Tuesday, December 01, 2015

Shrinking the Technosphere, Part VIII

[Réduire la techno-sphère, Partie VIII]

This series of blog posts offers a preview to a book which is yet to be written. Since it is turning out to be a rather long series, it seems fair to recap, to give you an idea of where we have been and where we are going. We started with a discussion of how the contemporary living arrangement, in the US specifically, but also in various other so-called “developed nations,” has become entirely untenable, because it forces us to rely on a suite of technologies that is unsustainable and catastrophic for the environment. These technologies are forced upon us by a set of political technologies that rob us of our power and will to pick and choose what technologies we use. We have also reviewed another set of political technologies—ones that are used to destroy nations around the world should they prove unwilling to go along with the deranged master plan.

We haven’t yet discussed what political technologies can be used – and are used with an increasing degree of success – to bring this forced death march to a halt. But that’s coming. Instead we took a grand detour, to look at what the best-case scenario looks like if it is, in fact, brought to a halt, if the political technologies that are being used to destroy both society and the biosphere are swept away. And it turns out that the best-case scenario is still pretty bad, because of all the unwelcome developments that are already baked into the cake, such as:

  • Ocean levels rising by at least 30m, putting the coastal cities in which two-thirds of the population lives either partially or fully underwater.
  • Average temperatures rising by around 17°C, resulting in heat waves in which electric grids, and the air conditioners they power, fail, and major metropolitan areas are depopulated by heat stroke.
  • Disappearance of mountain glaciers which feed river systems on which major agricultural areas depend for irrigation, resulting in depopulation due to mass starvation in many countries.
  • The oceans becoming too radioactive to fish because of numerous nuclear installations along coasts suffering meltdowns after being inundated with salt water.

The only places left on earth that are likely to remain survivable will be in the boreal forests that fringe the Arctic Circle, particularly along the large north-flowing rivers – Lena, Ob’ and Yenisey in Eurasia. I previously thought that the McKenzie River in North America might offer a similar refuge, but I have since learned that it has been poisoned by the exploitation of the Athabascan tar sands. (The environmental damage is similar to what’s been done to the “fracked” areas within the US; there, the many thousands of “fracked” oil and gas wells that no longer produce and have been superficially “capped” will nevertheless leak toxic and radioactive chemicals into the environment for hundreds of years.) Thus, it seems that the most promising place for humanity to try to make its stand is Siberia.

The scenario presented Part VI outlined how a group of people could survive the winter after landing there, as many people have over hundreds of years now, producing some of the hardiest people on the planet. But there is still plenty of room there for more: there is no shortage of free land, and with the naturelike technology suite we outlined quite a few more incredibly hardy people could live on it sustainably for many generations, gradually migrating closer to the Arctic Circle as the climate warms, practicing an independent, self-reliant lifestyle, as close to nature as it gets, teaching their kids all they need to know with the help of a stack of government-distributed textbooks plus a floating lending library that comes around once a year around summer solstice.

But judging from the readers’ comments so far, there aren’t all that many takers for this exciting new lifestyle. One major problem is age: to make a go of such a transition, you have to start young, while a lot of the readers of this blog are of an age when one stops rushing around and becomes thoughtful. Another is a matter of physical habits: if you grew up assisted by all manner of gadgets, leaving physical labor to the nice friendly Mexicans who hang out near Home Depot, then you might have a problem transitioning to a lifestyle where your best friend is your axe, used for everything from chopping trees to shaving to cleaning fish, to making spare handles for said axe, to swinging at the wolves with while taking a crap in the woods.

And if you have spent most of your life sitting in an office chair, in an office, with the thermostat set somewhere between 21 and 23°C, then you may not possess the layers of vascularized brown fat and the powerful cardiovascular and digestive systems to perform manual labor in -40°C, powered by hot tea and all the animal fat you can get your hands on. Nor would you possess the powerful sweat glands, the quick-tanning skin and the almost complete indifference to biting insects to perform even more manual labor during the short but hot summers. If you find body odor offensive and like air fresheners and potpourri bowls, then it’s hard to imagine you being happy scraping out and dressing a rancid bear skin, naked (because you value your only set of clothes) and smothered head to toe in bear fat to keep warm. Lastly, if you are a gluten-free lactose-intolerant vegan who thinks that fur is a crime, then it may be hard to imagine you being content with cabbage, turnips and rye bread as staples and potatoes as a treat, supplemented by whatever animal you manage to catch or trap.

But I am not concerned about lack of potential cadres for this experiment. For every 10,000 or so people, I figure there must be a couple who would make it, and that’s more than enough. They may be hard to spot at the moment, because selection pressures within contemporary society are based on requirements for success within that society, not for failure of that society and success without it. And so a kid who disappears into the woods in search of something to kill instead of doing his homework is currently considered a problem child, whereas he is actually a solution child—one who will bring in what's for dinner while his “successful” peers whine pathetically over the dead batteries in their highly educational electronic playthings and quiver from withdrawal symptoms due to lack of the refrigerated sugary beverage to which they are addicted. The problem child might even have some superpowers—like being able to see fish through murky water. To be fair, the successful, well-adjusted children have some superpowers too—like remembering exactly what you promised to buy them and when you promised it.

What’s much more concerning is that the candidates will lack any knowledge of the naturelike technologies they will need to survive. There is a huge number of skills involved even in the seemingly simple task of constructing a log cabin. To start with, you need to know how to pick a site that has good enough drainage but is also sheltered, that is shielded from to the prevailing winds in the winter but open to the prevailing winds in the summer, that gets winter sun but is shaded from summer sun, and that isn’t likely to get buried in a snowdrift.

Then you need to know what kinds of trees to harvest, and when to do it (on a full moon, before the sap is up). The logs have to be cut to certain lengths and sit a certain amount of time before they can be used. Bark has to be removed, without using industrial methods such as steaming, but there are other tricks. Then the logs have to be joined, without using any metal fasteners. The quality of the joints has to be such that all water drains out, not in, or the structure will rot. The roof has to be built strong but light, and thatched, and thatching is yet another skill set to be acquired in a hurry. What if you can’t find enough straight, round sticks to use as rafters? There is no milled lumber within a few thousand of miles of you, and you have no time to make your own. And so you produce the lumber you need by starting with a straight-grained log and breaking it up by “chinking.” Never tried chinking a log? Well, learn quick, because winter is coming!

And then there is the stove, which you will need to keep the cabin warm, to cook food, to wash inside of and to sleep on top of. In that climate, the best stoves feature an arched combustion chamber in the back of the flue, with solid fill over the arch and a bed for the whole family over the fill. The arch and the base of the flue have to be built of fire-resistant bricks that resist spalling, so brickmaking must also be part of the curriculum. It is a massive masonry structure, and its thermal mass makes it possible to fire it just twice a day—in the morning and in the evening—to keep the bed at a constant temperature of 25°C even when it’s -40°C outside. The stove needs to have a niche for the all-important samovar, with a flue opening to keep the smoke from the samovar out of the cabin. You will need plenty of hot water to make tea—herb tea, using the herbs you didn’t forget to plant, pick and dry during summer, which will provide you with all the vitamins you’ll need to avoid scurvy and other types of avitaminosis.

The list of naturelike technologies goes on and on, too long to list. And somehow people need to arrive on the land knowing all of this—or their chances of making it dwindle. Yes, it’s possible to impart this knowledge through books, although what one needs to succeed is not a paper book but a talking one, who can also directly show how it’s done. But if someone goes off into the forest and practices for a year or two in a benign environment—equipped with lots of extra, unnaturelike technology, such as a satellite phone with which to call in a helicopter rescue if it comes to that, then that someone stands a good chance of becoming a good talking book. And so there may be a use for older people after all!

This is what it will probably take to survive the future we’ve guaranteed ourselves on any one patch of land. But I would be remiss if I didn’t mention an alternative: while there will be a dearth of places that will be survivable year-round, it is likely that many more opportunities will exist where lifestyles that are either nomadic (wandering from place to place) or migratory (with semipermanent seasonal camps) will still be possible. These lifestyles come with their own naturelike technology suites—which are much more challenging than the ones required for a settled lifestyle, simply because a mobile, portable technology is more demanding than a fixed installation.

Doing away with the a fixed abode confers numerous advantages: you become free to move and to flee danger; you are prevented, by your circumstances, by wasting your energies on accumulating possessions beyond those you absolutely need and use all the time; you get a chance to construct your own shelter to suit the situation. These are all practical considerations, but there is more to being nomadic than being practical. Nomadism, you see, is not just a good adaptation for uncertain times. It is also godly and sublime.

Most people, when they hear the biblical phrase “the house of the Lord,” imagine a cathedral or a temple. Their fixed notion of a house is a large, permanent, immobile structure. What a surprise it is, then, to learn that the house of the Lord was, to begin with, most definitely a tent: Ancient Hebrew “beth” or Arabic “beyt” are both words that signify “tent.” The tension between the settled and the nomadic is present throughout the Bible. It is the tension between slavery and freedom, and the biblical account makes it clear that God, or Yahweh—originally a nomad god, the Bedouin god of flocks and herds—always sides with the nomads.

Let's look back at one of the world's great founding myths, the story of Abraham, who gave his name to the Abrahamic religions of Islam, Judaism and Christianity, whose adherents account for more than half of the population of the Earth. In the story, Abraham and Lot, his nephew, leave the city and, with their herds, travel to Canaan and live there as nomads at the edge of the desert. But they quarrel, and Lot departs for Sodom and Gomorrah. Yahweh punishes him for his choice, destroying the cities, and turning his wife into a pillar of salt just for looking at the destruction, while Abraham stays pure and on the move, and his two sons, Ishmael and Isaac, live on to create the two great nomad tribes, the Arabs and the Jews.

Although nomadism is the ideal, the tension between the nomadic and the settled is ever-present. Droughts, famines, and political oppression often force nomads to take refuge among the settled. If they stay long enough, they may lose their nomad ways and become stranded. Even Abraham was driven by famine to leave Canaan and take refuge in Egypt for a time, but was quick to escape as soon as conditions improved. Later, another famine forced his descendants back into Egypt and a life of servitude, but here their sojourn lasted long enough for them to lose their nomadic skills, condemning them to slavery. But they managed to produce a visionary—Moses—who married a Bedouin woman. This woman turned out to be the key cultural transplant that allowed the Jews to escape into the wilderness and regain their freedom.

Nomadism is culturally and technologically advanced, involving such elements as portable shelter, a relationship with animals that borders on symbiosis, ability to self-organize in groups large and small, to survive in a harsh and nearly barren terrain and to control and defend a large and ever-changing territory. In all nomadic cultures more than half of this cultural and technological DNA is the explicit domain of women, for it is the women who create and maintain the tent. Men practice animal husbandry, make tools, hunt, fish, fight, make tent poles, but it is the women who spin, weave and stitch. The tent is typically part of the dowry and remains the possession of the woman, hers to keep in case of divorce.

Walk into the tent of any nomad, and you will find the same separation of concerns reflected in the interior layout. To the left of the entrance is the women's side. Here, stacked along the walls you will find everything needed for preparing food, for working with leather and fabric, and for taking care of children. To the right is the men's side. Here, stacked along the walls you will find tools, weapons, saddles and harnesses. In the middle is the hearth; to the back of the hearth is the sacred place, with an altar. Before the altar is the seat of honor. In case of the Arabs, the separation is enforced using a curtain, called the qata, while in the tipi of a North American Indian the separation is implicit, but it is always there—a nomadic cultural universal. This is an evolved trait that makes perfect sense: the life of the nomad is so complex and requires such competence that a separation of concerns between men and women is essential to survival. A lone male can lead a nomadic existence, but for nomadism to exist as a civilization requires a woman-nomad, with woman-nomad knowhow.

Women tend to be more conservative than men (politics aside) in that they tend to pass on their skills to their daughters more or less unchanged. Thus we find, in nomadic architecture, incredible stability of forms. The black tent described in the Bible, under which the Israelites camped in the Canaan, are to be found along a desert belt stretching from Casablanca on the Atlantic coast of Africa all the way to Tibet (where they use belly hair of the yak for the fabric). It is a rectangular piece of goat-hair fabric, stitched together out of wide woven strips and erected using a few poles and stretched using long lines secured to pegs. It keeps the interior cool by blocking sunlight and creating an updraft and pulling air up through its loose weave, but when it rains the goat hair fibers swell up and create a waterproof surface that sheds water.

North of the black tent belt lies the yurt belt. Yurts use a freestanding frame that consists of a barrel-shaped latticework at the base, a tension band at the top of the latticework, a crown, sometimes supported by center poles, and poles which are mortised into the crown and hooked onto the tops of the latticework. Over this frame is pulled a covering of felt, its thickness in proportion to the coldness of the climate. A fair percentage of the population of Mongolia lives in yurts to this day, and yurt-dwelling Mongols once made it as far west as the gates of Vienna. Buckminster Fullers dymaxion house was essentially a yurt—fabricated out of aluminum, which is an unfortunate choice of material, since aluminum doesn't grow on trees or on sheep.

North of the yurt zone and throughout the circumpolar region we find two basic shapes: the cone tent and the dome tent, covered either with skins and hides or with steamed birch bark. Inside, we often find the same layout: hearth in the middle, women to the left, men to the right, altar in the back. The Koryak-Chukchi yaranga is particularly notable. These tribes, which inhabit the very farthest north of Siberia, use a tent within a tent, called polog, to keep warm in spite of temperatures that are often colder than -40 below. The inevitable condensation is dealt with by taking the polog out during the day, allowing the condensation to freeze solid and beating it out with a stick.

Nomadism is an innovation, requiring a great deal of advanced technology and knowhow. It is relatively recent, and in many places its advent coincided with the domestication of various animals. It is the symbiosis with these animals that gave the nomads their speed, range, and ability to sustain themselves in places where a stationary population would quickly perish of hunger and thirst. The desert, black tent nomads rely on the camel and, in the case of Tibet, the yak; the yurt nomads of the plains rely on the horse; the circumpolar tribes rely on the reindeer in Eurasia and its undomesticated cousin the caribou in North America. Prior to the advent of nomadism most of the places where nomads could survive remained uninhabited.

Of course, there are places in the world where not even a nomadic tribe can survive, but, when they see circumstances change, at least they have the option of moving. A settled population relies on a stable climate to be able to bring in crops from the same patch of land season after season. Over the past 11,000 years this was possible in many more places on Earth because during this period of time the climate was particularly stable and benign, but it appears that this period is now over, and the Earth has entered a period of climate upheaval, in which the regular patterns of nature on which agriculture relies can no longer be taken for granted.

Although the cultural preference in many parts of the world has been to disrespect the nomad, it is likely to turn out, for more and more people, that their choice lies between turning nomadic (if they can) or perishing in place. And it bears repeating that being nomadic requires a much higher-level of set technologies than just staying in one place—one that can't be learned in a single generation, and perhaps not even in a single lifetime.


Rhisiart Gwilym said...

Dmitry, by paragraph 7 of this instalment, I was guffawing helplessly; literally the biggest and best LOL that I've had for some time. The lifestyle that you describe was exactly what I was cut out for, which explains, I suppose my square-peg-round-hole misfit life in the ghastly hitech urbanised disaster zone that is modern Britain. I'm too old now to contemplate the sort of real-survivalist life (no hitech, heavily gadget-and-stores-laden bunkers there, of course) which you describe; not in this lifetime; but in some of the next few lifetimes, perhaps. I must try to get reborn as a Russian, of the formidable Siberian sub-species. Many thanks for the crechwenu (an archaic Cymraeg word which is best translated as 'to crack out laughing helplessly; to guffaw', I guess).

I wonder: since homo neanderthalensis was clearly quite heavily adapted to sub-artic life just south of the ice sheets in ancient Europe, and since it seems likely that neanderthalensis and sapiens sapiens (hah!) interbred, before sapsap wiped out neanderthalensis, might those already-formidable Siberians have a - heavily-selected - higher neanderthalensis component in their current genetic endowment than the poor attenuated, blubber-laden things which pass for healthy humans in our modern, transient hitech 'civilisation'? If so, I can see another period of heavily-forced natural selection coming up in those areas of the Earth's surface where human life is actually possible at all.

Who knows, we might even evolve a better psychology to go with an improved physique, to cope with the changed conditions and - please god! - to grow a bit more innate wisdom, so that we don't make another huge muck-up of things like the one that's finally coming to the boil right now; you know, we might with luck become more Spocky-Vulcan in spirit, whilst at the same time evolving back to the physical robustness of the Neanderthalers? It seems pretty obvious that we're heading into a highly evolution-forcing bottleneck in human numbers, over the next few centuries, anyway.

Thanks as ever, Dmitry, for your near-unique insight into our current reality, and for the wonderful, merciless Russian wit and humour with which you express it. Love it! Unmissable! :0)

Rhisiart Gwilym said...

PS: The accidental adverts accompanying this post are particularly ironic, quite by chance - or is it? There's one on how to 'retire' at about fifty - yes really, with nice big motor bike and tasteful, completely unsmelly leather jacket and all; and another that offers you a Marie-Antoinette/Petit-Trianon-style toy version of a log cabin, smooth and tidy and wholly impractical - a transient consumer item - to go with your tastefully-managed, ornamental, entirely food-free back garden, for only three thousand pounds sterling.

Laugh? I thought I might die! :0)

Rhisiart Gwilym said...

PPS: By 'chinking' do you mean the usual idea of filling the gaps between logs in your cabin? Your syntax seems to suggest some other process, with the same name. But if it's the filling you mean, here's a handy reference from Mother Earth News, about a walking book - Grandpa Madson - who, in his eighties in the 1970s, advised a young couple who had inherited his Depression Era log cabin about a really good Earth-friendly caulk - which is also a sure-fire stove caulk too, apparently. Serendipitous for me, because I'm about to do stove caulking for a couple that I've just built, right now. So even if you mean something else by 'chinking', Dmitry, the recipe for this caulk seems to be pretty damned good and good to know about, and dirt-cheap too - literally:


Trmist said...

Great series. I look forward to the book.
No dispute from me on the prediction, it's entirely possible that plant earth may be rolling up the welcome mat for most of the human population. However I would suggest it might take several hundred years or more to get to the point where we are living in the high north. Your writing never fails to make me ponder alternatives to the flimsy living arrangements we have constructed for ourselves. It is fascinating to consider what life might be like today if we had not gone all in on the civilization thing. We might have been much more civilized.

NowhereMan said...


Another excellent post! It's noteworthy that here in the west, ordinarily military members would be prime candidates for conversion to such a lifestyle, but in the modern conception of things, not really so much. Maybe a small handful of the heartiest special forces types, but I think most of them have likely been softened considerably at this point by their reliance on technology too. Me, I'm and old house cat now, so my fate, like almost everyone I know, is already sealed. I'm with Rhisiart in subscribing to reincarnation though, so maybe in the next go round?

@ Trmist: Several hundred years? I'd be interested to know how you arrived at that figure. Remember, climate change is an exponential function just like the growth that caused it. When it comes on, as it's doing now, it will come on quick. I'm thinking more like major, undeniable disruption by 2030, complete breakdown of nations states and mass migrations by 2040-2050, and the complete end of the world as we know it NLT 2060-2070 or so. And I think those estimates are likely exceedingly optimistic. And that's assuming the Neo-Cons/Libs in the US don't get their way and let the nukes fly free.

Robert Goad said...

Sea based nomads in these harsh times? Stealth gardens ashore? Anti-radiation bottom job haul-outs at the latest, trendy, eskimo run mom and pop marinas?

Rightas Rain said...

Great article and series Dmitry. I am also one of the people that has lived this particular lifestyle. I used to call it chopping wood and carrying water as I did both for about 15 years in the wilds of Alaska. I have to agree with Mr. Gwylim above about the 'chinking' of the logs. All the other things are actually a very enjoyable lifestyle for, like you state, young strong and very brave persons of both sexes. I would not have any trouble returning to this lifestyle as I am sick to the bone of the systems now in place. Political, industrial, technical, you name it, it's corrupted and no longer working for 99% of the people on earth. Enter the devastating effects of climate change, melting ice, rising sea levels and great migration of people and what you have is chaos. Also I believe that those that tend to believe there are a couple of hundred years for humanity to regain some footing along the arctic rivers of the north are under estimating the exponential rate of change that is possible. Take a look at some of the ice core data and find that some of these massive natural earth changing events only took between 13 and 20 years. Granted they where usually in relationships of Hot to Cold not cold to hot.... We are, however not starting from an ice age this time around.... It is growing hot at an exponential rate now. Once we get a few massive methane releases the hot we feel today will seem like a day at the beach. I do wish I could travel back in time to my little cabin in the woods of Alaska.
Thanks for all your great stuff Mr. Orlov. It helps keep me from going insane!

Howard Skillington said...

Given the radiation poisoning of coastal waters and the vectors of rapidly changing conditions elsewhere, nomadism does sound like a better bet than either the sea gypsy or Siberian cabin survival model.

As another of your oldfart readers I could not reasonably hope to begin to master the skills you have outlined in time to avoid personal extinction, but my sister and brother-in-law are systematically doing so. They, of course, are also too old to be among the few to survive beyond the next few years, but they have a couple of bow-hunting survivalist sons who just might stand a chance. My nephews are gifted in the ways you describe though, never having had too much interest in academics, they may not master the chemistry and physics books last week’s nautical lending library offered to provide. On the other hand, paper is convenient for starting a fire…

I have not seen the ad that so amused Rhisiart, but also experienced a hearty crechwenu today over an ad on Club Orlov that suggests I throw away the little foam plugs I use to protect my hearing in favor of a pair of “Digital Earplugs” costing twenty-four hundred dollars! Must be another of your delightful parodies, Dmitry.

David Veale said...

Love the exploration of future possibilities, but see one small flaw in your cabin's chinking. The same warming that will be driving us towards more northerly regions or nomadic lifestyles also has the effect of killing things which cannot move quickly, such as forests. We can see it happening now in the boreal forests as insect damage runs rampant. I see it in the forests here in Michigan. Forests require stable climates to reach any usable size, or to get their seed into newly suitable locations. Our nomadic future may well have to make do with shrubs instead of forests, and sticks instead of logs and lumber.

Al Low said...

For a vast number of denizens occupying the North American continent the lifestyle portrayed in Dimtry's series would suffer the same fate as the true life character portrayed in the film INTO THE WILD.

Dead of starvation.

While I relish the thought of living close to nature, and the instructions provided here whet my appetite, chronologically, I'm 40 years too late.

And by the way, post collapse, how many years will it take for all the worlds nuclear radiation to lower to a level conducive to human habitation?

When that date occurs, reincarnate me to domesticate wolves, or whatever species survive, AND EAT THOSE CREATURES that would compete for my quarry.

Shawn Sincoski said...

I think the book would be great reading. My only suggestion to make it more realistic would be to come up with a framework where the rational authorities decided it would be better to try and pair up the new volunteers with existing homesteaders. At least they would have a chance. The sponsors could provide incentives for the already existing residents.

1. If you agree to take on these volunteers, we will provide X additional resources to you immediately.
2. If they survive the first year, we will provide X+Y additional resources.

It might be useful to the existing residents to have some extra arms (gather wood). Maybe they won't accept them. As others have already posted, I doubt anybody coming into this cold would survive.

escapefromwisconsin said...

From the BBC: Russia: Army deserter hid in woods for 11 years


Syd O said...

I like the bit about both sexes functioning together. I've seen so many couples disintegrate while trying to change lifestyles to something more durable in the long run. It appears the movement towards nomadic living, existing on the edge of survival, would push us towards the more egalitarian lifestyle desired by so many these days. But perhaps I am trying to meld possible positive with the more actual reality of things.

I'm in my mid-30's and yes, this will be a hell of an adaption.

Island Poet said...

When I look at the West Antarctic ice sheet and Greenland I also anticipate significantly more sea level rise in the next 20 years than anyone is saying in public but I wonder if you would share your reasoning behind your saying it is already baked in the cake that we are looking at 30M of sea level rise and 17C temperature rise? Within what time frame?

Phil Harris said...

Tour de force amd some wonderful comments great to come home to just now.

Count me among the old house cats suffering occasional fart episodes!

Nomad technology - especially the women - gives a glimpse into more hopeful human nature: for my comfort anyway. There was a BBC series one episode which featured our intrepid man in the Russian Taiga. He was deeply respectful so he should be. Granny made him a priceless pair of winter boots having examined his feet, entirely out of her head and from reindeer and a needle. Huge knowledge base spread among just sufficient people to survive generation to generation with a percentage of gifted specialists to copy. And watch the young kid swing her wicker basket to gather enough berries for a healthy winter. Lovely.

A daughter of ours was offered a pemanent position and a decent enough bloke by a nomad granny, fairly seriously, but she came home. Well ...

Climate flickr (?) was the phrase for the fickle North Atlantic in the Quatererary studies a while back. Who knows as we go over the edge?

Thanks to all

Martin Jedlicka said...

Thank you for this a fantastic series that manages to find humor within the horror of the impending collapse of our "Non-Negotiable American Way of Life". Unlike consumerist televised folklore such as "Doomsday Preppers", there's real wisdom to be found on this site.

I was fortunate that my first job ever was that of a 'timber cruiser'. As a mere teenager I was paid by International Paper to scout promising stands of forest (using a topographic map and compass and counting my paces; GPS didn't exist then). Spending weeks at a time in woods with a water hod, boring tool (for timber cores samples) tarp, bag and knife gave me an education no university could. I was trained by an old cruiser who gave me his copies of 'Foxfire'; the articles within saved my life, much like the information on this blog.

Out of morbid curiosity I once went to a 'survivalist convention'. It was basically a large flea market for firearms and freeze-dried food, with attendant political idiocy. The absurdity of the event was evidenced by the number of obese 'patriots' whirring about in their rascal scooters. Nobody seemed to clock the irony in needing motorized assistance to navigate a carpeted, air-conditioned convention center to cope with the obvious demands of survival in a post-apocalyptic nomadic future.

Candace Moore said...

Where do you get the idea that Moshe's wife was a Bedoiun? She was a black from the text...וַתְּדַבֵּ֨ר מִרְיָ֤ם וְאַֽהֲרֹן֙ בְּמשֶׁ֔ה עַל־אֹד֛וֹת הָֽאִשָּׁ֥ה הַכֻּשִׁ֖ית אֲשֶׁ֣ר לָקָ֑ח כִּֽי־אִשָּׁ֥ה כֻשִׁ֖ית לָקָֽח Maybe she is also Bedouin, but I just want to know why you would claim she was Bedoiun...the Cain and Abel story is a Bedoiuns versus farming people allegory some would say; but I don't see the Bedouin in the wife of Moshe....

Alex said...

Funny about the problem kid.... I cut a LOT of school and did a lot of fishing and foraging.

By "chinking" I'm certain Dmitry means splitting long, straight-grained logs to make planks or laths for roofing.

"A man is the great hunter his wife makes him" - Eskimo saying. Male and female roles are very distinct, but neither considered inferior, in nomad societies. I'll even go out on a limb and guess that the present shitty way a lot of Arabs treat their women dates only back to when they became settled.

pyrrhus said...

I would advise checking out the lifestyle of the Chumash indians on the California coast, who moved around depending on the climate...There will still be a West coast, no matter how high the oceans rise

MoonShadow said...

"And by the way, post collapse, how many years will it take for all the worlds nuclear radiation to lower to a level conducive to human habitation?"

Not as long as many here seem to believe. The most dangerous radioactive isotopes of nuclear fission are iodine-131 and Caesium-137; iodine because the human body can't distinguish it from regular iodine, and tries to incorporate it into the thyroid, and caesium-137 because of it high concentration in fallout and it's water solubility, which makes it easy to move around an ecosystem. However, iodine-131 has a half life of only 8 days; and caesium-137 of about 30 years; and the logarithmic decline of these isotopes means that the iodine-131 concentration in the environment is below danger levels after about 2 or 3 years, and practically undetectable after 20 or 30 years. Caesium-137 is more persistent, and is the reason that Chernobyl is still too dangerous to live nearby, despite the fact that there are people who live within the exclusion zone; mostly grandmothers who refused to evacuate to begin with. http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/oct/29/babushkas-of-chernobyl-film-nuclear-exclusion-zone
So while these isotopes are dangerous, they are not species ending toxins by any stretch. Also, water is the very best radiation shielding we know of, and it takes only about 32 feet of it to completely shield a person from just about anything. https://what-if.xkcd.com/29/

Al Low said...

MoonShadow, your links to post-Chernobyl inhabitants did include a prediction of 4,000 deaths due to radiation poisoning from that one 1986 tragedy. The magnitude of a worldwide collapse would trigger the meltdown of most if not all the world's nuclear power plants (450+), would it not? Given these plants are located proximate to the populations that utilize the power, a mass die-off seems inevitable. As the article also related, water is the great protector. So, aside from remaining submerged in water (submariner), where on earth would be least effected?

Stone Lodge said...

I just was re-reading The Road last night, by Cormac McCarthy. That depicted survival (or not) in a nuclear winter, but as I read this incredible post, it occurs to me that there is very little, if any difference, from the climate change scenario you posit, Dimitry.

Where I am (I know what the "Kootenays" refers to in len's moniker), I could walk you around and show you, physically and irrefutably, where the temperature rises we have already experienced have radically altered the land I grew up in. Pine beetles used to be a rarity here, but as the winters became marginally warmer, they were able to survive the winters consistently. The result? Vast swaths of boreal forest are being devastated, killed and turned orange, and then swept by wildfires. As temperatures warm, these micro-biomes surrounding each mountain move farther and farther up the mountaintops, creating little isolated "islands" where there was once a teeming and expansive eco-system of entire mountain chains.

My family were pioneers here: timbermen, cattlemen, miners. My father knows how to knap obsidian, and I know more about it than him. I and my partner began prepping about a decade ago, and we have ourselves about as well prepared as we can manage. We have horses and goats and chickens and dogs and cats, hand tools, rain barrels, and seeds. We have studied medicine, volunteered with mountain search & rescue, my partner is an herbalist and nutritionist, we can eat all day long while in the woods, and stay alive there under primitive conditions. But after a decade of studying and reading and preparing, I have concluded it is ultimately all for naught.

Like the nuclear winter depicted in The Road, all of the plants and animals we could possibly depend on to feed ourselves will die. These lives simply cannot continue in a global hothouse of the magnitude you (and others) posit. Very few organisms can adapt rapidly enough to continue, and I'm afraid that Siberia and the North Slope will fare no better. Look at polar bears now for an indicator. This is not a situation where we can adjust our clothing and habits, put on some sunglasses and sunscreen and mix up a dacquiri. The very biosphere itself cannot simply adjust so that plants once native to Nevada now grow in Alberta; it doesn't work that way. IF humans are still around in the time-frame you present, they will exist off of remaining human stores and hide like rats from the environment, regardless of where they are.

I love your work and your thinking. Too bad there will be no historians or paleontologists or archaeologists to ponder over what we were thinking.