LIFE AFTER THE COLLAPSE
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LIFE AFTER THE COLLAPSE
by James M Dakin
What will life be like after a collapse? This topic has been addressed by scores of fictional works, both the written novel and in movies. Many more short stories dwelt with various aspects of the topic. This also might be thought of as a work of fiction, because it is just like all the others, a WAG ( wild ass guess ). The only reason I think I might even have something remotely valid to contribute is I focus mainly on life after the Age Of Oil ends, and my guess is it ends badly. I could be totally wrong. I really hope so. As badly as our current system is, the majority of us either exploited poor or wage slaves encumbered with a pair of golden handcuffs, it still beats living a barbaric existence of dog eat dog, hands down. But I don't think I am wrong. I've spent a great deal of my time, my effort and even my savings both studying and preparing for just such an occurrence to rudely alter my life. I don't delude myself thinking that just because I've done this that I will be right. I am merely gambling. Just as I believe those that don't are also entering their wager in this great game. It is all a game, because none of us can know for sure. But only the blind or the blindly optimistic don't plan for it one way or another. If you think things will continue as normal ( at this point, a multi-generational slow decline ) you invest your time and money in a college education, an automobile and a mortgage. If you think things will end badly you strive to insulate yourself somewhat by preparing for collapse. Obviously, you aren't reading this as a part of your higher learning coursework.
I hope this humble work is more detailed and comprehensive than others of its kind. I hope I give you much more to think about than what end of the world fiction has. Fiction is a great vehicle, in that we think visually. Fiction plays into that medium. But I've yet to become proficient in fiction, so this booklet is what I offer. I'm going to cover the collapse in a quick overview. Not because I'm trying to fluff up this work. If I wanted to do that I would cover the multitude of reasons why collapse could occur. The end of oil isn't the only possibility. No, I want to go through the collapse period because most likely this is going to effect you. I wish I could live on a remote mountaintop, enough supplies to divorce myself from society secured away. I wish I could avoid the coming messy business of society self destructing. I'm not that lucky and neither are you. So I won't completely ignore what is likely to happen. But I promise not to spend too much time there. I have a burning desire to know what things will look like in our brave new world. As I imagine you do. By trying to spell it out I help myself as well as you. It won't be perfect. It is just my best guess. I do know it won't be pretty. This is not a book destined to sell a lot of copies. I don't include the required happy ending. Most authors seem to think they need to devote half the pages to giving you a glimmer of hope. A course of action to stop the insanity. Perhaps thirty years ago whining to your Senator produced change ( or perhaps that change was for the worse, such as squandering our last giant oil fields on business as usual ). Today our Empire is on course to crash and burn. There is no going back since the vested powers won't change. We are as the Roman Senators, working the last of the land for the last of the wealth, regardless of loss of soil fertility.
Why write this at all? Even writing short booklets is a lot of work. My financial gains will be minimal. The reading might well be interrupted by grid failure, as this will most likely never see past the electronic version. As I said, laying this out in semi-coherent thought helps me myself visualize what lies ahead. And, I like to think I am also helping those that want to think rationally. Those that don't need a sugar coating with their message. Perhaps seeing clearer will increase the odds of survival. That's as happy an ending as it gets.
1.1 WHY A COLLAPSE?
Why am I convinced a collapse will occur? Why won't we just see a gradual decline of our fortunes, as has usually occurred throughout history? After all, the average span of a historic collapse has been hundreds of years. Rome took 300 years to wind its way down. The Mayans saw 150 to 200 years from glory to jungle overgrown pyramids. My short answer is energy. Think back to the rapid advances we've seen since coal was first used, then oil. All these dizzying economic and technological advances were against the backdrop of an ever growing pool of energy. Today, the entire economic foundations we enjoy are oil based. There are no more animal powered farms. No more agriculturally advanced armies. No more solar powered industry. Not in any dominate form. That is only at the margins of society. You don't revert suddenly to the forms of social and economic activity that sustained you one hundred years ago. All that activity rests on a slow laboriously constructed infrastructure. It takes many lifetimes of blood, sweat and tears to build anything the next generation can advance from. When you totally replace that infrastructure, you can't magically go back to that place and time again. And we've replaced it all with petroleum energy.
We don't even own the means of production anymore. Our industry is now overseas, mainly in China. What is left is all high technology and oil dependant. It's not like we have the factories to start producing animal powered farm implements. Or the knowledge to do so even if the factory was there. Or the credit and financing to do so if we could. Hundreds of years previously, at least in some cultures, those illiterate peasant knew how to farm the land and built all their tools from what nature provided. Today, something as simple as building a bow and some arrows is a lost art. It is a simple concept, and those with the time can relearn the art. But without new training and the time to do it, you can't suddenly master that task when your centerfire rifle uses its last round. Now multiply that simple trouble by several orders of magnitude. Who knows how to convert a diesel train back to a wood fired boiler? Who can feed more than themselves when commercial fertilizers are no longer produced from natural gas? Who gets food from that hypothetical farm using that hypothetical train? I'm sure in hobby form all the lost arts of bygone eras are mastered and practiced today. But the numbers are minuscule. And who's to say they won't be casualties during the coming die-off? Or that they won't live an impossible distance away?
Things aren't so simple that we can revert to an economy based on less or no oil. Every activity in an economy is dependant on an infrastructure. Without the underlying support system, you can't do anything. You need an industry, an educational system, a system of law and order, a transportation system, a system of payment and credit. Look at most of Africa today. They have vast treasures of natural resources in the ground. Yet, a corrupt system of rulers, a lack of a justice system, lack of a sound currency all keep those resources locked away. No one will invest and work without a guarantee that their efforts will not be subject to theft. Others countries all have an infrastructure where the opposite occurs. Investment is encouraged and rewarded. Look at oil. It doesn't just appear at your gas station. There is a vast system that brings it from the ground to a distillery to you. It took a lot of time, effort and investment to put that system into place. It didn't happen overnight, but over generations ( with a lot of war and other calamities interrupting the process ). The same must happen in reverse. In order to put a system into place that allows another system of energy or economic activity to happen, time and effort must be invested to build that system. The infrastructure of yesteryear is no longer in place. It was replaced and dismantled. Without a sound system to rebuild it, you end up with only the current dysfunctional system until the end.
In the 1970's, we were rudely awoken to the need to replace our current reliance on petroleum. No widespread system for an alternate source of energy was introduced. Rather, conservation was used. We learned to be more efficient with less energy. But we didn't replace petroleum. Lucky for us at the time, we went back to a glut of oil from Alaska and the North Sea, as well as replacing our currency backing with Saudi Arabian oil instead of gold. That saved us. But now, all those sources of oil are pretty much used up. Britain has gone from an energy exporter back to an importer, Alaskan crude is down significantly and is staying there and the Saudi fields are in permanent decline. And there will be no large fields to replace them. There hasn't been a major oil field discovered for almost fifty years, and not for lack of effort. Coal will not last long if used to replace oil, nuclear fuel is not infinite, all hydro sources are already tapped. Ethanol seems to be a net energy loser, as well as doubling our food prices by using edible corn. Tar sands are also a net energy loser. We had no where to turn thirty years ago, and no where today. Petroleum was the only answer. Because it provides so much energy in such a compact space, no other energy source could compete. All others fell by the side. We have no other wide spread source of energy available. And there is no incentive to provide one. All powerful and rich entities reliant on oil have vested interests in keeping things the way they are. They will go down with the oil powered ship.
Civilizations decline with the economic and energy system in place that brought them to power. There might be a few exceptions over time such as Japan. But they are the exception to the rule. Most civilizations follow a similar road. They do something right, that at the time brings them to power. Those in charge got rich following that path. They won't give up that source of wealth. Usually as the system starts to decline, centralization keeps things running by bringing efficiencies of scale. In time, between the powers that be gripping their wealth and the lack of resources to keep the existing structure maintained or to devolve back to a decentralized form of production ( even assuming the rulers would allow that ), they collapse. In the end, ninety some odd percent of the population is dead or immigrated and the area is left fallow to replenish itself ( in solar powered civilizations, soil fertility is used up and produces collapse by hunger- a fate we will only avoid as long as oil fertilizes the soil we've used up ). When our oil runs out, we all die. The soil stops producing food. We are no different from ancient civilizations other than we were able to grow much bigger and postpone collapse longer because of our one time use of petroleum.
And we don't need to get to the point where we run out of oil. All that is necessary is that we run out of enough. Oil production follows a bell curve. Rapid increase, a slowing to a plateau, then a drastic decline. Oil fields, oil regions, or global oil all follow this pattern. Not only is that bad enough, where we have nothing to take the place of petroleum, but here in the US it is even worse. We have built our entire system on not just oil but cheap and abundant oil. Where most other nations have never had the luxury of their own supplies, we have been cursed with an over abundance. We were blessed with one of the worlds largest supplies of petroleum, to the extent that we were the global leading exporter of oil until after the second world war. That allowed our economy to explode. But as oil reaches its global peak ( the top of the plateau was reached in 2005 ) our dependence on cheap and abundant petroleum turns into a curse. Our economy, even our political system in the form of a generous welfare state to placate the masses, is based on lots of oil at essentially free prices. Nuclear power never reached its promise of "too cheap to meter", but oil was always essentially at that point. That concentrated energy source was the equivalent of dozens, hundreds or even thousands of man hours of labor in every unit. And most of our existence has been dedicated towards making that labor as cheap as possible. Gold, a mineral so scarce that all of it ever mined could fit in a small building, buys dozens or scores of barrels of oil which is a non renewable resource. We invade countries to keep oil cheap. Political fortunes turn on the price. We burden our grandchildren with unplayable debt to devote military and intelligence resources to keeping the price low. All told, the sweat and treasure put towards stealing the global oil output is extremely high. That is the hidden cost. But the up front cost is kept low to keep the economy running. When oil reached a reasonable cost of $150 a barrel in the summer of 2008, our economy started to tumble. I say reasonable due to the limits of global daily output being reached and the inflation of the dollar. And the economy would have started to crumble sooner or later due to the massive over subscription to the derivatives market. But the timing is interesting none the less. We absolutely must have cheap, abundant oil for our economy to survive.
PODA is my whimsical and witty title for the coming collapse and its aftermath. Post Oil Dark Ages. In a few generations when our grandchildren are scratching fleas under their animal skins while living in the basements of crumbling skyscrapers, there will still be oil in the ground. Granted, it will be that which was uneconomical to pump out. All oil is not created equal. The stuff close to the surface and without a lot of additional material costly to distill out is what we have mostly been living on. Not that which is two miles under the ocean and hard to get out. It all goes back to cheap and abundant. So we won't actually run out of petroleum or other carbon fuels. But the consequences will be equal to running out. When the cheap stuff runs out, or it takes as much energy to pump the oil left as that oil yields, it is game over. Things start to fall apart. Crops don't get planted or harvested, or that food doesn't get shipped, or both. Essential trade goods don't make it to our shores. The Age Of Oil ends, the Age Of Scarcity begins. When the military starts taking its dwindling share to take the last of the oil, and that leaves less than enough for food or transport or heat, things start going to hell. It will be a bit of a process, not everything stopping at once. But here is something important to keep in mind. It might take a civilization two centuries to fall into ruin, but that is everything averaged out. In the meantime, even from the first, individuals are adversely affected. When it takes ten years for employment to fall in half, you could be one of the first ones with a pink slip. When it takes twenty years for the death rate to double, you could be one of the first corpses. Averages look good on paper. In person they are a lot more deadly. This is how you need to look at the oil running out, depopulation, the economy falling and other aspects of society unraveling. It might take until your children’s old age for the last of the Petroleum Age to end, but you will be hurt much sooner than that.
Some theories point to the end of the 1970's as the start of the end. That is when the per capita amount of energy available started to decline. We don't see that, being sheltered here in America. But plenty of the worlds population suffers while we fiddle in an orgy of gluttony. It is that average number. We do great, others live on almost no oil, on average the world economy looks good if not perfect. Looks can be deceiving. We are just masking reality. We will eventually see those low numbers. If we survive the unraveling. We will reach the point of less oil. I focus mainly on oil. There will of course be other factors. The credit crisis that started in the fall of 2007 and started to be felt a year later. That is sure to be a lot worse by the time you read this. The natural tendency of governments to hyper-inflate the currency when there is no other way to pay the bills. Our long vanished national grain stockpile and the idiocy of just-in-time inventories ( great for saving money short term, suicide come any supply disruptions ). Our declining soil fertility due to artificial fertilizers made from natural gas substituting for proper nutrient management. Over population encouraged by corporations as a downward force on real wages. All these things make it worse. But they are not the primary cause of our civilization collapsing. Energy is fundamental to life and an economy. The oil has already started to decline globally. We are making up some of the shortfall with less than ideal substitutions that are big picture energy net losers, such as ethanol and shale oil. Stay tuned. At first it will be easy. Less driving for the holidays. Turn the thermostat down, add insulation. Then, it becomes a lot harder. Rationing, learning to do without. Readjusting. Then it gets hard. Martial law, unrest, skyrocketing crime. Less than enough calories. Than it gets life threatening.
Ready for that journey?
1.3 LIFE DURING THE COLLAPSE
So far we have followed trends already occurring. Now we move into murkier waters. The next phase, life during a collapse, is pretty straight forward. We have countless examples during the last century of war and conflict. Our situation will differ slightly, as we are not used to invasion or being an exploited colony. But we can guess at a lot of it. Remember, America was special at one time. We had the best government and the best society, despite a lot of flaws such as slavery, Jim Crow laws, Native American genocide and the like. Sadly, we are reverting to typical heavy handedness as our resources run down and most likely will become just like any other fascist hell hole in time. The window dressing given our current government transformation should fool no one. Just because you call waterboarding or rendition Constitutional doesn't make it any less like torture. Get used to it. It will get worse, not better. All societies decaying get a centralized government to manage the same in the economy. It doesn't matter who is elected anymore. Not that elections are even fair or just. They are surely rigged. More of the same from now on. Czars will guide the Homeland. We are and will remain a curious American mixture of Nazi Germany and Soviet Russian and will be until the nation breaks apart. To think otherwise is to ignore history. America was special, but will follow the path of past nations collapsing. We were blessed with natural resources which allowed us to share the wealth. These resources are now gone and as we fight for pieces of the diminishing pie the fight will get ugly. Free men were allowed to remain armed, almost uniquely American in practice. That abundance of personal weapons will make for a very bloody end. That is about the only way this collapse will differ from any other. Men will fight in a more decentralized fashion rather than being dependant on fewer sources for their weapons.
1.4 ECONOMIC COLLAPSE
The collapse starts economically. It already has. Many people think this is a replay of the Great Depression of 1929 to 1942. Understandable as that is the only model on display. So, they believe this is another power grab by the bankers. Before, there were independent banks, not beholden to the new central bank, the Federal Reserve. In 1913 Congress slipped in its creation in a slow holiday period. Those banks that engineered and "solved" a previous bank panic pushed for its creation under the guise of stability. One imagines this was one of the cheapest national and economic power grabs ever. The bribes paid must have been mere pocket change compared to what followed. The banks then loaned money to the Allied powers during the First World War and pushed for our involvement when they were in danger of defeat and hence default. The German reparations also benefited the banks. Which paved the way for Hitler ( also thought to have banker backing ). The easy credit of the 1920's was courtesy of the Federal Reserve, which led to gross over extension and the Wall Street crash. Then, the Fed mopped up by buying failing banks that weren't part of the central banking system, foreclosed on hard assets such as businesses, homes and farms, plus engineered FDR's gold devaluation and confiscation to assure its printing press monopoly. It was in effect a decades long coup de ta. So, obviously, the banks know no limit to greed and want even more. Yet, what is there to gain this time? We were the global oil exporter, the globes premiere manufacturing economy. We were the global breadbasket. Today, we have no real economy other than a consumer economy with imported Chinese goods. We import seventy percent of our oil, so there is a doubt we can even have enough for a bare minimum life support system. We import twenty percent of our food, with domestic production endangered by water supply problems, oil dependency for fertility and transport and our ethanol program competing for stomachs. There can be nothing but Monopoly money for anyone trying to win these spoils. I don't think that this is a banker manipulated problem. It would be stealing gold trim off a sinking Titanic. I think this is the real deal. God, but I wish this was one conspiracy theory I would love to be right. It might mean we wouldn't collapse in my lifetime. But this does line up with petroleum draw down. So let's go ahead assuming this is really an economic collapse.
This is just the start of our problems. Normally, a few extra barrels of food, a couple of solar panels, some extra ammunition and a few silver coins would see us through until normalcy returned. I'll go ahead and cover the economy, then we can move into the much larger problems of system wide collapse. Those that make the economic collapse a warm up. Economic collapse makes matters worse for everyone, for obvious reasons. With soaring unemployment those households with diminishing income will immediately see petroleum shortages, regardless of outside supply. And when international trade starts to freeze up our nation will face oil shortages regardless of where international supply is at that point. An economic collapse will actually help in the oil run down since far less will be used. Less economic activity will see less energy use. One the other hand, diminishing demand will scale back exploration, pipeline construction, new field development or even existing infrastructure upkeep. So the effects all in all will be to magnify oil shortages. Already in the winter of '08 international trade in goods is down sharply, simply from the freeze up in credit. Gasoline prices at the pump were down to the levels not seen for five years ( those five years saw doubling prices of everything due to inflation and a weakening dollar ). Yet the economic downturn is well under way and decreasing energy prices are not boosting activity. This is the interplay between economics and energy. It looks as if the collapse will continue, mostly economic rather than from oil shocks. Is there a correlation between the three year long drop in oil supply and the economy? Global oil supply fell around five percent. Imported oil to the US fell eight percent. Most likely this was the trigger setting off the financial time bomb that grew larger since the Tech Wreck at the turn of the millennium. For seven years the economy was not allowed to falter due to easy credit creation. Housing bubbles fed the economy. This has faltered drastically and the financial house of cards seems to be going up in smoke.
As employment falls, housing loses value. Less jobs, more foreclosures, less value on homes as values drop as housing inventories explode. Credit is squeezed everywhere. There are no more home equity loans. Personal credit cards are seeing shrinking credit limits. Between the two, no one can make ends meet on credit. Businesses fail as their credit dries up. For a long time, business activity was not much more than buying out your rivals and acquiring its customers. Without credit to expand, business activity shrinks. Driving up unemployment. It is a vicious cycle. Big businesses with high legacy costs are desperate. When vehicle sales drop due to rising unemployment and shrinking credit, Detroit can't meet current retiree costs. Bankruptcy looms. If you think Detroit is bad now, with slum homes for sale for $600 in back taxes and an unemployment rate double that of most other areas, wait until the auto makers go belly up. And don't think Toyota will rescue them. It is seeing sales fall over thirty percent in one year. Japanese companies are very well run, but their biggest customer is the US. Falling demand effects everyone. Commodities stop their recent drive upwards. Gold companies close due to credit problems. Increasingly, people and businesses look for federal government help. As the government sees overseas loans dry up, hyperinflation is just over the horizon. There will be no other way to pay for the increased need for the welfare state. We will see a short period of declining prices as inventories soar and the remaining businesses are desperate for sales. Then we will see prices go insane as Washington turns on the printing presses ( a lot easier now with computers replacing a lot of paper currency ).
Remember, the economy is the result of cheap and abundant energy. Nothing else made it possible for our bloated welfare state and empire spanning military to function. Yes, the economy is going to be very important to you as it implodes. After a time, it won't matter about global oil reserves. The price of gas is unimportant if you repoed your car and the electric company shut off your power. But it is important for a very simple fact. Declining global supplies of petroleum mean that the economy won't recover. We will have ups and downs, false recoveries and periods of slowing decline. But long term, we will not see the old days return. It is the beginning of the end. Don't mistake this for a simple economic Depression. It is also coupled with oil draw down. Decline is here for good. The severity and timing are the only questions.
1.5 OIL RUN DOWN
Oil draw down is the process of running out of petroleum. Oil production is a bell curve. Sharply up, a plateau is reached, the numbers level off and then we start on the down side. A sharp downturn of oil production. Currently we are at the plateau where we have global oil production leveled off. How long this lasts is anyone's guess. It won't be that long however. Some very educated guesses have our oil age at about a hundred years. Take 1930 as a start, when oil really started to dominate rather than being a source of illumination only. By the end the 1970's per capita global energy use started to decline, the half way point. In 2030 we will be back to the level of one hundred years previously in total oil use ( yet with a much larger population and no other way of powering the food and production like we had in 1930 ). But don't think we have until 2030. The availability of oil is already starting to suffer. All of the king size fields are in decline, including Saudi Arabia. And no large fields have been discovered in fifty years. There will be no Alaska or North Sea oil to save us from the next oil shock. And, least you think cheap gas is a great Christmas present for 2008, this economic disincentive will discourage smaller fields from being exploited. Those would have smoothed out the large field slowdown. Right now the only thing smoothing it out is the fact that economic activity in the worlds largest oil user is in a tailspin. Less US oil use is helping to disguise oil draw down. Enjoy $1.50 a gallon gas, because it will be the last time energy is going to be cheap. We are, simply, running out of energy on a global scale. It wouldn't be too bad if we only had to turn down the thermostat and stop driving our SUV's so much. But, we will soon discover to our dismay, cold houses and weeds growing up the wheels of our thirty thousand dollar sheet metal monster are the least of our problems. Oil, today in our country and most other places outside Third World peasant fields, is food. Without oil there is no food. Without food there is famine.
Famine is not something most of us ever consider. This country has been the bread basket of the world for over a century. The Ukraine used to be the bread basket of Europe before collectivism introduced by the communists. It isn't that the soil isn't still fertile, but back again to infrastructure, you need a stable system to reap resources. In America's case, we are not only farming on infertile soil due to corporate profit being put ahead of maintaining the most strategic resource we used to command, but the only way to continue farming enough to feed the population we have is to pour oil into the process. Most of our fertilizer is not renewable animal manure but non renewable artificial fertilizer derived from natural gas. We can't use animal fertilizer as manure, or non mechanized machinery to farm because they don't work for corporate farming. They are financially inefficient. Corporate farming is our main source of food, and they can't function without oil. Or, for that matter, easy and cheap credit which may or may not be available in the near future. Now, it is true that there is enough widespread knowledge about intense labor organic farming that we will be able to switch to that form of food production when needed. However, that depends on government no longer favoring large corporations with taxes and subsidies. We can't go back to decentralized, low lost farming without the government stepping out of the way. Mainly by eliminating high property taxes. As suburbs have encroached on farmland, farmers have seen their land values skyrocket. So their taxes go up. Yet, grains are a commodity sold by volume by the big players. The little farmer can't compete. The system favors the corporate farmer.
Now, by the time the government no longer favors the rich corporate lobbyist and allows small farms to proliferate, we might already see cracks appearing in the food supply chain. Governments move slowly. Especially if re-election money from deep pockets is at stake. However, our food supply is now on a just-in-time inventory system. We harvest it and ship it out. There are no longer any months long supplies of grain stockpiled, as was the case during the Cold War when it was felt feeding the population in an emergency was a good thing. Now, any widget sitting on store shelves is considered as lost profit to our bankers and corporations. Come any calamity, there is no stockpiled supply to see us through. And even if there were, you need to take into account our transportation system and our banking system. Less oil will also effect our ability to ship crops. And any problems with our credit system will halt shipping anyway. American business ( I have left out of the equation our imported food- it constitutes 20% but is mostly processed or luxury goods and can be survived without ) are used to ninety day credit. They buy on credit, then pay after they sell the item. This poses a potential problem. So, again, we see both oil and economics as a problem. Food should not be assumed to remain a gluttonous American birthright. We can see a famine, and since none of us remain farming the land it could be as bad as any African calamity or even worse. We have no cushion against shortages. And no stockpile to see our transition from mechanized corporate farming to decentralized local labor intensive organic farming.
1.7 MILITARY DICTATORSHIP
With both a shock to the economy from dwindling oil supplies and a potential of famine bringing on heavily armed civil unrest, we can be assured that government will at some time or another impose martial law. Whether we see a military dictatorship or not is not even very important. Whatever cosmetics they put on the pig to make it look like something else, the outcome to civilians is going to be the same. Whatever illusion you have that the Constitution will help you will finely be shattered. We don't have a Constitutional Republic anymore. You can argue we haven't had one since the War Of Northern Aggression. When a sovereign state which voluntarily joined a Union is forced at gunpoint from leaving same, you can call that a pretty firm break with the document that is supposed to protect our natural rights and limit the power of the government. But, baring that, perhaps because you are a Damn Yankee and won't confess to a social crime committed by your ancestors like Southerners are supposed to do with slavery, you could at least make a good case that our Republic was sold out by creating the Central Bank in 1913. He that controls the purse strings controls the politicians. Even if that isn't good enough for you, you have to admit that FDR ( may his twisted foul soul be damned for all eternity ) took whatever restraints on Federal government there were and wiped his liver spotted ass with them. After him, we had full blown socialism and an out of control military industrial complex along with unbridled bankers and corporate stoolies help them out to rape and pillage what was left of our nation. So, don't think that quaint piece of paper is going to protect you. It hasn't and it won't. The only question we have to ask ourselves is, when and how bad. It is guaranteed to happen. All declining civilizations become despotic at the end. Centralization helps then survive and thrive. But you need a strong government to go from local, decentralized production to centralized control. For a time the economics of scale feed yet more population and bring ever more treasure to the king. When disaster strikes and resources start to run out ( fertile soil, neighbors to conquer, rainfall, mild weather, mineral deposits, etc. ) you can't go back, as there are not enough resources to rebuild the old decentralized infrastructure. The only thing you can do is to tighten your control. Try to extract more resources from the profit takers. Try to prevent disorder and rioting as resources run out.
So, don't think of the power grabbers introducing more fascism as just greedy and controlling. They are, but that is not the point. They are being played by events out of their control, just as you are. Resources run out and the government becomes stronger. They need to keep themselves running, not only to keep order so as to stay in power, but also because those benefiting from the old system won't allow them to do it any other way. As the system crumbles, those benefiting economically from practices now harming things can't give up what made them wealthy. They need that wealth to survive. So, Roman Senators allowed their estates to play out of fertile soil just as there was no more fertile lands to take militarily. Southern plantation owners did the same, just as there were no more states to enter the Union as slave holders. New soil was needed to keep the rich wealthy since they had used theirs up, and there was no more to be had. It is going to be the same with the wealthy of today, those that buy and control politicians. Highly leveraged financial gambles will continue to be sold to the last sucker before the whole economy implodes. The last tanks using the last gasoline will fight over the last oil field, more than likely illuminated by radioactive glows from the distant city sites. No one is going to seriously push for independently owned cheap solar panels on every rooftop. The only serious solar ( as far as supplying any large percentage of energy ) will be centrally located and controlled by major utilities.
Martial law is as inevitable as the sun rising. No one voluntarily gives up power and wealth. When people begin to starve, they revolt. To keep the revolutionaries from sharing their wealth, the rich use the government to control the population. Luckily for use, our government can't put many resources into this proposition. There is no real wealth behind them, just printed dollars backed by the ( dwindling supply from ) oil fields of Saudi Arabia. Economics also effects the governments ability to pay for people and supplies. I'm not saying they won't steal what they need, just that a broke and weak government is going to be trying to pacify a three thousand mile long nation at a time when transportation is not as easily fueled. As long as the oil flows, a relatively small government and military can control us. In fact, most of us want to be controlled. When that runs out, it will be a long term losing battle to control us. Small consolation to concentration camp victims or tortured dissidents. I can't see more that is going to be added from the long sorry history of martial law by us. We will start out being pretty brutal. When you don't have a lot of resources to control people, you start out trying to terrorize them so most offer no resistance. This is how the Japanese controlled large areas of land with few soldiers. You give that crazy little bastard a bayonet and instructions to chop suey anything less than perfectly obsequious. I can't see Americans anywhere close to as effective as the Japanese at pacification. We might have a few folks like Janet "BBQ" Reno able to torch small children or jack booted thugs willing to stomp kittens to terrorize a family, but they belong in the psycho wards to begin with. Normal folks have no ability to do these things, let alone to their own countrymen. Plenty can be brainwashed, but not enough to control all of us for very long. Yes, it will be brutal and bad at first, but the few thugs the Feds have will quickly lose control. There will not be enough of them to control the millions too hungry and cold to care anymore. Desperation will help the government for a time, then it will turn things against them. We will happily turn in our neighbors for unpatriotic thoughts, in return for bread and circuses. When that is no longer provided, the narcs and stooges will turn on their handlers. Which is when we will see race wars on our way towards the national breakup.
1.8 RACE WARS
The truly ignorant actually try to see a difference in people by their skin color or their religion. This can be pretty comical at times, if you are outside looking in. Such as the Nazi's and the convoluted racial classifications trying to protect "pure" whites while discriminating against Jews or Slavic’s. Is a White Russian okay, but a Ukrainian not? Or a gypsies bad, even if they are mostly from Aryan stock? Why is a Jew impure if he is from a long line of Germans? Is the picture perfect white German less pure if his great grandmother one third Jew? Etcetera. My view is that skin is really not much more than adaptation to environment, but I'm sure that view will get me on a few elimination lists if the three members of the American Nazi party can get a few meth addled skinheads to assassinate me. Well, add the fact that I've been married to more than one Mexican gal. I sure wasn't worried about protecting the purity of my race those times, even if I did practice birth control. Most people, despite the continual indoctrination of our public school systems ( the ones controlled by white politicians that send their kids to private schools charging enough tuition to eliminate most of those of a darker hue ) still have a certain problem with other races, even if they don't know why. Typically, I hear racist attitudes along the lines against those types they didn't grow up around. I have no problem with Mexicans, growing up in Southern California. But to be honest the majority of blacks are like foreigners to me. The reason is not skin color. That is a cop out for those not wishing to think the matter through. It is simply about tribal identity. And fear of the unknown. But mostly tribal. Humans belong in social groups. It is a survival mechanism. And we automatically identify with our tribe and against others. We are usually lazy and rather than rationally voice this, we spew some crap about skin color ( and you all know the "colorful" terms used to describe other races ). That is a mental shortcut. Give it any amount of thought and you can see what I'm talking about. Tribe equals safety. Other tribal members equal the enemy. Whether they are different skin colored or not is not the main issue, other than that is a sign of their tribal identity.
Multi-racial nations rarely work out long term. The tribal marks are not overcome in difficult times by national identity. During safe, economically easy times, we can all get along. As soon as times turn tough the old tribal markers mean a great deal more. We will have racial conflict. Not because blacks are evil, or whites are superior. It doesn't matter. You can be any color. Others will turn against you. Skin color is just another excuse to exclude you from another’s tribe. Religion will also be dividing. But with the long history of conflict between the colors in this country, it will be easy to justify unpleasantries against others due to their skin. Blacks have a long grievance against whites, whites have always feared blacks because of this. Mexicans have been exploited economically, and we did steal a lot of their land ( although to be fair they stole it from the Indians ). Indians were nearly wiped out through germ warfare and have a lot of justifiable issues. I sure wouldn't want to be living near any fair sized reservation come hard times. Nor near any ghettos, regardless if it is black or Mexican. A wouldn't want to be a white living in Hawaii for that matter. Living in northern Nevada with a clear majority of whites is not preferred because I am racist. It is because I am trying to be on the local winning tribes side. Simply self preservation. You might give it some thought. Do you trust other tribes to treat you fairly when times get tough and they have an economic incentive to expel you ( less mouths at the limited trough )? And they won't be offering a first class ticket on Amtrak to leave town. Far easier to attack you with ball bats and tire irons and throw you in a shallow mass grave.
Look at the tribal conflicts in eastern Europe or Africa. Skin color doesn't come into play as much as actual tribes going back centuries. But the dynamic is the same. Starvation looms and one tribe turns against another. That tribe which eliminates the other survives on the limited resources available. This is human nature and explains why there are conflicts. I'll cover this more later on, but it is pretty simple. Group identity is a survival mechanism, safety in numbers. And stealing another groups resources guarantees one group will survive in lean times. No one joins hands and sings about one world and helps those less fortunate in times of hunger. Not when both groups are starving. Charity is only possible when one group has a surplus. Without that, one groups kills off another to survive with full rather than half rations. And they will justify it in many ways, racial, tribal, vendettas, etc. Race wars will happen in this country as soon as times get genuinely tough. Count on it or you will belong to the body count.
Along come racial conflict, the disintegration of our nation state will begin. It is not impossible to control large areas of land using primitive means. Look at China and Russia. They had their ups and downs, the enlargement than the contraction of the areas they were able to control. But over centuries they could keep large areas under one rule. The US might not be able to do so. This will mostly hinge on oil availability. And perhaps the ability to utilize the railroads. The East has the water transportation system, which might also be used for troop movement. Even with some neglect, as seen in all sectors of our infrastructure, the upkeep will be minimal. And the bulk of the population is on some waterway. But military transport is largely oil based. Whereas in World War Two we moved large troop numbers by railroad and merchant marine, it is doubtful we can duplicate this again. The support system has been neglected to a large extent. Nevertheless, if you have a railroad nearby you are hoping will help support your community come road transit breakdown, it is possible it will be nationalized and used for military use. Not guaranteed, but a possibility. Even if the military uses every possible means of transporting themselves to trouble spots, most likely their numbers will be too small. I can't see an immediate withdrawal of overseas troops to quell local troubles. By the time they are shipped home, the civil unrest will be too large to contain. Assuming of course things get bad enough that that kind of unrest takes place. Which I think is a safe bet. They might successfully subdue some areas, but not all. Long term, one area after another will become unruleable. Add in severe economic trouble, disease outbreaks due to failing health care and sewage main breaks along with water contamination, troops needing to help against huge crime upsurges, a unhealthy dependence on high tech needing foreign parts and a total mechanized military, the trouble of depending on troops to fight fellow citizens and even the inability to properly feed and reequip soldiers and I can almost bet on the military being too inefficient and undermanned to keep the peace.
This in no way should give you peace of mind regarding military suppression and martial law. You could very well be effected. This is a long term outlook. Short term, you could find yourself battling police forces, the military, criminal gangs, local militia, or more than one at a time. Which should worry you. Not only because it means you might get killed, but because trade will stop or become disrupted and you might find yourself with a dwindling stockpile of ammunition to protect yourself. If China stays around as a viable power, you might see them eager to help out the disruption and arm whatever group they see as helping their interests ( which is the destruction of the US as a military power able to challenge them ), but that is not a sure enough thing to base your choice of a personal firearm on. In other words, the steel cased ammo that feeds an SKS or an AK-47 may or may not still be available. Unless you can stockpile as much as you think you will need beforehand. This projected resupply problem is why I frown on semi-automatic weapons. They are superior as fighting weapons in a lot of aspects, except logistics come collapse. Now, as much as I disagree with the direction our country has taken away from a Constitutional Republic, rest assure that if and/or when the government is unable to keep the Union together come collapse, local tyrants are not going to be any better and most likely will be a lot worse. Local strongmen won't even acknowledge there is any rule of law other than that from the barrel of a gun. And they won't see anything wrong with wringing all the wealth from the citizens without regard of their long term health. And since they don't rule from far away they will be much more effective in their suppression. So, while it will be nice to see the current group of thugs lose power, their replacement will be much worse.
So, after you get done suffering economically as everything you know and are used to ( cheap energy, welfare state, your currently employable skill ) is done away with, after a short depression followed by hyperinflation kills any savings and dwindles your emergency supplies, you've just seen the warm up of the collapse. Oil will start running out or become unavailable from overseas. Food won't be delivered and many people will start to go hungry. The military will try to contain unrest with brute force. The ghettos will spew violent criminals and race dominated wars. The US will start to break up. Infrastructure will collapse. Water won't run, the toilet won't flush. Disease will spring up everywhere, to include a lot of resurgent tropical or Third World diseases. Perhaps even a few man made ones to use against dissident areas. Neighbors will try to turn you in for rewards, crime will explode as authority recedes. If you don't die now from mugging, kidnapping or home invasion, you might be gang raped and die later of AIDS. Both male and female. This is the start of the huge die-off.
1.10 DIE OFF
Die off will be due to a lot of different things. Disease. Hunger. Exposure to the elements without heat or cooling. Crime, which includes losing all your stored food and equipment. Combat with police or the military. Widespread death will happen. The global carrying capacity of a non-oil, primitive agrarian society is less than a billion people. And this number is assuming the entire population knows how to survive without petroleum. Since a lot of areas have completely lost their roots with nature, that figure will initially be less. Say half a billion. Globally. However, it is the nature of things that when a die off happens, the numbers of survivors fall sharply below the natural carrying capacity to begin with.
Rome went from the center of a vast civilization, a metropolis of its day, to little more than a village after collapse. Mayan cities went from large urban centers to overgrown jungle ruins with a few paltry settlements set on their fringes. China always had its farmers as the center of its civilizations and faired better, although in recovery its population figures did fall sharply. Populations are built up, having conquered farmlands to swell its numbers. Centralization helped the numbers increase. But when the lands carrying capacity was surpassed and there were no more victims to plunder, population took a swift downturn. Crime, disease, starvation and warfare took its toll. This process has been likened by others as a bottle of alcohol being brewed, and I can't top that description. A sugar rich environment aids a rapid increase in the culture, who eat up the available food. When a critical mass is reached and the culture dies off to almost zero. There is no more food left. We are left with a bottle of spirits, which is a good thing. In the human environment, you are left with a corpse ridden field with just a few survivors remaining. In our case, the die off will result as the remaining oil is not sufficient to feed the swollen population. Most die off from hunger and the remaining few take the little available fertile soil and relearn organic farming on a decentralized level. Animal population are another illustration. In an example from others, a herd of caribou is introduced on an island which has overgrown with lichen due to no known "predator". With this rich food source, the caribou population goes from a few pairs to hundreds or even thousands. The natural replenishment rate of the food is, say, a hundred. But once too many animals are there, once the plants no longer feed everyone, almost all of them die from hunger and just a dozen or two remain. Then it takes time to bring the population level up to that optimum hundred. Humans, once the oil level declines just enough on a permanent basis to cease feeding all six billion, will see die off far below the level the globe can naturally feed with solar energy alone. Oil doesn't have to run out, just fall below today’s needed level.
1.11 SURVIVAL PREPS
This is where survival preparations come into play. You aren't storing enough provisions to live forever. For most, a daunting if not impossible task ( to say nothing of preparing for multi-generational survival ). What you are doing is trying to prepare to survive the die-off period. Food stores are only part of the picture anyway. You must survive the conflict that accompanies the die-off. People will not stay at home, meekly waiting a slow death as the cupboards stay bare. Towards the end there will be no more strength to fight for what they need. But initially, they will try to take what they need to survive. This is why a retreat out in the boonies is so often advised. It is far from the perfect answer, of course. Day to day employment and provisioning is necessary. And few have the means of buying this kind of land anyway. You can find remote land. The West is full of vast areas seeing no settlement other than near water sources. But the "perfect" retreat, with fertile land, woods for fuel, and available water is rare and expensive. I advise what I call junk land. The crap no one wants and is nothing more than a patch of dirt. You won't pay much more than a thousand or two for it. But it has a poor road leading to it, no surface water or shallow water table, infertile soil and most likely in an economically depressed area. You can actually use these flaws to your advantage since few people will be nearby. It isn't a farm, ready to feed you and your family. It is merely a legal squat so that in the initial collapse you won't be harassed for camping on public land or private property or on the side of the road. Your supplies will keep you alive, not the land. After the troubles have subsided you can move to better land, into a settlement to barter any skills you have, or take up banditry or become a nomadic herder. No good answers, but if you are poor to begin with you don't have a lot of options to pick from.
It is impossible to guess the time period of collapse and die off. Some maintain it will be a long drawn out process. An emergency, shortages, ad hoc solutions. A traumatic period, then a leveling off as people adjust to the new way of doing things. Then, further resource depletion and more emergencies. More depopulation until the "new" level of resource availability is met. A period of relative calm until another spasm of die off, adjustments to the next level of food availability. Etcetera. This could very well happen, as illustrated by the two hundred year Mayan decline or the three centuries it took Rome to fall. I'm far less optimistic. Back then, a primitive level of agrarian existence was practiced, even as farms became bigger with conquest or water sources were centralized. Come overpopulation and soil depletion, you merely saw enough famine to adjust to less population, that which matched less fertile soil or limited water. Today, most soil is already infertile, only producing because of oil inputs. Farms are far from population centers and transportation is required. Instead of ninety percent of the population farming, there is only a few percent, in the single digits. Most farm areas have water availability issues, such as California seeing drought decrease mountain snow melt off or aquifer depletion in the middle part of this country ( Texas, Nebraska, etc. ). The adjustments needed will be much larger than in the past. There is far less knowledge of farming than in the past ( we concentrate on the industrialized First World throughout ). There is far less farmland available than in the past, due to artificial fertilizers and mechanized farming growing so much more per acre. I foresee a much bumpier, more rapid decline than in the past because of all this.
1.12 TYPES OF PREPS
Survivalists come in all shapes and sizes and they usually rival the different sects of Christianity in their dispute over doctrine. There are primitive Stone Age adherents, short term weather disaster preppers, nuclear fallout shelter occupants, back to the landers only concerned with growing their own food, Yuppie Survivalists intent on recreating every luxury of their middle class existence in Armageddon mode, hoarders of gold and silver that will buy their salvation, modern day desert hermits who will survive through a collapse unknowingly due to loss of contact, or, my favorite, frugal preppers that can prepare on almost nothing as their needs have been pared down to the bare minimum. I can't say which group has the most chance of arriving intact on the other side of die off. The Stone Age practitioners are least vulnerable to technological collapse, but any number of poor marksmen with modern firearms can invade their territory and kill off all large game leaving him nothing to eat but berries, insects and small rabbits. Will there be enough skins to get him through winter, or is he far enough away to thrive? The short term preppers don't stand much of a chance with limited supplies unless there is an instant die off such as an asteroid strike, Yellowstone volcanic eruption or nuclear exchange and he can pick and choose supplies lying around as in a poorly budgeted B-movie. The nuclear crowd is well equipped to survive only one type of disaster. Or will the local tax man except MRE's in lieu of property tax during an economic depression? The back to the landers are well equipped to feed themselves, their arriving family and perhaps a neighbor or two. Unfortunately most of their plans need to have a strong government capable of keeping the lawless forces away from them so they can continue to till the soil unmolested. Plus, they usually owe a mortgage on their perfect farm and are thus susceptible to economic downturn. The Yuppie Survivalists are the school most taught by authors of best selling preparedness books. That is because the breed will buy anything that promises to save them in complete comfort. Authors and salesmen follow the money and sell to these people. The ones who can't stand the thought of any decrease in their standard of living. Instead of stocking candles for illumination they will buy $800 worth of solar panels, 12v auto lamps and a few hundred bucks in marine batteries to see with while off the grid. Their whole preparedness plan is just like this, spend one hundred times the needed amount for tools because they can't let go of their soft and comfortable lifestyle. The precious metal advocates are not wrong because "you can't eat gold". Precious metals will play a vital part after the recovery. They are wrong because they think money alone, even in a safe inflation proof form, will help them survive. They only look at the aftermath, forgetting one must travel a ways through treachery to get to a society living once again on a gold standard. Desert rats that are not at the end of their hoard of beans and bacon can blissfully ignore the world crashing around them as they are alone in the wilderness and protected from the folly of their fellows. Unfortunately, they only postpone the day of reckoning when they must come in for resupply.
Frugal preppers are not the most enlightened nor the smartest. This school of survivalism is not any more perfect than most other types. Except for one critical factor. It allows anyone, even those of the most humble economic means, to prepare as much as possible for the coming collapse. This is why it should be much more attractive than it currently seems to be. Especially during the current economic collapse when job losses are epidemic, credit continues to contract causing companies that were just a year ago sound and prosperous to see so many problems beset them. These go hand in hand, where companies have no choice to salvage some stock value and continue to give their top echelon workers a "merit" based raise or bonus at the end of each quarter. Before, when cutting costs was the path to efficiency during boom times, workers were habitually laid off. Today, vastly increased numbers are given pink slips regardless of the long term effect this might have on productivity. Panic mode is in full bore and where once the left over work force was compelled to handle the increased work from fired coworkers, now the trimming is so close to the bone it is doubtful the companies can survive. Before, another competitor bought off the suffering company with cheap and plentiful debt. Now, entire industries will all but disappear to a fraction of their former selves to claim the reduced demand of cash negative and credit impaired customers. States and all other levels of government are also seeing their ability to borrow suffering, and since they can't print money like their brothers at the Federal level they will have no choice but to ax civil servants. Government will not be the safe haven for workers it used to be during downturns. Therefore, everyone should be very wary of being able to keep their jobs and thus their mortgages, credit rating, SUV's and other badges of a middle class lifestyle. You would think a cheap way to insulate against calamity with an affordable stock of food and protection and alternate energy would be most welcome by frightened workers. Alas, the herd instinctively runs to the big money boys, the Yuppie Survivalist teachers and suppliers. Just as they did during the 1970's.
If you are one of the few that sees the futility of spending twenty grand on an arsenal, a quarter million on a remote farm and five grand per person on freeze dried field rations, welcome to frugal survivalism. Anyone can have the basics for under a grand. That includes food, shelter, protection, filtered water. Another three grand will see you safely on your own paid for land in a more permanent shelter. You are invited to read in much more detail at www.bisonpress.com where you will find very low cost books, along with a free book on homesteading and a free daily blog. To briefly summarize, the basics consist of a store of whole wheat kernels bought from a feed and grain store ( untreated by vet medicine ), stored in five gallon poly buckets. A $25 cast iron grain grinder. A moron proof way of constructing your own 13,000 gallon water filter for just $50. A used WWII surplus bolt action thirty caliber rifle, usually on sale under a hundred bucks. There is a bit more to it, but in essence by preparing at a bare bones level anyone can afford to stock a years worth of emergency rations and protect it adequately. The cheap homesteading method is to buy a piece of junk land ( usually on E-Bay ) on little more than a grand and park a trailer or build a very small cabin on it for the same amount. Most off-grid expenses such as a generator or well or septic can be bypassed cheaply. Remember, preparations only get you through a die off period. Even spending half a million on a remote farm and protecting it with your home grown militia toting semi-automatic carbines and eating MRE's will do little to increase your chances of survival due to the rest of the world surrounding you and wanting to interfere with your existence. You should clearly see this as you read further. There will be strategies to diminish this threat, but all in all inexpensive functional tools will see you through as well as the much more expensive ones. Mindset will be far more important. Just ask yourself, do I want the help of dirt poor rednecks that learned at the school of hard knocks and are barely equipped. Or do I want a bunch of pampered Yuppies loaded with the most expensive tools who are unaccustomed to almost any hardship outside of the corporate boardroom along for the ride?
2.0 LIFE AFTER THE COLLAPSE
2.1 HOW FAR WILL WE COLLAPSE
The last time an individual possessed all of the needed skills to survive was during the Stone Age while hunting and gathering. Since the Agricultural Age began almost no farming community has existed without outside trade. Before, an individual could survive physically if separated from his tribe ( psychologically was a different matter ). After, a farming community separated from trading with others could not survive, in most cases. If a local source of salt was available, and if there was an ore deposit nearby then semi-independence was possible. But, by and large, since we tied ourselves to the land we have needed to trade to survive. There were few areas were all the necessities of life were available, so trade allowed far more marginal lands to be settled. For instance, a dry rocky area was perfect for olive groves and produced almost no grain or meat but did have an abundance of oil. Another area rich in soil that yielded a surplus in grain could trade for oil, something they had little of. One area had forests of nut trees. Rather than fell the trees and plant on soil ill suited for anything else, the nut surplus was traded for other foods. Today, it makes sense to grow coffee on hilly areas ( or cocaine, but that's a different story ) and trade it to the Americans, who have an over abundance of corn that is a staple of your country. The corn was cheaper ( pre-Bush ethanol debacle ) grown up north by mechanical means and shipped south than could have been achieved on those steep hillsides. When man was first growing crops and domesticating animals, there were few people and some really choice spots to settle down and grow. As the globe has filled up, trade has become more and more important as people live in far from choice spots. Trade is essential now, even for the barest necessities of survival. Almost no one outside a few nomads still living primitive lives can live without trade.
Why is this important? Because trade is impossible without a functioning economy, trust, rule of law and energy for transportation. All of these things are ending. The US has been living off of creating debt, inflating its currency, bullying its partners into nearly giving away their goods, and little else for some time. Our GNP is no longer a measure of manufactured goods being shipped overseas but of a measure how much the bankers borrowed from China and loaned to consumers through credit cards, how many dollars were created to "buy" our oil from Third World countries, how much houses were inflated in worth to create derivative sales to pensioners in Europe, and other computer manipulated, magically productive activities that only could come true with a healthy sprinkle of Pixie Dust. As our economy unravels, trust in the form of credit is being destroyed. Without trust, no trade takes place. As it is, credit is contracting wildly right now. And there is no end in sight, as everyone else is seeing how manipulative and dishonest our financial community has been. They are starting to show caution to our future promises. The rule of law, or law and order, is breaking down. African pirates holding ships hostage is only one sign of the coming unrest. Month long protests in once placid First World countries. Energy for transportation is, as already discussed, on a downward trend. Add it up and it spells the eventual halt in trading. At the point where an international police man is impotent, trade falls to a low level, where only luxury goods are profitable, where only precious metal is accepted, and where the bulk of necessities revert to whatever can be produced locally. At that time, we are back in another Dark Ages ( Post Oil Dark Ages ). Mass migrations will occur, as the many uninhabitable areas are abandoned. The rest die off, their area unable to support more than a hand full. After Rome fell, and trade stopped, areas formerly pottery centers of the empire were reduced to being unable to produce anything other than crude approximations of their former wares. Specialists were supported by wide spread business. They turned out quality and quantity. Once trade suffered, the factories almost reduced to ruins, the specialists departed or killed, the area known for high quality low cost pottery was unable to do little more than turn out misshapen lumpy, poorly glazed pale imitations. This is what the collapse of trade does. Specialists can't ply their trade, centralization and economics of scale falter. Poorly made inexpert handcrafts take products places. Now, add in our dependency of oil. We are untrained in manufacture due to our dependence on machines. We are unschooled in many modern basics such as chemistry or engineering due to hyper-specialization. We are on the down side of the Oil Age. The collapse can go mighty low once the perfectly aligned parts are disrupted.
Even if you can get an expert to join your group of survivors, they won't have oil to run their machines. Or any machines, susceptible to parts failures. Or basic supplies to practice the modern arts due to trade disruptions. Add in the need to eat, and hostile surrounding forces. You all don't stand a chance, and neither does our modern society. Things will turn primitive really fast. Knowledge alone is no guarantee a process will be practiced. It takes skill, practice, parts supplied from centralized factories far away, a strong defense force to protect against bandits. We all take progress for granted. But destruction is much easier. It takes two minutes with a match to burn down a million dollar mansion that took a year to build and several decades of toil to pay for. And destruction is only curtailed by the forces of law and order. Which will be hard pressed to achieve either. After a certain point is reached, the collapse continues until there is almost complete ruin and almost no one left alive. And where the technology level is far below that once practiced. We will return to a primitive agrarian society, and as our modern tools fail there will be only primitive replacements. Some areas will still pump and distill oil ( on a small level ). Some areas will mine and smelt the metal from the ruins. But it will be unavailable to most due to a collapse of trade and a shrinking of borders.
2.2 LIFEBOAT COMMUNITIES
A nice concept, lifeboat communities. Get a bunch of modern hippies together and start a community that practices all those neat concepts that circumvent the need for oil. French Intensive organic gardening, alternate energy, super insulated buildings, integrated crop/livestock production, old time skills, etc. The first problem with these is that they are very expensive to start, as currently envisioned. It is one thing to put up some mud/straw walls and thatched roof, get a few chickens running around and making your own candles. It is quite another to build straw bale 2,000 square foot houses, greenhouses, import specialty livestock, install solar panels, sink hundred foot wells, convert a truck to bio-diesel, grow specialty crops for the French chef in the towns $75 a plate Yuppie Greasy Spoon, pay property tax and a mortgage on the land, etc. No one is going to get together and do it cheap and primitive, but high dollar and comfortable. Thus, very few go past the planning stage. Then, once your community is up and running, you have a nice big target painted at your front gate. Look, we grow crops here. We can survive the end of oil. Won't you come on in an conquer us and make us the serfs to your royal personage? Lifeboat communities are not exactly security conscious. They attract the idiots that gazed at Al "I invented the Internet" Gore with a twinkle in their eye and tried to save the world by changing their regular lights with made in China by political prisoner labor florescent bulbs. They are not heavily armed with anything more than guilt over their opulent middle class lifestyle paid for with a taxpayer supported job as environmental consultants. Yes, their heart is in the right place. So was Jimmy Carter's, and he made some colossal blunders.
Unless you can get together a group of militia that likes to grow organic lettuce, forget lifeboat communities. They could have been the spark that carried knowledge through the coming darkness, if they hadn't been plundered during the first food shortages. Wishful thinking and fantasy is what led us to this problem of oil dependency in the first place. Wishing upon a star to make it all go away isn't going to work either. Power will trump righteousness. They might be just what the world will need, but some lazy, vicious greedy punk is going to exploit them quickly. It won't matter if it is the current mayor or sheriff, a former drug gang or a new home grown power. The natural order of things is for a gang of criminals to exploit the work of others in exchange for "protection".
2.3 ORGANIC FARMING
Organic farmers are not as vulnerable as lifeboat communities. They are not advertised in New Age magazines, nor do they give interviews to the local TV station for filler in-between the weather and sports scores. They are decentralized and widely scattered. They can include, more often than not, an armed owner. And they are the only way to farm after the oil stops running. Unfortunately, this does not come with a Get Out Of Jail Free Card. Just because you have a skill does not automatically make you precious and invaluable after the collapse. The local ruler can, indeed, force you to share your skills whether you want to or not. And likely not on your terms. When twenty horsemen approach you with an offer you can't refuse, it might not be wise to do so. They can take family members hostage, burn down your house one night, snipe at you, horsewhip you until you concede, etc. You are tied to the land. You can't run away. This is the problem with farming. It leaves you as a stationary target. It is justifiable when you gaze with pride at a productive field. You created a means to sustain your family out of nothing. Hard work, a large investment. All for nothing when law and order break down and local tyranny triumphs. Unless you are isolated and have a lot of armed men with good logistics, you will not survive on your land unmolested.
When slavery is mentioned, you usually think about a muscled black hoeing cotton. Grunt work. But look at history. Most advanced civilizations had highly skilled slaves. They were craftsmen, and they were teachers. They were not protected from slavery because they had skills. They were much more valuable than mere field hands, true. That fetched them a higher price at auction. And allowed them far better treatment. But they were still slaves. But you won't even be that unless you are lucky. You will merely be a serf. Tied to the land. You won't face as bleak of a future, since modern organic farming is a much better producer than ancient farming. You won't starve as easily. But you will produce the food for your owner, and you had better do a good job because he will take his cut. You want enough to eat and sell for some small comforts, you grow as much as possible. Organic farming won't keep you free, just better fed. It will increase your odds of a full stomach. Just not as a free man. That said, this might still be one of the few good options open to you. We will cover the other viable trades likely available after the collapse, but if you don't realistically see yourself capable of performing them ( or don't see your family holding up under their demands ) farming might be your only option. It is the only one most of us can practice now. If you have access to land, farming now has several benefits. It reduces your stress from your daily job, reduces your stress about the future, saves you money as times get tough, allows you to eat much healthier at a time when medical costs are making health care an unaffordable luxury, and will see you nicely through the Depression and the initial collapse phase. There is a reason that farming holds such an allure. It is better than money in the bank, which is a tool that only works in good times. Feeding yourself is tailor made for bad times. Just beware of its long term consequences when we enter a true dark age.
2.4 POPULATION SHIFTS
Another bit of bad news for you to worry about is population shifts. Come collapse, the population will move. Even if little or no automotive transport is available, expect huge population shifts as people flee to perceived safety. Americans have always been nomads, shifting locations to better serve their financial interests. It is bred into us, as normal as breathing. We are not like most other societies, where staying near our safety net meant life or death. There have always been nomadic cultures. But they have been the exception for the eight thousand years we have lived by agriculture. It has paid to stay put. The Mongols were only able to live in areas of rich grasslands. The Gypsies have always been marginal in numbers, and more of a gang of grifters moving away from their victims. The Bedouin were confined to their desert. There is always a place for nomads, as they bring mostly agrarian wasteland into production to the benefit of all. But they are not the majority. The stationary farmers are. So American society has been somewhat unique in its mobility. Largely, this was the process of filling up a huge area that had never been "mined" of its wealth. We killed off the Indians and moved in wave after wave of people taking advantage of unexploited resources. After that was done, we lived the same life but now by living off the accumulated riches of our exploitation. We slowly started living off of our seed corn, the accumulated principle of our savings. That is now over and done with and the decline of our civilization has started, but the huge numbers of autos, the large amount of oil we take from others by trade or force, all this still gives us the illusion of the wealth we had and we still feel free to move around. A perpetual band of Okkies seeking the illusive Golden State.
The point being, Americans are still very much in the habit of thinking riches ( or at least safety ) are just over the horizon. Most will turn into unknowing refugees with very little provocation. Expect several large waves of humans. To the warmer South and Southwest after heating oil, natural gas or even electricity are no longer available to keep them alive in the winter. To navigable rivers and waterways as all other forms of transportation fail. To those areas serviced by hydroelectric power or that have the potential to once again be dammed. From cities to the surrounding areas to farm the land. Away from highly populated areas to almost anywhere else regardless of its suitability. And from infertile areas to farms or potentially farmed areas. Thus, after waves of crimes, you can see waves of refugees and then waves of immigrants. You need to be aware if your area is a target, since all your careful plans can be disrupted if too many walking mouths move in next to you. To help visualize the scale of this, just think of Hurricane Katrina. Half the city of New Orleans took up permanent residence in other areas. And most of those people were life time welfare recipients with no skills and poor attitudes, thinking the government owed them a living and that crime was both recreation and if incarcerated their lifestyle would improve. Some areas such as Houston Texas were negatively affected by this influx of useless demanding refugees. Now multiply these tens of thousands at least several thousand times, and make it nationwide. This is what you can look forward to. Without much law and order, with no welfare system and not enough food even for the locals already there.
Warmer areas are naturally going to attract those needing to survive winter. There are plenty of hardy folk, braving out winters by storing up wood and food during summer. They like to live this semi-independent style as their ancestors did. But for every one modern pioneer, there are tens of thousands who live in normally frigid areas yet have no idea how to live with the cold. They go from natural gas heated dwellings where they wear the thinnest clothing, scurry hurriedly to their petroleum warmed cars and drive to work where central heat continues to comfort them. They expose themselves to a mere few minutes of cold a day, a thick synthetic jacket covering their torso, with tennis shoe clad feet, bare hands and not much else differentiating their clothing from what they wear in the summer. They are totally dependant on fossil fuels and a functioning infrastructure during the winter. They won't be able to adapt to lack of oil. They will head south. Modern homes are largely not made to withstand the cold without petroleum inputs. Nor are southern dwellings made to be inhabited without air conditioning. This itself could be a life threatening situation, but that will seem a minor problem when the southeast reverts to its true habit of killing off its population with tropic diseases. On top of disease caused by improper sanitation, expect the return of things such as malaria. The northerners will discover their new home is a pestilent swamp which, without modern pest control and drug deliveries, will kill them off as quickly as the cold would have up north. The southwest will offer nothing more than starvation as the power fails and irrigated farms dry up as the water is no longer available. Even if a few wells still stay in production, the new population will overwhelm its capacity. If the newly empowered Mexican Rights advocated don't go on a White killing spree as they quickly try to give back several western states to Old Mexico ( they will soon find it was the Yankee wealth that was coveted, not more desert, something Mexico already has enough of ). And water availability, already a life and death struggle, will just get worse with no oil and new state un-cooperation.
Most of the US population already lives close to a waterway. Partially, this is a holdover from when water was the only reliable and affordable transportation. As trade is essential to life, the waterways will take on increased importance. If certain areas still have desirable farmland, such as the plains states ( that which can be sustained by rain alone and not irrigation ), you might still see depopulation if their links to other areas are severed. At first, rail will hold an advantage over road freight, being much more energy efficient. But in time, as infrastructure fails and fuel dries up ( as well as spare parts ), rail will fail and ancient waterways will become the only way to move goods. In the newly primitive state of existence, the level of technology will dictate this. Ocean front inhabitants may or may not see a continuation of trade. It depends on location, if they can offer an outlet to needed goods. For instance, Southern ports might be viable if tobacco becomes a new cash crop again. Los Angeles should not survive. It has little natural water available and is a thoroughly modern port. Unless the Long Beach port continues to receive container cargo from China, what is the point of it? Unless, somehow, paved over areas are exploited for their oil pumping potential, you will see very little L.A. has to offer that others need. And if water can't be imported from the Sierra's ( assuming its snow pack doesn't shrink too much ), forget the crop potential from the San Fernando valley. Even if they continue to grow, expect fighting over its resources to disrupt things anyway.
Sacramento has potential, with its delta watering crops and that outlet to the Pacific. But, expect levee breaks and flooding. What is currently there will be vastly altered. Yet, the thing to keep in mind about California is it is so overpopulated it will have major conflicts from now until it is largely depopulated. It will not be a pleasant place to live. Far down the future, after modern life and its supports have been erased, most freshwater and some seawater areas will be where most of the population live. Without pumping water by artificial means, man must accept those areas Mother Nature offers to live. For trade and for the life water makes possible. And a last word about population shifts and California. Much is made about the Golden Hoard, the masses of refugees moving from California out to all other surrounding states in times of disaster. The same can be said about the northeast corridor. Huge numbers of people with no means of support after oil. They won't have any good place to go. But they will go there anyway, as anyplace will seem advantageous compared to the gang warfare, the militia fights, the cannibals and the racial conflict. The mass starvation, out of control fires, the water supplies being disrupted. Beware the arrival of these desperate people with insatiable demands and nothing to offer. Hope your community has an easily blocked, minimal amount of entrances. In the 1970's, as commercial survivalism reached its zenith, too many books to recount gave the same good advice. Get out of the cities, the urban areas, the ghettos. They told you to pick any city over a certain size on the map and then draw a circle around it for three hundred miles. This was the death zone.
You didn't want to live anywhere near an area a car load full of gasoline and Angry Armed Minorities could travel to in the event of a disaster. The three problems with this advice were that 1) the cars could only travel along roads so that a lot of those drawn circles were still habitable, 2) if you avoided all circles, there was maybe two areas you could retreat to and they had no stores or water for a hundred miles, and 3) as the car loads of hostiles drove towards you mechanical difficulties and the fact that not everyone had a full tank of gasoline meant that the immediate areas surrounding a city were much more dangerous than those a little bit further along ( in other words, the danger dropped rapidly ). This did expand your options slightly, enabling you to choose a spot closer to work or affordable housing. But of course, this only addresses the immediate danger in the event of calamity. I think most philosophies were heavily influences by the Cold War, nuclear weapons and their fallout and the ability to live normal until the very end. This is simply wishful thinking, but to this day the 'bug out' is discussed and adhered to as a viable strategy. Recently, after the nation as a whole has switched over to 'just in time' inventory where as soon the continually moving replenishment system hits a snag supplies dry up as no one carries excess inventory, hurricanes have shown how roads turned into instant parking lots and gas deliveries are severely disrupted. That alone should keep people from trying to work in one place and live a self sufficient lifestyle elsewhere. Yet, they simply carry more gas cans and map out alternate routes on minor roads. But, regardless of short term problems, the long term is what we are concerned about. Even out of shape people can walk at least twelve miles a day ( the California missions were located twenty miles apart along the coastal chain, telling us this was the norm for encumbered travelers back before cars ). It won't take that long before all areas that are deemed desirable see the refugees show up there. So, if you do get caught up in mapping evacuation routes and population centers, follow the roads rather than a drawn circle surrounding a city. You are a lot safer, at first, away from the cities, even closer than three hundred miles. But in the end, those on foot will find your area if it is desirable. My strategy is to live far away from everyone, where few will want to go. Of course, it has its own set of problems.
There is a potential monkey wrench in the normal perceived flow of refugees. Global warming. Now, I hate Al Gore. I'm convinced that he didn't contest the skewed Florida election results so the Supreme Court could crown Bush the new king in record time. As a result he was rewarded financially in a rather handsome manner ( W Bush is a total moron that needs help completing a coherent sentence, proof positive moneyed interests were behind both his election and the Gore buy off ). After the election, he becomes, in effect, new global weather czar. He and his traveling circus travel the globe ( in carbon spewing planes ) trying to alarm everyone about global warming. He made a lot of money on his lecture circuit. So much so that he can drive his huge carbon spewing SUV's from the airport to his huge country home, using more polluting natural gas to heat his several thousand square foot office space each month than the average American uses to heat their dwelling all year. So I am not totally sold on the concept of global warming. Rather, I should say I have problems accepting global warming is man made, or that we can do much about it. When there is money to be made, place your hand firmly over your wallet. The scores of scientists genuflecting before their new idol, lashing themselves with branches, their mouths foaming in ecstasy as they proclaim everlasting devotion and fidelity, all this leads me to wonder if global warming isn't full of crap. We do have the new solar cycle starting, promising colder weather as sunspot activity is down sharply. Yet, colder weather can lead to less moisture. And those pictures of retreating glaciers are pretty convincing. In the end, unfortunately, you must decide these things for yourself. No one, especially not me, can know enough about your circumstances to guide you through more than superficial preparedness. It is all fine a well to give advice on the basics such as food, water and weapons. It is quite another to give advice that effects your family. No author knows your circumstances, so all the posturing, positions and philosophy must be taken with a grain of salt. We present an argument, you decide if it has merit. Myself, personally, put enough stock into the possibility of rising sea levels that I never bought property in Florida. I left there for Nevada, higher and drier and so many less population. I made the right decision, for me.
Now, come rising sea levels, if they indeed occur, you are going to have the opposite problem of refugees. Rather than heading towards warm climates, they will be headed away from them. Or, headed from warm and wet climates to both colder climes and those warm but dry such as the southwest. I love the desert, personally. Mostly the fact that it is quiet and peaceful and lacking of hoards of slack jawed mindless humanity. If this eventuality occurs, you might wish to be far away from seawater flooded areas. You look at a sea of starving humanity in refugee camps and you think of passive people glad to get their small cup of gruel every day. That is not what American refugee camps will look like. They will be short on weapons, since the politically correct police will disarm before allowing entrance, but attitudes can't be checked at the door. To a man they will be belligerent and nasty, hostile and demanding and full of a sense of entitlement. They will demand full supplies ( food cooked by others and available menu fashion to allow individual choice ) and will put forth no effort for it. In fact, I would wager that in the act of wiping themselves after the digestion process in complete, they rue the effort involved on their part in that. The refugees on the road will have the same attitude. Our government long ago chose to pacify the mobs by allowing them to live off of a lavish welfare state. At the same time the government, as it was doing to everyone else, encouraged a sense of outrage at others. The divide and conquer routine. The young resent the old for their Social Security. The poor resent the rich. The ghetto dwellers resent anyone working. It works great to deflect anger from the government while also forcing a dependence on them. It is a win/win for those in power. After the system comes unglued, it spells trouble for the survivors. You have untold multitudes unable to take care of themselves and quite willing to band together to take what is yours. They are, after all, an exploited minority and deserve to be taken care of since they were oppressed and unable to fend for themselves ( as a good example of this, look to whites in South Africa today, after the blacks took over and started to loot the old western nation ). Fear their arrival as waves of refugees.
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