Tag: collapse

Star’s Reach (book review)

John Michael Greer’s weekly blog, The Archdruid Report always strikes deeply into the heart of industrial society.   I’ve read a number of Greer’s non-fictional musings on the de-industrial future, including Not the Future We Ordered, The Ecotechnic Future, The Long Descent, and The Wealth of Nature (an obvious corrective to Adam Smith’s The Wealth of Nations,  and desperately needed gravity boots for “free-market” moonwalkers).  If the spiraling crises of our time were a hurricane, then Greer’s projections might well form the central tendency of the cone of probability for landfall.  His latest work titled Star’s Reach is a fictional account that imagines humanity’s next phase of de-industrial living.

Star’s Reach takes place several hundred years in the aftermath of global industrial collapse.  The former continental United States has since broken apart  into smaller regional states and allegiances by several bloody civil wars.  In the current regional quasi-stability, the reader encounters both the post-industrial wreckage and recovery of civilization through the eyes of a senior apprentice of the ruinmen’s guild that scrapes out a hazardous living salvaging pre-extracted and refined materials conveniently left in ruins on the Earth’s surface by the industrial past.  Because these resources were previously extracted to the energetic limits of industrial society, the ruins essentially represent the last resources of their kind to be extracted.  In this low energy future, industrial complexity and the excesses of fossil-fueled growth have been severely pruned back, and life has re-proliferated more modestly along more pre-industrial, somewhat Medieval/Mercantilish arrangements.

Chastened by a mass die-off, a renewed, conservative reverence for Mother Nature has supplanted the heedless zealotry of the Myth of Infinite Progress, which left a wake of environmental destruction in the forms of catastrophic climate change, plague, uncontrolled nuclear meltdowns, and a toxic legacy of developmental and DNA derangements, resulting in high mortality rates and widespread hermaphroditism.  A reversion to matrilineal primacy is further evident in the politically powerful and tightly controlled sorority exclusive to women able to give viable, normal birth; as well as in the guild of Priestesses that lay down the law on activity Ma’m Gaia permits and what she forbids, such as the unapproved burning of fossil fuels (punishable by death); not to mention the female President of Meriga who has kept further civil wars at bay for the past 40 years.    

De-industrial life, trimmed back and ordered at lower complexity, having more conservative cultural sensibilities, and simpler  pleasures, remains harder and less plentiful than before TEOTWAWKI.  And it may not be improving.  As with all finite resource problems, even the ruinmen, and thus society at large, face diminishing returns after having picked the low hanging fruit of industrial salvage.  Further, vast amounts of valuable knowledge had been lost during the centuries of cascading, catabolic collapse, so one of the (typically illiterate) ruinman’s skills includes rescuing disintegrating written materials, the value of which is initially ascertained by freelance “failed scholars” hired by ruinman guilds before being sent to remnant universities for transcription, cataloging, preservation, interpretation, and any selective diffusion.    

The story itself begins when our half-literate ruinman apprentice nearly becomes “reborn” into Ma’m Gaia’s embrace upon unearthing his masterwork, a tangible written clue to the existence of a legendary industrial project known as Star’s Reach, a clue he can use to either lay claim to the site as his own dig, if it actually exists and he can find it, or which he can surely sell for substantial lifestyle changes.  In taking the gamble, our newly-minted Mister takes on his own apprentice (full of surprises, that kid!), and embarks on a Hobbity adventure that attracts a socially cross-sectional cast of characters whose unfolding motivations collectively reveal an underlying societal tension between post-collapse cultural humility and the human urges for progress and power.  In addition to touring post-collapse American landscapes and customs (we still drink, cuss and privately stuff fuzzy little rabbits in one another’s ears in the future) THERE ARE IMPORTANT MESSAGES OUT THERE WAITING FOR YOU.  There may also be a guild or two you haven’t heard of.  Now that’s a darn good tale!

P.S. If you’re looking for some despairing, forlorn, gritty and hopeless post-apocalyptic, graphic nightmare of a yarn, Star’s Reach is definitely not that book.  It is a far cry from The Road.    

Comprehensive failure

Another three-ton object hurtles from its decaying orbit towards Earth, so today must be another day ending in “y”.  Dying in the brimstone of space junk, however, is not our most pressing matter by a long shot.  Not that space junk crashing into other space junk is a minor concern, given our dependence on global communications that the fragile “junk-o-sphere” makes possible.  A critical mass of fragment-generating collisions could be a real game changer, and is yet just another reminder of our seemingly infinite human ability to err on the side heedlessness.

Limits to growth: Implementing the crash program 39 years later

Thirty nine years ago (1972), the extremely prescient Limits to Growth was published, basically arguing that the Earth’s finite resources, e.g., food, water, air, etc., created a natural limit or “carrying capacity” to sustainable human populations.  At or near the limits of carrying capacity, population growth must cease, or any growth that occurred would have to depend on concomitant increases in efficiency of resource utilization, rather than in quantitative resource usage, in order for the population to be sustainable into the foreseeable future.  The consequences of exceeding carrying capacity were articulated long ago:

What most frequently meets our view (and occasions complaint), is our teeming population: our numbers are burdensome to the world, which can hardly supply us from its natural elements; our wants grow more and more keen, and our complaints more bitter in all mouths, whilst Nature fails in affording us her usual sustenance.  In very deed, pestilence, and famine, and wars, and earthquakes have to be regarded as a remedy for nations, as the means of pruning the luxuriance of the human race.

-Tertullian (De Anima)

I love that quote, not just for the Four Horsemen and the equation of “human luxuriance” with the relief of apocalypse, but also the acute observations about wants growing more keen and complaints more bitter, which aptly describes the effects of activating the endocrine stress axis.

“I say that with absolutely no conviction.”

Real estate agent Steve Thoele is “curious” about the continuing decline in housing prices:

“You do kind of wonder where the bottom is,” said Mr. Thoele. “Sellers know in the back of their mind that their home is worth less than at the peak, but they’re still a little surprised when you tell them their $400,000 house is now worth $300,000.”

I kind of wonder, too.  Uh-huh.  If only there were data on home prices spanning back, say, a hundred years or so, that might indicate a somewhat stable historical mean house price.  Oh, wait a minizzle…what’s this?


This graph of the Case-Shiller index over the past hunnert-twenty years, or so, (last updated to 2010) shows that homes began outrageously over-shooting their historical value starting in about 1996-97.  The plot thickens.  It was a dark and stormy night.  A shot rang out!  Where could that housing bottom (and those weapons of mass destruction) possibly be?

Kevin Drum: Financial parasites “almost” out of control.

In response to lamentations about the utter vacuum of serious left-wing discourse in the blogosphere, and the more general neoliberal bent of the nominal left, Kevin Drum replies:

I plead guilty to some general neoliberal instincts, of course, but I plead guilty with (at least) one big exception: I am very decidedly not in favor of undercutting labor rights in order to stimulate economic growth, and I’m decidedly not in favor of relying solely on the tax code to redistribute wealth from the super rich to the rest of us. What’s more, the older I get and the more obvious the devastating effects of the demise of the American labor movement become, the less neoliberal I get. The events of the past two years, in which the massed forces of capital came within a hair’s breadth of destroying the world economy, and yet, phoenix-like, have come out richer and more powerful than before, ought to have convinced nearly everyone that business interests and the rich are now almost literally out of control. If they haven’t, what would?

What indeed would it take to convince Drum that the financial parasites are unequivocally “out of control?”  

Imagine if Jared Loughner had not killed anyone, but only “winged” a few people as he wildly sprayed bullets into the crowd before his spree was temporarily arrested.  Would Drum call that behavior “almost literally out of control.”  Would Drum’s enthusiasm for psychotically-motivated shooting sprees be only somewhat dampened?  Or would he support giving Loughner molecular grade methamphetamine and a larger gun clip?

The fact that Drum remains the least bit equivocal on the question of whether the theoretical basis for the neoliberal agenda has completely and unequivocally de-bunked, shredded, gutted and strangled itself with its own entrails tells you all you need to know about his ability to examine the evidence.  The proportion of bad news accounted for by the neoliberal agenda approaches 1.0, and compared to the Loughners of the world,  zombie money kills real people, on a much, much grander scale.

If you are not pierced in the heart with fear upon hearing Drum’s ambivalent concerns about neoliberalism, and the lack of true left-wing voices, much less the massing of left-wing armies on our ideological borders against the imminent existential threat resulting from financial weapons of mass destruction, don’t even bother to duck and cover when you see the white-hot flash on the horizon.  The annihilation will be systemic and global.

Barack Obama guarantees it:

Barack Obama is 130% pro-parasite.

Everything’s Falling Apart: Moksha Revisited

Everything’s going to get worse in time, because as you know, it does!

We all fall apart in the end.

Everything falls apart, institutions, buildings, nations, it all crumbles.

I would rather say that the people who have hope in the future are the miserable people, because they’re like donkeys chasing carrots dangled before their noses from sticks attached to their collars.

And they pursue and they pursue in vain, always hoping that tomorrow will be the great thing. And therefore incapable of enjoying themselves today.

People who live for the future never get there, because when their plans mature, they are not there to enjoy them.

The whole idea you see is, everything’s falling apart! So don’t try and stop it!

When you’re falling off a precipice it doesn’t do you any good to hang on to a rock that’s falling with you!

This is another case of our completely wasting our energy, in trying to prevent the world from falling apart!

Don’t do it! And then you’ll be able to do something!


Shit Town


When they tried to name the place, some wanted to call it Dawn City or New America or New Phoenix (like mythical bird rising from the ashes.) But the more folks thought about it and realized our circumstances and understood the reason we were huddled here in this remote area protecting ourselves from the elements and marauding bands of sadistic skinheads, was because the world had gone to shit, well, the name might not be what some Madison Avenue type would have called it, but the naming was easy.

Shit Town.

Warning Shot


The Oil Age is over. Running on the fumes of empty. It is a ghost empire. The Age of Ponzi-scheme fractional banking is over. The house of cards has collapsed. The emperor not only has no clothes, but he has no skin, bones or blood. He was always a mirage.

Civilization as we have known it in our lifetimes – the move toward centralization, globalization, authoritarianism – is at an end.

Believe it or not.

Stoneleigh’s take on Obama.

I personally find it difficult to restrain my criticism of Obama, as he appears to be a recidivist lickspittle to the plutocracy, completely unfit for duty to the nation, the most non-hopiest, non-change-iest fucker ever born.  Nevertheless, I found these admittedly grim comments by Stoneleigh on Obama’s “historical context” worth taking into account, as well.

Replying to Erltonsquire (first quote, all emphases mine), she writes:


I don’t want America’s first black president to be blamed for the next depression. He means too much as a symbol.

I don’t want to see that happen either, as the consequences for racial harmony could be catastrophic. Unfortunately, however, circumstance dictates that is exactly what will happen. Anyone elected at such a time takes the blame, whether or not it can plausibly be construed as his fault. Look what happened to Hoover’s reputation.

The two candidates at the last election were fighting over the poisoned chalice. I think it’s very unfortunate that Mr Obama won at this particular time and is now in the line of fire. I actually feel very sorry for him and especially his family. I don’t think he has any idea what is about to hit him politically. Unfortunately he encouraged people to believe he had the power to change things, which he doesn’t. It is very dangerous for politicians to believe their own propaganda and willingly step up on to a pedestal. It just means they have further to fall.

Whatever one may think of current events, it actually makes little sense to focus on blaming the president, as his actions are so constrained, and events are so dependent on long term socieconomic moves that precede his term. The system is larger than any man and it is simply broken. A blame game won’t help anyone. Sadly nastier and nastier blame-games are exactly what increasingly angry people engage in in such times. I always suggest that people save their energies for more constructive purposes that can actually benefit their loved ones.

Mr Obama is in the wrong place at the wrong time. All he can do is cheerlead while presiding over a sclerotic and dysfunctional system that is completely unresponsive to the needs of the populace. Such a system can no longer do anything constructive. Sadly the destructive power that remains is still being deployed, and probably will continue to be so on a wider and wider scale. Tragically, this will be Mr Obama’s legacy, whatever he personally does or does not do.

June 1, 2010 8:24 AM

Hard to gainsay much of anything said above, and what a mouthful!  I do think Stoneleigh’s acuteness reaches its vanishing when she says,

I always suggest that people save their energies for more constructive purposes that can actually benefit their loved ones.

One last question: Can Wall Street create catastrophe bonds for politicians?  Because I want in!

Moksha: It Was Hid So Carefully

Chattering finch and water-fly

Are not merrier than I

Here among the flowers I lie

Laughing everlastingly

No: I may not tell the best

Surely, friends, I could have guessed

Death was but the good king’s jest

It was hid so carefully

— G.K. Chesterton

NYT: The American worker is overpaid!

Yes, folks, what’s wrong with the American economy is that the American worker is paid too much.

This according to the “liberal” New York Times.

I suppose that America just can’t be competitive in the world economy until we have 15 year old girls making 6 cents an hour in our factories.

American Wages Out of Balance


Published: November 10, 2009

American workers are overpaid, relative to equally productive employees elsewhere doing the same work. If the global economy is to get into balance, that gap must close.

Gotta love that phrase:  “If the global economy is to get into balance”.

So that’s the underlying assumption now?   That it’s all about “the global economy?”   What about the American economy, you blowhards?

The NY Times is actually telling us that we all need to drop to “emerging economy” status in order to get the “global” economy “into balance.”   What the fuck does that even MEAN?    Who benefits from that?   Why, GLOBAL corporate bosses, that’s who!    Nobody else benefits form it,   JUST THEM.

And they’re already doing just fine.   A friend of mine just reported on Facebook that he’s working on a shoot aboard a $88 million dollar yacht, complete with a heliport for, you know, those times when the speedboat just isn’t fast enough.   In the meantime, millions of Americans can’t get jobs, and are losing everything.

And we’re being told we’re supposed to take a fucking PAY CUT?

And check this out:

The global wage gap has been narrowing, but recent labor market statistics in the United States suggest the adjustment has not gone far enough.

Oh, it’s been “narrowing” has it?  That’s what you call it?   I call it everybody making less money, I call it the  middle class being squeezed into non-existence, I call it economic COLLAPSE for this country.    But according to these fucktards, we’re “getting closer!”   To whatever they think it a “good” spot.   “Balance!”    Ah, who doesn’t want “Balance?”

What the article, and idiots like this, ALWAYS fail to point out, is that “emerging economies” have taken all the work because the CEO class is able to completely bypass generations of blood, sweat, and tears on the part of the American workers to get humanity-preserving and environment-preserving regulations into the Industrial landscape.   Our forefathers worked and fought and in many cases DIED for this stuff, and now the CEO class is just doing an end-run around 100 years or true progress in order to make cheap goods and increase THEIR profits.

They entice us by selling us this cheap shit, which works for a little while, but now?   The party’s over.   We’re all being told we have to now take paycuts to restore “balance” to the world economy, i.e. resort to making wages on the level of South Korea or elsewhere.  

Which is absolute fucking BULLSHIT.

Got dollars?  Well trade ’em in for something else.    These people want the dollar to fail:

Both moderate inflation to cut real wages and a further drop in the dollar’s real trade-weighted value might be acceptable.

I like how they say “acceptable”.   Like they have the power to “accept” this or not.   And maybe they do (not the writers but the transnational elites who now run things).   Dollars are now for suckers.   The dollar has to fall to make American goods cheaper to everyone else.

In other words, you can keep your $9 an hour job, because in a few years $9 will be worth about $2 and that will have restored things into “balance”.   And if you argue, they’ll tell you hey, you’re still making $9 an hour, what are you complaining about?

Les Leopold has a great rebuttal to all of this crap over at HuffPo right now.   He says it better than I can.

They are preparing us for the horrific rise in the unemployment rate that is still to come. But, like accidental time travelers from the go-go ’90s who haven’t learned that the current crash was manufactured by the financial sector, they predict the cause of any worsening in the situation will be those greedy workers.

In this they are recycling a theory that economists like Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke believe to be true: that the Great Depression got much, much worse because workers resisted wage cuts as deflation increased the buying power of their wages.

But blaming workers for their own unemployment is only possible if you adopt the deep logic of the Billionaire Bailout Society. In that world, financiers can do no wrong. In that world they deserve what they earn, because they earn it. In that world, wealth equals value, value equal wealth. By definition the super-rich are the most valuable among us. If their fantasy finance games eventually crash the entire system, we bail them out. Sure, they may have sent tens of millions to the unemployment lines, but that can’t be helped. Wall Street must be free to innovate and to earn their rapacious profits and bonuses. So under this logic, when unemployment skyrockets, like now, you blame workers for being overpaid. You see, the markets will resume job creation if they are free to adjust. We don’t want downwardly sticky wages caused by worker resistance to wage cuts. After all, wage cuts are for their own good and for the good of the unemployed. They must sacrifice for the good of their country.

Of course, even in this billionaire alternative reality, it’s very hard to get workers to cut their wages, especially while Wall Street is gorging itself at the bonus trough filled with workers’ tax receipts. So the authors suggest that “a moderate inflation to cut real wages and a further drop in the dollar’s real trade-weighted value might be acceptable.” In other words, we’ll cut their wages by devaluing them and maybe they won’t notice.

He ends with this:

The very last thing we need right now is to cut workers’ wages and turn over more booty to the billionaire bailout class. That should be clear to all by now unless you have succumbed to billionaire bailout logic.

Too bad they killed most of the Unions.   Do working americans really have a leg to stand on?

The wrong-way economy

The current economic troubles in the US can be explained as a simple case of policy inversion. Because our government is a plutocracy, controlled by the wealthy, its response to economic distress is to provide aid disproportionately to those who need it least. What we are witnessing is a zero-sum struggle between the 1 million people who run America and everyone else. Bankers, realtors, lawyers, lobbyists, and corporate executives are using the Federal Treasury to maintain their incomes, and this is being done at the expense of the vast majority of the American public.

An elaborate propaganda campaign has been created to persuade the people that the world will explode if the earnings of the plutocrats diminish. But the continuation of this reverse-Robin Hood policy is far more dangerous than cutting Federal subsidies to the wealthy. It is the American citizenry that provides the economic base that supports the affluent elites. By sinking the population under unsustainable debt to win a few more quarters of big bonuses and golden parachutes, the plutocrats are risking the total collapse of the US economy.

The correct course for US fiscal policy is for the government to stop being the lender of last resort and instead to become the EMPLOYER of last resort. Only by restoring a secure income stream to the working class and middle class can America’s prosperity be rebuilt. It is objected that government employment programs are wasteful. But just how efficient have our private employment markets been? How efficient has Wall Street been? How efficient has General Motors been? How efficient was Enron?

What Obama needs to do now is throw out his economic team and commit to a populist agenda. We need to stop grinding the US people down to keep champagne flowing on Wall Street.  Corporate executives with myopic vision restricted to the next quarter are not going to rebuild America’s transportation network, energy infrastructure, and educational facilities. Our government needs to put people back to work making the things America NEEDS. Instead, it is piling on more debt so that we can continue to consume the garbage that makes unsustainable profits for corrupt corporations.

When the private sector fails to allocate resources properly, the government must step in. We have witnessed a massive failure of resource allocation in America, and attempts to persist in that misallocation are doomed. The wealth of the people should be spent on the welfare of the people, not on the aggrandizement of a predatory elite. This is the change that America needs, and it is the change that Obama has failed to deliver.

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