A Shock Doctrine for Sustainability

Below the fold is a brief guest posting by Altaira, who is employed at an NGO working on issues related to sustainable development. She has a Masters Degree in Agricultural Science. Previously on TheOilDrum, Altaira wrote Can the Wealthy Have a Separate Peace?

A Shock Doctrine for Sustainability?

My circle of friends includes many professionals in the world of environmental NGOs. I have noticed something about the way they view the importance of their work and the likelihood of its success that I’d like to share.

In brief, many now admit openly that human overshoot has gone way too far and that the programs they run are like band aids when the wound calls for a tourniquet. They lament the rise of expectations for a narrowly defined version of progress that will only deepen our predicament. It now seems undeniable that structural and psychological requirements for global economic growth have much more sway than any rhetoric about sustainability.

Although the depth of despair is greater than usual, most of these thoughts are old news. However, a couple of new conversational memes have emerged. First of all, my friends are turning inwards, becoming concerned about personal and family security. Second, they are considering adopting a new strategy that plans for responses to crisis and breakdown, rather than their usual fare, which is advocating for course corrections to avoid troubles.

In these conversations, I see a parallel with what Naomi Klein discussed in her book Shock Doctrine. http://www.naomiklein.org/shock-doctrine/the-book She documents how a particular wing of neoclassical economists, based primarily out of the University of Chicago, took advantage of disasters to push through legal, policy and business agreements that would never be accepted otherwise. The take home message is that radical changes may only be possible during a crisis, and that in chaotic times the advantage goes to whoever has a response plan available.

I don’t see that these discussions have made it into any official programs of the environmental movement, but perhaps they need to be. The existing system does a great job of protecting itself and will be unlikely to change sufficiently to ahead off a crisis. If breakdowns are now inevitable, the standard role of environmental groups may be necessary but insufficient.

Here are questions for campfire:

1. Are you noticing similar conversations, where well-educated and generally well off people are worried about the security of very basic needs, such as food and water.
2. Do you think a kind of “Shock Doctrine for Sustainability” is a good idea?
3. What real-world scenarios might lead to the opportunity to make major structural changes in society?
4. Can you outline what the elements of such a plan would look like?
5. Who might be able to actually make these plans and get them adopted at the right time?
6. Should such plans be kept largely undisclosed and un-promoted until needed?

4. Can you outline what the elements of such a plan would look like?

There's that classic notion of "grassroots organizing" in the activist community, where we build a groundswell of support through face-to-face networking that then goes on to demand certain changes of the Masters of Society. Clearly this has been largely unsuccessful.

I like to think the next wave of community organizing could take the form of "Mycelial organizing." Mycelium runs invisible under the surface, colonizing a substrate without a sound, only emerging momentarily in a mushroom when the timing's right. This is what we need, those nameless networks of people who are already talking about the next few years and energy depletion. Oftentimes you're going to find these networks only among anarchists, outlaws, and others who reject the basic value framework of Industrial Capitalism. These are the networks of mutual aid that already exist, and these are the networks we need to continue to cultivate

If I may give praise to my local people, we've got something here called the Crop Mob (http://cropmob.org/about). It's a bunch of mostly young folks who gather once a month on a farm (usually run by one of the mobbers) to work on a big project that the usual folks merely wouldn't be able to accomplish without weeks of effort. It's fun, followed by a meal, and a great place to meet new folks while pulling weeds and mulching.

The value, I believe, of this sort of project is less in the actual work we do than in the network that's forming through this. If some kind of societal breakdown occurs, who will take up the slack? Probably those very people who are already on some level working outside the value-system of Industrial Capitalism. Food Not Bombs comes to mind as well. What else could there be? What else is already emerging in embryonic form? Foodways not Freeways?

As to plans, I don't really have any? I'm not sure what kinds of plans there could be...

Great set of questions. I’m in agreement on world view. Not much anyone can do. Look after yourself and your community.

I love the concept of the Shock Doctrine for Sustainability within the mycelial groups. As a twenty year grassroots politician, I can tell you that anger and dispair will run deep and the likelihood of a groups ability to grab the reins during a disruption may be suspect but it may depend on where one lives.

I have chosen carefully and believe I have found a location were the local counterculture has a good hold in terms of community involvement at all levels. If these individuals were to organize covertly, and I believe it has to be covert, in the event of a downturn of note they very well may rise to the surface.

It is my belief that it is, all and all, the best way to go. I believe it is now down to individuals, their families and their close communities. It is not that we can not work on a higher level but, like is has been implied, overshoot is too far along in most places.

That said, I will also make note that to actually have a nock down drag ‘em out discussion on this type of effort, will also be fairly difficult maybe even among some of the enviros. The time is at hand, however. Bobby G I am with you here in Cent. Wisco.

Ever since I read the posts on the huge natural gas resources available around the world, and even LPG here in Australia (we have lots of LNG and LPG), I can't get too excited about doomsday scenarios. These fossil fuels are easily used by ICEs, both gasoline and diesel. I see a fairly painless transition to them as a stepping stone to a more sustainable future. Mad Max has been postponed. :¬)

Mad Max postponed but surely not a painless transition. Too many converging limits acting in concert. Part of the transition is a radical rethinking on consumption and the current financial model in the world economy. This will be all but painless for those thinking we can keep this bus going on simple one dimensional solutions like natural gas.

Gas is not one dimensional; it's capable of running our transport, and that's problem number one. You may argue that we also have problems with all sorts of other things, like water and global warming, and I agree with that, but as far as oil bringing us all undone and that we need to stockpile food, that's just nonsense.

Mamba. Take resource estimates with more than a grain of salt.There have been no good independent estimates of the true costs of finding and development of the new fields, not to mention good EROEI assays. I'm not aware of any jet airliners using propane or CNG and without an infrastructure to distribute and use the product, it wont happen except in certain areas. Coal is of course more feasible as oil runs out because it can use the existing oil infrastructure, that is if you build the huge plants like S. Africa has done. The shale gas plays here in the states may end up as just the next bubble. Gas wont last long at these low prices and with every guy and his dog clammoring for a wholesale switch to gas for all our energy needs.

My information is that airlines can run on LNG. Already aircraft can fly on 50% kero 50% LNG (link) However, this "GTL kerosene" is a big CO2 emitter in production.

As for gas resources, there are enough, I believe, based on articles I have seen, to run BAU for at least a few decades (conservative estimate). This is exactly the amount of time we need to drum the concept of depletion into the heads of the cornucopians and get real progress on moves to sustainability.

Mycelial organizing, I like this, great way to think of it. I think you have the first step of a good plan, develop the social network so that it is in place when the time comes.

Based on your web link your not far from my home town. :)

Crisis response?
- community 'wardens' with hand-crank-generator walki-talkies
- skill resources: food, medical, transport (bike/horse/donkey/..), farming
- prioritise : water, food, warmth, medical. Children/women/men/elders. Triage.
- material resources: water purification, cans, dried, mre, blankets, surgical, SEEDS, TOOLS.

People in shock will respond to confident leadership. Some won't, but that's evolution for you.

Confident leadership is founded on self-reliance, personal integrity, compassion, courage.

== Can I get ther from here? ==

Do survival courses, gardening, yoga, ham-radio course, amateur theatre;
Collect materials, esp. seeds etc.

Buddha: "this too shall pass."

This is the right start. I believe much of it may be gathering of inventors. List indivduals with particular skills. Know what kinds of foods are actually around. The feed mills have grains of many sorts. I once made beer from chicken scratch. Know who has leadership skills. Know who the hot heads are. Know who the gun guys are. The lists could be extensive. Many of these things in small towns are generally known almost intuitively.

It is time to do this. The point is, the Mycelial Groups actually has to do it, not just talk. The very mention of this topic on the Drum has actually got me fired up. The Drum does good.

Community wardens sound very much like the syndics that locked up medieval plague towns. People responded to their order on the threat of death for disobeying and breaking the curfew. People today don't get shocked that easily. Television has conditioned them not to. Peak Oil, population pressure and climate change are going to be slow but inexorable creeping rather than a shock like Katrina was in New Orleans. Community wardens barking orders on walkie talkies in such circumstances are going to be met first with amusement, then annoyance then probably violence.

Everything else you had to say, I would agree with wholeheartedly and building up neighbour hood resilience is easily started now without having to explain that ITEOTWAWKI.

sounds like you are a military veteran.

Hmm... we're a long way from being miserable, oppressed peasants, but Mao had an interesting battle plan which the War Nerd sums up nicely:

Mao’s battle-plan is simple. It can be adapted to almost any country as long as you’ve got the basic ingredients: mean landlords, hungry peasants, educated city people who couldn’t care less what’s happening in the countryside. In other words: if you’ve got a really fucked-up agricultural country. Nepal had that. Mao’s plan doesn’t take military geniuses to make it work. What it does take is lots and lots of discipline and patience, because you must avoid battle until the odds are overwhelmingly in your favor.


I think you have left out an important element: faith
we must have a return to a faith based society if we are to survive
in fact i would sum up the most important memes flowing out of the energy shortage which the TOD covers very well, with their broad based audience
- food
- security
- the financial crisis
and to this we must add religion, the essential glue of society

an easy way to remember it is
Everywhere we hear citizens prepping
with the four "G"s: guns, gold, groceries, and God.
Or the four "F"s: food, funds, firearms, and faith.
Or the four "B"s: beans, bullion, bullets, and Bible.

good set of groups outside the archaic value system.

There are others who are re-inventing industries. The multi billion dollar fashion industry has taken on its demented self. Fashion connects to crop issues, toxins, labor, transport, waste as well as image and value issues. The Sustainable Center of Fashion was started a few years ago at the London College of Fashion and is linked with the Ethical Fashion Forum where students, sourcers and a slew of new entrepreneurs are picking up speed in a mutually helpful environment.
The co-op set up like Mondragon could be an idea sparker. The people who see the relationships between all things, energy etc understand that the whole works together and with this understanding new visions, values and "goals" are clarified. To get

I don't have full structural suggestions but some suggestions for thinking about this:
at the end are 6 questions, including

"3. What real-world scenarios might lead to the opportunity to make major structural changes in society?"

--wow, if last Sept-Oct. in the economy wasn't such an opportunity, what else could qualify? We (the US govt/global finance capital) opted, not for major structural changes, but for applying band-aids(TM) to the problems.

the structural risks and dangers present in Sept., 2008 are several times riskier and more dangerous now, Dec. 2009. Keep current at The Automatic Earth blog to follow these.

"6. Should such plans be kept largely undisclosed and un-promoted until needed?"

-if the writer is posing this to *us* the Sustainability People, then I'd say, such plans should be kept undisclosed and un-promoted only if:

--you see your movement as an elite, a vanguard, above the ranks of the lower classes, the unwashed mob or Kunstler's "NASCAR morons".
--you believe grassroots democracy is a silly, anachronistic, idealistic notion
--you don't believe that the general public ought to be the ones driving the conversation, and initiating the shock-doctrine changes.

We had, in our history, brief moments of push-back shock doctrine attempts from the ranks below:

Grange Movement
Farmers Union, Farm Holiday Assoc.
Industrial Workers of the World
1930s CIO organizing
civil rights movt.
youth in the 1960s
WTO, G8, G20 protests

As a long-time labor activist and former organizer, I suggest perhaps these could be studied for applicability today. Such plans should involve everyone and should be arrived at through democracy. This is also consistent with System Condition #4 in the Natural Step method.

Bobby G
Central Wisc. USA

Two things. While I like the idea of taking it to every one, I believe it is too late and that to introduce the concepts that are the foundations of the Mycelial Movement is not really posssible with all citizens. It is just too complex and too far outside their world view.

The Natural Step is great stuff but this is not Sweden with a population of 9 million and 10 reactors providing a steady supply of energy (45%) and the rest coming from hydro power--and a population of informed citizens. I understand in Stockholm only 20% of folks have cars. They are way infornt of us. Keep the home fires burning. D Wright

--wow, if last Sept-Oct. in the economy wasn't such an opportunity, what else could qualify? We (the US govt/global finance capital) opted, not for major structural changes, but for applying band-aids(TM) to the problems.

No we didn't even apply any band-aids, we applied blood sucking leeches...


See my post way down below somewhere.I agree whole heartedly with you about the leech treatment,although I do recognize that it may have headed of a panic and an old time cowboy movie type of stampede of human cows.

The actual stampede or something equivalent to it on my opinion is the only thing that can break the grip of the military / industrial / finance/perpetual growth complex.

If we live over the chaos , we will emerge either as peasants and overlords or as a new society with new rules-better ones.

I'm an optimist most days.

Great questions!
The answer to #1 is no. In fact, the more well-off and educated my friends, family, aquaintences are, the less likely they are to give the subjects discussed on TOD, or the subjects currently in question, a minute of thought. My sense is that, to them, our current situation is just another normal fluctuation in the economy and that things will resolve themselves. They are bored with questions regarding sustainability, etc. On the other hand, those that are suffering through the current situation seem unable to afford the thought that things can and get worse. They have "the audacity of hope". Bring up peak oil, societal/environmental overshoot, GW, etc. and they all adopt a blank stare. So, no. Most people around me don't get it.
My feeling is that they are like the proverbial frog in the pot. It will take a shock to the systems that they take for granted, and a large one, then the typical phases of denial, anger, acceptance, before they come to any honest realization of the mess we are all in. So I quietly go about my business. I can't educate them because they think they already are. Denial is well-entrenched among the general population.

"I can't educate them because they think they already are. Denial is well-entrenched among the general population."

You know, you're right, and you put words to what I often feel.

As a mechanic with a physics degree, and experience from carpentry to welding to boatbuilding and commercial fishing, teepees to houseboats, I'm starting to get a feeling that I'm overqualified for this crash. Couple more guns, couple of solar PV panels, clear a field of fire... you know the drill.

Hi Ormo,

Pv panels are way down right now:


Add a charge controller, small inverter and a few golf cart batteries, you're in the power business.


anyone bought solar panels recently ? price/watt delivered + taxes = total cost

i got just under $2.50/watt

Hi Ghung,

Thanks for the link - just now starting to look into PV for my roof. I keep hearing that PV costs are going to get a lot cheaper in a year or so - what is your opinion on this?

Hi Dave!
Today's historically low PV prices are mostly due to supply/demand issues more than lower production costs. While production has increased exponentialy in past years, so has demand. The credit crisis has created a shortage of demand that has inventories way up and prices down as large scale projects struggle to get financed.
Factors to consider:

Prices for polysilicon have increased by about 8 fold over the last 5 years. Silicon accounts for about 40% of the cost of producing mono/poly crystaline PV panels today. Future solar-grade silicon supplies will be a big factor as crystaline panels are still the prevalent/prefered technology with thin film slowly catching up. The laminate type PV used on metal roofs is thin film and has about 60% the conversion efficiency of crystaline panels (requiring more surface area). Their cost/watt continues to be generaly higher also.

Printed DSSC (dye-sensitized solar cells) shows promise and could cut production costs dramatically, but I see the technology as being too immature to affect prices much in the near future. While I may be proven wrong, I have questions about their efficiency over time. I recommend the tried and true technologies for the near future. I know of monocrystalline arrays that are producing near full rated output after 20+ years.
The production costs for PV have historiclly followed a curve similar to semi-conductors in the past. Materials availability will continue to be a factor though. Several years ago, after years of declining prices, price drops stalled and availability was an issue, mainly due to silicon shortages and increased demand. In 2005 I had to wait several months for an order to be filled.
The consensus among my supply buddies is that prices will remain low well into 2010 until demand catches up with production but probably won't go much lower near term. It occurs to me that if anything useful comes out of Copenhagen (doubtful IMO) prices may begin to rise again.
There's a great article about all things PV in the Aug/Sept '09 Homepower Magazine ( www.homepower.com ) Homepower has been my key source since I began my quest for energy independence. Great source for all things renewable (passive/active solar, wind, microhydro, etc.) designed for the layman/homeowner and small-scale techies like me. The article mentioned above is available only to subscibers but I recommend it to anyone interested in PV. Here's a link:


There are many other useful articles available free to the public as well. The current issue has a PV buyers guide that should be useful.

I've seen pallets (usually 28 panels/pallet) priced as low as $2.22/watt for blems. Blems usually have slight damage or irregularities to the frames and can be a good option for the self installer as most still carry a full output warranty. If you can get a group together to buy in bulk you can work some great deals these days.

Affordable Solar Group ( www.affordable-solar.com ) is another source I've found to be competetive and reliable.

Hi Ghung,

Thanks for the detailed reply and links!!

You have given me much to research in this comment - please know that I will study this carefully.

Thanks again!!

Ghung, my experiences echo yours. Those on the left see progress in human rights etc as being a result of their efforts, and it part they are. BUT it was the growth fueled by cheap oil that allowed them to gain some of the excess for others. They are unable to envision a world where we all have less because they have never understood why we had a world with more. Meanwhile many who are lower on the totem pole cannot accept that they will never rise any higher. Hope is a powerful thing and it is hard to sell hope while warning of disaster.

As a Hospice Volunteer however I have had to be there for people who have lost their final hope, that of living longer. Usually family members cling for hope longer than those who are dying. But if all accept it it allows for them to truly say goodbye and do the things they want to do in their remaining months. From birth we are all on the way to death, but it takes a serious illness and a Dr's diagnosis for most to recognize their own mortality. That doesn't translate exactly to the mortality of our current civilization but I do agree that some shock is necessary to wake people out of the slumber of denial. I suppose telling people even if they don't accept it might still serve for them to understand what is happening when it happens and allow them to make better choices when dealing with it.

Your educated friends have had more secure, comfortable lives, and they have more attachments to BAU in the form of professional skills and financial obligations. Why would you give all that up for the homestead? Just like in Jared Diamond's collapse, the elites are able to insulate themselves from the consequences of their consumption, at least temporarily. Maybe they'll rethink when their savings and unemployment benefits run out.

1) The prevailing topic of conversations amongst the well off ought to be "Who will have power in the new world?" - Shall it be the average working people, who may have fewer jobs and less money? Shall it be the capitalists, businessmen and investors, who will no longer be able to make huge fortunes out of dwindling natural resources, and whose hold over the people will slip away? Who will one have to pander to and emulate, in the interest of gaining power? What kind of people will become the new islanded aristocracy, if the wealthy are deposed from power? Will democracy survive?

2-6) All plans must revolve around reducing population, reducing consumption and fostering a non-materialist culture. American capitalism must be abandoned. I'm rather lost about the specifics about how the plans should be implemented, because before they are drawn up, a thousand unpleasant philosophical questions pertaining to human life have to be answered. Here are a few:
- Who gets to have children and who should be disallowed?
- How shall dwindling global resources be apportioned between nations, and what will be the philosophical basis for doing so?
- What shall be the stimulus for producing goods and making scientific and technological advances, if not the profit motive?
- What will be the necessary virtues in the leaders and the people of the new age?

Unless these questions are answered and expounded in great depth and detail, and the result used as a basis for further action, all other plans which are implemented will be haphazard expedients, and may well result in civil unrest and anarchy.

Well said.


Man this feels like day ja voo or sumting

As my daughter would say "like duh".

I find it interesting that we have to keep going thru these different, unique, yet constant versions of the 5stages.

Denial — "I feel fine."; "This can't be happening, not to me."
Denial is usually only a temporary defense for the individual. This feeling is generally replaced with heightened awareness of situations and individuals that will be left behind after death.[1]
Anger — "Why me? It's not fair!"; "How can this happen to me?"; "Who is to blame?"
Once in the second stage, the individual recognizes that denial cannot continue. Because of anger, the person is very difficult to care for due to misplaced feelings of rage and envy. Any individual that symbolizes life or energy is subject to projected resentment and jealousy.[1]
Bargaining — "Just let me live to see my children graduate."; "I'll do anything for a few more years."; "I will give my life savings if..."
The third stage involves the hope that the individual can somehow postpone or delay death. Usually, the negotiation for an extended life is made with a higher power in exchange for a reformed lifestyle. Psychologically, the person is saying, "I understand I will die, but if I could just have more time..."[1]
Depression — "I'm so sad, why bother with anything?"; "I'm going to die . . . What's the point?"; "I miss my loved one, why go on?"
During the fourth stage, the dying person begins to understand the certainty of death. Because of this, the individual may become silent, refuse visitors and spend much of the time crying and grieving. This process allows the dying person to disconnect oneself from things of love and affection. It is not recommended to attempt to cheer up an individual who is in this stage. It is an important time for grieving that must be processed.[1]
Acceptance — "It's going to be okay."; "I can't fight it, I may as well prepare for it."
This final stage comes with peace and understanding of the death that is approaching. Generally, the person in the fifth stage will want to be left alone. Additionally, feelings and physical pain may be non-existent. This stage has also been described as the end of the dying struggle.[1]

Looks like we are back to bargaining.

I for one am getting sick and tired of the dance.

Put a fork in it.

I’m a fiddle player. Why not play for the dance as long as you can. Just make sure you are at the right dance. Make sure you have plenty of friends with which to do that dance . Life is still good and if well positioned I believe it will stay that way, not like it is now but say in a 1955 way, or even’25. We probably will not be able to play “The Dance of the Red Queen” but may be The Devils Dream.

May I ask why you think of this as bargaining stage? I see it as acceptance. Unless you refer to the part about being able to do something regarding sustainability, sort of a Hail Mary effort, as bargaining.

I have been doing the prep to get a REAL local food system ready for implementation at the point of inflection, The Shock Doctrine.

I know many others who are doing the same. All of us are going broke and seeing things go steadily in the opposite direction.

I seems clear to me that we were all just denying the reality that exists. Living and preparing for a fantasy future which has a near zero chance of coming to be. In other words bargaining. "Please just give me a few more years where I can deceive my self in order to gain enough piece of mind that I can continue to not have to actually do something to stop the madness". Because if we do not stop the madness it will get too ugly to implement anything.

All the transition movement organizations, the sustainability groups, the localization meetings are about as beneficial as going to church. In fact I would say that it is exactly like going to church where believing in some superstition or fantasy makes you feel a little better so you can go on BAU until the next meeting.

Unless we can rise up against the wholesale destruction we will all be destroyed. Yes I know, many TODers will say we will all be destroyed eventually so why bother. I don't believe this I believe we can take charge of humanities destiny and forge a reasonable future. BUT this will not come from fantasizing ad nauseam about that future. In fact I firmly believe that that is head in the sand and therefore disastrous.

To think we can trick the world into doing the right thing, or wait around for an "opportune" moment the spring all the right stuff on everyone is naive and delusional.

If we want any kind of future at all we MUST stand up and demand it.

Peak oil is like that....
Some people do go through those stages -- I did
But, I got my intro to peak oil in 2003 so I've been in the acceptance phase for a long time.

1. Are you noticing similar conversations, where well-educated and generally well off people are worried about the security of very basic needs, such as food and water.

No - The well off are only participating in symbolic actions. Among people who are emerging into the work force that I know and others who are living in voluntary poverty it is a different story. These people are not reproducing and are taking steps to adapt to the impending crisis. Their actions taken though are based on , very often, the pseudoscience that has penetrated our society.

2. Do you think a kind of “Shock Doctrine for Sustainability” is a good idea?

Taking advantage of disasters as tipping point for new policy sounds good but what direction will we be taken and by whom? This is very scary if is in hands of wrong people but frankly I do not know who the right people are. Present company included.

3. What real-world scenarios might lead to the opportunity to make major structural changes in society?

Economic collapse

4. Can you outline what the elements of such a plan would look like?

A social safety net organized at the national level that offers mandates to localized regions that have wide flexibility in application is fields as health care, full employment, community based food production, community based manufacturing from recycled materials or local production.

Not every region will succeed. It will be a survival of fittest future and this only way others can learn.

5. Who might be able to actually make these plans and get them adopted at the right time?

Federal, State, Local governments

6. Should such plans be kept largely undisclosed and un-promoted until needed?

No, action is needed right now. We need to stop this push - pull system we are living in now.

The only possible action *now* will likely land you in cuba in fetching orange attire.

Apropos nothing-at-all, A conversation I happened to have with a british army bomb-disposal expert after the norhern-irish ceasefire: he wondered out loud why the 'opposition' hadn't chosen to bomb bridges in London, as these would have been the most vulnerable targets with the biggest impact.

That's a step over the thin red line, there. I can't personally fathom what kind of persona can take that step, still cognisant of the big picture, still connected with thier hearts to thier communities. I can appreciate the conditions that bring people to this, but these conditions are still very far from everyday experience in the western world.

I heard stories from all kinds of places, the baltics, the balkans, central americas, indigenous peoples, enslaved peoples, soweto and gaza .. and these extreme conditions call forth onto the stage of history actors with the strength and tenacity to make a mark.

We may be a couple of years or even a couple of decades away from this eventuality, for most or many readers.

So the only real thing one can do is prepare.

That or wonder if you look good in orange.

Incidentally (2 glasses of tempranillo has me on a roll) the french revolution came about because the insolvent goverment siezed church lands to back bonds which caused hyperinflation (because of famine). In the end people completely lost thier heads.

Americans should read Howard Zinn.

Oh yeah, then there are the existing church groups and their devine right, rapturous, "we will inherit the earth" networks. I don't think they will care to coexist with the above described "mushroom networks" in any power sharing protocol.


Fellowship of the Christian Centurions!!??? OK

I suspect that when TSHTF, those groups are going to do a lot of harm, and not much good. I live in a mini bible belt full of evangelicals - as far as I know they don't engage in any divine-right-we-shall-inherit-the-earth-when-god-sends-his-wrath rhetoric, but I suspect that that rhetoric would happen behind closed doors anyway.

Our society is so atomized that a large, cohesive group (especially if they're convinced they have God on their side) has a serious competitive advantage.

It is not my purpose here to bash religion , but to remind those that would organize around a platform of sustainability that there are well organized groups with perhaps a different agenda. Some of these groups already occupy positions of power and control on the street level, and in fact internationally:


"What can you do to attain a warrior mindset?"

and in the military:


"There are many American parents who would take comfort in the fact that Officer’s Christian Fellowship places high value on the principle that the men and women who serve our nation should recognize the source and power of their ultimate authority.""

We can be sure that all of these other ideologies will be moving to control the new paradigm as well (as they seem to be doing already).

I would love to see the Monotheistic Mind fall to pieces over the next couple of centuries. From Christianity to the Scientific Establishment, epistemological frameworks that provide the "one true answer" don't do much for the species or the planet. Daniel Quinn has a lot to say on this subject.

It seems that through history that faiths fall to pieces when they no longer work -- when the gods become silent or no longer answer prayers. Christianity has a knack for adaptation to this, unfortunately. Already most Christians don't actually believe in miracles anymore, so dissociated is the faith from this world that it really doesn't matter if yahweh responds to them with any presence in the world, so long as they get their fix of a warm-fuzzy feeling inside, they're pretty convinced that it's the spirit of God assuring them of life everlasting (of course, in today's society it's probably just the Xanax or MSG talking...)

This is the danger, of course, in Monotheism and why it has a viral quality, because it can be abstracted to such a degree that any potential feeling or sentiment can be attributed to an invisible "god."

I guess time will only tell how it plays out from here...

Agree here. And thanks, wildeyes, for the cropmob.org reference. I signed up to receive email even though I reside far away from North Carolina on a volcanic remnant in the Pacific, and am not young but pushing 66. Oh well.

And in answer to #1 above, my well-educated friends and family are in denial about reality and merely tolerate me. "She's in 'transition'".

In the end people completely lost thier heads.


4. Can you outline what the elements of such a plan would look like?

"Unless these questions are answered and expounded in great depth and detail, and the result used as a basis for further action, all other plans which are implemented will be haphazard expedients, and may well result in civil unrest and anarchy."

Agreed. Thats why I believe that such a plan, with the scope you suggest would neccessarily be defacto martial law. The PTB would initially have to take control of remaining communication and financial systems, food production and distribution, military and police, borders, all utilities and transportation, fuel and energy, etc. Aboard ship, in an emergency, we had a saying for damage control: "hold what you've got". The alternative will be social breakdown and anarchy because the vast majority of the population is not prepared for what you suggest in any way. Only after control is established in the new paradigm can any "shock plan" be implemented effectively. Only when the majority has accepted that life as they knew it has changed drastically and forever will it be possible to move forward.
It occurs to me that it may look like the civil defense plans of the 50s and 60s, designed for dealing with nuclear war. Strong, trustworthy leadership will have to be immediate.
Is any of this plausible? I think not.

Any plan has to take this into account:


The wealth distribution of the United States is not sustainable.

Wow, I've never seen the wealth distribution using the $100 example.

What would it take enact some new tax laws that would redistribute the wealth a little more favorably for the bottom 50 individuals who only have a nickel? What kind of effect would this have on the "overshoot"?

It would take a revolution, because the top 10 individuals own the media, the government and the executive.

Henry George advocated the sort of taxation of privilege - eg a tax on land rental values - which is necessary, and as Mason Gaffney documented in The Corruption of Economics George was literally air-brushed from economic history by neo-classical economics.

OVERSHOOT EQUALS most of the bottom 50 individuals, who from henceforth we might coin the phrase 'nickelbacks'.
Why redistribute wealth and resources to feed the hungry in order to produce more hungry to feed?
This is campfire talk, but after seeing 'The Road' this past weekend, it is worth more than a passing thought. I see no fix until a massive crisis comes in the form of collapse, and with it, no fix will cover everyone, otherwise it is not a 'fix'. That is the logic.
IF overshoot is the root of all the problems, then the problem is solved only by solving the overshoot.
What is your tribe?

So, the top 1% have only 33% of the wealth? What are you guys in the USA playing at? Here in the UK, the top 1% have 70% of the wealth! (Link)

Give them another 800 years.

"The wealth distribution of the United States is not sustainable."

Neither is the universe itself nor anything in it; all things appear to be running down. So the only interesting question might be, for what time-frame is it not sustainable? Or is the assertion simply an indulgence in wishful but airy philosophical thinking?

Incredibly-skewed wealth distributions seem as old as history. That is, they have been "sustained" - albeit sometimes not peaceably - for far longer than we really know how to think about, and under a far greater variety of conditions than we really know how to think about. So by what awesome coincidence would something so robust change materially within our own brief lifetimes or even within any time-frame of serious concern? Why and how would it be "different this time"?

These skewed fat-tail distributions also occur in nature.
See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Relative_abundance_distribution. In this case, the wealth of say a certain species of seabird has to do with their abundance. That's why a certain gull is called a Skua, cuz it is in the skewed part of the distribution (ha, just kidding).

Seriously, most of this skewing comes about from simple entropy considerations -- straightforward variations in rates of evolution (or skill as in humans) leads to the dispersion in the ultimate amounts of abundance (or wealth). This is a quasi-equilibrium system as the distribution alters as a continually ongoing process.

Since wealth distribution is all entropic, not much that we can do about it but to apply energy to the system in terms of a progressive taxation. In other words, we have to counter the disorder with energy. The system will not order itself on its own.

That is the ultimate problem with the people that Naomi Klein described in her book -- people like Milton Friedman who insanely (yet sincerely) believed that some sort of free-market capitalist approach would provide order to the landscape. Friedman thought that as long as he could create a blank slate to start from, then the system would evolve into some perfect market. That was the essence of the Shock Doctrine approach that Klein describes. But Uncle Miltie was wrong in even thinking this would work. Friedman was a wannabee scientist, and clearly deluded in his vision.

(edit) I discussed the Relative Abundance Distribution in a previous TOD post here : http://www.theoildrum.com/node/5949

I would just like to say I apreciate your contributions to TOD and you have on many occassions helped me understand the more complicated issues dealt with here, but this Sir;

"That's why a certain gull is called a Skua, cuz it is in the skewed part of the distribution (ha, just kidding)."

is the worst joke ever posted to the forums.

I think that the skua (Stercorarius skua) is also known as Pareto's Gull...not that naming conventions have the power of law.

groan ... I blame-a myself

It was lame; I blame too much coffee and that it's too cold to play outside.


Pre agriculture wealth distribution was not so skewed. Among hunter-gatherers who has to keep on the move to gain food (such as the San of the Kalahari) one could own what one could carry on your body.

But you are partially right - the incredibly skewed distribution are as old as WRITTEN history.

Personally I believe that if humanity is to survive we have to go back to hunter-gathering which is not a position I can sell to most on this site much less the general public. While we who are used to our comforts might balk at that, we with all this comfort and not a happy bunch of humans by and large - else why would Big Pharma be able to sell so much Prozac etc. Those who spent time with the San before much western contact report them to be a happy people despite eking out a life in the desert.

But if that is where we are headed we won't get their by plan but by default. Can we wisely plan the future for humans? I doubt it but planning and attempting to direct it in a wholesome way is useful IMO for keeping us from panic and feeling out of control. Perhaps the very act of planning to face the future will change the mindset of those who do it so they can react better to whatever comes down the pike in which case it is not what plan you choose that matters but the act of planning that matters.

You are ridiculous.
All we have to do is make money and finance a public utility that is no ones "property".

How about this.
Make energy the bits and bytes currency and then treat it with the same reverence as water.
End of bullsh*t.


You are right about the inequality not being sustainable. But like so many things discussed here at TOD, it's not the levels, it's the rates.

The income share (percent of all income going to a certain percentage of the population) of the top 10% in the US has been increasing exponentially for the last 30 years. Exponential regression of the top decile from 1980 to 2007 (last year I have data for) has R^2 = 0.92

You can get the original data from Emmanuel Saez's homepage at:

The rate issue is why I think it all has to do with entropic dispersion. These are not equilibrium arguments that lead to income disparity but a divergence in the rates.

Interesting take.
But the whole life thing is anti-entropic.
I don't think you can account for life, much less intelligent life, with simple thermodynamics.

I don't know how you can say "life will evolve and become more complicated given an energy supply and a hospitable environment", but I know that life does not violate the laws of thermodynamics. Just like a heat engine/heat pump combo can burn fuel to cool down a room and in the process decrease energy, life (viewed as one organism) can increase its complexity by absorbing energy from the sun and ultimately re-emitting waste heat as it decomposes itself. No different than industrial civilization increasing its complexity by burning FFs.

Life concentrates energy and the entropy theory disperses it.
So we have a discrepancy here.

No discrepancy if you treat entropy in the sense of disorder. Look at the case of human travel statistics. People travel about at different rates and this causes the observed dispersion in travel times http://www.theoildrum.com/node/5949

Adding energy to this system would imply that you were adding order, and thus forcing everyone to take the same mode of transportation.

I think the problem is that we are crow-barring our preconceived notions into a single life-form whereas I am treating independently acting life-forms. The latter can disperse when treated as an aggregate.

No we don't. If you have a heat engine powering a heat pump, you will be generating a lot of entropy in the engine and reducing the entropy (by a considerably lower amount) in the refrigerated area. Life does the same thing by taking energy from the sun, which is generating entropy, and then reduces entropy locally. If you want to talk thermodynamics, life as a system includes the sun and therefore life disperses energy, it just does something neat with it before turning it into heat.

It's just a matter of scale. At a fine scale, it might appear like life violates thermodynamics by concentrating energy and increasing complexity. But at a broader scale, it becomes clear that life is an efficient dissipative structure to transform energy from the sun into waste (perhaps in several steps via primary producers, herbivores, carnivores, detritivores). The laws of thermodynamics cannot be violated.

I know why life does not violate the laws of thermodynamics, but I don't know how to directly use thermodynamics - except in a very vague sense - to explain why life evolves.

My best stab at it (In the dark with a spork) is that given available materials and ambient conditions that allow those materials to be assembled into relatively stable, complex things, ultimately some of that matter will find itself involved in increasing entropy. By helping increase entropy, it is possible something will happen to the matter that makes it better at increasing entropy. For example, if in the chemical soup produced by a deep ocean vent, some biomolecules that facilitate the liberation of energy by catalyzing a reaction emerge (through a lottery with long odds but lots of players). Some of these biomolecules might also have a tendency to cause nearby matter to form identical biomolecules, which might itself be facilitated by the available energy released when the biomolecule catalyzes a chemical reaction.

Complexity took off when cells began to burn hydrocarbons in the presence of oxygen. A real explosion of multicellularity allowed by a relatively sudden windfall of energy, enough energy to form huge organisms with extra time to explore their environments and learn.

Humans have done the same in a short period of time by discovering and using fossil fuels, but their mechanism of evolution is not time constrained or dependent upon random mutation of DNA.

Let’s see. If we had to become fermenters again, with a net loss of 30 out of 32 of our net energy, we would definitely not maintain our multicellularity and all of the levels of predation in our ecosystem. Most of our infrastructure, like cities and roads and automobiles and even schools would become unaffordable.

Instead of making the difficult choices regarding the financial loss that must be taken as we abandon some of our current infrastructure, the policy makers have been rolling the dice, betting that something will come along in the nick of time that will allow BAU, or even worse, they are betting that they can capture the remaining fossil fuels and be the last nation standing. This is like throwing good money after bad and is a great way to go bankrupt or extinct.

If the new source of energy does not materialize then I think we will experience an episode of puncuated equilibrium in which a substantial proportion of population, businesses, cities and governments will be found lacking in what is necessary to survive in a low-energy environment. Those able to survive with low energy requirements will subsequently expand but never approach the complexity or size of their extinct relative, Homo dubaiensis.

3. What real-world scenarios might lead to the opportunity to make major structural changes in society?

Sudden economic collapse, nuclear war, comet/asteroid strike, plague, sudden energy collapse, very sudden climate change, massive EMP.

It occurs to me that Adolph Hitler and his henchmen had an effective "shock plan". Be careful what you ask for.

Believe me, there are the equivalents of A.H. and worse out there, with their time-tested shock plans.  Countering them cannot be done without having one of your own; without a plan, they win by default.

Some of this is already going on; the public has so far prevented the minority and cheap-labor lobbies from passing any amnesty bills for illegal aliens.  A mass social movement can block plans of a ruthless elite, and a social movement with a shock plan might even push the elites back (if it is not itself co-opted—always a danger).

I began implementing my personal/family plan 15 years ago. It is localized and in most respects, sustainable I hope. Beyond that, I have networked with some others and connected with principled groups that are doing much as I have. I have yet to connect with any larger "movements" offering what I consider realistic plans to mitigate the effects of what I foresee. I don't embrace the "Doomer" senario (I don't see the point), yet I see the possibility of rapid decline growing as time passes. I always remain open to ideas, learning and sharing what skills and knowledge I have aquired. Having said that, I rarely bother with those who leave their future to fate or pre-ordination. In my area, that mindset and the world view that accompanies it predominates.
I'll leave any larger plans to prepare society at large for what I am sure is coming to those more capable and better prepared than I am.
Yours in History

Been there, done that.
Born and raised a colonial on the frontiers of civilisation. I've experienced collapse. Ran away screaming.
Talking to friends is groundhog day. "Never in a thousand years...."
Just focus and get on, one step at a time.
It's a hard rains a'gonna fall.

One doubt though.
Have I transferred my map from the past to the present. Is my map up to date?
I challenge my map by sitting at the oppositions camp fire.
I guess my map is still good.

Well,Arthur,as you have seen first hand the downfall of Rhodesia to what it is today I
guess your map is at least as good as any other and probably better.

But maps are useful only up to a certain point.That point is when you get on the ground and see the reality.As you said,just focus and get on,one step at a time.

Did you read the same Shock Doctrine book that I did?

The take home message is that radical changes may only be possible during a crisis, and that in chaotic times the advantage goes to whoever has a response plan available.

I don't think Klein intended that as a take-home message. Her take-home message is instead that the sociopaths and powerful have discovered that to either create a crisis (Chile, etc) or to take advantage of a crisis (name a natural disaster or war) is the best way to inject some insane policy that otherwise cannot be tested in a "clean room" laboratory environment.

The disconnect is that you hope that the implemented plan will go to those with the best humanitarian intentions. Klein instead suggests that it goes to the most powerful, wealthy, and depraved.

So I guess this answers your Question #2.

Yeah, WHT. See my Hitler comment above.
This is why I have my own "shock plan".

Exactly, and it fits in well with your other remark that the people that need to worry the most are just too apathetic and into a state of denial that they get taken advantage of.

Hell, they're the first to sign up for the new Reich, hoping to preserve their status quo. Sucks, doesn't it. (GO TECH!)

Part of the problem is that the work "shock" is overused.

When The Shock Doctrine first came out I thought it was just about the "shock and awe" campaign of the Iraqi War. A also thought it may have something to do with oil shocks, and since I called one of my depletion analyses the Oil Shock Model, I thought it may apply.

Needless to say, it didn't apply really to either variant of shock, yet the book was still an eye-opener.

Actually I think part of the reason that Klein used the word shock is that it was part of the electro-shock experiments that she horrifically describes. This is all a part of creating a clean-room environment, enabling new thoughts and processes to be applied to a blank slate economy and to a zombified citizenry.

The awareness of the danger of AH type outcomes is perhaps more prevalent among the environmentally active than the need to prepare for collapse possibilities is amongst the well off (at least the mid-well off as the very well off are always analyzing potential threats). At least as I am aware of.

When the most liberal activists are (at least in private) admitting that stricter gun laws are not in their interests (in essence they are adopting the policy positions of the NRA) times are indeed changing. I am aware of a sea change in this area and know of some that are now arming themselves in preparation for waht they see as the coming conflict.

The spy counter spy activity that goes on between the ultra right and left camps has led those on the left to see that they must be prepared to protect themselves when the time comes. As most belive it is coming. I know of 3 people (from the activist environmental groups) who have infiltrated very conservative right-wing political groups and were present at meetings where there was explict and direct discussions taking place on when it was going to be necessary to kill the members of the very groups that they were actually members of. This tends to wake one up to the harshness of the world and what is really likely to happen when the chips get thrown down.

There are plenty of groups out there who will make all attempts (to include extreme violence) to put in effect their beliefs and to exorcise those they dislike. This is what you describe. It will not be a good type of shock we are going to experience.



You might enjoy my post (above) regarding right-wing christian/evangelical organizations within law enforcement and the military.

You just gave me chills. Any references to share about this?

Sorry. But, if you really want confirmation I expect that Greenish can help you or you can eventually verify through your own contacts. There is nothing surprising in it and it is to be expected. Confirmation just verifies the current status.

Your comment in your previous article indicates where the direction lies on the environmental/survival side of things..

"I don't see a political solution to the environmental/ecological crisis, which is the foundation of the financial crisis. So I am thinking about what to do if all the lobbying and outreach and writing your elected officials, which are the traditional activities of a person who goes to work, pays their bills and spends some time thinking about the big picture, just won't work.

Might a good expenditure of one's life, wealth and personal options be to fight for the preservation of remaining wild places and restoring degraded habitats? If the economy sits in the lap of ecology then the best chance for future generations will be how much functioning ecology we leave behind.

If one decides on this path then there are many ways to make a difference and with my background in agriculture I can see some big opportunities."

...this is where a number of the activists are already working. Preserve islands of diveristy in the hope that after collapse there will be a regrowth and repopulation of the ecosystems in the absence of vast populations of humans. Might work. You never know and it is the effort that determines the moral compass not the results.

I believe that the probability of collapse is so high that to not act is suicidal. So I am acting. I can't make others act, nor is there any likelyhood that I could convince anyone that the time to act is now. One can have all the evidence that should be necessary to convince any thinking person that the time to act has arrived and the result is that you lose ground because the concept of the required change is too enourmous to accept (ref Climate Change and the Deniers for how brain dead people can be).

My version of a solution is to act on what seems to be a part of the solution suitable for my skills and not to worry about the lost souls too much. Some will come along in their own time while most will not see their foolishness until it is too late. It has probably always worked this way. In the deep dark past there were probably Romans and Mayans who saw the writing on the wall and anguished over what might happen and railed about implementing solutions. My approach is to just bite off what appears to be a managable chunk and get to chewing. Take into account the downside risks (i.e. have some weapons, know how to use them, expect to use them, etc) but don't obsess on them as that is not productive towards the real goal. That being: While personal survival will most likely be more enjoyable than not, the real point of the work is not "who" is running my farm a 100 years from now, but rather that "someone" is still around to farm it."

Well the sun is up and I have to get back to working on my farm plan for 2010.


We are pretty much on the same page. This little essay is about how some others I interact with are coming around to the same position. Many of them have dwelt in the land of office work, writing grants, administering distant projects, etc., and they are getting disheartened. They want the tangible and the personal, but they also see that some of their admin and planning skills could be useful if a modicum of social cohesion remains and they can still connect to or become leaders during a crisis. It is not an either/or but a matter of how to invest ones time and talent given the situation they believe they see more clearly now.



I haven't read Klein but based on your description, I would agree that trying to give "the shock doctrine" a positive spin is the wrong move.

But I do think that positive radical changes may only be possible during a crisis.

So I think her conclusion is right, but she's picked the wrong best-seller to tie it to. I'd say she would have done better to pick "The Fourth Turning" by Strauss and Howe. I think this conveys the message she wants to convey in a less misleading way. So the question #2 still remains. Just some thoughts.


Perhaps it would have been better to have titled this "A Fourth Turning for Sustainability?"

I don't think so. There is something about the title that grabs, and a writer's first job is to be read.

I am using the Shock Doctrine broadly as a strategy for social change without connotations of good or evil. Environmental groups use the same basic marketing strategies as Coca Cola. I think you get that, so thanks for pointing it out.

4. Here's an outline of some social elements of a people's sustainability shock doctrine that responds to the real economic situation faced by a huge number of people:

a. Time for labor unions--which still have considerable sums of cash money resources--to restrict the amount of money given to the Democratic Party's candidates, down to a proportion equivalent to what labor really gets from that effort--perhaps no more than 5%-10%
Remainder of the resources goes into a dramatic wave of labor union organizing targeting those who were profiled by Barbara Ehrenreich: "Nickle-and-Dimed in America". Overwhelmingly young, part-time workers in the service industries, all levels of retail sales, farm workers, temporary workers, people working in distribution centers, call-center workers, bank tellers, customer service reps of all sorts, should be brought in under a big tent, similar to the IWW concept ca. 1910-1920. This big tent will end up housing many declassed baby boomers by the way.

b. Enormous corporate campaigns to support these labor efforts and to link them with fair trade efforts, anti-sweatshop organizing, improving the "green-ness" of giant corporations, and so forth. Think of Seattle 1999 as an everyday, ongoing, never-ending tireless organizing project and you have some idea what I mean. No splitting or division between "community organizing" and "labor organizing" in these campaigns.

c. Both young and old people recently dispossessed of their housing should be allowed by municipal code to form co-ops of unrelated people, or anarchist collective houses, or "communes," or extended family units with no restrictions other than health and safety. Zoning codes at all levels of government should be put in the shredder and re-written to reflect the real human effects of the collapsed housing bubble. There will be no reflation of the bubble. This could be especially helpful in the distant suburbs in preventing complete civil society collapse post-oil-peak.

d. Now that zoning codes have been put through the shredder, new clauses in codes need abolish the distinction between "bedroom" neighborhoods and "commercial" neighborhoods. Amish and Mennonite communities have long held to the practice of combining one's home with one's place of business, cottage industry, farm kitchen operation, and similar. The present prohibition of doing business in a "residential" zone cannot make sense in a post-peak-oil world.

e. Where considerable amounts of foreclosed and abandoned property exist, groups of poor and underemployed youth should be encouraged, in an organized way, to begin squatting and occupying such properties, and working collectively to maintain and protect these housing units from wanton destruction. These could begin as illegal occupations but be coupled with support activities from more mainstream civic groups to assure no police over-reaction, police rioting, mass arrests, or any infringement on rights of squatters and occupiers of buildings. Bank resources should be marshalled to return abandoned property to original owners or squatters.

f. A campaign of mass repudiation of student loan debt nationwide must be begun immediately. Student loan debt is the new indentured servitude, and we have brought up a generation that graduates from higher education immediately "upside down" in their lives and under water financially. This is the first generation of Americans raised in such a manner.

g. All of the above-mentioned efforts should be linked globally, since the powers that imposed the current round of shock doctrine from above are certainly linked globally, as in WTO, G20, etc. One should "think locally, but act globally" in this respect.

h. All the above-mentioned labor organizing, corporate campaigns, community re-design and similar efforts should be staffed and led by people guided by clear sets of values and principles, and these principles used in negotiating with the local, state, national and global power structures. Non-negotiable demands are useless, but power does concede nothing without some demand, as Mr. Douglas would say.

i. A thread of sustainability orientation and attention to the plight of the biosphere, the web of life, Gaia, or however you conceive the environment, should enlighten all such "sustainability shock doctrine".

Peas on earth,

Bobby G

I like much of what you said a lot. Very well thought out.

Questions: What do we all do during the decades that it would take to implement such a plan? Who presides over its implementation? Do you have any examples from history when such a sweeping change has been peacefully implemented?

(I especially like the parts pertaining to debt foregivness)

Ghung asked:

What do we all do during the decades that it would take to implement such a plan?

Society would do whay it always does: it would creep up on the changes, slowly morph into a new mindset, write off old habits and form new ones.

Over a couple decades of such transistion there is also a demographic change: the elder supporters of the former status quo retire and pass away, while the younger people who have not been well served by the former status quo move into positions in society where they can simultaneously reinforce shifts to a new way while pulling support from the old way.

There a few recent small examples I use when describing how this happens...
1. Think about the changes that occured around smoking: the removal of advertising, the squashing of those who denied the health dangers, the incessent increases in sin taxes, the perception change from "cool" to "low class", the legal restrictions on age of purchase, the building specific and now also public-space forbidding of smoking.
2. Remember when no stores sold organic food? Then a few specialty shops and food co-ops started. Then it became a status cuisine in a few restaurants. Then grocery stores gave it a little shelf space to see what would happen. Now we have whole organic aisles in grocery stores, Farmer's Markets supported by local governments, organic restaurants in all major markets, and even chain organic grocery stores (Whole Foods and Trader Joe's)

There are a lot of books out there that describe how this slow, grinding, invisible process has happened in the past, and likely will again in the future. Some favorites of mine are "The Fourth Turning" by Strauss and Howe, and the "Schizomania" concept by Professor Jack Lessinger. Here are some links to them:

To Ghung, I'd comment this way:

An old Black Bolshevik I knew (worker-school educated in the 1930s) said that times of revolution compress many years of incremental, reformist kind of change into just a few years, or even a few months, weeks. "Some times you go 20 years and don't make a day of progress; then comes the day you make 20 years."

These times are like that, I think. Reformism and gradualism are not going to get us there. You can't get there from here down that road.

Bobby G.
Central Wisc. USA

Agreed, and this was the point of my questions. As your Bolshevik friend knew well, the sort of changes described rarely occur peacefully and gradually when a society is in an overshoot/out-of-balance situation, as we are. The more out of balance things are, the more violent the the return to equilibrium. I sense that the social/economic/environmental ropes that tie us together are stretched very tightly and that the eventual backlash will be revolutionary/evolutionary and time-compressed, rather than structured and gradual. Let us hope for the latter. I do believe that the type of planning you suggest has much value. As someone posted above, if people like you and I don't have a plan then it is likely that others' plans will be implemented to fill the vacuum, and we may not like what we get.
The unraveling has begun.

I'm glad you are in Wisconsin, BobbyG (as am I). I'll be interested to read more of what you have to say.


Bobby G,

We need to hear from you more often.Great post!

The only time most Americans encounter this wealth distribution is when they have to go to the emergency room or DMV. Even then, it excludes the many people in prison. Most of us live within our own little bands, and we focus on the person right above us who has a slightly newer car, better cosmetic surgery, and a more exotic vacation planned for spring break.

And after seeing the new advertising model on college football tonite (think face paint), and what was advertised, make your own projections for the fate of the larger state.

None of my liberal friends, who are all well educated in the arts,percieve any immediate threat, although virtually all of them are "I read the NY Times" environmentalist types.

I hesitate to say so in so many words but my liberal circle seems to have an abiding faith in the civil authorities-meaning the state and federal govt -that is both touching and alarming and reminds me of the faith some of my religious acquaintances have in Jesus.
Thier vision of bad times is rationed gasoline and lowered thermostats and more food stamps.It's not that they aren't smart-they just figure that it's all going to be ok because they vote the right way and as long as they are in political control there will be peace prosperity,justice and lots of bunny rabbits and wild flowers, so they don't have to be bothered.

Virtually none of them have any technical education in the sciences critical to understanding our environmental problems-physics, chemistry,geology, and biology in general, other than the one or two dreaded survey courses forgotten as soon as possible which are all that most universities require of arts students.I attribute thier complacency to this fact.

My conservative buddies are mostly worried about a socialist take over and the loss of any opportunity to live and act as they see fit in an ever more regimented society and maybe make some serious money.
A very FEW of them are seriously concerned about a SOCIAL collapse.Only one or two of them are concerned about an environmental collapse, and both of them are voracious readers of history and science fiction.Both of them lurk on this site and several others dealing with energy and the environment.One of them actually has stocked up on food and survival gear.The other is an avid life long gardener , raises chickens,cuts firewood, cans his own food, etc and figures that if TSHTF he can get his show together quick enough at that time.

2 If have posted my opinion several times before that Our only real hope for change of the magnitude required to get us to implement an emergency war effort long term sustainability program is that we are lucky enough to get clobbered with a "Pearl Harbor " wake up event.This would have to be serious enough to REALLY get everybody's totally undivided attention and serious enough that a return to bau is out of the question BUT

not so serious that we have no resources left to make the changes needed.

Obviously a doctrine of some sort is highly desirable.It is often said that no battle plan ever survives the first few minutes of battle but this is only a statistical truth.Quite a few talented generals lucky enough to find circumstances in thier favor have planned and executed successful battles, and some have succeeded in the face of unfavorable circumnstances.

Even poor battle plans are better than none.

3 Any disaster that meets the criteria briefly outlined above.

Another year without a summer in reverse-a super hot crop killing year, a war that shuts down oil imports,a killer flu that kills like the plague of the late Middle Ages,a super hurricane-a thousand year storm-

Financial collapse and civil unrest on the grand scale, but brought under control after a short period of time.

A visit by ambassadors fronm another world . ;)

A coup pulled off by a group of Oil Drummers headed up by the regulars.;):);0)

Needless to say the odds of any of these lucky breaks materializing are pretty slim.

Another possible scenario is that instead of a clean drop offv into a collapse the economy staggers along like a far gone drunk for a decade or so until everybody is so fed up with this new bau that we just collectively QUIT playing the game one day, forcing a new start under new rules, somewhat after the fashion of the peaceable collapse of the USSR.This is not a very inviting scenario but I think it is the likeliest outcome other than collapse, provided we avoid a hot war for the next couple of decades.

4 In very broad outline-strategic reserves of staple foods , fertilizers, other essential ag and industrial inputs adequate for three years at least should be in secure storage.

Provision for emergency power supplies for the water and sewer systems of all major cities should be in place.This could consist of peaking ng plants being built nearby purposely, or building some spare transmission lines fron existing nukes or coal plants located close by.

Legislative authority in place to enable the prohibition of regreational activities requiring a lot of energy, up to and including air travel for vacations, etc.This also includes banning driving to professional sports events.

Immediate outlawing of the manufacture of any truck larger than a subcompact except a post office jeep plain jane model.

The authority to close to feedlots over a period of a year os so in order to divert the grain to human consumption.

Good Samaritian laws that eliminate any liability to car owners and drivers who drive others to work or on any essential errand.

No income tax levied on any income from allowing a person to share your home.

Cosmetic surgery except for accident reconstruction , birth defects, etc , outlawed.

A moratorium on building any new second homes or spec houses.Refundable tax credits for energy efficiency upgrades for poor people.

Steep taxes on junk foods.

A jobs program to support all those out of work or thrown out of work.The make work should be such a nature that it serves the essential interests of the country long term.For example the railroads might be nationalized and operated like highways by leasing track time.Highway construction workers could lay double track on single track lines, run new lines, lay new track on old right of ways, etc.

These ideas are listed not as specific reccomendations but as ideas to be used as starting points for creating the plan.Obviously I have just pulled these ideas out of the proverbial hat withot thinking them thru closely.

5 The general staff military organitional mode is probably best suited to such a job-the staff should include engineers, public health professionals,some military officers for thier ability to organize large bodies of men and machinery to accomplish a given job quickly and efficiently,who knows???Governors, county planners city managers, a few farmers, agronomists, veternarians, a few cops,????

6 another good question .But probably , yes.If it is public and widely public it will become politicized beyon d any hope of success as various business and pressure groups fight for a place at the trough.

OFM I have read your comments with interest and you are clearly a smart guy. So I can only assume you know just what you are proposing with this sort of plan.

Our only real hope for change of the magnitude required to get us to implement an emergency war effort long term sustainability program is that we are lucky enough to get clobbered with a "Pearl Harbor " wake up event.This would have to be serious enough to REALLY get everybody's totally undivided attention and serious enough that a return to bau is out of the question

The short form of the scenario you would like to see played out is called fascism. And your specifics that follow, however righteous, are also fascistic.

The general staff military organitional mode is probably best suited to such a job...

Yup, that's what it would take: military dictatorship. So who shall be the dictators? Homeland Security?

Old Chuck You will have to explain jump from my Pearl Harbor to your facsism for me-I huess I have a blind spot there.Maye you assume I believe in big brother and big business?I assure you nothing could be farther from the truth.

As far as the military genel staff organizational plan is concerned you again seem to be jumping to conclusions.I sense that you know little about military organization-not that I am expert myself.

The gerneral staff system works more or less thus:A few people at the top lay out a general plan of action.Let us say the problem is to evacuate NYC because there the water and sewer system is going down.

A bunch of colonels and generals lay out the basic plan.the people formulating the plan are well informed as to the scope of the jib, the manpower and equipment available, and the capabilkities of the men and the equipment.

The jib is subdivided into numerous individual parts and the parts assigned to individual specialists according to the job.railroad specialists make sure the trains are where they are supposed to be.Trucking specialists make sure the trucks get to the places they are to be loaded and to the places they are to be unloaded,MPs enforce traffic discipline.

This is essentially what all countries do in modern times during a hot war, it's the only thing that gives a reasonable hope of success.People are TOLD what to do.Now please remember I my scenario involves a really desperate status quo-one that threatens immediate total collapse, maybe mad max.

Under such a scenario we don't have time to fart around debating the fine points and voting subsidies and cuttin g deals in congress.Our very liberal democratic president and congress just used this same basic planning scenario -the general staff model-to deal with the financial crisis.They cut corners and the public be damned even to the extent of not being allowed to know where the money was going to bail out the banking system.The guys at the top cobbled up a plan and set the individual finance experts to implementing it.

But such a plan need not be wrapped in secrecy for the most part in such a scenario as I laid out.

Does it trample on individual liberties, rights, and property?


But so does getting drafted, or being forced to pay for things that you believe are wrong via your taxes.

Aas a realist, I see such a scenario as possibly saving us fron descending in to a failed state condition-becoming another Somolia.

Otherwise paint me a hard core doomer.

My personal doomstead is nearly ready, I am a small farmer, a good mechanic, a half trained nurse,a certified welder, an accomplished marksman.I am ready if absolutely necessary to kill people in order to protect my stash of diesel fuel,fertilizer,seed, and food in the event tshtf and I have a fair shot at making it as my ancestors did a hundred or a hundred and fifty years ago in these hills.

I read at least one serious history book every month.

I'm not daydreaming about being Davy crockett.

Hoeing corn and cutting firewood by hand at my age is very hard work.

Especially if there is no ice water in the summer or coffee in the winter and nothing to eat except what you raise yourself.

I am fairly certain that somethingalong the lines of what I have described is the best we can hope for.

Not many people would starve, not many would die in riots.Not many would die from cholera or malaria or yellow fever or hypothermia.

And once things were on a fairly even keel again, we can do what we have always done, hopefully.

Go back to bau.But it will be a different bau-very little oil, no more eternal growth, just getting by in a resource constrained world.Better than dead.

Better than today in some respects.One thing for sure that would come out of this would be socialized medicine western European style.

Assuming we avoid a dictatorship of course.Things could go very wrong.

But they would already be very wrong anyway.

Please overlook poor typing, no time to clean up my two finger tonight.

Mac, I think what Chuck's getting at is all of the "outlaw", "ban", "prohibit" lines. I'm not sure if they're fascist or socialist, but they'd require some kind of authoritarian regime. Heck, in a few sentences you've gotten rid of plastic surgery *and* standard pickups! There's no way congress would go for those. Come to think of it, you didn't do much to increase taxes on the wealthy. Any socialist plan would require something like that, so he's probably right that it leans toward fascism.

Could be worse. Fascism doesn't have to involve SS, blitzkriegs, and holocausts, any more than socialism has to involve gulags, iron curtains, and education camps. Sometimes even dictatorships aren't so bad. I doubt the first few generations of citizens of the roman empire were that upset about it. It sure would be nice to work out our problems as a democracy though.

"a war that shuts down oil imports" Not so slim odds. Israel attacking Iran for instance.

It is strange how we run in different social circles and have different default experiences with "liberals." Most that I know have science degrees, tend to be a-religious, and are deeply moral.

I know few social conservatives who fear a one-world government and go to church regularly.

I used to have friends -mostly teachers- with technical or scientific education who were liberals but I have lost touch with them-I'm still in touch with the arts types simply by chance as people move, divorce, change jobs etc.

My experience is that most biologist types are liberals, most engineering types are conservatives, just among my personal acquaintances, mind you.

Church goers tend to identify themselves as conservatives to a certain extent because they are afraid of liberals and vote conservative in order to preserve thier culture rather than because they are socially conservative.

I know a very large number of fundamentalists personally and most people would not believe how liberal at heart many of them are, excepting gay rights and abortion, which are viewed as threats to the moral order and murder.Of course most liberals would not consider a person who does not believe in these things a liberal , but there is a long list of values held in common. Most people aren't aware of just how fast even fundamenlalists Jesus freaks have changed over the last few decades.

So a few reminders may be in order. ;)
The fundamentalist men and women I know are overwhelmingly in favor of women:

voting-so long as they vote republican

driving cars-even if only from one job to another

equal pay-the guys need all the help they can get


community service among the poor-

universal education-

birth control -

sharing the work of the home-

the right to a decent and dignified life-

owning property and businesses

I could go on all night.

I have posted this tongue in cheek to remind everybody we all have a lot more in common than we realize.

OF COURSE examples to the contrary can be found, to which I answer-The Pope is against birth control.I have middle aged Catholic friends and acquaintances.Only one couple out of a dozen or so has a large family-four kids.The rest have one or two kids , excepting one who has three.So out of these faithful Catholics who attend services regularly,all twelve couples obviously use birth control, although the couple with four kids apparently isn't very careful about doing so.

My experience is that most biologist types are liberals, most engineering types are conservatives, just among my personal acquaintances, mind you.

The latest info

At T-Giving dinner there wasn't any mention or indication of any kind of concern for the future. I purposely avoid ever trying to engage anyone on the subject of overshoot, peak oil, AGW or any other topic considered negative. If you mention anything negative people don't like you, so I avoid it. Let them think what they want. But I don't hear anyone I know ever mention anything. They seem oblivious.

Here's a thought though about where Empire, the human/corporate experience is going: What if humankind squeezes every last bit of what this world has to offer? Meaning, what if there isn't some kind of collapse that drastically changes our course, but instead just a steady consumption of all available resources until there all pretty much gone. The image isn't pretty. 80% deserts on land - dead oceans - and maybe only a few dozen species left that are the most hearty, like seagulls, rats, humans (of course), our pets, farm animals, racoons, ants, wasps, cockroaches, alligators and maybe wild pigs. It would just be a rather dull, dusty planet, with the remaining people living off of farm animals and crops that grow in the ground, like potatos, onions, carrots. Nothing above ground grows because its just too noxious, too harsh a climate. Even the food grown in the ground requires a hearty last vestige of human survivors capable of metablizing (without causing disease) huge amounts of heavy metals and pcb's.

When one considers that eventuation, one must wonder if a collapse or some kind of cataclysm is preferable. At least the planet would then have something to offer future generations.

It had best come quickly. We're already on track to cause a Permian level extinction event.

Hi Altaira, good to see you posting again. I'm under the weather today but will venture a quick post in appreciation of the questions you raise.

I've spent 30+ years creating various NGO-type groups and projects, with more success at achieving intended goals than most. The work has seldom been "mainstream" until its conclusion, and the methods a bit offbeat, so I may not be a good data point for mapping trends.

It has seemed as though those I've worked with over the years have mostly stopped the stressful life-risking, boring, frustrating stuff and gone on to have more normal lives, but I've chalked it up to the fact that it's a stressful thing, with an activist's career half-life pretty short. And even then, most of them have only been looking at very specific issues at any given time. As an activist broadens his or her scope, it's difficult for many to cope. When you reach the broad-brush view of system limits and overshoot as often discussed on TOD, it's enough to drive many into a kind of brain-overload nihilism.

Be that as it may be, the "shock doctrine" type tactics represent a subset of the principles I've used for the last couple decades, which seem to generally derive from the way "relative fitness" is achieved by competing adaptive systems, and more generally still by the nature and landscape of evolving criticality and cascade in many overlapping systems.

That's a vague way to say I've taken advantage of "shock doctrine" type strategies, and was sorry to see other entities picking up on some of those strategies for coldly pragmatic ends. I note this since it may not be appreciated that the same dynamics may be exploited for any agenda. (And no, I haven't seen other NGO's do it.)

Planning in advance for an anticipated new context can be a smart and subtle way to deploy one's energies.

So yes, I think "shock doctrine" type tactics should be used by environmentalists. Indeed, in the context of a mass extinction, I think "sustainability" might be aiming low.

Feel free to email me directly if you like. I'm still dealing with the aftermath of a head injury and am quite a bit dingy - which I'm sure shows in this post. But as I've occasionally pointedly stated in this forum, I think that those who aspire to making the future better than it might otherwise be, must deal with the world as it is and not as they wish it was.

And despite our strong human preference for egalitarian process, one absolutely needs to manage the information flow. Knowlege and timing are everything. I would strongly advise against outlining any such strategies in a public forum. That doesn't mean I'm talking about covert sneakiness per se; well-intentioned undisciplined allies are a bigger danger to success than anything else.

Best of luck.

Thanks greenish. I wish you health and will connect with you again via email.

Of course, the difficulty of planning ahead for a new context is (at least) twofold:
1. What is the "ahead" being planned for? Who knows the future?
2. The present is so full, there are so many pressing crises TODAY, few are willing to take time out to plan for a future that hasn't arrived.

I tend to think the big NGOs can't do this sort of work very well. They are no longer nimble enough and have too many ties to institutional funders that resist these ideas.

Perhaps the small and local groups are where this can happen, which may limit the scope to their particularly narrow zone of influence. What do you think?

I'll look forward to hearing from you.

1. What is the "ahead" being planned for? Who knows the future?

Indeed. There's a large difference between planning for one's children and planning for the seventh generation. Or seven millionth, which is also perfectly reasonable.

We know some hard constraints on the future as well as some highly probable constraints. That's better than knowing nothing. Once can't really imagine a target utopia in the far future and expect to achieve it, but one might, for instance, affect the odds of that class of scenarios being precluded.

For instance, despite the unpredictably chaotic nature of the frozen accidents which will constitute future history, you can know that if, say, honeybees were to go extinct now that there would be no honeybees then. That may seem trivially obvious, but one can do a lot worse than prevent future options from being foreclosed. To that extent, we can certainly reach past the bottleneck.

Moreover, we can affect the "frozen accidents" before they freeze; complex systems can be more tractable than they might seem if you choreograph them a bit. More later on that.

2. The present is so full, there are so many pressing crises TODAY, few are willing to take time out to plan for a future that hasn't arrived.

Too true. I think the reality is that a relatively few actors will wind up steering things, to the extent they're steered. Whether the 'long-thinking altruists' decide to play in that game or concede it is currently rather an open question.

I tend to think the big NGOs can't do this sort of work very well. They are no longer nimble enough and have too many ties to institutional funders that resist these ideas.
Perhaps the small and local groups are where this can happen, which may limit the scope to their particularly narrow zone of influence. What do you think?

Having run big advocacy NGO's as well as doing nearly invisible steering with a small team, and most sorts of advocacy in between, I can say that in my own experience a large NGO with a lot of people and lots of money can be less useful for achieving a broad class of useful goals than a small group of people (like, half a dozen) with little money but with discipline and a bit different idea of how things actually happen in the world. And not just locally, but at the largest scales. Remind me to go into more depth on this when you get in touch. It runs counter to conventional wisdom, but I think I can illustrate it to you.

1. Are you noticing similar conversations, where well-educated and generally well off people are worried about the security of very basic needs, such as food and water.
Different people are at different stages, but there's a clear trend. My take home: the peak oil community is a growth industry.

2. Do you think a kind of “Shock Doctrine for Sustainability” is a good idea?
Yes. But a better book would be "The Fourth Turning" by Strauss and Howe. The authors argue for periodic crises in American History, followed by longer periods of "normalcy." But the crises reshaped everything: American Revolution, Civil War, Great Depression/World War II.

3. What real-world scenarios might lead to the opportunity to make major structural changes in society?
Uh, peak oil, maybe?

4. Can you outline what the elements of such a plan would look like?
I'd speak in U. S. terms here; not sure how to apply this to the rest of the world.
1. Steep progressive income tax, cap incomes at about $150,000 in current dollars.
2. Cap use of natural resources based on limiting factor (source or sink), as per Herman Daly.
3. National-service non-military draft for everyone, 18-65. Put the unemployed to work on the farm or in renewable energy. Guaranteed jobs or guaranteed annual income (enough to keep people from starving is the objective).
4. End factory farms and coal-powered electricity.
5. Foreign policy to match. Don't trade with countries that don't have similar policies.

5. Who might be able to actually make these plans and get them adopted at the right time?
TOD could do it.

6. Should such plans be kept largely undisclosed and un-promoted until needed?
Absolutely not. We need an advertising department. My general thought -- pitch it as a populist / environmentalist / prophetic message. "Limits to growth," Earth Day, etc.

Just a few thoughts.


Here are questions for campfire:

1. Are you noticing similar conversations, where well-educated and generally well off people are worried about the security of very basic needs, such as food and water.

Some, but not many. Others have commented here about the state of denial that many are in regarding the sitation. I'd like to add that the "civilized" cultures of the planet are imbued with a large dose of self-hate. So on the one hand there is lip service paid in the form of "How can this be happening...???" when under the surface there is that old and odd Freudian "death instinct" at work (not an instinct at all, but a facet of the culture in which Freud was immersed and practiced).

2. Do you think a kind of “Shock Doctrine for Sustainability” is a good idea?

I guess I feel it would be reaching too few people too slowly. I'm envisioning pockets of "prepared people" (psychologically and emotionally, first, then technologically) who will need to address what will constitute "defense" against desperate others. My model for this is indigenous of the world, some of whom ended up "Assimilated into the Borg", others who are hanging on by a thread to a more sustainable existence, and those who fall between these two extremes.

3. What real-world scenarios might lead to the opportunity to make major structural changes in society?

Opportunity?????!!! This is not a word I would have chosen. "Lack of Option" would encompass it better.

4. Can you outline what the elements of such a plan would look like?

Again, use anthropological observations on optimum tribal size as a guide, then focus locally with mentoring in childcare, food/water stewardship, and storytelling: New versions of "The Emporer Wears No Clothes" comes to mind to . To the extent possible, use nature and balance indigenous social models as templates for new social interactions and structures (or lack thereof).

5. Who might be able to actually make these plans and get them adopted at the right time?

People with the demonstrated skills to do them and not just the ability to talk about them. You will find them working for peanuts trying to give some unwanted child a sense of self-love at a local daycare, or in the auto parts section of Fleet Farm because their soft approach to the farm they had to forfeit was incompatible with the demands of industrial ag, or even spooning up gravy at the local shelter because they know how to survive not only their abused childhoods, but the pickling effects of a lifetime of drug use....they can still get up in the morning and "make a day of it". Clearly these people will not be "making plans" for others, but I challenge you to find more honest or sincere mentors within the confines of our society.

6. Should such plans be kept largely undisclosed and un-promoted until needed?

These efforts are going on right now......have never stopped, but became marginalized. The influence of such people needs to spread outward. I feel the more these examples enter the public conciousness now, the better. It won't automatically mean a softer landing, but more people at the time of "fall down, go BOOM" will understand and accept....hell, embrace!..... the "other side", whatever that might look like.

I have found the Grange to be a good place to organize activities and projects focused on post peak oil/ economic collapse.

My county has nine functioning Granges. Most of the active members in my county are children of the great depression.

They are here because they grew up mastering survival skills. They if asked will willingly teach those skills to younger generations.

Prior to moving from an urban setting to this rural area, I had never heard of the Grange. I joined to become a contributing member of the community.

Through presentations at monthly meetings, a monthly email economic/peak oil news letter, I have been able to raise the awareness of many people in the community.

In the last year our active membership has doubled by attracting local people in the forty to fifty year age range who are motivated to get prepared for the coming collapse.

I am too old (76) to be the leader of our community but I work closely with several young men (ages 30 –52) who have leadership ability and have demonstrated that they are willing to sacrifice for the good of the community. These are the men who took charge when our valley flooded two years ago (eight feet of water in many houses) and led the rebuilding. All of their effort was volunteered.

Our annual Grange Christmas party will be open to the entire community. I will cook 60 pounds of turkey and 20 pounds of ham with traditional trimmings. We expect more than 150 to attend. Each participant is a prospect for enlightenment and recruiting.

Is a good starting place

1. Are you noticing similar conversations, where well-educated and generally well off people are worried about the security of very basic needs, such as food and water.

Yes, but too few to consider it significant enough to effect change now.

2. Do you think a kind of “Shock Doctrine for Sustainability” is a good idea?

Absolutely yes. Here in New Zealand, the shock doctrine has been used repeatedly over the last three decades in order to make significant structural changes to the economy. As I write, we have a manufactured crisis in our world leading no-fault injury compensation scheme, created solely so that the right wing government can privatise the scheme for purely ideological reasons. The difference in this case is that the environmental/economic/energy crisis will not be manufactured. That doesn't mean that we don't have a moral obligation to have a decent plan ready to act upon. If we don't, the neo-cons will, and we'll have more pain before the real changes can happen.

3. What real-world scenarios might lead to the opportunity to make major structural changes in society?

Pick any of the constraints outlined in Limits to Growth. It's simply a race to the bottom as to which one will trigger the big episode. My money is on energy shortages (Peak Oil)

4. Can you outline what the elements of such a plan would look like?

Keep it simple stupid. Focus on significant structural changes to the monetary system, re-regulating the flow of capital and de-regulating the things that obstruct collective action at the local level. (Many of these have already been mentioned.) In other words, do much of what was done in the late 1930's, but don't count on oil/growth to rescue the economy, but shift the emphasis to sustainable infrastructure. There is no need whatsoever to get the generals involved or anything like that. They will have their hands full keeping the peace at home and abroad with little or no material support. The whole point of a shock change is that it is structural and then the community makes the changes organically around the structural change(s). There is no need for any heavy handed enforcement. If there is, then it's not a shock reform, it's a coup d'etat!

5. Who might be able to actually make these plans and get them adopted at the right time?

It's always an organised, smallish elite that builds these plans, whether we like to admit it or not. The Progressive anxiety over such things is why we do so little of it compared to our conservative counterparts! It will require true leadership in the right place at the right time to make such changes and choose a significant departure from the status quo. these folk are rare. Got any ideas? (Such folk do tend to rise to the top in a true crisis, as opposed the manufactured variety.)

6. Should such plans be kept largely undisclosed and un-promoted until needed?

If you've disclosed it widely and loudly, it's already a dead idea. These are the people that tend to end up in the foundations of stadiums in Latin America. Build resilience at the community level through transition town movements - these are the skills that are needed en masse by the masses. Otherwise, build your plans in relatively low-profile communities such as this one. Being secretive is as bad as being loud mouthed. Unless you are screaming very loudly, no one will take the plans seriously until the crisis in any case.

1. My observation is that people I speak with tend to be aware of peak oil and AGW but are not very well informed so they are easily soothed by things like the George Will column etc. They are anxious - especially about economic issues - but really don't want to deal with that anxiety in practical ways. People I see who are really into collapse are very conservative and well educated- right wing even - and perceive collapse not as a function of peak oil or global warming - but collapse as a function of increased size of government and moral decay. They tend to reject peak oil and AGW. They are preparing for the prospect of populist revolt by preparing a political platform- and emphasize things like local communities etc but are awash in romantic visions of a mythical agrarian past and tend to despise diversity.

2. Depends on who controls the results - I would tend to say no - because generally I have not seen positive responses to "shocks". 9/11 was clearly a shock - and the result was two wars, huge deficits and who knows how many resources wasted.

3. Energy and food scarcity will ultimately get to a point where people will pay attention - but don't count on most people making the effort to educate themselves as to the complex and inter-related causes. But remember that while people resist change - they get used to it pretty fast - the change gets normal. Consider buying water - this would have seemed incomprehensible to people 30 years ago - to buy jugs of water - but it is completely normal now.

4/5 I am attracted to work that has begun in Europe especially Spain, on co-ops. Workers who own the business. Look up the Mondragon Coops in Spain. Look at the Cleveland Laundry coop and other such things planned by I believe Evergreen. A distributist approach. Too complex to get into here but something well worth the attention of TOD. I am also impressed by small local groups in Ireland working on a small scale to create resilence and to prepare.
FADA is one, FEASTA another. These people have already created approaches and have the demonstrated expertise - they could be valuable resources. I fear though that the usual will happen - the predators will seize the opportunity.

6. People mistrust the secretive. I suspect the best approach is to join with like minded souls and do your thing. When your expertise is needed, people will come to you.

Altaira openly admits that many of the people with whom she has interacted have expressed dismay at what they believe is a species (homo sapiens) way into overshoot. Yet then, in the next breath, she talks about a "shock doctrine" intended to force existing societies into accepting sustainable change. Does anyone else smell the disconnect there that I do?

A species in overshoot this far is not going to have time to rationally bring down its excess numbers. All the feel-good talk from people that human population will level off near 2050 around 10 billion is the talk of the clinically insane, people born inside an overshoot event who think the overshoot event itself is normal.

Given the resource issues rearing their ugly heads in the first decade of the 21st century, I don't hold out any hope that we'll reach 10 billion people anyway. My own belief is that we're facing catastrophic collapse and any "shock doctrine" is a waste of time. Trying to change society is a waste of time. What you should be doing is preparing for the collapse of that society. You don't need a shock doctrine for that.

What you should be doing is preparing for the collapse of that society. You don't need a shock doctrine for that.

Many posters have already experienced a 'shock,' be it social alienation, the death of a loved one, or a car wreck. Dieoff.org, LATOC, The OilDrum, etc. constituted the doctrine.

That has little to do with Naomi Klein's "Shock Doctrine" thesis, which is that a crisis becomes the best time to impose solutions that the majority would never otherwise accept. It seems to me that you are stretching Altaira's position all out of shape with that comparison.

You're right, the comparison is probably a stretch.

The original post was just a general observation that humans are creatures of habit, and tend to resist changing those habits, barring some kind of jarring upset in our external environment.

I enjoy your posts, both here and on TAE.

I can see that analogy, but I got the distinct impression that she was driving more towards replicating the behavior of the Chicago school of economics (if that behavior is actually what occurred) and use it to force the world into a sustainable system. The problem is that 7 billion people may not be sustainable at all, no matter what we do.

> 1. Are you noticing similar conversations, where well-educated and generally well off people are worried about the security of very basic needs, such as food and water.

No, it is a slow gradual change that mostly relate to climate change.

> 2. Do you think a kind of “Shock Doctrine for Sustainability” is a good idea?

It is allways good to have constructive plans for handling severe problems.
The most important part is to not loose your head and destroy freedoms that
are needed for societies adaptability and the enjoyment of life.

> 3. What real-world scenarios might lead to the opportunity to make major structural changes in society?

Large scale negative examples. Formerly well off societies failing due to bad
politics that fumble the changes needed whern resorces start to get scarce.

> 4. Can you outline what the elements of such a plan would look like?

It would be based on quickening the pace of government, corporate and personal
adaptatios to resource scarcity. Dozens of small refinements to what already is
being done would add upp to enourmous change withing an generaton and significant
change withing a few years. I am sre this can be done withouth destroying any
culture and it would give almost everybody a place in the changing society.

> 5. Who might be able to actually make these plans and get them adopted at the right time?

Its a job divided between the governmnet, its institutions, politicans and other people doing heavy thinking and socializing.

> 6. Should such plans be kept largely undisclosed and un-promoted until needed?

Abolutely not, good ideas need to be out in the open to be refined and get an opportunity to be usefull.

Since it is about building new structurs wich is a harder problem then tearing down old
structures you realy need to start the work before the crisis.

Alan Drake immediately comes to mind. He has for years tried to have viable plans for rapid transit available for such times as gasoline shortages bring on a transportation emergency. He has always said something like "I want to have straws available when they start grasping for straws."

Interesting discussion is this.

One thing I would strongly suggest is not getting involved in a regular political party. It is often said by the Powers That Be that if you feel strongly enough about something then you should find a political party which best fits your view and then get involved to try to influence the policy makers. In my opinion this is a big mistake and will only result in a total waste of time. I followed the recent US presidential race closely from this side of the pond and even as a 'neutral' I was hard pressed to find anything different about any of the party candidates and even less between Mssrs Obama and Mcain.

Unfortunately it is even worse here in Britain. In less than six months' time we will be going to the polls in the general election. All three of the main parties are pro growth, pro 'the economy', pro fiat currency, pro debt-based money. All of the politicians are from the 'political class' - you know the type: out of university into law/banking/PR for a couple of years so they can say they have 'experience' then they weedle their way into an internship in their chosen party, find an unwinnable seat to fight, loose, find a winnable seat, win, grease their way up the ranks whilst betraying what little principles they might have had, land a junior ministerial position and then eventual land the job of Secretary of State for Health (or other) with out any qualifications for the post at all.

While our political systems offer just bland carbon copies of each other's policies we would do best to stay well clear of giving the system any credence whatsoever. Perhaps an interesting idea would be to set up a shadow parliament/congress. We could 'elect' worthy representatives and pass 'laws' as to how we would wish the country to be run. If it got to a critical mass then the TV cameras would tune in. Not much flesh on the idea at the moment but it has been something I have been thinking about for sometime. If nothing else it would show the 'real' politicians how little we respect them.

I really disagree with this. There is a high likelihood that if things really start to get bad, that people will grasp at straws, and they may start to line up behind demagogues. They may look for people to blame (immigrants, Muslims, environmentalists or some other boogeyman). People may lobby for actions that are either pointless or counter productive (drill here, drill now). They may lobby for war with other countries in order to seize their natural resources.

If you check out completely, you essentially just give up which will make it easier for the demagogues to gain control.

It is quite common for individuals to change things via the political parties in Sweden. You need to be bright, work hard and it usually takes a few years and it is hopless if your agenda dont fit withe the overall real world trends or the political trends. The resource issues are ripe for such changes and they have been moving for quite some time. Individuals and small groups have changed party agendas about for instance nuclear power and then about 5 years later influenced the national agenda. The same thing have happend for "school checks", misc infrastructure projects, and so on.

But we have problems with youth not having the patince for slow and fairly hard political work and some organizations promising quick changes and a cool battle against the system.

We got a big government in % of GNP but it is in manny ways small and efficent. USA seems to have it the other way around.

I am quite sure that we will do the right things when it gets tough and that manny of the new ideas that then will be needed will be found among people who already are doing good stuff. I have seen it happen and I know that more can be done. This works a lot better with open planning and a maximum number of people knowing about the real world situation.

I agree entirely with these sentiments. Big business in the UK co-opted the Labour Party coming up to the 97 election when they saw that they were heading for power. The Country wanted a change but ended up with the same. I've not had a party to vote for that represents anything like my views since.

I'd go along with the comments expressed above about implementing a progressive tax system and setting ceiling on wages. Tax in the UK was 19s 6d in the pound just after WW2. It should be £1.10p in the pound now over about £100,000. The Bankers would soon return their bonuses then.

Sounds like a strange idea to have. After all, you

- know that the extreme right understand and have familiarity with employing the shock doctrine to achieve objectives

- know that they know about peak oil, the implications, and how its likely to play out.

- know that they are keeping quiet on it, ignoring the problem

- know that they are close to the levers of power, and have familiarity with pulling them.

Thus its a good bet that they have a plan to employ their chosen tool, at the opportune moment, to their own ends.

And you are thinking about using THEIR tool, without access to power, to achieve your ends? Do you really think that would ever work?

Some early steps in the process of coming to a deeper understanding:

Step 1: If you were a member of the extreme right elite, with their know predilections, what would your plan be?

Step 2: Knowing that, how compatible are your aims with their aims?

Step 3: If they are, can you embrace and extend to usurp their planning?

Step 4: If they are not, do you really think you can run two competing plans, using the same approach, without access to power or familiarity, and win out?

I'd suggest that the plan would be a power grab, and an attempt to secure military control of the necessary overseas resources to continue the US substantially as is. Certain groups would be demonised and the economy would be put on a centralised 'war footing' to ensure a command and control economy servicing nominally 'free market' business ends; but in reality those of the ruling elite - centralising control of finance/resources.

As such, I doubt if they are too compatible with your aims. Not much case for localisation and sustainability there. All that would be likely to happen if you stood up in a time of 'shock' and said the way forward was sacrifice, retreating back to much less of everything, would be for you to be a smear on the pavement.

The shock doctrine and its approach to usurping control via action at the centre is not for you. You want 'positive' change, you need a different tool - one that's never really been found in such circumstances in the totality of human history.

> Sounds like a strange idea to have...Thus its a good bet that they have a plan to employ their chosen tool, at the opportune moment, to their own ends. And you are thinking about using THEIR tool, without access to power, to achieve your ends? Do you really think that would ever work?

Points well taken. Perhaps the failure of 20th-century socialism ("communism") was in the attempt to seize control of a state power system that had been designed and built for capitalism, not for a grass-roots democracy where workers really owned their means of production.

No social movement today can use THEIR tool to achieve its ends. There must be a fundamental, radical break with old world-models, including both capitalism as configured since 1898 as well as socialism configured with a strong state power (AKA "dictatorship of the proletariat").

We don't really have a successful world model to look toward. These are times of extreme novelty, not reliance on old habits.

> The shock doctrine and its approach to usurping control via action at the centre is not for you. You want 'positive' change, you need a different tool - one that's never really been found in such circumstances in the totality of human history.

I agree with this assessment, garyp.

However, as is often said, material conditions of the vast majority of people worldwide are at such an extreme of unsustainability, that we should expect huge social movements to be arising in response to the shock doctrine that has been applied by global finance capital.

The tool we're searching for has to be very highly developed, perhaps "mycelial" as suggested here, based on common key values, across all borders if possible, and not reliant upon gaining control of the state apparatus for inflicting violence on other groups, classes, ethnicities, religions, etc.

Globalization has prepared the conditions for its own demise into rapid de-globalization, but to re-localize, the peoples will have to fully globalize their sustainability efforts.


Bobby G
Central Wisc.

Even with this excellent discussion we are late to the party. Paul Hawken in his book Blessed Unrest describes how the mycelia have been spreading for years, are expanding at around 40% a year right now, and even most of us don't know that the process of "colonizing the substrate" is already well underway.

"We" don't actually need to do anything -- tens of millions of people world-wide are already active, doing whatever is needed in their locale. The cool thing is that to TPTB they just look like local irritants. The fact that it's totally distributed and there is no overarching, centralized agenda is the one thing that gives me hope that the shift may give birth to something besides Big Government Lite. I would fight any effort to bring the change under centralized direction.


I do understand the urge to resist the possibility of having our mycelial action being taken over by centralized direction, but regardless of who else might be involved, I am concerned about the millions of people who really don’t have a clue about peak oil or the ongoing financial/economic calamity or climate change or any of a myriad of other upcoming problems. These people are going to need help from the people who’ve already started making changes in their lives. That, I hope, is what this thread is, at least partly, about.

We know the government isn’t going to do much in the direction of offering useful help. For example, mpg of the US fleet could have been drastically improved by now, even without hybrid and electric cars. Call me a pessimist, but I assume that one reason this improvement hasn’t been mandated is that a deliberate reduction in use of petroleum on the part of the US puts us at risk of losing our current ‘friendships” in the Middle East. Similar friendships for other reasons will keep the government for doing things that would really help its citizens. This is why I think a plan to disseminate useful information and calls for action is a good idea.

Since so many people have personal and community actions ongoing, the main thing is to wait for the next moment, a shock (to use the word of the day) from the outside like another Katrina-type event, or severe gasoline shortages (Atlanta-style) or power failures, and then everyone out here in electron-land could shout—online, in our neighborhoods, among our friends, wherever--- whatever our message is, like the people on the dust-speck in Dr. Seuss’s “Horton Hears a Who.” They weren’t heard until everyone shouted at once, even the littlest, least important persons. It’s just a matter of choosing the message, and making sure everyone understands that we all need to shout at the same time (no small task, I know). This might just speed up the spread of the mycelium, and, considering that even the IEA is admitting that oil production isn’t going to increase at the hoped-for rate, we definitely need to speed things up!

Back in the World Wars, the Victory Garden movement was the instigation for a lot of home gardens that wouldn’t otherwise have been created and tended. My understanding is that the Victory Garden movement started as a grass roots idea that was later picked up by the government, and then expanded. This was the result of a good, big shout that kept a lot of people fed in hard times.

After the 9-11 attacks, I am pretty sure that a high percentage of the American people would have participated in activities that they thought would be helpful, but all we were asked to do was to go shopping. This was a missed opportunity for some serious shouting.

Of course, this is just my own opinion, and probably hopelessly naive.

I think you have hit upon an important difference between Klein's description of how the Shock Doctrine is applied and how it may be used by smaller, more community-connected groups.

I am wondering how many local environmental centers, watershed clean-up groups, gleaner clubs, healthy food advocates, and similar do-gooders consider that they may need a plan to rapidly scale their programs to hit the masses when the times are ripe?


There are two ways a network can scale up. One is by increasing the size of each node, the other is by increasing the number of nodes. So far the emergent social movement described by Hawken is following the second path.

We are conditioned by our industrial culture to think of scaling or growth in the first way – the phrase “economy of scale” springs immediately to everyone’s mind whenever the question of increasing capacity comes up. Given that this may be one of the mental models that has landed us in this predicament (it's the underlying premise of the global corporate culture, after all), I wonder about the value of continuing to see the world that way. I think we ought to be making room in our possibility space for networks that increase in span rather than node weight.

One fundamental advantage to a network with small nodes but broad span is that it is much more resilient. The breakdown or disabling of a single node has much less impact on the system. In the model we’re speaking of, it also retains its inherent quality of deep integration with local communities much better. There’s less of the sense that, “I’m from Washington and I’m here to help you,” and more one of, “Hi, I’m Joe from two streets over and a bunch of us have this great idea you might find interesting.”

I’m fundamentally opposed to “throw-weight” definitions of scale, especially when it comes to social structures, sustainability and survivability. We've been down that path repeatedly as our civilization has grown, and ultimately it hasn't worked. There is no reason to expect it to work any better this time. Small is beautiful for very good reasons.

I appreciate your distinctions. Very nice, thank you.

1. Nope, no conversations like this even among my engineering and environmental colleagues. No one but me has a clue about Peak Oil. Perhaps it's because most of them are younger and weren't driving and waiting in gas lines in 1974.

2. I tend to agree with the earlier commenter who described Shock Doctrine as an authoritarian tactic. Weimar Germany comes to mind. The authoritarian right was certainly ready to jump in after the deflation/hyperinflation whipsaw.

3. Wait two decades and take your pick.

4. No freaking clue what a plan would look like.

5. Regarding localized emergency planning / sustainability efforts, I like the idea of Volunteer Fire Departments. You have an organization connected to the government and power structure, you have a group of volunteers interested in helping others ... I haven't approached ours yet, although it's on my to-do list.

6. I don't think this matters. There are no secrets from TPTB. Even so, these types of plans are so far away from anyone's conception of the future (see #1) that it's unlikely they will be resisted even if they are promoted.

I am surprised by how quickly an inkling of a changing future is spreading in my part of Shropshire, UK. Folk seem to be making spontaneous intuitive changes without any detailed knowledge of resource depletion etc. Here are some examples:
Two local estate agents have suddenly started breeding their own pigs, and an obscure and hitherto marginal small-holders group is now attracting packed audiences keen to learn about woodland management, growing food , keeping chickens , pigs, sheep and bees. A neighbour is coppicing willow. My local doctor's son has learnt how to catch rabbits. Another local doctor has invested in wood-burning stoves, chain saw, log splitter and a small garden tractor with which he forages for timber on the riverbank. He already has a pile the size of a garage. In a nearby village someone is trying to set up a forest garden /permaculture enterprise.
From being neglected , allotments are now highly sought after resources with a waiting list. Growing fruit and vegetables is becoming popular and dinner party conversations often include swapping gardening tips.
Bicycles are selling well and more and more are appearing on the roads, albeit more for leisure than utilitarian transport.
Some young people are highly aware and are deliberately opting for a life of low consumption and voluntary simplicity.

However, and this is a big however, I think it is still a minority and an eccentric one at that who are making any serious preparations for radical change. There is vigorous opposition to the permaculture farm and its "weirdos". Opinion may polarise between fundamentalist BAU types and doomers. But the pioneers are there in the community showing the way and constructive solutions are being attempted.

The change you are noting is still a minority but this will surely change since we all know that we are heading down a road where economic/environmental/peak oil phenomenon will further disenfranchise those who currently believe in BAU. I agree with you about this spontaneous intuitive changes taking place without well studied understanding of peak oil, resource depletion etc. We should not underestimate the catalyst of consequences acting to spread this intuition way beyond the current minority.

1. People feel shaken and have lost confidence in the capitalist system to deliver.
2. No
3. Blackouts, oil shortages, climate related problems like heat waves and droughts and other system failures. (Bank failure is a good start).
4. First you need to explain where you want to end up. If India and China
are any judge they want to end up where the OECD is. Maybe the OECD wants to end up with 'sustainability' as a goal in and of itself. If so a social contract will exist to guarrantee food, shelter, health, employment, etc. in exchange for managed expectations.
5. Ultimately politicians will have to legislate them.
6. No. They should be openly discussed.

Change comes from the bottom up.
The elite resists change, sometimes by corrupting/co-opting it.

Shock doctrine is fascism or at least sounds like it.

I don't think a 'shock doctrine' will be allowed by our current leaders/owners, nor is it necessary. Sustainable technologies are naturally disruptive, and over time will result in structural changes.

As an example, consider an investor contemplating a commitment to a large, capital intensive energy project like a new nuclear, sequestered coal, or oil shale recovery plant. The project may be amortized over 30 years, and once the money is invested it can't be recovered. To be viable the project requires a predictable market.

Now what happens if, after 5 years, someone starts selling cheap solar roofing panels. Building owners can now unplug from the utility, or worse, sell power to the grid. The big project investors lose. Even the possiblility of cheap solar, wind, Mr. Fusion, or something similar will disuade them from making the big investment.

Beside PV solar and wind, one can think of other technologies that are potentially disruptive to 'big finance'. Sodium storage batteries, small scale electro-metallurgy, cheap CNC machines like shopbot, all favour distributed, networked, small scale, personally owned deployment.

Big finance has been trying for decades to steer the future away from this eventuality. The 'hydrogen economy' is really just an attempt to keep nuclear and liquid hydrocarbons in business, and it isn't working. Likewise suburban development.

The sun and wind are free, and eventually people will be too. If you want to do something to help bring this on, support a renewables startup.

Where are the resources going to come from? Even if such a society deploys enough positive EROI wind/solar systems to supply the energy to run all those machines, where do the feedstocks for the mini CNC machines and electro-metallurgy devices come from? Where do the miles of copper (or aluminum) wire come from for all those motors and generators? Who gets to run the home-scale semiconductor factories for all those control electronics? It is a wonderful vision of the future, but does not strike me as realistic. Not impossible (for a while) though.

You'd like Cory Doctorow's book, Makers. The world is obviously past peak, and in kind of a (very) slow decline scenario. It is about people, the internet, making things and large corporations and how they interact.

My suggestion is to learn to make useful things at a lower level of technology than electro-metallurgy rigs and CNC machines. I wouldn't get any more sophisticated than a drill press, lathe and mill. Of course, I know that the CNC versions of those tools (if they have powerscrews instead of roller link) can be used manually and vice versa. I would keep that in mind for when a control system fails in one of those machines.

Thanks for the link to Makers. It looks interesting and I might have a read over the holiday.

Where the feedstocks come from is a question i've spent some time studying. While western man is addicted to fossil carbon's combustion energy, we are also overly accustomed to its chemical reducing potential, which is not very high, really, and in turn leads to inefficiency. Iron is the most used structural metal because it happens to be easily reduced by coke. Aluminum and magnesium are more abundant, but not obtainable by carbothermal reduction, so we need to burn the coal, make electricity at 30% efficiency, and reduce the metals by electrolysis. Take away the carbon and all metals become equally obtainable. Manganese, titanium, and zirconium use can increase, and silicates can be used as ores. Sustainable technologies won't just be carbon-age ones with a windmill bandaided on. They will be different and more efficient from the ground up.

If I understand your post, you are saying that electrolysis-based oxide->metal processes will provide feedstocks. Where would you get the concentrated metal oxides to reduce to metal? What purification steps are necessary before you apply current and get metal?

Also, it seems reasonable to me that electrolysis-based metal reduction has lower economies of scale than heat-based metal reduction because there is no large devices that need to be kept hot. This is a point in your favour. I take it that you think a slow decline is more likely than collapse (I think so too, but believe total collapse is a nonzero probability) because you are talking about building all these cool machines. I support your vision of the future 100% and think it would be great, but there is also food to be considered. Grains, ect... can be grown industrially and delivered to the consumer using a relatively small amount of FF, but only if the entire system is working. If, as a result of the decline in the BAU machine, industrial agriculture might fail anyway despite there being available energy and other feedstocks. Food seems more urgent to me than electro-metallurgy and computer-aided manufacturing. Tools required for small scale food production can be made from scrap iron using a forge.

I suspect food will be higher on the agenda, but making things is important too. I think you and I think the same way about the ability to make stuff, but I suggest shooting for a lower level of technology. Either way the future will tell.

No plan or independent organization of individuals preparing for the inevitable severe contraction coming could go public, particularly if it included notable public figures. When the media gets wind of billionaires or groups of 100 or more people building multiple shelters 100 miles from anything in the wilderness, the panic will start to spread... they (the BAU crowd) would still tell us everything is alright even if flesh eating zombies were running down the street... I hate to say it but only a catastrophe will provoke change...

1. Are you noticing similar conversations, where well-educated and generally well off people are worried about the security of very basic needs, such as food and water.

Some, mainly continuing BAU, even if they believe rhetoric. Small segment, particularly younger (30's to 40's) buying land and making attempts at sustainability. I live in academic, agricultural MW USA.

2. Do you think a kind of “Shock Doctrine for Sustainability” is a good idea?

No, electrons eventually dissolve...

3. What real-world scenarios might lead to the opportunity to make major structural changes in society?

my feeling is the whole catastrophic hand has been overplayed. i see a continuing slide into a depauperate society - with notable exceptions. Too many unacknowledged and some unrecognized holes have been punched in our ecological webs. where is the discussion about how the disruptions in our biogeochemical cycles are going to play out - it is scary ecosystem level effects.

4. Can you outline what the elements of such a plan would look like?

i'm clueless. i see the social support net slowly eroding (e.g. government support, not familial/clan), eventually people will have a difficult time realizing so many were able to live in such a profligate manner - it may be 150 years, but i think it will occur.

5. Who might be able to actually make these plans and get them adopted at the right time?

Local, local, local. Don't see much hope, nor likelihood of national plans.

6. Should such plans be kept largely undisclosed and un-promoted until needed?

They may just end up being undisclosed as communication slowly becomes more and more local and it gets less useful to expend large amounts of precious energy to travel.

Btw, my first time spending any time here. Thoughtful stuff, I see myself returning frequently.


2. The shock doctrine approach has been employed successfully by highly top-down groups with power and single-minded focus. A more bottom-up, grassroots movement would be unlikely to succeed, and it could even back fire.

It seems perhaps better to think about the opposite to the shock doctrine, both to limit its effectiveness after the next shock (real or manufactured) and to nudge society in a positive (or at least less negative) direction. This would imply
- distributed planning (not small elite group, easy to focus on and discredit or worse)
- open and transparent - no secrets
- building resilience and understanding that lead to proaction and ability to withstand shocks, not reactions due to weakness and ignorance

How to achieve any of the above? One small step at a time. Prepare yourself to withstand shock, then your family, then your community. Make links with other communities. I like the idea of developing straws for when people or decisions makers grasp (and these will be needed at multiple scales). Will there be time? Probably not, but that's no reason to not try.

Very interesting discussion Altaira,

1. Colleagues working in sustainability, renewable energy, business, or NGOs for third world development are starting to talk about it, but I haven't seen anyone acknowledge the magnitude of the problem as it is done on TOD. My scientist friends in academia can't be bothered to check the details and shrug their shoulders thinking it doesn't affect them personally. However as said above, I agree that it's a growing industry. recently I talked to the CEO of a large renewable energy company and his code version was: There is a crisis coming much greater than this small financial crisis... he then went on to cite some IEA phrases from the 2008 introduction.

2. shock a good idea? -- I think it would have to depart from the Chicago school version not to fall in the traps of authoritarianism. As mentioned before it must have a grass roots component, maybe the image is more that of self organization. The shock comes because the catalyst or seed is there for a rapid growth of the movement at the precise time.

3. What scenarios? -- I would suggest that poverty, high unemployment, food riots in western countries could be a triggering event (if they occur)

4. elements of such a plan? -- I would add something to the grassroots, mushrooms and elites. Imagine a significant part of the population out of work (35%?), hungry and disillusioned. Now they are offered a "job" in the informal economy, in a welcoming community, in a matrix where things have been going on quietly for a while but where lots has happened. Agriculture, appropriate technology (Schumacher style), small and barely sufficient energy, rescuing of old trades, etc.

The key of the "undercover plan" would be that the structure is ready to grow if people want to join in. (grow, of course means the overall consumption scales down).
Leadership could encourage something like civil disobedience (maybe we could call it commercial disobedience) slowly sucking people out of the formal economy towards sustainability. People too scared to step out of BAU would have success stories to be inspired with.

I suggest that the Internet could help crystallize the process adding to its disruptive effect. Something with the growth of Facebook, with the power of crowd-sourcing, and with a web of niches and skills matched with smart algorithms. We have TOD and linked-in where skills and future expectations have suddenly met(and even as a minority I'm sure we are all surprised by the impacts TOD has had so far). With some appropriate tools to match desperate people, interests, expertise, communities, faiths, ... and sharing... it could (hopefully) get out of control =)

5. Who to make these plans? -- local initiatives glued with internet communities?

6. undisclosed and un-promoted ? -- I think the minority, marginal effect will take care of leaving it undisclosed. people won't take it seriously until it matters. I don't think the Chicago school needed to keep their theoretical papers undisclosed ... simply no-one took them seriously. It's like reading the old "Planned obsolescence" papers which would shock consumers today.

1. Are you noticing similar conversations, where well-educated and generally well off people are worried about the security of very basic needs, such as food and water.

For engineers, this is a small step. Most of the "good" engineers I know grew up in farm towns, and those living in-town desire acreage and usually end with at least a few acres and a farm. Most live conservatively anyway, but took new notice after their 401Ks took a bit hit last year. All understand the basics of overpopulation, resource limits, and frail system dynamics. Worried? Yes. Worried more than usual? Not so much.

2. Do you think a kind of “Shock Doctrine for Sustainability” is a good idea?

Equally as pointless as striving for climate change control Just because it's necessary doesn't mean it's possible. Better to act individually, and do what you can. "God grant me the energy to change what I can, the peace to accept what I cannot change, and the wisdom to know the difference." As for me? I'm offering to help anybody I know who wants to improve their house do so. Many such projects are held-up by the daunting effort more than money, and a helping hand makes the project more enjoyable. I gain goodwill and learn a thing or two to boot.

3. What real-world scenarios might lead to the opportunity to make major structural changes in society?

Mostly time is required. We've already had major changes ongoing (assembly line production, women working, integration, energy shifts, personal credit growth, service economy shift, etc.), and the next ratchet down on energy and debt will do it again. Failing that, a major war or epidemic might speed things along.

4. Can you outline what the elements of such a plan would look like?
Reduce scale and improve localization in everything, especially gov't, energy production, food production, and property ownership.

5. Who might be able to actually make these plans and get them adopted at the right time? Nobody -- they'll all be "too late", but that'll be the best we can do. Except for actions you take yourself -- why wait?

6. Should such plans be kept largely undisclosed and un-promoted until needed? Only if it fits into the local power structure and aids re-localization. Big power plays by outsiders and gov't types will end up with people pushing up daisies if order breaks down. The good ole' boy network has things covered in my hometown already -- many who are quite poor are still quite influential, and nobody is going to change that basic structure. I haven't lived there in 20 years and I'd still be fine if I go back though I'm only marginally attached...you could live there for 10 and still wonder why things never quite go your way. Ever wonder about the gun-store fire a block from the firehouse that burned nothing but all the ownership records in the office? Yeah, me neither.

i would love to, if you haven't yet come across it, draw your attention to the Zeitgeist Movement and the Venus Project. if only the future could be this way!!!

I have been trying that already.
Ironic it is that all these brains just won't try at all.

Failure is a certainty with out effort.