’s a lot of old gods in the deep
Maybe you could see them if you weren’t just standing

Staring at some message on your omnipresent phone
You’re so goddam materialistic,
man you’ve got to let it go

There’s going to be a thunder in the hills
There’s going to be a red moon in the sky
People never do what they’ve been told
You’re going to have to hold your loved ones to you through the night
Underneath the sky
Turning out the lights
Everybody comes in by the fire
Dance the night away
She looks into your eyes and
are you standing there just

Staring at some message on your omnipresent phone
You’re so goddam materialistic,
man you’ve got to let it go

Myriad said...


Your comment about taking pressure off your neighbors via conspicuous poverty was brilliant. (I'm not authorized to give out gold stars, but have a tin parallelogram instead.)

It does depend somewhat on the place. Where I am now, neighbors certainly notice things like my and my wife's walking, DIY yard care instead of their army of itinerant Guatamalan landscapers, and our single bag of trash per week in the huge 80-gallon bin the town provides, while theirs are often overflowing. They seem to instinctively (and in our case accurately) associate that pattern with "knowing how to do things," so that's an additional potential benefit for the future. But they have few such needs now (the Guatamalans and the home improvement megastores and Angie's List being omnibenevolent in their lives) so occasional favors and some level of mutual understanding is as far as it goes. In other words, they don't appear to be competing any less, but they're also not sneering in our faces, for what that's worth.

At our previous place, where there were many more households around with similar habits, things were a bit different. They and we found one another quickly, and all our various knowledge of how to do things had immediate mutual benefits. The taste of real community I got there makes being the thin leading edge of future community here a bit more promising.

In many places you do have to be careful about consequences of signs of poverty that become too conspicuous, such as the dreaded clotheslines.

John Michael Greer said...

Kutamun, fascinating -- the media is finally saying what everyone in the peak oil scene has known for fifteen years!

Susan, you're welcome and thank you. The one thing to keep in mind is that we're not necessarily condemned to be belowdecks when the ship goes down; it may be uncomfortable as all get-out on deck, with the wind blowing and the waves flinging spray, but those who put up with those inconveniences are a lot less likely to run out of air...

Fudoshin, you're welcome. ;-)

Karim, thank you! I tend to think, though, of a slightly different poem in this context.

"...Lest we should see where we are,
Lost in a haunted wood,
Children afraid of the night,
Who have never been happy or good."

Hello/Erika, thank you - but I'm not anyone's father (for a variety of reasons, some very personal and some very painful). I understand what you're saying, and appreciate your comments about the confusions and contradictions of feminism -- being a human phenomenon, how could it have avoided those? -- but I find that when people put me in a father-role, the personal baggage and the projections usually come out in short order, and my work is difficult enough without those. Relations between parents and children are so fraught these days, a case could be made that it's probably healthier not even to address deities as "Father" or "Mother" until family relationships calm down a little!

Patricia, so noted; I'll be interested to read about it.

Ursachi, my poor fellow citizens are increasingly aware of that fact, and that's one of the things driving the crisis of legitimacy over here.

Eduardo, abolishing debts isn't the same thing as paying them off, you know. That said, you're right, of course -- that which can't be paid back, won't be paid back, and a lot of debt is going to end up worth rather less than the electrons it's printed on.

Clay, my working guess is that the loss of the ability to import oil won't happen all at once; Canada is basically treaty-bound (at gunpoint) to supply us with oil, for example. So it's a matter of losing one chunk of imports, then another, and so on. I'm pretty sure, things being as they are in the US right now, that rationing by price will be the way things go, but we'll see.

Myriad, excellent.

Revere, I think a playlist is an excellent idea!

hapibeli said...

Impact on its way...

sgage said...


"Revere, I think a playlist is an excellent idea! "

'After The Deluge' by Jackson Browne, on his 'Late for the Sky' album.

Some of them were dreamers
And some of them were fools
Who were making plans and thinking of the future
With the energy of the innocent
They were gathering the tools
They would need to make their journey back to nature
While the sand slipped through the opening
And their hands reached for the golden ring
With their hearts they turned to each other's hearts for refuge
In the troubled years that came before the deluge

hapibeli said...

I agree with you about the NDP. I have little hope for any of Canada's political really understanding the "predicament of our age". They would be far preferable to any of the other 3 parties, but they will be just as blindsided by the coming dissolutions.
Belief is such a hard thing to change. Onward! Upward! To the stars and beyond!
We are deserving of such glories...
Meanwhile, try to keep community growing.

Derv said...

I know this will come as a shock to all the people who read this blog - especially you, JMG - but it turns out some of the "proven" fracking reserves may have to be revised down by about 50%:

I can hardly believe that some of these companies would overstate their reserves to attract venture capital!

sgage said...

The song I mentioned above is actually called BEFORE the Deluge, not after. This came out in 1974...

Candace said...

i've been trying to figure out how much of the baby boomer retirement is funded by the stock market.

I'm not really even thinking about 401k or individual plans, but the big pension groups - Calpers etc.

As I understand it most of these places are having to invest in high risk things in order to get enough of a return to pay out their obligations.

If these plans go bankrupt and people actually have to live on their SS Ret., I think we'll have a lot of people clamoring for TPTB to "fix" it.

Of course I probably don't understand all of the nuances.

I can say that having met some people that can actually afford to travel, buy vacation homes, etc. they would be very disappointed by that lifestyle change.

What's really funny is they don't really see themselves as rich. They all seem to think that is a middle class life style.

Maybe it is and I'm really out of touch?

Caryn said...

Thanks, JGM, I'm finding this particular series of essays, not comforting and enlightening, but as I said last week; pretty urgent and terrifying. I wouldn't mind interspersing each one with a review of Butlerian Carnival action! Instead, I keep bopping back and forth to read the latest on Green Wizards and find myself searching various sites on "which wood makes the best lye", "best way to grow blueberries in your apt!", "3 minerals in clay needed to make ceramics"…. All the while mulling my most pressing concern: how to help prepare my two teenagers? Is that even possible? Is it even necessary, (most of the time they seem far more adaptable and savvy than my husband and I!)

Heather: I think some time ago, you posited a question about collapsing with kids on board. I'd love a re-direct to any discussions on that you or any commenters may have found.

Morgefrue: re: memoirs of the depression: I'd recommend "Half Broke Horses" by Jeannette Walls. A memoir of the author's grandmother - who led quite a life. It's a fun read with loads of fascinating details of how people lived then.

@ damnthematrix: 'pretence vs. pretense' the difference is proper spelling in Standard American English vs. The Queen's English, (correct usage in the UK), like 'colour vs. color, favour vs. favor, etc… If you your spell-check is set to Standard American English it will Americanize it for you.

Ahavah said...

Are there any Bluegrass area ADR readers out there? Planning a pot luck and bbq on June 14th...if anyone is interested send me a note via that Google service to Missgayle and add the number 55 after the "e" and I will send you more information. We will try to seriously discuss collapsing ahead of the rush and how we can help each other do so, and have a relaxing evening, too. Bring a dish and your ideas!

dfr2010 said...

A local data point: Two weeks ago, the auto and recycling shop one town up offered 50 cents a pound for aluminum cans. Then it dropped to 40 cents, then 35 cents ... and this evening it was only 25 cents a pound. That is an extremely rapid drop.

Caryn said...

As I recall from my costume history classes; the Rococo movement just prior to the French Revolution included a 'pastoral' embrace. In Art History the quintessential example is Boucher's "The Swing", although this painting dates a bit earlier. Among Marie Antoinette's courtiers and various aristocrats it was fashionable to dress as peasants, (clean, cute peasants, milk-maids and comely shepherdesses, mind you) and retreat for holidays to a bucolic farmland paradise to 'play at pastoral'.

Now, as an expat, 'Gweilo', (an affectionate Cantonese term meaning foreign devil), I am de-facto seen as part of an 'elite' or well off group, (regardless of my actual status), and have many acquaintances who are, both genuinely well-off and surprising to me - further along in their Green Wizardry than I am - making their own soap and all simple, non-toxic cleaning products, finding local source homegrown foods and growing veggies, crafting of all stripes, RRR, (Reducing Reusing Recycling) everything possible… All these are very fashionable right now. Some folks are most definitely playing, they order all of their ingredients online shipped from the UK or US, will only drink milk from Australia, etc. kind of defeats the purpose, no!? Some, OTOH, I think are very genuine, local and are pretty great sources of technique and how-to info.

No one talks about 'collapse' or 'preparation', it's 'all for fun', but it's a "thing" now, even amongst some of the moneyed class.

Makes me wonder if some of those old French aristocrats were also honestly worried and trying in their way to collapse, to do more than 'play' at being pastoral.

Caryn said...

Cherokee: Have you ever done, or ever though about hosting a few interns to trade teaching young wanna-be wizards hands-on technique plus maybe room & board in exchange for extra help/workers on your farm?

Daddy Hardup said...

Reading your essays on the eras of pretence and impact has encouraged me to revisit "Whoops! Why Everyone Owes Everyone and No One Can Pay" by the UK journalist and novelist John Lanchester (2nd ed., 2010).

He suggests that the 2008 financial crisis was capitalism's 'small heart attack', a warning to face the facts and live more healthily. That it was an opportunity for the British public to reflect on the 'hedonic treadmill' and decide when enough is enough, and also to challenge the domination of the UK economy by the City of London financial sector, and the invasion of all areas of British life by City values and quasi-economic thinking.

In the 2nd edition (2010) he admits that there is little sign of any such change happening, and suggests that 'the real fix is going to have to wait until after the next crash', which is likely in the next few years, and likely to lead to a full-blown depression.

He also observes drily that, 'Public rage is like lightning, and tends to discharge its energies at anyone who has the bad luck to be prominent in the wrong way at the wrong time.'

whomever said...

Hi JMG. I'd love you to post why you think we are more 1939 then 1914 (seriously, not trying to argue or anything, I'm genuinely curious). From my end it feels so 1914 you can taste it: A globally connected trade system that leads to people talking about how "this is permament", an elite totally out of touch with reality, an arms race that's more about domestic concerns then anything else, declining empires in denial...the list goes on and on.

Karim said...

@ Bogatyr: actually, verlaine's poem was used by the BBC radio to signal to the french resistance to begin sabotaging the french railway system as D-Day was to begin within 48 hrs.

@ JMG: most appropriate lines to our times, unfortunately...

Perhaps a few poets around should begin seeking inspiration to describe the mood of our times and our own folly...

EntropicDoom said...

Wonderful essay this week, thank you. But this time it is slightly different, as it is every time systems collapse. In the Great Depression men wore felt hats which were was a staple of men's fashion and even the bums and hobos wore whatever hats they could. Look at the pictures from 1930 where men in suits and ties are waiting for a bowl of soup, even if their suits are coated in dirt. It was rare in the 1930's for a woman to appear in public in pants. Men wore suits and women wore dresses, even in poverty. That changed with the war time assembly lines in WWII. In the 1920's to the 1950's most people went about life, outside the home, in what today are considered “dress up clothes.”

For the coming economic collapse we will all be less dressed up and more slovenly than the 1930's. There will be lots of casual clothes, recently sewn overseas in sweatshops, but little new clothing made here. After collapse there will be no way to make lots of new clothing out of new fabric here in the USA or to import the same, cheaply, from far away, as we do now.

The fashions of today are crude and are crudely made if judged by the standards of the 1920's. Today, only around 3% of our clothing is made in the USA and commercial sewing skills have been lost, that could bring back large scale clothing manufacturing in a collapsed future economy. There are limited numbers of commercial sewing machines available to reinvest in making clothes in the USA with a hastily rebuilt factory.

Most clothing made in the USA today is for the high end, for the fashion runway and the red carpet. The possibility of us literally covering our asses, in a difficult future, in the event of a major economic collapse is doubtful. We will be wearing cheap, causal, hand-me-downs for a long time.

This predicament is typical for many industries. We have lost the old industries that produced our necessities. In the last five decades, manufacturing activities have drifted to other continents where wages were lower. Factories closed and millions of employees were cast off. Whole sectors of the economy, which are those things a country must to do for itself, in order to survive, have been gutted and destroyed by those entrusted with managing them. The vaulted global economy is not going to supply us, post collapse, as it has for the past few years.

If our country's collapsed economy needs to replace its wardrobe in the future, it must do so with local cloth and with local manufacturing. Whatever is made will not be done from a corporate marketing plan, coupled with cheap over seas labor. We will need durable, well made work clothes, that will last and be practical for the hard work of raising our food and making our own tools. Petroleum based polyester will no longer be the fabric of choice. We will have to rely on home grown natural fibers. Our future clothing will be made by local talent, sewing local materials by hand and not made in a distant foreign factory out of oil by products.

Reinventing an abandoned industry and bringing it back to these shores, within a collapsing economy, will not be easy because any actions will have to survive the new economy's lurches downward. The revival of what were once the thriving home grown industries of the 1950's and 60's will be chaotic and difficult. Local efforts will try to fill the void left by what we are now shipping in from far away places.

Clothing is but one example. In the future we will be using inadequate equipment and local materials to recreate what has been lost over the last fifty years. At best we will patch together what we can and make do. That way the fashions this time will be different. When people say it is different this time, it will be, but only in the way we are costumed for the ball. Same old descent, but new costumes. Wear your best, because at midnight the bells toll and we all return to being mice.

John Michael Greer said...

Hapibeli, thanks for the data point.

Sgage, now there's a blast from the past! Thank you.

Derv, shall I channel Captain Renault? "I'm shocked, shocked, to find lying about assets going on here."

Candace, no, you're in touch. They're in la-la land.

Caryn, as soon as I'm through with this five-part series, I plan on having a lot to say about retro as the new future, including a fiction series which some will find entertaining -- I hope! Stay tuned.

Dfr2010, that sounds about right. The prices of most commodities are dropping through the floor as the economy comes apart.

Caryn, that's fascinating. If it keeps inspiring practical steps, it may also be significant.

Daddy Hardup, nice. I may have to see if I can scare up a copy of that on this side of the pond.

Whomever, that's probably going to take a post. I agree that there's plenty of parallels to 1914, too, but I have some specific points in mind.

Karim, that sounds like an excellent idea to me!

Unknown said...

(Deborah Bender)

@Caryn--Or Americanise if you set it the other way round.

Ursachi Alexandru said...


I wish my fellow citizens would be aware of that fact too. Most debates here are about whether we continue on this path or bow down to Russia. So far, I haven't heard a single voice saying that maybe Uncle Sam won't always be willing and able to play nanny for us.

MawKernewek said...

@JMG Canada is basically treaty-bound (at gunpoint) - suppose China was offering a better price for the oil? Would the USA invade it in that case?

I can't really see that happening because that would mean an end to NATO, because the mutual defen[cs]e clause doesn't really make sense if one member attacks another, and an end to the USA's global influence.

myelectricpants said...

Re: Space Bats submission

Here is my submission to the space bats anthology. It is a condensed version of a book length story I wrote a few years ago. I think it is the sort of thing you are looking for.

Bruno B. L. said...

JMG, @Whomever, and others, I agree with JMG that the era we are living in iS more similar to 1930 than 1914. Back in 1914, there was a failing Empire (the British), for sure, just like in ours is the American Empire that is about to begin circling the drain. However, prior to 1914, and unlike the 1930's and our time, the general climate was of optimism, and the global economy was doing well. Many knew a war was coming in 1914, but not a complete catastrophe as the Great War; during the 1930's, a sense of impending doom was very common, just like in our time. Thoughts?

Scott said...

Hey JMG,

As always, thanks so much for all that you do that goes into your weekly posts.

One question: I have discovered another very good (and complimentary) blog:

The author is a professor of Systems Science (and so very good at looking at the big picture).

Your blog, Gail the actuaries, and his are my "must reads".

Thanks again,


Shawn Aune said...


"...plant some trees or perennial plants..."

I doubt they'd be in the mood to speak to me at all if I hadn't already fulfilled some of that requirement. :)

I've become quite good friends with Honeylocust. She has put in a good word for me.

Daddy Hardup said...

Yes, that longing for pastoral simplicity sings through the music of the rococo and early classical periods, too - think of those musettes for viol or harpsichord that imitate the rustic drone of bagpipes and hurdy-gurdies (there was a hurdy-gurdy craze among the aristos, too, instruments with elegant carving and marquetry, far beyond the reach of real peasants - 'the simplicity only money can buy', as the novelist Edmund White once said in another context). Even Rousseau - who had a sideline in composing - was in on the act. His chamber opera Le Devin du Village, about a village soothsayer advising a courting peasant couple, was - irony of ironies! - performed at the wedding of Louis XVI-to-be and Marie Antoinette.

Discerning genuine collapse-now-and-avoid-the-rush from frivolous élite imitations is an urgent task. No doubt JMG can help us here - the Druid Revival emerged in the same period in Britain in not dissimilar circumstances.

Cathy McGuire said...

Someone above was commenting about how architecture and engineering seem to be reaching a "peak" of some sort, so this might be an example of shrill denial - an Oregon news site listed the top ten graduating degrees for OR (in terms of money, of course). From 1-10 (with 3 way ties on the last 6): electrical engineering, engineering, mechanical engineering, computer science, civil engineering, nursing- forestry- finance, architecture-accounting-business. Engineering certainly has it 'wrapped up' - but is that indicating it's gotten to its peak and due to head down?

Cathy McGuire said...

@Karim: Perhaps a few poets around should begin seeking inspiration to describe the mood of our times and our own folly..
I've been doing it for years. And I'm not the only one - posts social commentary poems daily - I have at least 10 on there (search Catherine McGuire in the archives). Yes - poets see the writing on the wall and are speaking as loud as they can! (not all of them, of course - some are still in the playground of aesthete experimentation). Wendell Berry, for example, is a superb poet who's been writing about this for decades.

Stein L said...

When your friends start looking about for other options, that's when things begin looking dodgy. The Chinese getting a lot of nations to sign on to their infrastructure investment bank should be all one needs to know.

I was startled, the other day, as I was reading a book. I came upon a sentence that I've read before, here's it's a repeat occurrence - but finding it between the covers of a newly published book somehow gave it greater legitimacy and import: "... while the USA is tearing itself apart."

That's what those nations have realized, and that's why they are sidling out the door, looking for another buddy.

Ed-M said...

JMG, I didn't say they'd all stop on a dime and do a 180. But on them being still in denial when the ice sheets collapse: aren't you exaggerating a bit much?

After all, it only took four years for the 1920s stock market shills to finally shut up after impact.

FiftyNiner said...

On my YouTube page I had a link from a week or so ago to the Bill Maher show( which I don't watch). I recognized the head shot as being former Congresswoman Jane Harman and I clicked on it to hear what she had to say. Mind you she is President and CEO of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. The discussion of course was about the quagmire that the Middle East has become for the US and I was absolutely floored to hear her say that " America does not have an empire."

I suppose that means that when we lose what we don't have, she and those "scholars" will already be out front explaining to us lesser lights what just didn't happen!

American Exceptionalism at its most pernicious manifestation!

Val said...

JMG, I'd be glad to learn more of your thoughts concerning what is likely to characterize some of the really bad ideas that will be promulgated as the answer to crisis. I presume that the "solutions" implemented by certain European dictators prior to and during WWII are among the historical examples, but surely the range of possibilities is wider than that...?

Ed-M said...


50 cents down to 25 cents a pound! No wonder I'm seeing so many aluminum cans just lying around town these days compared to just a few weeks ago. Apparently at that price, not even the mentally Ill homeless will collect them and turn 'em in.

Doctor Westchester said...

@ Ed-M

I've already seen it written - to paraphrase slightly: "Yes we are talking climate change here, but not that nonsense climate change that liberals talk about in order to take our freedoms away."

valekeeperx said...


Excellent, excellent, excellent stuff. Seems that you always clearly and reasonably articulate perspectives and concepts that have buzzed and bounced dimly through my awareness over the years, as well as introducing me to a multitude of such which are quite new to me. Feel like I’m doing undergraduate (or perhaps even graduate work?) in Decline Studies. It is a joy and great fun to take part, very satisfying.

Thanks for both the ADR and WoG, and their civil and thoughtfully managed forums. These projects are anchors of sanity and sobriety in a troubled and troubling world.

Best regards to you and the Archdruid nation

latheChuck said...

Re: Peak Engineering? I think it's encouraging that Finance is not in at the top (as I think it was, a few years ago). As an Electronics Engineer myself, I've been paying attention for many years, and it seems like engineering graduates have always had relatively good starting wages and low unemployment. Even in 1981, when I got my BSEE, I had two attractive job offers to choose from. Engineering graduates are almost always in short supply, and hence, expensive.
As I heard recently: "Anyone can build a bridge, but it takes an engineer to design one that just barely holds up." The subtlety of that is that "just barely holds up", means most economical use of materials, yet still usable.

What fields would you imagine taking the place of engineering in the graduate placement race?

Jo said...

I imagine that very few people will note the Era of Impact except as it impacts their personal stories - until fifty years later when it enters the history books. It is very difficult to get a sense of the pattern of history as it is happening right now, and that is why I am an avid reader here:)

I remember my grandmother, who was born in 1917, saying that they did not realise they had been living in the Great Depression until after WWII, when the Depression became a 'thing'. During the Depression her family were just working hard like everyone else, not destitute, just 'careful' like everyone else they knew.

cacaogecko said...

Costa Rica is 95% Catholic, and a short time ago LGBT was almost unheard of. Now its an crime for a public employee to discriminate against a LGBT person. Thank you Papa Francisco. Oscar Romero, who the US murdered, is on his way to sainthood. In terms of returning to nature, whatever that means, Papa is going to be talking about Nature pretty soon. He is a very popular man in a troubled time down here. In Nicaragua, Ortega and the Chinese want to put a monster canal across the country and through the largest freshwater lake in Central America. Keep an eye on thus one.

Peter Attwood said...

I find it an interesting point, though I completely agree with you on the big picture, that those advising people to pile into the stock market at the end of October proved quite right in the short term. It bottomed on Nov 13, 1929, and then regained over half its losses from then into February, the Little Bull Market. Those who piled in but then bailed out by April made out very nicely.

But then it being good short term advice doubtless guaranteed that almost all of these winners would stay in as the summer of 1930 drew near, and those people all did lose their shirts. The long bear market into 1932, in which the Dow bottomed at 58, was actually more severe than the October collapses, just not as dramatic.

The fate of the Duke of Orleans in the French Revolution comes to mind.

I wonder how general this principle is. We'll soon be finding out, as you say.

nuku said...

Re the fractal nature of decline:
A recent Washington Post article,
“America's wealthy are walling themselves off,“ (
noted that the rich in US cities are less and less likely to live anywhere near the poor folks, so its easier for the rich to pretend that there is no poverty problem.

Karim said...

@ cathy

Thank you! I will certainly have a look!

Phil Harris said...

Thanks for the link (comment above)to the WH Auden poem.


Ed-M said...

In this month's Smithsonian, there is an article "Farmtopia" which discusses what the affluent classes and the RE developers who market to them are creating: a new kind of suburb called "argiburbia (R)". Yes, the word is trademarked. Yes, the author is extremely skeptical, and his skepticism shows.

And this trend is just like those French aristocrats playing pastoral back in the late 1700s before they met their fate.

Cathy McGuire said...

@LatheChuck: What fields would you imagine taking the place of engineering in the graduate placement race?

I didn't mean to denigrate engineering - it's just that at this point, with the lessening availability of cheap oil (and thus energy to mine, create and build with metal, plastic, electronics, etc.), there might be fewer and fewer jobs for them. If culture were sane (which it's not) I'd say that ecology/soil studies, meteorology,food science,conflict management and whatever science would help us deal with the water shortages (perhaps we need a degree in "disrupting sociopathic corporations" - or is that the legal field?)

Doctor Westchester said...


Talking of eco-villages that aren't hovels in the middle of nowhere: It's in the May issue of the Smithsonian as part of a series of articles labeled "Why You Should Be Excited About The Next Decade".

Ken Barrows said...

The Age of Impact will arrive when total global debt can no longer rise faster than global GDP

Bob Patterson said...

A couple of issues I think you should address are a.) too many middle men and b.) the bloat of corporate operations. Although the recent financial crisis is the best example, for some time , any transactions seems to involve more and more entities, each wanting their "cut". And the top ten percent seem to be paying themselves an enormous per centage of profits. And the gigantic costs of corporate operations management seem to be offsetting economies of scale and momopolistic stranglehold on markets.

Bob Patterson said...

A distillation of denial -

Steve in Colorado said...

Just a though on engineering, and whether it has peaked or not...

Engineering, the knowledge it tries to encompass (and its related fields such as architects, material science, etc) have been around since the first caveman family started on their first remodeling job ;). Seriously though, whether you are building a pyramid, a coliseum, bridge or just a shack, knowing how big to make the structural members, and where to put them is key. Without this knowledge, things tend to fall down on people rather quickly.

While we have progressed quite far from the "if you want a coliseum that big you need pilars this big at the base" stage of engineering, the results are the same. There will still be a need for that information, even if we go back to log and hand laid stone constructed structures (or even mud huts). What will likely change during the decline is the availability of exotic/modern materials and fastening systems, and the spare resources to do as much building as we have in the past.

So are we at peak engineering? If you mean peak employment of engineers, maybe; we will need to see how the economy bounces along in the future. If the economy stays weak, the building of things may decline (it has declined substantially already due to the export of manufacturing).

If you mean the peak need for engineering knowledge, I'd say no sign of that in sight. Although the way this engineering gets done and by whom will be changing, probably significantly so during the decline.

Bob Patterson said...

The food purveyor CHIPOLTE recently revealed they made $146 million profit and the co-owners made $52 million in compensation. Pretty soon most companies could be non-profits and pay their owners handsomely.

pygmycory said...

the smaller the scale, the easier the thing is to have an impact on. Hence why I'm spending far more time at the church (and my own) food gardens than I am on trying to push the national elections around. I would love to see Harper go and mr. plastic Trudeau not get elected in his place, but there is a very limited amount I can do about him.

latheChuck said...

Cathy: re: "Peak Engineering".

I didn't take your post as "denigrating", and hope that I didn't sound too defensive.

Having had more time to ponder your post, it occurred to me that the job market for engineers will tumble whenever the ruling class realizes that there's nothing more to be built, or invented, or automated, which would improve their lot. It might be a sort of widespread fatalism that "there is no brighter future, and no point in struggling to adapt". Industries (and civilizations) can reach maturity, where the return on innovation is insignificant. Craftsmanship might still be respected, but the craftsman would be building to old designs, well adapted to a static environment.

Caryn said...

Ed-M & Doctor Westchester:

Wow! Thank You, that was a fascinating article. While the one fellow, Joffe, definitely sounded earnest and on a pretty good track, I agree with you both, most of this movement is very much a modern day 'Aristocrats Playing At Pastoral'. The sticking point is as many of our self supporting already-collapsed host and commenters here have repeatedly said: farming is HARD work. The idea of moving into a $3 million home in a gated farm community then hiring some poor schlubs (an actual farmer and barely paid interns) to do the dirty work for you, (but NOT be able to live/own a place there themselves!) like some medieval serf or tenant farmer is an insulting farce. Can you see someone forking out $3mill on their bucolic dream and then go empty their own bucket-toilet into their own compost bins?

Plus ça change, plus ç'est la meme chose.

OTOH: Hey waitaminute. It looks scarily familiar to me! I'm not averse to hard or dirty work, but I'm still pretty clueless on the how-to. My husband and I DO have a bucolic retirement home in the US, that we haven't a CLUE how to manage if/when that is where we fall after the cyclone; if and when we need it for sustenance. (My family's personal situation is weird, two countries, too up in the air).

Is there such a thing as a 'Collapse Advisor'? :{

Nana said...

JMG - for the most part, I have enjoyed your books and posts, but I am puzzled as to why you, too, have made the error of relying on 'models' of previous eras in the current era of non-linear consequences...

Not only is California probably in a decades, if not centuries long drought, BigAg is irrigating with fracking fluid... there is less than 5% of the usual snowmelt; the seas are now rising exponentially, the Antarctic ice shelves are melting in ways that no model predicted, the globalization of 'western civilization' financial snake-oil is way beyond any previous model, the Pacific Ocean is dying, the coral reefs are over 50% dead, the fracking 'boom' is collapsing as we speak while leaving behind totally unmodeled destruction of earthquakes and carcinogens, and we are past the known rate of open arable land to cities on the ENTIRE GLOBE..

It seems to me that any one of the above mentioned circumstances are way more than capable of becoming a catastrophic 'black swan' event that winds up causing a cascade of previously un-modeled but intimately interrelated positive feedback loops that will certainly re-arrange our current living arrangements in equally unpredictable ways... on a massive scale.

The French Revolution was CALLED the 'French Revolution' largely because it stayed in France (not to say it wasn't influential elsewhere) but mostly the guillotines stayed in one place. Similarly, the 1929 crash affected the financialized world at the time, but largely was unknown in South America, Polynesia, already rural poor areas, etc.

While I appreciate the study of history as much as anyone, this is BIGGER - and there are conflating variables from so many different directions that 'rational' models are simply nonsense... One thing that Western 'science' really SUCKS at is synergy and accounting for minute interactions that are critical to outcomes.

While I understand that you are not impressed with apocalyptic 'fanatasies' that blame some mythical 'other', it defies logic that 'western civilization' has managed to evade scrutiny even here, and that we are ALL culpable - even those of us who have largely 'collapsed before the rush'... :)

winingwizzard said...

@ Cathy McGuire
Engineering will not go away, as it is needed. But the type of engineering changes - as those burgeoning petroleum engineering grads are discovering this year. Similarly, when digital junk takes a powder, more robust analog systems can take up the slack - except few are alive that understand setting up analog control systems which ran much of the world for the last century.

Today, engineering = high tech, and that requires cheap fuel AND lots of debt. Debt is being rapidly avoided by the younger generation right now, and we all know what the future holds for petroleum.

Engineering, methinks, will survive but return to a cadre of generalists rather than the extreme specialization we have today. At least that's what I think...

KL Cooke said...

Lathe Chuck

"What fields would you imagine taking the place of engineering in the graduate placement race?"

How about Mortuary Science?

Cherokee Organics said...


That one brings back memories from early High School and of course it is correct - not that anyone cares to notice!

Hi Caryn,

I haven't noticed that:

a) Anyone is actually interested in doing the very hard yards required to learn - despite the very real benefits that would accrue to them; and

b) People haven't quite gotten around to understanding that accepting limitations is a form of power and freedom. The current system provides way too many benefits to its incumbents and the dominant narrative is still too strong for that to be an appealing prospect for people.

I wish it were otherwise as it takes at least a decade of real world practice and implementation to understand all of the systems here and that is no joke.

It does make me a little worried, but something will happen sooner or later. I'd be very interested to hear your thoughts on these matters if you've had experience with your question.



Ed-M said...

Doctor Westchester, thanks for the link! I only referenced the hard copy version.

Ed-M said...

Exactly! And the nonsense climate change is contingent on BAU (i.e., economic growth) continuing until 2100.

Ed-M said...

Hey Thomas!

I'm a civil engineer also, although out of work, and I am finding out that to get back in, is based on who you know. No longer can you get the personnel department to forward your resume for consideration, regardless of whether the consultancy advertised an opening or not. Now you have to get your network of friends to find someone to vouch for you first.

PS is there any way we can communicate privately, such as sending JMG our email addresses?

Bob Patterson said...

A mainstream media article that could have been written by JMG -

Unknown said...

(Deborah Bender)

I think the drop in the price for aluminum cans is directly related to the drastic drop in the price of oil. The reason for the premium paid for aluminum cans is that smelting pure aluminum out of ore uses a lot of energy, and melting down cans uses very little. Providing there is some demand for things made of aluminum, the higher the price of oil, the more recycled aluminum is worth.

IIRC, recyclers started paying good money for aluminum cans years before they paid much for newspaper, steel cans or any other post-consumer waste, and ordinary Americans started recycling aluminum cans long before they paid attention to recycling in general.

The prices of other industrial commodities are subject to a lot of variables, but I think most observers would agree that they are affected by demand from China. The growth rate of the Chinese economy is slowing as the economy matures, which is pretty normal. The Chinese government has figured out that its investment policies have resulted in some building and construction that was useless, and they are revising those policies. These are benign reasons for a slackening world demand for industrial commodities.

Meanwhile the world's population continues to grow, and many countries cannot feed themselves. Perhaps agricultural commodity prices are a more reliable indicator of demand destruction caused by economic contraction.

Myriad said...

I'll contribute the following to the playlist:
Delain, "The Tragedy of the Commons"
Flobots, "Handlebars"

Also, I've mentioned Al Stewart here before. His songs "The Last Day of June 1934" and "Laughing Into 1939" are the most directly apropos to the current discussion, but many others of his songs about history also contain powerful messages. Often the connection with present-day issues is implied rather than stated. But for example in his song "Somewhere in England 1915," where after many decades of seeming to avoid the topic he finally (in 2005) addressed WWI directly, he closes (after exhibiting the war in a series of scenes "in a dream") with a shift to the present day and a familiar-sounding warning:

Now the girl and the beach and the train and the ship [from the dream of 1915] are all gone
And the calendar up on the wall says it's ninety years on
I go out into the yard where the newspaper waits
There's a man on the cover we all know, defying the fates
And he seems very sure as he offers up his opinion
Well everyone feels like this in the beginning

I don't think it matters whether a song (or poem or story...) is literally about collapse or not. A song about something else can be a fine metaphor for collapse, and a song ostensibly about collapse can also be a metaphor for something else. I think it's likely as not, for instance, that Bastille's "Pompeii" was written as a metaphor for a failed romance. But that doesn't stop its repeated bridge line, "Oh, where do we begin; the rubble or our sins?" from succinctly stating one of the central premise questions of deindustrial fiction.

Ed-M said...

And I believe it is not just coincidental, Caryn, that Mr. Joffe is Jewish, and *practices* his religion, at least the repairing the world (tikkun olav) part.

The rest? Playactors, for the most part (maybe one exception).

Unknown said...

(Deborah Bender)

A member of my family got a civil engineering degree recently to further his career, which is managing projects to remediate toxic waste sites. Business is good.

Bob Patterson said...

Interesting political fight in New Jersey - the current law prohibits people frm pumping their own gasoline. Now most NJ residents (I was one) a.) like not having to get out of the car on cold winter days (willing to pay the extra penny a gallon) and b.) like the fact that this has created thousands of entry level jobs. However, recently there has been a movement to change this law. I suspect it is by gas station owers who think they will pocket more money. And of course, it tramples on your righ to pump your own gas. Oh well.

Yossarian said...

I have to admit I have the same sort of "death of the car!" fantasies as Clay Dennis. Mostly because I have never owned a car, and resent what the car has done to our cities and my ability to navigate them peacefully.

But then I have to admit that in any society where there are no more cars, there will likely be no more artificial insulin. Since my wife's pancreas decided to self-destruct when she was a child, she'll be dead within a few days if the steady supply of artificial insulin is ever interrupted. I hope that day never comes.

rapier said...

RE Pinku: "holding onto cash in the mattress"? It will need to be a very lumpy mattress if the currency goes they way it does in most failing societies. A wheel barrow full to fill a shopping basket."

There is very little cash around. $1.36Trillion according to the Treasury as of 4/29. All other 'money' is that held in checking accounts:

M1=cash+checking accounts and was at $2.5trillion

Then M2 all that plus 'near money' in supposedly liquid savings,money market and other short term accounts which stood at $10.5TN

In other words most 'money' today is ephemeral and to boot the EU is well on it's way to eliminating cash thus making all of it ephemeral. An idea being sounded out here but I don't think that can happen here, just yet.

The wheelbarrows full of money thing is outmoded and obsolete. US currency will be rendered worthless or nearly so only by it's elimination or by its replacement with a 'new' dollar of some sort.

The other Tom said...

"Collapse advisor." What a splendid idea!
"So, what do you do for a living?"
"Oh, I'm a CCA, a certified collapse advisor."
"Really? What does a Collapse advisor do?"
"Well OK, let me explain......"

I think a bit of levity is useful, even in the face of industrial collapse. Also, I think this could be a nicely self deprecating, quasifarcical way to start a real conversation. You never know what makes people willing to listen.
I'm willing to try just about anything, if it has any chance of puncturing the cocoon so many people live in.

John Michael Greer said...

Doom, of course it's different; it always is. That doesn't prevent the same patterns from repeating straight through the differences.

Ursachi, unfortunately that sort of blindness to imminent change is hard to get past. I wonder if it would do any good to find some similar examples in the history of your country, which I don't know very well, and point out to people that the same mistake has been made before.

MawKernewek, nah, they wouldn't invade -- that's so twentieth century! The Canadian government that tried to sell oil to China would simply be removed from office, and a new one more compliant to US demands put in its place.

Pants, got it! Please make a comment marked "not for posting" with your legal name, the pen name you want to use on the story's byline (if any), and your email address, so I can contact you if your story gets chosen.

Bruno, exactly. We'll talk about that in more detail in and around a future post.

Scott, thanks for the suggestion!

Shawn, well, there you are! ;-)

Cathy, probably yes -- if only because so many people will go charging into those programs, resulting in a surplus of graduates and too few jobs.

Stein, bingo. I think most of the people who haven't understood that yet are in the US.

Ed-M, no, because so much is riding on the issue this time. If climate change is real, the whole industrial project is toast, because we'll be facing irrefutable proof that externalities matter -- and the whole industrial project is predicated on the claim that externalities go "away." They'll be yelling "climate change isn't happening!" at the top of their lungs as the waters rise over them.

FiftyNiner, the fact that the shill in question thought that it was necessary to say that shows me that reality is beginning to seep in through the cracks.

Val, the range of possibilities is much wider -- wider than any of us can possibly imagine. I'll consider a post on that.

Valekeeper, glad to hear it.

Jo, no argument there. The fact that standards of living for most Americans have been dropping steadily for nearly 45 years now, and next to nobody admits that fact, shows just how opaque history can be while it's happening.

John Michael Greer said...

Cacaogecko, thanks for the heads up!

Peter, sure. If a whole bunch of people pile into the market all at once, it will go up -- for a little while. No doubt that gave some of the very rich the chance to recoup some of their losses, and bail out before the real crunch hit.

Nuku, thanks for this.

Phil, you're welcome!

Ed-M and Doctor W., remember all those times on this blog that I've cautioned people not to pile into the fantasy of getting a farm out there in the country? This is one of the reasons why. When the fad goes bust, as it will, it'll be possible to pick up acreage and slightly used farm tools very cheap, and that's the time to jump in.

Ken, that's one possibility. It fascinates me that so many people are so fixated on insisting that they know which of the many options is the one that matters, when nobody knows that.

Bob. I've actually addressed that in previous posts. Thanks for the link!

Nana, as I've noted in many previous posts, I use history because predictions made on the basis of historical models quite often turn out to be correct, while predictions made on the basis of arbitrary handwaving about "nonlinear" this or that consistently flop. Next question, please.

Cherokee, oh, they never notice.

Bob, that's fascinating. Yes, the first paragraph in particular reads like a summary of this blog.

Myriad, as a longtime Al Stewart fan, I certainly won't disagree!

Yossarian, there was a discussion here a while back on the fine art of making low-tech insulin. It can apparently be done; you might consider getting the necessary skills, for your wife's sake and also for other insulin-dependent diabetics in your area.

Candace said...

This opinion piece definitely echos what JMG has been saying...

Glad it's starting to pick up traction.

Yossarian said...

Hi JMG. Thanks for being so active on your blog.

Thankfully I do have a background in basic biochemistry (animal tissue homogenization, RNA/DNA/protein isolation and purification) but have only done so with abundant energy. Single-use plastics, autoclaves, 14,000rpm centrifuges, fume hoods, abundant chemicals).

With some Google-fu, I found the discussion you mentioned. I'll definitely have to read up on the hardware/software I'd need to purify insulin in a lower-tech environment, and especially of the amount of pig pancreas that I'd need to keep a diabetic going and the half life of the insulin that I should reasonably expect if stored under various conditions and at questionable purity.

donalfagan said...

Here in Baltimore, I have a few suburbanite coworkers who just spent two hours in a traffic jam started by protestors of a youth jail that was approved by the Board of Public Works without discussion. It is going to be a long summer.

As an architect, it is interesting to read the opinions of other architects and civil engineers. To my mind, construction managers have eaten our lunch, and we are returning to the days when only high-style projects were actually led by architects. In the 70s, one of my profs divided buildings into 'architecture', 'construction', and 'parody'. Back then Parody would include the Gulf filling station with the faux Williamsburg Gable and Cupola. In the Age of Pretense it seems like most buildings are some sort of parody.

Thomas Prentice said...

John Feffer writes about "Why the World is Becoming Un-Sweden / The Worst of All Possible Worlds: Did Market Leninism Win the Cold War?" in today's TomDispatch. He speaks of Orwellian convergence and divergence, centralization and fragmentation -- "unharmonic" -- around Planet Earth.

Thomas Prentice said...

Another Excerpt from John Feffer: "The Worst of All Possible Worlds / Did Market Leninism Win the Cold War? / Why the world is becoming the unSweden." which aligns with the Archdruid schemata ...

"In the long sweep of history, development is not a one-way street that leads all traffic toward a single destination. No doubt the Romans in the first century AD and the Ottomans of the sixteenth century imagined that their glorious futures would be full of successful Caesars and sultans. They didn’t anticipate any great leaps backwards, much less the future collapse of each of their systems. Why should the EU or the American colossus be exempt from history’s serpentine ways?"

Scott said...

Hey everyone,

A bit off-topic, but I love this paragraph that I read on the "" blog (referring to central bankers/Keynesian economists):

"Now, even if you believe, as I do, that the notion of infinite growth on a finite planet is ridiculous, and the notion that all growth is always good is suicidal, you still live, as I do, in a system that will crash if its faith in growth is broken. So pay attention to these idiots. They're driving."

True. Sadly.


Roger said...

JMG, like you say decline is a complex and fractal thing composed of big and small events.

I'll give you one. A small one. Not long ago the brick façade on an apartment building for low income citizens came crashing to the ground. Luckily there was nobody underneath.

The bureaucratic response was, well, the inspections had been done, the requisite procedures fulfilled.

Yeah but the bricks still came down. This was failure. You can't just shrug. Over and over, for years now, we've had reports about the dreadful condition of our social housing. No matter.

I'll give you another. For the past couple of decades we've been talking about what to do with an elevated expressway that runs through the downtown. And talking and talking and talking. The thing is falling apart. Boom, crash, big, honking chunks of concrete. One of these days there will be a calamity. So what, there's no urgency.

I know, these are small coin, and they ARE small in the grand scheme and not hardly as glamorous as the invasion and sack of the city. No ISIS hordes on the outskirts. At least, not yet. "Impact", as you say, in the form of building materials raining down.

But, to me, this is what decline is primarily made of, a year-by-year dishevelment such that we forget what the place used to look like and how it used to work. Gradually, slowly, it comes un-done.

The glitterati deride law and order types as Neanderthal mouth-breathers because crime rates have come down since the 1990s. Or so they say. But we still have regular bullet fests where food courts and street parties get turned into kill zones.

Even if crime rates declined, rates are still three times what they were in the early 1960s, that is, if you believe the official stats (a dubious proposition). But in this, as in so many other things, the evidence of my eyes defies the official story-line. Apparently people are willing to bear levels of criminality that would have been intolerable a couple generations ago.

Like so many other places in history we'll get to the point where the life sustaining systems become so unreliable that the city becomes uninhabitable. Can you imagine, a thousand years hence, grass covered mounds and shepherds where the downtown used to be?

pygmycory said...

The Chris Hedges article includes an interesting rant against scientific knowledge and ways of knowing things, instead exalting wisdom, which is seen as being fact free and expressed more through poetry and art, and actively repressed by technocracy, the conscious mind and technocracy, which are conflated in the article.

I tend to disagree with the premise, having always seen wisdom as an emergent property of knowledge well understood. The knowledge doesn't have to be formally scientific, certainly, but it can be. His definition of wisdom bears the problem that if you've got your premises wrong, your conclusion will likely be wrong too. How is that wisdom?

nrgmiserncaz said...

There was another link here to the Pimco site where I stumbled onto THIS little gem! All I can say is "wow, just wow!"

Michael McG said...

JMG said “The problem with trying to predict the trigger that will bring our current situation to a sudden stop is that we’re in such a target-rich environment.”

Plenty of triggers and targets, no good measures or definitions to tell if Mr. Buddy is still alive or dead or where the boundaries in system state transitions lay.

Is it Whites Law at some Watt level per person reduction/threshold? Is this the measure of Mr. Buddy’s heart beat or brain activity?

I like attitudinal general measures but am sure neither these nor a Whites Law view will be forthcoming in any believable official stats for some time as Human Nature favors short term; interests and business continuity over sacrifice to longer term benefits.

To that end Michaels Law says – “Without refactoring back to a base, calculation formulas can be easily adjusted at any midpoint to maintain desired trend lines”. Some may call this measurement scheme a lie but in a sense it is more truthful to the popularly desired narrative, more energy efficient than a history rewrite to current measures of success. (Pretense).

At some point perhaps a more cogent and truthful view will be valued, for now “the truth” seems to be a liability and “going along to get along” is a viable strategy .
The building inspector is sure to call for further review of the deck; high nails will be pounded down again but will not hold for long as framing is rotting away while traffic increases. (I look forward to hearing more from you about these periods of decline over the next couple essays).

Thank you and commenter’s (particularly engineers this week) for sharing fine analysis and understandings. It seems to me that engineering will be an area of growth in an era of declining energy as there will be a great need to reconfigure architectures and artifacts.

Not being an engineer but liking them a lot, I think I will draft a list of pronouncements and directives this afternoon starting with a call for more engineers. As more and more start looking for the “right” thing to do perhaps the field of marketing will morph into one of pronouncements?

brian lloyd said...

I agree that we have entered a period when both big economic institutions (banks and corporations) and big political institutions (central governments, nation states, political parties) have begun to crumble. I am just wondering if there might be another option besides 1) "crackpot optimism" (the various illusory schemes that will be promoted from within these big institutions), and 2) the sort of hunkering down in your locality and living right right now (the voluntary collapse strategy) advocated in the Archdruid Report. Option #1 deserves all the scorn that JMG has heaped on it for years now. No solutions, and certainly no relief, will be coming from those quarters. Option #2 seems to me vulnerable to criticisms like the one addressed in the Collapse Now book - making an individual commitment never to rape anyone will not end rape.
We might recall how wildly popular the Occupy Wall Street actions were when they first occurred. Something about them tapped a deep resentment at the way the planet and the economy are being ruined, but tapped as well an enthusiastic appreciation of the way the occupiers held on to a piece of territory for a bit and lived on it humanely and democratically. Nearly every credible style of social activism and most projects for intelligent food and energy production are now, on principle, "localist" in their thinking and strategies. As pretense gives way to impact, these strategies and this kind of thinking might sustain some more interconnected, trans-local kind of movement - something a little less solitary than the "collapse now" option. Yes, we will likely all be localists in the long run just out of sheer necessity (everything big will have collapsed). But as I see it, a strategy of local self-determination - if it included some plan for actually creating local economies and local assemblies as permanent alternatives to the corporate economy and centralized political authority - could give us some power to determine just what this collapse is going to look like, perhaps moderate its impacts somewhat. A controlled demolition, you might say, rather than an indiscriminate collapse.
Anyway, that's what I am working on ... btw, I grew up in central Appalachia - you made a wise choice. Good place to dig in.

Brian Lloyd

Thomas Prentice said...

ArchDruidery seems to be crossing into at least some counternarrative media, albeit not credited, this from AlterNet via Salon:

8 striking parallels between the U.S. and the Roman Empire / Is our republic coming to an unceremonious end? History may not be on America's side

Ed-M said...

@ Bob Patterson, on "the right to pump your own gas." I always thought that self-serve gas pumps were taking something *away*. I saw the transition from all full-serve to all self-serve in Massachusetts and Florida during the 1970s and 80s, although some full-service or mixed stations were holding venom Mass. even in the mid 1990s. All self-serve now.

@ Yossarian, I find the ubiquitous presence of cars makes it longer and more difficult to navigate cities, too. Also that the car culture encourages blight in the form of parking lots and neglected properties by the expressway, and lots and lots and lots of architectural squalor.

Ed-M said...


RE: climate change deniers, "They'll be yelling 'Climate change isn't happening' at the top of their lungs as the water rises over them." The great ice sheets of Greenland and West Antarctica aren't expected to collapse until about 2100, 2150 or so. Maximum projected sea-level rise in 2100 where the projection has passed peer review is about 2 meters above present MSL. So unless there's a privatized totalitarian Market Fundamentalist theocracy, I expect other people to tell these people to just SHUT UP under threat of less than pretty legal and extralegal action, if necessary.

RE: Farmtopia, "I cautioned people not to pile into the fantasy of getting a farm". Before the fad among the affluent finally crashes and burns, I expect a lot of countryside to be turned into that new kind of suburb the article mentioned.

latheChuck said...

Brian Lloyd- "Collapse now..." doesn't mean withdrawing into nuclear family units, hunkering in the bunkering. It just means more local ACTION, instead of global entertainment.

By the way, I cringed recently when I heard someone with a high regard for his own sensitivity to natural beauty say "See Kilimanjaro now, before the snow all melts away." as if our seats on the airliner would have no impact on the climate change that's melting the snow. Such a tour would be contrary to LESS, to "collapse now".

Cathy McGuire said...

@brian lloyd: making an individual commitment never to rape anyone will not end rape.
I want to comment on this, because it's a hard one to contemplate - you will not end rape. If by that you mean no rapes ever again, globally. Same with murder and other violence... it's taken me a long while to grasp that this world is huge and as much as we want to get rid of the evils we see around us, at a certain age, one starts to realize it will always be with us. Not to say we don't try to make a difference in a good way, but our hero culture has convinced most people that if we can only be heroic enough, we can end suffering. And our global communications have made us aware of suffering far away from us. Maybe that's not what you meant, but I find that when I mention this to most people, they get very angry. They consider me "mean" or "callous" because I accept that I cannot change the vast amount of evil, and focusing on being a good member of my local community is more reality-based than trying to change the world. Become humble and make a difference where you are. JMO, of course.

Denys said...

I finished "After Progress" and wonder if there is a place to discuss it? I wanted to share an experience we had attending church and another I observed, and probably others have too. I'll share the observation here if that is ok - many churches around us build larger and larger buildings, especially the spin-off congregations which take a group from an existing church or two and recruit some more followers. Many of the building are the size of several barns with off shoot wings of classrooms. Lots of costs for something used 20 hours over the course of a week (20 is probably generous). It looks like they are measuring their success as a church by the size of their congregation and if they can fit them all In a building at once while serving them lots of programs (Sunday school, teen/ women/men groups, Bible study).

This confuses me. Did not Jesus say our work is to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, free the prisoner, educate the ignorant, heal the sick, comfort the lonely - as well as preach the gospel? All this work doesn't need building and programs but the work of one person in relation to another person. A church that runs a food pantry that distributes food on the third Thursday each month, may be feeding the hungry according the letter of the law, but it certainly is missing the spirit of it.

FiftyNiner said...

Years ago in my days as a company accountant I had the unusual task of compiling a set of financial statements for a local church. I got the job as a favor to my employer and was astounded at what I learned. The job was straightforward enough. All I had to do was to take the manual bookkeeping system and input it into a spreadsheet and generate a set of statements for the pastor to take to the annual Bishop's Meeting.

What I learned was how wealthy a small protestant congregation can actually be! The church had at best a few dozen, mostly elderly, members. The eyeopener, however, was just how much the church had given to individuals in need in the community in the prior year--a grand total of $250! Which to put it in perspective was less than 1/2000th of the church's net worth. My thought at the time was that on Resurrection Morning Jesus is bound to be pleased by all those CD's that will be laid at his feet. The leadership in the church had voted thousands of dollars to go to support a mission in Central America and $250 for their impoverished hometown!

Ed-M said...

Denys, this "mall church" phenomenon is one thing that is not going to last, economic collapse or not. Already, Evangelical Christians have noted that the younger generation is tuning out Christianity more than previous generations -- especially more so than the Baby Boom generation, many or most of whom tuned in and turned on to Christianity as Jesus Freaks.

Michael McG said...

@ Cathy McGuire said “I accept that I cannot change the vast amount of evil”

Thank you for the quote above Cathy. Would you mind if I use it in my story for the Arch druids’ competition?

It will most likely be a line for an emerging heroine and leader of a small subculture fighting for survival 1000 years from now at a point where they are about to snuff out most of a competitor peoples using biologic delivery agents “mosquitoes” and a pathogen.

Evil to some but for the initiators is seen as means to survive over the longer haul given the exponential growth traits of rivals.

While not condoning this fictional genocide, unlike rape there is no pleasure gained through the exercise of this power but rather a deep sadness in recognition of actions needed to survive harsh realities. (There is always justification for genocide , isn’t there?).

The story is called “Beauty – Flower of survival”.

Thanks for your contributions to the Arch Druid Report and whatever answers you give.


Dennis D said...

A minor comment on Canada selling oil to anyone other than the US. As a resident of Alberta, where a large amount of the said oil is, I can see the current tactic is to tie up any option that proposes to change how and where the oil is shipped in red tape. The number of out of country organizations funding protests to every pipeline is very disturbing. There is some innuendo that the current owners of the railroads, which ship a rather large amount of oil, are bankrolling these efforts, but there seems to be more to it then that. If the Canadian Government actually wanted to enable running a major pipeline from Alberta to ports on the pacific coast, they have the ability to mostly disregard the street protesters, but not the pressure from the US.

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