Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Founders' Day

John Michael Greer, of The Archdruid Report, is running a contest for short stories depicting a post petroleum future. The winning stories are to be published as an anthology, the second of its kind. After Oil, the first anthology, is a collection of entertaining, thought provocative visions of what our future might look like, and can be purchased at Amazon.

With the hope of being included in the second book, here is my submission, "Founders' Day:"

Skylar awoke to the sound of rain driving against the windows and to the roll of distant thunder. Her whole body smiled in response. What a good omen for Founders’ Day! The drier years could still be quite lean, but the rains had been plentiful this season. This year, there would be abundance.

She stretched and slid out of bed, knowing that further sleep would be impossible. Founders’ Day had always been her favorite day of the year, but this year would be unique. This year, they would open the time capsule buried back in 2015, fifty years before. Anticipation had been building all year, and now the day had finally come.

Feeling her way in the darkness, Skylar donned the clothes she had laid out the night before — the simple, linen tunic, the ceremonial cloak of faded greens and browns, and the beaded Rope of Memories that she hung around her neck. Her feet, as always, were bare. With practiced fingers, she combed and braided her long hair, tucking flowers into the graying strands as she worked. When they came for her at dawn, she had long been ready.

The sun broke through the last of the clouds, painting pink, purple, and orange ribbons across the sky. Raindrops caught the early light and reflected it like jewels hung from trees and flowers and blades of grass. More good omens! She led the procession down the narrow paths and across the wooden bridges, over the marshy swales brimming with the night’s rain. It was a happy, noisy crowd that banged on drums, rattled gourds, and blew shrill notes on pipes of reed. It wasn’t music that they played, but it was a joyful sound all the same. Then they came to the stone circle, and Skylar made her way to the cob bench under the shelter. She arranged her cloak around her as the people settled into their places, not seeming to mind the wetness of the grass and ground. The youngest children sat at her feet, the older ones behind. Adults stood at the very back, or sat in chairs brought from home. She waited. When the crowd grew still and quiet, she began in her clear, steady voice, the ritual story of Founder’s Day.

“Today we gather together to honor the Founders. You all know their names.”

Barbara, Pam, Kathy and Ken. Steven, Rick, Mary and Lynn, came the children’s response. Bright faces glowed with anticipation and she smiled at the sight.

“Yes, and their story starts as all stories should.”

Once Upon a Time.

Skylar nodded. “Once upon a time, the founders were sitting together drinking tea and coffee and talking about the world at large.” Skylar pantomimed drinking from a cup and the children did the same. They might not know what tea and coffee were, but it did not matter.

“‘We’re wasting the gifts of Gaia,’ they said. ‘We’re poisoning the land, the water, the sky. We’re even killing the Bee People. What kind of world are we leaving our children? Hard times are coming. We must change.’” She put down her imaginary cup and the children did the same.

We must change. We must change, they chanted, pounding small fists on small knees.

“So they went to the Government and said, ‘We’re wasting the gifts of Gaia.’” Skylar gave an exaggerated shrug, signaling the indifference of the Government. “‘We’re poisoning the land, the water, the sky. We’re even killing the Bee People. What kind of world are we leaving our children?’” She shrugged again. “‘Hard times are coming. We must change.’”

We must change! We must change!

“But the Government didn’t listen.” And they all clapped their hands over their ears and shook their heads.

“Then they went to the State and said, ‘We’re wasting the gifts of Gaia. We’re poisoning the land, the water, the sky. We’re even killing the Bee People. What kind of world are we leaving our children? Hard times are coming. We must change.’”

We must change! We must change!

“Did the State listen?”

NO! And they all clapped their hands over their ears and shook their heads.

“At last, they went to their friends and neighbors and said, ‘We’re wasting the gifts of Gaia.’” This time, Skylar nodded vigorously, in obvious agreement. “‘We’re poisoning the land, the water, the sky. We’re even killing the Bee People.’” They all clapped their hands to their cheeks in mock horror. “‘What kind of world are we leaving our children? Hard times are coming. We must change.’”

We must change! We must change!

“And what did their friends and family say?”

We will be the change! Be the change! the children shouted with obvious gusto.

“And that’s exactly what they did. They hired big machines to come in and tear up the streets.”

The children responded with a cacophony of rumbles and roars. It always tickled Skylar that they were able to imitate a sound none of them had ever heard.

“And they dug swales and built cisterns to capture the rain. They made hugelkulturs six feet high; then they planted trees, and vines, and flowers -- some just for the Bee People. They got chickens, and ducks, and rabbits and goats. They wrapped their houses in straw bales and sealed them with earthen plasters. They took the apartment building and made it into shops like . . .” Skylar pointed at one of the boys sitting at her feet.

“Uh, uh, a WEAVER!” he shouted.

“and a candle maker,” the girl next to him squealed.

“a Fix-It shop,” “a basket maker,” “a potter,” the responses came as Skylar’s pointing finger snagged answers from other children in the crowd. She smiled and continued.

“When they were finished, they had turned their subdivision into a sustainable town. Other HOA’s saw what they had done. Some of them said:”

Cool! Let’s do it, too.

“And some of them said:”

What weirdos! That always got a giggle.

“And then the hard times came.” Every face looked sad. There was no glossing over the hard times. “There was still rain.”

But not enough.

“There was still food.”

But not enough.

“There was still medicine.”

But not enough.

“What had been neighborhoods and farms turned to desert.”

The children nodded. There wasn’t one of them that hadn’t visited nearby ruins, exploring, scavenging, and poking around in the dry, dusty corners.

“Even in the oases like ours, times were hard, and a lot of people were called Home. Then Gaia sent the plague.” A few of the adults in the back wiped tears from their faces. “That was the hardest time of all. But in the end, it saved them.”

Skylar paused to regain her own composure, thinking about the irony of it all. The plague, with all the grief and all the suffering that it had brought, had also brought an end to the industrial age. If it hadn’t been for the plague, humanity would likely have wrung every last bit of fossil fuel from the ground and sent the carbon into the air, destabilizing the climate to the point where earth might have become unlivable. If it hadn’t been for the plague, mankind would likely have fished every last fish from the seas and polluted every last drop of water. Hell, if it hadn’t been for the plague, Village Estates would likely have been overrun with refugees, and they might have all starved to death . . . if not worse. But the plague had been a dark angel of sorts, bringing both death and the possibility of renewed life.

“There was still food . . .”

and now it was enough.

“And because people had planned for the hard times, things got better.”

On cue, all the children cheered and the smiles returned to their faces.

“And that, my dear children, is why we celebrate every Founders’ Day. But this one is special. Who can tell me why?”

A sea of hands shot up in response. Skylar pointed to one of the shyer children in the crowd. “Why is today special, Althea?”

Althea sat up straighter and said with shining eyes, “Because we open the time capsule. You helped make it. You were in . . . in . . . fifth-grade.” She stumbled over the unfamiliar term, but ended with confidence.

“Very good, Althea! Fifty years ago, my fifth-grade class filled this time capsule and buried it here in the stone circle.” She picked up the metal cylinder which had been dug out of the ground the previous day and cleaned for her benefit. “Are you ready to see what’s inside?”

Yes!! came the shouted response.

Skylar broke the seal and unscrewed the lid. There was an audible pop, followed by a whoosh of air. A nearby rooster crowed, heralding the event more appropriately than any drum roll, and the crowd laughed in response. Skylar reached in and pulled out a letter. She was surprised to find her hands shaking as she tore open the envelope.

“‘To the people of 2065: My class of fifth-graders has been thinking about the future. Their parents are busy changing the neighborhood, getting ready for ‘the hard times,’ but we want to think about the world as it could be — what we want it to be like in fifty years. In fifty years, they will be the age of their grandparents now. It’s hard to imagine being that old when you are only ten, and it’s hard to imagine what the world will look like, but we want to try. So each child drew a picture of what the world might be in 2065. We hope you enjoy their pictures and their gifts.’ Signed, Mrs. Taylor.”

Skylar found it hard to read the letter. She had to stop a time or two to steel her voice against the tears. She still remembered drawing her picture. She remembered her teacher and her classmates. She looked around the crowd and found the face of Emily — the only other survivor from that class of ten year-olds. Well, there might be others. Not everyone had stayed. But only Emily was here with her today.

With a deep breath, she reached into the cylinder again and drew out the stack of pictures. As she held them up, one by one, the crowd oohed in amazement. Even Skylar had forgotten how bright were the colors of simple crayons and how smooth and white was the paper, even now only slightly yellowed. The pictures were simple and not always easy to understand, but labels told of flying cars and people living on the moon or at the bottom of the ocean. There were pictures with aliens from outer space and pictures with angels. Emily’s picture featured a zoo-like assortment of animals and herself in the middle with a big smile.

“Oh, here’s mine!” Skylar held up a drawing of huge windmills surrounded by big squares of black. “Those are solar panels,” she explained. “I wasn’t sure how to draw them.” She looked at the blank faces of the younger children. Solar panels had disappeared when the batteries failed and could not be replaced. The panels had long since been recycled into more useful items. There were still windmills, but they were small and not used much anymore.

Finally, she came to the last picture and laid it gently in her lap. “So,” she asked. “What do you think?”

A young boy raised his hand. “Yes, Billy?”

“Gramma Skylar,” he said quietly, addressing her by her honorific, “how many pictures are there?”

Skylar counted them quickly. “Twenty-seven,” she answered.

“Twenty-seven . . . and all by kids ten years-old?”

“Some of us might have already turned eleven, but yes, most of us were ten.”

Billy, his eyes wide, looked around at his friends. He couldn’t imagine twenty-seven children all the same age. Skylar didn’t tell him that her class had been only one of three fifth-grades.

“But there’s more,” she continued as she reached into the canister again. She pulled out a handful of green and yellow boxes, slender things about the size of a deck of cards. “These are crayons,” she told them. “This is what we used to color the pictures. There should be twenty-eight boxes. We each put in one, and so did the teacher.” There was an audible gasp from the crowd as the children shared looks of excited amazement. Then she pulled out a thick pack of white paper, curled from its long confinement. “And here’s the paper. I’ll give all this over to the librarian, and she’ll figure out a fair way to share. And one last thing.” Skylar couldn’t contain her grin as she reached for the last bundle and pulled it into the light.

A murmur went up from the crowd as first the children and then the adults realized what it was. “Seeds!” “It’s seeds!” the message passed from one person to the next. “I wonder what kind of seeds? Maybe something we don’t have anymore.” Maybe for something that had long since died out.

“Okay, I know you’re all tired of sitting and ready to get to the games,” Skylar announced. “So let’s close.” She looked out at the people gathered together, the children who listened with so much enthusiasm, and there at the back, her life-long friends and neighbors. She felt her heart fill with a great warmth towards them all. Okay, it was hard to like Frank sometimes, he could be so contrarian. And there was Rachel, who found more things to complain about than one would think possible. But they were still her people, and she was theirs. She stood up, and with great feeling, led them in the closing chant:

Rejoice and give thanks, for we are the human child of Gaia, brother and sister to all her tribes.
Rejoice and give thanks, for we are the hands of Gaia, and through us may all be healed.
Rejoice and give thanks, for we are the heart of Gaia, living in joy and centered in love.

Blessed be. Blessed be. Blessed be.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

The Stupidity Galls Me

There are times when what I need to say wells up inside of me and demands an outlet. This blog has been my place to shout those things to the universe, to give voice to my frustrations and fears, to expel the words within and give them a life of their own.

That hasn’t been the case for some time now. I’ve been focusing on solutions instead of problems, averting my eyes from the rising tide of destruction that is threatening to engulf our beautiful planet. I’ve been busy trying to create a refuge, always aware that the flood waters were coming but feeling powerless to stop them. Yet here I am, at 4:30 in the morning, once again with the words that need to be said threatening to drown me.

Night before last, we watched the documentary “The Last Mountain.” It is the story of mountain top removal and the devastating effect it is having on the Appalachians. It is impossible to watch and not get angry. Really angry. So angry that I don’t know how to begin to express that anger. There is the destruction of the mountains themselves and the utter stupidity and willfully blind ignorance of people who think that piling up the rubble after the coal has been extracted is ‘putting the mountain back when we’re through.’ Just to look at the stream beds they have created -- channels of rock that go STRAIGHT DOWN THE MOUNTAIN RUBBLE -- makes me wonder if they never once stepped out into nature and observed the real world. And the gravel pile they call top soil -- have they never stuck a shovel in the dirt and planted anything -- anything at all? How could they hope to replace the complex harmonies of a living mountain with something that has been blasted apart? Even a toddler who can recite “Humpty Dumpty” knows better than that.

Besides the destruction of the mountain and all its living inhabitants, besides the pollution of the water shed that affects a densely populated swath of the southeast, besides the disruption of the lives of those people who have lived on the mountain for generations, there are human deaths. Six people in a one block area died of brain cancer after breathing the blast dust over a period of time. Two of them were small children. People are dying and no one cares. Environmental protection laws are being broken by the tens of thousands, and no one cares. The coal miners are being lied to, and no one cares. Well, not no one -- but certainly not those in authority. And those who do protest are being dragged, literally dragged, off to jail. It sickened me to see how a 90-year-old woman in a wheel chair was manhandled by police who cared so little that even the presence of cameras did nothing to temper their obvious contempt.

If terrorists did to us what we do to ourselves on a daily basis, the public outcry would ring from sea to shining sea.

So, that was night before last. Last night, my husband tuned into “Cool Pools” on HGTV. If you ever wondered how the obscenely rich spend their mega millions, you can get a glimpse on HGTV. It wasn’t just the contrast between some of the richest people in America with some of the poorest from the night before, although that was an element. It wasn’t just the knowledge that the gap between the rich and the poor has been widening, although that was an element. It wasn’t just that the laws in America are increasingly favoring the rich and powerful over the poor and destitute, although that was an element. It was the invisible cost of it all -- it was all the water and all the energy it takes to power their artificial waterfalls, their light displays, their heated, multi-layered pools, their water slides. It was the fact that mountains are being destroyed and people are dying so that they can live the way they do. That is the real cost of their cool pools.

And then, to cap it all off, I read this news bit quoting Steven Hawking, “The 71-year-old Hawking said he did not think humans would survive another 1,000 years ‘without escaping beyond our fragile planet. . . Look up at the stars and not down at your feet.’”

Really, Steven? Really? Assuming the impossible -- that we somehow scrape together enough resources from our resource depleted world, that we, who have never sent a man beyond our own moon find a way to send billions of people far out beyond our solar system, assuming all that, tell me please, where, in all of the known universe, could we ever find another planet as beautiful as this?

The stupidity galls me.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

The Ghosts of America

I have become totally disenchanted with politics and politicians. It seems that our representatives on both sides of the aisle spend all of their time kowtowing to corporate lobbyists, posturing, and grandstanding -- the name of the game is no longer 'what is best for America?' but 'how low can I go?' When Marco Rubio ran for the US Senate here in Florida, I was convinced that he was no better than the rest. His ads were nothing more than clichéd sound bites and his capacity for thought seemed to be limited to bumper sticker slogans. So I was pleasantly surprised and unexpectedly impressed by an interview he did with Jon Stewart on The Daily Show. Who'da thunk a junior senator and a comedian could hold such an intelligent and thoughtful conversation on such wide-ranging issues?

Senator Rubio struck me with his apparent sincerity. He seems to genuinely want what is best for our country, not just what is best for his career. And he seems more interested in doing what is right than what will get him re-elected. I admire his heart and spirit even while I disagree with him on virtually everything.

Rubio bases his ideas on what are, in my opinion, false assumptions and misinformation. He is right when he says that only economic growth can pay down our deficit, but his assumption that growth is still possible is both naïve and unfounded. I could go into the whole ‘the delusion of limitless growth in a finite world’ argument, but I’ve been there and done that already. That delusion is troubling in and of itself, but when he said that ‘with all the new discoveries, America can become energy independent in a matter of years,' I felt as if a bucket of ice water had just been dumped over my head. When it comes to the energy situation, the senator is not only badly misinformed, but dangerously misguided. Set aside for now the spurious claims of the fossil fuel industry that we could ever drill and blast and frack our way to energy independence and consider instead the catastrophic environmental costs of attempting to do so. He has no idea.

I woke up this morning wishing that I could do for Marco Rubio what the ghosts of Christmas did for Ebenezer Scrooge. I wish I could take him back to America Past, when the forests and mountains and prairies were still intact and unpolluted. Then I would take him to America Present and let him see for himself the mountains being blown apart, the wild places being cracked open and injected with a chemical soup, the poisoning of our earth, air, and waters, the degrading of our landscapes, the dead and dying zones in our oceans, the destruction of our communities, the accelerated extermination of entire species. I would take him to Canada to see the total devastation of the boreal forests and the toxic wastelands that are the legacy of our consumptive greed. Then I would take him to America Future to see what would be left of our country as our grandchildren struggle in a denuded, toxic land to battle the extremes of climate chaos while trying to provide for the bare necessities -- food enough to stave off starvation, water clean enough to drink and plentiful enough to share with plants and animals, and shelter strong enough to withstand floods, wildfires, and mega storms.

America Future doesn’t have to be that way, any more than Christmas Future was pre-ordained for Mr. Scrooge. But it is the future we will get if we don’t change course now. Senator Rubio, I believe you do want the best for our country, but you are dangerously ignorant and misinformed. Please re-evaluate your assumptions, Sir. Go beyond bumper sticker slogans; take the time to understand the complexity and limits of the real world. Wake up, look around, and do what is right.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Warriors and Heroes

Two inspiring videos came across my Facebook page this morning. Forget Lance Armstrong, this man is my hero:

Will Allen: The Urban Farmer from Spark Project on Vimeo.

And this interview has me so inspired, I'm ready to put on my princess warrior costume and go into battle:

Higher Ground

Hurricane Isaac just brushed by. Only a few days ago, it seemed that he was headed straight for us and so we prepared. We spent two days carrying tools and books and the artifacts of a lifetime to our second floor. My husband boarded up our windows while I filled the pantry with food, the first aid kit with supplies and the refrigerator with containers of water. Then we hitched up the boat and headed for higher ground. By the time we left home, Isaac had already changed course and was no longer a direct threat, but it only takes a 5 foot surge to inundate our house; predictions for our area were a 3-6 foot surge. Why take a chance?

We came home the next day to a house that was high and dry. Instead of just putting everything back where it was, we are going to take this opportunity to do some deep cleaning -- and to get rid of some of the stuff that no longer serves us.

Not everyone was as lucky as we were. The low-lying areas of Louisiana are still getting pounded by Isaac's slow moving progress, relentless rains and winds. Even here, the wind is still whipping up white-caps and bending palms.

I walked out to our dock this morning and paid my respects to Isaac's power, and it came to me that there is a lot we can learn from storms.

*Even the most educated predictions are never wholly accurate -- each storm is unique and while we may project the path and potential of a storm, there are always unknowns.

*It is wise to heed the warnings. We may not know exactly what is coming, but being prepared and having options is always a smart thing.

*While storms bring great destruction and lasting change, there are always silver linings. That may be really cliché, but true nonetheless.

So the lessons of a storm: Be prepared, be flexible, accept that the future cannot be known with any certainty, and look for the good that comes in a storm’s wake. I also believe that storms can be messengers. If so, then the message of Isaac is that the time has come to move to higher ground -- both literally and figuratively.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Yet One More Time

Okay, I've finished reading Korowicz's 78 page paper and I'm still processing. There’s some interesting stuff on what Korowicz means by ‘collapse,’ a term I’ve had a hard time understanding (emphasis mine):
As this paper is opening up a discussion about a collapse in the globalised economy, it would be useful to have a definition of what collapse might be. Following Tainter and Homer-Dixon we could associate collapse with a sudden loss of complexity. However, there has been confusion in such studies where collapse has been also identified with a break-up of empires but which did not significantly alter the socio-political complexity of the constituent parts....

A systemic collapse in the globalised economy implies there is connectedness and integration. It also requires contagion mechanisms; these have been framed within the trophic web model. (In our framework we are not considering global pandemics, nuclear war or asteroid impacts, for example). It should be born in mind that a collapse could have intermediate states, characterized by partial breakdown and semi-stable states. However, here we are just outlining broad features.

The two other considerations are how big a fall has to be for it to be considered a collapse and over what time period. A global systemic collapse as framed here is different from much of the word's common usage in relation to the current crisis - a relatively sudden fall in income, a significant rise in unemployment, and a forced shift in a societies' previously held expectations of what the near-to-medium term holds. However, the operational fabric continues to operate as before, supermarkets are re-supplied, money works, and a diversity of complex goods and services can operate.

Rather, drawing upon section III.1, it can be argued that collapse happens when a system crosses a tipping point and is driven by negative feedbacks into a new and structurally and qualitatively different state, one with a different arrangement between parts and a fall in complexity. The operational fabric could cease to operate and the systems that are adaptive to maintaining our welfare could cease or be severely degraded. As a society, we would have to do other things in other ways to establish our welfare. Functions and specialities, a diversity of goods and services, and complex interdependencies would be lost.

Korowicz goes on to describe what such a collapse might look like (again, emphasis mine):

We consider one scenario to give a practical dimension to understanding supply-chain contagion: a break-up of the Euro and an intertwined systemic banking crisis. Simple argument and modeling will point to the likelihood of a food security crisis within days in the directly affected countries and an initially exponential spread of production failures across the world beginning within a week. This will reinforce and spread financial system contagion. It is also argued that the longer the crisis goes on, the greater the likelihood of its irreversibility. This could be in as little as three weeks. . . .

Consider briefly a 'soft-to-mid-core' (Spain, Italy.....Belguim, France?), disorderly default and contagion in the Eurozone, coupled, as would be likely, with a systemic global banking crisis. There would be bank runs, bank collapses and fear of bank collapses; uncertainty over the next countries to default and re-issue currency; plummeting bond markets; a global market collapse; and a global credit crunch. Counter-party risk would affect trade, just as it would affect the inter-bank market. However, production and supply-chain networks are far more complex than the banking and shadow banking system.

Within days there could be a food security crisis, health crisis, production stoppages and so on within the most directly impacted countries, and the number of such countries would rise. Those with access to cash would clear out supermarkets in panic. Many would immediately suffer as we now hold little cash and have small home inventories. Supermarkets could not re-stock, and even if they could, there would be declining availability of fuel for transporting goods. Hospitals adapted to JIT would also run low on critical supplies and staff might not be able to get to work. Pandemic modeling has shown that removing at random only small numbers of a population can cause cascading failure of functions across an economy. Lack of inputs and people required for production would also begin to shut factories within days. Governments, emergency services, and the public would by and large be shell-shocked. Without serious pre-planning, a government would be unable even to provide emergency feeding stations for weeks. There would be growing risk to critical infrastructure.

Imports and exports would collapse in the most exposed countries and fall for those at risk. It would also cut global trade as Letters of Credit dried up. The longer the crisis went on the more countries would be at risk. But once the contagion took hold, it would be very difficult for the ECB/ IMF or governments to stop; it would be a large-scale cascading failure at the heart of the global financial system.
Okay, so what do I think? First of all, there is a part of me that is saying, “Who are you to have an opinion? You don’t know Jack Shit about any of this,” and the other part of me is saying, “What, am I just supposed to take things on faith and swallow them whole? And if I’m going to do that, which camp speaks the Word of Truth? Should I just eenie-meanie-minie-mo, grab an opinion and away I go?

So at the risk of exposing the depths of my ignorance, I’ll wade in. I believe K’s analysis of our systemic risk is solid. Anyone that is paying attention can see that our globalized financial system and economy are zooming down a one-way street that ends in a brick wall cleverly camouflaged as Endless Prosperity Blvd. I’ve been aware of this for some time -- because our financial structure is based on ever increasing levels of debt and because the ability to service debt is dependent on growth and because there are real world physical constraints to growth, a crash is inevitable -- the biggest question becomes ‘when?’ and the logical answer seems to be ‘soon.’ It is obvious that the world’s financiers are attempting in every way they can to shore up those countries most at risk and will continue to do so for as long as it works. It is often said that they are merely kicking the can down the road, but no one knows how long before they reach the dead end. In the meantime, confidence in the game they are playing keeps the market afloat.

So what happens when kicking the can only results in a stubbed toe? Things will start to unravel, international banks and agencies will do what they can to contain the damage, and the optimism of Wall Street will be strained and perhaps broken. The market is so volatile these days with all the instantaneous trades courtesy of our whiz-bang toys that panic can spread faster than an Australian wildfire. Not that it will, but that it might. I am not sure K is right, though, when he describes the speed at which the supply chain might break apart. It seems to me that our shared mythology, the one that says all problems are temporary and that growth will resume any minute now, is so strong that it will carry us for much longer than one might expect. Some how, some way, we will patch things together and make them work. For a while, at least. Although the supply lines will eventually begin to fray, factories will stay open as long as they can, international trade will limp along, and businesses may shed some marginal employees but won’t close entirely until they have no other choice. At some point, however, our unfounded optimism is going to founder -- and as the waves of a new reality begin to wash over us, panic will set in. I just don’t think it will happen as fast as K predicts. Neither do I believe that our infrastructure will begin to crumble within the time frame he suggests.

I also don’t believe that any government would be able to do much to prevent the collapse. JMG wrote about the measures taken by the US government back in the 30’s and I don’t see how they would be effective today. First of all, banks are no longer national but international and have more real power than that of most nation states. Secondly, seizing control of a bank drowning in toxic debt does nothing to enrich a government, nor does, quite frankly, the seizing of gold even if one could do that these days without inciting armed rebellion; we haven’t been on a gold standard for a long, long time. Even assuming that a government would have the political will to respond in a timely manner -- or that any government action would be seen as a legitimate use of authority in today’s anti-government climate -- how could a government, itself already trillions of dollars in debt, restore viability to a crashing financial system?

So I seem to come out somewhere between Korowicz and JMG -- and I don’t think they’re really all that far apart to begin with.

Assuming that what we are speaking of is a collapse, most likely in the financial sector, that leads inexorably to a new stasis however unstable and temporary, I do think it is a matter of time. The questions then become how soon, how fast, how bad? As for how soon, my best guess is anytime between later today and three years from now. If I’m generous, I’ll give it five. As for how fast, I think the first stage, the collapse of the financial sector, which includes Wall Street, could happen within hours of something triggering a national default and/or a panicked sell-out, or it could drag on for months with heroic efforts being made to contain the damage. As for how bad, I really don’t know. In part, it depends on timing. If things fall apart over a period of months, and if it is summer and local foods are available, and if there is a steady downturn between now and then that accustoms folks to survival thinking and creative solutions, we might not see actual starvation, at least not here in America -- there is already starvation in this world, just not here.... If it happens with a sis-boom-bah, during the winter when heat and food are more critical, and if there are natural disasters on top of an economic melt-down, we could see a more pronounced denouement.

So now that I've hashed through it all, yet one more time, does anything change -- or is this just a self-indulgent intellectual version of a dystopic video game?

Sunday, August 12, 2012

I Ought to Know Better

We went out in the boat today, and as we motored in, we passed the houses of friends and neighbors. Some of the houses look more like hotels than homes, and the boats moored to their private docks are yacht class. If I were a casual observer, I might think, "Damn, these people have it made!" The casual observer wouldn't know that Larry is in a battle for his life with leukemia, or that Steve's wife, weakened by MS, died when she was swept from their house during hurricane Ivan. They wouldn't know that Eddie's promising son found his life permanently altered when a car crash left him brain damaged and unable to earn his own way in the world. It struck me how easy it is to judge, and misjudge. Not that I don't do it, but that I ought to know better.