Jobs / Careers of the Future

What kinds of jobs / careers should we be preparing for in the future?

I am sure the answer to this question depends on how quickly you think things will change, and what that change will be.

Over the very long term, it seems to me that businesses will be much smaller and more local and there will be a great deal more manual labor. There were be differences of opinion on what the world may look like, and what time frames will be. Possible outcomes:

--Electricity / no electricity
--Water / no running water
--Electric cars / solar cars / trains / walking
--Current countries / new country boundaries
--Tractors / Draft animals

Should we be preparing for this change now? What career choices do you see as reasonable ones? What educational choices should people be making now?

the assumption;
"Over the very long term, it seems to me that businesses will be much smaller and more local and there will be a great deal more manual labor."
appears to be based on the idea that after peak oil and peak FF transportation costs will be much higher and we will have almost no electrical energy available form nuclear or renewable energy resources.

Electricity is so useful and so inexpensive ( even generated from wind or solar energy) why would people stop using it and go back to what, candles made from animal fat, using hand tools instead of electric, walking instead of driving electric cars, using horses to pull barges on canals instead of using electric rail transport.?

It's hard to know what careers will be needed in the future, but it's a fairly safe bet that we will be using electricity for at least the next 1000 years. Nothing else is really very certain, a broad University or Technical education will only be a disadvantage if we have a crazy "anti-science" Taliban type revolution.

As energy availability declines prices will all go up regardless of form. Some will go up faster than others. Perhaps renewable energy generating energy is cheap from a cost viewpoint, but demand will drive up the cost for that energy because of scarcity.
We won't stop using electricity certainly, but there may be some techniques which will cost less using manual labour as the cost of gathering energy goes up.

I do think we will have to redevelop skills as machinists, welders etc.

Some people will do well as energy audit/efficiency upgrade specialists,either consulting or contracting the work.

Neil as Gail pointed out here part of the reason that electricity is cheap now is our failure to upgrade the grid. Given that we consider it so essential why is it that we have not kept up this important infrastructure?

Didn't the Feb US budget have several billions for upgrading the grid.? It's importance is certainly recognized by the Obama administration.
Even paying twice as much for electricity it's still cheaper than using gasoline for transport( at today's modest oil prices).
What would be the cost of using manual tools instead of power tools? ( X10 , X100??)

Electricity is so useful and so inexpensive ( even generated from wind or solar energy) why would people stop using it

Exactly. A fit male can generate with legs 200 watts of power. For 400 watts, you can have an electric bicycle, 600 watts is in the range of lance armstong's best power output.

One solar panel of 150 watts is like the labor of a man. A man who can 'work' when the sun shines for 20+ years. And that 'work' could be done at 200+ feet down in a 2 inch hole aka the bottom of a water well. thus being able to place human centered production in a place where humans would not be able to survive. (get a man to extract that via buckets via that 200/2 inch hole!)

Power tools have taken home building from a 40 man crew months to 3-4 man crew a few weeks.

If the larger elements of society can't make it, the need for highly, narrowly trained people should also drop. It would be better to cultivate a broad knowledge over a wide range and look towards things that make you valuable to others like medicine, engineering and to make sure you can feed yourself the ability to grow, harvest and process plants/animals.

Good point. I once saw a picture of a pump powered by the energy of school children. A teeter totter was built directly over the well pipe and as the children bounced water was pumped via a rod connected to the teeter totter. No figures on how much water was raised each day but it was enough for the school.

Health clubs could probably power the lighting with a bank of exercise machines as well.

Agreed here eric. Would like to add that people with relationship/conflict resolution training skills would be invaluable-considering that most of our conflicts are caused by poor communication skills and low tolerance to those 'different' to ourselves.

Sometimes conflict resolution doesn't go well for the trained.

"The mayor stopped and said something (to the man) like, 'Let's all cool down here, I'm going to call 911,'" the mayor's spokesman Patrick Curley said. "He said it one or two times according to him. When he took out his phone, that's when the suspect attacked him."

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What school do I apply to for an education to become a soothsayer? Everyone else has scoped out the future to the tiniest detail and I have trouble knowing what I am going to be doing this afternoon. No wonder I am a poor dummy.
Three broad possibilities for the future seem to exist. If the world goes on for the next 1000 years as is and we overcome climate change and energy depletion, I would want to be an MBA, entrepreneur or legal Ponzi scheme operator. Capitol will be readily available and the wine will be flowing in the streets.

The second case seems to point to a slow decline as energy and wealth wind down. A government job with longevity seems a good career choice. Political connections are a plus. Drilling wells might be another choice in a water constrained environment. Great depression forever but the decline is the same rate as the last 20 years. You are in the middle of it and don’t notice the slow change. Tractors will be around for a 100 years. Don’t queue up the mules yet. The wild card is climate change so get on top of a mountain with good water and soil. Note - Temperature drops 3.4 degrees F per 1000 feet up.

Third choice is Techno’s end of the civilized world. War lord is the occupational choice here. Ruthlessness and night vision gear are a plus. Note every solar setup on Google sky view. This is where the goodies are. Topo maps and large ammo caches are recommended. Acquire lists of gun owners. Prepare to “disable” every repeater and cell phone tower. Don’t want the gendarmes to have any communications. Shut down electrical sub-stations, phone switches and interstate highways / railroad lines. I’m sure some young Tesla is already working on a short range EMP generator. You have now captured your region of choice. The military is spread too thin to interfere.

I guess some degree of #2 might be the most likely in my view. As far as preferred locality – all but the largest cities are already war zones and beyond rehab. Many rural regions are vulnerable to even a limited option #3. I think some suburbs will be the most livable (sorry Jim K.) Block watches to the nth degree, community wells and Co-ops. Convert some houses to local schools and clinics. Everyone moves down to the cellar so no heat or A/C is required if you insulate the cellar ceiling. Use the main floor for storage or a daytime business. Raised ranches with a south facing front would be very desirable. You have an instant village.

Bravo! I think you could use this as part of your application to SoothSayer University :-)

Looking at the possibilities as branchings on a tree, it is good enough to guess the right thick limb. Knowing exactly which tiny twig will be the exact match for the future is virtually impossible.

Career-wise, I think we will shift away from today's arrangement where the highest prestige careers are those that are most distanced from production of real goods and services.

Would your mountaintop farming model be in the desert?

If you consume poison are you soothesayer if you predict disease to follow?

Haven't you heard: 'The soothesayers are mired, their existence foretold. Always chasing, chasing fool's gold.

very interesting question. Of course we should begin preparing now. As a doomer i would probably recommend the military. But that is probably going to be a dead end, literally. If we make it through the first major bottleneck I would recommend some form of the natural sciences. Biology would be my first choice. Religion is poised to make a major comeback and a general knowledge of how the natural world works and mans/womens place in it will be very important. advanced degrees for only the brightest. Otherwise, pick a trade that can be sustainable with renewable resources providing the basics, ie. food, shelter, healthcare,etc. Most will be involved in a agricultural related area. Permaculture knowledge will be very valuable.

I would recommend a college student study one of these areas:

- Chemical Engineering. Need to design chemical processing facilities that do not use oil as an input.
- Genetic Engineering for plants. Develop better algae for biodiesel.
- Materials Science. Batteries, construction materials that require less energy, nanomaterials. All will be needed in the transition to a post-oil economy.
- Nuclear Engineers. Combine that with Mandarin for a promising career in China for Western suppliers of nuclear equipment for Chinese nuclear plants.

A larger fraction of all energy will be delivered as electricity. But it is not clear to me what one should study in order to develop substitute capital equipment.

As a chemical engineer myself, I do not see peak oil as being good for ChE's. Over the years I have seen the U.S. chemical industry shrink because of rising costs and energy exporting nations exporting value added downstream products, especially in things like ammonia and methanol.

I do not see much hope for replacing petroleum feed stocks with bio materials. Technically it is possible (cellophane, rayon, etc.) We have yet to even and make liquids from coal in the US, even though that technology dates from before WWII. More likely we will substitute glass for liquids packaging and use more paper packaging. And think about all of the demand for plastics when car production declines and people used hard floor surfaces instead of carpet, which will become a luxury. By the way, wool is still one of the best carpet materials.

- Nuclear Engineers. Combine that with Mandarin for a promising career in China for Western suppliers of nuclear equipment for Chinese nuclear plants.

Riiigghtt, because we all know that the Chinese aren't smart enough to produce their own engineers...?!

Statistics of foreign born scientists and engineers in the United States

* 55% of Ph.D. students in engineering in the United States are foreign born (2004).[1]
* Between 1980 and 2000, the percentage of Ph.D. scientists and engineers employed in the United States who were born abroad has increased from 24% to 37%.[1]
* 45% of Ph.D. physicists working in the United States are foreign born (2004).[1]
* 80% of total post-doctoral chemical and materials engineering in the United States are foreign-born (1988).[2]


Indeed, among OECD countries, the United States ranks near the bottom in mathematics
and science achievement among eighth graders (TIMMS 2003). Despite this fact, the
United States has sustained an unparalleled position as developer of new scientific
knowledge, and continues to be a world leader in innovation and technology. The large
number of foreign graduate students that enrolled at U.S. universities over the last 20
years may help explain this seeming inconsistency.5

A/the(?) tanking US economy might see a large proportion of "US intellectual talent" seek a new home... or a return home.

Let's see what the stats say in a year or two.

Punditry is easy when unconfined by facts.

First off, the NY Times just ran an article about all the American college grads getting jobs in China. How can that be when China has a glut of college graduates.

Second, US and European corps send their engineers and managers to other countries rather than hire all locally. They do this in part because they want people to gain experience and contacts that will make long range collaborations easier. They also want to send people over who know how the home corporate office wants things done. I collaborate with such people from European countries who are in the US and Asia.

Punditry is easy when I have relevant experience and knowledge.

Oh yeah, the NY Times, they always get it right don't they (eg).

I note two things from your NYT article.
1. No mention of engineering jobs (dance and finance/business).
2. Although said students may be "US college graduates" this does not say anything about their citizenship status or ethnicity - the point of my links.

My criticism is simply, I would not expect China to employ more than a sufficient number of foreign experts to allow technology transfer... and there is no reason to expect them to be US engineers. So I would not encourage the kiddies to take up nuclear engineering for the reasons you state. China will probably produce enough home grown talent for the future.

And given that the Chinese are increasingly wary of the solidity of the current reserve currency...who knows about the long term viability of those finance sector jobs?

I'm glad punditry is working our for you... but don't be offended when others question your suggestions.

Countless careers requiring countless hours of hand-pollination-->enuf said. Can we 'Bee'-any-wiser by practicing the half-glass Peakoil Shoutout with a 'Bud'-wise-er?

Bob Shaw in Phx,Az Are Humans Smarter than Yeast?

I was watching a TV documentary about bee colony collapse. Very interesting info about how much we rely on bees for our crops. Anyway, in a southern province of China so much pesticide was applied years ago that all bees were wiped out. Yes, all of them. So now the Chinese pear farmers do hand pollination. Incredible. They produce a big pear crop with hand-applied pollen.

can't they just re-introduce new bees?

Wow! That is just shocking and truly sad news. Thxs for your posting.

Hey hey FuturePundit,

I had to look this up. And, since I did, here are a couple of links.

From News Week Stung By Bees and a scholastic paper from the College of the Environment, Sichuan University pollination of pears and its implications for biodiversity conservation and environmental protection -- A case study from Hanyuan County, Sichuan Province, China PDF warning

I guess this is a perfect example of humans replacing the services provided by nature with more costly equivalents.

Maybe Monsanto and Bayer can roll their great profit gained from decimating the bee's into a large make work strategy. If Einstein is right the armies of Q-tip armed 'pollinators' working 24/7 won't be able to stave off catastrophe.

Since M~Insano is buying up all the seed companies and knowingly anhilating the bee population with "Pancho" (the wonderful dip treatment in Bayer's: 'clothianidin or 'imadicloprid' to ensure 100% germination instead of 99% Well worth eliminating the bee's. Honey after all is defective, its sticky!)
Perhaps they've thought this through and are wondering what we would be willing to pay for their g.m.o. alternative to nitrogen fixers like alfalfa and clover that self pollinate?
Or perhaps this is military strategy. France Germany and Italy have banned these chemicals so are they plotting global domination?
Or perhaps M~Insano's scientists have figured that we'll just evolve to those who need food to those who no longer need it? Survival of the thinnist?


If we had decent anti trust laws and a better justice department and better patent laws we would be a LOT BETTER OFF.

The laws that control the patenting of genes and plant lines and medical technology based on these laws should have an expiration date of five years,or they should be repealed outright.

The concentration of power into a handful of big argi biz corporations that has taken place over the last few decades is a VERY BAD THING for every body but the management and stockholders of these corporations,and it could turn out the the consequences are so bad that they lose too.

This said,even though I am scared of laboratory manipulation of agricultural plants,I am even more scared of the consequences of failing to make use of the technology.

The upside poyential is simpl;y too good to pass up in a world overflowing with people and running short of farm land and water.

I say give'm all the help we can but only the ones who step up and take thier vasectomony or IUD like a real man or woman get any money. Since it won't happen that way,I haven't given any thought to how my kind of aid plan could be administered.

If you are already a working adult I think you need to think about which company to work for. Which companies will shrink the least when oil production drops every year? Where are you most likely to stay employed?

Another consideration: Where to live? Some areas will be harder hit than others. Looking at it geographically where do you want to move out of? Some of the icebox states look like they'll be hit hard due to higher heating costs. Worst case: You live in an icebox state with oil heater and a long commute from a rural house to a job at an oil refinery or other occupation that's going go way downsize.

So look at it another way: What sort of job or geographical location to bail out of now?

On the bright side where I live: I walk to work and have very low heating and cooling bills since the climate near the Pacific Ocean is very mild. On the downside: I expect my industry to drastically shrink.

Humans had colonised the planet (as in spread all over it) thousands of years ago. Even remote islands had human inhabitants. Some areas even had civilisations occupying them. Then there were also whole regions which were sparsely populated for some reason (some very good reason it can be assumed). Farming popped up in many areas independently of each other, but again some areas were not farmed, usually the same areas as before.

The expansion of the West (basically Europe) quickly filled those so called empty lands (although they were already occupied) and settled them. Seemingly turning previously marginal lands into prime agricultural lands. But what if our distant ancestors were right to avoid those marginal lands? The way things are playing out in Australia it would seem they knew better and the West's hubris may yet lead to disaster there, or should that be already has?

The areas that we call the New World may well be a trap created by benign climate conditions and about to snap shut with Climate Change. Does the few hundred years that they've been occupied by the newcomers provide sufficient assurances that the next few hundred years will be the same?

Edit: To add this interesting article on Australia.

Farmers face hardship as climate changes

From the cattle rangelands of the Northern Territory to the vegetable crops of temperate Victoria, from the southern Western Australian vineyards to the irrigated rice farms on the NSW-Queensland border and all the prime cereal crop land in between, growing food is changing in ways both subtle and dramatic.

Says Professor Bill Bellotti, who holds the Vincent Fairfax chair of sustainable agriculture and rural development at the University of Western Sydney: ''There's no way around it; we will have to change our lifestyle to survive into the future.'' Food production and types will change. ''There will be less emphasis on livestock. Australians will probably be getting a higher proportion of their nutrients from vegetables.''

The tropics are marching towards the poles at eight to 20 kilometres a year, shifting rainfall and wind patterns, a James Cook University analysis of 70 scientific papers on climate change reported recently. The Mediterranean-style food bowls of lower WA, western Victoria and South Australia are drying towards desert.

--Electricity / no electricity
--Water / no running water
--Electric cars / solar cars / trains / walking

What I see in my apocalypse light view of things is that services that used to be community based will be up to the individual to provide.

--Grid Electricity / individually owned wind and solar
--Municipal Water / Your own well
--Public transit / Electric car, bicycle, scooter.

There is no shortage of energy..just a shortage of a way to capture & put it to use. As long as the sun exists, we'll have wind, water & solar energy. They'll be lots of jobs doing that..and electricity will pay a big part.

I'm not a doomer. I think there is going to be some changes coming, big ones, but we're not going to be using candles again. But if you really want to get in a good business, open a store that sells locally grown food and teach people how to cook.


Whoa, NLOL (nervous laugh out loud) !

Actually, given the aging baby boomers, this one is pretty much a sure thing, regardless of peak oil, climate change or anything else. Nobody lives forever, and there are a lot of bodies in the boomer generation that are getting closer to that reality every day (as are we all).


bring out u'r dead - monty python

There was some discussion here a few weeks back about DIY funerals. Even the undertaking business is not immune to economic contraction.

Heh, I see Creg beat me to it!

Crematorium operator/owner. When the die-off starts, there will be a shortage of burial plots (and money to buy them?). Cremating a body consumes far less energy than burying the body in a fancy casket which is placed inside a burial vault (required in many locations today).

H1N1 virus.

With all the bodies going up in smoke, so to speak, this sounds like a GREAT opportunity for co-generation of heat to heat homes or for industrial use.

We could always keep the carrion birds happy!!!

Or if you REALLY want to be on the cutting edge: invent, patent, and market a CSP-powered solar crematorium oven. An idea whose time will surely come!

Nope. Green burials. Just stick 'em in the ground.

I agree there will still be electricity if you have the cash to pay for it but many people will be so poor they wont have it. And even if you have the cash you might find services cut to your area because there are so few paying customers left that the service company discovers its not making a profit or maintenance costs are too high to continue.

I am not sure about electricity. It is one thing to generate it, but quite another to distribute it. The grid is aging and past its anticipated useful life span in many places. In particular the North East comes to mind. If we can't find the money or political will to maintain it now, I don't see that happening in the future.

Distributed generation might be an option; however, the cost of developing the infrastructure and questions of ROI cast doubt on this approach.

I see energy production as a patch work quilt of solutions, whatever can be made to work in a given geographic area is what we will get.

The electric grid faces some similar issues to the railroads when they were taken over in 1917 as part of the WWI effort, but there are also important differences.

At the beginning of the US entry into WWI the railroads were not able to handle the extra load created by the war and were nationalized. The problems included poor management, lack of coordination between competing railroads, obsolete and poorly maintained equipment, overstaffing because of unions, threats of strikes by labor and bankruptcy of many of the rails.

Some causes of the problem were overcapacity in previous decades resulting in too low rates to invest in modernization and maintenance and also government regulation.

Under nationalization sweeping changes quickly made included eliminating competing and freight service where over served and ordering 100,000 new railcars and 1930 advanced steam locomotives.

The cost to the government was about $20 billion in today’s $’s. This left the railroad industry in good shape by the time of WWII.
I have not seen figures for modernizing the grid, but I can’t imagine it costing any significant amount. Certainly we have spent more bailing out automakers, only I hope it will be successful as the U.S. Railroad Administration. However, I think any money invested in automobiles is wasted, battery powered cars included. Wealth has been on the decline in the U.S. for almost two decades, yet we refuse to admit it. Cars will be unaffordable, especially when oil prices rise. Batteries are too expensive initially and also when replaced.
Increasing energy efficiency standards would go a long way to reducing load on the grid.

The increase in efficiency standards for air conditioners from 10 to 13 SEER in 2006 is estimated to already have reduced demand by 2%. 16SEER units are now available and should become the new standard, and we should encourage more geothermal heat pumps and even higher refrigerator efficiency, such as Sunfrost.

Finally, we need a national program to upgrade all windows to double pane, have cellular shades in northern climates, and condemn any homes that do not or cannot be upgraded to minimum insulation standards.

The good news about this is that conservation pays off in savings.

The bad news is that our country is broke, the Chinese aren't buying our treasury bills much anymore, our printing presses are being used to bail out Goldman Sachs and friends. Conservation that requires up front spending is unlikely to happen. Conservation that requires time but no spending might (carpooling, using what public transport their is, resetting the thermostat). Another conservation is going on, that of no longer powering foreclosed homes. People living in tent cities don't use anywhere near as much power and their number is growing and will continue to grow (rising unemployment, loss of unemployment benefits by early unemployed, Option Arm and Alt A resets , Commercial Real Estate collapse.

Hard to hook up even an energy efficient air conditioner in a tent.

TENTMAKER! There you go. . .


I'll probably get in over my head here but I will suggest that right of ways can be kept clear by hand in a world short of energy and long on unemployment,and that the cables and insulators apparently don't wear out.The poles/towers obviously will require eventual replacement.

I'll stick my neck out a little father and hazard a guess that either the loads will be down and therefore transformers and such will last almost indefinitely due to running cool lightly loaded or else that demand will climb so much even in a declining economy-due to using MORE heat pumps,more rechargeable batteries as in plug in vehicles, more wind,etc,that SOMEHOW money will be found to keep the distribution end of the grid up.

But I sure wouldn't want to be out near the end of a long line in the REAL BOONIES with a only a handful of customers on it.TPTB might decide the poles and cables are needed more urgently elsewhere.

I think the average citizen who votes will put reliable electrical service very near the top of her list of priorities,ahead of damn near everything except food and water,actually.And given the facts of refrigerators,electric ranges,electric well pumps,and electrically powered public water systems,these three priorities are inextricably intermingled.

The old folks will definitely be allowed to die and all the nursing homes,etc,that depend on the giant govt mommy will close before the power goes of to stay off.

But it may go off part of the day every day the way it does in the third world.

We can easily get by if we HAVE TO with a lot less juice.Just turning off all the electric advertising signs(not traffic lights!) etc would cut into consumption quite a bit.

We don't have 100% reliable electric service now, and I suspect that reliability will decline considerably in the years ahead as utilities find it difficult to keep up with maintenance.

When I was a kid, everybody- well, almost everybody- knew at least a little how to fix things. I started off on my fixit man career when my mother complained that her favorite table fan would not work. I gave it a spin and immediately saw that the problem was a bent blade hitting the guard. So I bent it back, and got lavish praise from my once-again cooled mother for this utterly trivial bit of detective work.

Onward and upward. First law of the fixit man-just look at the thing and see if there is anything obviously wrong- there almost always is. Then, fix it. I had a totally undeserved reputation for deep knowledge of radios when in fact all I did was look for the tube that had no glowing wire in it, pull it out, and go buy another one.

I am amazed that there seem to be so few such people around today. Gotta be a profession in great demand when TSHTF.

Yes, yes, I know that radios today are just a little chip, like a cockroach, and can no more be fixed than a stepped-on roach. But, on the other hand, they still have a power cord and wires to the speakers, and so on-- .

How about a business turning old car engines into wood gas burning electric generators, or, that super simple stirling engine I have been working on for about 70 years? It has started to really work just about the time I have started to really not work. Time to pass the banner.

I am looking around for some lean and hungry monomaniac totally uninterested in money and totally addicted to 19th century engineering.

PS- I got a really great bike transmission too, people are astonished by it, but so far not so astonished that they will pull out their wallet. They are way too fat to be interested in any bike- perfect transmission or no.

My father, a military man, loved to belabor his theory that empires collapse when they get too successful and hence fat and lazy. Then it's time for the barbarians to climb the walls and butcher 'em. We shall see.

It has started to really work just about the time I have started to really not work. Time to pass the banner. ...

LOL 8-D. Ain't that just how it works ... I'm reminded of the saying: "Everything that used to be limber is now stiff, and everything that used to be stiff is now limber." Thanks for the chuckle.

About passing the banner ... Trouble is, between TV and the schools, young-uns' heads these days are so full of toxic dreck that they can't find their butt with a search warrant. Just like I was at that age ...


I've found that rural folk are pretty good at mechanical diagnosis and repair; it's easier to develop the skills than to drive into town + come up with the money to pay for repairs.

That said, maybe a town of 10K or so could support:

A bicycle repair/saw tooth setting and sharpening shop.
A blacksmith/machine shop not dependent on TIG welders and the electrical grid.
A real hardware store (after Wallymart and Home Depot have driven all the mom-and-pops out of business).

If things unwind as fast as I fear, the supply of cheap bicycles and tires from China may dry up. Money invested in stock for these shops might be a better investment than gold or a doomstead.

Errol in Miami

Working out a metal wheeled bike might be something to think about. Something on the order of the old wagon wheels just smaller. Though that craft is almost as forgotten as the Blacksmithing skills needed to make one.

Today there are just to many folks that have not lived without a computerized product at fingers reach, to really understand what life was like before computers were the center of everyone's attention.

I mean here we all are on a blog, but how many folks remember a time before computers? Anyone over 50 sure, but anyone under 30 or younger never knew what it was like to read a book to get your information, or not having a phone glued to your ear all day long.

I kinda like the fact that now I can go around talking to myself and no one notices anymore, everyone thinks I am on the phone.. sighs. It is getting so bad that it is hard to tell when someone is talking to you instead of the person yabbering in their ears.

I am only 45, but I was seeped in knowledge on the ages past learning most of my habits from parents who grew up in the 1930's and 1940's, I almost feel like I am as old as they are at times. Just wait when all the books have been burned and all informaiton is on the Kindles and then the power goes out. Where will we be then?


I mean here we all are on a blog, but how many folks remember a time before computers?

Personal computers in my life? Yea, I can remember a time, the desire. The hours spent later writing assembly.

A metal wheel - why do that when you have things like airfree tires?

I just had solid rubber tires put on the bicycle rims on my garden cart. I will NEVER have to put tires on it again and I will never have a flat. A little heavier than a pnuematic tire an a bit rougher riding, but acceptable for transportation.

Why should rubber for tires disappear? Real rubber is a renewable resource, it comes from the sap of rubber trees. There are still huge plantations of these in tropical areas, and the rubber could still be transported by ship (which doesn't require a huge amount of energy).

There is not enough real rubber to supply tires for several hundred million automobiles, but there probably is enough to supply tires for several million bicycles.

Real rubber is a renewable resource, it comes from the sap of rubber trees.

Don't forget the creation of rubber from alcohol.

Thomas Edison was doing experimental breeding of Goldenrods for rubber at about the time it became feasible to produce synthetic rubber.

You could fix vacuum tube radios because radios had vacuum tubes and you could buy vacuum tubes.

Today gadgets are harder to fix. To replace an FPGA you would need the compiled VHDL or Verilog to upload into it. Repair centers with manufacturer's original test equipment can do it. Not much else can do it.

Wires to speakers: nowadays the speakers might be getting their signal via Bluetooth. No wires.

Precisely why higher tech is exactly the wrong direction in which to go.

Higher tech allows for less power to be consumed/less resources.

So long as the capacity to make VLSI chips exists, we will.

And so long as a military can be funded, a need for pushing VLSI will exist.

With much of my video work in the tank recently, I just hung up my 'Handyman' sign again, and have had an immediate response from friends/neighbors. I've been quickly reminded of the stuff that is frequently broken around the homes and in our equipment. So often it's the part we are in contact with. Switches, Wires, Knobs..

Even at our 'Truly Good' hardware store, I can't even buy a decent Deluxe doorbell button or screendoor latch-mechanism to replace the duds with.. they're ALL junk. I'm accruing a small list of products I have half a mind to reinvent myself with proper contacts, solid brass, durable bearings.. Until then, I'm scavenging from the old hardware that worked, 60 to 100 yrs ago for these 'Retro-Retrofits' ..

Our Sewing machine repair-guy just cashed in a couple years back. I'd bet there's a business in that brand of tinkering, and many others.


I think upholstery would be a good side-job. Today's furniture is flimsy, but many brands like Lane and Ezboy have lifetime warranties on the frame...and 1 year warranty on the covering. Of course the fabric wears out, and then you learn it costs more to re-upholster than to buy a new sofa.

But the reason for that isn't the cost of the fabric or the work, it's that there aren't patterns, and careful dis-assembly for cloth patterning takes forever. Once time is cheap and money is dear, an enterprising small-time upholsterer could take the time to make patterns for some of the best-selling models, and recover recliners, sofas, and loveseats for decades to come.

Also, as Asian shipping gets more expensive, making drapes can be a business too, especially if you make heavy, insulated drapes rather than cosmetic coverings that are so common today.

Making low-e custom window screens and doing storm windows will be good for a while too.

Me, I'm hoping that telecom plus control electronics for the new grid will keep me for another decade or so, then I'll be ready to drop back into a more local job. Maybe I'm dreaming, but I think engineering will do OK for a lot longer than investment adviser or landscape architect.

Insulating shutters and shades are the residential energy conservation tool that everyone forgets. They can make a huge difference, and they can also be quite affordable. I very much doubt that every rooftop is going to have PV panels on it, but I very much suspect that every window is going to have an insulating shutter or shade on it.

The term "planned absolescence" comes to mind. There are several ways to make you buy a lot more than you need:

1-What you had stopped working. You can manage that with low quality products; the lower the quality the cheaper it is to make and more you sell (to replace the broken ones).
2-The one you had is not good looking anymore. The materials are bad or chemically programed to lose their good looks and look "old" prematurely.
3-The design becomes oldfashioned. You just need to introduce a "new" look at a faster pace, so that every product sold before will appear to be something of the past (even if it was from last year).
4-There is a new technology. While this could be a good thing, there is always the temptation of making it incompatible with prior products.

So, everything you buy is losing quality... It can be actually bad for business to make a "good" product.

What we need: A "High Reliability Parts Hardware Store".

One might be able to find some good parts supply places on the web. There's a place in Silicon Valley that specializes in selling older tech. Halstead? Alted? Haltec? Halted? Something like that. Anyone know the place I am thinking of?

As the economy and per capita GDP declines, people are going to have a lot less money to buy stuff. They are going to have to buy stuff that lasts. This will be the death knell for planned obsolescence and the throwaway economy. The lifestyle trend will be away from accumulating houses full of throwaway junk in favor of having just a few essential, very well made possessions. Consumer durable goods will truly have to be DURABLE, and that means REPAIRABLE. This, in turn, suggests that there will be more opportunities for repair persons. It will take a while for this trend to develop, though.

My father spent 23 years in the Army and Air Force, then 27 years as a Miracle Worker at fixing things as a Maintaince Engineer for a Family Run Retail chain here abouts.

It is so true that most broken things that people hand you to fix are just something little, when you get right down to it. Having that knack seems to have been passed on to my brother and I.

I hope you have someone to teach Wimbi.


that super simple stirling engine I have been working on for about 70 years?

Mass produced stirling engines are like fusion power - always in the future.

(Where the heck is my mass produced cheap stirling engine Kamen? WhisperGen? What about you Wayne Conrad? )
quote:Available Now: The First Low-Cost, Mass-Production Stirling-Based Engine

Omachron Technologies, Inc. is pleased to announce that it is now offering demonstration models of pre-production Conrad Heat Engines, derived from the Stirling engine, for powering consumer appliances such as vacuum cleaners, as well as lawn mowers, leaf blowers, portable electrical generators, battery chargers, bicycles, motor scooters, and small boats. During the fourth quarter of 2001, commercial sample engines will be offered for sale to companies interested in licensing this technology.

Some specifications:

quote:Engine displacement
50 cc.
120 cc.
410 cc.

Power output
75 watts
189 watts
750 watts

1/10 hp
1/4 hp
1 hp

Engine RPM

Operating pressure
45-60 psia
45-60 psia
45-60 psia

Weight (approx)
950 grams
1700 grams
3850 grams

240 mm (9.5")
305 mm (12")
381 mm (15")

89 mm (3.5")
102 mm (4")
165 mm (6.5")

89 mm
102 mm
165 mm

Typical Nox emissions*
less than 2ppm
less than 2ppm
less than 2ppm

Typical CO emissions*
less than 2ppm
less than 2ppm
less than 2ppm

Thermodynamic efficiency

Production cost for 100,000 units, per unit

* Using optional plasma burner and butane, propane or liquefied natural gas as fuel.

Dunno why you would waste effort beating a dead duck- 8 years old??

Try a newer one:

Might have less of a reek of decay to it.

Also, try looking at NASA space power stirlings- not cheap, but good. All you need is a little bit of Pu-238 and you're in business for 20 years.

As I remember Microgen was going to be shipping in-mass by 2006. Unless its the same name, and doing their own engine now.

Either way - where is the shipping product?

I think that most likely in 100 years Western civilization will be roughly where it was 100 years ago in the following respect...very dependent on draft animals and trains for movement of people and goods, with cars reserved for a relatively few who have extra money. I think that this change in transportation habits will be the most dramatically different thing about our economy and politics.

In as much as this affects job/career choices for people in a decade or so when such trends will be discernible to everyone...

-If you have a job in the energy or railroad industry, hang onto it. Especially renewable energy.
-I suspect that in developed countries a larger number of people will be working on farms than today. A lot of skills to be learned to do that.
-If you are someone who knows how to breed draft animals, you might end up receiving a lot (not necessarily money) in return for teaching people what you know.
-Any kind of practical handiness - knowing how to fix things instead of buying a new one from China - will probably be more valuable in the future than it is today.
-If your current job is about marketing the latest plastic schlock, don't count on being able to keep that employment for a long time.

(Whether or not there will 'be' electricity or running water is too simple a question, btw. There will likely be powerful people who have these things and poor people who don't, just as there are now. The question is in what proportions, globally as well as locally. This is as much a matter of politics as anything else.)

For draft animals, a rough rule of thumb is that about 1/4 of the ground farmed per draft animal is required to support the draft animal themselves. They eat 365 days a year, eating considerably more during heavy work. While the average draft capacity needed daily on a farm may be covered by several draft animals, for certain seasonal farming tasks such as tillage and harvest it is considerably higher. Either tasks are shared cooperatively with like-mined neighbors or a lot of capacity stands idle much of the time.

Do you have experience with this? Or books / articles you suggest reading?

Natural Regions of the United States and Canada (Charles Hunt)mentioned the draft animal population before tractors and had a little information on carrying capacity of land for grazing and how it was affected by rainfall. There are probably much better academic studies that were done at the time of agricultural mechanization.

Ayres and Warr discusses total work from animals over time, the draft horse population, and how much more work (hundreds of times) is done by machines today than horses in yester years. They have several papers and one or more books.

We would have to modify our diets to feed draft animals and would go back to a developing country standard of living. We would need to have 20% of the population living on farms. See the chapter on agricultural mechanization in: A Century of Innovation: Twenty Engineering Achievements that Transformed Our Lives. Highly recommended!

On harvesting corn:

"In 1900 one person could shuck about 100 bushels a day. By the end of the century combines with eight-row heads could shuck and shell 100 bushels in less than 5 minutes."

An AUD (Animal Unit Day) for cattle is around 26 pounds of forage for 1000 pounds on the hoof (link), that's 12 tons year for a pair of 1250 pound oxen (a little small). Two acres in the case of exceptional forage yield, probably more like three or four acres in the typical case.

With a heavy workload oxen require about 80% more food, I'll post the reference for that as soon as I locate it. A team can plow about 15 acres during the plowing season. Stats for horses would be considerably different, they work considerably faster and can put more land under the plow during a plowing season, but are less efficient at converting cellulose to energy than oxen and expend more energy per unit time -- they need more food. You can't work horses hard without supplemental grain.

I just finished some routine maintenance on my diesel tractor. It reminded me that diesel takes more than just fuel- lubes and liquids of various sorts, and a bunch of other stuff like light bulbs, switches, instruments, and of course that fuel injector- not simple.

But could we make a tractor as "simple"-- as a horse? Yes we could, if we got down to it. Lots of ways. We just don't have the incentives at the moment- all that time and talent drained away to super fancy weapons would be more than enough---. So, no, we will not do it- yet.

It's easy to visualize a tractor that eats raw cellulose of any kind at all, turns it into mechanical power more efficiently than a horse, uses no petroleum at all, and could be fixed by a blacksmith. After all, we have learned a hell of a lot since James Watt. Our problem is not watts, but wits.

A steam traction engine could do the job just as it did in the late 1800s and early 1900s. My step father, born in 1922, told me he once along with his brother drove a 50+ year old steam tractor from Grand Rapids, MI to the family farm some 40 miles to the north. It took all day. This was just prior to WW II. These tractors were mostly wood powered but could be fed straw, cobs, etc and were lubricated with lard.

Back in the Middle Ages the people were only fed after seed was set aside for the next year and the draft animals got their share which meant that after a poor harvest a lot of serfs died over the winter. No need to pull the plug on granny since practicing health care could get you burned as a witch.

These acreage and feed consumption figures should be all anyone with thier head anywhere exceopt up thier butt needs to see why tractors are still the way to go,and will remain te way to go,for as long as we can make a little ethanol of biobiesel.

My old Ferguson Will plow that15 acres in ONE DAY ,on around eight to ten gallons of diesel fuel and when you park her she eats nothing at all.

not to mention the time spentfollowing the oxen can be put to other good use!

And since she aint edible,no scavenger will ever shoot her for THAT

Tractors are for forever or until the there is no industrial base left to build a new one.biodiesel is less land intensive than direct biofueling a draft animal,and there will be some oil anyway for far longer than any one reading this today will live-barring flatout ww3.

the world ain't gonna end tomorrow,and if it does some scavenger will eat your ox anyway,unless you are one mean sob.besides which-youaint got no ox,and theres enough tractors sitting around in sheds used half a day a year to mow around houses on five or ten acress,etc,ti last a good long while.

If necessary tractors can be rebuilt and kept going for fifty years or more,no sweat.time enough to raise and train plenty of horses and mules and ox.

Don't forget hydraulics. If all you need to do is plough or drag something you might be able to get by on a very, very reduced scale with animal power. My tractor has forks and a bucket on it and I can lift and carry many hundreds of pounds with it and it enables a single person to accomplish incredible amounts of work. There is no obvious way to equip an ox to run a hydraulic pump.

I can see some situations where draft animals make sense. Many smallish farms in the rolling areas of the midsouth and southeast have some fraction of their land that isn't feasible to till. If one follows the practice of leaving some fraction of the land in ley it can provide some forage also. Lots of the small farms in the midsouth have a significant amount of wooded area, oxen can browse on the undergrowth in summer. Land to grow ethanol or biodiesel for fuel isn't always directly comparable to land that grows forage for oxen, one needs to be tilled, and one doesn't. There's other issues like soil compaction. They can also work wet ground, that datapoint alone allows Cuba to get three crops per year vs two. Much of the prime growing season in the midsouth was missed this year because the ground was too wet for heavy farm equipment to work it in the spring.


You better be right because the way things are going, at least in the US, there are not going to be enought draft horses around to do much good. If you are wrong we humans will be the ones pushing the plows.


You're right,if for some reason diesel fuel were to be unavailable.I expect a good well trained team would bring megabucks within a week after all the otr trucks are parked.

But there ARE plenty of tractors,and even if no new ones are built for several years we will not suffer noticeably for lack of tractors.

Most people simply don't have any real conception of just how durable good machinery is,and if some some reason we need to rebuild all the old ones,well I sort of expect that in that situation there will be numerous mechanics and machine shops around ready and willing to work cheap.
Tractors are scrapped for two OR three reasons mainly.
1They are so old and so few of that make/model were built that theres just not enough market for parts to keep selling them.
2At some point it becomes cheaper to buy new or A newer used TRACTOR than to maintain old machinery,which is not as fast,comfortable,fuel efficient,reliable,capable as newer machines.
3New ones are so cheap(relatvely) that people who specialize in actually raising crops and animals can buy new cheaper than maintaining old ones that aren't really worn out.
My Momma always patched our clothes several times over when I was a kid,and actually made some of them but I seldom bother to even sew on a button,and my sisters can all sew but excepting hemming a new pair of pants or dress bought on sale,etc,they don't.Clothes (and tractors) are too cheap to bother with really serious repair work these days-as long as you have a job.

It would obviously take a long time to ramp up horses and mules,but there are millions of cows that could be bred on a few months notice to the right bulls to strat cranking out working oxen fast,and you can actually train a dairy cow to this job.I'm not so sure about the beef breeds,it can be done but they are not so gentle and easily managed,but I think it's doable.I hereby wish to declare that I have no experience with oxen,except reading about them and seeing a couple on hobby farms.

Animals are not so bad for repetitious work where they are needed regularly;but once you've plowed and cultivated a row crop,the next field work for that crop is hauling it in,which could be done on a horse cart of course.But maintaining the horse constantly for irregular work is costly and time consuming.

My contention is that if things get so bad that farmers can't get some diesel and parts,all questions are academic for nearly every body except a few lucky doomers who outwit/outfight the scavengers/warlords.There would be not time in this situation for millions of people to learn how to tend and work draft animals,and they would wind eating the draft animals pdq.

Having said all this,I wish to point out that -just in case-I have a substantial stash of diesel fuel and plan on adding to it. A fifty five gallon drum is enough to run a small farm/giant garden four or five acres in size for a year if it is used only for essential work.

And there is no reason why a farm cannot be organized around the use of draft animals to make them more efficient-but unless you are one of those magical sales men who can get the Beemer and Escalade set to pay you double for hand raised food,you're sol financially trying it,and only a handful of people are willing to farm by hand for the fun of it.

It's A Catch 22 deal.You(the collective you) can't afford to do it NOW because you'll lose your financial ass and later when you might NEED to do it,you won't be ABLE to BECAUSE you didn't do it EARLIER.Kinda like trying to build out the renewables AFTER the oils gone and you're broke.
Wind and solar work financially-more or less-because of the subsidies thet get.

There are no subsidies,excepting maybe the odd research grant, that I know off to which are intended to enable you to farm with draft animals.There may be some,but if so ,they aren't well publicized.

Now if you are PERSONALLY willing to devote the time and effort to doomsteading,My reccomendation is that you get a small tractor-one that is a very popular model- and the basic attachments-plows ,etc.If your ground is reasonably level,any experienced tractor operator can teach you how to operate it well enough in ONE DAY to get by.

Better yet,locate in small farm country,and hire some local retired guy to do your heavy work with his tractor and do the rest with a good garden tiller.You will be WAY AHEAD this way,freeing up your cash to do really important stuff like getting your house,barn,etc in REALLY good shape,or building fences,etc ,with the cash. Once you are up and running,by all means if you feel the need,buy a young mare-one that is a proven mother and very gentle/placid.You can work into the draft animal bit then as time permits,and you will find work for your horse-dragging in firewood,riding her for a visit to a friends house,etc.,plowing small patches of garden as training-for the both of you!

But you will soon realize that all that grass and corn she eats could be beef or goat for YOU to eat.Unless of course you or your nieghbor can't get that diesel fuel.In which case after I run out,if I am so lucky as to live that long,I hope you will loan me your horse if you settle in my nieghborhood.!I promise not to eat her!

And one more thing-it's true that draft animals recycle nutrients back to the soil,but that doesn't solve your soil fertility problems over the long run if you SELL the crops you raise and the nutrients don't come back to you as sewage sludge.

And about diesel engines-they have the reputation for durability that they have because there WERE NO CONSUMER DIESELS,for the most part, until recently.Otr(over the road)diesel truck engines,tractor engines,buldozer engines,etc, last NOT BECAUSE they are diesels bbut simply because they are BUILT to last.

The marketing types and the bean counters have over the last decade or so realized that they can sell crappy merchandise with buzz words-and DIESEL is a buzz word these days.

The last thing you want to do is buy an off make tractor-stick to an old line manufacturer that more than likely will still be in business fifty years from now,maybe as part of a merger, but still around,because barring the end of industrial civilization,your tractor will outlast you if you take care of it and stay away from the touchy feely surburban cowboy models with half the money that should have gone into the guts used for clearcoat paint,music air conditioning,automatic transmission ,etc.That kind of tractor is not going to run for fity years,it's got planned obsolescence in it's DNA.

I have my Old Pa's 1957 Ferguson (gasoline)35 in a shed(an absolute necessity for the long term!) and we will rebuild it some of these days-for the first time.He earned his living with it,besides gardening ,etc with it,for about thirty five years,and from about 1990 or so on it has been used extensively for gardening ,etc,meaning it is used maybe ten or fifteen days a year for a few hours.But each one of those hours is equal to a day or two with a horse.

Farmers should be able to grow enough oilseeds to provide all the biodiesel they need to keep their equipment going. The percentage of acreage required for oilseed overhead (maybe ~5-10%) would compare favorably with that ~25% pasturage and fodder overhead for draft animals.

Biogas would probably have significantly lower land footprint than oilseeds. Per acre energy yield is higher, and things like stovers to a limited extent and cover crops can provide fuel, and land dedicated for fuel production doesn't have to be tilled.


My best guess at this point is about even odds on whether or not draft horses are going to be a real important part of the post oil world. I just think that it is best to leave this option open and to try to use draft horses as much as possible where they make sense. Seems better to have them and not need them that need them and not have them.

After making my last post I thought about the use of oxen. The issue there is knowledge of how to put them to good use. I think in time of necessity this can be recovered reasonable quick. I heard stories about my granddad having to hand push a plow all morning on just one bowl of cereal... So yes oxen are a option but the draft horse does have many advantages. During the 1890-1900 time period the draft horse was what powered our society.

I do not see fossil/bio-fuels and ICE as being a long term solution for lots of reasons so I will have to respectfully differ with you here. I do think that we might be able to develop electrical energy storage devices that has as good or better energy density per weight/space as liquid fuels. If we can do this and develop a much better say photovoltaic system then I think an electric powered tractor would likely be the dominate option for farming.

About old tractors. Have two of them. JD 2020 that sent a rod thru the block while I was chipping, they do not make the blocks anymore. And a JD 1010 that I seem to spend as much time getting it to start as I do using it.


I have my Old Pa's 1957 Ferguson (gasoline)35

My pop was plowing with one and hit a big rock which it wedged underneath the rear axle, so there it sat on a big rock with back wheels off the ground. Years after he got rid of it my uncle had a scraper blade on the back of an 8N Ford and was rolling a big odd shaped rock backward, it ended up with the blade stuck on the top of a big rock with its back wheels off the ground. Pop chuckled, some barely audible comment about the funny things that happen with those tractors.

Yeah, but when it has reached the end of its useful life, you actually can EAT the ox.

(Spoken by someone who is old enough to have actually eaten at an ox roast!)

You have a good point.But in a subsistence stuation,you can get your protein from chickens easier and cheaper.

But there is no better way(in this rea at least) to utilize rough steep land than to graze it ,unless you need it for a woodlot.And if you can fence the cow away they are big enough,you can plant some old time apples trees in that pasture and get a few bushels off of them with almost no work at all,except picking the ones the cow can't reach before they fall off.

The only tools required to maintain such a pasture are a scythe,a mattock,and a hammer and a few nails once its fenced with barbed wire,unless a tree falls on the fence.The best fences are nasiled to living trees in such a situation,if there is enough land that shade isn't a big issue.Then you don't have to cut posts,dig postholes,etc.And if lots of the fence is nailed to persimmon trees,or hickory trees,or black walnut trees,you get fruit or nuts(hickory nuts aren't worth the trouble imo) and a great place to hunt squirrels turkeys and opussoms.

With a heavy workload oxen require about 80% more food

1100 kb PDF, Feeding and Working Strategies for Oxen used for Draft Purposes in Semi-Arid West Africa.

A team can plow about 15 acres during the plowing season

I think a more useful metric can be obtained from the below. For oxen about 1/4 acres/h with a 12" moldboard plow, for horses about 50% more. In clay soil it will take about 3600 lbs on the hoof to get the required tractive force to pull a 12" plow.

199 kb pdf, Estimating Tillage Draft.

Thanks for the link. Do you have references/links to other historical literature - specifically beer making?

The experience of my father, who grew up farming with horses and then transitioned to the tractor, as he related it. By the time I was old enough to learn to drive something, the team was still alive but retired (he believed that horses that had done a good job for him deserved a good retirement). Farmall A, Massey Ferguson TO35, Allis Chalmers WD45, John Deere 3020 and the like instead.

There seems to be some assumptions out there that need to be questioned. One is that farmers will be slaving away to supply a global market and as a result will need maximum efficiency to produce the maximum quantity to feed the insatiable global market place. A horse does not fit this type of thinking therefore horses are no solution, yield is seemingly the only metric.

Now take me as example. I'm farming, but my focus is local only, I don't care about global markets. The only yield I'm interested in is enough for my local market, maximisation is a dirty word requiring me to destroy my assets for the sake of some perceived abstract benefit. Now, if I produce enough and have additional land, why not use it for horses. Besides the well worn reasons for not having them, there is a very good reason for having them. Namely, they benefit the local economy, money can be retained within the local community by using them.

Edit: to add another example:

Rob Fenton is a believer. Nine years ago, his carefully balanced permaculture system near Albury produced milk, fruit and eggs ''with little effort''. Then the soil moisture disappeared, and his farm collapsed. ''Although on the surface it looked the same, it wasn't producing any more,'' Fenton says. Convinced this was due to climate change and that autumn rain could be relied on no longer, he devised a system he now teaches at TAFE colleges.

He operates on the principle that the Albury region has seven seasons, not the four British settlers tried to impose. No longer does he aim for maximum production in the best years - weather no longer allows for that, he says. ''Instead of trying to get a cracker of a crop or a truckload of lambs three out of five years, we try to get production every year,'' says Fenton.

Why use 1/4 to 1/3 of your land feeding low productivity draft animals when you can use 1/10 of you land to produce biodiesel fuel for diesel engines that are high productivity units?
If you have pasture, it is better utilized in growing livestock for meat.

The 1/10 figure for biodiesel is in addition to tillage for the crop. With draft animals there can be considerable overlap in the land usage. Left over stover of some grain crops is usable as forage, wheat, oat and cover crops can be grazed thru the winter with negligable impact on yield if well managed. There also the cost of the productive capacity and infrastructure required to produce tractors, and long term concerns like soil compaction that have a cost.

I would disagree - We will not go backwards. I am more inclined to think we will solve the falling energy-per-capita problem by lowering the population rather than lowering the living standards of the population as a whole. We have knowledege of birth control now that was unavailable even a generation ago and I have faith that it will be put to good use in the coming austere years. This of course also solves the employment issue being discussed.

Or having it lowered for us by disease or famine.

We have had birth control for a long time. The diaphragm which is quite reliable was used by my mother. I exist because she for whatever reasons didn't use it the night I was conceived.

One child per family in China has still caused a population increase. Partly it is relaxed for rural families, partly families don't comply (actual is about 1.8 children per family) and partly demographics

Of interest here is how the one child families are beginning to be a worry as less young ones are being produced to support aged ones.
SHANGHAI - After three decades spent actively prohibiting more than one pregnancy per couple, officials in China's largest city have now decided to encourage eligible couples to have a second child - please.

Having the ability to lower population doesn't necessarily mean that the will exists. Faith in rational human behavior is probably misplaced.

.very dependent on draft animals and trains for movement of people and goods,

Not the draft animals. They take up too much land/resources and have poor idle times.

We'll use electric machines like low wattage bicycles, or slow moving electric carts. Under 25 mph slow.

you know..., it just occured to me...,
there may soon be quite a demand for REVOLUTIONARIES!

Were I approaching or just beyond the end of serving my compulsory education time, my first choice would be to find, before they go extinct, a good old-fashioned (non-CNC) machinist and apprentice myself to him or her, even paying for the privilege if necessary, and spend 5-10 years learning what they could teach me. Competent machinists with serviceable tools will be absolutely critical to maintaining any kind of existence above the absolute minimum subsistence level. Become a skilled machinist, and you will never - ever - have to look for work.

Short of that - if, for example, metal-working doesn't appeal to you, or you don't have the capacities it requires - hie thee to an Amish farm (not hard - they're everywhere east of the Mississippi) and apprentice there for 5-10 years, concentrating especially on learning to work with draft animals. A lot more of us are going to be farmers within the next 50 years, so we might as well get good at it without needing all the "purchased inputs" of industrial agriculture.

Schools and "education" as we know them now are going to be totally useless for what's coming. Even today, academically "trained" workers are dead weight until they've had 5-10 years experience doing whatever they do. And the kinds of jobs they're being "trained" for just won't exist, either at all or at least not in anything like the quantities they do now.

Of course, if you believe that we'll find a way to weasel out of our current dilemmas, then this advice is worthless to you. It wouldn't hurt to consider, though, that if you're wrong, you're gonna end up, at best, as unskilled manual labor in the coming work force, regardless of your GPA or how many letters you can put after your name.

I agree, there will be demand for local workshop skills of all kinds. To make local communities more robust and resilient, complexity must brought back to the local level.

Foundry work. A lot of items with castings have the castings break. It is far cheaper to make a one off casting and machine it than machine it from billets of solid metal. And many times the broken casting can be used as the pattern for the new casting
Making casting patterns
Running the cupola or furnace
Molding and pouring castings
Removing the castings from the molding media
Deflashing the castings
Machining the castings

Most large foundries today don't like or won't do the one off repair castings.

Careers that should be avoided involve manufactured products. Any plant that manufactures products (auto, electronics, etc.) that could be duplicated in Asia will most likely close down.

Growth industries may include:

Licensed electricians - will likely be in big demand because many ordinances require solar PV to be installed by a licensed electrician.

Offshore oil rig workers.

Farm workers for the biofuel industry.

Solar CSP and wind generator construction and maintenance.

Police/Social Workers/Prison Guards - will likely be in big demand as the west continues to lose manufacturing jobs, resulting in increased unemployment and crime.

Do you see an increase in prisons? It seems like free room and board will be an increasingly sought after commodity. It would seem like it would be too expensive to offer to mere criminals. It would seem like other approaches (deportation, execution, slavery) would be tried.

An opinion on prisons in the US.
You can not fund them California is releasing another 20,000 + the Fed Gov suggests more like 45,000.

Convicted criminals are about 1/3 of the UK male population.
We used to export them as a way to populate the empire with our Y chromosomes.
All empires like the UK, USA, USSR need strategies for disenfranchising and controling the lower strata of male society whose only currency is warfare.
Most of the violence dissipates by their 30's and locking them up for short periods makes little difference.
Giving them something useful to do like protecting or expanding your share of resources is the only option other than concentration camps.

A constant state of warfare hopefully fairly low level raiding party stuff is the natural state e.g. where did the Welsh get women if the only common genetic characteristic is the Y chromosome ;¬)
What people conveniently mislay is oil supports populations.
That problem is going to work out before any sort of equilibrium takes hold the ability to defend your borders while your neighbours wipe each other out is another requisite to enable long term salvage of viable civilisation.

The resource wars are desirable and their expansion inevitable if you wish to slow the decline rate in oil supply locally while planning a descent.

In conclusion use the "crims" as soldiers so that you actually have enough feet on the ground to effectively occupy any country the US wish to suck the oil from;¬)
We had 400,000 men on the ground 1914 - 18 in Iraq.

It could be that in the future convicts opt to have a "behavioral control" chip implanted in their brains. Thus allowing them to function in normal society. We already have electronic monitoring and chemical castration. It's the next logical step.

LOL only in America

Why go high Tech?
We still have Australia!

The trouble with the idea of using the military to grab oil producing regions is that it doesn't work. The oil producing infrastructure is too vulnerable, and it ends up with the resource just being disrupted or destroyed rather than secured. If there is one lesson to be learned from the Iraq fiasco, it should be this.

As an adjunct to this, never underestimate the importance of good communication and social skills and a pleasant disposition (technical competency will only take you so far). Be responsible, reliable, courteous and respectful, and make every impression count -- remember, you'll be judged not just by what you know, but also how well you interact with others.


A critical point.

This is why a background in reading the classics, and a lot of thinking about ethics, human behavior, human motivation, and the general situation of existence, are all important.

A liberal arts education in other words.

Get it formally or informally, but do get it.

My own career, if you can call it that, has zigged and zagged and danced the bloody macarena not because of what I knew (scant little), but because I happened to be in the right place at the right time and connected with the right people.

Here's a perfect example: I was teaching a VAX course at a large investment firm that had just been acquired by a major Canadian bank(*). Unbeknownst to me, the classroom was next to the office where the bank's senior VP in charge of the acquisition had set up shop. His secretary was working on a time critical document, disaster struck and she was literally in tears. I offered to take the file home and see if I could help out. I worked on it through the night and brought it back the next morning in good working order. That simple act of kindness launched my working relationship with this bank (and subsequently others) and ultimately earned me seven figures worth of business.


(*) I was going to be discrete but what the hey... For the curious, the investment house was Wood Gundy, the bank, CIBC, the SVP, Robert C. Patterson, and the file, WP5.1.


There is no hope for us unless (I just realized that I TRULY believe this!) unless our professional classes/engineering classes get enough of a grounding in the liberal arts to free them from the professional blinders that come built in with science/engineering/technical education.

Nobody in a position of power wants anybody else telling him about the shortcomings of his profession.ESPECIALLY BEAN COUNTERS,ECONOMISTS,BANKERS!!!!!and engineers that have never had basic biology.....

But what I don't understand is why nobody is mentioning medicine and nursing and veternary training.
There will certainly always be plenty of sick and injured people,...if there are plenty of people!

If there are no dentists around,I expect I will become the family/nieghborhood dentist since I own lots of different kinds of pliers and drills.It's a real pity I don't have a clue as to exactly how to do the work correctly,butIf it's me or nobody.....

I guess I better see if I can find something on the net and print it off.....just in case... military first aid manuals,etc...already have those...


Check out

particularly "Where there is no dentist"

Yup, butt kissing never goes out of style.

Timing is everything. The "right" career choice will be wrong if your timing is as little as five years too early or too late. People can't time the stock market, I don't think many will get career timing right either, too many variables. Be flexible.

Perhaps the correct approach would be the process of elimination.
For instance finance related jobs need to go etc.
Superfluous services as well. ( Day Spa's etc).
If one takes this approach it not only narrows the list but it also reveals that most "occupations" are worthless wastes of time and resources.
If America tried to become efficient and eliminate useless activity I bet the unemployment rate could go to 75 %.
Now that is a sobering thought.

I think math and writing skills will come in handy.
Right now, calculators do the math, computers do much of the writing, direction-finding, communicating, designing, planning, etc etc etc.
While I think we will have electricity for a long time, it may become much more expensive, or sporadic in certain areas.
Someone is going to have to know how to add numbers without a calculator and write letters without a spellchecker, work with a slide rule, use geometric instruments to do construction, maps and star charts to navigate, etc etc.
Imagine having to actually manually add up a bill, take the cash, and count out change instead of swiping plastic ?
Plenty of room for meaningful and useful education.
Whatever trade/profession/job you have now, imagine doing it without power. If that's impossible, better retool. If there's a manual way to do it, time to get up to speed...

Someone is going to have to know how to add numbers without a calculator and write letters without a spellchecker, work with a slide rule, use geometric instruments to do construction, maps and star charts to navigate, etc etc.
Imagine having to actually manually add up a bill, take the cash, and count out change instead of swiping plastic ?
Plenty of room for meaningful and useful education.

WTF? the guys in the 15th century could do all that pretty well.

love it ;)

Medium/Long term...

Jobs that make things, fix things, build things, grow things, or raise animals...
Jobs that keep people or animals healthy...
Jobs that teach people how to do the above....

Short term...

Beats me. Personally, I've been looking for a while without much luck.

I'm tempted to say that you should just ask the question..."What are the most important things/services/industries we (people) need going forward?" Then, given the empirical evidence coming from our "leaders" for the last 30 years or so, go in the opposite direction. ;-) I wish I was completely joking, but...

Seriously, regardless of whether we can build out renewables fast enough to offset resource depletion (for the record, I think not), it's still a pretty safe bet that we will try. So, renewable energy jobs of all types are probably good short/medium term bets. The government appears fully committed to throwing borrowed money at infrastructure, so infrastructure design/construction/maintenance jobs are probably high-demand jobs in the short term (at least until other countries stop lending us money). Somebody above mentioned undertaker. Include with that all jobs related to an aging (and eventually passing) boomer generation... health care, hospice care, elderly housing, etc. A couple of years ago, it would have included retirement services ... maybe not so much anymore.



Judging from the news these days, there's never been a better time to become a pirate sailing any of the seven seas. Times haven't been this good for pirates in over 150 years. Ironic no, that in these days of satellite surveillance and GPS networks that business is so good? Looks like conditions will only improve for them until the end of global trade.

How about the field of emergency management and disaster planning? Between the end of the Cold War & 9-11/Hurricane Katrina/SARS a gap in preparedness opened up in many Western Nations. Formal education for this field is starting to appear at community college and university level.

Other than that, I dunno. Fixing stuff for sure esp bikes, home repair, anything electro mechanical that can be coaxed along with minor/innovative repairs. Otherwise, we're already seeing the future economy's employment prospects right now: telemarketing, security guard, cleaning professions, car detailer, personal care worker, Blackwater trigger man.

This brings to mind my personal nervousness about the strict work-ethic indoctrination particularly prominent in American culture. Please be aware it is possible to live a non-materialistic frugal lifestyle and so not _need_ to work (or at least, not work so much - this is particularly true in the childfree lifestyle). We live in the richest period in history, it is not strictly necessary to work hard all your life, the 'work' as such has already been done in a sense.

My first instinct was to say: none, no jobs. My second thought would be: be prepared to create your own work in cooperation with other people, i.e. it might not be just a matter of getting employment. Again, I think that we will have to start thinking outside the box in order to survive. Return to the soil, return to manual labor, restore community, localize, etc.

The people in the tent cities springing up around the country are but the first wave (actually not, but before they were marginalized), and will be joined by millions more. The endless millions of disappearing jobs that have no connection to the physical world are going, going, going. There needs to be an alternative economy, one outside the global market economy, where people can rebuild their own lives in an alternative community that will let them survive.

Won't happen without a major struggle, because TPTB would rather see people rot than allow them to escape the market economy, rot while waiting for it to revive.

There are many excellent comments above. "Farmer" and "healer" are two obvious possible occupations. Language abilities and ability to manage small groups of people will also always be useful

I'd like to suggest information technology, what in the old days we called "computer programming." The ability to fix computers, find spare parts, read COBOL, and deal with old technology, would all be helpful skills. Closely related to this is the occupation of "librarian" which, actually, is sort of a pre-computer type of information technology specialist.

There are some "crash" scenarios in which the grid fails, government collapses, and everybody heads back to the farm, a la Kunstler. So it's possible that computers won't matter, at all.

But my suspicion is that as we sacrifice first this and then that convenience of industrial civilization, that we will try to hold on to those parts that we really, really don't want to part with. Washing machines, contraceptives, ability to manufacture simple medicines, that sort of thing. And among these, computers will be found to be really, really helpful. So much so, that we may get rid of Twinkies, cars, and TV entertainment, but keep computers, just because the information they could convey and preserve would be so vast. How different would the history of the world have been if the library in ancient Alexandria could have been easily copied and preserved? And how different will the post-peak world be if everyone can quickly find out how to deal with plant diseases, or manufacture simple medicines?

Obviously there would be a continuum of scenarios in which computers would continue to exist. In some, they would be the property of a very small elite, and the internet wouldn't really exist except perhaps in an archived form. In others, computers might be almost as well distributed as they are today, at least in the more developed areas of the world, so that we'd all be farming and riding our bikes to work but would be hanging on to the internet. In between would be scenarios in which just the government, the scientific world, and the relatively prosperous would have them, and would be using them to exchange and store information.

This last is the kind of scenario I'd prepare for. Volunteering for some group like "Denver Tech For All" which repairs discarded PCs and donates them to those in need might be a good way to prepare for this type of world. Just some thoughts.


I've considered this question as potentially somewhat separate from home preparedness. In other words, what paying job/career will there be continued demand for. Basic skill sets already include carpenter, cabinetmaker, mason, structural engr., geotech engr., gardening. What to add?

Started back in at local tech school last year to pick up BSEE to open options into electricity part of energy sector. Anecdotally, HR contacts at major utilities tell me that their age demographics are terrible; not enough engineers and the average age of existing staff is too closse to retirement. Plenty of advertised open positions even in this economy.

Existing infrastructure is large, with proportional labor needs. Distributed renewable generation adds to spread of opportunities. Maybe do some good at the same time by contributing to renewable buildout.

Sichuan is the Chinese province where farmers hand-pollinate pear trees. I think somewhere in this PBS documentary Silence Of The Bees you'll see the video section I saw on Sichuan and the hand-pollination. It is really amazing, the scale on which this is done.

--Electricity / no electricity
--Water / no running water
--Electric cars / solar cars / trains / walking

3 years ago I built an electric motorcycle.
2 years ago I built an off grid solar system to power the motorcycle.
Last year I built and electric car and expanded the solar system enough to power the car.
Current project is an electric truck.

I think its time to start working on that rain water catching system I been thinking about.


Nice job on the EVs! If everyone did this there would be no energy crisis.

With no disrespect, consider the issue of where the parts for those projects come from, then imagine any scenario that includes something that looks like a general crash of large-scale industry. Can you build a frame and wheels from scratch? Can you build a battery? Can you grow rubber (or synthesize it) and vulcanize it to make tires? Can you refine the rare earths used to dope the silicon in current solar panels?

Individual self-sufficiency that includes any sort of advanced technology (eg, a lead-acid battery) is a tactic good for maybe 25 years, maybe less. If we assume Gail's "very long term" is at least 100 years, then the question becomes one of whether we can maintain the broad energy density required of a high-tech world for that long. Under a definition of localization that covers a few hundred miles, I can envision certain areas pulling it off. I also think that Gail's question about boundaries is a good one, as the areas I have in mind either cross some existing national borders, or subdivide some geographically large nations.

Can you build a battery?

Assuming I have Nickel - the nickel iron hydroxide battery is a possibility as its a build it once type object. Glass is a known - so glass cells could be forged.

The caveman chemistry series covers making KOH.

broad energy density

We are talking NiFe cells.....there is no energy density. But having ANY electrical storage is a good thing...

I agree with the earlier comment about becoming a non CNC machinist. This is a very wise option.

For those academically inclined, the following disciplines have a future if nothing else than to develop and broaden the human mind, and reaffirm the values and principles that give meaning to our existence:

lifeways of the indigenous people (like native technology)

From a practical standpoint:

organic farming
food prep and storage

I also agree with another previous poster who suggested jobs aren't in any of our futures. It will be about performing useful work.

Fortunately, with that the resume and corporate teamplayer world will disappear.

Good points, until that last about the resume and corporate team player disappearing. The current incarnation is nothing more than recycling the clerics of the Middle Ages who served as secretaries and accountants to large estates and manufacturing houses. Before that, Rome had professional civil servants, many of whom were slaves or former slaves, and so did all the empires.

The "corporate functionaries" of the past were just a smaller percentage of the population. Add in all the Mediaeval middle management: foremen in agriculture, manufacturing, forestry, construction, ship first mates and sergeants at arms, and the corporate team player mentality was always there, only the clothing has changed.

The difference is that most of the Mediaeval middle management was in charge of producing something tangible. We have a huge percentage of our workforce engaged in token-swapping. I have seen it argued that we have 22% of the work force in financial services and we need perhaps 4% to keep the money circulating and keep track of it.


i agree with what you wrote, but i still think there'll be a demand for Revolutionaries and foot soldiers.

I vote for Sensitive Singer/Songwriter. Eventually a lot of people are going to starve anyway, lets face it. It might be you or some one you wouldn't that final passage be made a lot easier if you just knew a few simple chords or the verses to some timeless favorites?
Also bear in mind that almost all of todays thoughtful observers agree that unemployment will be going up- way up. Now what better way to fill all those idle hours than with the timeless, universal solace of song?
Not to mention that throughout history the guitar has proven itself a reliable accessory to seduction. Enough said. What better way to lure that Alpha Female to your stocked survivalist bachelor pad than the combination of music, poetry and attitude?
I mean, why not? Lets face it, the human condition is in some respects immutable. Laughter and tears, anger and joy, love and betrayal. The human appetite for having our stories told with verve and panache will endure to the end.

It all depends on the timeframe - next 20 years vs next 50 or later.
If you are at the half way point in your life, you need to concern yourself with only the next 20 years say...
Even today in a poor indian village where people use 1/20th or 1/100th of the avg US consumption, (of energy or even general goods) people can make a living selling such luxury services such as selling flowers at the local temple, tailoring clothes with sewing machine,weaving, singing, dancing,drama, shows with small animals, arranging marriages, astrology, religious services, funeral services, farming of course, selling of various sorts, cooking for a larger group of people,making dried foodstuff pickling that does not require refrigeration, delivery of various products by motorbike or bicycle, minibus driver,photographer,providing boarding and lodging,medicine,teaching etc. Every village is a local economy first, trading its surplus to outlying areas..
The problem in the US will be more of logistics, living in the middle of nowhere in small population clusters of < 1000 people. Living in the colder areas requiring heating. Next will be the demographics, 12-14% over 65, 30% obese, 50% overweight, 10% on anti depressants and 60% with poor skills in cooking,fixing,farming etc.

Music and poetry can change everything. They can give purpose, hope, and focus.

I would add to this a tremendous facility with writing prose, and, of course, a large vocabulary.

These things enhance life in ways few people these days seem willing to comprehend.

A long time ago while studying for Landscape Architecture, I thought about the idea of living off my designs. Plantings in the LA feild are done for whatever the Client wants. There are people out there without degrees that call themselves Landscape Designers, these folks were doing a lot of designer gardens for people in one of the bigger cities I lived in back in the early 90's. Long ago I hated the fact that most of my parent's yard was Grass, most of it you can't eat, and though it looks nice, if you are starving you will wish you had planted something else there.

So my jobs of choice would be Handiman, and gardener, with a heavy influence on designing Edible Yards, and systems for storing your produce over long periods of time. The more you know about fixing things the better off you will be.

My handiman skills include but are not limited to, sewing, cooking, food storage and preservation, Woodworking, gardening, drawing.

When I was the only male in Home-ec class in 9th grade, it shocked the girls that I knew how to sew and cook better than they did. My dad designed and made several dresses for my mom, still hand sews repairs in his and her clothes (she'd do it if her hands would work better).

Look around your house and ask yourself how many things could you repair or replace with your own skills and if you can't right now, Learn how to if it is something that you will still need when things go downhill. (No need to repair a light, if there is no electricity to run it) But if you still had power and your lamp breaks, could you fix it?

If something breaks around here, we don't throw it away unless it truly is worthless to try to fix it.

As I state in my bio, designer of Edible Yards growing systems.


By the time the world has no electricity I think we would all be worrying about other more serious problems, unless of course there is another alternative to electric power. The whole reality about a relatively stable, reasonably predictable future where one can take a decision about the future like "what career I am going to follow?", becomes obsolete. In a brave new world of raw necessity, where everyday needs are equal to ones basic survival, everyday actions and planning take on a direct, less speculative approach.

The "no electricity" option is simply nonsense within the lifetime of a new born infant today, absent complete and total social collapse.

"Limited and sporadic" electricity within a limited grid is possible; but that is quite different from "no electricity".

Kunslter missed a a major point in his novel about upstate New York in the future, "World Made by Hand". Niagara Falls will still be generating large amounts of electricity 80 years from now. Not enough today for BAU, but equal to more than a nuclear power plant.

Proof ? North Korea and Albania (during their 50+ years of isolation) kept their hydroelectric plants going. Well maintained plants are rebuilt about every 50 years; but they can go for a century.

New York recently finished a major rebuild of their Niagara power plant (16 identical generators, so some can be scrapped to keep others going). Ontario is in the midst of an upgrade of their Niagara plant.

Many other hydroelectric plants scattered around.

One fantasy is local governments issue a local currency, good for 1 kWh each, backed by the local hydroelectric power plant, to pay for local gov't functions (no taxes needed). A policeman might be paid 270 kWh/week as his sole pay. He uses 26 kWh for lights and an efficient refrigerator (an unaffordable luxury for many) and uses the rest to buy food, pay rent, etc. A limited grid (rural electrification fades away).

One way of rationing a scarce resource. But NOT "no electricity".


The grid

The massive comprehensive grids (North America East, North America West) may well go.

If I were designing a grid today, with today's technology, I would likely chose smaller grids, perhaps the size of today's smaller grids (ERCOT Texas, Quebec) connected by HV DC for inter-regional transfers.

Rural areas may fall off the grid. But Portland Oregon will keep the lights on and a "grid" will serve British Columbia, Washington, Oregon, Idaho and ??.


I agree that the grids should be as local to the source as possible but they need to be set up now before resources make it much tougher.
The efficient thing to do would be to have many smaller scale sources and grids regional maybe even cities being self sufficient but that would render many geographies implausible.
Better move to a locale near a dam.
Then there is France.
The French catch a lot of insults but they sure figured out Nuclear electric.
Yes, any future will include electricity.

No family, community, state or country, will remain an island of plenty in a sea of want.
If a government loses it's stature and cannot pay the police or defence force what happens then?
Rationing will be tried and fail in storm of graft, blackmarkets and crime.

As we settle into system breakdown we will find that if you can't defend you are lost to the lower common denominator. What that will be is problematic. Rest assured though that locations with energy and food will not remain that way while neighbours wither and starve.

Learn from history and try to envision the big picture.
In the medium term the competition for jobs will be en enormous. Suggesting this or that job will prevail is probably a guess as good as any other but I think attitudes, need to change. We will need to understand the consequences of decline and accept that working hard, long and doing almost anything anywhere, will help survival.

Dangerous jobs will be on offer to the willing. There will be limited concern for safety especially if legislation can't be enforced.

Like the USSR expect to see countries pull back to areas easier to defend, probably not militarily initially but from immigration. The US will close overseas operations one by one and in the end probably shrink to the North East corner. Far off I know but I keep thinking of Rome.

Interesting that you say dangerous jobs will be on offer. Remember the classic movie, The Wages of Fear?

With the ageing population health care and elderly care will be growth industries. There will probably be labor shortages in many fields when the boomers retire.

The ageing population is a more immediate threat than shortages of energy, yet is not as widely discussed, except the health care expense aspect.

Societal collapse is hardest on the elderly, as in the former USSR where the bulk of the population decline was in late middle aged to elderly men.

Heavy Vodka drinking is even harder on the middle aged males, killing off Russian men at average age <60 years

Vodka, suicides and murders were major causes of death.

Vodka, suicides and murders were major causes of death.

There was a major delta in gender mortality during and after the breakup of the Soviet Union.

First the Stalin purges, then WW II killed off more men than women and then a dozen year difference in life expectancy in recent years between men and women. Over two over 65 women for every man.


Let's see, all the manufacturing jobs are going to China, and all the office jobs are going to India, so that leaves:

Hamburger flipper at MacDonalds!

But more seriously, it's becoming one big happy planet out there. I was out sailing this summer on the coast of British Columbia, and the guy living on the next boat was developing a video-on-demand system for the Chinese market. He had a satellite dish up on one of the piers and a high-speed data link to Beijing. One of my partners in the boat is developing an educational software system for a company based in India. One of my nephews with a B.Eng. is working in Switzerland, designing oil production facilities in Nigeria, but a big Chinese oil company just made a takeover bid for his company, and he's wondering if he can learn Mandarin in 45 days. Another nephew with a B.Comm. is evaluating markets for Canadian uranium in, you guessed it, China and India.

I could go on and on, talking about companies from supposedly undeveloped countries doing things that involve a lot of brains and not much manual work, but I think the bottom line for educational choices is to get as much science and math as you can, and stay flexible. You never know what you'll be doing or who you'll be working for - but it will probably involve science and math. The alternative is flipping burgers at MacDonalds.

As to transportation costs getting too expensive, let me point out that a diesel/electric freight train gets 436 ton-miles per gallon, and an ocean freighter gets considerably better. It's the trucks and cars that are going to get hammered by high fuel prices. Electric trains don't necessarily use any fossil fuels at all. The Calgary light Rail Transit system is powered 100% by wind generators, and when oil hit $147/barrel, it didn't make much difference to their costs. They're now up to 300,000 passengers a day in a city of 1 million, and they claim their operating costs are about 29 cents per passenger.

In addition to buying up the world's energy resources, the Chinese and Indians are converting their railroads to all-electric, and upgrading their rail lines so that they can run double-stacked shipping containers under 25 kV power lines. What is the U.S. doing? Cash for clunkers? I think someone didn't get the big picture.

While I agree with most of what you are saying, to be fair the "Cash for Clunkers" was always a short term stimulus measure, similar to what China and Australia and most other countries have introduced in last 6 months. Obama administration has passed a lot of longer term measures( grid, batteries,electric vehicle stimulus, higher speed rail, energy efficiency, wind power tax measures...)

The biggest portion of China's stimulus spending went toward infrastructure spending - railway, road, irrigation, and airport construction. They also allocated some money toward energy saving and emissions reduction, but they are definitely focusing on long term growth, even with their short term plans.

You never know what you'll be doing or who you'll be working for - but it will probably involve science and math. The alternative is flipping burgers at MacDonalds.

While I agree with the first part, I really can't see the possibility of the second. There will be no industrial beef production and certainly no corporations or a service economy that depends on a car centric consumer base to make the likes of McDonald's a viable business. Unless the theory of abiotic oil is correct...

I was speaking facetiously. I don't consider flipping burgers to be a viable alternative to getting a good education and a good job. People used to become gas pump jockeys and ditch diggers, but those have mostly been automated out of existence, and I suppose the automatic burger flipper will soon appear on the scene.

I don't know if beef production will cease, though. Grazing cattle on the open range still appears to be a pretty low-energy industry, particularly from the cow's perspective, and last time I looked they were still rounding them up with horses.

No one mentioned that classic job, around for hundreds of years....professional cook (or chef or food preparation person).
People have to eat and as long as someone has money or something valuable, they will pay for a lunch or dinner, no matter how simple.
I know someone is his mid 20s who travels from city to city (usually where there are resorts) and works cooking in hotels and restaurants. He loves cooking and knows a lot about it. He`s always employed and he does follow good economies....he no longer bothers with the US and now works in Oslo.

He will never be out of a job, I think.

One more, everybody forgot the worlds oldest female occupation, which normally soars when the economy goes down the drain...

This profession is not just for females. Male prostitution is not talked about as much but still prevalent and not a new occupation

I expect that automation and computerization will continue eating away at jobs. If something can be done by a machine it will be done by a machine, because it's cheaper. In a competetive capitalist economic system, cheaper always wins.

A sobering good news / bad news observation that struck me recently:

The good news is that the trend toward outsourcing jobs to places where labor costs are lower is losing steam and will soon dry up. Manufacturing operations will slowly be returning to locations closer to where the manufactured goods are consumed.

The bad news is the reason behind the good news: labor costs are becoming irrelevant, because there's so little human labor left in manufacturing. Even the clerical and technical support jobs that cheap communications have allowed to move to overseas call centers are at risk. Software for speaker-independent voice recognition is improving, and there are some marginally functional (compared to past abominations) IVRU systems for order processing. (IVRU = interactive voice response unit. We hate them, but they continue to proliferate, because they reduce costs for the businesses that use them.)

We seem to be moving quickly toward a new class society with stock owners, executives, and crime bosses at the top, supported by a thin "middle class" of technicians and soldiers (in one form or another), floating atop a sea of petty criminals and dole recipients.

The growth careers for this bleak future: thief, fence, pimp, prostitute, drug dealer, drug mule, police, prison guards, security guards, undercover agent / informer, soldier / gang member, enforcer / hit man, ..

Oh, and lawyers / fixers.

Can't we please get off this path?? Note that it is being driven by the interaction of technology and our economic system, not by peak oil and energy issues.

Automation requires vasts amounts of energy. As energy becomes increasing expensive, automation will be replaced by human workers. I think it will happen fairly quickly, probably over the next twenty years, since not only will oil energy inputs decline but that energy will also increase quickly in price due to falling economies of scales in producing and transporting it.

I am planning on leaving my technical job and becoming a farmer in 3-5 years.

Automation requires vasts amounts of energy. As energy becomes increasing expensive, automation will be replaced by human workers.

Au contraire. See discussion above on draft animals vs tracters in farming.

Even on the basis of straight joules of energy, a well designed machine will usually consume less than a human worker doing the same job. When the fact that a worker's energy needs continue 24 hours a day and must be supplied by the highly inefficient means off growing food, it's no contest. That's why machines win.

Too many folks who post here (IMO) are secretly rooting for an energy collapse to save us -- or our surviving descendents -- from the sins of our horrid technological civilization. Maybe it will happen. But maybe it won't. And if it doesn't, where does that leave us -- and the other species with whom we used to share the planet and that are rapidly being forced into extinction?

I'd like to see more focus here on how we can address the problems that will still exist if a "deus ex natura" doesn't conveniently materialize to save us from ourselves.

With a human or animal you can feed in the raw material to produce the energy.
A tractor or machines needs to have the raw material refined, then consumed.
Humans and animals return waste products which can be recycled into fertilizer.
Animals provide food in the way of dairy.

Machines are inanimate requiring human intelligence to create it and operate and maintain it, further consuming energy. Ice and other machines have doomed the human race. We started on that slide when we began burning wood and coal to fire steam engines.

Using biodiesel to run a tractor is not comparable to running modern industry with machines. I think often about a BAU scenario, just cannot seem to find an outcome that resembles our current trajectory with technology. It seems possible that we could have transitioned from oil, however, it was not done. The efficiencies that are now being forced on us are also causing the collapse of our economic system. The US government will not be able to pay its debts much less build nuclear power plants.

There is NO LACK of people trying to keep the technological civilization going. There is a lack of those who see the energy problem as inexorable and want to jump ahead. It takes energy to change the way we operate, a lot of if. If it is used trying to keep the party afloat the crash will be harder and the bottom much lower.

There is NO LACK of people trying to keep the technological civilization going.

THE technological civilization?? That's it? Technological or not technological? BAU or collapse? Don't you think that reflects a certain, uhm, lack of imagination? :-)

You're right that there are plenty of folks trying to keep the system -- LAWKI -- going. I also agree that there's a need for people who understand the energy situation and are interested in living sustainably. (That's not how you put it, but rather my take on your "jump ahead".) What I was complaining about was something different. And I most certainly was NOT appealing for efforts to figure out how to keep the system we're currently living within on course.

I don't think highly of the system we're currently living within, and I damn sure don't like where I see it as headed. What I was complaining about is that so many of us in this community see some form of collapse as inevitable, and therefore see the only interesting questions as how to best prepare and how to survive afterward. Those are worthwhile questions. I've no problem with them, per se. It's the "only" part that I'm complaining about.

Just suppose all those people you see trying to keep "the technological civilization" going manage to succeed? A lot of them, after all, are pretty bright folks; you never know what they might come up with. Sure, you can argue all you want about how likely or unlikely that is, but that's not going to accomplish anything. Take it as a contingency. What are your plans (generic "you") for that contingency? I'm suggesting that "Why then, there's no problem, LAWKI goes on" is NOT a very good answer. There are BIG problems under that contingency, and they deserve some thought.

Roger, I accept your point about techonology not being an either or situation. No one can see the future. The door in which fusion energy has been sitting behind for what 30 years might still open. But each new technological improvement takes more and more energy to achieve. Per Tainter this means that we have diminishing returns on investment which he identifies as the cause of various collapses of civilizations that he examines. Since I see the sense of his arguments I would like to see humanity marshal its resources for a quick but steep decline. I don't expect that to happen in part because of the great love so many people have for high tech, and for their lifestyle (which is most unavailable to the 3 billion people who live on $2 a day or less). Since most of the humans now alive and almost all the humans who ever lived lived at very simple levels of technology WE KNOW that such a life is liveable. What's more once one's needs are met the level of lifestyle does not correlate with happiness. There is a narrowness of perspective in assuming that the abundant life we now live is the only life in which we can be happy.

There is a narrowness of perspective in assuming that the abundant life we now live is the only life in which we can be happy.

Amen. In fact, I believe there's evidence that those who live in what we could consider impoverished circumstances are on average happier than those of us in wealthier cultures -- provided that they aren't too impoverished, and aren't getting their noses rubbed in their supposed "inferiority".

I'm sympathetic to Tainter's views about the complexity of modern society and the threat of catabolic collapse. But I don't presume to know that that will happen, and consider it as one possibility among many for how things could go. I'm relatively certain that fusion energy -- apart from what we receive from the sun -- will not be part of our energy picture for at least the next 40 years. But it isn't necessary to posit controlled fusion energy for a "solution" to our energy crisis.

Any solution that comes along will leave us still facing the problems of distribution of wealth and the "race to the bottom" that are inherent in the economic system we've built and are part of. I want to know how we might fix that, if our civilization doesn't cooperate by totally imploding around us.

Automation requires vasts amounts of energy.

And I'd say that people require even MORE energy - once you calculate all the photons that went into making the food + shelter + heating for the years leading up to that 8 hour shift of drudgery.

Better to look towards the model talked about at the start of the industrial revolution where one worked to provide their needs and no more.

Should we be preparing for this change now? What career choices do you see as reasonable ones? What educational choices should people be making now?

Interesting questions you brought up Gail! Yes, changes are ahead and I think we or at least our next generation should get prepared for that. In the medium term things might derail quite substantially and a number of skills adequate for that were mentioned in earlier posts. In the long run, however, we need new mind sets and I'd like to share some thoughts on that:

Our current skills (from school curricula etc.) might be a major reason for many of the visible difficulties we are in or heading to. The homo faber (Max Frisch) might be outdated and we are in need for a replacement i.e. those skills which brought us into the current situation might not be those which can divert us towards a sustainable ('embedded-in-Gaia') society. A major deficit I can detect today is a lack of ethics and virtue. The standard approach to tackle many/most of the burning issues are from the toolboxes of economics and/or natural science. I don't think they will trigger the needed paradigm shifts - those will mostly depend on our Haltung (unfortunately such an attitude has little value in our society). Thus I would advocate for more philosophers and a general eduction in philosophy.

Our current industrial society is one amongst many humankind has developed so far. I guess it has in the average not sheltered the happiest people and not supported the most meaningful lives, though it has definitely allowed to grow the largest population ever. If sustainability counts we still have societies on this planet, such as the San in Southern Africa, who maintained a steady state for at least 10-20'000 years to be consulted (unfortunately such an incredible achievement has no value in our society). Thus I would advocate for more ethnologists and a general eduction in ethnology

It took me quite a while to recognize the incredible knowhow stored in the web of life and the subtle mechanism to develop it (thx Darwin, Watson/Crick, ... to allow me appreciating this beauty). Each wiped out genome has probably more value than all human patents together (although current economy allocates no value for it at all). The biosphere is a humbling ensemble and dwarfs the human built technosphere in sophistication and longevity. I doubt that we can maintain a manageable technosphere with its current industrial metabolism considering rapidly shrinking fossil energy supplies. But even a replacement with abundant renewable energy resources and keeping the rest as a BAU seems neither sustainable nor smart. I believe technologies need to become inherently bio-compatible, even able to completely blending in the biosphere. Thus I would advocate for more biomimetic engineers and a general eduction in bionics.

From a global systems perspective the solutions found and tested by the biosphere over the last 3 billion years are very hard to be beaten. Thus I wonder if we shouldn't refrain to use certain technologies which life on this planet has not opted for. Free electrons (electricity) or free molecular hydrogen as an energy carrier for instance. Current PV technology wouldn't be an option then and the hydrogen economy would not store H2 in metal hydrides nor compressed or cooled in vessels; also not as NH3 but as old fashioned hydrocarbons...


Honestly, if it gets so bad that electricity is rare and we are using draft animals again, I would vote for:

Shaman and/or drug grower.

No joke. We will need spiritual people to connect us back to nature, read signs and do spiritual healings. If things really collapse like many feel, I foresee mass defections from organized religion. We will all need inner vision and hope. I would predict widespread use of inexpensive, locally produced drugs too. Alcohol can wreck havoc on depressed people so the more logical drugs to turn to would be enthogens (peyote & mushrooms) and simple weed. Production of these along with locally grown tobacco should be profitable and sustainable.

So life as a bunch of stoner hobbits. Does not sound so bad. Just need to get the draft animals trained up real good before everyone gets stoned. :)

Electric cars / solar cars / trains / walking

I think there is something missing from this list of possibilities. I don't know why people assume it will be cars or public transit or walking. Bicycles do not require exotic materials or additional energy once constructed.

Plenty of persons drill down into the oxymoronic, with emphasis on the second part of that word, attributes of "sustainability". We can also add: Why did this word pop out of the undergrowth, not so long after oil started getting expensive again, after the long Cheap Oil holiday from reality that more or less coincided with the Reagan-Thatcher years ?

Jumping forward, we now have a permant media campaign to save toothwashing water and build zero energy houses, exactly like in the 1974-1979 period, before President Reagan triumphally ordered Jimmy Carter's solar collector to ripped off the roofs of the White House. Plus ca change !

Something that hasnt changed is a lot more down to the barrel. Usine May 2009 Oilwatch data OECD average demand was around 44 Mbd. For the OECD's population of about 1180 millions thats an annual rate of 13.57 barrels per capita.

In 2007 it was 14.3 bbbl per capita. So we can say "things are moving" !

People consistently reproduce and SOME degree of education is required and enough people don't have the time to home school that this job will be around for the foreseeable future.
What interests me is how the subjects and emphasis will change.

I'm an engineer (civil/environmental). I see a strong need for engineers in the future, but there will be a shift back from high technology and centralized, energy intensive projects and off-the-shelf spec-d equipment to simpler, local solutions and original thinking. Engineers may need to adapt to different needs and priorities in the future.

The failure to maintain the electrical grid is talked a lot about. I wonder if this is a good thing in the long run because as the grid slowly decays it will force us to learn to use less and less energy. Using less, not just alternate forms, I see as the only long term solution.

I suspect that it will be the rare person who enters a career at the end of their school days and sticks with it their entire working life. The number of people retiring now who have worked their whole lives in the same career are already starting to become exceptional, so this is not a new trend, just an accelerating one. Given the turmoil we are likely to see, the best bet is to assume that you are going to have to make a number of career changes over the course of one's life. Increasing numbers of people may have to have two or three different lines (or sidelines) of work going in order to make ends meet. A broad liberal arts education with lots of scientific and technical emphasis, and a lot of practical skills and know-how, should serve most people very well.

It's true: few people will stay in the same occupation their entire lives. In fact, many of them will end up working in jobs that haven't been invented yet.

I'm retired now, but during my whole career I never had a job that I could explain to the average person - they had never heard of whatever it was that I was doing. By the time they understood whatever it was I was doing, I had moved on to some new occupation they had never heard of.

However, the key to the process is to get as much education as you can, preferably in the core areas of English, math, and science. The peripheral stuff you can pick up in night school. Always be taking something in night school, every year, your whole life.

One problem with this from the American perspective is that the U.S. educational system is substandard by global standards. It concentrates too much on football and not enough on differential calculus.

Most Americans don't realize this, but there are a lot of really smart and well educated people out there in the world. Many of them are in China and India. India alone produces about 2 million English-speaking university graduates per year. There are more honors students in India than there are total students in the U.S.

The Canadian high school I went to graduated students 1 year more advanced than U.S. high schools - equivalent to first year university in the U.S. - and since then they've moved the goalposts. The smart kids in high school now take the International Baccalaureate, which is not adequate in itself, but is good enough to get you into a good university. After you've got a degree or two behind you, with a lot of core subjects under your belt, maybe you've got a chance. And then go to night school.

If we're talking long term..., very long term.., like 2,000 years from now..., then pick up pottery or horticulture. The world wont look much different 2,000 years from now then it did 2,000 years ago, except there will be remnants of a once great civilization.

On the other hand..., if we're talking what I should do in my lifetime (considering I'm barely middle aged now)..., I'd say..., Electricity may be nice. I don't think Wind or solar will save us, but..., these toys will come in handy. We know how to generate electricity...; the trick will be producing at a decent scale when all hydrocarbons end up in terminal decline.
Electric storage is also a problem that needs to be addressed. Batteries are not good enough. We need to use windmills and solar or whatever to force water uphill, or compress down tunnels or caves to store energy for when the wind doesn't blow or the sun don't shine.

There will be more jobs dealing with light rail. Maybe re-designing cities to be denser. Reverse urban sprawl. There will be a need for more farmers. Etc

When more people are at home during the day and driving anywhere is difficult or prohibitive a horse drawn 'general store' with a formal route [pass each residence maybe once a week] would be a way of making a living. Along the route might be some of the sources of your merchandise, so bartering could occur also. And playing the banjo to announce your arrival couldn't hurt.

In my childhood there were regular and irregular such sales wagons. Sometimes it was even 'gypsies' selling handmade furniture or other goods. Knife sharpeners would come by once or twice a year.

Nomadic lifestyles will complement the rooted in place ones. Of course the old opinions about gypsies tramps and thieves will no doubt come to the fore again, but not everyone gets to be a landowner or have an elite job.

The assumption that our grandchildren will live in a world where a good education [higher degrees] is the route to middle class living is a false hope. It will be a more interesting world when the bright ones make their own niches by following their true interests and talents than getting educations that suit them to fit the niches already in place in our dying civilization.


Given that Social Security is likely to go totally defunct long before the remainder of government activity, including government taxes, does, there will eventually be considerable advantages in having no permanent address.

Nomadics is something we have not really talked about here at all, other than some brief mentions of Dmitri Orlov's idea of retreating to sailboats.

Food would seem to me to be the biggest challenge. Without ownership of a piece of land, growing food is not really an option (except for maybe a couple of containers of tomatoes on the roof of one's rig), unless one is a seasonal migrant and stays in one location through the growing season - presuming that one can secure some available land to grow things upon.

Guerella gardening might be a possibility for someone not traveling too long a circuit. Plant a few seeds in neglected corners here and there, wherever you can get away with it - plants that will come into maturity just when you plan to be back in that area. I have heard of people living on sailboats who will plant small patches of garden on each of several small uninhabited islands, and then come back around later to harvest them. Another possibility is to cut a deal with a few people in each location along your route: spend a day or two helping them to put in their garden or planting & pruning fruit trees, in exchange for a share of the harvest when you come back around later. Foraging? Maybe, to some extent. However, as we have noted, that resource is likely to quickly become over-exploited and depleted. Extending the guerella gardening concept to planting permaculture-type perennial plants in the types wild places where one would normally forage, thus upgrading their forage potential, might be an approach. Unfortunately, that takes a lot of time and some money up front, and several years before it pays off; there is also the problem that others may come along and harvest all that you have planted. There may still be some places where fishing is still halfway good; that has traditionally been one of the most productive methods of foraging.

Most nomadic people have had to rely on livestock for much of their food, to the extent that they raise their own food at all. Goats are a very good choice for a nomadic lifestyle. They will provide a steady supply of fresh milk (highly perishable and thus impossible to stock up on) and occasional meat, and they will feed on a wide range of forage - almost anything available, really. Keeping a couple of chickens should also be feasible for those living a nomadic lifestyle, especially if one can bring along a portable "chicken tractor" or even just a temporary fence to confine them to a patch of ground that they can scratch around in. That will provide a steady supply of eggs, which are also highly perishable and can't be stored.

People living a nomadic lifestyle will have to be experts in storing and cooking with bulk whole foods - grains, legumes, dried fruits & vegetables, etc.

As far as energy goes, a nomadic lifestyle can be a very low energy lifestyle. You can avoid having to worry about heating your portable home by simply migrating south for the winter, so you would need nothing more than a good sleeping bag, blankets and some warm clothing. A solar oven or two set up on the roof of your rig would be a great idea, and a campfire with a few logs or wood scraps in the evening would take care of the rest of one's cooking and washing up needs. If you really want to hang on to some modern technology, a portable PV panel or two could supply all the power one would need for radios, power tools, or other devices.

If you are going to be a nomad on land instead of on a sailboat, the energy to pull your gear around is going to be the biggest challenge. You can get around on your own power, either on foot or on bike, but then you are quite limited in what you can haul around with you, and that almost certainly means that you sleep in a tent at best, or line up places along your route where you can room cheaply, maybe in exchange for some work. If you have a beast of burden or two, then you can travel around with a more substantial rig, like a gypsy or tinkers waggon. The downside is that then you need to constantly be worried about obtaining feed or pasturage for your animals; it won't be feasible to carry very much with you. With motorized transport you can haul considerably more stuff (and much better living quarters, maybe even something like an Airstream) around, but of course now you have to worry about finding and paying for the fuel.

I'd say that if someone is contemplating a nomadic "career choice", and they are not going to go the sailboat or draft animal or minimalist bicycle route, their motorized transport should be a diesel, adapted to B100 biodiesel/SVO. They should also plan to eventually invest in a portable oilseed press; this way, they can make oilseed pressing another sideline as they go from farm to farm, and they can cut deals with farmers to plant a field of oilseeds in the spring with the understanding that they will come back to press the seeds in the fall in exchange for part of the oil. They would also need to arrange for some places where they could securely cache supplies of oil along their route, as they wouldn't want to carry a whole year's supply with them.

Overall, one of the big advantages of the nomadic lifestyle is that the initial investment in one's rig is going to be much lower than will be the cost of purchasing any food-producing homestead, and the amount of inputs required to sustain your lifestyle - time, energy, money, etc. - will also be considerably lower. There are also very big downsides that go with not living a settled lifestyle: lack of a strong social network and vulnerability in so many different ways immediately come to mind. It has usually been those forced out to the margins of society that have had to live the nomadic lifestyle. Only those who actually like life in those margins have embaced the nomadic lifestyle as a deliberate preference. Nevertheless, I do expect it to become a lot more common in the future.

If I were young again but knew what I know now (ah, that ancient plaint!), the three things that I would be learning right now would be: Music, preferably as an orchestral conductor, shipwrighting and blacksmithing.

The two handcrafts will be back in demand with a bang much sooner than many of us believe, I believe -- when you think gestaltically and intuitively about ALL the Synergising Global Crises now menacing us.

And of course the third matter will be perennial as long as humans are humans:

"If of all your worldly goods you were bereft,
And of your store, two loaves alone were left,
Then sell the one, and with the dole
Buy hyacinths, to feed your soul."

I suppose on Easter Island the job of boatmaking seemed to always be a good path, the assured way to lifetime success. Or statute carving was probably another assured way to make a living. No doubt just before the great depression many folks were quite sure that they could never end up crossing the country with all their possessions in their car hoping to find work picking apples in California.

The human brain rebels at the thought that tomorrow will be significantly different from today. Yet many now living in tent cities NEVER imagined that that would ever happen to them. When the unemployment starts running out more people will be in tents and winter is coming. Regardless of the energy question, the economic collapse has only just begun. Google Option Arms and Alt A's and commercial real estate collapse, and bank foreclosures.

Tentmaking as one person noted may well be a good way to go as far as an occupation. Perhaps those who do not have a secure homesite with no major liabilities should get a really good tent now, just in case. Of course even mortgage free homes can be lost due to real estate taxes and as counties begin to face insolvency no doubt those taxes will rise.

Ah here is another occupation, bed and breakfast, not the high class elite type, just the old fashioned rent a room and provide a meal type. Worked to help lots of people keep their homes in the past and helped lots of people stay out of the homeless camps.

Ah here is another occupation, bed and breakfast, not the high class elite type, just the old fashioned rent a room and provide a meal type. Worked to help lots of people keep their homes in the past and helped lots of people stay out of the homeless camps.

"Boarding houses", they were called. And yes, they used to be quite common. Every small town would have at least one, any substantial town many. Running a boarding house would be a very common occupation for middle-aged widows.

Boarding houses were featured in a number of period movies. I remember a scene from "True Grit" that takes place in a boarding house, as do the early life scenes in "Forest Gump". Thomas Wolfe's "Look Homeward, Angel" is set in his mother's boarding house (now a state historic site in Asheville), and there are undoubtedly other examples.

Nowadays, the big obstacle that many people aspiring to transform their home into a boarding house will be up against is zoning. Most zoning codes are not at all friendly toward boarding houses. Even upscale B&Bs often find it difficult to get zoning approval in some places - including places like resort communities that should be crawling with them - so you can imagine how hard it must be to get zoning approval for a boarding house. Things are going to have to change a lot, meaning a great many people sleeping in tents or under bridges and overpasses, before governments start bending with the times and accomodating reality.

Not only zoning but also homeowner association rules. But that too will pass, probably later than it should but it will pass. The homeowner associations will go broke and the county or other zoning authorities will as well.

Admit it, folks. Your religion tells you the world is coming to an end soon, so you connect the dots from higher oil prices to this fantasy of yours. Last time it was Y2K, and before that Israel vs Palestine, and before that the Soviet Union, and before that something else. But the world never comes to an end. Yet you still follow your religious leaders. Oh, they just got the timing wrong. It'll be next year for sure. What a joke!

You admit societies with 5x the population do just fine on 90% less energy, yet America is sure to starve and become a Mel Gibson apocalypse movie. What a joke, people!

You know economic downturns happen every few years. But this one is different. This one is the END OF THE WORLD. Mass starvation. Horses and buggies. Someone actually said that was too advanced, we would have to eat the horse, lol. War lords for gosh sakes! What a joke.

You have some facts and figures about energy supply and cost balances. And you connect the dots to what? Higher prices? No. Conservation? No. Frugality? No. It must be nothing short of the end of the world for you.

Last year the banks were all going to close, and it was going to be mass starvation and THE END OF THE WORLD! Remember? You all wrote that and swallowed it hook, line and sinker. But it didn't happen, so you have to find something else to fit your preconceived fantasy.

I pity the newspaper that would print such childishness. Any that do are just pandering to your delusions.

You can change. You can climb out of your bunkers and join the real world. It's not so scary. In fact, it's beautiful. But you have to sacrifice and give up one comfort. You have to give up your blind devotion to religion.