Saturday, March 15, 2014

guest article


A Siren Song

In the comments section, a few days ago, Wayne mentioned this article. It's worth reading but seriously flawed and inaccurate.

My commentary will be in italics. The article starts with...

"But what I'm focusing on here is the scenario that includes only events we're reasonably sure about: the end of cheap energy, the decline of industrial agriculture, economic collapse, wars, famines, infrastructure failures, and extreme weather."

and continuing.....

You know the story: Electricity and water and heat are off and not coming back on. Food and fuel will never again be coming into the cities. People run wild in the streets killing and looting. If you live in the city, you will have to kill people to steal their food, or even eat them, and they'll be trying to do the same to you. If you live in the country, you'd better have a big gun to fend off the hordes of starving urbanites scouring the countryside. This condition will last until a strong leader rebuilds civilization.

This is a web of lies. The first lie is the assumption that breakdowns will be sudden and permanent. More likely it will go like this: As energy gets more expensive and the electrical infrastructure decays, blackouts will be more frequent and last longer, but power will come back on. By the time the big grids go down permanently, the little grids, patched together from local sources, will be ready to take their place. They will be weaker, less reliable, and more expensive, and they won't cover the slums, but by then we'll all be experts at living without refrigerators and running laptop computers from car batteries scavenged from junked SUV's and recharged with solar panels. Electricity is a luxury, not a necessity. When the lights go out, we won't go berzerk -- we'll go to bed earlier.

here is his updating annotation:

[Why did I think the grid would eventually go down everywhere? Because that's easier to imagine than the grid in the most energy-rich areas mostly staying up, and then re-extending after the tech system adjusts to renewable energy. Then it's just a question of how much of the grid stays mostly up. One percent? Ninety percent? ]

1. If... if the grids go down, there will not be a patchwork of smaller grids to take their place. Where would these come from???
Are we going to take everyone's solar battery chargers and cable them together to replace our present grid?

We are going to have laptops powered by solar and then we will be scavenging for batteries from junked SUVs? Did I miss something?

2. Electricity is a NECESSITY!!! We are talking about the United States of America and not Timbuktu, Mali or Bumfuck, Egypt, right? No electricity means NO water! If 100 million people in the U.S. know they are going to die in three days without water, how will they react? Peacefully? Between going to bed early and going berserk, my money would be on the "berserk" part.

3. So... it's a question of how much of the grid stays up? There are three main power grids in the U.S. If any of these grids go down, it sure won't be 90% staying up.

4. Part of the grid is going to stay up and then will re-extend itself with a tech solution of renewable energy? How will the items needed for a high tech renewable energy solution be produced without electricity? Precisely, what will be that renewable energy source?

Here are parts about food:

Food is more difficult. It doesn't fall from the sky, and industrial agriculture can't possibly continue to feed everyone. It would be easy to feed even our present bloated population if we converted every lawn and golf course to a food forest, but that's not going to happen. Populations have died in famines before and will do so again. The lie here is that the food supply will end suddenly and permanently, when really, like everything else, it will end in a series of small collapses and partial recoveries.

Industrial agriculture can't feed everyone..... but every Tom, Dick and Harry with zero experience will do it on golf courses?

Question: What is the current world food supply in days?

[I was underestimating industrial agriculture, which is becoming more efficient as it becomes more automated. It takes less energy to maintain and power machines, than to maintain human workers at a decent standard of living, so energy decline will not destroy automation. Solar panels feeding motors can already turn sunlight into work more efficiently than photosynthetic crops feeding animal muscles. There will be a few decades when the world has scarcer and more expensive energy than during the age of cheap oil, but this will not make energy-dependent systems disappear. They will just pull back and abandon the poorest populations."

Solar panels feeding motors, huh? I would like to see a web site for a company that makes solar powered tractors. Please?

That last sentence is a real winner, "pull back and abandon the poorest populations" ??? What does he think those people are going to do then? Go to bed early?

Here's a piece on his thoughts on famine:

"The other lie is that people will kill each other to steal food. I haven't heard of anyone doing it in areas hit by the tsunami. In the 1984 Ethiopian famine, in the siege of Sarajevo, even in the Irish potato famine, when Ireland was producing enough meat and grain to feed everyone and exporting it to wealthy Englishmen, when people would have been morally justified in killing for food, they did not kill for food. The Donner party ate their own dead but did not kill for food. Napoleon's soldiers retreating from Moscow would cut the organs from fallen men and horses, sometimes before they were quite dead, but did not kill each other to steal food. Nations have gone mad and killed millions for empty abstractions of race and religion and politics, but even in Rwanda or Nazi Germany or post-revolution France, it was uncommon that anyone would kill for food"

The Donner party killed and ate two Indians. Doesn't that count?

Rwanda? As in the Rwanda Genocide? The one caused by overpopulation and food shortages?

This is from Wiki: the Japanese started selecting prisoners and every day one prisoner was taken out and killed and eaten by the soldiers.


according to historian Yuki Tanaka: "cannibalism was often a systematic activity conducted by whole squads and under the command of officers".[98] This frequently involved murder for the purpose of securing bodies...

Am I missing something? History shows repeatedly that people kill other people to eat them during food shortages. But they are not going to kill people to take the food they have???

And another highly questionable piece:

"The popular image of "anarchy" is another lie, an elitist caricature of lower class people as stupid and randomly dangerous, mindless and incomprehensible like a tornado. In reality, in the Rodney King riots, people were intelligent enough to not harm the Korean grocery stores where the owners had been nice to them."

From Wiki: Koreatown was isolated from South Central Los Angeles, yet despite such exclusion it was the heaviest hit.


During the riots, many Korean immigrants from the area rushed to Koreatown, after Korean-language radio stations called for volunteers to guard against rioters. Many were armed, with a variety of improvised weapons, shotguns, and semi-automatic rifles.


One of the most iconic and controversial television images of the violence was a scene of two Korean merchants firing pistols repeatedly at roving looters. ......The merchants, jewelry store and gun shop owner Richard Park and his gun store manager, David Joo, were reacting to the shooting of Mr. Park's wife and her sister by looters who converged ....

The Rodney King riots happened because people saw some guy on video getting the crap beat out of him. How are they going to act when it's personal? Real personal, like not having any food or water?

By now it's obvious to all that the article has zero credibility.

Here's a last little tidbit to finish:

Disease. An epidemic that kills 10% will slow down or stop many systems, especially the medical system, but in a few months or years it will all go back to almost how it was before. One that kills 50% will reorder society in ways we can't predict -- when people think they're about to die, they do unpredictable things.

[Now I think that instant global communication greatly reduces the threat of disease epidemics, by making them easier to quarantine.]

The Spanish Flu of 1918 killed 3%-6%. It also shut down World War One.

Something that is twice as deadly will only slow down or stop systems? Everything will be back to normal in a few months? Or is it years? Which one? It makes a big difference!

Concerning the "Global communications",.... it won't make ONE LITTLE BIT OF DIFFERENCE. Imagine one contagious person in an airport. Contaminating first somebody going to Chicago, then someone going to L.A. then Houston then London then Munich.......Nobody knows those people are infected. How are you going to quarantine them?

Don't be afraid to be extremely critical of any Pollyannas saying "It ain't going to be that bad."

Chances are the worst experience they ever had was when their cell phone battery went dead.


  1. they make solar powered tractors, they call them riding lawnmowers

  2. You don't make your case very well. Your answering anecdotal arguments (Ethiopia) with even more isolated anecdotal arguments (Donner party).

    How exactly did the Spanish Flu shut down WW1? Silly me, I thought it was the 100 Days offensive with lots of American reinforcements pouring in.

  3. One modern grain combine (you pick the color) replaces 2,000 people working a 12 hour day. All this crashes and wheat yields go from 50 bushels per acre to 20 or less. My point is once we lose cheap energy we lose cheap food and the human population will crash fast (starvation). Doesn't matter if it's slow or fast, six months and 90% are dead. Just this past harvest year, at the beginning of corn harvest, the world had the lowest corn reserves ever. China came in with a 146mmt yield (they normally produce 90mmt) and price went down and everybody quit saying the sky is falling. Keep prepping, it is just a matter of time until tragedy strikes.

  4. You know everyone talks about how it is or isn't going to be all 'Mad Max'. But if you remember the original mad max movie (the one before the one with tina turner) The hero was a COP enforcing the law in a little community suffering a bad time due to the war, etc. But there was still some authorities from before, and a pretense at near normality for the towns inhabitance. I expect the same during our (already started) collapse. Most places wont see the collapse as anything but a great depression mark 2 or world war 1 version 3, or just bad economic and high crime time. At least at first.
    The collapse will be piecemeal. Kosovo has had theirs, Rawanda and much of Africa, New Orleans has had at least phase 1 of theirs, etc...
    But people can adapt to the new normal.
    When oil gets to $120/ barrel and stays there we will see the economy globally take another lurch down from the semi stability it gained after the 2005peak = 2008 collapse, (and people say the lack of a plunge was 'economic greenshoots').
    that $120/barrel will hurt, lots, and people will make more cuts in their standards of living if they can, or if they cant, will resort to politics and violence to get what they need. Mass protests (Arab Spring crossed with the LA riots) will happen in multiple cities and countries all with different excuses but all for the same real reason- food water and energy shortages.
    Crimes will skyrocket where ever the victims are near defenseless,
    BUT no one except a few off us on the fringe will see all of this as the next step down the rapids toward total global collapse.
    Look at how highly advanced our civilization is. It is so much complex high speed machinery that it CANT all stop all at once everywhere, but it is so interconnected that when one part around the world stops it can cause other parts on the other side to practically blow up. You never know when the area you live it is going to be caught up in something disastrous as part of the collapse- or just disastrous in the normal sense (earthquakes, tornados, droughts, plagues, fires, etc., etc., etc., ) that it will never recover back to its previous condition from. THAT is the nature of our collapse. Historians a thousand years from now will argue that the end of Pax Americana started with the peak oil of 2005, or the next major weather disruption, or.... what ever it is will be a surprise to us, and will likely happen sometime between 1999 and three days past the next big bad event.
    So with that said, the reality of the situation will most likely be better than the worst doom and gloom situation- and since that level is the extinction or nearly so of the human race and nothing we can do anything directly about anyways - and the best that the 'green shoot' talking rose colored glasses wearers can realistically hope for.
    Of course that still leaves us a HUGE spectrum of bad stuff that can happen, I personally have the goal of 7 years of food/medical stores, and sufficient supplies to gather water and grow my own foods for at least as long- I figure if my family can survive for 7 years while everyone else is fighting for every bite to eat they can get - we will eventually have survived the die off or at least softened the achievement of a new normal for our family. 70 years would be even better IMHO but that is a 'stretch goal' and then some.
    And there will be places where cannibalism will be resorted to, and slavery, and all sorts of horrors, and no place will be assured of never suffering from such developments, and no place will be assured of suffering such either- and such things will be patchwork and hopefully short lived- there are only so many people to eat after all until only one person is left chewing on his own foot, and only so many slaves can be held before they can overwhelm by shear numbers their keepers...

    1. Tina Turner was movie 3. Mad Mad #1. #2 was Road Warrior, and is what everyone refers to when they say "mad max future".

  5. Nice critique.

    Yes, as I've mentioned, he's a bit out there in left field, but he is a decent writer. He reminds me of Jim in some ways, and holds many of the same philosophies.

    He recently purchased a foreclosure for $15k. A few years back he picked up 10 acres of wooded land in Eastern Washington, and you might find his land blog ( accessed from the same site) to be worth checking out.

    You might also, (though I see that he's edited it as well) want to check out his "how to drop out" article below. Probably not the same reasons as I would have for doing the same, but a decent read.