Monthly Archives: January 2012

Collapse Defined

So far in my young blog I’ve made a few assertions: collapse is imminent, collapse is cyclical, collapse is repetitive, and collapse can be fun. All I have left to do is explain what I mean by “collapse”.

A basic understanding of Hubbert’s Theory of Peak Oil is essential. Please take the time to acquaint yourself with this concept before reading further posts. It is also essential to understand that Peak Oil is not the prime cause of collapse but rather it exacerbates every other cause. In the military, this effect is called a “force multiplier”. Peak Oil will so severely handicap us that attempts to deal with climate change, hunger, disease, reduced agricultural yields, etc. will be reduced to virtual ineffectiveness. Without plentiful cheap oil, modern society will stop moving. Our society is like a shark, it has to keep moving (and growing) to stay alive. Sure, $5 a gallon gas is going to suck but it will seem cheap after the price hits $8.

As a species, we adapt pretty quickly. This will always be one of our better qualities. Gas is now about twice as expensive as it was ten years ago but it is still relatively cheap after you adjust for inflation. In coming years, Peak Oil will double that price quicker and more often until, eventually, availability suffers too. At what point do we stop driving entirely and switch to bikes and horses? I don’t know but I can imagine a not-too-distant day when you will be issued a ration card that limits your gas purchase to a certain number of gallons that you can buy only on certain days. I think gas will cost between $10 and $20 a gallon by that point.

Keep in mind that everything we eat, drink, wear, or use in our modern life of convenience either contains a byproduct of petroleum or depends on petroleum for its production, transportation, and consumption. Everything.

Here are some things I will not be discussing about collapse:
– A political solution. There is none. Washington is broke and dysfunctional and will, like the rest of us, be reduced to the role of an impotent onlooker.
– A specific timeline. I cannot predict a date for the collapse because the collapse has already begun. All we can debate now is the speed at which the collapse occurs and whether certain factors will accelerate it.
– A means of avoiding it. Avoidance is an unhealthy psychological mechanism. I know because I’ve battled it my entire life. When faced with something unpleasant, the best course of action is always to face it and get it over with.

We must all accept that collapse is here, it is inevitable, and it must be dealt with. Smile! Be happy. The things you will lose in the collapse are the things you never needed anyways. Likewise, the things you gain are the things you never knew were in you. We might be surprised at how meaningful, pleasant, and worth living our lives will become after all the static and stress of oil-fueled modern society is stripped away.

Black Swan Theory

This post was going to be an explanation of collapse and a brief rundown of all the likely scenarios. But something happened this morning that changed my mind. Our Sun experienced a Class M9 solar event which released a rather large, fast-moving Coronal Mass Ejection. This CME is predicted to arrive at 0900 EST tomorrow morning. This is precisely the scenario I was going to describe; not in terms of what causes it, or how it effects the Earth, but in the implications for us as survivors.

If you’ve read Nassim Nicholas Taleb’s “The Black Swan”, you already know that the impact of an event is directly proportional to its rareness or unpredictability. Sure, we can “predict” solar activity to a certain extent but never with any useful precision. The best we can hope for is a vague warning that “something” might happen.

In 1859, the “Carrington Event” occurred. It was the most powerful Solar storm ever measured. It didn’t cause widespread damage or loss of life because there was no worldwide electrical grid, communication satellite network, or Internet. Not to jump ahead of myself, but life in 1859 was very similar to what life will be like in a post-collapse society. Folks in 1859 didn’t worry too much about the Sun as long as it kept rising every morning and setting every night. They communicated face-to-face or via telegraph (the “Twitter” of the 19th Century). They were resilient.

So, what would another Carrington Event mean for you and me in 2012? Nothing less than the end of every modern convenience. Living without electricity is doable for a day or two. You might even be able to last a week if you get really lucky and have all the right skills and lots of the right supplies. But what about after your morale is sapped and your supplies are gone and the power is still not back on? Preparing for such an event is prepper talk and I promised I would keep that to a minimum. Let me say this: living in a grid-down scenario for a month, or six months, or a year is entirely possible. But you have to want to do it.

The first step to having the right attitude is being aware. If you know something is coming, you are less likely to be surprised by it. If you are not surprised, you will not be in shock. If you are not in shock, you will be able to react quickly and appropriately. You won’t get the jump on the Black Swan, but you will be one step ahead of the situation and in a better position to take care of yourself and your loved ones. In a future post I will discuss the Black Swan that I fear the most.

Until then, here’s my preferred site for monitoring solar activity. Check it regularly to maintain good situational awareness on trends and forecasts as we ramp up to the next “Solar Maximum” in early 2013.

Rhyme Time People

Mark Twain and I share a birthday and a few other things. When he said “History does not repeat itself, but it does rhyme” he gave me a the title for this blog. No, I won’t be rapping, waxing poetic, or hosting a “slam” (but feel free to post your comments in the form of a rhyme anyways!) What I will be doing is applying my limited knowledge of human history to the best-researched, most plausible theories about the near future. I believe that where our society is headed in the next half-generation is somewhere it has been before. I also believe that getting there safely and happily is the biggest challenge any of us face. Tools exist to ease us through this transformation and I intend to provide as many of them as I can here in the time we have left.

Before you get the wrong impression that I’m some kind of morose doomer clutching his guns in a bunker, let me make one thing clear from the start. What is coming will not be all horror, drudgery, and pain. The little secret about being a “Collapsitarian” is the confidence that our post-Collapse world will have every potential to be the healthiest, happiest, most productive time of our lives. While the less-than-totally-cushy conditions may bring out the worst in some people, it will bring out the best in the rest of us.