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Thu May 3, 2012, 09:23 AM

What If A Collapse Happened And Nobody Noticed?

What If A Collapse Happened And Nobody Noticed?

Every once and awhile I'll be listening to a podcast with one or the other writers specializing on the subject of Peak Oil or collapse and the subject of timetables will come up. When will the collapse finally be here, the callers ask insistently, almost pleadingly, so that they can finally justify their investments in freeze-dried foods, water purification tablets and solid gold coins. Inevitably the guest will demur, and speak more in general terms. But I'm going to be the first pundit to go out on the limb and assign a timeline for the collapse. Spread it far and wide, and let's see just how good my predictive powers are. Are you ready? Here it is: Right now.

What do they think a collapse is supposed to look like? It seems people just cannot just cannot get past the "Zombie Apocalypse" theory of collapse. They imagine hordes of disease-ridden folks dressed in rags stumbling around and fighting over cans of petrol and stripping cans of food from shelves. That's not what collapse looks like. It never has been. In fact, there's very little evidence that a Zombie Apocalypse style collapse ever occurred in the historical record. Instead we see subtle patterns of abandonment and decay that unfold over long periods of time. Big projects stop. Population thins. Trade routes shrink and people revert to barter. Things get simpler and more local. Culture coarsens. High art stagnates. People disperse. Expectations are adjusted downward. Investments are no longer made in the future and previous investments are cannibalized just to maintain the status quo. Extend and pretend is hardly a recent invention.

And I remembered a comment I heard from Dmitry Orlov in an interview about how much of his high school class were now dead. Yet there were no headlines and there was never any official crisis or emergency. They did not die in gunfights over scraps of food like in The Road. Rather, more quotidian things like alcoholism, unemployment, suicide, homelessness, exposure, lack of medications and ordinary sicknesses like bronchitis and pneumonia took their lives. Russia's life expectancy fell dramatically. It's birth rate declined. Public health fell apart. Suicide rates went up. The population shrank. Entire towns became abandoned. In post-collapse Russia there was a slow die-off that occurred outside of the daily headlines that no one seemed to notice. They were ground down slowly by day-to-day reduction in the standard of living, a million little tragedies that, like pixels in an image, looked like nothing until the focus was pulled back.

And right now the entire continent of Europe is looking an awful lot like post-collapse Russia.

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Reply What If A Collapse Happened And Nobody Noticed? (Original post)
GliderGuider May 2012 OP
lunatica May 2012 #1
GliderGuider May 2012 #2
pscot May 2012 #8
Fumesucker May 2012 #12
adigal May 2012 #13
dixiegrrrrl May 2012 #47
GliderGuider May 2012 #3
jwirr May 2012 #39
GliderGuider May 2012 #40
jwirr May 2012 #54
diane in sf May 2012 #56
GliderGuider May 2012 #58
cbdo2007 May 2012 #4
marmar May 2012 #5
GliderGuider May 2012 #6
Fumesucker May 2012 #14
GliderGuider May 2012 #15
Fumesucker May 2012 #23
GliderGuider May 2012 #26
Fumesucker May 2012 #28
GliderGuider May 2012 #30
bemildred May 2012 #73
jwirr May 2012 #41
cbdo2007 May 2012 #22
adigal May 2012 #16
GliderGuider May 2012 #18
marmar May 2012 #20
KurtNYC May 2012 #17
GliderGuider May 2012 #21
jwirr May 2012 #42
GliderGuider May 2012 #48
jwirr May 2012 #55
hack89 May 2012 #81
GliderGuider May 2012 #83
hack89 May 2012 #84
GliderGuider May 2012 #86
sendero May 2012 #7
jwirr May 2012 #43
FedUpWithIt All May 2012 #82
GliderGuider May 2012 #85
FedUpWithIt All May 2012 #87
jwirr May 2012 #88
Hatchling May 2012 #9
bemildred May 2012 #10
RevStPatrick May 2012 #11
leveymg May 2012 #19
lapislzi May 2012 #25
GliderGuider May 2012 #27
lapislzi May 2012 #29
leveymg May 2012 #31
lapislzi May 2012 #36
GliderGuider May 2012 #32
lapislzi May 2012 #37
Lydia Leftcoast May 2012 #66
lapislzi May 2012 #72
jwirr May 2012 #45
Zalatix May 2012 #46
dixiegrrrrl May 2012 #49
GliderGuider May 2012 #50
leveymg May 2012 #52
starroute May 2012 #24
Zalatix May 2012 #34
adigal May 2012 #44
marmar May 2012 #33
GliderGuider May 2012 #38
chervilant May 2012 #35
dixiegrrrrl May 2012 #53
chervilant May 2012 #62
Zalatix May 2012 #60
GliderGuider May 2012 #61
chervilant May 2012 #64
chervilant May 2012 #63
coalition_unwilling May 2012 #65
GliderGuider May 2012 #68
chervilant May 2012 #70
GliderGuider May 2012 #71
coalition_unwilling May 2012 #76
chervilant May 2012 #69
WCGreen May 2012 #51
tblue37 May 2012 #57
dixiegrrrrl May 2012 #59
Egalitarian Thug May 2012 #67
marmar May 2012 #74
GliderGuider May 2012 #75
IDemo May 2012 #77
GliderGuider May 2012 #80
paulk May 2012 #78
MadHound May 2012 #79

Response to GliderGuider (Original post)

Thu May 3, 2012, 09:29 AM

1. When you lose vital things that are civilization markers the collapse is on

When you go backwards then your forward momentum has collapsed. It's pretty basic. When your previous gains are lost then stagnation and de-evolution are on.

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Response to lunatica (Reply #1)

Thu May 3, 2012, 09:39 AM

2. In my opinion we are already in the early stages of something resembling

"The Multiple Organ Failure of Global Industrial Civilization".

Energy problems, climate and weather changes, food supply limits, oceanic ecological devastation, economic and financial destabilization, political breakdowns and authoritarianism, growing income inequality, internecine warfare among the elites - all of these problems are spreading slowly through the world.

IMO we are at the top of the current cycle of civilization. It feels like we won't be able to avoid hitting a breaking point that will trigger the downhill rush.

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Response to GliderGuider (Reply #2)

Thu May 3, 2012, 10:03 AM

8. Reading Orlov would definitely reinforce that point of view

That's what I love about Russians. They find so little to be cheerful about.

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Response to pscot (Reply #8)

Thu May 3, 2012, 10:18 AM

12. In all fairness.. Russian history gives Russians little incentive for cheerfulness..

The Great Patriotic War was practically a high point for the Soviet Union for instance and they lost around 25 million citizens.



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Response to GliderGuider (Reply #2)

Thu May 3, 2012, 10:19 AM

13. Yet the Repubs want to argue about birth control

Just unreal.

I do think there are certain truths in what is written above. Certain parts of our civilizations have collapsed already, as shown by the suicides, deaths from preventive illnesses. Bartering and buying locally are actually good solutions. More people should do this.

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Response to GliderGuider (Reply #2)

Thu May 3, 2012, 02:37 PM

47. Throw in the very real possibility of Fukishima getting worse

and you have covered all bases.
excellent read, I thank you for sharing it.

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Response to GliderGuider (Original post)

Thu May 3, 2012, 09:46 AM

3. One other ominous sign (oddly enough) is the falling global birth rate.

I know that demographers and overpopulation-watchers like to celebrate that development - me among them. However, it may actually be a sign that more and more people are deciding that the future just doesn't look so bright any more.

This is what a collapse really looks like: The poorest and most vulnerable die first, out of sight, and everyone else just does what they can to survive. Peoples' priorities change: they concentrate on getting by from day-to-day rather than planning for the future. They stop getting married. They have less children or none at all. They live for today. They work harder for less. Taxes go up even as basic services are cut. Long term unemployment has been conclusively linked to greater mortality and susceptibility to illness, physical and mental. Would many of these people not still be alive today if were not for austerity measures and declining middle class opportunity? Isn't that a die-off? It's been said that having children is a referendum on the future. Based on global birth rates, I think the human race is collectively registering a vote of "no confidence."

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Response to GliderGuider (Reply #3)

Thu May 3, 2012, 01:54 PM

39. The birth rate in the US at least should be reflecting the aging of the baby boomers. They did not

have as many children. Other than that I think you are absolutely correct about the collapse being here already. I continue to encourage my children to build their life around local ideas as much as they can.

Also I do think that there will be some fighting over resourses in the near future. One of the things we have been thinking about is how hard it is going to be to survive if all of our neighbors are starving because they did not do anything to prepare.

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Response to jwirr (Reply #39)

Thu May 3, 2012, 02:00 PM

40. Regarding the neighbours

My preference is to make friends with them. Share as much as possible now. You never know who will have and who will need, and the best way to prevent friction is for neighbours not to be strangers.

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Response to GliderGuider (Reply #40)

Thu May 3, 2012, 04:47 PM

54. We are doing that - hoping when they see what we are doing they will follow. So far they think it

is all funny. A greenhouse, new barn, enlarged garden, chickens, turkeys, geese, sheep, goats and bees. Oh, and cats and dogs. Oh, well as things get worse they may start to see.

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Response to GliderGuider (Reply #3)

Thu May 3, 2012, 04:53 PM

56. It's falling as women get empowered--I think it's the opposite of collapse--it's the emergence of

the next form of civilization from this one.

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Response to diane in sf (Reply #56)

Thu May 3, 2012, 06:06 PM

58. It probably has multiple causes in different places and times.

Fertility rates can drop because increased industrialization and rising life expectancy makes children less necessary, as in Western Europe from 1950 to the mid 1970s or in South-East Asia more recently.

They can fall because women become educated and empowered (as the agricultural yoke is lifted) as is happening in African nations;

They can fall because mothers see few opportunities in the future for their children due to worsening economic circumstances, as in the ex-Soviet Union and many Eastern bloc countries;

And they can fall because of government edict as in China.

In most places fertility rates probably fall because of specific local combinations of these factors.

Regarding education, I think I mentioned to you about a month ago something I heard at a conference in Berkeley. An education activist from India and an American woman film-maker looked at education in rural Ladakh (in Kashmir) and found something disturbing. Young women were being educated and the fertility rates were falling as expected, but human trafficking rates were rising at the same time, as were land grabs in the region. What the speakers ascribed it to was the type of education the young people were being given.

The young people are often being given a modern Western-style education that is separating them from their culture and making them want to become Western consumers. In order to do that they want (need) to move to cities and get jobs using their new skills. In the cities the girls find few opportunities and become prey for the traffickers. As the young people (boys as well as girls) move to the cities to become part of the global consumer culture, they abandon the rural life in droves. This leaves the land unprotected (a whole generation of potential farmers vanishes) and it becomes vulnerable to land grabs by countries like China.

The lesson is that we must be very careful how we educate the young people in these vulnerable agricultural communities. The right sort of education (especially for girls) can protect them to some degree against the risks of trafficking, but the wrong style of education can have unexpectedly negative consequences.

To me all this says that things are rarely as simple as we would in our hearts like them to be. That applies as much to education as it does to any other activity in our civilization. We always need to look below the surface at the deeper interconnections, to find the unintended consequences of our actions and avoid making well-intentioned but potentially harmful decisions. I think that's called exercising wisdom, and it's something we need to do a lot more of.

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Response to GliderGuider (Original post)

Thu May 3, 2012, 09:50 AM

4. Yet none of us will see major effects of the collapse in our lifetimes.

It could easily still be hundreds of years away before we get to a point where it's the old west again. I'm not disagreeing with the OP, I definitely think the world and the United States are on a downward trend but it's not going to be like some hollywood movie, it will be a slow progression down from the top.

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Response to cbdo2007 (Reply #4)

Thu May 3, 2012, 09:51 AM

5. I sincerely doubt that it will take that long.

nt

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Response to cbdo2007 (Reply #4)

Thu May 3, 2012, 10:00 AM

6. Au contraire, mon frere

Humans have this evolved tendency to assume that the next moment in time will be much like the present or immediate past. It makes planning possible.

However with so many forces in play in a massively interconnected global civilization that has had much of its resilience stripped out for the sake of efficiency it seems likely that the breaking point will happen suddenly. The sciences of complex system dynamics and network theory have large bodies of study on this possibility.

On the other hand, it will certainly be slower in some places than others. Nations that have lots of furniture to burn (like the USA) or those that are more disconnected from the global trade superhighways (like some African nations) may fare somewhat better. In my opinion this is why we're seeing the first signs of global collapse in Europe. They fit neither of the above criteria.

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Response to GliderGuider (Reply #6)

Thu May 3, 2012, 10:20 AM

14. Efficiency is but a secondary effect, the primary cause is greed and profit..

The resiliency of civilization has been stripped out for greed and profit, efficiency is only one of a number of tools in that quest.

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Response to Fumesucker (Reply #14)

Thu May 3, 2012, 10:28 AM

15. I agree, but the motive isn't the big issue for me -the effect is.

The greed has other impacts of course, but the loss of resilience is what makes the whole edifice vulnerable.

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Response to GliderGuider (Reply #15)

Thu May 3, 2012, 11:20 AM

23. If you don't know first causes it's hard to change the effects..

At least that's the way I see it..

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Response to Fumesucker (Reply #23)

Thu May 3, 2012, 11:34 AM

26. One of the good things about Occupy was that it pointed out that cause.

The question of system resilience hasn't entered the public debate, maybe because it's too new and too abstract a concept. It's a lot easier to understand the role of greed than loss of resilience.

What I'm trying to find out right now is what drives greed (aka the accumulative behaviour of social elites). It seems to have been s a common feature in the run-up to the breakdown of other cycles of civilization - Rome, Middle Ages Europe, Chinese dynasties etc. as well as the modern situation. That implies that there is some underlying dynamic that drives the behaviour.

I'm starting a book that might shed some light on this subject: "Secular Cycles" by Turchin and Nefedov. Their general descriptions of the social and demographic situations during these earlier cycles are positively eerie, despite the fact that they are talking about breakdowns in agrarian rather than industrial societies. I can't help but think that our exponentially more powerful technology has largely succeeded in simply digging us into a deeper hole - and taking the rest of life on the planet along for the ride.

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Response to GliderGuider (Reply #26)

Thu May 3, 2012, 11:46 AM

28. The Magistrate made an offhand comment to me once on DU2

Something to to the effect that the fall of Chinese dynasties always were preceded/accompanied by the elites refusing to pay taxes..

I doubt we'll kill the planet or even make ourselves extinct, endangered species status is probably closer to what will actually happen. The meanest of us are just too mean to lay down and die easily and every single one of us comes from a long unbroken line of genetic winners, organisms that survived long enough to procreate.

Demographics doesn't have to be destiny but it's certainly a major factor.

Some major social change is going to have to come quickly in historical terms or we are in for some heavy seas I fear.



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Response to Fumesucker (Reply #28)

Thu May 3, 2012, 11:55 AM

30. I've given up thinking we will be able to hold back the tides of destiny

This thing is way bigger than we can manage - it has our entire global civilization in its grasp. We may be able to improve local/regional situations here and there - produce local reductions in entropy in thermodynamic terms - but the big picture has probably always been beyond our control.

Social changes won't affect the damage we've already done to the planets resource base and ecosystems, for example, and even the widespread implementation of low-carbon energy systems may just kick the breakdown can a little further down the road.

We're looking at the Multiple Organ Failure of Global Industrial Civilization - now playing at a street-corner near you. The opening credits are rolling...

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Response to GliderGuider (Reply #30)

Fri May 4, 2012, 10:28 AM

73. Yes, in some ways, it's a privilege to be able to witness this period in human history.

One of the reasons I decided to live as long as I can, hate to miss it, ugly though it will be. And yeah, it's much too late, and we show little sign of being up to the job of dealing with it rationallly anyway, else we would not be here now.

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Response to Fumesucker (Reply #28)

Thu May 3, 2012, 02:06 PM

41. In looking for the underlying cause of greed do not underestimate fear. But I do not see greed as

something that is necessarily caused by something else. When I watch my great grandchildren eating there are those who do not want to eat and then those who will eat everything and grab more off their sisters plate. There does not seem to be any cause at all for the difference. At the most I suppose it could be insecurity that would make the one eat to much. But she is anything but insecure. ????

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Response to GliderGuider (Reply #6)

Thu May 3, 2012, 11:10 AM

22. Humans also have a tendency to assume they are witnessing the end times....

just look at all the people for the past 1900 years who were sure Jesus was coming back in their lifetime. "The end is near..." yeah, they've been saying that for thousands of years as well, and it's been true for some of them, not most of them. The trick is to mix doom and gloom with a rational expectancy of when that will happen - the problem with this though is that your article always ends up being really boring and nobody wants to read/print it.

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Response to cbdo2007 (Reply #4)

Thu May 3, 2012, 10:46 AM

16. I read the article and the author asserts that cities will fare the best

and rural areas will suffer the most. I see this already. I live in upstate NY, in a rural area, and we are defunding everything: schools, social services, a very good system of health clinics and the citizens are the ones joyfully defunding them. There is a lot of poverty here already. My family, who live in a NYC suburb, don't see the poor and suffering, as I do here. They think everything is honky-dory.

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Response to adigal (Reply #16)

Thu May 3, 2012, 11:04 AM

18. Cities will fare better overall until the breakdown becomes severe.

Cities will be impacted if large-scale infrastructure like sewage treatment, the water supply or the electrical grid fail. They will also take a hit if the food system starts to break down. So while there will be a period during which cities will be better off than rural areas, there may come a point where the advantage shifts back to the rural areas. Rural areas could have an advantage at that point due to lower population densities, the ease of growing food, the availability of water, less need for complex sanitation systems and less need for electricity (no high-rise apartments that need elevators and air conditioning...)

Any shift back to the rural advantage should be well down the road though, because the elites tend to be concentrated in the cities, and their needs will ensure that the basics keep operating for quite some time.

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Response to GliderGuider (Reply #18)

Thu May 3, 2012, 11:07 AM

20. Yeah, when the infrastructure like sewage treatment and electrical grids start going.....


....... the cities will be the last places anyone wants to be. ....... And I say that as a chronic Urbanophile.


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Response to cbdo2007 (Reply #4)

Thu May 3, 2012, 10:57 AM

17. Life expectancy is declining

Preventable diseases rising, standard of living in the US peaked in 1979 (33 years ago).

Presently observable major effects: unemployment above 25%, bridges collapsing, Fukishima melting down, hydrofracking in PA, live births dropping steadily, an explosion of white collar crime, Dan Rather replaced by Fox News, torture legalized, key parts of the Constitution suspended (due process, search and seizure), peaceful assembly and dissent criminalized,.... want more examples?

It is often said that "fascism is capitalism in decay" -- When presidential candidates can smile while they say "Corporation are people my friend" we are there.

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Response to KurtNYC (Reply #17)

Thu May 3, 2012, 11:07 AM

21. Yes, those are the signals all right.

Europe is further down that path, but they may only be a decade or less ahead of us. We can expect to see a growing wave of right-wing authoritarian governments installed around the world over the next couple of decades.

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Response to GliderGuider (Reply #21)

Thu May 3, 2012, 02:12 PM

42. Is EU doing anything to preserve their health care situation that would be of importance to this

collapse? This is one area where I have no idea how to prepare.

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Response to jwirr (Reply #42)

Thu May 3, 2012, 02:48 PM

48. All of Europe has universal single-payer health care to some degree

That will be at serious risk as the financial/economic crisis deepens.

Here's a peek at Greece:


Healthcare a 'privilege' in Greece after cuts

ATHENS — Healthcare in Greece risks becoming a privilege after two years of sweeping budget cuts imposed by the authorities in their desperate effort to slash bills and steady the finances, experts warn.

Healthcare experts argue that up to 10 percent of the population now has to dig into their dwindling savings if they need treatment.

Now, demand at public hospitals is up 20-30 percent as they fall back on the state system just as it comes under intense pressure from the cost cutting.

Worse still, many people seek to finesse the system, turning up at hospital as an emergency case in order to get immediate treatment, rather than arrange -- and have to pay for -- an appointment in advance.

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Response to GliderGuider (Reply #48)

Thu May 3, 2012, 04:49 PM

55. That is what I was afraid of. I think one big problem with a collapse and government programs is

that they are centralized and not local so there is no one planning for the collapse.

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Response to hack89 (Reply #81)

Fri May 4, 2012, 12:34 PM

83. It's best not to over-aggregate things like fertility and life expectancy

Life expectancy of some groups is declining in some places. Even in the USA:

Life expectancy of U.S. women slips in some regions

Women in large swaths of the U.S. are dying younger than they were a generation ago, reversing nearly a century of progress in public health and underscoring the rising toll of smoking and record obesity.

Nationwide, life expectancy for American men and women has risen over the last two decades, and some U.S. communities still boast life expectancies as long as any in the world, according to newly released data. But over the last decade, the nation has experienced a widening gap between the most and least healthy places to live. In some parts of the United States, men and women are dying younger on average than their counterparts in nations such as Syria, Panama and Vietnam.


The indicators of decline can be expected to show up first in more vulnerable groups, regions and countries.

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Response to GliderGuider (Reply #83)

Fri May 4, 2012, 12:37 PM

84. Some groups go up, some groups go down

it is still not evidence of the apocalypse.

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Response to hack89 (Reply #84)

Fri May 4, 2012, 01:07 PM

86. Weather isn't climate, true.

But weather trends are climate. Similarly, worsening social trends can be evidence that larger forces are at work.

Careful analysis can reveal whether an event is an indicator, and if so what the underlying trend is. I would expect declining life expectancy to be an indicator of social collapse, as it has been in the ex-Soviet Union. But no single instance can be evidence of a global trend.

We all have a natural tendency to discount the possibility of large-scale change for the worse. In fact the tendency is wired into our brains.

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Response to GliderGuider (Original post)

Thu May 3, 2012, 10:03 AM

7. I agree with you.

.... with the provision that

1) it's going to get a lot worse

2) the phases of conditions will deteriorate in a stair-step fashion, not in a smooth slope

To repeat myself to the point of tedium, there is no recovery. Not this year, not next year, probably not in our lifetimes unless maybe if you are really young

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Response to sendero (Reply #7)

Thu May 3, 2012, 02:16 PM

43. Totally agree but I grew up in the early 40s and did not have a lot of the modern things we have

today (no tv, no running water, wood cookstove, wood/coal area heater, etc.) and I think that if we prepare that many of us (I am rural) will be able to maintain a degree of security. After all we still have both the knowledge from then and now. Or at least that is my hope.

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Response to jwirr (Reply #43)

Fri May 4, 2012, 12:29 PM

82. A great many people have not had that knowledge handed down.

So many self sufficiency skills have been lost to many. Some families are now several generations out from the times when people lived without modern conveniences.

Organic animal husbandry and gardening and even certain life skills, food preservation and prep, sewing and household maintenance skills like basic mechanical, construction and plumbing are all skills which many people no longer know.

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Response to FedUpWithIt All (Reply #82)

Fri May 4, 2012, 12:39 PM

85. True that. I visited an operating "pioneer village" museum a couple of years ago

I was startled to realize how many of the skills on display have been lost, and that such museums are more than tourist attractions - they are repositories of extremely valuable information.

For example, how many people know how to make a barrel from scratch, using willow branches for hoops?

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Response to GliderGuider (Reply #85)

Fri May 4, 2012, 01:11 PM

87. There are still really good sources of that info available

but most supply only a broad overview and not much working detail.

My family recently spent a year living off grid under pretty primitive conditions. I think that most people have no real idea of the work that goes into a life without modern convenience.

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Response to FedUpWithIt All (Reply #82)

Fri May 4, 2012, 01:23 PM

88. You are right - I actually began to realize that when I was in college and when I went home I

started asking my parents how they did things. I am now trying to pass it on to my children, grandchildren and great grandchildren. One of the things we should be doing is teaching these things in community ed.

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Response to GliderGuider (Original post)

Thu May 3, 2012, 10:10 AM

9. I noticed.

The people on the bottom always notice it first.

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Response to GliderGuider (Original post)

Thu May 3, 2012, 10:10 AM

10. Yep.

No apocalypse, just this long process of internal decay. The danger is and always has been internal, what political scholars call a crisis of legitimacy, which began 40 years ago when the government decided to make large portions of its own citizens the enemy.

But perhaps LBJ's generation of Republican rule is finally coming to and end.

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Response to GliderGuider (Original post)

Thu May 3, 2012, 10:14 AM

11. Oh, you can be sure that the 1 percent knows damn well...

 

...that we are in the midst of of a civilizational collapse.

That's why they are grabbing everything they possibly can, and why they are doing all the subtle things they can to kill the rest of us off. Next will be the not so subtle things to kill us off.

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Response to GliderGuider (Original post)

Thu May 3, 2012, 11:04 AM

19. Inside the Vortex, life and death for the Brutals doesn't matter.

Zardoz (1974) is sometimes dismissed as a vehicle for an aging Sean Connery to display acres of chest hair in skimpy red leather outfits amidst some standard sci-fi fixtures, including the usual total social breakdown, slavery and ultra-violence. But, it's portrayal of life for the elite One Percenters inside their crystal gated communities is extraordinary and spot-on.

The dwellers in the Vortex are totally dependent upon the forced labor of the outside "savages," and a caste of paramilitary overseers, "brutals" who enforce the delivery of food to a giant flying head, "Zardoz", which dispenses arms to the Brutals in return. Zardoz can be viewed, depending upon ones own ideology, as the Politburo or as Lockheed Martin Corporation with the Brutals playing the Red Army, the NYPD, Pizza Hut Delivery, or all tied together on horseback in dyed leather.



Lacking any real care or responsibility for themselves or the larger outside world, all the maladies of celebrity have befallen the beautiful people of the Vortex who never age, unless as punishment. They can read each others' minds, so they have no privacy, they have no incentive to do anything except plot against each other, so those who aren't involved in petty politics and psychological games, are totally apathetic. For all their learning, and the seemless, omnipotent artificial intelligence that keeps the Vortex running, they have no real interest in anything but their own status and comforts in their English Manors.



In the end, the more energetic among them simply speed their own demise by opening the Vortex to Sean Connery's muscular kinsmen, who proceed to shoot everyone inside and smash the crockery. Connery rides off to a cave with revolutionary-in-chief Charlotte Rampling and starts the whole cursed cycle of civilization all over again.

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Response to leveymg (Reply #19)

Thu May 3, 2012, 11:34 AM

25. Hmmmm...sounds like the Capital and the Districts...

or...insert dystopian future "fiction" title here.

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Response to lapislzi (Reply #25)

Thu May 3, 2012, 11:37 AM

27. It also sounds like the situation in medieval Europe

With the aristocracy in their walled fortresses and the peasants out on a landscape denuded by barbarian raiding or inter-elite civil warfare.

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Response to GliderGuider (Reply #27)

Thu May 3, 2012, 11:50 AM

29. I think you may be oversimplifying medieval Europe

Medieval Europe underwent several cultural expansion-and-contraction phases. There was hardly any time when trade dwindled to near-nothing.

Here's my senior Medieval Studies paper, Reader's Digest version, about why the "Dark Ages" were anything but dark:

After the decline and decay Roman power, the tribal communities consolidated and formed alliances. Mostly, they allied with other nascent Christian powers, and/or converted. The Church became the cultural driver and center of literacy and learning.

Viking (among the last to convert) raids were also trade and marriage runs, jumbling up the gene pool of Europe and points east. These were the precursors of the trade and Crusade routes of the eleventh through thirteenth centuries.

The trading and cultural centers shifted over the centuries, but never went away. For awhile (ninth century), Charlemagne's court at Aachen was the place to be. For awhile, Venice. Later, Florence. Rome never really lost primacy, either, due to its being the seat of the Church.

Heck, the bubonic plague outbreak of 1348 - 49 was BECAUSE of trade. Even that setback lasted barely a generation, as a new bourgeois class began to consolidate and reform the economies of their states.

During the 14th and 15th centuries, fiefdoms that had withdrawn because of the disease outbreak codified their social and military structures, resulting in a tiered system of vassaldom (Game of Thrones) that was gradually absorbed by centralized royal powers of states--through heavy military levies and taxation.

I could go on, but I won't. My point is, Europe continually reorganized itself according to conditions.

Aren't you glad you asked?

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Response to lapislzi (Reply #29)

Thu May 3, 2012, 12:11 PM

31. And it was a time of fun and plunder. The Crusades and intrigues w/ Second Rome at Constantinople

Let's not forget, people got out and about from the mid-11th Century on, and the fun barely ceased for another ten centuries.

War and trade. Trade and war.

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Response to leveymg (Reply #31)

Thu May 3, 2012, 01:05 PM

36. Hey, I'm just offering the framework.

The "fun" in Europe was going on from the dissolution of the "Pax Romana" in the third century. War and trade being blood brothers is not new to history, nor is it unique to Europe.

Just ask the Hittites, the Assyrians, the Mongols, the Scythians, the Tuareg....

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Response to lapislzi (Reply #29)

Thu May 3, 2012, 12:19 PM

32. Actually yes, thanks.

The point this book called "Secular Cycles" makes is precisely that - that there were many cycles of demographic, economic and social expansion and contraction over that period in Europe. What the authors observe is that they all seemed to share common trends to varying degrees during their respective expansion, stagflation, depression and contraction phases. This was despite the fact that the situations and events were different during each one.

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Response to GliderGuider (Reply #32)

Thu May 3, 2012, 01:06 PM

37. I will read this book!

Add it to the list behind "The Evolution of God."

Thank you for getting it on my radar.

Always enjoy your posts, btw

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Response to lapislzi (Reply #29)

Thu May 3, 2012, 11:56 PM

66. And bubonic plague created new opportunities for the survivors

The loss of 1/3 to 1/2 of the population created a labor shortage, which put the peasants in a better bargaining position than they ever had been before.

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Response to Lydia Leftcoast (Reply #66)

Fri May 4, 2012, 09:48 AM

72. Yes!

Lucky and enterprising peasants turned their good fortune into business. Your neighbor died; you took over his sheep. Pretty soon you were doing a good wool trade and sold the wool for cash.

This is documented in fairly entertaining fashion in (hack alert!) Ken Follett's "Pillars of the Earth." He offers a good cross-section of high medieval culture and the ways in which society was upwardly and downwardly mobile.

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Response to GliderGuider (Reply #27)

Thu May 3, 2012, 02:22 PM

45. One of the themes of the 70s: we can chose between the castle or the tribe. Unfortunately I

think we are being forced into the castle society.

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Response to GliderGuider (Reply #27)

Thu May 3, 2012, 02:27 PM

46. That's what we're headed for now, with our "civilized" society.

 

Ever notice how law enforcement responds fastest in richer areas, and very slowly for crimes reported in poorer zones?

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Response to leveymg (Reply #19)

Thu May 3, 2012, 03:14 PM

49. Pls tell me Connery's outfit will not be mandatory when TSHTF big time.

Trying to picture Limbaugh or the Orange Man in that would be the final straw.

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Response to dixiegrrrrl (Reply #49)

Thu May 3, 2012, 03:22 PM

50. Naw, we all have to wear those monkey-suits from Planet of the Apes

Either that or birthday suits. Though the idea of seeing Limbaugh in his isn't any better at all...

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Response to dixiegrrrrl (Reply #49)

Thu May 3, 2012, 03:46 PM

52. That would truly be Shock and Awe - sure to send any enemy running, screaming, pleading for mercy

Hurts to think about that. Thanks a lot . . .

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Response to GliderGuider (Original post)

Thu May 3, 2012, 11:20 AM

24. On the other hand, collapses are the best way to get rid of bloated empires

The fall of the Roman Empire -- which primarily affected Europe and not any place further east -- has a lot to do with why Europeans were able to go out and conquer the world a thousand years later, easily dominating the Middle East and China that had stuck by their imperial systems.

The decline of Egypt and other ancient empires around 1200 BC made room for a system of petty kingdoms and city-states that gave us a more proto-democratic world of iron-working, the alphabet, Greek philosophy, and personal (as opposed to state) religions.

That earlier collapse may be the one that's more relevant to us today. The complex trading system that the Bronze Age depended on to bring copper from way over *here* and tin from way over *there* gave way to use of the more widely available iron -- and for the first time, metal tools became cheap enough to be available to the common folks. The lofty aristocrats whose closest connections were with the fellow aristocrats elsewhere whom they traded gave way to kings whose authority depended on satisfying the needs of their constituents -- and who might even roll their sleeves up and get digging in the mud when it was needed.

That kind of return to local technology and local power wouldn't be a bad thing at all. We just need a Hari Seldon who can tell us how to get there from here in a relatively efficient manner and without going through several centuries of painful crash-out and die-back.

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Response to starroute (Reply #24)

Thu May 3, 2012, 12:57 PM

34. An orderly collapse gets rid of the working class.

 

A disorderly, messy one gets rid of the Plutocracy.

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Response to starroute (Reply #24)

Thu May 3, 2012, 02:21 PM

44. I was thinking this...where I live in upstate NY

they are putting up windmills to power about 1000 houses in the area. That is the kind of things that should be done at the local level, for lots of reasons, not just collapse. I am starting to think that everyone who can should have some chickens and maybe a small goat for milk/cheese. There are lots of goats who can survive in suburbia eating grain and forage/hay. The more we can take care of ourselves, the less we will depend on the system.

And I think in 2008, the United States was on the verge of collapse. My husband's cousin who works on the docks in NJ said that nothing was moving from the docks, because no one had the money through credit to pay for the goods. Just picture food and other necessities sitting on the docks, rotting, because there is no money for the supermarket chain to pay for it to get to their stores. Talk about chaos.

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Response to GliderGuider (Original post)

Thu May 3, 2012, 12:52 PM

33. Sometimes you kick, sometimes you get kicked.....





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Response to marmar (Reply #33)

Thu May 3, 2012, 01:52 PM

38. Well aren't you the sly one:-)

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Response to GliderGuider (Original post)

Thu May 3, 2012, 01:01 PM

35. I've been saying much the same thing for a while now...

I am 56 years old. I read Rachel Carson's Silent Spring when I was 12 years old. When I finished her iconic treatise, I made two fundamental decisions: 1) I would not bear children, and 2) I would be an activist for the rest of my life. I am so glad that I achieved both those goals, especially considering where humanity finds itself at present...

During my brief tenure on this planet, I've witnessed:

--the heavy metal pollution of this planet's groundwater

--the nationwide existence of 'Superfund Sites' that are so toxic, massive amounts of our tax dollars have been allocated to 'clean up' these abandoned, hazardous areas (visit Superfund websites and you'll find "Superfund for Kids!")

--an exponential increase in diabetes, heart disease, and other diseases directly linked to the consumption of refined sugars and animal products (let's not even BEGIN to discuss hydrogenated oils...)

--the 'War on Drugs' (an ironic ploy that benefits the uber wealthy in two primary ways: more money, more money, more money; and keeping the hoi polloi distracted and addicted)

--a pile of floating garbage--in surface area, the size of the state of Texas--in the doldrums of the Pacific Ocean AND in the Atlantic

--a measurable decline in the amount of food fish we pull out of our oceans and lakes

--the steady decline of the honeybee population worldwide (called "Colony Collapse Disorder" by the scientists who are 'struggling' to identify the causes)

--nutritional deficiencies in almost every fruit or vegetable harvested since the 70s

--vast swaths of soil erosion and silt runoff

--measurable declines in the quality and flavor of most produce

--GLOBAL monopolies on seed stocks

--Genetically modified foods (should I mention Pink Slime?)

--cross contamination of vegetable foodstuffs from cattle and dairy operations

--inhumane treatment of cattle, sheep, goats, pigs, calves, chickens, turkeys, geese and ducks

--Bhopal

--Three Mile Island

--the BP disaster in the Gulf of Mexico

--Chernobyl

--Fukushima

--Monsanto (need I say more?)

--Global Climate Change

--a growing percentage of adults (as of the 90s, this figure was forty percent) who are functionally illiterate (thus, easily manipulated)

--a now ubiquitous 'message delivery system' (television) that has turned a significant number of humans into distracted, misinformed zombies

--a toxic, dangerous economic system that has concentrated the wealth of this planet into the hands of a minuscule fraction of our planet's global population (writing the representative percentage requires scientific notation with a large negative exponent).

--destructive, endless 'wars' based on lies and profitability (and, don't even get me started about Depleted Uranium)

--a radical shift to exponential growth (read 'change') that few recognize and even fewer discuss.

Sigh...

I don't have time to list all of the other issues I've been witnessing. This would take weeks, if not months.

I'm watching as more and more of us resort to 'react' mode, letting our inchoate fears and frustrations manifest as road rage, name-calling, sarcasm, and other forms of mental, emotional and physical violence. Do I think we humans are experiencing a critical tipping point in our evolution as a species? You bet. Do I think we can do anything about it? I'm skeptical, although #Occupy gives me a modest measure of hope.

We’ve reached a stage in our evolution where the tiniest stressors create the most enormous fissures. I find it disheartening that some among us dismiss concerns about these events as “end time fear.” The grim fact remains: we have no frame of reference for what IS happening.

(BTW, I don’t think we’re witnessing ‘end times,’ because this incredible planet WILL survive our species’ vile, narcissistic hedonism.)

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Response to chervilant (Reply #35)

Thu May 3, 2012, 03:50 PM

53. You said it better than I could today.

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Response to dixiegrrrrl (Reply #53)

Thu May 3, 2012, 09:11 PM

62. Thanks,

and I've posted this as a thread, per requests hereinbelow. Please give me a k&r at

http://www.democraticunderground.com/1002642163

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Response to chervilant (Reply #35)

Thu May 3, 2012, 06:08 PM

60. Can you please re-post this as a thread so I can K&R it? Thanks!!!

 

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Response to Zalatix (Reply #60)

Thu May 3, 2012, 07:03 PM

61. I agree. When you see it all listed out like that it really drives the point home.

nt

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Response to GliderGuider (Reply #61)

Thu May 3, 2012, 09:41 PM

64. Thanks!

Here it is:

http://www.democraticunderground.com/1002642163

(I very much appreciate your post, too.)

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Response to chervilant (Reply #35)

Thu May 3, 2012, 11:48 PM

65. I'm going to go get drunk. Carpe diem, I say :) Seriously, though,

 

we must not succumb to despair.

A better world is possible but we must make it so.

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Response to coalition_unwilling (Reply #65)

Fri May 4, 2012, 06:36 AM

68. Despair is one of the big risks of thinking deeply about these problems.

However, we can't build a better world if we're not willing to be totally honest about what went wrong with this one.

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Response to GliderGuider (Reply #68)

Fri May 4, 2012, 08:14 AM

70. Interestingly,

many of those who've responded to me from a space of despair have accused me of being a 'gloom and doomer.' In fact, I find this point in our species' evolution quite fascinating.

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Response to chervilant (Reply #70)

Fri May 4, 2012, 09:15 AM

71. I moved this comment out to the main line to make it more accessible

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Response to GliderGuider (Reply #68)

Fri May 4, 2012, 12:16 PM

76. I heartily concur. That honesty about facing our situation head on is

 

what drew and draws me to Occupy.

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Response to coalition_unwilling (Reply #65)

Fri May 4, 2012, 08:03 AM

69. Totally agree...

Which is why, in the words of the inimitable Mahatma Gandhi, we must be the change we hope to see in this world.

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Response to GliderGuider (Original post)

Thu May 3, 2012, 03:28 PM

51. To me it's pretty simple...

if more than half of the people are just existing, doing everything they can to make it through another day, then I would say you are in a failed state.

It's the difference between existing and living.

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Response to GliderGuider (Original post)

Thu May 3, 2012, 05:56 PM

57. I always say that our civilization is like a rabbit shot on the run:

It continues for a while in the same direction before it falls over, but it is already dead.

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Response to GliderGuider (Original post)

Thu May 3, 2012, 06:07 PM

59. Kicking....this is an important read.

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Response to GliderGuider (Original post)

Fri May 4, 2012, 01:17 AM

67. K&R. n/t

 

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Response to GliderGuider (Original post)

Fri May 4, 2012, 11:47 AM

74. Can I Kick It?




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Response to GliderGuider (Original post)

Fri May 4, 2012, 12:05 PM

75. I'm absolutely thrilled to be alive at this moment in history.

To be a witness to changes this dramatic, to see the pinnacle of a global civilization in action and to be aware of the beginning of the slide is a gift from the gods. However...

Discovering what was really going on threw me into a period of massive despair that lasted about 5 years. It started from the moment when I figured out the potential implications of Peak Oil in 2003 and connected that with other events in the world like climate change and 9/11. The despair got worse and worse over the next 5 years as I expanded my study of the crisis into different disciplines looking for Solutions™, only to discover at every turn that there weren't any. It turns out that what we're facing is not a solvable Problem™ but simply a predicament.

My breakout began with the realization that massive change has always been a part of the human experience (Toba, ice ages, massive droughts...) and that this situation is just more of the same. Once I had surrendered to the idea that the change is inevitable I was able to release my attachment to the desire for things to stay the same - diving into Buddhism for a while helped a lot with that.

Then came the realization that life goes on no matter what, and that people have always been able to find happiness even in the most immiserating times. Such happiness tends to come not from solving the big problems of the world (which I'd already accepted as being impossible) but from making a difference closer to home - among family, friends and my immediate community.

This shift has allowed me to regain my optimism and joy about being alive, while still remaining fully aware of what's happening (and what is probably about to happen) in the big picture. I found the journey from 2003 to today to be very hard work. There were times I almost gave up, with everything that implies. But lately the hard work has come with positive rewards, not simply a lessening of my own inner misery.

This journey has been my Dark Night of the Soul, as I suspect it is for many others. My re-emergence from that Dark Night back into the light, while still carrying all the gloomy treasures I discovered during the passage has been a remarkable, life-affirming transformation.

I'm spending a lot of effort these days not just in waking people up to the crisis ("Quick! Wake up and kiss your children goodbye!" isn't much of a rallying cry, as I discovered) but in acting as a witness to the unfolding of the change and to the power of the human spirit to confront such events and grow in the process.

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Response to GliderGuider (Reply #75)

Fri May 4, 2012, 12:17 PM

77. This situation might be just more of the same for our generation(s)

but I don't think it falls into the same class of crises seen previously in human history. This time, the effects of climate change, ocean acidification, topsoil and other resource depletion and other problems (sorry, I refuse to use the popular euphemism "issues") taken together will likely mean hundreds of years of trouble for humans.

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Response to IDemo (Reply #77)

Fri May 4, 2012, 12:22 PM

80. No question this is far bigger than the past problems we've created.

And there is no question (for me at least) that when this cycle of civilization bottoms out, what can be rebuilt in the next will be much, much, much smaller because of the permanently destructive effects of our overshoot this time around.

The question for me is how do I, as a single human being, respond to that awareness?

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Response to GliderGuider (Reply #75)

Fri May 4, 2012, 12:18 PM

78. great post

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Response to GliderGuider (Original post)

Fri May 4, 2012, 12:19 PM

79. The American empire peaked during the sixties,

 

And has been in decline ever since. At first it wasn't all that noticeable, but it is becoming more and more evident as the speed of our decline picks up.

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