Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Shrinking the Technosphere, Part V

[Réduire la techno-sphère, Partie V]

Before we proceed any further in describing how political technologies can be used to bring about the sort of dramatic social change that might grant humanity a new lease on life on planet Earth, let's describe what “naturelike technologies” might look like. By “naturelike” we mean something that is in balance with nature—its rhythms, both diurnal and annual, and its cycles: of water, carbon dioxide, organic nutrients—and human generations. By “technologies” we mean the know-how, passed from generation to generation, which one needs in order to survive—not any fancy gadgets or machinery, not the internet of things, nano-this or genetically-engineered-that.

Of course, there must also exist political technologies that can sustain and defend such an effort, especially against the predations of profit-driven psychopaths who have imperiled human survival through rapid resource depletion and out of control industrial development, but let's put this question aside for now...

While I was growing up in the USSR, every summer, from age five to age nine or so, my family would take off in some direction, east or west, on trips that could, in some of their aspects, be described as trips back in time. We spent one summer in a village so out-of-the-way that the locals demanded to know how we knew that their village existed. We hadn't known, neither did the authorities in the local regional center, and the locals seemed keen to keep it that way.

We simply tagged along with a geological survey team that was doing seismic testing, blasting its way along a hydrocarbon seam. Our method of transportation was a “Smotka”—a reel truck that bumped along rutted dirt roads running cable between sensors stuck in the ground that triggered small explosive charges, then recorded seismic data as jagged lines on spools of graph paper spewed out by a seismograph inside the truck.

It was a very poor village, with half of the intact log cabins boarded up, its few remaining residents in rough shape. At night, wolves and bears roamed the village, and meat, when we managed to get some from passing truck drivers, had to be buried outside, in a pit, with boulders piled on top. As the summer wore on and the wolves and bears got better at digging, the pit became deeper and the boulders larger.

We spent another summer in a village in the vicinity of Rybinsk, near lands flooded by the construction of hydropower dams, where most of the transportation was by boat over flooded land, and where the older people spoke an impenetrable Ugro-Finnish dialect whose name they didn't know. This village was more prosperous; most households had cows, which turned the dirt road that ran through the village center into a knee-deep wallow whenever it rained. I remember getting my rubber boots stuck in the mud, trying desperately to pull them out before the oncoming herd of cattle got to me, which included some quite ornery bulls that would periodically decide to chase me.

There were other summers too—on a family homestead in Estonia that had barely changed since the Middle Ages and had become something of a museum, with an impressive collection of wrought-iron candelabras that had actual candles in them, then on another family homestead in Transcarpatha of Western Ukraine—a working farm, and where I got a chance to herd cows on horseback (which I liked) helped with making hay (which I hate to this day) and slept in the hayloft with the family's four daughters (which I liked a lot).

We spent two summers in a hunting lodge on Lake Ladoga in Karelia which once belonged to Baron Gustaf Mannerheim—during the short period when Karelia was no longer part of the Russian Empire's Grand Dutchy of Finland but had not yet become Karelo-Finnish Soviet Socialist Republic within the USSR. By the time we got there it had been nationalized, turned into a resort and assigned to the Composers Union, of which my father was a member. There, I became obsessed with fishing, trolling from a rowboat for fresh-water pike which hid in the crevasses that ran along the bottoms of the fjords. We ate it after hot-smoking it with smoke from alder twigs.

Wherever we happened to be spending the summer, most of our days were spent wandering around the woods, foraging for berries, mushrooms and whatever else the woods had to offer. Everywhere, the woods were a maze of trails worn by the movements of both animals and people over many thousands of years.

Unlike what Americans like to call “wilderness” or, worse yet “unimproved land,” this was land that couldn't possibly be improved, because it was alive and full of spirit, where animal and human spirits commingled over thousands of years of uninterrupted harmony. In comparison, the North American landscape, with its national parks, marked hiking trails headed by large parking lots, and with the rest of it posted “no trespassing,” is a dead landscape, bereft of spirit and meaning, maintained because it is thought to have uses, such as recreation or conservation. That landscape is artificial: a mental construct overlaid on a natural realm that is considered alien. To an American, the map is the landscape; to a Russian living deep in the countryside, a map is evidence that you might be a government official or, worse yet, a spy.

In Russia, in most places you can walk in any direction for almost any distance, guided by memory and instinct rather than trail markings or a map. Rather than follow a marked trail single-file as Americans tend to do, in what to the untrained eye looks like a prison walk, in Russia people fan out across the landscape and keep in touch by yoo-hooing back and forth. Even young kids tend to wander the woods on their own, because American-style safety-consciousness is nonexistent and would probably be considered harmful—a way to raise nincompoops.

But the glorious Russian woods, so full of wonder and spirit, were also quite empty of people. In many places, we would happen across abandoned homesteads: trees sprouting from a foundation pit, the log cabin that stood over it long decayed into moss-covered mounds; a stout willow sprouting from a caved-in dug well—nature swiftly reclaiming the land. About the only structure left standing is the one, rather impressive, bit of masonry found in every traditional Russian village house: the Russian stove (of which more later). Sometimes there would be the remains of an orchard and a garden, the fruit trees—apples, pears, plums—still bearing fruit, along with the bushes and cane—currant, raspberry, gooseberry—but the potato field and the vegetable garden had already reverted to woodland.

This emptying of the rural landscape in Russia was one of the worst outcomes of the 20th century: collectivization and rapid industrialization following the Revolution drove people out of the villages and into the cities. The old, centuries-old patterns of local democratic self-governance and self-reliance were destroyed in a single generation. Old family farms were replaced by large communal farms and centrally planned agricultural production schemes. These turned out to be an unmitigated failure, forcing the USSR to resort to importing grain from the US and Canada on credit, and paving the way to its eventual destruction at the hands of its foreign creditors. Luckily, this effect was temporary; a quarter-century after the Soviet system fell apart, Russia is once again one the worlds main agricultural producers and exporters, taking first, second or third place in the production of most agricultural commodities.

Although there is quite a lot of mechanized industrial agriculture in Russia, for export commodities especially (Russia's Rosselmash stacks up well against John Deere) a lot of the food is still grown on small plots, which tend to be very productive, and their produce, sold through ubiquitous farmer's markets, is of higher quality. Western sanctions imposed on Russia following the putsch in Kiev, Crimea's referendum and the civil war in Eastern Ukraine, and the Russian countersanctions, which banned food imports from the offending Western nations, combined with lower oil prices and a speculative attack, which drove down the exchange rate of the Ruble, have given local agricultural producers a big boost. Sanctions notwithstanding, a lot of the food imports are never coming back. Russians are tuning into where their food comes from, plus Russia has banned all genetically modified products, cutting off imports from the almost entirely GM-corn-fed Americans.

A number of new initiatives and new legislation is making it easier for people to go back to small-scale farming. Certain categories of people, such as veterans and young families with children, now receive free parcels of land from the government. Income tax, which is normally a 15% flat tax plus a 1% retirement tax, drops down to just 6% for those who take up farming. Other factors, such as the widespread penetration of cell phone service and internet access and the growing popularity of home schooling (by Russian law, schools have to compensate homeschooling parents) are helping make rural living more popular. Reports that periodically surface in the social media from those who have moved out to villages tend to paint idyllic portraits of rural living. Slowly but surely, the landscape is being resettled.

This trend is in many ways a reversion to norm: over much of its millenium-plus-long history, Russia was a country of many small towns, numerous villages and countless isolated homesteads. This pattern of habitation suited the landscape, which is vast but provides rather diffuse resources to a preindustrial economy. Until quite recently most houses in Russia, even large ones, were built with wood, limiting their lifespan. Wood was, and still is, plentiful, but stone is quite scarce in many places, limited to some scattered boulders rolled across the landscape by glaciers many ice ages ago. Because of this, very little has remained in the way of ancient buildings or ruins: a few churches and a few forts. Of course, this changed with industrialization and the advent of cement, brick and reinforced concrete, but for many centuries before that Russian civilization left scarcely any permanent mark on the landscape—hardly anything that nature could not quickly reclaim by fire or decay.

The humble, rustic Russian village cabin, with its log walls and thatched roof, is physically impermanent: the logs rot; the thatch had to be replaced every few seasons. All that can be done to extend the life of the structure, which simply sits on wet ground, is to periodically replace the bottommost logs, but even then, after a few decades, the entire structure has to be abandoned—disassembled and cut up for firewood, burned in place, or simply allowed to decay into a compost heap. But as an easily replicated technology, it is ageless: a perfect set of adaptations to a difficult and demanding environment that have been honed to perfection over many centuries. It, along with the lifestyle and the practices associated with it, is a very good example of an all-encompassing naturelike technology. We shall describe it in detail in the next part of this seemingly never-ending series, which is at this point threatening to become feedstock for my next book.


Rhisiart Gwilym said...

Too bad about the haymaking, Dmitry! I sympathise, from my own experience. Don't hate it though; just can't do the damned hard work any more. Northern Boreal Forest permaculture strikes me these days as a MUCH better way to go, for getting one's living from the land, peaceably and non-destructively, going with Mam Gaia's flow. That's what I still tinker with - on a minute, old grand-dad's scale.

Thanks as ever for your uniquely insightful output. Always ready to offer periodic cash inputs to Club Orlov, in gratitude. Please - as with the new marine diesel - say when you need donations urgently. I can usually manage a modest bit.

Unknown said...

Hi Dmitri,

I am older than you are and also remember the Good Old Days. I am not sure we are ever able to reverse our trajectory, its a bit like Evolution. It is always a progress in some form of sophistication. From Roman Empire back to Feudalism could happen again, but I think we have passed even that possibility.

A Solar Coronal Emission could fry all technology, but probably only small quadrants. EMP's will only be local events and will not do much serious harm.

Nuclear war will do quite a bit of long term damage. I suspect that Fukushima and Chernobyl released more radio active material than a small nuclear war. Coal powered electrical plants spew out enormous amounts of radio activity over vast down wind areas.

I miss the Good Old Days but I do not think I would like to go back.

Regards Graham

NowhereMan said...

Love the pastoral descriptions of life in Russia Dmitry. A few things to remember about Americans: we have a much shorter history here in North America, and we have always viewed the land as something to be subdued and subjugated right from the start, essentially stealing it from the Native Americans, bison, wolves, and native tall grasses that were here for thousands of years before us. We've never been much on the idea of stewardship, preferring to capitalize on and exploit nature instead.

That process now being largely complete, it's hard to imagine Americans ever rediscovering a lost ecological sensibility which they never had. I think our coming fall is going to be much, much, harder than even the most committed doomers suspect. Americans self-identify as the world leaders in the secular religions of progress and technology, ideas which only incidentally include ecological and spiritual pursuits as things to be monetized and profited from.

Unknown said...

Here in Colorado I've had the opportunity to watch hikers 14,000 foot peaks in single file, and in no way would I describe them in in a "prison walk". There are many places here within an hour's time or less where hikers can "fan out" as they explore the country side.

Despite what Dmitri says, the North American landscape is not a "dead landscape" It is alive and available to those who will take the time to explore it, at least up until now, and for the time being. There are many places beyond the parking lot trail head where people from around the world come to enjoy. While exploring American wilderness I've met Europeans, Germans usually, who rave about American National Parks. I guess they didn't get the memo about how crappy they are.

I was first drawn to Dmitri's blog because I wanted someone to confirm in writing the collapse I see happening around me. I am glad to see him expose the lies and hypocrisy all around us. I am glad to hear him describe the beauty of Russian Character, but his contempt of Americans is wearing thin, and his description about us is often inaccurate. There are many North Americans doing things right and well.

Unknown said...

Hello Dimitri,

As a Russian born in Canada, I have to say this: I was laughing so hard when you described the Russian character in four points in a previous article because you were describing me. After reading this article, again, so many of your points apply to my Russian character. As a child, I spent my summers at our dacha and the first thing I did after undoing my bag, was to go wander in the woods. I was never scared of them (getting lost? Nope, not me!), I had to check on the different berry bushes, to see how they have survived the winter and see how much fruit they will bear in the coming summer. And what about mushroom picking????? That is also so part of our heritage. All I can say is a big thank you for the wonderful panorama of Russian life! Please do write that book on naturelike technologies, I look forward to it!

candrich said...

I agree with R. Chavez. The percentage of Americans who live quietly and productively with the earth is small, but we are here. The American west is covered in public lands that are not parks but rather are a wild magical and pristine land. As a member of the public I consider that part mine. Americans for the most part would not choose to come back to that simple living, but when necessity calls they will be capable. I think Dimitri that you often confuse the American people with the USA GOV CORP. We are not them. Permaculture methods of agriculture work very well in the semi-arid west and require very little water. We Americans at our heart and soul are anarchists. We will, after a hard and grueling humbling, thrive. I am truly enjoying this series. Thank you.

Zoltar said...

Thank you for some fascinating memoirs. Having grown up on a family farm I have my own memories of mud and boots, and cattle in pursuit of my friends in me as we crossed pastures some distance from our homes. Surely there must be a metaphor concealed in your anecdote about having your boots stuck in deep mud as a herd of ornery cattle bore down upon you. I can’t be the only one of your readers who would enjoying seeing a photo of you as a cowboy on horseback.

As a musician I am intrigued to learn that your father was a member of the Composers Union in Karelia. Is any of his music available in recordings or scores?
I think I’ll listen to the Karelia Suite by that Finnish interloper, Sibelius, as I fix lunch today.

Kate said...

Thanks for the sharing the adventures in the countryside you had as a child. I would say that our rural past might have been a bit like that for those who lived in the country...lots of walks in the woods and fields by ourselves, without public trails. But, there was little or no food collecting, and that is now really rare. There are some who do it as a family tradition, hunting spring and fall mushrooms and picking huckleberries in the mountains. The American rural experience was much more centered on the farm or little property with a house and garden out along the county road. Used to be a lot of deer hunting and fishing. Still is some. Here and there you can find places with big family gardens and great orchards. But, most don't even have fences any more, for livestock. So they often just have open woods or old pastures with no use at all. They shudder at the thought of having to milk a cow or a goat.

The good news for the future, I hope, is that there are a LOT of Americans living out in the country. Maybe not up on federal lands, of course, but down in the foothills and valleys. They have the land and space to do more to provide food for themselves, if they realized they need to. Maybe we just have not gotten enough of a challenge to our middle class lives yet to turn to the alternatives. Let's hope the change is gradual enough to allow many to prepare to use their land. I began to do that years ago and now have enough food from our garden, orchard and berry bushes for us to live on, other than tropical luxury foods. We can even grow our grains. Chickens and sheep to start with and to increase. But, there is a lot to learn how to do well to make is all work.

S.Treimel said...

I agree with much of what Roger Chavez says, but he [Roger] needs to cut Dmitry a little slack. Had Dmitry been born in America, his parents could have arranged a similar, though not identical, upbringing to his experience in Russia. If so, his impressions of the land and its people might be different.
I grew up in the suburbs in New Jersey, and my fondest memories from childhood are of tromping randomly through the few remaining "unimproved" woodlands, walking in streambeds, and generally getting dirty and wet. I never thought about getting lost, as I had a good sense of direction. I didn't much care for the suburbs, and left as soon as I could to resettle in a rural area.
As for the "dead landscape", yes, one can say that about the "improved" territory. But that impression drops away once you get beyond the influence of the profit-seeking types and the trash. I've done a fair bit of wandering in the state and national parks, and it gets quite magical once you're out of range of the parking lots, trails, and other effluvia of civilization. There are places in southern Utah where you can have a psychedelic experience without the need for drugs!
I believe that part of any person's affinity for a landscape comes from their childhood experience, or ancestral memory, or from past life experience, if you believe in that stuff. From his writing, it appears that Dmitry's parents loved the land and its people, and that Dmitry shares that feeling. Similarly, there are many people on the American continent that have similar feelings for their homeland.
Blessings to us all in hopes that the regeneration of the land goes well.

Shawn Sincoski said...

I can take this offline if you want, but I am curious if it is even remotely possible for me as an American living in Poland, to migrate to Russia. I'd be glad to live in a small village in Siberia. I thought that moving to a 2nd world country like Poland would buy me some time (and it has) but they are getting to be more and more like the US here and it disgusts me.

jetstove said...

The pursuit of money to buy more plastic garbage is the watch word of modern society. How much garbage is enough? How can we find a way to change the fact that stronger cultures swallow weaker ones through warfare, attrition, or re-education.

One day soon, I think, the true worth of self-sufficiency will become apparent when western society collapses. The main problem will be the unequal distribution of wealth in the form of hard assets and laws that will inhibit the natural tendency to seek a means to survive. Once the collapse has commenced, fertile ground will be presented for the idea that life cannot be sustained without community, local economy, and justice. The current belief is that "things will always be the same and if trouble comes along the government will save/protect us". The truth is that the government will take what you have and distribute it to save themselves; to prevent an unstable populous from rioting/revolving.

If a true foothold can be quickly achieved, then perhaps a cultural revolution can take place. We don't have to give up on technology and live like we did in the 1800s; we have to go back to our roots with a hefty dose of the good things technology can give us.

This is the age of instant information sharing. You can share your successes and failures with the society as a whole and have them emulate your experiences. People will flock to a philosophy that promises to not only save their lives but to also give it meaning.

Pentrus said...

As a youth I remember our farm where my parents had an acre garden, raised crops and livestock on the other 59 acres with little fertilizer and no herbicides or pesticides that I can remember. My father thought such things cost much more than they were worth, and that proper selection of plants and doing regular cultivation would keep weeds down, and some produce was just going to be lost to pests. We used the hay and some of the grain from the farm to feed cattle, chickens, and swine which provided much of the food we consumed, and food for an extended family that would visit several times a week to garden, repair old tractors (we did never had new equipment) and help out with other farm chores. In fact much of the equipment on the farm was over 40 years old and constantly being repaired. We sold eggs and chickens to the folks in town, and occasionally a few pounds of beef or pork if our family had all they needed. We eventually installed a small vacuum milking system, but I remember milking by hand, and if you have two or three siblings and a parent milking 8-10 cows it goes pretty fast. All the kids in my area worked on their own farms, but would also hire out to other farmers during haying season or the harvest. Yet there always seemed to be time for fishing, roaming, camping out(often an old blanket in a haystack), or playing basketball in someone's barn. It was hard work, but not desperate work. In other words, the work was productive, provided most of what we needed (we still had to buy some fuel, wire, canning goods, etc)., and wore us out by the end of the day. But what we produced was ours with a surplus which benefited others. We seldom got new shoes and we wore our older sibling's clothing until it gave completely out, but I never remember hunger, being cold (we cut wood for wood stoves from a small lot on the farm), or neglected. And we were raised as much by our neighbors as we were our parents. In those days if a kid stepped out of line he'd be called down by a one of the adults in the community, and if that didn't work a call to the parent usually put things right. There was no nonsense about the limits of behavior set by the community. This probably sounds like a wistful post about the past, but it is fairly accurate. Could I go back to that way of living? I am not sure. But it would sure beat the alternative, that is, to live in a continually degraded social and natural environment where people are marginalized by the governmental/corporate machine that tends to dominate all aspects of life here. I live in a small city surrounded by an extensive rural areas where I see the resurgence of gardening (due to necessity with more folks being unemployed or under employed, not for style), small farms that cooperate with city folk to supply food on contract (we have seen some larger farms fail), and some small business/shops starting up (I actually like going to them because Walmart is just so junky). Are these trends going to continue? I think so since I believe they are driven by necessity and folks are making baby steps to adapt to the changing economy. Time will tell.

NowhereMan said...

@ Roger Chavez: I'm just south of you down here in the NEW Mexico, so your points about the hikers, 14'ers, and unspoiled wilderness, all resonate here as well. Dmitry's obviously engaging in some necessary generalizations, which, in his defense, I think he gets mostly right. We Americans like our wilderness (which is to say, our *real* experiences) segregated from our normal day to day, all of which is pretty much demanded by our psychotic capitalism-driven materialistic life styles.

I live in a fairly well to do community in the NM mountains with abundant natural wild areas to be enjoyed readily at hand and lots of fitness-minded individuals who like to enjoy them. In spite of that fact, the normal conversations to be heard this time of the year before long holiday weekends is about where people are jetting off to (many to Colorado with you), to enjoy this or that natural splendor and activity. I don't think it's stretching the truth at all to say that Americans - in general - view nature as just another sort of 'theme park' based activity, which their military-industrial-capitalist lifestyles enable them to exploit.

So in spite of your mostly correct contention that "many of us are doing the right thing," as a fellow American I have to disagree with your contention that his descriptions of us are in any way inaccurate or contemptuous. What I think he's trying to do is give us a snapshot of how the rest of the world sees us. And in my experience, he's being extremely kind at that!

NowhereMan said...

@ Pentrus: The only caution I would provide is that we won't be "going back to" any past that any of us would actually recognize, even if we could. That past is long dead and only exists in our imaginations. Any "new past" will be a totally new creation based on things vaguely remembered mixed with whatever new technologies that survive mixed with whatever we come up with ad hoc.

An extremely popular security blanket these days is to imagine that the future will be "just like" - fill in the imaginary time and place. Except it won't. It will be "just like" an entirely new time and place, based in part on past memories, events, and technologies, but nothing more.

Unknown said...

@ S Treimel...I do cut Dmitri slack, as if he needs it, he seems to have pretty thick skin. My last paragraph includes praise as well.

@ NowhereMan.......Greetings to you in NM. I disagree with you - Dmitri's descriptions of "us" are sometimes inaccurate, and often contemptuous, I think one would be blind or sycophantic not to see it. I could be wrong.

Thanks for the exchange, guys, looking forward to reading your comments nest week, and thanks to you, Dmitri, for your thought provoking writing.

Unknown said...

" Americans for the most part would not choose to come back to that simple living, but when necessity calls they will be capable." I agree, candrich. I'm seeing a lot of this going on in upstate New York where I live.

Ivan Lukic said...


The religion of Old-Slavs was a form of Druidry. The natural forces and cycles were the foundation of it and were respected as Gods. People were named after herbs, trees and animals. Our ancestors knew that we are not above Nature but part of it. They went so far as not to allow washing of clothes in lakes because it could contaminate them. They planted tree species around lakes and on the river banks that are known to protect them from destruction and contamination. Our ancestors knew that we should not only preserve the nature but "improve" it in some way. Now compare this to what industrial society is doing to the nature. It's a crime.

Pantalones Frescos said...

I woke up this morning between my two boys (ages 7 and 9) in the v berth of our sailboat. I read today's post aloud to them and now they both want to visit Russia. Later in the day we cruised the woods for mushrooms and collected some plastic debris off of the beach. Dmitry, you are touching on issues very important to us with these recent posts. How can we be in harmony? How can we participate in the real (natural) world as if we are truly native to it? Thanks for addressing these questions. I sense a growing hunger for the answers to these questions... even here in the states.

matilda said...

The descriptions of the Russian forests and the peoples’ appreciation is impressive – as is Dmitry’s parents devotion to sharing and exploring.

As a descendant of a slew of Europeans [mostly German] that came to America because they were NOT the eldest son, had no chance of ownership of much of anything in Germany/France [which I suspect was a defining European criteria for non-serfdom] an appreciation of the land took a back seat to carving out from the “frontier” of Ohio and Michigan a workable farm/life/business.

My grandmother, born of German immigrants – talked about how hard life was on the farm. Several of her brothers escaped to the seminary to avoid becoming farmers. As the years went by and the “eldest brother” enlarged his homestead and embraced mechanized farming while the other siblings drifted away “the farm” became this romantic family memory that my parent’s generation visited – as children - on a few holidays.

Educations were acquired, businesses built, wars were fought, technology, innovation and progress marched on and by the time my generation came along “the farm” was in the hands of some distant second cousin twice removed many miles away.

I’m pretty sure immigrants to other, more remote, areas of America had a greater exposure to “nature” but the parts of the Midwest I came out of were carved up by the Public Land Survey System and then sold off as land to be “improved” by people wishing to make a better life for themselves the only way they knew how.

I hope that I have instilled in my kids the richness of the “unimproved” lands but I came to it on my own – it was not something instilled by anyone in my family.

Pentrus said...

Nowhere man: I hear you, and perhaps I was being a bit wistful. I realize that simply surviving a collapse situation will be a monumental achievement, and that we will be left with an entirely different set of bureaucracies, a degraded environment, and more fragmented social structures than were in effect during my youth. My point is, much like what I think Mr. Orlov was trying to illustrate in his post, is that while the U.S. will have a much more difficult time in a collapse compared to the Soviet Union, there will be folks still around who remember that things can be different. Such folks realize that walking away from some of the trappings of modern "civilization" can happen and life can still be worth living if the emphasis changes from the blind pursuit of plastic crap from slave labor manufacturing plants around the world andthe monetization of everything in life. The hope, and I realize it is only a hope, is that healthy human relationships would reassert themselves (unlike the sociopathic ones supported by predatory capitalism) and we would have a more productive life centered around common goals that support a healthier (as much as is possible) environment, a better social framework, and meaningful work/activities for people. I do not believe we can replace fossil fuels with renewables. I do not think we can continue to maintain industrial agriculture or shipping things all over the world (or the country for that matter) so we can buy cheap tools, TVs, or other things. My hope is that things become more local and that we can survive to establish some kind of order after these empires give up the ghost that does not prey on people (probably a pipe-dream). things are likely to get ugly as this process unfolds. One of my goals is to find a way to become more mobile so that we can move, if needed, to escape a bad situation, but I doubt I will buy a boat and move to the coast. So my options will be limited. For now, I simply try to find the next thing I can do to re-establish ways I practiced during my youth, to eliminate all debt, and find a way to live (as much as is practicable) without using much money.

candrich said...

The most important revolution needed in this country is the revolution of the mind. It is not going to happen by following some political candidate but by individually finding the reality of our relationship to the natural world. We are coming to a time when people will either adapt or die. We can't go back, nor do I think we need to. We need to move into a real way of being and leave the illusions behind. We'll find out what that is as we go along. I notice that we are all quite polite in our criticisms. That probably means that we are all old. Smile.

Fred said...

With many, many thanks to Dmitry for yet another excellent thought-provoking post which I believe also served as a reminder that there's a whole world out there beyond the well-insulated (in a multitude of ways--internally as well as geographically)North American continent with millenia-old cultures/traditions...

For whatever it may be worth, my take away from this post in a nutshell as a first-generation immigrant from the ME....


Having recently visited the Amazonian jungle for a month long "pilgrimage," it's way beyond being overdue that us humans wake up out of our TPTB-induced century(ies)-old slumber and take heed of and implement the following 3 fundamental steps to get back to living in a world that can/will be worth living in for all life and generations:


Viva Mother Earth and all GOOD that's in it.

Alex said...

I grew up in p!aces where the wilderness was often rough hiking except for trails worn by people and animals. Sure, we walked single file, and would hold conversations that way too. Walking side by side was a "city" thing to me as a kid. We explored and foraged and had a good old time, considering those hills and valleys as ours to roam as we liked.

There really are some good Americans who know how to hike and whittle and fix things and will milk a cow. We're not AmGov any more than your family was the Central Committee of the CCCP.

DeVaul said...

I have to admit Dmitry's description of our natural lands caught me by surprise, but then I live in Kentucky, where a large part of the state is essentially rural or forested. There are trails, but these are relatively new -- an attempt to attract tourists (Yankees) to our state. Before these "nice" trails, we only had the footpaths that other campers and hikers had made, as well as animals.

That said, I do feel that an attempt is being made to commercialize our forests and wilderness. Allowing climbers to hammer spikes (permanently) into the cliffs overlooking the Kentucky River and the Red River Gorge is just disgusting, not to mention the opening of dirt bike trails and the awful ATV trails which so far have not come to Kentucky, but I fear they might. None of these thrill sports have anything to do with Nature and actually destroy it in so many ways.

Back when I was camping in Kentucky, we camped under rock overhangs that the original pioneers, including Daniel Boone and others, had used, and we knew it. The fire pits had been in the same spot for hundreds of years, and the smoke on the roof of the caves went far back in time. Even the Indians used them. These natural overhangs were high up with only a steep, narrow approach so that one could not be surprised by war parties in the night or even white militiamen. I fear all of these places may become commercialized into utter meaninglessness, but I hope not.

Compared to the "tree farms" I saw in West Germany, the US truly has wild lands still, but there is a steady encroachment on them by money driven interests. It never seems to stop. Out East where Dmitry lives along the East Coast in his boat, I don't know where he would see such land, so regarding some regions of the US, he is probably right.

Aegirsson said...


You sound like Charles Eisenstein :)
Yes, we just need to drop the current story, which we confuse with reality, and reinvent our relationship to the world. I think the dynamic for this is ongoing (systemic crises are just symptoms).

DeVaul said...

I've been thinking about why we here in Kentucky cannot "fan out" like Dmitry and his parents could in the woods of Estonia and Karelia. I think it has to do with two things: 1) the geography does not allow it. There is not a flat area of land here until you get to western Kentucky, so fanning out leaves people up on hillsides, ridges, and down in steep gorges, which leads to: 2) the dense undergrowth that makes it impossible to see much further than 10 feet during the summer. Entire gorges and drains are obscured by huge Rhododendrons and ferns growing on top of fallen trees, not to mention the blackberry thickets that grow in the areas exposed to the sun. We can fan out during winter, but only so far.

Not a week passes here that some kids get lost in the woods during the summer and a huge manhunt is organized to find them before they get hurt. It sometimes takes days to find them, and then it turns out that they were only several hundred yards from where their parents lost sight of them. They left the trail and wandered around and got lost in the gorges, hills, and steep ravines. Yelling does not carry far in this kind of area, so most people stay close together and on the trail.

Kentucky was a savage place during the late 1700's, and people were ambushed and killed all the time. It was easy to do. Fanning out was not even done by Indians, who stayed within a range where they could make realistic songbird calls that did not sound ridiculously loud for a bird (might as well just step on a dry twig at night).

I know most of Estonia and Karelia are flat, and I think I read they contain swamps, or at least Finland does. I would love to see photos of that area from hikers and even the homesteads that Dmitry saw as a kid. It's too bad that most kids do not get that kind of experience that Dmitry did as a kid during his summers. Being able to spend time in the forest for extended amounts of time changes you inside and helps you see the unnatural state that passes for "modern civilization" in the form of a large city. When I return from the forest, I actually start to get depressed the closer I get to town, but other people don't feel that. They actually feel relieved. We need our children to be out in the forest and not stuck in some asinine school all day stuck to a plastic chair.

That's just my opinion.

Tonio said...

It's always very entertaining to read your posts, Dmitry. You are one of the best entertainers on the collapse stage!
As I lived for a few months in Russia back in 91 and visited again from time to time I do very well understand your description of Russian life and the connection of Russians to their soil and nature. There is something truly unique to Russians, which is their ability to be both connected to nature and to intellectual mind, as much as they navigate without any conflict between "collectivist" and rather non-rational religion and individualistic modern science. That's probably why they perform so well in aero-spatial industry and some other key fields. The first passenger plane flew in Russia! And that was before the communist invasion..
Despite that I will never join the gospel of "collapsism", even if I am aware of the true danger that the world will go through catastrophic events in the near future.
In 1933 Buckminster Fuller came up with the Dymaxion car. That was some 30 years after the first automobiles hit the road. With his car he put almost an end to the first big wave of evolution in this field. But then surprise, no surprise, the dymaxion car disappeared and we were submerged for 80 years with beetles, 2CV, Cadillacs and Hummers and are now taught that Tesla and Toyota are great.
There is definitely something in the field of "political technologies" that turns innovation into decades of rubbish and insult to intelligence.
Apple, 30 years after the first personal computers comes up with small machines which work like crazy out of the box. Who needs more than that? But look in which direction the evolution is headed? Social networking on Facebook, Bitcoin, NSA. Do we have all this sophisticated gear at home and in university super computers to put likes and thumbs ups on photos of birthday parties of our friends? That's really not what we really need computers for. Meanwhile I haven't seen yet one single robot on a farm, which could work the earth in very elegant and non-invasive matter and much more precise than any guy on a tractor.

Look at the true reasons of the mess: it's suprematism. It's a universal problem of the human being to think that he is somehow more worthy, important than someone else, individually or as we can see it mostly our times, collectively (imperialism, colonialism, nazism, zionism, islamism). And they don't stop at thinking it, they will act accordingly and actively try to dominate or exterminate those who they esteem to be less worthy. So we should understand how suprematism came into the the world or at least how we can overcome it today. Because this deeply rooted cross cultural ideology will certainly not stop once the world has collapsed under some economic cataclysm or war.
In Russia orthodox priests give benediction to new military helicopters. That might be helpful in the resistance against the American empire but is it helpful to overcome suprematism?

Tom said...

At the very opposite end of the natural spectrum one might consider Mexico City with its 23 million people (in such chaos it is actually any one's guess what the real numbers are). The Guardian is running a week of special articles on the Mexico City. I recommend reading a few of them, especially one written about public toilets.


I was born and raised in the Soviet Union and for the most of my youth I was "ashamed" of what's going on in my country. I never thought that I would reach a state where I would actually feel proud of being Russian. But now I do. I am of the opinion that in the industrial age no human society can do well, regardless of the system, it is my belief that humans, as a species, were not meant to and definitely not ready for Technology of any kind, let alone all the socio-political implications it entailed, beginning with the use of a wheel. And yet, these days Russia is doing "something" right, quite a few things actually. In my view, it is only due to a president who is capable of keeping business interests by their balls, who knows how to control them, and who cares about the country. There is no hope for any society or country when the leadership is indifferent to the fate of its subjects, be it health (GMO), economy, education or what not. I am glad that the situation in Russia is different for the moment and I am quite curious to see how long it would last. If Putin gets assassinated, Russia will be sold out in pieces by the business oligarchs to whoever is willing to pay the highest price (or the quickest) the same way it happened in Ukraine and so many other countries.

lev said...

Your post reminded me of a book, this part in particular -

In the distance I could see tall trees growing densesly together. They appeared to cover about a hectare of ground. This place seemed simply like a green isle of forest, all surrounded by fields and meadows. As we drew closer, I could see in amongst the dense grove of two-hundred-year-old oak trees and bushes an entreance leading to a woodland oasis inside. We went in through the entrance and...
There we were inside... Just imagine; there inside were ancient apple trees with gnarled trunks, spreading their branches out into space. Branches literally dripping with fuit. They had'nt been dug around - they were just growing amidst the grasses, they had'nt been sprayed for insects, but these old apple trees were bearing fruit, and their fruit showed no sign of worm infestation. Some of the trees were real oldies, their branches were breaking under the weight of the fruit. Real oldies - quite possibly this was their last year bearing fuit.
I walked through the orchard, took a taste of the fruit, wandered among the oak trees growing all around, and it seemed as though I could discern the actual thoughts of the man who created this splendid oasis. It was as though I could hear him thinking;
"Right here, around the orchard, I should put in an oak grove. It will protect the orchard from the winter cold, as well as from summer heat in dry years. Birds will make their nests in the tall trees and stop the caterpillars from taking over. Ill pland a shady oak allee by the shore of the pond. When the trees grow up, their tops will come together, giving shade to the spacious allee below."
Here I am standing beneath the oak trees on the shore of a man-made pond and I can literally read the thoughts of the man behind this living creation. And he - this man, this Russian, who lived here two hundred years ago - no doubt felt more than others the thoughts of the creator, which enabled him to bring about this paradise creation. His own garden, but his orchard has remained, and is still bringing forth fruit, and feeding the children of the neighbouring villages, who come here every autumn to delight in the fruits. Some people gather them up and sell them. And you, my fine Russian fellow, no doubt wanted your grandchildren and great-grandchildren to live here. Of course you did! I can tell that because you didnt put up just a mansion with a limited life span, but something that will last for eternity.
But where are your grandchildren and great-grandchildren today? Your family domain has been abandonded, its all grown over with grasses, and your pond in drying up. But your allee for some reason, didnt get overgrown with wild grass. In fact the grass beneath it is like a carpet. Your corner of Paradise which you created - your family domain - is no doubt still awaiting the return of your descendants. Decades go by, even centuries. But it is still waiting. So where are they? Who are they now? Whom do they serve? Whom do they worship? Who chased them away from here?
Your descendants, my fine Russian fellow, are growing up in another land, while in Russia, in your kins domain, the leaves of the trees in your orchard are rustling in the breeze, and every year your old apple trees are bringing forth fruit, astounding all the residents around with luxuriant harvest. There isnt even a trace of your house left, all the outbuildings have been torn down, but the orchard lives on in spite of everything - no doubt in the hope that your desecendants will return to taste the best apples in the whole wide world. Yet your desecendants are still not coming.

The Ringing Cedars
By Vladimir Megre