Reinventing Collapse

2007-Nov-09

Ever the optimist, I am awaiting the collapse of the American empire which looks like it could come within decades rather than centuries, and we may get to watch. Dmitry Orlov got the opportunity to watch the fall of the Soviet Empire, and in his book Reinventing Collapse, due out next year, he discusses his view that Russia was much more resilient and able to survive the collapse of its empire than we will be.

For those who just can’t wait, he gives an outline of his views in Energy Bulletin, and I’ll just give a few of his thoughts. The article is worth reading in full, and I’m waiting for the book:

All empires collapse. No exceptions. Like Russia there will be widespread shortages of the basics, and no help in sight. Unlike Russia there is less secrecy here, so we will get to watch it all.

When faced with such developments, some people are quick to realize what it is they have to do to survive, and start doing these things, generally without anyone’s permission. A sort of economy emerges, completely informal, and often semi-criminal. It revolves around liquidating, and recycling, the remains of the old economy. It is based on direct access to resources, and the threat of force, rather than ownership or legal authority. People who have a problem with this way of doing things, quickly find themselves out of the game.

In the Soviet Union, government ownership meant that the collapse would be cushioned, because governments collapse more slowly than private companies. And the very incompetence and inefficiency of the soviet economy meant the people were better prepared than we are to make do for themselves. Our efficiencies will work against us as corporations efficiently cut us off.

And in our differences in family structure (multi-generation versus nuclear), food production (home gardens versus fast food), medicine socialized versus privatised, and even educational system (free for all versus crippling debts), we are much more vulnerable to a deeper, more devastating crash.

His suggestions: forget the government, forget corporate enterprise, rely on ourselves, and expect to make do with much less.


Dieoff and the Olduvai Gorge

2007-Jul-13

There are about six and a half billion people in the world. In the next few decades there will be about nine billion, far more than the earth can hold. Just about the time when the loss of cheap oil and water and global warming kick in to sharply reduce the amount of food in the world.

I do not expect to live long enough to see eight billion people in the world or one to two hundred million people in this country die of famine, pestilence, and war, but I expect to see quite a few go as we go back to where we came from.

So if I come across as a bit cynical…sure, I’m cynical. I believe we could stop the die-off, but I don’t think we will. Have a nice day.