Monday, April 06, 2009
Burning our Bridges to the XXI Century
The future does not resemble the past – or does it? When the lights go out, people burn candles and oil lamps, just like they used to before the electric grid came into existence. No longer accustomed to working with open flame, they tend to set things on fire, and for a while, until they regain this experience or until natural selection whittles away the truly incompetent, the neighborhood is a constant blaze.
When we find out that the supermarket is out of food and that the cupboard is bare, we hunt, fish, forage, plant kitchen gardens, and start experimenting with raising poultry and rabbits. Those who are incapable of doing so, or who feel that such lowly pursuits are beneath their dignity, become dependent on the charity of those who are more adaptable, or starve.
As modernity runs out of resources (those photons sequestered eons ago in fossil form, now released as carbon dioxide into the atmosphere) patterns of life naturally retreat to their pre-modern forms. If there are no more sneakers from China, we sew moccasins or whittle clogs. If we are resource-poor but resourceful, we can still weave basket-like shoes out of birch bark, stuffed with straw for insulation, called lapti. If we are truly destitute and feckless to boot, then we go barefoot.
It seems commonsense to accept this reversion to norm as natural, and to strive to have enough of whatever we are going to need, be it tools for working leather, a stock of paraffin, seeds, fishing tackle, and a myriad of other similar items that comprised the pre-industrial survival kit. The last thing we should want to do is to throw these things away at first sign of economic distress and for trivial reasons. And yet that seems to be the prevailing pattern.
For instance, if the expectation is that foreigners will no longer want to trade their dwindling crude oil endowment in exchange for worthless US Dollars, and that the US will lose access to 2/3 of its liquid hydrocarbons, it would make sense to make some provisions for raising food and for moving freight. Since a John Deere won’t run on hay, that calls for some horses. Furthermore, now is a perfect time for farms to get “horsed up” because so many horse-owners can no longer afford the luxury of keeping a horse, and it is possible to buy a horse very, very cheaply. Many horse-owners would be perfectly happy to donate their horse and take a tax write-off rather than see their beloved pet turned into glue. Instead, horses are trucked to rending facilities across the border in Mexico, to endure incredible suffering while in transit, and then to be incompetently hacked up with machetes.
Before the advent of fossil fuels, freight that could not be moved by horse and wagon moved by sail. It would therefore make perfect sense that we keep all the sailboats we currently have, because they will surely be pressed into use once other transportation options are no longer available. Keeping a sailboat afloat is not particularly expensive; there are protected coves where a boat can be kept anchored free of charge, provided it is tended to once in a while. The smaller, trailerable boats are also useful, and can keep for years on the hard, under a tarp in someone’s back yard. And yet what is happening now is that sailboat owners, unable to pay the slip fees and the upkeep of their luxury toy, abandon it, simply letting it float away and eventually sink, with its mast protruding out of the water at low tide, or to wash up on a beach, where the surf pounds it into rubble. Even if the boat itself is unsuited for any practical purpose (and, thanks to the combined detrimental effects of sport and luxury on the sailboat market, there are far too many of these) then at the very least they could be stripped of Dacron sailcloth, stainless steel and bronze fittings, lead ballast, marine-grade stranded copper wiring, aluminum spars, and many other items which are both very useful and unlikely to be manufactured in the future in an economy that runs on wind, hay and firewood. The remaining hollow fiberglass husks could make interesting, long-lasting treehouses.
Not that, in general, there is a lack of effort to save things. We are making an effort to save financial institutions, which are the ultimate ephemera of industrial civilization, and are absolutely guaranteed to have no reason to continue into a future in which debt, denominated in future earnings that will be meager at best, and money, which will only hold its value for as long as it guarantees access to sources of pure, concentrated energy, all steadily dwindle to nothing. It is as if the doctors decided to only try to save persistent vegetative quadriplegics with terminal cancer, or if the environmentalists decided that the endangered species list only has room for one animal: the vampire bat. It would make much more sense to try to save small businesses, such as family businesses that serve local communities, because there is a good chance that they will find a use in the future, or at least facilitate the transition. Instead, we are squandering the remaining resources on the various dinosaurs of the industrial age.
I believe in providing a hopeful vision of the future as much as I believe in providing a sufficiently horrific vision of the present for it to be, in my opinion, a realistic one. However, I am beginning to feel somewhat thwarted in my efforts by this new compulsion sweeping the land to shoot oneself in the foot while simultaneously setting one's hair on fire. The only hope I can offer you today is that this current trend toward suicidal stupidity is temporary, and that it will run its course long before we completely ruin our chances for an orderly regression.
Excellent grim assessment, Dmitry. Obama has evidently decided that he is going to sink with the ship by keeping it on the same course. I had suspected it but now I am sure of it: he is a coward.
The spectacle of two heads of state, Obama and Brown, who are presiding over ruined countries and empires, acting like leaders and saviors of the world, was frankly repugnant.
Very moving plight for the horse. Thank you, and Capricho thanks you too.
If anyone is interested, we are talking to some excellent cowboys about buying out the herds at the killer auctions in the southwest.
Any saddletramps out there interested in joining the last roundup?
It will, it just hasn't reached the tipping point yet.
Then there will be a manic effort in all directions.
I wonder how vampire bat taste?
have often recomended in my survival articles keeping about redundent to obsolete items on hand so that in an emergency can keep on going at som e4 level ofr transportation, manufacturing, and comunicating. however as usual been ignored by the swurvival experts til seeing your article now. a small 16ft daysailer with retractable keel and mount for a five horse gas motor could perform costral transportation, fishing, and other wqork for those blessed with waterways. could easily carry even a small bicycle or moped to other4 land areas for surface transport. knockdown bicycle trailers for cargo hauling. the boat can be removed by trailer or with comealong winch on rollers for maintence or beach repairs. for sewing sails, have seen olkder singer models equipede with hand cranks for sewing dacron or canvas. asa for fittings, backyard foundries and small lathes caqn be employed here. in any case it all requires a good basic education along with other basic skills that can maintain a certain level of tech within your survival comunity or collective. the book "the boy electrician" contains many self made projects including homemade batteries, telegraphs and telephones. hope this be of use to you. havefun, live free forever. Wildflower 09
With the current level of knowledge accumulated in the course of 20th century, I do not think the future is going to be as bleak as described here. While I do agree that gasoline powered cars will probably die out in the next 20-30 years, we already have an alternative of electric powered cars, that are much more efficient, we are only few years away from coming up with a proper battery technology. Power plants are running on coal, which is still abundant. Perhaps fewer people will be able to afford cars or any other machinery, but they won't disappear, imo. I think there will be a slow shift from oil-oriented world to new technologies as oil gets more and more expensive, but it won't be 19th century all over again, and even if it will - not for long, as an emerging class of rich people with amitions will not put up with having to raise chicken by themselves or use bicycles to move around. And this ambitious group will be setting a standard for the rest to look forward to. The future is in new technologies, not living in farms with candles.
You said:" Those who are incapable of doing so (raising poultry and rabbits), or who feel that such lowly pursuits are beneath their dignity, become dependent on the charity of those who are more adaptable, or starve."
Do not be that pessimistic. In this scenario many will survive on stealing or violent taking away somone else' poultry and rabbits.
Thanks, Dmitry, I always enjoy reading your blog. I especially liked the image of old sailboats as treehouses!
But don't diss the Chiroptera....bats are a key species and we'd miss them sorely.
Personally, I feel drawn to my daughter and son's generation. My daughter is in college.
Those kids are smart. They perceive what is going on, and they are cementing friendships with each other.
I think many of them will emerge as true leaders in societal change. I really do.
Even though they've grown up with lots of privileges, they aren't vested in the system, and will find another way.
My other thought is to continue studying indigenous cultures and applying what I learn to daily life.
I'm hopeful many will find a sane way to navigate these rough waters.
Someone wrote in:
"I've lived aboard my sailboat for the last 20 years, plus I've gone on extended foreign cruises. I consider my boat "simple". Lady friends have termed me "spartan". Even so my experience is that an ocean going sailboat is a miniature space shuttle with complex systems galore. It wouldn't fare well in the melt down scenario you paint."
This is actually very true, of many modern sailboats, that is. They are large floating boondoggles. On the other hand, the whole planet was explored and settled without any of this fancy crap. There are things that can be done, such as ripping out the mother of all boondoggles - the inboard engine, and every blasted thing tied into it (pumps, hoses, electrical crap). As for the essential systems, I would certainly miss solar panels, LED lights, VHF, GPS weatherfax, and, of course, the laptop. But even here there are ready fallbacks: the sextant, the almanac, the chip log, signal lamps and flags, and a stack of books and notebooks. Don't despair when your floating boondoggle turns out to be unmaintainable. Life goes on.
Regarding the future and the hopes of technology, obviously nobody knows exactly what will happen, but let me observe that nowadays there are too many layers of dependence, too many links, and it is enough for one link to break for the whole thing to stop working.
In my opinion, what is needed are very simple technologies that have few links and dependencies, particularly as regards energy. This squarely implies localism.
If you're hungry, the Internet will not help you much, the incredibly complicated financial system won't help you much, particularly if you are out of it or if the system no longer exists in the present form.
I think what is needed are technologies that are simple to create and keep up, technologies that will necessarily be labor intensive -- and that is a good thing, since there will be lots of freed-up time.
One of the best things that might happen in this scenario is that the curious idea that "people don't have time" will go out the window.
When you eliminate complexity you also eliminate many comforts, of course. But you also eliminate lots of worries and a system that is essentially all or nothing. Such a system is dangerous, it has no redundancy whatever. The people living in a suburban condo 15 miles out of the nearest town have no redundancy. If any one of the main components of their complex lives breaks down, they have no recourse. For example, if they cease to have jobs or can't drive their cars.
The present system smacks of imprudence, it is born of no tradition. That in itself should make huge clouds of warning smoke go up. The clouds didn't go up for several decades but they're going up now, and seriously.
On the psychological side, I think the biggest barrier for Americans is to declare themselves poor. After that, intelligence will probably kick in. There is nothing like the threat of hunger and destitution to revive native intelligence.
For people who need hope (that's all of us), here is the full text of Ivan Illich's _Tools for Conviviality_, courtesy of the good folks at clevercycles:
Let me quote this:
"The bureaucratic management of human survival is unacceptable on both ethical and political grounds. It would also be as futile as former attempts at mass therapy. This does not, of course, mean that a majority might not at first submit to it. People could be so frightened by the increasing evidence of growing population and dwindling resources that they would voluntarily put their destiny into the hands of Big Brothers."
"The alternative to managerial fascism is a political process by which people decide how much of any scarce resource is the most any member of society can claim; a process in which they agree to keep limits relatively stationary over a long time, and by which they set a premium on the constant search for new ways to have an ever larger percentage of the population join in doing ever more with ever less."
I would say that this is as current as ever (the book was published in 1973).
This is why we love Mexico, despite whatever trials: it is a largely indigenous people. There are vast swaths of mountain communities who did not fall to Spanish dominion, and no troops were sent either by Mexico to "civilize" them. It is a vast and diverse social fabric. Excepting the large cities, border towns (a no-man's land) and beach destinations, most of the communities are hundreds of years old.
To illustrate the non-bureaucratic social approach, in our almost 500 year old village (older, really, ancient obsidian scrapers are scattered all over, only that the Spanish conquest is marked by that date) where everyone is somehow inter-related to everyone, we had an issue when the local supergringomarket started handing out plastic bags. People began burning them with other daily trash, and the smoke reeked throughout the neighborhood.
Babies, children also began suffering chronic illness. Our neighbor and friend has 17 siblings, and when he was informed that the residue of burning plastic was making babies sick, through word of mouth the practice of burning plastic stopped dead. No more problem.
People don't call authorities here. If anything they avoid them. Police and bureaucrats tend not to have friends. Perhaps the bureaucrat to citizen ratio here is 1/1,000, or 1/10,000, as to the US total of perhaps one civil servant/military personel/all other federal/state/local etc. to every non-bureaucratic adult citizen. Which means that this proscribed imminent collapse of Mexico so touted of late in the US media seems impossible minus totally catastrophic events. One mechanic jokes that if aliens abducted the entire government, half of Mexico would not realize it for weeks to come, for they depend on the bureaucrats for nothing. People instead turn to extended family.
Be the problems what they are, it's hard not to love these people. And yes they are still as sweet and gracious as ever for the most part.
No point in looking to the big national governments and big international corporations at the top to save us. The ship of state is the Titanic, and the response to the iceberg collision is to head full steam ahead into the field in hopes that we'll stay on schedule; actually, we'll be taking on water even faster, and maybe finding even more icebergs to ventilate our hull.
No, it is time for the women and children to be heading for the lifeboats, and for the menfolk to be finding whatever rope and other objects they can to rearrange the deck chairs into rafts that actually float. Don't wait to be told what to do, that will come too late and will mostly be wrong, anyway.
Excellent post! I chuckled when I saw the bit on making moccasins, as we're planning on doing just that. Mind, we still have modern shoes, but it doesn't hurt to get the rust off the skills (or learn new skills), before we need them.
We've been trying to get more prepared -- a wise idea anyway, in case of "minor" disasters like fire or flood, etc. Had an ice storm and lost power for a few days, and got to see what things in our plans worked and what needed some tweaking. One thing some folks didn't count on was that the ice storm meant no power to cell towers, so no cell phones worked (for those who thought these would be a good backup for land lines). The land lines were still up, so if you had an old phone, it could get just enough power off of the telephone line to still operate. Our little town's hardware store put out a big box of donated old-style phones for people who needed them. Of course if the land lines had been down too, then communications would have been slower. Some folks have short wave radio, but not many. Still, it's a growing hobby in this area, so who knows?
We're not in the right place for a sailboat, but we are looking into getting a canoe. Can't afford horses at this time, so guess we better pick up some more spare inner tubes for the bikes.
A number of our friends are working on getting into better shape as well as learning more "primitive" skills -- like cooking from scratch! And we have healthy farmers markets and CSA in this area, so there is hope for some folks anyway.
As for me, I'm looking forward to being able to set up the laundry lines outside again soon -- love that free solar power!
The idea of small business is perhaps nice, but the reality is that they are as ephemeral and tied to the big logic of the system as everything else. Take a look, for example at this:
The gourmet dog food shop shown in the strip has just closed, by the way...
Meanwhile, an FYI: You're missing a Roman "I" in the title to this excellent post. We're already in the XXI century...
Most small businesses are silly. Perhaps I should have used the terms "trade" or "craft" instead.
XXI is not a typo. Many people are still living as if it's the XX century - on borrowed time.
As far as XXII - a few breeding couples living up in the high Arctic is Lovelock's prophecy. Make of it what you will, but we are definitely not there yet. The present is frightening enough for most of us.
"Excellent post! I chuckled when I saw the bit on making moccasins, as we're planning on doing just that. Mind, we still have modern shoes, but it doesn't hurt to get the rust off the skills (or learn new skills), before we need them."
Anyone not already familiar with Gene Logsdon's "Practical Skills" should seek this via library or used bookstores. During the mid nineties I borrowed this from a cousin when planning a new septic system (I built it by hand to avoid permits and higher property taxes. It's great to live in an area with lazy building inspectors! This need to avoid conspicuous infrastructure improvements (taxes!) could become critical if we gradually slip into a neo-feudal police state rather than "anarchy") I didn't follow Logsdon's plan exactly, but it was a good source for ideas. There are many useful ideas in this book!
Good Presybtarian, Thanks for the book recommendation. We do have some of Gene's other books, but don't seem to have that one yet. We do have a variety of useful books here though, including John Seymour's on Self-Sufficiency (relative term there), various gardening and herbal books, etc. -- we've even read some of them ;) We're definitely pushing on fitness and food preservation techniques this year, even more than last year. Best way to save is to not spend, and when you do spend, spend wisely (like the creative insulating and wood stove last year), and not getting sick!
Agreed that being circumspect in some things may be wise. One farmer trick around here is covering some things outdoors (that won't fit in the barn) with tarps or simply scraps of metal roofing or whatever -- so one doesn't get taxed for a roof... Consideration of one's neighbors, exchanging favors and such, is good community-building and also sometimes cost saving (in a number of ways!).
Since we're on the subject of handbooks, may I recommend a classic, _Handy Farm Devices_, from 1910? Here you can get the complete text, though I also have a copy of the book, reissued maybe 12 years ago.
This is not only a goldmine of good advice but the author, Rolfe Cobleigh, writes in a style that would make more than one "renowned columnist" green with envy.
Pardon the Captain Obvious observation, but the "why" behind the phenomena you observe in this post is pretty simple and basic: Being deeply and badly spoiled all their lives makes many people respond to situations in seriously inappropriate ways; and there's bugger-all to be done about it when the situation in society permanently changes for the worse except wait for those who are the most mule-headed in their inappropriateness to die off. The problem is, how many of the less foolish will the consequences of the inappropiate decisions of the more foolish end up killing off, too?
If your going to hell in a bucket why not do it with a good cup of Joe or maybe a fine glass of wine?
Personally I’ve undertaken a quest, inspired by the following article for the most appropriate wine for the coming collapse. Of course a foreign label is a must and just so apropos on many levels. Currently I’ve settled on an Australian label: TWO HANDS BELLA'S GARDEN SHIRAZ BAROSSA 2006.
It’s a nice red with enough body and a sharp noise to overcome any possible taint of the palate and olfactory that any future mystery meat my have. I am open to suggestions as I prepare my cellar and would like to include some quality wines that could use and or stand extended cellaring for we could be without reliable replacement stock for an undetermined length of time.
See, we can prepare for the worst with a more cherry sense of temporary discomfort.
We are not savages and can weather the coming storm in a comfortable and civilized manner.
Now where did I put my BOB? I’ve got to add my favorite corkscrew and Riedel glass…
Anonymous @ 2:56
Thanks for posting the link to the Rolfe Cobleigh ebook at the journeytoforever.org site. That book truly is a goldmine as you say, and so is that website. The farm library section has links to an incredible collection of pdf ebooks!
Another "appropriate technology" handbook to look out for might be the S.B. Watt and W.E. Wood "Hand Dug Wells and Their Construction". This was intended to teach people in 3rd world situations how to safely construct high volume wells. Unfortunately, I suspect in most parts of the de-industrializing west, safe locations to put in a water supply of this type may be rare, and a cistern may be a better option.
D. Orlov said,
"The remaining hollow fiberglass husks could make interesting, long-lasting treehouses."
Flipped upside-down they would make great shelters for firewood. A few years ago I had the opportunity to buy the adjoining property for next to nothing. One of the "bonuses" was an abandoned motor cruiser on an imobile trailer (The owner fell overboard, drunk, in Halifax harbour years ago and the boat deteriorated in his mother's yard) I store firewood in it.
I wish some of those abandoned sailboats would float this way....
I think the reality that the throw-away society is over for good will start to sink in fairly soon. I suspect many people are still looking on this new depression as a form of self-conscious adventure-entertainment, much the way they looked at the first gulf war. (I cringed when they dragged Vera Lynn in from the pasture to sing old WW2 songs. "What a great adventure we are on, aren't we so brave......")
Few people know how to train horses to task and few have the skills necessary to use the trained ones. Most people can learn to stay on a horse with a saddle but managing a horse and wagon, or a horse and plow (see 1883 House, a PBS back-in-time experiment documentary)is a different proposition entirely. And badly handled, a horse can kill you or cripple you up so bad that you are in misery the rest of your life if you survive. Heck, a horse or handler can just make a mistake and end up like Christopher Reeve.
IMO, small businesses like our local slaughterhouse/butcher/market combination will continue to thrive, just with locally made products. I know the tiny, poverty-stricken farming community that I live in will weather any storm without really feeling it too badly. Folks here have their chickens already, and gardens, goats, cows and pigs, etc. Wheat, corn, barley etc. are all grown here. Everyone has a wood lot,and everyone has wood stoves of one kind or another. Most have a hand pump for backup what's been there for 80 to 100 years. We still remember how to cut ice out of the river to store for summer use. We know how to dry, can, root cellar... We'll be fine. And what's more, every household here has guns and ammo - it's a hunting community. And everyone here knows everyone else, so any strangers that come around trying to steal those chickens are likely to face some swift and lethal justice, should the times get that bad.
I think communities like this will make it through. Like the song goes, "Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without."
I do feel sad for the ones that have no useful skills or the ability to survive without modcons.
How sad if this middle-aged cowgirl is the oddity you portray, but I'm afraid that in the US that's the case.
Not so in Mexico. That's one reason I foresee better survival possibilities, that and the 365 growing season, the general ag know-how and above all, the extended family and tribal systems that keep people a little more sane here IMO.
Not to mention that for all it is touted as poverty-stricken, most families have land, agriculture and homes (albeit humble) free and clear.
But if there are any atavistic impulses among readers here to bone up on horsemanship vs. slaughter (sorry about pun), a good place to start is from the hooves up. "No hooves, no horse." The coming trend is "barefoot." It turns out that the horseshoes taken for granted for millenia actually have slowly deformed horses' feet (not unlike foot-binding on those flexible hooves). Here are a couple of state-of-the-art reads for those interested in getting back in the saddle again.
An excellent read titled "Can your horse go barefoot? Here's why, and how, he may be happier without shoes:" http://www.easycareinc.com/_System/Lib/Image/main_pages/education/articles/Can%20Your%20Horse%20Go%20Barefoot.pdf
More in depth, this article describes the way foot-dwarfing causes all kinds of skeletal-muscular compensation and ensuing deformities which have spawned unlimited new surgical fields in vain:
Spartan sailboat guy here.
I'll stand by what I previously stated about boats being unable to tolerate extended withdraw from modern supply. In a Mad Max scenario, any thing short of a dog sled won't last. Sailing craft patterned after times past were barges that either took a hundred men and a monarchy to maintain, or were limited to hauling oysters on an inland bay.
Look to history for the truth; Fletcher Christian burned the Bounty partly because he realized he would never be able to maintain it.
Trust me, we don't want to return to a feral life. We're irrevocably wedded to the 21st century. However there's plenty of room for altering it to a more realistic and sustainable existence.
Much as I hate Wall St and the "modern" world, there's no going back. Let's try to make the best of things GOING FORWARD.
I have two words for you, Spartan Sailboat Guy: Joshua Slocum. Built his boat out of white oak donated by neighbors in Connecticut. Used an old alarm clock with the face smashed in for a chronometer. Circumnavigated the planet.
"Trust me, we don't want to return to a feral life. We're irrevocably wedded to the 21st century."
Would you say that the guys who lived in the 21st century B.C. were irrevocably wedded to that century? I don't understand this concept. It seems to be refuted by the fact that there is change. The change may not be an improvement but a worsening, of course.
If the hint I read is right, you say that regression does not happen, but there has been regression in history, including intellectual regression and technological regression.
If the world as inhabited and viewed (and shaped, to some degree) by humans, let's call it the social world, is in any way similar to the individual in its life trajectory, then the Four Noble Truths tell you what happens... Physics is even blunter and not that noble!
Perhaps Dmitry can point to the article I wrote for this Blog on sailboats.
Re horses.. real 3rd world people use oxen. Slower and stronger.. cheaper and dual purpose. You can buy books on how to train them and make the gear. I have little experience with them.. but recently bought some large eye bolts to use on yokes..to attach chains. Just in case...
I have been collecting oil lamps( kerosene) for a while now but was still rather ignorant of their use. I was not aware that it is normal to let them warm up for a few minutes before turning up the wick for full light. They will smoke and /or flare otherwise.
This is a simple piece of folk knowledge which has been lost. Someone sold me a beautiful and functional old lamp which they said was "only ornamental" as they had never been able to use it successfully because of this.
In this vein of realistic regression, I wonder if the pig will finally assume a leading role in American society, a role that it enjoys in many old cultures. The pig, one of man's best friends. In the Mediterranean world, nothing of this noble animal is wasted. I am speaking of a properly fed pig, of course. Are Americans at large ready to deal with the reality of the pig?
Virtually any family with a house on a lot can have a pig; in the country, several or many more, especially if acorns are abundant.
The Spaniards conquered America thanks in part to the pig. Much of the Mediterranean depended and depends on it, as do other parts of the world. Pork, and not beef, is the economical way to have meat all year round. With a pig, smoke and salt and a few spices, you are covered.
I have written before of sheep, which complement the pig very nicely. The relative absence of this animal in the US continues to amaze me.
To be continued, perhaps.
Ian's guest post "Boats for Post-Cheap Oil Survival" can be found here:
@ anon 1:38
"Re horses.. real 3rd world people use oxen. Slower and stronger.. cheaper and dual purpose"
No doubt for many things, but believe me you don't want to try to ride an ox 25 miles/day if you need such transportation.
As government structure crumbles here and there, and rogue police forces emerge, people will indeed need non-highway transportation to get around it all, and a horse is excellent for this.
If oxen were so nimble, armies would have mounted all their soldiers on them throughout the millenia.
Not to steal anything from oxen for heavy labor. By all means, if there are oxen perishing in the killer auctions of the US, let's get them.
As for why I eulogize horses, it's in keeping with the theme of reasonable rescue of what is perishing in the US. They are being slaughtered for the absurd reason that the society lived on debt. This is a waste.
@La Amazona-Hola! We have such folk as you here, but I was thinking about people going back to using horses for general transport- I don't think so, leastaways, not right away. I think suburb/city people will be relearning the joy of walking 20 miles a day.
Your area sounds like a more hospitably climed version of this area - homesteads, dirt-poor, used to living on what they have in general. Nothing fancy here. I think yours and ours will probably do fine.
Thanks for the info on problems caused by shoeing. I think shoes have their place; and they should come on and off as necessary. But it takes a good farrier. If I didn't have a good one, I wouldn't ever shoe mine, for sure.
Anonymous oxen guy, I agree with you that oxen are the much better choice for draft animals. And they can be multipurpose, for milk and for beef as well. I know, same with horses, talk to the Mongols... but this is a cultural preference for me - cows, goats, even sheep - but not horse milk. It's blue.
Oh, and for the wine guy Chicago Dan - when your stock of shiraz runs out, try rhubarb or raspberry wine (or other local traditional folk made) sometime. Good stuff. Folks hereabouts make their own and store the bottles in the root cellars for years. Who knows, they might be exporting it to the nearest big city at outragous prices sometimes in the next few years, when there's no more spicy shiraz to be had.
When things settle back down and we regain our lost ground, we'll never forget. But likely our greatgrandkids will. And it'll all go round again. As a species, we just don't seem to learn.
But Dmitri, thanks. Your observations actually give me some hope that we may make it through. Not all of us, I know. But enough.
Really interesting post, especially compared to a recent NPR story titled "The New Normal" (http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=102851827)
NPR interviewed a number of experts to imagine life post-recession. All of their postulations seemed to be largely window dressing--smaller houses, smaller cars, less retail space. Nothing that actually addressed the underlying unsustainability of our current global financial system and the way we use resources. I like the way you put it Dmitry, about how people are trying very hard to find new ways of keeping the status quo (and are therefore really not doing anything new at all.)
"NPR interviewed a number of experts to imagine life post-recession. All of their postulations seemed to be largely window dressing--..."
Behind the sensationalist news (mountain lions move into foreclosed house!) there is a desperate effort in the media to make it seem like everything can go back to "normal". The general tone is sub-adult, fairly disgusting if you give it some thought, which I try not to.
In these times, it may be better to avoid the gossip media totally. If they want to live in a fantasy world where Michelle Obama's dresses or her hugging the queen of England are important, I say just let them. The thing about hot air balloons is that when the temperatures go down, they deflate and die....
Sorry to interrupt the pleasant and useful agricultural conversation, but Obama has just announced a fuffle-boondoggle of Pharaonic proportions: he will cool the Earth!
Anonymous @ 4:49 said
"Sorry to interrupt the pleasant and useful agricultural conversation, but Obama has just announced a fuffle-boondoggle of Pharaonic proportions: he will cool the Earth!"
If you haven't heard this, have a listen to Gwynn Dyer's Climate War scenarios. I'd rather take my chances with potential runaway climate change than these climate engineering experiments. When reading about such plans I can almost sympathise with more extreme environmentalists who believe a total sudden collapse of industrial civilization is the only long range hope for humanity. (I suspect we will actually get a slow, orwellian collapse, looking more like max headroom (initially) than mad max.)
Great post Dmitry,
The post collapse target I am trying to hit is being comfortable in 1930s Appalachia. A valuable resource I have been studying are the "Foxfire" series of books. They are a goldmine of information on how things were done back then.
Spartan sailboat guy, for one last post (you know, modern life draws me away).
With 7 billion people on this planet, we don't have the luxury of slipping back into a past life. Nope, to care for this many (& the plenty more on the way) we need functioning technology.
I don't particularly like it, heck, I'm not even a parent or a an admirer of the typical "US" lifestyle. But providing for vast masses of humans is a reality and we need science,technology,economies of scale and even (gasp) modern businesses .... to pull it off.
Good for all of you growing your greens, raising chickens, etc. More power to you. For the millions in cities, that's not realistic. They need something such as Cold Fusion.
Oh, and for that one coot out there who is raking me over the coals for not being Josh Slocum,
after having singlehanded my uninsured "simple" sailboat thru 50ft wide south pacific atoll passes & up Australian river mouths (with a simple 8hp OB as backup), I've had enough of doing things the hard way.
If technology is available and a realistic option, I say grab it.
The world is indeed rolling towards a hard collapse in most effective ways. Can this image demonstrate the overall folly an inadequacy of modern human aspirations: construction of Dubai's "paradise" islands is stopping, including the World "map" project. Here is the end of the World as it happens...
But do we have to fall into rash nihilism towards technology? We probably still have a decade or two to enjoy the modern infrastructure, enough time to put our minds not only to smart preservation of existing (or earlier) technology, but actually developing new technology specifically for lower-tech world. We may think of particurlarly longer lasting (though otherwise "poorly performing") computers, transportation vehicles, energy sources, communication means, information carriers. But we may also think of how much of our mechanical, electric, or even semiconductor technology can be designed to be reproducible with a minimal set of tools? Can the Soviet-Western technology "race" offer an indication, how feasible is deliberate development of down-scaled wonders of our industry?
I do not mean here a global scale "world saving", rather a localized effort of knowledgeable early foresees. Regarding the social dimension, the most probable "natural" course is that the elites would be able to gather and keep a lot of modern technology for some time, for their own fun and to befuddle their slave commoners from time to time. The elites would also have better information, of what really happened under the collapse, or what technological or social tricks were possible. That would give them an enormous power edge to rule long centuries. Possibly, collapses with strong social differentiation had happened before. A "Prometheus" effort to make information and simple technology widely available would make the dark ages much more interesting and less dismal.
Fancy timing, did you know about this April 7 NYT article about the surge in abandoned horses - I think they stole your scoop!
muchos saludos @ Jaya
"...Obama has just announced a fuffle-boondoggle of Pharaonic proportions: he will cool the Earth!"
¡Caramba, jaque mate a Huitzilopochtli! The dude's gonna take credit for inventing [sound of duct tape screaming off the roll before the trolls fly in to peck out Dmitry’s eyes]
"But we may also think of how much of our mechanical, electric, or even semiconductor technology can be designed to be reproducible with a minimal set of tools? Can the Soviet-Western technology "race" offer an indication, how feasible is deliberate development of down-scaled wonders of our industry?"
This may be possible in some areas, for example agricultural equipment, textiles and so forth. But the big problem is that the current system has a complexity that will make it break down as soon as one link falls. For example, transportation. For another example, the computer systems that now, in effect, have replaced people in banking.
I don't think we should stop using anything that is available; that would be foolish. The problem is not realizing that it has a finite life and that after that, it can't really continue. The ramifications of the energy problem (and its concomitant problems, such as the food problem) are enormous.
Low-level and mid-level technologies are important, of course. But it's wise to ask what source of energy they will run on thirty or fifty years from now. This includes the factories that could manufacture low and mid-level technology, such as mechanical sewing machines. Even the problem of replacing plastics is a hard one.
Trust me, we don't want to return to a feral life. We're irrevocably wedded to the 21st century.
Overstatement is so persuasive.
"We" is inappropriate there, as "spartan sailor" can't possibly speak for me, nor for the many people I know who, like me, do not think technology will save us.
Stop watching PBS "Nova," and start examining what's happening. Technology won't save anything. It hasn't saved mankind yet, not even in the smallest measures. Yet people still blindly grasp after "technology" as a savior.
Another commenter stated it more accurately, in my opinion. It's not about technology. It's about spoiled brats who don't know how to be resourceful in the face of a problem. These spoiled brats think that technology will save them, mainly because technology is assumed to prevent the need to assume responsibility for one's self and the future.
Science fiction is interesting as a way to pass the time, but it's not what will save us.
"Another commenter stated it more accurately, in my opinion. It's not about technology. It's about spoiled brats who don't know how to be resourceful in the face of a problem. These spoiled brats think that technology will save them, mainly because technology is assumed to prevent the need to assume responsibility for one's self and the future."
I tend to have a more benevolent attitude towards people. In the course of trying to organize locally, I have spoken with various groups. My impression is that the greatest difficulty that Americans are having is accepting poverty. This is a country that has rarely allowed people to be poor with dignity. For example, a family of diminished resources cannot bring itself to move to the part of town where the poor live because it is a dangerous place. Hence, people cling to "middle class" living even as it is ruining them. This is a real problem and not brattism, in my opinion. In any case, for an orderly regression you have to count on people as they are, not as you would wish them to be. A lot of them are full of fancy and utterly false notions about self, they tie the self to their "position in life" and so on. But they are not useless, they can do things, though many are not used to taking the initiative since they have lived their entire lives in a system that assigns roles and places.
Anyway, that's my take and it is not nearly as negative. I think need will wake people up.
Ruined empire won't go down without a fight. Just read this:
Economic warfare with China? How about planting potatoes? What exactly is "economic warfare"? This smells very bad, folks.
I don't appreciate honest realism being dismissed as simple negativity.
I don't see anything positive in the way this is unfolding. I don't see anything positive in my neighbors telling me I need to "give Obama a chance" while Obama is hastening the collapse.
If you, "anonymous," are so convinced that there are no people behaving as spoiled brats who expect technology to save them from themselves, I submit your optimism is more of the "Hope and Change" nonsense that Obama sold to naively optimistic people similar to yourself.
This problem didn't arise because people are noble, self-sufficient, and mature.
This problem arose because people take the naive and immature route of ignoring problems and hoping they'll go away. There's no optimism in witnessing people being so immature.
There is optimism in knowing that this will all end. There is no optimism in the type of end that will be, however. Not based on what's happened to date. Not from where I sit.
Perhaps "anonymous" sees through a fine set of rose-colored lenses, though.
"I don't appreciate honest realism being dismissed as simple negativity."
I didn't dismiss it. I merely pointed out that I don't see it the same way. In any case, what is the point in harping on how people got here? It is not useful thinking, in my opinion. Nor is wishing people to be punished for being stupid. Revenge has always been something very low.
As to brats, of course they exist. I pointed out that this is not always the case. I gave an example: that in the US, it is very hard to be poor with dignity. I think this is a fact. The old gentlemen in Rome, who is quantitatively a lot poorer than his American "poor"counterparts, shines his shoes, takes good care of his capotto, has an ironed shirt that still looks good, and he goes out on the town for his walk. He is not a pariah. Show me the equivalent in the US.
There is an old Dutch saying: You don't need hope in order to persevere.
I think this is wise.
Interesting discussion on the "technology as savior" concept.
Let's just look at food. Most of the food is handled/grown/packaged etc. by a group of people quite disparaged lately in the MSM - those natives from south of the border (yes, native Americans - the Spanish are a white race with no cheekbones, fish eyes like the English). There is the border war of late.
Living SOTB and having/talking with many Mexican friends, they are more of an integrated society and are quite aware that if, as a group, they decide to leave the states in dismay and protest, the entire nation will be knocked to its knees over the issue of food (let alone gardening and house-cleaning). It could happen. Contrary to propaganda, Mexico's five internal wars brought about a situation where for all its touted poverty, most families still have some land and agriculture free and clear with a 365 growing season. They are not going to run by the million north of the border for starvation, because there's hardly a Mexican alive who doesn't realize the vast quantity of US-destined food grown south of the border. They will head south in search of food in a pinch, believe it.
The really grim aspect is all the guns, which are particularly common out west - something that this born Montanan observes a lot of more genteel eastern people do not realize. My husband grew up in St. Paul, and never saw a gun until Nam. No one had them among family/friends. On the contrary, where I'm from, children are shooting even before the diapers come off. MT has the distinction of some six firearms/person statewide, and in AZ, NM and across the southwest guns are just as common (they consider shooting "sport").
Back to the 98.5% of US people who are not doing any agriculture, but depending on another race/nationality of people to do that for them... the minute the firearms break out, the nation is going to learn what harm was done by eliminating most railroad service, because truckers will not be sufficiently armored to pass through a line of fire. And they won't, either, should internal war break out. And unfortunately an enormous portion of US food passes from the south upward, right through the region where the most guns are concentrated.
Once the trucking stops, there goes food, and a whole lot more. Then all the none-farmers do what? Head to the Walmart to shoot it out for the dregs?
As soon as it comes to that, trust me, every Mexican will be tearing southward to home. Not only that, few realize that entire crops are now rotting on the trees due to so many illegals already having returned. We notice this, our neighbors are streaming back here, and people guess that half the illegals are back already. Mind you, it's not the scions of the Spanish who pick the fruit for the most part. That is mostly "Indian" work. Ahem.
The combination of so many guns and so few railroads (they would be better armored, and perhaps engineers would brave what truckers certainly would not) makes for a very dire situation in a nation of people who do not know squat all about producing food.
If there's a moral to the story on this side of "maybe," it's that the "faith in technology" has perhaps fostered a total illusion of democracy, for when a nation subsists on the ag labors of a disenfranchised class (never mind that the US took half their country) and effectually expatriates agriculture, you end up with something like "the Truman show" for a nation. They are living in a bubble, out of touch.
I see the states as extremely fragile. And I haven't even started ranting about the gummnt's power to shut off electricity to break up internal strife, and what it's going to be like when water doesn't run, sewage doesn't flow, and the freezing weather sets in.
It will not end in a healthy way. And it is uniquely capable of ending in days.
"If there's a moral to the story on this side of "maybe," it's that the "faith in technology" has perhaps fostered a total illusion of democracy, for when a nation subsists on the ag labors of a disenfranchised class (never mind that the US took half their country) and effectually expatriates agriculture, you end up with something like "the Truman show" for a nation. They are living in a bubble, out of touch."
The bubble is integral to the system, which requires extreme specialization, the largest specialty, to be shared by everyone (if possible), being specializing in consuming. Notice all the verbal categories that are used in order to mediate: work force, human being, the many "job titles", and so on. When the assembly line, and more in general the Taylor system becomes a way of life, well, you have this way of life.
So an anonymous "human being", who is a "senior clerk", eats "foodstuffs" and performs "roles", lives in a "housing unit", etc. There has never been a society like this one --I speak of the US and the societies that have adopted similar mediated methods of peaceful herding. I believe, and it is only a conjecture, that the destruction of family was essential to installing the system. A divided loyalty would not have served the system well, let alone a traditional 90% loyalty to family and 10% to the rest.
So yes, those millions of anonymous people are producing the food that the anonymous millions (many more) buy at the supermarket as if the food grew there. The chain is so long that the complexity drowns out any sense of concreteness. One lettuce is like another lettuce, a "foodstuff", and John and Mary are "human beings".
What I am trying to say is the extreme tendency to abstraction, specialization and reliance on money has killed the vitality of a society like the US. And at a time when people should be clamoring for an agriculture plan, a transportation plan, and so on, they don't clamor for any of that. The reason is that you can't clamor for what you don't know. The overwhelming majority of Americans don't know of any other life.
Sorry this got a bit too long. I'm tired. Good night to all.
Wow, well everybody who thinks we can simply return to the horse and buggy days are in for a real rude surprise. Since the end of the 19th century, when the world was already running out of resources we have multiplied our population. This is thanks to learning to use oil as a food and clothing sources. There is more to oil than just gasoline and diesel fuel.
Still, even as fuel, oil frees animals from being used as transport or clothing and land from being used for wood production.
Consider also the use of oil for plastics, fertilizer and medicine.
Without oil we do not have enough agricultural land to feed the number of people on the planet. This is not something that will be solved by hooking your daughter's pet pony up to a wagon, or by digging up your front lawn and planting veggies. Though both those actions might help you feel better they simply will not work in the long run.
Cuba went through this already after USSR collapsed. They have made it a long way gown the path of living without oil.
Lucky Cuba had a fertile country,a climate conducive to agriculture and a Gov't that cared. They were lucky that they still had some oil available and were not overpopulated at the time.
I think most places will end up looking much worse
If you grow all your own food, that is ALL you will do.
Meat eaters should consider guinea pigs. There are South American varieties bred specifically as meat animals. A friend has been raising them for years in four small cages that roll indoors at night and in bad weather. Good food in a small space.
No one seems to recognize that there will be a great die-off of surplus population as food gets scarce and disease runs rampant.
The survivors can then stride boldly into the 19th Century.
"Without oil we do not have enough agricultural land to feed the number of people on the planet. This is not something that will be solved by hooking your daughter's pet pony up to a wagon, or by digging up your front lawn and planting veggies. Though both those actions might help you feel better they simply will not work in the long run."
I disagree. What will not work in the long run is agribusiness, the corn economy (in the case of the US), and so on. The US, to give just one example, has plenty of land to feed its population. However, it needs to reinstate agriculture (instead of trying to continue agribusiness).
If Obama has a plan for agriculture, I have not seen it. Which is why people need to take the matter in their hands. The government will give no incentives to small scale local agriculture.
The amount of land necessary to feed a family has been calculated by various researchers and organizations. Naturally, it depends on having enough fertile land. It is possible that cities that were built in preposterous places will shrink or even be abandoned. I am thinking of states like Arizona and Nevada, for example.
But the majority of states have very abundant fertile land, more than most European countries, for example. Consider what Holland has done with land that wasn't very good: today, they are the third biggest agricultural exporter.
Given the outlook, I don't see any other viable solution than local autarchy for the production of food.
"If you grow all your own food, that is ALL you will do.?
Not true. I grew up in a family that cultivated a couple of acres regularly, nobody worked full time at it, but there were a good number of us and working at it wasn't optional. Vegetables of various kinds, some fruit trees, chickens and sometimes rabbits. All cultivated by hand and without much need for watering.
Now, for a nuclear family it may be difficult. But the nuclear family, perhaps, is an aberration. As we wave goodbye to the era that gave birth to it, why not wave goodbye to the nuclear family, too? Not to mention the possibility of informal associations.
As to population decreasing, history shows that there are ups and downs. It is to be expected that the population bubble should burst. It has been increasing uninterruptedly for way too long.
"I believe, and it is only a conjecture, that the destruction of family was essential to installing the system. "
Exactly. People I speak with NOTB do not understand an indigenous people with millenia spent in the same place, and how differently life proceeds. The only thing known up north (by most) is to plead with the gummnt for this or that, acting as "units" instead of in a tribal impulse. In fact spontaneous social initiative might well be illegal in most cases. If people were, en mass, to convert foreclosed lots into farms, I think it would come to a confrontation.
"frees animals from being used as transport or clothing and land from being used for wood production"
!!!!!!!!!!!! Do you realize, just to start, that in 95 years the US forest service and BLM, working from the false assumption that Indians were too stupid to manage forests (they did selective burns and trimmings - http://www.magickriver.net/karuk.htm ), by leaving forests untouched, they have since RUINED some half a billion acres of forest? (http://www.rockymountainnews.com/news/2008/jan/15/beetle-infestation-get-much-worse/)
You must not work with animals, particularly horses, for you do not realize that domestic animals enjoy getting out and doing things with humans when the relationship is good. My horse whinnies as I leave, begging me to stay and "have more fun." They like activity.
As for oil, it's the entire system of hypothecated finance - abstract forms of wealth - that is going to have the last say. It is imploding, and destined as a system for extinction. The ruin of hypothecated wealth is what is going to take this down. And yes I realize many will die. It is tragic.
I still say the problem is the design of cities themselves. All the people on earth (and half of them are minors, in the same household) could have 1/4 of an acre in Australia and use up but a fifth of the continent. There are resourses. The problem is the design of cities. You simply can not have millions of people creating sewage (and combusting anything) in one spot. It does not and should not work. Industrialization has brought about human living conditions more horrid than ever (Kunstler does an excellent send-up of 18th century London in A City In Mind). Human life can not exist as cities have been designed. And most of the combustion of oil serves the scions of industrialization, who live in artificial clusters created to serve THE MAN. This is what has got to stop.
I am weary of the "too many people" meme. Most of the waste is caused by the scions of industrialization. Most people on earth are not significantly literate, don't own cars, don't flush toilets, and come by their own food. It is only huge cities that are the problem.
"Do you realize, just to start, that in 95 years the US forest service and BLM, working from the false assumption that Indians were too stupid to manage forests (they did selective burns and trimmings - http://www.magickriver.net/karuk.htm ), by leaving forests untouched, they have since RUINED some half a billion acres of forest?"
There's a very bad superstition operating, namely that nature is "sacred", as in you must let every leaf untouched and in fact not use it... this applies only to officially declared natural areas. The superstition is most potent as regards trees. As you say, if you fight forest fires and don't do intentional burning, you can ruin a lot of land. Yuppie ideas of "sacredness" have nothing to do with real nature.
Hear hear! The abstraction of life.
I mean, we're far gone enough here, talking in cyberspace. But the life NOTB has become (for perhaps the vast majority) extremely abstract. "Muy abstracto" is exactly what we hear Mexicans (who have been up north and come back) say of the lives they witness up north. Abstract finance, abstract entertainment, and the carrot-and-stick of "someday-when-I-retire..." It is truly sad. We hear - and have seen - that many children up north simply do not know how to play apart from their cybertoys.
Out of this mass self-hallucination come half-baked well-intentioned approaches to everything else, like the idea that forests should not be maintained, or that animals should just be left on their own. Domestic animals will perish in cruel deaths they way many abandoned horses now do when their silly owners turn them loose to the wolves (literally) on BLM land - just for example.
I get exhausted. Having spent the best part of a year among first generation literate Kenyan girls (and others), and seen life in a much more basic sense than most experience up in TrumanLand, I can testify that a simpler sort of life is not disdained by those who live it. Here in Mexico they boast of having time to be with their families, and feel they have better lives. We talk a lot with Mexicans (I can converse with people who don't speak English) and we have yet to meet any "poor" Mexicans pining away for a shot at suburbia, an SUV and a plasma TV. Those who have seen the states know what they have and rejoice. They say the least literate are those who flee up north, for believing what they see on TV or the boasting of some cousin.
I went to Kenya in 1984 with a head full of apologetics. It took a few weeks to figure out enough to shut up and take notes. I thought I (blonde young mostly Irish female) would be hated as bourgeois. Hah! None knew to hate me for my family's appliances. In fact they were more caught up in intertribal issues like whether people mashed their peas or ate them whole, and worse things like clitoridectomy. But heh, it takes a certain amount of "edjamacation" to learn to resent "the ruling class" (which in fact a lot of mortgage-holders are not, but only seeming to be rich).
The "poor" of the world, I have learned from travel, also tend to have land free and clear. Because no one within 500 miles of them will hypothecate the value of their "shamba" (farm in kiswahili), these values are not included on the tabulations of the international banking vipers. We, the mortgaged "first-world," fall for the meme that we (the renters, in fact) are the rich and they (the land owners) are poor.
Mexico, in the end, will surprise those up north in the long run for this very reason. The poor will inherit the earth. Just watch.
It is as if the doctors decided to only try to save persistent vegetative quadriplegics with terminal cancer...
That's not too far from the truth. One third of the money spent in the US on health care is spent on the last two years of life.
"That's not too far from the truth. One third of the money spent in the US on health care is spent on the last two years of life."
And if Ray Kurzweil has his way, a lot more will be spent by people who want to be immortal! Talk about regression... that a genius inventor like Kurzweil should hold such an infantile view is astonishing.
I promised myself I would pipe up no more, but I see mention of Kurzweil of all people.
Pardon me for touching on the spiritual here, but if I'm even barely correct about believing in reincarnation, we're about to see the most dreadful people on earth make the immortally fatal decision of pegging themselves to a single mortal body. I do expect them to make a long-expected collective end to themselves by this move.
"Pardon me for touching on the spiritual here, but if I'm even barely correct about believing in reincarnation, we're about to see the most dreadful people on earth make the immortally fatal decision of pegging themselves to a single mortal body. I do expect them to make a long-expected collective end to themselves by this move."
One of the important things that the Buddha taught is that one should not be a fool! Whether you believe in reincarnation or not, being a fool is, well, stupid.
[To Anonymous, April 9, 11:58:00 AM EDT]
To my view, complexity "explosion" is more a symptom than a problem. The problem is that the humanity tries to mitigate obvious sustainability problems by firmly believing in new technological fixes "just in time". As sustainability problems deepen but we do not address them directly, each new mitigating trick adds gauche complexity.
Saving a decent batch of technology for "Possbily Less Dark" Ages will require a good deal of cooperative effort from willing enthusiasts. It would be nice to have solar-and-wind power electric grids at minimum; that should be enough for a few centra of "higher" industry. It is very important to have a reference of would be available energy output, so that individuals would get an idea what is worth saving. Plastic recycling should not be too hard or energy consuming. "Scavenging" science should start now somehow.
"To my view, complexity "explosion" is more a symptom than a problem."
I think complexity is now so much a part of the "way of life" (the one that according to Cheney is not negotiable), not a symptom. It has become something in itself.
Old French philosopher Jacques Ellul, something of a sourpuss but a smart man, observed that efforts to undo complexity by "localism" tend to reproduce the complexity at the local level. This is in his book _The Technological System_, written in the seventies --it is not the same as the classic _The Technological Society_.
For example, a little elementary school in the boondocks might reproduce the entire bureaucratic aparatus, at a reduced scale but with proportionally the same complexity, layers of "experts", many "managers", etc.
It seems to me that Americans no longer know how to live without being in a complex system. Many of them have never done a job that is outside such a complex system, they have not lived in a place that is not complex in this absurd way, and so on.
If you want an example, consider the organization and management of "dating"... with experts, organizations, background checks, and so forth. Something as simple as finding a girl or a guy!
I could go on, but I am sure the readership knows what I'm talking about.
I suppose if you have a working farm and are able to grow alfalfa then a horse would make sense. My daughter's pet horse required the expensive purchase of hay for the winter and an electric heater to keep the water trough from freezing.
One must evaluate their skill set before taking on large animals and besides I'd rather operate a still and make moonshine to trade for my transportation.
Cheers to wine guy!
Barbara Kingsolver’s "Animal, Vegetable, Miracle" gives some insight how a family transitioned to farm life by raising their own veggies and animals for food. So few of us know anything about animal husbandry (self included) but I can grow decent tomatoes.
If I do the permaculture correctly then I might have enough moonshine to pour into my flexfuel gas tank.
@Anon, April 10 at 3:49....
I was amused that you dissed people for growing some of their own food and then praised Cuba's success in living 'without oil'. Part of their success was everyone growing some of their food in their own yards.
And of course we aren't going to go back to the 19th century. Only 19th c. people can live in the 19th c. Even if by some magical sleight-of-hand our country went back to horse-and-cart times, too many people have knowledge about germ theory (what habits are needful to avoid becoming ill), and other similar 20th and 21st century knowledge. Many folks I know and/or have read about have been working on increasing their knowledge of herbal medicines, including growing/harvesting/processing the necessary plants. The currently available knowledge on herbal medicines is a combination of old and new knowledge.
There is no going back, only going forward. But that doesn't mean that things from the past can't be useful in the future.
To Dmitry From Neil Lori
Dmitry we better learn how to properly use non powered hand tools such as hammers, pliers, wrenches and screwd drivers. In addition food and water are going to be hard to get. In some areas we will have to catch the rain water. The collapse is here and in its early stage. My area of Essex County NJ aka Montclair NJ has a lot more homeless people who have been reduced to begging for money.
To Dmitry From Neil Lori
Obama is too much of a conformist to think out of the box. He is "resucing" banks, insurance and the auto industry with our money. He is a boondogle by your definition meaning he is making conditions worse on the average people aka you and I!!!!
On horses vs oxen and transportation.
For a 25 mile distance, a bicycle is superior to a horse. It's faster over long distances, and easier to repair when it breaks. You already need to eat and drink, but your bike doesn't So you save on feed and water for the horse. At the end of your journey you can lock up the bicycle, but the horse must be watched.
If you need to carry a heavy load, you're back to oxen.
If you want to go an argue about fitness... If you're too unfit to ride a bicycle, then you're too unfit to ride a horse. You're better off with a wagon and oxen...
*** All the people on earth (and half of them are minors, in the same household) could have 1/4 of an acre in Australia and use up but a fifth of the continent. ***
Come, you're welcome to it! Come grab your 1/4 acre of the world's driest continent! Apart from some ribbons of green around the coast (that's where the people are), it's all DESERT!
If this is indeed the future, we need to start teaching these old skills again to kids in school at and at home. Forget No Child Left Behind, drop the testing mandates and put these simple skills back into the electives wheels.
I think that the problem is that very few people alive today in first world countries were raised (unless you were born before the great depression maybe or if you have lived in a third world country, or grew up Amish) even learned many of these skills as a child. For many, they were raised with the oil rich, technology savvy, taking cars everywhere, type culture that everyone knows. More importantly, to go back to horse drawn times, this would require a massive change in the infastructure as barns, stables, and the like would have to be reconstructed. We would need to change zoning codes, animal laws, etc too to allow horses and oxen in many areas that they are not allowed now.
More importantly, we would also need to repeal all the laws about liability issues for recreational activities to favor allowing middle aged children and adults to use these older technologies without massive numbers of lawsuits. Indemnifying will go away I think in the future or will be reduced as people, including children will assume the risk for everything they do on their own and that will be the norm, instead of the property owner being liable.
As to technology, I doubt that the car or the information age will vanish overnight, either. I think that we may use them in a smaller scale than today, but many of the 20th and early 21st century technologies I think will be around for at least the first half of the 21st century. Granted, it will not be happy motoring all the time like the 20th century, but I still think it will be possible to give people a small amount of pleasure driving (such as to occassionally visit a distant friend) as opposed to daily driving to work with renewables like celluoistic ethanol, biodiesel, and other renewable fuels made from non-food stocks like Camelina, Jatropha, Algae, and others. Even some of these fuels have shown good test results in commercial airliners (Continental, Japan Airlines, SAS, Air New Zealand, Virgin Atlantic, Green Flight International, and others have done tests with these fuels), so even some flight might be possible too!
Come on, Dmitri. Get a ripple on! We're all waiting for your July insights, wit, etc.
Just a kind of rhetorical winge.
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