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)

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Gummint, Bandits, Lone Opportunists and EROEI

I rob banks because that’s where the money is.
– Misattributed to Willie Sutton

Gummint, Bandits, Lone Opportunists and EROEI

I was picking thimbleberries, this last week, pursuant to our next batch of wine.

Thimbleberries seem unusual, in that they only ripen a few at a time. Most clusters of several berries generally only sport a single ripe one. When it falls of its own volition, is picked, succumbs to mildew or other insult… only then does the next ripen in turn.

To make a 4 gallon batch of wine, a gallon or more berries are needed. Picking too early – when only a few are ripe and they replenish slowly – is a waste of time. But a couple of weeks after the first outliers ripen, there develops a workable density, and the clusters push out a new ripe berry overnight. Focusing over a few days of passes, we can collect enough to ferment. If we wait too long, though, the good ones thin out again... they remain available for the occasional treat, but not in quantity. 

Low density output may be a thimbleberry strategy. Despite being tasty as can be, they generally take too much effort to collect en masse. It's just too much effort to support a dedicated harvest. We, birds and bears soon move on to higher yield berry species.

All this got me thinking about the post-collapse threat of a) the Gummint, and b) bandits, both of major concern to many of my fellow ‘Doomers’. To these, I add c) the Lone Opportunist.

Me? I’m not too worried about the first two, thanks to low EROEI (Energy Returned On Energy Invested).

Gummints, bandits and we who gather thimbleberries can only thrive on a considerable net return on the energies we invest. Those who operate at a loss are not long for the world, as we know it or otherwise.

To be successful, predators require several things of their prey. Prey must be subdued with reasonably low risk to the predator. Resources taken from prey must be considerably greater than those required to acquire them. Prey populations must be sufficiently dense to support a predator. Prey must replenish their numbers (or the resources they generate) rapidly enough to support themselves and the predator.

In short, EROEI is vital to predators.

So, what are the odds that small, dispersed populations of those of us subsisting in a future backwater will attract Gummint ‘sweep-up’ operations, or support bandits? My guess is low.

The Gummint, I believe (including those foreign to my native lands), will have more important things to attempt, such as locking down strategic resources, pacifying urban centers and/or turning warlord. They will have limited resources at all levels, poor logistics and personnel issues. I’ll be surprised if they can ‘project force’ beyond their home bases, if that. Rounding up unknown numbers of hillbillies far from ‘vital interests’ is likely to be given very low priority.

Bandits are more flexible, and therefore potentially more dangerous. Yet they, too, will be focused on high-return situations. Concentrations of people or goods, high traffic routes, high value items. Historically, this has been the case, and I see no reason for it to change in a diminished future. Avoid these situations, and bandits will have neither reason to pursue us, nor the means.

The Lone Opportunist concerns me more. Someone much like ourselves, who has chosen our area, managed to survive for some time on their own, yet is willing to take advantage by force when opportunity presents. EROEI is unburdened by overheads, in this case. They aren’t making their living by predation, but see a little here and there as bonus. I see them as a positive danger.

I hope that this type will see more value in cooperation than coercion. History isn’t entirely comforting on this score. Still, if the Wild West is any example, people by and large got along. Frontier encounters between strangers appear to have been guarded (good boundaries, good manners, weapons ready) until trust grew, which it most often did. Most often warranted.

So I’m cautiously hopeful.



  1. "Still, if the Wild West is any example, people by and large got along. Frontier encounters between strangers appear to have been guarded (good boundaries, good manners, weapons ready) until trust grew, which it most often did. Most often warranted. "

    But many of those folks were raised with a more strict morale code. Too many today have been watching things like television ads that reinforce with words like "you deserve" or "its your right" - whether it is car insurance, internet access, a vacation trip or what have you... Entitlement mentality is very real and very rampant today.. which I think will be a major issue in the not too distant future...

    As for Gubbment control of outlying areas.. they don't need to supply much in the way of troop force.. simply make an offer to the local constabulary.. "work for us or die".. all you need is one person in each area with the authority to mete out capital punishment. Kind of an extension from the Japanese in WWII in China.. one soldier with a bayonet controlling an entire village. If the village revolts against that one soldier, the village is wiped out... word gets around and villages quit fighting back. That is the kind of Gubbmint control I could see happening.

    Anyway, keep publishing those thoughts... helps us to think :)

    1. Hi TMM,

      Hard to say... my impression of frontier towns was that they had their share of I'LL GET MINE, JACK types and a/immorality.

      Entitlement and other aggressive edges may wear smooth(ish) pretty quickly... natural selection against the more reckless cases, and game theory for the survivors.

      RE the Gubb, post-collapse - To back the local constabulary, troops still need to be deployable, if only to set the precedent. That means all the logistic needs must be met. Picture a scene with no means to pay or feed soldiers, no long range communications, fuel or parts (grid, transport and economy down). Entitlement soldiers will stay on the job, why? My guess is we're not in the warlord/tribal headspace that keep regional conflicts rolling, and even they scuttle for fuel and other resources to stay in business.

      My take on local Law, at least of the problem kind, is that they are over-outfitted bulliies... when the toy store shuts down and the going gets tough, they'll break up as any kind of systematic enforcement team. Only those who can engage whatever community remains will have any 'authority' to speak of.

      And really, when I say 'outback', I'm not thinking a town of ANY size!

      Dave Z

  2. Posted on behalf of JOHN:

    Hello Dave,

    I agree with you (living as you do in unpopulated SE Alaska) that in the event of a major societal collapse Lone Opportunists are much more likely to be a problem for you than will either the Government or organized Bandits. And I suspect that those Lone Opportunists could very well be even a "friend" you've known and interacted with for a long time, but who hasn't eaten for some time (or is missing some other basic element for survival) and is not likely to in the near future -- but then you and your well-stocked boat fortuitously showed up. At that point your "friend" may struggle with whether food or friendship is more valuable (assuming that he perceives that both cannot be had).

    However, in practical terms, I suspect you (and the rest of us) are far more likely to be plagued by the annoyances and vagaries of regular life, such as falling and breaking a bone or getting a painful cavity -- a scenario recently described by Mark Zeiger in his blog "Missteps"

    When such "missteps" do occur, and if you are many days sail away from help, what might otherwise be an annoyance could very well turn into a disaster. And the older one gets the more likely such events will happen. But of course you already know all this. So keep on keeping on!


  3. Hi John,

    Yep, 'fair weather friends' could be a challenge. We hope to be a better resource for them if we're on good terms than otherwise. Our 'well stocked boat' won't remain so for long before it's down to tools and knowledge... most of the latter is between our cooperative ears.

    RE trauma/med emergencies, I recommend Wilderness First Responder training. In many respects it gives an edge beyond the scope of most country doctors through WWII. The books WHERE THERE IS NO DOCTOR and WHERE THERE IS NO DENTIST are both great references, as well.

    Dave Z

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Hey Folks... I'm not in a position to moderate comments. If discussion remains respectful and on topic, I welcome comments (passion okay). If it spins out of control, I'll have disallow them... I thank you for your civility.

I've opened comments to all 'Registered Users' (whatever that means!) to help weed out pesky spam.

- Dave Z