The above graph is adapted from Limits to Growth, Revisited. It is not a hard and fast prediction, but rather the product of a model with 40 years of high correspondence with developments. We are, at present, at the top of the growth curves, many of which have already begun to plateau. Slopes of decline do not factor in such worst-case scenarios as widespread urban- or domestic nuclear facilities collapse consequent to economic collapse.

I've added the shading and 'crossover' circle' (coincident with 'peak everything') to indicate my best guess as to the high probablility zone for global, economic collapse, triggering the onset of TEOTWAWKI.

I fear a hard landing... no 'reboot' or 'transition' to a lower functioning economy. I urge high priority preparation now.

I've got a short glossary of terms at the bottom of this page... if you come across an unfamiliar term, please scroll down and check it out.

Information I'm including or pointing to doesn't mean I necessarily agree with it. Rather, I've found it to be stimulating and worthy of consideration. I'm sure you'll exercise your own judgement... we're nothing if not independent! 8)

Sunday, March 22, 2020

COVID-19: Observing the Collapse

Slowly at first, then all at once...

Case, case, case, cluster, cluster, BOOM!
-- Unknown, describing exponential growth

COVID-19: Observing the Collapse

The COVID-19 pandemic is bustling along exponentially.

Unmitigated, it would be an unmitigated disaster. Without hospital care, the death rate of the infected will approach the 20% with severe to acute symptoms. Virus spread would peak before August 2020 with higher numbers infected and dead.

Efforts to flatten the curve appear at this writing to be too little, to late. Outside China, measures have started late and not been as strident, losing the opportunity for containment. Even if successful, the measures prolong the crisis and must be maintained for the duration.

Either way, the healthcare system looks fail and the wider economy is shutting down.

Here to guide us in observing and understanding the Collapse are David Korowicz and Dmitry Orlov...

*****

David Korowicz wrote several relevant papers, describing the Global Industrial Economy (GIE) in terms of Complex Adaptive System (CAS) dynamics. These two in particular provide a foundation, and a play-book of sorts, for interpreting current events.

Trade-Off
Catastrophic Shocks in Complex Socio-Economic Systems: A Pandemic Perspective

His basic argument is that a CAS has a basin or range of stability bounded by tipping points. If it is sufficiently driven out of stability, a tipping point is reached. In the negative case, a single failure can lead to cascading failures among dependent sub-systems. When the dust settles, the system may well be collapsed.

In the human body analogy, imagine raising body temperature by one degree an hour. First discomfort an sweating as the body attempts cooling by evaporation. Soon, delerium and convulsions set in. Eventually, and organ fails, further stressing those dependent on it, and so on down the line. In a rapid cascade, the system collapses and stabilizes in death.

Yeah. I know.

*****

Dmitry Orlov offers a simpler analogy, and I quote from his post, Fragility and Collapse: Slowly at First, then All at Once:

You see, predicting that something is going to happen is a lot easier than predicting when something will happen.
Suppose you have an old bridge: the concrete is cracked, chunks of it are missing with rusty rebar showing through. An inspector declares it “structurally deficient.”
This bridge is definitely going to collapse at some point, but on what date? That is something that nobody can tell you. If you push for an answer, you might hear something like this: If it doesn’t collapse within a year, then it might stay up for another two. And if it stays up that long, then it might stay up for another decade.
But if it stays up for an entire decade, then it will probably collapse within a year or two of that, because, given its rate of deterioration, at that point it will be entirely unclear what is holding it up.

Since COVID, we see the cracks deepening and joining. Chunks large and small are falling thick and fast. We hear the groans of the still standing structure as massive weight is transfered.

*****

Dmitry, again, this time with his 5 Laws of Collapse. Again I quote:

Stage 1: Financial collapse. Faith in "business as usual" is lost. The future is no longer assumed resemble the past in any way that allows risk to be assessed and financial assets to be guaranteed. Financial institutions become insolvent; savings are wiped out, and access to capital is lost.

Stage 2: Commercial collapse. Faith that "the market shall provide" is lost. Money is devalued and/or becomes scarce, commodities are hoarded, import and retail chains break down, and widespread shortages of survival necessities become the norm.

Stage 3: Political collapse. Faith that "the government will take care of you" is lost. As official attempts to mitigate widespread loss of access to commercial sources of survival necessities fail to make a difference, the political establishment loses legitimacy and relevance.

Stage 4: Social collapse.
Faith that "your people will take care of you" is lost, as local social institutions, be they charities or other groups that rush in to fill the power vacuum run out of resources or fail through internal conflict.

Stage 5: Cultural collapse.
Faith in "the goodness of humanity" is lost. People lose their capacity for "kindness, generosity, consideration, affection, honesty, hospitality, compassion, charity" (Turnbull, The Mountain People). Families disband and compete as individuals for scarce resources. The new motto becomes "May you die today so that I die tomorrow" (Solzhenitsyn, The Gulag Archipelago). There may even be some cannibalism.

We are arguably in Stages 1-3, this early in the pandemic.



 In conclusion

We are nearing or in the tipping point as cascading failures multiply and accelerate.

London Bridge is falling down.

Faith is taking hit after hit as we work through the Stages of Collapse.

This has all the hallmarks of the Big One in full swing.


Gather your peeps and see to your preps!



Wednesday, March 4, 2020

COVID-19 Hospitalization Rates = SHTF = TEOTWAWKI

COVID-19

The fittest [is] not the strongest, but the most adaptable.
-- I Nai, possibly paraphrasing Leon Megginson definitely summarizing Charles Darwin


COVID-19 Hospitalization Rates = SHTF = TEOTWAWKI

Well damn.

This looks like it could very well be the Big One. I'll present the doomer case, followed by a glimmer of cautious hope.


Doomer Dope

Combining official figures published by the CDC and WHO, the estimated number of persons who will be infected and require hospitalization are staggering. Death rates are likely to rise dramatically as healthcare systems are overwhelmed.

Here's how it breaks down:

  • Of the world's total population of about 7.8 billion (7,800,000,000), leading epidemiologists estimate that 40 to 70% of world population will become infected, or about 3.12 to 5.46 billion people.

    Note: Dr. Lipsitch appears to have first released this estimate (WSJ article ref) and has been widely quoted by CDC officials. Other estimates are similar, some going as high as 80%.

    Note: If there is a very large group of infected persons who have not been detected (vs. known cases), these stats may fall to some degree. However, estimates of eventual infections would rise. It's not known which way the overall data would trend. Numbers remain high in any scenario.


  • Of the known infected, Chinese data (which appears to be supported by emerging global data) indicate that about 20% (1 in 5) will suffer severe (14%) to critical (5%) symptoms, requiring hospitalization and ICU, respectively. That is to say that;

    624 million to 1.092 billion would require hospitalization... roughly 1 in 16 to 1 in 8 of the global population.


  • Of the infected with severe symptoms, 2+% are dying at current rates. That's 12.48 to 21.84 million souls dead at current rates.

Note: The current mean global fatality rate is 3.4%. For updates go to this site (Johns Hopkins Dashboard) and divide TOTAL DEATHS by TOTAL CONFIRMED to find the global fatality rate among confirmed cases since onset. This method will be improved over time... this value is likely high by quite a factor.

Any substantial fraction of this case load will certainly overwhelm current and likely foreseeable health care capacity. As advanced care fails to keep pace with interventions, due to resource limits and exhaustion, the death rate will certainly rise. The upper limit is likely to approach the 20% of infected requiring but not receiving advanced care (624 million to a billion).

As healthcare resources are overwhelmed, fatality rates for other conditions, not directly related to the virus will rise.

Absentee rates due to isolation measures, illness and death would be very large, bringing production, supply-chains and economies to a standstill. We are already seeing large-scale economic effects in this early stage of pandemic.

We are presently in the early stages of what David Korowicz describes as Trade-OFF in such papers as this one, which specifically considers a pandemic scenario. In it, cascading failures propagate throughout the global industrial economy (contagion), resulting in Collapse.

Eventually, the system cannot adapt, one or more tipping points are reached and catastrophic failure ensues.

Throughout, the exponential growth rate - expressed as doubling times of confirmed covid19 infections - is critical. The disease spreads not arithmetically (1, 2, 3, 4, ...) but exponentially (1, 2, 4, 16, ...). Be aware that the rate of change is accelerating. Current doubling rate of infections outside China is every 4 days(!).


A Faint Glimmer of Hope

It may be that the Chinese experience is worse than elsewhere.

The Chinese epicenters of the virus suffer some of the worst air pollution in the world. Any air pollution makes respiratory symptoms worse, and constitute an important factor raising hospitalization and fatality rates. Less polluted areas may have lower rates.

First indications from other countries with lower levels of air pollution are not encouraging. At this writing, global fatality rates appear to fall between 1 and 4%, depending on the local state of healthcare available.

Today's averaged global fatality rate is 3.4% (discussion here).

The world is beginning to move in reaction to the virus. Health care (including hospital care) can be ramped up if will and time are available. To date, such escalation is beginning, but moving in fits and starts.

China - which appears to have slowed or halted new infections - took strident measures relatively early, while there were only limited epicenters. Outside of China, strident measures have yet to be taken, and the number of epicenters is multiplying exponentially.

We'll see.

*****

One way or another we are entering global TEOTWAWKI. Whether that is temporary or permanent remains to be seen.

The window for measured preparation is closing.

Sunday, April 8, 2018

Gypsy Rules for Survival

Cruising Live-Aboards

 The sky became their canopy
The earth became their throne
And as their raiment ran to rags
They thought it nothing wrong
For earth and sky are robe enough
When you sing the Gypsy Song.

-- From Beggars to God by Bob Franke


Gypsy Rules for the Survival

The term Gypsy - our outsider's name for the Romani peoples - stirs in settled folk a feeling of nostalgia and sometimes unease. Nostalgia for their own, lost, nomadic past, whether real or imagined. Unease from xenophobia - fear of the stranger. As a consequence, the Rom have had to navigate many hostile centuries, yet largely kept their identity and cultures intact.

Live-aboards and shanty dwellers have much in common with them, to the point that we often share the Gypsy moniker. We too are mobile among those who would prefer to see us settled down. We too often have more in common among ourselves than with those ashore. We too live along a fringe; in the cracks, as it were.

The following Gypsy tips, or rules for survival/thrival appeared in a post by Ugo Bardi, plus a few gleaned elsewhere. I'll start with the bare list, which I've paraphrased, generalized, rearranged and loosely grouped in triads, then take them one by one. They're presented as 'rules', but consider them advice...


Be yourself.
Cultivate a free spirit.
Family First.

Protect your privacy.
Blow smoke.
Never stand and fight.

Stay mobile.
Live light, travel light.
Seize opportunity.

Cultivate know-how.
Minimize overheads.
Waste not.


*****


Okay... let's unpack 'em a bit:

Be Yourself

BE yourself! Don't yield to conformity. Homogeneity. The pressure to be like everyone else. To blend in. You are unique in all the world. In all the Universe. Don't trade that away for love nor money!

To do so is to impoverish yourself and the world itself.


Cultivate a Free Spirit

Dance, sing, celebrate, make love! Never lose sight of the joy of living.

It's what makes it all worthwhile. What makes living more than mere survival.


Family First

Your family - be it your partner, your children, your kin or your tribe - are your first priority. Your family is your strength and well-being.

Invest yourself in them and theirs.




Protect your Privacy

Lots of folks are curious about how we live. But be cagey about what you tell whom. Not all of those interested are your friends. Detail can be used against you as gossip, rumor or as a pretext for official action.

Loose lips sink ships!


Blow Smoke

Mis-direction and mis-representation have their place, especially when dealing with officialdom. We want to appear as though we fit within the boxes on their forms, whether or not we do. We want to appear more settled and 'legit' than in fact we are.

Smoke and mirrors, my friends.


Never Stand and Fight

When in danger, when in doubt, hoist your sails and bugger out!  - Tristan Jones

Those dedicated to keeping freedom freedom-free tend to have the upper hand. To fight them is at best a full time job. At worst a losing proposition.

This is not to say that one shouldn't give due process a chance. But standing on principle come-what-may is a good way to lose one's home and possibly more.

Consider moving along before push comes to shove.




Stay Mobile

Mobility has us ready to roll on a moment's notice. Extends our range of options and access to resources. Keeps us fresh in outlook. With mobility, we are not bound to the misfortunes of one place. Nor must we suffer a bad neighbor.

If not mobile, we are sitting ducks.


Live Light, Travel Light

Don't you carry nuthin' that might be a load. Ease on down, ease on down the road. - The Wiz

To live and travel lightly keeps one focused on essentials. This good advice has been passed on from the most ancient of Wise Ones to the most successful of present-day sailors.

Take what you need and leave the rest.


Seize Opportunity

Make the most of good fortune. Recognize the Opportune Moment. Act decisively when a windfall comes your way.

Strike while the iron is hot!





Cultivate Know-How

DIY maintains your independence. Knowledge is portable, cannot be taken from you and makes you intrinsically valuable to others. What you can do is stock-in-trade.


Minimize Overheads

Overheads eat away at our substance. While we can never eliminate them entirely, we can keep them low.

The lower our overheads, the greater the return on any investment. The greater our freedom.

A penny saved is a penny earned.


Waste Not

We want to make full use of what we've acquired at cost. We often want to make full use of what others have neglected or abandoned.

Recycle, reuse, repurpose.

Thrifty does it...


*****


So there you have 'em. Rules for the Road from those who've been traveling a long time gone.

Like most advice of this nature, they're for your consideration. Take 'em or leave 'em. Adapt them to your unique situation. Add to them from any source you deem fit...

And ease on down the Road.







PS. Here are the original rules from Ugo Bardi's post, Survival Tips from the Gypsies, in order presented:
  1. In battle, the best strategy is flight.
  2. Don't carry and don't use weapons.
  3. Cherish your mobility.
  4. Travel light in life.
  5. Cultivate creative obfuscation.
  6. A man's family is his refuge.
  7. What you learned to do yourself, can never be stolen.
  8. Catch the occasion when you see it 
  9. Be jealous of your identity.
  10. Be a free spirit.
Note:  I skipped number two in the preceding post. Definitely a point to consider seriously. It may be somewhat more context dependent than the others? Certainly, the use of a firearm against a human being is a choice fraught with consequence, however justified one may feel.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Forgetting How to Farm

 
It ain't the Old Days

Hell, before the War we was all organic farmers.
-- Overheard between two elder farmers in the 1960s

Forgetting How to Farm

One of the themes I yammer on about, here, is that things are different this time... that history is not a reliable guide for the collapse of modern civilization. And forgetting how to farm is one of the main reasons I believe this to be so.

I stipulate that more food is being produced, today, by fewer people than ever before in human history. Furthermore, I accept that modern transport and preservation technologies help maximize distribution and minimize scarcity.

So how, you may ask, can I argue that we have forgotten how to farm?

In a very real sense, human agriculture and animal husbandry are new on the scene. As homo sapiens we have only been farming for a tiny fraction of our existence. Nevertheless, some thousand generations hammered out their ways and means.

Only in the last eight millennia – a mere slice of deep time – did civilizational farming emerge. At first confined to flood plains and favored pockets. Later irrigated by labor and mechanical means. The horse harnessed and the plow perfected. Cultivars developed and breeds bred. Crop regimens and rotations increased yield. A host of supplementary technologies sprouted alongside, gradually improving the efficacy of farming within the budgets of sun and land (though not always the case).

And we thrived on its abundance. Our numbers grew in steady, exponential increase. Malthus famously plotted population growth versus the growth of food production and (correctly) warned of famine if trends continued.

Also famously, they did not. The discovery of the New World and its crops (especially potato and maize (corn)) and nitrate deposits bought some breathing room. The Industrial Revolution and fossil fuels brought new, mechanical muscle to the land. Dams and deep well technology allowed irrigation far from surface water tables. Chemistry brought pest- and herbicides and, best of all, the means to liberate vital nitrogen from the atmosphere.

And now, monoculture, 'marketable' hybrids, GMOs (Genetically Modified Organisms), slash-and-burn practices and other profit accelerants are displacing ever more traditional varieties.

What could possibly go wrong?

Well... there are costs. Arable acreage lost to 'development'. Topsoil loss and salination. Accumulating toxins in soil and environment. Fresh water and aquifer depletion and pollution. Evolving resistance among pests and infectious agents. New diseases leaping via crowded domesticated species to ourselves. Climate impacts. Ecosystem infringement and collapses. Our own burgeoning numbers as other species fade and fail. Systemic stress across the spectrum.

Each of these, individually, undermines the conditions for agriculture. Collectively, they undermine the very foundations of agriculture. Still, that's not the problem, per se. Societies have faced combinations of these factors in the past, and variously thrived, transformed or fell with trauma relatively local in time and space. Hence the notion that the past is a guide to the future..

But, in the course of only two or three generations, we have all but lost the means to farm without industrial technology. Should we stumble in our course – should the inputs from the grid, industrial chemistry, seed, fuel and machinery, transport, cold storage, processing and canning pause for longer than we can live from food on hand... if we collectively miss a planting season... what then?

Every two farmers feeding each hundred of us would be hard pressed to feed themselves in such a case. Hybrid seed is only worth a single crop. Plowing, planting and harvesting by hand (to name only three steps)? Water must flow by gravity or locally-powered pump. How to store the harvest? How to distribute it? To whom? Some jury rig is possible... modern understanding may ease the reinvention of some practices... but we'd be in deep doo doo.

Could something bring the global economy to a halt? I and others argue (elsewhere) that yes, it could, and sooner or later, will. Like the human body, any complex adaptive system is mortal. Blunt trauma, infection and 'normal accidents' go with the territory.

History does guide us in this; all civilizations come to an end. Ours is now global.

My great-Grandfather knew how to farm the old way. In his lifetime, truck and tractor replaced horse and wagon. He saw harvesters and later combines run the hands from field to city. By the end of his life, he was a living anachronism.

The Amish, Mennonites and Hutterites still carry the torch, but their entire output can feed no more than a small, modern city. Third World farmers are often much closer to traditional ways, but taken together can feed no more than a small, modern country.

Peoples of the Stone, Bronze and Iron Ages, the first farmers, those who came after through WWII... they all carried with them knowledge and tools that we have scattered or lost. For some thousand generations, the ways and means of agriculture and husbandry carried survivors forward through thick and thin. But it is different this time...

We have forgotten how to farm.



PS. Even worse, we have forgotten how to live as non-farmers in the wild. How many of us thrown 'naked into the wilderness' could survive, much less thrive? How many could build a shelter or make fire? Gather wild forage? Hunt or fish with DIY tools? Dress our wounds? Find our way?

But all these things can be learned. If nothing else, they comprise a fascinating hobby!

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Survival Mnemonics

This one is a little long for my taste and slides off my brain,
but embodies a lot of good advice!


Eselsbrucke (Donkey's Bridge) -- German word for mnemonic... a memory aid.


Survival Mnemonics

When crunch time comes, we may feel overwhelmed, dazed, traumatized or caught up in emotional turmoil... in many cases all of the above.

First of all, breathe... deep breaths. Still the mind. Come back to the moment.

Are we back? Seriously, this first step must be taken or nothing... and I mean nothing will help you. But the moment you have done so, you are ready to face and improve your situation.

I present the following mnemonics as among many applicable to survival situations. They are shorter than some, so I think more likely to be memorable and therefore useful. But when you find one you like, add it to your personal collection. Feel very free to craft your own.

What works for you is what counts!


F.E.A.R


There are many variations, some I find more helpful than others. Here a few of those:

Fight/Flight. Emotion. Acceptance. Response. -- This helps version progress through the series of human instinctual responses to a crisis. Without serious training, we may not be able to avoid them, but we can certainly step through them faster when we realize it's a sequence. [From SHTFSchool.com]

Face it. Explore it. Accept it. Respond. -- This one deals specifically with denial, a very common human response to crisis.

Focus. Equip. Act. Review. -- Once through the instinctual reaction phase, we might substitute this set. It's a very powerful problem solving algorithm. You might say it's the scientific method in a nutshell!

Forget Everything And Run or Face Everything And Rise -- While this is a 'mere' attitudinal bucker-upper, many experts consider attitude to be the essential for survival. I'd add the caveat that - despite the slight sneering tone regarding the first option - when SHTF, it may be the better part of valor.


Triple A

Assess. Address. Amend. -- This is one I use throughout every day. It produces what I think of as the upward spiral of stepwise improvement, whether I'm fixing the sink, facing a bureaucracy or in crisis.


S.T.O.P

Stop/Sit. Think. Observe. Plan. -- This one stems from the Search and Rescue community. Persons who become lost often travel for considerable distances, becoming very much more difficult to locate. Literally stopping and improving the situation at hand is important to survival.


Rule of Threes

As a rule-of-thumb, one can survive...

3 hours without shelter
3 days without water
3 weeks without food


This rule helps us prioritize our activities, especially as regards shelter. Be aware that hypothermia (cold exposure) is the most immediate threat in most outdoor emergencies.

*****

These mnemonics can help you get through the first moments and hours of a crisis.

Skills, tools and supplies - in descending order of importance - will help us throughout the crisis,  increasing our odds of survival. The more we have on-board before SHTF, the better the chances for us and our'n.

It's called prepperation!

Monday, February 20, 2017

The Half Urban World for Doomies



Rapid globalization and economic conditions will continue to produce increasing uncertainties and risks, as well as new opportunities that will impact all phases of urbanization—often with unanticipated consequences. As a result, uncertainty must be a critical component of planning and policymaking. Economic uncertainty must be taken into consideration when new and innovative projects are developed to ensure that they are “successful” in local and global terms, and better equipped to withstand fluctuations in local and global economies.


-- From Urban Policy in an Uncertain Economy by the East-West Center


The Half Urban World for Doomies

(Roughly rounded terms, ahead. Original numbers gleaned from UN, IMF and World Bank sources ...)
  • About 10,000 years back, agricultural civilizations first arose. From that time through the 1700s, it took from 95 to 98 persons actively engaged in farming to support 100 people; themselves and 2 to 5 non-farmers. Today - leveraged via modern, industrial technologies heavily reliant on fossil fuels - 2 to 5 farmers support 100 people when averaged worldwide.
  • In recent decades, lean production and inventory philosophy (Just In Time or JIT production and supply) has become widespread. This means inventories of supplies on hand are kept to a minimum. In the case of urban centers in the U.S., food vendors and local warehouses are stocked on average to supply only two to three days of normal demand.
  • A few years back, we passed the Half-Urban World mark. This means that more than half of us now live in urban concentrations of 2000 or more people. Current world population about 7,500,000,000 souls.
Each dot is a point along one of several exponential curves -seldom related - each of which now describes rapid, dramatic change.

Each development, in itself seems just another historical milestone on our road to the stars. Each a symbol of progress marking our advance as a species.

Taken together, they comprise an unprecedented recipe for disaster.

What we see is a situation in which an otherwise short-lived cessation of urban supply is going to have drastic consequences for urban populations who, in their desperation, will damage critical infrastructure beyond hope of recovery.

Supply chain failure essentially stops most food production in its tracks. Without steady inputs of seedstocks, fertilizers, feed, fuels, parts and manpower, production and distribution grind to a halt, with a horizon of the next planting/harvest cycle. Irrigated areas would soon lose water, as would many reliant on pumped ground and aquifer waters. No markets or transport, no point in harvest even where possible. Livestock would be put down as feed on hand is exhausted, saving only what can be pasture fed.

The hundred fed by each one or two farmers would go hungry, even if some emergency transport were arranged.

What follows is my best guess as to how this might play out on a near global scale. There will be many variations, especially among towns set in low density, rural areas. Size and local food production industries may follow a different course. Third world urban areas may have better local supply, but tend to be high density.

Stage One: Urban Implosion

This plays out much as collapse fiction portrays it. Panic, food riots, collapse of utilities and services, overwhelmed police and emergency services, emergence of gangs controlling resources and black market trade.

What is often overlooked, I believe is damage to urban infrastructures, including many which are vital to service extra-urban regions. Rioting, fire and looting can easily damage power and water stations and conduits, telecommunications, fuel storage, computer networks, railway and general equipment. Experienced, irreplaceable personnel will not be able to commute, abandon their stations to protect their families, and/or be lost to violence.

In fairly short order, without resupply, resources on hand will be exhausted or hoarded out of reach of many to most.

Stage Two: Urban Explosion

Individuals and small groups must at some point decide to abandon the city in search of food. Water and shelter will be of constant concern.

Likely, roads will be beset by 'highwaymen', exacting a toll of refugees.

Surrounding suburban areas, where present, will have their own pitfalls and dynamics, both for residents and for the refugees flowing out of the cities. Food here will likely have been exhausted or corralled as well. Their mere extant along with attrition from violence will cut into refugee numbers. Never the less, I expect many (hundreds to millions, depending on initial population) will reach the rural surrounds.

Stage Three: 'Locust' Behaviors Threaten Rural Populations

By this time, people will be desperate and ravenous. Every animal, grain, food or material deemed edible will be consumed. Every rumor that can be pursued will be, as mobs large and small pour through the countryside.

In particular, gardens will be uprooted and seedstock consumed. 

At some point, cannibalism becomes inevitable.

EROEI Energy Return On Energy Invested), I believe, will play a large role in this phase. Pillaging individuals and groups must achieve a net return, or they starve out. Dense or concentrated resources may support larger groups organized as bandits or raiders, but these will deplete quickly. Low density or well hidden resources will not, and any bandits straying into these areas will burn out.

It is an open question as to whether ex-urban mobs will topple rural societies, which will have problems of their own when supply fails. Clearly, initial urban numbers will be well down. Rural populations will diminish, but likely not to the proportional degree as urbogenic ones. They will also have intimate local knowledge on their side. It may be that some can hold out and retain social cohesion.

In this stage, something I think of as Demographic Winter (analogous to Nuclear Winter) seems possible. Large numbers of ex-urbanites burn what they can for warmth and cooking. Some percentage will get out of hand in uncontrolled forest and prairie fires. Globally. Smoke produced will likely have climate scale consequences for some time, further stressing survivors.
Stage Four: Forage, Gardening? and Husbandry?

Sooner or later, the population much reduced, small bands will begin to relearn wild forage and hunting technologies.

Limited gardening may begin as non-hybrid seed caches are discovered, and growth propagated from those which escape being eaten. Hybridized cloned varieties may survive for propagation in this phase, as well, so long as they are not overly dependent for success on insecticides and other industrial measures.

Livestock may be propagated. Most draft animal technologies as well.

But propagation of skills, plant- or animal stocks, takes time.

Of course, somewhere in here, domestic nuclear plants and spent rod storage facilities go LOCA.

Stage Four: Return to Organic Agriculture?

Assuming our species makes it this far, methods of organic agriculture, if it happens at all, will have to restore what is remembered and reinvent much that has been lost, under conditions of changed climate.

My guess is that this stage is unlikely. That we will not return to agriculture in any near future (millennial scale), and will likely have to rediscover it by the time we do.

But most of human experience did without it, and by some estimations, were better off before its adoption transformed us.


*****

Are full economic and urban collapse  plausible? And if so, are these dynamics likely?

If we are indeed approaching the limits to growth (see this blog's header), the conditions underlying the capital-based, global industrial economy. Events over the last 45 years are in high conformity with that hypothesis. We have seen the depicted curves flattening, with the model suggesting the dropside is nearly on us. Should a tipping point initiate cascading failures which outstrip capacity to halt them, ensuing collapse may well be catastrophic.

Global economic collapse is entirely conceivable to the IMF, World Bank and central bankers at national and international levels. Crushing global debt (national, corporate, individual), fiat currencies weakened by quantitative easing, non-productive spending (e.g., military), wealth disparity, rising cost of insurance, unstable business environment... and under it all plummeting EROEI on fossil fuels... are seen individually as potential threats to the global economy. Collectively, they are ominous indeed. Notice that growth within a limited system is not appreciably on their radar.

Global supply chain cessation would be the natural result of economic collapse (arrest). Again, there are many historical cases of financial breakdown leading to supply interruption. Typically, these have been short lived as support arrived, originating from stable surrounds.

Are tools available sufficient to restore confidence and restart interrupted global trade in a time to avert runaway, systemic failures (of which urban collapse is an example)? It's a matter of debate, but the very concept of 'too big to fail' implies that failure is not an option since it brings down the house. Once something big gives, it may well be that issues multiply faster than they can be brought under control.

There have been many historical examples of dramatic urban collapse due to war (especially siege), local economic collapse or natural disaster. Most of them follow stages one through three to some degree. Deviations appear to be more or less proportional to how much outside supply and assistance they receive, and how soon 'normalcy' is restored. How well the general population is armed plays a role. Long duration and/or lack of significant outside assistance makes the worst case the probable case.

Should supply chains fail, military and National Guard assets, running on strategic reserves, may attempt to run stopgap supply services. But the task will be enormous, and efforts diluted by attempts to establish order and control. Personnel will be difficult to keep on task as they go AWOL in support of families, taking what they can get away with. Most assets will be stranded overseas.

To my mind, the combination of low on hand inventories, food producer to consumer ratio and staggering numbers of the people involved and the high aspect ratio of critical dependencies in service infrastructures mean that we are in uncharted territory. 

That the transition from functional to desperate can proceed in remarkably short order. 
That urban breakdown will not be confined within urban city limits.
That the infrastructures necessary for restoration of function can be damaged beyond repair.
That rapid population loss - both urban and rural - can be catastrophic.

In a scenario of global economic arrest, extrapolate outward, demographic explosion from every urban center, world wide. Looking at a map, the world appears a minefield..


*****

In regard to the rural vs. urban bug-out debate, the preceding considerations suggest that rural wins hands down.

Urban areas, producing no significant foods from their own ground must be abandoned. Sooner or later, survivors will bug out rural. Those already rural will be ahead of them.

A further observation is that, the farther one is from urban concentrations, the better, lest the locust phase sweep over your position.

My advice? Relocate rural, now.

Git while the gittin's good.





PS. I searched the terms "half urban world" collapse in several variations looking for serious, non-fiction analyses, and found little to nothing (mostly my own, amateur efforts!).

I would welcome serious consideration of global urban collapse dynamics by anyone who's guesses might be better informed and referenced than my own.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Survival from a Survivor: Selco's SHTF School

Note foodstock at lower left


Learn things, people always need somebody who know to fix things (people, shoes, whatever).
It was not survival movie, it was ugly, we did what we have to do to survive.
Nobody wins, we just survived, with a lot of bad dreams.
-- Selco


Survival from a Survivor: Selco's SHTF School

In my opinion, there is a whole lot of BS in survivor circles.

Sometimes, this has to do with profiteers, hyping their nostrum for survival. Sometimes, it's those whose 'experience' is drawn from media stereohypes (sic). Sometimes the scenarios for which they prepare appear improbable in the extreme. Sometimes the scenarios are plausible, but advocated responses are not. Cruising through resources - both on and offline - it's buyer beware!

So I perk up when I encounter someone who a) has real life experience, b) seemed to learn from it, and c) can share it effectively.

Selco, a Bosnian man writing largely at SHTFSchool.com, shares very hard-learned, first hand lessons from surviving a year of urban collapse in Bosnia.

In the early 1990s, his town of around 50,000 people was surrounded during civil war. Civil authority disintegrated, public services (electricity, water, information) ceased. A desperate struggle for survival ensued among civilians, gangs and the dregs of authority. And all the while, the town was being shelled and bombed.

It was dirty, messy, smelly and deadly.

Selco writes eloquently and movingly about impossible choices under pressure of life and death, and long and short term prices paid for survival. Paid in blood and soul. Not only what must be done to survive, but the impacts of survival itself. He affords both rare insight and example in the struggle to survive and the struggle to live with it.

His is a sobering counterpoint to those who revel in the idea of coming collapse. Who look forward to grand adventure.

Who lived and who died? Persons alone and Rambo types were  the first to go. Those who sought or prioritized violence. Those who were too curious. Or trusting. Or inflexible. Or just unlucky. Many, many choices led to quick death. No honor. No glory. Guts required.

As you read, recall that - bad as that situation got - it was not a full collapse. Airdrops of MREs were ongoing... while mostly commandeered by gangs, these reduce the overall competition for food. Smuggling provided a trickle of resources from less affected areas. It was a crisis, lasting 'only' a year before 'order' was restored (rather than permanent collapse).

From these experiences, Selco has assembled a unique resource. What he and others did, what they might have done, how we might see disaster coming and what we all might do before, during and after.

Social distance is a term borrowed from pandemic response. I believe it to be a foundational strategy of any response to SHTF with a chance of success. In urban settings, it is almost impossible to achieve, and - as Selco's experiences confirm - only then at considerable cost. Relocation to a rural or wilderness setting, outfitted with appropriate skills and tools, is strongly recommended.

If you live in or near a city, or if you must pass through one; if you plan to bug in or out; if you merely plan to survive, Selco and SHTFSchool.com have something we all need.



List of open access articles by category, here.