Tuesday, June 03, 2014

The Four Questions

At the end of last week's review of Age of Limits 2014, I posed the following four questions, which I think are key to moving beyond merely intellectualizing the predicament we face, and toward making actual meaningful changes to the way we live:

1. How can we communicate the reality of collapse to family and friends in ways that are constructive rather than destructive and find helpful ways to reflect our “endarkenment” in our everyday behavior?

2. How can we form personal relationships with people that can survive the disappearance of official life support systems based on finance, commerce and centralized authority?

3. How can we transform our physical selves into ones that will stand a chance, by eliminating lifestyle diseases, bad habits, luxuries and comforts, and by finding maximally independent and resilient ways to provide the necessities?

4. How can we make use of ritual and spiritual practice to transform a group of individuals into a community?

Over the past week I have collected a number of responses from a number of people. Rachel jumped the gun, sending in comments even before I posted my questions:
The biggest specific suggestion I have for next year is something you mentioned on Monday morning: the need for a session on how to respond and deal with family and friends around us who have a different worldview that does not involve a collapse narrative. I don't know a single person who wouldn't benefit from this discussion. ... I talked to my sister when I got home. She had attended ... just [on] Saturday and got a lot out of hearing both you and Dennis Meadows speak. ... After coming home, she tried to explain the conference to her husband, who dismissed the conclusions, saying the usual types of things, like “Paul Ehrlich was proved wrong.” My sister didn't know how to talk about it. How then can she even start making changes in her own family? ... How can one make important changes if one's spouse, parent, close friend, or whoever has a different worldview? Maybe in some cases it's simply impossible without divorcing from a relationship. But maybe there are strategies.
Ellen wrote:
Your questions just posed need to be answered. ... I don't know if the human species can or even should survive. What poor stewards of the earth we have been. But if there is to be anything of value salvaged, if we as a species are not to degenerate into mindless barbarism, then we have to create a new paradigm and a new culture. Somehow I would like to save the intellectual capital our species has evolved over the millennia. How to accomplish that is worthy of prolonged and thoughtful debate and discussion.
Pete wrote:
[Collapse] is a very depressing subject for [my family] (not so much for me) and they therefore resist because they cannot “live there”. Well, I don’t live there. I am open to what comes, will do the best I can when it does and have made common sense preparations, in addition to putting some of my savings into precious metals. I am doubtful that we can convince most people of anything. Here in the US especially they live in their own made-up world, having always during their lifetime experienced nothing but relative prosperity.
Liam wrote:
Nobody can be ... sold on collapse without first experiencing it in the own lives (illness, tragedy, dissolution, etc.) and then also being curious enough about the larger world to look.
Yossi wrote:
I worked as a psychotherapist and often used the [Kübler-Ross] model with people who had experienced loss. I was able to invest in the model emotionally as well as intellectually because I too had suffered losses. None of the people attending your conference have actually experienced collapse - if they had you would not be attending a conference, using a flush toilet, eating two nice meals a day and commenting about it on the internet. Nobody really knows how they will react to loss until they have suffered it and I think that the same will apply to collapse. I am not saying that it isn't useful to think deeply about it and have a considered response ready but when it happens the trauma will be unimaginable and emotions will overwhelm people.
On question 2, Robert wrote:
The current deep drought in California may be a valuable empirical model of how very large numbers of people respond to accelerating depletion of an essential resource. The water supply situation in California is dire. ... There is abundant data on the accelerating trend of water resource depletion and the situation will worsen in the coming months. If the drought persists through the coming winter the situation will take a dramatic turn to the realm of disaster. How will the populous behave? How is California government respond? Much handwrining in State government, especially the legislature, but no tangible plan and little action. Folks watering their front lawn at mid-afternoon on hot days.
Kathy wrote:
Thank you ... for writing about the Ik and introducing me to the concept of culture death. It gave me a new way to perceive that what has happened to my people was a kinder gentler version of what happened to the Ik, and [that] we are simply a little kinder and gentler than the Ik but otherwise—well the mean-as-a-snake hillbilly is not a myth. ... John Michael Greer [once] mentioned in a throw-away line that if you want to understand what culture death looks like, consider Southern Appalachia.
John wrote:
At some point there will be a turning of the collective ship towards the ominous black clouds of the collapse storm. I suspect the world will quickly divide into three groups, the hopeless/helpless/abandoned urban and suburban folk (dead) the pull together/circle the wagons/we can adapt folk (mostly dead, unless lucky in location) and the various flavors of nomads, prepared and unprepared (mostly dead as well, for where is there to go?).
Jerry wrote:
I have personal experience with recently moving to a small (pop 1,200) rural but compact town that is traditionally conservative, and down on its luck economically, but also has a small community of white, middle-aged liberal progressives (for lack of a better term). Those folks are somewhat aware of the problems we face, although it rarely goes beyond the usual litany of white middle class environmental issues such as GMO's, factory farms, etc. As such, they have recently started a food co-op that sells VERY expensive and supposedly organic food. A few of them are currently engaged in trying to get a transition movement off the ground, but whenever I try to raise the issue of global ecological overshoot and collapse with them I am literally told to shut up for being too “negative.” Right to my face. There are one or two white, middle aged, right wing preppers in town, living in luxury RV's and stockpiling guns, ammo, rice, and beans. I can talk to those folks about collapse, but mention anything remotely like an ecological basis for our predicament and I can expect a wild-eyed, spittle-flecked tirade against the climate change “hoax.” The vast majority of the remaining population are either low-wage working class, or people living in outright poverty. Most are politically conservative and very religious. Drugs and alcohol are big problems. How then can you present the challenges we face in terms that are not political, religious, or environmental, but which somehow still communicates the urgency of the situation? And how can you communicate that urgency in a way that is not perceived as fatalistic or unnecessarily negative? How can you ask people to explore the possibility of radically rethinking their living arrangements without posing a direct threat to their worldview? I am increasingly convinced that the answer lies in one word: Security.
Kevin wrote:
You need a clan. Not a bunch of folks like you or that you like, but a group that accepts each other and will circle the wagons and not bitch too much. We need to practice it on the crowded plane, the local fair, the funerals and weddings, the office, the home. It requires virtually no moving parts, and it is what keeps folks sane when things are crappy. So when the blowhard is yammering on at conference, I have been there, just see it as practice. You have socks! And a chair! And you’re not dead!
Doug wrote:
The greatest conundrum our species faces in this dire time is our tendency toward hierarchy. 10000 years of it may be too much for our species to overcome. I feel anarchy is the only way forward, but honestly can't see how we get from here to there.
Liam wrote:
Get into the habit of trading favors, being reliable and nonjudgmental, and the relationships will blossom. Remember we live in a toxic social context, anything less pathological sells itself.
Only Pete ventured to say anything on question 3:
I’d say by knowing what’s what, exercising common sense and doing what’s sensible and prudent while we can. The milieu with which we will be confronted is so complex that any sort of detailed planning is useless. ... I would include as sensible getting rid of as much debt as is possible, owning some precious metals and storing some food, water, currency and “tradeables”.
On question 4, Pete again:
I don’t think it can be done. ... For myself, I have for decades looked into that realm between religion and science, if you will, with an open mind while accepting no dogmas, and have found, I think, a few answers. But these are just for myself, unburdened by any felt need to seek agreement.
Kathy wrote:
I've thought and thought about this ... and I can't really justify my stand from a secular point of view. I no longer have the proper secular vocabulary to do so. So anything I said would be meant specifically for a Christian struggling to come to terms [with collapse].
Don wrote:
I would like to make a suggestion relative to rituals. Paul Woodruff, a philosopher at the University of Texas and a former military officer, has written Reverence. As a philosopher, he makes fine discriminations so that we are able to communicate with a minimum or misunderstanding. For exsample, a religious person may be reverent, but a reverent person need not be religious. On page 250, Woodruff identifies music, poetry, and ritual as key languages of reverence. Sacraments and liturgy are not generally useful languages of reverence. Giving a knife blade a sharp edge can be an exercise in reverence, I think. Watching a skilled sharpener we experience the reverence also. My guess is that we need to “re-reverence” as much of our mundane world as possible. As the distractions wind down, we will need to satisfy ourselves with reverence for what we need to do.
I hope that this conversation continues, and actually leads us to something. In the meantime, here are some interim thoughts:

• I am sorry that I didn't make it clear from the outset, but failure is not an option. If you can't bring your family and friends on board, then by definition they will end up overboard, and, if you don't find yourself another group, so will you. If any of us succeed at answering question 1 but fail at 2, 3 or 4, then, again, your chances will be slim to none. Needless to say, commentary along the lines of “We're all gonna die!” is less than entirely helpful.

• Existing society, be it urban or rural, will be of minimal use. Practice saying “culture death.” At best it will be a source of recycled material—human, animal, vegetable and mineral. Urban settings are definitely a better place to scavenge/recruit: it's a richer environment, there are more people, a greater diversity of experience, and more immigrants (who have experienced something other than an overfed life on autopilot).

• Those who have led a sheltered and comfortable existence never having had a reason to question the assumptions on which their lives have been based will also be of minimal use. Understanding collapse requires going through it, or at least observing it directly. Prosperity, affluence and security have the same effect on character as a windless environment has on trees: even a weak gust of wind can snap them in half.

• Finally, an entirely intellectual approach will likewise be minimally useful. The task is to get people out of their heads and connect them to each other emotionally (feel the right “vibe,” if you will) and to nature physically (by dropping bad habits and developing good ones), all served up with a sense of reverence for nature (human and otherwise) and a healthy sense of awe for all that which we can never hope to understand.

Now, I would like to hear from someone—anyone—who has succeeded, to whatever small extent, and could tell us what it took and what it was like.


beetleswamp said...

Got your book today. Thanks very much for all your hard work and dedication. Don't know how to answer your questions but I can share a bit of my experience. I'm probably not moving fast enough but then again living in the Babylon of the pacific surrounded by remnants of island cultures we have a different sense of time and urgency. I've found that it's better to slow down and make steady determined steps every day rather than get panicky and lose the ability to enjoy life. If everything fell apart tomorrow I would be in real trouble, but barring unforseen circumstances would probably last a little longer than most. My goal is to extend that gap a little further every day until I can realistically envision being around to see my grandkids and know they have some hope of thriving. It's definitely time to step things up because I've been lazy lately, but the biggest challenge is always handling anxiety and learning to let go of circumstances beyond my control. Probably one of the best groups to consult on the matter are addicts. One day at a time, etc. This lifestyle is a drug and we have all the enablers in the developed world. Reading your blog is like picking up a 12 step manual once a week and trying to get some clarity in all the noise. Please keep searching. Thank you.

Cairncrest Farm said...

My brother and I, with our respective wives bought and co-own a small farm. We have livestock and a large garden.

The headaches of dealing with another couple who owns a lot of things are not too hard, and it's good practice for if/when other less prepped family members descend on us.

I think we have a reasonably good start on questions 2 and 3 with this set-up.

I don't know how to deal with numbers 1 and 4. I don't talk a lot of collapse even though I think about it fairly regularly.

peakfuture said...

Being involuntarily (and suddenly) 'dejobbed' is an excellent start to feel a small wind of adversity, if you've lived in the windless environment of an easy life. Your point on 'prosperity, affluence, and security' was spot on.

This happened to me after turning 40, and it was a real eye opener. Knowing who to trust these days is far more important than knowing who is paying you next. In some ways, it was the best thing that ever happened to me. My future is not predicated on a big corporation now, and I'm a collapsnik in both mind and action (working on multiple income streams, lowering costs, staying healthier...)

BTW, even though it is humor site, Cracked runs some pretty interesting articles on when things go wrong. Humor can be a good way to get people to see reality, as George Carlin and Bill Hicks have done.



postpeakmedicine said...

In many cases I don’t think it’s possible to communicate the reality of collapse to family and friends, because some people are simply unable to shake themselves loose from the dominant paradigm of endless growth, and will go to their graves believing that a return to growth is just around the corner, regardless of the evidence around them.

For example: there are many highly intelligent, highly educated people such as the chairmen of central banks and professors of economics, who believe in infinite growth even though this is mathematically impossible and they are well educated in math. So, given this level of denial, how can I even start to communicate collapse to my wife when she believes in infinite growth, I don’t, and neither of us are professors of economics?

Eddie Tennison said...

I mark the beginning of my own efforts as around Christmas of 2010. That's when I read Ruppert's book and started reading in the collapse blogosphere.

Since then...

I'm on my third year of learning intensive gardening techniques. Gardening has been a good way of getting the family involved, at least in my case. They (wife and kids) don't really believe we'll collapse, but they like good organic food, so they participate.

By fate or circumstance I have surrounded myself with a functional family consisting of my three daughters and their significant others, and we live in a single house. This has allowed us to become much more efficient about how we live and husband our resources. We live on the edge of suburbia adjacent to a large green belt at the moment, but I have begun to establish a more secure retreat in a rural area some 50 miles out. They (my family)never expect to live there, but I expect we might.

Out there I am laying the groundwork to produce enough electricity (from solar PV mainly) to get by okay without grid power, if that becomes necessary.

I am building an aquaponic garden that will eventually be all native fish and heirloom plants, that will run off solar. Maybe not sustainable ultimately, but I can keep it going for a while, I think.

I am not as well integrated into the rural community out there as I would like, but that may have to wait until such time as I'm in full time residence, if and when.

This year's plan is to get an appropriate hybrid electric vehicle for my circumstances. I have a Prius, but I think for us the better solution will be a Volt (or alternately a plug-in Prius, but they don't sell them here). I want a car I can use if I only have PV to fall back on. Until that time comes, the Volt and similar vehicles provide more than one alternative for locomotion over some distance.

Along with some people you might know, I organized and hosted a conclave of collapse bloggers here in April that came off well, although so far that hasn't done anything more than cement some long time online friendships. My own takeaway is that long distance friends might come in really handy, and that it's well worthwhile to network with like-minded people everywhere...but that most solutions are going to be very local.

In general, I am not a fan of nomadic living (at least as a response to collapse). It might work for someone like you or Ray (or even me, if I were solo) but I truly believe resilience will be easier to accomplish ultimately in the region where you happen to find yourself. I do worry about the climate chaos, but even here in a drought affected area, we have many way s to mitigate those problems before they become insurmountable.

If my farm/retreat fails due to weather, I am prepared to move, but to me that's definitely a Plan B.

Much of my effort so far has been accomplished primarily by me, working alone. I am very interested in building community, but so far what I've learned is that,right now, before TSHTF, that's hard to do. But I'm pretty sure if I build it, they will come.

Of course, I do understand the need for security. I don't like to talk about that aspect too much, but I feel better prepared than most to deal with those issues. I do worry about government confiscation of my own precious resources in the event of a fast collapse event...much more so than I fear marauding zombies.

The likely scenario here, I think, will be similar to how things were in the Great Depression. Poor, rural, non-mobile society that maybe ekes out a living of the land. I doubt we'll see many hungry hordes, at least not for too long.

I forgot to mention that I do have some months of carefully stored food and water. Not enough, but a start.

So that's where I am today. Far from prepared, but still working on it daily.

AA said...

Q. 1 and 3 are not easy to answer. If friends and family have a vested interest in the status quo, they will stay with it. It doesn't matter if it's crumbling or increasingly insecure. It's a bit like the scenario depicted in E.M. Forster's old story, "The Machine Stops." Inertia and reluctance to make abrupt changes is a major factor -- not only for others but for oneself. And exactly what alternative is on offer? Jettison one's attachment to the current status quo (warts and all) for -- what exactly? What is one to do if one has a job and needs it to put food on the table? We can't all buy boats. The consequence is that as the ship goes down, the passengers remain willfully oblivious -- and the few who do know what;s going on are confused about what is to be done.

Judy said...

This is not a direct response but just about question 1 mainly. I think it takes time and repetition to communicate to people from my experience.

For me personally, I read all the signs and did the Maths, but it still took me several years to really acknowledge the true magnitude of the situation. You know the state of the climate, population and resources is leading to a catastrophe, but you actively seek out evidence that renewables will save us or saving energy or voting for the Green party or something. And how could anything you do make a difference anyway? But then the reality hits that change is happening regardless of how unfair it might be and whether you want your kids to be grown up first, or if you are just not ready yet.

Next it was a wild 'Better get ready' phase! For me I did take some positive steps - changed my job to work from home, started stockpiling, and looking for some land to buy. I tried to tell people what was coming quite forcefully, arguing my point across to prove they were in denial. At that stage everyone did think I was mad. I leapt hammer and tongs into 'doing' stuff without addressing how I felt. I panicked! Hard to admit for a Brit :-)

This stage was swiftly followed by a low period. A time of stagnation, with no personal energy or motivation. A time of hopelessness and helplessness, and eating through my stockpiles, where it felt like there was nothing I could do. My health and fitness suffered too.

What got me out of it I don't really know, but I would say people. Generous, kind-hearted, caring strangers. Now I know what I need to do to move forward. I can read Dmitry's books and blog without feeling depressed. I can talk to others about the coming events with understanding, not with a fierce desire to make them see. I can see that it isn't one sudden realisation, but an accumulation of many different conversations and information that fit together, and lead you on a journey. Not everyone will get there - at least not until collapse is upon them.

I thought my husband would never get it, but the repetition of hearing it from different sources over months and years helps things to sink in. Now he is sending me articles he has read, such as this one from George Monbiot http://www.monbiot.com/2014/05/27/the-impossibility-of-growth/ which helps him see things clearly.

My parents and some of my kids get it too. I think my sister is too heavily entrenched in 'keeping up appearances', but little bits are filtering through. My eldest daughter is in complete denial. I can't blame her at 21, when she wants to enjoy life and travel the world. It's hard to think about being denied the future that you have been working towards all your life.

So I have been collapsing before the rush as Michael J Greer suggests, though I call it downshifting, and it has been amazing. Other people are amazing too, whatever stage they are at in the 'realisation' process.

As for forming a community, it is like any group situation, such as who you work with or your neighbours. You can't choose the people you are washed up with and there will always be some awkward characters. Most people will moan and whinge about them, and hope that they will be fired or move house, but generally you have no influence over this and you are stuck with them. The best policy is to accept that they are there to stay and that you cannot change them, only how you react to them. They will respond to how you react, so if you continue to show respect and listen to their views, however negative they are, they are more likely to feel secure and be less of a problem. If they are sensing a negative vibe then chances are things will deteriorate.

Do we need the religion/ spiritual side first? I just think it will evolve along with peoples changing needs.

Liam Jackson said...

My only small successes have been at qu.'s 2 & 3, and they were coincidental boons, not objectives planned with collapse in mind.

2. How to form resilient 1-1 bonds?
-no interpersonal relationship is resilient until both parties know what they are, IOW first need to get your own emotional and interpersonal shit together (see q.3), which doesn't mean buddha-hood but does mean uncommon levels of selfawareness. Then find/grow up others who can do same, & prove by repeated experience that each can rely on the other. Once start to get 3. sorted, then i think 2. kinda follows.

3. How to adapt own behaviour to challenges of collapse/descent?
-IOW, get own emotional/psych shit together. Really this should be q.1, as is fundamental in relationships (q.2) & in communicating the problematique (q.1); pessimistic/needy/blowhard/frightened personalities are very unconvincing allies & communicators.
Having made a little progress on this front i can relate what worked for me (getting way out of my comfort zone, being the 'fool who persisted in his folly', and nondualism) but i can't predict what will work for anyone else. Collapse wont wait for anyones personal change so we're all going to be renovating the people we're living in, and there will need to be alot more dis-assembling than new pools or paint jobs. IOW, 'I' may not survive, but someone who inhabits my body may, & being willing and able to drop old selfimage will be crucial.
Once i started letting old opinions go, then old bad habits dropped off as well, much to my surprise! Once i thought this part was impossible, humans couldn't sufficiently change; now i know it is possible but so unthinkable for most as to be invisible. Reification of the self must be unwound. I know this will sound like a pretentious wank to many, them i am happy to entertain.

forrest said...

As collapse further sets in, "understanding" it may well prove less important than the intuitive maintainance of symbiotic group relations...

Wolfgang Brinck said...

Your four questions remind me of zen koans, existential questions that help to bring about a change in outlook and behavior if the person questioned pursues the answers diligently. Just like koans, your four questions are existential questions and as such need existential answers. Intellectual answers are of no use.
On question number one, I think it helps to start living as if you believe that collapse is inevitable, that is, preaching by example rather than by word. Specifically, it is important for other people to see that you can be happy without all the trappings of wealth and prosperity that we have come to expect.
Once you start living a post-collapse life style, others that are aware of collapse will recognize that you are one of them and will engage with you. People who are attached to growth and prosperity will avoid you like a panhandler. That is, they will pretend that you are not there.
If the rest of your family is firmly mired in the status quo, you may have a hard time living a post-collapse life style now. If you care for them and their well-being then there is not much you can do other than be kind to them knowing that they might be the core of your post-collapse community.
As for question number four, some people have a knack for ritual and such and are good at initiating it. It may be as simple as sharing a meal or building a fire or saying out loud what everyone is feeling. Some people are also intuitives. They have a certain knack for deciding in which direction to turn. Invariably, any group will discover who that person or those persons are and will turn to them when decisions need to be made. They are the shamans, the people who feel a connection to the spirit world.
Then there are musicians and artists and story tellers, people who in our industrial society are marginal but who in a post collapse society are important weavers of community.

John in Cape Charles Va said...

Thank you for leading this conversation. I am sure we all feel the same emptiness that comes with certainty of what is happening. I live with a quiet sense of sadness even as I fight the fight to at least try to be ready. In truth there is no "ready" probably.

Humans are, like all creatures, expedient actors. We choose and decide based on conditions as they appear at the present moment, and we project our present experience into the future. Disrupting the projection is what we are doing when we try to teach others about collapse. Very difficult.

I have never gotten anyone to even consider the possibility that I might know something they need to know about this. And I am a smart, credible mainstream guy. The message is just too crazy, too unacceptable.

Going forward, I know that when crisis comes that I will be the Noah and many will be coming to me to be rescued from the flood. The real question, the soul searching question is what can I do and how do I live with myself when I have to abandon others who have no hope of adapting.

Ultimately we will all be in situations where we may do things that will shame us as the price of survival.

Thus I would suggest as a part of the psychological preps that everyone be aware that every survival decision you make for yourself has the potential to simultaneously deny someone else the same opportunity.

50 years hence, I have no doubt my southern Chesapeake Bay region will be a vibrant subsistence economy. Getting from here to there will be full of sorrow.

John d.

John in Cape Charles Va said...

As for 3, the critical nutrient for health is fat. Whatever you do, find a source for saturated fats. Recommended book "Perfect Health Diet", by the Jaminets.

As for 4, the absolute magnificence and incomprehensible mystery of the very fact of existence, and the very fact of this sentience that is peering out of these eyes right now, does indeed thrill me and sustain me. I am still hope-full in the face of all of this. Not sure why, I know what is coming.

St. Roy said...

1. How can we communicate the reality of collapse to family and friends in ways that are constructive rather than destructive and find helpful ways to reflect our “endarkenment” in our everyday behavior?

You can’t. Stop trying. You will only invite avoidance of you by family and friends. Suggest some books to read by Heinberg, Kunstler, Orlov and others.

2. How can we form personal relationships with people that can survive the disappearance of official life support systems based on finance, commerce and centralized authority?

If the people that read the books that you recommended above get back to you, pursue relationships with them. They get it but most will not take any action.

3. How can we transform our physical selves into ones that will stand a chance, by eliminating lifestyle diseases, bad habits, luxuries and comforts, and by finding maximally independent and resilient ways to provide the necessities?

Leave the US. Because of the VERY high-energy intensive lifestyle baked into the car centric living arrangement there, collapse will be sudden, devastating and violent. The government is already mobilizing the military to contain the riots and chaos they now is coming. Go south such as Mexico, Columbia, Bolivia or Vietnam where living is cheaper, easier and much more family/community centric without stuff. You may think this hard to do. It is not. I did it.

4. How can we make use of ritual and spiritual practice to transform a group of individuals into a community?
Wherever you move, learn the language/customs and try to assimilate into the community as fast as you can. Your US-learned skills will make you a valuable asset to your new neighbors and allow you to earn a livelihood.

BecomeMinimalist said...

I have been through several phases of accepting the coming collapse. I too, as others have commented, felt a great urgency to "wake up" those around me who I thought were unaware of our predicament. I soon realized that a subtle approach was more effective. Now I am at the acceptance stage and look at the changes I need to make as opportunities to learn new skills.

I don't actively seek out others with a similar worldview but, I just keep my ears open to how people talk. There are small clues you pick up on and slowly you can build a network of friends that are working on preparations of a less comfortable future.

I work as a Paramedic and I am grateful for having medical and emergency awareness skills. Staying calm and level headed should be helpful as things fall apart around us. People ask me how I deal with some of the horrendous things I have seen. I tell them I am usually too busy to worry about the true situation from the point of view of my patient. If I am frazzled then I cannot do my job. Having so many things to do during a busy call is a protective mechanism in itself. I don't dwell on the situation, I just do what has to be done.

I have worked on becoming a minimalist as preparation for a collapse as well. Being able to get by with less of everything is very freeing. I have adopted John M Grier's idea of LESS: Less Energy, Stuff, and Stimulation. We will all have less in the future so might as well get used to that now and begin to live that way.

I would say the best way to get others involved is to start preparing yourself and offer to help them do the same. Just "doing something" is therapeutic and I have found it quickly spreads to those around you. I.e., I started a big garden, my neighbours stop and chat over the fence, and now I see they have a garden too.

So my approach is simple; stay focused on the positive and physically do something to prepare. We can talk all we want, but I don't think it will alter our predicament. I'm going to stay busy...cause there's a lot I have to do.

Martin said...

I'm a few years past the allotted "three score and ten" so I figure that since I'm likely to go extinct myself before things get too dire generally, there's little point in personally working on 2 and 3.

However, that said, I am diligently focused on #1 among family, friends and acquaintances (in a gentle way) and I'm also working on helping to facilitate #4 since I believe it is an essential element for adaptation to what's coming.

Mike in Cincy said...

To the extent that I've been able to rid myself of industrial capitalism, I've tried to avoid profligate use of oil. For things that aren't clear cut, my criteria usually is that if 'they', 'they' being the pure profit seekers, have any interest in something, I'd best avoid it. It'll only bring me heartache in the end.

As an example, resort-type places are generally cheap and glad to see you two weeks after 'the season' ends. 'They' aren't there. For it to be perfect, I'd have to get there by train, bus, or bike, though.

The pure profit seekers seem to love cars. They hate buses, they really hate trains, and streetcars leave them apoplectic. As a general rule, the 'lower powered' anything is, the less 'they' like it. I find I like lower powered more and more as time goes on.

kleymo said...

HK in Chicago


This is a point I tried to make at the conference. What do we want? What are we going to do to realize what we want? The answer is different for everyone, it seems to me. The methodology of how to decide may not be: a) what is the socio-economic situation of those around you? (the higher it is, the stronger the resistance); b) what do you have in the way of skills/interests? (Put the two together into something – I love books and stuff, and so am looking into preservation of knowledge. Who are many of my friends – artists who value beauty and ideas. They are not so interested in collapse/have already lived through collapse, and do not want to talk about it. They are very interested in art conservation and art. We have talked a lot about that with no one being treated like the person who is “wrong.” Other friends are very well off, and love making beer and gardening/collecting mushrooms. Collapse is not an interesting topic, but other stuff that is useful in the future is. BASICALLY – everyone knows my views; I try not to impose them on others –hard – and we do fun stuff together that I say is good stuff to know. When the situation changes for a person, adjustments can be made.)


Relationships are based upon: a) interests (do we like the same things; b) needs (can we help one another get something?) c) relationships (do we have a strong connection of some sort that means helping one another is important?) If you don’t have all three, work on it. A = friends B = business C = family All three together = village


Work with someone else on that. Diet and physical fitness are great group activities. They are boring by oneself (in my opinion). This is a great way to work on #2A.


Be prepared for flexibility. You may end up in a situation that is stable, but you have to like snakes a little bit, for example. Be prepared to consider the positive side of snakes. Basically, if your religious beliefs include respect for one another, or you can encourage that in whatever situation you find yourself, who cares what is actually being done ritually. Ritual is IMPORTANT, though. Greer talked about that last year (2013), and made a strong case, in connection with organizations.

Roille Figners said...

I have succeeded with #1 simply by being patient, waiting, and seizing on each random opportunity to illustrate the point anew, often through looking at a particular news story and putting it in context. The advantage to the fact that collapse is actually happening is that there's plenty of documentation readily available.

I think I have succeeded with #2 (though subsequently squandered that success somewhat by separating from the community) through getting involved with and mutually assisting people for reasons other than commerce in the first place. Specifically my example is mutual interest in things you wouldn't at first glance think were related: Punk rock music, which is music always to some degree about collapse, and written from the standpoint of collapse either already having happened or being in some way desirable. It appeals to people who have already experienced some life trauma or "collapse" and who at the very minimum, are aware that things are not all rosy in the world. I have some doubts about their preparedness but not their awareness. This may be a tentative answer to #4 as well.

#3 is easy in theory but difficult in practice, however I have incrementally succeeded (quitting drugs, quitting smoking, drinking much less, starting a physical training regimen, gathering skills, and simply spending time on the planet and maturing). I think I have a natural independent streak so in some areas it was easy and in others I first had to frame it in context that my bad habit was making me dependent or subservient, and from there it became easier. All different personality types should try to frame these goals in terms of what drives and motivates them personally.

Yuri Vega said...

We were somewhat "prepped" by living on a very utilitarian sailboat up on the small coastal archipelago of southeast Alaska in Sitka. Lots of food stores, tools, neat tribe of other boat dwellers about, etc.. Sitka is remote and is small but very very cohesive with a strong identity. But, after 5 yeas we wearied of the cold and numerous elders tales of hard winters in the past made us scurry for a warmer climate. And the devolution of the USSA governance and economy made us take a serious look at latin america, a place we had already spent a lot of time in the past and enjoyed.

We sold the boat, abandoned somewhat our strong collapse proofing situation, and based on what we perceive to be the slow degenerative collapse scenario we loaded up in a one ton van all our prime goods and split south (all the while with a eye peeled for another good sailboat to move onto). We've been down here about 8 months now and like it a lot, making it as far south as a little caribbean island 40 miles off Nicaraguas coast (you can read more about it at our blog anarchistwatermen.blogspot.com) and so far so good.

It's pretty decentralized economically out here, the folks have good ethics overall and are super friendly, they have already recovered from numerous hurricanes by mostly helping themselves, cope daily with rolling blackouts on the dodgy power grid, and if you bring some good skills and friendliness with you I see this place as a very viable community that abides (learn how to skindive and fish though!).

Passing through the Nica highlands I sense much the same thing. These folks relatively solve those 4 questions because it's been that way a LONG time for them. It's definitely no picnic compared to the infrastructure ease of north amerika but, as posited, it's probably going to continue on fairly well once the global banking grid comes down. Just need a sail fishing fleet to replace the local fishermens motorized pangas.... fuel costs are hammering them!

Living on Earth said...

I have had some success but in a small physical space and an unusual economic context. The person I rent living space came into some money. I convinced him to install 70 linear feet of raised beds for growing vegetables. The beds were completely enclosed by fine mesh fencing as a barrier to the local fauna. I go to the nursery and purchase plants and amendments for which I am reimbursed. I have raised high-quality organic food for about two years. In addition chickens and a well-built coop were purchased, and we shortly will have our second generation of chickens born on the property. I am now confident in my ability to raise food year-round and care for chickens. It is a step in the right direction and if the circumstances dictate I can transfer my knowledge to others.

Jim Beckmeyer said...

A short, yet wise, phrase comes to mind every time I think of 'collapse' and how humans will deal, or not deal, with it: Necessity is the mother of invention.

Really diving into what this phrase means reveals a lot of answers.

RogerCO said...

My (intellectual) take on your four questions and some (practical) thoughts:

You are right that q1 is primary. If you can't fix that one then you are on your own and lost. It took each of us a lifetime (to date) to build our closest family relationships and we are not going to be able to walk out on them and start afresh easily (ask a divorcee).
It also took us a (long) process to get to our individual understanding of where we are in terms of "collapse", and there is no short circuit - so the answer is patience, mutual tolerance, and facilitating the learning process in ones nearest circle.
Remember you can not force someone to learn - teaching is a process of enabling the learner to discover for themself.
It does take time, but you have to let them learn, all you can ask is a bit of space to get on with your own concerns, and you will find that you can also learn new things yourself from the way they go about uncovering our situation.

On q2 this seems closely related to q4 and q1. We need to be focusing on those relationships that are not dependent on those official life support systems.
A relationship that is contingent on your current 'work' situation will likely not persist. A relationship that is based on occupancy of shared space that you anticipate you will go on occupying is more likely to persist. The shared space may be physical eg relationships with your next door neighbours, or conceptual eg relationships with those who share a belief system with you (perhaps the belief in collapse!) - but in this case there must also be a physical basis for the relationship.
I will never meet most of you reading this although we probably occupy a shared conceptual space in DO's blog, and so there is no basis here for a relationship to persist if electronic communication was not available (the internet is an example of an "official life support system")

q3 is the easiest one since you pretty much answered it in posing it. Personal action to promote the personal changes you call for is available to everyone. Get rid of the TV, stop consuming news, start growing more of your own food, or foraging for food, take steps to disconnect yourself from The System - cultivate invisibility, cultivate flexibility, be open to trying new things, try living in a tent or a boat for a few days (or a few more days), spend a day (or more) without using petrol, or electricity. And so on - just doing it in little bits certainly helps me do more and more.

q4 is a tough one it seems to me. You can't create a community - it evolves. Certainly shared ritual and a spiritual dimension to life are important elements of abiding communities, but this can (needs to) start in very simple ways.
Once a day we come together to eat, or once a week we come together to sing are possible starting points - the meaning of those repeated acts evolves over time and if they provide value back to the participants they become ritual and can acquire a spiritual link.
You can't start off by saying 'we are doing this as a shared spiritual ritual', you have to start by saying 'we are doing this because we need to eat', or 'we enjoy singing' and allow the rituals to develop.

The thing about all four questions is that the practicalities of answering them take time. If you haven't already (and readers of this blog probably have so that's ok) then you need to start now on actioning your own answers.


Last Chance said...

I've pondered your questions and here are my off the cuff observations on one of them.

I'll start with communicating the reality of the present situation. Some may not agree with me but either you get it or you don't. That may sound black and white but it isn't. Many people out there are aware something is wrong, but can't penetrate the fog of the happy talk of the MSN, and their environment. Most of these people if shown the facts in a non threatening non confrontational manner will grasp the situation. This will require patience and understanding, an ability to answer questions without being dogmatic, and an ability to supply information for their own research. Some of the brighter bulbs will want to do their own research.

I think this needs to treated as journey not as a sprint. Some people are simply not going to get it. Delusion, and lack of critical thinking is epidemic in Western Society. Some people are simply not going to get it even as the walls collapse around them.

I'm not going to go into all of them at once I think it will take to long and think you have much better thing to do than read my ranting's. I'll cut and paste the article and ponder the others.


Robin Datta said...

It is to be remembered that the non-verbal, non-rational lizard/reptile brain, the limbic system, is associated with emotions (short timeframe) and values (long timeframe), and is the boss. The mammalian brain - the cortex, particularly the frontal cortex, is associated with the rational and verbal intellect which appears to be in the driver's seat. However it is the chauffeur, looking for rationalisations to justify the positions of the reptilian brain.

Politicians and advertisers know that to influence behaviour of the masses, stirring up emotions and appealing to values is more effective than intellectual arguments.

Even scientists are loath to change their world-views, as noted by Max Planck:

“A new scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents and making them see the light, but rather because its opponents eventually die, and a new generation grows up that is familiar with it”

Also attributed to him, perhaps apocryphally:

“Science advances one funeral at a time.”

Kristiina said...

Already emailed a rambling comment, but seems I can boil it down a bit now. So, concerning communication: our culture has been built on patterns of addiction. And as with all of addictions, it is a long journey, where the first step has to be personal: this is not working for me. Without this, all talk will fall on deaf ears. Someone may even intellectually agree about the limits of growth, for example, but cannot detach from the pattern. As long as there's a feel of "this works for me", there's no motive to change. So, maybe making the patterns of addiction visible - that may only work for people interested in being independent, who seem to be a rarity to start with. Personally, just realized that washer is still an addiction-pattern for me. Had to get a new one (had to get my fix...). Facing life without washer seemed dreadful. Requiring yet another round of re-evaluation of possessions.

About personal relationships: as others have remarked: get your own act together. Maybe then others can find you...Has not worked for me that well, so far. Living out of town limits opportunity for connecting - but is vital for no 3 - having a lifestyle where I have some control over the addictive patterns. Mostly heating the house with wood, no hot water, no indoor toilet - these are vital for my self-worth. Having come out of that system, I can only marvel at the absurdity of using energy to pump my shit to the nearest town to be processed with chemicals etc. My mother experiences the lack of indoor toilet as a personal insult. And many others, too. What a place to invest one's self-worth - a flush toilet!? There's no way over the fact that this lifestyle limits social life severely, though.

The inner journey: to me, it looks like we are on a journey back towards the wild state from the pyramid-shaped hierarchies. We will be transitional communities, because the bands in the real wilderness are family-based, and we can't take our blood family with us if they don't want to. We have to form our bands with who we end up with. And they will become family bands if they survive. But right now, the rigid forms are shaking so much they are turning liquid - nation states seem to be one of the things on the way out. Doing things that get me out from head/mind/intellect have been immensely useful. The body has its own wisdom and tells what is viable, in lifestyle and food etc, when I let it. Dancing works well for me, art, music, meditative activities. Going through thick and thin together will build a community.

Terry T said...

#1. I find that the problem is self resolving. I've warned everyone I know about imminent collapse. Now I no longer have any friends. But seriously, I approach it from a different angle altogether, where preparedness becomes logical from the standpoint of less threatening realities. E.g., maybe discussing medicinal plants from a western medical / chemical standpoint for resolution of health issues; then projecting that forward to freedom from many costly pharmaceuticals; projecting further to the advantages and joy of developing the personal security and independence from the dark side of large bureaucratic systems, etc. Before you know it (!) you can talk about "collapse" without using that word. This approach's limitation is it only works when I can summon joy and happiness in expressing those kinds of endeavors (which takes a lot of work!) and the very real possibility that collapse will occur before ever getting my point across!

#2. If you're sociable, you could gravitate to places where others of similar mind hang out. Could be your local hipster coffee house or a local farmers market on the weekend. I feel fortunate that I live in a Great Lakes urban area between two sizable rivers with a mix of young people who reject the status quo (but are far too attached to tiny screens) and stable traditional neighborhoods organized around church parishes and schools and local commerce. The former just need to get their faces out of the little screens, the latter don't reject enough of the status quo, but the social structure is there. A lot of city employees, esp policemen and firefighters the area. A bit too authoritarian for my tastes, but a little law and order could be helpful in developing defensible spaces against marauding hordes of ne'er do wells. Access to water, rails and commerce is doable by foot.

#3, I'll burn that bridge when I get to it!

#4. Rituals can evolve, I think. Even something as simple as a community Saturday market and afternoon buffet and music could get the ball rolling. I don't subscribe to the notion that suffering and insecurity will result in a community composed of expressionless undead wandering around bumping into things. Okay, maybe for a short time (and frankly I think this is the current status of our public realm, figuratively speaking- only more brainwashed), Spirituality is abundant if shiny distractions recede.

This brings up the importance of communication. It's so important to creating cooperation out of a people currently overstimulated into social isolation (pseudo-social FaceBerg doesn't count) and adversarial norms. Most people need a real connectedness and assuming unreliable cable networks and cell repeaters, people will have to look up from their screens. Social connections will form spontaneously in the absence of profit seeking distractions. I almost sense that linkages among people around my area are starting to strengthen, as if there's a general nagging feeling that things are going awry.

To close, I present one of my favorite and most relevant Calvin and Hobbes strips. Around mid 1980's IIRC. I can only provide a link. Its so on-target.

LloydM said...

1. I don't think there is any one answer for this. And anyway, will knowledge of impending collapse make any difference to people's lives? I'd say for most, it will simply frighten them without producing any useful action and could quite possibly produce a worse outcome. This is where I part company with Guy McPherson and company who seem positively to froth at the mouth at the ignorance of the masses. I do agree that if your Significant Other(s) don't take it on board then you could have a problem, but if you're in a situation where that is a big deal then maybe there are other more pressing issues for you to deal with anyway (see my comments about corporate life below). I should say that in my little town I've held public meetings and gathered the leaders of the community together to discuss all this collapse stuff. Has it done any good? I dunno!

2. Building healthy, useful relationships with people is something that just happens when you back away from too deep an involvement in corporate and institutional life. You then get a chance to meet other refugees from the system. Don't expect to meet fellow collapsniks in the boardroom or at faculty meetings. And it is also necessary to let go of some very unhelpful notions of status, deep knowledge and intellectual superiority, which very much get in the way of friendships of the more useful kind. I see this all the time, often amongst those who imagine themselves as members of the elect! I started a transition movement in my town and quickly got tired of these types.

3. Pain and suffering is a shit, but it is also deeply subjective. How much more does an unjust blow hurt than one received in the course of a sporting match? Anyway, none of us are physically or spiritually perfect and no matter how hard we train, we get old and frail. The greatest strengths come from belief in what you're doing and good relationships with others. All the muscle power in the world isn't as useful as two good friends to help move the stuff when you need to! On the other hand, don't underestimate the time needed to learn a new trade or skill, or acclimatise to a new environment. Seven years is the rule! So get cracking.

4. Spirituality. Having come through the whole hippy/new age thing from the late sixties till now, I have no real answers to this except I'm sure it'll come when needed. I certainly drank deep of it when I needed it.

Kyddyl said...

In small doses our family has endured mini collapses in the form of prolonged strikes at my husbands company. The biggest lesson of all was that it was A LOT of very hard work! We pretty much prepped for the next strike all the time and the one lasting over nine months was very tough. We did it and with goods to spare (barter). Don't kid yourself, it takes lots of potatoes,beans, rice and a large garden and orchard. My own field is horticulture so I had the garden/orchard bit down. We used wood for heating as much as possible and we know how to build excellent solar water heaters. (Having the water may be another matter) Old fashioned practical skills are a must. So yes, this family of 9 plus some friends are not afraid to look at collapse and discuss the various aspects. But chinks have appeared in the armor. I am now 70 and my husband 81. While we still have very good health and seemingly many of our mental marbles we cannot keep up the heavy work load we once did. Our kids understandably cringe at the idea of doing what we once did but they did learn how. Now, only one of them lives on ground that's really good and not much of that. Our skills lend themselves to a more rural existence and there is a good range of skills. So yes we openly discuss and prepare in many ways. Are there enough of us? I rather doubt it and all we can do is our best. Our cultural area for wide distances around is fairly hostile to those not like themselves. We'd all like to move but really cannot for now.

One of my degrees is in sociology and I've always had a deep interest and appreciation for groups like the Amish, Hutterites, Mennonites and various religious orders including the Buddhist traditions. The various groups, structures and numbers make enlightening "required" reading and discussion. Another commonality very often is group clothing. (Simplicity) The most important structure is leadership. The groups are often rather closed after a certain number of members (then they branch) and little tolerance is given for wandering in attendance at given meetings. The Mormons are a classic structure with their "Wards", you go where assigned according to your address, no going where you please. The best chance for survival would be in groups of 50-100 persons of all ages who share a common bond within a rather rigid structure. Spiritual practice is the strongest of these grouping structures and very often includes healthy practices. Eg. no smoking, drinking, vegetarian and so on. It's all in the groups.

The decision on whether to militantly arm is a very sticky one for many. Successful spiritual groups don't do it. I'll leave it at that.

Importantly I'd say not to be secretive or prideful. You don't have to be religious to be spiritual so be open. Do study the group structures of the above groups. I'm reading on Buddhist group life right now and find it inspiring and very cheerful! Above all come to grips with your own fears, facing them straight on, as we all need to do that anyway.

But! Failure is NOT an option. And be very ready to do without government or charitable handouts, it's preferable under any circumstances anyway.

It is interesting to observe the replies posted here. Few really are taking action though all see the basic problem and I'd suspect we're all in a very small segment of society as we're reading and responding.

ed boyle said...

1. by example-walk the walk-don't talk it
2. only in the family-commerce controls most everything so structures will be different, remain flexible in yourself for whatever comes
3.this was two questions- self transformation is done through yoga, tai chi and what not- purifies body and mind-flexibilizes and strengthens maximally. The second part is getting out of mass produced food stuffs by gardening. Perhaps impossible for people in apartments with little time due to job , etc.

4. Cultural tradition has been bedrock of community for millenia and was destroyed by a-religious scientific-industrialism. Religion and belief holds people together. Get back to that. This means for peoples going back on their modernism but maybe this is the price of survival. If atheism means amorality and then the family base falls apart then what do you have. No community base. In China no God perhaps but traditional ancestor worship, Buddhism and Confucianism still holds , respect for authority and parents. I think a resurgent traditionalism will stabilize all cultures as we get back to working with our hands and relying on our selves and not our machines.

Mark Ferrara said...

Great discussion and comments. Ever heard of Dugout Dick? His name was Richard Zimmerman and he died in 2010, but if he was still alive, collapse would not have effected him and his tiny "community". That's the only example I can think of that you have not mentioned.

Anyway, I have two thoughts. Failure IS an option to some who are religious and don't mind dying and/or what happens to the world, as well as, the apathetic and/or hedonistic. Just sayin...

I agree that question 1 cannot be answered. It's like asking "How do I convert my family to my faith?" Yes, in some cases tactics and persuasion may work, but the brass was being polished on the Titanic all the way to the end.

Andrew Vines said...

1. I think the trick is to have a consistent message and to not overstate the situation. Anyone who can remember your position a few years ago and can see that your story for how the world works is more consistent with reality than the mainstream explanation is worth making an ally. Trying to convince people quickly is counter-productive- I just succinctly state my position now and then and then move on to more mundane topics. Using this I have brought my partner and family along on the journey, though one sister is still living the suburban dream for now.

2. Growing your own food has a brilliant side effect- whenever we grow too much (inevitable if you are doing it well) then you can parcel it off to neighbors. Its a great ice breaker, and helps quickly identify those who are worth investing in and those who you might want to avoid.

3. For changing habits I have seen my partner go from regular junk food and headaches and other symptoms to understanding the effects and eating it very rarely. Again stating your position succinctly now and then and moving onto other topics seems to be the best approach. I also encourage the occasional indulgence as an experiment to observe the effects to help people comprehend what it does to them. Once diet and health is better then physical activity can increase and skills can be acquired....still working on that one.

4. I personally found the ritual of buying junk food, opening it, looking at it, smelling it, and then throwing it away to be a really interesting process. The whole trained process of anticipation is cut short, and you finish up grateful you didn't eat the rubbish. It makes you focus on the money wasted as well.

I wonder if a neo-luddite movement of ritual disposal of the trappings of modern life could take off and give people a starting point.

donalfagan said...

I'll have to read the book before thinking about the questions, but I had a few thoughts about what was presented: http://donalfagan.wordpress.com/2014/06/04/after-what-seemed-like-an-age/

Reverse Developer said...

1. Keep a sense of humor, if only for your own sanity.
2. The sense of interdependence in US is tenuous at this moment. Real bonding depends upon circumstances more dire than currently manifest. Thus our success at promoting 1 and 2 are related.
3. This is the state we are in - adjusting habits. Unfortunately, to the extent it is just about change within the current menu of shopping choices, it can be difficult to maintain motivation. Opting out is the right and ultimate choice we must make. But we still depend upon the dollar, so the rent seekers will throw you out once they realize that your opting out means they cannot collect rent.
4. I agree with those that say it will evolve. I do believe it is important to revere land, water, resources and humanity.

Patrick said...

To Mark Ferrara: I disagree with your view that the only persons who might accept that "failure IS an option" are religious people (who presumably think they're going to heaven?), the apathetic, or the hedonistic. Your remark reflects the action-orientated, can-do, striving, grasping, fighting, death-denying American culture. A culture that cannot, will not, face the inevitability of some things. Tellingly, I believe the phrase, "failure is not an option" came from the space program, which might be the ultimate example of our species' technical arrogance and overreach.

Also: Religious people do not fear death any less than atheists—in fact, I'd guess even more of the religious go their graves kicking and screaming than non-believers, which contradicts what they profess to believe about a loving god and a happy afterlife.

Allan Parker said...

Q1. When people are confronted with a shock such as a drastic lack of oil they will doubt their way of life and become stunned mullets. This is the time to make a constructive intervention and warm them up to the choices this moment provides. Timing is important because they will soon stop flapping around the floor like a mullet and start looking around for the nearest bag to put over their head to shut out the nastiness and relieve the pain.

The truth is secret to those who do not seek it. Knowing the truth about the world state means being prepared to make interventions with individuals and groups that create an opportunity for them to make choices.

Q2. Survival, location and mutual interest will be important criteria in choosing with whom to form personal relationships when faced with the reality of collapse. The primary rationale for resilient communities will be survival of the collapse through cooperation. To achieve this group members will need to learn from ethnic cultures that have survived through the ages.

People will need to make a big shift from:
Individual responsibility to collective responsibility
Individual accountability to collective accountability
Individual ownership to collective ownership
Rights of the individual to rights of the group
Survival of the individual to survival of the group

I observed over the years that my educated friends are stuck in a world full of individuals and do have a clue on how to act appropriately to the collective ways and values of successful ethnic communities.

Q3. Communities will need sufficient land in common ownership to grow food, a supply of clean water, temperate climate, the security of distance, skills appropriate to the 17th century and the potential for trade with other communities. This arrangement will provide the basis for physical fitness, and good habits.

Q4. Celebrate the seasons, such as the harvest and the migrations of species. Treat nature, life, learning and wisdom with reverence.

Walter said...

"Now, I would like to hear from someone—anyone—who has succeeded, to whatever small extent, and could tell us what it took and what it was like."

You have to get off your high horse and get your hands in the dirt.

Chris said...

John D. in Cape Charles: I live in Spotsylvania VA right now, but I am looking for land on the Northern Neck near Colonial Beach, right across the Bay from you (but hours of driving). Let's keep in touch, you and anyone else here who wants to correspond: clumpkin _at_ gmail dot com.

1) I am divorced, which is both a boon and a detriment. My ex is not a believer, nor very open to any preparation, so I am free to do as I wish. However, I am paying child support for the next 7 years (unless TSHTF sooner).

My family members are in various states of mind on the subject, all more skeptical of systemic collapse than I am. I keep talking to them, and I always keep an open mind and remember that skepticism is healthy. The important thing is that we love each other and watch each others' backs.

2) I am always on the lookout for practical people, people who know how to fix things, grow things, make things. I cultivate relationships with these people by asking questions about things they do that I want to learn, and try to do favors for people in the spirit of a gift economy. I will often reach out by offering to fix someone's computer, cut up a dead tree in their yard, or even just wave to those I pass as I walk or drive down the road.

Online relationships with like-minded people are great, but only if they augment your "real life" in meaningful ways. Don't sit in front of your computer to the exclusion of getting out in your community.

3) I am still mostly focused on the community part, looking for land and reaching out to build my tribe, my family of families. I have been down this road far enough to know that I cannot do this alone. I am taking better care of my body, eating better, and trying to pick up skills and tools that will help me in my quest.

4) I understand that cultural change is one of the big missing pieces in this evolution we are trying to spark in our species. History is full of reasons to despair that humanity will veer from this destructive course we are on, but history also can teach us how to alter this course in small ways that can add up to a massive shift. WWII in America is one great example, the "victory gardens" and Rosy the riveters joining together for common cause.

Dmitry's communities that abide show us that some cultural "glue" is required, some commonly held strong beliefs that are stronger than the forces that work to separate us from each other. For me, there is an underlying reverence for life and our planet, our mother, that I try to explore and nurture in others.

I recognize that discussion of "collapse" has an air of gloom and doom, and I prefer not to throw it in people's faces if they are not ready to face those possibilities. I find there are many good reasons to take actions that make my tribe more resilient, and in fact one of my rules is, "Never do anything for just one reason". There are so many good reasons to make the necessary preparations; improving health, getting out of debt and living frugally, building community, being more prepared for power outages and price spikes in food and fuel. A culture of resilience can be built without ever uttering the word "collapse", but just by paying attention to the people around you and doing little things to strengthen connections and build up goodwill.

Mark Ferrara said...

Patrick, I see where your coming from, and agree on a general sense, but I can clarify. (I’m not that articulate) Religion offers an alternative “hope”. While a fear of death may be instinctive, “the sting” of death is considered less. -1 Corinthians 15:55.

I’m merely saying that it is an excuse for not doing anything. I.e. God will fix it/take care of me.

Be careful with the statement “Religious people do not fear death any less than atheists”. That is a formal fallacy, but your opinion thereafter is duly noted.

Anyway, I think Dmitry;s use of “failure is not an option” fits in the context, but agree that it is often used arrogantly. To steal from Joel Saliton, you wouldn’t tell a baby getting up to take it’s first steps “DO IT, FAILURE IS NOT AN OPTION!” lol

I had a further thought on question 1. It talks about “the reality of collapse”, and that is a key. So many seem to “know” we’re screwed or, at the least, something is wrong with all this, but are in denial for whatever reasons. Perhaps getting to know the “reasons” for such denial would be helpful.

David Cutter said...

Hi Everyone

Thanks Dimitry for a great set of questions. I've been reading about this stuff since around 1997. I've since co-founded a local Transition Initiative, Transition Pasadena here in Pasadena CA. I'm also involved in the governance of a local time bank The Arroyo SECO Network of Time Banks.
So I think I can add something to this discussion.

I have had to go through a personal collapse, that was medically related. This happenned after several years of reading about the converging crises. I found myself on sick leave after 20 years of public school teaching and knowing I needed to quit and yank my retirement savings away from Wall Street. I did that and paid the penalties. I'm poorer but much happier now.
I've certainly gone through the stages of grief and back again. I feel like a ping pong ball from so much bouncing around. Sometimes I feel like I'm on two stages at once. Sort of a quantum mechanical version of Kubler Ross.

What I have learned is that building community is the most important thing and that projects serve to bring people together the best. The time bank has also been very much a part of that concept.(We're now 1200 plus members) When two people complete a transaction, they are very much in relationship unlike money transactions. The transactions that are completed, the more trust is built. Over the years this has lead to multiple people having multiple relationships so that it becomes more like a web of relationships and in that, community is made. Because of these overlapping webs of relationhips, we've been able both in the time bank and in Transition Pasadena to build community wide projects. Here's a list of some of our projects
Altadena Urban Farmers Market
Repair Cafe
Throop Learning Garden
Impact Garden
Really Really Free Market
Neighborhood Fruit Harvesting

It has been fascinating to watch people participate in these projects People are so starved for real community that they will come out just for the community. For example, at our last market, vendors were sold out in an hour but people kept coming for three hours. We had over a 1,000 people on this one day.

I don't believe anyone knows how this is all going to turn out but being active on these issues creates, in Joanna Macy's words, a sense of "Active Hope" It's not hope but it does feel good. It's been a joy to watch and be a part of community that is building a future despite the grim realities. What else can we do?

Trevor Raymond said...

Hi Dmitry

I think that in order to answer your queries it may be necessary to address them in the opposite order to that presented.

4. In the world of spirituality it could be said that there are three levels of engagement:
Exoteric – relating to the external world. This is the level where most religious ritual as practised. When religious and spiritual practice becomes exclusively focussed on this level it becomes literal and understanding is lost. People who practice religion on this level tend to believe in and want miracles and they are an easy target for religious evangelists who want large followings, or atheist evangelists who want to belittle them. On this levels spiritual teachings which are intended as parables, such as Christ walking on water, can be misconstrued as historical fact, when they are in fact intended to be a teaching about something deeper.

Mesoteric – relating to the level where the external world and the divine world intersect. At this level religion and spiritual practice become more personal and some work on oneself in the way of putting in to practice a spiritual code is required - eg “to do unto others”.

Esoteric – relating to a world of higher meaning, the divine world, so to speak. There is a barrier for mankind in accessing this higher world as in an unconscious state we perceive the world through our five senses. Access to the divine world requires honing ones being through a process of purifying oneself such that we can become perceptive and developed in other ways. There is a hermetic principal: “as above, so below” which means that there are laws that transcend both the physical and divine world, but there is a related principal that, that which is below cannot understand that which is above - the divine and physical worlds being watertight compartments. A crude analogy is that you cannot converse with a brick, which does not have access to the world of thought.

In answering the question you have posed it could be said that the potential for transformation will depend on the level at which the group is prepared to approach ritual and spirituality. The exoteric level is effective where there are strong leaders and compliant followers, the mesoteric level requires a little more understanding and a shared belief system for the group based around some notion of divinity. The esoteric level is very strong, but not for everyone.
A link on the subject is: http://zenyogagurdjieff.blogspot.ie/2006/11/esoteric-practice.html

3. If we introduce spirituality in to our lives we seek to understand the world with a different framework. Achieving control over oneself requires some sort of balance, physically, emotionally and intellectually, or else we are pushed around by life. One does not need to embark on the spiritual path to achieve this balance, but a path with some system paying respect to a higher order (even reverence for the Earth) helps.

2. For relationships to have strength there needs to be a common unifying force that brings people together, and provides a mechanism for surviving periods of stress and conflict. A reconciling force so to speak. In communities based on religious or spiritual principals their faith and the code that goes along with it can be the reconciling force. In a secular context it could just be the need to survive and be part of a group. A love of a certain way of life might be another.

1. There is a saying that “if you try to teach a pig to sing you will just annoy the pig” - not to say that those with an alternate point of view are pigs. There hasn’t been a collapse yet. Every situation is different and everyone has a different way of operating. One principal that could be considered important would be to listen to what they have to say back.

And a final word would be that in introducing a spiritual element to one's personal or community outlook, acknowledgement of a higher order introduces the possibility that there could be outcomes we would not anticipate otherwise. Is it not a miracle that we have continued this long!

Trevor Raymond said...

Another comment. Feel free not to post.

It would seem that the prepping of most value is psychological. This means installing within oneself the wherewithal to face whatever is presented, good, bad or indifferent.

As you've pointed out pretty much all degrees of physical prepping have their limitations as the way in which things will unfold is unpredictable. We cannot be sure of security in a particular location and we cannot be sure about what support structures will operate in any given context. We also do not know what the future nature of our interdependencies will be in terms of the surrounding world, or what new potentials will exist (in urban areas potentially as you say).

What I have resolved is that it is best to have some options and skills, but that it is most important to be light on your feet and resilient, and not too attached to any particular set up or expectations of future well-being.

In terms of your question 4, it could be said that psychological prepping has an interface with ritual and spirituality. Acceptance, non-attachment, faith that things happening for the best, self-development, balance, selfless service, work and effort etc all being aspects of most spiritual paths.

And in answer to your final question about those who might have had some success in a practical setting, it could be said that there are many groups and communities who are preparing themselves along these lines. Not so much that they are preparing for a cascading collapse as described in your typology, but that they are making themselves resilient. They may be Buddhist, Taoist, Christian etc. Not so much in the way of a congregation of church goers, but of small groups who embark on a personal journey together, of which there are many.

These communities can also serve as strong support networks with the capacity to overcome many obstacles as they have a reconciling force (and history has shown that these groups can be very resilient). Their strength will vary considerably according to the make up of the members and the quality of the input that their members make. Many also have the attributes of "communities that abide" as you've describe. They may be hidden in plain sight, have a disregard for money, strong loyalty, self-regulating controls on entry to the group etc.

Psychological prepping also has the added advantage that it can be done without isolating oneself or holding a fearful or negative view of the future. This may be more helpful in communicating issues with the people we know.

onething said...

1. I went through this to some extent when I ran away from the city due to Y2K. I made my kids mad, and my neighbor poo-pooed it all, perhaps for silly reasons but I have been humbled. I also have friends I've been warning to get out of the stock market for years. They're still in, and still making money. But, now I live in the place I selected to survive Y2K, not before going back to the city and finding my Russian husband, which I consider one of my best survival acquisitions. He knows of my concerns but we rarely discuss it. I don't think he shares them, particularly, but it doesn't matter as he loves having a few acres of land and doesn't blink an eye at the lifestyle that causes so many Americans to get a rash. Everything I want to throw away, he finds a use for. The kids have slowly come around to being glad that they have somewhere to run should the need arise, and I don't really have to urge them to drop the plans that their youth was devoted to developing, because they are welcome here. Of course, I'd sleep a little better at night if they were closer.
But I don't run into the kind of resistance that so many here speak of, rather I find that people everywhere are speaking of it. I live on the buckle of the Bible belt, and these Christians are up to speed, not on peak oil but on the coming collapse.
I've been walking the talk for some years now and keep my people posted on progress - gardening, canning, becoming independent of the grid, and I've got a ways to go, so it's a slow and natural unfolding.
That's responding to question #1.

onething said...

On #2, this relates to my decision to move here, in Appalachia, where the skills have not died out, and the attitudes as well. It's true that I know 3 people who milk a cow and they're all about 70. I can only assume that the kids and grandkids will come flocking back if they need to. Overlayed upon the local community are the hippie progressives, the ones who went back to the land and did NOT give up and return. Trading is a way of life here, and helping out with skills and advice is one of the social pleasures.

The thing about question #3 is that there is an odd juxtaposition with the locals who have certain habits such as gardening and canning and hunting but at the same time are completely ignorant of good diet and eat the worst of the worst in other ways, and are frighteningly fat, fatter than their own grandparents. I do try to educate them as do most of the vendors at our local farmer's market, but it may be that they will just get healthier if/when the crap is taken away and they have to get more physical work done. It's not that the grandparents have any more knowledge, they just have better health because they were well into adulthood before the crap came onto the market, but they eat it too. Strange to me to watch an old gent who gardens, makes his own molasses from sugar cane, raises chickens and a milk cow and beef cow, go upstairs for lunch and slap a piece of American "cheese" on two pieces of Wonder bread to go with the grass fed hamburger he raised himself!

Gardengate said...

Amen Walter.

We're working on our answers after doing the remodeling, gardening, food making, dishes, chicken care and oh yea laundry, hanging it out takes time. It is all about doing it and not just talking.

Don't give up on us, we may just do our own blog post answering your questions!

Gardengate said...

Amen Walter.

We're working on our answers in between remodeling, gardening, cooking, cleaning and oh yea laundry...takes time when you hang your clothes!

Think someone else mentioned, "walking the talk", anyone can talk/teach it but where are the coaches to follow through?

In would be interesting to know if any of the Orlov's, Baker's, McPherson's have visited those who are "walking the talk" and not just teaching but doing.

Maybe Dmitry here's your chance to travel and visit the "Grunts in the field" (one of our blog posts). Start here in the beautiful PNW, we can't afford the costs of getting you here, but will certainly give you a place to stay with food and water. Maybe a good book for you to write before it all comes crumbling down...

Oregon Farmer said...

 I think so much has to do with our individual point of view. Here in Ashland collapse seems academic, inevitable yet distant. I know we have some insulation from places where existence is more tentative and desperate. Yet disruption will come, maybe in dribs and drabs but it seems that resource depletion will out pace our cleverness to deal with it seamlessly. And that alone is formidable. Add climate chaos, reckless wars by our idiot leaders, a pandemic here or there, and the usual earthquake/volcanic/hurricane earth energies and we're on board for quite a ride.

The best I've come up with is to be a producer of something (anything!) useful to basic living and then become a seed bearer, that is someone who carries a skill set for the next generation. Then teach it to someone younger.

My choices have been building simple structures by hand, beekeeping, raising poultry, and growing organic vegetables, fruits, nuts, berries and natural medicines. Sounds like a lot as I list it but it is all related and interconnected. I won't say this is even a step toward self-sufficiency. That's a myth and a lonely one at that. The intention is toward simplification and being satisfied by a less complex world. Less choice, fewer options...knowing that is part of the deal, and accepting it.

I'm too aware to be in denial about the transition upon us, and too happy-go-lucky to despair about it. 

Unknown said...

This will sound flip; I do not mean it that way.
I joined (in reality, not just name)The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. All four questions realistically ddressed. This was my choice after years of study and prayer. There may be other answers for other people to address these issues but this works,if you are willing to make the commitment. I realize this answer will not be popular but serious and sustained change is needed. Any answer is going to take commitment and you will need others who share the ability to commit.

Master Oogway said...

We are there; as much as can be accomplished at this time and in North America. We being my wife and I. There is plenty that needs to be discussed on a more pragmatic level that I have not seen mentioned anywhere.
It is terribly hard to figure out where to start when the vast majority of even those who are responding here have no experience with "less". Even the conversations about doing "something" surround the same concepts as any other growth model. People wish to buy country property, buy tools, buy livestock. They assume supplies will be available, to start, and they will have the funds to purchase what they need. Even the notion of of having tangible assets (gold/silver) is based on the current model of valuation and means of exchange.
Where I would start is a serious talk about "time". Few have a good appreciation of how long chores take, how much time is consumed negotiating and building community.
Another fundamental issue that needs to be addressed is an understanding of the value of ones labour, particularly on your own property. A good hint? Zero. It needs to be understood that the original purpose of wages was to replace/compensate for time away from a persons duties at home.
A third essentail concept, that is directly related to the first two ideas, is debt. Getting out of it and staying out of it.