Wednesday, January 25, 2017

How Great the Fall Can Be

While I type these words, an old Supertramp CD is playing in the next room. Those of my readers who belong to the same slice of an American generation I do will likely remember the words Roger Hodgson is singing just now, the opening line from “Fool’s Overture”:

“History recalls how great the fall can be...”

It’s an apposite quote for a troubled time.

Over the last year or so, in and among the other issues I’ve tried to discuss in this blog, the US presidential campaign has gotten a certain amount of air time. Some of the conversations that resulted generated a good deal more heat than light, but then that’s been true across the board since Donald Trump overturned the established certainties of American political life and launched himself and the nation on an improbable trajectory toward our current situation. Though the diatribes I fielded from various sides were more than occasionally tiresome, I don’t regret making the election a theme for discussion here, as it offered a close-up view of issues I’ve been covering for years now.

A while back on this blog, for example, I spent more than a year sketching out the process by which civilizations fall and dark ages begin, with an eye toward the next five centuries of North American history—a conversation that turned into my book Dark Age America. Among the historical constants I discussed in the posts and the book was the way that governing elites and their affluent supporters stop adapting their policies to changing political and economic conditions, and demand instead that political and economic conditions should conform to their preferred policies. That’s all over today’s headlines, as the governing elites of the industrial world cower before the furious backlash sparked by their rigid commitment to the failed neoliberal nostrums of global trade and open borders.

Another theme I discussed in the same posts and book was the way that science and culture in a civilization in decline become so closely identified with the interests of the governing elite that the backlash against the failed policies of the elite inevitably becomes a backlash against science and culture as well. We’ve got plenty of that in the headlines as well. According to recent news stories, for example, the Trump administration plans to scrap the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, and get rid of all the federal offices that study anthropogenic climate change.

Their termination with extreme prejudice isn’t simply a matter of pruning the federal bureaucracy, though that’s a factor. All these organizations display various forms of the identification of science and culture with elite values just discussed, and their dismantling will be greeted by cheers from a great many people outside the circles of the affluent, who have had more than their fill of patronizing lectures from their self-proclaimed betters in recent years. Will many worthwhile programs be lost, along with a great deal that’s less than worthwhile?  Of course.  That’s a normal feature of the twilight years of a civilization.

A couple of years before the sequence of posts on dark age America, for that matter, I did another series on the end of US global hegemony and the rough road down from empire. That sequence also turned into a book, Decline and Fall. In the posts and the book, I pointed out that one of the constants of the history of democratic societies—actual democracies, warts and all, as distinct from the imaginary “real democracy” that exists solely in rhetoric—is a regular cycle of concentration and diffusion of power. The ancient Greek historian Polybius, who worked it out in detail, called it anacyclosis.

A lot can be said about anacyclosis, but the detail that’s relevant just now is the crisis phase, when power has become so gridlocked among competing power centers that it becomes impossible for the system to break out of even the most hopelessly counterproductive policies. That ends, according to Polybius, when a charismatic demagogue gets into power, overturns the existing political order, and sets in motion a general free-for-all in which old alliances shatter and improbable new ones take shape. Does that sound familiar? In a week when union leaders emerged beaming from a meeting with the new president, while Democrats are still stoutly defending the integrity of the CIA, it should.

For that matter, one of the central themes of the sequence of posts and the book was the necessity of stepping back from global commitments that the United States can no longer afford to maintain. That’s happening, too, though it’s being covered up just now by a great deal of Trumped-up bluster about a massive naval expansion. (If we do get a 350-ship navy in the next decade, I’d be willing to bet that a lot of those ships will turn out to be inexpensive corvettes, like the ones the Russians have been using so efficiently as cruise missile platforms on the Caspian Sea.)  European politicians are squawking at top volume about the importance of NATO, which means in practice the continuation of a scheme that allows most European countries to push most of the costs of their own defense onto the United States, but the new administration doesn’t seem to be buying it.

Mind you, I’m far from enthusiastic about the remilitarization of Europe. Outside the brief interval of enforced peace following the Second World War, Europe has been a boiling cauldron of warfare since its modern cultures began to emerge out of the chaos of the post-Roman dark ages. Most of the world’s most devastating wars have been European in origin, and of course it escapes no one’s attention in the rest of the world that it was from Europe that hordes of invaders and colonizers swept over the entire planet from the sixteenth through the nineteenth centuries, as often as not leaving total devastation in their wake. In histories written a thousand years from now, Europeans will have the same sort of reputation that Huns and Mongols have today—and it’s only in the fond fantasies of those who think history has a direction that those days are definitely over.

It can’t be helped, though, for the fact of the matter is that the United States can no longer afford to foot the bill for the defense of other countries. Behind a facade of hallucinatory paper wealth, our nation is effectively bankrupt. The only thing that enables us to pay our debts now is the status of the dollar as the world’s reserve currency—this allows the Treasury to issue debt at a breakneck pace and never have to worry about the cost—and that status is trickling away as one country after another signs bilateral deals to facilitate trading in other currencies. Sooner or later, probably in the next two decades, the United States will be forced to default on its national debt, the way Russia did in 1998.  Before that happens, a great many currently overvalued corporations that support themselves by way of frantic borrowing will have done the same thing by way of the bankruptcy courts, and of course the vast majority of America’s immense consumer debt will have to be discharged the same way.

That means, among other things, that the extravagant lifestyles available to affluent Americans in recent decades will be going away forever in the not too distant future. That’s another point I made in Decline and Fall and the series of posts that became raw material for it. During the era of US global hegemony, the five per cent of our species who lived in the United States disposed of a third of the world’s raw materials and manufactured products and a quarter of its total energy production. That disproportionate share came to us via unbalanced patterns of exchange hardwired into the global economy, and enforced at gunpoint by the military garrisons we keep in more than a hundred countries worldwide. The ballooning US government, corporate, and consumer debt load of recent years was an attempt to keep those imbalances in place even as their basis in geopolitics trickled away. Now the dance is ending and the piper has to be paid.

There’s a certain bleak amusement to be had from the fact that one of the central themes of this blog not that many years back—“Collapse Now and Avoid the Rush”—has already passed its pull date. The rush, in case you haven’t noticed, is already under way. The fraction of US adults of working age who are permanently outside the work force is at an all-time high; so is the fraction of young adults who are living with their parents because they can’t afford to start households of their own. There’s good reason to think that the new administration’s trade and immigration policies may succeed in driving both those figures down, at least for a while, but of course there’ll a price to be paid for that—and those industries and social classes that have profited most from the policies of the last thirty years, and threw their political and financial weight behind the Clinton campaign, will be first in line to pay it. Vae victis!*

More generally, the broader landscape of ideas this blog has tried to explore since its early days remains what it is. The Earth’s economically accessible reserves of fossil carbon dwindle day by day; with each year that passes, on average, the amount of coal, oil, and natural gas burnt exceeds the amount that’s discovered by a wider margin; the current temporary glut in the oil markets is waning so fast that analysts are predicting the next price spike as soon as 2018. Talk of transitioning away from fossil fuels to renewable energy, on the one hand, or nuclear power on the other, remains talk—I encourage anyone who doubts this to look up the amount of fossil fuels burnt each year over the last two decades and see if they can find a noticeable decrease in global fossil fuel consumption to match the much-ballyhooed buildout of solar and wind power.

The industrial world remains shackled to fossil fuels for most of its energy and all of its transportation fuel, for the simple reason that no other energy source in this end of the known universe provides the abundant, concentrated, and fungible energy supply that’s needed to keep our current lifestyles going. There was always an alternative—deliberately downshifting out of the embarrassing extravagance that counts for normal lifestyles in the industrial world these days, accepting more restricted ways of living in order to leave a better world for our descendants—but not enough people were willing to accept that alternative to make a difference while there was still a chance.

Meanwhile the other jaw of the vise that’s tightening around the future is becoming increasingly visible just now. In the Arctic, freak weather systems has sucked warm air up from lower latitudes and brought the normal process of winter ice formation to a standstill. In the Antarctic, the Larsen C ice shelf, until a few years ago considered immovable by most glaciologists, is in the process of loosing an ice sheet the size of Delaware into the Antarctic Ocean. I look out my window and see warm rain falling; here in the north central Appalachians, in January, it’s been most of a month since the thermometer last dipped below freezing. The new administration has committed itself to do nothing about anthropogenic climate change, but then, despite plenty of talk, the Obama administration didn’t do anything about it either.

There’s good reason for that, too. The only way to stop anthropogenic climate change in its tracks is to stop putting greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, and doing that would require the world to ground its airlines, turn its highways over to bicycles and oxcarts, and shut down every other technology that won’t be economically viable if it has to depend on the diffuse intermittent energy available from renewable sources. Does the political will to embrace such changes exist? Since I know of precisely three climate change scientists, out of thousands, who take their own data seriously enough to cut their carbon footprint by giving up air travel, it’s safe to say that the answer is “no.”

So, basically, we’re in for it.

The thing that fascinates me is that this is something I’ve been saying for the whole time this blog has been appearing. The window of opportunity for making a smooth transition to a renewable future slammed shut in the early 1980s, when majorities across the industrial world turned their backs on the previous decade’s promising initiatives toward sustainability, and bought into the triumphalist rhetoric of the Reagan-Thatcher counterrevolution instead. Since then, year after weary year, most of the green movement—with noble exceptions—has been long on talk and short on action.  Excuses for doing nothing and justifications for clinging to lifestyles the planet cannot support have proliferated like rabbits on Viagra, and most of the people who talked about sustainability at all took it for granted that the time to change course was still somewhere conveniently off in the future. That guaranteed that the chance to change course would slide steadily further back into the past.

There was another detail of the post-Seventies sustainability scene that deserves discussion, though, because it’s been displayed with an almost pornographic degree of nakedness in the weeks just past. From the early days of the peak oil movement in the late 1990s on, a remarkably large number of the people who talked eagerly about the looming crisis of our age seemed to think that its consequences would leave them and the people and things they cared about more or less intact. That wasn’t universal by any means; there were always some people who grappled with the hard realities that the end of the fossil fuel age was going to impose on their own lives; but all things considered, there weren’t that many, in comparison to all those who chattered amiably about how comfortable they’d be in their rural doomsteads, lifeboat communities, Transition Towns, et al.

Now, as discussed earlier in this post, we’ve gotten a very modest helping of decline and fall, and people who were enthusiastically discussing the end of the industrial age not that long ago are freaking out six ways from Sunday. If a relatively tame event like the election of an unpopular president can send people into this kind of tailspin, what are they going to do the day their paychecks suddenly turn out to be worth only half as much in terms of goods and services as before—a kind of event that’s already become tolerably common elsewhere, and could quite easily happen in this country as the dollar loses its reserve currency status?

What kinds of meltdowns are we going to get when internet service or modern health care get priced out of reach, or become unavailable at any price?  How are they going to cope if the accelerating crisis of legitimacy in this country causes the federal government to implode, the way the government of the Soviet Union did, and suddenly they’re living under cobbled-together regional governments that don’t have the money to pay for basic services? What sort of reaction are we going to see if the US blunders into a sustained domestic insurgency—suicide bombs going off in public places, firefights between insurgent forces and government troops, death squads from both sides rounding up potential opponents and leaving them in unmarked mass graves—or, heaven help us, all-out civil war?

This is what the decline and fall of a civilization looks like. It’s not about sitting in a cozy earth-sheltered home under a roof loaded with solar panels, living some close approximation of a modern industrial lifestyle, while the rest of the world slides meekly down the chute toward history’s compost bin, leaving you and yours untouched. It’s about political chaos—meaning that you won’t get the leaders you want, and you may not be able to count on the rule of law or even the most basic civil liberties. It’s about economic implosion—meaning that your salary will probably go away, your savings almost certainly won’t keep its value, and if you have gold bars hidden in your home, you’d better hope to Hannah that nobody ever finds out, or it’ll be a race between the local government and the local bandits to see which one gets to tie your family up and torture them to death, starting with the children, until somebody breaks and tells them where your stash is located.

It’s about environmental chaos—meaning that you and the people you care about may have many hungry days ahead as crazy weather messes with the harvests, and it’s by no means certain you won’t die early from some tropical microbe that’s been jarred loose from its native habitat to find a new and tasty home in you. It’s about rapid demographic contraction—meaning that you get to have the experience a lot of people in the Rust Belt have already, of walking past one abandoned house after another and remembering the people who used to live there, until they didn’t any more.

More than anything else, it’s about loss. Things that you value—things you think of as important, meaningful, even necessary—are going to go away forever in the years immediately ahead of us, and there will be nothing you can do about it.  It really is as simple as that. People who live in an age of decline and fall can’t afford to cultivate a sense of entitlement. Unfortunately, for reasons discussed at some length in one of last month’s posts, the notion that the universe is somehow obliged to give people what they think they deserve is very deeply engrained in American popular culture these days. That’s a very unwise notion to believe right now, and as we slide further down the slope, it could very readily become fatal—and no, by the way, I don’t mean that last adjective in a metaphorical sense.

History recalls how great the fall can be, Roger Hodgson sang. In our case, it’s shaping up to be one for the record books—and those of my readers who have worked themselves up to the screaming point about the comparatively mild events we’ve seen so far may want to save some of their breath for the times ahead when it’s going to get much, much worse.
*In colloquial English: “It sucks to lose.”


1 – 200 of 448   Newer›   Newest»
Marcu said...

The first meeting of the Green Wizard's Association of Melbourne, for the new year, will be held this Saturday. All interested parties are invited to attend. For those people who are unsure about the nature of our meetings, imagine a long descent support group with some intentional living discussion mixed in.

If you are interested in joining us, meet us on Saturday the 28th of January 2017 at 13:00. The venue is, Vapiano, 347 Flinders Lane, Melbourne Victoria, Australia. Apologies to everybody who is tired of Italian food! One of the items of discussion this month will be alternative venue choices.

Send queries and comments to limitstogrowth1972[at]

Just look for the green wizard's hat.

P.S. I have created a webpage where I will post the details of the next meeting and any further details for those who don't frequent the comments here. The webpage can be found at

Daniel Najib said...

How fortuitous, this post and the one on the other blog brought up some aspect of Anacyclosis; I sense a pattern!

What you said at the end really stuck out: "Things that you value—things you think of as important, meaningful, even necessary—are going to go away forever in the years immediately ahead of us, and there will be nothing you can do about it."

Quite true. I've taken up an intensive study of Stoicism for about a year now, and it has helped me to come to grips about what is in my control, and what is outside my control. I try not to worry excessively about such externalities. I'm a member of a Stoic group here in NYC that's seen rising membership over the last year, and Stoicism is making a philosophical come back. Hopefully this philosophy can help people through the dark age. For anyone interested in the philosophy, I recommend Epictetus's Handbook as a good starting place.

DaShui said...

I know this is off post, but I thought you gotta see this:

And you told us Druidism is a "religion of peace"!

Marcu said...

A very sobering post. It is jarring seeing the possible landscape of the future laid out so starkly. If "Collapse now and avoid the rush" has reached its expiry date is there any advice you could spare, is there anything that can still be done?

Violet Cabra said...

Thank you for this article and your blogs in general, John Michael Greer. They've helped me immeasurably to adjust to the unpalatable future we have staring us in the face.

on January first this year I was exposed to fragrances that caused burning in my mouth and tongue and swelling in my throat. Since then I've been markedly unwell with much lowered vitality, weird pains, loss of appetite, and fatigue, worsened, of course, by chemical exposure. Most of the spaces I've been accustomed to passing time are now inaccessible to me. The majority of my peers have little basis for understanding what is happening to me, and given that I'm limited in where I can go, it's hard to educate them.

For several months I was planning on returning to my parent's house. My mom, bless her heart, is removing all the fragrances she can. In a profound way I've lost control in my life, largely based on the feckless development of toxic chemicals and their proliferation in almost every aspect of our lives.

I don't know if I'll stay at the same level of sickness, get better or worse. My life is up in the air, and I'm awed by the enlarged degree of my vulnerability. During this trying time I've mediated quite a bit on your writing, and have found great comfort in your words. For me, collapse may have just come, and yes, I'm fully aware it may turn out to be fatal. I'm also aware that collectively, and most likely personally, things will worsen in due time, and I'm significantly less likely now to be able to survive these developments.

Such is life, which is wild, and precious and ultimately bound up in strange destinies and directions which defy our puny human understandings. For what it's worth I'm enormously excited to garden with my family and see just how much food I can grow and preserve, to plant many anise hyssop (Agastache foeniculum) in the lawn for the bees, and nettles and burdock all around, start seeds indoors, and share plants far and sundry with friends and neighbors.

mh505 said...

European politicians are squawking at top volume about the importance of NATO, which means in practice the continuation of a scheme that allows most European countries to push most of the costs of their own defense onto the United States, but the new administration doesn’t seem to be buying it.

Defense against whom? Presumably Russia.
Well, it may come as a surprise to you, but Russia can and will be a much partner for us Europeans than the US ever was.

Emmanuel Goldstein said...

I have to admit, I _was_ holding my breath at times during The Donald's inauguration. It seemed to me that there was a significant chance that he would not live thru the experience. Had he not, we would almost certainly be on the rapid road to civil war about now.
As far as collapsing now, it is true that my profession (pharmacy) is in the process of going away. The problem is that it's not gone yet. As it goes gradually downhill, I find that I have to keep one foot in pharmacy, paying out funds for the mandatory continuing ed, license fees, etc, that maintain the license. It still pays the bills, but when I let it go, there is no good regulatory route to get it back again if that's necessary. So my down time is spent downsizing the dwelling, getting really good at passive solar engineering and looking into local herbs and the brewing of antibiotics that could be the basis of an herbal/antibiotic practice in 5 to 10 years.
My son is in a similar position. He works in computers now, but is using that career to find his way into a trade. Our happiest future is being unable to travel out of the rural community where we live, and hopefully having a part in the local community economy. War, pestilence or other natural disaster takes it downhill from there.

Justin said...

I think that this is a good video which is relevant to this week's blog post.

Specifically, the minute or so after this timestamp, although unless you're super busy you should just watch the whole thing.

Many affluent liberals I know, including those who complain about Republicans not taking climate change seriously while planning their next overseas trip, are perfectly happy to engage in objectively unpleasant activities - camping, endurance cycling, etc in service to the identity they are acting out. Many people who serve in the military, provided that they do not see too much carnage, miss the military after they get out.

The number one issue of our time is just what the frack we're collectively doing here now that we're no longer Progressing, and we need a consistent vision, shared by 95%+ of society about what that is if we are going to have a functional, humane society.

Addendum: JMG, the Evola book I actually read was Revolt Against the Modern World. If I mixed it up that badly, I should probably read it again.

Unknown said...

Hello JMG,

I appreciate the points you are making in this post. It is important to remember that the daily grind is part of a larger and overall predictable society grind. That said you have always stressed the jerking periods of decline followed by plateau. This post seemed much more catastrophic then catabolic if you will.

Are you suggesting we are entering a period of sharp decline with an unknown plateau somewhere down the slope and down the road or are you suggesting this is "the big one" as it were.

MindfulEcologist said...

The voice of sanity!

The changed lifestyle is still its own reward: LESS is more. It is sad that more people did not get that part of it.

Speaking of, I put most of one of the harder to find essays by E.F. Schumacher, The Roots of Violence, on my site. Your readers might find it adds food for thought.

Thank you for the offline words as well. It's writing advice I took to heart.

wilco bokken said...

A very thoughtprovoking post, as i live in the Netherlands im glad you mentioned europe. I have been thinking about our predicament as mentioned in your blog and what it will mean for the future of my country and my hometown. It does not look good. Still i do what i can, im building a permaculture garden and started collecting books on appropriate technology, wich is tricky because in the Netherlands many of the books you mention in green wizaedry were rarely translated or published. Anyway keep up the good writing, greetings Wilco

James M. Jensen II said...

Yikes. That's a frigidly cold splash of water in the face.

As a fairly long time (sort of; I took a couple of years off at one point out of emotional necessity) follower of the blog, I have to hang my head in some shame at how little I've personally done to get ready.

By way of explanation rather than excuse, I can say that I've spent a great deal of that time trying to deal with personal issues I inherited from my late teenage years (and an until-a-few-years-ago undiagnosed case of Asperger's syndrome) and never really dealt with properly. Your writings have been immensely helpful to me on that front, by the way. I really can't thank you enough.

I think the most central crux of the issue, however, is that I have never identified anything substantial that I could do to address my biggest worry about the coming future: my utter dependence on industrial medicine (in the form of insulin) to stay alive. No amount of prepping on my part will save me if my medications become unavailable for whatever reason (I have no wife or kids to worry about, and my parents just as fracked as me if this happens, so I can't muster up much of the sense of responsibility that might otherwise have motivated me). The only thing I can hope for is that the reason for their unavailability is a crisis of sufficient locality that I can go for refugee status in some more hospitable nation. Thankfully, I have an aunt who's a Russian citizen; much as I dislike many of the things Putin has stood for, he has certainly helped put Russia on a stronger footing than the US right now.

Despite that, I really could have and wish I had done more. Ah well, if wishes were horses and all that.

Sorry this is such a self-indulgent comment.

Marinhomelander said...

"the Trump administration plans to scrap the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting"

Neocon Propaganda Radio gone? Those fools depended on government funding and made the big mistake of trashing Sanders and backing Hillary Clinton, plus they never met a war that they didn't like.

They roundly criticized, and criticize, every aspect of Trump's life and political career and then they expect to remain viable, a discretionary line item on his budget plan?

Let me kick the first pile of dirt into their face as they thrash about at the bottom of the hole they dug for themselves with their clamoring mouths. Phony leftists destroying any chance of real reform with their reporting and preening. They won't be missed.

It is simply astounding how much political change has happened in the last couple of months, how the narratives have changed. I see a camaraderie among guys in public places, big smiles, high fives, that I've never seen before.
Maybe that's because I live in the belly of the Hildebeast in California.

Jay Moses said...

i enjoy the way you have of tweaking the self satisfied, whether it's democrats who have forgotten that their party's origins are with the working class or survivalists eagerly awaiting collapse who are convinced that their supplies of food, water and band aids are going to save them from an apocalypse. i can't say i've ever been a fan of supertramp (a little before my time), but we can hear the same message in gordon lightfoot's rendition of hamilton camp's pride of man. or, if music is not one's bent, one can read poe's the mask of the red death or even watch bill and ted's excellent adventure (you may be a king or a little street sweeper, but in the end you'll dance with the reaper). my personal favorite is from w.h. auden: As the poets have mournfully sung, Death takes the innocent young, The rolling- in-money, The screamingly-funny, And those who are very well hung.

my guess is that, as our current social/economic arrangements unwind, what you can do will prove to be more useful than what you have. stored supplies eventually run out or are stolen. no matter what comes next there will always be a need for people who can raise food, bake bread, brew a decent glass of beer, educate the young, tend the sick etc. what is not likely to be in high demand are lawyers, bankers, insurance executives and other rent seeking parasites. it could be worse.

Fred the First said...

Thank you for what you wrote this week. It was real contribution to me and I feel a huge sense of relief and resolve. Yes this is what decline looks like. And standing in that place with that in my head, I can be much more of a comfort and resource to others. Oh and I need to get on that order for new pullets. And the seed order too.

Scotlyn said...

It strikes me that the best thing to cultivate in place of a sense of entitlement is a sense of responsibility. And to reflect deeply upon which of all the things is most worthy of our responsible stewardship & care.

There is worth doing, and if not by me, then by who?

Old fashioned concepts such as courage, fortitude, honour and humility also recommend themselves.

Cherokee Organics said...


Respect for writing this and also getting all of the hot air vented last week. Seriously, a lot of those heated comments just warmed the atmosphere more than it already was. What a waste of energy.

I've recounted the story of having been made redundant as a young bloke in the recession in the early 1990's and the shock at finding oneself redundant. Well, after that I never threw my weight behind the system again and looked for niches to escape it. But in recent times - as you would be only all too aware - I have since discovered that the word redundant also has an ecological meaning which actually applied to me at that time of physical redundancy. I'm not the sharpest tool around but I didn't need to be told a second time. Alas for others, as I suspect they will not heed that particular lesson as it visits them.

Of course inflation will appear. In fact, I reckon we are now in a period of stagflation (hello 1970's oil crisis) and the increase in under employment is being used to mask the real story whilst nobody speaks about the insane median Melbourne house price of $880,000.

I take all of what you wrote seriously because it accords with what I see going on in the world since that time when I was rather rudely woken up to the unpleasant realities.

Instead of people talking about approaching the future gracefully, what their dirty little secret is, is that they would prefer it if other people are made redundant (in the physical and ecological sense) so as to open room for their own. They never realise that the "do unto others" applies to that little wish and you never know when your lucky numbers will come up.

People tell me from time to time how hard I work. I'm not sure I work hard enough. Today, I'm continuing bringing in the winters firewood - a huge job to be sure - and listening to the Triple J Hottest 100 countdown (a highlight of my year as I am a self confessed music nerd).

I liked Supertramp too. My favourite was the logical song as it spoke directly to me:

"When I was young, it seemed that life was so wonderful,
A miracle, oh it was beautiful, magical.
And all the birds in the trees, well they'd be singing so happily,
Joyfully, playfully watching me.
But then they send me away to teach me how to be sensible,
Logical, responsible, practical.
And they showed me a world where I could be so dependable,
Clinical, intellectual, cynical."



David, by the lake said...


Thank you for this. Periodic reminders of the reality we face help with focus on what is important. The part about dealing with loss hit home for me -- we head into winter, that is our lot, and we will be having to deal with it. Much of the "world" seems trivial in that light.

As a side note, your points re the problems with science and trust are spreading. Ugo Bardi's post this week had a familiar ring to it.

Neo Tuxedo said...

This is what the decline and fall of a civilization looks like.

In an issue of his Gnostic espionage thriller comic The Invisibles*, the Scottish comics-writer and pop magician Grant Morrison has a dying Aum Shinrikyo assassin receive the same insight. He had been sent to steal a time machine that would let him see the Harumagedon foretold to Aum's prophet by a 1980s anime,

"and return with the perfect knowledge of how to bring it about… but I have learned something new… Harumagedon isn’t coming… it is here already… this is how the collapse appears to those condemned to live in it… Harumagedon is happening now."

(* My good friend Phil Sandifer, the amateur psychochronographer and Blakean Magus who recently founded the Ithaca Psychogeographic Liberation Front, will be discussing The Invisibles sometime in Book Five of The Last War in Albion, his essay on the careers of, and rivalry between, Grant Morrison and Alan Moore considered as one front in an interdimensional magickal war. As he's currently halfway through Book Two, an analysis of Moore's seminal superhero saga Watchmen, this may take a while.)

I have never identified anything substantial that I could do to address my biggest worry about the coming future: my utter dependence on industrial medicine (in the form of insulin) to stay alive.

I can relate. I'll be able to survive if I no longer have access to 30mg of citalopram daily, but I have reason to believe it'll be a life with a constant low-level electrical storm in my head, with the concomitant effects on my temper and my ability to cope with allistics' happy horse-manure.

rapier said...

Being 65 I will relate, not that anyone should care, that by say 1977 I realized the that sort of hippie dream of a sustainable path to the future wasn't going to happen. In the end probably 80% of hippies were more hedonists than anything else and besides 90% of all other Americans believed that 'growth' forever was our destiny and right. Some 10 years later I started to think deflation, in the broadest sense, was close. Well here, 30 years on, I think so too but am allowing another 30 years give or take for it to really kick in. It could be this year or 30. By which time I likely won't be here. This is something I do not morn. The last thing I would take pleasure in is being right, that cataclysm and let me be frank death on a massive scale, is finally here.

How it all plays out is interesting but I am starting to feel a little guilty about spending so much time watching the show.

Peter Wilson said...

I read this post in an apposite location, filled with failing complex systems and increasingly unhappy and stressed people - Los Angeles International Airport - whilst one of those complex systems had failed, for me, leaving me stranded. It's a microcosm of America, the sense of decay, overblown government, and homage to past glories that still has me feeling sick. I usually enjoy my trips to North America (and no doubt I will once I get out of an urban environment) but this time, the tension in the air is palpable, and I'll be pleased to get back onto my side of the Pacific pond again when it's over.

John Michael Greer said...

Daniel, I heartily agree with your recommendation of Epictetus -- his writings got me in one piece through some profoundly wretched times, and remain my go-to when I need a cold wet towel across the face to slap me out of self-pity.

DaShui, yeah, one fanatic with five followers, out of some tens of thousands of Druids in Germany. (Several Druid orders have a very large presence there.) Every faith has its crazies, Druidry included.

Marcu, at this point it's a matter of surfing the wave, and trying to get as far ahead of the rush as you can.

Violet, good heavens -- I hope you manage a full recovery. That's got to be challenging. Still, you're right; that's the way life is.

Mh505, I'm delighted to hear that. I trust you'll be writing to your government to urge them to support having NATO entirely paid for by the European nations it protects, so that the 70% of its funding currently paid by the US can stay here and go to paving our roads or something.

Emmanuel, of course that's the issue, isn't it? Collapse isn't an instant event -- it unfolds over historical time, which means that people who are born well after it begins will die of old age long before it's over with. So you, like everyone else, has to live in three worlds -- the remaining scraps of the old world, the nascent fragments of the new world, and the chaotic realm of transitions between them.

Justin, and collective visions can't be imposed from without. They emerge organically in a society, starting from the fringes and working their way toward the affluent center. As for Revolt Against the Modern World, no, you read it correctly -- you're just remembering the first half more than the second, and it's the second that fed into his practical activities before the war.

Unknown, the "big one" began in 1914 and will probably end sometime after 2150. This is one of many downward lurches that play a role in that overall pattern.

MindfulEcologist, thanks for posting that bit of Schumacher! Anything by him is worth reading, and rereading.

James, understood. The thing is, shame isn't particularly useful. The important thing is to get up each morning and say, "Okay, given the situation I find myself in here and now, what can I do that will help?"

Marinhomelander, I admit I've long thought of NPR as the blue equivalent of Faux News. Hadn't heard your version of the acronym, though.

Jay, thank you. Could you possibly put that last bit of your comment -- the part about what you can do, rather than what you have, being the thing that matters -- on the business end of a branding iron, and apply it to the overly tender posteriors of those who don't get it? I've been trying to communicate that for a good long time now, with limited success.

Troy Jones said...

Sobering stuff. I applaud your courage in trying to rhetorically slap people into facing reality.

I have been thinking lately (and this does pertain somewhat to this week's topic) that it seems to me that some people read Spengler (and other writers who talk about historical cycles) and think to themselves that we can break the cycle somehow and have a permanently enduring civilization. For example, you have talked in the past on this blog about how caesarism is coming, and many of the comments essentially ask, what can we do to stop it?

The answer is, you don't stop it. Can't. Just as ice turns to liquid when temperature and pressure conditions are right, democracy turns to caesarism when the conditions are right. Just how it goes. Spengler was more of a descriptivist than a prescriptivist. Or to put it another way: "Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it; those who do learn from history are doomed to stand around helplessly watching everyone else repeat it". (That joke is not original with me, by the way, but I am not sure whom to credit it to).

And now it seems caesarism is here, or very nearly so. No, I am not comparing Trump to Hitler or Mussolini. But even as recently as just a few days ago, the media was speculating what Trump's base would do when he inevitably betrays them and continues with business as usual, e.g. not building that wall, not having a moratorium on immigration from Muslim countries, etc., etc...

But much to their surprise, Trump has already signed executive orders starting the wall-building process and immigration restriction. Never mind that allocating money to build the wall would fall under the traditional purview of Congress. He is moving ahead with his plans while Congress and the media rage impotently from the sidelines. There is no doubt much to object to with Trump, but business as usual does not seem to be on the menu.

And here in deep-red country I can attest that his base is eating it up, at least so far, approvingly sharing videos and memes on social media of D.C. riot police pepper-spraying the "snowflakes". It's not a world I ever truly expected to live in. Yet here we are.

John Michael Greer said...

Fred, thank you. Hearing that reaction makes me feel a little less as though I'm standing to one side of a mass of stampeding lemmings saying, "Um, you really don't need to jump off that cliff into the sea, you know."

Scotlyn, sounds like very good advice to me.

Cherokee, you may be right about the contribution to global warming! I adored "The Logical Song," too -- I probably would have cited it if it had anything to do with the theme of the post.

David, thank you. I'm not surprised that Bardi's talking about that -- we have our disagreements, but he's very sharp and less than usually prone to self-deception.

Jeff S. said...

Well said. I have a couple of predictions:

1) This will be the last ADR post to touch on politics for a while. Other topics are vying for our host's attention.

2) A book on the US presidential election by JMG is in the works. This book will appear sometime in the second half of this calendar year.

My second prediction is more risky than the first; if it turns out not to pass, well, one out of two ain't bad.

beetleswamp said...

Last week I saw the volume of comments and didn't even bother to read them because it was obvious they would be just more freak out nonsense. People are telling me what's going on Facebook, losing relationships and such, and it sounds like a mad house. Occasionally I still get questions about if I still believe in near term economic collapse. It's so absurd that I don't know how to respond. Inside my head I'm thinking "Like duh, Earth to McFly, are you even paying attention?"

Dave Z said...

So, I'm curious.

Your common theme has been that catastrophic doomsayers overlook the 'unless something is done' clause. You assert that something is ALWAYS done to avert catastrophe. That the descent will be long.

Y2K was a f'rinstance. Many of us remediators felt and feel that too little had been done until too late. Our bases were uncovered. We pulled the trigger and - barring a rough trillion in global expense - CLICK.

That round of Russian Roulette left us alive for another. You wrote that remediation efforts had been both inevitable and sufficient. Well, we left it past the last minute; like many professional remediators, I prepared for the not improbable worst; 'sufficient' was only declared retrospectively.

So now you sound like we few Y2K glitch activists on the eve of the eve of disaster. You write, "So, basically, we're in for it." followed by spot-on assessment of our closing windows of opportunity.

Click, click, cl...?

To my mind, you sound just like we who tried to warn that the rounds chambered in our little game of R.Roulette are lethally potent. That the odds of trouble are dour. That preparations for trouble must anticipate far more than inconvenience.

What you describe, here, sounds like the outright, catastrophic collapse you've pooh-poohed. While I agree, I wonder...

What's different this time?

Justin said...

JMG, yeah, I'll admit to getting pretty glassy-eyed after the halfway point in that book. But the first half was fascinating. Of course, today I noticed that you talked about Evola on the other blog. You could regard Evola as polar north, it might be a good idea to move in that direction, but to actually go there would be disastrous.

I'll stick to my earlier point, that the question of "who the frack are we and what the frack are we doing here" is the really interesting thing, not rig counts or EROEI or climate change.

Cottage Crone said...

Once again, thank you so much for a thoughtful, considered and literate summation of our current and future times. I find myself looking at my children (in their mid-to-late 50's) and my grandchildren (1 teen, the rest in their mid-to-late 20's) and judging their mental, emotional and physical capacity to live in this decline and fall. So many people can only express horror and indignation that "all this!" is happening, without a thought for what must be faced later and the means of doing so. I complete 80 years this year, if I live that long, and have very few people in my life who want to even hear about what is obviously happening, let alone discuss it or attempt to plan for it. Railing against is all they seem to know. I, too, contributed my huge share to this decline and fall and take full responsibility for my ignorant part. I get a pass on the worst, but this is the world I helped create for my kids and grandkids. They, more than I, will feel the truth of the Chinese curse: "May you live in interesting times."

Raymond Duckling said...

Who would have thought we were just witnessing the fall of "Collapse Now, Avoid the Rush"!!! It should have been obvious, but so is the benefit of hindsight.

I guess "Now, Collapse in a Rush!" will have to do. It's at least better than "Avoid the Now into Collapse" or "Rush the Collapse and Avoid".

But we can trust the pull date for "There's no Brighter Future Ahead" seems comfortably far away.

Bruno B. L. said...

JMG, and @unknown, about the big one...from what I understood of your writings, JMG, I thought the first round of collapse of the whole Western civilization came in 1914 and ended in 1945, and that we are just about entering the second round, after a roughly seventy years long plateau. And that we should expect one more round of collapse still, from which there will be no recovery, before the process of collapse is complete. So I reckon things may get as bad in the next few decades as they did between the 10's and the 40's. Have I got that right?

Justin said...

Also, a thought about the phrase (not the book) "Revolt Against The Modern World" - it seems to me, that if there were some magical new energy source which enabled unlimited technological progress, it seems like eventually human life would be entirely dictated by an Internet of Things based control grid and of course, lots of pharmacological technology to help us cope. Right now AI is becoming a real thing - it's an absolutely terrifying technology, probably only matched by nuclear weapons or engineered viruses. Perhaps this is rationalization, but no amount of human comfort is worth the horrors that AI could unleash on the world in an attempt to create a world without sin. So on a certain level, I am pro-collapse as a revolt against the modern world because I am afraid of the technocratic managerial class & the opportunity that modern technology offers them.

"...But if we fail, then the whole world, including the United States, including all that we have known and cared for, will sink into the abyss of a new Dark Age made more sinister, and perhaps more protracted, by the lights of perverted science. Let us therefore brace ourselves to our duties,..."

Thankfully, we don't actually have to do anything to smash perverted science.

Regarding NPR, I hope that 2019 brings a Canadian PM who will defund CBC!

Mark Hines said...

Thanks for the post. It was very well said. It seems that the collapse hasn't seemed so noticeable until The Donald was elected and starting wielding his dictatorial pen. Some of his bizarre statements about the inaugural crowd size, alienating the CIA and worrying world leaders and now signing executive orders that seem to authorize the wall and the rounding up and deportation of illegals all seems to blatantly shout, "Collapse in progress" as the wheels of government seem to be quickly coming noticeably apart. It is scary. I would have preferred to have seen it a little at a time so I could deal with it. Is it just me, or do the quick rush of seeming delusional actions seem to be quickly upsetting the apple cart?
Keep up the good work. You continue to inform those who will listen.

Dayton said...

As Justin suggested, you should absolutely look up Dr Jordan Peterson. His YouTube channel is amazing. The guy is building the ground work for the next secular ethics using an evolutionary psychologist approach to mythologies/religion that is heavily informed by Jung and the Existentialists. You guys should do a podcast or a series of open letters! I'd love to hear your opinions on gender dynamics, the current wave of feminism, and Pepe/Kek/chaos magic. You guys could probably talk for hours about totalitarianism, collapse and the search for personal meaning.

Clay Dennis said...

I was once a loyal listener to NPR ( back in the 90's). But it seems that during the Bush administration, when the corporation for public broadcasting was having its budget cut they did two things that changed them. First they jumped on the corporate sponsorship bandwagon , and somewhere in a dark back room they agreed to toe the neoliberal party line to keep the funding that they still got from the federal government. I have a bit of an inside insight in to this as the CEO of NPR in the mid 2000s lived on the same floor as me in my freshman college dorm way back in the 80's. She was ousted from NPR because of some political correctness scandal or other, but the inside story from friends who keep in touch with her is that she was ousted because she would not follow the Neocon playbook. She was a Russian Scholar before her stint in public radio, and had spent more than a decade in the old Soviet Union and Russia before her rise to fame in broadcasting, and she refused to jump on the Russia demonization campaign that now characterizes NPR. Whenever I listen to this station it seems like its main job is to sooth the nerves of the salary class. It is no wonder Trump is cutting its budget as these moves strongly aligned them with his enemies.

My donkey said...

What I've found has helped me in getting by with less is to make a game of it.

Lowering utility bills, buying fewer goods, traveling less, growing more of your own food... these activities are measurable, and recording their numbers allows you to evaluate your performance each month/year. When I do better than previously, I feel great! And maybe it's just me, but whenever I do worse, it makes me all the more determined to do better. I enjoy the challenge of competing, even if it's just with myself.

This "philosophy" was introduced to me in aerobic fitness sessions, but it's applicable to many other areas of life.

John & Louise said...

It was difficult to read your writing with week. I concur with your evaluation and I find it a very dark place.... but so goes life.

It has been my experience that there are very few people with whom one can discuss these points and not be viewed as "mentally ill" or delusional.. Hence I keep my thoughts to myself...

I am finally getting around to reading the entire "Age of Limits" book (hardcover..), put out by the Club of Rome... (all those years ago). Of course I have followed Gail's and Mearns work (and others part of that group)for many years, at the Oil Drum and on..

JMG, I enjoy your writings... even though the truth is sometimes sorrowful, thank you.

wisdomchaser said...

I too suffer from multiple chemical sensitvity. After 35 plus years I have good data and bad days. I still work very hard to keep my personal evironment as chemically clean as possible. It helps a lot. I wish you well on your journey to improved health.

Nastarana said...

I also shall not mourn the demise of National Pentagon Radio. My personal BS detector is to check out what an opinionator, politician or party might have to say about food and farm policy; NPR is all GMO and industrial farming all the way and PBS not much better. I do find it cause for alarm that the new Ag Sec nominee was announced at the last minute, with almost no public notice, and confirmation hearings not yet scheduled. Not that the Clinton occupied Democratic Party was any better on farm issues.

Winter sowing season is right now, check it out. Wonderfully productive way to start your seeds, use not toss milk jugs, and avoid the expense of indoor propagation set ups.

Bryant said...

JMG - do you think that we will actually run into issues with peak oil, or our infrastructure will suffer the other slings and insults of complexity before "peak oil" becomes an issue?

Shane W said...

Geez, JMG, I hate when you read my mind and steal my ideas. ROFL ;-)

Karen said...

Well Mr. Archdruid, this post is a real buzz kill.

Jbarber said...

Thank you for the post. Your words just made vague unease coalesce into feelings of standing at a starting line, ready to take off into something new.
I've been rather much of an economic failure for most of my adult life, and always wondered why I had to endure food insecurity, lack of comforts like internet and cable, or the need to constantly move when the rent went up. I railed at being poor; now I know that I'm much more prepared for the coming crisis than anyone who's been comfortable all their life. I don't like the idea of staying poor, but at least I know how to handle it.

Carlos M. said...

As it turns out, our ruling class masters know this as much as anybody. The recent New Yorker article, "Doomsday Prep for the Super-Rich", is quite telling:

Choice quote:

'Most said they’ll fire up their planes and take their families to Western ranches or homes in other countries.” One of the guests was skeptical, Dugger said. “He leaned forward and asked, ‘Are you taking your pilot’s family, too? And what about the maintenance guys? If revolutionaries are kicking in doors, how many of the people in your life will you have to take with you?’ The questioning continued. In the end, most agreed they couldn’t run.”'

Here in the Philippines, it's still fairly common for people to grow food in their own backyard. Rural folks, having not much money, actually pay their doctors in live animals. We get a lot of American TV here, including "doomsday prep" shows. Those are always a source of amusement for me, since their subjects are often preparing for stuff like "collapse of the national electricity grid" or "failure of the banking system". The most doomsday-prepped folks I know are the small time, rural, local farmers and fishermen, who have no bank accounts and aren't even connected to the grid (though some of them have small scale solar generators).

It strikes me from that article that Silicon Valley gazillionaires aren't very creative. They're expecting to ride out the collapse in an air-purified bunker and have a helicopter on standby? They're gonna last a few months at best.

That said, the "affluent supporters" will be the worst off of them all. The hysteria reveals the scale of the cognitive dissonance; the reaction is as if the impossible was unfolding in front of their very eyes.

John the Peregrine said...

>In histories written a thousand years from now, Europeans will have the same sort of reputation that Huns and Mongols have today

You might want to read a history of the Mongols written after 1970 or so (not a popular history, but one written by a professional historian). There's been a reassessment of the Mongols in the last few decades. Despite obviously not being very nice people if you got on their bad side, they also had some rather progressive ideas, like meritocracy, multiculturalism, gender equality and religious freedom. Not the cartoon villains that they're often presented as.

Tower 440 said...

Greetings to the assembled Wizardren!
The Spring joint meeting of the Green Wizards’ Benevolent and Protective Association, Tower Number 440, and Ruinmen’s Guild, Local 440 will be held at 12:30 PM on Saturday, March 18, 2017. Our location is Ruko’s Family Restaurant, 9385 Mentor Avenue, Mentor, Ohio 44060, (440) 974-1914. Shining the Green Light! Public Welcome! Tables for Failed Scholars. Look for the table topper with the Green Wizard Hat. Contact us at
Our speaker will be Green Wizard Gene Ainsworth, the first member of Tower 440 to travel with a GWB&PA issued “passport.” (Email us for the template.) Gene will report on his People to People trip to Cuba, particularly his research and interviews with the Cuban People to learn about how they have coped with the difficulties, of the electrical grid, lack of utilities and refrigeration.
Many thanks to John for the posting space on his blog.

Izzy said...

This is a sobering post, for sure. The message I take from it, though, is perhaps not the one others do. If there's nothing I can do about it...well, politically, I'll fight (in part, I suspect, because I like a good fight) and I'll try and preserve knowledge for what's to come. But personally, my reaction to this possibility is "Gaudeamus Igitur," as they used to say, or "YOLO" in the words of my generation.*Nail cute guys, punch jerks and Nazis, drink whiskey, smoke pot, turn my 401k into quarters and hit the arcade, and generally party, as a wise man said, like it's 1999.

I mean, if everything's hopeless, why not have a good time while I can? Eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we shall die--or at least life shall suck a lot more.

*Even if I'm not literally sure it's true. Still, my next incarnation's just as likely to be a lobster, which has far fewer means of recreation.

Mark Luterra said...

I've been pondering the likelihood of the following scenario in the near future:

1. Trump issues executive orders that entire states find offensive, e.g. attacking the "sanctuary city" status of California population centers and striking down state emissions regulations, among others.

2. States respond by simply refusing to comply. California seems most likely here, maybe accompanied by Oregon and Washington.

3. The federal government responds by withholding all federal funds.

4. These states, seeing that their federal tax dollars no longer serve them, ask their citizens to redirect money owed to the IRS to state coffers instead, to make up for the lost federal programs.

5. It's not far from this point to a formal declaration of secession, and California in particular might be able to weather it economically.

6. Here's where it gets interesting, since this could spark a civil war. However, I see this as not the most likely outcome, given that I don't see the kind of engaged passion or national identity that has historically led citizens to take up arms against one another. Trump's supporters want him to improve their lives, not lead them into battle with fellow Americans. So...outright civil war seems unlikely, though I can imagine loyal factions withing seceding states/regions launching an insurgency with covert support from Washington.

I'm interested to hear your thoughts on such a sequence. It is seemingly increasingly likely to me, though it could be prevented or delayed if either:

--would-be rebel states decide to cave to federal demands in order to preserve the status quo - definitely a possibility, or

--Trump is reigned in by his own party, with whom he currently has a tenuous alliance. Rank-and-file Republicans are eager to utilize Trump's ascendancy to push through their policy agenda, but at the same time they don't want to see national order disrupted, and they may break with him, forcing an impeachment or other scandal if his behavior becomes too dictatorial.

Rita said...

@Violet If you possibly can I recommend you try a reputable homeopathic practitioner. Check the national society websites because some people read a few books and then try to combine it into a general naturopathic practice. Homeopathy has controlled my asthma and minor allergies for 35 years. I was sent into sneezing fits by horses as a teen but can now happily help my granddaughter groom her pony. My original reason for seeking treatment was severe chronic depression. It took a few years to get out from under, working through different remedies, but eventually I realized that it had been weeks since I last broke down in tears, an almost daily occurrence when I started. My ex has arthritis, so I know how annoying know-it-all advice (copper bracelets, eat vegetarian, yoga, get rid of your fillings, etc.) can be, but I hope you accept my best wishes

I am alternately amused and annoyed by the "OMG Trump is doing what he said he would do" tone of many social media posts. And the whole "punch a Nazi" thing has me despairing of common sense. Yes, Nazis are despicable, but you can't build a civil society by punching people for what they say. Unless what they say is a direct and immediate threat.

And the people who can't seem to realize that someone whose 5th generation son can't find a job doesn't really give a rat's patootie whether a DREAM kid gets sent back to Mexico. My son just moved back from Arizona, where he had Mexican-American friends who told him that they were Trump supporters because they don't want new immigrants undercutting their jobs. Of course I also find it ironic that a ban on refugees from Muslim majority nations will probably hurt Christians who are fleeing the neighbors that we turned their enemies.

patriciaormsby said...

The February 2017 meeting of the Kanto Green Wizards will be held together with the like-minded Asakawa Kompira picnic on Sunday, February 5, starting from 11:30 this time (because of a concert later that afternoon). For details on its location, see this page:

Our Harley dealer's dear wife, Yoko, has uploaded part of the TV Tokyo feature on the Asakawa Kompira priestesses (of whom I happen to be one) on You-tube:
TV show about Kompira, December 4, 2016 (broadcast December 28, 2016)

and another video shot the same day, which gives a better view of our lively group. You can get an idea of it in the first minute:
Kompira picnic, December 4, 2016

Come one, come all! If it snows, I'll go do a spectacularly beautiful misogi at my local waterfall instead, but I'll bet Kompira will be spectacularly beautiful as well. But in that case, bring a flower or piece of fruit to give to Kannon-sama at the bottom of the stairs. She's the shrine's spiritual guardian. Give her a warm prayer.

Repent said...

After the election, I went back and watched all of the Presidential inauguration speeches all the way back one by one to Harry Truman. I even liked Nixon's speech to my surprise. In Kennedy's inauguration speech he said he doesn't believe that the fall of society is inevitable, which shows that even at the height of social and economic prosperity, prior to the limits of growth being published, people believed it would end badly (Through nuclear war)

A nuclear outcome, or reactor meltdowns, would be an added and ugly twist onto peak oil and catastrophic climate change. No one has a crystal ball, I sure would have liked to buy Mircosoft stock in the 80's, so I could be retired on a beach drinking tequila's at sunset by now. The bad also can't be known in advance. It's sad that PBS is going, I like Nova documentaries, but it's also nice to have food and electricity. I'm betting that living on the prairies where the electricity is all hydroelectric and where people can grow crops will have some positives. It's living with my body shooting out kidney stones and morphine not being available that I fear. (It's bad enough with morphine)

I want to live long enough to help my kids through the crisis years; after that its time to move on.

patriciaormsby said...

@Violet, my most heartfelt sympathies to you! People who have never experienced an environmental sensitivity have no idea what it's like. The sneering condemnation I get I richly deserve because of the sneering condemnation I dished out before. (It's great when karma occurs in the current life.)

Chemical sensitivities often occur concurrently with EMF sensitivity. You might try reducing your exposure to cordless phones, cell phones, wi-fi and other microwave sources, especially at night when your body needs to heal. It might help reduce your body's reaction to chemicals to manageable levels. In my own case, lifelong allergies cleared up when I took that step.

pygmycory said...

Your comment that being in a falling civilization is about loss makes a lot of sense to me.

I found out about peak oil at the same time it became obvious that I had long-term health issues that were going to interfere permanently with my ability to work. I completely freaked out and thought I was probably going to be dead within 5 or 10 years, not least because I couldn't learn hand skills with hands as messed up as they were back then. Things in the wider world happened far slower than I thought, and I've ended up in a much better situation now than I was in back in 2009.

My point is, many of the people losing their heads right now will snap out of it and start doing useful things given sufficient time.

cynndara said...

I'd just like to say thank-you, JMG, for your well-supported warnings through the years. Because I believed what you had to say four years ago, I repositioned while there was still a little -- a very little -- time, and was able to purchase a rural house on four acres during the mortgage meltdown. Unlike the remote mountain cabin I had previously intended to retire to, this place is close enough to civilization to retain power and some semblance of civil order until full-scale war breaks loose, while still being somewhat out of the main traffic patterns and population densities. So I will remain connected, if loosely, to whatever civilization endures. Meanwhile, I busy myself with collecting breeding stock of useful plants and trees and restoring the badly-damaged red clay soil. As long as the power, the internet, and the gas supplies last, I'll have access to the old world, but if I'm still alive when the old world finally fails, I'll have good neighbors and chestnut trees.

Again, thank-you. You're one of very few people whose arguments have ever actually influenced my decisions (I'm mostly too pig-headed and intellectually arrogant to take advice).

Mister Roboto said...

You summed up rather succinctly exactly why I've been pretty indifferent as to whether Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump won the election despite all the "Twilight Zone" grade freaking out going on all around me. I remain impressed at the level of mass willful ignorance that persists about the true nature of our predicament, and I can't help but wonder what sort of event it will take to puncture it. I comfort myself by believing that we're all merely playing the karmic roles in the immense drama that we were meant to play, and whatever will be will be.

DoubtingThomas said...

@JMG: Interesting. Thank You.

"...plans to scrap the National Endowment for the Arts, ...Humanities, and ...Public Broadcasting, and get rid ... study anthropogenic climate change." .. "their dismantling will be greeted by cheers from a great many people outside the circles of the affluent"
- Don't forget the cheers from the circles of the elites & affluent keen to be more affluent resulting from less regulation/oversight/ignoring climate change. I choose not buy in to the anti-climate change fatalism.
- Also not to forget the many Artists out of work and impact of only commercial stations
- Strikes me as a possible false economy
- If there is "cheering from the non-affluent circles" then smells a bit Pyrrhic or Masochistic. Masochism can be fun in some contexts but as way of life ... that's takes commitment.
- Smells possibly also like an attempt to ensure the "masses" are under-informed and kept down rather than anything for them to cheer about.
- Coming from a Country with a public broadcaster paid for via TV license fees & largely valued by its citizens losing it would be a shame.

"who have had their fill of patronizing lectures from their self-proclaimed betters"
- Really or Hyperbole?
- Why would the lectured choose to feel inferior to a lecturer's alleged attempts to patronize or inflate-themselves? Sure, a lecturer might be guilty of ego stroking by patronising/self-inflation but if the recipient's sense of self esteem is doing fine then it's "water of a duck's back" no?
- Someone with an sense of inferiority can be mistaken in their interpretation of someone else's manner/motivations. Been there/done that ;)

I believe you mentioned Spengler's Decline of the West before. As I recall one of the criticisms of Spengler was that he held an overly deterministic view of history, ignoring the unpredictable role that human initiative plays at all times. That makes sense to me. I would translate that to be ignoring the role & power of intuition & inventiveness.

The comparisons with Polybius' charismatic demagogue and Trump are good. The world is a big place. Plenty of scope for those that choose to believe in the value of the power of initiative, intuition & inventiveness.

Major change is coming. Things must change. How dramatically and how fast is as yet undecided. I find it useful to remember that when faced with probability projections based on Historical Simulations - never forget the role of the Outliers.

Worked for 20 years in Risk Management, even asked to write overrides that allowing Risk Indicators to be ignored. I found it amusing when things fell apart. Those who paid attention to the Risk indicators and used their initiative usually did rather well as opposed to those who wanted the indicators to lie to them but selection bias can catch us all and initiatives can be missed.

IIRC in previous posts you appeared to dismiss the role of initiative/intuition/expansions of consciousness be it at individual or larger scales. I tried to find the quote but can't. It was a sentiment like "not seen it happen yet so not holding your breath". I was a bit surprised given your other interests but then I'm ignorant of the detail of your personal goto belief systems. I see evidence increasingly.

I don't conflate initiative/intuition/inventiveness with 'Progress' though - necessity often being the mother of invention.

I'll focus on a possibly less populated world at some point, supporting attempts to get off planet (for resources) and work to preserve our technology & knowledge base. Already possible to store knowledge on crystal wafers. Technically possible to store world's information ~300ExaB on 144k quartz wafers. Multiple copies. Distributed. Decentralised. Disconnected. Also, local fabs capable of creating themselves & other devices OTW. I'll keep a type of Internet too :P - "from my cold, dead hands" :P ;)

Jay Cummings said...

A solid reminder. I feel, though, that action beats inaction ethically speaking. (Not that I'm implying your message encourages one or the other - i simply recognize I have the same reaction to this obviously true message as many of your commentors: so what do i do about it, if anything?). Even though the tides and currents rip at us from every angry direction, we should still swim the best we can toward where we want to be.

gwizard43 said...

JMG, my thanks. One of your bleaker posts, but an accurate appraisal IMO, and timely. These are bleak times, in so many ways, and the trajectory has been clear to so many of us for quite some time.

When I first began to realize what was coming, over a decade ago, I decided that the most important work I could do was to learn how to go about relating to the world around me, however it presented itself, in a more effective way. Personally, I chose Buddhist meditation as a way to alter the way I related to my surroundings. Instead of childishly insisting those surroundings conform to my demands, I sought to conform my own expectations to whatever was happening around me. This kind of opening to the world-as-it-is seems to me to be the very first skill so many would do well to learn.

If one needs to feel like one is in control, if one feels like the world around them must be a certain way for them to be happy, indeed if one makes happiness is one's goal in life, this is a terrific way of ensuring one will experience more than one's share of suffering.

I think there are many approaches that would be suitable aside from meditation, of course - I can attest that I'm much more able to 'roll with the punches' and not so reactive, not so demanding of my environment, not so needy. And not quite so pessimistic or scared, despite our grim collective outlook.

I also acted, of course: divested myself of the normal (aka absurdly extravagant) lifestyle that my culture had tricked me into pursuing at one time, took 'simplify' as my mantra, dug deeply (literally!) into permaculture and organic gardening, natural building, yoga, volunteering, teaching fitness on the side, and developing local-community-oriented skills - all an ongoing process, with still a very long way to go. But what a wonderful ride it's been! Especially in terms of the people I've met and come to know.

The point I'm trying to make, is that for me, and perhaps for others, jumping right into 'doing' wasn't really possible, or at least effective, until I'd slowed down and spent some serious time 'being.' I do think what often gets missed in our 'rush' to collapse is the dire need to tend one's inner life - spiritual, emotional, relational and psychological - as carefully and attentively as one's garden - as though one's very life may depend on it. For as you point out, in the end, it well may.

Justin said...

Dayton, I have to agree. JMG and Jordan Peterson are two of the most interesting people on the Internet, and considering the billion or so people who are connected, that's quite something. Peterson may not get it yet due to a different specialization, but I have no doubt that he has the moral courage to face reality. Unless the Marxists manage to destroy him, I have no doubt that he will be one of the most important Canadians of the next decade.

Dammerung and others, watch some Peterson. He might give you a better understanding of exactly what it is you are (rightfully) attempting to protect.

Paulo said...

Thank you once again, JMG. Well said. I will send this on, (with credit, of course) to a few of my closet friends and family members. Alas, my American sister is grappling with these changes and there is absolutely no way she could deal with your article. It would send her over the edge.

My wife and I scaled back many years ago and live on less. However, I am quick to admit our life is pretty damn flush compared to most of the world. We have worked hard at building community in our somewhat remote valley. We continue to develop our gardens, livestock, and woodlot. I am very thankful for my chainsaw gas, too. :-)

Lately, I have become a big big fan of the Serenity Prayer. I often think of it many times each day. It might help some of your readers who are not familiar with it. (Please fill in your own blank for God).

Here is the first part that is most familiar to readers:

God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.

Logan said...

I doubt it's accurate to predict that the Western Europeans will be remembered by and large like the Huns or Mongols. If anything history suggests that the sins of empires are apt to be forgotten, and their blessings remembered. One can appreciate why the dark age writers living in times of incessant blood feud and warbanditry looked back on the Toynbeean Universal State with its Emperor as the golden age.

Analogous to Rome, the Western Euro civilization will have left lots of unprecedentedly big infrastructure around the world, the ruins of which will tend to impress people. Not until the Dragon Time of the next Cycle will new generations of liberals emphasize the brutality and unjust conquests of all empires, including ours (but more especially *theirs*, just as present liberals talk about the sins of the Western Euro imperials much more than those of past imperials.)

The "new Huns" of the next Unicorn Time, on the other hand -- are yet to come!

peakfuture said...

When I tell folks I have trouble flying due to the carbon footprint, they look at me like I've got three heads.

Even if you haven't "collapsed early and avoided the rush," you can still make changes. There's a great saying, "The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now." Not saying it's going to be easy, but if you are at least cognizant of this, you are at least a step ahead.

Jay - Spot on. Saving resources for a rainy day is good, but is limited in duration. Becoming part of a community, helping other people get work/gigs/fixing things/being useful is far better, yes. People ask me what to invest in, and that's what I keep telling them - invest in yourself, and your community. Seems so simple, but there's a big difference between simple and easy.

JMG, you've got to be having *some* sort of effect. My curious nature always wants to know who are the folks you are affecting, how they found the message that you and others are promulgating, and if they are spreading it too. Is there any universal sign of this worldview (like a hobo sign)? Alas, it'd probably be co-opted and be a bumper sticker in no time...

Izzy said...

@Jay Cummings: I always like Pratchett's Thief of Time for that.

"WE WILL DO WHAT WE CAN." (Caps, because the speaker is Death, who ALWAYS TALKS LIKE THAT.")
"And if that doesn't work?"

gwizard43 said...

Based on this statement, which is one I agree with most vociferously:

"More than anything else, it’s about loss. Things that you value—things you think of as important, meaningful, even necessary—are going to go away forever in the years immediately ahead of us, and there will be nothing you can do about it."

As a culture, we're terrible at grieving. We're frequently given exactly the wrong advice, taught to distract ourselves from grief, taught to avoid engaging with it. My suggestion is to everyone: learn how to grieve. We all experience losses, small and large. Become proficient as inhabiting the grief that arises, processing it, letting it change you, rather than running from it, refusing it. IMO, this will be as important a skill as any handicraft you choose to undertake.

Whitecloak said...

Weirdly enough, reading your blog is part of what pushed me hard right- immigration and strong walls are my only issues, now. Collapse is inevitable so why the hell would I want to import more competitors for ever more scarce resources from societies and cultures foreign to my own? Why add Balkans-tier cultural strife to what is already slated to be a harrowing future?

Agent Provocateur said...


Your basic point is certainly correct, so perhaps what follows is irrelevant in comparison. Nonetheless, I believe that just as there is a useful distinction between what is technically possible and economically possible, there is a useful distinction between what is economically possible for a society and what is politically possible.

Contrary to what you have suggested, I don't think a conscious controlled and politically directed return to a lower tech and less resource intensive society has ever been politically possible. People did not want it and still don't. This makes it politically impossible. Restraint is like death, it will come certainly ... but we all hope it will be later and we certainly don't want others forcing it on us. This discounting of the future is a typical human trait. Nonetheless, it is possible for a minority to rise above it. Many people did give simpler living an honest try back in the 70s. I think you were one of them. Few people stayed the course though. The reasons are simple enough; first among them is that significantly lower energy use implies a difficult life in poverty. We like our comforts.

I'm not suggesting nothing can be done politically on a small scale. As an example, our rural Township is in the process of relaxing its bylaw forbidding people from keeping livestock on properties less than 5 acres. This political change is real in local terms (it directly affects my supply of goat's milk traded for eggs) but still trivial on a larger scale.

But the basic course of action will still remain what it has been for the last 40 years or more i.e. burn all the fossil fuels we can and toast the planet. We are not following this course for lack of understanding of the problem (politicians did read the Club of Rome Reports, the are aware of the ecological movement etc.) or because solutions were not presented in a positive enough way (it hard to put a pretty face on poverty).

Governments may officially deny peak oil and/or climate change but they do this not out of ignorance but because they know we will shoot the messenger if they told the truth. 40+ years of oil wars are proof governments understand the global reality of oil depletion. These wars also demonstrate what they understand what is politically possible for them to do about it. As for climate change, climate weirding is evident enough to anyone. We in representative democracies just don't have political systems capable of the sort of long range planning or accountability required to address these sorts of fundamental problems and we didn't 40 years ago. Politicians survive by giving people what they want in the short term, not by giving them what they need in the long term.

Mark said...

Bracing post! Yes, the Trumpotus rumpus is something to see.

I guess people will rationalize whatever major problems manifest in the next 2-3 years as Trump problems, so there are quite a few more "let's elect someone to get us back to normal" elections in our future. The ability of many in our society to pretend everything's normal, even when it's not, is going to be YUGE. So we're looking at an ever decreasing pool of people not personally touched by actual problems, and an ever increasing pool of people doing the best they can to manage. The best I think we can hope for is that this process plays out slowly, and that normalcy bias keeps us hoping for better days while we do our best to adjust to circumstances. Kind of like adjusting to old age. There may well be an unfortunate encounter with a marauding war band in my future, but I'm going to continue hoping that I go out peacefully, working in the garden. We'll see!

Logan said...

The singer of the band Supertramp is a man? ("THAT'S A MAN, BABY") -- haha I would not have guessed.

@ John the Peregine -- LOL ...

@ Justin -- nice Serenity allusion. I don't think you need worry about "AI"*. The actual danger is what's already happened, that we all become effectively cyborgs. I used to think the way the Borg behaved on Star Trek was implausible. Now, watching how people behave with effective telepathy, I don't think that anymore.

*as Frank Herbert put it: ​Once men turned their thinking over to machines in the hope that this would set them free. But that only permitted other men with machines to enslave them. The other men with machines are of course Jeff Bezos et al.

onething said...

"I would have preferred to have seen it a little at a time so I could deal with it. Is it just me, or do the quick rush of seeming delusional actions seem to be quickly upsetting the apple cart?"

I think it is the strategy he has chosen. Hit hard and fast to derail the opposition.

pygmycory said...

Of the funding cuts to the agencies you mentioned, the cuts to the EPA concern me most. They were doing good and vital work. We really need to know just where we are in terms of damaging the biosphere, and I'm not sure that other countries are going to take up all of the slack.

tokyo damage said...

I love how you can dish on economics better than even the Lefty pros, and do it without all the baffling jargon. Plus, stylistically speaking, this might be the first blogpost to start out with Supertramp and end with the equivalent of Old School Death Metal.

econojames said...

This is a wonderful smack back to reality: everything happening is STILL HAPPENING behind the facade of politics and us vs. them, red vs. blue, etc. You note the upset at Trump's apparent desire to dismantle environmental protection, and then rightly note that the Obama administration did little more than hand-waving to protect the environment. Bingo! They're all on the same team, and it's not yours.

There are a lot of good comments already this week, and I can't wait to read more of them. I think a lot of people here are trying to adapt to how things WILL be, but feel lonely because people around them are oblivious and uncomprehending. It's healthy to have this not-so-little community to remind ourselves that we aren't alone. Thank you, JMG. I've told you before, but you really are a bright spot in my life.

I, like a previous commenter, have been financially unsuccessful for most of my life, mostly due to my choice of "career" - bicycle mechanic. Lately, I find that seasonal employment as same really cuts into the time I need to do things that MATTER, like gardening, preserving food, fixing my house, and riding my bike (instead of working on someone else's). I've experimented with self-employment as a bike mechanic, and while I get little business, I can make $25-30 an hour working at a calm and leisurely pace in my own very-well-equipped shop, vs. $13 an hour (this with almost 30 years' experience) in a bike shop with constant pressure to work faster. Poverty is nothing to glamorize, but in my case lack of money takes away the temptation to spend it on frivolous things; working in my own shop allows me to devote my attention to my work, and not to (my boss') profit, and to enjoy the quiet, almost holy sense of calm that comes with this. We can learn things from adversity; with any luck, we can share what we learn.

Ray Wharton said...

When winter set in I felt a little stir crazy, eager to do something useful, work, be active, prepare, but I am finally starting to soak into the relaxation that is winter. I am far from tasks needing done, and its not worth walking. Wonderful, because eight to ten months of the year I am going all out farming and net working. It takes a couple months to read up on heavy books and practice short hand, when there is nothing for a man to do, but sit around and think.

After eight years I am still not a great farmer, but I know about more ways to screw things up than most farmers who think they are good know. That's the problem with land owners and successful farmers, they learn what works and they do it. I never had land nor have I ever had enough faith in my ability to make a profit, so I have played at farming a lot. For those years a rich world and a silver tongue meant that many failures never cost my flesh. So today, I feel prepared to be an assistant farmer, friend and ally at no fewer than five farms with in walking distance. I show up, get fed, get products that won't sell, by blemish or by law; sometimes cash too. Though I might work long days, alot of it is in conversation, and experimenting with doing things cheaply. Turns out a lot of times the cheap way doesn't work, but I rarely have much money, nor do other farmers, and I have focused on keeping things alive with out tools or equipment. Lot to learn though, and I am grateful to real farmers with a farmers disposition, rather than a flutter fly like myself.

I have very few material resources, and my skill set isn't really that impressive, I am neither super industrious nor a firm foundation. And yet I feel ready, as ready as my heart needs to be, for these times. Those will better material resources than me I pity, so much to loose. And though I admire the craftsman, I wonder how weighed down he is by the craft. And though not a firm foundation, farms are thick with that kind, and needful of philosophers who pull weeds, and who find useful little things to do unbidden as they wander around the farm. I am glad I established a basic level of trust with so many before the suspicion of dark days settled in.

A weird creature I have become, not what my pride imagined I would become to bare collapse, but what collapse has shaped.

Strangely I am actually deeply comforted by the Trump election, knowing full well this can all go pear shaped. He acts like a leader of a collapsing society, and that is easy to process in a way that listening to Obama (who I really find very charming in affect) say that things are getting better, and I don't even know if he believes him self, or where the tangle is.

After all of that, the real thing worth saying is that finding a sense of meaning is the most important thing. When pointlessness settles in, forget about it. Reading Zarathustra again is very important to me, and finding those stories that make me fall in love with Life and Earth and Wisdom all over again.

astroplethorama said...

gwizard43 et al — I heartily recommend listening to a recent interview of Stephen Jenkinson, who has done a lot of work with terminally ill patients and their families, and who seems to get our collective predicament.

M said...

I am relating to those who are inextricably hooked into the medical system, having recently undergone surgery for a retinal detachment. This now puts me at high risk for other eye issues, including early cataracts and detachment in the other eye. One of the hardest things for me to come to grips with was my complete lack of control--I really had no choice, and there is nothing I can do about my genetics. Despite having health insurance, it has also put me into serious debt, something that I had been able to avoid until now.

It was spiritually wrenching, and I spent the last few months struggling with it, trying to find some "meaning" to it all. I even had to stay away from TADR, my favorite blog. I guess, with all the insight I've developed about where we are headed as a civilization from reading this blog and a few others, I needed a bit more insight into myself.

So life is unfair. And yup, the only thing to do is get up each day and do what you believe are the things important for you to do that day, for yourself, for family, for friends, for the planet. One thing I've noticed is more people are more willing to listen to some of the things discussed here. Not my (ex) wife, though.

I appreciate your scholarship and your writing. Thank you.

Dennis Mitchell said...

On a shorter time frame, yesterday morning I tried to imagine a democratic version of trump. For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction, kinda really scared me. I could see Trump being in office as the economy crashes and giving the Demoncrats a chance to double down on their brand of insanity. Just how hard would it be to find a loud, obnoxious, papmered Democrat who's divorced from reallity? If we play our cards right we should have a nation of beautiful roads and bridges just as we can nmo longer afford to use them.

Donald Hargraves said...

Thanks for this article.

Between the "presidential" election and some struggles I've had financially during the past year, I've found myself having experienced various levels of decline - both mine and of the people I've known. Between people going out of their way to not see what's happening in front of them, seeing the end of Obamacare in the distance (I benefit, but it's worse than what was before and the only thing worse is what the Republicans will come up with.) and a realization of what my present situation is at the moment (on an island of sorts, separated from whatever support system I would happily sign up for, and with financial help minimized beyond belief), I've come up with and/or confirmed a couple of thoughts:

1) The direction of history is autocracy, tyranny and dissolution. Anything else is but a bubble.
2) a: Things will get worse before they get better. b: They may never get better. c: If things do get better you may not like the improvement.

I have also begun making my peace with death. If things can only go downhill, there's no real place for a lonely fifty-something male with no progeny and no real wish or interest in creating progeny. Better to leave the earth to those with children to care for – they'll have a hard enough time dealing with what's ahead without a dead stem like me to eat up resources.

Wendy Crim said...

Thank you for your weekly blog, JMG. I really always enjoy it and look forward to it. Off topic, but I've been taking some social dance classes since the new year began. Latin Ballroom and 1920s social dances. It strikes me that dance is very gender specific and how a lot of my younger friends couldn't handle the idea of "leading" or "following". Which is a shame. I so look forward to my two days of dance classes every week. Every one around me wants to talk about Trump and their perceived "nightmare" of him as president and all I care about is foxtrot and bachata. I have completely disconnected from all that D.C. noise and spend time in my own life. I'm happier and my claves look great! Enjoy your week everyone. Can't wait to see what's on the blog next.

mary said...

I really liked "Collapse in Process" Thanks someone, that is a keeper.
But dealing with loss is also a keeper. I can share produce and eggs and ride my three wheeled adult tricycle up the road but I am stopped in my tracks when I consider the death and loss in the houses that I will ride past. (assuming that I survive and they don't of course!)
May I suggest Death Cafe. World wide evidently, on FB and the internet. It offers a chance to sit with others (and tea and a cookie) to share ideas and experiences about death. Many of us have no experience with death, up close and personal. The Cafes allow us to learn from others about preparing for our own death and give us a glimpse about how to help others as they come to the end of their lives.

drhooves said...

Very nice - a "kick-in-the-teeth" post to help balance out the warm and huggy rhetoric of responses we see most weeks. The savage future is nigh, and mankind will once again demonstrate that in spite of all of our civilized accomplishments, we as a species still have one foot firmly planted in the jungle.

I dare say it will be much sooner than within the next couple of decades the dollar collapses. The Fed is already purchasing 2/3 of new treasuries, and that's a game that doesn't last long. You can count on the rest of the world stomping on Uncle Sam as he falters, and considering the games that Wall Street and .GOV played to crank the wealth pump into high gear, it's not like the U.S. won't be getting what it justly deserves...

Candace said...

I've been seeing the response to the election through the framework of the myth of progress, so this quote keeps going through my mind "Men are not angered by mere misfortune but by misfortune conceived as injury. And the sense of injury depends on the feeling that a legitimate claim has been denied."

I have gained the reputation of being "Debbie downer" the character in. Saturday Night Live skits that made social situations awkward awkward and depressing by talking about sad social topics. So I try not to talk too much about decline anymore. I also seem to end up being a Trump apologist when people start talking about how awful he is, which is not a role I like so, I've gone to being more no -committal or just agreeing to avoid arguing.

At present the main thing I think I can do is to continue to develop skills and reduce my use of resources (I.e. I also compete with myself to see if I can use a smaller number of therms for heating etc).

I've also been listening to Taleb's "Anti-Fragile", he also embraces some of the stoics philosophy. He talks about imagining that all of the things he is afraid of losing are already lost, as a way to try and free himself from the fear of losing things (also fits in with Buddist teachings on letting go of attachments). So the main thing I think I can do to prepare for the future is to work on my mental attitude and work on accepting loss. It's not like it won't be a useful skill in prosperous times too.

Violet- I am so sorry to hear of your illness. I have greatly appreciated the post you have made about herbs . I hope when you are gardening this spring, that doing something that gives you joy will help with your healing. Perhaps some will even have suggestions. Please know that yet another friend from the internet wishes you healing and even hopefully a full recovery

NomadicBeer said...

This week's post constitutes a sobering change of pace. I was starting to get drawn back to the world of illusions with all the talk about politics and money but this is a wake up call. Thank you!

I am also surprised at the directness of the tone. Sometimes in the past I thought you were afraid of losing readers because of the toned down descriptions of the future. I am glad I was wrong!

Is the "collapse now and avoid the rush" really not possible anymore? I am only halfway there...

Robin Datta said...

Don't know whether to beleove this, but declining Petroleum Net Energy might bite soon:

Louis Arnoux
Oil Net Energy
Cassandra's Legacy
SRSRocco & Louis Arnoux
Thermodynamic Oil Collapse: Why The Global Economy Will Disintegrate Rapidly
SRSroccoReport Interview with Louis Arnoux (October 20, 2016)
Civilization goes over the net energy cliff in 2022 — just 6 years away

The Big Rant said...

On Sunday, I paid one last visit to the piano store a day before it closed to say goodbye to the guys who hosted my student's recitals for the last 20 years and from whom I bought my first piano, a Yamaha upright. The once-venerable store had been open since the late sixties, its decor remarkably unchanged since then. By the year 2000, it was completely in a death spiral, locked in grave competition with the piano dealer in the next town for the last of the affluent, McMansion-owning, salary class, piano buyers.

I'm glad I went, of course, because it would have been rude not to pay a last visit, but it had me in tears afterward when I was alone in my car. It had that uncanny feeling of saying goodbye to a genteel era that will never return.

Also, Violet, I hope you feel better soon. A long time ago you posted about living with your parents and gardening and it really touched me. I'm in the same situation, though I am in my forties so I cannot say I'm a "young adult" by any stretch of the imagination. I'm trying to make the best of not being able to afford a home. Unfortunately, I have a weird complex about owning my own house I need to mentally work out.

As dark as this latest post is, it made me feel a hell of a lot better about stuff I cannot control. As a professional workaholic, I keep forgetting that my lack of progress in "getting ahead" financially is not due to any lack of hard work and competence on my part. This post reminded me I need to stop blaming myself for not being able to afford a house no matter how successful my business gets and not gaining any traction even though I'm as thrifty as they come, buying used, cooking healthy meals for four on $40 a week or less, and cutting my dad's and my husband's hair. As for myself, my hair is down to my behind and it's going to stay that way until I die because hair "fashions" especially women's hair fashions, are yet another unnecessary expense everyone takes for granted. I am happy and grateful for my giant hair and I'm glad I don't have to worry about cutting it. This sort of thinking has become my strategy for mental survival and happiness.

I truly do not envy those who are not mentally ready for collapse. Especially those who have no genuine appreciation for how good they have it right now, just having clean water, adequate food, no roadside bombs, and an internet that still works.

jessi thompson said...


you said:

"Last week I saw the volume of comments and didn't even bother to read them because it was obvious they would be just more freak out nonsense. People are telling me what's going on Facebook, losing relationships and such, and it sounds like a mad house. Occasionally I still get questions about if I still believe in near term economic collapse. It's so absurd that I don't know how to respond. Inside my head I'm thinking "Like duh, Earth to McFly, are you even paying attention?" "

I'm a Neopagan (a Pagan following a new Pagan religion instead of an old one), and it's not a faith-based religion, it's based on real metaphysical experiences that you learn, cultivate, and build over time. People who have never experienced this aspect of religion, metaphysics, ritual, or magic have no idea how concrete and tangible the experiences are. We get asked "Do you believe in magic?" or "Do you believe in that stuff?" all the time. I heard a great answer, and it would probably benefit some of the Christians I know as well who have felt the hand of God in their lives, and it's just as relevant to your situation. The answer is "Do you believe in rocks?"

Sheila Grace said...

I walked down the hill this morning to feed the chickens and heard myself say out loud; I am powerless over my addiction to oil, and my life has become unmanageable, I believe there’s a power greater than myself that can restore me to sanity – looked up and around at all of my trees, heard the first birds of the morning, and continued on to the chicken pen laughing to myself as I finished the conclusion of the second step; this implies, of course, that we’ve all been insane.

Wow, Supertramp, that takes me back a long way. I can still remember when my first boyfriend’s brother pulled the vinyl out of its sleeve waving it in the air with a smile on his face and said ‘wait until you hear this’ and promptly played it. Now, so many decades later I live with an audiofile and we’ve played this exact song - tube amps and all.

Backlash it is, and round and round we go. Later this morning on the phone with my mother; she used the word surreal. Collapse now and avoid the rush was June 2012 the same month as my bankruptcy so that blog is pretty much memorized by now, and any sense of entitlement was pretty well beaten out of me. Stunned as I was, I embarked on a full time four year learning curve. I never did return to my career or my old life. The cognitive dissonance has faded as of late, I’ve worked through all 12 steps in relation to loss and recovery, but with each new story, I must admit the potential future outcomes dog me until once again, I find my center.

I learned the word fungible from you. I have been let out of prison, the place where so many still sit – there are no victims only volunteers – and they all suffer from the yeah butt disease and want to tell me ‘this is all happening because…” but never the word oil is mentioned, or doing with less, those words simply cannot be uttered. And yet in my heart I know “There was always an alternative—deliberately downshifting out of the embarrassing extravagance that counts for normal lifestyles in the industrial world these days, accepting more restricted ways of living in order to leave a better world for our descendants—but not enough people were willing to accept that alternative to make a difference while there was still a chance.”

The two tough realizations this past week were; when Adam Smith began to put forth his ideas, the second law of thermodynamics was not yet discovered, and while listening to Dmitry on a podcast he used geological terminology I was not familiar with (in relation to coastal nuclear power plants) and learned about how retreating glaciers are transforming land masses (rates of uplift due to glacial isostatic adjustment around the world) which the upside I suppose is that D.C. is sinking.

Even in the quietest moments, there are no words for how this affects me so I go outside to observe. I noticed today the wild rabbits (that have found a home here) prune the goose berry bushes in a way that is positive for both rabbits and gooseberries. I plan to take a few cuttings and start a gooseberry planting over in what we have now come to call rabbit village. I’ve learned there is no such thing as deserve, only negotiate, so way out here in the middle of nowhere with a hand full of ethics, few expectations, and keeping our heads low, if the negotiations don’t work out there’s always meditation, and my stellar hospitality featuring death camas quiche. I do my best to quell the hysteria many of my friends and family from the NE are presently experiencing and since they’re in the yeah butt crowd I sum it up by saying “well, circumstances have actions in this upside down world, hang in there”.

NomadicBeer said...

I just reread this post and I have to ask: who are the climatologists you know that stopped flying to reduce their own emissions?

Seeing online all the scientists that try to outdo each other in flying all over the world to give speeches about the huge problem of climate change, it's hard for me to believe that some of them actually walk their talk.

Grebulocities said...

It is quite remarkable to watch America's liberal class suffer a giant crisis of faith in real time. There's definitely a large number of the Kubler-Ross stages of grief, except the last one so far.

One of the biggest things that got undermined for mainstream US liberals is their own form of American exceptionalism, that its presidents are for the most part worthy of respect (W. Bush, Nixon, and a couple of others perhaps excluded), and that we have an economy and ingrained liberal values that will keep us all safe, despite occasional setbacks, and that the US is a force for good around the world that is inevitably becoming more peaceful, liberal and democratic, even if some of the interventions don't go as planned and end up producing atrocities of their own. They're suffering a very abrupt collapse in their own faith in the country and the religion of progress that was really believable to anyone who never went to rural areas and deindustrialized working-class cities. I became disillusioned gradually several years ago and slowly lost my faith in progress (with your help), but theirs has hit abruptly, and disillusioned people act in irrational ways until they finally come to grips with reality, for those who ever do.

And the US truly was exceptional in many ways. In the North and Midwest, the system of education that started in the 1840s produced by far the highest literacy rates the world had ever seen up to that point. Our economy eclipsed Britain's in absolute terms in the 1970s and per-capita not long thereafter. Depending on what you were looking at, the US was the "best" country in the world to live in from at least the post-Civil War era, going on for over a century. That started changing with deindustrialization, rising healthcare costs, and declining education. Now we're just #1 in military spending and other imperial excesses, and we're at or near the bottom of the developed world in all the things that actually make people satisfied. It's no longer anything like the best country in the world to live in.

Still, affluent liberals in their middle-management jobs, jobs with tech startups, and ivory towers could easily think like things on the ground weren't getting worse for most people in any meaningful way. Progress was still real to them. And now the first openly declinist candidate in history shows up and ekes out a win, showing that discussing the decline was actually popular and speaking to people's negative concerns while being as politically incorrect as possible was a possible path to the presidency. The belief in the progress of humans onward and upward in freedom and equality (and outer space!) suddenly can't be maintained. Not only that, they have to confront their deep unpopularity in the population at large.

Kevin Warner said...

I suppose that you could say that Donald Trump is sort of a modern-day Rorschach test in that you can see in him what you want, either the American Hitler or America's last best hope. Whatever. I have to say that I think that he is not really that important when set against what JMG talks about in this week's essay. Trump is not a cause but an effect of the times that we are living in. Perhaps a catalytic effect but just another bit player so now may be a good time to mostly ignore him and get back to the big questions. After all, big questions gets you big answers.

Down the track historians are going to have to sit down and work out what it was in the DNA of Western civilisation that led it to destroy itself and have such a cataclysmic effect on the planet. Maybe it was because after centuries of exploring and exploiting new frontiers, the trouble started when all the frontiers ran out and it had to turn in on itself. Maybe it was because in the past century or so Western people had forgotten or no longer cared about the value of human life. Maybe the answers will be found in the historical parchments of the Greater Appalachian Theocratic Republic's Library in a few centuries time - in the chapter after the one called 'Prophets without Honour' where JMG will likely be listed. Ask me in a couple centuries time.

Point is, as our host has pointed out, that we are way, way past the point of no return. I am hoping though that maybe now is not so much a time of slow collapse but a time of a fighting retreat. I could live with that thought. Now is the time to analyse this civilisation's collapse and understand how we got where we are. The trick is to pull the signal out of all the overwhelming noise in the air at the moment whether it being leftists allying themselves with muslims, an alt-right that most people had not even heard about till last year, false news that only now people are noticing, liberals endorsing the CIA or mental meltdowns of people because they did not get what they wanted. That last one, by the way, is most instructive and probably rates as signal rather than noise. When will there be a better time to work out how we got here? Otherwise, just wake me up when there is an outbreak of common sense and someone like Tulsi Gabbard is sworn in as President.

Our host finished off his essay with the colloquial English phrase "It sucks to lose". Perhaps a different, and more poignant phrase about the passing of what we hold dear might be more appropriate when a movie character refers to how "All those moments will be lost in tears in rain."

Kfish said...

I would also like to thank JMG for his advice and perspective over the years. Because of reading this column, I have:

Learned to brew
Joined a community group and learned to lead
Spent more time with my family
Discarded faith in technology
Read and practiced some Stoicism
Developed a wider perspective

John Michael Greer said...

Neo, interesting. I recall reading somebody talking about the burst of enlightenment that jolted them out of New Left revolutionary circles in the 1970s; "I realized that there was no way I could bring down the system that would be faster than the speed at which the system is already going to bring itself down."

Rapier, at 65, why not watch the spectacle?

Peter, I've been to the LA airport, and I can imagine the spectacle!

Troy, exactly. Trump is a quintessentially American Caesar, watching himself on a big screen TV in the Oval Office. I've also talked to his supporters out here in flyover country, many of whom are feeling a little bit dazed just now; they were braced for the possibility that Trump would betray them the way Obama did, and ditch his campaign promises in favor of four more years of business as usual -- and they're amazed and delighted that he's actually building the wall, axing the trade treaties, doing what he promised. If he keeps it up the Democrats are going to have a very hard row to hoe come 2020.

Jeff, #1 is correct, though I'll have some political commentary from time to time as we proceed. #2 -- well, I'd considered it, but the people who are willing to consider what I have to say already get it, and those who need to hear it aren't willing to listen.

Beetleswamp, fortunately last week wasn't just people freaking out, though there was some of that. We also managed to have a very lively and, on the whole, courteous conversation in which a great many diverse voices got heard.

Dave Z, nothing's different this time. I'm not talking about fast collapse now, any more than I was in the past. Trump's election is not going to bring about the end of the world; neither is the breakup of the Larsen C ice sheet, or any of the other things I mentioned. The immediate consequences of any sudden shock will be more or less damped out by a variety of means. It's the long ragged descent into the deindustrial dark ages -- the thing I've been talking about all along, you know -- that's taken another rather visible step forward and down.

Justin, so noted! "Interesting," though, is a value judgment and thus subjective; me, I also find rig counts and EROEI interesting...

Crone, you're welcome and thank you.

Raymond, funny! What I'd suggest, though, is "Collapse Faster and Get Ahead of the Rush." You're certainly right, though, that my counterspell still works.

Bob said...

As a hermit, coming to terms with my own mortality was helpful. I was able to do it at a young age, and it is something I don't regret. Discovering how I want to live my life was the next step. It's a work in progress, nearing completion...

My plans for my demise may not work out as envisioned, but it is the intention that counts. I intend to live for as long as I feel it is worthwhile to live. And then I will seek a peaceful exit.

Is the decline of civilization different from the decline in one's health? I don't believe so. Of course, that perspective is easier to hold when one is a hermit. Watching your friends, your loved ones, and your children die is hard. Realizing late in life that you will not avoid calamity may be even harder.

John Michael Greer said...

Bruno, ding! We have a winner. Exactly.

Justin, I won't argue at all. A case could be made that the decline and fall of our civilization is occurring just in time to save us from something considerably worse.

Mark, I think it's deliberate on Trump's part. As I noted a year ago, the insistence on the part of his opponents that he's stupid says far more about their choice of hate speech than it does about him. He's anything but stupid; he's clearly realized that he has to seize the initiative and keep it, forcing everyone else to react to him rather than giving them a time to pursue their own agendas, in order to keep from being dragged to a halt by the bureaucratic inertia of Washington DC.

Dayton, do you know if he's written anything? I know it's a personal thing, but I find watching little pictures on glass screens irritating and dull, even if the information content is worthwhile. (I've sometimes joked that the main reason I could never have gone alt-right is that anime does nothing for me.)

Clay, thanks for the info. That seems utterly plausible to me.

My Donkey, good to hear. I hope other people will give that a try.

John & Louise, you're welcome and thank you.

Nastarana, no argument. We were always going to a choice between awful and just as awful in some things.

Bryant, we're already in the middle of running into issues with peak oil. The huge swings in petroleum prices from 2004 to the present are driven by that; so are the increasingly intractable and (to economists) inexplicable problems with the economy -- mainstream economists don't know how to take into account the way that declining net energy acts as a stealth tax on all economic activity. Don't fall into the trap of thinking that a change has to be sudden for it to be important!

Shane, maybe it's the Orbital Mind Control Lasers of the Illuminati beaming the same thoughts into our minds... ;-)

Karen, that can't be helped. Reality is a real buzz kill sometimes.

Jbarber, being poor in a society that insists on blaming the poor for their plight is a very hard row to hoe. You're right, though, that you now have skills that the comfortable will have to learn in a hurry, or perish.

John Michael Greer said...

Carlos, that's square on target; thank you. One thing that hasn't even begun to sink in yet is that as things get difficult, a lot of people in the world's nonindustrial nations are going to be in much better shape than people in the industrial world, because the former know how to get by without the industrial economy and the latter don't.

John, I didn't say the Mongols were cartoon villains. I said they had a reputation, and that the reputation of Europeans would be along the same lines.

Izzy, have you ever been a lobster? Dancing the lobster quadrille might be more fun than you think. ;-)

Mark, I suppose that's possible, but I'm not sure it's that useful drafting "well, that might happen" scenarios. A broad brush paints the future more effectively.

Repent, exactly. We simply don't know what's going to happen next -- not in detail, and the big picture isn't necessarily precise enough to give guidance.

Pygmycory, I hope you're right. It's been very depressing to watch apparently sensible people running around squawking like chickens. "When in danger and in doubt, run in circles, scream and shout" seems to be the order of the day.

Cynndara, thank you. That's very good to hear.

Mister R., that's a useful approach! Still, I don't know that I expect anything to snap people out of their ignorance. Enlightenment happens one person at a time, and it takes a lot of work!

DoubtingThomas, Spengler is deterministic the same way that it's deterministic to say "you are going to die someday and, if you live long enough, you'll get old first." The comparison's exact: he was talking about the life cycle of human societies, and demonstrates with plenty of evidence that (a) there is such a thing and (b) it has stages as predictable as childhood, puberty, maturity, and old age in the life cycle of the human individual. The life can be lived well or ill, and there's an element of freedom in the choices that bring one or the other about...but you can't choose not to age and die, you know. As for enlightenment, individually it's always an option. Collectively? Show me an example, or join the long, long line of people down through the ages who have waited in vain for some deus ex machina to bail them out from the consequences of their own actions.

Jay, no argument there. It helps, though, if you know how much you can carry with you when you swim, and don't try to haul something that will drag you down.

jessi thompson said...

Archdruid Greer, and Community:

This post is excellent, timely, and harrowing. You are right, much will be lost, and there's no way to wrap your head around what's coming. We can postulate and intellectualize collapse, but when people start dying in high numbers, there's no way to prepare for that in advance.

I did want to point out some of us have been experiencing loss for a very long time already. I have heard a few voices in the environmental movement, perplexed by a new environmentalism, where wind farms and solar farms are always good things, no matter where they are placed. I figured it out. The new environmentalism is the urban environmentalism. As all the wilderness has been eaten up by "progress", fewer people ever even saw wilderness in their entire lives. I can tell you, walking on the paved path of a little park in the suburbs is not wilderness, no matter how many pruned, disease-controlled, and fire-managed trees there are. Standing in a pasture in a deeply rural area is not wilderness, but it's a little closer. Those of us who have seen truly wild places and fell in love have been watching the systematic torture and destruction of the wild for a very long time. No matter what happens, I will find joy in the blades of grass breaking through the old sidewalks and the trees growing through the walls of what used to be buildings. I can't guarantee I will live long enough to watch decay and renewal outpace bulldozers and destruction, but I really want to.

If you deeply fear what is coming, go outside and walk. Look at the plants and animals. They even live in cities, but they are small and hard to find. Look at the birds. Look at the life. Maybe you will recognize it for what it is when you see it growing back, the resilience, the determination to survive, the triumphs and tragedies that happen every day, the spider and the butterfly. I saw footage of penguins surfing huge waves to be smashed up onto cliffs twenty feet high. They kept smashing into the jagged rocks and falling back into the rough sea to try again, smashing up into the cliffs again and again until they finally reached the top, to the only place in the world where they lay their eggs. I saw that and said,"There's an animal determined to live! The entire species evolved to do THAT!"

As a culture, we collectively have no idea what we've lost, what the cost was of all this progress. The last people who remember grew up at the very edges of the rural areas, looking outward onto vast reaches of wild and dangerous land and water. These last people are all heartbroken. They watch more and more beauty ripped apart as mountaintops are removed to mine coal and forests are clearcut for every imaginable wood and paper product, and even the ocean is choked to clogging with plastic. With decline, all of this recedes. The best thing we can possibly do for our ecosystem is leave it alone. Slowly, life will come back and new species will fill niches left by the old, but even before then, the wilds will encroach on everything we leave behind. Look for that, look for the easing of our collective land-use footprints as abandoned shopping malls collapse and their parking lots grow grass again. There will be many moments of astonishment and opportunities for joy, even amidst the loss. Look for it, for as our hubris is washed away by forces of nature, wild and rugged beauty will return. Don't give up hope yet, for the next epoch's tigers and woolly mammoths have not yet been born. If you are looking for the signs of collapse around you, keep an eye out for the corresponding signs of renewal and regeneration. If you learn to see it, it will feed your soul in a way industrial civilization never could.

Jessi Thompson

John Michael Greer said...

Gwizard, Oswald Spengler noted that in the latter days of every human society, there's a return to spirituality -- the Second Religiosity, he called it. One of the things that drives that return is a recognition that if you live in a troubled age, you need to cultivate ways to deal with that, and spirituality has plenty to offer in that department.

Paulo, that's certainly one way to approach things!

Logan, that's why I specified a thousand years in the future. Admittedly, 1500 years might have been a better interval.

Peakfuture, I do seem to be reaching some people, a scattering here and there, but there's no identifying sign -- predictably; I'm an eccentric, I attract those who are just as odd as I am, and in the best Discordian fashion, we don't stick together, we stick apart.

Gwizard, true enough. Of course it's necessary to let the grieving happen rather than forcing a simulacrum of it -- a lot of the culture of perpetual whining we have here in the US is a function of the endless repetition of simulated grief, which is acted out but not actually felt. Come to think of it, that applies to a huge range of faux-emotions and faux-passions.

Whitecloak, single-issue politics are among the core forces that have landed us in the mess we're in. I hope you'll educate yourself about a broader range of issues -- you'll find that support for the enforcement of immigration laws (which I also favor, btw) is compatible with quite a wide range of views.

Agent, we've been through this before. I don't know for a fact that the sustainability movement of the 1970s could have succeeded, but I also don't know for a fact that it had to fail. It seems to me that insisting on the latter, when nobody knows the truth of the matter, is a sop for sore consciences. To my mind, it's much more useful, not to mention accurate, to say, "No one knows whether it could have worked or not," and accept whatever responsibility each of us might have had for its failure.

Mark, actually, I think it'll work out best if the process is irregular in space and time -- some people getting clobbered fast, others having the time to learn from the experience. Fortunately that seems to be what we're most likely to get.

Pygmycory, I won't argue. As I noted in the post, some things of real value are going to be lost.

Tokyodamage, funny! Thank you.

andrewmarkmusic said...

Thanks for not loading this one up with all kinds of salt and sugar, JMG! Reality needs to be digested in its purest form.....

John Michael Greer said...

Econojames, you're welcome and thank you. You've made a very important point, by the way; as we proceed further down the slope, being someone else's employee will be less and less of a good idea, because your employer is going to try to prop up his or her sinking lifestyle at your expense. Providing goods and services directly to people who value them is a much better option. More about this as we proceed!

Ray, nicely put. That's just it -- collapsing is a process, not a destination, and none of us will ever know everything we need to know as we surf the wave of decline and fall.

Astroplethorama, thanks for the link.

M, you're welcome and thank you. I can empathize; my wife's health has deteriorated enough that a lot of the things we'd hoped to do when we moved to the Rust Belt are no longer an option, and we're having to consider relocating in order to get easier access to some of the resources we'll need as age sets in. Life is change, and you do what you have to do.

Dennis, excellent! I hear Mark Zuckerberg is being touted as a potential presidential candidate, so your Democrat Trump may not be hard to find.

Donald, I agree with your second point, but only one-third of your first. Dissolution is inevitable, but autocracy and tyranny, not so much -- though a lot of people are going to have to relearn the hard art of taking responsibility for the consequences of their own choices if those are to be avoided. More on this in a future post.

Wendy, delighted to hear it! Over and above the other benefits, it's good to take time away from doom from time to time...

Mary, thanks for this. I agree wholeheartedly that coming to terms with death is crucial; I've had more than my share of such experiences, but of course not everyone else has.

Drhooves, you may well be right about the dollar, but it's still possible for another rabbit or two to be pulled out of a hat. A lot of people expected the dollar to collapse completely in the wake of the 2008 crash.

Candace, good. It sounds as though you're moving in a productive direction.

NomadicBeer, you can't avoid the rush; you might still be able to get ahead of it, if you get a move on.

Robin, to my mind, it's already biting. I expect it to bite much harder in the years immediately ahead -- but be very, very wary of predictions that start from that fact and jump straight to sudden collapse!

John Michael Greer said...

Big Rant, exactly -- there's a real relief in knowing that it's not you, it's not anything you can change, the situation simply is what it is and we all have to deal with it, or not, as we choose. Valuing the many good things we still have is another very useful strategy.

Sheila, a finely crafted meditation. Of course we've all been insane; a lot of what's going to happen in the years immediately ahead is simply a matter of waking back up to the real world: the world of squirrels and gooseberries, where people can't fly to the moon except in their dreams.

NomadicBeer, I'd have to look them up. One of them published an essay a while back urging his colleagues to do the same thing, without noticeable effect, and I heard a little later about two others who'd done the same thing. The rest? As far as they're concerned, cutting back on carbon emissions is for other people.

Grebulocities, thank you. That makes sense.

Kevin, a fighting retreat? I like that. I could see people rallying around it, if it were done the right way. Hmm...

Kfish, thank you. Hearing that really does make me feel as though I've done some good with these rants.

Bob, I'm not a hermit, but I won't argue at all about coming to terms with death. Years ago, when I was an unpublished would-be author with dreams, I paid the bills by working in nursing homes as an orderly, and that involved such tasks as taking vital signs on patients as said signs went to zero and cleaning up the bodies for the folks from the mortuary. It helped me get to know the bony guy with the scythe, and come to terms with the fact that he'd be paying me a visit in due time.

Jessi, thank you. That's something that needs to be said, and heard, many times over.

Andrewmarkmusic, you're welcome and thank you. My realities are free range and come with no artificial ingredients! ;-)

Wizard of Tas said...

Hey fellow aspie (we're far from being a rarity here). I've often wondered about the insulin issue, given a few friends and family members need it. It seems to me that given that insulin production has happened for longer than I originally thought, it would seem viable that a modern person with time, access to info and tools, should be able to work out how to do it if folks could do it a century (however long) ago. It would be one more thing to do on a list that's already long for anyone, and more promising, as we all question what skills we could learn for trade, insulin production might have a few customers.

Mean Mr Mustard said...


Regarding the US 'paying for' Western European defence, well, that looks to be an Alternative Fact. UK spending alone closely matches Russia's. Our own traditional enemy - France - ;-) spends about the same too.

The Yuge Heffalump in the overmortgaged McMansion is that US defense spending is equal to the next ten nations or thereabouts. $600 Bn...!!

Though it appears Mr Trump is onto the F-35 racket, while McCain and his colleagues are now finally, after rejecting the Imminent Fury and Combat Dragon II evaluations, belatedly noting the potential benefits we've already discussed of low cost light counterinsurgency platforms. If needs be, those could be deployed in-country, of course.

Interesting to see here that the House of Saud sees fit to spend 13% of their GDP on defence. Doesn't look like it's resulted in much in the way of effective military capability, though.


Colonel Mustard (Retd) Order of the Burning Spear (3rd Class)

Darren Urquhart said...

Off topic... For readers in Sydney Australia, Sutherland Library is currently loaning two JMG books - Twilight and After Progress. You can borrow them from the Sutherland Shire libraries or through an inter-library loan from anywhere in NSW I believe.

Most libraries accept requests for books to be added to their collection. I encourage all regular readers to get some JMG thinking into their local libraries. The more exposure these ideas get, the better.

MichaelK said...

Sadly, I agree with most of what you've written. I just wish it wasn't so because the great big party has been very, very, good to me throughout my lifetime. There's a lot of things I'm gonna miss. The idea that my children will live a world very different and far harsher than the one I enjoyed, a world of chaos, feels me with a feeling of dread.

Coincidentally, I was listening to the BBS this morning and they had one of the leading analysts for British Petroleum, BP, on the programme talking about how BP, at least for public consumption, sees the future. He talked about the great abundance of oil we're witnessing at the moment and this is keeping prices down. According to him the global oil and gas industry has provable access and extraction to a vast amount of oil and gas up to at least 2050, four to five times as much oil and gas as we actually need. That was really good, he mentioned in an aside, because China and India are gonna need an awful lot of energy as they adopt western lifestyle, not least in relation to tranport where hundreds of millions of electric cars are soon going to be rollin', rollin', rollin' on hundreds of thousands of miles of roads leading us in comfort towards a bright and better future, without a bump in sight.

Well, I'm glad that's been cleared up by BP's analyst. We can all relax, sit back and enjoy the ride. All that made me feel, so relieved, so happy and positive, until I read you're latest post that is, and I came back down to earth with a nasty bump and woke up with a frown.

thriftwizard said...

You should hear the squawks of fury and entitlement I'm hearing here in the UK. In the supermarkets of our rather-expensive little medieval market town, customers are finding empty shelves where their (unseasonable) salad leaves and soft fruit "should" be, thanks to the cold and furious weather currently battering southern Europe, where most of these things are grown. What they're not realising is that not only are these harvests failing, but the farmers are unable to plant the crops for future months too, as many agricultural areas are flooded (with the soil washing straight down into the Mediterranean, as there are no longer any trees to hold it in place) so one's dinner-party menus are going to be constrained for some time...

We're a long way from actual hunger, and there are plenty of unfashionable home-grown vegetables like cabbage and beets available, but prices are edging upwards rather faster than the official inflation figures suggest, and people seem very unwilling to join the dots and realise that this situation, which can only be exacerbated by Brexit, may not be a temporary blip in their comfortable lifestyles. So I'm planning what to plant in our little polytunnel, bought to house our bantams during the avian flu scare, and assuming that the birds will be able to return to free-range in Spring when the danger is past. And I'm eyeing up all available window-sill space; there may come a day when any available goods no longer get delivered to "rural" areas outside the main cities, as the roads disintegrate further and all the people with money return to places where there are still centralised services like properly-staffed schools, hospitals and rubbish (trash) collections, and it may be closer than we’d like to think...

Les said...

we’ve been on the farm five years now, after another 5 years or so mucking around with urban farming, permaculture and the like in the big smoke (talk about how to become a pariah in your own neighbourhood).
We’ve managed to get off grid (though less successfully than Chris in Cherokee, I think).
Coming into year six, we even seem to have found out how to make a living of sorts, in the small scale raising of old breed pigs (a minor miracle, given the negative incomes we see all around us).
The pigs are fed on whey from the local cheesemaker, veggie offcuts from the local greengrocer, stale bread from the local baker, whatever goodies they can extract from the paddocks they are in and a few commercial pellets.
While we look on this as a major nutrient import system for our farm, every one of these inputs burns fossils to make it happen (even the paddock, as we have to pump water to keep the little buggers out there in their paddock enclosures).
Likewise, the 50 acres of trees up the back uses fossils every time we go looking for fuel. Even if I get the wood gas generators up and happening (looking increasingly unlikely), I still have to cut timber to power the them.
While your demagogues are unlikely to affect us directly, it really is depressing to see what is now more than ten years of effort come to essentially nothing. It’s like we’ve just been kidding ourselves - the loss of easy access to liquid fuels is still going to hurt like hell, and that sure seems a corollary of what you’ve written this week...

Del Nogal said...

Dear JMG,
First an apology for being too long but I just wanted to share the little insight I have from living in Côte d'Ivoire, in the hope it will shed some lights on how it may look like.
I believe the country is currently in the 2nd phase of what Turchin calls the Father-and-Son sub-cycle of the descending phase of a secular cycle, ie.: fathers and sons still remember how awful the previous round of violence was and do anything to prevent the return of it. That would last around one generation before it starts again.

For the context:
Côte d'Ivoire went through a bloody civil war (nicely called post-electoral crisis) lasting from 2002 to 2011. A Rebel army fought the Security Forces, and both fought the population.
French army settled the matter.
Current president is thus the one supported by the Rebel army. In an effort at peace building and violent soldiers recycling, Rebels and ex-Security Forces have been merged into a galaxy of security forces with catchy acronyms.

6th Jan, ex-Rebel forces start a mutiny, take over a few cities, shoot in the air, roadblocks, require 12Mio XOF per ex-Rebel (around 10y local salary)
7th Jan, Government answers: "Preposterous!"
...shots in the air, roadblocks, empty streets, shops closed ...
13th Jan, Government pays 12Mio per ex-Rebel
14th Jan, ex-Security Forces (military, gendarmes(militarized police)) and firemen start a mutiny: it's unfair, they also require 12Mio per head: shots in the air, roadblocks, harbors, shops closed and banks too.
Banks being closed, ex-Rebels cannot cash in their new earned money. Thus they attack ex-Security Forces mutineers and kill some.
25th Jan ex-Rebel make a public apology for the inconvenience, but you know, "we really deserve that money"
Meanwhile the national football team lost in the continental championship(AFCON), all civil servants have been striking since 1st Jan (hospitals, administration, schools...)
Private schools are attacked by student unions to convince them to participate in the strike and to rob some wallets and phones too.
4 crocodiles died in Yamoussoukro, CI is represented in Seoul's chocolate fair, Bingerville celebrates their best students, ruined small investors peacefully demonstrate in town.

News look like this in such a context, plus all the rumors spreading like wild fire.

Del Nogal said...

Then daily life when you're wealthy:
Water, electricity lost twice a month for a few hours(daytime)(4 months ago, it was once a month)
But I just had fiber optics internet deployed to my home 1000Mb/s o_O : progress and regress walk hand in hand.
I am white, so it is obvious I'm filthy rich and no clan backs me up, so I'm fair game. Having been ransomed by police once, I now avoid anything that wears a uniform and a Kalashnikov. I also avoid groups of people I don't know, and join groups I know ASAP.
I never disclose my home location or give personal details.
All houses are protected by walls higher than 3m crowned by barbwire or electric fences and guarded 24/7. Wealthy neighborhoods are walled around the walled houses and guarded too. This is the wall century, looks pretty medieval though mail and helmet would look nicer than those yellow uniforms ;-)
I've also learned to locate the source of gunshots by watching the birds. All those walls make it difficult to locate the source of a bang.
Nonetheless, life is rather peaceful, and as long as you are prudent, informed, discreet, and avoid the places where you don't belong, it's fine.

Daily life when you're normal:
You earn between 100$ and 200$ a month. Life is expensive as tomatoes, rice and onions are priced like in Europe. Cigarettes are cheap though.
You can afford a one or two rooms house for your family of 6-10 (parents, wife, children). Luckily, your wife makes some money by selling water plastic bags and skin bleach in the market and your cousins from the village can still provide some vegetables.
You have running water quite often, prepaid electricity for light and radio, and a butane bottle for cooking( thank god, you can afford it, coal is so awful).
You and your kids (some will die) get sick quite often: malaria, worms, typhus, gastro-intestinal problems, infections. Hospital is expensive (don't bother, they're striking now)
Violence is rather low, though the tailor in your street has been killed last week by microbes(machete wielding kids in search of a living and a meaning). Two of those microbes have been caught and lynched this morning by the way, pity you weren't there.
Your kids go to the public school (currently striking) and your elder daughter(15yo) now pregnant must marry, but the guy is nowhere to be found. You had to borrow 300000 XOF(3mo salary) from your employer to pay for the school supplies and uniforms.
Day in day out, life is good, much better than 10 years ago when you had to flee your ancestral country side village, burnt to the ground.
You have a job, a house, a wife, food on the table once a day and can occasionally enjoy a beer (koutoukou is cheaper and stronger, but you don't dare since those 12 guys died poisoned by methanol).

If you're poor or disabled, may god have mercy.


Cortes said...

Another fine essay. Thank you.

When I still had a TV (about 15 years ago) one of the minor BBC channels showed a documentary about a family from the Transylvania area of Romania and highlighted the bizarre inversion of values which is common these days. The oldest child and only son was employed as a toilet cleaner at Heathrow Airport (London) and looked down on his parents and sisters who still worked on the family farm- about 40 hectares, a few cows and pigs, a small woodland, and arable fields. The farmers had no money but were truly rich, while the son had money but was poorer than mere words can express.

Phil Knight said...

Personally I think that Europeans will take to war again like ducks to water. I've been meaning to write a book for quite a long time about how Western populations suffer from what I call War Deficiency Syndrome. This is why popular culture is so keen on depictions of violence - with load, aggressive music; violent, gory films etc. These are a kind of placebo that gives people just enough of a vicarious thrill to keep their war urges in check.

Fred the First said...

@Sheila Grace - my eyes fell on your comment first this morning and reading it brought a tear to my eye. Thank you for sharing your journey. I would love to read more if you are writing more about it.

Twilight said...

Yes, I played “Fool’s Overture” to death on vinyl!

It's certainly true that we could have made much better choices, and there is still some room to correct a small number of those errors. However, there seems to be a feeling now that we can bring back what was lost by wishing and hoping. Of course that can't work, as there were actual reasons it stopped working before that go beyond the mere corruption and con men. There is no recognition at all of the impacts of declining net energy, and so it won't end well.

Therefore, the Trump administration represents the last gasp of hope for the segment of the population that supported him, and when that hope is gone it will be replaced by something uglier. Other segments of the population have no idea that something is wrong, and are too focused inward to be able to see. So I really feel that we are just passing a threshold, but I have learned that just because you can see the train coming doesn't mean you can get out of the way.

TerminalOne said...

Thanks to chronic lyme disease, when modern healthcare goes away, so will what remains of my health. Unfortunately, it's fairly rare for lyme to outright kill someone it's infected. More often they're beset with MS or fibromyalgia symptoms and a lot of pain. I doubt I'll be able to contribute enough to justify my upkeep. Since the bug won't have the decency kill me itself it looks like that will have to be my final DIY project. Lots of people are already dying from opiate overdoses, so hopefully I will stumble across some of the good stuff to stash away before it's needed.

I learned about peak oil 12 years ago and mentally gaming out the effects that would have on civilization going forward made having children seem like kind of a mean thing to do since their entire lives would be spent in a world falling apart. I know plenty of people lived through such things in the past - that's why we're here. Happiness is not guaranteed. Those people could have been miserable and so given the choice I decided to spare my hypothetical offspring. Given the situation I mentioned in the first paragraph, I know I made the right choice.

Fred the First said...

I'm reposting my question from yesterday and at the end of last week's post. Your response to another comment addressed this somewhat, but curious for your view.

Wow oh wow Trump is moving so fast on so many things my head is spinning. We haven't had a president like this my whole life and I remember back To Ford.

Scott Adams refers to this as a technique called pacing and leading. What do you think of it?

Matt said...

"Things that you value—things you think of as important, meaningful, even necessary—are going to go away forever in the years immediately ahead of us, and there will be nothing you can do about it."

This relates to what I was trying to convey in my last response (I think) to the previous post. We have talked elsewhere about how getting on board with the whole limits worldview is like a bereavement. We have to come to terms not just with the end of progress, but the end of many things you value.

Forewarned is forearmed (or whatever) but I think when it's right in front of our eyes - losing the things we value - it's still going to hurt, even if we have previously 'mourned now to avoid the rush'.

But what of our fellow citizens who don't have this context in the slightest? Many of them are getting their first real taste of it, right here, right now, and it's taking shapes they have no frame of reference to handle. Front and centre, I think, is the demise of the reality-based community, as Rumsfied (was it he?) might have described it.

Most of us know that politicians lie, but still expect that there may be some come-uppance, perhaps a loss of reputation, when the lie is discovered and widely acknowledged. What's new is the explicit disdain for truth that is being openly touted by the highest in the land. How do 'progressives' respond? One approach would be to surf the same wave, fight fire with fire. But for many progressives (I'm talking grassroots, here, not Clinton or Obama or the DNC) that 'cure' is as bad as the disease - it creates too much cognitive dissonance.

So, perhaps for the first time, they get a real sense that it's all going to Heck in a handcart, and feel an anguish that's all too understandable.


Izzy said...

@JMG: Not that I know of, but then, I don't think I would. :) I do like them--bonded a little in a well-I'm-not-being-eaten-but-still fashion with the tank when I was working my horrific deli job, and have a plush one around here--though that's never stopped me from also finding them delicious. Enjoying a future lobsteriffic existence is a heartening possibility, though, and good Alice reference.

mh505 said...

Dear JMG -
that's not my point at all. NATO, in its present form, has been obsolete for more than 20 years. One wonders at times if it wouldn't be wiser to project its force towards the Atlantic rather than the East (with an obviously much lower budget).
Of course, the core of Europe - Germany - is still an occupied country with up to 60000 US soldiers plus 20000 from the UK on its ground. And this may also be a major reason why our government has been - and still is - such a lapdog of the empire.

Izzy said...

@Wendy Crim: My experience of gender-neutral dance here in the People's Republic of Camberville is that we just divided the roles into "leaders" and "followers" and anyone could take either*. If people are objecting even to that designation, I may be more toward the political center than I'd previously thought, because wow, that's dumb of them.

* To be fair, in ballroom, some of this was less enlightenment and more the fact that our group generally lacked men.

Compound F said...

invaluable commentary. right on the chin. just what i was thinking, only put into words.

Jiminy Christmas.

I have no one to talk to about these things. Which sucks. So, I just listen to those who know the numbers. It's beyond painful.

you're a very kind person.

Jo said...

Thanks as always for keeping on saying it like it is. My lifelong addiction to history, biography and the historical novel has been a wonderful antidote to our present society. It doesn't take more than a few steps outside our bubbles of privilege, either in time or space, to realise that our lifestyles are not normal, and neither are our expectations.

Having said that, I live in as much privilege and comfort as the next suburbanite, and in response to this clearly unfair, unethical and downright foolish state of affairs, have decided to quietly take up a challenge that Sharon Astyk threw out a number of years ago - to try and live on ten percent of the energy/resources that the average resident of a wealthy nation uses. I am hoping to live a life that not only uses less resources but also upskills me and others to live better on much, much less.

I have only just begun this adventure, and am still quite pathetic at it. I would love the advice of any of the plethora of thoughtful commenters here who have transitioned to the simple life..

Phil Harris said...

So the USA has its 70 year old demagogue? He uses the ring of power to shoulder aside the other powers, just as he shouldered aside the other candidates for nominee. Their energy helped keep him in fuel. Maybe these other self-centred rings of power –like the power of dragons, old and cunning – could find a continuing role in his service, and bide their time? The man is 70? (The tropes of speculative narrative fiction have their value, but time likely outruns them.)

Or maybe, America has got itself awhile a re-awakened Enver Hoxha? I remember standing on a significant international transit road deserted except for a horse and cart beside a modern Border Post – an attempt at a new symbol erected by some external fund. The BP was stripped of all windows, doors, electrics, removable claddings and etc – think 'ruinmen'. Local people conducted normal enough friendly business on a lovely morning in May. My companions pointed up the hillside to the chain of concrete strong points disappearing into the mountains. “Hoxha”, they said, “Hoxha”, pointing and tilting their heads, tapping their temples theatrically so that I could fully grasp the import of this quiet scene.

I like your image, “American Caesar watching himself on a big screen in the Oval Office”. He is younger than I am but I guess that other symbol, the egg timer, runs just the same. TV and TV dinners do not a health system make!

Thanks you Stoics! I should catch up on Epictetus, I think, here at the other side of the tectonic plate where the first spring flowers are emerging earlier each year. This morning we have a little light frost with sunshine. I am not satisfied with what I have done since my own wretched times decades ago or with my response to successive eye-openings. I was a very young man with it all ahead of me when I helped carry a succession of bodies of elderly persons to the mortuary one bad winter. Later at 49 I had the boon of surviving a heart attack. I call it a boon now, though at the time the event put a very young family at risk. I echo Chris Cherokee Organics, - thanks Chris - I too do not work hard enough – not nearly hard enough. Good on you folks!

Phil H

Sub said...

Another great(if somewhat depressing) post JMG. You have some of the most enjoyable prose I have ever found to read, although I'm not sure if I could put my finger on just why.

On the subject of "what you can do", I'm curious whether you think any of the vestiges of industrial society will remain in force enough to provide a living, or whether it makes sense to try and get away from those sorts of employment ASAP?

I say this as someone who recently started working in the pharmaceutical sciences department at a state university as a researcher, but who also spent the last seven or eight years working as a repairman on various types of machinery. I can't decide if either of these are things that will be useful to know as things collapse(obviously government funded research will be among the first things to go in US govt. bankruptcy), or if something like my metalworking hobby is more likely to be useful to my community, and is worth spending increasing amounts of time improving on.

It is so stressful to live in times of such uncertainty, but I imagine that adaptability will be among the most useful traits to have, much as it has always been.

Best wishes,

Patricia Mathews said...

@Donald Hargraves - there's no place for a 50-something male with no offspring ... dead stem? Are you physically fit enough to volunteer at places that need help? Do you have assets enough to sell half of them and give the money to the poor a la many of the saints in the calendar?

Do you know how to fix anything, make anything, or grow anything? Give someone employment?

Lawfish1964 said...

Excellent post, as usual.

This one got me thinking about my prepping and collapsing in place. One skill I have learned since starting the collapse is how to brew beer and whiskey from straight grain. My production far exceeds my consumption, so I'm slowly stocking up on distilled spirits of many kinds, which I see as currency in the coming collapse. It also serves as an excellent barter item (yesterday, the guy who I buy my meat chickens from called and said he'd shot a 7-point buck and asked if I'd like it; of course; all I have to do is pay for the processing fee around $60, and I will brew him a 5-gallon batch of beer). Sort of my personal savings account. I am fortunate to have a large basement, despite living in Florida, and it makes an excellent fermentation/distillation laboratory. I could store literally thousands of jars of liquor and plan to do just that.

Meanwhile, my wife, who is also participating in the collapse process, but not as whole-heartedly (she refuses to use the clothesline and still dries our clothes with an electric dryer), is reminding me that her 50th birthday is coming up and urging me to save money so we can take a trip to the keys. I will comply and admittedly we will likely come back with a lot of good fish for the larder, but it seems so frivolous. We're likely to spend $1000, which could be better used for debt retirement (we're about 11 years away from complete absence of debt).

I am hoping against hope for a slow collapse so I can finish paying off my debts before my job gets tossed into the dust bin. Five more years and I'm done paying for my children's education, so I've got to make at least five more.

Wendy Crim said...

Excellent suggestion. I totally agree.

Kara Stiff said...

I know it's going to go hard for us personally, even with all our preparation, our house that will still be comfortable and functional when the a.c. quits forever, our food production system, our like-minded neighbors. Still, there is a little emotional relief in watching things get visibly worse now. For instance access to birth control really is going away even earlier than access to other necessities, like I thought it might, so I'm relieved I rearranged my life to not need it. It's scary, though, having young children at this point in history. There's only so much I can do, mentally and physically, to reduce their many kinds of vulnerability. And they mean so much.

Jeffrey Kotyk said...

"both sides rounding up potential opponents"

One thing I've noticed, and this isn't limited to the USA, is that the Left across the West (UK especially) is starting to condone violence against their political enemies. Peaceful Trump supporters are beaten up, and liberals on the internet often refuse to condemn such attacks. Gandhi and non-violent protest are quickly being forgotten as their language shifts towards an increasingly aggressive tone. Trump and Brexit brought to the surface what a lot of people really think, and it is contempt and hatred of anyone who isn't on "the right side of history".

earthworm said...

Just a minor point; in this weeks post you said:

...European politicians are squawking at top volume about the importance of NATO, which means in practice the continuation of a scheme that allows most European countries to push most of the costs of their own defense onto the United States, but the new administration doesn’t seem to be buying it.

...It can’t be helped, though, for the fact of the matter is that the United States can no longer afford to foot the bill for the defense of other countries. Behind a facade of hallucinatory paper wealth, our nation is effectively bankrupt.

...That disproportionate share came to us via unbalanced patterns of exchange hardwired into the global economy, and enforced at gunpoint by the military garrisons we keep in more than a hundred countries worldwide.

and from last weeks comments:

"Unknown Mox, hmm. I well recall the level of partisan nastiness during and after the 1980, 1992, 2000, and 2008 elections, and this seems more extreme to me. As for NATO, the US currently pays 70% of NATO's operating expenses, and also maintains massive military formations and armaments on its own nickel that are only relevant to the defense of Europe. Europe is going to have to pick up those costs, because we can't afford it any more."

"NomadicBeer, the relation between social class in the US and US imperial hegemony is complex enough that it probably needs a post of its own. As for Europe paying for its own defense, er, you might want to look at the share of NATO's budget that the US pays, and the amount of our military that's specifically geared to the defense of Europe."

"Latefall, that's kind of my take on Le Pen, too, but we'll see. With regard to defense expenditures, when European nations start covering more than half of NATO's expenses, I'll gladly amend my views! The crucial point here is that we can't afford to keep paying for Europe's safety -- the US is falling apart economically. Europeans are going to have to step up to the plate, because we're broke."

"Colin, excellent! Then I trust you'll contact your government and propose that it pursue a policy of having all the expenses of NATO being paid by European nations, instead of having 70% paid by the US, as is the case today."

Although you mention that things are 'enforced at gunpoint', in the last couple of posts the 'enforcement' idea is outweighed by the number of references to the US defending other countries and 'paying for Europe's safety; is it your opinion that the US cares about the safety of other countries or do you think it is merely a cost they have been paying to keep the wealth-pump flowing in their direction?

I don't know, but it seems to me that describing the USA as the defender of Europe and other countries where it has garrisons is not accurate and it may be more about keeping everyone else in line for their own benefit.

I've seen people say that the USA feeds the world, and the idea seems almost like an unquestioned truth. Does the idea of the USA paying to defend everyone else fall into a similar category of truth that is not actually truth? Perhaps it just gives the empire's unaffordable military spending and garrisons an Orwellian language twist?
"Trust us, we're here to keep you safe, but you're going to need to pay for us to do that."
Be interesting to see how it works out.

Patricia Mathews said...

@Kevin Warner - " historians are going to have to sit down and work out what it was in the DNA of Western civilisation that led it to destroy itself and have such a cataclysmic effect on the planet. "

I think they'll know what it was, because the ancient Greeks had a word for it. "Hubris."

Philip Boerma said...

Hi John,
Ahh, Supertramp one of the great bands that never got the recognition they deserved. Although us teenagers in 70s Saskatoon were into them from the get go. “Now they’re planning the crime of the century...”, no kidding.

I’ve been reading your books, the ADR and comments for years now and have never felt moved to add my 2 cents. Apparently the time has come. The reason I was drawn to the blog and have remained a faithful reader for all these years is that your broad analysis of where we are as a society and where we are going is more often than not spot on. Using history, the limits to growth, erudition and common sense as your guide you’re able to illuminate our current predicaments with a rare clarity. An absence of ideological fervor is what has made it palatable for me over the long term, I always get bored with anyone who has an ideological axe to grind.

This week’s post exemplifies why your blog remains relevant. It’s the long view and doesn’t get caught up in the heat of the moment. I have not detected any change in your tone as some commenters mentioned last week. Your use of current events and the election to illuminate the direction the USA is heading apparently struck to close to home for some readers. All of a sudden the messenger became the target and not the message.

I can imagine quite a few comments didn’t make it through last week. As soon as the name Trump is mentioned people’s eyes seem to glass over and they run for the barricades whether for or against. You were the one who opened my eyes to what Trump represents, the keyword here is “represents”. I made quite a bit of money on that insight by placing a bet on Trump shortly thereafter. In any case Trump seems to be the end of a certain type of business as usual, although that still remains to be seen and many caveats apply. Looking at Trump’s inauguration declaration from the outside I can only think that if Bernie Sanders or his equivalent had uttered those words the “left” would have been in delirium.

As one of your commenters said recently “the left left long ago” in the USA. The left (for lack of a better word) has indeed left long ago whether it be in the USA, the Netherlands (where I lived most of my adult life) or the UK (where I am now). Their betrayal of the ordinary man in the aftermath of the Reagan/Thatcher counter revolution is now complete and they are paying the price for their betrayal. John Pilger’s recent column ( and interview ( are good analyses of where the responsibility for Trump’s arrival lies. It sure ain’t Trump’s fault, that much is clear.

It’s early days yet in our Great Unravelling and the relevance of the ADR blog is that it’s a reminder to be aware that it’s all nothing personal. Our times will unfold as they will.

Vedant said...

I have a question. U.S. is the currently the largest consumer of oil in the world. When US will fall from post of world leadership its own oil consumption will be reduced drastically because as you pointed out there will be no longer the benifit of being world reserve currency to maintain consumption in a bankrupt economy. Further , considering the way economies of the world are integrated with each other all the other developed economies will and china will fall. This will result in a large decline in fossil fuel consumption. If I am right about this , will this decline give temporary relief to industrial society? If I am wrong than what am I missing? At what time interval in future chaos is expected to start?

On the other note, what are your thoughts about accidentally discovered new method of making ethanol from carbon dioxide:

Allie said...

Hi JMG. A very sobering post. But at the macro level, the historical trends, etc, it is what we've been expecting.

I have been working hard to "collapse now and avoid the rush" for about 8 years now and I still feel like I'm surfing the wave of collapse. I feel that it is always nipping at my heels no matter how hard and fast I run towards a lower standard of living. Llearning and mastering "real skills": gardening, livestock husbandry, farming skills, basic carpentry, felling trees for firewood, saving seeds...the list goes on and on.

I constantly talk with people who remark that things that are happening in Venezuela, Syria or pretty much any corner of the third world will never happen in America. And if these events somehow do happen here then these people will just magically flip a switch of knowledge and grow food and live the "prepper" life after the crisis hits. I find it sad. These will probably be the first people to disappear in the demographic contraction ahead.

Whitecloak said...

Oh, I know sir! There are plenty of issues I care about quite a bit beyond isolation- I just find that to be the compelling Ur issue of our day. The future isn't bright and so we need strong walls- Europe's insane openness is going to damn it to mass bloodshed within my lifetime the way things are looking.

I would not wish the same fate upon mine own grandchildren 50 years hence.

I was actually quite left before the left made its recent turn towards mass open borders globalism and decided to adopt a harder 'your tribe is our enemy' stance towards me and mine. 2016 was illuminating, sadly.

indus56 said...

Much of the foregoing is perceptive and plausible. Two questions:
1. Do you still (assuming I'm correct in thinking that you once did) hold to the thesis of a long descent, on the scale of decades to centuries. I've always appreciated your cautions regarding a progress/apocalypse binary. That said, in your selection of historical counter-examples there will not yet have been a collapse / decomplexification of networked (many specifically "globalized") systems on a planetary scale.

2. Can you think of historical examples (or future scenarios) of some combination of managed descent / resilient coping that might be preferable, as a shared affirmative project, to reactively resisting the collapse of the existing order, on one hand, or withdrawing into a emotional or material doomstead bunker, on another?

GHung said...

Yet another little Supertramp gem -

"Now they're planning the crime of the century
Well what will it be?
Read all about their schemes and adventuring
It's well worth a fee
So roll up and see
And they rape the universe
How they've gone from bad to worse
Who are these men of lust, greed, and glory?
Rip off the masks and let see.
But that's not right - oh no, what's the story?
There's you and there's me
Thank you for that"

I saw them perform this in a bullfight arena in Madrid; early 80's, and the crowd grew silent.

They were actually still listening then.

Clay Dennis said...

My nomination for the first clueless elite to be impaled on the bayonet of decline is facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg. Much in the vain of the recent news of Silcon Valley leaders purchasing doomsteads in New Zealand, Mark purchased 6000 acres in Hawaii. He has not identified this purchase on the remote side of the Island of Kauai as a doom-stead but it has all the earmarks. He ran in to trouble with the locals when he discovered that his enclave was dotted with small parcels owned by native hawaiians. He directed his lawyers to aquire these lands through sneaky legal actions. But once word got out he has recieved much negative pushback in the Islands.
My wife is from Hawaii, not native but third generation of japanese and korean immigrents brought in to work the pineapple fields in the late 1800's. As she will attest, native Hawaiians and most "local kine" people detest haoles from the mainland and Zuckerbergs antics reinforce their view. He even had the audacity to justify his actions by saying that he was just doing it to protect the land and the wildlife and create a nice place for his family. As you might guess this did not make the locals any more sympathetic to him. I would guess that at this moment, somewhere in the Makaha Valley the natives are sharpening a Pololu with Zuckerbergs name on it. When decline reaches the point where the jets stop coming, and the money from the mainland stops flowing , Marks time at his "estate" will be cut short.

Rita Narayanan said...

am watching a self righteous & well provided for **famous cosmopolitan anchor on CNN going ga ga over the Canadian refugee programme. Mr Trudeau spent New Year with the Aga Khan & the Obamas have left hip Palm Spring on a Branson private aircraft for sunny Necker island.The more I see of the world the more I admire the older breed of leaders of Western nations(warts and all).

our own nation has been through several rounds of the beginning the romance of elite idealism & now the age of confused & brutal ambition.Can fully understand what Mr Greer & Mr Kunstler write although many in the Post Carbon group seem to not comprehend the *ground reality of degrowth/collapse :(

Happy New Year!

sgage said...


"That's just it -- collapsing is a process, not a destination, and none of us will ever know everything we need to know as we surf the wave of decline and fall. "

No indeed - there's an awful lot of improv involved. Reminds me of one of my favorite aphorisms (attribution unknown):

Experience is something you get right after you needed it.

wolfbay said...

Since we still have only two viable political parties, I'm wondering if this isn't a great opportunity for the Democrats as the only alternative. We are probably due for a recession in the near future because even with all the fed rigging ,the business cycle still exists and it could be a bad one. Trump could be the next Herbert Hoover and take the blame even though Presidents don't have the huge control over the economy many Americans think they do.If it happened I just hope the wing of the Democratic Party with the foreign policy of a Tulsi Gabbard takes over and not the usual warmongers.

Ploughboy said...

One of the skills that will always be in demand, no matter what, is the ability to produce music...both instrumental and vocal. If there is one abiding take-away from the ascent of Rock to become the world's soundtrack, it is that. I would wager traditional string band music to run a close runner-up. As far as providing advantageous mating opportunities for its practitioners, well, that insight has launched more than one band on its way. I don't expect that to change. If you've ever truly sang for your supper, or had other benefits bestowed on you for doing something you'd probably would have been doing anyway, you know of what I speak.

And the theme of this week's post makes me want to sign off with a line I have repeated quite often over the years, and one from one of my favorites to perform ...J. Browne's "Road and the Sky": "Don't think it won't happen just because it hasn't happened yet."

It would be fair and accurate to footnote this thought, given our historical context, with this: "It has though. Many times"

DoubtingThomas said...

@JMG: Oh I accept that cycles are popular and that history is littered with such things. Your example of birth/death cycles is valid although whether such a cycle is A) necessary and B) perpetually 'fixed' is a huge topic. The inevitability of death is a subject I am very open minded about. I've personally witnessed some strange things. Read of more. Longevity itself is fluid via a variety of methods and that's without reaching for the materialistic medical technological intervention realm which is exploring that in its own way.

Would you not consider the different historical secret societies ( and unions ) as collectives? Didn't some of them have enlightened members whose ideas triggered significant paradigm shifts having profound impacts? Then too we have the world' religions, which, at their root, regardless of the veracity of their respective creation myths and principle character's histories, they can be viewed as having been founded by enlightened collectives of individuals that had profound impacts in many areas. Just having an inspired thought can be enough without the full enlightenment package.

Cyclic patterns persist until something happens to cause them not to. That's where the criticism of Spengler lies. Cycles of abuse ( individual, societal, national ) for example end as individuals learn Forgiveness. Collectives of all types form. It's like going round inside a circle thinking the circle is all until someone shouts look up.

Who says I'm waiting for anyone? When I implied I was working towards having an impact pushing towards goals I believe will be beneficial I was being literal. Will I be successful? Only time will tell. The spread of any success will depend on the free will choice of those within the network effects of whatever my sphere of influence may be.

Other interesting impacts may come from 3D Printers capable of printing themselves and printing new types of electronics as well as older tech. Re-decentralising manufacturing even down to the level of a home installation and powered locally. Materials Science is not my field but the resources for such things is an ever moving target. I find it an interesting synchronicity that 3D printing and quartz wafers have recently manifested. Likewise the efficiency gains in Solar tech. A Spanish friend of mine is bummed because he dropped 100k on Solar tech 6 years ago and conversation efficiency soon after doubled. I've seen projected possibilities of 80-90%. Solar paint is an interest notion. I won't debate EROI. I'm not versed enough. Let's also not forget the thousands of secret patents waiting to come in to the light. Maybe there's good stuff to be found there.

Physics is due for a paradigm shift too. That's all I'll say on that though.

asr said...

As someone who was upset about the recent election. I found this post a very useful reminder that Trump is but a minor symptom of the great travails to come. Thanks.

weedananda said...

Gods, I love the bracing aroma and sharp sting of cold, wet mackerel in the morning! Thanks JMG...well done!

Seaweed Shark said...

This was impressive. I think your Jeremiads are better than anything else you write.

So then, does this all means a great time for religion is coming up?

Doug Manners said...

JMG, you have said several times that Europe needs to pay for its own defence instead of relying on the USA. Of course, as I am sure you are aware, the US government has not been paying for the defence of Europe out of altruism. The US government is completely indifferent to what actually happens in Europe, as is shown by events in Ukraine. The reason the US has paid for European defence is that it has been in its interest to do so. By paying for European defence it has been buying the loyalty of European governments. The fact that it can no longer afford to do this means that it can no longer afford to protect its interests in that respect.

That is why the cessation of such subsidies has led to European leaders to start bleating. They have been conducting various anti-Russian activities, such as demonising Mr Putin and Russian participation in the Middle East, as instructed by the US. Now the US government is proposing to leave them hanging.

As mh505 implied in his comment, it is clear what will happen when the US government withdraws its financial support. After the collapse of the Soviet Union there were many in Europe who hoped that links with Russia would be strengthened, even to the extent that Russia might join the EU. The US government had other ideas, and such hopes were quashed. Now, with the US lacking the wealth to bribe European governments, the situation will be different. While present European elites may find it difficult to change track over Russia, the new political parties will have no such qualms. Marine Le Pen has already declared that she intends to recognise Crimea as part of Russia. While the EU itself may well collapse, and Russia joining it may not have been realistic anyway, some other form of alliance between Russia and the rest of Europe seems highly likely.

It may well be that Trump is aware of this potential development. Russia plus the rest of Europe will be a more formidable force on the world stage than Russia alone, and losing the automatic support of Europe will weaken the US. Cutting subsidies for European defence and cosying up to Putin may well be two aspects of the same strategy. Far from 'making America great again', Trump may be deliberately cutting America down to the size it can afford, with a foreign policy to match.

avalterra said...

I am not a talented or gifted man. But from a very young age my parents remarked on two qualities that I possessed. The first was an almost eerie patience. The second was to take bad news in stride (I, fortunately, passed the latter one on to my son).

So this type of post doesn't rattle me. I started seeing the truth of it in 2002 and have been looking into this abyss since then trying to suss out the details. I recognize that absolute catastrophe could strike me and those I love at any time. But I figure looking at where we are going, rather than a fantasy of where we are going, gives me at least a small chance of avoiding disaster.

You have been immensely valuable to me JMG. Thank you for all that you do, and all that you have written.


LL Pete said...

JMG, it's one thing to be very disappointed in the election of an unpopular president; it's quite another to be freaked out by the election of a deranged madman. Yes, our civilization is in decline, and this is what collapse looks like, but the way down can be bumpy and uncomfortable, or it can be a catastrophic crash, with a lot of unpredictability in between. I personally think (or maybe just wishfully hope) that Trump will be removed from office before he can do too much more damage. It's a cliche for sure, but maybe this can serve as a wakeup call.
Thank you very much for your weekly dose of sanity.

DoubtingThomas said...

@JMG: It is interesting that mention was made by yourself and others above about the statistics of those climate change scientists who have or have not stopped flying. Possibly a bit of a cheap shot. Walking the walk.. Indeed. I wasn't sure if that was an attempt to delegitimise what they had to say. I do hope not. No doubt an equally cheap shot could be made against those on here who still drive cars, still using things that come from afar, still using the Internet, still eating beef etc.

So, basically, we’re in for it.

Dramatic! No doubt some are. Change can be hard. What that change will be is highly individual and an individual's ability to adapt, innovate highly variable.

BFM said...

JMG, could you please explain again your rationale for assuming there won't be some kind of nuclear war on this planet in the coming few decades? I remember a post about that, but I don't remember why you felt so sure about this and I'd like to be reminded just now. It seems to me that the probability of at least "small-scale" usage of nuclear weapons is rather high. I'm not a doomer; I don't think the world will end in a flash; but I wish I were as certain as you that some sort of nuclear war is impossible in the coming years (assuming I have it right that that's what you believe).

RPC said...

" I'm not sure it's that useful drafting "well, that might happen" scenarios." Sure it is - you can write a great Tom Clancy style novel!

dfr2010 said...

This eccentric started to read a blog by another eccentric, which changed this eccentric's viewpoint a bit. Instead of buying a "rural doomstead," we bought my 2-1/2 acre playground at the dead end of a dirt road. Your phrase, "those who chattered amiably about how comfortable they’d be in their rural doomsteads," got a snort and guffaw from me last evening - my back was screaming about overdoing it. I am starting to hatch the F2 generation of chickens, along with more F1s and F1.5s. Right now the dairy goats are dry, but milking season will return sometime around the end of next month. The feeder barrow looks to be mostly grown, so we're hoping for some cool days to slaughter him for the freezer, then I go hunting for a boar for his sisters. I may finally be getting the hang of gardening here in Florida sand, after nearly four years of trying. I've been rereading the Green Wizardry posts recently, for continued inspiration and to check my progress.

dltrammel said...

Your talk of the privileged and their bought islands where they will retreat to and wait out while the rest of us unlucky plebs fight, die and collapse, reminds me of something said in a recent article I read about the rich buying doomsteads. The author made the point that the 1%ers who buy $20 million dollar condos in old ICBM silos, and keep private jets fully fueled and ready, might want to remember they will be sharing that jet with the family of the pilot.

Hard to imagine if the SHTF and the 1% bugs out, that the people who drive them to their retreats will be so willing to just walk away into the Outlands and die, while their former employers sip wine and watch old movies in their protected bunkers.

Not to mention what ideas the guards might have.

I think the suggestions you have made, about learning skills and not hoarding goods, is the best advice I've found. I picture a recently conquered village, where the leader of the warband steps up and says, "We have limited resources, why should I keep any of you alive?" and the astute green wizard raises their hand and says "I can grow food and brew beer."

Some of us might survive...

Myriam said...

Not wishing in any way to impose my views on you, I would like to share what I found works for allergies.

I used to have terrible seasonal and cat allergies. These completely went away after many months of eating sauerkraut. Or to be more precise, when my gut bacteria improved in healthy diversity, my overall immune system improved immeasurably.

The link between the two is so definite that every time I run out of the homemade sauerkraut I make (which happens from time to time), three days later my cat triggers my allergies again and I'm miserable. It takes several days of sauerkraut consumption to make the allergies go away again.

onething said...

Wendy Crim,

Carry on!
My thought is that dance is the most perfect prayer.

Sheila Grace said...

Dear Jessi,

Thank you Jessi for taking us all there, on the walk along side you. Your last sentence - “If you learn to see it, it will feed your soul in a way industrial civilization never could.” -is now my reality and could not be more truthful. For reasons unknown I was already heartbroken at ten years old, acquiescing later on into the distractions; economic & societal, always wishing for a way out, and now for whatever reason, the Universe has dropped me on the doorstep of that desire and I’m not leaving. Reading your comment brought two songs to my mind, both from the Talking Heads; Once in a Lifetime and Nothing but Flowers; both are caustic takes from the pop culture times about the society that spawned them, the former being our idiotic fetish with materialism, the latter for how beautiful the landscape could be once it has reclaimed the factories, stores and sidewalks.

Carolyn said...

Blogger seems to have eaten my first attempt to comment, so here's a repost, hope it doesn't show up twice:

Ouch. Ouch. Ouch.

Oof, that hurt to read, but thank you for it. I saw the second comment on the post mentioned reading the Stoic philosophers and I've gotten into that recently too--starting with The Daily Stoic as it's very accessible, but I just bought Epictetus's Handbook and Marcus Aurelius's Meditations. Even just a few weeks in I'm already finding it very helpful with finding courage and calm when I start to get panicky about what's ahead of us. Thanks, JMG, for introducing it to me in this post a while back.

I'm a software engineer right now, but I don't know that that skill set will be useful for too much longer. I need to learn something more hands-on. My husband is currently a stay-at-home dad to our daughter, but who knows, we may end up relying on some of his Marine Corps training before too long. A friend of mine said that she wants to take midwife training so as to be able to provide abortion care outside of the medical system, and that sounds like a great idea to me, since I'm very passionate about women's freedom and autonomy. I'd have to figure out how to fit the training in around my day job, though, for however much longer I continue to have a day job.

Well, this is gonna suck. Better get on with it.

Nathan said...


I thought you might like this article on Elon Musk. As you predicted, he is a shrewd subsidy-hunter, and he has seen that Trump rewards loyalty. This week he has been been cozying up to the administration. It's another satisfying drop in the water torture Trump is going to inflict on Silicon Valley champagne socialists. I'm looking forward to the tech elite losing their minds over the coming months -- especially when they lose their H1b pipeline.

John Crawford said...

"More than anything else, it’s about loss. Things that you value—things you think of as important, meaningful, even necessary—are going to go away forever in the years immediately ahead of us, and there will be nothing you can do about it. It really is as simple as that. People who live in an age of decline and fall can’t afford to cultivate a sense of entitlement..."

This though has been danced around for too long. Finally, you have condensed and framed the entire collapse argument in an easily communicated message.

Excellent work.

Petrapie said...

I've just finished reading JMG's post and all the comments so far. What a cathartic experience: I feel I have now moved past the entire current circus. Thank you, JMG, and all of you who have shared your thoughts, your insights, your selves.

sunseekernv said...

NomadicBeer - the most famous example of a scientist giving up flying is Peter Kalmus

His personal site:

A nice interview with him:

He is one of JMG's fellow authors at New Society publishers:

re: "...all the scientists that try to outdo each other in flying all over the world to give speeches about the huge problem of climate change ..."

Sounds like negative spin to me, so the spinner can play righteous, and deny/avoid their own responsibility.
Most of those "speeches" are conference presentations, part of the way science is done.
Scientists' careers work like an apprenticeship: one sees, does, then teaches.
However, unlike a plumbing apprenticeship, one often has to move institutions between levels: undergrad, grad student, post-doc, associate prof, assistant ... .
And one's mentor pool at one's current institution may be limiting.
So one travels to conferences to see papers given (what's the use of doing research if nobody gets to know about it?); then gives papers one has co-authored, first as a junior author, then as senior author, then mentors people giving papers. At the conferences one meets and establishes relationships with potential collaborators/employers/etc.
One also flies to interviews, to research sites, and to workshops such as the IPCC working sessions.
(and because the IPCC is run by bureaucrats at the UN, they require working sessions be held around the world in the name of fairness, so the scientists - mostly from the US and Europe - have to fly to meetings in Africa and South America at great cost/waste due to politics, and then they get ragged on for it).

Kalmus, (and Judith Curry is one who limits her flying, tho' mostly because she doesn't like it) were already senior scientists when they stopped/limited their flying, so they already had met their collaborators, etc. Relationships already started can be easily maintained via email/phone/Skype. But Kalmus is at Jet Propulsion Labs AND UCLA, with a large community there in his specialty, and uses remote sensing data for his work. Some junior peon from podunk U who does field work with plants or animals is going to need to go to conferences/field sites to be a successful scientist.
Think about online dating - would you marry someone without a face-to-face meeting?
And asking a presenter questions, both in a session during the Q&A period, and then during coffee breaks, dinner can be so valuable in developing relationships and ideas. I find this face-to-face time (and listening to other's questions) quite valuable during PV conferences, so I assume in other fields it must be as well.

Some big name types, like Phil Jones, Richard Alley, etc. are often invited keynote speakers to conferences, to testify before governmental bodies, etc. Hard for them to give that up.

I deem Kalmus commendable, and others could do more, but it's not such an easy black and white issue - unless one wants climate science to come to a halt (and some do!).
Often conference attendees piggyback meetings/vacation time around the conference, buy offsets (which most grant agencies do NOT pay for), limit the number of conferences they attend, or other steps to minimize impact. But one rarely hears about that. (rather shocked at JMG's blanket reply that the rest of climate scientists don't care/haven't done anything).

Scotlyn said...

@JMG I want to reiterate the thanks I've expressed before for keeping the comments section so well moderated that it draws together people of truly disparate views and experiences into opportunities for deep conversation with one another, so rare in a world made up of either echo chamber or flame war.

Last week's session was a marathon, yet you stayed game throughout. In the course of it, I found myself continually bowled over with admiration for so many of the commenters here, people who manifest strong, idiosynchratic character, who are thoughtful, courageous, and who leave strong tracks of themselves on the ether.

I realised that whether we'd agree on much seemed less important to me than the fact I'm so happy to know each of them is out there "disensussing".

Also, by the way, the cycling is going well, weather notwithstanding. I have not regretted giving up the car for a single moment.

pygmycory said...

Re climate scientists walking their talk, I have a friend who is one. She does still fly, but I know she's chosen not to travel to at least one climate conference she wanted to go to specifically because of the climate impacts. She's also vegan, and doesn't have a car - flying is pretty much her only major climate-problematic action.

Some of them are really trying.

Cherokee Organics said...


Yeah, that song was pure poetry and it told of the story of the fall from innocence and subsequent slide into an abstract, and frankly arbitrary world. Well digressions are a bit of a bad habit! :-)!

Speaking of digressions, there was a song yesterday by the band Cub Sport called "C'mon mess me up" which is clearly a song about a dysfunctional relationship. Despite that content, it's a nice song though and got to about number 23 I believe, so it must have resonated with people. Anyway the next few lines are probably a bit more relevant to this week's blog essay than the "logical" song:

"Inside was kind of misty, I knew none of the history
I found comfort, I fell in love with avoiding problems
And that was the problem
‘Cause I want this, you know I want this
So come on, mess me up"

I reckon it is the melt water flowing underneath those glaciers in Greenland and Antarctica which will be the vehicle by which those ice monsters will move rapidly off the land and into the water. The glaciers themselves will take quite a while to melt once they are in the water - but that is the least of the problems I reckon.

You know the tropics are pushing further south this year than I have previously noticed. It has always happened since I can recall from memories of summers as a kid, but it is the frequency and severity which has ramped up. Up north though, many inland communities have been cut off by the heavy rains and flooding and at the moment they are able to airlift in huge quantities of regular food supplies. The only roads in and out of there are dirt roads and they are impassable.

The sort of July's (your January) that I get here (very humid, cloudy and with intermittent rain) sound like the sort of weather that you are having right now.



Cherokee Organics said...


Just forgot to add about the Europeans. What an insight! However, they made the mistake of exporting their germs and technology and they only had one chance to pull that trick.



Wendy said...

JMG, thank you so much for all the effort and thought that goes into these weekly reality checks. Your work has really helped me to understand the current mayhem in a broader historical context, which has been oddly soothing and grounding, considering the grim outlook for our species. There's much more I could say, but mainly: thank you.

Violet Cabra said...

Many thanks to everyone who has wished me well! I feel grateful to be able to participate in this forum; it's one of the few places where I find people older than myself and walking a similar path are accessible. It feels markedly different to be wished well by people with more life experience rather than less.

@ Rita, honestly, I feel overwhelmed by treatment options. homeopathy seems like a good modality for this; my herbal skills are perhaps providing some palliative relief, but little else.

@ Patricia, that makes sense. I feel a marked relief when I'm out of range of EMF, which is also out of range of fragrances. That being said, I'm somewhat addicted to the internet even though, ironically, it is only to visit the archdruid report!

@ candance, thank you; gardening is a huge source of joy for me and I, with minimum pathos I hope, look forward very simply to the opportunity to focus my energies on growing food and herbs. also, I'd love to share my last herbal essay that I wrote on my blog:

@ Big Rant, I sincerely believe there is great honor, dignity and worth in the home economy. It is beautiful and important.

@ Jessi, that is utterly beautiful! I relate very deeply; I've had visions of the forests conquering roads and other paved places, and only feel at ease on a certain level seeing the steady march of irrepressible life through the ruins.

@ everyone, this conversation about preparation or lack thereof is very interesting. Structurally, to prepare is to attempt to exert control. Which is useful and essential up to a point, but alas our predicament is multi-variable, convergent, and chaotic. Even with the best preparations in the world there is a very, very limited amount of control that one person, family, or community can exert on the wild movements of contingency and exigency that are flowing into our lives. A materialistic focus on skills, which define the body as a specialized tool, is incomplete without a trust in one's general adaptability and acceptance of death. This recasts oneself in a more spiritual light. The former tightens the grip on what is known and the second opens the hand to what isn't

Eric S. said...

Thank you for bringing everything back home and back into perspective. It can be really hard to talk about things in systems terms, and for some reason people have incredible difficulty grasping that politics, at the end of the day, is just one of the ways the various fluctuations in the biosphere and atmosphere, and in the real economy of goods and services plays out in the realm of human ecology (what one might call the "homosphere," and that Trump is no more a cause of the problems rising up around him than a particularly bad hurricane in Florida is the cause of rising sea levels and melting ice caps. It seems as though many circles of existence are interacting in volatile ways these days, all the way up to fluctuations in the "theosphere" that are better left for the other blog.

All that said, it's definitely one thing to cope with a future of scarcity, and quite another to deal with the violence and political chaos that are part of the scenery right now. My nature and my values both are putting me in a place of standing for civility and communication even as those values become inimical to pretty much all sides of the political divide. I've been very quiet lately in most of my circles of friends when it comes to the big issues facing our world because I don't really know how to speak in a way that doesn't lead to attack. When I tried to speak to both sides after the election in a call for communication and understanding I received a patronizing rant about how I was part of the problem and was enabling evil by refusing to fight it from one friend on the left, and a sputtering set of curses, threats, and insults in all capital letters from an old friend of my father's I have known my whole life for daring to admit that Trump was anything less than a hero. This morning, I tried to share this article, because it really drives home some of the points I've been trying to make: that there are bigger issues than whether we belong to the red tribe, the blue tribe, or some other and that we need to stand together in the difficult and uncertain times to come. I got... a lot of backlash for it, mostly from people insisting that the only way to prevent a difficult future was to stop Trump (as though, once again, he were a cause rather than a symptom).

I think the hardest thing about this year for me has been the confusion and isolation as I've felt core values that I hold dear being turned against each other inside myself, and trampled by others to the point that I sometimes feel as though I don't know right from wrong anymore. And as I look at both recent and distant history, I realize that this position: standing firmly in the middle, trying to listen for both sides, calling for compassion and communication in the midst of the heat and hate all around is the best way to get a target on your back as the center disappears and both sides brand you as the enemy that must be destroyed, the decision to not join an angry mob is probably the best way to reserve a space in one of those unmarked graves you mentioned, since you're choosing to at some point, risk the loss of the safety and protection those angry mobs can offer to their members as well as the suspicion of your friends and neighbors. As I hear cries that by refusing to brand a group of people as the enemy, I am through passivity and cowardice enabling and supporting other evils that I find just as abhorrent, I sometimes wonder if I'm making the right decision. Many people who I have known and loved for a long time on both sides are telling me I'm not, and I've found that I'm forced to be silent far more often than I'd like to be. I hope it doesn't come to the sort of violence that I know is a possibility, but I also know that if it does, the decision not to join in the blood frenzy is not going to be a safe decision to make... and I suppose I'm at peace with that. Though I do rather wish that the challenges of the future were going to be as simple as mere poverty.

Mike said...

Your post happily reminded me of Randy Newman's terrific song, The Great Nations of Europe, which I had the pleasure of hearing him sing in person not long ago.
Hide your wives and daughters
Hide the groceries too
Great nations of Europe coming through said...

Hi John

Great post and a strong comeback to those who had their "throw their toys out of the kart" moment in last weeks post.

I have mixed with similar sustainability/deep green affluent liberal circles in the past and I have noticed a similar idealization of the future which never seemed grounded to the grim historical lessons of previous declining civilization. Like you, I suspect that the political events of 2016 have brought this fact home to these circles and they are reacting badly to it, as we saw from some of the comments in last weeks post.

I have always considered the populists on the Right are best positioned to benefit from our post-liberal era we have entered into, as they have a instinctive sense of the power of blood and soil nationalism and are ideologically not wedded to neo-liberal nostrums, which have captured most of our Western political establishment.

On a personal note, I have taken up your advice and have started to learn how to brew beer with my friends. It is early days but have started my baby steps towards a post-industrial future. Exciting times ;)

Keep up the writing and I look forward to your future posts on universities and the growing European crisis (the euro zone, the migration/external proletariat and the growing discontent among the internal proletariat's of Europe).

Gottfried Wilhelm Melvin Hicks-Leibniz said...

JMG, do you see any role for anarcho-syndicalism in the downward arc of modern, industrial capitalism?

Mat F said...

What I came to find the most difficult part to deal with over the years is not so much the realisation that the project of western globalised civilisation has had its' prime, it is rather the horror of dealing with my own compliance and participation in inflicting such indescribable harm on fellow species and yet unborn generations. This profound sadness is now a deep cutting, acute pain - a daily companion, always there in the back of the mind. How can one live with ALL this, it is like living in a mass grave, like living through one of these periods in history where you wonder how could we have ever lost our minds to commit such insane acts against life itself. Some eastern traditions talk about "living is suffering". Who is the agent that suffers, is it me or is it the suffering of the bumblebees through my act of living this affluent life? How is it to not only kill something but to wipe out every single kind of it? And what part of it is suicidal autoaggression? One can discuss things, rationalize and identify causes and effects, but then, at the end that is the rather easy part of what is about to become abundantly clear...When you say being remembered as the Huns, this is still much too charming. I think it is much more disturbing, more like the thirties and its' hypnotic memes reverberating through entire populations....

Somewhatstunned said...

Re: Climate scientists who don't fly

The chap you're thinking of is Kevin Anderson. He certainly does not mince his words

DoubtingThomas said...

@ErucS: *applause* I can appreciate the difficulty you describe.

I know it's trite but I'd say that not giving in to fear ( of unmarked graves, of other's manipulative comments keen to validate their behaviour by swelling their ranks ) and being true to your clearly compassionate self is the option that cleaves to your highest self. If your worst fears manifested then as you say that's ok - giving up ones life for ones peaceful convictions is in itself a reward.

Remember too that neutrals usually have an important role to play. Often respected ones.

Cliff said...

This was an oddly reassuring essay for me, for several reasons. First because I'd felt that your posts on Trump seemed to be saying that he's the guy to pull the U.S. out of its death spiral, and I simply could not reconcile that idea with anything else I was seeing in the news. (This is not to say that I think my perceptions are faultless and objective, or that I think Hillary was the candidate to pull us out of said death spiral.)

More importantly, I'm surrounded in my daily life by people who are entirely oblivious to the possibility of collapse. This ranges from my girlfriend, to the conservatives at my office who are entirely content to buy big trucks and flip their houses, to the liberals at my UU church who are entirely convinced that each generation is an improvement over the last, and who think social media and protest marches will keep Progress rolling merrily on.
They all seem to be aware that matters can deteriorate, but that deterioration will always happen to someone else, not them.

Thanks for laying the situation out so clearly, and hopefully this spurs my flagging attempts to extricate myself from cubicle life so that I can get on with the business that's truly at hand.

Daddy Hardup said...

"Collapse early and avoid the rush" must be the best piece of advice I ever received. I cleared my debts and moved to very cheap lodgings as a property guardian of a semi-derelict building - my work colleagues would be open-mouthed with horror if they saw where I live, and felt the cold.

Yesterday I learned that I am about to lose my job of twelve years - six office jobs are being pared back to one. The cold winds of Brexit are blowing through the UK economy - though I know that Brexit, like Trump, is but a symptom, not the underlying pathology. I might just get that remaining job, or I could take one on the shop floor, but I know it's time to take the redundancy package and go. It was good while it lasted, it enabled me to support a wife and young child, then it was a lifeline through a painful divorce and a struggle to prevent my ex-wife from poisoning our daughter's mind against me - though I don't often see my daughter now, when I do it's clear I still have a place in her heart.

But it is a job with no future - in a food warehouse shuttling products which are in many cases unnecessary or even harmful (tobacco, strong drink) up and down the land - we literally truck food forty miles up a motorway to a smaller warehouse so that it can be loaded into a smaller lorry and brought back down the motorway again to deliver to local stores (our lorries are too big for that...)

I'm hoping the redundancy money will cushion the transition to a simpler life with shorter work hours and less commuting and so more time to learn practical skills.

Alan (posting in the past as 'bicosse')

M Smith said...

John Michael,

Let me join those who say that you have influenced me greatly and helped me make sense of the reasons we're in the state we're in. I've always wanted to have a small farm and produce most of my own food as well as making a living by selling or bartering with a dozen or so chosen households. Even though the place I live is not one in which I wish to stay a moment longer than necessary, I've begun encouraging my acquaintance who is headed down the wrong path and who is extremely unlikely to find work due to his demographics and that of the small, dying, isolated town we live in - to learn brewing, growing tobacco, and learning to build and operate ham radios. I paraphrased one of your most chilling statements: when the warrior bands come, the possession of "stuff" is a ticket to a slit throat and shallow grave, but if the town knows that J brews good beer, the town's going to keep J alive and in one piece. Those words made a deep impression.

I made a deal with a neighbor that if he pulled up and removed some fencing I didn't want, he could have the materials. No more obstacles for me, plenty of material for him.

The local woman who gives me riding lessons brought a dozen fresh eggs when she and her husband came to collect the stall mats I'd offered them at no charge (it's the least I can do as my generation sucked away all the Social Security funds), and when I asked if I could buy eggs from her on a regular basis, she turned flustered and said she preferred to share. I reminded her that if I didn't buy from her, I'd have to buy from a corporation (whose chickens do not see the sun except on their final day when they're taken out to be killed) and I'd rather buy from her. She seemed a little surprised by the notion, so I hope I planted some ideas in her head.

But I pored over the fascinating posts about the decline and fall of empires, how it happened in the past, and how it's unfolding again along familiar lines. You've also demonstrated how history and politics are joined - a connection I'd made only in the most obvious cases. The sheer quality of the writing, the challenge of reading a writer who DOESN'T phone it in with a clickbait headline, the line "So this happened...." followed by a gaggle of screen shots of other people's quotes which is what passes for mainstream news, and for a long while (sorry to say I see this facet going by the wayside) the lack of personal attacks, abusive language, and flamebaiting in the comments has kept me coming back ever since I heard you on Coast to Coast AM several years ago.

Nic said...

Standing at my sink Wednesday morning, I was wondering to myself if JMG was going to blast us all with a reality check about LESS – I felt the need for one in the world around me. My favorite posts have been the ones that have reminded your readers of deep time, and this one does as well, in a different way. Thank you for reminding us all to keep our eyes wide open and to pass on the knowledge worth keeping to others around us, like ripples in deep waters. I will keep on, keeping on.

Violet – I was so disheartened to hear of your recent struggles, as you have been a huge help and inspiration to me. I have visited your Winter’s Trickster website over and over, and have used information from it to treat myself and my family. Thank you for that! I, too, have chemical allergies that relate to pieces of mesh that I had inserted into my abdomen for a hernia repair, and as such cannot be removed. I am now allergic to synthetic materials and petroleum products – no synthetic fabrics, adhesives, elastics, rubber, plastics or foams for me.
All this to say, I have found some relief from symptoms by following a series of NAET treatments and cranial sacral therapy, both paid for on a sliding scale without insurance. I still cannot wear “regular” clothing or shoes, but I can now touch things without immediately reacting to them. I hope that being in a chemically-safe place working with Nature will be very beneficial to you, and that you will find joy in every day.

Shane W said...

please don't defund CBC Radio 2! I LOVE Radio 2! And even CBC Radio 1 seems more thoughtful than NPR. And Murdoch Mysteries is a television show I can actually tolerate and enjoy!

gwizard43 said...

@ Kevin Warner

Just wanted to say: kudos! Your comment referencing the 'fighting retreat' concept - that was really brilliant, IMO. Thank you. Of course, the Blade Runner reference didn't hurt!

For my part, 'working out how we got here' has always been as much why I read JMG's blog and books as figuring out 'where do we go from here'....

Justin said...

Shane W,

I have to agree with you about Murdoch Mysteries! It's a little silly, but refreshing in so many ways... it's also the only TV I watch. Of course I don't care about Radio 2, and I have to agree, from what I've heard about NPR's shenanigans this year, NPR is worse than Radio 1.

Samuel A said...

Dear Mr. Greer,

I've only recently discovered your work but I have to say, as cliche as it sounds, it is eye opening. Back in the mid-2000s I was would rant to anyone who would listen that the bear was just sleeping. I said the Russians deserved our respect because if they didn't get it we would be dealing with a much stronger Russia later. After the 2008 war in Georgia I was mocked...I told everyone it was a test run as seemed obvious to me. Now there aren't too many people they disagree with me when I bring up the topic.

I feel the same about collapse. It seems obvious to me but everyone else is like an ostrich with their head in the sand. You bring up very valid points in your post. I plan, finances permitting, to buy some of your books at some point in the near future. What do you think of the work of Professor Peter Turchin and his forecast? What about the prediction made by Professor Johan Galtung that US global power will collapse by fairly soon? (2020 if I remember correctly)

You live not very far from. I'd love to pick your brain sometime.

Kind regards,


latheChuck said...

Vedant - I'm not a professional chemist, but what I was able to glean from the paper you linked on conversion of CO2 to ethanol was that it
1. involved pure CO2 dissolved in water
(so, not a way to extract CO2 from the atmosphere, but maybe from combustion gases if they're not contaminated with sulfur or nitrogen oxides),
2. required electricity to drive the synthesis
(so, perhaps a way to convert stationary solar or wind power into a vehicle fuel, but in that way, competitive with rechargeable batteries),
3. required a capital-intensive process for producing the electrochemical catalytic nano-material
(so, no basement tinkering) and
4. was an improvement over other electrochemical synthesis of hydrocarbons from CO2, but not a revolutionary discovery.

As for the overall energy stored (as ethanol) for energy applied, I didn't go that deep.

sunseekernv said...

Vedant re: accidentally discovered new method of making ethanol from carbon dioxide

From someone with some electrochemistry experience:

"Accidentally" is only used in some press reports, based on the release from the PR office, whereas the title and body of the journal article say neither "accident" nor "serendipitous".

Hint #1 for reading techno-optimistic articles:
Look for dissonance between implied miracles in the press article/PR release where none exist in the actual science article.
(and thanks for posting the link to the article).

Content expert hint: fuels cells can be run in reverse, and direct methanol/ethanol/... fuel cells have been around since the 1950s, so this isn't "new".

Reading closely, you find that the "serendipitous" part was that their new electro-catalyst "[did] the entire reaction [C02 to ethanol] on its own [instead of just the first part]". So, they were looking for/attempting to do CO2 to fuel.
They seem to be surprised that things worked better than expected - indeed, in the real world, that is surprising.
But it wasn't an "accident".

Hint #2 for generalist, non-scientific readers: look for actual numbers of efficiency.
One finds 63% max efficiency. Now, is that good? They start from electricity, so how does that compare with batteries?
Nickel-Iron batteries are that efficient, and most batteries are more efficient, lithium ion batteries into 90+% efficient.

Hint #3: do some (sub-)systems thinking, what are the "goes intos" and "comes out ofs" and how would this be used?
How does it compare with alternative ways of doing the same things?
((re-)read part 1 of JMG's Green Wizardry).

They take CO2 and electricity and convert to ethanol, a fuel and chemical feedstock.
Where can the CO2 come from?
Natural gas wells (byproduct), Natural gas reformers (hydrogen production), fossil fuel burning power plants, fossil fuel burning vehicles.
Cement production, glass production, biogas combustion, fermentation, volcanos, open geothermal wells, the air.
Do you get peak FF (fossil fuels) is basically now? So the first line of sources is a dead end.
Without cheap FF (or cheap renewables), cement and glass production decline.
Without cheap FF based fertilizer/farming/transport, concentrated animal feed operations (large-scale biogas) goes away.
The EROEI of corn ethanol is essentially 1, so when the cheap FF subsidy goes away, so goes much large scale fermentation.
Volcanos seem too difficult, open geothermal wells intermittent/dirty, the air is expensive to use.
Uhhhh - well, gee, kinda hard to get this to work without cheap renewable electricity (solar/wind).
But if you have cheap renewable electricity, just use batteries for transport.
And if you don't have cheap renewable electricity, "it sucks to lose".

For feedstock, bacteria ferment many things into lactic acid, and/or yeast make ethanol well enough from many sources.
(without a large economy, chemical feedstock demand will be much reduced).

Hint #4: look for lifetime and reliability issues.
They ran a cell for 6 hours. Don't get your hopes up.

My take: interesting electro-catalytic and materials science, but most probably no practical impact.
But they may get to fly to a conference and give a paper on it. ;^)
(so maybe a net negative impact).

jessi thompson said...


You said

" I still have to cut timber to power the them.
While your demagogues are unlikely to affect us directly, it really is depressing to see what is now more than ten years of effort come to essentially nothing. It’s like we’ve just been kidding ourselves - the loss of easy access to liquid fuels is still going to hurt like hell, and that sure seems a corollary of what you’ve written this week..."

There is a Buddhist proverb: "Before enlightenment, chop wood, carry water. After enlightenment, chop wood, carry water." It speaks volumes, and if you like to contemplate things, this phrase packs a big punch. In our case it could just as easily mean "Before industrialization, chop wood, carry water. After industrialization, chop wood, carry water." A fossil-fuel free world is a world with a lot of human labor requirements. Remember, if you are making a living growing food, then in the future you will have food to trade for some of that labor. Ultimately, though, we will all be working a lot harder without the fossil fuels to leverage our efforts. However, don't let this discourage you from the successes you have already had. You are doing so well!! And you realize where the fossil fuel inputs are. Please don't get discouraged, because you have already done so much!! Take a step back and look at how far you've already come, you're well past half way, it's like being past the point of no return, on the dark side of the moon. Though the way forward seems scary and uncertain, look to your past successes and appreciate what you've accomplished, and slowly ways forward will emerge from the future darkness. Your successes have been great, and I have no doubts about your ingenuity!!! Continue taking those tiny steps as you have always done, and one day you will look back and wonder how you did it.

Jessi Thompson

latheChuck said...


How to greet your warlord? I imagine something like this:

"You have to admit, don't you, that there were not very many of us to stand against so many of you for so long. Yes? Whenever you approached, you heard the bell? The bell told us to turn on our radios, so you caught no one alone or asleep. Your people have much to learn about radios, and some of us can teach some of them...

And your men, they are weak and sickly from eating food without essential vitamins. Some of us can teach some of them about the things they need to eat to become strong again...

And though you took some of our best leaders, we never seemed to lack for leadership and organization, did we? Let us teach you about Robert, and his Rules of Order..."

Robert Mathiesen said...

Mat F: I have dealt with the same debilitating awareness by knowing for a certainty that there is a core of essential "depravity" or "corruption" or "evil" (for want of some better word) at the core of every human being, myself included. None of us can root it out completely; and what we do root out, grows back with time. All any of us can do is struggle against it constantly. That struggle is an important part of what makes us human.

And variants of that struggle are essential parts of what makes an ichneumenon wasp be the horror that it is, or a butterfly be the thing of beauty that it is. There is no possibility of any creature's being *absolutely* pure, of being *wholly* good, or behaving *entirely* ethically, even for a day. Everything that lives harms other lives, and ultimately harms every every life, constantly. Since there is no possible escape from that way of being, one merely does what one can within the limits of one's inherent imperfectability. And that must be suficient. It is sufficient, at least for me.

Sheila Grace said...

@ Fred the first

Will & I are restoring a 21 acre property in the intermountain west, and are two introverted scientists working in concert with nature and the Universe. Will works with the PRI in Australia via the internet and I work alongside Samsortya to reforest NE portions of Afghanistan. We figure it’s good karma for the 30 year career he had on the non-commercial side of Boeing and for my part I’d like to use the brains I have between my ears for offering selfless service and a big heaping of NYC sarcasm. We’re definitely learning as we go; ,

This week’s post on the AD hit me hard and I’d be lying if I said it didn’t reduce me to tears before composing myself and moving on again. Guess I’m lucky to be Irish – we’ve had our heads stove in more than a couple of times and gotten back up anyway.

take care

John Michael Greer said...

Wizard, if I had the least talent for laboratory chemistry, I'd be on that like a duck on a June bug. Anybody who can manufacture insulin, or extract it from pig pancreases, or what have you, will be guaranteed a decent lifestyle once things wind down to the point that the medical industry starts to fall apart in a big way. I'd encourage any of my readers who have the necessary skills to consider this.

Mustard, I keep on returning to the 70% of NATO's budget that's paid by the US. That, and the billions more that go into US military programs that are solely relevant to the defense of Europe, are what I'm talking about, you know.

Darren, thank you! Good to hear that my books are in at least one library down under.

MichaelK, the oil companies are among the biggest marketers of the cornucopian fantasy, and for good reason. If they were to admit to the widening gap between annual production and annual discoveries, and 'fess up to the future that our dependence on fossil fuels is bringing us, the political backlash would be something to see. Thus the lullabies...

Thriftwizard, I can imagine! Good for you, though, that you're seeing this as an opportunity. The clueless well-to-do are always the smart person's lawful prey.

Les, don't fool yourself into thinking that your work has come to nothing. We all live in a transitional world, with one foot on the fading world of industrial civilization, the other foot on the emerging world of the deindustrial age, and our posteriors over the chasm in between! Yes, you have to use fossil fuels now; that's inevitable given the current state of society. At the same time, you've learned skills that will allow you to adapt, step by step, as the fossil fuels dry up, and you and everyone else have to work around intermittent shortages and price spikes that eventually become permanent. Just keep surfing the wave of change, adapt as best you can, enjoy tasty heirloom-breed pork, and keep going.

Del Nogal, many thanks for this! A lot of us in the industrial world rarely get this sort of reality check about conditions in the nonindustrial countries. I don't know how long it'll be before conditions like this are common in the US, but I doubt it'll be that far away.

Cortes, well put. A lot of people are going to learn the hard way that money is not the same thing as wealth.

Phil, I've read about the outbreak of the First World War, and the way that people across Europe cheered and celebrated because war had broken out at last. That is to say, I think you're absolutely right. One thing, though -- the next time you Europeans decide to fight a major war, could you please keep it at home? Ever since the wars between England and Spain in the 16th century, you've been all too likely to send fleets and armies to duke it out in other corners of the world, you know, and I suspect the rest of the world can do without that at this point!

Bob said...

A lot of us in the industrial world rarely get this sort of reality check about conditions in the nonindustrial countries.

If it is of interest, Al Jazeera English posts many documentaries on its website that examine the lives of people living in developing countries. I started watching two months ago and find these programs informative and fascinating.

(If you live in a country that restricts access to their website, many of these documentaries can be found on YouTube.)

John Michael Greer said...

Twilight, exactly. The thing is, it's at least possible that Trump's core constituencies will benefit enough from the reapportionment of national wealth that's in process that they'll be happy -- though that just means that the people who've benefited most from neoliberal economics over the last thirty years will pay the price of those improvements. In the longer run, we're all headed for hard times, but very few people think about the longer run these days.

TerminalOne, that's a hard choice. It's one that some people are going to have to make, though.

Fred, there are any number of ways that the flurry of immediate action coming out of the White House can be interpreted, and Scott Adams' way is certainly one of them. Me, I prefer to use metaphors from military and political strategy. A skilled general or politician seizes the initiative and never lets the other side take it back, so they're so busy responding to his moves that they never have time to try anything of their own. Trump seems to get that, and if he keeps it up -- and he may well do so -- I'm not sure his opponents in either party will be able to sustain any kind of coherent resistance to him.

Matt, that makes sense. One of the downsides of the fact that I've spent my entire adult life being aware of the impending decline and fall of our civilization is that there are ways I really don't grasp the state of mind of those people who have convinced themselves that history owes our species a glorious future out there among the stars, or what have you. (You might be interested to know that I've thought through how I would react if something were to happen to prevent the Long Descent and give our civilization the kind of "long tail" that, say, ancient Egypt or traditional China had, some thousands of years of relative stability; I think I'd deal with it pretty well.)

Izzy, better a lobster than a mock turtle!

Mh505, but the point I made, to which you were originally responding, is that the US currently pays billions of dollars a year into that obsolete institution, and that's not going to be happening for much longer. I expect to see the US and Britain retain their historic military ties, but the rest of Europe is on its own. Will that be to its advantage, as you suggest? We'll see.

Compound F, I understand not having people to talk about these things with. Why do you think I founded this blog?

Jo, excellent! It's not something anyone can do in a hurry, but making the effort is a great way to get working on the learning curve. You might find the recommended reading in my book "Green Wizardry" helpful.

Phil, I'd use the phrase "America's Enver Hoxha" regularly, except that so few people would get it. Another way of saying the same thing is to suggest that the grand old word "Caudillo" may deserve renewed use. I've been saying for years that the United States is a third world country, so why are people surprised that we now have third world politics?

Sub, I'd suggest a middle course. Keep your day job as long as it makes sense to do so, while building up your skills and clientele as a part time repairperson. While the job lasts, you've still got the income, and once the job folds out from under you, or wages, purchasing power, working conditions, etc. decline to the point that it's no longer worth the hassle, you'll be set to step into your new career.

Nastarana said...

Dear M Smith, I don't know where you live, but you might want to consider that buying eggs from your nice neighbor could get her into a whole lot of hassle from over zealous authorities.

Dear Mr. Greer, about European wars, it is surely our own responsibility not to allow ourselves to be provoked, blackmailed or cajoled into intervening in someone else's wars.

Shane W said...

maybe it's some kind of magical mind synchronization spell... ;-)

Justin said...

JMG, a thought about collapse. I recently started a new job, surrounded by engineer types that talk unironically about the Kurtzweilian future. I have to think that my internal narrative as collapse-accepting "reactionary" must be suppressed to some extent by the fact that I have to interact in a civil and cooperative manner with people who believe that we will one day upload ourselves into computers and play the 400th World of Warcraft expansion pack forever.

I think back to the early days of YouTube, in 2005 or so, as a teenager in a solidly upper-middle class part of town with my own computer. I watched a lot of conspiracy documentaries... 9/11 truth type stuff especially and although I never fully accepted any one narrative about what exactly happened on the fateful Tuesday, I came to believe that the official story (which if we're strict, was a theory about a conspiracy... a conspiracy theory if you will) contained serious lies.

Even though I became a 'peak oil person' in 2008 or so, I credit that to the early days of Youtube and the fundamental, but painful realization that society might be operating on false premises. Of course, I haven't really done much about peak oil other than staying in shape (a strong back will always be worth something), and half-heartedly pursued an engineering career in order to make enough money to buy property before the game ends, which is going "ok".

So I guess what I am trying to say is that I've gotten comfortable shifting between multiple models of the world. It's kind of strange to seriously discuss the implications of consciousness uploading into machines and the issue of duplicates, etc, and genuinely enjoy the experience, but at the same time not believing those machines are going to be around in 30 years. Of course, like many teenagers from decades before mine feared nuclear war, I feared the technocratic managerial state. So like I said before there are aspects of decline and fall that I can only ever see as positive.

I think this is why I like Evola so much, the idea that everyone would have the same mental model of the world, and the same basic idea of what's going on is profoundly appealing to me considering my experiences.

I'll add a note about insulin: Check out Jason Fung's website - it's about the medical effects of fasting, which can reverse Type II diabetes. For any readers with Type II diabetes, it might be good to experiment this stuff while the medical industry is still largely functioning.

Justin said...

JMG, although Peterson is publishing a book which will be available "soon", your best bet is Youtube. Although I don't like sitting still and watching videos either (maybe that's an Aspergers trait...?), for the most part I download the audio part of his videos as mp3s and listen to them on walks or at the gym.

Tom Bannister said...

"Darren, thank you! Good to hear that my books are in at least one library down under."

Oh don't worry. We got quite a few of your books in our libraries here in NZ ;-)

canon fodder said...

TEOTWAWKI week! Doom! Gloom! We’re all gonna die! I love it. :))

JMG - While I liked your comment that we’re all going down and there ain’t nothin’ we can do about it, I liked your response in the comments section better. We all live limited amount of time. Yes, we’re all going to die. But it’s not so much the limited quantity of time, but rather the quality with which we live it. Beautiful concept.

Really, this post covered a couple things - the end of the American Empire and the end of the industrial age. The two may be concurrent, but they are not necessarily the same. I would posit that the end of the American Empire would arrive sooner or later regardless of fossil fuel production. It’s more a matter of economics and changing political fortunes. The decline in fossil fuel production is icing on the cake.

Similarly, the decline in the American standard of living is also somewhat dissociated with the impending end of the industrial age. The US has been living about 20% above what it can actually afford. Again, you rightly point out that this has been allowed without Zimbabwe-like consequences because of the dollar’s reserve currency status. I don’t think the end results will be as sanguine as the Russian debt default, however. Pension plans, insurance companies and other wealth preservation vehicles are heavily tied to US Treasury debt, bringing in many people who otherwise think they have no skin in the game. Likewise, a large amount of debt in non-US countries is denominated in US dollars. A US default would have significant, if not catastrophic, affect on their economies. If the US defaults, effectively the global economy defaults.

The end game on this is not how you put it - “extravagant lifestyles available to affluent Americans in recent decades will be going away” - but rather the extravagant lifestyles available to _all_ Americans (except the truly destitute) will be going away. No bones about it, we all live like royalty in this country compare to the majority of the global population.

As for the rumored demise of NPR, etc., I’ll believe it when I see it. Congress has the power of the purse, and the President cannot cancel a program they have seen fit to fund. Many other presidents have tried and failed. If it does come to pass, I wouldn’t immediately attribute it to the twilight years of civilization, but rather the inevitable march of time. Does anyone remember RKO? Major player in the radio era who quickly faded as television took over.

Two nits in an otherwise well composed post.

(1) “The fraction of US adults of working age who are permanently outside the work force is at an all-time high.” The US Bureau of Labor and Statistics puts the current labor participation rate at a bit over 62%. This translates into 38% outside the workforce. Compare that to the 58% participation rate in 1954 (42% outside the workforce). If you take it as the _number_ of US adults outside the workforce, then, yes, it is at an all time high.

(2) “The only way to stop anthropogenic climate change in its tracks is to stop putting greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.” From what I understand, greenhouse gases are a leading indicator. We could zero all fossil fuel combustion and package all the cow flatulence in the world and we would still get increasing temperatures for the next century or so until the carbon cycle caught up. You’ve mentioned this before, so I’m surprised this one slipped by.

Thanks for the excellent work and always thought provoking posts.

John Michael Greer said...

Hmm. I let through a post advocating vegetarianism, and posted a relatively mild dissent of my own, and all of a sudden the inbox is full of pro-vegetarian rants, some of them quite remarkably vicious in tone, as well as some more reasonable responses. Fair enough; the subject is closed, and I will plan on enjoying a cheeseburger shortly. If my vegetarian readers want to be able to discuss their diets on this forum, they might want to work on basic courtesy.

Lawfish, it might also be wise to start sharing your production with friends and neighbors, so that lots of people know that you're a good person to befriend.

Kara, I get that -- the dread of the coming changes is at least partly balanced by the end of the uncertainty. Here they are, and now we can buckle down and deal.

Jeffrey, yes, I've noticed that too. It's quite impressively clear just how deeply rooted all those ideals of tolerance and nonviolence actually were...

Earthworm, I certainly didn't mean to suggest that the US was being altruistic in paying most of the costs of NATO. For all practical purposes, altruism does not exist in international politics; it's always about national interests and advantage. The fact remains that the US, for its own purposes, has supported a state of affairs in which it pays the lion's share of NATO expenses, and a great deal more in the way of military preparations solely relevant to the defense of Europe -- and that's going away. How Europe will deal with the resulting changes is ultimately up to Europeans.

Philip, thank you! Yes, I feel rather as though we've climbed aboard the roller coaster and sat there while the cars were hauled all the way up to the top of the thing, and now we're over the crest and starting to zoom down, down, down! It promises to be a wild ride.

Vedant, last I checked, chaos is already here, in various places and various forms. Remember that we're not facing a sudden collapse but a Long Descent. As for turning CO2 into ethanol, sure -- but because of the laws of thermodynamics, you have to pur more energy into that process than you'll get by burning the ethanol. Where's the energy going to come from?

Allie, yep. The sense of invulnerability on the part of some people these days is, in a certain bleak sense, impressive.

Whitecloak, fair enough. I sometimes think that what the current political landscape needs is a party or movement that deliberately embraces points of view officially assigned to a range of different points on the spectrum, just to mess with people's heads.

Indus56, those are valid questions. First, yes, I still consider the Long Descent hypothesis better justified than the fast-collapse theory, in that it has already succeeded in predicting events accurately for some years now, where fast-collapse theories have failed to do so. I'd point out that a difference of scale is not a difference of kind, and the mere fact that the political and economic networks that are crumbling at this point are global rather than, say, continental, doesn't require any particular difference in the process of unraveling. As for your second question, that's a very complex issue, and will probably need to be dealt with in a future post.

John Michael Greer said...

Ghung, another great song. Thank you!

Clay, oh, I know. My stepmother is Hawaiian Japanese, and I'd agree that Zuckerberg won't survive long enough to be shot by his bodyguards, the way so many of the elite will be once the rule of law collapses completely and the guys who actually tote the guns decide that they'd rather have all the nice stuff themselves, thank you. A pololu would be elegant and traditional, and much less messy than the spray of full-auto gunfire that'll take care of the others.

Rita, watching the current crop of politicians occasionally makes me wistful for medieval warlords. They might slaughter every inhabitant of your village but at least they wouldn't spout moralizing cant while they're doing it.

Sgage, hah! Nicely phrased.

Wolfbay, only if someone other than the current leadership takes it over. Mind you, that's fairly likely at this point, and if Donald Trump inspires Democrats to take their party back from the neoconservatives who've hijacked it, he'll have done at least one genuinely good thing for this country.

Ploughboy, true enough. Back when I was a good deal younger, I belonged to a Grange in Seattle that had some members who lived through the Great Depression as kids, and they remember musicians traveling from one Grange hall to another in farm country, playing dance music and getting some cash and plenty to eat and drink in payment. It wasn't a bad gig, at a time when a lot of people were suffering.

DoubtingThomas, you might be interested to know that the insistence that there must be some way out of the cycle reliably pops up at certain points in the cycle. Yes, we're in one of those just now. More generally, lots of people these days like to insist that the laws of nature can't possibly apply to them if that means they don't get what they want -- a lot of the recent talk about a paradigm shift in physics being "overdue" (as though those are delivered on schedule) amounts to that. I chalk it up to an overdeveloped sense of entitlement.

Asr and Weedananda, you're most welcome!

Shark, that's what Spengler says -- the Second Religiosity emerges when the previous era of rationalism fails to live up to its promises, and people have to deal with the awkward fact that the world will not turn into Utopia no matter how many intellectuals believe it will do so.

Doug, of course it's not altruism. Still, the extent to which European leaders have been insisting at the top of their lungs that the new administration has to keep supporting NATO suggests that they, at least, may not be particularly sanguine about the end of that arrangement. As for "making America great again," from my perspective, America came closest to greatness when it stayed out of other nations' business and focused, however clumsily and half-heartedly, on solving its own problems -- and I think a prompt withdrawal of US troops from Europe and US funds from NATO would be a fine step in that direction.

John Michael Greer said...

Avalterra, you're welcome and thank you. I'd point out that a gift for patience and serenity is a very definite kind of giftedness, and one that used to be highly respected.

LL Pete, you know, I wish people could say "I hate him" without dragging in the faux medical diagnoses.

DoubtingThomas, it's normally a very good test of the sincerity of someone's beliefs to see if they walk their talk. A person who claims to believe in racial equality, for example, but displays obvious bigotry toward people of this or that race is fairly likely to be a hypocrite. In exactly the same way, if climate scientists believe what they're saying about the cataclysmic impact of anthropogenic climate change and the need to cut carbon emissions at once, then why aren't they themselves willing to do so where they can make a difference first, in their own lives? (I say this, by the way, as someone who's entirely convinced that anthropogenic climate change is real and a massive crisis -- but then I don't own a car and use much less than half as much energy as the average American, and am still working on further cuts.)

BFM, the post I wrote on the subject is here, and I still think it's accurate. As I noted there, it's quite possible that some nukes are going to fly as things wind down; it's by no means impossible, for example, that the rising tensions right now between India and Pakistan could end in a flurry of mushroom clouds and the deaths of tens of millions of people on the subcontinent, plus fallout deaths elsewhere. My argument is that the logic of deterrence among the major nuclear powers will be strengthened by decline to such an extent that a global nuclear war is spectacularly unlikely.

RPC, I suppose I could. ;-)

Dfr2010, delighted to hear it. Thank you.

Dltrammel, exactly. I've been saying for years now that the moment the rule of law goes away, the rich people in their doomsteads are going to suffer sudden fatal weapons-related accidents, because their bodyguards have absolutely nothing to gain by continuing to protect their charges, and everything to gain by gunning them down and taking over all the stored wealth themselves. The green wizard who can hand the bodyguards a beer each and say, "I can make as much more of this as you want, as long as I can get the barley and hops," is going to make a lot of new friends.

Carolyn, those last two sentences of yours should be written in letters of flame, you know. It's when people say that, and then do it, that great things happen. Go ye forth and do that thing.

Nathan, thanks for this! Musk is a smart guy, no question. I wouldn't be a bit surprised if he offers Trump a bid on high-tech hardware for the wall.

John, thank you.

John Michael Greer said...

Petrapie, that's really good to hear. Thank you!

Scotlyn, thank you. The thing is, so long as people behave civilly, I enjoy the conversations here -- especially when I get to talk to people whose ideas are very different from mine. Dissensus and diversity of ideas is just plain more fun than the kind of mental monoculture so common in today's society!

Pygmycory, delighted to hear it. That makes four.

Cherokee, where Greenland's concerned, it's worse than that. The weight of the ice has turned Greenland into a huge shallow bowl which is filling up with water, and ice floats. When there's enough meltwater built up, some very large portion of the Greenland ice cap will very likely surge all at once into the north Atlantic, filling it with thousands of square miles of melting icebergs, shutting down navigation, and doing a number on the Gulf Stream. As for Europe, sure -- I'm hoping that they can restrict their wars to their own continent from here on.

Wendy, you're welcome and thank you as well. I appreciate hearing this.

Eric, the one way around that kind of isolation I know of is to see if a broader movement of the center, based on a principled rejection of extremism, can be put together. My musings about an alt-center have that as a central theme. If it's not just you -- if the mobs from both sides have to contend with an organized opposition willing to push back hard against mob rule in the name of civility and the rule of law -- much can be done. I'm going to keep exploring this, and see where it goes.

Mike, I hadn't heard that before! It's playing on the background now. Seriously funny -- and seriously true.

Lordberia3, I sometimes get the impression that my one contribution to the future is going to be that our barbarian descendants will enjoy plenty of good beer. There are worse legacies!

Gottfried, that depends on whether anarcho-syndicalists get off their hindquarters and make a role for it. History doesn't hand out roles to political movements like some kind of casting director, you know!

Mat F, fair enough. There's an alternative, you know -- you can change your life, to decrease the burden you place on the planet and balance it out with positive changes you yourself make. Have you considered that?

Kevin Warner said...

Just a quick heads up on a very long page called "The Dying Days of Liberalism: How Orthodoxy, Professionalism, and Unresponsive Politics Finally Doomed a 19th-century Project" at
I think the site is that of a Canadian Anthropologist but as you read the text, you begin to wonder if JMG has been doing a bit of ghost writing lately as all the things that he talks about you find repeated on this page. Worth the read.

«Oldest ‹Older   1 – 200 of 448   Newer› Newest»