Saturday, May 29, 2010

The Archdruid Report

The Archdruid Report

There is some quite interesting writing going on at JMG's place here. This weeks discussion is about life after abundance, which is interesting in and of itself, both as your own post-layoff planning as well as in his sense of the era coming after our oil era ends (right now).

But he also has a discussion of "Doomer Porn" vs "BAU" (business as usual) dichotomies that capture people's imaginations. This is I think a fascinating phenomenon and well worth exploring. After spending enough time trying to understand the structural weakness of our system, one ruminates through plenty of people's Doomer disaster stories. It could be the post oil scenarios of, LATOC, it could be the post attack vision of the Lights Out pdf floating around the internet. It could be the debt collapse vision of Daily Reckoning (whose writing is always entertaining and might not count as doomer porn on its face) and the now defunct Housing Panic blog. It could also be ecocide and environmental collapse that some foresee.

It almost doesn't matter. What does matter is that when you read these stories and listen to people's fears and envisionings, there turns out to be a tremendous amount of imagination for hollywood-style social crashes. What there is NOT is realistic scenario planning. This is in direct contrast to those who simply cannot see life getting much worse ever - the cornucopians. Those who see technology helping us solve the oil problem, the market's invisible hand guiding us benevolently toward more benign yet powerful energy solutions. Perhaps we'll even have Jetson-style floating cars!

There is little thought as to the sorts of middle-run scenarios that are much more likely. For instance, as troublesome as this particular recession has been, if this is the spectacular crash with the survivalists on shortwave, the exerbike-electricity generators, the zombie hordes radiating out from the cities, well then it is a little bit of a letdown. On the cornucopian side, while markets are awesome and scientific development is simply flat out cool, we can see with the gulf that tools of science and the engine of the market can also create gigantic problematic fuckups. 300 foot deep layers of heavy oil suspended in the gulf in areas measured by the square mile is not floating cars. Not even close.

What will happen and the kind of planning that will help as opposed to entertain will be that which identifies the key structural weaknesses most likely to cause trouble. It will include trying to figure out how those structural weaknesses will wobble and weaken before they fail. AND it will require some imagination into how real honest-to-God historical nightmares unfolded. Seriously, we don't need to dream up zombie hordes when right here in the US we had an Indian genocide so that the US could take their land. We had a real civil war, that didn't play out anything like Turner Diaries envisioned. Within living memory Europe had the Holocaust, the Balkans' troubles, Africa had Darfur and Zimbabwe.

This capture the irony that is so critical here. Real Bad Shit has actually happened, and recently enough to learn from it. And none of it much resembles the doomer porn worriers enjoy. And the market sometimes dope-slaps you up side the head when the resources run out. There have been famines because crops failed. We aren't immune to problems either.

In sum, real planning for real bad times is going to include lots of thinking and planning somewhere between the equally unlikely zombie hordes and flying cars. It's going to include honest assessments of which supports are likely to fail and how to deal with that, especially in a dynamic system with 299 million other citizens adapting as well. And for the truly worst case scenarios, don't imagine Hollywood, investigate real history. Insight into a social situation and a broad understanding of the real ways societies fail will guide your "preps" much more effectively.

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