|The Days of Wind|
by Qin YongJun
Slowly, at first, then all at once.
-- Dmitry Orlov on Fragility and Collapse
Fast or Slow Collapse: Why it Matters
Fast and slow are relative terms.
From the perspective of centuries and relative to its duration, the fall of the Roman Empire was relatively abrupt. From the perspective of individuals involved, however, many experienced little change in the course of their lifetimes. It was a Long Descent from the peak of its expansion, through crises and contractions to the Dark Age that followed.
When we contemplate the Collapse of the modern global economy with so much that it entails, many are persuaded that it will be a similar, Long Descent, declining catabolically in fits and spurts over generations, in keeping with most known historical precedent.
Fast Collapse types (myself included) are persuaded that descent will likely be abrupt on our time scale, crashing catastrophically from near peak to near zero in the course of days to months.
Why does this matter? Why isn't it a genteel debate whose outcome will become clear in time... the loser will stand the next round of beer? Why shouldn't we just wait and see?
My answer is that the two scenarios call for vastly different preparations, and on a very different deadline.
If the Long Descent lies ahead of us, our best bet is to establish locally resilient communities, capable of carrying forward in reduced circumstances. The learning curve is relatively gradual for dealing with the economic environment as it (d)evolves. For most, there will be world enough, and time.
But should Catastrophic Collapse be the case, we are more or less flung onto our own resources, struggling amid all others mired in a fully similar plight, minus any functional economy at all.
I present two analogies for slow and fast Collapse, respectively. They are imperfect but illustrate the different preparations which would be important.
Here's an analogy for Slow, Catabolic Collapse:
The TITANIC strikes an island and goes hard aground. The lower hull is flooded and many of the ships stores are ruined, but there is no immediate risk of sinking. The generators go down, and with it many of the ship's systems. But most crew and passenger decks are clear of water. Passengers, while dazed, turn to and begin to work with crew to aid the injured, ensure dry shelter for those impacted and ration supplies. They do best who have good relationships with others aboard - both socially and those with skills. Eventually, some power may be restored and longer term plans undertaken. And so on. But the island has limited resources... things will get worse before they get better.
And one for Fast, Catastrophic Collapse:
The TITANIC strikes an iceberg and sinks within hours. There are no lifeboats (preparations are the responsibility of individuals). Most flounder in the water with a very brief window of survival. Many are drowned by their panicked, desperate neighbors who attempt anything to live. Some had prepared for this emergency, as best the could. Of these, many don't make it; pulled down by the floundering masses. Some fail due to poor choices. A few, thanks to adequate preparation and good fortune survive the immediate disaster. And so on. But they are now adrift among many resources (analogy breaks down, here) but with little to no hope of assistance.
I'm not going to argue, here, for Fast Collapse, though that is my persistent conclusion. But once Collapse begins in earnest one's choices may be tightly constrained. In the face of Fast Collapse, a 'wait and see' approach is likely to become 'waited too long'.
I urge that deciding which scenario is ahead/immanent, and acting upon that decision is a matter of life and death for you and yours. To wait and see is to have made a decision.
A last observation, however... preparations for Slow Collapse do not address Fast concerns, but those for Fast Collapse perform valuable service in many likely Slow scenarios. Even if never called upon, these do no harm. They are like fire escapes which may never be used...
...But you're gonna want 'em once all hell breaks loose.
PS. This may be the place to mention that I often hear a cheap kind of psycho-analysis speculating on why people conclude whether fast, slow, or indeed any Collapse is probable.We all assess what facts we can, relate them, and attempt predictions to the best of our ability.
Those persuaded that Collapse is likely don't glory in it. Fast Collapse folks don't want to avoid a long, arduous Descent. Slow Collapse folks don't wish to avoid a traumatic, desperate Catastrophe.
I mean, isn't the Future hard enough to contemplate without second guessing motives?