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Collapse scenarios & mitigating strategies
« on: June 06, 2013, 08:22:55 PM »
Rather than continue to misdirect a "coal" thread, I've created this topic - relating to how collapse can be expected to manifest and what sort of policy/strategy solutions might be appropriate to dealing with it.

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Hence I think flint knapping is as good a place to start as any

Excuse me, but that's simply silly.

Let's envision the world after the sort of collapse that you think would make flint knapping a useful skill.  It would be a very depopulated world in which somehow enough game survives to support you few hardy souls who live off the land.  If we go into massive collapse we'll eat the other animals on our way out.  We've got more than enough firearms and ammo to take out even the mice.  One does not need sharp points to collect insects.

But suppose a few people and some deer/whatever do both survive.  That small band of you survivors would be surrounded by massive amounts of steel just waiting to be beaten into spear and arrow points using thousands of miles of railroad track anvils and millions of leftover carpenter hammers.

Have you ever tried cutting up a railroad track and making something a lot smaller out of it?

A lot of people's first response to considering collapse is that "metals are no problem, we could scavenge from the wreckage". I happen to strongly disagree - not that the idea itself is immediately wrong, but that is it seriously flawed. Most metals are reactive and will corrode away so the lifespan of available resources is limited by things other than direct consumption. Furthermore - they would become a "fossil" resource and to become reliant upon them would be to embed a future problem in the system for people down the line. Sound familiar?

In any event, we are not just talking about hunting - I'm not sure why you automatically assume that to be the only, or even most important, use for flint tools. Tools in general are part of what enables us to leverage our surroundings to greatly improve our standard of living, even if most people now do not understand this or practice it in their daily lives (as they have become dependent on the use of tools beyond their knowledge or understanding in remote locations - even sometimes on the other side of the planet - to sustain their life).

Plus the technology of gunpowder is not going away. 

The technology we have developed to date will not go away unless there are so few people left that there's not enough people to run simple factories.  A population of only a few million would be adequate to maintain a high tech existence.
A population of a few million conveniently all collected together in some magical region where they can access all the resources they need to continue operating a high tech civilisation? I'd love to know how that one works.

I'm not clear why you think you can assume on gunpowder being retained as a technology. Do you know how to source all the materials for it yourself? Can you do so without long range trade links? Can you create a gun barrel from scratch?

Basically the first question about collapse is - what do you (or anyone else) think will set a floor for collapse? What will halt the decline downwards and limit the scope for collapse? What will prevent the destruction of so many of the things we need to operate an advanced civilisation from human conflict, quite independently from climate change? Who has the skills amongst the wider population to wind back technologically a certain distance (say a few centuries to before the internal combustion and steam engines) and then gracefully stop there?

Bob Wallace

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Re: Collapse scenarios & mitigating strategies
« Reply #1 on: June 06, 2013, 09:10:31 PM »
Quote
Have you ever tried cutting up a railroad track and making something a lot smaller out of it?

Yes.  Do you understand what an anvil is?

Quote
Most metals are reactive and will corrode away

Stainless steel?  Brass?  Aluminum?

Quote
A population of a few million conveniently all collected together in some magical region where they can access all the resources they need to continue operating a high tech civilisation? I'd love to know how that one works.

Exactly as it works now.  Groups of people would settle where life is easiest and recreate what has already been invented.  Actually they would simply continue our technological life as it is.  Just on a smaller scale.

Quote
Basically the first question about collapse is - what do you (or anyone else) think will set a floor for collapse?

In the bizzaro  world of "total collapse" populations would drop to the carrying capacity of the usable land left.  Given that this would not be some overnight "nuclear wipeout" phenomenon we would develop a lot of creative ways to maximize the areas on which we could successfully live.

A billion?  Two billion?  My guess of the bottom would be more in that range rather than Charlie Caveman and his fantasy harem.



ritter

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Re: Collapse scenarios & mitigating strategies
« Reply #2 on: June 06, 2013, 10:39:59 PM »
From the coal thread:
OK, Jim, if I understand you what is going to happen is that we are not going to cut our CO2 levels but endure a major population crash.

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So the rational man, who at least wants the species to survive, works on the core issue.  Population.  Managing the population crash, or not, determines where the bottom is.  If we manage it we have a much better chance long-term than if we don't.  Just because it is a scary ugly problem does not mean we shouldn't work on it as the number one priority.  If we ignore it and just hope for the best as the cornucopian/dreamer/optimists like to do we are going to get a much worse result.

What's your plan?

War, disease and starvation. They are all knocking on our door. Consider the tender bed that is the Middle East these days. Consider the rise in antibiotic resistant infections. Consider climate change impacting agriculture and water availability. We have made such a Godawful mess of this place I don't see how we get out of it alive without massive die off. And die off itself will stimulate war, disease and starvation, another positive feedback, if you will.

So how the hell do you mitigate that, especially when world governing bodies are not even willing to admit there's a problem? You don't except with limited ability on a personal or community level. I believe luck will determine who makes it through the bottleneck. When things have derailed sufficiently, disease won't care if you're rich or poor, American or Somalian.

I must be feeling cheerful today.  :)

TerryM

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Re: Collapse scenarios & mitigating strategies
« Reply #3 on: June 06, 2013, 11:12:06 PM »
Fascinating Thread
I've always used learning flint knapping as a metaphor for learning skills that will be useful when running water, the electric grid, transportation systems and communication are no more.


Once farming and fighting are taken care of what other skills need to be passed on?
Will large governments hold sway, or are City States and Warlords liable to dominate?
How small can an isolated community be while still being capable of retaining an operable knowledge base over generations?
Will Umka like communities emerge?
Will xenophobia preclude cooperation outside the village?
Will religions unite or divide.
So many questions with so few answers.
Terry


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Re: Collapse scenarios & mitigating strategies
« Reply #4 on: June 06, 2013, 11:45:33 PM »


Last year I  tool Coursera's on-line class on the Introduction to Sustainability, presented by the University of Illinois.  During the week we were discussing the earth's carrying capacity, I developed this hypothetical chart depicting how even the most modest declines in aggregate resource availability will determine the future carrying capacity of the earth.

We know the world's population will reach 9 Bn sometime around 2050.  I'm claiming that resource needs will always outpace the population growth because there are always needs for infrastructure development, repair and replacement.  This will become even more evident when we have to relocate major population centers.

While some finite resources are currently abundant and available, there are others that are nearing, if not beyond their peak.  I'm not saying that we can't waste less food and water, nor am I saying that current means of storage and transportation are adequate, however, we will soon reach the point that the population will have to decline, whether deliberately or catastrophically.

Is it possible that many of the world's leaders know this and they are purposely going to continue to foul the environment with CO2 from fossil fuels, just so the general populace will maintain a false sense of security that BAU can and will continue indefinitely??

With or without AGW/CC there will be a time and place that collapse is inevitable.  For those who haven't read the book, I highly suggest reading Richard Heinberg's "The End Of Growth".
"Share Your Knowledge.  It's a Way to Achieve Immortality."  ......the Dalai Lama

ritter

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Re: Collapse scenarios & mitigating strategies
« Reply #5 on: June 07, 2013, 12:15:51 AM »
While some finite resources are currently abundant and available, there are others that are nearing, if not beyond their peak.  I'm not saying that we can't waste less food and water, nor am I saying that current means of storage and transportation are adequate, however, we will soon reach the point that the population will have to decline, whether deliberately or catastrophically.

Yes. Consider rebuilding/relocating Los Angeles. Climate change will not be kind to the ~18 million people in the LA basin. Between water disruption (they rely on California snow pack which is expected to decline), drought-related fire, heat waves, northerly migration of tropical disease and sea level rise, LA will become an untenable position (I find it is so currently  ;)). Where does one find the space/resources for such a relocation in a resource and energy constrained world?

Glenn Tamblyn

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Re: Collapse scenarios & mitigating strategies
« Reply #6 on: June 07, 2013, 01:43:53 AM »
One of the key factors in how low 'the bottom' might be is knowledge retention. Knowledge needs to be transferred from generation through learning or retained in non perishable forms.

We currently live in a world where the general population actually has less of the old 'how to make stuff' knowledge than our ancestors had, a consequence of specialisation. How many blacksmiths are their, tanners, etc?

Systems failure below key levels can lead to rapid collapses in life support systems. Critical factors like food and energy can follow quickly. So population can crash relatively quickly if for example the food that is grown can't be distributed quickly or mass refrigeration is no longer available, or fuel for transport. Then if replanting for the next year is severely disrupted, the cycle can repeat each year.

Many of the key survival skills will then reside in places like rural areas; farmers make reasonable mechanics for example and at least they will have food. Unfortunately the people who have the rest of our knowledge; chemistry, geology, metalurgy etc don't live there, they live in the regions of highest population decline - cities. Much of our knowledge about how to source raw materials could be easily lost while those who have the practical skills that can be used IF raw materials are available survive. Could there be a situation of surviving 'practical types' left relatively powerless to use their knowledge because the raw materials that actually come from the knowledge of the 'not so practical types' aren't available.

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Re: Collapse scenarios & mitigating strategies
« Reply #7 on: June 07, 2013, 02:14:08 AM »
Boy are you guys a happy bunch. I'd like to contribute but I think I'll go drink instead. Maybe tomorrow.  :o

TerryM

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Re: Collapse scenarios & mitigating strategies
« Reply #8 on: June 07, 2013, 05:42:53 AM »
Glenn
It's the intergenerational knowledge base lose that I see as problematic. I recently advised a young man to seek training as an HVAC Tech, not because I see a great future in repairing AC or Heating systems but rather because of the breadth of skill sets that are required. As things become more difficult to replace, those capable of repairing or repurposing may find a niche even as white collar skills wane in importance.
I'd written a few paragraphs about where I thought this might lead but it was too depressing to post. We do need a serious discussion about mitigation, but just looking the beast in the face can be unnerving.
Terry

Bob Wallace

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Re: Collapse scenarios & mitigating strategies
« Reply #9 on: June 07, 2013, 06:39:08 AM »
Would someone please move this discussion out of the Policy and Solutions area?

There's another section for this type of stuff. 

Neven

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Re: Collapse scenarios & mitigating strategies
« Reply #10 on: June 07, 2013, 10:33:05 AM »
Bob, this one is right between 'Policy and Solutions' and 'Walking the Walk', because it mixes societal policy with personal policy in a collapse scenario. I think I'll leave it here for the time being.
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Re: Collapse scenarios & mitigating strategies
« Reply #11 on: June 07, 2013, 11:06:35 AM »
Yes. Consider rebuilding/relocating Los Angeles. Climate change will not be kind to the ~18 million people in the LA basin. Between water disruption (they rely on California snow pack which is expected to decline), drought-related fire, heat waves, northerly migration of tropical disease and sea level rise, LA will become an untenable position (I find it is so currently  ;)). Where does one find the space/resources for such a relocation in a resource and energy constrained world?
I think I'd describe the response so far as sub inspirational when it comes to relocation.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/interactive/2013/may/15/newtok-safer-ground-villagers-nervous

If a few little villages can't be relocated efficiently, what hope is there for large metropolises? In terms of a longer term threat I suspect the policy will be "let market forces do it". Those who can afford to live somewhere else move - the rest...

As far as I'm aware the story is little better on the global scene with low lying island nations.

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Re: Collapse scenarios & mitigating strategies
« Reply #12 on: June 07, 2013, 11:27:47 AM »
One of the key factors in how low 'the bottom' might be is knowledge retention. Knowledge needs to be transferred from generation through learning or retained in non perishable forms.

We currently live in a world where the general population actually has less of the old 'how to make stuff' knowledge than our ancestors had, a consequence of specialisation. How many blacksmiths are their, tanners, etc?

Systems failure below key levels can lead to rapid collapses in life support systems. Critical factors like food and energy can follow quickly. So population can crash relatively quickly if for example the food that is grown can't be distributed quickly or mass refrigeration is no longer available, or fuel for transport. Then if replanting for the next year is severely disrupted, the cycle can repeat each year.

Many of the key survival skills will then reside in places like rural areas; farmers make reasonable mechanics for example and at least they will have food. Unfortunately the people who have the rest of our knowledge; chemistry, geology, metalurgy etc don't live there, they live in the regions of highest population decline - cities. Much of our knowledge about how to source raw materials could be easily lost while those who have the practical skills that can be used IF raw materials are available survive. Could there be a situation of surviving 'practical types' left relatively powerless to use their knowledge because the raw materials that actually come from the knowledge of the 'not so practical types' aren't available.

I think this is a major part of the problem (and I'm glad someone else mentioned it). Historically societies have weathered mortality rates as high as 60-70% without total collapse - but with a far simpler knowledge base. Today we have extremely high rates of specialisation and a lot of interdependence within our society.

How will the farmer use his mechanical skills if he can't get the part he needs for the engine? In the developed world even farmers who produce food are highly dependent upon a multitude of other highly specialised roles that keep the wheels turning. They are using chemical inputs and fuels transported potentially half way around the planet with a multitude of complex manufacturing processes involved. Ironically in less developed nations the farmers are more self reliant, albeit at an initial disadvantage in affluence terms.

If the population were crashing down towards (and in practice ultimately down past) a diminishing carrying capacity I would think the primary focus of almost everyone would be on surviving - finding enough food, water, shelter etc to get by. That isn't an environment likely to promote the levels of education required to maintain the specialised knowledge of today, even if all the complex infrastructure required to retain that knowledge was still operating sufficiently well (and it wouldn't indefinitely).

In terms of possible strategies here - that's really where I'm coming from with the flint knapping argument. I think groups that encourage "primitive" skills actually could play a very valuable role in creating a bottom line safety net to catch civilisation on the way down. If enough people were doing this sort of thing I imagine the technological floor that could be sustained in a major collapse scenario could be substantially raised.

I also think there is a real danger that if a lot of knowledge was lost - the time lag for rediscovery could be very considerable indeed. It is a mystery to me how we managed to discover things like smelting iron or making glass in the first place, never mind if we had to reinvent that sort of thing (the incredibly rapid technological progress of the modern world is not typical of our history, in my opinion). I liked Lovelock's idea of a durable store of information from that point of view - but I'm not aware anyone has implemented it?

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Re: Collapse scenarios & mitigating strategies
« Reply #13 on: June 07, 2013, 11:53:26 AM »
Quote
Have you ever tried cutting up a railroad track and making something a lot smaller out of it?

Yes.  Do you understand what an anvil is?

If you're saying yes, you have successfully tried this (using an anvil and carpenters hammers as you indicated - and without using plasma cutting, oxyacetylene torches or abrasive cutting - my usual tools for that sort of thing), you're due a hell of a lot of kudos in my view. I'd have thought it would be logistically rather difficult on account of factors such as:
  • the heavy weight of a piece of railway track
  • the difficulty of getting it hot enough to become malleable enough to work
  • the question over the precise alloy used for railway track and it's attributes

Quote
Most metals are reactive and will corrode away

Stainless steel?  Brass?  Aluminum?
Most. Even with those examples, the picture is far more nuanced in reality - but getting fixated on metallurgy or railway tracks isn't really where I was aiming at.

I'm interested in rational discussion with details. Labelling the scenarios "bizarro" doesn't really answer the question of what puts a floor under a collapse process - or identify policy/solution options (large or small) that mitigate it.

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Re: Collapse scenarios & mitigating strategies
« Reply #14 on: June 07, 2013, 11:57:24 AM »
I'd written a few paragraphs about where I thought this might lead but it was too depressing to post. We do need a serious discussion about mitigation, but just looking the beast in the face can be unnerving.
Terry
I think it's difficult for a number of reasons:
  • One is picturing a world far beyond our experience/knowledge
  • A lot of complexities come out to bite under examination
  • The subject matter is not inherently emotionally pleasant

I think these factors limit the ability of both individuals and societies to respond appropriately. To that extent a serious discussion (somewhere) really is needed.

Neven

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Re: Collapse scenarios & mitigating strategies
« Reply #15 on: June 07, 2013, 12:09:48 PM »
Two years ago I read a book by John Michael Greer - who is quite well-known in Peak Oil circles - called The Ecotechnic Future. He maintains that societies follow a parabole and sooner or later collapse. In our case the collapse will take decades, centuries even, and people will adapt as it goes.

The blind spot in Greer's excellent work is AGW, because it screws up his grand theory. When he started spouting denialist nonsense and he deleted my comments when pointing out with links why he was wrong, I stopped visiting his blog. But other than that, his work is very interesting, especially his views on collapse and what happens after that.
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Re: Collapse scenarios & mitigating strategies
« Reply #16 on: June 07, 2013, 03:51:29 PM »
I have a collection of early twentieth century/late nineteenth century engineering and geometry texts. Still looking for more. I'm going to leave a survival time capsule somewhere. I hope English does not die out. Even if it does, lots of detailed engravings. But I fear that the survivors will be gun toting cannibals who will hunt each other to the last bullet. Unfortunately there are far more bullets than people, and stashes of Bibles and Korans will far outweigh my little stash of truth.

Vergent

ritter

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Re: Collapse scenarios & mitigating strategies
« Reply #17 on: June 07, 2013, 06:00:53 PM »
texts.

This is the way we maintain the technology floor, so to speak. I doubt very much we'll be manufacturing technological widgets within a generation. But we should be able to devolve back to the technologies of the 1800s, given that a population of Homo sapiens remains that does not spend all of its time digging in the muck for grubs to eat. I don't see us maintaining the power grid or large power generation facilities. But we might be able to manage small steam generators or scrounge up wind turbines. The bicycle will once again rule to roadways that we won't be able to maintain.

I personally have a modest collection of books (yes, physical page turners) on mechanics, construction techniques, gardening, farming implements and food preservation. It would be impossible to know all of the material in them, but they will hopefully serve as reference if/when they are needed.

Laurent

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Re: Collapse scenarios & mitigating strategies
« Reply #18 on: June 07, 2013, 06:17:40 PM »
You may try to see what you can do right now ! Just subscribe to a hacklab !
http://hackerspaces.org/wiki/List_of_Hacker_Spaces
You may start or follow a project just for fun and see some more serious thing depending of your skills.

fishmahboi

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Re: Collapse scenarios & mitigating strategies
« Reply #19 on: June 07, 2013, 06:33:49 PM »
I see this that this thread is quite informative and contains quite a large amount of solutions for the impending collapse of society (should it happen either in the coming year or in a certain amount of years), but I just want to add a question with regards the barrier of things like nuclear weapons acting as a barrier to handling post societal collapse because the only reference I have seen to war is the listing of it in the Opening Text of this thread and thus I would like to ask how certain people would live in a world if the superpowers (e.g America, Russia, China) pushed the red button for I feel that if a nuclear war did occur (which seems likely in my general opinion with the lack of resources and large countries fighting for resources) then there would be nothing left for the people to utilise for nourishment or shelter as the earth would be nothing more than a barren radiation ridden desert at that point.

If I am wrong about this then I would love to be proven wrong for my sentiments do not seem to yield positive thoughts about the future. 

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Re: Collapse scenarios & mitigating strategies
« Reply #20 on: June 07, 2013, 06:41:03 PM »
I have a collection of early twentieth century/late nineteenth century engineering and geometry texts. Still looking for more. I'm going to leave a survival time capsule somewhere. I hope English does not die out. Even if it does, lots of detailed engravings. But I fear that the survivors will be gun toting cannibals who will hunt each other to the last bullet. Unfortunately there are far more bullets than people, and stashes of Bibles and Korans will far outweigh my little stash of truth.

Vergent
I think cannibalism will be limited in proportion - even populations under extreme stress don't universally resort to it. Not all countries are awash in guns and bullets - but I don't think that will materially change much except engagement distances (note some nations weather disasters far more cohesively than others). In both cases I think I would identify these (to the extent they are likely to occur) as transition stages - not final stages. Accordingly the question is to what extent policies can be derived to mitigate them.

ritter

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Re: Collapse scenarios & mitigating strategies
« Reply #21 on: June 07, 2013, 07:01:57 PM »
pushed the red button

If this occurs, I only hope I am at ground zero. I have no desire to attempt survival in a fallout world.

Have you read The Road by Cormac McCarthy?

fishmahboi

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Re: Collapse scenarios & mitigating strategies
« Reply #22 on: June 07, 2013, 07:13:58 PM »
pushed the red button

If this occurs, I only hope I am at ground zero. I have no desire to attempt survival in a fallout world.

Have you read The Road by Cormac McCarthy?

Yes, I finished the book recently, that is the kind of world I hope nobody has to try to survive in.

Laurent

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Re: Collapse scenarios & mitigating strategies
« Reply #23 on: June 07, 2013, 07:26:16 PM »
It seems that there is some ways to feed ourselves in a contaminated world.
Vladimir Badenko published a book called (sorry I can't find English version (available in Japanese)) "Apr├Ęs l'accident Atomique"
http://enfants-tchernobyl-belarus.org/doku.php?id=boutique-etb



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Re: Collapse scenarios & mitigating strategies
« Reply #24 on: June 07, 2013, 07:40:29 PM »
If I am wrong about this then I would love to be proven wrong for my sentiments do not seem to yield positive thoughts about the future.

I'd suggest learning more about this scenario. There's a lot of stuff out there about appropriate actions in the event of a nearby strike (duck and cover following the flash before the blast wave reaches you) and immediately afterwards (waiting in some sort of shelter until radioactivity levels drop off - much of the initial radioactivity is short half life). Taking the slightly longer view - the climatic effects of a major nuclear war would be very severe and challenging but ultimately limited in duration (a key difference vs climate change).

I'm not sure I want to go into too much about the nuclear specific stuff as it's had a lot of attention historically - but strategies for responding to collapse may have some relevance as this element (the loss of modern industrial civilisation) is in common.

I'll close with one thought though - this man survived both Hiroshima and Nagasaki and went on to die at 93.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tsutomu_Yamaguchi

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Re: Collapse scenarios & mitigating strategies
« Reply #25 on: June 07, 2013, 08:16:12 PM »
Bob, this one is right between 'Policy and Solutions' and 'Walking the Walk', because it mixes societal policy with personal policy in a collapse scenario. I think I'll leave it here for the time being.

This is neither policy or solutions.  This is yet another "OMG we're all going to die!!" doomer-porn thread.

Quote
I think cannibalism will be limited in proportion

For the FSM's sake man, control your juvenile fantasies.  We've got a problem to solve.  Even if we do nothing to slow climate change we are generations away from some sort of Mad Max world.  One cannot assume that the perfect storm of a number of somewhat low events all happening at once is the reality on which we need to be concentrating. 

We're burning way too much fossil fuel.  We've got some number of years, a few decades to get our levels down to acceptable.  Let's deal with the problem at hand. 

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Re: Collapse scenarios & mitigating strategies
« Reply #26 on: June 07, 2013, 08:41:17 PM »
Quote
This is neither policy or solutions.  This is yet another "OMG we're all going to die!!" doomer-porn thread.

Well, we are all going to die.  ;)

I understand your point, but there must be room to vent our worst fears. The fascination with zombies and cannibalism is a cultural reflection of those fears. It's important to keep in mind that the thing we have to fear the most, is fear itself, because that's where a lot of violence gets generated.

We have to work hard at putting the pedal to the metal on the good stuff (renewables, gardening, community building) and discard the bad stuff (materialism, perpetual-growth economics, patriarchism, armaments, unhealthy food). We have to keep that middle ground between Soylent Green and the Canterbury Tales.

Either way, not to sound like I'm anyone's grandpa, but the Mad Max/zombie/cannibalism-thinking is a phase. And it's very American.
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Re: Collapse scenarios & mitigating strategies
« Reply #27 on: June 07, 2013, 08:44:35 PM »
I personally have a modest collection of books (yes, physical page turners) on mechanics, construction techniques, gardening, farming implements and food preservation. It would be impossible to know all of the material in them, but they will hopefully serve as reference if/when they are needed.
I also identified books as the only easy initial strategy for preserving knowledge, though I'd be curious if people have any ideas for ways to create truly durable stores of knowledge (that would also be cost effective and relatively easy to do).

The problem is that even with books, once you get into the details it gets a bit more complicated. For example, what is the storage life of a book? Especially if it is being regularly used and referred to? In adverse conditions where protecting it may not the the most obvious or immediate priority (I know I'm always worrying about deck leaks I haven't fixed yet on this score).

The second problem is longer term still - how do you make more books? I've spent some time around modern printing facilities and there is an awful lot of technology that goes into running those things. The operators are specialised to some extent - the repair technicians even moreso - and the parts tend to be shipped around the world on a "just-in-time" basis. The materials - paper and ink - are in turn produced by complex manufacturing processes involving the movement of materials and chemicals over large distances.

It's possible in principle to produce books at much lower levels of technology but the process becomes much more labour intensive and you still need to assess where you will get the tools from (this is manageable - fibres and wood are sufficient). There are other ways to recording information (one shouldn't get too fixated on pen and paper), but the same basic laboriousness applies to them all (and this is why printing presses were such a big deal). Natural inks are arguably inferior to modern chemically created ones.

Again there is the issue that while retaining an older technology printing press and supply chain should be perfectly doable - how many people know how it all used to work and have the equipment to hand or the ability to construct it? The problem is all the old stuff was obsoleted by the new - except for a few examples of bits and pieces scattered amongst museums - I think it's gone now.

To that extent it isn't just a question of retaining or preserving knowledge, but also rediscovering/relearning past knowledge? (this ties right back in with the argument about the value of groups teaching primitive skills, except one is skipping a few stages and looking to a situation where the skill base was built up closer to industrial technological levels).

I'm relatively certain that if a reasonable foundation is retained, humanity will advance again. It's in our nature to do so (even from low levels). Retaining writing is obviously important.

Bruce Steele

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Re: Collapse scenarios & mitigating strategies
« Reply #28 on: June 07, 2013, 08:47:32 PM »
I keep a complete Encyclopedia Britannica from 1956 in my bookcase. It covers information that isn't wise to look up on google. The NSA is watching Americans for sure and Europeans I am sure also. If you want information you know will trigger key words or subjects without having a giant eyeball pointing at you a couple bucks at a garage sale is a good investment. So without  resorting to too much  paranoia  I would suggest low tech , yes even flint , basic chemistry, and foraged based food knowledge will attract the least attention. The military industrial complex and the petrochemical industries don't have a good track record on fairness or equity. So extended into really tough times electronics and the Internet or any dependence upon them will also be a litmus for ones commitment to zero carbon. Zero carbon I suggest may become a very large political divide. It's all one sided now but that will not always be the case.  It does come down to equity and your faith that the powers that be will share resources on the way down or hoard them. I think there are plenty of people ready to fight before they ever consider a zero fossil fuel lifestyle. Far to many people . It may be much more pleasant to individually remove yourself and get on with the future than fight those rejecting Luddites like me.

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Re: Collapse scenarios & mitigating strategies
« Reply #29 on: June 07, 2013, 08:50:53 PM »
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I understand your point, but there must be room to vent our worst fears. The fascination with zombies and cannibalism is a cultural reflection of those fears.

You have a section called "Consequeces".

That, to me, sounds like to place for discussion what might happen if we fail to take action.

Your site.  Your call.

CraigsIsland

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Re: Collapse scenarios & mitigating strategies
« Reply #30 on: June 07, 2013, 09:01:20 PM »
Book recommendations are something I appreciate; will have to read.

It feels like I haven't really scratched the surface on the mitigation or adaptation strategies being proposed or put in place (i.e. mpg for cars, etc.). In my opinion, the "right" strategy isn't really the one where it's perfect, it's the one that prevents the least amount of irreparable damage. I'm very curious in the development of mitigation or adaptions.

If we (depending on however interdependently connected to others) don't adapt or mitigate, there will be very serious consequence, and that's why it's important to discuss options to continue this distinctive period of civilization.

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Re: Collapse scenarios & mitigating strategies
« Reply #31 on: June 07, 2013, 09:19:50 PM »
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Basically the first question about collapse is - what do you (or anyone else) think will set a floor for collapse? What will halt the decline downwards and limit the scope for collapse? What will prevent the destruction of so many of the things we need to operate an advanced civilisation from human conflict, quite independently from climate change? Who has the skills amongst the wider population to wind back technologically a certain distance (say a few centuries to before the internal combustion and steam engines) and then gracefully stop there?

I think it'll be extremely difficult for International Affairs to not change drastically when a major event happens. Trade Agreements might get scraped, military treaties, etc. It's difficult to say if many nations would cooperate effectively without some conflict. I'm not betting on it, so I'd turn to my neighbors if federal government is still standing. Considering what the US is in terms of geography, the states would probably be bunched together as regional powers and that would be realistic and more effective for its citizens.

Trade is critical to peace- the existing schemas around the globe would have to be re-worked if a crop fails or energy falls. There might be local militias and that sort, but those groups should be kept in check by local government. Build judicial and legislative, etc. 

What I would expect is sort of what happened on a global scale between 1910 and 1950s to take place on a smaller scale in regional territories.

The EU in its present form is better equipped to deal with civilization collapse than the US or Russia and China. Basically all the nations that aren't connected too much with international trade and have experts to deal with good economic and political management.

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Re: Collapse scenarios & mitigating strategies
« Reply #32 on: June 07, 2013, 09:44:25 PM »
We have to work hard at putting the pedal to the metal on the good stuff (renewables, gardening, community building) and discard the bad stuff (materialism, perpetual-growth economics, patriarchism, armaments, unhealthy food). We have to keep that middle ground between Soylent Green and the Canterbury Tales.

I think that's exactly the point, and identifying possible policies and solutions addressing the "what if" situation where something meeting a reasonable definition of collapse* arrives (whether fast or slow in human terms) seems valid as I don't see concrete signs of a credible transition sufficient** to preserve/adapt the existing system being on the horizon currently (especially not looking at most stated government policies).

To some extent the ultimate conclusion must surely be the same objective with or without collapse - the predication of society upon a long term sustainable platform and with a good quality of living (I believe we fall down very substantially on both of these today globally).

I can't speak for anyone else but I find these discussions valuable and regard them as some of the big questions of our day - questions with which more people arguably should engage if we are to hope for a large scale solution (do we not need enlightenment amongst the population to drive policy/solution?). I don't think that's "doom porn" or the same thing as running around saying "we're all going to die" (technical truth aside). I find it annoying when people basically kill off this sort of discussion by arguing that near term human extinction is inevitable and therefore it's pointless to have the debate.

* That book "The ecotechnic future" looks quite promising
**which is also an equally valid discussion

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Re: Collapse scenarios & mitigating strategies
« Reply #33 on: June 07, 2013, 10:17:44 PM »
The EU in its present form is better equipped to deal with civilization collapse than the US or Russia and China. Basically all the nations that aren't connected too much with international trade and have experts to deal with good economic and political management.
I think you hit something relevant here - the idea that intentionally weakening global interconnections could increase resilience in some regions (though I hesitate to view the EU as having experts with good economic and political management). It would decouple regions from each other enabling partial (as opposed to global) collapse. Coherently operating regions could subsequently assist collapsed ones (in theory at least).

In a logical but somewhat misguided way I daresay that's what the US is attempting with it's policy of greater energy independence - and hence fracking for shale gas and oil, the tar sands pipeline and the rush to claim/extract Arctic resources. A sound principle but an insane implementation.

With respect to the EU and maintaining agriculture - I'm aware of at least one major import dependency - phosphates (many from Morocco, most from Africa). What policies could break that interconnection? I think as a whole agriculture needs to stop mining resources to dump onto the land and get back to the idea of giving back to the land what came from it - ie start using appropriately treated sewage/compost as fertiliser again. Would that alleviate the need for phosphates and other non renewable agricultural inputs?

SATire

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Re: Collapse scenarios & mitigating strategies
« Reply #34 on: June 07, 2013, 10:16:52 PM »
I am not sure if I am rigth here with this comment - it is surely not an American view but a very German one, since it is a view from our history. We have some experience with "collapse scenarios & mitigration statregies". I am not going to talk about situation after WW1 - my families memories to that are mainly spanish flue and a winter of rutabaga/swede - not really a collapse. But after WW2 we experienced quite some collapse&mitigration in east end west - both memories are passed on in my family and have been topic e.g. of the yearly christmess/birthdays gatherings.

Collapse-experience was two-sided (not east-west): In rural environment it was different from urban life. Not very much changed in rural environment during the collapse - some poeple were missed and some others took their place. Urban life was much more critical: If you were lucky you had some friend in rural areas to get some food from. If not, you had to learn to evaluate "value" by new means: If you have no roof over your head and nothing to eat after some time you consider to swap "valuable things" like a watch or jewelry or cars to get some food from rural poeple. It is a matter of priorities.

After a while things became normal - it was nice in rural environment to share a car and a TV between 10 families and in the cities poeple get used to that kind of sharing, too. And after basic things like food and housing were organized, poeple were able to use their time for other things again. E.g. to organize with other poeple and to build complicated things again.

From my families experience what was missing most obviously were things like butter, coffee, cigarettes and chocolade after the basics were available. And they managed to get that.

To transfer that to a situtation of future collapse - hypothesizing no war but a reduction of ressources in wealthy countries to an equally share for all persons on this planet and as worst case a die off of 75% of poeple (uh! How that?). Even with 25% of the poeple I know personally and 25% poeple of the poeple they know - we would be able to set up a factory to produce e.g. tools and machines and to trade them for food or a roof. We would also be able to establish some trade route to US to deliver some tools and machines in exchange for cotton, taback and some life-style accessoires e.g. from that famous "fruit company".

So - I thing civilization will not die. The main challenge may be to share a car and a TV with 10 families. In that case our ressources are adequate also to feed 9 billion poeple with similar living standard. Because things like cars and TV are eating most of our ressources now anyway. That is not doom - it is only a bit different.

CraigsIsland

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Re: Collapse scenarios & mitigating strategies
« Reply #35 on: June 07, 2013, 10:55:55 PM »
The EU in its present form is better equipped to deal with civilization collapse than the US or Russia and China. Basically all the nations that aren't connected too much with international trade and have experts to deal with good economic and political management.
I think you hit something relevant here - the idea that intentionally weakening global interconnections could increase resilience in some regions (though I hesitate to view the EU as having experts with good economic and political management). It would decouple regions from each other enabling partial (as opposed to global) collapse. Coherently operating regions could subsequently assist collapsed ones (in theory at least).

totally agree. US biggest trading partner is Canada - and it helps that Latin America does provide a lot of resources already.

In a logical but somewhat misguided way I daresay that's what the US is attempting with it's policy of greater energy independence - and hence fracking for shale gas and oil, the tar sands pipeline and the rush to claim/extract Arctic resources. A sound principle but an insane implementation.

extremely misguided implementation. Idea of interdependence from Middle East is a noble idea (leverage and diversification), but at what cost? to which group of people? I think the whole thing still reeks of profits for energy companies and not for the benefit/cost of the people.

With respect to the EU and maintaining agriculture - I'm aware of at least one major import dependency - phosphates (many from Morocco, most from Africa). What policies could break that interconnection? I think as a whole agriculture needs to stop mining resources to dump onto the land and get back to the idea of giving back to the land what came from it - ie start using appropriately treated sewage/compost as fertiliser again. Would that alleviate the need for phosphates and other non renewable agricultural inputs?

This is a great question and very useful debate question that needs to be addressed. That kind of dovetails a bit with China hogging quite a bit of the "precious minerals" market and they are gunning for mining in the Arctic to further bolster their portfolio. Best way to discourage this is to not become dependent on it. Easy to say, harder to implement. Probably better to say "hands-off" Arctic for everyone for now.

CraigsIsland

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Re: Collapse scenarios & mitigating strategies
« Reply #36 on: June 07, 2013, 11:01:07 PM »
SATire -

Great post! That's exactly the kind of insight societies would need to survive in a Western Civilization system. A nice portion of political science/geography is based on where people live (in terms of density, etc.) and how that changes over time. Those are the kind of experts you would want in your planning circles or if you're feeling ready to plan now, to acquire appropriate farm land  ;).

Civilization will probably continue- in a fragmented form- if conflict isn't too bad and survivors manage resources successfully.

ritter

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Re: Collapse scenarios & mitigating strategies
« Reply #37 on: June 07, 2013, 11:15:31 PM »
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This is neither policy or solutions.  This is yet another "OMG we're all going to die!!" doomer-porn thread.

Well, we are all going to die.  ;)

I understand your point, but there must be room to vent our worst fears.

Thank you very much for this, Neven. I find it essential to be able to discuss these issues with people that I, for the most part, respect even if I've never met them. Most of the people I know personally either groan when I bring this up or I don't even attempt it. It's a lonely burden to understand that so many catastrophic issues are on the move and most people just don't want to hear it.

@SATire --thanks for your insights. It was similar here (US) for many on farms during the depression. They remained just as poor as before the depression but still ate well! My continuing fear is that climate change will make subsistence farming extremely difficult.

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Re: Collapse scenarios & mitigating strategies
« Reply #38 on: June 08, 2013, 02:34:38 AM »
Satire


Thanks for the post. Few of us have experienced the kinds of things your family has & the urban/rural dichotomy is something that needs study. I've been assuming that without some form of central control lawlessness would spread rapidly and those that possessed things of value (food sources?) would spend an inordinate amount of time and energy defending what they have.
I do remember Canadians that were traveling through Europe in the early 50's saying that German farms looked as though nothing had happened while French farmers were still plowing around broken tanks. It's not impossible that German culture is somehow more resilient than most.
It seems strange to hope that we'll do as well as the losers in the worst conflict man has wrought.
Terry


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Re: Collapse scenarios & mitigating strategies
« Reply #39 on: June 08, 2013, 04:51:56 AM »
I actually don't assume -- don't really know, but don't assume -- that when things really fall apart, people are always bound to go all crazy lawless and steal everything at gunpoint or whatever scenario seems to be the one that comes up most often. I mean, resources _do_ tend to spark conflicts, when they're scarce, but that's historically been much more often about national borders or so on than about people within their small communities. Are there nasty, selfish folks? Sure, but that doesn't mean it always goes all Lord of the Flies immediately. People also band together in support networks.

I also don't assume some sort of spectacular collapse, though, and I actually wouldn't know how to start preparing for one, just because I think things on that sort of a scale tend to be nearly impossible to really plan for. Too many variables. Is it resource wars that take it down? Internal revolt from tons of hungry people? Economic collapse? Failure of medical systems resulting in the vast spread of some pandemic? All? Other? We can't know, and all of those things involve different sets of survival. We have no idea what will hit where, how various people will react as things fall apart, so on.

I mean, at some point, we're all just flailing and we have to figure it out from wherever we find ourselves, if we find ourselves there.

I think the best thing one can possibly do, honestly, is know the people in one's own community well, learn some general stuff about growing food and preserving it, learn some solid first aid in case the hospitals are overcrowded or unable to respond to most things, that sort of thing. Not bad things to learn anyway. Maybe make sure you know how to build fires and so on with few tools in case you have to sterilize water for drinking for a time. Sometimes, breadth of knowledge can be extremely useful, when you have to adapt what you know to new situations. In some sort of collapse situation, it's ultimately adaptability, flexibility with a strong base of varied knowledge to draw from, that probably wins the day.

I think overall that SATire is pretty right on in any scenario I can picture -- serious resource shortages and even the collapse of governments can be hell, but survivors of all sorts of things do usually, after a time, figure out ways to pick up the pieces and live the best they can. Most often, that means much lower standards of living and so on, but it isn't necessarily chaos and terror and agony for all times following.

If there's one thing humanity seems to me to do pretty naturally, it's develop and maintain social structures. I suspect that if the current ones do collapse, we will pretty quickly find new ones, with whatever scale of people remain.

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Re: Collapse scenarios & mitigating strategies
« Reply #40 on: June 08, 2013, 02:34:43 PM »
On the subject of the resource of food I have to put forward what I think is an alternative to the problem with regards the issue of starvation with one of them including insects being a suitable alternative for the food that we eat should it prove impossible to cultivate the land to produce food due to the severe climactic conditions (article on the subject of insects as food: http://www.startribune.com/lifestyle/209852901.html).

I know that the above solution is probably not plausible and if it does prove beneficial it is probably only weakly staving off the inevitable.

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Re: Collapse scenarios & mitigating strategies
« Reply #41 on: June 08, 2013, 05:15:38 PM »
Thanks for the post. Few of us have experienced the kinds of things your family has & the urban/rural dichotomy is something that needs study. I've been assuming that without some form of central control lawlessness would spread rapidly and those that possessed things of value (food sources?) would spend an inordinate amount of time and energy defending what they have.
I do remember Canadians that were traveling through Europe in the early 50's saying that German farms looked as though nothing had happened while French farmers were still plowing around broken tanks. It's not impossible that German culture is somehow more resilient than most.
It seems strange to hope that we'll do as well as the losers in the worst conflict man has wrought.
Terry

I think (as I believe noted in the When and how bad thread) that from what I've read, the manner in which societies regress/collapse varies a lot. In Argentina and Russia during respective financial crisis law and order substantially broke down and violence became the norm (I hesitate to describe either as total collapse, which I reserve as a label for places like Somalia).

The interesting question to me would be - what is it about different peoples and cultures that causes such a divergent response? Is there any policy lessons here? Why did the Japanese calmly and stoically pull together after a large tsunami while when hurricane Katrine hit New Orleans it degenerated into an ugly morass of criminality?

Both were abrupt events and both had large implications for a significant area. Neither is a perfect model for collapse as outside assistance was forthcoming. Why the wildly different response amongst the populations?

I also suspect people(s) who have experienced some degree of collapse before will do better - they will already have coping strategies in their memory and repertoire - and as such, I agree - their experiences and anything they would share could well be very helpful.

In both respects, the obvious question is - is there any information that could be used to improve social resilience in the face of stress factors?

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Re: Collapse scenarios & mitigating strategies
« Reply #42 on: June 08, 2013, 05:22:10 PM »
On the subject of the resource of food I have to put forward what I think is an alternative to the problem with regards the issue of starvation with one of them including insects being a suitable alternative for the food that we eat should it prove impossible to cultivate the land to produce food due to the severe climactic conditions (article on the subject of insects as food: http://www.startribune.com/lifestyle/209852901.html).

I know that the above solution is probably not plausible and if it does prove beneficial it is probably only weakly staving off the inevitable.
I think insects are about as promising as it gets for production of protein on a large scale. At the survivalist level, sure - you can raise animals (I assume grass will hang around in at least some areas of the planet, but that seems reasonable - and used appropriately animals can produce food from land unsuitable to grow human food directly).

For a larger scale policy however, I think one should be looking at insect protein - however little I care for the idea personally - it makes sense. I don't think my concern is over feasibility - it is more over injustice and inequality. I should be rather angry to be expected to eat insects while the rich and powerful continue to eat prime cuts of beef... while preaching to the populations that "we're all in it together" (banking crisis, anyone?)

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Re: Collapse scenarios & mitigating strategies
« Reply #43 on: June 08, 2013, 05:30:57 PM »
If you ask !
http://www.brillig.com/debt_clock/

So much big numbers, hard to imagine who will reimburse all that !!!
Especially in a world without CO2 emission allowed!!

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Re: Collapse scenarios & mitigating strategies
« Reply #44 on: June 08, 2013, 05:37:09 PM »
I also don't assume some sort of spectacular collapse, though, and I actually wouldn't know how to start preparing for one, just because I think things on that sort of a scale tend to be nearly impossible to really plan for. Too many variables. Is it resource wars that take it down? Internal revolt from tons of hungry people? Economic collapse? Failure of medical systems resulting in the vast spread of some pandemic? All? Other? We can't know, and all of those things involve different sets of survival. We have no idea what will hit where, how various people will react as things fall apart, so on.

I think conflict will be finite in duration - once the stress factors are removed it should largely abate. However, you're quite right - the mode of collapse may vary widely. I don't think that the diversity of modes of failure necessarily precludes asking the question about policy and strategy options that improve the situation - either by reducing the violence (which otherwise could do a lot of damage to civilisation itself, additionally to climate change) or by putting a floor under how far we can fall.

In that sense - after a lot of discussion in the "When and how bad" thread about consequences (and a fair amount of justification for a high probability of some sort of collapse at some point in this century), I think this is a logical evolution - to go from the what and why to asking - well, what can we do about it?

This in my opinion has relevance at both the large and small scale - it could help individuals or small groups navigate this situation - but also it could help everyone identify when/if politicians come out with appropriate policies that they are good policies to get behind (and if enough people took the ideas on board, perhaps even shape the policies politicians come out with).

I think the best thing one can possibly do, honestly, is know the people in one's own community well, learn some general stuff about growing food and preserving it, learn some solid first aid in case the hospitals are overcrowded or unable to respond to most things, that sort of thing. Not bad things to learn anyway. Maybe make sure you know how to build fires and so on with few tools in case you have to sterilize water for drinking for a time. Sometimes, breadth of knowledge can be extremely useful, when you have to adapt what you know to new situations. In some sort of collapse situation, it's ultimately adaptability, flexibility with a strong base of varied knowledge to draw from, that probably wins the day.

If one looked at what I'm doing personally, you'd label me a survivalist. However I'm setting my aspirations much higher. I don't like survivalism - I don't want to see lots of people thinking only about "how to survive". That isn't the right mindset in my opinion. I'd be happier to see more people thinking about "how can we survive and do well". How can we build the sort of world we know we could achieve, even if we must go through collapse in the interim? (and yes, this is very long term thinking - far beyond my lifetime (especially if collapse occurred to a low floor, as I think it would currently without appropriate policies in place).

If there's one thing humanity seems to me to do pretty naturally, it's develop and maintain social structures. I suspect that if the current ones do collapse, we will pretty quickly find new ones, with whatever scale of people remain.
The same is arguably true of monkeys (or any number of other species with social structures).

You're both right of course - but that doesn't preclude (in my opinion) trying to identify policies and solutions appropriate to the process. Too many people are happy to conclude that the situation will work itself out one way or another and not to realise that our own involvement is key. The threat of near term extinction rises dramatically (for example) if literally everyone sits back and tells themselves it is inevitable and there is no point doing anything. The risk of violence rises rapidly if everyone tells themselves it's inevitable and tools up for it. And so on.

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Re: Collapse scenarios & mitigating strategies
« Reply #45 on: June 08, 2013, 07:25:32 PM »
I've been assuming that without some form of central control lawlessness would spread rapidly and those that possessed things of value (food sources?) would spend an inordinate amount of time and energy defending what they have.
I do remember Canadians that were traveling through Europe in the early 50's saying that German farms looked as though nothing had happened while French farmers were still plowing around broken tanks. It's not impossible that German culture is somehow more resilient than most.
TerryM, I would like to comment on your two points.
First, rural structures are much older than modern urban organizations. In small villages structures are quite independent from any central government and the set-up of the state - kingdom, dictatorship, democracy or anarchy does not matter that much for rural life. The villages in Europe are often more than 1000 years old and they are by no means the peaceful hippies from a Mad Max or Robin Hood movie. Farmers can not move away so they defend their property, their livelihood. We have not much private guns in Germany - but in every village we have a well organized gun club with names like Landwehr (militia). You will not steal anything from farmers - a rocker gang would kindly ask them for work to get some food. So in Europe we have a stable basis independent from states or government. I am not sure about USA - but I would guess you may find similar structures in e.g. Pennsylvania and in Midwest.

Secondly - different cultures. I think the circumstances were different not the culture - farmers have to defend everywhere. Let me tell an example from the small village where my father grew up: In the spring '45, when Germanies organizations actually were allready collapsed, a bomber on his flight back crashed near the village. Immediatly the poeple from the village went there, killed the soldiers, despoiled interesting things and buried the plane beneath the soil in less than one day - to avoid that foreign troops would be attracted by it. I am sure in France also a lot of tanks "disappeared" during occupation - but after liberation there was no need anymore to hide the German tanks. No - Germany has not a different culture, farmers will conserve their soil thoroughly everywhere.

It is still the same these days - e.g. since 30 years government has tried to to set up an ultimate disposal place for nuclear waste in the rural area Gorleben. They have used a lot of police and pressure. That is futile - the farmers prevented that and will protect their soil also in future. You can not force farmers - instead you may kindly ask and pay a high price.

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Re: Collapse scenarios & mitigating strategies
« Reply #46 on: June 09, 2013, 01:48:18 AM »

If one looked at what I'm doing personally, you'd label me a survivalist. However I'm setting my aspirations much higher. I don't like survivalism - I don't want to see lots of people thinking only about "how to survive". That isn't the right mindset in my opinion. I'd be happier to see more people thinking about "how can we survive and do well". How can we build the sort of world we know we could achieve, even if we must go through collapse in the interim? (and yes, this is very long term thinking - far beyond my lifetime (especially if collapse occurred to a low floor, as I think it would currently without appropriate policies in place).

I largely agree, there are just dilemmas in this that make it hard to know what structures even still exist in a real collapse of things. I mean, policies at large scales are not going to plan for the fall of national governments or their basic structures; they would have no real way to know how to do that. What would remain, I suspect, would be local level structures, and those vary widely -- I think that far beyond just individual survival, having a pre-existing strong support network, and having the knowledge base that can adapt to fostering its members and so on, is honestly all I can think to do to even _get_ to a place, from real collapse, where we don't just survive as individuals, but actually build something better.

I don't see how we set up to do that without having any idea what we're facing, though. If it's mass starvation, which is my great suspicion, it becomes largely a question of organizing with people at local levels to make sure that there is food as possible and that the food is spread fairly, that sort of thing. Central systems would, at the moment, have to plan for what comes after they have no authority, in something like a total collapse scenario; I have no idea how they can do that. If you want to put a floor on suffering absent a strong central authority, that only happens via people organizing on more personal levels, and making sure that things are being dealt with reasonably fairly.

If you want to put a floor on it, I suspect that it takes making sure people have adequate support as possible and making sure that what resources are available can be fairly distributed. But how you go about that beyond a really localized scale, I have no idea, in a real collapse scenario. I mean, that's sort of the 64,000 dollar question when it comes to world peace, no?

I mean, does my plumbing still work, in this crash? Do we have running water? Because if not, my gardening knowledge is useless to both me and my community. And my biology and chemistry background will help us make water safe if we find it, heck, I can even build a still, but we have to find it first. How much we can do out of that depends on what happens from there -- can we get water? Who will get the pumps running, or fix the broken pipes, or deliver water, or will we have to move? Is there power for the pumps? Who is dealing with the grid? Will the city function, as a government? Will it act? And what about toilets? We can organize latrines, but how we do so depends on how many people they serve, and for how long, especially in this heavy clay soil.

We don't know the answer to any of these questions. If there is a local government that functions, it might help if it has policies for such an emergency situation, but that depends on how limited _its_ resources are. If there is still a central government, it depends on how many communities have no water, how many resources _it_ has, and whether it is in a position where they can be mobilized.

I don't think that shrugging is the answer, or sitting around doing nothing, I just think that figuring out what to do in a real, large-scale collapse of things is a little like trying to figure out what to do ahead of time if a meteor hits. I mean, you can have some general preparations for disasters, and you can have solid social networks built that will support each other when other networks fail, but you don't know what is left and what isn't, ahead of time, or what scale of recovery-followed-by-building you face.

I honestly think that knowing the people around you well is what provides the base for all rebuilding. I don't have any idea how one would go about trying to set up for the systems that come after the collapse and recovery from it -- with what structure?

I mean, if current authorities continue to have power, then their policies are somewhat useful things, but in a truly catastrophic failure of authority -- the level of, say, revolution, or of all systems totally overwhelmed by the scale of hunger or disease or general chaos -- it doesn't really matter what actual policies have been placed, it will all have to adapt from a (hopefully) solid base at more local levels, with no idea what's left on the other end to work with. Maybe policies, maybe nothing useful for the reality in front of you.

The specifics all matter immensely.
 


LurkyMcLurkerson

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Re: Collapse scenarios & mitigating strategies
« Reply #47 on: June 09, 2013, 02:15:33 AM »
On the subject of the resource of food I have to put forward what I think is an alternative to the problem with regards the issue of starvation with one of them including insects being a suitable alternative for the food that we eat should it prove impossible to cultivate the land to produce food due to the severe climactic conditions (article on the subject of insects as food: http://www.startribune.com/lifestyle/209852901.html).

I know that the above solution is probably not plausible and if it does prove beneficial it is probably only weakly staving off the inevitable.

Insects, at least some, are actually quite nutritious on multiple levels. But they're not all really edible or remotely palatable -- there's a learning curve there, for most cultures with no history of eating them (many people in the world already do include insects in their diets.)

I think it's a question of scale. I think our population would have to be much smaller for insects to make up a very significant source of food for a decent percentage of people; while there are truly tons of them, they really vary as food. Many of the beetles are ok (many taste bad, though), but some you really don't want to eat -- their larvae, if you can dig them up, are usually fine. Grasshoppers and the like are fine, but seasonal most places. Ants can often be eaten, though it depends, and it's best to boil them, and you have to get an awful lot of ants to make a meal. Caterpillars, you're safer not eating the hairy ones. So on.

Some insects are really very toxic, some fatally so. If you're in anywhere remotely like "the tropics," change "some" to "many."

And with the climate shifting rapidly, it's hard to know which insects will really take off, and which will be pushed out, and what habitats will be most readily available for harvesting them in sufficient numbers to feed many people at a time.

Laurent

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SATire

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Re: Collapse scenarios & mitigating strategies
« Reply #49 on: June 09, 2013, 07:10:31 PM »
Thank you for that hint, Laurent. Maybe collapse is step-by-step and allready happening: After the dot.com bubble collapsed the finance bubble is collapsing for some years. Maybe after that we will face collapsing of redundant lawyers and marketing experts? Somehow we have to concentrate our work on things poeple really need. If ressources are tight we do not want to feed other poeple in the same way as we did when ressources where "unlimitted". And if we are able to reduce our consumption to a reasonable one, e.g. to share a car and a TV between 10 families, then we should be safe to sustain a similar living standard for all 9 billion poeple on the planet - that could be a stable civilization system.

I see some problems for areas like Berlin, London, New York city, Phoenix and especially Los Angeles and the Bay Area - how can one feed that much poeple living in a desert like area producing mostly virtual things? E.g. after a earthquake if poeple have drunken all the water in their swimming pools - what could they do?
If you live in places like that you should not do survival training but find some good friends e.g. in Missouri where you could move to when you realize the first signs of collapse. Because what would you do with millions of strange survival trained poeple in the desert? Poeple from Berlin e.g. could easily move to northern Mc.Pom - lots of space there. Similar maybe in northern California/Oregon? And if you are a lawyer or banker or so - maybe you try to get some additional skills enabling you to impress a farmer in case of collapse?