Sunday, March 28, 2010

Our Future and the End of the Oil Age: Building Resilience in a Resource-Constrained World

Interview on Diet Soap Podcast

"Episode #50: Is There No Alternative?" ...well, no, not to me, not on this episode, since it's pretty much just an interview with me, in which I am compelled to refer to a wide variety of things as "stupid," plus some nice music and interesting audio excerpts.

Interview on Max Keiser's "On the Edge"

Part I:


Part II:

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Bullets from the Drug War


[One-year update: I posted this a year ago. Right now, the Secretary of State, the Head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and other American top brass are in Mexico City trying to spin this. Let's see if any of what I said a year ago needs to be revisited.]
  • The US has lost the "War on Drugs"
  • The losing side is usually not the one to decide when a fight is over or how it ends
  • Unlike other recent defeats, this lost war is a defeat followed by an invasion
  • Mexico is the natural staging area for the invasion (inconvenient though it is for the Mexicans)
  • New franchises are being set up to service the North American drug market (which is the biggest in the world)
  • The CIA has to eat, and all they know how to do competently is run guns and drugs and control thugs; they get a seat at the table
  • The narcs have to eat too, and all they are trained to do is deal (with) drugs; they get a seat at the table too
  • As the federales grow weak in the US and Mexico, the battle lines will advance north of the border, leaving Mexico a quiet and largely intact backwater
  • This is an inter-US conflict, because Americans are the most avid consumers, sellers, and prosecutors of drugs
  • Life in the USA gives everyone a pain that is for many people simply not survivable without drugs: either alcohol, pharmaceuticals or illegal drugs
  • Illegal drugs are far more cost-effective than either pharma or alcohol — government-licensed industries which are either excessively lucrative or taxed heavily
  • As Americans give up hope, they will need to self-medicate in ever-larger numbers
  • They will be far more able financially to afford illegal drugs than either pharma or alcohol.
  • Illegal drugs (and moonshine) are two very large post-collapse enrepreneurial opportunities within the fUSA/бСША [Orlov 2005]
  • This is no longer a war against drugs; it is now a contest between alternative drug distribution systems
  • One alternative is a centralized, paramilitary organization run by CIA remnants, former military, and former police
  • Another alternative is ethnic mafias, which will diversify into many other kinds of trade.
  • The third, nautrally most cost-effective alternative will be provided by informal, local distribution networks based on barter, which will be all that is left once the dust settles
  • The downside of all this is that it will be hard to find anyone sober enough to operate a light switch
  • The upside to that is that the national electrical grid goes away, so there will be very little demand for competent light switch operators

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Talk to Her

Last night, just as I was falling asleep, my wife walked into the bedroom and told me that there is a big leak in the kitchen. I was quick to realize that were are not on the boat, and so this incident will not involve me plunging into icy bilge-water armed with a hammer, a screwdriver and an oily rag. And so I calmly strode into the kitchen and gently horsed the garbage disposal unit back onto its bracket (it had vibrated off). And then I asked her: "Aren't you glad you married a plumber?" (Perhaps I was wrong to use the words "glad" and "married" in the same sentence.) My memory jogged, I thought of one of my favorite plumber-bloggers, Slava S. Here's an excerpt. I can only hope that my clumsy English translation can do justice to his elegant Russian prose.

Mommy came to visit, and thrilled us with stories of love and childhood. She is a school psychologist, and has many great stories from her practice. Little girl Alice went to first grade—a skinny blue-eyed girl with ribbons in her hair. Her daddy was worried that she would be bullied. He would have liked to give her a weapon to use against the boys—a two-handed sword or a bazooka—but these aren't allowed in school because the teachers are cowards. And so daddy sent his daughter to Karate lessons, from age three.

By the time she enrolled in school, Alice had learned the seven ways of killing a man with a rolled-up newspaper. She threw knives, forks, and spat dessert with precision. She was prepared to be schooled in contemporary circumstances. "Thank you, daddy!" She referred to cracking collar bones as "the least harmful way to neutralize an opponent."

During the first week of school, Alice took on the boys one at a time. Then the boys elected five delegates. The delegates told her: "Let's go and have a talk." The talk took place on Wednesday, behind the school, between the dumpster and the fence. Alice came with a rolled-up newspaper, and, it would seem, couldn't hold back. The delegates ran away, screaming: "Crazy idiot!" After that, the lower grades were suffused with peace, quiet and matriarchy, all the way through autumn.

But in January Alice fell in love with an eighth-grader. For two days she sighed and batted her eyelashes, but on day three she caught him in a traitorous embrace with a heifer from ninth grade who had him jammed up against a wall and was kissing him. The heifer hobbled away with a broken heel, but the boy caught it in the family jewels. When he doubled over from an excess of emotion, she kissed him, so that he would understand. She couldn't have reached up to him otherwise, being so diminutive.

The next day daddy came to school. He listened and felt happy that he didn't buy the bazooka. The school building still stood, so that he could go there to hear of his daughter's conquests. The school principal suggested that they go to another school—one where there were some as yet uninjured children running around. Daddy suspected that the other school wouldn't want to accept Karate experts from elsewhere, plus this school had already had time to adapt to his daughter. He pulled out some money, to use as a bargaining chip. The principal also offered some money, for them to leave. They started thrusting money at each other, and neither side could prevail. Finally, they decided to do as the school psychologist will say.

The school psychologist—that's my mommy. "Poor girl!" she exclaimed. "The child tried so hard to defend herself as her daddy told her to do. And now she confronts incomprehension, the teachers are angry at her, the children are afraid, even daddy is in a bad mood. And she is unhappy in love. Of course, this is deviant behavior, but the child is blameless. We simply must talk to her."

Mommy herself once loved when she was little. She was in love with one boy, and didn't know how to express her feelings, so she caught him, threw him to the ground, and stuffed his shorts full of sand. Mommy's feelings were misunderstood back then, and she was even expelled. But now she is all grown-up and even has a Ph.D. Someone must have talked to her quite a lot, then.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Interviews and Talks

America’s Future at the End of the Oil Age: The Pre-Collapse Check-List
Thursday, March 25th, 12:30 pm – 1:45 pm
Building B, Room 101
Bristol Community College
Fall River, Massachusetts

Thursday, March 25, 7:00 pm – 9:00 pm
Library Browsing Area
University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth

Recent Radio Interviews

Radio Ecoshock
Business Matters
World Talk Radio

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Your Gifts Better Be Edible

Guest post by Tim Nelson of the Outdoor Drum School.

Announcement: For a limited time, you can get a numbered, autographed copy of a limited edition collection of Dmitry's essays by making a donation to this blog.

Hi, I am Tim Nelson. I live out in the woods of northern Wisconsin, four hours north of Madison, and I run a mean drum circle. These are my credentials, upon which I base my opinions, mixed with more opinions, concerning Industry's Parting Gifts.

I have been practicing primitive skills while living out in the woods all over the USA for twelve years, with a few breaks of homeless urban living, and the closest I have ever come to entering the System in my entire adult life was during the three months when I shared a one-room house with seven other people. I haven't had to survive a real famine yet, or a real collapse such as that of the Soviet Union, but I have experienced slow starvation, where there was not much to eat, nothing to do and nowhere to go for months on end.

This is not a point of pride, but I do count myself, and others like me, among those few modern Westerners who have been living a third-world lifestyle, and who could take a slow collapse in stride. I only use a few hand tools, I live as part of a clan, and I know from experience just how hard it really is to survive without access to stores.

In all my years of living on the fringe and practicing primitive skills, I have met few people who couldn't survive because they lack courage. But in a fast crash, there would simply be too many things stacked up against us. Not that we won't try, even if we must eventually succumb of starvation, violence, disease or heartbreak. If the crash continues to happen faster than we can adapt, then we won't stand a chance. If we don't have the time to start gardens and to learn to raise chickens, and the chance to make a few mistakes before we become good enough at it, then we are down to depending on dead animals to sustain ourselves. In a cold climate, if there isn't enough animal fat in the diet, people die. It's not possible to survive on just winter squash and potatoes. When the supplies run out, there better be dead animals to eat — and I mean entire animals, internal organs included, not just the choice cuts.

I honestly can't see how jobs making tools that last a lifetime, or having these tools, would make that much of a difference, unless the crash is slow enough to sustain complex society for the duration. And just how likely is that? Is it likely enough to bet your life on it? Most of us can feel it in our bones that there are just too many of us. That's what it comes down to every time, and if you aren't ready to live on a starvation diet, work all day and remain efficient while listening to your kids complain of hunger, while suffering from diarrhea for weeks at a stretch, while nursing a few mildly infected cuts, while living in close quarters with a few other adults whom you grow to resent more and more with each passing day as they slowly lose their will to live — let me tell you, if you aren't ready for that sort of thing, then you are in for one hell of a rude awakening!

Am I pessimistic? You bet I am! But I am not selling any books meant to cheer you up. I am just living in woods with my clan, humbled by their honesty, checking hare snares, gathering firewood, eating imported food (while supplies last), sleeping in a wigwam, dreaming of my baby boy, crapping under the open sky, wondering where all the whitetail deer have disappeared to...