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Anke and I live aboard WAYWARD, and wrote about it's design and construction at

Access to the net comes and goes, so I'll be writing in fits and spurts.Please feel free to browse the archives, leave comments where you will and write... I'll respond as I can.

Fair winds!

Dave and Anke
triloboats swirly gmail daughter com

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

A Stitch in Time

From Disaster Movie by LionsGate

A Stitch in Time

For years I've been huffling about TEOTWAWKI, The End Of The World As We Know It.

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, (Regular and Activated) Charcoal, Tallow, Soap, Rope/twine, Leather, Weaving
  • Flint-napping? Basketry? Pottery?
  • Forage / Gardening / Food Preservation (drying, smoking)
  • Milling / Plant Oil Extraction
  • Beekeeping
  • 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.


  1. I've been aware of problems since the 70s. We seem to be looking at quite the crunch right now. ]

    Interesting times.

  2. Excellent post and rather timely. My wife and I are hoping to begin construction of our own TriloBoat this Spring for the very reasons you discuss here. Can't tell you how happy we are to have found your blog and website. Thank you for all you've posted, it's been a great help in our preparations, and a joy to read.

    1. Captain and Crew,

      Welcome Aboard! Honored to be a part of your lives... drop me a line, anytime, and let me know how it's going, or if there's any way I can help.


  3. A excellent summing up. I follow a lot of macroeconomists and analysts and this rates right up there with the finest of their essays. BTW: Dmitri Orlov is scheduled to speak on the Lifeboat Hour on Progressive radio (.com) this Sunday at 5 PM Alaska time. I'd promote this essay as a great companion piece to his classic on the return of the age of sail. Good point on food hoarding in relation to cruising in a resource rich area as well as the realities of theft and violence once the crunch comes down. As many have pointed out, the more complex the system the more rapid and devastating the breaking of it and there are so many black swans now that some are just looking for a white one. Early prep far beats waiting awhile! Best to be prepared as it costs little and the nights sleep is so much better. Then.... enjoy the ride because our tenures here planetside are short. Economic cavalcades have always been with us throughout history and folks have always dealt with it. Toss in overpopulation now and resource depletion and we're in new territory. Strange new land for the next few decades. Collapse adherents seem to be coining the moniker "zombies" for those who are not getting it now that evidence is brimming to the contrary. Best to keep the info flow coming to help out, like this post, but the reality is a lot of folks just won't believe it, do anything about it, or help themselves. Oh well. Another trick is going to be dodging the predations of dying dinosaur states (various gubmints) which are hungry and desperate to survive: in classic wild crusing grounds occasionally a dinosaur tail will thrash towards us and the nimble and aware will do well. Overall a awesome post and thanks. To the couple above who are going to build a trilo: good on ya!!!! Really really good times await you afloat. Such wonderful peace of mind having a paid-off, systems independent home.

  4. Best post on the subject I have read in a good while. I have accumulated skills and tools(and the knowledge to use them) over the years but I'd like to have the boat now. I do think we need to have some plan in place. I am remembering the riots in London last year and how quickly it all degenerated to the rule of the mob, ready to kill, and people did die. Authorities and police? In many communities in the UK, they are regarded as being the biggest gang around. They could not protect people then and they won't in the future. The only way is to be as far away as possible. I want to protect my family and I wish they were more into it than they are now.

    1. Hi Joel,

      One aspect I appreciate from THERE'S NO TOMMORROW is that it can serve as a starting point for discussion with family/friends.

      It's difficult to present a complex chain of reasoning in a give-and-take interaction, and this lays it all down as a foundation for further council.

      And you're so right about the madness of crowds. Authorities are, at best, easily overwhelmed in their ability to keep the peace and protect individuals. At worst, they may become part of the problem, and quite possibly dangerous.

      'Social distance' is an excellent strategy... achievable, non-violent, and gets one out into the fresh air.


  5. After reading your article David I can't help feeling helplessly locked into work, mortgage and family that is less aware than me of TEOTWAWKI (and I am barley aware). I have merciless ocean all around me and no safe supportive wilderness. I think you are in a place that allows great self-sufficiency and provides a safe haven from future turmoil. Your place is unique. How many David and Anke's will it support? How could you live with the overcrowding?

    I do like a lot of what the oil dependant world has given me. New technology actually saved my life. I don't feel greedy. I save power, water, cook at home etc. Isn't that enough...I guess I am like the frog in the pot of water that is slowly heating up. No matter what I do(apart from jumping out of the pot = another planet)the outcome is inevitable.

    1. Hi Brad,

      You raise several profound and poignant points, which I'll respond to separately. I'll count and capitalize the sections for clarity...

      FIRST is awareness.

      One of the perks of living in the present moment is access to information, both raw and 'predigested'.

      In (almost) raw form, a zillion graphs attest to exponential growth of consumers and consumption on the one hand, vs. exponential decline of the consumed on the other.

      Pre-digested are the various interpretations (including mine) of the raw data... canned pronouncements of what it all MEANS.

      AWARENESS comes via seeking out the raw data. Mulling it over in conversation with your family and community. Communicating clearly that the QUESTION is important; that it urges an ANSWER... what do we make of this? How might we respond?

      Involving your family and friends in assessing the situation may well have surprisingly positive results, whatever you collectively decide.

      SECOND is helplessness within a given situation (mortgage, work).

      You have two basic CHOICES, assuming you decide that preparation is in order (to be decided with your family)... Stay with the mortgage and prepare in your present context, OR walk away from the debt (and equity) and set up in a new configuration.

      Your PRESENT employment may or may not be part of any new situation. Finances are definitely important, and some sort of cash flow will remain a part of any preparations you make.

      THIRD is your chosen locale.

      In the big picture, you're in a relatively good region. You're ON THE BEACH (refering to Neville Shute's Novel), as far removed from N hemisphere concentrations of nuclear situations as this planet affords.

      We (in AK) are among the first in line for Fukushima's fallout, and share prevailing winds with 99% of all nuclear devices. We only average a foot of topsoil in aboriginal rainforest... global warming may strip the carpet from under us. Point is, nobody's SAFE from TEOTWAWKI.

      Australia's aboriginals have by far the longest contiguous history of ANY peoples on earth. Learning the ways of living within a given environment is the human heritage, over a span predating and dwarfing history. We, too, can relearn to live simply in our locale.

      Carrying capacity presents definite limits. If crowds flooded to SE AK (or any region) in preparation for whatever, yes... we'd all overload carrying capacity. As of today, though, I don't see many who are ready to live simply, whether in preparation or not.

      Ditto any Outback.

      LAST is the preference for the status quo.

      I'm with you, Brother! I love new technology. I see well through polycarbonate lenses. I love chocolate and coffee and olives and cheese and, and, and...!

      Alas, I think that neither greed nor moderation, living right nor wrong, walking lightly nor heavily will avert what's coming. We can choose to take our best shot for meeting it, and that's all.

      Meanwhile, we try to live as fully, wisely and well as we are able.


  6. Always options.... best to keep a positive frame of mind. A bit off boats but may I suggest the works of Carolyn baker who is a psychoanalyst who specializes in collapse related depression, angst, and coping mechanisms. The lifestyle posited here is decidedly harder than what most americans have been used to, but worth the effort. Adapt or have a very rough time of what's coming. But count your lucky stars you are alive and actually have options.