A dark post-economic-crash moment

Dmitry Orlov is at his cheery best again, writing an article called “Social Collapse Best Practices“. In it he describes the grim future awaiting America if Obama’s administration continmue to try and resuscitate Business as Usual. 

What should their realistic new objectives be? Well, here they are: food, shelter, transportation, and security. Their task is to find a way to provide all of these necessities on an emergency basis, in absence of a functioning economy, with commerce at a standstill, with little or no access to imports, and to make them available to a population that is largely penniless. If successful, society will remain largely intact, and will be able to begin a slow and painful process of cultural transition, and eventually develop a new economy, a gradually de-industrializing economy, at a much lower level of resource expenditure, characterized by a quite a lot of austerity and even poverty, but in conditions that are safe, decent, and dignified. If unsuccessful, society will be gradually destroyed in a series of convulsions that will leave a defunct nation composed of many wretched little fiefdoms.

Not the happiest picture! He then goes on to describe the advantages that the USSR had during its collapse.

Essentially, because supplies of food were already poor, people had already adjusted to growing their own and obtaining supplies from elsewhere within walking / public transport distance. His suggestion for the West is to prepare for human scale farming, in or near urban centres. Identify spare spaces (or spaces that will become spare when fuel becomes scarce – car parks, some roads, overpasses etc – and transport soil in to produce raised beds. He suggests this once-off transport of soil will be easier than ensuring regular transport of produce into the cities. 

Their population density – many generations to an apartment – while a negative in prosperous times can be seen as aiding their resilience.  The density lends itself to good public transport and larger scale, more efficient, heating. In addition, they did not face the spectre of eviction as the first consequence of economic crisis. He contrasts this to the unsustainable nature of American suburbia with its car and heating-fuel dependence.

He has an interesting take on security – the thing that results in so many Americans’ response to peak oil being to lock them selves in a cabin in the woods surrounded by weapons. He takes the pragmatic approach of making friends with the many out-of-work soldiers and police that will be around – the if you can’t beat them, join them, approach.

The interesting thing I take away from this is one of his early insights:

Here is the key insight: you might think that when collapse happens, nothing works. That’s just not the case. The old ways of doing things don’t work any more, the old assumptions are all invalidated, conventional goals and measures of success become irrelevant. But a different set of goals, techniques, and measures of success can be brought to bear immediately, and the sooner the better.

The message is – get your head, and house – in the right place before you need to. Then you stand a reasonable chance of getting through this, and getting your family and friends through it too.


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