Dmitry Orlov: Social Collapse Best Practices

This is a link to a televised speech by Dmitry Orlov, called Social Collapse Best Practices. A transcript of the first part of the speech can be found below the fold. (The speech is a little long for a post.) This is the description of the speech:

With vintage Russian black humor, Dmitry Orlov describes the social collapse he witnessed in Russia in the 1990s and spells out its practical lessons for the American social collapse he sees as inevitable.

The American economy in the 1990s described itself as "Goldilocks" - just the right size - when in fact is was "Tinkerbelle," and one day the clapping stops.

As in Russia, the US made itself vulnerable to the decline of crude oil, a trade deficit, military over-reach, and financial over-reach.

Good evening, ladies and gentlemen. Thank you for showing up. It's certainly nice to travel all the way across the North American continent and have a few people come to see you, even if the occasion isn't a happy one. You are here to listen to me talk about social collapse and the various ways we can avoid screwing that up along with everything else that's gone wrong. I know it's a lot to ask of you, because why wouldn't you instead want to go and eat, drink, and be merry? Well, perhaps there will still be time left for that after my talk.

I would like to thank the Long Now Foundation for inviting me, and I feel very honored to appear in the same venue as many serious, professional people, such as Michael Pollan, who will be here in May, or some of the previous speakers, such as Nassim Taleb, or Brian Eno -- some of my favorite people, really.

I am just a tourist. I flew over here to give this talk and to take in the sights, and then I'll fly back to Boston and go back to my day job. Well, I am also a blogger. And I also wrote a book. But then everyone has a book, or so it would seem. You might ask yourself, then, Why on earth did he get invited to speak here tonight? It seems that I am enjoying my moment in the limelight, because I am one of the very few people who several years ago unequivocally predicted the demise of the United States as a global superpower. The idea that the USA will go the way of the USSR seemed preposterous at the time. It doesn't seem so preposterous any more.

I take it some of you are still hedging your bets. How is that hedge fund doing, by the way? I think I prefer remaining just a tourist, because I have learned from experience--luckily, from other people's experience--that being a superpower collapse predictor is not a good career choice. I learned that by observing what happened to the people who successfully predicted the collapse of the USSR. Do you know who Andrei Amalrik is? See, my point exactly. He successfully predicted the collapse of the USSR. He was off by just half a decade.

That was another valuable lesson for me, which is why I will not give you an exact date when USA will turn into FUSA ("F" is for "Former"). But even if someone could choreograph the whole event, it still wouldn't make for much of a career, because once it all starts falling apart, people have far more important things to attend to than marveling at the wonderful predictive abilities of some Cassandra-like person. I hope that I have made it clear that I am not here in any sort of professional capacity. I consider what I am doing a kind of community service. So, if you don't like my talk, don't worry about me. There are plenty of other things I can do.

But I would like my insights to be of help during these difficult and confusing times, for altruistic reasons, mostly, although not entirely. This is because when times get really bad, as they did when the Soviet Union collapsed, lots of people just completely lose it. Men, especially successful, middle-aged men, breadwinners, bastions of society, turn out to be especially vulnerable. And when they just completely lose it, they become very tedious company. My hope is that some amount of preparation, psychological and otherwise, can make them a lot less fragile, and a bit more useful, and generally less of a burden.

Women seem much more able to cope. Perhaps it is because they have less of their ego invested in the whole dubious enterprise, or perhaps their sense of personal responsibility is tied to those around them and not some nebulous grand enterprise. In any case, the women always seem far more able to just put on their gardening gloves and go do something useful, while the men tend to sit around groaning about the Empire, or the Republic, or whatever it is that they lost. And when they do that, they become very tedious company. And so, without a bit of mental preparation, the men are all liable to end up very lonely and very drunk. So that's my little intervention.

If there is one thing that I would like to claim as my own, it is the comparative theory of superpower collapse. For now, it remains just a theory, although it is currently being quite thoroughly tested. The theory states that the United States and the Soviet Union will have collapsed for the same reasons, namely: a severe and chronic shortfall in the production of crude oil (that magic addictive elixir of industrial economies), a severe and worsening foreign trade deficit, a runaway military budget, and ballooning foreign debt. I call this particular list of ingredients "The Superpower Collapse Soup."

Other factors, such as the inability to provide an acceptable quality of life for its citizens, or a systemically corrupt political system incapable of reform, are certainly not helpful, but they do not automatically lead to collapse, because they do not put the country on a collision course with reality. Please don't be too concerned, though, because, as I mentioned, this is just a theory. My theory. I've been working on this theory since about 1995, when it occurred to me that the US is retracing the same trajectory as the USSR.

As so often is the case, having this realization was largely a matter of being in the right place at the right time. The two most important methods of solving problems are: 1. By knowing the solution ahead of time, and 2. By guessing it correctly. I learned this in engineering school--from a certain professor. I am not that good at guesswork, but I do sometimes know the answer ahead of time. I was very well positioned to have this realization because I grew up straddling the two worlds--the USSR and the US.

I grew up in Russia, and moved to the US when I was twelve, and so I am fluent in Russian, and I understand Russian history and Russian culture the way only a native Russian can. But I went through high school and university in the US .I had careers in several industries here, I traveled widely around the country, and so I also have a very good understanding of the US with all of its quirks and idiosyncrasies. I traveled back to Russia in 1989, when things there still seemed more or less in line with the Soviet norm, and again in 1990, when the economy was at a standstill, and big changes were clearly on the way. I went back there 3 more times in the 1990s, and observed the various stages of Soviet collapse first-hand.

By the mid-1990s I started to see Soviet/American Superpowerdom as a sort of disease that strives for world dominance but in effect eviscerates its host country, eventually leaving behind an empty shell: an impoverished population, an economy in ruins, a legacy of social problems, and a tremendous burden of debt. The symmetries between the two global superpowers were then already too numerous to mention, and they have been growing more obvious ever since. The superpower symmetries may be of interest to policy wonks and history buffs and various skeptics, but they tell us nothing that would be useful in our daily lives.

It is the asymmetries, the differences between the two superpowers, that I believe to be most instructive. When the Soviet system went away, many people lost their jobs, everyone lost their savings, wages and pensions were held back for months, their value was wiped out by hyperinflation, there shortages of food, gasoline, medicine, consumer goods, there was a large increase in crime and violence, and yet Russian society did not collapse. Somehow, the Russians found ways to muddle through.

How was that possible? It turns out that many aspects of the Soviet system were paradoxically resilient in the face of system-wide collapse, many institutions continued to function, and the living arrangement was such that people did not lose access to food, shelter or transportation, and could survive even without an income. The Soviet economic system failed to thrive, and the Communist experiment at constructing a worker's paradise on earth was, in the end, a failure. But as a side effect it inadvertently achieved a high level of collapse-preparedness.

In comparison, the American system could produce significantly better results, for time, but at the cost of creating and perpetuating a living arrangement that is very fragile, and not at all capable of holding together through the inevitable crash. Even after the Soviet economy evaporated and the government largely shut down, Russians still had plenty left for them to work with. And so there is a wealth of useful information and insight that we can extract from the Russian experience, which we can then turn around and put to good use in helping us improvise a new living arrangement here in the United States--one that is more likely to be survivable.

The mid-1990s did not seem to me as the right time to voice such ideas. The United States was celebrating its so-called Cold War victory, getting over its Vietnam syndrome by bombing Iraq back to the Stone Age, and the foreign policy wonks coined the term "hyperpower" and were jabbering on about full-spectrum dominance. All sorts of silly things were happening. Professor Fukuyama told us that history had ended, and so we were building a brave new world where the Chinese made things out of plastic for us, the Indians provided customer support when these Chinese-made things broke, and we paid for it all just by flipping houses, pretending that they were worth a lot of money whereas they are really just useless bits of ticky-tacky.

Alan Greenspan chided us about "irrational exuberance" while consistently low-balling interest rates. It was the "Goldilocks economy"--not to hot, not too cold. Remember that? And now it turns out that it was actually more of a "Tinker-bell" economy, because the last five or so years of economic growth was more or less a hallucination, based on various debt pyramids, the "whole house of cards" as President Bush once referred to it during one of his lucid moments. And now we can look back on all of that with a funny, queasy feeling, or we can look forward and feel nothing but vertigo.

While all of these silly things were going on, I thought it best to keep my comparative theory of superpower collapse to myself. During that time, I was watching the action in the oil industry, because I understood that oil imports are the Achilles' heel of the US economy. In the mid-1990s the all-time peak in global oil production was scheduled for the turn of the century. But then a lot of things happened that delayed it by at least half a decade.

Perhaps you've noticed this too, there is a sort of refrain here: people who try to predict big historical shifts always turn to be off by about half a decade. Unsuccessful predictions, on the other hand are always spot on as far as timing: the world as we know it failed to end precisely at midnight on January 1, 2000. Perhaps there is a physical principal involved: information spreads at the speed of light, while ignorance is instantaneous at all points in the known universe.

So please make a mental note: whenever it seems to you that I am making a specific prediction as to when I think something is likely to happen, just silently add "plus or minus half a decade." In any case, about half a decade ago, I finally thought that the time was ripe, and, as it has turned out, I wasn't too far off. In June of 2005 I published an article on the subject, titled "Post-Soviet Lessons for a Post- American Century," which was quite popular, even to the extent that I got paid for it. It is available at various places on the Internet.

A little while later I formalized my thinking somewhat into the "Collapse Gap" concept, which I presented at a conference in Manhattan in April of 2006. The slide show from that presentation, titled "Closing the Collapse Gap," was posted on the Internet and has been downloaded a few million times since then. Then, in January of 2008, when it became apparent to me that financial collapse was well underway, and that other stages of collapse were to follow, I published a short article titled "The Five Stages of Collapse," which I later expanded into a talk I gave at a conference in Michigan in October of 2008.

Finally, at the end of 2008, I announced on my blog that I am getting out of the prognosticating business. I have made enough predictions, they all seem very well on track (give or take half a decade, please remember that), collapse is well underway, and now I am just an observer.

But this talk is about something else, something other than making dire predictions and then acting all smug when they come true. You see, there is nothing more useless than predictions, once they have come true. It's like looking at last year's amazingly successful stock picks: what are you going to do about them this year? What we need are examples of things that have been shown to work in the strange, unfamiliar, post-collapse environment that we are all likely to have to confront.

Stuart Brand proposed the title for the talk--"Social Collapse Best Practices"--and I thought that it was an excellent idea. Although the term "best practices" has been diluted over time to sometimes mean little more than "good ideas," initially it stood for the process of abstracting useful techniques from examples of what has worked in the past and applying them to new situations, in order to control risk and to increase the chances of securing a positive outcome. It's a way of skipping a lot of trial and error and deliberation and experimentation, and to just go with what works.

In organizations, especially large organizations, "best practices" also offer a good way to avoid painful episodes of watching colleagues trying to "think outside the box" whenever they are confronted with a new problem. If your colleagues were any good at thinking outside the box, they probably wouldn't feel so compelled to spend their whole working lives sitting in a box keeping an office chair warm. If they were any good at thinking outside the box, they would have by now thought of a way to escape from that box. So perhaps what would make them feel happy and productive again is if someone came along and gave them a different box inside of which to think--a box better suited to the post-collapse environment.

Here is the key insight: you might think that when collapse happens, nothing works. That's just not the case. The old ways of doing things don't work any more, the old assumptions are all invalidated, conventional goals and measures of success become irrelevant. But a different set of goals, techniques, and measures of success can be brought to bear immediately, and the sooner the better. But enough generalities, let's go through some specifics. We'll start with some generalities, and, as you will see, it will all become very, very specific rather quickly.

Here is another key insight: there are very few things that are positives or negatives per se. Just about everything is a matter of context. Now, it just so happens that most things that are positives prior to collapse turn out to be negatives once collapse occurs, and vice versa. For instance, prior to collapse having high inventory in a business is bad, because the businesses have to store it and finance it, so they try to have just-in-time inventory. After collapse, high inventory turns out to be very useful, because they can barter it for the things they need, and they can't easily get more because they don't have any credit.

Prior to collapse, it's good for a business to have the right level of staffing and an efficient organization. After collapse, what you want is a gigantic, sluggish bureaucracy that can't unwind operations or lay people off fast enough through sheer bureaucratic foot-dragging. Prior to collapse, what you want is an effective retail segment and good customer service. After collapse, you regret not having an unreliable retail segment, with shortages and long bread lines, because then people would have been forced to learn to shift for themselves instead of standing around waiting for somebody to come and feed them.

If you notice, none of these things that I mentioned have any bearing on what is commonly understood as "economic health." Prior to collapse, the overall macroeconomic positive is an expanding economy. After collapse, economic contraction is a given, and the overall macroeconomic positive becomes something of an imponderable, so we are forced to listen to a lot of nonsense. The situation is either slightly better than expected or slightly worse than expected. We are always either months or years away from economic recovery. Business as usual will resume sooner or later, because some television bobble-head said so.

But let's take it apart. Starting from the very general, what are the current macroeconomic objectives, if you listen to the hot air coming out of Washington at the moment?

First: growth, of course! Getting the economy going. We learned nothing from the last huge spike in commodity prices, so let's just try it again. That calls for economic stimulus, a.k.a. printing money. Let's see how high the prices go up this time. Maybe this time around we will achieve hyperinflation.

Second: Stabilizing financial institutions: getting banks lending--that's important too. You see, we are just not in enough debt yet, that's our problem. We need more debt, and quickly!

Third: jobs! We need to create jobs. Low-wage jobs, of course, to replace all the high-wage manufacturing jobs we've been shedding for decades now, and replacing them with low-wage service sector jobs, mainly ones without any job security or benefits.

Right now, a lot of people could slow down the rate at which they are sinking further into debt if they quit their jobs. That is, their job is a net loss for them as individuals as well as for the economy as a whole. But, of course, we need much more of that, and quickly! So that's what we have now.

The ship is on the rocks, water is rising, and the captain is shouting "Full steam ahead! We are sailing to Afghanistan!" Do you listen to Ahab up on the bridge, or do you desert your post in the engine room and go help deploy the lifeboats? If you thought that the previous episode of uncontrolled debt expansion, globalized Ponzi schemes, and economic hollowing-out was silly, then I predict that you will find this next episode of feckless grasping at macroeconomic straws even sillier.

Except that it won't be funny: what is crashing now is our life support system: all the systems and institutions that are keeping us alive. And so I don't recommend passively standing around and watching the show--unless you happen to have a death wish. Right now the Washington economic stimulus team is putting on their Scuba gear and diving down to the engine room to try to invent a way to get a diesel engine to run on seawater. They spoke of change, but in reality they are terrified of change and want to cling with all their might to the status quo.

But this game will soon be over, and they don't have any idea what to do next. So, what is there for them to do? Forget "growth," forget "jobs," forget "financial stability." What should their realistic new objectives be?

Well, here they are: food, shelter, transportation, and security. Their task is to find a way to provide all of these necessities on an emergency basis, in absence of a functioning economy, with commerce at a standstill, with little or no access to imports, and to make them available to a population that is largely penniless. If successful, society will remain largely intact, and will be able to begin a slow and painful process of cultural transition, and eventually develop a new economy, a gradually de-industrializing economy, at a much lower level of resource expenditure, characterized by a quite a lot of austerity and even poverty, but in conditions that are safe, decent, and dignified.

If unsuccessful, society will be gradually destroyed in a series of convulsions that will leave a defunct nation composed of many wretched little fiefdoms. Given its largely depleted resource base, a dysfunctional, collapsing infrastructure, and its history of unresolved social conflicts, the territory of the Former United States will undergo a process of steady degeneration punctuated by natural and man-made cataclysms.

Food. Shelter. Transportation. Security. When it comes to supplying these survival necessities, the Soviet example offers many valuable lessons. As I already mentioned, in a collapse many economic negatives become positives, and vice versa. Let us consider each one of these in turn.

The Soviet agricultural sector was plagued by consistent underperformance. In many ways, this was the legacy of the disastrous collectivization experiment carried out in the 1930s, which destroyed many of the more prosperous farming households and herded people into collective farms. Collectivization undermined the ancient village-based agricultural traditions that had made pre-revolutionary Russia a well-fed place that was also the breadbasket of Western Europe.

A great deal of further damage was caused by the introduction of industrial agriculture. The heavy farm machinery alternately compacted and tore up the topsoil while dosing it with chemicals, depleting it and killing the biota. Eventually, the Soviet government had to turn to importing grain from countries hostile to its interests--United States and Canada--and eventually expanded this to include other foodstuffs.

The USSR experienced a permanent shortage of meat and other high-protein foods, and much of the imported grain was used to raise livestock to try to address this problem. Although it was generally possible to survive on the foods available at the government stores, the resulting diet would have been rather poor, and so people tried to supplement it with food they gathered, raised, or caught, or purchased at farmers' markets. Kitchen gardens were always common, and, once the economy collapsed, a lot of families took to growing food in earnest. The kitchen gardens, by themselves, were never sufficient, but they made a huge difference.

The year 1990 was particularly tough when it came to trying to score something edible. I remember one particular joke from that period. Black humor has always been one of Russia's main psychological coping mechanisms. A man walks into a food store, goes to the meat counter, and he sees that it is completely empty. So he asks the butcher: "Don't you have any fish?" And the butcher answers: "No, here is where we don't have any meat. Fish is what they don't have over at the seafood counter."

Poor though it was, the Soviet food distribution system never collapsed completely. In particular, the deliveries of bread continued even during the worst of times, partly because has always been such an important part of the Russian diet, and partly because access to bread symbolized the pact between the people and the Communist government, enshrined in oft-repeated revolutionary slogans. . .

For more of Orlov's great insights, see:
Essential Dmitri Orlov

Wow I feel like I'm reading something written by myself in some alternative Universe. I've not lived through economic collapse but I have lived in Vietnam and China so I understand true poverty. I think most Americans really don't understand real poverty we believe that if someone is poor its because of some inner failing on their part. Few understand poverty from lack of opportunity.

One thing this article brings out for me is I've been and advocate of a structured collapse which it seems is probably impossible to achieve. The intrinsic problem is the same since we don't understand poverty we believe that at the individual level each of us will get the opportunity to avoid collapse. The reality is of course that many readers on this board that have been forewarned will find themselves eventually mired in the true poverty of a collapsed economic system. Much less those that simply don't have a clue.

The hubris of America will be its undoing just as I feel from reading this the hubris of state socialism eventually forced collapse. For Russia in the end they where able to provide bread I suspect for America that home loans will be available all the way to the end to the unemployed.

But what does it really mean ?

In the end regardless of how the macroeconomic wind blows the answer is ELP ( Economize, Localize, Produce )
its to look inward not outward at yourself, your family, your neighborhood and town and not much beyond that. The paralysis at higher levels just throws up some more challenges at the local level but realistically it become a game to ensure you have food, clothing, shelter, and security.

Certainly a large scale collective recognition of the problem could readily make life much easier for all for the US moving to electric rail and denser cities and localizing food production and transport and foremost living within the environmental constraints of the region would make the problem a order of magnitude easier to deal with. But its a catch 22 the US is so large that its incapable of creating healthy regions within itself. For everyone expecting something to be done absolutely nothing has been done to protect the rustbelt. These cities esp Detriot where readily sacrificed in exchange for cheap imports.
It was not just the management of American manufactures but also the unions played just as big a part in destroying our manufacturing base. Thus we already know the American hubris is deadly its killed many regions. Another example of course is the old S&L crisis tightly linked to the oil bust in Texas that spread through the rest of the south. And of course not to mention the Great Depression. We have had numerous warnings that our way of life is sick but we simply ignore them because all the way down to the personal level everyone believes that they are going to be a millionaire.

Its time to put this hubris aside and focus on providing safe happy sustainable living conditions. Instead of trying to be millionaires maybe its time to give our children and their children cheap wholesome food and clean cheap housing. Make living a simple basic lifestyle cost nothing so they can stay alive while persuing their dream. I think the real answer is to support the starving actor concept. America is intrinsically rich enough to provide all its inhabitants a high basic living standard. With that we can again allow people to dream not of being millionaires but of being the next Mozart or solving some renewable energy problem.
Real poverty is when creative people have no chance to chase their dreams not some arbitrary financial level. You lose this chance when staying alive cost everything you make and you have no chance to chase a dream regardless of income level. America today is just as sick poor and helpless as the senseless polio victims I saw in Vietnam. We have effectively the same deadly disease that could easily be cured if we gave up our arrogance. We no longer allow people to dream.

We can talk about structured collapse, but I doubt anyone will listen. Instead, the talk is about borrowing more, until the current crisis blows over. That gets us where?

Gail, my guess is that the establishment will respond to the crisis by manipulating the fears and prejudices of the masses.

An enemy -- or imaginary alliance of enemies -- will be blamed for our discomforts and suffering, and we will step up the global resource war while becoming more intolerant of dissent or reason on the domestic front.

My guess is that the mainstream media will never admit that Climate Change, Habitat Destruction, Population Overshoot, and Over-consumption on the part of the so-far industrial nations has brought us to an untenable position in which most of the human population will -- and must -- die off if any are to survive.

The war will be dressed in drag as a noble, valiant, sacrificial effort by all combatants.

It may be that people will become more brutal as the dis-infotainment war presents choices to Kill Off evil-doers as a good and necessary thing, and will accept the brutal regime rather than be made scapegoats themselves.

I keep wondering why the anti-immigrant meme is not already much stronger than it seems to be. Perhaps here in the Pacific NW we're a bit insulated from the border issues?

I realize that my previous post was quite bitter and hopeless.

The issue of immigration, especially from Mexico, is problematic. There are those in both countries who benefit too much from illegal immigration to allow for changes at this time.

We might remember this issue differently if millions of US citizens try to flee from ecological or other catastrophe in the next few years.

My bitterness stems from the simple fact that the US leadership insists on public dialogue that avoids not only the essential economic issues, but even worse, the environmental tsunami which will dwarf the crisis precipitated by our ill-conceived and corrupt economic contrivance.

We bring the Eromozonian Era upon ourselves and our planet, all the while arguing about the "economic" absurdities some have contrived in order to accumulate material possessions that can only be desired and striven for by very ill or disordered members of any species.

It is this focus on absurdities and this willingness to embrace atrocities at a critical time that makes me so bitter.

I will try to rid myself of unrealistic expectations and simply focus on what I can do, as best as I can -- once again.

The issue of immigration, especially from Mexico, is problematic.

Especially because it allows Mexico to avoid dealing with its internal problems by pushing them northward... for a while.

There are those in both countries who benefit too much from illegal immigration to allow for changes at this time.

The persecution of people who are trying to enforce the law, or just promoting enforcement, is noted and the level of anger about it is increasing.  It will either be acknowledged and the immigration problem dealt with, or it will explode.

We might remember this issue differently if millions of US citizens try to flee from ecological or other catastrophe in the next few years.

Most of Mexico's catastrophe is endogenous.  The USA certainly isn't responsible for Mexico's rapid and unsustainable population growth, and the US public is very much opposed to the Mexodus.  Were it not for immigration (legal and illegal), the USA would have zero or negative population growth.  This would relieve most pressures on infrastructure, farmland, and many other things.  The combination of Mexico and the USA's corrupt elites are largely responsible for our problems in that area.

The US public will not stand for abuses like Mexico's cell-phone monopoly under Carlos Slim... yet.  One of the problems of Mexican immigration (and Latin American immigration in general) is that it imports a population which accepts la mordida as normal and makes life far easier both for corrupt officials and monopolists.  If we want clean politics and fair dealing, we have to close the borders.


What you are describing is simply called LYING. One may call it 'disinformation' but its really lying.

Again cute terms for covering up massive lies. I get sick of the spin that is used. The White House mostly. Congress next.

One day this will IMO no longer be tolerated. People need to be told the truth and not let some ivory towered freak decide that 'they can't be told this for their own good'.

Right now reality is starting to shine thru the multitudes of cracks.

Light needs to shine in order to chase out the rats and sanitize the system. Banksters lies are now apparent yet still the charade continues. CEOs and Execs lies are starting to come unraveled yet they still sequester and amass huge salaries and bonuses. All the while firing and squeezing their employees and treating them like filth. The worst has to be what one Arkie arsehole started called Walmart. A slave pit. Noxious cheap chinese trash and they used to disguise it as 'proudly Made In USA.




I agree 100% Gail I guess I'm looking more and more at what lays next on our path. I think we can take a collapse of some sort with little planning as a given.

The next question is then what ?

Whats really interesting is concentration of wealth does not require growth as we have become accustomed to all it requires is the creation of new assets this can readily be done with fairly renewable energy resources.

A perfect example is the pyramids and the nile. And of course lowering the living standards of many to benefit a few can work for quite some time.

Think about it for a single person to get a 1 million dollar bonus requires the entire paycheck of 10 people making 100k or 10k from 100 people or 1k from 1000 people or 100 dollars a year from 10 thousand people.
Of course 1 million dollars is pocket change for the elite we are really talking about at least 30 million for every top guy add in the top pyramid and your talking billions of dollar every year.

Next of course you add in the waste present in both business and government and we are talking trillions.
This is before we even touch borrowing more !

In ancient times having a king pretty much equal to a millionaire today required at least the labor of 10-30 thousand people. A single millionaire back in ancient Egypt or Rome was a hefty investment in a semi-renewable society.

All I see is more of the same old game thats played out for eons.

To escape it seems the only way out is to allow the common man to collect true wealth to do this you have to take the money away from the wealthy. Not in the sense of the concentration of wealth I talked about above but in the ability to debase the money supply. If they cannot debase the money supply they have no choice but to reinvest wealth in productive pursuits. This forces the wealthy to listen to people with ideas.

This does not mean the ideas would be good or bad but it does mean the only way to get rich is with good ideas.

Whats really surprising is today we know about science good ideas need time to blossom and at least some reasonable capitol expense. Many can be initiated in any reasonably well equipped garage others require time on some expensive equipment. Time shared telescopes are the classic example of this. We have gained far far more from giving creative people some breathing room to explore than from any other single pursuit of humanity.

Whats really interesting is if you look at the computer age the first wave of wealth was created by innovative people up through the 1980's. Next starting in the 1990's they effectively leverage previous real achievements and some growth technologies like the internet to leverage up in the dot com boom.
Real creativity was as often as not replaced with your standard ponzi scheme. Then of course it all crashed.

So the moment real creativity creates true wealth its almost instantly corrupted literally by people throwing their money around.

In the case of the dot com boom true creative spirits leverage the web to create open source which has proved incredibly difficult to swallow using traditional ponzi scheme tactics. Indeed the only way it seems that creativity can be kept is to give it back to the commons. Thus the only real way to protect creativity is to give the fruits of your labor away.

Certainly a hard pill to swallow for those that are actually creating true wealth.

One wonders how success is possible ? Well I have followed this route and found that all I must do is demand a fair but high wage. I don't get wealthy off the wealth I create but yet I have found that I can live very well giving everything I create away. It turns out that people will respect and support you if you are creating things of value. You won't gain immense riches but on the same hand at least so far I've found that you tend to get any reasonable demand met.

To look at another area its I think like the country or small town doctor. In exchange for bringing in more ability than in a sense can be afforded by the community your assured a good life. Or say the old factory owned by a wealthy family. Or in the past your typical college professor. Your not rich by our debt/slavery based definition but neither do you really lose anything.

For the rest of the population willing to toil at needed but not exactly rocket science jobs they as often as not get assurance that the small accumulation of wealth is spent local and any excess given to support community needs from hospitals to libraries.

Thus even concentration is not all that bad if its eventually redistributed back to the community. Fine concentrate 1 million dollars from 10 thousand people but then use that money to build a fine mansion or hospital or something redistribute it back even if it means creating personal satisfaction from building a grand house at least the craftsman in the area benefited along with a wide range of secondary benefactors.

Its when you combine the dilution of wealth via inflation with the flow of funds far from where the wealth was created that you get a convoluted path that breaks this recycling of wealth and really the flow of the fruits of creativity and plain old hard work back into the community.

Its the sundering of the backflow that destroys us int its really a geographical problem more often then not. Once you start sending wealth to the far corners of the planet ensuring a correct backflow into the right communities becomes incredibly difficult. Globalization simply cannot work in the sense that people generally consider it. The flows of wealth get corrupted and concentration allows leverage to develop.

These geographic constraints are not firm the silk road is a good example even better is the salt trade. Regardless of price salt moves from where it is abundant to where it is scarce regardless of the technical level of the civilization. The trade in salt remains one that always leaps past geographical boundaries.

But all this means is that webs can connect people and in effect reduce the degrees of separation. Indeed the open source movement leveraged to same underlying concept leveraging the internet to create open source just like the movement of salt connects the world since the dawn of civilization.

Somehow this way that really works either geographical wealth redistribution or network of wealth distribution must become the core and the key ponzi schemes and debasement of wealth via leveraging concentration and then debt must be forced to die.

Obviously the creation of money must be taken away from the wealthy and governments.
But thats just the tip you literally need a concept of the flow of wealth that just as important as your traditional business plan. Anyone who can't show how the wealth flow from a given idea/scheme etc is going to work should be shunned.

What this really means of course is open books and open accounting every dollar spent, save hoarded should be trackable. Perfect clarity is as far as I can tell a prequisite for true growth. If we look a bit deeper into open source what we find is transparency ! It becomes obvious that its not a question of really giving anything away but simply being fully transparent in your actions that effect others. Its not that you have to work for free when you create wealth its that you have to become transparent in your actions.

Suddenly one sees that the old wealthy families have a common thread they all worked in a environment where there real wealth and how it was distributed was fairly transparent albeit not perfect as I'm proposing but enough to satisfy most that they where good guardians of their position. The much maligned social classes of old turned out to have some fairly hard social contracts between the various strata.

Whats now obvious is it not the debt or the end of cheap energy thats our real problem but the fact that the implicit social contract between rich and poor has been broken. Certainly the end of cheap oil is the underlying cause but this does not negate the real problem. Instead of acting as wise stewards of our economy and respecting their position of power the wealthy in their hubris believe that can break the social contract that keeps them in their place.

I suspect they will find out like all previous generations that they are wrong. Its not the end of growth or move to a different society thats the problem its the fact that the rich have chosen to try and cheat the one contract that exists between groups of humans since the dawn of time. You cannot abuse your position of power for long. I seriously doubt they make it more than a few years all things considered.

Humanity can and will change I suspect taking the most arduous route possible and at some point we probably will even finally dispense with these stupid bubbles. But what will never change is once the elite decide to tear up the real social contract holding their society together which is recycling of wealth the end of that particular civilization is not far in the future.

Let them play their games its a death match and one thing is for sure today the wealthy are massively outnumbered.

I agree with what you say but feel that a large majority of the population will 'go down with the ship' in the belief that a turnaround is coming.

Compare some of what you say with the 'back to the land' / Hippie movement of the late 1960s and 70s -who ended up the real winner? Bill Gates...

Hence a decline and call for a simpler holistic lifestyle can always be countered -with an historical example- of how that "was a mistake the last time round..."

Only when large chunks of the population are starving or queing for bread will it become apparant that a recovery is not going to happen and that could be a way off -perhaps in the 2020s although I'm sure some will think it will arrive much sooner...


I hear you Memmel. Having travelled to Myanmar (Burma) in recent times, I have witnessed whole communities of people living permanently on the street in Yangon (they make one of the best tea you will ever drink). Those of you who are not familiar with Myanmar, it exists under the auspices of a tyrannical military junta. Some people are so desperate they volunteer to be conscripted by Thai companies for work that Thai people are reluctant to participate in-especially building and cleaning. It is better than breaking rock under the shadow of a soldier.

The people in Myanmar are exploited and virtually left to fend for themselves.
However, the country does function. During my visit there in 2005, I witnessed towns and villages with vibrant internal trade and abundant food. The people were happy and the communities were intact. These people have been living in what we envisage as post collapse conditions since the British pulled out after WW11. This was my first glimpse of what a post collapse community would look like. IMO, these people will not experience any change.

Of course, generations of people in Myanmar have lived this way, so they are acculturated to this lifestyle. Also the Buddhist values and traditions are united and still very strong. This is the glue that keeps the countries people together. The question for western culture is: Will we be able to become cohesive enough and adapt fast enough to transit the power down?..............

Really an excellent talk by Mr. Orlov. Those who are already familiar with his "Collapse Gap" essay, or his book "Reinventing Collapse" probably will not find much new here, but I do recommend reading this as he presents a good summary of his thinking WRT what we might expect in the near future as the current growth paradigm hits its limits.

This passage in particular I think captures the essence of his talk (emphasis mine):

But this game will soon be over, and they don't have any idea what to do next. So, what is there for them to do? Forget "growth," forget "jobs," forget "financial stability." What should their realistic new objectives be?

Well, here they are: food, shelter, transportation, and security. Their task is to find a way to provide all of these necessities on an emergency basis, in absence of a functioning economy, with commerce at a standstill, with little or no access to imports, and to make them available to a population that is largely penniless. If successful, society will remain largely intact, and will be able to begin a slow and painful process of cultural transition, and eventually develop a new economy, a gradually de-industrializing economy, at a much lower level of resource expenditure, characterized by a quite a lot of austerity and even poverty, but in conditions that are safe, decent, and dignified.

If unsuccessful, society will be gradually destroyed in a series of convulsions that will leave a defunct nation composed of many wretched little fiefdoms. Given its largely depleted resource base, a dysfunctional, collapsing infrastructure, and its history of unresolved social conflicts, the territory of the Former United States will undergo a process of steady degeneration punctuated by natural and man-made cataclysms.

What most informed my thinking while reading this is his list of priorities: food, shelter, transportation, and security. Usually the case for the limits to growth is presented in the familiar ecological terms of depleting resources (i.e. energy) and overflowing sinks (i.e. atmospheric carbon), but here we have a new perspective that puts those ecological abstractions into terms most relevant to everyday life.

Where will your food come from if the "just in time" industrial food production and distribution system breaks down? Most supermarkets keep only a three day supply of inventory on hand.

Where will you find shelter if you can no longer pay mortgage or rent and you are evicted from your home? Millions of people are already asking that very question as the "FIRE" (finance/real estate) system collapses under the weight of a massive speculative bubble based on reaping today's profits from tomorrow's presumed growth.

How will you be able to transport yourself, your goods, or your services if the infrastructure that we have spent the last 50 years building out for the exclusive use of people in cars is suddenly rendered nearly useless by a disruption of the liquid fuel supply?

And finally, how will you protect yourself and your family if the economy collapses to the point where social order begins to break down? Look no further than America's neighbor to the south to see how close we may be to just such a dire situation.

No one is predicting that these things will come to pass (although some of them already are), but like any good insurance policy, if you consider the alternative, then you should at least try to be prepared to answer these questions.

Some of the "re-localization" and "community based" initiatives currently being undertaken are probably a good place to start.


You present a good summary of what Dmitry writes about.

The thing I find frustrating is that it is difficult for one person (or even a small community) by themselves to make much headway. If one person has a sufficient amount, and others are starving, it seems like those that are starving will soon be trying to take food from those who have enough. Somehow, we need to come up with solutions that include a larger number of people, otherwise it is hard to see how the few prudent people will be able to set themselves apart from the failing group.

Thanks Gail,

You raise a good point, one that is germane to the ongoing debate over "fast crash" or "long slow descent".

I don't have a good answer, except to observe that in today's so-called "failed states" there is found some form of human society, albeit organized on a very different scale than that in the economic superpowers. Life goes on, even in places ruled by warlords, crime syndicates, and crumbling empires. Make no mistake, it can be a dire struggle to survive in places that are often rife with cruelty and violence, but people still work, grow food, raise families, and yes, even laugh and play in conditions that your average American would today consider primitive, if not horrific.


Thanks for the link, that was a great presentation.
The question is, how will this unwind?

You're assuming that the person in being prudent is doing so only for their own benefit.

Sometimes we save up for someone else, so that we'll be able to help others. For example, already today there exist programmes where people pool their surplus backyard garden produce for soup kitchens. And there are others where people volunteer to teach each-other things, and so on.

If you view people as only competitive and never co-operative, then you'll end up with a very doomer picture of the world.

"What should their realistic new objectives be?

Well, here they are: food, shelter, transportation, and security"

What about overpopulation? I would add that another main objective is to stop the population growth and start a depopulation path towards a sustainable number, whatever this number may be.

As most here know, one of my favorite themes is that things that are different can not be compared. Just because two countries were superpowers does not mean that what happened to one will happen to the other. There are large differences between the FSU and the USA and I think they outweigh the similarities.

Despite all its faults, the USA has over a 200 year history of constitutional government that has survived many calamities including civil war. A FUSA implies another Civil War. Gov. Perry of Texas thinks that it is just a matter of seceding and that is the end of it. I doubt it.

The FSU was held in place by a rigid system with very little input from those outside the party apparatus. It was rigid and broke because it could not bend to the changes demanded by reality. The American system tends to bend slowly to a new reality and may survive without a collapse.

Economically, during this crisis the dollar's value has actually risen and the price of oil for Americans fell while overall domestic energy production is far from declining. There is so much ethanol producers can't get rid of it. New wind farms are sprouting up all over the place and innovations like flat panel monitors/TVs, fluorescent light bulbs and light emitting diodes are reducing energy demand. There are surpluses of nearly every commodity and no problem buying any of them with a dollar that is, unlike the ruble, a world reserve currency. In fact recent reports show deflation.

Food is not a problem for most people as far as getting it. There is a problem resisting it to ward off obesity and diabetes. Shelter is available with empty foreclosed houses all over and house prices dropping. Transportation is so abundant that car companies can only sell about half of their production compared to last year.

That leaves security. Security depends a lot on location. In high crime cities like New Orleans and Baltimore, it's a problem. But for most Americans including myself it is not that big a deal.

The USA may cease to be a global super power (I hope) but comparing that come down to the fall of the former Soviet Union is a big stretch IMO. It sounds more like silly nonsense, which is the result you get if things that are different are compared.

Gov. Perry of Texas thinks that it is just a matter of seceding and that is the end of it.

And yet he's asking FedGov for help WRT the flu.

A Big +1 for x!

The U.S. is most certainly NOT Russia, the F.S.U. or the U.S.S.R.

What bothers the heck out of me is the circus-tent, snake oil blow-hards such as the Glen Becks, Michael Savages, Limbaughs, Newt Gingriches, John Boeners, and on and on, who are sowing the wind with their do-nothing messages of hate and obstruction and will have us all reap the whirlwind of domestic terrorism.

Recall that the OK City bombing was perpetrated by a pair of true-blue Americans...recall the Unibomber...recall the U.S. citizen who spread terror by mailing anthrax. The hyped-up, fake, cowardly lies about people being 'Secret Muslims', and cryptic forces wanting to 'take your guns away', and the fever pitch blow-hard-ism about people visiting Notre Dam...people who support killing babies for Gawd's sakes! People who shake other people's hands during foreign policy trips and accept books without demanding a duel at forty paces! Getting people all fired up about taxes, when the Damn tax rates are no higher than they were under frat-boy, cowboy Shrub, and in fact, will decrease for most folks!

These morons are making mountains out of molehills, playing a huge game of distraction towards the 20-25% of people who are bigoted, xenophobic, non-scientifically-minded cretins...forget all the real issues: AGW, Peak Oil, population, and on...let's go buy guns and bury them in PVC piping in our yards, the gurus of right-wing talk-hate scream!

The Department of Homeland Security is completely correct to be monitoring potential domestic terrorists very closely. The good people of the U.S. could adjust slowly but surely to the realities talked about on this forum if led properly, and not driven towards armed acts of lawlessness directed by code-talking new age SS propagandists.

And another thing x has completely right: The longer and harder we interfere in other countries' affairs and occupy their lands and cooperate with their tyrannical government goon squads (and I am talking about many more places than Iraq and the 'Stan...folks don't know how many places we are meddling in), the higher the probability that our meddling will boomerang back to us in the form of more attacks.

Oh, but the draft-dodging arm-chair generals must be right: let's stay another 8, or 80, years in Afghanistan, the place where empires go to die. Let's spread our forces thin over the continent of Africa and in South-East Asia battling 'Islamic terrorists'. Yep, us against over 1 Billion folks ...a new Crusade! Good thinking! But if Los Angeles vaporizes some day courteousy of the folks we are messing with, what will the right-wing zealots care? They will identify it as fulfillment of their rabid Xian prophesies and use it as an excuse to implement absolute fascism in the U.S.

Verily, the trumpets of the right-wing haters will squeeze us in a pincer movement of external and internal terrorism. Yea, Faux Noise and 80% of AM talk radio! Real constructive Americans, one and all!


A name that seems to fit your views.
Is there anything you did not disparge above?

I have finally seen a real Left Wing Extremist.
Moonchild. Was that not the name appended to one running for office in Calif?

Airdale-I can be called a conservative but I am not NEO. Labels are ok then...but they go both ways.I am also a Christain. I am also a red-neck.I am an American. I am a veteran. I am many things but I don't waste good airtime spouting a continuous stream of invective. Do you really have something meaningful to state? Perhaps once is enough?

Watch those moonbeams. Aliens are altering our minds! Dogs might be stealing your luggage! Robots dating your girl!

Get the facts straight -

Gov. Perry of Texas said that some people in his state were in favor of seceding. He did not say he believed that it would work.

IMO - Since Texas has zero debt, and a strong work force with many resources, it could stand on its own as it once did. IF there is another Civil War in the US, Texas will win. Texas would then control majority of oil and gas in the former US.

Also, if you had asked anyone in the US in 1976 if they thought the USSR (Soviet Union) would collapse and end in 15 years, they would have said no way. While it is impossible to compare the two, I would not rule out a collapse of the US govt.


I say let them secede. Things are getting out of hand in Disneyland East.

I always liked Texas. Went there and got a good lariat and a massive set of mounted Texas Longhorns. Good TexMex too. I roomed in a 6 month school with 3 Texans in a 2 bedroom apt in LA right next to the Santa Monica pier and close unto Synamon and MuscleBeach. Part of my memoirs. A good part.


I would question whether an LCD tv uses less energy over the course of its useful lifetime, compared to a tube tv. It might use less electricity, but the components in an LCD tv require a lot more energy and more of many other resources.

I think CFLs are pretty much the same way. The ballast in a typical CFL is quite an advanced piece of electronics, requiring millions of dollars in capital equipment investment to mass produce. If all the resources required to build all that capital equipment were procured from the same location, we would probably be able to see the resulting hole in the ground from orbit. Yet most of us dont even know what a ballast is. I bet most of us do know by now what happens when you break a CFL though! It's hard to put a price on things like that!

I'd be pretty surprised if CFLs used over their lifetime more resources than incandescents. Let's compare.

1x CFL uses 15W power for lifetime of 6,000 hours = 90kWh
6x incandescent uses 75W power for lifetime of 1,000 hours each, 6,000 hours in all = 450kWh, or 360kWh more than the CFL

Here Down Under most of our electricity comes from coal, which produces 1.3kg CO2/kWh.

360kWh x 1.3kg CO2/kWh = 468kg CO2.

Thus, in running the lights, the CFL causes almost half a tonne less emissions over its lifetime compared to the six incandescents required to replace it.

To say that CFL are over their lifetime worse, since their running emissions are less, their manufacture must be more. So you're saying that a CFL requires almost half a tonne of emissions to produce.

I'd want to see some actual data on that, rather than just idle speculation.

I'm not sure if it was with intent or incidental, but your post uses an awful lot of present tense. I think there may be reasons why the US may not disintegrate, but I'm not sure any of the reasons you cite are they.

We have existed so far, so we always will? Logical fallacy, no? Energy production is far from declining? Is that really so? Despite a 50% reduction in oil production from peak? I suppose with nucler, et al., that might be correct, but it's also present tense only. In the We import 10k+ barrels of oil. If exports dry up, that's a huge hit we don't (currently) have the luxury of replacing with oil, etc. Transportation is abundant? Because there are a lot of cars on lots? C'mon...

Anyway... I'd be interested in a stronger, more detailed, wider ranging rebuttal.


Hmmm, too bad not one complex civilization has survived collapse so far.
It may sound like silly nonsense today but in the future it might well become a proven fact.
The Soviet Union didn't collapse to hell entirely, it only went through the first 3 stages. With energy decline we'll see a few places with all 5.

Americans have huge expectations for continued increase in material rewards as time goes by. This has become "Progress" for many Americans.

The young -- those of college age, will be furious with those who have set them up for this terrible fall.

When one has huge expectations for material comfort and pleasure, and these expectations are such a part of one's life that they are not even conscious, but are premises upon which lives are planned and built, then the anger and rage will be magnified when this is pulled out from beneath people.

I am not sure if Americans are as strong as the Russians were, in terms of individuals and community.

I live in a poor, racially mixed urban community -- which some will say is the place not to be. The Mexican family next door to me just lost their house -- I believe it is bank-owned already.

I wonder how violent things will get as we keep collapsing.

Working for some kind of stable community here, but it is a challenge.

Big concern: frustrated expectations will lead to more violence than any government will be able to manage.

Bill is a lot funnier on the same basic subject as I was...but, I wasn't trying to be funny about something so serious.

Time for the paranoid right to put away their aluminum foil hats and start helping address the real issues.

Or we can drive right off the cliff arguing about foderal.

Bill Maher is a funny guy but that column is absurd. Portraying Barack Obama as some sort of "threat" to the existing power structure is a pathetic joke.

The reviewer got it spot-on. Add to the list: resource scarcity, running throughput the show.

The themes in this showgram would likely resonate with a significant fraction of TOD members.

Worth renting and watching on DVD.

Read this article and especially note Representative Joe Barton's brain-dead remarks:

Welcome to to tar pits, Rethugs.

We in the USA have too much of an entitlement philosophy. Everyone has to have their own car, and their own oversized home. No one wants smokestack industries or nuclear power plants in their community. Now we have nearly exhausted our oil, gas and other mineral resources and de-industrialized and have no way to pay for imported energy, raw materials and manufactured products.

Our elected leaders did not plan ahead. We only replace one problem with another without addressing the root causes. How did our leaders allow houses in California to sell at three or four times replacement value and 5 to 10 times family income? And what about the credit default swaps and other derivatives? Didn't anyone read all of the warnings by Bill Bonner and others? A lot of critics predicted what was going to happen, as in Bonner’s books: Financial Reckoning day and Empire of Debt.

Twenty five years ago Japan was considered to have the world’s most advanced manufacturing and American engineers like me studied Japanese management and quality improvement techniques. Now Japan has been in a depression for many of the last 20 years. The causes of their depression and ours is similar: competition from lower wage countries, lack of resources and an ageing population.
We must develop an economy of the future, based on scarcer resources. We need to discontinue the sale of private autos and build mass transit. We need to survey our housing and demolish the old and inefficient and change building standards to focus on ultra energy efficient houses designed to last for centuries (don’t laugh, I designed and built one myself). We also must build nuclear and wind power plants. We also need to recycle all human and animal wastes to preserve N,P and K. This is an investment in the future that will put people back to work and greatly lower their housing and transportation costs.

We are facing an extremely difficult future and we must address the problems or we will fail as a nation. It is later than most people think. While I fear social chaos, I am more afraid of a new National Socialist (Nazi) Party and a great war. History has a way of repeating.

Twenty five years ago Japan was considered to have the world’s most advanced manufacturing and American engineers like me studied Japanese management and quality improvement techniques.

Interesting aside: They learned it from an American. (Blanking on the name and not worth googling...) Our guys wouldn't listen to him, but the Japanese loved him. Figures.

Cost the US dearly, our arrogance.


I think it was titled 'In Pursuit of Excellence'or similar.

But it was shortlived.We all had 'Quality Circle' meetings for awhile and were handed little lapel buttons with the Q on them.

But like Prisig, people never could grasp real quality and then it rolled over and died and then>>>>>>>

TPTB morphed into 'TAKERS' extremeism and starting stealing all they could lay their paws on.

Then the big 'cutbacks' they were called where the CEOs et al got huge bonuses for getting rid of good workers ....and then later bringing in guys from India and others with work visas..

Then ...well 9/11 and they all waved silly flags then threw them in the dirt and trash cans and proceeded with the destruction of the US Industrial empire and traded it off for cheap very low QUALITY trash from China and other places and ....

Labeled it PROGRESS and licked their own asses for no scum lowlife Ahmerkun employees were left to lick it for them.....

Then they went to big gated communities via Hummers and said...lies and got into Gubermints and then continued to rape and pillage the money sytems to get even more and soooo...;

Destroyed our country.
End of story.

Airdale-and so the book about pursuit of excellence was all bullshit

PS. And CCPO if you want to read a good book about Quality..then I suggest Robert Prisig's Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance.

A great book and philosophy in a land where there are many Professors of Philosophy but NO philosophers..except a very few like Pirsig.

Pirsig or Prisig..can't check right now...

Some of it was useful. I particularly liked fishbone (Ishikawa) diagrams:

If economists used Ishikawa diagrams they might better understand the economy. Focus on the supply side rather than the monetary side.

I was successful at using statisical process control (SPC) to solve a major process variability problem. Before SPC I had no way to prove what was happening. After I presented the facts as an SPC analysis, there was no arguing.

There was actually a time in American when the CEOs and Execs got this idea of 'Hey lets give the people real QUALITY'....and they made some half-assed attempts which mostly made them feel good and their trophy wives went like 'OOHHHHHH and AHHHHH..he's so like neat,,look what he is doing'....and then of course it died like much else they thought up in their big land of dreams and riches in behind their gated communes.

It went nowhere. We all had meetings and the really really bright programmers asked 'Duhhh what is Quality and how do we make it?'

to which every one else was taking a catnap and missed it so it promptly went see?

Then of course like I said...they realized 'Hey there is money I can get...let me get it...and piss on everyone else and those wonks with their 'Quality Circle Meetings'...and so they did and so here we are
with the dregs of that great stupid dream.

And of course we are now the Land of Cheap Chinee Trash' of extremely low quality.

End of story.I was there. I was in the meetings. I might have taken a few catnaps when I seen what was happening. Lots of preening of molting feathers,etc.

And so they all went out for 3 martini lunches and patted each others backsides and chuckled and stopped at the bank on the way home. Home to Mrs. Trophy Wife #3.


PS. Pirsig sez about quality. "No one can define it but they know it when they see it." or similiar words and the book states how he went MAD with mental illness trying to figure out QUALITY and the rest of the book was about his ghost (Phadreus) returned to him. Then he did something else and something else..and a good book anyway. A few others he did were not quite as good. And the book was not that great on motorcycle maintenance but a classic nonetheless. I read it 8 times. Maybe again real soon, as soon as harvest is over.

Deming. Wikipedia page here.

Ah, yes. That's the fellow. Thanks for that.


Like most everyone in the world, I enjoy a good yarn, so Orlov's piece was enjoyable, like a nice song.

But the problem lies in the predictions. A good, solid scientific prediction takes the form of some deductive consequence of a theory and the aim is to discredit the theory by showing that the deduction is false, for example Einstein's prediction that light bends toward massive objects, whose verification in the early years of the last century solidified the relativity paradigm.

Orlov makes predictions of various sorts, but are they scientific? Can we search for counter-examples that would invalidate his predictions--and thus the underlying theory? Is he willing to make certain predictions that if they do not come to pass within a certain period of time would invalidate his position? And not just Orlov, but anyone who makes predictions, particularly sociological or cultural predictions?

What happens if the predictions of the doomers, for example, do not come true? Do they admit their theories (and predictions) were false, or do they play the game of the religious fanatics who always manage to come up with an explanation for why their predictions did not come true, for there is apparently no conceivable fact or event that could invalidate their views?

TOD was initially attractive because it seemed to be based on fact and provided analyses of facts, based on facts. But lately it seems to have gone from science into metaphysics, from theories that can be refuted by facts to theories for which facts have no bearing--from science into nebulous metaphysics or inspired religion.

Orlov does not particularly inspire or convince me. I have heard of too many great men and so-called "experts" who made predictions that were totally off-base. Lord Rutherford, for example, I think it was, said that there was no point in pursuing science any further as all knowledge had been discovered (late 1899 or early 1900's, I think, though memory is fading). Thomas Watson, founder of IBM, said in 1943 that it was useless to develop computers as there was at best a market for only five of the things. Lord Kelvin in 1899 said that heavier than air machines are impossible, x-rays are a scam, and radio has no future. The great Einstein himself said in 1932 that nuclear energy and nuclear weapons were impossible. All of these claims were absurd--and false.

And what of Orlov's claims and predictions? Are they valid or will they enter the dustbin? How can we evaluate them objectively--not subjectively agree or disagree because they support or go against our pet prejudices and feelings, but because they are objectively right or wrong?

It's nice to know that Russians were able to continue their lives after the collapse, but the people are a homogeneous lot, whereas those in the US are heterogeneous. Russia had hundreds of years of tradition and a certain civility--a framework for sociality--that supported them. The sociality of the US is built out of numerous cultures and peoples, many of them antagonistic to each other. Is it likely that our collapse, if it indeed comes to that, may be more chaotic, less civil, more desperate?

Is it likely that our collapse, if it indeed comes to that, may be more chaotic, less civil, more desperate?

Dayahka, you give Orlov too little credit. You should read more of his work by seeing the link I posted above.
In particular, see Closing the Collapse Gap: the USSR was better prepared for collapse than the US

Predicting collapse is a bitch.

Seriously I'm fascinated by the collapse of complex systems. One thing we know for certain is that complex systems can and will collapse from time to time. Time itself become very problematic when dealing with anything capable of chaotic dynamics. Well understood mathematics predicts exponential divergence even in damped systems !!!!!!!!

Sorry for the exclamations points but your posts shows more your misunderstanding of mathematics than anything else.

In my opinion we do have two perfectly good approaches that have been developed on the oildrum for dealing with complex systems. The first and most tractable is the shock model developed by WHT. It in essence assumes a smooth change of variables with various shocks applied. Its quite capable of generating most real answers. Mine is what I would call a boundary value approach instead of trying to guess the exact function I try and eliminate possible classes of functions by making certain guesses about the nature of the underlying functions. For example I argue that a symmetric global oil production profile is unrealistic for numerous reasons. This can readily be modeled with the shock model the only question is what are the real shocks.

So you can use bounds to in effect predict the future. First of course is symmetric or asymmetric.
If you agree that the production profile is asymmetric which is the interesting case then one is really left with two extremes a undulating plateau or fast collapse. Whats really cool is that almost all fast collapse or asymmetric functions have in common with the more benign predictions is that they invariably have a plateau period. Thus the general curve takes the form of a shark fin. The degenerate case is of course the right triangle or sawtooth pattern. Just about any deviation from this assuming that the central limit is at play results in a plateau period.

But thats the problem it become difficult to tell time on a strait line. Worse is of course is a slow plateau spanning decades. The longer growth slows steadily the ever more certain collapse becomes as the complex system becomes ever more "brittle" if you will and susceptible to shocks and the harder it becomes to time it. At its heart trying to bound collapse simply assumes that the shocks in the shock model become ever more severe and difficult to handle. For example for oil this is not the 1980's we can't weather our current crisis like we did then the system itself ages overtime. The shock model does not do a good job of taking into account this aging factor into the system and its not clear how to add it yet the time of the final demise of the system itself becomes ever more governed by it increased fragility from previous shocks.

Think about dropping a glass on the floor repeatedly setting up a network of stresses in the material. Eventually a drop just like the one the glass may have survived for thousands of times leads to utter systems failure and the glass shatters.

Realistically we simply don't know the mathematics that can handle this in real time. I.e we cannot predict when a certain glass is going to fail at best we can apply general models like the shock model but they miss completely the "unique" case of this glass. Just like the averages of surviving a particular operation of are no comfort to those that die. In the end the patient lives or dies its a boolean not a smooth curve. And the time of death is exact. Dismissing people who chose to not use mathematics that are simply of no value to the problem is a mistake. Especially given that we are pretty certain that our disease is terminal and all previous patients have died the mortality rate is 100%.

The death of our society is certain the only thing that is uncertain is the exact time.

All the math and science we know tells us this reasonable models show that we have already begun the death rattle in fact now the only real question is which breath will by our dying breath we leave it to future historians and their autopsies to argue the exact cause of death.

Memmel, I would love to improve my mathematics understanding by learning its application on a subject I find fascinating -both the modeling and the basic maths is interesting.

I would urge any posters -where they have to use maths- to bear this in mind and make their posts as understandable / readable as possible for those less-able than themselves.

Regards, Nick.

Well as far as I can tell for complex system math is useful to understand the dynamics of the problem in a general sense. Ballpark estimates i.e +/- 5 years are certainly doable. With a bit of common sense getting this down to +/-2 3 years is doable. But the latter refines almost in real time its not exactly predictive.

If anything I'd suggest you look into chaos and calculus. For some reason math intrinsically becomes descriptive for complex systems. My opinion is that they begin to function like computation engines and act on hidden internal variables that are difficult to convert to external measurements. Black box computation engines with effectively randomized time elements. Personally I don't think that the mathematics behind emergent computational capable complex systems is well defined.

At the minimum I believe they develop finite state machines with the state variables a complex mix of real components. Information theory may well prove to be the fundamental one.

Realistically it still lacks predictive powers. I'd say WHT shock model is still the best model however you can become confident that if various factors seem to be working towards a higher fragility in the system.

I'd suggest that this is the case obviously with the economic downturn current fuel usage is closer to whats needed for the basic economy to function thus further production declines will be met with ever more inelastic demand. On the financial front debt default will serve in general to improve the cash flow increasing short term spending capacity while eliminating future growth.

It just seem to me that a economic system faced with declining resources always moves in such a way that future declines become ever more difficult to handle. A simple example the economic decline has significantly removed the ability of people to buy newer more energy efficient cars so various efficiency projects based on a sound economy and high oil prices are not worth the pixels they are printed on.
The arguments made for EV's for example are effectively completely blown out the number of new car purchases of any type will dwindle and the few that are purchased will tend to be purchased by people least worried about high gasoline prices. As cars age and say tires are not replaced overall fleet mileage will worsen.
In all probability I'd not be surprised to see the average fleet mpg actually start to decline not increase even as fuel prices increase in a poor economy. The intrinsic problem is fuel will be increasingly used for making money or economic gain allowing the fuel cost themselves to be passed on to the buyer of what ever product was created using the fuel. Capitol will not be used to upgrade the fleet indeed as I mentioned maintainence of the existing fleet will suffer. Instead if increasing fuel costs can't be passed on you will either lower wages or layoff some workers.
Companies with cash will find it better to buy their competitors or their competitors assets in bankruptcy vs buying new. Buy buying at pennies on the dollar they can then downsize the merged company and layoff some workers. Only at this point are the least efficient units sold but they don't leave the fleet as you can continue to use a truck you paid almost nothing for for quite some time regardless of fuel prices. The problem is of course that massive debt leverage results in a massive oversupply of anything that was purchased with debt and the declining value of these assets as they are sold at ever lower distressed prices offsets increasing fuel costs. Given most of these generally have lifetimes well in excess of the short term down trend generally 10+ years you have plenty of room to drive asset prices to zero before fuel costs become unmitigated. Commodity prices will simply be passed on. Eventually of course companies will stop insurance payments and tax payments payroll etc before filing for bankruptcy and of course all kinds of fraud. Increasing fuel efficiency as you see becomes a distant memory. Certainly the increase in unemployment does work to lower demand but even here I expect workers to return to the work force overtime taking ever less desirable jobs at ever lower wages so we can expect for a while to see unemployment level off at a persistently high level in the U3 definition say at 12-15% while U6 or a broader definition i.e workers that used to be able to make significantly higher wages will increase dramatically say 30-40% of the work force and of course for families with more than one person capable of earning a wage you will see a increase in one member not having work. Overall instead of rising unemployment past a certain point I think what we will see is median wages falling especially median household wages. Households themselves will reform and enlarge about a single wage earner. This is unemployed friends moving in with still employed friends and the same for families. This increase in living density will drive down rents and thus housing prices on top of increased foreclosures.

Overall you have a society moving towards focusing on daily living costs and paycheck to paycheck living with all debt eventually defaulted on and credit withdrawn for most. In general I just can't see this restructuring doing much to address rising fuel cost its almost entirely focused on reducing debt in exchange for cash flow.

So at least for a society based on debt I simply don't see any positive vectors any economic uptick will simply increase demand causing fuel price to increase faster. And the ability of the economy to collapse rapidly causing a short term oversupply seems virtually impossible after the first pullback of exuberance.
Once its stops growing the timing of further shrinkage is simply to disjoint to result in any fast change in the demand curve and few of the remaining economic factors work to lower demand. In fact in general the system begins to have higher cash flow as debt is defaulted actually increasing its ability to handle higher commodity prices without any consistent fast change in demand.

Of course in a alternative universe a society that used a monetary system which was deflationary and had ample cash reserves could follow the resource depletion curve with ease altering itself via investment to eliminate the use of the declining resource. Of course they would have foreseen the problem in the first place and started mitigation efforts very early on leading to a broad resource depletion profile with most barely noticing the change. Its not clear such a society would even use the resource even close to depletion it would probably be able to substitute so effectively that the scarce resource simply is eliminated from the economic system. For most of the US coal is no longer viable for heating simply because the infrastructure to handle coal has been abandoned well before the resource was exhausted. We did it for a better but still depleting fuel source but still one would expect a smart society would do the same once it realized it was dependent on a non-renewable resource.

The big difference between the two example is in one case the society is massively buffered against changes and in the other case its incorrectly buffered with resources having been malinvested via debt. I suggest that defaulting on debt acts as a anti-buffer since it simply increases the fragility of the system.

But you can see that it seems intuitive that the build up or lack of build up of stress in the examples I gave has far more to do with the internal state of the system in this case effectively fictional variables called money and debt. These are really internal state variable opaque from the outside we think of them as real since we are "inside" the state machine. A alien race visiting both alternative world would have a hard time figuring out the two very different responses. In both cases they would have to grok our concept of money which is probably not obvious.

Regardless you still seem to be left with what I call the perfect simulation model to get and real prediction of the time of events only a perfect copy that can somehow be run at a faster rate is predictive chaos still ensures that time is still ill defined you can call it black swan events if you wish but the actual time of collapse is impossible to gauge. No matter what I do I just don't see predictive time as part of the system. Intrinsically your dealing with a irrational response to a internal virtual variable in our case its when and how you default on debt that determines the overall time of the system but this is effectively a emotional and irrational decision. From a person draining their 401k to make house payments on a underwater loan for shelter that they have an emotional attachment to to companies laying off a fairly arbitrary number of workers to make next quarters results to get that bonus to make their own mortgage payment. Logic is not part of the process and we just as well be dealing with a dumb complex system with opaque internal states.
Back to square one :)

Which of course we can't extract as far I I can tell any sort of exact timing out of by its very nature.
Probabilities however are very doable but are simply dismissed by those that seek perfect prediction.
Of course its obvious they are simply asking the wrong question in the end the best you can do is probability and in all cases it seems that executing the mitigation effort as soon as possible really does no harm if you overshoot then so what ? Who cares if we dismantle the oil economy early before we really run out whats the big deal ? At most maybe you don't get the biggest house or car thats theoretically possible at some unsustainable exploitation rate.

I guess for me at least the moment our society realized that most of what we consume is concentrated at geologic rates spanning millions of years we should have transitioned to a renewable society for energy and probably one focused on recycling and extraction of mineral resources from seawater.

Basically we should have developed our own concentration technologies and adjusted our usage rate to match.
If we could not extract or concentrate faster than geologic time then we either work with that constraint.
Probably a combination of mining trivial accessible deposits intensive reclamation and concentration from dilute sources would work to yield a constant supply.

Whats fascinating is this is the technology one would need to build a starship under the constraints we know today the ability to create a system that could function for thousands of years without resupply is a must for exploring the stars in what I call true star ships. Additional transmutation from hydrogen would serve to feed the starship the minute replacement materials needed if the ion concentration of needed elements was not sufficient even in interstellar space. Thus it seems to me that starfaring species probably only arise from prudent societies given this the chances of our species of ever achieving star flight without some fundamental changes to our collective behavior are zero. This same behavior just about ensures we will also go to extinction on this planet. We are thus as far as I can tell a failed experiment in emergent intelligence I think it will take a real speciation event to actually create a new further evolved species using ours as ancestor stock before we can gain the collective intelligence needed to be a star fairing species. This implies millions of years of natural evolution but the chances of our planet enduring our mistreatment for the millions of years required for us to change is improbable at best.

It sucks being smart enough to know your a dead end branch of the evolutionary tree.

I think our only hope is that we develop some way to force our evolution and force a new species to evolve this might possible come if we develop electronic technology to the point that we can form a true collective intelligence and force consensus for the good of all on the individual will. Individuality will face being ejected from the collective or to submit.

I know that does not sound human but thats rather the point the human way does not work we need true collective intelligence to survive.

Whats interesting is the internet seems to be a embryonic form of this Borg conscious so post humans are not impossible and at least so far the from what I can tell the collective on the internet seems pretty dammened smart certainly much smarter than the traditional collective mass media we know.

Don't forget the star-faring locust-like scum in the sci-fi classic "Independance Day"... They where far from prudent...



A good, solid scientific prediction takes the form of some deductive consequence of a theory and the aim is to discredit the theory by showing that the deduction is false

Why must it be scientific? I think the nature of the beast makes that impossible. Bending of light and socio-geo-politico-economic predictions just aren't the same thing.

You are setting the bar far beyond the possible, I think.


I have had an interesting conversation with a fellow Australian. We are not going to be affected by the troubles of the world because we are special. Thank goodness for that. I was worried.

Communisim fails, Capitalism fails...How about we adopt Distributism as the next great thing? The Catholic church offers it up as an alternative.

Everyone I talk to thinks their job will be in demand during Energy Descent and that they won't have to reskill. Thank goodness, as these are my family members and some of my friends — I was getting worried, too.

Russia is/was a one-way bet on high commodity prices. Their entire economy booms and busts with commodities.

USA is NOT a one-way bet on low commodity prices. The USA is the world's largest net-exporter of food. As global oil production declines, grain/meat prices will rise. This improves the lives of folks in rural USA. (Not everyone in the USA is nutty enough to live in a city)

"The Collapse" of the small town in farm country started when tractors replaced horses. The Collapse is old, old news in my neighborhood. Every graduating highschool class has gotten smaller for going on a century around here.

With or without ethanol, the flow of wealth and people will change directions. The Collapse in rural America is finally ending thanks to Peak Oil. We have abundant water in shallow aquifers, great soil, lots of firewood, plenty of wildlife, and practically no people.

What the rest of the country calls an economic collapse, we call life. Most of the buildings on Main Streets in every town around here were abandoned LONG ago.

I've read Mr. Orlov's books, and one place he is dead wrong is agriculture. Modern farming techniques are far more sustainable than the massive soil loss created by tillage/soil disturbance which the old timers used. Trendline yields on all grains have been up for over a hundred years, and there is no stopping that trend, especially given a rising grain price scenario. Lots of efficiencies concerning N fertilization will be used as N becomes more scarce. We waste FAR more N-P-K than we use.

Stuart Stanford's write-up on agriculture a year ago was dead on.

The only serious threat to a healthy American Ag economy is interferance by the government, meaning windfall profit taxes, embargoes, and outright nationalization of farmland. If the gov't decides to act like Argentina's regime, the outcome will be as it is in Argentina, a steep drop in production.

Russian Ag failed only because farmers there lacked a profit motive.

Wealth redistribution leads to starvation every time it's tried, always has, always will.

"Trendline yields on all grains have been up for over a hundred years, and there is no stopping that trend, especially given a rising grain price scenario."

Additional inputs of NPK have resulted in large yields. This trend will be upset by higher oil/natural gas prices (remember US is dependent on the world market for these inputs as it is far from self sufficient). And how about low commodity prices for corn and wheat (like now) stopping that trend? If prices don't recover, but fertilizer and herbicide costs jump how many farmers will see their livelyhood threatened?

I think you are way too optimistic considering all the variables in farming. My grandfather was a farmer/homesteader and told me a lot of the perils of farming. The AG community will suffer along with the rest of the economy as the downward slope of economic decline gets steeper.

I agree with you mbnewtrain.
Change is coming, even in the USA, although you have the basis to feed yourselves for a long time yet if you can avoid "system-collapse". (Grain yields nearly halved over 5 years to 1995 in the former Soviet Union after the SU's 1990 near record harvests: from 227 million tons down to 122mt. Orlov was right to describe it as a rather close run thing, though as a ToD contributor has pointed out, - link below - there was no actual famine.)
This from my March guest-post on ToD has a quote from an excellent book about USA agriculture.

..."In the book On the Great Plains, we read that the 1000 year accumulation of soil nutrients was quickly spent:

They applied manure as it was available, rotated legumes when it was convenient. But they had no strategy for the very long term. By the 1930s, Rooks County fields had been planted, cultivated, and harvested sixty times without rest. Soil nitrogen was about half what it had been at sod-breaking and crop yields declined steadily. And now no western frontier remained. From the vantage of 1930s, crop agriculture in Kansas does not appear very sustainable. All the arable land in Rooks County - and in the nation for that matter – had been identified and plowed. Soil nitrogen and organic carbon drifted steadily downward, and with them yields and profits. Faced with this dilemma, farmers implemented a dramatic innovation in soil nutrient management. Rather than adopt one or more of the ancient strategies, farmers (and the industrial nation behind them) created a new option. They appropriated abundant cheap fossil-fuel energy to import enormous amounts of synthetically manufactured nitrogen onto their fields. …” page 219, ‘On the Great Plains: Agriculture and Environment’, Cunfer 2005; preview in googlebooks

Now, the world faces long term decline in fossil fuels, certainly of the cheap and convenient variety ...

"This trend will be upset by higher oil/natural gas prices (remember US is dependent on the world market for these inputs as it is far from self sufficient). And how about low commodity prices for corn and wheat (like now) stopping that trend? If prices don't recover, but fertilizer and herbicide costs jump how many farmers will see their livelyhood threatened?"

High oil/gas prices will = high grain prices. In this scenario, farming will be the best indistry in the USA.

Low commodity prices (present) are indeed a problem and lower yields will result, you have a point there. Today we can realize small profits on the farm, which makes us the "least bad" industry in America.

Here's my point, and there's no getting around it;

As global net oil exports fall, so will global net food exports. This reality is a huge benifit for American Ag. Because the USA is the largest net-exporter of food by a large margin, the effects of PO will get offset in America.

Life on the farm was a LOT more fun last summer when crude was $147, profits were MUCH better then, because fossil fuel scarcity actually helps a farmers bottom line. The thing people need to understand is that there are 395,000 BTU in a bushel of grain. The poorest families in my community burn grain (mostly corn) in stoves, because on a per BTU basis, its been MUCH cheaper than propane. When oil is above $50, the famer is delivering a cheaper BTU to the marketplace than is the oil industry.

The USA will NOT collapse, simply because the rest of the world needs to eat. The folks on the Coasts? They might collapse. The folks who thought they could sell cars or sell lattes and live in a big fancy house, they will experiance collapse.

The farmer's house is a miniscule part of his life. I spent the equivelant of 6 weeks wages on my home, which was too much. It doesn't make me a dime.

So Big Ag will then morph into the spaces left after the collapse of Big Biz. You will become them? Holding the reins then? Meting out the precious grains? Imagine the lifestyle you can come into while the rest of the world is starving for your products.

All because 'others need to eat'.

Yup. I see it all so clearly. In fact I do agree and have stated it before on TOD. The land is where it is at BUT not if you Big Ag folken keep destroying the sucker. Which is what is actually happening.

Yes others will collapse as you say and THEN? You will collapse! Is that not obvious? Your John Deere 2260 combines will become idle and unless you have adopted your ancestors methods of NOT raping the land then you too will pass on.



its funny we should have got round to the subject of fertiliser/farming as I was just researching it this morning for a possible investment.

One factet I found out was that historically the POTash to oil price ratio was around 3 to 1 (POT tonne vs oil barrel). Since POTash is now what $800/tonne (and has been as high as $1000 last summer I believe) either POT is now seriously overvalued or Oil is undervalued (or both of course).

As a result US farmers have seriously cut down on POT application and this may/will cause grain production to fall.

It seems that not only do oil prices have to be high or at a certain minimum level for exploration/preventing the decline curve but also grains and probably metals and a host of other commodities have a supply based on 'need for workable margin'.

I guess this is classic 'commodity cycle' stuff with the big difference being that we NEED to eat -it's non discretional- so demand will stay high. So I would expect food prices to start rising soon as the need for margin erodes production to the point where supply scarcity kicks in.


Potash is hugely overvalued. The mines assured the dealers last summer that $1,000 K was a safe buy. The dealers bit the hook. Now dealers are hanging onto their over-priced inventory as the mines shut down.

I'm not going to fertilze my soybeans this year. I can take a yield hit and be OK, cuz P-K are over-priced relative to beans. The marketplace is telling me to produce less, hence we will. If the weather is great, we may pull off some very good crops despite lack of fert, but at somepoint the piper will get paid.


Airdale, I'm not trying to crow about anything, just trying to be a realist. Folks in my part of the world dwindle in numbers, we lose jobs, and house values fall. Its been going on since the inception of these towns. Half the households in this area make under $26K. Lots of homes sell for a few Grand. Very few have employer provided health/benifits. I've sadly watched the rural economy get decimated for decades.

Since the advent of the tractor, the marketplace punished anyone who stayed in Ag, while it rewarded those who left for the suburbs.

The guys I know losing their farms are the big time operators who got caught on the wrong side of the markets recently, or contracted grain with veri-sun.

If Peak Oil means that commodity prices rise out of reach of people, then the place to be is on the farm. Sure demand destruction kills prices, but consider the shape of the economy during a war. Houses/businesses getting blown up, streets wrecked, currency destroyed, etc etc. Yet what happens to farm income in real terms during wars? It soars thanks to an even worse supply destruction.

Maybe Ag won't be able to feed a hungry world. I'm not saying one way or the other here.

What I AM saying is that for a lot of years, the farm kid wore tattered clothes to school smelling like pig manure, his folks cried themselves to sleep over bills, and mainstreet businesses died in small towns in rural farming communities. A lot of large operators fell right beside the little ones, and every abandoned farmhouse has a story of broken dreams and broken hearts.

The collapse folks on CNBC and Bloomberg talk about has been occuring right in the center of the country for 100 years.

In the 1800's, the stock market rallied when a big crop created cheap food. The economic prosperity of the general economy was created on the back of the commodity producer, and the living standard expansion in the suburbs occured while schools in rural communities closed their doors.

In my neighborhood the collapse started 90 years ago, and it started to finally reverse in 2005. Cheap oil is the enemy of rural America.

Yes I understand and right now in this very very rural county I can count the millionaires and run out of fingers and toes doing so.

They are making so much money they can't say grace over it. That much.

But it comes at a very very high price. The destruction of land and habitat.

Its the next FAD. There was the DOT.COM,,then the Financial swapping thing, and now it likely will be BIG AG...and then well I guess...

BIG GUNS? or Big Gangs?

I think more like Big Death.

I hear you about the farmers and there plight but surely you know as well as I that they farm the USDA office as much as they farm the Land. And yet they wish to pretend to be very conserative but their actions indicate '''welfare state'''..

So its a mixed bag. When crops are very poor they want government relief. If weather is very bad they want bailouts. Crop insurance.

BUT ...but when crops are big and profits are big do they give anything back? NO. They keep it all and pat themselves on the back.

I live with these folks. I work on their electronics. I am related to many. I see the reality. I see that they do NOT give a shit about the land. NOPE. Right now my closest friend is burning huge piles of big downed trees. He wants to plant over them and wants them out of his way.

This is crazy. Trees keep wind erosion down yet they have forgotten the lessons of the Dust Bowl. They will relearn that , maybe.

I am all for farmers. I am not for destruction. That is what I see.

YMMV where you are. Its wide open praries I assume. Not so here. We have few square fields. Ours are more starshaped and edged by woods.

We use big equipment though. We make good harvest but of course its all due to chemicals. As I drive by bare fields what was once good rich dark soil is now just clay and clods. Takes a big 'rolling harrow' and disks to cut this up to a plantable surface. Thats what has happened to our soil where they senselessly destroy it.

Then pat themselves on the back and think they are 'feeding the world' and acutally buy into that ADM "Supermarket to the World" crap.

Airdale-nothing against you personally , just how I see farming or Big Ag. I don't live in your shoes but I see the shoes others wear.

Airdale, I'm not going to argue with your views on crop insurance, the FSA programs, disaster assistance etc, or socializing losses and privitizing gains.

I do like Big Ag. Sorry, it's addictive.

I don't think large scale ag has a future, due to the sheer size of finances it will require. A crop shortage in a post-peak world means getting blown out of hedges, and timing input buying wrong will break guys.

I'm looking to downsize acres farmed, but increase cattle grazing. More equity, less risk. I can ride the waves better.

I think there will many techno advances in ag which will improve yields, fert efficiency.

My real passion in life is small rural villages. Yes I live in open areas, but its sad to see these towns die. I'm optimistic about the future of these villages, providing they have good shallow aquifers.

I think "Their loss will be our gain" concerning the movement of wealth and people between suburb/metro and rural/farm/ranch.

I like Peak Oil, and am angry at petro for destroying the market for oats back in 1915. I understand that the news media will report over and over about economic pain and turmoil in the places they care about. (Metro) A friend and I are starting a butcher shop, and a brewery. We will not need to compete against large outfits, cuz transportation will eat them up. We will have a monopoly over the local population.

The left-hand side of Hubbert's Peak beat rural villages like a rented mule. The right-hand side of it will turn its fangs on city/suburb folk. I feel lucky to live in these times; and hope you prosper in your corner of the world.

My real passion in life is small rural villages. Yes I live in open areas, but its sad to see these towns die.

Then why not forget the cows and start leasing your land to people who want the same kind of village you imagine?

Option 1:

* Lease out an acre per person, e.g., family of four, 4 acres.
* Plan out the village first.
* determine if there will be common areas or not.
* each person/family lives on their acreage.
* Have a central meeting hall.
* Try to gather people so that you end up with a variety of skills.
* Etc.

Option 2:
* Create a Land Trust*
* Plan out the village based on geography, carrying capacity, land use, etc.
* Lease out an acre per person, e.g., family of four, 4 acres.
* Any land not held in lease is common to the trust.
* Determine if there will be common areas or not.
* Village options: A. Each person/family lives on their acreage, along with whatever stores, etc., they develop.
B. Have a central town/village with homes and shops with the other leased lands outside the village.
* Have a central meeting hall.
* Try to gather people so that you end up with a variety of skills.
* Etc.

You probably thought of this already, but if not...


As recently as 2006 there was concern that an attempted potash price increase wouldn't stick. The price increase was something like $20/ton. However, the price was nowhere near the levels we see now.

In a few years new potash mines will open and the price will plunge. Potash mines are incredibly expensive ($2.5 billion) and take a few years (5-7) to engineer and build. Potash reserves are large enough to meet demand for a few hundred years. Phosphate is the scarce fertilizer mineral by comparison.

Fertilizer has always been a cyclical business.

The USA will NOT collapse, simply because the rest of the world needs to eat.

Around the time of the 1973 oil crisis a bushel of wheat bought a barrel of oil. Today it takes 10 bushels or more.

It is far cheaper to ship fertilizer than food. Developing nations will buy fertilizer and grow more of their own.




We might still be 'getting by' out here in the Land of The Big Machines but the writing is on the wall or on the soil depletion and other artifacts.

We have longer to fall because we have yet so much to destroy.

So how about India? The Green Revolution we so proudly sicced on them?

Their Big Ag is dead. We did it to them.

Our aquifers are dying. Our woodlands are in a vast retreat. We are killing off many species and your Big Ag is rapidly destroying our last remaining rivers and what lives in those waters. Dead Zones..Check it out. Endocrine Disruptors..check that too.

I will quote "Poisoned Waters" by Frontline on this.

I also see it myself. Around here the tress are still being dozed down into pushup piles and actually burned!

Just for more corn acres. We are massively setting about the utter and total destruction of what little we have left.

No need to crow about Big Ag. Its a shame.

Airdale-a retired farmer who still lives on a bit of what was once pristine,where I was born and raised, and each day I am reminded of how those who once managed the land are now set about its destruction...just to make a profit on the CBOT...not to live good,,but just to pretend to be as good as their city cousins ,,sheeshhhhhh will it never stop?

The US had a tough time in GD, will have a tough time in GR. BUt, what are the grounds for concluding that while we survived GD we cannot survive GR? Fewer resources? Not a good enough reason unless resource costs climb, and they are falling faster than other costs. Poor decisions by the administration? IMO so far selections have been better than in GD, excepting only that popular support would be better had the distracting bonuses been avoided. What else? We have always been a melting pot, and there have always been some groups that don't like and/or resent others. IMO these problems are getting better, not least with Obama elected president... an event that would not have been possible in the absence of progress (and, maybe, a market crash.)

It is not that lending got us into difficulty therefore all lending is bad, but rather that commerce as currently practiced depends on lending to merchants before manufacturers can ship, and it is critical that this lending continues. Lending to consumers, of course, is collapsing because most consumers cannot afford more debt... those that can are not having real difficulty obtaining credit. Save the banks? We have to have banks, admittedly not the current crop of bank ceo's. Save the autos? Actually, we don't need the big 3, but naturally tough to pull the trigger on all those workers... this is a democracy, the solutions will be messy.

We have far better safety nets than we had in GD. IMO we have further to go but it will not be as bad as then and we will not experience substantially more anarchy than we did then.

Comparisons between a mostly capitalistic society that fairly efficiently allocates goods, services and investments on the one hand, and a command society on the other, are very dangerous. The USSR survived as long as it did by a) spending nothing on the environment, b) allowing it's inheritance of well made building and infrastructure to run down, and c) stealing East Germany's industrial capacity, which was transported lock, stock and barrel to the homeland. Naturally, an enormous resource endowment helped, too. However, the political system was far more brittle than the CIA realized. The US, however, has an outlet for frustrations, the ballot box. Rather than predict the collapse of the current superpower IMO it makes more sense to predict the collapse of the next one.

In 1929 the US was a big exporter, and the collapse of our big export markets was a major blow to the economy. China exports 5x as much now as a percentage of its GDP as the US did then... they are already suffering major distress as tens of thousands of factories close their doors... and, they have no safety net and no ballot box. IMO China will not come through this with its current political system intact whether this is China's century or not. Frankly, doomsters should be predicting super hard times for all the exporters... things are bound to go better for the importers as imports crash. All asia, parts of Europe, not least Germany...

IMO it is far more important that we withdraw from Palestine than Afghanistan. It is our support for Israel's social services and military that allows them to fund the settlements, and it is this land grab, combined with their apartheid policies, that continues to roil the middle east. In the aftermath of 9/11 there was significant sympathy for the US around the world, including this region, naturally more than dissipated since by our Iraqi invasion and Israel's repeated invasions of its neighbors.

Frankly, doomsters should be predicting super hard times for all the exporters... things are bound to go better for the importers as imports crash. All asia, parts of Europe, not least Germany...

This is a fairly common line of thought that I suspect is some kind of
wishfull thinking. A net exporter losing a market still has production
assets, skilled people and probably also raw materials that can be use
for something new. A net importer losing the ability to pay for imports
has less assets avilable for creating something new. Why should that
situation be worse for the net exporter then the net importer?

Another extremely common idea that sees to be pure wishfull thinking or
some kind of misinterpretation of much of the marketing going on is the
idea that producers need consumers. Producers dont need consumers, they
need paying customers. If the consumption is the goal it can be done
cheaper with a garbage incinerator back-to-back to the factory or even
cheaper by idling the factory more.

Why would for instance Chine need US consumers? China needs know-how,
machines, raw materials and the usual exchange of goods for improved
economical efficiency. What do the US consumers do for China? If they
cant pay then they are economically irrelevant and need to figure out
something productive to do in exchange for the goods they need. If that
cant be done and they only can pay with promises for future payments
and that is ok then can China print such promises for its own population.

Complexity of society's increases over time, with ever increasing taxation and debt accumulated on pursuits that garner zero net return, such as armed forces for Defense and the expense of maintaining existing infrastructure.

The US ignores its ageing infrastructure, fails to modernize its electrical grid, ignores rusting bridges, disinterating road surfaces, crumbling sewer systems, yet maintains a 650 billion plus Defense system that produces zero net return.

As the cost of energy rises due to lower EROEI, the US is descending towards non-viability. Unless cold fusion or some other magic bullet energy production breakthrough occurs within the next 3-5 years, Mr. Orlov is correct.

I think the situation we're in is worse than you write. Even if we were to have some sort of energy breakthrough, we would simply continue growing until we hit the next limit. The conversation for growth is simply too strong worldwide and too resistant to change. In part the conversation is so resilient because many societal structures depend on growth.

Our monetary / economic system has it baked in. Stop growth, debt doesn't get repaid and the system collapses. Even people working in the environmental sustainability industry want their 401ks to increase in value so that they can retire, so when push comes to shove they actually don't want the existing system to change, either

That's why I think slow collapse isn't likely: none of our societal system will tolerate it. When someone says to me "a sustainable society is possible," I ask them if they want to retire. Almost always they say yes. Then I ask how they plan to do that. In short order they see that they are as dependent on the system growing as everyone else.

Full disclosure: before I started researching this topic, I was one of those people saying that a sustainable society is possible. I didn't have the whole story (in particular I didn't understand our monetary system), and neither do my colleagues in the sustainability field.

In terms of timing, we might have a plateau for a while, but then it's a step drop (see the shark fin discussion by memmel elsewhere in the comments).

We've already seen a large step drop. There might be a few more steps but my guess is that they won't occur for much more than 5 to 10 years before it's fair to say "our civilization has collapsed."

The Staircase Model

There is only one way this game ends, in my view, whether or not we have abundant and cheap energy. We truly are on a train track and the train is headed toward a cliff.

"Food, shelter, transportation, security." All well and good, but what about energy? It strikes me as strange that this most fundamental of needs was neglected in the presentation.

I am a confirmed believer in subsidiarity, and for this reason perhaps fear less the idea of the collapse of large nations into "wretched little fiefdoms." I believe that it will be in these smaller societal communities that, in Mr. Orlov's words: "society will remain largely intact, and will be able to begin a slow and painful process of cultural transition, and eventually develop a new economy, a gradually de-industrializing economy, at a much lower level of resource expenditure, characterized by a quite a lot of austerity and even poverty, but in conditions that are safe, decent, and dignified."

I left the USA permanently in 1998, went to Spain (where I had lived previously) and in 2004 bailed out there as well, settling in the Southern Cone, where I live on three wholly owned acres in a wholly owned super-insulated strawbale house I designed (it can be seen at, supervising all aspects of the building myself, then built another for rental income while building up my food-growing capabilities. The time has now come for me to secure my energy needs as best I can, though I doubt the grid will collapse nor the availability of fuels cease completely. Nevertheless, back-up systems make sense: wood-fueled hot water heater to be replaced by solar; solar oven and dehydrator; water-driven (I have a fast-moving stream crossing my property)generator; horse-drawn multi-use soil preparer (see in French); a sulky.

As Mr. Orlov and other commentators point out, this is about paradigm change, not financial gimcrackery.

"Food, shelter, transportation, security." All well and good, but what about energy? It strikes me as strange that this most fundamental of needs was neglected in the presentation.

Energy is merely the means to the ends of food, shelter, transportation and security.

If I have hot showers and cold beer, I usually don't care if they come from wind, coal, nuclear, or wishing upon a star.

Energy is also the means to the end of communication over distances, and there IS a difference where you are when you wish upon a star, because if wishes were horses, beggars would ride, and there we are, back to energy!

Ahem, yes! "If wishes were horses then -- ahem! -- beggars would ride.

This beggar just put new brushes into his EV motor -- ran great for a few days, then down again with an axle proble -- the CV Boot split where the axle meets the gearbox.

I'm having trouble getting the axle off to make a repair -- and I do wish that my "horse" was "ridable!"

More on topic: Almost all of the economic and political talk I hear seems to be wishful thinking.

Oh, and dis-info-tainment. Or, as Airdale put it: "Lies."

We are avoiding the very topics we need to communicate about in our public discourse, and cannot find a way back to discussing reality, which is a bit grim.

I'd like to suggest that a good starting point is James Quinn's January, 2009 article entitled Orwell's 2009 - Big Brother is Watching.


Orwell's "1984" and Huxley's "Brave New World" were prophetic.

More recently Margaret Atwwod's "The Handmaid's Tale" and "Oryx and Crake" capture the strange and noxious cauldron of corporatism that has taken shape as the ultimate eco-cidal and so suicidal species.

"The Road" by Cormac McCarthy is as good a depiction of what is left after a couple of decades as anything I've read.

I keep trying to be optimistic.

I have a feeling that someone is putting a HOLD on that movie. The Road.

Apparently they don't wish for folks to see frightful images and such. Might get them upset.

This movie has been in the cans for a very long time now. Why the hold up then? Why?

I will tell you why for I read the book long ago.

It will scare the living hell out of the audience.

And perhaps they need to be scared at that.

Yet each week I think it will be on the Marquee but nooooo.


Plenty of people wonder why the movie "The Road" has not been released.

Post-production is taking a long time....... release date keeps getting pushed back.....???

I do think that "The Road" is a dose of "prophetic imagination" that is too much like "the handwriting on the wall" from an ancient story that was prophetic in its day.

Do that many people want to follow "the economy" on CNN and CNBC, and hide under florescent lights in office cubicles?