Collapsology- What's Your Intuition?

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7Wannabe5
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Collapsology- What's Your Intuition?

Post by 7Wannabe5 »

I just finished "How Everything Can Collapse" by Servigne and Stevens. This book suggests that the study of collapse now warrants being regarded as its own field, "Collapsology." The first section of the book covers the evidence pointing towards likelihood of collapse of our civilization sometime this century, and doesn't add much to the many other volumes on this topic I have already read. Resource depletion, large rigid complex bloated social and economic structures, exponential growth, and marginal efficiency gains left available, etc.

The second and third section address newer (to me) ground. The authors attempts to puzzle out whether or not we can predict the timing or form of the impending collapse of our civilization. Their conclusion is that at this point in the game, sudden extreme off-the-cliff type collapse is most likely. Other possibilities would be mellow linear collapse or roller-coaster like collapse. Timing is more tricky. There are some possible clues that systemic collapse is near term likely, such as slower recovery time from "injury", but these are much more obvious in retrospect. So, best bet seems to be relying on your own informed intuition.

For some reason, my intuition is that I (and others who share my geographic/socio-economic "place" on the planet) will experience the collapse as being mostly roller-coaster like. This means that something-like-optimism and something-like-pessimism will almost always apply on varying time scales, and I am wondering how to do that. Another implication would be that "making hay while the sun is shining" might be best practice. So, I have been pondering how this might apply to my own time and money spending budgets in current phase of semi-retirement-style ERE. For simple yet not meant to be literal example of what I mean, would it be better to spend more money* to purchase tools that may be needed in period of collapse which is maybe two troughs away during a current period in which these tools are relatively inexpensive or still widely available? I should further note that I do not mean to suggest or ask this question only in relationship to an individualistic prepper type model. I think it is also relevant at most levels of society, and certainly at the local community level.

So, what's your intuition on timing and form of collapse of our civilization? What's your plan based on this intuition?

*In particular, "more than 1 Jacob/year", because maybe that cow has already left the barn?

Alphaville
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Re: Collapsology- What's Your Intuition?

Post by Alphaville »

7Wannabe5 wrote:
Wed Dec 09, 2020 1:19 pm
So, what's your intuition on timing and form of collapse of our civilization?
How is "our civilization" defined here? USA? Western? Global Capitalism?

E.g. date of "the fall of Rome" is 476 but Byzantium went on for another 1,000 years. Things change and take different shapes but what are we talking when we say collapse?

ertyu
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Re: Collapsology- What's Your Intuition?

Post by ertyu »

My intuition is that we will not have a collapse within my lifetime, but rather, a gradual descent into dystopia. I think people will stay in denial influenced by recency bias, and would apply the type of magical thinking boomer republicans apply to the coronavirus: if i minimize the problem, i'll stop being scared of it, and if i'm not scared, there must be no problem (a very interesting twist on the fallacy you get taught in cognitive behavioral therapy, where people assume that if they're anxious, they might be in danger, or that if they feel small, others must be looking down on them). I think the dystopia would be a surveilance capitalism - corporate feudalism variant. I have no plan for dealing with this dystopia other than hoping i'm gone reasonably fast and not having children.

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Re: Collapsology- What's Your Intuition?

Post by unemployable »

We're not doomed and there won't be a collapse. Some pandemic this has turned out to be.

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Lemur
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Re: Collapsology- What's Your Intuition?

Post by Lemur »

Great timing! Because I have been reading non-stop about 21st century ecological collapse since I've been temporarily out of work.

I came across this great article that summarizes a lot of the main problems:
https://cache-baba.medium.com/the-futur ... ca6f7ab07b

The one that stood out to me that most was the top soil erosion problem...
We are running out of topsoil (Source), by 2055 we will have none of it video. That’s the warning of “Surviving the 21st Century” author Julian Cribb to an international soil science conference in Queenstown, New Zealand on Dec 15, 2016. 10 kilos of topsoil, 800 litres of water, 1.3 litres of diesel, 0.3g of pesticide and 3.5 kilos of carbon dioxide — that’s what it takes to deliver one meal, for just one person,” [Cribb says.] And it takes 2000 years to form 5cm of topsoil. If you don’t think this will affect you…just you wait until food becomes the rarest commodity on Earth. If you think you have seen human barbarity, just wait until those same humans are starving and desperate for food. This won’t mean millions starving. It will mean billions starving. Including you.
Anyway to answer OP question...

Enough of the board should know this but ecological collapse is already underway...it is just distributed unevenly. See Southeast Asian countries, Africa, and parts of the Mediterranean / Middle East. Again ...this is ongoing: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Holocene_extinction . I am lucky to have been born on east coast America (for now). I believe by 2035ish is where more 1st world types will start having these problems at their doorsteps. Some already are like in California...I don't believe there will be some technological miracle at this point. (0.0001% that "they" develop nuclear fusion based on abundant hydrogen-helium?) We're already below biological capacity.

I don't have any real plans others then continue what I'm doing now (accumulating capital) so that once I can quit full-time work, I will actually have the time to devote skills and preparations. This is about a 5-10 time frame. I need to badly increase skills...I need to become knowledgeable of planting, water harvesting, and how to store food for long durations. Prepping skills are a must. It may even be to my benefit to pick up martial arts or some form of self-defense; which would work in tandem with keeping in shape anyway. Social skills and an inner circle / tribe will be necessary too. I like the work that the transition towns movement is doing.
Last edited by Lemur on Wed Dec 09, 2020 1:52 pm, edited 1 time in total.

Alphaville
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Re: Collapsology- What's Your Intuition?

Post by Alphaville »

Ecological collapse? Who needs Mars when you can build condos in Antarctica :lol: :cry:

I have no idea. It's really hard to predict the future. I can fantasize though.
Last edited by Alphaville on Wed Dec 09, 2020 1:52 pm, edited 1 time in total.

white belt
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Re: Collapsology- What's Your Intuition?

Post by white belt »

I wonder this myself. As a millennial, I do believe my generation will be quite a bit less stable and prosperous than my parents’ generation. We’ve covered the issues like overpopulation, climate change, and economic insolvency in other threads.

For now, my focus has been on building skills that will be applicable in any type of outcome (I believe this is core to the ERE strategy). But I do agree that I have also pondered how much I should put into increasing these skills as opposed to enjoying some aspects of life that I know I might not be able to enjoy in the future. Like most well-off Americans, I could probably just ignore these problems and continue business as usual for the next 20-30 years without really any issues, other than increased volatility. But I also know that’s not a great long term strategy.

Hristo Botev
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Re: Collapsology- What's Your Intuition?

Post by Hristo Botev »

Oooh, very intriguing questions!!! (Also very thankful that you've given me something to consider as a distraction from getting back to work after lunch.)

My intuition: For me and my family personally, given our various privileges and circumstances, it will be more roller-coaster-y, starting with mostly small-ish downs (like the current COVID one) followed by ups, with the downs getting deeper and more frequent, until there just aren't really any more ups and things level out (I'm sure there's some geometry/math-ishy way to explain this better, but I'm a history major). And my intuition is this leveling out will not happen in my lifetime, but it might in my kids'. I'm curious as to why the authors of your book think it's more likely to be an off-the-cliff, as opposed to the more long descent take predicted by JMG et al.

My (working, in progress) plan (which, coincidentally, is also in line with my ERE plan):

- Learn to get comfortable with less, and raise my kids to have an almost visceral, Huxley-ian baby conditioning-type negative reaction to waste, excess, and luxury
- Speed up/shorten my wealth accumulation phase
- Put no more money into retirement accounts (there's plenty in there as is) outside of what's required for a company match
- Use my non-restricted savings to reduce my big-ticket monthly expenses by paying off kids' schooling and what's left of the mortgage
- Use my non-restricted savings to also build resiliency and skill development (and further reduce monthly expenses in the long term) with things like veggie gardening, food preservation, rain catchment, clothes mending, book/library curating, home DIY projects, jiu-jitsu, composting and waste management (e.g., humanure), bike maintenance, woodworking, electronics repair, perhaps solar, home brewing and other fun with fermentation, etc. (the list is almost endless)
- Focus even more energies on local community building, through church, knights of columbus, and neighborhood and municipal groups
- (Probably) buy rural property, likely with friends, as a hedge in the event the JMG/CHS strategy of prepping in town doesn't work out; ideally planting a large orchard at the property so that I have lots of fruit and wine to share with friends/neighbors--also, to just be able to get my kids around nature in the wild as much as possible
- (Probably) buy a camper, to be mobile, as another hedge in the event that neither the town-living strategy nor the rural homestead strategy fail

ETA: My plan is not focused on me as much as it is focused on preparing my kids for a world that's different than the one DW and I grew up in, and the one they will raise their kids in. Whether this "collapse" looks more like Parable of the Sower, or more like 1984, or more like Huxley's drugged up and mind-numbed Brave New World, or more like some sort of techtopia where we all are required to make the sign of the "B" for Bezos (oh wait, that was Brave New World), time and money spent on self reliance and community building will not be wasted.

Also, my various hedges are so that my kids will have options; and so that we will actually have something tangible to hand down to our kids in the event of hyper-inflation, and/or market decline.
Last edited by Hristo Botev on Wed Dec 09, 2020 2:15 pm, edited 10 times in total.

Alphaville
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Re: Collapsology- What's Your Intuition?

Post by Alphaville »

white belt wrote:
Wed Dec 09, 2020 1:50 pm
I wonder this myself. As a millennial, I do believe my generation will be quite a bit less stable and prosperous than my parents’ generation. We’ve covered the issues like overpopulation, climate change, and economic insolvency in other threads.
people your age in china, india, or other places might have a different take on the future though.

not to say that they're invulnerable to climate change but they're on the up and up generally.

white belt
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Re: Collapsology- What's Your Intuition?

Post by white belt »

Alphaville wrote:
Wed Dec 09, 2020 1:53 pm
people in china, india, or other places might have a different take on the future though.
Well those regions also have lower GDP per capital and standards of living. In the USA, we’ve been living far beyond our means both economically and ecologically for at least 40 years. I see a return to something like the US standard of living in the 1950s, which is quite different than what the boomers lived with in their adult years.

I actually think China is an interesting case and it might be possible that they see a regression in standard of living, at least among the middle and upper classes. Keep in mind that they have also experienced astronomical growth over their lifetime. My theory in highly developed countries is that historical memory lasts no more than 1 generation, so a lot of people have no sense of how to live in the conditions their grandparents grew up in.

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Re: Collapsology- What's Your Intuition?

Post by Alphaville »

white belt wrote:
Wed Dec 09, 2020 2:06 pm
In the USA, we’ve been living far beyond our means both economically and ecologically for at least 40 years.
we might use up more energy than most, but our population density is not that bad, and we have an agricultural surplus.

sure some of that grain production might move further north but it won't happen in a day or without time to adapt (i think, anyway, and fingers crossed).

using our kwh and lands more efficiently is not necessarily a "less" proposition.

white belt
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Re: Collapsology- What's Your Intuition?

Post by white belt »

Alphaville wrote:
Wed Dec 09, 2020 2:15 pm
we might use up more energy than most, but our population density is not that bad, and we have an agricultural surplus.

sure some of that grain production might move further north but it won't happen in a day or without time to adapt (i think, anyway, and fingers crossed).

using our kwh and lands more efficiently is not necessarily a "less" proposition.
I agree, I think as others have mentioned, on paper the US could adapt to climate change much more easily than a place like Kuwait or somewhere with extreme population density and limited natural resources. On the other hand, the entire “American way of life” and all institutions stand in opposition to that adaptation, so I suspect it might be a bumpy road.

Edit: I think time frames are important to consider when thinking about collapse because individual behavior will be tailored to an individual’s age/timeline.

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Re: Collapsology- What's Your Intuition?

Post by Alphaville »

yeah, our problems are more social and self-generated than physical or coming from abroad.

[mod meme deleted]

Hristo Botev
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Re: Collapsology- What's Your Intuition?

Post by Hristo Botev »

Lemur wrote:
Wed Dec 09, 2020 1:46 pm
I came across this great article that summarizes a lot of the main problems:
https://cache-baba.medium.com/the-futur ... ca6f7ab07b
Good God man! That was certainly a downer.

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Re: Collapsology- What's Your Intuition?

Post by Stahlmann »

Hope to raft to Scandinavia on DIY boat and hope that they don't swing pendulum on moral level and hope not to live in no go zone.

Alphaville
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Re: Collapsology- What's Your Intuition?

Post by Alphaville »

Lemur wrote:
Wed Dec 09, 2020 1:46 pm

I came across this great article that summarizes a lot of the main problems:
https://cache-baba.medium.com/the-futur ... ca6f7ab07b

oh, that there is the... wow.

if he's right, then we don't need to guess.

i'll just save the last bullet for myself? :(

Hristo Botev
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Re: Collapsology- What's Your Intuition?

Post by Hristo Botev »

Lemur's article has me Googling "environmental activist lawyer jobs." I'd say reading that article has me about to break my rule about not drinking liquor during the week, but if I did, I'd just spend my time drinking the liquor fixated on how damaging to the environment the entire supply chain was to get from seeds to mash bill to bourbon in my class.

7Wannabe5
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Re: Collapsology- What's Your Intuition?

Post by 7Wannabe5 »

Alphaville wrote:but what are we talking when we say collapse?
Good question! This was directly addressed in the book.
It's not the end of the world, nor the Apocalypse. Nor is it a simple crisis from which we can emerge unscathed or a one-off disaster that we can forget after a few months, like as tsunami or a terrorist attack. A collapse is 'the process at the end of which basic needs (water, food, housing, clothing, energy, etc.) can no longer be provided (at a reasonable cost) to a majority of the population by services under legal supervision'.
ertyu wrote:we will not have a collapse within my lifetime, but rather, a gradual descent into dystopia.
So, you are predicting that the system that is our civilization will become even more "large", homogenous and tightly connected for the next 40 years or so, resulting in a situation which you would experience as dystopic? If that is the case, those are exactly the circumstances most likely to result in very swift, extreme collapse at some point after your lifetime.
unemployable wrote: there won't be a collapse.
Ever? Or just not this century?
Lemur wrote:ecological collapse is already underway...it is just distributed unevenly
Absolutely. If you project out far enough, any single resource can be assumed to be depleted. Key point made in this book is that it is our dependency on so many different resources that are all being tapped out that makes it tricky to see it coming until it's right in our face. Great analogy offered is that we are facing a number of different limits and boundaries, so it is like we are driving an out of control car that is also running out of gas. Will it stop dead on the road or will it careen across a field of debris and crash into a tree? Both scenarios in a multitude of variations are plausible.
white belt wrote: I do agree that I have also pondered how much I should put into increasing these skills as opposed to enjoying some aspects of life that I know I might not be able to enjoy in the future. Like most well-off Americans, I could probably just ignore these problems and continue business as usual for the next 20-30 years without really any issues, other than increased volatility.
Well, I will quite possibly be dead of "natural" causes within 30 years, but I still think there is a possibility of collapse in my lifetime. I would note that I am not so much interested in what the author refers to as the "make the most of it" reaction of either variety (well, perhaps, just a wee bit of the first :lol: ):
There is the likeable-but selfish-Rabelaisian and Epicurean tendency: those people who would spend the rest of their lives down the pub, having a laugh and savouring the last pleasure of life. And there are the 'bastards', who mak the most of things to the detriment of others. We grab the maximum allowance of petrol, we overconsume, and we ransack the place one last time before leaving.
In the moment, I am actually considering how much money I should spend on educational materials towards skills acquisition. For instance, for some reason I am obsessed with the need to know how to make a radio from scrap materials, but I have so little skill in that realm I can't start out learning totally on the cheap. IOW, I can't time afford to do an infinite regress to most minimal spending if I want to gain competency in this skill set and many others I can thing of within maybe 5 years from now. In contrast, skill sets in which I am already competent, I don't need to spend that initial lump of time/money to get over the first hump of the S Curve. For instance, I just baked something like an apple pie even though I do not have shortening, rolling pin, white sugar or pie pan at my current lockdown residence. However, I do second guess my desire to spend more money on educational project materials because that happens to be what I like to spend money on anyways :lol: IOW, I want to believe my recent purchase of radio and other electronic project supplies was not going to contribute to drowning of children off the shore of Bangladesh, but rather something in semi-direct opposition to something like this.
I'm curious as to why the authors of your book think it's more likely to be an off-the-cliff, as opposed to the more long descent take predicted by JMG et al.
Simple answer would be because we are already wound up too tight and long distance chain dependent. We are increasingly less resilient, because we do not have significant stock piles (broadly defined.) We are all about ever accelerating flow. Interesting note would be that author actually mentions JMG's model as example of more graceful descent.

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Re: Collapsology- What's Your Intuition?

Post by unemployable »

7Wannabe5 wrote:
Wed Dec 09, 2020 3:38 pm
Ever? Or just not this century?
Not within my lifetime and I don't have kids. And I'm not sure what the argument for having kids is if you think there will be one within the next century.

I could see the US splitting up as early as 10 years from now (don't think it's likely, just the earliest reasonable date), but wouldn't call that a collapse -- I'd look forward to it.

Hristo Botev
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Re: Collapsology- What's Your Intuition?

Post by Hristo Botev »

unemployable wrote:
Wed Dec 09, 2020 3:40 pm
Not within my lifetime and I don't have kids. And I'm not sure what the argument for having kids is if you think there will be one within the next century.
Well, I'm personally not anticipating an extinction level event. Human life will continue; there will just be less of it with fewer resources. And we have kids because its in our make-up to do so.

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