Thursday, December 30, 2010

systemic collapse

Video - Preparing and survival in the city.

Countercurrents | Systemic collapse, societal collapse, the coming dark age, the great transformation, the coming crash, the post-industrial age, the long emergency, socioeconomic collapse, the die-off, the tribulation, the coming anarchy, perhaps even resource wars (to the extent that this is not an oxymoron, since wars themselves require resources) ― there are many names, and they do not all correspond to exactly the same thing, but there is a widespread belief that something immense and ominous is happening. Unlike those of the Aquarian Age, the heralds of this new era often have impressive academic credentials: they include scientists, engineers, and historians. The serious beginnings of the concept can be found in Paul and Anne Ehrlich, Population, Resources, Environment (1970); Donella H. Meadows et al., The Limits to Growth (1972); and William R. Catton, Jr., Overshoot (1980). What all the overlapping theories have in common can be seen in the titles of those three books.

Oil depletion is the most critical aspect in the systemic collapse of modern civilization, but altogether this collapse has about 10 principal parts, each with a vaguely causal relationship to the next. Oil, metals, and electricity are a tightly-knit group, as we shall see, and no industrial civilization can have one without the others. As those 3 disappear, food and fresh water become scarce (fish and grain supplies per capita have been declining for years, water tables are falling everywhere, rivers are not reaching the sea). These 5 can largely be considered as resource depletion, and the converse of resource depletion is environmental destruction. Disruption of ecosystems in turn leads to epidemics. Matters of infrastructure then follow: transportation and communication. Social structure is next to fail: without roads and telephones, there can be no government, no education, no large-scale division of labor. After the above 10 aspects of systemic collapse, there is another layer, in some respects more psychological or sociological, that we might call “the 4 Cs.” The first 3 are crime (war and crime will be indistinguishable, as Robert D. Kaplan explains), cults, and craziness — the breakdown of traditional law, the tendency toward anti-intellectualism, the inability to distinguish mental health from mental illness. After that there is a more general one that is simple chaos, which results in the pervasive sense that “nothing works any more.”

Systemic collapse, in turn, has one overwhelming cause: world overpopulation. All of the flash-in-the-pan ideas that are presented as solutions to the modern dilemma — solar power, ethanol, hybrid cars, desalination, permaculture — have value only as desperate attempts to solve an underlying problem that has never been addressed in a more direct manner. American foreign aid, however, has always included only trivial amounts for family planning; the most powerful country in the world has done very little to solve the biggest problem in the world.


nanakwame said...

One of the reasons I listen closely to you was that these warning came in the 1970's from some very bright and thoughtful people, like Paul and Anne Ehrlich. The far-left had bright folks, also. But class struggle or DOP was not the answer; it was just another form of Statism, which ironically Marx was against in the long run. His short term predictions were off which is usually the case for many. Literature and creative tools have proven much more, like Mary Shelly and Phillip K. Dick, and of course computing.
It also showed me that my nation had to have shocks to move on what were truths. We had a shock and we went in the wrong direction for many reasons, starting with the so-called me generation and then 9/11. The younger generation always produced some smart folks and aesthetic experiences, learning from their parent’s mistakes. My hope and faith can only be with you guys, for what is immortality but remembrance of what has been passed down.

CNu said...

That wrong turn after 9/11 was an inevitable outcome of pure warsocialist madness. Now there are those who believe that a military "last man standing" policy is unfolding all around us, and that if we "bear with it" we will see the perspicacity of the long-range military operations analysts who planned this.

I'm not sanguine giving the extraordinarily contemporary assessment given by Fred Cooper in 1962 of the machinations of the military industrial congressional complex in the book The War State. It is becoming increasingly clear that we are caught up in a fustercluck of extraordinary proportions and that even the elites haven't properly planned for their own continuity in the face of what's around that signpost up ahead.

crescent said...

I think this is called Globalisation; economic power-shifting, multiculturalism, global cultures and the effects upon current, Western "superiority". This is (or will be) tantemount to the Renaissance, however it will have many differences as well. I disagree with your conclusion, world overpopulation is one cause of many. For me, the necessity for "refinement" to differentiate human beings from animals and to claim one population(s) as superior to another actually causes its downfall. Here, collaboration rather than competiton would be a better way to cope with this intellectual and global flux and economic power-shifting. However, competition (particularly via capialism) encourages the amassing of wealth and power, at the expense of others, token legislation and soundbites that attempt to appease a cynical (global) public that hides a resistance of those in power to accept (or collaborate with) emerging non-Western cultures and to accept the reality of a burgeoning global culture.

I don't share your concerns regarding oil depletion and other resources running out. Human beings are remarkably resourceful, creative ad adept at survival. For example; new forms of fuel have ben developed (electric cars for example) it is a problem of the human condition that pervades rather than one of materiality. As many are aware, capitalism cause its own downfall; its strengths are its weaknesses and it is these weaknesses that cause an inability to adapt. However, this is not to say that the running out of natural resources won't cause some major problems, however their solutions may create jobs and reinvigorate economies.

Postmodernity does not contain its own cure, many of the societal "symptoms" you list are part of the "Post modern condition". This condition of stasis yet (typically contradictively) flux will be cured by cultural impetus towards a global, multicultural actuality. However, this is a cultural change beyond Greek texts (mimesis, etc.), i.e. the Renaissance, it is a holism of cultural realities.

Good post CNU, I don't share all your concerns but I feel the imminence of change. It's nice to see someone attempting to address these problems. I also believe that the refinement of new technology helps to shift power from the West, yet the emergence of these technologies was to heighten the power and perceived superority of the West!

CNu said...

While I agree with most of what you've said, the dominant psychological and cultural modality will not permit this gradual powerdown and melding of cultures and interests into a global human renaissance. Rather, there will be a hardening of national and ethnic divisions that are part of the general buildup to collapse and cull.

As for this For example; new forms of fuel have ben developed (electric cars for example) it is a problem of the human condition that pervades rather than one of materiality. it is simply and flatly mistaken. There are no new forms of fuel (energy).

Yes, there are alternative energy transports, i.e., electricity rather than liquid gasoline, gassified coal, or liquid natural gas, however, the underlying coal or fossil fuel energy SOURCE is what has peaked - so irrespective of alternative transports - it is the limits of the underlying source combined with cultural inflexibility and inability to adapt to resource limitations that will inevitably precipitate the collapse.

ProfGeo said...

Here is a less academic but still interesting take (things aren't so bad, are they, if we have super cool kinetic typography to tide us over):

Not sure if I want to read a year's worth of NG just to get the moral of their fable. The ad exists to sell magazines, so I'm not assuming the same message will be in print as in the ad...

CNu said...

(things aren't so bad, are they, if we have super cool kinetic typography to tide us over):

Worse Prof..,

Those 21 megacities are really convenient abattoirs.

Kwestin - worldwide and without exception - what of value is grown, manufactured, mined or otherwise produced in these parasitic assemblages besides unfunded and unsustainable liabilities?

crescent said...


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