Australia, The Place To Be: Part 3a

by David Clarke


In Part 1 & Part 2 I discussed the possibility that a downturn may occur in the 5+ year timeframe and a serious dislocation to our way of life may occur in the 13+ year timeframe. I am certainly not suggesting that it is certain, or even probable, but as someone who deals in risk management every day this is a risk that I feel needs serious management.

My goal in Part 3 was to examine what, on a personal level, can be done to prepare for these possible risks and guarantee a future for my son. Unfortunately, the answer ran to almost 10,000 words! I am sure that you have better things to do than read 10,000 words, so I have divided it into 3 a and 3b and I have ruthlessly cut the word count.

Part 3a will concentrate mainly on a worst case. Part 3b will try to draw it all together, then look at a best case.

The three most worrying risks that I identified in Part 2 were interactions between Peak Oil and:
- Climate Change
- Massive Economic Downturn
- Pandemic

The inclusion of pandemic was a surprise as it does not get much press in the peak oil world, but the number computed was high enough to justify a rating in the top 3. On reflection, this should not come as a surprise. Throughout history disease has ridden beside the other horsemen of the Apocalypse. In recent years we have forgotten about disease - as medical science pushed back this threat. But now we are living cheek-to-jowl, in conditions that are just begging for a global pandemic.

The only thing that has stopped a pandemic in recent years has been our willingness to take drastic action. A chicken just needs to sneeze in Hong Kong and we slaughter the whole flock, burn the corpses and disinfect the area. If resources became constrained, this type of response might not be so common. At that point, the horseman returns.

In planning a strategy I need to cater for the range of scenarios described in Part 2. The scenarios range from Best Case to Worst Case:
1. Best case. Some problems will be encountered, and they need to be overcome. A significant amount of infrastructure building will be required. Some demolition and salvaging of material may also be required. There will be some degree of dislocation, as society remodels itself to meet the challenges, however the dislocation will not be severe and there will be significant employment opportunities, in particular for construction workers and Engineers.
2. Worst case. One or more additional factors impact on an already stressed situation to cause a more severe dislocation or breakdown. Normal societal processes are degraded, supporting infrastructure and utilities are degraded or even lost for a period of time. The task of recovery is massively set back and complicated.

The “No Regrets” Test

In planning, I want to implement a “No Regrets” test. The test works like this. I must be able to answer “no” to both questions:
1. If everything goes really well, and Australia comes through the next 13 years with only minimal problems, have I undertaken any preparation that I regret? (e.g. Have I spent silly amounts of money on an underground bunker?)
2. If everything goes really badly, and Australia comes to grief over the next 13 years, have I undertaken any preparation that I regret? (e.g. Have I spent silly amounts of money on a mansion that sits on a postage stamp of land in an unsustainable area?)

Surprisingly, this test can be passed quite easily - always do things that are worth it for their own sake. This allows you to do things that work in both best and worst cases. For example:
1. Growing my own fruit and vegetables guarantees me fresh, pesticide-free food.
2. Learning useful skills such as brewing and preserving provides me with interesting hobbies.

You can learn fun things like how to espalier your fruit trees, fitting them into almost no space, but getting plenty of fruit from them.
Baby espaliered fruit trees.
These fruit trees fit in the few inches between my vegetable garden and the fence. They are very young, but already bearing fruit.

Don’t go out and max out all your credit cards buying guns and tinned food. This might work out for you, but it might also complicate your problems by reducing your available resources at some time in the future when resources are what you need, not guns.

Supposing some smart Engineer finds a fast, cheap, easy way to convert shale oil into regular oil, then capture the CO2 and use it to produce algae bio-diesel as a bonus? Peak Oil would suddenly be no more than a minor problem in Australia.

On the other hand, I am not suggesting a do-nothing approach. Supposing that some smart Engineer doesn’t find a way to convert shale oil?

Sensible preparations should leave you with the ability to respond in a flexible way regardless of how things pan out. Don’t just prepare for one vision of the future – because it ain’t gunna happen that way. Prepare for a range of futures.

In the preparations that I describe below, I always consider the “No Regrets” test.

What Does a Breakdown Look Like?

Before we examine strategies, it might be instructive to consider what a worst case looks like, and try to draw some lessons.

Breakdowns have occurred recently in Russia (after the fall of Communism), Argentina (after the Argentinean Economic Collapse) and Cuba (when the collapse of Communism led to a collapse of Cuban imports and exports). A more severe breakdown occurred in Rwanda, but was driven by massive overpopulation. I will not be considering it for analysis because I am not convinced that there are many possible parallels between Rwanda’s situation (overpopulation) and Australia’s (possible dislocations and infrastructure pressures). Considering the breakdowns in Russia, Argentina and Cuba may help us visualize a worst case in Australia....(My “Doomer” friends disagree of course. “Worst Case” is when your neighbors loot your food and then eat you. Historically, this has happened - so I won’t dismiss it, but I would argue that any preparation that is carried out based on the scenarios below would also give you an advantage in the more extreme scenarios.)

The breakdowns under consideration were characterized by a general failure of the interconnecting dependencies between people. This was typically followed by:
- widespread unemployment
- failures of utilities and services
- failures of food production and/or distribution, with malnutrition as a result
- Numerous surprising and unpredictable consequences. For example, there is a commonly quoted story of a near-meltdown in a nuclear reactor aboard a Russian submarine. The story claims that the Russian navy had failed to pay their utility bill in a town that was used by submarines. As a result, power was cut off to a nuclear submarine. Unfortunately the submarine was carrying out maintenance at the time, and was completely dependant on external power to keep the nuclear reactor cooled. The commander of the submarine sent armed sailors in to the town to ensure that the power was reconnected immediately. The sailors succeeded with minutes to spare, thus averting a nuclear catastrophe. I have no idea if this story is true, but it certainly illustrates how small failures of interdependencies can escalate into bigger failures.

From a planning perspective, each of these breakdowns had four very relevant features:
1. A breakdown of supply chains, followed by the emergence of local markets, local bartering and/or “Grey Markets”. These markets were needed to meet people’s immediate needs, and quickly grew into a more complex system of interdependent supply and servicing systems.
2. A loss of Law and Order. This failure occurred to a varying degree, from partial to complete, depending on the time and place. There were times in rural Argentina and Russia when law simply had no relevance, but Cuba claims to have experienced little loss of law and order.
3. As time passed, new systems and new entrepreneurs emerged. These systems and entrepreneurs were often built on abandoned infrastructure (despite the fact that the entrepreneurs rarely owned that infrastructure), and frequently worked in legal “grey areas”. They depended on the fact that law and order had broken down, and concepts of ownership were no longer clear.
4. Location was important. People moved. If the local area didn’t support 100% of the population, then the required percentage moved, sometimes with no clear idea of where they were moving to. This greatly contributed to the breakdown of law and order, as people searched for new options in new locations.

Dmitry Orlov was a witness of the Russian collapse, and wrote an analysis, which is available at:

Lessons Learned

So, in a worst-case scenario (comparable with the three events above), I need to plan for a number of problems. Here is a list of some of the problems that might be encountered:

1. A loss of reliability of utilities and services. Utilities may only run for a few hours per day (or less).
2. Possible food scarcity.
3. The emergence of a bartering or trading system that either supplements existing systems, or completely supplants them.
4. Loss of Law and Order
5. The emergence of new systems and new entrepreneurs.
6. A bad location could force a move with no clear destination. Location defines your problems, your opportunities, your risks and your strategies.

Preparing a Location: City or Country?

Several years ago I started thinking about the option of a “lifeboat” as a risk-mitigation strategy. The “lifeboat” concept is frequently used by survivalists to describe a subsistence farm that can be used as a refuge if required. There are a few ethical questions about this approach – if everybody “bugs out” then society fails and we all lose. Philosophically, I don’t consider myself to be a “survivalist”, but I did seriously consider building a retreat for my family out in the country.

Finding a location turns out to be a lot harder than you might think. Why? Because the key to such a lifeboat is that it needs to be secluded. You don’t want people wandering through, eating all your produce. That should be easy, right? After all, Australia has a lot of bush!

True, but not relevant. Our “lifeboat” needs to be in an area that offers reliable water and good soil but is:
1. Close enough to commute to on weekends (lifeboats need maintenance and they need to look “lived in”).
2. Far enough away to ensure that it is not overrun by refugees when/if a significant number of city-dwellers decide to wander out into the country to find a better place to live.

It turns out that these two requirements are mutually incompatible. Here are the assumptions needed to prove that assertion.
1. To support maintenance, your “lifeboat” must be within 150 km of your city, and to support agriculture it must be at least 1 hectare in size.
2. You will only move to your lifeboat if life in the city becomes unpleasant or impossible.
3. If life in the city becomes unpleasant or impossible, then obviously 10% (or more) of the city population will feel the same way. They will move out of the city and look for a place to live.

What is the likelihood that they will find your lifeboat?

Assuming that it is 150 km from the city and then allowing for the fact that most cities in Australia are situated near the ocean and beside a river, then your lifeboat is located within a semi-circle with a circumference about 470 km long. The surface area that people are likely to wander through is around 30,000 sq km (after you eliminate ocean and heavily urbanized areas). Assuming that 10% of a city of 2.5 million walk out of the city, and they distribute themselves evenly, then it doesn’t take any great mathematics to conclude that your lifeboat is going to be overrun.

Depending on how far people wander, the number of people who will walk through your lifeboat is likely to be in the hundreds. It is fair to assume that at least some will attempt to take up residence within your lifeboat - because they will be actively looking for exactly the same features that you were when you chose it.

Are you willing to shoot squatters? No? Me neither. So that particular option doesn’t really work out well.

The other major problem with the lifeboat concept is that you are isolated. In the years to come you are likely to need a dentist, a welder, an electrician, a plumber, a policeman, a friend. You can’t do it all on your own. Getting access to skilled people means being part of a community.

I haven’t given up hope of establishing a lifeboat, but I think the concept needs a bit of a re-think. The “lifeboat” that survivalists frequently discuss, in the form of a small subsistence farm, may not be the best option. I may write about better options in a future article.

For now, let us just say that the conventional “lifeboat” concept will only work if you move to a very remote area. This implies that you probably have to live there permanently, as commuting long distances is just too hard – particularly if fuel becomes scarce or expensive. The option of moving away from my friends and family to live on a subsistence farm hundreds of kilometres from civilization is not attractive to me, so I am not pursuing that option. I’m sure there are people suited to this choice, but it is not for me.

A frequently-discussed alternative to the loner-style lifeboat is to be part of a rural community, or part of a purposefully designed peak-aware community. Both of these options seem viable and probably superior options. You have access to human resources, but you are away from the big-city problems and close to food production areas.

As time passes, this option will probably get better, as a trend towards re-localisation emerges. Our centralised lifestyle depends on cheap transport. As cheap transport becomes less available, you can expect every successful town to have its own doctor, electrician, “fix-it man”, baker, etc. The insanity of shipping wheat to the city, then shipping bread back to the wheat area is likely to end.

Some rural communities are likely to enjoy increased vigour as a variety of local tradesmen and businesses emerge to fill niches that are left empty by the decline of cheap transport.

This is probably the best option available; however it is not for me. My life is inextricably bound with the city. All of my friends are here, and all of my wife’s family are here. If I move, then I lose my job and probably my wife! Losing my wife would fail the “no regrets” test, so like many of the readers of this discussion, I am going to try to make the best of a city location. If things go well, then a city is probably a good choice. If things go badly, then a strategy is needed.

Below I will attempt to define a strategy that applies mainly to those who, like me, are going to stick it out in the city.

Will The Government Help or Hinder?

I suspect that the current Australian Government’s ideology of letting markets take care of things would not survive an oil shortage crisis. The market did not care for things. Now the government may have to take a hand.

In addition to tackling at least some of the infrastructure projects, the government will need to ensure basic welfare, and deal with a possible economic refugee crisis.

Several interesting possibilities emerge when looking at the refugee issue. The first possibility is that some of the refugees will be European.

Looking at Nations that may have a shortage of oil in the near future, Europe comes up as a possibility. Russia may supply a little, but Vladimir Putin is increasingly indicating that much of the Russian oil will be locked in. The US has secured an ability to “lock in” Iraq’s oil, and may move on Iran next. China is a thousand pound gorilla that already has some indigenous oil and might secure much of what remains in the rest of the world. This leaves parts of Asia and Europe out in the cold.

Our government has shown a willingness to let refugee boats sink when they come from Asian nations. Will we show equal resolve if economic refugees start coming in from Europe? An unlikely possibility I admit, but an interesting thought.

Expect the government to enact laws about building in flood areas. Areas with poor prospect for transport may also be discouraged by legislation.

The government will also have to address the areas of:
- Welfare
- Health
- Defence
- Internal Security

Defence will probably get first priority. Expect health to come in last. I am certainly planning on that basis.

Preparing For a Worst Case: Planning Your Strategy in Detail.

The 6 lessons learned from recent "worst case" collapses were:
1. A loss of reliability of utilities and services. Utilities may only run for a few hours per day (or less).
2. Possible food scarcity.
3. The emergence of a bartering or trading system that either supplements existing systems, or completely supplants them.
4. Loss of Law and Order.
5. The emergence of new systems and new entrepreneurs.
6. Location is important.

So we need to have strategies to address each of these problems.

1. Loss of reliable utilities.

Part of the solution is to change your behavior. My grandparents got up with the sun, and went to bed with the sun. I’m not ready to live entirely without hot water and reading lights just yet, so the second part of the solution is to have systems that can cope with anything from a temporary outage through to a prolonged period without utilities. This may require some level of redundancy, but I have always tried to choose systems that are justified for their own sake, so the redundant system has some independent use.

Living without water on tap is hard. Rainwater tanks might be a good investment. For a lower cost option, if there is a stream in your area, then consider purchasing some water filters. Filtration may not be enough - ensure that you have a way to boil the water for sterilization. To prepare water for drinking, first strain the course material out using a cloth, then boil the water, and finally run the cooled water through a water filter in order to remove unwanted chemicals.

Kerosene lanterns can be quite decorative, but you will need a good supply of kerosene if you want to use them. Candles in candelabra can also be decorative but I should note that I am nervous about candles. Naked candles sitting on candelabra are often at the same height as hair, particularly the kind of long, teased hair that young women favor. I have seen this go wrong. Naked flames should be treated with caution.

Hand cranked LED torches, and/or battery-powered LED torches (including head lamps), along with rechargeable batteries, solar re-chargers, and re-chargers that plug into a wall socket (after power is restored) are all worth considering in an emergency lighting scenario.

Ideally, in the kitchen you will have a gas stove but electric oven - so if only one utility is down, you are covered. If both utilities are down....Well, where would we be without the great Aussie BBQ? Most gas BBQs have a tray that would (in theory) allow you to use wood or charcoal as a fuel if the gas ran out. Most camping stores will supply you with a number of alternatives for cooking – which includes a spirit stove that can use almost any imaginable fuel. I have one, and 3 litres of fuel – enough for a few months of sparing use, but I will eventually run out of fuel. Plans for various improvised solar cookers can be found on the Web.

We don’t need much home heating in most parts of Australia. A warm quilt for winter pretty much covers it. In line with my passion for redundancy of essential items, we probably have enough warm clothes, blankets and quilts for 3 or 4 families.

Warm water is a bit of a sore point with me at the moment. When we built the house I made sure that our hot water system included a very large stainless steel tank. The stainless steel systems are expensive, but virtually indestructible, so I regarded this as a necessary expense.

Then when I went to add a Solar Hot Water system to our hot water service, I discovered that solar systems normally have a roof-mounted tank, rendering your ground-level tank useless. Having paid a fortune for my ground-level stainless steel tank, I was reluctant to throw it away, so I looked at options. I can install a pump that would connect the solar collector on the roof to my ground-level stainless steel tank, but this pump requires electricity. I am still looking at options. I like warm water.

As a cheap standby option, a solar “bush shower” can be bought from many camping stores.

2. Possible food scarcity.

Drought and a reduction in the availability of fertilizer and other inputs could cut our grain production dramatically – and we would still have enough to feed our citizens. In Australia, if food scarcity occurs, the cause is likely to be the same as in Argentina’s situation – a breakdown in the interconnections between people and systems leading to a failure of the marketing and distribution systems. Argentina is one of the world’s biggest grain producers, yet for several years malnutrition in children was endemic.

Dmitry Orlov commented that the average Russian’s habit of cultivating a little vegetable garden probably saved Russia from widespread famine in the years immediately after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Food security in Australia seems a crazy thing to worry about, but no crazier than food security in Argentina.

Scarcity is not the same as absence. Most of the collapses discussed were characterized by malnutrition, not starvation.

As an example - if a person needs 2,400 Calories per day but only receives 2,000 calories per day, then that person will lose weight at a modest rate. It would take about 6 months to lose around 9 kg.

Different people obviously respond in different ways. For me, a loss of 9 kg would return me to the weight I competed at as an athlete, but for a slender woman a 9 kg loss could be lethal.

A strategy should be capable of supplying a small number of calories per day for an extended period, or a larger number for a short period. The strategy should also be able to provide vitamins and minerals.

Most of the people reading this article probably tend to work full time. Throw in around 1-2 hours/day of commuting, and we don’t have much time for cultivating food in a backyard garden. One solution is to select food plants that are less work-intensive – mostly perennials, but also any herb or vegetable that can thrive without attention. Ideas include fruit trees, strawberries, Jerusalem artichokes, globe artichokes, runner beans, rocket, garlic, chili, and most other herbs.

If you stick to relatively organic inputs and techniques, then the work required is minimal and the produce will be pesticide free. However your productivity will be dramatically less than the productivity that could be achieved by using more intensive techniques and fast-growing annuals in a rotated crop system.

I am willing to accept the reduced productivity. I never expect to produce all the food I need from a backyard garden, I am only aiming to produce high-nutrient food that also provides some calories.

Books have been written that claim to provide techniques for producing all the calories your family needs, in your backyard garden. The books are interesting and informative, but the techniques depend on things going right. Any Australian farmer will tell you that this doesn’t always happen. The techniques are also dependant on a lot of invested time. I don't have that much time.

My garden is designed to only produce around 300 Calories per person each day, however it also provides a high proportion of the vitamins and minerals needed by each person in a day. This combination of some calories but lots of nutrients might be enough to cover the shortfall caused by scarcity.

Another common strategy is, of course, to stockpile food. My parents and grandparents had a rule that there always had to be a minimum of 3 weeks of food in the pantry. When we were cut off by the Brisbane Floods in 1974, my family did not miss a meal.

In addition to the extra large pantry, a small stockpile might be handy. Items such as sugar and white rice have very long shelf lives - almost indefinite in the case of white sugar. They are pure carbohydrate, supplying lots of calories, but few vitamins and minerals, so they would need to be considered in conjunction with your fresh-grown vegetables.

Sugar can also be used as a preservative, making jams and other types of preserves. This makes sugar a useful item, as food can be preserved for winter. Historically, winter was a hard time; anything that makes winter easier was considered a high-value item. Sugar can currently be bought from a supermarket for around 75c a kilogram. A kilogram of sugar will supply you with about 4000 Calories, so it does not take many kilograms to cover you for an extended period of food scarcity. I am obviously not suggesting that you eat sugar by the spoonful. Rather, I am suggesting making jams, or adding it to puddings, just to add a few hundred extra calories per day to your diet. It is cheap and has an indefinite shelf life, so you can put it in a sealed container and forget about it until you need it.

Sugar can also be used in brewing alcohol, making it doubly welcome on a winter evening!

White rice has a long shelf life, but unlike sugar it is not indefinite. It can currently be bought from a supermarket for $1 a kilogram. Similar to sugar, in that it is a form of concentrated carbohydrate, a kilogram of rice will supply you with about 4000 Calories. Note that brown rice has more nutrients than white rice, but a much shorter shelf life.

So we are looking at a fairly simple, 3 part strategy:
1. Keep 3 weeks of regular food in the pantry.
2. Grow healthy, organic fruit and vegetables.
3. Keep a small quantity of easily stockpiled sugar, and rice, as a back-up (note the shorter shelf-life of rice, and plan accordingly). This stockpile is potentially a dead cost (never used), so it risks failing the “No Regrets” test, but the cost of this stockpile is minimal (around $35 will buy you an airtight container, 20 kg of sugar and 10 kg of white rice), so I let it pass, under the banner of “cheap insurance”.

3. The emergence of a bartering or trading system.

Develop skills and/or trade goods that might be of use to others. My wife enjoys quilting and embroidery. I enjoy brewing and a number of related activities. These are fun, but they are also useful skills, which might have some value in bartering.

I am growing fruit trees, with the intention of making jam and alcohol, should I ever need to. Hopefully, these products will be considered high-value. Sugar (as mentioned above) is a part of this strategy.

aquaponic tank
I also grow fish. I chose a species very high in Omega-3 oils. Aquaponics allows me to pack a lot of food production into a small space, as I am using the space twice. Nitrate from the fish grows plants on top of the tank (watercress in this case), as well as supplying my fruit trees. Sadly aquaponics requires some power. I am working on minimising that.

In addition to your trade-good efforts, it is also wise to maintain friendships. If there is a breakdown in the interdependent chain of systems that supplies us, then we need to build new ones. Suppose there is a breakdown. You have jam, but you want roast dinners - so you want to do a swap with the guy down the road for some of his chickens. He doesn’t like jam. But you happen to notice that his generator has broken down. Your mate Bob is good at fixing diesel generators, and he likes jam. New interdependencies do not take long to emerge.

I'm not saying the fruit/jam/alcohol strategy is the only strategy, nor does it work for every region. Your region may have fruit orchards, but lack local Engineering capabilities. In addition to questions like "Is it well above sea-level", the vital questions to ask in any given region are these:
- Could the area survive somewhat autonomously in event of a significant downturn? (Is there a good quantity of locally produced goods and produce, or an easy way to transport them as imports?)
- Do you have something that they are lacking? Identify some things that are lacking locally. Can you supply any of them?

4. Loss of Law and Order.

Personal and family security was as an issue in both Russia and Argentina. Kidnapping for ransom emerged as an industry in both nations, with children a common target. Theft with violence was commonplace. Extortion emerged as a normal business practice in both nations. Reports from both nations describe almost universal corruption in the police force (as police officers were forced to supplement inadequate incomes), and reports also describe a merging of police and organized crime which is still creating problems in these countries today. No such reports have come to my attention from Cuba, but this may merely indicate that either I have not found such reports, or Cubans do not have as much freedom to report problems.

Some thoughts:

As new threats emerge, behaviors may have to change. New rules will apply. Be prepared to adapt to the new situation, rather than trying to make it work how it “ought to” work. Identify how you have to change, and do it. Children might only be allowed to play in supervised environments. If you go out after dark you might need to go out as part of a group.

It was necessary for businesses in Russia and Argentina to form security alliances with each other and frequently with “security consultants” who were only one step removed from “stand-over men”. These alliances might be unthinkable today, but businesses that did not adapt in some way to the changed situation did not survive. Adapt.

Taking a self-defense class is good for your health, and might help - as long as you don’t let it give you a false sense of security. The best way to get out of trouble is to not get into trouble in the first place. Don’t go to dangerous places or hang out with dangerous people. Don’t think that a black belt makes you invulnerable. I have held two black belts (one as a junior in Judo, the other in a Full-Contact form of Karate). Despite this, I had my nose broken when I was 19. It turned out that I was not invulnerable. A black belt does not give you eyes in the back of your head.

Guns are a contentious issue so I am going to devote a few words to them. Statistics suggest that having a gun in the home is more likely to hurt a loved one than it is to protect a loved one. Is that still true if the security risk escalates? Maybe not, but getting a gun license in Australia is hard, time consuming and expensive. Obtaining the license will take at least a month, cost you hundreds of dollars (you will need to join the SSA first, and that is not cheap), and may prove to be impossible because the background, reference and character checks are simply impossible for some people (if you don’t have a close friend with a CPA, then don’t bother trying). Even after you get the license, you will need another month and yet more money in order to get a permit to buy a gun. Then there is the sticker-shock when you see the price of a gun. Learning to shoot and maintaining that skill will cost you a further $500-$1,000 per year in ammunition and range fees.

If you enjoy shooting as a sport (as I do) and you are good at it, then it is probably worth the trouble and expense. I own a gun, but I train at least once a week and compete every fortnight. My gun does not form part of my security strategy – I never expect to use it in self defense. Why? Because my gun is locked in a safe. It wouldn’t help me if my house was invaded, because it is locked away, unloaded, with the ammunition locked away at a separate location. This is not just because it keeps my gun away from my over-inquisitive toddler (though that is a sensible enough reason) - it is because putting your gun in a safe is a legal requirement here in Australia. Think about that before you rush out to get a gun license. Don’t trust your security to a gun, because in a crisis it probably won’t help you - it will be locked in a safe.

If you don’t enjoy shooting as a sport, then there are much better ways to invest your time and money. Getting a gun license and buying a gun will cost you at least $1,000 – more like $2,000+. For that much money you could improve your fences, buy a dog, plant a hedge, and have money left over for dog food. As a bonus, you don’t have to keep your dog in a safe.

A small, sensible investment in security today might pay off regardless of scenarios. I am certainly not suggesting that you erect giant walls and isolate yourself from your neighbors. Instead, stay friendly with the neighbors; they may be part of your security strategy.

5. The emergence of new systems and new entrepreneurs.

In the scenarios that I looked at, these new systems were a necessary part of the recovery process, but they were frequently built on an ethically dubious base. It would be nice to be part of the recovery process, and yet base things on ethically sound actions.

Perhaps this is possible by extending the bartering process, and building supporting structures. The early bartering systems were frequently the first step towards building new, efficient systems.

This approach would imply ensuring that I have skills and/or materials that are valuable in a local barter situation. (To this end I am working on my brewing skills, growing fruit trees that lend themselves to alcohol production, and acquiring related equipment.)

When/if bartering is ever required, then other related services will also be required (providing venues for traders, transport, security, etc). There may be opportunities there for people who are astute enough to look.

6. Location.

Here are some questions to start with:

1. Transport. Could the area become isolated if road-based transport was significantly cut back? Is there a train line in the area? If not, is transport by water a possibility? If not, is the area sufficiently self sufficient to provide for most of its own needs?

2. What can the physical area offer you in a worst-case scenario? Fresh water? Perhaps fish, if you are near the ocean? Etc.

3. What can the people in the area offer you? Repair skills? Farm produce? Enhanced security?

4. What don’t they have in this area? Can you supply it? Can you offer it to others as trade for what they have? For example, if they don’t have repair skills, could you supply this?

5. What other liabilities does the area have? Security concerns? Water issues? What are you going to do in order to address these liabilities?


Preparation does not need to completely change your life. Frequently it is possible to do things not because they prepare you for a possible crisis, but because they offer intrinsic rewards or benefits.

In part 3b we will look at drawing things together and discussing a best case.

I like your attitude. Positve and active without panic and extremist attitudes, rational and commonsense.

You have done a lot of work on this and it contains a hell ofa lot of common sense information and this is just part 1 of 3. When you are finished perahps you could post a mindmap of this total survival plan post peak as I have made a sort of general life map here wtih no particualr goal just general thoughts(I published this ont he end of yesterday's drumbeat):

Such a map could help you to see anything missing from your plan and help others to use your palan with one glance. Perhaps in another format would work better weher you could make pictures to add on and in colour. at any rate this is my new idea for preparation.

“Without a video the people perish”-Is. 13:24

I agree completely, this series has been a refreshing change of tone, as I think TOD in general has been great at 'sounding the alarm' but has lacked some more solution oriented articles along the line of or similar efforts.

Thanks again for the effort!

just joined TOD:ANZ to post this comment.

It is a well written piece, but I don't completely agree with everything as stated. The major premise of Ausiland being the "place to be" is really just another way of saying "I am familiar with this place and feel safest here". That is good thinking, individually. I am familiar with Brownsville, Oregon USA and feel safe here.

Going on from that, the part about being part of a small community is probably the best advice. One of the best articles written on how to survive these kinds of situations was written by a citizen of Yugoslavia (a self-proclaimed non-survivalists) who berated American-Internet-Survivalists for having all these "plans". He wrote that people will will figure out how to get food and drinking water. The biggest things missed were sweets (especially chocolates) and deodorant, followed by most everything else that made life pleasant beyond just the bare basics (including good alcohol and smokes (I don't drink nor smoke, by the way)).

The part about firearms is intensely personal, but probably the most weighty reason I think Ausiland is not "the place to be" for me (with the emphasis on the "for me" part).

You mentioned the part about the stainless steel water tank for hot water, and that being at ground level presented a problem with the collector being on the roof of the house.

Although they are expensive, a small electric water pump is available and can be installed inline with your collector and storage tank, run by a small P. V. panel, a simple one way valve will suffice to keep the pump from circulating the warm water from you storage tank when the sun is not shining

"you can cure ignorance, but you can't educate stupidity"
the old hermit

Bubba, I'll suggest that deodorant is not a problem. A physically active person living in the tropics, I've been sucessfully using sodium bicarbonate (baking soda) for years. It's dirt cheap and keeps forever; one problem solved, only 999 to go! : )

Errol in Miami

It's a cleaning solution, a deodorant, u can brush your teeht with it. You can bake with it. What is it? Bicarbonate of soda.

I don't completely agree with everything as stated. The major premise of Ausiland being the "place to be" is really just another way of saying "I am familiar with this place and feel safest here". That is good thinking, individually. I am familiar with Brownsville, Oregon USA and feel safe here.

I would agree. Anywhere that provides for your needs and allows you to contribute in return is probably going to work out for you.

I do wish that I could move to a more rural township... but, as I said, having my wife leave me would fail the "no regrets" test. In addition, if I stay in the city (actually, the outer fringes), then I have access to a network of contacts.
David C.

very similarly any further out & my wife would not go!

nice post very readable & timely. i like u'r logic.

Thanks, I will try it.
David C.

The no regrets test is exactly what I used to rationalise moving onto a small property with my family last year. The timing and magnitude of future "collapse" is impossible to pin down in advance, so you have to take strategic positions that make the most of all possibilities.

I travel by train to the nearby city of Brisbane once a week to work three days, leaving plenty of time to work on the farm set up. If everything keeps chugging along I would still be happy as I love my time in the garden. If TSHTF then we will have a head start on growing some or all of our food. Doing the project with my boomer parents means I havent had to go into debt, which also leaves me the option of working less hours so I can actually make use of the land. Neighbors and the village at large are generally similarly aware and should pull together well in hard times. I expect things in the city will not get so bad that more than a tiny fraction walk out- soup kitchens to feed the poor are likely here in Australia. The majority will take meagre certainty over walking into the sunset. The Australian bush and climate are so unforgiving of mistakes.

One thing I think more people should invest in is learning how to cook in bulk from very basic ingredients. Investing in a reliable pressure cooker is a good move (these were all the rage in the 1970s oil shocks too). Gardening in small spaces for higher quality food items is useful also- these are already slipping out of range in terms of price and quality.


Ok first off it requires a single pump nothing more. I run it quite easy on 80watts solar panel? Simple. Done dusted and no fluff. This is a system with 74 sqft of actual grow area not total garden space.

I am going to ramp up to another system this summer that will be 64 grow beds. Those will have a grand total of 1100 sqft grow area. This will require a pump of 16,000 L/hr or 4500 G/hr... This will pull quite a bit more power to get that kinda pump going. I estimate 300 watts for that but 1100 sqft grow area is HUGE!!!!

I love my aquaponics system.

this is my current incarnation. It requires 60gallons per 4 beds. Factor that in you get 1000 gallons for the large system I want.

Anyway the way this system is setup. You see the draining thats into a sump. Beyond the sump it pumps it into a upper tank that drains down below to the grow beds by gravity. The autosiphon kicks in and drains to sump. This makes only one pump needed!

Here are the grow beds.

And you can see the velocity of 1180L/hr here "less the loss from increased head to 4ft"

Yep, I ran my pump off a solar panel for a while, but the fish got unhappy at night, because the water didn't run at night. So I added a battery, but the battery died because it got deap-cycled every night. So now I am adding a header tank..... which is what I should have done in the first place :-)

Hi slicerdicer,
I see you don't have an anaerobic filter in your grow beds. Odd to suggest this, i know, but apparently they can assist with gassing off nitogen in the early stage of plant growth. Look for the RSG "really smart guy" filter discussion at

Excellent, thoughtful article. I have a two word addition that is often left out of such plans:

Birth Control.


If we are to assume a futture with to little oil to maufacture condoms or synthesise "the pill", i would suggest a partial solution may be found in carefull and medically validated use of herbal contraceptives.

From the inital research i have done there seems to be real merit in female consumption of "Queen Anne's Lace" seed within 8 hours of intercourse, and then taken daily for some time after as a means of preventing conception.

Of Equal value (herbaly speaking)would appear to be Neem Oil taken by males causes tempory sterilisation that has no lasting effects and is reversed completely within 6 months of ceasing to take the daily dose, the only apparent arguable downside of Neem is that it lowers libido as well.

Im not saying that these are a perfect solution, but they are capable of being sustainable (imho), even in a low energy environment.

Combined with a better knowledge of fertile and non-fertile periods of a womans cycle (vatican roulette) birth controll is probably relatively replicable, just without the ease and flippancy that it can be achieved today.

A vaginal suppository soaked in vinegar shortly after intercourse is supposed to be fairly foolproof.

See Vinegar was particularly effective

Hi good post.

Here is what I've come up with personally as probably the best scenario post peak. Its actually based on observing the pattern of villages in Europe and the rest of the world.

I think that you actually want to live in a small town or village since neighbors are the best security.

Next you want enough land around your home for a good garden.
I'm interested if people can come up with a good range. My opinion is at least half a acer to grow your non-grain or base foods for a family. You would like more. Also you would want to be near a river or lake or ocean to access fish if you can.

Also on top of this you probably want to own a wood lot and several acres of agricultural land. You can have a dwelling on the land or not but you wold plant it with base food crops such as grain. You could well lease the land. From what I can tell the scattered farmhouse is rare in regions that have suffered warfare in the past and its sensible that they are not easily defended. Better to lose a harvest than to lose your life. These lands should be within easy walking distance so no more than five miles from your house.

Another good reason to not live on your land is it makes it easy to buy and sell the land itself without disrupting your home. You don't want to move every time you buy or sell a piece of agricultural land.

I think its interesting that the estate/min-farm isolated farmhouse concept is really not all that important and it has some serious security issues.

I'd like to hear people thoughts.

I agree, a good post from David. Although the ultra important issue of location seems to have been well thought through, but incredibly, brushed aside in actuality with some dubious reasoning. I very much doubt that Australia or a city are the place to weather the coming global storm.

Marginal lands which have been made habitable by benign climate conditions and modern industrialisation will probably suffer de-habitation. Likewise, over grown and over populated cities, mainly reliant on modern economic systems for their viability will likely be whittled down to something supportable by surrounding regions or fail completely.

The village has been the mainstay of humanity for thousands of years, I'm not going to argue with that track record. In past times viable lands usually supported kingdoms or civilisations of one kind or another. So the ones that didn't destroy their resource base are worth considering as probably being viable (population density being the main problem in these areas). But what of those massive areas of the so called New World, which only supported disparate groups of tribes and hunter gatherers? There has to be a very big question mark as to why this was so and therefore a very big question mark as to how many people they can support in the future.

In practically all nations, there are going to be large portions of the population basically redundant. Nations which can retain some semblance of humane government and common sense in dealing with its population are obviously desirable. I'm not advocating socialism, but countries with past or present socialist leanings may well be more suitable than others. Their retained knowledge of socialism may well make them better positioned to deal with the specific problem of population in more effective ways.

Choosing the right location is probably the most important decision that people will make in their lives. Choosing to stay put without considering the implications may well be the worst decision anyone makes in their life. People forced to move eventually due to economic, climate, political, security, food or water reasons will be refuges with no where to go. Being in the right location to begin with is a far better proposition.

But what of those massive areas of the so called New World, which only supported disparate groups of tribes and hunter gatherers?

Lurked here for a long time. Actually had to create an account because of a strange need to respond to this misconception. One thing that is never taught in the western history books is that a huge plague (introduced by western explorers) decimated the native North American population prior to the first permanent, lasting settlement at Plymouth.

The plague was probably small pox, and the western settlers considered it a "gift from God". Surely from the perspective of a God fearing religious pilgrim you can imagine their thoughts when a massive plague from which they have a high resistance magically wipes out 80% - 90% of the native population of a land where you intend to settle. It was obviously a divine plan.

In fact, one of the reasons the settlers were able to so easily adapt was because they simply took over abandoned native settlements, complete with fields groomed for growing corn. The remaining natives had no choice but to help the new settlers, because their numbers were so decimated they needed any help they could get.

As for the poor tribes which eventually became known as Indians, the rest is history. There was obviously a substantial civilization before the plague, but we'll never know because the original history is clouded, and to be honest there is no real interest in studying this. The best sites for native American tribes were quickly converted into colonial settlements, destroying any evidence of a previous existence.

There is so little information about this that it is hard to speak with authority on pre colonial society. I would love to see serious funding to understand the real history here, as I think it may have profound ramifications on our own existence in the future.

Actually, the existence of vast areas of Amazonian dark earths ties in nicely with your proposition.

Whether all Amazonian dark earth was intentionally created for soil improvement or whether the lightest variants are a by-product of habitation is not clear at present time. This is in part due to the varied features of the dark earths throughout the Amazon Basin. Thus suggesting the existence of an extensive ancient native civilization dating back 500 to 2500 years

I also second the statement

In recent years we have forgotten about disease - as medical science pushed back this threat. But now we are living cheek-to-jowl, in conditions that are just begging for a global pandemic.

I was born in Africa and survived 2 killer-infections as a child thanks to medicines that had only just come into use at that time. The theory that infectious diseases are history is about to be tested.

There are many different ways to weather the societal changes that are underway (and accelerating). For no particularly good reason, I'm moving my family into a rural and semi-autonomous (off-grid) home on a large chunk of farm-land. This is as much because it's a way of life that I enjoy and believe my family will enjoy as it is a safety measure.

Other than positioning our house so that we have a view of the road-way into the property, I've completely ignored "defense scenarios". Frankly, I just don't think its worth spending time on. Just being present on a property provides a great deal of defense from vandalism and theft. Having said that, I wouldn't have a problem using deadly force if my family were threatened, but in no way does that fact comfort me.

How much land? I'd figured 20 acres (5 in garden, 5 in a wood-lot, 1 for fruit-trees, 1 for a pond (important!), 1 for the house and immediate surroundings, and the balance for a modest livestock herd. There is a great deal that a family could do with 20 acres, but just to be safe I doubled our minimum to 40 acres. Funnily enough, farm land in the US and Canada mostly comes in 160 acre parcels. We ended up with an oddly shaped 134 acre parcel. It should cover our needs.

If one were to choose not to live on their "life-boat", its important to at least have a semi-comfortable place to stay on the property. A garden large enough to provide for most of a family's nutritional needs will take at least a couple of work-weeks to initially prepare, and then at least a work-week to plant, maintain, and harvest each season. Not living on the property will greatly stretch the time it takes to get work finished and will mean that many things just don't get done. At least, that's been my experience.

The counterpoint to this is that if you live in a village you can also earn a living doing something besides farming. In general we have focused heavily on food supply but a lot of other jobs are needed for a entire community. You still need the mechanic/blacksmith potter miller etc. Just check your lastnames everyone in America is not called John Farmer.

By taking the village approach even if you farm you have a chance to practice a trade also or get your child into a trade. The problem with the isolated farmhouse is your closing the doors on a lot of other part of life. In my opinion most of the scattered farmsteads especially those on poor land will probably be abandoned. What are you going to do the first time a child gets sick if your 20 miles from the nearest village with a doctor.

Also you have a problem today that the pioneers did not the Indians or thieves will have hunting rifles with powerful scopes. Your a sitting duck if you try and plow a field.
Chances are you would never get a chance to protect your family in fact you probably won't even know how you die.
I've hunted way to many deer in my life from the edges of fields.

If conditions are stable enough that you don't have to worry about bandits then that means the economy is functional and jobs are available etc.

Subsistence farming on a isolated homestead is probably not a good idea in my opinion in either case. Its indefensible in the case of economic break down. And its not all that viable in the case of a functioning economy.

Historically I'm not aware of any older society that has existed which chose isolated family homesteads in general.
In America it was a aberration caused by the homestead act.

The suburban nightmare could be viewed as a direct result of this act. This concept also spread to Australia if I understand Australian history.


i had a conversation yesterday w/ a PO friend & have become convinced that an isolated farmhouse will be , generally less secure than having a mini farm w/ neighbors within shouting distance.

hearing /visual distance to neighbors currently seems at times trouble but the other core principle we have had for most of our lives is that we are not dependent on each other in our plentiful times but our upcoming energy decline & troubles adjusting will make our attitudes change.

In my idealised scenario, I find and acquire a chunk of land, not totally isolated, but further than shouting distance from random neighbors, big enough to support three or four households.

... and then hand pick the (newly found?) intelligent and acutely environmentally conscious friends with (examples) medical knowledge, with engineering knowledge, with farming knowledge to come stay on my land rent free in exchange for helping out.
Jaymax (cornucomer-doomopian)

i think it needs to be more village-like [50 +] for security - close off roads etc. in a bad time.

in our current location i am closer to a metro area than i like but due to family i don't plan to move but was considering buying a 'backup place' further out- which would take all our $.

i would reconsider getting a place further out if i felt nuclear war was a likely threat for here.

i think terrain is important & we are hilly & s/w rugged
here which feels more secure.

I'm not sure that life in a village in a crisis situation is guaranteed to be wonderful.

I live in a village of 1000 people and like any community we have rich, poor, locals, "townies", nice people and dregs.

There are many locals I would trust - but maybe not the neighbours in my street!

I simply cannot see everyone helping each other selflessly ... sad but true ...

I found an excellent web page for info about storage of seeds, grains, and other dried foods:



I really wonder about the idea that one can build a lifeboat far enough away. When I was aboard a two masted brigantine in the north atlantic, we were told that the only reason that you would leave in the lifeboat was certain death because a storm that would sink the ship would swallow an open lifeboat. I think the analogy holds.

Part of the reason that I say this is that people can move long distances by foot. I've walked 20 miles in one day. 2 weeks is almost 300 miles. Toss in a bicycle and suddenly a distance of 700 miles in one week (100 miles a day) is not out of the realm of possibilities. Even an inefficient one speed or 3 speed will dramatically increase one's range.

So the idea that one person can hold off the hordes ranges from simply ludicrous to suicidal. Once you pull a gun, others will pull a gun and suddenly, you are outgunned. If you saw the recent "War of the Worlds" movie with Tom Cruise you probably remember the scene where desperate people killed each other for a working car. That is not a dramatization or fantasy. Real life examples of such deperate acts occured during the fall of Vietnam where armed bands of thugs beat people and took there places on the last flights out.

If you are truly concerned with being overrun by looters, then you need to find a small village that is far enough away to avoid most displaced refugees, has enough culture and skills to be self sufficient, and large enough to hold off marauders. Pick something that also has a library and a theatre because these places will probably also have lots of social capital that will help bind folks together for positive reasons. Also, pick areas that tend to be known for their cooperative culture. You want to be in an area that has a history of working together instead of isolated paranoia.

Culture will have a huge impact if things fall apart. Take a look at the social and cultural studies on the difference between southern Italy and northern Italy. The northern Italian city states have a long history of independent and cooperative culture. the south has a long history of imperial feudal culture where lords set their serfs against one another to maintain control. The result is that the north is more trusting, cooperative, and constructive whereas the south is suspicious, hoarding, and destructive. The south has trouble coming together to form a childcare center. Most of the businesses are started in the north and have great difficulty spreading south because in the south, you can only trust your immediate family.

So, my advice is to find an area of Australia that is known for it's cooperative culture so that your neighbors will watch out and work with you in times of crisis. To quote Ben Franklin " We must all hang together, or assuredly we shall all hang separately."


Great point. Social cohesion and cooperation are critical aspects of a location. Something I failed to mention and should have. Thanks.

David C.

Nice post! Clear-headed thinking. From a city dweller that has no intention on leaving, a few ideas. I stockpile a year's worth of everything. 3 months of food in the fridge, 3 months in a small freezer, 3 in the can pantry and 3 more in iron rations (mres, etc). This can be used to supplement what is available, augmenting it for about 3 years or so. That is a long time. It takes a while to set a system like this up. What food do you like, how do you rotate it so it is fresh, is the wife on board, etc.

Another stockpile idea is to keep a year's supply of coffee, TP, kleenex, over-the-counter medications. They can be used day-to-day or traded. The biggest problem is finding storage space around the house for this stuff. The coffee stockpile is especially useful as you can drink it (and help rotate it) and trade it easily. It is sold in foil bricks of 1 lb each and stores very easily, ie, in a small space.

Booze makes a great stockpile item, but I don't stock it as I don't drink. If things start to get strange, though, I'll rethink that plan before things get too weird.

Guns are more of a danger to you and your loved ones than they are a help. As a Red Cross volunteer, I visit many sections of town unarmed and have never had a problem. I do carry a battery powered taser on my belt but have never had to use it. It works great and is non-lethal. It requires only a fresh 9 volt battery to be good for years of use. I carry it everywhere. It is legal and resembles a cell phone. As it is with me everywhere I go it is much more available than a gun would ever be (Imagine the response if you wore a gun into WalMart).

In my garage I have an ice chest that is filled with camping type items. If I need to evacuate for some reason (it could happen)I can throw it and a case of MREs into the car and be gone in a few minutes with the basics at least.

All this preparation takes time. Some things won't work out, like stocking too much canned ravioli that no-one likes to eat. Try different ideas, see what works for you. If nothing else you will sleep better at night.

I think guns are okay actually if you have been around them and respect them. Parts of the US still have a real gun culture i.e treat it like a powerful tool. If you feel the same way about guns as you do about a downed live electric line then you have the right attitude. If you don't then don't get a gun.

I don't see that they make a whole lot of sense in a self defense scenario since if I had guns I'd keep them locked in a gun safe and the ammo in a different safe and trigger locks.

So getting a gun ready to fire would be at least a ten minute process. However if I was in a small town I'd probably keep a variety of arms simply for if I needed to act as a defense force member. I'd probably look up in detail how the Israelis do it first.

I actually prefer crossbow's they are illegal in a lot of places but overall I think they are a superior weapon to a gun. If forced you could easily make bolts and a powerful spring steel crossbow at any machine shop.

Plus crossbow's are far safer in my opinion than firearms.
You have to do a fair amount of work to arm it so accidental
death should be rare.

And in a military situation the silence would be a big advantage. So if I was going to pick a survival/hunting weapon cross bows would be on the top of my list plus I'd spend some time actually making a few if I had a machine shop.

So my wepon choices would be.

1.) 30-06
2.) Shotgun .410 and 12 guage not 20 guage since you can get 12 guage loads that cover what you would want a 20 for.
3.) Crossbow
4.) A few compound bows.
5.) Good blow gun. ( You would be amazed what you can do with a blow gun )

I would not keep a pistol but if things got bat I might keep
a 20 guage that I would modify as a sawed off personal defense weapon.

I read an article by a guy who survived the collapse in Argentina, in which he indicated that a handgun was the only way to go.

What happened there was a breakdown in law and order, but not a disappearance of the police. The result was that you couldn't openly carry (the police would arrest you--or kill you), but you couldn't safely go out without a weapon; you'd get carjacked or robbed. A handgun served as an equalizer when you needed to go to a store or an ATM or to work.

One other interesting aspect of his story was that he didn't find the gold and silver he had bought to be of much value. He'd have been much better off with more dollars or euros. (An artifact, perhaps, of the collapse being local to Argentina and not global, but still something worth keeping in mind.) The only way to use gold was to take it to a pawn shop, which would buy it at junk gold prices.

I read an article by a guy who survived the collapse in Argentina, in which he indicated that a handgun was the only way to go.

What happened there was a breakdown in law and order, but not a disappearance of the police.

I agree. If you take a shotgun to work..... well, you will get talked about at the very least! But I walk 3 km to the train station, about half of it through semi-industrial wasteland, in an area where people have been killed in recent weeks.

I don't carry a handgun right now (having a martial arts background makes me a bit cocky), but I will consider it if things get really, really poor. I have a pistol licence, but don't own a pistol. You have to balance the risk on owning and carrying a pistol against the risk of not owning. At the moment I don't feel that there is a sufficient risk to justify owning and carrying.

I practice with a handgun every week - twice a week sometimes. That is because I enjoy it, not because I expect to use one. In getting a pistol license I have created an option.
David C.

Handguns are really hard to use especially in a criss situation. I was talking more about defense. If your serious about getting good with a handgun esp in a abrupt situation go hunt doves or quail with a 22 pistol. Once you can do that then you can handle a pistol. Picking a target when a flock goes up is a really hard. Thats about as close as I think your going to get a a real life dangerous situation. Not to mention shooting a flying dove with a 22 pistol is tough.

The police get a lot more training with pistols and they don't do all that well in general in crisis situations. It takes a lot of dedication to get good with a pistol. I actually gave it up after a while it was simply to much work.

Again its one of those things if their is enough law and order that carrying a weapon openly is a issue then you probably don't need to be carrying one. If its not then a pistol is probably not a good weapons choice.

Their seems to be some sort of mystic about pistols I dunno.
I've known a few people that where really good with pistols but my experience is they are the exception not the rule. If your serious about weapons you really have to find the gun or guns your comfortable and get serious about practice if you don't do either then your better off not carrying a weapon or even buying one.

I'll probably eventually buy some but its not high on my list I'd rather spend the money building a good hiding place.

Just to show you I'm not a pacifist I have thought about setting my house up with phosgene or cyanide sprinklers and getting some firemen masks or even scuba gear and making a air tight hiding place. So if I did have to deal with a serious home invasion I'd just gas the bastards. But I'm a chemist. So if I do ever build a retreat I'd suggest you not go inside you might not like my water sprinklers.

Consider an automatic instead of a revolver if you want a pistol but are worried about children finding it.
I have a Colt 45 automatic. The slide has to be pulled back to chamber a round from the magazine. I am the only one in my family that can pull the slide back. I keep it in a location that is out of reach of my children and the fact that they are physically unable to chamber a round gives me peace of mind and a readily accessible firearm.
My kids have also been told many times that guns, knives etc are for adults only and if they find one laying about they should not touch but tell an adult immediately. My kids friends have been similarly instructed by their parents.

Our “lifeboat” needs to be in an area that offers reliable water and good soil but is:
1. Close enough to commute to on weekends (lifeboats need maintenance and they need to look “lived in”).
2. Far enough away to ensure that it is not overrun by refugees when/if a significant number of city-dwellers decide to wander out into the country to find a better place to live.

Good post, many areas covered. You've addressed many key points, especially the ones above that discuss how to transition to a post-oil society.

The areas you cover could be (and to some extent has been) the subject of a book. Transitioning requires extraordinary resources, time, and commitment.

I like the espalier photos; I'm doing many similar activities, including adding many disease-resistant fruit and nut trees.

I am really tempted to enter this discussion but I've been through similar discussions for years and years on other forums. Frankly, I've made my decisions as to how to deal with the future and I am not interested in trying to convince people that they have made poor or false assumptions. Peak energy is bad enough...preparedness is worse.

I don't want to undercut the effort that led to this thread but there are better places to gather information than TOD. One place to start is They not only have lots of archives but also links to many other forums dealing with these issues.


An excellent article. It echoes the notes I've been taking for "Ecotechnia". You may recall that I said I was going to write two versions, based on where the positive change comes from, "bottom-up" and "top-down" versions. I shall be able to pillage this article of yours mercilessly for the Bottom-Up Ecotechnia.

Please pillage!

I will be pillaging many of the comments here. Comments such as the one about the importance of selecting a socially cohesive location. This is something I have thought about, yet failed to mention. Or the comment about the role of Australia's military (and reserves). So well argued that I won't even attempt to add to it...

David C.

David I'm really happy to see so many agreeing with preparations that include growing your own food.

The only negative is that you are way too optimistic - the markets will fail way before there is a real shortage of fuel for essential purposes and we will be thrown into a Depression, which we will never really come out of.

The state will loose the ability to provide financial assistance to the unemployed once we get into the 20% unemployed range.

The optimistic 4 to 5 percent depletion models conceal the obvious - we loose the equivalent of around 4 global airline industries each year, be it the auto inudstry, tourism, tyre manufacture or plastics.

Once this cycle begins we will see immense capital flight, lowered values, liquidations and unemployment will spiral.

The worst thing is Peak Oil will not be blamed, it will be attributed to problems akin to the mortgage crisis and NOT the real underlying cause.

Sharing the road back to Olduvai

Excellent Roundup of the potential Australian issues Aeldric! I have read through all three pieces with interest due to the level headed content. It is tough to maintain a healthy level of perspective with a problem of this complexity and scope.

I believe that I can add some insight into the internal security and defence situation, which may have some impact on the shape of society after such a crises and what preparations that people should make now.

The premise to this view is neatly summarised by Mao Zedong as “Political power grows out of the barrel of a gun”. Political power and the Rule of Law are meaningless without the states ability to back it through the threat of sanction and coercion. Likewise, military power provides a very stable and strong basis for the continuation of both the political system and the legal system (provided that the military maintains the proper perspective). Many peak-oilers fear the breakdown in both these institutions – however this will only come about with the breakdown of the military supporting it.
It follows that the only reason (other than an external threat) for the military to collapse is through lack of logistical support – ie food and fuel. Since we are a net food exporter, and the military has preferential access to fuels through the Liquid Fuels Emergency Act, the miliary will be in a good position to be a stabilising force and political leadership will not cease to exist.

The skeleton which society uses to maintain order will not be going away any time soon. Lets look at what the Australian Government may do in a complete worst case in regards to internal security – and what this means for other critical areas.

This begins with a thought experiment on crises of a drastic and immediate nature, Basically the absolutely worst case. This is what I see as the most likely internal security scenario that plays out if this happens.

1. Immediate consolidation of Government power and voluntary clampdown on political dissent by other parties.

The various State Emergency Acts can be enacted effectively putting the country under martial law. This gives the various government agencies the power to take swift control of urban areas in which the majority of the population lives. Force can be used, access must be given to private property, property can be confiscated and people can be moved to other areas. If food production is not effected too adversely (Aeldric’s assertion that I agree with) – then state and federally based food allocation can be enacted and administered by local agencies and groups.

You may think that this blanket suspension of rights will be resisted, but I think that the exact opposite will be the case. In a state of emergency all political bickering is put aside for the sake of quick action. For an illustration of this look at the situation in the US after 9/11.

The Australian people may not particularly like our politicians – but they will expect immediate action to ensure that an “equitable” amount of goods and services are maintained in all areas. People will only resort to mob action if they believe that some areas are having it better off than others (See economic game theory experiments).This may happen due to the size of the logistical problem, and the possible speed at which the crises hits. The Government can then activate the Army Reserve to quell any civil disobedience.

2. Activation and Expansion of the Army Reserve to maintain civil order.

The activation of the Army Reserve and the use of the Permanent Army personnel to maintain order is both prudent and probable. The main element of the Permanent Army as our professional soldiers will probably deployed in many areas in the near region and further overseas, backing up the RAN (Navy) and RAAF (Airforce) – to protect key trade and energy logistic routes.
Experienced NCO’s and Officers can be transferred to the Reserves to bolster the number of “old soldiers” and the Reserve ranks can be bolstered. Based on need they could quickly double or triple soldier numbers though setting up local training cadres at every Reserve depot. High unemployment should mean that there will be enough of a potential candidate pool available – and fast training time should boost numbers very quickly. They will not be good quality troops – but with enough old soldiers to form a strong backbone and with effective leadership they would be good enough for local civil pacification and protection of key infrastructure.

The number of troops that could be made available, the fact that the Australian population is centralised, coupled with the numerous distributed Army Reserve base structure means that in the event of a crises – security will be maintained.

The scenarios of roving refugees (at least domestically) and lawlessness will not happen. What you will see are well armed soldiers, walking around in numbers, ensuring that civil order is maintained. Gun ownership is low and the types of weapons available stand no chance against the military equivalent plus training. There are no cheap AK-47s and RPGs available to complicate matters. Any societal, geographical or ethnic group with an axe to grind is not going to get too far using force or creating a breakdown in order.

The Result is the maintenance of security, law and order and consequently society. This means that displacement of people will be minimal – despite the situation severity, and will provide a stable environment for community solutions, maintenance of a basic market mechanism as well as state and federal allocations to ensure no shortfalls.

3. City Gardening projects and localisation as a by-product of the military maintenance of order (An example)

In a Hobbsian style lawless situation – co-operative projects and localisation is a dream. In a situation where order is maintained by our good old lawful combatants – then a situation of trust can develop by making sure that the unscrupulous don’t abuse it. Victory gardens are just a start and provide a good hedge for individuals – however community garden projects can provide further local food opportunities.
I live in Hamilton, NSW – just outside Newcastle CBD. If I open a map of the CBD and the all the outlying suburbs - I see a hell of a lot of “green” on the map. Community parks, reserves, race courses. Forget the survivalist “lifeboat” – with good security and you have enough land for a very healthy community gardening project.

In addition to Victory gardens and community gardening - the military maintenance of order will also maintain the basic market mechanisms and ensure that commerce keeps moving – albit at a reduced rate. Food and consumer goods will get to where they are going. The market will not become too mean as there will be a level of certainty that the situation is under control.

The survivalist mentality comes from the fact that you believe that security will break down and people will take your food resources. If security is maintained then this mentality is dangerous for you health. You isolate yourself and forgo the benefits of having community division of labour. Also the fact that you are in the “wilderness” away from security patrols – means that you are much more likely to be robbed or worse by the people ejected from “civil” society.

If you are going off the grid think carefully on this.

Villages ARE the idea – but as urban suburbs that reconfigure themselves as per New Urbanism in urban villages. A walkable mix of commercial, residential and agricultural. This is a more practical and achievable solution as common services can be maintained such as communication infrastructure, hospital networks, markets etc.

Isolating yourself only exacerbates the logistical problems and lowers your standard of living and survivability.

The conclusion: No matter how bad it gets initially – as long as there is a firm food production base (and the problem is a distribution disconnect) – then law and order will be maintained. It is essentially a domestic peacekeeping operation – with possible counter insurgency elements. We have had a fair bit of practice at this. Recently the main elements of our army have been doing counter-insurgency work – and we have been leaving the warfighting to the SAS and 4RAR (unlike the US). So the army generally takes a softly-softly generally and only comes down hard when people are looking for trouble. Incidents of excessive force should be minimal – although who can say?

On the whole, society will hold together here in Australia. Civil liberties may take a battering for a while though. That much is certain.

Excellent post. A sober and thoughtful contribution with a very good feel for the fact that Australia differs in certain key respects from, for example, the US. Our response to PO will be distinctively our own.

For instance, we have far fewer guns in civilian hands and we are less seriously fractured in terms of social class and race. The egalitarian spirit is stronger here, and there is much less suspicion about the role and effectiveness of the state than there is in the US. The sarcastic US joke, “I’m from the Government and I’m here to help”, does not resonate anywhere near as much (if at all) here in Australia.

Actually, Australia has a significant number of firearms - about 2.5 million registered firearms. The AFP estimates 10% unregistered ones on top of that.

In 2006 there were 2,526,888 registered firearms. There were 147 suicides, 19 homicides, 20 accidental deaths, and 7 incidents of lethal self-defence by police, for 193 firearms deaths in all, or 7.63 deaths for every 100,000 firearms. This compares to (1,601 deaths, 14,358,684 registered vehicles) 11.5 deaths for every 100,000 vehicles.

In talking about how much firearms threaten a civil society, it seems reasonable only to speak of the deliberate killings of others; suicides and accidents, tragic as they are, don't usually threaten the social cohesion of a country as a whole, which is what we're talking about here.

This leaves us with 26 deliberate killings by use of firearms in Australia in 2006. Not many, really, for 2.5 million firearms. 1 deliberate killing for every 100,000 firearms, in fact. A tad under 1 if you want to factor in the unregistered firearms.

Americans by contrast own 238-276 million firearms (numbers are inexact because of a non-uniform legal requirement for registration), and in 2004 (most recent data I could find) had 11,624 criminal deliberate killings, and 311 by police, for 11,935 deliberate killings in all, or between 5 and 6 deiberate killings with firearms per 100,000 firearms.

And so we see that while countries vary a lot in how many firearms are owned, they also vary in how likely they are to use them aggressively. The difference is obviously partly cultural, rich-poor gap, and so on. But whatever the causes, in the end the Americans are just a more violent and aggressive people than are Australians.

The differences in culture are significant in that it's reasonable to assume that if we're less violent now, we'll also be less violent in some great crisis situation.

In fact I'm sceptical that the US would descend into Mad Maxian anarchy. Journalists like to talk it up whenever there's some disaster, but in fact in the US what breaks down during a great crisis isn't society, but government. The people more or less stick together and help each-other out - stories of rape, murder and mayhem at the sports stadium in New Orleans turned out to have been entirely made up. Whereas the government comes in with overwhelming force, police fire over the heads of refugees to stop them crossing bridges to escape the danger, and so on. This perhaps helps explain Americans' suspicion of the effectiveness of their government as an institution.

Now, in their history they've always had these crises be local and temporary, and so the overwhelming force has been local and temporary, too. How they might cope with a nationwide and extended crisis is anyone's guess.

But still, I think it's fair to say that in the US the danger in a great crisis is not anarchy but tyranny. That's what's been shown by how they deal with disasters.

How our own government would respond is hard to say - we've had less disasters. Having been in the Army, I'm extremely sceptical of its ability to run anything, and in any case we don't have the manpower to guard more than a single city. You can't control five cities of more than a million people each with just 50,000 soldiers, not even 5,000 of which are combat soldiers. It just can't be done. And so the government would have to look for co-operation rather than force - whatever its ideology, they'd be constrained by lack of soldiers. If you do not have a stick then you must use your carrot.

I certainly hear you on army efficiency - but they would certainly not be running anything. There would be co-ordination at a local level of various agencies (Police, SES, volunteers, businesses) through a local council or the like. The council or co-ordination body then sets priorities for security - for which manpower can be provided by the nearest depot. Co-operation is the only way to go.

Top down management of such a problem would not work.

As for manpower - for starters you have the Standby Reserve, and you can call up anyone with close to current military experience - and then begin crash training at decentralised locations. All experienced soldiers become NCO's. Two weeks training for a rileman then deployed. Not pretty but it gets boots on the ground. The current structure probably couldn't accomodate the required 100,000 troops (1 soldier per 200 people - that should easily be enough) - however the problem is not insummountable. With enough warm bodies, (and there will be enough unemployed young males) - you could expand security slowly until it is total.

Coupled with an effective neibourhood watch program - The army becomes the fist - while the community is the eyes. If you break it up suburb by suburb the problem is not impossible. Just large.

The murder rate in the United States varies by almost 2 orders of magnitude. The US is far too large and varied to be useful for international comparisons. Look at Washington DC and Baltimore and then compare them to Vermont or the Dakotas. The difference is enormous.

As for gun ownership: Some countries such as Switzerland and Finland have very extensive private gun ownership with low crime rates.

To put the whole Climate Change issue into perspective vis-a-vis the Peak Oil Crisis, everyone needs to ask themselves, their associates, all sitting elected officials and those seeking office, especially the office of President of the United States, “What is more threatening in both the long and short terms, a beneficial 1 degree (F) rise in average world temperatures over the past 100 years, or a 1 percent decline in world oil production over the last 100 weeks - with steepening declines in the pipeline? Can our economy better deal with declining fuel inventories in an environment of persistent warming, or in an environment of declining average temperatures over the next several decades, the most likely scenario?”

Another good article, but one thing is missing. The frequently overlooked problem of sanitation. Modern medicine is often creditted for our reduction in childhood mortality and increased lifespan, but the sewer system in modern towns and cities has played a far greater role.

You mentioned "pandemic" as a top order problem, but ignored the need to take steps to minimize the potential. In the "intermitant/erratic utility supply" scenario, a two hour water supply, three days a week situation could continue in towns and cities for a long period. People would learn to cope, and the basic supply system could handle this off/on arrangement.

The sewage system in most metropolitan areas relies on a steady supply of water and electricity. Without these inputs, the piping system would rapidly become clogged up and unable to be restarted without a massive input of effort.

"Sh*t happens" is a fact, not just an expression, and it has to be dealt with to protect public health.

Any plan for survival must include the disposal of bodily wastes in a disease-preventing way. Cholera, typhoid, dysentary etc will no doubt play a significant role in the necessary reduction of the human population to a sustainable level. I personally would hope to avoid these unpleasant problems, and I feel that it is important for those folk who are sufficiently aware of the forthcoming "interesting times" to take note of this requirement. Some form of composting toilet should form a part of every survival plan.

I would list the human requirements in this order:
Air; Water; Food; Shelter; Sanitation;

There are many other requirements for "life" as opposed to "existance" but I believe that this is the minimum for life.


Good evaluation...for Australia.Not the pacific northwest.Way,way too many guns here {for the civilized manner you believe events would transpire}.Too many young people de-sensitized to violence.Too many flat mean,stupid,people with a feeling of entitlement.Who have guns.

Several good points,Isolation,seclusion I think is a better word.My place is secluded,off the beaten track,end of a dead end road ect.People don't come here unless their lost.Being surrounded on 3 sides by 20ft blackberrys can be a good thing,the stuff is like living bobwire.I am finishing 6'wire fense w/real bobwire on top for deer,racoon ect.But in reality,I dont expect a lot of visitors.

Dont worry too much about looters...They have to find me,and then most of my neighbors,and family are ex-marines.

Is not community the only solution unless you are prepared to live like a hermit in a cave thousands of miles from civilisation with a rather big gun just in case someone shows up to steal your stuff.
We are all on the same boat whether we like it or not.

We have been checking out the transition town concept.

What are peoples thoughts on this concept as a solution?

For a NZ scenario to a passive energy decent check out this

Archer Davis works for the City Council which makes what he is saying even more potent.


the transition will be televised

Hello? Anyone there?

Or you all too busy celebrating after the election?

Howard has just conceded. Congratulations or commiserations you at OzTOD depending on your view.

This is a good move for Australia. Howard was old and past his use by date. He was more interested in pursuing his ideological agenda than addressing climate change or resource depletion.

Will Rudd be much better? I think so. He is a bit of a technocrat with one of his main plans being to massively upgrade the internet in Australia. He 'gets' climate change and hopefully the imminent signing of Kyoto will help our friends in the USA get on board as well.

Great Post with lots of useful info and plenty to think about Aeldric.

Here in the UK, when the SHTF, I think it's best to:
- stay away from all major/minor cities.
- clear off as much debt as possible; reduces profile to banks etc who'll chase you down when their troubles start.
- relocate to as rural a location as practicable which has small towns, farms and friendly neighbours in the surround.
- develop a permaculture system, small animal husbandry, home brewing, micro power systems.
- develop a defence strategy and system but realise that if a gang really, really want to kill you for food - plan to evacuate.

Strategy before the SHTF:
- eliminate all unnecessary expenses.
- earn money where you can and save like mad.
- gather loads of knowledge resources; download, save and print but stick the life saving stuff in your head.

from the BBC, 'Poverty warning over fuel hikes'

Its not our abilities that define us, but our choices.
Albus Dumbledore.

It's not when the SHTF, unfortunately, it already has.

For those who haven't done all the things you suggest the window is closing fast. The first casualty in the unfolding crisis will be choice. From here on choice will become ever more limited due to a dysfunctional economy and people will just have to make do with what they have.

The optimal time for preparation has passed, people who have not prepared should panic, as the devil will take the hindmost.

Agreed, the SHTF when oil peaked 2005/2006; industry and economy are huge lumbering beasts that'll, hopefully, take a while to to grind to a halt. It does seem now that this process is well advanced though.

My fear is a sudden collapse. Some confluence of events occurs and there is no petrol at the pumps, no deliveries to the shops, most peoples jobs are gone. Such an event would cause mass panic and its asta la vista Earthlings.

This unwelcome scenario is unlikely tomorrow, but more likely, I think, the further one looks toward the coming 6,12,18 months.

I gain nothing oontemplating what a spinning-vortex-of-evil it is, I have to be optimistic and attempt some rational thought.

Hopefully there is still time to enact my/our strategies and salvage a better future for ourselves than circumstances would otherwise dictate.

Fare Thee Well, all.

Its not our abilities that define us, but our choices.
Albus Dumbledore.

Supposing some smart Engineer finds a fast, cheap, easy way to convert shale oil into regular oil, then capture the CO2 and use it to produce algae bio-diesel as a bonus? Peak Oil would suddenly be no more than a minor problem in Australia.

We won't,



an Engineer.

We won't,



an Engineer.


I know an Engineer who is working on it.... but he is also looking for a defensible piece of land near Noosa. So I guess I don't hold out much hope.
David C.

An optimist estimate of oil shale production by the Strategic Unconventional Fuels Task Force is 2.5 million barrels a day in 2035. Too little to have much impact on the decline rate much less on the peak date. Not likely to have an impact on global warming either.

"Supposing some smart Engineer finds a fast, cheap, easy way to convert shale oil into regular oil, then capture the CO2 and use it to produce algae bio-diesel as a bonus? Peak Oil would suddenly be no more than a minor problem in Australia."

Actually, one (Louis M. Michaud) already has, at least with respect to inexpensive electricity production from renewable resources with his Atmospheric Vortex Engine (see While important by itself, cheap electricity can be the key to improving the economics of synthetic liquid fuel schemes.


I can install a pump that would connect the solar collector on the roof to my ground-level stainless steel tank, but this pump requires electricity.

find out from whether they have any solar powered water pumps at offer.

At a stand in the Domain (last walk against warming action day) I saw solar driven water pumps and also roof vents with built in fans driven by a PV panel

find out from whether they have any solar powered water pumps at offer.

I will look into it. Thanks.
David C.

This is a shop in Glebe Pt Rd., Sydney, someone recommended to me:

I think individual or family survivalism is the wrong response to a potential large scale collapse of order because it loses too many economies of scale. You are better off moving to a community that can partially isolate itself that has a varied local economy that includes agriculture.

Trying to turn every back into farmers (not saying you are advocating that) is incredibly inefficient. We need to think about how to create localized order in smaller areas.

What we ought to ask:

1) What sorts of capital equipment would be good to have locally to do things currently done in distant countries? The equipment should be easy to maintain and doesn't have to be as productive as the best equipment for the job.

2) How to generate energy for local economies? Solar and wind seem the best bets.

3) How to get water? If your water is coming via a distant aqueduct and that fails then local wells, desalinization, and cisterns for capturing rain water would allow a community to survive.

4) How to organize local security? Get to know your local police.

I agree 100% even if you started out as a isolated homestead it makes sense it would quickly move back to a more village like situation.

On that note I think one big thing a lot of people are missing are machine shop skills including welding etc. Also of course woodworking. And I think everyone should try and learn some basic chemistry. This should be expanded to cover just a bit of metallurgy and ceramics also. Next of course you should learn at least a little bit about the various woods and their usefulness. Glassblowing could become important again.

The problem is it seems the most natural structure you would need post peak i.e a fairly self sufficient village is the hardest to create in the pre-peak years. So it seems to be one of those things that goes with electric rail its the right answer but its not one that people will willingly adopt till its to late.

So we a really dealing with a transition period that has a lot of unknowns before you reach the point that the best solutions will be adopted.

This puts you into having to consider a series of plans and it gets expensive pretty quick. This of course opens pandora's box do you spend all your savings on getting off grid and building your own machine shop etc etc ??
Or do you buy multiple places etc. Do you take a big pay cut to move early so you get your place set up ?

I don't think their are any right answers and I could easily see some of the things we think are good now could turn out badly. Fore example even though the village idea has a lot going for it if their is a pandemic then its the guys living way back in the woods that have the best chance of survival.

On the other hand if your living out in the woods most people have not even thought about the fact that fire fighting services might not be available and a large forest fire or some other natural disaster will wipe out a lot of these homesteads. So...

I think you can safely say get the hell out of the large cities think seriously about moving to a place that can grow crops with natural rainfall and pick at least a smaller town if not a place in the woods or both other than that it really comes down to luck.

An excellent way to view the local economy question.
David C.

Another great article in this series - great work aeldric.
Firstly, to the north americans commenting in this thread - yes, we understand in the US defense will be a massive issue post peak oil, and yes, we understand you do not trust your government to deal with it.
As already mentioned, this is unlikely to apply in Australia. In disaster situations here and historically in circumstances such as the depression, rule of law was maintained. Please take comments about security precautions in the USA to appropriate threads as they tend to derail.
Excellent points on the growing supplemental food supplies. This addresses a key point - post peak oil you won't sit around all day. If you have work, you will earn money for food etc. If you are unemployed you have the time to seek other sources for food and money.
Examples from the depression were keeping and breeding rabbits and chooks for trading, growing flowers to sell to those who had work and volunteering in many capacities often for food and board.
Preparations that do not accept that even in the worst circumstances there will be opportunities to earn/forage/hunt/fish/trade/grow are ill thought out.
Better to plan supplements rather than the compromises that come from needing to be 100% self sufficient.