More On Collapse

Culture Change has a nice article on how it feels to be an ant caught in the amber: Collapse: Walmart and Waiting for the Shoe to Drop


As I screwed in yet another fluorescent light bulb that didn’t work, I thought about what else I could do to put my finger in the dike of the “Limits to Growth.” I can almost hear ecosystems groan as they nearly burst from the weight of heavy metals, pavement, and drought.

Jared Diamond, in “Collapse,” believes ecology plays a major role in the breakdown of civilizations.

But Jonathan Friedman, at Lund University in Sweden (1), counters that Diamond has it backwards. The social logic of civilization makes limits opaque to its citizens, who can’t even see there are limits imposed by natural resources, so they don’t plan ahead. A good example is not preparing for peak oil thirty years ahead of time, as Robert Hirsch points out ought to be done, in the study he headed for the U.S. Dept. of Energy, “Peaking of World Oil Production.” (2)

This blindness is evident in the Presidential campaign as well, where none of the candidates is running on a platform of the need to reform industrial agriculture, drastically reduce our consumption of goods and energy, or slow down development and population growth.

Friedman says this disconnect with reality is most powerfully expressed by Kafka, where the characters are trapped in ways of seeing the world they can’t see beyond. At a time when most of the world’s problems are due to the depletion and destruction of the ecosystems that keep us alive, politicians and people in general continue to see the world through political and economic filters.

Even those of us awake to the world being one big cockroach about to get smashed by energy limits, are trapped likes ants in the amber of the system.


I’ve been a big fan of Diamond’s work, I’m still wading my way through “Gun, Germs and Steel“, and have often quoted from Diamond’s “Collapse – How Societies Choose To Fail or Succeed“. However, Lonewolf and I both agree, Diamond went absolutely nuts recently with this piece (I dare to link to it, because I think it’s truly stupid) – What’s Your Consumption Factor?

Diamond reveals a side to himself that I didn’t suspect existed: stupidity. Here’s a couple of his statements that just left me dumbfounded:

Real sacrifice wouldn’t be required, however, because living standards are not tightly coupled to consumption rates.

If we were to operate all fisheries sustainably, we could extract fish from the oceans at maximum historical rates and carry on indefinitely.

Hence I am cautiously optimistic. The world has serious consumption problems, but we can solve them if we choose to do so.

I cannot explain his position, I won’t even try. His books are informative, well-researched and good material for those looking into history and the collapse of prior civilizations, yet his optimism is unfounded (imo). Perhaps this is why Friedman says this about Diamond having it backwards:

The social logic of civilization makes limits opaque to its citizens, who can’t even see there are limits imposed by natural resources, so they don’t plan ahead.

Civilization itself is the cause and the source of the problem. It creates an illusionary world that is disconnected from resource limits (reality). This is a position I can easily understand and embrace, it reflects my own position that we are too insulated from our world today. Civilization as I’ve said, is an artificial construct; an illusionary misrepresentation of ‘living’.

Green ‘mart’ is a sick, sad joke (on us) – I’m not falling for it.

As I see the giant foot overhead drawing nearer, and knowing that my own feeble attempts to hold it at bay are pointless, I can’t disagree. We all do what we can, what we think will help, if only to forget we’re cockroaches for a while. 


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6 thoughts on “More On Collapse

  • January 28, 2008 at 11:16 am

    It is pretty easy to research the past and report what happened, as Diamond has done. To extrapolate the future-in this case one with no relative past- requires a great deal of thought. It seems like ‘they’ got to him and said, “hey listen, you have scared a lot of people now tell them this time it will be different.
    The politicians are not blind to the truth. Considering the troubles, rolling eyes and various bullshit responses i have gotten talking about collapse, surely they know they would be finished within 24 hours if they told the truth.
    Life in amerika will go on as usual ’til false flag day.

  • January 28, 2008 at 12:54 pm

    Bewildering on Jared’s part. I guess he’s back in Stage 3 of grief: bargaining.

    Which is a shame, as many of his readers will now grasp that straw and cling to it for dear life…

    No need to invoke conspiracy in this case I think – simple delusional thinking will suffice.

  • January 28, 2008 at 3:23 pm

    The End of Finances?

    “We are talking about the potential end of the dollar as a currency. A dollar may shortly be as interesting as a Confederate note – historically interesting but worthless. And into that gaping chasm, the entire human race is running, while at the same time running out of core resources.”

  • January 28, 2008 at 5:53 pm

    I would have to agree, it is going to unfold now. That has always been the ‘unknown’. “When”. So it is the present. That comment in that blog:

    There is no safe haven from the coming crisis, which is developing extremely fast

    There is a safe haven. It is called food security (assuming you have water and shelter). Will you have sufficient food for the short term run on food at the stores? Will it last until your local producers (perhaps yourself) start supplying. And can you make until the next growing season. Do not presume Mother Culture (see Ishmael by Quinn) will spoon feed you!

  • January 30, 2008 at 9:09 am

    750000 on US terrorist watch list. It does not matter if Clinton/Obama or McCain or if Bush blows up SF and blames it on Iran. I feel the most difficult time to survive will be the period between Marshall Law and the overwhelming riots that will bring down civilization as we know it. I only hope the “Die Off” as people like Dr. Lovelock and others call it happens quickly. Not to sound too callous, but the less misery the better. What is really sad is that everyone who didn’t believe earlier and now do, also believe technology will save them. Who knows, maybe they are right. Maybe some scientists will figure out how to turn CO2 into cotton candy.

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