|From Disaster Movie by LionsGate|
My first serious introduction to the concept, back in the '80s, was through the book Limits to Growth by Meadows, et al. Recently, an excellent animation, There's No Tomorrow by Incubate Pictures (see at top of righthand sidebar) lays out the situation in a clear and accessible manner.
Go watch it... ...Okay, you back?
Growth is inherently exponential. Any system with a positive growth rate doubles in a finite period of time. The only alternatives are cessation of growth or decline, neither of which are viable options for our credit (aka debt) based economy. Planetary resources are finite. These are facts, universally agreed upon.
The core assertion is that consumption is proportional to the scale of the system. When it doubles, so does consumption. Historically speaking, this has been an understatement. Growth in consumption has outstripped growth of combined world economies and population (aka, the rising standard of living, averaged). This is also agreed upon; this growth is, in fact, considered necessary to modern economies.
Critics contend that we can innovate our way out from under the connection between growth and increased consumption. They assert that free market forces will drive innovation and make profitable the tapping of previously exorbitant reserves.
The problem I see with this is that innovation takes place within the laws of thermodynamics. It does not pull rabbits out of hats. Current conditions offer immense rewards for successful cold fusion, for example, but to no avail. Uneconomic reserves may become profitable to develop, but only if energy and other necessaries in the process remain relatively inexpensive. Rising costs of extraction and processing could eat up profitability.
The question is, how many doubling periods can we sustain before consuming the last of some vital resource (one upon which a functional economy depends)?
If your answer is "some finite number", welcome to lunatic fringe. If it's "some infinite number", congratulations... you're completely sane (you may leave, now... nothing in this post is going to make sense to you).
We've saturated the planet (no new, fertile continents to expand into). We've halved our reserves of energy, more or less, with no viable prospects to replace it. We've committed our economic and physical infrastructures, globally, to a dependence on cheap energy (particularly oil) and continuous growth. The same situation and consumption dynamics apply, even more strongly, to other non-renewables necessary to modern economies. Water, topsoil, plastics, to name a few.
Long odds are, we don't have another doubling period in us.
Despite quibbles over timing and mechanism, in doubling time we find ourselves approaching the end of our run. The glass is half full of us, half empty of resources. And that's the problem... sometime between now and when we double again, that's it.
A stitch in Time.
So here's how Anke and I approach all this in the here and now...
First, the observation that we're fortunate to be loving the life we live. We'd be out sailing on a shoestring whether or not we think the sky is falling. It's a happy coincidence that what we like doing is also a stitch in time.
Second, anybody looking forward to TEOTWAWKI just isn't picturing it. We're now some 7 billion souls on a planet that had substantially less than half that when I was born. One billion (a thousand million) of them are critically malnourished at present. For them, TEOTWAWKI has begun, and nobody's dancing.
Third, the bunker/hoarder approach isn't to our taste. I mean, look. A big pile of food ties you down. In the scenarios where it comes into its own, it's an attractive nuisance. Chances are it won't be starving hordes over-running your redoubt (not that we'd care to mow them down if it were), but a desperate yahoo with an improvised slingshot, who'll put your lights out from behind while you're rotating canned peas. And when that food's gone, it's gone.
Our (engineless) sailboat affords us mobility - the means and skills to git, if and when the gittin's good. Safety from mobs (likely to be orbited and infested by bullies, thieves and other abusers) lies in social distance. Forage is good, in our area, but is spread wide over a large region. Should trade be possible, the ability to transport goods from one zone to another is essential.
Hoarding is a dead end, for us, but we do keep a years worth of supplemental carbs aboard (grains and legumes). A straight up benefit is that we don't have to check into any town, much less a larger one (with cheaper goods) for a year at a time. In TEOTWAWKI terms, it would give a year or more to address whatever learning curve new conditions present (depending on how quickly we learn to extend it with local, wild plants).
That learning curve plays out against our chosen grounds. Despite inroads, it's one of the richest and most intact bioregions left in North America. As we learn to subsist in ever greater degree, that abundance is fresh food in a natural pantry that can't be emptied, broken into or burnt.
Skills are the greatest possessions in a desperate world. Not only are they directly useful, they can't be taken from us, and make us more valuable alive than otherwise. Don't take up space, don't rust (well okay... they fade a bit), and sharpen with use. How to make things, find and identify and prepare plants, hunt and fish, make fire, treat trauma and illness. That's a hoard worth having!
Tools are handy things. Steel tools are what separate us from neolithic technology (which, by the way, I consider superior technology, and the hope of the further future). Steel, and a mountain of knowledge and practice. I see workable steel being readily available for several generations to come. Couple that with a basic knowledge of metalworking, and you can bootstrap yourself up from any pile of scrap. Start with a knife.
Meanwhile, the boat and its gear, a good set of handtools, food processing, sewing and fishing gear pretty well covers the field.
Last but not least is community. People you know, trust and love; who know, trust and love you in return. These will be your allies if and when push comes to shove. You'll have things to offer one another none foresaw. Knowledge and skills and strengths in common. Resources and tactics. Commiseration and good times.
Anke and I have such a network webbed across all the communities of our range. We meet and bond with new folks every season; reconnect and deepen our ties with old friends.
If you're reading this, I'm pleased to count you among them.
Post Collapse Skills to Get NOW
- Survival Training
- Basic Medical Training (don't neglect midwifery)
- Pharmacopoea (natural medicines and tinctures, aspirin, antibiotics, anaesthetic)
- Dentistry (cavity stabilization, tooth extraction)
- Basic Self Defense
- Engineless Sailing
- Make Fire, Vinegar, Pine Tar, Charcoal, Tallow, Soap, Rope/twine, Leather, Weaving
- Flint-napping? Basketry? Pottery?
- Forage / Gardening / Food Preservation (drying, smoking)
- Milling / Plant Oil Extraction
- Fishing / Hunting (snares)
- Carpentry / Boatwright
- Metalwork (forging, tempering and shaping tools)
- Leather tanning
- Stone-age skills (start-from-zero skills)
Stuff to Get NOW
- Sailboat, Gear and Outfit
- Full Set of Hand Tools
- Fixit Materials
- Non-Hybrid Seeds
- Year's Supply of Food?
- Firearms / Ammuniton
Just a couple thoughts on firearms...
A .22 rifle is a versatile weapon, and was the choice of Inuit hunters (among the best in the world). Ammo is inexpensive and compact, and comes in a variety suitable for a range of uses. They're light, accurate, and powerful enough (with a well placed shot) to take down the biggest game, and certainly deer. Do note that it is illegal, in most states, for game larger than varmint, being considered too light for a reliable kill-shot.
A shotgun is even more versatile. With an array of barrels, chokes and ammunition types it can range from birdshot to big game, being fully adequate at every stage. Unfortunately, ammo and accessories take more space, and is quite expensive in comparison to the .22 .
Firearms aren't necessary for hunting, but they, like food on board, give a cushion for tackling the learning curve.