Thursday, December 19, 2013

Stabbing the Beast



I spent a while last night reading David Holmgren’s latest essay Crash on Demand (read the PDF here). Back in 2007 Holmgren, who is one of the initiators of the concept of Permaculture, wrote a series of possible future scenarios in which he posited a number of different scenarios that could play out with regard to civilisation and the environment. I won’t go into those scenarios here but suffice to say that this latest essay represents an additional one - and a new way of thinking.

The two civilisation destroying situations we face are peak oil and climate change. Holmgren goes into some detail about why his perception of these has changed, concluding that peak oil has not yet turned out to be as bad as expected (for various reasons, notably financial) and climate change is likely to now far exceed our worst expectations, with a 4-6C degree scenario now likely in a BAU scenario.

This change in thinking was the result of an observation of the way energy and economic issues are panning out, plus a deeper consideration of the role of finance courtesy of systems thinker Nicole Foss. The gist of it is this: we are rapidly losing the chance to persuade policy makers to take the risk of global warming seriously, and given that the course we are now on would likely wipe out nearly all of humanity and make life considerably worse for millions of other species over the coming millennia, then the only sensible option for us is to crash the system of global growth-based capitalism.

If that sounds radical that’s because it is. Holmgren points out that the last few decades of environmental protest have failed miserably. The dominant paradigm of ‘economic growth at any cost’ grinds ecocentrist concerns into the dust. A quick survey of the news headlines should convince anyone of the veracity of this. And although we are now living in an age of limits, where the quantity and quality of the fossil energy sources available to us begins to diminish, the system is perpetuated by the financial system which continues to magic credit out of thin air without any basis on a claim in the real world. Witness the shale oil boom in the US, a vastly inefficient and polluting operation that only makes economic sense due to the distorting wizardry of Wall Street financiers.

Furthermore, he rightly observes that the vast majority of people in the industrialised world could not care less about destroying the basis for life on planet Earth. As the global economic bubble deflates - something it has been doing since 2008 - most people in our overdeveloped economies are too busy trying to hold down a job or are too influenced by the growth-perpetuating mantra of politicians and the media to give much thought to the wider world. This is unfortunate, but at least it demonstrates the pointlessness of trying to gain political traction in a system that is rigged against anything other than limitless growth. Any concessions the system makes to preserving the biosphere tend to be largely symbolic, such as increasing bottle recycling rates, or charging a levy on plastic bags, while the real business of exploitation on a planetary scale continues apace.

Furthermore, the plateauing of oil production has not seen the rapid uptake of clean-tech that its proponents suggested would happen as soon as oil prices climbed. Instead it has seen a switch to dirtier and more dangerous to extract fuels, aided and abetted by the fossil fuel sector and its financial backers. So instead of moving into a ‘green tech’ future we are in practice moving into a ‘brown tech’ one. And although the financial instruments used to boost the production of shale oil and gas are by nature Ponzi schemes and cannot last, Holmgren argues that they may indeed last long enough to make a controlled powerdown situation impossible, as well as missing the window to wean ourselves off fossil fuels.

However, given that the economic system is only being held together by an almost-hallucinatory perception of continued growth and stability which is held by the majority, perhaps this is also the key to seeing its Achilles heel. Holmgren says that a sudden whole scale implosion of the global financial system is really the only hope of curtailing our carbon emissions and cutting them to a level that would avoid runaway global warming. He estimates the chances of a global economic collapse happening ‘naturally’ at 50% over the next five years.

But then he goes on to advocate giving it a good shove in that direction.

An estimated billion people on the planet live middle class lifestyles and use up the lion’s share of energy and resources. Holmgren says that if a section - he reckons 10% - opt out of the growth at any cost paradigm and massively downscale their involvement with the global system of capitalism, then this might be enough to send it into a terminal decline faster than it is already in. This might be easier than it sounds, he says. A majority of people are now disillusioned to some extent with bankers and politicians, and this number can only grow as promises continue to be broken and the wealth gap continues to widen. Actions could be as simple as withdrawing all your money from the bank and storing it as cash - after all, take £100 out of the bank and you are starving the system of £1000 of credit that it would otherwise use as part of the fractional reserve system. He goes on to advocate turning ones back on corporations, shopping locally, growing your own veg and all of the other things that Permaculturists and Transitioners do as a matter of course. This, he insists, is a positive thing to do that offers the only real hope of making a difference.

Adopting local currencies, bartering, avoiding paying tax and using the copious quantities of materials lying around as leftovers from the current waste-based economy would be ways of hastening the demise of the planet-destroying system, while simultaneously acting as a good model for late adopters, many of whom would want to ‘join up’ as the current system of industrial production begins to falter. This, he concedes, would also hasten the demise of a good many worthy and progressive projects, and would likely make enemies with those on the left of the political spectrum who rely just as much on the growth of the industrial system as those on the right. Nevertheless, he says, this is a bitter price that must be paid.

Would this be enough to starve the beast? Nobody knows, but it might represent a better expenditure of energy rather than waving a banner outside a climate conference. The system, he maintains, cannot be reformed. Instead it must die and be reborn. He is quite aware that advocating such a view would vilify him and others who could be accused of trying to collapse the economic system, but maintains that we have a duty to protect life on earth by any means necessary from a rapacious class of human being and a system that has got out of control. This is best done by building an alternative parallel economy - one that is not predicated on endless growth.

By a strange coincidence, after I had finished reading David Holmgren’s essay an email popped up in my browser. It was just telling me that Collette O’Neill - the Irish blogger who lives at Bealtaine Cottage - had a new post. I clicked on it and was greeted by a series of pictures and text that are a living example of everything David Holmgren was advocating. It summarised how she herself had turned away from ‘the machine’ and how this had allowed her to build her permaculture cottage and lead the kind of life that many dream could only be possible by, say, winning the lottery. See her example here.

http://www.futurescenarios.org

http://www.transitionnetwork.org

37 comments:

  1. Opting out of the current debt/money consumer economy is the only way open to us, the people, to change the status quo.
    The trouble is that I cannot see enough people actually wanting to give it up as long as it's still possible for them participate in it. People love to 'treat themselves' and live in a nice home, with nice, new clothes and a better car then their workmates and neighbours. That's always been our problem and won't change anytime soon.
    Once it's forced on us then we'll adapt. That's the outcome I can foresee.
    That said, the financial elites have never needed a strong middle-class to prosper. The 20th century has been an aberration in that abundant, cheap energy has allowed a middle-class to thrive. This is changing and the elites are clawing back all that the middle-classes have taken from them.
    They may well not even miss them, even if they all opted out. Quite the opposite, in fact.

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    1. I think that Holmgren's point is that the majority will indeed want to keep 'treating themselves' until they no longer can, but that a minority might be willing to sacrifice their consumer comforts for the greater common good. Capitalism needs the oxygen of growth to survive and that oxygen is being turned off anyway by peak oil. I should have said that in the article he doesn't expect people to give up 100% of their comforts - just 50% or so.

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  2. Well said. Good summary of Holmgren's essay. It has become apparent we are not going to stop burning fossil fuels any time soon. I've thought for the past while a financial collapse may be our only saving grace. Any way you look at it there will be tough slogging ahead. I guess the point is a financial collapse is inevitable but it would be for our benefit sooner rather than later. I vote for sooner.

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    1. Tough slog is a good way to put it. Like you say, we don't have any choice - we can either lance the boil now or let it fester until it becomes infected.

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  3. These are nice thoughts, but I am pessimistic.

    In the US anyway, "dropping out" effectively means going without a job. Its not a matter of giving up some creature comforts. In 95% of the country, you need to own and drive a car to get to work. If every American quit their job tomorrow that would probably shake the system, but don't hold your breath for that to happen, plus in the future even this course will be irrelevant as automation spreads.

    I've been following the attempts of some people to grow all their own food and that doesn't work well. Historically, no peasant grew all their own food, they always sold part of their crop in exchange for other things. The problem now is selling part of your crop, you get undercut in price by industrialized farming.

    There is also the issue that its not just the fault of the one billion middle class in developed countries, a big part of the problem is the expansion of the people in the poorer parts of the world from 2 billion people in the 1950s to 6 billion today. This puts just as much strain on the environment as anything the middle class is doing.

    Frankly, there is a good chance that one reason action to combat climate change just stopped around 2000 was that the elites realized that, with a thirty year lag between the carbon buildup and the environmental effect, our goose was cooked so they gave up and turned to plunder instead. The point also about peak oil being handled by switching to dirtier fuels is also a good one.

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    1. "If every American quit their job tomorrow that would probably shake the system, but don't hold your breath for that to happen, plus in the future even this course will be irrelevant as automation spreads."

      I think you're missing the point here. There is no way that everyone would quit their jobs. But if a few did then that would remove fuel from the fire. We are going to have a huge financial meltdown whatever happens - it is not possible for a system predicated on endless growth to survive on a finite planet.

      As for growing food - the whole point of growing food is to feed people rather than to compete with industrial agriculture on price. I'm not sure why this point is so hard for some people to grasp ...

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    2. Way back during WWII when I was a kid, many if not most folks grew what was called a 'Victory' garden.

      However, in my neighborhood at least, no one attempted to grow all of their own food since it was basically impossible unless you had a lot of land and also a lot of free time or many 'hands'.

      So we traded food we raised for food we didn't and used it as a supplement to whatever was available in the regular markets or did without.

      For example; my family had a large garden, which included a lot of perennials like berries and tree fruit (which we canned, along with other produce from the garden) and we also raised chickens and rabbits.

      We traded eggs, chicken and some rabbit meat for milk and butter from a household up the road since they had a cow or two and didn't bother with chickens or rabbits. It worked out pretty well and, as far as I know, no one in the neighborhood ever went hungry.

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    3. Looking back to food crisis of the past is not a good guide to the realities of the food crisis we now face. About 80% of global food is grain (comprised of 60% direct grain and 20% grain as feed for livestock) and of that grain, now 90% is GMO grain - this is "synthetic" food/feed that cannot be produced without petrochemical inputs derived from oil and direct oil consumption for the massive energy inputs needed for the grain harvest (not to mention water inputs). It is difficult for us to grasp that our Agribusiness and Factory Food is no longer real food and is going to "disappear" as quickly as oil, which is within one more generation. Like replacement of oil for energy, we don't really comprehend how much of a gap there is going to be (and is now emerging) for food, which I have called the "hunger gap". You can fail to close the energy gap and people will live in the cold and sit in the dark, but the hunger gap will kill you quickly. We now have long, fragile chains of supply for our synthetic/factory food, which when (not if) broken means that our cities will deplete the food supply system in one week. In America, as in the wider world, we have a 2.5 billion acres of exhausted, dead and even toxic agricultural + pasture lands. And populations are now consumers who have no skills and little knowledge of self-reliance.

      Therefore how can we mobilize on realistic solutions that can overcome these overwhelming odds against any other outcome but a die-off? I have presented a practical and doable plan for emergence of a solution out of this food crisis that I am confident will be effective in "closing the hunger gap". (See the White Paper at www.podworksglobal.com)

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    4. For anyone interested in how far into ecological overshoot we are, I'd recommend reading William Catton's 'Overshoot'. It was written several decades ago so the problems he writes about are now orders of magnitude more severe.

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  4. Well you know I agree. I've turned my back on the Matrix. And that turning has it's power mostly in the psychic realm. I still use the Matrix, but I don't care about it, and I want it to die. I realized several years ago that the only hope was to turn around and walk the other way. Doing that is not an easy trick because you have to first find a glitch. I think if you start looking for that glitch one will open to you, and this is likely what Holmgren is advocating we do (haven't read the essay...but I am reading his "Permaculture: principles and pathways beyond sustainability" right now).

    Unfortunately, not caring about the Matrix will not make it go away any faster. 10% would be great, but that's largely optimistic from my vantage point. Less than 10% of the population examines their life beyond the broadcasted programming. Of those that do, many choose the "cipher sell out" as I call it (I want to be put back in the Matrix, and I want to be rich and famous and I don't want to remember anything about the truth).

    The best we can do is permaculture up as much of the Earth's surface as possible. That's vastly more important than giving a shit about the dominant program our species operates on.

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    1. You're a great example of how to walk away from the system and I think a lot of people are similarly looking for a way out - especially the young. Consider the options being offered to young people these days - a life of endless debt on a consumer treadmill where they'll have to work until they die.

      10% might seem a high number but it depends on your perspective. There are signs here in Britain that materialism is falling out of favour - see this:

      http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2523024/What-Black-Friday-Britons-materialistic-people-world.html

      The town where I live has about 20 charity shops where you donate your old unwanted stuff and it is then resold. Effectively it is a system of recycling and it is very popular. The powers that be don't like it because it is reducing consumer spending to quite a degree. At present, the newspapers are telling us that retail stores are 'hitting the panic button' because people are not turning up to buy their stuff this shopping season - er, Christmas.

      Looking at the velocity of money shows the true story.

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  5. Also, the REconomy initiative is gaining traction over here. It's all about building up an alternative network of businesses - a new way of economics.

    http://www.reconomy.org

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  6. Happy Solstice, Hepp. Posted some greenhouse specs and pics on m' blog. A great piece, yours. Confirmation for me, of a lot about what I have been thinking about.

    Do you begin to see the wisdom of the SUN project? Hardest thing though, will be people doing it together.

    Hey Ed - so what has been worse for the health of the earth, the expansion of the poor, the middle class, or the ruling class? The poor didn't expand btw, by any advancement they made. So many poor exist because of "advancements" made by the comparative wealthy. All of it fed by unhindered exploitation of the earth.


    WHD

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    1. Happy Solstice too. The greenhouse looks fine indeed!

      The SUN Project seems like a wise move to me. I look forward to seeing how it will flesh out as more people get involved in it.

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    2. Jason still needs to freaking register on SUN!

      RE

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  7. Hi Jason - great blog post, thanks for that! It gives me some hope that we, as a collective, might do something productive before it's too late. I just have a question about the pragmatics of removing oneself from the system - in your experience have people who have done this successfully already had enough capital to purchase land (or, alternatively, inherited land from family), or has it simply been a matter of renting a long way from a town or city? From my perspective, at least, the issue of land ownership/rental is the biggest obstacle - this may be, though, that in Australia, where I live, land prices are exhorbitant, and this is the main thing that ties us to the banks and therefore keeps us in the system - for this reason, athough I would love to remove myself from the system, this is realistically at least 5 years away (and potentially much further). In your opinion, how does one starve the beast when the system is so ubiquitous when it comes to land/property (without moving hundreds of kilometres from family and friends).
    PS My apologies for asking such a concrete question, I just wonder whether this issue might be one of the bigger obstacles to 10% opting out.

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  8. That's a good question, John. I think for most people the dream of moving away from civilisation and getting a piece of land is just that - a dream. But that's not necessarily what I would say is necessary in any case. I've read that Australia has a big land speculation bubble, so buying somewhere at the top of this will likely lead to financial ruination in short order (and there's no reason the institution of debtors' prisons won't return in the future).

    Instead you might want to consider being creative with where you already are - or maybe somewhere not too far away. There are co-housing communities to consider, if you don't mind sharing with others. Also, nobody is talking about removing oneself 100% from the system, which is likely an unattainable goal. But with drawing your money before it's taken from you (you have heard about bail ins, haven't you?), vowing not to fly, buying the bulk of your food from local coops etc - these are some of the low hanging fruit that can be picked for relatively little effort.

    If you fell like you really *have* to get 'away from it all' then I'm sure you could get a cheap bit of parched land somewhere. But make sure you know what you are doing - especially when it comes to collecting and storing water. Water, in an arid environment like much of Australia, is the key to life, as any Aboriginal will point out.

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  9. Thanks Jason - the dream for me would be to build an off-grid earthship home, which are really well suited to the dry and widely fluctuating climate here [we get down to -10C in winter and up to 40C in summer], on a parcel of land big enough to sustain me and my family through permaculture practices, close enough to the city my extended family/friends live in and close to schools/hospitals etc (nowhere too parched, and not totally removed from civilisation, though). This is long-term, though and I think you're right - removing oneself incrementally makes a lot of sense. We've been working on becoming more minimalist, buying nothing new, have joined a food coop and source our food there etc, so we're on our way :)

    Thanks again for the blog post - very much enjoyed it!

    PS You should check out Earthship homes if you haven't come across them before - http://earthship.com/Systems/ - great idea for sustainable, energy-efficient housing.

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    1. Sounds like a good plan! I am indeed aware of Earthships and had plans to build one when we were living in Spain. You've probably already seen it but I would recommend watching Garbage Warrior:

      http://www.garbagewarrior.com

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    2. Thanks Jason - great documentary, I watched it about 6 months ago. Mike Reynolds - what a star!
      All the best,
      John :)

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    3. Hi John, maybe my experience will give you some leads. I live in a rural community that we created 30 years ago, all in our early 20s with minimal capital. I moved here as a young hippy mum, living first in a caravan with no power, road access, or running water. I have never regretted it and although it was diabolically hard in those early years, I do have the best of lives. We built without a mortgage, as we were able to afford ingredients, a homemade house that is small and never finished, but made right. Off the grid solar power, originally just one panel that powered a couple of lights (one at a time), a radio, a CB, and little black and white portable TV very occasionally. No fridge, no washing machine – I washed nappies in a little hand operated washing machine. But the savings in electricity bills allowed us to invest in a bigger system, and now we have 4.5 kva and enough solar power to charge a car. I've had commercial scale organic gardens and near self sufficiency at times but it's the old 80/20 rule. 80% self sufficiency is easy. The last 20% not a reasonable or sane goal (I agree with Ed above that plenty of cultures before us have discovered this!) The internet has made a ginormous difference. It makes it possible to market physical and creative products from a rural setting.

      So, if I were you, where would I start the journey? I'd realise you will need a way to make money anyway, and work on that - a tradeable skill, a microbusiness. I don't read Holmgren as advocating a money-less economy, just a make-believe-money-less one. I'd simplify and frugalise where you are. I'd consider land sharing communities - there are some that are loopy but many that have done the pioneering the hard way, and, (like our community now) would very much welcome young fresh energy and insights. I would also consider suburbia - Holmgren is one of many visualising the potential in retrofitting the suburbs. (I'm even considering, myself, as a challenge, taking what I know from the bush to town for a year or so, just to show it can be done).

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    4. Hi Linda. I don't think Holmgren is advocating living without money - he's just saying that a few of the relatively wealthy and enlightened should try living with less money in order to enact a phase change in the system i.e. collapse.

      Still, good for you that you have managed to carve out a sustainable life with all its difficulties and rewards.

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  10. Thanks Jason. I will have to read David Holmgrens full essay.

    Mike Ruppert, Dmitry Orlov and others have advised people to get out of debt as preparation for weathering the collapse, but I have always felt that going bankrupt would be a better option. Maxing out all your credit cards on emergency supplies buried in the woods, spending it on practical courses to learn new skills or just giving as much as you can get to charity - whatever works for you. It is amazing how much credit banks will give you! Sell your home and move into rented accommodation, then declare bankruptcy. It could speed up the financial collapse in sufficient numbers, plus you will have nothing left to lose when there is a collapse.

    I like this theory, but you have to be darned sure what the future holds to go this far voluntarily. However there are increasing numbers of people trapped with spiralling debts for whom this is a reality anyway. The charity shops are in demand because there are so many people struggling to make ends meet - we are collectively changing habits which will push the system over the edge anyway.

    The idea to withdraw money from the system is not a new one though. Do you remember that Eric Cantona tried to get everyone to withdraw their money from the banks at the height of all the bank bailouts? See http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-11811238

    I do agree that financial collapse is probably the best thing to reduce carbon emissions and given that the richest 1 billion people create 50% of the worlds carbon emissions, it is definitely down to us to something.

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    1. Hi Judy. Ha, yes, good to remember Eric Cantona - if only we'd heeded his advice earlier!

      I don't think most people are aware of the fact that when you put your money in a bank it cases to be yours anymore. In the worst case scenarios they are under no obligation to give it back to you because, frankly, they don't have it.

      It's a moot point about going bankrupt. It might work for some but for many it might mean falling at the first hurdle. So many people are going bankrupt anyway (and they certainly will when interest rates rise) that it would not surprise me to see a special register created of debtors. The rich might step in to 'buy up' these debtors, who would become a kind of bonded labour, and then we're back to the days of the workhouse and a crude version of feudalism.

      As for Mr Ruppert - well, he is saying that all human life will be wiped out in 16 years by Fukushima and climate change... so it makes you wonder whey he would bother having an opinion on debt at all!

      BTW did you see all the triumphant headlines yesterday saying that the UK was on track to become one of the 'world's biggest economies' and 'the envy of Europe'? Not sure how we would achieve this - perhaps it is all those rich Chinese and Russians buying Christmas luxuries in Harrods ...

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  11. Withdrawing from the system is a beginning. Decapitating Banksters is the next logical step.

    RE

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  12. When you are done reading and going to meetings, come out to the farm and see how it is done. But prepared to get your hands dirty.

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    1. Heh? I've got my own 'farm' already thanks. I'm covered in mud right now.

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  13. Hi Jason, I appreciate your presentation of this message and I would like to contribute to the discussion! The idea is that a 10% shift of people out of the mainstream, consumer economy in the biggest industrial nations can be sufficient to disrupt the lock-in that subjugates the majority. I agree and would go further to suggest that, if even 1% co-create a virally successful and financially powerful alternative exchange economy, then the collapse of a "burnt-out" and failing system of exploitation will accelerate, possibly saving our earth from a near extinction event. However, the opportunity for a tipping towards new freedoms, prosperity and ecosystems recovery can emerge out of the combined emergencies of system collapse and Climate Chaos. We will not see "stabilization" of Climate Change or Population Growth, but with Eco Innovations like SolaRoof, there will be realistic hope that everyone will have a lifestyle and livelihood that serves the whole of life on earth; that the gaps will close; that convergence on new paradigms for transition will greatly and rapidly strengthen even as the big powers fall hard. We will learn that small is beautiful and when each one is empowered with self-reliant dwellings and the resurgence of authentic community then no "great power" will ever again oppress the peoples of the earth. It is time to receive our true inheritance and build a bright green legacy to leave to the billions who will follow in our footsteps.

    Please read my message about collapse - in which I look at the global synthetic/factory food system collapse in a White Paper called "closing the hunger gap". My life's work as an inventor, called SolaRoof, has resulted in a solution for organic, regenerative Food/Energy/Water - the FEW essentials for living, which is the POD. The POD is a vertical farm - greener than a greenhouse - and is a Creative Commons design co-created as a platform for building a vast social enterprise movement for a local food economy. Together, in a global collaboration/cooperative community, the new WE can build a path to safety, security and peace. WE, as a human family, may build a future prosperity for all that is not exploitive or destructive; that will not exhaust or degrade the earth's ecosystems but will be healing and bring restoration to wildness, even as the human population tips 10 billion in numbers. I invite discussion of the White Paper and the PODnet plan, both available for download at www.podworksglobal.com - more importantly, PODnet is inviting your engagement and action - please LIKE us at https://www.facebook.com/SolaRoofCoop

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    1. Yes, I don't think we need to worry about what percentage need to 'drop out'. The system will destroy itself eventually ... but 10% sounds like a rather optimistic target.

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  14. Somehow, we need to educate the public about the dire / emergency level of risk we're facing regards both the climate and the economy while also educating them (and ourselves) about the best options in transitioning to another mode of economic system/s grounded in an ecological worldview and the best of ecological design.

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    1. We can educate the public all we like but most won't be willing to listen. Saying that, the best way to educate people is by example.

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  15. WWW.OLDUVAI.CA
    JANUARY 2, 2014 AT 9:06 AM (EDIT)

    I too have thought of such a scenario over the past couple of years, believing that unless we take action, like yesterday, the path towards self-annihilation is set and irreversible. Getting a significant portion of the population to buy into a sustainable lifestyle, however, will be a major hurdle, if not impossible. There is a vast array of sociocultural, religious, political, and economic roadblocks to overcome. I am experiencing such resistance just within my own immediate family, where ‘traditional’ values/beliefs are almost ‘hard-wired’ into lifestyles and difficult to challenge without a ‘fight’.

    And then there’s the conspiracy theorist in me that wonders if the elite are already planning such a collapse. The elite have crashed the economy on demand in the past and a scenario where they do it again, once they have all their ducks in a row, is not too farfetched. Some believe that the UN’s Agenda 21 is such a conspiracy. Given that so many conspiracy ‘theories’ have been turning into conspiracy ‘facts’ lately, it’s entirely possible.

    Regardless, any global economic collapse will certainly result in a mass die-off of our species (unfortunately, this may be necessary for the planet and some humans to survive). Global industrialised society has, in a relatively short time, helped to unlearn basic living skills. For example, how many have the know-how, wherewithal, intestinal fortitude, and supplies to produce enough food and clean water for their family to survive a collapse of trade? Even if one lives in an area where local food production is in place, what happens when millions of urbanites come looking for food? I might be able to keep my family warm and fed for a month, maybe two if I’m lucky, and then what?

    I also believe that Peak Oil is still lurking in the shadows and ready to pounce. The Ponzi financial system has been capable of prolonging the most significant effects of Peak Oil for a bit but this kicking-the-can-down-the-road can only last so long. I have to say I agree with Michael Ruppert in his documentary Collapse when he states: “You have finite energy and you have a financial paradigm which demands infinite growth and we are at a point in human history where the infinite growth paradigm collides with something that is more powerful than money is… The people who have run the planet to this point and are running the planet now are losing control What I see is a new paradigm that is as cataclysmic as the asteroid event that killed almost all life on the planet and certainly the dinosaurs. We may be seven billion people by the time anyone sees this interview. All of those people exist, are on this planet only because of oil. That’s it. So it’s axiomatic that if you take the oil away, the population must go away also. Certain things are inevitable right now. FDIC insolvency I will tell you is coming. Insolvency of the Federal Reserve is coming. The Federal Reserve can go bankrupt. T-Bill defaults. We’re looking at major bankruptcies, starvation, dislocation, all these things are already on the way. Everything is going to breakdown.”

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    1. "Even if one lives in an area where local food production is in place, what happens when millions of urbanites come looking for food? I might be able to keep my family warm and fed for a month, maybe two if I’m lucky, and then what?"

      That's a good questions, although I'm not a subscriber to the roving zombie horde theory. Governments and the army will, in most cases, step in. Rationing can be introduced easily (probably not hi tech though) and will be. A black market will spring up overnight and shady looking men will offer you a dozen duck eggs for that nice watch you're wearing.

      A few years of this, combined with a lack of heating and healthcare, with a dash of the old time honoured ways out (alcohol, drugs and suicide) and the population will be well on the way back to a more sustainable level. It won't be pleasant, but some planning now can take the edge off the worst of it. The financial elites will also find that they can't eat money in the long run, although they will make it unpleasant for the rest of us as they find this out.

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  16. This was the conclusion that my partner and I came to rapidly after getting involved in a Transition Town movement in East London and finding that simply no one had enough time to devote to anything of any real practical to value to even begin to chip away at the vast edifice of modern capitalism.
    So, in the realisation that a truly sustinable society was not possible without a major collapse, we sold up and moved to our 39-acre smallholding in the West Country from where I write this. Here we have plenty of wood and fresh water, and rear poulty for eggs and meat. After 3 years here we've made friends and integrated into the local community and are about to set up a local food cooperative. We order organic food in bulk from local suppliers and keep plenty of everything on hand. Some call this "prepping" - preparing for disaster - to us it's just common sense. Gradually we aim to have "net-zero" business that earns enough revenue to cover our expenses, but doesn't earn us enough to put us in the income tax bracket. This is just a reality of life for many farmers.
    It's true that if the masses descend, then no one wins, but the chances of survival are far greater here. The lessons of history would seem to indicate that this rarely happens. When the supermarket shelves are empty, the masses take to the streets, rather than the fields. They clamour at the gates of parliament, rather than flee to the country to grow their own food.
    The point is try and establish a sustainable, zero-capital and non-profit, steady-state local economy, even amongst just a small group of like-minded individuals, before the proverbial hits the fan. Then, when the riots start and military rule and curfews become the norm, we can offer an alternative that has a proven track record.
    My only real suprise from this article is that took Mr Holmgren this long to figure all this out. It was always pretty obvious. His timeline however, is way out, imho. Unfortunately for the planet, the current "capitalist" - i.e. borrow, destroy, manufacture, discard - paradigm has more than 5 years left in it even if 10% of us could afford to do what we're doing - which they can't. I'd give it another 20 years until the mid-thirties before the final big collapse, with various major pre-shocks on the way down. This is it, the descent has started, deploy your parachute soon, if you haven't already.

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    1. I too am involved in the local Transition group and can relate to what you say. Most people are just too busy to devote too much of their time to actions. Nevertheless, there are some concrete actions that can be undertaken which might yield results - such as initiating a local currency.

      I'd agree - the descent has started - six years ago by my reckoning. The next financial shockwave will likely see a whole lot of people getting a lot poorer overnight as governments seize monetary assets (whilst promising to pay them back at some hazy point in the far future). BAU will be protected at any cost.

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  17. I started disconnecting from the system about seven years ago, and now live happily in the jungle of Hawaii, on fairly minimum outside inputs. But I realized that just disconnecting isn't enough to stop the destruction. Though I agree with Holmgren's goal of sparking economic collapse sooner than later, to give us more of a chance of having a liveable planet when it's all over, I don't think his plan is very realistic.

    I wrote a full reply, "Demand Crash!" at http://www.dgrgreatbasin.org/demand-crash-response-holmgrens-crash-demand/

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I welcome comments that are relevant to the post and add to the debate about our current and future predicament. I'll try to reply to them all as time permits. You can post anonymously but I'm less likely to reply.