Gypsies at the peak

The Roma (or Rroma) of Italy are probably the poorest fraction of the residents in the country. They normally live in segregated camps, in trailers or in self built sheds. Only about half of the 150,000 Roma in Italy are Italian citizens; in most cases, they have no stable job and live a very precarious existence as the target of hatred and of open racism. The image above, from Excite Magazine, shows the Roma camp in the suburb of Ponticelli, in Naples, as it was before being burned to the ground by an angry mob in 2008.

Here I am, in front of the whole class. Romani men and women; about 20 people; all coming from the same camp, nearby. They are in their late 20s and early 30s, and they have dressed up for the occasion. Not that they can afford expensive clothes, of course, but the men look smart in their informal attire. The women like to dress in bright colors. They wear the almost obligatory long skirt, as well as earrings and necklaces. They seem to be very happy to have found a way to leave the routine of the camp where they spend their time cooking and looking after young children.

Over the past months, a group of teachers have been lecturing to this group as part of an initiative of the county government. The idea is to help them gain skills that could be useful for them to find a job and integrate better in society. So, we told them how to manage a cooperative, how to manage their personal finances, safety in the workplace, garbage collection and recycling, permaculture, how to surf the web and much more. They have absorbed most what we told them with ease. After having seen them listen attentively to two hours of lessons on the biological carbon cycle and ask intelligent questions afterwards, I was impressed. So, I told myself; why not peak oil? And here I am.

Telling people about peak oil takes different approaches depending to whom you are talking. I understood long ago that most people can't read even a simple Cartesian graph. Graphs are a language and they never learned it. If you show them the bell shaped curve, they'll see it as a hill or a mountain of some kind. They'll feel that it is hard to climb up and easy to descend. Not the way peak oil should be understood.

The Roma I'll be talking to are at one of the extremes of the spectrum in terms of culture. None of the men went beyond 3rd or 4th grade of schooling; most of the women never went to school at all. The men can usually read, but rarely can write; the women can neither read nor write. They don't read newspapers and don't watch the news in TV. They love movies and spend lots of time chatting. It is from these sources that they gather most of what they know. What would be a good way to explain peak oil to them?

Communication is never one way. If I want them to understand me, I must understand them as well. So, for this talk, I have developed an extreme version of the presentation that I give when I know that the people listening are not at the top level in terms of scientific literacy. It is all based on vivid images shown on screen; pictures of oil wells, for instance. No graphs, no text, and no numbers. I have to rely on my voice, on my ability to catch their attention.

So, I tell them of peak oil based on the example of a person. When we are born, I say, we are very small, but with time we grow and we can do more things. But we also become old. In time, we can do less and less and, eventually, we must die. In a way, I continue, it is the same with oil. When oil is young, there is a lot of it. As it gets older, we use it up and there is less and less of it. We must work harder to get as much of it as we used to. It is the same with many things you are doing - haven't you noticed that you must work harder? They look at me and nod. They understand the concept.

From here on, I show them pictures of oil fields, of oil refineries, of tankers and of everything related to oil. I tell them that gasoline for their cars comes from crude oil (they knew that, but vaguely). I tell them that the tires of their cars are made from crude oil (they didn't know that, and it makes them worry). I tell them that it takes oil to power the trucks that bring food to the supermarkets. This makes the women worried; they are in charge of the task of preparing food for the family.

When I speak to the gadje (the non Roma) there is always at least someone in the audience who sleeps through the talk or who is clearly not listening. But the Roma are all awake and listening. The message is getting through, I can see that. I tell them about the future, about what to expect when there will be less and less oil available. There will be fewer jobs, fewer opportunities, less money and less food. Even welfare payments, on which many of them rely for survival, may disappear. It will be a hard time for everyone. They clearly understand the problem. They remember where they come from-- former Yugoslavia. They are used to hard times.

When the talk is over, they ask me questions. How much is gasoline going to cost? I tell them that it will be more expensive, sure, but that may not be the problem. The real problem will be to find it. Long lines at the gas stations, very probably. They understand the point: apparently it was the way things were in former Yugoslavia. They ask me what kind of car is best to buy and to use. I know that there doesn't exist a Mercedes that a Rom won't like, and when I tell them that they should buy a cheap car with a good mileage, they are not happy. They ask me what they should do. I say that they should try to adapt and be flexible. They nod; that is a strategy that they know very well. In the end, they ask me if the end of the world will be in 2012. I laugh, they laugh, too. But they seem to be relieved: they were a little worried.

In the days that follow, I inquire with the social workers and with the Roma themselves. What was the impact of my talk? Everyone tells me that they have been discussing what I said; that they have been impressed. But I didn't expect anything to happen and, indeed, that is final result. Nothing changes in the life of the camp.

When you present peak oil to someone who is middle class, the reaction may be denial or mobilization. But rarely you see people who have understood peak oil who are indifferent to it. There are good reasons for that. If you are middle class, you can see right away how peak oil can hurt you. You depend on a salary and, if your job vanishes because of peak oil, you'll be in deep trouble. You have to pay your mortgage, your health insurance plan, instruction for your children, and all the rest. Peak oil can destroy you. But, as a middle class person, you may think that you can prepare for peak oil, that you have spare resources to do something about it. Probably it is a wrong perception but it may lead you to do such things as installing solar panels, insulating your home, buying a smaller car, that kind of thing. If, instead, you think that you don't have that kind of resources, or you don't want to use them in this way, your reaction may very well be to shut off the concept from your consciousness as well as you can.

But think of your situation as a Romani person. You have no stable job; so you can't lose it. You don't own a house, so you can't be evicted. Nobody will give you credit, so you'll never be in debt. You have no retirement plan, so you rely on your children for support when you'll be old. You depend on welfare, sure, but you also know that you can live with very little. Finally, you live in a close-knit community formed of family clans. You quarrel with your neighbors and relatives all the time but you know that in a difficult situation, they'll help you if they can.

Peak oil will be hard on the Roma, just as it will be on us, but they have a fighting chance of surviving it. In several ways, they are already post peak.

A few days after my talk on peak oil, a Roma of the camp, one of the married men, tells me something like this:

You see, professor, I think you were right with your lesson. Yeah, you told us that things are not going to be so easy as they used to be. Right, we saw that, too. It is what's happening. You know, I remember when we came here from Yugoslavia. I was a child; I was 10 years old but I remember that very well. It was so different, here. We saw so much wealth: lights and cars and houses and stuff in the supermarkets. Yeah, we had never seen anything like that. In Yugoslavia there was nothing. And so, we were all very happy, but I think we made a big mistake. You know; I remember my grandfather. He was a good man; he could work metals; he could fix pots and pans and sharpen knives. So, he told me that I should learn his job; but I didn't want to. I was very young; I wasn't that smart but, see, professor, I think we all made the same mistake. Many of the old folks could do things. Like singing or playing instruments, buying and selling horses. But we can't do that any more. We didn't want to learn. We saw all this wealth, here, and we thought that there was no need of working so hard. If there was so much wealth; why couldn't we share a little of it? We didn't want to be rich; we just wanted a little - enough to live in peace. And we thought it would last forever. But, you are right, professor, it is not going to last forever. And now we are in trouble.

I find that impeccable. Isn't that the same mistake we made with crude oil?

Thanks for another excellent article, Ugo. Many of us may become the equivalent of Roma someday ourselves.

One point I wanted to discuss;

When you present the concept of peak oil to someone who is middle class, the reaction may be denial or mobilization, rarely it is indifference

One other state I have discoverd (at least in the US) is an understanding of the problem, but there are daily deadlines, the kids need to be taken to piano lessons, the yard needs mowing, there are a dozen honey-do jobs, and before you know it, the person has effectively forgotten about it. True mobilization is a rare thing here in the US. Partial mobilization is even tricky, except when gas is $4/gal and people buy something other than an SUV/pickup. Pundits who denounce peak oil create indecision in people's minds that inhibit action.

Thanks for the comment, Will. About your question, maybe I have been a bit too sharp in classing people's response to peak oil. Some people will react aggressively in denial, but sometimes they will just shut off their consciousness. They'll refuse to hear the message or they'll make it sink somewhere far away in the consciousness sphere. I tend to class this behavior as aggressive, too, because if you probe them then they may react, indeed, in an aggressive manner. But I should have explained this point better.

Ugo, a very nice little story.

It very much corresponds to my experience. The further down the ladder you go, the less sophistication, but also the less denial, the less evasion. During the last half of the 60s I worked in the garment center in NY as a member of a Marxist group trying to organize the garment trucking workers. Most were just ordinary working stiffs, but many were ex-cons, alcoholics, drug addicts, etc. All these people were clear-eyed about society, they saw it all. No pretense. Clearest of all were the guys at the very bottom, the ones pushing the racks and handtrucks.

The problem is that they are (were) ordinarily very passive, they observe and see all, but they are used to deprivation and just adjust to whatever is. They ordinarily see no hope of changing things in a big way. It takes middle class people who are shocked, who are waking up from denial, to join them and help them find a path to changing things. Trouble is that some middle class people confronting dislocation turn the other way and exert their energies in a frantic effort to escape their personal descent into the abyss and become even more hostile to those who are already there.

Problem is, things are not so simple now. It's not just a matter of going on strike or making revolution. What is one demanding? Basically that the government guide and help, or at least not obstruct, in downsizing, in retrenching, in reconnecting with the soil, in building new lives from the ground up. The skills that the Roma have lost are nothing in comparison to the skills we'll need in surviving. I remember my grandmother sitting on her stool in the garden planting vegetables. I remember the rows and rows of vegetables she had canned (jarred actually). Grandma, where are you when we need you? I remember even repairing things as a young kid. Yes, repair -- look it up.

Anyway, one way or another, the PO stuff has to become incorporated into movements for change, or the change won't be for the better. So I regard your experience as relevant to that end.

This is really beautiful in an almost inexplicable way. Thank you for sharing.

That's really nice, WastedEnergy. Thanks.

"being burned to the ground by an angry mob"

Unfortunately that is a more realistic outcome for these poor people. All over Eastern Europe there are minorities of the Roma. They do not integrate well with the rest, many live on unemployment and/or childcare benefit. And sadly quite a lot live on stealing and robbing. Their culture is also a lot different as apparent from the article.

Sentiment is growing against them in many countries.

In my view immigrants and other minorities will be the first victim of Peak Oil. In time of trouble people will need someone to blame. These groups are near the top of the list.

The solution would be to give them land and teach them how to cultivate it. Otherwise they will be the victim of starvation or an angry mob. Giving them land - this option is not even discussed. Politicians want to give them either aid or work. Neither of these will be possible in the future. The latter is not even possible now.

Yes, obviously immigrants will have to be thrown out. Peak Oil is a finite resource issue, people are not going to willingly share with foreigners. Most people do not like immigrants, it is the government that allows them to come.

The people of these countries will never allow land to be given to foreigners. Especially as they become much poorer due to PO.

In many European countries Roma are not foreigners. They have been here for hundreds of years. That does not change the situation though.

In many ways, aboriginal populations (and the Rom actually qualify in that regard, given the age of the culture) may also have it worse than immigrants. Most aboriginals, from the Rom in Europe to most of the First Nation people in the US and Canada, the Aborigines in Australia and so forth, usually already exist on marginal lands, have had their cultures decimated both from without by hostile governments and within by heavy alcohol and drug abuse, and are poorly educated. What's worse, while their culture may have had the means to survive these marginal environments at one point, critical skills have been lost as the young have opted for modernization.

The Rom also have it worse because they are nearly universally despised by local populations. Few people remember that when Hitler was purging the Jews in WWII, he was also purging the Rom (the Gypsies), because they were popular targets to be hated.

The Rom also have it worse because they are nearly universally despised by local populations. Few people remember that when Hitler was purging the Jews in WWII, he was also purging the Rom (the Gypsies), because they were popular targets to be hated.

I know this is going to sound neonazi but.......... There is a very good reason that any established people/culture doesn't want parasitic invasion.
Think about it.
Forget the political correct buulsh@t and think about nature's way.

Yes, obviously immigrants will have to be thrown out. Peak Oil is a finite resource issue, people are not going to willingly share with foreigners. Most people do not like immigrants, it is the government that allows them to come.

I agree. That is why I think the oil & natural gas exporters should reduce their exports to the US/Europe to the point where they export just enough to pay for imports and no more. After all what is the point in accumulating paper reserves in a resource scarce world? Capital is also finite and therefore the foreigners should simply stop buying US and European treasury bonds. Most foreigners don't want to export their surplus but finite oil and natural gas to Americans/Europeans and also don't want their government to invest their trade surplus in depreciating US $ and Euro assets. But unfortunately it is their government which allows it to happen.

Saudi's seem to like their welfare state, but we'll have to see how long it lasts. Fiat currency is just the latest scam. These countries will probably wise up and demand tangible goods, like food.

Most people do not like immigrants, it is the government that allows them to come.

And why does the government allow them to come if the majority in democracies (like Italy) don't want immigrants?

Because these are all faux-democracies. They have the form of democracies but are run by the rich, who desire above all else to increase their wealth and limit taxation.
It is true the Roma are poor but they are a source of cheap labor (at least for farmer) and depress wages and frighten the middle class.

Even in WW2 the Nazis put able-bodied Jews to work rather than just kill them..well actually they combined the worse of both and simply worked them to death.

Arbeit Macht Frei, an excellent lie.

Undoubtedly, the rich will use scapegoating and fear mongering PO themes to rally their supporters against outsiders while they continue to amass their crooked fortunes.

Eventually the true nature of PO will require a more egalitarian society ending the reign of the Leisure Class
and their fans.

Societies need an underclass. This makes folks feel like they aren't at the bottom of the ladder. WTSHTF, people need someone to blame or they turn on themselves. These are the reasons they allow the Roma to hang around. This is the reason they are not compelled to help lift the Roma out of their poverty.

Silly humans!


So true -and so very sad and depressing.

But hey, it's a nasty Darwinian world, and wishing otherwise won't change it.

There can be but little doubt-only the tiniest doubt- that we measure ourselves more by how we are faring in relation to others than by how well off we actually are.This is accepted as an established fact sfaIcs in the social sciences.

However there are a few cultures left whereby personal worth and happiness are not measured so much by material goods as by character and concern for our fellow men and women.

It may be that cultures such as the Roma will outlive the culture of the CPA.

I think there is perhaps more to it than this. The mechanisms of society do not readily "lift" anybody out of poverty; they tend to cement everybody into their slated positions.

I'm not sure the Roma want to be a part of the mainstream society as it exists today. Certainly school would be available for most boys and girls in most western areas. They may desire more stability and better conditions, plus a nice car, but their lifestyle doesn't exactly fit today's 8-5 workerbot mentality either. How can you gainfully employ an illiterate but socially energetic person in an ordinary information/service economy role?

"Lifting" somehow implies that the Roma are simply in a hole, and once out, they'd do well. More likely the need is to revise society so that there is a wider set of options for fringe groups. Unfortunately it is more likely that fringes will be further marginalized during an interim decline of the status quo before the existing structures erode.

Eventually the true nature of PO will require a more egalitarian society ending the reign of the Leisure Class and their fans.

Wishful thinking? Egalitarian like feudal Europe? Like the Roman Empire? It seems as though nearly every society, even Easter Island, had its version of a leisure class. Even the Soviet Union had its overlords living in fine dachas. The pattern persists with or without fossil fuels. Why would it stop now?

Oh, right, It Will Be Different This Time. Now only will the masses will rise up in a Machete Moshpit, and they will prove to be smart enough to run everything as a vast Committee Of The Whole. Oh, wait a minute, the French, among others, already tried that long ago, long before oil as we know it, what with Robespierre and company. So look where it got them: just a few years later they were begging for a Napoleon to supervise and restore some semblance of order, and they weren't begging him to personally grow his own veggies or any other such now-fashionable nonsense.

Right, Paul. Human nature is deeply ingrained and will survive whatever revolution we subject ourselves to. Genetic? Survival instinct?
Our evolution hasn't created a need for "equality" so far, nor has our societal progress, whatever stories we choose to tell ourselves. That would mean that humanity has grown up. What fun is that?

People are better educated than in the Dark Ages and technology has equalized the classes. Look at the difficulties in Afghanistan of imposing order.
Eventually people will demand equality over opportunity when there are few opportunities.

Someone is always driven to rise to the top.
Someone always gets left behind.
Some just don't care and seek distractions.
Over time they create/seek their own class.

People are better educated than in the Dark Ages and technology has equalized the classes

Better educated to do what, sharpen a sycthe, make your own cloth and clothing, make your own inks, kill and clean a sheep or cow, make your own soap, light a fire without a match? Very soon we may need those skills.

Technology hasn't equalized the classes, it has just offshored the lower class. In a globalized world the poor of India are our serfs. Technology has made it possible for the upper class to not see the lower class. With slaves and serfs they were known to the Manor Lord or Owner and although exploited the Owner or Lord has some investment in them staying healthy. In Bhopal poor people in India made pesticides for first world people. Did we know any of them. Did we care when they died in the thousands due to a profit motive to keep Union Carbide's products competitive?

Sure, they'll demand it, same as Robespierre's crew did and many others have done. But as the old saying goes, be careful what you wish for. Once they've gotten it, then, as usual, things will likely fall apart worse than before, if only from their sheer incompetence and utter stupidity. Then they'll eagerly give it up again and fall to their knees begging for the next Napoleon or whoever, just in order to survive. So goes the glory of the world...

You think the French Revolution was a disaster?
Hardly IMO.
I would like to hear some European views rather than
the same old recycled Anglo-American opinion.

Robespierre was brought to power(1793) by the failure of the Girondists politicians facing a collapse of law and order throughout the country and the imminent threat of an Austrian invasion. He instituted the Terror to hunt down the enemies of the revolution but the public turned against him. His political enemies accused him of being a tyrant and he was guillotined in Feb 1794. Some dictatorship.

The collapse of order was really brought on by reactionary elements like the Catholic Church and rural aristocrats. Monarchies all over Europe were terrified that people could actually run their lives without the King and the aristocrats. Democracy was demonized as total anarchy.

After Robespierre, the constitution was passed which installed a 5 man committee (the Directory) to act as president. It was not a very practical idea.

In 1799 Napoleon staged a coup d'etat and took over as president(First Consul)and deposed the Directory.
In 1804, he became Emperor after
a foreign plot to have him assassinated(there was a large bomb).
The French Senate then voted Napoleon in as Emperor and a public referendum was held.

This notion that 'the mob' will reward their favorite with absolute power is historical nonsense. I can't think of such a historical instance.

The truth is that dictators seize power on pretext of restoring law and order, etc.
not that the people give power so dictators can restore law and order.

You may well be right, BlackVoid, although I do hope you are not! However, I believe that the future may be more complex and open than simply based on destroying those who are not fully integrated with the rest of society.

You see, I think the torching of the Ponticelli camp needs to be explained a little to be understood. I said it was destroyed by an angry mob, and this is basically true. But this mob was organized and led by Camorra gangsters who started the attack in an almost military operation, using Molotov bottles. (The Camorra is the Neapolitan version of Mafia).

The Camorra organized the attack in order to gain popularity; Italian politicians are doing something similar (not with Molotov bottles but with bulldozers) for the same reasons. But the economic gain obtained in destroying a Roma camp is nearly zero, at least as things stand in Italy now. So, without an organization behind, I don't see unemployed middle class people attacking Roma camps - they don't have the training, the organization, the skills needed.

What I see as a possible future outcome is that the middle class will become so poor that they will be poorer than the Roma! That's what happened in Eastern Europe after the fall of the Soviet Union. The former government employees became totally destitute, whereas the Roma prospered on trade and smuggling. In that case they will have reasons to attack the Roma camps - and it is what happened and is still happened in countries like Romania.

But there are other possible outcomes. In an ageing society, as Italy is now, we may discover that we badly need a young labor force and we may find that we can no longer pay immigrants from remote countries. The Roma don't have a land to return to - they are stuck in Italy, just like we Italians are. And so, we might find an agreement.....

So, the situation is very complex with many possible outcomes. The only thing I would be sure of if I were a Rom is that I wouldn't want to have land to cultivate. Too risky - it binds you to a specific place and if things get really bad you need to be able to pack up and leave quickly.

The only thing I would be sure of if I were a Rom is that I wouldn't want to have land to cultivate. Too risky - it binds you to a specific place and if things get really bad you need to be able to pack up and leave quickly.

You may be right. Maybe the Roma will be like the Jews in the Middle Ages, but at a much lower level. But any kind of rational and pro-people government will fight to make it possible for everyone to gradually reconnect with the soil, since there's really no place else to go, and protect them in doing so. If the Roma are not safe on the soil, who will be?

I come from Slovakia, I read The Oil Drum for quite a time now, but I just had to sign up for an account to comment this.

I don't know much about other countries, but here we (ordinary middle class people) are terrorized by Gypsies. To give them land is basically giving it up for nothing, throwing it out of the window, an act of total waste. Why?
I have been working with gypsies since I was a teen and some of my friends do, too, though that is on different levels (teachers, social workers, just befriending the society, etc). I must say, vast majority is lazy, opportunistic, unwilling to learn, uncooperative and eager to suck on the working part of society.

Now I also know many gypsies, who are different, they want to learn, they want to work, they know how to do lots of things, but there are so little of them, they are a minority of a minority. Crushing percentages of them just exploit the holes in the system. They go to EU and complain about racism, EU thinks we're some sort of nazi country here and they order us to help them. But we're not racists! We're cautious. Basic practice between Gypsies is sending the kids to steal, because they cannot be prosecuted. They act stupid and often actually are stupid, they have no idea how to write a check, but they will accuse all of the people working at the post office of racism, start dramas and scenes, shout on everybody and demand being treated like kings! They cheat with disability papers, they threaten ordinary clerks with a group knife attack if they don't give them what they want. Police does nothing, it is corrupted and doesn't ever meddle with gypsies. Gypsies here rob, attack and kill us, no, not the rich ones, but ordinary people, middle class, they are able to kill for 10 EUR, it is happening! That is why they are unpopular. I can understand this is not their native culture, but in this society, it's shape up or ship out. We all support them. The government gives them expensive flats for free - I know it sounds crazy, but they really do! We build them thousands of houses and social flats or cells, and what do they do? In two years, the houses are practically destroyed. They rip out all the copper, iron, anything they can get a little money from, they rip cables, tubes, pipes from the walls... They even believe that if they bend a piece of metal, it will weigh more.

There are hundreds of people who would really get the best out of a land, we have students eager to learn, specialists on the farming topic, but we're not getting any land - and we certainly don't have any land to spare on layabouts who destroy everything you give them. In my country, the Gypsies don't even have a word for "tomorrow". They don't care about the future, they don't want to help. All they care about is cheap alcohol and cigarettes they can get. They ridicule courts (I attended many many courts that were unable to actually make any process, because the Gypsies act like they don't know their names, they don't have IDs, they don't know anything, they weren't anywhere).

Giving land to them would be a very anti-racist step from EU, but a very anti-Slovak too. How are they going to pay land taxes? Building taxes? They're not going to. They're just going to exploit everybody until there's noone left to exploit. They even exploit their own, the gypsies that actually work and do something.

They do have strong family bounds, but their families are not like ours. Girls aged 15 get pregnant. They have many children, they beat them, shout at them, force them to do things "for the good of the family" (which is mostly for the good of the father, who is often an alcoholic). And I could go on and on and on and on. We could paint the picture idealistic, but from my perspective, it's jet black. They need to learn one important skill: stop relying on everybody feeding them, everybody clothing them, everybody paying for their houses, nice new houses which they make slums of in as long as 3 years. Because we do. All of the people in Slovakia literally waste incredible amounts of money on Gypsies. But there's no future in that. It's a black hole of finance.

Whew, I'm really sorry for the lengthy commentary, but there's still so much more I left out. In conclusion I would say, there's no way in solving the Gypsy problem as we call it here, in Slovakia. What we can do is arm ourselves against them, make police forces stronger, better, more effective, prosecute everybody equally (Gypsies in Slovakia are discriminated sooo much, but it's a positive discrimination). If they are left on their own, they either perish or go on - and I'd say most of them would rather perish than adapt.

I agree with you but the problem is not the people involved but the system that they are involved in.
We could all do much better more peacefully if we thought scientifically and used nature as a template.

What an annoyance it must be to bleeding heart liberals to have a blast of cold reality intrude on our comfy forum!

Everything in my experience lends credence to Wyctorya's post.

I'm Hungarian-American, second generation, my mother was an expelled American Rom from Chicago, because she married "out" to improve her status, in accord with the nascent women's rights movement in the USA.

Her attitude about the Rom perfectly mirrors the description given. She wanted education, freedom, skills, and protection from exploitation by drunks.

My father gave her all that. Work is not a crime, but a fulfilling occupation, a concept seemingly lost in the ROM culture, which seems to have locked into fear of the other, a truly parasitic existence.

Thanks, Wyctorya, for the fresh air.

This is one of my favorite posts yet. The lessons of the Roma seem to apply everywhere - usually poor minority groups whose children over the past few generations "didn't want to" learn the simple skills their Grand parents had to teach. They were seduced by "all this wealth here" in the modern, industrial, fossil-fuel culture.

And who can blame them? Who wants to learn simple skills like shoe-making, watch repair, etc, (not to mention labor-intensive skills used in non-industrial farming) when you are constantly told an expensive, tech-education is what you need to survive in today's economy? And who wants to voluntarily lower their standard of living now? It could be a life time before those old skills will really be needed (if ever) and in the meantime you will "miss out" on so much.

"And we thought it would last forever. But... it is not going to last forever. And now we are in trouble," sounds like the universal, famous last words of our industrial civilization.

As we definitively leave the age of "democratic consumerism" in Europe and the United States, and enter the age of scarcity, more and more layers in society are going to experience what it means to become marginalized in relation to the rest of society. So there is a lot we can learn from groups like the Roma.

The model that seems to be evolving, and very rapidly, is a new form of "fuedalism", or perhaps a return to the kind of society that existed before the explosion of the middle class in the nineteenth century.

This process is especially pronounced in the United States where the great middle class, the standard bearers of the "American Dream" are rapidly becoming marginalized in a manner that reminds one of the fate experienced by the "working class" over the last few decades.

Wealth and power have been transfered upwards on a scale that is close to unparalleled in recorded history in the United States and millions of hard-working Americans have been pushed into poverty and sacrificed. The current economic depression is only making things worse, as millions of jobs vanish, never to return. This transfer of wealth upwards will have profound political consequences when people finally realise that this change in society isn't just a temporary phenomenon, but a permanent feature of the new society that is emerging.

"in the United States where the great middle class, the standard bearers of the "American Dream" are rapidly becoming marginalized "

Yes, it seems we're going third world... slowly, one family at a time, one town or city... one state at a time.

I wonder how long before we'll see "profound political consequences" and when "people finally realize this change is permanent." I think it could happen by the next election, but who knows.

I do think we can learn a lot from the Roma and other third-world lifestyles.

Roma crime is a serious issue. It's not just racism. But then, stealing is a useful skill in a post peak world.

An empty belly trumps principles every time.

Furthermore on thing that the typical middle class person , or well educated and prosperous person who "plays by the rules" fails to understand is that for any underclass, the only rational and realistic way to look at the world is by adopting the attitude that the game is rigged in favor of those who are on top.The "haves" have accumlated the goods and after having done so , they have also stacked the cards.

Very , very few laborer's children will ever be accepted into elite universities, and the few that are accepted are very very unlikely to be asked to join the influential organizations where the good old boys who will be running the world later( cause thier daddies own a big chunk of it now) get to know each other.

For now most of the really down and out people know better than to revolt-there will be a dozen cop cars for each pitchfork in the hands of a modern day peasant-meaning hourly employee- for now.

But if things really do fall all the way apart (-and there are some very smart people convinced that this is inevitable) the accountants and criminal lawyers and dentists of the world are going to be in for a very rough time when they suddenly find themselves living from one meal to the next-when they not only don't have the oil genies working for them any more -when they have also lost the ability to collect the earnings of a laborer for a month in an hour or two.

I hope the Roma make it ok-It seems to me that they are past due for a few lucky breaks.

One of the things that really bothers me about our world becoming more and more developed is that with the development comes more and more regimentation-we all finding ourselves traveling more and more in lockstep in a simpler and simpler society, in terms of how we live and interact.

Technology may be diversifying all the time, but the way we earn our livings is moving more and more to something akin to monoculture industrial agriculture.We earn our living as govt employees, or as factory workers, or as tiny interchangeable and disposable little clerk or driver or janitor "gears" in a vast consumption machine.

The greatest immediate danger inherent in industrial agriculture at the moment , in my humble but professional opinion, is a shortage of the industrial inputs on which it depends-ff, heavy machinery, refrigeration, etc.Over time however, the greater danger may well be a collapse of production because the ecology (such as it is, or maybe I should say the tattered remains of it) of our agricultural systems has been simplified to the point that we depend on but a handful of crops and a half dozen species of animals for our very survival.

Most of us here seem to appreciate the dangers inherent in this situation.A single virulent new disease could wipe out wheat or corn or rice production to such an extent that hundreds of millions of people , perhaps over a billion people, could starve in short order .

Perhaps we are running a similar or analogous risk in createing a world where there are only a very few basic roles for people to play.

If and when the crash comes , I will count myself very lucky to have been born into the backwoods farm society that I have returned to to spend my final years.There is a very strong sense of community and self reliance, and quite a few of us still know how to get by , make do , or do without.

The interchangeable little gears are going to be in very deep and very fast water-and I fear only a few will learn to swim well enough to save themselves.But maybe our luck will hold and instead of a hard crash we can stumble along and transition to a more sustainable society without civil society falling apart.

if things really do fall all the way apart (-and there are some very smart people convinced that this is inevitable)

That some "very smart people" are convinced doesn't tell us much. There are more who are convinced that the earth is 5,000 years old, and many, many others who are convinced of many other things that are impossible - I'm sure you can find your own examples. Heck, there are a lot of very smart people who dispute PO and AGW.

Unfortunately, authority doesn't seem to help much here.

Nick you are right that just saying that smart people believe something is no proof. Sort of like pulling Bartlett out of the bag to make the case for exponential growth of EV's and that wasn't even something Bartlett would say. But I can say that at least with AGW, every smart authority I have checked on who disputes AGW turns out to have a connection with Big Oil or Big Tobacco (they use AGW denial to discredit science in the hopes it will help people not trust the science about 2nd hand smoke). By and large it appears that those who dispute PO are actively connected to Big Oil as well. You can't use the smarts as a way to judge and expert opinion but you can look and see if someone has a financial interest in their opinion being believed.

Another way you can judge is to see if the person has predicted similar things before and how well they did. But in modern times we have only seen one super power collapse - the Former Soviet Union. So we only have one set of predictions by which to judge someone's ability to predict collapse of the US or other major western nations. Dmitry Orlov got it right with the Soviet Union and he predicts we will soon be seeing the Former USA. Not much to go on, but I would trust him over all the people who didn't see the collapse of the Soviet Union coming. Still that is not enough. One needs to examine the things that might cause collapse. Heinberg does IMO a very good job in his latest Museletter.

I know none of that will convince a Pollyanna like you. (sorry for the name calling but I am so sick of seeing myself and others being called Doomers or other such names)

A little hint for the future, all cars once stranded can still be used in many ways, beds, rain shelters, and drying food. When you park your car for the last time, be sure to orient optimally for winter warmth and summer food drying. Laugh if you will, but just hang on to that tidbit in case you need it.

pulling Bartlett out of the bag to make the case for exponential growth of EV's

Except that's not what I said - I said Bartlett was right about people not understanding exponential growth. Sheesh...

By and large it appears that those who dispute PO are actively connected to Big Oil as well.

I haven't seen that. What I've seen is that oil industry veterans tend to either disbelieve PO, or go a little overboard in the other direction and see looming disaster. The common thread? Their livelihood is oil, and so they can't imagine a world without it. Oddly, people on TOD seem to often think the same way.

all cars once stranded can still be used in many ways

I think the mainstream expectation on TOD is that we'll still have 50% of our oil production in 30 years. I think we'll have to wait a while for "all cars" to be stranded. Actually, given that EREV/EV mass production is starting in earnest this fall, It's clear that a future in which "all cars" are stranded is impossible.

I know none of that will convince a Pollyanna like you.

No, I just follow the evidence. For instance, I have no trouble believing that AGW will cause enormous problems. It seems clear to me that it will cause much larger problems than PO.

More later...

Hi Nick,

I try to do nearly all my own thinking and rely on the expertise of others only to the extent necessary.

Now it may at first glance sound rather conceited of me, but I think that I am an aothority on a great many issues-not the kind of authority who will be held up as a leader or great teacher or innovator, but well enough informed to know the score, and to know bs when I step in it.Most of the regulars here can say as much, with no need to blush.

Take peak oil and the ff issue for example.I have studied this site very carefully for a year, read most of the links, posed a lot if questions, and read a dozen or so books ranging from Yergin to Simmons.I know enough basic science to understand that Rockman, Westexas, Nate Hagens, and the people in the peak oil camp have got thier have got thier sxxt together,and that the cornucopians have thier heads up thier butts.Of course it IS POSSIBLE that Rockman and Westexas might be off a few years in thier estimates , but that doesn't really matter in terms of the big picture.

But in the end I stand by my own judgement-I don't believe in peak oil because somebody else does, but rather because thier evidence convinces me.

Now as far a smart people who believe in tshtf goes there are two seperate groups.

It is an amusing cosmic coincidence that the people who believe the Earth is only five thousand years old (and despite the large number of nominal and avowed fundamentalists there are out there, most of them have either never given the matter a thought or else know better-a point I will get back to later.) happen to be right about tshtf, but for all the wrong reasons.

Nevertheless the early leaders of the church were men of incredibly great understandng of the human mind and experience, and they are among the worlds greatest practical psychologists.Hence I find it worthwhile to study thier work in order to better understand mankind.

On the other hand thier credibility insofar as the physical workings of the universe are concerned is essentially zero.

So In respect to questions dependent upon the sciences for good answers,I turn to people such as Newton and Darwin among the dead, and EO Wilson, Richard Dawkins,and Stephen Pinker among the living.

But I don't believe them either, not just because the are professors at Harvard or Oxford or MIT.

I believe thier arguments because I find them consistent with what I know personally to be true and because they are powerful arguments.

Since the big crash experiment has not yet been run, I am not convinced that a hard world wide crash is inevitable, although there certainly are people who are very well qualified scientisrts who do believe in such a crash being inevitable.

I do take the POSSIBILITY of such a crash very seriously.

In this case I know that I don't know enough to really believe in either a crash or a continued but badly depressed bau scenario.I don't think either the doomers or the pollyannas have yet conclusively proven thier case, or can prove thier case.

Well, that makes sense.

Again, "there certainly are people who are very well qualified scientisrts who do believe in such a crash being inevitable." doesn't really help us. In fact, I think if you look at most of them, you'll find they aren't "well qualified scientisrts". Heinberg, IIRC, is self-taught, Kunstler is a writer (of fiction, even when he presents it as fact), etc. The better-qualified among PO writers tend to be less pessimistic.

Of course it's not possible to rule out collapse - the range of human folly can't be underestimated. I just see no evidence that the probability is significant.

Old Farmer, I always appreciate your comments. You have accumulated a lot of wisdom.

The following is a response to the thread not your post. One thing for anyone to consider is that some who see the strong possibility of crash coming soon are NOT doomers. Some do not see an early hard crash as the worst of all possible futures. Some in fact see that as the best possible outcome. Derek Jensen is in that camp and in fact advocates hurrying it along.

Myself, I pretty much think an early crash is best even tho I am not about to take steps to help it along. It certainly would be best for the remaining hunter gatherers of the world not to mention all the other species on this planet, and I think an early hard crash that doesn't involve nukes would be best for humans as well. I don't have time right now to detail all that, but I just wanted to point out to Nick and others that some of us think the end of industrial civilization is the best outcome. It looks like doom to them so we get called doomers, but I think hopeful but sad realists would be more accurate.

Some do not see an early hard crash as the worst of all possible futures. Some in fact see that as the best possible outcome.

I'm well aware of that. I think that's a mix of unconscious christian apocalypticism and romantic primitivism, with a dash of self-destructive guilt.

It's extraordinarily unrealistic. A massive dieoff of humans would cause the planet to be stripped bare by the survival struggle. If you think species are being extinguished now...hoo boy!

One area in which I am well informed but by no means a professional expert is population dynamics-this branch of knowledge relates closely to agriculture, which is my professional field.

A long drawn out collapse probably cannot damage the Earth any more than contiunued bau, other than maybe thru poisoning the atmosphere with coal fumes.Even that is very unlikely imo, in terms of a collapse scenario-not that much coal can be mined , hauled , and burnt except under the bau scenario.

If food or energy production collapses suddenly, most of the world's population will die off rather quickly, and the indviduals won't last long enough, or be in places where the can do much damage, to strip the Earth bare.

Well armed starving people might manage to wipe out most of the larger species of animals in Africa before starving themselves.Similar brutal struggles for food might wipe out some larger species elsewhere too, but overall, we would be mostly gone ourselves in less than a year.

The world will recover-no matter what-and do just fine in terms of being full of life, although we might not like the new ecosystems much.

It will continue to do fine, except in our self serving terms, until such time as the sun expands and eventually turns everything into a glowing cinder, then vapors.

I think you are right OFM. Many will never even get out of the cities - afraid of the country side, and frankly those in the countryside don't look kindly on city folks, often have guns, have hunted, and will be busy protecting their land. I hadn't thought of it but Africa will probably wipe out the larger species quickly, many know how to hunt and the west has flooded the area with guns. Although when I was in Port-au-Prince you seldom saw a bird (other than chickens) because young boys shot them with sling shots for food, most in the US wouldn't have that skill or even have it dawn on them that a song bird could qualify as food. Most people in the US wouldn't have a clue how to kill a large animal much less skin it and clean it. Those who do may well use up their ammunition on other humans. So the few people who hunt with bows may be the only ones hunting large game. Many would rather die than eat small prolific game better known as mice and rats.

I think that starving people will eat anything that moves - I doubt any mammalian species larger than a raccoon would survive. Zoos would be the first to go.

All of the major large mammals are hanging on entirely due to human self-restraint - elephants, tigers, lions, etc would be gone in months if people were starving.


I thought about talking about different collapse scenarios, but my problem is that I just can't imagine them in a credible way in order to model them. For instance, I can't imagine how food production could collapse enough to starve a large % of the population: the world probably produces 30% more calories than needed for a BAU body-weight (obesity is a much larger health threat around the world, even in poor countries, than starvation), and 60% more than needed for survival. The world could easily feed twice as many people just by eliminating meat and coffee production.

Similarly, oil isn't going to disappear overnight, coal will be around (should we want it) for many decades, and natural gas is looking much more stable than thought even 3 years ago. Wind and solar are ramping up to replace coal - coal electrical generation fell by 6% last year in the US, while wind grew 35%.

The US could operate on half it's current oil consumption in the medium term - heck, it could reduce consumption by 25% just by carpooling in the short term. In 20 years we could mostly electrify our transportation, if we made a serious effort.

I don't have any numbers but Gwynne Dyer, in his book Climate Wars called the prolific consumption of meat, processed cold-chain dependent food and imported food (imported food is mostly out-of-season vegetables, not a major calorie source) North America's "not-so-secret escape hatch" for when PO or AGW seriously impacts our food distribution systems.

It is much more than the 25-35% waste factor at the home; there is also meat and dairy consumption to consider when looking at total grain production and there is cold-chain dependent foods to consider when looking at energy consumption by the food system.

However in a SHTF instant-collapse scenario, I suspect pets, then zoos then deer (and then smaller mammals and fish) will be the first to go. I don't think bowhunting will be necessary (except in the long run) because the ammunition supplies will likely last longer than the supply of targets, including bipedal ones.

I watched a documentary once on men who had been prisoners of war in Japanese prison camps. This one man said that when new prisoners would come in some would reject the potato slop given to them to eat because it had worms in it. He said he told them they needed the worms for protein and they would die if they didn't eat it. Then with a sort of sad half smile he said "and they did"

Very few people could imagine the USSR collapsing, but it did and many died. If you read "Reinventing Collapse" you will learn that some of the things the USSR did wrong actually helped when they collapsed. For instance their food production was so bad that most people had kitchen gardens and when the state collapsed they had the skills to feed themselves. Not so in the US.

No one thing will likely cause collapse unless we have a nuclear war, EMP attack or the aging grid just fails us. More than likely collapse will be multiples of things that overwhelm. The stock market ponzi fails leaving people relying on 401K's high and dry (and not spending therefore causing more businesses to fail), several states go belly up due to not enough revenue. A revolt of the Tea Party gains steam. H1N1's third wave is no worse that 1 and 2 but puts more strain on hospitals. Unusual weather hurts crops (already word that wet conditions this winter may delay corn planting) Israel bombs Iran and they block the straits of Hormuz. Well ok that last one could probably do it alone even if it doesn't start WWIV. I think there will be some point at which some event starts a positive feedback and it all comes tumbling down.

It is of no use to say the world could easily feed more people. They aren't and they won't until they have no choice. What could be done better is no help. Lefties have been working their whole life to make conditions better in the world and 2 billion are desperately poor, young children are sold ever more often into sex slavery, pollution increases etc etc etc. The liberal left has had precious little effect and what they have had is deteriorating.

Every year something like 70 million people are added to the planet. The sooner collapse occurs the less total number of people have to go through the long or fast descent.

The sooner collapse occurs the less total number of people have to go through the long or fast descent.

My goodness, you're seriously discouraged by the state of the world.

The funny thing is, in general the negative trends you spotlighted are incorrect: the % of people starving is declining; pollution (except for CO2) is declining; poverty is declining, etc, etc.

Very few people could imagine the USSR collapsing

Actually, Reagan's National Security Advisor predicted it. The USSR was a very different place than than the US. I've read some of Orlov's writings, and he's really very unrealistic about the US.

Nick, apologies, you did say Bartlett was right about people not understanding exponential growth but you did certainly seem to imply that it is just that lack of understanding that prevents people from seeing how EV's could grow exponentially and thus solve our problem. To me that felt like you were indirectly using an authority to make your case. If you weren't I am mistaken and apologize.

Now do you understand exponential growth happens. Exponential growth of anything physical consumes resources. Living things are set to overproduce for some amount depending on how much they are predated upon. If the food is plentiful or the predation is removed they will then expand exponentially until either of those factors that allow that fail. If we didn't harvest our eggs and let our hens set on all the nests they filled, and if we kept providing more food their numbers would expand exponentially. See I understand exponential growth. If we decided to breed donkeys as our future solar powered transportation they could expand exponentially (provided we supplied enough food - switchgrass would work as they are not fussy).

But cars are not self replicating. People have to get the raw materials, build them and secure buyers. The inevitability of exponential growth of EV's depends on the economy not totally collapsing. That is hardly assured at this point.

You don't have to believe that all cars will be stranded some day for lack of fuel, but just hang on to my suggestions for other uses of cars just in case I am right. It really won't make my predictions come true. They will or they won't whether or not you remember these alternate uses for cars. And if I am right it will save you from having to reorient it by pushing. :)

you did certainly seem to imply that it is just that lack of understanding that prevents people from seeing how EV's could grow exponentially and thus solve our problem.

Well, that is what I meant - I just didn't mean to imply anything further, such as that Bartlett's opinions about EV's were relevant.

Living things are set to overproduce for some amount depending on how much they are predated upon.

But not humans - keep in mind the Demographic Transition.

The inevitability of exponential growth of EV's depends on the economy not totally collapsing.

True - there's just nothing about our energy or physical resource situation that predicts that the economy will collapse.

Try Gerald Celente for someone who accurately predicted the fall of the Soviet Union, among numerous other significant events. He also predicts anarchy in the US soon.

Well, I knew that the question was going to appear: are the Roma thieves? I have no statistics, but many of the Roma I know have a criminal record of small thefts, mainly performed when they were teenagers. They are still dodged by these old crimes, having to pay lawyers and having gained in general a very bad reputation.

What I can say on this matter are a few things; the first is that the Roma culture doesn't condone or encourage theft. It is a last resort activity which they don't like to do any more than we would. It is dangerous, nasty, difficult and risky. Then, being a Roma places you in an extremely difficult situation if you want to become a thief. You are easily recognizable because of your dark skin and the way you dress and as soon as people see you, they'll immediately be on their guard. Actually, people are so suspicious that every time the newspapers report a theft somewhere, it is almost universally attributed to "gypsies".

I am reasonably sure that in several cases some Roma have been accused and convicted because of crimes they didn't commit. That may be true especially in recent times; when thefts have become for them extremely difficult because of all the electronic gadgetry employed by home owners.

That doesn't mean that crime is not a problem with the Roma. It is, of course. I can only say that the Roma I know seem to me very poor thieves - if they are - and I am not surprised that they got caught right away when they tried to do that in their youth.

Another thing that I can say is that the Roma don't use weapons, don't have any in their homes; would feel horrified at the idea of having to use them. The Roma may be very "Mediterranean" in their expressions, so that they will look very angry on occasion, but they tend to avoid physical confrontation. I have heard of knife duels between male Roma fighting for a woman, but I think that is as past for them as it is for us.

A few years back some Gypsies moved to the village where my Sister lived. Their kids went to the same school as my Sister's and when they were there she would chat to them as they all waited for the kids to come out. Most of the other women, who were locals to the village, made a point of ignoring the Gypsie mothers. Over the next few months a lot of houses in the village got burgled but my sister's house did not.

Politness can go a long way.

Mr. Bardi. Thanks for your important contribution to the oil drum. Your concern for the Roma is much appreciated there and here (Philippines). What is your observation concerning the Roma attitude with regard to happiness or their level of acceptance of the circumstances in which they live. Do you observe a depleted energy situation to impact them more that the average European? Maybe the Roma won't slide further in a social sense but they will be joined by non-Roma??? Often contentment drives our desires and happiness. Because I have access to plentiful recourses it is easy for me to say.... I really consider myself a Roma at heart and I dont mind living like that. But of course I have the money and therefor luxury to live like I want ....

Regards TG80 sends

Good point, TG80. The Roma seem to me to be reasonably happy, in good shape and in good health - so far. As long as the government provides the equivalent of food stamps, there are no cases of poor nutrition I can detect. Children are well fed, cared for, clean, and well dressed. For them, the camp is all a happy playground - they roam free around, they form groups, they play with what they have. With the gadje, the children are a bit diffident at first, but then they will be extremely friendly and, after a while, they may call you "dede" (daddy in Romanes). They also go to school every morning with reasonably good results.

That doesn't mean that everything is well in the camp. There are cases of depression and for the children it is a horrible moment when they discover that, well, they are Roma. And, at times, even the most stable individuals will break down - so to say - and rant for a good hour about how bad their life is. Then they'll stop and offer you a coffee.

The degrading economic situation is impacting on them, very hard. The government has done almost everything wrong with them. For instance it has made laws forbidding the things the Roma used to do for a living. For instance, it has become illegal to collect trash for recycling unless you have a permit which is very difficult to obtain for anyone who is not a large company and you need such a bureaucratic procedure that you need to hire an accountant to recycle a single plastic bottle. There is much more, but in large part the disastrous situation of the Roma in Italy is the result of extremely poor planning on the part of the government; very often with the best of intentions. And, with the economy going to hell, I can't see any other outcome than disaster.

Will the Roma be joined by the non-Roma, (the "gadje")? Well, it is a good point - there are already a few gadje living in the Roma camp I know. They are people so destituted that they can't afford any more to pay a rent, so they have asked to the Roma if they can stay with them. I don't know how the arrangement works; but it seems to exist - maybe these gadje pay a little money; anyway they are there. And there are a few gadje who simply find that the Roma are nice people on the average and they stop by to chat and have a coffee. Very few, I must say, but I am one of them.

Thanks for another very interesting post.
In UK, gypsies were mostly seasonal agricultural workers ('peak work') and rotated round the country, dealing also in 2ndhand horses. Farmers disliked them but needed them, and grazing and camping facilities were available. Those centuries disappeared after WWII.

Roma in continental Europe had a very bad moment with the Nazis.
Recently I was working in ex-Yugoslavia to 2006, and Roma were very much as you describe in Italy. However, they retained their re-cycling role. They were the whole industry!

Films I have seen very recently of India reminded me that those in a mass society with no livelihood and no access to welfare can be organized to achieve very high percentages of re-cycling of just about all our modern waste. The organizers in the case of India, rather than operators, seem to collect the very small profit margins, whereas in ex-Yugoslavia the self-organizing Roma seemed to hold the business among themselves.


There are still a few Roma in the UK. Most have settled and abandoned their traditional ways. There are still horse fairs in some rural East Anglian villages. They generally keep to themselves and do not cause social unrest.

Most 'travellers' in this country are not Roma. Many have Irish ancestry but that is largely lost in the culture these days. They travel from legal and illegal semi-permanent camps more or less as work, seasons and temperament dictate. They are rounded distrusted and disliked by locals as rootless and untrustworthy. They are accused of every theft within miles, and it is true many are thieves or worse. They are embedded in the grey economy, and most make their (more or less ) legal living that way. They are an underclass, but I am not sure how much class or social identity they actually have. I'm not even sure it is a fixed membership. People fall into it, many more grow up in it, but settle and build a life for themselves in the mainstream at some point in their travels.


for example,

Thanks Ugo- an interesting piece from real life.
Obviously the gypsies have their own ways, hard to combine with modern-day Europe where every sq-foot is owned by someone else.
But when the going gets really though for developed countries (post peak)- and after the 'work/position-multitudes' have been flattened down to about late 1800s level, I believe there is quite a number of people ready to start to move about. After all the 500 millions in Europe is quite a staggering number- but few have their own land. In Chindia I'll guess most city dwellers still have some remote family members 'out on the farm'

I must say i worry about the future of many minorites in the vestern world. Now they seem to attract a lot of negative media coverage and attention.
When times gets though for everyone i fear history will repeat itself and the general public will be looking for a scapegoat.


You said "the tires of their cars are made from crude oil".

As far as I can tell, that's not really correct. Do you have any concrete info on that? There appears to be a small oil-related component of synthetic rubber, but apart from that, not so much.



Natural rubber, or polyisoprene is the basic elastomer used in tire making

Styrene-butadiene co-polymer (SBR) is a synthetic rubber which is often substituted in part for natural rubber based on the comparative raw materials cost

Polybutadiene is used in combination with other rubbers because of its low heat-buildup properties

Halobutyl rubber is used for the tubeless inner liner compounds, because of its low air permeability. The halogen atoms provide a bond with the carcass compounds which are mainly natural rubber.

Bromobutyl is superior to chlorobutyl, but is more expensive

Carbon Black, forms a high percentage of the rubber compound. This gives reinforcement and abrasion resistance

Silica, used together with carbon black in high performance tires, as a low heat build up reinforcement

Sulphur crosslinks the rubber molecules in the vulcanization process

Vulcanizing Accelerators are complex organic compounds that speed up the vulcanization

Activators assist the vulcanization. The main one is zinc oxide

Antioxidants and antiozonants prevent sidewall cracking due to the action of sunlight and ozone

Textile fabric reinforces the carcass of the tire

Does anybody have good info?

I based my statement on memory - I have in mind that tires are mostly made with oil derived compounds. I think I should do a little more research in this area but I believe that my statement is correct - of course in a general way. As far as I know, practically all polymers on the market are made from crude oil. Even carbon black is made from crude oil (or maybe from natural gas). So, I think that there holds the relation: no oil - no tires. This has been a problem everytime oil got scarce because of wars. Even in the mighty US, during the second world war tires for civilian vehicles were rationed and rare.

Of course you could use polymers derived from natural rubber but there are not enough rubber trees in the world to do that.

I have in mind that tires are mostly made with oil derived could use polymers derived from natural rubber but there are not enough rubber trees in the world to do that

I've seen claims that natural rubber is adequate, but I don't have detailed data.

Even carbon black is made from crude oil (or maybe from natural gas).

It can be made from either - of course, it's basically pure carbon, so almost any hydrocarbon (or CO2) could be a source.

Even in the mighty US, during the second world war tires for civilian vehicles were rationed and rare.

That's not really a useful data-point. The US rationed and diverted almost everything to the war effort.

I think I should do a little more research

I'd be delighted to see your results.

Not specific to tires, but it seems that synthetic rubber production outpaces natural rubber production by about 20%:

Also, synthetic rubber was very important to the war effort, mostly due to the fact that most natural rubber comes from the Far East; this may play an important role as globalization unwinds.

On the eve of WW II, the US was almost totally dependent upon the Far East for natural rubber essential to industry and mechanized warfare, a lifeline severed by the Japanese within weeks after Pearl Harbor. Victory required that a synthetic substitute be produced at once and on a massive scale.

It seems that synthetic rubber production after the War has improved to the point where the quality often surpasses that of natural rubber for the same price. So natural rubber still seems competitive but to account for the scale of world rubber consumption, synthetic processes are necessary. Wish I had more stats but looks like you have to pay for them!

i>this may play an important role as globalization unwinds.

Or not - see my comment on the Wind-powered shipping post a day or two ago.

to account for the scale of world rubber consumption, synthetic processes are necessary.

The straightforward solution would be re-treading (which can be done multiple times) and recycling - fuels are consumed, but polymers are not.

The gypsy way of life is based on stealing, robbery, rape and killings.
If you see a gypsy around, you better watch your pockets.
If you see more than one, run away- you're about to become a victim.

Gypsies. If they are like the gypsies from South Carolina they are not the ideal neighbor. The gypsies follow the storms pretending to be legitimate contractors. Once they have your money they’re gone. There are reasons that working people don’t want immigrants, particularly illegal immigrants, they take jobs from citizens. As things in the U.S. economy deteriorates I’m afraid you see illegal immigrants suffer. You said when speaking to a group of middle income folks some fall asleep during your talk. That’s because they are tire. They work their butts off trying to maintain their middle income status.

Certainly not all are poor either -- saw a show on organized crime showing a "gypsy compound" of many million-dollar homes, funded by nationwide scams of all sorts. Of course support via crime will not be as good a lifestyle when the host populace is poor.

I wonder if there is much difference in disposition between those who are nomadic herders or explorers, or traders, versus highwaymen or thieves?

A high-complexity society offers opportunity for all sorts of predilections. Maybe a simpler society would be rightfully wary of such groups, but employ them to some utility as well?

Hi Paleo,

Tell me honestly-do you think the gypsies scams are any worse, morally or ethically, than the ones legally perpetrated day in and day out by lawyers and businessmen of various sorts?

We saw all this wealth, here, and we thought that there was no need of working so hard. If there was so much wealth; why couldn't we share a little of it?

This suggests that they thought they could just live off of the larger society, rather than working.

Did they develop any new skills or trades to replace the old, or are the perceptions of the Roma as thieves correct?

Thank you for an excellent article Ugo. I am surprised to see some of the more negative comments towards the end, but I guess it's understandable. Though I haven't had any personal experiences with Roma, my Romanian friend (who is not Roma) has more or less told me that their entire society is based upon theft. It isn't surprising then, that they don't exactly endear themselves to their hosts.

It's important to have a balanced view of different populations and not fall into the trap of either admiring the fictional "noble savage" or having a vicious hatred of the outsider. Bottom line, all human beings are mildly clever apes who will do whatever it takes to protect themselves and their group, including, for example, dropping an atomic bomb on other humans and instantly wiping them from existence. Compared to that, what the Roma do is probably mild, but perception is everything.

Some years back, an American friend of mine living in Paris was pick-pocketed by a Roma child while he was at a Metro/Underground station. My friend had his wallet in his bulging back trouser pocket, US-style, and he was surrounded by 12-15 kids. The wallet vanished in a flash.

"Big Jim", my friend, grabbed the nearest child and squeezed his arm and made him scream like mad. The other kids soon returned the wallet with its contents (driver's license, residence permit, plastic cards and a little cash). I know this sounds really bad but you ultimately have to decide whether you want to be fodder for others or not. There is no room for sentiments. They could see that Jim would break this child's arm if necessary.

Personally, also in Paris, I was mobbed by a similar gang and they only left me alone when I made it quite clear that I was willing to bash a few of them properly if they got too near again.

The French police is quite powerless - just like in Italy. I expect it is only a matter of time before these people are returned to Slovakia, Romania etc. I mean the European Union is not going to last that long, IMHO.

FWIW, the gypsies of Russia and Ukraine seem to still have their ancient skills. Lots of Russians with small plots of land get the gypsies to plough it for them using their horses. Many gypsies make a living that way.

Truly appreciated your article Ugo. Only just this month I became aware of India's Rabari. They have been on the road in their own land for near 500 years and are virtually invisible politically. The don't have addresses so they pretty much officially aren't there. Their culture seems similar to traditional Roma culture in many ways. They still make a living banging out utensils in their forges, as travelling entertainers and on, but as cheap manufactured goods and television sets work their way through the settled Indian masses demand for what the Rabari produce is steadily shrinking. Lots of resistance to efforts to settle these wanderers whenever and wherever those few efforts have been made. You wouldn't think people so far down on the social and consumption ladder could be hurt by PO, but then again they could be the most vulnerable, if food supplies radically constrict. There are near 80 million of those folks...

I've encountered so-called gypsies in Paris - trying to run a little scam on a person for a couple of euro - maybe this kind of experience underlies much of the thinking about these people. But, I think the real story is much deeper.

My most intimate experience is with the Irish Travellers (Tinkers) who are also referred to as gypsies by some people.

The Travellers are indigenous Irish people who probably go back to the time of the druids. They tend to have very black hair, very intense bright blue eyes, and very pale complexion - not a all the stereotype of the ruddy red-haired, freckled face Irish citizen.

Travellers are nomadic people with their own language and a mostly oral tradition of passing on their stories from one generation to the next. They tend to be very good with horses and matters of trading and repairing anything made of metal (ie - Tinkers). They do not want to be "settled" in houses or own land.

Some Irish citizens have compassion for the Travellers; some hold them in low regard. I'm not an expert on the issue, but it seems to me that the latter is more common. Several years ago, Travellers would be seen camped on the roadsides all over Ireland - usually a vehicle of some sort, a camping trailer, and a couple of horses. Ireland permitted Travellers to camp almost any place they wanted. On my last few trips, I seldom saw them - I was told that the government was trying to get them off the roadways and providing authorized campgrounds for them.

As I said, I claim no expertise about these folks, but my encounters with them left lasting impressions. As a cyclist from the US, touring hundreds of miles of rural roads, I suspect I've had more intimate contact with Travellers than most Irish citizens. I stopped or was stopped on the road by Travellers many times and had brief conversations.

What struck me was the overall manner of most Travellers: very bold, very direct, very intense in their manner of speaking to me. The usual stuff: where are you from, what kind of bike is that, where are you going, etc. However, these interactions tended to be both intimidating and awe inspiring. Intimidating, because after all being on back road in Connemara on a bicycle while talking to 3 or 4 rough looking guys is not that comfortable. But, the awe part comes from the realization that these folks have endured by sheer wit and toughness for centuries in the face of nearly unrelenting prejudice. They exist almost totally outside of conventional society and culture. They are smart, they are tough, and they are survivors - I'd bet my money on them in PO versus the "smartest guys in the room" from Wall Street.

It is hard to describe - but, talking to these folks (in my cycling context) was one of the strangest experiences of my life - hard to put to words.

You know, Dave, that looks somewhat like my own experience with the Italian Roma. A different kind of world, people who are really different. People who have kept to their ways for centuries and survived against all odds. The funny thing, in my case, is that I didn't need to go to some far away place to meet them. The Roma camp I am describing is right on campus; a few hundred meters from my office!! See, I have traveled a lot, seen a lot of countries. Mostly, it was related with my job, so everywhere I went I met people who were, more or less, like me: middle class university researchers or employees. It doesn't matter so much where you go: life is about the same, or so I found.

Then, as I was passing in front of the Roma camp everyday, I kept telling myself, what the hell, those people are my neighbors. So, one a coworker of mine - a very nice lady - convinced me that we should visit them. She had never been there, either. So, we decided to stop by and say hello. We did that, I must say that I was a little scared. But they offered us coffee and that was the start of an eerie experience. I must say that I think it has been eerie for both sides. The Roma have little chance to meet the gadje in friendly terms just as the reverse. And the separation is just a few hundred meters.

Most Irish have a total and utter destain for Travelers. Most have permanant residents but insist on keeping their tradition "travelling " of living of the side of the roads during Summer Months (robbing). They have most of the elder rural population terrifed due to robbery and assults to the point were rural farmers will almost shoot on sight. You can Google one famous Case if you wish "Nalley"
You can read the following page Fron PAVEE which is their mouthpiece
You can read the following Article about the problem of illegal encampments Old but still going on
Or you can read up on Crays Hill Essex for same Issue.on their English cousins.
Here all travellers have to claim social welfare on same day ,time country wide to stop thenm multiple claming
We also have had ROMA move in to this country Calming Political Aslum, They claim all state allowances while their cases are being assesed. Their goverment says they are not a genuine case .
Local Judge got slated in press for daring to say that childern were being taught to seal. One family he had dealt with over 150 summones for shoplifting. Mostly under 12's who cant be convicted when caught.
This is not a new issue to do with present finiancal crisis

And of course there is the tarring of all people with the same brush...

Hi dylan,

I make a point of never telling citizens of another country how they should manage their affairs. My comment was simply a recounting of a personal interaction with some people who have a very different philosophy of life.

However, Rib clearly has a POV that begs for examination. I wonder how this "utter disdain" has come to past and how much it is actually deserved? There is an old joke in Ireland: Patrick has been wanting to steal something from Michael's farm but he needs to wait until the Tinkers visit the area.

I grew up in an Irish Catholic community in northern Minnesota. The general attitude towards American Indians was about the same as Rib holds for the Travellers. We have since moved on from "inferior savage", "noble savage", and the like to a much more realistic understanding of Indian culture before Europeans arrived.

It has been my experience that many Irish citizens have a less than commendable understanding of Irish history. One of my favorite Irish characters in Irish history is Grace O'Mally

I often asked Irish folks in pubs and B&Bs what they knew about her - most knew nothing.

Remains of a church built by Grace (Achill Island) - it seems that she was an amazing lady!

EDIT: point I was trying to make about Grace is that she is "regular" Irish stock that did her fair share of robbing and killing - but she is a folk hero.

Suprisingly, I have been to Kildownet in Achill Many times and know my Irish history. I also have settled travellers beside me which do not cause me an issue and intagrate well. But also have seen the other side where local football club was invaded by them .It took 3 months to evict them. $200.000 to clean up after with pitches unplayable for 3 years.

Hi Rib,

I do appreciate that there are many sides to this story and I respect your POV as an Irish citizen. Off topic from the Traveller story (doubt if anyone is following this thread anymore), I have to say that Achill Island is one of my most favorite places in the world:

A fellow from Germany touring with me - early evening:

(I know - it is spelled Keem - got to fix that some day) - I'm not able to cycle the entire hill but I do get down to the beach and back with some walking and pushing the bike

I always have company on my ride:

It is a really magical place (especially when the wind is not blowing!)

hi dave, that's a quite accurate account of irish travellers!
It's strange because most people would have
a funny nostalgia about them in ireland but also not trust them at all. In the mad rush to become modern we have lost a lot of culture along the way. Here's a funny and quite true sketch about travellers in ireland!

Hi dylan - that was funny!

My favorite part of this post was the quote at the end, where the gypsy man says he feels like he's made a mistake. The "old way" was presented to him as a child, and he rejected it, opting for the industrial lifestyle instead.

This really hits home with me: my parents grew up in rural Greece; I remember as a child watching the way my grandparents did things around the farm, the rhythm of village life, and yes, the many gypsies that would camp out in the fields and drive through town in their overloaded trucks, peddling chairs and tables and other such things. But my parents moved to Athens, and then to America, enamored by the industrial lifestyle. I can't blame them, and I'm lucky to still have the family land back in the countryside, and of course I'm grateful for all that they provided me, but I have this persistent feeling that they made an awfully big mistake.

On the other hand, what really were their options? People were leaving the villages in droves. There were no services available, limited education, terrible medical care, and few employment prospects. The very fabric of village life was unraveling. Everyone was doing it, especially those who were smart enough to make in the city and abroad. There were opportunities elsewhere, so why not go for it?

Perhaps now that the Greek government is slowly (or quickly?) falling to pieces, those who haven't sold their houses will eventually move back to their villages. But I don't hold out much hope. The city folks see the present crisis as one of government mismanagement, not of poor lifestyle choices. There are a few of us heading back to the countryside, but it's largely under the radar. When I discuss peak oil with my neighbors in the village, they all seem to get it, or at least are open to discussion; in Athens and San Francisco, the response is either bewilderment or outright ignorance. Again, I think it's mostly a function of what you stand to lose, and what options are available to you. The issue, after all, is anything but academic.

At any rate, thanks Ugo for a very interesting post.

My wife lived in Romania (Gypsy central) for a while.... I have visited / hung out with some gypsy kids.

Now we live in downtown Atlanta in a rough lower-class neighborhood.

We see alot of similarities between urban ghetto culture and Roma culture.

For example... the idea that "if you are dumb enough to leave your stuff unsecured, you deserve to get it stolen" seems to be shared between the two cultures. Also, being a good "hustla" (being skilled at ripping people off) is a highly prized skill here and among the Roma.

There are also parallels with alcohol (and other substance) abuse and malnourishment between the two cultures. There is plenty of child-abuse here in ghetto Atlanta... not sure if it is the same way with the Roma.

There is a significant black market here in ghetto Atlanta for food stamps, liquor, sex, stolen goods, drugs etc. There are also expansive flea-markets here which are also black market as far as I can tell. I think the non-working lower class people here might be more entrepreneurial than the other classes. I know the Roma are involved in the black market in some cases...

I am convinced that building rapport with the neighbors has protected us from robbery. The white lady who lived in the same house just before us was not friendly with neighbors and was broken into 14 times in 6 months where we have only been broken into once and had outdoor theft twice in a year so statistically we are way ahead. I imagine this is the same with the Roma.

I see many comments by people who seem not to be afraid to generalize "Gypsies are like this" or "Gypsies are like that". So, I see that some people say that gyspsies are thieves, that they abuse their children, that they ar criminals, etcetera. Fortunately I didn't see, so far, the common accusation made against gypsies in Italy, that they "steal children" which, you may note, parallels exactly the same accusation made against the Jews in the years before the second world war.

Look: I am not here to defend the gypsies, nor to blame them. But let me say that unjustified generalization is one of the banes of our times. I would like just to note that I haven't see so often children so loved and so well cared for than in the gypsy camp of which I have some experience. That is, however, nothing I can generalize about. Gypsies are just people.

"Gypsies are just people."

that 'steal children' cry is a powerful one.

Several years back a woman from our town was in Guatamala putting together outfitting contacts she could link with her Alaskan outfitting business. When she was out and about one day a cry was raised to the effect of "that gringo woman was here to steal our children' and a mob beat her to within an inch of her life. Somehow she survived, I seem to recall a priest intervened, but her nursing home--where I have met her--existence isn't the same sort of life she had before the beating. Not much to do with the Roma, except the accused was an outsider, and the cry "steal our children" was readily believed.

1) My generalization is based on what my wife (an aid worker who lived among the Roma) tells me. It's not a judgement call, it's just observations. There are plenty of publically available stats that back up my observations regarding Romanian "gypsies".

2) I live in a "bad" part of Atlanta and so I do feel quite qualified to make some generalizations based on thousands of observations.

3) You seem to have completely misunderstood my post. I am just making some dispassionate observations, I made no judgement calls. You seem to have viewed my post through the lense of an implied judgement call which doesn't exist.

4) if we didn't like these impoveroushed cultures, we wouldn't have spent years of our lives living amount these people.

5) my experience with Romanian gyspy children is very different than yours. Also, please check into Romanian orphanages / rampant child abandonment problems with the Roma before you lecture me on how much they love their kids.

Yes, the parallels do seem to multiply.  Illiteracy, contrary/hostile culture, the works.

I would say that the majority culture is bound to see ill-educated, parasitic subcultures as a luxury they can no longer afford.  People unwilling to practice virtues of education, thrift, and especially trustworthiness are not going to be subsidized.  They may not even be welcome in the country... even if born there.  All I can say is, not a moment too soon.

People unwilling to practice virtues of education, thrift, and especially trustworthiness are not going to be subsidized.

Then start with the analysts and bankers. They have to go first.

When I was a kid the school taught me about "Nuclear Winter". I am certain kids are being taught Global Warming now. I wonder if Peak Oil is making the rounds at the schools?
Maybe it could be introduced in a physics segment on thermo dynamics?